Brad Templeton. Via Oliver Bruce.

Car-hailing pioneer Sidecar signals end of the ride

Richard Waters:

The massive amounts of money being poured into US ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft showed signs of forcing a local shake-out on Tuesday, as Sidecar, one of the market’s pioneers, revealed it would shut down its service on New Year’s Eve.

The San Francisco-based company blamed what it called “a significant capital disadvantage” as it admitted it could not keep up with bigger competitors.

Sidecar raised $35m in its near-four year history, with prominent backers including Richard Branson, Mark Pincus, founder of online games company Zynga, and Fred Wilson, a New York venture capital investor.

The amount pales by comparison with the roughly $10bn raised so far by Uber, as well as Lyft’s $1.3bn. In the latest escalation in their rivalry, Uber and Lyft have both doubled the amounts they are seeking in new fundraising rounds, to $2bn and $1bn respectively.

Tesla Ramps Up Hiring as Rivals Loom

Mike Ramsey:

A few weeks ago, Elon Musk put out a call on Twitter for “hard-core software engineers” to work on Tesla Motors Inc.’s autonomous car program. The company’s inbox was flooded.

While Mr. Musk was only looking for 100 prospects, he may want to keep the other applicants within ear shot. The electric-car company, which recently released its first sport-utility vehicle and will soon open a battery factory in Nevada, is looking to add thousands of employees in coming years just as an auto industry showdown for tech talent is brewing.

Tesla isn’t the only player in town. The 12-year-old company is tussling with a growing mass of auto makers crowding into California looking for people capable of helping develop software and other components needed to power electric or autonomous vehicles.

Germany wants to build a 100-kilometer bicycle superhighway

Andrew J . Hawkins :

Germany, the country that brought you the speedsters’ paradise called the Autobahn, is looking to replicate the model for bicyclists. According to the AFP, the country just opened the first 5-kilometer (3-mile) stretch of what will eventually become a 100-km bicycle superhighway.
 The goal is to connect 10 cities in the western portion of Germany, including Duisburg, Bochum, and Hamm and four universities, running largely along disused railroad tracks in the crumbling Ruhr industrial region. According to the local development agency RVR, the new bicycle autobahn would provide a commuting route to over 2 million Germans, which could result in 50,000 fewer cars on the road every day.

64% of U.S. car owners want connected activity built into their next car

Chuck Martin:

Over 40 million U.S. vehicles will be connected to the Internet by the end of 2015, and that number will steadily increase through 2016, according to Parks Associates. New research from the firm reports 64% of car owners in U.S. broadband households would like built-in support for at least one connected activity in their next car. That demand is in contrast to current connected activities in the car, the majority of which are done on a smartphone without any connection to the car.

“Automakers are keying into this demand by embedding connectivity in new vehicle models. Many are also supporting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto—they do not want these mobile-centric solutions to be differentiators for their competitors,” said Jennifer Kent, Director, Research Quality & Product Development, Parks Associates. “Many of these solutions will be on display at CES® 2016 in January and Autonomous Car Detroit in March. With the exception of smartphones, no other device touches so many points in a person’s life as the car, from home to work to family and community interaction. Car-generated data will increasingly enrich connected solutions outside the car, while also offering an interaction touch point for those external solutions from within the car.”

Meet the map maker for self-driving cars

Marco Della Cava:

The coming age of autonomous cars is to become a successful reality, the machines will need the help of John Ristevski.
 An amiable guy who retains a hint of his Australian accent despite being on the California tech scene for more than a decade, Ristevski is in charge of reality capture and processing at HERE, a global company that builds high-resolution digital maps.

Chevy Volt Sets Path for More Electric-Car Growth

Dan Neil:

MY TRIP FROM L.A. to San Francisco in a 2016 Chevrolet Volt was an outlier, as Malcolm Gladwell would say. The redesigned Volt is a city car, with 53 miles of all-electric-vehicle range before it has to fire up the range-extending 1.5-liter gas engine. That’s enough to cover Americans’ average daily commute (37 miles) with room to spare. And within those 53 miles, the Volt thrives as a light, quick presence, an electric hummingbird, with premium cabin innards and 0-30 mph acceleration (2.6 seconds) that will dispatch your coffee to the back seat.

Beyond those 53 miles, in range-extender mode, the hummingbird sounds a bit more like a wasp trapped in the windscreen. Particularly up the merciless grade known as the Grapevine on the I-5 toward the Tejon Pass, the Volt struggled with the physics of the affair, which sussed out to be 101 horsepower drawing a 3,543-pound car up a mountain (once the batteries are depleted the engine power is routed directly to the front wheels). At 80 mph the little engine was working hard and the noise-abatement measures weren’t.

The problem with self-driving cars: who controls the code?

Cory Doctorow:

The Trolley Problem is an ethical brainteaser that’s been entertaining philosophers since it was posed by Philippa Foot in 1967:

A runaway train will slaughter five innocents tied to its track unless you pull a lever to switch it to a siding on which one man, also innocent and unawares, is standing. Pull the lever, you save the five, but kill the one: what is the ethical course of action?

The problem has run many variants over time, including ones in which you have to choose between a trolley killing five innocents or personally shoving a man who is fat enough to stop the train (but not to survive the impact) into its path; a variant in which the fat man is the villain who tied the innocents to the track in the first place, and so on.

America’s Cities Are Still Too Afraid to Make Driving Unappealing

Emily Badger:

The morning I wrote this I took public transportation to work. I hopped on the bus around the corner from my house, then the train for a few stops farther. I took mass transit because it was convenient, because my card was already preloaded with the cash that diverts from my paycheck, and because the ride gave me 20 minutes to start the day browsing Twitter.
 Baked into this decision, however, were a number of other nearly subliminal calculations about the alternatives not taken. I did not drive the car (yes, my household has a car) because downtown Washington, D.C., is a hot mess at rush hour, and because parking near the office costs the equivalent of a fancy hamburger a day. I did not bike because it was snowing. (Again.) And I did not walk because the distance was too far.
 My commuting choices—just like everyone’s—are the sum of the advantages of one transportation mode weighed against the downsides of all other options. Or, more succinctly: my feelings about the bus are mediated by what I’m thinking about my car.

Toyota plans to use self-driving cars to make high-precision road maps

Michelle Fitzsimmons:

Toyota has some autonomous driving tech to show off at CES 2016 next month, but it may make some uneasy.
 The company will unveil a new mapping technology that relies on production model self-driving cars’ cameras and GPS to take real-time images of roads as well as vehicle positioning information.
 “An understanding of road layouts and traffic rules (including speed limits and various road signs) is essential for the successful implementation of automated driving technologies,” Toyota notes in its release. “Additionally, high precision measurement of positional information requires the collection of information on dividing lines, curbs and other road characteristics.”

Private car ownership is on the road to becoming a rarity

Dan Neil:

The absurdity of our century-old, ad hoc approach to mobility is captured in one statistic: The utilization rate of automobiles in the U.S. is about 5%. For the remaining 95% of the time (23 hours), our cars just sit there, a slow, awful cash burn, like condos at the beach.
 But what if, like condos, automobiles could be shared? It’s one of life’s first lessons—how to share toys, parents, rooms, feelings. But as little consumers grow into adults, they forget the joys of selflessness. That’s about to change. And I don’t mean the collaborative consumerism we see around us—peer-to-peer transportation like Uber—which is symbolic and transitional, lasting only until automation happens, at which point we can get rid of the wetware. And by wetware, I mean us.

M&A Sizzles for New-Car Dealers

Jeff Bennett:

U.S. car dealerships changed hands at an accelerated pace this year boosted by robust new-car demand, strong dealer profits and an increased focus on the business following Warren Buffett’s purchase of a Phoenix-based chain.

A total of 456 dealerships have been acquired thus far in 2015, a 40% increase over the prior year, according to The Banks Report, which tracks merger and acquisitions in car retailing. The gains comes as industry analysts expect U.S. vehicle sales to reach 17.5 million this year and expand again next year.

The Year We Started Buying Phones Like We Buy Cars

Brian Barrett:

Remember carrier contracts? Those were the days! Or the years, rather; it’s the only thing most cellular customers in the US ever knew. It was an imperfect system, but it worked well enough before anyone really knew what a data plan or smartphones was, much less what they should cost. It didn’t hurt that the only real carrier options, in much of the country, were AT&T or Verizon.
 They offered a simple deal: We’ll subsidize the price of your phone, as long as you stick with us for two years. (Think that was bad? Many Canadian cellular contracts lasted three years until new regulations forced carriers to phase it out last spring.) This is the magic that kept very few people from ever paying more than $200 for an iPhone with a retail price three times that.

Google Pairs With Ford To Build Self-Driving Cars

Justin Hyde and Sharon Carty:

According to three sources familiar with the plans, the partnership is set to be announced by Ford at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. By pairing with Google, Ford gets a massive boost in self-driving software development; while the automaker has been experimenting with its own systems for years, it only revealed plans this month to begin testing on public streets in California. Google has 53 test vehicles on the road in California and Texas, with 1.3 million miles logged in autonomous driving.

Terrafugia’s flying car model has been approved for tests in US airspace


announced back in 2013, with an upgraded prototype unveiled earlier this year, Terrafugia’s TF-X flying car is about as close as the world’s gotten to our collective dream of someday commuting via cloud alleys.
 And now the Massachusetts-based aircraft company has hit its next big milestone – the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given it special permission to run in-air tests with an autonomous drone version of its flying car.

Is self-driving technology becoming commoditized? Debate centers on the future for driverless technology

Gabrielle Coppola:

George Hotz’s claim that he built a driverless car in his garage has created a debate on Wall Street about the future for automotive technology suppliers such as Mobileye.
 The 26-year-old hacker boasted in a Bloomberg Businessweek article that he developed a cheaper alternative to Mobileye technology used by Tesla Motors Inc. and that Elon Musk offered him a “multimillion-dollar bonus with a longer time horizon that pays out as soon as we discontinue Mobileye.” The revelation sent the stock down 7.2 percent that day and wiping out this year’s gains.
 While Hotz’s exploits certainly highlight that the computing know-how for autonomous driving is becoming cheaper and more accessible, that doesn’t mean Mobileye’s business model is in trouble, according to research firm Gartner Inc. Mobileye has also locked in contracts with nearly all the top automakers from General Motors to Ford Motor Co.
 Hotz’s achievement “demystifies the blackbox surrounding these technologies, and it will continue to increase the commoditization of the components,” Thilo Koslowski, vice president and automotive practice leader at Gartner, said by phone. “The magic still exists in putting it all together and doing it reliably.”

University of Michigan study: Humans Are Slamming Into Driverless Cars and Exposing a Key Flaw

Keith Naughton:

“It’s a constant debate inside our group,” said Raj Rajkumar, co-director of the General Motors-Carnegie Mellon Autonomous Driving Collaborative Research Lab in Pittsburgh. “And we have basically decided to stick to the speed limit. But when you go out and drive the speed limit on the highway, pretty much everybody on the road is just zipping past you. And I would be one of those people.”
 Last year, Rajkumar offered test drives to members of Congress in his lab’s self-driving Cadillac SRX sport utility vehicle. The Caddy performed perfectly, except when it had to merge onto I-395 South and swing across three lanes of traffic in 150 yards (137 meters) to head toward the Pentagon. The car’s cameras and laser sensors detected traffic in a 360-degree view but didn’t know how to trust that drivers would make room in the ceaseless flow, so the human minder had to take control to complete the maneuver.
 “We end up being cautious,” Rajkumar said. “We don’t want to get into an accident because that would be front-page news. People expect more of autonomous cars.”
 Not at Fault
 Turns out, though, their accident rates are twice as high as for regular cars, according to a study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Driverless vehicles have never been at fault, the study found: They’re usually hit from behind in slow-speed crashes by inattentive or aggressive humans unaccustomed to machine motorists that always follow the rules and proceed with caution.
 “It’s a dilemma that needs to be addressed,” Rajkumar said.

Via Steven Sinofsky.

Lunch with Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Paxon:

It is hard to resist the suspicion that Clarkson’s real crime is to be too noisily male. Top Gear was apparently about cars. But the secret of the programme’s success wasn’t the internal combustion engine. It could have been a fishing club or a bunch of blokes restoring steam locomotives. But it was as male as the Tranmere Rovers dressing room and you wanted to be part of their gang. But then came The Incident and out he had to go. Hammond and May walked out with him and now the three of them, producer Andy Wilman and a crowd of people with slightly less creaky joints are preparing another testosterone-fest to be aired by Amazon Prime next autumn. Four middle-aged blokes have crossed from Old Telly to New Telly.
 It is, Clarkson said, too early to judge how different it will be to make a show about cars for an American corporation than it was to do something similar for the BBC. One can be fairly confident that the persistent suggestion that Mary Beard would be the perfect guest will stop. Contrary to caricature, he is rather affectionate about the BBC and spoke warmly of numerous figures in its senior management. But he’s enjoying freedom from the diktats of the corporation’s editorial policy department. (“Amazon’s on the internet, and people fuck horses on the internet, so anything less than that is bound to be all right.”)

Tesla in stand-off over lithium supply

Henry Sanderson:

On the edge of the Nevada desert, Tesla, the electric carmaker, is building the world’s largest battery plant.

The mile-long, so-called Gigafactory is expected to boost demand for lithium, the raw material used in the batteries that power most electric cars.

But the company has yet to announce any lithium supply deals with big producers, leaving it unclear where it will source the lightweight natural material it will need to start producing batteries by 2017 with Panasonic, its partner.

The Gigafactory is set to supply batteries for the 500,000 cars Tesla hopes to produce by the end of the decade, as well as to power homes. The company hopes that by supplying its own batteries it can cut its costs per kilowatt-hour by more than 30 per cent, crucial for the mass-market uptake of electric vehicles.

But that will require secure, long-term supplies of lithium, more than 70 per cent of which is found in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. Due to growth in demand for electric batteries, the global lithium market is approaching a shortage, with no new supply coming on stream next year, say analysts. At the same time, battery factories being built in China are set to increase demand for lithium.

Ford seeks to satisfy younger consumers’ tastes

Robert Wright:

The Dynamic Shuttle addresses many of the trends that worry carmakers. It involves smartphones — which many manufacturers fear are more important to younger consumers than cars — as well as sharing and public transport. It is designed to operate in cities, where cars tend to make less sense than in suburbs or rural areas.

Ford could either operate the Dynamic Shuttle service itself or license the technology to another provider. Mark Fields, Ford’s chief executive, is fond of pointing out that companies that become too focused on merely providing hardware — such as Finland’s Nokia — tend to lose out to others such as Apple that take more interest in how their products are used.

As well as trialling the Dynamic Shuttle, Ford has attached sensors to commuters’ bicycles to gather information for a model that would have electric as well as pedal power.

Ken Washington, Ford’s head of research and advanced engineering, says the carmaker’s mobility experiments could help to safeguard the company’s future if its traditional businesses tail off.

Millennials Don’t Care About Owning Cars, And Car Makers Can’t Figure Out Why

Darren Ross:

Auto manufacturers today are scratching their heads, trying to figure out why the millennial generation has little-to-no interest in owning a car. What car makers are failing to see is that this generation’s interests and priorities have been redefined in the last two decades, pushing cars to the side while must-have personal technology products take up the fast lane.
 It’s no secret the percentage of new vehicles sold to 18- to 34-year-olds has significantly dropped over the past few years. Many argue this is the result of a weak economy, that the idea of making a large car investment and getting into more debt on top of college loans is too daunting for them. But that’s not the “driving” factor, especially considering that owning a smartphone or other mobile device, with its monthly fees of network access, data plan, insurance, and app services, is almost comparable to the monthly payments required when leasing a Honda Civic.

Baidu Teams Up With BMW To Launch First Self-Driving Car On Chinese Roads

Kyle Nofuente:

When German and Chinese automotive powers combine, they can end up beating Silicon Valley’s best and brightest.
 Baidu, often touted as China’s Google, has partnered up withBMW to create its first autonomous vehicle.
 The company reports that it just completed the first successful tests of its driverless car through the streets of Beijing. Using a revamped BMW 3 Series, Baidu’s road tests included a complex set of driving instructions while the vehicle had to respond to its surroundings.
 “Fully autonomous driving under mixed road conditions is universally challenging, with complexity further heightened by Beijing’s road conditions and unpredictable driver behavior,” says Wang Jing, the SVP of Baidu and General Manager of Baidu’s Autonomous Driving Business Unit.
 Previously, however, Baidu’s chief scientist Andrew Ng had a close call in one of the autonomous vehicles. Proving that anything can happen and that it will happen, another vehicle had suddenly swerved in front of the driverless car with Ng in the passenger seat.

How Car Companies Can Survive the Self-Driving Apocalypse

Alex Roy:

About fifteen years ago, I was a screenwriter. The gig lasted seven days, during which I was put up at the Chateau Marmont in the same bungalow in which John Belushi died. Horscht, the wild-eyed, fast-talking, curly-mulleted producer paying for it, had a vision he delivered to me as he stood in the doorway, silhouetted before the last sunlight I would see for a week:
 Superhero movies are going to be big. Trust me. Everyone loved Stargate. Why? Time travel. Everyone loves time travel. You follow me? I nodded. And Nazis. Best bad guys ever. Everyone loves Nazis. You follow me? I nodded. Put them together and what do you get? I shrugged. Me neither, but I own the rights to make G.I. Joe: The Motion Picture, and you’re going to write it for me.
 And that’s how I learned everything I need to know about the future of self-driving cars.

Volkwagen and the Blame The Engineer Game

Jacques Mattheij:

But that argument holds no water at all. Let me try to explain why: In any large organization that has to comply with external standards and regulation there is such a thing as a compliance department. The whole reason this department exists in the first place is to make sure that the products manufacturered by the company and indeed, the company itself and its papertrail all adhere to the law in order to protect the company from liability (number of products sold * maximum fine can be an existential threat even for an entity as large as a car manufacturer). This can be quite an undertaking for a company the size of VW and because it is such an important thing companies this size are super careful to make sure that the people in charge of compliance are not the same people that are in charge of engineering and that the people doing the compliance verification are not the same people that designed the stuff in the first place.

Roads to Rome


There is a saying that all roads lead to Rome. We set out on 3.375.746 journeys to check if that was really true.

The incredible shrinking machine

The Economist:

FOR years, the motor industry lived by the mantra, “bigger is better”. The number of litres that a car’s pistons displaced within its engine’s cylinders was a matter of pride for its owner. This was because displacement equalled power, and power equalled—well, whatever it was that the owner wanted to show off beyond the mere ability to travel from A to B. Times change, though, and technology moves on. Power is no less in demand than it was, but as the clamour for fuel economy rises, raw displacement, which sucks fuel from a tank like an enthusiastic child with a straw and a bottle of pop, is going out of fashion. Instead, a new mantra is taking over. This is, “small is beautiful”.
 What tickles today’s petrolheads, therefore, is not so much how many litres an engine displaces as how much horsepower it can extract from a given volume. For, even as they get more powerful, car motors are shrinking. The smallest member of Ford’s EcoBoost range—a one-litre, three-cylinder device—delivers more power than a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine of the previous generation. It is now fitted to one in five of all Ford cars sold in Europe.

Still no flying cars? The future of transit promises something even better

Alison Moodie:

The rise of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft – essentially taxis booked at the click of a smartphone button – and apps like Waze, which uses real-time traffic data to find the quickest routes for drivers, is dramatically changing how people get around, and affecting the very way in which traffic moves through a city.
 Communication between riders and drivers, between different vehicles and between cars and infrastructure is bringing transportation into a new era, according to Allan Clelland, senior vice president at Iteris, a company developing new transportation technology.

Auto Makers Losing Battle for Dashboard Apps

Mike Ramsey:

It may not be the last, according to drivers and industry researchers. New car buyers are asking for vehicles that have Apple’s CarPlay and Alphabet’s Android Auto, which control the dashboard displays now providing drivers with information and entertainment—and perhaps future revenue from purchases.
 CarPlay and Android Auto only recently have been installed by auto makers, but could be in 80% of new cars sold by 2022, says researcher IHS., an auto website, says 44% of its customers surveyed would pay $1,499 more to get a car with CarPlay or Android Auto.

Will your driverless car kill you so others may live?

Eric Schwitzgebel

It’s 2025. You and your daughter are riding in a driverless car along the Pacific Coast Highway. The autonomous vehicle rounds a corner and detects a crosswalk full of children. It brakes, but your lane is unexpectedly full of sand from a recent rock slide. It can’t get traction. Your car does some calculations: If it continues braking, there’s a 90 percent chance that it will kill at least three children. Should it save them by steering you and your daughter off the cliff?
 This isn’t an idle thought experiment. Driverless cars will be programmed to avoid collisions with pedestrians and other vehicles. They will also be programmed to protect the safety of their passengers. What happens in an emergency when these two aims come into conflict?

Volkswagen’s Dr. Herbert Diess to Keynote CES 2016, Launch New Electric Car


Herbert Diess’ keynote is scheduled for 8:30 PM, Tuesday, January 5 at the Cosmopolitan’s Chelsea Theater. He will debut a new era of electric mobility, including Volkswagen’s groundbreaking electric vehicle that will further illustrate the synergy between the Internet of Things and the automotive industry.

Electric Scooters, and a Network

Chris Horton:

This year, a Taiwan-based startup called Gogoro has been using the scooter-filled streets of Taipei to test its Smartscooter, an electric scooter with an efficient all-electric drive train, sleek design and Internet of Things ingenuity. But Gogoro doesn’t want to be called a scooter company. It sees itself as an energy services company at heart


Drivejoy UK:

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Bernstein: Germans disrupt $TSLA, $TSLA too slow to fight back

Bertel Schmitt:

Bernstein Research is one of the few analysts that truly know the car industry. They don’t just dissect balance sheets, they take whole cars apart to find competitive (dis)advantages. Bernstein thinks that the G3, Volkswagen, BMW, and Daimler, are about to roll over Tesla, and that supposedly quick-footed Tesla is too slow to do anything about it.
 In a research report distributed today to customers, Bernstein analyst Max Warburton writes that German automakers, previously known as dismissive about the electric car thing, are having a change of mind. And change their minds they must. Tight EU 2020 CO2 targets were thought achievable only with lots of diesel cars. Suddenly, this does not look like a good plan. Suddenly electric is in, as the leverage provided by EV super credits helps to make up for the expected diesel shortfall. EU super credits are not like the Californian kind, where a few compliance cars, and an unused swap station make you look good in the eyes of CARB. In Europe, you will actually need to sell the EVs to make them count. However, come 2020, one EV sold will count as two towards the fleet average.

The long-haul: one year of solitude on Americas highways

Robert Langellier:

woke up driving an eighteen-wheeler 60 miles per hour through a field east of Amarillo, Texas. My partner was screaming as he bounced around in the back; he had just woken up, too. Everything in the truck rattled and shook. Baggage rained down on me from the upper bunk. The view a dark blur, I slammed on the brakes, but 80,000 pounds of inertia wasn’t going to stop for air brakes.
 My last clear memory was standing outside a rest stop at 3:00 a.m. watching the canvas of white stars meet the glittering orange lights of the nuclear-weapons plant far to the north. It was crisp outside Amarillo, where industry meets the Texas plains, and I considered what I’d left and the world I was delving into. A spiritually paralyzing tower of student debt​ from four years of college. I’d been a long-haul truck driver for exactly three weeks. This was my test run.
 There’s something metaphysical about driving alone through the night. As the world slips into darkness, you enter a free-form self that is post-sleep and incoherent. After a few hours, the parameters that separate you from the prism of night dissolve, and only an elongated tube of light sucks you along. And you begin to hallucinate. Under prolonged sensory deprivation, your brain invents its own visions. Before we reached Amarillo, I’d spent days on an acrobatic sleep schedule, trying to weather my driving partner’s erratic temper and fearing for my own safety.

Could Self-Driving Cars Spell the End of Ownership?

Dan Neil:

HENRY FORD WAS A smart guy but he never did the math when he decided to put every American household on wheels.

A century after the Model T, the world has a problem with cars. The U.S. and China will consume about 40 million light vehicles in 2015, according to IHS. Globally, we’re on track to hit 100 million vehicles in 2020.

That’s not a lot of cars. That’s an ocean of cars, an inundation, wave after wave breaking on the shores of the industrialized world. And yet policy makers and common folk alike have been powerless against the siren song of the automobile. Even in the most car-blighted burg in the world, the toxic parking lot they call Beijing, the appetite for the automobile—as status item, as luxury, as totem of personal mastery in a fragile postcolonial mind-set—is driving millions more into its smoggy embrace, despite limits on ownership and the government’s rising alarm.

Forget Tesla, Buy Korean Battery Makers’ Shares

Shuli Ren:

As such, electric-vehicle bulls who find Tesla Motors ’ (ticker: TSLA) stock too volatile—a fifth of its outstanding shares are borrowed by short sellers—can turn to Korean battery makers LG Chem (051910.Korea) and Samsung SDI (006400.Korea) at much cheaper prices
 In battery technology, the rest of the world is headed in the direction opposite Tesla, a pioneer in packaging arrays of cheap, commoditized laptop batteries to power cars. The other car makers have turned to the two Korean suppliers, which claim that their larger batteries are safer. They also are more expensive.
 “Korea is steaming ahead,” says Bernstein Research’s Mark Newman. Market leader LG Chem, which supplies GM (GM), has made significant cost reductions by packing more energy density into its batteries—in the case of GM, by 30% to 40% from the first-generation plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt to the all-electric 2017 Bolt. LG Chem supplies 13 of the top 20 global auto makers and six of China’s top 10.

Electric Cars Can’t Take the Cold

Jeff Plungis:

California’s mandatory sales targets for electric and hydrogen-powered cars will go from less than 1 percent today to more than 15 percent by 2025. The targets, the result of legislation passed in 2003, are a means of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
 The same targets will go into effect in nine other states that have chosen to adopt California’s emissions-reduction standards rather than follow laxer federal rules: Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
 “Electrification is a needed part of the solution,” says Matt Solomon, transportation director of Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, a nonprofit consortium representing the air quality agencies of eight states.

Winning the driverless car wars

Megan McArdle :

When it comes to the glorious new future of self-driving cars, I’m something of a bear.
 Not a radical skeptic, mind you: I think self-driving cars are coming, eventually. I just think that “eventually” might be further off than people suggest. Getting to “level-four” automation — where the car drives itself, all the time, with no human input — is still a formidable challenge. Getting to level-three automation, where the car mostly drives itself most of the time, seems imminent. But the actual advantages of level-three automation over cruise control and early warning systems seem dubious. If people are distracted when the car needs them to take over, then level-three automation could end up being more dangerous than the older systems. And if people aren’t distracted, which is to say they are grimly staring at the road with nothing to do for hours at a stretch, then it seems worse than actually driving the car.

This Ford can drive itself in motorway traffic and park while you wait

Alistair Charlton:

Autonomous driving is no longer reserved for luxury cars, as Ford reveals plans to bring driverless systems – including one which can park a car without the driver being inside – to our roads very soon. The systems will be affordable alternatives to those already offered by BMW and Tesla.
 Called Traffic Jam Assist, the first system works alongside the car’s cruise control and uses cameras and radar to monitor road markings and surrounding traffic. When driving in stop-start traffic on a busy motorway, the feature can be switched on via the steering wheel; it then takes control of the steering, brakes and accelerator.

Guerrilla traffic speed monitoring to inform and push for change


(or: using open source software and readily available tools to see how fast traffic moves on Forbes Ave)
 October was a tragic month for the Oakland community in Pittsburgh. Two pedestrians and a cyclist were killed in car crashes within four days of each other. While the collisions are still under investigation, I have a strong suspicion that speed was a major factor in both. The survivability of a crash decreases very dramatically as speed increases from 20 to 40 miles per hour [1].

Helsinki’s bicycle highway and other great innovations to build healthier cities

Julia Belluz:

The Baana was constructed in 2012, part of a revival of bicycle-friendly infrastructure in the Finnish capital. Other European capitals — Amsterdam, Copenhagen — have long been pictures of cycling perfection, and major cities around the world, from Rabat to Bogota, have been making pushes to build up bike lanes and low-cost bike rental systems as a means of improving public health and reducing air pollution.
 During my week in Helsinki, I used a bike much more than I did in my then-hometown Toronto, a city that’s incredibly hostile to cyclists, where you often feel you’re putting your life in your hands every time you hop on for a ride. It was a win for both my health and the environment.

U.S. consumers stretch out auto loans to afford higher-priced cars

Bernie Woodall:

S. consumers are battling to keep monthly payments affordable by taking out longer-term loans, or relying on lease deals which usually hold monthly payments lower than a comparable loan.
 Experian found leases accounted for about 27 percent of new vehicle purchases in the third quarter, a record level. Financing of new vehicle purchases reached 86.6 percent, also a record level.

Breaking: New data Average amount borrowed by auto buyers hits record high of $28,936

Phil LeBeau:

Breaking: New data from @Experian_US shows avg. amount borrowed by auto buyers hits record high of $28,936

The High-Stakes Race to Rid the World of Human Drivers

Adrienne LaFrance:

As these technology giants zero in on the car industry, global automakers are being forced to dramatically rethink what it means to build a vehicle for the first time in a century. Aspects of this race evoke several pivotal moments in technological history: the construction of railroads, the dawn of electric light, the birth of the automobile, the beginning of aviation. There’s no precedent for what engineers are trying to build now, and no single blueprint for how to build it.
 Self-driving cars promise to create a new kind of leisure, offering passengers additional time for reading books, writing email, knitting, practicing an instrument, cracking open a beer, taking a catnap, and any number of other diversions. Peope who are unable to drive themselves could experience a new kind of independence. And self-driving cars could re-contextualize land-use on massive scales. In this imagined mobility utopia, drone trucks would haul packages across the country and no human would have to circle a city block in search of a parking spot.
 If self-driving vehicles deliver on their promises, they will save millions of lives over the course of a few decades, destroy and create entire industries, and fundamentally change the human relationship with space and time. All of which is why some of the planet’s most valuable companies are pouring billions of dollars into the effort to build driverless cars.

Google Files Patent for Second-Gen Autonomous Vehicle without a Steering Wheel, Brake Pedal & More

Patently Mobile:

This month the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Google that reveals various aspects of the technology behind their next-gen autonomous vehicles. Google’s invention relates to autonomous vehicles for maneuvering a user or passenger to a destination, for example taking a trip, autonomously. The patent covers everything from encryption keys to authenticate a ride to various aspects of the vehicle. For instance, the vehicle doesn’t provide the user with a steering wheel, brakes or gas pedal. The passenger is simply seated in the vehicle as if they were in a cab. Google discusses a control console for users and an emergency stop button system. To put riders further at ease, Google is initiating a concierge service reachable by the center user console or your own smartphone should you feel nervous or about to freak out over not knowing what to do if something goes wrong, like how to unlock the door of the vehicle which is controlled by an onboard computer system.