Eyes wide shut: VW’s emissions cheating an industry suspicion for years

Ronan Glon:

Many consumers were surprised to find out that Volkswagen fitted its diesel-powered cars with an illegal defeat device designed specifically to cheat on emissions tests. However, reports now indicate that in the auto industry, the device was considered an open secret.
 Kent Falck, a vehicle line executive at Volvo, explains his team became suspicious of Volkswagen’s TDI turbodiesel engine about seven years ago. The Swedish carmaker wanted to sell diesel-powered cars in the United States, but it never managed to match Volkswagen’s TDI mill in terms of emissions, performance, and fuel economy, even though both companies used similar software.
 “We sat in a room and reviewed all the facts, figures, whatever we have, with the specialists. (But) we can’t manage it, how are the others doing it? We don’t know,” Falck remembered.
 While Volvo initially believed that Volkswagen had developed an advanced new technology that it wanted to keep secret, executives ultimately concluded that meeting U.S. emissions regulations without resorting to costly solutions — such as after-treatment systems — was impossible. Falck told Australian news site News.com.au that he started raising questions about Volkswagen’s TDI engine seven years ago.
 “We have the same suppliers, we have Bosch, we have Denso, we are working with the same partners, so we know this technology doesn’t exist,” he said.

BMW Is Said to Team Up With Intel, Mobileye on Self-Driving Cars

Gabrielle Coppola & Jamie Butters:

Intel Corp. is working with Mobileye NV to develop self-driving car technology for BMW AG, said people familiar with the matter.
 Senior executives from each company will hold an event on Friday to discuss the driverless-vehicle initiative, said the people, who asked not to be named because the details are private.
 Jerusalem-based Mobileye has been an early leader in providing cameras, software and other components that allow vehicles to see the world around them. BMW has been a client of Mobileye, along with General Motors Co. and Tesla Motors Inc. As automakers and their suppliers race to create systems to replace human drivers, most companies are betting on some form of artificial intelligence, which requires powerful processing.
 Intel is the world’s biggest chipmaker, thanks to its control of the computer-processor market. The company has elbowed its way onto the car dashboard by producing the components inside entertainment and information systems in vehicles. However, it still lags behind companies such as NXP Semiconductors NV and Infineon Technologies AG in providing chips to the auto industry.
 People are increasingly deciding which car to buy based on technology rather than horsepower. Automakers are turning to tech companies to keep up with the expectations of consumers, who are used to a seamless smartphone experience.
 Before it’s here, it’s on the Bloomberg Terminal.

Helium discovery a ‘game-changer’


found a large helium gas field in Tanzania.
 With world supplies running out, the discovery is a “game-changer”, say geologists at Durham and Oxford universities.
 Helium is used in hospitals in MRI scanners as well as in spacecrafts, telescopes and radiation monitors.

via Steve Crandall.

Daimler Fights Tighter Mexico Emission Rules as Smog Worsens

Nacha Cattan & Andrea Navarro:

 Daimler AG and other truck makers are fighting to delay new emission standards in Mexico as the government struggles to control the worst smog in the capital city in 14 years.
 The Latin American nation published draft rules in December 2014 to slash emissions on all new trucks and buses. Since then the regulations have stalled as companies including Daimler, which is Mexico’s largest builder of heavy duty vehicles, call for less stringent controls, saying the tighter standards could make new trucks too expensive for consumers.

East Coast states want to tax drivers’ travel, not their gas

Michael Laris:

The I-95 Corridor Coalition, which represents transportation officials from 16 states and the District of Columbia, applied for a federal grant last month to test the idea.
 Officials would stitch together the policies and technologies needed to count the miles driven by 50 recruits from each of the four states, including state legislators, transportation officials or other willing guinea pigs. They would send out “faux invoices” monthly. And they would collect the data that legislatures — and the driving public — would require to decide if the change makes sense.
 Although California plans to launch a pilot in July, also with fake invoices, and Oregon has had success with a volunteer program collecting actual cash, the concept is not particularly well known — or well loved across the country.

Dispelling the myth that “business leaders don’t need to be technical”

Andrea Coravos:

We expect our executives to have a strong understanding of the financial performance of their companies. Shareholders would find it strange – or more likely, unacceptable – if a CEO said, “I’m not financially-inclined” and passed along financial performance inquires to his or her CFO. Similarly, CEOs in an increasingly digital world will struggle to say, “I’m not technical” and hand over mission-critical business questions for the engineers to answer.
 Would you, as an employer, hire an MBA who graduated from a program that taught strategy, marketing, leadership, and operations — but did not teach finance or accounting? An MBA program that lacks a computer science curriculum is like a program that lacks finance or accounting.

Electric car sets world acceleration records


An electric racing car built by Swiss student engineers has broken the world record for acceleration by battery-powered vehicles.
 The grimsel car took only 1.513 seconds to reach 100kph (62mph) – slashing about a quarter of a second off the previous record time.
 So far, no petrol-powered production car has managed to hit the same speed in a comparable time.
 The grimsel needed only 30m (98ft) of track to reach the landmark speed.

Uber Hacking: How we found out who you are, where you are and where you went


For their bug bounty program to the public, and in Portugal, Uber was almost a daily issue in the news because of the taxi drivers, so we dove right into this program.
 After a couple of hours, we found out two open redirects that we reported right away. This could be the start of something good (we thought), but both issues were already reported by other researchers.
 At first it was a bit disappointing, but not giving up we doubled back and decided to implement some processes/methodologies.

Cars, Batteries and Dual-Class Stock

Matt Levine:

People complain all the time about public companies with dual-class share structures that allow one person to keep voting control even without majority economic ownership, and I mostly shrug. (I shrugged as recently as yesterday, about Facebook.) Those companies generally went public that way. The founder-controller went out to investors and said, look, here is the deal: You will give me money, and I will do stuff with it, and you won’t get much of a say, but I’m a great guy, aren’t I? And the investors said, sure, sounds good. So what is the problem? Willing buyers, willing sellers, full disclosure, negotiated deals. Sure we have many years of experience with the default rule that public companies should be run along one-share-one-vote lines, and that mostly works pretty well, but in this modern world of financial innovation there is no reason to force every company into the old defaults.

Why Uber Keeps Raising Billions

Andrew Ross Sorkin:

If you add up all the money Uber has raised since it started in 2009 — the idea was born when its founders became annoyed that they could not get a cab in Paris — the ride-hailing app company is on its way to amassing a colossal $15 billion. That’s real cash, not some funny-money, paper-based valuation. (That figure is $68 billion.) It has done all this while still managing to remain a private company, and its chief executive, Travis Kalanick, has insisted that a public offering is not coming soon. “I’m going to make sure it happens as late as possible,” he has repeatedly said.
 Consider this: When Amazon went public in 1997, it raised $54 million and was valued at $438 million.

How to Land An Autonomous Vehicle Job: Coursework — Self-Driving Cars

Why the Tesla boom could actually be very good news for the electric grid

Chris Mooney:

Clearly, a lot of EVs means a lot of electricity use. In particular, if large numbers of EVs are charging at roughly the same hour of day — and that time of day is likely to be when people get home from work, which is when electricity use spikes already — the repercussions could be massive. Electricity is most expensive during these peak hours, and power companies have to fire up “peaker plants,” usually driven by natural gas, to slake demand.
 “If it increased the peak we would have to invest more money for more generation capacity for the peak, which is the most expensive kind of generation capacity,” says the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Chris Nelder, one of the authors of the report.

Volkswagen Group New Group strategy adopted: Volkswagen Group to become a world-leading provider of sustainable mobility


With regard to vehicles, and drivetrains, special emphasis will be place on e-mobility. The Group is planning a broad-based initiative in this area: it intends to launch more than 30 purely battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs) over the next ten years. The Company estimates that such vehicles could then account for around a quarter of the global passenger car market. The Volkswagen Group forecasts that its own BEV sales will be between two and three million units in 2025, equivalent to some 20 to 25 percent of the total unit sales expected at that time.
 Volkswagen is also to review and streamline its modular architectures in the context of generating profitable growth so as to reduce complexity in development and production, increase efficiency and thus make better use of the system’s economic merits.

San Antonio man has engine that gets 100 mpg

Barry Davis:

actually invented 200 years ago, in 1816. The engine is driven by the exchange of hot and cold air, much like nature drives a thunderstorm. The Stirling engine is capable of using roughly 50% of the energy it produces. An internal combustion engine, like the ones in our vehicles, uses about 14%.

How a 4-Pound Engine Can Replace a 40-Pound Engine

Avery Thompson:

Connecticut-based startup LiquidPiston announced today that they have built a small, compact engine that is powerful enough to drive a go-kart. Their X-mini engine weighs just 4 pounds and has three moving parts, and yet can produce 3 horsepower, enough to replace the default 40-pound piston engine that normally powers the go-kart.

New Energy Outlook 2016


Cheaper coal and cheaper gas will not derail the transformation and decarbonisation of the world’s power systems. From today until 2040, $11.4tn will be invested in power generation. Of that, $2.1tn will be spent on fossil fuels. But an astonishing $7.8tn will be invested in renewable energy.

Uber driving: Business travellers have all but abandoned taxis

The Economist:

One of the things that appeals to business travellers about Lyft is the ability to book cars in advance, a service the firm unveiled earlier this year. With Uber, on the other hand, clients can only book a ride as and when they want it, and must hope that there is a driver nearby (although there nearly always is). That explains why Uber announced last week that it will follow Lyft’s example and allow riders to book cars between 30 minutes and 30 days in advance.

As Tech Evaporates Jobs, “The Tipping Point Will Be Driverless Trucks”

Cora Lewis:

It was the free pizza that led Andy Stern to his first union meeting, back when he was working as a welfare caseworker in the 1970’s. He rose fast through the ranks, eventually claiming one of the most powerful positions in the labor movement: President of the 2.2-million member Service Employees International Union.
 Since retiring from the SEIU in 2010, he’s spent his time researching the effects of technology on American jobs, and thinking about the kind of policies needed to help workers cope with the changing labor market. In his new book with Lee Kravitz, Raising the Floor, Stern argues that a universal basic income (or UBI) — a guaranteed salary for all, without work requirements — will become a necessity as automation and on-demand labor take over wider swaths of the economy.

The era of big infrastructure is over

David Levinson:

There are new systems emerging. The internet and wireless telecommunications are pretty important. Combine these with transport and we can construct an on-call ride-hailing system that has updated the traditional taxis. This may eventually become substantial with Autonomous Vehicles. But this latter element is not a conventional physical infrastructure investment (not much of one, some servers, some software), rather it redeploys existing (and soon new) vehicles in a useful way.
 The new information-enabled systems that ride on-top of the classic physical layers are the products of Electrical Engineers and Computer Scientists, not great Civil Engineering works. We can imagine some things that might become useful. For instance we can think of space civil engineering, things like Space Elevators and Dyson Spheres. But these are not on the near horizon.
 Unless we can find an infrastructure that increases connectivity massively the way the railroad and the interstate did (doubling speeds, e.g.), there is no point in spending resources for that given the increasingly high costs and diminishing returns that civil infrastructure faces. We have enough trouble maintaining what we have with its proven connectivity (or lack thereof), the value of future infrastructure systems is speculative at best.

Quebec passes law to regulate Uber


They believe that is unfair to taxi drivers who hold permits which can cost up to $200,000.
 Once Québec Solidaire retracted its consent, the Liberal government said it was forced to invoke a “closure” motion, cutting off debate and forcing the bill to a vote, which passed because the Liberals have a majority.
 The opposition accused the government of using an undemocratic tactic.

Tesla Suspension Breakage: It’s Not The Crime, It’s The Coverup

Edward Niedermeyer

For several months now, reports have circulated in comment sections and forum threads about a possible defect in Tesla’s vehicles that may cause suspension control arms to break. Many of those reports appeared to come from a single, highly-motivated and potentially unreliable source, a fact which led many to dismiss them as crankery. But as more reports of suspension failure in Teslas have come in, Daily Kanban has investigated the matter and can now report on this deeply troubling issue.

Our investigation began in earnest upon reading a thread titled “Suspension Problem on Model S” in the Tesla Motors Club forum. The original poster (OP) in that thread described the suspension in his 2013 Model S (with 70,000 miles) failing at relatively low speed, saying the “left front hub assembly separated from the upper control arm.” Images of the broken suspension components showed high levels of rust in the steel ball joint and the OP reported being told by Tesla service center employees that the “ball joint bolt was loose and caused the wear,” which was “not normal.” Because his Tesla was out of warranty, the repair was reportedly sent to Tesla management for consideration.

According to a subsequent post by the OP, Tesla management refused to repair the broken suspension under warranty despite the “not normal” levels of wear reported by the service techs. Then, just days later, the OP reported that Tesla had offered to pay 50% of the $3,100 repair bill in exchange for his signature on a “Goodwill Agreement” which he subsequently posted here (a scan of the stock agreement can be found here). That agreement included the following passage:

Tesla Knows When a Crash Is Your Fault, and Other Carmakers Soon Will, Too

Tom Simonite

Everyone makes mistakes, and many people try to cover them up. But if you try to hide an error made behind the wheel of a car made by Tesla Motors, you are liable to be caught out. In fact, trying to hide what really happened in any kind of car accident could soon become just about impossible.

That’s the lesson of an incident over the weekend in which the owner of a Tesla Model X SUV crashed into a building and claimed it had suddenly accelerated on its own. But Tesla vehicles are constantly connected to their manufacturer via the Internet, and the company had this to say in a statement to the Verge:

Embracing Uber, Estonia shows tax needn’t be an issue

David Mardiste:

responded with curbs and bans on companies like Uber and home-sharing site Airbnb, which challenge traditional industries such as taxi services and hotels, drawing complaints of unfair competition and accusations of tax evasion.
 Estonia has, meanwhile, embraced the new industry and has collaborated with it over a new tax arrangement.

Why do they love electric cars in the Arctic Circle?

Chris Gibson:

known as the “Gateway to the Arctic”, receives no sunlight for two months of the year.
 Yet this remote, beautiful, snowy city is the unlikely focus of the global electric car industry, attracting the attention of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, founder of electric car maker Tesla.
 His company has recently opened a showroom there – its most northerly outpost.
 Why? Because Norway, it seems, is simply nuts about electric cars.
 The country is the world leader in electric cars per capita and has just become the fourth country in the world to have 100,000 of them on the roads.

Welcome to Larry Page’s Secret Flying Car Factories

Ashlee Vance and Brad Stone:

Valley developed a fleeting infatuation with a startup called Zee.Aero. The company had set up shop right next to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., which was curious, because Google tightly controls most of the land in the area. Then a reporter spotted patent filings showing Zee.Aero was working on a small, all-electric plane that could take off and land vertically—a flying car.
 In the handful of news articles that ensued, all the startup would say was that it wasn’t affiliated with Google or any other technology company. Then it stopped answering media inquiries altogether. Employees say they were even given wallet-size cards with instructions on how to deflect questions from reporters. After that, the only information that trickled out came from amateur pilots, who occasionally posted pictures of a strange-looking plane taking off from a nearby airport.

Faulty update breaks Lexus cars’ maps and radio systems


faulty data broadcast is causing problems for Lexus car owners in the US.
 The buggy update – which was delivered via a wireless transmission – is causing affected vehicles’ infotainments systems to stop working.
 This prevents drivers from getting navigation directions, climate controls and digital radio.
 The Toyota division has acknowledged the problem and said owners needed to bring their cars in.

Nanodegrees for German carmakers

Stefan Nicola:

The founder of X, Alphabet Inc.’s research and development facility, is bringing his online education company to Germany to help the likes of Volkswagen AG and BMW AG gear up for technological changes such as the self-driving car.
 Udacity Inc., which offers so-called nanodegrees online and has developed courses with Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., is expanding to Germany because its banks, energy companies and carmakers are struggling to equip staff and find enough workers with the right skills as their industries are disrupted by technology, said founder and President Sebastian Thrun, who worked on Google’s self-driving car project.


The Lemon Index: Which Cars Have the Highest Maintenance Costs?


The most expensive thing most Americans own, after their house, is their car. On average, Americans spend 5% of their income on purchasing a car and another 5% towards on-going vehicle maintenance and insurance costs.
 But it costs more to keep some cars running than others. And different cars have varying risks of leaving their drivers suddenly immobilized.
 We decided to analyze data from YourMechanic, a Priceonomics customer with a massive dataset of the make and model of the cars they have serviced and the type of maintenance done.

International Energy Agency: Electric vehicle battery costs rapidly decline


Citing Tesla Motors as leader in electric vehicle battery cost declines, the study reports that: “Some original equipment manufacturers announced even more ambitious cost estimates for BEVs: General Motors announced that battery costs for its 2016 Chevrolet Bolt had fallen to USD 145/kWh by October 2015, and that it hopes to reduce costs below the USD 100/kWh mark by 2022 (GM, 2015, EV Obsession, 2015). The electric car manufacturer Tesla aims to break the USD 100/kWh mark by 2020 (HybridCARS, 2015). Improvements in battery cost and energy density have led carmakers to announce EV ranges never heard of to date. As an example, in March 2016 Tesla launched orders for its new Model 3, committing to an electric drive range of nearly 350 km on a single charge by 2017, when the first vehicles are scheduled

Traffic-weary homeowners and Waze are at war, again. Guess who’s winning?

Steve Hendrix:

And so Connor borrowed a tactic he read about from the car wars of Southern California and other traffic-weary regions: He became a Waze impostor. Every rush hour, he went on the Google-owned social-media app and posted false reports of a wreck, speed trap or other blockage on his street, hoping to deflect some of the flow.

Electric-Bike Makers Woo Americans

Nick Leiber:

the headquarters of BH Bikes in Vitoria, a city in Spain’s Basque region. Founded in 1909 as an arms manufacturer, the company switched to bikes after World War I and introduced its first electric model in 2008. Today there are more than 60, ranging in price from about $1,300 to $5,200. “Growth has been tremendous,” says Mikel Quintana, head of the e-bike division, who expects to sell 20,000 this year, up 20 percent from 2015.

IEA: There are now more than one million electric cars on the world’s roads

Sophie Yeo:

The rapid growth of the industry means that it is now the only technology sector on track to meet the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2C scenario.
 This is the conclusion of the IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives 2016 report, which it released on Wednesday. This is the latest edition of their annual progress review of the technologies that will determine the rate of global emissions, including renewables, nuclear, CCS and coal.

BMW revamps ‘i’ electric car division to focus on self-driving tech

Edward Taylor and Irene Preisinger:

BMW has transformed its “i” division into a development center for self-driving cars, a board member told Reuters, a major strategic shift for the unit previously focused on making a family of lightweight electric vehicles.
 While Tesla’s Model 3 will hit showrooms in 2017, and as rivals Porsche and Audi are working on all-electric cars for release by 2019, the German carmaker appears to have put such cars on the back burner. Its next fully-electric car is not due until 2021.
 The company has changed tack after its only fully battery-powered car, the i3, failed to gain traction with the public, with only 25,000 sales last year. By contrast, Tesla has already received more than 370,000 orders for its Model 3.
 Now, rather than seeking to match the likes of Tesla and Porsche with a new zero-emissions sports limousine for release within the next two years, its main focus will be on developing an electric car with the next generation of technology: autonomous driving.
 In an interview at the company’s headquarters in Munich, BMW board member Klaus Froehlich, who is in charge of development, said he had relaunched the i division in April as a unit devoted to producing cars that drive themselves.

The i3 long bet.

OPEC’s Cheap Oil Strategy Lures Drivers Back Into Gas Guzzlers

Javier Blas:

As OPEC ministers gather in Vienna, they may notice more sport utility vehicles on the streets of the Austrian capital than on previous visits.
 Last year, SUVs outsold any other type of passenger vehicle in Europe for the first time, according to auto industry consultants JATO Dynamics. The trend has continued in 2016, with demand for SUVs such as the Hyundai Tucson and the Renault Kadjar accounting for a quarter of sales in the biggest European countries.