Veteran: How many Chinese carmakers do you know?
Rookie: It’s like the 1920s in America. They have not gone through consolidation like we did in America. I heard there are more than a hundred spread all over the country. Just a mess. Funny names like Lifan and Zotye and Avics. That’s why my main customers will be Ford, GM and FCA.
Veteran: You mean Guangzhou-FCA, right?
Rookie: That’s what I said. FCA.
Marketers spend a lot of time—and money—trying to delight consumers with ever-fresher, ever-more-appealing products. But their customers, it turns out, make most purchase decisions almost automatically. They look for what’s familiar and easy to buy. This package explores that idea and the science behind it, offers a counterpoint, and includes conversations with the cochairman of the LEGO Brand Group and the chairman of Intuit.
Headhunter Casey Abel spent four months trying to hire a data-center architect for a Japanese automaker, including five meetings with the client — one with the top executive. In the end, the IT specialist joined an e-commerce company abroad for significantly more money.
“There’s just a massive mismatch in salaries,” said Abel, managing director at recruiter HCCR K.K., who has spent as long as a year trying to land some IT candidates. “You’ve got some engineers making 20 million yen ($170,000) a year. Then you try to fit them in the traditional manufacturer-based salary structure where it should be 7 to 9 million yen.”
Of the approximately 83,000 U.S. Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche models from the 2009 through 2016 model years with emissions-cheating 3.0-liter TDI V-6 engines—some of which will be bought back through a massive settlement—about 16,000 are registered in California. And California, which has set its own ZEV mandate requiring electric vehicles, has taken what might be seen as a disproportionately strong role in determining how Volkswagen makes amends—to the point where Sacramento is dictating the automaker’s product lineup.
The federal Secondary Consent Decree released this week for those vehicles included a separate document for California. The California Partial Consent Decree, ancillary to the massive federal Consent Decree that lays out how that will happen, has several state-specific stipulations that have little connection to SUVs and luxury sedans equipped with the TDI V-6. They go well beyond stating to whom Volkswagen should pay fines or how the state should spend its $800 million share of the $2 billion VW is mandated to spend for infrastructure updates. It could be the first time ever in which an automaker is required by regulators to build a particular product—a product that might not even have been in the pipeline—as punishment for wrongdoing.
The State of California’s Public Utility Commission has authorized Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to install 7,500 electric car charging stations in Northern California which is in addition to 5,000 for San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison. This places very large utility companies squarely in the mix of the electric car revolution. Since one of electric car buyers biggest concerns is “range anxiety” having so many available may not eliminate the concern but should help to mitigate it.
Having an additional 12,000 electric car charging locations in California would be close to the 13,500 gas stations in the state. Many of the stations will be at work-places and multi-unit apartment buildings. While they are not equivalent since gas stations are located in public places and easy to spot you also have to consider that there are already thousands of charging locations that can found in apps such as Blink, ChargePoint, Open Charge Map and PlugShare. And there are probably thousands if not more than 10,000 people who “fill-up” at home. Overall the electric car “refueling” distribution ecosystem will be very different than gasoline stations.
Volkswagen AG’s financing arm has acquired a Canadian mobile payments company, the latest move by a car maker investing heavily to compete in a mobility arms race that is heating up in the auto industry.
The German auto maker’s Volkswagen Financial Services AG will dish out an undisclosed sum to acquire PayByPhone, a Vancouver-based company that allows people to pay for certain parking spaces by mobile apps, phone calls or texts. PayByPhone, founded in 2000, says it processes $300 million in transactions annually.
Traditional auto shows are increasingly taking a back seat as automakers premiere new cars and trucks at their own private events and at non-traditional venues, such as the CES technology trade show.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will have a substantial presence on the Detroit auto show floor next month, but isn’t expected to pull the wraps off any new vehicles. However, Fiat Chrysler is expected to debut an all-electric concept vehicle a week before at the CES show in Las Vegas.
A dusty village on the outskirts of Ningde, a third-tier city in China’s southeast, seems an unlikely place for the headquarters of a potential global leader in future automotive technology.
Yet China’s top-down industrial policy diktats – move up the value chain, clean up polluted urban skies, and shift to plug-in cars – have Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) poised to go from hometown hero to national champion, and beyond.
China’s answer to Japan’s Panasonic Corp and South Korea’s LG Chem Ltd has tripled its production capacity for lithium-ion car batteries in the past year to keep up with a surge in China’s sales of electric cars.
GUILBERT GATES, KEVIN GRANVILLE, ANJALI SINGHVI and KARL RUSSELL
Autonomous cars have arrived — Uber has fleets in Pittsburgh and San Francisco, Google’s parent company is spinning off its driverless car project in a sign it is closer to coming to market, and the federal government has begun to issue guidelines on how the cars should work.
President Obama recently signed the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 (H.R. 5111), which passed both houses of Congress unanimously. The bill addresses a dangerous trend: businesses inserting clauses into their form contracts that attempt to limit their customers’ ability to criticize products and services online. We’re pleased to see Congress taking a big step to protect free speech online and rein in abusive form contracts.
The CRFA tackles two different ways that businesses attempt to squash their customers’ reviews. The first is rather straightforward: simply inserting clauses into their form contracts saying that customers can’t post negative reviews online, or imposing a fine for them. For instance, the Union Street Guest House used such a contract and attempted to fine guests over their bad reviews.
You may have seen this incredible video from NVIDIA, one of our Nanodegreepartners, which highlights their efforts of teaching a car how to drive using only cameras and deep learning. The second challenge for the Udacity Self-Driving Car initiative is to replicate these results using a convolutional neural network that you design and build! End-to-end solutions like this, where a single network takes raw input (camera imagery) and produces a direct steering command, are considered the holy-grail of current autonomous vehicle technology.
The top scoring network (measured by how close the steering angles generated were to a human) for Challenge #2 was built by the amazing Ilya Edrenkin, a Senior Researcher at Yandex. He generously wrote an iPython Notebook explaining how his neural network was constructed, and I thought it needed to be shared with the world. Enjoy!
Does Northwest Mall have a chance in its current form? Will malls come back into fashion? Who would be their tenants, as Internet-based retail continues to erode bricks-and-mortar? And won’t those driverless cars eliminate the need for 98 percent of that vast parking lot?
Those dilemmas are hardly unique to Northwest Mall. If present trends continue, the space given over to retail and parking will shrink considerably in the coming years. Northwest Mall’s future is contingent on those trends and other vast forces beyond its control, and its fate is as unclear and mysterious as that doll’s in the strange jail diorama.
FOR decades, automakers have been able to count on a fundamental fact of American life: You pretty much need a car to get around.
But lately, novel technologies, including ride-hailing services like Uber and advances in self-driving cars, are creating new alternatives for commuting, shuttling children and going to the store — particularly in urban settings.
There are also demographic and economic trends in play. Many younger Americans do not consider owning a car a goal or necessity — or a necessary expense. So carmakers are looking ahead to a day when the automobile plays a smaller role, or even no role at all, in many people’s daily routines.
“The historical model is you buy a car and it’s in your garage most of the time,” said Glen DeVos, vice president for engineering and services at Delphi Automotive, a big developer and supplier of automobile technology. “It’s the second-most expensive thing you buy after your home, so if you can get around without owning a car, there are a lot of economic reasons people may not own a car, or own only one instead of two.”
Volkswagen will unveil a concept for a self-driving electric minibus at the Detroit auto show next month as the automaker prepares to challenge Uber with its new Moia mobility services division.
The vehicle will have a roomy interior, long range and will be able to drive fully autonomously, VW said in a statement today.
VW released teaser pictures of the vehicle, which is the second concept in its ID family of fully connected electric cars. The first ID concept was a Golf-sized electric hatchback premiered at the Paris show in September.
The Detroit concept is based on VW’s new Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB) like the Paris show car. One of the pictures released by VW shows that it has an upright front end reminiscent of the automaker’s iconic Microbus van.
The White House predicts nearly all truck, taxi, and delivery drivers will have their jobs automated
Like everyone else, the White House isn’t entirely sure how automation driven by advancements in artificial intelligence will affect the US economy. But the president’s office does feel confident about one thing: the outlook isn’t good for people who make their living as drivers.
In a report published Tuesday, the White House estimated that nearly 3.1 million drivers working today could have their jobs automated by autonomous vehicles. However, the report doesn’t offer a timeline for when this automation could occur, just that the jobs as they exist now are at risk.
The oil industry must brace for five energy “tsunamis” that threaten to drag prices as low as $10 a barrel in less than a decade, according to Engie SA’s innovation chief.
The falling cost of solar power and battery storage, rising sales of electric vehicles, increasingly “smart” buildings and cheap hydrogen will all weigh on crude, Thierry Lepercq, head of research, technology and innovation at the French energy company, said in an interview.
“Even if oil demand continues to climb until 2025, its price could drop to $10 if markets anticipate a significant fall in demand,” Lepercq said at his office near Paris. Crude last slumped to that level in 1998.
“Solar, battery storage, electrical and hydrogen vehicles, and connected devices are in a ‘J’ curve,” he said. “Hydrogen is the missing link in a 100 percent renewable-energy system, but technological bricks already exist.”
The former French gas monopoly, which is now the world’s largest non-state power producer following a decade of acquisitions, is investing in renewables while selling coal-fired plants and exploration assets to shield itself from commodity-price swings. It plans to spend 1.5 billion euros ($1.57 billion) by 2018 on technologies including grid-scale battery storage, hydrogen output, “mini-grids” that serve small clusters of homes, and smart buildings that link up heating, lighting and IT systems to save energy and cut costs.
Hydrogen fuel cell technology has come far in recent decades, from its early years launching rockets into space, to finally arriving on our roads as part of the energy revolution. While still a relatively young technology, hydrogen offers a real alternative to the polluting engines that have plagued the planet for the last century. Critics argue that hydrogen fuel cell engines are not as efficient as alternatives, and they are not 100% green due to the release of methane during hydrogen extraction. Nonetheless, we felt it was important to demonstrate how the hydrogen fuel cell works, and what is involved in making the wheels turn as we step ever so closer to a greener future.
The most important change, will be the automation of vehicles – both private and public transport vehicles.
The second most important change is the conversion of the vehicle fleet to being primarily electric.
If you’re in the market for a car, there are some good reasons not to buy Chevrolet’s new Bolt. Maybe you insist on leather seats, take long road-trips to the middle of nowhere, or have a boat to tow around. If not, GM’s new long range electric vehicle will be at the very least entirely sufficient for your needs. At best, it will be a giddy surprise.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The first affordable electric car to top 200 miles on a single charge was expected to be a vehicle of compromise, a bundle of “buts.” Indeed, the most impressive things about the Bolt are the attributes it lacks. The car is not tiny, boring or slow. And it handily topped its goal, coming in with an EPA-estimated 238-mile range, almost exactly the distance between New York and Boston or Washington D.C.
Thundersoft, a company out of China that designs operating systems for drones and other connected devices, has made an acquisition to drive deeper into automotive technology: it has paid €64 million ($68 million; RMB471 million) for Rightware, a company out of Helsinki that develops graphical user interfaces for connected devices, with a special focus on automotive: its Kanzi product is currently used in some 20 automotive brands, the company said.
The deal should close in early 2017.
Well, another test cycle of Wards 10 Best Engines is over, and every year I say the same thing: These green cars are the real deal. There is no sacrifice in performance – in many cases torque is plentiful and immediate – and you get better fuel economy and reduced tailpipe emissions.
This year we have four, count ’em, four green cars on the Wards 10 Best Engines list, out of a very good field of three hybrids, seven plug-in hybrids and one electric vehicle.
The BMW 330e PHEV narrowly missed and we found a lot to like about the new Hyundai Ioniq EV, too. Both cars have awesome regenerative braking ability. Judge Bob Gritzinger added more than 10 miles (16 km) of range on his stop-and-go-heavy commute home in the Ioniq.
Blackberry, once known for its phones but now betting its future on the more profitable business of making software and managing mobile devices after largely ceding the smartphone market to the likes of Apple and Samsung, is expanding subsidiary QNX’s Ottawa facility to focus on developing advanced driver assistance and autonomous vehicle technology.
After a detour where QNX’s industrial-focused software was used to reinvent the now-discarded BlackBerry phone operating system, BlackBerry is focused on how its embedded software interacts with the explosion of sensors, cameras and other components required for a car to drive itself.
Toyota Motor and U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm are among the 27 companies forming a global consortium to bring self-driving technology onto the road.
The group aims to lead a private-sector push to establish safety standards and other rules for varying degrees of autonomous driving. The World Economic Forum, which formed a working committee in May to discuss the future of self-driving cars, had called for such an initiative.
The auto industry represents 12 of the participants, including Toyota, Nissan Motor, General Motors, Volkswagen, BMW, Hyundai Motor and Volvo Car. Insurers include Liberty Mutual Group and Japan’s Sompo Holdings, with Qualcomm and Sweden’s Ericsson among the information technology companies. Uber Technologies, the company behind the ride-hailing app, and U.S. logistics giant UPS are also taking part.
For car makers looking to board the electric bandwagon, building battery plants may be a sign of weakness, not strength.
Batteries are by far the most expensive component in electric cars, costing roughly $7,500 a piece, estimates stockbroker Liberum. Battery technology also determines crucial performance features such as power and range that have held back sales.
Even so, it may be a mistake for car makers to assume battery production is a core competence. Changing consumer tastes and the emergence of self-driving technology suggest driving experience will eventually take a back seat to digital experience—presumably in the form of software that helps drivers or entertains passengers.
If a car almost hits a pedestrian when the car is turning right on a red, whose fault is it? According to Matts-Åke Belin, Sweden’s traffic safety strategist, the blame is on whoever designed the intersection.
“Why should we put the whole responsibility on the individual road user, when we know they will talk on their phones, they will do lots of things that we might not be happy about?” Belin told CityLab in an interview. “So let’s try to build a more human-friendly system instead.”
Belin is one of the creators of Vision Zero, a Swedish policy instigated in 1997 that has the aim of eliminating road deaths. But unlike almost every other scheme to make roads safer, Vision doesn’t try to blame the victim or the perpetrator. Instead, it tries to design the system itself to be safer. And it’s working. Since its beginning, Vision Zero has more than halved road deaths, to below three fatalities per 100,000. Compare that to the U.S., where the figure is 11.6 per 100,000.
A transformation is happening in global energy markets that’s worth noting as 2016 comes to an end: Solar power, for the first time, is becoming the cheapest form of new electricity.
This has happened in isolated projects in the past: an especially competitive auction in the Middle East, for example, resulting in record-cheap solar costs. But now unsubsidized solar is beginning to outcompete coal and natural gas on a larger scale, and notably, new solar projects in emerging markets are costing less to build than wind projects, according to fresh data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Officials in Colorado are planning a public-road test of battery-charging technology capable of powering electric trucks while they drive.
In the pilot project, believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S., vehicles equipped with “receiving coils” will draw power from another coil buried in the road. The Colorado Transportation Department and infrastructure developer Aecom Inc. are scouting potential sites, including busy roads near Denver International Airport, with a goal of launching in 2018.
We envision a future where cars move themselves once fully charged, enhancing network efficiency and the customer experience even further. Until then, we ask that vehicles be moved from the Supercharger once fully charged. A customer would never leave a car parked by the pump at a gas station and the same thinking applies with Superchargers.
The Tesla app allows owners to remotely monitor their vehicle, alerting them when their charge is nearly complete and again once fully charged. For every additional minute a car remains connected to the Supercharger, it will incur a $0.40 idle fee. If the car is moved within 5 minutes, the fee is waived. To be clear, this change is purely about increasing customer happiness and we hope to never make any money from it.
We’re excited to increase availability during long distance travel and think this change will make the Supercharging experience far better for everyone.
It’s hard to imagine an industry more in need of disruption than the fossil fuel industry.
There is no question that the burning of fossil fuels creates toxic byproducts that cause serious illnesses and death.
There is compelling evidence that the burning of fossil fuels is contributing to what might turn out to be irreversible damage to the environmental stability of our planet.
Geopolitically, the economics of attaining fossil fuels has caused hundreds of billions of dollars to be transferred from Western countries to places bent on our destruction.
And individually, purchasing fossil fuels for automobiles is a major financial burden on many low income consumers.
It’s hard to draw up a more compelling case for the need for disruption.
Strangely, there is a very obvious technological solution to a substantial aspect of the problem — battery powered vehicles, or as we call them, electric cars.
How many living, breathing human beings really read Techdirt? The truth — the most basic, rarely-spoken truth — is that we have no earthly idea. With very few exceptions, no media property big or small, new or old, online or off, can truly tell you how big its audience is. They may have never thought about it that way — after all, we all get as close as we can to what we think is a reasonably accurate estimation, though we have no way of confirming that — but all these numbers are actually good for (maybe) is relative comparisons. What does it really mean when someone says “a million people” saw something? Or ten or a hundred million? I don’t know, and neither do you. (Netflix might, but we’ll get to that later.)
Where should we start? How about this: internet traffic is half-fake and everyone’s known it for years, but there’s no incentive to actually acknowledge it. The situation is technically improving: 2015 was hailed (quietly, among people who aren’t in charge of selling advertising) as a banner year because humans took back the majority with a stunning 51.5% share of online traffic, so hurray for that I guess. All the analytics suites, the ad networks and the tracking pixels can try as they might to filter the rest out, and there’s plenty of advice on the endless Sisyphean task of helping them do so, but considering at least half of all that bot traffic comes from bots that fall into the “malicious” or at least “unauthorized” category, and thus have every incentive to subvert the mostly-voluntary systems that are our first line of defence against bots… Well, good luck. We already know that Alexa rankings are garbage, but what does this say about even the internal numbers that sites use to sell ad space? Could they even be off by a factor of 10? I don’t know, and neither do you. Hell, we don’t even know how accurate the 51.5% figure is — it could be way off… in either direction.
Okay, so what about TV ratings? Well, there’s a reason they’ve been made fun of on the shows themselves for as long as our culture has been able to handle “meta” jokes without getting a headache. Nielsen ratings in their classic form are built on monitoring such a tiny sample of households that the whole country’s viewing profile can probably be swayed because someone forgot to turn off the TV before going on vacation. They sucked before DVRs and digital distribution began transforming the single household television into a quaint anachronism, and now it’s just chaos. Nielsen was slow to catch up with DVRs, and now the TV industry juggles scattered measurements including three or seven days of viewing beyond live air, and constantly complains that the ratings are off — specifically, that they’re too low. And they might be right, in the sense that they are too low by comparison to the garbage ratings from the pre-digital age that everyone eventually embraced as a standard for relative rankings. How big are these audiences really, in terms of real living breathing human beings? I don’t know, and neither do you.
Edward Taylor and Ilona Wissenbach:
Apple poached the technical director of Porsche’s race car program earlier this year, Manager Magazin reported today, hiring a project manager who helped engineer the sports car company’s victorious return to the Le Mans endurance race.
Alexander Hitzinger is the latest auto specialist to be recruited by technology giant Apple as it explores building its own car.
Earlier this month, Apple urged regulators not to impose too many restrictions on developers of self-driving cars.
Hitzinger, an Automotive News Europe Rising Star in 2014, could not be reached for comment.
Porsche confirmed Hitzinger had left the company in the spring. Apple was not immediately available for comment.
Hitzinger helped Porsche, owned by Volkswagen, return to endurance racing and to develop the 919 hybrid sports car from scratch, much in the same way Apple is now looking into building its own vehicle.
Housing inventories (to buy or to rent) remain tight (that is why shelter inflation has been so strong), giving homebuilders reasons to be optimistic. However, will the recent spike in mortgage rates dampen some of the enthusiasm? The equity markets certainly think so, with homebuilder shares underperforming the S&P500 by nearly 4% over the past week.
Naomi Tajitsu and Maki Shiraki:
Long guarded about what was beneath the hood of its pioneering Prius cars, Toyota Motor Corp plans to open up its powertrain technology to rivals, hoping this will boost sales and speed up the industry’s shift to lower-emission vehicles.
Announcing last week it would expand its gasoline hybrid technology development, the world’s largest automaker said it would consider selling complete powertrain modules – engines, transmissions and other drive components – to its competitors.
The prospect of giving rivals access to “one-size-fits-all” powertrains comes as cars are increasingly dependent on computerized components, making it easier to design similar parts across model ranges. The industry has moved on from competing largely on mechanical engineering.
That trend will likely accelerate as automakers face pressure from regulators to further cut car emissions and develop more long-range electric vehicles.
It’s 3 AM on a warm Thursday night in December, a usually quiet street in the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona is bustling with activity, as a cohort of 200 artificial intelligence researchers leave in single-file out of a sprawling yellow mansion. The police count heads as the researchers film the procession on their phones and tweet #rocketai.
The guest list looked like the results of a search for most popular AI authors on arXiv. Every major corporate and academic AI lab was in attendance — Google DeepMind, Open AI, Facebook AI Research, Google Brain, Stanford University, MIT, U of Montreal, as well as a multitude of other AI start-ups and investors from around the world — all in town for the 30th annual NIPS conference.
NIPS (Neural Information Processing Systems) has become the academic and industry AI conference, growing near-exponentially over the past decade as corporate sponsors fight to keep the loyalty of their engineers and aggressively recruit others. Corporates plan months in advance to parade their capital expenditure and technical talent. Tickets for the main conference, despite nearly doubling in quantity since last year, sold out more than 6 weeks before the event.
Q: So what can be done from a policy perspective to support this type of labor?
This breaks down to a number of problems.
You need to find highly-skilled labor. The highly-skilled operators and CAM programmers? There’s not enough of them that are being created. Companies in the U.S. are shortsighted. They should just pay people to go to school. You have to remember that most of these people don’t have a lot of money. There’s a disconnect. In Germany, there are government subsidies for vocational training. We should have tax credits for this. If you train people a certain amount for a certification, you would get it back in tax credits if people leave. Companies can’t do it on their own though. The margins at a company like Flextronics are like 6 percent gross. So they are trying to squeeze every little penny out of it. In the long run, this is a big risk to them.
California-based Lucid Motors revealed its first car today, a fully electric sedan aimed at the “executive” market, with a 400-mile range rating from its onboard 100kWh battery, a 2.5-second 0-60 mph time and a target market date of 2018. The vehicle prototype was shown off today at a special unveiling event in Fremont, California.
IBM said today that it has partnered with BMW Group to research how Watson can help with driver-assist functions. A team of BMW engineers will work with IBM researchers and developers at the technology company’s new Watson Internet of Things headquarters in Munich.
Four BMW i8 hybrid sports cars will be connected to IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform “to demonstrate how Watson can enable new conversational interfaces between cars and drivers,” IBM said in a statement today.
“With this agreement, our companies will work together to lay the foundations so that BMW’s drivers can benefit from Watson’s conversational and machine learning capabilities,” Harriet Green, IBM global head of the Watson Internet of Things business, said in the statement.
“Our insight shows that while the car will remain a fixture in personal transportation, the driving experience will change more over the next decade than at any other time of the automobile’s existence,” Green said.
BMW’s agreement with IBM is the latest move by an automaker to get a leg up in the race to develop fully connected vehicles. Automakers and suppliers have invested billions of dollars in recent years to develop technology related to connected and autonomous vehicles.
The i8’s owner manual will be uploaded into Watson, which will allow drivers to ask questions about the vehicle in their “natural” language and receive answers while safely driving, said Niklaus Waser, IBM head of Watson Internet of Things in Europe, in an interview.
Watson will also be able to incorporate traffic updates and weather information to make up-to-the-minute route suggestions, and it will be able to monitor driver behavior to personalize the car to enhance safety, performance and comfort, Waser said.
We’re often asked how we build maps specifically for a fully autonomous car. A map for self-driving cars has a lot more detail than conventional maps (e.g. the height of a curb, width of an intersection, and the exact location of a traffic light or stop sign), so we’ve had to develop a whole new way of mapping the world.
The car of the future will be electric, connected and, eventually, self-driving. But where does that leave the car industry of the future? In a series of articles this month, Heard on the Street takes a look at how investors should approach the biggest technological disruption the car industry has faced in decades.
The autonomous cars won’t operate completely driverless, for the time being – as in Pittsburgh, where Uber launched self-driving Ford Focus vehicles this fall, each SUV will have a safety driver and Uber test engineer onboard to handle manual driving when needed and monitor progress with the tests. But the cars will still be picking up ordinary passengers – any customers who request uberX using the standard consumer-facing mobile app are eligible for a ride in one of the new XC90s operated by Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group (ATG).
And now we have the New Mobility Frontier, with car companies around the world in a frantic rush to be part of the car sharing and autonomous car movement. They’re making deals with Silicon Valley types left and right, throwing down massive sums of cash while betting on the come that it’s going to be huge. Are they absolutely sure as to what will be huge, exactly? Oh hell no, but they’ll be damned if whatever it is passes them by. They’re going to lawyer-up, technology-up, off-shore-up and jargon-up, and if there’s money to be made in mobility, damn it, then they’re going to be there, and don’t you forget it. They’re going to be mobility companies, yeah, that’s the ticket, or, wait for it, no, they’re going to be technology companies! Yes, that sounds bigger! As long as it ends in a “y” it’s all good, right?
While the industry continues to chug on, with optimism on its sleeves and abject fear in the deepest, darkest depths of its soul, the “battle” rages on too. Which battle, you might ask? It’s the battle between the True Believers and the pitchfork-wielding spineless weasels, recalcitrant twerps and human bureaucratic chicanes that exist inside these car companies.
Major incumbent companies that develop groundbreaking technologies have at least two traits in common.
First, they have laser-like focus on their customers’ daily existence, identifying opportunities to help them live the lives they want to live. Second, they can create new cultures or adapt their old, legacy structures to meet new market realities by combining novel or previously disparate disciplines to build these groundbreaking products.
Detroit’s auto industry must do both to avoid being left behind.
For most of us, our cars must be Swiss Army knives, all-in-one tools to serve multiple goals — from commuting to carpooling our kids to taking vacation road trips. Only the wealthy few can afford multiple cars tailored for a particular use, and, even then, they may be used only occasionally.
So the vast majority of individuals and families spend a lot of money investing in one or two purchases, compromising on everything to maximize a single function — typically some form of commuting. That, however, is beginning to change as emerging companies innovate in ways that lessen our need to compromise in affordable ways.
The advent of apps, driverless cars and services to provide mobility on demand signals an end to the car industry as we know it. It is a clarion call to Detroit to innovate to stay in the game.
The emerging companies have looked at how we live, why we buy (or don’t buy) cars, and why we drive and have begun to provide alternatives that increasingly serve us better than buying cars as we know them today. Detroit must start designing and building cars that fit our lives better than those alternatives, or it will not survive over the long haul. To its credit, Detroit has begun to explore this path in auto design labs around the world through development of specialized vehicles. However, these innovative concepts most often die as they make their way to market — because they were too “niche.” This has to change as niche will become “mass” when they are shared.
Of course, we have read headline after headline about the big U.S. automakers investing in ride-sharing, electric vehicles and driverless cars. We have read countless stories about Detroit automakers partnering with Silicon Valley to advance their r&d. While General Motors investing $500 million in Lyft and Fiat Chrysler’s parent partnering with Google on self-driving minivans are an important start, they must do more.
We look to a safer ‘driverless’ future but in reality technology & government action has been making driving safer for many years. Up until 2000 technology was designed not so much to prevent crashes occurring but to reduce fatalities in the event of a crash (e.g. seat belts, air-bags). Since 2000 technology has shifted to prevent crashes occurring and, in consequence, we see injury crashes and fatalities fall in tandem. As a result motor premiums have already stalled in the developed world.
While Google & Tesla focus on fully autonomous solutions, established car makers have opted for a gradualist approach, progressively introducing advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) first to the luxury end of the market, then more widely. Research suggests that these technologies prevent crashes. Depending on price, there is public appetite for them. Historically it takes 15 years for new technology to penetrate 95% of new car sales, a further 15 years to fully penetrate the fleet. However it could be quicker this time around given the sea change in customer experience.
Zetsche believes picking the right time to join the e-mobility movement is a lot like choosing the right time to get to a party: “Whoever arrives too early is alone on the dance floor. Whoever comes too late may have already missed the best part,” Zetsche said.
Daimler doesn’t plan to launch the production version of the Generation EQ concept until the end of the decade because electric vehicles currently account for less than 1 percent of Europe’s car sales.
For Zetsche, whose company once owned a 10 percent stake in Tesla, the more important year is 2025. By then, the Daimler CEO – who holds a degree in electrical engineering – believes that battery costs will drop to 100 euros per kilowatt hour, or one-third what it was in 2012 when the Tesla Model S debuted.
Companies can now test self-driving cars on Michigan public roads without a driver or steering wheel under new laws that could push the state to the forefront of autonomous vehicle development.
The package of bills signed into law Friday comes with few specific state regulations and leaves many decisions up to automakers and companies like Google and Uber.
Google’s self-driving project, led by ex-Hyundai CEO and president John Krafcik, is expected to be graduating from Alphabet’s moonshot shop “soon.” That’s according to Krafcik, who spoke at the Nikkei Innovation Forum in Palo Alto in October.
While the timeline of the project’s impending spinout isn’t any clearer two months later, the self-driving project is evidently preparing to separate from the mothership by hiring several of its own executives to positions X, formerly known as Google X, already has.
The first was Kevin Vosen, who was hired to be the self-driving arm’s chief legal officer. Now, Alphabet’s self-driving shop is looking for a head of real estate — or someone to secure new space for the autonomous company when it “graduates” from X.
In other words, the project is moving away from having to depend on X for things like dealing with regulation and expansion.
What impact will robots have on a world in which they are becoming increasingly more widespread and used across all fields? Will automatons be our work mates of the future? Will they be the teachers of the future? Will they be able to prescribe the right medicines when we are ill? These and other questions will be discussed at the Innovation and Science Festival, organised by the Settimo Torinese Local Authorities with the contribution of the ECM (Esperienze di Cultura Metropolitana) Foundation on October 15 to 23. The event will expand its horizons this year and involve the surrounding towns.
As in the past, the 2016 edition, entitled “We, Robots”, will be packed with ideas and debates, workshops for students, meetings with culture and science personalities, project exhibits created by schools and universities and “science cafés” for fostering informal exchanges between students and adults.
The Chrysler 300 looked innocent enough as it drove to the front of Continental’s North American headquarters in Auburn Hills where it parked and awaited to take me nervously into the future.
You wouldn’t have known it was an autonomous vehicle at first glance except for the sensors atop and alongside the car that have 360-degree viewing capability. They were put on the car by Continental, a German supplier known for its tires.
Like so many companies right now, Continental is expanding and forging a new future tied to cutting-edge technology to help automakers on their path to self-driving cars.
The vehicle markings were gone, but anyone in the Motor City who appreciates cars would know in an instant the sleek black vehicle was a 300.
Steffen Hartmann, a millennial who works as a vehicle test engineer at Continental, stepped out of the vehicle with a smile and proceeded to explain to me and my crew how the technology and sensors work.
Hartmann is one of the company’s point people charged with taking luminaries on test drives, showing them what it’s like to be in an autonomous car on an actual freeway.
1 Pacific Coast Highway
San Francisco to Los Angeles, California (443 miles)
California’s Highway One ducks and dives around the West Coast’s headlands and bays between the cities of San Francisco and LA, twisting over viaducts and skirting rugged mountains high above the blue Pacific. Highlights include the cliff-hugging stretch along the Big Sur, passing glamorous Malibu beach houses and, maybe, if you’re lucky, seeing a whale just offshore. Need more? Follow the road north into Oregon for redwood adventures or south for cactus forests in Baja California.
It’s the sort of thing you see in a Jason Bourne movie. A security camera watching over a crowded space snaps a picture of someone. A few seconds later, a supercomputer churns through a database and returns the person’s identity. The CIA knows all.
That same technology is now, for better or worse, available to anyone with a smartphone. Earlier this year, a couple of Russian programmers released an app called FindFace. It lets people take pictures of complete strangers and then almost instantly find them on social networks. See a pretty girl or guy on the street? Snap a pic, get to know them. What could go wrong?
orge Cruz has just finished his overnight shift stacking shelves at Whole Foods in Los Altos, California, and is waiting at the bus stop outside. Like much of Silicon Valley, there’s a regular flow of Tesla, BMW, Nissan and Google electric cars that cruise past from their nearby headquarters, and Cruz rather likes them.
“I really wouldn’t mind having an electric car,” he says, though his first choice is probably a Honda or an Acura. Regardless, for now, he rides the bus. “I need to save up for a car,” he explains.
As Cruz waits, a newly purchased Tesla zips by, advertising “ZERO EMISSIONS” on its license plate.
When the muddy streets of San Francisco were laid out during the heady days of the gold rush, riding a horse was the fastest way to get around. Today a new type of vehicle can be seen cruising the city: the driverless car.
With their spinning radar sensors and bulky camera arrays, these vehicles have the awkward look of a technology that is not quite mature. Yet just as the automobile gave rise to paved streets and suburban sprawl, the driverless car is set to radically reshape the cities we live in.
“There are huge changes that are coming,” says Dan Doctoroff, former deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding in New York. “We are in the middle of a historic moment.” Today Doctoroff leads Sidewalk Labs, a one-year-old offshoot of Google that works to bring new technologies to cities.
Car drivers are often to be seen these days with their heads down, texting or scanning social media on mobile phones. Some have halted at traffic lights but others drive at the same time, distracted by a digital world they find more entrancing than the physical one in front of them.
When I observe this, I think two things. The first is how dangerously they are behaving. The second is, when the time comes for cars to drive themselves, why would anyone buy one?
The same thought was prompted by Volkswagen’s decision this week to create a new brand called MOIA, not to make cars like its Porsche or Audi marques but to provide transport services. Its first effort will be a ride-hailing commuter shuttle service operating initially in Germany with electric vans.
Do you spend time in Silicon Valley or Detroit? If you don’t, know that most conversations involve these talking points: Autonomous cars are inevitable. Almost here. Will be ubiquitous. Save lives. Reduce traffic. Cut pollution. Also, mobility. And sharing. And no one will own cars. FYI, Don’t buy Tesla. Tesla sucks. Wait for our stuff.
“Never assume,” my father always said, so let’s follow his advice, deconstruct the clickbait underlying much of the autonomous driving narrative, and ask the question:
Brian Paden∗,1, Michal Cˇáp∗,1,2, Sze Zheng Yong1, Dmitry Yershov1, and Emilio Frazzoli:
Self-driving vehicles are a maturing technology with the potential to reshape mobility by enhancing the safety, accessibility, efficiency, and convenience of automotive transportation. Safety-critical tasks that must be executed by a self-driving vehicle include planning of motions through a dynamic environment shared with other vehicles and pedestrians, and their robust executions via feedback control. The objective of this paper is to survey the current state of the art on planning and control algorithms with particular regard to the urban setting. A selection of proposed techniques is reviewed along with a discussion of their effectiveness. The surveyed approaches differ in the vehicle mobility model used, in assumptions on the structure of the environment, and in computational requirements. The side-by-side comparison presented in this survey helps to gain insight into the strengths and limitations of the reviewed approaches and assists with system level design choices.
The CEO of Ford, Mark Fields, has been quoted in a recent interview as saying that there’s no market for electrified cars — meaning that the company’s head thinks (or claims) that there’s no market for conventional hybrids, as well as for all-electrics and plug-in hybrids.
I wonder what Toyota would have to say about that?
One of usability’s most hard-earned lessons is that you are not the user. This is why it’s a disaster to guess at the users’ needs. Since designers are so different from the majority of the target audience, it’s not just irrelevant what you like or what you think is easy to use — it’s often misleading to rely on such personal preferences.
For sure, anybody who works on a design project will have a more accurate and detailed mental model of the user interface than an outsider. If you target a broad consumer audience, you will also have a higher IQ than your average user, higher literacy levels, and, most likely, you’ll be younger and experience less age-driven degradation of your abilities than many of your users.
George Hotz, at 27 a past master of hacking, has outdone himself by giving away software that he says turns a modestly smart car into one that can more or less drive itself. He contends that it outperforms any production car except a Tesla—at a cost, in parts, of just US $700.
Hotz originally planned to sell an aftermarket system for a bit more than that and make a profit. However, that strategy foundered when the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency started breathing down his neck. So he went open source, reasoning that NHTSA can recall only a product that’s sold, not one that’s given away. Anyone can download the code from his startup, comma.ai.
Uber is investigating its top New York executive after he was alleged to have tracked a journalist’s location without her permission using an internal company tool called “God View.” Buzzfeed News reporter Johana Bhuiyan used the private car service earlier this month to travel to a meeting with Josh Mohrer, general manager of Uber New York. On arriving at the company’s Long Island City headquarters, Bhuiyan says she found Mohrer waiting for her. “I was tracking you,” he reportedly said, and pointed to his iPhone.
Located at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Blanchard Street, the Amazon Go store is open to Amazon employees participating in a testing program. It is expected to be open to the public in early 2017.
Amazon says that what makes the store tick is a combination of computer vision, sensors and machine learning that it calls “Just Walk Out technology.”
It can tell, say, when a particular shopper picks up a carton of milk from a shelf, and the technology puts it in that shopper’s virtual cart. It can also tell when an item is put back on the shelf — and removes it from the virtual cart accordingly.
Chinese auto making stocks tumbled last Friday after Morgan Stanley turned sour on the auto industry. Today it’s the turn of electric vehicle makers. BYD (1211.Hong Kong) slipped 4.1% in Hong Kong after Citi Research turned negative on the EV industry and downgraded the stock to Sell.
China’s electric car sales have blossomed in the last two years because of heavy government subsidies. But Beijing is changing its mind on the “car of the future” and is expected to slash subsidies next year.
Volkswagen Group is making a significant bet on future mobility services with Moia, a new separate company that will exist under the VW umbrella of brands focused specifically on providing mobility solutions, including fleet-based commuter shuttles and, eventually, autonomous on-demand transportation.
Moia, which launched at TechCrunch Disrupt London 2016 on Monday, is one of the most aggressive and intentional moves made yet by a major automaker in terms of investing in urban transportation models that extend beyond individual ownership.
Via Roman Meliška.
An ever increasing share of the world’s population is living in what are known as megaregions—clusters of interconnected cities. The concept of the megaregion is decades old and fairly easy to grasp, but geographically defining them has turned out to be rather tricky.
Now, researchers have attempted to map the megaregions of the contiguous United States by studying the commutes of American workers.
As megaregions grow in size and importance, economists, lawmakers, and urban planners need to work on coordinating policy at this new scale. But when it comes to defining the extent of a megaregion, they find themselves running into the same problems geographers and cartographers have always had when trying to delineate conceptual areas. Because megaregions are defined by connections—things like interlocking economies, transportation links, shared topography, or a common culture—it’s tough to know where their boundaries lie.
BMW will test autonomous vehicles in Munich next year as it seeks to keep up with ride-hailing firms like Uber [UBER.UL], which have spent billions on pay-per-use personal transport.
The German carmaker will have about 40 vehicles with self-driving functions in Munich’s inner city and then expand the project to other cities, BMW executives said on Friday.
“There is a trained test driver behind the wheel of every car,” Klaus Buettner, BMW’s Vice President in charge of Autonomous Driving said.
Uber’s rapid growth has prompted BMW to consider how autonomous vehicles may help them accelerate their own push into pay-per-use transport.
Apple Inc. confirmed for the first time its interest in autonomous-vehicle technology, but it remains unlikely the company will design or build a complete car.
In a Nov. 22 letter to U.S. transportation regulators, Steve Kenner, Apple’s director of product integrity, suggested Apple’s focus is on the software that would control a self-driving car. He said the company is “investing heavily in machine learning and automation” for many purposes “including transportation.”
Wood Mackenzie’s view echoes the International Energy Agency, which last month forecast global gasoline demand has all but peaked because of more efficient cars and the spread of EVs. The agency expects total oil demand to keep growing for decades, driven by shipping, trucking, aviation and petrochemical industries.
That’s more conservative than Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s forecast for EVs to displace about 8 million barrels a day of demand by 2035. That will rise to 13 million barrels a day by 2040, which amounts of about 14 percent of estimated crude oil demand in 2016, the London-based researcher said. Electric cars are displacing about 50,000 barrels a day of demand now, Wood Mackenzie said.
Uber’s latest update allows the ride-hailing app to track user location data even when the application is running in the background. The change in location data gathering is quite apparent — after the update is completed, Uber prompts users to accept the new policy by enabling their phones to make the change.
Previously, Uber only collected data from the user if the rider had the application open. Now, if a rider calls for an Uber and closes the app, Uber says it will continue to collect location data up until five minutes after the ride ends. That means Uber can see where you end up after you leave the car.
By the end of the next decade, my beloved manual transmission may no longer be an option. In the United States, gas-powered vehicles have been moving away from clutches for years. The perpetually growing SUV (which are almost exclusively fitted with automatic transmissions) market is accelerating that trend.
But the real death of the stick shift will be electric vehicles. Because of the nature of electric motors, a gear box is unnecessary. These cars are capable of accessing their torque at all times. You don’t have to downshift to fourth to access the extra power needed to pass a slow-moving car; you just stomp on the accelerator, and there it is.
As transportation industry expert Hubert Horan will demonstrate in his four-part series, Uber has greatly oversold its case. There are no grounds for believing that Uber will ever be profitable, let alone justify its lofty valuation, absent perhaps the widespread implementation of driverless cars. Lambert has started digging into that issue, and his posts on that topic have consistently found that the technology would be vastly more difficult to develop and implement that its boosters acknowledge, would require substantial upgrading in roads, may never be viable in adverse weather conditions (snow and rain) and is least likely to be implemented in cities, which present far more daunting design demands that long-distance transport on highways.
Tellingly, earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank turned down the “opportunity” to sell Uber shares to high-net-worth individuals. The reason? The taxi ride company provided 290 pages of verbiage, but would not provide its net income or even annual revenues.
By Hubert Horan, who has 40 years of experience in the management and regulation of transportation companies (primarily airlines). Horan has no financial links with any urban car service industry competitors, investors or regulators, or any firms that work on behalf of industry participants.
Uber is currently the most highly valued private company in the world. Its primarily Silicon Valley-based investors have a achieved a venture capital valuation of $69 billion based on direct investment of over $13 billion. Uber hopes to earn billions in returns for those investors out of an urban car service industry that historically had razor-thin margins producing a commodity product. Although the industry has been competitively fragmented and structurally stable for over a century, Uber has been aggressively pursuing global industry dominance, in the belief that the industry has been radically transformed into a “winner-take-all” market.
Horand Knaup, Michael Sauga and Gerald Traufetter
It just looked like an inconspicuous entry about a draft law on the Chinese Industry Ministry’s website. No one in Berlin noticed it until an attentive diplomat at the German Embassy in Beijing came across it and rang the alarm. Luckily, the person best positioned to address the matter was already on a plane to China.
Almost a year ago, I noted that while a few prominent tech pundits had pronounced “Peak Google” at the beginning of 2015, Google was actually as strong as ever 12 months later.
In my post, I said that since no company keeps succeeding forever, anybody that predicts the demise of a company without giving a specific timeframe will always eventually be right. That is to say, any prediction without a timeframe is utterly valueless. I also noted that giving a timeline is extremely difficult.
However, I think we now have enough information to give a rough timeline on when we can expect “Peak Google” in financial terms.
General Motors Co. stands to lose as much as $9,000 on every Chevrolet Bolt that leaves a showroom once the all-electric subcompact starts rolling out. Sounds crazy, but the damage makes perfect business sense under the no pain, no gain policy driving the electric-vehicle boom in the U.S.
California crafted the doctrine, with tough clean-air rules and a mandate that automakers sell some non-polluting vehicles if they want to do business in the Golden State. Nine others have adopted it, New York and New Jersey among them, and all told they make up close to 30 percent of the U.S. market. That goes a long way to explaining why zero-emissions models from more than 10 brands are on the roads, with more on the way. Most are destined to be loaded with red ink for their makers, but they’ll be great deals for consumers as companies unload them to meet their targets.
Obi Felten discussed why X’s employees celebrate Dia Los Muertos.
For most companies, failure is a reason for staff to be depressed, not a reason for them to throw parties.
At Alphabet’s research arm X, formerly known as Google X, however, failures are something that can be celebrated. As one of X’s top executives Obi Felten explained Wednesday during Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif., X has instituted an annual ritual modeled after Día de los Muertos, the Mexican holiday when families honor their deceased relatives.
The forecast has automakers buzzing. As they accelerate spending on developing self-driving cars, they’re devoting enormous attention on what to do with data that those high-tech devices generate — beyond making the drive automated. Among the possibilities: selling details about driving patterns to real estate developers or using it in personalized insurance calculations.
But the road to such a future could be more treacherous than traditional giants of the auto industry expect. They’re assuming the costs of sensors will fall enough to justify data collection efforts. They’re betting they can easily transfer the data, though it could be thousands of times the volume discharged by smartphones. And they’re hoping their role — and moneymaking potential — in the new realm isn’t marginalized.
The challenge comes from Silicon Valley breathing down the neck of the old guard. Younger auto rivals Tesla Motors, NextEV, Faraday Future and even Apple could have a head start on reinventing the technical guts of cars to pair with smartphone-grade software.
Automakers tell NextEV U.S. Chief Executive Padmasree Warrior that they’re bulking up software development teams. The former chief technology officer at Cisco Systems and Motorola tells them that’s good, but insufficient.
“Because of the heritage they have, it’s hard to say, ‘How can I build this from ground zero?’ ” Warrior said in an interview at the LA Auto Show. “They are trying to look at it as, ‘Can I just get the software and put it on an existing hardware platform,’ and I’m (making) the point it never works that way.”
The app’s launch Thursday underlines how auto makers are attempting to build trenches around the industry as cars access the internet, becoming more like our smartphones. Tech giants including Google, Apple and Samsung Electronics Co. are looking to supplant manufacturers at the top of the automotive food chain through self-driving software and smartphone-like services in vehicles.
Car makers have a poor record at making software that consumers want to use. Many have ceded that ground to Apple and Google.
Toyota has stubbornly refused to do so, focusing instead on building its own software and collaborating with car makers to create an alternative to offerings from Silicon Valley.
Today’s vehicles are increasingly ‘connected’ in the sense that they can exchange information wirelessly with the vehicle manufacturer, other vehicles and third-party service providers including insurance companies, financial and fleet service providers, users, infrastructure operators and diagnostic solution providers. This increases comfort and convenience for consumers, improves products and services, and contributes towards achieving societal goals such as improving road safety, reducing fuel consumption, and facilitating traffic management and parking.
This development is generating increasing demands from various market participants to access in-vehicle data. The data in question, generated by the vehicle, is known as ‘operating data’. It excludes data imported by vehicle users (such as mobile phone contact lists and selected destinations for navigation) and data received from external sources (like information transmitted by roadside units, other vehicles or vulnerable road users).
Access to in-vehicle data must be safe and secure. Direct third-party access to vehicle functions could increase exposure to hacker attacks, as every new external data interface increases the number of potential targets and entry points. Additional safety risks in terms of driver distraction could arise if external parties are granted uncontrolled access to the vehicle’s on-board systems, user interfaces and function displays.
“Vehicle manufacturers are fundamentally willing to share relevant vehicle data with third parties, provided this occurs in a way that meets strict requirements for road and product safety, as well as data security, and does not undermine their liability,” stated ACEA Secretary General, Erik Jonnaert.