Diesel cars can be banned from German cities, court rules

Markus Wacket and Ilona Wissenbach:

German cities can ban the most heavily polluting diesel cars from their streets, a court ruled on Tuesday, a move that could accelerate a shift away from the combustion engine and force manufacturers to pay to improve exhaust systems.
 The court said Stuttgart, which styles itself the birthplace of the modern automobile and is home to Mercedes-maker Daimler, should consider gradually imposing a year-round ban for older diesel models, while Duesseldorf should also think about curbs.
 Many other German cities exceed European Union limits on nitrogen oxide (NOx), known to cause respiratory disease. After the ruling, the northern city of Hamburg said it would start to implement limits on diesel vehicles from the end of April.
 There has been a global backlash against diesel-engine cars since leading German carmaker Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) admitted in 2015 to cheating U.S. exhaust tests. The scandal has spread across the industry and boosted investment in electric vehicles.

Why data science is simply the new astrology

Karthik Shashidhar:

I’ve spent most of the last six years playing around with data and drawing insights from it (a lot of those insights have been published in Mint). A lot of work that I’ve done can fall under the (rather large) umbrella of “data science”, and some of it can be classified as “machine learning”. Over the last couple of years, though, I’ve been rather disappointed by what goes on in the name of data science.

Stripped to its bare essentials, machine learning is an exercise in pattern recognition. Given a set of inputs and outputs, the system tunes a set of parameters in a mathematical formula such that the outputs can be predicted with as much accuracy as possible given the inputs (I’m massively oversimplifying here, but this captures sufficient essence for this discussion).

One big advantage with machine learning is that algorithms can sometimes recognize patterns that are not easily visible to the human eye. The most spectacular application of this has been in the field of medical imaging, where time and again algorithms have been shown to outperform human experts while analysing images.

In February last year, a team of researchers from Stanford University showed that a deep learning algorithm they had built performed on par against a team of expert doctors in detecting skin cancer. In July, another team from Stanford built an algorithm to detect heart arrhythmia by analysing electrocardiograms, and showed that it outperformed the average cardiologist. More recently, algorithms to detect pneumonia and breast cancer have been shown to perform better than expert doctors.

Autonomous Taxis: Who Will Reap the Revenues and Profits from the Boom Ahead?

Tasha Keeney:

Autonomous vehicles will transform personal mobility by slashing the cost per mile relative to a traditional taxi, Uber, or personal car, according to ARK’s research. Here, we evaluate which firms will reap the benefits of a new market which promises to ramp from essentially $0 now to $10 trillion in global gross annual revenues by 2030.1
 We expect four types of firms to get a cut of the estimated $0.352 in revenue per mile that autonomous taxis will charge: platform providers, lead generators, vehicle manufacturers, and owner/operators, as shown below. Some companies probably will benefit from more than one source of revenues.

Nobody Wants to Let Google Win the War for Maps All Over Again

Mark Bergen:

On any given day, there could be a half dozen autonomous cars mapping the same street corner in Silicon Valley. These cars, each from a different company, are all doing the same thing: building high-definition street maps, which may eventually serve as an on-board navigation guide for driverless vehicles.
 These companies converge where the law and weather are welcoming—or where they can get the most attention. For example, a flock of mapping vehicles congregates every year in the vicinity of the CES technology trade show, a hot spot for self-driving feats. “There probably have been 50 companies that mapped Las Vegas simply to do a CES drive,” said Chris McNally, an analyst with Evercore ISI. “It’s such a waste of resources.”
 Autonomous cars require powerful sensors to see and advanced software to think. They especially need up-to-the-minute maps of every conceivable roadway to move. Whoever owns the most detailed and expansive version of these maps that vehicles read will own an asset that could be worth billions.
 Which is how you get an all-out mapping war, with dozens of contenders entering into a dizzying array of alliances and burning tens of millions of investment dollars in pursuit of a massive payoff that could be years away. Alphabet Inc.’s Google emerged years ago as the winner in consumer digital maps, which human drivers use to evade rush-hour traffic or find a restaurant. Google won by blanketing the globe with its street-mapping cars and with software expertise that couldn’t be matched by navigation companies, automakers and even Apple Inc. Nobody wants to let Google win again.
 The companies working on maps for autonomous vehicles are taking two different approaches. One aims to create complete high-definition maps that will let the driverless cars of the future navigate all on their own; another creates maps piece-by-piece, using sensors in today’s vehicles that will allow cars to gradually automate more and more parts of driving.

BP Forecast: Shared, Autonomous EVs Will Help Drive to Peak Oil Before 2040

Julia Pyper:

BP’s latest Energy Outlook sees peak oil on the horizon for the first time — driven by the rise of shared and autonomous electric vehicles.

Under the Evolving Transition (ET) scenario, which assumes that policies and technology continue to evolve at a speed similar to that seen in recent past, oil demand slows and eventually plateaus in the late 2030s.

At the same time, the total passenger vehicle fleet will nearly double to 2 billion cars by 2040 — including more than 320 million EVs, up from roughly 3 million today. This represents a significant increase over previous forecasts.

The Car of the Future Will Sell Your Data As smarter vehicles become troves of personal information, get ready for coupon offers at the next stoplight

Gabrielle Coppola and David Welch:

Automakers have been installing wireless connections in vehicles and collecting data for decades. But the sheer volume of software and sensors in new vehicles, combined with artificial intelligence that can sift through data at ever-quickening speeds, means new services and revenue streams are quickly emerging. The big question for automakers now is whether they can profit off all the driver data they’re capable of collecting without alienating consumers or risking backlash from Washington.
 “Carmakers recognize they’re fighting a war over customer data,” said Roger Lanctot, who works with automakers on data monetization as a consultant for Strategy Analytics. “Your driving behavior, location, has monetary value, not unlike your search activity.”
 Carmakers’ ultimate objective, Lanctot said, is to build a database of consumer preferences that could be aggregated and sold to outside vendors for marketing purposes, much like Google and Facebook do today.

Toyota Readies Cheaper Electric Motor by Halving Rare Earth Use

Kevin Buckland and Nao Sano:

Toyota Motor Corp. is readying electric motors that include as much as 50 percent less in rare earths amid concern of a supply crunch as automakers race to expand their electric-vehicle lineups.

Asia’s biggest carmaker has developed a magnet for the motors that as much as halves the use of a rare earth called neodymium and eliminates the use of others called terbium and dysprosium, the company said at a briefing in Tokyo on Tuesday. In their place, Toyota will use the rare earths lanthanum and cerium, which cost 20 times less than neodymium. The carmaker plans to ask suppliers to manufacture the magnets.

Toyota sees demand for neodymium exceeding supply from 2025, by which time the carmaker intends to be offering an electrified version of every vehicle in its lineup. By 2030, Toyota aims to sell 5.5 million electrified vehicles — including 1 million wholly battery- or hydrogen-powered cars — accounting for half of its projected deliveries. Motors with the magnets can be used in any electrified powertrain, the company said.

This company may have solved one of the hardest problems in clean energy

David Roberts:

Hydrogen — the H of H2O fame — turns out to be something of an all-purpose element, a Swiss Army knife for energy. It can be produced without greenhouse gases. It is highly flammable, so it can be used as a combustion fuel. It can be fed into a fuel cell to produce electricity directly, without combustion, through an electrochemical process.

It can be stored and distributed as a gas or a liquid. It can be combined with CO2 to create other useful fuels like methane or ammonia. It can be used as a chemical input in a range of industrial processes, helping to make fertilizers, plastics, or pharmaceuticals.

It is quite handy.

And it is the most abundant chemical element in the universe, so you’d think we’d have all we need. Sadly, it’s not that easy.

It is expensive, in both money and energy, to pry hydrogen loose from other elements, store it, and convert it back to useful energy. The value we get out of it has never quite justified what we invest in producing it. It is one of those technologies that seems perpetually on the verge of a breakthrough, but never quite there.

Seattle native Evan Johnson thinks he can change that. He thinks he’s finally figured out how to unlock a hydrogen economy.

Dyson’s audacious attempt to shake up car industry

Peter Campbell:

In the skies above Hullavington airfield in south-west England, there was a time when trainee parachutists would leap out of planes into the void, trusting in the kit strapped to their backs to save them from falling to earth.

The former RAF base’s current inhabitant, Dyson, is embarking on its own adventure fraught with peril: a £2bn project to develop and build electric cars from scratch.

The UK company is betting on its ingenuity, engineering skills and technology to save it from falling to earth in its audacious attempt to break into the global automotive industry.

Porsche exec talks Mission E battery and charging technology

Electric Cars:

Uwe Michael, Head of the Electrics/Electronics Development Division at Porsche, on battery technology, charging times, apps and artificial intelligence – and how his team are remaining true to the Porsche ethos in this area.

Mr Michael, why is Porsche forging its own path in terms of charging technology?

Fast loading is a great match for our intelligent performance strategy. We’ve closely examined what customers really expect from e-mobility, and what they actually want. There are two key challenges in this respect: the power and performance of e-vehicles and, following on from this, the infrastructure. Customers have two main concerns in this regard, namely inadequate ranges and long charging times.

Via Farooq Butt.

Sidewalk Talk: What city transportation will look like, circa 2043

David Levinson:

It’s 2043. Few people in cities own cars anymore. It’s cheaper to rely on electric, self-driving taxis. Some vehicles are big enough to share; others are individually sized to make the most of limited street space. They have one button inside: Stop. Dynamic curbs—patrolled by enforcement droids—remain clear for deliveries, pick-ups, and drop-offs. Street parking no longer exists, and this space has been recaptured for better public uses.

That’s the future as seen by David Levinson, the University of Sydney transport professor who writes the popular Transportist blog and is co-author of the 2017 book The End of Traffic and the Future of Access. “Look back to the 1920s, and you have magazines that ask: What does the future look like?” he says. “Some of it is absurd. Why would we all be using blimps? But some of it’s still like: Why doesn’t the future look like that?”

Podbike electric four wheeler coming to the streets in late 2018


Yes, we know it’s not really a bike. But the Nowergian Podbike is certainly an interesting development. We’ve seen some movement in the electric personal transport space over the last year or two: vehicles that are more than a bike, but still pedal-based. There’s the Schaeffler Bio Hybrid, for one, and the Iris e-trike for another. The Podbike hails from Norway, and is another solution to urban transport that’s lighter and more efficient than a car.

Toyota, JapanTaxi Agree to Consider Joint Development of Taxi Services

Toyota PR:

With an aim to revitalize Japan’s taxi industry and improve its efficiencies, Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) and JapanTaxi Co., Ltd. (JapanTaxi) have concluded a basic agreement on considering, among other activities, the joint development of services for taxi operators. They also agreed that, to strengthen ties between the two companies, Toyota will invest 7.5 billion yen in JapanTaxi and subscribe for and acquire shares to be newly issued by JapanTaxi though a third-party allocation.

Toyota has been exploring ways to revitalize and improve the efficiencies of Japan’s overall taxi industry through R&D and the development of services. Activities have included Toyota’s concluding a memorandum of understanding with the Japan Federation of Hire-Taxi Associations on August 5, 2016 to study areas for collaboration, leading to such activities as the start of verification testing on data collection using Toyota data-transmission driving recorders in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Car Hackers Handbook

Open Garages:

Below you can download the book in several different formats. The license of the books is under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license, which lets you share it, remix it, and share your remixes, provided that you do so on a noncommercial basis.

Modern cars are more computerized than ever. Infotainment and navigation systems, Wi-Fi, automatic software updates, and other innovations aim to make driving more ­convenient. But vehicle technologies haven’t kept pace with today’s more hostile security environment, leaving ­millions vulnerable to attack.

The Car Hacker’s Handbook will give you a deeper understanding of the computer systems and embedded software in modern ­vehicles. It begins by examining vulnerabilities and providing detailed explanations of communications over the CAN bus and ­between devices and systems.

How Bikes Will Take Their Revenge on Cars and Help Us Reclaim Our Streets

Marija Gavrilov:

Without this shift away from car use, London cannot continue to grow sustainably. […] The design and layout of development should reduce the dominance of cars, and provide permeability to support active travel (public transport, walking and cycling), community interaction and economic vitality.
 London is one of a number of major cities committing to the future where getting from point A to point B doesn’t depend on personal cars.
 Reflected in this decision is a move towards micromobility, a trend of adopting more compact, efficient, and often shared modes of transportation in the urban setting. It is a counterweight to macromobility— transportation that relies on large vehicles for long distances and generic applications. As industry analyst Horace Dediu put it, “it’s the personal computer of 1980s.”¹
 I am excited about the switch. As an enthusiastic cyclist and environmentalist, I’m quick to notice the tragedy of the commons flourishing in personal transportation, especially in the U.S. Driving in one’s own vehicle is comfortable, convenient, for some people fun. At the same time, it is seriously polluting the environment and supports a sedentary lifestyle. Both unquestionably are hurting public health outcomes.
 As much as it is the means to connect, transportation has been divisive and discriminating throughout U.S. history. Observing some of the struggling areas of New Hampshire, where I happen to spend more time than I ever thought I would, has taught me that owning a car is often a prerequisite to having a job (one that barely pays for that same car).

Canadian energy company to replace 400 truck drivers with self driving trucks

Wimberly Patton:

Canada’s largest oil company announced on Wednesday that they will be cutting about 400 heavy-equipment operator positions over the next six years as they phase in a new fleet of self-driving trucks.
 The company, Suncor Energy based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, announced on Wednesday, January 31st, that it plans to deploy over 150 driver-less trucks, leading to job cuts starting as soon as 2019. At present, Suncor has nine self-driving trucks moving building materials at a job site in Alberta, making it one of the first companies in Canada to use autonomous trucks, reported Rueters.

Driving a Car in Manhattan Could Cost $11.52 Under Congestion Plan

Jim Dyer and Winnie Hu:

Driving a car into the busiest parts of Manhattan could cost $11.52 under a major proposal prepared for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that would make New York the first city in the United States with a pay-to-drive plan.
 Similar traffic charges are already used in cities like Singapore, Stockholm, London and Milan, but New York has rejected or ignored versions of them dating to at least the 1970s. The newest plan embraces the twin goals of easing Manhattan’s choking traffic while raising badly needed revenue for the city’s failing subways and buses.
 Trucks would pay $25.34, and taxis and for-hire vehicles could see surcharges of $2 to $5 per ride. The pricing zone would cover Manhattan south of 60th Street. In a key change from past efforts, drivers would not have to pay if they entered Manhattan by all but two of the city-owned East River bridges, which are now free to cross, as long as they bypassed the congestion zone.

Mazda Skyactive3

Chris Perkins:

Have self driving cars stopped getting better?

Mark Harris:

Subprime Auto Debt Is Booming Even as Defaults Soar

Cecile Gutscher:

A boom in sales, a pickup in defaults, and risk premiums keep on dropping.
 It’s all happening in the market for subprime auto bonds, where loans to American consumers with some of the patchiest credit histories are packaged into securities to be sold to big investors. A decade after risky mortgage lending toppled the U.S. financial system, the securities have rarely been so popular. But the collateral behind the bonds is getting less safe: car-owners are increasingly falling behind on bigger loans with longer repayment terms made against depreciating assets.
 “As used-car values drop a bit and delinquencies and roll rates begin to increase, the subprime sector will show significant underperformance and lack of decent liquidity,” said Don McConnell, senior portfolio manager at Bank of Montreal’s BMO Global Asset Management in Chicago, who helps manage $15 billion of taxable bonds. He’s reinvesting cash from maturing notes elsewhere.

Could Self-Driving Trucks Be Good for Truckers?

Alexis Madrigal:

The outlook for trucking jobs has been grim of late. Self-driving trucks, several reports and basic logic have suggested, are going to wipe out truckers. Trucking is going to be the next great automation bloodbath.
 But a counter-narrative is emerging: No, skeptics in the industry, government, academia are saying, trucking jobs will not be endangered by autonomous driving, and in the brightest scenarios, as in new research by Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, there may be an increase in trucking jobs as more self-driving vehicles are introduced.
 “We’ve been disappointed over the last year to see a lot of stories about how self-driving trucks are going to be this huge problem for truck drivers,” says Alden Woodrow, the product lead for self-driving trucks at Uber. “That’s not at all what we think the outcome is going to be.”

The world’s longest and toughest ongoing driving test


Over the past nine years, we’ve put our vehicles through the world’s longest and toughest ongoing driving test. Each day our vehicles can be found test driving on closed courses, on public roads, and in simulation. Waymo’s testing program is a critical aspect to building a safe and capable driver: it lets us extend our vehicle’s capabilities, try out new driving skills, and introduce new vehicle platforms and hardware.

As we prepare to launch Waymo’s self-driving ride-hailing service this year, we’ve accelerated the pace of testing at every level. Last year was a record year for Waymo:

Taxi deregulation brings cheap rides and innovation to Finland in 2018


Taxi transportation is deregulated in Finland in July 2018. The market moves from a system where the number of taxi licenses was limited to one where there are no arbitraly limits. This opens up the market for new players. One of them is Fixutaxi that brings flat rate 10 € rides to the capital Helsinki.

Opening up personal transportation is a global trend with US companies Uber and Lyft being the most prominent in western media, but there are many operators such as Dixi Chuxing in China and Yandex Taxi in Russia. After years of combatting Uber, Finland chose to embrace the change instead of wasting tax payer’s money.