Auto industry analysts believe the arrival of autonomous cars is inevitable. The question is not if, but how soon. Signs of this trend include recent advancements in Advanced Drivers Assistance Systems (ADAS). But do we really understand what it means for driverless cars to share the roads with drivers and pedestrians? What technology is needed and what must we learn before machines and humans can happily co-exist on Route 66?
Gordon Murray is no stranger to pushing the limits of car technology. He is, after all, a former Formula One designer and the man behind both the McLaren F1 and the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren.
Lately, though, he’s been a bit quiet. He hasn’t been building race cars or world-beating supercars. What he has been working on is something called iStream. Most people aren’t familiar with it, but when Yamaha showed off its ultra-light sports car concept at the Tokyo Motor Show this year, the name “iStream” suddenly got a lot more attention.
Google, especially, has Reuss’s attention. Last year he declared it “a very serious competitive threat.” At other times, he’s been snappish: “We’re in the car business today, and they’re not,” he said over the summer. But on the GM test oval, as he rides in the Super Cruising Caddy, he’s talking peace, perhaps even alliance. “I’m not sure it’s an us-vs.-them thing,” he says. Whether or not that partnership comes to pass (they already work together on some smaller stuff), Reuss, 52 and a GM lifer, says it’s imperative that he …
Suddenly a crescent-shaped light on the steering wheel goes from green to red and the Caddy starts drifting in its lane. Reuss grabs the wheel. A test car just whooshed by on the left, and another slowed down on the right—too much traffic for Super Cruise, making it shut down.
“That’s stuff we need to just work on,” Cindy Bay, the project’s head engineer, says from the back seat.
“Yep,” Reuss says, hitting a couple of buttons to restart Super Cruise. “We need to develop it.”
Convoy, a Seattle-based company that presents itself as “Uber for trucking,” launches today. The online service and app pairs shippers with available local carriers based on proper equipment, payload, capacity, and distance. Convoy gives pre-approved carriers the option to accept or decline a job based on the listed price, which eliminates haggling — a hallmark of the trucking business.
But who cares about trucking? A lot of people, it turns out: the industry exceeded $600 billion in 2011, according to data from trade group American Trucking Associations (ATA). That’s a big number. And it’s been shockingly resilient to disruption, even as Uber takes over the taxi world.
Toyota Motor Corp. launched a new Corolla in Japan this year that held a shock for its closely knit Japanese supplier network: a cutting-edge crash prevention system made by a German parts maker.
Until now, Toyota relied on Denso Corp., a major parts maker and key member of its traditional supplier network, but which provided such equipment only in high-end Toyotas. The Corolla’s technology, made by Continental AG, will spread to many of the vehicles Toyota sells in the U.S., Europe and Japan by the end of 2017.
The decision to go outside its traditional network highlights a growing concern within Japan’s auto industry: Parts suppliers, once considered the foundation of the country’s auto export prowess, are losing their edge, especially in next-generation software technologies for safety and autonomous driving.
The numbers are striking. The number of miles people travel each year in cars or SUVs peaked nearly a decade ago, in 2007. You might think that’s because we had the biggest economic bust in modern history starting right around then.
But young Americans’ driving declined more than 20 percent in the decade before the recession. Meanwhile, mass-transit use in the past two decades is up 36 percent, nearly twice the car-usage rate.
Sam Schwartz, New York City’s Koch-era traffic commissioner, has a simple thesis in his new book, “Street Smart”: “Millennials are the first generation whose parents were more likely to
complain about their cars than get excited about them.
As kids, “millennials were driven through more traffic jams, more often, longer, and farther, than any generation in history.”
The standard story is that traffic deaths will dwindle, cities will spread out magnificently, and you’ll all be reading MR on your morning commute rather than fighting the traffic. Maybe so, but what other options are at least worth considering, if only out of contrarian orneriness?:
1. Driverless cars are not actually much better than the really good German streetcar systems. Those come closer to door-to-door service than many people realize, and of course they have lower energy and congestion costs.
2. The need for exact mapping of streets will restrict driverless vehicles to well-known, well-trodden paths, much like bus lines. There is nothing wrong with that, but ultimately it won’t do more than save the cost of the bus driver. Or worse yet — some automobile lanes may be turned over to municipal driverless vehicles in a way which makes traffic problems worse. It will end up as a way to push cars out of the picture, without building up the broader mass transit network very much.
That may not be entirely by accident. Because while the design may have been carried out in-house, like the Motiv city car concept unveiled at the same show two years ago, the Sports Ride concept is designed to work with the iStream process pioneered by Gordon Murray. And we needn’t point out that he was the same designer behind the legendary McLaren F1.
Inspirations and production methods aside, the Yamaha Sports Ride concept looks rather striking in its dark grey finish. Especially with its saddle brown leather interior and carbon-fiber and metallic accents, which on the supercar spectrum remind us more of the Pagani Huayra. Only much smaller, and presumably with a more compact engine. And hopefully it’d be much more attainable, too, if Yamaha actually puts it into production… and brings it to the North American market.
DIGITALLY CONNECTING CARS to each other and to highway infrastructure promises to drastically reduce collisions and traffic jams. But that wireless vehicular chatter comes at a cost to your privacy: A car that never shuts up may be a lot easier to track.
Researchers at the Universities of Twente in the Netherlands and Ulm in Germany have found that they can use just a few thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment to track a vehicle that’s emitting the so-called “connected vehicle” wireless communications proposed for future vehicle-to-vehicle connections. With only two $550 devices strategically planted at intersections on the University of Twente’s 432-acre campus, they were able to follow unique signatures in cars’ radio communications, predicting which of two campus regions the vehicle was in with 78 percent accuracy, as well as the car’s more precise location on a specific road with 40 percent accuracy. Extrapolating from that proof-of-concept, the researchers believe that the same technique, expanded with a few hundred thousand dollars of hardware, could be used by governments or even amateurs to monitor vehicles over an entire small city.
About a year ago this month, I bought a new car for the first time in my life, and it was an entirely crazy-making process.
Shopping for furniture or appliances or other consumer durables is pretty straightforward. You look up what items are for sale and what they cost, you decide what you’re interested in, and then you can pay. Sometimes the item you’re looking for isn’t in stock locally (this happened to me with a couch recently), so you’re told you’ll have to wait a few weeks for delivery.
With cars, though, everything is nuts. You need to go from dealer to dealer, each of whom has his own inventory. One guy only has blue paint. The other guy doesn’t have the blue paint, and also only has dark gray seats. And each has his own fake sticker prices and complicated cash-back offers. It’s no wonder 83 percent consumers say they would rather skip the haggling, and a third of people say doing taxes is less annoying than working with a car dealer.
As cars become more automated, Okuyama predicts the auto market over time may split into two camps: vehicles that simply fulfill public transportation needs such as self-driving taxis serviced by ride-hailing applications; and super-luxury cars that will be trophy items for the wealthy.
As a result, he says, car ownership will decline, decreasing demand for affordable, traditional cars like Honda’s hugely popular Civic models.
“Automakers have used existing technology and road infrastructure to create cars which have an emotional connection with drivers. This is how they have been adding value to their products,” Okuyama said.
“But cars have become commodity products, and, as such, they have to become more functional and even more affordable,” he said, foreseeing a future where stripped down, minimalist ‘commodity’ cars would share the roads with luxury vehicles.
Tesla’s showing all the signs of a company in trouble: bleeding cash, securitized assets, and mounting inventory. It’s the trifecta of doom for any automaker, and anyone paying attention probably saw this coming a mile away. Like most big puzzles, the company’s woes don’t have just one source.
It’s true that the world may be running light on buyers who will spring for a big-dollar electric vehicle that can’t make the hike from Detroit to Chicago without stopping for a long charge. And cheap gasoline isn’t helping Tesla’s case. Right now, prices around the country are hovering close to $2 a gallon. If that’s bad news for the Prius and the Volt, it’s worse for the Model S.
In addition, there’s never been any secret sauce to the company’s battery technology. The automakers that bought into Tesla’s tech early did so to avoid having to pony up development dollars on first-generation battery packs of their own. Now that Audi has announced it’s getting into the EV game, Tesla should be even more concerned. If you’re a luxury buyer, which car would you rather have?
Navigant Research recently issued a leader board evaluating how automakers stack up on autonomous vehicles. I caught up with author David Alexander to discuss the findings, which ranked on strategy and execution. Here are a few interesting points that came up:
Uncertain whether to get out of the car, Rufus Scales said, he reached to restrain his brother from opening the door. A black officer stunned him with a Taser, he said, and a white officer yanked him from the driver’s seat. Temporarily paralyzed by the shock, he said, he fell face down, and the officer dragged him across the asphalt.
Rufus Scales emerged from the encounter with four traffic tickets; a charge of assaulting an officer, later dismissed; a chipped tooth; and a split upper lip that required five stitches.
In many ways, Uber and Airbnb represent a 21st century update of the franchising model. In franchising, the parent company brands and markets the product, sets standards for producing it, and charges a licensing fee and receives a percentage of revenue from each of its franchisees.
The difference is that technology radically lowers the barriers to being a franchisee. In many ways, you can call the modern trend “the franchise of one.” The smallest unit of franchising in the past was a small business, with all the overhead that implies: real estate, equipment, uniforms, employees (including managers), and so on. Today, the franchise can be a single individual, and that individual can work only part time, so it’s really “the franchise of one or even less!”
Branding and advertising are much less necessary because the app itself becomes a customer habit that delivers business. There are little or no capital requirements, workers can schedule their own time, and turn their own under-utilized personal assets (a car, a house, or other equipment) into business assets. In her book Peers Inc, Robin Chase refers to this as “excess capacity.”
Internet era networks don’t just seek to eliminate workers, they seek to augment them. Invest in software that empowers your workers, allowing them to multiply their effectiveness and to create magical new user experiences for customers.
Let’s say you are optimistic about the long-run prospects for Uber to transform society, as I am.
Counterintuitively, that could mean the perceived quality of an Uber ride goes down.
The better Uber gets, the more people can do without cars and the more taxis will go out of business. In contrast, we are currently living in a world where there is excess capacity of automobiles, especially for short-term rental. The stocks of taxis, rental cars, and personal automobiles mostly have been determined by past considerations which did not take the existence of Uber into account. Those stocks will decline over time as idle vehicles are used more efficiently. There will be fewer circulating vehicles and perhaps the price of a short-term ride will be higher, once the excess capacity disappears.
Waiting time might be higher too.
What if I told you that after a hundred years of rigorous competition, car manufacturers have finally created the perfect automobile? Would you believe that the evolution of car design has culminated in a vehicle so perfect that every manufacturer has agreed to produce the same model? That would be absurd, wouldn’t it? And yet, in 2013 that is the conclusion you might draw if you compare vehicles side by side. There has never been less differentiation between cars as there is right now. Below is an image containing 23 cars from 21 manufacturers. See if you can tell who makes what. How did this happen?
Every business is trying to crack the coveted market of shoppers in their 20s and teens. A recent panel at the “Fashion Digital” conference in New York City featuring young entrepreneurs ages 17 to 23 tried to provide a glimpse into how. What they said should strike some degree of fear in every retail executive.
Here are the highlights:
Today, at last, we now have both the chicken and the egg in the UK. For I’ve just driven the Toyota Mirai on a shiny new 65-plate, one of 30 or so Mirais that will be in the UK by the end of 2016. By that point there will be nine places in the UK you can fill it up, up from the three sites currently open.
Around 3000 Mirais will be produced in total by the end of 2017. The Mirai will be joined by, among other hydrogen cars, a new fuel-cell vehicle from Honda that’s due to be revealed at next week’s Tokyo motor show, plus likely efforts from Nissan, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, who are making more noises about the technology. Japan and Germany are getting serious about creating infrastructures, too.
Fear not driving enthusiasts: Self-driving cars will not necessarily mean the end of enjoyable driving machines — at least, so far as Cadillac is concerned.
“Autonomous driving and driving passion must co-exist,” Cadillac CEO Johan de Nysschen said at the 2015 J.D. Power Roundtable Monday night. He went on to promise that Cadillac will combat the “nightmare scenario” where “a robot transports us from one point to the next” thereby taking “all the fun and joy out of driving.”
This pronouncement should come as music to the ears of those that feared self-driving bubble-cars like Google’s autonomous prototype would reign supreme on the roadways of the future, sucking all the fun out of personal mobility.
A smartphone on four wheels is the market mentality of electric-vehicle (EV) buyers, who overwhelmingly continue to lease rather than buy EVs.
Excluding Tesla, lease penetration in the EV market is 75 percent in 2015 (it was above 80 percent in 2013 and 2014). In 2011, leasing represented just 27 percent of the market. (Because Tesla does not use a traditional dealership model, its leasing data is not shared with auto industry trackers like Edmunds.com.)
Chapter 1: My obsession with asphalt was born on a bike ride through a cemetery
I don’t remember how I ended up there that day. Maybe I pedaled up for the view, a smashing panorama of the San Francisco skyline that lies at the end of a grand network of roads and paved lanes that reach up into the hills. Or maybe I was delaying the end of a too-short ride by tacking on a detour that meandered among prim headstones and Munsteresque family crypts. What I do remember clearly is sensory—sniffing the freshly cut grass near the entrance, then noticing the sound of my tires on the pavement, something like sizzling bacon. As I started riding uphill, the smooth, black, buttery layer of asphalt gave way to something crunchy, like the crumb topping on a coffee cake. Little cascades of stones skittered away from my tires. The pavement changed again, tight and brownish. Cracks appeared, then a puzzling, fresh patch of pitch-black asphalt. There came a pothole. And, just past a grave labeled Nutter, the pavement gave up entirely, and the road turned to dirt.
Via Steve Crandall.
Our mission is to revolutionize the area around personal transportation and mobility.
Our team has blended cutting edge electronics and battery technology with an innovative intuitive hands free control system, to introduce a new era in personal transportation and freedom of movement for maximum independence.
We are currently in the preproduction set up, and are expected to be up and going soon.
The natural end point has to rely on autonomous driving technology”—not humans, says Emilio Frazzoli, director of the Transportation@MIT Initiative. He thinks robots could be taking the wheel in the next 15 years, certainly within the next 30. The reasons, he says, are economical and cultural.
First, as much as 50 percent of an Uber ride’s cost goes toward paying the human behind the wheel, Frazzoli says, and that’s money that could be going into Uber’s pocket. Replacing human operators has already begun in Singapore, a city that relies heavily on public transit. It’s not widely advertised, Frazzoli says, but the subway trains there “are completely automated. They are just horizontal elevators.”
Toyota Motor Corp. is plotting a road to near extinction for its conventionally fueled cars as the industry grapples with the fallout of Volkswagen AG’s diesel-emissions scandal.
The world’s best-selling auto maker said Wednesday that by 2050, gas-electric hybrids, plug-in hybrids, fuel-cell cars and electric vehicles will account for most of its global vehicle sales, without giving a detailed breakdown.
That means gasoline- and diesel-engine powered cars, currently accounting for roughly 85% of Toyota global vehicle sales, would be near zero, Senior Managing Officer Kiyotaka Ise said.
“It wouldn’t be easy for gasoline and diesel cars to survive,” Mr. Ise told a media briefing in Tokyo. “With such massive decline in engine-powered cars, it’s like the world is turning upside down and Toyota has to change its ways.”
MARK FROHMAYER LOVES to drive. But he’s never quite been able to square that passion with his environmental concerns. He just found the idea of using a gas-powered, two-ton contraption to carry a single person a few miles each day absurd. Eight years ago—before the Tesla Roadster hit the market—he decided what he needed was a small electric car that could reliably carry him around his hometown of Eugene, Oregon and was fun to drive. He couldn’t find one, so he decided to design his own.
The strange thing to Frohmayer was that all the technology for building a practical, cheap, and safe electric vehicle were available. But no one had put all of the pieces together, despite the fact the potential market for such a product was huge, given the surging demand for cars in emerging markets like India and China. With Tesla focusing on the luxury market, he saw a big need for an affordable electric vehicle.
The short version: Uber didn’t like San Antonio’s proposed regulations very much — it particularly objected to the mandatory fingerprinting and random drug-testing of Uber drivers — and wanted a more liberal approach, like the one in place in Austin. On a number of occasions, Uber made public threats to pull up and quit San Antonio entirely, leaving its tens of thousands of customers cheesed off and stranded. The company was engaged in confidential negotiations with the city, and the city thought that they were near a compromise when Uber made good on its threat to exit. A few months later, San Antonio gave Uber most of what it wanted, and Uber returned.
“I always think big and a little crazy,” says Shane, a self-described entrepreneur and crowdfunding consultant who teamed up with architect Jeff Jordan to imaginize the Liberty Bridge, which would rise about 200 feet above the Hudson and link lower Manhattan and Jersey City. The bridge would provide an alternative for the more than 100,000 commuters who take PATH trains from New Jersey into Manhattan every day.
But on Wednesday, Spiegel issued a report, based on one of the many investigations taking place at Volkswagen and around the world, saying that at least thirty managers were involved in the cheating. This squares with Barton’s skepticism, not to mention common sense. Volkswagen engineers didn’t smuggle in software that allows you to play Tetris on in-car G.P.S. screens. They wrote code that fundamentally changed how the company’s diesel cars worked. The altered software affected engine emissions, mileage, cost, and power—all things that auto executives care about. In other words, while it’s technically possible to install such software, it’s hard to imagine that it could have gone unnoticed. Modern automobile engines are made by teams that design, build, test, and tune everything to produce the desired effect. Companies have been building these engines for more than a hundred years, refining a process the leaves no room for mysteries or magic outcomes. When a car produces more power, there is a reason; when a car produces fewer emissions, there is a reason. And when, at Volkswagen, its diesel engine produced forty times more nitrogen oxide when it wasn’t being tested than when it was, many people inside would have known why.
The American Time Use Survey, starting in 2003 and for every year thereafter, tallies the amount of time Americans spend in various activities, including travel for ten different purposes as shown in Figure 1.4. For a full decade’s worth of data, it draws the same sketch. The amount of time spent in travel has declined six minutes — from 74.4 minutes to 68.4 minutes per day.
which outsider is going to disrupt the auto industry? Tesla? Apple? Google? Uber?
A senior Nissan executive said Friday that Uber will force traditional competitors to reinvent themselves or die — even as he discounted efforts by Apple, Google and Tesla to do the same.
“Lot’s of people are calling Tesla a disrupter. They are not,” said John Martin, Nissan North America’s senior vice president of manufacturing and supply chain management.
During a panel discussion at the Rainbow/PUSH conference in Detroit, Martin argued that Tesla does something that is relatively easy: Produce a high-performance car for more than $100,000. A more difficult task would be to produce a good electric car for less than $30,000.
“People ask me: ‘When are you going to compete with Tesla?’ And I ask them, ‘When is Tesla going to compete against me?’”
Insurance companies, Internet giants and the Chinese government’s sovereign wealth fund are among the deep-pocket investors tapped in recent months to finance the app-based taxi alternatives available in dozens of Chinese cities.
Didi-Kuaidi, a company that some analysts have valued at US$ 16.5 billion, reportedly raised US$ 3 billion in early September from investors including sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp. (CIC), Ping An Insurance Co., BAIC Motor, Capital Group and the Japanese telecom SoftBank Corp. The company’s main investors are the e-commerce provider Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and the social media giant Tencent Holdings Ltd.
Uber, an American company whose Chinese investor-partner is the search engine Baidu Inc., said in August that it had raised at least US$ 1.2 billion from undisclosed investors to finance its growing China business. Although CIC and China Life Insurance Co. had been rumored as potential Uber backers, sources told Caixin neither was involved in the latest fundraiser.
Media reports in June said Uber hoped to raise US$ 2.5 billion globally, including US$ 1 billion from Chinese investors. Uber has also told investors its Chinese division is preparing to file for an initial public offering on a mainland stock exchange.
The exact sales figures are: 1,710 i3s sold during September 2015, up from 1,022 i3s sold during September 2014 — altogether, representing a 67% year-on-year increase in sales of the popular electric city car. Year-to-date numbers show a similar trend, with 7,893 i3s sold so far in 2015, and 3,104 i3s sold during the same period of time in 2014. Altogether, this makes for a 154.3% increase in sales of the model.
Via Steve Crandall.
Under an aggressive policy meant to combat unlicensed vehicles for-hire, the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) has seized over 21,000 cars since 2012. After a seizure, commission inspectors pressure owners to plead guilty and pay hundreds of dollars in fines to recover their property. The Commission’s citywide dragnet not only cracked down those who compete with established transportation companies, but also ensnared regular New Yorkers, who were simply driving their friends, family, neighbors—and even nuns—around the city.
After the TLC seized their cars without warrants, five owners sued in federal court last year. As they asserted in their complaint, the government cannot “seize property without judicial process and hold the property hostage.”
Tesla has a shiny new workspace. This 11-acre facility is where cars will be assembled and tested before delivery across Europe. The new plant, in Tilburg, Netherlands, is actually a major expansion of an assembly space Tesla opened just two years ago. Tesla needs the extra room as it launches the new Model X SUV and tries to expand from about 50,000 deliveries worldwide this year to 500,000 by 2020. When the new digs are fully up and running, about 450 cars will roll off the line each week.
The 4th gen Prius is Toyota’s first car based on its new TNGA architecture. TNGA is not a platform, or a modular kit. TNGA is a new production system, an assemblage of improvements and technologies that have been tested over the past years. They all come together in the new Prius. What follows are just the highlights. Describing all would amount to writing a car catalog, something I haven’t done for 30 years, and I won’t start again.
The Prius is powered by a re-engineered 2ZR-FXE 1.8-liter Atkinson cycle petrol engine. The new engine achieves a maximum thermal efficiency of 40 percent?the world’s highest level in a mass-produced gasoline engine, says Toyota. The engine competes in thermal efficiency with diesel engines, we heard today.
Granted, Mcity is just a simulation; the buildings are just facades, and the inhabitants who unexpectedly step off curbs are just mechanized mannequins. “It’s pretty minimalistic,” admits Jonathan Levine, a University of Michigan professor of architecture and urban planning. “You wouldn’t mistake it for a movie set, let alone a real city.” But even so, researchers at the university’s Mobility Transformation Center have designed the facility to offer a realistic test of how driverless cars might function amid the daunting complexity of a dense urban environment. It is preparation for a future that is fast approaching.
According to a study released in April by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), major automakers such as General Motors are already rushing to add gadgetry that would give cars some ability to pilot themselves in low-speed, stop-and-start traffic-jam conditions or in single lanes on highways, or even to find parking spaces and pull into them without human help. Meanwhile, they and others—including technology giant Google—have been working to develop “level four” automation, in which cars are capable of taking over all the critical functions from human drivers. BCG predicts that the first fully autonomous passenger vehicles will hit the market by 2025, enabling humans to sit back and relax while a robotic chauffeur drives them to their destination—and returns later to pick them up at the curb.
Volvo president Håkan Samuelsson caused a stir earlier this week when he said that Volvo would accept full liability whenever its cars are in autonomous mode. Samuelsson wen further, urging lawmakers to solve what he called “controversial outstanding issues” over legal liability in the event that a self-driving car is involved in a crash.
“If we made a mistake in designing the brakes or writing the software, it is not reasonable to put the liability on the customer,” says Erik Coelingh, senior technical leader for safety and driver support technologies at Volvo. “We say to the customer, you can spend time on something else, we take responsibility.”
This, says Samuelsson, makes Volvo, “one of the first car makers in the world to make such a promise.” Google and Mercedes Benz have recently made similar assurances. But does that mean if your future self-driving Tesla or Volkswagen gets into a crash instead, you’re going to be on the hook for all the damages?
The modern wave of diesel cars took root 60 years later, and it required several planets aligning properly: highly precise fuel metering, sophisticated turbocharging, better machining of tiny but durable fuel injector pintles—the injector’s business end—and very high, yet manageable fuel pressures (up to 29,000 psi or 2,000 bar). But even with those technical hurdles passed, a foundation was laid in the 1990s that allowed the modern diesel engine to ascend in popularity in Europe, its home ground.
So what exactly caused this rapid transformation from gasoline engines to diesels in an enormous market?
Apple’s utter dominance of the money-making end of the industry stems from its business model and unique brand. Since stumbling in 2013 with the slightly down-market iPhone 5C, the company has redoubled its focus on an annual, highly desired flagship phone at a high price, turning its back on cheaper models for the masses. With the iPhone as its main profit center, the world’s biggest company has been able to invest in developing its own speedy, power-efficient chips and sturdy, lightweight materials, as well as continuing to refine its software.
Personally, I find all of this howling at VW a bit too simplistic. Let’s face it: if that many students had obtained degrees over that length of time by cheating, we would be howling at the educational system, wouldn’t we?
Clearly, VW has been less than angelic, but in demonising it as the only cause we may do ourselves a serious disservice by failing to identify and rectify circumstances that contributed to what it did. Now the lid is clean off this can of worms, the opportunity exists to make some changes to the entire emissions scene for the greater good.
Emission cheating is not new. Caterpillar, Cummins and others were busted in 1998 for doing exactly what VW has now done – and there have been many more offenders before and since. Why has nothing been learned from such instances? How is it the US emissions testing authorities appear to have done nothing for all this time to circumvent cheating?
VW’s sprawling factory employs about 72,000 in a city with just 120,000 inhabitants. Over an area of more than 6 sq km — three times the size of the principality of Monaco — the plant churns out 840,000 cars a year, including the VW Golf, Tiguan and Touran models.
Among workers, the scandal dominates rather like the chimney stacks of the factory’s power station tower over Wolfsburg.
“It was shock. Then anger. How could they be so stupid?” says one worker, describing his emotions on hearing last month that VW had admitted to large scale cheating in tests on its diesel vehicles for harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides.
Another worker says: “Everyone is worried. Will we get our bonus still? Will there be job cuts? There is so much uncertainty.”
Two 20-somethings walked into a car dealership . . .
No, that really happened—this isn’t a setup for a joke. More than a quarter of the 16 million new-car purchases in the United States last year were made by that tech-savvy, marketing-averse group known as millennials, according to market-research firm J.D. Power. And virtually all those buyers ended up signing the paperwork and accepting the keys at an honest-to-goodness new-car dealership.
How could that be, in an age of painless online shopping, when you can buy everything from shoes to home mortgages via keystrokes, no trial fittings or handshakes required? Why can’t you read the review of a new model on Car and Driver’s website, click the “Buy It Now” button at the end of the article, and walk out to the driveway to await delivery by (large-capacity) Amazon drone?
Automobile production might seem a stretch for a company more accustomed to making handheld electronic gadgets and software.
While Apple has yet to make any official announcement, or even to comment on the speculation, mounting evidence suggests the company is at least exploring the development of automotive technology.
But how would an Apple car be manufactured? Industry experts say the company could produce vehicles in much the same way that it makes iPhones and watches: by outsourcing the production of components and contracting with existing manufacturers. What’s more, as cars become more electrified and computerized, Apple’s existing expertise in software, user interfaces, and batteries may become an increasingly valuable asset.
Apple has hired robotics engineers with expertise in the sensing and control capabilities needed for self-driving vehicles. One industry source recently told MIT Technology Review he met with engineers at an Apple-owned subsidiary to discuss automated driving technology. And according to sources quoted recently in the Wall Street Journal,the Apple car could become a commercialized product by 2019. Apple and some automotive suppliers contacted declined to comment for this article.
When Elon Musk rolled out the new Tesla Model X at the end of September, some grumbled that the Silicon Valley car maker’s all-electric luxury crossover was coming to market two years too late. It depends on who you ask. The Big Three German auto makers only wish they could catch the tail of Mr. Musk’s rocket.
I’m not talking about units sold, though Tesla’s target of 50,000 cars in 2015 is a respectable chunk of the global luxury-sedan market. But Tesla has taken more hide off German prestige and sense of technical primacy. I mean, the Model X was just rubbing their noses in it with those “falcon” doors, right? In executive interviews at the Frankfurt Auto Show any praise of Tesla was guaranteed to land on the table like a paternity suit.
Some of the leaders in autonomous cars have made a big step towards to bring their self-driving vehicles to market.
Development of autonomous driver systems continues at a fevered pace around the industry, but regulatory questions such as who would be at fault in an accident are still unanswered. Volvo, Google and Mercedes have now all said that they will accept full liability if their self-driving vehicles cause a collision.
Volvo’s CEO, Håkan Samuelsson, will announce the decision when he speaks in Washington D.C. on Thursday. He will also speak on the broader topic of what it will take to get self-driving cars into the hands of the public. “The U.S. risks losing its leading position due to the lack of federal guidelines for the testing and certification of autonomous vehicles,” Samuelsson said. “Europe has suffered to some extend by having a patchwork of rules and regulations. It would be a shame if the U.S. took a similar path.”
In using the defeat device across an estimated 11 million cars around the world, Volkswagen’s engineers signaled their own defeat in the contest to make diesel a viable alternative for American consumers.
Though it holds the promise of greater fuel efficiency, and therefore less carbon emissions, getting diesel right is difficult in passenger cars, especially in the United States. The problem stems from regulations and the diesel engines themselves.
Engines that run on diesel fuel are inherently more fuel-efficient than their gasoline counterparts. Gasoline engines have only recently started hitting 50 mpg in fuel economy, and manufacturers have had to resort to making tiny, fuel-sipping econoboxes or hybrids that have an electric drivetrain glommed on to hit these target
In the US alone, more than 33,000 people die in road accidents every year, and a majority of them are caused by risky driving maneuvers. Almost all of the current driver assistance systems focus only on the external environment, and not inside the cabin of the car. We seek to correct this by jointly sensing the outside and the inside of the car. We monitor the driver through an an array of cabin sensors like cameras, tactile sensors, wearable devices, etc. This enables our system to learn about the driving behaviour of every individual driver. One of our application is to anticipate a driving maneuver several seconds before it happens, which we use to alert the driver.
It’s nothing more than a dune buggy on a cordoned-off street but it’s headed for trouble. A jumble of sawhorses and traffic’ cones simulates a road crew working over a manhole and the driverless car has to make a decision — obey the law against crossing a double-yellow line or break the law and spare the crew. It splits the difference, veering at the last moment and nearly colliding with the cones.
“I imagine that wasn’t the most comfortable experience for you,” Chris Gerdes, a boyish and bespectacled Stanford engineering professor, calls out to the slightly shaken passenger in the car.
Volkswagen has withdrawn its application to sell diesel vehicles in the U.S. for the 2016 model year.
The embattled German carmaker, trapped in an expanding scandal over its intentional cheating of Environmental Protection Agency emission standards with a so-called defeat device, has at least temporarily abandoned plans to include diesel models in its 2016 lineup.
The car that drives itself crashes itself, and the business of insuring against this inevitability is on the cusp of a gradual but major shift. Auto insurance revolves around liability. When Google’s autonomous cars crashed in testing on public roads, it’s always been the other driver’s fault. People brake check and zip across three lanes of traffic to avoid missing an exit. Self-driving cars don’t. That upends the insurance game.
The U.S. government think tank RAND imagines that we’ll see a move from state-regulated insurance protecting drivers to federal law protecting automakers. It almost has to be. Manufacturers would be nuts to think the technology won’t go wrong at least a few times, and if they’re liable for every malfunction, they’re screwed. In RAND’s version of the future, there’s a federal no-fault law that absolves manufacturers of liability for crashes. As in current no-fault states, drivers would still purchase policies, and insurance would pay for its policyholder regardless of who’s at fault in a crash.
One car loaded with malware could someday infect hundreds or thousands of other vehicles at the local car dealership or auto repair shop. To prevent that “auto brothel” scenario, a security researcher recently presented a $20 tool designed to reveal security flaws in the testing equipment commonly used to update car software or check vehicle systems.
The dangerous scenario for modern drivers was presented during a talk at the Derbycon hacker conference held in Louisville, Kentucky, last week, according to Wired. A hacker could theoretically bring in an infected vehicle for service with the aim of spreading malware to the testing equipment used by mechanics and dealerships, said Craig Smith, a security consultant and author of the Car Hacker’s Handbook. The infected equipment could spread the malware to other customers’ vehicles and possibly compromise electronically-controlled systems such as steering or braking.
Smith created a tool that mimics how a malware-carrying car might try to infect a dealership’s testing equipment. The hardware consists of On-board Diagnostic ports similar to the ones that mechanics would plug their diagnostic tools into for access to the car’s CAN network. (CAN typically connects the car’s central computer to its various electronic subsystems.) The tool’s software tests the diagnostic tool with random data until it causes glitches that may represent security holes to exploit.
MILITARY drones already fly frequent missions and civilian operations using unmanned aircraft are coming. Driverless cars are clocking up thousands of test miles. So why not let remote-controlled ships set sail without a crew? Indeed, the maritime industry has started to think about what would be required to launch a latter-day Marie Céleste.
Ships, like aircraft and cars, are increasingly controlled by electronic systems, which makes automation easier. The bridges of some modern vessels are now more likely to contain computer screens and joysticks than engine telegraphs and a giant ship’s wheel. The latest supply ships serving the offshore oil and gas industry in the North Sea, for instance, use dynamic positioning systems which collect data from satellites, gyrocompasses, and wind and motion sensors to automatically hold their position when transferring cargo (also done by remote control) to and from platforms, even in the heaviest of swells.
As far as commercialization of autonomous driving goes, also not much will happen for a few years. Back at Ariake, Ken Koibuchi tells me that the tech I tested today won’t be on the market before 2020, because that’s how long it takes a responsible company to test a quantum-leap like that, and that’s how long it will take to produce the still experimental sensor arrays in the required form factor and cost. Since I checked on that sensor last year, it already has slimmed down its size. From afar, the Lexus GS looks like a normal car, no rotating coffee-pot on the roof. Getting a bit closer, one notices the sensor under the rear-view mirror, and bulges over the c-pillar in the back. For a production car, those will have to go.
A few years back, David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue Airways, left his company and launched a new airline in Brazil. The airline, Azul, flies 22 million people a year, employs 12,000 people, and is the fastest-growing carrier in the region.
You’d think running such a large, complex operation would require a move to South America. But Neeleman commutes to Azul’s Sao Paulo headquarters every week from his home in Connecticut, taking the 10-hour redeye on Sunday nights and returning on Thursdays. This way, he says, he doesn’t have to uproot his family of 10 kids.
“My wife wasn’t so interested in moving,” said Neeleman, who recently bought TAP, Portugal’s national airline and is now commuting there as well. “We had all these kids playing [American] football and lacrosse. They don’t have those sports in Brazil.”
Denmark will almost triple the price of Teslas as it phases out tax breaks on electric cars.
The country will also make diesel vehicles more attractive by canceling a pollution levy, according to provisions in the 2016 budget draft. The government is defending the measures by saying they will help businesses save money and create more jobs.
“Things have to be done with reason,” Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen told reporters after the draft was unveiled in Copenhagen on Tuesday.
The system of testing cars to measure fuel economy and CO2 emissions is utterly discredited. The gap between test results and real-world performance has become a chasm, increasing from 8% in 2001 to 31% in 2012 and 40% in 2014.1 Without action this gap will grow to nearly 50% by 2020. On average, only one- third of the improvement in emissions claimed in tests has been delivered on the road since regulations were introduced in 2008. The claims of the car industry that they are making a disproportionate effort to reduce emissions compared to other sectors is fiction. Since 2012 the average emissions of new cars driven on the road have increased marginally.
Carmakers, not drivers, are the cause of the problem as obsolete official test results are being manipulated. Exploiting testing loopholes accounted for a gap of just 5 percentage points between test results and real-world performance in 2002. This grew to 15 points in 2010; and 24 points in 2014. Technology that reduces emissions more in the test than on the road contributes about 3 percentage points to the gap; the failure to switch on auxiliary equipment during tests added around 8 points.
Mercedes cars have the biggest average gap between test and real-world performance, with real-world fuel consumption exceeding test results by nearly half. None of the improvement in emissions measured in tests of Opel/Vauxhall cars since 2008 has delivered improvement on the road, and their real-world fuel economy is actually getting worse. Just a fifth of the apparent improvement in emissions from the launch of the Mark 7 VW Golf (Europe’s best-selling car) have been achieved on the road.
via Steve Crandall.
At the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan will show its “Teatro for Dayz” concept. The car is thought to an EV inside of a kei car body. The interesting part is that the instrument panel will be one huge horizontal screen. The screen is a clean canvass where the driver can arrange gauges etc like widgets on a smartphone.
Actually, the whole car, including seats and door trim, is supposed to be changeable like a smartphone theme. When the car was shown a few weeks ago to a small group of reporters under signed embargoes, project leader Hidemi Sasaki agreed that currently, it is impossible to turn a plastic seat into Alcantara at the push of an on-screen button. Using a screen the width of the car as the dash however definitely is current tech. Sasaki also shrugged-off doubters who said that EVs are not part of the Japanese kei car spec.
Uber started out with an upmarket limousine service, but the insurgent ride-hailing group has recently been moving in an altogether different direction: carpooling.
“We are trying to induce the carpooling thing,” Travis Kalanick, chief executive, said earlier this month, pedalling his hands in front of him as if to illustrate more people sharing a taxi. “That is exciting, that’s two cars becoming one.”
The service has the potential to transform urban transportation, but only if the company and its rivals can make the algorithms work.
Already in its home city of San Francisco, the UberPool service accounts for nearly half of journeys with Uber and is profitable one year after it was launched.
Mr Kalanick was referring to shared-taxi services, the latest battleground between Uber and its rivals such as Lyft and China’s Didi Kuaidi.
Lyft, which grew out of a start-up offering city-to-city ride-sharing, has its own such service, Line, that accounts for more than half of journeys taken with it in San Francisco.
Cities move. People hurry from corner to corner; cars and trucks roll along the roads, while bicycles and scooters jostle for space.
But sometimes that movement falters, and with it the dynamism that is the hallmark of great cities. Unhealthy smog levels and traffic jams, with their chorus of horns and shouts, are routine irritations of urban lives, and things could get much worse. The world’s cities are facing an urgent set of challenges when it comes to ensuring that fundamental rite of urban living: getting around.
By 2030, 60 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, up from about 50 percent today.1 Over the same period, more than two billion people are likely to enter the middle class, with the majority of them living in cities in emerging markets, particularly China. The number of megacities with more than ten million people will continue to grow.
Many people entering the global middle class will want to buy cars: automobile sales are expected to increase from about 70 million a year in 2010 to 125 million by 2025, with more than half forecasted to be bought in cities. Some automotive analysts have gone as far as predicting that on the existing trajectory, today’s 1.2 billion strong global car fleet could double by 2030.2
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2 days ago8 min read
Mack Bradley and 925 others
Elon Musk’s sleight of hand
Like many people, I’m a fan of Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and Chairman of Solar City. So much so that I’m nerdy enough to listen to the quarterly conference calls of Tesla, and keep a close eye on the movements of each company.
Watching Tesla launches, like the recent Model X and Powerwall announcements, all remind me of watching Apple and Steve Jobs product launches back when it was still considered fanboy(ish), and not a pre-requisite for people working in tech or journalism (ie anytime pre iPhone in 2007).
Indeed, like back then with Jobs, today many people have no idea who Musk is — he has yet to meet the Jobs levels of fame.
Musk’s presentation style is not as polished as a Jobs show — but he manages to pull it off in a slightly awkward, if endearing, manner.
However, beneath some of the recent announcements are I believe some more fundamental things at work. Clearly everything I write is only as an interested observer, and is certainly not based on any fundamental research. I’m as in the dark as everyone else about Musk’s future intentions — but I do enjoy exercising my brain on what’s possible or probable.
Before we begin, keep in mind throughout Tesla’s stated goal: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport.” It’s not to make the coolest looking electric cars.
This week Musk launched the long awaited and much delayed Model X — the SUV followup to the incredibly well reviewed Model S sedan. But during the show, Musk almost downplayed features of the Model X that, within the right circumstances, are in my view nothing short of revolutionary. Some features already exist in the Model S — but I believe this new combination is a step in a new direction.
Let’s start with the first example.
A dozen minutes into the launch of Model X, Musk says
“So let’s move on to the car itself. What’s cool and fun about the car? Doors & Windows. So. You’re obviously familiar with the Falcon Wing door. What we also have is an Auto Presenting front door. So what it will do, it will triangulate my position and detect that I am moving towards the front door. It will open the front door. Without me touching anything. I will sit down, and it will close the door. Like an invisible chauffeur. (He then laughs to himself in the car)
It’s a cool and fun feature. But was it a feature added to the car because it was cool and fun? It seems like quite a bit of effort just so a human doesn’t have to touch the handle of a door and close it after them. It’s like a first world problem of first world problems.
The Volkswagen emissions scandal has broader implications than the potential damage it can do to Europe’s biggest carmaker. It’s the result of Europe backing the wrong emissions-reducing technology on a regulatory level. There is now an opportunity to reverse that error and force the continent’s сar manufacturers to concentrate on hybrid and electric vehicles. They’ve got the technology and resources to reshape the market.
The scandal is about VW’s bad business decision to cheat testing equipment so it could rush new engine models to market in the U.S. It is also about a failure of regulatory oversight and testing technology. Most of all, however, it’s about diesel engines: They were the ones performing so badly on the tests that VW engineers had to look for a workaround so marketers could trumpet the advent of “clean” diesel.
Will technological advances and shifts in social attitudes lead to our no longer owning or driving vehicles? The global auto industry’s transformation has far-reaching implications for how we move from point A to point B and, in turn, affects carmakers, energy companies, insurers, health care, government funding, and more. Value shifts as a new ecosystem of mobility emerges.
A pilot initiative intended to curb violence like shootings and carjackings at Detroit’s gas stations and party stores is expected to start by January, Mayor Mike Duggan said today.
During a question-and-answer session following a set of wide-ranging remarks at the Detroit Homecoming event at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Duggan said eight gas stations have agreed to be part of the pilot program that would involve a central camera system, high-resolution cameras and bright lighting that would be able to capture clear images of license plates and criminals.
Those would then be sent directly to patrol cars via Wi-Fi connection.
“We know this industry is being disrupted,” Ms Barra told investors. “But we are disrupters too.”
Asked about reports that Apple plans an autonomous car and how it affected GM’s plans, Ms Barra said it would always “add more pressure” to have another competitor in the market.
“I don’t think it changes where we’re headed or how quickly we’re going there or potential partnerships that might exist there,” she said
The conference is the first opportunity for Ms Barra to present a comprehensive strategy for GM free of the shadow of the crisis over faulty ignition switches that broke only weeks after she became the company’s first female chief executive in January 2014. The company announced an agreement with US prosecutors over the crisis — which has been linked to at least 124 deaths — on September 17.
OVER THE LAST summer, the security research community has proven like never before that cars are vulnerable to hackers—via cellular Internet connections, intercepted smartphone signals, and even insurance dongles plugged into dashboards. Now an automotive security researcher is calling attention to yet another potential inroad to a car’s sensitive digital guts: the auto dealerships that sell and maintain those systems.
At the Derbycon hacker conference in Louisville, Kentucky last week, security consultant Craig Smith presented a tool designed to find security vulnerabilities in equipment that’s used by mechanics and dealerships to update car software and run vehicle diagnostics, and sold by companies like Snap-On and Bosch. Smith’s invention, built with around $20 of hardware and free software that he’s released on GitHub, is designed to seek out—and hopefully help fix—bugs in those dealership tools that could transform them into a devious method of hacking thousands of vehicles.
Toyota Corp. on Thursday started selling a safety device that allows a car to communicate with other vehicles or traffic lights, part of an effort to change the perception that Japan trails Silicon Valley in driving technology.
Separately, Tokyo-based Robot Taxi Inc. said it would work with authorities to start an experimental driverless taxi service next year, following in the path of Google Inc., which has been testing its self-driving cars on U.S. roads.
As Silicon Valley competitors such as Google champion self-driving vehicles, many Japanese automotive executives have expressed caution, saying more time is needed to make fully autonomous cars feasible, and consumers might not want them.