10 Things That Abruptly Happen When Real Leadership Shows Up

Benjamin Hardy :

Here are Bill Walsh’s 10 rules for failure:
 Expect defeat and on’t be surprised when it happens.
 Force yourself to stop looking back on the past.
 Allow yourself some time to recover and mourn your loss. But not too long.
 Tell yourself you are going to stand and fight again. You’re actually far closer to your destination than you can imagine.
 Prepare yourself for the next encounter. Your next battle. One game at a time.
 Don’t ask “why me”?
 Don’t expect sympathy from others.
 Don’t complain.
 Don’t keep accepting condolences from others.
 Don’t blame others.

Panasonic to make push into autonomous tech

David Sedgewick:

Panasonic, a top player in infotainment systems and batteries for electric vehicles, is muscling into the fast-growing market for autonomous-drive cars.
 The company intends to exploit its deep expertise in cameras and cockpit displays to gain a foothold. Last month, Panasonic announced plans to boost sales of safety technology by 52 percent to nearly $4 billion in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2019.
 As if that weren’t enough, the Japan-based mega-supplier is helping Tesla Motors build its EV-battery factory in Nevada — a project that gained a sense of urgency this month when Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced 325,000 preorders for the Model 3 sedan.

Mercedes home batteries are a potential rival for Tesla’s Powerwall

Kristen Hall-Geisler:

Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler AG announced that the storage units are being manufactured by its subsidiary Deutsche ACCUMOTIVE (Daimler has a real love of all caps). The batteries are being sold, installed and supported by partners like utility and solar tech companies. That makes sense, because the storage units are usually installed along with solar panels. The units are already available in Germany, and Mercedes says it will be expanding the program internationally.

How Hyperconnected Cities Are Taking Over the World, According to Parag Khanna

Tanva Misra:

In the medieval period, empires battled and colluded with each other in the quest for land. The resulting system, in which nations became the main actors on the global stage, is perhaps the one most of us know best. But it’s changing.
 We’re now moving toward a new era where insular, political boundaries are no longer as relevant. More and more people are identifying as “global citizens,” and that’s because we’re all more connected than we’ve ever been before. As a result, a “systems change” is taking place in the world today in which cities—not nations—are the key global players, argues Parag Khanna in his new book, Connectography: Mapping the Future of the Global Civilization. In it, Khanna, who is a global strategist and world traveler, writes:

The rise of robot cars is forcing alliances with tech interlopers.

Keith Naughton and David Welch:

A traffic jam of Silicon Valley companies has a mission: to destroy Detroit’s business model and take over transportation with driverless cars and shared mobility services. Yet last summer, General Motors’ top brass ventured behind enemy lines to meet with the very forces trying to upend the industry. When the 15 executives returned to Detroit, they realized they needed to defend their turf not only by accelerating their own mobility programs—from ridesharing outfits to driverless-car software—but also by forming alliances with the challengers in the Valley.
 By Thanksgiving, GM, which since 2000 had invested heavily in self-driving cars and rolling 4G hotspots, was in a hurry to find a partner to combine its in-house technology with a ride-hailing service. But Uber Technologies wasn’t interested in aligning with old-line manufacturers. So GM struck an agreement to invest $500 million in Lyft for a 9 percent stake in the No. 2 ride-hailing business. GM President Dan Ammann now sits on Lyft’s board. A few months later, GM dropped almost $1 billion for self-driving software maker Cruise Automation, one of the richest deals ever in the Valley. “It’s more than getting a window view,” Ammann says of the investment he contends is critical to GM’s future. “We want to make it clear that this is a significant strategic investment.”

Saft America lithium-ion batteries and national politics


In a way, though, the plant was inadvertently telling a more complicated story, about globalization and the changing nature of commerce. Saft America is a unit of Saft Groupe, a French company with holdings around the world. Sales of lithium-ion batteries have been considerably slower than anticipated, and the factory has yet to turn a profit. The French parent doesn’t expect profitability for another two or three years and has already written down part of its investment on the factory.
 Here was a factory built, in part, with U.S. government dollars for the benefit of the local and national economy. Yet the factory, its technology and its patents are all owned by a foreign corporation. Its French chief executive is almost completely detached from the community here in Jacksonville; he did not even attend Obama’s speech. And the factory’s profits, to the extent they ever come, may very well be sent abroad instead of being reinvested here.
 The factory visit might also tell a more complicated story about the presidency. It has always been the case that voters credit or, more often, blame the president for the nation’s economic performance. But it is also the case that the president generally has considerably less sway to move the economy than even he might like to acknowledge. And as the economy continues to disperse, that sway may be diminishing further. A president has less power than ever, in either a hard- power (legal/regulatory) or soft-power (cultural) sense, over American chief executives, let alone over the chief executives of multinationals based in France or China or other places where many U.S. employers make their headquarters.

The One Family That Could Fix VW and Why They Won’t

Stephanie Baker, Naomi Kresge and Christoph Rauwald

The clan’s disengagement dates to 1972. After an internecine struggle over the company’s direction that culminated in what family members call a “group therapy session” at the Zell farmhouse with a professional mediator, they agreed to hand management to outsiders. And while the Porsches have had ties to VW since the 1930s, they only stumbled into control less than a decade ago — the counterintuitive denouement of a failed bid by Porsche to take over its bigger rival.

With the family AWOL, the void has been filled by VW’s powerful unions. Even before the crisis, labor had an unusually strong voice, holding half of the 20 seats on VW’s supervisory board and typically finding allies occupying the two seats controlled by the state of Lower Saxony, VW’s second-largest shareholder. Since the crisis, Bernd Osterloh, Volkswagen’s burly, combative union boss, has gone on the offensive with a message for the executive suite: This is your mess, and the workers aren’t going to foot the bill.

Self driving car survey


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The secret signals that rule our transport networks


morning on Brighton beach, and we are sitting on a slope of pebbles, looking out to sea. With us we have a laptop, several metres of cabling, and an antenna taller than a small child. In between waving off the attentions of men wielding metal detectors and some extremely large seagulls, we squint into the computer screen, looking for a specific peak on the radio spectrum. We are trying to see the invisible infrastructure that surrounds every part of our modern existence.

How Cheap Can Electric Vehicles Get?

Ramez Naam:

EVs are a Disruptive Technology
 If current trends hold, EVs will, within a decade or two, be the cheapest vehicles on the market. And that, if it happens, will lead to market dominance. Electric Vehicles are a disruptive technology.
 The Plunging Price of Electric Vehicles
 The past four parts of this series have all covered electricity generation. But electricity is only perhaps a quarter of worldwide carbon emissions. What about transportation, where oil-burning cars dominate?
 Electric Vehicles, like virtually all other manufactured goods, are likely to have a learning curve, meaning that greater production will mean reduced price. Batteries, a large fraction of the cost of EVs, appear to have a learning rate of around 21%, meaning that every doubling of scale will reduce costs by 21%.

A Rare Look Inside The ‘Gigafactory’ Tesla Hopes Will Revolutionize Energy Use

Lauren Sommer:

Outside Reno, in Nevada’s high desert, Tesla is building what it says is the world’s largest battery factory. The Gigafactory, as it’s called, will churn out batteries for the company’s electric cars. But it’s also making something new — a battery for the home.

Tucked away in a dusty valley near Sparks, Nev., the Gigafactory is kind of like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory: It’s mysterious, it’s big and few people have been inside.

Actually, “big” may not do it justice.
Tesla Motors unveils the new lower-priced Model 3 sedan in Hawthorne, Calif., on Thursday.
The Two-Way
A Tesla For The Masses? Orders For Model 3 Top 100K In First Hours

“It’s really hard to get a sense of scale. I mean, it’s huge,” JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer, says while standing on the roof of the factory — the 14 percent of the Gigafactory that’s been built, at least.

We’re looking down at a flat stretch of land where the rest of the Gigafactory — with an estimated price tag of $5 billion — will go.

Like Willy Wonka’s factory, there’s a lot of hype around this place. People have been caught sneaking onto the property to see what Straubel says, at 5.8 million square feet, will be a building with one of the biggest footprints in the world.

“I’m not a huge football fan, but I think it’s on the order of around 100 football fields,” he says.

How Uber conquered London

Sam Knight:

Every week in London, 30,000 people download Uber to their phones and order a car for the first time. The technology company, which is worth $60bn, calls this moment “conversion”. Uber has deployed its ride-hailing platform in 400 cities around the world since its launch in San Francisco on 31 May 2010, which means that it enters a new market every five days and eight hours. It sets great store on the first time you use its service, in the same way that Apple pays attention to your first encounter with one of their devices. With Uber, the feeling should be of plenty, and of assurance: there will always be a driver when you need one.

Who’s Responsible When a Self-Driving Car Crashes?

Corinne Iozzio:

Valentine’s Day was a bummer in Mountain View, Calif. For the first time, one of Google’s self-driving cars, a modified Lexus SUV, caused a crash. Detecting a pile of sandbags surrounding a storm drain in its path, the car moved into the center lane to avoid the hazard. Three seconds later it collided with the side of a bus. According to the accident report, the Lexus’s test driver saw the bus but assumed the bus driver would slow down to allow the SUV to continue.
 It was not the project’s first crash, but it was the first caused in part by nonhuman error (most incidents involve the driverless cars getting rear-ended by human drivers not paying attention at traffic lights). The episode shines a light on an ever looming gray area in our robotic future: Who is responsible—and pays for damages—when an autonomous vehicle crashes?

End to End Learning for Self-Driving Cars

Mariusz Bojarski, Davide Del Testa, Daniel Dworakowski, Bernhard Firner, Beat Flepp, Prasoon Goyal, Lawrence D. Jackel, Mathew Monfort, Urs Muller, Jiakai Zhang, Xin Zhang, Jake Zhao, Karol Zieba:

We trained a convolutional neural network (CNN) to map raw pixels from a single front-facing camera directly to steering commands. This end-to-end approach proved surprisingly powerful. With minimum training data from humans the system learns to drive in traffic on local roads with or without lane markings and on highways. It also operates in areas with unclear visual guidance such as in parking lots and on unpaved roads.
 The system automatically learns internal representations of the necessary processing steps such as detecting useful road features with only the human steering angle as the training signal. We never explicitly trained it to detect, for example, the outline of roads.
 Compared to explicit decomposition of the problem, such as lane marking detection, path planning, and control, our end-to-end system optimizes all processing steps simultaneously. We argue that this will eventually lead to better performance and smaller systems. Better performance will result because the internal components self-optimize to maximize overall system performance, instead of optimizing human-selected intermediate criteria, e.g., lane detection. Such criteria understandably are selected for ease of human interpretation which doesn’t automatically guarantee maximum system performance. Smaller networks are possible because the system learns to solve the problem with the minimal number of processing steps.

BMW to Let Car Owners Rent Out Vehicles Like `Airbnb on Wheels’


Rather than having a car sit for hours on the curb, BMW AG’s Mini brand plans to help its customers turn idle downtime into cash.
 Mini plans soon to make its new cars available with devices that enable owners to rent out their vehicles, like Airbnb Inc. does with spare rooms and empty apartments. The system includes features that accept payment and track the vehicle to make sure the renter doesn’t go for a one-way joyride.
 “It’s going to be kind of like Airbnb on wheels,” Peter Schwarzenbauer, the BMW executive who oversees Mini, said in an interview at the Beijing motor show. “There’ll be those who say, ‘Never, ever will I lend my car to strangers.’ Then there’ll be others who’ll love the idea of halving their leasing rate.”
 If the test goes well, BMW plans to expand the service to its namesake luxury-car brand, Schwarzenbauer said, adding that the technology is easy to install and will be available at “no significant cost” to the owner.

The driverless truck is coming, and it’s going to automate millions of jobs

Ryan Petersen:

A convoy of self-driving trucks recently drove across Europe and arrived at the Port of Rotterdam. No technology will automate away more jobs — or drive more economic efficiency — than the driverless truck.
 Shipping a full truckload from L.A. to New York costs around $4,500 today, with labor representing 75 percent of that cost. But those labor savings aren’t the only gains to be had from the adoption of driverless trucks.
 Where drivers are restricted by law from driving more than 11 hours per day without taking an 8-hour break, a driverless truck can drive nearly 24 hours per day. That means the technology would effectively double the output of the U.S. transportation network at 25 percent of the cost.
 And the savings become even more significant when you account for fuel efficiency gains. The optimal cruising speed from a fuel efficiency standpoint is around 45 miles per hour, whereas truckers who are paid by the mile drive much faster. Further fuel efficiencies will be had as the self-driving fleets adopt platooning technologies, like those from Peloton Technology, allowing trucks to draft behind one another in highway trains.

VW: The dirt under the bonnet

FT acast:

 With a €404bn turnover and 792,500 employees last year, the car industry is crucial to Germany and there is a revolving door between government and the industry. But did this lead Angela Merkel’s administration to lobby for favourable legislation and turn a blind eye to some of its practices? Guy Chazan reports.

Via Svi Rosov.

Inside the Deal: Tikhon Bernstam’s Investment in Cruise

Julie Ruvolo:

BMW spends roughly $4B a year on research, and how much do they have to show for it? GM also spends several billion a year on research, and their market cap is roughly $50B. Does acquiring Cruise make GM worth 2% more by helping turn it into more of a software company? Absolutely, I’d say.

Regarding the valuation on the Cruise deal, GM’s stock went up something like 1% on the announcement, which you could argue would represent roughly half the acquisition price right there. GM plus Cruise is certainly worth more than GM alone, with another billion in the bank.

More importantly, what’s the cost of falling behind in the transformation of the auto industry into software companies? Those who are unable to transform into software companies risk playing in a low-margin commoditized hardware game. It’s better to be Microsoft than a Dell or Gateway PC manufacturer.

Now imagine for GM — They might arguably have best self-driving technology and team, overnight. It’s a brilliant acquisition by them. I would have paid more than $1B easily.

Cruise refocused on cities and urban driving about a year ago — the opposite of Tesla, which focused on the highway. I have driven in Cruise car, and I just sat there while it went across the city. It was amazing. I think it’s how Kyle closed his investors. He showed them the product, and they invested. Who needs a deck when the product pitches itself?

Car ownership is going away. There are more than 800 cars in the USA per 1000 people, and occupancy rates are something horribly inefficient like 1.6 passengers per vehicle. The typical car is parked 95% of the time. A shocking percentage of urban real estate is dedicated to parking spaces for these giant steel contraptions. I saw an estimate that something like 40% or 45% of traffic in cities might be caused by folks driving around in search of parking spaces.

This is a real threat to companies like Uber, by the way, because most of the cost of the Uber ride is the driver. If someone else comes out with a dramatically cheaper fleet of autonomous vehicles before Uber, which one would you use? Whoever has the cheapest fleet of autonomous cars will win. It’s very hard to displace the incumbents in marketplace industries, but this is how you do it in the Uber/Lyft space. Owning the best, cheapest, and widespread supply can topple even a goliath like Uber. Just look at how fiercely Uber and Lyft have been fighting over drivers. They get it.

Via Edward Niedermeyer.

Revealed: nearly all new diesel cars exceed official pollution limits

Damian Carrington, Gwyn Topham and Peter Walker:

Ninety-seven percent of all modern diesel cars emit more toxic nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution on the road than the official limit, according to the most comprehensive set of data yet published, with a quarter producing at least six times more than the limit.
 Diesel cars’ emissions far higher on road than in lab, tests show.
 Surprisingly, the tiny number of models that did not exceed the standard were mostly Volkswagens, the carmaker whose cheating of diesel emissions tests which emerged last year sparked the scandal. Experts said the new results show that clean diesel cars can be made but that virtually all manufacturers have failed to do so.
 The new data, from testing industry leader Emissions Analytics (EA), follows the publication this week by the Department for Transport of emissions results for 37 vehicles, all of which emitted more NOx on the road than the official limit. But the new data covers more than 250 vehicles in more stringently standardised road conditions. EA found that just one of 201 Euro 5 diesels, the EU standard from 2009, did not exceed the limit, while only seven of 62 Euro 6 diesels, the stricter standard since 2014, did so.

Story of cities #29: Los Angeles and the ‘great American streetcar scandal’

Colin Marshall:

last train on the last line of greater Los Angeles’ Pacific Electric streetcar network made its last run on 9 April 1961. You can see the final days of this once-robust public transport system for yourself in the short film Ride the Last of the Big Red Cars.
 This footage of the remaining “red cars” (as the Pacific Electric’s fleet was commonly known) strikes an elegiac tone, especially to modern Angelenos. They have little more than history books and the rose-tinted memories of old-timers from which to reconstruct the heyday of urban rail in Los Angeles, a city which spent decades after the disappearance of the red cars saddled with the reputation as a car-dependent, smog-choked, freeway-bound yet traffic-paralysed dystopia – and not without cause.

Cheap Solar Power


Over the last few years solar PV has got cheap. Cheap enough to start impacting some commodity energy markets today. Cheap enough that with continued progress, but no breakthroughs, it might alter the global outlook for energy supply within a decade.
 I have long been skeptical of solar hype. In 2008 we did an expert judgment exercise suggesting only even odds of getting to module prices of 0.3 $/W in 2030. In 2011 we did some analysis showing how the power-law learning curve for modules appeared to be flattening. That analysis was done at the end of a decade that saw big increases in installed capacity, with little corresponding change in module prices. The solar market was driven by incentives, like tax credits and feed-in tariffs that drove rooftop solar seem systems which are (arguably) little more than green bling for the wealthy. I worried that deployment incentives (global total amounting to many hundreds of billions of dollars over the past decade) would simply lock in the current technologies and do little to drive the breakthroughs that were needed to get solar cheap enough to compete for commodity power.

“M is for Marketing”…..

Dan Neil:

Two thousand, or thereabouts. That’s how many of these pharmaceutically enhanced, dripping-with-brakes Lexus GS Fs the company will import into North America this year, the brand’s makers say. That’s about the same number of 488 GTBs that Ferrari will send stateside, or Lamborghini its Huracan. This finely feathered Lexus is one rare bird.

The notion of exclusivity in automobiles is fascinating because of its unique dialogue with territory. Join me now in the near future, when a man—sadly, inevitably, a man—buys one of these. It is a slung, glassine bolt of car, with a furious LED gaze, or it could just have a migraine. In any event, aggressive. The GS F is powered by a stormy-sounding 467-hp V8, its fenders resplendent with wheels, the inside wrapped in high-tech bondage upholstery and TAG Heuer-style instrumentality.

And our guy goes all in, ordering the car in Molten Pearl, a throbbing, lifeboat orange. He also opts for the orange brake calipers, around the ventilated steel, 15-inch pizza pans. These University-of-Miami-themed monobloc calipers, and the Mark Levinson sound system, are among the few options. Since this person is going to hell anyway, why not?

By now our Lexus-buying hero has transferred or promised to transfer $85,390 of his money to Toyota’s bank account. He has a reasonable expectation that the ownership and display of this car, this socially totemic item, will confer hierarchical status. As opposed to more civilized times when men simply wore codpieces.

But you see his problem. Those 2,000 cars are not evenly distributed in these United States. Indeed, most of them will live within 200 miles of one another, in Southern California, Silicon Valley, the Tri-State area and South Florida.

Irvine, Calif.: It’s 8 a.m. on a Saturday, at any one of the dozens of Starbucks-per-mile. Our man, fresh from the carwash, pulls in, only to see another blaze orange GS F, pulling out. He laughs, he smiles, he gives a thumbs up. In his mind his car is already on Craigslist.

Another orange GS F, in Orange County, Calif. (or Coral Gables, or any other orange-themed place). What are the odds? Pretty good, it turns out.

Baidu is building a 100-person autonomous car team in Silicon Valley

Jordon Golson:

Chinese search giant Baidu has formed a team dedicated to its self-driving car efforts in Silicon Valley, taking its autonomous car ambitions to Google’s home turf. The team, which Baidu announced in a press release, will grow to more than 100 researchers and engineers by the end of 2016. It’s a major investment for the company, and shows how serious Baidu is about autonomous cars.
 The team (which will be part of Baidu’s Autonomous Driving Unit) will be called ADU-US, and will work on everything from planning, perception, control, and systems. The company is also looking to make hires from the automotive industry. Baidu plans to make incremental progress with its self-driving cars, starting with small “autonomy-enabled” regions and progressing from there. Its cars will be “clearly recognizable,” much like Google’s current self-driving fleet.

High-definition maps: The autonomous car’s reality check

The Economist:

CAR sprouting a dome containing a spinning laser sensor and festooned with cameras barely draws a second glance as it edges through the crowded streets of Berkeley. Self-driving cars are no longer a rare sight on Californian roads.

Global carmakers face emissions questions as VW scandal deepens

Peter Campbell and Patrick McGee:

 The emissions scandal plaguing the car industry widened further on Friday as some of the world’s largest carmakers recalled more than half a million vehicles while Volkswagen nearly tripled its provision for its costs from the affair to more than €16bn.
 General Motors, Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler and VW will between them voluntarily recall 630,000 diesel cars across Europe for “irregularities” that caused their vehicles to emit far more poisonous nitrogen oxide than is legal.

Convoys of Automated Trucks Set to Point Way to Driverless Cars

Elisabeth Behrmann:

Although driverless cars grab headlines, it may take decades before truly autonomous vehicles rule the road. In the meantime, semiautomated convoys can help manufacturers hone the technology while cutting emissions and fuel consumption, says Anders Kellström, who managed Volvo’s test run to Rotterdam. “Platooning is one of the first steps toward automated driving,” he says. “The technology is mature.”
 Drivers will still be needed—by law they’ll have to keep their hands on the wheel. But letting the rig do some of the work will result in less passing, quicker braking, and fuel savings of about 10 percent for the following trucks and a smaller gain for the lead vehicle, according to Daimler. And it will help reduce congestion. When a human is at the wheel, a truck in some countries must maintain a distance of about half a football field from the vehicle in front of it to stop safely in an emergency. With automation, that distance shrinks to about 50 feet. “Traffic on the whole will become calmer,” says Andreas Renschler, who heads the Scania and MAN truck brands for Volkswagen.

FlightCar: Sharing Economy Gone Horribly Wrong


FlightCar’s pitch is simple: park your car with them. You won’t pay for parking, they’ll drop you off and pick you up at the airport, and your car will be clean, fueled and waiting when you return. The catch? They can rent out your car to their customers while your car is with them. If they do, you’ll be paid 10 cents per mile driven. Easy, right? This seemed like a no-brainer when I took a recent trip to The Philippines, and needed to leave my car parked at LAX for a month. Nothing could have prepared me for the nightmare that ensued.
 Just one problem: this isn’t my car!
 When I arrived back at LAX after a long international trip, I had only one thing on my mind: pick up my car so I could get to my friend’s house and go to sleep. My connecting flight had been delayed for 3 1/2 hours in Seoul, so it was late and I was tired. I called the toll-free number for FlightCar and they dispatched a driver.

All about the BMW i3 (REx) – Facts / Coding Tutorial

Jan Phillip Wallhorn:

Coding a car is a misnomer. Unlike flashing your ECU, where you are uploading a new program, which could easily brick your car if you do not know what you are doing, ‘coding’ your car is not programming at all, but just changing the values of set functions.
 That being said, coding a car is an exact science and you need to follow the directions to the letter or you risk putting your transportation at risk.
 While you cannot ‘break’ your car beyond repair, there are several things bad things that could happen if you do not follow things to the letter, including:

Uber Overtakes Rental Cars Among Business Travelers

Olivia Zaleski:

Taxis aren’t the only ones that may be stressing out about Uber Technologies Inc. Transactions from the ride-hailing startup have surpassed rental cars among American professionals, according to Certify, the second-largest provider of travel and expense management software in North America.
 Uber accounted for 43 percent of ground transportation transactions expensed through Certify last quarter, while rental cars had 40 percent. Ride-hailing services, with Uber at the forefront, overtook rental cars for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2015 and have since widened their lead, according to a study by Certify published on Thursday.

German automakers who once laughed off Elon Musk are now starting to worry

Erik Kirschbaum:

The proud makers of the world’s top-selling luxury brands such as Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Porsche could not fathom how a small-time, loss-making upstart from California could ever compete with the giants of the industry that had a century and a half of experience and expertise. In November, a former Daimler chairman, Edzard Reuter, even called Tesla “a joke that can’t be taken seriously compared to the great car companies of Germany” and dismissed Musk as a “pretender.”
 But the patronizing laughter came to a screeching halt after more than 325,000 buyers from around the world lined up to put down $1,000 reservations to order Tesla’s Model 3 in the first week — even though the company’s electric car for the masses, priced from $35,000, won’t go into production for another 18 months.
 Some in Germany are now, rather belatedly, seeing Tesla as a long-term threat to the pride and joy of the country’s economy: the car industry that employs 750,000 workers and indirectly accounts for 1 in 8 jobs.

How I Investigated Uber Surge Pricing in D.C.

Jennifer Stark:

 My introductory project to computational journalism was to investigate Uber surge pricing in D.C. The resulting story published in the Washington Post’s Wonkblog ended up being about race, but it didn’t start out that way. Nick Diakopoulos, who leads the lab, wrote for the Wonkblog last year with a story on how surge pricing motivates Uber drivers to move to those surging areas, but does not increase the number of drivers on the road as Uber claims. So if drivers are moving toward surge neighborhoods, those neighborhoods experience shorter wait times, and therefore better service. On the other hand, non-surge neighborhoods will experience longer wait times due to there being fewer cars in the area. So we asked: Does surge pricing—and therefore service—differ consistently based on neighborhood (census tract)? And what are the demographics characterizing these neighborhoods

BMW Loses Core Development Team of Its i3 and i8 Electric Vehicle Line

William Boston:

BMW AG has lost the core development team of its i3 and i8 electric vehicle line to Future Mobility Corp, a Chinese startup backed by Tencent Holdings, as the German premium brand struggles to come up with a convincing answer to competitor Tesla Motors Inc.
 year BMW veteran who developed the company’s i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, left the Munich-based car maker last month to become chief executive of the Chinese electric car company. Now, three key executives from the “BMW i” electric car group are following him.

Derailing the Train: How Intercity Buses Are Changing the Way We Travel in Germany

Young Germany:

Until recently, if you wanted to travel the length of Germany—let’s say from Hamburg to Munich—you had three options: drive, fly, or take the train. Long-distance buses were, quite literally, forbidden. All of this changed at the beginning of 2013, which saw the liberalization of a German law resulting in the sudden and aggressive rise of the Fernbus.
 December 17, 2014

VW ‘Dieselgate’ software developed at Audi in 1999: report


German carmaker Audi created so-called defeat devices which cut emissions in 1999, years before parent company Volkswagen (VW)(VOWG_p.DE) used them to cheat diesel emissions tests, German newspaper Handelsblatt reported on Tuesday.
 VW, Europe’s largest automaker, admitted in September it had manipulated the engines of around 11 million diesel cars, including its VW, Audi, Porsche, Skoda and Seat brands.


David Levinson:

So your city has traffic congestion. Welcome to the club. Congestion not only wastes time, it increases pollution and crashes. While this undoubtedly annoys you as a traveler, it could be worse; your city might not have congestion because no one wants to be there. Still, it would be great to have a thriving city without congestion. People could reach more destinations in less travel time, and thus have more time to spend doing the things they wanted. If you figure it out, let us know.

Solar is now cheaper than coal, says India energy minister

Ed King:

soar past a goal to deploy more than 100 gigawatts of solar power by 2022, the country’s energy minister Piyush Goyal said on Monday.
 Speaking at the release of a 15-point action plan for the country’s renewable sector, Goyal said he was now considering looking at “something more” for the fast growing solar sector.

The Netherlands is making moves to ban all non-electric vehicles by 2025

Peter Dockrill:

the Netherlands has its way, we now have an answer. There are moves within the country to ban all petrol and diesel vehicle sales by 2025, meaning only new electric cars would thereafter be approved on Dutch roads – although existing fossil-fuel-based vehicles could continue puttering around until their engines give out.
 While it’s an extreme proposal, a majority of the lower house in the Dutch parliament supported the motion, meaning there’s a chance it could be passed into law. Under the plan, all emissions-based cars would be outlawed, at least in terms of new sales. That means fuel-efficient hybrids would also be banned, although hydrogen fuel cell cars would be permitted.

Apple heuert deutsche Autoexperten für iCar-Labor in Berlin

Maximilian Weingärtner:

Seit einiger Zeit kursiert das Gerücht, dass die amerikanischen Technologiekonzerne Apple und Google an einem jeweils eigenen Auto bauen. Gleichzeitig dazu wurde der Abgesang nicht nur deutscher Hersteller wie BMW, Daimler, Audi und Volkswagen angestimmt: Bald werde das iCar den Golf ersetzen, so der Tenor. Wie die F.A.Z. nun aus informierten Kreisen erfahren hat, soll Apple ein geheimes Labor zur Entwicklung eines Automobils betreiben – und dies mitten in Berlin. Darüber hinaus soll es konkrete Pläne geben, wann und wie das iCar auf dem deutschen Markt eingeführt wird.

English translation.

Uber looms over the parcel delivery business

John Griffiths:

Established delivery services are convinced that such a move is imminent. They assume UberRush will use the same smartphone technology that allows businesses to summon vans at a moment’s notice and has already allowed it to carve deeply into traditional black cab and minicab businesses.
 As in North America, UberRush is likely to target clients along the full spectrum of businesses from large corporations to small independent stores.
 In the UK the prospect adds significantly to concern at Royal Mail, which is already grappling with inroads on its parcels operations by internet retailer Amazon. Royal Mail reported a 31 per cent drop in profits in the six months to the end of September 2015. Moya Greene, chief executive, had warned previously that Amazon’s move could halve the growth potential of Royal Mail’s parcels business over the next several years and hit other rivals. “When an online retailer of the scale and size of Amazon decides to build its own delivery network, that changes the market for everybody,” she said.
 Gary Paulin, co-founder of equity brokerage Aviate Global, predicts that the traditional companies in the sector will not disappear but are unlikely to retain anything like their past domination of the market. However, Deutsche Post’s DHL Group suggests the business model of the US group will turn out to be “relatively niche”.

Uber and Lyft don’t cover their cost of capital and rely on desperate workers

Cory Doctorow:

Uber and Lyft are only economically viable because they offload their cost of capital — the investment and depreciation on cars and the cost of keeping a driver fed and healthy — onto the drivers, who are only willing to accept such a bad deal because the labor market sucks.
 Businesses that can’t cover their costs of capital are not sustainable without some source of subsidy (like the food-stamps for McDonald’s and Walmart workers that we all pay for). If the labor market improves and workers decline to continue to subsidize rideshare companies they’ll need to find some way to get the government or the capital markets to subsidize them or they’ll collapse.

Ford and GM split on the right road to self-driving cars

Robert Wright:

The cars in the garage at Ford’s research centre in Dearborn, near Detroit, mostly look like any other group of Fusion saloons — except for one vital distinction. Each roof sports a series of sensors, sprouting out at crazy angles, to gather information about the surrounding world.

Ford is using these Fusion saloons to develop a sophisticated self-driving car that should manage whole journeys without human intervention. In tests, the company’s autonomous vehicles are gradually logging thousands of miles on Michigan’s roads, and Ford hopes the technology will be in commercial use within four to five years.

Yet many rivals are sceptical about Ford’s efforts to take humans out of the driving process entirely.

Just over 20 miles from Dearborn, in Warren, Michigan, General Motors is taking a far more gradual approach to self-driving cars. It is developing a semi-autonomous system called Super Cruise that takes only the most routine driving — travelling on highways — away from humans.

Driving to Safety: How Many Miles of Driving Would It Take to Demonstrate Autonomous Vehicle Reliability?

Nidhi Kalra, Susan M. Paddock:

How safe are autonomous vehicles? The answer is crucial for developing sound policies to govern their deployment. One proposal to assess safety is to test-drive autonomous vehicles in real traffic, observe their performance, and make statistical comparisons to human driver performance. This approach is logical, but it is practical? In this report, we calculate the number of miles that would need to be driven to provide clear statistical evidence of autonomous vehicle safety. Given that current traffic fatalities and injuries are rare events compared with vehicle miles traveled, we show that fully autonomous vehicles would have to be driven hundreds of millions of miles and sometimes hundreds of billions of miles to demonstrate their safety in terms of fatalities and injuries. Under even aggressive testing assumptions, existing fleets would take tens and sometimes hundreds of years to drive these miles — an impossible proposition if the aim is to demonstrate performance prior to releasing them for consumer use. Our findings demonstrate that developers of this technology and third-party testers cannot simply drive their way to safety. Instead, they will need to develop innovative methods of demonstrating safety and reliability. And yet, it may still not be possible to establish with certainty the safety of autonomous vehicles. Therefore, it is imperative that autonomous vehicle regulations are adaptive — designed from the outset to evolve with the technology so that society can better harness the benefits and manage the risks of these rapidly evolving and potentially transformative technologies.

The Absurd Primacy of the Automobile in American Life

Edward Humes:

The car is the star. That’s been true for well over a century—unrivaled staying power for an industrial-age, pistons-and-brute-force machine in an era so dominated by silicon and software. Cars conquered the daily culture of American life back when top hats and child labor were in vogue, and well ahead of such other innovations as radio, plastic, refrigerators, the electrical grid, and women’s suffrage.

Uber says gave U.S. agencies data on more than 12 million users

Narottam Medhora:

Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] on Tuesday released its first ever transparency report detailing the information requested by not only U.S. law enforcement agencies, but also by regulators.
 The ride-sharing company said that between July and December 2015, it had provided information on more than 12 million riders and drivers to various U.S. regulators and on 469 users to state and federal law agencies. (ubr.to/1WpJwyX)

How Cheap Can Electric Vehicles Get?

Ramez Naam:

EVs are a Disruptive Technology
 If current trends hold, EVs will, within a decade or two, be the cheapest vehicles on the market. And that, if it happens, will lead to market dominance. Electric Vehicles are a disruptive technology.
 The Plunging Price of Electric Vehicles
 The past four parts of this series have all covered electricity generation. But electricity is only perhaps a quarter of worldwide carbon emissions. What about transportation, where oil-burning cars dominate?
 Electric Vehicles, like virtually all other manufactured goods, are likely to have a learning curve, meaning that greater production will mean reduced price. Batteries, a large fraction of the cost of EVs, appear to have a learning rate of around 21%, meaning that every doubling of scale will reduce costs by 21%.
 What about whole vehicles? The Ford Model T had a learning rate of around 16%. Let’s use that for the entire vehicle, including the battery. That gives us a conservative estimate of the cost improvement rate.

Is diesel facing a slow death?

Hilton Holloway:

about to clear the way for the country’s local cities to legally drive older diesel cars off the road. And it’s not the first time German cities have moved to put the squeeze on older vehicles.
 At the beginning of 2008, a number of German cities and towns started to institute what were called low-emission ‘Umwelt’ Zones. To access these areas, your vehicle needed to have an engine with a Euro 4 pollution rating.

Musk Hints Tesla Could Try To Maximize Tax Credit-Eligible Model 3 Deliveries After Credit Expires

Jon LeSage:

creative approach to address concerns Model 3 buyers have about the federal tax credit disappearing.
 While the $7,500 federal tax credit on the Model 3 would potentially bring the $35,000 starting price down to an effective $27,500, it is on course to be phasing out by the time these electric cars show up for delivery starting as soon as late 2017.

Meet the new Ford, a Silicon Valley software company

Chris Ziegler and Nilay Patel:

But recognizing a threat to the business is entirely different from effectively dealing with it. Can Ford course-correct enough to turn its disruption into a new revenue stream? “Our approach is to first disrupt ourselves,” he says during the course of our recent interview.
 The line sounds like a talking point from a well-rehearsed presentation, and it is — Fields has been saying variations of it both on and off stage since he took over in 2014, famously announcing a slew of projects at his CES 2015 keynote that had very little to do with selling more cars. And by all appearances, it’s not just lip service: Ford recently spun off its next-generation mobility initiatives into a wholly owned subsidiary, Ford Smart Mobility LLC, with operations centered in Palo Alto. That’s a long, long way from Ford headquarters in Dearborn. (2,421 miles, to be exact.)
 We sat down with Fields to discuss the spin-off, the state of his business, and what it means for the 113-year-old Ford Motor Company to exist in a post-car world.

How can we trust Google when it lets ads call the shots?

Kenny Jacobs:

Date night came and when the taxi arrived at the address, the cabbie asked him which restaurant he was looking for: the one that had been there for years, or the new place across the road? Being sure he’d booked the original, the pair went into the restaurant, only to be told they had no reservation, and that they should have booked by phone.
 Puzzled, the couple proceeded across the street to a restaurant with an almost identical sign, only with the word “cuisine” printed below the logo in tiny letters. Inside, they found a carbon copy – the same interior, the same venue and the same ambience – only the prices were higher. The masquerading restaurant made an impression all right, albeit a rather cunning one of the esteemed original across the road. But he was sure he had booked the right place. After all, he had Googled it.

Toyota and Nissan Are Teaming Up on Intelligent Maps


Japan’s government and auto giants Toyota and Nissan will join in an effort to develop intelligent maps by 2018, the Nikkei daily said, as competition heats up to improve the technology key for autonomous driving.
 Japanese automakers, map-making companies, and the government will get together to generate standardized intelligent maps, with plans to incorporate driving data gathered by the automakers, the paper said on Sunday.

Most Popular Cars in American Cities

Maddy Martin:

YourMechanic, we have a huge dataset with the characteristics of cars we have serviced along with their location. This data allows us to analyze exactly how Americans differ in terms of their automobile preferences. And these preferences seriously contrast.
 Perhaps the main way Americans deviate from each other in their car choices is whether they choose to go American. The following table displays the percentage of cars in 81 of the country’s largest markets that are American made.

Why Self-Driving Cars Could Be a Design Nightmare for U.S. Cities

Betsy Mikel:

s released a report last year to examine how technology could affect the future of American cities. NLC looked at America’s 50 most populated cities, plus the largest cities in each state. The City of the Future: Technology & Mobility report explored how 68 cities across the United States are planning for the arrival of driverless cars.
 It turns out we’re not really planning for self driving cars at all. Most cities seem not to be forecasting driverless cars in their future. The report found that only 6 percent of cities consider driverless technology in their long-term transportation plans. Half of the cities are planning for new highway construction.

We are now witnessing Elon Musk’s slow-motion disruption of the global auto industry

Steve LeVine:

deep Tesla skeptics call this demand unprecedented. There simply may be no example of a new car attracting as much interest in more than a century of automative history. Veteran auto analyst Bertel Schmidt says the closest comparison would be the 1955 Citroen DS (below), which was pre-ordered by 12,000 motorists on launch day. Wall Street has responded by sending Tesla’s share price up by about 12% since the Model 3’s debut.

America Has the Fewest 16-Year-Old Drivers Since the 1960s

Laura Bliss:

number of America’s youngest drivers just hit a record low, according to newly published data from the Federal Highway Administration. Roughly 8.5 million people ages 19 and younger had their licenses in 2014, and of those, just a little more than one million were 16 and younger—the lowest number since the 1960s.
 Nationally, teen driving has been curving downwards for years, as automakers and transit advocates will inform you with respective consternation and glee. Why teens aren’t scrambling to the DMV as they did in decades past is a matter of debate. One explanation is the recession, which hit young people particularly hard. Without jobs (and with parents’ income stagnated), many teens have less disposable cash to fund a driving habit. There may also be an attitude shift the air: Kids today may not place as much value on automobiles as previous generations did, and may be more open to other forms of transportation (including their parents’ backseats, presumably).

How Data Mining Reveals the Hidden Evolution of American Automobiles

technology review:

 The details make for interesting reading. The team’s data comes from EBay Motors, which has an extensive database of the make, model, and production year of cars and trucks produced in the United States between 1896 and 2014. In total, the team gathered data on 3,575 different car models made by 172 unique manufacturers. This is the “fossil record.”
 They note in particular the first and last year of production for each model. This is the date of the origin and extinction of each species. Plotting this data produces a curve showing the rate at which new species originate and die out over time.

Via Tom Guarriello.

Why I love ugly, messy interfaces — and you probably do too

Jonas Downey.

This is how much you could save by getting rid of one car

David Levinson:

you doubled up only a few times a week, you’re a strong candidate for downsizing, says David Levinson, a civil engineering professor and researcher at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies.
 Then, to compare costs, understand what you’re spending now. Charge all your gas purchases? Check your account statements to see last year’s damage. Add what you spent on maintenance and insurance. If you have a lease or loan, factor that in. Average new-car payments were about $482 a month last year, Experian says.

What Self-Driving Cars Could Mean for Traffic Lights

Laura Donovan:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Swiss Institute of Technology, and the Italian National Research Council released a paper in March in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, which argues that slot-based intersections could replace traffic stop lights when self-driving cars become a reality.
 “This idea is based on a scenario where sensor-laden vehicles pass through intersections by communicating and remaining at a safe distance from each other, rather than grinding to a halt at traffic lights,” MIT’s Senseable City Lab states on its site. “This approach based on slot-based intersections is flexible and can be designed to accommodate pedestrian and bicycle crossing with vehicular traffic.”

Why Car Dealers Should Be Terrified of Tesla’s Model 3 Numbers

Evan Niu:

think that it’s fair to say that essentially no one enjoys the current car-buying experience in the U.S. Consumers simply endure it.
 This is why auto dealers have long viewed Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) and its direct sales model as an existential threat, despite the fact that Tesla’s U.S. market share is effectively a rounding error in the context of record U.S. vehicle sales. But Tesla has historically been relegated to the low-volume luxury market segment, so its inherently limited customer base has a hard time being all that vocal when it comes to changing protectionist state laws.

The Problem With Electric Vehicles

Jacques Mattheij:

First of all, if you really want to improve the environment the best way to do so is to not buy any vehicle at all. Every car, electrical or not, even when it is never used is an enormous expenditure in both energy (and therefore greenhouse gas emissions) and raw materials simply because it has to be manufactured. So if you want to do the best possible thing for the environment cutting down on your traveling and working hard to avoid the purchase of a vehicle are the two best things that you could do when it comes to transportation.

Chevrolet’s Bolt electric car revealed

Benjamin Zhang:

Tesla opened up orders for its long-awaited Model 3 electric vehicle this week, and everybody went nuts.
 The company booked 200,000 in orders by Friday, CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter, after people lined up to place $1,000 deposits to reserve one of the cars. When it’s actually ready, in late 2017 at the earliest, they’ll have to plonk down another $34,000 or more to actually own one.
 But before they do that, people looking to buy a “mass market” electric vehicle are going to have another option: Chevrolet’s Bolt.
 Chevy rolled out its prototype for the Bolt in January, at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, and we got to drive one.

Tesla’s Model 3 Could Destroy Elon Musk’s Company

Edward Niedermeyer:

Tesla plans on launching the Model 3 in the last quarter of 2017, and given the firm’s consistent inability to meet its previous self-imposed deadlines, it seems more than likely that the people lined up today won’t actually take delivery of their Model 3 until well into 2018. It’s highly unusual for an automaker to preview a production vehicle so far from its actual launch date for a variety of reasons: as Musk admits, the car is likely to change during the next two years of development work. In the meantime, a heavily hyped but unavailable car could cut into demand for Tesla’s existing models. With Tesla’s cash reserves falling below $1 billion and dwindling fast, the company might not survive long enough to launch the car people are currently lined up for.

Tesla plans on launching the Model 3 in the last quarter of 2017, and given the firm’s consistent inability to meet its previous self-imposed deadlines, it seems more than likely that the people lined up today won’t actually take delivery of their Model 3 until well into 2018. It’s highly unusual for an automaker to preview a production vehicle so far from its actual launch date for a variety of reasons: as Musk admits, the car is likely to change during the next two years of development work. In the meantime, a heavily hyped but unavailable car could cut into demand for Tesla’s existing models. With Tesla’s cash reserves falling below $1 billion and dwindling fast, the company might not survive long enough to launch the car people are currently lined up for.
So why is Tesla running a risk that every other automaker so studiously avoids?
Two plausible explanations come to mind. First, Tesla is racing to beat competing electric vehicles to the market. General Motors has already begun pre-production of its Chevrolet Bolt EV, which appears to compete directly with the new Model 3 on price point ($37,500 before the tax credit) and driving range per charge (200 miles). Perhaps Tesla wants to be seen as being the first company to bring an affordable EV to market, even if the Model 3 doesn’t hit sales showrooms until well after the Bolt (and potentially Nissan’s forthcoming next-generation Leaf EV as well). After all, a huge amount of its astounding brand power comes from the not entirely justified perception that Tesla alone is pushing electric cars into the mass market.
But there’s another, more troubling explanation for Tesla’s rush: The company needs more cash to actually complete development of the Model 3 and bring it to market. Tesla has been burning cash at a remarkable rate over the last year in order to ramp up Model X production and develop the Model 3: As of the end of last year, it was down to its last $1 billion in cash (maybe $1.2 billion, rounding up). Given its deep operating losses (it burned nearly $1 billion in cash in 2015 alone), that burn rate is too high to survive until 2018 while completing development work on the Model 3 and ramping up the sales, service, and Supercharger infrastructure needed to handle the expected new influx of customers. Even the $115 million in deposits collected won’t make a dent in Tesla’s capital requirements.