George Hotz cancels his self-driving car project after NHTSA expresses concern

Sean O’Kane

The self-driving car project started by George Hotz, the first person to ever jailbreak the iPhone, has been canceled. The project involved a $999 after-market kit called “Comma One” that was capable of adding semi-autonomous capabilities to Honda Civics and some Acura cars. Hotz canceled the product after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent his company,, a letter expressing concern that the product “would put the safety of [’s] customers and other road users at risk.”
 Hotz posted the full letter (which you can read here) to the Twitter account this morning. It was sent alongside a special order requesting more information about the Comma One, and The Verge was able to confirm its authenticity. Hotz also wrote that he “would much rather spend my life building amazing tech than dealing with regulators and lawyers. It isn’t worth it.” He went on to write that he was canceling Comma One, and that “will be exploring other products and markets.”

On Uber, workers and regulation


Regulation stifles innovation. Entrepreneurs must kowtow to bureaucrats. Regulators are always and can only be bad for innovation and customers. Ayn Rand had it right. Or did she?
 A British employment tribunal (basically a court) ruled that Uber drivers could not be treated as self-employed. Rather they should be treated as workers, a class which acquires certain employment rights, such as minimum wage and holiday pay, not present in the self-employed. The Court did not class them as employees, a status which would have conferred even more rights.

AutoNation: Used market ‘ripe for disruption’

Amy Wilson

By opening stand-alone used-vehicle stores, AutoNation Inc. joins fellow public retailers Sonic Automotive Inc. and Asbury Automotive Group Inc. in trying to gain a bigger foothold in a lucrative marketplace.
 But there’s enough room in the used-vehicle market for everybody, including used giant CarMax Inc., Sonic’s EchoPark and Asbury’s Q auto, AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson said.
 “It’s a 40 million [units] a year marketplace,” Jackson said. “The consumer is still dying for a better experience in pre-owned. I think there’s room for their success. I like our strategy better.”

PCP (Personal Contract Purchase) explained: How to get it right

Andrew Frankel

PCP or Personal Contract Purchase deals are becoming an increasingly popular way for British motorists to run brand new cars.
 With attractive down payment and monthly rates, PCP deals can often work out as the most cost effect way to land yourself with the latest model.
 We run through seven key pointers you should follow to make sure you get the most from a PCP agreement.
 1. Always work out the entire cost of the plan, including not just what you’ll be paying each month but also the deposit. Remember also that PCPs frequently last for as little as two years or as long as four.
 2. The size of the initial deposit and amount paid each month are inextricably linked; the less you pay for one, the more you’ll pay for the other. Make sure that the plan you choose is the right one for you.
 3. Companies offering PCPs must also allow you to buy the car outright at the end of the contract period and for a sum agreed at the time of the contract guaranteeing its future value. However, this has the effect of turning the PCP into a hire purchase (HP) agreement and, in such cases, it may be cheaper and better to take out an HP plan instead.
 4. Beware excess mileage charges. Have a good idea about how many miles you’re likely to drive each year, and if the plan doesn’t cover that with space to spare, take care. PCP companies make a huge amount of money from people who don’t have a realistic approach to mileage and then get clobbered for every additional one they cover.
 5. Check what is and isn’t covered. Most include road tax and some include servicing. Few include wear and tear. How much will it cost you if you return the car with scratched paint or damaged alloy wheels.
 6. Remember that if you plan to keep the car, or even want to retain that option, it may still make more sense to buy it outright if you can afford to, especially with lending rates at their current historic lows.
 7. As in all important deals, don’t be seduced by the idea of a shiny new car wearing the latest plate until you have done all the maths, checked the small print and made sure the deal makes sense for you.
 Read more: The best new cars for £100 per week or less

These are Tesla’s stunning new solar roof tiles for homes

Darrell Etherington

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk wasn’t kidding when he said that the new Tesla solar roof product was better looking than an ordinary roof: the roofing replacement with solar energy gathering powers does indeed look great. It’s a far cry from the obvious and somewhat weird aftermarket panels you see applied to roofs after the fact today.
 The solar roofing comes in four distinct styles that Tesla presented at the event, including “Textured Glass Tile,” “Slate Glass Tile,” “Tuscan Glass Tile, and “Smooth Glass Tile.” Each of these achieves a different aesthetic look, but all resembled fairly closely a current roofing material style. Each is also transparent to solar, but appears opaque when viewed from an angle.

Uber drivers win UK legal battle for workers’ rights —

Sarah O’Connor, Jane Croft and Madhumita Murgia

The Uber case is the first in Britain to test the key premise of the “gig economy” that people who work via such apps are independent and not employed by any company.
 The decision calls into question the business model that underpins many gig technology platforms, which connect workers with customers without incurring the expense of employing the people themselves. The ruling followed a test case involving two Uber drivers who were backed by the GMB union.

It’s Time to Trade In Geely for Great Wall

Shuli Ren:

Great Wall Motor Haval brand vehicles on display at the 16th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition in 2015. Photo: Bloomberg News
 A sales tax cut and motorists’ love for SUVs have created winners and losers in China’s auto industry. Since Beijing cut its car sales tax more than a year ago, investors have crowded into Geely Automobile Holdings, sending its stock 180% higher, while Great Wall Motor is up only 20%. It’s time to reverse the trade.
 To boost the economy, Beijing announced last October that it would slash the 10% purchase tax in half. This tax break is set to expire at the end of 2016. But it could be extended, possibly in reduced form.
 Chinese consumers embraced the tax reduction. In the first nine months of 2016, vehicle sales rose almost 15% from their year-earlier levels, while the auto industry saw a 13% boost in profits. Sport-utility-vehicle sales were stellar, soaring 46% year over year.
 Macquarie Research’s Zhixuan Lin thinks that Beijing probably will extend the tax cut, thereby supporting healthy growth next year. While the auto industry is China’s third-largest industrial sector in revenue, it’s already the largest in profits, accounting for almost 10% of China’s total. Given the weak state of the economy, Beijing will likely raise the rate to 7.5%, but not take it back to 10%, similar to what it did in 2009, predicts Lin.

BMW limits lightweight carbon fiber use to juice profits

Edward Taylor and Alexandria Sage

German auto maker BMW Group is limiting its use of costly carbon fiber and turning to cheaper lightweight materials such as aluminum and steel for its biggest selling cars to keep profit margins high.
 Lighter cars consume less fuel or if they are battery-powered can drive for longer on a full charge, vital attributes for manufacturers seeking to score points with consumers and regulators.
 But there is a trade-off. Although carbon fiber is stiffer and lighter than aluminum, it is more expensive, and BMW faces tough choices on how to remain profitable as competitors close in with their own lightweight electric car offerings.

Apple car: stuck in reverse?

Motley Fool

In this clip from Industry Focus: Industrials, Motley Fool analyst Sean O’Reilly and senior auto specialist John Rosevear explain what potential upsides Apple might have been interested in with the Apple Car. Then they explain a few of many reasons the project has never come to fruition — from manufacturing difficulties to stiff competition and more.

Five Car Milestones: Does Innovation Pay Off?

Jim Motavalli

Consider the fate of the Cord 810/812. Here was a truly revolutionary Art Deco design by Gordon Buehrig, offering Depression-era America something very different—and ultra-cool. The Cord 810 boasted disappearing headlights, front-wheel drive, independent front suspension and streamlined styling with no running boards. It was a bargain, too. The 1937 Cord Westchester was like a visitor from another planet, and it didn’t sell at all. (Hugh Llewelyn/Wikipedia)Although the press loved it, and 1,000 cars per month was bravely projected, in fact Auburn-Cord sold only 1,174 in the first year. Frankly, the car laid an egg, and the company was forced to claim that unsold 1936 models were actually 1937s. There was no 1938 model—the company was liquidated. The 1934 Chrysler Airflow, lovely though it is–and aerodynamic–was a sales disaster.

Electric car revolution may drive oil ‘investor death spiral’

Joe Romm

Advanced batteries could “tip the oil market from growth to contraction earlier than anticipated,” concludes the credit rating agency Fitch in a new study. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has already told investors to expect the ‘big crash’ in oil by 2028 — and as early as 2023.
 Fitch Ratings agency warns that if recent technology trends continue, we may see an “investor death spiral” as first the smart money — and then everyone else’s — sell off oil company assets (bonds and stocks). That would in turn increase the industry’s costs for both debt and equity — while oil prices would be stuck at low levels as the world hits peak demand.

Ford, GM pitch new strategies; Wall Street snubs them

Bernie Woodall and Joseph White

Ford Motor Co (F.N) and General Motors Co (GM.N) have worked all year to convince investors that they are no longer prisoners of the U.S. auto market cycle and have solid plans to fend off challenges from Silicon Valley interlopers.
 This week, Wall Street looked at the Detroit companies’ stronger-than-expected quarterly results and turned thumbs down.
 GM, the largest U.S. automaker, reported record third-quarter net income on Tuesday, but its shares have fallen nearly 5 percent since then.
 Ford shares sank more than 1 percent on Thursday, bringing their year-to-date decline to about 17 percent, or about $7 billion of the company’s market capitalization.

Toyota invests in US car-share startup Getaround

Yuichiro Kanematsu

Toyota Motor is wading into the emerging field of peer-to-peer car sharing with an investment in a California startup, joining the ranks of major global automakers such as General Motors, BMW and Ford Motor.
 The leading Japanese car manufacturer invested in San Francisco-based Getaround via a fund created jointly with Japanese asset manager Sparx Group and others. The startup is thought to have received around $10 million from the fund, and how big a stake that provides has not been disclosed.

Tesla: The Bill Is Still Coming Due

Charley Grant

At first glance it is hard not to be impressed with results released Wednesday by Tesla Motors.
 The company blew past boss Elon Musk’s third-quarter profitability goal, reporting revenue of $2.3 billion and earnings per share of 14 cents. Both topped analyst expectations. Tesla also delivered a record number of cars in the third quarter and expects to meet its full-year target.

Google And Apple Knocking On The Car Door? ‘No, We Won’t Let Them Inside,’ Toyota Exec Says

Bertel Schmitt:

Didier Leroy, a former Carlos Ghosn disciple and longtime leader of Toyota’s European business, has been made Toyota’s first non-Japanese EVP, member of a four-man group that reports directly to Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda and is tasked to think and act as if they run the whole company. As president of Toyota’s Business Unit No. 1, Frenchman Leroy is responsible for “around 65% of Toyota’s sales,” we heard yesterday. He also is Chief Competitive Officer, a role he described like this:
 “Grasp faster and better than any competitor the needs of the customer in all the different markets. Reduce the lead time to develop new products to be faster on the market.”

Apple & Titan


Project Titan was Apple’s not-so-secret internal division tasked with building an Apple automobile sometime in the not-too-distant future. Much like Tesla, Apple saw the market inefficiencies in the automotive industry and sought to fill some of them (for instance, cars ought to drive themselves given computers are much better drivers than humans; a car spends the majority of your ownership thereof sitting idle waiting for you to need it — why not allow others to rent it when you’re not using it?; etc.). But, as of this week(ish), Apple has significantly downgraded its ambitions in the automotive space — a seemingly rare defeat for a company that has done little-to-no wrong in the last decade (save for maybe the Apple Watch depending on how you look at it).

Auto Makers Struggle With High-Tech Dashboard Screens

Christina Rogers:

Traditional auto makers racing against Silicon Valley firms to develop self-driving cars and electric vehicles face more immediate technological challenges with a longstanding mainstay: the dashboard screen.
 Customer frustrations are mounting with infotainment systems that fail to seamlessly connect smartphones and suffer a range of glitches including crashing electronic displays and imperfect voice-recognition features, according to dealers and automobile reviewers.
 The dissatisfaction come despite significant leaps auto makers have made creating systems that function more like popular hand-held electronics.

We’re building more three-car garages than one-bedroom apartments.

Patrick Clark

Inventory has been a major theme of U.S. housing markets in recent years, as a shortage of homes for sale has pushed prices higher and low vacancy rates have increased rents. So it might be surprising to hear that Americans are building plenty of housing—for their cars.

Apple Said to Develop Car Operating System in BlackBerry Country

Mark Gurman & Gerrit De Vynck:

The car operating system is the software core of a future Apple car platform, in the same way iOS powers the iPhone. A separate Apple team is developing software that would guide future self-driving cars and run on the operating system, one of the people said.

The autonomous software was only one of many features once planned to run on the car operating system. For example, Apple engineers envisioned a heads-up display showing apps such as maps that could be manipulated by the company’s voice-based digital assistant Siri, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The fate of these features depends on Project Titan’s overall strategic direction. Bob Mansfield, who took over the project in April, has given engineers a deadline of next fall to prove the self-driving technology before deciding on next steps, people familiar with the matter have said.

Other Project Titan teams include a self-driving platform simulation group, according to one of the people familiar with the situation. Apple has developed simulators that use virtual reality to test the self-driving software without taking the system onto public roads. That team now includes VR expert Doug Bowman, another person said. He joined Apple in January, according to the Financial Times.

Uber Self-Driving Truck Packed With Budweiser Makes First Delivery in Colorado

Eric Newcomber & Alex Webb

A tractor trailer full of beer drove itself down Colorado’s I-25 last week with nobody behind the wheel. Uber Technologies Inc. and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV teamed up on the delivery, which they said is the first time a self-driving truck had been used to make a commercial shipment.
 With a police cruiser in tow, the 18-wheeler cruised more than 120 miles while a truck driver hung out back in the sleeper cab, the companies said. The delivery appears to be mostly a stunt—proof that Otto, the self-driving vehicle group that Uber acquired in July, could successfully put an autonomous truck into the wild.

Silicon Valley Decides It’s Just Too Hard to Build a Car

Keith Naughton , Alex Webb , and Mark Bergen

Bill Ford is tired of hearing the future of cars belongs to Silicon Valley. Yet for years, the Apple and Google crowd have been telling him that only Big Tech can make driverless vehicles.
 “There was this presumption that we were too dumb to get it,” said the Ford Motor Co. executive chairman and great-grandson of auto pioneer Henry Ford. “The conversation has really shifted.”
 He’s not kidding. Tech giants Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, once intent on disrupting, if not destroying, Detroit, have concluded for now that they don’t want to build cars. Sure, they still bank on supplying the autonomous software that will drive robot rides, but the concession that they’re not up to the complex task of mass production tilts the balance of power to traditional automakers.

Monetizing car data


Cars generate data about how they are used, where they are, and who’s behind the wheel. But how can industry players in the evolving automotive ecosystem turn these data into valuable products and services?
 As privately owned vehicles use sensors to become increasingly connected to each other and to external infrastructure, a massive amount of data is being generated. Yet while gathering such data is now routine, actually identifying insights that can be monetized is still in its nascent stages. Our new report, Monetizing car data: New service business opportunities to create new customer benefits, analyzes consumer perspectives on the prospect of accessing car-generated data, and identifies and assesses the value and requirements of possible car data-enabled use cases. We find that the global revenue pool from car data monetization could be as high as $750 billion by 2030—and our report sheds light on how industry players can quickly build and test car data-driven products and services and develop new business models around that.

“t will not be enough, in my view, that you just have an electric drivetrain.”

Diane Kurylko

The iNext will be, one, the next-generation electric drivetrains; secondly, the interior of the future; thirdly, autonomous driving; and fourth is connectivity of the future. These are the four main pillars for the BMW iNext, because when the iNext is on the market, it will not be enough, in my view, that you just have an electric drivetrain.
 You need to have autonomous driving available. And if you drive with an automobile that is highly automated, you need a new interior and feature connectivity because you may want to watch a movie during driving. This is why these four things go hand in hand.

Ford signals limited support for cars

Nick Bunkley

Fields, while declining to confirm those vehicles, argued that the workers there will end up better off than they are today, periodically subjected to weeklong layoffs because demand for the vehicles they produce is falling.
 “At the end of the day, we have to make sure that as a business we are providing compelling products for customers at the right value that provide a good return for the company, so we can then reinvest in the products, in the people, in the facilities,” Fields said. “With these exciting products that we’re bringing in, it’s actually a net win for the UAW.”
 It’s a major reversal of course for Ford, which converted Michigan Assembly from hulking SUVs to small cars after gasoline prices soared heading into the recession. Fields’ predecessor, Alan Mulally, told USA Today in 2008 that the dramatic shift away from big gas guzzlers “is going to be permanent.”

Batteries May Trip ‘Death Spiral’ in $3.4 Trillion Credit Market

Brain Parkin:

Battery technologies starting to disrupt the electricity and automobile industries may also emerge as a trillion-dollar threat to credit markets, according to Fitch Ratings.
 A quarter of outstanding global corporate debt, or as much as $3.4 trillion, is linked to the utility- and auto-industry bonds that rely on fossil fuel activities, the ratings agency wrote in a report published Tuesday.
 Batteries have the potential to “tip the oil market from growth to contraction earlier than anticipated,” according to Fitch. “The narrative of oil’s decline is well rehearsed — and if it starts to play out there is a risk that capital will act long before” and in the worst case result in an “investor death spiral.”
 While hybrid and battery-only cars are making slow progress in denting sales of gasoline and diesel-driven vehicles, their growth trajectory may be grossly underestimated, said the authors of the study. The clean-energy research unit of Bloomberg LP estimates that battery-electric vehicles, which only run on power from a plug, will displace 13 million barrels of oil a day by 2040.

“Just one month earlier Satoshi Ogiso, Toyota’s chief engineer, said that it is now cheaper to build a low-range electric car than to build a hybrid electric”

Ed Wallace:

Ogiso went on to say that most consumers want more range than that in their vehicles. And so Toyota believes that the market is still best for hybrids and fuel-celled vehicles— at least until 2025, when the production cost of long range all-electric cars should fall below that of building a hybrid electric.

The London presentation suggested that the cost of building a lithium-ion battery has fallen from $1,000 per kilowatt-hour in 2010 to around $350 today and could easily fall to under $100 per kwh within a decade. But new pressures are stimulating the next evolution of the automobile industry; for example, the German Bundesrat, the country’s federal court, resolved to ban all gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles from Germany’s roads by 2030. (The most they can actually do is forward the resolution to the EU for action.) This follows Norway’s extremely aggressive moves to convince the public to ditch any fossil-fueled vehicle and the Netherlands’ decision to at least seriously debate the same subject. So far Norway’s motoring public has already moved in that direction: Electric cars comprised almost 50 percent of all new car sales there in September.

In the middle of these conversations Daimler announced that, to ensure that its plans to create an entire platform of new electric cars from both Smart and Mercedes become a reality in the next 10 years, it would spend up to $1 billion on new battery technology. Earlier BMW suggested that up to 25 percent of its models could be electric within the next 16 years, although that may be 75 percent fewer electrics than the fatherland will want from the Bavarian manufacturer.

DRIVING TO THE FUTURE: The development of connected cars The development of connected cars

Economist Intelligence Unit, via a Robert Ward email:

The term “connected car” conjures up images of futuristic self-driving vehicles, buzzing around towns and cities without the need for human control. Yet the concept of connectedness in cars is far from new. Basic in- car connectedness has been a part of auto technology for more than ve years, introduced via in-car entertainment and mapping systems in around 2010. Since then, however, cars have started to absorb ever-greater levels of technology.
The modern car is not only a feat of engineering, it is also a mobile supercomputer. Hidden beneath the steel or aluminium body is the computing power of 20 personal computers, dealing with around 100m lines of code and holding more processing power than any of NASA’s early spacecraft, including the original Apollo lunar module.
A truly connected car, in the modern sense, still gives drivers the ability to connect to music applications and use global positioning system (GPS) equipment. In addition, however, it is also slowly beginning to re ect the internal ecosystem of the car, using connectivity to provide users with feedback on the car’s performance, monitoring of the car’s components and mechanisms to ensure the comfort and convenience of a passenger’s journey. In future, these same systems could be used for future applications, including self-driving, car-sharing or communicating with the internet of things (for example, in connected homes).
It has taken some time for automakers to realise the potential of connected cars, and to devote time and resources to exploring the applications of such a technology. Yet the world of connected cars is moving fast, putting carmakers in a dif cult position. Traditionally the auto industry relies on months, if not years, of research and development (R&D), leading to new car models that then require investment in complex and expensive manufacturing plants and machinery to launch onto the market. The sunk start-up costs are high, as is the cost of failure. So car companies carry out exhaustive testing when it comes to issues such as safety, driveability and fuel economy, while also taking the time to ensure a car has the kind of marketability needed to appeal to consumers.

Why are the tech giants struggling to build their own driverless cars

Siraj Ahmed Shaikh

We may have just seen a major player in the drive towards autonomous cars apply screeching brakes. Apple has reportedly abandoned its plans to build its own self-driving electric vehicle and is instead going to focus on the underlying autonomous software. A similar initiative to produce a fully autonomous car by Google also appeared to run out of steam. Building self-driving cars clearly poses a challenge that even the world’s top technology giants can’t yet meet.
 So what is it about building autonomous cars that is proving to be such a challenge? The high-value consumer electronics and software industry is used to very different margins than the cut-throat automotive sector, which has tough market entry conditions and tribal supply-chain relationships. Then there is the technological challenge of effectively integrating sensing, communication and autonomous technology to deliver a genuinely safe product.

Mahindra eyes an all-electric vehicle portfolio

Sunny Sen

Mahindra and Mahindra claims to be the first and only Indian automobile firm that is looking at building an all-electric vehicle portfolio, as India tries to reduce emission and pollution.
 “We are working on that,” said Pawan Goenka, executive director of M&M. The firm is betting on electric, self-drive, and ride share, what it calls the “future of mobility”.
 Many in M&M say though the cost to acquire an electric vehicle is high, over time, its maintenance gets cheaper, which will eventually boost its adoption.

Google Has Quietly Dropped Ban on Personally Identifiable Web Tracking

Julia Angwin

When Google bought the advertising network DoubleClick in 2007, Google founder Sergey Brin said that privacy would be the company’s “number one priority when we contemplate new kinds of advertising products.”
 And, for nearly a decade, Google did in fact keep DoubleClick’s massive database of web-browsing records separate by default from the names and other personally identifiable information Google has collected from Gmail and its other login accounts.
 But this summer, Google quietly erased that last privacy line in the sand – literally crossing out the lines in its privacy policy that promised to keep the two pots of data separate by default. In its place, Google substituted new language that says browsing habits “may be” combined with what the company learns from the use Gmail and other tools.

Two-wheel drive: China tech giants bet on ‘Uber for bikes’ in hunt for next unicorn

Sijia Jiang

China’s tech industry giants are sloughing hundreds of millions of dollars into what they’re betting will be the country’s next big internet craze – ‘Uber for bikes’.
 A symbol of China’s cities long before a boom in cars, snarling traffic and smog, the humble bicycle is making a comeback. Start-ups equipped with smartphone apps, GPS and scannable codes are selling cheap bike-sharing to city-dwellers as the way to beat jams on China’s most clogged streets.

Toyota Safety Features Linked to Self-Driving Strategy, Technology Chief Says

Mike Colias:

Toyota Motor Corp.’s top safety executive tied the Japanese auto giant’s rollout of standardized automatic brakes and other advanced features to a broader strategy of forging ahead on developing self-driving cars after years of lagging competitors.

The move by the world’s largest auto maker by volume would be among the industry’s broadest rollouts of so-called active safety functions, which now are often sold as an optional package that tacks on hundreds or thousands of dollars. Features like pedestrian detection and adaptive cruise control will be offered standard on everything from high-end Lexus cars to the Yaris small car, Toyota global safety technology chief Kiyotaka Ise said in an interview Wednesday.

Toyota unveiled plans in March to install advanced safety features on most vehicles by the end of 2017, partly to show speedy progress toward a 2022 deadline pledged by major auto makers for making automatic brakes standard.

Car of the future doesn’t come cheap

Chris Bryant:

Maybe not. A profit warning from Continental serves as a reminder that the “triumph of the automotive suppliers” — a popular idea among investors — isn’t certain.Of course, most of the approximately 480 million euros ($530 million) hit that the German manufacturer anticipates to this year’s operating profit — about 10 percent of the Bloomberg consensus — comes from one-offs such as antitrust cases and earthquake-related production problems.Yet Conti said R&D spending on infotainment and eco-friendly drive systems will also be about 60 million euros higher than anticipated. Not huge, but potentially significant.

Get Off the Trolley Problem

Frank Pasquale:

Imagine you are driving down a two-lane road at about 45 miles per hour, cruising home. You see a group of kids walking home from school about 100 yards ahead. Just as you’re about to pass by them, an oncoming 18-wheeler swerves out of its lane and is about to hit you head on. You have seconds, tops, to decide: Sacrifice yourself, or hit the children so you can avoid the truck.
 I like to think that, if asked in advance, most people would choose not to plough into the kids. As the automation of driving advances, there’s a way to “hard-code” that decision into vehicles. Many cars already detect whether a toddler in a driveway is about to be run over by a driver with a blind spot. They even beep when other vehicles are in danger of being bumped. Transitioning from an alert system to a hard-wired hard stop is technically possible. And if that’s possible, so is an automatic brake that would prevent a driver from swerving to save herself at the expense of many others.
 But the decision can also be coded the other way—to put the car occupants’ interests above all others. Christoph von Hugo, Mercedes’ manager of driver assistance systems, active safety, and ratings, appeared to push this vision of the future of more fully autonomous vehicles in a recent article in Car and Driver. “You could sacrifice the car, but then the people you’ve saved, you don’t know what happens to them after that in situations that are often very complex, so you save the ones you know you can save,” he said. “If you know you can save at least one person, at least save that one. Save the one in the car.” (Mercedes has since said that Hugo was “quoted incorrectly” and that “[f]or Daimler it is clear that neither programmers nor automated systems are entitled to weigh the value of human lives. Our development work focuses on completely avoiding dilemma situation by, for example, implementing a risk-avoiding operating strategy in our vehicles.”)

Case IH is developing driverless tractors

Rick Barrett

If Batman switched from fighting crime to growing corn, this would be his tractor.
 Wednesday, Racine-based Case IH will showcase its autonomous, or driverless, tractor at the National FFA (Future Farmers of America) convention in Indianapolis.
 With a curvy body that’s packed with technology, the tractor takes some cues from the Batmobile.
 But there’s no steering wheel or driver’s seat. Instead, the tractor uses satellites, radar, cameras and other digital gear to navigate the fields and take orders from a remote operator’s computer or tablet.
 Farm equipment companies such as Case IH are developing technologies that could enable farmers to control multiple crop production machines at once from the comfort of home. Farmers could benefit from lower labor costs and increased efficiencies in the fields.

Apple & Cars

Timothy Lee

Back in 2014, Apple launched a massive project, code-named Titan, to build a car. But a couple of years later, Apple is drastically scaling back its ambitions. According to Bloomberg, the company has given up on the auto-manufacturing dream entirely. Instead, it’s focusing on writing self-driving car software that could power cars manufactured by traditional automakers.
 Silicon Valley moguls have gotten into the habit of jumping into new industries and quickly turning them upside down — as Apple’s iPhone did to the cellphone industry. But Apple’s car struggles are a reminder that not every industry is as ripe for disruption.

How Apple Scaled Back Its Titanic Plan to Take on Detroit

Mark Gurman and Alex Webb

Apple Inc. has drastically scaled back its automotive ambitions, leading to hundreds of job cuts and a new direction that, for now, no longer includes building its own car, according to people familiar with the project.

Hundreds of members of the car team, which comprises about 1,000 people, have been reassigned, let go, or have left of their own volition in recent months, the people said, asking not to be identified because the moves aren’t public.

New leadership of the initiative, known internally as Project Titan, has re-focused on developing an autonomous driving system that gives Apple flexibility to either partner with existing carmakers, or return to designing its own vehicle in the future, the people also said. Apple has kept staff numbers in the team steady by hiring people to help with the new focus, according to another person.

Apple executives have given the car team a deadline of late next year to prove the feasibility of the self-driving system and decide on a final direction, two of the people said. Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr declined to comment.

Electric car development roadmap to be unveiled

Hao Yan

In December, China will release the first new energy vehicle industry development roadmap, possibly proposing mild hybrid cars as energy saving vehicles, as one of the moves to guide the sector’s development in the world’s largest electric car market.
 The drafting of the industry roadmap, including roadmaps for seven related technologies, was led by the Society of Automotive Engineers of China, and is now subject to government review and modifications.

Ending charge rage: New app lets EV drivers line up for charging

David Baker

In the electric car-loving Bay Area, workplace charging stations have become a common corporate perk — and a source of tension.
 Install too few in a company’s parking lot, and employees with electric vehicles end up jockeying for open plugs.
 Those who arrive too late in the morning to find an available charging station must beg their co-workers to unplug later in the day so they can top off their own batteries for the drive home. Or they can commit the ultimate EV faux pas — unplugging a colleague’s car.

And integrated perspective on the future of mobility

McKinsey & Bloomberg New Energy Finance

To view a city from above is to observe a world in motion. Trains carry people to and from work; taxis circulate in abstract patterns; trucks deliver goods and carry away garbage; pedestrians hustle down city blocks; cyclists zip through traffic. Mobility is the lifeblood of our cities and essential for urban life.
Yet, our desire for mobility has consequences: cities can be noisy, congested, and prone to smog. Far too many urban residents spend hours stuck in traffic; no one can escape airborne pollution. Mobility is also a critical economic factor, both in its own right and as the means of providing the goods and services that are the foundation of economic life. Finally, mobility matters to people, whether this is getting to work or school with ease, visiting friends and relatives, or simply exploring one’s surroundings. In relatively few places, however, does the reality of what is available match the public’s aspirations for safe, clean, reliable, and affordable ways to get from A to B—and back again.

Uber CEO and Pittsburgh Mayor Discussed Reducing State Fines, Emails Reveal

Jason Keobler:

On May 3, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto wrote a letter to the state of Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission, which had recently levied an $11.4 million fine against Uber for operating in the state without permission.

The letter, which is also signed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, is an impassioned plea for leniency. It defends Uber in strong terms and notes that Pittsburgh’s position as Uber’s self driving car testbed could be at risk if “state regulators continue displaying such hostility.”

Uber “is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and is poised to invest millions more. However, all this could be lost if we send the message that Pennsylvania is not a welcoming place for 21st century businesses and other job-creators looking to make our state a home,” the letter begins.

In a new Pipper Jaffray survey, almost four out five teens say their next phone will be an iPhone.

Chris Matyszczyk

The latter premise stems from the latest Taking Stock With Teens survey released on Friday by investment bank Piper Jaffray.
 This is a survey performed every six months to see where teens’ fickle minds and feelings are at about certain product categories.
 This time, the surveyors talked to 10,000 US teens — up from 6,500 in April. The average age was 16 and the respondents came from households whose average income is $68,000.
 For quite some time, these teens have consistently claimed that their next phone will be an iPhone. In April, 75 percent said their next phone would be an iPhone.
 Here we are in October, and that number has risen to 79 percent.
 Moreover, while in April, 69 percent of teens said they already had an iPhone, in the latest survey 74 percent said they did.

ABB Chief Says Technology Spawning New Business Models for Power, Energy

Steve Rosenbush:

By By 2030, half of new cars worldwide will be electric powered, the head of the Zurich-based power and automation technology company said Monday during a meeting with Wall Street Journal editors. Vehicle technology is ready, and infrastructure such as charging stations must be put in place, he said.
 As that happens, the power needs and storage capacity of vehicles will create an opportunity for new business models. For example, car users may get free electric power for their vehicles in exchange for contributing power to the grid. And a wide range of businesses may get into the power charging station business. “There can be new business models. We have supermarkets that buy charging stations from us,” he said.

Advertising’s century of flatline growth

Eric Chemi:

The advertising industry has always held a special fascination because of its impact on our culture and our desires, a reality dramatized to great effect by such television series as thirtysomething and Mad Men. In the business world, the future of ad spending is an endlessly debated topic. Will new digital media kill old media, and if so, where will the ad dollars flow? What does megaconsolidation in the cable industry, powered by the merger of Comcast and Time Warner, mean for ad rates?
 But in one sense, the advertising business is about as static and boring as they come. The industry has never grown in scale. Looking at data since the 1920s, the U.S. advertising industry has always been about 1 percent of U.S. GDP. It’s surprisingly consistent, mostly tracking between 1 percent and 1.4 percent—and averaging 1.29 percent. This is according to DB5, a media and marketing research firm that specializes in bridging traditional and new media.

Carmakers forced back to bigger engines in new emissions era

Laurence Frost and Agnieszka Flak

For years, carmakers kept pace with European Union CO2 goals by shrinking engine capacities, while adding turbo chargers to make up lost power. Three-cylinder motors below one liter have become common in cars up to VW Golf-sized compacts; some Fiat (FCHA.MI) models run on twin-cylinders.
 These mini-motors sailed through official lab tests conducted – until now – on rollers at unrealistically moderate temperatures and speeds. Carmakers, regulators and green groups knew that real-world CO2 and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions were much higher, but the discrepancy remained unresolved.
 All that is about to change. Starting next year, new models will be subjected to realistic on-the-road testing for NOx, with all cars required to comply by 2019. Fuel consumption and CO2 will follow two years later under a new global test standard.
 Independent testing in the wake of VW’s exposure last year as a U.S. diesel emissions cheat has shed more light on the scale of the problem facing automakers.

BMW will enter the fuel cell market early in the next decade, says R&D boss


In his talk at the 26th Aachen Colloquium Automobile and Engine Technology, Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management at BMW AG, Development, reinforced the brand’s commitment for zero-emission mobility through the use of hydrogen fuel-cells.
 “BMW will enter the fuel cell market early in the next decade, starting with very small production runs,” Fröhlich said. “However, until 2025 at least costs will remain too high and the hydrogen infrastructure too sparse to allow broad-based market penetration. By the time the fundamentals are in place, the BMW Group will also have marketable products ready that are attractive to customers.”

ChargePoint urges judge to revise VW settlement

David Shepardson:

ChargePoint Inc, the world’s largest electric vehicle charging network, has asked a U.S. judge to order changes to Volkswagen AG’s (VOWG_p.DE) $2 billion agreement with the Justice Department to boost zero emission vehicle (ZEV) infrastructure.
 The company, which operates more than 30,000 public charging stations, said the VW diesel emissions cheating settlement threatens its survival and other charging station companies.
 VW has agreed to spend up to $16.5 billion to settle with U.S. owners, state and federal regulators and dealers after it admitted to installing software that allowed 475,000 U.S. vehicles to emit up to 40 times legally allowable emissions.

Federal appeals court rules against Chicago taxi monopoly in favor of consumers, competition, creative destruction

Mark Perry

In a devastating legal blow to Big Taxi, the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago has ruled that Uber and taxis are not the same type of transportation service, and cities like Chicago can therefore regulate each of them differently, see a review of the decision here. Here are some excerpts from the actual decision written by Judge Richard Posner for the three-judge majority, which demonstrate his economic expertise and explain why his 1973 book “Economic Analysis of Law” is now in its 7th edition:

BMW to Expand Electric-Vehicle Offerings

Tim Higgins

When it comes to electric vehicles, BMW is considered a first-move. BMW’s i brand was launched in 2014 as part of the auto maker’s efforts to address growing interest in electric vehicles.
 The move came after Tesla’s Model S’s 2012 debut, costing as much as premium Mercedes luxury sedans, surprised the industry with rapid success with buyers and traditional auto enthusiasts. The i8 plug-in hybrid, with a $140,700 base price, was aimed at the high-end to attract attention for the brand while the compact, battery-electric i3, starting at $42,400, was to appeal to more mainstream buyers in big cities.
 Sales didn’t take off. In the U.S., for example, BMW sold 391 i3 cars last month, a 77% decline from a year ago, according to Autodata Corp., which tracks sales.
 Globally, it sold about 25,000 of the i3 last year. Mr. Krüger said the company should sell a total of about 60,000 electric vehicles this year, including plug-in hybrids.
 Tesla, by contrast, is on track to build 80,000 electric SUVs and sedans and aims for 500,000 by 2018. The Tesla Model 3, which will aim at the popular BMW 3-Series, is “not a threat,” Mr. Krüger said. “We welcome competition.”

Mercedes EQ brand to capitalise on EV ‘tipping point’


According to Jürgen Schenk, Mercedes-Benz’s electric car boss, the ‘tipping point’ when electric cars become fully established as a new technology is expected to be reached in February next year.
 Quoting the mathematical theory of technology adoption, electric cars are expected to break through the 1% share of the global car market early next year. Currently they make up 0.6% of the market.
 “One per cent is the point at which the technology can’t be stopped and it is here to stay,” said Schenk. “And the tipping point in Europe is not far away either

Plans for an electric car charging point in every new home in Europe

Arthur Neslen:

Every new or refurbished house in Europe will need to be equipped with an electric vehicle recharging point, under a draft EU directive expected to come into effect by 2019.
 In a further boost to prospects for the electric car market in Europe, the regulations due to be published before the end of the year state that by 2023, 10% of parking spaces in new buildings in the EU zone will also need recharging facilities.
 The EU initiative is intended to lay the infrastructure for the sort of electric car boom envisaged by Norway and the Netherlands, which both plan to completely phase out vehicles with diesel engines by 2025.
 As well as extending the driving range and convenience of electric cars, the mushrooming number of recharge stations would allow vehicles to feed their electricity back into the grid.

German Lawmakers Vote to Ban the Internal Combustion Engine 

Rhett Jones

The resolution calls on EU automakers to “review the current practices of taxation and dues with regard to a stimulation of emission-free mobility.” Creating a tougher tax burden could encourage manufacturers to push electric vehicles into production sooner, rather than later.
 While larger approvals will still need to go through the legislative process, the fact that the country with the fourth-largest auto industry in the world is spearheading such sweeping change is a big sign of where we’re headed. It’s a road paved with slow-moving politicians making incremental changes and hoping the industry will warm up to the idea of not killing us all.

¿Por qué quiere Apple un coche?

César Urrutia:

Búsquedas, mapas, smartphones, redes sociales, mensajería instantánea…Silicon Valley necesita encontrar la siguiente cosa grande sobre la que multiplicar su negocio hasta escalas inalcanzables. En 2008, Apple llevaba vendidos más de 100 millones de iPods, hacía sólo un año que afirmaba haber reinventado el teléfono con el iPhone y hacía incursiones en la televisión. El último de estos pasos fue en falso. Pero los otros dos fueron la clave para multiplicar por seis su valor en Bolsa y convertirla en la empresa más capitalizada del mundo.Por dónde llegará esa próxima gran cosa es aún una incógnita. Está el internet de las cosas, los drones, las impresoras 3D, los wearables…
 Para algunos, la capacidad de reinventarse para crecer es lo que sostiene la valoración de Apple y la de otros gigantes como Google o Facebook. Para otros, es un síntoma evidente de burbuja. El hecho es que los más de 609.000 millones de dólares (540.000 millones de euros)en que el mercado valora Apple superan por algo más de 7.000 millones de euros la capitalización de toda la flor y nata de la industria del automóvil mundial, desde los gigantes alemanes Daimler (Mercedes y Smart, entre otras marcas), Volkswagen (Audi, Skoda, Volkswagen y Seat, entre otras) y BMW (BMW y Mini) a los norteamericanos Ford y General Motors o los siempre competitivos japoneses Toyota y Honda. No sólo eso. Teniendo en cuenta estas valoraciones, hasta el pasado mes de junio, Apple contaba con efectivo suficiente para comprar todos los fabricantes alemanes y franceses con sus respectivas marcas.

Here’s Alphabet’s Pitch To “Smart”-ify Your City

Jeremy Singer-Vine

In April, a team of representatives from Sidewalk Labs — a subsidiary of Alphabet, which is also Google’s parent company — visited Columbus, Ohio, to pitch city officials on a sprawling, ambitious plan to overhaul the city’s transportation infrastructure.

Sidewalk proposed managing and expanding the city’s transportation data on transit routes, passengers, parking spaces, cars, and more. In the process, Sidewalk promised to give the city “new superpowers” and make it more accessible.

By mid-year, Sidewalk Labs had pitched at least six other tech-hungry cities — San Francisco, Austin, Pittsburgh, Denver, Kansas City, and Portland — on the same bold proposal.

In Columbus, the company’s representatives said, two systems called Flow and Link could “pinpoint the causes of congestion,” reduce the “emissions and distracted driving that results from circling for parking,” “encourage ride-sharing,” and provide “ultra-fast gigabit WiFi.” That could be a significant improvement in a city where an estimated 82% of commuters drive to work. And though Sidewalk’s presentation does not name the final cost of the systems — it’d depend on a range of factors — it claims that the new approach could ultimately return a profit to Columbus.

But outsourcing these traditionally municipal concerns to a private company — and a high-profile technological innovator, at that — would be a stark change that could have implications well beyond central Ohio.

Refreshing The Verge: Facebook video, Google AMP, and the (non)future of the web

Nilay Patel

What does this all mean?
 First, it means that Dieter and I drink a lot of bourbon and talk about the sad, slow death of the open web a lot. (It was a good run, open web! So sorry that Apple killed you by turning Safari into the new IE and forbidding alternative browsers to innovate on iOS.)
 Second, it means that mobile web article pages are quickly becoming the least important thing we make, even though they’re currently a huge part of what most people think of as The Verge. Let’s plot it out:
 There are three main paths most readers use to get to a Verge story: the homepage, search, and social, and all of those are increasingly mobile.
 Our search traffic largely comes from Google, which already serves our AMP pages in Google News. Google is also switching mobile search results to AMP links, and that means almost all of our search visitors will see AMP pages instead of the mobile web.
 Our social traffic mix is dominated by Facebook, where we already serve every article in Facebook Instant Articles — and features and reviews are coming soon. That means a huge percentage of our social traffic is already seeing Instant Articles instead of the mobile web, and that number will just go up as we deliver more story types in IA.
 Twitter is basically the rest of the social mix, and Twitter is signed up to use… AMP. Twitter already loads AMP pages in Moments, and it’s only a matter of time before clicking a link from the main timeline loads an AMP page by default. (In fact, I don’t know why Twitter doesn’t already do this. Get on it, Jack.)
 Other social platforms like Pinterest are also signed up to use AMP, because Facebook isn’t sharing Instant Articles, and none of them can force publishers to dance the way Facebook and Google can.
 We still have a very popular homepage that sends people to standard mobile article pages, as do emailed links and so on, but our homepage traffic is obviously tiny compared to search and social.

The Future of the Commute on Science Friday

David King

Transportist contributor David King (me) will be a guest on public radio’s Science Friday (October 7, 2016) to discuss the future of commuting and the role of ridesharing, taxicabs and vanpools. I believe the recent pilot project in Summit, New Jersey will be addressed (the Buzzfeed writer of the linked post is another guest), plus other topics.

Via ctmorey.

Mercedes Gives Itself an Electric Makeover

Elisabeth Behrmann

When Karl Benz built the first gasoline-powered automobile in 1885, it looked like a horse-drawn carriage without the horses. It would take more than three decades for the shape of vehicles to catch up to the new way of propelling them forward. Mercedes-Benz design chief Gorden Wagener says electric motors could similarly reshape the way cars look. “The architecture is going to change fundamentally,” he says.
 At the Paris Motor Show on Sept. 29, Wagener unveiled the Generation EQ, an electric sport utility/coupe crossover with a range of roughly 300 miles—part of a lineup Mercedes will market under a new subbrand, EQ. The first model—which Mercedes says will be priced to compete with similar cars with traditional engines—will hit in 2019, and a total of 10 SUVs, sedans, and compacts are planned by 2025.

MyFord Touch frustrated top company execs, court documents show

Katie Burke

That’s according to documents submitted to the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California as part of a 2013 class-action lawsuit against the automaker alleging it released the infotainment system for the 2011 model year knowing it was flawed. At the time, Fields was Ford’s president of the Americas.
 The documents, originally reported by Forbes, detail various cases of the system malfunctioning — some while it was in use by top Ford executives.
 “I think Mark Fields may have been a little aggravated with the system,” wrote a mechanic to Ford engineer Kenneth Williams in a 2011 email that included a photo of a cracked screen.

Dealers Keep New Car Prices Down, NADA Chair Says Carlson says regulations, recalls add $600 to vehicle prices.

Joseph Szczesny

Federal regulation of everything from financing and fuel-economy to the handling of recalls amount to the equivalent of a tax on consumers, Jeff Carlson, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, said during an appearance in Detroit.
 Carlson is president of Glenwood Springs Ford and Glenwood Springs Subaru in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and Summit Ford in Silverthorne, Colorado, said rules set down by the federal Consumer Financing Protection Bureau, one of the NADA’s top target, added up to $600 to the price of a new vehicle.

Does LinkedIn access your email or contact list?

Forest Abouelnasr

YES. Straight from the horse’s mouth: “the people you may know could have been uploaded to LinkedIn through auto authorization if you had at any time your LinkedIn account open and accessed any of your emails through the same browser.” Also “there is not a setting to specifically turn this feature off.”
 Here’s the full text of my correspondence with them, through the linkedin help center interface:
 Member (05/18/2016 14:39 CST)
 Subject: How can I prevent Linkedin from accessing my gmail contacts?
 Your Question: I’ve never knowingly given linkedin permission to access my gmail contacts, but it keeps suggesting I connect on linkedin with people whose only connection to me is messages through gmail – and it usually happens suspiciously right after I send and receive a few emails from that person. This behavior has in the past included people whom I know do not have a linkedin account, since it suggests that I “invite them to linkedin” – which means the other person cannot be allowing linkedin access to their emails, it must be through my linkedin account.
 How do I keep linkedin from accessing my gmail contacts? How do I delete the list of contacts that linkedin has already harvested from my gmail account?
 Thank you

California’s proposed rules for driverless vehicles take aim at Tesla

Michael Laris and Ashley Halsey III:

California regulators have proposed banning the word “autopilot” from electric-car pioneer Tesla’s advertising, teeing up an extraordinary conflict between state officials and the Silicon Valley powerhouse in an era of increasingly automated cars.
 The move, in draft state regulations on autonomous cars released late Friday, marks an affront to Tesla’s ambitions and self-image. And it represents a muscular exertion of state power as state and federal officials are working through how they should govern vehicles that soon may require no human driver at all. Some of the state proposals are in line with the wishes of manufacturers; others, far from it.

Aux Armes, EVs: Paris Turns Into Elon Musk’s Waterloo

Bertel Schmitt

In Europe, stringent CO2 emission targets loom for the end of the decade. Europe used to be wedded to diesel as the solution to meet these targets. Then came the revelation that diesel emits huge amounts of poisonous and cancer-causing nitrous oxide. Dieselgate threw a wrench into the diesel engine, and automakers are faced with the alternative of either selling EVs, or transferring large amounts of money to Brussels, as fines for exceeding the 2020 targets.
 Now we know why “diesel takes a back seat in Paris,” as AP wrote, and why the theme-song of the show is the overture for a massive wave of their electric cars, timed to saturate Europe at the turn of the decade, because that’s when they will be needed to help automakers comply with EU regulations. Even tougher regs are expected soon after. Also in Paris, at the climate conference in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. “What we have seen then was just a pre-party for much tougher regulations to come,” Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told me a few months ago. Regulations, not Musk, force carmakers into EVs, whether they want it, or not.
 Compared to what really is behind the sudden onslaught of electric cars, Tesla’s Model 3 is just a footnote in the strategy of EU automakers. Their executives are not worried about a mass desertion of their customers to Tesla’s lower cost Model 3. If Europe’s OEMs know something, then how to produce cars in large quantities. They also are convinced that large quantities of Model 3 are not possible before 2019 at the earliest. What keeps the executives awake is “who will buy our damned electric cars once they arrive in volume,” as a manager of one of the world’s largest automakers told me. To meet EU targets, and to off-set the CO2 created by bigger-bore Mercedes, Audi, BMW et al, significant numbers of those lower or zero emission cars shown in Paris will have to be sold – a few compliance cars like in California won’t suffice. (There is chatter about super credits for EVs, but nothing is decided.) In a few years, EU OEMs will push these cars into the market no matter what, at predatory prices, if necessary. “We either give deals to the customer, or we hand the money to Brussels,” the executive said. Fiat-Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne once accused Volkswagen of creating a “bloodbath of pricing and a bloodbath on margins.” Imagine the cries of a vociferous Musk when Volkswagen, along with its EU buddies, bleeds Tesla dry.