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Thursday, September 21, 2017

An Electric Bus Just Broke the World Record for Distance Traveled on a Single Charge

As reported by Futurism: When California-based automaker Proterra took one of their all-electric Catalyst E2 Max buses to the Navistar Proving Grounds in Indiana, the vehicle managed to cover 1,772.2 kilometers (1,101.2 miles) before its battery pack ran out of power, breaking the record for the longest distance traveled by an electric vehicle on a single charge.
The 40-foot bus was outfitted with a 660 kWh battery pack for the trial — the equivalent of 11 Chevy Bolts — and according to the company, it could be back at full capacity in just an hour using Proterra’s high-speed charging system.

The previous record for distance on a single charge was set by the Schluckspecht E, an experimental electric vehicle.
“For our heavy-duty electric bus to break the previous world record of 1,013.76 miles, which was set by a light-duty passenger EV 46 times lighter than the Catalyst E2 max, is a major feat,” Proterra’s chief commercial officer Matt Horton said in a news release. “This record achievement is a testament to Proterra’s purpose-built electric bus design, energy-dense batteries, and efficient drivetrain.”

Starting Line
While cars have been a major point of emphasis when it comes to electric vehicles, all kinds of transportation are being modified to remove their reliance on fossil fuels.

Electric semi trucks have the potential to revolutionize the haulage industry, the U.K. postal service is already using electric vans, and the world’s first all-electric luxury yacht was just unveiled earlier this month.

The effect these electric vehicles could have on the environment is well-documented. However, the technology also provides other distinct advantages over traditional options.
Electric buses offer up a lower cost-per-mile than their gas-powered equivalents, and electric drive chains have fewer moving parts, which should mean that repairs are less frequent and maintenance costs are reduced. Companies like Proterra no doubt hope these benefits will lead to their rapid adoption.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Starlink: Elon Musk, SpaceX's Internet Satellite Company Has A Name, Logo

As reported by IBTimes: Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been working with the Federal Communications Commission to further the company’s goal of bringing a satellite constellation to space to further the reach of the internet. Representatives from the company met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in March to discuss that venture further.

Now it seems the company has gotten as far as naming the venture and filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Filings from August show that Space Exploration Technologies filed three standard character marks with the office for the name Starlink.

Those marks were a service marktrademark, and a trademark service mark (this filing is a combination of the previous two.) The reason for filing more than one is so that the products as well as the services provided by the company will be protected under the law.

The service mark filing which protects the services of Starlink gives a description of what the company will provide as services, including “Satellite communication and transmission services; wireless broadband communication services; transmission of data, voice and video via satellite,” among other similar services.

The trademark gives details about the actual products Starlink is looking to protect, and the description in that application refers to “Satellites for scientific and commercial purposes; equipment for receiving, processing, and transmitting voice, video, data and information via telecommunications and wireless signals.”

The proposal for the non-geostationary satellite system that SpaceX and now, Starlink, is looking to create was filed in November 2016. It details a constellation network that would be made up of more than 4,400 satellites. The plan lays out the launch of 1,600 at first followed by an additional 2,800 plus satellites.

The goal of such an extensive network is to allow for “full and continuous global coverage” that would bring wireless internet to users all around the world and even those possibly traveling, or stationed, in space. This would be achieved by angling the satellites and placing them at specific heights so that all of the latitudes on Earth could be covered.

The plan even details the re-entry process for satellites as they age out of their expected lifespans. The original proposal set a 2019 goal for the initial launch of the satellites.

The company ViaSat Inc. which is working to create a similar network filed petition in June against SpaceX saying that the company's satellites will interfere with the current satellites that are in place. Despite the pushback SpaceX has gone ahead with the trademark filings.

Google may have helped with some of the Internet satellite funding.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Ford Was Behind the 'Self-Driving' Tests where a Man Was Dressed Like a Car Seat

As reported by The Verge: In early August, the transportation reporter at Arlington, Virginia’s NBC affiliate filmed a video as he approached a Ford Transit van that appeared to be piloted by a man dressed up as the front seat of a car. Despite the fact that the man’s hands were clearly poking out of the costume, and the reporter’s earnest prompt of “I’m with the news, dude,” there were no apparent answers. The video went appropriately viral, and only then was it uncovered that this wasn’t just a goof, it was a test being performed by Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute. Now, it turns out, Ford was in on it, too.

post on Ford’s Self-Driven blog details how the company, which has been funding the project over at VTTI, was using this ruse to learn about how pedestrians and other drivers will respond to self-driving cars. A main focus of the project is the mysterious light bar that stretches across the van’s windshield. While some guessed it was a LIDAR sensor, or some other such self-driving tech, Ford and VTTI are using it to experiment with how to communicate an autonomous car’s intentions to the people around it.

So far, Ford has come up with a simple set of animations: when the lights blink fast, it’s a sign that the van is about to accelerate away from a stop. A slower pulsing is used to convey that the car is yielding to other traffic. A solid white stripe indicates it is operating autonomously. Ford says it chose a string of white lights because the use of colored lights is regulated differently around the world, and it didn’t want to favor one language over the rest.

The problem with that setup, obviously, is that very few people know how to interpret those symbols just yet. But Ford has plenty of time to figure it out. While Tesla is constantly pushing its semi-autonomous Autopilot software, and luxury competitors like Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz are polishing up similar features, Ford is taking a much more conservative approach to self-driving technology. The company plans to have a fully self-driving car hit the road in 2021, but is less obviously aggressive about Level 2 or Level 3 autonomy, where a human still can author some control over the car. Ford is ostensibly more focused on complete autonomy, either limited to a certain area (Level 4) or not (Level 5).

Which brings us all the way back to the man in the car seat costume. By taking the slow lane with self-driving cars, Ford has more time for market research and testing the ideas it comes up with. So much, in fact, that there’s now a pattern of weirdness emerging, like a self-driving pizza delivery car, or dressing a man up as part of the vehicle’s furniture.

We know that Ford cares deeply enough about its technological chops (or the perception of those bona fides) that it dumped $1 billion into a previously unknown AI company and even pushed out its smiley CEO in favor of one with deeper ties to Silicon Valley. I don’t know if disguising a man as a seat helps the company look as edgy as it hopes to be, but it feels safe to say this only scratches the surface of what Ford is willing to do to prove that out.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Denver to Vail in 9 Minutes: Colorado Route a Finalist for Hyperloop One High-Speed Travel Network

As reported by KDVR: A Colorado route was selected Thursday as a finalist for the Hyperloop One high-speed transportation network, the Colorado Department of Transportation said Thursday.

The 360-mile route from Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Pueblo by the Rocky Mountain Hyperloop team was one of 10 selected.

It would service 10 urban centers and more than 4.8 million people, and include a leg that extends to Vail.
Hyperloop One will commit resources and work with the Rocky Mountain Hyperloop team to determine the commercial viability of the route.
CDOT will enter a public-private partnership with Hyperloop One to begin a feasibility study in the state for the route.

The study will look at transportation demand, economic benefits, proposed routes and potential strategies, regulatory environments and alignment with overall high-speed travel, CDOT said.
"We are excited​ to partner with Hyperloop One in exploring the next step of feasibility of this innovative technology, potentially transforming how Colorado moves," CDOT executive director Shailen Bhatt said.
"The Hyperloop technology could directly align with our goals of improving mobility and safety in Colorado, and we have been encouraged by the continued progress the technology is taking."
Hyperloop One built a one-third mile loop in Nevada and launched the competition in 2016. It narrowed it to 24 finalists in April.
Two other routes in Colorado were under consideration: A 242-mile route by the Colorado Hyperloop team between Cheyenne and Pueblo and a 1,152-mile route by the Rocky Mountain Hyperloop Consortium from Cheyenne to Houston.
The technology of Hyperloop One puts passengers and cargo into a pod with gradual acceleration by electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube.
The pod then lifts above the track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances. Hyperloop One had a successful full-scale test this summer, achieving record test speeds.
The Front Range route would allow travelers to reach their destinations within minutes, the Rocky Mountain Hyperloop team said.
  • Denver to Greeley: Six minutes
  • Denver to Fort Collins: Nine minutes
  • Denver to Vail: Nine minutes
  • Denver to Colorado Springs: Nine minutes
  • Colorado Springs to Pueblo: Six minutes.
The challenge of finding routes involved more than 100 countries.
“The Hyperloop One Global Challenge started as a call to action for innovators, engineers, trailblazers and dreamers around the world who shared our vision of creating a new mode of transportation,” said Shervin Pishevar, co-founder and executive chairman of Hyperloop One.
The winning teams were chosen on specific criteria, including well-defined routes and implementation strategies, involvement from public and private sectors, business cases, and innovative and creative applications.
“We had tremendous interest in this competition, and these 10 teams each had their unique strengths in showcasing how they will alleviate serious transportation issues in their regions," Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd said.
"We’re also excited about the partnership with CDOT and AECOM, which was a direct result of the Global Challenge and a testament to the power of open innovation.
"This is unprecedented and demonstrates how quickly the public-private sectors can partner to make Hyperloop systems a reality around the world. Studies like this bring us closer to our goal of implementing three full-scale systems operating by 2021.”
The 10 routes are in the U.S., Canada, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
Four other U.S. routes were chosen: Chicago to Pittsburgh (785 miles); Dallas to Houston (640 miles); and Miami to Orlando, Florida (414 miles).

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

China is Working on a Timetable to Ban the Production and Sale of Non-Electric Cars

As reported by Futurism: The Chinese government is working on a plan to halt the production and sale of cars powered by fossil fuels. Given that the country sees more cars bought and sold than any other, this could have a huge impact on the global electric auto industry.
Deputy industry minister Xin Guobin stated that officials are working on a timetable for the change, speaking at an automotive industry forum on 9 September. While the shift away from gasoline-powered vehicles will obviously help with the country’s far-reaching ecological efforts, it would also contribute to its attempt to curb a growing reliance on imported oil.
China is already the biggest market for electric autos, having surpassed the US in 2016. In 2015, sales of electric-powered and hybrid vehicles swelled by 50 percent, accounting for 40 percent of worldwide sales.

Authorities have been proactive in encouraging this growth, investing billions in research and programs to spur adoption. Starting next year, auto manufacturers will be required to ensure that 8 percent of their output is comprised of electric vehicles and hybrids, with that proportion rising to 10 percent in 2019, and 12 percent in 2020.


China is not the only country that’s preparing to enforce constraints on the manufacture of gas-powered cars in an effort to encourage more eco-friendly alternatives. France committed to putting a ban in place by 2040 at the beginning of July, and the UK followed suit just a few weeks later.
However, it should be noted that these measures don’t extend to decommissioning gas-powered vehicles that are already out on the roads. China’s goal is to hasten the transition to electric autos, but there hasn’t been any mention of banning vehicles that were sold before the restrictions were put in place.

US DOT Outlines Safe Transition to Self-Driving Cars

As reported by Engadget: US legislation for self-driving cars first made its way to the House of Representatives this past July. The bipartisan SELF DRIVE Act passed the House vote on September the 6th, and will now need to go through the Senate. Odds are that we'll see autonomous cars on the road sooner rather than later, thanks to this bill and new voluntary guidance The US Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The governmental agencies released new guidelines on Tuesday that provide federal guidance for automated driving systems to both individual states and businesses.

There are driver assist systems already in place that can help you swerve before you even realize you need to, of course. According to the NHTSA, 94 percent of serious crashes are due to human error. The new federal guidelines attempt to make sure we can transition from these semi-autonomous cars to fully driverless ones safely and effectively.

"The new Guidance supports further development of this important new technology, which has the potential to change the way we travel and how we deliver goods and services," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in a statement. "The safe deployment of automated vehicle technologies means we can look forward to a future with fewer traffic fatalities and increased mobility for all Americans."

Called "A Vision for Safety 2.0," the voluntary guidelines build on the previous policy by focusing on the next three levels of automated driving systems (ADSs): conditional assistance, high assistance, and fully automated systems. Under the new guidance, states and companies do not need to wait to test or deploy their ADSs, either. The Department of Transportation is already planning for the next version 3.0 to make sure automated vehicles can be on the nation's roads safely and quickly.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

GM Boasts “The World’s First Mass-Producible Driverless Car”

As reported by FastCompany: General Motors has unveiled the third version of its self-driving car–the first such car “that meets the redundancy and safety requirements we believe are necessary to operate without a driver,” Kyle Vogt, CEO of the General Motors-owned self-driving car startup Cruise, wrote in a blog post. “There’s no other car like this in existence.” And, he says, it’s the first car that’s ready to be produced at scale once the software and regulations are in place.
  • Vogt says the company plans to add these vehicles (with humans at the wheel) to the on-demand fleet that caters to Cruise employees in San Francisco “in a few weeks”–though there’s no timeline for mass production at GM’s Lake Orion, MI plant.
  •  The car “has airbags, crumple zones, and comfortable seats. It’s assembled in a high-volume assembly plant capable of producing 100,000’s of vehicles per year, and we’d like to keep that plant busy.”
  • “Unlike the previous generations, which were similar to Chevrolet Bolt EV design, the vehicles we’re unveiling today have almost completely new and fault-tolerant electrical, communication, and actuation systems that are unique to a driverless vehicle.”
The company has so aggressively positioned itself as a purveyor of self-driving technology that confused customers have given over too much control to their vehicles. In 2016, a Tesla Model S drove into the side of a tractor trailer as it was making a left turn. The driver had autopilot engaged and did not have his hands on the wheel. The National Transportation Safety Board is suggesting that the autopilot feature contributed to the crash, according to Bloomberg News.

Such a finding will be another blow to the safety reputation of self-driving technologies, and possibly impact the legislation Congress will use to spur autonomous vehicle systems, but it also creates an opening for other companies to assert their dominance in the race toward safe self-driving cars. GM’s advantage has always been its infrastructure for designing and building cars. That holds true, regardless of whether its new generation of autonomous vehicles are at or above the level of its competitors.