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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mercedes-Benz Will Spend $1 Billion to Build Electric Vehicles in the US

As reported by The Verge: Daimler AG, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, plans to offer electrified versions of all of its cars by 2022 under the new EQ sub-brand. And now the company has announced that many of those will be built in the United States.

To do this, Daimler is pouring $1 billion into the 20-year-old factory the company runs just outside Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A 1-million-square-foot expansion will be added, with construction starting in 2018 and vehicle production expected to start in the early 2020s. Daimler is still hashing out details with the local governments, but the move is expected to create about 600 new jobs. Until now, the company had only built electric vehicles in its home country, according to Automotive News.

The Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama mostly builds SUVs, so the company will focus on producing the electrified versions of those vehicles. And it’s important to remember here that “electrified” doesn’t necessarily mean “all-electric.” While some vehicles built at the Tuscaloosa plant will likely be all-electric, “electrified” refers to anything that uses an electric motor, meaning hybrids are included in that term as well.

Mercedes will also build batteries in another new addition to the facility. That will give the company valuable proximity to the vehicle production line, but also could help it compete with Tesla in another new section of the energy market that it’s been testing lately: home batteries.

Daimler is not the first major automaker to make a big push for electric vehicles. Ford announced a $4.5 billion investment into EV production back in 2015, Volkswagen announced a similar effort one year later while under pressure for its emissions scandal, and many other automakers have since followed suit as countries around the world move to ban or reduce the number of cars powered by fossil fuels. But there’s a long way to go to reach that goal. Combined, electric and hybrid vehicles made up just under 3 percent of cars sold in the US in 2016.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Uber Just Lost its London Taxi License

As reported by Engadget: In a surprise announcement today, Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed that it will not reissue Uber's private hire licence within the city. In a statement, the regulator said that the company's operations were not "fit and proper" and that has just a week (until September 30th) until its licence runs out. Uber will appeal the decision, which will allow its drivers to stay on the road until a final ruling is passed.

According to Transport for London, Uber's policies regarding the reporting of serious criminal offences, how it obtains medical certificates and performs driver checks did not meet its standards. It also noted Uber's use of its "Greyball" software, which allowed the company to evade authorities all over the world by tagging known officials and serving up dummy versions of the app that were populated with ghost cars.

"3.5 million Londoners who use our app, and more than 40,000 licensed drivers who rely on Uber to make a living, will be astounded by this decision," said Tom Elvidge, General Manager of Uber in London. "By wanting to ban our app from the capital Transport for London and the Mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice. If this decision stands, it will put more than 40,000 licensed drivers out of work and deprive Londoners of a convenient and affordable form of transport."

Uber denies TfL's claim that the company utilized Greyball in London: "We have always followed TfL rules on reporting serious incidents and have a dedicated team who work closely with the Metropolitan Police. As we have already told TfL, an independent review has found that 'greyball' has never been used or considered in the UK for the purposes cited by TfL."

"Drivers who use Uber are licensed by Transport for London and have been through the same enhanced DBS background checks as black cab drivers. Our pioneering technology has gone further to enhance safety with every trip tracked and recorded by GPS," Eldridge added. "Uber operates in more than 600 cities around the world, including more than 40 towns and cities here in the UK. This ban would show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies who bring choice to consumers."

The decision comes after officials decided to extend Uber's licence by just four months back in May. It wanted time to decide whether Uber warranted another five year extension as it faced criticism from politicians and established taxi trades. At the same time, it also proposed a significant hike in operator fees for private hire companies, like Uber, across the capital.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan supports TfL's decision, stating that any private hire company operating in London "needs to play by the rules":
Uber considers its 40,000+ drivers as independent contractors, not employees. Its drivers disagree. With help from the GMB union, they won an employment tribunal case in October 2016 that made them entitled to holiday pay, paid rest breaks and the National Minimum Wage. In recent months, the company attempted to silence its critics by partnering with the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE)to offer sickness and injury cover, jury cover and occupational accident cover.

Uber's rivals are delighted at the news. Some have gone as far to celebrate by slashing the cost of their own services:
For now, Uber will continue to operate within the capital. As per the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998, companies have the right to appeal a decision within 21 days. Uber noted in its statement that it will fight TfL in the courts, which would enable drivers to operate in London until a final judgement is passed, which could be many months away.

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.