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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tesla Supercharger’s Powerpacks Undaunted by Power Outage

As reported by Futurism: Tesla fans and pundits alike were pleasantly surprised when CEO Elon Musk announced the coming addition of Powerpacks to Tesla’s Supercharger network. Musk also announced his intention to bring charging stations to nearly all off-grid stations on the network.

Early deployments of the Powerpacks to a number of Superchargers have already demonstrated their usefulness during infrastructural hiccups. The Tesla Supercharger station in South Mimms near London, UK, is ostensibly no different than other Superchargers in the surrounding region. Located at the ‘Welcome Break Services’ installation, the South Mimms station also features petrol, an Ecotricity charging station, amid other necessary amenities.

However, when Waseem Mirza stopped by for a refill at the Supercharger station with his Model X last week, a power outage suddenly ripped through the whole service area, leaving the man what you might call up recharge creek with no current. Without amenities, little was left for customers and bystanders to do. As many began to reluctantly leave the site, Mirza realized that the Supercharger docks had remained powered.

Tesla confirmed Mirza’s observations: the Supercharger station had remained online thanks to its connection to a Powerpack battery system.

One of the first stations equipped with the cutting-edge system, the Powerpacks were not added to provide backup power. But this is nevertheless a noteworthy example of what high-standard engineering can do.

Infrastructural Metamorphosis
The Powerpacks’ primary purpose was to reduce peak power demand when multiple vehicles charge simultaneously. According to Tesla, this allowed them to increase the number of Superchargers at the station from two to 12 bays last year.

Despite Tesla’s headway on fulfilling its promise to provide both solar power and energy storage systems at its Supercharger stations, Tesla currently operates just a handful of stations running on solar panels or Powerpacks.

Above all, this dispels the notion that electric cars are not useless when electric grids go down. Since we’re not living in a dieselpunk novella, gas pumps can’t power themselves with gasoline; they need electricity, too.

While the Tesla Superpack-equipped stations can’t stay online for long at the moment, it’s expected the proliferation of Powerpacks, combined with renewable solar power, will allow the energy supply service to go completely off-grid, according to Musk.

We shouldn’t be surprised if Supercharger and solar power systems see increased deployment as Tesla expands their network of service toward their goal of 10,000 Superchargers by the end of the year.

At the moment, the automaker runs more than 7,300 Superchargers at more than 1,000 stations. So once solar power is conjoined to the network, the sky’s the limit.

Monday, October 30, 2017

SpaceX Aces Another Rocket Landing After Launching Korean Satellite

As reported by Another day, another rocket launch and landing for SpaceX.

A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket topped with the Koreasat-5A communications satellite lifted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida today (Oct. 30) at 3:34 p.m. EDT (1934 GMT).

About 8.5 minutes after launch, the rocket's first stage came down for a pinpoint landing on the SpaceX drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You," which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred miles off the Florida coast. A fire smoldered at the booster's base shortly after the landing, but SpaceX quickly put it out. [In Photos: SpaceX's Koreasat-5A Launch & Rocket Landing]

"A little toasty, but stage one is certainly still intact on the drone ship," SpaceX lead mechanical engineer John Federspiel said during launch commentary today.

The Falcon 9 second stage, meanwhile, continued powering Koreasat-5A to a distant geostationary transfer orbit, eventually deploying the satellite 35.5 minutes after liftoff. 

The first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 sits on the deck of the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" shortly
after launching the Koreasat-5A satellite on Oct. 30,2017.  Credit: SpaceX
The rocket landing was the 19th that SpaceX has pulled off during orbital launches. These dramatic events are part of the company's plan to develop completely reusable rockets and space vehicles, a breakthrough that SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said will slash the cost of spaceflight.

To date, SpaceX has re-flown three of these landed Falcon 9 first stages, as well as one Dragon cargo capsule. In addition, the company's next resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA will feature a pre-flown Dragon. (The Falcon 9 that launched today was a brand-new vehicle.)

South Korean company KT Sat will use the 8,160-lb. (3,700 kilograms) Koreasat-5A to provide direct-to-home broadcast and broadband services to customers in Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, among other nations. The newly launched satellite will take over for Koreasat-5, which launched in 2006.

"As a replacement for Koreasat-5, Koreasat-5A will expand KT Sat's coverage across Asia and the Middle East," SpaceX representatives wrote in a mission overview. "Unlike other satellites in the Koreasat fleet, Koreasat-5A will provide maritime coverage of the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, South China Sea and East China Sea."

Today's launch was the 16th of the year for SpaceX, one more than the company pulled off in 2015 and 2016 combined.

The Falcon 9 lifted off today from KSC's Launch Complex 39A, which previously hosted Apollo moon mission and space shuttle liftoffs. In 2014, SpaceX signed a 20-year lease to use the pad.

Elon Musk Shares First Look at Boring Company’s Tunnel Under L.A.

The Boring Company and Elon Musk have completed about 152 meters of their tunnel project
under the city of Los Angeles.  Musk posted a photo of the tunnel's progress on his Instagram
on Saturday.
As reported by Futurism: After almost five months, Elon Musk’s Boring Company has finally finished a portion of the tunnel they’re digging under Los Angeles. Musk proudly posted a photo of the tunnel on his Instagram, simply captioned with “The Boring Company tunnel under LA.” The tunnel is a clear demonstration of how Musk’s tunnel-digging venture has evolved from the initial idea first floated on Twitter to reality.

The Boring Company started with a 49-m (160-ft) tunnel test path under SpaceX’s Hawthorne headquarters earlier this summer. In August, the company sought permission from the city government to expand the tunnel for 3.2 km (2 miles), a path that would travel to the local airport. Musk’s photo shows a portion of this 3.2-km tunnel, which he said is some 152 m (500 ft) long.

“Should be 2 miles long in three or four months and hopefully stretch the whole 405 [north to south] corridor from [Los Angeles International Airport] to the 101 in a year or so,” Musk added in a tweet, confirming a previously laid out plan.

Not Your Average Tunnel
While the photo doesn’t really distinguish it from other similar infrastructures, the Boring Company’s tunnel will ultimately be quite different in function. As Musk previously revealed, cars and people would be ferried under the Boring Company’s network of tunnels using an electric skate or sled. These sleds come from above ground, through special platforms located along the route of the tunnels. Using a special elevator, cars and “people pods” are brought down into the tunnel, where the sleds can travel up to 242 k/h (150 mph).

The fairly futuristic concept could certainly disrupt city transportation, but perhaps even more interesting is the potential of these tunnels to become tubes designed for a Hyperloop — Musk’s concept for a super-fast future train pods which the CEO first spoke about back in 2012.

At any rate, the Boring Company is building tunnels designed to bypass heavy traffic in congested urban areas, such as L.A., and provide faster access to the city’s airport. And L.A. isn’t the only one — other municipal governments have expressed interest in having a similar tunnel network under their cities.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Alphabet’s Waymo Will Test Self-Driving Cars in Snowy Detroit - But Colorado Would be a Better Location

Based on reporting from BloombergTechnology: The self-driving cars Google designed are going to the snow -- and the seat of the car industry.

Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, the vehicle arm of Google’s parent, announced on Thursday that it will start testing its autonomous Chrysler minivans on roads in the greater Detroit area. Michigan will be the sixth state where Waymo has run its vehicles on public roads. But the region is the first with a winter dominated by snow and ice, the kind of inclement conditions that pose hurdles for vehicle sensors.

“Having lived through fourteen Michigan winters, I’m confident that there are few better places that will prepare our self-driving cars for winter conditions,” John Krafcik, Waymo’s chief executive officer and a former Ford Motor Co. executive, said in a statement. Waymo opened a testing facility in suburban Detroit last year.

The hometown automakers are already there. Ford has tested self-driving cars in the state (including some for pizza delivery). General Motors Co.’s Cruise Automation is experimenting there as well. 

Waymo has compiled 3.5 million miles of public road testing since 2009. It’s widely seen as the front-runner in driverless car technology, which could upend the auto market if and when it arrives. Yet Waymo has sworn off manufacturing its own vehicles, and hasn’t disclosed how it plans to spread its package of self-driving sensors and software to a commercial fleet.

Starting in April, Waymo began testing a free service with select passengers in Phoenix, using some of its 600 minivans from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. A Waymo spokesman declined to specify how many vehicles would be used in Detroit.

However, Colorado is also the home of several car testing locations - including Pike's Peak for brake systems, and uphill racing for a range of vehicles including EVs. There are also natural canyons, large swaths of area with no wireless communications, and tunnels where GPS signals are blocked.  Successfully navigating snowy conditions on steep treacherous mountain roads, while avoiding snow and rock falls, as well as other drivers on I70 to Breckenridge may be the final authoritative test for some self-driving car systems.

NVIDIA CEO Says We’re 4 Years Away From Fully Autonomous Cars

At their GPU Technology Conference event in Taipei on Thursday, NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang
predicted that fully autonomous vehicles would be available on the roads in the next four
years.  Self-driving cars could be saving lives sooner than you might expect.
As reported by FuturismEarlier this month, computer systems developer and chip manufacturer NVIDIA announced a new artificially intelligent (AI) computer which they claimed was capable of supporting fully autonomous vehicles. This probably explains why, on Thursday, NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang said that AI would enable fully automated cars four years from now.

“It will take no more than 4 years to have fully autonomous cars on the road. How long it takes for the vast majority of cars on the road to become that, it really just depends,” Huang told the press after an NVIDIA event in Taipei, according to Reuters.

Under the standards set by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), a fully autonomous vehicle falls under a Level 5 ranking. Most, if not all, of today’s driverless vehicles are below Level 3, not being fully autonomous. Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk has said that Tesla would reach Level 5 soon, which General Motors has said is impossible.

From Gamer to Game Changer
Everyone who’s played a video game in recent years is likely familiar with NVIDIA as the maker of the advanced graphics processing unit (GPU) chips that gave your games a more realistic look. The company has since ventured into a wider world of chip technologies, including AI, self-driving cars, virtual reality, and high-performance computing.

NVIDIA has been investing in AI chips for automated systems, which has become a valuable move since the biggest names in tech have all begun to reshape their business models to focus on AI. “There are many tasks in companies that can be automated… the productivity of society will go up,” Huang noted.

Self-driving vehicles and the automated systems that move them are just one of the more immediate applications of this technology. NVIDIA’s powerful chips could make driverless cars more capable of making roads safer by reducing or even completely eliminating human error.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Tesla is Officially Restoring Power to Hospitals in Puerto Rico

Elon Musk's effort to bring electricity back to Puerto Rico has finally proven
successful.  A local children's hospital had its power restored thanks to a
combination of solar energy and Tesla's Powerwall energy storage batteries.
As reported by Futurism: The first of Elon Musk’s solar energy-Powerwall projects has successfully restored power to a local hospital in Puerto Rico, according to a tweet from Tesla earlier this week. Hospital del Niño, a children’s hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is among those working with Musk. The Tesla CEO and founder offered to provide a few hundred energy storage batteries to facilitate the Caribbean island’s efforts to restore energy after its grid was devastated by Hurricane Maria.

Hospital del Niño is first of many solar+storage projects going live. Grateful to support the recovery of Puerto Rico with
— Tesla (@Tesla) October 24, 2017

Tesla isn’t the only one working to return electricity to Puerto Rico. A similar effort is also being made by a two-year-old company from Montana called Whitefish Energy. The company signed a $300-million contract with Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority to complete infrastructure work that will provide energy to key industrial facilities needed to kick-start the island’s disrupted economy.

Puerto Rico has taken a rather unique approach to restoring power after Hurricane Maria. Instead of rebuilding the existing energy grid, government officials seek to redo it altogether. The move has drawn flak from both experts and members of the U.S. Congress, particularly with regard to the use of relief funds. Tesla’s success with the Hospital del Niño, however, proves that a combination of renewable energy and storage batteries is an effective and efficient way of providing much needed power to disaster-struck areas.