The Race For The Electric Car

June 12, 2019

EVs are becoming more competitive. Median electric car range has increased 171% in 7 years, from 73 miles in 2011 to 125 miles in 2018, according to the US Department of Energy. While the median cost of electric car batteries has dropped significantly in the same time frame, from $800 per kilowatt hour in 2011 to $209 per kilowatt hour in 2017, according to a Bloomberg survey. These advances are translating into sales: in 2011 global EV sales reportedly reached just 50,000 units; by 2018, electric vehicle sales had increased 40x to surpass 2M units.

The race is unfolding on a global scale, with startups and incumbent brands alike all jockeying for market share and seeking to secure their place.

Below, we look at how the race is unfolding: where the market is currently, the major contenders, how EV adoption is evolving in various markets, and the consumer concerns and technical challenges that need to be addressed for the technology to achieve widespread adoption.
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Electric Motion hits the dirt with 2020 electric trials bikes

June 12, 2019

Riding up almost vertical inclines, hopping over rocky obstacles or just coming to a dead stop in the middle of a log are among the many thrills to be had from motorcycle trials riding. Traditionally accompanied by the clatter of noisy engines, electric motos have recently added a quieter element to the skillful sport. France’s Electric Motion has updated its line of electric motos with three Epure trials bikes and an off-road Escape model.

The top speed for all Epure e-motos has been bumped to 65 km/h (40 mph), an increase of 5 km/h on this year’s EM Sport bike, and the torque is now 600 Nm (442.5 lb.ft), which is 100 Nm more than the current model.

The most notable improvement is in the range department, with the Li-ion battery in the 2020 models able to roll for 43 km (26 mi), or between 100 and 240 minutes, depending on riding style.
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Elgin, RoadBotics Team to Offer Pavement Assessment

June 12, 2019

Elgin Sweeper has partnered with RoadBotics, Inc., to offer Florida’s 400-plus municipalities the ability to collect road condition data during sweeping operations.
Elgin Sweeper Company and RoadBotics Inc. have partnered to offer Florida’s more than 400 municipalities the ability to collect road condition data during sweeping operations, exclusively using Elgin Sweeper street sweepers. The partnership between the sweeper manufacturer and the road assessment company is designed to help local government officials make data-driven road improvement decisions.

According to Mike Higgins, vice president and general manager at Elgin Sweeper, Elgin, IL, the partnership with RoadBotics will enable many of the company’s municipal customers across Florida to receive important data about the conditions of their roads as they sweep.
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Is now the time for open-loop transit in the United States?

June 12, 2019

Open loop refers to payments that can be made at most retail outlets using international standards, while closed loop means it only works with specific retailers, usually based on proprietary technology.

Open-loop transit payments generally refer to the use of bank-issued contactless credit and debit cards instead of closed-loop transit authority/ operator alternatives, such as the MetroCard in New York City or the Bay Area’s Clipper Card…

The fundamental reason U.S. transit agencies have been hesitant to deliver since the first launches and pilots has been the time it takes to authenticate the card when it is tapped at the gate. Prior to contactless EMV, the only way the agency knew they were definitely not seeing a fraudulent card, and that they were going to get paid, was to conduct a full online authorisation to the card issuer.
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BMW partners with Pittsburgh company on tool for self-driving car development

June 12, 2019

BMW is partnering with Ansys, a Cecil-based software firm, to create a simulation tool that will expedite the development of safe self-driving cars, the companies announced.

The German automaker is expecting to release vehicles with automated driving capabilities in the next two years, according to an Ansys spokesman.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed in Monday’s announcement.

To safely deploy cars with built-in autonomy, extensive testing is required. In the past, that mostly meant driving hundreds of thousands of miles to perfect the decision-making algorithms that make self-driving cars smart, or artificially intelligent.
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Uber to unveil next-generation Volvo self-driving car

June 12, 2019

Uber Technologies Inc on Wednesday will unveil its newest Volvo self-driving car in Washington as it works to eventually deploy vehicles without drivers under some limited conditions.

Uber said the new production XC90 will be assembled by Volvo Cars in Sweden and have human controls like steering wheels and brake pedals, but added it has factory-installed steering and braking systems designed for computer rather than human control.

Previously, Uber had purchased about 250 Volvo XC90 SUVs and retrofitted them for self-driving use.
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Argo AI reveals its third-generation driverless car

June 12, 2019

Argo.ai, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based driverless car startup founded by former executives from Google’s and Uber’s autonomous technology divisions, today unveiled its third-generation test vehicle: a modified Ford Fusion Hybrid. It boasts mechanical, sensing, compute, and software upgrades and replaces the fleet currently on the road in Miami; Washington, D.C.; Pittsburgh; and Palo Alto…

In a forthcoming blog post on Medium, former Uber engineering lead and Argo AI president Peter Rander explains that the cars, which are outfitted with tech that’s “a step closer” to production specifications and which are designed to drive safely in a variety of conditions, are equipped with a “significantly” upgraded sensor suite. They sport new sets of radar and cameras with higher resolutions and wider dynamic ranges, along with a new computing system that affords more processing power than Argo’s previous cars and an improved thermal management system that minimizes in-vehicle heat and noise.
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Postal robots take to the streets with backing from Toyota AI Ventures

June 12, 2019

Boxbot’s unveiling makes one thing clear: The company is thinking more holistically about last-mile delivery than many of its competitors, and it’s also taking bigger bets. Boxbot’s fleet includes self-driving electric vehicles that look a bit like a lego creation. It’s a testament to just how quickly we’ve become attuned to autonomous driving that the self-driving vans are actually the least novel-seeming part of the unveiling.

The Boxbot logistics system also includes an automated local hub where packages are received, sorted, and prepped for delivery, along with a fleet of street-based driverless vehicles. Boxbot envisions the hubs situated close to residential neighborhoods. By shipping products to them in anticipation of orders, retailers can conceivably offer fast, low-cost shipping for a fraction of the price, cutting into Amazon’s massive lead.
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Uber sued over wheelchair accessibility in Pittsburgh

June 12, 2019

Uber is facing a class action lawsuit brought by individuals in the Pittsburgh area for not providing wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAVs) in that city.
Plaintiffs say Uber is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and denying wheelchair users equal access to ride-hailing services.
The lawsuit, brought by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) and Carlson Lynch LLP, does not seek monetary damages. It instead asks that Uber modify its policies and practices to make WAVs? more available on its platform. An Uber spokesman told Smart Cities Dive the company has no comment on pending litigation.
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Real estate developer Hillwood unveils plans for futuristic mobility innovation zone

June 12, 2019

Industrial real estate developer Hillwood has announced the establishment of a Mobility Innovation Zone in Alliance, Texas, as part of its push to create a cutting-edge center for developing futuristic transportation technology. In Alliance, Hillwood has developed a 26,000-acre master-planned community and inland port north of Fort Worth, bringing in nearly $76 billion in economic impact and creating 62,000 jobs over the years.

The Mobility Innovation Zone is Hillwood’s trump card, as it recognizes the rise of futuristic transport models and technology, and envisions the region to be at the “epicenter of growth and ingenuity” by providing innovators with transport infrastructure, world-class amenities and access to a skilled workforce. AllianceTexas is currently home to Fort Worth Alliance Airport, BNSF Railway’s Alliance Intermodal Facility, FedEx Southwest Regional Sort Hub, Amazon Air’s newest regional air hub, and others.
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Volkswagen And Silicon Valley Startup Aurora End Self-Driving Tech Alliance

June 12, 2019

A day after self-driving tech startup Aurora partnered with Fiat Chrysler to create robotic commercial vehicles, the company is confirming that its technical alliance with Volkswagen has concluded for the time being.

The German automotive giant began working with Silicon Valley-based Aurora about two years ago when the company led by three self-driving R&D veterans emerged from stealth mode. VW, which is reported to be discussing a partnership with Ford on autonomous vehicles, opted not to renew a contract with Aurora earlier this year, according to the Financial Times, citing three people familiar with the matter…

Earlier this year, Volkswagen was reported to be on the verge of investing $1.7 billion in Ford’s Argo AI unit, a Pittsburgh-based company that’s leading the development of the U.S. carmaker’s autonomous vehicle system. Last year, Aurora rebuffed a potential acquisition offer from Volkswagen, opting to remain an independent engineering company, according to Bloomberg.
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Driverless cars are going to disrupt the airline industry

June 11, 2019

As driverless cars become more capable and more common, they will change people’s travel habits not only around their own communities but across much larger distances. Our research has revealed just how much people’s travel preferences could shift, and found a new potential challenge to the airline industry…

In our study, we showed people trips of different lengths and asked them to choose whether they would rather drive themselves, take a flight or ride in a self-driving car. In general, the data indicated that people always preferred driverless vehicles over manual driving. Taking a driverless car got even more attractive if people were told that after flying, they would need a rental car in their destination city.

On short trips, with a five-hour drive, two-thirds of people would rather drive themselves. That didn’t change much when they were offered a self-driving car, unless they were told they would need a car in their destination city. Then nearly three-quarters of people preferred a self-driving car to flying.
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Insatiable demand sees mobile internet usage hit 800 hours per year

June 11, 2019

The proportion of our lives allocated to mobile internet consumption has risen to 800 hours per year or the equivalent of 33 days per year, according to a new survey of our changing browsing habits.

The startling statistic is presented in Zenith Media’s Consumption Forecasts which estimates that by 2021 the equivalent figure will rise still further to 930 hours as our voracious mobile appetites show no sign of slowing.

Since 2015 the annual forecast has captured changing consumption, rising from a base of between 80 and 130 minutes per day at an average growth rate of 13% per year, fuelled by quicker smartphones, improved services and ever-larger screens.

This golden period may be coming to a close however with annual growth drops to 8% between 2018 and 2021 as the smartphone sector hits saturation point.
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Uber To Start Banning Passengers With Low Ratings

June 11, 2019

Uber has unveiled a new policy that enables the company to kick riders with low ratings to the curb.

For years, Uber allowed passengers to rate drivers on a star system, ultimately allowing customers to influence whether drivers can stay behind the wheel. Internal charts from 2014 published by Business Insider showed that drivers with ratings of 4.6 or below were at risk for the boot.

Though drivers could rate passengers, there was no equivalency in consequences. But now Uber’s drivers will have a greater say about the behavior of passengers…

Riders will start to see a screen on the app that summarizes community guidelines and then asks them to confirm their understanding of the new terms. They will receive tips on how to increase their scores — suggestions like being polite, taking their trash out of the vehicle and refraining from asking drivers to speed.
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Fiat Chrysler Teams Up With Self-Driving Tech Startup Aurora To Get Robo-Trucks On The Road

June 11, 2019

Days after abandoning merger talks with France’s Renault, Fiat Chrysler (FCA) is shifting its focus to a new partnership: teaming up with Silicon Valley tech startup Aurora to get robotic commercial vehicles on the road as soon as possible.

The companies said they signed a memorandum of understanding in which Aurora, led by three stars of autonomous tech R&D, will supply its self-driving platform to FCA, including computers, sensors, software and data services to enable vehicles to drive themselves safely. The partnership is focused on FCA’s line of commercial vehicles, including Ram and Fiat Professional models, intending to leverage its experience designing and building them, as well as its extensive base of suppliers and customers.
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Your Future Self-Driving Car Will Be Watching Your Every Move, Says New Study

June 11, 2019

“Self-driving cars will represent a new mode for surveillance. Through a self-driving car’s global positioning, system, navigational tools, and other data collection mechanisms, companies will be able to gain access to highly contextual data about passengers’ habits, routines, movements, and preferences,” explained Luis F. Alvarez León, an assistant professor of geography at Dartmouth.

“This trove of personal, locational, and financial data can be leveraged and monetized by companies, by providing a data-stream for companies to target customers through personalized advertising and marketing,” he added.

It’s not just your locations that will be tracked. As autonomous vehicles enable passengers to spend more time engaging with media in a vehicle, the media you consume could also be tracked.
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USDOT plans to preserve 5.9 GHz spectrum for V2X safety

June 11, 2019

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) convened leaders from state departments of transportation, stakeholders in academia, and representatives from the auto industry in Washington, D.C., to discuss the importance of preserving the 5.9 GHz spectrum for transportation safety.

The 5.9 GHz band supports vehicle-to-everything (V2X), a wireless technology that enables data exchanges between a vehicle and its surroundings. Starting with advanced technology development and demonstrations about 20 years ago, America has deployed 54 operational V2X projects, improving safety today, with more in the pipeline.
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USDOT to open 2 new University Transportation Centers

June 11, 2019

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced Wednesday that it will open two new University Transportation Centers (UTCs), one at the University of South Florida (USF) and one at Washington State University (WSU). Each UTC will receive $7.5 million in grant funding for transportation research and education.

The USF center will be called the “National Institute for Congestion Reduction,” and will assess how new tech, big data and innovation can help reduce congestion.

The WSU center will be known as “Congestion Research and Education: Advancing Transportation Efficiency” (CREATE), and will focus on improving the durability and lifespan of transportation infrastructure…

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, deputy assistant secretary for research and technology at USDOT, said in a statement that the UTCs will help to develop solutions “that America needs now,” and this need will only continue to grow.
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An artificially intelligent, open-source bionic leg could change the future of prosthetics

June 11, 2019

Open-source projects to develop smart prosthetics for the upper body, such as hands, are well-established parts of the bionic landscape. Now, legs get to join the party, thanks to the efforts of scientists Levi Hargrove and Elliott Rouse at the University of Michigan and Shirley Ryan AbilityLab…

Bionic legs are frustratingly tricky. Maintaining balance is hard work; the additional stress of supporting a patient’s body adds still more intricacy to the equation. Then, of course, there are all the things that legs are expected to do in the course of movement: cuts, pivots, turns. The flick of an ankle is far more complicated than it looks. The key to making it work, then, is AI. The Raspberry Pi-powered AI-based control uses a combination of muscle contraction signals and sensor data from within the bionic leg to guess what a user is going to do next, and responds accordingly.
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Self-driving car startup Gatik emerges from stealth with $4.5 million in seed funding and Walmart partnership

June 11, 2019

Gatik, a two-year-old startup developing an autonomous vehicle stack for business-to-business short-haul logistics, today emerged from stealth with $4.5 million in seed funding led by Innovation Endeavors, with participation from Trucks Venture Capital, Dynamo Venture Capital, Fontinalis Partners, and AngelPad. Coinciding with the close of its funding round, the Toronto and Palo Alto, California-based company announced that it’s inked a deal with Walmart and additional commercial partners that’ll be revealed later in the year…

Its fleet of retrofitted Ford Transit vans, which the company has been testing on public roads in California since the first quarter of 2018, together with its robust orchestration software ensures that goods are transported up to 50% less expensively in city environments between locations, Gatik claims…
Gatik is the brainchild of Carnegie Mellon graduate and CEO Gautam Narang and CTO Arjun Narang (CTO), brothers and cofounders that have worked together in the field of robotics, AI, and machine learning for over 10 years.
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This tiny rover will test how well small mobile robots can survive on the Moon

June 11, 2019

When Pennsylvania-based aerospace company Astrobotic launches its lander to the Moon within the next couple of years, a four-wheeled robot no bigger than a toaster will be along for the ride. The robotic rover, built by Carnegie Mellon University, will help test just how small rovers can get and still survive on the Moon’s surface.

Last week, NASA awarded Astrobotic a contract of $79.5 million to carry up to 14 NASA-sponsored payloads on its lander, named Peregrine. Along with those, the lander will carry another 14 from other commercial companies, research organizations, and space agencies. That’s a total of 28 payloads meant to fit on a lander that’s just a little over 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide.
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Air Canada Cargo to offer drone-delivery services

June 11, 2019

Air Canada Cargo will offer drone-based services thanks to a new agreement with Drone Delivery Canada (TSXV: FLT), a Toronto-based startup that makes autonomous cargo aircraft and a proprietary flight platform.

Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) announced the agreement on June 4. Air Canada (TSE: AC) will market and sell the company’s services, while DDC will build and operate up to 150,000 routes.

The deal represents a major leap for the drone maker in the early stages of commercializing its operations. Partnering with Canada’s largest airline and air cargo provider provides DDC a platform to expand well beyond successful pilot programs in select rural communities.
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Alphabet is betting big on moonshots but so are startups

June 11, 2019

One of Alphabet’s biggest bets is rebuilding and modernizing cities, but it’s been trailing competitors that have already launched projects. Alphabet’s urban innovation company, Sidewalk Labs, has faced opposition as it plans to develop part of Toronto’s waterfront. Critics say Sidewalk Labs’ vision of a smart city — full of cameras, sensors and self-driving cars — raises alarming privacy concerns. Alphabet is now tackling complex social challenges like privacy rights in public spaces that weren’t barriers when it rolled out its search engine years ago.

Its biggest competitors in this space include telecom giants Verizon and AT&T, CNN’s parent company. Both have mounted cameras high above streets in Atlanta, Portland, San Diego and Washington DC to collect data and empower cities to make better decisions.
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Bird is launching an electric moped this summer

June 5, 2019

Scooter-sharing company Bird is adding an electric moped to fleets in “select markets” this summer. Called the “Cruiser,” it’s the first seated vehicle Bird has offered.

The Cruiser can be used like a bike, with the electric motor offering assistance to make pedaling easier. But customers will also be able to simply ride with their feet on pegs, according to Bird. The company says the Cruiser will carry a 52V battery that will last for up to 50 miles per charge. It will have disc brakes, a padded seat, and an LCD screen that will presumably show information about the speed and remaining battery.
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How Should Cities Handle New Mobility Data? NACTO Has Ideas

June 5, 2019

With the popularity of new urban mobility options like ride shares, e-bikes and scooters has come a torrent of related data, and cities are trying to figure out what to do with it. Partnerships between cities and companies like Uber, Lyft, Bird, Lime and Waze have sought to put this data to use for urban planning and other purposes, but up to this point there has been no road map of best practices for them to follow.

Now there is, thanks to the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), an association of 82 major cities and transit agencies in North America, and the International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA), an organization of local government attorneys. This week NACTO and IMLA jointly unveiled a 14-page document, titled “Managing Mobility Data,” intended to be a framework for cities and their private partners to share, protect and manage mobility data.
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