Australia to start paying EV owners for transferring electricity back to the national grid

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Electric vehicles can help keep the air clean in our cities – as we’ve seen recently with the reduction of traffic through COVID-19 lockdowns – but they face two obstacles.

 In the short term they’re still expensive. In the long term charging millions of vehicles from the electricity grid presents challenges.

I’m part of a new project, launched today, that tackles both of these obstacles head-on, and it could mean owners earn more money than they’re likely to pay for charging their electric vehicles.

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Tesla (TSLA): Elon Musk says ‘very close’ to level 5 autonomy complete

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Tesla (TSLA): Basic functionality for level 5 autonomy is complete this year, says CEO Elon Musk.

Today, Musk virtually attended the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai and participated in a Q&A session.

Musk oversees several projects involving AI, but the most prominent one is Tesla’s effort to deliver a full self-driving level 5 system.

At the conference, Musk briefly discussed Tesla’s effort to reach full self-driving and showed great confidence in delivering such a system soon:

I am extremely confident that level or essentially complete autonomy will happen, and I think will happen very quickly. I think at Tesla, I feel like we are very close to level 5 autonomy.

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NEVS unveils autonomous electric shuttle for urban use

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NEVS Sango autonomous electric shuttle, image credit: NEVS

Way last century, Sweden had two global auto manufacturers — Volvo and Saab. Volvo built staid cars that were as solid as the rock of Gibraltar. Saab was the quirky cousin that insisted on mounting its ignition switch in the center console rather than on the dashboard. It also offered styling that was trés avant. If you wanted safety in your Swedish car, you bought a Volvo. If you wanted a little dash of excitement, you bought a Saab.

Both companies got caught up in a game of “mine’s bigger than yours” that played out between Ford and General Motors at the end of the last century. Ford started things off by buying Jaguar and Land Rover as it put together what it called its Premium Auto Group. Then it bought Volvo in 1999. Not to be outdone, General Motors then purchased Saab. Less than 10 years later, both once proud Swedish manufacturers were toast and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy as the Great White Fathers in Detroit bled both companies dry.

Volvo was rescued by Geely but Saab slowly sank between the waves. Its car manufacturing assets were purchased out of bankruptcy by a new corporation somewhat grandly known as National Electric Vehicle Sweden, which set about converting the last generation Saab 9-3 to electric power. In 2015, the company signed a strategic collaboration agreement with Panda New Energy Company of China to deliver 150,000 9-3 electric vehicles by the end of 2020.

Evergrande Group of China acquired 51% of the shares in NEVS in January 2019. Evergrande has since then increased its holdings to 68%. National Energy Holding, owned by Kai Johan Jiang, owns the remaining shares. The company is still peddling the converted 9-3 battery electric car to a largely uninterested audience.

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Tesla begins taking Cybertruck orders in China, Will drive one across America

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If reports about the number of reservations it has garnered are true, the Tesla Cybertruck may be the most eagerly anticipated new vehicle in history. Back in February, 532,000 people around the world were reportedly on the waiting list for one of Elon Musk’s segment-smashing vehicles. The no-obligation reservations are little more than a marketing tool for the company at this point. Tesla hasn’t even decided where to build the Cybertruck yet, let alone start constructing a factory. But that hasn’t stopped the company from taking orders for it on its Chinese website, according to Tesmanian.

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Didi Chuxing: Apple-backed firm aims for one million robotaxis

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Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing says it plans to operate more than a million self-driving vehicles by 2030.

The robotaxis are to be deployed in places where ride-hailing drivers are less available, according to Meng Xing, Didi’s chief operating officer.

Mr Meng was speaking at an online conference hosted by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper.

One analyst suggested it was a very ambitious aim.

“I’ll be surprised if we see a million by 2030,” a spokesman for market research firm Canalys said.

“I hope that happens but there’s a lot to take place in meantime.”

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Study says autonomous taxis will cost users more than car ownership

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When Sir Thomas More coined the term “utopia,” he lifted two words from Ancient Greek that roughly translate into “not a place.” Turns out people from the 16th century still understood satire, perhaps better than we do today. After all, we are the ones operating under the assumption that we can remap society in order to build consequence-free transportation network without a shred of humor to keep us grounded.

We may not need satire in this instance, however. A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health asks questions about how just effectively the shift to autonomy will benefit society as a whole. Industry leaders have broadly framed the shift toward self-driving as kicking down the door to an idyllic universe where no one wants for transportation, with autonomous taxis serving as the first wave of this planned paradise. The reality may be vastly different that what’s being sold, however.

The study essentially asserts that the entire concept of robotic cabs doesn’t actually serve poor communities any better than just buying one’s own automobile. Researchers compared the costs of a robo-taxi trip with those of owning a conventional used vehicle in an urban environment. Tabulating the combined costs of vehicle financing, licensing, insurance, routine maintenance, fuel/electricity and everything else they could account for, the team estimated that self-driving taxis would cost a minimum of $1.58 per mile. By contrast, the total cost associated with traditional vehicle ownership (assuming one is trying to be thrifty) ended up being 52 cents per mile. At least, that was the case for their model in San Francisco.

While your author has long suspected that unsupervised robotic taxis might outpace the subway as one of the dirtiest ways to get around (and become potential liabilities for whoever operates them), the general assumption has been that they’ll offer societal and health benefits that vastly outperform private vehicle ownership — almost as if the people making these assessments have never taken a regular cab or piloted an inner-city ZipCar. Other presumed benefits involve improved air quality by making it easier for people to get by without an automobile of their own.

But this thinking comes with some problems. Studies have already shown that ride-hailing firms exacerbate congestion by having a fleet of cars constantly scouring the streets in search of fares. That interim period between riders wastes energy and will be broadly similar when/if autonomous vehicles arrive. Why should we believe they’ll be any different when they’ll be similarly competing for riders and milling around neighborhoods? Even if they’re entirely electric, that energy has to be sourced from somewhere, and much of it will be in service of nothing.

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Chinese automaker plans satellite network to support autonomous vehicles

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Geely’s constellation will provide connectivity to its next-gen autos.

 One of the most important components in an autonomous vehicle is its communications technology—which allows it to access the data needed to navigate its route. Chinese automobile company Geely has developed a solution to maintain a reliable data feed for its products: making its own satellite constellation.

The giant automaker—which sold 2.18 million vehicles in 2019 and also owns Volvo and a stake in Daimler-Benz—is investing $326 million in a new satellite manufacturing plant in Taizhou, close to its existing assembly lines. The plant will manufacture 500 satellites a year by 2025—with its first launches scheduled for later this year—and will have the capability of producing different satellite models. It will feature modular satellite manufacturing lines, research and testing centers and a cloud computing facility. The facility will be the first private satellite factory in China.

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Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing launches pilot self-driving robotaxi service in Shanghai

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Didi has raised US$500 million from Japan’s SoftBank for its autonomous driving subsidiary.

 Didi’s launch of robotaxis in Shanghai comes just days after it announced plans to deploy more than one million self-driving vehicles through its platform by 2030

Globally, the market is projected to be worth US$65.3 billion by 2027, according to a report from Market Research Future

Commuters in Shanghai can now book self-driving taxis through Didi Chuxing after the Chinese ride-hailing giant launched its on-demand robotaxi service on the weekend.

Using the new app, passengers can take free rides in autonomous vehicles within designated open-traffic areas in Shanghai’s Jiading District as part of the pilot phase of the project.

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U.S. will unveil data-sharing platform for autonomous vehicle testing

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(Reuters) — On Monday, U.S. auto safety regulators will unveil a voluntary effort to collect and make available nationwide data on existing autonomous vehicle testing.

 U.S. states have a variety of regulations governing self-driving testing and data disclosure, and there is currently no centralized listing of all automated vehicle testing.

California, for example, requires public disclosure of all crashes involving self-driving vehicles, while other states do not.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is unveiling the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing (AV TEST) initiative to provide “an online, public-facing platform for sharing automated driving system on-road testing activities.”

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Stanford research brings EVs one step closer to wirelessly charging on roads

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Imagine never having to plug in an electric car to recharge,but instead simply take the highway on-ramp to get a range boost.

Researchers from Stanford University have published a new demonstration of highly efficient wireless charging that could allow the technology to one day be scaled up to boost driving range of electric vehicles on highways of the future.

Wireless, or inductive, charging – the same technology that is nowadays often used for electric toothbrushes and some smartphones – is under development and being piloted by some car makers already.

But current electric car inductive technology has its limitations: it relies on charging pads that must be aligned perfectly with the oscillating magnetic field that transmits the current to optimally recharge the vehicle, and of course the subsequent downtime to recharge.

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Autonomous car makers dispute insurance study’s low estimate of crashes

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Companies working on self-driving vehicles have criticized an insurance industry study suggesting that only a third of all U.S. road crashes could be prevented by driverless cars, arguing that the study has underestimated the technology’s capabilities.

The study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), released on Thursday, analyzed 5,000 U.S. crashes and concluded that likely only those caused by driver perception errors and incapacitation could be prevented by self-driving cars.

The autonomous vehicle industry quickly responded that its cars were programmed to prevent a vastly higher number of potential crash causes, including more complex errors caused by drivers making inadequate or incorrect evasive maneuvers.

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Self-driving cars won’t eradicate the car crash, study says

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While self-driving cars won’t get distracted or drive drunk, that only accounts for a third of wrecks that occur, according to the insurance industry.

Self-driving cars likely have a long, long way to go.

In a blow to hopes for a future free of car crashes with the coming of self-driving cars, a study released Thursday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows totally driverless cars would have a difficult time achieving such a goal.

The IIHS looked at more than 5,000 police-reported crashes from the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey, which the insurance industry-funded group said represents vehicle crashes that resulted in one car towed and required emergency medical services.

Combing through the files, the IIHS then sorted the crashes into five categories: sensing and perception; predicting; planning and deciding; execution and performance; and incapacitation errors. Self-driving cars will be able to eliminate sensing and perception errors, or crashes that result in the driver’s distraction, and autonomous technologies won’t be subject to the influence of drugs or alcohol. So, that takes incapacitation errors out. From the sample, that accounts for 34% of crashes. Let’s note the figure is not an insignificant number of crashes automated cars could prevent — 2 million a year in the US alone.

“It’s likely that fully self-driving cars will eventually identify hazards better than people,” said Jessica Cicchino, IIHS vice president for research, “but we found that this alone would not prevent the bulk of crashes.”

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