Posts with «transportation» label

Tesla opens Model Y pre-orders in the UK for early 2022 delivery

Tesla will soon bring the Model Y to the UK. The company has opened pre-orders for the EV in the country, with deliveries expected to start in early 2022, according to an email to customers spotted by Elektrek.

The original plan was to start Model Y deliveries in Europe after Tesla started making them at its Berlin Gigafactory. However, Tesla has brought Model Y EVs from its Shanghai production facility to some European markets.

Most countries in Europe drive on the right, but the UK and Ireland stick to the left, so the steering wheel is generally on the right there. Gigafactory Berlin is supposed to start making Model Ys as soon as next month. Still, it's unclear whether Tesla will make Model Ys for the UK there or ship them from China.

The Model Y starts at £54,990 for the Long Range All-Wheel-Drive model and £64,990 for a Performance one, according to Tesla's configurator. Enhanced Autopilot costs £3,400 and the Full Self-Driving Capability add-on is £6,800, but that feature is in beta.

Former Boeing chief technical pilot involved in 737 Max testing charged with fraud

Mark A. Forkner, Boeing's former chief technical pilot involved in the company's 737 Max testing, was indicted for fraud by a grand jury in Texas. Due to his position with the company, he was in charge of coordinating with the Federal Aviation Administration to determine the kind of training a pilot needs to fly a particular plane. The indictment accuses him of deceiving the agency's Aircraft Evaluation Group (FAA AEG) when it evaluated and certified the 737 Max model. If you'll recall, two 737 Max planes crashed within months of each other in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people.

Forkner allegedly provided the FAA with "materially false, inaccurate, and incomplete information about a new part of the flight controls for the Boeing 737 MAX called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS)." In both crashes, the AEG determined after an investigation that MCAS, a system designed to push the plane's nose down in certain situations, activated during the flight. The planes that crashed — Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 — nosedived almost as soon as they took off.

According to the Department of Justice, Forkner discovered an important change to MCAS in November 2016, but he allegedly withheld that information from the AEG. As a result, the FAA removed all reference to MCAS in the pilot training materials for the 737 Max. Acting US Attorney Chad E. Meacham for the Northern District of Texas said in a statement that the former chief pilot's actions were financially motivated:

“In an attempt to save Boeing money, Forkner allegedly withheld critical information from regulators. His callous choice to mislead the FAA hampered the agency’s ability to protect the flying public and left pilots in the lurch, lacking information about certain 737 MAX flight controls. The Department of Justice will not tolerate fraud — especially in industries where the stakes are so high."

Earlier this year, Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion to settle the criminal charge that it had conspired to defraud the FAA. It also agreed to work with the FAA's fraud section for any ongoing and future investigations. As for Forkner, he was charged with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts and four counts of wire fraud. He's now facing a sentence of up to 100 years in prison. 

Volvo reveals its first vehicle made of fossil-free steel

A few months ago, Volvo teamed up with Swedish steel producer SSAB to develop a type of steel it can use for its vehicles that doesn't use fossil fuels. Now, the automaker has revealed what it says is the world's first vehicle made of fossil-free steel: A four wheeled fully electric load carrier made for quarrying and mining. In addition to having no greenhouse gas emission, it's also autonomous and can follow a pre-programmed route to transport materials at a job site.

SSAB produces fossil-free steel by replacing the coal used during the manufacturing process with hydrogen from electrolysis. As Forbes notes, though, the whole vehicle isn't exactly fossil-free, since the steel used for its components provided by third-party suppliers, such as its electric motor, were made using traditional means. Still, Volvo Group CTO Lars Stenqvist told the publication that "majority of the steel" in the vehicle is fossil free. He said three tons of the carrier's 8.2-ton weight is made of green steel from SSAB, and those eight tons include other heavy components like the vehicle's tires.

Volvo plans to start a small-scale production for the vehicle next year and to scale up production, depending on the availability of steel from SSAB. The Swedish manufacturer is hoping to start mass-producing its fossil-free steel in 2026, so we may see more Volvo vehicles made using the material by that time.

Martin Lundstedt, President and CEO Volvo Group, said in a statement:

"This initiative with SSAB sets the benchmark for a fossil-free future. Just as the nations of the world come together at COP26 to address climate change, so too must organizations and industries work in collaboration to develop innovative new solutions for a greenhouse gas emission free future. Volvo Group is committed to pioneering partnerships such as this with SSAB to develop attractive, safe and efficient new vehicles and machines that pave the way for a more sustainable transport and infrastructure system adopted for the future."

VanMoof's fastest e-bike yet tops out at 31 MPH

E-bike maker VanMoof is looking to help riders get from A to B more swiftly with its first high-speed model. The VanMoof V is the company’s first hyperbike, which will be able to hit a top speed of 31 MPH (50 km/h).

VanMoof is pitching this as a car replacement for city life and longer commutes. The VanMoof V will have two-wheel drive, thicker tires, a new frame design and front and rear suspension, which could make lengthier trips more comfortable. Other features include intelligent motor control, VanMoof's Turbo Boost, a Kick Lock for keyless locking, automatic gear shifting and measures to combat theft.

Details about the e-bike's range haven't been revealed, but VanMoof noted the battery has a 700 wH capacity. The VanMoof S3 has a 504 Wh battery capacity and a promised range of 60-150 km (37-93 miles). The company sells a PowerBank accessory that can increase the range, but it's unclear whether that device will be compatible with the VanMoof V.


Speed limits vary across cities and counties, and the e-bike will have matching integrated speed settings. As it develops the VanMoof V, the company plans to work with lawmakers and local governments on e-bike rules, including geofencing and speed regulations.

VanMoof plans to start deliveries of the hyperbike in late 2022. The VanMoof V costs $3,498/£3,498/€3,498. The company is offering invite-only reservations for $20/£20/€20 starting today, with its current customers getting first dibs. Alternatively, you can join a waitlist on the VanMoof website. Reservation codes will be sent out periodically.

Roving bands of Ford ‘Charge Angels’ will repair EV charging stations

With the F-150 Lightning set to debut early next year, Ford plans to employ a group of “Charge Angels” to ensure owners of its EVs can find reliable charging when they need it. In an interview with Automotive News, Ford EV lead Darren Palmer said technicians in specially-equipped Mustang Mach-Es will travel the US to test out charging stations where connected vehicle data and “angry social media posts” indicate they may not be working properly.

“All they’ll do all day long is go and check them to see where they fail and why,” Palmer told the outlet. “There are a lot of plugs out there, but some of them are old and they don’t have the quality or reliability we want. Over 99.5 percent of customers go into a charger and get a charge. We’re pleased about that. But a number less than that get a charge the first time they charge.”

The company is reportedly finalizing the details of the program but hopes to have the first group of Charge Angels out on the road by the end of the year. Either way, it’s a smart move for an automaker that has a network of approximately 63,000 chargers across the US but ultimately depends on companies like Electrify America and ChargePoint for that infrastructure.

Ford's Mach-E GT is an American muscle car for the 21st century

Sunlight filters down through towering pines, dappling the “grabber blue” skin of my Ford Mach-E GT as it gallops along Highway 1, heedless trivialities like “defensive driving technique” and “speed limits.” Irma Thomas is crooning through the 9-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system, her rendition of Time is On My Side a stark contrast to the simulated auditory roar of the GT’s twin permanent-magnet motors as the accelerator pedal slaps against the floorboard. Pouring on speed, I finally see what all the Mach-E fuss was about.

Ok so here’s the part of the story where I eat a big plate of crow. When I reviewed the Mach-E base model back in February I found it to be a perfectly serviceable EV, but more akin to similarly-shaped electric SUVs like the Kia Niro or the Volkswagen ID.4 than the venerated muscle cars I hung posters of in my childhood bedroom. Sure, the pony I drove had plenty of get-up-and-go — EVs are torquey that way — but it never rumbled the depths of my bowels like a naturally aspirated 4-barrel V8 could. The Mach-E GT does. Switch over to the performance-forward Unbridled power management mode — or Unbridled Extend, which optimizes traction and stability control and is great for lapping ICE owners on track day — and the Mach-E GT will haul more ass than a secret lab overflowing with butt monsters. Stomp on the gas in the 480 horsepower, 600 ft-pound torque GT and this thing will loosen your fillings. Do so in the uber-torqued GT Performance edition and you’re liable to swallow a few teeth.


It won’t be difficult to spot the GT and Performance editions on the street. I mean, if the prominent GT badge on the rear liftgate and illuminated Mustang icon on the front grille don’t give it away, both iterations sit about 10 mm lower than the base model and have added styling on the front facia. You’ll also be able to spot them via their wheels as both the GT and the Performance sport unique 20-inch rims (as opposed to the 18s and 19s offered on the base) rocking 245/45R20 Continental all-season tires and fire engine red Brembo brake calipers. On the interior, however, the GT is practically identical to the base model, save for the seats which offer added cushioning and lateral support as there is a better than not chance you’re going to get sideways within the first week of owning one.

As for driving performance, I’m a bit torn. Nostalgia, as I’ve explained previously, is a hell of a drug and my fondest automotive memories stem from tearing up San Francisco’s streets in a 65 outfitted with a drag racing suspension and a T-10 3-speed, which has deeply biased my understanding of what to expect from the Mach-E. It is, honestly, difficult to reconcile in my head that the Mustang is now an SUV and, despite its overwhelming power, still largely drives like one. Give me a straight shot like, say, that length of highway 101 running through Silva Island towards Larkspur and the GT can, will, and very much did beat the pants off of any Tesla on the freeway as well as one overly confident, tailgating Supra.


The tight, twisting turns of Highway 1, especially the un-railed cliffside sections where a mistimed tap of the accelerator would fly you clear off a 100-plus foot drop, were a different matter entirely. You can feel the understeer, despite it being an AWD, as well as the GT’s 4,600 pounds of curb weight through hairpin turns. But again it’s an SUV, that’s to be expected — even from one with a sub-4 0-60. The GT’s MagneRide suspension — which leverages magneto-rheological fluid to stiffen the ride on demand — shined through during those slaloming sections. Even though the wide-bodied GT wallows like a pig in mud through sharp curves, not once did I have to fight the vehicle’s body roll when entering turns.

The GT starts at $59,900, boasts 480 peak horsepower, 600 lb.-ft. of torque with a 0-60 mph time of 3.8 seconds and an estimated 270 mile range. The GT Performance edition, on the other hand, starts at $64,900, with the same amount of horsepower but a full 634 lb.-ft. of torque and a 3.5 second 0-60 and 260 miles of range. Those figures put the Mach-E GT on par with the Chevy Bolt and VW ID.4 in terms of drivable distance, though the Mustang outclasses them both in terms of driving excitement.


Range anxiety wasn’t much of a concern during my test drive thanks to the Mach-E’s connected navigation system which continually monitors the vehicle’s battery levels and points out available charging stations along the drive route. What’s more, Ford is offering two years of complimentary use of its Blue Oval Charge Network. For those drivers who wish to do their charging at home, Ford’s Connected Charging station can add 30 miles per charging hour on a 240V outlet while the included mobile charging cord can impart 20 miles of range per hour using a similar 240V outlet.

Deliveries for both the GT and the GT Performance edition have already begun.

Hitting the Books: How Los Angeles became a 'Freewaytopia'

Some 515 miles of freeway snake through greater Los Angeles, connecting its 10 million residents from Sylmar in the north all the way down to the shores of San Pedro. Since the opening of the Arroyo Seco Parkway in 1940, have proven vital to the region but their construction has not come without significant social costs — neighborhoods razed, residents displaced, entire communities cleaved in twain by the sprawling transportation infrastructure. In his latest book, Freewaytopia: How Freeways Shaped Los Angeles, author Paul Haddad takes readers on a whirlwind tour through the history and lore of Los Angeles' sprawling highway system. In the excerpt below, we take a look at the 110 Harbor Freeway where the first live traffic updates via helicopter took place.

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©2021 Santa Monica Press

Over the next four years, the Harbor Freeway began to coalesce. Press alerts went out with each new off-ramp as they came online: Olympic. Washington. Slauson. Almost all were accompanied by the kind of theatricality that defined the era. One of the dedications featured a shapely model named Ann Bradford, who wore a sash emblazoned with the words “Miss Freeway Link”—certainly one of the clunkier female honorifics dreamed up by a Chamber of Commerce. Even the freeway’s old nemesis, Kenneth Hahn, couldn’t resist attending the 124th Street opening. At the ribbon-cutting on September 25, 1958, Hahn boasted that the freeway—now stretching ten miles—was already L.A.’s second-busiest after the Hollywood Freeway. When it’s completed, he said, it will carry more traffic than “any street, highway, or freeway in the world.”

The Harbor Freeway’s immense popularity—even in unfinished form—did come with some growing pains for motorists. The Downtown section proved to be a confusing lattice of bridges and ramps that required quick lane changes and sudden start-stops. As anyone who has merged from the Hollywood Freeway onto the southbound Harbor Freeway can attest, the maneuver requires a “Frogger”-like thread of the needle through three lanes of traffic within a quarter of a mile, lest you find yourself involuntarily exiting one of the Downtown ramps. The nerve-racking exercise is compounded by incoming motorists from the Arroyo Seco crossing the same three lanes from the other direction—left to right—who are seeking the very exits you’re trying to avoid.

Pulling off either move is nothing less than a navigational baptism for newbie drivers. Some drivers can’t pull it off at all. Such was the case for Greg Morton, a thirty-four-year-old management consultant whose ordeal made him briefly famous. In March of 1958, just south of the Four Level, Morton attempted to weave to the right from the fast lane. Suddenly, a car veered into his lane and Morton panicked. He wedged the wheel leftward and found himself marooned on the center median, which, in those days, was simply a raised concrete strip with planters spaced every twenty feet. These planters posed a problem for Morton. He didn’t feel he could get a “running start” to rejoin the stream of whizzing cars. So, he waited for a break in traffic. And waited. And waited. As he was stranded, he tried to flag down eighteen passing police vehicles for help. Only one stopped. “You got yourself up there, didn’t you?” the officer chided. “Just start your engine and drive off.” Which is exactly what the cop did.

Things got so bad, Morton finally said to hell with it. He took a beach towel out of his trunk and started to sunbathe right there on the median. Perhaps this odd spectacle is what finally made a Good Samaritan assist this clearly delirious individual. The stranger was a civilian on a motorcycle who promised to make a call from a phone booth for help. Sure enough, a sympathetic officer arrived within minutes and stopped traffic long enough for Morton to escape the median. All told, the Highland Park resident had been stranded for an hour and fifteen minutes.

When asked about it later, Morton was shaken but took it all in stride. “I’d have given twenty bucks if, as there should be, there’d been a telephone out there I could’ve used to summon help,” he said.

Perhaps Kenneth Hahn was listening. Four years later, Hahn—by then a county supervisor—was the driving force behind the installation of roadside call boxes. Hahn posed for a photo at one, placing an emergency call. It was on the Harbor Freeway.

While call boxes would have to wait a few more years, 1958 did see the first routine traffic reports from helicopters. Prior to this, freeway conditions were conducted by roving cars or sporadic airplane flights. Radio station KABC was first out of the gate with Operation Airwatch. Every weekday morning and afternoon, traffic jockey Donn Reed delivered rush-hour updates from the cockpit of a Bell whirlybird. It was an instant hit with motorists, and Reed had proof. One morning, he asked any drivers who saw his copter to flash their headlights. Six out of ten cars did.

The fact that so many commuters tuned in may have saved the life of a three-year-old girl toddling through traffic on the Harbor Freeway. Reed got his studio to cut into programming so he could warn drivers about her presence. As cars slowed and paused, she wandered off the thoroughfare, no worse for the wear.

Not surprisingly, the Harbor Freeway saw the bulk of traffic updates. By 1958, more than 318,000 vehicles per day were passing through The Stack. That same year, the Dodgers kicked off their inaugural season in Los Angeles after relocating from Brooklyn. Home games were played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as the team awaited their permanent field in Chavez Ravine. Built for the 1932 Olympics, the Coliseum’s football-length field was not designed for baseball, just as its dense Exposition Park neighborhood was not suited for battalions of cars jamming its streets from spring until fall. Parking lots around the Coliseum could accommodate only 3,400 vehicles, forcing most motorists to pay to park on people’s lawns or find street parking. One fan from Phoenix who flew in to catch the game had to walk twenty-four blocks afterward to find a taxi to his hotel—a longer journey than his plane ride.

Crushing traffic around the Coliseum backed up on the Harbor Freeway for a mile or more in each direction. The delays led to a Dodger fan stereotype that persists to this day: “Fans have been arriving as late as the third inning,” pointed out sportswriter Rob Shafer of the Pasadena Star-News. Mostly, though, Angelenos were so enamored by their Boys in Blue, any inconveniences were met with wry wit. “The one thing the Dodgers forgot to bring with them when they moved to Los Angeles was the New York subway,” quipped one newspaper. When Liberace had the gall to perform at the neighboring Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena during a Dodger game, Rob Shafer swore that traffic on the Harbor Freeway created “some kind of human record for collective blood pressure.”

Chevrolet's electric Silverado will debut at CES 2022

When General Motors CEO Mary Barra delivers the opening keynote at next year's CES, she won't only be kicking off the event — she'll also be unveiling Chevrolet's electric Silverado. The automaker first revealed that it's working on an electrified version of the pickup truck in April, promising an EV with a 400-mile range, which can rival Tesla's 2020 Long-Range Plus Model S. 

In today's announcement, Chevrolet has also confirmed that the retail model will come with a glass roof with increased headroom to make the interior look and feel bigger. It will apparently be the first time GM is making a glass roof option available for a full-size pickup. Chevrolet has also confirmed that the vehicle will be capable of four-wheel steering. 

The electric Silverado is based on GM's Ultium platform, the automaker's modular technology that enables it to mix and match battery and drive units to electrify all kinds of vehicles across its brands. GMC's electrified Hummer vehicles are also based on the Ultium platform. And, like the Hummer EVs, the electric Silverado will be manufactured at GM's Factory ZERO, the company's new Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. GM spent $2.2 billion to set up the factory with the equipment needed to build all types of electric vehicles.

Mary Barra's CES 2022 keynote and the Silverado's debut will take place on January 5th.

GM unveils a hands-free driving system that works in nearly all of the US and Canada

GM and Cadillac drivers have spent traveled than 10 million miles with their hands in their laps since General Motors introduced its Super Cruise driver assist system back in 2017. On Wednesday, the company unveiled its next-generation hands-free system — one that GM claims will "ultimately enable hands-free driving in 95 percent of all driving scenarios" — dubbed, Ultra Cruise.

What sets Ultra Cruise apart from similar systems, such as Ford's BlueCruise, is that Ultra is designed to work virtually everywhere in the US and Canada. At launch, the system is expected to work on 2 million miles of North American roads — that includes highways, city and subdivision streets, and paved rural roads — and will eventually expand to encompass some 3.4 million miles of asphalt.

If you've just bought a Super Cruise-enabled vehicle (or are planning to buy one of the 22 models GM will have available by 2023), don't worry, it's not going anywhere. GM plans to continue offering Super Cruise for its more mainstream vehicles such as the Escalade, CT4/CT5, Silverado and Sierra while Ultra Cruise will be reserved for the company's premium offerings. GM hasn't specified which vehicle will be the first to get it, though the company did note that select 2023 Cadillacs will be at the head of the line. 

Built atop GM's recently announced Ultifi (again, rhymes with "multiply") computing system and leveraging myriad optical cameras, radar and LiDAR sensors, Ultra Cruise will support automatic and on-demand lane changes, left and right turns, obey traffic signals, avoid obstacles and even park itself in residential driveways. Further improvements and refinements to the system will be delivered to vehicles via OTA updates. To avoid Tesla-style wrecks, GM will port Super Cruise’s Driver Attention Camera system over to the new system.

Google turns its AI on traffic lights to reduce pollution

Poorly timed traffic lights don't just waste precious minutes. Like Google's chief sustainability officer Kate Brandt pointed out at a media event yesterday, they're also bad for the environment and public health. The company unveiled a slew of sustainability-centric products and updates today that aim to help users make more informed, environmentally friendly decisions. But it's also been working on a project that could use AI to make traffic lights more efficient and, as a result, decrease pollution in general. 

When your vehicle stops at an intersection, that idling time leads to wasted fuel and "more street-level air pollution," Brandt said. Google's new project would use AI to measure and calculate traffic conditions and timing at a city's intersections, then time them more efficiently. Brandt said one of the company's AI research groups has been able to accurately calculate and gather this data and train a model to optimize inefficient intersections. 

Google has run pilots at four locations in Israel to date, in partnership with the municipalities of Haifa, Beer-Sheva and the Israel National Roads Company. The company says it's observed a "10 to 20 percent reduction in fuel and intersection delay time" so far. Google didn't share any details on the average daily traffic in those intersections, though a video clip from the event showed a fairly busy junction. The company also didn't explain how the AI would work with current systems and the lights around specific intersections.

"It's early days," Brandt said, "but on the back of these promising results, we are now beginning new pilots in Rio de Janeiro and speaking with other cities around the globe." Though we're likely still at least years away from having AI manage our traffic intersections, this is one of the steps towards the vision of completely smart cities that the industry has collectively been working on for years. 

The idea of letting AI decide when to let vehicles stop or go can seem unsettling at best and potentially risky, but the goal of improving traffic light efficiency is a worthwhile one. Hopefully, with rigorous testing and safety measures in place, we may actually be able to reduce a significant amount of wasted fuel and exhaust-based pollution.