Posts with «transportation» label

Tesla is selling a microphone for in-car karaoke, but only in China

Tesla is selling a new accessory: a microphone for in-car karaoke. The TeslaMic is only available in China for the time being. The company introduced it amid the rollout of a Chinese New Year software update, which adds a karaoke platform called Leishi KTV to infotainment systems.

The microphone automatically pairs with the infotainment system, according to Tesla. The TeslaMic comes in a pack of two, so it could come in handy if you ever feel like parking somewhere with a date and belting out some duets. The pack costs around $188 but the Tesla store page is failing to load for many would-be crooners.

A Weibo post (which has been mirrored onto YouTube) shows the TeslaMic and karaoke system in action. As Elektrek notes, by adopting the Leishi KTV interface and catalog, Tesla is building on a "Caraoke" feature it introduced in 2019, which had a more limited selection of tracks.

It remains to be seen whether Tesla will sell the TeslaMic outside of China, though maybe you'll be able to buy it with Dogecoin if it ever comes to the US. In the meantime, there's an official Carpool Karaoke microphone that you can connect to your car's audio system (though you'll need to provide your own backing tracks and a display with lyrics).

Porsche sent its Taycan EV cross-country to claim a 'charging time' record

A standard 2021 Porsche Taycan has broken the Guinness World Record for the shortest charging time to cross the United States in an electric vehicle. It only needed a cumulative charge time of 2 hours, 26 minutes and 48 seconds to cover a 2,834.5-mile drive from Los Angeles to New York. While the record it broke is highly specific, there was a previous holder: A Kia EV6, which had to be charged for 7 hours, 10 minutes and 1 second to make a similar, but just slightly longer, trip from New York to LA. 

Wayne Gerdes, known for his efficiency driving and for coining the term "hypermiling," was behind the wheel for the record-breaking journey. Hypermiling, as you may know, involves the use of adjustments and driving techniques to maximize the vehicle's fuel use. Porsche told Engadget that Gerdes drove normal speeds and sometimes even went faster, depending on the charge level, for the duration of the trip. 

As for the vehicle itself, it was equipped with the company's Performance Battery Plus, which has a higher gross capacity than the base battery option, and Adaptive Cruise Control. For the attempt to be recognized by the Guinness World Records, every mile of the journey had to be filmed and the vehicle's GPS had to be tracked.

Gerdes said that the first time he charged a Taycan on a 350KW charger, its battery levels went from 6 to 82 percent in just 22 minutes. He relied on Electrify America's CCS DC fast charging network for the trip, since the company is a partner for this attempt. Porsche first revealed the Taycan electric sedan in 2019 and started making deliveries in 2020. The automaker has released several variants since then, including the category-blurring Cross Turismo EV.

Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance confirms plans to build 35 new EVs by 2030

The Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance has announced plans to spend $25.8 billion (€23 billion) with the aim of having 35 EVs by 2030. As part of that, the group will develop five new platforms shared across brands with 80 percent common usage as part of a "smart differentiation" strategy. Nissan teased one of the first cars based on one those platforms, an all-electric compact that will be sold in Europe to replace the automaker's popular Micra. 

The Alliance is focusing on pure EVs and "intelligent & connected mobility." It aims to increase commonality between vehicles with a "smart differentiation" system that allows pooling for platforms, production plants, powertrains and vehicle segments. "For example, the common platform for the C and D segment will carry five models from three brands of the Alliance (Nissan Qashqai and X-Trail, Mitsubishi Outlander, Renault Austral and an upcoming seven-seater SUV)," Renault Group said in the press release.

To that end, it unveiled five separate platforms, including the affordable CMF-AEV that's the base for Renault's budget Dacia Spring model, the mini vehicle KEI-EV platform for ultra-compact EVs and the LCV for commercial vehicles like the Renault Kangoo and Nissan Town Star. Another is CMF-EV, currently used by the Alliance for crossovers like the Nissan Ariya and Renault Megane E-Tech. 

Finally, the CMF-BEV platform will be used for compact EVs but reduce costs by 33 percent and consumption by 10 percent compared to the current Renault Zoe. It'll be the base for 250,000 vehicles per year under the Renault, Nissan and Alpine brands, including the Renault R5 and Nissan's upcoming EV to replace the Micra.

Nissan teased that vehicle in a separate press release, showing it off in a shadowy photo and brief video (above). While it has no name, price or launch date, it'll be built at the Renault ElectriCity center in Northern France. "This all-new model will be designed by Nissan and engineered and manufactured by Renault using our new common platform, maximizing the use of our Alliance assets while maintaining its Nissan-ness," said Nissan CEO Ashwani Gupta. "This is a great example of the Alliance"s 'smart differentiation" approach."

Renault Group said it would use a common battery strategy as well, aiming for 220 GWh of production capacity by 2030. It plans to reduce battery costs by 50 percent in 2026 and 65 percent by 2028. It's aiming to develop all-solid-state batteries (ASSB) by 2028, with Nissan in charge of that project "based on its deep expertise and unique experience as a pioneer in battery technology." 

The Alliance also said it aimed to have 25 million vehicles connected to its cloud system by 2026 that would allow for Tesla-like OTA (over the air) updates. "The Alliance will also be the first global, mass-market OEM to introduce the Google ecosystem in its cars," Renault Group said. 

The news follows Renault's announcement that it would electrify two thirds of its cars by 2025, with about 90 percent EVs in its lineup by 2030. Renault and Nissan ruled out a closer partnership last year, with Renault saying the companies "don't need a merger to be efficient." With the new platforms and cooperation announcement, it appears that the common platforms with "smart differentiation" will be key to that. 

Tesla kept its record 2021 profits rolling right through Q4

Following a profitable — and, ahem, notable — 2021, Tesla remains at the forefront of EV production in America as we enter the new year. With deliveries up nearly 90 percent over 2020’s figures, Tesla achieved “the highest quarterly operating margin among all volume OEMs,” during that time frame, according to the company’s Q4 figures released Wednesday The company not only hit $5.5 billion in net income despite a $6.5 billion outlay for new production facilities in Berlin and Austin, Texas, it also exceeded its own revenue goals by a cool billion dollars.

In Q4, 2021, Tesla produced 930,000 electric vehicles (99 percent of which were Xs and Ys) and delivered 936,000 of them to customers around the world. At the same time, the company expanded its proprietary Supercharger network by a third, now totalling 3,476 stations.

Despite widespread supply chain issues impacting the entire automotive industry, Tesla maintained its production capabilities better than virtually any other automaker. The Fremont factory churned out around 600,000 vehicles last year with plans to increase that figure even after the Austin and Berlin plants come online later this year. Production in the Shanghai plant continues to ramp up as well. According to Tesla, it has managed to lower the per unit cost of producing its vehicles to around $36,000 (and did so in both Q3 and Q4, 2021).

Tesla's Q4 investor call happens at 5:30pm ET today, stay tuned for live updates and comment from Tesla executives.

Developing...

Kia's EV6 pricing will start at $42,115 when it goes on sale in the coming weeks

Kia's EV6, which shares a platform, battery, motors and more with Hyundai's Ioniq 5, will start at $42,115 including the $1,215 destination charge, the company announced. That sum will get you the base "Light" rear-wheel drive (RWD) model with a 167-horsepower motor and 58-kWh battery pack delivering a 232-mile EPA range. The model is eligible for a full $7,500 federal tax credit, which would reduce the price down to $34,615. 

That's $1,190 more than the Ioniq 5, if you're keeping score at home. While the two vehicles share the same platform and offer similar performance, the Ioniq 5 has a more edgy, angular design, while the EV6 offers a more classic, rounded look. 

Kia

Kia's higher-end EV6 models jump considerably in price. The "Wind" RWD EV6 with the 77.4-kWH battery pack and 225-horsepower motor starts at $48,215, offering an EPA range of 310 miles. Meanwhile, the GT-Line RWD comes with more luxurious options but the same drivetrain and starts at $52,415. Both the Wind and GT-Line models can be updated to all-wheel-drive (AWD) starting at $52,115 and $57,115, respectively. EPA range drops to 274 miles for both models, again eligible for $7,500 federal tax credits.

By comparison, Ford's Mustang Mach-E starts at $44,995, while the Tesla Model 3 has a $46,490 MSRP and the Volkswagen ID.4 is $39,995, all before any incentives. 

In our road test with the Ioniq 5, we found that Hyundai had produced a retro-futuristic winner that offers cutting-edge tech and is a pleasure to drive. The EV6 will hopefully live up to that same standard — the first models are expected to arrive at dealers in the coming weeks.

GM is building EV production and battery factories in Michigan

GM and LG are building a third Ultium factory in the US. The $2.6 billion plant in Lansing, Michigan will make batteries for GM’s electric vehicles.

Ultium Cells, a joint venture between the companies, expects to create 1,700 manufacturing jobs at the plant, which is projected to open in late 2024. At full production, Ultium expects the factory to have a battery cell capacity of 50 gigawatt hours, and it will be able to adapt to advancements in materials and tech. Construction is underway on Ultium's other battery manufacturing sites in Tennessee and Ohio.

Ultium's cells can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside battery packs, which allows GM to customize the layout for each vehicle design. Energy options range between 50kWh and 200kWh. GM says Ultium system may deliver a range of 450 miles or more on a single charge and accelerate from zero to 60MPH in three seconds. The company is designing Ultium-powered EVs with fast charging in mind — most of them will have 400-volt battery packs and up to 200 kW fast charging. Electric trucks, meanwhile, will have 800-volt packs with 350kW charging.

The Ultium factory forms part of a new $7 billion investment by GM (the company's largest single outlay to date) in four Michigan sites. The automaker is spending $4 billion to convert a plant in Orion Township, which will become its second US manufacturing location for the Chevrolet Silverado EV and electric GMC Sierra.

Conversion work is underway, and GM expects to start making the electric trucks at the plant in 2024. It expects to retain around 1,000 current jobs and add more than 2,350. Production of the Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV will continue during the transition. The company projects that it will convert half of its North American assembly capacity to EV production by 2030.

GM is aiming to make more than a million EVs in the US per year by the end of 2025, and today's investment announcement forms a key part of that. The company's also spending more than $510 million to increase production at two sites in the Lansing area, one of which is building the next-gen Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave.

Hitting the Books: What autonomous vehicles mean for tomorrow's workforce

In the face of daily pandemic-induced upheavals, the notion of "business as usual" can often seem a quaint and distant notion to today's workforce. But even before we all got stuck in never-ending Zoom meetings, the logistics and transportation sectors (like much of America's economy) were already subtly shifting in the face of continuing advances in robotics, machine learning and autonomous navigation technologies. 

In their new book, The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines, an interdisciplinary team of MIT researchers (leveraging insights gleaned from MIT's multi-year Task Force on the Work of the Future) exam the disconnect between improvements in technology and the benefits derived by workers from those advancements. It's not that America is rife with "low-skill workers" as New York's new mayor seems to believe, but rather that the nation is saturated with low-wage, low-quality positions — positions which are excluded from the ever-increasing perks and paychecks enjoyed by knowledge workers. The excerpt below examines the impact vehicular automation will have on rank and file employees, rather than the Musks of the world.

MIT Press

Excerpted from The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines by David Autor, David A. Mindell and Elisabeth B. Reynolds. Reprinted with permission from the MIT PRESS. Copyright 2022.


THE ROBOTS YOU CAN SEE: DRIVERLESS CARS, WAREHOUSING AND DISTRIBUTION, AND MANUFACTURING

Few sectors better illustrate the promises and fears of robotics than autonomous cars and trucks. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are essentially highspeed wheeled industrial robots powered by cutting-edge technologies of perception, machine learning, decision-making, regulation, and user interfaces. Their cultural and symbolic resonance has brought AVs to the forefront of excited press coverage about new technology and has sparked large investments of capital, making a potentially “driverless” future a focal point for hopes and fears of a new era of automation.

The ability to transport goods and people across the landscape under computer control embodies a dream of twenty-first-century technology, and also the potential for massive social change and displacement. In a driverless future, accidents and fatalities could drop significantly. The time that people waste stuck in traffic could be recovered for work or leisure. Urban landscapes might change, requiring less parking and improving safety and efficiency for all. New models for the distribution of goods and services promise a world where people and objects move effortlessly through the physical world, much as bits move effortlessly through the internet.

As recently as a decade ago, it was common to dismiss the notion of driverless cars coming to roads in any form. Federally supported university research in robotics and autonomy had evolved for two generations and had just begun to yield advances in military robotics. Yet today, virtually every carmaker in the world, plus many startups, have engaged to redefine mobility. The implications for job disruption are massive. The auto industry itself accounts for just over 5 percent of all private sector jobs, according to one estimate. Millions more work as drivers and in the web of companies that service and maintain these vehicles.

Task Force members John J. Leonard and David A. Mindell have both participated in the development of these technologies and, with graduate student Erik L. Stayton, have studied their implications. Their research suggests that the grand visions of automation in mobility will not be fully realized in the space of a few years.15 The variability and complexity of real-world driving conditions require the ability to adapt to unexpected situations that current technologies have not yet mastered. The recent tragedies and scandals surrounding the death of 346 people in two Boeing 737 MAX crashes stemming from flawed software and the accidents involving self-driving car-testing programs on public roads have increased public and regulatory scrutiny, adding caution about how quickly these technologies will be widely dispersed. The software in driverless cars remains more complex and less deterministic than that in airliners; we still lack technology and techniques to certify it as safe. Some even argue that solving for generalized autonomous driving is tantamount to solving for AGI.

Analysis of the best available data suggests that the reshaping of mobility around autonomy will take more than a decade and will proceed in phases, beginning with systems limited to specific geographies such as urban or campus shuttles (such as the recent product announcement from Zoox, an American AV company). Trucking and delivery are also likely use cases for early adoption, and several leading developers are focusing on these applications both in a fully autonomous mode and as augmented, “convoy” systems led by human drivers. In late 2020, in a telling shift for the industry from “robotaxis” to logistics, Uber sold its driverless car unit, having spent billions of dollars with few results. The unit was bought by Amazon-backed Aurora to focus the technology on trucking. More automated systems will eventually spread as technological barriers are overcome, but current fears about a rapid elimination of driving jobs are not supported.

AVs, whether cars, trucks, or buses, combine the industrial heritage of Detroit and the millennial optimism and disruption of Silicon Valley with a DARPA-inspired military vision of unmanned weapons. Truck drivers, bus drivers, taxi drivers, auto mechanics, and insurance adjusters are but a few of the workers expected to be displaced or complemented. This transformation will come in conjunction with a shift toward full electric technology, which would also eliminate some jobs while creating others. Electric cars require fewer parts than conventional cars, for instance, and the shift to electric vehicles will reduce work supplying motors, transmissions, fuel injection systems, pollution control systems, and the like. This change too will create new demands, such as for large scale battery production (that said, the power-hungry sensors and computing of AVs will at least partially offset the efficiency gains of electric cars). AVs may well emerge as part of an evolving mobility ecosystem as a variety of innovations, including connected cars, new mobility business models, and innovations in urban transit, converge to reshape how we move people and goods from place to place.

TRANSPORTATION JOBS IN A DRIVERLESS WORLD

The narrative on AVs suggests the replacement of human drivers by AI-based software systems, themselves created by a few PhD computer scientists in a lab. This is, however, a simplistic reading of the technological transition currently under way, as MIT researchers discovered through their work in Detroit. It is true that AV development organizations tend to have a higher share of workers with advanced degrees compared to the traditional auto industry. Even so, implementation of AV systems requires efforts at all levels, from automation supervision by safety drivers to remote managing and dispatching to customer service and maintenance roles on the ground.

Take, for instance, a current job description for “site supervisor” at a major AV developer. The job responsibilities entail overseeing a team of safety drivers focused in particular on customer satisfaction and reporting feedback on mechanical and vehicle-related issues. The job offers a mid-range salary with benefits, does not require a two- or four-year degree, but does require at least one year of leadership experience and communication skills. Similarly, despite the highly sophisticated machine learning and computer vision algorithms, AV systems rely on technicians routinely calibrating and cleaning various sensors both on the vehicle and in the built environment. The job description for field autonomy technician to maintain AV systems provides a mid-range salary, does not require a four-year degree, and generally requires only background knowledge of vehicle repair and electronics. Some responsibilities are necessary for implementation — including inventorying and budgeting repair parts and hands-on physical work—but not engineering.

The scaling up of AV systems, when it happens, will create many more such jobs, and others devoted to ensuring safety and reliability. Simultaneously, an AV future will require explicit strategies to enable workers displaced from traditional driving roles to transition to secure employment.

A rapid emergence of AVs would be highly disruptive for workers since the US has more than three million commercial vehicle drivers. These drivers are often people with high school or lower education or immigrants with language barriers. Leonard, Mindell, and Stayton conclude that a slower adoption timeline will ease the impact on workers, enabling current drivers to retire and younger workers to get trained to fill newly created roles, such as monitoring mobile fleets. Again, realistic adoption timelines provide opportunities for shaping technology, adoption, and policy. A 2018 report by Task Force Research Advisory Board member Susan Helper and colleagues discusses a range of plausible scenarios and found the employment impact of AVs to be proportional to the time to widespread adoption. Immediate, sudden automation of the fleet would, of course, put millions out of work, whereas a thirty-year adoption timeline could be accommodated by retirements and generational change.

Meanwhile, car-and-truck makers already make vehicles that augment rather than replace drivers. These products include high-powered cruise control and warning systems frequently found on vehicles sold today. At some level, replacement-type driverless cars will be competing with augmentation-type computer-assisted human drivers. In aviation, this competition went on for decades before unmanned aircraft found their niches, while human-piloted aircraft became highly augmented by automation. When they did arrive, unmanned aircraft such as the US Air Force’s Predator and Reaper vehicles required many more people to operate than traditional aircraft and offered completely novel capabilities, such as persistent, twenty-four-hour surveillance.

Based on the current state of knowledge, we estimate a slow shift toward systems that require no driver, even in trucking, one of the easier use cases, with limited use by 2030. Overall shifts in other modes, including passenger cars, are likely to be no faster.

Even when it’s achieved, a future of AVs will not be jobless. New business models, potentially entirely new industrial sectors, will be spurred by the technology. New roles and specialties will appear in expert, technical fields of engineering of AV systems and vehicle information technologies. Automation supervision or safety driver roles will be critical for levels of automation that will come before fully automated driving. Remote management or dispatcher, roles will bring drivers into control rooms and require new skills of interacting with automation. New customer service, field support technician, and maintenance roles will also appear. Perhaps most important, creative use of the technology will enable new businesses and services that are difficult to imagine today. When passenger cars displaced equestrian travel and the myriad occupations that supported it in the 1920s, the roadside motel and fast-food industries rose up to serve the “motoring public.” How will changes in mobility, for example, enable and shape changes in distribution and consumption?

Equally important are the implications of new technologies for how people get to work. As with other new technologies, introducing expensive new autonomous cars into existing mobility ecosystems will just perpetuate existing inequalities of access and opportunity if institutions that support workers don’t evolve as well. In a sweeping study of work, inequality, and transit in the Detroit region, Task Force researchers noted that most workers building Model T and Model A Fords on the early assembly lines traveled to work on streetcars, using Detroit’s then highly developed system. In the century since, particularly in Detroit, but also in cities all across the country, public transit has been an essential service for many workers, but it has also been an instrument facilitating institutional racism, urban flight to job-rich suburbs, and inequality. Public discourse and political decisions favoring highway construction often denigrated and undermined mass transit, with racial undertones. As a result, Black people and other minorities are much more likely to lack access to personal vehicles.

“Technology alone cannot remedy the mobility constraints” that workers face, the study concludes, “and will perpetuate existing inequities absent institutional change.” As with other technologies, deploying new technologies in old systems of transportation will exacerbate their inequalities by “shifting attention toward what is new and away from what is useful, practical, and needed.” Innovating in institutions is as important as innovating in machines; recent decades have seen encouraging pilot programs, but more must be done to scale those pilots to broader use and ensure accountability to the communities they intend to serve. “Transportation offers a unique site of political possibility.”

Consumer Reports now rewards driver monitoring, but only Ford and GM pass muster

With more automakers including driver assistance systems in their cars, Consumer Reports is changing how it grades those vehicles. Starting this year, the outlet will add an additional two points to a car’s overall score if its included driver assistance system encourages safe driving. Moving forward, it will also deduct points from a vehicle’s total score if it finds the opposite is true, starting with two points in 2024 and then four points in 2026 and beyond.

“We believe it's time to recognize vehicles that have found a safer way to deploy this technology,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of the publication’s Auto Test Center. By its own estimation, Consumer Reports says an adequate driver monitoring system is one that will “reliably” detect when the driver has become inattentive and alert them to that fact. It adds the system should escalate those warnings and eventually stop the car if it finds they’re not responding.

Consumer Reports said it would also take into account an automaker’s privacy policy when evaluating a driver monitoring system, and may not award additional points in some instances. The outlet reasons strong privacy protections are essential to convince drivers to use the feature.

The outlet will put the new ranking guidelines into action when reveals its 2022 Autos Top Picks on February 17th, but it gave an early preview of what to expect on Thursday, noting only cars from Ford and GM earned additional points for their driver assistance features. The outlet said BMW, Ford, GM, Tesla and Subaru all claim their systems can detect and prevent driver inattention, but notes it found some “serious flaws” in those systems through its testing.

Beyond mentioning the automaker, Consumer Reports didn’t call out Tesla specifically, but the two have an adversarial history. In 2020, Consumer Reports ranked Autopilot a “distant second” to GM’s Super Cruise. At the time, it said GM’s system was better at notifying drivers when it was about to disengage, and the automaker’s use of an infrared camera to monitor the driver led to a safer system overall.

Airstream's concept electric camping trailer propels itself

Even Airstream is getting in on electric vehicles. According to Autoblog, the Thor brand has introduced a pair of EV concepts that include the eStream, a self-propelled camper. The dual-motor trailer not only reduces the burden on the towing vehicle, but can be remote-controlled from your phone to help you hitch up, reverse or simply move your camp site. You can even use the motors to shift the weight distribution, so you might not need a special hitch to handle certain trailer loads.

The other concept, the Thor Vision Vehicle, is a Ford Transit-based electric RV. The design is conventional, but Thor teased a "best in class" 300-mile range along with a digital cockpit that includes extensive tools to find chargers along your route.

There's no mention of whether or not the eStream or TVV will lead to ready-to-buy models, let alone timeframes for production. However, it's easy to see both reaching customers. Campers and other trailers significantly limit the range of any towing vehicle, and often demand extra power. While an electric camper like the eStream would have its own challenges (the weight and wear of its batteries, for instance), it could limit the overall impact on range and make towing an option for vehicles that would normally struggle.

GM aims to use hydrogen fuel cells for mobile power generators

Automakers have been pursuing the dream of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for decades — who wouldn't want a car that runs on renewable hydrogen and only emits water vapor? But many challenges, from designing cars that can easily hold the fuel, to setting up reliable hydrogen distribution, have made it difficult to turn that dream into a reality. But what if you used those fuel cells to set up a remote EV charging station, or to replace a traditional gas or diesel generator for a large camp? That's what GM is planning to do with its HYDROTEC fuel cell technology, the company announced today.

GM

GM's Mobile Power Generators, or MPGs, are pretty self descriptive: they'd basically let you bring large amounts of electricity anywhere without burning fossil fuels, or expanding a local power grid. It could be useful for concerts, movie sets, or neighborhoods that frequently lose power. (In my town outside of Atlanta, almost everyone owns a gas generator to deal with storm-related outages.) 

The announcement also makes plenty of sense for GM, as it's already bringing its fuel cell technology to trucking, aerospace and rail partners. The company says the MPGs will be able to spit out 60 to 600 kilowatts without producing much noise or heat.

GM plans to show off an MPG-powered EV charging station in the middle of 2022, a project co-funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the U.S. Army. Additionally, the California Energy Commission is exploring how MPGs could help provide energy during power shutdowns. GM is also working together with Renewable Innovations to build the EMPOWER rapid charger, which could deliver fast EV charging to existing stations without the need for huge infrastructure improvements. Taking things to an even more extreme level, there's a large MPG implementation that could potentially power large military camps and heavy-duty equipment. (And as a bonus, those camps can actually use the water the MPG emits.)

While it'll likely be years before MPGs can actually deployed, it's heartening to see GM explore uses for fuel cells outside of cars. Battery-powered EVs have evolved so quickly that hydrogen-powered cars don't have much of a future (sorry, Toyota). So it's about time we start considering other ways fuel cells could help.