The Driverless Revolution Isn’t Coming Anytime Soon
Self-Driving Cars Have Come A Long Way, But Still Have a Long Way to Go And Electric Cars Still Will not Go Very Far On A Single Charge.We’ve all heard the story at some point in the past few years. Electric cars are the future we're told, overlooking the fact that electric cars have been around since 1832, fifty years before the first internal combustioned engined car hit the roaad, and they haven't made it into the present yet. The tech and auto industries are on the cusp of rolling out vehicles that can drive themselves and will forever transform the way we move, according to the hype. Soon we’ll be able to summon driverless personal transport pods that will whisk us to our destinations, making personal vehicles unnecessary and freeing up all the space wasted on parking to be used for parks and public gathering spaces — or so they tell us.
Tech luminaries continually promise driverless vehicles are just a few years away, until that
time passes and… they’re still a few years away. They’re definitely coming, they reassure us. But what if, counter to their claims, self-driving vehicles aren’t so close after all?
That’s not to say there won’t be some application of these technologies in the near future. New cars — at least the high-end models — are increasingly equipped with technologies to help with parking, changing lanes, slowing when you get close to another vehicle, automatically starting the wipers when it rains, and more. And transport trucks will likely see a high level of automation in the coming years, particularly for highway driving, with humans taking over to get to and from the highway.
However, when it comes to getting vehicles to drive themselves on regular roads, under all weather conditions, with people running in front of them, cyclists passing by, and other (human-driven) cars all around; well, that’s going to take a bit longer than technologists thought, or at least led us to believe.
Much more to read
VW Audi Suspends Electric Vehicle Production Due To Battery Shortage
Today in “news that affects all electric vehicle manufacturers”, Audi has announced that it has suspended production of its e-Tron electric SUV effective February 20 and won’t resume untilfurther notice. The suspension has been a resolve of “resolving production issues”, which are mainly attributed to bottlenecks in battery supply, according to Business Insider.
Uber CEO Halts All Autonomous Car Tests After Deadly Crash
The Uber vehicle was reportedly headed northbound when a woman walking outside of the crosswalk was struck.
The woman was taken to the hospital where she died from her injuries.
Tempe Police says the vehicle was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash and a vehicle operator was also behind the wheel.
Police added in a statement that the woman’s “next of kin has not been notified yet so her name is not being released at this time. Uber is assisting and this is still an active investigation.”
In a brief statement from an Uber spokesperson, they confirm:
“We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.”And Bloomberg reports that Uber will now halt all autonomous car-testing in all cities (including San Francisco, Phoenix, and Pittsburgh).
Two questions come to mind - was the women crossing the road on Facebook at the time (Zuckerberg's fault) and/or was the car hacked by Russia? (Putin's fault).
This is the first pedestrian killed by an autonomous vehicle.
As Tiffany Li - (@tiffanycli) notes, who should be liable for this death? Uber? The car manufacturer? The software programmers? Tech lawyers have debated this question for decades. If this goes to trial, we'll soon have an answer.
I saw the following expert opinion on the health safety or otherwise of electric cars. It’s interesting that they didn’t compare exposure with petrol/gas/diesel cars, and some people report hybrids making them feel ill.
POST – There’s no disputing that hybrid cars are good for the environment ( TAP – and your exposure to noxious gases like Nitrous Oxide and particulates). But lately another issue has been raised:
Are hybrids healthy for the drivers and passengers as regards electro-magnetic exposures?
It’s a legitimate question. I’ve written extensively on the dangers of electromagnetic fields (EMF) myself, and have previously warned you about the potential dangers these hybrid vehicles might pose.
The flow of electrical current to the motor of a hybrid vehicle produces magnetic fields, which studies have associated with serious health risks, including a heightened risk of leukemia among children.
Additionally, since the batteries and power cables in hybrids are often placed close to the driver and passengers, it’s likely that some exposure to electromagnetic fields is unavoidable. And the exposure is a prolonged one as many drivers spend hours each day at the wheel.
So, should you buy a hybrid? Or are you gambling with your health while making an effort to go green?
Electro-Pollution Specialist Weighs in On the Potential Dangers
Stan Hartman is an environmental health consultant in Boulder, CO, specializing in electro-pollution. He believes the article featured in The New York Times contains many misleading statements that may frighten people unnecessarily.
“There’s no more difficult a situation to try to get accurate EMF readings in than a moving car, and the errors will almost certainly be to exaggerate toward the high end, he states.
With instruments that tend to do that already, and don’t claim high accuracy to begin with (6 decibels compared to less than 1 for a good professional meter), they end up scaring people unjustifiably.”
Hartman, who conducted his own EMF safety test of a 2007 Toyota Prius Hybrid, offered the following corrections and explanations to the Times article above:
Trifield meters are useful, but it’s important to be aware of their sensitivity to high frequencies when trying to determine ELF levels, and of the fact that standard Trifields, unlike most gaussmeters, are frequency-weighted. Higher frequencies read as higher magnetic fields. So a 120 Hz field will read twice as high as a 60 Hz field, a 180 Hz field three times too high, etc., and they have significant sensitivity as high as 100 kHz, and some residual sensitivity to 100 MHz – on the magnetic, not radio/microwave setting. This can result in wildly high readings if they’re interpreted as ELF when higher frequencies are present (like near the floorboards of cars with electronic ignitions, which include many more vehicles than just the Prius and other hybrids).
AC magnetic field readings were consistently higher on the rear seats than on the front seats.
Measurements in the rear passenger compartment were made in the center of the seats, away from the doors, to avoid confusion with the ELF magnetic fields from the magnetized, revolving steel wires in the tires. Tire fields are too low-frequency to be detected by most gaussmeters, which have 30 or 40 Hz low-frequency filters to keep them stable while moving in the earth’s field, but they’re present in most if not all vehicles, even those with “polyester-belted” radials, which still have significant steel in them. They’re usually confined to within a few inches of the back doors.
ELF magnetic fields were highest when both the gasoline engine and the electric motor were running – when the vehicle was warming up, accelerating, climbing even slightly, or charging the battery. During hard acceleration, they could reach 6 or 8 mG at seat level on the rear seats, diminishing higher up from the seats.
Operating on the electric motor alone, the readings in the back were usually less than 3 mG at seat level, diminishing upward to about 0.4 mG at head level. Average readings on the seats in the back under different driving conditions were around 2.8 mG.
At the surface of the back seats, the highest AC magnetic fields were found to be oriented perpendicular to the ground, but this may have been simply because the pickup coils could be held closer to the seats in that position.
At 60 Hz (actually between 54 and 66 Hz), levels were less than 1 mG at the places of highest exposure, on the rear seats.
For VLF magnetic fields (2-300 kHz), there was a regular fluctuation between approximately 0.6 and 12 mA/m (0.0075 – 0.15 mG) when the gasoline engine was engaged. Levels were 4-6 mA/m (0.05 – 0.075 mG) when operating on the electric motor alone.
There was a less than 0.3 mG, constant, approximately 6 Hz pulse coming from the bottom of the door frames, on the left side only.
There was an area of low-to-medium power density (depending on your point of view – it was less than 1 uW/cm2) high frequencies (> 10 MHz), apparently originating from the smart key slot, on the dash to the right and below the steering wheel. It extended 14 or 15 inches toward the driver’s seat, where it diminished into the low nanowatt range. The driver’s knees and right hand would be exposed to it. It might affect Trifield readings, and may be similar to readings for smart-key systems in other types of vehicles.
There was an approximately 8 kV static electric field on the driver’s door arm rest.
The NY Times article’s statements about Trifields and other AC gaussmeters not measuring DC fields is misleading – that “the meter is set up to test alternating current fields, whereas the power moving to and from a hybrid vehicle’s battery is direct current.” Direct current motors, when they’re spinning, put out alternating fields as well as DC fields, which are detectable on an AC gaussmeter when their rpms are within the meter’s frequency range. I’m not sure what the rpm ranges are on hybrid electric motors, but when testing it’s important to test with a meter that at least goes into the low VLF range (2 kHz), and with a VLF meter as well.
Electric Vehicles Could Completely Replace Gas-Powered Cars by 2025 or Soonerhttp://theantimedia.org/electric-vehicles-replace-gas-powered/
April 6, 2016
(ANTIMEDIA) Electric vehicles might kill fossil fuel-powered models far sooner than the industry — or anyone, for that matter — could have imagined. Gas-powered cars, according to several predictions, will be entirely replaced by electric vehicles as soon as 2025.
Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors and its major rivals are now producing electric vehicles (EVs) with improved battery technology — at prices comparable to combustion-engine predecessors, and at the fastest pace yet — in a desperate attempt to match consumer demand.
Stanford University’s Tony Seba has posited that coal, oil, and gas production and usage will be all but obsolete by 2030. He has written a book, Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation, which touts technological advancement and its plunging costs as the means to solve fossil fuel dependence.
“The key to the disruption of energy lies in the exponential cost and performance improvement of technologies that convert, manage, store, and share clean energy,” Seba writes. Once technologies attain a certain level of improvement, as in the case of mobile and smartphones, affordability follows quickly and the market grows exponentially — leaving old technology virtually obsolete. Seba sees this happening with renewable, sustainable energy replacing fossil fuel-derived energy.
“It will be over by 2030. Maybe before,” he writes in the book. “Oil, natural gas (methane), coal, and uranium will simply become obsolete for the purposes of generating significant amounts of electricity and powering the automobile.”
Two EVs at the forefront of his prediction are the Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt. Orders for the Model 3 — whose production is still 18 months in the future — surpassed 200,000 in less than two days, despite the $35,000 price tag and the $1,000 deposit required from customers in advance.
“Adios, gas-powered cars,” Barclay’s analyst Brian Johnston enthused over the massive order tally, which topped monthly sales by General Motors, according to RenewEconomy. Several additional analysts called the Model 3 a “game-changer,” noting Musk’s desire to claim the market from producers of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
As technology advances and production costs plunge, customers will naturally gravitate toward incredibly efficient EVs — so within a few years, Seba predicts, EVs will be cheaper to purchase than traditional fossil fuel-powered vehicles.
“The Internal Combustion Engine is 17-21 per cent efficient while the electric motor is 90-95 per cent efficient. The EV is 5 times more energy efficient than the ICE car,” Seba explained. “Combine that with the fact that it’s cheaper to transmit electrons (electricity) than atoms (gasoline or diesel) and you get that energy costs/mile are 10 times cheaper for EVs.”
It should be noted electric vehicles comprise only one facet of the booming renewable and sustainable energy revolution now taking place. Though the United States seems to hold on to its fossil fuel industry for dear life, numerous countries around the world have planned ahead by implementing renewable energy programs at a rapid pace — and with enormous success.
Costa Rica derived 99 percent of its energy from renewables last year. Scotland’s renewables accounted for 57 percent of its energy in 2015. Denmark, which employs several forms of renewable energy, generated 42 percent of its electricity last year from wind turbines, alone. Sweden, Finland, and a multitude of other countries are attempting the same success with various sustainable energy sources, from biomass and geothermal to wind and solar.
“It’s happening,” Seba told RenewEconomy during the COP21 climate talks in Paris. “When you look at the industry from a technology cost curve and the adoption of the market of technologies such as solar and electric vehicles, and energy storage, and the astonishing progress of self driving cars, it’s actually happening more quickly than I predicted.”
Whether the U.S. will remain obstinate in its commitment to fossil fuels for much longer is a matter of debate, though Seba is, perhaps, optimistic:
“In twenty years we’ll wonder how we put up with the horrendous consequences of the incumbent, conventional, $8 trillion-a-year energy industry. If Nikola Tesla and Thomas Alva Edison rose from the dead, they would recognize the industry that they helped build a century ago — and they would be disappointed at how little it has changed.”
Seba recognized the actual shackle holding the U.S. back from the implementation of renewable energy. According to Seba:
“The conventional energy model is about Big Banks financing Big Energy to build Big Power Plants or refineries in a few selected places. The new architecture is about everyone financing everyone to build smaller, distributed power plants everywhere.”
This article (Electric Vehicles Could Completely Replace Gas-Powered Cars by 2025 or Sooner) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Claire Bernish and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not Everyone Agrees However,
Bjorn Lomborg wrote in the Daily Telegraph: Don't be Fooled - Elon Musk's Electric Cars Are Not About To Save The Planet
As Elon Musk presented the new Tesla 3, a fawning press announced that the “world-changing car” could “dominate” the market. Within days, 276,000 people had put down $1,000 to pre-order the car.
But the Model 3 doesn’t exist yet. There is no final production version, much less any production. Musk is “fairly confident” that deliveries could start by the end of 2017. But running on schedule isn’t Tesla’s strong suit. Meanwhile, Tesla’s current best-seller has been plagued by quality problems.
All of this might just be another iPhone vs Galaxy conversation – except that these vehicles are hailed as green saviours and so are subsidised to the tune of billions of pounds.
Before unveiling the car, Musk sanctimoniously declared that Tesla exists to give the planet a sustainable future. He pointed to rising CO₂ levels. He lamented that 53,000 people die from air pollution from transportation. Tesla, the story goes, is a lifesaver. Like other electric cars, it has “zero emissions” of air pollution and CO₂.
If the USA had 10 per cent more petrol cars by 2020, air pollution would claim 870 more lives. A similar increase in electric ones would cause 1,617 more deaths a year, mostly because of the coal burned.
If we were to scale this to the UK, electric cars would cause the same or more air pollution-related deaths than petrol-powered cars. In China, because their coal power plants are so dirty, electric cars make local air much worse: in Shanghai, pollution from more electric-powered cars would be nearly three-times as deadly as more petrol-powered ones.
Moreover, while electric cars typically emit less CO₂, the savings are smaller than most imagine. Over a 150,000 km lifetime, the top-line Tesla S will emit about 13 tonnes of CO₂. But the production of its batteries alone will emit 14 tonnes, along with seven more from the rest of its production and eventual decommissioning.
Compare this with the diesel-powered, but similarly performing, Audi A7 Sportback, which uses about seven litres per 100km, so about 10,500 litres over its lifetime. This makes 26 tonnes of CO₂. The Audi will also emit slightly more than 7 tons in production and end-of-life. In total, the Tesla will emit 34 tonnes and the Audi 35. So over a decade, the Tesla will save the world 1.2 tonnes of CO₂.
Reducing 1.2 tonnes of CO₂ on the EU emissions trading system costs £5; but instead, the UK Government subsidises each car with £4,500. All of the world’s electric cars sold so far have soaked up £9 billion in subsidies, yet will only save 3.3 million tonnes of CO₂. This will reduce world temperatures by 0.00001°C in 2100 – the equivalent of postponing global warming by about 30 minutes at the end of the century. Electric cars will be a good idea, once they can compete – which will probably be by 2032. But it is daft to waste billions of pounds of public money on rich people’s playthings that kill more people through air pollution while barely affecting carbon emissions. The Tesla 3 is indeed a “zero emissions” marvel – but that is only because it does not yet exist.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Why we may never have self-driving cars
The problem is really, really hard:
Automobile drivers, for obvious reasons, often have much less time to react. “When something pops up in front of your car, you have one second,” Casner says. “You think of a Top Gun pilot needing to have lightning-fast reflexes? Well, an ordinary driver needs to be even faster.”
In other words, the everyday driving environment affords so little margin for error that any distinction between “on” and “in” the loop can quickly become moot. Tesla acknowledges this by constraining the circumstances in which a driver can engage Autopilot: “clear lane lines, a relatively constant speed, a sense of the cars around you and a map of the area you’re traveling through,” according to MIT Technology Review. But Brown’s death suggests that, even within this seemingly conservative envelope, driving “on the loop” may be uniquely unforgiving.
Clear lanes, constant speed, awareness of cars around you, a good map. That's about as easy as you can make it for the guidance system, and it's still too hard.
But NASA has been down this road before, too. In studies of highly automated cockpits, NASA researchers documented a peculiar psychological pattern: The more foolproof the automation’s performance becomes, the harder it is for an on-the-loop supervisor to monitor it. “What we heard from pilots is that they had trouble following along [with the automation],” Casner says. “If you’re sitting there watching the system and it’s doing great, it’s very tiring.” In fact, it’s extremely difficult for humans to accurately monitor a repetitive process for long periods of time. This so-called “vigilance decrement” was first identified and measured in 1948 by psychologist Robert Mackworth, who asked British radar operators to spend two hours watching for errors in the sweep of a rigged analog clock. Mackworth found that the radar operators’ accuracy plummeted after 30 minutes; more recent versions of the experiment have documented similar vigilance decrements after just 15 minutes.
The fallback for the guidance system is to have the driver take over, but it looks like people don't handle this situation very well. And it also looks like people don't want to handle the situation well.
According to some researchers, this potentially dangerous contradiction is baked into the demand for self-driving cars themselves. “No one is going to buy a partially-automated car [like Tesla’s Model S] just so they can monitor the automation,” says Edwin Hutchins, a MacArthur Fellow and cognitive scientist who recently co-authored a paper on self-driving cars with Casner and design expert Donald Norman. “People are already eating, applying makeup, talking on the phone and fiddling with the entertainment system when they should be paying attention to the road,” Hutchins explains. “They’re going to buy [self-driving cars] so that they can do more of that stuff, not less.”
This problem (self-driving cars) smells a lot to me like what we've seen in the Artificial Intelligence research community. There have been widely publicized advances on very narrow, specific technology problems, but AI has remained "just 5 years away" for 30 years. The problem there is that we really don't know what Intelligence is (at least in enough detail to specify it for a computer). Likewise, we don't understand how to safely react to the myriad of potentially dangerous driving situations to be able to specify it for the computer.
Maybe it's just that computers process data so differently from us that we simply can't specify these things.
Bottom line: don't expect a self-driving car anytime soon, no matter what the auto companies are saying.
Friday, September 2, 2016
Fed.Gov: We're not sure about these self-driving cars
Outbreak of sanity:
Fully autonomous cars may never reach public roads, according to the chairman of the US National Transportation Safety Board.
Speaking in an interview with MIT Technology Review, Christopher Hart said: “I'm not confident that we will ever reach that point. I don’t see the ideal of complete automation coming any time soon.”
“Some people just like to drive. Some people don't trust the automation so they're going to want to drive. [And] there’s no software designer in the world that's ever going to be smart enough to anticipate all the potential circumstances this software is going to encounter,” Hart said.
It's almost like the NTSB reads
German Police Investigate After Tesla on Autopilot Smashes Into Bushttp://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/10/01/german-police-investigate-tesla-autopilot-smashes-bus/
Police in northern Germany say a Tesla being driven with its Autopilot system engaged collided with a bus on a highway.But Tesla says the Autopilot was not at fault.
Ratzeburg police say that the crash happened Wednesday afternoon on a stretch of autobahn about 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Hamburg. The Tesla driver was slightly injured.
Police said in a statement Thursday that the 50-year-old Tesla driver told officers he had used the Autopilot. It wasn’t immediately clear whether police had themselves confirmed the Autopilot’s use, and calls to the Ratzeburg police precinct weren’t answered late Thursday.
A Tesla spokeswoman in Palo Alto, California, said Thursday the Autopilot system was on and functioned properly in the incident, based on conversations the company had with the driver and authorities.
The system could not have prevented the crash because the bus swerved into the Tesla driver’s lane while the Tesla was next to the bus, the company said.
Tesla updated the Autopilot software this month following a deadly crash in May. In that crash, a driver using the system was killed when his Model S sedan struck a tractor-trailer in Florida.
6 Ways Driverless Cars Are Going To Kill Lots Of Peoplehttp://www.cracked.com/blog/why-self-driving-cars-are-tremendously-dumb-idea/?wa_user1=4&wa_user2=Tech&wa_user3=blog&wa_user4=feature_module
You've probably read a few articles about driverless cars over the past couple of years. The technology is coming along quickly, with fleets of test cars already on the roads in some states. It seems like soon we'll achieve the American dream of stuffing our faces and texting all we want while still managing to avoid public transportation.
But the reality is quite different. We're diving into this technology a little too quickly and ignoring all the warning signs about how we are going to screw up on the way to Driverless Car Utopia.
#6. Self-Driving Cars Are More Likely To Get In Accidents -- For NowBy the middle of the 21st Century, once we are all puttering around in our Jetson-mobiles, driverless cars will probably live up to their promise of being safer -- up to 90 percent safer than cars which depend on our stupid human brains to control them, in fact. That is undeniably awesome, and would save more than a quarter of a million lives each decade, as well as hundreds of billions in healthcare costs. It will totally make up for driving around in what appears to be a Pokemon that walked in on its parents having sex.
But until then, according to the studies we have available so far, driverless cars are far less safe than regular cars. One out of every 12 in California got in accidents over the course of just six months. And a longer study of all accidents involving autonomous cars between 2012 and 2015, compared to those involving just regular ones in 2013, found that the former were five times more likely to get into crashes. Even when they controlled for the fact that people don't usually report minor dings or fender benders, the self-driving cars were still two times as dangerous.
And even though there are only a handful of them on the roads, they have already been responsible for one death. In May, a Tesla driver in Florida put his car in self-driving mode and popped a Harry Potter film in his portable DVD player. Then his car decided to make a simple lane change. Unfortunately, it couldn't detect the difference between a clear blue sky and the large white side of an 18-wheel truck, and bam, J.K. Rowling could add another innocent person to her kill list.
#5. Self-driving Cars Always Follow the Law -- And That's Bad
Like some kind of ridiculous goody-two-shoes who brags about how well they did on their driving test and the fact that they have never gotten a traffic ticket, autonomous cars are programmed to absolutely always follow the law. Again, one day this means they will be a lot better than people, because they won't be so distracted by rocking out to Whitesnake that they blow through a stop sign.
But for now, while they are on the roads with cars that still have drivers in them, it means they can't react to ambiguity. NO ONE follows traffic laws all the time. How many times have you sped up to make a red light, or merged into traffic that was going above the speed limit? You have to be able to balance what is legal with what is safe in the moment. Driverless cars won't be able to make decisions like that, but are surrounded by people who do, which will lead to accidents. In fact, all those crashes in the studies mentioned in the first point involved some form of human error -- usually a regular car hitting an autonomous car -- because the human driver expected the self-driving car to act how a person would in that situation, not a computer.
DMV Wins: Uber Removes Self-Driving Cars From San Francisco Roads After Registrations Revokedhttp://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-12-22/dmv-wins-uber-removes-self-driving-cars-san-francisco-roads-after-registrations-revo
Just over a week after Uber, apparently convinced the law applies to everyone else but not the world's most valuable and cash burning Unicorn, launched car self-driving tests in San Francisco, despite not only not getting regulatory approval but with the DMV slamming the move.
"We have a permitting process in place to ensure public safety as this technology is being tested," the DMV said at the time. "Twenty manufacturers have already obtained permits to test hundreds of cars on California roads. Uber shall do the same." However, as we said at the time, it was "unclear if Uber will face any consequences. The DMV declined to say what, if any, recourse would be pursued for companies testing without a permit. Otto, Uber's self-driving arm, has defied regulators before without consequence. Earlier this year, before being acquired by Uber, it tested a self-driving truck in Nevada, despite a warning from the state's DMV that it was violating state rules. The news was revealed in a Backchannel report."
However, when a self-driven Uber car was caught on tape running a red light later that same day, the DMV's list of options was narrowed, and prompted the agency to issue a cease and desist order to Uber.
Uber also ignored this latest escalation, and continued the self-driving car test.
Then overnight, Uber's little PR stunt met an abrupt end after the California Department of Motor Vehicles said on Wednesday it revoked the registration of 16 Uber self-driving cars because they had not been properly permitted. For the last week, the agency was demanding that Uber shut down its program and comply with regulations requiring a permit to test self-driving cars on public roads.
As a result, Uber finally removed its self-driving cars from San Francisco streets, halting the autonomous program one week after its launch, despite again claiming that it was not obligated to have a permit because its vehicles require continuous monitoring by a person in the car. San Francisco was supposed to be Uber's second testing ground for its self-driving cars. The company unveiled its self-driving cars in September in Pittsburgh.
"We're now looking at where we can redeploy these cars but remain 100 percent committed to California and will be redoubling our efforts to develop workable statewide rules," an Uber spokeswoman said in a statement. California defines autonomous vehicles as having the capability to drive "without the active physical control or monitoring of a natural person."
Uber has argued that the law does not apply to its cars, which cannot stay in autonomous mode continuously. A driver and an engineer are in the front seats to take over frequently in sticky traffic situations such as construction zones or pedestrian crossings. As we reported before, Uber's defiance was met with threats of legal action from the DMV and the state attorney general.
The DMV told Uber that if it had obtained a permit, the regulator would have given the green light to the self-driving pilot. DMV director Jean Shiomoto said in a letter sent to Uber on Wednesday that she would "personally help to ensure an expedited review and approval process," which she said can take less than three days.
Uber, however, does not want to do this for one simple reason: the permit process, largely seen as a public safety measure, requires companies to provide the DMV with accident reports. Should the public be made aware of any major traffic incidents, it would lead to a PR disaster for the company which has bet heavily on self-driving cars as its next growth platforn. Uber has also complained that its home state has favored complex rules over technological innovation, translation: "the rules should not apply to us."
The DMV disagreed.
“Consistent with the department’s position that Uber's vehicles are autonomous vehicles, the DMV has taken action to revoke the registration of 16 vehicles owned by Uber,” a DMV spokesperson said in a statement. “It was determined that the registrations were improperly issued for these vehicles because they were not properly marked as test vehicles. Concurrently, the department invited Uber to seek a permit so their vehicles can operate legally in California.”
The Long Road Ahead For Electric Vehicles
The debate about what comes next for EVs tends to be polarized: they are either dismissed out of hand or hailed as sounding the death knell of the internal combustion engine. Their future, as far as can be sensibly projected, lies somewhere in between. Basic economics will have the biggest say.
BREAKING WITH TRADITIONThe gasoline-powered internal combustion engine has dominated global transport since its inception more than a century ago. Its superiority has stemmed from its ability to burn fuel inside the engine; the combustion process produces a large quantity of heat, which is converted into mechanical energy. With external combustion engines, the heat transfer is very slow. Furthermore, non-oil products have lower energy density, containing a fraction of the heat energy per unit of volume that oil does. Such fuels therefore require a greater amount of onboard storage than a gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicle to cover the same distance.
No wonder oil has preserved its dominance in the transport sector. Despite suffering a long-term decline in total energy market share since its peak in 1973, oil has expanded its share in the transport market. That safeguarded niche, however, is coming under attack. Since the modern EV gradually took off in 2010-2011, its rise appears unstoppable.
An EV’s motor is powered by the electricity stored in a battery. Since the process is combustion-free, there is no exhaust. As put by Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson following the company’s decision to produce only partially or completely electric cars from 2019 onward: “This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car.”
POPULARITYAccording to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the number of EVs globally exceeded two million in 2016. The figure crossed the one-million threshold in 2015, after having been close to zero only a few years before. More than 750,000 EVs were sold worldwide in 2016, with Norway leading the way in expanding the share of EVs in total car sales.
These figures include battery electric vehicles (BEVs), such as the Tesla Model S, which runs exclusively on electricity via onboard batteries charged by plugging them into an outlet or charging station, as well as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) like the Chevy Volt, which has both an electric motor and a conventional engine, rather like hybrid cars. The difference, however, is that a hybrid car’s battery is charged through the kinetic energy dissipated by the brakes, not by plugging into an outlet or station.
While the rapid increase of EVs is impressive, the numbers should be put into perspective. Overall car sales reached a record high of 94 million in 2016 on rising global incomes, with China being the largest market. Moreover, the number of cars on the road around the world is more than one billion and is expected to reach 1.8 billion by 2035.
In this respect, EVs are starting from a very low base; their sales still represent less than 1 percent of total car purchases. Also, the rate of growth in electric car stock has slowed to 60 percent in 2016 from 77 percent in 2015 and 84 percent in 2014.
THE POWER OF EFFICIENCYSo it would be hard to see how the oil-fueled engine can be displaced anytime soon. Airplanes, cars, trucks and ships still rely overwhelmingly on oil-based fuel. The IEA sensibly concludes that “EVs still have a long way to go before reaching deployment scales capable of making a significant dent in the development of global oil demand and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”
Combined with other changes, however, such as improving fuel efficiency in conventional vehicles, EVs are helping to put downward pressure on oil demand.
Oil giant BP expects the number of EVs to increase to around 100 million by 2035 (6 percent of the global fleet). Still, such a rapid expansion will reduce the growth in oil demand by just 1.2 million barrels per day (mb/d) – currently global oil demand is around 98 mb/d. In contrast, improvements in fuel efficiency will reduce oil-demand growth by a staggering 17 mb/d – 14 times more than EVs.
Today, a typical car’s fuel efficiency is rather meager, varying between 20 and 40 percent and leaving plenty of room for improvement. Such figures highlight the importance of transport performance and emission standards regulations, as well as healthy competition to encourage continual improvements.
BOLD SUPPORTOf course, predictions – especially those that go beyond a 10-year horizon – are fraught with uncertainty. Technology, particularly battery technology, could make surprising advances. Currently, one of the main shortcomings of EVs is their limited battery range and high cost.
New EV-friendly government policies can act as an additional catalyst. EVs already benefit from government programs that encourage consumers to purchase them. For instance, in the United Kingdom there is the “Plug-in Grant,” which is a subsidy of up to GBP 4,500 deducted from the purchase price of an EV, in addition to various exemptions from taxes and charges.
Bold targets can also be set. The UK joined France’s plans to ban sales of petrol and diesel engines by 2040. But experience shows that targets, official strategies and good intentions at the governmental level are not enough, especially if they come with a high price tag.
One of the attractions of the petrol-based internal combustion engine is the fuel tax, a long-established tradition, especially in the developed world. In the UK, fuel duties alone account for about 4 percent (GBP 27.6 billion) of the total government tax receipts of some GBP 690 billion (at 2017-2018 forecasts). In Norway, tax revenue from petroleum activities reached more than $5.2 billion in 2016. Retiring the internal combustion engine age and thereby eliminating the core business of oil companies will leave a sizable hole in many governments’ budgets. Greener alternatives are unlikely to fill the gap, especially since they are still heavily reliant on subsidies.
RESOURCE CURSEAnother issue to consider is the increasing demand for minerals and metals to meet renewable-energy and battery requirements. This demand has huge environmental and economic consequences that tend to be overlooked in the current debate.
The World Bank estimates that the continuing boom in low-carbon energy technologies needed to keep the global average temperature rise at or below 2 degrees Celsius will significantly increase demand for minerals and metals. “The most significant example is electric storage batteries, where the rise in relevant metals: aluminum, cobalt, iron, lead, lithium, manganese, and nickel – grow in demand from a relatively modest level under 4 degrees Celsius to more than 1,000 percent under 2 degrees Celsius,” the bank says.
In addition to boosting mining activities, which have their own environmental footprints, the so-called “resource curse” is amplified in states where those minerals are plentiful – particularly in developing countries with weak institutions. Resource-rich countries often grow more slowly than countries that are resource-poor.
Another dimension that has yet to be fully examined is the carbon emissions cycle of manufacturing an EV, including the batteries. Some preliminary studies indicate that the production of batteries is far from carbon-dioxide neutral, at least partially cancelling out the climate benefits of electric propulsion.
NO MAGIC BULLETThe fight against climate change has shown that there are no instant solutions or magic bullets, let alone any that are easy or cheap. In the transport sector, this is particularly true.
Through the years, people have tested different alternatives. EVs use a technology that predates the conventional car: Scottish inventor Robert Anderson is believed to have invented the first electric carriage powered by non-rechargeable primary cells in 1832. Henry Ford designed a car which ran solely on ethanol in the 1880s. In 1908, he built the first flex-fuel vehicle, which could operate on either ethanol or gasoline; as oil was widely available and cheap, the choice fell on the latter. Then came the hybrid cars that took the last decade by storm.
In 2012, the UK government launched the UK H2Mobility Project, aiming to enable the commercial deployment of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) in the country from 2015. Then there are the natural gas vehicles (NGV), which for a time experienced double-digit growth, but whose widespread use has remained confined to a few countries.
Forty years ago, in an article entitled “Zapmobile” from the July/August 1977 issue of Technology Review, the authors argued that the electric car was “inevitable” as oil resources dwindled, and that EVs would become an acceptable alternative as a commuting vehicle within a few years. None of those predictions materialized. On the contrary, today proven oil reserves are at their highest ever, with prices struggling to reach $60 per barrel. This heightens the challenge faced by the competition.
Under current trends, it is an easy bet that EVs are here to stay. On their own, however, they need much more than (unsustainable) government subsidies to cause a serious disruption in the transport sector. They need to become a viable commercial alternative without government financial backing, which can be cut unexpectedly at any time.
ELECTRIC CARS AND FUEL CONSUMPTION, KEY FIGURES
- Possible uses for electric motors in transport include: 2-3 wheelers; light-duty vehicles (internal combustion, hybrids/plug-in hybrids, fuel cell vehicles, electric vehicles); heavy-duty vehicles (passenger and freight); rail (passenger and freight; high-speed rail); as well as air and water transport (IEA)
- In 2015, cars accounted for 19 mb/d of liquid fuel demand – a fifth of global demand. All else being equal, a doubling in the demand for car travel over the coming 20 years would lead to a doubling in the liquid fuel demand from cars (BP)
- In Norway, electric cars represented 17.6% of new vehicle registrations in January 2017 and hybrid cars 33.8%, totaling 51.4% (Norway’s Road Traffic Information Council)
- Motor vehicles account for nearly 60 percent of total U.S. oil consumption and more than a quarter of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions (U.S. Department of Energy)
- Largest market shares of EVs in new car sales: Norway 29%, the Netherlands 6.4%, Sweden 3.4%. China, France and the UK all have electric-car market shares close to 1.5% (IEA)
- Because the increase in freight travel demand is offset by rising fuel economy standards, heavy-duty vehicle energy consumption is expected to be approximately the same in 2040 as it was in 2016 (U.S. Energy Information Administration)
This article was originally published in Geopolitical Intelligence Services.
Driverless Cars Are Further Away Than You Think
Don’t expect self-driving cars to take over the roads anytime soon. Here’s what carmakers are really working on.
silver BMW 5 Series is weaving through traffic at roughly 120 kilometers per hour (75 mph) on a freeway that cuts northeast through Bavaria between Munich and Ingolstadt. I’m in the driver’s seat, watching cars and trucks pass by, but I haven’t touched the steering wheel, the brake, or the gas pedal for at least 10 minutes. The BMW approaches a truck that is moving slowly. To maintain our speed, the car activates its turn signal and begins steering to the left, toward the passing lane. Just as it does, another car swerves into the passing lane from several cars behind. The BMW quickly switches off its signal and pulls back to the center of the lane, waiting for the speeding car to pass before trying again.
Putting your life in the hands of a robot chauffeur offers an unnerving glimpse into how driving is about to be upended. The automobile, which has followed a path of steady but slow technological evolution for the past 130 years, is on course to change dramatically in the next few years, in ways that could have radical economic, environmental, and social impacts.
The first autonomous systems, which are able to control steering, braking, and accelerating, are already starting to appear in cars; these systems require drivers to keep an eye on the road and hands on the wheel. But the next generation, such as BMW’s self-driving prototype, could be available in less than a decade and free drivers to work, text, or just relax. Ford, GM, Toyota, Nissan, Volvo, and Audi have all shown off cars that can drive themselves, and they have all declared that within a decade they plan to sell some form of advanced automation—cars able to take over driving on highways or to park themselves in a garage. Google, meanwhile, is investing millions in autonomous driving software, and its driverless cars have become a familiar sight on the highways around Silicon Valley over the last several years.
Uber and Lyft Are Begging Government For A Monopoly On Self-Driving Carshttps://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-03-02/uber-and-lyft-are-begging-government-monopoly-self-driving-cars
It’s only a matter of time before American roads are filled with self-driving cars. In fact, it is quite likely that within the next decade or so, all the vehicles we see on the road will be self-driving, making the cars of today a thing of the past.
Already, the race to develop these vehicles is well underway, as major companies from Volvo to Alphabet Inc, the parent company of Google, are competing to have the first line of autonomous cars to obtain government approval.
While there is no denying the impact these cars of the future will have on the way Americans drive, some ridesharing companies would like to take from consumers the decision about the shape of this future.
Electric cars: An honest account of travelling in a battery powered car long distance
Express.co.uk took delivery of a Nissan Leaf, the most popular electric car in Europe, to test how suitable an electric car is and whether you travel long distances in one.
Ahead of the initial testing which was to begin on Friday at 15:30pm there were a few initial concerns. Firstly it was Friday night traffic plus the inevitable rush hour that we would face along the way. Secondly, the vehicle was delivered with 111 miles of range, not enough to make it 117 miles to the destination.
However, a short charge would certainly solve that problem and the car could always be charging during the worst of rush hour to escape that mess.
Shortly after setting off we turned the car’s heating system off and immediately gained back 10 miles of range taking the total to 124 miles of range. The traffic was as bad as you’d expect but the stop point was still in sight and the car would have enough range to get there with a little bit of range left over.
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