Tag: Transportation

Ford’s commuter van service Chariot halts operations in San Francisco

Chariot, an on-demand commuter van service owned by Ford, had to suspend it's operations in San Francisco due to compliance issues with the California Highway Patrol, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

TechCrunch reports that the CHP found Chariot drivers without the correct Class B drivers licenses during three separate inspections. A re-inspection was conducted on Thursday, which is likely why service has been suspended. The company tweeted that it hoped to resolve the issue quickly.

Chariot, which also operates in other cities like Seattle, Austin, and New York City, has been looking to disrupt mass transit in San Francisco, an ambition somewhat thwarted this week when the city proposed rules to ban shuttles from driving along public transportation routes, said TechCrunch. While it's possible that Chariot will resolve the current licensing problem quickly, hopefully the company will have learned that it can't just operate without regard to local laws and regulations.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: San Francisco Business Times


Wireless charging will make drones always ready to fly

Drones are great until you realize running all those propellers, a camera, GPS and other assorted technology bits are a real drain on the battery. If you're just using one for images it's not too big of a deal. But if you're using one for surveying, security or delivering burritos, swapping out batteries all the time can be a huge pain and time suck. Fortunately, there's a new wireless charging landing pad on its way.

The WiBotic PowerPad is a three-foot by three-foot landing station that comes with an onboard charger that can be attached to pretty much any drone according to the company. The company says the weather-resistant platform can be mounted pretty much anywhere and can help alleviate the need to handle drones that run automated flights on a regular basis.

The PowerPad also can serve as a waypoint for long-distance flights. If a drone needs to survey a large plot of land, it can stop and recharge at regular intervals on distributed platforms. No word on pricing or when the pad will be available, but there are sure to more than a few companies interested in reducing the time they spend swapping batteries while gathering data about battery health in the drones they have deployed.

WiBotic PowerPad for Drones from WiBotic Inc. on Vimeo.

Via: Geek Wire

Source: WiBotic


FAA proposes ban on large electronics in checked baggage

While most of us probably keep our laptops and other large electronics in our carry-on bags, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) still wants to avoid the risk associated with exploding lithium-ion batteries in the cargo hold of passenger aircraft. According to an official FAA document uploaded by PetaPixel's Michael Zhang, the agency is proposing a ban on large personal electronics (anything bigger than a cell phone) in checked baggage.

The FAA conducted 10 tests of laptops inside of suitcases. A heater was set against the lithium ion cell to force the battery to overheat. In one of the tests, a can of aerosol dry shampoo was in the suitcase. The currently permitted shampoo ignited from the overheating battery and caused a fire that could not be extinguished by a cargo-hold fire suppression system typical of most airlines. Other tests found similar results with other "dangerous goods" like nail polish remover, hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol.

While banning this particular combination of items in checked baggage would be the logical next step, the FAA writes that doing so would confuse passengers even more. "We believe that it would be difficult for passengers to understand and correctly meet requirements that vary based on the specific content of their checked baggage," the FAA said in the document. "Complexity increases the likelihood of non-compliance and continued presence of the risk." Requiring that these items be carried on in airplane cabins remains the simplest method, according to the FAA. Cabin crews are more effective than automated cargo systems at stopping any fires from spreading, says the FAA.

The agency presented its results and recommendation to the ICAO Multidisciplinary Cargo Safety Group that met in Paris in July. Members of the group agreed to revisit the guidelines around large electronic devices, with plans to ban them from checked baggage altogether. The current document was presented to the Dangerous Goods Panel, a multi-national working group that tells governments what provisions to introduce into national legislation. The proposed ban is set to be discussed this week and next. We've reached out to the FAA for more details and will update this post when we hear back.

Via: PetaPixel

Source: FAA, uploaded by PetaPixel


Plex for Android Auto simplifies server-based music streaming

In-car entertainment will have to step up to accommodate our automated driving future. With an AI at the wheel, we'll be free to watch movies, play games, and conduct video calls. It's easy to imagine an all-round media player, like Plex, fitting into that scenario. For now, it's making its way into regular cars, courtesy of Android Auto. Google's in-car operating system is currently available in newer vehicles, head units, and as a mobile app. And, the next time you reach for its interface, you'll have the option to stream your Plex music library. Okay, so that's not the same as watching a 4K HDR flick, but it will have to suffice while your eyes are still needed on the road.

But, what if you already use the the Spotify app for Android Auto? Well, Plex is all about personalization. If you've somehow managed to amass a music library in the streaming era, and meticulously curated it into playlists, then this is a fine way to get it into your car. Plex supports virtually any file format (from AAC to FLAC), plus you'll have access to playlists (including "recently played," and "recently added"), and voice controls. With the latter, you can just bark 'play Humble by Kendrick Lamar on Plex' to get things started. You can even say self-explanatory things like 'next song,' 'pause' or 'resume music,' 'play some music,' or 'play rock music.'

And, there's the little extras that complete the experience, like the album artwork getting draped across the head unit and app interface. Plex for Android Auto will be available in supported vehicles and aftermarket stereos (and on the Android Auto app) over the coming days.

Source: Plex


New Tesla lawsuit accuses company of LGBT discrimination

Tesla has just been hit with its second discrimination lawsuit in as many days. Just yesterday, the company was sued for racial harassment in its factories. A few months back, its diversity panel uncovered a slew of sexism. Now The Guardian reports that another employee is suing the automaker for anti-LGBT taunts.

In the newer lawsuit, reports The Guardian, an assembly line worker named Jorge Ferro was taunted and threatened for being gay. When he reported the issues, according to the suit, he was fired in retaliation. Ferro also claims that an HR rep took away his badge and insinuated that being gay was a handicap that had no place at Tesla.

Yesterday's lawsuit accuses the company of allowing racist abuse and harassment, including the use of the N-word and being told to go back to Africa. Other employees, says the complaint, drew racist and derogatory caricatures of black children. Demetric Diaz says that he was fired because he reported the issue, while his father, Owen, left Tesla when his supervisor didn't address the issues.

In a response, Tesla lines up an argument that the media should "keep in mind" that its profile makes it a target for these claims, while also stating that "If there is ever a case where Tesla is at fault, we will take responsibility. "

Tesla spokesperson:

Media reporting on claims of discrimination at Tesla should bear a few things in mind: First, as one of the most highly reported-on companies in the world, anyone who brings claims against Tesla is all but assured that they will garner significant media coverage. Second, in the history of Tesla, there has never been a single proven case of discrimination against the company. Not one. This fact is conveniently never mentioned in any reporting. Third, as we have said repeatedly, even though we are a company of 33,000 employees, including more than 10,000 in the Fremont factory alone, and it is not humanly possible to stop all bad conduct, we care deeply about these issues and take them extremely seriously. If there is ever a case where Tesla is at fault, we will take responsibility. On the other hand, Tesla will always fight back against unmeritorious claims. In this case, neither of the two people at the center of the claim, Mr. Ferro and the person who he alleges to have mistreated him, actually worked for Tesla. Both worked for a third-party. Nevertheless, Tesla still stepped in to try to keep these individuals apart from one another and to ensure a good working environment. Regardless of these facts, every lawyer knows that if they name Tesla as a defendant in their lawsuit, it maximizes the chances of generating publicity for their case. They abuse our name, because they know it is catnip for journalists. Tesla takes any and every form of discrimination or harassment extremely seriously. There is no company on Earth with a better track record than Tesla, as they would have to have fewer than zero cases where an independent judge or jury has found a genuine case of discrimination. This is physically impossible.

Via: The Verge

Source: The Guardian


Volkswagen is building an electric supercar to tackle Pike’s Peak

Last month, Volkswagen laid out a roadmap for its EV rollout, promising 300 zero-emissions vehicles by 2030. While it's certainly good PR to move the company beyond its lingering diesel scandal, it also follows other automakers that recently committed to electric vehicle fleets. But to really seal the deal, VW has a new stunt in the works: It's creating an all-electric sportscar for next June's Pikes Peak high-altitude race in Colorado.

Volkswagen is partnering with Technical Development in Wolfsburg to build the all-wheel-drive prototype. The automaker hopes it will break the record for electric racers on the course, which was set at eight minutes 57.118 seconds in 2016. Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is 12.4 miles long, with a nearly 5,000-foot climb to top out at a maximum elevation of over 14,000 feet above sea level.

"The Pikes Peak hill climb is one of the world's most renowned car races. It poses an enormous challenge and is therefore excellently suited to proving the capabilities of upcoming technologies," Volkswagen board member Dr Frank Welsch said in a press release. "Our electric race car will be equipped with innovative battery and drive technology. The extreme stress test on Pikes Peak will give us important findings that will benefit future development, and it will showcase our products and their technologies."

Source: Volkswagen


Alphabet invests $1 billion in Lyft

Last month, we reported on rumors that Alphabet, Google's parent company, was considering investing in Lyft. Now, Lyft has announced that CapitalG, which is Alphabet's growth investment fund, is leading a $1 billion financing round in the car-sharing company. This brings Lyft's total valuation to $11 billion

Alphabet's interest in Lyft isn't that surprising, if you think about it. It's already clear that Alphabet is interested in self-driving cars, as the company owns Waymo. And back in May, Waymo and Lyft announced the two companies would work together on self-driving cars. Following that, Lyft announced it would develop its own autonomous driving technology, stating that it was "core" to its business. Alphabet's interest makes sense if we stop thinking about Lyft as a ride sharing service and more of a self-driving car company.

As Uber has been plagued by woe after woe of its own making, Lyft has been quietly rising as an increasingly used alternative. This round of funding may help put the company on equal footing as Uber's rival, rather than constantly being thought of as a second-place finisher.

Source: Lyft


Scoot is adding battery-swapping cars to its San Francisco lineup

If you spend any time in San Francisco you'll see them. The red electric scooters with a white lighting bolt and the word "Scoot" plastered on the side of the cargo box. Scoot, the company behind these ubiquitous two-wheeled vehicles has been able to litter the city with over 700 of these bikes that can be picked up and dropped off via an app almost anywhere within the city. Now, the short-term rental company is eyeing cars.

According to Scoot founder and CEO Michael Keating, the electric scooter rental service has been used by almost 50,000 users since it launched in 2012. An impressive number, but as pointed out by Keating, not everyone is comfortable braving the perilous streets of San Francisco on two wheels. With that in mind, he announced a partnership with Chinese automotive startup CHJ to bring the automaker's yet-to-be-released small electric car with swappable batteries to San Francisco.

The goal of the two companies is to recreate the scooter model with a small EV. Riders would find and reserve one of these SEV (small electric vehicles) via the Scoot app, get inside and drive it to their destination, then just leave the car on the street for the next Scoot customer. That sounds great, but it's not allowed in San Francisco which is why the two companies invited the city council and policy makers to an event in the city's Dogpatch district.

At the center of the shindig was the CHJ electric vehicle (which will be sold under the company name AmpGo) . A car roughly the length of a Mercedes Smart Fortwo but less than half the width. Small electric cars are nothing new, but the yet-to-be-named SEV has swappable batteries in the trunk that can be replaced in about a minute. That's what makes it suitable for a floating rental service. If the car never has to be plugged into a wall, maintenance crews can just drive around and swap out batteries, and the vehicle is good to go. "We want to bring affordable electric transportation to every San Francisco neighborhood without needing more charging stations," Keating said.

The biggest obstacle isn't technology (the SEV is built to be part of a service like Scoot from its small size to it's Linux/Android-powered infotainment system that talks to the cloud), it's San Francisco regulations and lack of parking. In 2012, BMW launched DriveNow a service similar to Car2Go. The cars could be booked for one-way trips but the vehicles had to be parked in dedicated parking lots and the city just couldn't deliver those spaces. So in 2015, BMW left and later rebranded the service ReachNow and relaunched in Seattle.

Scoot and CHJ are hoping that the small footprint of the SEV (four to five can be parked sideways in a typical parking space), its battery-swapping technology and Scoot's history of delivering a one-way rental service in San Francisco will sway city officials. But that may prove difficult as the area has experienced an increase in traffic with, according to research by the Northeastern University and San Francisco's Transit Authority, services like Uber and Lyft account for up to 20 percent of the vehicles on city roads. Adding another car service to the already congested roads could be difficult.

Keating notes this and hopes that adding Scoot's car-rental service to complement the transportation options already available in the city could convince some residents to give up their gas-powered cars for something that's more convenient and ultimately cleaner. The California DMV reports that there are over 413,000 privately owned cars in San Francisco according to 2016 registrations. Of those only 5,000 are electric.

The CEO also noted that ride-hailing systems like Uber and Lyft need a complimentary low-cost alternative for when someone needs to get to a destination quicker than public transportation can take them. He said that the SEV would cost slightly more than the $3 per half-hour the company charges for the scooters on the network. Anyone that's used a ride-hailing services (which have rates that fluctuate wildly based on demand) knows that's a deal.

So it's an uphill battle, but Keating seems determined that it'll happen. At the end of his presentation, he announced that Scoot and CHJ had come to an agreement to import as many of the small SEVs to San Francisco as the city would allow. That puts San Francisco on the spot to make a decision about how it works with companies like Scoot. It also puts a lot of pressure on a single tiny car.

Unfortunately, Scoot and CHJ would not allow any photos of the vehicle. Yet, even though we only have a few out of focus glimpses of the vehicle in the photos provided by the companies, I was able to take it for a spin. Well, a circle, I was able to drive it around some cocktail tables in a room.

It was far from a true test of the car's capabilities, but I was impressed that all the top-line features (touch-screen dash, transmission, rear-view camera, brakes, doors) seemed ready to hit the road. One feature that really impressed me was that the company had installed two buttons on one of the small rear flares that allowed the driver to get out of the car and back it up or move it forward with these controls. This is how the car can be arranged four (or five) across in a typical parking spot.

At the end of the evening I was shown the power packs. Two 3.2kWh batteries that work in tandem to keep the car on the road up to 30 miles. It reminded me of Gogoro's electric scooter. A new way to charge without loitering around a station. Scoot and CHJ are hoping that these two boxes and the car they go in won't have them waiting around for the city as it tries to figure out if this unlikely partnership will help it reduce congestion while cutting emissions.


UK government could force petrol stations to install EV chargers

The UK's network of motorway services and petrol stations will be required to install chargers for electric cars, under plans announced by Transport Minister John Hayes. The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, which was first announced during the Queen's Speech in June but yesterday had its first reading in Parliament, outlines new powers that will help boost the uptake of electric vehicles across the UK.

According to the government, the new network of charging stations will need to be "smart," which means they can interact with the grid in order to manage demand across the UK. Operators will also be required to provide clear information on the location and operating hours of their points, as well as the available charging options, how much they cost and whether they are working order or already in use.

Ministers are clear that "all UK motorway services and large petrol retailers" will need to be on board and that the government will be given powers to "make it compulsory for chargepoints to be installed across the country." The Bill itself lists both of these pledges but clearly state that the "regulations may impose requirements" on both large fuel retailers and service area operators. This may allow the government to step in if new installations are behind targets, but some petrol station operators are already taking positive steps. Shell, for example, has already begun installing chargepoints on forecourts, which might mean ministers won't need to use these new powers.

The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill also makes provisions for the UK's self-driving future. It reiterates a lot of what was shared during the Queen's Speech, in that the all drivers of automated cars will need to be separately covered when the driver is in manual control and when the car is driving itself. Victims of accidents involving an automated vehicle will must also "have quick and easy access to compensation." Car owners will be made liable for accidents if they've modified the software on their vehicle or have failed to install important updates.

The government says it plans to invest £1.2 billion in the electric and driverless car industry, ensuring that local authorities get the money they need to install charging stations in residential streets, where electric cars are often parked on the street.

"We want the UK to be the best place in the world to do business and a leading hub for modern transport technology, which is why we are introducing the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill in Parliament and investing more than £1.2 billion in the industry," Transport Minister John Hayes said. "This bill will aid the construction of greater infrastructure to support the growing demand for automated and electric vehicles as we embrace this technology and move into the future."

Via: Gov.uk

Source: Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill (PDF)


Nissan’s Rogue is its first US car with semi-autonomous driving

You won't have to wait long to try Nissan's semi-autonomous ProPilot Assist on American streets. The automotive giant has announced that the 2018 Rogue crossover will be the first car in the US to have the feature as an option. Not surprisingly, it won't come standard. While the Rogue starts at $24,680, you'll need to spend about $35,000 for a Rogue SL with the Platinum Package to get that robotic assistance. In classic car maker fashion, you'll have to spend on extras you probably don't care for (like leather seats and large wheels) just to get the one option you do.

Again, ProPilot Assist isn't as slick as Tesla's Autopilot. It won't roll out to meet you in the driveway, or change lanes just by flicking a signal stalk. It's focused on single-lane highway driving: it'll keep you in your lane, adapt your speed to traffic and warn you about vehicles in your blind spots. This is more about relaxing a bit on lengthy trips than having the car drive itself. You won't get multi-lane highway driving until 2 years from now, and city support until 4 years from now.

All the same, this is important as one of the first semi-autonomous driving experiences that many American drivers will see. Tesla still caters to a relatively niche audience of upscale EV fans, but Nissan is thoroughly planted in the mainstream -- the Rogue is one of the most popular cars in the US, full stop. Even if only a fraction of buyers spring for the high-end trim level, that's a lot of drivers who can relinquish at least a little control on their highway journeys.

Via: Autoblog

Source: Nissan