Archive for the ‘cars’ Category

Report: Toyota and Panasonic to create an electric car-battery spinoff company

January 21st, 2019
A Toyota Prius battery

Enlarge / This photo taken on June 5, 2009, shows Toyota Motors' third-generation Prius hybrid vehicle battery module displayed at Panasonic's EV Energy headquarters in Kosei, Aichi, prefecture. (credit: TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)

According to Nikkei Asian Review, Toyota Motors and Panasonic have agreed to set up a joint-venture company to manufacture vehicle batteries, with Toyota owning 51 percent of the company and Panasonic owning 49 percent.

Ars Technica contacted both companies to confirm the report, and we'll update this story if we hear back.

Nikkei reports that Panasonic would transfer ownership of five battery factories in Japan and China to the joint venture. The joint venture would start operations "in the early 2020s," and it would start producing "batteries with 50 times the capacity of those now used in hybrid vehicles, aiming to bring down production costs through higher volume," according to Nikkei.

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Posted in batteries, battery electric vehicles, cars, Energy, fuel, panasonic, Tesla, Toyota | Comments (0)

Elon Musk has been pitching cheap tunnels from The Boring Company to big names

January 21st, 2019
A map of a potential location for a tunnel through Australia's Blue Mountains.

Enlarge / Plans for a potential tunnel connecting Sydney, Australia, to the West. (credit: Jeremy Buckingham)

Elon Musk—CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and The Boring Company—has been pitching his new tunnel-boring capabilities to curious elected officials as well as the director of CERN (the organization that owns and operates the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland).

Just a month after Musk opened up his first, rather rugged test tunnel under the SpaceX campus in Hawthorne, California, the CEO has been on Twitter floating prices and talking projects.

Last week Jeremy Buckingham, a member of Parliament in New South Wales' Upper House, asked Musk on Twitter, "How much to build a 50km tunnel through the Blue Mountains and open up the west of our State?" Musk replied, "About $15M/km for a two-way high-speed transit, so probably around $750M plus maybe $50M/station."

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Posted in cars, Energy, science, the boring company, Transportation, tunnels | Comments (0)

Uber wants bicycles and scooters that can drive themselves to recharge

January 21st, 2019
Uber wants bicycles and scooters that can drive themselves to recharge

Enlarge (credit: Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Uber is looking to hire people to help it develop autonomous scooter and bike technology, according to Wired-editor-turned-robotics-entrepreneur Chris Anderson. The goal would be to allow bikes and scooters to "drive themselves to charging or better locations." People interested in joining the project can fill out this form.

Uber acquired the bike- and scooter-sharing startup Jump last year and has continued offering electric bikes and scooters under the Jump brand. Efforts to develop autonomous bikes and scooters will be conducted under the Jump brand, according to Anderson. Uber also has a separate self-driving car project called the Uber Advanced Technology Group.

One of the biggest logistical challenges for companies renting out electric bikes and scooters is how to keep the batteries charged. Companies use a variety of strategies for recharging. Some companies have employees who drive around the city picking up bikes and taking them back to charging stations. A Jump competitor called Bird has experimented with paying people to collect scooters and charge them at home.

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Posted in cars, jump!, Micromobility, self-driving scooters, Uber | Comments (0)

Review: Toyota Sienna minivan mixes the solid with the subpar

January 19th, 2019
The Sienna resplendent in an elementary school parking lot.

Enlarge / The Sienna resplendent in an elementary school parking lot.

In the early 2000s, I was in the market for a big car. We needed something that could ferry our daughter and stuff around, carry drywall and other home-improvement stuff, and feel comfortable on cross-country trips to visit my family. Neither our Ford Taurus nor Saturn SL1 fit the bill, and we weren't feeling the SUV love. As we started looking into minivans, it became clear that there were three models to look at seriously: the Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country, and Toyota Sienna.

Nearly 20 years later, not much has changed. Honda, Chrysler, and Toyota still rule the minivan market in terms of sales. We drove the Town & Country's successor, the Pacifica, last year and came away very impressed. So when I found out there was a 2019 Toyota Sienna on the local press fleet, reviewing it was a no-brainer.

The Sienna got a new powertrain in 2017, and last year's model saw some safety and ride quality improvements. Toyota Safety Sense, its suite of driver-assist technology, became standard on the Sienna. Toyota also tackled ride quality by making the cabin quieter. For 2019, support for CarPlay and Amazon Alexa has been added, and the all-wheel-drive powertrain is now available on the SE trim.

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Posted in cars, Toyota Sienna | Comments (0)

Need for “a large trunk and a high-end sound system” pushed Audi to cheat

January 18th, 2019
Audi and Volkswagen signs.

Enlarge / A sign for car service for Audi and VW is pictured on January 09, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. (credit: Photo by Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images)

On Thursday, a federal grand jury in Detroit, Michigan, indicted four Audi executives for playing a role in the diesel cheating scandals that rocked parent company Volkswagen Group in 2015 and 2016. The four executives—Richard Bauder, Axel Eiser, Stefan Knirsch, and Carsten Nagel—all worked for Audi in Germany, and they have not been arrested.

The four men have been charged (PDF) with conspiracy to defraud the United States, commit wire fraud, and violate the Clean Air Act.

The indictment offered some new details on how emissions cheating unfolded at Audi and VW Group, especially with respect to emissions control system cheats on Audi's 3.0L diesel vehicles.

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Posted in Audi, cars, diesel, diesel emissions, Policy, Volkswagen, VW Group | Comments (0)

VR headsets, augmented windshields, and multiscreen infotainment at CES

January 18th, 2019
Yes, I am wearing VR in the backseat of an electric car. Yes, this is Peak CES.

Enlarge / Yes, I am wearing VR in the backseat of an electric car. Yes, this is Peak CES. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

LAS VEGAS—I'd been on the ground for less than twelve hours before I strapped on the virtual reality headset. It was only 8pm but felt far later thanks to time zones and air travel. I had already been chauffeured about that afternoon by a self-driving car, and here I was sitting in the back seat of an Audi e-tron at a race track a little south of the city. I'd already reached Peak CES, yet the show wouldn't even officially start for another 36 hours.

We were at Speedvegas for a rather exclusive look at Holoride, which Audi thinks is the next big breakthrough in in-car entertainment. According to the company—which has spun Holoride as an independent startup—it's a "radically new way to entertain backseat passengers in a brand new way." The idea is deceptively simple: you take telematics info from the car in real-time and use it to construct artificial environments in VR. Or, to put it another way, imagine you're flying in a spaceship, and every time the car accelerates, brakes, or turns, your spaceship accelerates, brakes, or turns as well.

I know what you're thinking: "wearing VR in the back of a car is going to make me carsick!" Holoride's magic formula has been to better match the car's motion to what happens in VR. That means less conflict between the messages from your eyes and your vestibular system, which means less motion sickness. (Now, only 27 percent of users will experience severe nausea, down from more than one in two before Holoride worked out its digital magic. And 53 percent experience no nausea at all.)

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Posted in Audi, augmented reality, cars, ConnectedTravel, Holoride, honda, infotainment, Nuance, Texas Instruments, virtual reality | Comments (0)

Elon Musk announces Tesla layoffs, warns about weak Q4 profits

January 18th, 2019
Tesla CEO Elon Musk visiting China in January 2019.

Enlarge / Tesla CEO Elon Musk visiting China in January 2019. (credit: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Tesla is cutting its workforce by about 7 percent, CEO Elon Musk announced in a Friday morning email to employees. Musk said that the cuts are necessary to help Tesla cope with what Musk described as an "extremely difficult challenge: making our cars, batteries and solar products cost-competitive with fossil fuels."

Tesla's stock price fell more than 9 percent on the news.

Tesla grew its workforce by 30 percent in 2018, according to Musk, but that growth turned out to be unsustainable. And Tesla is facing a number of headwinds in the coming months.

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Posted in cars, Elon Musk, layoffs, Tesla | Comments (0)

Tesla sells a new wall charger, Maryland backs away from big EV charging program

January 16th, 2019
Tesla wall charger can be plugged into a standard outlet.

Enlarge / New Tesla wall charger. (credit: Tesla)

This week, Tesla introduced a new wall charger that can plug directly into a NEMA 14-50 standard American wall outlet. The new wall charger is similar to the company's second-generation mobile wall connector but with the ability to provide 40 amps (9.6kW) to long-range Model S, X, and 3 vehicles. Mid- and standard-range vehicles still charge at 36 amps, much like the mobile wall connector.

The new wall charger can be used wherever an applicable wall charger exists, without the need for an electrician to come out an install the charger. Both the new wall charger and the electrician-installed wall connector cost $500, but the new charger that is NEMA 14-50-compatible obviously won't require electrician's fees if you have an accessible outlet. Still, Tesla recommends its electrician-installed wall connector "for new installations."

The Tesla Wall Connecter offers the fastest charging speeds, but according to Tesla, this new wall charger is 25 percent faster at charging than the Gen 2 mobile wall connector. As far as charging speed, it seems to sit somewhere between the high-end hardwired charger and the mobile charging kit.

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Posted in cars, charging infrastructure, Electric vehicles, Energy, Tesla | Comments (0)

Stop and Shop grocery chain to begin offering “store on wheels” service

January 16th, 2019
Stop and Shop grocery chain to begin offering “store on wheels” service

Enlarge (credit: Stop and Shop)

Stop and Shop, a major grocery chain in the Northeast, will begin offering a driverless grocery service in the Boston area, the company announced Wednesday.

Stop and Shop isn't the first store to make an announcement like this—Kroger and Walmart are both working on driverless grocery services of their own. But those are delivery services. The Stop and Shop service, by contrast, puts an entire miniature grocery store on wheels. It's a partnership with Robomart, a startup we first covered last June.

Conventional delivery startups like Nuro and Udelv envision a future where the customer chooses a few items of produce and those specific items are sent out in a driverless vehicle. Robomart's plan, on the other hand, is to send the entire produce aisle to the customer's driveway. Once it arrives, the customer gets to inspect the merchandise and choose which items to buy. Robomart says it will use a mix of cameras and RFID tags to determine which products a customer took and automatically charge for them.

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Posted in cars, Robomart, Stop and Shop | Comments (0)

Tesla accuses engineer of plotting secret project, she denies it and sues

January 16th, 2019
Tesla's Fremont factory in July 2018.

Enlarge / Tesla's Fremont factory in July 2018. (credit: Mason Trinca for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

An ex-Tesla engineer has sued her former employer, accusing the company of defamation.

The lawsuit (and pages of exhibits) were filed Wednesday by Cristina Balan in federal court in Seattle. Balan says she was forced out of Tesla in 2014 and has been tangling with the company for years, both in arbitration and in the press.

According to Balan’s lawsuit, the alleged defamatory statements include that she spent company money without approval, booked an unapproved trip to New York, produced a secret project for windshields for her own benefit, and conducted illegal audio recordings of coworkers.

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Posted in cars, cristina balan, Policy, Tesla | Comments (0)