These are the sorts of things that private citizens can't pull of alone. The government they elect has to be used to incentivise private business to build these chargers. Otherwise we'll never escape from petrol-based personal commuting.
John Voelcker over at Green Car Reports put together an interesting story about how auto companies are approaching the US federal government in preparation of infrastucture legislation.
First, the good news. GM is trying to use the environment to get more funding for EV chagrin stations. It's essential to the zero-emissions future. Here's the meat:
Now the bad news.
While CES 2018 saw Toyota make a move toward taking its fleet's powertrain over to battery electric; a turn of events I celebrated earlier this month, it seem that Toyota still hasn't given up on the awful Mirai concept, and wants money spent on Hydrogen fueling stations - an idea I've considered utterly foolish for years now. The problem is that they're not the only ones. Voelcker says that Toyota was joined by Honda in the request for hydrogen fueling infrastructure.
I've noted it time and again and I'll note it here now: Hydrogen, while likely the most abundant substance in the universe, is difficult to obtain on Earth. One needs to burn natural gas to get it. That's not eco friendly.
A few years ago I had a chance to check out the Toyota Mirai - a hydrogen powered electricly propelled car that Toyota claimed was, rather than its Pruis line or the trending battery electric vehicles, the wave of the future.
Suffice it to say I didn't agree. hydrogen is not a sustainable or ecologically friendly fuel source at this time - maybe never.
Still, Toyota put a lot of $$$$ into the research and development of the thing and they still believe that this thing, which allows for the continued time, energy and money drive-to-pump model of re-fuelling, in addition to the fact that one needs CNG or LNG to produce the fuel, is a product that Toyota hopes will take off.
To that end, Toyota has reached out to LA-based ad agency Saatchi to develop advertising materials for the series of poor logistical and ecological choices on four wheels that is the Mirai.
To that end, the ad agency took to IBM's Watson Artificial Intelligence computer, where time and energy was spent programming the supercomputer to write phrases that would appeal to every single type of consumer that would be interested in the hydrogen-powered Mirai.
The computer was able to find myriad new ways to describe the vehicle to potential buyers. Unfortunately, the data neglected to mention that tech-savvy, eco-minded buyers, are not necessarily into under-powered vehicles that have to be powered by fuel that's only available at select pumps in or around California. Especially when they realise that hydrocarbons are needed to create that fuel in the first place.
Still, the method of advertising is novel. While it's not clear how well crafted the data set was that determined the targeting for this campaign, there are plenty of ways to identify users and consumers who are in the market for this or that trinket. The added benefit of AI is that it can make the messages more applicable to potential consumers and, eventually, it holds the promise of being able to do that in real time with the latest available data. Did your Android Watch recently report that you just finished a run? How about a smoothie?
It may sound "creepy" at first, but relevance is everything when it comes to saving time and money in the ad space. I'd rather be enlightened about something I want than be annoyed by ads that interrupt the flow of my day, pushing products I have no real interest in.
So what's the takeaway? We're that much closer to Minority Report, which is, in more ways than just advertising, the holy grail of so much of tech.
I was catching up on a news backlog and came across this interesting piece on the Project Titan, the code word for the autonomous electric vehicle that Apple seems to be making. Max at Appcessories brings us up to speed with history and findings from his recent research.
One thing struck out to me in particular:
"Apple seems to have hit a bump when BMW politely excused itself from the future partnership. The German automaker, Daimler, also refused to join up with Apple for its project."
Apple, Inc. is a different company than it was in 2005, but it's worth remembering that Steve Job's Apple Computer, Inc teamed up with Motorola to create the first mobile device, a phone called the ROKR, that could connect to iTunes. At the time Motorola was at the top of hte mobile space, with a series of devices that had great performance and style, like the conversation piece, I owned, the Moto V70, the standard, practical flip, the Moto V60, and the gold standard of mobile device design at the time, the Moto RAZR.
Motorola was exactly where BMW and Diamler are now-- at the top of their industry. They worked with Apple to get the ROKR device out, but Apple was either distracted by the imminent release of their iPod Nano, which was smaller than the phone and could hold far more song's than the Motorola's arificially capped 100 song limit.
The disruption was complete two years later when Apple unveiled the iPhone, a device with more speed, more storage, a dazzling interface, and a music app. Motorola would never regain its spot as the top mobile phone maker again.
No- Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs but the lesson here is that BMW and Daimler, both of whom are working on both autonomy and advanced drive vehicles, would do well to innovate on their own-- grabbing talent where they can, lest a relationship with Apple lead to a vehicle that completely devours their core audience.
Two stories about the our destruction of the environment that caught my attention.
While I understand that the headline of the first story; "It's almost too late to save our planet from catastrophic climate change;" is trying to do the clickbait thing, but it's problematic in that it somewhat posits that it's too late to do anything about climate change. I can't see how anyone on the fence about the issue would be willing to read it.
The second one is more encouraging. Getting old vehicles off of the streets is the sort of thing that cities and governments have to do, thought I don't know how older people on fixed incomes could afford to just abandon the functionality of a vehicle. This is the sort of thing that the US GOP uses to promote the idea that Climate Change is hoax invented for a government takeover.
While Germany has long been the place for auto innovation, it's clear that over the last decade, there's been a resurgence in US auto engineering. Unfortuneately, the Big 3 aren't leading the charge, but being dragged by Tesla, Google and even Apple these days.
Germany's big 3 are being dragged as well, but today it's interesting to see how it's not just the US that's making waves. As Alina Selyukh reports for NPR, a 24 year old Columbian man just used 3D printing techniques to create a cheap, autonomous minibus-- the sort of thing that could be made incredibly quickly, cheaply, and, in its capacity as a part of public transportation, take cars off of the road, rather than chasing a consumer play that inevitably leads to more traffic.
It's impressive. Click or tap on this blog post's title for the link that'll get you the images of this adorable minibus, it's inventor and the full story.
Sam Levin and Nicki Wolf writing for The Guardian:
“The truck driver, Frank Baressi, 62, told the Associated Press that the Tesla driver Joshua Brown, 40, was “playing Harry Potter on the TV screen” during the collision and was driving so fast that “he went so fast through my trailer I didn’t see him”.”
If this is the case, then the details of this matter become both disturbing and absurd, while moving away from mechanical failure, and into an indictment of our screen-addicted and screen-distracted society.
"Baressi, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment, said the Harry Potter movie “was still playing when he died and snapped a telephone pole a quarter mile down the road”. He told the AP, however, that he heard the movie but didn’t see it."
Aside from the social implications, if this account is true, we can expect that the victim's loved one will have an exceedingly difficult time processing their loss.
Sonari Glinton, reporting for NPR's Morning Edition:
"Well, the company put out a statement saying that Brown, who was an advocate of Tesla's, that, saying, quote, that "he was a friend to Tesla and the broader EV community." And earlier in the statement, though, the company points out that this was the first accident. And then when drivers - and also they say that when drivers activate autopilot, they have to acknowledge that, among other things, it's an assist feature and it requires you to keep your hands on the wheel and steering at all times.
You have to remain in control. And before you engage, it pops up and says that. And but - and also, in a way, this accident seems inevitable because, you know, I have watched many, many videos on YouTube of Tesla drivers engaging the autopilot feature and, you know, not behaving responsibly."
A note on the media-- the announcer, Steve Inskeep, stated that the vehicle in question was a self-driving car. It's not, and while Glinton clears this up in his quote, it's important to realise that by setting the stage with his opening comments, and that makes the story harder to understand for people not in the know about Tesla, autopilot, and the other key bits of this situation.
Autopilot, the series of technologies used in conjunction that allow a Tesla Model S drive semi-autonomously, was in use when one 2015 Model S crashed, killing the driver.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration ("NHTSA") is looking into the crash and thus, looking into Autopilot.
Tesla remarked on the situation on their blog:
We learned yesterday evening that NHTSA is opening a preliminary evaluation into the performance of Autopilot during a recent fatal crash that occurred in a Model S. This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated. Among all vehicles in the US, there is a fatality every 94 million miles. Worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles. It is important to emphasize that the NHTSA action is simply a preliminary evaluation to determine whether the system worked according to expectations.
It's heartbreaking to think that someone thought their car was taking care of the driving and then, presumably all of a sudden, they end up in a crash that takes their life. Autopilot thought it may be called, Tesla expects people keep their eyes open and their hands on the wheel when using the feature. Still, there's no way to tell right now exactly what happened.
Regardless of fault, we can expect some for some draft regulations around autonomous vehicles to come out of this inquiry.
This one's simple: the headline IS the story.
Summary? Tesla shares lost 10% in today's trading as shareholders felt unconvinced that the $2.9 billion bid to purchase SolarCity, a leaser and developer of solar power generation and power generation devices, was a good idea.
Musk is going to have to come out from behind the desk and sell this one hard. Also-- it looks like it's an all-stock deal** that some thing undervalues SolarCity's potential.
**In an 8-K filing, Tesla proposed exchange from 0.122 to 0.131 shares for each share of SolarCity stock.
There's not much to say about this, but here's my initial reaction:
It's important to understand that Tesla CEO Elon Musk is the chairman of Solar City, which is run by his cousin.
Given some takes on Tesla's cash flow situation, this gambit will allow the automaker to further diversify revenue, which is currently not limited to just car sales, but battery sales and sales of carbon credits to big polluters. Investors could be intrigued to put down more money now that it's clear Tesla is in fact much more than a one-trick pony that's focused in the risky business of manufacturing and selling autos.
On the flipside, those autos are a huge draw for the business, especially now that Tesla has taken VolksWagen's place as one of the top ten auto brand values. Considering that VW is the second largest automaker in the world, that's pretty significant.
But back to Solar City. If this $2.9 billion bid is successful, Tesla is essentially an Electric Company that leases and sells devices for power generation, storage, and consumption. That's called vertical integration, and it's a principle that has long gotten the attention of investors.