Michigan’s Mock City: Where Robot Cars Will Drive (And, Ideally, Not Crash)

A purpose-built simulated town and suburb for testing autonomous vehicles–is to open this fall on 32 acres at the University of Michigan’s North Campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Mobility Transformation Facility will include straight and curving roads of asphalt and concrete, including traffic signs, stoplights, merge lanes, traffic circles, a railroad crossing, sidewalks, and streetlights.

Facades of roadside buildings will simulate the visual environment, and construction barrels and orange signs will simulate road work. There will even, ultimately, be a “mechanical pedestrian” who may not only walk on the sidewalks but perhaps dash into traffic.

The first car to use its roads will be an automated Ford Fusion Hybrid. Its maker is careful to highlight that it envisions “a future in which humans stay behind the wheel and automated technologies enhance their abilities,” although other parties go further, with the goal of removing the piloting task entirely from today’s “driver.”

The university calls it a “transportation experiment,” and it’s funded jointly by local and regional governments, major automakers, and the university’s college of engineering.

The goal is to make Michigan–still the home of three out of four U.S. automakers–the North American hub for research into self-driving and connected car technology.

Source: JOHN VOELCKER, Green Car Reports

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Phinergy, Alcoa, Demonstrate 1000-Mile Range-extending Electric Car Battery

When it comes to electric car range, Tesla’s all-electric Model S sedan with optional 85 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack is unarguably champion among production electric vehicles. While its EPA rating is just 265 miles per charge, it’s possible to push range well beyond 300 miles with the right person behind the wheel.

But that 300 miles range pails into insignificance next to an aluminum air battery demonstrated at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada June 2. Capable of more than 1,000 miles without needing a charge, the all-new battery could make it possible to drive from Portland to Los Angeles on a single charge.

The product of a joint partnership between Israeli firm Phinergy and lightweight metals manufacturing engineering specialist Alcoa, the new EV-ready aluminum Air battery is far more energy dense — meaning it can store more energy per unit volume —  than the lithium-ion battery packs found in today’s modern electric cars.

Source: NIKKI GORDON-BLOOMFIELD, Transport Evolved

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New battery ‘charges 20 times faster; gives electric cars a 300-mile range

Is this what the electric car dreamers have been waiting for? Power Japan Plus is to mass-produce this year “Ryden,” a disruptive carbon battery that can be charged 20 times faster than an ordinary lithium-ion cell.

The battery, said to cheap to manufacture, safe, and environmentally friendly, could massively improve the range and charging times of electric cars, Gizmag reports. The range it is said could be a staggering 300 miles .

According to the company, their technology would allow you to charge the battery of a Nissan Leaf in 12 minutes instead of four hours. There would be a charging time of 42 minutes for the 85 kWh battery of a top of the line Tesla Model S.

The battery has a long lifetime of 3,000 charge/discharge cycles (Li-ion’s life is closer to 1,000 cycles)

Power Japan is planning to start production of 18650 dual carbon cells later this year for specialty applications such as medical devices and satellites. They plan to license the technology to other companies for use in electric vehicles.



Source:  NOEL YOUNG, The Drum

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Tesla Motors: Please infringe on our patents for the greater good

Photo : Tesla blog

Patents no longer hang on the wall of Tesla Motors’ Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters.

The change in decor represents a bold, altruistic declaration from the electric car maker, which will permit anyone to use its electric-vehicle technology, patents be damned.

“Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote in a statement today, citing the spirit of the open-source movement.

Musk hopes the move will encourage large automakers to invest more heavily in electric vehicles, which still represent what he says is “far less than 1 percent of their vehicle sales.” Earlier in the company’s life, Tesla patented its technology to protect itself against larger competitors seeking to steal its technology and overwhelm the electric car startup — but that threat never materialized, said Musk.


Source: Eric Blattberg, Venture Beat

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Andreas Raptopoulos : No roads ? There’s a drone for that

One billion people in the world today do not have access to all-season roads. One billion people. One seventh of the Earth’s population are totally cut off for some part of the year. We cannot get medicine to them reliably, they cannot get critical supplies, and they cannot get their goods to market in order to create a sustainable income. In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, 85 percent of roads are unusable in the wet season. Investments are being made, but at the current level, it’s estimated it’s going to take them 50 years to catch up. In the U.S. alone, there’s more than four million miles of roads, very expensive to build, very expensive to maintain infrastructure, with a huge ecological footprint, and yet, very often, congested.


So we saw this and we thought, can there be a better way? Can we create a system using today’s most advanced technologies that can allow this part of the world to leapfrog in the same way they’ve done with mobile telephones in the last 10 years? Many of those nations have excellent telecommunications today without ever putting copper lines in the ground. Could we do the same for transportation?



Source: Andreas Raptopoulos, TED.com

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Elon Musk Wants to Build an Electric Pickup Truck and Supersonic Jet

Elon Musk, ever eager to convince everyone, everywhere, that EVs are The Future, sees a day when Tesla Motors offers a pickup truck, allowing ranchers and construction workers to know the joy of electric propulsion. Oh, and he also wants to build an electric airplane capable of supersonic flight.

Musk took the stage for two interviews in New York last decembre and in typical off-the-cuff fashion, the Tesla CEO and co-founder gave his PR team heart palpitations when he confirmed that the automaker wants to make an electric pickup. It’s not an unreasonable idea, considering the Model S will underpin the Model X SUV, and that could be transformed into a truck by nixing the doors and replacing them with a bed. What’s less realistic is the airplane.

Source: DAMON LAVRINC, Wired

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Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk plans to build cars that fly and swim

Photo: GAS2

Elon Musk, the California entrepreneur who heads electric car company Tesla Motors and rocket builder SpaceX, wants to combine aspects of each by developing a car that can fly.

“We could definitely make a flying car — but that’s not the hard part. The hard part is, how do you make a flying car that’s super safe and quiet? Because if it’s a howler, you’re going to make people very unhappy,” Musk told the Independent, a British newspaper in an interview pitching the rollout of a right-hand drive Tesla Model S electric sports sedan in Britain on Monday.

Terrafugia Inc. of Woburn, Mass., is developing the Transition, a two-seat aircraft with foldable wings that can drive on roads.


Source: JERRY HIRSCH, LA Times

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Elon Musk May Give Away Its Tesla Supercharger Patents To Spur Electric Car Development

Elon Musk has said repeatedly he wants to “do something controversial” with Tesla’s collection of electric car patents, but he finally offered specifics at the UK launch of his Tesla Model S on Sunday.

The Tesla Motors CEO said he would like to open up the designs for his Supercharger systems — the free fast-charging stations designed to quickly refuel Tesla’s electric cars — to create a standard for other car makers to use.

Source : Dave Smith, Business Insider

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Your local delivery man may soon get a flying robotic sidekick

Very soon, your town could be patrolled by a fleet of ultra-quiet electric mother-ship vans, traveling down main arteries, pausing only at optimally calculated locations, then releasing a fleet of autonomous drones to make strategic drops throughout the hinterlands.

You may have seen the video released late last year by online retailer Amazon, featuring an octocopter delivering a package from the company’s front door to that of a happy suburbanite. The notion generated the expected terror from the aluminum foil sombrero set, but the fears went further, and for good reason: Do we really trust the decision-making abilities of a company that sells this?

Source : Jim Meyer, http://grist.org

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The Practical Path to Driverless Cars

As Silicon Valley races toward the future of driving, Tampa is keeping a more manageable pace.


Jason Bittner is into “trip-chaining,” he says, in his personal life as well as his professional one. His job is director at the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR, pronounced cutter, not cuter) — home, Bittner says, to the largest collection of full-time faculty studying public transportation in the country. That’s 43 faculty researchers and about as many student-researchers, working on 180 projects, as well as a new division devoted entirely to driverless cars called the Autonomous Vehicle Institute, which Bittner was integral in developing. This is how far ahead CUTR plans: there are 23 saplings planted on the front lawn.


By the time those saplings mature, driverless cars may be here, and, like horseless carriages a century and a half earlier, they will be a quantum leap removed from their predecessors. We are just now taking the first baby steps towards that leap. Only four states (California, Florida, Michigan, and Nevada) allow driverless cars. And the federal government has only authorized a handful of public-road test beds — Tampa has one — for so-called “connected vehicles,” which are not necessarily driverless.


Source : RICHARD MORGAN, The Atlantic Citylab


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