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Volkswagen Ramps Up Electric Cars Ambitions

November 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Volkswagen has approved a 34 billion euro ($40 bln) spending plan that speeds up its efforts to become a global leader in electric cars.

The world’s largest carmaker by unit sales will spend the money on electric cars, autonomous driving and new mobility services by the end of 2022, it said after a meeting of its supervisory board.

“With the planning round now approved, we are laying the foundation for making Volkswagen the world’s No. 1 player in electric mobility by 2025,” Chief Executive Matthias Mueller told a press conference.

The carmaker’s projected spending is significantly bigger than its pledge two months ago that it would invest more than 20 billion euros on electric and self-driving cars through 2030.

 Electric and autonomous vehicles are widely seen as the keystones of future transport, but pioneers such as Tesla Inc and other manufacturers are still working out how to make money on them as poor charging infrastructure, high battery costs and electric vehicles’ still limited driving range weigh on customer demand.

Until it admitted two years ago to cheating on U.S. diesel emissions tests, Volkswagen had been slow to embrace electric cars and self-driving technology.

The group said its total investments in electric vehicles capacity and projects will amount to about 72 billion euros by 2022, confirming an earlier Reuters story.

To fund greater spending on electric vehicles, it will draw on cost savings in all areas of operations, including vehicle development, administration and manufacturing, as well as strong cash reserves.

Its net liquidity still stood at around 24 billion euros after nine months even though about 17 billion euros of funds have been paid out to cover costs for its dieselgate scandal. VW’s core autos division has made cost savings of about 1.9 billion euros since the start of this year, nearly meeting budgeted cost cuts for the full year.

Mueller said VW will maintain spending discipline in order to shoulder the increased investments in new technologies while it grapples with billions of dollars of costs for its emissions scandal.

Toyota Aims For Automous, Talking Cars By 2020

October 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Toyota Motor Corp announced that it would begin testing self-driving electric cars around 2020, which will use artificial intelligence (AI) to engage with drivers, as the company competes with tech firms to develop new vehicles.

The car, whose concept model was unveiled earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, will be able to converse with drivers, while building up knowledge of users’ preferences, habits and emotions through deep learning, the company said.

“By using AI technology, we want to expand and enhance the driving experience, making cars an object of affection again,” said Makoto Okabe, general manager of Toyota’s EV business planning division.

Facing competition from rival automakers and tech companies to produce self-driving, intelligent cars, Toyota has committed $1 billion through 2020 to develop advanced automated driving and AI technology.

The Concept-i model, a battery-electric car which will have a cruising range of 300 kilometers (180 miles) on a single charge, will be able to estimate the emotions and alertness of drivers by reading their expressions, actions and tone of voice.

Using this information, the vehicle will be able to take over driving responsibilities when necessary — after assessing the driver is too tired to drive safely, for example — and also interact with the driver and passengers.

Facing a future where car ownership may be overtaken by new mobility services, automakers are ramping up investment to develop AI capabilities to enhance the driving experience.

 Ford Motor Co earlier this year invested $1 billion in Argo AI, a start-up set up by former employees of Uber Technologies’ self-driving car development team, to develop an on-demand self-driving car service. General Motors Co has also been investing in AI start-ups.

Honda Motor Co 7267.T. and Softbank Corp announced last year that they were teaming up to use humanoid robotic technology in cars to enable them to communicate with drivers.

Cyanogen Changes Names And Now Focusing On Self-Driving Cars

October 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The outfit which claimed to be making an Android killer and failed, is now getting a license to make self-driving cars.

According to Biz Journals, Cyngn has changed its name from Cyanogen and recently got a permit to test its self-driving tech on California roads.

The cunning new plan is being led by Lior Tal, the former chief operating officer who took over as CEO last year when the outfit’s cunning plan to kill off Android went tits up.

No new funding has been disclosed for the reinvented company. It lists on its website investors who backed it before it pivoted, including Andreessen Horowitz, Benchmark Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Index Ventures, Qualcomm and Chinese social networking company Tencent.

The company was the center of acquisition talk in 2014, when companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Samsung and Yahoo expressed interest in the company.

The new company says on its website that its goal is to develop “purpose-driven autonomy”.

“Very soon autonomous machines will be everywhere, in surprising places, exciting new form factors both unexpected and delightful,” it says. “Cyngn is bringing this world to life, animating the inanimate and delivering the future now.”

Courtesy-Fud

Tesla Hands Pink Slips To 400 Employees

October 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Luxury electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc fired about 400 employees late last week, including associates, team leaders and supervisors, a former employee told Reuters on Friday.

The dismissals were a result of a company-wide annual review, Tesla said in an emailed statement, without confirming the number of employees leaving the company.

“It’s about 400 people ranging from associates to team leaders to supervisors. We don’t know how high up it went,” said the former employee, who worked on the assembly line and did not want to be identified.

Though Tesla cited performance as the reason for the firings, the source told Reuters he was fired in spite of never having been given a bad review.

The Palo Alto, California-based company said earlier in the month that “production bottlenecks” had left Tesla behind its planned ramp-up for the new Model 3 mass-market sedan.

The company delivered 220 Model 3 sedans and produced 260 during the third quarter. In July, it began production of the Model 3, which starts at $35,000 – half the starting price of the Model S.

Mercury News had earlier reported about the firing of hundreds of employees by Tesla in the past week.

Ford Forms New Team Dedicated To Electric Vehicle Production

October 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Ford Motor Co has put together a team to accelerate global development of electric vehicles, whose mission will be to “think big” and “make quicker decisions,” an executive of the company announced on Monday.

One aim of Ford’s “Team Edison” is to identify and develop electric-vehicle partnerships with other companies, including suppliers, in some markets, according to Sherif Marakby, vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification.

Global demand for electric vehicles has “a significant potential to increase” as governments implement EV mandates and quotas, Marakby said in an interview.

 He said the group will be based in the Detroit area and work with regional Ford vehicle electrification teams in China and Europe.

China, India, France and the United Kingdom all have announced plans to phase out vehicles powered by combustion engines and fossil fuels between 2030 and 2040.

Marakby said Team Edison “will look holistically at the electric vehicle market.”

“The idea is to think big, move fast and make quicker decisions” on EV production as demand increases and technology advances, he added.

Ford has not altered its previously announced plan to spend $4.5 billion over five years on electrified vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, Marakby said.

The new team will report to Ted Cannis, who has been named global director of electrification.

Is Tesla Giving nVidia The Boot

October 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Tesla has delivered a blow to Nvidia’s plans to dominate the AI car industry by abandoning work in Nvidia chips and moving to develop its own.

To make matters worse for the Green Goblin, Tesla is developing its own chip using Nvidia’s rival’s AMD intellectual property and any chips will be made by GloFo.

On Wednesday Sanjay Jha, CEO of AMD spin-off GlobalFoundries, said at the company’s technology conference in Santa Clara, California, that the company is working directly with Tesla.

Tesla’s silicon project is bounding ahead under the leadership of longtime chip architect Jim Keller, the head of Autopilot hardware and software since the departure of Apple veteran Chris Lattner in June.

Apparently, Keller was not that much of a fan of Nvidia, although to be fair he worked for AMD twice.

Keller arrived at Apple in 2008 through its acquisition of Palo Alto Semiconductor and was the designer of Apple’s A4 and A5 iPhone chips, among other things. More than 50 people are working on the initiative under Keller, the source said.

Tesla has been becoming more AMD focused lately, hiring Keller, including director Ganesh Venkataramanan, principal hardware engineer Bill McGee and system circuit design lead Dan Bailey.

Nvidia’s stock sank slightly on the news. Investers are aware that Tesla is not Nvidia’s only car AI partner. Analysts insist that Nvidia chips will remain the engine behind Tesla’s AI systems, while AMD chips could be used for some specific jobs.

We are not sure how true that will be, as there appears to be a trend happening here and it is following Apple’s own chip development plans. Tesla wants its own chip and will use AMD technology to build it.  If it builds it, why would it need Nvidia? 

Courtesy-Fud

Ford And Lyft Team Up To Deply Self-driving Cars

September 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Ford Motor Co announced plans to team up with Lyft to deploy Ford self-driving vehicles on the ride services company’s network in large numbers by 2021.

Ford and Lyft teams will begin working together to design software to allow Ford vehicles to communicate with Lyft’s smartphone apps.

Ford self-driving test vehicles will be connected to Lyft’s network, but at first, customers will not be able to use them, Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president for autonomous vehicles and electrification, told Reuters. Ford will put human-driven vehicles on Lyft’s network.

He did not say when Ford and Lyft expect to offer the first rides in self-driving cars.

 “We’re not building prototypes for the sake of building prototypes,” Marakby said, adding Ford intends to ultimately put thousands of self-driving vehicles in use.

Ford’s new Chief Executive Jim Hackett is scheduled to meet with investors on Tuesday to outline the Dearborn, Mich. automaker’s strategy for boosting profitability. Ford shares are down 1.65 percent so far this year, while Detroit rival General Motors Co’s shares have risen 15.6 percent, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV shares are up 71 percent.

Hackett’s plans to compete for revenue from mobility services, which include car sharing and ride-hailing, will be one area of focus for investors. The Lyft partnership fills in a piece of the puzzle.

Ford also is testing delivery services using self-driving vehicles and a van shuttle service. The self-driving vehicles Ford will deploy through Lyft will use software developed by Argo AI, a company in which Ford is investing $1 billion over the next five years.

The company has said it will invest $700 million in a factory in Flat Rock, Michigan, to make it capable of building electric and self driving vehicles.

Lyft has said it will offer an open platform for companies to deploy self-driving vehicles on its network, and has partnerships with self driving vehicle technology startup Drive.ai and Alphabet Inc’s Waymo self driving car unit.

Audi Takes Lead In Self-Driving Autos

September 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

German luxury automaker Audi is taking a lead in bringing more automated driving to roads, but rivals seem in no rush to follow while legal and regulatory uncertainties still cloud the technology.

At the Frankfurt car show, Audi paraded the A8 which can drive itself under certain conditions, decide when to change lanes and does not require drivers to monitor the road – though they must be ready to intervene at the sound of an alarm.

On a scale where zero is a fully manual car and five a fully autonomous one, the A8 is a level three, putting it ahead of level two features offered by Tesla and General Motors (GM).

Struggling to emerge from the shadow of parent Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal, Audi is badly in need of a new prestige model and a marketing coup.

“It’s gratifying that we are able to set a positive sign for real ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’,” said research and development chief Peter Mertens, referring to Audi’s advertising slogan meaning “advancement through technology”.

But with special approval still required almost everywhere to drive such a car, and question marks over how quickly the driver has to take back control – and who is responsible during handover – some rivals are skeptical the market is ready.

“Who will accept to pay for something that they can use only in extremely limited conditions?” asked Didier Leroy, European chairman of Japanese carmaker Toyota.

“The fact that Audi is introducing this one now doesn’t mean that we will rush in the coming months to say that we are able to do it too. That is not our logic,” he told Reuters at the car show.

Among the A8’s new features is the “traffic jam pilot”, which can completely control driving at up to 60 kilometers (37 miles) per hour on a divided highway.

The German company expects customers will be able to use all the model’s self-driving functions next year or in 2019. It is applying for approval country by country, starting with Germany, a spokesman said during the show.

Audi thus hopes to leapfrog Tesla, whose Autopilot technology suffered a major blow when a driver using it was killed in a crash, and GM, whose Super Cruise feature to be offered this autumn will allow limited hands-off driving at highway speeds on limited access roads like dual carriageways.

In the wake of the crash, Tesla said the driver was using Autopilot in conditions for which it was not intended, and U.S. regulators said automakers should take steps to make sure semi-autonomous systems are not misused.

Jaguar Land Rover Speeds Up Electric Vehicle Plans

September 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Last year, luxury automotive giant, owned by India’s Tata Motors, said it would offer greener versions of half of its new line-up by 2020, but it now speeding up its plans.

Demand for electric models continues to rise sharply and in July Britain said it would ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 to cut pollution, replicating plans by France and cities such as Madrid, Mexico City and Athens.

Carmakers are racing to tap into growing demand for low-emissions models with Nissan launching a revamped version of its Leaf electric vehicle on Wednesday in a bid to better take on Tesla’s Model 3.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), which showcased its first electric model in 2016, said it would release a range of powertrain options over the coming years.

“We will introduce a portfolio of electrified products across our model range, embracing fully electric, plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid vehicles,” said Chief Executive Ralf Speth.

The automaker, which built nearly 550,000 of Britain’s 1.7 million cars last year, has said it wants to build electric models in its home market but a number of factors need to be in place first, including support from government and academia.

It will build its first electric model, the I-PACE, in Austria.

Nissan Launches Revamped, Longer Range Leaf Electric Vehicle

September 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Nissan Motor Co Ltd has unveiled a revamped Leaf electric vehicle (EV), going head-to-head with Tesla Inc’s Model 3 and hoping to blunt criticism of limited driving ranges undermining EVs’ mass-market appeal.

The automaker said it aims to “double, even triple” annual sales of the previous incarnation, jump-starting demand in major markets such as the United States, and packing new technologies to make up for a shorter driving range than rival offerings.

“If it’s successful, the Leaf will be a major part of the portfolio of Nissan,” Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa said at a launch for the new version of the world’s best-selling battery-powered car. “EVs will no longer be a niche product.”

The car, on sale in Japan from Oct. 2 and elsewhere in early 2018, can run for 150 miles (241 kilometers) on a single charge according to U.S. regulator estimates, up from its predecessor’s 107 miles due to a bigger, 40 kilowatt hour (kWh) battery.

Prices in Japan will start from 3.15 million yen ($28,992).

 The launch comes after luxury electric car maker Tesla made its first foray into the Leaf’s more affordable price band in July with its $35,000, 220-mile Model 3. Tesla has said it has received half a million orders for the Model 3, indicating the challenge Nissan has in preserving the Leaf’s number-one rank.

Nissan, whose first Leaf was among the first mass-market EVs, has given its marquee model a sporty facelift drawing on its more mainstream designs including the Micra and Rogue, in an effort to dispel the image of EVs being only for the affluent and environment-conscious.

The mid-sized car comes equipped with Nissan’s latest automated functions including single-lane highway driving and self-parking, along with its combined accelerate and brake “e-pedal”.

“The pricing is flat, (yet) we have a full model change… You have autonomous drive technology, a new battery, new powertrain. How can this be unattractive to a young customer?” said Ivan Espinosa, vice president of global product planning.

But for all the improvements, analysts said current EV driving ranges are too short to lure a meaningful number of drivers away from conventional cars, particularly in the U.S. where gasoline prices are historically low.

“Until we see a significant improvement in range and/or economics that feed through to a rise in gasoline prices, EV buyers will be buying for environmental or altruistic reasons,” said Janet Lewis, head of Asia transportation research at Macquarie Securities. “It’s still a very, very niche market.”

Domino’s Pizza Teams With Ford On Autonomous Cars Pizza Delivery

August 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Ford Motor Co and Domino’s Pizza Inc in September will begin testing Michigan consumers’ reactions to having their pizza delivered by autonomous vehicles, the companies said.

It will not be the first experiment with advanced pizza delivery technology. Australia-based Domino’s Pizza Enterprises, the Ann Arbor-based company’s largest independent franchisee, has tested delivery to customers in New Zealand via drone and self-driving robot.

In a blog post last week, Sherif Marakby, head of Ford’s autonomous and electric vehicles, signaled the automaker’s broader ambitions, saying Ford planned to cooperate “with multiple partners” in deploying self-driving vehicles “designed to improve the movement of people and goods.”

 Previously, Ford executives had said the company expected to launch a self-driving shuttle for commercial ride-sharing fleets in 2021.

Domino’s and Ford will deliver pizzas to randomly selected customers in the Ann Arbor area in a Ford Fusion Hybrid equipped with self-driving technology. The delivery vehicles initially will be piloted by human drivers.

Customers will be able to track the delivery process via GPS and will receive text messages on how to retrieve their pizzas once the delivery vehicle has arrived.

A number of start-up delivery services, many of them funded by venture capital, have been experimenting with on-demand delivery of different packages, including groceries, prepared food and beverages. So have larger companies, from Uber Technologies to Amazon.

Opinion is still divided, however, on whether automation can help solve some vexing delivery problems, such as how to deliver pizzas economically to the fifth floor of a college dorm.

The Ford-Domino’s test vehicle will not attempt to resolve that conundrum. It will stop outside the customer’s house, so it will not provide true door-to-door delivery service.

“We’re still focused on the last 50 feet,” said Domino’s spokeswoman Jenny Fouracre. “That’s a big challenge – getting (the pizza) from the curb to the door.”

Tesla’s Electric Commercial Freight Truck Coming In September

August 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been teasing for a while now that the electric car company will unveil what he refers to as the “Tesla Semi truck” this September. The company even released a rendering of what it would look like.

Now, a report by Reuters says that the truck’s electric drive system will give it a range of 200 to 300 miles. That range makes it suitable for regional freight delivery, short of the long-haul trucks that travel the interstates.

Tesla will also test its autonomous driving technology for the freight truck.

The trucking industry represents a new opportunity for electric vehicles. With lower maintenance and fueling costs, electric trucks offer substantial benefits to fleet operators. Initial costs may prove prohibitive, but mass production of an electric truck holds the potential to rein that investment in.

Meanwhile, new electric vehicle start-up Chanje is betting that its electric vehicles will prove attractive for daily freight delivery in an urban setting, with limited competition in the niche. Tesla would be facing more entrenched competition from the likes of Kenworth and Daimler-owned Freightliner.

As Tesla has disrupted the passenger car market to some degree, it may do the same for a segment of commercial freight delivery.

Hyundai To Shift Focus To Long-Range Premium Electric Vehicles

August 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Hyundai Motor Co has announced that it was placing electric vehicles at the center of its product strategy – one that includes plans for a premium long-distance electric car as it seeks to catch up to Tesla and other rivals.

Like Toyota Motor Corp, Hyundai had initially championed fuel cell technology as the future of eco-friendly vehicles but has found itself shifting electric as Tesla shot to prominence and battery-powered cars have gained government backing in China.

Toyota is now also working on longer distance, fast-charging electric vehicles, local media have reported.

The South Korean automaker is planning to launch an electric sedan under its high-end Genesis brand in 2021 with a range of 500 km (310 miles) per charge. It will also introduce an electric version of its Kona small sports utility vehicle (SUV) with a range of 390 km in the first half of next year.

“We’re strengthening our eco-friendly car strategy, centering on electric vehicles,” Executive Vice President Lee Kwang-guk told a news conference, calling the technology mainstream and realistic.

The automaker and affiliate Kia Motors Corp, which together rank fifth in global vehicle sales, also said they were adding three plug-in vehicles to their plans for eco-friendly cars, bringing the total to 31 models by 2020.

Underscoring Hyundai’s electric shift, those plans include eight battery-powered and two fuel-cell vehicles – a contrast to its 2014 announcement for 22 models, of which only two were slated to be battery-powered.

Hyundai also confirmed a Reuters report that it is developing its first dedicated electric vehicle platform, which will allow the company to produce multiple models with longer driving ranges.

Last year, it launched its first mass-market pure electric car IONIQ, but the vehicle’s per-charge driving range is much shorter than offerings from Tesla and General Motors.

Tesla Developing Self-driving Electric Truck

August 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Tesla Inc is working on a long-haul, electric semi-truck that can drive itself and move in “platoons” that automatically follow a lead vehicle, and is getting closer to testing a prototype, according to an email discussion of potential road tests between the car company and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), seen by Reuters.

Meanwhile, California officials are meeting with Tesla on Wednesday “to talk about Tesla’s efforts with autonomous trucks,” state DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez told Reuters.

The correspondence and meeting show that Tesla is putting self-driving technology into the electric truck it has said it plans to unveil in September, and is advancing toward real-life tests, potentially moving it forward in a highly competitive area of commercial transport also being pursued by Uber Technologies Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Waymo.

After announcing intentions a year ago to produce a heavy-duty electric truck, Musk tweeted in April that the semi-truck would be revealed in September, and repeated that commitment at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in June, but he has never mentioned any autonomous-driving capabilities.

Tesla has been a leader in developing self-driving technology for its luxury cars, including the lower-priced Model 3, which it is beginning to manufacture.

Several Silicon Valley companies developing autonomous driving technology are working on long-haul trucks. They see the industry as a prime early market for the technology, citing the relatively consistent speeds and little cross-traffic trucks face on interstate highways and the benefits of allowing drivers to rest while trucks travel.

Some companies also are working on technology for “platooning”, a driving formation where trucks follow one another closely. If trucks at the back of the formation were able to automatically follow a lead vehicle, that could cut the need for drivers.

Silicon Valley startup Peloton Technology, for example, is working with several truck makers including Volvo on its platooning system, which it sees as a precursor to autonomy.

In A Twist, Tesla Lowers Price Of Model 3 Vehicle

August 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Tesla Inc has reduced the base price of its Model X SUV to $79,500 and said improving margins were behind the move, which came as the automaker is ramping up production of its new lower-priced Model 3.

Some analysts have been concerned that the launch of the Model 3, whose base price is $35,000, would steer some potential buyers away from the Model X SUV to that lower-priced sedan.

But Chief Executive Elon Musk said earlier this week that demand had not waned for the luxury electric sport-utility vehicle.

“When we launched Model X 75D, it had a low gross margin. As we’ve achieved efficiencies, we are able to lower the price and pass along more value to our customers,” Tesla in a statement on Friday announcing it had lowered the previous $82,500 starting price of the vehicle by $3,000.

The most expensive version of the Model X, the P100D, with fastest acceleration and longer range, costs $145,000.

Musk said on a call with analysts earlier this week that the launch of the Model 3 had not cannibalized Model X sales, and that demand for the Model X as well as the Model S had actually increased with the release of the lower-priced vehicle.

The Model 3, marketed as a car for the masses, begins at $35,000 before incentives, but a longer-range version is priced at $44,000, to compete with high volume luxury sedans such as the Audi A4, BMW 3-series or Mercedes C-Class.

Tesla does not break out gross margins of its individual models, but overall gross margins excluding stock-based compensation and revenue from zero-emission vehicle credits fell to 25 percent in the second quarter from 26.4 percent a year earlier, due to the Model 3 build.

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