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No steering wheels, pedals or horns in cars by 2035, survey says

07/17/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Emerging Technologies, Transportation Alternatives, Legislation and Policy

Google self-driving car

At what point does a car cease to be a car and start becoming a people-mover? One survey hints that we're less than two decades away from that eventuality. Whether auto enthusiasts think that's a good thing is another matter altogether.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, polled about 200 people within academia, research and government agencies about the concept of self-driving vehicles and future automotive design, and got a sense of what people thought would become superfluous during the upcoming decades. Taken into consideration was rapid advancements in things like sensor technology, software, driver-assistance programs and GPS.

And with those advancements, the respondents said items like rear-view mirrors, horns and emergency brakes would be gone by 2030. And five years later, steering wheels, brakes and accelerator pedals would no longer be necessary, either. And by that time, at least three-quarters of US states will have laws on the books allowing for driverless vehicles. Nothing was mentioned about floor mats, of course.

The subject of autonomous driving continues to pick up relevance. In late May, Google unveiled its first self-driving car, which is sans steering wheel, brake pedal, gas pedal or gear shift and has a top speed of 25 miles per hour. Punch in an address and off it goes, theoretically. Stay tuned. And in the meantime, check out IEEE's press release below.

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Customers want wireless charging in next-gen Prius Plug-In; they might get it

07/09/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Emerging Technologies, EV/Plug-in, Toyota

Could 2016 be the year prospective Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid buyers are waiting for? Why, yes, says an unidentified Toyota spokesman. That's according to Plug-in Cars, which reports that a wireless plug-in vehicle charging system may be less than two years away for the Prius Plug-in.

WiTricity has, for a few years, been developing its magnetic resonance wireless charging system for the model. This type of system allows for more distance leeway than other wireless setups when it comes to how close the car and its on-board receiver need to be to the floor-mounted system. That allows for smaller, lighter on-board receivers, which is key for any plug-in vehicle. Toyota representatives haven't responded to a request for comment from AutoblogGreen, but Toyota spokesperson Jana Hartline told Plug In Cars that, while she "cannot comment on wireless charging options for MY16 PHV," Toyota sees commercialization as "the ultimate aim" of the wireless charging tests the automaker is doing in Japan.

Toyota's Satoshi Ogiso said last summer that the Prius Plug-in would eventually offer a wireless charging system in response to prospective customers' demand for it, though he wasn't specific on a time frame. Toyota started discussions with WiTricity regarding wireless charging system development more than three years ago and said late last year that it had reached a licensing agreement with the Boston-based company. WiTricity has also worked on developing wireless-charging systems that are compatible with Audi and Mitsubishi vehicles. WiTricity grew out of MIT back in 2007, back when we could barely imagine how it would work.

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Madrid's new parking meters cost more if you drive a gas guzzler

07/03/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Emerging Technologies, Etc., Legislation and Policy, Europe/EU

Madrid's Carabanchel Residents Celebrate The End Of Parking Meters

The parking situation in Madrid, Spain went through two big changes this week. In some areas, the meters have been updated to know what kind of vehicle is parked there and charge dirty vehicles more money while giving discounts to cleaner ones. In another area, all parking meters have been removed. We'll call it mixed messaging.

"Vehicles with lower emissions will be subsidized, and the most polluting will be punished." - Mayor of Madrid

In an effort to clean up Madrid's air, upgraded smart meters now require drivers to input their license plate number to validate the spot. The networked meters look up the vehicle information in a national database and then can charge more (up to 20 percent) for older vehicles and diesel models. It can also give discounts (again, up to 20 percent) for hybrids and other clean rides. Bloomberg reports that Mayor Ana Botella was pretty straightforward in a press release: "Vehicles with lower emissions will be subsidized, and the most polluting will be punished."

In another part of town, the suburb of Carabanchel, an eight-year battle against parking meters ended this week when the city simply removed the meters there. The suburb is around 5.6 miles from central Madrid and residents has been fighting the meters since 2006. On June 30, Mayor Botella simply got rid of them, which let to street celebrations (pictured).

But back to the connected meters. The first of the now 4,000 units were installed in 2006, but the database look-up feature wasn't turned before now. The meters can also raise prices when things get too congested. We can only imagine how popular a service like Monkey Parking would be when that happens.

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Automaker interest in open Tesla EV patents is decidedly lukewarm

06/28/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Emerging Technologies, EV/Plug-in, Tesla Motors, AutoblogGreen Exclusive

US Patent Office Tesla Motors Model S drawing

Tesla Motors made big headlines when CEO Elon Musk announced a few weeks ago that he would open up all of the automaker's patents. The response has been interesting, to say the least, with some electric vehicle advocates and investor groups praising the news and others saying that what Musk did wasn't all that big a deal, in the end.

"No major car company would be foolish enough to use Tesla's patents." - Motley Fool

The Motley Fool, for example, says that the patents themselves are not all that revealing since, "There often is only so much information that you can get from a patent. Only Tesla knows how to put it all together in a cost-effective manner." And who's to say that once you dig into the patents, they won't be outdated? A search of the US Patent Office reveals 1,444 patents for "Tesla and motors" including some from inventor Nikola Tesla and other sources. The Washington Post says Tesla Motors itself only has around 300 patents. The Motley Fool also notes that Musk's statement was not a legal document and that, "no major car company would be foolish enough to use Tesla's patents based on some undefined words in a blog post by one executive who may not even be working at Tesla in five years."

Then there's the fact that the battery technology that Tesla uses, linking up thousands of small format cells from Panasonic, is not something most other automakers have expressed an interest in. The cell patents belong to Panasonic and most automakers use larger format cells anyway.

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EcoCar2 is on the hunt for a better, cleaner Chevy Malibu [w/video]

06/13/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Biodiesel, Emerging Technologies, Ethanol, Green Culture, Hybrid, MPG, Chevrolet

The students spent three years transforming an ordinary Chevy Malibu into a revolutionary vehicle.

Not far from the building where General Motors once invented the Chevy Volt, a dozen or so college students are standing on the blacktop alongside a test track, watching a professional driver push the limits of a plug-in hybrid car they've built that's far more radical.

These students, from Colorado State University, have spent the past three years transforming an ordinary Chevy Malibu into a revolutionary vehicle. At first glance, it still looks like a regular sedan. But under the hood, they've installed a hybrid powertrain that contains both hydrogen and electric power sources. Even by the standards of the Department of Energy competition they're participating in, it's an outlier.

That's exactly what they had in mind.

"We didn't want to come here and tell them how to build a better Volt," said Tom Bradley, faculty adviser for the Colorado State team. "They already know how to do that. We can tell them how to think about these possibilities in a whole new way."

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Elon Musk hints at opening Tesla's EV patents [w/video]

06/10/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Emerging Technologies, EV/Plug-in, Tesla Motors, UK

Tesla Patent drawing

During the Q&A portion of Tesla's annual shareholder meeting last week, CEO Elon Musk said something that caught our ear: "I'm contemplating doing something fairly significant on that front [promoting EVs] which should be kind of controversial with respect to Tesla's patents. But I probably want to write something so that I can take articulate it properly and explain the reasoning for the decision." We immediately asked Tesla for more information but it was the BBC that got to question Musk in person during the UK launch of the right-hand drive Model S (see press release and video below).

"We don't want to cut a path through the jungle and then lay a bunch of landmines behind us" - Elon Musk

The BBC asked Musk if his comment meant he was considering opening up Tesla's patents, and Musk responded with, "you're on the right track." A strong proponent of promoting EVs, Musk also said, "We don't want to cut a path through the jungle and then lay a bunch of landmines behind us."

This wouldn't be the first time Musk has given away a big idea. His outlandish hyperloop high-speed train-like transportation system was open source from the get-go. Musk has also offered to let other automakers piggyback on Tesla's Supercharger fast-charging system. Musk's SpaceX company doesn't even file patents, but that's more to protect the ideas from the Chinese than to make getting to space an open source endeavor, Musk said.

Tesla told AutoblogGreen it is offering "nothing further at this point" on the patent front, so we'll just have to guess away in the comments. Have at it, and you can watch Musk's comment at around minute 46 in the top video here.

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Elon Musk hints at opening Tesla's EV patents

06/10/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Emerging Technologies, EV/Plug-in, Tesla Motors, UK

Tesla Patent drawing

During the Q&A portion of Tesla's annual shareholder meeting last week, CEO Elon Musk said something that caught our ear: "I'm contemplating doing something fairly significant on that front [promoting EVs] which should be kind of controversial with respect to Tesla's patents. But I probably want to write something so that I can take articulate it properly and explain the reasoning for the decision." We immediately asked Tesla for more information but it was the BBC that got to question Musk in person during the UK launch of the right-hand drive Model S (see press release below).

"We don't want to cut a path through the jungle and then lay a bunch of landmines behind us" - Elon Musk

The BBC asked Musk if his comment meant he was considering opening up Tesla's patents, and Musk responded with, "you're on the right track." A strong proponent of promoting EVs, Musk also said, "We don't want to cut a path through the jungle and then lay a bunch of landmines behind us."

This wouldn't be the first time Musk has given away a big idea. His outlandish hyperloop high-speed train-like transportation system was open source from the get-go. Musk has also offered to let other automakers piggyback on Tesla's Supercharger fast-charging system. Musk's SpaceX company doesn't even file patents, but that's more to protect the ideas from the Chinese than to make getting to space an open source endeavor, Musk said.

Tesla told AutoblogGreen it is offering "nothing further at this point" on the patent front, so we'll just have to guess away in the comments. Have at it, and you can watch Musk's comment at around minute 46 in the top video here.

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Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2014: Students find upsides pretty much everywhere

05/01/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Diesel, Emerging Technologies, Ethanol, EV/Plug-in, Green Culture, Hydrogen, MPG, AutoblogGreen Exclusive, Natural Gas

Shell Eco-marathon 2014

The skies threatened rain, but aside from a few fat drops struggling down through the Texas air, the track remained dry through the end of the 2014 Shell Eco-marathon Americas. Given the haphazard way some of the vehicle bodies were held together - a bit of velcro or pieces of tape doing the job door hinges do on normal cars - this was a very good thing. The dry roads also meant that all of the teams were competing on an even footing, in this one aspect at least. After all, the 100-plus college and high school teams came to downtown Houston, TX this past weekend from across North, Central and South America and from a wide variety of backgrounds. Given wildly difference school sizes, team sizes and budgets, the students all had on thing in common beyond the dry road: true passion for achieving high efficiency.

There were failures everywhere but also a whole lot of successes.

There were first-time teams, there were veterans. There were schools that took inspiration from the movies with cars based on Back To The Future and the Indiana Jones movies and some that went for the most efficient shape they could CAD. There was a middle school student who talked her way onto a high school team. There were seniors giving the Eco-marathon one last go before graduation. There were failures everywhere but also a whole lot of successes.

This year, we thought we'd learn a bit more about the students and their stories. Last year, we reported an in-depth story on how the Eco-marathon works, which you can read here. Basically, to recap, the students try to expend the least amount of energy while covering the most distance. Within the rules, which emphasize safety, there is a lot of freedom for the teams to experiment, which is why you see all sorts of vehicles running around the track. Not a lot has changed, ruleswise, from last year, aside from the addition of gas-to-liquid as a possible fuel and a rules change for EVs that we'll get to in a moment. You can find the complete 2014 results here, but the headline number is that Laval University, from Canada, won the gasoline prototype category with 2823.41 miles per gallon. The University of Toronto Supermileage team was close behind with 2711.97 mpg. Given the distances covered and the way the small amount of fuel burned gets measured, that's basically a tie. That's how the Toronto team tells it, anyway.

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DOE ready for more AVTMP loans, now focusing on suppliers

04/03/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Emerging Technologies, EV/Plug-in, Hybrid, Legislation and Policy, USA

IHS CERAWeek

The Department of Energy handed out four big loans in the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program (ATVM): Fisker got $528.7 million (then went bankrupt) Nissan got $1.4 billion, Ford got $5.9 billion (both are repaying on schedule, as far as anyone knows) and Tesla got $465 milion, which was quickly repaid. When it was created under the Bush Administration in September 2008, the ATVM loan program had a budget of $25 billion. The four loans only add up to around $8.3 billion, so the DOE has some money (around $16 billion) to spare. For a number of reasons - funding requests that didn't meet expectations and political pressures, mostly from Republicans - the DOE has not handed out any money since 2011.

That will likely change, since DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz announced today that the ATVM loan program is being improved with an eye towards suppliers, as you can read in the DOE's letter to the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (PDF). The overall drive to get cleaner cars on the roads remains the driving force behind the ATVM program, but instead of giving money directly to automakers, the new plan is to look at companies that help make fuel-efficient technologies possible. This "may include, but are not limited to, advanced engines and powertrains, light-weighting materials, advanced electronics, and fuel-efficient tires." Interested applicants can start an application here.

Last fall, the DOE announced it would start an "active outreach campaign" to generate more interest in the loan program. Now, the DOE wants to "improve the program, clarify eligibility requirements and increase responsiveness to applicants." It makes sense that the DOE is striving to make the program better, since some now-defunct automakers laid part of the blame for their failure on the "unmitigated disaster" of the loan program.

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Ford C-Max spot aimed squarely at Cadillac ELR 'Poolside' hubris [UPDATE]

03/28/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Emerging Technologies, EV/Plug-in, Green Culture, Hybrid, Cadillac, Ford, AutoblogGreen Exclusive

Ford C-Max Ad Parody of Cadillac ELR's Poolside

If we had tried to predict the first video response to the controversial Poolside video for the Cadillac ELR, we would not have thought it would center on compost. But, hey, it's always nice to be reminded that the real world is sometimes better than fiction.

Instead of the chic swagger of 'Poolside,' 'Anything Is Possible' is all about getting dirty.

The new short in question is called Upside: Anything Is Possible and it promotes two things: Detroit Dirt and the Ford C-Max Energi. As in the ELR ad, Ford's plug-in C-Max only makes an appearance at the tail end of the spot, but instead of the chic swagger of Poolside, Anything Is Possible is all about getting dirty. The ad stars Pashon Murray, co-founder of Detroit Dirt, which takes natural waste from around Detroit, composts it into soil and then spreads that around "forgotten parcels" of Detroit to create urban farms. Detroit Dirt gets its bio-waste from a lot of sources, including the Detroit Zoological Society (all that herbivore manure has to go somewhere), Ford and General Motors, but this particular ad was the idea of Ford's PR agency, Team Detroit.

It was a frenetic shoot, filmed with an LA-based director right after a big winter storm blew through Detroit, and Murray couldn't be happier with the result. "This was Ford Motor Company pushing my story, letting me tell the story that I believe in," Murray tells AutoblogGreen. "I get to help push this car and I get to tell my story." She says that the Team Detroit and Ford had to agree on the message, "from my understanding, [YouTube] is where they wanted to start, not where they wanted to finish." The ad is already getting a positive response on Twitter, so we won't be surprised if it shows up in more places soon.

"It's not saying Ford is better than GM. It's telling the story of a black woman who's working hard in Detroit."

As Detroit Dirt has off-screen support from both GM and Ford, it's unsurprising to hear Murray say that the video "is not a rivalry thing." She notes that the ad agency Team Detroit came to her and offered to tell the Detroit Dirt story using the framework of the GM ad. "It's a parody on this commercial, but it's not saying Ford is better than GM," she said. "It's telling the story of a black woman who's working hard in Detroit."

What is that story? It's about urban farming, recovery and recycling. Murray tells us that for the last seven or eight years, she's been dedicated to sustainability. "My focus has really become more recycling and waste reduction ... I went to Ford and GM [a few years ago] because they were pushing zero-waste." Detroit Dirt now collects tons of food scraps from the two automakers and Murray said Detroit Dirt is hungry for more, and this ad figures to be a good way for her to get the word out. "The automotive industry is the bedrock of the country," she said, "and fuel-efficient cars are the future. It's a unique opportunity to be involved in the automotive industry."

Ford doesn't want to get into the details of how the spot was created, but tells AutoblogGreen that the official line is that the ad showcases inspiring local work. We've asked Cadillac for a response and will update this post if we hear anything back. Check it out below.

*UPDATE: Cadillac declined to comment.

Continue reading Ford C-Max spot aimed squarely at Cadillac ELR 'Poolside' hubris [UPDATE]

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