Waymo expands Phoenix self-driving service by putting 10 cars on Lyft

Waymo expands Phoenix self-driving service by putting 10 cars on Lyft

Enlarge (credit: Waymo)

Alphabet’s Waymo announced on Tuesday that it was expanding its commercial self-driving car service by adding 10 vehicles to Lyft’s network in the Phoenix area “over the next few months.” The small scale of the expansion is the latest sign that Waymo is deploying its technology at a more leisurely pace than most people—both inside and outside the company—were expecting a year ago.

Waymo has long been seen as having a significant head start on self-driving technology. In 2018, the company aimed to capitalize on its early lead by launching a commercial self-driving service by year’s end. It arguably met that goal last December, but only under generous definitions of “commercial” and “self-driving.”

The new Waymo One service was not open to the general public—it was initially limited to a few hundred people who had previously participated in Waymo’s closed testing program. And after months of talking up fully driverless technology—including a TV commercial starring late-night host Jimmy Kimmel—every Waymo One vehicle had a driver behind the wheel.

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Source: Ars Technica

Android Auto gets a big UI revamp

Google I/O is going to kick off later today, but before the big show starts, Google has pushed out an early announcement: Android Auto is getting a new look. Google’s update won’t arrived until “This summer,” but we get screenshots today showing all the significant new additions.

Google says “The new interface is built to help you get on the road faster, show more useful information at a glance, and simplify common tasks while driving.” In previous versions of Android Auto, a system bar at the bottom of the screen housed five app icons: Maps, Contacts, Home, Music, and a “car” screen (which didn’t have much use). The new version removes the app shortcuts from the system bar’s navigation and instead turns it into a mini app bar. There’s a “Home” button” on the left, notification and voice buttons on the right, and a middle section that intelligently displays a tiny interface from either navigation or your media app. With the Map open, you’ll get music controls at the bottom. With the music open, you’ll see your next turn information.

 With most of the app navigation abilities removed from the system bar, Android Auto is switching to a tried-and-true app grid for app navigation. This grid of apps is now the new home screen, and the familiar list of notifications and suggestions (Android Auto’s old home screen) now live under the bell button.

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Source: Ars Technica

Inside Electrify America’s plan to simplify electric car charging

A look inside Electrify America's testing lab.

Enlarge / A look inside Electrify America’s testing lab. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Electrify America, a new national electric vehicle charging network, launched a new mobile app and EV charging membership plans on Monday morning. The company, which is coming to the end of its first phase of deployment, is also preparing an innovative “plug-and-charge” feature that, if implemented by auto OEMs, will bring the same simplicity of charging to other vehicles as is currently enjoyed by Tesla drivers. To find out more about Electrify America’s plans, and to see its new tech in action, I visited the company’s HQ and its alpha test lab in Virginia. What I discovered made me optimistic about the state of US EV infrastructure in the coming years.

Electrify America was created as part of a settlement by Volkswagen Group, after Volkswagen was caught lying about diesel emissions and ordered to invest $2 billion in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. That work began at the beginning of 2017, initially all behind the scenes as Electrify America began the process of designing and then building its network.

The map of Electrify America's network at the end of 2019.

The map of Electrify America’s network at the end of 2019. (credit: Electrify America)

Phase one of four

That $2 billion is being spent in four 30-month cycles, the first of which is drawing to a close. In the first cycle, the bulk of the investment—$370 million—has gone into charging infrastructure. As we’ve previously reported, the first phase of the network—which should be fully in service by the end of 2019—will feature 2,000 DC fast chargers at 484 sites around the country. “We had no chargers at all in 2018; to date in 2019 we have 158 sites operational. The way we’re interpreting the consent decree is doing something unique in the US. We’ve got one chance to finally try to have an increase in EV adoption,” explained Giovanni Palazzo, president and CEO of Electrify America.

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Source: Ars Technica

Bike lanes need physical protection from car traffic, study shows

Bike lanes need physical protection from car traffic, study shows

Enlarge (credit: Britta Pedersen/picture alliance via Getty Image)

There are plenty of good reasons that people should cycle more. People who exercise more are healthier and can score higher on cognitive tests, for one thing. And replacing short car trips with journeys by bike (or on foot) is probably a good thing if we want to try to deal with this whole climate change thing. But that will only work if people feel safe swapping their two-ton deathmobiles for a pair of pedals. And it may well mean providing cyclists with bike lanes protected from vehicle traffic with more than a coat of paint. In fact, a study from Monash University in Australia suggests that merely painting bike lanes onto the roads may be counterproductive.

The researchers conducted an observational study, gathering data from 60 cyclists in Melbourne, Australia. For a week or two, the cyclists were equipped with sensors and cameras to capture data over the course of their riding. GNSS satellite navigation was used for location, ultrasonic sensors measured the passing distances of objects as the cyclists rode, and cameras allowed the researchers to classify passing events—was the bicycle passed by a vehicle, did the pass happen while the cyclist was in a bike lane, and so on. Over the study period (between April and August 2017) there were 422 trips covering a total of 3,294 miles (5,302km), 91 percent of which were on-road.

Across the entire data set, the researchers identified 18,527 instances where a vehicle overtook a cyclist. Of these, 1,085 happened with less than 39 inches’ (100cm) passing distance between bike and vehicle, a distance that’s considered “close” under Australian law. The majority of passes occurred in areas with 37mph speed limits (60km/h), with an average passing distance of 75 inches (190cm). But those distances were much closer in areas with lower limits (66 inches/168cm in 40km/h zones, 67 inches/170cm in 50km/h zones). Somewhat worryingly, drivers were also more likely to get closer (60 inches/154cm) to cyclists when passing in 100km/h (62mph) zones.

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Source: Ars Technica

$2.34 billion fundraise gives Tesla much-needed breathing room

Man in T-shirt and sunglasses waves at crowd before speaking into microphone.

Enlarge / Elon Musk in 2018. (credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Strong investor appetite for Tesla’s stocks and bonds has allowed the company to raise more money than it had original anticipated, Tesla disclosed in Friday financial filings. As we reported yesterday, the electric vehicle maker was planning to sell a mix of debt and equity worth at least $2 billion.

In a Friday filing, Tesla said it had actually raised $2.34 billion in an underwriting deal spearheaded by Goldman Sachs. Tesla sold shares worth $737 million and convertible notes worth $1.6 billion. Underwriters will have the option to buy an additional $350 million in stock and debt over the next month.

In recent months, skeptics have argued that Tesla’s debt-laden balance sheet and disappointing financial results would make it difficult for the company to raise more money. But this week’s results laid those concerns to rest.

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Source: Ars Technica

Head injuries, broken bones plague e-scooter users as more data rolls in

Head injuries, broken bones plague e-scooter users as more data rolls in

Enlarge (credit: Tom Williams| Getty Images)

If you’re going to ride an e-scooter, you really ought to wear a helmet. That’s the main take-home message from a study conducted by the Austin Public Health Department and the CDC, published this week. The data, gathered this fall in Austin, Texas, found that one in every 5,000 rides ended in injury, and 48 percent of those were head injuries. A total of 190 scooter riders were injured during the duration; just one was wearing a helmet.

Depending where you live, you will either be blissfully unaware of dockless electric scooters or completely sick of them. Like the dockless shared bicycles that often precede their arrival, they represent one of Silicon Valley’s bright ideas to solve short urban journeys—so called micromobility— by showing up on city sidewalks overnight, en masse. That’s certainly been the case here in Washington, DC, where it can be hard to walk more than a few feet in some areas without tripping over a scooter from Lime, Uber, or the rest. But in common with many of Silicon Valley’s recent bright ideas, they aren’t without risk.

In January, we reported on a study from Los Angeles that found a high rate of head injuries—and a low rate of helmet use—among injured scooter riders. That research looked at scooter-related injuries seen at a pair of UCLA emergency departments over the course of 12 months. By contrast, this new study examined a much shorter time period in 2018—September 5 to November 30—but cast a wider net, using both county emergency medical service reports and data from nine area hospitals.

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Source: Ars Technica

With cash dwindling, Tesla seeks to raise $2 billion in debt and equity

Elon Musk holds court in a leather bomber jacket.

Enlarge / Elon Musk. (credit: Chris Saucedo/Getty Images for SXSW)

For the last year, Elon Musk has insisted that Tesla can reach sustained profitability without raising additional cash from investors. But the company is now tacitly admitting that it was wrong, filing papers to raise another $2 billion by selling a mix of debt and equity.

Tesla is seeking to raise money just a few days after reporting an unexpectedly large loss in the first quarter of 2019. That release showed Tesla with dwindling cash in the bank—from $3.7 billion at the start of the year to $2.2 billion on March 31.

The lower cash balance primarily reflected one-time events—paying off a $920 million loan and having a bunch of cars in transit to customers at the end of the quarter. Still, having only $2.2 billion in the bank is a precarious situation for a company that has been known to lose more than $700 million in a single quarter.

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Source: Ars Technica

Family of deceased Model X owner sues over 2018 crash

The charred remains of Walter Huang's Tesla Model X.

Enlarge / The charred remains of Walter Huang’s Tesla Model X. (credit: S. Engleman / NTSB)

The family of deceased Model X customer Walter Huang has sued Tesla and the state of California in state court, the family’s attorneys announced on Wednesday.

“Mrs. Huang lost her husband, and two children lost their father because Tesla is beta testing its Autopilot software on live drivers,” family attorney Mark Fong said. He says the family wants to make sure that other drivers don’t suffer Huang’s fate.

Huang died in March 2018 while traveling on a freeway in Mountain View, Calif. He had Autopilot engaged as his Model X approached a point where an exit lane diverged on the left-hand side of the road. His Tesla struck a concrete barrier dividing the two lanes, and he died from his injuries.

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Source: Ars Technica

Report: Tesla to slash solar panel prices by 38% to stymie market share loss

Close-up of logo for Tesla Solar, a home solar power generation solution offered by Tesla Motors, San Ramon, California, March 28, 2018. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Enlarge / Close-up of logo for Tesla Solar, a home solar power generation solution offered by Tesla Motors, San Ramon, California, March 28, 2018. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

In Tesla’s first-quarter financial statement last week, the company said that it would revitalize sluggish solar panel sales by streamlining the purchase process. “Our residential customers can now purchase solar and energy storage directly from our website, in standardized increments of capacity,” the company wrote.

Now, the New York Times is reporting that Tesla intends to slash solar panel prices by 38 percent today, with, Tesla Senior Vice President of Energy Operations Sanjay Shah telling the paper that “Tesla customers could expect to pay $1.75 to $1.99 per watt, depending on where they live.” The Solar Energy Industries Association says the average cost of residential solar panels is currently $2.85 per watt.

Tesla’s plan to undercut its competitors is ostensibly possible because the company is eliminating many so-called “soft costs” of solar panel installation. Instead of sending contractors out to a house to design and optimize a solar panel installation, customers will now order solar panels online, in preset increments of power. Each increment will be able to produce 4 kilowatts (kW) of power with 12 panels.

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Source: Ars Technica

Bosch teams up with PowerCell to bring down the cost of fuel cells

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Source: Ars Technica

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