Uber resumes testing self-driving cars nine months after deadly crash

An Uber self-driving car drives down 5th Street on March 28, 2017 in San Francisco, California.

Enlarge / An Uber self-driving car drives down 5th Street on March 28, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Uber is returning to public roads in Pittsburgh nine months after an Uber self-driving car struck and killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona. However, Uber’s new testing program will be massively scaled back from the one it had a year ago.

At the start of 2018, Uber had an extensive testing program that operated in both the Pittsburgh and Phoenix metropolitan areas. Dozens of Uber cars were driving around both cities, racking up more than two million miles of testing under the supervision of safety drivers.

But the whole program came screeching to a halt in March, when a malfunctioning Uber car crashed into Herzberg. In-car video seemed to show the safety driver glancing down at her lap for several seconds before the crash; records later revealed that she was streaming a television show on her phone at the time.

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Source: Ars Technica

Ars takes a first tour of the length of The Boring Company’s test tunnel

HAWTHORNE, CA—On a breezy Tuesday evening across the busy street from SpaceX’s headquarters, Elon Musk’s Boring Company invited a group of journalists to take a ride through the company’s first test tunnel. The test tunnel stretches 1.14 miles from SpaceX’s former parking lot, under Crenshaw Boulevard, under the SpaceX campus, and finally terminating behind some nondescript warehouses in Hawthorne, at Prairie St. and 102th St.

The ride was hardly a finished product; judging the success of The Boring Company’s tunnel-digging vision would be impossible at this point. What today’s demo did, though, was offer a proof-of-concept.

Entering the tunnel

Across the street from SpaceX, journalists were ushered down a ramp to the original opening of The Boring Company’s first tunnel. We got into a modified Model X—modified in that it had bumpers added to the wheels to prevent the vehicle from too much undesirable movement while in the tunnel. Then, a driver (who Boring Company employees told us we were strictly not allowed to speak to) drove us up to the mouth of the tunnel, onto the raised curbs that flanked either side of the tunnel walls.

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Source: Ars Technica

Kroger-owned grocery store begins fully driverless deliveries

Nuro, a startup founded by two veterans of Google’s self-driving car project, has reached an important milestone: it has started making fully autonomous grocery deliveries on public streets.

Fry’s Food, a brand owned by grocery giant Kroger, launched a self-driving grocery delivery program back in August in partnership with Nuro. Fry’s has been using Nuro cars to deliver groceries to customers near one of its stores on East McDowell Road in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Initially, these deliveries were made by Toyota Priuses that Nuro had outfitted with its sensors and software. There were also safety drivers behind the wheel. Nuro says it has made 1,000 deliveries using these vehicles since August.

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Source: Ars Technica

California transit agencies have 21 years to build zero-emissions bus fleets

One of Antelope Valley Transit Authority's 79 electric buses.

Enlarge / One of Antelope Valley Transit Authority’s 79 electric buses. (credit: Megan Geuss)

On Friday, California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) unanimously approved a regulation that would compel the state’s public transit agencies to build zero-emissions fleets by 2040. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the regulation would also prohibit transit agencies from investing in diesel- or gas-powered buses after 2029. Buses usually last about 12 years before they need to be replaced, the Chronicle noted.

In a press release on Friday, CARB noted that the transportation sector contributes 40 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, and 80 to 90 percent of the state’s smog-creating pollutants. “Full implementation of the regulation adopted today is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 19 million metric tons from 2020 to 2050 – the equivalent of taking 4 million cars off the road,” CARB wrote.

Battery-electric and fuel cell buses are two potential avenues for investment, CARB noted. The air resources board added that roughly 12,000 gas- or diesel-burning buses are on California’s roads today, but only 153 zero-emissions buses are in operation in California today. Still, based on orders placed by transit agencies, 1,000 such buses are expected to be in service by 2020.

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Source: Ars Technica

Hyundai finally gives us a price for the 2019 Kona EV—$29,995

Hyundai Kona EV

Enlarge / The Kona EV is relaxing to drive but does not demand you take it by the scruff and carve some canyons. (credit: Hyundai)

In October, we finally got a chance to drive the Hyundai Kona EV, a rather wonderful little electric vehicle. Based on the internal combustion-powered Kona, it packs in 64kWh of lithium-ion to give it an EPA range of 258 miles (415km). On top of that, the little Kona EV also sported a rather nifty Smart Regeneration System that uses the car’s cruise control radar to maximize energy recuperation when following other cars. The one thing we couldn’t tell you back then was how much this EV would cost.

Wonder no more. On Friday, Hyundai finally revealed US pricing: the 2019 Kona EV will start at $36,450, which means it should cost $28,950 after the $7,500 IRS tax credit is taken into account. (On top of that, there’s the delivery charge, which bumps the post-credit price up to $29,995.)

That makes it more expensive than the base model Nissan Leaf, which starts at $29,990 before tax credits. However, the Leaf only offers 150 miles (241km) of range, and you’d need to spring for the $36,200 Leaf SL to get a similar level of equipment to the Hyundai. (A longer-range, more expensive Leaf with a 60kWh battery pack is coming at some point in 2019, but that adds $5,500 to the car’s price.)

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Source: Ars Technica

New cars, new cities as Formula E season five starts this weekend

Formula E

Most of the motorsports world takes a well-deserved break in December. The long Formula 1 championship is done, as is the even longer NASCAR season. But this weekend, one series is about to get started: it’s time for Formula E, which holds its first race of the 2018/2019 championship on Saturday. This is the fifth season for this electric racing championship, and it represents a new chapter for the sport as Formula E gets all-new cars and adds some new cities to the roster (including this weekend’s race, which takes place in Ad Diriyah, Saudi Arabia).

Here at Ars, we’ve been fans of the all-electric racing series from day one. We were at the first-ever US race in Miami in 2015, and that same year two of the cars even carried our logo at the season finale in London. Since then, we’ve been regulars at the NYC ePrix, a two-day doubleheader that marks the conclusion of the championship. Electric cars racing on temporary street circuits in city centers represented quite a departure from your average racing series, and it’s fair to say that Formula E has had to deal with a lot of skeptics. But we like people who try new things, and, over the course of the past four years, the sport has done a lot to win many naysayers over.

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Source: Ars Technica

We finally talked to an actual Waymo passenger—here’s what he told us

A white car with a company logo on its door.

Enlarge / Waymo signage is displayed on the open door of a Chrysler Pacifica autonomous vehicle in Chandler, Arizona, on Monday, July 30, 2018. (credit: Caitlin O’Hara/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

For the last 18 months, Waymo vehicles have been ferrying passengers around the southeast corner of the Phoenix metropolitan area. The company has tightly controlled information about the project by contractually prohibiting passengers from discussing the experience.

That was supposed to change last week when Waymo officially launched its commercial service, Waymo One. The company said it would lift its nondisclosure requirement for at least some passengers, allowing them to talk to the press about what it’s like to be an ordinary passenger in a Waymo car.

For the last week, reporters like me have been scouring the Internet to find Waymo One customers we can talk to—and coming up empty. Waymo One may have officially launched, but the program was still limited to people who were previously part of Waymo’s earlier testing program. And so far none of these people had come forward to talk about the experience publicly.

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Source: Ars Technica

Volvo’s coming all-electric semi will compete with Tesla’s

Volvo

On Wednesday, Volvo Trucks North America announced that in 2019 it will demonstrate an all-electric Volvo semi truck, which it expects to go into production in 2020.

The semi will be an all-electric VNR, similar to Volvo’s current diesel VNR model, and it will be used for regional-haul operations as well as drayage (that is, transporting shipping containers from barges to their next mode of transport).

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Source: Ars Technica

Love the hardware, hate the UI: The Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

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12 cylinders, 11,000rpm: Aston Martin’s new engine is a monster

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Source: Ars Technica

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