70,000 diesel VWs get approval for a fix requiring software, hardware updates

(credit: Erik B)

Nearly a year and a half has passed since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publicly announced that Volkswagen had cheated on its federally-required emissions tests for 2.0L diesel vehicles produced between 2009 and 2015. And, just today, the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced the first fix that could make street-legal the 475,474 diesels that were caught up in the scandal.

Unfortunately, the fix only pertains to 70,000 “Generation 3” diesels from VW Group, all of which were made in 2015. The rest of the 405,000-or-so customers with older 2.0L diesels will have to keep waiting for a fix, unless they want to sell their cars back to Volkswagen.

The news of the fix comes months after the approval of a $15 billion settlement between VW Group and the Justice Department. That settlement set aside approximately $10 billion to buy back 2.0L diesels at the price the cars were worth before the scandal was made public, as well as compensate each purchaser with somewhere between $5,100 and $10,000, depending on the make and model of the car.

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Source: Ars Technica

Concept-i is Toyota’s friendly future


Appearing like a large dimpled egg, the Concept-i autonomous car was unveiled by Toyota at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as a true design concept; a canvas stitched with ideas for a warmer, more engaging, connected autonomous car of the future. Its hypothetical on-sale date is 2030, although Toyota freely admits that it has virtually no plans to put the Concept-i into production.

The most problematic trend in autonomous cars, Toyota says, is that they simply do not appeal to the touchy-feely sentiment we humans have when it comes to our emotional connection with cars. Fully autonomous concepts have thus far been cold, distant, and purgatorial, Toyota posits. No more. Toyota’s future eggmobile puts a cheeky face on the future of driving and is even fitted with Yui, a synthetic AI car butler/pal/servant who will learn your likes and dislikes behind the wheel. Just as importantly, though, the Concept-i is also drivable by humans, so you need not feel like luggage all the time.

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Source: Ars Technica

Algorithm does real-time, city-wide ridesharing

Enlarge / Don’t worry, an algorithm has you covered, future NYC resident. (credit: Louise Ma / WNYC)

Anyone who’s ever been stuck in stop-and-go traffic would be happy to tell you that congestion is a waste of time. But the true scale of the waste is difficult to comprehend. It’s estimated that congestion costs the US one percent of its annual GDP, as people waste otherwise productive hours and fuel sitting in their vehicles, and that doesn’t even consider all the pollution this traffic creates.

Despite those numbers, most people wouldn’t choose to use options that cut congestion, like public transit or ride sharing. In many cases, that’s because these alternatives require giving up some autonomy, as you can’t necessarily go where you want whenever you want.

A paper in this week’s PNAS suggests that doesn’t have to be the case. Using a real-world database of fully autonomous travel—a week’s worth of New York City taxi rides—the authors demonstrate an algorithm that can service travel needs in real time with minimal waits for a ride. The result would be far fewer cars on the road. Even with standard cabs, only a quarter of today’s taxi fleet would be required to service all the ride requests.

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Source: Ars Technica

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