The self-driving car is closer than you think

Author: Steve Marshall

My dad likes to tell a story about Grandpa Charlie, who grew up in Pullman in the early 1900s, just as cars were beginning to replace horses. Harvesttime meant getting up before dawn t work, but it also meant Grange dances and parties far into the night. He figured out how to do both. When it came time to leave, he got on his horse and tied his hands to the saddle, and the horse took him home while he slept on the way.

Horses were smarter and safer than cars. They knew their way home, avoided crashing into each other, didn’t run off the road, and when you called them, they would come.

But they were slow. Cars filled a need for speed. They allowed people to do a lot more each day, and they physically connected people to each other faster and more often than any other invention in history. When Henry Ford’s Model T made cards affordable, horses disappeared from the roads within a generation.

Unfortunately, cars and their drivers created a new set of problems. More than 30,000 people die on U.S. roads each year; vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for those between ages 5 and 34. Even minor crashes take a toll in lost time as well as repairs. Drivers are responsible for 93 percent of U.S. vehicle collisions, at a cost of $299.5 billion a year.

Read the full article at,May,2013.pdf.


Seattle Transportation Committee Approves Car2Go Expansion

Author: Zach Shaner

On Tuesday the Seattle City Council Transportation Committee (Rasmussen, Harrell, Godden) approved Car2Go’s request for expansion. In his testimony to the council, Car2Go’s Walter Rosencranz specifically cited the influence of social media and ‘local blogs’ in making requests to expand the service area. In its first 90 days, Car2Go has enrolled 18,000 Seattle members, triple the number typically seen in other cities during that time.

The proposed new home area is exciting and sensible.

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Continental and BMW working on highly-automated driving

Continental and BMW are pooling their development capacities to define the long-term prerequisites for series introduction of highly-automated driving on European freeways. The two companies have signed an agreement to jointly develop an electronic co-pilot for this purpose, with the overall aim of the partnership being to pave the way for highly-automated driving functions beyond 2020. The cooperative project runs through to the end of 2014, with several prototype test vehicles equipped for automated driving due to be built in the next two years. The prototypes will be made available to a select team of trained test participants, who will help analyze highly-automated driving functions, not only on German freeways, but also on freeways in other European countries. The tests will cover all the challenges freeways pose, such as interchanges, toll plazas and roadworks.

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Driverless Cars Before Electric Ones

Author: John DeCicco

Pushing electric cars into the market before we have driverless cars is putting the cart before the horse. Those concerned with sustainable transportation should turn on to the promise of intelligent connectivity and help overcome the regulatory, insurance and institutional barriers that can inhibit the rapid evolution of “tuned in” autonomous mobility. That will be more productive than attempts to mandate or subsidize plug-in cars, which lack a scalable business case in an unconnected transportation world.

In spite of so much breathless advocacy from electric vehicle (EV) proponents, electrification itself is not a game changer for mobility. Putting a plug-in powertrain into the 19th century machine that had such a profound impact on the 20th century doesn’t make it a 21st century breakthrough. It just makes it a more expensive car.

Certainly the electric car has its passionate believers who are jazzed about the technology. Some consumers very much want to get off of oil or cut their carbon footprints. EVs can do both, no doubt about that, though at very high cost. Individuals who feel strongly about those issues and are willing and able to pay the added price are much to be admired.

But private passion does not justify public subsidy. As long as there are less expensive ways of reducing oil use and cutting carbon, neither taxpayers nor automakers nor consumers at large should be asked to absorb the high costs of electrification. Given the urgency of the climate problem, the focus should be on the most cost-effective options available today, which EVs are not. And given current fiscal constraints, public resources are best reserved for basic research to seek better batteries, advanced materials and other enabling technologies that can be used in a variety of products.

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CMU/Ford study assesses optimal mix of conventional, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles for minimizing GHG and cost

In a new study, a team from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Ford Research and Advanced Engineering set out to determine the optimal mix for the fleet of mid-size personal vehicles in the US—while maintaining current driving patterns—with the goals of minimizing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) or cost. They also addressed the question of GHG or cost reduction with and without a workplace charging infrastructure.

Their study, they suggested in a paper analyzing the best possible outcomes and published in the journal Energy Policy, is a step towards understanding what should be incentivized by policy makers.

They developed an optimization problem to minimize life cycle cost or GHG emissions over the personal vehicle fleet by jointly determining (1) the optimal design of each CV (conventional vehicle), HEV (hybrid electric vehicle), PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), and BEV (battery-electric vehicle); (2) the optimal allocation of each vehicle design in the fleet based on annual vehicle miles traveled (VMT); and (3) the optimal allocation of workplace charging infrastructure to PEVs in the fleet. Within the fleet, they considered only vehicles of similar size and acceleration performance to the Toyota Prius.

They also incorporated vehicle design constraints to ensure comparable acceleration performance and vehicle allocation constraints to ensure BEVs are assigned only if they have sufficient range to accommodate the vehicle’s driving distance on most days (base case 95% of days).

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The World’s Most Expensive Cabs

Author: Eric Jaffe

This month new cab fares went into effect in New York. Fares will rise an estimated 17 percent under a new cost structure approved by the Taxi and Limousine Commission this summer. For each fifth of a mile, or each minute in traffic, the fare goes up 50 cents, instead of 40, in the new system. It’s the first across-the-board increase in about eight years, and cabbies say it’s essential to keep up with rising fuel costs, but New Yorkers still aren’t happy. One Christopher Keating, 42, told Reuters:

“A 17 percent hike all at once is a little hard to swallow,” Keating said. “They may deserve a raise, but it seems like it would make more sense in smaller increments, year to year.”

C. Keating might check out a new report [PDF] from the Swiss bank UBS for some global perspective. On a list of cab fares in 72 cities around the world, New York fares in the middle of the pack. UBS calculates the price of a typical 3-mile cab ride in the city at $8.50. That’s just above Dubai ($8.17) and just below Istanbul ($8.94). It’s also considerably less than the other three American cities on the list: Chicago ($12.50), Miami ($15.32), and Los Angeles ($25.06). It’s even less than the global average, which UBS puts at roughly $10.

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