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Ben Lovejoy

October 12

Hyperloop One has been rebranded as ‘Virgin Hyperloop One’ following an unspecified investment by the company.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson said that the investment was a good fit for the company …

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December 13, 2016

Google has long said that it has no plans to manufacture self-driving cars itself, instead partnering with automakers, but it had been thought that it might press ahead with cars without steering wheels or pedals. However, a new report from The Information suggests that parent company Alphabet has now ‘backed off’ these plans in favor of something more conventional.

The report also echoes a much earlier one on the company’s intentions for the self-driving car project …

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November 21, 2016

Supercar maker McLaren says Apple did meet with them, but didn’t bid for the business

Following a report in September that Apple was considering an acquisition of supercar manufacturer McLaren, the company has told Reuters that discussions and meetings did take place, but did not get as far as a formal bid.

September 2, 2016

China opens antitrust investigation into Apple-backed Didi Chuxing’s acquisition of Uber China

The WSJ reports that China has opened an antitrust investigation into the acquisition of Uber China by local rival Didi Chuxing. The deal went ahead a few months after Apple invested $1B in Didi Chuxing.

May 17, 2016

Google self-driving pioneers think big-rigs could get there before cars, started company to prove it

Fifteen former Google engineers, including long-time self-driving pioneer Anthony Levandowski, have left the company to create Otto, a start-up based on bringing partial autonomous driving to big-rig trucks.

As the NYT notes, the start-up has great creds: Levandowski designed a self-driving motorcycle while still a grad student, and his first start-up was acquired by Google. Co-founder Lior Ron was previously lead engineer on Google Maps.

Otto’s plan differs from Google’s self-driving car project in two ways …

May 6, 2016

Apple seeking 800,000-sq feet of space for car project as team reaches around 600 people – WSJ

One of the largest property companies in the San Francisco Bay Area has said during an investor call that Apple is seeking around 800,000 square feet of space in the area to expand its car project. The WSJ quotes Hudson Pacific Properties CEO Victor Coleman talking about rising demand for space for car R&D in the area.

April 18, 2016

German publication Frankfurter Allgemeine is reporting that Apple may be planning to use Austrian-based automotive contract manufacturer Magna to manufacture the Apple Car. The publication also says that Apple has created a ‘secret lab’ in Berlin where it has head-hunted a small cross-disciplinary team of 15-20 upcoming engineers from a number of German car companies.

Magna specialises in making limited-edition models for major car manufacturers, having made the Mini Paceman and Clubman for BMW, as well as the BMW X3. It is expected to make hundreds of thousands of vehicles for BMW over the next 6-7 years …

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April 7, 2016

Google’s self-driving cars headed to Phoenix to see how they handle ‘extreme temperatures and dust’

‘Extreme temperatures and dust’ may not be the most flattering description of Phoenix, Arizona, but it’s the reason Google cites for naming the city as its fourth testing ground for its fleet of self-driving cars.

Reuters reports that Google is currently using four Lexus RX450h SUVs to create the detailed map of “streets, lane markers, traffic signals and curb heights” needed to allow the self-driving cars to operate.

‘The Phoenix area has distinct desert conditions, which will help us better understand how our sensors and cars handle extreme temperatures and dust in the air,’ said the project’s head of business operations Jennifer Haroon.

There is, though, a second – and more flattering – reason for the choice …

February 12, 2016

The Guardian spotted a slew of new job listings for Google’s self-driving car project, ranging from a marketing manager to manufacturing process engineers. In all, the company has advertised 36 jobs in the autonomous car division – though none of them are for (non-) drivers

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February 11, 2016

Arrow Smart-Kart gives parents smartphone-controlled speed limiting & geofencing for their boy/girl racers [Video]

Ok, I officially want to be a kid again. If you want to get your kids into the electric car habit early, Actev is this weekend launching the Arrow Smart-Kart. For kids aged 5-9, the message is that it looks and sounds like a race kart (thanks to speakers with artificially-generated V12 engine sounds), has GPS and WiFi – and it can do donuts.

February 2, 2016

Google’s self-driving cars have notched up almost 1.5 million miles in autonomous mode since the project began in 2009 – but they drive twice as many miles every single day in the lab. Google’s latest monthly report reveals that every software change is tested by using it to simulate driving the entire driving history of the fleet, autonomous and manual.

One benefit of teaching a computer to drive is that it has great memory and recall. With our simulator, we’re able to call upon the millions of miles we’ve already driven and drive those miles again with the updated software. For example, to make left turns at an intersection more comfortable for our passengers, we modified our software to adjust the angle at which our cars would travel. To test this change, we then rerun our entire driving history of 2+ million miles with the new turning pattern to ensure that it doesn’t just make our car better at left turns, but that the changes creates a better driving experience overall …

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January 15, 2016

When Tesla’s Elon Musk tweeted that he expected to the company’s cars to be able to drive themselves across the U.S. from coast to coast within two years, my response was that I might believe the tech could hit that deadline, but not the law. It seems I may be wrong.

The WSJ reports that the Obama administration wants to invest $3.9B in crafting rules and policies to facilitate the rapid rollout of self-driving cars. This would take place at the federal level, ensuring consistent national laws rather than a patchwork of state-by-state regulations …

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January 14, 2016

Medium’s tech hub editor-in-chief Steven Levy provides an interesting behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be a test-(non)driver of one of Google’s self-driving cars. Among the more surprising facts is that there’s a four-week full-time course to qualify to sit behind the wheel of one of the company’s testbed Lexus cars – with additional training needed for the cute prototype cars with only emergency controls.

There’s an abbreviated version for those who will only be sitting in the cars on the company’s private test facility. If you fancy the job, the most reliable way to apply, says Levy, is to be friends with an existing driver. If you can’t swing that, there’s always the option of applying to be a professional pedestrian …

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January 6, 2016

Given Google’s apparent lead in driverless car technology, you might imagine that the tech giant has notched-up the greatest number of patents in the field, but Reuters says that this isn’t the case. A detailed analysis of patent filings for autonomous car technology shows that car manufacturers are way out ahead, with Google only taking 26th place.

Toyota is, far and away, the global leader in the number of self-driving car patents, the report found. Toyota is followed by Germany’s Robert Bosch GmbH, Japan’s Denso Corp, Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co and General Motors Co. The tech company with the most autonomous-driving patents, Alphabet Inc’s Google, ranks 26th on the list.

Toyota has more than 1,400 patents in the field, twice as many as second-placed Robert Bosch …

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December 16, 2015

While there have been long-running theories that Google plans to operate a fleet of self-driving cars as an Uber/Lyft competitor, rather than selling them directly to consumers, a Bloomberg piece sounds rather definite about it. The paper also says that the project will be spun off into its own Alphabet company.

Google Inc. plans to make its self-driving cars unit, which will offer rides for hire, a stand-alone business under the Alphabet Inc. corporate umbrella next year, a person briefed on the company’s strategy said […]

The fleets ­– which would include a range of large and small vehicles – could be deployed first in confined areas like college campuses, military bases or corporate office parks, the person said.

The idea of initial use in ‘confined areas’ (read: not public roads) could potentially accelerate the introduction of the service … expand full story

December 3, 2015

Google has announced its largest ever purchase of renewable energy to power data centers across the U.S., Sweden and Chile, reports The Washington Post. The new projects, mostly wind-powered, add a massive 842 megawatts of green energy, which Google claims is the largest investment ever by anyone other than a power company.

The investment brings Google’s total renewable energy capacity to 2 gigawatts, which is equivalent to the total energy output of the Hoover Dam. Google has pledged to power its entire operations from green energy by 2025, and Re/code reports it was 37% of the way there prior to this deal. That suggests this deal ought to take the company to around 60%.

There is a little small-print, however …  expand full story

October 27, 2015

While it seems near-certain that Google plans a full-scale commercial rollout of its self-driving cars, and that Apple has serious plans for a competing vehicle of its own, neither company is likely to manufacture the cars itself. As a recent opinion piece argued, actually manufacturing a car is massively complex undertaking.

Both Google and Apple will therefore be looking for partners to pull together different elements of the car, and Re/code has put together an interesting look at the most likely candidates. Though the piece is focused on the Apple Car, the analysis applies to Apple, Google and Tesla alike …  expand full story

September 29, 2015

Google’s self-driving cars may have an impressive safety record – having never caused an accident in more than a million miles of driving on public roads – but the company admits that their ultra-cautious approach can make them a little unpredictable and annoying to other drivers, reports the WSJ. Examples include taking a very wide approach on turns, and braking at the slightest sign of danger.

The cars are “a little more cautious than they need to be,” Chris Urmson, who leads Google’s effort to develop driverless cars, [said]. “We are trying to make them drive more humanistically” … 

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