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Covid 19

Ora’s copycat electric Beetle has a truly wild interior

Cast your mind back to last week, when images of a new electric car that looked totally like a Beetle surfaced from China.

Well, that car has been officially unveiled at Auto Shanghai, and it’s great. It’s a four-door electric hatchback from Chinese EV brand Ora. It has a name now too: it’s called the Punk Cat. Maybe they should have called it the Copy Cat — oh meow!

The name was chosen following an internet consultation. Other options included Elf Cat, Noble Cat, Royal Cat, Big Orange Cat, and Persian Cat. Yeah, if you didn’t realize, Ora likes naming its cars as different types of cat. It also makes the Lightning Cat and the Good Cat.

ev, ora, great wall motors
Credit: Ora
The Ora Punk Cat is a throwback to the classic VW Beetle, but it’s not a Beetle. It’s from China.

Ok, so this thing looks exactly like a classic 1960s VW Beetle. But that’s no bad thing! I said that last week when images first surfaced, and I’ll say it again. The fact this looks like a classic Beetle is no bad thing.

Sure, the likeness is undeniably brazen, but the product that Ora has come up with is just stunning.

The original Beetle was just three doors, the Punk Cat on the other hand is a slightly longer four-door take on the format, making it a tad more practical.

ev, ora, punk, cat
Credit: Ora
The Ora Punk Cat sticks up its middle paw to convention and plays by its own design rule book… which must have been the same rule book that VW used 50 years ago.

But the best bit of all is the car’s interior. Seriously, get a load of it:

ev, ora, interior, cat, punk cat
Credit: Ora
I have never seen a car interior quite like this before. It’s stunning, it’s flashy, but still elegant.

The interior of the Punk Cat is decidedly not punk. It’s over the top, lavish, and flashy. It blends modern features like steering wheel-mounted controls, and a massive navigation screen, with classic glossy gold details, and two-tone upholstery.

It’s 100% not my style, but I love it all the same. It’s wild and different, we need more of this in the car world.

When everything goes electric, most cars will accelerate and sound largely the same, so we need to look at these kinds of details to bring out our vehicles‘ personalities.

And would you look at that: I’ve gone through this whole article without mentioning anything about batteries, motors, or range. When a car looks this good, I just don’t care.


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Covid 19

Elon Musk casts doubt over Autopilot involvement in fatal Tesla crash

Tesla figurehead Elon Musk has commented on the US crash in which two men died. Casting doubt on the situation, Musk’s input now asks more questions than it answers.

Musk claims that Autopilot was not engaged at the time, and that the vehicle in question didn’t have the Full Self Driving package.

Replying to a Twitter account critiquing the WSJ article on the incident, Musk said that the data recovered so far “show Autopilot was not enabled and this car did not purchase FSD.”

It seems this is Musk’s only response to this crash.

The account Musk is replying to suggests that Autopilot won’t work if no one is in the driving seat, and holding on to the steering wheel.

While this should be the case, we know the system has been gamed in the past, and the driver monitoring sensor on the steering wheel can be hacked with an orange.

Numerous videos have circulated online, where drivers have climbed into the passenger seat and the Tesla has continued driving as if everything is as it should be.

The thing is, investigators are certain that no one was in the driver’s seat of the vehicle. Reports say that one person was found in the front passenger seat, and the other in the back seat.

Musk also said that Autopilot wouldn’t work on a street that doesn’t have lane lines. The road where the crash took place, doesn’t have lines.

If Tesla’s systems worked as intended, and there was no one in the driver’s seat, the car simply should not have been moving.

It’s evident that something unusual was going on, but right now, we can’t say exactly what. And any attempt to say what happened is speculation.

More to come

This is not the last we’ll hear on this matter, you can be sure of that.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have launched investigations into the crash.

Bear in mind, the NHTSA is already investigating 27 other Tesla crashes.

According to CNBC, the police and federal investigators are yet to complete their analysis of the crash. No conclusions can yet be drawn.

And as you might suspect, despite what Musk has said, a big question mark remains over whether driver-assistance systems were engaged before or during the crash.


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What Waymo’s new leadership means for its self-driving cars

Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car subsidiary, is reshuffling its top executive lineup. On April 2, John Krafcik, Waymo’s CEO since 2015, declared that he will be stepping down from his role. He will be replaced by Tekedra Mawakana and Dmitri Dolgov, the company’s former COO and CTO. Krafcik will remain as an advisor to the company.

“[With] the fully autonomous Waymo One ride-hailing service open to all in our launch area of Metro Phoenix, and with the fifth generation of the Waymo Driver being prepared for deployment in ride-hailing and goods delivery, it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to pass the baton to Tekedra and Dmitri as Waymo’s co-CEOs,” Krafcik wrote on LinkedIn as he declared his departure.

The change in leadership can have significant implications for Waymo, which has seen many ups and downs as it continues to develop its driverless car business. It can also hint at the broader state of the self-driving car industry, which has failed to live up to its hype in the past few years.

The deep learning hype

In 2015, Krafcik joined Google’s self-driving car effort, then called Project Chauffeur. At the time, there was a lot of excitement around deep learning, the branch of artificial intelligence that has made great inroads in computer vision, one of the key components of driverless cars. The belief was that, thanks to continued advances in deep learning, it was only a matter of time before self-driving cars became the norm on the streets.

Deep learning models rely on vast amounts of training data to develop stable behavior. And if the AI algorithms were ready, as it seemed at the time, reaching deployment-level self-driving car technology was only a question of having a scalable data-collection strategy to train deep learning models. While some of this data can be generated in simulated environments, the main training of deep learning models used in self-driving cars comes from driving in the real world.

waymo self-driving car technology
Self-driving cars use deep learning to make sense of their surroundings.

Therefore, what Project Chauffeur needed was a leader who had longtime experience in the automotive industry and could bridge the gap between carmakers and the fast-developing AI sector, and deploy Google’s technology on roads.

And Krafcik was the perfect candidate. Before joining Google, he was the CEO of Hyundai Motor America, had held several positions at Ford, and had worked in the International Motor Vehicle Program at MIT as a lean production researcher and consultant.

Under Krafcik’s tenure, Project Chauffeur spun off as Waymo under Alphabet, Google’s parent company, and quickly transformed into a leader in testing self-driving cars on roads. During this time, Waymo struck partnerships with several automakers, integrated Waymo’s AI and lidar technology into Jaguar and Chrysler vehicles, and expanded its test-driving project to more than 25 states.

Today, Waymo’s cars have driven more than 20 million miles on roads and 20 billion miles in simulation, more than any other self-driving car company.

The limits of self-driving technology

Like the executives of other companies working on driverless car technology, Krafcik promised time and again that fully autonomous vehicles were on the horizon. In Waymo’s 2020 Web Summit, Krafcik presented a video of a Waymo self-driving car driving in streets without a backup driver.

“We’ve been working on this technology a long time, for about eight years,” Krafcik said. “And every company, including Waymo, has always started with a test driver behind the wheel, ready to take over. We recently surveyed 3,000 adults across the U.S. and asked them when they expected to see self-driving vehicles, ones without a person in the driver’s seat, on their own roads. And the common answer we heard was around 2020… It’s not happening in 2020. It’s happening today.”

But despite Krafcik’s leverage in the automotive industry, Google’s crack AI research team, and Alphabet’s deep pockets, Waymo—like other self-driving car companies—has failed to produce a robust driverless technology. The cars still require backup drivers to monitor and take control as soon as the AI starts to act erratically.

The AI technology is not ready, and despite the lidar, radar, and other sensor technologies used to complement deep learning models, self-driving cars still can’t handle unknown conditions in the same way as humans do.

They can run thousands of miles without making errors, but they might suddenly make very dumb and dangerous mistakes when they face corner cases, such as an overturned truck on the highway or a fire truck parked at the wrong angle.

So far, Waymo has avoided major self-driving scandals such as Tesla and Uber’s fatal accidents. But it has yet to deliver a technology that can be deployed at scale. Waymo One, the company’s fully driverless robo-taxi service, is only available in limited parts of Phoenix, AZ. After two years, Waymo still hasn’t managed to expand the service to more crowded and volatile urban areas.

The company is still far from becoming profitable. Alphabet’s Other Bets segment, which includes Waymo, had an operating cost of $4.48 billion in 2020, against $657 million in revenue. And Waymo’s valuation has seen a huge drop amid cooling sentiments surrounding self-driving cars, going from nearly $200 billion in 2018 to $30 billion in 2020.

The AI and legal challenges of self-driving cars

Waymo driverless car

While Krafcik didn’t explicitly state the reason for his departure, Waymo’s new leadership lineup suggests that the company has acknowledged that the “fully self-driving cars are here” narrative is a bit fallacious.

Driverless technology has come a long way, but a lot more needs to be done. It’s clear that just putting more miles on your deep learning algorithms will not make them more robust against unpredictable situations. We need to address some of the fundamental problems of deep learning, such as lack of causality, poor transfer learning, and intuitive understanding of physics. These are active areas of research, and no one has still provided a definitive answer to them.

The self-driving car industry also faces several legal complications. For instance, if a driverless car becomes involved in an accident, how will culpability be defined? How will self-driving cars share roads with human-driven cars? How do you define whether a road or environment is stable enough for driverless technology? These are some of the questions that the self-driving car community will have to solve as the technology continues to develop and prepare for mass adoption.

In this regard, the new co-CEOs of Waymo are well-positioned to face these challenges. Dologov, who was Waymo’s CTO before his new role, has a PhD in computer science with a focus on artificial intelligence and has a long history of working on self-driving car technology.

As a postdoc researcher, he was part of Stanford’s self-driving car team that won second place in DARPA’s 2007 Urban Challenge. He was also a researcher at Toyota’s Research Institute in Ann Arbor, MI. And since 2009, he has been among the senior engineers in Google’s self-driving car outfit that later became Waymo.

In a nutshell, he’s as good a leader you can have to deal with the AI software, algorithm, and hardware challenges that a driverless car company will face in the coming years.

Mawakana, on the other hand, is a Doctor of Law. She had led policy teams at Yahoo, eBay, and AOL before joining Waymo and becoming the COO. She’s now well-positioned to tackle the legal and policy challenges that Waymo will face as self-driving cars gradually find try to find their way in more jurisdictions.

The dream of self-driving cars is far from dead. In fact, in his final year as CEO, Krafcik managed to secure more than $3 billion in funding for Waymo. There’s still a lot of interest in self-driving cars and their potential value. But Waymo’s new lineup suggests that self-driving cars still have a bumpy road ahead.

This article was originally published by Ben Dickson on TechTalks, a publication that examines trends in technology, how they affect the way we live and do business, and the problems they solve. But we also discuss the evil side of technology, the darker implications of new tech and what we need to look out for. You can read the original article here.

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Covid 19

The latest Tesla crash is another tragic reminder that cars can’t drive themselves

Last week, we had to read the sad story of the death of two men that were traveling in a Tesla that left the road at high speed, and crashed into a tree. It subsequently burst into flames, it took firefighters hours to subdue the blaze.

It’s believed that Autopilot was engaged at the time, and local media reports that no one was in the driver’s seat. The men, one aged 59 and the other 69, were reportedly in the front and rear passenger seats of the vehicle.

Moments before setting off, the two men had been discussing the car’s Autopilot feature, investigating constable Mark Herman said.

This incident serves as yet another painful reminder that cars are not capable of driving themselves, and that drivers are being grossly misled by overzealous and irresponsible marketing.

Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self Driving systems are not capable of driving a vehicle without significant human assistance. Before engaging the system, drivers are warned by the car to pay full attention to the road at all times. They must be ready to take control at any moment.

The company’s self-driving suite is a Level 2 system, by SAE classification, meaning that it is designed to assist the driver with partially automated features, like speed control, and lane keeping.

However, considering how Full Self Driving and Autopilot are named and marketed, it’s easy to see why drivers would believe their car is capable of taking full control of driving duties, even though that’s not the case.

Spend some time on YouTube, the Tesla forums, and Tesla subreddits, and it becomes clear there is a significant contingent of fans that truly believe the vehicles are capable of driving themselves, and that it’s just regulations and The Man standing in Musk’s way.

What we’re actually witnessing is autonowashing, a phenomenon coined by human-machine interaction researcher Liza Dixon. It describes the difference between what drivers think their partially automated vehicle is capable of doing, and what it’s actually capable of doing.

It’s far from a harmless misunderstanding of technology, and as we’ve witnessed again this weekend, can result in people losing their lives.

It’s worth educating ourselves more deeply on the state of  supposed autonomous cars, and the potential dangers that can result from misunderstanding and misuse of advanced driver assistance systems.

Ed Niedermeyer, who is part of the PAVE (Partners for Automated Vehicle Education) campaign has listed some useful resources that are essential reading for anyone interested in the self-driving car debate.

You should also read SHIFT’s interview with Liza Dixon here, and our deep dive into self-driving car technology and what happens when we don’t get it right.


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Canadian police pull over car thinking driver is drunk — nope, it’s ‘self-driving’

Right, it’s Friday, it’s about four o’clock in the afternoon where I am right now, and I’m about to clock off, but I just had to share this HILARIOUS story from Vancouver with you.

According to the Vancouver Island Free Daily, Campbell River police pulled over a vehicle last week. Boring! But it gets better.

After some erratic maneuvers and failing to stay in its lane, officers believed that the vehicle was being driven by a drunk person. So they stopped it to investigate further.

Nothing unusual here.

When the police investigated the driver and passenger of the car, they found they were both completely sober. So what was going on?

Well, it turns out that the car had its supposed self-driving features engaged.

“Drivers need to understand that they are responsible for what their vehicle is doing,”  constable Maury Tyre told the Vancouver Island Free Daily — I didn’t make that name up, btw.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear what car the pair were driving, so we can’t say for certain what it was. But we humans can read (and stay between) the lines better than a self-driving car, so I don’t think I need to say what car was probably being driven.

All the reporting I read on this incident referred to the car as self-driving. Even though we have no idea what the car was, we can say for certain that it wasn’t a self-driving car, and didn’t have autonomous capability.

There are no consumer available vehicles that meet this standard, yet.

Yet again, this is another classic case of drivers who may have been sober, but have been autonowashed by the Big Self-Driving Cartels.


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How to turn your ebike into a cargo-hauling car replacement

Let’s get this out of the way: an ebike can never fully replace a car. At least, not in the sense of carrying four passengers and a trunk full of groceries while being shielded from the rain. There will be times where having a car is more convenient.

But sometimes bikes are the more convenient vehicle too. As a city-dweller who used to occasionally drive, not having to park and cutting through traffic saves me a bunch of time. I’ve been riding ebikes for transportation almost exclusively for the past couple of years, and I’ve come to realize that for almost all day-to-day tasks, and even some irregular ones, an electric bike is more than enough.

Yes, you’ll have to be a little bit creative, especially if you haven’t got yourself a proper cargo ebike. But in my case, the biggest barrier for getting stuff done on two wheels was really the mental one. When I started testing ebikes, I was a noob to cycling in general and had no idea of the wealth of accessories available to help make carrying stuff easier.

What follows are some of the most useful accessories I’ve found for carrying stuff on the ebikes I’ve tested. Most I have tried myself, but for those I haven’t, I’ve done research thorough enough to be comfortable recommending them.

Some disclaimers first: this guide was written with the assumption that you’re a newcomer riding an ebike. So while all of the accessories here work just as fine on a regular bike, I’m giving little consideration to things like weight or aerodynamics. Practicality is my only concern. I also know this list doesn’t include every cargo accessory in the world, sue me.

Onward.

A rear rack

The rear rack is the go-to cargo accessory because it allows you to carry stuff without affecting control over your bike too much. You can hang panniers from them (essentially tote bags meant to be attached to a bike rack, more on these in a bit), and they usually have a flat top for carrying more stuff — like a pizza. Alternatively, you can attach a bag or basket to the rack top; for a cheap DIY setup, attach a milk crate with some zip ties.

If you bought an ebike, there’s a good chance your bike already comes with a rack. If not, check with the manufacturer for compatible models; it might have one it’s tested to be compatible with your bike. In any case, there are about a bazillions racks on the market, so you’ll almost certainly be able to find one for your bike.

Many, if not most, bikes come with mounting points for a rack, but if not, there are racks designed to be virtually universal too. There are racks that can attach to your bike’s seatpost, others that attach to your wheels like the heavy-duty Old Man Mountain racks, or the Thule Pack N Pedal, which wraps around your bike’s seat stays.

Bungees and straps

If you want to attach stuff to the top of your rack, you’ll need some kind of strap to tie it down. Bungee cords are the classic choice, keeping items under tension; you can find whole kits of them for cheap. There are also cargo nets that can help tie down larger, more pliable items, or cover up a basket.

Personally though, I’m a big fan of ROK straps. These are a bit more expensive, but attach securely to your bike’s rack and only have a small elastic portion to them, keeping your items more secure than a typical bungee strap.

Panniers

Panniers are probably the easiest ways to carry a small to medium set of groceries on your bike. These bags hang off the sides of your rack and are quick to attach and detach.

They usually come with some kind of handle so you can use them as shopping bags, and some also double as backpacks or messenger bags for commuters. They come in a myriad of shapes and sizes.

A front basket or rack

Rear racks are super-versatile, but they don’t allow you to see your cargo. That’s why I prefer carrying stuff on the front of my bike whenever possible.

Many ebikes have mounting points on your bike’s headtube that fixes a front rack or basket directly onto the frame. If these are available, they are probably your best bet for front cargo, as they will be more stable than accessories that attach to your handlebars or forks; those will sway when you turn the bike, making it trickier to balance.

If no frame mount for a rack is available, I’m a big fan of Wald’s quick-release front basket. This lightweight basket attaches to your handlebars and can be used as a fairly sizeable shopping basket when you arrive at your destination. Being able to remove the basket also helps keep the bike more maneuverable if you need to squeeze it through a tight staircase like me. Alternatively, there are about a million handlebar bags out there.

If going with a front basket, I definitely suggest keeping a cargo net on your bike — it’ll help prevent stuff from flying out and allow you to carry a bit more than you might’ve dared otherwise.

If you prefer a front rack that attaches to your fork, Soma’s PortFolder is pretty neat. When folded, it keeps a minimal profile and can carry some front panniers(they make those too), but it’s also able to unfold into a large flat surface for carrying multiple pizzas (you can tell that carrying pizzas is a concern of mine).

Another advantage of a front rack (as opposed to a handlebar bag or basket) is that it keeps your cargo’s center of gravity lower, helping keep your bike more stable.

And if your fork doesn’t have mounting points for a rack, the aforementioned universal Old Man Mountain and Thule Pack n Pedal racks can actually be attached to the front rack too.

A backpack

I almost never go grocery shopping on my ebike without a backpack. While on a regular bike carrying a backpack in warm weather will likely mean a sweaty back, this is much less of an issue on an ebike.

Credit: Henty

You probably have a backpack lying at home somewhere. Use it. If not, and you want something fancy that can double as a travel bag, I absolutely love Henty’s Travel Brief. It can fit 30 liters of stuff, which in my case often mean fitting a 12-roll pack of toilet paper with some room to spare. It also really is quite a nice travel bag.

A reusable bag or two

I always keep a reusable shopping bag or two with my bike that I can hang around the handlebars. The goal isn’t to use them regularly — the aforementioned accessories are all for that — but rather to serve as an overflow buffer. There’s nothing worse than going to get a bunch of groceries, realizing that you wanted to get more stuff, and then not being able to fit that last box of croissants on your setup.

You could just take a bag with you before you go shopping, but I recommend keeping one with your ebike at all times. Having an extra shopping bag handy is useful for fitting those last items — preferably lighter ones so your weight distribution doesn’t get too wonky.

A cargo trailer

But what about those times you need to just carry a lot of stuff — or something really big? That’s when a cargo trailer can be a lifesaver.

Bike trailers come in all shapes and sizes, from flatbeds to big ol’ buckets, but my favorite as a city dweller is the Burley Travoy. I reviewed it a while back, but suffice to say it’s a cross between a cargo trailer, a handtruck, and a granny cart. It folds up compact when not needed, but I’ve also used it to carry anything from groceries…

…to office chairs…

I picked up an office chair from staples with the older version of the travoy. Note I had to use separate cam straps as the uncluded tie downs straps were not long enough for this particular package.

…to a pair of large dog crates.

The Travoy comes with tie-down straps, but for larger items, I replaced them with heavy-duty cam straps. It’s an incredibly versatile trailer that only requires a little creativity for carrying oddly shaped items. Plus, you can bring it into a store to use it as a shopping cart.

It’s also a great option if you have multiple bikes, as it attaches directly to your seat post and the process only takes a few seconds. Likewise, it’s a useful accessory if you want to keep your bike light or aesthetically minimalist; it does not require anything to be permanently affixed onto your bike.

I like this thing a lot. If I had to make just one purchase for cargo purposes, it would probably be the Travoy.

Just about the only thing it’s not so great at is carrying items that need to be flat (like a bunch of pizzas) and people (well, you probably could if you really wanted to, buy tying someone down onto a bike trailer might look a little suspicious).

A child/pet trailer

Want to take your child/dog/cat/iguana with you? There are trailers for that too.

I have a dog and two cats, for which I requested a review unit of the Burley Tail Wagon — it’s a sturdy trailer that folds compact and can double as a pet stroller. The brand has built a reputation for the safety of its trailers, so it’s among the few I’d trust to haul my fluffy ones around.

Okay so, truth be told, I actually haven’t used the Tail Wagon for its primary purpose much, because my dog has extreme separation anxiety and we’re slowly working our way towards acclimating her to it.

But it’s been really great for carrying larger items, including for stuffing even more groceries and large boxes. Although it might be a little cumbersome to attach compared to panniers or the Travoy, it can fit a lot more stuff without needing tie-downs, and feels super stable over long rides.

So much more

This list only scratches the surface of how to carry stuff on your bike. There are small saddle bags, top tube bags, large bikepacking seat bags, frame bags, child seats, sidecars, and even surfboard racks. Not to mention that there are cargo bikes specifically designed to haul stuff, like the compact Tern GSD or the Long-John Urban Arrow Family.

You might have to get creative to carry some larger items, but after spending the past couple of years carrying all sorts of stuff on ebikes, it’s clear that where there’s a will (and a few useful accessories), there’s a way.

This post includes affiliate links to products that you can buy online. If you purchase them through our links, we get a small cut of the revenue.


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How my stolen bike inspired an IoT innovation

This article was written by Pierre Regnier on The Urban Mobility Daily, the content site of the Urban Mobility Company, a Paris-based company which is moving the business of mobility forward through physical and virtual events and services. Join their community of 10K+ global mobility professionals by signing up for theUrban Mobility Weekly newsletter. Read the original articlehere and follow them onLinkedin andTwitter.

The Business of Mobility is an Urban Mobility Company series highlighting some of the most successful new businesses in the mobility sector. Featuring a closer look at the way in which companies stand out, CEOs, Directors and other c-level executives elaborate on what it takes to turn a great idea into a great company.

Pierre Regnier, CEO of Velco, explains how Velco is working with both operators and manufacturers to improve the functionality of micromobility and help clients build long-term relationships with end-users

A bike theft turned lemons into lemonade

In 2016 I was doing my internship in Paris. As transport was expensive, I was using my bike to get around. One day after leaving the office, I came outside to find my bike had been stolen. The sinking feeling of loss was replaced by inspiration when that night I watched a TV show about the invention of a connected wallet to prevent theft and loss.

I then got together with two friends from Audencia Business School (Johnny Smith and Romain Savouré) where we had been studying, and so began our quest to use IoT to improve the micromobility experience.

Getting a handle on innovation

In 2019 we launched the Wink Bar, a handlebar for ebikes with telematics embedded. The Wink Bar boasted some unique innovations, like headlights that turn on automatically in the dark and a navigation system with flashing lights to tell riders when to turn left or right. Our experience in creating the Wink Bar exposed us to developments in the urban mobility industry, with data and connectivity becoming increasingly important.

From the Wink Bar to Nuotrax and Onitrax

We realized that we needed telematics not just for e-bikes but for escooters, emopeds and other micromobility. So, we introduced Onitrax (a small plug-in telematics device) mainly for e-scooters and emopeds and re-designed and rebranded the Wink Bar as Nuotrax. Our clients like the integrated design of Nuotrax, which also has the advantage of a quick and simple retrofit. Bike technicians are not having to fit telematics, with the complications of casing and electronics, they’re simply fitting a handlebar.

IoT for three key improvements in urban mobility

Single-car ownership is on the way out as cities encourage electric powered micromobility, which will improve traffic flow and reduce emissions. It’s therefore vital for mobility businesses to match the advantages of car ownership and encourage commuters to make the switch. IoT (the Internet of things) is what’s driving the new mobility revolution as MaaS (mobility-as-a-service) and SaaS (software-as-a-service) turn transport vehicles into platforms of ever-improving utility.

Our mission is to use telematics and SaaS to improve micromobility in three key areas: anti-theft, safety and maintenance. As Johnny Smith (our CMO) put it: “Our aim is to accompany clients by creating value from the data collected and transforming it into high value-added services for your company and users.” The functionality is virtually limitless, both for the operator and the end-user. Operators can track maintenance needs, user flows, average distance traveled, etc. Users can track CO2 savings, geolocate their bike, be warned of potential theft incidents, etc.

Serving operators and manufacturers

Our relationship with Véligo, the world’s largest long-term ebike rental company, has given us a valuable insight into how the industry is developing, with both operators and manufacturers wanting to build a long-term relationship with users. IoT has become a powerful tool for marketing and CRM (customer relationship management) purposes.

While our telematics for operators and manufacturers is the same, we differentiate on our SaaS offering: Velco Fleet for operators and Velco OEM for manufacturers. These are white label apps that can be modified to meet the client’s specific needs and are aimed at improving the customer experience.

The changing business of e-bike OEMs

Currently ebike manufacturers are struggling to keep up with consumer demand. This is one reason profit margins on e-bikes are relatively high compared to cars, but this will change as the market matures. Ebike manufacturers will emulate the automotive industry in their business model, exploring annuity revenue potential for servicing, maintenance, financing and added features that come with the connectivity and data-collection capabilities of telematics.

Customers want a hassle-free, safe and consistent ride. Given how much money an ebike can save them in car ownership and other transport costs, they’re willing to pay something for the service. Ebike manufacturers can embed IoT costs in the price of the bike for the first three years and then offer those services at a small monthly fee (e.g. 30 Euro) after that. These services can include proactive and predictive maintenance, battery replacement, anti-theft tracking, accident rescue, etc. The manufacturer can thus guarantee a seamless service, with minimal downtime. Customer features and functionalities will be added as the technology grows and improves.

The future of micromobility

No-one can be exactly sure where the Fourth Industrial Revolution is taking us. Just like no one predicted how smartphones would turn into platforms for independently designed apps, we cannot be sure how IoT will improve micromobility. It’s possible that in the next ten to fifteen years micromobility will become autonomous, with all devices and vehicles connected as a way of eliminating traffic accidents.

For now, we will continue to work with operators and manufacturers in laying the foundations of better, cleaner, mobility patterns.


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Covid 19

UK’s new rail station tech turns your footsteps into electricity

Two walkways made from kinetic floor tiles have been installed at Leighton Buzzard train station, through a partnership between Central Bedfordshire Council and technology provider Pavegen.

As pedestrians walk across the paving system supplied by the UK start-up, the weight from their footsteps compresses electromagnetic generators below, producing electricity which will be used to power two USB-charging benches as well as a digital screen.

Funded by the Department of Transport through the £22.9 million (US$31.7 million) ADEPT SMART places Live Labs Programme, the pilot is understood to be the first of its type at a UK transport hub and the aim is to demonstrate the technology for other local authorities.

Andrew Selous, MP for South West Bedfordshire, said: “I like the fact that it engages people, involves exercise and it is creating clean electricity all the time. I think that connection between people and the energy being created through movement is a really good join-up.”

The digital screen will show how much energy is being generated as well as displaying other messages.

Pavegen is also working alongside Central Bedfordshire Council to offer commuters rewards via an app. This could be used to incentivize public transport use or local shopping to aid economic recovery, for example.

Renewable energy

In 2019, Central Bedfordshire Council secured £1.05 million through Live Labs to explore how to harvest renewable energy from solar, kinetic and thermal sources. At scale, the energy could be used to power infrastructure such as streetlights and electronic road signs.

Giles Perkins, Live Labs Programme Director, said: “The untapped footfall energy at our transport hubs represents a real opportunity to provide sustainable energy sources to power bespoke applications, while engaging audiences and encouraging behavioural change. This trial will help demonstrate the viability of the technology and could be a step change in the way transport hubs engage with commuters.”

Another pilot which explores how probes inserted into a Bedfordshire car park can generate geothermal energy is due to be completed later this month. It will show how this energy can be stored and released when necessary to de-ice a car park surface and heat a building in the winter. The trial aims to help the council understand if and how the technology could be applied in new buildings such as leisure centres and schools. A further initiative looks at  capturing solar energy from road surfaces.

Pavegen has around 200 deployments across 36 different countries, including  applications for cities, transport hubs, retail, interactive education and commercial brands. The V3 tiles produce up to four joules of off-grid electrical energy per step.

A spokesperson for Pavegen told Cities Today it is difficult to say what the energy output at the train station is likely to be as it is dependent on footfall, which is unpredictable due to Covid-19. “The benefit is really about how the community can come together and this product can be used as a starting point for a conversation about sustainability,” they said.

In total there are eight local-authority-led Live Labs which are piloting technology across energy, data, materials and mobility. Others are evaluating plastic roads, video analytics and data-driven transport management.


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Are wind-powered cars a reality or just science fiction?

This article was originally published by Martin Banks onClean Fleet Report, a publication that gives its readers the information they need to move to cars and trucks with best fuel economy, including electric cars, fuel cells, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and advanced diesel and gasoline engines.

Is Air Power Blowing Over the Horizon?

At the moment, the most viable mode of sustainable transportation is an electric vehicle (EV). With more and more automakers announcing new EV designs every year, it’s reasonable to believe that EVs are here to stay.

However, some automakers are exploring different forms of green energy — specifically, wind. Are wind-powered cars a possibility, or are they something that’s likely to stay in the realm of science fiction?

The Potential of Wind Power

The idea of using wind for transportation is thousands of years old, with some experts citing dates as far back as 5000 B.C. We’ve used massive cloth sails to capture the wind’s energy and harness it to move ships across the oceans for centuries.

On a smaller scale, airboats use enormous turbines to generate thrusts across the water in shallow or congested areas where a traditional propeller would get snagged.

Wind today is primarily used to generate electricity.

We use that same ancient technology today in wind farms to generate electricity. Each tower has two or three enormous blades that, when moved by the wind, turn a rotor, which spins a turbine and generates electricity.

Right now, electric cars are the best option for someone looking for an eco-friendly car, but unless your home runs on wind or solar energy, you’re still contributing to climate change by utilizing power generated by burning fossil fuels.

As we start to make the transition to green energy, this concern will fade away. What if we could skip the middleman and use wind energy generated directly by the vehicle?

The Toyota Mirai and Other Examples

Some examples of wind-powered vehicles look exactly like you expect they would — small, sleek vehicles with low ground clearance and enormous turbines attached to the top.

The University of Stuttgart designed a wind-powered car

One example is the Ventmobile, built by University of Stuttgart students in 2008. It’s not the kind of thing you’d see driving down the highway, but it does prove the point that wind-powered vehicles are possible.

Toyota and Lotus are among those trying to translate wind power into a more viable option for the everyday driver. The Lotus Nemesis doesn’t have to run on wind power, but its electric powertrain is designed to run on wind-turbine generated electricity by its builder, Ecotricity, a UK renewable energy company.

The Toyota Mirai can run on wind-power

The Toyota Mirai is a little bit different. Not only can it combine wind power and hydrogen, but the hydrogen to power the fuel cell can be generated with wind power.

It’s probably one of the cleanest and greenest cars in the world right now. Unfortunately, there’s only a few thousand currently on the roads around the world, but they’re a fantastic proof of concept.

Are Wind-Powered Cars on the Horizon?

A lot of the technology that we take for granted today was science fiction a few decades ago. Are wind-powered cars on the horizon? Possibly, but we’re not there yet, at least not for 100 percent wind power.

We may see a lot more cars like the Nemesis and Mirai in the future before we start seeing vehicles capable of fully operating on nothing more than a stiff breeze.

You can follow Clean Fleet Report on Twitter and Facebook


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Watch humans drive slowly in Elon Musk’s ‘revolutionary’ $52M tunnel

I’m going to tell you this entire story in one sentence, because that’s all it deserves.

Earlier this week, local reporters in California got another look at Elon Musk’s 1.5 mile long, $52 million, Las Vegas “Loop” that was supposed to be a total transport revolution, and it turns out that it’s still nothing more than a really expensive hole through the terra firma in which humans drive cars quite slowly.

I have nothing more to say about that. At least The Boring Company is living up to its name.

Welp, meh.

HT – Engadget

Published April 9, 2021 — 13:53 UTC