Audi unveils two new swanky self-driving concepts in Frankfurt

September 15, 2017 by  
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Audi is working hard on future self-driving cars that will forever change your daily commute. This week at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the automaker unveiled two new concept cars that feature Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous driving technology. Hit the jump for a closer look. The first concept, the Aicon, is a futuristic looking four-door electric vehicle with a 500-mile driving range. The Aicon is a large concept vehicle at almost 18-feet-long. Audi says its design is a preview of what cars will look like in the future; with pushed-out wheels and without the need for an engine, the overall layout maximizes the space between the wheels for more interior volume. Related: Audi’s new solar-roofed car expected by the end of 2017 One cool feature is that the Aicon’s exterior surfaces can display information to warn pedestrians or cyclists of dangerous situations. Plus, horizontal stripes of light move from the bottom up when the car accelerates and in the opposite direction when braking. Their speed increases or decreases in sync with that of the car. The interior features two individual front seats that can move back and forth up to 19 inches and even swivel up to 15 degrees. There’s room for two additional passengers that sit on an integrated rear bench seat. Audi’s Aicon is powered by four electric motors that generate a total 349 horsepower. It can also travel up to 500 miles on a single charge and be recharged up to 80 percent in a short 30 minutes. The second concept, the Audi Elaine, looks familiar since it debuted as the E-Tron Sportback concept a few months ago. On the outside, not much has changed from the original concept, but Audi is using the Elaine concept to showcase its Level 4 autonomous driving technology with a new highway pilot autonomous system. The highway pilot system can control the vehicle between 37 to 80 mph. Audi hasn’t announced any production plans for the Audi Aicon concept, but the production version of the Elaine/ E-Tron Sportback will arrive in 2019. + Audi Images @Audi

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Audi unveils two new swanky self-driving concepts in Frankfurt

Beautiful cow barn in Basel is made of tree branches topped with a grassy roof

September 15, 2017 by  
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Swiss architects Forschungs + Architekturbüro AG have made some lucky cows very happy with a stunning new barn outside of Basel. The architects used natural materials from the surrounding area to create the light-filled structure. The walls are made from tree trunks and long sticks, while the roof is covered with a thick carpet of green grass. The 2,000-square-meter cow barn is built on a sloped hillside that made construction a bit challenging. The architects decided to make the shape of the barn mimic the surrounding topography, embedding it into the landscape. Related: Architects transform an old hay barn into a stunning minimalist home The tree trunks and large sticks that make up the structure’s walls are embedded in a rectangular concrete base. This design strategy has many benefits – the materials could be sourced locally, and the walls let natural light into structure, creating a healthy environment for the beauteous bovines. An elongated green roof further fuses the design into the lush, grassy landscape. Two large vertical milk silos jut out from the structure, giving a bold nod to the building’s industrial purpose. + Forschungs + Architekturbüro AG Via Archdaily Photography by Christian Baur and Serge Hasenböhler

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Beautiful cow barn in Basel is made of tree branches topped with a grassy roof

Apple self-driving car spotted in California

May 1, 2017 by  
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Apple is full of surprises. Just last fall sources told Bloomberg the technology giant wasn’t going to build a self-driving car anymore. They may have scrapped plans to construct their own car, but it appears they didn’t abandon autonomous vehicles altogether. People in California recently spotted a white Lexus RX450h SUV with self-driving apparatus drive out of an Apple Silicon Valley facility. Bloomberg obtained images of the sneaky self-driving car, glimpsed around two weeks after the company got a permit to test autonomous cars. The Lexus SUV was reportedly decked out with Velodyne Lidar Inc’s 64-channel lidar, as well as an array of other sensors. An industry expert said the equipment looked like it was purchased off the shelf, not custom-built. An Apple spokesperson would not give Bloomberg a comment on that. Related: Apple announces goal to make products from 100% recycled materials Here's the vehicle Apple's using to test autonomous driving https://t.co/prbKCuJBq6 pic.twitter.com/8oUvrXv7qC — Bloomberg (@business) April 28, 2017 Apple is known for building their own software and hardware, as opposed to companies like Microsoft that focus on software usable on other companies’ hardware. But it appears they may be going a different direction with their self-driving cars, pursued under the name Project Titan . Last fall Bloomberg said the tech company would focus on software to be used in existing cars, which could help them get their product to market faster. They’re already up against tough competition: big players like Tesla , Uber , and Waymo, which began as Google’s self-driving project, have all made strides on their technology. Project Titan has gone through its ups and downs. When Apple decided to zero in on software, they reassigned or laid off hundreds of engineers. Leadership changed around a year ago, with veteran executive Bob Mansfield taking over, and he’s scaled back ambitions. So far California has given out permits to test self-driving vehicles to 30 companies, including startups, tech companies, and automakers. According to California’s DMV, Waymo and startup Zoox Inc. are also testing their technology with Lexus RX450 models. Via Inc. and Bloomberg Images via Wikimedia Commons and Paul Miller on Flickr

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Escape to this dreamy Airbnb eco retreat in a pristine Yucatan reserve

May 1, 2017 by  
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Although Airbnb is chock full of luxury beach condos, it’s rare to find an eco-friendly retreat tucked into a secluded beach. Ría Luz is a wind-powered sustainable home carefully designed to coexist with its pristine surroundings – and it’s one of the only structures located in the Yucatan’s Ria Lagartos biosphere. Ria Luz is the perfect spot for a secluded getaway. Visitors to this beautiful beach retreat will have access to spectacular wildlife found along the shoreline, which is almost completely devoid of tourists. The home is made up of two white blocks connected by a wooden viewing platform with multiple points of beach access. The main building houses the kitchen, living room and master bedroom, while the second building has additional bedrooms and an outdoor shower with a deck. Related: 8 inspiring tiny Airbnb homes for a taste of living small Sliding glass doors and multiple windows provide the interior with optimal natural light and incredible views. Guests can also enjoy a rooftop terrace with a comfy open-air bed for sleeping under the stars. As one of the only buildings located in the protected biosphere, the beach cottage was built to be ecologically friendly and it operates solely on wind-generated electricity . Wildlife tours are provided by local experts, and those who visit in summertime can see the hundreds of turtles who come to nest in an adjacent beach. + Ria Luz Airbnb Images via Ria Luz

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Escape to this dreamy Airbnb eco retreat in a pristine Yucatan reserve

The new Nissan Leaf will be able to drive autonomously on the highway

January 6, 2017 by  
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With the arrival of electric cars like the Chevy Bolt and the upcoming Tesla Model 3 , the Nissan Leaf hasn’t received the attention that it did when it first went on sale at the end of 2010. Nissan is getting ready to bring the spotlight back on the Leaf with an all-new model set to launch in the “near future.” While we’ve heard reports about a much longer driving range, Nissan’s CEO has also confirmed that the next Leaf will be able to drive autonomously on the highway. Without going into to too much detail, Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn revealed at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show that the next-generation Leaf will feature the automaker’s new ProPILOT technology. Related: Nissan’s next-generation Leaf prototype can drive over 310 miles on a single charge “At Nissan, from the beginning, we work to bring the right technologies for the full spectrum of our vehicles and the most amount of people,” said Ghosn in his keynote. “This takes more than innovation. It takes ingenuity. And it’s exactly what we deliver through Nissan Intelligent Mobility.” Nissan’s autonomous driving technology, called “Seamless Autonomous Mobility,” or SAM has been co-developed with NASA. The technology partners in-vehicle artificial intelligence with human support to help autonomous vehicles make decisions in unpredictable situations. According to Nissan, the technology could potentially enable millions of driverless cars to co-exist with human drivers on an accelerated timeline. Ghosn also confirmed that Nissan is working with Microsoft to build the next generation of connected car technologies. Although Nissan says that the next Leaf will arrive in the near future, we don’t have an actual confirmed date. + Nissan All images @ Nissan

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The new Nissan Leaf will be able to drive autonomously on the highway

Chrysler unveils all-electric self-driving Portal car "designed by millennials for millennials"

January 4, 2017 by  
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While Tesla and Google are busy developing the technology to make cars drive themselves, other auto companies are dreaming up what those autonomous cars of the future might look like . Fiat Chrysler just gave us a first look at its all-electric, self-driving car of the future ahead of the vehicle’s official debut this week at CES in Las Vegas. Far from a sporty coupe, the Chrysler Portal is a family car primed to leave present day minivans in the dust. The self-driving Portal looks rather similar to the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, although it sports a slightly narrower wheel base. The Portal also does away with the driver and front seat passenger doors in lieu of a single sliding door on each side. It’s worth noting that Chrysler isn’t actually calling the Portal a minivan, despite its appearance. Rather, Chrysler says the Portal is “next generation family transportation designed by millennials for millennials” which serves as “an open and serene atmosphere that bridges work and home.” Related: Chrysler and Google team up to create a self-driving minivan Among its many enticing attributes is the promised range of the all-electric vehicle – a whopping 250 miles or more on a full battery charge. Chrysler promises a 350-kilowatt fast charger that can juice up the battery enough in 20 minutes to travel up to 150 miles. The Portal’s cockpit looks drastically different than any car currently on the road, of course. Stripped down and minimalist in design, the self-driving concept car still features the essentials for human driving: a gas pedal and brake as well as a steering ‘wheel’ that looks more fit for a sci-fi set than a family van. Via The Verge and Autoblog Images via Fiat Chrysler

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Chrysler unveils all-electric self-driving Portal car "designed by millennials for millennials"

Israel to test electric roads that wirelessly charge vehicles as they drive

January 4, 2017 by  
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Forget the charging port—the roads of the near future could power your electric car while you drive, eliminating the need to ever stop to recharge or refuel again. Israeli startup Electroad is working to pave the way towards a greener world with technology that retrofits existing roads with buried coils to inductively charge electric vehicles. The team has already performed successful tests of the technology, and will be demoing the electric roads on a larger scale with a public bus route in Tel Aviv . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkpcavw_vFI Founded with the goal of reducing global emissions, Electroad promises a more cost-effective, efficient, and cleaner way to travel. The startup uses technology that relies on electromagnetic induction —the basic principle behind wirelessly powering smartphones and rechargeable toothbrushes—to power electric cars with renewable energy while driving. Although other companies like Qualcomm and KAIST also work with wireless vehicle charging, Electroad’s CEO Oren Ezer says that while the concept is the same, the technology is different. “Our technology is flexible,” said Ezer. “Only copper and rubber is needed, and deployment is quick and easy. You can retrofit one kilometer of road in just half a day, from night to morning.” The installation process begins with an asphalt scraper that digs an 8-centimeter-deep trench. A second vehicle installs the wireless energy charging strips and fills the trench back up with asphalt. Smart inverters with real-time communication are installed on the sides of the road. A coil unit attached beneath the electric vehicle receives power transferred over a small 24-centimeter air gap. Radiation is minimized and locally shielded for driver and passenger safety. Related: KAIST Launches First Road-Charged OLEV Electric Buses in South Korea Electroad plans to focus on public transportation first before opening the platform up to private transit. The startup successfully tested their technology with an electric bus five months ago in Tel Aviv and opened 20 meters of retrofitted electric road outside their lab. Soon the company will test out the technology on a public electric bus with a set route in Tel Aviv. Since the bus will drive on electric roads, it won’t need to be recharged though it will have a small battery to allow the bus to drive up to five kilometers without an electric current. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ-DzXirW08 “We remove the energy source,” said Ezer. “The electricity will come from renewable energy transferred to the road. This is a really sustainable solution. A battery for an electric bus can cost $300,000 and weigh 5 tons. If you remove the battery then the bus is much lighter and requires less energy. This technology is cost saving. If you compare it to diesel buses, it’s half the price. If you just start with public transportation it will save money and then you can open it up to taxis and trams. Payback is very fast.” Ezer has a dream to turn all of Israel’s transportation electric with inductive charging. Electroad received a research and innovation grant from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 and recently completed a program at Capital Nature , an accelerator that focuses on emerging renewable energy in Israel. The startup plans to test their technology on a public bus route in Tel Aviv next year. + Electroad + Vibe Israel Tour courtesy of Vibe Israel Images © Electroad , last image © Lucy Wang

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Did Uber flub its chance to expand self-driving ride-hailing service to San Francisco?

December 28, 2016 by  
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A few weeks ago, Uber quietly expanded its self-driving ride-hailing service to its hometown of San Francisco. The launch marked a triumphant leap forward just three short months after the company initially began offering riders in Pittsburgh the option of hailing a self-driving car. Unfortunately, the California Department of Motor Vehicles swiftly shut down the San Francisco operation by revoking the registrations on Uber’s 16 self-driving vehicles, citing the company’s failure to obtain the proper permits. That decision prompted Uber to announce it would look for another city to roll out its self-driving pilot program, but many questions remain about whether they will ever be able to pull it off in their home state.

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Did Uber flub its chance to expand self-driving ride-hailing service to San Francisco?

Autonomous concept car features an urban garden on wheels

December 9, 2016 by  
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From a Swiss think tank widely known for its outrageous car concepts comes the automotive dream to end all others: an autonomous vehicle featuring a mobile office and a living garden . The Rinspeed Oasis is set to be unveiled at the upcoming CES event held in Las Vegas in early January 2017. The fully autonomous concept vehicle takes a wildly different approach to commuting, with a built-in personal assistant, a lock-box for packages, and a host of other smart features that change the way we think about transportation. Rinspeed has promoted the “mobile office” notion in previous concept designs, and the Swiss think tank even transformed a Tesla Model S into a self-driving office on wheels. With the debut of the Oasis concept next month, Rinspeed is upping the stakes quite a bit in terms of innovation and thinking outside the literal box of a car frame. That’s the whole point of the Oasis concept, according to the company’s press release, which acknowledges some critics might be scratching their heads at the notion of growing plants inside a car. Related: Rinspeed turns Tesla Model S into an autonomous mobile office “Urban gardening on wheels as a new trend? A little bit out there? Maybe. But as always, the creation of Swiss mobility innovator Frank M. Rinderknecht is an oasis for inspiration in the otherwise rather expansive automotive wasteland,” the company said. The Oasis also features an onboard “personal assistant” that puts artificial intelligence to work for the car owner by linking personal data (via digital calendar and social media accounts, for instance) with the vehicle’s navigation system and traffic information. As a result, the vehicle can not only let you know whether you’ll make it to your destination on time, but can also give you a heads up if you’re about to miss an appointment. Let’s be clear about one thing: there are no plans for mass production currently in place. At CES, Rinspeed will do what they do for another year in row, which is reveal outlandish concepts to push the envelope of automotive design and hope that carmakers will follow. Via New Atlas Images via Rinspeed

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Autonomous concept car features an urban garden on wheels

Elon Musk announces all new Teslas will be self-driving

October 20, 2016 by  
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Today, Tesla finally unveiled the second half its big Model 3 reveal . Shortly after 5 p.m., the company revealed that all new Tesla vehicles will include the hardware needed for full self-driving capacity, effective immediately. While this includes the Model 3, older vehicles like the Model S and Model X will also include the new hardware — in fact, the vehicles are already in production and available for purchase. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbPqIHwSHos In a blog post today, Tesla said: “We are excited to announce that, as of today, all Tesla vehicles produced in our factory – including Model 3 – will have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver.” The company has received criticism in the past for its Autpilot. Tesla says that they are being cautious to make sure the program is safe. “Before activating the features enabled by the new hardware, we will further calibrate the system using millions of miles of real-world driving to ensure significant improvements to safety and convenience.” All updates to the system will be delivered wirelessly through the company’s over-the-air software updates. The announcement, which launched promptly at what Tesla fans are now calling “Elon o’clock,”  followed days of mystery. With the announcement, we finally know what CEO Elon Musk mysteriously teased about in a tweet just 10 days ago. Originally scheduled for October 17 and then bumped to October 19, the announcement didn’t come with the usual set of hints and clues that Tesla is known for letting out into the wild. The secrecy surrounding this unveiling drove the rumor mill for days, with speculations ranging from the launch of Autopilot 2.0 to “Tesla Glass.” Turns out Tesla fans are pretty smart, since the Model 3 reveal centered around their new Autopilot, which will come with every new Tesla. Related: Tesla slates mysterious product unveiling for October 17 The new vehicles will include eight surround cameras, which provide 360-degree visibility around the car for a range of up to 250 meters. For even greater safety, all cars will include 12 updated ultrasonic sensors, which can detect both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of Tesla’s previous system. Rounding out the hardware is a forward-facing radar with enhanced processing which can see through heavy rain, fog, dust, and even the car ahead on the road. This cutting-edge tech goes far beyond the ordinary senses of a human driver, which the company argues will make the car’s autonomous capabilities far safer than traditional vehicles. The shift appears to be part of a larger strategy to provide on-demand mobility services to those who are unable to drive or simply can’t afford to purchase a personal vehicle. The weeks leading up to this announcement were a little unusual, even for an outlandish entrepreneur like Musk. One day before the original announcement date, the CEO tweeted an update , pushing the Tesla news to October 19. It “needs a few more days of refinement,” he said, without specifying whether he was referring to the unveiling or the product itself. In the absence of any hints from the company about the “unexpected” new product, Electrek conducted a poll of its readers last week and the majority guessed the announcement has something to do with Autopilot 2.0 or some sort of integrated augmented reality technology. In other Tesla news, the company quietly updated the marketing webpage for the upcoming Model 3, the $35,000 all-electric sports car. Musk originally promised that deliveries on preorders would begin in late 2017, but the website has now been updated to reflect that “production begins” late 2017 and “Delivery estimate for new reservations is 2018 or later.” While it seems that this represents a delay in Musk’s original timeline, the company has insisted that it doesn’t, telling The Verge that customers who have already reserved a Model 3 will still receive delivery in 2017, but all future reservations will be fulfilled in 2018 or later. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwD1hjlbhwU + Tesla Images via Tesla Cat DiStasio contributed to this report.

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Elon Musk announces all new Teslas will be self-driving

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