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Mazda Postpones Rotary Range-Extender Engine For MX-30

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For those who have rekindled their romance with Mazda and its proprietary rotary engine, turn away. The Japanese automaker said that the rotary engine working as a range extender for the MX-30 isn’t happening in the first half of 2022 as originally confirmed.

In a report by Automotive News, Mazda spokesman Masahiro Sakata said that the company is still considering the use of a rotary engine as a range extender, but the timing of its introduction is now uncertain.

Early this year, Mazda North America has confirmed that the MX-30 with the rotary engine range extender will be coming to the US. With this recent development, though, American fans eagerly waiting might have to wait a bit further.

There’s a bit of uncertainty with this, however. Japanese media reports say that Mazda has scrapped the rotary engine range extender completely because it needed a bigger battery, therefore, making the vehicle too expensive.

With that said, Mazda’s rotary engine will still return but as a power-assist technology for series and plug-in hybrid offerings. This allows Mazda to reduce the size of the battery, thus, lessen cost at the expense of more frequent engine usage.

The Automotive News’ report also mentioned that the plug-in and series hybrids equipped with rotary engines will be unveiled sometime between 2022 and 2025. The engines won’t be directly powering the wheels, though, and will act as generators – the same way Nissan’s self-charging e-Power works.

At this point, Mazda’s plan to resurrect the rotary engine has become blurry again after getting so much attention in the past two years. Guess we can take comfort in the fact that it’s in the backburner but still in the plan, nonetheless.

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Source: https://www.motor1.com/news/519421/mazda-rotary-range-extender-postponed/?utm_source=RSS&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=RSS-category-technology

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Elon Musk: Tesla to open up global charging network to other EVs later this year

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Tesla will allow other electric vehicles to access its global network of chargers later this year, CEO Elon Musk tweeted Tuesday. The comment follows years of chatter by Musk that signaled the company was amenable to the idea.

Until now, there have never been any details about how or when the company would open up its Supercharger network of 25,000 chargers. Details are still slim. For instance, it’s unclear where it would initially open up, which automakers have reached agreements with Tesla and whether Tesla owners would get priority. However, Musk did finally attach a timeline of sorts by noting this would kick off before the end of 2021.

He later added in another tweet that its network would eventually be open to other EVs in every country that it has chargers. Tesla Superchargers are located in North America, Asia and Europe as well as Middle Eastern countries UAE and Israel.

Musk has talked about either sharing the technology behind his Tesla Superchargers or opening them up for use to other EVs for years now. Way back in 2014, Musk said he’d be willing to open up the designs in order to build a standard that can be used interchangeably across the industry. This would allow competing electric car models to charge up at the Supercharger network.

He has mentioned some version of this at various events and during earnings calls ever since. In 2018, Musk said in response to a question during an earnings call that the Supercharger network is not a walled garden, a reference meant to express that it is not designed to prevent other EVs from using it. However, it should be noted that Superchargers are not compatible to other EVs.

“We’ve always said that we’re — this is not intended to be a walled garden, and we’re happy to support other automakers and let them use our Supercharger stations,” Musk said in 2018. “They would just need to pay the share of the cost proportionate to their vehicle usage. And they would need to be able to accept our charge rate or at least — and our connector, at least have an adaptor to our connector. So this is something we’re very open to, but so far none of the other car makers have wanted to do this. But it’s like not because of opposition from us. This is not a walled garden.”

The two common connectors used for rapid charging are Combined Charging System (CCS) or CHAdeMO. CCS, a direct current connector that is an open international standard that in recent years has gained popularity in Europe and North America.

Tesla has its own connector, which means automakers would have to provide or sell an adapter to owners of its EVs to access the Supercharger network. It’s a different story in Europe. Tesla uses the CCS direct current connector in Europe, making this the most likely region for Tesla to open up first.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/20/elon-musk-tesla-to-open-up-global-charging-network-to-other-evs-later-this-year/

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Consumer Reports concerned Tesla uses owners to test unsafe self-driving software

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A Tesla in full self-driving mode makes a left turn out of the middle lane on a busy San Francisco street. It jumps in a bus lane where it’s not meant to be. It turns a corner and nearly plows into parked vehicles, causing the driver to lurch for the wheel. These scenes have been captured by car reviewer AI Addict, and other scenarios like it are cropping up on YouTube. One might say that these are all mistakes any human on a cell phone might have made. But we expect more from our AI overlords. 

Earlier this month, Tesla began sending out over-the-air software updates for its Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta version 9 software, an advanced driver assist system that relies only on cameras, rather than cameras and radar like Tesla’s previous ADAS systems.

In reaction to videos displaying unsafe driving behavior, like unprotected left turns, and other reports from Tesla owners, Consumer Reports issued a statement on Tuesday saying the software upgrade does not appear to be safe enough for public roads, and that it would independently test the software update on its Model Y SUV once it receives the necessary software updates. 

The consumer organization said it’s concerned Tesla is using its existing owners and their vehicles as guinea pigs for testing new features. Making their point for them, Tesla CEO Elon Musk did urge drivers not to be complacent while driving because “there will be unknown issues, so please be paranoid.” Many Tesla owners know what they’re getting themselves into because they signed up for Tesla’s Early Access Program that delivers beta software for feedback, but other road users have not given their consent for such trials. 

Tesla’s updates are shipped out to drivers all over the country. The electric vehicle company did not respond to a request for more information about whether or not it takes into account self-driving regulations in specific states — 29 states have enacted laws related to autonomous driving, but they differ wildly depending on the state. Other self-driving technology companies like Cruise, Waymo and Argo AI told CR they either test their software on private tracks or use trained safety drivers as monitors. 

“Car technology is advancing really quickly, and automation has a lot of potential, but policymakers need to step up to get strong, sensible safety rules in place,” says William Wallace, manager of safety policy at CR in a statement. “Otherwise, some companies will just treat our public roads as if they were private proving grounds, with little holding them accountable for safety.”

In June, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a standing general order that requires manufacturers and operators of vehicles with SAE Level 2 ADAS or SAE levels 3, 4 or 5 automated driving systems to report crashes. 

“NHTSA’s core mission is safety. By mandating crash reporting, the agency will have access to critical data that will help quickly identify safety issues that could emerge in these automated systems,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s acting administrator, in a statement. “In fact, gathering data will help instill public confidence that the federal government is closely overseeing the safety of automated vehicles.” 

The FSD beta 9 software has added features that automates more driving tasks, like navigating intersections and city streets with the driver’s supervision. But with such excellent graphics detailing where the car is in relation to other road users, down to a woman on a scooter passing by, drivers might be more distracted by the tech that’s meant to assist them at crucial moments. 

“Tesla just asking people to pay attention isn’t enough — the system needs to make sure people are engaged when the system is operational,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of CR’s Auto Test Center in a statement. “We already know that testing developing self-driving systems without adequate driver support can — and will — end in fatalities.”

Fisher said Tesla should implement an in-car driver monitoring system to ensure drivers are watching the road to avoid accidents like the one involving Uber’s self-driving test vehicle, which struck and killed a woman in 2018 in Phoenix as she crossed the street. 

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/20/consumer-reports-concerned-tesla-uses-owners-to-test-unsafe-self-driving-software/

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Intel’s Mobileye takes its autonomous vehicle testing program to New York City

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Mobileye, a subsidiary of Intel, has expanded its autonomous vehicle testing program to New York City as part of its strategy to develop and deploy the technology.

New York City joins a number of other cities, including Detroit, Paris, Shanghai and Tokyo, where Mobileye has either launched testing or plans to this year. Mobileye launched its first test fleet in Jerusalem in 2018 and added one in Munich in 2020.

“If we want to build something that will scale, we need to be able to drive in challenging places and almost everywhere,” Mobileye president and CEO Amnon Shashua said during a presentation Tuesday that was streamed live. As part of the announcement, Mobileye also released a 40-minute unedited video of one of its test vehicles equipped with a self-driving system navigating New York’s city streets.

These vehicles, which began testing in New York City last month, are driving autonomously (with a safety operator behind the wheel) using only cameras. The vehicles are equipped with eight long-range and four parking cameras powered by its fifth-generation system on chip called EyeQ5.

That does not mean that Mobileye is taking a camera-only approach to autonomy once it deploys. The company has also developed another subsystem with lidar and radar, but no cameras, that also drives autonomously. The two subsystems of sensors and software will be combined and integrated to provide redundancy in robotaxis. The camera-only subsystem is what Shashua described as at “the cost level for consumers” and one that will be used to evolve driving assist systems. Later this year, Mobilieye’s camera-only system using the EyeQ5 SoC will be launched in a Geely Auto Group vehicle.

New York City has been in Shashua’s sights for more than six months. He first mentioned a desire to test on public roads in New York during the virtual 2021 CES tech trade show in January with the caveat that the company would need to receive regulatory approval. Now, with that regulatory approval in hand, Mobileye is the only company currently permitted to test AVs in the state and city. GM’s self-driving subsidiary Cruise outlined in 2017 a plan to test AVs in New York and even mapped parts of lower Manhattan. The company never scaled up the test program in NYC, deciding instead to focus on its primary target for commercial deployment: San Francisco. 

Mobileye applied for a permit through New York State’s autonomous vehicle technology demonstration and testing program. The company met the requirements outlined in the program, which includes compliance with all federal standards and applicable New York State inspection standards as well as a law enforcement interaction plan, according to Mobileye.

“I don’t think there’s anything special about receiving approval, you simply need to go through this process, Shashua said, who described it as lengthy and in some ways similar to the stringent requirements to test in Germany. “I think what is special is that it’s very, very difficult to drive here.”

Mobileye is perhaps best known for supplying automakers with computer vision technology that powers advanced driver assistance systems. It’s a business that generated nearly $967 million in sales for the company. Today, 88 million vehicles on the road are using Mobileye’s computer vision technology.

Mobileye has also been developing automated vehicle technology. Its full self-driving stack — which includes redundant sensing subsystems based on camera, radar and lidar technology — is combined with its REM mapping system and a rules-based Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS) driving policy.

Mobileye’s REM mapping system crowdsources data by tapping into consumer and fleet vehicles equipped with its so-called EyeQ4, or fourth-generation system on chip, to build high-definition maps that can be used to support in ADAS and autonomous driving systems. That data is not video or images but compressed text that collects about 10 kilobits per kilometer. Mobileye has agreements with six OEMs, including BMW, Nissan and Volkswagen, to collect that data on vehicles equipped with the EyeQ4 chip, which is used to power the advanced driver assistance system. On fleet vehicles, Mobileye collects data from an after-market product it sells to commercial operators.

Mobileye’s technology is mapping nearly 8 million kilometers day globally, including in New York City.

The strategy, Shashua contends, will allow the company to efficiently launch and operate commercial robotaxi services as well as bring the technology to consumer passenger vehicles by 2025. Shashua explained this dual approach in an interview with TechCrunch in 2020. 

“There was realization that dawned on us awhile ago,” he said at the time. “The Holy Grail of this business is passenger car autonomy: where you buy a passenger car and you pay an option price and with a press of button it can take you autonomously to wherever you want to go. The realization is that you can’t reach that Holy Grail if you don’t go through the robotaxi business.”

On Tuesday, Shashua said Mobileye was the only company that has its foot in both camps. (Although it should be noted that Toyota’s Woven Planet does have some strategic overlap.)

“We’re building our technology in a way that supports scale, especially geographic scale, using our crowdsourced mapping technology and building new sensors such that the entire package — the entire system — will be under $5,000 cost to allow consumer AVs, and on the other hand, we have a division building a mobility-as-a-service or robotaxi service,” Shashua said Tuesday. “This is one of the reasons why we purchased Moovit last year, to enable the customer facing of all the layers above the self-driving system to enable mobility-as-a-service business.”

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/20/intels-mobileye-takes-its-autonomous-vehicle-testing-program-to-new-york-city/

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ChargePoint to buy European charging software startup for $295M

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ChargePoint struck a deal to buy European charging software company has.to.be for €250 million ($295 million) in cash and stock, the electric vehicle charging network’s first acquisition since it became a publicly traded company.

Through the deal, ChargePoint gains more than just 125 employees and the company’s operating software, which manages more than 40,000 networked ports in Europe. The acquisition will give ChargePoint a boost in its pursuit to gain market share beyond North America and VW Group as a strategic partner.

VW Group was an early investor in has.to.be, which was founded in 2013, and will continue a relationship with ChargePoint along with other customers of the software company such as Ionity, Audi, Porsche, BP, Total, Lidl and GP Joule. ChargePopint will also add has.to.be offices in Munich, Salzburg and Vienna to its operations. 

ChargePoint designs, develops and manufactures hardware and accompanying software, as well as a cloud subscription platform, for electric vehicles. The company might be best-known for its branded public and semi-public charging spots that consumers use to charge their personal electric cars and SUVs, as well as its home chargers. However, ChargePoint also has a commercial-focused business that provides hardware and software to help fleet operators manage their delivery vans, buses and cars.

In all, the company has more than 115,000 charging spots globally. ChargePoint also offers access to an additional 133,000 public places to charge through network roaming integrations across North America and Europe.

“Our continued investment in Europe is critical to our stated growth strategy,” ChargePoint President and CEO Pasquale Romano said in a statement, later adding that the companies combined assets “should position us to accelerate our leadership as electrification continues to take hold across continents.”

ChargePoint agreed in September to merge with special-purpose acquisition company Switchback Energy Acquisition Corporation, with a market valuation of $2.4 billion. ChargePoint was able to raise $225 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE, led by institutional investors including Baillie Gifford and funds managed by Neuberger Berman Alternatives Advisors.

ChargePoint said at the time that it planned to use the new capital to expand in North America and Europe, improve its technology portfolio and significantly scale its commercial, fleet and residential businesses.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/20/chargepoint-to-buy-european-charging-software-startup-for-295m/

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