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Peer-to-peer car rental startup Getaround fined nearly $1M by DC’s attorney general

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Getaround was fined nearly $1 million by the Washington, D.C. Office of the attorney general for operating without a license and other violations, part of a settlement of what the peer-to-peer car rental startup calls “politically motivated allegations.”

The AG’s office started investigating the company early last year, after it received reports of vehicle thefts of cars listed on the Getaround platform. The settlement, released Friday, requires the company to pay the city $950,000, in addition to implementing other changes, including paying restitution to customers whose vehicles were stolen or damaged while listed for rent on Getaround’s platform.

Getaround, the winner of TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield at Disrupt NYC in 2011, lets individual car owners rent their vehicles by the hour or day via its website and app. The site, much like competitor Turo or home rental analog Airbnb, mediates this exchange (and takes a cut off the top). The company’s attracted a lot of interest from investors, most recently raising a $140 million Series E that brought its total venture funding to $600 million.

The settlement is what’s known as an “assurance of voluntary compliance,” and it’s not an admission of guilt. The settlement document makes clear that Getaround denies it violated any consumer protection or tax laws.

“Gig economy companies must abide by the same rules as their brick-and-mortar counterparts,” Attorney General Karl Racine said in a statement. “They must provide clear and accurate information to consumers, especially about the safety of their services, and they must pay their fair share of taxes like everyone else does.”

The AG’s office claims that Getaround operated without a license in the district, misrepresented its service and made “untrue or misleading representations” about the safety of its car rental services. As part of the settlement, the company must create a written policy for user complaints regarding vehicle damage or theft, including a way for users to report any issues. It also must clearly disclose limitations of its safety features, such as its “Enhanced Security” software feature, which Getaround says on its website can immobilize your car when it’s not being used. Getaround must also more clearly state the terms and conditions for insurance coverage.

The AG’s office also claimed that Getaround misled consumers by creating fake owner profiles for vehicles that it owned and operated. The company must now disclose its fleet cars clearly in listings.

A Getaround spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company “categorically disagrees” with the AG’s allegations.

“With regard to safety and security, as the attorney general acknowledges, as soon as Getaround was notified of security issues affecting certain cars in the District, the company took immediate corrective action,” the spokesperson said. “As is its practice, Getaround will continue to compensate car owners who have filed valid claims for loss or damage. Finally, Getaround never disputed liability for the taxes it is paying pursuant to this settlement. Getaround will continue to pay applicable taxes to the District and in every jurisdiction in which it operates.”

The company spokesperson went on to say that “while the attorney general is focused on scoring political points, Getaround remains focused on connecting safe, convenient and affordable cars with District residents who need them to live and work.”

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/23/peer-to-peer-car-rental-startup-getaround-fined-nearly-1m-by-dcs-attorney-general/

Automotive

How to meet the demand of EV infrastructure and maintain a stable grid

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As electric vehicles (EVs) become the new standard, charging infrastructure will become a commonplace detail blending into the landscape, available in a host of places from a range of providers: privately run charging stations, the office parking lot, home garages and government-provided locations to fill in the gaps. We need a new energy blueprint for the United States in order to maintain a stable grid to support this national move to EV charging.

The Biden administration announced 500,000 charging stations to be installed nationally and additional energy storage to facilitate the shift to EVs. Integrating all of this new infrastructure and transitioning requires balancing the traffic on the grid and managing increased energy demand that stretches beyond power lines and storage itself.

The majority of EV infrastructure pulls its power from the grid, which will add significant demand when it reaches scale. In an ideal situation, EV charging stations will have their own renewable power generation co-located with storage, but new programs and solutions are needed in order to make it available everywhere. A range of scenarios for how renewables can be used to power EV charging have been piloted in the U.S. in recent years. Eventually, EVs will likely even provide power to the grid.

These technological advances will happen as we progress through the energy transition; regardless, EV infrastructure will heavily rely on the U.S. grid. That makes coordination across a range of stakeholders and behavior change among the general public essential for keeping the grid stable while meeting energy demand.

The White House’s fact sheet for EV charging infrastructure points to a technical blueprint that the Department of Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute will be working on together. It is critical that utilities, energy management and storage stakeholders, and the general public be included in planning — here’s why.

Stakeholder collaboration

Charging infrastructure is currently fragmented in the U.S. Much of it is privatized and there are complaints that unless you drive a Tesla, it is hard to find charging while on the road. Some EV owners have even returned to driving gas-powered vehicles. There’s reason to be hopeful that this will rapidly change.

ChargePoint and EVgo are two companies that will likely become household names as their EV networks expand. A coalition made up of some of the largest U.S. utilities — including American Electric Power, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Entergy, Southern Company and the Tennessee Valley Authority — called the Electric Highway Coalition, announced plans for a regional network of charging stations spanning their utility territories.

Networks that swap out private gas stations for EV charging is one piece of the puzzle. We also need to ensure that everyone has affordable access and that charging times are staggered — this is one of the core concerns on every stakeholder’s mind. Having charging available in a range of places spreads out demand, helping keep power available and the grid balanced.

Varying consumer needs including location and housing, work schedules and economic situations require considerations and new solutions that make EVs and charging accessible to everyone. What works in the suburbs won’t suit rural or urban areas, and just imagine someone who works the night shift in a dense urban area.

Biden’s plan includes, “$4 million to encourage strong partnerships and new programs to increase workplace charging regionally or nationally, which will help increase the feasibility of [plug-in electric vehicle] ownership for consumers in underserved communities.” Partnerships and creative solutions will equally be needed.

An opportunity to fully engage technologies we already have

“Fifty percent of the reductions we have to make to get to net-zero by 2050 or 2045 are going to come from technologies that we don’t yet have,” John Kerry said recently, causing a stir. He later clarified that we also have technologies now that we need to put to work, which received less air time. In reality, we are just getting started in utilizing existing renewable and energy transition technologies; we have yet to realize their full potential.

Currently, utility-scale and distributed energy storage are used for their most simplistic capabilities, that is, jumping in when energy demand reaches its peak and helping keep the grid stable through services referred to as balancing and frequency regulation. But as renewable energy penetration increases and loads such as EVs are electrified, peak demand will be exacerbated.

The role that storage plays for EV charging stations seems well understood. On-site storage is used daily to provide power for charging cars at any given time. Utility-scale storage has the same capabilities and can be used to store and then supply renewable power to the grid in large quantities every day to help balance the demand of EVs.

A stable power system for EVs combines utilities and utility-scale storage with a network of subsystems where energy storage is co-located with EV charging. All of the systems are coordinated and synchronized to gather and dispatch energy at different times of the day based on all the factors that affect grid stability and the availability of renewable power. That synchronization is handled by intelligent energy management software that relies on sophisticated algorithms to forecast and respond to changes within fractions of a second.

This model also makes it possible to manage the cost of electricity and EV demand on the grid. Those subsystems could be municipal-owned locations in lower-income areas. Such a subsystem would collect power in its storage asset and set the price locally on its own terms. These systems could incentivize residents to power up there at certain times of the day in order to make charging more affordable by providing an alternative to the real-time cost of electricity during peak demand when using a home outlet, for example.

Behavior change

The greatest challenge for utilities will be how to manage EV loads and motivate people to stagger charging their vehicles, rather than everyone waiting until they are home in the evening during off-peak renewable generation periods. If everyone plugged in at the same time, we’d end up cooking dinner in the dark.

While there’s been talk of incentivizing the public to charge at different times and spread out demand, motivators vary among demographics. With the ability to charge at home and skip a trip to the “gas station” — or “power station,” as it may be referred to in the future — many people will choose convenience over cost.

The way we currently operate, individual energy usage seems like an independent, isolated event to consumers and households. EVs will require everyone — from utilities and private charging stations to consumers — to be more aware of demand on the grid and act more as communities sharing energy.

Thus, a diverse charging network alone won’t solve the issue of overtaxing the grid. A combination of a new blueprint for managing energy on the grid plus behavior change is needed.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/19/how-to-meet-the-demand-of-ev-infrastructure-and-maintain-a-stable-grid/

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Future Alfa Romeo Models To Have ‘As Few Screens As Possible’

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Electrification is the imminent future of the automotive industry, it’s hard to deny that. However, among the technological developments of automobiles are the increasing screen real-estate in modern cars. In fact, automakers have gone a long way to insert as many screens as possible in new cars. Case in point: the MBUX Hyperscreen found in the new Mercedes EQS flagship EV.

But Alfa Romeo has other plans in mind. In an interview by BFM Business and relayed through a report by French automotive site Caradisiac, new Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato drew some insight about the future cars of the Italian marque.

In the said interview, Imparato was quoted saying that he has a very particular positioning for future Alfa Romeo cars. He wanted them to be driver-centric, with only “as few screens as possible” in the car.

“I don’t sell an iPad with a car around it, I sell an Alfa Romeo,” the new CEO added.

As with several automakers these days, the Italian marque is getting for the electric future. Imparato added that future Alfa Romeo cars will have to convey emotions even without the aural pleasure coming from the engine sound.

As to how will that last bit be executed remains to be seen, but we’re counting to see these developments in the upcoming Alfa Romeo vehicles. The sub-Stelvio SUV, the Tonale, is confirmed to be arriving with a plug-in hybrid EV version, which is the first of its kind for the automaker.

Whether the 2022 Tonale will have a small screen real-estate or a rampaging emotional drive even when in full EV mode, our guess is just as good as yours right now. But if you’re a fan of Alfa Romeo, how do you feel about these insights provided by its new CEO? let us know your thoughts below.

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Source: https://www.motor1.com/news/534094/future-alfa-romeo-few-screens/?utm_source=RSS&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=RSS-category-technology

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Hyundai’s Robot Dog Now In Service In Kia’s South Korean Plant

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By the last month of 2020, Hyundai made a surprising move. The automaker purchased Boston Dynamics, a company known for its robots. The Korean marque acquired a controlling stake of around 80 percent, sharing the remaining 20 percent from SoftBank Group.

Fast forward to last July, Hyundai showcased its dancing robot dog with its global brand ambassador and worldwide music phenomenon BTS, but we all know that the acquisition of Boston Dynamics isn’t for the sake of entertainment.

This time, Hyundai shows off the Factory Safety Service Robot – its firstborn with Boston Dynamics and created in support of site safety in Kia’s South Korean plant.

If you’ve been watching quite a lot of sci-fi thrillers lately, particularly Black Mirror‘s Metalhead episode, turn away and close this page as this will might remind you of something.

The robotic dog, now to be called the Robot, is based on Boston Dynamics’ quadruped robot called Spot. The technology does come with applied artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous navigation, teleoperation technologies, and computing payload (AI Processing Service Unit). More importantly, the remote-controlled Robot is developed for various industrial tasks, particularly in people detection, high-temperature situations and fire hazards monitoring, and check if a door is closed or open.

Hyundai announces that the Robot will be in service in its Kia’s South Korean factory as a support late-night security patrols and create a safer environment for workers. It’s also a way for Hyundai Group to assess its effectiveness before expanding its operation in parol areas and other tasks in other industrial sites.

“We will also continue to create smart services that detect dangers at industrial sites and help support a safe work environment through continuous collaborations with Boston Dynamics,” said Dong Jin Hyun, Head of Hyundai Motor Group Robotics Lab.

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Source: https://www.motor1.com/news/533973/hyundai-safety-service-robot-dog/?utm_source=RSS&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=RSS-category-technology

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Watch A Mini Cooper SE Ride On Michelin Uptis Airless Tires

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According to a study, 20 percent of the tires produced yearly are discarded due to flats and rapid pressure loss or irregular wear and tear caused by poor tire pressure. That’s equivalent to a total of 200 million tires that don’t finish their intended purposes. In other words, that’s a lot of waste in terms of costs, materials, and energy used to make the tires.

That sustainability problem is the main focus of Michelin in creating the Unique Puncture-proof Tire System prototype, also known as Uptis. Officially introduced in 2019 but has a development timeline that goes way back to a decade, the Michelin Uptis is nearing its public launch but here’s a preview while being worn by a Mini Cooper SE, courtesy of YouTube’s Mr. JWW.

In the video, which you can watch at the top of this page, Mr. JWW interviewed Cyrille Roget, Michelin’s Group Technical and Scientific Communication Director. Roget is pretty enthusiastic about the French tire brand’s innovation and shared some insight about the tire’s construction.

According to him, the Uptis is made up of belts and spokes, the latter being made of several thin and strong fiberglass to carry the weight of the vehicle. To protect its invention, Michelin apparently filed 50 patents for its development.

Mr. JWW then had a test drive with the Uptis-fitted Cooper SE, which is kind of a big deal as he’s one of the first outside Michelin to test it on a car. It’s a sublime concept, and we couldn’t help but imagine the product’s public reception once it hits the market in its target launch year in 2024.

Of note, the Michelin Uptis won’t be the first attempt into creating airless tires as a concept but at this rate, it’s highly probable that it will be the first to be offered for public use.

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Source: https://www.motor1.com/news/533968/mini-michelin-uptis-airless-tires/?utm_source=RSS&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=RSS-category-technology

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