Pruitt’s EPA Will Give Automakers What They Want: Fewer Emissions Rules

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Thanks (for trying), Obama.

The Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) is moving forward with plans to roll back the former president’s emissions standards for automobiles.

Back in 2010, the Obama administration altered the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, requiring automakers to meet a minimum fuel standard of 54.5 miles per gallon for vehicles by 2025.

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According to the E.P.A.’s own projections, passenger vehicles in model years 2012 through 2025 that meet these emissions standards would decrease the country’s oil consumption by 12 billion barrels, and its greenhouse gas emissions by 6 billion metric tons over the vehicles’ lifetimes.

But with a new administration in charge, it’s likely those goals won’t be met.

This week, an E.P.A. spokesperson confirmed that the agency’s head, Scott Pruitt, has sent the White House a draft of a 16-page plan to revisit those standards. Two sources familiar with the matter told The New York Times the plan could “substantially roll back the Obama-era standards.”

“The proposed rollback is going to be quite a significant number,” Myron Ebell, director of global warming and international environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told The Times. “It will be more than a couple [miles per gallon].”

Automakers have been eager to lower the CAFE standards, which they deem expensive and difficult to attain. And the president and his administration have seemed just as eager to acquiesce. “My administration will work tirelessly to eliminate the industry-killing regulations,” Trump told autoworkers during a speech in March 2017.

Now that Pruitt has delivered a plan, Trump’s one step closer to keeping that promise, and it has environmental experts concerned.

“This is certainly a big deal,” Robert Stavins, director of Harvard’s environmental economics program, told The Times. “The result will be more gas-guzzling vehicles on the road, greater total gasoline consumption, and a significant increase in carbon dioxide emissions.”

We should know the specifics of Pruitt’s plan for revising emissions standards later this year, according to The Times’s sources.

Whether the administration simply rolls back standards to those in place prior to the Obama administration or goes even further is unknown. Either way, our environment will surely suffer.

The post Pruitt’s EPA Will Give Automakers What They Want: Fewer Emissions Rules appeared first on Futurism.


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Cars on the Blockchain? Six Ways Automakers Could Employ the New Technology

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In February, Porsche earned the distinction of being the first automaker to successfully test blockchain, the distributed ledger technology best known for supporting cryptocurrencies, in their cars. However, they are far from the only carmaker exploring ways to integrate this promising technology into their vehicles. Nor are all manufacturers keen to do so in the same way.

Here are six ways Porsche and other carmakers hope to use blockchain to power the future of personal transportation.

Make Cars More User-Friendly

Porsche explored several potential uses for blockchain through their case study with Berlin-based startup XAIN. One of the most useful might also be the simplest: using blockchain to help drivers unlock their vehicles.

After the researchers added the test vehicle, a Porsche Panamera, to the blockchain, the driver could communicate with it directly via an app — their instructions no longer needed to go through a third-party server. This greatly sped up the vehicle’s response time. When the driver used the app to instruct the vehicle to unlock, the vehicle complied in just 1.6 seconds, which is six times faster than was previously possible.

Car blockchain systems could also enable car owners to grant others temporary access to their vehicles. You could simply use the app to unlock your vehicle remotely, giving a friend a chance to snag a forgotten sweater from the backseat. You could even grant a third-party delivery company, such as UPS, the ability to unlock the vehicle to leave a package in the trunk.

Such authorizations would be risky today, given that the directive would need to go through a Porsche server. If someone hacked that server, they could unlock a vehicle without permission. That wouldn’t be a problem with a secure, decentralized blockchain.

Facilitate Financial Transactions

Blockchain first landed in the public consciousness as the technology supporting cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, and Porsche hasn’t forgotten the tech’s financial roots.

The company sees the potential for car owners to use blockchain to pay for the electricity to charge electric cars. Imagine if every time you charged your vehicle, the action triggered a smart contract on the blockchain that took the appropriate amount of money from your account and sent it to the charging station.

The financial applications could also extend to paying for the car itself. You could create a smart contract that sent in your car payment on the first of the month. The car blockchain would record the balance due and stop making payments once it reached $ 0.

The same could go for your monthly parking cost, your insurance, or any other financial transactions involving your vehicle.

Train Autonomous Driving Systems

As Porsche noted in their news release, automakers could use blockchain to improve autonomous driving systems.

As a self-driving vehicle navigated the world, the blockchain would record data about the trip. This data could include everything from information about regional weather conditions to general traffic patterns. Other vehicles in the network could then access this information.

“If everyone had everyone else’s data, it would be a faster path to autonomous cars,” James Johnson, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Oaken, told Coindesk. “If these [original equipment manufacturers] and others want to accelerate the path to level-five autonomous driving, the best way to do that is through the blockchain to share all that data.”

Toyota agrees with this sentiment. In May 2017, the company teamed up with MIT Media Lab to work out ways to use blockchain to speed up autonomous vehicle technology.

“Hundreds of billions of miles of human driving data may be needed to develop safe and reliable autonomous vehicles,” Chris Ballinger, Toyota Research Institute’s director of mobility services and chief financial officer, told Reuters. “Blockchains and distributed ledgers may enable pooling data from vehicle owners, fleet managers, and manufacturers to shorten the time for reaching this goal.”

Ensure Materials Are Ethically Sourced

Others are approaching blockchain technology from remarkably unique angles.

According to Reuters, BMW is working with London-based blockchain startup Circulor to ensure the cobalt they use for their electric vehicles’ batteries is ethically sourced. A BMW spokesperson told Reuters the company couldn’t comment on the project, but that could have something to do with its sensitive nature.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) mines roughly two-thirds of the world’s cobalt. Of that, about 20 percent comes from artisanal unregulated mines that often exploit child labor. An estimated 40,000 children in the DRC spend their days in these mines, rather than in school, working for low wages under extremely dangerous conditions.

Supply-chain tracking is a well known use of blockchain, and Circulor wants to use the technology to track cobalt from the time it leaves a mine until it reaches a manufacturer. The company is already testing the process using “clean” cobalt from Australia and Canada.

“We believe it makes economic sense to start with sources that aren’t a problem,” Circulor CEO Douglas Johnson-Poensgen told Reuters. “Once the system is proven and operating at scale, one can tackle the harder use cases like artisanal mines.”

Eventually, BMW or any other EV manufacturer could decide to only purchase cobalt tracked via Circulor’s blockchain. Circulor could refuse to track the cobalt of any mine that doesn’t meet certain standards, such as safe working conditions or adult workers, eventually driving the unethical mines out of business.

Encourage Eco-Friendly Driving

Not all blockchain projects are life and death matters. Mercedes Benz’s parent company, Daimler AG, is using a car blockchain in a far more lighthearted way, to encourage eco-friendly driving.

In February, Daimler launched a project based on their own blockchain-based cryptocurrency, mobiCOINS. For three months, a test group of 500 drivers will receive mobiCOINS when they operate their vehicles in environmentally friendly ways. These include coasting to a stop, switching the engine to ECO mode, and maintaining a low driving speed.

The vehicle shares the driving data with a special app, which determines how many mobiCOINS the driver has earned. The coins are then deposited into the driver’s account, with a blockchain recording every transaction along the way.

With enough mobiCOINS, a driver becomes eligible to win prizes, ranging from a trip to Berlin’s Fashion Week to VIP tickets to the MercedesCup Final. This give drivers an incentive to operate their vehicles in environmentally responsible ways, and perhaps some of the habits will even stick after the project ends.

Other carmakers could follow suit with their own cryptocurrency-based rewards programs, as could anyone else involved in the auto industry. Insurance companies could also use data from an owner’s vehicle to reward them for safe driving, while repair shops could reward drivers that keep up on routine maintenance.

Image Credit: Daimler
Image Credit: Daimler

Facilitate Autonomous Ride-Sharing

Ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber are already reinventing the way we use — or don’t use — our vehicles. With a few swipes on an app, a driver picks you up in their car and takes you to your destination.

A number of experts, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, think autonomous cars will take this to the next level. The car you summon to ferry you around town will no longer include a driver, and if you do own a car, you’ll have the opportunity to add it to the autonomous fleet whenever you aren’t using it.

Blockchain could help make this vision a reality.

In August 2017, consulting firm Ernst & Young (EY) announced the launch of Tesseract. This blockchain-based system facilitates the sharing of not just rides but vehicle ownership. Eventually, it could help owners manage entire fleets of autonomous vehicles.

Using Tesseract, any group of people can share ownership of vehicles. For example, instead of every person living in a high rise owning their own car or relying on other modes of transportation, they could share a fleet of 10 vehicles. They’d request access to a vehicle when they needed it via an app, and the cars’ blockchain would record the activity of each vehicle.

The system would automatically settle payments on whatever basis the owners agree upon. Maybe they’d pay a per mile fee into a shared account, or each pay a percentage of the monthly car payment that reflects how often they use the vehicle compared to other residents.

Once autonomous vehicles are the norm, a single owner could manage an entire fleet of the cars using the Tesseract system or one like it. They’d just add each car to the blockchain, and then authorized users could request and pay for rides via an app.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

The post Cars on the Blockchain? Six Ways Automakers Could Employ the New Technology appeared first on Futurism.


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Hyundai’s Le Fil Rouge concept is the future of the automaker’s design

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Not to be left behind in the concept car parade of the Geneva Motor Show, Hyundai unveiled its Le Fil Rouge EV concept. It's bigger than you would expect from the Korean automaker, but also prettier.
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Aptiv on helping automakers create an autonomous world

Automakers don't build every component in their vehicles. It's a complex combination of in-house parts and third-party components working in tandem to make things like autonomous vehicles a reality. One of the main players is first-tier supplier Apti…
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Automakers Are Building a High-Powered EV Charging Network in Europe

Before electric vehicles (EVs) can truly supplant their fossil fuel-powered predecessors, the world needs a better network of charging stations. Now, several major automakers, including BMW, Daimler, and the Volkswagen Group, have announced IONITY, a joint partnership to develop and construct such a network in Europe.

The group plans to build a High-Power Charging (HPC) network of charging stations along major routes in Germany, Norway, and Austria. Each station will have 350 kW charging points, and the goal is to open 20 stations before the end of 2017, then increase the total number to more than 100 in 2018. By 2020, they hope to have 400 HPC stations in operation.

Teaser Image for IONITY's charging network. Image Credit: IONITY
Teaser Image for IONITY’s charging network. Image Credit: IONITY

IONITY is sure to have some competition from Tesla, which already has Supercharging stations throughout Europe and plans to add more.

Just last month, Elon Musk’s company announced that Norway would be the site of a 42-stall Supercharger station — their largest in Europe. These Superchargers have a capacity of 145 kW, so the IONITY stations could boast much shorter charge times, perhaps swaying some Telsa customers to choose them instead.

Regardless of whether they’re owned by Tesla or another automaker, more charging stations can only be a good thing. By making it easier for drivers to travel longer distances in EVs, they’ll eliminate one of the more significant drawbacks to owning an electric car.

“The first pan-European HPC network plays an essential role in establishing a market for electric vehicles,” said IONITY CEO Michael Hajesch in a press release. “IONITY will deliver our common goal of providing customers with fast charging and digital payment capability, to facilitate long-distance travel.”

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Apple identifies automakers with wireless charging supporting iPhone 8 & 8 Plus

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Apple has issued a new support document identifying which auto brands — and in some cases, specific vehicles — offer iPhone 8-compatible wireless chargers.
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How automakers are transforming their operations through predictive analytics

Imagine driving a new car down the highway. You’re enjoying the open road when a notification appears on the dashboard informing you that you should deviate from your usual route because there is a major backup. You select the alternate route suggested by the car and continue on your merry way, having saved at least an hour of travel time.

Several minutes later you receive another notification letting you know that if your brake pads are not changed within the next week, your brake rotors will begin assessing damage. You summon your car’s artificial intelligence assistant and request that they pencil a brake inspection into next week’s schedule. It informs you that the note has been made, saving you from hefty repair costs. As you approach the exit nearest your home, your car’s dashboard blinks a notification that the cars in front of you are slowing down rapidly. Rather than squinting and scanning for brake lights ahead of you, you begin slowing down and comfortably come to a stop several feet behind the car in front of you at the stoplight.

By imagining the scenario above, you are imagining a world in which cars are fuelled by predictive analytics, not just gasoline. As the role of predictive data analytics becomes more pronounced in the auto industry, so will features that draw upon the technology to create a better experience for both drivers and manufacturers. Consider how predictive analytics is already shaping the automotive industry what it could mean for the future of cars.


At the root of much of the pending technological progress of the auto industry is the fact that many new cars connect to the Internet. This allows for signals used for navigation, music streaming and even connectable Wi-Fi, to be transmitted through the car. Perhaps even more useful is the way some auto manufacturers have used data to capitalize on connected cars. Tesla, for example, uses car connectivity to not only track a car’s location and local driving conditions, but also to use a predictive data analysis program to help improve the car’s autopilot feature. This software combines the insights generated by thousands of individual Tesla cars to improve the precision and safety of the autopilot feature in Tesla cars collectively.

Data management and security

Research suggests that 75% of cars on the road will be connected by 2020. Think about it. Hundreds of millions of cars will be connected to the internet. They will be generating massive amounts of data daily – 25 gigabytes per hour according to some analysts. This means two things the data will need to be managed and protected. In order to manage such an incredible amount of data, automakers will not only need to utilize advanced storage mediums such as cloud and all flash storage, they will need to use rely on predictive data analytics to effectively manage the data. The same technology will also be useful in detecting and thwarting cyber-attacks on connected cars. Since predictive analysis technology excels at identifying patterns, this tool will be used to monitor the behavior of authorized users with the connected car interfaces. As a means of preventing hackers from entering a car’s network to steal data or even take control of the vehicle, predictive data software will identify and flag any unusual behavior so that it can be investigated and addressed.

Predictive maintenance

Think of all the money car owners would save if they could negate the need for costly repairs through calculated maintenance procedures. When I say calculated, I mean through predictive analysis. By correlating data gathered from integrated sensors with the data from warranty repairs, car makers will be able to use this technology to predict major repairs before they are needed. The same strength used to identify patterns will draw upon data from thousands of cars to explain an anomaly in performance. This could not only prevent costly repairs for customers, but also costly recalls for manufacturers.

Predictive collision avoidance

Integrated sensors will not only be good for predicting maintenance – they will be helpful for predicting (and preventing) accidents as well. By monitoring the activity of surrounding cars and processing the data through predictive analytics, it is expected that data-driven cars will eventually be able to predict traffic accidents, ideally making them a thing of the past. Car companies have already begun exploring the possibilities. One of the most prominent examples of this application of the technology is Nissan’s predictive forward collision warning feature, which assesses the speed and distance of the cars in front and behind the vehicle in question. Drivers are warned and seatbelts are momentarily locked when either car drives in such a way that requires the vehicle in question to brake sharply.

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