Category Archives: Transportation

Waymo’s Autonomous Vehicles Are Driving 25,000 Miles Every Day

With Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval at the National Governors Association, Waymo CEO John Krafcik announced a huge milestone: Waymo's fleet of self-driving vehicles are now logging 25,000 miles every day on public roads. The company reportedly has 600 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans on the road in 25 cities. Waymo has also driven 8 million miles on public roads using its autonomous vehicles, "meaning the comopany has been able to double the number of autonomous miles driven on public roads in just eight months," reports TechCrunch. From the report: The company also relies on simulation as it works to build an AI-based self-driving system that performs better than a human. In the past nine years, Waymo has "driven" more than 5 billion miles in its simulation, according to the company. That's the equivalent to 25,000 virtual cars driving all day, everyday, the company says. This newly shared goal signals Waymo is getting closer to launching a commercial driverless transportation service later this year. More than 400 residents in Phoenix have been trialing Waymo's technology by using an app to hail self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans. The company says it plans to launch its service later this year.

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Why London’s Heathrow Airport Sometimes Hosts ‘Ghost Flights’ With No One on Them

An anonymous reader writes: Six times per week, an empty plane used to fly from London's Heathrow Airport to Cardiff, Wales. The next day, the plane would make the return trip without a single passenger. Half As Interesting, the second channel from Planelopnik-approved Wendover Productions, details why ghost flights like this sometimes operate from Britain's biggest airport in his new video. Despite being one of the most crowded airports in the world, Heathrow operates with only two runways. As a result, it's extremely difficult to get a "slot pair" -- rights for airlines to land and take off at a certain time. Only 650 slot pairs exist per day, so airlines are prepared to drop massive cash in order to get prime slot pairs. And they can trade and sell them, too. [...] Should an airline fail to use their slot at least 80 percent of the time, Heathrow will reassign it to the next company on the waiting list.

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British Airways Says Computer Problems Affecting Operations at Heathrow

British Airways said on Wednesday that its operations at London's Heathrow, Europe's biggest airport, were disrupted because of an issue with a supplier's IT systems. From a report: "We are working with our supplier to resolve the matter and are sorry for the disruption to our customers' travel plans," the company said in a statement. Further reading: The Telegraph, which reports that several flights have been delayed or cancelled because of the IT failure.

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Blue Origin Pushed Its Rocket ‘To Its Limits’ With High-Altitude Emergency Abort Test

Blue Origin pulled off another successful test launch today, landing both the New Shepard rocket -- a reusable vehicle designed to take tourists to the edge of space and back -- and capsule after flight. From a report: The company ignited the capsule's emergency motor after it had separated from the rocket, pushing the spacecraft up to a top altitude of around 74 miles -- a new record for Blue Origin. The firing also caused the capsule to sustain up to 10 Gs during the test, but Blue Origin host Ariane Cornell said "that is well within what humans can take, especially for such a short spurt of time." [...] The rocket which went up today is the third New Shepard vehicle that the company has ever flown. The first one flew to a super high altitude in April 2015, but the booster was unable to land back on Earth after flight. The second iteration of the vehicle was much more successful, however. Blue Origin launched and landed the rocket and booster a total of five times before retiring the system. This third New Shepard has already done two launches and landings, and it sports some upgrades over its predecessors. For instance, this one actually has windows in the crew capsule; the second vehicle had its windows painted on. Blue Origin is building even more vehicles to carry passengers, though there isn't a firm date for when the first crewed flights will occur. The company's president Rob Meyerson has estimated that the first test passengers could fly as soon as this year, while commercial flights could start in 2019. Blue Origin also plans to start selling tickets next year, too.

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Secretive Startup Zoox Is Building a Bidirectional Autonomous Car From the Ground Up

A secretive Australian startup called Zoox (an abbreviation of zooxanthellae, the algae that helps fuel coral reef growth) is working on an autonomous vehicle that is unlike any other. Theirs is all-electric and bidirectional, meaning it can cruise into a parking spot traveling one way and cruise out the other. It can make noises to communicate with pedestrians. It even has displays on the windows for passengers to interact with. Bloomberg sheds some light on this company, reporting on their ambitions to build the safest and most inventive autonomous vehicle on the road: Zoox founders Tim Kentley-Klay and Jesse Levinson say everyone else involved in the race to build a self-driving car is doing it wrong. Both founders sound quite serious as they argue that Zoox is obvious, almost inevitable. The world will eventually move to perfectly engineered robotic vehicles, so why waste time trying to incorporate self-driving technology into yesteryear's cars? Levinson, whose father, Arthur, ran Genentech Inc., chairs Apple Inc., and mentored Steve Jobs, comes from Silicon Valley royalty. Together, they've raised an impressive pile of venture capital: about $800 million to date, including $500 million in early July at a valuation of $3.2 billion. Even with all that cash, Zoox will be lucky to make it to 2020, when it expects to put its first vehicles on the road.

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The US is Facing a Serious Shortage of Airline Pilots

An anonymous reader shares a report: The national security of the United States relies on a healthy airline industry. That requires modern reliable airplanes -- and highly skilled pilots to operate them. However, the United States has a shortage of pilots right now, particularly at the regional airline levels. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there were about 827,000 pilots in America in 1987. Over the past three decades, that number has decreased by 30%. Meanwhile, during this period, there has been a tremendous increase in the demand for air travel. The International Air Transport Association predicts that, over the next 20 years, air travel will double. This is a classic case of low supply and high demand. This mismatch has created a perfect storm that could wreak havoc on the US airline industry over the next decade. The somber news is this shortage is going to get much worse. I have not only studied and researched the airline industry since 1978, but I also was a pilot for 19 years, before going back to academia in 2006. In the 1970s, when most of today's airline pilots like myself were growing up, piloting for an airline was considered a prestigious career. The job offered not only high salaries and nice schedules with many days off, but also a respected position in society. In the early 1990s, pilot salaries approached $300,000 in today's dollars for some international pilots. What's more, during this time, the military had a steady and consistent demand for pilots. A young aspiring aviator could go into the military to receive all of his or her flight training. Once these pilots had fulfilled their military commitment, they were almost guaranteed a good job flying for a major airline. Today, this is no longer the case. The career of the airline pilot has lost its luster.

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Tesla Model 3 Teardown Reveals a ‘Symphony of Engineering,’ 30 Percent Profit Margin

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Munro & Associates, a small Detroit-area firm that disassembles new cars and analyzes them down to the nuts and bolts, came out in April with damning findings that the Model 3 was poorly built and -- even worse for Tesla's long-term outlook -- costly to build. On that second point, at least, founder Sandy Munro has reversed course. Upon further analysis, his firm has found that the sedan can be profitable. It may even have the potential to make a 30 percent margin, which would be unmatched by any other other battery-powered vehicle. Munro said the systems that impressed him most were the tight integration of circuit board components, which he calls "a symphony of engineering," and the efficiency of the battery developed by Tesla and Panasonic Corp. Munro also pointed to a comprehensive side-by-side comparison of the parts and materials used by the Model 3, General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Bolt, and BMW AG's i3, in which the Model 3 comes out favorably. The report echoes a teardown published in June by German magazine WirtschaftsWoche, which found that the Model 3 costs about $28,000 to build -- $18,000 for materials and $10,000 for production.

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Tesla Will Be First Automaker To Lose the Federal Tax Credit For Electric Cars

Tesla has confirmed to Jalopnik that its 200,000th vehicle has been delivered this month, meaning the full $7,500 federal tax credit for electric cars will slowly be phased out. Tesla is the first automaker to reach this mark. "GM is close, too, while Nissan, Ford, and others still have a ways to go," notes The Verge. From the report: Tesla customers who take delivery of their cars -- regardless of whether it's a Model S, X, or 3 -- between now and December 31st, 2018, will still be eligible for the full $7,500 credit from the IRS. Customers who take delivery of their cars between January 1st and June 30th, 2019, will only be eligible for a $3,750 credit. And customers who take delivery of their cars between July 1st and December 31st, 2019, will be offered just $1,875. After that, the incentive is dead. Put in place early on in the Obama administration, the tax credit was seen as a tool that could be used to encourage customers to buy plug-in electric or hybrid vehicles. This would simultaneously help advance the president's climate and clean energy goals while offering consumers a bit of a break while the cost of battery technology slowly came down. It was also meant to encourage manufacturers to push for greater advancements in that technology. The dollar amount was technically flexible; it was essentially a $2,500 credit with room to increase up to $7,500 depending on the battery capacity of the car being sold. The better the battery in a company's car, the better the rebate their buyers would get.

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