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Latest Technology / Google Maps' AR adds navigation hints to the real world
« on: February 12, 2019, 07:06:06 PM »
WiTricity, a company that specializes in contactless EV charging, has acquired Qualcomm's rival wireless charging tech. The two are keeping quiet about the financial details, though they did reveal that Qualcomm will become a minority WiTricity shareholder as a result of the transaction. Ultimately, it gives WiTricity access to more than 1,500 new wireless battery charging patents and patent applications, which could see its contactless charging system become the EV industry standard.

An MIT spinoff, WiTricity's system relies on a floor pad that radiates a magnetic field to refuel parked EVs. In 2016, the company announced a prototype in partnership with GM that could be deployed in public parking spaces and garages, offering power at both 7.7 kW and 11 kW. At the time, WiTrcity said the tech could work with any EV model or platform. It quickly struck up licensing agreements with Toyota and GM supplier Delphi, while its investors also include Foxconn and Intel's venture capital arm.

Qualcomm bought its "Halo" tech from the University of Auckland in 2011 as part of a "multi-million dollar" deal. It currently forms the backbone of its dynamic electric vehicle charging (DEVC) test track, which juices an electric car while driving through a combination of vehicle-equipped "Halo" sensors and road-embedded wireless charging hardware. Qualcomm envisioned it as a component of a future autonomous ride-hailing operation.

WiTricity and Qualcomm were clearly charting different courses to overcome the same issue: the industry's reliance on manual chargers and external ports. By unifying its rival's passive charging platform with its own, WiTricity will be hoping to speed past the test phase toward mainstream adoption.

Source: WiTricity

Latest Technology / Google Maps' AR adds navigation hints to the real world
« on: February 12, 2019, 07:01:22 PM »
Google Maps has made navigating unfamiliar cities on foot much easier than the days of pulling out a paper map — but it's not perfect. The blue dot that signifies where you are standing can vary wildly from your actual position because GPS is blocked by large buildings and your phone's compass is being thrown off by all the metal surrounding us in urban environments. Google thinks it has a solution: AR.

Today, the search giant unveiled its newest pilot: an AR system it's calling "global localization" for on-foot navigation. The system (which was shown off at I/O last year) helps orientate and locate your exact position when GPS has fallen short by combining VPS (Visual Positioning Service), Google's Street View and machine learning. The result is an impressive feature that reduces those moments when you're not quite sure which way to walk.

During a demo of the system while walking to a coffee shop, I found it to be helpful with an impressive emphasis on safety. While standing still, you point your phone's camera at nearby buildings and pan back and forth. After a few moments, it determines your position and re-orients the arrow in google maps so you know exactly which direction you need to be heading.

It'll do this while you're walking, but after a few moments, it'll prompt you to put your phone down and pay attention to where you're walking. Eventually, it'll turn off the AR effect if you don't heed the feature's warnings. This should help reduce the number of times people walk into other people, poles or worse traffic (while using this feature at least).

The onscreen distance countdown and giant arrows telling you where to turn are also helpful in a city like San Francisco where intersections don't always mean right angles and you need a little extra help getting around.

While I thought it was a great new tool, Google is still working on it. Starting today it'll be rolled out to select local guides who will test global localization and give feedback to Google. So don't expect it on your smartphone anytime soon. The company still wants to work out the kinks and make sure all its Street View data is on par with the real world. So until then, we're back to relying on the little blue dot and hoping we're walking in the right direction.

Source: Google AI Blog

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have set up war rooms and disclosure systems to warn of potential election meddling, but the Canadian government doesn't believe that's good enough. The country's Democratic Institutions Minister has established a panel of five politicians that will warn the public when there's evidence of attempted interference during election periods, including the upcoming October federal election. If they believe there's a threat, they'll not only alert the Prime Minister, party officials and Elections Canada, they'll hold a press conference to reveal the details to everyone.

The panel will include the Clerk of the Privy Council, the national security and intelligence advisor, and the Deputy Ministers of Global Affairs Canada, Justice and Public Safety. And while other politicians would receive briefings on details, they wouldn't have the power to stop public disclosures.

This would be limited to serious incidents that are clearly meant to skew the election, such as a fake news video or the email hack that tried to disrupt the campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron. Simply put, it would make disclosure a non-issue -- the public would learn about interference campaigns on a timely basis, whether or not leaders or social networks are willing to talk.

There's more in the works as well. Canadian intelligence groups are banding together to form a Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections task force (SITE for short) that would identify foreign threats to elections and help with the government response, regardless of whether or not there's a formal election period. The country has seen the headaches caused by interference in the US and the UK, and it's not keen to see a repeat.

Source: CBC News

Latest Technology / To Facebook, your privacy is worth a $20 gift card
« on: January 31, 2019, 01:35:00 PM »
Another day, another Facebook controversy. The latest backlash follows a TechCrunch report that the company was secretly paying teenagers to access their data and basically monitor their every move on the web. Facebook was asking people to install a VPN app called "Facebook Research," which gave it full access to a user's phone and internet activity. That, according to security expert Will Strafach (who helped TechCrunch with the investigation), gave the company the ability to continuously collect "private messages in social media apps, chats from in instant messaging apps (including photos/videos sent to others), emails, web searches, web browsing activity and even ongoing location information."

And what did these teens get in exchange for giving up every last illusion of privacy? Twenty dollars in e-gift cards per month. For a company that's been involved in countless data privacy scandals in recent months, Facebook has a lot of nerve. Rather than changing its approach to collecting people's personal data, especially in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook continues to test the limits of what it can get away with.

The Research VPN program seems to be a clone of Onavo Protect, a data-collecting app that was pulled from the iOS App Store last year after Apple said it would violate its privacy policy. According to TechCrunch, Facebook Research was created using the same code as Onavo Protect, but the social network found a way around Apple's restrictions. Through a simple browser link, those who agreed to participate could give Facebook root access to their iPhone, essentially allowing the company to install anything it wanted on their device.

By using its developer credentials to do this, Facebook bypassed Apple's TestFlight beta-testing program and instead let users download it from three other services: BetaBound, uTest and Applause. One of the beta-testing services Facebook used, Applause, went as far as asking users to provide a screenshot of their Amazon purchase history. Which is just shameless.

Given Apple's stance on Onavo Protect, it would appear that asking users for root access to their devices is a clear violation of its privacy policy — especially since Research was intended for people outside of Facebook. As a result of Facebook's actions with Research, Apple has banned the social network from testing iOS apps internally. "We designed our Enterprise Developer Program solely for the internal distribution of apps within an organization," Apple said in a statement on Wednesday. "Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple. Any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked, which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data."

Apple's decision to block Facebook from the Enterprise Developer Program is going to make it difficult to beta-test its various apps, including Messenger and Instagram. Beyond that, Apple CEO Tim Cook hasn't shied away from criticizing Facebook's privacy standards, and this is only going to heighten the tension between him and Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook might argue that the people who signed up for the Research program (which reportedly targeted users between 13 and 35) consented to have their data harvested. But, it's not as if the company was being explicit about its involvement, since it was essentially hiding behind BetaBound, uTest and Applause as a "social media study." Per TechCrunch, it wasn't until a minor tried to sign-up that a parent consent form revealed that the data being collected would be provided to Facebook.

Here's how that form read: "There are no known risks associated with the project, however you acknowledge that the inherent nature of the project involves tracking of personal information via your child's use of apps."

Since TechCrunch's investigation came out Tuesday night, Facebook has said it is shutting down the program for iOS users, though it will still be available on Android. Google has not replied to our request for comment, but TechCrunch is now reporting that it, too, has a data-collecting application (called Screenwise Meter) that side-steps Apple's App Store.

Meanwhile, in a statement to Engadget, Facebook disputed the TechCrunch story on its Research program, saying that "key facts" are being ignored. "Despite early reports, there was nothing 'secret' about this; it was literally called the Facebook Research App," Facebook said. "It wasn't 'spying' as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear on-boarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate. Finally, less than 5 percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens. All of them with signed parental consent forms."

Source: Edgar Alvarez

tarting an auto launch event with a dancing car is... odd. Apparently, the new 2020 Mercedes GLE is a slave to the rhythm. But the tech behind the groovin' GLE revealed in front of a San Antonio hotel has real-world uses that don't involve entertainment.

A refreshed luxury SUV that’s had all the technology thrown at it and it comes out the other side looking and driving great. The new MBUX continues to impress and the E-Active Body Control suspension, while weird at first should get a lot of people out of sandpits, but also let them show off their car’s dance moves.

The new Mercedes GLE (starting at $53,700) looks like any other SUV refresh, but under its attractive new design is a vehicle crammed with features that include the new MBUX infotainment system and the impressive E-Active Body Control suspension that makes cornering... weird but better. Oh and that "dancing," it'll actually help you get out of a sand pit.

A new suspension system controls each wheel's spring and dampening force independently. It's how the car is able to dance. That demo I mentioned -- while weird -- was a good representation of what E-Active Body Control can do. Inside the vehicle, you can recreate that dance by actuating the height of each corner of the GLE in real time. Helpful while offroad and one tire is stuck in a ditch.

The real fun comes when you put the vehicle in off-road mode and turn on the rocking feature. It essentially bounces the SUV up and down. This is for when the car is stuck in sand or soft dirt and compresses the terrain giving the vehicle more traction to free itself. Sadly, Mercedes didn't have a sandpit for us to try this feature in, instead, I just pulled over to the side of the road and tried it until I stopped giggling.

The thing is, I've actually used this method as a teenager to help my friends get their trucks unstuck from mud, sand and even snow. It worked then and I'm sure it will probably work without a bunch of teenagers bouncing up and down in the back of a pickup. At least there will be less of a chance of falling out of the vehicle.

One suspension trick you can't pull off with a group of friends is the new Curve feature. When you go around a corner the vehicle actually leans into it. Like everything else with the new E-Active Body Control suspension, it's weird at first. But, after about an hour, you miss it once you turn it off. It's not available in Sport mode, so it's not really built for aggressive driving, but for cruising, it reduces how much the passengers lean while the car corners.

You can push the GLE in Sport mode and it'll deliver superior handling for a car of its size. Cornering is tight and body roll (if you don't have Curve mode enabled) is kept to a minimum. The all-wheel-drive 4Matic system does a good job keeping you on the road, but I did encounter some understeer (the front wheels turn but the car continues straight).

Inside, the GLE's 12.3-inch beautiful display houses the new MBUX infotainment system. I'm happy to report that it feels more responsive to voice commands than the pre-production A-Class I drove a few months back. I was already happy with MBUX in the A-Class, if this is what a few months of fine-tuning does to make it better, other automakers might want to take heed and see what Mercedes is doing.

The dash cluster is equally stunning, with its own 12.3-inch display showing off a myriad of different design modes and options. Mercedes also dropped a huge HUD (Heads up display) into the car. Within it you can add, well, frankly too many things. If you keep it simple, it's great, if you go overboard, it gets far too cluttered for driving in anything other than a long-boring highway straightway.

That tedious freeway could also be suited to the updated Advanced Driver Assistance System. The stop and go feature is more effective than others, thanks to the car-to-x communications for traffic jam assist -- which alerts the vehicle that there's traffic up ahead and primes it for the gridlock. Like the S-Class, it supports the ability to adjust the speed of the adaptive cruise control to what Mercedes deems safe around corners. Also, like the S-Class that speed is usually way slower than I would take a corner and seems overly cautious to me.

Mercedes also added active lane change. When the driver assistance system is up and running with adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist, tap the blinker to move into the next lane (if it's deemed safe by the vehicle). It worked well during my tests and like Route-Based Speed Adaptation is very cautious. Unlike my concern about speed, I'm happy to have the car act less aggressive when dealing with traffic.

Once you get away from the soul-draining traffic of the city, the GLE is a happy cruiser if you opt for the GLE 350 with the 2.0 Liter Inline-4 turbo that puts out 255 horsepower and 273 foot-pounds of torque. If you want to kick up some dust, then the inline-6 GLE 450 (starting at $61,150) with 362 horsepower and 369-foot-pounds of torque is probably more your speed. Yes, the 450 is more fun, but if a majority of your driving is in town where a six-cylinder engine is constrained, you're probably better off the 350.

The GLE 450 also gets an additional 21 horsepower from the EQ boost system. A small electric motor and battery that add a little bit of oomph and can potentially shut off the engine in certain driving conditions.

At its core, the new GLE is a good SUV made better. Handling is improved and it feels like Mercedes did more than tweak a few things under the hood. While driving and riding in the passenger and rear seats, the experience was the luxurious Mercedes ride you've come to expect. Massaging seats, cushioned headrests and a refreshed dash layout that, at first glance, I wasn't sure about -- but it grew on me once I actually got in the car.

Latest Technology / DJI built a drone remote with an HD display
« on: January 09, 2019, 05:47:30 PM »
To date, steering one of DJI's more accessible drones has usually meant using your smartphone as a screen. You now have a better option -- DJI has released a Smart Controller with its own 5.5-inch display. The remote gives you both more tactile flight controls as well as a view of what the drone sees in 1080p. It might be a better choice if you regularly fly under bright sunlight, too, thanks to a 1,000cd/m2 screen brightness that should remain visible outdoors.

The Smart Controller is available now and works with newer DJI drones, including the Mavic 2 family. There's just one obstacle: the price. At $649, it costs roughly half as much as a Mavic 2 Zoom and nearly as much as a reasonably high-end smartphone. This makes the most sense if you're an enthusiast or make a living from your aerial footage. There will be Mavic 2 bundles that could make the remote more palatable, but you might want to stick to your phone you aren't quite that dedicated.

Source: DJI

Latest Technology / Nissan unveils its longest-range Leaf EV yet
« on: January 09, 2019, 05:46:57 PM »
Even though it's one of the oldest EVs on the market, the Nissan Leaf has only been available with just 150 miles of range -- far less than its newer rivals. Nissan has finally rectified that at CES 2019 by unveiling the 2019 Leaf e+. It packs a 62 kWh battery pack that can propel it about 226 miles, approaching the range of Chevy's Bolt and the Tesla 3 base version.

There wasn't much to improve besides battery life over the 2018 Leaf, which introduced a sleeker design, the excellent ProPilot driver assistance tech and a 40 kWh battery. The Leaf e+ continues that progress on the drivetrain side, not only increasing range by 40 percent, but adding a new 150 kW motor (around 200 HP), which bumps power by 33 percent. That means it's not only much quicker off the line, Nissan says, but faster on the freeway, too, making passing and other maneuvers safer.

Nissan also updated its "Intelligent Mobility" interface with a larger 8-inch display. It's controlled by smartphone-like swiping, scrolling and tapping gestures, and apps, maps and firmware are updated over the air. Nissan now offers door-to-door navigation that syncs to your smartphone and has integrated Nissan Energy -- its vehicle-to-home system for managing battery-assisted solar power and other home energy installations.

The launch of the Leaf was actually delayed because of the dramatic arrest of former CEO Carlos Ghosn in Japan. It's coming this month to Japan for 4,162,320 yen ($38,000), will hit Europe later this quarter for 45,000 euros and arrive to US shores sometime this spring. US pricing has yet to be announced.

Source: Nissan

A Chinese scientist claims to have created the world's first genetically-edited babies using the CRISPR/Cas9 tool. He Jiankui (pictured) told the Associated Press that twin girls, Lulu and Nana, were born earlier this month following embryo-editing using CRISPR to disable the CCR5 gene, which allows the HIV virus to infect cells. An American scientist, Michael Deem, also reportedly assisted He on the project at the Southern University of Science and Technology of China.

According to He, embryos were edited for seven couples affected by HIV, with one pregnancy resulting thus far. He added that the patients refused to be identified or interviewed.

However, the hospital where He reportedly conducted the work has poured cold water over his claims. "What we can say for sure is that the gene editing process did not take place at our hospital. The babies were not born here either," a spokesperson for Shenzhen HarMoniCare Women's and Children's Hospital told TechCrunch.

The news is already causing an outcry among researchers in the US, who slammed it as "unconscionable" and "immoral and unethical." It follows similar reactions to China's breakthrough on genetically-modified human embryos in 2015, which saw researchers remove a gene called HBB, responsible for the fatal blood disorder β-thalassaemia.

Notably, He's work has not been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, meaning there's no independent confirmation of the research. In an earlier report, the MIT Technology Review linked to Chinese medical documents posted online in the Chinese Clinical Trial Registry -- a primary registry of the World Health Organization's International Clinical Trial Registry. Scientists shown He's materials by the AP concluded that the tests so far are insufficient to say the editing worked or to rule out harm to the genetically-edited babies.

Both the UK and Japan have given the green light to edit donated human embryos to better understand developmental processes. Meanwhile, the National Academy of Sciences also endorsed embryonic engineering last year, but only in cases that would otherwise result in children being born with serious genetic diseases.

Source: Associated Press, MIT Technology Review

You might not want to get too excited about the prospects of finding water on Mars. A recently published study has determined that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's approach to handling water data is flawed, potentially invalidating some earlier discoveries of salty water flows. The machine's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) can be confused by some high-contrast areas, and the software used to correct that data can inadvertently produce false signs of perchlorates that hint at salt water flows. There appeared to be an abundance of perchlorates in the corrected results, but there doesn't appear to have been any in the raw data.

This doesn't rule out every hint of salty water, but whatever is there might be harder to recognize. The researchers are developing a detection method that would use multiple pieces of evidence rather than the one from before. In the meantime, though, the science team suggests tempering expectations. These salts are on Mars -- you just shouldn't expect them to be quite so ubiquitous when Mars 2020 and future missions touch down on the Red Planet.

Source: Wiley

Just because Alphabet's Verily shelved its glucose-monitoring contact lens doesn't mean you're stuck without an unintrusive way to manage diabetes. IEEE Spectrum has discovered a recent study that shows promise for Dutch startup Noviosense's own wearable glucose monitor, which measures tears by sitting in your lower eyelid. The spring-like coil was accurate enough that 95 percent of its data was either as good as blood or close enough to be acceptable. For contrast, previous studies suggested that tears might only have a 70 percent correlation at best.

The technology works by tapping into "basal tears," or a continuous stream of tears that don't require stimulation. According to Noviosense founder Christopher Wilson, contact lenses like Verily's tend to dry out an eye layer, pool up fluid and otherwise create an unreliable source of tears. And before you ask: yes, it should be comfortable. It can sit in the eyelid for long periods and won't pop out when you rub your eyes.

There's one main problem with the study: it involved just six people. Noviosense will need to conduct more tests and implement further refinements before there's something that would be practical. However, the very fact this technology is advancing forward is important. There might still be a time when you can keep tabs on diabetes in a subtle way without needles, implants or other methods that might be painful, inconvenient or simply conspicuous.

Source: ACS

The space race is heating up again in ways we haven't seen since the end of the Cold War. We haven't been to the moon since 1972 but a number of private companies and national agencies have begun looking to our nearest celestial neighbor with renewed interest, not only as a site of scientific study but also as a fuel resource and potential staging area for trips further out into the solar system.

Last December, Trump signed Space Policy Directive-1, which directs NASA "to lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities."

Essentially, the move will help NASA better organize exploratory efforts with its international partners and private spaceflight companies."I don't even like to use the word return -- to go forward to the moon, sustainably," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told a Senate subcommittee hearing in September. "What we're doing now is entirely different than what we did back [during the Apollo era]."

To that end, NASA has since submitted to Congress a plan to establish the necessary infrastructure to not just get us back to the moon but to return there regularly. Dubbed the "Exploration Campaign", this plan focuses on three core areas: low-Earth orbit (LEO), the crewed missions to the moon for long-term habitation and study, and robotic missions to Mars and beyond.

"EM-1 will take Orion and the Space Launch system into a high lunar orbit and that's actually the orbit that NASA has identified to do the asteroid retrieval mission that will bring a large boulder into that orbit" Lockheed Martin's Orion program manager Mike Hawes told the Observer in 2016. "This will essentially be a dress rehearsal for that mission. To go and prove Orion systems and come home."

The LEO phase looks to shutter the ISS by 2025 while simultaneously increasing "the breadth and depth of commercial and international LEO activities." As for its lunar aspirations, NASA hopes to send the first uncrewed SLS flight around the moon on a three-week mission by 2020, followed by establishing the Gateway, an orbital moon base that will serve as a transition point for researchers to and from the lunar surface (aboard Lockheed Martin-designed landers) as well as a jumping off point for missions to Mars. At the same time, NASA plans to send a rover to Mars by 2020 on a sample return mission, which will hopefully pave the way for more robotic missions to the red planet in an effort to search for evidence of life and help scout the way for crewed missions in the future.

The Gateway is going to be wild. It will consist of at least "a power and propulsion element [with] habitation, logistics and airlock capabilities," per NASA. The power and propulsion bits will be launched first, around 2022, via an SLS rocket. These will not only allow the Gateway to adjust its lunar orbit, but they'll also serve as communications platforms for space-to-Earth and space-to-moon messages. The habitation elements are expected to be delivered in 2024 and should allow astronauts accommodations for up to 60 days.

"The Gateway will give us a strategic presence in cislunar space. It will drive our activity with commercial and international partners and help us explore the Moon and its resources," William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said in a press statement. "We will ultimately translate that experience toward human missions to Mars."

But the US will not be heading to the moon alone. China is not messing around when it comes to lunar surveys. The nation's "Chang'e" mission series will seek to return samples from the Moon via robotic rovers and orbiters. Chang'e 5 is slated to launch in 2019 and return with 2 kilos of pure, uncut moon rock. Chang'e 6 is still under development but is expected to take off between 2020 and 2024 for a similar sample return mission.


Japan has announced similar plans to deploy a pair of robotic rovers to the moon in 2020 and 2021. Unlike the US, Russia or China, all of whom put their assets into orbit using house-made rockets, a Japanese company, ispace, has opted to outsource its liftoff to SpaceX and its team of Falcon 9s. The plan is to load an encapsulated HAKUTO rover (which was a finalist in Google's recent X Prize competition) into SpaceX's launch vehicle, lift them into high-Earth orbit, and then release the payloads so that they may slingshot the rest of the way to the Moon using inertial force.

Israel has equally ambitious plans in the works as well. As part of the LDEP (Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program), NASA and Israel-based space launch company SpaceIL will partner to deliver a lunar rover to the moon's surface in 2019.

This mission will hinge on the rover's ability to kick up as much moon dust as possible as it sets down. Doing so will enable NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to scan the plume for signs of mercury and hydrogen, which could eventually be used as rocket fuel precursors. The SpaceIL lander will also be outfitted with laser retroreflectors -- mirror arrays that can be used to hyper-accurately measure distance. There's no plan to use the arrays just yet but they could form the base for a larger navigational array sometime in the future.

But the European Space Agency plans to top all of these missions -- they're moving in. The project, announced this August, involves using the moon's abundant supply of basaltic dust as a building substrate. Specifically, concrete.

"Moon bricks will be made of dust," ESA science advisor Aidan Cowley wrote in a recent press release. "You can create solid blocks out of it to build roads and launch pads, or habitats that protect your astronauts from the harsh lunar environment." Not only that, this moon dust might also hold the key to significantly extending our stay, once we get there.

"One of the great things about the lunar soil is that 40 percent of it is made up of oxygen," Cowley added. If we can figure out a way to efficiently break the chemical bonds binding the oxygen, we'd be able to exploit dust deposits not just for breathable gasses but also as a rocket fuel component. Private enterprise has jumped into this renewed race to the moon as well.

Obviously, you've got the major players like SpaceX, which plans to send its first set of space tourists around the dark side of the moon early in the next decade; Blue Origin, which recently announced reservations for its suborbital spaceflight tours and hopes to make lunar supply runs by 2023; and Virgin Galactic, which, after a tragic flight failure earlier this year, is set to restart powered flight tests on its SpaceshipTwo.

A number of smaller startups are also working their way to la luna. Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic is developing a lunar lander, dubbed Peregrine, which should be able to carry 584 pounds of payload to the moon's surface at a rate of $545,000 per pound. The company expects to make its first trip sometime in mid-2020. "It's a pretty pivotal moment, we think, for the moon, and the country, and the world," Dan Hendrickson, vice president of business development for Astrobotic, told Space in January.

With interest in lunar real estate on the upswing, things are likely going to get pretty crowded up there, which in turn could lead to international conflicts over both territory and finite resources. Unfortunately, the 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (aka the Moon Treaty) won't be of much use seeing as how none of the major players (like the US, China, or Russia) actually signed on to it. But then again, there's always the Space Force.

Source: NASA, Orion, SLS

Flying taxi startup Lilium has announced some key new hires in the form of a trio of Audi and Airbus employees. Mirko Reuter, who was the head of automated driving at Audi, has been appointed Lilium's new head of autonomous flight, where he'll "further develop all necessary and critical key competencies in regards to the...challenges of autonomous aircraft systems," according to a press release. Reuter's education and background in mechatronics, robotics and automation engineering should make him well-equipped to handle Lilium's technical minuta.

Jakob Waeschenbach, Lilium's new head of aircraft assembly, formerly held the position of head of equipment and installation at Airbus. In his new position at Lilium, Waeschenbach will help establish a new factory where the company hopes to streamline production of its aircraft. The goal, according to the press release, is for Lilium to make the process resemble building cars.

As the former vice president of finance and lease at Airbus, Rochus Moenter oversaw the "setup and operation of strategic projects in Airbus strategic core markets." Now, as Lilium's new general counsel and head of legal, he will have to navigate the complex legal proceedings that no doubt come along with a flying taxi service.

With these hires, Lilium is doubling down on its lofty goal of establishing an on-demand flying taxi service that functions like a rideshare in the sky. The company plans to test the first manned flight of its VTOL craft sometime next year, and estimates a full launch of its services by 2025. Lilium promises that travel times will be much faster than in a car, and plans to keep fares in line with current ride-hailing prices. Seeing as this is unproven technology, however, it's probably best to keep expectations in check for the time being.

Source: Lilium

Mercedes' parent company Daimler and automotive supplier Bosch announced back in 2017 their plans to get autonomous vehicles on the road "by the beginning of the next decade." Now, the partnership is getting ready to roll out testing, and has earmarked San Jose for a pilot trial in the second half of 2019.

Using automated Mercedes Benz S Class vehicles, the trial will see on-demand ride-hailing on offer in the San Carlos/Stevens Creek corridor between downtown and west San Jose. The city -- the third largest in California -- is on track to see a 40 percent population spurt over the next two years, so officials are keen to see how automated vehicle tech will help address growing transportation challenges. "We have to rethink urban transportation," says Dr Stephan Honle, senior vice president of automated driving at Bosch. "Automated driving will help us complete the picture of future urban traffic."

Source: Diamler

It's not just Ford that's working with Baidu to develop self-driving cars for the Chinese market -- Volvo has also revealed its team-up with the tech giant. While Ford announced the partnership earlier, the Swedish luxury automaker says it's the "first foreign car maker to collaborate this closely with Baidu" when it comes to autonomous vehicles. The two companies will pool their resources to create and mass produce electric and fully autonomous vehicles when the time comes: Volvo will be in charge of developing the cars themselves, which will be powered by Baidu's Apollo autonomous driving platform.

Their ultimate goal is to create and sell Level 4 autonomous vehicles -- those that don't need a human driver at all -- but it's unclear if they're also releasing semi-autonomous models before they achieve that. At this point in time, Baidu's Apollo is already capable of driving in basic urban environments, even at night.

By investing time and money in autonomous vehicles, the partners are making sure that they're getting a piece of what could become a massive market in the Asian country. London-based analyst IHS Marking believes that around 14.5 million autonomous cars will be sold in China by 2040.

Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars, said in a statement:

"With Baidu we take a big step forward in commercialising our autonomous compatible cars, built on Volvo's industry-leading safety technology. There is a strong development in autonomous drive in China, where Baidu is a leading player, and the market there offers huge opportunities for us as the supplier of choice for autonomous fleets."

Source: Volvo

Latest Technology / GM is making e-bikes as it expands beyond cars
« on: November 06, 2018, 12:20:55 PM »
GM is keenly aware that it can't depend on car sales going forward, and that now includes venturing beyond cars. The company has revealed that it's working on two e-bikes, one compact and one folding, ahead of a launch sometime in 2019. It didn't say much about the machines, but their low-slung designs make it clear that the focus is on efficiency rather than raw performance.

You might have a hand in shaping the launch, though. GM is crowdsourcing a name for its bike brand through a challenge that will award $10,000 for the winning name, and $1,000 each for the nine runners-up. You have until November 26th at 10AM Eastern to submit naming ideas, with winners chosen in early 2019. That sounds like a tiny sum for what could be a defining brand, but think of it this way -- you could leave your mark on GM's future, and possibly transportation at large.

Source: GM Corporate Newsroom

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