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October 20, 2017
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Transportation

Elon Musk’s Boring company readies its second, poetic tunnel digger

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The Boring Company, Elon Musk’s third or fourth company (who can keep track) is nearly ready to double its tunnel digging capacity: The venture’s second boring machine is “almost ready” according to Musk, and it’ll be named ‘Line-Storm,’ borrowing its name from a poem by Robert Frost.

Maybe this is what Steve Jobs really always meant when he talked about the intersection of technology and liberal arts – we should name our industrial excavation equipment after seminal works of art. Also, Musk brought specific attention to the line “And be my love in the rain,” which could mean this one is designed or all-weather operation or something. But it’s probably just a fan of Frost expressing appreciate for a great power that also feels vaguely like it could refer to the enterprise of digging tunnels.

Meanwhile, Musk is also hawking The Boring Co. hats via the official website for his company. I’ve seen these in person and they seem like a quality product, if that’s your thing. It’s probably not quite as lucrative as pre-selling Model 3 reservations in terms of helping raise capital quickly, but there are apparently almost 5,000 sold, which is more than most startups ever manage.

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Also, The Boring Company’s name, which seems like the ultimate dad joke and therefore definitely in Musk’s wheelhouse, was actually conceived by Musk’s former flame Talulah Riley, according to Musk himself. Plus, director J.J. Abrams apparently created the logo. That’s going to be a terrific trivia question some day.

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News Source = techcrunch.com

Toyota’s ‘Fine-Comfort Ride’ fuel cell concept aims for long-range flexibility

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Toyota is debuting a new concept vehicle for the forthcoming Tokyo Motor Show, and it’s a fuel cell vehicle that’s designed to get around 1,000 km (around 621 miles) on a single hydrogen pack that can be refuelled in about 3 minutes total. The concept looks like an aggressively future-styled minivan, though it’s billed as a “premium saloon,” and it’s got an interior design that emphasizes second row seating space.

The Fine-Comfort Ride is designed to be flexible in its seat configuration, so that it can use used maximally by just one occupant, or rather as a meeting or communication and collaboration room for a group.

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It’s also got a built-in virtual Agent, which is built into touch display s on the driver and passenger windows and displays, for a full surround infotainment experience. The motors are int he wheels, positioned at the absolute outside edges of the car, too, which Toyota says makes for silent running and quite operation.

There’s also no dividing pillars separating the front and rear seats, and the bucket seating looks like lounge furnishing from a Blade Runner movie. It’s actually a super cool vision of future mobility, albeit probably not a particularly realistic one.

Toyota should have plenty more to show off at the Tokyo Motor Show next week, so stay tuned for more big reveals, and hopefully more far-out concepts.

News Source = techcrunch.com

London puts new hybrid electric black cabs on roads ahead of larger rollout

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London is staring up a pilot test of its electric black cabs (via Engadget), otherwise known as the TX5, after first revealing the vehicles back in 2015. The cars have 70 miles of pure EV range on their built-in battery pack, but can also go up to 400 miles using the onboard gas engine to generate the power for the battery and motor.

The vehicles meet the conditions for London’s forthcoming requirement that all new taxis on roads be technically “zero emission capable” as of the start of January, 2018. The taxis also feature a number of onboard convenience features and other tech add-son, including built-in Wi-Fi, USB chargers, a panoramic roof and six seats, plus contactless terminals for accepting tap cards and mobile payments.

This is still a car that will probably spend a lot of time guzzling gas, considering its range and the amount of travel that drivers normally do during a day in the city. But it’s a far greener alternative compared to what’s used now, and it has the potential to get better over time.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs to turn Toronto area into a model smart city

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Alphabet-owned Sidewalk Labs, the Google parent’s company focused on smart city technologies, will build a “mix-use, complete community in Toronto on its eastern waterfront, with the aim of building a livable space from the ground up using innovations in construction techniques, self-driving, climate friendly energy systems and more to build a community that’s affordable and accessible with a focus on connected tech.

That’s obviously an ambitious project, but some of the groundwork is already being laid: Alphabet’s Google will be the flagship tenant for the new neighbourhood, anchoring the easter waterfront, to be called “Quayside,” and Sidewalk Labs has committed $50 million to kick off pilot testing and planning in partnership with the City of Toronto.

Sidewalk Labs won the contract through its response to a Request for Proposals issues by Waterfront Toronto, and organization created by the Canadian federal government, the Ontario provincial government and the City of Toronto together to foster development of Toronto’s lakefront areas in ways that address urban sprawl while respecting the realities of climate change and taking into account the ability of the city’s residents to get around efficiently.

The area involved in the RFP that Sidewalk Labs will work with the government coalition to develop spans around 800 acres (though 12 acres are specified for the initial project), and is one of the largest underdeveloped urban areas in any North American city, making it a good target for Sidewalk’s ambitious vision, which involves building smart cities holistically from the very start. Ultimately, the partners hope to turn the area into a “place for tens of thousands of people to live, work, learn and play – and to create and advance new ideas that improve city life,” according to a release from Sidewalk.

Google will kick things off by relocating around 300 employees to its new anchor office in the district, and infrastructure to prevent flooding and other necessary structural elements to the region, including roadwork, will be funded by $1.25 billion in committed funds from city, province and federal sources.

A community town hall event will start things off in terms of involving city residents and stakeholders in the process, with that planned for November 1st. Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt, along with Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (yes the dreamy one) and Ontario Premiere Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor John Tory announced the news at a live press conference on Tuesday near the anchor development site.

We’ll probably hear more about specific plans for the region as the town halls proceed and Sidewalk takes into account local feedback, but the Alphabet subsidiary says its aim is to build a place “that encourages innovation around energy, waste, and other environmental challenges to protect the planet; a place that provides a range of transportation options that are more affordable, safe, and convenient than the private car; a place that embraces adaptable buildings and new construction methods to reduce the cost of housing and retail space; a place where public spaces welcome families to enjoy the outdoors day and night, and in all seasons; a place that is enhanced by digital technology and data without giving up the privacy and security that everyone deserves.”

It’ll definitely be a boost to Toronto’s technology and startup scene, which is already among the more vibrant and active in the world outside of Silicon Valley. That’s likely a big reason why the city wanted to work with Sidewalk Labs to begin with, as it seems eager in general to increase Google’s investment and presence in the area.

Watch the livestream of the announcement regarding Toronto’s new Alphabet city below:

Featured Image: VALERIE MACON/Getty Images

News Source = techcrunch.com

Amazon patents a drone that delivers a charge to power up EVs on the go

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A recent Amazon patent could be an answer to range anxiety, albeit one that sounds a bit more sci-fi than practical solution at the moment: the newly granted patent (via Roadshow) describes a drone that could carry a battery charge for electric cars, and deliver them to any cars out on the road that need them while in route, providing enough juice to get to a proper charging station.

There’s a lot that seems crazy about this patent, however – including the fact that drones themselves require a lot of tricky power management to get even limited flight times with lightweight cargo on board. Keeping themselves charged and within range of vehicles in need of a top-up might be the most challenging aspect of the idea overall, in fact.

It’s not the only hurdle in terms of making this thing real, either; the patent also describes a rooftop docking station that the drone can land on to stay connected with the vehicle and provide power on an ongoing basis while it continues along its route. That means either aftermarket modifications, or buy-in from automakers, will be required to make it happen, too.

At the moment, it’s not a super realistic concept, in other words. But it has potential, especially if we get to a future where EVs are commonplace, as are drone delivery services (something Amazon definitely is interested in making happen).

News Source = techcrunch.com

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