Google Looking for Partners To Bring Self-Driving Cars To Market

Google is actively seeking established manufacturing partners to help bring its self-driving car to market.

Earlier this month, Google announced that it was hiring former Hyundai CEO John Krafcik to head the company’s self-driving car project and now it’s working on a business plan to bring its autonomous technology to the masses. Company co-founder Sergey Brin confirmed that Google intends to partner with an existing automaker to bring the self-driving cars to market, although initially they may be focused on ride-sharing services more than ownership.

“We’re really focused on working with partners,” Brin said. “I expect to bring it to scale, more so partnering, including with top-tier OEMs.”

And if you’re hoping that Google’s self-driving cars will launch without a steering wheel and pedals, think again. It is more likely that the cars will launch initially with the ability for humans to take over when necessary. In fact, Brin believes that we won’t see fully autonomous cars the roadways any time soon.

In total, Google has about 1.2 million miles of testing with its self-driving car fleet on public roads near its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters and more recently in Austin, Tex.


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NY Times Says Volkswagen Diesel Scandal Could Have Caused 106 Deaths

While it’s difficult to directly tie deaths to Volkswagen’s diesel scandal, an analysis shows just how deadly it could be.

Unlike GM’s ignition switch recall, which has been tied to at least 124 deaths, the human toll of Volkswagen’s cheating on diesel emissions tests isn’t as clear cut. What we do know is that the German automaker’s diesel engines emitted tons of extra pollutants into the air worldwide, all of which could harm human health. The company has confirmed that it installed illegal software that deceived emissions tests in at least 11 million diesel cars, the majority of which are not in the U.S. Still, an analysis estimates that the extra nitrogen oxides and pollution emitted in the U.S. from Volkswagen’s scandal could have caused an estimated 106 deaths.

To arrive at that estimation, The New York Times looked at power plant pollution, where some counties are subjected to regulations to reduce their nitrogen oxide emissions by 350 tons a year. According to a team of three researchers, Olivier Deschenes, Joseph S. Shapiro and Michael Greenstone, the reduced pollution was responsible for about five fewer deaths for every 100,000 people in the affected counties annually, as well as for a decrease in spending on prescription drugs. The excess Volkswagen pollution is estimated to be about 46,000 tons since 2008, or the equivalent of about four percent of the power plant pollution reduction the researchers measured.

An associate professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences at M.I.T., Noelle Eckley Selin, looked at the mortality effects of the particulate pollution produced by nitrogen oxides to arrive at a different estimate. According to Selin, she used numbers the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses to make health estimates and found that the effects added about 40 additional deaths over the same period, meaning Volkswagen’s diesel scandal could potentially be tied to more than 145 deaths.

Of course, it’s not an exact science to determine just how deadly Volkswagen’s extra pollution has been due to its cheating on diesel emissions tests, but one thing is coming into focus: Volkswagen’s clean diesel isn’t so clean and could even be deadly.

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Volkswagen’s Emission Fix Likely To Be Costly & Complicated

Volkswagen recently announced that it is developing a fix to put 11 million cars back into emissions compliance, but analysts believe the solution will be more expensive and challenging than Volkswagen’s assessments.

“We have a long road and a lot of work ahead of us,” said newly appointed Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Müller on Monday. “To this end, thoroughness is more important than speed.”

Volkswagen anticipates it will begin fixing the affected vehicles as soon as October, according to Bloomberg Business, and experts are still not sure how this will be completed.

“My theory is that due to the sheer competitiveness of the U.S. market, VW undersized the LNT to get better fuel economy,” said Nick Molden, founder and CEO of Emissions Analytics, a firm that conducts fuel efficiency and emissions tests. The LNT he refers to trap nitrous oxide emissions, and will likely be part of Volkswagen’s solution.

“I suspect there will be some sort of hardware intervention,” Molden said.

SEE ALSO: Why Volkswagen Resorted To Emissions Cheating

That means Volkswagen needs to design, produce and install this new component, all for the $664 per car that the company has set aside to handle the problem.

As if this task wasn’t complicated enough, in order for Volkswagen to simultaneously retain as much of its reputation as possible, the company’s solution must hit a trifecta for consumers:

  • The update can’t significantly reduce the car’s fuel economy or performance. As noted by Automotive News, “A reduction of either would likely trigger even more class-action lawsuits from disgruntled Volkswagen owners.”
  • The emissions fix must integrate into the car relatively easily without altering the car in a way that decreases either its value or its safety rating.
  • The fix must come quickly.

A calibration expert that spoke anonymously with Automotive News also agreed that the repair will be costly, and could potentially affect fuel economy.

“It is difficult to imagine that the software could be updated to always meet emissions without impacting fuel economy or emissions, or the defeat device would not have been used from the beginning,” noted the expert.

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Bioweapon Experts Aren’t Buying the Tesla Model X’s Bioweapon Defense Mode 

The air conditioning system in the new Tesla Model X has three modes: circulating air from outside the car, re-circulating air that’s already inside the cabin, and a “bioweapon defense mode,” triggered by a button on the dashboard, which creates positive pressure inside the cabin to keep outside particles at bay. So, does it work? We asked bioweapons experts for their take on Tesla’s panic button.


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This Delta Ad Reminds Us Of Our Unlimited Potential

Normally airline advertisements try to hook with with Great Deals™ or some awkward rendition of your grandpa’s favorite song. Not Delta’s latest advertisement. This Delta ad reminds us of the miracle of flight, and opens our eyes to our potential.


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Here’s What Happened When I Tried To Sell My TDi ScandalWagen to CarMax

If you’ve read any of my 2-3 other posts, you’d know that I went out and leased a 2014 VW Jetta SportWagen TDi about a year ago in an attempt to merge the practicality of my beloved 4Runner and my I-like-it-but-I-don’t-have-room-for-three-cars Scion FR-S into a single, fun car that according to my salesman- achieves up to 50mpg highway once it breaks in. My second favorite part of his pitch was that the resale value was so good on TDi cars that I could resell it at the end of my lease and pocket a $2k difference over the buyout price.


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Last Call: Kind Of a Drag Edition

My wife always gives me a hard time because I like to pronounce “palm frond” as “pomfrong.” It’s just what I do. This Crown Vic pulled into the grocery store parking lot while I was packing up my shopping conquests, and it was comically dragging said source of pronunciation disagreement ...
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