Mercedes-Benz has pledged to go all electric by the end of the decade, where market conditions allow. Shifting from electric-first to electric-only, the luxury car company says it is accelerating toward an emissions-free and software-driven future.
By 2022, Mercedes-Benz will have battery electric vehicles (BEV) in all segments the company serves. From 2025 onwards, all newly launched vehicle architectures will be electric-only and customers will be able to choose an all-electric alternative for every model the company makes.
“The EV shift is picking up speed – especially in the luxury segment, where Mercedes-Benz belongs. The tipping point is getting closer and we will be ready as markets switch to electric-only by the end of this decade,” said Ola Källenius, CEO of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG.
And in what Källenius decribes as “a profound reallocation of capital”, Mercedes-Benz has unveiled a comprehensive plan which includes significantly accelerating R&D. In total, investments into battery electric vehicles between 2022 and 2030 will amount to over €40 billion.
Plans include eight battery Gigafactories and the company says it intends to team up with new European partners to develop and efficiently produce future cells and modules. including solid-state technology which offers higher energy density and safety.
“Our main duty in this transformation is to convince customers to make the switch with compelling products. For Mercedes-Benz, the trailblazing EQS flagship is only the beginning of this new era,” Källenius said.
Moovit and Lime have announced a global partnership that will integrate Lime’s scooters, mopeds, and cycles into the Moovit app across more than 100 cities in 20 countries.
The partnership will see Lime’s vehicles added to the Moovit app in cities across the US, Europe, South Africa, and Australia. Moovit says a 40 further cities will be added imminently.
When a user opens the Moovit app on the “Directions” screen, they can plan their journey. However, if they switch to the “Stations” screen, they can see nearby Lime vehicles. From there, they will be able to select Lime as a journey option before being directed to the Lime app from where they can unlock the bike, scooter, or moped.
“This partnership signifies that mobility companies recognize the need to collaborate together to offer riders more convenient modes of public and shared transportation as they return,” says Nir Erez, Moovit Co-founder and CEO.
“Offering more alternative options that can easily get people to their destinations is a critical component of a MaaS platform, especially in some of the most congested cities in the world. From Buenos Aires to Berlin, we are excited to partner with Lime and offer riders more ways of getting around town that can easily combine with public transit.”
This new partnership is the largest micromobility integration to date, according to Moovit, based on the number of cities involved.
“In addition to being the largest micromobility integration to date, our partnership with Moovit is a major step towards our goal of expanding access to shared, affordable and carbon-free transportation to more users around the world,” says Wayne Ting, Lime CEO.
“As cities begin to reopen and commuters head back to offices, we want to make it as easy as possible for riders to locate a Lime electric bike, scooter or moped, and with the Moovit app, they’ll be able to use them seamlessly in tandem with public transit.”
Electric Assisted Vehicles Limited (EAV), the Oxford, England-based sustainable zero-emissions vehicle manufacturer, has released renderings of its new LINCS model, a modular multipurpose lightweight vehicle designed to provide urban light commercial van capability.
LINCS has been designed in association with Saietta Group, whose new in-hub electric motors will power a lightweight skateboard platform. The LINCS platform will contain enclosed Li-ion batteries and become the basis of the new modular vehicle.
“The operational requirements for LINCS are both complex but also required a simple solution,” says Adam Barmby, CEO and Founder of EAV. “We wanted to produce a multipurpose light commercial vehicle as a logistics platform to transform the way we move people and goods around our urban environment.
“Positive disruption is needed right now”, he adds. “The electrification of current fleets simply isn’t any kind of real solution. We’ve comprehensively analysed the inefficiencies in the current transportation of goods and people.”
LINCS, in its logistics role, acts as a fully dynamic ‘hub-and-spoke’ mobile depot vehicle, delivering EAVRoRo boxes to EAV eCargo fleets in various different dynamic optimised locations such as forecourts or car parks. This significantly reduces stem distances and increases operational efficiency within the last mile. LINCS will also be able to operate as a simple covered urban van or open pick-up or drop side. The uniqueness of the design and engineering is in its versatility, packaging, light weight, strength and in the understanding of current and future urban cargo operations which we’ve already been successfully developing with our current EAV models.”
LINCS is built on an aluminium skateboard chassis platform utilising two linked in-hub motors from Saietta Group. The chassis itself contains EAV’s standard removable interchangeable Li-ion battery pack providing a range of up to 100 miles within an urban or intra-urban environment. The driver’s cab is located either on the left or righthand side of the LINCS, depending on the market, and is equipped with ‘EAVAdvanced’ driving controls and in-cab systems. LINCS has been designed and future-proofed for fully autonomous operations. Uniquely, LINCS also features a ‘Road train’ capability where, on inter-urban or urban deployments, multiple LINCS can be linked together into a single autonomous vehicle.
“EAV is much more than an eCargo bike company. We’re a transport technology solutions business.” commented Nigel Gordon-Stewart, Executive Chairman at EAV. “We developed and launched the EAV2Cubed and its predecessor the EAVan as the foundation of a complete urban Future Transport vision conceived from a blank sheet of paper. In a new, environment and resource conservation-focused world, legacy automotive design and engineering solutions simply don’t work. They’re too heavy, too big and, from a resource and environmental point of view, are just wasteful. LINCS is the next step in our programme which sees a complete replacement of legacy urban road transport with new, sustainable, zero-emissions, environmentally-friendly, safe – but extremely efficient – solutions for cargo and passengers.”
The UK Government has published its long-awaited Transport Decarbonisation Plan which provides a ‘greenprint’ to cut emissions from “seas and skies, roads and railways, setting out a pathway for the whole transport sector to reach net zero by 2050”.
The plan is based around commitments focused on:
increasing cycling and walking
zero emission buses and coaches
zero emission cars, vans, motorcycles and scooters
accelerating maritime and aviation decarbonisation
It also set out targets for phasing out the sale of new diesel and petrol heavy goods vehicles – with a 2035 phase out date for vehicles weighing from 3.5-26 tonnes and 2040 for vehicles weighing more than 26 tonnes. This builds on the commitment last year to ban the sale of new internal combustion engine cars from 2030 and hybrids from 2035.
“Transport is not just how you get around. It is something that fundamentally shapes our towns, cities, and countryside, our living standards and our health. It can shape all those things for good, or for bad,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
“Decarbonisation is not just some technocratic process. It’s about how we make sure that transport shapes quality of life and the economy in ways that are good.
“The Transport Decarbonisation Plan is just the start – we will need continued efforts and collaboration to deliver its ambitious commitments, which will ultimately create sustainable economic growth through healthier communities.”
Responding to the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, Cllr David Renard, Transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association, “the national voice of local government”, said, “Given that transport is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the UK, the Transport Decarbonisation Plan is key to how the country will achieve its net-zero ambition.
“Councils are already doing a lot to reduce carbon and other harmful emissions to protect their communities and the environment, by investing in cycle lanes, clean air zones, better public transport and EV charging infrastructure. However, the scale of the challenge requires a collaborative approach between local and national government, industry and our communities.
“In order to support local government in its role of leading places and providing a greener future, councils want to work with government and business to establish a national framework for addressing the climate emergency, supported by long-term funding, guidance for individuals and clarity on the practical steps that will be needed locally to help the public to transition to more sustainable forms of transport.”
Human efforts to achieve flight date back to the ancient world, says Rani Plaut, CEO and Co-Founder of AIR. Clearly the Wright brothers’ 1903 triumph hardly marked the end of this millennia-long quest for elevated mobility, but are we about to experience a paradigm shift in personal aviation?
Less than a generation after the Wright brothers’ success at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Glenn Curtiss introduced the first “flying car,” dubbed the Autoplane, at the 1917 Pan-American Aeronautic Exposition. From The Jetsons to Blade Runner: 2049, popular culture is filled with futuristic visions of worlds where people move from A to B in flying vehicles.
Of course, such vehicles have yet to hit the skies. There was even a popular Internet meme about how the realities (and absurdities) of 21-Century life fail to match up with long-ago predictions that we’d all be whizzing around in a flying-car utopia by now.
But recent technological advances have fuelled a burgeoning Electric Vehicle Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) scene, with investors pumping billion into innovative startups in the hopes of seeing Curtiss’s century-old dream take flight.
With forecasters predicting that the eVTOL market will ascend to $14.7 billion by 2041, the coming decades will give rise to a new mobility ecosystem that truly reflects humans’ longstanding ambition to touch the skies – not only on the occasional business trip or a family vacation but in their everyday lives.
Halted Mobility in the Era of COVID-19
As recently as one year ago, the wide-open skies seemed to have closed in. The nascent COVID-19 pandemic ground air travel to a virtual halt in the late winter and early spring, with international air travel plunging 60% over the course of 2020. Predictions that flights wouldn’t return to pre-pandemic levels until mid-decade seemed far from unreasonable. Few would have expected that US flights leading into the Independence Day 2021 holiday weekend would actually exceed those levels – but they did, underscoring the resilience of the human desire to hit the skies and see the world.
At the same time, the pandemic – which has significantly diminished but is not yet over – has spurred a new look at more personal, social distancing-friendly forms of travel, which helps explain why personal auto sales have surged of late. This development is where our abiding desire to move around and seek out new forms of adventure dovetails with the resurgent interest in private forms of mobility.
A Mobility Renaissance
From expanding drone delivery programs to increasing demand for cleaner, greener forms of transportation amid global climate change, the eVTOL market is poised to benefit from larger commercial and economic trends that have reshaped how people think about air transportation and fostered greater interest in alternatives to traditional vehicles.
As with any new form of transportation, public acceptance will be a key barrier for the eVTOL market to overcome.
Developing a robust urban air infrastructure and a viable set of regulatory standards will not only accelerate the industry’s growth but will also help soothe public fears about this newfangled technology. Deloitte projects that following a wave of successful pilot programs and growing public acceptance, autonomous passenger eVTOLs will see greater adoption beginning in 2030, with production costs plunging as manufacturers achieve economies of scale and battery costs decrease.
That means that the next decade will be critical in formulating the regulatory policies and developing the technologies necessary to make flying cars an everyday reality for consumers across the globe.
What starts as an impossible dream often becomes humdrum within a remarkably short span of time. And while flying cars have existed in the popular imagination for well over a century, they’re closer than ever to going from the stuff of science fiction and Internet memes to conveying passengers on their daily commutes. After a year when the skies seemed harder to reach than at any time in recent history, we’re on the cusp of reaching unprecedented heights of innovation and human achievement.
Rani Plaut is CEO & Co-Founder of AIR
About AIR – promising a paradigm shift in personal aviation
Israeli eVTOL start-up AIR is promising a “paradigm shift in personal aviation” based on what it calls “airEVs for the consumer market”. The company’s vision is for a “private electric aircraft parked by your house”. It says it combines sustainable aerospace innovation with automotive know-how to create airEVs that offer intuitive ‘fly by intent’ handling and a one-of-a-kind user-centric experience for the everyday flier.
While the vast majority of the sector is focused on building commercially piloted or autonomous air taxis for cities, AIR offers an alternative for those who want “to enjoy the ultimate freedom of flying on their own terms”. Thanks to its vertical take-off and landing capabilities and cutting-edge flight control system, the company’s vehicles, it says, offer a completely new and sustainable way to get to any destination.
“Everybody wants to fly, and with AIR, they finally can. We’re creating a fun and functional personal airEVs that will blaze a path towards a new era of air mobility accessible to everyone,” said AIR CEO and Co-Founder, Rani Plaut. “Our company is building airEVs for the reality we live in and the future of our dreams, putting usability, safety and thrill at the forefront of every product decision so we can put the power of flight in every person’s hands.”
Energy company bp has launched a trial EV subscription service designed to help ride hail drivers in London transition to electric vehicles.
The bp EV Pro package offers an all-in-one subscription product which includes a new private hire licensed electric vehicle, unlimited charging, insurance and roadside assistance.
Deepshikha Vasishta, global fleet director, bp said “Fleets of electric taxis will be key in the future, but our research has shown that the upfront cost and the complexity of leasing, insuring, charging and keeping an unfamiliar vehicle on the road is preventing drivers from making the switch.”
The new subscription service is designed to overcome these blockers and is supported by mobility software and business model provider Tomorrow’s Journey. Specifically, its JRNY smart mobility platform simplifies and speeds up the driver onboarding process by integrating with third parties allowing validation checks, which have previously been done manually and often taking days, to be completed in under 10 minutes.
Tomorrow’s Journey CEO Chris Kirby said, “The key to delivering the ambitious service levels the bp team required was simplifying the process and keeping the number of interactions with the driver to a minimum. A highly automated back-office system is just as important as a slick front end user journey.”
Furthermore, adds Kirby, shared neutral fleets across multiple rental-based mobility products are the only answer to the rapidly changing automotive finance market. And in the case of EV Pro it was the combination of the bp brand and Tomorrow’s Journey’s technical expertise and agile approach that was key to bringing the project to market quickly. bp plans to roll out and trial its cars-as-a-service product to ride hail drivers in London.
Spain will invest Euro 4.3 billion to kick-start the production of electric vehicles and batteries as part of a major national spending programme financed mostly by European Union recovery funds.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the government-run plan would include the whole production chain, giving grants to companies with the goal of building the country’s first battery plant and boosting manufacturing of electric vehicles.
“It is important for Spain to react and to anticipate this transformation in Europe’s automotive sector,” he said, adding the private sector could contribute a further 19.7 billion euros to the initiative from 2021 to 2023, according to government estimates.
After Germany, Spain is Europe’s second-largest car producer. As the industry confronts a rapid transformation to electric mobility, the country is pushing to overhaul supply chains and retool its manufacturing bases to ensure it maintains this position.
With the new investment, part of a Euro 13 billion package earmarked for sustainable mobility, Sanchez expects the sector’s contribution to economic output to reach 15% by 2030, from around 10% now.
The programme, maintains the Government, could create up to 140,000 new jobs and boost the national economy.
It aims for the number of new electric vehicles registered to reach 250,000 in 2023, a big jump from the 18,000 registered in 2020, thanks to government-sponsored initiatives to buy low emission cars and expand charging stations.
As one of the main beneficiaries of the Euro 750 billion EU recovery scheme, Spain will get around Euro 70 billion in grants until 2026 to help revive its economy, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis.
While few private sector bidders have publicly emerged to seek a slice of the funds, Volkswagen’s Spanish brand SEAT and utility Iberdrola have formed an alliance to work on a bid.
Their involvement would fit within a wider project they are planning, covering all elements of electric vehicle production from mining to battery production to the manufacturing of a finished vehicle at SEAT’s assembly plant outside Barcelona.
German energy storage systems developer Tesvolt has become a shareholder in Munich-based Stercom Power Solutions, which develops inductive charging technology. The investment aims to accelerate the development of wireless charging and potentially dynamic inductive roads.
Wireless charging involves transferring electrical energy in an inductive process from a magnetic coil in or on the road pavement to a receiver coil in the vehicle. This allows for many short but high-speed charging processes – for example at shopping centres, in multi-storey car parks or even at home. Car makers including Audi and BMW are already installing charging coils in new vehicle models.
“Stercom is a complete technology specialist and one of the first to develop really good products in the field of inductive charging,” explains Simon Schandert, founder and Chief Technical Officer at Tesvolt. “Our aim is to work together to bring highly efficient charging systems to the market and even in the medium term to enable inductive supercharging with up to 200 kW charging power. This would also make it more efficient to charge while driving in the future.”
But the big problem to date is capacity. “So far the only wireless charging suitable for mass-production offers just 3.2 kW. We want to introduce an inductive charging station with a charging power of 44 kW, which is 14 times faster,” explains Daniel Hannemann, founder and Commercial Director at Tesvolt.
Of particular interest to Tesvolt is Stercom’s breakthrough silicon carbide technology that offers 95% efficiency and works at a distance of up to 20 cm between the sender and receiver coils. This says Hannemann is something no other provider has been able to do. Stercom has also developed intelligent charging stations which, for instance, show the driver the right parking position for the vehicle over the magnetic coil.
“Short and frequent charging dispenses with the need for large car batteries. This significantly lowers the price of electric vehicles while making them lighter and therefore more efficient,” says Robert Sterff, founder and CEO at Stercom.
There are still significant challenges when it comes to inductive charging. Short and powerful charges place high demands on batteries and the issue of how to pay for wireless charging is yet to be resolved.
Electric vehicle wireless power transfer systems is still in the development stage, says Sterff. But test sections of road with magnetic coils under the asphalt are already in place in Italy, France and Sweden. “Wireless charging is the future,” concludes Sterff.
The Spanish capital Madrid has unveiled a range of plans to support a return to public transport which includes a trial in September for public transport to be free in the morning peak hours.
As the pandemic recovery gets underway, private car use is rising at a far quicker rate than public transport and Madrid is taking dramatic steps to reduce private vehicle use and encourage a return to public transport.
The plans were announced by the Mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, and are in line with the city’s agenda for intermodal and sustainable urban mobility.
The initiatives will be implemented by EMT Madrid, the city’s transport planner and operator, which is wholly owned by the City Council.
Making travel free between 7-9am during the first half of September on all services, except the Airport Express
Introduce ‘transbus’ ticket, a one-hour ticket that allows transfers and unlimited travel on buses for Euro 1.80
Adding 15km of temporary bus lanes
Launching three new bus lines connecting outer districts and Park & Ride facilities to the centre
Improving active travel and micromobility infrastructure including 230 scooter and 460 bicycle docking points at 46 new locations
Extending the electric bike share BiciMAD scheme to all districts of the city.
US online food-ordering and delivery platform Grubhub has announced a partnership with Russia’s Yandex Self-Driving Group as its robot delivery provider.
Grubhub operates across US college and university campuses. The agreement is Yandex’s first entry into the US delivery market.
Brian Madigan, vice president of corporate and campus partners at Grubhub says, “Together with Yandex, we’re changing the way college students experience food delivery. We’re excited to offer these cost-effective, scalable and quick food ordering and delivery capabilities to colleges and universities across the country that are looking to adapt to students’ unique dining needs. While college campuses are notoriously difficult for cars to navigate, specifically as it relates to food delivery, Yandex robots easily access parts of campuses that vehicles cannot — effectively removing a major hurdle universities face when implementing new technology.”
Dmitry Polishchuk, CEO of Yandex Self-Driving Group, adds, “We chose to partner with Grubhub for campus delivery because of Grubhub’s unparalleled reach into college campuses across the United States, as well as the flexibility and strength of their ordering platform. We are delighted to deploy dozens of our rovers, taking the next step in actively commercialising our self-driving technology in different markets across the globe.”
Yandex first began working on driverless technology in early 2017, combining its expertise in machine learning, navigation, mapping tools, and cloud technologies. It is also testing cars equipped with its technology in all weather conditions across three countries and operating robo-taxi services in two cities in Russia.
Porsche, Vodafone and HERE Technologies have teamed up to trial ways to use 5G and precise geo-location technology to reduce the number of road accidents at the Vodafone 5G Mobility Lab in Aldenhoven in Northern Germany.
The three companies are collaborating in the development of a real-time warning system so that vehicles and their drivers can receive hazard warnings directly using 5G mobile network technology delivered using the intelligent message broker MQTT network protocol.
Following initial tests in Aldenhoven, HERE Technologies, Porsche and Vodafone plan to further optimise the real-time warning system and evaluate its potential in a range of locations and weather conditions.
Built around the Live Sense SDK technology from HERE, the trial system will use computer vision and artificial intelligence to “identify objects and changes in the behaviour of other road users or road conditions not visible to drivers that could lead to hazardous situations”.
According to André Schlufter, who is responsible for connectivity and SIM management at Porsche, by using 5G mobile network technology hazard warnings can be delivered to the road user “in real time with a latency of less than ten milliseconds”.
Michael Reinartz, director of innovation at Vodafone Germany, said, ““If cars warn each other about hazards in real time, human lives can be saved.”
Taiwanese electric bike and scooter maker Gogoro and Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturer of Apple iPhones, have signed a memorandum of understanding to form a strategic technology and manufacturing partnership to develop battery swap technology.
The deal is expected to see Gogoro expand its proven bike and scooter battery swap technology beyond its homeland of Taiwan. “This partnership brings together Gogoro’s urban EV battery swapping technologies with Foxconn’s extensive global manufacturing capabilities to enable mass distribution of Gogoro’s smart battery swapping ecosystem and vehicles,” said Young Liu, chairman of Foxconn.
Gogoro says it has 2100 battery swap stations in Taiwan with 400,000 riders using them each day.
The small batteries required for electric bikes and scooters makes the battery swap model much more appropriate than for cars. The Gogoro-Foxconn deal goes beyond manufacturing, with the two set to collaborate on engineering and the development of smart batteries.
“As the Gogoro ecosystem continues establishing itself as the industry leader in battery swapping, our ability to rapidly scale our manufacturing to meet global demands is vital,” said Horace Luke, Gogoro founder and CEO.
TIER, a leading European micro-mobility provider has teamed up with Google Maps to offer ‘first and last mile’ route planning for scooter riders in 11 major European cities.
The service is already available in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Vienna, Zurich, Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki. Other cities are to follow in the course of 2021.
Under the tab for cycling directions, Google Map users will have a choice of the ‘Your Bike’ and ‘TIER’ buttons. By clicking on the TIER button, Google Maps shows the nearest available TIER e-scooters – as well as the walking distance to and the charging status of each e-scooter. Once at the scooter pick up point, riders are then redirected to the TIER app.
Tinia Mühlfenzl, Director of Market Development at TIER, says, “Our mission to change mobility for good is largely about creating strong partnerships to expand everyone’s access to sustainable, easily accessible and multimodal mobility solutions. Through our collaboration with Google, we’re creating visibility for TIER scooters within Google Maps and helping to ensure that riders have access to the form of transportation that best suits their daily mobility needs.”
For 2021, TIER is expanding into more European cities and countries. And with the recent launch of e-bikes in the UK, France, Norway and Switzerland, TIER has added to its growing range of multimodal mobility solutions it offers.
California-based e-scooter rental company Bird has announced the addition of shared e-bikes to its portfolio with the launch of Bird Bike. Bird currently operates e-scooters in more than 250 cities globally.
Bird Bike will be available in cities throughout North America, Italy, Spain, Germany, Ireland and France this year. Riders will be able to access Bird Bike via the Bird app’s QR-based code ‘scan and ride’ facility.
Travis VanderZanden, founder and CEO of Bird, says, “Shared e-scooters catapulted shared micromobility to the centre stage of eco-friendly transportation in cities by providing more than 150 million zero-emission trips globally. We are launching our shared Bird Bike and Smart Bikeshare platform to meet fast-growing demand from cities and riders for more sustainable transportation options while expanding our serviceable addressable market by five billion trips per year.
“Cities and riders are best served by efficient, collaborative and non-monopolised transportation networks,” he adds. “Our vision of smart, responsible bike sharing is to provide the best shared bikes and operations when cities need them, and having the foresight to offer the best support and multimodal integrations when they don’t. Cities, people and the planet win when there is greater access to eco-friendly transportation.”
The Urban Air Mobility Division of Hyundai Motor Group has announced a new partnership with ANRA Technologies – the India-based developer of drones and traffic management solutions – to begin developing the operating environment for the advanced air mobility (AAM) industry which includes drones and eVTOLs.
Hyundai says it is the first in a series of air traffic management partnerships that it plans to establish to develop an industry consortium to build an advanced air mobility operating ecosystem.
As part of the partnership, ANRA will provide strategic insight on Hyundai’s concept of operations for advanced air mobility airspace management and ground mobility integration. The two companies will also identify research opportunities to help inform regulatory decisions and identify enabling infrastructure projects.
Pamela Cohn, chief operating officer, Urban Air Mobility Division of Hyundai Motor Group, says, “We are pleased to partner with ANRA Technologies to begin building toward the safe and efficient integration of advanced air mobility into existing airspace. As an emerging mobility solution, it is critical diverse parties work together to co-create the operating ecosystem, including its necessary digital and physical infrastructure. ANRA brings a unique background of operational history in the drone services sector that will help define the operating environment for all AAM vehicles.”
Amit Ganjoo, founder and CEO, ANRA Technologies, adds, “ANRA’s SmartSkies family of airspace management solutions have been proven worldwide and provide the critical support required for complex AAM operations at scale. We take a long-term view in everything we do as a company and are looking forward to integrating our advanced technologies with the Urban Air Mobility Division of Hyundai’s AAM ecosystem and sharing our knowledge and experience to ensure the success of our partnership and help move our industry safely forward.”
New York startup Kelekona has outlined an ambitious and frankly jaw-dropping variant on the eVTOL concept – a bus-scale lifting body electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft that looks quite a lot like Thunderbird 2.
Its 3D-printed airframe promises to lift off the ground using eight thrust-vectoring fans with variable pitch propellers. These will enable each stage of flight, from vertical takeoff to forward flight and landing.
The idea is the brainchild of Braeden Kelekona, who apparently came up with the concept while stuck on a bus while trying to get to Penn station in New York.
Kelekona claims its lifting body eVTOL will be capable of transporting a maximum of 40 passengers and a pilot — or around 4 tonnes of cargo — for a price comparable to an Amtrak ticket. “One hundred percent we are trying to compete with public transportation,” Kelekona told Digital Trends.
“What we decided to build is a flying battery,” he said. “What that allowed us to do is have greater endurance. Instead of building an interesting airframe and then trying to figure out how to put the battery into that aircraft, we started with the battery first and put things on top of it.” The proposed battery has 3.6 megawatt hours of capacity.
And if he gets the seed funding together, Kelekona says he and the team will be building and flying the prototype at full size by next year. We’ll see.
Major roads across the UK’s West Midlands region, centred around second city Birmingham, have been equipped with an extensive network of 5G sensors to create an integrated approach to traffic congestion that cuts across the jurisdictions of a number of local highways authorities.
The project, led by West Midlands 5G (WM5G), a government-backed initiative set-up to develop the UK’s first region-wide 5G testbed, captures live traffic information that feeds into a regional control centre and enables swift action to be taken as queues build up – for instance by diverting buses, implementing diversions and issuing instant warnings to motorists.
The traffic data will also be used to spot traffic trends and help plan future transport development.
The project centres around the Key Route Network, a set of A and B roads equivalent to 7% of the available network but which carry over half of all traffic within the region.
In its first phase, the project aims to capture a more granular picture of traffic flow through the deployment of various of 5G enabled sensors, radar and cameras across the key route network. This insight will prove critical in reducing congestion and predicting and managing increasing levels of traffic particularly during major events or incidents.
Transport for the West Midlands, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), and WM5G have been working with partners such as WSP, Siemens, Earthsense and Vodafone in delivering the project.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, who chairs the WMCA, said, “This sensor network is yet another example of how the West Midlands is at the forefront of 5G technology and the cutting edge of transport innovation. 5G is far more than just quicker streaming of movies, and this works shows the difference it will make to people’s everyday lives across the region.
“The Road Sensor Network project will form a key part of planning and developing our future transport network, allowing us access to data that would otherwise have not been possible without 5G. It will help make our roads safer and more efficient, this will give the West Midlands a critical advantage when considered for future development and investments.”
To date the region has relied on manual surveys of traffic flows using pneumatic tubes or limited coverage of CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras to gauge the number of vehicles and journeys being undertaken on the region’s roads. This approach is limited in terms of the data and information it provides, making it difficult to accurately predict or model transport activity on the road network.
5G’s high speed and low latency (the time from action to reaction) enables the data captured to be anonymised and transferred to the regional control centre in near-real time, building a more accurate simulation model of anticipated traffic and improving congestion management. It also supports the collection of a much richer set of data including pedestrian, cycle movements and supports evaluation of transport initiatives such as demand responsive transport and e-Scooters.
The Road Sensor Network will also deploy environmental sensors to gain greater insight into noise levels, particulates, CO and CO2 counts, as well as weather and humidity data.
Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council said, “Making the region’s roads greener, better connected and less congested will bring about a great number of benefits to residents and local businesses. Digital solutions such as the Road Sensor Network will be critical in delivering the insights necessary to action such tangible long-term change.”
The next stage of the £5.8 million Road Sensor Network Project will see around 280 sensors provided by Vivacity and Vaisala deployed across the seven constituent authorities of the West Midlands Combined Authority area. It is hoped the findings will support other regions in developing similar networks to ease congestion hotspots and more intuitively manage traffic flow.
Ford has announced it is acquiring Electriphi, a California-based provider of battery management and fleet monitoring software for electric vehicles. Electriphi’s team and services will be integrated into Ford Pro – a new global business within Ford offering advanced charging and energy management experiences.
Ford Pro plans on leveraging its leadership position in the commercial vehicle market, its vehicle offerings and Electriphi’s technology to help customers with this transition.
Based in Silicon Valley, Electriphi’s team of more than 30 employees has developed and deployed a purpose-built electric vehicle fleet and charging management platform that simplifies fleet electrification, saves energy costs, and tracks key operational metrics like real-time status of vehicles, chargers and maintenance services.
Ford Pro CEO, Ted Cannis, says, “As commercial customers add electric vehicles to their fleets, they want depot charging options to make sure they’re powered up and ready to go to work every day. With Electriphi’s existing advanced technology IP in the Ford Pro electric vehicles and services portfolio, we will enhance the experience for commercial customers and be a single-source solution for fleet-depot charging.”
Electriphi CEO and co-founder, Muffi Ghadiali, adds, “Customers have been clear – electrification of their fleets is inevitable, with significant economic and sustainability benefits. They now need solutions that enable a seamless transition to electric vehicles. Our synergies with Ford Pro will supercharge this transition. We’ll delight customers by helping them reap the benefits of electrification, so they can focus on what matters most – running their businesses effectively.”
The Electriphi acquisition comes as Ford prepares for the launch of all-electric versions of two of the world’s most popular, high-volume commercial vehicles – the Transit van and F-150 pickup. Ford will start shipping E-Transit to customers later this year; F-150 Lightning Pro will be available in spring 2022.
FedEx and Nuro have announced a multi-year agreement to test Nuro’s next-generation autonomous delivery vehicle within FedEx operations in the US. The collaboration between FedEx and Nuro launched in April, 2021, with a pilot across the Houston area.
This pilot marks Nuro’s expansion into parcel logistics and allows FedEx the opportunity to explore various use cases for on-road autonomous vehicle logistics, including multi-stop and appointment-based deliveries. The Nuro pilot is the latest addition to the FedEx portfolio of autonomous same-day delivery devices.
Rebecca Yeung, vice president, advanced technology and innovation, FedEx Corporation, says, “FedEx was built on innovation, and it continues to be an integral part of our culture and business strategy. We are excited to collaborate with an industry leader like Nuro as we continue to explore the use of autonomous technologies within our operations.”
Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partnerships, adds, “Working with FedEx—the global leader in logistics—is an incredible opportunity to rethink every aspect of local delivery. This multi-year commitment will allow us to truly collaborate and bring Nuro’s powerful technology to more people in new ways, and eventually reach large-scale deployment. Our collaboration will enable innovative, industry-first product offerings that will better everyday life and help make communities safer and greener.”
Superpedestrian, a transportation robotics company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that develops electrified and AI technologies for micromobility vehicles, has announced an ambitious European roll-out of its LINK e-scooter sharing program,
LINK has so far launched in nine new locations in three months and says it is on track to serve more than 30 European cities by the end of 2021.
A spin out company from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the company’s e-scooter is the result of eight years of AI development and two years of chassis and powertrain design and validation.
The result, says Superpedestrian, is a smart and safe e-scooter, featuring its Vehicle Intelligent Safety system (VIS). Onboard software, combined with five processors and 73 sensors, allows VIS to detect and respond to hazards in milliseconds.
After making its European debut in Rome the company is expanding its reach with new cities added in Austria, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
Superpedestrian Vice President EMEA, Haya Douidri, says, “This achievement is confirmation that Superpedestrian’s shared e-scooters are now really taking off in Europe. Adding nine locations in just a few weeks, with a further seven to come by the end of June, and serving 24 European cities less than one year after entering the market, are tremendous achievements. It’s proof that our market-leading safe and smart e-scooters, with their robust design and advanced self-diagnostic and self-protection technologies, are ideally suited to Europe’s cities, riders and pedestrians.”