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The new TX (eCity) by ‘new’ LEVC

The new TX (eCity) by ‘new’ LEVC

The TX, LEVC’s new electric taxi, combines the company’s expertise as a manufacturer of urban commercial vehicles with proven electric vehicle technology and the latest in advanced material manufacturing.

This combination of old and new is reflected in the look of the vehicle. The instantly recognisable rectangular grille and circular headlights have been incorporated into a much more contemporary design, with daytime running lights, simplified lines, and an inset chrome frame to the grille. Similarly, a rear-hinged passenger door with 90°opening provides a more opulent entry and exit for passengers, reminiscent of the 1930s luxury saloons that in part influenced the design of the vehicle.

The new taxi has been built using the latest techniques in aluminium bonding. This avoids welding or riveting – which reduces the weight of the cab, completely offsetting the additional weight of the battery, whilst maintaining vehicle strength.

The TX uses eCity technology which combines a small petrol generator (known as a “range-extender”) with a class leading battery and proven electric powertrain. The eCity platform will give drivers a range of well-over 70 miles (105 km) on pure electric, and a combined range of over 400 miles (600 km) with its small petrol generator.

With this range, a driver could take passengers from London to Edinburgh or Paris without once needing to stop for fuel. In addition to this range, the move to electric will save drivers on average £100 a week in fuel. LEVC will not separate out the cost of the battery – so called battery leasing – giving drivers a simple and clear weekly cost.

As well as the more premium feel, passengers will notice less vibration and noise in the passenger cabin, alongside charging points for mobile phones, Wi-fi and additional space for six passengers. The TX has also been designed to be one of the safest vehicles on London’s streets.

The cab retains its renowned disability access features. There will be a new retractable integrated ramp making it quicker and easier for drivers to load passengers in wheelchairs in a new forward facing position. Other accessibility features include induction loops for hearing aids a well as contrasting grab handles and seat edges for the partially sighted. One of the rear-facing tip-up seats also turns outwards.

Following the completion of LEVC’s extensive testing regime, the TX will be on London’s streets later this year. Trial runs are expected for October. TfL currently anticipate that, by the end of 2020, 9000 London taxis will be “zero emission capable” vehicles.

  • The TX uses eCity technology which combines a small petrol generator (‘range-extender’) with a class leading battery and proven electric powertrain.
Waymo drops most patent claims in Uber self-driving car lawsuit

Waymo drops most patent claims in Uber self-driving car lawsuit

There were a few big breaks in the case between Waymo and Uber over self-driving car technology recently. As a result, the scope of the case is starting to come into focus as both companies prepare for a trial set to begin in October.

First of all, Waymo has narrowed its case, dropping three out of four patent claims it originally made against Uber. Meanwhile, Uber has been granted the ability to depose Alphabet CEO Larry Page about why his company decided against partnering with Uber as part of its autonomous vehicle program.

Waymo, the self-driving technology arm of Google parent Alphabet, filed the lawsuit in February, alleging theft of trade secrets that Uber planned to use in its autonomous vehicles. The case centers around engineer Anthony Levandowski, who Waymo claims stole 14,000 documents before leaving the company and founding Otto, a self-driving trucking company which Uber later acquired.

Waymo decided to drop its claims on U.S. Patent Nos. 8,836,922, 9,285,464 and 9,086,273, noting that they were related to an earlier version of Uber’s autonomous lidar design nicknamed “Spider” that the company was no longer using. The remaining patent claim targets a newer version of lidar technology called Fiji, which is still in use by Uber.

An Uber spokesperson issued the following statement: “Waymo’s retreat on three of their four patent claims is yet another sign that they have overpromised and can’t deliver. Not only have they uncovered zero evidence of any of the 14,000 files in question coming to Uber, they now admit that Uber’s LiDAR design is actually very different than theirs. Faced with this hard truth, Waymo has resorted to floating conspiracy theories not rooted in fact, doing everything they can to put the focus on sensation rather than substance.”

In addition to the patent news, U.S. District Judge William Alsup asked Waymo to narrow its theft of trade secret claims from more than 100 down to 10 that could be put in front of a jury.

Over the course of the last several months, the judge has urged both parties to simplify the scope of the case so that each could be adequately prepared to argue the merits of the strongest claims post-discovery. This has been happening at the same time that Uber and Waymo have been arguing over what evidence can be admitted during the trial.

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• Waymo dropped most patent claims in case against Uber.

Renault-Nissan Alliance Annual Synergies Rise 16% to € 5 Billion

Renault-Nissan Alliance Annual Synergies Rise 16% to € 5 Billion

The Renault-Nissan Alliance last week reported a 16 percent increase in synergies for 2016 compared to 2015. The Alliance members secured savings, generated incremental revenues and implemented cost-avoidance measures through the world’s leading automotive partnership.

The value of annualized synergies realized by the Alliance rose to € 5 billion last year, up from € 4.3 billion in 2015. Converged operations in purchasing, engineering and manufacturing contributed most of the € 700 million synergy improvement.

“The growing cooperation across the Alliance is delivering strong benefits for the members of the Alliance, reflected by the economies of scale, technological breakthroughs and innovations that are being shared between Renault and Nissan,” said Carlos Ghosn, chairman and chief executive officer of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. “We are on track to realize synergies of € 5.5 billion in 2018, even before taking into account the contributions from Mitsubishi Motors, our new Alliance partner.”

With the addition of Mitsubishi Motors, which became the third full member of the Alliance at the end of 2016, annual sales have reached 10 million units. The addition of Mitsubishi Motors comes two years after Renault and Nissan deepened their partnership by converging four key functions: Engineering, Manufacturing & Supply Chain Management, Purchasing and Human Resources. Each such functions is led by a common Alliance Executive Vice President.

“We continue seeing tangible results of this major convergence,” added Mr. Ghosn. “Our growing synergies are helping Renault, Nissan and now Mitsubishi Motors meet their financial objectives and deliver higher-value vehicles to customers in the new era of mobility.”

In the current year, the Alliance members are expected to introduce more next-generation technologies in electric vehicles, autonomous driving and connected cars and will increase commonalities in platforms, powertrain and parts to boost competitiveness and identify new synergies.

In April 2017, the Alliance created a light commercial vehicle business unit that will deliver additional synergies in vans and light trucks. The new unit will maximize shared product development and cross-manufacturing, technology sharing and cost-reduction, while preserving brand differentiation among Alliance members.

  • Improved results from Renault-Nissan Alliance synergy.
TomTom and Cisco partner to create ‘next generation’ traffic monitoring tech

TomTom and Cisco partner to create ‘next generation’ traffic monitoring tech

Network tech titan Cisco is working with TomTom to research and develop what the two are calling an “ultra-fast lane level traffic technology” that supports autonomous driving.

Cisco already operates in the connected transport realm, offering a range of sensors, controllers, and routers that connect systems to improve things like traffic flow. With TomTom on board, the duo plan to carry out research to leverage Cisco’s roadside data and create the “next generation of traffic information technology,” according to a statement issued by the companies. This initiative will be underpinned by Cisco’s Internet of Things (IoT) platform.

Founded in 1991, TomTom is perhaps best known in the public sphere for its GPS-powered devices, including dedicated satellite navigation units for cars and watches. But the company also offers a number of other services, such as telematics to help businesses manage their fleet of vehicles, as well as a range of automotive services that includes maps for self-driving cars, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), traffic information, and on-street parking data.

Put simply, both companies have significant expertise harnessing traffic data, and now they’re putting their heads together and pooling resources. “With this project, we are connecting road infrastructure, vehicles, drivers, and road authorities, enabling them to exchange information in near real time,” explained Edwin Paalvast, president EMEAR (Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Russia) at Cisco. “That is what the Internet of Things is about. With TomTom’s expertise, its gigantic pool of traffic data and innovative traffic technology, TomTom is a strong company to work with in this field.”

In terms of the kinds of things the two companies will be working on, one example cited is Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) technology, which involves burying a fibre optic cable adjacent to a busy road to detect vibrations and provide real-time monitoring of vehicle movements, making it possible to establish trends and patterns. Combining such data with TomTom’s pool of GPS-based floating car data means it can be displayed and analysed through a TomTom interface designed specifically for traffic management centers.

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  • TomTom and Cisco partner to create ‘next generation’ traffic monitoring tech.
Volvo Cars to go all electric

Volvo Cars to go all electric

As the first OEM, Volvo Cars, the premium car maker, has announced that every Volvo it launches from 2019 will have an electric motor, marking the historic end of cars that only have an internal combustion engine (ICE) and placing electrification at the core of its future business. No doubt the electric focus of its Chinese parent company, Geely, played a large part in this decision. Next week one of Geely’s other companies, the London Taxi Company, will unveil its new electric taxi.

The announcement by Volvo represents one of the most significant moves by any car maker to embrace electrification and highlights how over a century after the invention of the internal combustion engine electrification is paving the way for a new chapter in automotive history. “This is about the customer,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive. “People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs. You can now pick and choose whichever electrified Volvo you wish.”

Volvo Cars will introduce a portfolio of electrified cars across its model range, embracing fully electric cars, plug in hybrid cars and mild hybrid cars. It will launch five fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021, three of which will be Volvo models and two of which will be high performance electrified cars from Polestar, Volvo Cars’ performance car arm. Full details of these models will be announced at a later date.

These five cars will be supplemented by a range of petrol and diesel plug in hybrid and mild hybrid 48 volt options on all models, representing one of the broadest electrified car offerings of any car maker. This means that there will in future be no Volvo cars without an electric motor, as pure ICE cars are gradually phased out and replaced by ICE cars that are enhanced with electrified options.

“This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” said Mr Samuelsson. “Volvo Cars has stated that it plans to have sold a total of 1m electrified cars by 2025. When we said it we meant it. This is how we are going to do it.”

The announcement underlines Volvo Cars’ commitment to minimising its environmental impact and making the cities of the future cleaner. Volvo Cars is focused on reducing the carbon emissions of both its products as well as its operations. It aims to have climate neutral manufacturing operations by 2025.

The decision also follows this month’s announcement that Volvo Cars will turn Polestar into a new separately-branded electrified global high performance car company. Thomas Ingenlath, Senior Vice President Design at Volvo Cars, will lead Polestar as Chief Executive Officer.

  • Volvo Cars will introduce a portfolio of electrified cars across its model range. Polestar will be Volvo’s new high-end performance company.
Transition to Shared Mobility: How large cities can deliver inclusive transport services

Transition to Shared Mobility: How large cities can deliver inclusive transport services

About two years ago the International Transport Forum (ITF) held its famous ‘Lisbon-study’ into the possibilities of reducing individual car-traffic and increasing shared transportation. It has now released a report that examines how cities can manage the challenges of geographical scale and of transition to shared mobility services.

The report explores how shared mobility can improve accessibility for users with impairments, and analyses the impacts of these services on the use of existing high-capacity public transportation and on access to jobs across the whole study area.

The report can be found here:

Sampo Hietanen (MaaS Global) dares to dream big

Sampo Hietanen (MaaS Global) dares to dream big

‘Netflix of Transportation’ is a trillion-dollar market by 2030 – and this Toyota-backed Finnish startup is in pole position to seize it, says Nordic Businessinsider about MaaS Global. Guess who is in the lead?

Sampo Hietanen wants to do something un-Finnish, and dare to dream big. Really big. Since 2015, he has used his very own blueprint for the future of transportation, Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), to build a startup in full-throttle.

Much like ordering movies on Netflix or music on Spotify, Hietanen’s company, MaaS Global, aims to fulfil customers’ mobility needs with a monthly subscription service. “What if you had ‘unlimited Europe’ – ground and air transport included – through one app that would be your companion wherever you go? Then you could truly be a global citizen,” Hietanen says, revealing the ultimate vision of his company.

Since last fall, MaaS Global’s Whim app enables trial customers in Helsinki to get from A to B using any preferred mode of road transportation. An Uber on steroids. Just two weeks ago, Maas Global closed a €10 million funding round from car giant Toyota to fuel international expansion of Whim. So could Finland under Hietanen’s lead export a global MaaS mobility revolution?

Hietanen, 42, is one of the fathers of MaaS, an idea he presented in a research paper in 2015 while heading a Finnish research body on intelligent transportation services (ITS Finland). With MaaS, Hietanen painted a ‘new paradigm’ for transportation; driven by mobility operators that gather all private and public transportation options in a city into a unified whole.

Two interconnected trends are in his favor: the spread of smartphones and the sharing economy. Together, he says, these will reduce the need for car ownership in urban transport, and open up demand for mobility operators like MaaS Global. “The technology is already here,” he quips. “Private car ownership will not be pleasant in cities for much longer: it is slow, expensive and environmentally unfriendly,” Hietanen said in the press release announcing Toyota’s investment.

MaaS is going to be a trillion-dollar market by 2030, according to an estimate by ABI Research. And now that he gets to put his concept into action, Hietanen told an audience at Cleantech Forum Europe in Helsinki recently, he “would be happy to capture a tenth of that”. Meanwhile, Hietanen says, “investors are asking, why would the solution that puts MaaS on the map come from tiny Finland?”

Thousands of people applied to be eligible for a limited launch of Whim in Helsinki last fall. “There were more applicants than what we could take on board to keep service levels acceptable,” Hietanen says, noting that it has all gone “better than expected”.

A few hundred Whim-customers in the Finnish capital have had options ranging from a 89 EUR basic package to 389 EUR premium, with unlimited access to taxis, public transport, car rental and bikes. Rental cars and bikes can be picked up from various pick-up points spread around Helsinki

When Whim-users enter their destination, the app optimizes travel options among more than 2500 vehicles. Think of it like searching for the best route on Google Maps, but instead of just route planning, you can order all those transport services with the monthly ticket that is available in-app. Whim also offers a pay-as-you-go option, where you pay for each trip. “We cannot promise that everything will be taken care of, but it lets you try Whim.”

It’s a work in progress, to say the very least.

“Our starting point is: what is our customers’ dream? Once we’ve figured out the dream, then we can start tweaking and adding services,” Hietanen says. MaaS Global’s challenge is not only to build a working app, but to bring onboard all the local partners.

Helsinki partners include public transport company HSL, local car rental company Veho, in addition to Finland’s largest taxi dispatch company Taksi Helsinki – which came onboard in May. “We cannot thank our partners enough. They have been very open minded and ready to try this.” Whim is expanding into European cities during 2017. Hietanen says that there has been no need for outbound sales – “interest towards MaaS Global has been organic”. He is tangibly elated, and frankly surprised about the roaring interest he has attracted with his young company.

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  • Hietanen is “tangibly elated, and frankly surprised about the roaring interest he has attracted with his young company.”
Toyota Financial Services makes strategic investment in MaaS Global Ltd

Toyota Financial Services makes strategic investment in MaaS Global Ltd

Toyota Financial Services (TFS), together with its Insurance partner announced today that it has made a significant investment in the Finnish company MaaS Global Ltd. MaaS Global Ltd was established in April 2016 to provide multi-modal transportation services. Best-known investors so far are public transport company Transdev and Turkish bus constructor Karsan.

Through its ‘Whim’ App, MaaS Global enables customers to purchase a monthly subscription package that is tailored to their transportation needs (currently this includes public transport, e-hailing and car rental). The App is already operating in Helsinki with plans this year to expand to three other major cities in Europe and then expand to other cities around the Globe.

TFS is investing to explore a co-operation model for multi-modal mobility solutions, including the necessary technology. TFS will help MaaS Global accelerate market entry and build a long term and loyal customer base.

“We are very pleased to partner with MaaS Global and work together on the development of multi-modal mobility solutions”, commented Mr. Inuzuka, CEO of Toyota Financial Services.

“The vision and business model of MaaS Global marries with Toyota’s strategic objective to serve the mobility needs of our current and future customers”

“We are really excited to start working with Toyota, and the opportunities our collaboration will bring”, added Mr. Sampo Hietanen, CEO and founder of MaaS Global. “We at MaaS Global admire the dedication of Toyota to customer and quality and want to bring the same experience to digital era with our Whim app.”

  • Toyota invests in MaaS Global Ltd.
Uber founder Travis Kalanick resigns as CEO

Uber founder Travis Kalanick resigns as CEO

Travis Kalanick stepped down Tuesday as chief executive of Uber, the ride-hailing service that he helped found in 2009 and built into a transportation colossus, after a shareholder revolt made it untenable for him to stay on at the company.

Mr. Kalanick’s exit came under pressure after hours of drama involving Uber’s investors, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, who asked to remain anonymous because the details were confidential.

Earlier on Tuesday, five of Uber’s major investors demanded that the chief executive resign immediately. The investors included one of Uber’s biggest shareholders, the venture capital firm Benchmark, which has one of its partners, Bill Gurley, on Uber’s board. The investors made their demand for Mr. Kalanick to step down in a letter delivered to the chief executive while he was in Chicago, said the people with knowledge of the situation.

In the letter, titled “Moving Uber Forward” and obtained by The New York Times, the investors wrote to Mr. Kalanick that he must immediately leave and that the company needed a change in leadership. Mr. Kalanick, 40, consulted with at least one Uber board member, and after long discussions with some of the investors, he agreed to step down. He will remain on Uber’s board of directors.

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  • Travis Kalanick, founder and CEO of Uber leaves for good.
ITF tells Uber “it’s time to change”

ITF tells Uber “it’s time to change”

Global union federation ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) has told Uber that the ‘standing down’ of its CEO Travis Kalanick and resignation of David Bonderman gives it a chance to radically reform its working practices.

In a letter to Uber’s co-founder and chairman Garrett Camp, ITF general secretary Steve Cotton wrote: ‘The ITF welcomes the coming changes in the top leadership of your company and consider this as a timely opportunity to redress what we and countless others worldwide see as a shameless corporate culture. You now have the chance to fundamentally change how the company operates.

It is high time that Uber abandons its disruptive business model, which undermines or ignores workers’ rights and existing well trained and regulated transport operators, and seeks to sidestep regulations put in place to protect passengers and road users, and to promote safe, sustainable transport systems.

The ITF is not against the use of 21st century technology that improves our transport systems. However, it goes without saying that we will not tolerate the reviving of 19th century employment and working conditions via the so-called gig economy.

Uber is a transport company and its drivers are employees. These hard-working men and women are entitled to a minimum wage, social security and other employee benefits. They have the birthright to freedom of association and to bargain collectively.

The ITF offers Uber an opportunity, private or public, to assist its new top management in reforming its business model – a transition that its employees and the industry have long waited for. We are ready to help you achieve a fair and just transition from your current practices in order to achieve that aim.’

ITF president Paddy Crumlin commented: “At the UN, the European Court of Justice, in London, Copenhagen, New York, Tokyo, Buenos Aires and beyond it has been trade unions that have successfully challenged Uber’s business model. Now it is time for the company to take a deep breath and change for the better. With the recent departures, there’s never been a better chance to do so.”

  • Unions tell Uber “it’s time to change”