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Six Problems Facing Driverless Cars and Their Track Record

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Six Problems Facing Driverless Cars and Their Track Record

Six Problems Facing Driverless Cars and Their Track Record

Driverless car technology is here to stay. Their track record so far is very impressive with Google cars driving over a million miles since 2009. During that time, 13 accidents have been recorded, but all of them were caused by other drivers or by human intervention. The robots themselves have been virtually flawless.

Right now, various vehicle manufacturers (Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Toyota, Tesla, Audi, and more) have already built prototypes of driverless cars, and tech companies (Google, Uber, and potentially even Apple) are working on similar ambitions.

However, human nature seems to be innately suspicious of robots and artificial intelligence. Whether we’re talking about Skynet from “The Terminator” or Elon Musk’s concerns about AI, it’s clear that there will always be some pushback towards these kinds of ideas. It may take decades to convince people that autonomous cars will solve more problems than they create.

For these reasons, regulations around driverless cars are likely to move forward with a speed rivaling that of molasses. Policy makers do not want to be held responsible for potential hiccups, and much of the populace that is not in Silicon Valley will be slow to embrace ideas that could change the entire status quo.

Beyond general human suspicion of robots, there are some legitimate obstacles that need to be solved before driverless cars become a reality. Today’s infographic highlights some of these issues that need to be addressed:

Firstly, driverless cars struggle to identify humans alongside the vehicle or walking in front of them. This could lead to situations where they fail to see police officers, pedestrians, or workers on the side of construction zones giving instructions. Next, autonomous cars have a tough time in bad weather conditions in which an entire new array of problems are created for the algorithms to solve. Driving in Silicon Valley may be relatively straightforward, but what happens when a car encounters a snow storm in the Northeast, or torrential rainfall in the tropics?

It is also not a surprise that making decisions based on morality, ethics, and the law are also problems for robots. When a car needs to make a decision between running over a pedestrian, and getting rear-ended from behind, what does it do? Further, who is accountable in a situation where a car performs an emergency stop where it stops as fast as possible, but still hits another person or vehicle?

There are also some conflicting directives that may hinder decision-making by autonomous vehicles. They have a directive to avoid collisions with objects, but also to obey the law by staying in lanes. At what point, if ever, does one of these directives override the other?

Lastly, even with the above issues and regulations sorted, cost is going to continue to be preventative measure for many consumers. Even in 2025, it will cost up to an extra $10k in vehicle add-ons to allow for driverless software and hardware. This is expected to decrease as time goes on, with costs dropping to roughly $3k in 2035.

The good news for driverless technology is that most of the problems highlighted in today’s infographic can be overcome with more research and time. Even with these issues identified, autonomous cars are still driving today with relatively flawless track records compared to human-controlled vehicles. They eliminate human error, which is the cause of most accidents: robots don’t drive under the influence, use unnecessary speed, or get distracted by text messages.

The bad news for the technology? If you thought the lobby against Uber was strong, wait until all truck drivers, taxi drivers, public transit employees, and limousine drivers are collectively put up against a wall.

Original graphic by: ClickMechanic

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Automotive

Visualizing EV Sales Around the World

With global sales hitting new milestones and adoption rates rising, are electric vehicles now becoming a mainstream option for drivers around the world?

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electric vehicle sales

It took five years to sell the first million electric cars. In 2018, it took only six months.

The Tesla Model 3 also passed a significant milestone in 2018, becoming the first electric vehicle (EV) to crack the 100,000 sales mark in a single year. The Nissan LEAF and BAIC EC-Series are both likely to surpass the 100,000 this year as well.

Although the electric vehicle market didn’t grow as fast as some experts initially projected, it appears that EV sales are finally hitting their stride around the world. Below are the countries where electric vehicles are a biggest part of the sales mix.

Electric vehicle sales

The EV Capital of the World

Norway, after amassing a fortune through oil and gas extraction, made the conscious decision to create incentives for its citizens to purchase electric vehicles. As a result, the country is the undisputed leader in EV adoption.

In 2018, a one-third of all passenger vehicles were fully electric, and that percentage is only expected to increase in the near future. The Norwegian government has even set the ambitious target of requiring all new cars to be zero-emission by 2025.

That enthusiasm for EVs is spilling over to other countries in the region, which are also seeing a high percentage of EV sales. However, the five countries in which EVs are the most popular – Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Netherlands, and Finland – only account for 0.5% of the world’s population. For EV adoption to make any real impact on global emissions, drivers in high-growth/high–population countries will need to opt for electric powered vehicles. (Of course power grids will need to get greener as well, but that’s another topic.)

China’s Supercharged Impact

One large economy that is embracing plug-in vehicles is China.

The country leads the world in electric vehicle sales, with over a million new vehicles hitting the roads in 2018. Last year, more EVs were sold in Shenzhen and Shanghai than any country in the world, with the exception of the United States.

China also leads the world in another important metric – charging stations. Not only does China have the highest volume of chargers, many of them allow drivers to charge up faster.

Electric vehicle charging stations

Accelerating from the Slow Lane

In the United States, electric vehicle sales are rising, but they still tend to be highly concentrated in specific areas. In around half of states, EVs account for fewer than 1% of vehicle sales. On the other hand, California is approaching the 10% mark, a significant milestone for the most populous state.

Nationally, EV sales increased throughout 2018, with December registering nearly double the sales volume of the same month in 2017. Part of this surge in sales is driven by the Tesla’s Model 3, which led the market in the last quarter of 2018.

U.S. Electric vehicle sales

North of the border, in Canada, the situation is similar. EV sales are increasing, but not fast enough to meet targets set by the government. Canada aimed to have half a million EVs on the road by 2018, but missed that target by around 400,000 vehicles.

The big question now is whether the recent surge in sales is a temporary trend driven by government subsidies and showmanship of Elon Musk, or whether EVs are now becoming a mainstream option for drivers around the world.

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How Much Copper is in an Electric Vehicle?

Have you ever wondered how much copper is in an electric vehicle? This infographic shows the metal’s properties as well as the quantity of copper used.

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How Much Copper is in an Electric Vehicle?

Copper’s special relationship with electricity has been apparent since ship designers first regularly began installing copper to protect the masts of wooden ships from lightning in the early 19th century.

Today, of course, you might be more used to seeing copper’s electrical applications through the use of power lines, telephone wires, and wiring in practically every major home appliance you own.

Millions of tons get used for these applications every year, but it is still early days for copper’s use in electrification. That’s because copper will continue to be a critical component of the green energy revolution, thanks to the rising adoption of battery-powered vehicles.

Why Copper?

Today’s visualization comes to us from Canadian Platinum Corp., and it focuses on showing how much copper is in an electric vehicle, along with the properties that make it the ideal choice for an EV-powered future.

Here is why copper is a crucial component to vehicle manufacturers:

Cost
Copper costs roughly $0.20 per ounce, compared to silver ($15/oz) and gold ($1200/oz), making it by far the cheapest option for electrical wire.

Conductivity:
Copper is nearly as conductive as silver – the most conductive metal – but comes at a fraction of the cost.

Ductility:
Copper can easily be shaped into wire, which is important for most electrical applications.

It’s also important to note that temperature does not affect copper’s conductivity, which makes the metal ideal for automobiles in all climates.

Copper in Gas vs. Electric Vehicles

The UBS Evidence Lab tore apart a traditional gas-powered vehicle as well as an EV to compare the different quantities of raw materials used.

What they found was crucial: there is 80% more copper in a Chevrolet Bolt, in comparison to a similar-sized Volkswagen Golf.

The major reason for this is that at the heart of every EV is an electric motor, which is built with copper, steel, and permanent magnets (rare earths). Electric motors tend to be much simpler than gas-powered engines, which have hundreds of moving parts.

Incredibly, in an electric motor, there can be more than a mile of copper wiring inside the stator.

The More Electric, the More Copper

According to Copper.org, along the scale from gas-powered cars to fully electrical vehicles, copper use increases dramatically.

Conventional gas-powered cars contain 18 to 49 lbs. of copper while a battery-powered EV contains 183 lbs. Meanwhile, for a fully electrical bus, a whopping 814 lbs. of copper is needed.

With the rapidly increasing adoption of electric vehicles, copper will be an essential material for the coming electrification of all forms of ground transport.

Copper is at the heart of the electric vehicle and the world will need more. By 2027, copper demand stemming from EVs is expected to increase by 1.7 million tonnes, which is a number just shy of China’s entire copper production in 2017.

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