Electric Cars: Pictures, Videos, Breaking News

We’ve gone electric, and there’s no going back at this point. Lithium is our new fuel, but like fossil fuels, the reserves we’re currently tapping int…

Photo courtesy of Dori Coplon-Newfield

A switch to electric vehicles (EV) can be a smart financial option for drivers, not to mention a better choi…

Consensus around a national direction for EV charging could be a game changer.

So far, lithium has been the hottest metal of 2016, beating out gold, with exponential demand expected over the coming years. Although the price traje…

Car charging stations are popping up all over California. Virtually every major tourist attraction and event venue, from Disneyland to Levi Stadium, has charging stations for electric vehicles.

Fiona Ma

Chairwoman, California State Board of Equalization

Governments and business can no longer conceal the death toll, and publics are unwilling to tolerate it. Governments are acting. The VW settlement is not the only regulatory crackdown on internal combustion engines.

Carl Pope

Former executive director and chairman, Sierra Club

Elon Musk tweeted yesterday that he will be releasing the second part of his Top Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan soon, possibly by the end of this wee…


Oilprice.com is the most popular energy news site in the world focusing on energy investing, new technology and oil geopolitics.

With many environmental safeguards on the books and several major cities on their way to 100% clean energy, California is helping guide the United States to a clean energy future. One of the ways the state has been doing that is through electric vehicle (EV) promotion.

By Alex Davies for WIRED.

Graham Walzer for WIRED.



The WIRED conversation illuminates how technology is changing every aspect of our lives–from culture to business, science to design.

Oil touched $50 last week, close to double its slump price earlier this year, before falling slightly below that benchmark.

Carl Pope

Former executive director and chairman, Sierra Club

Investing in an electric future is not an obvious direction for a company like GM – and it has reversed course in the past and it could do so again. But if they do stay the course, it is absolutely deadly for oil companies.

Margo T. Oge

Author of the book, DRIVING THE FUTURE: Combating Climate Change with Cleaner, Smarter Cars, and former Director of the Office of Transportation Air Quality at the US EPA

The Green News Report is also available via…

There are now about 425,000 plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) on roads across the nation. It’s no surprise why — EVs are cleaner, cheaper and more efficient than their gasoline-fueled counterparts.

“The Week that Electric Vehicles Went Mainstream” was the headline of a recent blog posted…

Certainly it’s far from unknown for companies to use sales as a metric in test-and-learn initiatives. Consumer-product companies, for example, regularly use A/B marketing tests to see whether they are on the right track with a new product.

The unveiling of Tesla’s Model 3 electric car was no less than the lifting of the final curtain on a game-changing energy revolution. And if we follow that revolution to its core, we arrive at lithium — our new gasoline for which the feeding frenzy has only just begun.


CEO says Audi plans three electric car models by 2020: paper | Reuters

FRANKFURT Audi aims to have three electric car models by 2020 and for electric vehicles to account for 25 to 30 percent of its sales by 2025, Chief Executive Rupert Stadler told a German newspaper.

Audi’s electric cars push, reported by Reuters earlier this week, is part of a strategic overhaul following the emissions scandal at parent Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE).

Under the plan, which Stadler presented to Audi managers this week, the group will focus more resources on electric cars, digital services and autonomous driving.

Stadler told daily Heilbronner Stimme in an interview published on Saturday that Audi’s offering of electric cars would also include small vehicles in the A-segment.

The company also plans to set up a subsidiary, to be called SDS Company, to develop an autonomous car.

“This is about a robot car that may not even need a steering wheel or pedals, so it’s ideal for urban traffic,” he said, adding Audi was still looking for joint venture partners who would help with the technology.

In return for stepping up its focus on electric vehicles, autonomous driving and digital services, Audi will seek to reduce complexity in other areas, Stadler said.

“We have discussed what would happen if we dropped the two-door version of the A3. I think we would barely lose any customers. We’d rather invest the money that is freed up in new models and other derivatives,” Stadler said.

A company source told Reuters that management would also reduce orders assigned to external development service providers and shift funds from that area towards electric cars, autonomous driving and digitalization.

Weekly magazine Automobilwoche had earlier reported that Audi was cutting budgets for external projects.

In addition, CEO Stadler said fuel cell cars were a “must”, though he said he could not yet say how large demand would be.

“That is less a question of technology, we are already quite good at that. It’s rather going to be a question of infrastructure,” he said.

Audi’s technical development chief Stefan Knirsch told Stuttgarter Zeitung in a separate interview published on Saturday that he expected Audi would not start serial production of a fuel cell car before 2020 because of the lack of charging stations.

(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Additional reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Tom Heneghan)


State of New Jersey

NEWARK – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs continued the commemoration of National Consumer Protection Week with advice for consumers on car buying, auto repair, and auto leasing – activities that dominate the list of “Top 10 Consumer Complaints” year after year.

“When spending money on such an important and expensive item as a car – whether buying, leasing, or paying for repairs – you should go in armed with clear knowledge about your own rights and about the reputation and track record of the company you’re doing business with,” Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve C. Lee said.

The Division last year received 1,244 consumer complaints in the “Motor Vehicle” category – the number-two complaint category. Of those complaints, an estimated 49 percent resulted from new and used car sales, 24 percent dealt with auto repair issues, and the rest concerned predatory towing, auto warranties, leases, and other matters.

The Division took significant actions in 2014 and to-date in 2015 against car dealers, repair shops, and towing companies that allegedly violated New Jersey consumer protection laws and/or regulations. These included three Consent Orders with auto dealers and/or dealership groups resulting in $1.9 million in civil penalties and costs. They included settlements with seven towing companies for a total of $83,312 in penalties, settlement payments, costs, and/or consumer restitution; and settlements with two auto repair companies for a total of $22,000 in penalties and/or costs.

In addition, the Division issued notices of violation to six towing companies seeking a total of $249,573 in penalties, restitution, and/or costs; and to nine auto repair shops seeking a total of $20,797 in penalties and costs. The Division’s Lemon Law Unit helped 48 consumers claim $1.14 million in reimbursements, refunds, and/or the value of replacement vehicles.

General Tips on Car Buying, Repair, and Leasing:

Before doing business with an auto dealer, repair shop, or similar company, call the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs to learn whether the company has been the subject of consumer complaints.

Learn as much as possible about the business and its history of satisfied or dissatisfied customers. Search the Internet for customer reviews. If possible, get a reference from people you know, or talk with people who have used the dealership or auto repair shop.

Always avoid high-pressure sales tactics. If someone asks you to make a decision right away, without time to think things over, this may be the sign of a scam.

Always obtain a written estimate for car repairs. Make sure the estimate includes clear information about the full cost. This should include a provision that the price will not increase, such as due to extra work or complications, without your consent.

When buying or leasing a car, be sure to obtain a written contract and make sure you fully understand all of its terms. Make sure the contract includes all details of any warranties that are offered, as well as any refund policies. Make sure it clearly includes the final price. Do not sign until you have read all the fine print and agree to all conditions.

Consider paying by credit card. If you are cheated, paying by credit card provides a clear record that can help you dispute the charges with your credit card company, or pursue restitution through the Division of Consumer Affairs.

Keep copies of all contracts, estimates, receipts, and other paperwork. In case you are cheated, this will help you obtain a refund or work with the Division to pursue restitution.

Bring any complaints to the Division of Consumer Affairs by calling 800-242-5846, or by filing your complaint online at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov.

New Jersey’s Lemon Laws:

New Jersey’s New Car Lemon Law protects consumers who purchase a new motor vehicle that develops serious defects on the parts covered by the warranty, that substantially impair the use, value, or safety of the vehicle, and which the dealer or manufacturer cannot repair.

The Used Car Lemon Law protects consumers who purchase vehicles no more than seven model years old, which mileage not in excess of 100,000, and a purchase price of at least $3,000 from a licensed dealer. The used-car law requires dealers to provide a limited warranty for such vehicles, and applies to vehicles with problems under the warranty.

The Lemon Laws enable consumers to have their complaint heard before an Administrative Law Judge. Consumers seeking more information, or help from the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Lemon Law Unit, can call 800-242-5846.

Additional Information on Buying a Used Car:

Before buying a used car, look for the Used Car Buyer’s Guide which must be posted in plain view of the vehicle. It describes the warranty, if one exists, or states that the car is being sold “as-is.” Cars sold “as-is” come with no expressed or implied warranty.

Used cars sold by private sellers do not come with any warranty and are not subject to the Used Car Lemon Law.

It is unlawful for a dealer to misrepresent the mechanical condition of a used car; fail to disclose any material defect subject to a warranty, if the defect is known to a dealer; fail to disclose the existence and terms of any written warranty or service contract; or misrepresent the terms of any written warranty or service contract.

The Division of Consumer Affairs and State Motor Vehicle Commission created an online database of all vehicles for which flood or salvage titles were issued since Superstorm Sandy flooded large areas of New Jersey. The database allows users to enter the Vehicle Identification Number of any vehicle and learn whether a flood or salvage title has been issued. It is not illegal to sell a vehicle with a flood or salvage title, but specific requirements exist to ensure the status of such vehicles is disclosed to potential buyers.

Additional Information on Leasing a Car:

Before signing a lease contract, review all of its terms and conditions carefully. The consumer is entitled to review the lease contract for one 24-hour business day before signing.

Be sure to get all guarantees in writing. For example, if you are told you can turn the car in early without a penalty, obtain that guarantee in writing as a lease addendum signed by the lessor.

Certain terms in the lease, such as “cap cost” or “gap coverage” may be confusing to consumers. When reviewing the lease, you can refer to the glossary of terms in the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Guide to Auto Leasing.

New Jersey’s Predatory Towing Prevention Act:

Unattended cars cannot be towed from private parking lots unless there is a sign, no smaller than 36″ high by 36″ wide, posted at vehicular entrances and stating that unauthorized parking is prohibited and unauthorized vehicles will be towed at the owner’s expense; information about the towing company and storage facility; the charges for towing and times at which vehicles can be redeemed; and the Division of Consumer Affairs’ phone number; among other information.

Cars also cannot be towed from a private parking lot unless the property owner and towing company have a contract for the towing, and the property owner has authorized the towing company to remove the particular vehicle.

The above requirements do not, however, apply to single-family homes or owner-occupied multi-unit structures. The signage requirements are different for residential communities with clearly marked spaces for residents.

New Jersey law prohibits towing companies from, among other things, trolling or cruising for vehicles parked without authorization; refusing to accept a debit card, charge card, credit card, or check for towing or storage services, if the company ordinarily accepts such payment; charging an unreasonable or excessive fee.

A towing company’s fees must be reasonable. A fee is considered reasonable if it is no more than 25 percent greater than the company’s fee for the same vehicle-owner-approved towing services, or no more than 50 percent above the fees charged by other towing companies in the community for the same towing services without the vehicle owner’s permission. Towing and storage fees cannot exceed rates set by town ordinance.

Additional Information from the Division of Consumer Affairs:

Consumers can find additional information in the following, free publications on the Division’s website:

The Consumer Briefs are also available in Spanish.

Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of marketplace abuse, can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.

National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is a coordinated campaign that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions. NCPW 2015 will take place March 1 through March 7 2015. Additional information is available at www.NCPW.gov.



Tiny Robots Use Gecko Power To Carry Heavy Weights

A pair of Stanford University PhD students at the school’s Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Lab have developed what they call MicroTugs, or mini bots that use adhesive power similar to what’s found on the feet of geckos and ants to pull off incredible feats of strength.

One robot weighing less than a third of an ounce can carry a 2.2-pound weight vertically up a glass wall.

Another robot weighs less than half an ounce, but can drag 2,000 times its own weight on a flat surface.

“This is the equivalent of a human adult dragging a blue whale around on land,” the researchers note.

What’s even more amazing is that the tests are actually bound by the limits of the actuators in the robots, not the adhesive power of the feet. That, the research team said in the video description, should allow them to pull almost twice as much — or the equivalent of a human dragging two blue whales.

The tiny bots contain a battery, a winch, a processor, a motor, wheels and an adhesive layer on the belly. The adhesive layer contains small rubber spikes similar to the “setae” that cover the toes of geckos, NBC News reports.

As the video above explains, the adhesive layer doesn’t stick unless the bot is pulling a load with its winch. When it does, the wheels lift and the belly lowers to stick to the surface. Once an object has been pulled, the adhesive belly lifts and the wheels come back down, allowing the robot to move freely again.

Eventually, the technology could be used on larger robots to carry heavy items around a construction site or in emergencies, such as bringing a rope ladder to someone trapped in a tall burning building, according to New Scientist.

The MicroTugs will be the subject of a presentation at next month’s International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Seattle. The authors have also published two papers on their developments, which can be found here and here.


North America Used Car Market Report 2016-2022 – Analysis, Technologies, Trends & Forecasts – Key Vendors: Audi, Ford, Tesla – Research and Markets

DUBLIN–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Research and Markets has announced the addition of the “Used

Car Market in North America 2016-2022″ report to their offering.

The North American used car market is almost 2.5-times bigger than the

new car market and that ratio is not going to reduce anytime soon. This

study captures the growth of the used car market until 2022 and assesses

the factors impacting this market such as pricing pressures from the

increasing number of off-lease vehicles entering the used car market.

Disruptive market participants in the retailing of used cars, original

equipment manufacturers’ (OEMs’) involvement in promoting used cars, and

innovative purchase options are covered as part of this research.

Analysis of alternate powertrain vehicles and their impact on the used

car market is also covered as part of this research.

Key Questions Answered:

Could electric vehicles and hybrids become popular by 2022 as a

mainstream alternative to gasoline vehicles?

How are automotive manufacturers promoting their used car business?

How is the convergence with online used car aggregators promoting the

used car business?

What is the impact of leasing on the used car market?

What are the key trends and factors determining the demand for used

cars in North America?

How does the demand for used cars shape up until 2022? Is the demand

for hybrids slowing down, indicating a change in customer preference?

Companies Mentioned:

Report Structure:

1. Executive Summary

2. Research Scope, Objectives, and Methodology

3. Dynamics of the Used Car Market

4. Dynamics of Used Alternate Powertrain Vehicles

5. Market Sizing and Forecasting by Powertrain, Vehicle Age, and

Distribution Channel

6. Profiles of Key OEMs and their Strategies

7. Innovative Practices in Used Car Retailing

8. Conclusion

For more information visit http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/w5wcv8/used_car_market


Technology News | Reuters.com

TAIPEI Taiwan has asked Uber Technologies to pay a sales tax bill estimated by local media to be up to about $6.4 million, the government said on Friday, as a decision looms on whether the global ride-hailing service may be ordered to leave the island.

Aug 19 2016

SYDNEY Australia’s anti-trust regulator on Friday said it would not grant the country’s three biggest banks interim approval to collectively negotiate with Apple Inc to install their own electronic payments applications on iPhones.

Aug 18 2016

HONG KONG Chinese smartphone maker ZTE Corp said it has won a further reprieve to Nov. 28 on tough export restrictions that were imposed on the company by the U.S. government in March.

Aug 18 2016

Twitter Inc has shut down 360,000 accounts for threatening or promoting terrorist acts since the middle of 2015, the company said in a blog post on Thursday.

SAN FRANCISCO A U.S. judge on Thursday rejected an attempt by Uber Technologies Inc to settle a class action lawsuit with drivers who claimed they were employees and entitled to expenses.


FDA Approves Wearable Robot for Paraplegics’ Home Use

Wearable robots are one step closer to replacing wheelchairs.

The ReWalk exoskeleton, a wearable robot designed to help paraplegics walk, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for home use. It had previously been offered to people only in rehabilitation centers along with the Ekso, its competitor.

“This revolutionary product will have an immediate, life-changing impact on individuals with spinal cord injuries,” Larry Jasinski, CEO of ReWalk Robotics said in a statement. “This is truly the beginning of ‘ReWalking’ as a daily reality in the U.S.”

Read more about the World Cup exoskeleton here.

Read about one man’s first steps after falling from his roof and injuring his spinal cord.

Paraplegic Kicks Off World Cup In Exo-Skeleton

The device uses a computer-based control system, motorized sensors and brace support to mimic walking by responding to side-to-side shifts in the user’s weight. It will cost $69,500, and it’s not yet clear how much insurance companies will cover, according to ReWalk.

But some experts say paraplegics should hang onto their wheelchairs for now. While wearable robots like Ekso and ReWalk can help propel patients forward, they’re not perfect.

Paralyzed patients who use wearable robots say they love to look family members and friends in the eye.

“They’re still at a point where we would not be comfortable saying people are absolutely independent in any environment they might want to operate them,” said Allan Kozlowski, who leads the Mount Sinai exoskeleton-assisted walking program in New York City.

For one, exoskeleton batteries only last between two and three and a half hours, Kozlowski said. And users can’t walk quickly, either. The farthest he’s seen anyone walk with an exoskeleton device was a mile, but it took at least 50 minutes and usually much longer.

Still, Kozlowski said people who use the devices reap health benefits like better circulation, increased oxygen intake, pain relief and better bowel function. And the act of simply being upright and looking people in the eye has psychological benefits, Kozlowski said.

At the very least, people can use the devices to take brief walks. But some terrain can be a challenge, Kozlowski said. The ReWalk, for instance, can go up and down stairs, but it requires “a fair amount of skill” for the user, who has to take one stair at a time and hold onto the hand rail.

“It’s not pretty but it works,” Kozlowski said.

While the ReWalk is now approved for home use, the Ekso is still only available in rehabilitation centers. Another device, called the Indego, is also awaiting FDA approval for rehab and home use.

Exoskeletons could replace wheelchairs someday, but experts say they’re not there yet.


Robotics Challenge: Creating the Disaster Response of the Future

Seventeen rescue robots are competing in Florida this weekend, where their task is to clear away debris, break through walls and climb ladders — a test run for their use in future disaster scenarios. But the humanoid figures are still a little shaky on their feet.

“Atlas” is attached to a hook, like a piece of meat, with his metal limbs dangling limply from his torso.

Suddenly the 150-kilogram (330-pound) robot comes to life. The hydraulic system whines, an orange light starts blinking on the robot’s head and a laser scanner shaped like a tin can rotates in its face. The knees begin to bend slowly, as Atlas cautiously places his two flat feet onto the ground.

But now the device begins to falter. Atlas completes three triple steps in slow motion until he reaches a ramp. Behind a Plexiglas wall, researchers watch as the robot scans the obstacle with its laser.

Finally, Atlas hazards to take one step up the incline, followed by a second and a third. But he makes his fourth step at a dangerously crooked angle, puts weight on the poorly placed foot and falls down. A safety cable cushions the robot’s fall, and in the end Atlas is hanging from a hook once again.

Is this what the beginning of a new era looks like? The researchers working on the Atlas project believe it is.

Responding to Disasters

The robot was developed by Boston Dynamics, which was recently purchased by Google. It is still being tested, but will have its big debut at the end of this week, when it will be expected to demonstrate what it can do at a competition in Florida. Embarrassing glitches like a misstep can’t happen there.

“Mistakes are part of the learning process,” says Jesse Hurdus, project director of the ViGIR robot team. “Vi” stands for Virginia and “G” for Germany, because German experts from the Technical University of Darmstadt are part of the team.

“Competitions inspire us, and they force us to tackle concrete problems,” says Oskar von Stryk. The 49-year-old German robotics expert is attending a training camp in a warehouse on the outskirts of Christiansburg in the US state of Virginia.

The disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant marked the beginning of the “Robotics Challenge.” Developers were rankled by how helpless robots were as they wandered through the radioactively contaminated reactor building. As they swerved around aimlessly in the steam, cables broke and the operators lost contact with the robots.

It was a disgrace, and strategists with the US government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) were determined that it would not happen again. They compiled a list of eight tasks that robots would have to master in the future to be capable of performing well in disaster response.

The tasks required in those situations, such as shutting valves, connecting hoses and removing debris, seem relatively straightforward, and yet they are hopelessly overwhelming to any conventional robot. At next weekend’s competition, it will become apparent whether the world’s top teams have managed to teach these abilities to their creations.

Driverless Cars

At the event, seven Atlas clones will compete in a challenge on a racetrack near Miami. The competing teams’ contribution will be writing the software to analyze the sensor data and to control a total of 28 limbs.

Joining the seven Atlas robots at the starting line will be the 10 creations from various researchers and companies. They include dapper robo-astronauts, bug-eyed, muscular humanoids, ape-like robots and spindly machines resembling insects. The event will attract the sort of bestiary one might expect to see at a casting call for the next “Star Wars” trilogy.

With the challenge only a few days away, the teams are feeling anxious about the tight schedule. “We only received our robot last summer,” says Stryk. “Getting him ready by the date of the challenge will be difficult.” It’s quite possible, he adds, that many of the competitors will fail just as miserably as their counterparts did at DARPA’s first big robotic challenge.

At that event, held 10 years ago, the challenge was to complete an obstacle course with fully automated vehicles in the Mojave Desert. Many of the contestants failed at the starting line, while most of the others crashed into fences or embankments after only going a few meters, their engines still howling. Not a single vehicle came even close to the finish line.

Nevertheless, the desert spectacle was more than just a race for aimlessly wandering, driverless cars. It marked the beginning of a dynamic technical success story. Only a year later, five vehicles completed the more than 200-kilometer (125-mile) route. The winner has since developed a car for Google that has already traveled more than 800,000 accident-free kilometers on American roads.

A New Era

This time, DARPA also hopes that its challenge will provide an impetus to the industry. Solving the tasks at hand will be “hard but not impossible,” DARPA program manager Gill Pratt told the magazine IEEE Spectrum, noting that the event presents precisely the right challenge “to push the field forward.” According to Pratt, just as driverless cars were on the threshold of a new era a decade ago, robots are now coming into an era in which machines will take on new tasks.

So far, robots have been used primarily in industry, where large, powerful and expensive monstrosities perform highly specialized tasks. Barriers separate the machines from people. They have nothing in common with the intelligent humanoids portrayed in Hollywood films.

But now a new species of robot is taking shape in R&D laboratories. Smaller, lighter and more flexible, they will be designed to be true partners for their human coworkers on factory floors. They wince when touched, and springs make their limbs so pliable that they no longer need to be fenced in.

The researchers in Darmstadt founded a company called Bionic Robotics to build cheap robots for use in manufacturing. The American competitor Rethink Robotics has already gone a step further. Its humanoid robot, “Baxter,” has even learned to operate a coffeemaker.

The new robots being developed today increasingly resemble their creators, whose inspiration is not derived from science fiction films as much as it is from practical considerations. Developers have long weighed the potential for using robots in the household and in nursing care at home.

And the more the machines make their way into our everyday lives, the more a human-like form is proving to be useful. Buttons, doorknobs and tools are meant to be used by human beings, so a machine designed to handle them ought to resemble a person as much as possible.

‘Collaborative Autonomy’

Many researchers have backed away from the idea of fully autonomous robots. Instead, they are now focusing on the concept of “collaborative autonomy,” which means that a robot should ask for help if it is having trouble completing a task. Stryk can imagine the development of call centers for robots in the future, in which a human technical support team helps an army of robotic servants cope with the pitfalls of everyday life.

Researchers will be allowed to communicate with their machines during the challenge in Florida. However, data communication will be limited and patchy, just as it could be in real disasters.

In many cases, humanoid robots do not particularly benefit from human assistance. During robotic training in Christiansburg, Atlas is still relatively clumsy, waving his arms indecisively and hesitating as he places one foot in front of the other while walking. Every movement the engineers are trying to teach Atlas reveals how complex even the simplest human actions can be.

One of the tasks in the Florida challenge is to traverse uneven terrain. For a two-legged robot, each bump, crack and threshold presents a challenge. The robot tirelessly scans the surface with fisheye cameras and laser scanners to calculate where he should place his foot. And even then he still doesn’t know whether the surface is elastic, sandy or soft.

Walking Like a Human

Atlas still moves very slowly, because his body is constantly in static equilibrium. This makes it easier to control the robot’s movement, but it is also time-consuming.

A person walks differently. He simply allows his body to fall forward and constantly offsets his weight in the next step. The engineers in Darmstadt are working on teaching Atlas this form of movement.

The next task works relatively well, as the robot adjusts his arm with a whirring noise and rotates his wrist until it reaches the right angle. Finally, he grasps a drill with his hand. “This isn’t as easy as it looks,” explains Stryk’s coworker Stefan Kohlbrecher, 33. “The machine can’t wobble when it drills. Besides, its fingers have to be able to hit the button correctly.”

Another test, probably the most spectacular one, offers more pitfalls. In this one, Atlas is supposed to climb into a buggy and maneuver the vehicle through an obstacle course. During simulation, it becomes apparent that the robot is apt to slide around dangerously on the smooth plastic seats. To counteract the movement, Atlas has to hold onto the chassis while driving the buggy.

During the field test, the researchers discovered that the robot, with its bulky hydraulic tail, doesn’t actually fit behind the wheel. Now he will have to sit in the passenger seat, hold the steering wheel and step on the gas pedal while maneuvering his leg around the gearshift.

“Sometimes completely banal things cause problems,” says Kohlbrecher. For instance, the ladder Atlas is supposed to climb is tilted at such a sharp angle that Atlas can’t hold onto the rungs without pitching forward. To address the problem, the developers obtained permission from DARPA to provide Atlas with an alternate hand. Instead of using carefully guided fingers, the robot will rely on a simple hook.

Despite numerous glitches, the Darmstadt robotics experts are optimistic, given their experiences in dealing with the challenges of everyday robotics operations. They have also consistently performed at their best in competitions.

“Many teams will run into problems while setting up their equipment at the site,” predicts Kohlbrecher. “And that won’t leave them much time to get everything up and running.”

Eye on the Competition

Until the countdown in Miami, the team members will place all of their more sophisticated ideas and ambitious programming plans on the back burner. Now their only goal is to prevent Atlas from acting up at the crucial moment.

As a reminder of sorts, a video is being played nonstop at the training camp. It depicts the robot, as it tries to grasp the drill, jumping into the air and then collapsing. The accident occurred because programmers had inadvertently set a parameter incorrectly, leading the machine to believe that it was holding an extremely heavy weight in its hand — which it then tried to offset with its desperate jump.

The Darmstadt engineers are keeping an anxious eye on their competitors’ successes. SCHAFT, a Japanese company, has already shown that its jazzy red biped was successfully able to complete all tests. The New York Times has reported that Google also acquired the Japanese startup as part of a major offensive into robotics. The Atlas team from Florida and NASA’s “Valkyrie” robot, which looks like it’s ready for movie roles, are also considered frontrunners.

The Darmstadt team derives some consolation from the fact that its robot doesn’t necessarily have to come in first place to be considered a success. According to the DARPA challenge rules, the top eight finishers will qualify for additional funding to compete in a repeat challenge a year from now.

It’s clear that the German-American team’s Atlas robot will not complete the obstacle course without errors. Nevertheless, the developers hope that many of their competitors will encounter even more problems.


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The image was taken on July 10, 2016 at 5:30 UTC, when the spacecraft was 2.7 million miles (4.3 million kilometers) from Jupiter on the outbound leg of its initial 53.5-day capture orbit. The image shows atmospheric features on Jupiter, including the Great Red Spot, and three of Jupiter's four largest moons.
JunoCam will continue to image Jupiter during Juno's capture orbits. The first high-resolution images of the planet will be taken on August 27 when the Juno spacecraft makes its next close pass to Jupiter.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
This color view from NASA's Juno spacecraft is made from some of the first images taken by JunoCam after the spacecraft entered orbit around Jupiter on July 5th (UTC). The view shows that JunoCam survived its first pass through Jupiter's extreme radiation environment, and is ready to collect images of the giant planet as Juno begins its mission.
The image was taken on July 10, 2016 at 5:30 UTC, when the spacecraft was 2.7 million miles (4.3 million kilometers) from Jupiter on the outbound leg of its initial 53.5-day capture orbit. The image shows atmospheric features on Jupiter, including the Great Red Spot, and three of Jupiter's four largest moons.
JunoCam will continue to image Jupiter during Juno's capture orbits. The first high-resolution images of the planet will be taken on August 27 when the Juno spacecraft makes its next close pass to Jupiter.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
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CES 2016: The coolest tech of the year is about to go on display

CES is where the latest, greatest and not-so-greatest inventions get put on display each year.

At this year’s CES, the tech industry is exhibiting a few trends that it believes will start to take off in a big way in 2016: Cars are getting much smarter. Chinese smartphones are going to make a big push into the United States. Technology will become far more immersive. And practically everything will have a wireless Internet connection.

1. Cars are getting smarter

connected carsVolkwagen debuted a connected car at last year’s CES.

Sure, every tech company from Apple (AAPL, Tech30) to ZTE will be there. But so will Ford (F), GM (GM), Volkswagen, Kia and BMW. That’s because cars are now essentially smartphones on wheels.

Ford is widely expected to announce that it has entered a partnership with Google to create a new company that will develop driverless vehicles. Volkswagen will unveil its first electric car. Kia will debut its autonomous driving strategy.

And every car under the sun will have wireless connections that will let them sense where other cars are on the road, give you directions and connect iPads for your kids riding in the back seat. Wireless is becoming a standard feature.

2. Chinese smartphones are coming to the United States

huawei telecom

Ever heard of ZTE, Alcatel One Touch, Letv or Huawei? You will soon.

Each company already sells phones in the United States. Alcatel holds the No. 5 position in the U.S. smartphone market, according to IDC.

But in 2016, all the big-time Chinese smartphone players are making big pushes into the United States — and announcing their new offerings at CES.

They’re striking while the iron is hot. With cell phone carriers ditching contracts (and customers becoming responsible to cover the cost of their own phones), consumer choice in smartphones is more important than ever.

3. Technology will become far more immersive

ces vrVR was a big theme at last year’s CES. It promises to blow up this year.

Virtual reality and super-duper-ultra-high-definition TVs will once again be a big theme at CES.

It turns out that smartphones make for pretty decent virtual reality machines. So with a VR machine in everyone’s pocket, a growing number of smartphone makers and content companies will show off their latest tricks to immerse you in 3-D video.

Television makers are also running out of superlatives to describe their technology. We’ve gone from high definition to ultra high definition, and now we’ll see “quantum dot” technology at CES (the colors are richer, apparently).

4. Everything will have a wireless Internet connection

connected forksConnected forks were one of the stranger items in last year’s CES. They’ll return this year.

Seriously, everything. L’Oral will be at CES. So will a company that makes a connected pregnancy test. And a breathalyzer that measures your oral health.

Connected cutlery, kitchen gadgets, appliances, water bottles, pens, clothes … all of those will be at CES.

With 3,600 presenters at CES, there will inevitably be a lot of silly technology that no one needs. But the connected devices segment usually takes the cake, and this year promises to be no different.

CNNMoney (New York) First published January 2, 2016: 8:47 AM ET


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