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March 23, 2018 News of the Day: Baidu Receives License to Test Autonomous Cars in Beijing, New Clean Exhaust Technology May Save the Diesel Engine

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【Summary】March 23, 2018 News of the Day

Eric Walz    Mar 23, 2018 4:08 PM PT
March 23, 2018 News of the Day: Baidu Receives License to Test Autonomous Cars in Beijing, New Clean Exhaust Technology May Save the Diesel Engine
author: Eric Walz   

Baidu Receives License to Test its Autonomous Cars in Beijing

BEIJING — Baidu, Inc. (NASDAQ:BIDU) announced that the company has received Beijing's first batch of licenses to conduct open road tests for its autonomous driving vehicles in designated areas in Beijing.

At the launch ceremony yesterday, five cars powered by Apollo, Baidu's autonomous driving platform, were taken for a public road test with their new permits in Yizhuang, part of the Daxing district in the southeast suburbs of Beijing. Baidu is the only company to receive such permits to date.

"Baidu is committed to building a sustainable, innovative and open autonomous driving ecosystem. We hope to work with more partners to pave the way for the full development of autonomous driving, and to build a truly reliable and safe ecosystem for intelligent mobility. With supportive policies, we believe that Beijing will become a rising hub for the autonomous driving industry," said Zhao Cheng, Vice President of Baidu.

According to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport, all vehicles that apply for the license must undergo over 5,000 kilometers of closed course training in addition to capability evaluations, which include the ability to follow traffic rules and handle emergencies.

Safety drivers are required to undergo no less than 50 hours of training in order to engage and take control of the vehicle in case of an emergency. The vehicles also must pass evaluations by a group of transportation, automobile, computer science and legal experts before they are approved to run on open roads.

There are currently 33 roads, spanning approximately 105 kilometers open for testing. These are primarily located in less-populated areas outside Beijing's Fifth Ring Road, in Shunyi, Haidian and Yizhuang. Beijing's traffic authorities have launched an enclosed testing site in Haidian for autonomous vehicles.

Safety is the ultimate foundation of Baidu's Apollo open platform. Before taking Apollo-powered autonomous vehicles to conduct open road tests, the vehicles will go through simulation tests, before also being tested on closed and then open courses. This is to ensure the vehicles' safety and stability to the greatest extent possible.

Launched in July 2017, the Apollo platform leverages advanced technology and data resources to create a sustainable ecosystem for the autonomous driving industry. Apollo has so far amassed over 90 industry partners, including OEMs, Tier-1 suppliers, research groups and local governments.

In addition, Baidu recently signed a strategic cooperation with Xiongan, a new economic zone in China's Hebei Province, to help develop the area into a smart city powered by intelligent transport, applications of conversational AI and cloud computing infrastructure.

New Exhaust Technology May Save the Diesel Engine

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Although the diesel engine has been around for over 100 years, emission free battery-powered cars are increasing in numbers and might replace the diesel and gasoline engines in the near future. The problem with diesel engines is that they emit high amounts of harmful NOx (Nitrogen Oxide), much more than a gasoline engine.

Thanks to ever-stricter growing emissions restrictions and the push for cleaner air, there's just not much more room left for fuel-burning engines. The first internal combustion engine to bite the dust, though, will likely be the diesel engine, due to its cruder nature and its notoriously high emissions. However, that could change and the diesel engine could stick around for a lot longer thanks to a new diesel exhaust technology.

The past few years, automakers, including Mercedes, have been getting around this a bit by injecting small amounts of AdBlue, a urea-based liquid, into the exhaust stream. Chemicals like AdBlue system clean about 60-percent of the harmful NOx emissions in Euro 6-regulated diesel engines. Now, though, there's a new exhaust cleaning technology that is far superior to AdBlue.

The technology is called  ACCT (ammonia creation and conversion technology) and it's currently being developed by a team of specialists at the Loughborough University in Britain. This new system uses ammonia to "literally to rip NOx apart", which leaves only nitrogen and water behind as a byproduct.

According to the Loughborough team, ACCT has been able to clean 98-percent of NOx in diesel emissions and it's done so while not even being tuned for a specific engine. The team tested the system on a Skoda taxi and saw a 98-percent reduction in NOx and claims that, if tuned properly, they could create a "virtually zero-emission" diesel engine.

Though, the Loughborough team feels that eliminating NOx is only the beginning. "NOx is serious," said Graham Hargrave, professor of optical diagnostics and team leader. "But it's really a point-source problem. It only matters in a tiny minority of locations."

"Solve it and you can get on with reducing CO2, which is important everywhere."

It seems as if this ACCT could seriously help solve diesel emissions moving forward, so long as it can gain a supplier/manufacturer on a large scale. If that's the case, we could see diesel engines last a long longer than originally anticipated, especially in Europe.

‘What's Facebook?' Tesla CEO Elon Musk Deletes Tesla & SpaceX Social Media Pages

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With congress pressuring Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify about the company's massive data breach, Elon Musk was dared by a Twitter follower to delete his company's Facebook pages, which he went ahead and actually did. Each company page had more than 2.6 million followers. Musk also deleted his personal Facebook page.

The Musk had begun the exchange by responding to a tweet from WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton of the #deletefacebook tag that has been circulating online, urging people to delete their Facebook accounts. Facebook purchased WhatsApp for $16 billion in 2014.

"What's Facebook?" tweeted Musk, who is more of a Twitter and Instagram guy. He also deleted his personal Facebook page.

Meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers on Friday formally asked Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg to explain at a Washington hearing how 50 million users' data got into the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica that has ties to Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

The world's largest social media network is under growing pressure from governments, investors and advertisers. This follows allegations by a whistleblower that Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed users' information to build profiles on American voters that were later used to help elect U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.

"The hearing will examine the harvesting and sale of personal information from more than 50 million Facebook users, potentially without their notice or consent and in violation of Facebook policy," chairman Representative Greg Walden, a Republican who chairs the panel, and Frank Pallone, the top Democrat, and other committee leaders wrote in the letter.

A Facebook spokesman confirmed the company had received the letter and was reviewing it, but did not say whether Zuckerberg would agree to testify. The Facebook chief executive apologized on Wednesday for mistakes his company made and promised to restrict developers' access to user information as part of a plan to protect privacy.

Nissan Making Street Lamps out of Used EV Batteries

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The batteries in electric vehicles have a limited life span. However, when these batteries are no longer propel an electric car, they still provide plenty of power for other applications. Nissan has found a way to repurpose the batteries in the Nissan Leaf, the world's best selling electric car.

The first generation of the Nissan Leaf was introduced in 2010, meaning that the batteries in the oldest models can now be ripe for picking. Together with the 4R Energy Corporation in Japan, Nissan has started a project that will provide the Japanese town of Namie with lighting, using solar panels and used Leaf batteries.

Namie was significantly damaged by the tsunami that caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, and these streetlights are part of the town's ongoing rebuilding efforts.

The hook-shaped streetlights are completely standalone, meaning that they do not require a functioning main power grid to operate. While Nissan is producing more and more electric vehicles, the company recognizes that in the future there will be a lot of decommissioned electric car batteries, and if they can be used to get an entire town back from the darkness, that's a purposeful second life.

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