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July 20th, 2017 News of the Day: Apple Secretly Working on Car Batteries with Chinese Firm, Elon Musk says Hyperloop Approved Between New York and Washington D.C.

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【Summary】July 20th, 2017 News of the Day.

Original Eric Walz    Jul 20, 2017 12:22 PM PT
July 20th, 2017 News of the Day: Apple Secretly Working on Car Batteries with Chinese Firm, Elon Musk says Hyperloop Approved Between New York and Washington D.C.

Apple Reported to be Working on Car Batteries with Chinese Company

Apple is secretly working with a Chinese firm on research and development of auto batteries, suggesting it may be interested in more than just software for self-driving cars, according to one report.

The Chinese company, Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) has signed a confidentiality agreement, sources told Yicai Global on Thursday. Few other details were available, and CATL has officially refused to comment.

To date Apple has only been testing modified existing vehicles on public roads. The company was at one point rumored to be building a complete electric car, but in the past year "Project Titan" is thought to have switched focus to software.

If the CATL partnership is authentic, Apple may have reached an expected decision on whether or not to move ahead with an internally designed car. The company would need an especially powerful battery to match the 200-mile-plus range on vehicles like Tesla's Model 3.

Indeed the company could end up spending many billions if it wants to enter the market, not the least because it would need to develop still more technologies and contract with outside parts and assembly firms. Tesla has an inherent advantage in the battery arena thanks to the Nevada-based Gigafactory, which may eventually be joined by several other factories worldwide.

Earlier rumors hinted that Apple was targeting a 2021 release date, but it's possible that the changing gears in the project could translate into a delay.

Elon Musk says Hyperloop Approved Between New York and Washington D.C.

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Elon Musk loves to make big announcements on Twitter. Today, he says, he has received "verbal government approval" for his tunneling project, The Boring Company, to build a hyperloop connecting New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.

The hyperloop would be built underground, says Musk, and would allow travel between NYC and D.C. in just 29 minutes. It would stop in the city centers, and commuters would access the stations via elevators.

Musk dreamed up the hyperloop as an ultra-fast form of ground transportation, and first proposed the idea in 2012. The system would use pods traveling through vacuum tubes with maglev technology. The combination of maglev and a near vacuum reduces the amount of drag the pods need to overcome, allowing them to travel at near-supersonic speeds.

A number of companies are pursuing the idea, and working toward connecting cities and regions with hyperloop systems in various parts of the world. Musk's SpaceX company recently hosted a competition to build and test hyperloop pods in a test track at the company's California headquarters.

Musk's Twitter announcement leaves a lot of unanswered questions, especially as the agreement is only a verbal one at this point. It's also unclear which government agency he's referring to. He says that after this hyperloop project, he wants to connect L.A. and San Francisco, as well as cities in Texas.

Volvo Plans Tech Venture With Geely

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Sweden's Volvo Car Group said on Thursday it would set up a joint venture with its Chinese parent to share existing and future technology with other brands in the Geely family.

Volvo said the joint venture would be 50/50 owned with Zhejiang Geely Holdings, which also controls Chinese automaker Geely Auto and new brand LYNK & CO, under the terms of a memorandum of understanding.

Volvo, Geely Auto and LYNK & CO, a brand established last year and positioned between Volvo and Geely in price, would share vehicle architecture and engine technologies via cross licensing arrangements managed by the new venture.

"We will unlock significant benefits across our portfolio by sharing both technologies and next-generation vehicle architectures," Zhejiang Geely Chairman Li Shufu said in statement.

"I am confident these synergies can be achieved while preserving the separate identities and strategic autonomy of our different automotive brands."

Volvo would also take a minority shareholding in LYNK & CO, the carmaker said.

SoftBank, GM and BMW invest $159 million in Nauto

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Softbank and General Motors are among a group of companies that invested $159 million into U.S. driverless car start-up Nauto on Wednesday.

Palo Alto, California based Nauto makes cameras that mount inside of the car pointing at the driver, and outside of the vehicle looking at the road. They can track driver behavior in real time, and know if they are distracted. It uses computer vision, which is a form of artificial intelligence, to capture and process all of the data.

All of this data and insight will help the development of self-driving cars.

The $159 million financing round was led by SoftBank and Greylock Partners, a venture capital firm, with other participants including BMW iVentures, General Motors Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures, and the venture arm of insurance group Allianz. Previous investors Playground Global and Draper Nexus were also involved.

Nauto said it would use the money to grow and develop its camera technology and install it into more cars globally. The funds would also help to support the expansion of Nauto's data platform for autonomous vehicle research across "multiple automakers".

As more cars equipped with Nauto's technology drive more miles, the technology will become more precise.

"Over time the Nauto data platform will inform the transition to and co-existence of human-driven and autonomous vehicles," the company said in a press release on Wednesday.

"In pursuit of the profoundly transformational impact autonomous vehicle technology can have on business and society, we'll now more rapidly be able to gather the billions more miles of real driving experience and data required to get a precise understanding of how the best drivers behave behind the wheel," Nauto CEO Stefan Heck said.

"By building a network of vehicles and drivers, Nauto is accelerating the transition from a human-driver dominant world to a safer, more efficient autonomous-driving era," Greylock partner, Nauto board member, and LinkedIn co-founder, Reid Hoffman said in a statement.

Autonomous carmaker Navya to open first American plant in Michigan

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Global autonomous vehicle manufacturer Navya Inc.. is establishing an assembly plant in Saline, Michigan  its first in North America that is expected to generate a total capital investment of more than $1 million and create 50 jobs.

The French automaker is expected to start assembly at the plant in the fall with a goal of building 15-20 Arma fully autonomous shuttles at the plant by the end of the year, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp., which awarded the company a $435,000 performance-based grant.

The University of Michigan and Navya announced in December that they will work together on a fully autonomous, 15-passenger electric shuttle that will provide self-guided tours of Mcity, an Ann Arbor-based test site for connected and automated vehicles. This is the first of Navya's Arma vehicles to operate in North America.

"As the greater Ann Arbor area continues to establish itself as a hub for autonomous vehicle development, we feel it's the perfect location for us," NAVYA CEO Christophe Sapet said in a news release.

Navya launched the Arma shuttle in 2015. It can reach speeds of 28 mph and carry up to 15 people.


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