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November 27, 2017 News of the Day: Letter From U.S. Justice Dept Spurs New Orders in Uber Waymo Lawsuit, UCLA Researchers Develop Device to Make Fuel-Cell Vehicles More Efficient

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【Summary】November 27, 2017 News of the Day

Eric Walz    Nov 27, 2017 8:05 AM PT
November 27, 2017 News of the Day: Letter From U.S. Justice Dept Spurs New Orders in Uber Waymo Lawsuit, UCLA Researchers Develop Device to Make Fuel-Cell Vehicles More Efficient

Letter From U.S. Justice Dept Spurs New Orders in Uber Waymo Lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO — The judge overseeing a lawsuit between Uber Technologies Inc. and Alphabet Inc's Waymo self-driving car unit issued a series of orders last week, prompted by information shared with him by the U.S. Department of Justice, Reuters has reported.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco disclosed on Wednesday that he had received a letter from Justice Department attorneys about the case, which is set for trial in December. The judge did not reveal the letter's contents.

However, Alsup issued two subsequent orders, including one on Saturday, that discussed some details. He ordered Uber to make three witnesses, including a former Uber security analyst and a company attorney, available to testify on Tuesday at a final pretrial hearing. Trial is scheduled to begin on Dec. 4.

It is unusual for the Justice Department to share information with a judge days before a civil case is set to begin.

Earlier this year Alsup, who is hearing the civil action brought by Waymo, asked federal prosecutors to investigate whether criminal theft of trade secrets had occurred. That probe is being handled by the intellectual property unit of the Northern California U.S. Attorney's office, sources familiar with the situation said. No charges have been filed.

Waymo sued Uber in February, claiming that former Waymo executive Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files before leaving to set up a self-driving truck company, called Otto, which Uber acquired soon after.

Uber denied using any of Waymo's trade secrets. Levandowski has declined to answer questions about the allegations, citing constitutional protections against self-incrimination. Uber fired Levandowski in May after he refused to cooperate in Uber's internal investigation of the trade secret thefts.

Since the case began, Uber said its personnel have spent thousands of hours scouring its servers and other communications devices but have not found Waymo trade secrets.

In an order on Friday, Alsup referred to a former Uber security analyst in connection with the letter from the U.S. Attorney's office and to certain "devices" the former employee said were maintained by Uber.

Alsup asked Uber to disclose whether it had searched those devices for relevant evidence in the case.

UCLA Researchers Develop Device to Make Fuel-Cell Vehicles More Efficient

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UCLA Professor Richard Kaner (left) with postdoctoral research associate Dr. Maher El-Kady

LOS ANGELES — Researchers at UCLA have developed a device that has the potential to make fuel-cell vehicles more economical.

The device could make fuel-cell cars affordable for many more consumers because it produces hydrogen using nickel, iron and cobalt — elements that are much more abundant and less expensive than the platinum and other precious metals that are currently used to produce hydrogen fuel.

"Hydrogen is a great fuel for vehicles: It is the cleanest fuel known, it's cheap and it puts no pollutants into the air — just water," said Richard Kaner, the study's senior author and a UCLA distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and of materials science and engineering. "And this could dramatically lower the cost of hydrogen cars."

The technology, described in a paper in the journal Energy Storage Materials, could be especially useful in rural areas, or to military units serving in remote locations.

"People need fuel to run their vehicles and electricity to run their devices," Kaner said. "Now you can make both electricity and fuel with a single device."

It could also be part of a solution for large cities that need ways to store surplus electricity from their electrical grids. "If you could convert electricity to hydrogen, you could store it indefinitely," said Kaner, who also is a member of UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute.

Traditional hydrogen fuel cells and supercapacitors have two electrodes: one positive and one negative. The device developed at UCLA has a third electrode that acts as both a supercapacitor, which stores energy, and as a device for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, a process called water electrolysis.

All three electrodes connect to a single solar cell that serves as the device's power source, and the electrical energy harvested by the solar cell can be stored in one of two ways, electrochemically in the supercapacitor or chemically as hydrogen.

The device also is a step forward because it produces hydrogen fuel in an environmentally friendly way. Currently, about 95 percent of hydrogen production worldwide comes from converting fossil fuels such as natural gas into hydrogen — a process that releases large quantities of carbon dioxide into the air, said Maher El-Kady, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher and a co-author of the research.

"Hydrogen energy is not ‘green' unless it is produced from renewable sources," El-Kady said. He added that using solar cells and abundantly available elements to split water into hydrogen and oxygen has enormous potential for reducing the cost of hydrogen production and that the approach could eventually replace the current method, which relies on fossil fuels.

Combining a supercapacitor and the water-splitting technology into a single unit, Kaner said, is an advance similar to the first time a phone, web browser and camera were combined on a smartphone. The new technology may eventually lead to new applications that even the researchers haven't considered yet, Kaner said.

The researchers designed the electrodes at the nanoscale — thousands of times thinner than the thickness of a human hair — to ensure the greatest surface area would be exposed to water, which increases the amount of hydrogen the device can produce and also stores more charge in the supercapacitor. Although the device the researchers made would fit in the palm of your hand, Kaner said it would be possible to make larger versions because the components are inexpensive.

"For hydrogen cars to be widely used, there remains a need for a technology that safely stores large quantities of hydrogen at normal pressure and temperature, instead of the pressurized cylinders that are currently in use," said Mir Mousavi, a co-author of the paper and a professor of chemistry at Iran's Tarbiat Modares University.

The paper's other co-authors are graduate student Yasin Shabangoli and postdoctoral scholars Abolhassan Noori and Mohammad Rahmanifar, all of Tarbiat Modares University.

Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance Expands to Silicon Valley

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SUNNYVALE, Calif., — The Alliance between automakers Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi is stepping up its efforts in Silicon Valley with plans to expand operations there, integrate new partner Mitsubishi, and expand its work on self-driving cars.

The alliance's latest project is a prototype vehicle for autonomous city driving that can navigate intersections, was delivered to Nissan's tech center for further work in Japan in April. The Silicon Valley R&D facility has since moved on to working toward autonomous vehicles as part of the alliance's plan to deliver self-driving cars by 2022 and become an operator of autonomous ride-hailing services, said Maarten Sierhuis, director of Nissan's Silicon Valley center.

"We can't wait too long," Sierhuis said in an interview last month. "Our focus is really city driving. And since April, we are moving on to beyond 2020 and 2021 to go to the new mobility side with driverless. That's where our research is going."

The center opened in 2013 and has about 70 workers today — 17 from Renault, the rest from Nissan. Mitsubishi, which came into the alliance last year when Nissan took a controlling 34 percent stake in the company, is not part of the operations yet. Takao Asami, the alliance global vice president for research and advanced engineering, said the group will soon begin integrating Mitsubishi into the network.

The Silicon Valley center has a seven-vehicle fleet for testing on local roads: three Nissan Leaf electric vehicles, two Infiniti Q50 sedans and two Renault Zoe EVs. Nissan's latest autonomous technology is deployed in an Infiniti Q50, uses 12 cameras, nine radar sensors, six laser scanners and 12 sonar sensors to capture a 360-degree view around the car, the company says. AI analyzes the surroundings.

In the thousands of miles logged since, the cars have had no accidents, Sierhuis said. Research will increasingly focus on the software side of autonomous driving, he said.

"The future of mobility is in mobility services," Sierhuis said. "That includes artificial intelligence and technology in the cloud. That is a very important part of the strategy."

The system delivers door-to-door autonomous navigation, Nissan says. The driver sets the destination at home, and the car does the rest. It stops at red lights and goes on green. It turns at intersections. It enters toll gates. It merges into highway traffic, changes lanes and then exits the highway. Finally, it navigates city streets to its destination.

Nissan promises that system will be "available for real-world use" after 2020.

Selfdrive.ae Launches Electric Cars for 5 AED per hour in Dubai, UAE

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DUBAI, UAE — Selfdrive.ae is the first online self drive rent a car company in UAE to host Electric Cars.

The company announced the launch of a new segment of all electric cars (E-Cars) to its online fleet of Self Drive car rental in Dubai. In a unique initiative to promote E-Cars; SelfDrive.ae has become the first online self drive rent a car portal in the UAE to host E-Cars on the company's "Smart Mass Mobility Technology" (SMMT) Platform.

As part of this initiative the company offers Renault Zoe All Electric Car at an introductory price of 5 AED an hour with a min billing cycle of 24 hrs with a range of 250 kms per day.

This offer is applicable for Local Residents, International travellers, Expat and Corporates and can be reserved for a day, week or for a monthly lease. Clients renting this car would have the option to charge the car free of cost at more than 90+ Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) locations.

Soham Shah, Founder & Director Pinewoods Technology Services Dubai (holding company of Selfdrive.ae), said, "We are thankful to Road Transport Authority (RTA) and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) for collaborating to incentivize electric cars by allowing free charging across all DEWA Car charging stations, free parking and Salik Tag". He further added, "Selfdrive.ae is proud to take first steps towards making electric cars more accessible and affordable to the masses and to create an ecosystem for people to explore the new age of mobility by introducing new avenues in smart mobility and car share technology".

UAE is an extremely mature market with high potential for on demand Electric car rentals. With the efforts and support of the local Authority to incentivize electric Car and with the growing infrastructure of charging stations, electric cars would be the future mainstream mode of transportation. SelfDrive's Smart Mass Mobility Technology platform (SMMT) which also finds resonance with the Dubai Smart City vision of incorporating electric cars for clean energy, smart cities and self-driving cars for safer passenger transportation.

Selfdrive.ae has built its own proprietary platform called Smart Mass Mobility Technology (SMMT) which is future ready to host Electric Cars and Self-Driving Cars. The platform allows users to reserve Self Drive car on demand through a web or mobile app and choose from 75 different car models across 25 car brands, which also includes luxury brands across locations.


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