The electric car manufacturer says updates to its battery design and manufacturing process will help lower production costs.
- The high cost of batteries is the main reason why electric vehicles cost more than gas-powered cars.
- At the company's 'Battery Day' event on Tuesday, Tesla announced a new battery design that will give its cars more power and a longer range.
- The success of Tesla's plan depends on its ability to scale up production.
Screenshot of Tesla's 'Battery Day' presentation
Tesla<p>It's unclear when Tesla will stop using cobalt, or when it will stop sourcing its batteries from Panasonic. But Tesla claims that its new battery design and manufacturing changes will allow it to cut the cost per kilowatt-hour in half. If Tesla can successfully scale up production, the company could hit its goal of $100 per kilowatt-hour sooner than expected.</p><p>Hitting that mark could usher in the electric-car revolution, considering $100 per kilowatt-hour is <a href="https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/How-Soon-Can-Tesla-Get-Battery-Cell-Cost-Below-100-per-Kilowatt-Hour" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">generally regarded as the threshold</a> the industry needs to reach in order to make electric vehicles cost competitive with gas-powered cars. </p><p>A $25,000 electric car would also be Tesla's cheapest offering by far. The company had previously promised a $35,000 car, but only offered one at that price for a limited time. Tesla's website says its Model 3, its cheapest car, starts at about <a href="https://www.industryweek.com/leadership/article/22027923/tesla-declines-as-model-3-price-cut-renews-demand-concerns" target="_blank">$39,000.</a></p>
Photo of Tesla's new battery design
Tesla<p>To be sure, Musk is known for promising big on his projects, but not always following through on the promised timetable. But despite having an "insanely hard" 2020, as Musk said, Tesla's had a good past couple years.<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"In 2019, we had 50% growth," Musk said at the event. "And I think we'll do really pretty well in 2020, probably somewhere between 30 to 40 percent growth, despite a lot of very difficult circumstances."</p>
So far, 30 student teams have entered the Indy Autonomous Challenge, scheduled for October 2021.
- The Indy Autonomous Challenge will task student teams with developing self-driving software for race cars.
- The competition requires cars to complete 20 laps within 25 minutes, meaning cars would need to average about 110 mph.
- The organizers say they hope to advance the field of driverless cars and "inspire the next generation of STEM talent."
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>Completing the race in 25 minutes means the cars will need to average about 110 miles per hour. So, while the race may end up being a bit slower than a typical Indy 500 competition, in which winners average speeds of over 160 mph, it's still set to be the fastest autonomous race featuring full-size cars.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There is no human redundancy there," Matt Peak, managing director for Energy Systems Network, a nonprofit that develops technology for the automation and energy sectors, told the <a href="https://www.post-gazette.com/business/tech-news/2020/06/01/Indy-Autonomous-Challenge-Indy-500-Indianapolis-Motor-Speedway-Ansys-Aptiv-self-driving-cars/stories/202005280137" target="_blank">Pittsburgh Post-Gazette</a>. "Either your car makes this happen or smash into the wall you go."</p>
Illustration of the Indy Autonomous Challenge
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>The Indy Autonomous Challenge <a href="https://www.indyautonomouschallenge.com/rules" target="_blank">describes</a> itself as a "past-the-post" competition, which "refers to a binary, objective, measurable performance rather than a subjective evaluation, judgement, or recognition."</p><p>This competition design was inspired by the 2004 DARPA Grand Challenge, which tasked teams with developing driverless cars and sending them along a 150-mile route in Southern California for a chance to win $1 million. But that prize went unclaimed, because within a few hours after starting, all the vehicles had suffered some kind of critical failure.</p>
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>One factor that could prevent a similar outcome in the upcoming race is the ability to test-run cars on a virtual racetrack. The simulation software company Ansys Inc. has already developed a model of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on which teams will test their algorithms as part of a series of qualifying rounds.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We can create, with physics, multiple real-life scenarios that are reflective of the real world," Ansys President Ajei Gopal told <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/autonomous-vehicles-to-race-at-indianapolis-motor-speedway-11595237401?mod=e2tw" target="_blank">The Wall Street Journal</a>. "We can use that to train the AI, so it starts to come up to speed."</p><p>Still, the race could reveal that self-driving cars aren't quite ready to race at speeds of over 110 mph. After all, regular self-driving cars already face enough logistical and technical roadblocks, including <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53349313#:~:text=Tesla%20will%20be%20able%20to,no%20driver%20input%2C%20he%20said." target="_blank">crumbling infrastructure, communication issues</a> and the <a href="https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/would-you-ride-in-a-car-thats-programmed-to-kill-you" target="_self">fateful moral decisions driverless cars will have to make in split seconds</a>.</p>But the Indy Autonomous Challenge <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5da73021d0636f4ec706fa0a/t/5dc0680c41954d4ef41ec2b2/1572890638793/Indy+Autonomous+Challenge+Ruleset+-+v5NOV2019+%282%29.pdf" target="_blank">says</a> its main goal is to advance the industry, by challenging "students around the world to imagine, invent, and prove a new generation of automated vehicle (AV) software and inspire the next generation of STEM talent."
Help future Mars rovers better navigate the red planet's treacherous terrain.
- NASA just announced its AI4Mars project, which lets you can take a virtually simulated tour around Mars via the Curiosity rover.
- The simulation project is calling on users to help the rover better classify the planet's sometimes dangerous terrain by labeling images taken by Curiosity.
- This project gives you a chance to participate in enhancing the new machine learning approaches for exploring Mars and unveiling its secrets.
Improving future rovers<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="152ec3e534f89608151837f90ad46b21"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8W-KMiqKAFw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Designed by a team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the simulation project is calling on users to help the rover better classify the planet's sometimes dangerous terrain. Your task is to identify and label images taken by Curiosity from Mars' surface for scientists to use. The crowdsourced data will help train a future rover to more safely navigate obstacles like bedrocks or sand.</p><p>Mars rovers have an unfortunate habit of getting stuck in sand traps, and sometimes never getting out, as was the tragic fate of NASA's <a href="https://www.space.com/18766-spirit-rover.html" target="_blank">Spirit Rover</a>. The project hopes to make future rovers similar to self-driving vehicles that know "where it's safe to drive, land, sleep and hibernate," <a href="https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/hiro-ono/ai4mars/about/research" target="_blank">according to the website</a>. </p>
How it works<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="36e003afeadd9aab9186ad3cf6b05521"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LJXQ0-a9IJE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>When you open the classification tool on the website, you're instructed to select different surface types — sand, soil, bedrock, and big rocks — using a polygon drawing tool designated for the type of terrain you are labeling. After you've identified everything in the image, you click "Done" to move on to the next photo and do it again. If you aren't sure about an object, the website asks you to leave it unlabeled. It also asks you not to overlap the polygons. If you get confused, click "Tutorial" to open a popover and a discussion board where you can ask questions.</p><p>You won't get to virtually control Curiosity around the surface of Mars like a video game. But this project does give you a chance to get an intimate look at the planet's surface and enhance the new machine learning approaches for exploring mars and unveiling its secrets. </p><p>Similar projects calling on volunteers to help with scientific research can be found at <a href="https://www.zooniverse.org/projects" target="_blank">Zooniverse's project page</a>. For example, you can help researchers find asteroids in images from the Hubble Space Telescope, or help Seismologists by listening for Earthquakes using technology that makes seismic waves audible. </p>
Such a battery would make it far cheaper to implement robotaxis and long-haul electric trucks, both of which Tesla is developing.
- A team of researchers working with Tesla recently released a paper describing a lithium-ion battery that should last 1 million miles over 4,000 charges and depletions.
- The researchers reportedly optimized commonly used components of EV batteries, and made their findings available to other battery researchers.
- Tesla CEO Elon Musk said robotaxis could hit streets as early as 2020.
The 2020 Democratic candidate's plan to give Americans a universal basic income seems to include a special provision for truckers.
Photo credit: ROSLAN RAHMAN / Contributor
- Andrew Yang is a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate who's made technology and automation central to his campaign.
- Yang says the U.S. needs a plan for how to manage the upcoming loss of millions of American trucking jobs to self-driving vehicles.
- Yang wants to tax profits from self-driving trucks to give these laid-off truckers a "severance package."