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Nissan begins car-sharing

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Nissan Motor Co and the City of Yokohama are introducing a round-trip car sharing service featuring the Nissan New Mobility Concept, an ultra-compact electric vehicle.|Nissan Motor Co and the City of Yokohama are introducing a round-trip car sharing service featuring the Nissan New Mobility Concept, an ultra-compact electric vehicle.

The service, “Choimobi Yokohama,” enables users who register online to pick up and return cars in 14 locations around Yokohama Station. Cars can be reserved 30 minutes in advance and can be driven within the city.

The service costs 250 yen per 15 minutes plus a 200 yen basic charge, with a maximum daily charge of 3,000 yen. Users need a Japanese driver’s license, a smartphone and a Japan-issued credit card. Registration is available on the Choimobi website: https://nissan-rentacar.com/choimobi-yokohama/.

Nissan and the City of Yokohama previously conducted a two-year trial of Japan’s first one-way car sharing service using ultra-compact electric vehicles, starting in October 2013. The aim was to encourage low-emission transport options, improve the quality of transportation and promote tourism. In October 2015, the partnership began renting cars to local tour operators and businesses.

The new round-trip service is meant to further promote ultra-compact mobility and build a sustainable business model through public-private cooperation. The service will also include guided tours around central Yokohama and long-term car rentals for businesses.

Nissan and the City of Yokohama will continue usability and feasability studies by encouraging various local entities to join the program.

As the leader in zero-emission mobility, Nissan continues to seek ways to harness ultra-compact electric vehicles to improve transportation and the quality of life.

Outline of service:

  1. Implementing party: Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
    Operator: Nissan Car Rental Solution Co., Ltd.
    (Car sharing system developer: Sage Co., Ltd.)
  2. Project duration: March 17, 2017, to March 2019
  3. Cars: 25 Nissan New Mobility Concept vehicles
  4. Pick-up/drop-off locations (car stations): 14 locations around Yokohama Station (25 cars): Bay Quarter Yokohama (1), Yokohama Mitsui Building (2), Nissan Global Headquarters (3), Yokohama i-Mark Place (4), MinatoMirai Grand Central Tower (5), Yokohama Museum of Art (6), Mark IS Minatomirai (7), Yokohama Bay Hotel Tokyu (8), Yokohama Landmark Tower (9), Colette Mare (10), Osanbashi Yokohama International Passenger Terminal (11), Yokohama City Hall (12), Yamashita Park parking lot (13), Yokohama City Vocational Development Center (14).
  5. Free private parking spaces: 12 locations (23 cars)
  6. Driving area: Within the city of Yokohama. The vehicles are restricted from driving on expressways and highways (with speed limits exceeding 60km/h).
  7. Usage charge: 200 JPY (basic charge) + 250 JPY/15 minutes; maximum charge 3,000 JPY/day.
  8. To use the service, enroll through the Choimobi website using a registered means of identification (valid Japan driver’s license, FeliCa-embedded transport IC card or smartphone). Registrants are required to watch a video featuring operating instructions and information on driving safety. Users must also have a valid Japanese driver’s license (for regular-size cars), a smartphone with e-mail, and a Japan-issued credit card. Additional details are available online.

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Project Bloodhound saved

The British project to break the world landspeed record at a site in the Northern Cape has been saved by a new backer, after it went into bankruptcy proceedings in October.

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Two weeks ago,  and two months after entering voluntary administration, the Bloodhound Programme Limited announced it was shutting down. This week it announced that its assets, including the Bloodhound Supersonic Car (SSC), had been acquired by an enthusiastic – and wealthy – supporter.

“We are absolutely delighted that on Monday 17th December, the business and assets were bought, allowing the Project to continue,” the team said in a statement.

“The acquisition was made by Yorkshire-based entrepreneur Ian Warhurst. Ian is a mechanical engineer by training, with a strong background in managing a highly successful business in the automotive engineering sector, so he will bring a lot of expertise to the Project.”

Warhurst and his family, says the team, have been enthusiastic Bloodhound supporters for many years, and this inspired his new involvement with the Project.

“I am delighted to have been able to safeguard the business and assets preventing the project breakup,” he said. “I know how important it is to inspire young people about science, technology, engineering and maths, and I want to ensure Bloodhound can continue doing that into the future.

“It’s clear how much this unique British project means to people and I have been overwhelmed by the messages of thanks I have received in the last few days.”

The record attempt was due to be made late next year at Hakskeen Pan in the Kalahari Desert, where retired pilot Andy Green planned to beat the 1228km/h land-speed record he set in the United States in 1997. The target is for Bloodhound to become the first car to reach 1000mph (1610km/h). A track 19km long and 500 metres wide has been prepared, with members of the local community hired to clear 16 000 tons of rock and stone to smooth the surface.

The team said in its announcement this week: “Although it has been a frustrating few months for Bloodhound, we are thrilled that Ian has saved Bloodhound SSC from closure for the country and the many supporters around the world who have been inspired by the Project. We now have a lot of planning to do for 2019 and beyond.”

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Motor Racing meets Machine Learning

The futuristic car technology of tomorrow is being built today in both racing cars and
toys, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The car of tomorrow, most of us imagine, is being built by the great automobile manufacturers of the world. More and more, however, we are seeing information technology companies joining the race to power the autonomous vehicle future.

Last year, chip-maker Intel paid $15.3-billion to acquire Israeli company Mobileye, a leader in computer vision for autonomous driving technology. Google’s autonomous taxi division, Waymo, has been valued at $45-billion.

Now there’s a new name to add to the roster of technology giants driving the future.

DeepRacer on the inside

Amazon Web Services, the world’s biggest cloud computing service and a subsidiary of Amazon.com,  last month unveiled a scale model autonomous racing car for developers to build new artificial intelligence applications. Almost in the same breath, at its annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, it showcased the work being done with machine learning in Formula 1 racing.

AWS DeepRacer is a 1/18th scale fully autonomous race car, designed to incorporate the features and behaviour of a full-sized vehicle. It boasts all-wheel drive, monster truck tires, an HD video camera, and on-board computing power. In short, everything a kid would want of a self-driving toy car.

But then, it also adds everything a developer would need to make the car autonomous in ways that, for now, can only be imagined. It uses a new form of machine learning (ML), the technology that allows computer systems to improve their functions progressively as they receive feedback from their activities. ML is at the heart of artificial intelligence (AI), and will be core to autonomous, self-driving vehicles.

AWS has taken ML a step further, with an approach called reinforcement learning. This allows for quicker development of ML models and applications, and DeepRacer is designed to allow developers to experiment with and hone their skill in this area. It is built on top of another AWS platform, called Amazon SageMaker, which enables developers and data scientists to build, train, and deploy machine learning quickly and easily.

Along with DeepRacer, AWS also announced the DeepRacer League, the world’s first global autonomous racing league, open to anyone who orders the scale model from AWS.

DeepRacer on the outside

As if to prove that DeepRacer is not just a quirky entry into the world of motor racing, AWS also showcased the work it is doing with the Formula One Group. Ross Brawn, Formula 1’s managing director of Motor Sports, joined AWS CEO Andy Jassy during the keynote address at the re:Invent conference, to demonstrate how motor racing meets machine learning.

“More than a million data points a second are transmitted between car and team during a Formula 1 race,” he said. “From this data, we can make predictions about what we expect to happen in a wheel-to-wheel situation, overtaking advantage, and pit stop advantage. ML can help us apply a proper analysis of a situation, and also bring it to fans.

“Formula 1 is a complete team contest. If you look at a video of tyre-changing in a pit stop – it takes 1.6 seconds to change four wheels and tyres – blink and you will miss it. Imagine the training that goes into it? It’s also a contest of innovative minds.”

AWS CEO Andy Jassy unveils DeepRacer

Formula 1 racing has more than 500 million global fans and generated $1.8 billion in revenue in 2017. As a result, there are massive demands on performance, analysis and information. 

During a race, up to 120 sensors on each car generate up to 3GB of data and 1 500 data points – every second. It is impossible to analyse this data on the fly without an ML platform like Amazon SageMaker. It has a further advantage: the data scientists are able to incorporate 65 years of historical race data to compare performance, make predictions, and provide insights into the teams’ and drivers’ split-second decisions and strategies.

This means Formula 1 can pinpoint how a driver is performing and whether or not drivers have pushed themselves over the limit.

“By leveraging Amazon SageMaker and AWS’s machine-learning services, we are able to deliver these powerful insights and predictions to fans in real time,” said Pete Samara, director of innovation and digital technology at Formula 1.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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