Denmark and Germany Now Building the World’s Longest Immersed Tunnel

Descending up to 40 meters beneath the Baltic Sea, the world’s longest immersed tunnel will link Denmark and Germany, slashing journey times between the two countries when it opens in 2029. CNN Travel reports: After more than a decade of planning, construction started on the Fehmarnbelt Tunnel in 2020 and in the months since a temporary harbor has been completed on the Danish side. It will host the factory that will soon build the 89 massive concrete sections that will make up the tunnel. “The expectation is that the first production line will be ready around the end of the year, or beginning of next year,” said Henrik Vincentsen, CEO of Femern A/S, the state-owned Danish company in charge of the project. “By the beginning of 2024 we have to be ready to immerse the first tunnel element.”

The tunnel, which will be 18 kilometers (11.1 miles) long, is one of Europe’s largest infrastructure projects, with a construction budget of over 7 billion euros ($7.1 billion). […] It will be built across the Fehmarn Belt, a strait between the German island of Fehmarn and the Danish island of Lolland, and is designed as an alternative to the current ferry service from Rodby and Puttgarden, which carries millions of passengers every year. Where the crossing now takes 45 minutes by ferry, it will take just seven minutes by train and 10 minutes by car. The tunnel, whose official name is Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link, will also be the longest combined road and rail tunnel anywhere in the world. It will comprise two double-lane motorways — separated by a service passageway — and two electrified rail tracks. “Today, if you were to take a train trip from Copenhagen to Hamburg, it would take you around four and a half hours,” says Jens Ole Kaslund, technical director at Femern A/S, the state-owned Danish company in charge of the project. “When the tunnel will be completed, the same journey will take two and a half hours.”

“Today a lot of people fly between the two cities, but in the future it will be better to just take the train,” he adds. The same trip by car will be around an hour faster than today, taking into account time saved by not lining up for the ferry.

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GPS Jammers Are Being Used to Hijack Trucks and Down Drones

The world’s freight-carrying trucks and ships use GPS-based satellite tracking and navigation systems, reports ZDNet. But “Criminals are turning to cheap GPS jamming devices to ransack the cargo on roads and at sea, a problem that’s getting worse….”
Jammers work by overpowering GPS signals by emitting a signal at the same frequency, just a bit more powerful than the original. The typical jammers used for cargo hijackings are able to jam frequencies from up to 5 miles away rendering GPS tracking and security apparatuses, such as those used by trucking syndicates, totally useless. In Mexico, jammers are used in some 85% of cargo truck thefts. Statistics are harder to come by in the United States, but there can be little doubt the devices are prevalent and widely used. Russia is currently availing itself of the technology to jam commercial planes in Ukraine.

As we’ve covered, the proliferating commercial drone sector is also prey to attack…. During a light show in Hong Kong in 2018, a jamming device caused 46 drones to fall out of the sky, raising public awareness of the issue.
While the problem is getting worse, the article also notes that companies are developing anti-jamming solutions for drone receivers, “providing protection and increasing the resiliency of GPS devices against jamming attacks.

“By identifying and preventing instances of jamming, fleet operators are able to prevent cargo theft.”

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Uber Eats Will Begin Using Nuro Delivery Robots

Autonomous tech developer Nuro is teaming up with Uber Eats in a long-awaited partnership that will see the company’s latest robot take over the delivery of food to app users. Autoweek reports: The two companies signed a 10-year contract just a few days ago, paving the way for a wider rollout of Nuro’s driverless delivery robots, which have been operating on a limited scale in several cities. The partnership will kick off slowly, with Nuro deploying its robots to Houston and Mountain View, California, as a start, before the service makes a wider debut in the Bay Area.

Perhaps more importantly, Nuro’s delivery robots will allow Uber Eats to not have to pay a human driver, which is something that company has been working toward for years as part of its primary business as well. However, the lagging development of Level 4 and Level 5 autonomy, once widely expected to arrive around 2020, had stalled ambitions for Uber, which has struggled with profitability through normal operations with independent contractor drivers. Nuro delivery robots enjoyed renewed interest from business partners in the early months of the pandemic, but the company’s technology is now being viewed as a cost saver for operators rather than a method of more sanitary delivery.

Of course, a limited rollout in two cities plus plans to launch in the Bay Area won’t transform Uber Eats’ business model overnight. This could take years even with an unlimited supply of Nuro delivery robots — with regulatory approval still being the major impediment. That’s because commercial driverless permits are granted on a state-by-state basis, in addition to city and county approvals, which were hard enough for Nuro to obtain in the Bay Area, where Level 4 robotaxis are being tested. Nuro will need to focus its efforts in those areas where traffic is suitable for its robots.

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Rolls Royce Exits Boom’s Supersonic Airliner Project

Rolls-Royce has ended its involvement in a project by Boom Supersonic to develop a faster-than-sound passenger airliner, leaving unclear the powerplant options available to Boom. FlightGlobal reports: “We are appreciative of Rolls-Royce’s work over the last few years, but it became clear that Rolls’ proposed engine design and legacy business model is not the best option for Overture’s future airline operators or passengers,” Boom said on 7 September. “Later this year, we will announce our selected engine partner and our transformational approach for reliable, cost-effective and sustainable supersonic flight.”

Earlier in the day, news broke that R-R had backed out of the Boom project. “We’ve completed our contract with Boom and delivered various engineering studies for their Overture supersonic program,” the UK engine manufacturer says. “After careful consideration, Rolls-Royce has determined that the commercial aviation supersonic market is not currently a priority for us and, therefore, will not pursue further work on the program at this time. It has been a pleasure to work with the Boom team and we wish them every success in the future.”

Boom, with offices in Denver, has been developing a supersonic aircraft called Overture that it says will carry up to 80 passengers and cruise at Mach 1.7. It initially intended for Overture to have two engines, but recently changed to a four-engined design. The company has been targeting first flight of Overture in 2026 and first delivery in 2029. “Overture remains on track to carry passengers in 2029, and we are looking forward to making our engine announcement later this year,” Boom says.

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Elon Musk Interviewed by Tesla Owners, Hears from a Former Professor

In June a YouTube channel called “Tesla Owners Silicon Valley” ran an hour-long interview with Elon Musk. (Musk begins by sharing an example of the “comedically long” list of things that can disrupt a supply chain, remembering an incident where a drug gang shoot out led to the mistaken impounding of a nearby truck that was delivering parts for a Tesla Model S factory — ultimately shutting down Model S production for three days.)

There’s some candid discussions about the technology of electric cars – but also some surprisingly personal insights. Musk also reveals he’s been thinking about electric cars since high school, as “the way cars should be, if you could just solve range… People will look back on the internal combustion car era as a strange time. Quaint.” And then he remembers the moment in 1995 when he put his graduate studies at Stanford “on hold” to pursue a business career, reassuring Stanford professor William Nix that “I will probably fail” and predicting an eventual return to Stanford. Nix had responded that he did not think Musk would fail.

It turns out that 27 years later, now-emeritus professor William Nix heard the interview, and typed up a fond letter to Elon Musk at SpaceX’s headquarters in Texas. Nix complimented Musk on the interview, noting Musk’s remarks on the challenges in using silicon for the anodes of electric batteries. “About 10 years ago we at Stanford did research on the very issues you described. Indeed, it almost seemed like you had read all the papers.”

Musk’s hour-long interview with the group was followed by two more hour-long interviews, and since then the group has been sharing short excerpts that give candid glimpses of Musk’s thinking. (The overwhelming focus is solving full self-driving,” Musk says in one clip. “That’s essential. That’s really the difference between Tesla being worth a lot of money and being worth basically zero.”)

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Baidu Has China’s First Permits For Fully Driverless Robotaxi Services

China’s first fully autonomous, commercial robotaxi rides — with no safety drivers — are about to open for public passengers in Wuhan and Chongqing, marking an inflection point for one of the key technological revolutions of the 21st century. New Atlas reports: The two newly-issued permits allow Baidu to charge for driverless rides within a 13-sq-km (5-sq-mi) area in Wuhan, between 9 am and 5 pm, and within a larger 30-sq-km (11.6-sq-mi) zone in Chonqing’s Yongchuan district between 9.30 am and 5.30 pm — so while they’re currently set to avoid peak hours, they’ll be mixing it up with plenty of daytime traffic. Each zone will run five 5th-generation Apollo cars, with remote drivers ready to assume control if the vehicles get themselves into any sticky situations. Home base will be watching closely through the cars’ camera systems, particularly in these early days.

Baidu’s Apollo Go is already the world’s biggest robotaxi company, with operations already live in all tier-one Chinese cities using the same 5th-gen car, with backup drivers on board. The company recently revealed its 6th-gen design, its first ground-up fully autonomous car for mass production. The Apollo RT6 will cost just RMB 250,000 (US$37,000) to manufacture, says Baidu, and its optional, removable steering wheel and generous, configurable cabin space will make it one of the first proper mobility pod-type services when it hits the streets commercially in 2023.

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Apple’s New Car Software Could Be a Trojan Horse Into the Automotive Industry

With Apple’s new CarPlay software announced in June, the company is “is diving deeper into its automotive ambitions, opening up the possibility to enter into a multibillion segment of the auto industry that’s growing quickly: The ability to sell additional services and features to car owners,” reports CNBC. From the report: The auto industry faces an unappealing choice: Offer CarPlay and give up potential revenue and the chance to ride a major industry shift, or spend heavily to develop their own infotainment software and cater to an potentially shrinking audience of car buyers who will purchase a new vehicle without CarPlay. […] Industry observers believe carmakers need to embrace software services — and look at Apple’s offering with skepticism — or risk getting left behind. “It’s a really difficult time in the industry, where the car companies think they’re still building cars. They’re not. They’re building software on wheels, and they don’t know it, and they’re trading it away,” said Conrad Layson, senior analyst at AutoForecast Solutions.

The new version of CarPlay could be a huge emerging revenue engine for Apple. First, if a user loves the iPhone’s CarPlay interface, then they’re less likely to switch to an Android phone. That’s a strategic priority for Apple, which generates the majority of its revenue through hardware sales. Second, while the company doesn’t yet charge a fee to automakers or suppliers, it could sell services for vehicles the same way it distributes iPhone software. In June, Apple revealed that it has explored features that integrate commerce into the car’s cockpit. One new feature announced this summer would allow CarPlay users to navigate to a gas pump and pay for the fuel from the dashboard of the car, according to Reuters. Apple already generates tens of billions from the App Store, and stands to boost that if it ever decides to charge for services in cars…

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Will EVs Mean the End of AM Radio In Cars?

Some carmakers are leaving AM radios out of their new cars. They say it’s because of audio quality, but it isn’t that simple. James Gilboy writes via The Drive. From the report: BMW and Volvo told me it was due to audio quality problems rooted in electromagnetic interference, of which EVs’ drivetrains produce a significant amount. Cars’ engines and other complex electronics have always made EM interference, but low-wattage static is relatively easy to shield against. It’s not as simple with EVs that may pull hundreds of watts from their batteries, generating far more interference, reducing audio quality to a level both BMW and Volvo told me they consider insufficient. But it’s hard to take them at their word when EVs are built with AM radios and in no small numbers. Detroit’s Three — Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis — have produced or currently make EVs that include AM radio, even on flagship models. That goes for the Ford F-150 Lightning and Mustang Mach-E, GM EVs from the Cadillac Lyriq to the Chevy Bolt EUV and GMC Hummer EV, and even Stellantis’s almost-forgotten Fiat 500e. Clearly, some carmakers don’t think EM interference is a problem, and some EV owners agree. One user of an EV forum user said that AM radio “works fine” in their 500e and older Chevy Bolt.

We contacted all three of Detroit’s giants for why they continue to include AM radios when some European makes have phased them out, but the answer establishes itself across those very same lines. AM radio has fallen out of favor in Europe, with Radio Info reporting in 2015 that stations were shutting down en masse from France to the Netherlands and Russia. The frequency has largely been superseded by the DAB format, which is a more advanced form of radio broadcasting with better audio quality and choice of stations. AM radio stations and their listeners are all but gone in Europe, so European carmakers may not need to include technology that many of its customers can’t use.

In the U.S., on the other hand, radio remains a must for car buyers, with 89 percent of responders in a 2021 survey stating radio should be standard in new cars. That makes radio even more important to U.S. car buyers than USB ports, which only 84 percent said were necessary. AM audiences were in rapid decline as of a 2017 report by Inside Radio, but not to enough a degree for American carmakers to leave AM radios out of their products. It’s not hard to figure out why AM’s holding on here, either: AM signals travel further than FM broadcasts do and are cheaper to transmit, allowing them to cater to audiences in sparsely populated areas. Audio quality can’t compare, but that’s secondary to having anything to listen to at all in some parts of the continental United States.

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