Leading the News
Toyota Leads Charge In Development Of Self-Driving Cars.
Reuters (1/5, Ingrassia, White) reports that automakers, rather than Silicon Valley tech companies, are leading the charge in the development of self-driving cars, according to patent data reported by Thompson Reuters’ Intellectual Property and Science Division. Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp is the global leader in self-driving car patents with twice as many as any other automaker or tech company, reports Reuters.
Ars Technica (1/5, Geuss) cautions that a company with more patents will not necessarily “have success in the autonomous driving market,” adding that the quality of these patents is also important.
CNET News (1/6) reports that Toyota will invest $1 billion dollars to fund the Toyota Research Institute dedicated to the development of artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles.
Chevy’s Bolt EV Designed With Ride-Sharing In Mind.
USA Today (1/5, Cava) reviews Chevy’s new Bolt electric car, reporting that it “doesn’t seem like a game changer,” but the vehicle which goes into production at the end of 2016 “has been designed specifically with ride-sharing in mind, executives say.” Pamela Fletcher, GM’s chief engineer for electric vehicles, says that “everyone wants to talk about tech, but we think it’s all about providing convenience to drivers and passengers in busy urban environments.”
ED Increases Colleges Under Heightened Cash Monitoring.
Inside Higher Ed (1/5) reports 540 colleges and universities are now under “heightened cash monitoring” from the ED over concerns that the institutions are mismanaging federal funds, up from 499 in September. Many of the newly added schools are for-profit institutions, including 16 campuses of the Marinello School of Beauty. Since September, 35 schools have been removed from the list of institutions under heightened cash monitoring.
Illinois Students Take More AP Exams, But Passage Rate Falls.
The Chicago Tribune (1/6, Rado) reports many Illinois high schools have increased the number of students who take AP exams and the total number of AP exams their students take, but their passage rates have fallen as a result. A new Illinois law that takes effect next year will require all public universities and community colleges to give college credit for any student who scores a 3 or higher on an AP exam, whereas currently many only give credit for students who score a 4 or a 5. Even with the new law many students will still fail to qualify for college credit.
Research and Development
DARPA Awards Northrop Phase 3 Of Tern UAS Program.
Seapower Magazine (1/5) reports that on Tuesday Northrop Grumman announced the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Office of Naval Research awarded the company the third phase of the Tern unmanned systems program. Phase three involves the inclusion of “final design, fabrication and a full-scale, at-sea demonstration of the system.” Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems vice president for research, technology and advanced design Chris Hernandez touted the company’s “unique ship-based unmanned systems experience, expertise, and lessons learned from programs including our MQ-8B/C Fire Scout, MQ-4C Triton, X-47A Pegasus and X-47B UCAS” in predicting the project will be successful.
Lockheed To Co-host STEM Conference Focusing On Diversity.
The Al Dia News (PA) (1/5, Johnson) reports that Lockheed Martin will co-host the 30th annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) STEM Conference in February, in conjunction with US Black Engineer and Information Technology magazine and the Council of HBCU Engineering Deans. The conference will take place in Philadelphia, and aims “to address the inequities of diversity in technology and science as a means for increasing awareness, improving attitudes, and expanding opportunities for the current and future workforce.”
Keyless Vehicles Contain Possibly Deadly “Design Defect.”
NBC News (1/5, Weisbaum) reports that critics warn that keyless push-button ignition systems are flawed, and contain an “inherent design defect,” according to Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, that allows it to continue generate carbon monoxide if the drive forgets to turn it off. According to Kane, drivers need the keyless fob to start the vehicle, “but it plays absolutely no role in turning it off.” Janette Fennell, founder and president of the safety group KidsAndCars.org, cited at least 19 fatalities attributed to keyless ignition vehicles since 2009, plus 25 additional “close calls.” In December 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledged keyless vehicles posed a “clear safety problem” and proposed rules to require an alarm system to warn drivers who leave a car that’s still operating. There has been no further action since, but a NHTSA spokesman said the agency expects to issue a final rule mandating the warning alarm next month.
The Atlanta (GA) Journal-Constitution (1/6) adds that critics of the NHTSA’s proposal believe it’s not enough and advocate for an automatic shutoff. NHTSA said it did not propose an automatic shutoff because of cases where “a driver intends to leave some electrical system or the engine in the vehicle running without his or her presence,” such as allowing a car to warm up in cold weather or leaving a passenger with heat or air conditioning. New York City attorney Martis Alex has also “filed a class-action lawsuit against 10 car manufacturers who make vehicles with keyless entry but no automatic shut-off function.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Volkswagen Faces Up To $48 Billion In US Fines For Environmental Violations.
Reuters (1/6, Edwards, Prodhan) provides continuing coverage of the US Justice Department’s move to sue Volkswagen for up to $48 billion over defeat devices in diesel automobiles which allegedly violated environmental laws. Volkswagen shares fell to a six-week low in Tuesday trading.
Bershidsky: US Lawsuit Could Scare Volkswagen Out Of US. Leonid Bershidsky writes for Bloomberg View (1/5) that the US lawsuit against Volkswagen which seeks up to $46 billion, threatens the company with “such heavy penalties that, in hindsight, it may not have been worth it for Volkswagen to be present in the U.S. market at all.” Bershidsky writes that “punitive damages are clearly a big part of the punishment the government wants to mete out,” as the actual damage done by Volkswagen is about $16.8. Foreign companies “don’t get much pity when caught breaking US laws,” Bershidsky writes, pointing to BP over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and BNP Paribas over violating US sanctions. “It’s up to the courts now to be more reasonable.”
Methane Emissions May Be Targeted In Brown’s Budget Proposal.
The Sacramento (CA) Bee (1/6, Miller, Siders) reports that Gov. Jerry Brown will release his 2016 budget proposal on Thursday which is “unlikely to include big new policy proposals.” Brown could seek to build on the momentum of the Paris climate deal by possible targeting potent pollutants, including methane, black carbon and fluorinated gases. The Bee adds that “methane has come to the forefront in California with a massive natural gas leak in Southern California.”
Exelon Launches Counter To FirstEnergy Proposal In Ohio.
E&E Publishing (1/6) reports that Exelon, which has described an income-guarantee plan proposed by FirstEnergy in Ohio as “grossly lopsided,” said it is willing to offer a similar eight-year agreement that could cost $2 billion less and deliver up to 3,000 megawatts of emissions-free power. In testimony filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Lael Campbell, Exelon’s director regulatory and government affairs, said the company is making the offer “so that no one can misunderstand the gravity of the harm that would occur to Ohio customers” if the FirstEnergy agreement is accepted without a “competitive process.” Exelon said its offer is good for six months, but doesn’t say where it would source the generation for Ohio.
Appalachian Power Seeks To Add More Wind Power.
The AP (1/6) reports Appalachian Power is hoping “to add more wind power to its energy portfolio.” Appalachian Power “is seeking proposals that would allow it to own one or more wind projects, or purchase the energy under long-term agreements.” The company is “seeking up to 150 megawatts of wind within West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky,” as well as from other states. Appalachian Power “has set a Jan. 29 deadline for pre-qualification forms.”
DOE Moving Forward With Ceiling Fan Efficiency Rules.
The Hill (1/5, Devaney) reports the Department of Energy is advancing new ceiling fan efficiency rules. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE “announced Tuesday it will strengthen the energy conservation standards for ceiling fan light kits.” The agency “estimates the rule will cost manufacturers $6.4 million to comply with – but it will also save consumers a significant amount of energy, as well as up to $660 million over the lifetime of the rule.” The new rule will “go into effect in 60 days.”
Verizon Donates Money To Maryland School For STEM Education.
In a video report on its website, WBAL-TV Baltimore (1/6, Tooten) reports that Verizon is donating $10,000 to Hillsmere Elementary School in Annapolis, Maryland to help fund STEM education.
Lego Education Launching New Robot Learning System For Kids.
Venture Beat (1/4, Takahashi) reports Lego Education is launching a new robot learning system called WeDo 2.0 to teach kids about STEM. Lego Education unveiled the new system at the 2016 International CES in Las Vegas and is aimed at elementary school students as a complement to their Lego Mindstorms robots, which are targeted at middle school and high school students.
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• US Sues Volkswagen Over Emissions-Cheating Devices.