Leading the News
GM Says Next-Gen Electric Cars To Cost Less, Go Farther.
The AP (11/15, Krisher) reports General Motors CEO Mary Barra told investors that GM’s next generation of EVs, in the AP’s words, “will cost the company 30 percent less than current ones, making them profitable after the new version debuts in 2021.” Barra’s comments came during “the Barclay’s Global Automotive Conference in New York on Wednesday.” Barra also said “she expects to cut battery cell cost from $145 per kilowatt hour of electricity to under $100 in four years, yet produce a range of over 300 miles because batteries will store more energy. Currently the Chevrolet Bolt electric car can go up to 238 miles on a single charge, among the longest-range EVs on the market.”
According to Bloomberg News (11/15, Welch), the company “is forecasting it will sell 1 million electric vehicles per year by 2026 and thinks it can do what Tesla Inc. hasn’t – sell them at a profit.” The company is working on new battery cells it says will reduce the cost to “less than $100 per kilowatt hour, from $145 in the Chevrolet Bolt, Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra said Wednesday.” Barra said, “We believe we are leading the industry in battery development. We are planning for a future electric vehicle portfolio that will be profitable.” She then “showed that GM will be selling seven different electric sport utility vehicles, two passenger cars and a commercial van,” along with a teaser showing a “shared self-driving vehicle.” According to spokesman Ray Wert, GM would use the self-driving vehicle as part of some sort of mobility service, rather than selling it.
Reuters (11/15, Lienert, Carey) reports electric and autonomous vehicles “are widely seen as the keystones of future transport, but Tesla, Ford Motor Co and other manufacturers are still working out how to make money on them.” However, GM is trying “to break out of that pattern by developing an all-new electric vehicle platform that will accommodate multiple sizes and segments, to be sold by different GM brands in the United States and China, Barra said, adding new details to GM’s aggressive electrification strategy.”
The Detroit (MI) Free Press (11/15, Gardner) offers similar coverage.
New Harvey Mudd Engineering Intro Course Focuses On Underwater Robotics.
Contributor Maria Klawe writes in a piece for Forbes (11/15) that the Harvey Mudd College engineering department “recently undertook a major redesign of its lecture-based introductory engineering course, E 59, and boosted student interest and excitement. The new course, E 79, teaches the same concepts, with the same rigor, but embeds the theory within an exciting, real-world context—underwater robotics, an area rich with cutting-edge, interdisciplinary applications.” The course links theory directly to students’ design, construction, and testing of underwater robots.
ED OIG Objects To Delay Of Obama-Era Higher Education Protections.
Politico Morning Education (11/15, Hefling) reports ED’s Office of Inspector General has “internally objected” to “delay of Obama-era regulations aimed at curbing abuses by for-profit colleges,” taking issue with the “postponement of certain provisions of the ‘gainful employment’ and ‘borrower defense to repayment’ rules.” Inspector General Kathleen Tighe “wrote that her office recognized the authority of a new administration to set new policy, but expressed concerns about the delay of specific provisions that were aimed at combating waste, fraud and abuse in the student aid programs or protecting taxpayers.”
More Than Half Of New York City Students Continue Education After High School.
Chalkbeat (11/15) reports that according to new data from the New York City Education Department, “nearly 60 percent of New York City students continued their education after high school last year, maintaining an upward trend.” Of the most recent cohort of graduates, “57 percent went on to enroll in college, vocational programs, or ‘public-service programs’ such as the military,” a two-percent increase from the previous year.
NYTimes Analysis: House Bill Would Hit Colleges, Universities, Students.
The New York Times (11/15, Green, Subscription Publication) reports that the House bill “would tax the value of college tuition benefits conferred on thousands of university employees” in “one of several provisions that would hit colleges, universities and their students, hard.” While Republicans “eliminated many individual tax breaks, arguing the overall plan would compensate for any lost benefits” the result is that although “many families and businesses would see tax cuts, a large percentage of undergraduates and graduate students would see their tax bills increase, some dramatically.”
Research and Development
NCI Gives Three Universities $8 Million To Study AI Imaging Technology.
DOT Med News (11/13, Fischer) reports the National Cancer Institute has given Stony Brook University, Emory University, and the University of Arkansas an $8 million grant “for the development of a test bed involving the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence, for the analysis of radiology and pathology images to better enhance cancer treatment.” Researchers will collaborate “to develop datasets and tools to support precision medicine research projects that aim to classify patients into specialized cohorts based on susceptibility to particular diseases, the prognosis of the diseases they may develop and their response to a specific treatment.”
New York Gives Cornell $15 Million For High-Intensity X-Ray Source.
The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette (11/15) reports that New York is giving Cornell University $15 million for its “Cornell High Energy Synchotron Source.” The school “will use the funding to invest in capital improvements at CHESS.” The piece explains that CHESS is “a high-intensity x-ray source that provides world-class x-ray facilities to researchers from across the nation and around the world.”
University Of Utah Researchers Develop Prosthetic Hand With Sense Of Touch.
The Chicago Tribune (11/15) reports that last year Keven Walgamott, who lost his hand in an accident 14 years ago, “heard about a team at the University of Utah working on an experimental robotic arm” that would be “controlled by an amputee’s own nerves” and would “restore the sense of touch to amputees through that robotic hand.” Researchers “created a computer program to simulate the feel of touching a virtual wall.” The team presented its work at the Society for Neuroscience conference in Washington on Tuesday.
Canadian Company To Debut Kit Bringing Self-Driving Technology To Older Cars.
The Globe and Mail (CAN) (11/14, Nowak) reports Toronto-based X-Matik Inc. is “launching a test version of its first commercial product – LaneCruise, an add-on kit that promises to turn virtually any existing car into a partly autonomous vehicle for less than $3,000,” this month. The product includes “an LCD interface that houses a forward-looking camera,” a processor beneath the driver seat, and “actuators, attached to the steering wheel and pedals.” According tot eh Globe and Mail, “LaneCruise is much like an advanced form of cruise control, since it helps a vehicle maintain a set distance and speed behind another car. The driver, however, has to continue paying attention to the road.” Although the system is also capable of lane changes, “the function won’t be included initially in the beta kit, which is being limited to 200 units to buyers in Ontario,” because “the company wants to gather further data from test users to see if additional cameras need to be installed around the vehicle before a planned full launch next year.”
Tesla To Unveil All-Electric Truck On Thursday.
In continuing coverage, Business Insider (11/15, Thompson) reports that Tesla will unveil its first all-electric truck on Thursday. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the company was working with major truck companies to design the truck. Tesla may announce some of the partners at the unveiling event. According to Morgan Stanley analysts, the partners may include large truck carriers and shippers, such as Schneider National, XPO, and FedEx.
Bloomberg News (11/15, Randall) reports that one way of assessing Tesla’s truck ambitions would to be to see if the truck features sleeping cabins. The article explains that sleeping cabins are usually in “over-the-road” trucks that can handle “multi-day driving stretches.” Trucks without sleeping cabins have a range of less than 400 miles and are “likely meant for local and regional deliveries, the sort of thing done by UPS and FedEx or the type of hub-and-spoke model used by giant retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to move goods from distribution centers to stores or warehouses.”
The Chicago Tribune (11/15, Durbin) suggests that electric trucks like Tesla’s “won’t replace diesel-powered trucks in big numbers until they overcome costs and other limitations.” According to the piece, most electric trucks on the road are likely to be “medium-duty vehicles like delivery vans or garbage trucks.” The article adds that companies are experimenting with electric vehicles in an effort to “meet their own sustainability goals and figure out the optimal mix for their fleets.” Scott Phillippi, UPS’s Senior Director of Maintenance and Engineering for international operations, said that UPS currently has 300 electric trucks in its global fleet of 100,000 vehicles. Phillippi added that UPS has a goal of having 25 percent of its fleet be made up of alternative fuel vehicles by 2020.
Wired (11/15, Stewart) also reports on the story.
Astronomers Discover New Exoplanet Near Solar System.
The AP (11/15, Dunn) reports that astronomers at the La Silla Observatory in Chile discovered a new exoplanet “about the size of Earth, where a year lasts just under 10 days.” The findings were reported yesterday by a team “led by the University of Grenoble Alps’ Xavier Bonfils.” Ross 128 b is just 11 light-years away from Earth, and “is the second-closest planet to be detected yet outside our solar system with surface temperatures potentially similar to ours.” The planet is “very near” to its star, but “doesn’t get broiled because the red dwarf star is cool. The star is also quiet, meaning no radiation flare-ups,” which may be “encouraging news for seekers of extraterrestrial life,” as the planet is believed to border its sun’s habitable zone.
The New York Times (11/15, Chang, Subscription Publication) reports that the research was published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. NASA Senior Interferometry Scientist William Danchi said of Ross 128 b: “There is potential for an atmosphere and hence habitability, but it is highly uncertain. This is an important discovery and well worth many follow-up studies.”
Chinese Military Begins Work On Hypersonic Wind Tunnel.
Newsweek (11/15, O’Connor) reports that the Chinese military “has begun construction on the world’s fastest wind tunnel, a device that would allow the country to test hypersonic aircraft capable of challenging the U.S.’s own ultra-high-speed attack power.” The technology could “give Beijing an edge in a crucial military technology.” The facility “would reportedly be able to test future-generation aircraft that attain speeds of around 7.5 miles per second and reach the U.S.’s West Coast in about 14 minutes.”
Engineering and Public Policy
California Could Limit Autonomous Vehicle Maker Liability.
The AP (11/15, Liedtke) reports that “California regulators are embracing a General Motors recommendation that would help makers of self-driving cars avoid paying for accidents and other trouble, raising concerns that the proposal will put an unfair burden on vehicle owners.” California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has drafted regulations that “would protect these carmakers from lawsuits in cases where vehicles haven’t been maintained according to manufacturer specifications.” The move could create “a loophole for automakers to skirt responsibility for accidents, injuries and deaths caused by defective autonomous vehicles, said Armand Feliciano, vice president for the Association of California Insurance Companies.” Consumer Watchdog believes former NHTSA chief counsel Paul Hemmersbaugh, who now serves as chief counsel for the GM division that oversees self-driving cars, “plied the connections he made at the California DMV while working at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to insert the clause that could make it easier for self-driving carmakers to avoid liability.”
Bill Supporting Female Aerospace Careers Introduced In US House.
The Houston Chronicle (11/14, Urban) reports that Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) “teamed up with California Republican Steve Knight last week on legislation aimed at attracting more girls to consider careers in the aerospace industry.” The Women in Aerospace Education Act – HR 4254 – encourages universities participating in the “Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program to incorporate aerospace engineering working and learning experiences at the National Laboratories and NASA Centers into their [students’] teacher training experience.” Esty argued that America “simply cannot meet our aerospace workforce needs unless we empower and equip more young women to enter this exciting field.” Knight added, “Creating a large and diverse pool of talent for our aerospace industry just makes sense.” Esty and Knight “say the future teachers may inspire their own students to pursue such a career.”
Senate Committee Votes To Open Alaska Reserve To Drilling.
Reuters (11/15, Gardiner) reports, “Oil drilling in a vast Alaskan wildlife refuge moved a step closer to reality on Wednesday after the US Senate energy and natural resources panel voted 13-10 to open part of the reserve coveted by conservationists.” Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), a supporter of the measure and Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction on the issue, “says drilling in the refuge is needed to provide jobs and boost the country’s resource base,” adding that drilling on the reserve will be done “the right way.” The AP (11/15, Daly) reports that “opening the remote refuge to oil and gas drilling is a longtime Republican priority.” It quotes Murkowski saying that allowing drilling on the refuge “will help keep energy affordable, saving families and businesses money every time they pay for fuel — essentially an energy tax cut.” Bloomberg News (11/15, Dlouhy) reports that “the estimated $1.1 billion in federal revenue it will generate over the next decade offsets proposed tax cuts, binding it to the Republicans’ high-priority overhaul effort and setting it up to pass the Senate on a simple majority vote.” The Houston Chronicle (11/15, Dlouhy) reports drilling could provide a new source of oil for the Trans Alaska Pipeline System, helping to sustain its economic viability as production on the North Slope declines. However, it is not clear if energy companies are eager to move into the Arctic. The high cost of operations in the remote region discourage drilling as cheap shale projects in Texas and North Dakota provide a surge of oil. Alaska Dispatch News (11/15, Herz) reports Alaska would get half the proceeds from the federal leasing program, which the CBO estimates could total $1.1 billion over the next decade.
The Washington Examiner (11/15, Siegel) reports a number of Democratic amendments to the bill failed, as Sen. Maria Cantwell challenged the purpose and process of the legislation. Cantwell said, “It really does turn regular order on its head. … We are being asked to consider legislation that is different than previous bills [that tried to allow drilling in ANWR], and has not been subject to single hearing. At its core, the [bill] would change current law and turn the refuge into a petroleum reserve.” However, Murkowski said, “When [the refuge] was created, it specifically said this area right here [the 1002 area] is recognized for its potential and if Congress authorizes it, the coastal plane can be developed for oil and gas. We don’t change the purpose for which ANWR itself was created.” The Huffington Post (11/15, D’Angelo) reports Sen. Bernie Sanders said future generations will look at the hearings and say “what world was the United States Senate living in” as it pushed for fossil fuel development “at a time of devastating damage done by climate change.” Sanders said, “You’re talking about raising a billion dollars here. … I’m talking about the United States government spending hundreds of billions of dollars repairing damage, which, to a significant degree, not totally, had to do with climate change. And the scientists tell us the worst is yet to come.”
E&E Publishing (11/15, Subscription Publication), E&E Publishing (11/15, Subscription Publication), E&E Publishing (11/15, Subscription Publication), and KTUU-TV Anchorage (AK) Anchorage, AK (11/15, Polk) also provided coverage.
New Blackout Hits Puerto Rico Hours After Governor Promotes Recovery.
Bloomberg News (11/15, Levin) reports that “a new power outage hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday, immobilizing parts of the San Juan area.” The Puerto Rican power utility said in a statement that “a technical problem in a plant was responsible for the outage.” Earlier in the day, “Governor Ricardo Rossello had told his 140,000 Twitter followers that the Puerto Rican power utility had reached a short-term goal of getting power output back to 50 percent of normal levels.” The AP (11/15, Danica Coto) reports “the failure caused the U.S. territory’s power generation to drop to 22 percent, though it had improved slightly to 29 percent by early evening.” The Washington Examiner (11/15) also provides coverage of this story.
West Virginia District Leaders Focused On STEM Education.
The Beckley (WV) Register-Herald (11/15) reports that a recent meeting of the Raleigh County Board of Education and Local School Improvement Councils from area schools focused largely on STEM education. School leaders described students’ study of robots and drones, and how curriculum has been focused to goal- and project-based learning.
South Carolina Elementary Teacher Integrates STEAM Into Daily Curriculum.
The Greenwood (SC) Index-Journal (11/15) (11/15)profiles Amanda Brown, a teacher at Westwood Elementary School in Abbeville, South Carolina, who this year “decided to focus her gifted and talented class on STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and math. Some of her lessons are simply about problem-solving, while others often tie in science or art.” Each multi-day lesson “incorporates seven steps: ask what is the problem, research to learn more, imagine possible solutions, come up with a plan, put the plan into action, improve the plan and present the findings to classmates.”
American Enterprise Institute Study Says CTE Courses Should Help College-Bound, Non-College-Bound Students.
The Seventy Four (11/15) reports that a new study from the American Enterprise Institute says that “career and technical education — in decades past a way to steer some students into poor quality training for a trade instead of college — in its more current version can now boost high school graduation rates and give students essential skills before college.” The AEI fellow Andy Smarick says that a “good CTE program can be aimed at students who aren’t interested in going to college and want to go right into a trade, or those who intend to go straight through to a four-year university.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Puerto Rico Officials Defend Whitefish Energy Deal Before Congress.
• DeVos Touts Alternatives To Four-Year College.
• Texas A&M Researchers Working On Surfing Robot To Study Hurricane Impact.
• Google Rolls Out Multi-Region Support For Cloud Spanner Database.
• Aerospace Industries Association Chief Touts CTE Bill.
• Rice University Study Examines Relationship Between Faith, STEM Education.