GM scores a bestseller in China with $4,200 electric micro car

BEIJING — When 32-year-old photographer Jaco Xu needed a run-around car for work in the eastern city of Hangzhou, the price tag on the latest micro EV from GM’s China joint venture overcame his qualms about electric vehicles.

Xu paid 38,800 yuan ($5,735) for his tiny two-door Wuling Hong Guang MINI EV, while the basic model retails for just 28,800 yuan ($4,200), making it China’s cheapest EV.

“It feels pretty good. The price is so low and the appearance is simple and beautiful,” said Xu. “Why would I hesitate at that price?”

Launched in July, the Wuling MINI is heading a trend towards a new segment of EVs in China following changes to government subsidies — smaller vehicles with less range between charges, but a super-cheap price tag.

Despite basic features — no safety airbags, optional air-conditioning and a driving range of less than 200 km (125 miles) due to a smaller battery — buyers have been enthusiastic.

SGMW, GM’s venture with partners SAIC Motor Corp and Guangxi Automobile Group, sold about 15,000 of the vehicles in August, making it China’s top-selling EV for the month, surpassing Tesla’s popular Model 3.

The venture plans to expand manufacturing capabilities of the new model, turning out cars at its plant in Liuzhou as well as its existing facilities in Qingdao, said Zhou Xing, SGMW’s branding and marketing director.

“We positioned this model as a ‘people’s commuting tool’,” he said, speaking ahead of the Beijing auto show which starts on Saturday. “Customers can drive their cars to work every day.”

The target market includes people like Xu who are looking for a city-run around as a second car, rural buyers who want a vehicle to move goods and young first-time buyers who are motivated by price.


New segment

Total sales of new energy vehicles — including electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles — are expected to reach 1.1 million vehicles in China this year, about 5% of total auto sales.

The micro car represents a shift in what typifies a mainstream electric vehicle, as policymakers push for increased EV production and sales have been bolstered by restrictions on petrol-fuelled cars.

In response to government requirements to win generous EV subsidies, automakers over the past decade have developed higher energy-density battery systems to allow cars to drive for longer with a single charge.

Tesla’s Model 3, which has a range of over 400 km, has been the market leader in China for most of 2020, retailing for about $43,000, about 10 times the cost of the Wuling MINI.

However, China cut subsidies heavily in 2019 and is now asking for higher EV power efficiency to save energy. Automakers, in turn, are planning more smaller EVs with a moderate driving range aimed at customers who can charge cars easily, industry executives said.

The economics are skinny. Wuling MINI will not get EV subsidies due to its short range. For SGMW, the cheap price tag means it makes very little money at best, according to insiders familiar with the matter.

EVs, however, generate green credits for SGMW that can be used to offset negative credits of other companies like SGM, its sister venture which is expanding a lineup of bigger SUVs under Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac marques.

“Selling micro EVs in China makes more sense this year,” said a product planning official at a GM rival.

“Subsidies have become a less important factor of pricing as government has already cut a lot, while green credits are expected to become more expensive,” the official said.


Micro focus

Bidding to reverse a sales decline due to a slower economy and stiff competition, GM expects EVs to make up more than 40% of its new launches in China over the next five years.

The Detroit automaker is revamping plants in Shanghai, Wuhan and Liuzhou under its two Chinese JVs to enable production lines making gasoline cars to turn out EVs, public documents detailing its constructions plans show.

For now, the Wuling MINI is the cheapest EV, but it faces competition from the cheapest models from rivals BYD and BAIC BluePark.

Great Wall Motor and Toyota’s China partner GAC are also planning more electric models with a range below 400 km, company officials said this month.

And startup Kaiyun Motors is trying to radically lower the price of its new electric pickup truck Pixel to around 20,000 yuan for urban delivery services, although these EVs will be sold without batteries, allowing consumers to swap them.

“China is a huge market, any product with clear positioning can attract enough customers to survive,” said Kaiyun founder Wang Chao.


via Autoblog

September 26, 2020 at 07:47AM

Covid-19 Data Is Coming to Google Maps

While contact tracing flails in the U.S. thanks in part to government dysfunction, Google’s deploying a feature to at least help us avoid covid-19 hotspots. Sometime this week, Android and iOS users will be able to toggle on color-coded overlays in Google Maps, representing the concentration of positive cases on the country, state, city, and county level. You’ll be able to turn this feature on by clicking the “layers” icon (the one that looks like two small diamonds, stacked) and navigating to “COVID-19 Info.”

The numbers on each color-coded segment represent a seven-day average of new diagnoses per 100,000 people, with arrows indicating upward or downward trends. Google says it pulls data “where available” from Johns Hopkins, the New York Times, and Wikipedia (which itself pulls data from Johns Hopkins). News outlets have heavily relied on Johns Hopkins’s granular “near real time” global tracker with data gathered from a variety of governmental and non-governmental sources, which are listed on Github.

Google already has some covid-19 tools in Maps, like wait time trackers for testing centers based on users’ location data, alerts for covid-19-related transit restrictions and checkpoints, and previously-implemented crowd alerts.

Is it good to know where there are concentrations of new covid cases? Sure. Should you be traveling right now? Probably not. Our government fucked us, so get back inside. These feeds ain’t gonna doomscroll themselves.

via Gizmodo

September 24, 2020 at 11:15AM

Soon You Can Ask Alexa to Forget Everything You Ever Said

The newly announced Echo Show 10.
Image: Amazon

Privacy is the big thing that gives people the heebie-jeebies when it comes to digital assistants like Alexa. But at Amazon’s devices and services event today, the company announced it was expanding privacy settings with regard to voice recordings.

Later this year, you’ll be able to say, “Alexa, delete everything I’ve said.” According to Amazon, that command will then delete all previously saved voice recordings associated with your account. But, wait, didn’t Amazon already let you do that before? What gives?

Previously, you had to navigate through labyrinthian menu settings to find the page where you could review and delete any recordings. Then, in 2019, Amazon introduced the ability to say “Alexa, delete what I just said,” to erase your last request. You could say “Alexa, delete everything I said today.” While a nice improvement, it wasn’t completely foolproof. Gizmodo found that the feature was not only opt-in, it didn’t necessarily mean that all your recordings from a 24-hour time period would be deleted. Ostensibly, clarifying the prompt to, “Alexa, delete everything I’ve said,” leaves less wiggle room than trying to define what time period “today” refers to.

It also appears that Amazon is trying to somewhat simplify the whole process. You can now ask, “Alexa, how do I review my privacy settings?”, which will send you to a direct link in the Alexa app to the relevant page. Hopefully, this means you’ll never have to cry while looking at Amazon’s horribly crowded page menus again. You can also now “choose whether or not to save your voice recordings.” Amazon said in its event liveblog that if you opt for the latter, recordings will automatically be deleted once Alexa processes your request. It also says that “all previously saved recordings will also be deleted.”

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But it’s possible there’s a catch. Last July, Amazon confirmed that it kept text transcripts of Alexa requests—even if a user had asked for those recordings to be deleted. Specifically, Amazon said at the time it kept text transcripts of Alexa requests to subscribe to things like Amazon’s music or delivery services, as well as other requests like ordering pizza, setting alarms, and scheduling calendar events. Gizmodo has reached out to Amazon to clarify whether this applies to the updated “delete everything” command. We’ll update if and when we hear back.

Why does Amazon need voice recordings at all? The sad truth is voice assistants still cock things up on the regular when it comes to understanding human voices. Just ask Siri.

But regardless of whether you believe Alexa actually will delete everything you’ve ever said to it, making it easier for people to review their settings is always a good thing. If you really, really, really don’t want Big Tech to have your voice data, your best bet is not buying into digital assistants at all.

via Gizmodo

September 24, 2020 at 01:27PM

Amazon is making a Ring flying camera drone and they made a really weird video to promote it

Because filling your home with cameras controlled by one of the largest companies in the world wasn’t enough, Amazon announced today they’re making a flying Ring camera drone that will actually be able to fly to where the action is. The video shows the camera flying to the world’s worst burglar, but I imagine the real use is so Amazon can spy on people having sex and maybe pooping. What, you thought you could just point your camera away from your bedroom and bathroom? No, no, no, my friend. There’s no escaping Mr. Bezos’ tiny flying camera and he prefers his videos both private and embarrassing.
Keep going for the full, weird, announcement video.

via Geekologie – Gadgets, Gizmos, and Awesome

September 24, 2020 at 03:38PM

Amazon Announces Luna, Another Cloud-Based Streaming Game Service

With two new physical gaming consoles less than a month and a half away from release, Amazon announces Luna, a new paid game streaming service aimed at allowing subscribers to play PC games remotely on computers, phones, and tablets. It’s sort of like Stadia with a slightly better controller.

By subscribing to Amazon Luna, now accepting sign-ups for early access at the introductory price of $5.99 per month, players gain access to a curated library of PC games called the Luna+ game channel. Games will be playable across a broad range of devices, including Fire TV, PC and Mac, and iOS devices (via a web-based app that bypasses Apple’s app store, via Engadget), with Android support available in the coming weeks.

Titles expected to be playable during early access on the Luna+ game channel include Resident Evil 7, Control, Panzer Dragoon, A Plague Tale: Innocence, The Surge 2, Yooka-Laylee and The Impossible Lair, Iconoclasts, GRID, ABZU, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and more.

Amazon also announced the first of many additional channels, the Ubisoft channel, which will include a selection of older Ubisoft games as well as day one access to new games like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. No word yet on how much subscriptions to additional channels, including Ubisoft’s, will cost.

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The coolest aspect of the service is the Luna controller. Instead of connecting to the device the player is playing on, it connects directly to Amazon’s cloud, lowering latency and allowing for fancy tricks like instantly swapping games between screens without losing control. That’s a cool innovation.

The rest sounds very Stadia: Unlimited play, some games will eventually be able to run in 4K, instant play via remote servers … we know this drill. If you’re interested in giving it a go, early access sign-ups for Luna are live now on Amazon’s landing page.

via Kotaku

September 24, 2020 at 01:53PM

Canoo turns its EV van platform into a go-kart to show off its technology

The startup electric car company Canoo made a splash with its bubbly minivan late last year. The company even attracted attention and investment from Hyundai. But the van part of the car isn’t necessarily the most important thing Canoo has developed. Instead, the skateboard platform is the key to Canoo, and to illustrate that, Canoo turned it into a a go-kart.

There’s no body on the Canoo platform, it’s solely the powertrain platform that underpins the minivan body the company developed. It contains all the batteries, motors, brakes and suspension needed for a car, so it’s completely drivable. It features two motors, a large rear one making 300 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, and a small front one making 200 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. To get the suspension to fit, Canoo uses transverse composite leaf springs, just like the Corvette has used for its rear suspension for decades. Range is about 250 miles. It sounds like it’s probably loads of fun to drive.

The point of this low, flat platform is that you can put just about any body on top of it. Canoo says it’s aiming to be able to develop new car models in a period of 18-24 months, since its cars will all use the same basic underpinnings. Adding to the flexibility are the by-wire controls for steering, throttle and brakes. It allows the driver seat to be placed anywhere in the car, or in this case, on the kart. Canoo also notes that the by-wire controls can be tuned for all variety of feel and responsiveness, too.

While this design should have plenty of benefit for Canoo itself, we also see enormous potential for kit car companies and coach builders. It’s just like a modern-day VW Beetle floor pan. You have the powertrain and suspension all bolted to a flat “frame” of sorts, and you just drop on whatever body you want. Want a sports car? Move the driver close to the middle, and drape a low, slinky shell on it. Need a really practical pickup truck? Move the driver all the way to the front, and turn the rest of it into open cargo space like a VW Bus-style pickup. The possibilities are quite exciting.

Of course, those possibilities depend on whether the platform becomes available to private owners. Canoo is starting out by offering its van on a subscription basis, not permanent ownership. The first ones are slated to be available in 2021 in Los Angeles and eight other large cities on each coast.

via Autoblog

September 24, 2020 at 11:55AM

Google Maps now shows you where covid-19 cases are spiking

The news: Google Maps has added a new feature that lets people see the number of covid-19 cases per 100,000 people for any given area, with a label indicating if cases are trending up or down. In a blog post, Google said the functionality will start rolling out worldwide on both Android and iOS this week. In the US the information goes down to the state and county level, but in Europe just the national figure is available for now, so the feature will be of very limited use.

How it works: You open Google Maps, click on the top right-hand corner of your screen, and click on “covid-19 info,” Google Maps product manager Sujoy Banerjee explains in the blog post. Color-coding makes it easy to see at a glance how many new cases each area is reporting.

Where’s the data from? Google says the data comes from “multiple authoritative sources,” including Johns Hopkins, the World Health Organization, health agencies, hospitals, the New York Times, and Wikipedia.

The purpose: A crucial part of coping in this pandemic has been assessing risk. The idea is that this new feature should make it easier for people to decide where it’s safe to go and assess the safety of different activities, like sending kids to school or going on vacation.

via Technology Review Feed – Tech Review Top Stories

September 24, 2020 at 05:26AM