Giant auto parts supplier Delphi is testing a fleet of self-driving cars in Singapore. According to theverge.com, by later this year you should be able to book a ride in a self-driving Audi cab there using your smartphone. Singapore had partnered earlier with MIT to advance self-driving research. There will initially be 3 fixed routes for 6 vehicles, all in the central business district. Delphi has already been testing an autonomous fleet in Silicon Valley, and plans to expand to other US locations and to Europe.
Solar City announced today that they have agreed to be acquired by Tesla for $2.6 billion. The majority shareholder of both is Elon Musk, who says it’s a necessary step in order to build what the companies are calling the world’s only vertically integrated sustainable energy company. Businessinsider.com says the deal may be finalized by the end of the year.
The version 2.0 Apple Watch will use a so-called One Glass Solution, and be thinner and lighter. Bgr.com reports that Apple will drop glass on glass to make more internal space…possibly for more components and bigger battery. Apple also plans to switch from and OLED display to Micro-LED, but that won’t make it into the Apple Watch 2…it’s expected in 2017. Most leaks point to the Apple Watch 2 being rolled out with cellular connectivity and a FaceTime camera along side the iPhone 7 in September.
The Apple Watch version 2.0 may have its own cell connection, which would allow it to operate without constant tethering to an iPhone. Macrumors.com also picked up from the Wall St Journal that the updated Watch may sport a faster processor as well and will drop in the fall. It would require its own cellular number and data plan, but that’s something a lot of users would be happy to pay for to be able to use it while leaving the phone in a bag, car, or even at home.
There’s been a lot of buzz in the last month about Tesla’s Model 3, which they began taking pre-orders for and which will have a base price of 35 grand. Now, according to bgr.com, Elon Musk says he’s already thinking about a 4th model…and he says it will be even more affordable than the model 3. At a meeting in Norway, Musk said ‘…with something like the Model 3, it’s designed such that roughly half the people will be able to afford the car. Then, with fourth generation and smaller cars, we’ll ultimately be in the position where everyone will be able to afford the car.”
According to usually reliable KGI Securities, Apple Watch shipments will drop 25% this year compared to last, and version 2.0 will be out third quarter. They say it’s mostly due to an ‘immature wearable device market.’ Meanwhile, Brian White, an Apple analyst with a somewhat more sketchy track record, says Watch 2 will be out at WWDC in June, be 40% thinner. Macrumors.com reports that both analysts look for a FaceTime video camera, better Wi-Fi, and better battery life.
Engineers in China have come up with a clever way to leach electricity from rain water in solar cells. According to gizmodo.com, they coat the cells with a thin sheet of graphene. Rainwater isn’t pure…it contains small amounts of a ammonium, calcium, and sodium, all of which ionize when in a solution. The graphene creates what the engineers call a ‘pseudo capacitor,’ where electrons move from one side to the other…presto! Electricity. At this point, the cells are only 6% efficient, while most solar cells are 20% efficient at converting sunshine to electricity, but still…6% is not bad for a cloudy, rainy day when the cells will be able to grab precious little solar energy.
With a second generation refresh of the Apple Watch expected out next year, 9to5mac.com says multiple sources are touting some features we will probably see on v. 2.0. Among those are a Face Time video camera built into the top bezel, and a new WiFi system for more iPhone independence. Insiders say you may be able to do most basic communication over WiFi without going through your iPhone. One thing not expected is more battery life. Apparently, Apple says most customers are happy with what the device now has. Did we mention they plan additional pricey premium models starting at over $1000?
On the subject of batteries, some researchers at Stanford have come up with a way to make lithium-ion batteries safer. As has been known, they can overheat and catch fire sometimes. Engadget.com reports the researchers have developed a chemical layer over the lithium anodes that prevents the finger like dendrites from growing out and shorting the battery. The barrier utilizes a mixture lithium nitrate and lithium polysulfide, for you chemistry nerds. A nice side effect is longer life. The treated batteries hold 99% efficiency for over 300 charges, compared with 150 cycles without. The breakthrough could lead to electric vehicles that could go days without a recharge.