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I thought the Tesla crash might derail self-driving cars. Then I took a ride in one

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — I’m sitting in the passenger seat of a modified Audi A7 going about 50 mph on a Washington freeway when the driver — an Audi engineer — takes his hands off the wheel. A strip of sky-blue LEDs just beneath the windshield lights up, the dashboard behind the steering wheel indicates the car is in “piloted” mode, and the steering wheel recedes slightly.

Now, and for the next five minutes or so, the car’s doing the driving.

As we pass an interchange, a sedan and an SUV move to merge into our lane. The Audi, nicknamed “Jack,” slows down on its own, giving the other cars enough room to merge safely. All the while the Audi engineer, Kaushik, doesn’t lift a finger — or a toe for that matter — to touch the wheel or the pedals. Read more…

More about Autopilot, Tesla, Audi, Autonomous Car, and Driverless Car
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Existing EV batteries could be recharged five times faster

Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick

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