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Las Vegas expands its self-driving shuttle tests this week

Las Vegas’ initial self-driving shuttle trial clearly went well, as the city is coming back for another round. AAA and Vegas are launching a year-long trial on November 8th that will see one of Navya’s shuttles drive a half-mile circuit in the downtown Fremont East district. It’ll only make three stops each way, and it’ll putter about at typical speeds between 10MPH and 15MPH, but it’ll give you a chance to see how driverless mass transit works in real life for extended periods. The city has fitted traffic signals with wireless sensors to help them coordinate with the shuttle as it navigates the streets.

You’ll also have an incentive to board. AAA is promising to donate $1 to the Las Vegas Victim’s Fund for every passenger, with a minimum $100,000 pledge.

This isn’t a bold commitment to self-driving technology given the modest route. It’s going to be a long, long while before you can take a robotic ride to see a lounge show on the Strip. However, a successful test could make the case for more permanent rollouts both in Vegas and across the US. There could come a time where you can take an autonomous shuttle whenever you need it — not just when human drivers are available.

Via: The Verge

Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal

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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