Category Archives: Transportation

Apple and Google installing contact tracing feature on all phones over next few weeks

Apple and Google, which built APIs for apps to use to do contact tracing have switched plans – rather than rely on third party apps to implement the feature, both companies will roll out contact tracing apps to all phones over the next few weeks (except possibly slightly older phones which seem to rarely get any updates).

Supposedly you will be able to opt out.

Source: Apple, Google: Contact tracing to become standard smartphone feature

As I have described extensively on this blog, these apps will have a high false positive and false negative rate due to fundamental limitations of the technology. Additionally, these apps are unable to detect contacts across time. Example – someone with (unknown) Covid-19 sits outside at Starbucks, coughs on the table once, then leaves. You then come along and sit in that seat and your hands touch the table. The app cannot detect this simple scenario. (Or replace the table with a bus or train seat…) Similarly, someone sits on the opposite side of a window from you, tests positive, so you receive an alert – even though you are outside and separated by a window.

The systems require that you have a smart phone and the phone be turned on, with Bluetooth enabled. Many public schools, where students sit in close quarters for extended period of time, require that student phones be turned off during class hours, thus missing many potential Covid-19 contacts. Similarly, I have been told (by someone in the know but not independently verified) that up to 20% of confirmed cases in my state are of residents of institutions (such as prisons) where smart phones are prohibited.

Researchers have also noted that while the tracing app itself does not retain your location information, Android does, and forwards that information to Google for other uses.

There have been no controlled or randomized controlled trials of the technology – yet it will be used for a life safety critical function with large ramifications including putting you in quarantine for two weeks – or missing potential infectious contacts that could give a false sense of security.

Some researchers claim it can find some cases if as few as 15% of people use the app (.15 x .15 = 2.25% of cases are then detectable). That low figure must be compared to the problems of false positives and negatives that I note, above. Several countries that have tried using Bluetooth based contact tracing apps have found so few cases that they concluded it was not worth the trouble.

The system is less likely to produce useful results without human contact tracers and tracing. In my state, up 75% of contacts, as of last month, were untraceable. The states said this is because people had been in large group settings (like protests) where human-based contact tracing is impossible or because people are no longer cooperating with public health. A phone based app might detect potential contacts but will those using the app change their behavior?

The latter could be because public health has damaged their own credibility with inconsistent, contradictory, and frequently incoherent messaging.

The Adjustment Factor Tesla Uses to Get Its Big EPA Range Numbers

EPA mileage estimates are sort of bizarre. In EVs, once the range is 200+ miles, the more important factor is probably speed of fast recharging and availability of DC fast charging networks.

But looking at the “range” value is probably what most consumers focus on when making decisions. Tesla has mastered the “Adjustment factors” to get higher EPA ratings.

Source: The Adjustment Factor Tesla Uses to Get Its Big EPA Range Numbers

I used an online tool to calculate charging options for several EVs traveling over a specific route. One model, we will call Model 1, required 3 stops for 30 minutes each, plus one stop for about 45 minutes, to reach the destination. It’s maximum charging rate is about 50 kwh. That’s just over 2 hours of charging time.

One of the other cars is the Tesla Model 3 – which has access to high current DC fast charging stations along the route at up to 150 kwh.

Clearly, the Model 3 can be re-charged at a much faster rate than the “Model 1”.

In fact, the Model 3 required about three 10-12 minutes DCFS stops at 150 kwh stations, followed by one 25 minute charge near the end.

“Model 1” had over 2 hours of charging time on the route while the Model 3 had just under one hour.

The ability of the vehicle to accept the truly high powered chargers – and the availability of fast charging networks at high current makes a big difference.

Another factor is EVs do their fastest charging in sort of the bottom half of the battery capacity. Once the charge cycle refills past 50-60%, the charge rate starts to drop. It takes longer – a lot longer – to charge up the last 20% than it did to charge from 20-40%!

This means you’ll recharge to 70%, drive down to 20%, recharge back to 70% – and so on, to minimize charge time. But that is only possible if DC fast chargers are located in the right places along your route.

Battery capacity, the charging rate and charge curve, and availability of fast charging stations – all factor into your ability to drive long distances in a given amount of time.

I’ve concluded a charge rate of at least 75 kwh is going to be an important feature to make EVs practical for my sort of long distance travel here in the west where distances can be quite long. The vehicles charging rate, the charging curve, and your availability of fast chargers should all be considered when evaluating EVs.

Setting up Thrustmaster Rudder Pedals with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

Select “Controls”, then “T-Rudder” (should already appear in the Controls list – may have to scroll to the right)

Set the control options as follows:

Left Brake Axis Joystick L-Axis X
Check Reverse Axis box

Right Brake Axis Joystick L-Axis Y
Check Reverse Axis box

Rudder Axis Joystick L-Axis Z

Took me a long time to find this solution. To turn off Auto rudder coordination, press Shift + Ctrl + U (I did that during flight). You need to turn off Auto rudder coordination in order to use the actual rudder pedals with the simulator.

Air freight networks tackling the logistics of transporting refrigerated vaccines

A couple of days ago, there was the usual doom and gloom reporting about how it might not be possible to transport vaccines requiring very cold temperature storage. The story was silly since transporting cold stored goods has been around a long time – the only issue is the scale required.

Not surprisingly, all of the air freight companies are building solutions for both storage, transport and distribution.

Logistics providers are lining up equipment and transportation capacity as they gear up for the rapid delivery of millions of doses of potential coronavirus vaccines around the world.

Source: From ‘Freezer Farms’ to Jets, Logistics Operators Prepare for a Covid-19 Vaccine – WSJ

Honda introduces the Honda e, an electric vehicle targeted at city driving (mostly)

The model will only be sold in Europe and Japan, where it goes on sale in late October. Honda expects annual sales of only around 10,000 in Europe, and 1,000 at home, where it will also introduce the model into its car-sharing fleet.

The automaker said it had no plans to market the car in North America or China, its biggest markets where SUVs dominate.

Source: Honda goes small with first mass-produced all-electric car – Reuters

Car makers have successfully persuaded the U.S. consumers that bigger is better – people only buy huge SUVs and pick up trucks in the U.S.

VW has introduced the ID.3 EV but it will not be available in the U.S., either.

Instead, VW will launch the ID.4 next month – a larger (mini SUV?) electric vehicle.

Too bad for those of us in the U.S. I drive a compact Honda Fit and love it. Would not mine having a future EV that is a similar size. The Bolt EV is nearly a clone of the Honda Fit – but limits its charge rate to about 50-55 kwh, and ratchets down the charging rate after about 50-60% of battery charge is reached. That means taking a Bolt EV on a long distance trip requires twice as much charging time as other options that accept 100 kwh or higher charging power.

Hyperventilating: “The Dirty Secrets Of ‘Clean’ Electric Vehicles”

Sort of correct but said with an axe to grind approach:

The widespread view that fossil fuels are “dirty” and renewables such as wind and solar energy and electric vehicles are “clean” has become a fixture of mainstream media and policy makers of all persuasions. But, in the case of EVs, the dirty secrets of “clean energy” should seem apparent to all.

Source: The Dirty Secrets Of ‘Clean’ Electric Vehicles

  1. EV batteries require mining of raw materials, many of which come from economically poor countries with abusive labor practices. Rather than criticize what is, this seems to be an opportunity to create economic opportunities and as their economy grows, to address local corruption and labor practices.
  2. The author correctly notes that much of the life time energy consumption in a vehicle occurs during the manufacturing stage. Switching from gas-powered to electric-powered does not have as large an impact as many think. I have previously written about that. You are generally better off continuing to put more miles on your existing car, especially if you already drive a small or fuel efficient vehicle.
  3. For many EVs, the underlying power source is a fossil-fueled power plant. That is the case where I live – where 70% of our utility’s power generation is from (mostly) coal and some natural gas. That’s why we chose to put in solar PV at our house rather than purchase an EV. Our solar PV directly offsets that 70% of our local power company’s fossil fuel. And because we have become so economical with our electricity usage, we have a sufficient surplus of solar PV to recharge a future EV on site.
  4. EV subsidies are regressive. This is absolutely true. It is surprising the number of regressive tax policies that exist. For example, health insurance is deductible by employers – and the higher the pay of the employees, the greater the value of the tax subsidy. However, for many current EVs, the tax subsidy has already gone away once the manufacturer produced a certain number of vehicles.

The author of the above is not really wrong, but is hyperventilating with an axe to grind. They are real issues but most are fixable.

AM radio getting killed off by electric vehicles?

Newer Tesla EVs and the BMW i3 do not provide AM radios. The Bolt EV does but there are reports that reception may be poor (they might be using an attenuator to knock down electric motor noise).

In addition to the potential electrical noise problem of EVs, car makers want to push you into a monthly subscription for Sirius Radio via satellite. Or to stream radio via cellular data. Unfortunately I live in the eastern half of a state that has very, very, very limited cellular service coverage – literally, half the state is a cellular free hole – no service.

An estimated 31 million Americans tuned into AM radio every day in 2016.

The next logical step may be to remove FM radio support. They will require you use cellular data streaming or satellite radio.

The argument is that AM is “old” technology and should just go away. They don’t care what actual customers and consumers think.

Source: Radio Reception | Chevy Bolt EV Forum

Why does a GM web page feature a Tesla charging port?

Why does a GM web site page feature a Tesla and Tesla charging cable?

GM’s all-new modular platform and Ultium battery system will be the heartbeat of its all-electric future – making an electric vehicle available to everyone.

Source: National Engineers Week | General Motors

Here’s a screen shot from part of that General Motors page:

Here’s a shrunk image of a Tesla Model 3 charging port, from Motortrend and seen from the same angle.
Photo from

Does this imply GM will be adopting the Tesla charge port on future EVs?