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Tesla, Google, OSU cars in the news

Two of the 100 Supercharging stations are in Ohio.
Two of the 100 Supercharging stations are in Ohio.

A couple of weeks ago, Tesla Motors, Inc., the all-electric car company that manufacturers a pricey but spectacularly innovative product, cut a deal with Ohio lawmakers that allowed it to sell cars directly to Ohioans at three Buckeye showrooms.

OSU has again been selected for an auto engineering competition: EcoCAR 3
John Michael Spinelli

The deal, which avoided a fight with the state's automobile dealers association that balked at the California company's business model for direct sales, was a big win for a company that's on a crusade to both sell all-electric vehicles that can now cover more than 300 miles on a single charge and build out a recharging system that spans all corners of the nation with locations spaced about 100 miles apart.


Tesla announced that its 100th supercharger station is now open. There are now 86 supercharger stations in North America, 14 in Europe, and two in China, the company said last week. "Number 100 is another milestone in the rapid expansion of Tesla’s Supercharger network, making it possible for Model S owners to drive long-distance, for free, for life," it's announcement read. At a supercharger, a Model S can get up to 180 miles of range in as little as 20 minutes without having to pay a cent for gas or electricity.

Tesla's new network supports road trips on the most popular routes across America, it said, adding that Model S drivers have now charged enough at supercharging stations to circle the globe 573 times.


The Ohio State University, one of the nation's largest universities, also had important car news to announce: OSU has again been selected for an auto engineering competition: EcoCAR 3. A team of OSU students will participate in the upcoming Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC), EcoCAR 3. EcoCAR 3 is a four year collegiate automotive competition series sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors Company (GM).

Sarah Jadwin, Communications Manager for OSU EcoCAR 2 Team at the OSU Center for Automotive Research, reports that not only has OSU been a participant in AVTCs since 1990, but in previous competitions, the OSU team has been a championship contender, placing in the top five the past nine years.

The team is finishing the third and final year of the EcoCAR 2: Plugging In to the Future competition that challenges 15 universities to redesign a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu into a more environmentally friendly vehicle. Jadwin said the team will be traveling to GM's Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan, and on to Washington D.C. over the first two weeks in June for the final competition.

"The AVTC's mission is to encourage the development of alternative fuel technologies and advance propulsion, as well to provide students with professional, hands-on, systems-level engineering experiences," she said in a media release. During the next competition series, EcoCAR 3, students will use a Chevrolet Camaro donated by GM as the integration platform for their advanced vehicle design. Reducing the environmental impact of the vehicle while maintaining consumer acceptability, performance, utility, safety, cost and innovation are project goals. OSU and 15 other university teams will participate in the four year competition.


At Google, the little search company that morphed into a global media giant that is actively engaged in various projects that seem far afield to its beginnings, like self-driving cars, said it has shifted the focus of it's innovative self-driving car [SDC] project to mastering city street driving. On it's blog, Google said it's SDC have logged thousands of miles on the streets of Mountain View, CA it's its Googleplex campus is located. A mile of city driving is much more complex than a mile of freeway driving, with hundreds of different objects moving according to different rules of the road in a small area, it observed.

"We’ve improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously—pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn," Chris Urmson, Director, Self-Driving Car Project, said. She added that a self-driving vehicle can now pay attention "to all of these things in a way that a human physically can’t—and it never gets tired or distracted."

Urmson notes that thousands of different situations can now be taken into consider with software built to expect the unexpected, from a car stopping at a red light to it not stopping. Many problems remain to be solved, but thousands of situations on city streets that "would have stumped us two years ago can now be navigated autonomously."

Google's SDCs have now logged nearly 700,000 autonomous miles, Urmson said. "With every passing mile we’re growing more optimistic that we’re heading toward an achievable goal—a vehicle that operates fully without human intervention."

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