Motorists soon will see the effects of President Donald Trump’s decision to kill a prominent Iranian general. Whether pump prices rise a little or a lot depends on how quickly international tensions intensify.
Florida gas prices climbed an average of 7 cents a gallon in the past three days and could increase an additional 5 cents, AAA – The Auto Club Group said Monday.
The 7-cent increase was coming even before the U.S. air strike Thursday that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. That hike was a result of a rise in the price of crude oil in December.
News of the targeted killing of Soleimani sent crude oil surging nearly $2 per barrel on Friday. An increase of that magnitude typically translates to a 5-cent hike at the pump, AAA said.
The U.S. benchmark for crude oil traded Monday just above $63 per barrel, the highest level since May 2019. The price of oil makes up about half the price of a gallon of gas.
“What happens in the Middle East can have a direct impact on Americans’ daily lives by influencing what they pay at the pump,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins. “Crude prices rise when there’s a threat of war, because of concerns over how the conflict could hamper supply and demand.”
Oil analyst Tom Kloza of energy firm OPIS agreed that pump prices in Florida likely will rise about 5 cents a gallon in the coming days.
“Then I have a hunch that things are going to calm down,” Kloza said Monday. “I don’t think we’re looking at $3 gas.”
The national average pump price Sunday was $2.585, while the Florida average was $2.526, AAA said.
Kloza expects only modest increases in part because of the timing of the attack. January is always a slow month for gas consumption in the United States.
There’s also the reality that sanctions leave Iran unable to export oil. Complicating the calculus is Iraq’s response to the U.S. attack. The drone strike on Soleimani took place in Baghdad, and some Iraqi politicians considered the assault an affront to Iraqi sovereignty.
While there’s no Iranian oil supply to be disrupted by a war, Iraq is an important producer.
Trump keenly watches oil prices and realizes that a price spike might erode his support in this year’s presidential election, Kloza said.
At the same time, Kloza added, “This president has proven to be unpredictable.”
Trump’s response has been typically uneven. Delivering an official statement at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Trump’s tone was measured. He said the targeted killing was designed to pre-empt Soleimani’s planned attacks on American diplomats and soldiers.
“We took action last night to stop a war,” Trump said Friday. “We did not take action to start a war.”
However, over the weekend, Trump took to Twitter to threaten attacks on Iranian cultural sites.
“The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment,” Trump wrote Sunday on Twitter. “We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way…and without hesitation!”
##IFRAME_1##Iran has vowed vengeance, but military experts say the nation isn’t powerful enough to wage a direct war against the U.S.
“It’s still far too early to know how much of an impact this conflict will have overall on prices at the pump,” AAA’s Jenkins said.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk Says Stock Price ‘Too High’ To Cap Bizarre Week
Tesla CEO Elon Musk capped an interesting week. He did so by tweeting out “Tesla stock price is too high imo (in my opinion)” Friday morning, and shares immediately fell 10%, wiping out nearly $15 billion in market cap in just a few hours.
It was the latest bizarre antic for Musk who earlier in the week cursed and called the stay-at-home order “fascism” during the Tesla earnings call, and followed that up the next day by interrupting a NASA conference call when a reporter asked NASA’s administrator about Musk’s COVID-19 comments. Musk had previously tweeted in early March “The coronavirus panic is dumb.”
Without being introduced on the call, Musk responded to the reporter “I think this is a different subject,” he said. “Wrong press conference, move on.”
Friday’s tweet about the Tesla share price came during a string of tweets on different topics and subjects. Some of those topics including lyrics to the Star-Spangled Banner. Others say he was selling all his physical possessions. Another say that his girlfriend is mad at him.
Musk started the week by tweeting “FREE AMERICA NOW” on Tuesday evening. Also, during Tesla’s earnings call on Wednesday, he said the shelter-in-place orders in California were “fascist” and that government officials should “give people back their (expletive) freedom.”
“The expansion of shelter-in-place, or as we call it, forcibly imprisoning people in their homes, against all their constitutional rights, is, in my opinion, breaking people’s freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong, and not why people came to America and built this country,” Musk said. “What the (expletive)!”
He continued, “If somebody wants to stay in the house that’s great. They should be allowed to stay in the house and they should not be compelled to leave. But to say that they cannot leave their house and they will be arrested if they do… this is fascist. This is not democratic. This is not freedom. Give people back their (expletive) freedom.”
Thursday’s outburst during the NASA conference call was related to Musk’s tweets that seemed to downplay the severity of the coronavirus pandemic. A reporter asked NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine his thoughts on Musk’s COVID-19 comments. However, Musk, the founder of SpaceX, quickly interrupted to tell the reporter to “move on.”
Friday’s much more devastating Tweet-storm could get Musk into even more hot water with the Securities and Exchange Commission. As part of his 2018 settlement over the “taking Tesla private at $420” tweet, Musk agreed to have all his social media posts reviewed prior to publishing them.
When a Wall Street Journal reporter asked Musk if he was joking, or if he had the “Tesla stock is too high imo” tweet approved, Musk simply responded “No.”
Investors on both sides of the Tesla debate are waiting to see what action of any the SEC could bring against Musk for the tweet. Some believe the tweet was in clear violation of the 2018 settlement. Meanwhile, others say while uncommon, it’s not illegal for a company CEO to publicly discuss their company’s share price even if investors are harmed by the comments.
One thing is for sure, Musk continues to prove he’s the greatest showman alive.
Uber and Hyundai Are Planning to Offer Flying Taxi Rides by 2023
At CES 2020, Uber and Hyundai showed off a full-size mock-up of a flying taxi that both companies hope will be ferrying you above congested city streets by 2023.
The electric plane, called Uberdai, will carry a pilot and three passengers up to 60 miles, at speeds of up to 180mph, slashing journey times and helping get cars off the road. Eventually the craft will be automated, but for now the two companies are focusing on manned craft.
The flying taxi market is starting to get pretty lively. Last year, Boeing began test flights to test the safety of Boeing. Next, an electric aircraft with passenger pods designed to travel up to 50 miles, and Bell Helicopter unveiled the Bell Nexus, which the company hopes will “redefine air travel”.
The difference with Hyundai’s plane is its partnership with Uber, which is a name synonymous with ride-sharing throughout much of the world, and already has the infrastructure in place to offer flights as an option alongside trips by car, bike, scooter, helicopter and even submarine.
Ready for lift-off?
Uber has been aiming for the skies for several years now, teaming up with various aerospace companies to build a fleet of mini aircraft. At the Uber Elevate Summit in June 2019, it revealed a concept created in collaboration with Jaunt Air Mobility – a business that’s aiming to create a fully autonomous aircraft by the end of 2029.
This design was a cross between a helicopter and a plane, with a rotor to get it off the ground, and wings for gliding once airborne to conserve power.
“It’s called the compound aircraft, and what it’s doing is really trying to get the best of both worlds of hover and high-speed efficient flight,” Uber’s head of engineering Mark Moore said at the event.
Uber intends to launch its first swarm of flying cars in the US and Australia in 2023, with schemes planned for Dallas, Las Vegas and Melbourne. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more over the coming months.
Tesla’s New AutoPilot is Insane
With self-driving cars upon us, the future is now.
Tesla Inc. is leading the way with innovative technologies in the automotive industry. For years, they’ve been developing Autopilot, which is a fascinating invention that causes both hope and fear for car drivers.
Get everything you need to know right here.
What is Autopilot?
Tesla’s Autopilot is an advanced system that empowers a car to drive itself. On its own, Autopilot can stay centered in lane, change lanes, maintain distance from the next car, self-park, and summon the car from a parking spot or garage.
Tesla’s Autopilot is an example of full self-driving (FSD), which is sometimes called a driverless car or an autonomous car. Autopilot combines both hardware and software to make this possible.
Here’s a demonstration of Autopilot. Legally, there must be a person in the driver’s seat when Autopilot is on, but the person is not driving.
How Autopilot Works
Under the Federal Aviation Administration, pilots must monitor an aircraft that is on autopilot at all times. In a similar vein, Tesla mandates that drivers must monitor a car on Autopilot at all times.
Tesla equips their cars with radar coverage, cameras, and ultrasonic sensors, which give the system a 360-degree view around the vehicle. The software then uses this equipment to discern surroundings.
The equipment is able to distinguish other vehicles, road signs, obstacles, and lane markings. This system can even detect other cars and pedestrians through fog, dust, and heavy rain. The hardware processes this information at 200 frames per second.
With this constant influx of information, the software is programmed to make the proper moves and adjust speed to the surroundings.
Anytime a new software update is released, a car with Autopilot receives the update wirelessly.
A Brief History of Autopilot
Autopilot has developed over the years in a series of updates and adjustments to both their software and hardware. This section will touch on some of the notable advancements of Autopilot.
In 2013, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said, “Autopilot is a good thing to have in planes, and we should have it in cars.” The theory was simple: if we use autopilot on planes, we can and should use it on cars.
In late 2014, Tesla offered customers Autopilot for the first time. The Model S and Model X came with a tech package upgrade: a windshield-mounted camera, frontside radar, and sensors on the front and back bumpers.
Together this was known as Autopilot, which offered semi-autonomous driving. Tesla refers to this tech package as Hardware 1. This allowed drivers to do limited hands-free driving.
In October 2015, Tesla customers experienced the next step in Autopilot development with the release of software enabling Autopilot, which was packaged with Tesla’s version 7.0. This added a few features.
However, Tesla later released version 7.1, which removed a few features in 7.0. Tesla announced this was an effort to discourage risky behaviors. Version 7.1 did add a remote parking feature, which could be used without a driver in the vehicle.
In August 2016, Tesla announced Autopilot 8.0, which made a significant shift in software. Instead of using cameras as the primary sensor, Autopilot would now use radar. A November update added two notable safety features:
- Autopilot requires the driver to touch the wheel more often.
- Whenever Autopilot is activated, there is now a more noticeable indication that it’s engaged.
In November 2016, Autopilot had been used to drive over 300 million miles.
On October 19, 2016, Tesla announced that all their cars would now be made with full self-driving. Their vehicles would now come with better computing and sensing equipment, which they call Hardware Version 2 (HW2).
This allowed Autopilot to change lanes without needing driver input, transition between freeways, and exit a highway near the driver’s destination.
In February 2017, Autopilot became available for HW2 cars. They included auto-steering on local roads and divided highways, as well as adaptive cruise control. In June of the same year, version 8.1 arrived, which added the features of parallel parking and full-speed breaking.
Later updates made riders smoother by making acceleration and deceleration less jerky.
In July 2017, Hardware Version 2.5 was released. And as of 2019, Tesla continues to evolve Autopilot with developing Hardware Version 3.
Public opinions on Autopilot
As with all new technologies, many questions have been raised over the years by industry experts and concerned citizens.
Some have voiced concerns over the legality of full self-driving. Many question if Tesla drivers using Autopilot are even driving legally. Autopilot seemingly conflicts with the current best practices in driving, such as keeping both hands on the wheel or keeping one foot on a pedal.
Earlier, in the demonstration video, the driver is doing neither.
Tesla spokesman Alexis Georgeson said there is “nothing in our autopilot system that is in conflict with current regulations.” She went on to clarify a misconception about Autopilot, saying:
“We’re not getting rid of the pilot. This is about releasing the driver from tedious tasks so they can focus and provide better input.”
Despite Tesla’s safety measures, some still ask if self-driving cars inherently promote irresponsible driving.
Another recurring debate revolves around fault in the case of an accident caused by full self-driving. If Autopilot makes a mistake and there is a car wreck, who is responsible?
Drivers are expected to monitor Autopilot, but this complicates investigations and court proceedings. At what point is a driver responsible vs. the program and can a company like Tesla be liable?
Individuals, manufacturers, and insurance companies will likely fight a lot in the following years to work out liability issues with self-driving cars.
In the years developing and using Tesla’s Autopilot, there have been a few accidents and deaths recorded involving Autopilot. This article will note a few of the more recent incidents at the time of writing.
May 11, 2018 at South Jordan, Utah
During the evening, a Tesla Model S crashed into a fire truck that was stopped at a red light. Autopilot was engaged at the time and traveling at about 60 miles per hour during the time of impact. The Tesla driver survived with a broken foot.
According to witnesses, the Tesla car did not appear to avoid the impact or attempt to brake prior to the collision. Telemetry data revealed the driver did not touch the wheel 80 seconds preceding the crash and did not brake until milliseconds before impact.
The driver later admitted she was on her phone at the time. Police cited her for “failure to keep proper lookout.”
March 1, 2019 at Delray Beach, Florida
During the morning, a Tesla Model 3 hit a semi-truck on a highway and under rode the trailer. The driver did not survive. The dispatched investigators that analyzed the scene did not fault or cite the driver of the semi-truck.
Ten seconds prior to the collision, the Tesla driver activated Autopilot. And in May 2019, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that neither the Autopilot or the driver attempted evasive maneuver prior to impact.
Preliminary telemetry showed that the driver’s hands were not on the wheels for approximately 8 seconds leading up to the crash.
August 10, 2019 at Moscow, Russia
During the night, a Tesla Model 3 ran into a parked tow truck, then caught on fire. At the time, Autopilot was activated and was driving at the maximum speed limit (100 km/h).
Fortunately, the driver and his children exited the vehicle in time and escaped with survivable injuries. The driver had a broken leg and the children suffered bruising.
The driver claimed he was holding the wheel at the time of the crash, but was not paying attention.
Positive incidents with Autopilot
A noteworthy incident that puts a positive light on Autopilot occurred on July of 2016, in Washington D.C. While driving his Tesla Model X, Joshua Neally experienced pulmonary embolism, which made it impossible for him to drive.
Neally was able to drive most of the way to a hospital using Autopilot, which possibly saved his life.
On July 21, 2016, Elon Musk tweeted that Autopilot saved the life of a pedestrian in D.C., or at least prevented serious injury. The driver reported that a pedestrian stepped out in front of his vehicle while he was distracted. Autopilot instantly braked and prevented the car from hitting the pedestrian.
Musk confirmed this by looking at the vehicle’s logs.
The Future of Autopilot
Autopilot will unquestioningly impact greater society in the future. Tesla has repeatedly stated and demonstrated a commitment to developing a safe, legal, effective Autopilot system.
And they’re not the only ones interested in the technology. Google is also developing a self-driving car under their program Waymo.
While Tesla has made significant progress in recent years, it seems there are still technological and legal barriers they need to overcome.
Here’s Elon Musk on the future of Autopilot: “Full autonomy is really a software limitation. The hardware exists to create full autonomy. So it’s really about developing advanced narrow AI for the car to operate on.”
This astounding statement reveals how close we are to a world full of self-driving cars. The hardware already exists. We just have to write better software.
Are you ready for self-driving cars?
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