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The Future Of Transportation: What I Learned In San Francisco

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I recently spent a month living in the hustle and bustle of San Francisco—car free. It’s a bit of a shift to go from the instant mobility of having your own car, especially a sweet little EV like my Fiat 500e, to relying on public transit, walking, and cabs and car sharing. But I have a feeling that living sans car is the big wave of the future for a lot of people, particularly those living in urban environments.

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I knew, more or less, even before I came to San Francisco, that Silicon Valley and the City are the epicenter of much of the innovation in transportation today. Living there for a month I had the chance to use and witness many of these innovations firsthand.

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Is the end of the ICE (internal combustion engine) age coming soon? If San Francisco is an indication of the global future, that answer is “yes.” This article is a follow up to my article here, taking a broader look at the future of cars and electric vehicles.

So what did I learn in the big city? Let me tell you.

Battery Swapping Is Getting Closer To Reality

Better Place, an Israeli company that pioneered the battery swap idea for electric cars, unfortunately went bankrupt because it couldn’t get buy-in for its ideas soon enough. The idea of battery swaps has not, however, died, and it’s a fundamentally sound idea. The point is that rather than charging the battery in the vehicle, which can take a long time, you just swap out the battery for one that is fully charged. This process can be far faster even than filling up a gas tank in an ICE.

Tesla is now pilot testing its battery swap option at a single location in California. Given the relatively plodding pace of Tesla’s battery swap program, I’m not particularly optimistic that it will become widespread anytime soon.

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A particularly exciting new battery swap model is coming out of Taiwan. Gogoro is now offering a polished and stylish electric scooter with swappable batteries that it calls the world’s first “smartscooter.” It started selling these scooters in Taiwan this summer. Gogoro’s business model rests on the viability of its GoStations, which are small kiosks distributed widely in urban areas (in those cities that have been selected by Gogoro). The smartscooter carries just two of these easily swapped batteries and it takes only moments to pull up, swipe your card, and swap out your scooter batteries. Each swap gives the scooter about 120 kilometers of range, according to the company.

Gogoro’s vision is to use these energy hubs for all kinds of electric vehicles in the future. GreenTechMedia’s Julia Pyper wrote in a piece about Gogoro last year: “The company, headed by former HTC execs, quietly raised $150 million to build its urban scooter of the future. Over time, Gogoro’s modular battery-swapping infrastructure could serve other types of vehicles and products.” This seems like a highly viable model to me, at least for smaller vehicles in urban areas. For larger vehicles, however, I’m not sure how practical swapping out a number of batteries will be for the average user.

People Want To Design Their Own Vehicles

An exciting option that may become real before long is the ability to design your own car. An increasing number of cars allow many personalization options for colors and other features. Going much further, we now have options to co-design cars from the ground up, working as part of a “crowd.”

tamhunt-solarLocalmotors.com is one of the more viable sites allowing designers and enthusiasts to design all sorts of vehicles collaboratively. The site describes itself as a “global co-creation community … made up of enthusiasts, hobbyist innovators and professionals. We are designers, engineers, and makers. We operate a growing global network of microfactories. Each destination is a place where innovators create amazing products and consumers come to marvel and shop.”

With the widespread availability of home-based 3D printing and access to creative individuals online, making one’s own car is actually not a pipe dream anymore. Here’s a list of the cars that teams are working on at various stages of completion at Local Motors. One of my favorites at the site: an adult Big Wheel powered by a hub-mounted electric motor!

I learned about crowd-designed cars from Peter Diamandis, entrepreneur and author of the new book, Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth, and Impact the World. Diamandis writes about crowdsourcing car design here.

Owning Your Own Car Is So Last Year…

The future of transportation may be having no car at all for most of us. Ride-hailing services like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar (all of which happen to be based in San Francisco) have taken the transportation world by storm. Uber may be worth over $40 billion now and it’s just a few years old. It seems that the sky’s the limit for this model, but it is limited of course to urban areas for now. The large majority of people live in urban areas now (over 80 percent in the U.S.), however, so this isn’t much of a limit.

Uber’s gross revenue is expected to hit $10 billion this year, and smaller competitor Lyft’s revenue about 1/8th that amount, both up from, well, nothing just a a few years ago. That’s market transformation for you. Under this current trajectory, Uber and its cousins may take over the taxi market in just a few years.

I used Uber regularly in SF and many other places and I enjoy their newest low-fare option: UberPool. This option allows you to pay just $7 to go anywhere in some cities by splitting a ride with up to two other people. You might wait a bit longer to get to where you’re going but you know the price in advance and if you’re lucky you’ll meet some cool people while you ride.

Right now there is no necessary connection between ride-hailing companies and EVs, but as EVs become more pervasive and the fuel-saving and ride-quality benefits of EVs become more well-known, we can rest assured that ride-hailing services will include more and more EVs.

The next step in ride-hailing and car sharing will be a combination of these new app-based services with self-driving cars. This will be unfortunate for those drivers who want to continue to make money from driving, but users will still benefit from these services. Rather than rely on human drivers to comb the streets waiting for a fare, self-driving cars can remain parked until needed or simply cruise the streets like drivers do today until required by a fare. The big question with this business model is whether cars will be legally allowed to drive themselves with no human on board as a back up plan at any time in the foreseeable future.

Who Needs Drivers?

When will fully automated cars arrive? Tesla, for example, is releasing new autopilot features this summer, including self-parking and the ability to summon your car to your front door with an app. These are exciting new abilities and we’ll find out soon how robust these features are. Musk also stated that the cars are “technically capable of going parking lot to parking lot” in self-driving mode, but this ability won’t be enabled because of the dangers inherent in driving in urban areas.

That qualifier in Musk’s statement turns out to be a pretty big deal. There are a ton of hurdles to overcome before fully autonomous driving will become a reality and it seems that a lot of companies are playing market positioning games as much as they are working on the underlying technology. What is clear, however, is that we’ll see incremental additions to the suite of automated driving options in the coming years, a continuation of the already existing trend among various automakers, including Mercedes, Audi, Tesla and others.

The big question is when will fully autonomous cars become reality? One expert I’ve spoken with recently, Steve Casner, a research psychologist at NASA who has done some work on autopilot issues in relation to airplanes and cars, suggests that it will likely be far later than 2020 before fully automated cars are a reality and that many of the companies today suggesting that full automation technology is already here are blowing smoke.

A number of other analysts at a conference last year feel the same way, according to the MIT Technology Review: “The 500 experts in attendance were not optimistic such problems would be solved soon. Asked when they would trust a fully robotic car to take their children to school, more than half said 2030 at the very earliest. A fifth said not until 2040, and roughly one in 10 said ‘never.’ ”

The essence of the problem is that driving requires the skills acquired by humans to make sense  of and navigate their environment over a period of almost four billion years (since life originated). What we take for granted as easy and intuitive is the end process of this eons-long evolutionary process. We are, each of us, the latest in a literally unbroken chain of organisms that were successful in navigating their environment and reproducing. Teaching a computer that same process is a difficult problem indeed, given the unpredictability of the world around us.

Casner has also explored the difficulties of partial automation and the transformation of drivers into “drivengers” (passenger/drivers). Drivengers may find it difficult to step in when and if required by partially autonomous cars and we might find this a difficult hurdle in getting to fully autonomous vehicles.

From a big picture perspective, however, it doesn’t matter very much whether full self-driving cars arrive in 2020 or 2030. The fact that they are very likely coming before too long is what is important. Even though I fully recognize the difficulties in achieving full automation, and the diversity of expert opinion on this issue, my feeling is that we have reached a tipping point in investment, interest, and technical ability on this issue, such that it’s just a matter of time before the software, engineering, and legal hurdles are resolved.

Last, history has shown that betting against Elon Musk is a bad idea. So even if he’s off by a few years in his projections for fully automated driving, we’d still see such cars sometime sooner than the mid-2020s. Time will tell, as with all things.

My time in San Francisco was a lot of fun and educational at the same time. I have seen the future of transportation and it is bright.

Tam Hunt is a lawyer and writer, owner of the renewable energy consulting company Community Renewable Solutions LLC, and author of the new book Solar: Why Our Energy Future Is So Bright.

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Scientists Propose That We Can Travel Faster Than The Speed of Light

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CE Staff Writer 5 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new paper suggest travel faster than the speed of light might be possible given the creation of a new way of looking at propelling a vehicle.

  • Reflect On:

    When considering the advancement of life changing technology, does our current economic model speed up or suppress the collaboration, creation and advancement of ideas?

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In Star Trek Gene Roddenberry imagined it possible to set a ship into ‘warp drive’ and travel at speeds 6000+ times the speed of light, moving from one galaxy to a distant one very quickly. Imagine having that type of technology here on earth?! It has been said before that if we can think it, we can create it. Well, maybe that’s sometimes true.

What Happened:

The question of whether travel faster than the speed of light is possible was again approached in a new research paper written by an American physicist Erik Lentz. In the paper Lentz proposed a new theory for how faster-than-light travel could be possible. Given their models, Lentz and his team feel that travel to distant stars and planets could be possible in the near future, perhaps with proper research and development they could have something working in as little as 10 years.

The question of whether this is possible does not challenge our current understanding of physics that Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity sets forth that it is not possible to travel faster than light.

Instead of focusing on our current understanding of matter, Lentz’s new paper puts greater importance on a possible engineering solution as opposed to the theoretical physics. The new paper was published in Classical and Quantum Gravity.

The paper proposes a plan to travel faster than light by creating a series of ‘solitons’ to provide the basis for propulsion. A soliton is a compact wave that keeps its speed and shape while moving with little loss of energy.

Interestingly, this technology would allow travel at ANY speed. This brings me back to an article I wrote yesterday discussing the incoming reality within collective consciousness that UFOs and Extraterrestrials are real. In that article I state that the question of ‘how are they getting here’ is of importance as it could give humanity access to technology that would completely change the way we live on this planet.

 [The method] “uses the very structure of space and time arranged in a soliton to provide a solution to faster-than-light travel,” From the press release.

Imagine this, the nearest star beyond our solar system is called Proxima Centauri. We know it to be about 4.25 light years away. (A light year is the distance it takes light to travel in one year.)

Lentz stated that using our current rocket fuel methods fo travel, it would take about 50,000 to 70,000 years to reach Proxima Centauri. If we were to upgrade to nuclear propulsion technology, it would take about 100 years. But if we employed a light speed warp drive, it would take only four years and three months.

This would mean that the average person would be able to travel to distant interstellar planets and complete the trip in a current human lifetime. Think of the vacations!

According to Lentz there are some barriers to making this all work, but they aren’t impossible to surpass. For the tech to work, it would require lowering the energy needed down to the level of modern nuclear power reactors. That is if we don’t take into consideration energy technologies that are currently suppressed. Lentz also stated that what would be needed is a  way to develop and speed up the solitons (waves.)

“This work has moved the problem of faster-than-light travel one step away from theoretical research in fundamental physics and closer to engineering,”

Why Its Matters:

Humans are curious beings who seem to gain a great deal from expanding our curiosity beyond everyday plights of a system and way of life that doesn’t necessarily inspire the deepest use of our creativity. Perhaps a knowing that we can indeed go elsewhere without primitive technology would shift the way we see our role on this earth and how we choose to fight over what we believe are limited resources.

Then again, perhaps if humans carry their current story of separation and competition to other worlds, we’ll produce the same mess there. I guess the question is, would the possibility of being able to leave this earth and go almost anywhere change the underlying nature of how we choose to set up our cultural beliefs and narratives of what it means to be human?

It’s my feeling that humanity does not lack the solutions to live in a thriving world, we lack the worldview and state of being. Both of which we could change with a little effort.

The Takeaway:

When I hear research like this I am fascinated. Then again I also sometimes wonder if all scientists around the world saw the technology I have seen first hand, that completely changes the way we perceive energy generation today, would the way we look at creating technology that requires energy change entirely? Yes, of course it would.

In my mind and heart I see a world of true collaboration and curiosity. One where we aren’t competing to see who’s the greatest scientist with the best copy written tech, but a world where we transparently share what is out there to advance the entire human race. No powerful interests suppressing technology because it’s too threatening to an economy, but instead true open advancement where we can solve problems incredibly fast.

Can you imagine this world?

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What Causes Déjà Vu? The Neuroscience Behind The Memory Illusion

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CE Staff Writer 5 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Current explanations from the field of neuroscience suggest that déjà vu occurs when the brain is slightly fatigued and working to 'fact check' a memory. We experience this as being odd because we become aware of the process.

  • Reflect On:

    Might we explore a different explanation for déjà vu if we were looking at it from the standpoint of time being non linear and perhaps opening up to the idea of a collective consciousness?

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They say about 60% of people experience déjà vu during their life, right off the bat that hit me as something I didn’t expect as I feel like almost everyone I know has had it at one time or another. Déjà vu, (‘already seen’ to the French) is the feeling that you are re-living something that has happened before. In the movie The Matrix, where déjà vu is perhaps most thought of in pop culture, Neo experiences a cat going by a doorway twice in a matter of seconds. Same cat, same moves, same everything.

In the film, this moment is presented as a ‘glitch in the matrix,’ however, in real life, déjà vu doesn’t often happen like what is seen in The Matrix, it instead feels as though you can’t recall when the ‘other memory’ happened, more so that what you are experiencing right now has already happened at some time.

Let’s dive into what some believe neuroscience is offering as an explanation.

What Happened:

According to experts like Dr Akira O’Connor, who is a senior psychology lecturer at the University of St Andrews, déjà vu is not only a feeling of familiarity, but also the metacognitive recognition that these feelings are misplaced. In simple terms:

“Déjà vu is basically a conflict between the sensation of familiarity and the awareness that the familiarity is incorrect. And it’s the awareness that you’re being tricked that makes déjà vu so unique compared to other memory events.”

Neuroscientists have determined that this memory illusion occurs when the frontal regions of the brain are attempting to correct an inaccurate memory.

“For the vast majority of people, experiencing déjà vu is probably a good thing. It’s a sign that the fact-checking brain regions are working well, preventing you from misremembering events. In a healthy person, such misremembering is going to happen every day. This is to be expected because your memory involves millions and billions of neurones. It’s very messy.”

While there isn’t a completely agreed upon explanation for what happens in the brain when déjà vu occurs, most models suggest that déjà vu occurs when areas of the brain (such as the temporal lobe) feed the mind’s frontal regions signals that a past experience is repeating itself. The frontal decision making parts of the brain then checks to see if the memory is actually true or possible, perhaps saying something to the effect “have I been here before?”

“If you have actually been in that place before, you may try harder to retrieve more memories. If not, a déjà vu realization can occur.”

It’s typically believed that we are more susceptible to déjà vu when the mind is a bit more fatigued and not as quick to discern that validity of our current moment.

Why It Matters:

What fascinated me about this in particular is two things: I’ve long felt that it’s quite possible that memories may actually be non local, i.e. they exist outside the brain not in the brain, and that perhaps the brain tunes into those memories that are somewhere around us. Or maybe we could say that some memory may exist in the brain, while others are part of some sort of collective field.

The second fascinating part for me is that I wonder if déjà vu has something to do with emerging science that tells us time is not linear. Perhaps when we take a classic scientific model that states all time is linear and all experience is linear, we limit our explanation of what déjà vu might be to something that fits that paradigm. What if the brain is tuning into something relating to quantum potentials that always exist, and that perhaps something different is happening with déjà vu? I’m not sure yet, however this is where déjà vu intrigues me the most.

Of course, the end result of exploring a question like this invites us to shift our worldview around the nature of reality, time and experience. Something that might be uncomfortable for some but I feel post material science is inviting us to do.

The Takeaway:

As with anything that is happening in our lives right now it seems, we are culturally in a time where a long avoided shift in our scientific paradigm is creating a lack of meaningful explanations for many things that happen in life. Is déjà vu one of those things that doesn’t have a good explanation in our current scientific paradigm? The jury might still be out on that, but for me, the current explanation presented in this piece did not quite ‘do it for me’ and my inquisitive mind and gut feeling pushes me to explore these questions through the emerging paradigm of non material science.

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These Anti-Solar Panels Don’t Require Daylight To Generate Power

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CE Staff Writer 7 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new approach to solar panels attempts to generate energy during the night, when there is no sunlight to turn into energy. This new invention could make solar a more efficient and reliable option for energy generation.

  • Reflect On:

    Are we being made aware of all energy technologies that truly exist out there? Are our ideas of what energy technologies we could create and bring to market limited on the belief that they must fit inside our existing economic structures?

Before you begin...

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Energy is one of the most important elements to any functioning society, and since our modern era of living uses so much power, the industry is always looking to evolve towards newer and more efficient solutions. Furthermore, given the environmental damage that often comes with many of our modern energy generation practices, people have been thinking outside the box to come up with ideas that are harmonious with mother nature.

Solar panel technology has been around for decades, but there are a few main issues with it. First off, you often need sunlight for it to produce enough on demand and stored energy for daily life. There are many areas in the world where that can be an issue in certain seasons. Secondly, during the night energy can’t be gathered so you’re always dealing with a limited time period where you can generate power for the moment or future use. This prompted inventors to imagine a new “anti-solar panel” that is designed to work both during the day and at night.

Typical solar panels work by gathering visible light from the sun and converting it to usable electricity. This energy can be used as it’s created, or it can be stored into battery cells to be used at a later time. That is to say, it might be a sunny day, you and your family are at work so little power is needed at home. When you return home and you need power,  batteries hooked up to your solar panel had been storing the energy collected from the sun during the day, so it’s ready for you to use once you need it even if the sun isn’t out.

No sun for a couple days while your family is at home for the weekend? Well, you can start to see the issues with solar, you might run out of power if you aren’t connected to a standard city power grid as backup.

But now a team at UC Davis is hoping to develop a new strategy relying on having panels that can also generate electricity at night from heat emitted by a device in the infrared spectrum that is used to generate power.

Jeremy Munday, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and who leads the research team:

“In order to produce electrical power after the sun has set, we consider an alternative photovoltaic concept that uses the earth as a heat source and the night sky as a heat sink, resulting in a “nighttime photovoltaic cell” that employs thermoradiative photovoltaics and concepts from the advancing field of radiative cooling.”

They also explain in another report:

We were thinking, what if we took one of these (thermoradiative) devices and put it in a warm area and pointed it at the sky? A regular solar cell generates power by absorbing sunlight, which causes a voltage to appear across the device and for current to flow, (but) in these new devices, light is instead emitted and the current and voltage go in the opposite direction, but you still generate power. You have to use different materials, but the physics is the same.”

It’s not yet known how much power this technology might produce, but at this time the UC Davis team estimates perhaps as much as 50W during the night. This is about one quarter of the amount a typical solar panel might produce during the day. While this isn’t a huge amount, one could argue it’s worth it.

But what happens if we think outside the box a little further?

Breakthrough Energy

At Collective Evolution we have been exploring new energy technologies for many years, and have had a few close relationships with several investors who have truly been thinking outside the box. This has provided us with an inside look at what technologies are out there beyond what most people commonly speak about in the realm of renewables.

I’m talking about technologies that would deeply disrupt our current energy economy and that could provide energy to anyone, at anytime and in a completely clean manner.

Many believe these types of “breakthrough” technologies are nothing more than unicorns – they aren’t real. They believe them to be elaborate hoaxes that only show up online and in YouTube videos. And this is fair to say. There have been may hoaxes, including inventors who didn’t quite have what they had claimed, however, some of these technologies are real and work exactly as claimed.

“I started to examine the breakthrough solutions, and much to my surprise, these concepts have been proven in hundreds of laboratories throughout the world, and yet they have not really seen the light of day. If the new energy technologies were to be set free worldwide, the change be profound, it would affect everybody, it would be applicable everywhere. These technologies are absolutely the most important thing that’s happened in the history of the world.”  – Dr Brian O’Leary, Former NASA Astronaut and Princeton Physics Professor

In our research we came across a device local to us here in Toronto and had the opportunity to see it functioning first hand. We were there alongside a group of third party investors and engineers who were eager to see the technology in action and understand how it functions. Unfortunately for this piece, the NDA we had signed stops me from saying too much more about the specifics, however you can decide whether or not you believe my word that, yes, this technology was very real, worked to produce multiple kilowatts of power, and had the potential to change the way you view energy generation entirely.

We have also explored technologies our friends and colleagues have vetted as well. One of our latest ones from a man in Zimbabwe who invented a power generation system that charges itself via radio frequencies around the device. A truly remarkable idea, one you have to see to believe.

Another friend and colleague of ours, Susan Manewich, has been working to bring these technologies to market for years. Her and her team have travelled around the world vetting various technologies and working with inventors to find viable ways of making their technologies available for mass use. In her travels she has seen that only a small percentage of claims and devices are real and viable, perhaps only 5%. As low at that sounds, it still shows us that there are in fact devices that would completely revolutionize the way we produce and use energy today and yet these devices are not known about and in many cases hidden purposefully from the public.

We talk about this with Susan in great detail during an interview with we did with her as she shares her insight and experience having worked in the ‘new energy’ industry for many years. Dive into this important conversation on CETV here.

The Takeaway

Imagine what a society would look like if we had ‘freed’ up the secrecy behind the existence of these breakthrough energy technologies. Do you see humanity thriving? Do you see energy being free of charge for people? If not, do you feel humanity’s existing worldview i.e. competition, separation, etc, might be a barrier to these technologies being used to liberate the way we live?

Finally, if it is humanity’s worldview and belief that we must all compete with one another that gets in the way, does it suggest we might need to go about re-examining our worldview’s in order to live in a more peaceful and harmonious society? It appears as though the solutions are already all here, but the way we think of ourselves and one another deeply holds back a thriving world.

Dive Deeper

Click below to watch a sneak peek of our brand new course!

Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

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