The road to China’s autonomous-driving future is paved with solar panels, mapping sensors and electric-battery rechargers as the nation tests an ‘intelligent highway’ that could speed the transformation of the global transportation industry.
The technologies will be embedded underneath transparent concrete used to build a 1,080-meter-long (3,540-foot-long) stretch of road in the eastern city of Jinan. About 45,000 vehicles barrel over the section every day, and the solar panels inside generate enough electricity to power highway lights and 800 homes, according to builder Qilu Transportation Development Group Co. Yet Qilu Transportation wants to do more than supply juice to the grid: it wants the road to be just as smart as the vehicles of the future. The government says 10 percent of all cars should be fully self-driving by 2030, and Qilu considers that an opportunity to deliver better traffic updates, more accurate mapping and on-the-go recharging of electric-vehicle batteries—all from the ground up.
“The highways we have been using can only carry vehicles passing by, and they are like the 1.0-generation product,” said Zhou Yong, the company’s general manager. “We’re working on the 2.0 and 3.0 generations by transplanting brains and a nervous system.” The construction comes as President Xi Jinping’s government pushes ahead with a ‘Made in China 2025’ plan to help the nation become an advanced manufacturing power and not just a supplier of sneakers, clothes and toys for export. The 10 sectors highlighted include new-energy vehicles, information technology and robotics.
China also has a separate plan for developing its artificial-intelligence industry that calls for the nation to be the world’s primary AI innovation center by 2030. Part of that effort involves building what the government calls an intelligent transportation system. Coordinating the development of autonomous-driving cars and intelligent-road systems is a focus, said Yuan Peng, the deputy head of the transportation ministry’s science and technology department. “The ministry will help offer smart roads for the smart cars that are coming,” Yuan said.
China smart road, electric cars, autonomous technology, Qilu Transportation, car charging systems, transportation business, global EV sales, road infrastructure The road has an estimated life span of 15 years, matching that of traditional asphalt highways. (Image Source: Bloomberg)
Step one makes up a section of the expressway surrounding Jinan, an old industrial hub of about 7 million people that’s home to China National Heavy Duty Truck Group, which is also known as Sinotruk and includes Volkswagen AG’s MAN SE as a minority shareholder. Zhejiang Geely Holding Group also has a plant there making Geely brand cars. The road has three vertical layers, with the shell of see-through material allowing sunlight to reach the solar cells underneath. The top layer also has space inside to thread recharging wires and sensors that monitor temperature, traffic flow and weight load.
The solar panels spread across two lanes, which feel no different to a driver than the regular road, and are thinner than a 1-yuan coin standing on its edge. The test road is too short to deliver wireless recharging at the moment, Zhou said. “From the angle of the technology itself, charging is not a problem,” Zhou said. “The vehicles that can be charged wirelessly aren’t used on roads yet.” Qilu Transportation didn’t give a time frame for installing the sensors to transmit data and power to EV batteries. The road has an estimated life span of 15 years, matching that of traditional asphalt highways.
“The solar expressway does have market opportunities,” said Xu Yingbo, an analyst with Citic Securities Co. in Beijing.
“The key things that need to be addressed are costs and reliability, as well as how quickly it can have the compatible system in place.” In 2016, French construction company Bouygues SA started testing a 1-kilometer road in Normandy with solar panels layered on top. Tests of the Wattway road since have expanded to 20 locations, said Etienne Gaudin, who oversees the project at Bouygues’ Colas Group road-work division.
Wattway’s focus is generating electricity, and the company has no immediate plans to charge moving EVs, he said. Colas will start selling the project next year, prioritizing smaller locations such as charging stations and parking lots where traffic won’t block sunlight, Gaudin said. China will have 30 million vehicles with different levels of autonomous features by 2025, said Yu Kai, founder of Horizon Robotics Inc, a Beijing-based startup developing semiconductors for those types of cars.
The stretch of road in Jinan cost about 7,000 yuan per square meter to build, Zhou said, making the total cost about 41 million yuan ($6.5 million), according to Bloomberg News calculations. The threshold for mass adoption of the technology is about 3,000 yuan per square meter, the company said. The initial costs are high because Qilu’s research-and-development team developed the technology and made the materials in its own laboratories, and the costs should come down as the components are mass produced, Zhou said. Qilu is owned by the government of Shandong province, which includes Jinan.
Researchers started working on the project 10 years ago. Construction took 55 days on an existing part of the highway, and the road opened to traffic in December. Solar-powered heating elements keep the section snow- and ice-free. “In the future, when cars are running on these roads, it will be like human beings,” Zhou said. “The road will feel and think to figure out how heavy the vehicles are and what kind of data is needed.” Qilu said it is cooperating with several domestic automakers on the technology but declined to elaborate.
China smart road, electric cars, autonomous technology, Qilu Transportation, car charging systems, transportation business, global EV sales, road infrastructure The stretch of road in Jinan cost about 7,000 yuan per square meter to build, Zhou said, making the total cost about 41 million yuan ($6.5 million), according to Bloomberg News calculations. (Image Source: Bloomberg)
China accounts for half of all EV sales worldwide. It surpassed the US in 2015 to become the world’s biggest market for electric cars, with sales of new-energy vehicles—a category that includes battery-powered, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell cars—possibly surpassing 1 million this year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. The government set a sales target of 7 million NEVs by 2020. “The future of transportation is coming to us much faster than we expected,” Zhou said. “We need to make sure that roads are evolved to match the development of autonomous-driving vehicles.”
Redmi Note 7 With 4,000mAh Battery, 48-Megapixel Camera Unveiled
Redmi Note 7 is the much-awaited debut smartphone of the ‘Redmi by Xiaomi’ sub-brand, and was launched in China on Thursday. It has some spectacular features at the price point, including a 48-megapixel camera in its dual rear camera setup. The Redmi Note 7 also bears a waterdrop-shaped notch, dual rear camera setup with a 48-megapixel primary sensor, a fingerprint sensor on the back panel, and a 4,000mAh battery. The Redmi Note 7 also features 2.5D glass protection up front and at the back as well, and comes with a 6.3-inch large display size. As we mentioned, the Redmi Note 7 is the first smartphone to be launched after Xiaomi announced that Redmi would operate as an independent brand moving forward.
Redmi Note 7 price, availability
The Redmi Note 7 price starts at CNY 999 (roughly Rs. 10,300) for the 3GB RAM + 32GB storage options, going up to CNY 1,199 (roughly Rs. 12,400) for the 4GB RAM + 64GB storage option, and CNY 1,399 (roughly Rs. 14,500) for the 6GB RAM + 64GB storage option. The Redmi Note 7 will go on sale from January 15, and will be made available in Twilight Gold, Fantasy Blue, and Bright Black colour options.
Redmi Note 7 specifications
As for hardware, the dual-SIM (Nano) Redmi Note 7 sports a 6.3-inch full-HD+ (1080×2340 pixels) LTPS display with 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 450 nits brightness, 84 percent NTSC colour gamut, Corning Gorilla Glass 5, and 2.5D curved glass protection. It is powered by the 2.2GHz Snapdragon 660 octa-core SoC paired with Adreno 512 graphics, and 3GB, 4GB, and 6GB RAM options. Internal storage is at 32GB and 64GB options with the option to expand further using a microSD card slot (up to 256GB).
Redmi Note 7 camera
As for optics, the Redmi Note 7 sports dual camera setup with one 48-megapixel Samsung GM1 sensor with f/1.8 aperture and another 5-megpapixel sensor. The cameras at the back get monochrome dual-LED flash support, PDAF, and are touted to be elevated using AI-backed software features like portrait mode, background blur, HDR, handheld super night scene mode, EIS, 1080p video recording, and more. Up front, there is a 13-megapixel selfie sensor as well with features like AI face unlock, AI smart beauty, AI single shot blur, front HDR, background blur, and more.
Redmi Note 7 battery
The Redmi Note 7 packs a 4,000mAh battery with Quick Charge 4 support. The company touts up to 251 hours of standby time, 23 hours of talk time, 13 hours of video playback, and 7 hours of gaming.
Redmi Note 7 connectivity
Connectivity options on the Redmi Note 7 include USB Type-C port, 3.5mm audio jack, 4G VoLTE, GPS, AGPS, GLONASS, Bluetooth v5, and Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac.
Redmi Note 7 other specifications
The Redmi Note 7 measures at 159.21×75.21×8.1mm, and weighs 186 grams. Lastly, sensors on board the Redmi Note 7 include gyroscope, accelerometer, distance sensor, electronic compass, fingerprint sensor, ambient light sensor, vibration motor, and infrared sensor.
Apple Plans to Launch 3 iPhone Models in 2019, Including an LCD-Based iPhone XR Successor: Report
Apple reportedly plans to introduce three iPhone models this year, including a follow-up to the company’s much debated iPhone XR. The other two iPhone models will be the direct successors to the iPhone XS ? 94,050 and iPhone XS Max ? 104,395 phones, revealed a report. The Cupertino-based company is said to be bringing new camera features to the upcoming iPhone models, including a possible triple camera setup in the iPhone XS Max successor. The company has had a troubling 2018 because of the dwindling iPhone sales in China and other markets.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Apple will continue with the three iPhone models release in 2019, citing people familiar with the matter. The company is said to be bringing follow-ups to all three 2018 models. The specifics of the upcoming iPhone models are a mystery at this point, but WSJ does add that the highest-end iPhone will feature a triple rear camera setup, whereas the other two iPhone models will pack two cameras on the back like the iPhone XS. The camera setup will be a change for the iPhone XR ? 72,190 successor as the existing model has a single camera on the back.
The report also reveals that Apple will continue with an LCD screen for the iPhone XR, partly since the “planned product has been in the product pipeline for months, and can’t be altered easily”. While 2019 planning are at an advanced stage, they are not completed, the report added. However the company will drop LCD entirely for the 2020 lineup and stick with the OLED panels, the report adds, citing some of the people. The current OLED panels used in the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max phones can be considered to be capable of offering better contrast than the LCD panel present on the iPhone XR. Apple’s 2020 plans are apparently in early stages right now and could be changed by the company. Apple traditionally introduces the new iPhone models in the Fall.
Unlike the previous years, Apple is struggling to keep the iPhone sales momentum and the follow-up models to the current crop will have a lot of pressure to perform for the company. It will be interesting to see if the company opts for the pricing strategy revision as that has been blamed as one of the reasons why the latest iPhone models are selling less in several markets.
The iPhone maker recently downgraded its first quarter sales guidance and blamed the weakening economy in China and lower-than-expected iPhone revenue. Over the past few months, several reports have come out claiming the company has reduced the production targets multiple times for the iPhone models.
Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook earlier this week stated that the company plans to announce new services this year. He did not share exactly which services we are going to see, but it is being speculated the company will finally launch its much-anticipated streaming TV platform.
Mi Soundbar by Xiaomi Debuts in India: Here’s Everything You Need to Know About It
Xiaomi launched the Mi Soundbar in India, alongside the Mi LED TV 4X Pro 55-inch model and Mi LED TV 4A Pro 43-inch model. The company had live streamed the launch on Mi.com and Flipkart, and as a part of which, Xiaomi revealed the new Mi TV models’ price in India, as well as their availability and specifications. The Mi Soundbar received the same treatment. Xiaomi claims the Mi Soundbar can be set up in just 30 seconds, which is one of its highlight features, and packs two 20mm dome speakers and two 2.5-inch woofers. With the launch, the company claims that it has forayed into the home audio market in India. The Mi Soundbar will go on sale next week alongside the new Mi LED TV models.
Mi Soundbar price in India
The Mi Soundbar price in India has been set at Rs. 4,999, and it will be available from 12pm IST on January 16. Xiaomi says it will be available via Mi.com and Mi Home stores. As we mentioned, Xiaomi also launched the Mi TV 4X Pro 55-inch model and Mi TV 4A Pro 43-inch model in India on Thursday.
Mi Soundbar specifications
The Mi Soundbar features two 20mm dome speakers to cover the higher frequencies, apart from two 2.5-inch woofers for the low frequencies, and four passive radiators for the extreme low-end, Xiaomi said. As we mentioned, Xiaomi claims the Mi Soundbar can be set up in just 30 seconds.
In terms of connectivity options, the Mi Soundbar features Bluetooth v4.2, S/PDIF, Optical, Line-in, and 3.5mm aux-in. Xiaomi claims it will work on any TV.