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« Boeing and NASA testing Blended Wing Body model in Langley subsonic wind tunnel | Main | University of Waterloo opens new automotive research facility » In China, Audi has signed tripartite memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent respectively. The partners will deepen their cooperation in the areas of data analysis, internet-vehicle platform building and urban intelligent transport. The partnerships will be supported through the brand’s strong development capabilities in China. In Beijing, Audi operates its largest research and development facility outside of Germany. The R&D center is part of Audi China, a 100% Audi AG daughter-company, and puts a strong focus on key future technologies such as connected car, piloted driving, new energy vehicles and digital services. Audi China and the brand’s China joint venture FAW-VW Automotive Co. Ltd. are closely cooperating in their digitalization activities. Audi can build on existing cooperations with China’s leading internet firms. In cooperation with Alibaba, the German company has integrated real time traffic data into Audi MMI and has become the first premium manufacturer in China to offer high-resolution 3D maps. Starting from 2017, Audi will launch Baidu CarLife in its local model line-up, for seamless transfer of Baidu’s popular app services between the customers’ digital devices and their cars. With Tencent, Audi is currently developing the integration of WeChat MyCar services into Audi models. The first features to be implemented will be location sharing and music sharing. WeChat is Asia’s leading communication services app with over 700 million active users. The signing of the MOUs took place on September 11 during the Audi Brand Summit. At this event, Audi showcase, among other technologies and vehicles, the Audi A6 L e-tron, its first locally produced plug-in hybrid model. (Earlier post.)

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National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) chairman Jiang Dalong kisses an NEVS electric car as he poses during an interview at its Beijing headquarters building December 28, 2015. The National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) logo is pictured on one of its electric cars at its Beijing headquarters building December 28, 2015. National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) chairman Jiang Dalong is silhouetted as he poses in front of its company logo at its Beijing headquarters building December 28, 2015. Chinese-owned National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) - the company that acquired Saab's assets, though not its name - said it received an order for 250,000 EVs in December from a little known Chinese company. The size of the deal -- and the sketchy information about the companies involved -- prompted some initial scepticism in the industry over its feasibility. Yet NEVS is one of a group of Chinese-funded start-ups that aim to capitalize on disruption in the auto industry as governments around the world create regulatory incentives for electric or hybrid vehicles. Beijing has created a range of incentives to both attract technology-oriented firms into the EV sector and get the public to buy them. NEVS $12 billion order for EV cars came from a Beijing-based start-up called Panda New Energy Co. Jiang Dalong, a 51-year-old Chinese-born businessman who acquired Saab in 2012, said the deal with Panda New Energy requires little upfront money from the start-up. Panda said it plans to lease the cars for commercial fleets, such as taxis and courier services. Jiang owns 43 percent of NEVS, based in Trollhattan, Sweden, through his Beijing-based company, National Modern Energy Holdings. The city of Tianjin has a 30-percent stake through Tianjin Binhai Hi-tech Industrial Development Area. The rest is owned by Beijing State Research Information Technology Co and Teamsun Technology Co, an information-technology company. The Chinese-born, Swedish businessman sold his bio-power generation business in China to help fund and focus on NEVS. Jiang said he sees a big opportunity for the technology given the enormous policy help Beijing has lined up for it. “China is going to be the world’s biggest market for electric cars,” Jiang said in an interview in his office in Beijing. “China has no choice. They have to wean themselves from conventional gasoline combustion cars,” he added, describing the recent sharp uptick in air pollution levels in China's capital as “terrible" and "crazy”. "Big existing automakers are too big. They cannot stop producing conventional gasoline combustion cars. But we can ... switch to new energy cars.” Beijing's new green car policy is based on the idea that a low entry barrier for electric car technology will allow late-comers to the automotive industry to close a competitive gap with global rivals who have a century's head-start in traditional combustion engines. China, a major oil importer and blighted by air pollution, has offered generous incentives to the public to buy green cars and forced global automakers to share their EV technology. The policy has helped spawn more than a half-dozen Chinese-funded EV startups in and outside China, whose financial backers includes Baidu , Alibaba , Xiaomi[XTC.UL] and Tencent , as well as LeTV , a streaming video and Internet television provider. Start-up electric car venture Faraday Future, funded by Chinese Internet billionaire and LeTV founder Jia Yueting, on Monday previewed a technology-heavy concept race car. California-based Faraday hopes to develop it into a range of battery-powered vehicles that can challenge luxury rivals such as Tesla Motors Inc. in the growing market for electric cars.Jiang said NEVS is exempt from China's regulations requiring a foreign automaker to have a local partner because it plans to produce only electric cars for sale in China. Jiang said NEVS is building an EV factory in the northeast coastal metropolis of Tianjin. He said he expected to soon get an auto manufacturing license to start producing EVs for Panda New Energy. Panda New Energy, which is funded by a Beijing investment fund called Hasun Asset, won’t have to pony up the whole $12 billion for the cars, according to Jiang and Panda's Sun Wei. The two executives said Panda New Energy will pay NEVS for the cars from a four-to-five-year stream of revenue it expects from leasing those 250,000 EVs. All Panda New Energy will have to come up with is a deposit as little as 10 percent, Jiang said. Panda New Energy initially expects to receive an all-electric minibus that seats 38 passengers and an electric commercial van. Jiang said production of the minibus and the MPV cars are due to start gradually in 2016 at the Tianjin factory, which he said is already half-completed. Over the next four to five years, Panda New Energy will buy 50,000 minibuses and 50,000 courier vans, Jiang said. Sun said courier service companies in China ,such as one run by 58.com, will use the commercial vans . The rest of the deal – 150,000 vehicles – are all EVs based on the Saab 9-3, a sedan. Panda New Energy plans to lease them to taxi-like chauffeur service companies. Jiang said NEVS plans to start shipping those EV sedans to Panda New Energy in 2017. The sedans will be assembled at the Tianjin factory. Government subsidies and other measures helped all-electric car sales soar nearly five-fold in China to 113,810 in the first 10 months of 2015. That puts China on track to soon overtake the United States as the largest market for electric cars. It is unclear, however, how competitive China's new EV startups will be. "Even if technical hurdles can be overcome, Tesla has significant first-mover advantage, especially in terms of branding and share of mind as an innovator in the industry," said James Chao, Asia-Pacific managing director of consulting firm IHS Automotive. "Others who come later risk being seen as lagging followers by consumers." The chief executive of an auto company, who did due diligence for possible investments in China's automotive start, said he decided against it. "Those startups perhaps have talent good enough to design and engineer electric cars," he said. "But they lack the full breadth of expertise, which includes being able to procure a full range of components and systems to commercialize their design and manufacture them properly, and that's not easy." A key question remains over whether the battery-powered EV is the right path for the future. Japan and its automotive firms, for example, are jostling for supremacy in how future electric cars should generate power. Unlike China, which is pushing for battery-powered cars, Japan is betting on other sources of electricity, including hydrogen fuel cells. "I could see the attraction of heading into Tesla territory now, but I am not sure if the herd is following the right horse," IHS’s Chao said.

Citizen Lab researchers identified problems in both the Android and Windows versions of the application. The Android version of the browser transmits personally identifiable data, including a user's search terms, the URLs of visited websites, nearby WiFi access points, and the user's IMSI and IMEI identifiers, without encryption or with easily decrypted encryption. Similarly, the Windows version sends personally identifiable data, including the URL of all pages visited in the browser, a user's hard drive serial number, MAC address, Windows hostname, and Windows user security identifier, also without encryption or with easily decrypted decryption. The transmission of personally identifiable user data without properly implemented encryption leaves this data vulnerable to surveillance by a number of intermediaries, including a user's ISP, wireless network operator, mobile carrier, a malicious actor with network visibility, and/or a government agency with access to any of those intermediaries. "QQ Browser phones home information on your device's hardware serial numbers and tracks your location and every page you visit. Even the person you trust most does not have access to this amount of information on you and yet QQ receives it from everyone who uses their browser," said Jeffrey Knockel, Senior Researcher at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs In addition, both the Windows and Android versions of the application did not adequately protect the software update process, which leaves the application vulnerable to the execution of arbitrary code. This means that a user could be deceived by a malicious actor into installing malware without their knowledge during the QQ Browser update process. Citizen Lab researchers disclosed these vulnerabilities to Tencent on February 5, 2016. Tencent security engineers acknowledged these security concerns and released updated versions of both the Windows and Android versions of the application in March 2016. Analysis by Citizen Lab researchers showed that some of the problems identified were resolved, while others remain. The Citizen Lab's Director, Ron Deibert, also sent questions to Tencent seeking comment on the reasons for the vulnerabilities and data collection issues, specifically requesting comment on whether the company is following state directives. China maintains one of the world's most extensive censorship and surveillance regimes and all companies are required by law to follow state regulations. China's anti-terrorism law, which came into effect on January 1, 2016, includes requirements for telecommunications operators and Internet service providers to "provide technical interfaces, decryption, and other technical support assistance to public security organs and state security organs conducting prevention and investigation of terrorist activities in accordance with law". As of the date of publication, however, Tencent has not replied to the Citizen Lab letter. "Most users would likely be surprised to discover the extent of personally identifiable data that the application is collecting, and would likely be troubled to find it is being transmitted in an insecure manner. If developers are going to be collecting this data, it is imperative that they use widely-accepted methods of transmitting the data in a more secure way," said Adam Senft, Researcher at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs. This is the third web browser produced by a China-based company that Citizen Lab researchers have identified security issues with. In May 2015, Citizen Lab research identified similar security concerns with UC Browser, a popular mobile web browser owned by China-based e-commerce giant Alibaba. In February 2016, Citizen Lab published a report describing similar security concerns with Baidu Browser, a web browser produced by China-based Baidu. "The collection of such sensitive information about a user, and its insecure transmission across networks, is disturbing regardless of where it takes place. But the fact that this is being undertaken in a context like China—where there is extensive surveillance, companies are required by law to share user data with authorities on demand, and dissidents are routinely incarcerated for opposition to the government—is a serious matter of personal security and human rights," said Ron Deibert, Director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs.

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Site: http://www.greencarcongress.com/

« DOE seeking input on H2@scale: hydrogen as centerpiece of future energy system; 50% reduction in energy GHGs by 2050 | Main | Audi deepening partnerships with Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent on connected cars in China » Boeing and NASA researchers are testing a 13-foot-wingspan, 6% scale Blended Wing Body (BWB) model at a subsonic wind tunnel at the NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia. Boeing is readying the BWB for the next step in maturing the concept—a manned demonstrator. The BWB concept is unique in that it forgoes the conventional tube and wing shape of today’s airplanes, in favor of a triangular tailless aircraft that effectively merges the vehicle’s wing and body. (Earlier post.) Testing will validate testing methodology, as well as map airflow over the airplane using lasers and smoke with a technique known as particle imagery velocimetry (PIV). Time permitting, testing will be conducted to measure the effectiveness of various control surfaces. That data will be compared with and supplement the set of data collected over the last two years on the same model at NASA Langley and the much larger 40- by 80-foot subsonic tunnel at NASA Ames Research Center in California. Our tests are a continuation of more than two decades of successful research and development of this concept, which is unparalleled in industry. What we learn from this round of testing will be used to complete the definition of our aerodynamic, stability and control low-speed databases – a major milestone in the technology development of the concept. Boeing sees potential for a BWB-type aircraft to be developed in the next 10 years as a subsonic transport, possibly beginning with military transport variants for airlift and aerial refueling, said John Dorris III, Mobility senior manager, Phantom Works Fixed Wing Assembly for Boeing. Backed by decades of successful structural, wind tunnel and flight testing of two different X-48 aircraft configurations, Boeing is readying the BWB for the next step in maturing this technology: a manned demonstrator. NASA’s Aeronautics budget proposes the return of X-planes. Boeing has completed an extensive study of BWB X-plane options for NASA and is supportive of NASA’s desire to create a series of manned demonstrators as part of its mission to advance the science of aviation for public benefit, said Naveed Hussain, vice president, Aeromechanics Technology, at Boeing. Much of the current testing is a collaboration with NASA Aeronautics and is a follow-on to tests that NASA and Boeing completed in 2014 and 2015 under NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation program. The goal of that program was to develop technologies that improve fuel efficiencies, lower noise levels and reduce emissions. With the exception of Boeing proprietary technology, NASA knowledge gained from this NASA/Boeing collaborative research will be documented and publicly available to benefit the aviation industry. The BWB remains one of many promising concepts for a future NASA X-plane. NASA’s funding for the BWB project was provided as part of programs that are available for others to apply and compete for. In addition, Boeing has provided an approximate equal share of the costs for these efforts.

Meituan-Dianping, China’s largest group deals site, confirmed that it has closed a colossal $3.3 billion round at a valuation of $18 billion. The company claims that this is the largest single funding round ever raised by a venture-backed Internet startup in China. Backers include returning investor Tencent, one of China’s top Internet companies; DST Global; TBP Capital, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Baillie Gifford, CDB Kai Yuan Capital Management; Capital Today; and Temasek Holdings. Merchant bank China Renaissance served as the financial adviser for the round. Meituan-Dianping’s current valuation puts it at No. 5 on CrunchBase’s unicorn leaderboard, behind Uber, Xiaomi, Airbnb and Palantir Technologies, and just ahead of Chinese taxi app Didi Kuaidi, which is also backed by Tencent and Temasek Holdings. The joint company was formed last October when competitors Meituan and Dianping announced a merger. It claimed 170 billion RMB ($25.84 billion) in gross merchandise volume (or the value of merchandise sold online) last year and currently serves about 150 million monthly active users who place about 10 million orders each day. Meituan and Dianping, which still operate as independent brands, were the strongest contenders in China’s group buying wars, when up to 5,000 Groupon clones struggled against one another before consumer interest in group buying sites started to dwindle around 2011. Meituan and Dianping, however, both benefited from the support of China’s top Internet companies. Tencent invested in Dianping, while Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba backed Meituan (it sold its $1 billion stake after the merger). Both also offer a wider array of services than group discounts–Dianping specializes in restaurant orders, and both offer a wide array of services, including ticket bookings, travel reservations, and wedding services. While the two companies may have been originally founded to replicate Groupon, Meituan-Dianping has emerged as the largest player in China’s online-to-offline (O2O) market. O2O, which is a catch-all term for strategies that encourage more consumers in brick-and-mortar outlets to shop online (or vice versa), is important for Chinese Internet companies that want to grow their mobile businesses because most transactions are enabled by smartphones. O2O encompasses a wide array of products and services, ranging from group buying, ticket booking and online ordering from physical businesses to mobile payments and taxi hailing. According to China’s State Council, the O2O market was worth 305 billion yuan ($48 billion) in the first-half of 2015, a 80 percent year-over-year increase. Competition among O2O companies is fierce and many offer deep discounts of up to 60 percent in order to undersell rivals. Meituan and Dianping’s merger means that the two are no longer engaged in a price war, but as the funding shows, maintaining its position in the O2O market still requires a huge amount of capital.

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