Around the country, mining, oil, and gas jobs are being phased out, and thousands of workers are finding a new home in the solar industry.
FORBES — Between early 2015 and the first quarter of this year, the United States eliminated nearly 118,000 oil and gas positions. In the mining sector, lower commodity prices and increasing production costs are contributing to the labor decline.
But as these jobs are lost, new opportunities are opening up in the solar industry. Today, close to 209,000 U.S. workers are employed in solar, and the number is predicted to rise to 420,000 workers by 2020.
Colorado-based nonprofit Solar Energy International (SEI) is part of a nationwide effort to retrain mining, oil, and gas workers. Solar Ready Colorado, an SEI initiative that’s being funded by a $401,000 matching grant from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, aims to fill skills gaps among workers in traditional energy fields.
Some 45,000 workers have completed programs at the nonprofit training school. To give its students and alumni the best chance of landing a job, SEI recruits employers to sign on as supporting companies. According to Turek, this shared vision is expected to lead to a well-trained clean energy workforce, ensuring quality solar installations and industry growth.
“Solar is up and coming, and it is the future,” said Noel Wichmann, a U.S. Air Force veteran and former mine employee who launched his own company after completing training through SEI.
The transition to solar is helping both the economy and the environment. Renewable energy has the potential to help stabilize energy prices, and as carbon emissions diminish, public health and the environment will reap the benefits.
As technologies to harvest and store the sun’s energy advance rapidly and adoption costs plummet, these conditions will continue to drive job growth in the energy sector — and specifically in renewable energy.
Thank you to Mark Stone and our friends at Forbes for providing the original article below.
For those seeking some good clean energy news to ring in the new year, look no further than Lazard’s annual report on the costs of electricity generation technologies.
NRDC — The investment firm’s recent analysis reaffirms energy expert and philanthropist Hal Harvey’s declaration that “a clean future now costs less than a dirty one.” Although the federal climate policy picture is murky, states and power companies across the country can and should continue to double down on their clean energy progress heading into 2017.
Lazard has tracked the all-in costs of building and operating new power projects for the past ten years in its Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis. The report compares the costs of building conventional power plants—natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) plants or new coal plants, for example—to the costs of building new renewable energy projects, and has recorded the noteworthy decline in the costs of wind and solar projects over the past several years. It’s one of the only reports out there that compares all generating technologies in a single, comprehensive analysis, and it has become a key benchmark for the industry. This year, the news for the economics of clean energy is better than ever—let’s take a look at some of the key findings from the report:
And perhaps the best news of all is that these aren’t just hypothetical numbers—these results are being borne out on the ground, as power companies across the country strengthen their investments in clean energy.
When MidAmerican announced it would be building a huge 2,000 megawatt wind farm in Iowa earlier this year, the utility was able to do so without requesting any increase in customer rates.
In Colorado, the utility commission recently approved Xcel’s request to build an additional 600 megawatt wind facility, not to comply with the state’s renewable portfolio standard (they are already on track), but because of the net savings provided to customers—Xcel estimates the project will save its customers $400 million over 25 years.
And just last week, Florida Power and Light (FPL) formally announced the retirement of the 250 megawatt Cedar Bay coal plant because it was uneconomical to operate; the company is replacing a large portion of the plant’s power with 225 megawatts of new solar projects.
States are also providing clean energy leadership at a time when it’s more important than ever. In the past few weeks, Illinois and Michigan both passed important legislation to boost their renewable standards, and yesterday Governor Kasich vetoed an attempt to delay implementation of Ohio’s successful clean energy standards. And along with D.C., five states—California, New York, Hawaii, Oregon, and Vermont—home to a full 20 percent of the American population, now intend to get at least 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. That’s great news for residents and business-owners in those states (and the rest of the country), because in addition to being low-cost, wind and solar projects result in significant economic, public health, and climate benefits.
A recent study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that in 2013 alone, renewable portfolio standards (RPSs) across the country saved customers $1.3 to $3.7 billion from lower natural gas prices (as a result of lower demand for natural gas across the power sector). The same study estimated that RPSs also supported nearly 200,000 renewable energy-related jobs, provided $5.2 billion worth of health benefits through improved air quality, and resulted in global climate benefits of $2.2 billion.
Lazard has also started a new annual report documenting the costs of different energy storage technologies. As we move to an urgently-needed low-carbon future, storage will play a key role in developing and bolstering a clean, affordable, advanced energy system. Importantly, we’ve now seen three states—California, Oregon, and most recently Massachusetts—implement policies that will boost energy storage (and several more such as New York, Rhode Island, and Maryland are actively exploring such policies to complement their growing clean energy programs).
If the remarkable progress of wind and solar technologies is any indication, the winning combination of American innovation and policy support will enable storage to become an important and cost-effective part of our clean energy economy much sooner than anyone expects.
At a time when it’s more important than ever—in the face of uncertainty over federal climate action—it’s reassuring that many states and power companies across the country are doubling down on their transition to a low carbon future. Cheers to even more clean energy progress in 2017!
Thank you to our friends at NRDC for providing the original article below.
Some of the world's top business leaders will launch a new fund on Monday which will invest over $1 billion in "next generation energy technologies."
CNBC — The investor-led fund will be known as Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) and is set to put money into new technologies that will be able to deliver affordable and clean energy.
Members of BEV include Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who will chair the board, Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma, who will sit on the board, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
"Anything that leads to cheap, clean, reliable energy we're open-minded to," Gates told news outlet Quartz in an interview.
He went on to tell Quartz that investing in the energy sector posed its own unique challenges. "People think you can just put $50 million in and wait two years and then you know what you got," he said. "In this energy space, that's not true at all."
The board and management team will make decisions on where to invest based on several factors, including climate impact and scientific possibility.
Thank you to our friends at CNBC for providing the original article below.
Apple is gearing up to sell a new kind of high-tech product -- surplus electricity generated by its various renewable energy projects back to consumers.
In recent years, Apple has worked hard to shrink its global carbon footprint. CEO Tim Cook is known for being a green leader and the company boasts that all its data centers and most of its stores and corporate offices are now powered by green, renewable energy.
The company is now venturing further into renewable energy, having created an energy subsidiary in Delaware called Apple Energy LLC to sell surplus electricity generated by its various renewable energy projects.
Most corporations usually sell surplus energy to power companies, but the tech titan has filed an application with the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to basically create a green energy pipeline to consumers
Apple has plans for 521 megawatts of solar projects globally, as well as other investments in hydroelectric, biogas and geothermal power, which generates enough power to cover 93 percent of its worldwide energy usage. The company wants to eventually operate with 100 percent renewable energy.
Thank you to our friends at EcoWatch for providing the original article noted below.
Bionic leaves, a hot solar cell, and other picks for the most notable renewable energy strides in 2016.
MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW — Clean energy made critical strides in 2016. The Paris Climate accords went into effect, the price of solar installations continued to drop, investments in renewable energy soared, offshore wind finally got under way in the United States, and scientists made a series of technical advances that promise to make sustainable energy increasingly efficient and affordable.
That last one is key, since invention is still the surest way to avoid the greatest impacts of climate change. Today's commercially available renewable technologies can't meet all of the world's energy demands, even if they're scaled up aggressively. The United States comes up about 20 percent short by 2050, according to a thorough analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Meanwhile, the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded the world must cut greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 70 percent by midcentury, and to nearly zero by 2100, to have any chance of avoiding warming levels that could ensure sinking cities, mass extinctions, and widespread droughts.
We need more highly efficient renewable energy sources, cheaper storage, smarter grids, and effective systems for capturing greenhouse gases. Here are some of the most promising scientific advances of 2016.
One of the crucial missing pieces in the portfolio of renewable energy sources is a clean liquid fuel that can replace gasoline and other transportation fuels. One of the most promising possibilities is artificial photosynthesis, mimicking nature's own method for converting sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water into fuels.
There have been slow improvements in the field in recent years. But this summer, Harvard scientists Daniel Nocera and Pamela Silvers, in partnership with their co-authors, developed a "bionic leaf" that could capture and convert 10 percent of the energy in sunlight, a big step forward for the field. It's also about 10 times better than the photosynthesis of your average plant.
The researchers use catalysts made from a cobalt-phosphorous alloy to split the water into hydrogen and oxygen, and then set specially engineered bacteria to work gobbling up the carbon dioxide and hydrogen and converting them into liquid fuel.
Others labs have also made notable strides in the efficiency and durability of solar fuel devices in recent months, including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis. This year the latter lab created a solar-driven device that converted carbon dioxide to formate at 10 percent efficiency levels. Formate can be used as an energy source for specialized fuel cells.
But the field still faces considerable technical challenges, as an earlier MIT Technology Review story explained, and any commercial products are still likely years away.
This spring, a team of MIT researchers reported the development of a solar thermophotovoltaic device that could potentially push past the theoretical efficiency limits of the conventional photovoltaics used in solar panels. Those standard solar cells can only absorb energy from a fraction of sunlight's color spectrum, mainly the visual light from violet to red.
But the MIT scientists added an intermediate component made up of carbon nanotubes and nanophotonic crystals that together function sort of like a funnel, collecting energy from the sun and concentrating it into a narrow band of light.
The nanotubes capture energy across the entire color spectrum, including in the invisible ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths, converting it all into heat energy. As the adjacent crystals heat up to high temperatures, around 1,000 °C, they reëmit the energy as light, but only in the band that photovoltaic cells can capture and convert.
The researchers suggest that an optimized version of the technology could one day break through the theoretical cap of around 30 percent efficiency on conventional solar cells. In principle at least, solar thermophotovoltaics could achieve levels above 80 percent, though that's a long way off, according to the scientists. But there's another critical advantage to this approach. Because the process is ultimately driven by heat, it could continue to operate even when the sun ducks behind clouds, reducing the intermittency that remains one of the critical drawbacks of solar power. If the device were coupled with a thermal storage mechanism that could operate at these high temperatures, it could offer continuous solar power through the day and night.
Perovskite solar cells
Perovskite solar cells are cheap, easy to produce, and very efficient at absorbing light. A thin film of the material, a class of hybrid organic and inorganic compounds with a particular type of crystal structure, can capture as much light as a relatively thick layer of the silicon used in standard photovoltaics.
One of the critical challenges, however, has been durability. The compounds that actually absorb solar energy tend to quickly degrade, particularly in wet and hot conditions.
But research groups at Stanford, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, among other institutions, made considerable strides in improving the stability of perovskite solar cells this year, publishing notable papers in Nature, Nature Energy, and Science.
"At the start of the year, they just weren't stable for long periods of time," says Ian Sharp, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. "But there have been some really impressive advances in that respect. This year things have really gotten serious."
Meanwhile, other researchers have succeeded at boosting the efficiency of perovskite solar cells and identifying promising new paths for further advances.
Electricity generation is responsible for producing 30 percent of the nation's carbon dioxide, so capturing those emissions at the source is crucial to any reduction plan. This year saw advances for several emerging approaches to capturing carbon in power plants, including carbonate fuel cells, as well as at least some promising implementations of existing technology in the real world. (Though, to be sure, there have been some starkly negative examples as well.)
But most of these approaches leave open the question of what to do with the stuff after it's successfully captured. And it's not a small problem. The world produces nearly 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually.
One method, however, appears more promising than initially believed: burying carbon dioxide and turning it into stone. Since 2012, Reykjavik Energy’s CarbFix Project in Iceland has been injecting carbon dioxide and water deep underground, where they react with the volcanic basalt rocks that are abundant in the region.
An analysis published in Science in June found that 95 percent of the carbon dioxide had mineralized in less than two years, much faster than the hundreds of thousands of years many had expected. So far, it also doesn't appear to be leaking out greenhouse gases, which suggests it could be both cheaper and more secure than existing burial approaches.
But further research will be required to see how well it works in other areas, notably including under the ocean floors, outside observers say.
Carbon dioxide to ethanol
Another promising option for captured carbon dioxide is, essentially, recycling it back into usable fuels.
Earlier this year, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory stumbled onto a method for converting it into ethanol, the liquid fuel already used as an additive in gasoline. The team developed a catalyst made from carbon, copper, and nitrogen with a textured surface, which concentrated the electrochemical reactions at the tips of nano spikes, according to a study published in Chemistry Select in October. When voltage was applied, the device converted a solution of carbon dioxide into ethanol at a high level of efficiency. The materials were also relatively cheap and the process worked at room temperature, both critical advantages for any future commercialization.
“We’re taking carbon dioxide, a waste product of combustion, and we’re pushing that combustion reaction backwards,” said lead author Adam Rondinone in a news release.
In addition to converting captured carbon dioxide, the process could be used to store excess energy from wind and solar electricity generation.
Some outside researchers, however, are skeptical about the initial results and are anxiously awaiting to see if other labs can verify the findings.
Thank you to our friends at MIT Technology Review for providing the original article below.
2016 was an incredible year for technology, and for humanity.
PETER DIAMANDIS — Despite all the negative political-related news, there were 10 tech trends this year that positively transformed humanity.
For this “2017 Kick-Off” blog, I reviewed 52 weeks of science and technology breakthroughs, and categorized them into the top 10 tech trends changing our world.
I’m blown away by how palpable the feeling of exponential change has become.
I’m also certain that 99.999% of humanity doesn’t understand nor appreciate the ramifications of what’s coming.
In this blog, enjoy the top 10 tech trends of the past 12 months and why they are important to you.
Let’s dive in…
1. We are Hyper-Connecting the World
In 2010, 1.8 billion people were connected. Today, that number is about 3 billion, and by 2022 – 2025, that number will expand to include every human on the planet, approaching 8 billion humans.
Unlike when I was connected 20 years ago at 9,600 baud via AOL, the world today is coming online at 1 megabit per second or greater, with access to the world’s information on Google, access to the world’s products on Amazon, access to massive computing power on AWS and artificial intelligence with Watson… not to mention crowdfunding for capital and crowdsourcing for expertise.
Looking back at 2016, you can feel the acceleration. Here are seven stories that highlight the major advances in our race for global connectivity:
a) Free Internet for 1 billion in India: India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, announced his plans to roll out a $20 billion mobile network that will bring lightning-fast Internet to hundreds of millions of people FOR FREE. It’s called Jio – and it’s a 4G network that will reach more than 80% of the country. By 2018, 100% of India will be covered by this infrastructure.
b) Google Loon Finally Implemented: Project Loon is an initiative out of Google’s X (their moonshot factory) that aims to provide high-speed Internet access to rural areas via balloons. After years of testing, and many failures, Loon will finally be launched in Indonesia this year. The team, led by Astro Teller, settled on a balloon that managed to travel around the world 19 times in 187 days.
c) Google’s 5G Solar Drones Internet Service: Project Skybender is Google's secretive 5G Internet drone initiative. News broke this year that they have been testing these solar-powered drones at Spaceport America in New Mexico to explore ways to deliver high-speed Internet from the air. Their purported millimeter wave technology could deliver data from drones up to 40 times faster than 4G.
d) Facebook’s Solar Drone Internet Service: Even before Google, Facebook has been experimenting with a solar-powered drone, also for the express purpose of providing Internet to billions. The drone has the wingspan of an airliner and flies with roughly the power of three blowdryers.
e) ViaSat Plans 1 Terabit Internet Service: ViaSat, a U.S.-based satellite company, has teamed up with Boeing to launch three satellites to provide 1 terabit-per-second Internet connections to remote areas, aircraft and maritime vehicles. ViaSat is scheduled to launch its satellite ViaSat2 in early 2017.
f) OneWeb Raises $1.2B for 900 Satellite Constellation: An ambitious low-Earth Orbit satellite system proposed by my friends Greg Wyler, Paul Jacobs and Richard Branson just closed $1.2 billion in financing. This 900-satellite system will offer global Internet services as soon as 2019.
g) Musk Announces 4,425 Internet Satellite System: Perhaps the most ambitious plan for global Internet domination was proposed this year by SpaceX founder Elon Musk, with plans for SpaceX to deploy a 4,425 low-Earth orbit satellite system to blanket the entire planet in broadband.
2. Solar/Renewables Cheaper than Coal
We’ve just exceeded a historic inflection point. 2016 was the year solar and renewable energy became cheaper than coal.
In December, the World Economic Forum reported that solar and wind energy is now the same price or cheaper than new fossil fuel capacity in more than 30 countries.
“As prices for solar and wind power continue their precipitous fall, two-thirds of all nations will reach the point known as “grid parity” within a few years, even without subsidies,” they added.
This is one of the most important developments in the history of humanity, and this year marked a number of major milestones for renewable energy.
Here’s 10 data points (stories) I’ve hand-picked to hammer home the historic nature of this 2016 achievement.
a) 25% of the World’s Power Comes From Renewables: REN21, a global renewable energy policy network, published a report showing that a quarter of the world’s power now comes from renewable energy. International investment in renewable energy reached $286 billion last year (with solar accounting for over $160b of this), and it’s accelerating.
b) In India, Solar is Now Cheaper Than Coal: An amazing milestone indeed, and India is now on track to deploy >100 gigawatts of solar power by 2022.
c) The UK is Generating More Energy From Solar Than Coal: For the first time in history, this year the U.K. has produced an estimated 6,964 GWh of electricity from solar cells, 10% higher than the 6,342 GWh generated by coal.
d) Coal Plants Being Replaced by Solar Farms: The Nanticoke Generating Station in Ontario, once North America's largest coal plant, will be turned into a solar farm.
e) Coal Will Never Recover: The coal industry, once the backbone of U.S. energy, is fading fast on account of renewables like solar and wind. Official and expert reports now state that it will never recover (e.g. coal power generation in Texas is down from 39% in early 2015 to 24.8% in May 2016).
f) Scotland Generated 106% Energy from Wind: This year, high winds boosted renewable energy output to provide 106% of Scotland’s electricity needs for a day.
g) Costa Rica Ran on Renewables for 2+ Months: The country ran on 100% renewable energy for 76 days.
h) Google to Run 100% on Renewable Energy: Google has announced its entire global business will be powered by renewable energy in 2017.
i) Las Vegas Government Meets Goal of 100% Power by Renewables
j) Tesla’s Gigafactory: Tesla’s $5 billion structure in Nevada will produce 500,000 lithium ion batteries annually and Tesla’s Model III vehicle. It is now over 30 percent complete… the 10 million square foot structure is set to be done by 2020. Musk projected that a total of 100 Gigafactories could provide enough storage capacity to run the entire planet on renewables.
3. Glimpsing the End of Cancer & Disease
Though it may seem hard to believe, the end of cancer and disease is near.
Scientists and researchers have been working diligently to find novel approaches to combating these diseases, and 2016 saw some extraordinary progress in this regard.
Here’s my top 10 picks that give me great faith about our abilities to cure cancer and most diseases:
a) Cancer Immunotherapy Makes Strides (Extraordinary Results): Immunotherapy involves using a patient’s own immune system (in this case, T cells) to fight cancer. Doctors remove immune cells from patients, tag them with “receptor” molecules that target the specific cancer, and then infuse the cells back in the body. During the study, 94% of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) saw symptoms vanish completely. Patients with other blood cancers had response rates greater than 80%, and more than half experienced complete remission.
b) In China, CRISPR/Cas9 used in First Human Trial: A team of scientists in China (Sichuan University) became the first to treat a human patient with an aggressive form of lung cancer with the groundbreaking CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique.
c) NIH Approves Human Trials Using CRISPR: A team of physicians at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine had their project of modifying the immune cells of 18 different cancer patients with the CRISPR-Cas9 system approved by the National Institute of Health. Results are TBD.
d) Giant Leap in Treatment of Diabetes from Harvard: For the first time, Harvard stem cell researchers created “insulin producing” islet cells to cure diabetes in mice. This offers a promising cure in humans as well.
e) HIV Genes Cut Out of Live Animals Using CRISPR: Scientists at the Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center at Temple University were able to successfully cut out the HIV genes from live animals, and they had over a 50% success rate.
f) New Treatment Causes HIV Infected Cells to Vanish: A team of scientists in the U.K. discovered a new treatment for HIV. The patient was treated with vaccines that helped the body recognize the HIV-infected cells. Then, the drug Vorinostat was administered to activate the dormant cells so they could be spotted by the immune system.
g) CRISPR Cures Mice of Sickle Cell Disease: CRISPR was used to completely cure sickle cell by editing the errant DNA sequence in mice. The treatment may soon be used to cure this disease, which affects about 100,000 Americans.
h) Eradicating Measles (in the U.S.): The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that after 50 years, they have successfully eradicated measles in the U.S. This is one of the most contagious diseases around the world.
i) New Ebola Vaccine Proved to be 100% Effective: None of the nearly 6,000 individuals vaccinated with rVSV-ZEBOV in Guinea, a country with more than 3,000 confirmed cases of Ebola, showed any signs of contracting the disease.
j) Eradicating Polio: The World Health Organization has announced that it expects to fully eradicate polio worldwide by Early 2017.
4. Progress on Extending Human Life
I am personally convinced that we are on the verge of significantly impacting human longevity. At a minimum, making “100 years old the new 60,” as we say at Human Longevity Inc.
This year, hundreds of millions of dollars were poured into research initiatives and companies focused on extending life.
Here are five of the top stories from 2016 in longevity research:
a) 500-Year-Old Shark Discovered: A Greenland shark that could have been over 500 years old was discovered this year, making the species the longest-lived vertebrate in the world.
b) Genetically Reversing Aging: With an experiment that replicated stem cell-like conditions, Salk Institute researchers made human skin cells in a dish look and behave young again, and mice with premature aging disease were rejuvenated with a 30% increase in lifespan. The Salk Institute expects to see this work in human trials in less than 10 years.
c) 25% Life Extension Based on Removal of Senescent Cells: Published in the medical journal Nature, cell biologists Darren Baker and Jan van Deursen have found that systematically removing a category of living, stagnant cells can extend the life of mice by 25 percent.
d) Funding for Anti-Aging Startups: Jeff Bezos and the Mayo Clinic-backed Anti-Aging Startup Unity Biotechnology with $116 million. The company will focus on medicines to slow the effects of age-related diseases by removing senescent cells (as mentioned in the article above).
e) Young Blood Experiments Show Promising Results for Longevity: Sakura Minami and her colleagues at Alkahest, a company specializing in blood-derived therapies for neurodegenerative diseases, have found that simply injecting older mice with the plasma of young humans twice a week improved the mice’s cognitive functions as well as their physical performance. This practice has seen a 30% increase in lifespan, and increase in muscle tissue and cognitive function.
5. Amazing Successes with Stem Cells
I’ve increasingly become confident and passionate about stem cells, the regenerative engine of the body, to help cure disease and extend the healthy human lifespan. I previously wrote about stem cells and the incredible work from Dr. Robert (Bob) Hariri here.
Below are my top three stories demonstrating the incredible research and implications for stem cells in 2016:
a) Stem Cells Able to Grow New Human Eyes: Biologists led by Kohji Nishida at Osaka University in Japan have discovered a new way to nurture and grow the tissues that make up the human eyeball. The scientists are able to grow retinas, corneas, the eye’s lens, and more using only a small sample of adult skin.
b) Stem Cell Injections Help Stroke Victims Walk Again: In a study out of Stanford, of 18 stroke victims who agreed to stem cells treatments, seven of them showed remarkable motor function improvements. This treatment could work for other neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
c) Stem Cells Help Paralyzed Victim Gain Use of Arms: Doctors from the USC Neurorestoration Center and Keck Medicine of USC injected stem cells into the damaged cervical spine of a recently paralyzed 21-year-old man. Three months later, he showed dramatic improvement in sensation and movement of both arms.
6. The Year of Autonomous Vehicles
2016 was definitely “the year of the autonomous vehicle.”
As Google, Tesla and Uber lead the charge, almost every major car company is investing heavily in autonomy.
This will be one of the defining technology developments of the decade -- soon we may well look back in shock that we ever let humans drive cars on their own…
In looking back at the last 12 months, here are the top nine developments in self-driving cars:
a) Autonomous Uber Operational in Pittsburgh: Uber's self-driving autonomous cars began picking up passengers in Pittsburgh this year. They also attempted a rollout in San Francisco.
b) Uber’s Self-Driving Trucks Made a Delivery of 50,000 Beers: This year, Uber acquired autonomous truck company Otto, and the retrofitted 18-wheeler made its first delivery… 50,000 cans of Budweiser.
c) Every Tesla Will Be Fully Autonomous in 2017: Elon Musk announced that all new Tesla cars will have Level 5 autonomy. This means that by 2017, Tesla cars will be fully capable of driving themselves with zero interaction from a human driver.
d) Ford Targets 2021 for Autonomous Vehicle Release: Ford announces intention to deliver high-volume, fully autonomous vehicle for ridesharing in 2021.
e) GM’s First Fully Autonomous Car: The company plans to bring its fully electric self-driving cars to the masses by launching its first driverless cars on Lyft.
f) Google Creates Waymo to Support Self-Driving Car Technology: Google spun out its self-driving car unit as its own separate entity called Waymo.
g) Google Plans Ride-Sharing Service with Chrysler: Google will deploy a semi-autonomous version of the Chrysler Pacifica minivan by as soon as the end of 2017.
h) Autonomy Will Kill Car Ownership: A former Tesla and BMW exec said that self-driving cars would start to kill car ownership in just five years. John Zimmer, the cofounder and president of Lyft, said in September that car ownership would "all but end" in cities by 2025.
i) Self-Driving Tractors Hit Farms: The self-driving tractors can deliver faster, more precise results than their human-controlled counterparts.
7. Here Come Drones & Flying Cars
Quadcopters and multicopters big and small made huge strides in 2016.
We are headed towards a world where autonomous drones will image the world at millimeter resolution, deliver products and packages, and transport humans to remote areas that were previously inaccessible by roads.
Here were the top six drone and “flying car” developments this year:
a) Amazon Prime Air Made Its First Delivery: Amazon’s drone delivery program “Prime Air” made its first delivery in the U.K. this year. Expect a much bigger rollout in 2017.
b) The 7-11 Convenience Store Leads: Convenience store 7-11 made 77 drone deliveries this year, beating Amazon by a long shot.
c) Mercedes Commits $500M to Drone Delivery: Mercedes-Benz vans and drone tech startup Matternet have created a concept car called a Vision Van. The van’s rooftop serves as a launch and landing pad for Matternet’s new M2 drones.
d) Larry Page Funding Flying Cars: Reports this year suggest Google cofounder Larry Page has been personally funding a pair of startups devoted to creating flying cars. He has purportedly put over $100 million into the ventures.
e) 1,000 Organ Transplant Deliveries from Drone Ordered: Last year we saw Chinese company eHang announce the first human-carrying drone. Recently, United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt announced a deal to fund 1,000 retrofitted eHang drones to provide organ deliveries to transplant patients, as part of Rothblatt’s Manufactured Organ Transport Helicopter (MOTH) system.
f) Uber Launched Its Elevate Program: Global transportation giant Uber announced its plans to enter the “flying car” service arena by publishing a massive whitepaper this year detailing its plan to launch an “on demand aviation” service called Uber Elevate.
8. The March of Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the most important technology humanity will ever develop. I believe AI is a massive opportunity for humanity, not a threat.
Broadly, AI is the ability of a computer to understand your question, to search its vast memory banks, and to give you the best, most accurate answer.
AI will also help humanity fundamentally solve its grandest challenges.
You may think of early versions of AI as Siri on your iPhone, or IBM’s Watson supercomputer, but what is coming is truly awesome.
Here are 10 of the most important stories for the past year:
a) NVIDIA Revealed a Deep-Learning Computer Chipset: The Tesla P100, Nvidia’s newly announced 15-billion-transistor chip, is designed specifically for deep-learning A.I. technology. Hardware advances like this are rapidly accelerating AI developments.
b) $5M IBM Watson AI XPRIZE: The XPRIZE Foundation and IBM Watson, in partnership with TED, announced a $5M purse for the team able to develop an AI that can collaborate with humans to solve grand challenges. The top three teams will compete on the TED stage in the spring of 2020.
c) AIs Can Read your Lips: A new AI lip reader out of Oxford called LipNet was built to process whole sentences at a time. LipNet was 1.78 times more accurate than human lip readers in translating the same sentences.
d) AI’s Predict Election Better Than Humans: MogIA, an AI system developed by an Indian startup, correctly predicted the outcome of this year’s elections. It based its analysis on 20 million data points from platforms such as Google, Twitter and YouTube.
e) AI System Beats 500-to-1 Odds, Predicts the Kentucky Derby Trifecta: A startup called Unanimous AI built a swarm system in which individuals within a group influence each other’s decision making. The swarm correctly predicted the top four finishers – known as a superfecta – beating 540 to 1 odds.
f) Microsoft Speech Recognition Tech Scores Better Than Humans: Microsoft's new speech recognition technology is able to transcribe conversational speech as well as (or even better than) humans. The technology scored a word error rate (WER) of 5.9%.
g) AI-Written Novel Passes 1st Round of Literary Award: Titled ‘The Day A Computer Writes A Novel,’ the short story was a team effort between human authors, led by Hitoshi Matsubara from the Future University Hakodate, and, well, a computer.
h) AI Saves Woman’s Life: Reports assert that Japanese doctors have, for the first time in history, used artificial intelligence from IBM’s Watson system to detect a rare type of leukemia, helping to save a patient's life.
i) AI’s Beat Human Pilot in Air Combat: Retired United States Air Force Colonel Gene Lee recently went up against ALPHA, an artificial intelligence developed by a University of Cincinnati doctoral graduate in a high-fidelity air combat simulator. The Colonel lost to the AI.
j) Deep Mind Beats World’s GO Champion: The Go-playing AI “AlphaGo” from Google’s DeepMind beat the reigning Go world champion, winning the five-game series 4-1 overall. This is a major achievement in the field of AI and deep learning.
9. Physics & Exploration
This year saw a number of fundamental achievements in physics, as well as a number of notable discoveries in our quest to explore the cosmos.
Here are the top three stories for your consideration:
a) Gravitational Waves Confirmed: After decades of searching, scientists have succeeded in detecting gravitational waves from the violent merger of two massive black holes.
b) Evidence Found for Planet Nine: This year, more evidence arose suggesting there is, in fact, another giant, icy planet circling at the edges of our solar system.
c) Earth-Size Planet Around Proxima Centauri: A new planet that bears striking similarities to our own planet prompts remarkable inroads into the study of space. This also brings a new area to search for the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
10. Conquest of Commercial Space
We are living during the birth of the commercial space era, driven by passionate billionaire backers.
Companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Planetary Resources and various teams competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE are building commercial rockets and spacecraft to explore the cosmos.
It is an incredibly exciting time for commercial space – here are the top four developments from the past 12 months.
a) Bezos Announced ‘New Glenn’: Jeff Bezos announced a massive new reusable rocket family in development for his private spaceflight company Blue Origin. The rocket, called New Glenn, will be used to launch satellites and people into space, according to Bezos.
b) Four Companies Sign Private Contracts To Fly To Moon In 2017: The teams are competing to win the $20 million Google Lunar XPRIZE to become to the first private team to land a spacecraft on the moon. The companies are: Moon Express, SpaceIL, Synergy Moon and Team-Indus.
c) Musk Announces Mars Plans: SpaceX founder Elon Musk said he will put a person on Mars by 2025. There are four key things we will need to get there: full reusability, refueling in orbit, propellant production on Mars, and a propellant that works.
d) Breakthrough Starshot Project Targets Interstellar Travel: Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced their collaborative venture “Breakthrough Starshot” — a $100 million attempt to make an interstellar starship.
What a past 12 months!
Thank you to our friend Peter Diamandis for providing this article. See more cutting edge tech insights in his blog below:
I'm your go to solar energy expert here to guide you step-by-step through all of your solar options.
James The Solar Energy Expert