All posts in “Transportation”

Charge your electric car with Google Maps

Quick: Find a plug to charge your EV.
Quick: Find a plug to charge your EV.

Image: Scott Varley/Digital First Media/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images

Looking up nearby gas stations on your Google Maps route is one of the easiest things to do on the navigation app.

But if you need some juice for your dying battery in your all-electric car, it’s not so simple.

That is, until now. Starting Tuesday, you can search for “EV charging” or “electric charging station” on the Google Maps app on iOS and Android. The nearest “fill-up” spots will show up on the map.

The listing will also show you information about the station, what type of plugs are available, charging speeds, and other business details crowdsourced from other users. 

If a business has a charging station available, it’ll also be listed. 

Here are some of the different charging networks that’ll show up on your search: Tesla, Chargepoint, SemaConnect, EVgo, Blink, and, in the UK, Chargemaster and Pod Point. In Australia and New Zealand you’ll also see Chargefox.

Here’s what comes up from a search here in San Francisco:

Options for electric car charging in San Francisco.

Options for electric car charging in San Francisco.

Image: google maps / screengrab

The ability to search for charging stations will be coming to Google Maps on desktop in a few weeks. To start charging with your phone as your guide, just update the app.

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Lyft’s all-access subscription plan is now available to everyone

For anyone committed to the car-free lifestyle or those who prefer to ride-share multiple times per month, Lyft has a monthly subscription pass for you.

For $299, Lyft’s All-Access Plan gets you 30 rides every 30 days. Each ride can be up to $15 (you’ll pay the difference for a ride to, say, the airport) and can be a shared ride or a traditional Lyft. The subscription auto-renews, but you can cancel at any time. And no, your days don’t roll over if you don’t use all 30 in a month. Use ’em or lose ’em.

The subscription plan had been in testing over the past few months, with some offered at different price points, but now all of Lyft’s U.S. users can subscribe to the $300-per-month plan. That breaks down to $10 per ride.

According to Lyft’s calculations, someone who uses the All-Access Plan instead of owning a car can save up to 59 percent per month. But it really only makes sense for a true power user who considers $300 for $450 worth of Lyft rides a deal. For the occasional user, you’ll end up spending more through this plan than you would on rides in a month. 

As seen in Lyft’s Ditch Your Car challenge, people are willing to forgo their car and its costs. More than 100,000 people signed up for the latest challenge within 24 hours for only 1,800 challenge spots. Yes, free money for the bus, car rentals, and bike shares were on offer, but everyone was essentially willing to leave their car unused for a month.

Keep an eye out for an email from Lyft to sign up for the subscription. For anyone super eager to get in on the $300 plan, sign-ups are open online and you can start working on those 30 rides now.

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Electric scooter startup Grin raises ~$45 million

Grin, an electric scooter startup backed by Y Combinator, has raised a $45.7 million Series A to operate shared, electric scooters in Latin America.

Grin, which is based in Mexico City, had previously raised funding from Sinai Ventures, Liquid2 Ventures, 500 Startups, Monashees, Base10 Partners and others.

Currently, Grin only operates in Mexico City, but it has plans to expand to other cities throughout Latin America.

Electric scooters are clearly a hot space. U.S.-based companies like Bird and Lime have raised millions of dollars. Bird is currently valued at over $2 billion while Lime is valued at over $1 billion. Meanwhile, transportation behemoths Lyft and Uber have both staked their claim in the electric scooter space, both deploying them in Santa Monica, Calif. in the last month.

I’m getting in touch with Grin co-founder Sergio Romo shortly. More to come.

Dubai launches its self-driving taxi service

It might not be flying taxis, but self-driving taxis on the road started test runs in Dubai on Sunday.

At the annual consumer electronics trade show Gitex, Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority, or RTA, showed off its autonomous taxi service.

The driverless car service kicked off at the show and will run for the next three months in select parts of the city, according to transportation officials

The cars are intended to connect passengers during the “first and last mile” to get from existing transportation systems to, say, a shopping mall or movie theater or other venue or to get back home. 

An autonomous taxi will take passengers around Dubai.

An autonomous taxi will take passengers around Dubai.

Image: DUBAI RTA

The RTA said the cars go up about 20 mph and fit four passengers. Up front is a safety driver who can take over the car if needed. In promotional materials the cars are depicted without anyone in the front seat for a truly driverless experience, hinting at what the transportation agency could introduce later. The cars are modified Mercedes-Benz sedans with cameras, sensors, and LiDAR system built into the car.

The taxis come after Dubai tested self-driving passenger drones for an air-based taxi system. That service hasn’t taken off yet for the general public to use.

A release about the taxi service hailed the program for its contribution in “transforming Dubai into the smartest city in the world.”

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I drove my first all-electric car. It reminded me of my distracting smartphone.

It was eerily quiet.

I was driving a Jaguar — my first time in the driver’s seat of any vehicle from the luxury British car maker — and there wasn’t much to hear save for the slight swish of the car moving along the road and the wheels turning against the pavement. No roar, rev, or vroom-vroom. But there was so much going on.

I was in the I-Pace, Jaguar’s first all-electric car that Waymo plans to use for its self-driving taxi service. It’s not the world’s first electric car, but it was the first I had taken for a spin. 

A quick jaunt around the event center made me realize several things: my next car should definitely be electric and this weirdly felt like the car version of my smartphone.

It was still very much a car, but so many parts of the experience from the silent ride to digitized interior reminded me of using my iPhone — all the efficiencies, distractions, and annoyances included.

Screens, screens, screens

Everything felt digital inside the I-Pace from the speedometer to the air system to the radio. Yes, most modern cars have a digital display and slick infotainment systems, but the latest electric cars seem very screen heavy. It’s enough to keep your eyes on anything but the road.

Screens aplenty.

Screens aplenty.

Image: sasha lekach / mashable

The Tesla Model 3 pretty much has an iPad-like tablet mounted to the dash. The forthcoming Byton car is an extreme example of basically all screen everywhere, even on the steering wheel and back of the headrests. BMW’s iNext concept car went for a subtle interior design, but kept the focal point the digital displays. Also below is an inside look at Audi e-tron, complete with three different screens in the cockpit.

And look — more screens in the Mercedes EQC.

The BMW iNext concept car is electric and autonomous.

The BMW iNext concept car is electric and autonomous.

Image: bmw

Look inside the Audi e-tron and you'll see screens.

Look inside the Audi e-tron and you’ll see screens.

Image: AUDI

Even the more affordable Chevy Bolt is very screen focused. 

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Range anxiety 

After getting over the screen overload, I prepared to actually drive the car. Front and center was how many miles I had left on the charge.

The range was much more in my face than any other information on the various screens.

It reminded me of the option to track the exact percentage of battery remaining on your phone. I choose to live optimistically assume I have maybe 70 or even 80 percent of my battery’s life available when the icon starts to dip. I don’t need to know exactly until I get into more dangerous territory of 20 percent. Then I switch on the percentage stat. 

Back in the car, instead of looking at important things like my speed, I was fixated on how many miles I had left. Even though I drove about a 3 miles and the car could’ve gone on for over 200. It drove me somewhat bonkers. I rationally knew that it didn’t matter on this quick, super short trip, but I couldn’t look away. 

Range anxiety is real and the electric car makers know it and overcompensate for it, assuring you constantly that you’ll be fine, you’ll make it.

My Mashable colleague Chris Taylor wrote about his experience driving the Chevy Bolt for more than 200 miles and how the car’s software practically made him focus on improving his mileage and energy use, almost like a game. 

Range obsessed in the I-Pace.

Range obsessed in the I-Pace.

Image: sasha lekach / mashable

Push the button

I never felt like I truly started driving because, well, I just pushed a button and off we went. Even to go in reverse I simply pushed an “R” button. It felt so strange. There wasn’t even the semblance of a gear shift.

Like on my phone, I can do some powerful things simply by using my thumb. With a push of a button, I’m moving a 4,700-pound machine forward or backward. Cool.

Another set of buttons on the I-Pace was so reminiscent of my iPhone I almost laughed. 

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I could see myself getting obsessed with “gaming” the mileage count and turning on the “high” eco-mode button that slows you down for regenerative braking. It felt like putting my phone ins “low power mode” and seeing how long it can last with limited capabilities.

Shhh

It’s the first thing everyone notices, but these electric cars with their battery-powered motors are so quiet. Compared to an internal-combustion engine experience it felt like being in the front seat of a giant digital device. Think about it, your battery-powered cellphone, tablet, or computer doesn’t make any noise to run (OK, sometimes your computer fan gets noisy but that’s about it). With today’s phones you don’t hear anything while the machine gets to work. This is how the electric cars feel. Except it’s a vehicle that can move you forward — and fast.

Plug it in

The I-Pace is a plug-in vehicle, so you need to have a power supply at home or find a charging station like you would a gas station.

This week I visited Volta‘s headquarters in San Francisco where the company’s free electric charging stations were available out front. CEO and founder Scott Mercer explained the business model behind the fast-charging “fill-up” stations that don’t cost you a penny. Instead of paying money for electricity you are shown ads on the station screens and you have to find a station. You’ll notice the chargers are in places like shopping malls and grocery store parking lots — places where you’ll spend money on groceries or clothing while you wait at least 30 minutes for your electric charge. 

After the I-Pace drive I didn’t get to (or need to) charge the car, so Mercer let me try it out for myself on a red Fiat 500e.  

You literally plug in the car with what feels like a giant phone charger. Unlike a gas station nozzle nothing drips and it fits in snugly. I didn’t get electrocuted or feel a jolt of energy. All you need is a power source or a public (or pay-to-charge) station. It was all very anti-climactic.

Charge it up.

Charge it up.

Image: sasha lekach / mashable

All this to say the electric experience is fun, quiet, powerful, and may bring some of the problems of smartphones to our cars. 

If we start treating our cars like we do our phones we are headed into trouble, with safety falling to the wayside for slick features, energy-saving tricks, and different things calling for your attention. Maybe it’s because the cars and its tech are fairly new and shiny, but it’s basically a distraction box on wheels. Those self-driving cars need to get here so we can sit back and push all the buttons.

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