Former Castle Air Force Base now used to test self-driving cars

The future of self-driving cars is becoming a reality in the North Valley. The former Castle Air Force Base is now a world-class testing facility for autonomous vehicles. The TRC California complex finished its $2.1 million expansion project in early August.

Since then, the testing field has attracted interest from the automotive industry. Manufacturers, suppliers, and innovators can use the 2.2-mile oval track to test drive their concepts and their vehicles. This is just the first phase for the facility. They will continue to focus on expanding testing capabilities for self-driving technology.

https://abc30.com/self-driving-cars-merced/11283344/

Merced County kicks off $2.1M expansion on research and test site for autonomous vehicles

Construction kicked off this month on a planned $2.1 million expansion of an autonomous vehicle research and testing site at Castle Commerce Center. The new expansion will allow vehicle manufacturers, suppliers and innovators to utilize test areas that mimic real-world highway, rural and urban landscapes, according to a Merced County news release. County officials have touted Castle’s proximity to Silicon Valley and expansive open space as a boon for tech companies like Google that have used the facility to test self-driving vehicles for some years.

“This site embodies the future of transportation, and these technology developments are taking place right in our backyards,” Merced County Supervisor Daron McDaniel, whose district encompasses Castle Commerce Center, said in the release. “This project represents real-time job growth and economic development, with enormous potential as it continues to grow.”

Formerly called the California AutoTech Testing and Development Center, the 225-acre site has been renamed to TRC California for Transportation Research Center Inc., for the Ohio-based corporation that assumed facility operations earlier this year. A long-term goal for county officials was to pass facility management to a private third party expert that would take operations to the cutting edge of the developing autonomous vehicle industry. TRC is a leader in automotive testing and innovation that has led the facility’s design improvements, according to the release. “We are building out TRC California to offer a comprehensive, one-stop shop where automotive technology and mobility innovators can test and affirm the performance, safety, quality and competitiveness of new technologies that are changing the face of transportation worldwide,” Brett Roubinek, president and CEO of TRC Inc., said in the release. “TRC is proud to partner with Merced County in this transformation.” A 2 mile high-speed test track is the subject of the current construction phase by Central Valley-based Avision Construction. Installation of privacy fencing along the perimeter, vehicle barriers and security improvements for confidentiality purposes are also in progress.

https://www.mercedsunstar.com/news/local/article253687543.html

California’s first electric truck stop in the works

A California startup company has announced plans to build the state’s first solar-powered truck stop for heavy-duty, Class 8 electric trucks. WattEV Inc. said it is slated to receive a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to build the facility in Bakersfield, California. Additionally, the company said it has raised $6 million in private equity seed funding led by Canon Equity. Groundbreaking is expected in late October.

The announcement was made at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo 2021 in Long Beach, California, on Aug. 30. WattEV, based in El Segundo, California, said the CEC should approve the grant Sept. 8 at its monthly business meeting. “Our successful private-equity seed funding, in addition to the grant awarded for this project, are important milestones in our effort to deploy 12,000 electric heavy-duty trucks on the road by 2030,” said Salim Youssefzadeh, CEO of WattEV. “The electric truck stop in Bakersfield is the first step toward our commitment to help build the charging infrastructure network necessary to accelerate the heavy-duty trucking sector’s transition to electric drive,” he added. Partners joining WattEV and the CEC on the Bakersfield electric truck stop project include the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, the Central California Asthma Collaborative, Greenlots, Power Electronics and several others.

In addition to the Bakersfield project, WattEV is in the planning stages for similar projects in San Bernardino and Gardena in Southern California. Both electric truck stops will serve the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach, as well as the warehouses fed by goods coming through the ports. WattEV has also secured purchase incentive vouchers through the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project, and plans to initially buy six VNR Electric Class 8 trucks from Volvo Group. WattEV has has applied for 24 more electric truck HVIP vouchers for future purchases. All told, WattEV plans to run its own fleet of 30 heavy-duty electric trucks by the end of 2022. The fleet will be deployed under contract with several Southern California fleet customers.

The first fleet partnership is with Total Transportation Services Inc. (TTSI), which serves the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and has a presence in Bakersfield. TTSI will be offering electric transport freight services to shippers in Southern California on routes served by WattEV’s platform. To help accelerate the transition to electric goods movement, WattEV is developing an advanced software platform — trucks-as-a-service, or TaaS — designed specifically for the use of electric trucks within its network of charging stations on designated routes. The TaaS platform will offer an all-inclusive, charge-per-mile formula that will enable a transporter to use an electric truck to move goods normally handled with diesel trucks on the routes selected by shippers.

https://www.thetrucker.com/trucking-news/equipment-tech/charging-solutions-californias-first-electric-truck-stop-in-the-works

Faraday Future Expands Global Hiring After Business Combination

Faraday Future Intelligent Electric Inc. (“FF”) (NASDAQ: FFIE), a California-based global shared intelligent mobility ecosystem company, today announced plans to increase its employee headcount significantly over the next 12 months following the Business combination closing in July of this year. New hiring will help support the launch of its ultimate intelligent techluxury all electric flagship vehicle FF 91 in 2022.

“We are looking forward to adding a diverse group of innovative, creative and driven people to our rapidly growing team,” said Global CEO of Faraday Future Carsten Breitfeld. “We now have the capability to significantly grow our company with employees passionate about transforming the auto industry and the future of mobility. For the right candidates, an immense amount of opportunity abounds. I welcome talented and passionate applicants who are motivated to help move the company forward together along with the entire FF team.”

Hiring efforts will focus on filling positions in the areas of manufacturing, engineering, supply chain, design, marketing, brand, sales and other areas, along with the potential of higher-level executive positions. These positions are located out of the company’s three California locations including at FF’s headquarters in Los Angeles, tech-focused offices in Silicon Valley, and the FF 91 manufacturing facility in Hanford. FF will soon announce several key operational-focused executives who are expected to join FF soon. FF is also hiring key-positions for its China operations as it gears up to deliver FF vehicles in that market.

https://www.valdostadailytimes.com/news/business/faraday-future-expands-global-hiring-after-business-combination/article_595be0c7-bbfb-5ab0-a151-a160fd7f5d0e.html

Faraday Future’s Ultimate Intelligent Techluxury FF 91 Validates Production Timeline

Faraday Future Intelligent Electric Inc. (“FF”) (NASDAQ: FFIE), a California-based global shared intelligent mobility ecosystem company, today announced that it recently completed a 2,270-mile testing and evaluation journey following the historic Route 66, a highway that crosses numerous U.S. states as it winds its way from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica in Los Angeles County, California.

Real world vehicle testing and evaluation, which followed FF’s public listing on Nasdaq last month in NYC, put the ultimate intelligent techluxury FF 91 through multiple tests in various conditions including extreme heat through the desert and on multiple road surfaces including various elevations. The completion of this testing and evaluation of the many vehicle systems, including battery and propulsion components during the 2,270-mile journey further validates FF 91 production timeline.

“This testing journey along historic Route 66 allowed us to put FF 91 through many diverse environments and conditions found only in the central and southwest portions of the U.S. and allowed us to capture real world data on FF 91,” said FF Global CEO Dr. Carsten Breitfeld. “FF’s overall testing and validation strategy will ensure best-in-market performance, safety and user confidence, and to make sure the battery, electric propulsion, chassis, suspension and other vehicle systems perform under these harsh conditions, while also ensuring a smooth and comfortable and connected experience with the driver and passengers in the FF 91.”

The long-distance road test that FF conducted is a great opportunity to evaluate FF’s unique third internet living space concept in real usage scenarios before it begins production next year. Dr. Breitfeld, an engineer by trade, had an integral part of the Route 66 testing and drove much of the trip, he also used the rear intelligent internet system and in-car video conference system from the rear-seat to participate in daily FF meetings along the way.

FF 91 is equipped with interior cameras and microphones that support videoconferencing features. When the Rear Seat Display (RSD) is turned on, users can access their contacts through conferencing applications to keep connected with friends, family, or business associates while on the road. The applications will run natively on the in-vehicle computer and be mirrored to the users’ mobile devices for remote control.

During vehicle testing, engineers logged volumes of data on the vehicle’s chassis, thermal, electric propulsion performance, and all vehicle systems. They also optimized software controls performance and calibrations in real world conditions. This critical work is providing some of the final levels of development on FF 91’s systems, as FF advances to the final stages of its program and a timely launch. In the coming months, FF will build additional pre-production FF 91 vehicles for further testing, vehicle development, improvements, and final readiness for launch in 2022.

The FF 91 Futurist Alliance Edition and FF 91 Futurist models represent the next generation of intelligent internet electric vehicle (EV) products. They are high-performance EVs, all-ability cars, and ultimate robotic vehicles, allowing users to experience the third internet living space. The models also encompass extreme technology, an ultimate user experience and a complete ecosystem.

Both models have an industry-leading 1050 horsepower, a 130kWh battery pack with immersive liquid cooling technology and 0-60 mph performance in 2.4 seconds. In addition, both employ tri-motor torque vectoring and rear wheels independently driven and controlled by dual rear motors. Both models are also equipped with the industry‘s only super AP for internet connection at “light speed”, video streaming on the passenger information display, a rear intelligent internet system, an in-car video conferencing system, intelligent seamless entry, FFID face recognition, multi-touch eyes-free control, and zero gravity rear seats with the industry’s largest seating angle of 150 degrees.

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/faraday-future-ultimate-intelligent-techluxury-020200076.html

Merced County kicks off $2.1M expansion on research and test site for autonomous vehicles

Construction kicked off this month on a planned $2.1 million expansion of an autonomous vehicle research and testing site at at Castle Commerce Center. The new expansion will allow vehicle manufacturers, suppliers and innovators to utilize test areas that mimic real-world highway, rural and urban landscapes, according to a Merced County news release.

County officials have touted Castle’s proximity to Silicon Valley and expansive open space as a boon for tech companies like Google that have used the facility to test self-driving vehicles for some years. “This site embodies the future of transportation, and these technology developments are taking place right in our backyards,” Merced County Supervisor Daron McDaniel, whose district encompasses Castle Commerce Center, said in the release. “This project represents real-time job growth and economic development, with enormous potential as it continues to grow.”

Formerly called the California AutoTech Testing and Development Center, the 225-acre site has been renamed to TRC California for Transportation Research Center Inc., for the Ohio-based corporation that assumed facility operations earlier this year. A long-term goal for county officials was to pass facility management to a private third party expert that would take operations to the cutting edge of the developing autonomous vehicle industry. TRC is a leader in automotive testing and innovation that has led the facility’s design improvements, according to the release. “We are building out TRC California to offer a comprehensive, one-stop shop where automotive technology and mobility innovators can test and affirm the performance, safety, quality and competitiveness of new technologies that are changing the face of transportation worldwide,” Brett Roubinek, president and CEO of TRC Inc., said in the release. “TRC is proud to partner with Merced County in this transformation.”

A 2 mile high-speed test track is the subject of the current construction phase by Central Valley-based Avision Construction. Installation of privacy fencing along the perimeter, vehicle barriers and security improvements for confidentiality purposes are also in progress. Work on this protect phase is anticipated to wrap up by Nov. 1. Central Valley-based Precision Civil Engineering is overseeing project engineering and construction management. “We are excited to begin this dramatic new chapter in Merced County’s progress as a focal point for testing and research by the West Coast’s technology-based industries, start-ups and independent innovators,” Mark Hendrickson, Merced County Director of Community and Economic Development, said in the release. “Advances developed here at TRC California will help make transportation safer, more efficient and more environmentally responsible.”

Construction will temporarily impact portions of the facility while other areas remain open for testing, the release said. Also being worked on is a control building and workshop, as well as installation of test equipment. The total project budget is $6.5 million being paid for via funding secured by Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, through the California State Transportation Agency. TRC California has already attracted a number of companies that are actively testing at the facility. Facilities and staffing will keep expanding, including the addition of more roadway complexes, road surfaces and intersections all designed for testing advanced transportation technologies, the release said.

https://www.mercedsunstar.com/news/local/article253687543.html

Solar-powered plane aims to break world record from Fresno Chandler Executive Airport

Taking off from the Fresno Chandler Executive Airport around 6:20 a.m. Wednesday, a production electric aircraft powered by off-grid renewable energy is about to make history. “We’re proving out today, the value of the infrastructure that’s being developed for electric cars has a potential to also electrify aviation, which electric aircraft are here and are coming very rapidly.  More and more are coming into the marketplace,” said Joseph Oldham, Founder, and CEO of New Vision Aviation.

Odham is piloting the solar-powered plane, a Central Valley native, who knows first hand why utilizing these types of aircraft is a step in the right direction — especially in the Valley. “So electric aircraft are feasible today and offer that opportunity to both reduce carbon emissions and also criteria pollutants like naaqs and PM10 or PM2.5 which are a problem for us in our air quality in the San Joaquin Valley on a day to day basis,” said Oldham.

Beam Global specializes in electric vehicles and makes it possible for the plane to fly for about an hour at a time before recharging.  The CEO is proud his company is leading the way for environmentally-friendly aviation. “It’s absolutely groundbreaking.  I mean, first of all, our ability to deploy charging infrastructure in an airport like this without construction, without electric work, that’s an absolute first and then, of course, aviation is a terrible polluter as it stands today,” said Desmond Wheatley, the CEO of Beam Global.

The Pipistrel model aircraft will be stopping to recharge in Madera, Merced, Modesto, and Lodi before touching down and breaking the world record around 10:05 a.m. Thursday at the Sacramento Executive Airport.

https://www.yourcentralvalley.com/news/local-news/solar-powered-plane-aims-to-break-world-record-from-fresno-chandler-executive-airport/

Tehachapi welcomes latest changes to high-speed rail plans

Tehachapi City Hall, once a leading local critic of California’s bullet train project, has tentatively given its blessing to plans released Friday for high-speed rail tracks proposed to connect Bakersfield and Palmdale. City Manager Greg Garrett said Monday that, although he and his staff had not finished reading the entirety of the project’s new environmental review, the California High-Speed Rail Authority appears to have made a number of positive changes in response to the city’s requests. Among the most welcome revisions he said were outlined in a meeting Monday morning between Tehachapi officials and rail authority staff were the introduction of two sections of sound walls, one in the Ash Village area and one near Arabian Estates.

Another improvement he pointed to was the agency’s agreement to lower the bullet train route’s height profile through the Tehachapi area, as well as its pledge to accommodate a station that might one day be built in the city. “At this point we do feel that (the rail authority) has addressed our concerns to the point that we can continue to move forward,” he said. “But we would encourage citizens” to review the latest plans as well, he added. Late Friday afternoon the rail authority issued what it termed the final environmental review of an 80-mile alignment mostly following Highway 58 between a proposed station at F Street and Golden State Avenue in Bakersfield and another in Palmdale. The rail authority’s governing board is scheduled to vote in mid-August on whether to adopt the review.

Maps contained in the document show the route would be built on raised viaducts through most of Bakersfield then come down to surface level through the Edison area. Through the Tehachapi Mountains it would run underground as well as at ground level and on viaducts, then proceed mostly along the surface through the Antelope Valley. The rail authority estimates the route will become operational in 2033 as part of the start of service between San Francisco and Los Angeles. That’s about three years after it expects trains traveling up to 220 mph will connect Merced and Bakersfield. Friday’s release has also renewed calls by the Kern Council of Governments for state cooperation on three portions of the proposed Bakersfield-to-Palmdale alignment.

Executive Director Ahron Hakimi said Kern COG has for years spoken with the rail authority about potentially coordinating work on a grade separation he said would improve safety, congestion and other conditions near Edison Highway and Morning Drive. The idea is that work there will take years to plan and, because it has independent utility, the grade separation could begin ahead of the rail segment’s construction timetable. Another project Hakimi said would benefit from an early start on construction is a grade separation at the intersection of highways 58 and 223 near Bakersfield National Cemetery. Early work there would be helpful because excess dirt from the rail authority’s excavation work through the Tehachapi Mountains could be put to use raising part of the intersection.

Extra lanes for eastbound trucks climbing the Tehachapi Pass represent the third project Kern COG wants to see start early. Hakimi said that project has been under consideration for more than 20 years. No formal agreement has been struck to proceed with those projects ahead of other local work, but a representative of the rail authority said by email Monday the agency is interested in collaborating with local jurisdictions to advance all three efforts “as funding becomes available.”

Money to complete the overall project remains an open question. Although the Biden administration recently freed up nearly $1 billion that had been taken away from the project by the Trump administration, tens of billions of dollars are still needed to complete the work. The Biden administration has talked about dedicating money toward the project but has not finalized funding. Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a vocal supporter of California high-speed rail, has been negotiating recently with state legislators on as much as $4.2 billion in new money for the rail project. “Hopefully we’ll have an update on (those discussions) by the end of the month,” rail authority spokeswoman Toni Tinoco said Monday. Garrett, Tehachapi’s city manager, noted the area receives little to no benefit from the project itself, even as Bakersfield and Palmdale will benefit. That’s why he said the possibility of a station one day in Tehachapi seems appealing. “It’s not something that’s in the plan at all but in the future there may be a possibility, right?” he said.

Rail authority CEO Brian Kelly said in a news release Friday that the new environmental review, which followed the public release of a draft in February 2020 and a revised version one year after that, culminates thoughtful study and collaboration with various agencies and local government leaders, community members and other stakeholders. “With this effort, California will have 300 of the 500-mile high-speed rail system environmentally cleared, paving the way for future construction progress into Los Angeles County,” he wrote.

https://www.bakersfield.com/news/tehachapi-welcomes-latest-changes-to-high-speed-rail-plans/article_529dff26-d860-11eb-a5a8-6b9a322534a6.html

Supersonic demonstrator XB-1 to flight tests at Mojave Air and Space Port

Boom Supersonic, the aerospace company building the world’s fastest airliner is partnering with Flight Research, Inc. at Mojave Air and Space Port to do flight test work in the supersonic corridor, located in the restricted airspace known as R-2515. FRI will provide Flight Test Support to Boom with a two-seat, supersonic trainer, for pilot proficiency training as well as a chase aircraft during XB-1’s flight test program.

According to Boom Supersonic website, “XB-1 is the world’s first independently developed supersonic jet and will demonstrate key technologies for Overture, Boom’s commercial airliner, such as advanced carbon fiber composite construction, computer-optimized high-efficiency aerodynamics, and an efficient supersonic propulsion system. XB-1 is the end product of years of development effort, including multiple wind tunnel tests, dozens of structural tests, hundreds of simulation iterations, and tens of thousands of work hours.”

The XB-1 will be disassembled and transported to Mojave, and reassembled in one of FRI hangars located at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Boom will also sub-lease a portion of the FRI Headquarters where they plan on building a custom space to support the SB-1, including a fully instrumented flight test control room and an XB-1 simulator room with cockpit and visual displays.

In a press release, Boom founder and CEO, Blake Scholl said, “Flight Research provides essential equipment and superior facilities at the Mojave Air and Space Port, enabling us to finalize and fly XB-1.” Scott Glaser, senior vice president of Operations at FRI said, “With Boom, we’re presented with an opportunity to partner with a dynamic and ground-breaking organization that is challenging conventional wisdom about flying.” “This will be a new supersonic testing project for us, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome Boom to this historic airfield and to outfit a space to meet their needs. We look forward to contributing to the return of supersonic commercial air travel.

A statement in a Boom Supersonic press release from January 2020, “Boom is currently building XB-1, which will help refine the design and engineering of Overture, Boom’s revolutionary supersonic commercial airliner. XB-1 shares key technologies with Overture, such as advanced carbon fiber composites and a refined delta wing planform. Lessons from XB-1 have already helped optimize Overture and will prove in-flight key technologies for safe, efficient travel at supersonic speeds.”

https://www.aerotechnews.com/blog/2021/06/12/supersonic-demonstrator-xb-1-to-flight-tests-at-mojave-air-and-space-port/

Robot-building siblings from Clovis have won some big money. Now, they plan to team up

Clovis North student John Benedict Estrada recently took home the $50,000 grand prize at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. “It was a big shock, and I honestly didn’t expect anything, so hearing my name being called was really surprising, really exciting. That whole weekend was just really exciting from the win,” Estrada said. His model, a robot that detects plant drought, won him the grand prize. If a robot that detects how plant thirst sounds familiar to you, that is because another student also placed in a science fair recently.

Estrada’s sister, Pauline Victoria Allasas Estrada, a Granite Ridge Intermediate School student, won $10,000 in the national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics middle school competition the Broadcom Masters with a similar device during the fall of 2020. Although both models have the same function, they work differently and show off duo’s ingenuity and engineering talents. Both siblings had the opportunity to enter international science fairs due to their Fresno County science fair participation.

In fact, according to Jennifer Weibert, the Fresno County fair director, participating in the county fair could open doors for others the same why it did for the Estradas. “In my opinion, his win is amazing, and so I hope it opens the doors for more parents and students to be aware that this opportunity exists in Fresno. So, take advantage of it because it can change your life,” Weibert said.

Every year the Fresno County fair sends four kids to participate in the international science fair. The county covers all expenses for the final four participating students. “We have about 100 kids who enter in the high school division, and they can come from anywhere in the region. Because we are one of the only fairs in central California, besides Bakersfield or Sacramento, that gives kids a chance to move on to the international level,” Weibert said.

Estrada’s first-place project uses a robotic arm with an infrared camera to measure the light reflecting off of bell peppers. The infrared can help farmers identify “at-risk” plants, which will help them determine what measures need to be taken before long-term damage occurs. Estrada’s sister, Allasas Estrada, also uses an infrared camera; however, her model is a rover, and it detects drought stress from the ground. Ultimately both models will help farmers deal with a problem that has plagued Central Valley farmers for decades. “The $50,000 I won is going to be for a scholarship for college. Right now, my main focus is continuing to improve my project for the future because I already have some plans for what I want to do with my project later,” Estrada said. Both siblings hope to team up during next year’s science fair as high school students.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/robot-building-siblings-from-clovis-have-won-some-big-money-now-they-plan-to-team-up/ar-AAKZYJw?ocid=uxbndlbing