SEAT to launch electric motorcycle in 2020 with eyes on lucrative market

8 Nov 2019

The SEAT eScooter. Image: SEAT

This week in future tech, SEAT is trying to tap into a new market with an e-bike that will launch in 2020.

Following on from the launch of its first e-scooter in Ireland, Spanish automaker SEAT has announced plans to sell a fully electric motorcycle (e-bike) next year. Set to be unveiled at the Barcelona Smart City Expo World Congress later this month, it will, somewhat confusingly, be called the SEAT eScooter.

The company said that the eScooter motorcycle will have the equivalent of a 125cc engine and is being launched as part of its urban mobility strategy. Its development comes under a partnership between SEAT and e-bike maker Silence. Barcelona, where Silence is based, is the European city with the most motorcycles per capita.

“The constant growth of large cities makes achieving efficient mobility one of the main challenges to overcome,” said SEAT president Luca de Meo. “Today we are taking a further step in our urban micro-mobility strategy by confirming the launch of the first eScooter in the history of the brand.”

UN group aims to create ‘Turing driving test’ for autonomous cars

The UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has announced a new focus group on AI for autonomous and assisted driving. This group will work towards the establishment of international standards to monitor and assess the performance of the AI ‘drivers’.

The group said its aim is to meet public expectations including: AI not engaging in reckless driving; remaining aware and able to avoid collisions; and meeting or exceeding the performance of a good human driver.

“Should there be an equivalent of a Turing test for AI on our roads? Absolutely,” said the focus group’s chair, Bryn Balcombe of Autonomous Drivers Alliance. “Especially when all drivers, human or AI, need a shared understanding to predict both behaviours and risks.”

The proposed test for the road could become the basis for an international driving permit for AI, the ITU said. The right to hold this permit would be assessed continuously, based on the AI driver’s behavioural performance on the road.

Flexible, sturdy robot designed to ‘grow’ like a flower

To create a robot that could be flexible enough to snake around a car’s engine and strong enough to support heavy loads, researchers at MIT have developed one inspired by nature.

Presenting their work at the recent IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, the engineers revealed a robot designed to extend a chain-like appendage flexible enough to twist and turn in any necessary configuration.

This was inspired by how plants grow, where nutrients are transported upwards to the plant’s tip bit by bit to create a supportive stem.

Likewise, the robot consists of a ‘growing point’, or gearbox, that pulls a loose chain of interlocking blocks into the box. Gears in the box then lock the chain units together and feed the chain out, unit by unit, as a rigid appendage.

“It can grow, retract and grow again to a different shape, to adapt to its environment,” said Tongxi Yan, who led the research.

John Deere partners with flying taxi start-up for heavy-lifting drone

German aerospace start-up Volocopter and the farming machinery powerhouse John Deere are working on one of the first large drones for agricultural use. The VoloDrone, as it’s being called, is capable of hoisting a load of 200kg into the air and can cover an area of six hectares per hour.

It is powered by 18 fully electric rotors with a diameter of 9.2 metres. On a single full charge it has a flight time of up to 30 minutes and can be both controlled by either an operator or given a pre-programmed route.

It can attach a number of different devices when needed, the companies said in a joint statement, including two capacity tanks for spraying crops as well as a pump and spray bar.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic