Daimler AG, parent company of German carmaker Mercedes-Benz, launched a new electric truck weeks ahead of Tesla’s electric semi. The new electric truck comes under the Mitsubishi Fuso Truck line, which is under Daimler Trucks.
At the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show on Wednesday, Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler AG unveiled their first fully-electric truck called the E-FUSO Vision One. With the release, the German automaker is now racing ahead of Tesla’s highly anticipated electric semi, which CEO and founder Elon Musk had promised earlier this year.
“Our E-FUSO Vision One is an outlook on a feasible all-electric heavy-duty truck. It underlines our commitment to electrify our complete product range,” Marc Llistosella, President and CEO of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation —the company under which the electric truck was launched— and Head of Daimler Trucks Asia, said in a press release.
The E-FUSO Vision One is a heavy-duty hauler capable of carrying up to 11 tons of cargo, a little lighter than that concept truck they showed back in July 2016, for a maximum range of 350 kilometers (220 miles). Aside from this, not much detail has yet been released about the electric truck.
Meanwhile, Tesla’s electric semi launch has been delayed twice now. Originally set for a September launch, Musk had to move the date to October 26. It was delayed again to November 16, due to Model 3 production concerns. Competition between Tesla and Daimler has been stiff recently, as the veteran carmaker moves to get a stronger foothold in the growing EV market.
Image: Daimler Trucks
Experts predict autonomous vehicles will save money and lives but drivers say human knowledge and experience are irreplaceable
Frank Black has a simple message for those who predict truckies like him are done for thanks to the arrival of self-driving vehicles: good luck getting tech support in the outback.
For more than 30 years the Brisbane truck driver has hauled goods across the vast expanses of Australia, keeping watch for fast-bouncing kangaroos, felled eucalyptus trees, and other natural obstacles littering remote highways that can run for thousands of kilometres without a single bend.
Morgan Stanley might have forecast that freight operators could save $168bn a year by replacing humans with vehicles that drive themselves with no need for toilet breaks or sleep, and Uber last year may have bought an automated truck firm with the intention to roll out a global service, but Black remains at ease with his job security.
He predicts any freight companies that go down that road in Australia will find their expensive automated vehicles stuck out in the middle of nowhere, awkwardly parked in front of an obstacle that requires human ingenuity to work around.
“The conditions of the road out there, you’ve got to have your wits about you,” he says. “An automated truck would probably have a hissy fit, where a human would realise, ‘OK, I might have to detour off-road into the gully to get around it.’
“Truckies can use their sense of smell, too. If the engine starts to get hot, you can smell the coolant and go, ‘Hang on, something’s going on here,’ [and] pull over before something catastrophic happens.”
The harsh conditions faced by truckers on the job might seem to Black an argument for retaining human imagination but to proponents of automated vehicles they are a case for the opposite: machine intelligence immune to the fallibilities of drivers who routinely make deadly fatigue-related mistakes or resort to amphetamines to stay alert.
It is a theory that has been put into practice in Australia: Rio Tinto has been relying on a fleet of driverless trucks at its iron ore mines in the Pilbara for years, yielding performance improvements of 12%.
A PWC study in 2015 predicted an 80% chance that Australia’s 94,946 professional drivers of road and rail vehicles would be replaced by automation in the next two decades. The prospect has union officials extremely concerned.
The Transport Workers Union national secretary, Tony Sheldon, warns that freight operators need to be “careful not to get carried away with the Jetsons”, arguing that trucks driving themselves in a controlled environment like a mine is one thing, but that significant improvements would need to be made to the technology and to smart road infrastructure before such vehicles could zoom unattended through cities and towns.
He references Fiat Chrysler’s recall this month of 1.2m trucks owing to software vulnerability to being hacked as an example of the kind of dangers that would be exacerbated by self-driving freight.
“There is a serious question about the capacity for this technology to be hijacked by terrorism or some random lunatic,” he says.
“These aren’t washing machines we are talking about. These are machines carting thousands of litres of fuel, tens of tonnes worth of product that could plough through a house.”
The chair of the Australian Trucking Association, Geoff Crouch, concedes the transition to self-driving vehicles “won’t occur in one leap”. Instead he describes a gradual process starting with the autonomous braking technology being rolled out across the industry, and a trial this year in Western Australia of “platooning”, which would see the lead truck in a convoy control the others through vehicle-to-vehicle communication to synchronise speed and braking.
“There will be drivers in the cabs of our trucks for many years to come,” he says.
“The immediately foreseeable future of truck automation won’t involve replacing drivers anyway, and our road network requires considerable work before even current technologies become usable everywhere. In addition, truck drivers carry out a host of other essential tasks, including loading and unloading, checking vehicles and working with customers.”
Crouch says the transition will be one of the talking points at the Trucking Australia 2017 conference in Darwin in June.
Brendan Richards, a partner at the corporate restructuring firm Ferrier Hodgson, will speak there on disruptive technologies.
Richards’ talk will cover a broad range of changes he believes will impact on the freight sector by 2050.
In terms of autonomous vehicles, he predicts self-navigating drones of all shapes and forms will open up routes previously inaccessible to human drivers.
He can foresee an operating system that would run the network, optimising routes and the flow of goods through the system.
Richards also forecasts that drones will be better equipped to provide a nimbler freight service that no longer needs to move bulk goods around, as most things will be produced on-site by 3D printers that only require the delivery of raw materials.
If self-driving vehicles – whether that is lumbering autonomous trucks driving for days without rest or airborne drones zipping across the skies – do push human drivers into unemployment queues, unions want compensation.
Sheldon says the vast numbers of jobs predicted for the scrapheap because of automation require a serious rethinking of how society approaches work.
“When I was a garbo, I was replaced by vehicles that had arms,” he says. “It was hard seeing mates displaced by technology in their 30s and 40s. It was a dramatic, traumatic experience – and there were still plenty of other jobs back then.”
In the case of truckers, he suggests a licensing fee be paid by those replacing humans with self-driving vehicles, to go towards those displaced by the new technology.
It will be hard work persuading truckies like Black to relinquish the wheel, however. He is not even open to a transition period of self-driving technology working in tandem with human operators.
“There’d be no way you’d put me in a vehicle without putting me in control of it,” he says.
“Even in the case of trusting another person, I’d want to get to know them first before going great distances with them. Believe it or not, there are bad human drivers out there too. They should look at better driver training, not these driverless bloody things.”
Koeberg nuclear power station is well equipped to handle the energy plant’s nuclear waste, according to a KPMG study.
The recent study by KPMG Services on the socio-economic impact of the Koeberg nuclear power station in the Western Cape and South Africa from 2012 to 2025, says the plant is well equipped to handle the safety regulations it has operated for more than 33 years.
Lullu Krugel, director and chief economist at KPMG, said electricity was a key input for the majority of products and processes in South Africa’s economy, making Koeberg a direct contributor to economic growth, both in the Western Cape and in the rest of the country.
Krugel said Koeberg stimulated economic activity in South Africa estimated at R53.3 billion between 2012 and 2016.
“The methodology which KPMG employed to conduct this review, is based on internationally accepted standards,” Krugel said, “with detailed information supplied by Eskom and official statistics.”
The report said the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) oversaw the safe operation of nuclear installations at Koeberg and Vaalputs, the nuclear disposal site in the Northern Cape.
It said the NNR was committed to protecting people, property and the environment against any nuclear damage by establishing safety standards and regulatory practices and prescribes protective measures, such as frequent public safety forums.
According to the report, low-level nuclear waste is compressed into sealed and marked steel drums at Koeberg, before it is transported to Vaalputs in specially designed trucks for disposal in 10m-deep trenches.
About 500 steel drums arrive each year.
Intermediate-level waste is then solidified by mixing it with a cement mixture which is poured into concrete drums.
The drums are then transported from Koeberg to Vaalputs in specially designed trucks for disposal.
According to the report, the government is considering the addition of nuclear capacity as an option to add up to 9600MW to the national grid by 2030 in tranches that are affordable.
This highlights Koeberg’s role in the South African economy at present and going forward, and provides the knowledge base to expand the country’s nuclear capacity through new plants.
Myanmar’s government currently collects much of the trillions of kyat generated by oil, gas, gemstones and other minerals each year, primarily through its state-owned economic enterprises (SEEs). In the face of such centralized control over revenue, many ethnic groups have long asserted their right to make decisions over resource management in their states. In fact, combatants in areas of active conflict and leaders from several ethnic minority parties—particularly those associated with Kachin, Rakhine and Shan states—have openly called for greater resource revenue sharing.
These appeals are only expected to get louder as the NLD forms a new government. In its election manifesto, the party promised to “work to ensure a fair distribution across the country of the profits from natural resource extraction, in accordance with the principles of a federal union.” This statement implies at least two things: First, that the party intends to transform Myanmar into a federation, where states and regions have true sovereignty over some government responsibilities; and second, that it intends to enact a natural resource revenue sharing system.
A resource revenue sharing system will undoubtedly be on the table during evolving discussions on federalism. However, as we have seen in other countries, these systems come with considerable risks. In the most extreme cases, such as Peru, they can actually exacerbate conflict, encouraging local leaders to use violence to compel greater transfers from the central government or gain control over mine sites. While these experiences are atypical, natural resource revenue sharing often leads to financial waste, local inflation, boom-bust cycles and poor public investment decisions.
Myanmar is particularly susceptible to these risks as overall resource revenues officially recorded in the budget remain small—due to smuggling, underreporting, weak tax collection, and revenue retention by SEEs, among other causes. This means that there are limits to how much revenue sharing can help affected communities without the government first putting effort into capturing a bigger share of profits for the state.
How much money is at stake today? According to conservative estimates from Myanmar’s first Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) report, the government collected nearly 2.6 trillion kyat in oil and gas tax and non-tax revenue and another 442 billion kyat in mining revenues in fiscal year 2013/14. Together, oil, gas and mineral revenues made up 47.5 percent of government revenues (excluding the significant sums that SEEs retain for themselves) in the same year.
However, official revenue figures vastly underestimate the true size of the non-renewable resource sector. EITI figures only cover a portion of jade sales. And illegal mining and smuggling of minerals, especially jade, has been well documented. Some independent estimates put the true size of the mineral sector at more than 10 times official figures.
Currently, the 42 percent of resource revenues that are not retained by SEEs in their own so-called “Other Accounts” are pooled with other fiscal revenues in the Union budget. Some are then distributed directly to state and regional governments, which are responsible for financing local infrastructure, agriculture and some cultural institutions.
As part of the government’s effort to decentralize fiscal responsibilities, the amount of the overall budget allocated to all states and regions has increased in recent years, from 3.4 percent in 2013/14 to 7.6 percent in 2014/15 to 8.7 percent in 2015/16. The government now says that it is using population, poverty and regional GDP indicators to determine how much it gives each state or region from this pool of money.
Research from the Natural Resource Governance Institute’s (NRGI) new report “Sharing the Wealth: A Roadmap for Distributing Myanmar’s Natural Resource Revenues,” generally corroborates this claim, but with qualifications. Our research indicates that, in practice, the Union sends more money per capita to regions and states that have greater development needs, are conflict-affected, and whose politicians are more assertive. This year, for instance, Chin, Kayah, Tanintharyi and Kachin received the highest per capita allocations, while Ayeyarwady, Bago, Mandalay, and Yangon received the lowest.
But just because more money is going to states and regions does not mean that there is more accountability or that social services and infrastructure are improved relative to other parts of the country. Nor does this fiscal decentralization address local demands for greater autonomy over natural resource revenues.
Most state and regional officials still report to Union authorities in Naypyitaw. Furthermore, state and regional governments still have low capacity to develop and implement budgets effectively. This means that state and regional spending is not necessarily efficient or linked to a coherent economic development plan.
While true federalism—partial sovereignty for states and regions—would require constitutional reform, there are three steps the new government can take now to “ensure a fair distribution across the country of the profits from natural resource extraction.”
First, the government can start building national consensus on a natural resource revenue sharing formula. This way, all parties would have clarity on the issues and feel a sense of ownership over natural resource governance. This is the principle means through which resource revenue sharing can help stop violent conflicts. Indonesia spent nearly two years negotiating a resource revenue sharing deal with conflict-affected Aceh before coming to an agreement. The ongoing Union Peace Dialogue could be one forum for discussion of how a revenue sharing system could be administered. This discussion would not be a substitute for formal parliamentary and public discussions, but could support government efforts to build peace.
Second, the government could further decentralize by making state and regional politicians and officials accountable to local residents. It could also delegate resource management and expenditure responsibilities to these officials slowly, so they have time to learn how to perform these new roles. This can be done even without constitutional change. The Colombian and South African experiences offer some lessons for how decentralization can be achieved in unitary states (though neither case is an unmitigated success).
Third, the government could improve the transparency and oversight of natural resource revenues by cracking down on smuggling and illegal mining and publishing project-level information on all extractive projects. Without this information, state and regional governments cannot verify the value of minerals being extracted on their land and therefore cannot trust that they would receive their due under any revenue sharing formula. Myanmar could look to Bolivia and Mongolia, which lead the way when it comes to extractive sector transparency. For instance, the Bolivian government publishes, in a clear and understandable format, online data on transfers to and between subnational authorities and on hydrocarbon production by province, field and company.
Natural resource revenue sharing can be a key component of peace-building and decentralization in Myanmar. Mineral-rich Kachin, Mandalay, Sagaing and Shan, and onshore oil-rich Magway and Bago would undoubtedly benefit. Governments in other states and regions with pipelines that transport offshore gas may also profit. But unless done properly, resource revenue sharing can help perpetuate conflicts that have gone on for far too long.
South Africa is in the throes of a water crisis as it faces drought and water scarcity across the country. Committed to assisting the drought-stricken area of Vryheid in KwaZulu-Natal, Engen Petroleum has joined forces with Cargo Carriers, Oasis Water and Water Shortage South Africa (#WSSA 2016) to help supply water to the Klipfontein Water Treatment Plant in Vryheid.
Water is filtered and treated at the plant to ensure quality levels. The water then flows to the municipal pipes in the area, which directly supplies a Vryheid community that has been experiencing severe water shortages for some time now.
Director of Oasis Water, Koos de La Rey says they came up with a logistics solution which they are very excited about. “Rather than fill up and deliver bottles of water individually, we fill up trucks with bulk water from our Witbank site, which we then deliver to the plant in Vryheid,” he says.
According to Andre Jansen Van Vuuren, Marketing Director at Cargo Carriers, the first 32,000 litre load was delivered on 26 January. “Since then we’ve managed to deliver a load a day. With partners like Engen and Oasis Water on board, we are able to continue delivery. Our plan is to transport 32,000 litres a day for the remainder of the week.”
Engen’s part in the initiative is to provide ‘fuel assistance’ and keep the water trucks on the road. Mike Stead, Commercial Business Manager at Engen says, “Water shortages are an ever-urgent priority and Engen is proud to be playing our part by contributing 400 litres of fuel per trip.”
“By the end of the week we will have donated over 200,000 litres of water”, adds de La Rey “People can survive without many things but they cannot live without water. There is no alternative for it and this drought is a real problem. We hope that our involvement will help to alleviate some of the suffering in the Vryheid area.”
“This project has truly been a humbling experience for us – knowing that we have helped to make a difference by ‘transporting hope in a tanker’ and joining forces with other committed South African companies,” adds van Vuuren.
Engen General Manager: Corporate Affairs, Tasneem Sulaiman-Bray says the company continually strives to place its customer first. “As a company that cares about the communities in which we operate, Engen is honoured to play a small part in helping the people of Vryheid in this time of need.”