"But they knew in their hearts that once science had declared a thing possible, there was no escape from its eventual realization..."
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Volkswagen’s bestselling product is … a type of sausage!?!?

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Currywurst is a snack with serious cult status. Germans eat an estimated 800 million each year. And perhaps surprisingly, the pork sausage – sliced and smothered with curry ketchup – is Volkswagen’s bestselling product.

Listed as item number 199 398 500 A, the Volkswagen currywurst is celebrating its 45th birthday. Last year alone, the automaker made 6.8 million sausages – more than the number of VW vehicles sold worldwide.

The current recipe dates back to 1976, and remains a closely guarded secret. Made in-house by a team of 30 – “most of them trained butchers” – currywurst has become a beloved Volkswagen staple.

It’s served in factory cafeterias, gifted by the five-pack to customers, and sold in grocery stores under the brand name “Volkswagen Originalteil” (“original parts”).

“Three times a week, the (flagship plant in Wolfsburg) takes in fresh pork from nearby farms and grinds choice cuts into a precise mix,”

VW said in a statement


“After mixing in the spices and packed into casings, the sausages are dried, smoked over beechwood and steamed for 100 minutes at 176 degrees. The final product is weighed, inspected and packaged for shipping to other Volkswagen plants or retailers, with a typical output of 18,000 sausages a day. “

However, due to restrictions around importing fresh sausages, the product isn’t available in North America. According to Volkswagen, when the company has served currywurst in the U.S. in the past, “it has flown the butchers into the country and replicated the production line with local ingredients.”

In addition to the pork sausage, VW has been making a vegetarian version since 2010, and has its own ketchup formulation. According to Jalopnik, it’s “slightly more viscous than conventional ketchups to better pair with the Volkswagen currywurst.”

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22 hours ago
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Chinese Tesla Rival NIO Raises $1 Billion in Underwhelming IPO

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Chinese electric-vehicle maker NIO Inc. NIO 5.43% rallied in its market debut Wednesday after the Shanghai-based company, which has billed itself as an emerging rival to Tesla Inc., priced its offering in the U.S. near the bottom of expectations.

The startup, backed by Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. TCEHY -0.41% , had to contend with a difficult market environment in launching its initial public offering. Shares in rival car makers have slumped and Chinese stocks have been buffeted by concerns about growth, trade and currency weakness.

“We had actually a healthy book and then some orders got pulled or reduced because of market conditions,” NIO’s chief financial officer, Louis Hsieh, said in an interview.

Mr. Hsieh said investors were also wary that the company didn’t have a long operating history, which he called a “fair criticism.”

American depositary receipts of NIO closed 5.4% higher than the company’s IPO price of $6.26 after spending much of the morning in the red. The stock traded down as much as 15% earlier Wednesday. At its IPO price, the company was valued at about $6.4 billion.

Mr. Hsieh said if NIO meets two milestones—delivering 10,000 vehicles to customers in 2018 and launching a smaller family sport-utility vehicle—in the next six to nine months, he expects investor enthusiasm will be bolstered.

At $6.26 per ADR, the IPO would yield proceeds of $1 billion, before subtracting the costs of the share sale. Mr. Hsieh said NIO needs the capital to build its own manufacturing plant in Shanghai.

After $2.4 billion was raised in four rounds of financing, the public markets were a less dilutive choice for NIO, Mr. Hsieh said. The company also weighed listing in Hong Kong but ultimately opted for the U.S. for its “deeper, more transparent investor base” and the option to list alongside its main peer, Tesla, he said.

The offering size falls short of NIO’s earlier target of $2 billion to $3 billion as reported by The Wall Street Journal. More recently the company had set an indicative price range of $6.25 to $8.25 a share.

The car maker, which was founded by Chinese entrepreneur Bin Li in 2014, has yet to generate much revenue, reporting $7 million of sales in the first half of 2018.

The fundraising is also a test of investors’ confidence in the development of electric cars in the world’s biggest automobile market. Shares in Chinese rival BYD Co. have fallen 36% this year in Hong Kong, compared with the benchmark Hang Seng Index’s 12% decline.

China’s car sales in August dropped for the second month in a row, according to the state-backed China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Analysts blamed the decline on a combination of market saturation and weak consumer confidence.

Meanwhile, tighter scrutiny of Tesla’s production capability and Chief Executive Elon Musk’s short-lived attempt to take the U.S. electric-car maker private have sent its shares down more than one-fifth since Aug. 7, when Mr. Musk tweeted about the privatization.

Mr. Hsieh said his company has been hiring many former Tesla employees and they have fit in quickly. “We have been able to pick up a lot of quality talent.” Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Late last year, NIO launched its first mass-produced car, a seven-seat electric sport-utility vehicle. It plans to start delivering a second, smaller SUV in the first half of 2019.

Morgan Stanley , Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co led Wednesday’s offering.

Write to Maureen Farrell at maureen.farrell@wsj.com and Joanne Chiu at joanne.chiu@wsj.com

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5 days ago
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BMW passenger car lineup lags behind Tesla Model 3 sales in August

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8 days ago
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Hackers Can Steal a Tesla Model S in Seconds by Cloning Its Key Fob

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Tesla has taken plenty of innovative steps to protect the driving systems of its kitted-out cars against digital attacks. It's hired top-notch security engineers, pushed over-the-internet software updates, and added code integrity checks. But one team of academic hackers has now found that Tesla left its Model S cars open to a far more straightforward form of hacking: stealthily cloning the car's key fob in seconds, opening the car door, and driving away.

A team of researchers at the KU Leuven university in Belgium on Monday plan to present a paper at the Cryptographic Hardware and Embedded Systems conference in Amsterdam, revealing a technique for defeating the encryption used in the wireless key fobs of Tesla's Model S luxury sedans. With about $600 in radio and computing equipment, they can wirelessly read signals from a nearby Tesla owner's fob. Less than two seconds of computation yields the fob's cryptographic key, allowing them to steal the associated car without a trace. "Today it’s very easy for us to clone these key fobs in a matter of seconds," says Lennert Wouters, one of the KU Leuven researchers. "We can completely impersonate the key fob and open and drive the vehicle."

Just two weeks ago, Tesla rolled out new antitheft features for the Model S that include the ability to set a PIN code that someone must enter on the dashboard display to drive the car. Tesla also says that Model S units sold after June of this year aren't vulnerable to the attack, due to upgraded key fob encryption that it implemented in response to the KU Leuven research. But if owners of a Model S manufactured before then don't turn on that PIN—or don't pay to replace their key fob with the more strongly encrypted version—the researchers say they're still vulnerable to their key-cloning method.

Keys to the Kingdom

Like most automotive keyless entry systems, Tesla Model S key fobs send an encrypted code, based on a secret cryptographic key, to a car's radios to trigger it to unlock and disable its immobilizer, allowing the car's engine to start. After nine months of on-and-off reverse engineering work, the KU Leuven team discovered in the summer of 2017 that the Tesla Model S keyless entry system, built by a manufacturer called Pektron, used only a weak 40-bit cipher to encrypt those key fob codes.

The researchers found that once they gained two codes from any given key fob, they could simply try every possible cryptographic key until they found the one that unlocked the car. They then computed all the possible keys for any combination of code pairs to create a massive, 6-terabyte table of pre-computed keys. With that table and those two codes, the hackers say they can look up the correct cryptographic key to spoof any key fob in just 1.6 seconds.

In their proof-of-concept attack, which they show in the video below, the researchers demonstrate their keyless-entry-system hacking technique with a hardware kit comprising just a Yard Stick One radio, a Proxmark radio, a Raspberry Pi minicomputer, their pre-computed table of keys on a portable hard drive, and some batteries.

First, they use the Proxmark radio to pick up the radio ID of a target Tesla's locking system, which the car broadcasts at all times. Then the hacker swipes that radio within about 3 feet of a victim's key fob, using the car's ID to spoof a "challenge" to the fob. They do this twice in rapid succession, tricking the key fob into answering with response codes that the researchers then record. They can then run that pair of codes through their hard drive's table to find the underlying secret key—which lets them spoof a radio signal that unlocks the car, then starts the engine.

That whole attack chain, the researchers say, is possible thanks to the Pektron key fob system's relatively weak encryption. "It was a very foolish decision," says KU Leuven researcher Tomer Ashur. "Someone screwed up. Epically."

The KU Leuven researchers say they told Tesla about their findings in August 2017. Tesla acknowledged their research, thanked them, and paid them a $10,000 "bug bounty" for their work, the researchers say, but it didn't fix the encryption issue until its June encryption upgrade and more recent PIN code addition.

In a statement to WIRED, Tesla said those fixes were rolled out as quickly as possible given the time needed to confirm the researchers' work, test a fix, and integrate it into their manufacturing processes. "Due to the growing number of methods that can be used to steal many kinds of cars with passive entry systems, not just Teslas, we’ve rolled out a number of security enhancements to help our customers decrease the likelihood of unauthorized use of their vehicles," a Tesla spokesperson wrote to WIRED. "Based on the research presented by this group, we worked with our supplier to make our key fobs more secure by introducing more robust cryptography for Model S in June 2018. A corresponding software update for all Model S vehicles allows customers with cars built prior to June to switch to the new key fobs if they wish." The company also noted that you can trace a Tesla on your phone, which should make it relatively easy to locate a stolen vehicle.

The researchers believe their attack might also work against cars sold by McLaren and Karma and motorcycles sold by Triumph, which also use Pektron's key fob system. But they weren't able to get their hands on those vehicles to test them. Neither Karma nor Triumph responded to WIRED's request for comment, nor did Pektron itself. McLaren says it's still investigating the issue but is alerting its customers to the potential theft risk and offering them free "signal-blocking pouches" that block radio communications to their key fobs when they're not in use. “While this potential method has not been proven to affect our cars and is considered to be a low risk, plus we have no knowledge of any McLaren vehicle being stolen by this or the previously reported ‘relay attack’ method, nevertheless we take the security of our vehicles and the concerns of our customers extremely seriously," a McLaren spokesperson writes.

If those other manufacturers are indeed affected, beyond putting keys in those "signal-blocking pouches"—Faraday bags that block radio communications—just how all of them might definitively fix the problem is far from clear. The researchers say that the companies would likely have to replace every vulnerable key fob, as well as push out a software update to affected vehicles. Unlike Tesla, whose cars receive over-the-air updates, that might not be possible for other manufacturers' vehicles.

Warning Sign

Despite the questions surrounding how to prevent the attack, KU Leuven's Ashur argues that revealing the vulnerability is necessary to pressure Tesla and other carmakers to protect their customers from theft. Now that Tesla has added a PIN feature, it also serves as a warning that Tesla owners should turn on that feature to protect against a surprisingly easy method of grand theft auto. Aside from the PIN, Tesla also allows Model S owners to disable passive entry for its key fobs, meaning drivers would have to push a button on the fob to unlock the car. That would also stymie the KU Leuven attack. "This attack is out there, and we’re not the only people in the world capable of coming up with it," Ashur says.

"Someone screwed up. Epically."

Tomer Ashur, KU Leuven

For years, hackers have demonstrated that it's possible to perform so-called relay attacks against keyless entry systems, spoofing a car's radio signals to elicit a response from its key fob and then replaying that signal in real time to the car's locking system. In some cases, hackers have pulled off those attacks by amplifying the key's radio signal, or by bridging the distance between the car and the victim's key fob by holding one radio device close to each. Those relay attacks have been used to pull off very real car thefts, though it's never been clear how many, given the lack of evidence left behind. Relay attack thefts are no doubt part of Tesla's motivation for adding its PIN precaution, regardless of the KU Leuven research.

But even those relay attacks still only allow a car thief to spoof a victim's key once. Even if they manage to drive the car away, they're unable to unlock or start it again. The KU Leuven attack, by contrast, allows a thief to permanently clone the victim's key, so that they can unlock and drive the car in perpetuity. "Basically, we can do everything a relay attack can do and more," says Wouters.

With that dangerous key-cloning method now in the open, anyone who owns a vulnerable Model S would be wise to turn on Tesla's newly added PIN feature or disable passive entry. Punching four numbers into the car's dash or a button on its key fob before starting it up may be an annoyance, but it beats returning to a empty parking spot.

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8 days ago
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Dallas Is Planting Trees to Cool Its Concrete Jungle

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Using GIS technology, three environmental organizations are teaming up with residents to plant 1,000 trees in areas that need it most.

Finding shade isn’t always easy in Dallas, Texas. Though home to one of the nation’s largest urban forests—the 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest—there’s a dearth of trees in the rest of the city. At the same time, the urban heat island effect has made Dallas one of the fastest-warming cities in the United States.

“If we continue to add impervious surfaces and remove trees, we could have an urban heat island that covers almost half the city,” said Matt Grubisich, director of operations and urban forestry at the local Texas Trees Foundation.

That’s why earlier this year, volunteers spread out across the barren sidewalks of Oak Cliff, one of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. With shovels and pick axes in hand, they began digging. The goal is to eventually plant 1,000 trees; so far, some 500 saplings are in the ground as part of a project called Cool and Connected Oak Cliff. Planting trees is a common low-tech solution to battle the heat island, but high temperatures are just one target of this ambitious project. Using sophisticated data and GIS technology, it also aims to harness the many other benefits of trees, from improving public health to taming traffic on the streets.

In 2015, the Texas Trees Foundation laid the groundwork for the project by mapping the tree cover throughout Dallas. They used aerial imagery to capture the overall canopy, and then physically counted the species of trees in a sample of more than 600 plots. On average, they found, Dallas has 29 percent canopy coverage. Some pockets of neighborhoods have less than 10 percent.

A sliver of good news came in the foundation’s 2017 report on urban heat management in the city, which suggested that trees could help curb temperatures by as much as 15 degrees on hot days. Grubisich and his team had collected and analyzed the city’s impervious surfaces, and looked at air temperature readings to identify areas that experience higher than expected temperatures.

For Robert Kent at the Trust for Public Land—which partnered with both the Texas Trees Foundation and the Nature Conservancy on the project—that was plenty of data to work with. He fed them into a visual mapping program, overlaying the numbers with additional data on the socioeconomic and health status of Dallas’s neighborhoods.

“We go beyond just looking at single issues, and actually seeing where are the intersections between challenges posed by climate change within a city,” said Kent, who heads the group’s north Texas division. “So our maps also looked at where are the neighborhoods that suffer from the highest health disparities—we know that urban heat is going to exacerbate cardiovascular conditions and asthma, so let’s find the places that have high prevalences of those diseases.”

When they put together that map, which also included data on the prevalence of diabetes—extreme temperatures deter an active lifestyle—the lower half of Oak Cliff was shaded in an alarming red, indicating high priority for greening intervention.

Trees, though, can do more than mitigate the heat island effect. Kent’s team also put together a map that combines a variety of data: heat, health, equity, flood zones, and pedestrian and biking safety. The groups settled on targeting areas that show high health disparities—particularly among the elderly—as well as public schools that have little to no shade near playgrounds, and places with high foot traffic and pedestrian deaths.

After all, trees provide a good buffer between pedestrians on the sidewalk and vehicles on the road. “It not only provides a physical barrier of separation, but the tree will also be a signal to drivers to slow down,” Kent said. “It also makes the sidewalk a more inviting place to walk.”

While data brought the project to the southern part of Oak Cliff, numbers can only reveal so much about the needs of a community without local input. The project needed the trust of locals in this area of nearly 300,000 people, where almost a third of families live below the poverty line, according to 2016 census data. Across the city, some of the poorest ZIP codes are in areas that are made up of predominantly minority populations.

Historically, the black community here has been neglected, said Holy Cross Catholic Church’s Kebran Alexander, who’s lived in Oak Cliff since the 1980s. “There has been decisions by developers that left Oak Cliff particularly vulnerable over decades to neglect and blight.” Indeed, a recent study out of University of North Texas identified the southern half of the city, where Oak Cliff sits, as the most troubling areas of decline. When Alexander and other volunteers from his church came out to help plant the trees, they came across trash, broken bottles, and leftover concrete from prior constructions.

All that has left seniors, who can’t afford to move to other neighborhoods, vulnerable to the heat island effect. Many of their yards are browning and either lack a tree or have an aging one in need of removal. “So you cut a tree down because you were afraid it was going to fall on your house,” Alexander said, “but then, what happens to your cooling bill? And your grass? [These are] things that add to the quality of your health.”

Also vulnerable are students, whose public schools have little shade to provide relief during recess. Alexander called the playgrounds “literal hotboxes.”

Community leaders like Alexander vetted the good intentions of the project’s plan—to make sure they actually help those who need it most and, in essence, to close the trust gap between residents and the organizers. In one instance, for example, the GIS data pinpointed a residential street running parallel to the busy Illinois Avenue as an area to plant trees, but the thing was, few people walk down that stretch of road. ”The kids actually walk down the busy thoroughfare because they are going to the corner store to get drinks or candy,” said Alexander. “It was those types of granular adjustments from the ground level that we were able to give them some insights.”

When it comes to tackling climate change, and the human consequences of it, planting 1,000 trees seems almost insignificant—even for Dallas. The Texas Trees Foundation’s report suggests that the city will need to increase its tree canopy by about 5 percent to make a dent in curbing the heat island effect. That can mean roughly 300,000 trees. But Grubisich said it’s a good start to push revitalization efforts in at-risk neighborhoods in a city that’s historically favored new developments, and it could eventually generate more data to drive policy change.

The hope is to take their experience in Oak Cliff and repeat it in other neighborhoods across Dallas. The three groups will monitor the neighborhood’s temperatures and health statistics over the next five years, with the Trust for Public Land updating the GIS maps annually. They’ll also maintain the trees over the next two years, during which they’ll come up with a plan to transition the task over to the community and the local government.

For Laura Huffman, the Nature Conservancy’s state director in Texas, the project is about much more than increasing tree canopy. “Part of what we’re doing in this work is generating the science to connect the dots between trees and vegetation and mental health and well-being, and things like asthma,” she said.

Meanwhile, Alexander is under no illusion that this will solve Oak Cliff’s inequality. But, he said, “I have to remain optimistic because we have to start somewhere.” At the very least, the project has piqued the curiosity of the residents. Dozens have already volunteered to help. Others, meanwhile peeked through their blinds to see what was going on, Alexander recalled of the day he volunteered. Some even stepped outside, asking for a tree in their yard.

For many, Alexander said, this was one of the first times they’d seen anybody invested in their neighborhood. And while they might not see immediate benefits—it takes time for trees to mature—they can at least  “see the potential.”

Linda Poon

Linda Poon is an assistant editor at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.

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8 days ago
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Tesla Erupts in Chaos After Senior Execs Leave, Musk Smokes Weed

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The turmoil at Tesla Inc. has reached a fever pitch, with the news that two senior executives are leaving Elon Musk’s electric-car maker emerging hours after he smoked marijuana during a podcast interview streamed live online.

Chief Accounting Officer Dave Morton gave notice Tuesday that he was resigning less than a month into the job, according to a Friday filing. Tesla’s stock plunged, then extended declines after Gabrielle Toledano, the head of human resources who’s been on a leave of absence, told Bloomberg News that she won’t rejoin the company.

Source: PRNewsFoto

Morton, a former chief financial officer for computer-drive maker Seagate Technology Plc, joined Tesla one day before Musk tweeted that he was considering buying out some investors at $420 a share and taking the company private. The CEO abandoned that effort 17 days later, and all the while drew a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission and a series of lawsuits alleging market manipulation.

“Since I joined Tesla on August 6th, the level of public attention placed on the company, as well as the pace within the company, have exceeded my expectations,” Morton said in the filing. “This caused me to reconsider my future. I want to be clear that I believe strongly in Tesla, its mission, and its future prospects, and I have no disagreements with Tesla’s leadership or its financial reporting.”

Tesla shares fell 6.3 percent to $263.24, the lowest close in five months. The company’s 5.3 percent bonds declined as much as 4 cents to 81.75 cents on the dollar, a new low, according to Trace bond price data.

Read more: Tesla bondholders are nursing a $300 million loss

Tesla has long struggled with high turnover involving its senior executives, and its finance team in particular has gone through a period of significant tumult. In the first quarter of this year, the company lost Morton’s predecessor, Eric Branderiz, and Susan Repo, who was treasurer and vice president of finance. CFO Deepak Ahuja retired in 2015, only to return last year when his successor, Jason Wheeler, quit after just 15 months.

Who Leads Tesla Now? A Look at the Company’s Organizational Chart

Source: Joe Rogan Experience/YouTube

In leaving the accounting chief job, Morton walked away from a $10 million new-hire equity grant that would have vested over four years. Friday was also slated to be the last day for Sarah O’Brien, Tesla’s vice president of communications, whose departure was announced last month.

For more on Tesla, check out the Decrypted podcast:

Up in Smoke

Musk, 47, sipped whiskey during a more than 2 1/2-hour podcast interview with comedian Joe Rogan late Thursday that touched on topics from flame throwers and artificial intelligence to the end of the universe. While Musk said he was “not a regular smoker of weed,” he took a drag from what Rogan said was as a joint containing tobacco mixed with marijuana, which is legal in California.

“It’s quite hard to run companies. Especially car companies,” Musk said. “It’s very difficult to keep a car company alive.”

Philippe Houchois, an analyst at Jefferies Group LLC with a hold rating on Tesla shares, said that Musk “seems to be on a slightly self-destructive bent.” In an interview with Bloomberg Television, he called for the company to split up the chairman and CEO jobs. Musk has served both roles since October 2008, and shareholders rejected a proposal calling for an independent chairman earlier this year.

“The team, the skill set that have been phenomenal to create Tesla are not the ones we need for the next stage,” said Houchois, who has a $360 price target on the stock. “There’s a skill set that needs to be added at the top that Mr. Musk doesn’t have.”

Tesla’s board of directors is on the lookout for senior talent but is not actively searching for a chief operating officer, a person familiar with the board’s thinking told Bloomberg News in August.

Morton and Toledano’s departures -- and Musk’s performance on the podcast -- also alarmed James Albertine, who rates Tesla a hold with a $300 target.

“Evidence is becoming more clear that Tesla needs to entertain a major change in the C-suite,” Albertine wrote in a report. “The ongoing, effectively self-inflicted public relations crisis is now affecting key personnel within the organization” and distracting the market from fundamentals that have been improving, he said.

(Source: Bloomberg)

— With assistance by Claire Boston, Cecile Daurat, Kyunghee Park, Gabrielle Coppola, Keith Naughton, and Jonathan Ferro

(Updates with closing share price in fifth paragraph.)

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10 days ago
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