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Mercedes reveals sleek concept built around breakthrough EV technology

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Mercedes built 16 copies of the original C111, and 11 still exist. This one is powered by the later V8 engine.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Mercedes-Benz revealed a futurist hypercar concept called Vision 111 in Carlsbad, Calif. this week. While it pays homage to the iconic C111 prototypes of the previous century with its sleek look and gullwing doors, the real advancement, just like the C111, is with the powertrain technology.

For the Vision 111, the German automaker is talking about designing the vehicle around smaller, lighter and more powerful electric motors mounted right on the wheels. The car we see doesn’t have these motors in it now.

Because the axial-flow motor is a third of the weight and a third of the volume to create the same power, “we could imagine it to be part of the wheel and the unsprung mass, which is critical,” said Konstantin Neiss, chairman of YASA and head of drive unit development for Mercedes-Benz.

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The shark snout and the extractor ducts on the Mercedes-Benz Vision 111 are among many features inspired by the C111.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Wheel-mounted motors are arguably the holy grail of EV development, but are not currently viable because they increase unsprung weight, weight is not supported by a vehicle’s suspension, which is an enemy of suspension design. Lighter AF motors could resolve that issue, not only in and of themselves but also by allowing smaller friction brakes, because the motors in regenerative systems do much of the braking.

As well, Neiss said, “you get rid of the driveshaft weight, of the central drive unit weight, by placing the motors onto the wheels. So there may also be an overall weight advantage on the vehicle. And the most obvious advantage is that you gain good space in the center of the vehicle for either placing battery packs or other technical components, or you can simply use it for more space for the customer or the trunk or wherever.”

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Unlike its C111 inspiration, the Vision 111 will never be driven fast enough to need all of its aerodynamic aids.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Developed originally by YASA Ltd., a British electric vehicle motors startup founded by Oxford-grad Tim Woolmer and now owned by Mercedes, the motors use axial-flux (AF) stator technology rather

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Generative AI could be an authoritarian breakthrough in brainwashing

Generative AI is poised to be the next free world’s great gift to authors. The viral launch of ChatGPT — a system with eerily human-like capabilities in composing essays, poetry and computer code — has awakened the world’s dictators to the transformative power of generative AI to create unique, compelling content at scale.

But the fierce debate that has ensued among Western industry leaders on the risks of releasing advanced generative AI tools has largely missed where their effects are likely to be most pernicious: within autocracies. AI companies and the US government alike must institute stricter norms for the development of tools like ChatGPT in full view of their game-changing potential for the world’s authoritarians — before it is too late.

So far, concerns around generative AI and autocrats have mostly focused on how these systems can turbocharge Chinese and Russian propaganda efforts in the United States. ChatGPT has already demonstrated generative AI’s ability to automate Chinese and Russian foreign disinformation with the push of a button. When combined with advancements in targeted advertising and other new precision propaganda techniques, generative AI portends a revolution in the speed, scale and credibility of autocratic influence operations.

But however daunting Chinese and Russian foreign disinformation efforts look in a post-GPT world, open societies receive only a small fraction of the propaganda that Beijing and Moscow blast into their own populations. And whereas democratic powers maintain robust communities of technologists dedicated to combating online manipulation, autocrats can use the full power of their states to optimize their propaganda’s influence.

In 2019, China’s Xi Jinping demanded just that when he ordered his party-state to leverage AI to “comprehensively increase” the ability of the Chinese Communist Party to mold Chinese public opinion. Russia’s Vladimir Putin has similarly doubled down on AI-enabled propaganda in the wake of his Ukraine invasion, including a fake video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky calling for Ukrainians to surrender. These efforts are buttressed by a dizzying array of Chinese and Russian agencies tasked with thought control, cultivating a competitive ecosystem of digital propaganda tools underwritten by multibillion-dollar budgets each year.

China and Russia are, in other words, fertile ground for generative AI to usher in a historic breakthrough in brainwashing — a recipe for more international catastrophes, greater human rights abuses, and further entrenched despotism. As China refines and exports its techno-authoritarianism, would-be tyrants to the world over are likely

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