BMW News, Technology, Videos

BMW Video: Creating Trust in Autonomous Cars


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Originally Posted by Jason
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Trust is the ability to enjoy the journey. Listen in as Mariana Van Zeller talks to BMW technical product manager, Falk Schubert, on how BMW is creating a future you can trust with autonomous, self-driving vehicles. From driver assistance to continuous function testing, BMW’s self-driving technology is at the frontier of driverless car development.


There has been and continues to be much confusion on autonomous driving technology. For reference, the NHTSA defines autonomous driving technology in five levels.

Level 5 means the vehicle is 100% able to travel from and to any destination or destinations, under all kinds of weather, under all kinds of traffic conditions, and in all situations WITHOUT the need of any input from the driver or occupant. Level 4 is able to do the same in MOST weather conditions, traffic conditions, and most situations, but not all.

For reference, we are at level 2 autonomous driving where the driver must remain alert, engaged and is responsible at all times, no exception. In level 2, a vehicle is able to stay in its lane, at a determined speed, change lanes, keep safe distance from vehicle ahead, and exit highway ramps without the need for input from the driver for a very SHORT and LIMITED amount of time.

We are very much far away from reaching level 4 or level 5 anytime soon. The challenges are much more complex, expensive, and bewildering than most people think to say the least. The technology is simply not here yet, never mind being ready and tested. This also does not include other factors such as red tape, infrastructure, insurance, changing current laws and motor vehicle regulations.

A good timeline estimation is that we won’t see vehicles with Level 4 autonomy before the mid to late 2020’s, and we won’t reach Level 5 autonomy before 2030 or even the mid 2030’s.

So for now, let us enjoy the concept of driving.





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Cars, International News, Technology

Bosch says autonomous vehicles are ready, but faces non-technical hurdles like sceptics and regulations


Bosch has come out saying that the delay with introducing autonomous vehicles is due to a “jungle of red tape” and a wave of consumer scepticism, other than technological limitations of the systems, Autocar reports.

Company senior vice president of automated driving, Kay Stepper told the publication that its engineers have already cleared the technological hurdles. “We need to differentiate between technical and non-technical problems. At the moment we can honestly say from the technological, hardware and software sides that we have what we need to roll out [autonomous technology] tomorrow. It’s here. Yes, we have much more testing and validation to do and more refinement to do, but we’re there.”

Despite the advancements, no autonomous vehicles are commercially available in 2020. “The major obstacles are the non-technical ones, like the regulatory framework in different regions. It’s very different in Europe than in China or the US, and that will very much impact the timing of the roll-out.” He added that American lawmakers are more favourable with the technology compared to others.

Consumer acceptance is probably one of the biggest hurdle that players in the field are required to tackle. “I’m excited about autonomous driving, and many of our customers are, but not everyone is. There’s a good level of animosity in parts of the population. Some have a hard time accepting this as an everyday reality.”

As for a timeline, the VP believes that self-driving cars will only hit the road by 2025, but even then they won’t be ubiquitous. However, he did say ride-hailing services and commercial haulage are two likelier adopters of the technology.

Compared to a conventional car, it’s going to take more time and convincing to sell a car without a steering wheel and pedals to customers. Stepper believes the industry will get there, but pointed out that Bosch’s goal is not to make driving illegal. If you wish to understand the levels of automation, you may read our detailed report, here.

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Cars, Ford, International News, Technology

Ford develops 3D-printed wheel nut as thief deterrent


Have you been a victim of wheel theft? Well, Ford has come up with an impressive solution to stop these unrelenting thieves dead in their tracks, and it involves 3D-printing. The technology behind it is rather interesting, so here’s how.

Ford has teamed up with EOS, a leading supplier for high-end solutions in additive manufacturing, to create locking nuts with contours based on a driver’s voice. Yes, voice, which Ford claims can be used as a unique biometric identification.

Engineers do this by recording the driver’s voice for a minimum of one second (an admittedly simpler process compared to smartphone voice assistants), using regular phrases such as “I drive a Ford Mustang.” A special software then converts that sound wave into a physical, printable pattern, which is then turned into a circle and used as a geometric design for the locking nut’s indentation and key.

With that in place, the nut and key are designed as a single piece, then 3D-printed using acid- and corrosion-resistant stainless steel. There’s also a secondary security feature that prevents the nut from being cloned or copied by thieves. There are unevenly spaced ribs and indentations on the inside which widens towards the bottom. That way, thieves won’t be able to make a wax imprint of the pattern, because the wax will break when it is pulled from the nut.

The nut design isn’t just limited to the driver’s voice. A person can choose, for example, specific designs such as the Mustang logo or his/her initials to design the geometric pattern. In fact, if the Sepang Circuit is your favourite racetrack, its layout could be used to design the nut as well.

Ford Advanced Materials and Processes research engineer, Raphael Koch said: “It’s one of the worst experiences for a driver, to find their car up on blocks with all four wheels gone. Some alloy wheels can cost thousands to replace, but these unique rim nuts will stop thieves in their tracks. Making wheels more secure and offering more product personalisation are further proof that 3D printing is a game-changer for car production.”

Ford is doubling down on 3D printing technology, a manufacturing process which helps reduce development time for new vehicles, and at the same time is more environmentally friendly because it produces less CO2. Ford is already 3D-printing parts found in the Ford GT, Focus, and Mustang GT500.

On its production line, Ford uses the technology to create assembly line tools that are up to 50% lighter, which makes repetitive tasks less physically stressful and helps improve manufacturing quality. Many of these tools are made of nylon, so Ford introduced a recycling programme that turns old 3D-printed pieces and plastics into 100% recycled nylon. It also creates 3D-printed safety equipment such as protection sleeves for use on the production line, which prevent operators from incurring finger and arm injuries.


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EVs and Alternative Fuel, Feature Stories, Hybrids, Technology

Petronas EV Fluids Symposium – thermal management development and its impact on EV performance


Electric vehicles are fast becoming a necessity in the line-ups of automakers in order to meet emission regulations that are set to become stricter in the coming years. This is evident in major markets like Europe, the United States and China, which are aiming to reduce vehicle CO2 emissions by as much as 30% (or more) by the year 2030.

Even though that is still a good number of years away, in the short- to mid-term period (before the year 2025), the industry is still experiencing a low adoption rate of EVs, with FEV Consulting reporting a global share of just 2.3% as of right now.

While drivers for electrification may differ by region, it’s obvious that consumers overall are still showing a lower acceptance for EVs today, with one of reasons being a general lack of product attractiveness when compared to cars with internal combustion engines.

Comparing the usage characteristics of EVs and ICE-powered cars in the attached table, we can see the pros and cons of each, with the latter currently having a number of advantages over the former. While ICE-powered cars face no issue with their power source (petrol or diesel in their fuel tanks), EVs are limited by the capabilities of their on-board batteries and electric motors.

Like most electronics, thermal management is an integral part of operation, and this extends to EVs as well. With efficient thermal management, the disadvantages of EVs can be alleviated to improve upon their shortcomings, which in turn, could help make them more attractive to customers.

That was the primary topic of PETRONAS’ inaugural EV Fluids Symposium, which was held at Petronas Lubricants International (PLI)’s Global Research and Technology Centre in Turin, Italy. Just like several major automakers, PETRONAS has committed itself to reduce its impact on the environment, introducing its Carbon Commitments plan in 2012. Since then, the company has successfully reduced its carbon footprint by almost 13% from 2017.

More recently, in 2018, PLI pledged 75% of its R&T investment towards developing innovative solutions that contribute to reducing CO2 emissions. In fact, the company has used its expertise to develop fluids and lubricants catered specifically for EVs, which are marketed under its Iona banner, and are currently working on providing new solutions that aim to further improve their capabilities.

As such, the one-day event organised by PETRONAS served as a good platform for lubricant companies, automakers, OEMs and automotive suppliers to gather and share future EV technology trends, their market relevance and the role of fluids in the evolution of e-transmission and battery technologies.

To understand the role that thermal management plays in EVs, we must first understand the primary systems that make them move. In most modern EVs, these include the electric drive unit (EDU) and the batteries themselves.

Electric drive unit

Electric drive units are mainly comprised of three main components, namely the electric motor, a reduction gear and inverter (or power electronics). The e-motor typically consists of stationary (stator) and rotating (rotor) parts, with the latter being the one that generates rotational speed (between 12,000 to 20,000 rpm) when current is sent through the e-motor.

The mechanical energy is then reduced via a reduction gear, which are typically single- or dual-speed units, before drive is sent to the wheels, Meanwhile, the inverter provides current to the e-motor from the battery, and governs the e-motor and torque generated by the system.

As it stands, there are different cooling solutions for EDUs that already exist, with the most simplistic being air cooling. This method sees the e-motor and inverter be cooled by fresh air, which can be further supplemented by air-conditioned cooling, while the reduction gear is lubricated (separately) with a transmission oil.

A more common approach is water-glycol cooling, which is used to cool the inverter and e-motor – the latter primarily involves cooling a water jacket around the stator, but in certain cases, the rotor shaft is cooled as well. While the fluid is in close proximity to electronic components, there is no direct contact between them. Like air cooling, the reduction gear is lubricated separately with a transmission oil.

Another method is hybrid cooling, where the inverter and e-motor stator are indirectly cooled by water-glycol, while the e-motor rotor shaft and reduction gear have one combined oil circuit. In this system, selected parts like the e-motor rotor and stator windings are directly cooled by oil, and can be linked to the water-glycol circuit by a heat exchanger.

Lastly, and the most complex, is direct oil cooling, where all components share the same oil cooling circuit, beginning from the inverter, to the e-motor, and the reduction gear. Based on testing conducted by FEVs, direct oil cooled e-motors showed improved performance, providing a 30% increase in continuous power delivery over those that used a water jacket for the stator.

It’s clear then that with higher cooling performance, the continuous power delivery rate of the e-motor can be increased or the unit size can be reduced while delivering the same continuous power. The latter is not only beneficial from a packaging standpoint, but also in terms of pricing as less materials are needed to build the e-motor. This can help lower the initial purchase price of EVs, increasing their attractiveness to customers.

While it may sound simple enough to just douse everything in oil and call it a day, there are a few requirements that need to be met when it comes to this approach. Due to the speed at which e-motors operate, the thermal properties of the fluid used need to be significantly higher, and the transmission oil used in reduction gears alone just aren’t up to par with what’s required for the e-motor. Secondly, e-motors are faced with high electrical currents in operation, and the fluid must have dielectric properties so as not to cause a short circuit.

Next, ensuring the fluid has a high level of material compatibility is important to ensure it doesn’t promote corrosion or oxidisation of the components and insulation found in the EDU. Even with all these requirements, there’s still a need to ensure that the fluid used provides adequate lubrication to minimise wear and tear.

For now, there are no real optimised e-fluids that can fulfill all these requirements, which is why PETRONAS is focusing its resources to develop a solution. Of course, this isn’t an easy feat, as we haven’t considered a number of promising technologies that can further influence the thermal management solution of EVs and fluid requirements moving forward.

Among the key advancements currently in development include silicon carbide inverters, improved insulation materials, more powerful e-motors, high-voltage EDUs, new magnet materials and multi-speed transmission (reduction gears).

Batteries

With EDU thermal management being a complex issue on its own, there’s also the matter of keeping the batteries that supply power to the EDU cool as well. As we know, batteries operate best within a certain temperature window, with extremely high or low temperatures being detrimental to batteries, not only in terms of their ability to deliver power but also their longevity.

Most EV batteries adopt a modular structure consisting of cells and modules contained within a battery pack. In operation, cells generate a lot of heat at their primary contact terminals and core, and with repeated usage, result in temperature gradients within the cell that have an affect on battery health. While temperature gradients are inevitable, minimising their scale is important to reduce increased aging of the batteries.

Current cooling solutions share some similarities with those used for EDUs, with air cooling being the most basic method, where air is passed through the pack, directly cooling the cells or modules within.

A more common method used is to run refrigerant or water-glycol through cooling pipes or plates that run along the base or between the modules. This indirect cooling method typically involves the cooling circuit be combined with the car’s conventional air-conditioning system. Models such as the Audi e-tron and Tesla Model S rely on this method, with the former using a cooling plate under the battery pack, while the latter features a cooling channel between the modules.

Possible future solutions for mass-market EVs involve using dielectric cooling fluids, which are non-conductive, and allow for direct cooling to be applied, mitigating the potentially high temperature gradients within a cell. This can be achieved by either submerging the cells fully in fluid, or targeted cooling of areas that generate the most heat like cell tabs (or busbars). In existing cooling solutions, this isn’t possible, as the coolant (be it water-glycol or refrigerant) cannot be in direct contact with cell tabs lest a short circuit occurs.

More efficient thermal management can benefit batteries in more ways beyond just improved longevity. As fast charging has become a common feature in EVs, higher cooling performance can allow for longer high charging power to be maintained – thermal limitations place a limit on the time an EV can be charged at its maximum power. Additionally, batteries kept under ideal temperatures are able to delivering their maximum possible range and performance more effectively and repeatedly.

Unfortunately, dielectric battery cooling solutions are currently rather expensive and their low fluid performance characteristics means they have yet to be used in mass-market EVs. With continued development, dielectric battery cooling fluids provide improved fluid performance characteristics and be cheaper to manufacture.

Conclusion

It’s clear that there’s more to explore in the world of e-mobility, especially for companies such as PETRONAS as well as automakers, OEMs and automotive suppliers. Evolving technologies and new fluid requirements will require new test methods that have yet to be standardised across the industry, and the EV Fluids Symposium acts as a catalyst for greater things.

What is certain is that thermal management has such a significant role in EVs today and in the future, and PETRONAS is looking to develop solutions, which are part of its second-generation Iona range that meet the needs of the partners it collaborates with. There’s a lot of potential in EVs, and no company wants to lag behind in this relatively new frontier.

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2020 CES, International News, Technology

Qualcomm announces Snapdragon Ride Platform for Level 1 to Level 5 autonomous systems at CES 2020


Computer chip maker Qualcomm announced the latest addition to its automotive products line-up, the Snapdragon Ride Platform at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The Snapdragon Ride Platform consists of the Snapdragon Ride Safety system-on-chips (SoCs), Snapdragon Ride Safety Accelerator and Snapdragon Ride Autonomous Stack.

This platform has been designed to scale across all levels of autonomous driving, says Qualcomm, namely Level 1 and Level 2 active driver assistance systems which comprise autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist and traffic sign recognition, Level 2+ advanced driver assistance systems which feature automated highway driving, self-parking and urban driving in stop-start traffic, and Levels 4 and 5 for fully autonomous urban driving, robo-taxis and robo-logistics.

A high-performance, centralised computing system typically consumes a lot of power and consequently generates a lot of heat which requires additional heat management systems such as liquid cooling, which adds costs and complexity. The Snapdragon Ride Platform takes care of that, says Qualcomm, which ranges from 30 tera operations per second (TOPS) in Level 1-2 applications to more than 700 TOPS in Level 4-5 autonomous driving.

The efficiency of the Snapdragon Ride Platform therefore means it can be used in designs which are cooled passively or air-cooled, saving cost and increasing reliability by avoiding the need for liquid-cooling systems, thus making vehicle designs simpler, lighter and more efficient as a result.

Overall, the new chip platform has twice the efficiency of older architectures, says Qualcomm. Snapdragon Ride will be made available for development to automakers and Tier-1 suppliers in the first half of this year, ZDNet reports.

The company also introduced the new car-to-cloud service at this time, a service which enables the upkeep of vehicle software with over-the-air (OTA) updates. Designed for the Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit platform and Snapdragon Automotive 4G and 5G platforms, the car-to-cloud service will keep telematics systems up to date. The car-to-cloud service is planned for market debut in 2020, the report added.

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Cars, EVs and Alternative Fuel, Hybrids, International News, Technology, Volkswagen

Volkswagen ID.3 production ongoing despite software issues, vehicles to be updated in storage – report


Volkswagen is pushing ahead with the production of its ID.3 fully electric vehicle despite ‘massive’ software problems, Manager Magazin reports. The hatchback EV has been in production at the facility in Zwickau, Germany from November, and the issues faced here have been indicated to be incomplete software architecture, the German publication wrote.

Volkswagen will, however, proceed with the manufacture of approximately 10,000 units of the ID.3 despite the software issues. This initial batch will then be stored in large facilities until the Northern Hemisphere spring of 2020, when the automaker will deploy teams with mobile computer stations to manually rectify the software in each car.

Production of the ID.3 will continue alongside the software rectification for the initial batch of 10,000 ID.3s, and the same software update will be applied to the following batch of 10,000 vehicles, albeit through a simpler update administered over-the-air. A separate report by Inside EVs states the second batch as comprising 20,000 units for a total of 30,000 vehicles affected.

Manager Magazin also reports that Volkswagen chief Herbert Diess intends to sell the new software architecture to other automakers, and Wolfsburg-based automaker is currently in talks with automotive components manufacturer Continental.

The ID.3 is set for market launch across Europe in the summer of 2020, and more than 35,000 customers have already reserved with a pre-booking deposit paid, Volkswagen said last month. The electric hatchback is offered in 45 kWh, 58 kWh and 77 kWh battery versions, offering ranges of 330 km, 420 km and 550 km respectively. Propulsion is courtesy of a rear axle-mounted 204 PS/310 Nm motor.

GALLERY: Volkswagen ID.3

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Cars, Ford, International News, Technology

Ford turns McDonald’s coffee waste into headlights


Many automakers are looking to incorporate sustainable materials in vehicle production, and Ford is not excluded from this. The company recently announced that it will collaborate with McDonald’s to use coffee beans in vehicle parts such as headlights, as part of efforts to reach its goal of using recycled and renewable plastics in vehicles globally.

According to an official release, millions of kilograms of coffee chaff – the dried skin of the bean – naturally comes off during the roasting process every year. Both companies discovered that chaff can be converted into a durable material to reinforce certain vehicle parts by heating the chaff to high temperatures under low oxygen, mixing it with plastic and other additives and turning it into pellets, which can then be formed into various shapes.

The resulting composite material meets Ford’s quality specifications for parts such as headlight housings as well as other interior and under bonnet components, while being about 20% lighter. Additionally, the heat properties of the chaff component are better than what is used currently, while requiring 25% less energy during the moulding process.

“McDonald’s commitment to innovation was impressive to us and matched our own forward-thinking vision and action for sustainability. This has been a priority for Ford for over 20 years, and this is an example of jump starting the closed-loop economy, where different industries work together and exchange materials that otherwise would be side or waste products,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader, sustainability and emerging materials research team.

The successful experiment isn’t just for theatrics either, as McDonald’s is expected to send a significant portion of its coffee chaff in North America to Ford to be incorporated into vehicle parts. “By finding a way to use coffee chaff as a resource, we are elevating how companies together can increase participation in the closed-loop economy,” commented Ian Olson, McDonald’s senior director, global sustainability.

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Cars, EVs and Alternative Fuel, Hybrids, International News, Porsche, Technology

Porsche reveals new software-based torque control system for EVs – drive through snow as if on rails!


Porsche Engineering has developed and begun testing a new torque control system for an all-wheel drive electric SUV that will apparently provide maximum stability and safety when driving, all without using additional sensors on board. Instead, everything is software-based (developed in-house), so torque control is purely electronic.

Porsche Engineering (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Porsche) claims that this drive technology was seen only on Mars rovers, so it had to develop one for road-going cars. The division’s team leader for function development, Dr Martin Rezac said: “We had to develop a lot of it from the ground up,” and the system has been calibrated in real-world test drives over two winters. Are you ready for this?

It all starts with the electric SUV prototype, fitted with four electric motors, one in each wheel. This enables all-wheel drive, and Porsche says the system enable extremely variable distribution of power. Imagine having a separate throttle pedal for each individual motor – that’s how Ulf Hintze, an employee Porsche Engineering, puts it.

In a conventional AWD car, there is only one engine at work, and the power is distributed to the axles through a central differential. By way of physics, the torque ratio is fixed, but the ratio can be changed by installing additional mechanical components such as a multi-plate friction clutch. This is sluggish compared to a purely electronically-controlled system, Porsche says.

So fast, in fact, that the software intelligently distribute forces to the wheels every millisecond, ensuring that the car behaves neutrally, all the time. Porsche’s own winter testing showed that the e-SUV could steer confidently into a tight, snow-covered corner at 80 km/h without needing to slow down. In a regular car, the tail could potentially swing out, sending the car into a not-so merry-go-round.

According to Porsche Engineering, the electronic torque control software can be used for different motor configurations for other types of electric vehicle. Generally, development starts with the power distribution software. For example, a 50:50 front-to-rear axle split makes sense for straight-line driving. Under acceleration, the software switches fully to rear-wheel drive, or purely front-wheel drive around a sharp bend.

The next step is to adjust the torque to the wheel speed. The base algorithms are programmed to ensure that all wheels spin at the same speed. On a dry stretch of road, that’s fairly easy to accomplish, but things get considerably trickier when driving on a snowy mountain pass. For instance, if the front wheels drive over an icy patch, they could start spinning and offer no traction in return, especially without mechanical or electronic intervention.

Again, Porsche’s new torque control system detects this and immediately redistributes torque to whichever wheel that spins slower, and thus have more grip. This slip-mitigating torque vectoring function is not new, of course, but the argument is that an electronic system operates far more quickly than the various speed-sensing limited-slip differentials out there today, and does so with virtually no wear.

The third and most vital function of the torque control system is in lateral dynamics control. In short, Porsche says this immediately puts an end to understeering. The underlying mechanics is simple: in a left-hand turn, it would brake the rear left wheel and accelerates the right rear wheel until neutrality is restored.

Similarly, the system also counteracts oversteer, and Porsche says the driver would ideally notice nothing when these interventions occur, because it acts very subtly and quickly. “It feels like driving on rails – an SUV that behaves with the agility of a sports car,” says Hintze when summarising the effect.

There is also a software, called the “observer,” that continuously monitors all driving factors such as steering input, acceleration, and even how much the vehicle is turning around its vertical axis. These data are provided by a yaw sensor, and when understeer or oversteer is detected, the “observer” intervenes. This is much like a regular electronic stability control system, but Porsche says its software can do more.

While a conventional ESP system only brakes, in an EV, the individual wheels can be accelerated as well. This restores neutrality without losing speed, and the intervention is less jerky than a hydraulic ESP system. The typical juddering caused by a regular anti-lock brake system is also effectively omitted.

However, Rezac says the development of the observer was the biggest challenge, because fundamentally, a car knows relatively little about its own state. It doesn’t know its own speed (it can only derive it from the speed in which the wheels spin), which becomes difficult on ice and snow. To compensate, it has to use extra data such as longitudinal and lateral acceleration to estimate its current speed.

Weight distribution can be just as vague. While the suspension captures load data on individual wheels, this merely provides clues than certainty. The shocks simply indicate increased weight on the rear axle, but this could be due to the car being parked on a slope, or rather just heavily loaded with goods.

Remember, Porsche Engineering had to develop this software without using additional sensors, so it’s programmed to estimate the car’s important parameters. Interestingly, the torque control system is able to communicate with a particular sensor that detects the inclination of the car, which is usually used for the auto-levelling headlights system. It’s an unusual data source and seemingly insignificant, but such was the extent of development and calibration.

While the application seems promising (maybe not so much for purists), there were significant hurdles to overcome. For example, the electric motor’s rapid reaction time can sometimes cause undesired effects. “The electric motors respond so quickly that vibrations can occur,” Hintze says, who conducted the winter test drives with his team.

Sometimes, the software distributes torque at increasingly fast intervals, which caused an audible revving of the motors. Also, the individual motors cannot function at full capacity when battery level drops. “The control range collapses in this case,” says Hintze. Instead of 100% torque on one axle, perhaps only 60% may be available. And the torque control has to factor that in as well. But all that said, it’s quite a piece of tech, we think. Wouldn’t you be grateful to be driving through snow as though your car is on rails?

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