Robo-taxis are headed for a street near you

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In the coming years, mobility solutions—or however we get from constituent A to constituent B—will span the spread betwixt crushed and aerial transportation—yes, that means flying cars. Technological advancements are transforming mobility for radical and, starring to unprecedented change. Nand Kochhar, vice president of automotive and proscription for Siemens Software says this translation extends beyond proscription to nine successful general.

“The aboriginal of mobility is going to beryllium multimodal to conscionable user demands, to connection a holistic acquisition successful a frictionless way, which offers comfort, convenience, and information to the extremity consumer.” Thinking astir proscription otherwise is portion of a bigger trend, Kochhar notes: “Look astatine fewer different trends similar sustainability and emissions, which are not conscionable a situation for the automotive manufacture but to nine arsenic a whole.”

The advances successful exertion volition person benefits beyond shipping and commute improvements—these technological advancements, Kochhar argues, are poised to thrust an infrastructure paradigm displacement that volition bring newfound autonomy to those who, today, aren’t capable to get astir by themselves.

Kochhar explains, “Just ideate radical successful our ain families who are successful that signifier wherever they're not capable to thrust today. Now, you're capable to supply them freedom.”

Show notes and references


Laurel Ruma: From Technology Review, I'm Laurel Ruma, and this is Business Lab, the amusement that helps concern leaders marque consciousness of caller technologies coming retired of the laboratory and into the marketplace. Our taxable contiguous is the aboriginal of mobility.

In 2011, Marc Andreessen famously said, "Software is eating the world." Now, 10 years later, we're examining however bundle is eating the car.

Consider this: today's cars person much bundle successful them than mechanical parts. Autonomous vehicles are conscionable 1 portion of the story; the different is the accelerated progression of artificial quality and however vehicles are being built. Two words for you: engineering, innovation.

My impermanent is Nand Kochhar, vice president of automotive and proscription for Siemens Software. He joined Siemens successful 2020, aft astir 30 years astatine Ford Motor Company, wherever helium held a fig of positions, including Global Safety Systems main technologist and enforcement method leader. This occurrence of Business Lab is produced successful relation with Siemens.

Welcome, Nand.

Nand Kochhar: Thank you, Laurel. It's bully to articulation you.

Laurel: What does the aboriginal of mobility look similar to you?

Nand: When you look astatine the automotive industry, it's going done an unprecedented transformation. It feels similar it's mounting itself for the adjacent 100 years due to the fact that the manufacture has been reasonably unchangeable successful presumption of exertion innovations and has been progressing successful a continuous betterment mode. Today it is going done a large shift. When we look astatine trends similar the maturation of the satellite population, that drives trends similar urbanization, mega metropolis concepts. With those trends, cities are getting crowded, and that poses a immense situation for mobility solutions for radical surviving successful cities each implicit the globe.

The aboriginal of mobility is going to beryllium multimodal to conscionable user demands, to connection a holistic acquisition successful a frictionless way, which offers comfort, convenience, and information to the extremity consumer. Look astatine fewer different trends similar sustainability and emissions, which are not conscionable a situation for the automotive manufacture but to nine arsenic a whole. To enactment sustainability and the user trends we conscionable touched on, the aboriginal of mobility looks to beryllium connected, autonomous, person a shared mobility, and beryllium electrified—in different words, CASE arsenic an acronym.

Future mobility solutions are crossing the boundaries of crushed and aerial proscription with solutions similar flying cars, vertical take-off and landing units (VTOLs), and drones for transporting goods. You tin spot however the aboriginal of mobility of some radical and goods is transforming, and that's what I meant by the unprecedented alteration we are going through. Now we tin speech astir each aspects of CASE, which we conscionable defined—let's commencement with electrification.

You spot successful the quality that immoderate governments astir the satellite are banning the merchantability of interior combustion motor (ICE) vehicles by 2030. Then, you spot immense investments by nationalist and backstage sectors connected electrified accumulation systems. It is projected that 50% of automotive accumulation volition beryllium electrified by 2030. It implies that portion interior combustion engines volition beryllium around, there's going to beryllium a premix of hybrid, plug-in hybrids, and axenic artillery electrical vehicles coming into the market. You tin spot however the trends are transforming and however the mobility abstraction is changing arsenic a effect of these trends.

Now, erstwhile we look astatine electrification, artillery technologies proceed to mature, and innovation is astatine the forefront. In fact, you could accidental innovation is astatine the highest level successful my 30-plus years moving successful the automotive world. When you see artillery electrical vehicles, evidently we started from pb acerb batteries. In the Gen1 electrical vehicles, we moved to lithium iron-based batteries, and we’re present moving into solid-state batteries and immoderate different caller innovations, which we are not adjacent talking about.

As these innovations successful artillery technologies mature, immoderate of the concerns of the aboriginal days of electrical vehicles—for example, the scope anxiety, the agelong artillery charging times — those types of concerns are dilatory going away. Now with investments successful charging infrastructures and the quality to complaint successful little than 15 minutes, that is raising user acceptance astatine a heightened level. So, 1 of the trends connected electrification is not adjacent a trend: it's becoming much real. We tin prime immoderate state astir the globe. There's immense investment. In the westbound portion of the US, the infrastructure is already built successful spot from a charging standpoint. People are driving from metropolis to city, let's accidental LA to San Francisco, and are getting much comfy each twelvemonth driving electrified vehicles.

Looking astatine different trend—everyone wants to beryllium connected. They privation to proceed from location into their adjacent home, which is their vehicle, oregon immoderate proscription system. What they privation is to marque definite that immoderate they're watching, if they're watching a Netflix movie successful the house, they privation to proceed watching portion they beryllium successful the car. That is the level of connectivity request from a user standpoint, due to the fact that everyone is carrying an borderline device. It could beryllium a phone, oregon a computer, and everything is connected—even successful the vehicle—as good arsenic it is successful the house. So, you tin spot a large inclination from a connected standpoint.

Laurel: I deliberation that's peculiarly adjuvant to acceptable the signifier that we're not conscionable talking astir what we deliberation of arsenic the accepted car. And conscionable for our listeners, CASE is an acronym: connected cars, autonomous oregon automated driving, shared, and electric.

When we deliberation astir the car industry, adjacent though we are reasoning astir each the aspects of mobility, that shared facet plays a large role, doesn't it? Because, arsenic you mentioned, it could beryllium an electrical car, it could beryllium a drone, oregon it could beryllium a antithetic vehicle—especially erstwhile we're reasoning astir concern applications similar transportation vehicles, for example. So, erstwhile we deliberation astir the mobility of the future, are you besides deconstructing what a conveyance means?

Nand: Laurel, you touched connected the point. When we speech astir mobility, it's not conscionable astir about cars oregon trucks oregon SUVs anymore— everything is well-connected. And what I said successful the opening, 1 of the trends is multimodal mobility. So, erstwhile going from constituent A to constituent B, determination are respective modes of transportation, and consumers implicit the adjacent decennary oregon truthful are going to beryllium utilizing much and much of those multimodal modes. It could beryllium taking a bid up to a definite point, and past utilizing an electrical bicycle. It could beryllium sharing a taxi aft that constituent to get to the eventual destination. All these things are driving a large displacement successful transportation, and besides a large displacement successful the concern models getting generated. It's redefining the full manufacture and its ecosystem.

When we speech astir ecosystem, it covers not lone the cars and trucks and the accepted mode of looking astatine things, it is besides redefining the Uber and Lyft concern models, for example—those are the shared mobility operations each implicit the globe.

Laurel: When we bash deliberation astir cars oregon vehicles, specifically, it's casual to halfway our predisposition of what the aboriginal looks similar with the autonomous car. We're not rather determination yet. The 5th level of autonomous driving is full viability and afloat automation. What signifier are we astatine now, and what tin we look guardant to the adjacent twelvemonth oregon two?

Nand: If you look astatine the Society of Automotive Engineers, (SAE) definitions of levels, Level 1 and Level 2 are partial automation. We are already determination with a bulk of the large-scale archetypal instrumentality manufacturers (OEMs) providing their products. That is, you person automation successful presumption of the steering, oregon successful the braking. Good examples could beryllium precocious driver-assistance systems (ADAS) features similar adaptive cruise power oregon autonomous exigency braking. Those things are happening, and they person been maturing implicit the past fewer years. The adjacent level is Level 3—that's wherever it gets a small murky. Some OEMs are claiming they're already astatine Level 3. Others are cautious astir that from a information modular standpoint. At Level 3, the strategy volition pass you, and past the idiosyncratic has to instrumentality implicit successful lawsuit of an exigency oregon if the strategy is not responding well.

Some companies are claiming we are already astatine Level 3, and that's successful that signifier of migration wherever it depends connected what state and what institution you’re talking about. But you could accidental from a exertion standpoint, we are astatine Level. Then we travel to Level 4. Level 4 is wherever you person to specify a plan domain, but everything other is moving autonomously—so you adhd immoderate constraints. We person respective pilots projects astir the satellite astatine Level 4. From a exertion standpoint, you could accidental we person Level 4 moving connected nationalist roads. I'll usage examples successful the U.S. In Phoenix, Waymo has aviator programs for shared rides, and precocious they announced they're going to beryllium doing akin things successful San Francisco. In different example, the Siemens Mobility radical has been moving with Bahn Hamburg successful Germany, and there's been a batch of collaborations for shared thrust pilots that would beryllium considered astatine Level 4.

So, from a exertion standpoint, you could accidental we are astatine Level 4 moving successful the situation arsenic well. Now, of course, the crushed it's not a wide deployment is due to the fact that you person to instrumentality into information each the different things similar nationalist policies and information standards. For example, successful the US, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) declares what is harmless and what those standards are. As things mature, you'll spot that Level 4 volition go much and much dominant. Level 4 autonomy has been achieved not lone successful cars and trucks connected nationalist roads, but besides successful the trucking industry. Level 5, arsenic you said, is simply a spot further away. That's wherever you request adjacent much fail-safe technologies. Again, companies are continuing to marque advancement connected that, but that's wherever we are successful the levels of autonomy today.

Laurel: Could you stock immoderate examples of however autonomous vehicles—not conscionable cars—will beryllium integrated into our lives successful the adjacent fewer years? What does that look similar arsenic you permission your location to spell to work?

Nand: That's a precise bully question. We’re starting to spot with the 2 examples successful Phoenix and San Francisco however these vehicles are getting integrated into our lives, arsenic good arsenic with the Siemens Mobility, the shuttle I mentioned successful Hamburg. So, you tin already ideate successful a fixed city, the shuttle is being tally autonomously. I deliberation there's a aviator programme astatine the University of Colorado. So, wrong utilizing the schoolhouse strategy arsenic a boundary, determination are autonomous shuttles running. If you instrumentality that a small further, erstwhile these things mature, we’ll beryllium moving robo-taxis. In different words, you don't person a driver, a quality operator oregon a information driver, down these cars— they are being operated arsenic a fleet. So, the concern models for companies similar Uber and Lyft, oregon whoever other they collaborate with, that's going to alteration and redefine itself. So, that's a immense shift.

On idiosyncratic front, I would accidental radical volition go comfy dropping their kids astatine a shot crippled oregon astatine schoolhouse utilizing robo-taxis, truthful it's going to go integrated successful our lives. What I truly get excited astir is, arsenic the aging colonisation gets restrictions connected driving, oregon driving conditions oregon driving precocious astatine night, oregon radical who are not capable to thrust today, this level of autonomy offers a full freedom. On the quality side, that gets maine excited and keeps maine going connected moving connected technologies, due to the fact that it's state to question for all.

In a way, I could accidental it redefines Henry Ford's archetypal imaginativeness of providing affordable proscription to everyone, which the institution advertised backmost successful 1925—to unfastened the highways to mankind. Level 4 autonomy volition unfastened the highways to mankind successful a wholly antithetic way—it volition connection full freedom, and that's a immense alteration and a mega displacement from wherever we are today.

Laurel: I emotion that idea, the autonomous conveyance providing autonomy to folks who don't person it currently. That is truly a monolithic societal shift.

Nand: Just ideate radical successful our ain families who are successful that signifier wherever they're not capable to thrust today. Now, you're capable to supply them freedom. It takes the load disconnected you to spell prime up idiosyncratic oregon driblet them off, due to the fact that you're assured these technologies are going to work. So, that's the societal inclination we are talking about.

Laurel: Isn't that interesting, due to the fact that present we are innovating with however vehicles are being developed, and decades ago, Toyota developed the Toyota Way philosophy, which is the iterative process that became important to the manufacture and allowed for rethinking and remodeling astatine antithetic times during the improvement of the vehicle. How bash you deliberation astir merchandise improvement present successful 2021?

Nand: One of the things you touched connected successful the opening was astir however bundle is eating the world. We person a akin saying: bundle is eating the car. So, erstwhile you speech astir software, 1 connection comes to caput from a merchandise improvement prospective: agile merchandise development. So, agile methodologies person been utilized successful the bundle satellite rather extensively for past fewer years. The aforesaid methodologies are present migrating into agile requirement's management, into agile merchandise improvement requirements and changing the concepts of plan into generative design, arsenic an example. So, it's not conscionable the software. Software connected its ain can't present the promises we are talking about, autonomous, and electrification, and shared mobility, etc. It has to enactment hand-in-hand with the corresponding hardware, and that hardware is becoming much electronic—in the conveyance itself and extracurricular of the vehicle.

Let's spell adjacent further into hardware and bundle moving together. You person a batch of embedded bundle successful the vehicle, and that embedded bundle is besides connected to the remainder of the infrastructure. So, that's what we mean erstwhile we speech astir vehicle-to-vehicle infrastructure, oregon conveyance to infrastructure of the metropolis postulation strategy oregon the lighting system, arsenic an example. So, cars are becoming computers connected wheels. And now, 1 happening comes to caput erstwhile you're going done a large displacement similar that: you request a caller electrical architecture, you request a caller conveyance architecture, and these things person to enactment hand-in-hand with the software. So, what happens arsenic a effect is that complexity goes done the roof. The automotive concern is analyzable to statesman with, but present with this displacement happening, complexity is raised to an tremendous level. And that's wherever I deliberation we travel into play from a digitalization perspective, that we privation to person complexity into a competitory vantage by offering solutions for digitalization for the automotive manufacture and its ecosystem.

Laurel: How is merchandise improvement accelerated with simulation? Because that is thing you request to person erstwhile you speech astir that added complexity, particularly erstwhile you're starting to integrate artificial intelligence, right?

Nand: I'm gladsome you brought up simulation, it’s 1 of the areas I've been truly passionate astir for the past 30-plus years. Simulation has go the lone way, successful my mind, to lick the problems of contiguous and to get the manufacture acceptable for tomorrow. The crushed I accidental that is, successful the illustration of autonomous vehicles, if you person to beryllium an autonomous conveyance works safely, you'll person to thrust billions of miles successful a carnal trial environment. Obviously, that's not possible. That volition instrumentality an tremendous fig of years.

So, simulation becomes captious successful solving what we telephone borderline cases, what the autonomous vehicles are going to spell through, truthful that you minimize the fig of carnal tests you volition person to run. The bulk of the improvement of autonomous vehicles and the motion disconnected you tin bash successful a simulation environment. That's an utmost illustration of however simulation is becoming the bosom of aboriginal merchandise development, not lone successful the merchandise development, but besides successful manufacturing and successful the work portion of it.

Then you spell adjacent further. Within merchandise improvement plan simulation, and the investigating aspects of it, simulation again becomes precise important. The trial and the simulation person to correlate truthful the engineers tin physique their assurance successful yet signing disconnected connected their vehicles, oregon immoderate merchandise for that matter. So, you spot simulation and bundle becoming a cardinal portion of merchandise development—and, successful my mind, possibly a beardown statement, but the lone mode to spell forward. Any institution that is not into simulations volition beryllium near behind, successful my perspective.

Laurel: How does artificial quality play into the simulation portion of it arsenic good arsenic the full merchandise beingness cycle? Because present there's nary literal drafting committee to spell backmost to. If you request to marque a change, you tweak it wrong the simulation and the generative plan past follows, correct? Or vice versa. But you're perpetually making those flimsy adjustments, and past you tin conscionable trial it again successful existent time?

Nand: That's right. Artificial intelligence, others besides telephone it instrumentality learning, plays an important relation successful our accelerated merchandise improvement mode of doing things. Industry ever has challenges to deliver, astatine the extremity of the day, quality, outgo and timing. You request to present these things to prolong concern contiguous and successful the aboriginal portion you're continuing to innovate, portion you bring successful caller technologies, caller conveyance types, etc.

When you look astatine the end-to-end process—what we telephone a integer thread, a closed-loop process from end-to-end, from concept, to design, to manufacturing, to work successful a closed-loop manner—I deliberation artificial quality plays a large relation to amended the prime connected an ongoing ground and to supply real-time feedback to amended either connected the show oregon connected the prime aspects, oregon to optimize for cost.

We tin chunk this retired into respective pieces due to the fact that AI and instrumentality learning, and successful immoderate places adjacent IoT, spell manus successful hand. Let's usage a manufacturing example. In today's modern factory, the mill is equipped with galore sensors which are generating data, adjacent astatine a instrumentality level oregon astatine an assembly level. That information needs to beryllium sent somewhere. In our case, we provender it to the cloud, wherever the accusation is processed and results are sent backmost to pass decisions for the adjacent portion coming disconnected the enactment oregon adjacent car coming disconnected the enactment arsenic a prime improvement, successful this example.

So, you spot AI oregon instrumentality learning is playing an important relation successful each 3 aspects: design, manufacturing and service.

Laurel: How tin AI oregon instrumentality learning beryllium utilized with the information that's collected from autonomous vehicles to make safer vehicles? Now that we're retired of the laboratory and into the streets, what benignant of real-time feedback bash you deliberation is going to beryllium possible?

Nand: Some of this is already being done today. For pioneers successful the technologies, successful companies similar Tesla, for example, they're moving what's called the “ghost mode”—that is, vehicles are moving connected the roadworthy to cod data. Obviously, they've got imaginativeness systems oregon cognition done the cameras, radar, and they've besides got galore sensors connected the conveyance itself. That information is being collected successful mean driving conditions. And successful lawsuit determination is an incident, that information gives you an full representation of what was going on, what velocity things were running, what were the surrounding vehicles, what were the upwind conditions, and truthful forth.

So, that information is being fed live, oregon sent backmost to the plan communities, and that's however you tin larn what algorithms request to beryllium tweaked, however we request to modify those based connected that information. So, there's a continuous betterment successful the algorithms and the decision-making done those algorithms, which is each based connected AI.

Laurel: What lessons tin industries extracurricular automotive larn from innovations successful vehicles and mobility?

Nand: There are a batch of lessons. Across industries, there’s a batch successful common, particularly successful the manufacturing arena, whether you instrumentality an aerospace, an automotive oregon adjacent a abstraction industry—you tin adjacent look astatine concern machinery, dense equipment, oregon user merchandise companies. The archetypal communal cardinal is astir the technology. A batch of times, we extremity up utilizing the aforesaid oregon akin technologies, and they signifier the basis. Tto beryllium honest, adjacent for automotive, we instrumentality learnings from workplace equipment, arsenic an example, oregon dense instrumentality industries, due to the fact that immoderate of those are successful a constrained environment, and autonomy and electrification is successful those industries arsenic prevalent.

There are different areas of basics, let's accidental materials engineering. That is common. So lightweighting is ever a immense unit connected the automotive manufacture due to the fact that successful electrical vehicles, you privation to summation the range; successful interior combustion engines, you privation to summation the substance economy. And for that, lightweighting is 1 of the large factors, whether it's composite materials oregon whether it's immoderate different exotic material. Aerospace has the aforesaid challenge—they privation to marque the planes lighter.

We talked astir the software. Again, bundle successful the electronics and semiconductor industry, it is predominant.  They’ve been utilizing it for years, and they are successful enactment positions from a exertion perspective. Today's modern car, and the aboriginal car, is heavy babelike connected semiconductors and chips, and you tin spot the learnings tin travel from that manufacture into automotive—one of the unsocial things astir automotive is that it's the astir analyzable from a wide accumulation standpoint. It's a precise analyzable business, managing the full proviso chain.

Our proviso chains person been planetary for galore years, and they're going to proceed to beryllium global. Lesson from managing each those proviso chains tin beryllium applied crossed different industries. There's a batch of applications from basal materials probe that tin beryllium applied to electronics and semiconductors, from software, wide accumulation techniques, proviso chains—all these lessons learned tin spell backmost and distant crossed industries.

Laurel: Yeah, that is truly interesting, particularly erstwhile we deliberation astir this large displacement successful the automotive industry, and the conveyance and mobility industry, and however that volition trickle down done everyone other arsenic well.

Nand: I touched connected the exertion itself. When it comes to processes, whether it's digitalization oregon what we telephone model-based systems engineering, that attack is, again, applicable crossed industries. It's not conscionable for automotive. It tin use to galore industries.

Laurel: What bash you spot for the aboriginal of the mobility manufacture successful  five to 15 years down the line? What bash you deliberation we tin expect successful the user marketplace and wrong the manufacture itself?

Nand: That’s a precise bully question. I'll interaction connected the acronym CASE that you expanded on: connected, autonomous, shared mobility, and electrification. Those trends are nary longer going to beryllium trends successful 15 years. We going to beryllium surviving done those. Those are going to beryllium realities successful my mind, successful 5 to 15 years. We tin chunk this retired adjacent further, let's accidental successful a shorter timeframe; successful 5 years, the electrification we touched connected is going to beryllium precise mature. By 2030, arsenic I said, 50% of the automotive accumulation is going to beryllium electrified. For 2030, to deed that fig of 50%, that means products request to beryllium retired there.

We already spot that. Every large OEM has billions of dollars present invested, and person made announcements astir however galore electrified products they're bringing connected the road. Every year, that fig continues to grow, particularly erstwhile you instrumentality a look astatine that globally. It's not a inclination conscionable successful the developed nations, successful the Western portion of the satellite oregon successful Europe. In countries similar China, that inclination is astatine an adjacent faster gait connected electrification, arsenic an example.

The user contiguous demands to beryllium connected. They are connected done their devices. They're going to expect the aforesaid not lone successful their home, successful their hands, successful the compartment phones, but besides successful the cars. Autonomous, due to the fact that it's connected, it is going to connection a level of autonomy due to the fact that vehicles volition beryllium connected to the infrastructure. Vehicles volition beryllium connected to the different vehicles connected the road. So, the connectedness inclination is going to proceed to grow.

Autonomy is an absorbing one. As I said, we are already astatine a Level 2 for sure, by a bulk of the manufacture providers, Level 3 by some, and you're going to spot successful 5 to 10 years, the Level 4 maturing to a signifier that immoderate of the things we touched connected successful presumption of robo-taxis are going to beryllium real. In a 15-year timeframe, you could beryllium looking astatine the quality to thrust nether adjacent a Level 5 benignant of condition.

So, I intelligibly spot each of those trends coming into fruition, and they make caller concern models. They let a batch of exertion companies to participate the accepted OEMs and conjecture what: the accepted OEMs past person to proceed to innovate due to the fact that they not lone person to vie and connection products successful the electrified and autonomous range, but they besides person to proceed to person their existent business, which is the interior combustion engines. They'll beryllium going manus successful hand. So, existent OEMs person an adjacent a bigger situation than startup companies oregon the companies that are moving lone connected electrified oregon lone connected autonomous. They don't person the bequest worldly coming with that. We’ll spot each these things, and we'll person policies, and we'll person authorities standards. All those, hopefully, volition beryllium shaping to a constituent that these things volition go existent successful a 5 to 15-year timeframe.

Laurel: So galore possibilities. I can't hold to instrumentality a robo-taxi. Thank you precise much, Nand, for this fantastic speech connected the Business Lab.

Nand: Thank you, Laurel. I truly admit it. It's an grant to beryllium talking to you.

Laurel: That was Nand Kochhar, vice president of Automotive and Transportation for Siemens Software, whom I spoke with from Cambridge, Massachusetts, the location of MIT and MIT Technology Review, overlooking the Charles River. That's it for this occurrence of Business Lab. I'm your host, Laurel Ruma. I'm the manager of Insights, the customized publishing part of MIT Technology Review. We were founded successful 1899, astatine the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and you tin find america successful print, connected the web, and astatine events each twelvemonth astir the world. For much accusation astir america and the show, delight cheque retired our website, astatine This amusement is disposable wherever you get your podcasts. If you enjoyed this episode, we anticipation you'll instrumentality a infinitesimal to complaint and reappraisal us. Business Lab is simply a accumulation of MIT Technology Review. This occurrence was produced by Collective Next. Thanks for listening.

This podcast was produced by Insights, the customized contented limb of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.

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