The Download: Fighting blackouts with battery-swap networks, and AI surgery monitoring

On the morning of April 3, Taiwan was hit by a 7.4 magnitude earthquake. Seconds later, hundreds of battery-swap stations in Taiwan sensed something else: the power frequency of the electric grid took a sudden drop, a signal that some power plants had been disconnected in the disaster. The grid was now struggling to meet energy demand.

These stations, built by the Taiwanese company Gogoro for electric-powered two-wheeled vehicles like scooters, mopeds, and bikes, reacted immediately. According to numbers provided by the company, 590 Gogoro battery-swap locations (some of which have more than one swap station) stopped drawing electricity from the grid, lowering local demand by a total six megawatts—enough to power thousands of homes. It took 12 minutes for the grid to recover, and the battery-swap stations then resumed normal operation.

Gogoro is not the only company working on battery-swapping for electric scooters—New York City recently launched a pilot program to give delivery drivers the option to charge this way—but it’s certainly one of the most successful.

Now the company is putting the battery network to another use: Gogoro is working to incorporate the stations into a virtual power plant (VPP) system that helps the Taiwanese grid stay more resilient in emergencies like April’s earthquake. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

What using artificial intelligence to help monitor surgery can teach us

Every year, some 22,000 Americans a year are killed as a result of serious medical errors in hospitals, many of them on operating tables. There have been cases where surgeons have left surgical sponges inside patients’ bodies or performed the wrong procedure altogether.

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