It’s possible no electric vehicles will qualify for the new tax credit

Volkswagen is one of several automakers that are already assembling their EV battery packs locally. But the value of the materials that go into the pack will determine whether it qualifies for the revised clean vehicle tax credit.

Enlarge / Volkswagen is one of several automakers that are already assembling their EV battery packs locally. But the value of the materials that go into the pack will determine whether it qualifies for the revised clean vehicle tax credit. (credit: Volkswagen)

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 passed the United States Senate on Sunday and heads to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass easily. It contains numerous changes to the tax code, meant in large part to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

Among these is a revision to the existing tax credit for new plug-in electric vehicles. As we detailed last week, the IRA introduces income caps for the tax credit, and it will only apply to sedans that cost less than $55,000 and other EVs that cost less than $80,000. The bill also drops the 200,000 vehicle-per-OEM cap on the tax credit, which would benefit both General Motors and Tesla.

At least it will if their EV batteries are mostly made within North America, with at least 40 percent of the materials used having been extracted and processed within North America or a country with a free trade agreement. Now, instead of being based on battery capacity, half the credit ($3,750) is tied to where the pack is made, and the other half its supply chain. And that will be a problem if you’re looking to buy an EV in 2023.

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#battery, #cars, #china, #ev-tax-credit, #ford, #general-motors, #inflation-reduction-act-of-2022, #lg-chem, #lithium-ion-battery, #sk-innovation, #stellantis, #tesla, #volkswagen

Ford secures battery supplies for 600,000 EVs a year from 2023

Ford's electric F-150 Lighting (L), eTransit (M), and Mustang Mach-E (R) battery-electric vehicles have all been such successes that they're all sold out for the rest of the year.

Enlarge / Ford’s electric F-150 Lighting (L), eTransit (M), and Mustang Mach-E (R) battery-electric vehicles have all been such successes that they’re all sold out for the rest of the year. (credit: Ford)

On Thursday, Ford Motor Company announced that it has secured 60 GWh of battery cells that will allow it to build 600,000 electric vehicles by late 2023. And it says it has contracts for cells that will allow it to build 1.4 million EVs by 2026, 70 percent of the 2 million EVs it plans to build globally that year.

“Ford’s new electric vehicle lineup has generated huge enthusiasm and demand, and now we are putting the industrial system in place to scale quickly,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s president and CEO and president of Ford Model e. “Our Model e team has moved with speed, focus, and creativity to secure the battery capacity and raw materials we need to deliver breakthrough EVs for millions of customers.”

The automaker says that its plan for 2023 will consist of 270,000 Mustang Mach-Es for North America, Europe, and China, 150,000 F-150 Lightnings for North America, 150,000 e-Transit vans for North America and Europe, and it will launch an additional electric SUV in Europe, building 30,000 in 2023 before ramping up production significantly in 2024.

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#battery-electric-vehicles, #cars, #catl, #ford, #ford-e-transit, #ford-f-150-lightning, #ford-mustang-mach-e, #lg-energy-solution, #sk

Five automakers tell the Feds they want California emissions rules

Five automakers tell the Feds they want California emissions rules

Enlarge (credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

California’s ability to regulate its own air quality is being defended by five automakers this week. BMW, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen Group, and Volvo have filed a motion to defend the Golden State’s waiver, issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency, that allows the state to limit the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by vehicles sold within its borders.

As a result of severe air pollution in the 1960s, then-California Governor and future Republican hero Ronald Reagan created the California Air Resources Board to set a statewide approach to managing air quality. But in recent years, the party of Reagan has been working double-time to undo the move.

Former President Donald Trump was determined to prevent CARB from regulating California’s air. In September 2019, Trump revoked California’s waiver under the clean air act, with the intention of bringing it under an Environmental Protection Agency that had been weakened by executive branch edict. Trump’s attack on California’s air was backed by automakers like Toyota and GM, who have sought to water down fuel efficiency standards.

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#bmw, #cars, #ford, #honda, #volkswagen-group, #volvo

No more dealer markups: Ford wants to move to online-only sales for EVs

Ford's electric F-150 Lighting (L), eTransit (M), and Mustang Mach-E (R) battery-electric vehicles have all been such successes that they're all sold out for the rest of the year. And that's prompting the company to rethink how it goes about the whole process.

Enlarge / Ford’s electric F-150 Lighting (L), eTransit (M), and Mustang Mach-E (R) battery-electric vehicles have all been such successes that they’re all sold out for the rest of the year. And that’s prompting the company to rethink how it goes about the whole process. (credit: Ford)

Few Americans enjoyed the car-buying process even before supply chain chaos, and the chip shortage led dealerships to mark up inventory by thousands of dollars. But buying a Ford electric vehicle might be a lot less painful in the future, if Ford CEO Jim Farley gets his way. On Wednesday, Farley said that he wants the company’s EVs to be sold online-only, with no dealer markups or other price negotiations, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“We’ve got to go to non-negotiated price. We’ve got to go to 100 percent online. There’s no inventory (at dealerships), it goes directly to the customer. And 100 percent remote pickup and delivery,” Farley said while speaking at a conference in New York.

One of Tesla’s most popular innovations was to eschew traditional dealerships and sell its products directly to customers. But traditional manufacturers like Ford are usually prohibited from selling their products directly to customers, a legacy of fears over vertical integration written into state laws during the early 20th century. As such, Ford’s franchised dealers will almost certainly still have a role to play.

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#car-dealerships, #car-sales, #cars, #ford

The most important EV of the decade? We drive the F-150 Lightning

At first glance, this could be any other Ford F-150 pickup, but the aerodynamic wheels and nose treatment mark it out as the all-electric F-150 Lightning. This is the top-spec Platinum trim.

Enlarge / At first glance, this could be any other Ford F-150 pickup, but the aerodynamic wheels and nose treatment mark it out as the all-electric F-150 Lightning. This is the top-spec Platinum trim. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS—Simply put, the Ford F-150 Lightning is the most important new electric vehicle we’ll drive for some time. Auto journalists can be accused of using that cliché all too readily, but in this case, I think it’s defensible. Americans love pickup trucks more than any other four-wheeled vehicle, and when it comes to pickup trucks, they love Ford’s F-series enough that it has been the nation’s bestseller for almost as long as I’ve been alive.

Making a fully battery-electric version of its favorite pickup therefore seems like a good way to spur adoption of electric vehicles in a country that’s lagging behind Europe and China. But only if the truck is any good. Part of the reason Ford sells so many F-series trucks is that many of them are put to work, pulling trailers or hauling heavy loads in their beds. And it’s just as important to decarbonize those trucks, which means that a stripped-down electric F-150 has to be able to cut it on the job site just as much as in the role of a suburban dad’s fully loaded commuter pickup.

To a casual observer, there’s little that marks the F-150 Lightning as being anything other than just another F-150 with a super crew cab and a 5.5-foot bed. Instead of an open grille, there’s a more aerodynamic treatment at the front, plus some distinctive daytime running lights. The alloy wheels’ surfaces are more disc-like than you’d normally see. And if you look carefully, you’ll spot the occasional lightning bolt. The cab is light and airy thanks to large glass moonroofs, and there’s plenty of room in the back for large adults.

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#cars, #features, #ford, #ford-f-150, #ford-f-150-lightning

Ford delays switch to Android Automotive until 2023

Ford delays switch to Android Automotive until 2023

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Last February, Ford announced that it was partnering with Google for its infotainment operating system. The automaker had used Blackberry QNX as the underlying OS for Sync 4, but like many other OEMs, it has found Android Automotive to be a compelling alternative. Unfortunately for Ford, that migration is not going very smoothly. Ford CEO Jim Farley told The Verge that the company is months behind schedule.

“We’re making a lot of progress. I’m very impressed with the team that Google has put in place. They’ve been very accommodating—you can imagine that we don’t want a generic solution for the instrument panel for Mustang. We want, like, line lock to do a burnout. But it is slightly delayed, so that’ll be later in the fall,” Farley told the Verge.

Google’s OS—distinct from Android Auto, which simply casts the phone’s screen and audio to the car’s infotainment system—is quickly finding favor among OEMs, which can now offer their customers the convenience of Google Maps and the highly capable Google Voice Assistant, as well as the potential for a robust third-party app market.

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#android-automotive, #cars, #ford, #google, #infotainment

How EV technology is bringing hot-rodding into the 21st century

How EV technology is bringing hot-rodding into the 21st century

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Aurich Lawson)

Earth Day is April 22, and its usual message—take care of our planet—has been given added urgency by the challenges highlighted in the latest IPCC report. This year, Ars is taking a look at the technologies we normally cover, from cars to chipmaking, and finding out how we can boost their sustainability and minimize their climate impact.

The term “restomod” first started gaining traction back in the 1990s. As muscle car enthusiasts searched for ways to improve the performance and reliability of their vintage machines, a cottage industry of folks adapting late-model powertrain and chassis components soon began to emerge. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a restored late-’60s Mustang or Camaro on the road that hasn’t been modified with some kind of modern tech—be it a computer-controlled fuel injection system, an updated brake and suspension system, or even a modern V8 engine.

To some, that might be sacrilege. To others, it’s simply about getting with the times.

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #cars, #classic-cars, #electric-vehicle, #ev-west, #features, #ford, #restmod

The chaos of war and COVID continues to close car factories

A VW employee assembles an ID.3 electric vehicle at the VW factory in Dresden in 2021.

Enlarge / A VW employee assembles an ID.3 electric vehicle at the VW factory in Dresden in 2021. (credit: Volkswagen)

Any hopes that the auto industry’s supply chain shortages were easing up appear to be comprehensively dashed this week. In Europe, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused BMW and Volkswagen to halt production at a number of their factories. And an outbreak of COVID-19 in China has shuttered plants belonging to Toyota, VW, and now Tesla.

VW was one of the first to be affected. In late February, it announced that it was stopping production for four days at its factory in Zwickau, Germany, where the electric ID.4 crossover is built, as well as a three-day halt at another factory in Dresden.

By early March, a leaked internal memo from Porsche revealed that it, too, was affected and that production of all Porsche models would be delayed as a consequence.

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#auto-industry, #bmw, #cars, #chip-shortage, #ford, #mini, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine, #tesla, #toyota, #vw

Ford ships Explorers missing chips for rear-seat HVAC controls

Cars on an assembly line.

Enlarge / A Ford Explorer sports utility vehicle (SUV) sits for a final inspection at the Ford Motor Co. Chicago Assembly Plant in Chicago on Monday, June 24, 2019. (credit: Daniel Acker / Bloomberg)

Ford’s new Explorer has had a rocky few years. Its rushed initial launch was marred by production problems that resulted in several recalls. When the chip shortage hit, Ford idled the Chicago Assembly Plant for four weeks last July and for another week in February.

Now, the chip shortage has struck the Explorer again, this time from the back seat. Ford has said that it will be shipping Explorers without rear-seat heating and air conditioning controls because the company doesn’t have semiconductors on hand, according to a report in Automotive News.

The rear HVAC can still be controlled by the driver or front-seat passenger, but those being chauffeured around will have to voice their requests rather than tap them in. (Parents may see this as a feature or a bug, depending on their children.)

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#cars, #chip-shortage, #ford, #semiconductors

PG&E will pilot bidirectional electric car charging in California

A woman charges an electric car

Enlarge / If you’re going to charge your car at home, why not also use it as a storage battery when it’s just parked there? (credit: Monty Rakusen/Getty Images)

Disaster preparedness is becoming a bit more mainstream as the effects of climate change and the fallibility of human institutions become more clear. The auto industry has followed this trend, with more than one pointing to the fact that an electric vehicle is essentially a giant backup battery that could power your home for a few days in the event of an emergency.

Now, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) will begin testing bidirectional charging in California with new pilot programs announced this week at General Motors and Ford.

Bidirectional charging got its first big boost after the 2011 Tōhoku-Oki earthquake, and in 2017, Nissan told Ars that several thousand EV-to-grid installations had already been completed in Japan. But at the time, the company had no immediate plans to enable the function here in the US. Since then, Nissan has conducted other vehicle-to-grid experiments, such as powering a convenience store.

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#bidirectional-charging, #cars, #ford, #general-motors, #gm, #pacific-gas-and-electric, #pge, #vehicle-to-grid

Ford reorg prioritizes EVs, keeps fossil fuel vehicles as “engines of cash”

Promotional image of electric crossover vehicle.

Enlarge / Ford Mustang Mach-E GT. (credit: Ford)

Ford announced today that it will be splitting its electric and fossil fuel vehicle business into two separate divisions. The announcement has investors rallying to the stock but leaves plenty of questions unanswered about the future of the 118-year-old company.

The reorganization caps weeks of speculation that the automaker might split into two separate companies. Ford has said that its future lies in electric vehicles, but for now, the vast majority of its profits come from fossil fuel cars and trucks.

“We are going all in, creating separate but complementary businesses that give us start-up speed and unbridled innovation in Ford Model e together with Ford Blue’s industrial know-how, volume and iconic brands like Bronco, that start-ups can only dream about,” Ford CEO Jim Farley said in a statement.

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#cars, #electric-vehicles, #evs, #ford, #internal-combustion-engines, #strategy

Five electric SUVs by 2026 are key to Lincoln’s future

So far, this is as much detail about its first battery EV as Lincoln has teased us with.

Enlarge / So far, this is as much detail about its first battery EV as Lincoln has teased us with. (credit: Lincoln)

Lincoln has been Ford’s luxury brand for almost exactly a century now—the Blue Oval bought the Lincoln Motor Company from Henry Leland on February 4, 1922. Now the brand is getting ready for its next century with a raft of new battery-electric SUVs due between now and 2026, according to Reuters.

Last June, Lincoln announced that it would become a fully battery-electric brand by 2030. It’s a no-brainer for the automaker, given how well electric motors—with instantaneous torque and near-silent operation—are suited to luxury vehicles.

At the time, Lincoln announced that its first fully electric model would arrive in 2022, in both rear- and all-wheel-drive configurations. Although we haven’t seen any renderings or spy shots of this first Lincoln battery EV, Occam’s razor suggests it will be built on the same platform as Ford’s Mustang Mach-E crossover.

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #cars, #corsair, #ford, #lincoln, #lincoln-aviator, #navigator, #suv

We’ve driven Ford’s other electric workhorse: the 2022 E-Transit

Three Ford transits of different roof heights parked next to each other. One is silver, one is red, one is blue.

Enlarge / A trio of E-Transits in high and low roof configurations. (credit: Ford)

SONOMA, Calif.—The US commercial pickup market is often dominated by the many variations of Ford’s F-series. But since 2014, Ford has had an alternative for commercial drivers who prefer something more van-like. That’s when the company started building Transit vans in Kansas City, Missouri. Since then, Ford has built a million of them.

Now, Ford has created an electric version of the Transit—or rather I should say versions, since the E-Transit comes in eight different body styles, just like its dinosaur-powered predecessor. In fact, the ladder chassis is identical, which means that the E-Transit is entirely compatible with the vast ecosystem of upfitters out there. Ford says to think beyond last-mile delivery vans, which only account for 10 percent of the commercial van market—a not-so subtle dig at startup rivals, perhaps.

And Ford’s not just here to sell your business an electric van, either. The company has come up with a whole plug-and-play telematics solution which will manage not just E-Transits but any other vehicles, electric or internal combustion, Ford or otherwise.

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#cars, #ford, #ford-e-transit, #ford-transit, #transit-van, #vanlife, #vans

A good EV: A road trip with and review of the Ford Mustang Mach-E

No matter if you call it Rapid Red, candy-apple red, or cherry red, it looks gorgeous on the Mach-E.

Enlarge / No matter if you call it Rapid Red, candy-apple red, or cherry red, it looks gorgeous on the Mach-E. (credit: Eric Bangeman)

Last February, we had a chance to spend a couple of days with the Ford Mustang Mach-E. Automotive Editor Jonathan Gitlin’s take on the Mach-E was largely positive, but the short testing window he had left us with some unanswered questions. So when a cherry red Rapid Red Mustang Mach-E recently appeared in front of my house, I set about to get some answers.

In particular, I wanted to find out how good of a battery electric vehicle the Mach-E is. I jumped on the BEV bandwagon in January 2020 with the purchase of a Jaguar I-Pace. In that time, our family has put over 20,000 miles on it, with a good proportion of those driven between our home in suburban Chicago and my grandparents’ old place outside of Shelbyville, Illinois. With a door-to-door distance of 216 miles (418 km) that covers suburban, interstate, and country driving, it’s a good opportunity to see if a car’s range is as advertised and how real-world driving conditions can affect BEV range.

Ford sent us another Premium e-AWD model with a usable battery capacity of 88 kWh and a sticker price of $56,200. The twin electric motors churn out 346 hp (258 kW) of power and 428 lb-ft (580 Nm) of torque, and the compact SUV has an advertised range of 270 miles. Driving down to Shelbyville and back would give a good read on range and power consumption in different driving conditions.

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#bev, #cars, #ford, #ford-mustang-mach-e

Ford and chipmaker announce noncommittal “partnership” to alleviate shortages

300mm silicon wafer

Enlarge (credit: Bloomberg | Getty Images)

In an effort to combat the ongoing global chip shortage, chipmaker GlobalFoundries and the Ford Motor Company have announced a “strategic collaboration” today, both via press release and coverage in The Wall Street Journal. The “non-binding agreement,” according to the release, “opens the door” for GlobalFoundries to deliver more chips to Ford in the short-term, while promising collaboration on future chips for cars.

“These could include semiconductor solutions for ADAS, battery management systems, and in-vehicle networking for an automated, connected, and electrified future,” the release reads. “GF and Ford also will explore expanded semiconductor manufacturing opportunities to support the automotive industry.”

This all sounds promising, though the press release doesn’t actually commit either company to any specific actions. When contacted for information on more particulars, Ford spokesperson Jennifer Flake reiterated that this was “an agreement to work together on the areas called out in the release,” but had no further information to share.

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#biz-it, #chip-shortage, #ford, #globalfoundries, #tech

Electric conversions are this year’s hot trend at SEMA

Las Vegas is currently hosting its annual visit by SEMA, the aftermarket automotive trade show. Hot rods and custom cars have always been a SEMA thing, but these days there’s no guarantee you’ll find a brawny V8 or even any cylinders under the hood. In the past, we’ve covered show cars from Ford and Chevrolet, but this year the electric custom car is a full-blown trend.

Of course, the big OEMs haven’t ignored SEMA this year. Ford’s still in the first flush of Mustang Mach-E mania, and the Blue Oval brought multiple Mach-Es to the show. One is an aggressive-looking Mach-E GT that’ll be auctioned for charity after hopefully hitting 200 mph (321 km/h) at Bonneville, and another is bright orange with lowered air suspension and an e-bike charging rack at the back.

But the one that really caught my attention is a Shelby Mustang Mach-E GT concept, complete with the iconic white-with-blue-stripe livery. I’m not sure it’s any faster than the Mach-E GT Performance Edition that recently brightened my day, but it does look even better, with graphene-infused carbon-fiber bodywork.

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#cars, #chevrolet, #custom-cars, #electric-gt, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #ford-bronco, #ford-mustang-mach-e, #ford-mustang-mach-e-gt, #hot-rod, #porsche, #sema, #shelby-cobra

On the eve of No Time to Die, a look at Bond cars past and present

The sports car is as intrinsic to 007’s character as a vodka martini or that license to kill. At the start, long before James Bond went from page to screen, he drove a Blower Bentley, the equivalent in 1953 of tooling about today in a Toyota GT-One. The move to motion pictures meant driving something a bit more current than a 1931 Le Mans racer, and over the course of 25 films there’s been plenty of four-wheel action. But one car stands out above all the others—the Aston Martin DB5.

We first saw the ionic coupé in 1964’s Goldfinger, where it almost stole the show with its battering ram, ejector seat, smoke screen, and the rest of the gadgets that introduced the world to the Bond car. It has appeared in eight films in total. After Goldfinger it returned in Thunderball, then sat out the Lazenby and Moore years before returning in GoldenEye and then Tomorrow Never Dies, despite a marketing deal that meant Q had to issue the secret agent BMWs instead.

Casino Royale offered a new origin story for the DB5, with Bond winning the car in a game of poker. However, when it shows up again in Skyfall six years later, the steering wheel has switched sides, and Q Branch has had some fun with it. When last we saw 007 in Spectre he was driving away in BMT 216A, and we’ve known since the first trailer for No Time to Die that the DB5—and its headlamp miniguns—plays an important role in No Time to Die.

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#lotus, #amc, #aston-martin, #bmw, #cars, #citroen, #ford, #gaming-culture, #jagusr, #james-bond, #no-time-to-die

Ford picks Kentucky and Tennessee for $11.4 billion EV investment

A rendering of the BlueOvalSK campus in Glendale, Kentucky.

Enlarge / A rendering of the BlueOvalSK campus in Glendale, Kentucky. (credit: Ford)

On Monday, the Ford Motor Company announced a massive investment to build electric vehicles in Kentucky and Tennessee. Together with partner SK Innovation, it will invest $11.4 billion and create around 11,000 new jobs in the region building electric F-series pickup trucks and battery packs.

“This is our moment—our biggest investment ever—to help build a better future for America,” said Jim Farley, Ford president and CEO. “We are moving now to deliver breakthrough electric vehicles for the many rather than the few. It’s about creating good jobs that support American families, an ultra-efficient, carbon-neutral manufacturing system, and a growing business that delivers value for communities, dealers and shareholders.”

Blue Oval City in Staunton, Tennessee, will be a $5.6 billion, 3,600-acre (14.6 km2) campus that includes a vehicle assembly plant for electric pickups, as well as a joint venture BlueOvalSK battery plant. The companies say this will create nearly 6,000 new jobs and that the plant is designed to be carbon neutral with no landfill waste once it’s operational.

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#battery-electric-vehicles, #biz-it, #cars, #ford, #kentucky, #sk-innovation, #tennessee

The Station: Gogoro scoots into a SPAC, a Rivian milestone and Tesla prepares to unleash FSD beta software

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox.

Hello readers: Welcome to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.

The future of transportation beat was flooded with news this week as per ushe. There are two stories that I want to highlight here. First up, is that the first Rivian R1T electric pickup truck in “Rivian blue” rolled off the assembly line at the company’s factory in Normal, Illinois. The R1T and the upcoming R1S SUV are also now certified to be sold in all 50 states (at least online).

This marks a milestone more than a decade in the making for the automaker and its founder and CEO, RJ Scaringe, who started the company in 2009 as Mainstream Motors before adopting the Rivian name two years later. Rivian has undergone explosive growth in terms of people, backers and partners in the past few years. If the company has a successful IPO, which it confidentially filed for recently, it could grow even faster.

Next up, is Tesla and its “Full Self-Driving” beta software, which is about to become accessible to a lot more owners.

The FSD Beta v10.0.1 software update, which has already been pushed out to a group of select owners, will become more widely available starting September 24. Tesla CEO Elon Musk issued a caveat that personal driving metrics captured over a seven-day period via telemetry data will determine whether owners who have paid for its FSD software can access the latest beta version that promises more automated driving functions.

A Reddit post from several months ago provides hints on what data will be used. The poster, who has reversed engineered the Tesla app, found that the company was getting ready to implement insurance directly into the app. There will be a new safety rating page that will track an owner’s vehicle and is linked to their insurance. It’s possible that this is what Musk was referring to when he tweeted “beta button will request permission to assess driving behavior using Tesla insurance calculator. If driving behavior is good for 7 days, beta access will be granted.”

According to the Redditor, the app will track the number of times the ABS is activated, average number of hours driven daily, number of times Autopilot is disabled because alert is ignored, forward collision warnings, amount of time spent at an unsafe following distance and intensity of acceleration and braking.

This release on September 24, which will mean potentially thousands of Tesla owners trying out beta software on public roads, is going to test the will of regulators. Jennifer Homendy, the new head of the National Transportation Safety Board, told the WSJ that Tesla shouldn’t roll out this latest software update until it can address “basic safety issues.” NTSB is not a regulator; it investigates crashes and issues safety recommendations. So while her voice matters and is listened to, the NTSB cannot prevent Tesla from pushing this software update, or any other one, to owners.

Finally, TechCrunch Disrupt is here! The event kicks off Tuesday and I hope to see you all there. There’s even a photo booth (virtual) and I want you to share your photos if you use it.

As always, you can email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions or tips. You also can send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

Lane detection, pedestrian detection, advanced braking systems. These sound like driver assistance features you might find in a new SUV, sedan or truck. These days, this tech is creeping into electric scooters.

The pressure on operators to build scooters that are robust, safe and combat issues like sidewalk clutter has prompted companies to develop and equip their vehicles with advanced driver assistance features. Operators like Voi, Spin, Superpedestrian, Zipp and Bird have all started to integrate tech that can detect when someone is riding on the sidewalk or parking a scooter where it shouldn’t be. Whether through camera-based computer vision or through really accurate geopositioning software, these scooters not only know exactly where a rider is, but they can also put the brakes on or slow them down if they’re breaking the rules.

The question is, is it necessary? My view is that this wouldn’t be necessary if cities stopped offloading the cost of safety onto operators and instead invested in protected bike lanes.

Check out my ExtraCrunch story that looks deeper into the tech, which I’ve dubbed scooter ADAS.

Bird launches its shared e-bike in San Diego

Bird has an exclusive micromobility contract with San Diego State University. Bird’s bike share operation, which was officially launched in June, will be available to the 34,000 students on campus.

Brooklyn Bridge gets a dedicated bike lane

Bikers these days don’t know how good they’ve got it. I remember when I had to ring my bike bell like a mad woman trying to get pedestrians to part for me as I attempted to ride over the busy Brooklyn Bridge. Now, the iconic bridge has its own dedicated two-way bike lane. This is huge news. HUGE. I only wish I were back home to see it. And the best part is that the lane was taken from cars and given back to the people!

Compact, foldable and made in Japan

A company called Shaero just launched in Tokyo with a docked shared tiny moped that can be folded and stored inside lockers between trips. Forget scooter ADAS — more of this please!

Tax break for e-bikes

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee proposed creating a 15 percent tax credit for e-bike purchases if you earn less than $75,000 per year. This is down from a 30 percent rebate with no income limits in the last version of the bill, which would have been way better, but I guess baby steps?

The latest e-bikes

This week a lot of new e-bikes launched. Here’s a bit of a roundup:

The Crown Cruiser is a retro-futuristic looking e-bike with inbuilt smart technologies like anti-theft tech and a gyro and accelerometer sensor that detects impact. The lightweight frame is made out of carbon fiber, it’s got long-range swappable 36V or 48V batteries with a range of 100 miles or more and its DC hub motor is so powerful the bike can hit top speeds of 31 mph. The Cruiser is currently fundraising on Indiegogo, and has received a £139,000 Sustainable Innovation grant from the UK government.

Daymak has announced the release of their Terra e-bike, part of the company’s Avvenire series. The bike comes in the Terra Deluxe (targeted MSRP of $3,495) and Terra Ultimate (targeted MSRP of $7,999). With two 15W solar panels that trickle life into the battery and multi-level pedal assist, it can get up to 60miles of range and a max speed of 20 mph. The Terra comes with built-in Bluetooth speakers and a drink holder. It also has launched with RidePoints and Daymak Drive X capabilities, which according to Daymak mean that riders can collect redeemable points via the company’s EV reward program for just riding around, and that the bike is blockchain-enabled.

Harley-Davidson is going to offer limited sales through its ebike spinoff Serial 1, of vintage-inspired electric bike model known as the limited edition S1 Series ebike.

Zaiser Motors announced that it reached its Wefunder campaign goals and has released the specs for its platform redesign, which includes the addition of a second sportier electric motorcycle, the Arrow. Its first “Electrocycle” is called the Silhouette and and has 300 miles of range with a 120 mph top speed. Both designs look like something you might make Yoshi drive on Mario Kart, complete with a shiny and bubbly red chassis. The Arrow is designed for city riders, is priced at $8,500 and has an expected range of 160 miles with a 100 mph top speed.

Active lifestyle brand Retrospec has released the Valen Rev, a moto-style electric bike that makes me want to cruise alongside a boardwalk on a California beach. Honestly, it’s a really cute-looking bike, with a retro vibe to it, a tan leather saddle and a choice between fog blue, olive green or black — all matte. It’s got a 48V motor, 6 levels of pedal assist and a 50-mile range, all for the reasonable price of $1,799.99.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

It seemed as if the number of mobility-related SPAC deals had slowed. That brief pause was broken by Gogoro, the 10-year-old Taiwanese company best known for its electric scooters and swappable battery infrastructure.

The company has agreed to merge with Poema Global, a SPAC affiliated with Princeville Capital, in a deal that sets its enterprise valuation at $2.35 billion. If approved by shareholders. the company will trade on the Nasdaq exchange under the symbol GGR.

Gogoro stands to make $550 million in proceeds, assuming as TechCrunch Catherine Shu reports, there are no redemptions. (A growing trend I really need to address in this newsletter). Those funds include an oversubscribed private investment in public equity of more than $250 million and $345 million held in trust by Poema Global. Investors in the PIPE include strategic partners like Hon Hai (Foxconn) Technology Group and GoTo, the Indonesian tech giant created through the merger of Gojek and Tokopedia, and new and existing investors like Generation Investment Management, Taiwan’s National Development Fund, Temasek and Dr. Samuel Yin of Ruentex Group, Gogoro’s founding investor.

So why now? Founder and CEO Horace Luke provided a curious answer that I know will cause a few of my institutional investor friends to raise an eyebrow or two. Luke first explained that with fresh partnerships in place — Yadea and DCJ in China to build a battery-swapping network and Hero MotoCorp in India to launch scooters — it was time to take the company to the next level.

And he added that Gogoro decided to go the SPAC route because “you can talk a lot deeper about what the business opportunity is, what the structure is, what the partnerships are, so you can properly value a company rather than a quick roadshow. Given our business plans, it gives us a great opportunity to focus on the expansion.”

Huh. Anyone ever heard of a “quick roadshow?” Comments from some founders who have taken the traditional IPO path would suggest the contrary.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

BridgeLinx, the Lahore-based startup that operates a digital freight marketplace, raised $10 million in what is the largest seed financing round in Pakistan. Harry Stebbings’ 20 VC, Josh Buckley’s Buckley Ventures and Indus Valley Capital co-led the startup’s financing round, which Salman Gul, co-founder and chief executive of BridgeLinx, told TechCrunch completed within weeks.

Chaldal, the Bangladeshi grocery delivery startups that picks up orders from its own warehouses instead of retail stores, closed a $10 million Series C round led by Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder of Wise, Topia chief product officer Sten Tamkivi and Xploration Capital, with participation from Mir Group. The company plans to use the funds to expand into 15 new cities.

EnerVenue, a battery startup that says it has developed technology to revolutionize stationary energy storage, raised $100 million from strategic investors including Schlumberger, Saudi Aramco’s VC arm and Stanford University. The investment comes around a year after EnerVenue raised a $12 million seed. The company is planning on using the funds to scale its nickel-hydrogen battery production, including a factory in the U.S., and has entered a manufacturing and distribution agreement with Schlumberger for international markets.

GPB Capital Holdings LLC, the private-equity firm being investigated by the SEC on fraud allegations, is selling its car dealership company Prime Automotive Group for about $880 million, WSJ reports.

General Motors has invested in Oculii, a software startup that aims to improve the spatial resolution of radar sensors by up to 100-fold. The new funding, which the two companies say is in the millions, comes just months after Oculii closed a $55 million Series B.

Glovo, the Spanish on-demand delivery platform that operates a network of dark stores focused on urban convenience shopping, announced the acquisition of two regional “Instacart-style” grocery picking and delivery startups, Madrid-based Lola Market and Portugal’s Mercadão. Terms of the acquisitions are not being disclosed.

Muver, a mobile app that lets drivers earn more by managing their interactions with ride-sharing and delivery services, raised $1.2 million in a seed round led by Xploration Capital joined by Baring Vostok, Angelsdeck and Rapid Ladder Capital.

Rolls-Royce Holdings and Babcock International Group sold their combined 39% stake in air-to-air refueling company AirTanker Holdings Ltd. for 315 million pounds ($435 million) to Equitix Investment Management, Reuters reported.

Siemens wants to sell its logistics unit for roughly 500 million euro ($591 million) as part of the German industrial conglomerate’s plan to exit non-core businesses and focus on its industrial operations, Reuters reported.

UPS agreed to acquire Roadie, a platform that uses gig workers to provide local same-day delivery in the United States. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. The acquisition signals shipping giant’s move into same-day delivery, particularly perishable and other goods that are not compatible with the UPS network.

Volta Trucks, the EV startup, raised €37 million ($44 million) to accelerate its plans to produce and sell large cargo vehicles. The round was led by New York-based Luxor Capital Group and returning investor Byggmästare Anders J Ahlström Holding of Stockholm. New investors included U.S. electric truck and battery manufacturer Proterra and supply chain management company Agility. Volta Trucksy said it plans to pilot a fleet of vehicles in London and Paris early next year.

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Hello everyone! Welcome back to policy corner. Remember the safety probe the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration opened into Tesla Autopilot in August? In case your memory needs refreshing: NHTSA opened a preliminary investigation into 12 (originally eleven) incidents of Tesla cars crashing into parked emergency vehicles. The regulator ordered Tesla to hand over detailed data on the ADAS by October 22 or risk facing a fine of up to $115 million.

Earlier this week, NHTSA sent letters to 12 automakers — including Ford, VW, and General Motors — requesting data on their Level 2 ADAS to aid it in its investigation. The letter to Ford says the information request is “to gather information in support of [the agency’s] comparative analysis amongst production vehicles equipped with the ability to control both steering and braking/accelerating simultaneously under some circumstances.”

Among the data NHTSA is interested in obtaining: the number of vehicles equipped with ADAS the automaker has manufactured; how the company approaches the enforcement of driver attentiveness; other details about the system, like the conditions that would require driver take-over; as well as any consumer complaints, lawsuits, or crash reports related to the system.

Why is this news in policy corner? Well, similar to how each Supreme Court adjudication creates the law, the results of NHTSA’s investigations could also set a precedent for how ADAS is regulated writ large. The agency leveraging its broad authority to gather information could result in new standards or rules for how automakers develop and deploy ADAS in millions of cars now and into the future.

It’s important to remember that NHTSA really is empowered with a huge amount of authority — they could issue a recall of every Tesla on the road, if they so deemed that its Autopilot was sufficiently unsafe.

Speaking of Tesla and GM … it looks likely that the per-manufacturer cap disqualifying the two automakers’ vehicles from the so-called “30D” $7,500 tax credit may be removed soon. They’re disqualified because each automaker has sold more than 200,000 EVs. Anyway, there are two separate proposals being debated in Congress, one in the House and one in the Senate, as part of a larger effort to overhaul and potentially dramatically expand the 30D credit (I wrote about it here). While the proposals have a few significant differences, removing the manufacturer cap isn’t one of them. What that means is a Tesla Model 3 or a new Cadillac EV would once again qualify.

One more note … Evidently, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities halted the approval of new applications for its grant program for purchasing an electric vehicle — because the $30 million earmarked to cover the program is already nearly out of money! Under the Charge Up New Jersey program, people can apply for grants of up to $5,000 for an EV. But demand is so high that that money is already nearly gone.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable news and other tidbits

Let’s dig into the news of the week …

Autonomous vehicles

Walmart has tapped Argo AI and Ford to launch an autonomous vehicle delivery service in Austin, Miami and Washington, D.C. The service will allow customers to place online orders for groceries and other items using Walmart’s ordering platform. Argo’s cloud-based infrastructure will be integrated with Walmart’s online platform, routing the orders and scheduling package deliveries to customers’ homes. Initially, the commercial service will be limited to specific geographic areas in each city and will expand over time. The companies will begin testing later this year.

Batteries

Redwood Materials, the company started by former Tesla co-founder and CTO JB Straubel that aims to create a circular supply chain for batteries, is expanding beyond recycling. Redwood announced plans to simplify the supply chain by producing critical battery materials and is currently scouting a location for a new million-square-foot factory, at a cost of over $1 billion.

That factory will be dedicated to the production of cathodes and anode foils, the two essential building blocks of a lithium-ion battery structure — up to a projected volume of 100 gigawatt-hour per year’s worth of materials, enough for one million electric vehicles, by 2025.

Electric vehicles

Ford Motor announced plans to invest another $250 million and add 450 jobs to increase production capacity of its upcoming F-150 Lightning to 80,000 all-electric trucks annually. The announcement comes after receiving more than 150,000 pre-orders for the all-electric pickup truck. The additional funds and jobs will be spread out across its new Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan, Van Dyke Electric Powertrain Center and Rawsonville Components Plant.

Lucid Group, the all-electric automaker slated to go public this year, said one variant of its upcoming luxury Air sedan has an EPA range of more than 520 miles. The official rating of the Lucid Air Dream Edition Range variant pushes Lucid past Tesla, a company that has long dominated in this category. This announcement not only gives Lucid bragging rights, it reveals a bit about the company’s strategy to offer a variety of versions of the Air sedan with prices ranging between $169,000 and $77,400.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced via Twitter it will investigate a Tesla vehicle crash that killed two people in Coral Gables, Florida. It is not clear if the company’s advanced driver assistance system Autopilot was engaged at the time.

Polestar has shared a few more details of its future electric SUV, including that it will have only two rows of seats, offer single-motor and dual-motor versions and have a powertrain that goes beyond EV versions of the Volvo XC90, Car and Driver reported.

People news

Clive Sinclair, the British entrepreneur and inventor behind the ZX personal computer, pocket calculator and numerous other consumer electronics, died at age 81. Sinclair was also interested in electric vehicles. He invented the infamous Sinclair C5 electric trike, which would spectacularly fail in 1982 only to gain a cult following many years later. Sinclair would invent other electric vehicles, including the electric bike called Sinclair Zike in 1992. He actually spent much of his time in the past 12 years working on personal transportation vehicles like the foldable A bike.

Ford Motor has hired Mike Amend as its chief digital and information officer as the automaker seeks to expand into software, subscriptions and in-vehicle connectivity. Amend, who was president of Lowe’s Online for three years, will focus on Ford’s “use of data, software and technology” — all areas central to Ford’s new Ford+ strategy.

Misc. bits

CNBC writes about headlights and how they’re undergoing a technological revolution that has regulators trying to catch up.

Hyundai, which owns a controlling interest in Boston Dynamics, announced the arrival of the “Factory Safety Service Robot,” essentially a modded up version of Spot designed for safety inspections at factories. Naturally, Hyundai is starting close to home, rolling out its first pilot at a Seoul plant for subsidiary, Kia.

Fair Financial Corp., the car subscription startup, is considering bankruptcy to eliminate debt, reported Automotive News. The company now wants to start a vehicle retailing platform called Fair Technologies.

Reilly Brennan of Trucks VC has launched a jobs board called Mobility Jobs that is focused on the future of transportation. Reilly, who has his own well regarded newsletter, is also fan of TechCrunch and so he’s giving us this code: THESTATION, which gives you dear reader 100% off if you post a job using that special code. Cheers!

#automotive, #electric-pickup-trucks, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #gogoro, #hyundai, #polestar, #reilly-brennan, #rivian, #scooters, #tesla, #the-station, #transportation, #venture-capital

Michigan State Police to begin testing Ford Mach-E Interceptors

The next time you get pulled over in Michigan, it could be by a cop in an electric SUV — at least if Ford has anything to say about it. The American automaker is stepping up its Police Interceptor program, which modifies existing models for use by law enforcement, typically with beefed up suspensions, brakes and added horsepower.

The company has pitched the idea to law enforcement agencies in the UK, while the city of Ann Arbor, MI already has two such vehicles on order. On Friday, Ford announced that it, in short order, will deliver one of its Mustang Mach-E Interceptor prototypes — which appears to be based on the Mach-E GT variant — to the Michigan State Police as well, where it will undergo real-world testing to see if the EV can handle the rigors of police work.

Ford hopes to “use the pilot program testing as a benchmark while it continues to explore purpose-built electric police vehicles in the future” as part of its $30 billion multi-year investment in EV technology.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.

#column, #electric-vehicle, #ev, #ford, #mach-e, #mustang, #tc, #tceng

Ford boosts spending to increase production capacity of its F-150 Lightning electric truck

Ford said Thursday it will invest another $250 million and add 450 jobs to increase production capacity of its upcoming F-150 Lightning to 80,000 all-electric trucks annually. The announcement comes after receiving more than 150,000 pre-orders for the all-electric pickup truck.

The additional funds and jobs will be spread out across its new Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan, Van Dyke Electric Powertrain Center and Rawsonville Components Plant, Ford said.

The announcement was made during an event at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, a 500,000-square-foot facility expansion that was part of Ford’s $700 million investment in its Rouge Complex. Gas-powered F-Series trucks are also assembled at the Rouge Complex.

Ford also announced that has started pre-production of the Lightning trucks. These prototypes will be used for real-world testing. The truck will be available to customers in spring 2022.

The all-electric pickup truck is a critical piece of the company’s $30 billion investment into electrification and one of a trifecta of Ford EV debuts and launches in the 18 months, including the Mustang Mach-E. The Lightning may be the most meaningful in terms of the bottom line. The Ford F-150 Lightning follows the introduction of the all-electric Mustang Mach-E and the E-Transit, a configurable all-electric cargo van focused on commercial customers.

The F-150 Lightning will be offered in four trims, which includes the base, XLT, Lariat and Platinum series, and two battery options. The truck, which has an aluminum alloy body, is powered by two in-board electric motors, comes standard with four-wheel drive and has an independent rear suspension. The base version will be priced at $39,974 before any federal or state tax credits, while the midseries XLT model will start at $52,974. All of these prices exclude the destination fees and taxes.

#electric-vehicles, #f-150-lightning, #ford, #tc

Toyota, Honda urge Congress to reject expanded tax incentive that would benefit Ford, GM, Stellantis

Toyota Motor and Honda are urging legislators to reject a bill that would expand tax incentives for union-made electric vehicles that are built in the United States.

The proposal – which Toyota blasted as “blatantly biased” and “exorbitant” in a letter to Congress – would expand the federal tax incentives from $7,500 to as much as $12,500 for union- and domestically manufactured cars. Vehicles with batteries manufactured in the U.S. would be eligible for an additional $500. If the legislation passes, vehicles from automakers like Toyota, Honda and Tesla would be excluded from the expanded credit, while the “Big Three” manufacturers in Detroit would all qualify.

“The current [bill] draft makes the objective of accelerating the deployment of electrified vehicles secondary by discriminating against American autoworkers based on their choice not to unionize,” Toyota said in a letter to lawmakers. “This is unfair, it is wrong, and we ask you to reject this blatantly biased proposal.”

The automaker further said that the bill favors the wealthy – people that may not need public funds to purchase an electric vehicle. There is a means testing provision in the bill, that would limit access to the credit to individuals making an adjusted income of up to $400,000, or households that make up to $800,000. Whether to set an income cap – and what that income cap should be – has been a major point of contention between Congressional Democrats and Republicans.

The bill also received criticism from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who said on Twitter that it was “written by Ford/UAW lobbyists, as they make their electric car in Mexico. Not obvious how this serves American taxpayers.”

This would be the first such increase to the up to $7,500 tax credit for EVs since it was put into effect over a decade ago. The bill would also do away with a stipulation that exempts vehicles made by OEMs that have sold over 200,000 EVs from the credit, meaning that General Motor and Tesla cars would once again be eligible.

The bill did receive praise from GM, Ford Motor and Stellantis, three major automakers with workforces represented by the United Auto Workers union. The UAW also supports the proposal.

It’s being considered Tuesday by the House Ways and Means Committee. The expanded credit just one part of a massive $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill that’s currently being debated by Congress and that includes a whole slew of socially progressive proposals meant to target education, healthcare, and climate change.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #general-motor, #gm, #policy, #tesla, #toyota, #transportation

Ford hires new chief digital information officer as it seeks to expand into software and services

Ford Motor has hired Mike Amend as its chief digital and information officer as the automaker seeks to expand into software, subscriptions and in-vehicle connectivity. Amend, who was president of Lowe’s Online for three years, will focus on Ford’s “use of data, software and technology” — all areas central to Ford’s new Ford+ strategy, the OEM said.

The hire is just the latest sign that Ford is serious about beefing up its digital offerings for customers, as the company seeks to pivot toward high-tech segments. The company calls this plan “Ford+,” which it unveiled earlier this year. Central to this plan is electric vehicles, which Ford wants to comprise around half of its global sales by 2030, as well as expanding into new sources of revenue via subscriptions and digital services.

To that end, Amend will oversee a number of teams, including Ford’s technology and software platform function and its global data insight and analytics section.

Amend isn’t Ford’s only recent hire of note. The automaker also recently poached Doug Field — the tech executive who was leading Apple’s special projects team, and who also led the development of the Model 3 at Tesla — as chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer. The two will work closely, along with chief of product Hau Thai-Tang, Ford said.

Amend’s career includes growing the online businesses of major retailers, including Lowe’s, The Home Depot and JCPenney. Ford’s interim chief information officer, Sakis Kitsopanidis, will continue to serve as director of integrated enterprise resource planning.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #ford-motor, #hiring, #transportation

The Station: Apple car shakeup, how Sept. 11 changed travel, and a pledge from airlines

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox.

Hi readers: Welcome to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.

Twenty years and one week ago, I was riding the monorail system at the Newark airport and pointed to the twin skyscrapers looming in the distance. “I can’t believe you’ve never been to the top of the World Trade Center,” I said to my then fiancé and now husband. Days later, I would walk into a restaurant in a Slovenian town and see a report on the TV about a plane crashing into one of those towers. Like so many of us, we spent the rest of that day watching the news and wondering what would happen next.

In all, four aircraft were hijacked the morning of September 11, two of which crashed into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and the fourth in a field in Pennsylvania. In all, 2,996 people were killed.

The September 11 terrorist attacks triggered a series of events that would change the world forever, including how we move about it. My September 6, 2001 flight to Newark and then onto to Europe was the last time I would experience what now seems unimaginable: getting to an airport less than 45 minutes before my plane took off.

My trip home from Europe provided a forecast of what air travel would look and feel like, although some measures like when we were separately interviewed two different times prior to boarding, ended up being temporary.

Within months of my arrival home, passenger screening and security at airports would be handled by a new federal agency called the Transportation Security Administration. Security wasn’t the only aspect of air travel that changed.

The airline industry experienced skyrocketing losses that sparked a wave of cost-cutting, new fees for travelers and consolidation. According to the GAO, the U.S. airline industry lost $23 billion between 2001 and 2003 and some of the nation’s biggest airlines including USAir and United Airlines filed for bankruptcy.

The airline industry would suffer financial losses during the Great Recession of 2008, causing more bankruptcies and consolidation. Today, most domestic flights are controlled by four airlines: American, Delta, Southwest and United.

After recovering and stringing together a few years of profitability, the airline industry (and how we travel) would get hit again: this time from the COVID-19 pandemic.

p.s. Thanks to co-worker and cybersecurity editor Zack Whittaker for the photo (featured as the main image for the post) he snapped yesterday.

As always, you can email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions or tips. You also can send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

We’ve talked before about the possibilities of shared micromobility to help cities create more equitable and accessible transit ecosystems. Shared operators have expanded this idea to support activism.

Agencies and operators provided free or discounted trips for demonstrators to get to events, according to the North American Bikeshare and Scootershare Association’s 2020 report on the state of the shared micromobility industry, Many even donated or fundraised for racial justice nonprofits.

Not only are they aiding the fight on the ground, the report also shows that nearly three-quarters of all operators stated that diversity was a part of every hiring decision, and 69 percent reported that women and POC are represented at all levels of the organization.

Operator update

Lime is back in Oakland with 500 scooters and plans to scale up to 1,000 over the coming weeks. The company pulled out of the city last year during the pandemic. This time, it’s focusing on “Communities of Concern” as designated by the city, and will deploy half its fleet to these neighborhoods that have been traditionally underserved by transportation.

Tier is hooking up with Irish computer vision startup Luna. Tier is adding Luna’s cameras and smart city technology to its shared e-scooter fleets across Europe and the Middle East. To handle the increase in work, Luna is hiring 15 new staffers to cover computer vision/AI, hardware, IoT and project management roles in Ireland. Interestingly, the partnership comes from an Ireland trade mission to Germany to better understand how the two countries could work together within the e-mobility and automotive industry. Luna just recently launched a pilot with Voi in England, and Ford-backed micromobility operator Spin is slowly pushing out Drover AI’s similar tech on scooters in the United States.

Speaking of Voi, the Swedish company is working with the UK government’s Kickstart Scheme to help create jobs for people ages 16 to 24 years old on Universal Credit who are at risk of long term unemployment. Voi is recruiting 25 young people across the country to work as Warehouse Operatives and Fleet Specialists. The young ones will be ensured a job for at least six months and will hopefully learn a thing or two about a growing transport industry.

Bird has tweaked its branding. It recently announced its scooters and bikes will now be made in “Electric Sky” blue, as opposed to its black, white and silver color scheme. The color evokes eco-friendly transportation, clear skies and cheerful days. It’s reminiscent of Revel’s blue mopeds and Swapfiets’ bikes.

Taking liberties with the term “micromobility”

Chinese EV maker Xpeng says it’s going to make a robot unicorn for children to ride. The quadruped will navigate multiple types of terrain, recognize objects and provide “emotional interaction.” The robot pulls from Xpeng’s experiences with AI and automated driving development. The rendering looks cute and soft, for a metal beast, but the horn could be a bit longer IMO. Bonus: it’s not creepy-looking like Xiaomi’s robot dog.

Dutch startup Squad Mobility has introduced details for its small, low-cost electric city car that’s equipped with solar panels which drip feed the battery throughout the day. The company hopes to come out with a prototype for the solar-assisted quadricycle by October this year and begin deliveries by the end of next year. While it would be a fun passenger vehicle for city folks, the end game is to get in good with one of the car-sharing or shared micromobility operators and sell fleets of the Squad car for shared use.

At the Munich Motor Show, BMW revealed a couple of electric bike concepts that look pretty wicked. The Motorrad Vision AMBY looks like a motorcycle, but is probably more along the class of off-road motorbike, complete with fat tires and a seat-to-footrest ratio that brings to mind all the shredding that can be had. The i Vision AMBY is more of a traditional road e-bike, but maybe one that’s inspired by Back to the Future, such is its retrofuturistic vibe and, I’ll say it, postal service-beige frame.

ADAS in scooters

The desire to keep shared electric scooters off sidewalks has driven the development of advanced technology in the micromobility industry. Once the province of geofencing, scooter companies are so eager to get a leg up on the competition that they’re now implementing technology similar to advanced driver assistance systems usually found in cars. Check out my story in Extra Crunch that digs into this trend.

Micromobility America event

The folks who write our other favorite micromobility newsletter are going to be hosting a micromobility event in the SF Bay Area. On September 23, a range of experts, founders, investors and builders will be sharing top insights about the world of lightweight electric vehicles and their potential to disrupt transportation, including:
Brazilian racing driver Lucas Di Grassi, American entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, senior writer at Wired Lauren Goode, analyst and founder of the term “micromobility” Horace Dediu

Register now, if you still can. Space is limited.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

Investors continue to sink money into ride-hailing companies. Cao Cao Mobility, the ride-hailing unit of Chinese automaker Geely Automobile Holdings, is the latest example.

The company raised $589 million (RMB 3.8 billion) in a Series B round led by Suzhou Xiangcheng Financial Holding Group, an investment company backed by the Xiangcheng district government of Suzhou. Suzhou High-Speed Rail New City Group and three other state-controlled enterprises also participated.

The raise brings the company’s total funding to around $773.2 million (RMB 5 billion).

As TechCrunch reporter Rebecca Bellan notes, Cao Cao is positioned for further growth and a larger market share, as long as the Chinese government believes the company is operating fairly. Its competitors Didi Global and Amap have come under increased government scrutiny that has hurt their business, while giving Cao Cao a boost.

A cybersecurity investigation prompted the Chinese government to temporarily remove Didi Global from Chinese app stores. As a result, Cao Cao, which is currently available in 62 cities in China, saw ride volume increase 32% in July.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

Accure, the Aachen, Germany-based battery safety software company raised $8 million in a Series A round led by Blue Bear Capital. Capnamic Ventures and 42CAP also participated.

BP Ventures, the investing arm of oil and gas giant BP, made a €10 million ($11.9 million) investment in Ryd, a German in-car digital payments provider. The funds will be used to help Ryd expand its service into international markets and build out its offering.

Delhivery, the Indian logistics firm, courted Lee Fixel’s Addition as an investor before its expected IPO in the next two quarters: The Gurgaon-headquartered firm disclosed in a regulatory filing that Addition invested $76.4 million in the startup as part of a Series I round. Delihivery hasn’t disclosed the total raise or other investors.

Delimobil, the Russian car sharing company, has chosen banks to organize its IPO listing and is seeking to raise around $ 350 million, Reuters reported.

Skydweller Aero, the U.S.-Spanish aerospace startup, received an additional $8 million in oversubscribed funding led by Leonardo S.p.A, Marlinspike Capital and Advection Growth Capital. The funds were added to its Series A round, which had previously reached $32 million. The company said it has also partnered with Palantir Technologies to use its Foundry analytics platform to process information at-scale and onboard the aircraft designed for telecommunications, government operations and emergency services.

Tritium Holdings, the Australian developer of DC fast-charging technology for electric vehicles, raised A$40 million  ($29.4 million) from the investment arm of Cigna.

WattE, a company trying to develop a network of truck stops and run a fleet of 12,000 electric trucks to share, will receive a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission. The grant is for the construction of the state’s first electric truck stop. The company also recently closed a $6 million Series A round led by Canon Equity.

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

I hear things. But I’m not selfish. Let me share what the little birds are telling me.

You likely spotted the widespread coverage, including by TechCrunch, that Ford Motor hired Doug Field, the engineering executive who was VP of Apple’s special projects team and its secret, not-very-secret car program.

Field, who also once worked as senior vice president of engineering at Tesla, was named as Ford’s chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer. Soon after the news broke, reports came out that Kevin Lynch, who led development on the Apple Watch, had taken over Field’s role on the car project.

All of this had TC readers wondering (at least according to my DMs and emails) whether Apple’s car program was at risk. I reached out to some folks and one source told me that Apple employees were in Korea meeting with battery manufacturers as early as last week, which suggests that the game is on. You might recall, The Korea Times reported back in early August a team from Apple was visiting battery manufacturers LG Chem, SK, and Hanwha as part of “early talks.”

It seems those talks are still happening.

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Welcome back to policy corner! Big news out of the aviation industry this week, as major airlines pledged to make 3 billion gallons of “sustainable aviation fuel” available to aircraft carriers by 2030, in line with a federal goal of reducing aviation emissions by 20% by the start of the next decade.

The announcement was made by industry group Airlines for America (A4A), whose members include United Airlines, Delta, American Airlines and Southwest. The group had previously set a target of 2 billion gallons by 2030 back in March. (Also yesterday, United made a separate announcement that it would purchase 1.5 billion gallons of SAF from startup Alder Fuels, pending certain conditions are met. Check out my story on the deal here.

A4A stressed the importance of federal action to support the development of SAF, including a “blender” tax credit for SAF mixed with conventional fuel and public-private research partnerships into SAF tech.

But this would be just the beginning, if President Joe Biden has his say; his administration wants a “fully zero-carbon aviation sector by 2050,” according to a White House fact sheet released Thursday. Aviation accounts for 11% of the country’s transportation-related emissions, the fact sheet says. Plus, while 3 billion gallons of fuel certainly sounds like a lot, a United spokesperson told TechCrunch that the airline consumes around 4 billion annually, and the White House says demand overall could be as high as 35 billion gallons per year by 2050.

To meet that demand, Biden said he is seeking that SAF incentives be included in the $3.5 trillion spending bill currently being debated by Congress, including a tax credit and $4.3 billion earmarked for funding SAF projects.

It’s important to note two things: one, as it currently stands, SAF is more expensive than conventional jet fuel, itself a considerable cost for airlines. Two, the above goals on behalf of the airlines are non-binding, voluntary agreements. Taken together, that means (in my humble opinion) that a tax incentive or something like it will be necessary for SAF to achieve cost parity with conventional fuel — and for airlines to actually adopt it.


The other policy items that caught my eye this week come from the great state of New York. The first is out of New York City, which set a target to install 40,000 public Level 2 chargers and 6,000 DC fast chargers by 2030. This buildout, outlined in the Department of Transportation’s EV plan, will be necessary for the city to reach its target of being fully carbon neutral by 2050.

Finally, the New York State House signed a bill into law requiring all passenger vehicles sold in-state to be zero-emission by 2035, making it the second state (after California) to introduce a set deadline to phase out internal combustion engine cars. It’s hard to know whether this is the start of a sea change in state policy or whether NY and California are anomalies, but I can see this type of legislation becoming more popular in the coming years.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable news and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Anthony Levandowski, the controversial and presidentially pardoned autonomous vehicle technology engineer, sat down with The Information for an interview that included details about his company’s pivot from big rigs to dump trucks.

Aurora co-founder Sterling Anderson laid out the autonomous vehicle company’s development process in a blog post this week. Aurora collaborated with half a dozen OEMs and has integrated its self-driving system into eight distinct vehicle platforms. Anderson wrote that the outcome “is a highly refined Driver-vehicle interface and a structured process for the design, development, and launch of vehicles designed for it that we call the Aurora Driver Development Program.” Side note: Aurora has made its Pittsburgh office its official headquarters.

Intel subsidiary Mobileye and rental car giant Sixt SE announced plans to launch a robotaxi service in Munich next year. As I noted in my article, the robotaxi service will leverage all of Intel’s, and more specifically Mobileye’s, assets that have been in development or purchased in recent years, including the $900 million acquisition in 2020 of Moovit, an Israeli startup that analyzes urban traffic patterns and provides transportation recommendations with a focus on public transit.

Through the partnership, riders will be able to access the robotaxi service via the Moovit app. The service will also be offered through Sixt’s mobility ONE app, which gives customers the ability to hail a ride, rent, share or subscribe to vehicles. Caveat: this won’t be a large-scale service in the beginning; it will start small and operate similarly to other early rider programs first modeled by nuTonomy and Waymo.

WeRide, a Chinese autonomous vehicle technology company, unveiled its first cargo van. The company said it will work with Chinese automobile manufacturer Jiangling Motors and Chinese express delivery company ZTO Express to commercialize its first self-driving van at scale. The “robovans” will be based on JMC’s battery electric vehicle model with a fully redundant vehicle platform, combined with WeRide’s full-stack software and hardware autonomous driving (AD) solutions.

Electric vehicles (and batteries)

GM extended a shutdown at its Orion Assembly Plant by another two weeks due to a battery pack shortage related to the widespread Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV safety recall. GM said the extended downtime at the Orion plant will last through September 20. Orion Assembly Plant in Michigan has been shut down since August 23.

Ford has hired six senior-level executives to its newly minted commercial vehicles and services business unit as the automaker prepares to bring to market the E-Transit cargo van and the F-150 Lightning Pro pickup truck — two electric vehicles it’s betting will become commercial customers’ new workhorses.

Sila Nanotechnologies’ next-generation battery technology made its commercial product debut in the new Whoop fitness tracker, a milestone that caps a decade of research and development by the Silicon Valley startup. This matters because Sila Nano has joint battery ventures with BMW and Daimler to produce batteries containing the company’s silicon-anode technology, with the goal of going to market in the automotive industry by 2025.

Solid Power, a battery developer backed by Ford and BMW, is preparing to start pilot production of its solid state batteries early next year. A new production facility will be dedicated to manufacturing a sulfide-based solid electrolyte material and pilot production of its commercial-grade, 100 ampere battery cells. Those pouch cells are expected to go to Ford and BMW for automotive testing in early 2022.

Meet Squad Mobility and learn about its vision of the perfect urban vehicle. Here’s a hint: it’s small, cheap, electric and includes solar.

Tesla set the official record for electric vehicles at Nürburgring with a Tesla “Model S Plaid,” that driven by Andreas Simonsen circumnavigated the 20.8-kilometre. (12.9-mile) Nordschleife loop in 7:35.579, according to a statement from the motorsports complex.

Toyota Motor said it will oppose a proposal by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to give union-made electric vehicles in the United States an additional $4,500 tax incentive, Reuters reported. The company said the proposal discriminates “against American autoworkers based on their choice not to unionize.”

Volta Trucks, a full-electric commercial vehicle manufacturer, said its first vehicles will be manufactured in Steyr, Austria, by Steyr Automotive, formerly MAN Truck and Bus Austria.

Delivery and sharing

DoorDash, Caviar, Grubhub, Seamless, Postmates and Uber Eats have sued the City of New York over a law that would permanently limit the amount of commissions the apps can charge restaurants to use their services. The companies are seeking an injunction that would prevent the city from enforcing the legislation, unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

Plentywaka co-founder and CEO Onyeka Akumah was interviewed by TechCrunch as part of its ongoing founders Q&A series.

Misc. stuff

Hyundai Motor Group laid out its hydrogen strategy, announcing it will provide hydrogen fuel cell versions for all its commercial vehicles by 2028. Hyundai’s goal is to achieve cost competitiveness comparable to that of EV batteries by 2030. The company also shared details about its high-performance, rear-wheel drive hydrogen sports car, the Vision FK, with a targeted range of 373 miles. Hyundai did not share when the vehicle would go into production.

GM unveiled the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado, a full-sized pickup truck that received a major technology upgrade, including its hands-free Super Cruise advanced driver assistance system and an infotainment system with embedded Google services, as well as an overhauled interior.

David Zipper wrote a piece for Slate examining the growing problem of infotainment systems.

#airlines, #anthony-levandowski, #apple, #apple-car, #automotive, #bmw, #cao-cao-mobility, #caviar, #delta-airlines, #doordash, #ford, #grubhub, #intel, #mobileye, #postmates, #seamless, #tesla, #transportation, #united-airlines

Apple has reportedly appointed wearable chief Kevin Lynch to lead its car division

Apple has reportedly appointed a new executive to lead the development of its secretive self-driving car division. According to Bloomberg, the company has tapped Kevin Lynch to oversee Project Titan following the departure of executive Doug Field, who left the iPhone maker for Ford earlier this week.

The name may not be familiar, but if you’ve watched any Apple event in recent years, you’ve seen Lynch on stage. After a stint at Adobe, he joined Apple in 2013 to oversee the company’s wearable and health unit and has frequently been the one to present whatever new features Apple is working on for watchOS.

Bloomberg reports Lynch joined the division earlier in the year but is now overseeing the entire unit. The outlet notes Lynch’s appointment suggests Apple is likely focusing on underlying software that a self-driving car would need to navigate the road, instead of a vehicle that we could see the company release anytime soon.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.

#apple, #apple-car, #ford, #tc, #tceng

Ford builds leadership team of commercial vehicle unit ahead of E-Transit launch

Ford has hired six senior-level executives to its newly minted commercial vehicles and services business unit as the automaker prepares to bring to market the E-Transit cargo van and the F-150 Lightning Pro pickup truck  — two electric vehicles it’s betting will become commercial customers’ new workhorses.

Ford pulled from within its ranks and outside the company to fill out the leadership team for the new business unit, Ford Pro. Among the new hires is Muffi Ghadiali, the CEO of Electriphi, the battery management and fleet monitoring software startup that Ford acquired in June. Ghadiali will continue to serve in his role with Electriphi and head up Ford Pro’s charging department.

Ford also hired Tim Baughman, Ford’s former controller for U.S. marketing, sales and service, to be the general manager of Ford Pro North America. Ford Pro’s new CFO will be Navin Kumar, who was previously at Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC.

Tracey Pass, who comes from The Walt Disney Company, has been hired as the chief human resources officer, and Rahul Singh, who was head of software development for Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC, is the unit’s CTO. Wanda Young, chief marketing officer of Samsung Electronics America, has taken a similar position at Ford Pro.

Ford previously announced that Hans Schep will be the general manager of Ford Pro Europe.

Ford Pro is focused on more than just commercial vans. The division, led by Ted Cannis, aims to sell fleet management, maintenance and charging services to commercial clients as well. Ford Pro has said it expects to generate $45 billion in revenue from hardware and adjacent and new services by 2025 — up from $27 billion in 2019.

That’s a hefty hike in revenue and a target that Ford plans to meet by selling a mix of combustion-engine, hybrid, and soon all-electric versions of its vans and full-size pickup trucks; and offering depot and home charging for the EVs, digital services for customers to manage and maintain their fleets, a network of service centers, and, of course, financing.

Ford’s commercial vehicle business has a head start in Europe, where it has been the leading commercial vehicle brand for six consecutive years. In North America, Ford’s share of Class 1 through Class 7 full-size commercial trucks and vans exceeds 40%, according to the company.

A new opportunity to grab more market share has opened up as governments, particularly in Europe, place stricter emissions regulations in urban areas. The E-Transit cargo van, which is expected to ship to customers later this year, and the commercial variant of the F-150 Lightning Pro play a critical role in Ford Pro’s plans. The Lightning pickup truck is expected to come to market in spring 2022.

#automotive, #e-transit, #electric-vehicles, #ev-charging, #ford, #ford-motor, #tc, #transportation

Solid Power expands production capacity to deliver test batteries to BMW, Ford in 2022

Solid Power, a battery developer backed by Ford and BMW, is expanding its Colorado-based factory footprint as it prepares pilot production of its solid state batteries early next year.

The new production facility will be dedicated to manufacturing one of the company’s flagship products, a sulfide-based solid electrolyte material, by up to 25 times its current output. The new facility will also make room for the first pilot production line of its commercial-grade, 100 ampere battery cells. Those pouch cells are expected to go to Ford and BMW for automotive testing in early 2022, with the aim of getting them into driver-ready vehicles by the latter half of the decade.

Solid state batteries have long been considered the next breakthrough in battery technology. They lack a liquid electrolyte, the material that moves ions between the cathode and anode in traditional lithium-ion batteries, as TechCrunch writer Mark Harris has explained. The gains from such technology, SSB developers say, include increased energy density, reduced costs and a superior battery life expectancy.

Developers also say they’re safer – an important consideration in light of incidents like GM’s three-times recall of Chevrolet Bolt vehicles due to fire risk. It’s the liquid electrolyte that serves as “the spark that leads to thermal runaway,” Solid Power CEO Doug Campbell told TechCrunch. “We believe very strongly that these issues that both Hyundai and GM are now facing would be addressed with a solid-state battery.”

While the startup will be building out a new battery cell pilot production line, Solid Power’s ultimate plan is to eventually only produce the electrolyte material and license out the cell to OEMs and battery manufacturers.

“Long term, we’re a materials company,” Campbell said. “We want to be the industry leader in solid electrolyte materials.” To that end, this current expansion to cell production will likely be the company’s last, he said. The forthcoming pilot production line will produce enough to supply multiple OEMs with cells for automotive qualification testing, with the intent of larger production scales being undertaken by automakers and battery cell producers.

The decision to license the battery cells to partners, rather than produce them all in-house, is an asset-light model born from commonsense, he added.

“Let’s face it, what’s the probability that little Solid Power is going to grow up and displace the likes of Panasonic, LG, CATL?” While some companies are attempting it, like Sweden’s Northvolt, Campbell added that the material business margins are higher and don’t include direct competitors that are all but behemoths. “It’s capital-light, but it’s also realistic.”

The startup said in June it would go public via a $1.2 billion reverse merger with blank-check firm Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corp. III. The transaction, which is anticipated to generate around $600 million in cash, should give the company enough funds through 2026 or 2027, Campbell said.

The company will need plenty of capital to take it through the rest of the decade, especially as it aims to produce enough electrolyte material to support 10 gigawatt-hour annual cell capacity by 2207. For that, it’ll need “orders of magnitude” more electrolyte production capacity than was even announced today (which is itself an order of magnitude increase), Campbell said.

Solid Power doesn’t even plan on stopping at electrolyte production. Campbell hinted that the company is also at work developing a low-cost cathode material – one that contains no nickel or cobalt, two of the costliest raw battery materials.

“[The industry] is going to be dominated by the cost of materials and the cost of materials is going to be dominated by the cost of that nickel- and cobalt-containing cathode material,” he said. “This particular chemistry that we’ll be disclosing later this year is extremely low cost, we’re talking 1/20th, 1/30th the cost of today’s [nickel manganese cobalt cathodes].”

#automotive, #bmw, #electric-vehicle-batteries, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #solid-power, #solid-state-batteries, #transportation

Rivian’s electric R1T pickup truck, R1S SUV get their official EPA ranges

Rivian announced Friday that the first edition version of its all-electric R1T pickup truck has an official EPA range of 314 miles, while its R1T SUV comes in a skosh higher at 316 miles.

The official range and fuel economy values have been posted on the U.S. EPA website. The official numbers align with Rivian’s own previous estimates, which it has advertised as 300 miles.

While EPA estimates can’t account for different driving styles, the test cycle is robust enough to provide an accurate benchmark for customers shopping for an electric vehicle.

In this case, Rivian has the benefit of being the first electric truck on the market. Ford’s F-150 Lightning, which isn’t expected to come on the market until spring 2022, has a targeted range of 230 miles in the standard and up to 300 miles in the extended version. The EPA has not issued official ranges for the Ford Lightning.

Rivian’s “Launch edition” R1T truck and R1S SUV come equipped with a 135-kWh battery pack that is branded as the “large pack.” Deliveries of the Launch Edition vehicles are slated to begin this month.

The R1T and R1S vehicles will be offered in two trims, both of which are offered with the same 135-kWh-pack size. The Adventure variant of the R1T, which has a premium interior, starts at $73,000. The R1T Explore trim starts at $67,500.

The Adventure trim in the R1S SUV starts at $75,500, while the Explore package has a base price of $70,000.

Rivian intends to begin deliveries of the Adventure and Explore packages in January 2022.

Rivian also plans to offer an even larger pack, dubbed the “Max pack,” for the R1T. That larger pack costs an additional $10,000 and is expected to push the range of the R1T past 400 miles. The EPA has not posted an official range for the max pack or other editions, including a planned smaller battery pack option.

#automotive, #electric-pickup-trucks, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #ford-f-150, #ford-f-150-lightning, #r1s, #r1t, #rivian, #tc, #transportation

65 mpg without hypermiling in the Lincoln Aviator hybrid

Temptation comes in different forms, especially behind the wheel. With a plug-in hybrid SUV, there are two competing urges. Sometimes, the move is to put it in sport mode and scream down the highway to take full advantage of the hybrid powertrain. In the case of the Lincoln Aviator, the urge was to ignore the engine altogether, instead relying on electrons rather than hydrocarbons for propulsion. To Lincoln’s credit, the Aviator made that an easy choice.

In revamping its SUV lineup, Lincoln has gone hard for big grilles and classic styling, both of which the Aviator has. It sports classic SUV contours, but the slope of the windshield and the tapering top, paired with the Aviator nameplate on the front quarter panels, give it a light art deco vibe. The mid-size, three-row Aviator plugs into Lincoln’s lineup between the full-size Navigator and the compact Nautilus.

Unfortunately the Aviator’s comfortable interior doesn’t show the same level of design elegance. The materials all feel high-quality—there are scads of leather and wood trim—but it’s busy. A massive center console makes what should be a spacious front row feel slightly cramped. But the seats are excellent, and both front row occupants can sink into the Aviator’s 30-way (!) adjustable seats. The second-row captain’s chairs are roomy and comfortable, but the third row is difficult to get into and is best suited for kids.

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#cars, #ford, #hybrids, #lincoln, #lincoln-aviator, #phevs, #suv

Spin’s electric scooters and bikes are now on Google Maps

Ford-owned micromobility company Spin has announced an integration with Google Maps. Now, users planning their trips in 84 cities, towns and campuses across the U.S., Canada, Germany and Spain will be able to view Spin’s electric scooters and bikes on the app while planning their trip.

Spin joins its top competition on the popular mapping app, Lime, which also recently announced an integration with transit planning app Moovit. We can expect to see further integrations of micromobility operators with mapping apps as shared mobility becomes part of the broader transit ecosystem.

A recent report from the North American Bikeshare & Scootershare Association on the state of the micromobility industry found that 50% of riders reported using shared mobility to connect to transit, and 16% of all micromobility trips were for the purpose of connecting to transit.

Similar to Lime, the Spin icon will now show up under Google Map’s bike section when planning a journey — only in the mobile app, not on the desktop. A user will see the nearest available Spin vehicle, how long it will take to walk to it, what the estimated battery range is and the expected arrival time if using the vehicle. Choosing that option will direct users to the Spin app to pay for and unlock the vehicle.

“With this integration, Spin is making it easier for millions of Google Maps users to easily incorporate shared bikes and scooters into their daily trips,” Ben Bear, CEO of Spin, said in a statement. “Our goal is to make it as low friction as possible for consumers to plan multi-modal journeys. It needs to be just as easy, and even more convenient to get around with bikes, buses, trains and scooters as it is with a personal car.”

Bear also said this collaboration with Google is Spin’s largest yet, and he teased “many more in the pipeline.” Spin is already integrated into platforms like Citymapper, Moovit, Transit and Kölner Verkehrs-Betriebe. This news comes not long after Spin announced it would be adding e-bikes to the mix and trying to capture market share with exclusive or semi-exclusive city partnerships. A major app integration such as this one could be a vote of confidence for Spin looking to partner with more cities in the future.

#ben-bear, #ford, #google, #lime, #micromobility, #moovit, #public-transport, #scooter-sharing, #spin, #transportation

Ford F-150 hybrid: The 2021 rumble before the Lightning EV strikes

Full-size pickup trucks are the meat of the U.S. automotive business; it’s a red-hot category with the Ford F-150 leading the pack in sales and the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram pickups fast followers.

But the air is thin at the top. What’s often lost in truck coverage is how fiercely automakers compete to woo discerning customers with packaged bundles of optional and standard features. And now, more than ever, those packaged bundles rely heavily on in-car tech.

Ford, as the top seller, must add bells and whistles without alienating its most discerning clientele. The 2021 F-150 — as I was reminded during a recent test drive — epitomizes this effort and hints at what is to come with the upcoming all-electric Lightning pickup truck.

I tested the 2021 4×4 SuperCrew Lariat equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 PowerBoost Full Hybrid engine in its native suburban Detroit, 20 miles from where it was developed and manufactured.

Getting the details right on pickup trucks is an art of custom packaging for car companies. It’s one of the reasons that options packages are dizzying; the F-150 I tested was no exception. The F-150 offers six different powertrains, three bed lengths and three cab options, and then there’s eight trim levels, two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive options.

This options-heavy strategy has paid off for automakers like Ford. However, as these companies add more tech and software, there is a risk of causing confusion among its most loyal customers.

Screensavers

2021 Ford F-150 interior

2021 Ford F-150 interior. Image Credits: Ford Motor Company

What sets the F-150 apart from other vehicles in its lineup is how much functional tech matters to its core customers. On the new model I tested, a 12-inch display that houses the standard Sync4 infotainment system is the center of the dashboard — and the customer experience.

Sync4 was introduced on the Mustang Mach-E and on the new Ford Bronco. Sync has been steadily improving for a simpler user experience since its 2007 introduction. Sync4 doubles computational power and introduced over-the-air software updates.

The system sources data from INRIX on traffic, construction (always in a Michigan summer), weather and parking space availability from data in 20,000 cities and 150 countries.

Natural language processing used in the system provided more accurate responses to my voice-based queries and incoming SMS messages. One caveat worth noting: It was difficult to judge the machine learning algorithm because my test vehicle had been used by multiple drivers in recent weeks.

For infotainment, I generally defer to Apple CarPlay, which along with Android Auto, is easy to call up, because it connects wirelessly in the F-150 and minimizes distracted driving. Ever since they debuted in production vehicles — 2014 for CarPlay and 2015 for Android Auto — it seemed inevitable that Apple and Google were going to dominate the middleware infotainment system game.

Sync also tees up supported apps Waze and Ford+Alexa.

Driving tech

Driving a full-size truck for the first time can be intimidating, and Ford uses camera tech to make the big rig easier to maneuver. The split screen helps a timid driver feel confident navigating through tight spaces.

Five onboard cameras act as guides that assist with steering and parking. The vivid graphics incorporated into the 360-degree view from above helps to establish bearings where mirrors won’t suffice.

Behind the steering wheel is a 12-inch digital cluster. There’s part of me that misses the old-fashioned gauges of a classic pickup, but that’s not the direction Ford is heading. Ford is striving for future-forward vibes, encapsulated by Mustang Mach-E’s Apple-design-inspired aesthetic.

Through its in-car design, Ford is trying to make the case it’s a tech company first, and a 120-year-old automaker second. These earnest aesthetic cues may be a bit too on the nose as products age over time.

Ford is due to introduce Blue Cruise, an advanced driver assistance system it once called Active Drive Assist, on vehicles later this year by an automatic software update, which was not yet active on the model I drove in June, though the hardware was included.

The company claims the system allows for hands-free driving in zones that span 100,000 miles of North American road and will be standard on the F-150 Limited vehicles in the Ford Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 Prep Package. It will be sold as an option on Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum models. The system uses a driver-facing camera to track eye gaze and head position to monitor concentration as an answer to GM’s Super Cruise.

The doodads that matter most

2021 Ford F-150

2021 Ford F-150’s interior work surface. Image Credits: Ford Motor Company

Under the foot-long screen are the old-school knobs and switches that show Ford knows its customers still favor a manual cue here and there. Below that is a shift lever that folds down and flat into a 15-inch workstation, which I used for some in-car laptop time.

There are ample charging stations and wireless charging throughout the cabin. While the F-150 interior is spacious, every inch of real estate is carefully thought through. Seats fold to 180-degrees for proper roadside naps or to add extra cargo space.

The dark grey leather seats felt more utilitarian than luxurious, especially for a fully loaded vehicle. (Crosstown competitor Ram tends to outdo Ford on driving joy and interior design aesthetics.) The exterior and interior design emphasizes functionality, pure and simple. I hauled two kayaks in the back and found thoughtful hooks to connect to my bungee cords in the truck bed.

A bevy of 240-volt outlets are in the rear of the truck bed and two more are onboard in the cabin. The truck bed also has a convenient ruler built in on the tailgate with both metric and imperial calculations. A 2.4 kilowatt generator is standard on the hybrid model, while the optional 7.2 kW generator functions for 32 hours on a full tank of gas.

I didn’t test out the F-150’s towing capacity, but for truck folks these numbers are essential. It has a payload of 2,120 pounds and can tow up 12,700 pounds (those numbers vary a bit depending on bed length and drivetrain). It also offers a backup towing assist function, which helps align the connection to a trailer. The model I drove was priced at $68,095, a significant leap from the $50,980 base price. In contrast, Ford produces an even higher-end F-150 trim called the Limited, which starts at $73,000.

Function in form

Before it goes all electric, the hybrid powertrain gives Ford a much needed boost to compete with Ram and Chevrolet, which already sell hybrid variants. The hybrid option is a logical compromise for customers who aren’t ready for the full Lightning EV that will go on sale in 2022, a launch that’s already generated buzz and 120,000 pre-orders. I clocked about 24 miles per gallon, an improvement over all-gasoline and best in its class for non-diesel. It’s still not enough to get Ford anywhere close to a stellar emissions report card, which is why the Lightning matters so much.

In order to court new EV customers, Ford must appease its current buyers who buy all those trucks we see on the road today. There’s two kinds of pickup truck customers: Those who rely on the functionality for their daily vocation or the weekend warriors and those who seek out the capability in case they might need it in a disaster scenario. The truck that I drove does the job of appealing to both.

The F-150 has always been suited to buyers who use it for home improvement projects, outdoorsy hobbies and towing. Pickup trucks also support laborers that require a rugged, functional vehicle. When Ford introduces anything new to this model, it creates hype and high stakes on how these customers feel about tweaks.

2021 F-150 Lariat interior in black. Image Credits: Ford Motor Company

The buyer who seeks security came to mind while I had the F-150 on loan in late June, which is why I’ve saved the part about how it drives for last. My test drive period coincided with a summer storm that pummeled Michigan and shut down major highways and left vehicles stranded for days.

Before the storm, I zoomed around town, adjusting to the big loose steering and wide turns and the rhythm of stillness that occurs as the hybrid engine regenerates.

Once the storm came, I eased off the throttle and into a steady and sure pace, hands at 10 and two. Passenger cars and lesser capable crossover SUVs floated by me in two feet of water on the Lodge Freeway. The F-150 plowed through the muck, unbothered. I didn’t experience any skidding or stalling, in contrast to one friend who was forced to walk home because her Uber driver got stuck. The F-150 feels like a test case for a survivalist in an environmental catastrophe. The backup generator is the added security blanket.

Full-size trucks have an innate quality to make a driver feel invincible, which at the end of day is why people love their F-150s, and why the company has gotten so much mileage off that “Ford tough” tagline. It’s a delicate balance, keeping an unfussy truck at a price point that delivers power, substance and peace of mind.

#automotive, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #ford-f-150, #ford-f-150-lightning, #tc, #transportation, #trucks

The cost of Velodyne’s internal drama is starting to add up

Velodyne Lidar, the sensor company that went public a year ago when it merged with special purpose acquisition company Graf Industrial Corp., reported its second quarter earnings Thursday, results that show a company spending more to find new customers for its products while grappling with an increasingly expensive internal drama.

Just a few weeks ago, Velodyne’s CEO Anand Gopalan resigned, taking $8 million in equity compensation with him, according to the company’s second-quarter report. At the time of Gopalan’s resignation, the company restated its business outlook for 2021 revenue, noting that its guidance of between $77 million and $94 million remained unchanged.

Earlier in the year, founder David Hall was removed as chairman of the board and his wife, Marta Thoma Hall, lost her role of chief marketing officer following an investigation by the board into the couple for “inappropriate behavior.” The legal fees involved in this debacle set the company back $1.4 million this quarter, and $3.7 million for the first half of 2021, according to Velodyne CFO Drew Hamer.

The board’s fight with the Halls has escalated. In a May letter, David Hall blamed the SPAC, specifically the SPAC-appointed members of the combined company’s board, for its poor financial performance, and called for the resignation of Gopalan and two board members.

During a call with investors Thursday, Hamer also said general and administrative expenses are expected to increase by about 35% in 2021 due to increased public company and legal expenses, meaning the struggle is not over. From the first quarter to the second, there was already a 21% increase, from $17 million to $20.6 million.

The “general and administrative expenses” category falls under the company’s broader operating expenses, which were $84.8 million this quarter, about double last quarter’s spend. 

Rising legal costs at the company are only part of its accelerating cost profile. The company is also investing heavily in growth, namely in sales and marketing.

A large majority of operating expenses were spent on sales and marketing. Velodyne spent $47.2 million in the second quarter, which is up massively from $7.1 million in the first quarter.

On average, companies spend about 11.3% of their total revenue on marketing budgets, according to a 2020 CMO survey, though that is a broad metric. It’s important to note that the full impact of sales and marketing spend is never fully realized in the quarter in which that capital is put to work. In other words, we don’t know if Velodyne’s expanded Q2 sales and marketing spend has brought in more business.

The company’s revenue eased between the first and second quarters, falling from $17.7 million to $13.6 million. For a company investing so heavily in sales to see revenue decline is not encouraging, even if the bulk of results stemming from Q2 spend may not show up until the company’s third-quarter earnings report.

Velodyne is betting that its efforts will lead to accelerating sales in coming quarters. 

The company said it expects to make an additional $46 to $62 million revenue in the second half of the year due to an increase in demand for lidar products. While Q2’s total revenue was actually less than Q1’s, the company’s product-based revenue rose around 30%, which Hamer attributed to “renewed demand for lidar sensors from customers with delayed purchases due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Our pipeline continues to grow,” said Hamer. “We had 213 projects on August 1, up from 198 projects at May 1…Included in the signed and awarded pipeline are new ADAS multiyear agreements, which we expect will begin to ramp starting in 2026.”

Hamer estimated that through 2025, Velodyne has the opportunity for more than $1 billion in revenue from signed and awarded projects, plus a pipeline of projects that are not yet signed and awarded that could bring the company to $4.5 billion in potential revenue. 

At the end of April, Velodyne was selected by EV company Faraday Future as an exclusive lidar supplier for its flagship luxury electric car FF 91, which is due to be launched next year. Faraday’s cars would use the Velarray H800 lidar sensors to power their autonomous driving system. 

Velodyne has some other existing partnerships, but it faces steep competition in the automotive space.

Luminar, for example, has deals with major OEMs like Volvo and Toyota, and it recently bought one of its chip suppliers so that it wouldn’t have to be held up like everyone else in the industry, including Velodyne, by the semiconductor shortage. Hesai is also seeing some traction with customers like Lyft, Nuro, Bosch, Navya and Chinese robotaxi operators Baidu, WeRide and AutoX. 

Velodyne, which has long been the dominant supplier in the industry, has lost some customers more recently.

For instance, Ford, which had originally backed Velodyne, divested its stake in the company and placed its bets on Argo AI, which is supplying the automaker with its the autonomous vehicle technology. Argo had upped its game by drastically improving its in-house lidar sensor, meaning it would no longer need to rely on Velodyne. That had a ripple effect and impacted Veoneer, which had partnered with Velodyne to produce the lidar for Ford.

#adas, #argo-ai, #automotive, #autonomous-driving, #earnings, #ford, #lidar, #q2-earnings, #transportation, #velodyne

Drunk-driving provision could fuel demand for driver detection technology

Companies developing driver detection technology could get a boost from a provision tucked inside the 2,702-page $1 trillion infrastructure bill that would require automakers to build into new cars technology that can tell if drivers have had a few cold ones.

The provision in the bill, which is actually a piece of bipartisan legislation called the Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone Act that was introduced in April 2021, would direct the U.S. Department of Transportation to establish a technology safety standard for automakers within three years. Automakers would then have another two years to comply and implement tech that detects and prevents drunk driving. Reuters was the first to notice the language

While the provision doesn’t dictate what type of tech has to be in these vehicles, industry experts believe that companies developing camera-based driver monitoring systems (DMS) stand to benefit the most. DMS systems are already mature in the auto industry, representing a technological byproduct of autonomous driving developments. While the auto industry explores self-driving cars as a way to drastically reduce road deaths in the future, advocates and regulators say there’s room to use some of this tech to solve problems that exist now, like drunk or distracted driving. 

“What’s happening in the U.S. Senate this week potentially opens the door to a camera-based real-time solution, which will be the first time that the U.S. automakers will have the ability and the requirement to look at real-time physiological changes in your body that occur when you are inebriated,” Dr. Mike Lenné, chief science and innovation officer at Seeing Machines told TechCrunch. “There are distinct reliable changes to the way you scan the environment, to the way your eyes respond to stimuli, which is why the police use that ‘follow the finger’ test.”

The system would have to monitor the performance of a driver to detect impairment and prevent or limit vehicle operation if impairment is detected; detect whether BAC (blood alcohol concentration) is equal to or greater than the legal limit, potentially preventing operation of the vehicle at all; or a combination of both systems. 

Cameras aren’t the only solution that has been trotted out in recent years.

The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) program, a technology that’s been developed in partnership between the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has advocated using a breath or touch-based approach to determine BAC levels. The touch-based approach involves measuring BAC through the skin’s surface by shining an infrared light through the driver’s fingertip. According to DADSS, the current timeline for bringing the breath-based approach to vehicles is by 2024, and the touch-based approach by 2025. 

Lenné argues that a camera-based approach would be far more successful than a breath or touch-based approach because BAC levels can rise within minutes. Someone could theoretically down a bunch of shots immediately before getting behind the wheel and it wouldn’t show up on a reading for several minutes. Or they could get wasted while driving. And BAC detection doesn’t help at all when it comes to drug-impaired driving. 

Europe versus U.S.

Moves are already being made in Europe to encourage automakers to include drunk driving detection technology, specifically through camera-based DMS approaches, whereas most of the discussion on this type of tech in the U.S. has been, until recently, focused on DMS for assisted driving and Level 2 autonomous driving and above. (According to the Society of Automotive Engineers, Level 2 autonomy means the vehicle has combined functions like steering and acceleration but requires the driver to remain engaged.)

The U.S. provision could propel an industry that has already seen growth in recent years as automakers like GM and Ford implement hands-free advanced driver assistance systems.

“From an integration viewpoint, it’s actually not a step change at all from what the OEMs are doing right now for distracted driving and drowsy driving with camera-based DMS. It’s just another feature to offer, another algorithm on the chip, if you like,” Lenné said. 

Near-term tech

“Billions of dollars have gone into developing the technology to make AVs a reality but they are really far off,” Stephanie Manning, chief government affairs officer at Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), told TechCrunch. “In the process, automakers have developed a lot of technology that can help us right now in terms of saving lives. If this passes, it’s going to be the biggest safety rulemaking that NHTSA has ever done in terms of lives saved, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. But the more we wait, the more we delay, the more people die.”

The technology is not at all far from market, said Lenné, and he would know. Seeing Machines provides the DMS that is used in Super Cruise, GM’s hands-free advanced driver assistance system. Super Cruise, once relegated to just one Cadillac model, has expanded in capability and GM’s portfolio and is now in the Cadillac CT6, CT4, CT5, Escalade and Chevrolet Bolt. Seeing Machine’s tech is also used in the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class and EQS sedans.

“Once it’s regulated, we can expect to see more entrants to the market because what this does is it creates a top-down demand,” said Lenné. “It takes it out of the consumers’ hands and tells vehicles they must have these safety features, so the market size will increase dramatically, and so will the market opportunity.”

The global DMS market is estimated to surpass $2.1 billion by 2026, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 9.8% from this year, according to IndustryARC. Top-down demand due to regulations like the infrastructure bill will certainly increase demand, but it won’t make the problem easier to solve.

“We’re trying to assess what’s going on in someone’s head, and that’s really different from having a forward-facing radar that’s trying to look at what’s 30 meters in front of you,” he said. “You’re trying to interpret whether or not this person is safe to drive. So it’s a really difficult technical problem to solve. Our company is 21 years old. Smart Eye has been around for over 10 years. Whilst the market size has increased dramatically, it’s a hard problem to solve as a new entrant.”

Newcomers will face competition from established and large Tier 1 suppliers like Seeing Machines and Smart Eye, a Swedish computer vision company that people familiar with the industry say works with Ford (Ford did not confirm or deny this). IndustryARC also names major players as Faurecia, Aptiv PLC, Bosch, Denso, Continental AG and others. But new players are finding their way into the scene, like Israel-based Cipia, formerly Eyesight Technology, and Sweden-based Tobii Tech.

Room for growth in the market

More entrants to market means more advancements to the technology. Smart Eye’s recent acquisition of emotion-detection startup Affectiva for $73.5 million hints at the potential future applications of DMS in passenger vehicles. Today it might be distracted, drowsy or drunk driving, but in a few years DMS could detect other types of drug impairment, cognitive impairments or even road rage.

Tobii, an eye-tracker technology company, just announced its entrance into the DMS market, a space it’s been exploring for the past few years as it has watched the legislative changes happening first in Europe and now in the U.S.

While a new entrant to the automotive space, Tobii has been in the eye tracking space since 2001, working in industries like marketing, scientific research, virtual reality, gaming and more. Anand Srivatsa, Tobii’s division CEO, told TechCrunch he thinks one of the biggest challenges will be scaling across different populations, given the different eye shapes of different ethnicities, which he says puts Tobii at an advantage, even with its limited automotive experience.

“Because of this long history, we have what it takes to deliver a full solution from a component level all the way to end software because we’ve done it in other parts of our business,” Srivatsa told TechCrunch. “Some of our automotive partners see that as a unique capability from Tobii where we can talk about the compute that is needed for eye tracking because we build our own asix, we’ve built our own sensor. We have end user software in some aspects of our business, so we understand the implications and the constraints of each of these parts of the stack, and we can work with them to create a more disruptive solution. And that’s something that I think is going to be quite important in this space. How do you reduce the total cost of the solution to allow it to scale efficiently across all cars?”

Srivatsa also said there’s room to extend into other spaces the biometrics or physiological signals that eye tracking yields, reconfiguring information based on outside road conditions or what else is going on in the car in a way that optimizes the tech to ensure drivers are spending the bulk of their time looking at the road.

“What I am hoping and dreaming for is technologies like forward collision warning, or blind spot warning or even the lane swerving warnings help me out when I need it most by understanding if I’m becoming complacent or tired, perhaps distracted, and then adjust how the systems perform, the warning timing and things like that, based on what I need in the moment,” Kelly Funkhouser, program manager of vehicle interface testing and head of connected and automated vehicles at Consumer Reports, told TechCrunch. “Counter to that is I would like it to not bother me and nag and annoy me when I am fully paying attention. I’m like ‘Yeah I know exactly what I’m doing, I am purposely driving over this line so that I don’t hit the mom and kids.’ ”

Lenné said there’s a potential for driver monitoring systems that capture what is really going on inside of a car to become more personalized in order to provide a better driving experience. 

“I think in all of this, writing a better driving experience is absolutely pivotal,” said Lenné. “If it doesn’t do that, it risks not being accepted by the consumers.”

Advancing existing ADAS tech

Automakers have been a part of the conversation regarding drunk driving technology for years. Back in 2007, Nissan revealed a drunk driving concept car that would use alcohol odor sensors, facial monitoring and vehicle operational behavior to detect driver impairment.

In the same year, Toyota announced a similar system that it said would be in cars by 2009. More recently, Volvo announced in 2019 that it would install cameras and sensors in cars to monitor drivers for signs of being drunk or distracted and then signal the vehicle to intervene, but that tech is designed for Volvo’s SPA2 architecture for hands-free driving, which hasn’t been released yet. The bottom line is without legislation mandating drunk driving prevention and detection, automakers haven’t really moved forward on implementing the tech, despite much of the building blocks being in place already. 

Manning thinks that’s because automakers want to be able to upcharge for safety features. 

“Automakers want to test their supercomputers on the open road, but they don’t want to put the money and time and energy into solving drunk driving, because they don’t feel it’s their responsibility, and they don’t want this rule-making,” she said. “We fully expect that they’re going to fight us tooth and nail throughout the rule-making process.”

Representatives from GM and Ford could not be reached for comment, but John Bozzella, president and CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which worked with NHTSA on the DADSS program, told TechCrunch that the auto industry is committed to supporting public and private efforts to address this threat to road safety.  

“We appreciate the efforts of congressional leaders and other stakeholders to advance a legislative approach that provides NHTSA the ability to review all potential technologies as options for federal regulation and, consistent with the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, to make a well-informed decision as to whether any specific technologies meet the standard for consumer vehicles,” he said.

#automotive, #ford, #general-motors, #government, #nhtsa, #nissan, #policy, #toyota, #transportation, #volvo