The Adenauer Benz helped lift the automaker after its work for the Nazis. Today, pristine models go for a small fraction of Gullwings from the same era.
As automakers promise to get rid of internal combustion engines, Heidelberg is trying to get rid of autos.
Daimler reported unexpectedly strong profits, underlining a rebound by traditional carmakers despite the pandemic.
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Last week, I provided some of my predictions for 2021 focused on autonomous vehicle technology and electric vehicles. I’ll weigh in today with a few predictions about the rest of the “future of transportation” sector, including ride-hailing, on-demand delivery and in-car tech.
Alrighty, here’s the remaining predictions for the 2021.
On-demand delivery will continue to grow even as consumers return to physical stores, which will put pressure on the logistics ecosystem. The retailers that have the best success will be the ones that have locked in multiple channels to get their “goods” to the consumer.
Big retailers and even smaller local stores have come to understand that their physical location has become an extended part of the supply chain. Startups that have developed platforms to make it easier to manage inventory and get it to the consumer will continue to pop up.
Meanwhile, the increase in demand for delivery will encourage giants like Amazon and Walmart invest in technological solutions to meet their needs. This might include partnering with or acquiring startups. (This goes beyond interests in longer term efforts like autonomous vehicle delivery).
Delivery apps such as Uber Eats, DoorDash and Instacart will face increased scrutiny for use of gig economy workers as well as whether businesses benefit from using them. This may very well spawn local businesses to find their own in-house solutions. Demand will rise for digital tools that help optimize delivery fleets and platforms designed to help companies gets goods to consumers without relying on Uber, DoorDash and others.
Restaurant groups will pull together to offer delivery hubs from ghost kitchens, a prediction that mirrors one shared with me from Khaled Naim, the CEO last mile delivery management software startup Onfleet. I believe local stores will make the same efforts.
I expect more pitches from companies hawking curbside management tools and subscription delivery platforms.
On the ride-hailing front, shuttle companies like Via will continue to grow (despite concerns about sharing rides) and make acquisitions to round out their current offerings. Via will continue to sell its platform to cities as opposed to standing up more of its own operations. Via handles booking, routing, passenger and vehicle assignment and identification, customer experience and fleet management. And it will likely look for ways to broaden its services to become more appealing.
Some of the trends that started two years ago will continue to play out. Automakers are increasing the size and display resolution of infotainment screens in its vehicles. Sadly, only a handful will unlock the more important piece of the infotainment system: the user interface.
Two announcements this past week — one from holographic startup Envisics and the other from Mercedes — hint at what’s to come in 2021.
Mercedes unveiled January 7 its next-generation MBUX Hyperscreen, which features a 56-inch curved screen that runs the length of the dashboard. The MBUX Hyperscreen will be optional in the 2022 Mercedes EQS, the flagship sedan under the automaker’s electric EQ brand.
I’m interested and maybe even encouraged (I have yet to test it) in the UI. Mercedes chose to put information on charging, entertainment, phone, navigation, social media, connectivity and massage — yes massage — right up front on the screen. This means no scrolling through menus or using the voice assistant to locate these options.
The system’s software, which will learn the patterns of the driver, will prompt the user, removing any need to go deeper into the sub-menu. The navigation map is always visible in the center and located just below it are the controls for the phone and entertainment — or the feature that best suits the specific situation, according to the automaker.
Meanwhile, Envisics announced a partnership with Panasonic Automotive Systems to jointly develop and commercialize a new generation of head-up displays for cars, trucks and SUVs.
Envisics’ technology allows for head-up displays to have higher resolution, wide color gamut and large images that can be overlaid upon reality. The technology can also project information at multiple distances simultaneously. The company’s founder Jamieson Christmas told me that in the short term this will provide relatively simple augmented reality applications like navigation, highlighting the lane you’re supposed to be in and some safety applications.
“But as you look forward into things like autonomous driving it unlocks a whole realm of other opportunities like entertainment and video conferencing,” he said.
Finally, I expect more chatter and maybe even deployments of driver monitoring systems as automakers roll out more advanced driver assistance systems that allow for “hands-free” operations in certain conditions.
I want to stress however, that having a DMS is only part of the solution. The safe operation of an advanced driver assistance system comes down to how well the driver understands the features and can easily see or hear when they’re on and off. A number of vehicle models, with the regular ol’ less “advanced versions of ADAS, already fail at properly communicating to drivers when features are on and off. My hope for 2021 and beyond is that there’s an effort to improve this shortfall.
For those who missed last week’s predictions, here is my recap on AVs and EVs.
The wave of consolidation that began in 2020 will continue this year, leaving fewer players that are aiming to commercialize autonomous vehicle technology in three distinct areas: robotaxis, trucking and delivery.
In 2020, Starsky Robotics shut down, Uber sold its self-driving subsidiary to Aurora and autonomous delivery startup Nuro acquired Ike Robotics. This evolution is not yet complete.
I’ll be paying attention to the activities of all the big AV players including Cruise, Motional, Waymo and Zoox. I’m particularly interested in how Aurora will handle absorbing Uber ATG into its operations. I’m also watching for progress at Argo AI, which has spent the past several months integrating VW’s self-driving subsidiary Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID) into its operations.
I expect big moves by the often-overlooked Voyage, including new partnerships and driverless operations.
Autonomous delivery will see the most investment, consolidation and commercialization activity in 2021. This won’t be the year when autonomous delivery becomes ubiquitous. But expect more pilot programs in urban, and even suburban and rural areas as companies try to figure out what environment and form factor — sidewalk bots, purpose-built vehicles that operate on roads or drones — produces the best economics.
New regionally focused entrants will pop up in 2021 and drone delivery companies will expand to larger geofenced areas.
I’m also curious to see what becomes of Postmates’ autonomous robot now that Uber has completed its acquisition of the on-demand delivery company.
Companies pursuing autonomous trucking are going to learn that long-haul logistics are more difficult and expensive than previously thought. While companies will continue to focus on Class 8 trucks that can operate without a human, expect greater activity in the so-called middle-mile logistics market. This is an area that startup Gatik AI has targeted with some successful results.
The middle-mile market, in which autonomous trucks run frequent trips from large distribution centers to local retailers, will become increasingly important as consumers continue to order groceries and other goods online. Amazon, Walmart and Kroger are just a few of the large and deep-pocketed companies keenly interested in finding faster and cheaper ways to move goods. Expect more investments and even acquisitions from big retailers.
Autonomous vehicle regulations in the United States will shift in 2021 due to the new Biden Administration. The changes won’t happen immediately; there will be far more activity in 2022 and beyond. But there will be change nonetheless.
The Trump Administration has taken a light touch to autonomous vehicle development and deployment, choosing to stick with voluntary guidelines instead of creating new mandatory rules. For instance, last month the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posted a notice that clarified AV policy and seemed to make the path to deployment much easier. (Read the details in my Dec. 21 newsletter)
President-elect Joe Biden nominated former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as the next Secretary of Transportation, a Cabinet position that will have him overseeing the Federal Highway Administration and NHTSA among other roles. The expectation is that Buttigieg will lead the charge (ahem) for electric charging infrastructure. What’s less clear is how he and the Biden Administration will approach automated vehicle technology and the advanced driver assistance systems found in today’s modern vehicles.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the automotive industry group, released its four-year plan last month for how it wants the federal government to act. The group made 14 recommendations that includes reforming regulations to allow for AV deployment at scale. Expect the Alliance for Automotive Innovation to push for a national AV pilot program and a new vehicle class for AVs.
A bevy of new electric vehicles from startups and legacy automakers will arrive in 2021. The Lucid Air, Rivian R1T and R1S, Audi Q4 etron and Nissan Ariya will come to market, while production ramps up for the Ford Mustang Mach-E and VW ID.4 .
In the latter half of the year, we should also see a few electric pickups from Lordstown Motors and the first deliveries of the BMW iX and the GMC Hummer EV. I don’t expect the Tesla Cybertruck to appear until the very end of 2021, if not 2022.
In the U.S., I’ll be watching for policy changes at the federal level that might encourage more consumers to make the switch to electric vehicles. According to Politico, there is $40 billion in unused Energy Department loan authority that was awarded under the 2009 stimulus. These funds could become central piece of the incoming Biden Administration’s climate and infrastructure plan. While those loans will likely go towards energy storage and other infrastructure, it’s worth noting that former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm will be heading up the DOE. Granholm was directly involved in the Obama Administration’s bailout of the U.S. auto industry during the Great Recession.
Electric bikes, mopeds, scooters and even skateboards will continue to grow in 2021 as consumers look for means of getting around town without buying a car or using personal transit.
That doesn’t mean every ebike or scooter company will prosper. Some shared electric scooter companies have struggled in 2020 or shut down altogether. Others are switching to subscription -based models. Expect the tinkering to continue.
Three years ago, Mercedes-Benz unveiled MBUX, an infotainment system that represented a leap forward in the legacy automotive industry. The system, with its crisp graphics, intuitive user interface and voice assistant, was closer to the experience of using a smartphone and finally got away from the pixelated screens and cluttered designs found in most modern infotainment systems.
Mercedes unveiled Thursday the next iteration of the MBUX, a 56-inch curved screen that runs the length of a dashboard — the central feature of a next-generation infotainment system that learns the behaviors of its driver. The MBUX Hyperscreen, as its called, will be option in the 2022 Mercedes EQS, the flagship sedan under the automaker’s electric EQ brand. The Hyperscreen, which was unveiled ahead of the virtual CES tech trade show, features 8 CPU cores, 24-gigabyte RAM and 46.4 GB per second RAM memory bandwidth. There’s a multifunction camera and a sensor that adapts the brightness of the screen depending on the lighting conditions.
All of this technology is meant to deliver an intuitive infotainment system that can be individualized for up to seven people. The software behind the Hyperscreen allows the system to continually get to know the customer better, according to Mercedes-Benz CTO Sajjad Khan, adding that it’s designed without the occupant needing to click or scroll anywhere.
“The MBUX Hyperscreen is both the brain and nervous system of the car,” Khan, said in a statement.
The curved screen, which is really several individual displays under a glass housing, is protected by two coatings of scratch-resistant aluminum silicate on the cover plate to reduce reflections and make cleaning easier. Mercedes also designed the screen with predetermined breaking points in case of a crash.
On either side of the curved screen are two physical air vents that have been integrated into the screen,
Putting the look and size of the screen aside, the user interface and how it operates is what stands out. (Althoug to be clear, we have yet to truly test it). Mercedes chose to put information on charging, entertainment, phone, navigation, social media, connectivity and massage — yes massage — right up front on the screen. This means no scrolling through menus or using the voice assistant to locate these options.
The system’s software, which will learn the patterns of the driver, will prompt the user, removing any need to go deeper into the sub-menu. The navigation map is always visible in the center and located just below it are the controls for the phone and entertainment – or the feature that best suits the specific situation, according to the automaker.
Mercedes leaned into the software of the system, playing up its smart features during the Thursday reveal. For instance, if the driver always calls one particular person on the way home on certain days, the system begin to anticipate that action. A business card will appear with their contact information and — if it’s stored — their photo will appear. If someone else drives the EQS on that same evening, this recommendation would not be made.
The driver can dive deeper into the system to change settings or access other features. The front seat passenger has their own section of the screen called the co-driver display to play around with during a trip. In certain markets, the passenger will also be able to watch videos while traveling using the Bluetooth headphones. An intelligent camera-based locking concept will prevent the driver from looking at the passenger display to avoid distraction.
As Tesla completes a factory in Berlin, Mercedes-Benz and Audi are introducing electric cars in bids to defend their dominance of the luxury market.
Ford, Bosch and Bedrock Technologies today announced an automated valet parking demonstration in downtown Detroit. This system is designed to allow drivers to exit a vehicle and the vehicle would park itself in the parking structure.
Systems in a Ford Escape test vehicle communicate with Bosch sensors to locate an empty parking location and move the vehicle into the spot. This system includes safeguards that allows the vehicle to react and respond to objects and pedestrians in the drive path. The vehicle-to-infrastructure communication platform can be deployed via original construction or retrofitted solutions.
Bosch has been building similar systems for several years. The technology company partnered with Daimler in 2017 to build an automated valet system for the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. In 2019 the two companies received approval from German regulators to run the automated driverless parking function without a human safety driver behind the wheel. This made the system the world’s first fully automated driverless SAE Level 4 parking function to be officially approved for everyday use.
The demonstration announced today is located in Assembly Garage, a parking structure in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood near the Ford-owned Michigan Central Station. The highly controlled demonstration will be on display through the end of September and available for viewing through scheduled tours.
According to the partnership, an automated valet system can accommodate up to 20% more vehicles, along with eventually offering additional services such as charging, refueling, or going through a car wash.
This partnership is located in a 40-mile corridor between downtown Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan that will is dedicated to developing systems for autonomous vehicles. To be built by Cavnue and a list of automotive partners, the company envisions numerous corridors designed for autonomous shuttles and buses, as well as trucks and personal vehicles.
Cavnue is joined by partners Ford, GM, Argo AI, Arrival, BMW, Honda, Toyota, TuSimple and Waymo on standards to develop the physical and digital infrastructure needed to move connected and autonomous cars out of pilot projects and onto America’s highways, freeways, interstates and city streets.
Today’s automated valet announcement was praised by the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan with Detroit’s Mayor and the state’s Lt. Governor joining representatives from Ford, Bosch and Bedrock in announcing the development.
After building a similar system with Daimler, Bosch’s partnership with Ford speaks to the lowering cost of entry to the technology. Ford’s demonstration today used a compact SUV with an average price of around $25,000. Daimler’s early systems relied on Mercedes-Benz vehicles costing over $100,000.
Ford CTO Ken Washington says the company is not ready to announce when the valet technology will hit production vehicles. He said today automated valet parking is on the company’s roadmap and the company has heard “loud and clear” that parking is a real pain point.
The agreement is a small fraction of the sum that Volkswagen paid after admitting to emissions cheating in 2015.
A start-up rethinks a little about how to live.
Few could ever forget back in 2015 when security researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek remotely killed a Jeep’s engine on a highway with a Wired reporter at the wheel.
Since then, the car hacking world has bustled with security researchers looking to find new bugs — and ways to exploit them — in a new wave of internet-connected cars that have only existed the past decade.
This year’s Black Hat security conference — albeit virtual, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic — is no different.
Security researchers at the Sky-Go Team, the car hacking unit at Qihoo 360, found more than a dozen vulnerabilities in a Mercedes-Benz E-Class car that allowed them to remotely open its doors and start the engine.
Most modern cars are equipped with an internet connection, giving passengers access to in-car entertainment, navigation and directions, and more radio stations than you can choose from. But hooking up a car to the internet puts it at greater risk of remote attacks — precisely how Miller and Valasek hijacked that Jeep, which ended up in a ditch.
Although vehicle security has gotten better over the past half-decade, Sky-Go’s researchers showed that not even one of the most recent Mercedes-Benz models are impervious to attacks.
In a talk this week, Minrui Yan, head of Sky-Go’s security research team, said the 19 security vulnerabilities were now fixed, but could have affected as many as two million Mercedes-Benz connected cars in China.
Katharina Becker, a spokesperson for Mercedes’ parent company Daimler, pointed to a company statement published late last year after it patched the security issues. The spokesperson said Daimler could not corroborate the estimated number of affected vehicles.
“We addressed all findings and fixed all vulnerabilities that could be exploited before any vehicle in the market was affected,” said the spokesperson.
After more than a year of research, the end result was a series of vulnerabilities that formed an attack chain that could remotely control the vehicle.
To start, the researchers built a testbench to reverse-engineer the car’s components to look for vulnerabilities, dumping the car’s software and analyzing the car’s internals for vulnerabilities.
The researchers then obtained a Series-E car to verify their findings.
At the heart of the research is the E-Series’ telematics control unit, or TCU, which Yan said is the “most crucial” component of the car, as it allows the vehicle to communicate with the internet.
By tampering with the TCU’s file system, the researchers got access to a root shell — a way to run commands with the highest level of access to the vehicle’s internals. With root shell access, the researchers could remotely open the car’s doors.
The TCU file system also stores the car’s secrets, like passwords and certificates, which protect the vehicle from being accessed or modified without proper authorization. But the researchers were able to extract the passwords of several certificates for several different regions, including Europe and China. By obtaining the vehicle’s certificates and their passwords, the researchers could gain deep access to the vehicle’s internal network. The car’s certificate for the China region had a weak password, Yan said, making it easier to hijack a vulnerable car in the country.
Yan said the goal was to get access to the car’s back end, the core of the vehicle’s internal network. As long as the car’s back-end services can be accessed externally, the car is at risk of attacks, the researchers said.
The way the researchers did this was by tearing down the vehicle’s embedded SIM card, which allows the car to talk to the cell networks. A security feature meant the researchers couldn’t plug the SIM into a router without freezing access to the cell network. The researchers modified their router to spoof the vehicle, effectively making the cell network think it was the car.
With the vehicle’s firmware dumped, the networking protocols understood and its certificates obtained and cracked, the researchers say they could remotely control an affected vehicle.
The researchers said the car’s security design was tough and able to withstand a number of attacks, but it was not impervious.
“Making every back-end component secure all the time is hard,” the researchers said. “No company can make this perfect.”
But at least in the case of Mercedes-Benz, its cars are a lot more secure than they were a year ago.
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Station wagons outsell them, but convertibles hold a special place in the hearts of drivers, and automakers still offer a smorgasbord of models.
When Audi briefed Ars on its newest electric car, the part that most piqued our interest was the news that the Q4 e-tron Sportback will feature an augmented reality heads-up display. As we explained in that article, Audi didn’t feel like elaborating much on the new technology. Perhaps it wishes it had, as it’s going to be beaten to the punch by its deadly rival Mercedes-Benz. When the 2021 S-Class debuts in September, the brand’s flagship sedan will offer an AR HUD, among other tech upgrades.
The automaker has even been forthcoming with some technical info on this latest driver assist. It uses a digital mirror device from Texas Instruments—perhaps no surprise given that TI has been developing automotive AR tech for a while now. The DMD has a resolution of 1.3 megapixels (or megamirrors, to be strictly accurate) and projects onto a 10˚ horizontal, 5˚ vertical aperture HUD, with the image appearing 33 feet (10m) away. (Mercedes-Benz says it’s the equivalent of a 77-inch monitor.)
Unfortunately, Mercedes-Benz hasn’t shared any still images of the AR HUD in action, and there were only a few seconds of video in the b-roll that the company provided. But the automaker did helpfully tweet out a longer video this morning, which we’ve embedded below, as it really is the best way to see how the system works. (If the embedded tweet isn’t showing up for you, you can view it here.)
Teaser images and leaked photos of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class suggested the automaker was moving towards a more digital-centric interior. That might have been an understatement.
Mercedes-Benz revealed Monday its second-generation MBUX infotainment system and it is loaded with new technology, including touchscreens, augmented reality head-up display as well as improved voice and facial recognition. Gone are many of the physical switches found in the older version of the S-Class. Mercedes said it removed 27 mechanical switches for the 2021 model.
The upshot: Mercedes’ is linking technology with luxury. And while the entire interior of the new S-Class has yet to be revealed, it appears the company is transitioning away from a rather crowded dash and center console area that in previous models included every kind of analog button and switch as well as newer digital displays.
Before diving into the tech that stands out in the newest version of MBUX, here’s a handy graphic that provides an overview.
The first-generation Mercedes-Benz User Experience or MBUX system was unveiled in January 2018 at the CES tech trade show and debuted in the automaker’s A Class hatchback. That was a departure for Mercedes, which has historically reserved its best tech for its flagship model the S-Class. Mercedes is returning to that strategy with the new version of MBUX heading to the 2021 S-Class.
Here are the highlights.
You read that correctly. The 2021 Mercedes S Class will have up to five touchscreens, which includes displays for passengers. The S-Class will come standardly equipped with 12.8-inch OLED screens that include haptic feedback.
The user can control or access features on the displays by touching or swiping the actual screen or by using voice control, natural hand gestures and now gaze control. Mercedes did hold back on keep some functions like lights and windshield wipers off of the touchscreen. The climate control panel is permanently at the lower edge of the display.
The system will provide the kind of customization an S-Class owner would expect. Preferences can be stored in the vehicle’s personal “Mercedes me” profile. Up to seven different profiles are possible in the vehicle.
The appearance of the screens can also be individualized with a choice of four display styles — discreet, sporty, exclusive and classic. The are three users modes as well to cover navigation, assistance and service. Screen content can also be shared with other passengers.
In the backseat, where up to three screens are optionally available, passengers can share select and amend navigation destinations.
Mercedes has adopted 3D technology into the vehicle, specifically for the driver display. The three-dimensional effect is possible without having to wear 3D glasses, the automaker said.
The company was able to achieve this effect by combining a conventional LCD display with a special pixel structure and a controllable LCD aperture grill. A barrier mask is placed a few millimeters in front of the LCD. The result is that the left and right eye see different pixels of the LCD, creating the illusion of depth.
The 3D display feature can be adjusted to a 2D or flatter graphic.
Mercedes-Benz put an early emphasis on voice in the first-generation of MBUX. The automaker said it has improved its voice assistant further. For instance, certain actions can be triggered without the ‘Hey Mercedes’ activation keyword to accept a phone call or display the navigation map. “Hey Mercedes” can now explain further in-car questions such as, where the first-aid kit is located or how to connect a smartphone via Bluetooth.
The voice assistant now understands commands and questions relating to infotainment sector and vehicle operation in 27 languages. It has also become far more natural and continues to learn — two areas we hope to test. For instance, the voice assistant understands indirect language such as if a user says “I am cold” instead of the clear command “Set temperature in footwell to 72 degrees.”
There’s also a new “Chit-Chat” feature that supplies the right answer to many questions — even questions about animal noises or general knowledge can be answered, Mercedes claims.
Mercedes is all in on the security of this vehicle. The classic PIN entry is still on the S-Class. The automaker has added a new authentication method ensure a high level of security.
The system now combines fingerprint, face and voice recognition. This allows access to individual settings. That extra layer of security isn’t there to protect your seating preference, although perhaps that’s worth protecting. It’s also there to allow users to make payments digitally from within the vehicle.
Safety functions and assistants
Besides the voice assistant, the infotainment system is equipped with other tools to assist the driver.
For instance, there’s a special blind spot warning designed for drivers leaving their vehicle. Sensors and cameras can detect the driver’s intention to leave and will issue warning if there are road users and obstacles alongside the car. Another warning will alert of an unattached child seat on the front passenger seat.
The vehicle will also listen for cues to gauge the alertness level of the driver. If the driver says “I’m tired,” an activation program of energizing comfort control is started. The same sentence from the rear starts a well-being program.
Mercedes-Benz sent out a teaser image and video Monday of its upcoming 2021 S-Class that hints at a sleeker interior that forgoes the bevy of physical knobs and toggles found in previous models in favor of a digital-centric design.
The teasers illustrate a movement in the automotive industry popularized by Tesla to incorporate large touchscreens in new models.
Little is known about Mercedes’ next-generation MBUX infotainment system, which will debut in the 2021 S-Class. It appears, based on Mercedes’ teaser image and latest video as well as leaked photos that a large portrait-style touchscreen will be the centerpiece of the new MBUX system. Mercedes didn’t reveal the size of the screen or what functions will be incorporated into it. However, it appears that the climate control functions are headed to the central touchscreen.
More information about the system and the S-Class is coming in just a couple of days. Mercedes-Benz will unveil the next-gen MBUX system at 5:30 a.m. EDT July 8 as part of a series of digital reveals that will give snippets of information on the 2021 S-Class. The other videos are set for July 29 and August 12. The world premiere of the S-Class is expected to be held in September.
The first-generation Mercedes-Benz User Experience or MBUX system was unveiled in January 2018 at the CES tech trade show and debuted in the automaker’s A Class hatchback. That was a departure for Mercedes, which has historically reserved its best tech for its highest-class models — the S-Class being the first vehicle to typically get the latest and greatest tech. Mercedes appears to be returning to that strategy with the new version of MBUX heading to the 2021 S-Class.
The next-gen MBUX will likely continue its emphasis on voice, if the video with Daimler board member Markus Schäfer is any indication. The 2021 Mercedes S-Class will also have a head-up display, according to the video.
The bustling R.V. business gets a jolt from a ritzy new Mercedes-Benz rig.
BMW Group and Mercedes-Benz AG have punted on what was meant to be a long term collaboration to develop next-generation automated driving technology together, less than a year after announcing the agreement.
The German automakers called the break up “mutual and amicable” and have each agreed to concentrate on their existing development paths. Those new paths may include working with new or current partners. The two companies also emphasized that cooperation may be resumed at a later date.
The partnership, which was announced in July 2019, was never meant to be exclusive. Instead, it reflected the increasingly common approach among legacy manufacturers to form loose development agreements in an aim to share the capitally intensive work of developing, testing and validating automated driving technology.
The two companies did have some lofty goals. The partnership aimed to develop driver assistance systems, highly automated driving on highways, and automated parking and launch those technology in series vehicles scheduled for 2024.
It seems that the perceived benefits of working together were overshadowed by reality: creating a shared technology platform was a more complex and expensive task than expected, according to comments from the companies. BMW and Mercedes-Benz AG said they were unable to hold detailed expert discussions and talk to suppliers about technology roadmaps until the contract was signed last year.
“In these talks — and after extensive review — both sides concluded that, in view of the expense involved in creating a shared technology platform, as well as current business and economic conditions, the timing is not right for successful implementation of the cooperation,” the companies said.
BMW and Mercedes have other projects and partners. BMW, for instance, is part of a collaboration with Intel, Mobileye, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ansys. Daimler and Bosch launched a robotaxi pilot project in San Jose last year.
Meanwhile, both companies are still working together in other areas. Five years, BMW and Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, joined Audi AG to acquire location and technology platform HERE. That ownership consortium has since grown to include more companies.
And last year, BMW Group and Daimler AG also pooled their mobility services in a joint venture under the umbrella of the NOW family.
Separately, BMW said Friday it will cut 6,000 jobs in an agreement reached with the German Works Council. The cuts, prompted by sluggish sales caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, will be reportedly accomplished through early retirement, non-renewal of temporary contracts, ending redundant positions and not filling vacant positions, Marketwatch reported.
Mercedes-Benz is now selling its EQV 300 all-electric premium van in Europe, the second EV to come out of the automaker’s initiative to produce a line of battery-powered models under its new EQ brand.
A concept version of the EQV was first shown in March 2019. But unlike so many concepts destined for nonexistence, this one was marked for series production. The EQV, which can seat up to eight people, is designed to appeal to customers seeking a more luxurious ride. The base price of €71,388 (about $78,359) provides a hint at who Mercedes is targeting.
Mercedes is marketing this toward families, upscaled adventurers and corporate clients who might be looking for a shuttle vehicle. The vehicle’s seating can be configured in numerous ways to meet various customers’ needs. It also can be customized for packages, not people.
The EQV comes with a compact electric drivetrain on the front axle that produces 150 kW, or 201 horsepower, as well as a 100 kWh battery pack, and can travel an estimated 418 km (260 miles) under Europe’s WLTP standards. The company is also showcasing its MBUX infotainment system in the EV, which has a number of tech-forward features, such as a self-learning voice control system with connectivity features.
Mercedes is selling the EQV 300 and a longer wheelbase version called AVANTGARDE. Both will be produced at the company’s plant in Vitoria in northern Spain, alongside the V-Class and the Mercedes-Benz Vito.
The van comes with a four-year maintenance plan that covers the battery up to 160,000 km, or eight years. Buyers also get the company’s navigation services for free for 36 months, as well as a membership to EV charger Ionity each for one year. Owners will also have one-year free access to Mercedes me Charge. The feature shows the charging infrastructure network in Europe and lets users start, stop and pay for charging via the Mercedes me app, a credit card or through the media display in the vehicle.
Mercedes announced its “EQ” technology brand in 2016. Since then the company has unveiled several EQ- related concepts as well as its first series-production vehicle, the EQC electric drive SUV. The company has previously said it plans to invest more than $12 billion to produce a line of battery-powered models under its new EQ brand and spend another $1.2 billion in global battery production.
In 1980, Volkswagen built the ARVW concept car, the most aerodynamic vehicle it has ever created. It achieved a drag coefficient (Cd) of just 0.15. By contrast, most road cars have a Cd of between 0.3-0.4. [credit: Volkswagen ]
With no car launches to work on thanks to COVID-19, some automakers’ press offices are filling the gap by digging into the archives to share interesting stuff with the rest of us. On Thursday, Volkswagen North America reached out to tell us about the company’s most aerodynamic car ever. It was called the Aerodynamic Research Volkswagen, and it was built in 1980 as a demonstration of how to make a vehicle as slippery as possible, with a drag coefficient (Cd) of just 0.15. Powered by a 177hp (132kW) 2.4L inline-six cylinder engine, the ARVW reached a speed of 225mph (362km/h) at the Nardo test track in southern Italy. But the ARVW isn’t the lowest-drag vehicle ever built, just the lowest-drag VW. So what is the most aerodynamic car of all time?
When Tesla revealed its Model 3 sedan a few years ago, it was justifiably proud of the car’s Cd of 0.23, which bettered the Models S and X by 0.01. Tesla didn’t optimize the Model 3’s aerodynamics just for bragging rights. The lower a car’s drag, the further it can go per unit of energy because it doesn’t have to work as hard to push its way through the air. However, a Model 3 is only this slippery through the air when the car’s 18-inch wheels are fitted with the aero wheel covers, something Car and Driver put to the test late last year. (If you’re a Model 3 owner and into hypermiling, you can cut your car’s drag—and thereby boost its range—even further by fitting aftermarket front- and rear spoilers.)
But the Model 3 isn’t the lowest-drag car to have gone into production. Porsche’s Taycan battery EV bested Tesla’s best when it went on sale last year. Both the Taycan Turbo and Taycan 4S manage a Cd of 0.22, although again, only with the most aerodynamic wheels fitted. The Taycan Turbo S uses a different design and in the wind tunnel, that adds 0.03 to the Cd.
Audi’s vehicles have shown up in plenty of movies recently, but this RSQ e-tron concept car was designed just for Spies in Disguise. [credit: Audi ]
One of the more jarring things about movies for the last couple of decades, to me at least, has been the heavy product placement that comes with the price of admission. You know the sort of thing—a shot that needlessly lingers on a beer bottle’s label or a car’s badge before moving to the actual drama of a scene. Sure, it gets the product in front of the audiences’ eyeballs, but it often ruins any suspension of disbelief that was going on at the time. But on Wednesday, Audi gave us a look at the other side of that equation by posting a Q&A with Kai Mensing, its head of international product placement.
Mensing has been in his role for a decade now, during which time we’ve seen Audis show up in, among other things, Transformers: Age of Extinction as well as several Marvel movies and (to my surprise, because I haven’t seen them) the various Fifty Shades films.
But the car company has been helping movie makers with cars for a lot longer—Mensing points to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial as the first, which saw an Audi 5000 sedan share a little screen time with the brown wrinkly alien and his young costars. The company also provided a first-generation S8 sedan for what might have been the last truly good car chase movie—John Frankenheimer’s Ronin. (Frankenheimer was a true petrolhead and director of 1966’s Grand Prix, so the man knew how to film things on four wheels.)
Mercedes-Benz evidently visited Washington DC at some point because this 2020 CLA 250 is driving along the Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown.
Over 35 years ago, it irked a number of Mercedes executives and insiders when people referred to the then-new 190E sedan as the “baby Benz.” Full disclosure, I worked at the company in the early 2000s and even by then, there were still people at headquarters who scrunched their noses and furrowed their brows at the term.
Yet now, we’re well into another era of baby Benzes. Not only is there currently a second-generation of the CLA, there’s also the even smaller A-Class. Both are compact and front-drive-oriented small sedans that borrow much of their form factors from the larger CLS, itself a design hit. Yet, the CLA wears the silly “four-door coupe” descriptor Mercedes gives it and others, while the A-class—which is clearly cut from the same design cloth—is classified as a sedan and not a “coupe.”
For 2020, the CLA comes in three main flavors
The new CLA is larger in nearly every way than the previous generation, which helps it distance itself from the even smaller A-class sedan, though it shares a platform with the junior Mercedes. The CLA is actually 5.5 inches longer than the A-class and starts at $37,645, including destination, almost $4,000 more expensive.
As the company also today announced, it now has over 10,000 users and more than 100 paying customers. With that, it’s seeing a 10x increase in its year-over-year annual run rate, though without knowing the exact numbers, it’s obviously hard to know what exactly to make of that number. Current customers include the likes of Cockroach Labs, Mercedes-Benz and Tableau .
When the company first launched, its messaging was very much around containers and serverless. But as Pulumi founder and CEO Joe Duffy told me, today the company is often directly engaging with infrastructure teams that are building the platforms for the engineers in their respective companies.
As for Pulumi 2.0, Duffy says that “this is really taking the original Pulumi vision of infrastructure as code — using your favorite language — and augmenting it with what we’re calling superpowers.” That includes expanding the product’s overall capabilities from infrastructure provisioning to the adjacent problem spaces. That includes continuous delivery, but also policy-as-code. This extends the original Pulumi vision beyond just infrastructure but now also lets developers encapsulate their various infrastructure policies as code, as well.
Another area is testing. Because Pulumi allows developers to use “real” programming languages, they can also use the same testing techniques they are used to from the application development world to test the code they use to build their underlying infrastructure and catch mistakes before they go into production. And with all of that, developers can also use all of the usual tools they use to write code for defining the infrastructure that this code will then run on.
“The underlying philosophy is taking our heritage of using the best of what we know and love about programming languages — and really applying that to the entire spectrum of challenges people face when it comes to cloud infrastructure, from development to infrastructure teams to security engineers, really helping the entire organization be more productive working together,” said Duffy. “I think that’s the key: moving from infrastructure provisioning to something that works for the whole organization.”
Duffy also highlighted that many of the company’s larger enterprise users are relying on Pulumi to encode their own internal architectures as code and then roll them out across the company.
“We still embrace what makes each of the clouds special. AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and Kubernetes,” Duffy said. “We’re not trying to be a PaaS that abstracts over all. We’re just helping to be the consistent workflow across the entire team to help people adopt the modern approaches.”
Some automakers plan to restart factories on Monday, but are likely to face a dearth of buyers.