In today’s digest, we check in on progress (or lack thereof) of a federal infrastructure bill, look at IEEE’s suggested methods of autonomous car testing, and more.
March 15, 2018
In today’s digest, we promote an upcoming AV forum in Madison, and take a look at the car giants versus the tech giants in the race to roll out autonomous and electric vehiclces.
Don’t Miss Our Monthly Autonomous Vehicle Forum!
This coming Tuesday, March 20, at American Family Insurance (6000 American Parkway, Madison, WI) we’ll be hosting our monthly AV forum from 9:00am-10:00am. Our speakers this month are Todd Smith of Godfrey & Kahn and Sean Kely of Mannik Smith Group.
Todd Smith will speak on Auto Liability Standards in the AV Era. He will discuss how AV technology will transform personal injury and insurance law from a civil justice standpoint. Sean Kelley’s presentation will focus on test facilities for advancing connected and autonomous vehicles and why autonomous vehicles are critically important to humanity on a global scale. To RSVP, please click here.
Is Tesla’s Battery Draining? OEMs Gear Up for EVs
It’s been a rough week for Tesla, the brainchild of Elon Musk. Tesla has long been considered a major player in the autonomous vehicle realm, owing to the strength of its founder’s willingness to take risks, test innovative approaches to the technology — e.g. Musk’s well-known resistance to LiDAR scanners and (now-dissolved) partnership with Mobileye — and, let’s be honest, his penchant to grab headlines with strongly-worded statements in defense of his vision.
Like in 2016, when he brushed off a reporter who thought his quick time-frame for when AVs might hit the road came at the cost of safety precautions: “If, in writing some article that’s negative, you effectively dissuade people from using an autonomous vehicle, you’re killing people. Next question.”
Musk is a pure AV believer, and we tend to agree with his sentiments as expressed on that phone call. He was also a believer in electric vehicles before it was cool. But what’s changed between then and now: major automakers have also become true believers in the AV/EV age to come. And they let it be known at this week’s Geneva Motor Show.
NBC reports on it in a piece they’ve called “Taunting Tesla: Mainstream Automakers are Gearing Up to Challenge Elon Musk”: “It will be difficult for anyone attending this week’s Geneva Motor Show to miss the massive banner hanging outside the city’s sprawling convention center.
‘Your turn, Elon,’ shouts the message from Hyundai promoting its all-new Kona, a mainstream-priced, long-range battery-electric SUV that targets a market segment that Tesla CEO Elon Musk only hopes to enter a couple years from now.”
In other words, major automakers are openly trolling Elon Musk with banners and TV ads, promoting features that Tesla’s upcoming Model 3 doesn’t even quite have.
The NBC report notes that electric vehicles from Hyundai, Nissan, and Ford, among others, offer “far greater range, improved comfort and significantly more power than first-generation electric vehicles”, which “poses a potentially serious challenge for Tesla as it loses the technological edge that, until recently, made it a unique alternative to conventional cars.” An analyst quoted in the piece calls it a “calculated assault coming from mainstream automakers” against Tesla. To add insult to injury, the piece also notes that car dealerships have been reporting a wave of buyers who have asked for their $1,000 Tesla Model 3 reservation fee back and are using it toward purchases of Chevy Bolts.
The big OEMs are serious about this move. GM will have 25 battery-electric vehicle models by 2023, and Volkswagen is reported to have 50 coming. As do most of the other major auto manufacturers.
The pain doesn’t end there, though. Also breaking this week, per Bloomberg: VW Just Gave Tesla a $25 Billion Battery Shock. Yes, $25 billion worth of battery supplies got scooped up by Volkswagen recently. They’ll be used to outfit 16 factories to make electric vehicles by the end of 2022, up from their current three. Their plan is to build 3 million EVs a year by 2025. It’s being called “one of the biggest purchasing initiatives in the auto industry” ever.
VW CEO Matthias Mueller says beginning next year they’ll be rolling out a new battery-powered model “virtually every month”. And Volkswagen, along with the rest of the German consortium, has already carved out a big piece of the autonomous vehicle pie as well, with its acquisition of HERE Maps, whose Live Maps technology — the self-healing basemap software for autonomous vehicles — will be integrated into all new VW models.
Where does all this leave Tesla? VW’s spending plan for battery supplied and powerpacks dwarfs Tesla’s by more than 40%. And that’s just VW, to say nothing of GM, Chevrolet, Hyundai… the list goes on.
Maybe that’s why Musk trolled himself a bit at South by Southwest this week. Tongue undoubtedly in cheek, he said investing in rockets and battery-powered cars are “the dumbest possible things to do.” He was making a good point: that sometimes it’s not profitable to do the things that humanity as a whole needs the most. But one has to wonder if he’s wishing he’d promoted his ideas a little more softly before they were ready.
Meanwhile, Musk’s focus seems to have shifted a bit as all this has gone on: he’s filed a permit for an “old school drive-in, roller-skates and rock restaurant” that doubles as a Tesla Supercharger station in Santa Monica. It never hurts to have a fallback plan.
This situation does go deeper than just Musk: the big tech companies, who have deeper pockets and wider rosters of engineering and AI talent, are also being called out by automakers. For further reading on this topic, check this out: Car Companies No Longer Scared of Geek Giants. Whether or not the OEMs are right, or if they’re even being honest when they say they’re no longer scared of the “geek giants”, one thing is clear: this race is heating up, and fast.
- Speaking of EVs: according to a new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the electric vehicles we mentioned above are even more eco-friendly than they were before. This is thanks to the electric grid itself becoming greener as natural gas takes the place of coal.
- The cities of the future will be monitored by… benches? Audi Italia piloted a smart city concept in which benches, self-powered by solar panels, monitored climate conditions, noise pollution and solar activity in the mountain town of Cortina, Italy. They were wildly popular, probably in part because “Each served as a free Wi-Fi hotspot. Mobile devices could be recharged through USB ports. And since the benches would be out in the winter time, the seats were heated.”
- Here’s a great V2X primer for those of you that are interested in how cars and infrastructure will “talk amongst themselves” and you want some specifics, or if you want to brush up on your already impressive level of knowledge. ZDNet gives you the basics with lots of helpful illustrations and charts, and even fills you in on the standards that are being tossed around for V2X — IEEE’s 802.21p and the newer C-V2X specs, which are backed by Qualcomm.
What do you think — about any of these stories or the other ongoing developments in the realms of next-gen transportation or smart cities? Contact us and let us know. If you write something really great, we might even quote you next time, so don’t be shy, join the conversation!More