The White House is fed up with the Post Office’s inaction on electrification and automakers are giving up on Congress passing new regulations to support AVs. But to be clear, it’s unlikely that new AV laws would allow for cars to roll through stop signs, as Tesla’s Full Self Driving system has been doing.
Ford’s multi-billion dollar revamp: After pledging last year to invest $30 billion in EVs through 2025, Ford says it will pour an additional $10-20 billion into electrification over the next 5-10 years. The auto giant is also pondering spinning off part of the company into an SPAC focused on lower-volume specialty electric vehicles. Overseeing the aggressive pivot to EVs is Doug Field, whose past roles include an executive position at Tesla and overseeing Apple’s car project.
Key to Ford’s goal of becoming a dominant EV player is finding ways to bring down the costs of new vehicles.
Don’t forget GM: America’s largest auto manufacturer sold less than 25,000 EVs last year, but CEO Mary Barra says it will deliver 400,000 in North America by the end of 2023. How? By coming out with 20 new electric models over the next three years and dramatically increasing EV manufacturing capacity, including building a third plant to manufacture electric trucks. One data point that seems to lend credence to Barra’s talk: 110,000 have already made reservations for the electric Chevy Silverado.
Going Postal on EVs: The Biden administration is putting pressure on the U.S. Postal Service to step back from a multi-billion dollar contract it signed with Oshkosh Defense a year ago to build its next generation of delivery vehicles. In a letter to USPS, EPA administrator Vicki Arroyo says that the fleet proposed by Oshkosh, which would only be 10% electric, is unacceptable. The executive branch has no control over USPS, but White House officials have argued that the contract is based on a flawed environmental analysis and have suggested the administration might sue to halt it.
How the pandemic changed groceries: Americans purchased $98 billion in groceries online in 2021, according to an analysis by grocery consultants Brick Meets Click and Mercatus. In August of 2019, Americans only did about $2 billion of online grocery shopping, but since the pandemic hit in March of 2020 the monthly total has typically ranged between $8-9 billion. Of the $8.9 billion in December sales, goods worth $1.8 billion were shipped directly to customers’ homes, while the rest were either picked up at the grocery store or delivered from the store –– either by the grocer itself or a third-party app.
Free rides for the youth: In an effort to ease economic hardship, reduce carbon emissions and boost ridership on pandemic-battered public transit services, Scotland eliminates bus fares for those under 22.
GM explores battery options: GM Ventures, the automaker’s investment arm, is one of a number of investors pumping money into Soelect, a battery startup based in Greensboro, N.C. that just raised $11 million in a Series A round. The company is partnering with another startup, SolidEnergy Systems, to build a prototyping plant in Massachusetts. In the near future, its main battery supplier will be LG Chem, the Korean manufacturer with whom it is building two battery plants. However, like other automakers, GM clearly wants to keep its options open.
Paris gets a gondola: Transit authorities authorize construction of the city’s first gondola, which will link neighborhoods in the southeastern suburbs to a metro line that goes into the city proper. The gondola is scheduled to be running by 2025.
Transit is a civil rights issue: In Virginia, civil rights activists commemorate the birthday of Rosa Parks, declaring it “Transit Equity Day” and calling on local and state governments to invest more in public transportation.
Full Self Driving needs to Full Self Stop: Tesla recalls a feature of Full Self Driving that allows cars to roll through stop signs at four-way stops at about 5.6 mph. The over-the-air recall affects 54,000 cars. It’s pretty striking that the system was designed to break the law –– even if rolling stops are widely tolerated in many jurisdictions, they are almost never legal.
AV bill remains stalled: Little comes of the first congressional hearing on AVs in two years. At the urging of the auto industry, members of congress drew up legislation nearly five years ago aimed at facilitating the production and testing of AVs by exempting manufacturers from certain requirements, such as including steering wheels and pedals. However, bickering over safety regulations has stalled the legislation, prompting automakers to turn their attention to the Biden administration, hoping that it can make things easier through the federal rules-making process.
Testing your autonomy: Swedish startup Annotell raises $24 million to develop software that tests the perception capabilities of autonomous driving systems. CEO Daniel Langkilde describes the software as a “vision exam” for AVs, except that the exam is based on scrutinizing the data the system relies on.
Dott gets money to expand: The Amsterdam-based e-scooter rental service raises $70 million, pushing its total fundraising to roughly $210 million. The company plans to expand into new markets as well as to offer e-bikes in addition to scooters.
What should a scooter sound like? Researchers at British university UCL are collaborating with scooter operators, including TIER, Lime and Dott, to create a universal sound for scooters to alert nearby pedestrians.
The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo falls in love with a Cadillac Escalade –– and rightfully feels guilty.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Julie Tremaine looks at the enduring influence of Disneyland’s monorail on U.S. transportation.
Kudos to our friend Prof Jinhua Zhao and his great team at the MIT Mobility Initiative for a terrific year of achievement. Here’s their annual report.
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