Well, another tough week for Tesla and the law. Federal regulators are expanding their investigation into crashes involving Autopilot and a judge in California shoots down an attempt by the automaker to stop a racial bias suit.
President Joe Biden’s climate accomplishments have fallen far short of what environmentalists hoped, but on the bright side his administration is moving ahead with standards for how $7.5 billion for EV infrastructure should be spent. Weather experts foresee an unusually hot summer, a stark reminder of the consequences of climate inaction.
On the tech front we take a look at Superpedestrian’s unusually heavy e-scooter, Nimbus’s electric moped with a roof, Hyundai’s driverless ride-hailing service in Seoul, and Baidu-backed startup Jidu’s efforts to build a largely autonomous car.
An Autopilot upgrade –– the bad kind: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it is upgrading its investigation of Tesla crashes involving Autopilot from a preliminary evaluation to an engineering analysis. Regulators will be looking at more data as well as analyzing the vehicles themselves to determine whether aspects of the driver assistance program distract the driver or otherwise make it less likely that the driver will take control of the car if necessary.
Tesla hits back at civil rights suit: The automaker says the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing did not conduct a proper investigation before filing suit over alleged racial bias at its assembly plant in Fremont, Calif. A judge, however, rejects Tesla’s request to prevent the lawsuit from proceeding.
A moped with a roof: That’s close to describing the tiny EV prototype unveiled by Nimbus, a Michigan-based early-stage startup. The one-seat, three-wheeled vehicle is 2.75 feet wide and 7.5 feet long and tops out at 50 mph.
Biden lays out charging standards: The Biden administration proposes rules governing how to spend the $7.5 billion set aside for EV charging infrastructure in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed last year. Among other things, the proposed rules would require a charging station every 50 miles on federal highways and would require that each station have at least four DC fast chargers.
Hyundai starts driverless ride-hailing: The Korean automaker kicks off an autonomous ride-hailing service, RoboRide, in Seoul’s Gangam district. Customers who hail a ride through the RoboRide app will get a lift in a Hyundai Ioniq 5, which boasts Level 4 autonomous capability. For now, however, there will be a safety driver on board.
Fenix expands: Abu Dhabi-based micromobility startup Fenix launches a ride-hailing service in Manama, Bahrain and plans to enter two more markets in the coming months. It has also begun offering ultra-fast courier service in certain parts of Istanbul, Doha, Mersin and Abu Dhabi that extends its 10-minute grocery service to “anything” you might want delivered. Unless it is charging a hefty premium for the convenience, some think it will likely struggle to make the business profitable.
Faraday eyes factory in China: Despite the cloud of an SEC investigation and serious money problems, EV startup Faraday Future says it plans to open a factory in China by 2025, where it hopes to both manufacture and sell vehicles. Like a number of other EV startups that have gone public via SPAC, Faraday is being investigated over allegations of providing inaccurate information to investors. Its Chinese founder, who resigned as CEO in April, has refused to return to China to face financial fraud charges there. It has still not entered production on its long-delayed first vehicle, the FF91 luxury SUV, and it apparently lacks the capital to manufacture its planned second vehicle. But, hey.
San Fran rebukes State on Cruise: State regulators in California have given Cruise the greenlight to charge for driverless rides in parts of San Francisco. However, leaders in the Golden City aren’t on board with the plan. City officials argue that Cruise is not capable of picking up and dropping passengers off at the curb, a claim the GM-backed startup vehemently contests. Also, says the city, it has not figured out who to hold accountable if the driverless cars break the law.
A car ‘from the future’ in China? Wired takes a look at how Chinese tech giant Baidu is leveraging its AI prowess to become a major player in the auto industry. The most recent example is the Jidu Robo-1, a car unveiled last week by Jidu, a startup backed by Baidu and automaker Geely. The company says the car will be able to operate autonomously on most roads with driver supervision and will cost roughly $30,000. What would Robin Chase say…?
Can scooters grow up? What has to happen for e-scooters to become a major part of urban mobility? For one, scooters need to become safer and they need to become profitable. Bloomberg CityLab looks at Superpedestrian, the startup that has developed what has been described as the “Volvo” of e-scooters. At 60 pounds, it is far heavier than its peers but it hopefully offers a much smoother, safer ride.
Biden is losing on climate change: Hopes that Joe Biden’s presidency would lead to major climate action are beginning to fade. His Build Back Better legislation, which included a major EV tax credit and policies to increase the use of renewable power, has stalled in the Senate. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is expected to sharply limit his administration’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide. With Republicans likely to win back control of Congress in November, environmentalists ponder what they’ll get out of a presidency that began with so much hope.
Get ready for a long, hot summer: USA Today offers a sobering look at the many consequences of what has already been an unusually hot year.
A tradition worth revisiting: It was 100 years ago today, Bloomberg CityLab recalls, that Baltimore erected a memorial to children killed by cars. Maybe it’s time for local governments to consider doing something similar.
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