Auto enthusiasts had a lot to talk about at CES 2023, the annual tech conference in Las Vegas that took place last week. RAM unveiled its first electric truck and Honda and Sony offered us a taste of what their auto-entertainment collaboration means: a sleek sedan equipped with 45 cameras and sensors. Plus, Mercedes Benz announced plans for its own EV charging network and Swedish motorbike maker Cake showed off a new e-bike with a battery that will last for over 200 miles on a charge.
But amidst the flurry of EV announcements, David Zipper suggests that monster electric trucks may be better than their gas-guzzling forebears, but they carry many of the same risks, notably to human life. Similarly, amidst rising road deaths in the U.S., what should regulators make of the super-fast accelerations being promoted by EV brands?
Meanwhile, Tesla’s rough patch continues: it slashes prices in China in hopes of regaining market share, angering existing Tesla owners. Mexico City’s subway system suffers another tragic malfunction. A judge blocks a mandated pay increase for New York City ride-hailing drivers that Uber said would have increased fares 10%. And yet, economics writer Timothy Lee suggests that Uber and Lyft could stand to significantly cut costs besides driver pay. Indeed, he argues it’s what they need to do if they ever hope to turn a profit and deliver on the promise of offering a leaner, cheaper service than the taxi cabs of yore.
Tesla slashes prices in China: Tesla cuts prices for the Model 3 and Model Y in China for the second time in three months, echoing the generous end-of-year discounts it offered American buyers in December. Tesla dropped the prices of the Model 3 by $5,240 to $33,415 and it cut the price of a Model Y by $4,220 to $37,775. Unfortunately for Tesla, the big discount angers existing Tesla owners who missed out on the deal. The price cuts reflect what appears to be softening demand for Teslas in the world’s largest auto market due to increased competition from domestic rivals, notably BYD and SAIC-GM-Wuling. Tesla’s share of the EV market in China has dropped from 33% in 2019 to 15%.
Afeela good about this: A year after announcing plans to collaborate on an EV, Honda and Sony unveil a prototype at CES: a sleek four-door sedan equipped with 45 cameras and sensors under the brand name Afeela. The companies promise the vehicles, which will be manufactured at Honda facilities in the U.S., will feature Level 3 autonomy and be delivered in North America in 2026.
Google releases new HD maps for AVs: Google Automotive Services releases an HD mapping application to help ADAS driving systems navigate roads. Polestar and Volvo have announced they will integrate the application in the Polestar 3 and the VolvoEX90. The application is not visible to the driver; it transmits directly to the L2 or L3 driver assistance programs.
Benz joins the charging race: Mercedes Benz announces plans to build a global network of 10,000 EV chargers by 2030. Curiously, the German automaker will first focus on the U.S. and Canada, saying it will move on to Europe, China and “other key markets” later on. In North America it plans to roll out 400 charging hubs, each of which will have 30 chargers. They’ll be open to anyone, but Benz owners will get perks, such as the ability to reserve a charger ahead of time. It will be interesting to see how the 400 hubs are distributed … how many will the LA area alone have? How many states won’t have any?
Ram unveils its first EV: The Detroit truck brand reveals the 1500 Revolution pick-up concept that it says will be delivered at some point next year. Ram, a division of Stellantis, is playing catch-up with Ford, whose F-150 Lightning has already proven popular, and GM, poised to deliver the Silverado EV later this year.
Another Mexico City subway crash: One person is dead and dozens are injured after two subway cars collided in Mexico City, home to one of the largest subway systems in the world. It’s not yet clear what allowed the two trains to crash. This comes less than two years after a subway line in the city collapsed, killing 26. These tragic incidents risk undermining public confidence for public transit in a city already choked by congestion and severe pollution.
In contrast…Hong Kong: An analysis by Oliver Wyman declares Hong Kong’s public transit system the best in the world based on its ridership, network design, high-quality infrastructure and affordability. The other cities that made the top ten are, in order of rank, Zurich, Stockholm, Singapore, Helsinki, Oslo, Tokyo, Paris, Berlin and London. Alas, no surprise not a single North American city makes the cut.
Judge sides with Uber on New York pay raise: A judge in New York agrees with Uber that the New York Taxi & Limousine Commission relied on flawed methodology when it required ride-hailing services to increase pay for drivers by 7 percent per ride and 16 percent per mile. The commission’s mandate would have forced Uber to increase spending by $23 million more per month, which the company claims would have led it to raise fares by 10%.
An e-bike with 200 miles of range: Swedish motorbike maker Cake releases its first e-bike, the Cake Åik. The bike doesn’t go particularly fast –– the pedal-assist tops out at 20 mph in the U.S. and 16 mph in Europe –– but it can carry 176 lbs of cargo and its battery can go for up to 224 miles. At $6,500, you might have to sell your car to afford it. But that’s the idea.
EVs are bringing out the worst in us: Writing in the Atlantic, transportation pundit David Zipper argues that the EV revolution is preserving many of the worst trends in automaking, including Detroit’s focus on big, expensive SUVs. These mammoth vehicles aren’t particularly green even if they are electric and they make American roads less safe.
The danger of extreme acceleration: In Bloomberg CityLab, Dan Albert describes the dangers of cars that can so quickly achieve super-fast speeds. Tesla now claims that its Model S Plaid, for instance, can hit 60 mph in two seconds. Should this be legal?
Why do Uber and Lyft spend so much? In Slate, Timothy Lee recounts his recent experience driving for Lyft, where he received about 52% of what his customers paid for the rides. He comes to a startling conclusion: Uber and Lyft are likely spending way more of their revenue on overhead than a traditional taxi company. He wonders if a big cut in staffing could allow them to finally be profitable.
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