After the last few months, Tesla was due for some good news and last week it got it. Its Q4 revenue and earnings just beat Wall Street expectations, despite a series of seemingly desperate price cuts in the past two months. Elon Musk even suggests he wants Teslas to be cheap(er), but we’d urge caution on this front: he’s said this before, only to later renege. Separately, the Tesla/Twitter CEO is seen meeting with top Biden administration officials, despite the many tweets he’s penned at the president’s expense.
Lower EV prices would certainly be welcome, especially since falling gas prices and rising electricity rates may push consumers back towards combustion engines. It’s just too bad that U.S. leaders are focusing so much on making cars cleaner and more affordable and so little on supporting something that is much cleaner and much more affordable: public transit.
Mercedes is the first automaker to get state government approval to offer a Level 3 autonomous driving system to the general public. California rethinks its ban on autonomous semis, while San Francisco officials urge the state to undo some of the autonomous ride-hailing that it has previously authorized in the Bay Area.
Some good news for Tesla: Although Tesla’s Q4 vehicle sales fell short of Wall Street expectations, the $24.3 billion in revenue it brought in actually exceeded them by $100 million despite sharply reducing prices in December. Elon Musk suggests that the recent series of price cuts reflect a long-term pivot to becoming a widely affordable mass market automaker. Granted, Musk has hardly been consistent on the subject: sometimes he extols the idea of cheap Teslas and other times he says they’re not necessary, claiming that robo-taxis are right around the corner.
Daimler goes to the next level: Mercedes Benz becomes the first automaker to receive state government approval for the use of a Level 3 autonomous system. Its self-driving software, Drive Pilot, requires drivers’ faces to remain visible to the in-car cameras, but it allows them to play a game on the car’s infotainment system or turn their heads to talk to a passenger for extended periods of time. The Nevada permit limits the speed to 40 mph, however. Expect some controversy, especially when crashes are linked to the system: some critics argue that it is unrealistic to expect people to largely surrender control of driving to a machine and remain attentive enough to take control if necessary.
Newsom reconsiders AV trucking ban: California currently prohibits testing or commercial use of autonomous vehicles over 10,000 pounds, but advances in technology and industry pressure are prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom to consider changes to the law. Legislators from both parties, however, are already pushing legislation to require human operators to be present in any autonomous truck.
…while San Francisco pushes back on Waymo and Cruise: City transportation officials urge state regulators to hit the brakes on the expansion of driverless ride-hailing, citing a series of accidents involving autonomous cars operated by Waymo and Cruise. Among other requests, they asked regulators to prohibit driverless ride-hailing in San Francisco’s downtown and during peak traffic times in the morning and evening.
Musk meets with Biden officials: The Tesla CEO meets with close advisers to the president he last year referred to as a “damp sock puppet in human form.” He was seen walking into a building in downtown Washington D.C. with John Podesta, who advises Biden on clean energy, and Mitch Landrieu, a special adviser who oversees infrastructure spending. While Biden has become a major booster of EVs, he has mostly promoted union-made Detroit brands, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by Musk.
More layoffs at Tier: The German micromobility operator, which laid off 180 workers in August, lays off another 100 employees among its several divisions, including scooter company Spin. Like many other micromobility groups, Tier is now shifting from a focus on growth at all costs to profitability.
Tier, Dott & Lime win Madrid permits: The Spanish capital awards Dott, Tier and Lime permits to deploy a combined 6,000 e-scooters, equally divided among the three. Madrid’s approach reflects that of an increasing number of European cities as they seek to expand micromobility while imposing strict regulations on who can operate, how many vehicles they can deploy and where they can be used and parked. Some companies have also begun avoiding cities that allow unlimited scooter operators, determining that it’s impossible to turn a profit in such unregulated markets.
MightyFly gets mightier: The San Francisco startup unveils its latest autonomous hybrid vertical takeoff freight aircraft, which can carry up to 100 pounds and go up to 600 miles on a charge. The company, which for the past year has been conducting remotely piloted test flights in California, aims to develop a point-to-point model for deliveries it believes will be more cost-effective than the traditional hub-and-spoke freight model.
Lower gas prices make ICEs cheaper than EVs: The economic case for EVs got a big boost last year as gas prices surged, but with prices down to around $3 a gallon in many U.S. regional markets and the cost of electricity trending up, ICEs have reclaimed a slight affordability advantage. That’s what an analysis by the Anderson Economic Group concludes. It finds that ICE owners spend $11.29 per 100 miles on the road, while EV owners who rely on at-home charging spend slightly more: $11.60. EV owners who rely on public charging spend substantially more: $14.40
EVs are overshadowing the need for transit: In CityLab, Skylar Woodhouse and Saleha Mohsin talk to environmental and transit advocates who are frustrated with the comparatively little talk about public transit as part of America’s decarbonization strategy. Even the tens of billions of dollars for transit included in the bipartisan infrastructure law fall far short of what American cities need to offer a compelling alternative to driving.
The climate policy trade wars: The New York Times examines how policies aimed at curbing climate change are prompting trade tensions, including between long-time allies. Those who previously dismissed trade barriers as harming consumers are now more open to policies that favor domestic products, which don’t need to be shipped as far.
What have local climate action plans accomplished? The American Bar Association reviews climate action policies passed by cities across the U.S., from Los Angeles to Bayfield, Wis., and finds that although some of them are little more than symbolic statements of support for combating global warming, others are leading to meaningful shifts in land use and transportation policy.
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