News from Tesla, Polestar, Plus.ai, Waymo and FCA: your monthly automotive briefing
Hello Dear Readers,
Summer has come, and for many people that brings a longing to travel somewhere on vacation. In Germany and Europe we’re now seeing signs of Covid-19 numbers once again going up, and our desire to reclaim mobility might well play a role in this.
However you’re spending your summer, I hope that you will remain safe and healthy. To support you in that, here’s some mobility that you can discover from a safe distance – welcome to your monthly overview of automotive industry news:
Tesla has become the world’s most valuable carmaker – and it remains one of the most controversial, particularly regarding its cars’ self-driving capacities that are often lauded by Elon Musk. German courts are less enthusiastic: Rating the terms “Autopilot” and “Full Self Driving” as “misleadingly prohibited”, Munich’s Regional Court has banned all future use of them by Tesla in Germany.
Musk seems unimpressed: In other news this month, he’s announced that he is “very confident about full self-driving functionality being complete by the end of this year.” Probably not in Germany: The necessary functions would currently be illegal here, according to the court ruling.
Automotive OEMs have traditionally refused to let go of their proprietary infotainment systems’ OS and UI. As a result, even in the most advanced cars you may frequently find yourself asking “Why can’t this be simpler, just like my smartphone?” In an industry-first move, Geely’s Polestar has chosen to ditch all that and instead embrace Andriod Automotive – meaning you can now use your Google Assistant not only to mirror and operate apps, but for vehicle features such as turning on the seat warmers and more.
While most reviewers agree that it’s not perfect (as anyone who owns a virtual home assistant will expect), the much-improved user experience seems to be a clear indicator of what can be made possible if customer experience is prioritized over customer control.
“In An Industry First, Plus.ai To Submit Their Self-Driving Trucks To Independent Testing” – via Forbes
This piece is by Richard Bishop, who is always worth reading if you’re following autonomous driving news. If you do, you will be familiar with the ever-popular debate around “disengagement reports” and other attempts to quantify the safety of AV systems: As they are put together and published by every company on its own, with no commonly-agreed metrics and non-transparent definitions, they often amount to little more than marketing material. Meanwhile, governmental and regulatory bodies struggle to put together a common framework for testing of AV technology.
Autonomous trucking startup Plus.ai has now taken an interesting step by itself: The Transportation Research Center (TRC) in Ohio will define and conduct fully independent testing of their technology. It will be interesting to see if this catches on and might put pressure on other companies to follow in similar footsteps.
It seems I can hardly write one of these pieces this year without touching on another collaboration among AV companies. This month, it’s Waymo’s turn again: Shortly after having communicated they’ll build L4 production vehicles with Volvo Cars, they’re now also partnering with FCA to build autonomous vans and similar light duty commercial vehicles. Fiat Chrysler in turn had just recently made public a new collaboration with Voyage, aiming for purpose-built robotaxis. It does indeed appear that AV startups that arise outside vehicle manufacturing companies frequently find themselves in a position where an OEM partnership is required for in-depth technology integration.
I know I promised some atlatec-related news for the July edition of this industry overview: It seems I have to apologize and ask you for a little more patience. We’ll be ready with something cool soon and I look forward to sharing it with you!
All the best