AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES AND SAFETY
A new study says that while autonomous vehicle technology has great promise to reduce crashes, it may not be able to prevent all mishaps caused by human error. Auto safety experts say humans cause about 94% of U.S. crashes, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study says computer-controlled robocars will only stop about one-third of them. The group says that while autonomous vehicles eventually will identify hazards and react faster than humans, and they won’t become distracted or drive drunk, stopping the rest of the crashes will be a lot harder.
ARE AUTO SALES BACK ON TRACK?
May Depend on Automakers Throwing More Cash at Buyers
After flattening out in May, U.S. auto sales ended the month with an unexpected burst of demand, but whether the sudden upturn – that saw many cities actually exceed pre-pandemic forecasts – will last is far from certain. As May came to an end, automakers began trimming back on some of the lavish incentives they used to keep the market moving as the coronavirus pandemic struck, noted Tyson Jominy, a senior analyst with J.D. Power. And that could wind up turning off buyers who could sit on the sidelines until more lucrative deals get put back on the table, he added.
Source: The Detroit Bureau
USED-CAR PRICES IMPROVE, BUT PROGNOSIS IFFY
Used-car auction prices have begun a modest comeback from the depths of April, but the rebound may not be sustained, due to high supply and low demand for the rest of 2020, analysts say. Low used-car prices cut both ways for dealers. Cheaper used vehicles are more affordable to buy. But less money for trade-ins makes it harder for consumers to finance their next purchase. First, the comeback: As states relax business restrictions aimed at containing the COVID-19 pandemic, auctions are getting back up to speed, and consumers are returning to showrooms around the country.
AV DEVELOPERS DISPUTE IIHS STUDY FINDINGS
Companies working on self-driving vehicles have criticized an insurance industry study suggesting that only a third of all U.S. road crashes could be prevented by driverless cars, arguing that the study has underestimated the technology's capabilities. The study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released on June 4th analyzed 5,000 U.S. crashes and concluded that likely only those caused by driver perception errors and incapacitation could be prevented by self-driving cars.
The autonomous vehicle industry quickly responded that its cars were programmed to prevent a vastly higher number of potential crash causes, including more complex errors caused by drivers making inadequate or incorrect evasive maneuvers. Taking those design choices into account, autonomous vehicles could avoid some 72 percent of crashes, said Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, a consortium of self-driving technology companies. The group a study released June 4 said it was "fundamentally speculative" to determine crash avoidance rates. Nevertheless, companies developing self-driving cars for years have touted their ability to vastly reduce crashes, with some, like General Motors, calling them a key part in achieving "zero crashes."
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, an auto industry group, in a statement, said that even reducing traffic fatalities by a third would be something to be proud of, but that its members aim to do more. Jack Weast, vice president of autonomous vehicle standards at Intel Corp.'s Mobileye, in an interview on Friday, said the auto industry was assembling a vast list of likely road scenarios and human behavior that every driverless car should be able to navigate safely. Government agencies and insurance companies are part of that process, Weast said. "Crashes will never be zero until we have no more human drivers on the road," he said. "But (self-driving cars) can combine physical laws with behavioral studies and do much more than a human driver."
DEMAND EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS
American auto demand is coming back faster than expected and quickly clearing trucks from dealer lots, spurring Ford Motor Co. to crank up production of its highly profitable F-150 pickup in Michigan this week. The ramp up has some workers on edge, despite the extra money they stand to earn from the overtime and extra Saturday shifts Ford is adding at its Dearborn, Michigan, truck factory. The local union has already filed a grievance calling for the company to do more to protect workers from Covid-19.
TESLA HAILS AIR-QUALITY EFFECTS OF SHUTDOWNS MUSK CALLED 'FASCIST'
Tesla Inc. is proffering a decidedly different take on the coronavirus-related shutdowns CEO Elon Musk called “fascist” and sued over weeks ago by suggesting they may bolster the case for banning internal-combustion engine cars. In its 2019 Impact Report released Monday, Tesla pointed to sharp improvements in air quality in recent months tied to restrictions on business and travel aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19. The company said the drop in pollution could embolden governments that already have been making plans to eventually ban vehicles that run on fossil fuels. “It is not hard to imagine that many cities could become electric-only in the near future as they begin to witness the impact that ICE vehicles have on air quality,” Tesla said in the report.
Tesla’s rosy view is consistent with the Energy Information Agency’s forecast in April that emissions from cars, power plants, and other sources may fall 7.5 percent this year as a result of people sheltering at home. But it’s a 180-degree turn from comments its CEO made while feuding with California officials over reopening the company’s lone U.S. car plant. “This is fascist. This is not democratic, this is not freedom,” Musk said on Tesla’s first-quarter earnings call in April. In May, he threatened to relocate the carmaker’s headquarters and move its manufacturing out of California before flouting a local health order and restarting production. Tesla has since dropped its lawsuit against Alameda County, where its auto factory is located.
Several European cities have moved to curb use of diesel vehicles in the wake of revelations that Volkswagen Group rigged its engines to conceal emission of harmful pollutants. It’s now illegal to drive some diesel cars in Madrid, Paris or Brussels, while Germany has banned older diesel autos. In the U.K., Bristol will impose a complete city center ban starting next year.
In the U.S., Seattle plans to ban sales of combustion cars by 2030. California introduced draft legislation in late 2018 to eliminate fossil fuel-burning vehicles statewide by 2040. Other states have similar plans from 2050.
HONDA SUSPENDS VEHICLE SHIPMENTS AFTER SUSPECTED CYBERATTACK
Honda Motor Co. temporarily halted shipments from some of its factories in Japan due to a suspected cyberattack that disrupted its internal network. The Japanese carmaker is still working to fix its systems, which affected its plants on Monday. Honda is probing whether the system was attacked, spokesman Hidenori Takeyasu said. There was no impact on production, with Honda’s inspection systems back online yesterday afternoon. The impact on overseas plants is still unclear, Takeyasu said.
USED CAR PRICES JUMPED 9% IN MAY, AFTER FALLING 11% IN APRIL
The Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index rose nearly 9% in May, partially recovering from a “historic” drop the previous month. Manheim is the world’s largest wholesale auto auction, listing millions of vehicles per year. Since 1995, Manheim has aggregated these sales into a Used Vehicle Value Index, which tracks movement in used car prices over time. April 2020, used vehicle prices dropped more than 11% from March, which was the most significant single-month drop in the history of the index. The only comparable decline came at the end of 2008, when used car prices fell by a similar amount over three-months.
YOU'LL HAVE TO WAIT TO BUY 2021 CARS, TRUCKS, SUVS
Automakers are Delaying Next Year's Models
With the coronavirus pandemic slamming the auto industry, certain 2021 vehicles will arrive late as automakers have put the brakes on dozens of debuts. “We’ve seen quite a few delays,” said Jeff Schuster, president of global vehicle forecasts for research firm LMC Automotive. While there’s yet to be a new model canceled publicly, at least 24 redesigned or new vehicles that were poised to roll out in the coming months won’t come out on time, according to LMC Automotive, which provided a partial list to USA TODAY. They include the Ford F-150, Cadillac Escalade and Acura MDX.
Source: USA Today
FORD & VOLKSWAGEN SHARE PRODUCTION
Ford Motor and Volkswagen plan to share production of 8 million commercial vehicles as part of an expanded alliance between the two automakers. Production of the vehicles is expected to begin as early as next year and continue through the life cycles of the products. Production is expected to occur over several years, Ford CEO and President Jim Hackett said Wednesday during a virtual Deutsche Bank conference. The production volume was announced Wednesday as part of finalizing agreements between the two sides.
GM’S BARRA SEES U.S. TRANSITION TO ELECTRIC VEHICLES TAKING DECADES
General Motors' top executive expects it will take decades for electric vehicles to take over as the dominant form of transportation but sees driverless cars on the road within five years.
CEO Mary Barra said American drivers will go electric, but it will take a long time for most of the 250 million vehicles on U.S. roads to be battery powered. “We believe the transition will happen over time,” Barra said on “Leadership Live With David Rubenstein” on Bloomberg Television. When asked if all cars will be electric in 20 years, she said that may be too soon. “It will happen in a little bit longer period, but it will happen.”
That outlook underscores the tricky task Barra will have budgeting billions for new models and deciding which of them will run on battery power. Following inroads made by Tesla Inc., GM is one of the most aggressive automakers when it comes to electrifying its lineup. It currently sells just one EV in the U.S. but is developing more than 20 plug-in models, including a Cadillac crossover and a Hummer pickup that will both debut by the fall of 2021.
In addition to funding its EV program, GM also is spending about $1 billion a year to fund Cruise, the self-driving car unit the Detroit-based automaker majority owns. A return on that investment will bear fruit before long, Barra said. Although Cruise canceled plans to launch a ride-hailing service last year and has not set a new date, it is developing a self-driving vehicle that will be dedicated to an autonomous taxi service. “I definitely think it will happen within next five years,” she said of fully driverless cars being deployed. “Our Cruise team is continuing to develop technology so it’s safer than human driver. I think you’ll see it clearly within five years.”
GM overcame friction with the White House involving the production of ventilators needed to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. Barra said the company had been working to build the medical devices before President Donald Trump accused the company in March of dragging its feet. “They did enact the Defense Production Act, but frankly we were on our way to building ventilators,” she said. “There was a little bit of a misunderstanding, but it’s worked out now and everyone is very pleased.”
Source: Automotive News
FORD TO INTRODUCE ALL-ELECTRIC F-150 PICKUP AND TRANSIT VAN BY MID-2022
Ford Motor plans to have all-electric versions of the Ford F-150 pickup and Ford Transit van to market by mid-2022, Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley said Wednesday. The two-year time frame is the most detailed the company has given regarding the vehicles, which will be part of what are expected to be crowded segments. General Motors, Tesla, and start-ups such as Rivian and Nikola are expected to have electric vehicles in one or both segments by then or shortly after.