“The politicians must urgently provide the right impulses.”

Birgit Jennen:

currently far off from reaching her target, is aiming to keep the country’s auto industry — home to Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Porsche, VW and BMW — competitive. In total, just over 30,000 electric cars had been registered in Germany, which has historically leaned on diesel technology to reduce emissions. Other countries such as France, Norway and the United States have had greater success with electrics because of the rebates and tax breaks they offer. Last year alone, nearly 26,000 electric cars were sold in much smaller Norway.
 “If we don’t get the market going here, then the vehicles will remain expensive,” Gabriel — who heads Merkel’s junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats — said last month. “We won’t get here in Germany what we want, namely the industrial battery production.”
 Gabriel’s solution is to follow the path of other countries and offer about 5,000 euros in incentives per car through 2020 to get the ball rolling. Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer, whose state is home to Audi and BMW, emerged as an ally last week when came out in support of such a program as well. Seehofer, who heads the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, has been the chancellor’s chief antagonist in the coalition’s dispute over migrants, threatening a lawsuit if he didn’t get his way.

Can Fractional Car Ownership Work?

Connie Loizos:

It’s not alone in thinking about fractional car ownership. Audi is similarly trying out a fractional car ownership program called Audi Unite that allows up to five people to own a car together. (It launched, and remains exclusively available, in Stockholm, Sweden.)
 A nascent startup in London called Orto is also entering the business of fractional car ownership.
 The big question, of course, is whether the concept – which has been enormously successful when it comes to hotel time shares and private jets – can work when it comes to cars.
 People clearly aren’t wedded to owning vehicles as they once were, partly owing to congestion and related parking challenges, and partly owing to the rising cost of cars, particularly as they grow increasingly sophisticated. It’s no wonder that car-hailing services like Lyft and Uber — along with car-sharing services like ZipCar and Getaround — have taken off like gangbusters.
 Even General Motors, which estimates that there are currently six million people around the world using a shared-based model of transportation, thinks that number will grow four or fivefold between now and the end of the decade.

GM pitches new product strategy to skeptical investors

Joseph White and Paul Lienert:

General Motors Co (GM.N) executives used to boast about how frequently the company redesigned cars and trucks. Now, the automaker wants to double the lifespan of vehicle platforms as part of a broader effort to slash and redirect capital spending, GM executives said.
 Starting with the new Chevrolet Cruze compact, the basic underpinnings of vehicle lines could last a dozen years or more, GM President Dan Ammann told Reuters.
 The move underscores the balancing act the automaker faces in tackling conflicting challenges as the growth of auto sales in the U.S. and China slows. GM and its rivals face increasing pressure to prove they can keep core product lines fresh, meet stricter emissions and safety standards, and forge a future in ride-sharing and autonomous vehicles – all while returning more cash to shareholders.

Jim Keller to Lead Autopilot Hardware Team at Tesla Motors


designed some of AMD’s most commercially successful processors, before a stint at Apple, where he helped it gain hardware self-reliance with the company’s Ax series SoCs; and returning to AMD, and leading the team that designed the company’s upcoming “Zen” and K-12 micro-architectures. Tesla cars are currently driven by electronics powered by NVIDIA Tegra SoCs. With NVIDIA’s immeasurable investments in deep-learning tech that forms the foundation of self-driving car hardware, and Tesla Motors yet choosing a CPU designer to lead its autopilot division, it’s easy to speculate that Musk’s company is seeking the same kind of hardware self-reliance that Apple did, as its iOS devices were taking off.

When America’s Titans of Industry and Innovation Went Road-Tripping Together

Shannin Wienacki:

It worked. “Out of that automobile grew a friendship,” Ford wrote in his memoirs. “And it was a fine one.” Ford introduced Burroughs to two other titans of American industry: inventor Thomas Edison and tire manufacturer Harvey Firestone. Between 1914 and 1924, these influential men loaded their autos with camping gear and embarked on a series of historic road trips.
 The self-titled “Vagabonds” toured the Everglades, the Adirondacks, the Catskills and the Smoky Mountains. They cruised down California’s sparkling coast and threaded through the maple forests of Vermont, reveling in the break from their duties as national powerbrokers. The annual forays into the wild lasted two weeks or longer.
 Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/when-americas-titans-industry-and-innovation-went-road-tripping-together-180957924/#icTF5U25Hx2pgstz.99
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Facing a Price War, Uber Bets on Volume

Eric Newcomer and Ellen Huet:

It’s becoming a bit of a holiday tradition for Uber: ringing in the new year by lowering fares. Amid a price war with rival Lyft, the ride-hailing leader reduced its rates by 10 percent to 45 percent in 100 cities across North America. In Detroit, Uber drivers’ per-mile rate is less than it takes to cover their gas and the depreciation of their cars, according to IRS figures. “It’s depressing,” says Bill Scroggins, an Uber driver in Indianapolis. “I’m not even sure I want to drive anymore. It feels like I’m doing it for free.”
 This is the third year in a row Uber has discounted fares in January. It calls the cuts seasonal but says they could last indefinitely. Last year rates never rose again in almost a third of cities; only in two did they return to precut prices. Uber has instituted temporary hourly wage guarantees to limit drivers’ earnings declines. It’s assured Scroggins and other outraged drivers they’ll come out ahead by making more trips an hour thanks to increased demand.

Uber usage by business travelers surpassed taxi and car

Ken Yeung:

 Certify looked at more than 30 million receipts and travel expenses in 2015, and its research shows that employees want to use services they’re fond of as individual consumers. Jeremiah Owyang, CEO of Crowd Companies, an organization dedicated to helping brands understand the on-demand and collaborative space, assured VentureBeat that this finding is accurate: “Business travelers are budget conscious, but more importantly seek speed and efficiency rather than rely on taxis to ensure a ride home,” he said. “Most of these startups are integrated with American Express Global Business Travel as well as Concur business travel software, easing the transactions.”>

Fed to rev up car loan rates slightly in 2016

Susan Tompor:

You have to budget everything,” Taylor said. They’d like a car payment of $250 or less.
 As much as experts say higher rates won’t matter all that much to car sales, consumers still care about how much extra money will come out of their wallets after the Federal Reserve bumps up rates a few times in 2016.
 If you’re shopping for a car or truck, someone with good credit still should be able to find a car loan rate ranging somewhere from 4.5% to 5% in the months ahead. Higher rates will hit those with far less than stellar credit — where rates for subprime borrowers can be 10% to 15% or higher.

Uber pulled off a spectacular political coup and hardly anyone noticed

Alison Griswold:

On Jan. 12, 2015, his last day as Illinois governor, Pat Quinn signed legislation to regulate Uber and Lyft across the state.
 The particulars of the bill were boring—they laid out how ride-hailing services would insure drivers, conduct background checks, and deal with alcohol violations—but its passage was anything but. The new law permanently ended the bitter political fight Uber had waged in Illinois over the last year. Earlier drafts had considered limits on Uber’s pricing, its pickups, its driver hours; Uber lampooned them as harming “consumer choice, safety, economic development.” The final bill that Quinn signed contained no such restrictions. It at once protected Uber and legitimized it.

Driving Is Losing Its Allure for More Americans

Christina Rogers & Gautham Nagesh:

University of Michigan study of state driver’s licensing statistics shows a sharp decline over the past two decades among people under 25 years of age getting their driver’s licenses.
 The drop signals high-schoolers and college-age Americans are less interested in driving than previous generations. And the change is spreading to their parents and grandparents, moves that have auto makers scrambling to ramp up investments in alternative mobility services such car-hailing services.
 Since the financial crisis of 2008, the proportion of Americans under 70 years of age holding a driver’s license has declined even as annual U.S. light-vehicle sales have slowly climbed back to levels seen early last decade, University of Michigan researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle found.

GM starts car-sharing service in Germany, U.S.

Bernie Woodall:

launch with small fleets in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and in Chicago, New York, Frankfurt and Berlin. It will center around big cities and college campuses to start.
 Maven, a Yiddish word for expert, will expand to other cities this year, but GM would not say how quickly or by how much. Julia Steyn, head of GM’s urban mobility programs, said that depends on consumer demand in the initial cities and college campuses.

Via Bertel Schmitt.

The Electric Car may be entering its “cell phone” period


big depreciation is not related to the cars. There is a $7500 federal tax rebate on a new electric car, so the moment you drive it off the lot, its blue book value drops an additional $7500. In addition, different states offer credits from of up to $5,000, and unless you take the car out of state, that amount will also drop off the value. This is the primary culprit for the huge depreciation numbers, but there is more.
 Perversely, people with higher incomes don’t get California’s $2,500 credit, so for them, buying used is a very wise idea, because somebody else got the credit, and it’s reflected in the price of the car. Of course, if you are rich enough, you may tolerate paying $2,500 more than everybody else for the new car. In fact, if not for the sales tax, it would be a good strategy to get somebody else to buy a car for you and get the credit, then buy it from them. Or take over a lease (getting to that…)

via David Levinson.

An End to Parking?

Clive Thompson:

A 2011 study at the University of California-Berkeley found that the United States has somewhere close to a billion parking spots. Since there are only 253 million passenger cars and light trucks in the country, that means we have roughly four times more parking spaces than vehicles. If you totaled up all the area devoted to parking, it’d be roughly 6,500 square miles, bigger than Connecticut.
 Social critics often complain that the interstate highway system deformed the United States by encouraging sprawl. But the metastasizing of parking has had equally profound effects. On an aesthetic level, it makes cities grimly ugly. Economically, it is expensive to build. A study by the Sightline Institute found that at least 15 percent of the price of rent in Seattle stemmed from developers’ cost of building parking.
 Those costs are passed on to tenants whether they own a car or not (on top of any per space fee the landlord charges)—padding rent by an average of $246 a month in Seattle and $225 nationwide.
 And worst of all may be the emissions that parking causes. Studies have found that anywhere from about 30 to 60 percent of the cars you see driving around a downtown core are just circling, looking for an open space to claim. (An IBM survey found that worldwide, urban drivers spend an average of 20 minutes per trip looking for parking.) When Donald Shoup, an urban-planning professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, examined just one small business area near his university—Westwood Village—he found that “cruising” for parking, as he dubs it, burns 47,000 gallons of gas and generates 730 tons of carbon dioxide a year. What’s more, all that asphalt traps heat and raises the temperature of cities during the summer. Environmentally, aesthetically, and economically, parking is a mess.
 If you totaled up all the land devoted to parking, it’d be roughly 6,500 square miles, bigger than Connecticut.
 But for the first time in history, urban experts are excited about parking—because they can see the end in sight.
 We are, they say, on the cusp of a new era, when cities can begin dramatically reducing the amount of parking spaces they offer. This shift is being driven by a one-two punch of social and technological change. On the social side, people are increasingly opting to live in urban centers, where they don’t need—or want—to own a car. They’re ride-sharing or using public transit instead.
 And technologically, we’re seeing the rapid emergence of self-driving cars. Google’s models have traveled more than a million miles with almost no accidents, and experts expect that fully autonomous vehicles will hit the consumer market as early as a decade from now. Indeed, car technology is advancing so rapidly that it’s causing legitimate economic concerns. Already, companies like Uber and Lyft are under fire for treating drivers as independent contractors, with far fewer rights and benefits than employees (see “Road Warrior”). And that disruption is nothing compared with what will happen once cars can drive themselves; millions of taxi, delivery, and long-haul trucking jobs that traditionally have gone to new immigrants and low-education workers could vanish in a few years. Labor activists and economists are understandably alarmed at the prospect.
 But at the level of urban design and the environment, self-driving cars could produce huge benefits. After all, if cars can drive themselves, fleets of them could scurry around picking people up and dropping them off, working with sleek, robotic efficiency. With perfect computerized knowledge of where potential riders were, they could pick up several people heading the same way, optimizing ride-sharing on the fly. One study suggests a single self-driving car could replace up to 12 regular vehicles. Indeed, many urbanists predict that fleets of robocars could become so reliable that many, many people would choose not to own automobiles, causing the amount of parking needed to drop through the floor.

BMW says yes to the i6, an electric crossover with a 300-mile range

Jonathan M. Gitlin:

Over in the UK, Car reports that BMW is going to expand its innovative i brand in 2020. According to Car’s Georg Kacher, the i3 and i8 are to be joined in 2020 by the i6. The new car will be a crossover with a 300-mile range, although BMW hasn’t decided whether to make the i6 a battery electric vehicle, fuel cell EV, or hybrid.
 The plan is to use lithium polymer batteries, with the idea that the technology will have matured sufficiently to make 500kWh batteries cheap enough. As with the i3 and i8, the focus will be on making the car as light as possible. However, BMW wants to sell many more i6s—Kacher says 60,000 a year—so we ought not to expect quite as much carbon fiber.
 Styling is said to be something like Citroën’s DS5, which makes the i6 name slightly odd. BMW’s naming convention seems to have broken down recently, but even numbers are usually reserved for coupes (except when they’re not, like the 2 Series hatchback, X6, or 6 Series Gran Coupe).

$.47 a gallon

Paul Eisenstein :

If you think $2 a gallon gas is a bargain, imagine what the reaction was when a pair of service stations in Northern Michigan got into an old-fashioned price war this week.
 The Beacon & Bridge Market, in the town of Houghton Lake, was first to fire a shot, dropping the price of regular unleaded to just 78 cents a gallon. A neighboring station quickly responded and, for a brief while, motorists were able to fill up for as little as 47 cents a gallon, according to a report from a TV station in the nearby town of Clio.
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 According to GasBuddy.com, the two stations are now back up a bit, just slightly over $1.50 a gallon. Michigan, as a whole, is now averaging just under $1.70, according to tracking site GasBuddy.com, and the U.S., as a whole is down to $1.873 as of the afternoon of January 19th.

Automakers still have a lot to learn from Tesla

Chris Ziegler:

First, let’s get this out of the way: arguing that big automakers need to learn anything from Tesla is bold, I admit, considering Tesla’s often dire financials — and the fact that when you compare it to an automotive giant like Toyota or Volkswagen, its production output is still a rounding error away from zero. Tesla has yet to prove it can survive at scale, and that won’t happen until the company is taking orders for a large number of Model 3s, producing them, and meeting demand. That’s two years away at a bare minimum; likely more.

‘Not a compliance car,’ GM says 2017 Chevy Bolt can meet demand of over 50,000 per year

Jeff Cobb:

conjecture that’s nearly been treated as fact, General Motors said its 2017 Chevy Bolt would not be production limited and is “not a compliance car.”
 Since last year rumors have perpetuated a notion that GM and supply partner LG Chem have production capacity of only 20,000-30,000 Bolt EVs per year, but this is not true, said Kevin Kelly, manager, Electrification and Fuel Cell Technology Communications.

Sketches That Go Back to the Future of Cars

Alexandra Wolfe:

Innovative automotive styling once started from sketches. “American Dreaming: Car Style Detroit,” an exhibit running through Feb. 13 at Detroit’s Scarab Club, showcases more than 50 drawings of mid-20th-century cars. Back then, car companies hired artists to come up with exciting new concepts. Not many of the sketches remain; car makers destroyed the ones that weren’t used for the final products, so the surviving examples of nonexistent models were likely smuggled out. One artist rolled them up and stored them in the hollow ends of his crutches. Another threw them out the window, then collected them when he left. “We estimate only 5% of the work created was saved,” says curator Robert Edwards.

Toyota Tells Dealers: Stop Mirai Deliveries!


More than any other car maker, Toyota has been a strong advocate for fuel cell powered cars. What is an FCEV? It’s an electric car that does not use a battery as its main source of power. Instead it has a fuel cell that converts liquid hydrogen into electricity, which is then used to turn an electric motor. The Mirai has a tiny 1 kWh battery to help out when demand for electricity is greater than the fuel cell can provide. The beauty of the whole hydrogen scenario is that emissions consist of nothing more than water vapor and heat. You can’t get any greener than that, can you?
 Toyota has invested billions to develop its first fuel cell car, the Mirai. Toyota expects to deliver a total of 300 of the cars between the United States and Europe in 2016. Compared to the global automobile market of nearly 50 million vehicles, that is an infinitesimal amount, no more than a fly speck, really. But Toyota is convinced hydrogen power is the future. With considerable urging from the Japanese government, it has bet virtually the company’s entire future company on hydrogen power.
 But Nagoya, we have a problem! According to Inside EVs, Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota North America, has instructed the dealers who handle the cars, including its highest volume dealer located in Santa Monica, California, to stop delivering cars to new customers. Why? There just aren’t enough hydrogen refueling stations available to for the 72 Mirai sedans that are already on the road . The ones that do exist don’t work very well, either. Toyota advertising for the Mirai carries the slogan “Let’s Go Places.” But right now, there are precious few places a Mirai driver can actually go.

via Steve Crandall.

Mossberg: Apple and Google should win the war for the dashboard

Walt Mossberg:

Silicon Valley is forcing its way onto Detroit’s turf by building, or planning to build, cars. And that means there could be some big clashes, or at least some tense partnerships, in coming years. The big automakers are all seeking to learn from, and hire from, the tech industry. Some joint efforts are happening or being discussed. But, privately, at least some of the car companies worry that they may face wealthy, smart new competitors.
 You don’t have to wait for the future to get a taste of this. A small version of the coming changes — part partnership, part tension — is already playing out, right now, in car dealerships across the country. It’s the question of who controls the dashboard, or at least that big center screen in the middle of it.

Automakers Go Electric, Even if Gas Is Cheap

Bill Vlasic:

While American consumers were taking advantage of low gas prices to buy trucks and sport utility vehicles in large numbers, some automakers delayed investing in slower-selling electrified vehicles.
 But with increases in federal fuel-economy standards looming in 2017, car companies are hustling to bring out hybrid and electric models to help them meet the new rules — even though electrified vehicles make up only 2 percent of overall sales.
 The federal government has mandated corporate average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. But companies need to meet an interim standard of about 37 m.p.g. by next year.

Ford’s FordPass app is the beginning of the end of car ownership

Nicjk Jaynes:

Mobility” has become a buzzword in the automotive industry. It’s not enough anymore to simply make safe, reliable cars anymore. Brands now have to also boast about their ability to get people mobile products as well. For the last year or so, that’s mostly been just talk. Now, however, Ford is putting its stamp on modern mobility.
 On Monday morning at the North American International Auto Show, Ford unveiled an all-new app called FordPass. With it, Ford owners — or anyone else — will be able to use the app to get around more easily thanks to car-sharing features and more.
 Granted, this first generation of FordPass seems to be a bit more style than substance. That said, it is most certainly the first glimpse into what the new mobility universe will look and operate like in the coming decades. Let’s look at why.

Behind Toyota’s Late Shift Into Self-Driving Cars

Yoku Kubota:

three executives walked into the Tokyo office of Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda with a call for a radical change. Toyota, they believed, needed to embrace the goal of building cars that could drive themselves, possibly without drivers—something Mr. Toyoda, a race-car enthusiast who likes his hands and feet on the controls, had long resisted.
 The three faced Mr. Toyoda in the office, which one of them recalled felt like a teenage boy’s room, sporting minicars and race helmets. They were ready to spend a long time to persuade the boss.
 But he had already come around.
 “You guys are overthinking this,” one of the participants recalled Mr. Toyoda saying. “Our goal is to make sure everyone can move around freely.”
 “I personally went through a big change in my thinking,” said Mr. Toyoda in an interview at this week’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. His epiphany came more than a year earlier when he met Paralympics athletes who wanted to ride in fashionable cars, he said, conceding it was much later that he communicated his change of heart.

Google steps up hunt for self-driving car partner

Robert Wright:

The head of Google’s self-driving car project said the company would “need a lot of help” to bring a vehicle to market, in the latest sign it is engaged in a vigorous search for a traditional carmaker partner.
 Peter Krafcik made the statement in a presentation at the annual Automotive News conference in Detroit, the heart of the traditional US motor industry, whose business some analysts have predicted the company could overturn.
 “The message is that we understand … we are going to need a lot of help in the next stage of our project,” Mr Krafcik said. “We’re going to be partnering more and more and more — you can count on it, though I don’t have anything certain to say today.”
 Mr Krafcik’s comments follow a report late last year — which turned out to be unfounded — that Google was about to sign an agreement with Ford on developing self-driving vehicles. Mr Krafcik gave a non-committal answer when asked whether he had recently been in meetings in Detroit’s Renaissance Center, General Motors’ headquarters.

Carmakers’ Rush to Put Latest Tech in Lower-Priced Models


The speed of innovation is so fast that you have to use every launch of a new model to roll stuff out,” Dieter Zetsche, head of Mercedes-Benz Cars told Reuters on the sidelines of an event to launch the new E-Class at the Detroit Auto Show.
 The shift reflects intense pressure on automakers to keep their model lineups on the technological edge, especially to compete for younger customers. Another sign: features that can be updated with software, a tactic used often by Silicon Valley electric car maker Tesla Motors and likely to spread across the industry.
 Mercedes plans similar software updates and is moving aggressively to update its hardware as well. It has cut the time it takes to produce a prototype to 10 months from 18 months, in part through the use of digital prototypes. Aerodynamic testing, for example, is done largely with simulation software, cutting development time in a wind tunnel.

Notice of Non-renewal of Insurance


So I received this fun letter from my auto insurance yesterday, apparently the Model S has a higher chance of loss, so they’re no longer willing to insure me (it was a multi-car policy, no claims/tickets at all in the past 5yrs for either of us). I’ve highlighted the relevant bits. Anyone else getting these letters? Any recommendations for alternatives? This was via Kemper, who up until now have been very cheap for me, last year it was $1407 for the S and a Q5 with all the usual coverage limits, nothing weird.

Bill Ford Isn’t Scared of Apple

Steven Levy:

Startups do it all the time, occasionally with seismic consequences. Android was originally conceived as an operating system for cameras. Slack began as a video game. Airbnb really was all about air mattresses. But none of these companies was a 113-year-old pillar of the economy, with 197,000 employees, billions of dollars spent on branding, and countless tons of metal emblazoned with the company logo rumbling along the world’s roadways. The mind reels at the notion that Ford — Ford! — would change directions like an angel-funded six-person SOMA venture switching gears after a failed app.

The driverless, car-sharing road ahead


THE whizzy gadgets for geeks to goggle at during CES, an annual consumer-electronics show in Las Vegas, have typically been small enough to pick up. But they have been joined in recent years by an increasing number of cars. The Detroit motor show, America’s biggest and glitziest, starts later this month, but many in the car industry now regard CES, which opened on January 5th, as a more important event. Mary Barra, GM’s boss, unveiled a new production version of its Bolt electric car at Las Vegas this week.
 Incumbent manufacturers are recognising the double threat posed by technology, as car-sharing takes off and driverless vehicles come closer. First, some people who might hitherto have wanted to own a car may no longer do so, cancelling out the growth the motor industry might otherwise have expected from the rising middle classes in developing countries (see chart). Second, technology firms may be better placed than carmakers to develop and profit from the software that will underpin both automated driving and vehicle-sharing. Some of these firms may even manufacture cars of their own.

he future of personal transport The driverless, car-sharing road ahead

The Economist:

THE whizzy gadgets for geeks to goggle at during CES, an annual consumer-electronics show in Las Vegas, have typically been small enough to pick up. But they have been joined in recent years by an increasing number of cars. The Detroit motor show, America’s biggest and glitziest, starts later this month, but many in the car industry now regard CES, which opened on January 5th, as a more important event. Mary Barra, GM’s boss, unveiled a new production version of its Bolt electric car at Las Vegas this week.
 Incumbent manufacturers are recognising the double threat posed by technology, as car-sharing takes off and driverless vehicles come closer. First, some people who might hitherto have wanted to own a car may no longer do so, cancelling out the growth the motor industry might otherwise have expected from the rising middle classes in developing countries (see chart). Second, technology firms may be better placed than carmakers to develop and profit from the software that will underpin both automated driving and vehicle-sharing. Some of these firms may even manufacture cars of their own.

Uber’s No-Holds-Barred Expansion Strategy Fizzles in Germany

Mark Scott:

In early November, Uber shut its small office in Frankfurt’s centuries-old city center after just 18 months of operation, mothballing the online platform that had let people in the city hail rides through a smartphone app. The pullback was spurred in part by drivers like Hasan Kurt, the owner of a local licensed taxi business, who had refused to work with the American service.
 With more than 20 years of experience as a taxi operator, Mr. Kurt said he disliked how Uber barreled into Frankfurt in early 2014, using primarily unlicensed drivers who had not passed the same exams and health checks required of licensed drivers. That low-cost service, UberPop, which is similar to UberX in the United States, faced legal challenges and was eventually outlawe

Forget Google. Ford Partners With Amazon and DJI to Make Cars That Talk to Everything.

Mark Bergen:

In yet another sign that this week’s annual CES tech expo in Las Vegas will focus heavily on the changing world of autos, Ford said today that it was striking deals with Amazon and DJI to further digitize its vehicles. Soon, you may see Ford cars that drive themselves, talk to your home and even talk to your drone.
 To begin, the automaker will announce that it is tripling its fleet of autonomous vehicles in 2016, upping its total to 30 test vehicles on the road. It’s also announcing a novel integration with Amazon: Ford’s in-car software will soon connect with connected-home devices, especially its Amazon Echo.
 “We want to put an exclamation point that we are moving from an auto company to an auto and mobility company,” Ford CEO Mark Fields told Re/code in an interview tonight. “We’ve been at this a long time, but we will be accelerating going forward.”
 Despite reports of a deal with Google to be announced during CES, Fields said that Ford will not be using the Internet giant’s autonomous vehicle software. “We talk with everyone, and those conversations are private,” Fields said.

Why Detroit is moving to Silicon Valley

Lucas Mearian:

Ford, the company that started the automobile assembly line and was arguably most responsible for Detroit’s car industry, chose Palo Alto, Calif., this year for its latest automotive research and development facility.
 General Motors opened its Advanced Technology Silicon Valley Office in Palo Alto to develop an HTML browser for its Cadillac CUE in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system.
 Since 2011, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan-Renault and Toyota have all opened R&D centers in Silicon Valley.
 Nissan is focused on developing autonomous vehicles at its Silicon Valley facility, while Honda’s operations there are working on human-machine interface technology, big data, connected vehicles and cybersecurity.

Electric car subsidies are hated by economists, loved by activists. Why?

David Roberts:

Earlier this month, over at the Energy Institute at HAAS, economist James Bushnell had an interesting post on the way economists and climate hawks clash on the subject of electric cars. It also offered a window into broader clashes between those groups.
 As Bushnell points out, economic research — see here, here, here, and here — is generally not supportive of current subsidies for electric vehicles (EVs). It finds that the environmental benefits of EVs are, for now at least, marginal, and worth less than the subsidies paid for them. Current subsidies are also regressive, going primarily to upper-income taxpayers.
 From the point of view of many economists, this makes electric car subsidies bad policy. If the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, policy ought to seek out the cheapest reductions first. (And what’s the best way to find the cheapest reductions? You guessed it: a price-based instrument like a carbon tax.)

Via David Levinson.