Fiat Chrysler ending car production in U.S.

Brent Snavely:

Fiat Chrysler is winding down production of the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart and will primarily produce Jeep SUVs and Ram pickups in the U.S. The company’s remaining car models will be made in Mexico, Canada or other foreign nations.

Ending passenger car production in the U.S. is part of CEO Sergio Marchionne’s multibillion-dollar plan to increase profit margins to match competitors. It’s a bet that recognizes the growing popularity of SUVs in America, low gas prices and lower cost of producing vehicles in Mexico.

Via Jon.

Apple Hires BlackBerry Talent With Car Project Turning to Self-Driving Software

Mark Gurman & Alex Webb:

The initiative is now prioritizing the development of an autonomous driving system, though it’s not abandoning efforts to design its own vehicle. That leaves options open should the company eventually decide to partner with or acquire an established car maker, rather than build a car itself. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

Apple has hundreds of engineers working on car design and has been targeting a release as soon as 2020. That goal has been affected by multiple departures, technical delays and confusion regarding the direction of the project, according to people with knowledge of the efforts.

Tapering demand for the iPhone, which accounts for more than half of Apple’s sales, has emphasized the importance of new sources of revenue. Research and development spending jumped by more than a quarter to $2.6 billion in the three months through June compared with a year earlier.

Inside Tesla’s gigantic Gigafactory

Dave Lee:

Does Elon Musk have more money than sense? Or could it actually be more sense than money?
 The chief executive of Tesla is, in a post-Steve-Jobs world, the stand-out visionary voice in Silicon Valley. There’s no question about that.
 But with each product launch – or, in this case, a building launch – it seems he needs both more time and more money to realise his own ambitions.
 The more he achieves, the bigger the task, and budget, seems to get.

Driverless Cars Threaten to Crash Insurers’ Earnings

Leslie Scism:

The insurance industry has a $160 billion blind spot: the driverless car.
 Car insurers last year hauled in $200 billion of premiums, about a third of all premiums collected by the property-casualty industry. But as much as 80% of the intake could evaporate in coming decades, say some consultants, assuming crucial breakthroughs in driverless technology make driving safer and propel big changes in car ownership.
 As the threat approaches, U.S. insurance executives are spending millions and embedding with car companies, testing the technology themselves, and wrestling with whether to lower prices as parts of the autonomous future hit America’s roads.

Apple Taps Bob Mansfield to Oversee Car Project

Daisuke Wakabayashi:

Apple Inc. has tapped a highly regarded senior executive who helped bring to market many of Apple’s signature products to oversee its fledgling automobile project, according to people familiar with the matter.
 Bob Mansfield had stepped back from a day-to-day role at the company a few years ago, after leading the hardware engineering development of products including the MacBook Air laptop computer, the iMac desktop computer, and the iPad tablet. Apple now has Mr. Mansfield running the company’s secret autonomous, electric-vehicle initiative, code-named Project Titan, the people said.

Water Out of the Tailpipe: A New Class of Electric Car Gains Traction

Neal Boudette:

This was not just any electric car. Its electricity comes from fuel cells powered by hydrogen, which means the only tailpipe emissions are water vapor. That would be good for the climate, but a logistical challenge for the consumer.
 In Mr. Manning’s case the nearest hydrogen filling station was seven miles from his house. And the technology was still so new that there were fewer than a dozen others in the entire state.
 “Is this really practical?” he asked himself. In the end, he took a leap of faith, agreeing to lease a silver Mirai for $499 a month. “I said, ‘If it sucks, it sucks,’” he recalled in a recent telephone interview.

How the humble bicycle is making a comeback in US cities


America, the BBC is profiling small businesses that have stories to tell about the way they work, and which say something about a wider national trend.
 Towards the end of the 19th Century America was in the grip of cycling craze. Women in particular embraced the freedom it offered, and the humble bicycle became one of the most powerful symbols of female emancipation.
 More than 100 years later, the bicycle is at the centre of another social revolution, challenging the dominance of the car in American cities and even changing the way urban areas look.
 According to a report from the Alliance for Biking and Walking, there has been a steady increase in biking across the country over the last 10 years. In large urban areas like Washington, Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon, it’s risen by as much as 71%

Cost and benefit estimates of partially-automated vehicle collision avoidance technologies

Corey D. HarperChris T. HendricksonConstantine Samaras:

The upper bound annual fleet-wide net benefit is about $202 billion or about $860 per light-duty vehicle per year.
 Many light-duty vehicle crashes occur due to human error and distracted driving. Partially-automated crash avoidance features offer the potential to reduce the frequency and severity of vehicle crashes that occur due to distracted driving and/or human error by assisting in maintaining control of the vehicle or issuing alerts if a potentially dangerous situation is detected. This paper evaluates the benefits and costs of fleet-wide deployment of blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning crash avoidance systems within the US light-duty vehicle fleet. The three crash avoidance technologies could collectively prevent or reduce the severity of as many as 1.3 million U.S. crashes a year including 133,000 injury crashes and 10,100 fatal crashes. For this paper we made two estimates of potential benefits in the United States: (1) the upper bound fleet-wide technology diffusion benefits by assuming all relevant crashes are avoided and (2) the lower bound fleet-wide benefits of the three technologies based on observed insurance data. The latter represents a lower bound as technology is improved over time and cost reduced with scale economies and technology improvement. All three technologies could collectively provide a lower bound annual benefit of about $18 billion if equipped on all light-duty vehicles. With 2015 pricing of safety options, the total annual costs to equip all light-duty vehicles with the three technologies would be about $13 billion, resulting in an annual net benefit of about $4 billion or a $20 per vehicle net benefit. By assuming all relevant crashes are avoided, the total upper bound annual net benefit from all three technologies combined is about $202 billion or an $861 per vehicle net benefit, at current technology costs. The technologies we are exploring in this paper represent an early form of vehicle automation and a positive net benefit suggests the fleet-wide adoption of these technologies would be beneficial from an economic and social perspective.

Car2Go Reduces Car Ownership

Laura Bliss:

my Prius when I moved to Washington, D.C.—I expected the city’s Metro system to be a reliable alternative. (It isn’t, but that’s another story.) Luckily, my feet, my bike, and several ride-hailing and car-sharing apps such as Zipcar and Turo have gotten me where I’ve needed to go.
 These so-called “shared-mobility” alternatives have exploded over the past decade, and some of them are making a dent in urban car ownership. In a report published Tuesday, new research by UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center quantifies the effects of car2go—a one-way car-sharing service powered by German automaker Daimler AG—in select North American cities. The report, co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation and car2go, among other funders, found that the service creates a net reduction on the number of vehicles on the road, which in turn seems to be reducing the number of vehicle-miles traveled and greenhouse-gas emissions.

The Empirical Economics of Online Attention

by Andre Boik, Shane M. Greenstein, Jeffrey Prince:

In several markets, firms compete not for consumer expenditure but instead for consumer attention. We model and characterize how households allocate their scarce attention in arguably the largest market for attention: the Internet. Our characterization of household attention allocation operates along three dimensions: how much attention is allocated, where that attention is allocated, and how that attention is allocated. Using click-stream data for thousands of U.S. households, we assess if and how attention allocation on each dimension changed between 2008 and 2013, a time of large increases in online offerings. We identify vast and expected changes in where households allocate their attention (away from chat and news towards video and social media), and yet we simultaneously identify remarkable stability in how much attention is allocated and how it is allocated. Specifically, we identify (i) persistence in the elasticity of attention according to income and (ii) complete stability in the dispersion of attention across sites and in the intensity of attention within sites. We illustrate how this finding is difficult to reconcile with standard models of optimal attention allocation and suggest alternatives that may be more suitable. We conclude that increasingly valuable offerings change where households go online, but not their general online attention patterns. This conclusion has important implications for competition and welfare in other markets for attention.

Photographer: Stephen Morris/Getty Images/Vetta Your Car’s Been Studying You Closely and Everyone Wants the Data

David Welch:

As you may have suspected, your car is spying on you. Fire up a new model and it updates more than 100,000 data points, including rather personal details like the front-seat passenger’s weight. The navigation system tracks every mile and remembers your route to work. The vehicular brain is smart enough to help avoid traffic jams or score parking spaces, and soon will be able to log not only your itineraries but your internet shopping patterns.
 The connected car will be a wonderful convenience or an intrusive nightmare, depending on your tolerance. For automakers, it could be a gold mine, which is why the industry is building firewalls to keep the likes of Google Inc. and Apple Inc. at bay — and hoping to pry you away from their phones and apps when you’re motoring.

Lyft losing as much as $50 million a month, president confirms

Marisa Kendall:

Lyft President and co-founder John Zimmer addressed an audience at the Brainstorm Tech conference organized by Fortune. Not surprisingly, the company’s financials were among the topics of discussion. Reports have surfaced that Lyft is losing up to $50 million a month — Bloomberg reported that Lyft promised its investors to cap losses at that amount. But Zimmer put a slightly different spin on that high figure. When asked about it Monday, he said: “I would use the word ‘investing,’ ” Fortune reported.

Honda co-develops first hybrid car motor free of heavy rare earth metals

Naki Shiraki and Naomi Tajitsu:

Japan’s Honda Motor Co has co-developed the world’s first hybrid car motor without using heavy rare earth metals, which it says will reduce its dependence on the expensive materials mainly supplied by China.
 Hybrid vehicles combining a gasoline engine and electric motor have become increasingly popular in many developed countries, but sourcing a steady supply of rare earth elements such as dysprosium and terbium has been a challenge.
 In 2010 China imposed a temporary ban on exports of rare earth minerals to Japan as the two nations engaged in territorial disputes.

Is the car culture dying?

Robert Samuelson:

Few technological breakthroughs have had the social and economic impact of the automobile. It changed America’s geography, spawning suburbs, shopping malls and sprawl as far as the eye could see. It redefined how we work and play, from the daily commute to the weekend trek to the beach. It expanded the heavy industry — steel-making, car production — that made the Midwest the economy’s epicenter for decades. And, finally but not least, the car became the quintessential symbol of American mobility, status and independence.
 Now there are signs that the car and its many offshoots (SUVs, pickup trucks) are losing their grip on the American psyche and pocketbook. The car culture may be dying or, at any rate, slumping into a prolonged era of eclipse. The only question is whether the signs of change can be believed. It’s not clear.

The Sun Will Set on Electric Utilities

Leonard Hyman and William Tilles:

Why do electric companies spend so much on new plants when consumers show so little inclination to buy more of the output?
 From 2000 to the present, investor-owned utilities doubled their equity base while kilowatt-hour sales rose less than 10%. The more they invest, the more they can earn, so they have an incentive to invest when regulators allow them to earn more than the cost of capital.
 If sales do not increase, how will they earn additional profits to cover the cost of the new investment? They can cut costs or raise prices, of course. They have cut costs for two decades. Now it looks as if they will have to raise prices, working through the slow state-regulatory process.
 They might have to raise prices for a kilowatt-hour just as the introduction of disruptive technologies might give consumers an alternative to the legacy electricity provider. That’s the death spiral: Utilities raise prices, making an easier entry for competitive products, then utilities lose sales and must raise prices more to pay for all of the overhead they installed unnecessarily, and competitors take still more of the market.
 That brings up the electric company’s peculiar relationship with its customers. Electricity consumers do not line up the night before to buy power. They have no thoughts about the electric company while the lights are on and only the worst thoughts when the lights go out. They may stick to the local utility’s electricity retailer—but largely out of inertia, or because they never heard of the competitors, or they don’t believe any action offers anything worth the effort of switching.

Five transport promises that never quite changed the world

Bryan Lufkin:

“I think we have a cultural affinity for technology that reflects optimism, but we all make poor forecasts,” says Jim Moore, director of the Transportation Engineering Program at the University of Southern California. He says that any tech that’s based on new standards for infrastructure, in particular, is risky. It requires sweeping changes, investments, and it penetrates the market slowly. That’s why monorails, despite their advantages over traditional rail locomotives, have largely been relegated to theme parks and Simpsons episodes.

Silicon Valley-Driven Hype for Self-Driving Cars

Lee Gomes:

Here’s another view: Mr. Brown may be the first casualty of the widespread and potentially dangerous belief that autonomous cars are much closer to being road-ready than they actually are.
 Mr. Brown, who died in Florida on May 7, does not appear to have been heeding an important rule in the official instruction manual for the Tesla Autopilot feature he was using: Drivers should keep their hands on the wheel and be ready to resume control of the vehicle at any time.
 Instead, he seems to have been answering to a higher authority: Elon Musk, a founder and the chief executive of Tesla Motors.
 Mr. Musk is well known for his salesmanship, and used it liberally in promoting Autopilot. “It’s almost twice as good as a person” was one of his claims. Another: A driver could use Autopilot for the roughly 800 miles between San Francisco and Seattle almost “without touching the controls at all.”

nding the huge gulf between the Tesla Autopilot and a real robocar, in light of the crash


It’s not surprising there is huge debate about the fatal Tesla autopilot crash revealed to us last week. The big surprise to me is actually that Tesla and MobilEye stock seem entirely unaffected. For many years, one of the most common refrains I would hear in discussions about robocars was, “This is all great, but the first fatality and it’s all over.” I never believed it would all be over, but I didn’t think there would barely be a blip.
 There’s been lots of blips in the press and online, of course, but most of it has had some pretty wrong assumptions. Tesla’s autopilot is a distant cousin of a real robocar, and that would explain why the fatality is no big deal for the field, but the press shows that people don’t know that.
 Tesla’s autopilot is really a fancy cruise control. It combines several key features from the ADAS (Advance Driver Assist) world, such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping and forward collision avoidance, among others. All these features have been in cars for years, and they are also combined in similar products in other cars, both commercial offerings and demonstrated prototypes. In fact, Honda promoted such a function over 10 years ago!

Via David Levinson.

Roads That Work for Self-Driving Cars

Jerry Kaplan:

In May, a Tesla “autopilot” enthusiast in Florida became the first known fatality in a self-driving car. But this was no ordinary accident. The car performed exactly as designed, and the (non)driver’s failure to take any corrective action could reasonably have been foreseen by the manufacturer. This unwelcome yet widely anticipated milestone may set back progress on what promises to be one of the most valuable technologies of the 21st century.
 In its rush to get hot new products into consumers’ hands, Tesla—along with many other car manufacturers—has pursued a flawed vision of the future, one in which tomorrow’s technology is simply layered on top of today’s. As with the “horseless carriages” of the early 1900s, which at first were merely added to the jumble of pedestrians and carts swarming through the streets, the real benefits of the new technology won’t be realized until we see substantial changes in our transportation infrastructure.

Makers of Self-Driving Cars Ask What to Do With Human Nature

John Quain:

EVEN before Tesla revealed that a fatal accident had occurred while one of its cars was in semiautonomous driving mode, a debate was well underway between researchers and engineers: Is it possible to get a driver to safely take back control of a car once the vehicle has started driving itself?
 The question is relevant not only for cars of the future but also for ones already on the road.
 While the Tesla Model S has been getting all the attention in the last week, the fact is that many cars, including models from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, now have systems that use a combination of adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping and automatic braking to enable drivers to briefly take their hands off the wheel and their eyes off the road.
 Some Tesla drivers have reveled in making videos of themselves using the Autopilot feature. But the more conventional automakers have designed their systems to take control of the car for only a few seconds at a time; the driver must be ready to resume command at any time.

Volkswagen and LG team to create connected car platform


companies will work to connect VW vehicles to smart homes, allowing drivers to monitor smart devices in their homes. This means you could turn your lights on and get your home preheated to your desired temperature as you begin your commute home.
 Secondly, the connected car platform will bring messaging into the car cabin. VW emphasizes the feature will be executed in a safe way — presumably, this means both in terms of cybersecurity and limiting driver distraction.
 Lastly, LG will help VW create a new infotainment system that can intuitively run all these functions and features.

Uber driver compensation

Caroline O’Donovan & Jeremy Singer Vine.

Driverless Cars to Fuel Suburban Sprawl

Christopher Mims:

Imagine a world in which hardly anyone owns a car. Instead, most people subscribe to a service for self-driving cars, probably a mashup of the current players in the space, which include Google, Uber, Lyft, Apple, Chrysler, Volkswagen, Tesla, BMW, Toyota, General Motors, Ford and others.

Call this hypothetical service Applewagen, or Tyft or, what the heck, Goober. The service is great. You whip out your circa-2025 smartwatch, which has all but replaced your phone, bark a command and a self-driving car appears, from a fleet circulating nearby. Maybe there are other people in the car, headed in your direction. Don’t worry, they are friendly. They have four-star ratings just as you do, and anyway they are too absorbed in their augmented-reality headsets to talk to you.

Luxury Car Makers Dust Off an Antique Method

Daniel Neil:

Modularity, a staple of pre-World War II auto manufacturing, is reshaping the world’s most luxurious rides.