A Nissan Leaf completes a long journey all by itself, General Motors issues a recall of a recall, and Toyota didn’t do so hot last quarter. All this and more for The Morning Shift on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.
I’m firm on my belief that fully autonomous driving is decades away, but that doesn’t mean folks aren’t hard at work, attempting to bring the it to reality quickly. A Nissan Leaf just finished a long, autonomous journey in Britain, which is neat.
A modified Leaf just went on a 230-mile sojourn, autonomously, from Nissan’s European technical center in southern England to its Sunderland factory in northeast England, reports Reuters. It used eight laser scanners, seven cameras, a radar and six electronic control units in the trunk and drove alongside “conventional motorists on country lanes and motorways.”
If you’ve driven at all in England, you’ll know that “country lanes” typically just mean a narrow, unmarked one-way road pretending to be a two-way. Reuters confirms this, reporting the route included “roads with no or minimal markings, junctions and roundabouts, using advanced positioning technology.”
The project is called HumanDrive. It’s led by Nissan but also gets government funding. Nissan’s European head of R&D told Reuters:
“Other drivers around the vehicle would not have noticed that the vehicle is actually fully autonomous. The vehicle is much more aware of what is happening in that surrounding area than possibly a driver would be because of the amount of sensors which are continually monitoring the environment.”
Nissan didn’t just send the car out into the world with its fingers crossed, either; Reuters notes frequent breaks and risk assessments were taken. And there were people sitting in both the driver’s and front passenger’s seat ready to take over if something happened.
This was a big step for autonomous cars, but even Nissan knows public roll out won’t be for a while. There are still regulations that need to be put in place, safety to determine and pricing to figure out. The trip may be over for now, but there’s still a long way to go before we reach the rosy autonomous future that’s imagined for us—if ever.
Last December, General Motors issued a recall, targeting certain 2019 Cadillac CT6s, Chevrolet Silverado 1500s and GMC Sierra 1500s. It was over a software problem that could lead to the disability of the electronic stability control and antilock brake system without the driver’s notice. A second, recently announced, recall addresses problems caused by the software solution for the first recall.
That first recall affected about half a million cars worldwide and about 162,000 were fixed—though now they potentially have problems from the faulty software solution, reports Automotive News. The new recall will include 128,519 cars, a GM spokesperson confirmed to the outlet. He said:
“We have a group of people who look for trends to find problems early,” he said. “Soon after we started realizing there were a bunch of warranty claims related to this recall repair. … Unfortunately, the original fix caused other issues.”
Issues such as:
Owners of vehicles repaired in the original recall reported instances of electronic braking system failure with illuminated dashboard error indicators, according to complaints on the NHTSA website.
“Started the truck and many service lights came on,” an owner of a 2019 Sierra said in a complaint to NHTSA dated Feb. 2. “OnStar called and said I had a brake failure. I was backing out of [the] driveway and could hardly stop the truck as I was approaching the road.”
The secondary software error, Flores said, happens when a driver uses the OnStar app to start the vehicle.
About 1,600 to 1,700 owners with the first software revision reported issues from the repair, he said.
The fix involves dealers re-flashing the cars’ electronic brake control module with “a new calibration” that corrects the first problem and “recent complaints,” said the GM spokesperson in an emailed statement.
Hopefully, the cars will stay repaired after this.
It’s not just GM and Ford that reported abysmal profit figures in the last quarter. You can include Toyota on that list, too.
Bad foreign exchange rates and sales slumps overwhelmed the Japanese automaker’s huge cost-cutting efforts and resulted in a 3.2 percent operating profit drop in Q4, reports Automotive News. Without further ado, the numbers:
Operating profit declined to 654.4 billion yen ($6 billion) in the automaker’s fiscal third quarter ended Dec. 31, Japan’s biggest automaker said on Thursday in its earnings report.
Net income more than quadrupled to 738 billion yen ($6.77 billion) in the period, but only because of the effects of unrealized gains from equity securities. Net income advanced only 1.4 percent to 584.6 billion yen ($5.36 billion) after stripping out the one-off factor.
Revenue declined 3.3 percent to 7.54 trillion yen ($69.14 billion).
Global retail sales dipped 0.8 percent to 2.69 million vehicles in the October-December period, including results from Toyota’s Daihatsu small-car subsidiary and truck-making affiliate Hino.
Worldwide wholesale volume retreated 3.8 percent to 2.2 million vehicles.
This is all despite regional operating profit in North America increasing by a factor of five during the same period. Regional wholesale went down by 1.8 percent, though.
2019 ended in a rough way for a lot of automakers. Maybe 2020 will be better.
It makes sense, actually. Truck stops getting in on the EV charging action. Truck stops are littered all along the roads in the United States, and they’re set up for people to go and take longer breaks in.
ChargePoint and the National Association of Truck Stop Operators announced to Reuters the formation of the National Highway Charging Collaborative. Through public and private funding, the plan is to leverage $1 billion over the next 10 years to “install Level 2 and DC fast chargers at more than 4,000 U.S. locations by 2030 to expand EV charging along highways and in rural communities.”
ChargePoint doesn’t own a charging network, but rather operates over 108,000 charging points worldwide (but mostly in North America). Its goal is to increase that figure to 2.5 million by 2025. Ambitious! The company estimates it has a 70 percent share of the commercial charging market here in the U.S.
The lack of charging infrastructure is a big bottleneck on public EV adoption, so the more chargers, the better. Once they’re as plentiful as gas stations, people can let go of some of their range anxiety.
While we’re on the topic of EVs, BMW says it has plans to kick EV production into high gear. Pardon the pun.
BMW is increasing the manufacturing of EV powertrain components at its Dingolfing, Bavaria, plant and hiring hundreds more employees, reports Reuters.
From the story:
Responding to tougher emissions rules and the threat of multi-million euro fines, carmakers are stepping up efforts to sell electric and hybrid cars. BMW aims for hybrid and electric cars to make up a quarter of new vehicle registrations by 2021.
The number of employees assembling electric motors in Dingolfing will rise to 1,400 by the end of 2020, and is slated to grow to 2,000 over the mid-term, BMW added.
Seems like that ChargePoint and truck stop alliance is a really good thing.
“Never” is not an acceptable answer.