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Audi's Electric SUV Is Already Having a Hard Time

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GM get the Ford treatment, Germany can’t make up its mind, and for some reason regulators can’t just trust Audi with “software updates.” These stories and more for The Morning Shift on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018.

1st Gear: Audi E-Tron SUV Delayed Over Software Update

Tesla made a name for itself beaming over-the-air updates to its cars on the fly. Audi, meanwhile, has had to delay its upcoming EV SUV for a month because it has changed some software and now it needs to get checked over and re-approved by regulators, as Reuters reports:

Audi’s first electric sport utility vehicle (SUV) will hit showrooms four weeks later than planned because of a software development issue, a spokesman for the German luxury car brand said on Sunday.

The spokesman said Audi’s e-tron midsize SUV faced delay because the carmaker needs new regulatory clearance for a piece of software that was modified during the development process.


Hm. I wonder if regulators have any reason to be worried about Audi changing up software.

Probably not.

2nd Gear: If You Would Like To Screw With Honda’s ‘Smart Intersection’ Test, Go To Fifth And Main In Marysville, Ohio

Honda’s big North American factories, test track, and R&D center are all around Marysville, Ohio, so it’s no surprise that the company’s new demo for testing communication between cars and infrastructure is going down right in the middle of Marysville proper.


Automotive News explained what exactly Marysville is getting:

Honda says the pilot seeks to address the limitations of onboard vehicle sensors in dealing with traffic collisions at intersections. Such accidents account for roughly 40 percent of all collisions and 20 percent of the roughly 35,000 traffic-related deaths in the U.S. each year, Honda said.


Honda demonstrated how the cameras interact with vehicles via dedicated short-range communications in three situations. In one, the intersection cameras detected when an ambulance’s lights — with no sirens — began to flash. The system then broadcast that information to an approaching Honda vehicle, which was alerted with verbal warnings of an incoming emergency vehicle and a visual cue on the head-up display.

In another scenario, the system tipped off the driver to a car that was about to run a red light. The third scenario tells the driver that a pedestrian is in the road before the car turns.

The technology is limited to those three situations for now.

The AutoNews article does not mention exactly which intersection just got this treatment, but Honda did put out this video showing the street signs in each direction.

We’re looking at Fifth and Main, right in the middle of town.

If anyone was worried that their impromptu balloon parade would disturb this testing, or were afraid that their car might break down repeatedly right in the middle of an intersection and trouble this test, or if anyone wanted to make sure that their jazzercize street takeover wouldn’t interrupt anything, then Fifth and Main is where you’d want to avoid being.


3rd Gear: Private Taxi Firm Wants Autonomous Cabs In London By 2021

One of London’s biggest private taxi companies has announced it’s pairing up with the autonomous driving tech startup charged with guiding the European Space Agency’s future Mars rover. The partnership between Addison Lee (the taxi company) and Oxbotica (the startup) is to get self-driving taxis on London streets by 2021. That’s, uh, not a ton of time.


The companies were keen to say that it won’t be firing its 5,000 drivers anytime soon, and that they’d at least have jobs watching robots drive for them, as Bloomberg reports:

Oxbotica intends to deploy autonomous vehicles in conjunction with Addison Lee in 2021, Smith said, with the service being rolled out to a wider area of the city as soon as a year later. He said that because U.K. law does not currently allow for vehicles to be operated on public roads without a human driver, initially Addison Lee drivers will be in the vehicles to assist passengers with luggage and also to take over in the event of an emergency.


It will be fun to watch this all try to make its way through tech hurdles, regulatory hurdles, and, presumably, labor hurdles, all in a couple years.

4th Gear: Germany Still Can’t Make Up Its Mind About City Driving Bans

German cities are leading the charge on banning cars, but now Chancellor Angela Merkel is getting more pointed about opposing these bans, as Der Spiegel reports.


Merkel is arguing that cars only sliiiiiiiightly break current rules on Nitrous Oxide emissions, so it’s disproportionate to hit them with bans:

In 51 cities in Germany, according to Merkel, there are only minor transgressions over legal limits. Already agreed measures to improve the air quality were sufficient here—Merkel called software updates for diesel cars and hardware retrofits for small work trucks, municipal utility vehicles, and buses. On the other hand, more had to be done in 14 other cities. These included “Actions of the automotive industry,” warned Merkel. This had “massively destroyed trust,” she said, looking at the diesel manipulations at several manufacturers.


I get the feeling that Merkel cares more about protecting the car industry here than she cares about fairness in general, but that’s just me.

In any case, I wish Germany would make up its mind. Just ban cars from cities already so we can all get on with our lives.


5th Gear: GM Is Getting The Ford Treatment

Ford has been hounded by investors eagle-eyeing stock prices and calling for its CEO to go out. Now GM is getting the same treatment as investors call for Mary Barra to step down, as Reuters reports:

Ahead of third-quarter results due on Oct. 31, GM shares are trading about 6 percent below the $33 per share price at which they launched in 2010 in a post-bankruptcy initial public offering.

The Detroit carmaker’s stock is down 22 percent since Barra took over in January 2014. After hitting an all-time high of $46.48 on Oct. 24, 2017, the shares have declined 33 percent. In the same period, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index .SPX has climbed 7.8 percent.

Several shareholders contacted by Reuters said GM could face a third major action by activist shareholders in less than four years if the share price does not improve.


GM did not officially respond to these “frustrated investors,” as Reuters calls them, but the outlet did manage to get this outstanding bit:

GM declined to comment for this story, but the company’s executives privately express frustration with the market’s reluctance to see it as anything more than a manufacturer tied mainly to auto market sales cycles.


This is the most GM response I have heard in a while.

Reverse: There Should Be Real War Against Commercials


Neutral: How Should Regulations Fit In With OTA Automobiles?

I guess it’s only a matter of time before over-the-air updates become commonplace for most new cars, changing how they drive on the fly. How much should governments be watching these changes, and what do you think is the right way to do it?