Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the stories you need to know.
1st Gear: U.S. Regulators Struggling To Decided If Authorities Should Be Able To Shut Off Self-Driving Cars
It’s more than just technology that’s holding back self-driving cars from becoming a widespread reality, it’s infrastructure: not just physical, but also legislative. Among the issues still on the U.S. government’s table as last March is whether authorities should be able to shut down a self-driving car remotely, with Reuters discussing a recently-released 39-page report:
In closed-door meetings last March, U.S. transportation regulators and others grappled with questions about whether police should have the power to disable self-driving cars and whether an automatic alert that a robo-taxi had been in a wreck could violate an occupant’s privacy, a report released on Tuesday showed.
The theme of the meetings was to discuss “legal, safety and social issues” associated with autonomous cars, and among those present, the news site reports, were representatives from the U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as “industry, labor, and advocacy groups.”
While law enforcement representatives mentioned that they might like the ability to control self-driving cars, a number of meeting participants were apparently concerned that such capability would give hackers a way in, with Reuters writing:
Many participants in the meetings “agreed that it is a question of when, not if, there is a massive cyber security attack targeting” autonomous vehicles and said “planning exercises are needed to prepare for and mitigate a large-scale, potentially multimodal cyber security attack,” according to the report.
But there are other social and legal concerns that still need to be ironed out, with the news story mentioning privacy issues associated with automatically-reported car crashes, as well as rules to ensure self-driving vehicle access to people with disabilities. Reuters reports the Department of Transportation’s undersecretary for policy, Derek Kan, as having said:
At the end of the day, policymakers likely need to answer 10 to 15 key questions...These range from things like, how do you integrate with public safety officials? Should we require the exchange of data? What are our requirements around privacy or cyber security? And how do we address concerns from the disability and elderly communities?
Remotely disabling cars isn’t a new concept, with GM doing it for years with its OnStar service. But of course, slowing down and “controlling” aren’t necessarily the same, and as more vehicle functions become automated, lawmakers are going to need to decide just how much power to give law enforcement.
But this is just one of scores of issues that politicians and lawayers are going to have to work out, and right now, it looks like lawmakers still have a long way to go.
2nd Gear: Chinese Startup Claims Ex-Apple Employee Didn’t Divulge Trade Secrets
We learned in a lawsuit yesterday that the feds have accused ex-Apple employee Xiaolang Zhang of stealing trade secrets associated with the Cupertino, California-based company’s autonomous vehicle program. The employee, at Apple from late 2015 to spring of this year, allegedly downloaded a 25-page plan for a circuitboard design used in Apple’s self-driving car development before leaving to a Chinese startup called XMotors.
Now, according to Reuters, XMotors has denied receiving any trade secrets from Zhang. The subsidiary of China’s Xiaopeng Motors says it has fired Zhang, and is “supporting local authorities to gather more details of the case,” according to the news site. From Reuters:
Chinese-owned electric vehicle firm XMotors said on Wednesday that there is no indication that ex-Apple Inc (AAPL.O) worker Zhang Xiaolang ever communicated any sensitive information from Apple to XMotors.
It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds, and how lawyers will prove whether there was indeed an illicit transfer of information.
3rd Gear: Germany And China Are Allies In The Trade War
Thanks to the President Deal, much of the world is in the throes of a trade war, but China and Germany are teaming up, with Reuters reporting:
Germany and China signed a raft of commercial accords worth some 20 billion euros ($23.5 billion) on Monday, with their leaders reiterating commitments to a multilateral global trade order despite a looming trade war with the United States.
The deals, involving German industrial giants including Siemens (SIEGn.DE), Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) and BASF (BASFn.DE), come with the two leading exporting powerhouses being forced into an unlikely alliance in defense of the open global trade on which both their economies depend.
The news site quotes Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said “We both want to sustain the system of World Trade Organization rules,” as well as China’s Premier Keqiang Li, who said ““We are against unilateralism - we are in favor of free trade.”
Among Monday’s agreements between the two nations is German access to China’s bond and insurance markets, with Li saying there will be “intellectual property guarantees” to ensure that German companies operating in China don’t have to worry about losing trade secrets.
On top of that, a deal was also made for BMW to buy 4 billion Euro in batteries over the next few years from Chinese manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology LTD.
Germany and China will engage in a summit later this month—a meeting that Merkel hopes will calm the shitshow that the U.S. is stirring up, with the Chancelor saying:
“I also hope that Germany and China can make a contribution towards ensuring that the world does not end up blundering into a spiral of trade conflicts.”
4th Gear: How Cristiano Ronaldo’s Move Could Help Jeep
Juventus, a soccer team in Italy owned by the Agnelli family (which controls Fiat), just picked up soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo from Spanish soccer club Real Madrid for a cool $130 million. This move could offer lots of value to Jeep.
That’s because the SUV brand sponsors Juventus in exchange for prominent Jeep logos, like the ones on the chests of the team’s jerseys, and Cristiano Ronaldo promises to bring those logos heavy exposure, with Automotive News writing:
If Ronaldo can lead Juventus to the UEFA Champions League finals, the media exposure for that one year will be worth about $58.3 million, according to Eric Smallwood, president of Apex Marketing Group Inc. That would be quite a return on the $20 million Fiat Chrysler pays each year for its Juventus sponsorship, according to SportsPro.
As Automotive News points out, Ronaldo is a worldwide name, and looking at his social media presence shows just how much exposure he can bring any company whose logo he wears. He’s got over 70 million Twitter followers and 134 million Instagram followers, compared to Juventus’s 6 million and 11 million, respectively.
Senior vice president at a brand consultancy called Strategic Vision, Chris Chaney, says this could help bring Jeep new customers, especially hispanic soccer fans:
“I can see the fit and where it will help strengthen things,” Chaney said. “The freedom and the adventure, the openness that Jeep represents, it’s appealing to everybody, but it’s particularly appealing to Hispanic new-car buyers.”
Cristiano Ronaldo: the ultimate Jeep salesman?
5th Gear: Toyota’s Getting In On The Car-Sharing Fun, In Hawaii
Yesterday, Toyota launched a car-share service in Honolulu called Hui, which is run by Toyota’s Hawaii distributor, Servco Pacific.
Using Toyota’s own global Mobility Service Platform (MSPF), customers can rent 70 different Toyotas or Lexuses through an App, which Toyota says in its press release was developed by Toyota Connected North America (TCNA), “the global technology strategy business unit for Toyota.”
Rentals—which currently start at about $10 an hour, or $80 a day—can be picked up at 25 locations around the city. Toyota says its initial fleet includes: Toyota Prius, Prius Prime, Camry XSE, Lexus RX 350 and RX F Sport.
The cars are parked in special stalls, and are outfitted with a “Smart Key Box,” which creates a “digital key” to allow the renter to unlock and start the vehicle via their smartphone.
Reverse: Fiat Is Born In 1899
Fiat, now Fiat Automobiles S.p.A., was founded on this day in 1899. In Italian FIAT is an acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, which translate in English to Italian Automobiles Factory, Turin. Fiat is the largest automobile manufacturer in Italy. It is a subsidiary of FCA Italy S.p.A. which is part of Fiat Chrysler.
Neutral: How Much Control Should Authorities Have Over Self-Driving Cars?
What if those cars are owned by individuals? Does your view change if they’re shared cars? What other major social/legislative concerns do you think are the biggest roadblocks for self-driving car implementation?