The General Motors-United Auto Workers strike may be approaching its end, Hyundai and Renault autonomous car news, possible plans for mandatory tech to detect if drivers are drunk and more on The Morning Shift of Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019.
Right around the stroke of midnight going into Sept. 16, nearly 50,000 United Auto Workers employees for General Motors began striking at 33 manufacturing plants and 22 parts distribution warehouses.
The movement, we wrote yesterday, is “the most significant American labor action in the automotive space in half a century,” and it has been taking a severe toll on everyone involved. Luckily, Reuters reports, it may come to an end soon, with GM and the UAW expected to reach a tentative agreement today. From the news site and its “two people briefed on the matter”:
While a final agreement has not been announced, the No. 1 U.S. automaker and the union have agreed to terms on most issues but were finalizing the wording on some matters, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the talks were ongoing. A deal will likely be announced on Wednesday.
This deal, as Automotive News points out, would be a “tentative contract agreement,” so it wouldn’t bring the strike to an immediate halt, as members would still need to ratify the contract.
That ratification process, Automotive News says, might commence on Thursday. From the site:
The UAW’s Thursday council meeting, which it announced Monday evening, would offer the union’s leaders a chance to provide a face-to-face update on negotiations or to recommend presenting a tentative agreement to rank-and-file members for ratification.
A resolution can’t come soon enough. GM and the UAW’s striking workers have been reeling from this production-stop, with the news site quantifying each side’s sacrifices, writing:
With plants across the U.S. idled and shutdowns spilling over into Mexico and Canada, the automaker is losing about $100 million a day in earnings before interest and taxes, John Murphy, a BofA analyst who recommends buying GM shares, wrote in a research report Tuesday.
UAW members have probably forgone about $2,000 of profit-sharing and as much as $4,000 in net take-home pay.
The contract could help UAW workers make back what they lost in the strike, as Reuters reports:
Details of GM’s revised offer emerged over the weekend and included an increase of its proposed ratification bonus by $1,000 to $9,000. GM also proposed 3% pay raises in the second and fourth year of the four-year-contract and 3% and 4% lump sum payments in the first and fourth year respectively. It agreed to make temporary workers with three years of service permanent and give those workers a $3,000 ratification bonus.
As the Detroit Free Press wrote earlier this week, major issues at stake include wages, retirement plans, and the fate of recently-closed assembly plants like Lordstown Assembly and Detroit-Hamtramck.
More than anyone, it is of course General Motors and its UAW employees who will be most affected by the results of the ongoing strike, but Ford and Fiat Chrysler UAW workers are also paying very close attention to what’s going on.
That’s because, as the Detroit Free Press notes, what’s happening with GM and the UAW is called “pattern bargaining,” and it involves the UAW choosing a “target company” with which to draw up a contract—in this case, the target company is GM. That GM contract will then act as a precedent for contracts between the UAW and other companies like Ford and Fiat Chrysler.
Due in part to the importance of GM’s contract to workers at Ford and Fiat Chrysler, UAW employees at the latter two companies have been turning out to support their GM counterparts, with the Detroit Free Press writing:
They’re all picketing, every single one of them,” Joe Garrett said of Ford and FCA workers. Garrett is Local 163's shop chairman at GM’s Romulus Powertrain.
“There were Chrysler and Ford workers there too,” said [bargain committeeman at the F-150 plant] Walkowicz. “We’ve had a few days when we’ve had different crews come out together and we’ve had good turnout. We had a day with about 100 Ford workers that came to Romulus.”
Most of the Ford and FCA UAW members are ready to help because, said Walkowicz, “This fight is our fight, this can greatly impact our contract and our future.”
Per the story, there does seem to be a little concern among Ford workers that they might have to join in on the strike if GM and the UAW can’t work it out:
“If Ford isn’t willing to budge on the same sticking points as GM, then the UAW might take us all out on strike,” said James Benson, a team leader in the body shop at the Dearborn Truck plant. “A better part of our workforce is probably not prepared for something long term. They are worried about a strike.”
“I’m watching how dug in both sides are and if this goes any longer, it’s not unheard of for the UAW to say, ‘We’ll move on to the next company and work with them,’ which is Ford,” said Benson. “Or put us all on strike for more leverage.”
Clearly, this strike is a big deal to the entire automotive sector.
South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Company has announced a plan to spend the equivalent of $35 billion on “mobility and other auto technologies by 2025,” Reuters reports, with some of that cash going into increasing the automaker’s presence in the field of self-driving cars. From the news site:
The plan, which Hyundai said encompasses autonomous, connected and electric cars as well as technology for ride-sharing, comes after the automaker and two of its affiliates announced an investment of $1.6 billion in a venture with U.S. self-driving tech firm Aptiv (APTV.N).
South Korea’s government is also onboard, unveiling more funding for autonomous vehicle technology with President Moon Jae-in declaring on Tuesday that he expected self-driving cars to account for half of new cars on the country’s roads by 2030.
The article goes on to say that South Korea wants to spend the equivalent of over $1.4 billion on self-driving car tech between the years of 2021 and 2027, and that—per an “industry ministry official” who spoke with Reuters—the government “expects Hyundai to launch level 4, or fully autonomous, cars for fleet customers in 2024 and for the general public by 2027.”
This all sounds quite ambitious, though Reuters notes that the South Korean government has pointed out Hyundai’s deficiencies in the areas of “artificial intelligence, sensors and logic chips.” So from a technical standpoint, the goals could be hard to hit, though the legal/regulatory side of things will hopefully be well underway within the next five years or so, with Reuters noting:
South Korea’s government said it would prepare a regulatory and legal framework for autonomous cars and the safety questions they pose by 2024.
Two senators are planning to introduce legislation today that will require, by the middle of next decade, that automobiles contain technology that prevents drunk would-be drivers from starting a vehicle, Reuters reports. From the news site:
Senators Tom Udall, a Democrat, and Rick Scott, a Republican, will introduce legislation to mandate such technology on all new vehicles within about four years of the bill’s passage and direct the federal government to work with automobile manufacturers, suppliers, universities and others to ensure those vehicles are available for sale at the earliest practical date.
As for what those technologies are, the article mentions a few options, writing:
Automakers could use devices to determine a driver’s blood alcohol level by touching the steering wheel or engine start button, or could install sensors to passively monitor a driver’s breath or eye-movements, Udall said.
In March, Swedish automaker Volvo said it planned to install cameras and sensors in its cars from the early 2020s, monitoring drivers for signs of being drunk or distracted and intervening to prevent accidents.
Volvo, owned by China’s Geely Automobile Holdings, said intervention if the driver is found to be drunk, tired or checking a mobile phone could involve limiting the car’s speed, alerting “Volvo on Call” assistance service, or slowing down and parking the car.
According to the story, the U.S. government’s vehicle safety arm, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, predicts that 7,000 lives can be saved annually with technology that would prevent an impaired driver from hitting the road. Reuters discusses NHTSA’s research into a few such technologies:
The agency and automakers have researched one system that samples a driver’s breathing, while another technology measures blood alcohol levels under the skin’s surface by shining an infrared light through the fingertip of the driver.
Looks like French automaker Renault and Waymo—the self-driving car tech company under Google’s parent company, Alphabet—are hoping to create an autonomous vehicle service between the Paris airport and a business district 20 miles away, with Automotive News writing:
Renault and Waymo said they would explore the creation of an autonomous mobility service between Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and La Defense, a huge business district west of the city, with a possible goal of having it in place for the 2024 Olympic summer games.
Renault and Waymo, the self-driving vehicle subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, will be partners with the Ile-de-France region in the venture.
Valerie Pecresse, the president of the region, which includes Paris, said it was investing 100 million euros ($110 million) in autonomous vehicle infrastructure.
You can learn about GM’s famous “ute” on History:
On October 16, 1958, Chevrolet begins to sell a car-truck hybrid that it calls the El Camino. Inspired by the Ford Ranchero, which had already been on the market for two years, the El Camino was a combination sedan-pickup truck built on the Impala body, with the same “cat’s eye” taillights and dramatic rear fins. It was, ads trilled, “the most beautiful thing that ever shouldered a load!” “It rides and handles like a convertible,” Chevy said, “yet hauls and hustles like the workingest thing on wheels.”
I myself like Volvo’s method of monitoring human eyes and also how a car is being driven, and taking necessary measures based on those. After all, we know for a fact that intoxicated humans drive differently (that’s kind of the point, here), and if a cop can tell by just driving behind you, chances are a vehicle’s sensors can tell, too.
I bet the method would have its share of limitations, but it’d work in the background and not require any active input on the driver’s part. What do you think?