Waymo is tired of impossible standards, the trade war might kill the planet, and Toyota is making global moves. All this and more in The Morning Shift for Friday, August 30, 2019.
If an automaker wants to make a full self-driving car, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration currently requires that automaker to meet 75 different auto safety standards. Those standards are outdated according to Waymo, Automotive News reports, and it’s all because they assume a licensed driver will be behind the wheel.
Requiring a licensed driver kind of goes against the whole principle of autonomy, which would ideally allow anyone to sit in the driver’s seat. While manufacturers aren’t exactly at the point of full autonomy yet, Waymo argues that it could be because conforming to oppressive NHTSA standards complicates design.
More from Automotive News:
“NHTSA should move promptly to remove barriers while ensuring safety,” Waymo said in a letter posted on Thursday after the auto safety agency sought public comment in May “on the removal of unnecessary regulatory barriers to the safe introduction of automated driving systems.”
NHTSA should first work on addressing those safety standards that assume a human is behind the wheel before revising rules to address alternative seating configurations, Waymo said.
That will “enable the timely deployment” of vehicles without manual controls, Waymo added.
General Motors Co. in its comments said “it is imperative that NHTSA continue to drive this critical dialogue with a sense of urgency so that the necessary regulatory evolution keeps pace with advancing technology.”
It’s a pretty big call to action that would require a serious rethink in the way we as a society consider the act of vehicular transportation. Changes in rules won’t be particularly quick in coming:
NHTSA does not plan to begin writing rules on seating positions until March 2020. That involves revising crashworthiness standards to address occupants faced to the rear or side in fully self-driving vehicles. New seating positions “are not vital to the development or deployment of AVs,” Waymo said, referring to autonomous vehicles.
Comments filed by automakers suggest it could take the agency until at least 2025 to complete a comprehensive rewrite of various safety standards.
NHTSA is also grappling with how and where to test self-driving cars to assure they are safe. The agency is considering whether to use simulations or external remote controls in testing. Many automakers plan remote controls to pilot autonomous vehicles through factories or onto trucks.
It sounds like NHTSA has a hell of a lot on their plate.
Ah, yes, the good ol’ China-US trade war. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, we find a way to make it happen! China, a heavily coal-powered country, is now going to be unlikely to meet their greenhouse gas emissions targets because of it, as per Reuters.
Here’s more from the article:
The world’s biggest producer of climate-warming greenhouse gases has pledged to bring emissions to a peak by around 2030 as part of the global effort to curb rising temperatures.
It promised in June to show the “highest possible ambition” when reviewing its climate policies next year, raising hopes it would include more stringent targets in its 2021-2025 five-year plan.
However, Li [Gao, head of the climate change office at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment), briefing reporters ahead of a United Nations climate summit in New York next month, appeared to pour cold water on the idea China would be able to significantly accelerate efforts to bring emissions to a peak.
“Don’t underestimate the determination and confidence of the Chinese government, but at the same time, don’t underestimate the difficulties China is facing,” he said at the presser, adding, “China will not be able to meet the goal many years ahead of schedule.”
Basically, China’s economy is set to start taking a nosedive, and you can’t really tell people they have to spend money they don’t have on choosing more eco-friendly power options.
Li said the environment ministry would focus on climate financing in the future and work with the central bank and China’s top planning body to devise policies to support carbon reduction projects throughout the country, including renewables and electric vehicles.
But he said China still relied on fossil fuels and it was difficult to make adjustments, especially with the economy slowing.
Li also said China was still unable to meet a major requirement of the Paris climate agreement to compile a full annual carbon inventory that should be submitted to the United Nations, as the country lacked staff and resources.
Is it just me, or are we as a global society just constantly shooting ourselves in the foot?
China has been offering an exemption from ten percent automotive sales tax on domestic EV manufacturers. But in an interesting move, the country has decided to add Tesla to that list, Bloomberg reports.
From the article:
The exemption... affects all Tesla models sold in China, the nation’s industry ministry said Friday on its website. The electric-car maker’s shares jumped 3.7% before the start of regular trading in New York.
This comes after Elon Musk paid a visit to the country for the two-day World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai. According to reports, he talked with local authorities and toured the gigafactory that Tesla is designing to begin production of its cars in China.
Interestingly, though, Tesla also raised the prices of its vehicles in China as a result of that aforementioned trade war and its negative impact on China’s economy:
The price of a basic level imported Model 3 sedan went up more than 2% to 363,900 yuan ($50,900), Tesla’s website showed Friday. Prices for basic level Model S sedans and Model X sport utility vehicles increased by a similar percentage, to 793,900 yuan and 809,900 yuan, respectively.
It’s an interesting dichotomy here, one that highlights the complicated relationship between attempts to be eco-friendly while the economy just kind of... tanks.
What, exactly, is a global automotive company supposed to do the day after a country cleaves itself off from the greater European Union? If you guessed ‘take a day off and let the chaos settle,’ you would be correct. Toyota will be doing just that, Reuters reports.
From the article:
Toyota built just over 8% of Britain’s 1.52 million cars last year at its Burnaston factory in Derbyshire and began production of its new Corolla model there earlier this year.
“We will have a production pause on the first day of Brexit, which is Friday 1st, and... then we will restart production on the Monday and the Tuesday,” said a spokesman.
“We don’t know what the actual situation will be like. We’ve already pulled forward a couple of days of extra inventory which we will then use on the Monday and Tuesday and we will have to see what the situation is after that,” he said.
Basically, there are a lot of unknowns here. The auto industry was very much opposed to Brexit, largely because it would suddenly require more tariffs, border delays, and bureaucracy than if cars could just be easily shipped from one sister country to the next. Toyota is definitely one of them.
Toyota says it won’t lose any volume of output. It just wants to let that initial day play out before it makes any sudden moves.
When the rest of the world is collapsing and everything is stagnating, it’s time to move. At least, that’s what Toyota and a few other manufacturers have been thinking as they explore Africa as a possible new, untapped market.
Here’s more from Automotive News:
Ivory Coast’s government signed an agreement on Thursday with Toyota Motor Corp. to build a vehicle assembly plant in the West African nation, the office of Ivorian Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly said in a statement.
Thursday’s agreement was signed at a Japan-Africa development conference in Yokohama, Japan, by Gon Coulibaly and Ichiro Kashitani, CEO of Toyota Tsusho, a unit of the automotive and industrial group.
As part of its push into the continent, Toyota Tsusho acquired French automobile retailer CFAO, which operates in 35 countries in Africa, in 2016. Toyota already produces cars in South Africa, which has a well-developed auto industry.
VW and Nissan have also set up operations in Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana or have pledged to do so. Honda and Peugeot have launched assembly plants in Nigeria and Peugeot has done the same in Kenya.
There’s currently no word as to what the volume of Toyota’s production will look like, but it’s a promising start for the agreement. It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of constantly living with the threat of imminent global destruction hanging over my head!
Correction August 30, 2019 11:05 AM: A previous version of this story described Tesla’s China gigafactory as ‘disastrous’; the disastrous gigafactory is located in Buffalo, NY.