Tag: Mobility

By on October 17, 2019

Toyota

If that compact sedan or crossover has become too much to handle, and you live in Japan, Toyota has just the thing for you. Due out in 2020, Toyota’s aptly-named Ultra-compact BEV is a, um, ultra-compact battery electric vehicle that’s clean, green, and in no way mean.

To butcher a tagline from Dodge… if you can handle a top speed of 60 km/h (37.3 mph), you could be Toyota material. (Read More…)

By on October 15, 2019

Italdesign/YouTube

Few topics anger this writer as much as the so-called “flying car.” Much like the massive airships Popular Mechanics assured us were right around the corner back in the mid 1990s, the flying car seems more like a tech writer’s fever dream than a viable and imminent form of transport.

For starters, they’re mainly just helicopters, though some aircraft would provide “last mile” service to the rider’s final destination using a motor and steerable wheels. The vehicles/aircraft would be autonomous, too. It sounds like a regulatory nightmare awash in red tape.

One company pursuing such a product is Audi, though the automaker recently admitted its dreams aren’t even close to becoming a reality. It’s now paring things back. (Read More…)

By on July 31, 2019

autonomous hardware

With automakers investing heavily into the development of electrified and autonomous vehicles, it might seem there is a gigantic consumer base ready and raring to go out and buy them. But every study we’ve encountered suggests the exact opposite. Electric cars are still limited to tech fetishists with regular folks occasionally deciding to become early adopters. Meanwhile, AVs are still in their infancy with engineers keen to document every baby step they take as the public remains ill-informed on their overall status.

It was presumed, however, that this would change as development progressed and “mobility” became more mainstream. But a new study from J.D. Power, backed by Survey Monkey, has showed — once again — this is not yet the case. Based on a 100-point scale, the duo’s 2019 Mobility Confidence Index yielded a score of 36 for self-driving vehicles and 55 for battery-electric vehicles.  (Read More…)

By on July 23, 2019

When an automaker discusses mobility, they’re not really talking about anything specific. The term has been established within the industry as a catch-all phrase for electrification, app-based services, autonomous programs, data acquisition, robotics, and whatever other ideas that don’t fit neatly within a company’s core product line. Providing the best example of the term’s nebulous nature this week was Toyota, which showcased a glut of mobility projects for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games — as well as toying with the idea of handing over vehicle data to the Japanese government.

Let’s start with the concerning aspects before we get into the goofy stuff.  (Read More…)

By on July 18, 2019

With Harald Krüger out, BMW needs a new CEO — one that can effectively transition the company into becoming and electrified automotive dreamscape. Krüger presumably wasn’t interested in taking that path. While that hardly makes him a monster, plenty of people felt that his reluctance to spend ludicrous amounts of money on developing EVs was tanking the company’s share price and making him look like a fool. Not us, though. Bending to investors every whim and chasing down trends with minimal foresight seems like top-tier dipshittery. But that’s the nature of the industry right now, for better or worse.

However, in the short term, it pays to promote electrification and Krüger’s measured strategy of gradually introducing more EVs via a flexible architecture was often seen as too conservative. Perhaps that’s the correct assertion and some new blood is in order at BMW if it’s to correct its course. But who do you pick?  (Read More…)

By on June 26, 2019

Next year, BMW plans to equip all plug-in hybrid models with a standard function that automatically switches the automobile into electric mode whenever it enters an area designated for emissions-free driving. While the change is universal, the feature won’t get much action in the United States where government-mandated electrification is less pervasive than a Europe or China.

Still, that’s a sizable chunk of the brand’s global market. Hoping to appeal to it, Bavarian Motor Works went on an electric kick for Tuesday, announcing the electrically powered Motorrad Vision DC Roadster motorbike, Vision M Next Concept, testbed “Power BEV” drive units, upgrades to the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, and a bunch of other tech hand picked for the unsettlingly trendy #NEXTGen event.

However, the “eDrive Zone” PHEV geofencing system was one of the few items that has been scheduled for production. Unfortunately, it’s going to incorporate some gamification into the driving experience — making us suspicious of BMW’s ultimate goal.   (Read More…)

By on June 9, 2019

Following announcements that Toyota would be working on a shared electric vehicle platform with Subaru, as well as a jointly developed crossover, the brand conducted a press conference on Friday regarding its decision to “popularize BEVs.” While the announcement didn’t deal with the specifics of cutting-edge tech, auxiliary business opportunities, or even a total shift toward battery electric vehicles, it did represent a major commitment from a manufacturer that’s notoriously cautious in its decision making.

Opening the conference, Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi focused largely on the challenges of electrification. Terashi said Toyota’s intent has always been to support “social progress” and curb CO2 emissions while acknowledging that it had only made formal commitments to electrification within the last couple of years. However, he showed that the automaker has been busy within that time, and had several initiatives in the works aimed at repositioning Toyota as a mobility brand, by outlining the company’s extremely complex EV strategy.

Buckle up, because there is a lot to this — including some new cars.  (Read More…)

By on May 23, 2019

Over the last six months, automakers have announced roughly 38,000 job cuts as part of global restructuring efforts. While such things are typically part of the normal ebb and flow of the industry, the ebb could be a prolonged one as manufacturers seek ways to mitigate the high cost of tech and figure out what their businesses should look like in the 21st century.

A litany of other issues are impacting jobs. China’s economy turned out to be less stable than presumed, trade tensions have escalated in practically every major market that builds cars, and most of the developed world appears to be nearly tapped out in terms of sales growth.

As a result, analysts are growing concerned that the layoffs we’ve seen thus far are just the beginning. But they’re not the only ones. Industry insiders are also willing to admit that times are changing — and rather drastically.  (Read More…)

By on May 22, 2019

This outlet has frequently made light of Ford’s more imaginative mobility projects, but they’ve spanned the gamut in terms of functionality. While dressing up college students to resemble a car seat in order to test the public’s perception of autonomous vehicles was certainly funny, it also provided some meaningful R&D insight. Meanwhile, Carr-E and the automaker’s lane-keeping bed were little more than comic distractions, outperforming many of today’s hottest stand-up entertainers in terms of laughs per minute.

However, Ford’s latest project deserves to be taken more seriously. It’s both far more useful than what we’ve grown accustomed to and holds far broader implications for society. (Read More…)

By on May 21, 2019

GM Launches Personal Mobility Brand: Maven, Image: General Motors

Anyone following the saga of Uber and Lyft know that mobility services are not — not yet, anyway — a money tree that bears unlimited financial fruit. The same can be said of mobility services offered by automakers.

General Motors’ car-sharing service, Maven, like those more well-known companies, is still a fledgling operation experiencing growing pains. Its latest growth move involves shrinking, with the mobility brand dropping out of eight U.S. markets. (Read More…)

By on April 29, 2019

As we continue reporting on how costly mobility projects, connectivity, and autonomous development are weighing on automakers’ bottom line, readers want to know exactly when these endeavors will become profitable. While the path for data acquisition and in-car marketing is fairly clear, self-driving cars are new territory. But it’s all speculative. Logistical, ethical and regulatory issues abound — and legislators seem rather poorly informed on the technology in general.

For now, companies have a pass to test autonomous vehicles in limited quantities across the United States. The next move, which some firms (like Waymo) have already undertaken, involves adapting test-bed AVs for use in commercial fleets. Profitability is another matter, and concerns are mounting that the technology isn’t ready and might not be for some time.  (Read More…)

By on April 2, 2019

Despite playing host to what everyone presumed would be a very hot property, Lyft’s IPO hasn’t panned out as expected. While the company’s Friday stock debut was strong, April 1st was less promising, with Lyft’s share price slipping by nearly 12 percent in a single day. It’s now well beneath the target price, casting doubts about the financial sustainability of mobility firms.

It’s a complicated issue. Lyft was valued at more than $22 billion when it went public last week, but investors are concerned with the company’s inability to turn a profit. Last year, the ride-hailing giant posted a net loss of nearly $1 billion. With Uber likely to announce its own IPO soon (and likely face similar headwinds), many are concerned.  (Read More…)

By on March 19, 2019

2017 Toyota Corolla LE - Image: Toyota

Annoyed by the lack of passenger data available from ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, two researchers took matters into their own hands. Hoping to learn why people use ride-hailing apps to get around town, the authors of a study published in the Journal of Transport and Land Use joined forces, with one of the men volunteering to get behind the wheel of a 2015 Honda Civic on the mean streets of Denver, Colorado.

If Uber and Lyft wouldn’t share, maybe real, live passengers would. (Read More…)

By on March 14, 2019

Every few months, the American Automobile Association gives us an update on the public’s feelings toward autonomous vehicles. Its surveys continue to place the number of individuals made uncomfortable by the idea of riding in a self-driving car at around 3 in 4.

While the ratio did come down slightly in 2017, high-profile fatalities involving autonomous (or Autopilot-enabled) vehicles in Florida, California, and Arizona ultimately took the number of fearful motorists back up to 78 percent by the start of 2018. For 2019, AAA said 71 percent of survey respondents still had serious trepidation, with only 19 percent claiming they’d even consider putting a loved one into a self-driving vehicle. (Read More…)

By on March 11, 2019

Image: FCA

With Sergio Marchionne gone, most assumed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles would swiftly enact the late CEO’s plan to convince another automaker to partner with the company. Until recently, FCA was viewed as a dinosaur within the industry — limping along since its Fiat acquisition with a lineup of unpopular European imports and oversized American vehicles that couldn’t possibly endure tightening fuel regulations.

However, the reality turned out to be quite different. While Fiat’s volume in the U.S. fell from its 2014 peak of 46,121 units to just 15,521 deliveries in 2018, Dodge and Chrysler managed to endure their losses more gracefully, cutting less-profitable models from the lineup and focusing instead on larger vehicles requiring less pricey R&D. Meanwhile, Jeep rose like a phoenix from the ashes — with its annual volume going from 231,701 deliveries in 2009 to last year’s 973,227 units.  (Read More…)

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