Tag: Mobility

By on May 6, 2021

A recent report from The Intercept has confirmed some of our biggest fears about connected vehicles. Apparently, U.S. Customs And Border Protection (CBP) has struck a deal with Swedish mobile forensics and data extraction firm MSAB for hardware that allows the government to not only siphon up vehicle data but also use it as a backdoor to access the information on your phone.

While this shouldn’t be all that surprising in an America that’s seen the Patriot Act pave the way for all sorts of government spying, the arrangement represents another item in a toolbox that’s frequently used against regular citizens. CBP is alleged to have spent $456,073 on a series of vehicle forensic kits manufactured inside the United States by Berla. Internal documents suggest that the system was unique and of great interest to the U.S. government, with a multitude of potential applications pertaining to automotive data. But what surprised us was just how much information carmakers thought their products needed to keep tabs on and how that plays into this.  (Read More…)

By on April 27, 2021

On Tuesday, the largest automotive lobbying group released a handful of safety guidelines related to driver monitoring for vehicles equipped with driver-assistance features. It’s pageantry designed to convince you and the rest of the world to embrace technologies that have already led to unsettling privacy violations. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation making recommendations for the industry is farcical because the AAI already represents just about every major player on the field, suppliers included. The only real outsider is Tesla, which the organization decided would make an excellent scapegoat for the broader tech agenda.

But there’s still merit to the discussion, especially if the only proposed solution is to let the industry watch us inside our cars 24/7.  (Read More…)

By on April 14, 2021

On Wednesday, Ford Motor Co. announced its upcoming hands-free driver-assist system intended to rival Tesla’s Autopilot or General Motors SuperCruise. The service, which the manufacturer has renamed BlueCruise, will be available on top trimmed “Mustang” Mach-E crossovers and F-150 pickup trucks via over-the-air-updates in the third quarter of 2021.

It will not be free, however.

Even though Ford has promised highly competitive pricing, customers will need to have purchased vehicles equipped with the necessary hardware (including driver monitoring cameras) before they’ll be eligible to spend the additional $600 Ford is asking for the privilege of using BlueCruise for three years. While more affordable than the competition, it still seems a lot to spend on a vehicle so you can pretend it’s self-driving – especially since the company failed to make it sound like it would be any more advanced than what’s being offered on Tesla and Cadillac vehicles that similarly cannot drive themselves.  (Read More…)

By on February 12, 2021

Goldman Sachs is creating a joint venture that will help it capitalize on automotive technology firms while they’re consistently being overvalued on the New York Stock Exchange. Automotive startups have become a hot item, so long as they’re trading on the assumed merits of new technologies, and there’s no shortage of new companies being propped up by established players. The last few years have been a merry-go-round of establishment automakers and financial intuitions investing in startups on the off chance they might have something useful.

Meanwhile, burgeoning electric vehicle companies are using special purpose acquisition firms (aka blank-check companies) to maximize their advantage. Even though some have argued this is being done unfairly, there’s not much accountability in general. The iron could not be more primed for striking if you happen to be one of America’s largest banks.

(Read More…)

By on February 2, 2021

On Monday, Ford and Google jointly announced a strategic, six-year partnership to accelerate the automaker’s connected vehicle and data service programs. Framed as part of Ford’s natural evolution into an information focused mobility firm, the release was loaded with corporate buzz phrases that we had to clean up. But the gist is that Ford would like to leverage Google Cloud for its products, meaning all future Ford models will be running Android operating systems starting in 2023.

This clears a pathway for improved integration from Google Assistant, Maps, Play, or any third-party applications catering to the incredibly popular OS. Unfortunately, it also highlights how gaga automakers are getting about data for the umpteenth time.

(Read More…)

By on December 15, 2020

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) is proposing a national strategy for the United States it claims will help keep the country competitive. However, the AAI represents automakers, parts suppliers, and technology firms around the globe — making this more of a plea to U.S. policymakers and the industry to remain laser-focused on electrification, connectivity, and vehicular automation. It’s pitching its preferred global strategy, not some custom strategy for helping the U.S. achieve dominance because it’s telling the European Union and Asia the exact same story.

Elsewhere, the eight-part plan is being touted as an invaluable tool to help guide America back toward automotive relevance. But here, we remain skeptical.

(Read More…)

By on December 10, 2020

hyundai-sonata-eco-grille logo

Following reports that Hyundai Motor Company managed to purchase American engineering and robotics firm Boston Dynamics from Japanese financial conglomerate SoftBank for a cool $921 million, we’ve learned that the South Korean automaker has also fallen into embracing on-demand features. The trend, which is sweeping through the automotive industry to our dismay, basically involves manufacturers hiding vehicle options behind a subscription paywall instead of just letting you purchase the options you wanted upfront.

That means tomorrow’s car shopper might find themselves buying a vehicle that’s already fully loaded from the factory only find themselves forced to unlock heated seats or an upgraded sound system via monthly payments. In our estimation, the whole concept is ludicrously wasteful, diminishes the private resale values of automobiles, and seems like the kind of corporate nonsense reserved for dystopian fiction novels.

(Read More…)

By on November 19, 2020

General Motors is making moves to offer insurance plans under its data-focused OnStar connected services, which is convenient since the feature comes equipped on all new models the company sells inside North America. Participating customers will be required to allow the automaker to track their driving behavior in real-time. As a perk for handing over their right to privacy, GM will offer discounts to motorists that never exceed the speed limit or accidentally roll through a stop sign.

It’s part of a usage-based insurance trend that’s becoming increasingly common within the industry. It started years ago with customers agreeing to have insurers install tracking devices in their vehicles in exchange for lower rates — assuming they displayed what the agency deemed safe driving practices throughout the duration. But, now that cars are becoming connected to the internet, this can be done automatically with on-board technologies. Consumer advocacy groups are growing worried that insurers will eventually make vehicle tracking mandatory and use it as an excuse to issue predatory fees.

Frankly, so are we.

(Read More…)

By on November 11, 2020

Despite every manufacturer on the planet eager to inject mobility services into the business, the array of programs that encompasses has yet to establish itself as a reliable source of revenue. Frankly, the whole thing seems like a gigantic money pit for the industry made worse by how loosely the term is defined. Customer data acquisition, vehicle connectivity, electrification, subscription programs, over-the-air updates, and autonomous driving all fall under the umbrella of “mobility” that’s costing automakers a bundle with the promise of being profitable later.

This week, BMW CEO Oliver Zipse acknowledged the premium his company has had to pay to maintain such programs and that it’s considering a joint venture with Daimler AG to help mitigate cost. This would presumably expand the German-based Free Now car-sharing program they already share — though BMW was cagey on the details.

(Read More…)

By on June 2, 2020

U.S. self-driving startup Argo AI has completed a deal with Volkswagen AG on self-driving vehicle technology, fulfilling VW’s wishes for a secure and affordable source of gee-whiz gadgetry for future mobility solutions.

The deal, valued at $2.6 billion, will see VW fork over a cool billion while folding its Autonomous Intelligent Driving team into Argo AI’s operations. The automaker’s alliance partner, Ford, pledged $1 billion (over five years) to the startup in 2017, before last year’s tie-up with the German automaker. (Read More…)

By on May 29, 2020

Amid widespread suspicion of other human beings and the general sense that public transit is a terrible way to travel when COVID-19 lurks everywhere, Uber has rolled out a feature offered overseas to some of its U.S. customers.

Instead of hailing a ride to the grocery store (or what have you), then dialing up another for the ride back, what if you could just keep your driver for the entire trip — like some sort of big shot? (Read More…)

By on May 1, 2020

On Friday, Ford Motor Co. announced Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr’s daughter would immediately join Rivian’s board of directors. In 2019, the automaker dumped $500 million into the electric vehicle startup with aims to build a new Lincoln product using its “skateboard” platform. That plan was scrapped earlier this week, leaving us wondering what that meant for the partnership.

The Blue Oval has since reaffirmed its commitment to use Rivian’s hardware on another project, and now has this marriage of state (or whatever the more tepid modern equivalent would be) with Mr. Ford’s daughter.

Alexandra Ford English has a fairly brief professional history within the automotive industry. She’s been with Ford since 2017, moving from an MBA intern to working within the automaker’s mobility program. She was made director of autonomous vehicles that same year and was later promoted to director of corporate strategy in February of 2020.  (Read More…)

By on April 24, 2020

Way back in 1999, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set aside frequencies so automobiles could communicate with surrounding infrastructure. Concepts included traffic monitoring, speed mitigation, data analysis, new opportunities for law enforcement, and improved self-driving capabilities. The industry never made much use of it, focusing instead on more independent autonomous vehicles that wouldn’t need help from the surrounding world, and which could simply communicate with each other (and manufacturer data centers) using existing wireless networks.

Annoyed that automakers had barely touched the bandwidth allocated to them, the FCC suggested handing it over to someone else in 2019. In response, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) promised that if the commission voted to uphold the status quo on the 5.9-GHz band, the automotive sector would install 5 million vehicle-to-everything (V2X) radios on vehicles and roadside infrastructure over the next five years. (Read More…)

By on April 21, 2020

Image: GM

The great General Motors ride-sharing experiment is over. At least for now. Maven, which hit parking lots in 2016 and eventually expanded into the nation’s driveways, was GM’s attempt to put its vehicles to work, rather than sell them to retail or fleet customers like some kind of dinosaur.

For a fee, users could access the GM-owned fleet of Maven products to perform random driving tasks. Short trips, mainly, in the absence of an Uber or Lyft ride or participation in a more formal car-sharing agreement. Tap that app, find the car, unlock it, and drive off. Abandon somewhere after you’re done.

Well, that’s what GM just did with Maven. (Read More…)

By on March 31, 2020

Over the last two years, urban landscapes have been marred by a growing number of companies offering street-side scooters for rent. The business model always seemed a little curious, especially as additional players moved into the market. It wasn’t long before plenty of cities had their sidewalks littered with scooters in various states of disrepair and thrill-seekers were using them to dive through traffic, thus frustrating motorists.

They also have to be shared with your neighbors, making them none-too-appeasing in an era where everyone is obsessively washing their hands to avoid the coronavirus. Combine that with cities asking (sometimes demanding) that citizens remain indoors and you can probably guess where this is all going. Scooter providers, already in the delicate position of being “mobility” companies, are reeling things back in.  (Read More…)

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