Autonomous Driving Starts Deals in Silicon Valley

The bursting forth of self-driving technology has initiated the two largest consecutive years of automotive supplier takeovers to happen in a decade, and more seem to be coming as parts manufacturers lose ground in the race towards technological transformation.

Automotive supplier deals in 2015 and 2016 totaled $74.4 billion according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Each of those years blew the previous average, $17.7 billion, out of the water. Considering the number of transactions valued at $500 million or higher skyrocketed to 18 last year (the last decade saw only 6 a year on average) and has already hit 11 this year, a major change is clearly occurring in the global automotive industry.

baiduMany have attributed these soaring numbers to the pressure felt by all suppliers to keep up with the industry’s shift towards autonomous driving, a transition that began about five years ago. Suppliers are now existentially reliant on their ability to stay current with the race to make vehicles aware of their environment just like a human driver would be, if not better. That means sensors, cameras, radar, and computing power to comprehend all that information are now more important than ever.

At the same time, parts are becoming cheaper than ever due to economic uncertainty and Brexit concerns.

“Automotive bankers are definitely spending more time in places like Silicon Valley,” offered Citigroup Inc.’s head of investment banking for Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Christian Kames. Kames also holds the position of global co-head of automotive.

“The focus areas are electronics, communications and software. In the past, most suppliers didn’t really have that kind of technology, but they now know they need to have it to set the industry standards for the future.”

Infotainment deals are expected to weigh in for the next wave of maker adjustments, making parts makers need access to the crucial interface between the driver and vehicle. The sector has become increasingly attractive due to its relatively small amount of major players and because new combinations aren’t likely to raise any concerns for competition regulators. There are a lot of companies that could be bought entirely or partially, like Harman International Industries Inc., Visteon Corp., and Delphi Automotive Plc.

“I think we’ll probably see a few more interesting deals over the next year or so,” offered Chris McNally, London-based analyst at Evercore IS.

bmwA whole mix of deals recently went through between tech and auto companies; ZF just took a 40 percent stake in radar supplier Ibeo Automotive Systems GmbH. Samsung Electronics Co. has also apparently been in the final stations of $3 billion negotiations with auto parts maker Magneti Marelli, a major player in the production line for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

“If you don’t buy now, and boost your capabilities for autonomous driving and for connected cars, there’s no second chance,” warned director of the automotive practice at PWC Dietmar Ostermann. “Because the others will.”

Axel Hoefer, managing director at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in Frankfurt, said that shifts towards EVs will also likely drive new deals.

“Put yourself in the shoes of a traditional supplier,” said Hoefer. “A gradual shift is fine. But if it’s a steep change, that will put lots of people under pressure.”

Prius Identity Crisis in the Electric Tomorrow

The Toyota Prius has long been seen as the poster child for the green car movement. From celebrities to foreign dignitaries who wanted to make an environmental statement you would see them cruising around in the Toyota Prius without fail. Over the past 3 generations of the car the Prius was mostly seen as being responsible for cementing Toyota’s place as the number one selling environmentally conscious car. This was all well and good when the Prius was in fact the more environmentally conscious option on the road, however as we all know today this is not the case. In fact the very notion of a fuel electric hybrid is incapable of getting back to that number one spot now that there are so many full electric vehicles on the road today. These include the Tesla fleet of their bread and butter model S that put electric cars on the map as a viable alternative to luxury vehicles, now they also have the Model X to be an SUV cross over that getting a lot of positive attention, and finally they are about to roll out the model 3 that will change the world in the way that they are going to be the first economic electric car that is going to come in just around the 30,000 dollar price point. Also we see people like Nissan rolling out their leaf that is pretty good little plug in as well, and finally the Chevy volt and bolt that are primarily electric vehicles that get assistance from a minimally combustion driven engine.

However despite the introduction of the Prius and their forth generation of their completely redesigned model in 2016 the Prius sales have been sluggish over the past few months. To the tune that between the months of January and now when the gen four came out Prius sales feel a whooping 11 percent when compared to the same time frame in 2015. This is in response to the fact that across their entire Hybrid sales went down by 15.5 percent in the whole nation. 

This has a lot pushing this fact, for one gas prices as we all know are really low right now, and the Prius is an efficient car but when it comes to its styling it falls flat. Its kind of an uncomfortable ride in all honesty. So where is the Prius going to be in the future you might ask, well frankly it will be dead and a relic of the past. This is probably the logical conclusion to what their mission was from the onset, still it will be a big moment in the American car buying landscape when the Prius is no longer an option. The problem is that Toyota in the minds of a lot of people is seen as the green car option. So naturally the next step in this regard is that electric is the future. However, Toyota does not have a play in this regard. In fact they are going to fall flat if they don’t step up to the plate, and soon.

Tesla Launches Two New Models Priced Lower than the S

Last Thursday, Tesla Motors announced that it would be creating two new, lower-priced versions of the Model S that could hit American roads by July of this year. The electric car and tech mogul stated that it hopes to make its vehicles more financially acceptable to more people. 

The Mosel S 60 will cost around $66,000 and the Model S 60 D will cost closer to $71,000. Both have a slightly reduced range compared to the original Model S, which was released in 2012 and costs somewhere around $76,000. 

model s3In a recent statement, Tesla put forward that owners of electric cars do save on fuel costs and that the effective price of ownership for the new Model S 60 was closer to $50,000. 

According to Tesla, the new models will be available to the public within the next six weeks, a standard lead time for the company. Individuals who place orders today can receive their cars as early as the month of July. 

The cars will have a range of 200 miles per charge and a maximum speed of 130 miles per hour. Both new models will be sold along with battery packs that have 75 kilowatt-hour capacities. In line with Tesla’s new and unique business model, the batteries will only have 60 kilowatt-hour capacities unless customers decide to pay up and unlock the battery’s full capacity. 

The decision to make hardware only fully utilizable by high-paying customers may seem like somewhat of a dick move, but Tesla has explained that its actually the company that is forced to pay extra for the model; after all, either way they’re forced to make the same hardware. It’s the Tesla customers that are given a less expensive option for the same hardware, yet another example of the electric car mogul’s attempts to make its expensive products more widely accessible to the general population. 

According to Tesla, the company plans to produce somewhere between 80,000 and 90,000 vehicles in 2016 and by 2018 hopes to launch that number up to 500,000. The company has stated that it expects most of these cars to be Model S cars. 

model s4Last year, Tesla also announced plans to create a more affordable car called the Model 3. The Model 3 retails for an affordable $35,000 and is projected to hit the market in 2017. The Model 3 has sent shock waves through Tesla and the electric car industry in general because of its immense popularity; the company has received just under 400,000 pre-orders for the car, prompting many experts to expect that Tesla will not be able to produce all the vehicles by the projected 2017 deadline. 

It’s not a bad prediction considering Tesla is still making the factories meant to make the cars. Electric vehicles and their batteries have never been made in bulk the way the 400,000 pre orders will call for, but Tesla CEO Musk has expressed confidence that bulk battery production will bring down the price of electric cars and play an instrumental role in making the technology inexpensive enough to enter the mainstream. 

Tesla shares recently plummeted as a result of Tesla’s offer to purchase Solar City. 

EV Batteries Already Cheaper than Expected

The major obstacle to incorporating eco-friendly electric vehicles into the larger market of more conventional, gas-fueled automobiles has been price. The batteries used for electric cars are often made of rare materials that are difficult to mine, and the cost of obtaining the materials generally transfers to the consumer. On top of that, batteries can be expensive to maintain in the long term, so not do consumers face a higher initial price but they also have to be prepared for pricey fixes down the road.

bats cheaperWhile the price of electric vehicles and their batteries in particular has been expected to remain a major issue for years to come, a new study published by the Climate Change section of Nature found that electric car batteries have actually decreased in price much faster than industry experts estimated. In fact, the batteries for electric vehicles already cost significantly less than what analysts believed the prices would be in 2020.

In 2013, the International Energy Agency made a famous estimate that it would take until 2020 for lithium cell batteries to sink below $300 per kilowatt-hour. However, researchers have stated that the electric car industry has already reached that goal, or at least some companies have. On an industry-wide level, costs were floating around $1,000 per kWh in 2007, but dropped to as low as $140 per kWh by 2014. The study has aslso claimed that some “market-leading firms” like Nissan, which has sold the most EV models to date and Tesla, which has hundreds of thousands of orders lined up for its much-awaited Model 3, have beaten the $300-per-kWh expectation by a long shot.

The study backed up its findings with 85 cost estimates from peer-reviewed academic publications in addition to reports from analysts, the media, and those taken from battery and car manufacturers. While the authors have done a fair amount of research, they were also quick to note that they still aren’t working with a complete body of data in that companies rarely disclose their true costs of manufacturing to the public.

tesla2The authors were also straight-forward about the fact that battery costs still need to drop a good deal further in order to attract the mass appeal of cheaper, gas-fueled cars. They stated that in the United States, for example, the costs must drop to less than $150 per kWh for electric cars to move “beyond niche applications.”

The exact threshold at which point EVs will become price-competitive with internal-combustion models remains difficult to isolate, but many guess that cells would need to run at somewhere around $100 per kWh.

Huge efforts are currently underway in terms of finding alternatives to today’s lithium-ion chemistries. Volkswagen is considering investing in the development of solid-state batteries for future electric cars, though many developments on car batteries remain purely experimental and fairly distant from actual release in the auto market.

Tesla Motors has gained a fair amount of attention for attempting to bring battery prices down by entering economies of scale. It has created an enormous “Gigafactory” in Nevada, where it hopes to create a factory large enough to realize the $35,000 base price for its Model 3 sedan.

The Uber Fleet is Ready

This week Uber revealed its initial self driving car on Thursday, and announced that it has begun testing the autonomous vehicle on the streets of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. “If you’re driving around Pittsburgh in the coming weeks you might see a strange sight: a car that looks like it should be driven by a superhero,” said someone in the know for the auto industry. 

“But this is not movie prop–it’s a test car from Uber’s advanced technologies center in Pittsburgh.”

Uber believes it was still in the early days of the self driving efforts and was still attempting to focus on getting the tech just right to ensure its safe for everyone on the road including people, cyclists and of coarse other cars.

While Uber has maintained little transparency up unto this point, its plans in the the sector seem promising. The California based company had its first group meet last month amidst mixed understanding.

Uber has a big research team in Pittsburgh and it believes it chose the location because, “its an ideal environment to develop and test  our tech across a wide variety of read types and traffic patterns in addition to weather conditions.”

What remains to be seen is what the legislative effects will be for this and what we can expect for the work force going forward. If Uber goes completely autonomous where does all the cash flow go. This is probably the first act of an inevitability that people have feared for some time. This is going to have a hugely adverse economic effect and an argument could be made that legislation could go in place that would block the potential for autonomous vehicles in a commercial sense. Now this could still in principle allow for the application of driverless cars for the majority of citizens but would save a huge life line for individuals who rely on the service. That said it is likely the case that if this goes according to plan and the autonomous vehicle is responsible for the reduction in accidents and increases the safety in line with what the numbers predict then it may go without saying that this should be mandated. Either way that would take several years to ever potentially be even talked about, and from there it would take an additional few years to be put into place. At any rate, it would allow the majority of employees ample time to transition to other career paths.

As it stands now whatever legal action, or lack there of, will set an important and crucial precedent going forwards as we see the increase of autonomous tasks taking over many jobs away from the american work place. That said there is going to be a huge backlash against the company from liberal thinking individuals and workers rights advocates. But, everyone is still going to use Uber, the only alternative is that you take a Lyft but if you are close to the industry you know that they have plans in the works for their own fleet.

How is Fuel Economy Tested?

You’ve likely noticed that a car’s fuel economy is one of its most important features in today’s car market. The unstable prices of gas and growing concerns about the environment have all contributed to this rise in importance. But how does a car’s MPG actually get measured, and can you trust the rating given to it? Read on to find out.

Auto manufacturers are legally required to post their vehicle’s fuel-economy ratings, as certified by the federal government agency, the Environmental Protection Agency. These ratings are generally posted on a new car’s window stickers in dealerships. The only vehicles that don’t need to post these ratings are those with gross-vehicle-weight ratings over 8,500 pounds.

fuel economy2That said, these EPA accredited, “official” ratings don’t always reflect a driver’s reality. Depending on what you drive, where you drive it, and how you drive in general, you can find some major differences in terms of fuel economy.

The most common complaint is that even the most cautious drivers are not getting as high of a fuel economy as they expected. This is largely due to the fact that new cars and trucks are evaluated for their energy consumption. While that would seem somewhat logical to figure out a vehicle’s fuel economy simply by filling up the tank and seeing how far you can get, driving it on a road or a test track for a set number of city or highway miles, refilling the tank, and dividing the number of miles driven by the number of gallons consumed, this is not how the “experts” see fit to measure a car’s MPG.

Cars tested for mileage don’t touch the pavement in any way. A car or truck’s fuel economy is instead measured under very particular, rigidly controlled circumstances that could only be maintained in a laboratory. This is mandated by federal law, but automakers actually do their own fuel economy testing and submit the results to the EPA. The EPA only reviews 10 to 15 percent of the ratings at the National Vehicles and Fuel Emissions Laboratory, after which it confirms most.

prepaHow does the EPA manage this process? It doesn’t drive the vehicle, that’s for sure. Instead, it tests the vehicle on a device called the dynamometer, which is basically a giant treadmill. While the engine and transmission drive the wheels, the vehicle never moves out of its position in whatever laboratory; instead, the rollers upon which the wheels are placed are what ends up moving. A professional driver runs the vehicle through two standard driving schedules; one is meant to mimic the strains of city driving and the other is supposed to mimic the stressors of highway driving.

The city program is supposed to mimic rush hour situations, whereas the highway program is meant to emulate rural and interstate freeway driving.

As a model undergoes the test, a hose is connected to the vehicle’s tailpipe that collects its engine’s exhaust. The amount of carbon present in what’s been emitted from the pipe is then measured to calculate the amount of fuel that was burned.

 

Predictions For Driver-less Car are Overly Ambitious

Everyone is gearing up for the future they see in clips and short videos on the internet that promise of driver less cars being seen everywhere by the end of the decade. People are hoping that we are going to be there in no time and that you need only hop in the car with the driver-less technology and that the ills of traffic and everything of the sort will be solved by mere relation to the technology itself. Everyone is planing for this inevitability, everyone that is except those who are in the industry and know that it is a pipe dream to say the least. When they get here we assume that they’ll make the commutes of our day more efficent and allow us to get everyone everywhere they need to go without disrupting the day to day of anyone who needs to get there. They are believed to be a means to conserve resources boost our mobility for seniors and others who can’t and make accidents in the car a thing of the past. The Google Driver-less car is far from here.

“We’re looking at the broader urban effects—and urban opportunities—of this technology,” says Illinois Tech architect Marshall Brown, one of the team members in the Chicago school’s Driverless Cities Project. “It’s in the news a lot, but nobody’s been discussing what it will actually do to cities.”

The fact is, is that less than 10 percent of long range transportation plans for major US city planning is even considering the implications of this shift in autonomous cars on the existing infrastructure. What we do not consider when we think about the smart car of the future is that we are putting a target on the back of utopia, But when we do so we are considering cars in model of every and any car being shifted to autonomous cars in a single instance. However, this is going to be a long arduous process. We are long from implementing this in a single move. The problem with this is that although everything will be hunky dory with the implantation of the new technology, what we don’t consider is that the car and traffic in general is only as strong as its weakest link, if someone is texting at a stop light and no doesn’t go right when sdfthe light shifts it means very little to the fact that the car which is autonomous can respond more effectively.

Although its a beautiful idea that we are all going to use the time once spent of driving to do our hobbies and expand our minds, the reality is that this is a reality well off into the future. We need to acknowledge this and plan our infrastructure, in general. We are likely going to see the ramifications if we keep staying stag net assuming that we are going to do this in the near future because we do not have the means to do so. Simple as that, we are not going to have autonomous cars anytime soon, and if you do it won’t be that much better.

Google Offers Federal Plan For Autonomous Car

Google wants there to be legislation on the books that is favorable to autonomous cars, and soon. They are on the cusp of being able to put something into production within the next few years, however remain hesitant given the potential threat of liability and legally ambiguity that surrounds the world of self driving cars. Google is urging Congress to establish new federal powers which would let the company under the guise of Alphabet to receive special, and expedited permission to bring a self driving car to market that for the first time would not have any streaming wheel or pedals. The proposal addresses their plain in a letter to the top transportation officials as well as the big wigs of the industry reveals their solution to a huge regulatory roadblock that persists today with the confides of an antiquated understanding of autonomous cars and tech in general. Its a kind of blue print to congress for how they should address the issue and do their job, which most of the time people have immense issue with. But in the case of Google they understand the what needs to be done and what will happen in the future more than probably anyone in the world, so in this case it is kind of warranted. The major innovation is that is the legislation as it stands now demands that someone have the ability to step in and over ride the car if need be and drive it, where as what google wants is a car that is incapble of being driven, it should be considered in the realm of a transportation machine instead of a car as we understand it and that is the biggest problem for congress to grapple with. They are locked in a relm and cannot see the shift within the existing infrastructure. nnnnnngh

An insider surround this story noted that,

“If every state is left to go its own way without a unified approach, operating self-driving cars across state boundaries would be an unworkable situation and one that will significantly hinder safety innovation, interstate commerce, national competitiveness and the eventual deployment of autonomous vehicles,” The thing is that the US need to act and act fast given implications of where we are today. When we consider that GM has invested $500 Million with Lyft to make this happen, as well as many other companies trying to bid for a piece of the pie the time is ripe that they in the United States and in many ways if the US doesn’t step up and other countries do, that is where the money will go.nnn

It is unlikely that congress will not act in some way, the only question is how quickly and how much. Given the speed of innovation in this field they need to set up laws that will allow for the continued innovation and development so that we do not run into this kind of log jam in the future where in industry is halted by state. The skills that defined safe driving will soon be unnecessary.

Eco-Friendly is the New Status Symbol

Although of course luxury cars will always have a special place in our hearts, the tides are changing and the sign of status, elitism, and education isn’t just having money anymore.

Economists claim that ostentatious displays of wealth have actually fallen out of fashion, to the point that they’re seen as crass by most people.

Instead, conspicuous donations to charity, buying second-hand clothes, collecting ‘useless’ university degrees, using politically correct language and making a point of not watching television are all the newest signs of social status.

tesla3Some attribute this change to the increased affordability of cars, foreign holidays and the buys. Now to do these things isn’t such an amazing feat in the eyes of others.

According to a spokesman for London’s Adam Smith Institute, “Rather than trying to one-up one another by buying Bentleys, Rolexes and fur coats, the modern social climber is more likely to try and show off their ‘authenticity’ by having the correct opinions on music and politics and making sure their coffee is sourced ethically.”

According to the institute’s head of research Ben Southward, “More or less everyone can afford goods that were a show of status int he 1960s and so the competition has gone and we’ve had to move on to something else. It is much harder to learn which products are Fair-trade or which kind of cashmere you should buy, which makes it a much more fertile race to run in.”

Ryan Murphy is an economist that received research on the topic. He claims that fast cars, gaudy diamonds and grand parties have fallen way out of fashion, to the point that they’re actually being seen as somewhat distasteful.

“A wife adorning herself with a fistful of diamonds perhaps could once convince herself that she wears the diamonds because they look beautiful and she loves her husband but, broadly speaking, most of her dinner companions would see it as crass,” explained Professor Murphy, who teaches at the southern Methodist University in Texas.

“In other words, most elements of Western society have moved beyond associating ostentatious displays of wealth with high status.”

The unethical, petty nature of these relatively see-through demonstrations of wealth have been commented on by artists and thinkers for decades and perhaps even centuries, but it seems the elite classes are just catching up.

“If anything, it is simply considered rude; one could say you must signal you are not signaling,” concluded Murphy.

rich person in a teslaOne major demonstration of this; useless university degrees about trendy subjects. According to Sam Bowman, the Adam Smith’s Institute’s executive director, “We all know that people with money try to show it off but focusing on flashy cars and fancy clothes actually misses that, in an era of abundance, the  new ‘aristocrats’ prefer to show off their privilege with hard-to-get retro clothes and objects, studying obscure subjects at university of even taking loud outrage-driven political positions or making conspicuous donations to sometimes wasteful charities.”

Although this spells the beginning of another form of enraging elitism, it’s likely a cultural change for the best. At least there will be more eco-friendly cars on the road.

Safety Tips for Cautious Drivers

Driving is the leading cause of accidental death in America, and most people don’t realize how possible it is to get into an accident until it happens to them. Unfortunately, despite constant warnings and steep fines, people tend to drive dangerously, drive under the influence, and text while driving all the time, sometimes leading to expensive tickets, and sometimes leading to tragic bodily harm to themselves and others.

You can be one step ahead of vehicle-related disaster by being a defensive driver and always having driving caution be your number one priority (over answering that text, finishing up that phone call, getting there on time, and teaching that other driver a thing or two). But how can you practice safe driving on the road? What do you need to keep in mind? Here’s  a quick list of the 5 most important facts any safe driver will never forget:

driving5. If you’re skidding, turn into it.

Even the safest drivers can find themselves unexpectedly hydroplaning on a highway or skidding to a stop when another driver in front of them does something unexpected. If you find that you’ve lost control of your vehicle, remember to look and turn in the direction that you want to go.

Sounds simple, but it’s often difficult in panic-ridden situations to look away from the oncoming tree, car, or whatever you might be about to have a close-call with. Just point with all your might towards the safest path and hope that your traction will catch in time; it’s honestly the best you can do.

4. Leave enough space between you and the car in front of you.

Oldest trick in the book, and perhaps the most ignored as well. Tailgating is commonplace and extremely dangerous and is responsible for everything from fender benders to major accidents on heavily populated roads. Your reaction time is going to have a certain human limit, so be sure to leave some car lengths between you and the vehicle in front of you  to make up for that.

3. Look ahead.

It’s easy to be short-sighted when driving and look only at the space a few hundred feet in front of you. If you pay attention to what’s really coming up ahead instead of only the merge, intersection, or block where you’re driving, you’re more likely to notice any possible issues and have more time to react accordingly. The key to reacting in time is noticing dangerous situations as early as possible.

2. Don’t multitask.

Texting, drinking, reading, eating and all kinds of other activities shouldn’t be done while one is behind the wheel… period. A huge proportion of accidents are caused by inattentive drivers who finally chose to pay attention to the wrong thing at the wrong time.

elderly driver1. Remember how stupid everyone else is.

Unfortunately, all you can assume in this world is that the people around you are inattentive, careless, incompetent, distracted, and overly aggressive drivers. That means it’s up to you, and you alone, to not get hit by another car and suffer whatever traumatic injury comes with it. Defensive driving perspectives are especially important to remember when that jerk cuts you off…