March 14, 2018 News of the Day: Lyft Reaches $200 Million Deal to Develop Software & Hardware for Self-Driving Cars, Trump Administration Looks at Lowering Fuel Economy Standards

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【Summary】March 14, 2018 News of the Day: Lyft reaches $200 million deal to develop software & hardware, Trump administration looks to lower fuel economy standards, Ford recalls two models commonly used for autonomous driving development, and more.

Eric Walz    Mar 14, 2018 4:45 PM PT
March 14, 2018 News of the Day: Lyft Reaches $200 Million Deal to Develop Software & Hardware for Self-Driving Cars, Trump Administration Looks at Lowering Fuel Economy Standards

Lyft Reaches $200 Million Deal to Develop Software & Hardware for Self-Driving Cars

SAN FRANCISCO — Lyft announced Wednesday that it is partnering with Canadian company Magna International, a major global automotive component manufacturer, to develop a self-driving vehicle for use on its ride-hailing network.

As part of the deal, Magna will invest $200 million in Lyft, and the companies will set up an engineering center in Silicon Valley.

"We're co-founding and co-developing a self-driving system together," said Lyft co-founder Logan Green. "We'll do this out of our Palo Alto engineering center, and will be focused on hardware, software, safety testing."

Magna will take the lead in manufacturing the Lyft vehicle's self-driving system, outfitting vehicles from a variety of brands to enable them to operate on the Lyft network.

Logan said that the resulting self-driving car technology will also be available to other auto companies who might not have their own self-driving tech team.

Teaming up with other technology companies and traditional automakers is critical to ride-hailing companies like Lyft, whose business model, along with that of larger rival Uber, is compromised by needing to pay human drivers using their own vehicles.

The announcement is the latest in a string of partnerships between automakers and tech companies, looking to take the lead in self-driving technology and related mobility services.

Last fall, Lyft and Ford teamed up to test self-driving car tech, while Lyft also partnered with Waymo, Google's self-driving company, to develop self-driving car technology.

In 2016, Lyft and General Motors said they would team up in order for GM to test its self-driving tech-equipped Chevy Bolt electric cars in Lyft's network.

Lyft executives said they don't see any conflicts with having multiple partnerships.

"We think having a diversity of providers and vehicles on the network in important," said Lyft tech lead Raj Kapoor. "It's what the consumer wants."

Trump Administration Looks at Lowering Fuel Economy Standards


YPSILANTI, Mich., — In an appearance in Michigan, President Trump called for the U.S. "to be the car capital of the world again," yet he announced that his administration will review the next round of tougher fuel-economy standards in a move that could lead to a rollback of them.

If the review results in fuel economy standards being lowered, automakers potentially could scale back the number of cars it produces with advanced carbon emission-cutting technology like hybrids, electrics and hydrogen fuel cells in order to hit the minimums. Although electric and hybrid vehicles are more environmentally friendly, they are also more complicated to make, and thus can be less profitable for the automaker while costing more for consumers.

Trump, in an appearance at a former bomber plant near Detroit, didn't talk about the environmental implications of less efficient automobiles. Rather, he focused on the regulations and their impact on American manufacturing and jobs.

"The assault on the American auto industry is over," Trump told a large group gathered at the plant, ironically, now being used for testing self-driving cars. He vowed to remove regulations that "undermine American auto production or any other kind of production."

Environmentalists say Trump's decision to open the review is the first step in cutting back on tougher corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, regulations due to cover cars in the 2022 to 2025 model years.

At the event, Trump told the crowd that the new standards are unrealistic.

Enacted by Congress in 1975 after the ARAB oil embargo, CAFE's purpose is to reduce energy consumption by gradually increasing the fuel economy of cars and light trucks each year. The NHTSA has set standards to increase CAFE levels rapidly over the next several years, saving consumers money at the pump.

In July of 2011, President Obama announced an agreement with thirteen major automakers to increase fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by model year 2025. Passenger cars would be required to achieve 5% annual improvements, and light trucks 3.5% annual improvements. This is what the Trump administration is reviewing.

However the Trump administration seems to be out of touch as to what models American consumers want. Since 1980, Japanese automakers, including Toyota and Honda, have increased their combined fleet average fuel economy by just 1.6 miles per gallon according to the March 2009 Summary of Fuel Economy Performance published annually by the NHTSA. During this time however, they increased their sales in the United States by 221%, as more Americans opted for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.

For comparison, the ‘big three" U.S. automakers Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors, increased their fleet average fuel economy by 4.1 miles per gallon since 1980, according to the latest government figures. However, during this time the sales of the three major U.S. auto manufacturers decreased by 29%.

Still, a number of European automaker choose to pay CAFE penalties rather than attempt to comply with the stricter U.S. regulations. These tend to be companies with small U.S. market share and expensive, high performance luxury vehicles, such as Porsche and Mercedes Benz.

In model year 2012, Jaguar and Volvo did not meet the CAFE requirements. They paid fines totaling 15 million dollars instead.

Some automakers want rule changes to address lower gasoline prices, and the shift in U.S. consumer preferences to larger, less fuel-efficient vehicles and SUVs.

Ford Recalls Two Models Commonly Used for Autonomous Driving Development


In Silicon Valley, seeing a Late model Ford Fusion or Lincoln MKZ outfitted for autonomous driving is a common sight on local roads. The car has become a popular platform of choice for tech companies working on self-driving technology as acceleration, braking, and shifting systems on these models are relatively easy to manipulate for self-driving.

Ford Motor said Wednesday that it is issuing a safety recall for the 2014 through 2018 model-year Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans.

The recall comes after officials discovered that the cars have "potentially loose steering wheel bolts that could result in a steering wheel detaching from the steering column," Ford said in a statement.

The fusion and Lincoln MKZ are relatively straightforward for engineers to install add-on self-driving hardware. The vehicles have a drive-by-wire system controlled from a single electric software interface, which is easy to manipulate.

Uber, Intel, Aurora, NVIDIA and other companies have outfitted Fusions and Lincoln MKZ's for their self-driving car development.

The recall adds to Ford's mounting quality issues. The company has recently been plagued by a separate bunch of door-latch recalls, which affected several million vehicles and cost the company more than $600 million.

Taken together, the quality failures underscore the challenges facing Ford's new CEO Jim Hackett, who must get the company's business on track for a future defined by electric cars and self-driving vehicles.

This latest recall affects 1.3 million vehicles in the U.S., about 62,000 in Canada and about 14,000 in Mexico.

The recall covers the 2014 through 2017 Fusion made at Ford's Flat Rock, Mich. plant from Aug. 6, 2013, through Feb. 29, 2016; the 2014 through 2018 Fusion made at Ford's Hermosillo, Mexico, plant from July 25, 2013, through March 5, 2018; and the 2014 through 2018 Lincoln MKZ made at the Hermosillo, Mexico, plant from July 25, 2013, through March 5, 2018.

This is not the first recall for the Ford Fusion Models. In 2014, the cars were recalled for a faulty restraint control module, which can affect the deployment of the airbags.

Tesla Loses Two Key Senior Executive Amid Model 3 Launch Setbacks

tesla red.jpg

SAN FRANCISCO — Tesla has lost two of its most senior financial executives in short succession, within weeks of when Tesla is expected give an update on the Model 3 sedan that has been plagued with production problems, Automotive News has reported.

Susan Repo, Tesla's corporate treasurer and vice president of finance, left to become the chief financial officer of another company, according to a person familiar with the matter. Last week, Tesla disclosed Chief Accounting Officer Eric Branderiz has left the company for personal reasons.

Tesla is expected to report production and deliveries early next month that will be closely watched for whether the company reached a production target of 2,500 Model 3 sedans a week by the end of the first quarter.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has delayed manufacturing goals several times for the car that Tesla has spent billions on to reach more mass-market consumers. A base version will eventually be priced at for $35,000 before incentives. However, the less expensive base version is not yet available. Tesla received about 460,000 deposits for the Model 3.

"Elon Musk has to be careful to stabilize his company" amid reports of quality issues with the Model 3, a recent production pause for the car and the spate of management changes, said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, the director of the University of Duisburg-Essen's Center for Automotive Research. "That doesn't look very comfortable."

Repo joined Tesla in 2013. The person who confirmed her departure wasn't authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be named.

In addition to losing Repo and Branderiz, Jon McNeill, Tesla's president of global sales and service, left to become the chief operating officer of ride-hailing company Lyft, in February. Musk said at the time that McNeill's department would report directly to him and that there were no plans to search for a replacement.

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