Why “Tesla Killers” Were the Biggest Disappointment of 2016

27 Dec

Tesla Killers

Without a doubt, “Tesla Killers” are the biggest disappointment of 2016.

It’s been more than fifty years since self-driving cars first appeared in science fiction films, 26 years since Johnny Cab’s cameo in Total Recall, 20+ years since manufacturers began developing prototypes, 12 years since the first DARPA Challenge, and 16 months since Tesla released their semi-autonomous Autopilot.

Self-driving cars? No one can claim they were a surprise.

But wait, there’s more.

It’s almost 150 years since the first electric car, 120 years since the first swappable battery service, 115 years since the first electric taxis in London, 50+ years of increasingly toxic dependency on Middle Eastern “allies”, 40 years since the OPEC crisis, 37 years since the Iranian Revolution, 25 years since Desert Storm, 16 years since 9/11, and 13 years since the invasion of Iraq.

Internal combustion won for a variety of reasons, but the big one—reliable flow of cheap oil—has been evaporating for decades. No one claim the rising appeal of electrification is a surprise.

But wait, there’s more.

It’s been 118 years since the first car dealership opened in the Unites States, and it’s been downhill ever since. Have you ever met anyone who loved their car dealer? People hate them. Nearly 75% of buyers would prefer to do their shopping online, and yet manufacturers have negotiated themselves into a corner, trapping end-users in a debilitating relationship with dealers who serve no one well.

But wait, there’s more.

Read the rest over at The Drive

What The Honda/Waymo Partnership Really Means

22 Dec

Waymo

Honda and Waymo, the self-driving car company from Alphabet Inc. (parent company of Google), have announced a partnership—specifically, according to the press release, a “technical collaboration of fully self-driving automobile technology”. But what does that mean, exactly?

This: The self-driving car dam is breaking, if it hasn’t broken already. If you’re a car company without a self-driving car program, or if after billions of dollars of R&D yours doesn’t do what Google’s does … Waymo is the answer.

You don’t need to be Nostradamus to know that while Tesla and Uber have been grabbing all the headlines, Google/Alphabet has long had the world’s most advanced self-driving car program. Since its 2009 inception, speculation about their intentions has been rampant.

Now, we can get a sense of what they’re up to.

We know that Waymo, Alphabet’s recently announced self-driving spinoff, has gathered 2M+ miles of high-resolution driving data, the majority of it in Northern California. Tesla has orders of magnitude more, but they don’t use LIDAR, which skeptics believe is essential for full self-driving capabilities. We know Waymo’s parent possesses virtually unlimited resources and data on individual search, shopping habits, and location. We know that Wayno is hiring experts in licensing. We know that, prior to its spinoff, Waymo had approached multiple manufacturers about partnerships, presumably to license their software platform in return for user data, perhaps even to control the in-car content ecosystem (think: self-driving car “drivers” watching the newest Hollywood blockbuster via Google Play).

There’s incredible value on both ends of that continuum. Every Honda mile driven with Waymo’s platform gathers priceless data, improving the platform. On the other end, control the content ecosystem, control the data, own the user, print money.

There’s a reason your phone almost certainly runs Android or iOS. Remember Nokia? Blackberry?

Read the rest over at The Drive

Lucid Motors Reveals Their Tesla-Killer—But Is it, Really?

15 Dec

Lucid Air

The stench of “mobility” was pierced today, as California-based Lucid Motors revealed the Air, a stunning $100,000+ electric sedan hailed as a “Tesla-killer.”

But is it?

The answer is no, because the Lucid Air is deliberately in a class of its own.

First, the Lucid Motors Air is gorgeous. For the first time since the release of the Tesla Model S, we have a clean-sheet design for an electric sedan that doesn’t include stupid neon green or blue accents to indicate environmental cred. The Air isn’t some Wall-E inspired, emasculatory blob on wheels penned by the guy from The Kooples. Primed by last year’s stillborn Faraday reveal, I walked into the Lucid event ready for disappointment, but when the spotlights fell upon the Air I joined the crowd of reporters quietly mouthing “Yeeeeeeees.”

Lucid’s “luxury mobility” messaging may resemble Tesla’s, but that’s only because Musk was first to recognize the hinges upon which a startup car company must swing: 1.) you must launch with a premium product; 2.) electrification, connectivity, and autonomy will be ubiquitous.

With the Air, Lucid wisely chose to one-up Tesla, not by trying to build a better Model S, but by moving “luxury mobility” even further upmarket. The top-of-the-line Air is targeted at the Model S customer who wants more interior space and luxury, doesn’t want an SUV, and is willing to spend $160,000—or approximately 10 percent more than a loaded Model X.

Read the rest over at The Drive

Who Is The Theranos of Mobility?

13 Dec

Theranos

Theranos is a classic tale of hubris and schadenfreude, a blood-testing tech company that generated massive press, with a female CEO straight out of Gattaca who attracted hundreds of millions of dollars from investors, that is now imploding because its technology never worked.

Every sector gets its Theranos—so, who is the Theranos of the mobility space?

The answer starts with “mobility,” a word that bores me to tears. What does mobility mean? I’m already mobile; Americans are among the most mobile in the world, but in transportation, mobility ≠ “Mobility”, the new buzzword for companies that don’t have clear strategies in a world of increasing connectivity, autonomy, and electrification. (Case in point: BMW has for the last few years been beating the drum that they are no longer a car manufacturer, but a “mobility provider”—whatever that means.)

Mobility is used so broadly that it has become meaningless, and yet billions of dollars are flowing into disparate companies converging on what they hope will be a pot of gold, but will more likely be an expensive grave.

Bubble, thy name is Mobility. The criteria? Big fundraising, big name investors, beaucoup press, and the high expectations that come with big promises.

Let’s take a look at our candidates, courtesy of a flood of suggestions that came in when I posed the question online. Let’s start with the ride-hailing business, dominated by what are called TNCs, or Transportation Network Companies.

Read the rest over at The Drive

What if the Autonomous Car Industry Is Wrong?

7 Dec

Autonomous

Do you spend time in Silicon Valley or Detroit? If you don’t, know that most conversations involve these talking points: Autonomous cars are inevitable. Almost here. Will be ubiquitous. Save lives. Reduce traffic. Cut pollution. Also, mobility. And sharing. And no one will own cars. FYI, Don’t buy Tesla. Tesla sucks. Wait for our stuff.

“Never assume,” my father always said, so let’s follow his advice, deconstruct the clickbait underlying much of the autonomous driving narrative, and ask the question:

What if the autonomous car industry is wrong?

First we have to answer this: What is the autonomous car industry? On one side, we have the universe of Silicon Valley companies trying to figure out how to monetize an immature technology. On the other, we have the universe of legacy car companies terrified the upstarts are going to leave them behind. Since no one knows when or how it will be possible to monetize autonomous cars, they’re investing billions in anything with the words Autonomy or Mobility, catchphrases of a seemingly inevitable future they don’t understand.

Are autonomous cars inevitable? Of course. A self-driving car that works on the streets of Mountain View in decent weather? Google has them now. A self-driving car that is 100% guaranteed never to make a mistake, anywhere, in any condition? Not in my lifetime, and I’m not that old.

The billion-dollar question is—

Read the rest over at The Drive

Traffic Neutrality Is The New Net Neutrality

5 Dec

Traffic Neutrality

Have you heard of Traffic Neutrality? Of course not, because I made it up to describe a looming problem no one is talking about, a problem that will annihilate car culture in the same way the end of Net Neutrality will gut access to all but the largest media entities.

If you equate driving with freedom, then you need to wake up, because the assault on that freedom is already underway.

It isn’t coming from self-driving cars. It’s coming from that as-yet undefined thing called Mobility, and it won’t stop until you are forced to pay for freedoms you currently enjoy for free.

To understand the fight, we need to define terms. Let’s start with Mobility—the true enemy of car culture.

Read the rest over at The Drive

First Look: What George Hotz Will Probably Announce Tomorrow

29 Nov

George Hotz

Don’t believe everything you read in the media.” – George Hotz, 11/29/2016

George Hotz — the infamous hacker known for unlocking the iPhone, reverse engineering the Playstation 3, turning down a job offer from Elon Musk, and almost launchingthe world’s fanciest cruise control”, A.K.A. the Comma One, an aftermarket Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) he claimed would replicate Tesla Autopilot for $1000 — is back.

Is he BACK back? He’s certainly up to something, because at 1358hr EST today he tweeted the following, along with a video we’re going to analyze:

Read the rest over at The Drive

An Open Letter to the Tesla Saboteurs

23 Nov

Tesla

I woke this morning to news of the alleged sabotage of the Tesla Supercharger in Barstow, California. Sad! But is it sad? Yes, but not for the reasons you think. A rising tide of Tesla hate—the sabotage, the fake news, the tireless trolls—got me thinking. If you’re judged by your enemies, Elon Musk should have Secret Service protection. By that standard, Musk should be President. Whatever their motive, the saboteurs have Tesla all wrong, as do all of Tesla’s enemies.

Even if you hate Tesla, you must love Tesla.

It’s true. Literally everything the critics hate about Tesla is in fact a strength. Kool-Aid? Here’s a vat of it, for even if everything Tesla’s critics say is true, Tesla has made the American automotive industry great again, and for that every American should all be proud.

Let’s deconstruct the arguments of those who would rather see the Fremont factory crushed between tectonic plates, with Musk tied down spreadeagled to a Space X landing platform during rocket testing.

Read the rest over at The Drive

Alex Roy’s Best & Worst of the LA Auto Show

21 Nov

LA Auto Show

I grew up on Ten Best Lists. With the arrival of the internet, I came to love Ten Worst lists as well. The problem is, Buzzfeedification has led to the dilution of list quality. When The Empire Strikes Back isn’t at the top of a Star Wars list (and Attack of the Clones isn’t at the bottom) someone was born after 1990. Someone didn’t know enough to care, or care enough to know.

This — my Best & Worst of the LA Autoshow, assembled after several days of insomnia, four flights, three packs of Airborne and a gallon of Imodium — is an icepick in the face of Buzzfeedification.

My colleagues have already weighed in with the Jaguar I-Pace, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Chevy Bolt, Porsche 911 RSR & Hyundai Ioniq. All great, but it reads like a laundry list of the obvious. Show up with anything new/good, and you’ll rise above the flotsam of a calcified industry. The Stelvio looks great, but does it deserve to be on the same list as the I-Pace?

The Best

And The Dumbest Criminal In The Automotive World Trophy Goes To…

21 Nov

Car Theft

I’ve always wondered what goes on in my garage at night. You know, after I hand the keys to the attendant. Will he take my Morgan out for a spin? Then I survey row upon row of AMG, RS, and M cars, and I know beloved jalopy is safe. There are cameras everywhere. This is Manhattan. If someone saw it cruising around, it’d be on Instagram in fifteen minutes, and it wouldn’t take long to figure out where it came from.

I’m not saying stealing cars is ever a good idea — although trying can be fun — but I AM saying that stealing cars entrusted to you by the owner is a VERY bad idea.

Incredibly, It looks like one Umair Bhatti — the man behind London-based sports car storage business Garaged.comis exactly that dumb.

Read the rest over at The Drive