Inside Electric Vehicles - February 26th, 2020

Inside Electric Vehicles (Feb 26th, 2020)

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1. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Tesla’s Autopilot system, a driver who relied on it too heavily, and other factors were likely to blame for a fatal 2018 crash. The NTSB investigated the crash of Walter Huang, who died in March 2018, when his Model X engaged in Autopilot crashed into a barrier on Highway 101 in Mountain View, California. Along with faulting the driver and the automaker, the NTSB also said California’s transportation department, Caltrans, was partially responsible as the crash attenuator of the barrier was damaged and not replaced promptly. The NTSB said Huang would have likely survived the crash had the attenuator been replaced. The agency also blamed Apple, Huang’s employer, for not instituting a distracted driving policy. Huang had been playing a game on his iPhone before the crash. The NTSB urged Tesla to continue working to improve Autopilot, while also urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to “fulfill its oversight responsibility.” — NYT

2. Toyota plans to invest $400 million in self-driving startup Pony.ai. Pony.ai has been working with the automaker since last year on autonomous vehicle testing on public roads. The new investment, which values the startup at $3 billion, will have the companies working closely together with the possibility to co-develop products, like mobility services. Pony.ai has been testing its autonomous vehicle technology on public roads in both Beijing and Guangzhou, China, as well as Fremont and Irvine, California. — THE VERGE

3. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has suspended EasyMile’s permit to transport passengers in its autonomous shuttles after an injury. The French-based autonomous shuttle company operates 16 autonomous shuttles around the United States. A passenger fell from a seat on one of the company’s shuttles in Columbus, Ohio while the shuttle was driving seven miles per hour. EasyMile said the vehicle made an emergency stop. The company can continue to operate its vehicles on public roads, but only without passengers until the NHTSA further investigates the accident. — REUTERS

4. Jason Droege, the head of Uber Eats, is departing the company. Droege announced his departure  in a series of tweets, thanking Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and the ride-hailing company’s leadership team for support. Droege did not provide details on what his next career move would be. Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, previously VP of Uber’s ride-hailing business outside of North America, will take over Droege's position. — @JDROEGE/TWITTER

5. Argo AI’s CEO Bryan Salesky discussed the financial ramifications of using electric vehicles for autonomous ride-hailing services. The company’s CEO sat down for an interview on The Vergecast and said that to recoup the expensive cost of developing autonomous technology, the vehicles need to be on the road as much as possible earning money, adding that the longer a vehicle sits at a charger, the more it is not generating revenue for the company. Salesky also said that fast charging destroys a vehicle battery's chemistry, which means replacing batteries on a more frequent schedule, which is not only costly but bad for the environment. — THE VERGE

6. Panasonic is withdrawing from Tesla’s New York-based Gigafactory. Tesla said Panasonic’s withdrawal has “no bearing” on Tesla’s current operations at its solar cell production facility. This comes as Tesla ends its exclusive relationship with Panasonic for both electric vehicle batteries and solar cells in the U.S. and globally. Tesla has signed battery deals with CATL, LG Chem, and other providers, as it also looks to produce its batteries in-house. Panasonic said it will exit Tesla’s New York facility by the end of September. — REUTERS

7. Cruise Automation received a permit to transport passengers in its fleet of autonomous vehicles in California. GM’s autonomous vehicle unit will be able to transport passengers as long as there is a back-up safety driver in each vehicle and not charge passengers for rides. Cruise must also provide data and reports to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on any incidents, the number of passenger miles traveled, and passenger safety protocols. — TECHCRUNCH

8. The Third Row Tesla Podcast observed that James Chen, Rivian’s Vice President of Public Policy, helped Tesla lobby for its direct sales model. Chen has been with Rivian since 2018, after an almost six-year run at Tesla (serving as its VP of Regulatory Affairs and Deputy General Counsel) and a six-month run at Faraday Future. Chen is working to establish Rivian’s network of direct sales centers. — @THIRDROWTESLA/TWITTER

9. Los Angeles Times journalist Russ Mitchell accused Tesla of no longer having a media relations department. In a tweet to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Mitchell asked Musk for information on how to reach the company’s media relations department. On Tesla’s Press Kit website, there is still an email address to reach a media relations inbox and Keely Sulprizio, a Global Communications Director for the automaker, is still employed with Tesla according to LinkedIn. Mitchell has drawn ire from Musk in the past. — @RUSS1MITCHELL/TWITTER

10. A group of fans of Tesla CEO Elon Musk in Japan threw an “Elon Mask” party. The party was thrown to get the attention of Musk, to get him to visit the country. The party was attended by 29 Tesla vehicle owners. It is unclear if Musk viewed the video or will make a visit to Japan soon. Japan was Tesla’s first sales market in Asia. — TESMANIAN

Johan Moreno is the writer and curator of Inside’s mobility-focused newsletters (Inside Automotive and Transportation). He joined Inside.com in February 2017 and has written over 700 issues of both newsletters collectively, so he knows a thing or two about the development of electric vehicles, autonomous cars and more.

Johan is also a contributing writer for Forbes and works for J.D. Power, an automotive data and analytics firm. For this reason, Johan does not include Forbes links or discusses anything related to J.D. Power in newsletters, to avoid conflicts of interest. Before that, he wrote for The Orange County Register's "Wheels" section, alongside veteran automotive journalist Susan Carpenter. 

Follow him on Twitter: @dudejohan

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