Simanaitis Says

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THESE DAYS, I get most of my automotive ken from the weekly Automotive News, the primary journal of worldwide automotive industry happenings. Here are a few tidbits. Some educate me, some confirm my previously held convictions, and some are tantalizing bolts out of the blue.

Autonomous Delays? I’ve harped for years about the potential unintended consequences of driverless vehicles. Despite all the hype and, yes, all the technical advances, there’s still plenty of R&D to be done.

Automotive News published a Special Supplement, “Are We There Yet? Transportation 2.0” in November 2019.

One of the supplement’s articles is titled “Autonomy Meets Reality.” Authorities cited in the article confirm what I’ve written here at SimanaitisSays. For example, Steve Surhigh is vice president and general manager of cloud services for Harman International. He says, “… we’re still expecting Level 4 will be a ways off. There are a number of factors that influence that, including how much has to be invested to get to Level 4…. A big factor is the willingness of riders to trust the vehicle.”

In the same article, Automotive News cites “The J.D. Power Mobility Confidence Index for the third quarter of 2019 placed consumer confidence in self-driving vehicles at 36 on a 100-point scale. Any number below 40 is deemed low.”

And reporting a trend at 2020 CES recently held in Las Vegas, Automotive News, January 13, 2020, led off with “Tapping the Brakes: At CES, A New Pragmatic Focus on Helping Drivers, Not Replacing Them.” That is, it suggested emphasis on Levels 2 and 3, not 4 and 5.

On the Other Hand…. The same Automotive News issue reported, “The most assertive demonstration of self-driving systems at CES belonged to Russian self-driving tech company Yandex…. traveling along some of the busiest arteries in this car-centric city, the Yandex vehicles had zero trouble negotiating double lefthand turns, anticipating the intentions of pedestrians in crosswalks, and transitioning from public roads to private parking lots.”

Yandex has contracted to bring its Toyota Prius self-drivers to Detroit’s North American International Auto Show this summer. Riders will summon the cars through an app.

A NHTSA Milestone. Automotive News, February 10, 2020, reported that NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has exempted fledgling driverless delivery-vehicle maker Nuro from requiring old-fashioned things such as side-view mirrors, backup cameras, and even windshields.

The Nuro R2 delivery vehicle has neither side-mirrors, backup camera, windshield, nor accommodations for humans. Image from Nuro.

NHYSA will allow Nuro to produce and deploy as many as 5000 of its R2 electric delivery vehicles for a period of two years. Automotive News, February 17, 2020, says that “With the exemption in hand, the R2 will be deployed within weeks in Houston, which the company has chosen as its first key market. The vehicles will make deliveries in conjunction with partners such as Kroger, Walmart, and Domino’s Pizza.”

Evidently, the Nuro R2’s sole purpose is curbside delivery.

Mercedes Organic-Tech Batteries. In its “Cars & Concepts” section, January 13, 2020, Automotive News reports that Mercedes-Benz is working on an automotive battery that would “use seawater and agricultural waste in place of rare earth minerals such as cobalt, lithium, and nickel.”

The battery’s graphene-based material is sourced from organic materials such as composted bananas and coconuts. See also “From Waste to Wonder Material” here at SimanaitisSays for more about graphene.

Mercedes researchers say the battery can be recharged at least 50 percent more quickly than conventional lithium ion batteries, in 15 minutes or less. Today, organic-battery technology is still in the laboratory stage, with 10 to 15 years before commercial applications.

What’s Behind My Trailer? Valeo has combined two rearview cameras, one on the back of a towing vehicle, the other on the back of the trailer. The result is its XtraVue Trailer.

Image from Automotive News, February 17, 2020.

Images from these two cameras are integrated into a single enhanced rear view. The first customer is the GMC Sierra Heavy Duty vehicle. The XtraVue Trailer is a finalist in the Automotive News 2020 Pace Awards. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020

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