Newsflash: Bentley komt onder de vleugels van Audi

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+++ Never mind the big debate about what’s best: comparatively cheap internal combustion-engined cars, or relatively expensive 100 % electric vehicles. Or, between the 2, hybrids that can be the preferred compromise. The next, even bigger, more complex, emotive, life-changing discussion will ramp it up several notches. At its core? Supposedly ‘safe and clever’ AUTONOMOUS DRIVING TECH , instead of us continuing to drive our allegedly ‘dangerous and stupid’ selves. Hmmm! Official warning from yours truly: this will probably be the car-related debate of the century. It’s not a case of if we get driverless cars; it’s a case of when, how much they’ll cost, who will be the brave pioneers to first use them, and which companies will be braver still by insuring them. Legislation will also need to be hugely amended, and then some. Crikes! Drivers and passengers have not been asked if they want cars that drive themselves. How bizarre is that? Even more bizarrely, the usually clued-up Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, and famously clueless British Government do want ’em. Excuse me? What about the views of the people? The SMMT and the British Parliament haven’t explained their desire to stop trained, qualified, licensed drivers, er, driving. This cruel ‘dump the driver’ approach is so unfathomable and illogical it’s borderline sinister. I’m deeply suspicious about what’s going on. Easier to fathom is why the countless people who earn a living from driving are against autonomous vehicles. And rightly so. Many of these hard-working men and women are more mature in years, so when they lose their jobs to self-driving tech, lots will be written off as ‘too old’ for anything else (including retraining), and suffer the soul-destroying process of becoming unemployed and unemployable. For those who say “that’s not my problem”, I have news: it will be. Millions of professional drivers are in danger of being lobbed on the scrapheap, before reluctantly claiming benefits; the dole money they’ll be entitled to will be funded by taxpayers such as yourself, so please keep this in mind before deciding if you’re for or against the mass adoption of vehicles without drivers. An interesting and (thankfully) interested organisation called 7th Sense Research has in recent days revealed the results of its newest study, which finds a “very large” number of people want to drive themselves, with 1 in 5 saying they enjoy their driving. “That leaves those brands producing ‘fun’ cars with a much rosier future”, the company tells the many manufacturers who listen to and respect its findings. “Autonomous vehicles have to be better at driving than the most powerful computers on earth: humans”, the report continues. But the question remains: can self-driving vehicles conduct themselves on the famously flawed and congested highways? “People have yet to see a truly autonomous vehicle that looks fun, cool or desirable”, 7th Sense concludes. Couldn’t have put it better myself. The EV has arrived, and I welcome that. But the driverless car is a vehicle that 99 % of us can happily live without. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen plans to make BENTLEY a subsidiary of its Audi division as it seeks economies of scale among its top-end brands. Bentley, for now overseen by the head of VW’s Porsche business, Oliver Blume, will from next year be part of Audi, where VW group chief executive Herbert Diess believes it has more potential, company sources were cited as saying. Synergies could include using Audi technology for a new Bentley SUV, it added. Volkswagen, which declined to comment on the report, is reviewing the future of its high-performance brands Lamborghini, Bugatti and Ducati motorcycles as part of broader quest for more economies of scale as it shifts to mass producing electric cars. Sources familiar with the matter told that Volkswagen was working on plans to prepare Lamborghini for a stock market listing. +++ 

+++ The forerunners of CHINESE NEW ENERGY VEHICLE STARTUPS are estimated by insiders to dash into a full competition stage, as they have each rolled off or delivered their 10.000th model, which is regarded as a market confidence threshold. Chinese NEV maker Xpeng rolled its 10.000th P7 model off the production line. It took less than 160 days from the launch of the first P7 in May. “The rolling off of the 10.000th P7 not only demonstrates our self-built intelligent factory in Zhaoqing (in Guangdong province) has met the requirements of efficient production, but also shows that our flagship product the P7 has been well received by our customers”, said He Xiaopeng, founder of Xpeng. Li Auto, also known as CHJ Automotive, announced on October 18 that it had delivered more than 20.000 Leading Ideal One models to customers. From December 2019, it took the NEV startup 10 months to deliver 20.000 vehicles. China’s leading NEV maker, Nio, achieved a delivery of 10.000 units earlier than both the 2 rival automakers. Statistics show that by the end of 2018, Nio delivered 11.348 units of its ES8. China’s top-tier NEV makers also achieved delivery growth last month. Nio delivered 4.708 cars in September; up 133.2 % year-on-year, which is also a record high for the automaker in terms of monthly deliveries. In the first 3 quarters this year, Nio delivered 26.375 cars; an increase of 113.7 $ from the same period of 2019. Xpeng delivered 3.478 vehicles in September; up 145 % year-on-year, marking a record high of its monthly deliveries in 2019. Li Auto delivered 3.504 of its Leading Ideal One cars last month, up 29.3 % month-on-month. According to industry experts, Nio, Xpeng and Li Auto, which have crossed the threshold of 10.000 delivered vehicles, will compete in fields including services, marketing channels and technologies. As a follow-up move after getting a 7 billion yuan ($1.05 billion) investment from the Hefei government in April, Nio opened its China headquarters in the capital city of East China’s Anhui province on October 9. The NEV maker is ramping up its efforts to promote not only its core businesses (including research and development, supply chain and sales and services) but infrastructure development such as charging piles and power charging facilities. By the end of August, the number of Nio’s charging piles in China had reached 1.326. Li Auto is accelerating its development of technology and marketing channels. The startup reached a cooperation agreement with Nvidia, a world leader in computer technology, and the automobile electronics supplier Desay SV last month. Based on the tripartite strategic cooperation, Li Auto will independently conduct automatic driving programming and algorithmic logic setting, in an attempt to become the first NEV maker in China to fully develop a Level 4 autonomous driving system. At the end of September, Xpeng started the construction of an intelligent automobile plant in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. The intelligent plant is expected to be completed and put into operation by the end of 2022. The plant will be used for Xpeng’s R&D of new models, vehicle production, sales and smart mobility testing. +++ 

+++ New research indicates that ELECTRIC CARS could cost the same to make as conventional cars as early as 2024. Research from investment bank UBS suggests that the extra cost of manufacturing battery electric vehicles compared to ICE vehicles will drop to just $1,900 per car by 2022, before disappearing completely in 2024. UBS came to this conclusion by analyzing the batteries from the 7 largest battery manufacturers. This is because batteries account for between 25 and 40 % of the cost of an entire electric vehicle. The investment bank added that costs could drop to below $100 per kilowatt-hour by 2022. UBS also expects the electric cars’ market share will reach 17 % of global sales by 2025 and 40 % by 2030. “There are not many reasons left to buy an ICE car after 2025”, UBS analyst Tim Bush said. Bush added that the fall in battery costs won’t just serve as the final nail in the coffin to ICE vehicles, but would also eliminate the financial case for hybrid vehicles. It is thought that the reduction of battery costs will trigger a fast switch to electric vehicles, which are already enjoying increased sales in the European Union and China. This has led independent car analyst Matthias Schmidt to predict that 1 million electric and hybrid cars will be sold in 2020 throughout the EU, out of a total of 11 million vehicles. +++ 

+++ On 10 June this year, Nikola, a US start-up specialising in battery-electric and fuel-cell commercial vehicles, briefly became more valuable than Ford after optimistic investors pushed its stock value to $33 billion. It had yet to sell a vehicle, against more than 5 million sales a year for Ford. It has been an extraordinary year for ELECTRIC CAR START-UPS , which have seized on the unprecedented appetite for tech stocks to fund themselves by listing on US exchanges. After Nikola went public in June, Chinese electric car firm Li Auto listed in July, followed by Fisker, run by ex-Aston Martin designer Henrik Fisker. Then came Chinese electric SUV hopeful Xpeng, and US sales-by-subscription EV start-up Canoo. Other, previously listed electric vehicle makers saw their stock reach barely believable heights. Tesla, the company whose soar-away share value is arguably responsible for all this start-up confidence, overtook Toyota in July to become the world’s most valuable car brand. Since then, its value as measured by stock price has almost doubled again to $394 billion. Meanwhile, Chinese EV brand Nio has seen its US stock shoot upward from $2.4 per share in March to $27.60 now, valuing it at almost $37 billion. By contrast, Ford is currently worth $30 billion, while the Volkswagen Group is at $71.5 billion and General Motors $50 billion. Values are now so detached from earnings reality that many fear a second tech crash similar to the dotcom bubble at the start of this century. This prospect was the second-biggest concern among investors surveyed by the Bank of America recently, eclipsed only by a potential second wave of Covid-19. The fears seem valid. Apart from Xpeng and Li Auto, none of the start-ups listing on US exchanges this year had delivered a single vehicle. Nikola’s stock price was dented in August when it disclosed that its only revenue that quarter had been generated by the company selling solar panels to its now departed founder, Trevor Milton. That makes investors sound ill-informed and, in some ways, they are. Fisker, Canoo, Nikola and EV pick-up truck maker Lordstown Motors all went public in the US via something called a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, aka a blank-cheque company, which lists then merges with the company seeking the listing (Fisker merges on 30 October, for example). It’s a far quicker process, partly because the company can avoid releasing all the information normally required by a listing. However, the stock frenzy, fuelled by trading apps such as Robinhood, has not included the big car brands. “Investors love electric mobility, but they avoid traditional OEMs”, Arndt Ellinghorst, head of automotive research at Bernstein, wrote in a recent report. “The equity market believes that ‘old economy auto’ won’t get the job done”. This, Ellinghorst believes, is about to be disproved. The work needed to develop and produce a car is so difficult that just replacing a combustion-engine drivetrain is not enough to disrupt the market. “The financial pockets and intellectual property needed to produce vehicles with automotive-grade safety and quality are simply very hard to match”, Ellinghorst wrote. These newly formed companies are now so flush with investor cash that they can afford to buy the help needed, either in a straight transaction or with stock. However, very few are adding much additional value themselves. The Fisker Ocean electric SUV, for example, will use a platform from Canadian supplier Magna (which will also build the car at its Austrian plant) and Nikola’s electric Badger pick-up will be built by GM using GM’s batteries, if the deal still progresses. The absence of both a unique selling point and a company’s own intellectual property might soon prompt investors to question the firm’s valuation. Only 2 companies can claim a protective ‘moat’. Tesla can boast about its long experience with battery development and its Supercharger network, while Nio now has around 140 battery swap stations in China. Some have already fallen by the wayside. Kandi, a Chinese EV maker that generated a wave of publicity in 2013 after unveiling vending machines for its share cars, soared on the US stock market in 2014 to a high of almost $20 a share before sinking to its current level of around $5. In the great 2020 stock rush, any hints that your glory days might be behind you can be fatal. Only the promise of a disruptive, all-conquering future will do. +++

+++ HYUNDAI said it swung to a net loss in the July-September quarter, missing analysts’ estimates by a large margin as a charge related to engine issues weighed on earnings. Hyundai, the world’s fifth-biggest automaker when combined with affiliate Kia, reported a net loss of 336 billion won ($297.72 million) for the third quarter, far below the 1 trillion won profit average of 12 analyst estimates. Hyundai and Kia last week said their third-quarter earnings would reflect quality-related costs of a combined 3.36 trillion won, of which Hyundai accounted for 2.1 trillion won and Kia for 1.26 trillion won. Another $3 billion of provisions related to engine issues brought their total hit from a series of years-long quality problems to nearly $5 billion. Hyundai and Kia have recalled vehicles over defects that increase the risk of stalling and engine fires. The pair have been investigated by U.S. authorities for the nature of those recalls. Hyundai also said it swung to an operating loss of 314 billion won. Revenue rose 2.3% on year to 27.6 trillion won. “Third-quarter results reflect engine-related provision expenses as the company took preemptive measures to ensure customer safety and cover any possible future increase in quality-related expenses”, Hyundai said in a statement. +++ 

+++ Ford is making efforts towards bringing more of its American products to the European market. Models such as the Mustang, which is currently the best-selling sports car in the region, and the Explorer are paving the way for a potential invasion of US Fords on the Old continent. However, that offensive won’t include LINCOLN models. If you’ve been wondering whether Ford’s luxury brand could try and steal a piece of Europe’s premium automotive sales pie, the answer is no. And it’s not just speculation or a rumour but official confirmation from a high-ranked Ford executive. “There are no plans to take Lincoln to Europe right now”, Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s vice president and president of the North American region, told in a recent interview. “The focus for Lincoln right now is to grow, both in the US, where it’s doing great this year, and to continue to grow it in China. Those are the 2 big luxury markets”. Lincoln’s strategy will continue to rely on SUVs and crossovers. The brand recently admitted it has no plans to bring back the saloon in the foreseeable future, and that’s despite the body style’s popularity in China, one of Lincoln’s most important markets. Currently, the Continental is the marque’s only saloon in production but it will be killed before the end of the year. As far as the European market is concerned, the most luxurious Ford customers can buy wears the Vignale name. It’s now the company’s range-topping trim level that sits above the Titanium and is available for the Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo, Kuga, S-Max and Puma. It offers luxury touches such as a leather-wrapped dashboard, massage seats, active noise cancelation, and many others. +++ 

+++ MCLAREN will transition to an electrified era in earnest next year with the first truly all-new series-production car since the 2011 MP4-12C, and it’s a plug-in hybrid. The new model will be launched in the first quarter of next year and go on sale in mid-2021. It will serve as a replacement for the long-established Sports Series range, which includes the 540C, 570S and 600LT. That range will end with the imminent introduction of the GT4-racer-inspired 620R. The Woking-based maker will move instead to what it calls the High Performance Hybrid (HPH) sub-category, positioned between the McLaren GT and current crop of Super Series models. The new car will effectively replace the 570S, but its price is expected to rise above that of today’s Sports Series cars. As well as using ground-up new carbonfibre-rich underpinnings, the as yet unnamed model will be the first modern-day McLaren to ditch the venerable Ricardo-sourced 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8. In its place will be another Ricardo-built powertrain: a twin-turbocharged V6 mated to a plug-in hybrid system claimed to offer “astonishing levels of performance and a uniquely intense driving experience”. Few details of the powertrain’s key specs have been revealed, other than that it will feature “medium-range” pure-electric running, which will be 30 km. Total system output will be greater than the 570 hp offered by the 570S and is expected to be well in excess of 600 hp. A substantial increase in torque, enabled by the electric motors and available instantly from low revs, is also on the cards. The downside will be an increase in kerb weight due to the battery and powertrain complexity. However, McLaren boss Mike Flewitt has been candid when previously saying: “I’ve always said my ambition was to launch the hybrid at the same weight as the outgoing car. We’re not going to hit that, but we’re going to be within 30-40 kg”. As such, a kerb weight of around 1.500 kg is expected. For reference, the hybrid Honda NSX is 1.725 kg. The key ingredient to keeping weight down will be the all-new McLaren Carbon Lightweight Architecture (MCLA). It replaces the Monocell carbonfibre tub that made its debut on the MP4-12C, although it was further developed as the MonoCell II for 2015. The MCLA tub will, like the Monocell, combine a carbonfibre central structure with aluminium subframes. It was designed and developed at McLaren’s Composites Technology Centre in Sheffield, where it will also be produced. Flewitt claims the ultra-light new chassis is “every bit as revolutionary” as the MonoCell was when it was introduced and has “greater structural integrity and higher levels of quality”. It is also said to allow greater bodystyle and powertrain flexibility to help McLaren further differentiate models in each range and offer everything from pure-combustion models to fully electric powertrains. Although pretty much every internal aspect of the new McLaren is revolutionary, the design will take a more evolutionary approach. It’s believed that some inspiration will be taken from the Elva speedster, particularly at the front, and that car’s interior design is also meant to provide a hint to the forthcoming range. A question mark remains over the name. McLaren has registered a number of name patents with the global brand database over the past 12 months, including Artura and the likes of Vion, Arkon and Veo. In 2019, GTZ was also applied for. It’s highly likely that one of these names will grace the new hybrid model when the covers come off next year. The hybrid revolution at McLaren is one born of necessity rather than desire, as it is with pretty much every car maker that wishes to sell a reasonable volume of cars in the 2020s without battling stringent regulations. Will that make the new Sports Series replacement a half-cocked compliance car? I very much doubt it. Leaving aside the extraordinary engineering talent within its Woking HQ and beyond, it’s not as if McLaren hasn’t dabbled (to put it mildly) in electrification before. The P1, one of the modern-day hypercar icons, featured an in-house-developed electric motor and could even travel six miles without ever awakening its twin-turbo V8. The 250mph-plus Speedtail may not have had a discernible EV range, but most people would forgive it that. Arguably, the challenge here could be the brand’s trickiest yet: packaging all that know-how and at least some of the extraordinary performance into a car that is (in relative supercar terms) affordable, usable and quite easily mass produced. The price is a big question: will it be a true successor to the 570S or nip uncomfortably at the heels of the 720S? That remains to be seen. +++ 

+++ Pickups aren’t the most agile vehicles on the road when it comes to sudden maneuvers, yet the MITSUBISHI L200 didn’t do all that bad at the moose test. The pickup managed to stay within the lines at 69 km/h, as all other attempts above this speed resulted in cones flying in the air. This was noted as an “average result” for such a vehicle, with the testteam adding that it felt relatively safe, in spite of what it may have looked like. In order for a car to successfully pass the moose test, it needs to complete the course at 77 km/h or higher. However, this has proved tricky for a number of modern vehicles in recent years, despite most of them having sharper steering and lower centers of gravity than the Japanese pickup truck. One such example is the BMW M235i Gran Coupe, which may be marketed as a driver’s car, but it actually performed marginally worse than the L200. The driver had to lower the speed to 68 km/h to avoid hitting the cones, a poor result for a vehicle in this class. The L200’s result is actually comparable to the Volkswagen Golf, which was subjected to the moose test a few months ago and managed to complete the maneuver at 69 km/h. The result was described as ‘unsatisfactory’ for a compact hatchback. +++ 

+++ The NISSAN QASHQAI is a popular cross-over, yet despite selling well, it’s in dire need of a serious makeover. Fortunately for its loyal customer base, the Japanese automaker is readying the next chapter of the Qashqai story. It will join a slew of redesigned offerings such as the X-Trail, Navara, Ariya and 400Z sports car in a rejuvenated Nissan lineup. Test mules of the redesigned crossover have recently been snapped by spy photographers revealing its sleek new proportions. But more importantly, how will it look without the camouflage? Let’s peel back those eye-straining patterns and illustratively explore further. Like the latest Juke and larger X-Trail, the Qashqai wears a bold new frontal graphic with dynamic, boomerang-shaped LED headlamps, V-Motion corporate grille and clamshell hood. Obligatory ‘SUV-effect’ plastic cladding is evident around the lower air dam, wheel arch mouldings and rocker panels, whilst the view from the side is chiselled and taut without being overly fussy. There are hints of Nissan’s Ariya towards the rear, with up-swept rear quarter glass and heavily-raked sail panels with contrasting black trim. Thin LED taillights stretch horizontally across the hatch; although they won’t be as radical looking as those seen on other Nissans of late. One criticism of the current car is its cheap and not-so-cheerful interior. Reassuringly, Nissan is putting a lot of effort into their latest crop of interiors, and the Qashqai will benefit immensely. Expect much of the same content and styling to filter down from the bigger X-Trail. Goodies will include a digital instrument cluster, heads-up display, 9.0-inch floating tablet-style infotainment screen with wireless Apple CarPlay, surround view monitor and wireless charging. An enhanced version of Nissan’s ProPilot will bring adaptive cruise control and improved lane-keeping abilities that use navigation-based data to preemptively reduce speed for motorway curves and junctions. This level of driver-assist functionality is often reserved for luxury cars. It adds another layer of safety to complement the expanded rollout of Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 suite of driver aids. The Qashqai will ride upon an updated version of the CMF-C/D platform that underpins a myriad of other Nissan, Mitsubishi and Renault products. A safer safety cell and retuned suspension will improve occupant protection and dynamic abilities, as will the availability of all-wheel-drive. Gasoline power will be the primary source of propulsion from launch. The current model’s 1.3-litre inline-4 will carryover in tandem with Nissan’s not-so-loved continuously variable transmission (CVT). Conjecture indicates that 48-volt mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid options will be available down the track, highlighting the Japanese marque’s push towards electrification and the phasing out of diesel in specific markets. +++

+++ An electric vehicle (EV) factory planned by Chinese automaking group Geely will produce cars under the premium POLESTAR marque, 2 people with direct knowledge of the matter told. The Zhejiang Geely Holding Group plans to build a plant with annual manufacturing capacity of 30.000 premium EVs in the western city of Chongqing, run by a wholly owned, newly registered company, showed documents on its website. The plan comes as foreign automakers including BMW and Tesla expand EV production in the world’s biggest market, sourcing major EV components such as batteries locally and often exporting the end product. Hangzhou-based Geely is China’s most internationally known automaker. It owns Volvo Cars and Lotus, almost half of Proton and 9.7 % of Daimler. Its Hong Kong-listed Geely Automobile Holdings is planning a Shanghai float. Through wholly owned company Polestar, it builds low-volume Polestar 1 hybrid performance cars in the western city of Chengdu and Polestar 2 volume sedans in Taizhou in the east. It also plans to begin production of the Precept sedan, displayed at this year’s China auto show. Polestar aims to eventually offer bigger, more sporty vehicles at its showrooms, which currently span 9 countries and whose number it plans to raise to 45 from 23 by year-end. Polestar chief executive Thomas Ingenlath told the firm is scouting markets in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. Geely is also building a factory in China to make SUV cars under the Lotus marque. +++ 

+++ Last week, TESLA sent out its “full self-driving” software to a small group of owners who will test it on public roads. But buried on its website is a disclaimer that the $8,000 system doesn’t make the vehicles autonomous and drivers still have to supervise it. The conflicting messages have experts in the field accusing Tesla of deceptive, irresponsible marketing that could make the roads more dangerous as the system is rolled out to as many as 1 million electric vehicle drivers by the end of the year. “This is actively misleading people about the capabilities of the system, based on the information I’ve seen about it”, said Steven Shladover, a research engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, who has studied autonomous driving for 40 years. “It is a very limited functionality that still requires constant driver supervision”. On a conference call, Musk told industry analysts that the company is starting full self-driving slowly and cautiously “because the world is a complex and messy place”. It plans to add drivers this weekend and hopes to have a wider release by the end of the year. He referred to having a million vehicles “providing feedback” on situations that can’t be anticipated. The company hasn’t identified the drivers or said where they are located. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which regulates automakers, says it will monitor the Teslas closely “and will not hesitate to take action to protect the public against unreasonable risks to safety”. The agency says in a statement that it has been briefed on Tesla’s system, which it considers to be an expansion of driver assistance software, which requires human supervision. “No vehicle available for purchase today is capable of driving itself”, the statement said. On its website, Tesla touts in large font its full self-driving capability. In smaller font, it warns: “The currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous. The activation and use of these features are dependent on achieving reliability far in excess of human drivers as demonstrated by billions of miles of experience, as well as regulatory approval, which may take longer in some jurisdictions”. Even before using the term “full self-driving”, Tesla named its driver-assist system Autopilot. Many drivers relied on it too much and checked out, resulting in at least three U.S. deaths. The National Transportation Safety Board faulted Tesla in those fatal crashes for letting drivers avoid paying attention and failing to limit where Autopilot can be used. Board members, who have no regulatory powers, have said they are frustrated that safety recommendations have been ignored by Tesla and NHTSA. Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina law professor who studies autonomous vehicles, said it was bad enough that Tesla was using the term Autopilot to describe its system but elevating it to “full self-driving” is even worse. “That leaves the domain of the misleading and irresponsible to something that could be called fraudulent”, Walker Smith said. The Society of Automotive Engineers, or SAE, has developed 5 levels to describe the functions of autonomous vehicles. In levels 0 through 2, humans are driving the cars and supervising partially automated functions. In levels 3 through 5, the vehicles are driving, with level 5 describing a vehicle being driven under all traffic and weather conditions. The term “full self-driving” means there is no driver other than the vehicle itself, indicating that it would be appropriate to put no one in the vehicle, Walker Smith said. Musk also said that Tesla would focus on setting up a robotaxi system where one person could manage a fleet of 10 self-driving cars in a ride hailing system. “It wouldn’t be very difficult, but we’re going to just be focused on just having an autonomous network that has sort of elements of Uber, Lyft, Airbnb”, he said. Tesla is among 60 companies with permits to operate autonomous vehicles with human backup drivers in California, the No. 1 state for Tesla sales. The companies are required to file reports with regulators documenting when the robotic system experiences a problem that requires the driver to take control – a mandate that could entangle the owners of Tesla vehicles in red tape. Before Tesla is able to put fully self-driving vehicles on California roads, it will have to get another permit from state regulators. Only five companies, including Google spin-off Waymo and General Motors’ Cruise subsidiary, have obtained those permits. The California Department of Motor Vehicles didn’t immediately respond to questions about Tesla’s latest plans for robotic cars. NHTSA, which has shied away from imposing regulations for fear of stifling safety innovation, says that every state holds drivers accountable for the safe operation of their vehicles. Walker Smith argues that the agency is placing too much of the responsibility on Tesla drivers when it should be asking what automakers are going to do to make sure the vehicles are safe. At the same time, he says that testing the system with vehicle drivers could be beneficial and speed adoption of autonomous vehicles. Musk is clearly trying to sell the full self-driving software. He wrote on Twitter that the price of “FSD beta” will rise by $2,000 on Monday. +++

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