2022 GMC Sierra Super Cruise First Drive | Now with trailering and automatic lane-changing

Although the updated late-model year 2022 GMC Sierra is still a little ways off (In fact, it hasn’t even been revealed), we’ve had an opportunity to try one of its headlining features: Super Cruise. But it’s not quite the Super Cruise you know from the current Cadillac line. The new Sierra will be getting a newer version with two features: the ability to execute lane changes and passes automatically, and the ability to operate with a trailer.

We tried the system at GM’s proving grounds in Milford, Mich., and our test vehicles were 2022 Sierra prototypes. Though the trucks themselves are early examples with features not finalized, GMC representatives said the Super Cruise system is pretty much finished. The system uses close and long-range radar sensors at the front and a new set of radar sensors at the back, plus the truck’s various cameras. It also utilizes the mapping data that GM has accumulated for the system to ensure it operates on approved roads and has detailed information about where the car is.

Now, the first new feature enabled by the updated Super Cruise is the automatic lane-change system. The current system can change lanes on its own, but it must be prompted by a press of the turn signal. That feature remains intact, but now, if you approach a slower vehicle on a multi-lane highway, Super Cruise can check the lane next to you to see if it’s safe to merge, change lanes, and then return to the original lane once the slow-moving vehicle has been passed. This is where those rear radar sensors come in. We tried it three times on GM’s big banked oval course, and it did it impressively smoothly. It was able to make the decision proactively, too, making the decision to change a good distance before we were on top of the slow moving car. Oh, and of course, because this is Super Cruise, it all happened without us having to touch the wheel.

Our automatic lane change test was followed by trying Super Cruise with a trailer. Now, it’s important to note that the automatic lane-changing functionality won’t work with a trailer. This is because that function depends on a set of radar systems at the back of the truck that are blocked by a trailer. Apart from that, the rest of Super Cruise’s functions still work just fine. To make this possible (and safe), the system is able to estimate the weight of the trailer and adjust following distance accordingly, allowing it to safely slow down as needed. It also adjusts the curve trajectory of the truck to be slightly wider than normal. This is to make sure the trailer doesn’t dip into the inside lane in a sweeping turn. And in practice, it feels just like Super Cruise without a trailer. It’s smooth, confident, and hands-free. Of course in both situations, you do have to keep paying attention to the road, and the face and eye-tracking system is quite vigilant, kicking off the system if you look away too long.

The updated Super Cruise will be released on the also-updated GMC Sierra Denali (exclusively at launch) late in the 2022 model year. This new version of Super Cruise will also be available on GMC Hummer EV models.

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Source: AutoBlog.com

Amazon-backed Rivian confirms plan for second U.S. assembly plant

DETROIT/WASHINGTON – Amazon-backed electric vehicle startup Rivian Automotive plans to build a second U.S. assembly plant that will also include battery cell production, according to four people familiar with the matter.

“While it’s early in an evolving process, Rivian is exploring locations for a second U.S. manufacturing facility,” Rivian spokeswoman Amy Mast said on Thursday. She declined to provide further details.

Multiple U.S. states have bid for the plant – dubbed “Project Tera” in documents – which will be announced in a couple of months and break ground early next year, said the sources, who asked not to be identified. The timing could still change given the coronavirus pandemic, which has already delayed the planned announcement from the summer, the sources said.

“We look forward to working with a supportive, technology-forward community in order to create a partnership as strong as the one we have with Normal,” Mast said.

Rivian’s existing U.S. plant is in Normal, Illinois.

The typical cost of a new vehicle assembly plant at present is $1 billion or more, while a battery cell production factory is at least $2 billion. Other automakers have partnered with battery manufacturers on cell production. Samsung SDI Co supplies battery cells to Rivian.

Automakers are racing to develop EVs as China, Europe and other countries and regions mandate lower carbon emissions. In the United States, traditional carmakers like General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co are retrofitting plants for EV production, while Tesla Inc, Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn, and startups including Lucid and Canoo have existing plants or are adding them.

California-based Rivian, also backed by Ford and T. Rowe Price, aims to compete when it rolls out its R1T pickup and R1S SUV, as well as a delivery van for Amazon. Rivian will seek a valuation of well over $50 billion in a potential public listing later this year, according to another source familiar with the matter.

COVID-Caused Delays

Rivian, which has raised $8 billion since the start of 2019, had a valuation of $27.6 billion in January after a $2.65 billion investment round led by T. Rowe Price. Other investors in Rivian include Soros Fund Management, Fidelity, BlackRock Inc and Saudi auto distributor Abdul Latif Jameel Co (ALJ).

2021 has been tough for Rivian, however, as Chief Executive R.J. Scaringe said in a letter to customers last week that COVID-19 had delayed the launch of its vehicles. The first deliveries of the R1T, previously slated for July, were pushed to September, while the R1S was delayed to the fall.

A second U.S. plant will expand the company’s capacity and include a 50 gigawatt-hour (GWh) battery cell production operation built in phases, as well as a product and technology center, according to documents seen by Reuters that were submitted to state economic development officials. While the documents did not mention Rivian, sources told Reuters that Tera and Rivian were one and the same.

The proposal listed spring 2021 as the period in which states would be notified of the company’s decision, with “mobilization” likely in the summer, and then the start of construction in the fall. However, the pandemic has delayed that timeline, the sources said.

The project requires an estimated 2,000 acres of land and the site would seek to achieve net-zero carbon emissions as soon as possible, according to the proposal.

Launch editions of Rivian’s pickup and SUV are priced at $73,000 and $75,500, respectively, with 2022 models available for preorder at $67,500 for the R1T and $70,000 for the R1S. Amazon has ordered 100,000 electric vans from Rivian through 2024, with production scheduled to begin in the fall of this year.

Scaringe told Reuters last November that Rivian planned to follow the initial three vehicles with smaller models targeted at China and Europe.

(Reporting by Paul Lienert and Ben Klayman in Detroit, and David Shepardson in WashingtonAdditional reporting by Anirban Sen in BengaluruEditing by Matthew Lewis)

Source: AutoBlog.com

Everything you’ll need to restore your foggy headlights

Autoblog may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Pricing and availability are subject to change.

If your headlights have been looking a little cloudy, consider this a sign to clean them up. Believe it or not, it’s really not that hard and it can make a big difference in the overall look of your vehicle. The video above features AMMO’s Larry Kosilla as he goes through the step-by-step process to restore your headlights, addressing common mistakes and detailing exactly what you’ll need to take the project from start to finish. We’ve also included links to anything you might need for the job, below. Of course, always keep in mind that each car is different, which means the process may vary slightly from vehicle to vehicle. Always be sure to consult your manual before doing any type of work on your car.

Amazon Basics Masking Tape – $6.35

First thing’s first, you’ll need some masking tape to tape off the area around the headlights. Any masking tape will do, but if you need to pick up a new roll, this one is as good as any.

Amazon Basics Microfiber Cleaning Cloth (24 pack) – $11.83 (15% off)

There’s a good chance you’ll already have a few of these laying around the garage, but on the off chance you’re in the market for some new microfiber towels, these are a great option. These Amazon Basics cleaning cloths are 12″ x 16″ and come in a 24-pack, so you’ll have plenty to choose from when shining up your headlights.

Rayson Empty Spray Bottle – $4.23

Obviously, any old spray bottle will do the trick for this job, but we did promise this list would be “everything you’ll need,” so just in case you need to pick up a new one, this is a super affordable option with a “comfort grip” trigger. 

Tockrop 5-Inch Hand Sanding Blocks – $11.59

You’ll need a sanding block at a few different points in the process, and this pack gives you two options for the price of one. Either design, the round shape or mouse shape, works with standard 5-inch sander discs. They can be used for wet or dry sanding and they’re designed to allow the user to quickly and easily replace discs.

LotFancy 5-Inch 8 Hole Sanding Discs (60-Piece 1000, 1200, 1500, 2000, 2500, 3000 Grit) – $9.49 (14% off)

For the job of restoring your headlights, you’ll only need a few sanding discs. In fact, you should only need one 1,000 grit disc, one 1,500 grit disc and one 3,000 grit disc. This bundle includes all of those and much more. While you may be able to run to the local hardware store and save a few bucks by purchasing a la carte, this package is so affordable it’s almost not even worth the trouble.  

Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound – $16.99

In our how-to video above, Larry suggests using your “favorite” compound for the job. Well, this is one of ours. Meguiar’s is a trusted and respected brand in the automotive space, and although you can use pretty much any compound you like, this 20 oz. bottle is a great option. 

BLACK+DECKER 8V MAX Cordless Drill – $28.25

Don’t worry, you won’t be drilling into your headlights for any reason, but a drill is helpful to attach a wool pad to for the compounding portion of the headlight restoration. We’ve got an option for the wool pads and an adapter just below, but if you don’t have a drill lying around, this Black+Decker lightweight cordless drill is a great option. At just under 30 bucks, it’s very hard to ignore.

Car Foam Drill Polishing Pad Kit 22-Piece, 3-Inch Buffing Pads – $12.99 (24% off)

This 22-piece package includes 16 sponge polishing pads, 2 woolen buffer pads, 2 drill adapter and 2 suction cups. For your headlight project, you’ll probably only need a wool pad, a polishing pad, and one of the drill adapters, but at this price it’s easy to keep some extras around. 

Swan Isopropyl Alcohol – $7.76

There’s not much you can really say about rubbing alcohol. Is it alcohol? Yep. Can you use it on your headlights as part of the restoration process? Also yep. Feel free to pick up this 16 oz. bottle or use any old rubbing alcohol you have around the house. 

Meguiar’s Ultimate Polish – $12.99

Much like the compound portion of your project, you can use your own favorite polish as well, but if you’re looking for a recommendation, this one is solid. It’s effective when used by hand or with a polisher and should do a good job of removing swirls and towel marks from the headlights.

Meguiar’s Keep Clear UV Headlight Coating – $8.44

Last but not least, you’ll need some UV protective coating to spray on your headlights to make sure all of your hard work shining up your headlights doesn’t go to waste after a few days of sun damage. You can choose any UV coating you like, but be sure to read the directions on whichever one you choose before applying. For under 10 bucks, this option from Meguiar’s is a great one. 

Video Transcript Instructions:

[00:00:00] Headlights are like the eyes of your car and when they’re hazy, yellow, and foggy seeing well at night can be an issue. And during the day, the look like this. Find out how to restore their clarity today on Autoblog Details. This vehicle was detailed from start to finish in 10 episodes. Visit autoblog.com/details to see the entire detailing transformation. For step one, open the hood or tape off the surrounding areas to avoid paint damage.

[00:00:30] Masking tape is perfect for this application. Wash the headlight with water and a microfiber towel to clean off any heavy debris that may interfere with the sanding disks. Place 1000 grit sandpaper on a foam block and move from side-to-side, no circles, no up-and-down, and no water during this phase of the process. This is called dry sanding. As you’ll notice, the dead headlight’s skin is flaking away leaving behind a white residue. This is normal, so don’t panic.

[00:01:00] Once the headlight is evenly sanded from side-to-side, wipe or blow the dust off the surface of the headlight. Any remaining dust may contaminate the next process causing deeper scratches or haze that may be a challenge to finish out so it’s important to work clean. Place 1500 grit on a foam block and spray the sandpaper with water before applying it to the light. Just a few quick squirts is sufficient. This is called damp sanding. Now move the paper in up-and-down motions and not side-to-side as we did for step one.

[00:01:30] This is done to counteract the first sandpaper marks in the opposite direction. Once completed, spray water on the headlight and wipe again to ensure no particles are remaining for the next step. Next switch to 3000 grit paper and repeat the same process but in side-to-side motions once again to counteract the 1500 grit sanding marks created in the previous step. This is your final hand-sanding which will the headlight to a point of refinement that can be easily restored with a machine.

[00:02:00] The polisher will get the very fine marks out of the headlight with more consistency than by hand. So gradually refining by hand until you can use a machine is the safest way to complete this project. Next compound the 3000 grit sanding marks in the headlight with a microfiber cutting pad or a wool pad and your favorite compound. This can be done with a home drill or a three inch detailing machine. I’ve chosen to use a three inch pneumatic because I have access to compressed air. After just a few passes with compound the headlight lens should look much clearer.

[00:02:30] After a thorough compound, quickly polish the plastic with a foam pad and your favorite polish to remove any super fine scratches left behind after the compounding step. Use a detailing light to check your work or simply turn on the headlights themselves to get a better look at the lens. If everything looks good, wipe the headlight clean with rubbing alcohol to remove any oils or polish residue in preparation for the final protective coating. A UV protective coating should be immediately applied to the lens after the process is complete.

[00:03:00] Clearly the original UV coating applied at the factory has faded and anything that remained would have been removed from the previous abrasive steps. So applying a new UV layer is vital to avoid a hazy or yellow lens within weeks, or even days, if left untreated. Before applying any UV protection, be sure to read the directions of your particular coating. Finally, apply the UV coating four to six inches away from the lens with medium arm speed. Allow to dry for three to five minutes and then apply a second coat.

[00:03:30] Don’t remove the masking tape for at least 15 to 20 minutes and avoid getting the lens wet for at least two hours to allow the coating to cure properly. Keep in mind, at first the coating doesn’t look very smooth but once it dries, it levels out and you can’t even tell it’s there. This repair was performed during the restoration of the entire vehicle which was shown over 10 consecutive episodes from start to finish. You can see the entire process on autoblog.com/details. Lastly, restoring your headlights is not just a cosmetic fix. It can increase the light output by 20-30% to help you see the road and get home safely.

[00:04:00] If you found this video helpful, please share and keep up with all the latest detail videos by liking or subscribing to the Autoblog page. I’m Larry Kosilla from ammonyc.com. Thanks for watching.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Black lawmaker hopes highway project can right an old wrong

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Harold Love Jr. raised his voice over the blare of traffic from the interstate above as he stood near the spot where his family’s home was razed to rubble a half-century ago. Love recounted the fight his father put up in the 1960s, before he was born, to reroute the highway he was sure would stifle and isolate Nashville’s Black community. His father was right.

Decades later, Love Jr. wants to correct an old wrong. The state lawmaker is part of a group pushing to build new community space he says would reunify the city directly over Interstate 40, turning the highway stretch below into a tunnel.

Mayor John Cooper backs the $120 million, 3.4-acre (1.4-hectare) cap project. The city will spend months listening to ideas about what it should look like, cognizant of a past that saw community concerns about the highway ignored, and the booming growth of the city that challenges longtime residents’ ability to stay. Possible options include a park, community center, amphitheater, and some way to preserve the historical context about businesses that used to line Jefferson Street, the once-thriving heart of Black Nashville.

As the hum and heat of the highway enveloped the dead-end street where his family’s home once stood, Love, now a Democratic state representative and pastor at a church nearby, lamented the psychological damage done by the destruction.

“If you’re born here and all you see are these structures like this that are wrought-iron fences and chain-link fences and the noise from the interstate, what you assume is, ‘I’m not valued,’ because they placed this here,” he said. “But if you could change that model and talk about how you were once valued in this neighborhood, and were trying to re-create that value by putting this (cap) here, you may change the mindset of children growing up here.”

Amid the fight for civil rights in the South, the Interstate 40 route carved up Black neighborhoods where homes and businesses stood, dividing many from the business and music district on Jefferson Street and the city center beyond, separating one of three nearby historically Black colleges.

An estimated 1,400 North Nashvillians were displaced, 100 city blocks demolished.

To this day, North Nashville residents remain disconnected, leaving amenities such as Vanderbilt University and two major hospitals accessible only by highway underpasses and bridges. The ZIP code that covers North Nashville, nearly 70% Black according to U.S. census figures, has a poverty rate more than double the city as a whole, which is 27% Black.

President Joe Biden’s proposal on infrastructure has directed attention to Black communities nationwide that were carved up to make way for highways, including the “Main Street of Black New Orleans,” Claiborne Avenue, which had a freeway built above it in the 1960s, and Miami’s Overtown neighborhood, once nicknamed the “Harlem of the South.”

Andre Perry, a Brookings Institution senior fellow, said the issue largely started with housing discrimination, as New Deal benefits went more to whites than Blacks, leading to white suburbs that excluded Blacks but needed highways to reach city job centers.

“It happened so frequently and it happened in so many areas because where Black people lived was in the city core,” Perry said.

The Nashville cap project suffered a recent setback when the federal government rejected a $72 million infrastructure grant application. But Cooper has vowed to pursue other funding options as debate over infrastructure continues.

For decades, cities have covered up highways to create usable public space, including the $110 million Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, Texas, that opened in 2012. Atlanta; Austin, Texas; St. Paul, Minnesota; and other cities are pushing ahead with proposals aimed at addressing racial inequities.

Nashville’s Jefferson Street was a vibrant corridor of stores, barbershops, churches, restaurants and nightclubs before the interstate came through. Muddy Waters, James Brown, Etta James, Ray Charles, Little Richard, B.B. King, and Jimi Hendrix played there. The historically Black colleges of Fisk University, Tennessee State University and Meharry Medical College energized the area, and students from those campuses gave the civil rights sit-ins in the city their heartbeat.

In 1955, as plans for a federal interstate system took shape, a preliminary route was proposed that would have wiped out some white-owned and -operated businesses, according to the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

In 1967, after the route was changed to its current course, Love Sr. and other residents sued, alleging racial discrimination meant to harm North Nashville, its Black businesses and higher education institutions. The case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear it.

Some 128 businesses were demolished or relocated, making up almost 80% of Nashville’s African American proprietorships, the state library says.

Love Sr. and his wife had moved nearby after living for years on Scovel Street, one block away from Jefferson, and the demolition plans caught them by surprise.

“Our homeplace was 2109 Scovel St., so I know that personally we never received any advance notice of a public hearing,” Love Sr. testified in 1967, saying they were “near the last to be notified” of the interstate route.

The idea of capping the interstate came up but never caught on, stalled by community distrust of the federal government, said Faye DiMassimo, Cooper’s senior transportation adviser.

This time around, prominent community leaders, companies and government officials have sent letters of support to the federal government. Among them: Amazon, which plans to grow to 5,000 jobs at its new downtown Nashville office and has committed $75 million in low-interest loans for new affordable housing; the state Department of Transportation, which will aid in design and construction; and some of the historically Black colleges.

“Nashville has sustained dynamic economic growth for the last decade-plus: Social, environmental, and infrastructural challenges accompany such success,” wrote Dr. James Hildreth, Meharry Medical College’s president. “The proposed cap over I-40 is an important project in this respect, offering a major step forward for bringing shared prosperity to an historically marginalized public.”

Love Jr. still has the records of what the government paid for his family’s Scovel Street house to make way for the freeway: $5,500 in 1966, the equivalent of about $47,000 today. For families like his who were handed similar checks to give up their homes, he sees the cap project as vindication for everything his father saw coming.

“I think my father understood very intimately that those who would be left would be damaged, those who had their houses taken certainly would be damaged,” Love Jr. said. “I think that’s the point we’re trying to make, that this interstate cap can help repair a lot of that.”

Source: AutoBlog.com

Ford trademarks Skyline name for U.S. market

The Skyline nameplate has been inexorably linked with Nissan, and even enjoys a storied reputation based on its high-performance GT-R variants. Any car enthusiast who can tell a 5-speed from a CVT knows the name. However, that hasn’t stopped Ford from trademarking the “Skyline” name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The filing, discovered by Ford Authority, is dated July 12 under the category of  “Motor and land vehicles, namely, SUVs, trucks, and automobiles.” Either Ford intends to use it on an upcoming model (or trim level), is squatting on it in hopes of having plans for it down the road. Or maybe Ford is just trolling Nissan in an epic way.

The Skyline name actually predates Nissan. It was originally used by Japan’s Prince Motor Company for their mid-size sedan. In the early 1960s, engineers wedged a straight-six into the formerly four-cylinder family saloon and created a strong racing pedigree. Prince and Nissan merged in 1966, but the Skyline model continued and was developed into the legendary Skyline GT-R.

It is one of Nissan’s longest running nameplates in Japan and holds a lot of cultural cachet. Earlier this year, a Japanese newspaper that Nissan was going to kill off the Skyline, a Nissan executive took the unusual step of issuing a strongly worded denial during the introduction of a different model altogether.

Ford, on the other hand, has never used the name, however it did use the name “Skyliner” on several models in the 1950s. It was used to denote various open-top models such as the Crestline Skyliner, Crown Victoria Skyliner, and Galaxie Skyliner — the last car to feature a factory retractable hardtop until the 1995 Mitsubishi 3000GT Spyder.

The current Nissan Skyline is sold as an Infiniti Q50 in the U.S., but it seems that Nissan will not be able to use the Skyline name here unless some lawyers get involved. If we were them, we’d be working overtime to trademark Silvia, Patrol, Bluebird and so on right about now.

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Source: AutoBlog.com

Aston Martin Valkyrie Will Spawn Bespoke Red Bull Road Car

Clearly, there are still a few kinks to iron out as Newey confirmed that development isn’t finished yet. “It’s still slightly raw; there’s some development still to be done,” he said. “The car at Goodwood didn’t have active suspension and there’s lots of mapping work still to be done. But I think when everything comes together, it will be really special.”Despite this, customer deliveries for the Valkyrie are still on track for September. Those who were lucky enough to secure an order for one of the 150 cars planned for production won’t be disappointed. During a test drive at Goodwood, Newey compared the Valkyrie to a high-performance superbike. “You can take it to the shops, but you really need to have your wits about you or it will bite you. When you really enjoy it is when you take it on track.”
Source: carbuzz.com

Tesla will ‘most likely’ restart accepting bitcoin as payments, says Musk

Electric-car maker Tesla Inc will most likely restart accepting bitcoin as payments once it conducts due diligence on the amount of renewable energy used to mine the currency, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said at a conference on Wednesday.

Bitcoin was up 8% at $32,160.16, while ether surged 11.6% to $1,993.36. Tesla’s shares were down 0.8% at $655.30 in extended trading.

Musk’s comments at the B Word conference come after Tesla said in May it would stop accepting bitcoin for car purchases, less than two months after the company began accepting the world’s biggest digital currency for payment.

“I wanted a little bit more due diligence to confirm that the percentage of renewable energy usage is most likely at or above 50%, and that there is a trend towards increasing that number, and if so Tesla would resume accepting bitcoin” Musk said.

“Most likely the answer is that Tesla would resume accepting bitcoin.”

The use of bitcoin to buy Tesla’s electric vehicles had highlighted a dichotomy between Musk’s reputation as an environmentalist and the use of his popularity and stature as one of the world’s richest people to back cryptocurrencies.

Some Tesla investors, along with environmentalists, have been increasingly critical about the way bitcoin is “mined” using vast amounts of electricity generated with fossil fuels.

More digital currency miners, however, are making attempts to use renewable energy to mitigate the impact on the environment.

“Tesla’s mission is accelerating the advent of sustainable energy. We can’t be the company that does that and also not do appropriate diligence on the energy usage of bitcoin,” Musk said.

Musk added that he personally owned bitcoin, ethereum and dogecoin, apart from bitcoin that Tesla and SpaceX owned.

“I might pump, but I don’t dump,” Musk said. “I definitely do not believe in getting the price high and selling … I would like to see bitcoin succeed.”

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain and Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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Source: AutoBlog.com

Argo AI, Ford and Lyft to launch self-driving ride-hail service in Miami and Austin

AUSTIN — Self-driving startup Argo AI, carmaker Ford Motor Co and ride-hail company Lyft Inc on Wednesday said they partnered to offer robotaxi trips to Lyft customers in Miami and Austin.

The service is expected to launch in Miami later this year and in Austin next year with a safety driver inside the Ford Escape hybrid vehicles. Over the next five years, the companies want to deploy at least 1,000 robotaxis in multiple cities.

The first truly driverless cars are expected to launch in 2023, said Jody Kelman, head of Lyft’s autonomous team.

The partnership marks the first large-scale U.S. collaboration between a carmaker, a self-driving developer and a ride-hailing company. The companies hope to gain valuable insights on how to turn robotaxis into a commercially viable business – a challenge no company has yet answered.

As part of the agreement, Argo AI, which is backed by Ford and Volkswagen AG, will receive anonomized data on passenger trips and safety incidents. That will allow Argo to optimize its technology and routing to avoid unsafe streets, Argo CEO Bryan Salesky said in a blog post.

In exchange, Lyft will receive a 2.5% stake in the company. At Argo’s most recent valuation of $7.5 billion, that equity slice would be worth $187.5 million. Argo, which is currently testing autonomous vehicles in several U.S. cities, in June said it plans to list publicly within the next year.

Ford will fuel, service and clean the robotaxi fleets under the partnership.

In traditional ride-hailing services, human drivers make up an estimated 80% of the total per mile cost, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan, underscoring the companies’ interest in a driverless future. But self-driving vehicles need to recoup their expensive development costs and still need to be managed and maintained.

“Our job is to generate the maximum revenue out of each of these vehicles by getting the highest utilization,” said Lyft’s Kelman.

Lyft in April sold its own self-driving technology unit to Toyota Motor Corp for $550 million to focus instead on providing services such as routing, consumer interface and fleet management.

Lyft already allows consumers to book rides in self-driving vehicles in select cities in partnership with Alphabet Inc’s Waymo and Motional, the joint venture between Hyundai Motor Co and Aptiv.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon in Austin, additional reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit, editing by Chris Reese)

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Source: AutoBlog.com

A small victory: Used-car prices slip from dizzy heights

DEARBORN, Mich. — For months, anyone who wandered onto a dealer lot to look for a used car could be forgiven for doing a double take — and then wandering right off the lot.

Prices had rocketed more than 40% from their levels just before the viral pandemic struck, to an average of nearly $25,000. The supply of vehicles had shrunk. And any hope of negotiating on price? Good luck with that.

But now, a sliver of hope has emerged. The seemingly endless streak of skyrocketing used-vehicle prices appears to be coming to a close.

Not that anyone should expect bargains. Though average wholesale prices that dealers pay are gradually dropping, they’ll likely remain near record levels. So will the retail prices for consumers. Supply remains tight. And while demand has eased a bit, a steady flow of buyers could keep prices unusually high for a couple of years more.

“It’s a short-term correction,” suggested Paul Sugars, sales manager for pre-owned vehicles at Jack Demmer Lincoln in Dearborn, Michigan. “Buyers are sitting on the fence, waiting to see what happens.”

Sugars should know. As internet and foot traffic at his dealership fell in the past few weeks, he began to cut prices on some of the 70 used vehicles on his lot. Now, he says, buyers are starting to return.

One of them is Jessica Pitts of Detroit, who began shopping for a used vehicle last year after her car broke down. But as prices roared ever higher, Pitts delayed her purchase. Recently, though, after Sugars cut the price of a red Lincoln MKC she had been watching, Pitts took notice.

“That’s what brought it back to my attention,” she said. “The price had come down a little.”

The red compact SUV, with 58,000 miles on it, cost Pitts roughly $27,500, down just a little from $28,000.

The return of buyers like Pitts has led experts to suggest that demand will be high enough to keep used-vehicle prices from falling significantly. One reason is that supply is still low. According to Cox Automotive, dealers last month had only enough vehicles to meet demand for 34 days — 11 days fewer than in the same month in 2019, the last year that was considered normal for used vehicle sales.

Few think the slight easing of used-car prices heralds any slowdown or reversal in overall inflation across the economy. With the notable exception of lumber prices, which initially skyrocketed only to fall back to earth, many goods, components and services — from semiconductors and gasoline to clothing, restaurant meals and household furnishings — have grown increasingly expensive. So have labor costs, as worker shortages in many industries have led employers to raise pay.

Still, the Federal Reserve under Chair Jerome Powell foresees inflation eventually easing after supply shortages are resolved. Bond investors appear to agree. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which generally reflects the outlook for inflation, has declined in recent weeks in a sign that investors remain more concerned about the prospect of an economic slowdown than about surging inflation.

Until the pandemic flattened the economy in March 2020 and shrank the supply of both new and used vehicles, average wholesale used vehicle prices paid by dealers rose only a little every year. Average prices briefly fell in April last year, only to soar over 60% to a peak in May this year, according to data kept by Manheim, a group of auction houses where dealers buy vehicles.

Any decline, however slight, would represent welcome relief for buyers. In June, the average retail list price of a used vehicle was just short of $25,000, a record. Prices rose so high that some 2-year-old used vehicles were, counter-intuitively, selling for more than the sticker price when they were new.

Low-income buyers have been especially hurt. Anyone who was compelled to buy a used car to commute to work was often limited to vehicles with 100,000 miles or more. Yet the average price of even those vehicles jumped 31% in the past year — to $16,489 — according to Edmunds.com. Buying a car — any car — became out of reach for many.

Some of the price increases were fueled by government stimulus payments that arrived in March, when a qualifying family of four could receive $5,600. Retail prices for used vehicles surged so high that in April, May and June, they accounted for about one-third of the entire increase in the U.S. consumer price index. In June, used prices rose a record 10.5%, helping to drive inflation to 5.4% compared with the same month a year earlier. That was the highest such increase since 2008.

By late June and into July, used-vehicle shoppers had seen enough. Many decided to wait for the craziness to end, and their pullback caused wholesale prices to decline slightly. Dealers feared they had paid too much for vehicles on their lots. Some started cutting prices.

“The frenzy is over, so inventory is starting to build a little bit,” said Michelle Krebs, an analyst for Cox Automotive. “Typically, used-vehicle prices drop after tax refunds, stimulus checks.”

Alex Yurchenko, senior vice president of data for Black Book, which monitors vehicle costs, expects prices to decline a bit more but to remain well above 2019 levels for a couple more years. Eventually, he suggests, prices will fall further as supply catches up to demand.

Jonathan Smoke, chief economist of Cox Automotive, cautions against expecting a drop back to pre-pandemic used-car prices.

“That,” he said, “would require a major decline in demand and a simultaneous expansion in supply. Neither are likely to happen.”

The whole crazy price cycle began with the eruption of the pandemic, when many states issued stay-at-home orders. Prices plummeted, and automakers shuttered factories for eight weeks. The resulting decline in supply came just as many cooped-up consumers wanted a new or used vehicle to commute to work or to take road trips without coming in contact with others.

While the auto plants were shut down in April and May last year, computer chip makers shifted production to satisfy wild demand for laptops, gaming devices and tablets. That created a shortage of automotive-grade chips, which remains an acute problem that might not be resolved until next year.

With new-car inventory slipping and demand high, the resulting jump in prices for new vehicles sent many buyers into the used market. Their demand reduced supply and drove up used-vehicle prices, too.

Some new-vehicle dealers have run out of best-selling models of pickup trucks and large SUVs. For some models, there are only enough vehicles on dealer lots to satisfy eight days of consumer demand. Manufacturers prefer to keep 60 days on hand to provide a good selection.

Ernie Garcia, CEO of used vehicle upstart Carvana, said too many variables make it impossible to predict where used-vehicle prices will go from here. They could fall if the chip shortage and other supply-chain bottlenecks are resolved and new-vehicle prices ease. But they could shoot back up, too, under certain circumstances.

“It’ll be hard for car prices to return all the way to normal until we have normalization in the supply chain of auto manufacturers,” Garcia said.

Everyone who predicted auto prices over the past year, he said, “has been wrong in pretty short order.”

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Source: AutoBlog.com

SSC officially owns up to its failed October top speed attempt

SSC acknowledged Wednesday that its Tuatara supercar did not reach the speed claimed by the company in October when it allegedly obliterated the Koenigsegg Agera RS’s then-record with a 316.11-mph run. While SSC didn’t outright apologize or completely explain the error, nor did the company reveal the Tuatara’s true top speed from last year’s run, the small supercar builder’s Instagram post is the first public admission that all was not as it seemed in the fall.


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A post shared by SSC North America (@ssc_northamerica)

“We have seen your questions for months now and understand your frustrations. If it hasn’t been made clear up to this point, we would like to acknowledge officially that we did not reach the originally claimed speeds of 331 MPH or even 301 MPH in October of 2020,” the post said. “We were truly heartbroken as a company to learn that we did not reach this feat, and we are in an ongoing effort to break the 300 MPH barrier transparently, officially, and undoubtedly.”

“We also want to thank all of those who were supportive and understanding of our unexpected incident in April that has delayed our top speed efforts,” it continued.

Many cried foul after reviewing the video released by SSC which claimed to substantiate its top-speed run. The controversy prompted SSC to make a second (and ultimately unsuccessful) attempt. The third time turned out to be the charm, however the results were far less impressive, albeit still sufficient to knock off the Agera’s previous record. 

The “unexpected incident” referenced near the end of SSC’s post occurred when their record-attempt car was seriously damaged in transit back in April. The company claims it will eventually set the record straight (so to speak), but when, where and whether that will happen are all still yet to be determined. 

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Source: AutoBlog.com