Hyundai to open $6.5B EV factory in Georgia

Hyundai is the latest automaker to announce plans to open an EV factory in Georgia, the same state where Rivian is preparing to break ground on its controversial plant.

Hyundai’s $6.5 billion EV and battery manufacturing facility outside of Savannah will further the state’s goal of becoming a major regional hub for the EV industry. As sales of electric vehicles start to surge, the Peach State aims to establish a statewide, closed-loop battery-electric ecosystem that includes rare earth mining, battery and chip production, and auto parts manufacturing, according to state officials.

Hyundai’s capital investment, which includes $1 billion from non-affiliated suppliers, represents the largest economic development deal recruited by Georgia, officials said Friday. Hyundai expects to create 8,100 jobs at the 2,293-acre site.

Georgia has become aggressive in its efforts to attract manufacturers, awarding Rivian the state’s largest-ever incentives package of $1.5 billion to build a plant on 2,000 acres east of Atlanta. In return, Rivian has pledged to hire 7,500 workers at an average annual salary of $56,000 by the end of 2028. However, the project has stirred up local controversy; residents have rallied around concerns ranging from land preservation to the use of tax dollars.

The issue became political, as opponents of the Rivian plant mobilize against Gov. Brian Kemp ahead of his race for re-election in November.

Rivian plans to break ground this summer and open by early 2024.

Hyundai’s site represents a collaboration among four Georgia counties that used proceeds from selling property to Amazon to help fund the $61 million land purchase. The partnership which calls itself the Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority (JDA), pooled the plots to create a “shovel-ready mega-site” for a large manufacturer.

Hyundai said the plant will begin production in 2025 with the capacity to build 300,000 vehicles per year.

Officials hope to replicate the model to attract more mega-site manufacturing projects to the state.

SK On, a South Korean EV lithium-ion battery maker, is building a $2.6 billion EV battery complex nearby. The company, which said its plant will be able to power 310,000 electric vehicles annually, has contracts with Ford and Volkswagen.

Salty, subterranean water could relieve world’s lithium shortage

The next bottleneck in lithium-ion battery supplies isn’t cobalt, even though China has a stranglehold on the market, and it’s not nickel, either, despite nickel prices nearly doubling in the past five months. Cobalt can be partially replaced with nickel, nickel can be partially replaced with manganese, and both can be completely replaced with iron phosphate, which is cheap and plentiful. 

But there’s no substitute for one crucial component of these batteries: Lithium.

Today’s lithium mines can’t hope to meet the skyrocketing demand for the next decade and beyond. Spotting an opportunity, startups like Lilac Solutions and Vulcan Energy Resources have leaped into action with new lithium extraction processes that are more efficient and potentially better for the planet.

The crunch

As automakers have fleshed out their electrification plans, they’ve caused an unprecedented rush for lithium. Over the last six months, lithium prices have gone on an epic bull run.

It started in January, when prices jumped to $37,000 per metric ton from $10,000 a month earlier, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. Then it got worse in February, with spot prices rising to $52,000 per metric ton before rising again to $62,000 in March. Things have stabilized since then, but prices are still five times above the average price from 2016 to 2020.

Large companies of all stripes have been racing to secure supplies. Automakers like Ford and Tesla have signed huge contracts, and battery manufacturers and miners are rushing to secure supplies. Last year, for example, a three-way bidding war broke out for Canadian miner Millennial Lithium, which has large reserves in Argentina, and the winning bid ended up more than 40% higher than the initial offer.

Yet, those deals probably won’t be enough to fulfill the predicted demand for lithium, based on automakers’ current plans. Benchmark Mineral Intelligence is expecting demand to grow to 2.4 million metric tons in 2030 from less than 700,000 metric tons today.

Supply won’t be able to keep up given the current pace of new lithium projects.

“By the end of the decade, where we’re at now with the pipeline, we’re going to see significant deficits starting to grow,” said Daisy Jennings-Gray, a senior price analyst at Benchmark.

Last year, lithium supply fell short of demand by more than 60,000 metric tons. Jennings-Gray’s firm predicts that the deficit will be over 150,000 metric tons by 2030. To meet demand, Benchmark says that $42 billion will need to be invested in the space by the end of this decade.

Without new lithium projects coming online, it’ll likely get worse throughout the 2030s. By 2040, the International Energy Agency expects lithium demand to be 42 times higher than it is today.

“It’s an insane number,” said Jordy M. Lee, a program manager at the Payne Institute for Public Policy at the Colorado School of Mines. What’s more, it might even be too low.

“We’ve consistently underestimated how much demand for lithium-ion batteries we’re going to have in the coming years,” he said.

As the rise in demand shows no signs of abating, startups have surged into the space, pitching novel techniques to coax the volatile metal out of the earth.

Luminar’s Austin Russell: ‘We probably shouldn’t have existed’ but lidar will drive next-gen safety anyway

At TC Sessions: Mobility, Luminar founder and CEO Austin Russell admitted that his now successful company was founded in hubris, but that a skeptical eye during peak lidar hype helped them focus on real markets. “It’s no longer about some theoretical promise — you actually have to show real results, real deliveries, real technology and product. There’s been too many promises made out there that were broken.”

In an interview with TechCrunch transportation editor Kirsten Korosec, Russell noted that he, like pretty much everyone else, was convinced early on that self-driving cars were just around the corner. (Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.)

“The reality is, I think that the sheer complexity of solving an end to end autonomous driving problem in urban environments was underestimated in terms of the difficulty by at least a couple orders of magnitude,” he said. “If something is at peak hype cycle, it’s something you should be skeptical about. There was just a massive disconnect between the core engineers behind the actual tech, and leadership at the time, in terms of what was possible.”

It was in 2017, he recalled that the company made the decision to pursue other applications for high-performance lidar tech: “It became very clear that the level of requirements for an R&D test platform, versus a true series production vehicle, is a completely different game altogether. The huge roof racks that you see that are $100,000 and a supercomputer in the trunk… it needs to be more like $1,000. And by the way, economies of scale are fundamentally required to be able to build a product, the cost is a significant factor at the end of the day.”

The question became not one of raw capability or even just cost, but what would consumers, and by extension OEMs, pay for? Safety. And as it turns out, even top of the line ADAS and collision avoidance tech is seriously lacking right now.

“It’s surprising to see how ineffective the current assisted driving systems are just at being able to do basic things like… not letting you smash into the thing right in front of you in your car, right? It sounds like a simple problem, like you wouldn’t even need lidar for that,” he said. “But the reality is it’s a lot more complicated, a lot more difficult than that — to even confidently understand what’s going on around you and come to a safe stop is not a solved problem.”

The company has set up numerous examples of these failures — one of which showing a small fake pedestrian being plowed down by an ADAS-equipped car went viral. The combination of robo-taxis being far further out than expected and of ADAS systems as being both desirable and incapable seems to have spurred mainstream automakers to invest heavily in something better.

“The transformation is that this is no longer about being an option on a high end, niche vehicle,” he explained. “This is something that has the opportunity to truly go mainstream, in the mass market… Nissan, they were actually showing off crash avoidance scenarios made possible by Luminar lidar; in their case they actually said they want to be able to standardize this type of tech on every vehicle they build by the end of the decade. Which I think is probably faster than any major tech adoption cycle, not for initial adoption, but full standardization across the lineup.”

There will of course be Luminar-powered cars out there sooner than that: “Within the next 12 months there’s going to be series production cars that are Luminar equipped that are out there advancing this industry forward,” Russell confirmed.

It’s funny to think, however, that a company born out of a plan to obsolete traditional vehicles has become the biggest proponent of its use in those vehicles. But an early recognition of the future of the industry made all the difference.

“We probably shouldn’t have existed,” Russell said when asked about taking part in the hype cycle he later distanced himself from. “There’s no reason why any of the Googles, Apples, all the major automakers and other stuff couldn’t have, in some theoretical world, done exactly what we did.”

“But the reason why were were able to build this company, this technology, this product and help lead the industry with it is just fundamentally because we had a completely different viewpoint. I guess what’s titled here [i.e. the name of the panel, A Contrarian View on Deploying Autonomy at Scale], the contrarian view,” he said, laughing.

As for another contrarian view, the oft-repeated jibe by Elon Musk that lidar is unnecessary and Tesla will get by without it, Russell took it in good humor as well:

“If somebody didn’t go out and say, ‘this is a fool’s errand, this shouldn’t exist, we made the right decision and we’re sticking to our guns!’… that’s the irony around all these things. It actually just calls attention to what’s important, because you only say that if you’re really self-conscious about it.”

Look what’s happening online today at TC Sessions: Mobility 2022

Welcome to Online Day at TC Sessions: Mobility 2022! Opportunity knocks just as loud online as it does IRL, but this knock can be heard around the world. You’ll find everything listed in the event agenda, but here’s a quick rundown of what’s in store. Plan your day to reap optimal opportunities!

But first: If you attended the live show in San Mateo, your pass includes access to our online day. Need a ticket? Buy a $65 online-only pass here.

VW’s Path to Become a Global EV and Tech Powerhouse: VW Group CEO Herbert Diess is in a race to transform the automaker into a global leader in software, EV sales and autonomous vehicles. Hear from Diess about the challenges that remain and how VW plans to take the EV crown from Tesla and keep legacy automakers in the rearview mirror.

TechCrunch Mobility Desk Analysis: Get the lowdown on what went down at TC Mobility on days one and two. Hear TC editors offer fresh analysis and see clips from the in-person interviews and presentations.

Speed Networking: Pretty much what it sounds like. A series of random, rapid connections and 3-minute conversations with other attendees based on specific topics. It takes place on CrunchMatch, our AI-powered networking platform. 

Startup Pitch Feedback Sessions 1 and 2: Don’t miss 18 innovative early stage startups as they pitch to TC’s own Jeff Taylor and receive invaluable feedback on ways they can improve.

These intrepid startups all exhibited live for 2 days on the TC Sessions: Mobility expo floor, and we recorded the pitch sessions so you’d have a chance to check ’em out. Watch and learn how you can improve your own pitch. Take a gander at the afternoon’s pitch lineup.

Startup Pitch Feedback Session 1:

Startup Pitch Feedback Session 2:

Opportunity’s knocking today, May 20, online at TC Sessions: Mobility 2022. Don’t have a ticket? Get a move on — buy a pass for $65 right now and get ready to connect with the global mobility community!

Arrival unveils prototype of dedicated ride-hail vehicle at TC Sessions: Mobility

Arrival, the U.K.-based commercial electric vehicle company, unveiled the first prototype of its purpose-built electric vehicle for ride-hailing on the TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility stage on Thursday. The company, which is perhaps best known for its potentially revolutionary goal of building multiple automated microfactories to produce vehicles regionally and locally rather than one big production line, is building the vehicles in partnership with Uber in the U.K.

Arrival president Avinash Rugoobur, who joined TechCrunch’s Kirsten Korosec onstage on Wednesday, also shared that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Breathe, a U.K. car subscription company, to make the its ride-hail cars available to drivers. In addition to selling vehicles through Breathe, Arrival will also sell the vehicle through its own channels, said Rugoobur, noting that the vehicle isn’t limited to ride-hail.

The partnership with Uber was first announced a year ago, and Arrival revealed the final design of the boxy-yet-sleek electric vehicle, which looks like something between a small van and a hatchback, at the end of 2021, although Rugoobur said the design has changed somewhat since then. Arrival has previously said it hopes to begin production in the third quarter of 2023 at its Charlotte, North Carolina facility.

“We’ve partnered with Uber, and we have the Uber drivers coming in and giving us feedback on the type of vehicles that they want to use and really going through the aches and pains,” said Rugoobur on Thursday. “Right now what happens is you have to buy a vehicle that’s not designed for ride-sharing at all, right? So you buy a regular retail vehicle and then use it as your earner. It’s an asset to you as an Uber driver, but it’s not really built around, it’s not easy to clean, not easy to maintain. The way you think about adding new experiences to that, it’s actually quite limited.”

ArrivalCar_TopDownView

Rendering of Arrival’s ride-hail car. Image Credits: Arrival

The vehicle, which Arrival says has over 200 miles of range, was built with feedback from over a hundred Uber drivers, said Rugoobur, and it shows in the design — huge windows and a massive windshield optimize visibility for the driver, as does a short front overhang and angled nose. The materials Arrival used on the interior, as well as the shapes of the interior components, are all designed around being easy to clean as quickly as possible, according to Rugoobur.

In addition, while there is a touchscreen near the steering wheel that plugs into Uber’s back end (or that of any other ride-hail organization), Arrival’s design is all about simplifying the “sheer amount of digital equipment” that drivers said is “distracting and confusing … and wastes a lot of their time,” said Rugoobur.

The passenger experience is also taken highly into account here, with space for luggage, plenty of legroom and a high-ceilinged moonroof that provides a feeling of airiness.

[gallery ids="2322074,2322075,2322070"]

“Why the shape and size of the vehicle? So the footprint is almost of a Golf but it’s got the seating room of a Maybach,” said Rugoobur. “The reason for that was mobility inside cities where a lot of rides are occurring so having a vehicle that’s a little bit smaller footprint with the right amount of space for the driver and the passenger was critical.”

Rugoobur pointed to the fact that form follows function with the Arrival car. For example, Arrival optimizes for space with design choices like allowing the front passenger seat to fold down and putting all of the components, like the drivetrain, in the center under the fully flat floor of the vehicle.

“We use new composite materials. So we use polypropylene glass fiber instead of metal,” said Rugoobur. “No metal stamping, no paint shops, 100% recyclable material … and then we write all the software, so we get all the data and the code even from the components level.”

Rendering of interior of Arrival's ride-hail car showing steering wheel and touchscreen display for drivers.

Rendering of interior of Arrival’s ride-hail car showing steering wheel and touchscreen display for drivers. Image Credits: Arrival

Being able to collect data from the back end of the vehicle is one of Arrival’s biggest selling points, says Rugoobur, who noted that all information about every component of the vehicle can go to the driver so they can operate their vehicle better and learn how their driver behavior affects things like battery life and total cost of ownership. The data will also be shared with Uber so the ride-hailing company can better optimize its fleet and, of course, back to Arrival so the company can get insights into the performance of things like its battery management system.

Because there’s “two-way communication” between Arrival and the vehicles, the EV startup can use information about how different components are performing and, if necessary, swap in and out damaged hardware or simply upgrade it to keep up with the innovations of tomorrow.

“For the drivers, that reduces the total cost of ownership but also improves the residual value at end of life because you’re refreshing the vehicle,” said Rugoobur. 

“It’s very hard for the traditional players to custom build a vehicle like this, whereas for us, because we’ve essentially created this toolkit of technologies and our factory can produce at different volumes, when typically you would have to produce to 300,000 just for it to make sense from a business perspective, we can do it at a totally different scale and then scale it up as we need,” added the executive.

Arrival’s ride-hail van will be priced somewhere between an internal combustion engine and a competitive electric vehicle, according to Rugoobur. When reminded that most EVs are branded as luxury vehicles and have a steep upfront price, Rugoobur said the target is to make the car “affordable, affordable, not affordable through [total cost of ownership].”

For comparison, General Motors and Honda recently partnered to build an affordable EV, which Honda has said would go for around $30,000.

Earlier this month, Arrival said its planned electric Bus model has achieved certification in the European Union and is conducting closed course trials, with customer models expected to be produced by the second half of this year. The startup also said its Van model is almost through its own certification process and expected to enter production in Q3 of this year.

Arrival expects to produce 400 to 600 Vans plus low-volume production of Buses in the second half of 2022, according to the company’s Q1 2022 earnings report. The report also notes that Arrival has collected a total of 143,000 non-binding letters of intent and orders for its vehicles as of May, including the commitment from UPS to buy up to 10,000 vehicles from the startup in the U.S. and Europe.

Tune in tomorrow for Online Day at TC Sessions: Mobility

The two in-person days of TC Sessions: Mobility may almost be in the rearview mirror, but we’re not done yet. We still have plenty of Mobility action and opportunity waiting for you at our online event tomorrow, May 20. Here’s a quick look at what’s on tap.

All ticket holders have access to our online day. Don’t have a ticket? Buy a $65 online-only pass here.

Whether you attended the event in San Mateo, or you’re tuning in from a remote location, you can catch up on what you missed at the live show with videos on demand and with fresh commentary by TechCrunch Mobility Desk Analysis. TC editors will offer up fresh analysis and show clips from the in-person talks. Then you can watch the full sessions on demand to get the entire perspective and form your own analysis.

Transforming a traditional automotive company into one that leads the world in EVs, autonomous vehicles and the software that drives them is an order of epic proportion. Herbert Diess, the CEO of Volkswagen Group, is the man with a plan to eclipse Tesla. Tune in to hear him discuss the remaining challenges on VW’s Path to Become a Global EV and Tech Powerhouse.

One of the great aspects of an online event such as this is that you can network with anyone, anywhere in the world. We’re going to help make those connections even easier with our Speed Networking session. Through the magic of CrunchMatch, our AI-powered networking platform, you’ll be randomly matched with other attendees (based on mutual interest in specific topics) for a 3-minute conversation. Lather, rinse, repeat and grow your network. 

You will receive an email with details on how to access CrunchMatch when you purchase your event pass. Simply answer a few quick questions about your role, business and areas of interest and you’ll be ready to make quick connections and mine for opportunity.

You’ll also get to watch 18 early stage Mobility startups — all of whom exhibited on the expo floor during the in-person show — bring the heat during our two Startup Pitch Feedback Sessions. Not only will you get to know some amazing startups, but you’ll also walk away with solid tips and advice to help you hone your own pitch.

Don’t miss out on plenty of action and opportunities when TC Sessions: Mobility goes online tomorrow, May 20. Wait, you don’t have a ticket? No worries — buy a pass for $65 today and join us online tomorrow!

Here’s what’s happening on Day Two of TC Sessions: Mobility 2022

How was your first day at TC Sessions: Mobility 2022? We hope you’re fully caffeinated and ready to roll because day two is packed with groundbreaking tech, opportunities galore and more top-notch programming. Finish your coffee, peruse the event agenda and plan your day.

We took the liberty of highlighting just some of the presentations you won’t want to miss. Enjoy the adventure!

Ready for a road trip? Audi spin-off Holoride’s got your entertainment needs covered — and you don’t have to wait for full autonomy, either. Its in-car VR system turns every vehicle into a moving theme park — and it rolls out in Audi cars as early as this summer. Nils Wollny, Holoride’s co-founder and CEO, will talk about where technologies — like VR, blockchain, NFTs and cryptocurrency — fit in the automotive space.

Buckle up for a fascinating look at automotive cybersecurity. In 2015, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek famously hacked and took control of a Jeep Cherokee. Today the duo — undisputed leaders in the cybersecurity industry — hold top security roles at Cruise, the self-driving company backed by GM. They join us onstage to discuss the ever-changing security risks associated with today’s connected cars — and tomorrow’s robotaxis. 

Don’t miss the moment when Arrival’s prototype finally, well, arrives. Last year the company announced a partnership with Uber in the U.K. The plan? Design and build an affordable, electric vehicle purpose-built for ride-hailing. This is the first public debut of the prototype before the vehicle (here’s hoping) enters production. Arrival president Avinash Rugoobur will talk about the prototype’s design process and other projects either in the pipeline or right around the corner.

A solid pitch is essential if you want to fund your startup dream. Grab your preferred note-taking device and head over to the TechCrunch Mobility pitch-off. Dozens of the industry’s brightest mobility entrepreneurs will bring the heat and pitch to a live audience — and a panel of expert VCs who will then offer invaluable feedback. Watch. Listen. Learn. 

Forget about knights — they’re so sixth century. We’ve got Entrepreneurs of the Roundtable. Well, roundtables. Check out the three we have on tap today.

  • The future of fleets: While vehicle fleets represent a significant opportunity to achieve scale quickly in green mobility, the customer is different from other commercial and industrial customers. Join Doug Davenport, the founder and executive director of ProspectSV, for a discussion about the needs of institutional customers and how to win in this unique market.
  • Sustainable mobility in emerging markets: Optimizing people, planet and profit through technology: Join Damilola Olokesusi, the CEO and co-founder of Shuttlers — a tech-driven transportation startup in the highly congested Lagos and Abuja metropolis — for a discussion on long-term transportation sustainability. The focus? How technology can optimize three key pillars — people, planet and profit — to help raise awareness of, and offer solutions to, the shortcomings of transportation technology in emerging markets.
  • Why you can’t build a new EV in corporate America: Gas-powered cars and motorcycles have been around for more than a hundred years. During that time, auto brands and major corporations have gained a wealth of capital and experience. Talk about an entrenched legacy. But with the major push for electrification, that legacy is a bit of a crutch. Join Richard Meaux, COO of Exro Technologies, to learn and discuss why electrification requires a huge shift in mindset. And that shift has corporate America learning from nimble tech startups working with the latest electrification tech and thinking way beyond “how things have been done.”

That’s day two of TC Sessions: Mobility 2022 in a nutshell. Wait, you don’t have a ticket? No worries — you can still buy a pass for as little as $65. See you there!

 

ChargeLab’s software layer to power ABB’s EV chargers in North America

ChargeLab, a Toronto-based startup that builds software to operate and optimize electric vehicle charging equipment for fleets and commercial customers, has raised a $15 million Series A round. The round was led by King River Capital and notably includes participation from strategic investor ABB E-Mobility, a spinoff of technology company ABB that focuses on electric mobility and building charging stations.

As part of ChargeLab’s commercial agreement with ABB, the two companies will launch a bundled hardware and software solution for fleets, multifamily buildings and other commercial EV charging use cases, according to Zak Lefevre, founder and CEO of ChargeLab. While the partnership with ABB will certainly give ChargeLab the resources it needs to build out and scale its enterprise software, Lefevre noted that ABB’s interest in ChargeLab stems from the company’s need for a better out-of-the-box software in North America.

“The reality is that ABB has a device with the capability to connect to the internet, but they haven’t built those back-end services for connecting it, managing it, doing billing and payments, scheduling and power management and all those things,” Lefevre told TechCrunch. “So we are very much in that transition phase where everybody’s making their devices ready to connect to the cloud, but these big hardware companies haven’t necessarily thought through what all the second order consequences are and all the other systems that chargers are going to need to plug out to, whether it’s a parking management system or demand response system to the grid.”

ChargeLab’s core product is its cloud-based charging station management system, which provides apps for EV drivers, dashboards for fleet managers and open APIs for third-party system integration. The hardware-agnostic software, which runs on the edge and in the cloud, also includes capabilities like automated monitoring of chargers, management of pricing and access rules, payment processing and electrical load balancing, according to the company.

The startup’s latest funding round, which also included existing investors like Construct Capital, Root Ventures, Highline Beta, Third Sphere and Maple VC, will help the company go from its seed stage-level solution of connecting chargers and controlling them in the cloud to more advanced milestones. 

“Is that going to be SOC 2 compliant? Is it going to be scalable across hundreds of thousands of devices?” Lefevre said.  “ABB is selling to the biggest fleets and the biggest enterprises in the world. Are we going to be able to bundle with ABB and meet those needs?”

(SOC 2 is a voluntary compliance standard developed by the American Institute of CPAs which specifies how organizations should manage customer data.)

ChargeLab’s software is embedded onto chargers, which helps ensure those chargers are not only secure but also efficient and working flawlessly on the back end, co-founder and chief technology officer Ehsan Mokhtari told TechCrunch.

“And that ties into the security side of things. EV chargers will be a target of cybersecurity attacks as they are connected, so we are very active and in front of it,” said Mokhtari. “We already formed the InfoSec team within the ChargeLab company, as well as advanced techniques to handle offline behavior and self healing for these chargers. So that is really top of mind for us to build products and take them to market with our partners.”

Aside from ABB, ChargeLab works with EV charger manufacturers like Phihong, United Chargers, Siemens and Tritium. The startup’s tech is also white-labeled by charging networks like Girardin Energy, TurnOnGreen and EVStart. Lefevre says ChargeLab’s software is currently inside thousands of devices in North America, but has yet to surpass the 10,000 charger mark. That said, Lefevre says the EV charging industry is growing exponentially, which means the market opportunity is massive.

NHTSA probes Tesla Autopilot crash that killed three people

A U.S. federal agency is investigating a crash involving a 2022 Tesla Model S that may have been operating in Autopilot during a crash that killed three people.

Autopilot is Tesla’s advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) that performs automated functions such as steering, accelerating and automatic braking. Bloomberg first reported on the news.

The accident, which happened earlier this month, occurred in Newport Beach, California when the Tesla hit a curb and slammed into construction equipment, leaving the car totaled. This is one of more than 30 crashes being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), all of which potentially have involved Autopilot. Out of the 35 special crash investigations into Tesla since 2016 involving the electric vehicle company’s ADAS, Autopilot has been ruled out only in three.

A total of 14 crash deaths have been reported in those investigations.

This month’s collision is the 42nd included in NHTSA’s special crash investigation of ADAS systems like Autopilot, a probe that began in 2016 after a fatal accident in Florida involving another Tesla Model S that had Autopilot activated.

While Tesla’s website says that “Current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous,” the company’s branding has been accused of misleading drivers of their vehicles’ capabilities. Simply by choosing names like Autopilot and “full self-driving software,” which is Tesla’s newer, more advanced ADAS, the company lulls drivers into a false sense of security despite the fact that its technology is nowhere near full self-driving.

Aurora expands autonomous freight pilot with FedEx in Texas

Aurora Innovation, an autonomous vehicle technology company, has expanded its self-driving freight pilot with FedEx to include a new lane from Fort Worth to El Paso, Texas.

The startup has been hauling freight for FedEx between Dallas and Houston since September 2021, which has involved making the 240-mile trip every night. The new lane challenges Aurora’s trucks to a much longer journey of about 600 miles, on which they will operate on a weekly basis, according to the company.

Texas has become a battleground for autonomous freight companies looking to commercialize, with competitors Waymo Via, Kodiak Robotics and TuSimple all piloting their vehicles on many of the same highways.

Aurora has been hauling freight between its new terminals in Fort Worth and El Paso since March, the company said. Shipments carried out on its first commercial lane between Dallas and Houston have all been delivered on time 100% of the time, according to Aurora, which noted that it has provided thousands of FedEx customers with autonomously transported packages.

Aurora’s trucks, which are based on the new Peterbilt 579, are capable of operating during various weather conditions and all hours of the day and night. To date, Aurora and FedEx have completed a total of 60,000 miles with zero safety incidents, according to Aurora.

“Some time ago, I was asked why the general public should care about autonomous trucking. This is why. In six months of working with FedEx, we’ve safely, reliably, and efficiently transported packages for tens of thousands of FedEx customers,” said Sterling Anderson, Aurora co-founder and chief product officer, in a statement. “This lane expansion came ahead of schedule and we’re delighted to continue building the future of trucking with one of the country’s biggest and most important transportation companies.”