Saturday, 30 May 2020

VW spending $2.2B to expand in China's electric car market



BEIJING -- Volkswagen is spending 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) to expand its presence in China’s electric car industry in the biggest foreign investment announced since the country's economy began to reopen following the coronavirus pandemic.
Volkswagen AG said Friday it will buy control of its electric vehicle venture with a Chinese partner in a 1 billion euro ($1.1 billion) deal. The German automaker said it would spend another 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to become the biggest shareholder in a battery producer.
The ruling Communist Party scrapped limits on foreign ownership of electric vehicle makers in 2018 to promote industry development. Beijing sees electric cars as a profitable technology where China can become a global leader.
China accounts for about half of global electric car sales but demand has slumped as Beijing wound down multibillion-dollar subsidies and shifted the burden to automakers by imposing sales quotas. Sales of pure-electric and gasoline-electric hybrid models fell 43.4% in the first four months of this year from a year earlier to 205,000 vehicles.
VW, General Motors Co., Nissan Motors Co. and other brands are spending heavily to develop models that can compete on price, range and features without subsidies.
Beijing announced in April that subsidies to buyers and producers that were due to end this year would be extended through 2022 to support sagging demand.
Volkswagen said it will acquire 50% of Jianghuai Automobile Group, the parent of its electric vehicle partner, JAC Volkswagen, and expand its stake in JAC from 50% to 75%. It said the transaction is expected to close this year, subject to regulatory approval.
“By gaining management control, Volkswagen is paving the way for more electric models and infrastructure,” the company’s announcement said.
VW said it also was acquiring 26% of battery supplier Gotion. The company said that made it the first global automaker to invest directly in a Chinese battery producer.
GM, Nissan, BMW AG and other automakers also have joint ventures with Chinese partners to develop lower-cost electric models.
Tesla Inc. is the first foreign brand to set up a wholly-owned venture in China. Its Shanghai factory delivered its first electric sedans to customers in January.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Now May Be the Right Time to Buy an Electric or Hybrid Car

A Tesla Model 3 — the price has dropped by around 5 percent


Tesla just dropped the price of its Model 3, Model S, and Model X electric cars by as much as $5,000. But against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemicfalling demand for new vehicles, and lower gas prices that might make electric cars less enticing, the automaker isn’t the only one to effectively cut prices on new cars.
Consumer Reports analyzed transaction data from recent weeks and found significant incentives that could mean big savings for buyers of some new cars, especially when it comes to EVs and hybrids. But we also found that some consumers aren’t taking advantage of those deals and are leaving money on the table. 
When it comes to Tesla, the savings range from 5 to 6 percent off previous prices:
• The Model 3 Standard Range sedan has dropped to $37,990 from $39,990, for a savings of $2,000.
• The Model S Long Range Plus sedan has dropped to $74,990 from $79,990, for a savings of $5,000.
• Both the Long Range Plus and Performance versions of the Model X have dropped by $5,000, with the Long Range Plus now starting at $79,990.
“The underlying reality is that there has been a dramatic slowdown in car sales since the pandemic swept the nation, causing an oversupply for many models and an eagerness to sell from manufacturers and dealerships alike,” says Gabriel Shenhar, associate director of the auto test program at Consumer Reports. “There are price reductions and great deals to be had, whether they are announced or not.”
When CR examined data from TrueCar that shows the actual prices consumers are paying for new vehicles, we found that many luxury-branded models were selling at a discount of 10 to 16 percent below the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). That’s between two and three times the discount Tesla just announced. (TrueCar doesn't have data on Tesla sales.)  
Many hybrids and EVs are selling 5 to 9 percent below MSRP. But the data suggest that savvy car shoppers could do even better if they took into account all available incentives and negotiated.
For example, we’re seeing significant potential savings off MSRP for these desirable EVs and hybrids, deals that buyers could get if they qualify for incentives and negotiate the price:
When sales are slow, as they are now, automakers often encourage dealers to attract buyers through incentives and rebates, money that’s passed from the automaker to the dealership. A dealer can choose how much of that money goes back to the consumer.
But Tesla doesn’t operate like most automakers. Because it sells cars directly to consumers rather than through franchised dealers, it often tweaks the price of its vehicles to adjust to changes in demand, says Sam Abuelsamid, a principal analyst at Guidehouse Insights, a consulting firm. The ability to change prices on the fly is similar to the incentives and deals that traditional carmakers use with new vehicles.
“Other manufacturers do the same through a variety of sales incentives, including rebates and financing offers,” Abuelsamid says. “Since Tesla sells direct to consumers and doesn't have franchised dealers, they have the ability to adjust pricing directly.”
In addition, Tesla sometimes raises the price of new vehicles or options such as the “Full Self Driving” feature, which went up by $1,000 earlier this month. (No fully self-driving vehicles currently exist, and Tesla didn't respond to CR’s request for more information.)
Some price drops are designed to offset expiring federal tax credits that essentially make certain EVs more expensive for consumers to lease or purchase. Both Tesla and GM have sold enough vehicles that their tax credits have been phased out, which explains some of the discounts on the Model 3, Model S, Model X, and Chevy Bolt.
Consumers should arm themselves with information about the rebates and incentives they may qualify for before they contact a dealership. This information is available on the vehicle manufacturer’s web page or on individual car dealer websites. Even better, learn what the current transaction prices are in your area, because this defines a good, fair deal. The information is available from the pricing section of CR’s car model pages online. Otherwise, those potential savings are staying in the dealer’s pocket instead of being passed on to you.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Tesla building its one-millionth car

Tesla has now built 1 million cars
Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter late on Monday to congratulate the team on Tesla building its one-millionth car.
He also posted photos of the car which reveal that it was a Model Y finished in red.
The small electric SUV has been in production since January and is due to start deliveries at the end of March. It is currently assembled at Tesla's plant in Fremont, California, and will eventually be added to the production lines at Tesla's plant in Shanghai, China, and the planned plant in Berlin, Germany. The German plant is scheduled to open in 2021.
There are currently two Model Y grades to order, both of them with all-wheel drive. The more affordable option is the Model Y Long Range priced from $52,990 and the other is the range-topping Model Y Performance priced from $60,990. Both have an EPA-estimated range of 315 miles according to Tesla's website.
More affordable Model Ys are coming. A Standard range previously announced to start at $41,200 and offering 230 miles of range is due to enter production in early 2021.

The latest milestone is a major one not only for Tesla but also the industry in general as it is the first time that any manufacturer has built a million electric cars.
Tesla has come a long way since it started production of its first model, the Roadster based on a donor Lotus platform, back in 2008. Since then it's switched to production of the Model S, Model X and Model 3 and more recently the Model Y. The company has also revealed three additional models due to enter production in the near future. They include a redesigned Roadster, the Cybertruck pickup truck, and the Semi semi-trailer truck.
The news also comes a little more than a month after Tesla announced its first full year of profits, albeit based on the accounting rules followed by most analysts and investors and not generally accepted accounting principles which in fact showed Tesla still running at a loss. Tesla is also confident it will exceed 500,000 sales this year.
There are some headwinds, though. Tesla is just starting to face real competition in the EV space as the major automakers introduce their first credible rivals. And the new competition is arriving just as Tesla loses the federal tax credit on new EV purchases.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Tesla Is Resuming Normal Operations at Its U.S. Factories

Vehicle production at Tesla's factory in California

Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) went through a period of uncertainty earlier this year after the coronavirus outbreak forced the company to shut down its factories. Though the automaker's China factory quickly came back online, it's only now that things are finally getting back to normal in the U.S. Tesla told employees this week that it's returning to normal operations at its car factory in California and its battery factory in Nevada.
While it will take Tesla time to ramp production back up to pre-shutdown levels, this progress puts the company one step closer to fully resuming its rapid growth.

Employees are returning to work

"Bay Area guidelines permit manufacturers to resume normal operations, and ease restrictions for retail, warehousing and other industries assuming all required safety precautions can be followed," wrote Tesla's human resources department in a memo emailed to employees and obtained by CNBC this week.
In the email, the automaker said that production workers should come back to work at both its California and Nevada factories. HR management noted it would reinstate its usual attendance policy on Friday, May 22, albeit with a new provision allowing employees to take unpaid leave through May 31 if they don't want to work because of concerns about exposing an at-risk person at their home.
Tesla emphasized that the memo only applied to production-related jobs at its factories in California and Nevada. "Those who can continue to work from home, should do so," the memo read.

Expect a weak second quarter

Despite Tesla's California and Nevada factories coming online, investors should expect sales to take a significant hit during Q2. Not only was its main factory in California shut down for about half of the quarter, but it will undoubtedly take some time for production levels to return to where they were before manufacturing paused. In addition, Tesla will need its suppliers to resume regular operations as well.
Tesla's website is currently showing a slow timeframe for getting new vehicles to customers who order them today. For custom Model 3, S, and X orders, Tesla estimates deliveries will take place in four to six weeks. Custom orders of its new Model Y will deliver in about eight to 12 weeks, the company predicts.
Of course, Tesla's factory in Shanghai was producing vehicles during the quarter. But the factory only had an installed annual production capacity of 200,000 vehicles per year, compared to an annual capacity of about 500,000 at the company's factory in Fremont, California. Further, Tesla's Shanghai factory only builds vehicles for the China market.
Once production gets back on track, Tesla can reevaluate whether it still has a shot at growing deliveries to 500,000 units this year, up from about 368,000 deliveries last year. This was the company's original outlook for the year, but management refrained from reiterating this forecast in its first-quarter update, which took place during the manufacturing pause.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Mazda MX-30 EV has suicide doors and cork interior trim




We were, and remain, smitten with the Mazda MX-30, which also happens to be the company's first electric car. While we still don't know if it'll come to America, the MX-30 officially entered production on Tuesday.
As the car rolls off the assembly line in Japan, the first units will ship to Europe before the car goes on sale this fall. Those who pull the trigger on the MX-30 will find a 35.5 kilowatt-hour battery, which should muster 124 miles of range on the European test cycle. That figure could be even lower if the vehicle made its way to the US, based on the EPA's test cycle. One of the reasons Mazda may skip the US likely rests in the low range figure, but rumors of an MX-30 with a rotary engine as a range extender persist. That model could find its way to America with the range extender providing more mileage to American drivers' liking.
Mazda MX-30 concept
Mazda really worked to make this first EV feel special, though. The "freestyle doors" that operate minus a B-pillar are very cool and harken back to the RX-8. Inside, the center console is made of cork to lower the MX-30's environment impact and much of the soft fabric drivers touch is actually made from recycled plastic bottles. Mazda didn't just work to cut tailpipe emissions, but it seriously put in the effort to lower the car's total environmental footprint.
Hopefully we get a taste of the MX-30 in the US in some form, but for now, Europeans can look forward to the car in the months to come.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Dyson's electric car revealed months after project's cancellation

Dyson Finally Unveils Its Canceled Electric Car
Building cars is not an easy job, and 99% of the companies that build cars have done so for decades, amassing enormous wealths of experience. Dyson, the British technology company best known for its bagless vacuums, found this out the hard way.
On Saturday, the Sunday Times of London reported on Sir James Dyson's electric car project, which the inventor formally announced back in 2017. The story even includes an unexpected look at the electric vehicle to show off what could have been. Over the past three years, the project was highly secretive, with only a few major updates along the way, like patent images that detailed a Tesla Model X rival and plans for a production plant in Singapore.
Dyson told the newspaper the project cost around $600 million at the time the company halted all work and canceled the project. Originally, the firm earmarked about $2.5 billion to see the project through. Dyson said the company realized it didn't have the economies of scale, however, to bring the car to mass production and make a profit. The floated price tag? $150,000 just to break even on each car sold.
Yet the car could have been a technological marvel, with a planned solid-state battery to provide 600 miles of range, two electric motors for a total of 536 horsepower and a top speed of 125 mph. Dyson said its car would have weighed around 5,730 pounds, but still sprint from 0-62 mph in 4.8 seconds. A Dyson spokesperson confirmed these technical specs but declined to comment further on the vehicle.
When Dyson hit the brakes on the EV project, the company told Roadshow it sought a buyer for its work but was not successful. The remaining cash earmarked for the car was funneled back into core technologies and robotics. The company still plans to pursue work on solid-state batteries and even vehicle sensors.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Tesla picks Austin, Tulsa as finalists for new US factory

This photo shows vehicles in the parking lot of the Tesla electric car plant Wednesday, May 13, 2020, in Fremont, Calif. The Alameda County Public Health Department announced on Twitter late Tuesday that the Fremont, California, plant will be able to go beyond basic operations this week and start making vehicles Monday, as long as it delivers on worker safety precautions that it agreed to. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) Photo: Ben Margot, Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla has picked Austin, Texas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, as finalists for its new U.S. assembly plant, a person briefed on the matter said Friday.
The person says company officials visited Tulsa in the past week and were shown two sites.
It wasn’t clear if there were any other finalists in the mix. The person, who didn't want to be identified because the site selection process is secret, said no final decision has been made.
The new factory will be Tesla's biggest so far. The electric car maker has said it wants the factory to be in the center of the country and closer to East Coast markets.
The stakes are high for state and local governments, which covet auto factories because they have a lot of workers and normally pay well, generating income and property taxes.
Tesla's current U.S. vehicle assembly factory is in Fremont, California, which employs 10,000 workers. The company has a second U.S. factory in Reno, where it builds batteries for its vehicles and employs about 6,500 people. It also has a factory in Shanghai and another one under construction in Germany.
Companies typically use proposals from finalists to bargain for the best package of tax breaks, site investments and other incentives.
The new factory would build Tesla's upcoming “Cybertruck” as well as be a second site to build the Model Y small SUV.
On the company's earnings conference call in April, Musk said the site of the company's third U.S. factory could be announced within a month. Musk calls his plants “Gigafactories.”
The respective mayors, Steve Adler of Austin and G.T. Bynum of Tulsa, as well as Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, all declined comment on whether their cities are finalists for the plant. However, all reasserted their respective locales would be best suited for the plant site. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Earlier this week, Musk threatened to move manufacturing and Tesla’s headquarters out of California in a fight with San Francisco Bay Area health officials over whether the Fremont plant could reopen after being closed to stop the spread of coronavirus. He defied an order to stay closed and the plant was running for two days before the Alameda County Public Health Department announced a settlement. The department said the plant could run above minimum basic operations this week and start producing vehicles this coming Monday, as long as it delivered on promised safety precautions for workers.
It would be difficult for Musk to move out of Fremont, though, because Tesla would have to take its only U.S. assembly plant offline for months while it moved heavy equipment to another location. It also would be hard to move the headquarters in Silicon Valley to another state because software engineers and other technical workers likely wouldn’t want to relocate and could find work elsewhere in the area.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Electra Meccanica Launches SOLO Electric Vehicle



SHERMAN OAKS—Electra Meccanica, an electric vehicle company based in Vancouver, Canada, announced it will launch the three-wheeled electric car SOLO in Los Angeles in late 2020. Paul Rivera, the CEO in Electra Meccanica shared the latest photos from the production lines via Facebook on Monday, May 11.
“The SOLO is the ideal commuter car that fits perfectly into your busy lifestyle being both good for you and the planet,” said Rivera in a statement. SOLO, which is a single-seat car with only three wheels, is 100 percent powered by electricity. Electra Meccanica aims to provide drivers superb driving experience and at the same time, protect the environment. The vehicles are compact, allowing drivers to park and navigate traffic, with enough trunk space for groceries.
“At the beginning of the year we made considerable progress along with our production roadmap through several key vehicle enhancements and approvals that have us on target for the commercial launch of our flagship SOLO EV in the next few months,” said Rivera. According to Proactive, the company will open a second Los Angeles location at Westfield Fashion Square, a shopping center in the Sherman Oaks suburb.
“Over the last couple of months, our engineers have been working very hard both in Vancouver and Chongqing, China with our production partner Zongshen Industries to ensure that we deliver the SOLO back into production,” added Rivera. He noted he was proud of his team and is happy to share the latest pictures from the production lines with everyone on Facebook.
Electra Meccanica emphasizes while uncertainties are prevalent in the global economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has not been impacted and operated with minimal interruption, according to Proactive.
“We remain confident in our ability to meet our production targets going forward and have the SOLO positioned for a breakout launch in the second half of the year,” said Rivera.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Tesla Defies State Orders And Reopens California Manufacturing Plant

May 12, 2020 Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has picked a new fight - this time with the State of California.
Musk is defying the California county that blocked the electric car manufacturer from reopening its only U.S. car plant by restarting production at the facility and daring authorities to arrest him for violating lockdown orders.
"I will be on the line with everyone else," Musk Tweeted Monday. "If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me."
Tesla told production workers earlier that it was getting back to work at its factory in Fremont, California, after local officials stood in the way of reopening last week. Musk drew words of support from the U.S. Treasury Secretary and several other chief executives after he threatened to pull the company out of California and move to another state such as Texas or Nevada.
Musk's attack has made local officials in Alameda County, which neighbors the location of the first confirmed death of COVID-19 in the U.S., the latest to come under fire for their handling of reopening the economy. President Donald Trump pressured governors last month to "liberate" their states.
Tesla also sued the county over the weekend after it told the car maker on May 8 that it didn't meet criteria to reopen. Health officers for Alameda and six other San Francisco Bay area counties and cities decided late last month to extend their restrictions on businesses through the end of May.
Musk tweeted over the weekend that Alameda's refusal to let Tesla reopen the Fremont factory was "the final straw" and that he will move Tesla's headquarters to Nevada or Texas.

 

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Xpeng Launches First Production Electric Car Using Nvidia’s High-Powered Xavier Chip


Chinese electric vehicle startup Xpeng has just launched its second production model, the P7 sedan, which includes at least two industry firsts. The P7 is the first production vehicle to take advantage of Nvidia NVDA’s Drive AGX Xavier platform. Thanks in part to the Xavier system-on-a-chip (SoC), it’s also one of the first production vehicles to go on sale with a level 3 (L3) conditionally automated driving system.
Nvidia first announced the Xavier back in September 2016 and started shipping samples to customers in 2018. Xavier was designed as a next-generation single-chip follow-up to Nvidia’s popular Drive PX2 development compute platform for automated driving. Drive PX2 was based on the combination of earlier generation Parker SoCs and Pascal GPUs. 
Like the Parker SoC, Xavier is based on ARM processor cores, although the newer chip doubles the number to eight. Xavier also includes a newer Volta graphics processor similar to those used in the GTX 1080 and 1060 computer video cards as well as a tensor processing unit to help accelerate deep learning functions. All together, this gives claimed performance of 30 trillion operations per second (TOPS) with a power consumption of just 30W.
At the time that Xavier was launched, it was expected that the 30 TOPS it offered would be sufficient for L4 highly automated driving since that was 15,000 times the processing capacity of the computers in the Carnegie Mellon Chevrolet Tahoe that won the DARPA Grand Challenge a decade earlier. Needless to say, as work on highly automated driving has progressed, it has become clear that more computing power will be needed to make automated vehicles safe and reliable. Thus in late 2019, Nvidia launched the 200 TOPS Orin SoC and Qualcomm QCOM announced it’s Snapdragon Ride platform that can scale up to a claimed 700 TOPS. 
That doesn’t mean Xavier has lost its market. In addition to Xpeng, several other suppliers have announced plans to launch so-called L2+ partially automated systems as well as some L3 systems using Xavier-based platforms. Tier one automotive suppliers TRW, Bosch and Continental will each offer Xavier-powered driver assist and partial automation. 
This processing horsepower and a true software-defined architecture enables Xpeng to rival Tesla in terms of putting highly capable vehicles on the road and pushing out regular software OTA updates that unlock new functionality. This is the business model of the future, that other automakers need to adopt if they intend to be in business in the future.
According to Danny Shapiro, Nvidia senior director of automotive, more automakers in addition to Xpeng will launch systems this year. We may get a look at which companies those are during the online keynote from Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang set to be streamed on May 14, 2020. 
One of the advantages claimed by Nvidia is the ability for developers to scale software across its range of products. From the lower end chips to Xavier and Orin, the same software can run on all Nvidia platforms including its Drive Constellation simulation platform. Subsets of the code used on a robotaxi capable system like Orin or Pegasus can be used for driver assistance systems. While it’s true that software can be scaled on competing compute architectures, Nvidia has an unusually complete array of integrated tools for automated driving including its in-vehicle development computers and the simulators.
For now, Xpeng’s P7 is the only model confirmed and the manufacturer calls XPilot 3.0 an L3 advanced driver assist system (ADAS). Audi had announced plans to add an L3 Traffic Jam Pilot system when it launched the current-generation A8 in late 2017 but the system was never actually launched due to concerns with performance and regulations. Audi recently announced that it would not deploy the system on the current generation A8.  
While XPilot 3.0 doesn’t have any lidar, it does have more sensors and greater redundancy than Tesla TSLA’s Autopilot hardware suite. Like Tesla, the P7 has 12 ultrasonic sensors, but the camera count is increased from 8 to 14. Tesla tries to get by with just a single forward facing radar sensor, whereas Xpeng has five with four corner radars joining the one in the front. This is similar to the configuration that GM uses with Super Cruise. 
While ultrasonic sensors are low-cost, they are limited to just a few meters in detection range and can’t detect where an object is, only how far it is. Radar provides more detailed information about location and speed, which makes it more capable for detecting cut-ins. This functionality is apparently aimed at urban driving to provide automatic braking to avoid collisions. 
Xpeng hasn’t responded to inquiries for more details on the precise functionality of Xpliot 3.0, but based on available information on the website, it appears that it will be an automated highway mode. Recently Changan Automobiles announced its Uni-T, a crossover also claimed to have an L3 automation system for highway driving. 
At a national level, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Road Traffic Safety currently mandates that drivers must keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times, thus making a hands-off L3 system illegal. It’s unclear if Xpeng and Changan have received clearance to provide hands-off capability from local authorities in certain areas. With both domestic Chinese brands as well as European brands like Volvo and BMW planning to launch L3 systems, it seems likely that the regulations will have to change in the not too distant future. 

Xpeng Launches First Production Electric Car Using Nvidia’s High-Powered Xavier Chip


Chinese electric vehicle startup Xpeng has just launched its second production model, the P7 sedan, which includes at least two industry firsts. The P7 is the first production vehicle to take advantage of Nvidia NVDA’s Drive AGX Xavier platform. Thanks in part to the Xavier system-on-a-chip (SoC), it’s also one of the first production vehicles to go on sale with a level 3 (L3) conditionally automated driving system.
Nvidia first announced the Xavier back in September 2016 and started shipping samples to customers in 2018. Xavier was designed as a next-generation single-chip follow-up to Nvidia’s popular Drive PX2 development compute platform for automated driving. Drive PX2 was based on the combination of earlier generation Parker SoCs and Pascal GPUs. 
Like the Parker SoC, Xavier is based on ARM processor cores, although the newer chip doubles the number to eight. Xavier also includes a newer Volta graphics processor similar to those used in the GTX 1080 and 1060 computer video cards as well as a tensor processing unit to help accelerate deep learning functions. All together, this gives claimed performance of 30 trillion operations per second (TOPS) with a power consumption of just 30W.
At the time that Xavier was launched, it was expected that the 30 TOPS it offered would be sufficient for L4 highly automated driving since that was 15,000 times the processing capacity of the computers in the Carnegie Mellon Chevrolet Tahoe that won the DARPA Grand Challenge a decade earlier. Needless to say, as work on highly automated driving has progressed, it has become clear that more computing power will be needed to make automated vehicles safe and reliable. Thus in late 2019, Nvidia launched the 200 TOPS Orin SoC and Qualcomm QCOM announced it’s Snapdragon Ride platform that can scale up to a claimed 700 TOPS. 
That doesn’t mean Xavier has lost its market. In addition to Xpeng, several other suppliers have announced plans to launch so-called L2+ partially automated systems as well as some L3 systems using Xavier-based platforms. Tier one automotive suppliers TRW, Bosch and Continental will each offer Xavier-powered driver assist and partial automation. 
This processing horsepower and a true software-defined architecture enables Xpeng to rival Tesla in terms of putting highly capable vehicles on the road and pushing out regular software OTA updates that unlock new functionality. This is the business model of the future, that other automakers need to adopt if they intend to be in business in the future.
According to Danny Shapiro, Nvidia senior director of automotive, more automakers in addition to Xpeng will launch systems this year. We may get a look at which companies those are during the online keynote from Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang set to be streamed on May 14, 2020. 
One of the advantages claimed by Nvidia is the ability for developers to scale software across its range of products. From the lower end chips to Xavier and Orin, the same software can run on all Nvidia platforms including its Drive Constellation simulation platform. Subsets of the code used on a robotaxi capable system like Orin or Pegasus can be used for driver assistance systems. While it’s true that software can be scaled on competing compute architectures, Nvidia has an unusually complete array of integrated tools for automated driving including its in-vehicle development computers and the simulators.
For now, Xpeng’s P7 is the only model confirmed and the manufacturer calls XPilot 3.0 an L3 advanced driver assist system (ADAS). Audi had announced plans to add an L3 Traffic Jam Pilot system when it launched the current-generation A8 in late 2017 but the system was never actually launched due to concerns with performance and regulations. Audi recently announced that it would not deploy the system on the current generation A8.  
While XPilot 3.0 doesn’t have any lidar, it does have more sensors and greater redundancy than Tesla TSLA’s Autopilot hardware suite. Like Tesla, the P7 has 12 ultrasonic sensors, but the camera count is increased from 8 to 14. Tesla tries to get by with just a single forward facing radar sensor, whereas Xpeng has five with four corner radars joining the one in the front. This is similar to the configuration that GM uses with Super Cruise. 
While ultrasonic sensors are low-cost, they are limited to just a few meters in detection range and can’t detect where an object is, only how far it is. Radar provides more detailed information about location and speed, which makes it more capable for detecting cut-ins. This functionality is apparently aimed at urban driving to provide automatic braking to avoid collisions. 
Xpeng hasn’t responded to inquiries for more details on the precise functionality of Xpliot 3.0, but based on available information on the website, it appears that it will be an automated highway mode. Recently Changan Automobiles announced its Uni-T, a crossover also claimed to have an L3 automation system for highway driving. 
At a national level, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Road Traffic Safety currently mandates that drivers must keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times, thus making a hands-off L3 system illegal. It’s unclear if Xpeng and Changan have received clearance to provide hands-off capability from local authorities in certain areas. With both domestic Chinese brands as well as European brands like Volvo and BMW planning to launch L3 systems, it seems likely that the regulations will have to change in the not too distant future. 

Xpeng Launches First Production Electric Car Using Nvidia’s High-Powered Xavier Chip

Chinese electric vehicle startup Xpeng has just launched its second production model, the P7 sedan, which includes at least two industry firsts. The P7 is the first production vehicle to take advantage of Nvidia NVDA’s Drive AGX Xavier platform. Thanks in part to the Xavier system-on-a-chip (SoC), it’s also one of the first production vehicles to go on sale with a level 3 (L3) conditionally automated driving system.
Nvidia first announced the Xavier back in September 2016 and started shipping samples to customers in 2018. Xavier was designed as a next-generation single-chip follow-up to Nvidia’s popular Drive PX2 development compute platform for automated driving. Drive PX2 was based on the combination of earlier generation Parker SoCs and Pascal GPUs. 
Like the Parker SoC, Xavier is based on ARM processor cores, although the newer chip doubles the number to eight. Xavier also includes a newer Volta graphics processor similar to those used in the GTX 1080 and 1060 computer video cards as well as a tensor processing unit to help accelerate deep learning functions. All together, this gives claimed performance of 30 trillion operations per second (TOPS) with a power consumption of just 30W.
At the time that Xavier was launched, it was expected that the 30 TOPS it offered would be sufficient for L4 highly automated driving since that was 15,000 times the processing capacity of the computers in the Carnegie Mellon Chevrolet Tahoe that won the DARPA Grand Challenge a decade earlier. Needless to say, as work on highly automated driving has progressed, it has become clear that more computing power will be needed to make automated vehicles safe and reliable. Thus in late 2019, Nvidia launched the 200 TOPS Orin SoC and Qualcomm QCOM announced it’s Snapdragon Ride platform that can scale up to a claimed 700 TOPS. 
That doesn’t mean Xavier has lost its market. In addition to Xpeng, several other suppliers have announced plans to launch so-called L2+ partially automated systems as well as some L3 systems using Xavier-based platforms. Tier one automotive suppliers TRW, Bosch and Continental will each offer Xavier-powered driver assist and partial automation. 
This processing horsepower and a true software-defined architecture enables Xpeng to rival Tesla in terms of putting highly capable vehicles on the road and pushing out regular software OTA updates that unlock new functionality. This is the business model of the future, that other automakers need to adopt if they intend to be in business in the future.
According to Danny Shapiro, Nvidia senior director of automotive, more automakers in addition to Xpeng will launch systems this year. We may get a look at which companies those are during the online keynote from Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang set to be streamed on May 14, 2020. 
One of the advantages claimed by Nvidia is the ability for developers to scale software across its range of products. From the lower end chips to Xavier and Orin, the same software can run on all Nvidia platforms including its Drive Constellation simulation platform. Subsets of the code used on a robotaxi capable system like Orin or Pegasus can be used for driver assistance systems. While it’s true that software can be scaled on competing compute architectures, Nvidia has an unusually complete array of integrated tools for automated driving including its in-vehicle development computers and the simulators.
For now, Xpeng’s P7 is the only model confirmed and the manufacturer calls XPilot 3.0 an L3 advanced driver assist system (ADAS). Audi had announced plans to add an L3 Traffic Jam Pilot system when it launched the current-generation A8 in late 2017 but the system was never actually launched due to concerns with performance and regulations. Audi recently announced that it would not deploy the system on the current generation A8.  
While XPilot 3.0 doesn’t have any lidar, it does have more sensors and greater redundancy than Tesla TSLA’s Autopilot hardware suite. Like Tesla, the P7 has 12 ultrasonic sensors, but the camera count is increased from 8 to 14. Tesla tries to get by with just a single forward facing radar sensor, whereas Xpeng has five with four corner radars joining the one in the front. This is similar to the configuration that GM uses with Super Cruise. 
While ultrasonic sensors are low-cost, they are limited to just a few meters in detection range and can’t detect where an object is, only how far it is. Radar provides more detailed information about location and speed, which makes it more capable for detecting cut-ins. This functionality is apparently aimed at urban driving to provide automatic braking to avoid collisions. 
Xpeng hasn’t responded to inquiries for more details on the precise functionality of Xpliot 3.0, but based on available information on the website, it appears that it will be an automated highway mode. Recently Changan Automobiles announced its Uni-T, a crossover also claimed to have an L3 automation system for highway driving. 
At a national level, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Road Traffic Safety currently mandates that drivers must keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times, thus making a hands-off L3 system illegal. It’s unclear if Xpeng and Changan have received clearance to provide hands-off capability from local authorities in certain areas. With both domestic Chinese brands as well as European brands like Volvo and BMW planning to launch L3 systems, it seems likely that the regulations will have to change in the not too distant future.