Cruise’s fully autonomous robotaxis recently contributed to some annoying road congestion in the streets of Austin, as captured by a video you can see below. The footage comes at a somewhat turbulent time for the self-driving rideshare company, as its vehicles are catching some opposition from residents in the cities they operate in. As is with most cases, there’s more to the story here, which appears to be a perfect example of an EV being at the wrong place at the wrong time… except in this case, it was a large chunk of Cruise’s Austin fleet…
While most people would argue that the self-driving cars from companies like Cruise, Waymo, and Motional do more to ease the pains of traffic congestion and pollution than they contribute, not everyone is hailing down the rideshare bandwagon just yet.
In San Francisco, home to many of these robotaxi companies, local “vigilantes” (or, better yet, NIMBYs) have used the traffic cone as their weapon of opposition, covering up sensors on the EVs to stop them in their tracks. Way to show ’em, guys; that’ll stop road congestion!
While we don’t agree with the tampering of robotaxis, it’s not unfair to say that the nascent technology has room for improvement, and some feel that urban municipalities should not be used as a testing ground. Regardless, companies like Cruise have come a long way, expanding beyond the Bay Area into new cities throughout California and outside of The Golden State in Austin, Texas.
Unfortunately, some of Cruise’s growing pains in Austin were caught on camera as a swarm of robotaxis flooded a congested area. We spoke to Cruise and got the lowdown about what exactly happened.
Cruise found its robotaxi fleet in a (literal) jam in Austin
To truly grasp the traffic situation, you need to check out the full video from Reddit user u/analkaos posted to r/damnthatsinteresting yesterday. The 48-second clip shows gridlocked traffic on a narrow Austin street dominated by Cruise EVs.
According to the team at Cruise, the fleet ended up in a high-demand area, which also brought with it a slew of pedestrian and passenger vehicle traffic. As you can see in the video, one of the Cruise vehicles got stuck in an intersection while committing to a turn, thus further congesting traffic in three different directions.
Unfortunately, more and more Cruise robotaxis flooded the narrow Austin street to meet the peak demand, only to join in the traffic jam. But why were there so many robotaxis in this one specific area? Cruise states that at the time, there were limited routes going north and south through the city, and a detour from an alternative route led the EVs to the same doomed parkway.
Unfortunately, Cruise could not manually reroute the vehicles quickly enough, so there was nowhere for them to go. That being said, as soon as the company became aware of the traffic situation, it immediately stepped in and resolved the issue, leading all its EVs to exit the area and do so autonomously. Cruise shared the following statement with Electrek regarding the video shot in Austin:
We prioritize safety in everything we do. It was a crowded, challenging environment; and, there was no pedestrian, vehicle or property damage.
We fully recognize the inconvenience, and we’ve taken proactive measures to relieve the crowding in the area.
Our expanded ODD will help to reduce concentration of vehicles and provide more services to the places customers want to be.
This was a minor inconvenience at best for those unfortunate drivers who got temporarily stuck in that mess but a pain nonetheless. Luckily, there weren’t any orange cones around!
Oil CEO says blaming the energy industry for the climate crisis ‘like blaming farmers for obesity’
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates —The chief executive of UAE-based energy firm Crescent Petroleum on Tuesday claimed that blaming the oil and gas industry for the climate crisis “is like blaming farmers for obesity.”
His comments come at the mid-point of the U.N.’s biggest and most important annual climate conference, with many at the COP28 talks in Dubai calling for heads of state from nearly 200 countries to agree to a fossil fuel phase out.
The burning of coal, oil and gas is by far the largest contributor to climate change, accounting for more than three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions.
“Blaming the producers of oil and gas for climate change is like blaming farmers for obesity. It’s our societal consumption that is the issue,” Crescent Petroleum CEO Majid Jafar told CNBC’s Dan Murphy on Tuesday.
“Now, we will still need oil and gas throughout the transition and there is no scenario, even the most ambitious scenario, that does not include that.”
Majid Jafar, chief executive officer of Crescent Petroleum Co., right, gives Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, chief executive officer of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC) and president of COP28, center, a scarf in the colours of the United Arab Emirates national flag during the Summit on Methane and Other Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases on day three of the COP28 climate conference at Expo City in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Among a flurry of pledges in the first few days of COP28 was a commitment by some 50 oil and gas companies to cut methane emissions from their own operations by 2030.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said that the announcement was “a step in the right direction” for Big Oil and showed that the fossil fuel industry was “finally starting to wake up.” However, he said the promises made “clearly fall short of what is required.”
Asked about Guterres’ comments, Jafar said he believed oil and gas would continue to play a major role in the transition to cleaner energy technologies.
“So, with all respect for that viewpoint, perhaps he should start with the U.N. itself. Maybe he should have traveled here in a wooden boat, with sails, rowing when the wind died down,” he said.
“Maybe he should move the U.N. staff to upstate New York to a forest somewhere where they can grow their own food, without fertilizers. He has to take away all their smartphones, they can’t use email, they can use maybe carrier pigeon for U.N. communications.”
Jafar said he believed it was imperative to produce oil and gas in a “cleaner” way but insisted that countries across the globe will continue to rely on fossil fuel use.
“We’re actually failing on all three legs of the so-called energy trilemma: sustainability, affordability and availability. We have got to keep that in mind,” he said.
Others, including former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, believe that the participation of energy giants should be welcomed at events such as COP28.
The International Energy Agency said late last month that the fossil fuel industry faces a “moment of truth” about their role in the global energy system and the climate crisis.
“With the world suffering the impacts of a worsening climate crisis, continuing with business as usual is neither socially nor environmentally responsible,” the IEA’s Birol said on Nov. 23.
“The industry needs to commit to genuinely helping the world meet its energy needs and climate goals,” he added.
Lucid Motors (LCID) updates its 2024 model year Airs, including lower prices and a RWD Pure
This morning, Lucid Motors shared details of its 2024 model year Air sedans, which are available for sale starting today. While the updates are minimal, Lucid is offering more customization options across its flagship EV, three of which (should) see lower pricing… some at the cost of some performance.
It’s been an up and down year for American automaker Lucid Motors ($LCID), which introduced some of the more exciting and innovative EV tech in the market, but is still working to find its larger audience of paying customers as a luxury brand.
The automaker’s Q3 report showed that operating losses continued to widen ahead of it pulling its first demand lever – a referral program that rewards both current owners and new Air customers. November in particular, was an exciting month for Lucid however, as it officially launched its second model – Gravity – an SUV with the makings to be a hit in the US.
With Gravity slotted to begin production in late 2024, Lucid’s flagship Air sedan will remain its lone bread winner for now. With hopes of boosted sedan sales next year, the automaker is expanding its configurator and offering its most affordable Air models to date.
2024 Lucid Air sedans are now available
Per Lucid Motors, the 2024 model year Airs have arrived, offering customers more configurations and flexibility when building their sedan – especially the lower end Pure and Touring versions. Some previous versions of the Air have been nixed, while the existing trims adopt some of their best features as standard or available add-ons. Per Lucid CEO and CTO Peter Rawlinson:
This transforms the flexibility and choice for our customers while highlighting Lucid’s commitment to continuous improvement of the world’s most advanced and dynamic electric vehicles. By listening to owners and prospective customers, I’m delighted that we can now provide such compelling choices. For example, it’s now possible to order an Air Pure with massaging seats or even an Air Grand Touring with a metal roof.
First things first, let’s start with the Air Pure. As we reported in back in early October, Lucid has added a RWD version of the Air Pure priced at $77,400 – its most affordable option to date. Beginning with the 2024 model year Airs however, the Pure will come in RWD only. Here’s how the performance specs stack up side-by-side between the 2023 AWD Pure and the 2024 RWD version:
|Air Pure||2023 AWD||2024 RWD|
|Max Power||480 hp||430 hp|
|0-60 mph||3.8 seconds||4.5 seconds|
|410 miles||419 miles|
Future customers can also choose to upgrade their Air Pure or Touring with a new Comfort & Convenience package that features the following:
- Heated steering wheel
- Heated rear seats
- Soft-close doors
- Four-zone climate control
- Power rear window sunshades
These features come in the Pure package, but the Air Touring package comes with the upgrades above, plus a power frunk and heated precision wipers. Speaking of the 2024 Air Touring, Lucid added some standard and available upgrades to that sedan as well.
With the AWD version of the Air Pure on its way out, the Pure Touring sits as Lucid’s most affordable all-wheel option and at a better price than its 2023 predecessor to boot. Here’s how the two models compare:
|Air Touring||2023 AWD||2024 AWD|
|Max Power||620 hp||620 hp|
|0-60 mph||3.4 seconds||3.4 seconds|
|425 miles||411 miles|
While we’re sure the $10,000 price cut it welcomed news, the 14 mile drop in range is surprising. Lucid cites an updated EPA range testing protocol as a reasoning for the drop, but 411 miles is still more range than nearly all other EVs on the market.
Lucid says the 2024 Air Touring now comes with 19″ aero wheels, PurLuxe leather-free upholstery, and 12-way power front seats standard, plus several available add-ons like Fathom Blue exterior paint and premium natural grain or Nappa full-grain leather.
Similar to the end of AWD Air Pure production, Lucid announced it will move into 2024 without the Performance version of the Grand Touring. Instead, the automaker has updated the powertrain and thermal performance of the standard Air Grand Touring, which appears to remain a work in progress.
While we know the 2024 Grand Touring’s horsepower and 0-60 speed will remain unchanged, specs like its battery capacity and EPA range estimate are not being shared yet. We also don’t know what this one will cost, although Lucid says it will arrive at a lower price. For perspective, the 2023 Air Grand Touring starts at $125,600 before a $10,000 Air credit from Lucid. The automaker says those missing details will be shared in early 2024.
We do know the Grand Touring will now come with a body-colored aluminum roof as a standard feature, with the glass canopy as an available upgrade. It also comes standard with the same features as the Touring alongside the same available add-ons.
Last but not least, there appear to be no changes to the tri-motor Air Sapphire, which launched in Q3 as a 2024 model anyways. The 2024 Air models (excluding Grand Touring) are available to configure now on Lucid’s website.
The first fast chargers in GM and Pilot Flying J’s huge coast-to-coast network are open
The first of 500 charging stations at Pilot Flying J rest stops are now open. General Motors announced the new partnership with Pilot Travel Centers and fast charging network EVgo last year, and today the companies announced that 17 charging stations are up and running across 13 states after a soft launch, which started in September.
Plans are underway to install 25 more, offering 100 charging stalls in total, by the end of the year. The broader plan is to install at least 2,000 charging stations over the next few years, with a target of 200 being open by 2024. The charging stations, which will be managed by EVgo, will be at about 500 Pilot Flying J truck stops.
Other perks for EV drivers include onsite assistance, Plug and Charge compatibility, pull-through charging stalls for towing, lots of lighting, and canopies to protect drivers from the elements. In addition, you’ll get all the standard amenities offered at a Flying J, such as food, restroom access, and free Wi-Fi.
Drivers can find available charging locations via GM’s vehicle brand apps, Pilot’s myRewards Plus app, the EVgo app, PlugShare, and other apps for EV drivers. The myRewards Plus app lets EV drivers get discounts on food, drinks, and merchandise. Starting in the spring of next year, GM vehicle owners will be able to reserve a charger ahead of time and get special discounts on charging.
The chargers will be co-branded “Pilot Flying J” and “Ultium Charge 360. From the looks of the press photos (shown above), the stations will sport a GM logo as well, which makes them one of few in the US to do so apart from Tesla.
EVgo also recently announced a new deal with rental car company Hertz that offers drivers renting an electric car from any Hertz location in the US with discounts on charging for a year, with no subscription or session fees. EVgo is also following in Tesla’s footsteps and building prefabricated models for its charging sites, with the aim of cutting installation time in half and saving around 15% in construction costs.
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