AutoMobility LA provides a glimpse into how mobility, cars, technology and partnerships are changing. Three Southern California-based car companies showed unique vehicles, while expert panels discussed the emerging trends.
“AutoMobility LA captures the rush of technological developments from the smallest startups to the grandest car companies,” says Roger C. Lanctot, director automotive connected mobility, Strategy Analytics.
Karma, Faraday, and Canoo updated the world on their progress toward electrification, while Vulog announced the newest car-sharing kid on the block: Mocean.
All kinds of micro-mobility solutions were on display, most notably A2Mac1 with its foldable e-bike. And service providers including Launch Mobility, Ridecell, and the growing ranks of EV charging infrastructure companies were on hand, notes Lanctot.
The day started with Faraday Future’s CEO, Dr Carsten Breitfeld telling the audience how the company plans to reestablish trust and bounce back from various management issues. Last year at Automobility LA, Breitfeld was touting BYTON that had a huge 48” screen. This year, he took some hard-hitting questions about Faraday Future’s founder, Jia Yueting, who has filed bankruptcy for his personal debt.
Breitfeld says that technology is the core of Faraday Future’s business.
“The IP developed by Faraday is the most advanced and best electric power train in the whole industry,” says Breitfeld.
The vehicle on display oozed luxury and technology. The FF 91 is called the third internet living space–with eleven screens, the largest HUD in the industry, multiple modems, video conferencing, Alexa, integrated AI, and zero gravity seats.
Meanwhile, Karma revealed the all-electric e SC2 and the re-designed luxury hybrid the new 2020 Revero GTS and its new business strategy and IP offerings.
Karma CEO, Dr. Lance Zhou. says Karma is more than car company but also a high-tech incubator that can supply engineering, design, customisation and manufacturing resources product development to apply luxury touches.
“What’s really exciting that both Faraday Future and Karma both talked about not only business to consumer models but also business to business. Both have either components, assets or digital life. Karma talked about its powertrain skateboard electrical architecture platform in their car. Both companies said that ‘We want to develop great cars for consumers’ but we are also developing things that are interesting for other OEMs,” comments Jeffrey Hannah, director automotive SBD America.
Both talked about licensing technology to others. Karma also talked about using a BMW engine.
“The reality setting in is there is going to be collaboration. Which makes sense if you think of the costs involved in developing not only a leading car company but leading infotainment system, battery management system and the like it’s going to require a fair amount of creativity,” notes Hannah.
Baby Steps to AVs
One panel discussed how the public will learn to trust autonomous vehicles through education and experience. Panellists referred to trust coming gradually, in baby steps and through word of mouth experiences.
“The word of the day is gradual. Autonomous technology is going to enter gradually, This is the policy trifecta, Its, safety, it’s mobility and our vehicle’s battery is electric–zero-emissions/ sustainable,” says, Bert Kaufman head of corporate and regulatory affairs, Zoox.
“We can’t let fear be the enemy of good,” says Steve Koenig, Senior Director of Market Research Consumer Technology Association, in regards to gaining consumer’s trust in autonomous vehicles.
Charging for the Future
Since there is a push for electric vehicles there will need to be more electric charging stations at malls, supermarkets and even convenience stores. Patricia Valderrama, Schneider, Sustainable Energy Fellow, Climate & Clean Energy Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, went for a road trip through the midwest and talked to EV drivers.
She found that her best places to stop and charge were Walmarts where she could shop while the 2017 Chevy Bolt was driving.
“There is pent up desire for electric vehicles,” says Valderrama.
GridSmartr was named as the Grand Prize Winner of this year’s Automobility LA Hackathon.
The GridSmartr tool finds the best time to charge EVs, and offers incentives to consumers who can earn points if they allow their vehicles to draw less energy while the grid is overloaded.
Many vehicles that were displayed and discussed are electric including models from the iconic Porsche brand.
“The Porsche Taycan is a combination of sustainability and performance. You can take it to the limit and beyond,” Klaus Zellmer, CEO of Porsche NA. He notes: “The future is electric by 2025 50% of our vehicles will have a plug. The next electric Porsche will be the Maycan that will live up to the expectation of the brand.”
In another panel discussion on micro-mobilty, Tarani Duncan, product and operations strategist Micro-mobility noted that bike lanes cost a fraction of the cost to build as compared to roads for cars and trucks. She predicts that micro-mobility designers will create safer more stable vehicles in the future.
Dr Tarak Trivedi, UCLA Health, who e-biked to downtown Los Angeles from Santa Monica, warned, “Don’t operate e-scooters while intoxicated and wear a helmet.”
California and Michigan are both homes to new automotive startups and technology. The panel noted that universities in California and Michigan contribute to automotive startups. But it’s still difficult to recruit software developers and engineers even with stock options.
“It important not just to start a company to deliver level 4 or 5 autonomy but something that can work in the meantime for safety such as the company Phantom Auto (teleoperation),” says Tess Hatch, an investor at Bessemer Venture Partners.
Ulrich Kranz, in charge of Canoo, entered on stage driving the Canoo prototype and revealed more details about the Canoo vehicle and subscription service. The canoos will be returned at three and six years and be re-conditioned and updated. There are currently test canoos on the road. The final version will be 95% of the vehicle that was revealed in September.
“We are working with our manufacturing contractor in the design process,” says Kranz, who can’t reveal the name of the company that will be manufacturing canoos in 2021 and will launch city by city.
The LA Auto Show is not the first car show to go electric – but in the context of California’s global influence on alternative fuel decision making and the ongoing confrontation with the Trump Administration over emissions standards and fuel efficiency mandates – LA and its annual gathering are the epicenter of a tectonic shift in vehicle design priorities, says Lanctot.
A member of the AutoMobility LA advisory board, Lanctot concludes AutoMobility LA walks a fine line between B2C and B2B messaging – uniquely bridging the gap between the industry and the consumer.
AutoMobility LA 2019 leaves no doubt that California is leading the electrification revolution – incubating startups and driving new thinking about cars, mobility, and the planet.