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Quick spin: Daily mobility news for 1.12.18

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Instead of coming to CES, General Motors showed its vision of robotaxis sans a steering wheel and pedals. The automaker is seeking federal approval for them to hit the roads in 2019.

Good morning from Quick Spin, where we’re nursing our post-CES hangovers. Of course, this is not an industry where you can rest for too long. Overnight, General Motors ditched the steering wheel, and a new autonomous startup already joined the melee. The Detroit auto show is around the corner, so pull on your extra warm stockings and let’s jump right in. — Shiraz Ahmed

GM to CES: Nah: The Detroit carmaker opted to not show in Las Vegas this year (joining its West Coast rival Waymo, whose chief, John Krafcik, made a low-key appearance to meet with potential clients and partners). However, GM still made a splash this week, announcing yesterday that will be introducing a robotaxi fleet in 2019 with a modified Chevrolet Bolt sans steering wheel and pedals (as if they hadn’t thought of thatbefore).

GM asked federal officials to allow the vehicles to operate on U.S. roadways without meeting 16 Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that are relevant for vehicles with human drivers but aren’t necessarily applicable for autonomous vehicles. If allowed, the automaker would have up to 2,500 self-driving vehicles a year cruising the street.

“Last week at CES, automakers tempted with visions of the future of transportation, but the Detroit show is all about the here and now,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis for Edmunds. Today, that couldn’t feel more true.

Meanwhile, in Washington: Are regulators ready for self-driving vehicles? Yesterday, we wrote about how U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao gave an oblique, noncommittal statement at CES about updating federal autonomous vehicle guidance. Today, World Bank is hosting transportation leaders from around the world. The gathering, lacking the neon lights of CES, strikes a more somber tone on the future of transportation. Some expressed doubts about governments’ readiness for autonomous technology and mobility advancements in general, and major themes of the conference tackled huge, hairy unanswered questions regarding equitable accessto this revolution.

Yet we can’t ignore real progress: That’s no reason to be dour, though. In Saudi Arabia, where women are just now being legally allowed to take the wheel, the Kindgom’s first auto showroomfor women opened in Jeddah. It’s a small step in a long journey. But with the sugar high of CES starting to wear off, we’ll take a practical victory to close off the week.

Quick bits

  • Don’t tell GM CEO Mary Barra, but Boston Consulting Group predicts electric robotaxis could lead to a 40 percent decline in automaker profits when they take off.
  • Bike sharing has historically been, shall we say, monochromatic. But in Washington, D.C., new mobility companies are specifically engaging minority customers. Read about it here.
  • Workhorse, the green powertrain pickup company, opened up preorders for its first product, the W-15, to the general public.
  • Jalopnik writes about one of the U.K.’s deadliest intersections, caused by depressingly basic line-of-sight issues.
  • Bloomberg reports on more comically nefarious government interference from Uber. Looks like 2018 will be another banner year for the ridehailing service.
  • Intel fumbles on the follow-up to its major chip security flaw.
  • Quanergy and Cisco team up to find a use for lidar outside of cars.
  • After SpaceX’s latest launch lost its clandestine payload, NASA is beginning to have some qualms about commercial space flight.
  • Tesla Model 3’s finally begin making appearances at showrooms in California.
  • The next great urban battle may be over curb space, not parking.
  • News of a sex party is scandalizing Silicon Valley this week, but Elon Musk says the party was really kind of boring.

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