Five predictions for mobility in 2018
Photo credit: AUTOMOTIVE NEWS ILLUSTRATION
It has been a year of mobility milestones and missteps, and we’re expecting 2018 will be just as exciting.
But before we get into our expectations for 2018, let’s do a recap of what we saw this year.
Waymo made history with the announcement of its driverless ride-hailing service in Phoenix — and created a different sort of precedent with its landmark trade-secrets theft lawsuit against Uber.
If that was Uber’s only problem this year, it still would have been huge news. But it was far from it. A blog post by Susan Fowler, a former employee, opened up a can of worms at the tech giant, detailing instances of sexual harassment that turned out to be a symptom of a company with severe morality issues. The company was in the news practically every day, leading to the ouster of CEO and founder Travis Kalanick.
Meanwhile, in Muskland, Tesla introduced the Model 3, the affordable sedan intended to bring EVs to the masses — in addition to its Semi truck and second-generation Roadster — though the revolutionary vehicle has yet to become affordable or mass-produced.
The automakers of the old guard announced their plans to brace for a new mobility future, while a string of newcomers threw their hats in the ring for a chance at a multibillion-dollar payout.
While the Mobility Report doesn’t have a crystal ball, we do have some ideas of what 2018 may have in store. Here are our predictions for mobility in the new year.
Eventually, that is. After a few bad headlines early in the year.
News continues to emerge regarding Uber’s malpractices under Kalanick, so it’s tough to believe the company will be able to dig itself out of the crater that formed in 2017. However, with the Waymo trial set to begin in February, it’s possible one of Uber’s biggest headaches could be resolved early in the year, letting newly minted CEO Dara Khosrowshahi focus on turning Uber’s culture around.
While its main competitor, Uber, dealt with one public relations disaster after another, Lyft took advantage of its reputation as the ride-hailing good guys. Lyft got an investment from Waymo’s parent company, Alphabet, and inked partnerships with automakers and tech companies (including Waymo).
All that may seem like good news but juggling those commitments may prove challenging for the young company. Its partnership with General Motors has already seemed to have fallen to the wayside, and Lyft will have to focus on keeping its new partners happy in 2018.
General Motors, Ford Motor Co., BMW, Nissan and most other automakers laid out their plans for deploying autonomous vehicles — with many setting ambitious targets within the next five years. Some of these plans included ride-hailing pilots to study how consumers react and use the technology, and validate it before bringing it to market on a wide scale.
However, with the initial self-driving craze beginning to die down, we’re starting to see companies dial back initial projections. Volvo Cars scaled back its Drive Me pilot in December, allowing just a few families to use vehicles equipped with its current ADAS technology rather than distributing 100 vehicles with more advanced semiautonomous systems. The automaker said it needed to address unexpected problems with the technology before rolling it out — a roadblock many other players will likely encounter as they begin to hit the road.
We’ve been waiting for years for a Chinese automaker to start selling vehicles in the U.S. But 2018 might be the last year products are on hold.
With the rise of electric vehicle technology and a government dedicated to reducing emissions and creating a global auto player, we could be close to seeing this common prediction become reality.
A number of Chinese newcomers have set up shop in Silicon Valley, hoping to marry Chinese manufacturing with the Valley’s engineering smarts. Though most of these companies aren’t planning to sell vehicles on American soil until 2019, they’ll begin to drum up press in the next year, building a brand among U.S. consumers before the product arrives.
What’s that saying about history repeating itself? Through the Model S, Model X and now Model 3, Tesla has yet to prove it can hit its production goals on time. The automaker has already pushed back plans to produce 5,000 vehicles a week by the end of 2017 to the first quarter of next year.
Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas predicts Tesla will produce just 8,000 Model 3s by the end of the first quarter of 2018, with a total of 48,000 for the year — well shy of the company’s goal of producing 500,000 units next year.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s “production hell” won’t be going away in the new year.