Elon Musk Says Full Self-Driving Will Be ‘Self-Driving’ This Year, Maybe

Elon Musk Says Full Self-Driving Will Be ‘Self-Driving’ This Year, Maybe

A photo of Elon Musk shrugging at an event in Germany.

Photo: Odd Andersen / AFP (Getty Images)

Elon Musk is sure that this is the year Tesla’s Full Self-Driving system finally learns to self-drive, Honda is investing $4.5 billion in a U.S. battery plant, and France will offer EV leasing for as little as $100 a month. All this and more in The Morning Shift for August 29, 2022.

1st Gear: Tesla Will Definitely Launch Full Self Driving This Year, Maybe

The will they, won’t they of Tesla and it’s Full Self-Driving software has taken another turn this week, as boss Elon Musk has assured drivers that this is the year it finally happens.

According to Reuters, the Tesla chief hopes the software will finally be ready by the end of 2022. Once the system is finalized, he thinks it could be given a wide release here in the U.S. and possibly in Europe, “depending on regulatory approval.” Reuters reports:

Speaking at an energy conference in Norway, Musk said his attention was currently focused on his SpaceX Starship spacecraft and self-driving Tesla electric cars.

“‘The two technologies I am focused on, trying to ideally get done before the end of the year, are getting our Starship into orbit … and then having Tesla cars to be able to do self-driving.

“‘Have self-driving in wide release at least in the U.S., and … potentially in Europe, depending on regulatory approval,’ Musk told the audience.”

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In 2014, Tesla first began offering some advanced driver assist features in its Model S sedan, including for some steering, braking and acceleration functions. A year later, the company unveiled Autopilot as a catch-all name for these functions.

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It was in 2016 that the EV maker first began touting its ability to create a “full self-driving” car. At the time, Musk told reporters that his company’s cars would be better drivers than humans in just two years. Six years later and we’re still waiting.

2nd Gear: Honda Invests $4.5B in U.S. Battery Plant

Earlier this month, the Biden administration passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which included a whole heap of new incentives for EV buyers stateside. But the big caveat with the tax breaks was that they only applied for vehicles assembled here in America.

That announcement was quickly followed by a mix of disgruntled automakers that might not qualify for the rebate anymore, and others who suddenly had ambitions to invest in vehicle production here in the U.S.

Honda is the latest car maker to make such a move, as Reuters reports that it will invest $4.5 billion in a new battery plant here in America. According to Reuters:

Japan’s Honda Motor Co will set up a new lithium-ion battery plant for electric vehicles in the United States with Korean battery supplier LG Energy Solution Ltd, the two companies said on Monday.

The investment will be $4.4 billion, the two companies said in a statement, aiming for annual production capacity of approximately 40 GWh with the batteries supplied exclusively to Honda facilities in North America to power Honda and Acura EV models.

Construction of the new plant is expected to begin in 2023 and mass-production at the site could begin as soon as 2025.

3rd Gear: GM Halts Corvette Production

It feels like we’ve been talking about supply chain issues across the car world forever now. But sadly, we have to talk about it once again, as GM is shuttering two plants this week.

Automotive News reports that “supply chain and parts issues” have forced GM to idle production at its Mexico plant, which produces GMC and Chevrolet pick-up trucks, and its Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Work at the two plants stopped today, and GM hopes it will resume on September 5th. Automotive News reports:

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“‘General Motors is working actively with its base of suppliers to resolve issues as they arise to meet customer demand,’ GM said in a statement.

“It added that North America production has been “relatively stable” since the third quarter of last year, but supply chain interruptions have continued.”

The site added that production at the automaker’s other three full-size truck assembly plants in North America has not been affected by the same issues. In fact, GM’s site in Flint, Michigan, will operate extra shifts this weekend to keep up with demand.

GM is far from the only automaker to halt production this year. Ford idled its Mustang plant due to supply constraints, and Porsche was forced to pause work at its German factories earlier this year.

4th Gear: VW Trucks Chief Has High Hopes for EVs

So far, electric vehicles are doping a pretty good job at sweeping the consumer car market. Sales are rising and new models from brands like Hyundai and Ford are helping bring new buyers into the fold. But we haven’t seen a whole lot of action in the electric commercial vehicles space just yet.

That could be set to change, as the boss of VW’s Traton trucking arm has some pretty high hopes for electrification in the space. In an interview with Bloomberg, Traton CEO Christian Levin said that battery power would soon be the “dominant technology” in the trucking sector. According to Bloomberg, Levin said:

“We have proven it’s possible by delivering a number of pre-series vehicles that can handle the most difficult tasks. This spring, SCA got a battery-powered truck with an 80-ton capacity from us. It’s a timber truck that will go off-road in northern Sweden where it can get insanely cold.

“So you have three difficult things to deal with: the load’s heavy, it’s cold and you have bad roads. Most people including myself believed that could never work with an electric rig. But we proved that we can do that now, and that’s a signal to our customers and to politicians that this works without any doubt.”

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While the technology may be ready to roll out the factory, Levin warned that there is one big hurdle before mass adoption of EV trucks: cost.

Levin said that “help from politicians” would be essential to get more electric trucks on the road. He added:

“For heavy vehicles it [mass adoption] will happen on a large scale in 2025-2030 in developed markets and first in Europe. But that requires a price on carbon-dioxide emissions, a functioning charging network and access to enough green electricity.”

5th Gear: France Offers $100 EV Leasing

One country that is tackling the cost of EVs head on is France. Lawmakers in the country are hoping to launch a leasing offer for electric vehicles that would see French drivers take home a brand new EV for as little as $100 per month.

Bloomberg reports that France will soon begin subsidizing EV leases as part of president Emmanuel Macron’s campaign pledge to make battery-powered cars more affordable for regular drivers. According to Bloomberg:

“The scheme will make EVs available for 100 euros ($100) a month, Budget Minister Gabriel Attal said Sunday on LCI television, noting that the cost is less than what many people spend on gasoline. The government is working on how quickly the measure can be rolled out and the availability of EVs, he said.”

The leasing program will join other incentives for EV buyers in France. So far, the government offers subsidies of up to €6,000 for the purchase of EVs costing less than €47,000. The country also offers further incentives under a “cash-for-clunkers program for old combustion-engine vehicles,” according to Bloomberg.

EV sales in France accounted for 12% of the country’s new car sales in the first seven months of 2022. In contrast, EVs made up just 4.6% of U.S. car sales at the start of this year.

Reverse: Start Me Up

Neutral: Roll on October

There’s a new Taylor Swift album out in October. It’s called Midnight and comes out on the 21st, which is the same day as Arctic Monkeys’ seventh record. That’s going to be a fun day.