Two Bolts With Super Cruise

I’m really excited about this summer’s upcoming lineup of 2022 Chevy Bolts. There will actually be two models: the EV and the EUV. Both will feature GM Super Cruise, an advanced driver assistance system that reviewers claim is on par with Tesla AutoPilot.

The 2022 EUV will launch first, starting at $34,000, although the price goes up for Super Cruise. TechCrunch just reviewed the Bolt EUV and concluded:

“This compact SUV has the space, power and high-tech capability that will allow it to go head-to-head with the likes of the Tesla Model Y, Volvo’s XC40 Recharge, Ford’s Mach-E and Volkswagen’s ID.4.”

The “redesigned” Bolt EV will launch at the end of the summer, starting at $32,000.

Both vehicles boast 250 miles of electric range. Interestingly, Chevrolet has announced they will cover the installation of home charging stations as part of buying a Bolt.

“Chevrolet plans to cover standard installation of Level 2 charging capability for eligible customers who purchase or lease a 2022 Bolt EUV or Bolt EV, helping even more people experience how easy it is to live electric.”

Americans seem to be feeling flush, with record prices in both the stock and housing markets, plus trillions of dollars in government stimulus. That should help GM sell a lot of Bolts. I could see buying one myself.

Buying A Rental Car

I’ve always been curious about what it would be like to buy a rental car, so I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with Greg Nierenberg, who leads Avis Car Sales. I wrote up the details in Forbes. Check it out!

Nierenberg explains that the Ultimate Test Drive is technically a rental, which gives Avis more flexibility than the typical car dealership. Indeed, a 2017 advertisement for the Ultimate Test Drive opens with the statistic that “the average test drive lasts for 17 minutes,” but the Ultimate Test Drive lasts for up to three days.


Yesterday a colleague asked me what the term ‘CAN’ stands for, as in CAN bus, and I was embarrassed to admit I didn’t know. To be clear, I know what CAN is, just not what the acronym stands for.

According to Wikipedia, it stands for Control Area Network.

CAN is the standard protocol for communicating between electronic components of an automobile. It’s the language that the steering wheel uses to communicate to the wheel actuators in a drive-by-wire system, for example.

Think of it as the TCP/IP of the automotive world.

The CAN bus, which is the network carrying the CAN signals, turns out to be especially important in autonomous vehicles, as these vehicles are almost always drive-by-wire systems.

A traditional vehicle steering system, for example, involves a mechanical rack and pinion and no electronic signals. A drive-by-wire system, by contrast, involves sending electronic signals from the steering wheel to the wheel actuators (motors). Those signals travel over the CAN bus.

CAN is a bit-level protocol, and operates at a lower level of abstraction than some machine learning engineers are used to dealing with. But it’s a necessity for building a self-driving car.

Microsoft + Volvo

Microsoft just announced that it will be partnering with Volvo to develop automotive technology. At best, this marks the entrance of one of the world’s great technology companies into the self-driving car market.

The text of the announcement, though, seems far more prosaic.

The stated plan is for Volvo to use Microsoft’s virtual reality technology to transform the car buying process:

Imagine enhancing your car buying experience at the dealership by viewing the complete inside of the vehicle you are interested in. With the power of holograms, we have the ability to open the car up completely, take a closer look at the engine, inspect the chassis or watch the drivetrain and transmission in action. Imagine viewing and customizing the car of your personal choosing, and viewing it at scale. You could have access to the full array of options, features and possibilities associated with every car make and model. Imagine then seeing the car you’ve configured, at full scale, as a high-definition hologram projected into your garage, long before the car has even been manufactured.

Perhaps this is a first foray into the automotive industry, a precursor of bigger things to come.

By itself, though, it’s pretty small. Transforming the auto buying process may not be a big deal if people stop buying cars altogether.

Originally published at on November 21, 2015.

The Cost of Being an OEM

A number of stories have recently surfaced, positing that Tesla will have to burn a lot of cash to stay in the auto manufacturing business:

Tesla Motors Inc. will continue to burn through large amounts of cash in its quest to become a bigger car maker, and Wall Street may be underestimating how much spending is still to come, analysts at Barclays said in a note Friday.

Tesla TSLA, -2.70% doesn’t have a good track record in spending efficiently, and its business strategy will keep it a capital-intensive company, the analysts said. They estimated Tesla, which has consistently lost money, will go through $11 billion in capital spending over the next five years.

This, of course, contrasts with Google’s business model, which is to focus on software and leave the manufacturing to others.

I’ve always wondered why the price of (standard, human-driven) cars hasn’t fallen further. What are the costs of making a car? This Quora answer is short, so I’ll post it in its entirety:

OEMs (e.g. Ford, GM, VW etc) do not make car parts. What they do is the final assembly at their JIT [DS: I assume this stands for Just-In-Time] plants.

So the basic costs associated making a vehicle are:

-payments to auto parts suppliers (overhead console, flooring, door panels, electric wires-pretty much everything 🙂 )

-payments to auto part makers investment (mould and stamping machines etc)

-logistic costs

-SG&A of an OEM

Diving in a little further, Ford’s most recent Form 10-K shows that ~88% of their costs fall under “Automotive cost of sales”, which is accounting-speak for the costs of producing cars. Actually, that probably understates the case a bit, because Ford also has a small financial arm, and some of the remaining costs are attributable to that.

Of course, “Automotive cost of sales” encompasses the first three bullet points above, and the 10-K doesn’t have enough information (at least upon a quick scan) to break down the costs further.

It would be interesting to know more about where Tesla has the opportunity to wring costs out of the system.

Originally published at on November 14, 2015.