Cleveland, Ohio – It’s been a busy week for advanced technology vehicles with:
- Audi self-driving cars on the streets of Albany, New York
- General Motors completing production of 130 self-driving Bolt EV electric cars
- BMW investing heavily in electric bus maker Proterra
- Honda announcing a $269 monthly lease for Clarity electric vehicles in Oregon and California
On the autonomous vehicle front, the Audi drives were demonstration tests of the Audi Highway Pilot technology – an SAE Level 3 system, meaning the car can handle most driving tasks, but drivers need to be ready to take over vehicle operations in certain conditions.
New York officials recently selected Audi of America as the first company approved to perform autonomous vehicle testing in the state. The technology demonstration isn’t exactly in-the-wild testing for autonomous systems. New York State Police reviewed the route that Audi’s cars were to take and supervised the demonstration.
At GM, the 130 new self-driving Bolt EVs join 50 that were made earlier in test fleets in San Francisco, California; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Detroit, Michigan.
GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said, “Expansion of our real-world test fleet will help ensure that our self-driving vehicles meet the same strict standards for safety and quality that we build into all of our vehicles.”
The self-driving Bolt EVs features light detection and ranging (LiDAR) systems, cameras, sensors, and other hardware. Last year, GM bought startup Cruise Automation for $1 billion to advance its autonomous vehicle technology.
“To achieve what we want from self-driving cars, we must deploy them at scale," said Cruise Automation CEO Kyle Vogt. "By developing the next-generation self-driving platform in San Francisco and manufacturing these cars in Michigan, we are creating the safest and most consistent conditions to bring our cars to the most challenging urban roads that we can find.”
While GM’s Bolt EVs advance electric drive technology for small passenger cars, BMW’s i Ventures investment arm was making a strategic investment in Proterra, a California company that makes electric transit buses and other large vehicles.
Proterra has a 60% market share in the North American electric mass transit market. The company has sold more than 400 vehicles to some of the country’s most innovative cities and communities, including Seattle, Washington; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Foothill (Greater Los Angeles), California; Dallas, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; San Jose, California; and Reno, Nevada.
"BMW i Ventures invests in companies that will transform mobility and transportation, and Proterra is pushing the transit industry forward with the most innovative heavy-duty electric bus," said Zach Barasz, Partner at BMW i Ventures. "Due to Proterra's efforts, electric mass transit is overtaking fossil-fuel buses as the new standard."
Terms of the BMW investment were not disclosed.
On the passenger side of electric vehicles, Honda is offering budget-priced leases for the Clarity Electric in select markets. The Clarity has been available as an all-electric or as a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle since late 2016.
The lease price includes the impact of federal subsidies for electric cars, and California and Oregon both offer additional incentives to buy or lease green vehicles. The $269/month, 36-month lease lowers the cost of entry into electric drive – a barrier as the least-expensive models on the market (Chevrolet Bolt EV) top $30,000 after federal rebates.
About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 17 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.