Hello from Miami and the Florida Automated Vehicles summit, where yesterday I moderated a panel on how cities are preparing for an AV future.
The newsletter is off next week, so enjoy Thanksgiving and travel safely!
Smart Brevity count: 1,705 words, 6 minutes.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
The once monolithic automotive industry is splintering over a range of issues, as companies scramble to cope with unprecedented technological disruption and business challenges.
The big picture: Although fiercely competitive in the showroom, automakers have long presented a united front on shared interests like trade policy, government regulations and labor relations. That's all gone out the window lately; now it's every man for himself.
What's happening: General Motors' unprecedented racketeering lawsuit this week against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is the latest example of automakers turning on one another.
FCA vigorously denies the charges, and says GM is trying to undermine current merger negotiations with Peugeot parent Groupe PSA and ongoing labor talks with the UAW.
Another big split occurred recently in the war over tailpipe emissions rules.
What to watch: Shifts in trade policy could further divide the industry as the interests of foreign and domestic automakers diverge.
The bottom line: Faced with falling global sales and a potential transformation of the business, "the always-competitive auto industry has become even more dog-eat-dog," says Cox Automotive analyst Michelle Krebs.
Elon Musk and his Tesla Cybertruck. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
Tesla last night unveiled its futuristic "Cybertruck" at a splashy L.A. event, as other automakers also move closer to bringing electric models to the huge pickup market, Axios' Ben Geman reports.
Driving the news: Tesla's unveiling showed how the automaker's strategy is bringing something radically new to the scene and betting there's a market for it.
My thought bubble: Those are famous last words for anyone trying to enter the pickup truck market.
There was one big snafu during the reveal: "Musk claimed the car was 'bulletproof' against a 9mm handgun. But when he got Tesla's chief designer to throw a metal ball at one of its armored windows, audible surprise could be heard as the glass smashed — twice."
The important numbers:
What they're saying: "The looks are polarizing, but the performance and pricing specs are undeniable," Kelley Blue Book executive publisher Karl Bauer said in remarks circulated to reporters.
NIO's digital assistant, Nomi, uses AI technology to help drivers. Photo: NIO
Some people like to name their cars (we called our old minivan "Chad" and my daughter's sedan is named "Trudy"). With the help of digital voice assistants, cars now are starting to take on their own personalities.
Why it matters: Using voice commands, rather than a touchscreen, can make cars safer by helping drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. But most early voice technologies have been disappointing or downright frustrating to use while driving.
What's happening: Advances in natural language processing and artificial intelligence are transforming the in-car experience.
It's easier to talk to your vehicle when it has a personality.
For an engaging personality, check out this video of Nomi, the AI assistant from Chinese-American electric carmaker, NIO.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
The National Transportation Safety Board this week blasted the federal government for lax oversight of autonomous vehicle testing on public roads.
Driving the news: At a meeting this week, NTSB said the probable cause of a fatal accident last year involving a self-driving Uber test vehicle was a failure of the backup safety driver to pay attention because she was distracted by her phone.
What they're saying: NTSB said NHTSA should create a review process before allowing automated test vehicles to operate on public roads.
In a statement, NHTSA said it welcomes the analysis and will review the NTSB’s recommendations.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
FCC chairman Ajit Pai offered a path forward Wednesday for the cable industry to gain access to auto airwaves for WiFi after a long-running spectrum battle with automakers, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill writes.
Yes, but: The move will pit the FCC against the Department of Transportation, which wants to see these airwaves fully dedicated to auto safety communications.
The big picture: Car companies and cable providers have been feuding over a swath of spectrum known as the 5.9 GHz band that was set aside 20 years ago for vehicle safety communications but never widely used for that purpose.
Driving the news: Pai's proposal, to be voted on at the commission's Dec. 12 meeting, would allocate the lower 45 megahertz of the band for unlicensed use such as WiFi, while setting aside up to 30 megahertz for vehicle safety technology.
What they're saying: Despite Pai's plans, a DOT spokesperson said all 75 megahertz of spectrum in the "safety band" should be preserved for transportation safety.
Uber vehicles at the new "LAX-it" ride-hail passenger pickup lot. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images
This week instead of a car review, I'm trying out the new LAX-it taxi and ride-share pickup system at Los Angeles International airport.
Why it matters: L.A. has banned taxis, Uber and Lyft from curbside pickup to ease the congestion at LAX terminals made worse by ongoing construction. If you're flying to L.A. anytime in the next few years, you'll have to get used to this new traffic management system until a new automated people mover opens in 2023.
What they're saying: The system got off to a rocky start in late October, as travelers complained about long lines and delays, prompting an apology from airport leadership.
How it works: From baggage claim on the lower level, passengers board a green LAX-it shuttle bus.
My impressions: I was anticipating a headache, but I found the system works quite efficiently.
The bottom line: Expect to see more ride-hailing solutions like this across the U.S. as traffic worsens at airports, concerts, sports stadiums and other big events.