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Ford hires Tesla engineering chief to work on advanced EV development
In its latest move to beef up its in-house technology and electric vehicle expertise, Ford Motor Co. has hired away a Tesla Inc. engineering director to work on advanced EV development.
Automotive News first reported Thursday that Ford had poached Alan Clarke from Tesla, the country’s leading EV manufacturer. Ford confirmed the hire and said Clarke would be working on advanced EV development under Doug Field, a former Apple and Tesla tech executive Ford hired in September.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Clarke worked in a number of roles at Tesla for more than 12 years. Most recently, he served as director of new programs engineering. He worked on numerous Tesla products, including the Model Y, the Roadster and Model 3, among other projects, according to LinkedIn.
He joins the company as Ford aims to boost its annual EV production capacity to 600,000 units by the end of next year, and as it prepares to launch the all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck this spring. The automaker has committed to investing $30 billion in electrification through 2025.
Ford’s hiring of Field to serve as chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer for the Blue Oval was touted as a major coup, given Field’s accomplishments in product engineering.
Field began his career working as a development engineer for Ford. He went on to work for Apple, where he helped develop Mac hardware. He later left the company to serve as senior vice president of engineering for Tesla, where he led development of the Model 3. Field returned to Apple — where he reportedly led the company’s secret car project — in 2018 after spending about five years at Tesla.
At Ford, Field is tasked with leading the company’s design, development and implementation of a next-generation cloud-based technology platform, and with playing a major role in delivering the digitally-connected products and services in which Ford sees massive revenue potential. Ford last year unveiled a turnaround plan that looks to leverage electrification, commercial vehicles and connected services to generate new, recurring revenue streams.
Hyundai, Kia recall vehicles due to fire risk
Hyundai and Kia are telling the owners of nearly 485,000 vehicles in the U.S. to park them outdoors because they can catch fire even if the engines have been turned off.
The recalls from the two Korean automakers are another in a long string of fire and engine failure problems that have dogged the companies for the past six years.
This time the problem is contamination in the antilock brake control module that can cause an electrical short. This increases the risk of fire while the vehicles are being driven or are parked.
Affected are certain Kia Sportage SUVs from 2014 through 2016, and the 2016 through 2018 K900 sedan. Recalled Hyundais include certain 2016 through 2018 Santa Fe SUVs, 2017 and 2018 Santa Fe Sports, the 2019 Santa Fe XL and 2014 and 2015 Tucson SUVs.
The automakers say they have 11 reports of fires in the U.S. but no injuries.
GM agrees to electrify medium-duty trucks with Lightning eMotors
General Motors Co. is collaborating with Colorado-based Lightning eMotors to fully electrify commercial vehicles for use in several applications, including school buses, shuttle buses, delivery and work trucks.
GM has agreed to supply Lightning eMotors with medium-duty truck platforms for the company for the conversion.
“GM’s inclusive approach to electrification is a great match for Lightning’s position and role as a leading powertrain supplier in the commercial vehicle space,” Lightning eMotors’ CEO and co-founder Tim Reeser said in a press release announcing the GM deal.
Lightning eMotors has placed an order for 250 vehicles and expects to deliver the first batch by the third quarter this year.
There were 200 vehicles on the road produced by Lighting eMotors as of Sept. 30 and another 1,600 vehicles, powertrains and charging systems on order, according to the company’s third-quarter earnings report.
Lightning eMotors has provided “sustainable fleet solutions” since 2009 and has offered zero-emissions options for commercial fleets since 2018, according to its website.
GM spokesman Mark Lubin said in a statement that “the agreement will help provide components to a business that already has an established system and customer base to meet EV demand faster, while GM continues to work on growing its own EV technology and portfolio.”
GM did not comment on financials of the deal.
The Detroit automaker is aspiring to have a zero-emissions portfolio of vehicles by 2035. To get there, GM is investing $35 billion through 2025 mostly on electric vehicle development.
Lightning eMotors will electrify the supplied GM platforms at its manufacturing site in Loveland, Colorado.
Tesla faces suit in fatal autopilot crash probed by US agency
Tesla Inc. is facing a lawsuit over a fatal Autopilot crash into a stopped firetruck that is also part of a defect investigation by a U.S. safety regulator.
The December 2019 collision on an interstate highway in Indiana injured the driver and killed his wife. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration in August opened a formal defect investigation into Tesla’s driver-assistance feature that focuses on several crashes involving first-responder vehicles, including fire trucks and police cars.
“Tesla was and remains aware of the inadequacies and defects with its Autopilot system,” according to the lawsuit, which was moved to federal court in San Francisco Wednesday after it was originally filed in state court in San Jose, California.
Since January 2018, NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation has identified at least 11 crashes in which Tesla models have struck one or more vehicles at first-responder scenes.
Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has said, for years, that the electric-car maker is on the verge of delivering full autonomy, which means its cars won’t require human intervention. Tesla raised more than $2 billion in 2019 after Musk made several predictions about 2020 being the “year of the robotaxi” that didn’t materialize.
“Tesla deliberately blurs the distinction between whether its automation system is merely a ‘driver assist’ system or an autonomous system that doesn’t require the driver’s constant attention,” according to the complaint, filed by Derrick Monet on behalf of him and his deceased wife, Jenna.
Tesla is fighting other lawsuits over fatal crashes linked to Autopilot. None have gone to trial so far.
Tesla states on its website: “Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability are intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment.”
The case is Monet v. Tesla Inc., 5:22-cv-00681, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).
US road deaths rise at record pace as risky driving persists
The number of U.S. traffic deaths surged in the first nine months of 2021 to 31,720, the government reported Tuesday, keeping up a record pace of increased dangerous driving during the coronavirus pandemic.
The estimated figure of people dying in motor vehicle crashes from January to September 2021 was 12% higher than the same period in 2020. That represents the highest percentage increase over a nine-month period since the Transportation Department began recording fatal crash data in 1975.
The tally of 31,720 deaths was the highest nine-month figure since 2006.
Federal data from the department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that traffic fatalities increased during the nine-month period in 38 states, led by those in the West and South such as Idaho, Nevada and Texas, and was flat in two states. The numbers declined in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has pledged help and released a new national strategy last week aimed at reversing the trend, which he calls a crisis. He told The Associated Press last week that his department over the next two years will provide federal guidance as well as billions in grants under President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure law to spur states and localities to lower speed limits and embrace safer road design such as dedicated bike and bus lanes, better lighting and crosswalks. The strategy also urges the use of speed cameras, which the department says could provide more equitable enforcement than police traffic stops.