The Short Cut: The viral trend driving up car thefts, and more
Are you ready to take the short cut again? This week, there's plenty to read about — from a trending ‘DIY hack’ that's enabling car thieves to zoom off in Kia and Hyundai cars using just a USB charging cord to an innovative solution that could make installing home EV chargers in the US simpler and cheaper.
China’s autonomous vehicle dreams pick up speed in Shenzhen
There’s no dearth of autonomous vehicles (AVs) on the roads of Shenzhen, China. However, these ‘driverless’ robotaxis on trial in the country’s southern tech hub were until recently required to have a human in the driver’s seat in case of an accident. Latest regulations that came into effect on August 1 have changed that, paving the way for China to accelerate its AV ambitions.
The first city in China to define such rules, Shenzhen has done away with the need for AVs to have a human behind the wheel — but they’ll only be able to operate in areas designated by authorities.
These pioneering regulations also provide a crucial framework for liability if one of these taxis is involved in an accident, Reuters reports. If a human is in the driver’s seat, they will be liable. If the car is completely driverless, the owner of the vehicle will be responsible, unless the cause is a vehicle defect — in which case the car owner can seek compensation from the manufacturer.
Perhaps these rules could push Chinese manufacturers to bring more AVs to a market where most of the attention is on the US.
Social media is teaching minors how to steal Kia cars
Kia and Hyundai car owners beware. Cases of grand theft auto are rising in the US as instructional videos demonstrating how to steal cars using only a USB cable go viral online. The videos show car thieves removing the cowling under the steering column of unlocked cars and starting them using a USB cord, according to Insider.
These thieves have come to be known as “Kia Boyz” around Milwaukee in Wisconsin, USA, where Hyundai and Kia models make up 66% of the cars stolen, Carbuzz reports. The city of Milwaukee has reportedly been considering suing the Hyundai/Kia group because their cars are too easy to steal — one can apparently break into the current model through the back window without setting off an alarm. And after that, the handy USB cables do the trick.
Inspired by trending videos, car thieves are increasingly targeting Kia and Hyundai models.
While Kia and Hyundai have maintained that their vehicles comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, Kia has also promised anti-theft steering wheel locks to owners of models not fitted with engine immobilizers. Turns out car owners are a step ahead. Steering wheel locks are flying off shelves around the US.
EV startups are struggling to connect with prospective customers
Switching to an EV is a big decision and one that requires a considerable amount of research. But some prized EV startups don’t seem to be making it any easier for their customers. A new study by research firm Pied Piper found that when it comes to connecting with prospective customers and assisting them in their buying decisions, EV startup brands are lagging behind established auto brands.
According to Green Car Reports, in a ranking of 25 premium brands, 4 out of the bottom 5 spots were taken by Tesla, Lucid, Polestar and Rivian. The top 3 spots went to luxury brands Cadillac, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz — known for selling mostly gasoline-powered vehicles.
These EV brands reject the standard franchised dealership model in favor of selling directly to customers. But the study found that the sales process they offer at their locations (or on the phone) remains inconsistent. They also often fail to respond to online inquiries from potential customers. If they don’t up their game, they might be leaving the door wide open for these established brands to push their EVs in the future.
Drowsiness-detection tech isn't as inclusive as it needs to be
Driver-monitoring systems that can detect if a driver is distracted or has dozed off at the wheel are key to reducing road accidents. However, drivers in China have discovered these systems in their cars fail to read Asian features correctly.
The latest versions of this tech rely on data from cameras pointed at the driver to determine whether they’re awake and attentive. But Carscoops reports that owners of cars by Chinese EV-maker XPeng have complained that the systems confuse the shape of many Asian eyes for eyes that are shut.
This issue has also been highlighted by a few prominent Chinese bloggers — leading to another Chinese automaker NIO investigating how it can improve such alertness systems in its cars.
Drowsiness-detection tech can’t really serve its true purpose unless it works for everyone. And it’s not just Chinese automakers that suffer from these issues. According to CNEV Post, a Chinese EV news site, Chinese tech blogger Chang Yan found in 2018 that GM’s Super Cruise autonomous driving system also struggled to read his face.
15-minute home charger installation for American EV owners
Siemens and ConnectDER are collaborating to make it easier for American EV owners to install and use home chargers, CleanTechnica reports. ConnectDER’s home EV charging solution comes with a collar that can be retrofitted onto the electricity meter box, cutting down both time and costs to upgrade other parts of the electrical system for EV charging. Now, the firm has signed an agreement to design a new plug-in adapter exclusively for Siemens. The technology could make it possible for users to install home EV chargers in as little as 15 minutes.
ConnectDER and Siemens’ new home EV charging technology could cut down home EV charger installations costs in the US by 60-80%.
The average American home is about 40 years old and built in a time when electricity demand was much lower than it is today. Consequently, it is expensive to upgrade these homes to accommodate Level 2 EV charging. This has made Americans all the more hesitant to go electric. This innovative meter adapter platform could make the switch to EV more feasible and accessible, especially for low- and moderate-income populations that often live in older homes.
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