The price of a tank of petrol has been falling since hitting record highs in June, BMW saw sales plummet in the first half and a European country is experimenting with free public transport. All this and more in The morning shift for July 8, 2022.
1st: Fuel prices continue to fall
Remember when we all watched in horror gasoline prices have topped $5 a gallon in many states last month? Well now the the wall street journal reports that since prices peaked, we’ve had more than three straight weeks of price drops at the pump.
According to WSJ, the average cost of a gallon of gasoline here in the United States rose from $5.02 on June 14 to $4.75 on July 7. This drop, he says, is due to lower demand for fuel at gas stations, as well as a 16% drop in the cost of crude oil. Speak WSJ:
“Pre-Independence Day gasoline sales lagged previous years. Same-store gasoline demand by volume fell about 7% for the week ending July 2, compared to the same period last year, according to OPIS data.Demand that week was down about 13% compared to the same period in 2019. From mid-May to the end of May, demand for Gasoline has fallen to its lowest level in nearly a decade, according to government data.
Falling fuel costs were tracked in an AAA report, which was released earlier this week. The newspaper adds that if fuel demand continues to fall, prices could follow.
But, AAA warned that relief may be short-lived. The WSJ adds:
“However, ‘July is typically the busiest month for demand as more Americans hit the road, so this downward price trend may be short-lived,’ the spokesperson said. AAA, Andrew Gross, in a statement.
In addition, the drop in gas prices could encourage a recovery in demand. This, in turn, could drive prices up once again. It really is a vicious circle.
2nd: Chip shortages hit BMW sales
Chip shortages and Covid-19 related lockdowns continue to wreak havoc on the automotive industry. If it’s not a cut in car functionality or production delays, it’s a drop in sales. And that’s exactly what BMW witnessed in the first half of 2022.
Reuters reports that the German automaker sold 13% fewer cars in the first six months of 2022 compared to the same period last year. The company reportedly sold 1.16 million BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce cars at the start of this year, which was significantly down from its 2021 figures – “the strongest sales period in company history“, according to Reuters.
BMW’s sales were hit particularly hard in the second quarter, between April and June 2022, when it saw a 20% decline in deliveries of vehicles in its portfolio. The company attributed the drop in sales to “chip shortages and intermittent blockages in China.”
But it wasn’t all bad news for the brand, as it saw its electric car sales increase by 110% over the period. This means that in the first half of 2022, it sold nearly 76,000 BMW and Mini electric cars.
3rd: Argo AI lays off dozens
Self-driving cars may be the future, but their development has faced countless problems over the years. if it’s not police officers try to stop a self-driving taxi then it is a Tesla does not recognize signs and cyclists. But the big issue for self-driving car startup Argo AI seems to be staffing.
In a report seen by Automotive News, the company announced that it was laying off nearly 150 employees from different areas of the business as it plans to continue growing in the future. According to Automotive News:
“An Argo spokesperson said the layoffs were part of “cautious adjustments to our business plan” as the company plans for future growth.
“Former Argo employees who worked in the human resources, recruiting, technical sourcing and corporate communications divisions shared news of their layoffs on their respective LinkedIn profiles.”
The Pittsburgh-based self-driving car maker seemed to be on a roll in recent months. The company received an investment from Ford and helped improve the Blue Oval’s autonomous capabilities. It was also testing its own self-driving systems with trials in Miami.
Despite the staff cuts, Argo AI says it still has more than 2,000 employees worldwide and will continue to test drive in Florida, where it is no longer necessary to ride with a safety driver at the flying.
4th: This is beyond a yoke
If you believe some people, the steering wheel is disappearing. Instead, we’ll all soon be driving with a fighter jet-style yoke up front that controls the directions our wheels point. But while Tesla was rolling out such an entry in recent months with varying success, it seems Lexus might actually be about to reinvent the wheel.
Automotive News Reports that the company is developing a new “ultra-precise steering system” that will premiere in its upcoming all-electric RZ crossover. The system replaces the mechanical connection between the yoke and the front wheels, instead sending the yoke signals to the wheels electronically. The report says:
“The configuration allows the Lexus yoke to provide a 150 degree steering angle between right and left lock positions. The driver does not need to fully rotate the yoke or change grips during maneuvers such as half- towers or parking in a garage.
This reduction in the angle of rotation of the steering wheel also means that controls such as the turn signals and windscreen wipers can stay on the steering wheel and will move when you turn it. Automotive News adds that the controls on these have been shortened so you don’t accidentally hit them with your legs.
With Lexus intends to bring its yoke to the United States, how does all that engineering behind the design make you feel? Is it refreshing to see someone try to reinvent the wheel, or were things just fine the way they are?
5th: Free ticket to ride
People don’t take the train because they say it’s unreliable, expensive and sometimes a bit rude. What if I told you there’s a magical place where that’s not the case. A place where the trains ran on time, were inexpensive, and meticulously maintained? This place is called Europe.
And while most of continental Europe has developed a pretty formidable and affordable rail network, one state in the bloc has gone a step further by organizing a trial of free-for-all public transport. According to Bloombergthe country of Luxembourg has been offering free train and bus rides for residents since 2020.
The state is not a particularly anti-car location, in fact, it has the highest vehicle density on the continent, with 696 cars per 1,000 inhabitants. But the population is growing, and lawmakers fear its infrastructure won’t be able to support an increase in traffic that matches that growth. So they tested free public transport to get people off the road and onto buses and trains. According to Bloomberg:
“On February 29, 2020, it became the first country in the world to make all public transport completely free at the point of use. With the exception of first-class tickets (not particularly popular), no one has since paid a penny to take a bus, tram or train within Luxembourg’s borders.
The policy has so far proved popular with travelers in the country, but Bloomberg found that the free public transit wasn’t quite enough to entice people to take the train. The site says:
“To wean people off unsustainable levels of car addiction, you need to make driving more expensive and harder – something Luxembourg’s centre-left coalition government has so far been reluctant to do.”
So traffic levels in the country remain similar to 2019. And experts suggested the free ride offer was more likely to be taken up by people who would have walked or cycled, rather than those who usually drive.
Reverse: on strike
Neutral: what should I listen to?
I feel like my music listening habits have stagnated lately. In addition to the traditional assaults of Arcade Fire and Arctic Monkeys, I spent a great week listening to Jack White and Christine and the Queens. So if you have any great group suggestions I should check it out, I’m all ears.