Note: How do you make sense of it all? Hot Takes is our ongoing analysis of recent mobility news from a fleet perspective. 

It’s been less than a year since Rivian’s debutante ball at the 2018 L.A. Auto Show. Amidst the fawning paparazzi over its two all-electric vehicles, the R1T pickup and the R1S SUV, we dismissed them for fleets based on price and expected availability.  

Which is why the announcement that Amazon has ordered 100,000 Rivian electric delivery vans seemed to come from way out of left field. These vans will apparently hit the road by 2021.

It should be noted that Amazon has placed a massive order for a vehicle that doesn’t exist yet — but this is the world we live in. This is where those of us immersed in the traditionally cautious product pipelines of the automotive industry go “hunh.” Less than two years away and zero product details? Call it the “Elon Musk-ification” of the auto industry. Heck, at one point I thought the Model3 would never make it onto roads and now I see them everywhere, so who am I to say.

Speaking of Tesla: did you hear the one about the car you can call with an app on your phone that drives across the parking lot to pick you up? (Here, Tesla Tesla Tesla!) Seriously, Tesla just released its Smart Summons feature that actually directs the vehicle autonomously to you. Wouldn’t you know it, collisions are already being reported.

Check out the video clip in the link. There’s no fender bender, just a Tesla creeping out of a parking space to make a slow, circuitous route around a rather crowded parking lot to its owner. The rollout of full autonomy will take a long time — but hey, this is where it gets started.

This article by Raphael Gindrat of Bestmile explains a key point to autonomous rollout — instead of concentrating on when, let’s focus on where they make the most sense today. Gindrat breaks down autonomous developments from a safety, regulatory, and business model standpoint.  

The ability to charge an electric vehicle as quickly and conveniently as possible (through DC Fast Charging) may be the single most important factor to drive EV adoption. With that in mind, the first full conversion of a gas station into an all-electric charging station seems like a historic moment on the timeline. Remember the term “filling station?” What’s old is new again.

And in local news — as in local to the offices at Bobit Business Media — Tritium, the Australia-based makers of DC Fast Chargers, has big plans for the U.S. Based on the growing demand for quick charging, the company just opened a new a new research facility and final assembly plant in Torrance, around the corner from our space.

Staying local (literally across the street from Bobit), Canoo unveiled its electric vehicle skateboard architecture that will be available on a subscription-only business model. It’ll be interesting to see if and how fleets play in the EV subscription sandbox.

This brave, new world is forcing incumbent industry stalwarts into new business models with new partners. Cummins, maker of quality diesel engines for the last 100 years, is getting into fuel cell powertrains with Hyundai, while Hyundai just announced an autonomous testing initiative with Aptiv.

More surprising is Cummins’ foray into a mobility, not as a powertrain maker but as a service provider, specifically for an on-demand transit pilot at Purdue University. It’s unclear what tech or expertise Cummins is providing to the venture, though the announcement makes clear that Cummins will be testing connected technologies and gathering data.

In the connected data arena, Motorq has partnered with Toyota to access Toyota vehicles’ connected data. Motorq has rapidly entrenched itself as the fulcrum between vehicles and data access for fleets. (We’re excited to have Motorq’s cofounder, Arun Rajagopalan, and Mark McClung from Toyota speaking at the 2019 Fleet Forward Conference!)

For fleets, having all this data is one thing, being able to integrate it effectively is another. Kurt Thearling of WEX will delivering insights on data integration at the 2019 Fleet Forward Conference.

Finally, we collated numerous reports on how last-mile contracted delivery services allows services such as Amazon to avoid accountability in the event of accidents. It’s generated a few comments. Feel free to weigh in.

If you have any news or information on the mobility front (autonomous tech, connected cars, electrification, shared mobility, Smart Cities) as it relates to the fleet world, please reach out: [email protected].

About the author
Chris Brown

Chris Brown

Associate Publisher

As associate publisher of Automotive Fleet, Auto Rental News, and Fleet Forward, Chris Brown covers all aspects of fleets, transportation, and mobility.

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