GM pulls its advertisements “temporarily” from Twitter, TuSimple’s CEO gets ousted, the cool kind of skateboards, and the uncool kind of chips.
Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.
The Present Is Too Weird
The world we’re living in feels like an Adam Curtis doc and so it’s sometimes hard to get excited about all the strange things that are happening all the damn time.
For example, General Motors, which is rapidly trying to shift into electric vehicles, has pulled its money from Twitter because Twitter is now owned by the guy who owns Tesla and the guy who owns Tesla is nothing if not unpredictable.
Specifically, as CNN reports, GM had this to say:
“We are engaging with Twitter to understand the direction of the platform under their new ownership. As is normal course of business with a significant change in a media platform, we have temporarily paused our paid advertising,” the company said in an emailed statement.
Do I think that this is because Elon Musk owns Tesla and is therefore the competition? Probably not. Ford and GM developed a 10-speed transmission together; competition in business is real, but so is cooperation.
I try to avoid Elon Musk-related stories on The Morning Dump as much as I can because there’s a bad habit in the industry of knee-jerking (and other jerking) related to Elon Musk but it’s all sound and fury and signifies very little and just serves to keep the blog machine running.
I’m also going to avoid the politics of the whole situation because it’s unpredictable and a sideline, generally, to what we’re trying to do here. All I’ll say is that both Elon Musk and I probably spend too much time on Twitter and if I had the money I’d have been tempted to buy it as well and maybe it’s better I didn’t…
The essential truth of every social network is that the product is content moderation, and everyone hates the people who decide how content moderation works. Content moderation is what Twitter makes — it is the thing that defines the user experience. It’s what YouTube makes, it’s what Instagram makes, it’s what TikTok makes. They all try to incentivize good stuff, disincentivize bad stuff, and delete the really bad stuff. Do you know why YouTube videos are all eight to 10 minutes long? Because that’s how long a video has to be to qualify for a second ad slot in the middle. That’s content moderation, baby — YouTube wants a certain kind of video, and it created incentives to get it. That’s the business you’re in now.
That’s from this piece from Nilay Patel at The Verge who also makes the good point that if China wants to squeeze Twitter they can just squeeze Elon Musk over Tesla now. Great.
Self-Driving Startup TuSimple Probed By Feds
Well now that we’ve covered social media giants, cars, and politics I’m so glad we can move onto something else…
Self-driving truck startup TuSimple Holdings Inc is being investigated by the FBI, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Committee on Foreign Investment about its relationship with China-backed Hydron Inc, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.
Ah, damn. That’s from this Reuters story that breaks down what’s going on. I know there are a million self-driving startups and, roughly, 999,998 of them are in some sort of trouble, but the details here are important.
TuSimple is a California-based startup focused on developing self-driving trucks for freight, which is why it’s weird that they’ve been allegedly sending their tech to a Chinese-based company that does basically the same thing. That company is called Hydron and it was started by TuSimple’s co-founder. From the same story:
TuSimple’s board opened its own investigation in July, looking into whether the company incubated Hydron in China, including by funding and transferring technology to the startup without informing regulators, the TuSimple board or its shareholders, WSJ said, citing other people familiar with the matter.
Not great. It was already under investigation for its ties to China earlier this year related to its financial backers which include Sina Corp, which is owner of Weibo which is… China’s version of Twitter.
Maybe the present isn’t like an Adam Curtis documentary, maybe it’s like a Christopher Nolan movie; oppressively recursive and mostly annoying (though I kinda liked “Tenet”).
I actually started writing this last night and woke up to find out that the company’s founder was fired this morning, which is a helluva way to start Halloween.
The Chips Are Still Down For 2023
You’re probably tired of reading about chip shortages and we’re mostly tired of writing about them, but there’s been a sort of hopefulness about supplies loosening up in the next year. The fine people at Automotive News are here to throw some water on that idea with this story:
As the shortage nears its third year, it remains unclear when it will finally end. Hope that new microchip production capacity will outpace high demand across multiple sectors before the end of 2023 “is fading from reality,” said Sam Fiorani, AFS vice president of global vehicle forecasting, in an email.
Most modern systems in vehicles require a microchip and automakers tend to only need cheaper, simpler ones, which puts them in the same position as their customers who want cheaper, simpler cars. If you’ve got a limited supply of resources you’re going to make your most profitable items and not your least profitable items.
Overall, AFS (which stands for AutoForecast Solutions) estimates nearly 4.3 million cars won’t be built this year because of production capacity issues.
VinFast And CATL Are Doing A Skateboard
The dream of many electric car fans and carmakers, for many years, has been the creation of a “skateboard chassis” that integrates everything you need (batteries, motors, suspension) into one platform that can then be used to make whatever type of car you want. Specifically, GM touted this design many moons ago.
While not as perfectly integrated as the original GM design, but seemingly more flexible, the two Ultium platforms are somewhat similar and will support a range of vehicles.
Chinese mega-supplier CATL, whom we’ve mentioned before, has just announced a deal with up-and-coming Vietnamese car company VinFast to use the CATL-developed “CIIC skateboard” chassis for future VinFast products. From the press release:
CIIC skateboard chassis integrates battery packs, electric motors, and other critical units into a single layer at the bottom of the vehicle, lowering purchasing cost and energy consumption while maximizing cabin space.
In addition to the collaboration on CTP batteries and skateboard chassis, CATL is poised to cooperate with VinFast with respect to other areas, thus promoting battery innovation and e-mobility transition.
There’s no indicator of what types of cars these will be, but it’s a moment we might look back on in 8-to-10 years as significant.
David and I are headed to SEMA this year, is there anything you’re excited about seeing? Anything we should seek out?
Photos via: Elon Musk, GM, BMW, VinFast, TuSimple