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How The Toyota Land Cruiser Must Also Save The Land While Cruising On It

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The writing is on the wall for our beloved huge trucks and SUVs. Though they’re perpetually booming in sales, fuel economy rules are getting tougher all over the world. What’s a car like the new Toyota Land Cruiser to do? Going hybrid, as it is now, may not be enough.

That leads off this summer Friday edition of our morning news roundup, and I hope you’re not working too hard while managing to stay cool somehow. Also on deck as you sail off into your weekend: more disappointing but unsurprising news about Apple CarPlay and General Motors, China’s auto giants rally behind a call for unity and autonomous cars get a huge win in California.

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Land Cruiser Could Go PHEV, Electric, Even Hydrogen

Toyota Land Cruiser 13
Photo: Toyota

Calling it now: the new 2024 Land Cruiser is gonna sell like crazy. (A real hot take, I know!) But it looks fantastic, is priced far more competitively than it’s been in decades and this time might not even annihilate its owners’ gas budgets because it packs a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder hybrid motor.

But even Toyota admits that may not be enough. Not in “the age of carbon reduction,” as Automotive News puts it. So this Land Cruiser—which in typical Toyota truck fashion, is probably gonna stick around for a while—may see some even more aggressive moves in the way of alternate powertrains soon enough:

But Keita Moritsu, the vehicle’s chief engineer, says even that new integrated 48-hp electric motor and battery won’t be enough to see it through to 2030.

For future Land Cruiser updates, Toyota is already looking at plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cells and even full-electric powertrains, Moritsu said this month in Tokyo where the Land Cruiser was unveiled.

[…] For Land Cruiser, a fuel cell system would have the advantage of being good for long-range driving and heavy towing, Moritsu said. That’s important for the SUV, which is a rural work horse from the Australian Outback to the Arabian Desert. The downside would be packaging the necessary cumbersome tanks, which are likely to eat into the SUV’s cavernous interior space for passengers and cargo.

Fuel cells also face a hurdle with limited refueling infrastructure.

Meanwhile, plug-in hybrids deliver good range and towing. And they are suitable for rural use because they can tap into the existing gasoline refueling network. But their engines still belch out carbon emissions, even though they might be cleaner than standard hybrids.

Also in typical Toyota fashion, Moritsu admits an all-electric Land Cruiser “might be a long shot for now.” The company says—and they have a good point here—that for the rugged and remote climates where many Land Cruisers operate, a full EV option may not make sense. But we also know Toyota’s been historically reluctant to go full EV, and I’m equally skeptical that a hydrogen version will really see the light of day. Even in Japan, people aren’t buying those.

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But Toyota has insisted the future, at least in the near- and medium-term, will mean a mix of powertrains for different needs and markets; I do agree with that approach. In various iterations sold around the world, the Land Cruiser family serves Australian outback tour guides, UN medical workers, snorkel-loving off-road enthusiasts and people who will only ever drive it to get their kids at school. This SUV would be a very interesting test of Toyota’s thesis. And I know plenty of Land Cruiser fans who would be happy to go PHEV.

Autonomous Cars Score A Big Win In California

20210407 Baxtowner Cruise Cama Downtown 706512
Photo: GM

Now let’s shift gears and talk about a different kind of Cruise. As you’ve probably seen, autonomous cars of the robotaxi sort have been massively controversial in cities like San Francisco, Austin and elsewhere, because of the safety risks involved with testing a new technology on an unwilling public and the traffic jams that have resulted from system failures.

Yesterday, California’s Public Utilities Commission voted on a proposal to greatly expand the hours in which robotaxis operate in San Francisco. Right now it’s only a few hours a day; the changes would mean 24/7 robotaxi operation and likely open the floodgates to more automated cars there.

It was a contentious six-hour hearing, but in the end, it was a win for Cruise, Waymo and the rest. Here’s Reuters to explain:

The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday sided with the companies in the face of vigorous opposition from some residents and city agencies. Commissioners heard more than six hours of public comment from residents and special interest groups supporting or opposing the measure that would expand paid autonomous vehicle service.

[…] The companies now have permission to begin citywide paid taxi service at all hours of the day and have said they plan to deploy more cars as a result. They collectively have more than 500 autonomous vehicles already in operation.

Before approving the expansion, Commissioner John Reynolds addressed some of the public’s concerns. “While we don’t yet have the data to judge AVs against the standard that humans are setting, I do believe in the potential of this technology to increase safety on the roadway.”

And yes, this is a very big deal that will likely embolden robotaxi expansion elsewhere in America, including places less likely to go hard on regulations, like Texas:

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The move is a critical step forward in regulating the robot cars, which Waymo, Cruise and others have been systematically rolling out in cities and states around the nation.

The approval “marks the true beginning of our commercial operations in San Francisco,” said Tekedra Mawakana, Waymo co-CEO, in a prepared statement. It puts “Cruise in a position to compete with traditional ridehail, and challenge an unsafe, inaccessible transportation status quo,” said Prashanthi Raman, Cruise vice president of global government affairs, in an emailed statement.

I tested a couple Waymo and Cruise cars earlier this summer and I came away considerably more impressed than I thought I’d be. The Waymo car, in particular, I found to be very safe, smart and more attentive than a good amount of New York taxi drivers I’ve ridden with (though we know how low that bar is.) But if I were a resident of one of these cities, I would not love this rollout either, especially with these cars still being giant public beta tests, essentially.

Either way, the tube is out of the toothpaste now.

BYD Calls For China To ‘Demolish The Old Legends’

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Photo: BYD

But for the occasional Polestar or Volvo or Buick, we in America haven’t seen the Chinese EV revolution up close and personal quite yet. But other countries are seeing it right now. Even so, evidently China’s auto industry is still not “seen” as a global power player, not the way Germany and America and Japan and South Korea are.

As a nationalistic China rises in the world, BYD’s founder and chairman takes issue with this discrepancy and rallied the troops across his whole country. Via Reuters again:

A patriotic call by China’s bestselling automaker to band the industry together and “demolish the old legends” of the global market has gone viral, drawing both raves and a rebuke from a rival.

BYD used an event this week to mark a production milestone to celebrate a bigger purpose: the emergence of China as a global auto manufacturing powerhouse.

“I believe the time has come for Chinese brands,” BYD founder and chairman Wang Chuanfu said at the event, standing in front of an image of the logos of 12 major Chinese automakers.

“It’s an emotional need for the 1.4 billion Chinese people to see a Chinese brand becoming global.”

I think this matters here because there are still so many Chinese car brands, and even they (and the government admit) they won’t all make it and/or will need to consolidate at some point. What better umbrella to consolidate under than BYD’s, right? It has a stunning 37% of the share of the EV and hybrid market there.

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As you’d expect, responses were positive to mixed:

“Salute to BYD!” said Li Xiang, CEO of Li Auto, who reposted the BYD video. “Let’s give a thumbs up to every participant in the new energy era!”

A senior executive of China’s Great Wall Motor (601633.SS) shot back that Chinese automakers should embrace the “reality of competition”.

“At such a critical moment, how can Chinese automakers be together?” Wang Yuanli, Great Wall Motor’s Chief Technology Officer, posted on his social media Weibo account on Friday. “If we only talk about being together but keep our bitterness in our hearts, it would be better to have the fight first.”

It’s also important to remember the Chinese brands have been in knife-fight price war with each other this year, which will speed this process along. Welcome to capitalism, my darlings! Not everybody gets to be a winner.

Cadillac Escalade IQ Won’t Get CarPlay, Shut Up Already

2025 Cadillac Escalade Iq Sport
Forward-facing view of Cadillac ESCALADE IQ interior and 55-inch pillar-to-pillar screen from the rear seat.

Enough about China! This is America, son, where we like our EVs huge, with enough range that you can weeks (if not years) without charging, opulent as a living room inside and deeply protective of GM’s profit margins and future revenue sources.

As such, The Verge has confirmed that GM’s making good on what it’s said: the Escalade IQ is one of the first new-generation EVs that will ditch Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Despite the huge new 55-inch pillar-to-pillar infotainment screen in the new EV revealed yesterday, compatibility for the popular phone projection features is completely gone.

GM said earlier this year that it would restrict access to CarPlay and Android Auto in its future electric vehicles. In April, GM’s VP of software, Scott Miller, shared some reasons for the decision, including allowing more EV-centric functionality like battery preconditioning when navigating to a charging station.

That last line, I get. But I also think Google or Apple could help the OEMs figure it out. The problem is that there’s a real lack of confidence in the idea that GM can compete on a software level with those companies after their customers have become truly fond of those systems. All of the legacy OEMs are bad at software, generally speaking.

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I’m not convinced, either, but we’ll see how this plays out.

Your Turn

Would you want 24/7 robotaxis in your town? Honestly, I’d love to see that shit happen here in New York City. Half of them would end up on blocks after a week, spray-painted with “ABOLISH ICE” for no discernable reason. We just can’t have nice things here.

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Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
11 months ago

There are already late-night robotaxis in my neighborhood and let me tell you, they kinda suck. Those pootly Cruise cars are more cautious than even my mother behind the wheel (which is terrifying), and they just kind of seem like they’re in the way. Anything unexpected—and goodness knows, Austin’s garbage drivers do a lot of unexpected stuff—seems to just confuse ’em. One came to a halt when it was seemingly flummoxed by a buddy’s lifted Jeep’s headlamps, for Pete’s sake.

I don’t know why so many of them fart through my neighborhood, either. This isn’t a particularly busy area and there are frickin’ lines of these things going down my road when it’s all dark. As in, it’s most of the traffic later in the evening. Literally get off my lawn unless you’re here for a pickup.

I like the idea of a more reliable driver taking over so I can just like, read or whatever and not have to think about parking, or what to do with my car if I have one too many beers when I get there. That isn’t a bot given the current state of the technology, IMHO. I’m less likely to pay attention from the back seat, for one, and I don’t like the open beta aspect of this at all. Frankly, I’d rather have expanded train service than a bunch of robotaxis clogging up the roads, and I’ll probably stick to Lyfts in a point-to-point pinch for now.

Also, when a Texan thinks another state’s local-city-overriding decision sounds shady enough to remind her of home, oof. Having a former Cruise employee at the state level help push through a regulatory gift to the autonomous car industry is a level of shadiness that might even impress Ken Paxton. (Defector had a great in-depth writeup of the shenanigans at play here, FWIW: https://defector.com/san-francisco-takes-first-step-towards-the-grim-autonomous-future-of-transportation)

ScottyB
ScottyB
11 months ago

Self-driving in SF – I really gave CA credit for better decision making than this. Three of four someone’s pockets must have been seriously greased to disregard the objections of the police and fire departments. The answer really should have been, sure, you can run as many as you want, once you get the bugs worked out.

Then again, every police cruiser is now an Explorer with a pit bar mounted on the front, and a Type 1 fire truck can easily push those cars out of the way, so no biggie, right?

Escalade – 9m (the artist formerly known as GM) is going to quickly find out the lack of CarPlay is going to equal a very hard no for the Apple faithful, probably the Android as well. Everyone has been held hostage to a shitty manufacturer’s interface probably as recent as the last car they owned, and no one in their right mind is going to say “Oh sure, 9m, we know you’ve worked this out better than Apple or Google could have.”

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
11 months ago

The bottom line is that if a vehicle has an infotainment system and does not support Android Auto, I will not use the infotainment system. I will use the phone in my lap instead. And, I absolutely would not purchase said vehicle.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
11 months ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

Exactly. CarPlay is so smooth and well thought out, why would I sign up for some GM shitshow instead?

Ron888
Ron888
11 months ago

Imagine listening o SIX HOURS of complaints from residents!And you know 95%+ of that was someone else repeating the same argument.
I’m against robot cars too (for now) but i have to hand it to those officials.They weren’t paid enough for that meeting ,lol

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
11 months ago

Robotaxis can only work if every vehicle is a robotaxi. No privately owned cars, motorcycles, bicycles, or pedestrians. Not my cup of meat.

Strangek
Strangek
11 months ago

Robotaxis still seem like a bit of a solution in search of a problem to me. Maybe there’s a case to be made for safety, but I’m not convinced of that as long as they are operating alongside unpredictable humans. I can’t see how they’re getting cars off the streets and reducing traffic, they’re still cars that are on streets! What I can see is less driver jobs and I’m not a fan of that.

Cryptoenologist
Cryptoenologist
11 months ago
Reply to  Strangek

The robotaxis are meant to beta test general autonomous driving technology in a way that brings in some revenue.

If we could change our collective mindset about the need for work and envision a future where everyone has a better quality of life and works less, these things are part of that. But I’m highly skeptical that even 20% of people, let alone a majority have the capacity for reflection and critical thinking to push for a system like that. Basically techno-socialism, with UBI and access to opportunities in self-fulfilling endeavors or diversions for all the free time. One key is not to eliminate the accumulation of wealth like in communism, just to limit the maximum ration of poorest to wealthiest before taxes climb to 100%. Even today, if wealth were redistributed in the US, you could have a UBI of $40k a year, with the median earner making $400k and the max being $4 million. And 60% of people would be closer to $400k than either end. I’m willing to admit that there are deeply ingrained hurdles to a society like this, especially the question of will the people getting $40k and not working find enriching or diverting activities to do? Or will a lot of them feel unfulfilled, depressed, or even discontent and violent? With our current culture and mindset I’m afraid of the latter.

But TL:DR, if we are gonna take away menial jobs, that should mean pulling people up, not pushing them down.

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