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Today’s pickup: Baidu wallops the AV competition

Good day,

When it comes to logging autonomous vehicle (AV) test miles in China, Baidu stands head and shoulders above the competition. The search engine giant’s 45 test cars registered nearly 87,000 miles on public roads in China, more than 10 times as many miles as Pony.ai’s, the firm that has logged the second-highest number of miles, according to an analysis from CleanTechnica cited in Business Insider Intelligence. With the help of an iron-clad brand name, Baidu is pushing to become one of the dominant players in China’s AV market. But Baidu shouldn’t get too cocky. The company needs to stay alert to AV safety and quality control, Business Insider Intelligence notes, and these issues haven’t always been top of mind. In 2017, CEO Robin Li was live-streamed riding in one of the company’s driver-less vehicles on city streets, a stunt that drew the ire of law enforcement.

Did you know?

A University of California, Berkeley analysis found that California’s cap-and-trade scheme overstated the emissions reductions generated by carbon offsets credited under the program. The excess reductions represent 80 million tons of carbon dioxide – around one-third of the total cuts that the state’s emissions reduction program was expected to achieve between 2021-2030.

Center for Environmental Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley.

Quotable

“And what of Silicon Valley and China’s bustling tech hubs, where the unicorn idea was dreamed up? Billions of dollars are flowing to VCs, tech founders and employees. The urgent question is how this capital will be recycled into new technology firms. The blitz-scale philosophy of buying customers at any price is peaking. After the unicorns, a new and more convincing species of startup will have to be engineered.”

The Economist in an article titled, Tech’s new stars have it all—except a path to high profits

In other news,

Robo-rigs under the microscope

Forbes takes an in-depth look at the $700 billion race to create self-driving semi-trucks. (Forbes)

The Yukon wants the federal government to pay for Alaska Highway upgrades

The Shakwak Highway is a stretch of the Alaska Highway that connects the Interior to the panhandle. (KNBA)

Online delivery approved for food stamp recipients

Amazon, Walmart and ShopRite will offer the service. (CNN)

Clarks eliminates outdated supply chain solutions

The global footwear retailer is removing steps from its supply chain. (Chainstoreage)

Final thoughts,

In the zero emissions vehicle marketplace, electric cars and trucks get most of the attention. But this week hydrogen is stealing the thunder. In Scottsdale, Arizona, Nikola Motor is showing off its hydrogen powered tractor-trailers, featuring a range of 500 to 750 miles and a hydrogen refill time of less than 20 minutes. At the Auto Shanghai trade show, a Chinese upstart, Grove, announced ambitious plans to put 10,000 fuel cell vehicles into the car-sharing market in more than 20 Chinese cities.

The love continues April 22, when, during the preamble to Act EXPO, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will update attendees on a hydrogen pilot program with Toyota, Kenworth, UPS and Shell in which 10 fuel-cell trucks are being tested. Shell is installing two hydrogen-fueling stations.

As original equipment manufacturers and startups alike power forward, scientists sound a note of caution. Cost and durability issues still plague the hydrogen market, according to John Kopasz, the leader of the Fuel Cell Technology Management Group at Argonne National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy lab located at the University of Chicago. The biggest expense, he said, is the fuel-cell catalyst, which is based on platinum. And although researchers have been able to demonstrate catalysts with about one-third as much platinum, using alloys and other metals and finding ways to use less catalyst overall, “the durability for those materials isn’t as good,” Kopasz said. Chemists are trying to stabilize the platinum-light catalyst so they are durable enough for automotive applications, and “for trucks it’s an order of magnitude higher.”

Hammer down, everyone!

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Linda Baker, Staff Writer

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves staff reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes early-stage VC, freight-tech, mobility and West Coast emissions regulations.

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