COVID-19

General Motors, Toyota workers in Texas to continue wearing face masks at work

San Jose Hotel engineering manager Rocky Ontiveros, 60, wears a Texas mask on March 3, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott announced a new executive order that will end the statewide mask mandate and allow businesses to reopen at 100 percent capacity on March 10, 2021.

Photo by Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

Reporting by Automotive News indicates that despite Texas Governor Greg Abbott's executive order lifting the mask mandate statewide and allowing businesses to begin operating at 100-percent capacity again, automakers aren't changing their tune.

This executive order rescinds most of the Governor's earlier executive orders related to COVID-19. The original orders were put in place as a response to rising COVID-19 cases, and related hospitalizations and deaths, in 2020.

The new order removes state regulations and allows private businesses and individuals to decide on their mask wearing protocol and habits. There are currently mask mandates in 35 states and the District of Columbia.

There are fallbacks in place. A release from the Governor's office states, "If COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas get above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven straight days, a County Judge in that region may use COVID-19 mitigation strategies. However, County Judges may not impose jail time for not following COVID-19 orders nor may any penalties be imposed for failing to wear a face mask. If restrictions are imposed at a County level, those restrictions may not include reducing capacity to less than 50% for any type of entity."

Toyota

Toyota, which has a factory in San Antonio, Texas told a reporter with Automotive News that they are looking into the move but don't anticipate any immediate changes to their mask-wearing protocol. Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, Inc. employs 2,542 people and makes the midsize Tacoma and full-size Tundra pickup trucks.

The automaker as has its North American headquarters in Plano, Texas, a northern suburb of Dallas. That facility employs around 4,400 people, most of whom have been working remotely for the better part of a year.

"The early read is – no change for us," said Scott Vazin, Group Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Toyota Motor North America, when approached for comment by Automotive News.

Toyota assembly plants traditionally offers tours of its facility to the general public. Due to COVID-19, plant tours have been suspended at all Toyota manufacturing facilities including those in San Antonio; Jackson, Tennessee; Blue Spring, Mississippi; and Troy, Missouri.

General Motors

General Motors (GM) has a big footprint in Texas. The company employs 8,133 people in the Lone Star State and works with 297 suppliers in the state across 13 facilities. Additionally, as of 2020, there are 588 GM dealership franchises in Texas.

The company's Arlington Assembly plant is home to every new full-size SUV in GM's product lineup sold globally: the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, and the Cadillac Escalade. GM Financial is headquartered in Fort Worth and one of GM's IT Innovation Centers is located in Austin. Assembly plants get much of their power from wind energy harvested from Cactus Flats and Hidalgo wind farms.

There are GM Financial centers in San Antonio, Arlington, and Sugar Land; a customer service center in Austin; a parts distribution site in Fort Worth; GM Financial headquarters in Fort Worth; a commercial lending office and the South Central Regional Office are in Irving.

Patrick Morrissey, Director, Corporate News Relations at GM, told Automotive News, "We'll keep our COVID safety protocols in place to ensure we continue to protect our employees."

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Toyota's ready to make a big announcement.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation2

Auto Shanghai has another surprise in store. Toyota will debut an electrified vehicle next week and ahead of that moment, the company has leaked teaser photos and video featuring the model on its social media channels.

One of the posts, available on Twitter and Instagram, showcases the vehicle and a series of conceptual, perhaps inspirational, related items. A light shines as a reflection in an eye. A design on paper leads to a math equation. A laser, perhaps a plasma cutter, is focused on an object. Watch the see the rest.


It passes by quickly, but in there is the shape of a crossover. We've captured the moment in a still photo below so you can take a longer look. From the body design quickly shown here, the SUV is shaped more like the Toyota Venza than the Toyota RAV4. The key here is the rear side window, which is more triangular, like the Venza, than the squared-off RAV4''s.

202 The shape of the vehicle is similar to the Toyota Venza.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

2022 Toyota Venza EV

The face of the vehicle, shown in another social media post (this time on Instagram) and at the top of this article, shows a pared back vehicle face. The height of the vehicle confirms that it's in fact a crossover body style.

We do know that Subaru and Toyota have been working on an electric SUV for a while. While Subaru is likely calling the vehicle "Evoltis" there's some indication that Toyota may be reviving the "Celica" name for the EV. Batteries, after all, are made up of cells.

As of right now, we have to take the wait-and-see approach. One thing's for sure. We'll know more next week.

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Domino's and Nuro announced their partnership in 2019 — and now the robots are hitting the roads.

Photo courtesy of Nuro

After announcing their partnership to work on pizza deliveries via self-driving robots in 2019, Dominos and Nuro have officially rolled out their technology to one part of town.

Beginning this week, if you place a prepaid order from Domino's in Woodland Heights (3209 Houston Ave.), you might have the option to have one of Nuro's R2 robot come to your door. This vehicle is the first do deliver completely autonomously without occupants with a regulatory approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to a news release.

"We're excited to continue innovating the delivery experience for Domino's customers by testing autonomous delivery with Nuro in Houston," says Dennis Maloney, Domino's senior vice president and chief innovation officer, in the release. "There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space. This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations."

Orders placed at select dates and times will have the option to be delivered autonomously. Photo courtesy of Nuro

Nuro Domino's delivery vehicle

The Nuro deliveries will be available on select days and times, and users will be able to opt for the autonomous deliveries when they make their prepaid orders online. They will then receive a code via text message to use on the robot to open the hatch to retrieve their order.

"Nuro's mission is to better everyday life through robotics. Now, for the first time, we're launching real world, autonomous deliveries with R2 and Domino's," says Dave Ferguson, Nuro co-founder and president, in the release. "We're excited to introduce our autonomous delivery bots to a select set of Domino's customers in Houston. We can't wait to see what they think."

California-based Nuro has launched a few delivery pilots in Houston over the past few years, including the first Nuro pilot program with Kroger in March 2019, grocery delivery from Walmart that was revealed in December 2019, and pharmacy delivery that launched last summer.

From being located in a state open to rolling out new AV regulations to Houston's diversity — both in its inhabitants to its roadways, the Bayou City stood out to Nuro, says Sola Lawal, product operations manager at Nuro.

"As a company, we tried to find a city that would allow us to test a number of different things to figure out what really works and who it works for," Lawal says on an episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It's hard to find cities that are better than Houston at enabling that level of testing."

You can find out which self-driving vehicles are being tested in your neck of the woods by clicking here.


This article first appeared on AutomotiveMap's sister site InnovationMap.

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