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A rather clever mass-transit concept with a silly sounding name, the "Willie" bus by designer Tad Orlowski is intended to "transform city landscapes."
With nothing displayed on the side-elevation transparent LCD screens, there's not much differentiating the Willie from a traditional bus - except for its "organic" frame. Said frame is contorted into all sorts of shapes, and is meant to create "an impression of restless energy attempting to cut through the unblemished surface of the glass [screen]." But if the Willie bus makes it into production, chances are the screens will be switched on most of the time, displaying advertisements on the road and useful information for passengers at bus stops.
We like the bus-as-television idea, but we can't help but wonder if it will create yet another distraction for drivers, and why there don't seem to be windows that open for passengers? Head below to watch a demonstration of the Willie bus concept in action.
Willie bus concept turns walls into transparent LCD screens [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 11 Dec 2013 19:32:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Whether it's lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring or automatic emergency braking, most of the electronic systems we see emerging on new vehicles focus on safety. But there are some there just for enthusiasts. We're talking about systems like automatic throttle blipping for perfect downshifts, or launch control to get that textbook acceleration from a standstill. But the latest system could prove just the opposite of the latter.
Although it has given us most of the details, Ford is still keeping certain elements of its new Mustang secret. But emerging reports may have the skinny on one system which Ford is trying is darnedest to keep under its hat for the time being. That, according to unnamed sources cited by Motor Authority, is burnout control.
The system is reportedly designed to help novices execute the perfect smokey burnout - sort of like launch control, but specifically the opposite. The system could, according to elaborative speculation, lock the front brakes while spooling up the engine to optimal revolutions before dumping (or indicating the driver to do dump) the clutch. A cloud of tire smoke and a long pair of skid marks would then ensue.
Like the aforementioned rev-matching and launch-control systems, you'd probably have to specifically enable it, thereby leaving pros with the ability to execute their own burnouts. Of course this could all prove to be nothing and go up in a cloud of smoke, but one way or another we should find out soon enough.
Does the new 2015 Ford Mustang have a burnout control system? originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 10 Dec 2013 14:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink | Email this | Comments
It used to be that manual transmissions almost invariably had more speeds than their automatic counterparts. A car with a five-speed stick might have a four-speed or even three-speed slushbox, while another might offer the choice between a six-speed manual and a five-speed automatic. But that's quickly changing. These days we're seeing automatic transmissions emerge with seven, eight or even nine forward gears, and there's really a limit to how many gears you can expect a driver to shift on their own.
One notable exception (or throwback, depending on your perspective) is the 2014 Corvette Stingray, which comes with a seven-speed manual or six-speed automatic. But that, according to the latest industry intel, is about to change. Speaking with Chevrolet spokesman Monte Doran and citing a Society of Automotive Engineers' paper that's since been taken down, Edmunds reports that General Motors is preparing to shoehorn an eight-speed automatic into the new Corvette. The gearbox, according to Edmunds, is codenamed 8L90, and considering that GM doesn't have another eight-speed gearbox to slot into the Corvette, we're assuming this is an entirely new transmission for the company.
We'd also have to assume that the new eight-speed will replace (and not join) the long-serving six-speed automatic in the Stingray, and will probably not be offered in the soon-to-be-released, track-focused Z06 - but will surely prove a popular option on the Stingray coupe and convertible. As we reported in October, even with the current six-speed auto, three-out-of-five early Corvette buyers are specifying the two-pedal setup, with Chevy expecting that ratio to climb as time goes on. We can also expect improved fuel economy numbers to result, but whether performance will improve with the addition of two more gears remains to be seen.
Chevy Corvette to get eight-speed automatic transmission originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 10 Dec 2013 10:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink | Email this | Comments
The story we posted about a dealership accepting Bitcoins as payment for a Tesla Model S is reportedly only partially true. Lamborghini Newport Beach instead used BitPay to exchange the electronic currency for US dollars before completing the sale, according to "Squawk on the Street" on CNBC.
"We found out that by using a little program that Bitcoin uses, which is actually BitPay, we would have received US dollars," Pietro Frigerio, general manager of the dealership, says in the interview. "It's like if you come into the dealership and you want to buy a Lamborghini using gold bars, we would not accept it. So you'd go out, exchange it, and you'd come back to us. That was how it worked [with the Tesla and the Bitcoins]."
Frigerio says that the dealership doesn't accept Bitcoin as a currency and only accepts US dollars as payment for its vehicles. That said, we wouldn't be surprised if using BitPay to turn Bitcoins into US dollars for the used Model S purchase was actually easier than going through a more traditional financial establishment. Head over to CNBC to check out the "Squawk on the Street" interview with more details.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Some racing series are easier to understand than others, but to put it mildly, Formula One is not NASCAR. With 500 members of each team spending millions upon millions each year to gain an advantage, F1 is about as technically complex as rocket science. But if you thought you had managed to wrap your head around the way things work, think again, because the series is undergoing a major overhaul of its technical regulations for the 2014 season.
Of course, the biggest change is a switch from naturally aspirated 2.4-liter V8 engines to turbocharged 1.6-liter V6 powerplants, but that's not the sum total of the shift. The cars' hybrid component are set to play a bigger role, the aerodynamic regulations are changing, as are the exhaust system limitations and a whole mess of other details.
It's enough to make your head spin at 20,000 rpm. Fortunately the BBC has put together this handy little video interviewing the experts and breaking down the changes into layman's terms that even we can understand. Watch the handy three-and-a-half-minute video primer below to get yourself up to speed on next year's F1 regulations.
Breaking down F1's 2014 regulations into layman's terms originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 09 Dec 2013 15:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Given all the money in the world and little else to do with it, we don't doubt that a fair few automotive enthusiasts would spend a big chunk of both traversing the world, and visiting automakers and their museums. And to be sure, there's a lot to be seen, especially when those facilities actually open their doors to visitors. But most of us don't have those resources at our disposal. Fortunately for us, a growing number of those sites have been opening their doors to the Google Street View team.
We've seen Google's cameramen map out Laguna Seca in California, the Lotus test track in England, the Lamborghini museum in Italy and the Honda Collection Hall in Japan. This time they've gotten in to the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, England. The MTC of course is headquarters to both McLaren Automotive and the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team, as it's currently known (but not much longer as the team prepares to part ways with both Vodafone and Mercedes). It's got assembly lines, carbon-fiber kilns, various workshops, a wind tunnel, restaurants, a swimming pool... even a handful of man-mad lakes.
Arguably one of the best parts is the McLaren Boulevard where various racing and road cars are on permanent display. Most of the time, these facilities remain closed to the public and only accessible to authorized personnel, but you can scope it out in Google Street View below.Permalink | Email this | Comments
No matter the platform, voice commands are kind of awful. Sure, Apple's Siri, Xbox One's voice command and Ford's Sync system are some of the better efforts, but by and large, it's still easier to press a couple of buttons on a controller or make a few swipes on a touchscreen.
Considering the difficulty and sketchiness of voice commands, we imagine this spoof of Apple's Siri system wouldn't work all that well. It's called Steeri, and it seems to have all the same cognition problems as Apple's personal assistant. The video, put together by The Smart Department, is a humorous look at a form of autonomous vehicle technology that remains a really, really bad idea. Take a look below to watch the entire video.
Apple-mocking Steeri is why voice-controlled cars don't exist originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 06 Dec 2013 19:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Autonomous vehicles are increasingly being tested on public roads around the globe, including Nissan in Japan and Google here in the US, and now Volvo is preparing to test its own self-driving cars on the streets of Sweden. In conjunction with the state government, Volvo's Drive Me project kicks off next year, starting with the development of customer research and infrastructure technology before setting 100 self-driving cars loose on the streets of Gothenburg in 2017.
These 100 cars will be in the hands of customers, and the tests will help Volvo and the Swedish government track varying aspects of self-driving cars including economic benefits, consumer confidence, traffic flow and passenger safety. The technology being developed by Volvo uses not only on-board radar and sensors but also map data gathered from the cloud, and it controls all driving systems including the brakes, throttle and steering. Drivers can engage and disengage the car's autonomous drive mode by pushing a button on the steering wheel, and the technology will also allow for a self-parking feature.
While the cars shown in this demo are S60 models, the test vehicles will be based on Volvo's upcoming Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), which underpins future models like the next-gen Volvo XC90. Scroll down for a video and press release marking the announcement.
Volvo to test 100 self-driving cars on Swedish roads [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 06 Dec 2013 09:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Back in 2003, former Ford executive William Santana Li and former police officer Stacey Dean founded Carbon Motors, a company that designed a purpose-built diesel police car that recently filed for bankruptcy. But they're at it again, this time with a new company and a new invention that looks eerily similar to R2D2: a robotic security guard.
Their new Sunnyvale, California-based company is called Knightscope. Its product: the K5 Autonomous Data Machine. It's the fruit of the company's development of "technology that will predict and prevent crime with an innovative combination of hardware, software and social engagement," according to its website. K5 will be equipped with infrared-capable video cameras, microphones, radar, lidar (laser-based "radar") and thermal, air-quality and ultrasonic sensors. The data collected from all that equipment is then processed by the company's predictive analytics engine with help from "business, government and crowdsourced data sets." In a nutshell, K5 was designed to predict and prevent crime.
According to a report by The New York Times, Li says, "We founded Knightscope after what happened at Sandy Hook... You are never going to have an armed officer in every school." K5 can patrol school hallways as well as Silicon Valley businesses, and there are countless other potential applications for the robot. While there are positives to a robot like the K5, its invasive nature and sensing capabilities have already spurred privacy advocates to speak out against it.
Marc Rotenburg, director of the Electronic Privacy and Information Center, likened it to "R2D2's evil twin," according to The Times. "There is a big difference between having a device like this on your private property and in a public space," he said, adding, "Once you enter public space and collect images and sound recordings, you have entered another realm."
Head below to watch a promotional video on the K5, which is being unveiled at this week's Plug and Play Winter Expo in Sunnyvale.
Ex-Ford and Carbon Motors exec working on robot security guards originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 06 Dec 2013 08:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink | Email this | Comments
A San Diego woman who was ticketed in October by the California Highway Patrol for wearing Google Glass while driving pleaded not guilty and will fight the citation in court, Yahoo reports. The woman, Cecilia Abadie, was pulled over for driving 80 miles per hour in a 65-mph zone.
After Abadie was pulled over for speeding, her attorney reportedly claims that the Google Glass switched on when she looked up at the CHP officer, who was standing by her window. The device was designed to respond to a head tilt by turning on.
Abadie's ticket is believed to be the first citation issued for wearing Google Glass while driving, but California has no laws specifically banning the use of the device while behind the wheel. There are places that are considering legislation to ban wearing Google Glass while driving, such as West Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and in the UK.
To use Google Glass, one must look up into a screen slightly above the right eye. Users can read texts, search the Internet, make calls and more with the hands-free device, and it can even be used for GPS navigation.
Woman ticketed for driving with Google Glass to fight charge originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 05 Dec 2013 19:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Happy Mustang Day. Are you tired of hearing about the 2015 Ford Mustang yet? No? Good, here's a bunch of mechanical data on Ford's sixth-gen muscle car, along with cutaways of the GT's 5.0-liter V8 and the new 2.3-liter, EcoBoost four-cylinder shown above. We also have a smattering of info on the Stang's updated transmissions and an exploded-parts-diagram view of its all-new independent rear suspension.
Ford is set to make waves offering the Mustang with a turbo for the first time since the small-volume SVO of the 1980s. Displacing 2.3 liters, the engine's twin-scroll turbo should help the four-cylinder turn out a projected 305 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, while also returning the best fuel economy in the Mustang's engine lineup. As we said in our Deep Dive, the EcoBoost will be slotted in as a premium engine, above the 3.7-liter V6 but below the 5.0-liter V8.
Speaking of that high-revving eight-cylinder, it's receiving a new cylinder head with high-flow ports. The intake and exhaust valves are larger and the cams have been replaced, among other tweaks. It should rev even higher thanks to a rebalanced crankshaft and forged connecting rods. Ford is still claiming a projected 420 hp and 390 lb-ft, although as many of the changes for the 2015's V8 come from the 2013 Boss 302, we're going to assume there's some sandbagging at work.
Finally, the transmissions have received some attention, with the six-speed manual from Getrag getting a new shift linkage, which should provide a shorter, crisper action. A new set of steering-wheel-mounted paddles on the auto trans will provide rev-matched shifts, although there's no word on how quickly it will swap cogs.
Check out the cutaways and exploded-parts-diagram views of the 2015 Mustang's mechanicals in our gallery. You can also scroll down for our gallery of launch images and a press release from Ford.
Ford dissects the heart of the 2015 Mustang, its engine range originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 05 Dec 2013 11:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Smartphones are expensive yet delicate - a single impact on a hard surface can shatter their touchscreens, often damaging them beyond repair. Fitting a case offers only so much protection, but what about an airbag? Honda has explored the concept with the airbag-equipped Case N and even made a video about it. But alas, it isn't real.
For some reason, we really want it to be. Honda has a knack for surprising us with nearly unbelievable inventions designed to improve mankind's quality of life, contraptions like the Walking Assist Device and the UNI-CUB personal mobility devices, so the Case N isn't as far-fetched an idea for the company as you might think.
Head below to watch the video, where you can see the Case N concept in action. You'll also see its generous proportions, which is one reason why it's just a case of Honda humor - not (yet) a market reality.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Infiniti's Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS) is quite a novelty - the system employs no physical connection between the steering wheel and the front wheels under normal circumstances and instead relies on a computer, clutch and steering-angle actuator to guide vehicles down the road with input from the driver.
In our First Drive review of a 2014 Infiniti Q50 equipped with the system, we weren't overly impressed by the artificial feedback. But we can't help but be impressed with how long Infiniti spent on its development: a full 10 years, according to Autoline Daily in the video report below. A staggering 70 percent of the research and development time spent on DAS was devoted to getting the steering feel right, and unfortunately, our first impression suggests their results still leave something to be desired, as we found it lacked the sporty feeling a sport sedan should have.
The weight of DAS is comparable to that of a conventional steering system due to its complexity. For example, three ECUs are used in the first-generation DAS system to ensure there's never a loss of steering, but Infiniti is refining the technology and is working to simplify it to reduce weight. One day Infiniti hopes that only one ECU will be needed to control DAS. We just hope it doesn't take the Japanese automaker another ten years to get the steering feel right.
Infiniti Q50 steer-by-wire system took 10 years to develop [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 03 Dec 2013 17:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Nissan's decision to fit continuously variable transmissions across even more of its new models may be coming back to bite the Japanese automaker, as it's been hampered by customer satisfaction issues relating to its XTronic CVTs, which are provided by a supplier called JATCO.
From what we're understanding, the issue largely relates to customers' unfamiliarity with the non-traditional shift nature of a CVT. Dealers have reported complaints and service visits from owners over the belt-driven automatics (did these people not test drive the cars before they bought them and notice that they don't shift conventionally?).
The company, which Nissan owns 75 percent of, has come under fire from none other than Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, who's spoken about JATCO and its troubles rather openly. "Every time you launch a new CVT you always have some risks," Ghosn said in an interview with Automotive News. "So we now have a process by which, before we launch any new CVT, [JATCO] come before the Nissan executive committee to explain all the measures they have taken to make sure there are no surprises."
Nissan's oversight on JATCO will fall to Bill Krueger, the brand's current manufacturing and supply chain boss in North America and its future executive vice president of US and Mexican operations, according to AN. Krueger will be visiting JATCO next month. Along with dealers, the supplier will attempt to provide a greater range of information to consumers about the benefits and characteristics of its CVTs.
Speaking to AN, Nissan spokesman David Reuter said the latest string of transmission related issues, which took a chunk out of the brand's profits in 2012 according to Ghosn, related largely to Nissan's hectic launch schedule. "They're in the past and behind us now," Reuter said.Permalink | Email this | Comments
The majority of consumers are more or less priced out of the market.Electric cars are gaining popularity with the general public, but are they still too expensive? According to a survey 1,084 consumers by Navigant Research, a consulting firm located in Boulder, CO, 71 percent want their next car to cost under $25,000, while 41 percent won't go a cent above $20K. Looks like people are even thriftier than we'd originally thought.
Meanwhile, Navigant's Electric Vehicle Survey found that 67 percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion on hybrids while 61 percent thought positively of EVs, meaning that while consumers might be interested in purchasing an EV, the majority of consumers are more or less priced out of the market.
According to the project's principal research analyst, Dave Hurst, the EV will become more accessible, but it's going to take time. "Batteries make up half the cost of vehicles. We're anticipating that battery prices will come down by about a third by 2020," Hurst told Automotive News.
But that brings about another issue uncovered by the survey. People might be interested, but they don't know about any particular model. Only 44 percent of those surveyed were "somewhat familiar" with the Chevrolet Volt, while the Nissan Leaf sat at 31 percent. Only six and five percent, respectively, said they were "extremely familiar" with the plug-in hybrid and pure EV.
Ignoring the elephant in the room (range anxiety), we have to wonder what the price point is where an EV starts to make sense for most consumers. Will it ever make sense?Permalink | Email this | Comments
As proof of just how quickly automotive technology can advance, just check out the Volvo V40. Developed with an external airbag aimed at better protecting pedestrians in the event of a collision, this innovative safety device could be phased out soon in place of more advanced active safety technologies like pedestrian detection and auto braking.
Go Auto had a chance to talk to Volvo senior VP Lex Kerssmakers at the Tokyo Motor Show, and he suggested that the V40's under-hood airbag will not be used on the next-gen XC90 and might not even be continued on non-SUV models. The passive airbag was designed to deploy at speeds of less than 31 miles per hour to help limit head injuries to pedestrians, but new active technologies are designed to prevent collisions in the first place.
The interview also reveals some details about the new XC90, such as the inclusion of a plug-in hybrid system and the debut of a new safety technology. Kerssmakers told Go Auto that a new Volvo concept will be unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show in January, but it won't be for the XC90.
Volvo's pedestrian airbags may already be on their way out originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 01 Dec 2013 10:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink | Email this | Comments
While turbocharging and supercharging may be nothing new in the automotive industry, motorcycle engines are almost always naturally aspirated. But even that's beginning to change. At the Tokyo Motor Show last week, two major Japanese companies showed off new forced-induction motorbike engines.
Kawasaki rolled in with a supercharged four-cylinder motorbike engine. It offered little in the way of details, disclosing only that the turbine blades were developed in-house to withstand the heat and vibration of spooling up at motorbike speeds.
Suzuki is taking a different approach, however. Its Recursion concept bike packs a turbocharged 588cc two-cylinder engine with a turbocharger and intercooler. The compact package churns out just under 100 horsepower and 74 pound-feet of torque, packaged into a motorbike that weighs just 384 pounds dry.
It'll be interesting to see how this trend develops and how the reliance on forced-induction might change the character of the motorbikes in which they're installed. While we wait to see where this goes, you're invited to scope out the stock images of the Recursion concept in the gallery above and our live shots from the Tokyo show floor in the gallery below.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Before the team at Autoblog could drive actual cars, we cut our teeth on remote-controlled facsimiles, building ramps, jumps and all manner of obstacles, in a bid to destroy our cars test our driving prowess. For most of us, though, once we were old enough to drive, or at least consider driving, the RC cars were handed down to our younger siblings or that neighbor kid. We've maintained a soft spot for the RC, though, and always get some joy out of them being used in a professional context.
Wildlife photography is as challenging as hunting, which makes getting shots from up close difficult and dangerous. That sense of danger is even greater when the query is a pride of lions. Photographer Chris McLellan's innovative solution for shooting the big cats, though, is a prime example of the usefulness that comes from a simple, radio-controlled car.
Car-L is a "camera buggy" according to our Australian host, perfectly designed for getting rare shots of dangerous predators while protecting a very expensive piece of hardware (a $3,000 Nikon D800E and its pricey lens), as demonstrated when its driven towards a group of female lions. Take a look below to see the video.
Car-L RC buggy gets up close and personal with pride of lions originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 25 Nov 2013 16:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Back in April, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released voluntary guidelines covering the use of in-car infotainment and communications in the hopes that automakers would reconfigure their systems to make them safer. But on Tuesday, NHTSA administrator David Strickland said at a congressional hearing that the administration has the authority to set vehicle smartphone guidelines and will release new voluntary guidelines next year, casting a wider net than the ones released in April, The Detroit News reports. This marks the first time NHTSA has said it has the authority to regulate portable devices, including smartphones, under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.
Striking a balance between too little and too much regulation is crucial to facilitate technological innovation in vehicles, though automakers reportedly want some sort of official direction from NHTSA. "It is an evolving area of technology. We believe that guidelines gives us the ability to find the margin of safety and still keep innovation," Strickland said in an interview with The Detroit News.
NHTSA will work with device manufacturers, application developers and the telecommunications industry on the implementation of the portable device guideline, "to make sure all of these things are working in the proper zone of safety," according to The Detroit News.
NHTSA claims power to regulate smartphones in cars, will issue guidelines next year originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 24 Nov 2013 11:05:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Ford has gone all-in on its efforts to offer most of its new vehicles with a fuel-efficient EcoBoost engine, but the automaker is reportedly preparing to take another big step toward improving vehicle efficiency. Automotive News is reporting that Ford will soon expand the availability of start-stop technology, which was first offered - presumably the first non-hybrid vehicle, that is - on the 2013 Fusion (equipped with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine) as a $295 option.
The benefit of start-stop is reduced fuel consumption as it shuts the engine off at long stops, and AN quotes Ford as saying that drivers can save more than $1,000 on fuel costs over five years. Despite this, the option hasn't been popular on the Fusion thus far, but it could be more beneficial on bigger vehicles like the F-150. Ford also said that the next-gen Edge, which was previewed in concept form at the LA Auto Show, will be equipped with auto start-stop to help make the EcoBoost engines even more efficient.Permalink | Email this | Comments