By on August 21, 2017

money (401(k) 2012/Flickr)

There’s few things people living in the U.S. can agree on, but one of those things is the state of American road infrastructure. For the most part, it sucks. Eisenhower’s long gone, but his network of interstate highways, plus the spiderweb of two-lane roadways cross-crossing every corner of America haven’t grown better with age.

Meanwhile, the U.S. federal gas tax remains unchanged since its last hike in 1993. Still locked at 18.4 cents per gallon, the infrastructure funding shortfall created by the static federal tax is spurring states to pass their own gas tax increases. Michigan, California, and — controversially — New Jersey are among the most recent examples.

Still, boosting prices at the pumps only works if drivers still visit those pumps. What of the coming self-driving car wave, the vanguard of which are high-tech electric vehicles piloted by mere humans? Enter the taxman and his slim book of ideas. Read More >

By on August 17, 2017

EcoBoost Mustang Burnout, Ford Motor Co.

If you believe certain segments of the media, we’ll soon be able to avoid the drudgery of turning a steering wheel, pressing and releasing pedals, and — gasp! — shifting gears.

The inevitable onset of self-driving vehicles, tech aficionados and urbanists tell us, will bring traffic fatalities down to zero, somehow remove all congestion from the road, and turn our lives into a never-ending sojourn of blissful tranquility. Never again will you take that aimless and unprogrammed late-night drive, just for the hell of it. Never again will you bother with buying and owning a car. Automakers will simply turn their driverless cars loose, emptying driveways while filling streets with hands-off ride-sharing pods.

Not so fast, says Ford’s newly minted CEO. Read More >

By on August 14, 2017

Waymo Google Self-Driving Car

Autonomous vehicles are being billed as a safer alternative to human-controlled transportation and, assuming the hardware functions as intended, that’s likely to be the case. But eventually a self-driving car is going to smack into a pedestrian and no company wants to hold the honor of being first.

Google’s autonomous vehicle arm, Waymo, is working on a solution to mitigate the liabilities associated with such an incident by patenting a softer car. Read More >

By on August 10, 2017

autonomous testing tesla

Autonomous vehicles are about as polarizing a subject as you could possibly bring up around a group of car enthusiasts. Plenty of gearheads get hot under the collar at the mere concept of a self-driving car. Meanwhile, automotive tech fetishists cannot wait to plant their — I’m assuming — khaki Chinos into the seat of an autonomous vehicle and enjoy a coffee without the hindrance of having to actually drive the thing to their destination.

I’ve previously discussed how autonomous cabs will become unparalleled filth-boxes, destined for salacious behavior. Because without driver oversight, why not sneeze into your hand and wipe it on the seat back? Now, surveys are beginning to indicate privately owned computer-controlled cars will be subject to similar activities — with some drivers suggesting they’ll have no qualms about having sex, drinking booze, or binge eating behind the wheel.

That’s the future we’re being promised, but a lot of autonomous features have already made it into modern production cars. Word is, they’re starting to make us terrible drivers. It’s enough to worry automakers to a point where they’re considering implementing an array of systems to more actively encourage driver involvement on a platform that’s designed to do the opposite.

Get ready to drive your self-driving car.  Read More >

By on August 3, 2017

Volvo-self-driving-car

Suppliers have begun putting automotive companies on blast for overly ambitious mobility claims. While self-driving cars are definitely en route, manufacturers have ramped up their arrival time and omitted the necessary pit stops to win favor with investors or the general public. Meanwhile, parts suppliers have been frank on the matter — explaining they know when autonomous cars are really coming because they’ll be the ones providing the tidbits that make them work.

Don Walker, CEO of Magna International, one of the world’s largest OEM parts suppliers, suggests automakers may even be misleading their customers. “A full autonomous vehicle is a long way off for lots of reasons, because of legislation, class-action lawsuits, all the complexities and the costs associated with it,” the executive said.

Speaking Wednesday at the 2017 Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars, Walker also took umbrage with the popular claim that electric vehicles could comprise around 25 percent of the new market by 2025. Instead, he claims EVs will only account for 3 to 6 percent of the global market within that timeframe — a figure predominantly dependent on how swiftly the highly regulated Chinese market grows. Read More >

By on July 28, 2017

autonomous hardware

Thanks to rhetoric beaten into us by the automotive industry, we know autonomous vehicles are “right around the corner.” Some manufacturers predict self-driving vehicles will be on the commercial market by an ambitiously early target date of 2021. However, those trick new rides are going to come at a premium that’ll keep them out of the hands of most normal people for a while.

LIDAR, the imaging system that allows an autonomous vehicle’s software to make sense of the road, is prohibitively expensive. High-end systems can approach the six-figure threshold while lower quality units rarely fall below 10 grand. Burgeoning technology is never affordable and automakers have traditionally found a way to produce advancements in cost-

effective ways. But the timeline for autonomous cars is too short, meaning any manufacturer wanting to sell one is going to have to have to accept the costs or defer production.  Read More >

By on July 14, 2017

V2V Intersection

Despite the Federal Communications Commission making a mess of net neutrality right now, it remains capable of serving corporate interests and the general public simultaneously. On Thursday, the FCC quintupled the allocation of the radio spectrum used for motor vehicle and aircraft radar systems to help avoid crashes.

While the majority of autonomous cars also use laser guidance and a complex network of cameras to navigate, radar remains an integral component. Presently, the 1 GHz of spectrum set aside in 1995 has been sufficient for self-driving vehicles using adaptive cruise control or automatic emergency braking. But we’re about to enter an era of connected cars that will be required to “speak” to one another, and those vehicles will need plenty of space to talk — 5 GHz of bandwidth, to be precise.  Read More >

By on July 13, 2017

junk car

With the entire automotive industry looking toward a future of driverless mobility, commercially owned self-driving taxis seem poised to be on the frontline of tomorrow. However, nobody seemed to realize that these vehicles will eventually become little more than mobile toilets.

Animals are universally disgusting and humans are no exception. While we’ve mastered land, air, and sea, consider the spaces we occupy while we traverse those expanses. Rental cars are returned filled with candy wrappers, spilt soda, and human hair. Uber vehicles are routinely vomited in. The subway is a haven for disease. Airplane interiors experience havoc within the first hour of a flight as the worst of us begin defecating into the seats, too lazy and weak to control ourselves.

Autonomous taxis aren’t likely to endure better treatment. Without a driver present, the urge to have drunken sex will be far too strong — and those odds only increase when you add a second occupant to the equation. With nobody watching, we’ll leave half-consumed hamburgers and cans of sweetened tea on their floors that will roll around and turn the carpet into a sticky magnet for larger pieces of garbage.  Read More >

By on July 10, 2017

Uber Volvo Autonomous

Alphabet Inc.’s autonomous car division Waymo, formerly Google, abandoned three of four patent-infringement claims in its lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc. in a surprise move on Friday.

Earlier, U.S. District Judge William Alsup specifically asked Waymo to narrow its more than 100 trade secrets claims to fewer than 10 if they ever wanted to place them in front of a jury. During a June 7th hearing, he also said, “I want to reiterate to the plaintiff here that you should think a lot about just dropping the patent part of this case.”

Waymo listened and dumped the majority of its patent claims to focus more heavily on the trade secret issues surrounding the 14,000 files stolen by ex-employee Anthony Levandowski — which is, perhaps, the only thing the two companies can agree upon. Uber is glad to see the focus shift back onto Levandowski, who has been at the core of the case since day one. Now it only has to prove it didn’t pay for access to the data instead of spending time differentiating its own designs from Waymo’s.  Read More >

By on June 27, 2017

Kangaroo sign Australia, Image: bluedeviation/Flickr

Who knew strange animals born with a sack stuck to their bellies would prove to be the largest hurdle in the advent of driverless vehicles? In areas where you’ll find marsupials, anyway.

While North American drivers have long grown used to smacking deer with their personal vehicles, it’s a different story in the land of Paul Hogan, Nicole Kidman, and the amiable fellow from Jurassic Park. A full 80 percent of vehicle-animal collisions on that extremely large island and/or continent involve a kangaroo. It now seems the manner in which the limber creatures get around has created a headache for a certain Scandinavian car company — one hoping to lead the industry in hands-off driving. Read More >

By on June 26, 2017

google prototype-early

Earlier this month, Apple and Google both announced plans to kill off their self-driving car projects in favor of focusing on developing the underlying technology. We reported it here. But it’s a little weird that one announcement came so close on the heels of the other. Apple’s Project Titan, formerly a self-driving car project, will presumably continue to compete with Google’s Waymo, which is a subsidiary for Google’s efforts thus far in the field. It’s a race, even if neither company has acknowledged it as such.

Last we knew, Project Titan was testing self-driving Lexus RX450h SUVs around Silicon Valley, which were first spotted in late April. Waymo was arguably more successful, since they’d actually succeeded in building a fleet of the Firefly self-driving car pod.

Apple and Google are both being vague about this change in plans, as usual, but we already know a fair amount about how these companies interact with auto manufacturers. We just need to look at Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Some automakers eschew these systems entirely, in favor of their own native smartphone integration and infotainment interfaces. A handful of manufacturers have chosen to support just one or the other.

Many car brands, though, have decided to offer both interfaces to appeal to the most broad range of customers. In this way, Apple and Google both exert considerable influence on automakers based simply on the fact that they sell smartphones.

If Project Titan and Waymo both succeed at becoming functional and user-friendly self-driving car systems, car buyers can expect something similar. Read More >

By on June 23, 2017

2018 Nissan Leaf [Image: Nissan]

After hemming and hawing for what seemed like forever, Nissan will bring American electric vehicle enthusiasts a long-overdue new Leaf later this year. Say goodbye to that old, swoopy body and 107-mile range (at best), and give a cheerful hello to a not-yet-revealed body, undisclosed driving range, and these headlights.

Okay, so there’s not a whole lot known about the next Leaf except that it won’t be an ancient thing that appeared at the dawn of the electric car resurrection. You might be able to drive to a nearby city and back. However, we now know that trip doesn’t have to be as hands-on as it once was. Read More >

By on June 21, 2017

Tesla AutoPilot cruise control

The National Transportation Safety Board has finally concluded its investigation into a May 2016 crash in Florida that resulted in the death of 40-year-old Joshua Brown. The ex-Navy SEAL’s Tesla Model S was operating in Autopilot mode when it collided with a semi trailer, raising speculation that the semi-autonomous driving feature was the reason for the accident.

While Tesla has repeatedly called the system a lane-keeping “assist feature” and suggested drivers always keep their hands on the wheel, consumer safety groups have urged the automaker to improve it.

An earlier investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated in January that the Autopilot software in Brown’s car did not have any safety defects. However, the NTSB stated that data acquired from the vehicle’s computer indicated that neither the vehicle nor its operator made any attempt to avoid the truck. It also specified that the vehicle had issued seven warnings for Brown to retake the wheel.

In the 37 minutes leading up to the fatal crash, the report said the car detected hands on the steering wheel for a total of 25 seconds.

Read More >

By on June 16, 2017

autonomous hardware

A coterie of Republican officials believe individual states should be forbidden from governing themselves in regard to autonomous vehicles. Only in its commencement, a new U.S. House proposal claims states would not be within their rights to mandate the design or testing of self-driving cars.

If made law, the proposal would eliminate the need for automakers to acquire any pre-market approval from federal regulators. While that sounds like a free-for-all ripe for accountability issues, several states already have laissez-faire or highly supportive attitudes when it comes to autonomous vehicles, though others could become serious headaches for automakers hoping to swiftly get the technology on the road.

The 45-page legislative draft includes 14 bills and would designate the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as the primary agency for regulating self-driving cars. It’s aggressively pro-business and, despite being penned by Republicans, has managed to achieve some bipartisan support.  Read More >

By on June 14, 2017

Toyota Camry NYIAS 2017, Image: Toyota

Despite being Japan’s biggest automaker, Toyota has lagged behind many of its rivals in terms of cutting-edge technology. Most major car manufacturers have already begun developing self-driving vehicles, with some going so far as to make strategic partnerships with companies specializing in the applicable technologies. By contrast, Toyota has a strong R&D program but never saw fit to pursue autonomous development or battery-electric vehicles quite so aggressively as General Motors or Renault-Nissan, for example.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda has now admitted that may have been a mistake. At the company’s annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday, he promised the automaker would become more committed to achieving technical developments. Toyoda didn’t bring forward a concrete strategy but conceded the spending of additional capital would likely play a role — and an alliance or two isn’t out of the question. Read More >

Recent Comments

  • Erikstrawn: Tax gas per gallon and electricity per kw/h. Done. It might even cause us to think a little more about...
  • FOG: We need someone from TTAC to go under cover at these events and get us the inside scoop. Or maybe hire someone...
  • Timothy Cain: Ah, the old pull half a quote out of context trick. I see what you did there.
  • cargogh: Unless they’re doing relay races, it sounds like not a single policeman in Detroit gets Saturday...
  • JerseyRon: Yes, I realized Doug posted this over 2 years ago so why comment now? I couldn’t help but be struck...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff