Category: Technology

By on April 26, 2017

red light traffic signal (Matthias Ripp/Flickr]

How far would you go in fighting a red light camera ticket? It’s possible that a few motorists who feel especially victimized might schedule an appearance at the courthouse to protest the photographic evidence, but surely no one would spend four years on the case.

Not Mats Järlström, a Beaverton, Oregon resident and man of principle.

Järlström, whose name sounds like a delicious, smoky cheese, made headlines in 2013 when he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in protest of his wife’s red light camera ticket, arguing that the amber light cycle at the intersection wasn’t suitably lengthy. Now, the stubborn man has his name on another lawsuit — this one against the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying.

Mr. Järlström is not an engineer, the board claims. Not so fast, says the dogged litigant. Read More >

By on April 26, 2017

bmw grille

As vehicle sales growth gradually cools off, BMW has found itself continuing to lose ground to its competitors — but it wasn’t always this way. The company spent years as the luxury brand par excellence before seeing the likes of Jaguar, Tesla, and historic rival Mercedes-Benz begin syphoning off its consumer base.

It looked to be in denial for some time, but it is now evident that Bayerische Motoren Werke has become painfully aware of its own shortcomings. The company has even begun holding employee rallies to address its problems and potentially scare the crap out of workers. Since January, the German automaker has taken its marketing team, factory managers, 14,000 engineers, and a portion of its general workforce through day-long events that illustrate just how far it has fallen.   Read More >

By on April 26, 2017

tesla model x

Consumer Reports has been pretty hard on Tesla Motors over the past year. The primary point of contention in 2016 was the automaker’s perceived misrepresentation of the company’s Autopilot feature. CR wanted the automaker to disable hands-free operation until its system could be made safer and insisted that it make clear to consumers that it was not capable of true self-driving capability.

While Tesla addressed some of those concerns with its 8.0 software update last autumn, the consumer advocacy publication said it didn’t go nearly far enough — demanding that Tesla stop calling it Autopilot, disable automatic steering, and quit beta testing on its own customers.

Continuing those safety concerns into 2017, Consumer Reports has downgraded both of Tesla’s existing models, claiming the company failed to enable automatic emergency braking features it said would come as standard equipment. This is perplexing, as Model S and Model X vehicles equipped with first-generation Autopilot systems actually had this function.  Read More >

By on April 24, 2017

2017 Ford Fusion Platinum

Few things are more annoying than trying to extract vomit from cloth upholstery while pulled over at a gas station. Depending on the meal that preceded the involuntary stomach evacuation, it could be a tough slog.

Ford Motor Company, always one for innovation, is actively seeking out ways to reduce instances of lost lunches and tossed cookies. No, it hasn’t installed a “turkey dinner” mode on its Fusion Sport, but it has put its German research and development team on the case. Read More >

By on April 22, 2017

autonomous testing tesla

Poor Generation X. Isolated, ignored and cynical, they brought us great music in the early-to-mid 1990s, but their opinion on self-driving cars and autonomous safety features just isn’t important.

At least, that’s the feeling you get while reading the results of J.D. Power’s U.S. Tech Choice Study. The company polled 8,500 Americans who bought a vehicle during the past five years, asking them how they felt about the emerging technology.

Naturally, large generation gaps appeared, not the least of which was the elimination of Gen Xers in favor of the opinions of Boomers, Generation Y and Z. So, how does the opinions of the largest car-buying cohort compare to that of the newest? Read More >

By on April 21, 2017

BMW 4 Series

To industry watchers, the manual transmission’s future seems as rosy as that of the Steve Miller Band, circa 1983.

Automakers on both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific have pried the stick shift out of an ever-increasing number of vehicles, and some manufacturers have chosen to drop the technology altogether. With market share reaching never-before-seen lows, the three-pedal lifestyle seems headed towards an unavoidable (and imminent) grave.

Blame technology. Blame laziness. Blame yourself.

Over in Munich, the sentiment seems quite similar. BMW has long occupied the ranks of true driver’s cars, but its leaders make no bones about the brand’s eventual abandonment of the row-your-own transmission, even in relatively stick-happy Europe. Lately, even dual-clutch transmissions appear to be in Bimmer’s bad books. And as for an American solution to its manual transmission problem, well, forget that. Read More >

By on April 20, 2017

cruise automation

General Motors’ self-driving startup, Cruise Automation, has trickled out dash cam videos of an autonomous Chevrolet Bolt milling around San Francisco since February. The video quality was poor and it wasn’t anything we hadn’t already seen from a self-driving car. Tesla went so far as to call tech startups like Cruise Automation and Otto “small teams of programmers with little more than demoware” and scolded Ford, GM, and Uber for investing billions of dollars into “unproven” projects.

However, Cruise’s most recent video seems to show that it has made some legitimate progress in the last three months. Set at night, the clip shows the self-driving Bolt navigating a dense urban environment while avoiding collisions with cyclists, pedestrians, and even a raccoon.

We have to take General Motors’ word for there being zero human intervention, since we never get a clear view of the steering wheel, but the company has assured us that is the case. We also noticed the Bolt never makes a single right turn on red, even when it seemed safe to do so, and reached out to GM to ask why. Read More >

By on April 20, 2017

2015_Toyota_Prius_c_007

Automakers, both domestic and come-from-away, all want you to do the next best thing if your meager funds aren’t enough to get you into a showroom: borrow a car.

Ride-sharing services provide mainly urban dwellers with the car they so desperately crave, without the years of payments or need to find permanent parking. And, if an automaker partners up with a service provider — or creates its own — there’s still money flowing back to the offices of Big Auto. Win-win, no?

The growing trend is hard to ignore, and it means that automakers — already new to the game — face ever greater competition, even from unlikely sources. The latest company to offer a ride-sharing service isn’t a manufacturer at all. It’s the American Automobile Association. Read More >

By on April 17, 2017

CCS Charging pic

A large part of Volkswagen’s emissions scandal penance involves a gargantuan investment into eco-centric technologies and the development of the United States’ electric vehicle infrastructure. The latter should come by way of its Electrify America subsidiary and four $500 million investments separated by four 30-month periods over the next 10 years.

We now know exactly how VW intends to roll out the green carpet with its court-mandated funding. Read More >

By on April 4, 2017

autonomous hardware

Ford’s head of research, Ken Washington, suggests that the general public won’t be able to buy a fully autonomous vehicle until sometime between 2026 and 2031. That’s a little later than CEO Mark Fields’ claim of “by 2025.”

We already know that companies are making timeline promises they can’t really keep but, with Ford currently working on an autonomous ride-sharing fleet to be used on public roadways in 2021, the amount of wiggle-room in Washington’s estimate is a little unsettling. If the technology is sufficient to shuttle people around in a taxi, shouldn’t it be equally adept in accomplishing that task regardless of what seat the human is occupying? Exactly who is leading in this race?  Read More >

By on March 28, 2017

uber volvo autonomous

After Friday’s high-speed crash, it’s back to business as usual for Uber’s autonomous programs. Last week, one of the company’s self-driving Volvos was struck by a flesh-piloted crossover — causing Uber to temporarily ground its entire test fleet. With the exception of the wrecked unit, all of those vehicles are now back in action as the business attempts to get on with R&D while simultaneously moving its legal dispute with Waymo out of the public eye.

Meanwhile, Volvo’s 300-million-dollar alliance with the ride-sharing company remains unperturbed. In the crash’s aftermath, Volvo maintained that it would continue to support Uber and preserve the partnership.  Read More >

By on March 26, 2017

uber volvo

Uber’s infamously embattled autonomous car division took another hit Saturday after one of its self-driving Volvo XC90 test cars was involved in an accident in Tempe, Arizona. The technology company has since halted the pilot program, parking its self driving fleets in Arizona, Pittsburgh and San Francisco until further notice.
Read More >

By on March 24, 2017

Chevrolet Corvette Active Aero Patent, Image Source: USPTO

General Motors has filed a patent application for an innovative active aerodynamics system that may find its way into forthcoming C7 Corvette variant.

Read More >

By on March 21, 2017

Uber (freestocks.org/Flickr)

Uber’s president Jeff Jones is quitting the car-hailing business after a brief six-month stretch.

Jones’ choice of a swift departure is essentially down to the company’s controversy laden decisions and apparent degenerate corporate culture. In addition to allegations of widespread sexual harassment, Uber has managed to routinely anger local governments by ignoring autonomous testing laws and by employing algorithms that denied service to potential investigators, regulators, or law enforcement officials. It’s also been accused of property theft, and CEO Travis Kalanick is exhibiting behavior unlikely to win people over.

It’s a real shit show.

Read More >

By on March 21, 2017

2017 Nissan Rogue SL AWD Palatial Ruby infotainment, Image: © 2017 Chris Tonn

The company once known mainly for its televisions is growing ever-longer tentacles into the automotive industry.

Panasonic, which is already a major battery supplier for electrified vehicles, has bought a majority stake in a Spanish auto parts supplier, giving it a larger foothold in the automotive realm. Read More >

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