Category: Technology

By on September 15, 2017

BMW smartphone sync

Way back when the sun first rose on the automobile, hand cranking was the preferred way to start an engine. Keys didn’t really come into fashion until magneto and coil-operated ignition systems were mainstreamed. But the car key has evolved since its infancy as a finely shaped lump of metal. Modern keys aren’t even keys in the traditional sense, they’re short-range radio transmitters with a transponder chip that disarms a vehicle immobiliser.

BMW is reassessing the practical value of car keys entirely, according to Ian Robertson, the company’s board member responsible for sales. Robertson, struck with the divine sight, envisions a hypothetical world where your smartphone performs double duty — eliminating the need to lug around the extra nine grams of metal associated with car keys.  Read More >

By on September 13, 2017

s-class-multimiedia

Fifty years ago the equipment disparity between luxury vehicles and economy cars was vast, but things are different today. With the exception of nicer materials and cutting-edge technology, you can get essentially everything you would want in a basic hatchback. We’re not talking about power windows and air conditioning either; the technological trickle-down now includes things like active safety systems, heated seats, in-car navigation, multiple driving modes, and more.

As it turns out, the great unwashed masses of today enjoy their pleb-mobiles at about the same level as affluent individuals like their own diamond-encrusted executive mobility suites. The reason? Because nobody cares about premium features they can’t figure out how to use, nor do they miss technology that isn’t part of their daily routine.

Read More >

By on September 6, 2017

2018 Nissan LEAF, Image: Nissan

Back in December of 2010, if anyone can remember that hazy, long-ago time, an oddly shaped five-door rolled out of the minds of Japanese executives and onto U.S. dealer lots. Unlike its fledgling electric forebears, the 2011 Nissan Leaf promised practical gas-free transportation for the whole family, bolstered by a warranty from an established automaker and 73 miles of EPA-approved driving range.

The industry had just taken a big step. However, the Leaf, despite racking up an impressive model-life sales total, soon found itself leapfrogged by competitors with greater range and more conventional styling. By the time 2017 rolled around, the Leaf’s 107-mile range and now-dated body stood in stark contrast to sleeker models delivering 200 miles of driving from every turn at the plug.

Nissan wants to change that. For 2018, the second-generation Leaf arrives with greater — but not class-leading — range, a new body (with a familiar profile), and a lower entry price. The automaker clearly feels there’s thrifty EV buyers capable of saying “no” to the Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt. Read More >

By on August 28, 2017

cadillac super cruise

Setbacks notwithstanding, we’ve been eagerly anticipating Cadillac’s entry into the world of semi-autonomous driving with its Super Cruise system, developed to help reinforce the automaker’s position as top-tier luxury brand. After all, vehicular opulence is now deeply embedded with technological achievement and few things shout “I’ve arrived” like a car that can chauffeur you around.

However, Cadillac is changing its implementation strategy, making Super Cruise standard on the highest trimmed CT6 — instead of leaving it as a pricy optional extra. It’s also launching an advertising campaign to whet the public’s appetite, with the first of its “Let Go” TV spots appearing on MTV’s Video Music Awards over the weekend.  Read More >

By on August 22, 2017

2018_toyota_tundra_trd_sport_01_8ee19ebe1c41ad354b59edf3a42fdf0bac4ded48

Back in the days of sky-high tailfins and wraparound windshields, A-pillars weren’t of sufficient thickness to hide little Timmy riding his bike, or maybe that Ford Fairlane approaching from behind that shrub to your left. No, front seat vision was grand — trying to stop your Detroit barge with unassisted drums brakes was the real challenge.

These days, the high-strength steel and airbags needed for rollover and side-impact protection have turned those slim pillars into Corinthian columns capable of hiding a small crowd. A-Pillars are bulky, and that’s a safety problem in itself.

What to do? In Toyota’s case, simply develop a way of seeing through them. Read More >

By on August 22, 2017

ford-autonomous-car-technology

The United Nations recently voted to begin formal discussions on autonomous weapon systems, with 116 of the world’s leading robotics and artificial intelligence experts responding by calling on governments to simply ban them.

The coalition, fronted by Tesla’s Elon Musk and Alphabet’s Mustafa Suleyman, claims this is a dark road the world doesn’t want to go down. Aimed at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, a letter from the group warned the U.N. not to usher in the “third revolution in warfare” (following gunpowder and nuclear arms).

While I’m not about to suggest there aren’t serious risks involved with weaponizing thinking machines, it does seem lightly hypocritical for Musk to condemn them over a lack of trust while continuing to champion self-driving cars. Apparently, technology experts feel a Terminator scenario is thoroughly unacceptable but a potential Maximum Overdrive situation is just fine.  Read More >

By on August 19, 2017

toyota safe and sound teen, Image: Toyota

Teen drivers have the highest crash rate of any demographic. Younger drivers are most likely to use their phones while driving or speed in high-traffic areas, and roughly half of all accidents associated with younger drivers were single-vehicle crashes. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, motor-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among individuals under 20.

Keeping younger drivers safe is a major concern for institutions like the National Safety Council, but some automakers have their own initiatives. Toyota, for example, had TeenDrive365, which provided a series of online videos aimed at encouraging safer driving habits. While the automaker abandoned that program after 2014, resulting in all of its content mysteriously vanishing, Toyota still seems keen on keeping young motorists on the road and out of the morgue.

However, what’s the best way to encourage responsible driving? Teens don’t like being placated, and they probably know the laws better than older drivers (as they’ve passed their written test far more recently). With this in mind, Toyota thinks humiliation may be the key. The automaker has made mortifying easily embarrassed teens the central theme of its new safety app.  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 15, 2017

2018 Honda Accord Touring - Image: HondaThe Honda Accord is by no means a younger sibling, operating as the senior member of American Honda’s fleet.

More specifically, the 2018 Honda Accord will never be viewed as the little brother in the American Honda family, not with these substantial dimensions and MSRPs that reach deep into the $30Ks.

But the 10th-generation Accord is still a Honda. Just a Honda. Merely a Honda. Only a Honda. And while you might expect Honda to enjoy technological hand-me-downs from the automaker’s upmarket Acura brand, that’s not the way it works. Not when it comes to the Accord.

As a result, we’ll wait and see which hand-me-ups appear on the next all-new Acura, the third-generation 2019 Acura RDX. Read More >

By on August 14, 2017

gearshift stick shift manual transmission (public domain)

In this day and age, when a “coupe” often means a four-door SUV and automatics, DCTs, and CVTs perform almost all gear-shifting duties, it’s nice to see a patent from a major mainstream automaker concerning a manual transmission.

However, Toyota’s recent patent for an electronic tranny nanny might spark worry that the three-pedal experience, as endangered as it is, could become watered down by technology. A manual transmission that doesn’t let you make mistakes? Who’s in charge here? Read More >

By on August 8, 2017

washer-patent-main

It’s no secret that vehicle owners are becoming more hands-off when it comes to vehicle maintenance and repair. Some of that blame can be attributed to the increasing complexity of modern cars, and automakers are using that to their advantage as they attempt to make cars even more hands-off. The tool roll and spare tire you’d find in older cars have been replaced with a can of fix-a-flat and a roadside assistance card.

Changes like the disappearance of the spare tire are the result of chasing fuel economy standards, though others — like increased use of plastic engine covers — seem like the automaker’s way of telling owners they’ll need to subscribe to a service plan instead of trying to turn a wrench on their own. A recently published patent shows someone at Ford had the idea to take this to next level — so owners will never have to open the hood at all.

Read More >

By on August 8, 2017

Mazda CX9 Skyactiv Turbo engine - Image: Mazda

There’ll still be spark ignition available, but Mazda doesn’t expect you’ll get a whole lot of use out of it. With its just-revealed Skyactiv-X engine technology, the gasoline-loving automaker has added a new way of making power to the automotive realm: the compression ignition gas engine.

It’s something we’ve known about for a while, but today saw its confirmation. Mazda’s Skyactiv-X engine, bound for its vehicle lineup in 2019, adopts technology forever associated with diesel engines and combines it with a lighter, much cleaner fuel. Apparently, going green needn’t require batteries and AC motors. Read More >

By on August 2, 2017

Nissan’s new Rear Door Alert technology can help remind driver

Nissan is rolling out a safety feature called Rear Door Alert on the 2018 Pathfinder SUV. It’s aimed at preventing drivers from accidentally leaving items in the backseat on a hot day — important things like groceries, children, and dogs. While the automaker bills the feature as the “first-of-its-kind,” it’s essentially an improved version of General Motors’ Rear Seat Reminder.

According to Nissan, Rear Door Alert was developed by two engineers who also happen to be mothers. Elsa Foley is an industrial engineer and mother of two, while Marlene Mendoza is a mechanical engineer with three kids of her own. They were allegedly struck with the idea when Mendoza abandoned a pan of lasagna in her car, which made the interior reek of pasta  — hitting home the point that this system was definitely not inspired by another automaker. Read More >

By on August 1, 2017

Tesla Model 3, Image: Tesla

The production Tesla Model 3, revealed in full at a Friday evening handover ceremony, is an impressive vehicle, but it’s also the California automaker’s most important vehicle. With 220 miles of range in stripped-down base trim, or 310 miles for the starting sum of $44,ooo (the only version available at launch), the curvaceous sedan has no shortage of fans. It’s also facing no shortage of threats.

The company’s future as a mass-market “disruptor” of the American automotive landscape hinges on the Model 3’s trouble-free production at Tesla’s Fremont assembly plant, as well as timely deliveries to the half-million reservation holders. Unforeseen quality issues, a breakdown in the supply chain, or worker strife could all conspire to give the vehicle — and company — a black eye.

After a year spent giving investors everything they wished for, the company’s once-skyrocketing stock isn’t on the same firm ground as before. The first trading day after the event reflected this. Investors are nervous about a number of things: the model’s easily inflatable price, the company’s extremely lofty production target, and CEO Elon Musk’s repeated mentions of “hell.” Read More >

By on July 31, 2017

Ford Sync 3, Image: Ford Motor Co.

Technology is a major component in what makes a modern-day automobile desirable. It’s so important, in fact, that numerous quality and customer satisfaction surveys have cited owner misunderstandings of a vehicle’s electronic interface as the primary reason for specific models losing marks.

MyFord Touch was among the worst offenders, thanks to unreliable connectivity features and lethargic software. While Sync3 is much improved, it isn’t a perfect system and can still perplex luddites — just like any modern vehicle’s interface.

With that in mind, a Lincoln dealership in Michigan is conducting monthly seminars to help older folks feel more comfortable with all the newfangled electronic gizmos the kids today seem so damn enthusiastic about. It’s the sort of behavior most dealers should have been engaging in from the start but, unfortunately, has been reserved primarily for premium automakers.  Read More >

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