Tag: Gizmology

By on July 12, 2011

Transportation Secretary and Supreme Allied Commander in the War On Distraction Ray LaHood is quite chuffed about initial pilot program results for his latest offensive against in-car cell phone use, and he’s taking to the airwaves to declare victory. The programs, modeled on the “Click It Or Ticket” and “Over The Limit, Under Arrest” initiatives combined an advertising blitz and waves of enforcement to crack down on the behavior, but more importantly to send the message that distracted driving is as serious a problem as drunk driving or not wearing a seatbelt. Thanks to the relative success of these earlier programs, the DOT has a strong template for its pilot anti-distracted driving campaign, the enforcement components of which took place in April, July, and October 2010 and March-April 2011. But was the “Phone In One Hand, Ticket In The Other” program actually as successful as LaHood claims?
(Read More…)

By on June 22, 2011

Ford’s President of the Americas Mark “MKF” Fields (sorry, the joke is just too funny to let go of) is responding to recent allegations of slipping quality by Consumer Reports and JD Power, by telling Bloomberg that

We’re largely back on track on some of these early issues

He’s referring specifically to issues with the MyFordTouch system that has been the central issue in the recent quality flap, and the fix for that isn’t particularly complicated.

Ford has reworked software on MyFordTouch to prevent random rebooting that had afflicted the system, said Sue Cischke, vice president of environmental and safety engineering. The touch controls also have been recalibrated to respond more quickly to a driver’s touch, she said.

Ford is encouraging dealers to spend as much as 40 minutes training drivers to use the system.

“If you’re trying to figure it out as you’re driving, obviously that’s not a good thing to do,” Cischke said.

Ford’s problem, it turns out, isn’t so much a product quality problem as a customer quality problem… because why would consumers need 40 minutes of training on a system Ford insists they are “demanding” (despite, it must be pointed out, the government’s murmured objections)? Unfortunately for Ford, Michael Karesh argues convincingly that Ford’s quality problems go beyond the MyFordTouch issues… but because its quality was so weak before Mulally took over, at least Ford (and the “PR friendly” auto media) can continue to claim “improvement.”

By on June 13, 2011

Since Nissan’s PR and communication folks are probably having a busy morning anyway, we thought we’d bring this video to their attention. According to this apparently quite tech-savvy Leaf owner, the Leaf’s CarWings system will automatically send your location data to any third-party RSS feed you sign up for. As he puts it in the video

“There’s a lot of personal data there. I’m not sure if you really want Fox News to know exactly where you’re at, how fast you’re driving, that kind of thing… when you read those RSS feeds in your car, you might want to think twice about hitting that button”

Why would signing up for an RSS feed require that constantly-updated locational data be sent to the RSS provider? The video’s maker assumes the data is for “CarWings internal use” and yet he shows that it gets sent to third parties. We know GM monitors Chevy Volt user data anonymously through Onstar, but one assumes that this kind of data is fairly well protected from third parties. In the case of the Leaf, that may not be the case. We’d sure like to know if this is true, and why…

[UPDATE: Nissan tells us: "Owners have to opt in or agree to share their data every time they sign in.  If they don’t, then they pass on the benefit as well.  They will however, lose any remote control or data logging capability but the choice is in the hand of the driver every time."]

By on June 9, 2011

I’m not in the business of helping people Tweet better, I’m not in the business of helping people post to Facebook better. My job is to make sure we keep people safe behind the wheel. I’m not going to deny the fact that people want these things. They do. Especially the generation behind us. They’re used to being connected 24 hours a day.

A car is not a mobile device — a car is a car. We will not take a backseat while new telematics and infotainment systems are introduced. There is too much potential for distraction of drivers.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland took the war on distraction to the enemy in a speech to an auto technology conference, reports Bloomberg. With nearly every manufacturer racing towards ever greater implementation of connectivity, communication and entertainment systems in cars, Strickland’s rhetorical line in the sand foreshadows a serious confrontation between industry and government. Either that, or this is just Ray LaHood-style hot air calculated to make it look like something’s happening.

(Read More…)

By on June 7, 2011

I designed TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey to provide information an average of ten months ahead of the established annual surveys. Early last December we shared with TTAC readers that Early data on the Ford Fiesta is not good.” Then, in early March, we stated about the 2011 Fiesta and the 2010 Taurus that Ford does not appear to have tested either model thoroughly enough.” The late February release on the TrueDelta site went a step farther, asking, “Is Ford slipping?” The answer last week from Ford: “Yes, but we’re going to fix it.”

(Read More…)

By on May 31, 2011

AOL’s Translogic [via PopSci] takes a look at the LAPD’s brand-spankety new Chevy Caprice PPV, the born-again Pontiac G8 that you can’t buy at a dealership. But rather than looking at the Caprice’s cop car-creaming performance (as did the Michigan State Police), this report focuses on the LAPD’s high-tech toys… which could just make the Caprice’s V8, rear-drive abilities less necessary than ever. Still, between the Holden-powered, rear-drive performance, the footprint-spying night vision camera and the automatic license plate recognition system, the Caprice PPV will probably make you think twice about speeding the next time you’re visiting the City of Angels.

By on May 20, 2011

By on May 8, 2011

So, will this MIT-developed “virtual dashboard” render that car you’re about to hit? After all, a three-dimensional representation of the world on your dashboard seems like it would be at least as eye-catching as… you know, reality. And, believe it or not, according to PopSci this is actually a development of a program that was determined to be too distracting. This system, named AIDA 2.0, was developed from

a little robotic dashboard companion called AIDA (for Affective Intelligent Driving Agent), an MIT creation that essentially read a driver’s facial expressions to gauge mood and inferred route and destination preferences through social interaction with the driver. Apparently that was deemed too distracting, so now MIT is back with AIDA 2.0, which swaps the dashboard robot for a massive 3-D interactive map that covers the entire dashboard–because that’s not distracting at all.

By on May 6, 2011

Editor’s Note: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Byron Hurd of SpeedSportLife, in his TTAC debut.

There has been an almost-palpable sensation of glee propagating through the various import-leaning car communities I frequent. For nearly two years, they’ve had to sit back and listen to the other guys relentlessly gushing about domestic brand turnarounds. With only a few notable speed bumps, it has been a pretty good run so far for post-bailout Detroit. Market share is up; buyers are coming back; product is improving–a sad state of affairs for the import fanboy. Then, out of nowhere, those cunning deviants over at Motor Trend—known of course for setting the magazine landscape ablaze with their out-of-left-field criticisms and take-no-prisoners, “gotcha”-style journalism—dropped a Molotov cocktail into this Texas-desert-dry landscape of domestic love.

The 2011 Explorer, they said, quite simply sucks.
(Read More…)

By on March 23, 2011

Quoth Thilo Koslowski [via AN [sub]], principal automotive analyst at Gartner Research (and coiner of TTAC’s favorite new phrase, “the trough of disappointment”):

First of all, the car doesn’t really make a good personal computer, and, secondly, consumers don’t have to have a PC on four wheels. Ultimately, any type of Internet access in the future has to support the ownership experience of the vehicle; this is not about enabling me to have the same experience I have on my laptop

Which is precisely why we find Nokia’s “Terminal Mode” protocol so compelling: it “lets cars be cars again.”

By on March 18, 2011

With the proliferation of in-car connectivity systems like SYNC, MyLink, MyFordTouch, Blue&Me, etc, the ability of a car to play MP3s, read out text messages and update social media accounts has surpassed such traditional attributes as power, efficiency and handling for many car buyers. And though many of these OEM-branded systems are underpinned by identical software architectures from Microsoft or Garmin, they are taking an ever-more important place in the marketing of new cars. Differentiating these differentiators, then, takes a huge amount of development effort on the part of automakers and their suppliers, and the result is another electronic system with the potential to go out of date with the same speed as a cellular phone. Wouldn’t it be smarter to just create an open-standard connection between your phone and your car so that you don’t need to replace your car when its onboard connectivity electronics go out of date? That’s the goal of the Car Connectivity Consortium, which is aiming to explode the OEM-branded in-car connectivity model.
(Read More…)

By on March 17, 2011

I’ve dispatched one of TTAC’s writers to get to the bottom of the copyright fight that’s surrounding Chrysler’s “Imported From Detroit” tagline, as Reuters reports that Chrysler’s claim to the line may not actually hold up.
Chrysler applied to trademark the slogan for use on clothing, bags and other wearable items in January. An attorney for Pure Detroit said the company did not start selling the T-shirts until after the ad aired in early February.

[Moda's] attorney, John VanOphem, said Chrysler cannot trademark the phrase because it is “merely descriptive.”

“Our position is that Chrysler is trying to claim ownership of something it doesn’t have a right to own,” VanOphem said. “They do not own any exclusive rights to the ‘Imported from Detroit’ phrase.”Chrysler applied to trademark the slogan for use on clothing, bags and other wearable items in January. An attorney for Pure Detroit said the company did not start selling the T-shirts until after the ad aired in early February.

But the attorney, John VanOphem, said Chrysler cannot trademark the phrase because it is “merely descriptive.”

“Our position is that Chrysler is trying to claim ownership of something it doesn’t have a right to own,” VanOphem said. “They do not own any exclusive rights to the ‘Imported from Detroit’ phrase.”

Meanwhile, another battle over automotive copyrights may yet be brewing: Saab has introduced its own answer to SYNC and Onstar, named IQon, a term which may be in conflict with Nissan’s display technology used in the Juke, named I-Con. Hit the jump to see a video of the Nissan system in action, and let us know if you think Saab is going to have to come up with a new name, or if copyright law will let both of these naems coexist.
(Read More…)

By on March 3, 2011

The Lexus SC430 is not a car that leaps to the minds of automotive enthusiasts as being particularly significant, but it seems it has one last claim to fame. The NYT reports that with the passing of the last model-year for the SC, the 2010, tape decks are no longer available on any US-market car. What, you didn’t realize that any new cars still had tape decks? Remember, the SC first came out in 2001, so it’s been around quite a while. Also, Sony only just stopped making the cassette Walkman last year. So, if you can’t bear to part with your tape collection, you have to buy used. And now, rather than just being an overfed boulevardier that outstayed its welcome, the Lexus SC430 is now a historical bookend to the era of magnetic tape in cars. Time to convert your Milli Vanilli to MP3…

By on February 27, 2011

A GM NVH engineer brags:

[GMC] Terrain measured quieter than the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 in our on-road interior noise tests. At 70 miles per hour, Terrain’s interior is quiet enough to allow conversation in normal tones of voice.

How did they manage that? Hours of engine tuning, right? Wrong.

When GM engineers set out to deliver segment-leading fuel economy on Terrain they chose to lower the 6-speed transmission’s gear shift points to enable the Ecotec 2.4L four-cylinder engine to run at lower rpm torque. In this “Eco” mode, which the driver can activate with a click of a button on the console, the torque converter clutch engages at lower engine speeds to help save gas. While the engineering action improved fuel efficiency by up to one mpg, it also created an objectionable low-end frequency boom. To counteract that boom the engineers turned to active noise cancellation technology.

Terrain’s noise cancellation system relies on two microphones embedded in the headliner to detect the hum and prompt an onboard frequency generator to create counteracting sound waves through the audio system’s speakers and sub-woofer. The system also reduces higher rpm engine noise at highway cruising speeds to help keep the vehicle interior quiet.

OK, that solution may not satisfy our desire to imagine engineers slaving over the details of engine tuning, but hey, it’s a solution. Too bad GM’s Theta CUVs have yet to live up to their MPG ratings in real-world testing.

By on February 18, 2011

With GM’s announcement of a new SYNC-competitor system, the issue of whether or not in-car connectivity systems are compatible with the government’s desire to reduce distracted driving has raised its head once again. So we put the question to you, our Best and Brightest: will the government ever step in to regulate in-car electronics? Should it? After all, distraction comes in all shapes and sizes… from fast food to in-car Facebook updates. Can the government draw a line between acceptable distractions and unacceptable ones? Will any government action actually make a difference in the statistics?

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