Tag: R&D

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 25, 2017

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

Toyota, the company that came out with the Prius in the 1990s and decided it had perfected the electric car, may be looking regain its EV advantage by 2022. It’s not something you’d expect to hear, considering Japan’s largest automaker has lagged behind in terms of competitive electric development for the last few years.

While its hybrid program got the drop on the competition, it subsequently favored hydrogen fuel cells over purely electric vehicles as the next automotive epoch — creating a bit of an industrial dinosaur.

Fortunately, Toyota has no shortage of muscles to flex. Once news broke that Toyota was earnestly considering electric R&D, everyone speculated it would be competitive at roughly the same time as other automakers. Not so. On Tuesday, Japanese newspaper Chunichi Shimbun reported Toyota has quietly upped its game to surpass them.  (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…)

By on June 8, 2017

Honda Targeting Introduction of Level 4 Automated Driving, Image: Honda

Honda Motor Company finally expressed an interest in developing autonomous cars on Thursday, while also stating its intention to bring two new electric vehicles to market by 2018.

The Japanese automaker has been cautious in making tech-related promises, especially those that relate to self-driving models, even as many of its rivals wear their autonomous development efforts like a badge of honor.

We knew Honda was working on the technology, but any semblance of a goal-oriented timeline was absent prior to this week. As part of its “Vision 2030” strategy, the car manufacturer claims it will coordinate R&D, procurement, and manufacturing to minimize development costs as it branches out into the realm of self-driving and electric vehicles.  (Read More…)

By on May 8, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Atlas, Image: Volkswagen

Three years ago, Volkswagen Group teased attendees at the Vienna Motor Symposium with juicy details of a transmission designed to take fuel efficiency to new heights among the automaker’s higher-torque models. A 10-speed dual-clutch transmission was in the works, it announced, promising mondo improvements in efficiency.

Between then and now, VW changed its mind. As it pursues a strategy of electric vehicles, wide-ranging productivity gains and, ironically, utility vehicles that could make use of it, the 10-speed has vanished from VW’s development portfolio.

The sole example of the multi-cog DCT? Destroyed, according to VW’s powertrain chief. (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 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 30, 2017

Ford badge emblem logo

Ford Motor Co. seems to be making plans to announce the production of a new engine in Windsor, Ontario — or at least that’s the buzz from insider sources.

We already knew the venerable V10 the company manufactures for use in its trucks and cutaway incarnations of the Econoline would be ending production sometime within the next four years.

That successor is now believed to possess fewer cylinders, a larger displacement, and be named “the 7X platform.”

(Read More…)

By on February 28, 2017

Honda ASIMO

Honda wants to up its software game and encourage creative uses for ones and zeros at its new research and development center. With ASIMO — the company’s adorable robot mascot — almost old enough to smoke, Honda hasn’t developed a super-high-profile gizmo in nearly 17 years.

Recently, the company took a distinctive back-to-basics approach to address slipping quality, though CEO Takahiro Hachigo confessed that rekindling the R&D “spirit” would be the other half of building a better Honda Motor Co.

With those goals in mind, Tokyo’s Honda Innovation Lab opened its doors to the press on Tuesday as the company announced it will be forming a specific unit to focus on the development of software-laden technology for its next generation of vehicles. (Read More…)

By on November 4, 2016

chevy in the hole postcard

The former General Motors site along the Flint River was officially known as Chevrolet Flint Manufacturing, but many of the folks who worked there and Flint locals called it “Chevy in the Hole” — likely a reference to its location in the river valley. It was once GM’s most profitable operation, producing millions of Chevys, engines, AC spark plugs and other components that went into those Chevrolets and other GM vehicles. It’s also where the United Auto Workers made history with its massive sit-down strike in 1936-37.

Starting with an engine plant in 1913, GM grew and so did the complex, adding an assembly plant and then a Fisher Body factory in the early years. Eventually the complex’s scores of buildings took up 130 acres. As the American auto industry started its decline in the 1980s, though, and over the next two decades, the massive complex was shut down and taken apart in piecemeal fashion, just as it had been assembled. (Read More…)

By on August 31, 2016

20130806_13

TTAC commentator Arthur Dailey writes:

We all understand that developing a new vehicle requires hundreds of millions of dollars and a number of years. However between the early ’50s and late ’70s, the Detroit Three unveiled multiple “new” vehicles on an annual basis. I remember eagerly watching the first episode of Bonanza, each September through most of the ’60s because that’s when Chevrolet would unveil its new cars to the public.

The split-window Corvette, the Corvair Monza, the Caprice and the Camaro, all seen for the first time on Sunday nights.

(Read More…)

By on July 22, 2016

Isuzu D-Max

Update: Automotive News is reporting General Motors is now focusing “on the higher end of the market while the Japanese firm sticks to selling vehicles for everyday commercial purposes,” strongly hinting that GM is the one that broke off the collaboration. We’ve added detail below.

After announcing a new bromance with Mazda just over a week ago, Isuzu is calling it quits with its old beau General Motors.

(Or maybe GM caught Isuzu cheating behind its back. Who knows? The relationship dynamics at play between automakers are difficult to flesh out.)

Regardless, midsize trucks — badged as both Isuzus and Chevrolets — will be no more in the Land of Smiles. The duo, which has a truck plant each in Thailand, will decouple their R&D efforts as they move toward engineering new global midsize pickups.

(Read More…)

By on October 9, 2015

2013-volkswagen-lineup

There has been a lot of coverage recently devoted to that scandal where Volkswagen revealed that its vehicles have been polluting like a chemical company that dumps out its waste in poor neighborhoods late at night.

But this scandal seems to have taken our eye off the Volkswagen ball. I say this because the whole “cheating on diesel” thing is not Volkswagen’s only issue. It is merely one of a myriad of problems that has launched the brand into the mediocre, also-ran position where they find themselves in America today. And right now, I’m here to remind you of the largest of these problems: that they spend their money on absolutely the wrong things.

(Read More…)

By on July 22, 2015

IMG_0437

The facility was mostly deserted by the time I got there deliberately late to avoid politicians’ speechifying. Between the very realistic — but empty — roadways with functional traffic lights, railway crossings, and even parking meters, on one hand, and the two city blocks of obviously faux buildings, theatrical scrims really, on the other, I felt that at any second, things might switch to black and white and Rod Serling would step out from behind one of the backdrops.

I wasn’t in the Twilight Zone, though. I was on a gentle hillside on the north side of Ann Arbor. (Read More…)

By on November 7, 2014

Tesla Model S at Tesla HQ

Tesla’s Q3 2014 earnings report had a few pluses (record deliveries of the Model S, high demand for the D trim sedans) and minuses (the third delay of the Model X, removal of brown and green from the Model S palette). The biggest minus, however, was its bottom line: A net loss of $75 million in GAAP income.

(Read More…)

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