Tag: Technology

By on December 28, 2016

alternator

Car manufacturers have achieved significant fuel economy gains in recent years, but the improvements largely come down to upgraded drivetrain efficiency. Vehicles still weigh substantially more today than they did in the early 1980s, when the previous decade’s demand for fuel economy improvements forced the issue.

Since then, automobiles have gradually packed on the pounds — negatively offsetting the technology encouraging fuel frugality. Modern safety concerns, improved build quality, sound dampening, and consumer demand for bigness have all helped to keep the typical family transport oinking around a two-ton curb weight.

If companies could effectively slim down those autos, without sacrificing structural rigidity, safety, or consumer comfort, the efficiency gains would become all the more significant. However, with few consumers ready to dive back into noisy, frail hatchbacks, weight savings will likely need to be done on the molecular level. In a new study, the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in Ann Arbor investigated the materials going into 44 separate 2015 model year cars and asked automakers what would they use if they suddenly needed to reduce weight from essential items.  (Read More…)

By on December 21, 2016

2016 Ford Mustang GT

Prepare to kiss a famous displacement goodbye.

Ford’s 5.0-liter “Coyote” V8 has dutifully powered variants of the automaker’s Mustang and F-150 since 2011, instilling the brand’s pony car with the kind of heritage that can only be squeezed from 302 cubic inches.

Well, time (and technology) marches on, and Ford’s lower-shelf V8 is due for a replacement. According to a recent report, the Blue Oval folks aren’t choosing sides when it comes to the best way to squirt gas into the new mill. (Read More…)

By on December 19, 2016

FCA waymo pacifica

Google’s recently rebranded autonomous vehicle project, Waymo, and Fiat Chyrlser Automobiles have been working together on developing self-driving minivans since the summer. Half a year in, the two companies have announced the production of 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids with complete self-driving capabilities.

As you read this, the modified vans are being outfitted with Google-designed sensors and software, almost ready for the road.  (Read More…)

By on December 15, 2016

uber volvo autonomous

Uber proudly released a fleet of eleven driverless Volvos onto the streets of San Francisco Wednesday morning and one or two immediately started running amok. One person tweeted about seeing a self-driving vehicle nearly hitting another car, while another posted a video showing an autonomous tech-equipped XC90 breezing through a red light and active pedestrian cross-walk.

Before the end of the program’s first day, people were clamoring for Uber to explain the incidents and the California Department of Motor Vehicles had sent the ride-hailing company a cease and desist letter for operating without a permit.

(Read More…)

By on December 15, 2016

Carvana dealership

Online used-car dealer Carvana opened its second coin-operated car “vending machine” in Houston, Texas. The four-bay location allows customers either to pick up cars they’ve purchased through the company’s website, or to buy one of the 30 vehicles in stock at the location.

While customers can have their purchase delivered directly, Carvana must think there are enough interested rubes willing to make a pitstop in Houston on their pilgrimage to the world’s biggest ball of twine to make this gargantuan novelty worthwhile. Considering that Las Vegas has remained on the map, there might be something to that way of thinking.  (Read More…)

By on December 15, 2016

Volvo Cars and Uber join forces to develop autonomous driving cars

It’s neither on-message for this site nor terribly interesting to my readers, which is why I rarely mention it, but I have been almost feverishly interested in matters of artificial intelligence, machine consciousness, and advanced language parsing for a very long time.

Thirty-five years ago, I tried to write a very simple sentence parser and response generator for the Atari 800 for my school science fair. The effort failed miserably, in large part because AtariBASIC didn’t really have any usable tools for text handling — and because I was nine years old and had the attention span of a fruit fly.

The night before the science fair, I admitted defeat and decided to do something else: I wrote a quick program that would give pre-programmed responses to certain questions.

The next morning, I demonstrated my program to a couple of nuns. I asked them a couple of leading questions to get them to pick the discussion topic I wanted, then I had them type the questions in. The amazingly intelligent Atari responded in full sentences! Not even the utter pathos of my quickly sketched cardboard sign behind it could keep me from getting an A+. What amuses me, in retrospect, was that the nuns weren’t really all that shocked at the idea that an 8-bit computer could parse language and give reasonable answers. Had I demoed this program to anybody who understood technology, they’d have labeled me a genius or a fraud. But to the nuns, passing the Turing test was about as tough as making an artificial volcano. Blame the movies, I guess.

The problem with every “autonomous” car that has appeared so far is simple: they are all equal to my childhood Atari program. Real autonomous operation is a hugely difficult problem. I’d like to illustrate this for you by listing five rather astounding technical feats that will be easier to accomplish than true vehicular autonomy.

(Read More…)

By on December 13, 2016

State Farm car accident

The United States Department of Transportation has proposed a rule that would require vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology in all new cars.

Vehicle-to-vehicle systems allow cars to communicate information to each other that could be used to update drivers about potential accidents, possibly reducing the number of crashes on U.S. roadways. The basic technology uses short-range radios to send and receive vehicle data on location, speed, direction, and braking status. While extremely useful in the application of autonomous driving technology, a lot of the potential safety applications resulting from V2V has not yet been conceived.  (Read More…)

By on December 10, 2016

Toyota Dynamic Force engine

(Update: Specifications for the 2.5-liter engine have been added.)

Dynamic Force. It sounds like the name of a military offensive from the early 2000s, but it’s also the name of Toyota’s next-generation gasoline powerplants.

The automaker has revealed the first of a slew of new engines that should power 60 percent of its vehicles within five years. Oh, and there’s new transmissions and hybrid components to go with them. (Read More…)

By on December 8, 2016

car theft

Over the past two years, we’ve brought you in-depth coverage of a crop of shadowy gadgets designed to give thieves access to parked vehicles.

Like most tools of the trade, the gadgets are very similar, using the same principle to achieve the same result — unlocking a parked vehicle by sending signals to the car’s own keyless-entry system. For vehicles with a push-button ignition, the same gadgets can sometimes start the vehicle, giving that thief an instant lifestyle upgrade.

Now, a “mystery device” purchased by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has revealed just how vulnerable an average vehicle is to these high-tech slim jims. (Read More…)

By on November 30, 2016

neo

George Hotz has revived his Comma One self-driving technology project — sort of — after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shut down the commercial launch of his product earlier this year. Today, Hotz announced he would release the hardware schematics and code for the project for free to the public, targeting hobbyists and researchers.

The code is already up on the Comma.ai github repository, along with a detailed guide and schematics on how to assemble the hardware. Making the project open source and releasing it for free might get NHTSA off his back, so the only question now is how to monetize it in the future. (Read More…)

By on November 30, 2016

Audi Lunar Quattro (Audi AG)

It’s a one-way flight, obviously.

Audi has announced that its Lunar Quattro has a ticket to ride on a moon-bound spaceflight booked for late next year. Refined, finessed, and now 18 pounds lighter, the automaker’s plucky moon rover is bound for a rendezvous with another extraplanetary car.

That one, however, is a 1970s model. (Read More…)

By on November 29, 2016

breathalyzer DUI (KOMUnews/Flickr)

Thanksgiving is past and the coming month promises plenty of opportunities for socially acceptable, clove-scented boozing. Some beverages placed in hand — egg nog, for example — can easily pack enough liquor to make a sailor’s eyes water, while the drinker remains unaware of the serving size.

No problem, you say. You’ve bought a civilian breathalyzer, or perhaps the bar you’re at provides one. Got it all covered. Once that device delivers the green light, bam — it’s motoring time! Any police impaired driving checkpoint you encounter should pass your sober ass with flying colors, right?

So wrong. The majority of breathalyzers tested in a recent study failed miserably. (Read More…)

By on November 26, 2016

FreeValve engine (Image: Koenigsegg Automotive AB)

A Swedish company with close ties to a hard-to-spell supercar maker has thrown a wrench into the automotive world, unveiling a production-ready piston engine that doesn’t use a camshaft.

Developed by FreeValve AB, which isn’t a Nordic Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band, the new engine technology ditches a camshaft for other modes of valve actuation, gaining power and efficiency in the process. Unlike some other touted internal combustion engine advancements, this technology already has a customer. (Read More…)

By on November 23, 2016

Texting and Driving

First, it came for your car’s infotainment interface. Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is after your phone.

The road safety regulator has proposed a new set of guidelines designed to combat rising distracted driving deaths, and part of it involves making your phone aware of where you’re sitting. Specifically, that seat behind the wheel. (Read More…)

By on November 18, 2016

blind spot driver

Mercedes-Benz CEO Dietmar Exler thinks that the biggest problem autonomous vehicles will have to face is human drivers being dicks to them. We anticipate other unforeseen problems, but Exler’s prediction of automotive bullying seems like a safe bet.

There’s a number of ways to kick sand in a self-driving car’s face.

(Read More…)

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