Oddball gearboxes have been around forever. Cord’s 810 had a Wilson preselector back in the 1930s, Chrysler had the the mid-century pushbutton PowerFlite, and Oldsmobile was throwing Hurst Lighting Rods into its H/O cars in the 1980s. However, the overwhelming majority of automatic and manual transmissions have come with a strikingly familiar column or floor-mounted shifter. More recently, automakers have become a little more experimental.
Modern electronics allowed for an influx of paddle shifters, followed by an array of gear selectors that seem to serve aesthetics more than basic function. Knobs, buttons and joysticks are replacing traditional designs, occasionally at the expense of consumer safety. (Read More…)
Perhaps we’ve finally hit a point where the old ways actually are the best. Gizmo-centric problems seem more important than ever to J.D. Power and Associates in this year’s dependability ranking, which examined problems experienced over the last 12 months on three-year-old vehicles and highlighted electronic accessories as a major issue.
So, a car that has a rock-solid drivetrain still might not make the grade due to a wonky multimedia system. A good example of this was J.D. Power’s chosen pickup, the Ford F-150. While the Ford achieved top marks for the quality of its interior, exterior, and electrics, the Toyota Tundra possessed vastly superior powertrain reliability.
It’s a similar story with the minivan segment. While the Toyota Sienna was given the crown, the Chrysler Town & Country actually had fewer reported problems in every area except the powertrain — and even that was still rated above average. It makes you wonder how much of the long-term quality being tested here is influenced by J.D. Power’s initial quality categories, which it splits into separate mechanical and “design” groups. (Read More…)
Lexus’ next-generation LS has already thrown design heritage out the window and kicked its traditional V8 to the curb, so why not add more totally new hardware?
For 2018, the brand’s redesigned flagship sedan will again offer a hybrid variant, but that last version is yesterday’s news. Lexus didn’t need to look far to find a replacement. (Read More…)
Cadillac’s user interface has been one of its consumers’ biggest grievances. Last week, I heard a private chauffeur in an Escalade — a $75,000 car that makes you feel simultaneously wealthy and powerful — refer to the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) as “bullshit.” Even Johan de Nysschen admitted that CUE did not pass muster.
Clearly aware of how supremely loathsome the interface is, the automaker has announced that the next-generation user experience system will debut on the 2017 Cadillac CTS this spring. According to General Motors, the updated user experience will evolve with a customer’s connectivity needs — adjusting itself over time while offering a plethora of personalization, connectivity and apps.
Apparently, it’s not just Uber drivers who enjoy extended naps behind the wheel.
Ford engineers, tapped to put the company’s self-driving technology on the fast track to production, are taking the off-ramp to Slumberville so often that the company has had to get other engineers to devise ways of keeping them awake.
It turns out that riding in the driver’s seat of a self-driving car is as conducive to glassy-eyed lethargy as reading about “mobility solutions.” (Read More…)
We’ll always need humans to manufacture robots for automated manufacturing, or at least that’s been the prevailing wisdom for years.
But what if that wasn’t the case?
Robot arms, such as the Franka Emika pictured above, might change all that, as they now have the ability to clone themselves.
Ford Motor Company intends to invest $1 billion into tech startup Argo AI over the next five years, giving the Blue Oval a majority stake in the company as it continues to reach for the goal of producing a fully autonomous vehicle by 2021.
The Pittsburgh-based Argo will help the Detroit automaker develop a “virtual driver system” for its proposed commercial ride-sharing fleets before moving on to retail vehicles. Ford even went so far as to suggest that the software it develops with Argo could be licensed to other companies.
While still officially an automaker, the Blue Oval really is going all in on its new identity as a mobility company and it isn’t afraid to remind everyone of all of the important work it feels that it is doing. (Read More…)
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles and its autonomous vehicle disengagement report, self-driving cars are in need of less and less human intervention.
Waymo, Google’s autonomous driving project, is leading the pack in this regard. The report shows that the number of times test drivers had to take over in Waymo’s vehicles dropped significantly from .80 disengagements per 1,000 miles in 2015 to .20 disengagements per 1,000 miles.
Everyone loves a good mystery, and in Russia it seems there are many. Read up on the Dyatlov Pass incident if you’re looking for a reason not to go camping.
In the country where a bearded charlatan once inspired a great disco song, something odd has cropped up in recent months. Moscow motorists, when not surviving serious collisions in subpar vehicles without a scratch, have noticed that their GPS device will suddenly re-position its location when driving near the Kremlin.
The closer to the Kremlin, the more likely the device will suddenly find an alternative location to exist. In every instance, the location is the same: Vnukovo Airport, 20 miles from the seat of government. (Read More…)
Ford plans to offer an aftermarket device that will give older models access to new technology like remote start, 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, and smartphone alerts.
According to the automaker, Ford SmartLink will plug in to the OBD-II port of 2010-2016 model year Ford and Lincoln cars, allowing access to remote start, lock, and unlock, Wi-Fi access for up to eight devices, and smartphone alerts for vehicle health, security, and location.
The former director of Tesla’s Autopilot program has choice words for his former employer.
Sterling Anderson is being sued by Tesla for stealing confidential information, which he allegedly put to use at a new autonomous vehicle start-up. According to Bloomberg, the electric automaker isn’t happy about his attempts to hire away Tesla employees, either.
In his response to the suit, Anderson doesn’t have very nice things to say about Tesla. (Read More…)
(Update: Fred Ligouri from Chevrolet Communications confirmed GM is aware and is currently investigating.)
One Bolt owner thinks Skynet may already be here.
Fresh off its North American Car of the Year victory (despite being classified as a crossover) and just days ahead of its official media launch next week, something strange happened in Southern California.
This owner alleges his Bolt turned itself on, selected reverse gear, and backed into the work bench in his garage. The incident happened with the car shut down and in Park, both keys in the house, and the owner nearly 40 miles away on business in the family’s third vehicle. (Read More…)
Apple is facing a legal battle in California for neglecting to implement technology that would prevent iPhone owners from texting behind the wheel.
Filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the class-action suit alleges that Apple has possessed the ability to disable texting since 2008, and was granted a patent on it by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2014. The lawsuit wants the company to stop all iPhone sales until it installs safety-oriented software on all devices — new and old — via an update. (Read More…)
While it wasn’t the only car company to make use of a rotary engine, it was certainly the only one to be competitive with them when pistons and pushrods would easily have sufficed. However, those days are gone. Mazda’s SkyActiv technology is well suited for squeezing out an engine’s true potential, but it doesn’t feel particularly quirky or unique.
That could change with the company’s second generation of SkyActiv engines. Mazda is one of only two automakers planning to introduce a motor with homogenous charge compression ignition (HCCI) sometime next year. If you’re unfamiliar, that’s a direct-injection gasoline-powered motor that uses compression, not spark, to ignite fuel — something typically reserved for diesel powerplants. (Read More…)
The Toyota Motor Corporation is a little skeptical of the imminency of self-driving vehicles. It plans on continuing production of designs where human operators are saddled with the bulk of the driving responsibilities for years to come.
The automaker is openly dubious that tech-focused companies like Waymo and Tesla are sufficiently far enough along to hint at delivering self-driving cars. However, Toyota’s problem with handing the keys to a computer has as much to do with leaving companies open to litigation and criticism as it does with the technology simply not yet being ready.
North America expects millions of traffic accidents every year, but is much less willing to accept computer-controlled chaos at even a fraction of that scale. (Read More…)