Tag: Technology

By on March 17, 2017

macchina_1_d8c_9332_16x9_133dpi

Tuners and researchers have searched for ways to pull data from cars and modify it ever since the introduction of the first on-board computer in the late 1960s. The advent of fuel injection and computer-controlled engines in the 1990s brought computerized tuning front and center. And while the OBD2 standard — made mandatory in 1996 —standardized the interface and made it easier to read diagnostics and log some parameters, modification and advanced logging was still complicated and expensive.

Professional tools and open source hardware popped up in the past decade to allow deeper access into a car’s electronics, but most ready-made products were still expensive. Open source variants also required knowledge of soldering and programming. Now, Macchina has taken the best of both worlds and packaged it into an inexpensive product that should prove useful for researchers as well as tuners. (Read More…)

By on March 9, 2017

hacking

Automakers are hurriedly trying to implement connected vehicle technology and autonomous solutions to entice consumers, though there remains an underlying phobia among the general public that isn’t without a basis in reality. Cyber security is considered essential to the evolution of self-driving cars and plays an equally important role in the vehicles of today that offer enhanced connectivity.

Since modern automobiles rely so heavily on computers, there’s a plethora of elements that hackers could target. However, these hackers don’t necessarily need to operate outside of the law.

Embedded in a WikiLeaks analysis of documents allegedly acquired from the Central Intelligence Agency is an apparent interest in hacking automobiles. The most terrifying takeaway from those files? The claim that the CIA could theoretically use the systems in modern passenger vehicles to conduct “nearly undetectable assassinations.” (Read More…)

By on March 6, 2017

volkswagen sedric

Unable to get excited about the vehicle pictured above? Maybe that’s because this Volkswagen concept embodies everything people who don’t want to read about self-driving cars hate.

See, it has a name — Sedric. Which is apparently a combination of three words — “self,” “driving,” and, you guessed it, “car.” It’s just so appallingly cute. Which, like the existential threat to personal freedom that surrounds the technology, is another thing that turns off gearheads when vehicles resembling shapeless computer mouses or refrigerators crop up.

While VW’s concept, which is more of a pod than a car, is meant to herald the company’s autonomous future and serve as the patriarch of the company’s anticipated self-driving offerings, it’s really just a testbed for VW engineers to tinker with. Designed for Level 5 (or “full”) autonomy, Sedric is just the beginning, VW claims. To many, that might sound like a threat. (Read More…)

By on March 5, 2017

Uber ride, Image: Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures/Flickr

It would be an understatement to suggest that Uber has had a bad couple of weeks. It kicked off with a highly publicized blog posting from former engineer Susan Fowler describing intrinsic sexual harassment at the San Francisco-based ride-hailing service. This was followed by an open letter from two of its investors condemning the company for fostering poor corporate behavior and unhealthy business practices. This, of course, was fast followed by a lawsuit from Google-parent Alphabet’s Waymo that alleged Uber stole some of its driverless car technology.

That was last week. This week saw Uber CEO Travis Kalanick asking his senior vice president of engineering, Amit Singhal, to step down after it came to light that Singhal had neglected to reveal that he was the subject of an ongoing sexual harassment investigation at his previous employer Google. However, Kalanick ended up being the subject of his own controversy just a few days later.  (Read More…)

By on March 3, 2017

Fictional Autonomous Ford in Super Bowl Commercial

They roll in weekly. We watch them. We rub our hands together with schadenfroh glee.

I’m speaking of Tesla Autopilot crash videos.

Like a train wreck, we seem unable to avert our eyes from videos depicting the Silicon Valley darling’s sheetmetal kissing concrete dividers and other animate and inanimate objects. Time and time again, owners of Tesla’s Autopilot-equipped Model S and Model X vehicles throw caution to the wind and let the computer issue orders in situations when it’s imperative there be human intervention.

And it’s not going to change — not tomorrow, not ever — until we alter course. That’s because we’re trying to answer the wrong question when it comes to autonomous mobility.

(Read More…)

By on March 2, 2017

Hyundai-IDEO Health Cockpit Project - Mental State 3

The stresses of everyday commuting and travel can really get to you. All that time wasted while idling in traffic. Stomping your brakes as another driver makes a left on a red light directly in front of you. Or perhaps sitting behind someone in the left lane of the freeway, puttering along at 57 miles per hour. You can finish your journey much more triggered than when you set off.

Hyundai understands the frustration you experience with other drivers, and they’re preparing to offer their own brand of sedative if necessary.

(Read More…)

By on March 2, 2017

tesla

We’ve covered a number of accidents involving Tesla’s nifty but not fully-autonomous Autopilot system already — some unfortunate, one fatal, but mostly just embarrassing.

This video, shot months after Tesla founder Elon Musk hammered home the technology’s limitations as investigations swirled, shows a crash that falls into the latter category. It also perfectly showcases the technological and human failings that have led to Autopilot-related crashes. (Read More…)

By on March 1, 2017

gear selection joystick

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…)

By on February 22, 2017

2016 Ford Mustang GT

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…)

By on February 22, 2017

2018 Lexus LS at NAIAS Front 3/4, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

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…)

By on February 21, 2017

Cadillac CUE update

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.

(Read More…)

By on February 17, 2017

Autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid Fr

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…)

By on February 11, 2017

Franka Emika Robot Arm, Image: Franka

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.

(Read More…)

By on February 10, 2017

ford Argo AI

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…)

By on February 2, 2017

FCA waymo pacifica

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.

(Read More…)

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