Category: Technology

By on April 19, 2022

General Motors has filed a patent for a driver-training system that utilizes a vehicle’s onboard sensing equipment to determine how well a novice motorist is handling themselves behind the wheel.

The objective is to offer driver education without the help of a flesh-and-blood instructor being present. Instead, the autonomous vehicle limits the amount of control offered to the student while constantly monitoring their progress. If they score well enough, additional freedom is awarded to the driver and the process begins again — this time with the vehicle looking to evaluate more advanced maneuvers while still keeping tabs on the basics. It’s quite a bit different than the standard practice of having someone sit beside you to take stock of your budding driving skills. But GM thinks it might have future applications and probably wants to lock it in with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) before anybody else does.  Read More >

By on April 19, 2022

Back when everyone still bought into the hype surrounding self-driving cars, automakers were releasing concept vehicles framed as a “lounge on wheels.” The theory was that once autonomous vehicles hit the mainstream, companies would begin dropping futuristic models with swanky interiors because drivers would no longer be responsible for piloting the car for the duration of its journey. However, the public eventually learned that autonomous driving technologies had failed to progress as promised and would likely come with a host of restrictions plenty of drivers wouldn’t be interested in once the wrinkles had been ironed out.

But there are a whole host of markets to be tapped, the public has a relatively short-term memory, and there’s always a chance that some major headway was made during the last few years of development. So we’ve seen a resurgence of mobility talk from the industry, especially as it relates to all-electric vehicles. Case in point is the Audi Urbansphere — an autonomous concept vehicle designed for “Chinese megacities” but allegedly perfect for a metropolitan area near you.  Read More >

By on March 11, 2022

GM Cruise AV roofrack

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had decided there’s no need for modern vehicles to possess steering wheels, pedals, or other human controls — provided they’re intended to be fully autonomous.

Considering self-driving cars have become something of an engineering boondoggle after the automotive industry falsely claimed they’d become commercially available by 2019, it’s easy to assume regulators are putting the cart before the horse. But we need to remember that automakers have wanted this for a long time, are used to getting their way, and have well-paid lobbyists at their disposal. For example, General Motors and its autonomous technology unit Cruise has long been petitioning the NHTSA for permission to manufacture and field self-driving vehicles without human controls. Read More >

By on February 16, 2022

On Tuesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced it had finalized a rule permitting automakers to install adaptive driving beam headlights on modern vehicles. Despite having pioneered automatic headlamps in the 1950s, the United States has been hesitant to implement automatic leveling and directional beams. In fact, imported vehicles equipped with adaptive headlights have been modified to adhere to regional safety laws for decades.

But the implementation of light-emitting diodes, high-intensity discharge lamps, and even upgrades to tungsten-halogen bulbs has made forward illumination substantially brighter. If you’ve been driving a while, you’ve probably noticed increased glare from oncoming vehicles (especially if you’re in an automobile that’s situated closer to the pavement). Directional beams are supposed to help alleviate the problem and have been getting more attention from U.S. safety regulators. However, that’s only part of the reason why the NHTSA suddenly feels better about approving them.  Read More >

By on February 9, 2022

There’s a gaggle of Mazda owners in Seattle, Washington, that have reportedly been stuck listening to National Public Radio (NPR) over the last few weeks. The manufacturer has addressed the problem, saying the local affiliate had broadcast images files with no extension causing an issue on some 2014-2017 Mazda vehicles with older HD radio software. This effectively bricked the infotainment system on some vehicles, locking them into listening to NPR and out of literally everything else.  Read More >

By on January 21, 2022

Intel has announced a $20 billion investment to transform a 1,000-acre plot in New Albany, Ohio, into the latest addition to its U.S. chip-manufacturing hub. Construction is scheduled to commence later this year with operations starting in 2025. But everyone’s wondering if it is going to be enough to rectify the pathetic state in which domestic vehicle production currently finds itself.  Read More >

By on January 4, 2022

Toyota is allegedly on the cusp of launching a comprehensive driving software that incorporates everything from temperature control to autonomous driving. The Arene operating system (OS) will be proprietary to the automaker and assume duties that exceed multimedia management systems like Mercedes’ MBUX. Toyota’s software is supposed to be all-inclusive, much like the operating system found in Tesla products, and set itself up for hands-free motoring.

However, it would be a lie to claim that really matters, since automakers cannot help but promise that any new line of code is another step closer to driverless vehicles and chock full of artificial-intelligence goodness. For example, Volkswagen’s new software stalled the launch of multiple vehicles and resulted in an unresponsive, buttonless interface that has continued causing problems on its latest products. But VW will be the first ones to tell you it’s the only pathway toward widespread electrification, vehicular connectivity, self-driving, and commercial enlightenment.  Read More >

By on December 22, 2021

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a formal investigation into 580,000 Tesla vehicles sold since 2017 that allowed customers to play video games inside the vehicle. The company has allowed users to play a variety of games while vehicles are in park, some of which allowed drivers to use the steering wheels and pedals as part of the controls, for quite some time. But an over-the-air software update permitted a few of them to be launched while the car was in motion by the passenger in the summer of 2021. Called “Passenger Play,” the service was limited to games that only used touchscreen controls.

It’s since been axed, however, regulators have taken an interest following some manufactured outrage. The NHTSA has faulted the feature as part of the ongoing distracted-driving problem in an attempt to link it to its crusade against Autopilot. The agency has launched a preliminary investigation into 580,000 Tesla Model 3, S, X, and Y vehicles to determine if they’re attention-sucking deathtraps.  Read More >

By on December 17, 2021

Over the last few weeks, there has been an influx of news articles linking Apple’s AirTag tracking devices to car theft. Apple released the coin-sized device in April as a way to help people keep tabs on their keys, luggage, any number of other personal possessions. But reports have emerged claiming that thieves are now using them to mark and track vehicles they later want to steal.

The scenario usually begins with a person who has parked their automobile in a public lot when a thief spots a model worth taking. The device is then affixed to the vehicle in an inconspicuous spot and the criminal waits until the owner is fast asleep. However, some version of the story also involves crooks targeting high-end automobiles in the hopes that it resides at a home with similarly high-end goods worth robbing. Since there are similar devices on the market, it’s odd that Apple would be singled out. But the AirTag was updated by the company to reduce the length of time the trackers would need to be away from its owner before it began to alert iPhone users who have been traveling in close proximity to the device as a way to prevent stalking attempts. This resulted in a number of them being found out before cars were stolen.  Read More >

By on December 16, 2021

Volkswagen cannot seem to get away from software issues on its newer vehicles. This problem botched the launch of numerous models, including the Mk8 Golf, and seems to have returned now that every single example of the car is being recalled in Europe.

Drivers have been reporting gauge clusters displaying incorrect data, infotainment systems going offline, keys failing, and advanced driving aids that are perpetually on the fritz. The latter issue has also resulted in Golfs engaging in some erratic behavior, like erroneously triggering their own forward collision-warning sensors. This has left more than a few drivers complaining about cars stopping randomly in traffic as the automatic emergency braking system came alive.  Read More >

By on December 14, 2021

On Tuesday, Toyota Motor Corp. announced a commitment of 8 trillion yen ($70 billion USD) toward the goal of achieving carbon neutrality someday. Though the concept of any multinational manufacturing entity totally nullifying their carbon footprint seems kind of laughable, so we’ll be referencing this as another electrification strategy — which is still a big deal considering how EV averse Toyota has been thus far.

Despite being an environmental trendsetter with the Prius Hybrid, Toyota has been hesitant to formally commit itself to transition its lineup toward being reliant on battery power. However, President Akio Toyoda has just proudly confirmed that the Japanese automaker would be earmarking the funds for exactly that purpose, noting that the brand (along with Lexus) would be spending the money through 2030 to make sure its global sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) reach 3.5 million vehicles annually. Though the most enjoyable aspect of the release was the direct manner it was presented, with Toyoda-san being impressively honest about modern automotive trends.  Read More >

By on December 10, 2021

When people started burning down 5G towers in fear, the practice seemed a little misguided. But if you happen to be the owner of a connected automobile, there’s a chance you’ll be wishing enough of them had been taken down to delay those low-latency spires from becoming the default broadcasting network.

While you were probably aware that 3G cellular networks will be shut down in the U.S. next year so the telecom industry can focus in on 5G, you may not have been hip to the fact that this could totally nullify the connected features inside of your car. Unfortunately, loads of automobiles manufactured the early days of phone pairing and internet integration won’t be able to make the journey into 5G like the new phone or tablet you purchased. Worse yet, there are even some modern vehicles that are about to become a lot less feature rich with companies that have no intention of offering updates.  Read More >

By on December 7, 2021

On Tuesday, Stellantis announced a plan to cultivate €20 billion ($23 billion USD) per year by 2030 via “software-enabled product offerings and subscriptions.” However, the automaker will first need to increase the number of connected vehicles it has sold from 12 million (today) to 34 million by the specified date.

This is something we’ve seen most major manufacturers explore, with some brands firmly committing themselves to monetizing vehicular connectivity through over-the-air (OTA) updates, data mining, and subscription services. Though much of this looks decidedly unappetizing, often representing a clever way for companies to repeatedly charge customers for equipment that’s already been installed.   Read More >

By on December 1, 2021

Starting in 2022, Mercedes-Benz will be launching new services allowing customers to use fingerprint scans to verify purchases from inside their vehicle. While this makes it sound as though the feature will be limited to feeding the meter, fast food, gasoline, and the occasional tech-savvy prostitute, parent company Daimler said it was an important step forward for its MBUX multimedia interface and the general trajectory for luxury vehicles as a whole.  Read More >

By on November 30, 2021

Despite the semiconductor shortage having encouraged the automotive sector to repeatedly idle factories, word on the ground is that things are becoming more stable. Companies are seeing less production downtime overall and workers are reporting more reliable working conditions across the board. However, several automakers have continued to express concerns (e.g. Volvo), alleging that chip shortages could stretch deep into 2022, while the U.S. government ponders how to advance chip production in-country and become less dependent on Asian suppliers.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has been touring Michigan, meeting with union members and industry heads, and plans to urge Congress to move on a $52 billion in funding bill aimed at boosting domestic production. We’ve questioned the efficacy of the CHIPS Act before, primarily in relation to how the subsidies would be allocated. But there are new concerns that the plan will mimic the Biden administration’s EV subsidies by spending heaps of taxpayer money and giving union-backed organizations a larger cut.  Read More >

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