Category: Technology

By on July 24, 2019

As automakers connect more vehicles to the internet and install app-based shops into the dashboard, we’ve become increasingly worried with in-car marketing annoyances and the prospect of companies hiding content behind paywalls. Our concerns turned out to be valid.

BMW has decided that it will charge customers an annual subscription fee if they want to utilize CarPlay in its latest models. Odd, considering most other automakers have been trying to get the platform inside their cars as standard equipment. However we’re betting that changes unless BMW gets a healthy does of criticism.  Read More >

By on July 23, 2019

When an automaker discusses mobility, they’re not really talking about anything specific. The term has been established within the industry as a catch-all phrase for electrification, app-based services, autonomous programs, data acquisition, robotics, and whatever other ideas that don’t fit neatly within a company’s core product line. Providing the best example of the term’s nebulous nature this week was Toyota, which showcased a glut of mobility projects for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games — as well as toying with the idea of handing over vehicle data to the Japanese government.

Let’s start with the concerning aspects before we get into the goofy stuff.  Read More >

By on July 16, 2019

When Elon Musk announced Tesla was developing a new Roadster, he promised us the moon. When released, the car is supposed to yield a 0-to-60 time of just 1.9 seconds and possess an all-electric range over 620 miles, thanks to its sizable, 200-kWh battery pack. As if that wasn’t ambitious enough, he spent last week outlining an optional SpaceX package that includes “cold-air thrusters” that might allow the vehicle to fly.

Then he said he was serious.

As you know, flying cars are bullshit. The closest we’ve come after decades of work are road-going airplanes. But Musk asserted over Twitter that some variants of the Roaster would fly or, at the very least, be able to hover. This has to be a joke, right?  Read More >

By on July 15, 2019

Amazon is striving to put Alexa, the home assistant/listening device, into more automobiles in the coming years. As a result, the company is working feverishly to enhance her vehicular-related capabilities — including wriggling her way into the embedded software systems of new cars.

On the surface, it sounds great. Networking your car with your smart home device opens up a bevy of new conveniences and Alexa should also help your car get better at understanding everyday voice commands. In the future, you’ll be able to order groceries, check the stock market, call the office, and adjust the thermostat of your house and car without ever having to take your hands off the steering wheel. But this also opens up a bevy of concerns, now that we know Amazon’s employees listen to and record pretty much everything you say to the device — sometimes doing the same for background conversations that were never intended for Alexa’s ears.  Read More >

By on July 12, 2019

Car2go

After suspending manual background checks to encourage fresh users in April, Daimler subsidiary Car2Go found itself with a problem in Chicago — its new customers were stealing cars by the gross.

On the April 15th, the ride-sharing service notice an uptick in usage that was well above the norm. However, as the day progressed, the company found that a lot of its higher-end vehicles weren’t coming back. Instead, they were convening on Chicago’s West Side. Two days later, the Chicago Police Department announced that it had been notified by Car2Go that some of the company’s vehicles may have been rented by deceptive or fraudulent means and was officially on the prowl for justice.  Read More >

By on June 28, 2019

It’s Elon Musk’s birthday today, so we’ve decided to wish him well and say congratulations on Tesla Motors convincing the U.S. Commerce Department to waive the 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum so it can build more battery cells at the company’s Nevada Gigafactory. However, what would birthday well-wishing be without the all-important pinch to grow an inch?

Another Model 3 has been hacked, this time without the manufacturer’s blessing. We’re equating it to a mild goosing. Regulus Cyber, a company specializing in digital security, decided to give the Tesla (and a Model S) a shakedown by seeing if they could fool the car’s navigational equipment and upset/confuse Autopilot to the point of failure.

Let’s see how they did.  Read More >

By on June 26, 2019

A survey released by Consumer Reports this week indicated that a majority of motorists (57 percent) believed that the advanced driving aids their vehicles had actively helped them avoid a crash. The survey, which incorporated data on roughly 72,000 vehicles from the 2015-19 model years, asked drivers to weigh in on a multitude of safety systems — including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot alerts, and more. While not all of these features had majority support, tabulating them as a whole showed at least half of the people using advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) saw some value in them.

Our opinions on these systems have been thoroughly mixed. While we’ve found most advanced driving aids to be inconsistent in their operation, sometimes befuddled by fog or a vehicle encrusted with roadway grime, we’ll happily admit that adaptive cruise control offers more utility than the standard on/off inclusions of yesteryear. But we’ve also seen disheartening reports that semi-autonomous features dull a good driver’s senses to a point that effectively makes them a worse motorist and would be lying if we said we trusted any of these systems implicitly.  Read More >

By on June 26, 2019

Next year, BMW plans to equip all plug-in hybrid models with a standard function that automatically switches the automobile into electric mode whenever it enters an area designated for emissions-free driving. While the change is universal, the feature won’t get much action in the United States where government-mandated electrification is less pervasive than a Europe or China.

Still, that’s a sizable chunk of the brand’s global market. Hoping to appeal to it, Bavarian Motor Works went on an electric kick for Tuesday, announcing the electrically powered Motorrad Vision DC Roadster motorbike, Vision M Next Concept, testbed “Power BEV” drive units, upgrades to the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, and a bunch of other tech hand picked for the unsettlingly trendy #NEXTGen event.

However, the “eDrive Zone” PHEV geofencing system was one of the few items that has been scheduled for production. Unfortunately, it’s going to incorporate some gamification into the driving experience — making us suspicious of BMW’s ultimate goal.   Read More >

By on June 20, 2019

Since 2005, 37 deaths by carbon monoxide poisoning have been attributed to vehicles with keyless ignitions that were inadvertently left running. Automatic engine shutoff is not currently mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, so manufacturer’s application of the technology is sporadic. But the PARK IT Act wants to change that.  Read More >

By on June 18, 2019

Two decades ago, the Federal Communications Commission decided to allocate a portion of the radio frequency spectrum for Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC). The plan was to utilize that slice of the airwaves for ultra-modern automotive technologies relating to vehicle-to-vehicle and/or vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a whole lot of activity on those channels.

The automotive industry was concerned it might need dedicated frequencies for use in autonomous-vehicle applications or some, yet unknown, technological advancement. But cable companies are annoyed that it’s being “wasted” and have started to antsy. They’ve asked the FCC to revoke carmakers’ exclusive rights to the frequencies and reallocate the majority of the 5.9-GHz band to the Wi-Fi systems that currently carry internet traffic for cable customers.

Hoping to encourage the commission to see things its way, Ford took FCC Chairman Ajit Pai out for a ride in an extra-special F-150 to plead its case. However, I feel like I can already predict whose side he’s going to take on this issue… and it isn’t going to be the automakers’.  Read More >

By on May 31, 2019

With China having become the world’s largest automotive market by individual sales, it’s worth keeping tabs on it for burgeoning driving trends. While that’s predominantly revolved around electric vehicles, the People’s Republic also has pretty strict driving rules backed by some of the tightest monitoring of a civilian population imaginable. China is setting up a vast surveillance system that tracks every single one of its 1.4 billion citizens and is adapting it for use in its new “social credit system,” which sounds like the most Orwellian thing in existence.

The system is intended to publicly shame criminals, debtors, jaywalkers, and those with “controversial” political views while monitoring their every move but it’s also doing a fine job of making life harder for drivers.  Read More >

By on May 30, 2019

With automakers perpetually promoting daft new technologies as a way to appease investors, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a new idea that made us take pause and wonder why nobody else had come up with it first. Fortunately, Jaguar Land Rover has done us a solid, with research help from Glasgow University, and delivered a “sensory steering wheel” aimed at giving drivers silent feedback through temperature variances.

The applications of the device are yet to be settled upon but JLR has suggested that the wheel could be used to notify the driver of less-pressing issues that don’t warrant an audible announcement or even offer silent turn-by-turn navigation.  Read More >

By on March 20, 2019

Volvo has burdened itself with the unrealistic duty of ending fatalities in its cars. While an admirable goal, eliminating roadway mishaps in their entirety is an exceptionally tall order. We’ve often wondered how the company intends to progress toward its zero-death target. The automaker has already said it intends to reduce speeding by limiting the top speed of all models to 112 mph.

On Wednesday, the company said it will introduce an orange “Care Key” that allows owners to apply whatever maximum velocity they desire (below 112 mph) and an in-car camera system designed to keep you from misbehaving behind the wheel. Volvo’s commitment to safety seems to exist without boundaries, but it leaves us wondering how far is too far.  Read More >

By on February 15, 2019

Forty countries, led by Japan and the European Union, have agreed to require passenger cars and light commercial vehicles to come equipped with automated braking systems starting as soon as 2020.

According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the new regulation will become compulsory for all countries that adopt it during an upcoming June session. However, the measure will only apply to vehicles operating at “low speeds,” which the U.N. claims is anything under 42 mph. Read More >

By on January 30, 2019

Argo AI, the Pittsburgh-based firm Ford pumped $1 billion into and handed responsibility for educating its self-driving vehicles, just received a go-ahead for testing in the State of California. The company gained a testing permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday, making its autonomous trials perfectly legal on public roads.

Ford’s current trajectory has its autonomous vehicles entering the commercial market by 2021. That’s two years after General Motors promised to do the same. However, recent events cast doubt over whether GM will be able to meet its self-imposed deadlines (some of which dictate future investments from its partners) and start mass production of computer-controlled cars by the end of this year. It’s not just GM that’s having trouble, either. A critical look into autonomous development shows many companies are struggling with advancing the technology to a point that would make it commercially viable.

The Blue Oval might be better positioned in the autonomous race than initially presumed.

Read More >

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