Category: Technology

By on June 5, 2020

When the United States began passing legislation allowing automakers to begin testing self-driving vehicles on public roads, it was framed almost entirely as a safety issue. Proponents claimed that the only way to eliminate roadway fatalities was to take the human brain out of the equation and let cars drive themselves. Having enacted a similar no-thinking policy themselves, legislators agreed — pleased to have ensured a death-free future on little more than empty corporate promises.

At the time, we were still complaining about the unreliable nature of advanced driving aids, and how such systems seem custom-made to dull your reflexes behind the wheel. There was a sense that, if everything went perfectly, maybe autonomous vehicles (AVs) could reduce accidents by previously unheard of levels. That feeling didn’t last particularly long here at TTAC and, by 2018, we started noticing we weren’t alone.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) grew increasingly critical of AVs starting a couple of years ago. On Thursday, it released a report claiming the idea of a no-crash future spurred by automation is a fantasy. Instead, the IIHS says cutting-edge technology will likely struggle to stop just a third of all accidents.  Read More >

By on May 13, 2020

vwConnectivity is one of those special buzzwords used across most industries, whether it be for a virtual meeting app, a washing machine, or a car. All companies seem to think we need more of it. Today we want to know — are you a fan of cars that come equipped with over-the-air update connectivity?

Read More >

By on January 28, 2020

Policing a population is expensive. Law enforcement departments around the globe have long sought a way to tamp down costs or, more often, find better forms of supplemental revenue. Unfortunately, sending the SWAT team on a raid or hiring additional officers to patrol the highway for speeders costs money. But the price of surveillance technology continues to go down, encouraging agencies to tap into their rather robust capabilities — potentially at our expense.

China, the world leader in mass government surveillance, already has the ability to use its vast network of cameras to take over all manner of on-the-street policing. Electronic eyes are everywhere, often networked to facial recognition or plate identification technologies that enable authorities to mail you a ticket for speeding, jaywalking, or whatever else the patrolman failed to see you do in person. While some of the penalties stop at being publicly shamed via a national database or having your social credit score dropped (potentially barring you from some goods and services), these systems have also increased the number of finable offenses that make departments money.

While similar systems have been available in the United States, it seems the country’s penchant for liberty has drastically slowed their implementation. Yet it’s still happening, and there’s reason to suggest items like license plate readers and facial recognition software will soon become standard equipment for many (if not most) North American police departments.  Read More >

By on December 18, 2019

Vehicular privacy is one of those things we never thought we’d have to gripe about but, as automotive connectivity becomes the norm, it’s become one of the most nagging issues in the industry.

Taking a cue from tech giants like Google, Facebook, and pretty much every other website you’ve ever connected to, automakers have begun leveraging customer data on a massive scale. Always-on internet connections exacerbated this problem (feature?), but it’s extremely difficult to tell exactly what kind of information is being shot up into the cloud before ending up at a manufacturer’s data center.

While we’ve seen cars hacked for the purpose of assessing how they’d stand up to malicious entities bent on wreaking havoc, few have attempted to decode the surplus of information emitted by your vehicle. We know this because people would probably be pretty upset to learn of the pathetic level of anonymity currently afforded to them. Despite spending tens of thousands of dollars on a new vehicle, privacy is rarely considered standard equipment.  Read More >

By on December 2, 2019

Australia put up the first phone-detecting cameras in New South Wales over the weekend. The move is part of a broader plan to reduce roadway fatalities by 30 percent by 2021 — especially as new technologies continue to exacerbate the issue of distracted driving. “It’s a system to change the culture,” NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy told Australian media las week.

There’s nothing incredibly new about the cameras themselves. But they’re networked to an artificial intelligence that determines whether or not someone behind the wheel is using their phone. Suspect images are then forwarded to authorized personnel to be verified as truly criminal.  Read More >

By on November 12, 2019

Toyota and Japanese weather information provider Weathernews Inc. have been running tests aimed at improving the accuracy of rain forecasts by using driving data from connected cars — or, more specifically, their windshield wipers. Based on the assumption that wiper operations correspond with the presence of precipitation, matching the severity to speed settings, the pair feel they can leverage customer information to close info gaps created by low-altitude rain clouds that are difficult to track.

With an official announcement issued earlier this month, both companies are framing this as an effective way to bolster roadway safety and offer new services to its customers. But it also raises the usual round of privacy concerns re: connected vehicles, while potentially offering some interesting and useful features — like localized flood warnings and other traffic advisories.  Read More >

By on February 4, 2019

Volkswagen has agreed to spend $2 billion improving the United States’ adolescent charging infrastructure over the next 10 years as part its diesel-related agreement with federal regulators. As part of that arrangement, the automaker established Electrify America as the subsidiary responsible for most of the leg work.

While it invests heavily in the nation’s EV charging network and drops a few million here and there to raise ecological awareness and encourage the adoption of zero-emission vehicles, it also has to be careful to remain brand neutral.

None of Electrify America’s programs can be seen as catering to VW, resulted in some interesting bedfellows. Case in point, Electrify America just announced plans to install Tesla Inc battery storage packs at more than 100 charging stations across the U.S.  Read More >

By on January 23, 2019


Do you ever get the sense that much of today’s automotive technology whittles away the more natural aspects of driving? We’ve endured numb electronic steering, advanced driving aids, absent volume knobs, overly complex infotainment systems, and faux engine sounds for a few years now. To be honest, it’s been a mixed bag.

Sometimes these things work toward a greater whole, but they can also be persistent annoyances that detract from everything that makes driving enjoyable. Maybe it’s because I enjoy the act of traveling so much that I’m less eager to see tech muddy its purity. It’s not that I don’t find the new stuff interesting — quite the contrary. Rather, it’s just that I think automotive tech gets in the way more often than it should. But I’m also the kind of moron you’ll see riding a motorcycle through light snow because I “appreciate the experience.”

So it should come as no surprise that, after learning of its existence, I believe Toyota’s virtual sunroof is a bridge too far. Read More >

By on December 20, 2018

Despite representing one of the great automotive rivalries, Daimler and BMW aren’t immune from the need to seek out cost savings in a rapidly evolving landscape. The two automakers have already teamed up on matters like components purchasing, and last year combined their respective car-sharing ventures.

However, sources close to the companies claim Daimler and Bimmer want to take it further, potentially sharing vehicle platforms and electric vehicle batteries. Read More >

By on December 13, 2018

Waymo began testing its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans in the Phoenix-area city of Chandler, Arizona two years ago, and the local populace hasn’t left them alone since.

A report in the Arizona Republic describes a multitude of incidents where citizens, apparently enraged by the sight of the Waymo vans, decided to threaten and attack their autonomous invaders. Unbeknownst to many of them, the vans were recording their every move. Read More >

By on December 11, 2018

Once upon a time, your transportation options upon touching down at a U.S. airport involved hailing a taxi, renting a car, or taking a shuttle to your hotel. Those options still exist, but business travellers and tourists can now waltz out the door and into a number of app-based ride-hailing services and a growing list, depending on location, of short-term, app-based car rental services that don’t carry any of the usual names seen at the rental line.

Hertz clearly felt that omitting a couple of minutes from the rental counter-to-destination trip might help it stay ahead of those pesky mobility upstarts. Enter the magic of biometrics. Read More >

By on December 7, 2018

The self-driving Chrysler Pacifica vans operated by Alphabet-owned Waymo didn’t know they were under surveillance, but indeed they were. Reporters from the Arizona Republic were on their tail, watching as the autonomous vans — safety driver behind the wheel — tooled around the streets of the Phoenix, Arizona metro area for a period in October. In total, the rolling stakeout covered 170 miles of sun-drenched roadway.

Earlier this week, Waymo announced it had become the first company to offer a commercial ride-hailing service (“Waymo One”) using autonomous vehicles, even though there’s still a live human being behind the wheel. That employee’s job is to monitor the vehicle and take over if needed, as self-driving tech is still in its early days. There’s bugs to be worked out.

What the newspaper’s surveillance showed was that vehicles operating “by the book” — ie, with a strict adherence to the rules of the road and an abundance of caution — sometimes don’t mix well with humans. Go figure. Read More >

By on November 30, 2018

Successfully operating self-driving cars on crowded, complex roadways in sunny, dry locales like Phoenix, Arizona is already enough of a challenge, but researchers in the cold, tempestuous climes of Michigan have revealed what the latest and greatest autonomous technology is really up against.

Rain, sometimes hard rain. But also light rain. Also: cold temperatures, and trees with leaves that fall off in the winter. Given that so few places in the world boast such extreme weather and vegetation anomalies as Michigan, this won’t pose a problem for the widespread proliferation of driverless cars, will it? Read More >

By on November 19, 2018

autonomous hardware

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak may no longer work for the company in any official capacity, but he has stayed on as a tech advisor and sounding board. When the Woz says something it usually isn’t without merit, which is why it was interesting to learn he thinks self-driving vehicles aren’t going to happen.

Previously, Apple was said to have hundreds of employees working on an electrified, autonomous vehicle as part of Project Titan. Despite having the necessary testing permits, the company shifted toward developing software for self-driving applications in 2016. CEO Tim Cook confirmed that was the firm’s new focus in 2017 but analysts and industry insiders have continued to claim the Apple Car is still quietly in development. Maybe someone should tell that to Wozniak because he seems to think the entire idea is bogus.  Read More >

By on November 16, 2018

Jaguar Land Rover has announced it will implement Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory (GLOSA) technology on a trial basis. The system utilizes vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) connectivity, allowing cars to “talk” to traffic lights while informing drivers of the speed they should travel to avoid having to stop.

GLOSA isn’t a new concept. In fact, it’s been kicked around for years as a potential way to minimize congestion and improve urban traffic flow. The theory involves creating a network of traffic signals that perpetually communicate with connected automobiles and encourage the vehicles to self-regulate their speed. The system works with timed signals, though implementing adaptive signals is believed to further improve the system’s overall benefits.  Read More >

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