By on June 9, 2019

Following announcements that Toyota would be working on a shared electric vehicle platform with Subaru, as well as a jointly developed crossover, the brand conducted a press conference on Friday regarding its decision to “popularize BEVs.” While the announcement didn’t deal with the specifics of cutting-edge tech, auxiliary business opportunities, or even a total shift toward battery electric vehicles, it did represent a major commitment from a manufacturer that’s notoriously cautious in its decision making.

Opening the conference, Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi focused largely on the challenges of electrification. Terashi said Toyota’s intent has always been to support “social progress” and curb CO2 emissions while acknowledging that it had only made formal commitments to electrification within the last couple of years. However, he showed that the automaker has been busy within that time, and had several initiatives in the works aimed at repositioning Toyota as a mobility brand, by outlining the company’s extremely complex EV strategy.

Buckle up, because there is a lot to this — including some new cars.  (Read More…)

By on December 3, 2018

Image: 2017 Dodge Journey SE, via FCA

Automotive Twitter really is the worst Twitter, for many reasons. First of all, it’s not very “automotive.” With the exception of our dear friend, Bozi Tatarevic, who is a must-follow for his encyclopedic knowledge and Holmesian sleuthing skills, nearly every other autowriter on Twitter views the platform as an opportunity to share the wonkiest political views possible. When they aren’t doing that, they’re all sipping from the same “I am an expert on financial matters but I also dress like a flood victim” Kool-Aid, chanting the same mantra over and over.

Last week was particularly objectionable, what with the GM decision to mostly abandon passenger cars in favor of light and heavy trucks. “People are buying the wrong cars!” they shout to their literally dozens of followers. “Crossover bad! Car good!” they shriek, neglecting to share with you that nearly all of them are childless and nary a one of them has ever tried to fit a collapsing stroller, a diaper bag, and a breast pump into the trunk of a Miata. One particularly stupid individual compared the nation’s overwhelming preference for crossovers to its preference for superhero movies over art films. Sigh.

It takes roughly three functioning brain cells to understand that crossovers are a better fit for the majority of flyover country than small cars are. Of course, once you understand that the majority of the major digital automotive press in this country is based in New York, then it’s not hard to understand that they can’t see outside of their bubbles. You certainly don’t need something like a Chevy Traverse if you are a childless man with a domestic partner who lives in a third-floor Brooklyn walkup with no available parking. But when you live in suburban Indiana with your three kids, all of whom have multiple after school activities, well, crossovers make a little more sense. And since childless couples in NY don’t buy cars and soccer moms in Indiana do, well, it only makes sense that the General is gonna listen to Jennifer from Carmel.

I, however, tend to think that there is an even more sinister goal behind the switch from cars to crossovers. I think it’s to prepare people for the (possibly never) upcoming switch to self-driving cars. Allow me to elaborate.

(Read More…)

By on October 23, 2018

The rollout of semi-autonomous driver assist systems designed to turn long highway slogs into stress-free, breezy jaunts isn’t in any way perfected, but OEMs and suppliers are working on it. Depending on who builds what, lane-holding can be dodgy, automatic braking can be capricious, forward-facing cameras and radar can misidentify or ignore objects, and drivers can easily be put on too long a leash, encouraging misuse.

It’s the latter issue that automotive supplier ZF wants to solve with its new interior camera system. (Read More…)

By on October 16, 2018

Tesla CEO Elon Musk says a new chip aimed at improving its vehicles’ Autopilot features will be available in about six months.

However, if you’re hoping the automaker is preparing to light some candles and knock its vehicles up with legitimate self-driving technology, you’ll need to keep on wishing. During a string of tweets on Tuesday, Musk explained that the new chip would be a $5,000 extra for customers who did not purchase their cars with the “Full Self-Driving” package — an automotive claim that’s about as valid as Donald Trump’s hair or Elizabeth Warren’s status as a Native American.  (Read More…)

By on June 12, 2018

After showcasing its first concept vehicle at CES 2018, electric car startup Byton has come back with another for CES Asia. On Monday, the company also announced it had recently raised more than half a billion dollars in capital.

Byton looks to be on the right path, but the trail it’s marching down has already been taken by other EV startups and resulted in failure. For example, Faraday Future drove itself into a brick wall after failing to deliver on its promises for two years straight. It suffered development delays on its prototype, engaged in some sketchy deals, and practically collapsed when its main Chinese backer ran out of money. That isn’t to presume Byton is the same kind of company, but it’s offering the same type of car under vaguely similar circumstances.

Loaded with tech, Byton’s autonomous, all-electric K-Byte sedan and its SUV sibling (the M-Byte) are right in line with every manufacturers’ future vehicle concepts. They’re perpetually connected to the web, capable of self-driving, and chock full of touchscreens. But they aren’t real cars yet, even though the startup suggests they’ll be available for just $45,000 — and relatively soon. The SUV will apparently go into production in 2019, with the sedan following by 2021. (Read More…)

By on April 22, 2018

autonomous hardware

Thanks to the incredibly lax and voluntary guidelines outlined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automakers have had free rein to develop and test autonomous technology as they see fit. Meanwhile, the majority of states have seemed eager to welcome companies to their neck of the woods with a minimum of hassle. But things are beginning to change after a handful of high-profile accidents are forcing public officials to question whether the current approach to self-driving cars is the correct one.

The House of Representatives has already passed the SELF DRIVE Act. But it’s bipartisan companion piece, the AV START Act, has been hung up in the Senate for months now. The intent of the legislation is to remove potential barriers for autonomous development and fast track the implementation of self-driving technology. But a handful of legislators and consumer advocacy groups have claimed AV START doesn’t place a strong enough emphasis on safety and cyber security. Interesting, considering SELF DRIVE appeared to be less hard on manufacturers and passed with overwhelming support.

Of course, it also passed before the one-two punch of vehicular fatalities in California and Arizona from earlier this year. Now some policymakers are admitting they probably don’t understand the technology as they should and are becoming dubious that automakers can deliver on the multitude of promises being made. But the fact remains that some manner of legal framework needs to be established for autonomous vehicles, because it’s currently a bit of a confused free-for-all.  (Read More…)

By on April 11, 2018

Bob Lutz 2008 Pontiac G8 In Chicago

Longtime auto executive Bob Lutz has always been an incredibly outspoken individual. His years of hard work have given him an insight into the industry that few possess, and he’s only become more willing to share that information as he ages. Like the industrious caterpillar, his ceaseless labor has allowed him to metamorphose into what is arguably his perfect form near the end of his lifecycle — a candid automotive butterfly.

We love hearing anything has to say, as his insight borders on the surreal, but with more than enough truth to come to pass. Last year, he divined a future where the car as we know it is destroyed by governmental regulation and advanced technologies. The dystopian plot seemed impossible upon a cursory glance, but the deeper you drive, the more plausible it begins to seem.

Lutz refocused this week at the SAE International WCX World Congress Experience in Detroit, saying the traditional dealer model will be among the first things to go in the brave new world of mobility. He called car dealerships an “endangered species,” suggesting to the crowd that it had “another 20 to 25 years before it’s all over.”  (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2018

uber volvo

Ever since last week’s  fatal accident, in which an autonomous test vehicle from Uber struck a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, it seems like the whole world has united against the company. While the condemnation is not undeserved, there appears to be an emphasis on casting the blame in a singular direction to ensure nobody else gets caught up in the net of outrage. But it’s important to remember that, while Uber has routinely displayed a lack of interest in pursuing safety as a priority, all autonomous tech firms are being held to the same low standards imposed by both local and federal governments.

Last week, lidar supplier Velodyne said Uber’s failure was most likely on the software end as it defended the effectiveness of its hardware. Since then, Aptiv — the supplier for the Volvo XC90’s radar and camera — claimed Uber disabled the SUV’s standard crash avoidance systems to implement its own. This was followed up by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issuing a suspension on all autonomous testing from Uber on Monday — one week after the incident and Uber’s self-imposed suspension.  (Read More…)

By on March 20, 2018

Uber Volvo Autonomous

Details are trickling in about the fatal incident in Tempe, Arizona, where an autonomous Uber collided with a pedestrian earlier this week. While a true assessment of the situation is ongoing, the city’s police department seems ready to absolve the company of any wrongdoing.

“The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,” explained Tempe police chief Sylvia Moir. “His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.”

This claim leaves us with more questions than answers. Research suggests autonomous driving aids lull people into complacency, dulling the senses and slowing reaction times. But most self-driving hardware, including Uber’s, uses lidar that can functionally see in pitch black conditions. Even if the driver could not see the woman crossing the street (there were streetlights), the vehicle should have picked her out clear as day. (Read More…)

By on March 19, 2018

uber volvo

In the evening hours of March 18th, a pedestrian was fatally struck by a self-driving vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. While we all knew this was an inevitability, many expected the first casualty of progress to be later in the autonomous development timeline. The vehicle in question was owned by Uber Technologies and the company has admitted it was operating autonomously at the time of the incident.

The company has since halted all testing in the Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto, and greater Phoenix areas.

If you’re wondering what happened, so is Uber. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has opened an investigation into the accident and is sending a team to Tempe. Uber says it is cooperating with authorities. (Read More…)

By on March 5, 2018

TRI Platform_3.0 autonomous Lexus

Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration embraced autonomous technology by redefining how it categorized cars. Spurred by automakers and tech companies, the government has opened its eyes to this new technology and seen it as a way to potentially save lives by reducing the number of roadway accidents caused by human error.

Congress has been confronted with numerous pieces of legislation on the matter, too — prospective laws that would allow automakers to put hundreds of thousands of autonomous vehicles on the street, without the need to adhere to existing safety regulations. Many have called the move necessary if the United States hopes to be the first country to produce a truly self-driving car and start saving some lives.

It sounds almost too good to be true, and some claim it actually is. A group of public interest organizations is attempting to sound the bullshit alarm, claiming automakers are misleading government officials in the hopes of developing and profiting from unproven technology.  (Read More…)

By on February 7, 2018

marchionne, Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

The future is going to be absolutely terrible. Everything is going to be so sterile and automated that humans won’t have anything to do between mealtimes but eagerly anticipate their own death.

At least, that’s the picture being painted by experts. We’re probably further out from autonomous cars, world peace, and robotic butlers than society’s “thinkfluencers” want to admit, but be that as it may, the times are changing and some of this is coming down the pipe.

Automakers are all about the “nextification” of the industry; always promising technological marvels at an accelerated rate. However, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne now claims most visions of the future lack an essential element — any semblance of style. (Read More…)

By on January 25, 2018

tesla firetruck crash

With automakers, the Department of Transportation, NHTSA, and Congress all attempting to get self-driving vehicles onto the road as quickly as possible, the autonomous revolution finds itself in a sticky situation. Some motorists are confusing their semi-autonomous technology with an impenetrable safety net. This has resulted in avoidable accidents as drivers assume their high-tech cars can cope with whatever’s thrown at them, and it’s probably going to get worse as more idiots buy them.

We’ve already covered how semi-autonomous features make everyone less-effective behind the wheel and the fatal Tesla Autopilot crash was a story we kept up with for over a year. Investigators ruled that accident was the perfect storm of mishaps, however, there remains a common thread between the two pieces. The driver may have been spared were he not so eager to put his faith into the vehicle’s semi-autonomous system.

On Monday, a Tesla Model S collided with stopped firetruck that was responding to an accident on a freeway in Culver City, California. As you already guessed, the driver told the firefighters that the vehicle was operating in Autopilot mode. While nobody was injured in the crash, it’s another stroke in the ugly portrait of people placing blind trust in a technology they don’t understand. And, boy oh boy, are we just getting started on illustrating this problem.  (Read More…)

By on January 12, 2018

autonomous hardware

Graduate students from the University of Michigan are currently engaged in a twisted role-playing game, where they attempt to cope with the media backlash following various failures of self-driving cars. The exercise is intended to help them understand the pitfalls associated with autonomous tech and how to best respond when it goes terribly awry — something automakers will also have to go through as self-driving vehicles become more prevalent.

Broken into teams of four, 30 groups across the Ann Arbor campus were confronted with a pretend automated tragedy last night. The details were delivered to them in much the same way they would have been to a real manufacturer: through phone calls, emails, social media, and in-person meetings.

They have until tonight to mitigate the fallout from the incident, generating business solutions in a faux 24-hour news cycle.  (Read More…)

By on January 3, 2018

Nissan Brain-to-Vehicle technology redefines future of driving

Certain automotive technologies are getting borderline out of hand. But nothing stops the march toward progress. Keen to show off its developmental might, Nissan plans to unveil something called “brain-to-vehicle” (B2V) technology at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show.

While the system borders on the fantastical, Nissan claims it can interpret signals from a driver’s brain to help a semi-autonomous vehicle understand how to best respond. (Read More…)

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