Tag: cars

My Prediction About Autonomous Cars

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You’ve been hearing a lot about autonomous, self-driving cars lately. Here I take a look at where we are, when we’ll get there, and how it will change the world.

Our transportation system is due for a massive disruption and it’s coming in the form of self-driving cars.

Autonomous cars have been in the works for a while now, with semi-autonomous options like collision avoidance, traffic-aware cruise control, and lane keeping becoming more and more common in even mid and low-price cars.

But thanks to companies like MobileEye, Cruise Automation, and Tesla, we are on the cusp of full Level 4 autonomy in the next few years. In fact, Ford, GM, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, and more carmakers are planning to release fully autonomous cars in the years 2021 to 2025.

Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft stand the most to gain by this transition, which, according to technologist Tony Seba, will see the end of individual ownership of cars and become a Transportation as a Service model, where almost all travel is carried out through autonomous, shared vehicles.

And when these companies begin buying up fleets of self-driving cars, the cars they will lean on will be electric vehicles, due to the cheaper cost of electricity and the lower maintenance costs, as shown by the company Tesloop and their Tesla Model X that recently hit 350,000 miles.

Combine that with the lower cost of solar PV panels and Lithium-ion batteries, and we are setting the stage for a disruption of our transportation system like we’ve never seen before.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Aren’t The Dumbest Thing. But…

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Hydrogen fuel cell technology was touted as the energy of the future in the 60’s and 70’s after NASA used fuel cells to power their spacecraft. But with improvements in battery technology and electric cars surging in popularity, did hydrogen miss its opportunity? Or is there still a place for fuel cell technology?

Walmart Agrees To Work With Ford On Self-Driving Grocery Deliveries

Ford is working with Postmates and Walmart on a pilot program for self-driving grocery deliveries, the companies announced on Wednesday.

We are exploring how self-driving vehicles can deliver many everyday goods such as groceries, diapers, pet food and personal care items,” Ford said in a press release.

The grocery delivery pilot experiment will be based in Miami, where Ford’s self-driving car company, Argo, is already testing self-driving vehicles. Ford had been testing self-driving deliveries with Postmates prior to this announcement.

Like most car companies, Ford is racing to develop fully autonomous vehicle technology. But Ford has been more proactive than most of its competitors in exploring the non-technical aspects of a self-driving car service.

Last year, I got to sit in the seat suit of a fake self-driving car Ford was using to test pedestrian reactions to self-driving car technology.

Ford also experimented with delivering pizzas with mock-driverless vehicles in a partnership with Dominos.




Ford’s collaboration with Postmates over the last few months has been focused on figuring out the best way for customers to interact with a delivery vehicle.

Driverless cars won’t have a driver to carry deliveries to the customer’s door, so self-driving vehicles will need some kind of locker that customers can open to remove their merchandise.

Ford has been experimenting with multi-locker delivery vans, allowing its cars to serve multiple customers on a single trip—without worrying about one customer swiping another’s deliveries.

Ford also announced last month that Washington, DC would be the second city where Argo will be preparing to launch a commercial service in 2021 (in addition to Miami).

Ford has worked hard to cultivate relationships with local government officials, with Mayor Muriel Bowser attending last month’s announcement on DC’s waterfront.

Ford is betting that all of these preparations will help the company scale up quickly once its self-driving technology is ready.

That’s important because Ford appears to be significantly behind the market leaders: Waymo (which is aiming to launch a commercial service this year) and GM’s Cruise (aiming to launch in 2019).

But it’s also a risky strategy because if Argo’s technology isn’t ready on time, then all of Ford’s careful planning could turn out to be wasted effort.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Tesla Can Change So Much With Over-The-Air Updates

When Consumer Reports recently found that the braking distance on the Tesla Model 3 was worse than that of a Ford F-150, CEO Elon Musk took the criticism and found a solution.

Days later, Tesla shipped an over-the-air update that, according to CR’s testing, improved the braking distance by 19 feet.

It’s a wild idea: your car automatically downloads some code, and it’s instantly safer. It also wasn’t possible even a few years ago, and some have held it up as an ideal example of how futuristic technologies can make our lives better. Analysts said it was “unheard of.”

Jake Fisher, CR’s director of auto testing (and the person who originally flagged the issue), said he’d “never seen a car that could improve its track performance with an over-the-air update.”

Others, like Navigant Research’s Sam Abuelsamid, looked at the recent Model 3 braking distance issue as a sign of a larger problem with Tesla’s quality control.

He wrote this week that the fact there was that much room for improvement on the braking capabilities of the car shows there’s something “fundamentally broken in what they were doing” with the Model 3.




Shouldn’t Tesla, which by now has made and sold over 300,000 cars around the globe, have caught this problem before CR did?

We don’t yet know why the Model 3’s braking was underperforming, and we may never know. That matters less than what the update actually signaled.

Tesla has shipped OTA updates to its cars for years now that have changed everything from its Autopilot driver assistance system to the layout and look of its touchscreen interfaces.

At one point last year, it even used an update to extend the range of some cars to help customers evacuate the path of Hurricane Irma.

This week was different, though, because it showed just how far the company can go with those updates. With a swift change in the software, the company showed it can reach as deep as the systems that control the brakes.

It creates the feeling that you could get out of your car one night, and by the time you get back in the next morning, the car could do some things — maybe everything — in a totally different way.

Tesla is ahead of other carmakers when it comes OTA updates — just look at the recent mini FCA fiasco.

But being on the frontline of a new technology means that you have to deal with problems that no one else has encountered, and find answers to questions that people are asking for the first time.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Rolls-Royce Reveals Its New Phantom: ‘The Most Silent Car In The World’

Rolls-Royce revealed its new £350,000 Phantom in London tonight – describing it as ‘the most silent motor car in the world’

Whisper it softly, but the quietest and most technically advanced Rolls-Royce Phantom ever was launched in London tonight.

The flagship Rolls-Royce is designed to whisk the world’s wealthiest around in near silence and the lap of luxury – and it comes with its own dashboard art gallery for those who can afford the £350,000 price tag.

The new Phantom even paves the way for a future all-electric Rolls-Royce, ready to comply with Government moves to ban the sale of new ‘conventional’ petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040.




On the basis that silence is golden and the new Phantom limousine is ‘a work of art’, Rolls-Royce say their new Phantom is ‘the most silent motor car in the world’ and the quietest Rolls-Royce ever made –at least for the pampered chauffeur-driven occupant in the back.

The launch was hailed as another big vote of confidence in Britain – with the big Roller exported around the globe and considered the pinnacle of British automotive craftsmanship

The new Phantom even paves the way for a future all-electric Rolls-Royce, ready to comply with Government moves to ban the sale of new ‘conventional’ petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040

Bosses at Rolls-Royce’s parent company BMW – which earlier this week announced they were building an electric Mini in the UK – said the new Phantom demonstrated that they remain ‘fully committed to the future of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars’, based at Goodwood, in West Sussex.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Bugatti One-Ups Itself With Its New Divo Supercar

The Bugatti Veyron and Chiron already both rank in the top ten fastest cars, ever. But in the never-ending arms race for the extreme, Bugatti thinks it can one-up itself.

Today, in front of the super sophisticated audience that the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance tends to attract, company bosses pulled back an electric blue sheet to reveal the Bugatti Divo.

Bugatti has found its automotive niche—building road-going hypercars—and the Divo pushes the definition as far as possible by iterating on the Chiron.

The sheet gradually revealed mat grey bodywork underneath, rippling with sharp angles and gaping inlets. In your rear-view mirror, this thing would look like an angry shark.

The huge inlets mean engineers have been able to improve cooling and increase downforce by 198 pounds over the Chiron, with the help of a 23 percent larger rear wing. The car is also 77 pounds lighter.




Engineers stiffened the chassis, and increased the camber of the wheels for better handling. “It also looks very cool on the car,” says Winkelmann.

Bugatti didn’t reveal a 0 to 60, but top speed is 236 mph, and it says the car can handle the Nardò track in southern Italy a full eight seconds faster than the Chiron.

Propulsion comes from an eight-liter, W16 engine, which makes 1,500 horsepower.

Drivers will only be able to make use of all that on a track, where the car would look perfectly at home, with a blue stripe highlighting the front splitter and sills.

The stripe motif is also carried into the interior, with bright blue accents on the racing seats and steering wheel.

If you have to ask the price, you probably can’t afford it. You’re also too late. Bugatti is only making 40 cars, and they’ve all sold.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Simple Tricks For Better Gas Mileage

No matter what kind of car you drive, you can be getting better fuel economy than what you’re getting now. Did you know you can get better mileage by never filling up your tank?

It’s true, and most of these tips and tricks will extend the range for any car ever made, even if it’s electric. Some of them are effortless, and some require dedication, but they’ll all work.

Ditch the MPG ratings

Numbers can be manipulated any which way you want, but the simple truth is that MPG doesn’t really tell you how much money you’re spending on fuel.

G/100miles, on the other hand, will. How do you figure it out? Just type in your MPG in Google as “XX MPG per 100 miles,” and multiply your answer by whatever you pay for fuel in your area. Bam.

Now you know how much or little the following tips will help you, so you can see if it’s worth it.




Lay off the damn loud pedal

You’ve heard this one before about a million times, and you know what? It’s still true.

Every time I see some moron in a Prius out accelerate me off a light I wish I had the legal right to pull him or her over, pry their eyes open Clockwork Orange-style and force them to watch Jeremy Clarkson getting better fuel economy in a BMW M3 than the Stig in a Prius.

Even the worst fuel-sipping cars made will become gas guzzlers when you floor it. More acceleration requires more energy. Guess where your car gets its energy from.

And the brake

Obviously you’ll have to stop at some point, but if you know you’re turning soon or there’s a sharp bend in the road, coast for a bit.

There are two reasons for this. 1) all your brakes do is convert your forward momentum into heat energy, and even the best energy recovery systems don’t capture 90% of that energy.

2) if you don’t slow down for a turn you have to take it faster, which is not only fun, it means you don’t have to accelerate as much.

Last year, I compared hypermiling in a hybrid to some seriously fun driving. After 100 miles, the difference was one freaking dollar’s worth of fuel.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Google’s Self-Driving Cars Rack Up 3 Million Simulated Miles Every Day

Google uses its giant data centers to simulate 3 million miles of autonomous driving per day, the company has revealed in its monthly autonomous driving status report.

That’s a really long way — like driving more than 500 round trips between NYC and LA — but it actually makes a lot of sense. Americans drove some 2.7 trillion miles in the year 2000 alone and Google needs all the data it can get to teach its cars how to drive safely.

The real advantage comes when Google’s engineers want to tweak the algorithms that control its autonomous cars.




Before it rolls out any code changes to its production cars (22 Lexus SUVs and 33 of its prototype cars, split between fleets in Mountain View and Austin), it “re-drives” its entire driving history of more than 2 million miles to make sure everything works as expected.

Then, once it finally goes live, Google continues to test its code with 10-15,000 miles of autonomous driving each week.

The simulations also allow Google to create new scenarios based on real-world situations — adjusting the speeds of cars at a highway merge to check performance, for example.

Engineers can then design fixes and improvements and check them in the simulator, ensuring that things are as operating as safely as possible before Google’s cars make it out onto real roads.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Jaguar Unveils Its First All-Electric Vehicle, Designed To Take On Tesla Model X

Jaguar revealed its first battery electric vehicle Thursday, and it appears to be a direct competitor to the Tesla Model X sport utility vehicle.

During the reveal Thursday, Jaguar even staged races between the two vehicles.

Like the Tesla Model X and Model S, the I-PACE is powered by two electric motors. Like a Tesla it has a trunk where the engine would otherwise be.

Notably, the car is available now.

As of this moment, it is available to own,” said presenter Jack Whitehall, at the unveiling event held at the Jaguar Land Rover manufacturing facility in Graz, Austria.




The car has a single-speed automatic transmission, common in electric vehicles. Jaguar estimates the I-PACE has 240 miles of range on a single charge. It goes 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds.

Jaguar designed the battery to last 10 years, said Ian Callum, director of design.

The car is also loaded with tech inside, like a navigation system that suggests nearby charging stations, and the ability to learn and adjust settings inside the vehicle to match a driver’s preferences.

The I-PACE also has an Amazon skill that works with its affiliated mobile app.

The I-PACE first debuted as a concept vehicle in 2016. Thousands of customers have already expressed interest in the I-PACE, Jaguar said.

The I-PACE’s battery will be capable of reaching an 80 percent charge in just 40 minutes, Jaguar said, and the vehicle has been tested in temperatures ranging from -40 degrees to 104 degrees.

The official public debut of I-PACE will be at the Geneva Motor Show on Tuesday. Jaguar Land Rover is a unit of India’s Tata Motors.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Charging Your Phone While Moving Around? Be Amazed By This Wireless Gadget Charger!

Scientists at Stanford University in the US have developed a device that can wirelessly charge a moving object at close range.

The technology could one day be used to charge electric cars on the highway, or medical implants and cellphones as you walk nearby.

“In addition to advancing the wireless charging of vehicles and personal devices like cellphones, our new technology may untether robotics in manufacturing, which also are on the move,” said Professor Shanhui Fan.

According to the study, published in the journal Nature, wireless charging would address a major drawback of plug-in electric cars their limited driving range. A charge-as-you-drive system would overcome these limitations.

“We can rethink how to deliver electricity not only to our cars but to smaller devices on or in our bodies. For anything that could benefit from dynamic, wireless charging, this is potentially very important,” Fan said.

The team transmitted electricity wirelessly to a moving LED light bulb but the demonstration only involved a one milliwatt charge, far less than what electric cars require.

The scientists are now working on greatly increasing the amount of electricity that can be transferred, and tweaking the system to extend the transfer distance and improve efficiency.

According to the research, the transfer efficiency can be further enhanced if both coils are tuned to the same magnetic resonance frequency and are positioned at the correct angle, but scientists found that was a complex process.

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Pass it on: New Scientist