Friday, 15 December 2017

Year in Review: The Best Cars of 2017

These beauties aren't cheap, but you don't get to the top of the heap by scrimping.
There's no such thing as the perfect car.
But there is possibly such a thing as the perfect car for a given situation.
That's the premise under which I operate as I evaluate cars each week for Bloomberg. It's like this: No one wants to drive the low, stiff, delicate McLaren 720S for very long on the cobblestone streets of downtown Manhattan, but you need to know it will blow your mind on a highway traveling upstate.
Pulling onto the track in a Volvo station wagon will probably elicit snickers and not a lot of respect (unless you can drive like Lewis Hamilton). If you're driving around the corner to meet a friend for coffee, you'll probably leave the Rolls-Royce Phantom-and the attention it invariably attracts-at home.
The cars on this list were the ones I drove that best fulfilled their intended purpose in 2017. Each excels at its given task, is priced fairly, and looks good doing the job.
Coupe: Mercedes-Benz AMG GTR
Coupe: Mercedes-Benz AMG GTR
As I said in my review, it's rare that I walk away from one of the dozens of cars I drive each year with a sinking feeling, as if I know I'll miss it. I felt that way with the $157,000 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT R. The GT R sits at the top of the Mercedes AMG GT line, with a 4.0-liter V8 bi-turbo engine that gets 577 horsepower and can hit 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds. Those specifications beat the next-fastest GT C by 27hp and 0.1 seconds; they beat the GT S by 62hp and 0.2 seconds. The difference in speed and sound from behind the wheel is palpable; the GT R possesses by far the most character of the bunch. It has more personality and animal instinct behind the wheel, whether crossing corners or racing to 100mph, than most anything else I drove this year.
Inside, it feels roomy but remains intimate: The power-heated AMG performance seats and AMG alcantara-covered, racing-style sport steering wheel are handsome and ergonomic; the round dials on the control system on the center console are beautiful and intuitive to use. Outside, the AMG GT R has a less natural look than something like a Porsche 911, which embodies the handsome German racing design that has withstood the test of decades of fads and trends since it debuted in 1964. You may or may not like the Mercedes: It almost looks enhanced. The AMG GT R has quite a long nose, with a wide, grinning grill and headlights slightly upturned, into a kind of beguiling smirk-the look a person gives you across the bar to make you do a double take. Is there a hint of entitlement behind that grin? Maybe. Is the person giving it to you alluring enough to get away with it? Usually.
Honorable Mention: Porsche 911 GTS
Honestly, it's a toss-up between these two. With understated good looks, track-ready performance, and a starting price of $120,000, the Porsche 911 GTS has an edge, largely because of its more-affordable price point and classic good looks. In fact, it is the obtainable alternative to the ultra-exclusive 911 R and the thinking man's version of the flashy GT3. It comes with a boxer-six engine tuned for 450 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque. What's more, the twin-turbo 911 GTS hits 60 mph in 3.9 seconds in manual (more on that in a second) form, just 0.1 second slower than that hyper-fast GT3. And the top speeds are basically the same: just shy of 200 mph. Of all the 911 range, this is the value-added one you will want to take out-consider it the sweet spot in the 911 lineup you may have overlooked.  
Source: Mercedes
Hatchback: Ferrari GTC4Lusso
Hatchback: Ferrari GTC4Lusso
Don't let anyone tell you the $300,000 Ferrari GTC4Lusso isn't a "real" Ferrari or isn't as aggressive to drive as its counterparts from Lamborghini or McLaren. This V12, 680-horsepower car has power-to-weight and compression ratios that far exceed anything in the grand touring category. Zero to 62 mph is 3.4 seconds; top speed is 208 mph. New this year are about four new traction control systems, which also help things immensely.
The GTC4Lusso manages to be simultaneously balanced and extremely aggressive on the gas; you get smooth, consistent power through all seven double-clutch gears in an acceleration arch as smooth as silk.
What's more, it has a back seat that can actually fit adult-sized legs (as opposed to the back seat in the Aston Martin DB11 and any Porsche 911), with a rear trunk large enough to handle the week's grocery-or skiing run. The cockpit is roomy, intuitive, and extremely well-made, with top-of-the-line leather, metal, and carbon-fiber finishes.
All told, Ferrari's brilliant oddball is the rare instance of a super-luxury car that is practical across a wide variety of scenarios-and a total delight to drive.
Source: Ferrari
Supercar: Lamborghini Aventador S
Supercar: Lamborghini Aventador S
Lamborghini's "S" badging has always meant enhanced performance and technology. This is no more beautifully in evidence than with the $422,000 Lamborghini Aventador S.
In addition to being a four-wheel-drive car, the latest version of the Aventador is also a four-wheel-steering car. This means that on corners the rear wheels can turn themselves and shorten the distance to the front wheels, which effectively creates a shorter wheelbase. That's a good thing: Short wheelbases are more nimble than long wheelbases. Conversely, on a straightaway at high speeds with all four wheels pointed forward, the car is at its longest (188.86 inches), lending greater stability for the carbon-fiber monocoque in a straight line. The result is that you get the benefits of having two cars in one-a shorter Aventador S for cornering and a longer one for straight shots. It's a great feeling.
Under the hood, the 2018 Aventador S's V12 engine is a massive upgrade on the same boundary-breaking, naturally aspirated mid-rear V12s that went on to catapult the Muira, Countach, Diablo, and Murciélago to legendary status. It produces 40 more horsepower, on top of the 2017 Aventador's already hefty 700. It also produces higher torque and higher revs in general than last year's model. What's more, it goes zero to 62 mph in 2.9 seconds (down a fraction of a second from its predecessor and faster than the 3.2-second Huracán). You'll hit 124 mph faster than you can count to 10, and 186 mph in fewer than 25 seconds. Top speed is 217mph. When it comes to raw aggression, those numbers-and the Aventador's sexy edges-are unbeatable.
Honorable Mention: Acura NSX ($156,000)
It's so underrated.  Then drive it and see. 
Photographer: Hannah Elliott
Large Sedan: Rolls-Royce Phantom
Large Sedan: Rolls-Royce Phantom
The largest vehicle Rolls-Royce makes, the $450,000 Phantom comes with a 6.75-liter, 563-brake-horsepower, V12 engine powerful enough to run a tank. It can hit 60 mph in just over five seconds-remarkable for a car of its heft.
Most impressive is the car's magic carpet-caliber suspension, library-silent ride, and four-wheel drive, which allows each wheel the autonomy to choose traction and vector over any change in direction. This will be your secret to breaking even the toughest mountain pass, even in such a long sedan: As the Phantom thrusts forward like a bullet train, it will dance across the path like a much smaller car. Its nimble handling will surprise at every turn.
That said, in order to appreciate the Phantom's full glory, start outside by admiring the sheer wall of the grille, from which all the other elements flow. Each steel prong has been hand-polished to mirrored, deco glory; the rectangular headlights are the only ones in the world frosted in Lalique glass. Then fall into the back seat. With a gentle pull, the rear-hinged door closes toward the front of the car. The interior is specifically designed to dazzle, with its inch-thick dyed lambswool carpeting; high-gloss, polished-wood paneling; drinks cabinet with whiskey glasses, decanter, Champagne flutes, and chilled compartment; and a ceiling that glitters with tiny lights.
This is the car that Queen Elizabeth-and myriad Middle Eastern tycoons-buy as their stateside ride. One drive-whether or not you're behind the wheel-will reveal exactly why.
Photographer: Yann Gross for Bloomberg Businessweek
Sedan: BMW 760iM
Sedan: BMW 760iM
The $156,495 BMW M760i has powerful and athletic handling, fresh new colorways, and a massive back seat. In a segment filled with forgettable town cars, BMW's sedan captures attention from all angles, whether you're behind the wheel, in the back seat, or watching from the sidewalk.
It comes with a big V12, 601-hp, twin-turbo engine good enough for zero-to-60 mph in 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph. That engine comes from the same line as those used at sister company Rolls-Royce, and the familial relationship is abundantly clear both inside the car and under the hood: Everything about this car feels like a reward.
The back seat alone has multiple entertainment screens, massaging reclining lounge chairs, 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound system, and interior automatic-dimming mood lights, as if it were a spa. The panoramic sky lounge roof ($900 extra) and multicolored mood lighting add to the effect, as does the $5,750 "Rear Executive Lounge Seating" package that includes a power rear seat and footrest, an executive lounge-style center console in the rear, a removable seven-inch tablet and two large TV screens, and rear lounge armrests and seating that are all heated and cooled. If you're lucky enough to get the back seat, you won't want to leave.
Honorable Mention: BMW M550i ($72,000)
It's the less-expensive choice. And it more than covers the bases for what a luxury sedan should be. 
Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg
Convertible: Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet
Convertible: Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet
At $182,000 (including options such as a $510 interior "light-design package" and fees) the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet is expensive. From the outside, though, it looks basically the same, minus some venting, as the non-Turbo Porsche 911 Cabriolet that costs $80,000 less.
What's more, it looks milder than others in its category, such as the sexy and fast Audi R8 Spyder ($175,100) and the handsome, classic Mercedes-Benz AMG S63 Cabriolet ($176,400). Compared with those two convertibles, which communicate their driving capabilities with ribbed rears, side vents that seem to span the width of the car, and grills that dazzle like Lil Wayne's orthodontia, the 911 Turbo Cab looks humble. But that's part of its charm.
In fact, the 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo Cabriolet is faster to 60 mph than both those cars (3.0 seconds compared with 3.5 and 3.8 for the Audi and the Merc, respectively). It also dominates that high-profile segment in top speed (198 mph), torque (523 pound-feet), and handling (it makes you feel like a car-racing god).
It's also far more fuel-efficient. With its interior space, its worth as a daily driver, and its relative fuel efficiency, you might even call it practical.
Photographer: Porsche
Crossover: Volvo V90 Cross Country
Crossover: Volvo V90 Cross Country
Volvo already has the excellent XC60 and XC90 SUVs, but is betting that it can make a station wagon stylish and aggressive enough to garner a slice of the SUV market.
Enter the $55,300 V90 Cross Country, the heightened version of the $49,950 V90 wagon. Both are new for the year and are bigger and better-equipped than wagons from previous years. If Volvo were to create a Venn diagram of an SUV and a wagon, the V90 Cross Country would occupy the middle: The extra $5,000 required to get the Cross Country edition affords nearly three inches of additional height over the standard V90, several inches worth of additional ground clearance, and lots of handy extras, such as full LED headlights that bend around curves as the car moves forward.
With ample storage and passenger space, all-wheel-drive capable of handling treacherous terrain, and that superior ride height, the V90 Cross Country makes full-size SUVs feel bloated-superfluous for all but the largest families or most devoted weekend warriors. And it feels much more special than the crossovers that litter every strip mall in middle America.
Volvo makes some of the most beautiful interiors in the car industry, regardless of whether you're including "luxury" brands. Its cars have cabins filled with so much light and warm wood that at this point, comparing them to a Swedish sauna is just a cliché. A moonroof that spans the width of the ceiling enhances visibility, as does the extensive camera- and radar-enabled blind-spot identification system in the 9-inch vertical touchscreen in the center of the dashboard.
These are all trappings that are de rigueur for pricier luxury cars. They help make the V90 Cross Country a good value for the money.
Photographer: Hannah Elliott
SUV: Porsche Macan S
SUV: Porsche Macan S
Yes, this is a small sport utility vehicle. But there's a reason it's Porsche's best-selling model: The $55,400 Macan combines practicality and Porsche performance in a package fairly priced for its segment-and it looks more distinguished than its more appliance-like competitors, too.
The base model gets 19 combined miles per gallon on its 340-horsepower, twin-turbo, V6 engine and can hit 60mph in just over five seconds. The seven-speed paddle-shifting transmission, all-wheel-drive, and stability- and sway controls make for a smooth ride, while the Sport drive mode makes it feel sporty to drive, as true German engineering should.
Inside, myriad cupholders, ambient lighting, storage pockets, leather, heating, and entertainment systems make it feel luxurious without it feeling over-stuffed and without spiking the price.
Source: Porsche

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Apple is reportedly leasing proving grounds in Arizona once owned by Chrysler in a bid to test autonomous vehicles.

A source claims that the technology company has made progress in self-driving software. Jalopnik suggests it means Apple is still investing heavily in autonomous vehicles.

Last year, it was revealed that Apple had scrapped plans to build its very own autonomous vehicle. Instead, the company has shifted its focus towards the technology needed to make a fully self-driving car. Recently, Apple chief executive Tim Cook said that Apple was working on autonomous systems and last week, Apple previewed its ongoing work with LiDAR .

The facility in question was once used by Chrysler to test its vehicles and includes a high-speed oval, a range of road surfaces, and areas for wet weather testing. 

Daimler Chrysler sold the proving grounds in 2005 for $312 million to a developer intending on building some 16,500 houses at the location. However, these plans fell through and a deal was recently reached to lease the property to Route 14 Investment Partners LLC. It's yet to be determined if Route 14 has an affiliation with Apple.


Friday, 8 December 2017


The Jeep Wrangler will get a plug-in hybrid electric model in 2020, brand head Mike Manley confirmed this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show in a move he says is "future proofing" the legendary off-roader.

"A full plug-in electric Jeep Wrangler will be available in 2020, furthering our commitment to all those who value the responsible, sustainable enjoyment of the great outdoors and very importantly, future proofing this Wrangler for generations to come," he said after the reveal of the 2018 model.

The plug-in hybrid will join a now-expansive powertrain lineup for new generation of the Wrangler. Jeep will offer a mild hybrid next year with its 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine. Called eTorque, the hybrid adds regeneration, stop-start and electric power assist. This system makes 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. In 2019, the Wrangler will get a 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel engine rated at 260 hp and 442 lb-ft. The tried-and-true Pentastar V6 with 285 hp and 260 lb-ft also continues.

In an exclusive interview with Autoblog in January, Manley previewed the Wrangler's electric plans at the Detroit Auto Show. "The hybridization could actually help Wrangler," he said, noting it could improve torque distribution, a critical element for four-wheel drive vehicles." He added, "Electrification, absolutely. I could see Wrangler being a form of electric."


The 2018 Wrangler goes on sale in January featuring a raft of improvements. It is about 200 pounds lighter thanks to the use of aluminum. There are also new engines, updated styling features and a nicer interior. 

Article by Greg Migliore

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Enough with silver and white already.

About a decade ago, Lamborghini made a stir by painting all of its auto show cars a brilliant metallic white. Audi and Volkswagen would later follow in creating a striking, uniform color scheme for its auto show cars. You actually needed sunglasses at Volkswagen at one point ... I'm not kidding. They actually handed out sunglasses.

Yet, this trend of white cars at auto shows arguably led to a trend of white cars on the road. This, in addition to the public's love affair with bland tones of silver and grey, has led to a terribly bland roadscape. We'll say it right now: we want more colorful cars.

Well, BMW would seem to feel the same way, because judging by its L.A. Auto Show stand, it's doing its damndest to make colors trendy again. There was yellow, orange, bright red, two varieties of electric blue and purple. Purple! It was reminiscent of the 1990s when BMW, and specifically M Division, fully embraced bright, vibrant colors like Estoril Blue, Imola Red, Dakar Yellow, Evergreen (pretty much teal), Kyalami Orange and Technoviolet.

BMW wasn't alone, either. Volkswagen brought out as many colors as it could, with the Alltrack and Tiguan showing off classy shades of green (though the GTI color palette remains far too muted).


And speaking of green: the Dodge Challenger can now be had in a shade called F8 Green. It looks sensational, a throwback to similarly colored cars of the late 1960s (Bullitt anyone?). Then again, Dodge is probably the brand that has embraced color the most over the years.


Elsewhere in the FCA empire, the new Wrangler showcased a unique mustard-and-ketchup pairing of a yellow exterior with red interior trim. Not sure about this combo, but it shows that manufacturers are also trying to brighten up interiors.


Of course, there was still plenty of grayscale. Both Hyundai and Land Rover were nothing but silvers and grays. Maybe they'll get the memo next year. More color!

Article by: James Reswick

Friday, 1 December 2017

Robo-Taxis Revolution Already Underway, Automakers Racing to Create Autonomous Electric Cars. Fully electric cars are expected to make up 12 percent of the global market in 2025, before jumping to 34 percent in 2030 and 90 percent by 2050, analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch forecast last month.

It's November 22, 2028 and Sarah, a young mother, gives her two children a kiss goodbye before buckling them into the driverless car that will bring them to school.

Sarah doesn't have a car and has no plans to buy one. Living in a suburb, she has run the numbers and the result is clear: It's much cheaper to order a car only when she needs one.

The "robo-taxi" has also made her life easier, but only after such vehicles upended the business models which carmakers had relied on for decades.The revolution is already underway, with every major brand racing to create autonomous electric cars and trucks that will always be just a few clicks of a smartphone away.

Fully electric cars are expected to make up 12 percent of the global market in 2025, before jumping to 34 percent in 2030 and 90 percent by 2050, analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch forecast last month.
- Adapt or perish -

The motivations are clear: Smog is becoming a serious menace in cities around the world, with China, in particular, demanding cleaner vehicles for its rapidly growing market.

Traffic jams are also eating up hours of commuters' time, meaning car ownership is already no longer a given for many city dwellers.

And carmakers have nimble new rivals: Apple, Google and Tesla -- which last week unveiled an all-electric semi truck -- see a chance to dominate a market that will soon depend as much on software as on engineering.
Industry chiefs aren't waiting: France's PSA is betting on car-sharing and other "services" with its Free2Move division, which it hopes will let it get back into the huge US market.

In Germany, Daimler is working with Bosch to develop self-driving electric cars that could be on the road by the early 2020s, and has already launched its own car-sharing service, Car2Go, in some two dozen cities worldwide.

Its German rival Volkswagen has created Moia, a "social movement" unit exploring e-shuttles, ride pooling and car hailing.

"Even if in the future not everyone is going to own a car, with Moia we're trying to make sure everyone will be a client of ours one way or another," VW's chief Matthias Mueller said.Robo-taxis could generate 40 percent of auto industry profits by 2030, according to German consulting firm Roland Berger, which expects demand for private vehicles to drop 30 percent in the period.

And industry experts warn that the automakers which fail to adapt to the shift risk might not survive.- Lagging behind Asia -

But that means investing billions in batteries, charging infrastructure and autonomous driving technologies with little prospect of seeing a payoff anytime soon.

VW announced Friday a plan to spend 34 billion euros ($40 billion) over the next five years on hybrid and electric cars and services in a bid to "reinvent" the automobile.

But for now, so-called "zero emission" vehicles remain a tough sell: Renault's Zoe range of electric cars, which is has offered since 2012, made up just 1 percent of its sales last year.

Its chief, Carlos Ghosn, is hoping that figure will reach 5 percent by 2022.
The contest will be costly for all automakers, with PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimating that production costs for the next generation of electric cars will be 20 percent higher than traditional models, while warning of "serious problems" for returns on investment.

"The speed" of the shift toward an electric future "will have to be taken on by all automotive companies," PSA's chief executive Carlos Tavares said at the Frankfurt auto show in September.

Yet Western carmakers and government officials already fear they are lagging behind Asian rivals, with China, in particular, making headway on electric motors and batteries.
hat led the EU Commission to urge the creation of an "Airbus for batteries", with European companies joining forces for large-scale battery production.

"This technology is too important to import it from overseas," the commission's vice president charge of energy, Maros Sefcovic, warned.

article from:

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Testing the Autonomous Cars of 2020 Tomorrow's cars are being developed in the same way as yesterday's: by clocking up thousands of arduous test miles. But as well as engines, brakes and suspension, testing must now also perfect the sensors, software and assistance systems rapidly becoming expected on even modest family cars.

Tomorrow's cars are being developed in the same way as yesterday's: by clocking up thousands of arduous test miles. But as well as engines, brakes and suspension, testing must now also perfect the sensors, software and assistance systems rapidly becoming expected on even modest family cars.
Enter the boffins at PSA. The owners of Peugeot, Citroën, DS and now Vauxhall-Opel too have been working on their route to autonomous driving. It's not about sci-fi futurescapes out of Blade Runner 2049 - it's about putting in the hard yards on the road, planning for the worst, and not assuming that the highways authorities are in any hurry to enter the digital age.
We spent a day experiencing some of PSA's prototypes. But first a quick spin through the Paris suburbs in a current production car, a Citroën C4 Picasso with a pretty familiar set of 2017-spec assistance kit: active cruise control (you set the speed and the distance, or ask it to aim for the legal limit), lane keeping assistance (which can easily be over-ridden if it's foxed by peculiar road markings), active safety braking (spotting pedestrians and other potential hazards, and stopping the car if you don't). So it's mostly about helping the driver to stay out of trouble. Simple, intuitive, unintrusive.
And then we got into a Peugeot 3008 development mule, testing some of the technology that's just a couple of years away from being fitted to PSA production cars.

Tomorrow's tech today

Aside from an extra screen, a couple of stickers and some gaffer-taped wires there's nothing unusual on the inside. Outside, it's a regular 3008 but with a lot more scanners, sensors and cameras; most of the really clever stuff can't be seen.
It has built-in mapping so that it always knows where autonomous driving is allowed (that's mapping which works even if the GPS signal is weak). Because it can anticipate when autonomous mode will have to end, it flashes up a visual signal, and there's a gentle audible tone to tell the driver it's time to take over.
It can park itself. It checks you're awake. It can spot pedestrians and wildlife 100 metres ahead at night. You press the Highway Chauffeur button and it will drive itself, in some circumstances. For instance, it can perform flawless overtakes: the driver indicates, but then the car makes a judgement about the timing and speed of the manoeuvre. (Yes, just like on the latest Mercedes S-Class, already in production, but at five times the price of a 3008.)
It's remarkable how natural all this seems. It's just a normal car that in some circumstances can drive more economically and more safely than a human driver.

Real people on board

Currently 20 prototypes are being run by PSA and its partners. The testing combines lab simulation with expert testers on road and track but also - since March 2017 - regular folk too. More than 1000 non-professional drivers have been out in autonomous prototypes on public roads. As well as finding out what aspects of the new technology need tweaking, and which sensor locations are best for avoiding dirt and damage, the tests are also providing valuable information about how the typical driver interacts with potentially intimidating self-driving features.
Carla Gohin, PSA's head of innovation and research, is keen to stress the positives: 'Some oppose autonomous functions to the pleasure of driving. But in fact, it's an incredible opportunity: choose to drive or be driven; choose to have new on-board experiences; get more time for other activities; enjoy a new living space.'
She also highlights the gradual, incremental nature of the PSA approach, in contrast to the incoming tech companies - Apple, Google etc - who want to bypass the intermediate stages and go straight to full Level 5 autonomy.

When will this reach the showroom?

From 2020, most PSA cars will have the group's new electronic architecture. This involves 20 sensors (12 ultrasonic sensors, six cameras, five radar scanners, one laser scanner), giving the car a 360º picture of its surroundings, and a view of 200 metres ahead; plus embedded HD mapping; vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connective capability; a big bucket of algorithms enabling the car to make the right decisions based on all this information; and an interface enabling unambiguous communication with the driver.

He anticipates that it will be 2020 at the earliest before drivers are allowed to do something else while the car drives itself. Insurance, training and licensing all need updating. 'Who would trust an autonomous vehicle if you thought you'd face the legal and financial repercussions of your car crashing?'
Insurers, Huerre says, expect there to be fewer repairs required in the future, but the average repair to cost more, because of the need to replace expensive sensors.

The Martians have landed

Wind River has announced that it's going big on real-world testing. What's Wind River? It's an Intel-owned company specialising in software for the Internet of Things, and it's been involved in Mars Rovers, as well as working on the software in many military projects, trains, planes and the infotainment systems on millions of cars. They don't use the phrase 'mission critical software' lightly.
Wind River has teamed up with the Transportation Research Center (the largest proving ground in the USA), the Center for Automotive Research at Ohio State University (the second largest university in the US, with a 9000-student College of Engineering) and the local authorities in Central Ohio for a programme of developing and testing connected and autonomous vehicles.
One of the attractions of Ohio is the presence of the Smart Mobility Corridor, which involves a cluster of tech companies focused on a 35-mile stretch of Route 33 between Dublin and East Liberty. It's wired up with high-capacity fibre optic cable, linking researchers to data from sensors along the road, with more on the way. Government and some private industry fleet vehicles are wired up to provide data, too. The corridor could eventually extend much further - from New York to Chicago - as the US moves to position itself for the hotly contested title of world leader in the field.

Old meets new

Wind River's general manager of connected vehicle solutions Marques McCammon understands better than most the crucial importance of putting in the miles. Unusually for a tech player, he's from an old-school car industry background, having been at Chrysler when they launched the SRT division and with Saleen for the creation of the S7.
'When you're working in commercial aircraft, the Mars Rover, trains, robots in assembly plants… those systems really can't afford to fail. We've been in automotive since 2005 in earnest. We've touched more than 100 million vehicles.
'We have to find a meeting place between old and new. We have to find a way of getting 100-plus years of validating automobiles and bringing it into this area of AI, tech, software,' he says.
'Developing and testing new vehicles is an arduous process, in all weathers, all surfaces, over many miles. In Central Ohio we found this confluence of greatness. It's an environment where testing is a lot more practical.'
Wind River and its partners aim to create autonomous and connected 'rolling lab' test vehicles. The bulk of the testing will be away from the public, at the vast Transportation Research Center facility, which includes 4500 acres of road courses and a 7.5-mile high-speed bowl.
The TRC is in the process of creating the industry's largest high-speed intersection, and detailed mock-ups of urban and rural roads. The use of Route 33 brings into play that extra element of reality: it has up to 50,000 vehicle movements a day.

Only thinking for the digital age

Many future-mobility ideas aren't from people with an automotive background, McCammon notes. This can mean they're refreshingly free of baggage, but can also mean they're far from practical.
'If we can bring our experience - being around since the '80s makes us a really mature tech company - together with car guys and academics, I think we can make something that consumers will benefit from. The connected vehicle is the closest thing to a moonshot the automotive industry has seen in five decades. It's moving fast, and there's a lot of money being invested.'

And what about the driving enthusiast? 'Consumers are putting a lot of value on in-car apps, connected capability, autonomous driving ability, over-the-air updates, rather than all the places where automakers have historically invested: steering wheel, gas pedal, brakes.
But not every person who interacts with a vehicle thinks in the same way. Maybe automated functions can make sense on a 911 in traffic, but then you take back control on another part of the journey. There are reasons for excitement as well as caution.'

article by: Colin Overland
article first appeared:

Friday, 24 November 2017

Volvo to Supply Uber with up to 24,000 Self Driving Cars For the first time, Uber would own and operate a fleet.

For the first time, Uber would own and operate a fleet.

STOCKHOLM/SAN FRANCISCO - Uber plans to buy up to 24,000 self-driving cars from Volvo, marking the transition of the U.S. firm from an app used to summon a taxi to the owner and operator of a fleet of cars.

The non-binding framework deal combines Volvo's cars with Uber's self-driving system and builds on their nearly three-year relationship. It comes as Uber's autonomous driving unit has been hit by a lawsuit over trade secrets and the departure of top talent. Automakers, ride-hailing firms and tech startups have been forging loose alliances in an effort to advance self-driving technology and claim a piece of what is expected to be a multi-billion-dollar business.

Geely-owned Volvo said in a statement on Monday it would provide Uber with its flagship XC90 SUVs equipped with autonomous technology as part of a non-exclusive deal from 2019 to 2021. A Volvo spokesman said it covered up to 24,000 cars.
The self-driving system that would be used in the Volvo cars - which have yet to be built - is under development by Uber's Advanced Technologies Group.

Should Uber buy all 24,000 cars, it would be Volvo's largest order by far and the biggest sale in the autonomous vehicle industry, giving Uber, which is losing more than $600 million a quarter, its first commercial fleet of cars.
A new Volvo XC90 typically retails from a starting price of around $50,000.
Uber has been testing prototype Volvo cars for more than a year, with safety drivers in the front seat to intervene if the self-driving system fails, in Tempe, Arizona and Pittsburgh.

"Our goal was from day one to make investments into a vehicle that could be manufactured at scale," Jeff Miller, Uber's head of automotive alliances, said.
The cars, in theory, would be available through the Uber app to pick up passengers without a driver.
"It only becomes a commercial business when you can remove that vehicle operator from the equation," Miller said.

No financial details were disclosed for the purchase, which would be a massive new investment for

Uber and mark a change from Uber's long-standing business model where contractor drivers buy or lease and maintain their own cars.

Miller said a small number of cars would be purchased using equity and others would be bought using debt financing.

The deal builds on a $300 million alliance Volvo announced with Uber last year focused on collaborating on the design and financing of cars with self-driving systems, which require different steering and braking features and sensors.

"We get support developing this car," Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson said in an interview. "It's also a big commercial deal."

Lyft rivalry

No financial details were disclosed for the purchase, which would be a massive new investment for Uber and mark a change from Uber's long-standing business model where contractor drivers buy or lease and maintain their own cars.

Miller said a small number of cars would be purchased using equity and others would be bought using debt financing.

The deal builds on a $300 million alliance Volvo announced with Uber last year focused on collaborating on the design and financing of cars with self-driving systems, which require different steering and braking features and sensors.

"We get support developing this car," Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson said in an interview. "It's also a big commercial deal."

Volvo, which has been under Chinese ownership since it was bought by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group from Ford in 2010, plans to make the SUVs at its Torslanda plant in western Sweden, and Samuelsson said they would be sold at roughly the same profit margin as Volvo sells through dealers.
Uber's rival Lyft has this year struck a research partnership with Alphabet Inc's unit Waymo and secured deals with Ford and startups Nutonomy and to incorporate self-driving cars into its fleet.
Volvo's agreement with Uber and Ford's with Lyft show the pressure on automakers to avoid becoming obsolete in a world of increased automation, and on ride-services companies to start automating to cut driver costs and turn profits.
Volvo is one of Sweden's biggest manufacturers by revenue, and has forecast a fourth straight year of record sales in 2017.

Reporting by Niklas Pollard and Johannes Hellstrom in Stockholm and Heather Somerville in San Francisco
Article from: Reuters