Friday, 18 August 2017

Finally, a Car that Understands My Voice Commands. Apple, Google and Amazon are unquestionably technology innovators with very strong brands.


By Kristin Kolodge


Apple, Google and Amazon are unquestionably technology innovators with very strong brands. When they launch a new product, I’ve learned to sit up and take notice. Certainly, not all of their new products have been massively successful (the smart watch is one good example), but even those with marginal success tend to have a ripple effect on other products and industries over time.
Many tech experts agree that voice recognition devices are fast becoming the biggest technology driver across all industries. More has been done to innovate voice recognition in the past three years than the previous 30.
This is especially true in homes, where appliances can be activated, products purchased and information obtained through devices like Google Home or Amazon Echo (and its Alexa voice service). One industry report estimates that 6.5 million of these devices were sold in 2016, and forecasts sales to hit 24.5 million units in 2017. As a result, software developers are racing to support the voice recognition trend. Rumors are that Microsoft and Apple will launch voice recognition-based virtual assistant devices this year.
Having established a foothold in homes, tech developers are looking to bring their voice recognition and virtual personal assistant technologies to the automotive industry. Amazon Echo, currently offered in a handful of vehicles, is expected to be introduced rapidly across more models in the near future. The tech and automotive industries are betting on the belief that consumers always will always want to be connected.
In a recent J.D. Power survey, 28% of consumers said they would be “very interested” or “somewhat interested” in having Amazon Echo or Google Home in their vehicle. Notable, too, is that the majority of respondents are younger (18-34 years old). Potentially, these devices could assist not only with in-vehicle functions (hands-free calling, navigation, climate controls, etc.), but they also could be connected to the home to regulate thermostats, turn lights on and off, activate security systems, open and close garage doors, or lock and unlock doors.
Interest in Having Technologies Like Amazon Echo or Google Home in Your Car 


While this idea of always being connected has merit, I would lend credence to another motivating factor: a high level of dissatisfaction with the current voice recognition systems in vehicles. Consumers have been extremely patient with automakers’ built-in technology. For the last four years, voice recognition has been the top quality problem in J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study. Yet, consumers continue to want this capability. The J.D. Power Tech Experience Index shows that 78% of consumers want voice recognition on their next vehicle.  For those that are choosing to walk away from voice recognition, 50% state that the system was not useful or it was confusing to use. Both of these are attributes that Amazon Echo and Google Home are perceived to have mastered.
So, could devices like Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home bridge this gap?
Of course, for these products voice recognition based virtual assistants to be widely adopted in the automotive space, various issues need to be addressed. For example, consumers who want less connectivity mention the high cost of being connected, the potential for hacking and increased driver distraction.
Loss of privacy is another big concern. Since these devices are always listening, what happens with the information collected? Who gets access to it? How does this affect personal privacy laws?
On the industry side, will automakers need to fit vehicles with hardware/software to accommodate both systems (similar to the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto conundrum)? And what happens when Apple or another company joins the voice recognition fray?
Setting aside the technical and legal challenges, the ultimate arbiter of a product’s success or failure is the consumer. That’s what makes the strategic discussion of increasing connectivity—with the vehicle as a hub—so interesting. After all, no one asked Steven Jobs to create a smartphone, but since consumers became aware of its usefulness, millions of iPhones have been sold.
It’s time to listen up. The same may be true of voice recognition-based virtual assistants.




article from: jdpower.com

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Toyota Will Bring Self-Driving Cars to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics But production versions are still several years away.Following a report that Hyundai will use the 2018 Winter Olympics in its home country of South Korea to show off its autonomous vehicles, it appears Toyota will do the same thing two years later: Japan's largest automaker will demonstrate self-driving cars at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

by Stephen Edelstein
Following a report that Hyundai will use the 2018 Winter Olympics in its home country of South Korea to show off its autonomous vehicles, it appears Toyota will do the same thing two years later: Japan's largest automaker will demonstrate self-driving cars at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. 
That's what Ken Koibuchi, Toyota executive general manager for autonomous driving, told Automotive News during a recent media event for the 2018 Lexus LS. Thanks to their high-profile nature, Toyota reportedly sees the Tokyo Olympics as a potential turning point in public awareness of self-driving cars.
While Hyundai believes the Winter Olympic venue in Pyeongchang, South Korea, will prove challenging to self-driving cars, Toyota's Koibuchi thinks Tokyo could provide the best-case scenario. While most of the city is a tangled web of narrow streets, Toyota plans to conduct autonomous car demonstrations at the Odaiba waterfront, where most of the Olympic venues will be located. A newer development built on reclaimed land, Odaiba features straight, wide streets and light traffic. That should make things easier for Toyota's prototype self-driving cars.
Toyota prefers not to use the term "autonomous," Koibuchi told Automotive News, because it may instill drivers with a false sense of confidence. Instead, the automaker prefers to call its cars "automated." Toyota is also somewhat less aggressive about deploying autonomous-driving tech. It views cars as partners for human drivers, not replacements, and plans to focus on people who can't drive by themselves, such as the elderly and disabled.
Self-driving cars may be ready for brief moment in the spotlight, but Koibuchi does not think they are ready for production just yet. He said Toyota will have to work on commercializing lidar for production cars, and high-quality digital maps will have to be created to guide self-driving cars.
The Japanese government is coordinating a program to map all of the country's roads, but so far only a portion of the highway network has been charted. Koibuchi said the entire highway network may be mapped in time for the Olympics, but that mapping surface streets may be more complicated.






article from: TheDrive.com

Friday, 11 August 2017

The Last Mile: Cars That Will Be Discontinued For 2018 As is the case with professional sports teams, automakers’ rosters tend to be fluid, with new players being added and others put to pasture with regularity. While in recent posts we highlighted the rookie cars and crossover SUVs that will be making their big-league debuts for 2018, here’s a last look at the models that will be out of options by season’s end.

As is the case with professional sports teams, automakers’ rosters tend to be fluid, with new players being added and others put to pasture with regularity. While in recent posts we highlighted the rookie cars and crossover SUVs that will be making their big-league debuts for 2018, here’s a last look at the models that will be out of options by season’s end.
With sport-utility vehicles now the heavy hitters in the auto business, it should come as no surprise that passenger cars account for most of the models on this list, including two short-lived full-electric cars. At opposing ends of the automotive market, the most notable models being reassigned for 2018 include the venomous Dodge Viper sports car and the at once sensible and senseless Smart ForTwo microcar.
Here’s the 15 nameplates you can scratch off your fantasy automakers’ rosters for next year:


Buick Verano, 2012-2017. Though eminently likeable, small car sales are way down, and so Buick is dropping its low-volume Verano sedan after a shortened 2017 model year. A fairly plush entry-level luxury car, at least Buick chose to stay true to its brand identity and avoided the temptation to make the Verano another BMW 3 Series contender. Its spot in the lineup has been usurped by the popular Encore compact crossover SUV.

Chevrolet SS, 2014-2017. The full-size SS sedan was brought here from General Motors Holden subsidiary in Australia, as Chevy’s sportier – and costlier – rear-drive alternative to the sedately cast Impala. The SS was a hoot to drive, but has been on life support the last couple of years as few people outside of a small cadre of loyalists probably even know the car exists. Sales only amounted to around 2,600 units through the end of July, and that’s with a 21% increase over the same period in 2016.

Chrysler 200, 2011-2017. The midsize 200 sedan is being killed off this year with less of a bang and more of a whimper, following the discontinuation of the compact Dodge Dart at the end of 2016. While fairly stylish and a decent performer, it never quite caught on in a crowded segment, and with sedan sales suffering, FCA read the tea leaves and decided to free up production capabilities for its more profitable truck and SUV lines.

Dodge Viper, 1992-2017. The biggest name, though far from being the biggest seller, to hang it up at the end of 2017, the Dodge Viper coupe/roadster helped bolster Chrysler’s fortunes a quarter century ago, when its otherwise dull-as-dishwater lineup consisted mostly of minivans and boxy “K-cars.” The rip-roaring V10-powered Viper was and is big and brutal, and has always been something of an acquired taste, enjoying a loyal following of committed fans. Though nobody ever claimed the car was profitable, it endured two changes of corporate ownership, and will probably be one of the few models on this list that will be truly missed.

Hyundai Azera, 2006-2017. Left behind when Hyundai spun its large Genesis and Equus sedans off to launch its Genesis luxury division this year, the midsize near-luxury Azera is being sidelined in favor of the refreshed-for-2018 Sonata. The Azera is pleasant enough, but is unnecessary at a time when the brand could instead use a larger crossover SUV; it will continue to be sold elsewhere in the world as the Grandeur.

Infiniti QX70, 2003-2017. Originally sold as the Infiniti FX, the midsize QX70 was a bit of a ground-breaking luxury crossover SUV when it debuted for 200,3 with soft and curvy styling that flew in the face of the then-boxy norm. Unfortunately, its sales have since dropped, and the model will be abandoned for 2018 in the U.S. in favor of a redesigned version of the QX50. With the burgeoning popularity of SUVs these days there’s a chance the QX70 or at least a similar model might return to Infiniti’s lineup in a later model year.

Jeep Patriot, 2007-2017. Lingering for a decade with only incremental changes, the compact Patriot crossover SUV originally debuted alongside the mechanically similar Compass as the more traditionally styled of the two models. At the time, it was the only crossover to boast bona fide off-road skills via an available “Trail Rated”4x4 system. It may have been the more military-looking of the two, but the Compass has since won the war with a major redesign for 2017, while the Patriot is being given its discharge papers.

Lexus CT 200h, 2011-2017. Introduced back when the national average price for a gallon of gas peaked at close to $4.00 a gallon, the compact CT 200h hybrid hatchback is an entry-level luxury hatchback that’s tuned sportier than most other hybrids. Its sales have fallen along with gas prices, however, and it’s being dropped from the line after receiving a 2017 freshening.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive, 2014-2017. The luxury automaker’s slow-selling subcompact EV will be phased out for 2018, with no immediate replacement planned. Having an estimated 87-mile range, it pales, however, against newer models like the Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3 that can run for more than 200 miles on a charge.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV, 2012-2017. Mitsubishi is cancelling its tiny egg-shaped battery-powered i-MiEV this year. The car’s estimated range of just 59 miles on a charge is barely good enough for around-town or on-campus use, and it’s underscored by underwhelming performance and accommodations. The i-MiEV is eminently affordable, especially after factoring in the $7,500 one-time federal tax credit, but it’s even cheaper as a used car, with low-mileage models easily found within the $6,000-$8,000 range.

Mitsubishi Lancer, 2002-2017. Typically forgotten in a crowded segment of compact cars, the Lancer is perhaps best known for its fast and furious Evolution iterations. With sales of all small cars on the decline, Mitsubishi has decided to double down on its more-popular line of SUVs, with the Lancer’s spot in the showroom being taken early next year by the new Eclipse Cross crossover.

Nissan Quest, 1993-2007. Lingering for 2017 with reportedly little more than fleet sales to show for its efforts, Nissan makes the dwindling minivan market one vehicle smaller with the Quest’s ensuing demise. Though the latest generation was distinctively styled in a nerdy kind of way, sales declined precipitously along with the rest of the segment, and Nissan would likely rather shift its resources toward building more-profitable SUVs.


Smart ForTwo, 2008-2017. The smallest and cheapest Mercedes-Benz-built model is dropping its gasoline-powered coupe and convertible versions in the U.S. at the end of the 2017 model year; the brand will concentrate on the Electric Drive version instead. With easy urban parking as its primary attribute, the tiny two-seater gets good fuel economy, but its breadbox-sized 89-horsepower engine requires premium fuel, which tends to negate any savings at the pump.

Volkswagen CC, 2009-2017. While it’s sufficiently stylish and is a solid overall performer, the CC four-door coupe is the brand’s lowest-volume car, with sales down nearly 46% over the first seven months of the year. The more-affordable midsize Passat out-sells it by a 40:1 margin in the U.S., which helps explains the CC’s demise. Perhaps curiously, VW isn’t giving up on the near-luxury four-door-coupe market, with the equally swoopy looking midsize Arteon expected to take over for the CC later in 2018.

Volkswagen Touareg, 2004-2017. One of the first of a new wave of upscale crossovers when it originally hit the market, the Touareg is sportier and more luxurious than most mainstream-brand SUVs, which tended to price it out of the reach of most VW loyalists. It’s being replaced in the brand’s U.S. lineup by the new-for-2018 Atlas, which is both built here and is designed to more efficiently meet the needs of American families.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017




'Fly to Buy' not too lofty for some used-car deals


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - 
Earlier this summer, CarGurus released a study in the U.S. showing that for some used-car shoppers, it actually makes more financial sense for them to take a flight to a city where car prices are considerably less expensive.

As it turns out, that was also the case for some shoppers in Canada.

Again, CarGurus said most of the time a used-car shopper isn’t going to stray far from home to buy a vehicle. But the company highlighted several cases of where “Fly to Buy” could be the way to go, given the variance in used-car prices between cities.
In other words, flying to a city where prices are lower and driving the car back may still be cheaper than buying it in your home market, CarGurus said.


“Canadian car shoppers often cross province lines to buy a car, but expanding their search area to even greater distances can offer the adventurous deal-seeker even bigger savings — with the added bonus of a fun summer road trip,” CarGurus data analyst Lisa Rosenberg said in a news release.
“While staying local makes sense for many car shoppers, this research highlights just how much variability exists with used-car prices,” Rosenberg said. “Shopping for cars even in nearby cities can unearth opportunities to save.”

One example the company shared is a 2016 Ford F-150. A Vancouver shopper interested in this ride could hop on a plane to Calgary, buy the truck there and save over $4,000 — even when flight and gas costs are considered, CarGurus said.

Likewise, flying to Winnipeg to buy a 2016 BMW 3 Series could save an Edmonton shopper more than $3,000 (with gas and plane costs considered here, too).
CarGurus said it examined its used-car inventory throughout Canada and determined where regional price differences were greatest, based on its analysis of local market prices on comparable units.
Plane tickets and gas costs were also considered.

Below is a list of Fly to Buy trips CarGurus shared for popular models, based on the cars being among the most-searched on the company’s website.
2016 Ford F-150: Vancouver to Calgary. Estimated savings: $4,750
2016 Ford F-150: Ottawa to Calgary. Estimated savings: $1,514
2016 BMW 3 Series: Edmonton to Winnipeg. Estimated savings: $3,327
2016 BMW 3 Series: Edmonton to Vancouver. Estimated savings: $3,093
2016 Honda CRV: Winnipeg to London, Ontario. Estimated savings: $2,877
2016 Honda CRV: Halifax to Montreal. Estimated savings: $1,720
2015 Toyota Rav-4: Calgary to Toronto. Estimated savings: $1,752
2016 Honda Civic: Halifax to Quebec City. Estimated savings: $1,684
2015 Ford Mustang: Toronto to Quebec City. Estimated savings: $1,471

In the news release, CarGurus shared its methodology, which can be foud below in italics.
CarGurus compared the Instant Market Value (IMV) data of the company’s inventory of used cars for sale in Canada’s largest metro areas. Analysts determined the IMV in each metro area for popular used cars and then compared prices for comparable vehicles between metro areas to identify estimated savings. Calculated “Fly to Buy” savings include the cost of airfare between cities based on TripAdvisor listings for least expensive nonstop* flights for August 1, 2017. The estimated cost of gas is based on Statistics Canada average retail prices by urban centre for May 2017. Metro areas are defined as the 80.5 kilometers around the city centre.

* Apart from Halifax to Quebec City, which does not offer nonstop flights. Savings for this trip reflects the cost of a one stop flight.

Friday, 4 August 2017

German Automakers to Give 5 Million Diesel Cars New Software Germany's transport minister says the country's automakers have committed to fit over 5 million diesel cars in the country with updated software to reduce harmful emissions and to finance incentives for drivers to trade in older models.

Germany's transport minister says the country's automakers have committed to fit over 5 million diesel cars in the country with updated software to reduce harmful emissions and to finance incentives for drivers to trade in older models.


 From right to left : Harald Krueger, CEO of German car maker BMW, Dieter Zetsche, chairman of German car maker Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz cars and Matthias Mueller, CEO of German car maker Volkswagen have taken seat to attend a so-called diesel summit on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017 in Berlin. German government officials and automakers meet to discuss the future of diesel vehicles, after a nearly two-year saga of scandal spread from Volkswagen to others in the sector. (Axel Schmidt/Pool Photo via AP) The Associated Press

By GEIR MOULSON, Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — German automakers committed Wednesday to fitting over 5 million diesel cars in the country with updated software to reduce harmful emissions and to finance incentives for drivers to trade in older models, the transport minister said.

Wednesday's "diesel summit" brought together leading ministers and state governors with bosses from Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Opel and Ford. It came amid worries about possible bans on driving older diesel cars in some cities and wider questions over whether diesel as a technology even has a future.

Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said the automakers will fit some 5.3 million diesel cars with new software, starting "in the coming months." The VDA auto industry group said that applies to most diesel cars of types made since 2009. It said the aim is to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 25-30 percent, and the overall figure includes 2.5 million vehicles already being refitted by Volkswagen.

The automakers also agreed to come up with self-financed incentives to encourage drivers to get older vehicles off the road faster, Dobrindt said.

BMW said it would give owners of older diesels registered before 2009 an "environment bonus" of up to 2,000 euros ($2,360) if they trade in their older car for a new electric or hybrid model, or for a lower-emissions internal combustion car meeting current standards.
The auto industry also is to contribute an unspecified amount to a German government "sustainable mobility fund" for cities aimed at using technology to make traffic flow better.

Dobrindt said the government will invest some 250 million euros ($295 million) more in modernizing city public transport fleets such as buses and taxis.

Volkswagen has been under intense scrutiny since admitting nearly two years ago that it equipped vehicles with software that manipulated emissions levels. German automakers have been under additional pressure in recent weeks following a report that the biggest companies colluded for years over diesel technology and other issues.

German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks criticized VDA's statement on measures offered at the summit Wednesday, saying the tone "was marked too little by insight and humility."

Industry executives appeared at their own post-summit news conference and underlined measures they are taking. Daimler is voluntarily updating engine control software on 3 million vehicles in Europe, or almost all the diesels it has sold since 2009; Volkswagen's Audi is updating 850,000 and BMW more than 300,000. They said diesel technology would remain important for years to come, since diesels emit less carbon dioxide and make it easier to meet regulator's goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller said that convention and electric cars would "coexist" for some time, and that the company had to invest in both. Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said his company had invested 3 billion euros in newer, lower emissions diesels while it is putting 10 billion euros into expanding its range of battery-powered vehicles.

"We are moving ahead consistently with sustainable mobility," said BMW CEO Harald Krueger.
Even before Wednesday's meeting, industry critics and some officials had called for wider-ranging refits going beyond software updates. Industry representatives indicated that wasn't realistic, said Stephan Weil, the governor of Lower Saxony state, although the topic will be examined further by experts.

"The automakers have got their way again," said Herbert Behrens, a lawmaker with the opposition Left Party. "They are getting a cheap version to keep selling dirty diesels."

Friday, 28 July 2017

Russia Continues to Attract New Auto Investments BMI report shows Central and Eastern Europe growing.A recovery in Russia and the Russian-leaning economies of the Commonwealth of Independent States is attracting a growing share of automotive-related investment across the Emerging Europe region, which includes Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

A recovery in Russia and the Russian-leaning economies of the Commonwealth of Independent States is attracting a growing share of automotive-related investment across the Emerging Europe region, which includes Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
“Companies are being attracted by the prospects of recovery in these markets while in other parts of Emerging Europe investments seem more focused on consolidating SUV production and meeting the demand for more complex new technologies,” according to a new report from BMI Research, a subsidiary of Fitch Group of companies.
BMI’s latest investment round-up of countries in the Emerging Europe region highlighted 21 new investment projects that were either announced or inaugurated in the second quarter of 2017. Reversing trends that saw investment flows into Russia slow dramatically after the 2008–09 financial crisis and hit again by the start of conflict in the eastern Ukraine in 2014. 

Three key themes surfaced across the region, including the performance of Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Volkswagen’s multi-brand SUV strategy maturing in Central and Eastern Europe, or CEE, and the rising technological capabilities of suppliers and manufacturers in CEE.

“The most notable aspect of our investment round-up this quarter is the apparent outperformance of markets in the far east of Europe and in Central Asia, namely Russia and the CIS economies,” the report noted.
“Of the 21 projects announced, 12 were located in Russia, Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan with at least three of these projects being valued $100 million in projects ranging from passenger cars to commercial vehicles and even electric vehicles.”

“Here, we believe automakers across the spectrum are attempting to bring new or refreshed models to market to be ready to capitalize on a recovery, after low oil prices over 2014–16 sent these markets into a free fall,” the report added.
PSA Group, which will soon take control of General Motors European assets, has been particularly prolific here, having announced its $150 million joint venture investment into light commercial vehicle production in Uzbekistan.

This announcement not only places the company in good stead for dominating future growth in the untapped Uzbek LCV market but it also rounds off PSA’s broader regional strategy in the area. Indeed, the company’s Uzbekistan investment must also be analyzed in the context of its earlier investments in plants in Belarus (October 2014) and Kazakhstan (December 2014) as well as its current plant in Russia.

With all four plants the company now has a diverse and strong network across the region which will benefit the company as sales start to recover.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen’s strategy for bringing a wider range of SUVs and crossovers to the line-ups of each of its brands is further maturing this quarter.
Audi’s announcements for the Q8 and Q4 to begin production in Slovakia and Hungary and Skoda’s commitment to producing the new Karoq SUV at its Kvasiny plant must both be seen in the context of earlier investments like Skoda’s investment in building the Seat Ateca, Audi’s introduction of the Q3 SUV to its Hungary facility, and the decision to build Bentley Bentayga body parts in Bratislava.
The latest investments, therefore, show a maturation of the Volkswagen conglomerate’s strategy of producing a wide variety of SUVs for all its brands while using common modular platforms and concentrating SUV production for multiple brands in each plant to find cost savings.
In addition, BMI said new products are now being produced by CEE suppliers in line with the rise of advanced technologies.

For example, in line with the rise of Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS), sensor demand is rising and Hella’s investment into a new sensor and electronics plant in Lithuania reflects how CEE producers are helping to supply this demand. Similarly, with the rise in electric vehicles, demand for battery components is rising, prompting companies like Shinheung SEC to set up production activities in the CEE region.


Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Toyota is developing an electric car that recharges in MINUTES


TOYOTA is hard at work on an electric vehicle that can be recharged in a matter of minutes, it has rumoured.


By