Tech auto news

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Acura NSX bodywork to be sheathed in zirconium e-coat, fewer paint layers

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Coupes, Tech, Videos, Supercars, Acura, Honda

Acura NSX prototype

Automakers make halo cars to drum up excitement and show off what they can do, but there's more to it than that. Advanced platforms allow a company's engineers to experiment with all sorts of technologies. And in the case of the upcoming new Acura NSX, that includes new paint processes.

Speaking with Autoline in this video interview, Honda's North American Senior VP Jon Minto talked about an innovative zirconium e-coat which it's applying to the new NSX. Unlike some experimental paints developed for Formula One, however, this coating is not designed to minimize drag or enhance cooling: it's designed to be more environmentally friendly.

It's one of a few measures which Honda is implementing on the NSX before expanding it to more accessible models, along with another process that uses fewer coats to reduce energy consumption by 40 percent. Watch the interview with Autoline host John McElroy right here.

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Navdy is portable HUD with smart phone integration and a sense of humor

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Tech, Videos, Infotainment

Navdy Portable HUD

Automotive head-up displays were once limited to high-end luxury sedans and sports cars, but in recent years they have started trickling down to affordable models like the latest Mini Cooper and Mazda3. Navdy, a startup from San Francisco, is aiming to broaden this tech even more with its new, portable device that combines all of the features of a HUD with apps and smartphone controls.

The Navdy sits on a vehicle's dashboard and has a tiny screen that seemingly projects information about six feet in front of the car. It plugs into the model's OBDII port for data and syncs with Android 4.3+ or iOS 7+ smartphones. When driving normally, Navdy displays important info like speed and direction, but with hand gesture and voice recognition the user can also control apps, take calls and dictate text messages.

Navdy is pitched as much for its safety benefits than as a cool toy. According to the company, it keeps your focus on the road and eliminates the need to look down at a phone. The device already supports popular apps like Google Maps, Spotify and iTunes Music and can read text messages.

"Touchscreen-based apps force you to take your eyes off the road. So we started by completely rethinking what the experience of using apps behind the wheel should be like," said company co-founder and CEO Doug Simpson in the company's release.

Pre-orders for the Navdy are available now with shipments starting in early 2015, and for the first 30 days it's priced at $299 - $499 after that. The company is also borrowing from Kickstarter and allowing early-bird customers to vote on what apps and features the device should support later. The company's humorous video showing off the product (above) has some funny Easter eggs - check out the logo on the Ford Fusion.

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Safety systems supplier Mobileye raises $890 million in IPO

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Safety, Tech, Earnings/Financials, Middle East

Financial Markets Wall Street Mobileye IPO

Israel-based vehicle safety technology company Mobileye (NYSE: MBLY) has successfully launched its Initial Public Offering on the New York Stock Exchange, raising approximately $890 million to value the company at a reported $5.3 billion.

You may have never heard of Mobileye, but that doesn't mean its system isn't in your car. The company, which lists its headquarters in the Netherlands (much like Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the Renault Nissan Alliance) but operates its R&D center in Jerusalem, develops and produces safety systems for automobiles that combine cameras (instead of radar) and software algorithms to detect other vehicles, pedestrians and lane markers (among other objects) to keep the car on the straight and narrow. While it sells systems (often purchased by fleet operators) that can be retrofitted to existing vehicles, a large portion of its business is in selling its devices to automobile and truck manufacturers for installing in their products on the assembly line. Mobileye lists among its customers General Motors, Ford and Chrysler; Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Hyundai; Audi, BMW, Volvo, PSA and Jaguar Land Rover. The company is said to be developing its own autonomous vehicle prototype.

The IPO launched on Friday was the largest ever fielded by an Israeli company in the United States and makes it the fifth largest company trading on Wall Street. While Israel accounts for the third largest number of companies listed on the NASDAQ, Mobileye chose the NYSE instead, opening trading at $25 per share (higher than the expected $21-23 per share) to raise $890 million for the company's principal owners and stockholders. After a fierce day of trading that saw its stock jump as much as 58 percent to $39.40/share, it closed at $37/share for an increase of 48 percent.

While the company included outside shareholders in the IPO, it was the company's founders who benefited the most. Mobileye was started in 1999 by Professor Amnon Shashua and Israeli businessman Ziv Aviram. Shashua studied at Tel Aviv University, the Weizman Institute of Science and MIT, lecturing at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem before founding Mobileye with Aviram, who had previously run local operations like Keter Publishing and the Gali shoe chain. The two were said to have made $92 million between them from the IPO.

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Smart driving shoes provide Bluetooth-connected haptic feedback [w/video]

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Tech, Videos, India

Lechal shoes by Ducere Technologies

A purist driver's car is all about the feedback it provides: what the front wheels are doing through the steering wheel, how the gears are meshing through the shift lever, how the brakes are gripping through the middle pedal, how much traction you have through the seat.... Generally electronic intervention (in the form of the latest drive-by-wire systems) only serve to numb that feedback, but here's a technology that could actually use vibrations to tell us more without having to take our eyes off the road.

The innovation is a vibrating shoe - or more specifically, a vibrating insole. Interfacing with the smartphone via Bluetooth, these smart insoles could have any number of applications - for runners, for the visually or audibly impaired, the elderly... but also the driver, racer and motorbike rider. A buzz on the left could prompt you to turn left, a buzz on the right to turn right. A pulse could prompt you to change gears, extended vibration to warn you of imminent danger.

The only limit would be how you'd interpret the different vibrations, but the possibilities are virtually endless, especially when combined with the vibrating seats being produced by the likes of General Motors and Mercedes-Benz that warn you if you're veering out of your lane and such. They could, in theory, even extend navigational guidance to show you how to get from your car to your specific destination, and guide you back to where you parked again, just like Google Glass.

Designed by Ducere Technologies in India, the Lechal rechargeable, water-resistant, washable smart-soles are set to go on sale (either on their own or in their custom-designed shoes pictured above) in the fall with prices running between $100 and $150.

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NHTSA says GM recall website isn't completely accurate

08/04/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Recalls/TSBs, Safety, Tech, GM

General Motors-Recall

As of this writing, General Motors has issued 60 recalls in 2014 covering about 25.5-million vehicles in the Unites States. That's a lot of drivers left wondering if their model in need of repair. GM is actually already complying with the request by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make these campaigns searchable by a model's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) online. However, the feds reportedly don't like the way that the company has set up its website. NHTSA is requesting changes to The General's page because some cars could fall through the cracks without owners even knowing it.

While GM's site allows owners to search for recalls based on VINs, it only displayed a campaign for a vehicle if the parts were actually available to perform the repair, according to The Detroit News. If the components aren't ready yet, then the model isn't listed. That could obviously have given drivers a false sense of security about their car. NHTSA has asked the automaker to update the website to make it more accurate and to display the info whether or not the fix had been done.

GM spokesperson Alan Adler tells Autoblog that the company first learned about the problem on Friday, August 1. "Basically, the VIN lookup wasn't giving up accurate information," he said. The automaker worked over the weekend to fix things, and Adler says that the majority of the updates are now complete, but GM still has a few more to do. He expects the changes to be finished soon.

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Weekly Recap: The divergent paths of Tesla and Fisker

08/02/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Tech, Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Jaguar, Mercedes Benz, Fisker, Tesla, Electric

Fisker Automotive

There's no doubt that Tesla is downshifting while Fisker has been grinding its gears. But it wasn't always that way.

In the wake of Tesla's recent success, it's easy to forget that there were once two California electric carmakers with bright futures.

Remember Fisker Automotive?

Both companies were back in the news this week. Tesla confirmed it will team with Panasonic to build a battery factory, and Fisker won approval of its bankruptcy plan to pay creditors and allow it to have a fresh start with Chinese investors, Wanxiang Group.

There's no doubt that Tesla is downshifting while Fisker has been grinding its gears. But it wasn't always that way.

Five years ago, many observers thought Fisker had just as much potential to make a go of it as Tesla. Elon Musk was still known as the SpaceX and PayPal guy who supposedly knew nothing about cars. Fisker, meanwhile, was founded and led by Henrik Fisker, an industry celebrity who designed sexy sports cars like the Aston Martin DB9 and the BMW Z8.

Separated by about six hours of California highway, Tesla and Fisker were billed as the new wave of American manufacturing, two electric carmakers that could do what the Rust Belt-anchored Detroit Three could not. Their rivalry became so heated, Tesla even sued Fisker in 2008 alleging theft of technology, with Fisker emerging as the nominal victor, netting $1.1 million in court fees from Tesla.

As recently as 2012, Tesla only had one car, the Roadster, which was built on a Lotus chassis with an electric-powered motor in place of a traditional engine. It was the definition of a niche product. That year, however, Tesla followed up with another car, the Model S. With an all-electric range of 265 miles and the capability to sprint to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, the Model S was a runaway hit. It had the size and power of a BMW 5-Series, and it didn't burn a drop of fuel.

Continue reading Weekly Recap: The divergent paths of Tesla and Fisker

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What you missed on 8.1.14

08/02/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sports/GTs, Tech, Dodge, By the Numbers

Daily U-Turn

By The Numbers: July 2014

It's summertime and the car buying comes easy. This month's By The Numbers report shows bullish sales from GM in spite of the continued recall madness, and Toyota overtaking Ford in the US sales race for the very first time this year.

Guys more open to Google Car than ladies

A new survey about the openness of the public to the charms of autonomous vehicles, finds some interesting gaps in the data provided by each gender. The tenor of public opinion about self-driving cars might be looking up, but if these results hold water Americans aren't exactly ready to jump behind the wheel and let the bots do the driving just yet. Once more around the block, Jeeves.

Charger Hellcat could debut at Dream Cruise

What has 707 horsepower, four doors, an insatiable appetite for gasoline and a vendetta against rear tires? If you answered "Dodge Charger Hellcat" you win a cookie. The SRT boys haven't confirmed it yet, but all indications point towards Dodge making a muscle-sedan splash at the Woodward Dream Cruise this year, bringing along the supercharged-Hemi version of its Charger sedan. Hold your breath and look for rubber smoke.

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Women more skeptical about autonomous cars than men, research says

08/01/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Government/Legal, Safety, Tech

google autonomous car

Drivers are intrigued by the benefits of self-driving cars, but they remain concerned about the safety and cost such vehicles could introduce into the marketplace, according to a study published by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute in late July.

56 percent of respondents said they viewed self-driving cars in a positive manner.

In the United States, 56 percent of responders said they viewed self-driving cars in a positive manner, though 27 percent had neutral feelings and 16 percent looked at the technology as a negative thing.

There's also a slight gender gap toward embracing autonomous cars, as 59 percent of men had a positive view of them, while 54 percent of women did. Though the numbers are close, researchers found women consistently responded with less enthusiasm about the technology and registered more concerns over its safety.

Still, both genders are interested, and more than two-thirds of all survey-takers believe self-driving cars could lead to fewer and less severe crashes; 70 percent thought the technology could improve fuel economy. The study also found nearly half of Americans believe it would ease traffic congestion and make for shorter travel times.

Despite the potential benefits, motorists worry about legal liability, having their locations tracked, sharing the roads with other self-driving cars and the potential that weather conditions could interfere with the car's ability to operate itself.

Additionally, 73 percent of Americans were concerned self-driving cars might not perform as well as human drivers.

73 percent of Americans were concerned self-driving cars might not perform as well as human drivers..

"It cuts both ways," researcher Brandon Schoettle said. "They're optimistic about the benefits, but concerned about using all of these [autonomous] things."

That's underscored by the finding that 36 percent of responders would continue to watch the road while riding in a self-driving car, and 23 percent wouldn't even ride in one. The most-popular activity for motorists would be reading (11 percent) or texting/talking on the phone (10 percent).

More than half of responders also said they wouldn't pay more for an autonomous car, and only a quarter said they would be willing to pay at least $2,000 for the technology.

The study also looked at the views of motorists in the United Kingdom and Australia, and the findings were similar to Americans' response, though US drivers expressed greater skepticism about the technology.

Self-driving cars mirror other technologies, Schoettle said, as many early adopters and tech-savvy consumers have expressed interest in it, while the public at large remains more reserved.

"The initial response with most people is quite muted," he said. "There's a kind of curiosity that we saw when we talked about the benefits and the concerns."

The study comes as several states have approved testing of autonomous cars on public roads, with California being the latest to green-light it earlier this year. Google also has announced plans to build 100 prototypes of its self-driving car, with plans to begin a pilot program in the next few years.

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Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat ringtone revs up [w/video]

07/31/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Coupes, Sports/GTs, Etc., Tech, Videos, Dodge

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

The best (or worst, depending on your views) thing about smartphones is that you're able to carry lots, and lots of useful stuff around in your pocket. That means you can always have a phone, messaging service, email, flashlight, calculator, dictionary, encyclopedia, and literally thousands of other things on your person at all times. Now, we can add one more thing for you to carry about in your little slab of aluminum, glass and plastic - a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.

Now, you obviously can't carry around a 707-horsepower muscle car around in your pocket. That'd be ridiculous, impractical and uncomfortable. You can, however, carry around the noise made by said muscle car's 6.2-liter, supercharged Hemi V8, thanks to a new, free-to-download ringtone from the folks at Dodge and SRT.

We can't embed the ringtone here, so if you'd like to hear exactly how it'll sound when your phone goes off, you'll need to head over to the SRT Hellcat's page. If that's more trouble than it's worth, the same ringtone was attached to a tiny speaker on the press kit for the mighty Challenger, and was captured on video by our own Seyth Miersma (don't worry, he's already been soundly dressed down for shooting a video in portrait mode).

Scroll down for both the video of the ringtone, and the official press release from Dodge.

Continue reading Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat ringtone revs up [w/video]

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Audi readying diesel PHEV models for US and Europe

07/30/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Hybrids/Alternative, Tech, Crossovers/CUVs, Audi, Electric, Diesel

Audi Q7: Spy Shots

With the racing pedigree provided by the Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the German king of Le Mans is capitalizing on the connection between its road cars and race cars at every opportunity. Maybe there's an entire range of Le Mans Editions for the automakers diesel-hybrid offerings, with perhaps Tom Kristensen acting as the brand's spokesperson for the technology in Europe. You'd be wrong, though, because despite the R18's overwhelming successes in endurance racing, Audi the road-car manufacturer doesn't offer a single diesel-hybrid production car.

This factoid will hopefully be as short lived as it is disappointing, though, as a diesel-electric is around the corner, according to the brand's tech boss, Ulrich Hackenberg. In fact, it gets better than a mere diesel-hybrid; it will be a plug-in diesel-hybrid, only the second to hit the market, alongside the European-market Volvo V60.

According to Hackenberg, the new tech will be the result of a marriage between the brand's well-received 3.0-liter, TDI V6 with an electric motor. The next-generation Audi Q7 (shown above) will be the initial recipient, confirming previous reports that claimed a PHEV TDI could come to the next-gen CUV. Its MLB architecture, meanwhile, would allow the plug-in-hybrid-diesel powertrain to be fitted easily enough to the A8 luxury sedan. While the new Q7 should hit the market at some point in 2015, it's unclear when the PHEV TDI model could see the light of day.

Still, it's a combination that Hackenberg seems bullish on, and based on his comments, it's a virtual certainty that it'll arrive in some capacity in the US market.

"The hybrid will be another argument to go for diesel in the US," Hackenberg told Automotive News Europe. "We have the combination of low CO2 emissions, necessary to meet market demand and regulations, and we have the diesel which gives a lot torque, which is very necessary for driveability."

"In the USA if you look to sportiness it is very important to be quick away from the traffic lights. In combination with the electric engine, a diesel hybrid delivers very good torque from the start," he added. We'd wholeheartedly agree.

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