Speaking solely from a technology point of view, Google believes that autonomous cars will be a reality in three to five years. For the most part, the hardware exists today, so the stumbling block is really perfecting the software and firmware.
As Bloomberg points out, the obstacles that autonomous cars must overcome are more complex and far-reaching than just de-bugging code, meaning that self-driving cars will remain the stuff of science fiction long after the technology behind them is mature.
The first step is ensuring that hardware and software is fail-proof, or at the very least has redundant backup systems and ample warning of pending problems. Anthony Levandowski, Google’s product manager for self-driving car technology, sees this as the biggest remaining hurdle.
“We’re really focusing on building in the reliability so we can trust and understand the system will perform safely in all conditions,” said Levandowski, “How do you design it with proper processes in order to understand and minimize failure? How do you bake into a car redundant braking?”
Get past this hurdle, and the next one is bureaucratic. Before the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration green-lights autonomous cars, it will need to set testing standards, performance standards and safety standards for the new generation of vehicles.
Complicating this is that the NHTSA isn’t exactly on the leading edge of automotive electronics research. The agency’s Dan Smith, associate administrator of vehicle safety, calls the issue a “massive challenge,” citing the need for comprehensive and objective testing to address every instance where failure could occur.
Assuming this can be addressed, given the NHTSA’s limited budget, the next speed bump on the path to self-driving cars will come from the insurance industry. Until it can decide who has liability in an accident (driver, car, component or manufacturer), expect the insurance industry to fight the roll-out of autonomous vehicles.
Ultimately, self-driving cars could greatly reduce (or one day, eliminate) the 33,000 fatalities experienced on U.S. roads each year. While fully autonomous cars may still be some two decades away, technologies that will lay the groundwork (like adaptive cruise control and lane departure correction) are being rolled out today.
As these become more familiar to drivers, expect to see a demand for the next steps towards self-driving cars. If the public leads the push, government, industry and insurance companies will likely be more motivated to move forward.
A growing number of cars in the U.S. run either entirely or partially on electric power, and that trend is likely to accelerate with time. The shift from gasoline to electricity will present plenty of opportunities for auto start-ups, but one is already calling it quits.
As our colleagues at Green Car Reports note, the electric car company known as Better Place has pulled the plug on its U.S. and Australian operations. Better Place will continue to sell and service vehicles in Israel (where founder Shai Agassi resides) and in Denmark, but it will shutter its corporate headquarters in Palo Alto, California and its offices in Australia.
Does this spell doom for the future of electric cars? Not in the least.
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What does it mean for consumers? The jury is still out on that question. ( Continue… )
The full-size pickup truck market still makes up a large portion of vehicle sales in the U.S., from the job site to the boat landing, American's rely on their trucks. Toyota made a serious play in the American pickup truck industry back in 2007, but a lot has changed since then, and Toyota knows it.
The competition has stepped up their game with more technology and fuel efficiency than ever before. Budgets are tighter than ever, and technology has advanced the way people work, and interact with their vehicles. Toyota'saddressing these issues with its redesigned 2014 Tundra.
More technology, easier and cheaper to repair
Toyota recognizes the need for the latest technology in pickups, and that's why a 6.1-inch color touch screen featuring Toyota's Entune system is available, providing Bluetooth streaming, navigation, and Pandora streaming audio. There's also a new 3.5-inch multi-information display in the center of the gauge cluster.
Audio and climate controls have been moved 2.6 inches closer to the driver for easier access, and large knobs have been retained for easy operation while wearing gloves. ( Continue… )
It's been a long time coming, but the wraps are now off Chevy's first diesel-powered passenger car since 1986.
The 2.0-liter direct-injected and turbocharged diesel engine is rated at 148 horsepower and puts out 248 lb-ft of torque at 2000 rpm. It's paired with GM's six-speed automatic transmission.
The company quotes 0-to-60-mph acceleration of 8.6 seconds, which is says is quicker than the automatic version of the Volkswagen Jetta TDI--the other mass-market compact sedan offered wtih a diesel. ( Continue… )
None of us expected to see an ad from General Motors during Sunday's Super Bowl broadcast. In fact, the company announced months ago that it would bypass the costly commercials associated with the big game.
But Chevrolet's communications chief Michael Albano had been dropping hints that GM's bowtie brand might have a couple of surprises in store for football fans. He reiterated to Detroit News that ads were off the table, but suggested that there might be other, creative ways of shoehorning a Chevy into the game day festivities.
Today, GM confirmed that Super Bowl organizers had tried to include the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray in the Super Bowl XLVII halftime show. But in a statement released to the media, the company said that ultimately, those efforts didn't pan out.
What inquiring minds want to know is: why? There are a couple of tantalizing clues left behind. ( Continue… )
It happens every so often: a spate of media reports with gloom-and-doom headlines about what a dismal failure electric cars are.
So, let's review.
Yes, the optimistic predictions of plug-in electric cars sales made by manufacturers two or three years before production and sales began have not been met.
Yes, electric cars will be a small portion of the market for several years to come.
We’re going to let you in on a little insider’s secret: when manufacturers are shilling their wares, they tend to favor statistics that illustrate their own version of the truth.
As any politician (or car company) will tell you, you can always find a set of numbers to work in your favor.
Take the figures used by Toyota’s webpage to compare its Prius Plug-In against the Chevy Volt, for example. On the page, the Prius Plug-In is $7,200 cheaper, has more front headroom, more front leg room and features active head restraints unavailable on the 2012 Volt.
These decisive victories are even marked by blue dots, lest the consumer remain unaware of the Prius Plug-In’s triumph over the Volt.
As My Chevy Volt points out, the facts aren't quite as cut and dried as Toyota would have you believe. The difference in price between the cars isn’t as significant as shown, since the Volt qualifies for a $7,500 tax credit, compared to the Prius Plug-In’s $2,500 credit. ( Continue… )
Are you in the market for a hybrid car?
You probably want great gas mileage, without switching to diesel fuel, or taking the next step into plug-in vehicles.
The good news is, plug-ins aside, virtually all the most fuel-efficient cars on sale right now are hybrids. Whether you're after a spacious subcompact or a sleek sedan, there's a hybrid to suit most needs.
Below you'll find our run-down of the ten most efficient, rated by EPA combined mileage. Click on each vehicle title to go to its review page, or simply use it as a handy guide to the hybrids with the best gas mileage. ( Continue… )
Working with its dealers, local authorities, and charging-station partners. Nissan hopes to triple the number of quick-charging stations available in the U.S.
There are now about 160 quick-charge stations, mostly on the West Coast and in Texas; Nissan hopes to add another 500 new stations over the next 18 months.
The company envisions "a quick-charging network that links communities and neighborhoods where people live, work, shop and socialize,” according to Nissan’s director of electric vehicle marketing and sales strategy, Brendan Jones. ( Continue… )
The city, like Hong Kong last month, has finally decided to take action, and the city's acting mayor is set to scrap 180,000 old vehicles from the roads.
Additionally, reports Bloomberg, Beijing will replace 44,000 coal-burning heaters in homes to try and cut air pollutants by 2 percent this year.
Earlier this month, smog in the city was so thick it was barely possible to see the building next door, and citizens were alerted to stay indoors to avoid pollution levels so bad they were literally off the scale.
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On the U.S. Embassy's particulate matter scale, which runs to 500 and on which anything over 150 is considered unhealthy, one day two weeks ago produced estimated figures in the mid-700s. ( Continue… )