Showing posts with label cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cars. Show all posts

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Jaguar Land Rover working on "follow-me" Ghost Car navigation

The new tech builds on JLR's recent research into a transparent bonnet that first appeared on the Discovery Vision Concept, which saw cameras mounted underneath the vehicle that provided a live video feed to a massive head-up display that spanned the entire windshield.
A spokesperson for JLR said that both camera and head-up display technology had improved - and more importantly become cheap enough - to begin experimenting with other applications.
Dr Wolfgang Epple, director of research and technology at JLR, says that tiny screens have been applied to all pillars inside the research vehicles, which take a live video feed from outside, thus rendering them 'invisible' when needed.
This could be particularly useful when navigating a tight parking space, pulling out of a T-junction and contending with the hordes of cyclists that race along busy city streets everyday.
In-car sensors can also detect when a driver moves their head during an overtaking manoeuvre, or switch on the indicators, and automatically renders the appropriate pillar 'invisible'.
The humble windscreen has also come under scrutiny by Jaguar Land Rover's crack team, which has fitted a large head-up display that spans the width of the glass.
This so-called 360 Virtual Urban Windscreen can then take live information from the Cloud, such as fuel prices and available parking spaces, and overlay them in real time.
But better still, the technology could allow drivers to fulfil their innermost Gran Turismo fantasies and follow a "ghost car" to their intended destination rather than take often-unreliable audio cues from a traditional sat-nav system.
“Driving on city streets can be a stressful experience, but imagine being able to drive across town without having to look at road signs, or be distracted trying to locate a parking space as you drive by,” said Dr Epple.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Audi Traffic Light Assist: never stop at a red again


So,has Audi found a solution to traffic light hell? A way to turn our cities into no-red-light districts? Rory Buckeridge, a man who doesn't like to be kept waiting, scurried over to Berlin to find out.
It’s probably a truism to suggest that there’s something intrinsically less stressful about traffic lights when you’re staring at them from behind the wheel of a factory fresh Audi. But we’re in Berlin, sticking a pristine, white A3 into drive to get hands on with Audi’s attempt to take the sting out of the commuter’s bane, with their Online Traffic Light Information System. 

Currently being trialled in Berlin, Verona and Las Vegas, Audi have hooked 700 of the German capital’s 2,500 traffic lights to the networked system, which combines GPS with on-board wi-fi internet to link car, city and traffic light. Then, an onboard system tells the driver, via a simple graphic on the dash, the phase of the traffic light ahead.

As Audi's Chair of the Board of Management, Rupert Stadler told us, "For us, as car guys, we have to understand the DNA of a city. And if we understand the DNA of a city and decode it, then we are in the driver’s seat to organise our business models – what could be our offer? An intelligent offer for our premium customers, and this is what it’s all about."

Knowing that, the car can actively plan ahead. So if the light is going to be green, it’ll suggest the optimum speed (usually around 30mph) to be able to breeze straight through. If it’s going to be red, it’ll tell you, so there’s no need to approach it like an NCAP crash test, hoping a green’s a millisecond away.
Once you’ve stopped at a red, if it’ll change in under ten seconds, the car keeps the engine running, but if it’s more than ten, it operates the engine stop/start system, restarting it five seconds before the light will phase back to green.

Audi claims that if implemented, this could reduce CO2 emissions by 15 per cent, and save 900 million litres of fuel in Germany alone. But it should also help with congestion, as you can squeeze on average an extra two cars through every light phase.
And you do find that this system genuinely changes the way you drive. Knowing that a light is going to stay red, you don’t hoon up to it in the hopes you’ll get lucky. And similarly, knowing it’ll go green the moment you arrive means there’s no hurry to get there.

But the best bit is the auto start. The engine rumbling back on becomes a physical cue you’re about to ease away, so after a while you simply stop balefully starting at the light and just wait for the blip of the ignition, which melts away some serious red light stress

Saturday, 30 August 2014

So what is it like to drive with Nissan's Smart rearview mirror?

Despite all the changes going on in automobiles lately, one thing that's remained pretty consistent in every car I've driven has been the rearview mirror. We can check that one off now though, now that I've taken a test drive in a Nissan Rogue equipped with the new Smart rearview mirror. Due to roll out on the company's cars in North America next year, it's a simple augmentation that combines a traditional mirror with a video screen. Flipping the dimmer switch usually meant for night driving drops you into video camera mode, with a feed streamed directly from a 1.3MP camera mounted in the trunk that drops out the usual blockages from the car's interior for a clear view of what's behind you. Back up cameras are already common -- and highly necessary if you have my (lack of) parallel parking skills -- but is it time to change out something that's worked pretty well for the last century or so?

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Apple CarPlay: Is that all there is for now?

CarPlay featuredMaybe you’ve heard: Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto will replicate the richness of your smartphone onto the car’s big LCD display, with appropriate safeguards such as no videos while moving. If that’s what you heard, adjust your enthusiasm downward. What you’ll see at year’s end on the first CarPlay cars is a nice step forward — but it’s a baby step forward.
Here’s what we know about Apple CarPlay after seeing demos on several brands including Hyundai (main photo). Volvo and Mercedes-Benz. You can make calls, check contacts, and play music with CarPlay. But — headslap — you can do that now without CarPlay. With CarPlay, you can use the phone for navigation, but only one vendor’s app works: Apple’s not Google’s, nor anybody’s else’s. You can send and receive text messages but in the car with CarPlay engaged, you’ll only hear the texts, not see them.
Mercedes CarPlay dress shirt iPhone

Talk to Siri, not your car’s voice recognition

On the Apple CarPlay side, the news is not altogether bad. Apple’s Siri will provide voice control to manage CarPlay, not your car’s awful voice recognition. Most users, probably all users, will prefer Siri to what comes with the car for voice recognition.
For apps on your phone that aren’t CarPlay certified, you may be able to access them through Siri Eyes Free. Eyes Free exists already on some pre-CarPlay cars and is part of CarPlay. This gives you voice-only queries (meaning iPhone typing is not permitted) through the car’s microphone and you receive voice-only responses played through the car’s speakers. To access Siri Eyes Free, the driver typically taps and holds the car’s voice control button — long hold or double tap for Siri Eyes Free, single tap for the car’s voice input – and then ask the question. If the app is Eyes Free compatible, if your phone is in cellular range, and if you speak to Siri’s satisfaction, you should get a workable response except when Siri is busy right now, sorry.
As we noted in the Apple CarPlay backgrounder earlier in the year, this is the technology originally called iOS in the Car. Apple lost the dorky name, but Google — for now — is sticking with Google Android Auto. Score round one to Apple.
The car’s existing voice recognition remains a tool for communicating with the car’s entire infotainment system when you’re not using CarPlay. For CarPlay, you also can use the center stack controls, the touchscreen, and a cockpit control wheel (BMW iDrive and its followers). As Apple says, “If it controls your screen, it controls CarPlay.” For both CarPlay and Eyes Free, when the phone is plugged in and either are running, the phone cannot be accessed directly.
Mercedes CarPlay screen croptop

Lockdown: Why CarPlay and Siri may annoy and disappoint

Here’s why you may feel Apple and your automaker gave you a half-full glass. Every iOS app has to be Apple-approved and a CarPlay app has to be approved again. That’s a big task, and for now a small list of approved apps. It currently includes music, phone and contacts, maps (Apple’s), texting (sort of, see below), and typically a switcher app that takes you back to the car’s native infotainment system. For now, there are a half-dozen available non-Apple apps: Beats Music (an Apple app now), iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, and Podcasts. Notice the lack of Pandora and Google Maps.
With texting, the driver or passenger uses Siri to compose the text. Siri parses the voice input, plays it back in Siri’s voice, and if you approve it, sends it as a text to the recipient. You just hope “who’re” doesn’t go through as “hoer” or worse. A colleague recently had “parked” translated to a client as “porked.” The reply comes back to you as a voice text message while the phone is connected and stored on your iPhone as well, viewable once you disconnect. Most demos I saw got the sample text messages right, but not all. You correct the message by re-recording it. The potential for frustration may be high.
A handful of automakers, mostly the prestige German brands, currently display on-screen texts and snippets of e-mail you can see at a glance. But that’s when you’re outside CarPlay. Viewable text messages via CarPlay are most likely to work — if Apple buys in — on cars with dual-view LCD displays where the driver sees one view and the passenger sees a different view. Mercedes and Lexus have that.
All this only works if your phone is within range. Siri processes your voice in the cloud. That’s where an integrated car telematics modem with a rooftop antenna would have better range.
No automaker yet has announced a way that would give the passenger more permissions than the driver. Intel and Ford developed a prototype gesture tracking system, Mobii, that could tell if the passenger was the one doing input.
CarPlay requires current iPhones — iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, and iPhone 5 — with Lightning connectors. If everyone turns their phones over every 24 months (the sealed battery is shot anyway), that should be minor. Merely annoying. If you’re investing $30,000-plus in a CarPlay car, you can spring for a new phone at the same time.
CarPlay requires a car with an LCD display and a CarPlay head unit. That means you need a new car. Even new models announced and shipped since CarPlay’s spring announcement may not work until later production. For instance, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata, on sale since June and our Editors’ Choice among affordable midsize cars, will not be CarPlay compatible with early production. Mercedes-Benz will have limited backwards compatibility for previously built cars.
If you have CarPlay navigation, you may not need the automaker’s navigation. For now, most every new car navigation system is part of a package with other features you may want, such as premium audio, a sunroof, or leather seats. BMW, a CarPlay supporter, sells navigation separately, but it’s far cheaper in a package, and BMW’s navigation is so good you ought to buy it, especially when you’re in for fifty grand already on the car.

The good stuff

Volvo CarPlay verticalApple CarPlay does several things well. Most of all, you’ll probably be more comfortable with Siri as your voice input system. It’s a technology you know, use, and mostly like, except when it gets your clearly spoken request hopelessly garbled.
The CarPlay buttons are big and easy to tap. With an existing LCD display, who hasn’t tried to pick line one on the display of choices on a bumpy road and hit line two by mistake, so you end up being sent to 3500West Market Street instead of East several miles away?
Automakers have flexibility in design, even if they’re looking for more freedom. The icons look the same across the cars, although the icon to return to Hyundai’s non-CarPlay infotainment system looks different from the Mercedes-Benz icon, for instance. Volvo, which has a vertical center stack LCD, has modified CarPlay to look good that way (photo).
As CarPlay evolves, more apps will be certified and you’ll have a richer experience. You might be able to choose among several navigation apps and virtually all the streaming music services. But it’s slim pickings for now.

What about Google Android Auto?

Android Auto was announced last month. Just as CarPlay only works with iOS devices,Android Auto only works with Android phones. It offers the same core features as CarPlay: phone control and contacts, music control, text message composing and playback. Android Auto will have web search.
Compatible apps should include Google Maps, Google Play Music, MLB at Bat, Pandora Radio, Spotify, Songza, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Joyride and TuneIn. Although Google announced later than Apple, the expectation is that both should arrive at the same time, in late 2014. Automakers say they’re specifying radio head units that support both.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

2012: Year of Model S - New Video

The Year of Model S is here. As we conduct quality testing, refine details and enter production of Model S, we are growing more excited every day to deliver this revolutionary car to our customers. Tesla’s Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen and Vice President of Sales and Ownership Experience George Blankenship discuss how Tesla reimagined the sedan and produced a car with meticulous design and unrivaled driving dynamics.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Top 5 tech cars of the 2014 New York International Auto Show

NYIAS 2014 - Kia reception, Sir Nightclub, 508 W 37th, New York, NYTechnology is front and center at the 2014 New York International Auto Show. Sometimes it’s offbeat tech, such as a flying car, but this year the focus is more on driver assistance and infotainment services coming to a wider array of cars. Even small carsare loading up on driver tech, such as forward collision warning and lane departure warning, because the technology is cheaper. They’re also in demand from boomers downsizing into the same cars Millennials buy; the older drivers don’t want to give up the tech they had on their big car or SUV.
The 2014 NYIAS also features quick redesigns of cars only a year or two old, such as theToyota Camry and Honda Civic. Automakers are getting quicker at fixing what focus groups and reviewers tell them. Most new cars have upgraded infotainment systems; several are showing Apple’s CarPlay. More have LCD displays standard even with no navigation, to better display infotainment and to provide backup cameras in advance of the federal mandate, now set for 2018.
The show runs, as it does each year, for 10 days starting the Friday before Easter at New York City’s Javits Convention Center. Here are techoblog’s picks for the best cars, based on their technology.

Kia Sedona: New UVO, business-class rear seating

A minivan is among our top tech cars because the 2015 Kia Sedona brings in the latest round of the excellent Kia UVO (your voice) infotainment / telematics system. This edition of UVO adds these self-explaining features: geo-fencing, speed alert, curfew alert, and driver score. As if a teen already mortified to be driving a minivan would want to drive about more and farther than necessary. No matter, this is actually a “midsize multi-purpose vehicle.” Right.
The dashboard buttons are big and well lettered. There is Audi-level driver tech: adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, surround view monitor. A smart tailgate as on the Hyundai Genesis opens when you walk up with the key on your person. The Kia UVO eServices can grab Pandora, iHeart Radio, Siri Eyes Free, and Google Local Search from the Google Play and iTunes stores for your smartphone and control by the head unit.
A minivan is the most comfortable way to haul seven or eight. Second-row Slide-n-Stow seats slide all the way forward against the front seats to maximize cargo. Now the Sedona may also be the best way to carry four adults. Opt for the middle row lounge seats with leg rests that pop out, just like seats at the front of the plane.

Nissan Rogue boasts camera-based rear view mirror

140417_0924_nyiasThe redesigned 2014 Nissan Rogue blew away the competition, and as a result sales are up 75%. The competition is so far back in the rear view mirror that Nissan needed a better way to see them. Enter the Smart Rear Vew Mirror. It’s a camera mounted high up in the rear window of this compact SUV. It displays the view on a LCD screen built into the full width of the 4:1 aspect ratio inside rear mirror. Don’t like the view? Flip a switch on the back side and it reverts to a dumb old glass mirror.
For now, it’s a prototype, likely on future Nissans. It doesn’t take the place of the backup camera (mounted low). Pierre Loing, Nissan’s North American VP for product planning, mused on the possibility that it could be paired with rear-facing side cameras to provide a wrap-around view that leaves no blind spots. If there’s a single gee-whiz technology of the New York auto show, Nissan has it. Surprisingly this was on the Rogue rather than the swoopier, newer Nissan Murano midsize SUV (photo) launched at the show.

Hyundai Sonata: more tech for the roomiest midsize

A couple weeks after launching the amazing upscale Hyundai Genesis, Hyundai laid down the standard for tech and spaciousness — just not sales volume — in the midsize class with the 2015 Hyundai Sonata. Some of it comes down from the Genesis: that trunk that pops up when you walk up to it and all manner of driver aids. This will be the first Hyundai with CarPlay, which rolls the Apple experience directly to your car’s LCD screen: music, texting (as spoken messages), navigation. The same thing with Google phones should follow.
2015 Hyundai Sonata - IAC Building NYC
Hyundai leads the charge in bringing costly European car tech and features to the masses. Some other midsize cars have adaptive cruise control that cuts out at 20 mph. Hyundai will have stop-and-go adaptive cruise contorl. The back seat is big and the car is actually rated as a full-size. The back seats can be had with integrated sunshades. As with the previous version, the engine compartment was designed only for four-cylinder engines, one without, one with a turbocharger.

Ford Focus keys on efficiency

Small changes to the world’s best-selling nameplate are significant. The reworked 2015 Ford Focus compact sedan now offers a 1.0 liter, three-cylinder Ecoboost (turbocharged) engine. That’s for efficiency and the Focus will “raise the bar,” Ford says, but hasn’t announced mpg. Need more? Ford also is offering a revised Ford Focus Electric for 2015 (photo). Need performance? Add the SE Sport Package with a more sharply tuned suspension (read: make sure your partner goes along for the test ride), dual-clutch automatic gearbox, and paddle shifters.
Ford leads in putting big car features on cheap small cars. The Focus can be had with blinde spot detection and lane keep assist that nudges the car back into the lane. Every car gets a rear view camera and at least a 4.2-inch LCD. Ford MyKey will be standard on all Focuses. MyKey limits what a teen driver can do in terms of radio volume, speed, and things that he or she might not do in a parent was in the car. Then there’s Sync, much criticized but still a cheap way to get Bluetooth, a USB key, voice input. Just spend time reading the manual.
Some of these changes are for the China market that accounts for a third of Focus sales worldwide.

Subaru Outback a little sleeker, safer

The redesigned Subaru Outback is better in many small ways. It’s a little sleeker overall. Both four- and six-cylinder engines improve on already good fuel economy. Even the base model now includes a rear camera and color display. The A-pillars at the front of the car are a little thinner for better vision without compromising safety.
Like its bigger sibling, the Editors’ Choice Subaru Outback (for small SUV), the wagon-like Outback offers EyeSight, the dual camera system that provides adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and pre-collision braking. Compared to EyeSight on previous year models, the price is down $500, to $1895 in a package with onboard navigation.

Best of the rest at NYIAS

Here are five more cars of note from the 2014 New York International Auto Show.
Ford Mustang: Fifty years old, beloved by millions, now the Ford Mustang is adding technology. There’s Sync in the center stack. There’s finally an independent rear suspension. Even the big engines are economical.
Ford pulled off the biggest stunt — stunt used in a nice way — by sticking a 50th anniversary 2015 Mustang atop the Empire State building. (How? It was assembled in pieces. No helicopter, no car-sized elevator.)
BMW i3 Electric: It’s been announced and shown, but the amazing carbon fiber electric car finally made it to the New York Show, where it was announced as the world green car of the year by a panel of 69 auto journalists. It’s a running vehicle and goes on sale shortly, starting at $42,000.
This one gets 80-100 miles per charge, same as most others EVs. BMW says it makes the most sense as an electric-only vehicle. Still, there’s a version coming with a small gasoline engine that could capture a big chunk of sales at least in the US.
Nissan Murano: Midsize SUVs don’t work for adults on long trips. Enter the 2015 Nissan Murano, still curvy on the outside, but with more attention paid to back seat passengers. Most adults will ride quite comfortably in back, where there’s a USB jack along with the 12-volt outlet, recognizing that both rows bring tablets and smartphones.
Toyota Camry: If you could lead the US in car sales for a decade or be an exciting car, which would you produce? Toyota wants both and decided a quick refresh was in order, just two years into the life of the current model. There are 2000 new parts in the car, a lot of them meant to make it look swoopier. There are some tech change, most notably a wireless charging pad in the center stack using Qi technology.
Also offered lane departure and forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert. That means no midsize competitor is too far ahead. The most noticeable change is the big grille.
NYIAS 2014
Alfa Romeo 4C: Here’s one that’s more about sexy cars, less about tech. Alfa Romeo is making a modes comeback to the US market seeing how other Italian brands (Maserati, it of the Super Bowl ad) are doing here. This is a compact sports car with Italian flair inside and out, a cockpit that is more sporting than techcessive, and a four-cylinder 237 hp engine. Before you buy, make sure you see the car from all angles. You may be surprised to see the shape of the cabin after of where the driver and passenger sits.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

How Aston Martin tracked down a site for its first showroom in Mexico

How Aston Martin tracked down a site for its first showroom in Mexico

Aston Martin showroom in Mexico©Pablo Lomelin
Wheels of fortune: the space chosen for Aston Martin’s showroom matches the brand, being close to the Presidente Masaryk boulevard, Mexico City’s Rodeo Drive
If James Bond lived in Mexico City, where would he call home? Finding a suitably suave address – a place at once impeccably classy yet effortlessly discreet – was the mission for the Mexican entrepreneurs who last month opened a dealership for Aston Martin, maker of the spy’s favourite cars. Its sheer size means Mexico City has no shortage of property options, but finding the right place to showcase half a dozen luxury British sportscars was tricky.
Though many multinationals plump for the gleamingly modern Santa Fe, a sea of skyscrapers on the western fringes of the city, the area is bedevilled by nightmarish traffic and is more a work destination than a chic place to see and be seen. Meanwhile, some banks, lawyers and the like see the city centre as de rigeur: they prefer the elegant towers along the Paseo de la Reforma boulevard, such as the Torre Diana, which, when it is finished in 2015, will be the capital’s tallest building.

In the end, the lure of Mexico City’s equivalent of Rodeo Drive won out, and the Aston Martin team zeroed in on the Presidente Masaryk boulevard in the neighbourhood of Polanco, close to the centre and the western residential neighbourhoods. The street is one big shop window for global luxury brands in a district that is a social and business destination for the wealthy customers most likely to splurge on a handmade car they can not only customise at will but, as Martin Josephi, the dealer principal, says, can even carry their wife and children to church.
The neighbourhood had the cachet Aston Martin was seeking, but finding the right spot in an area where prices are rocketing and space is shrinking proved a considerable challenge. Here the principals involved in the move – and the building itself – give their thoughts about how it went.
Martin Josephi, Aston Martin Mexico dealer principal:
We didn’t want to be somewhere where our customers would have to drive specially to get to our showroom. We wanted it to be somewhere they already went to. We found a space that matches the brand very well. I can’t speak about specific numbers, but the rent is considerable, especially given the large space – the showroom is 4,500 sq ft (418 sq m). The obvious advantage is that it’s so close to Masaryk, so you have to pay for that. The contractors we hired to fit out the showroom were very serious about delivery dates and costs and since Aston Martin required us to import everything and to stick to an agreed design as part of their corporate identity, we had a clear idea of costs.
Manuel Saínz, Aston Martin Mexico sales director:
I don’t think we could have found a better place. When I saw it, my eyes lit up. Lots of the big fish in Mexico City frequent Polanco, but we realised we didn’t need to be on Masaryk and to be seen by everyone. Lots of people enter Masaryk via Goldsmith because it’s more private and safer. It is an area where there are a lot of pedestrians, and that can be good. But that could also attract a lot of people who just want to come in and look but are never going to buy. That invades the privacy of customers who do want to buy and just wastes the staff’s time. So there are pros and cons.
Iván Chávez, Aston Martin Mexico marketing manager:
We thought initially of Palmas and Lomas – two upscale neighbourhoods – and even entertained the idea of Santa Fe or Interlomas to the west, which have seen vast growth. They are very nice, but we also run the Lamborghini dealership, which is on a main avenue towards the south of the city and we realised it would take us all day to go from one to the other, so we chose Polanco.
We were looking for space, but there wasn’t much available. Martin [Josephi], Manuel [Saínz] and I would go out at weekends and just drive around. We wanted that [Presidente Masaryk] zone because it is a luxury cluster. We saw a lot of places; some were too big, and in others we would have had to rip everything out and start again, so that would have been a huge investment.
When we found this space, on Goldsmith, half a block from Masaryk, we were worried it wasn’t on Masaryk itself where all the big names are. But that would have meant compromising too much on space, and this is more private anyway. It was a toss-up between having a very nice showroom 15m from Masaryk or one on Masaryk that was big enough to fit two cars. And we still have Berger, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Louis Vuitton and Cartier nearby.
Isaac Hans, architect and developer:
We have done lots of projects in different parts of the city, but Polanco is special for me personally. In the case of the Paseo Castelar development, where Aston Martin is located, I lived my first years of married life in a little house on that property; now my office is there. Back then, Polanco was much calmer and less cosmopolitan than it is now. But now, I don’t want to leave – Polanco is the navel of this city. It’s practically what the Zócalo [main square] used to be to the city.
Polanco district
The plots thicken: scarcity of space in the Polanco district is driving property prices up rapidly
In Paseo Castelar, we wanted to do a mixed, high-end project. We have 14 apartments, ranging from 250 sq m to 300 sq m in size, a gym and all other amenities, plus offices that are very efficient spaces with no walls or columns getting in the way. There are four shops: Aston Martin, a bike shop, a flooring shop and a cookery shop.
Josephi: Everything is top notch – the travertine is from Italy, the cabinets from Germany, the lighting from the UK. We have the Barcelona chair by Mies van der Rohe. In the past, we have had the dealerships for Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa Romeo, and now Lamborghini, so we are experts in importing cars, but not all these other things. We had some delays. Take the toilets from the UK: every toilet brought into the country has to be approved by the Mexican authorities. You need to give them five samples of the toilet and they test and then destroy them. We didn’t make big structural changes – we just added offices, a toilet, a storage space, a kitchenette and stairs to the mezzanine. We had to change the glass front into doors to get cars inside. We will be able to fit six cars inside and one in the courtyard.
Hans: Polanco prices are very hot right now, because there just aren’t enough plots of land available. I’m not sure now how much I paid for the land for Paseo Castelar, but now people can be paying $5,000-$6,000 per sq m for lots. What we don’t know yet is whether these prices are the ceiling or whether they will rise to $10,000.
Josephi: Renting the building was nerve-racking. There is a lengthy tender process to be selected as an Aston Martin dealer – it took about a year in all. We had to make a down payment to ensure the site would be reserved for us. But we had the good fortune that the landlord wanted us there.
Saínz: It is a great location. We just have to hope it doesn’t fill up with traffic. It is an area where a lot of women go shopping – and women’s influence on their husbands is very important in sales like this.
Chávez: There are disadvantages to Polanco: the traffic can be crazy, but then there is no part of town that would be commercially viable that doesn’t have traffic. We will expand our existing Lamborghini workshop to house the Aston Martin one, and we can pick up clients’ cars for free when they need servicing or repairs, and deliver them back, saving the owners the hassle.
Hans: I wanted an exclusive brand in the building. Aston Martin gives the building cachet and brings the building the status it deserves. It is magnificent for both sides.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Volvo tests cloud-based communication system to make driving safer

Real-time data about slippery patches on the road is used to warn nearby vehicles nearby
Volvo has a history of shaping many safety features we take for granted today, regardless of what brand of car we drive. From the first introduction of the safety cage in 1944 and pioneering laminated windshields that same year, Volvo has always prided itself as a safety trailblazer. Now the Swedish automotive company is further developing its cloud-based infotainment system as part of a safety-focused pilot project.
In conjunction with the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (Statens Vegvesen), Volvo has placed 50 test vehicles on Scandinavian roads, each able to automatically communicate real-time data about road conditions with each other and road administrators.
When one of the test cars detects icy or slippery conditions, road friction information is transmitted via the mobile phone network to Volvo Cars’ database. A warning is then transmitted to nearby vehicles and a slippery road warning on the instrument cluster alerts drivers approaching the hazard to take appropriate action. An alert is also sent to road maintenance authorities to help improve the management of dangerous conditions.
Road friction information from individual cars is relayed via Volvo Cars’ database to othe...
"When the road administrator has access to information from a large number of cars, the data can be used to make winter road maintenance more efficient," says Erik Israelsson, Project Leader Cooperative ITS (Intelligent Transport System) at Volvo Cars. "The information could help to improve road safety further for all road users."
Volvo stresses that no data identifying the vehicle is shared with the road administrator and that the aggregated information is used for the sole purpose of describing the current status of the road network. Volvo plans to make the technology available to consumers within a few years
"The pilot is one of the first practical examples of the way communication between vehicles over the mobile network enables vehicles to 'speak' to each other and with the traffic environment," says Israelsson. "This is only the beginning. In the future we will have increased exchange of vital information between vehicles. There is considerable potential in this area, including safer traffic, a more comfortable drive and an improved traffic flow."
Volvo isn't the only company to recognize the potential for enhanced vehicle communications to improve safety and convenience. Mercedes,BMWGM and Toyota, are just some of the companies working on vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications systems.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

How data-driven design could filter down from the McLaren P1 to your next car

What do the McLaren P1 supercar, air traffic control improvements and the fastest road bike have in common? McLaren Applied Technologies has figured out to use data-driven design at lightning fast speeds for all of them. And the company is only just getting started.
Speaking at the Gigaom Structure Data 2014 conference on Wednesday, Geoff McGrath, managing director of McLaren Applied Technologies, said the data-driven design techniques that work really well on automotive design apply to a vast number of other industries. “The convergence of data management, analytics and simulation create high-performance design value at a fast pace,” McGrath noted.
Simulation is a big part of the approach, mainly because it provides digital data before building a physical product, regardless of whether that product is a $500 bike or a million-plus-dollar automobile. But it’s not about saving money, it’s about saving time.
In race cars, the team uses F1 simulators so designers can view a driver and feed that data into models. The design team then gets instant feedback and can make new changes in the models, keeping the design cycle very short.
McGrath said that by instrumenting an object and seeing how it interacts with variables — the road or cyclist on a bike, for example — his company can determine whether a physical design change is even worth considering. Combining the simulation with years of actual data speeds up the process, so much so that the Specialized bike company said it learned more in six months with McLaren than it did in the prior decade.
Product design is just the start of how vast information stores can help, however. McGrath suggested future products that use data-driven smarts to perform better on their own. “Products that can sense how they’re being used, where and in what environment can make intelligent choices,” he noted.
Geoff McGrath, managing director of McLaren Applied Technologies, Structure Data 2014

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Tomahawk super kit-car supports a trio of powertrains

The Tomahawk kit-car features various items like dihedral doors, a T6 aluminum monocoque c...

While most of Canada seems content to let the rest of the world worry about designing exotic vehicles, some in Quebec see things slightly differently. Recently the francophone province has brought us such automotive morsels as the Felino cb7 and the MK5 track racer, and now Dubuc SLC’s Tomahawk, a multi-talented 2-seater kit-car, capable of supporting an electric drive train, or one pilfered from a gas-powered car or motorcycle, can be added to the list of boutique Quebecois offerings.
Located in Quebec City, the Dubuc Super Light Car team has put forward a scheme where both buyer and designer participate. Recently shown at the Quebec City International Auto Show, the Tomahawk’s design is premised around a traditional mid-engined architectural model. Similar in design and proportions to a Ferrari 458 or Tesla Roadster, the two-door sports car features some interesting design and engineering goodies including gullwing doors, a T6 aluminum monocoque chassis, polymer body panels, a built-in roll bar and a targa-top. The aluminum chassis, reported to weigh in at a scant 300 lb (136 kg) is capable of fitting a 6’3” individual if needed.
Dubuc SLC is currently taking reserve payments of $5000 for the Tomahawk Kit (Photo: Dubuc...
Now although the team claims that the Tomahawk kit-car has been “engineered to be the fastest, safest, and strongest SuperCar kit on the market,” it does so without a standard powerplant or provided performance figures. This does provide a diverse platform though. Dubuc SLS says that the aluminum chassis is designed in such a way that it can accept either an electric drive train (as shown in Quebec), gas or motorcycle engine. This multi-tasking ability does require the team to adapt the Tomahawk’s engine mounts and modify the rear driveline system to fit the chosen powerplant.
For US$19,995 the Tomahawk super kit-car can be yours, sans seatbelt, engine, front suspen...

The kit itself provides many key ingredients to build the Tomahawk, but buyers are still on the hook to source some of the kit-car’s remaining items. Things like the engine and transmission from a FWD vehicle needs to be tracked down, as does a C4 Corvette’s front suspension, bearings, wheels and brake components, a wiring harness to help get the electrics functioning, lights, the radiator, fuel tank, seat belts and of course, carpet. A full list of what's in the kit and what you need to bring to the table yourself can be found here.
So while the kit price of US$19,995 may seem appealing, the economic reality is buyers will be required to do some extra financial lifting. Mario Dubuc says the cost of a full build could come in as low as $30,000 providing a suitable donor car is found, and with a build time estimated at a 250 hours, those with the know-how might still find a bargain-priced supercar at the end of this rainbow.
Dubuc SLC is currently taking reserve payments of $5000 for the Tomahawk Kit. There's no word as yet on a time frame for delivery.

SLS says the Tomahawk can accept either an electric, FWD gas engine or motorcycle engine (...

Saturday, 8 March 2014

The 5 top tech cars of the 2014 Geneva Motor Show

Geneva is the Switzerland of auto shows. Without much of a local auto industry, Geneva is a neutral territory with no favorites. The 2014 show now underway is heavy on tech cars andgreen cars. This was where Apple chose to unveil CarPlay – the proprietary connection between iPhones and car infotainment systems – alongside Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. The 84th edition of Salon International de l’Auto is also heavy on supercars you’ll never afford; small cars and microcars that won’t come to the US because American behinds just won’t fit in narrow seats; and brands that lost footing in the US market and haven’t returned, such as Peugeot with its 308 compact hatchback European car-of-the-year.
Here are the top five new cars at the Geneva Motor Show with lots of promise and standout technology — and yes, they’re all coming to the US.
Volvo Concept Estate Geneva 2014 with Apple CarPlay

Volvo Concept Estate, the next XC-90

Volvo Concept Estate Geneva 2014 with Apple CarPlayThe Volvo Concept Estate (featured photo) is the stalking horse for the aging warhorse 2015 Volvo XC-90 midsize SUV. The Concept Estate has features intended to wow auto show attendees such as wafer-thin seats, two not four doors, and a low roofline. But the dashboard looks production ready with an LCD instrument panel, a big vertical center stack display in a 4:3 ratio, and few center stock buttons or knobs. Volvo designers share the distaste shown by Cadillac and Lincoln (until recently) for many center stack controls when there’s a touchscreen available. The Geneva center stack shows seven controls: hazard, parking assist, track forward and back, play-pause and volume (the big center knob), and two defrost buttons. If Cadillac CUE and MyLincoln Touch are typical, Volvo may hear mixed customer feedback.
The current XC-90 dates to 2003, an eternity for cars. The new XC-90 is slated for production in the second half of the year. Likely it will be the first Volvo with Apple CarPlay. It’s also the vehicle where Volvo tries to reclaim the high ground on safety from Audi-BMW-Mercedes — German automakers with adaptive cruise control and steering assist, active high beam lighting that blanks the area pointing at oncoming cars, low-speed car and pedestrian detection with warnings and auto-braking, even a pedestrian airbag in front, like a cow-catcher on a train only gentler. It will also get Volvo’s just-released 2-liter, 300-hp four-cylinder engine that uses both a turbocharger and supercharger. The XC-90 is about the size of an Acura MDX, BMW X5, or Toyota Highlander.
Mercedes-Benz at the Geneva International Auto Show 2014

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe banks in corners

MB S coupe cockpit 3-4 RThe rich are different. They won’t get carsick as much going around curves if they’re in thenew Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe, a swoopy two-door version of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan, the reigning ExtremeTech Car of the Year. As part of Mercedes’ umbrella Intelligent Drive system and subset technology called Magic Body Controls, the S-Class sedan used a stereo camera to read the road ahead for bumps and adjusted the suspension before arriving at the bumps. The coupe at Geneva debuted an additional feature, active curve tilting function. When the coupe goes around a corner, the air suspension jacks up the outer side (right side when turning left) and the car actually banks into the turn. High-end automakers have had features to counter body lean once you’re in a curve; Mercedes appears to be predicting and adapting as the car enters the curve.
“The [coupe] leans into bends much like a motorcyclist … reducing the lateral acceleration acting on the vehicle’s occupants,” says Prof Dr Thomas Weber, the Mercedes board member overseeing R&D. “On country roads in particular, this means greater driving pleasure and ride comfort for our customers.”
All the other cool S-Class tech continues, from a fragrance dispenser to two huge LCD displays in the instrument panel and center stack up through semi-autonomous driving. The car’s multiple radars and cameras pace you to the car in front, slow for other cars, steer for you (as long as it feels your hands on the wheel), and swerves to avoid pedestrians and oncoming cars. If you feel the need, you can specify a headlamp package with Swarovski crystals. The coupe that banks requires money in the bank. The price starts at an estimated $115,000, $20,000 more than the sedan, and can hit $200,000 with the AMG high performance edition.
Taste is in the eye of the beholder, perhaps no more so than the optional offering of 47 Swarovski crystals to dress up the running lamp and turn signal on each side.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is (gasp) front-drive

BMW Active Tourer cockpitA couple years ago, BMW surveyed customers in Europe. “Would front-drive cars fit with BMW’s image?” the company asked. Some respondents replied, “You mean BMWs aren’t front-drive already?” BMW enthusiasts wept, but that was the green light BMW needed to create a front-drive-platform car sharing technology with Mini. Front-drive technology with the engine mounted left to right (transverse mount) rather than front to back lets BMW create a vehicle with more space than a rear-drive vehicle of the same length. It is expected to be a 2016 vehicle. Best think of it as the cross between a hatchback compact car, say a VW Golf, and a taller SUV. From some angles, it looks like a Honda CR-V, only six inches shorter at 172 inches, or 4370 mm.
For the world market, there will be three-cylinder, four-cylinder, and four-cylinder diesel engines, all turbocharged. The US probably won’t get the diesel, even if it gets about 65 mpg highway. There will be lots of tech since this is a BMW and BMW has learned that customers often want well-equipped small cars, whether they’re boomers downsizing or San Francisco dot-com Millennials with money to burn even after paying for housing and carousing. Tech will include a head-up display, the first on a car this small; automatic rear tailgate opening; collision warning and city braking. All-wheel drive might come later, most likely as a hybrid with electric motors powering the rear wheels.
It will likely list for less than $30,000 since the rear-drive 1 Series sedan currently starts at $32,000 with freight and front-drive is lower in the pecking order. BMW last year added the 2 Series and 4 Series to its lineup to indicate a swoopier coupe version, still-rear-drive, of the 1 Series and 3 Series. Now the 2 Series nameplate also stands for a front-drive crossover/SUV. Either way, it would compete with the Audi A3 wagon and Mercedes-Benz GLA SUV. Don’t confuse the 2 Series Active Tourer with the just-announced BMW X4 Sports Activity Coupe, which is a downsized BMW X6. Both are effectively hatchback SUV versions of the X3 and X5.


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