Archive for the ‘Cars Technica’ Category

What is the car industry’s problem with over-the-air software updates?

July 25th, 2017

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock)

General Motors has announced plans to offer over-the-air (OTA) software updates “before 2020.” The company’s CEO, Mary Barra, announced the plan on an analyst call on Tuesday. The capability will require the deployment of a new electric vehicle architecture and a new infotainment system. OTA updates are high on the tech-savvy car buyer’s wishlist, but here in the US, most new cars are locked out of receiving them thanks to a legal and contractual landscape between the OEMs and their dealer networks that is highly beneficial to the latter.

It’s not a technical issue; companies like Harman and others have the right systems to push out OTA updates to vehicles; the OEMs just aren’t allowed to deploy them.

Boiled down to its essence, OEMs can’t offer existing customers new features for their vehicles without the car dealerships getting their cut. This is in contrast to Tesla, which has done much to highlight the utility of OTA updates.

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Formula E wows the crowds with street racing in NYC

July 20th, 2017

Elle Cayabyab Gitlin

NEW YORK—On July 15 and 16, the fledgling sport of Formula E racing managed something its older, bigger, much richer sibling never managed: racing with the Statue of Liberty and the downtown Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. After races in Miami (2015) and Long Beach, California (2015, 2016), the Big Apple became the third US venue to host an ePrix, and it should provide the electric racing series a home for some time to come thanks to a 10-year contract with the city.

Before a sold-out crowd of 18,000, DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird stepped up to the pressure and took two wins from two races. And with championship leader Sebastien Buemi absent—the Swiss driver was committed to racing in Germany in the World Endurance Championship the same weekend—ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport’s Lucas di Grassi made up ground in the title fight, narrowing the gap to just 10 points with two races left to go. Given all the excitement (and the fact NYC qualifies as the closest stop on the Formula E calendar), Ars took to the grandstands to see how one of our favorite racing series is starting to mature.

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Posted in Cars Technica, electric cars, Features, Formula E | Comments (0)

Buick’s 2018 Regal GS takes aim at the Audi A5

July 19th, 2017

Buick

MILFORD, Mich.—When Buick’s invite to witness the unveiling of its new 2018 Regal GS hit our inbox, we didn’t have to think long before replying in the affirmative. For one thing, despite a punishing travel schedule of late, the reveal would take place at General Motors’ Milford Proving Ground.

Any chance one gets to visit one of these asphalt and concrete automotive playgrounds is an opportunity to be seized; the grounds are normally off-limits to members of the press, as they’re home to numerous prototypes being tested away from public glare. For another, Buick is a rather enigmatic automaker. Not as brash or flashy as Cadillac but more refined than the blue-collared Chevrolet, it’s ploughing the same ground as Mazda—a small brand with upwardly mobile aspirations.

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Daimler to offer software update for 3 million Mercedes-Benz diesels in EU

July 19th, 2017

Enlarge (credit: Michiel Dijcks)

On Tuesday evening, Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler released a statement saying that it would voluntarily recall three million Mercedes-Benz diesels in the EU to offer a software update that would improve emissions control system performance. The recall will cost the company about €220 million ($254 million). Mercedes-Benz was already in the process of offering software update-focused recalls to improve emissions systems in compact-class cars and V-Class cars with diesel engines, so this new announcement widens the radius on those existing recalls.

Dieter Zetsche, a Daimler AG Chairman and the head of the German automaker’s Mercedes-Benz brand, explained the action as a move to clear up uncertainty. He described the recalls as “additional measures to reassure drivers of diesel cars and to strengthen confidence in diesel technology.”

“We are convinced that diesel engines will continue to be a fixed element of the drive-system mix, not least due to their low CO2 emissions,” Zetsche added.

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Posted in Cars Technica, daimler, diesel, emissions, Mercedes-Benz, recall | Comments (0)

Bosch took us for a ride in its level 3 autonomous car

July 18th, 2017

Bosch provided flights to Frankfurt and three nights’ accommodation for this trip to the Bosch Mobility Experience.

Video edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

BOXBERG, GERMANY—Are autonomous cars like buses? In one way, yes. You wait ages for a ride in one, and then all of a sudden several show up in short succession. In late June, we went for a spin in Jack, Audi’s level 3 autonomous test vehicle. Then, a couple of weeks later in Germany at the Bosch Mobility Experience, we got to sample another such vehicle.

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Posted in Ars Technica Videos, autonomous, autonomous driving, Bosch, Cars Technica, self-driving car | Comments (0)

Camaro goes nuclear: Chevrolet escalates the muscle car war

July 18th, 2017

We live in strange times. At one end of the automotive universe right now are pure electric cars rapidly approaching mainstream usability for anyone within a conventional gas tank’s distance of a latte. Development of autonomous cars is plainly visible. Pickup trucks outsell everything in America and yet, there’s still an appetite for 650 horsepower (485kW) track-day weapons. Chevy’s new Camaro ZL1 1LE goes back to the well-understood niche of—comparatively speaking in sales numbers—a tiny portion of thrill-seeking track junkies who want to arrive and drive at the nearest circuit. To counter Steely Dan’s debut album title, you can buy a thrill.

Rocketing around the new Area 27 race track in Kelowna, British Columbia (name hinting at the car number carried around by Jacques Villeneuve, 1997 Canadian F1 Driver’s Champion, who helped design the course, as well as his father Gilles), it took a bit of effort not to simply bust out laughing at the stupid level of grip, acceleration, and never-quit braking performance of the 1LE over the 3.0-mile (4.8-km) circuit.

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A diesel emissions test you can’t game? We try it out

July 14th, 2017

Bosch provided flights to Frankfurt and three nights’ accommodation for this trip to the Bosch Mobility Experience.

Jonathan Gitlin

BOXBERG, GERMANY—Diesel is a dirty word in the auto industry these days. The fuel was once viewed—particularly in Europe—as a potential savior, since diesel engines offer much better fuel economy and emit much less CO2 per mile than engines that run on gasoline. But that changed once Volkswagen Group was caught cheating its emissions tests, resulting in billions of dollars of fines and a loss of public trust. Automotive-component maker Bosch had a hand in the mess, too—it provided the code on the Engine Control Units in VW Group’s offending diesels. The supplier ultimately paid out several hundred million dollars in settlement in the US, although it was not required to admit any wrongdoing.

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Posted in Bosch, Cars Technica, diesel pollution, diesel scandal | Comments (0)

Meet Audi’s new tech flagship: The 2018 A8 sedan

July 13th, 2017

Audi provided flights to Barcelona and two nights’ accommodation for this trip.

Jonathan Gitlin

BARCELONA, SPAIN—In one of the most elaborate new-car reveals the industry has seen, Audi has revealed its new technology flagship to the world. The big three German luxury brands (Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz) are locked in a constant battle of oneupmanship when it comes to these four-wheeled standard bearers. As each brings out a new super-sedan, it leapfrogs its rivals in terms of features and technology, and the fourth-generation A8 is no exception.

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The augmented reality racing helmet is finally here (sort of) thanks to Acura

July 10th, 2017

Acura

On Monday, Acura announced it’s sort of making one of my dreams come true. As a way to launch the new 2018 TLX A-Spec, it’s debuting an augmented reality helmet. Four “technology influencers”—Zachary Levi, Sam Gorski, Dom Esposito, and Maude Garrett (no, I’ve never heard of them either)—are going to compete against each other in a race that will be livestreamed on Facebook at 8pm EDT. Each driver gets three laps, competing to set the fastest time of the day. But this is no ordinary time-trial or autocross; it’s an augmented reality course with obstacles that will change on each of the three laps.

The special helmets, developed with help from Current Studios, use a gyroscope to monitor the drivers’ head positions relative to the environment. A full-color, 80-degree HD augmented reality view of the track is projected onto the visor. The actual graphics are being displayed on a 5-inch HD screen in a custom console on the back seat, which is then projected onto the visor. Data from the cars’ ABS system (wheel speed and direction) will be used to position the obstacles relative to each of the TLXs.

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Volvo says from 2019 all new models it introduces will be electric or hybrid

July 5th, 2017

Enlarge / Volvo’s current plug-in hybrid range, the S90, V90, XC60 and XC90 T8s. (credit: Volvo Cars)

On Wednesday, Volvo Cars announced that all new models introduced from 2019 will feature some form of electric propulsion. The news follows an announcement in May that diesel engines have no future with the brand, in part because of ever-stricter EU carbon emissions targets, but also because of the growing concern over the health effects of diesel exhaust, which is loaded with particulates and nitrogen oxides.

When it comes to socially responsible car companies, Volvo appears to be leading the pack. The Swedish automaker, which built its reputation on safety, has already committed to a goal of reducing the number of deaths or serious injuries in a new Volvo to zero by the year 2020. And it looks like that concern extends beyond the wellbeing of its customers to the rest of us as well.

Between 2019 and 2021, Volvo plans to launch five new electric vehicles. Details about the new EVs are scarce at present, but the company says that three of them will be badged as Volvos, and the other two will be high-performance EVs badged as Polestars. (Polestar is Volvo’s in-house tuning operation, and you’ll be able to read a review of the S60 Polestar here at Ars in a few weeks.)

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Posted in 48V hybrid, Cars Technica, electric car, plug-in hybrid, volvo | Comments (0)