Archive for the ‘cars’ Category

Formula E’s new season is going to be much faster, as this video shows

November 15th, 2018

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Exactly a month from today, Formula E starts its fifth season. A lot will have changed compared to the sport we saw at season four's finale in Brooklyn this summer. When the first race of the season—which takes place in Saudi Arabia, proving Formula 1 has no monopoly on holding races in problematic places—gets underway, it will do so with an entirely new race car, one that solves some of the complaints from skeptics of this all-electric series.

The second-generation Formula E car has double the battery capacity, sporting 56kWh versus 28kWh for the first-gen machine. So those mid-race pit stops to change the car are a thing of the past. And the cars have gotten faster, too, as the video above shows. Audi factory driver Lucas di Grassi is behind the wheel of the original Formula E Spark-Renault SRT_01, as raced in season one. To his right is BMW factory driver Antonio Felix da Costa, equipped with the new Spark SRT05e. As you can see, the new car is a lot more interesting to look at than the old model's "generic single-seater" styling.

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Posted in Ars Technica Videos, cars, Formula E | Comments (0)

Open mind, wide open throttle: We go to our first NASCAR race

November 15th, 2018
NASCAR logo.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

RICHMOND, Va.—Earlier this year, I took a long-overdue look at NASCAR. That deep dive into the technology busted stereotypes and preconceptions, but it really was only part of the NASCAR puzzle. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I ignored perhaps the most important aspect of the nation's most popular motorsport. This only really sank in a few weeks ago after I, at long last, went to Richmond Raceway to witness my first NASCAR race. Because the key to understanding NASCAR—at least to this observer—is simple: it's all about the spectacle.

This Sunday is the title-decider at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida. After 267 laps—400.5 miles if you're reading this in America, 644.5 km if you aren't—the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (to give it its full name) will have a winner. The championship is now a four-way fight among Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing), Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing), Joey Logano (Team Penske), and Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing). NASCAR has moved to a playoff structure of late to ensure the championship goes down to the wire. So each of the four drivers enters the weekend with an equal shot: whoever finishes highest in the running order will be crowned champion. (What happens in the event of crashes and so on is explored by Alanis King here in much better depth than I could hope to provide.)

Focusing just on the technology was an omission, but it was no error. I purposefully chose my off-season visit to North Carolina at the beginning of this year as my introduction to NASCAR. Ars is about technology, after all; visiting the sport at home, when things are quiet, meant we could focus on the technology without everything else that comes with being at a race weekend. Less danger of cultural tourism, too.

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Posted in cars, NASCAR | Comments (0)

Walmart agrees to work with Ford on self-driving grocery delivery pilot

November 14th, 2018
Walmart agrees to work with Ford on self-driving grocery delivery pilot

Enlarge (credit: Ford)

Ford is working with Postmates and Walmart on a pilot program for self-driving grocery deliveries, the companies announced on Wednesday.

"We are exploring how self-driving vehicles can deliver many everyday goods such as groceries, diapers, pet food and personal care items," Ford said in a press release.

The grocery delivery pilot experiment will be based in Miami, where Ford's self-driving car company, Argo, is already testing self-driving vehicles. Ford had been testing self-driving deliveries with Postmates prior to this announcement.

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Posted in Argo, cars, driverless cars, Ford, Miami, postmates, Wal-Mart | Comments (0)

Volkswagen plans to make 50 million electric cars, CEO says

November 12th, 2018
The I.D. (left), I.D. Vizzion (center), and I.D. Buzz (right).

Enlarge / The I.D. (left), I.D. Vizzion (center), and I.D. Buzz (right). (credit: Volkswagen)

They say new converts are always the most devout. Take Volkswagen: after betting big on diesel—and losing—the automaker is going full-speed ahead on electrification. Earlier this year, it revealed it had committed to spending $25 billion on batteries from a number of suppliers, including Samsung and LG Chem. Now those plans may be accelerating, if all goes well at a meeting of VW's supervisory board this coming Friday.

Last week, Reuters reported that there is a proposal to convert two German factories over to electric vehicle production. One of these—at Emden—would build an as-yet unnamed sub-€20,000 ($22,550) EV and another called the I.D. Aero, both from VW Group's new EV architecture (called MEB). Another plant at Hannover would produce the crowd-pleasing I.D. Buzz. The first of VW's new MEB vehicles will be the I.D. which goes into production at a third factory in Zwickau in late 2019.

And today, VW CEO Herbert Diess told the German publication Automobilwoche that total battery earmarks for the company were now up to €50 billion ($56 billion). "We have bought batteries for 50 million vehicles," he told the publication.

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Elon Musk on double-decker freeways, permitting, and building sewers

November 11th, 2018
boring machine segments

Segments of The Boring Company's boring machine, called Godot. (credit: The Boring Company)

Tesla, SpaceX, and Boring Company CEO Elon Musk is good at finding alternative markets for his products. He did this with the lithium-ion batteries he was building and sourcing for his Model S, X, and eventually Model 3 cars: by developing a line of stationary storage battery products, he tapped into another well of potential customers at little additional expense.

Similarly, Musk told mayors on Thursday that he wants The Boring Company to dig sewers, water transport, and electrical tunnels under cities, in addition to the transportation-focused tunnels he hopes to dig to house electric skate systems.

Musk mentioned this alternate use for his boring machines at the National League of Cities' City Summit, during a "fireside chat" with Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti. According to Forbes, Musk told the audience, "The Boring Company is also going to do tunneling for, like, water transport, sewage, electrical. We're not going to turn our noses up at sewage tunnels. We're happy to do that too."

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Posted in cars, electrical, Elon Musk, Energy, sewers, the boring company | Comments (0)

9 things I learned from driving a supercar for three days

November 9th, 2018
9 things I learned from driving a supercar for three days

Enlarge (credit: BradleyWarren Photography)

The email arrived unexpectedly. "I don't think we've ever met, but I'm the PR Manager for McLaren in North America," it began. My pulse quickened as I continued reading. "We've got a 570S Spider that is making a quick appearance in the Chicago area for a few press loans, and I was wondering if you might be interested in scheduling a quick loan for a review?"

In the year or so I have spent reviewing cars at Ars, in addition to my usual managing editor duties, I've generally stuck to SUVs, crossovers, and minivans. Some of them can go very fast—the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, BMW 640i GT, and the Maserati Levante come to mind—but the McLaren 570S Spider is quite a different beast. After a quick chat with Automotive Editor Jonathan Gitlin, I replied with a "yes, please." A week later, I found myself pulling out of the garage at the McLaren dealership in downtown Chicago behind the wheel of a $235,340 supercar.

When it comes to McLarens, the 570S Spider is toward the low-end of the price spectrum. New for the 2018 model year, the Spider is a convertible version of the 570S, a model that itself hit the market in 2015. Capable of a top speed of 196mph with the 101lb (46kg) roof down, the 570S Spider can hit 204mph with the hardtop in place. Speeds like that come naturally to a car that has a 3.8-liter V8 twin-turbo engine and weighs just a hair over 3,300lb. The 562hp (419kW) engine offers 443lb-ft (600Nm) of torque and is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch seamless-shift gearbox.

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Posted in cars, FAST, McLaren 570S Spider, supercar | Comments (0)

Why millions of lasers on a chip could be the future of lidar

November 8th, 2018
Why millions of lasers on a chip could be the future of lidar

Enlarge (credit: Ouster)

Dozens of startups are working on lidar, a type of laser sensor that many experts see as essential for fully self-driving cars. In my view, one of the most interesting companies is called Ouster. I first wrote about Ouster back in May, when I explained how it was bucking an industry trend toward fixed "solid state" lidar in favor of the spinning design pioneered by industry leader Velodyne.

Because Ouster's lidar looks so much like Velodyne's on the outside, I assumed that it looked similar inside, too. But in a recent interview with Ars Technica, Ouster CEO and co-founder Angus Pacala told me that Ouster's lidar is actually radically different inside.

Patent filings show that Velodyne's venerable 64-laser lidar has a stack of circuit boards, each connected to an individually packaged laser. By contrast, if you crack open the case of Ouster's 64-laser unit, you'll find that all of its 64 laser beams emanate from an integrated circuit not much bigger than a grain of rice.

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Posted in cars, lidar, Ouster, self driving cars, SPAD, VCSEL | Comments (0)

Tesla replaces Elon Musk as chair—he’ll stay CEO

November 8th, 2018
Tesla replaces Elon Musk as chair—he’ll stay CEO

Enlarge (credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Tesla has announced a new chair of its board of directors: Robyn Denholm. The move is part of the deal with the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle claims that CEO Elon Musk misled investors. The deal required Musk to not serve as chairman for three years. Elon Musk will remain as CEO.

Denholm, who has served on Tesla’s board since 2014, will leave her role as CFO of Telstra, the Australian telecom giant, in six months.

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Posted in cars, Elon Musk, Robyn Denholm, Tesla | Comments (0)

Variable-compression engine meets crossover: Infiniti QX50 review

November 8th, 2018
The Infiniti QX50 in Hermosa Blue.

Enlarge / The Infiniti QX50 in Hermosa Blue. (credit: BradleyWarren Photography)

In a world full of similarly priced compact luxury crossovers, one way to differentiate yourself is with what's under the hood. That's the approach Infiniti has taken with the all-new 2019 Infiniti QX50. What might otherwise be yet another $50,000 crossover becomes intriguing if only because of Infiniti's brand-new VC-Turbo engine, and the QX50 is the first vehicle in the carmaker's lineup to be powered by it.

As the name implies, the VC-Turbo uses different compression ratios based on driving conditions. The compression ratio describes the volume of an engine cylinder when the piston is at the top versus the bottom of its travel. The higher the compression ratio, the more thermally efficiently the engine can run. But the turbochargers that are all but omnipresent in today's two-liter engines don't play nicely with high compression ratios, because the combustion can become erratic and possibly result in engine knock (unwanted detonation of the fuel-air mix).

Infiniti's solution involves replacing the usual connecting rod between the piston head and crankshaft with a multilink arrangement. As Ars Automotive Editor Jonathan Gitlin explained:

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Posted in cars, crossovers, Infiniti, Infiniti QX50, SUVs | Comments (0)

Tesla battery will power unusual community storage project in Western Australia

November 7th, 2018

A community storage pilot project using Tesla batteries went live this week in Western Australia, three months ahead of schedule. The 105KW/420KWh pooled storage will act as a sort of locker for excess power produced by homes with solar panels.

The project is an unusual one because it pools battery capacity for homes with solar panels. It was funded by energy company Synergy and government-owned Western Power, which sought 52 customers with solar panels on their homes as participants. The 52 shares of the project were snapped up in two weeks, far more quickly than expected, which accelerated the project's timeline.

Participants will each be allotted 8kWh of storage, which they will "fill" with excess power created by their rooftop solar panels during the day. (This is in theory, of course. Solar-generated electricity can flow back onto the grid, but there's no guarantee that the battery will be charged with solar-generated electrons.) In the evening, customers will "be able to draw electricity back from the PowerBank during peak time without having to outlay upfront costs for a behind-the-meter battery storage system," says a press release from the government of Western Australia.

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Posted in battery, Biz & IT, cars, Storage, Tesla | Comments (0)