Archive for the ‘cars’ Category

If you’re crazy rich, you can pay Ferrari to be a test driver

June 14th, 2019

MONTEREY, Calif.—"Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me." Those words were written by F. Scott Fitzgerald back in 1926, and they remain true almost a century later. It's certainly true when it comes to cars, where having a telephone number bank balance opens doors to machinery that the rest of us only ever get close to in video games. Recently, I got a chance to take a peek behind that curtain at the historic Laguna Seca racetrack in California.

Once upon a time, the supercar was the top of the tree, and cars like the McLaren F1 and Ferrari Enzo re-wrote the rules on how fast a car could go and how much it would cost. Before too long, that kind of performance trickled down—even a Tesla P100D will beat either of those cars in a race to 100mph, for example—and so we got the hypercar.

Carbon fiber hybrids with around 1,000hp on tap and seven-digit price tags became the new apex predators of the car world, but for some, even these are now too common, too pedestrian. So what do you do if you've got several million dollars burning a hole in your pocket and you want to go fast, really, really fast? For a certain kind of person, the answer is, you call up Ferrari and ask about its Corsa Clienti program.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in 599XX, cars, F2004, ferrari, Formula 1, FXX, FXX-K, track day | Comments (0)

Hyundai self-driving deal points to industry-wide pattern

June 13th, 2019
Hyundai self-driving deal points to industry-wide pattern

Enlarge (credit: Hyundai)

It has been a busy week for Aurora, the self-driving startup founded by veterans of the Google, Tesla, and Uber self-driving programs. On Monday, Aurora announced it had forged a partnership with Fiat Chrysler. On Tuesday, Aurora said it was ending its partnership with Volkswagen. Now Hyundai is deepening its partnership with Aurora with an equity investment.

It's the latest example of an industry-wide pattern: one after another, car companies have made big investments in self-driving startups. And these deals mean that carmakers are effectively entering into self-driving alliances with one another.

Some carmakers are taking big stakes in self-driving projects

General Motors started the process back in 2016, buying self-driving startup Cruise for more than $500 million. In 2018, GM sold a modest stake in Cruise to Honda, cementing a self-driving alliance between the two companies.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in aurora, cars, hyundai, self driving cars, waymo | Comments (0)

Racing’s not just for rich guys—a look at the American grassroots scene

June 13th, 2019

For most New Yorkers, a frozen Lake George signals the onset of winter and some of the year's most brutal weather. But for a handful of upstate gear heads, the ice represents something completely different: the perfect race track. "This is my favorite time of the year!" shouts Paul Dudley on a chilly February morning. He revs up his '99 Mazda Miata and peels out onto the frozen lake, running laps along a makeshift course marked by cones along the ice. His stripped-down Miata—"a Miata on an 800-pound diet," he jokes—is fitted with studded tires that dig into the ice, providing significant grip while kicking a thick mist into the air on every turn.

For Dudley, and more than 100 other drivers like him, these ice races are the ultimate adrenaline rush. They are also emblematic of what the country's grassroots racing scene has become: a unique but increasingly accessible way for hobbyists to fuel their need for speed.

"This is probably the most economical form of racing," says Michael Westhouse, the vice president of the Adirondack Motor Enthusiast Club (AMEC), the local organization that has hosted the races since 1965. "You don't need a racing license. All you need is a helmet and some snow tires and you're all set." AMEC hosts races for nine different classes, including home-built vehicles, modified cars with studded tires, and even street-legal cars, which cautiously navigate each twist and turn with virtually no traction.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in cars, grassroots, ice racing, lawnmower racing | Comments (0)

America’s sports car racing series embraces being green again

June 12th, 2019
America’s sports car racing series embraces being green again

When you think of motorsport, you probably don't associate it with being environmentally aware. But there are actually racing series that take the concept of reducing carbon emissions quite seriously. Obviously, there's Formula E, which races electric cars powered by biofuels. But well before Formula E was a thing, there was the American Le Mans Series. Back in 2008, the series partnered with SAE International, the US Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency to create the Green Racing Challenge, a race-within-a-race that looked at energy consumption and carbon emissions as well as sheer lap time to determine who went the farthest, fastest, and most cleanly.

The program survived the 2013 merger between the ALMS and another series, Grand-Am, but sadly came to an end of sorts in 2016 when the series aligned itself with a Le Mans rulebook that mandated E20 rather than cellulosic E85 as the gasoline/ethanol blend of choice. But the hiatus is now over. "We’re getting the band back together" said Scott Atherton, president of IMSA (International Motor Sports Association), the sanctioning body that runs what we now call the WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. "We were the first racing series to form partnerships with DOE and EPA, and we're making IMSA a leader in reducing the environmental impact of our sport," he said at a press conference held at this year's Detroit Grand Prix at the end of May.

Green racing is an actual thing

In the past, the Green Racing Challenge was only for one of the GTLM class, contested by road-based machines like Corvettes, Ferraris, and Porsche 911s. Now, the goal is for the entire series—which sees a mix of DPi prototypes, GTLM cars, and the more amateur-friendly GT3 versions all race together—to achieve Green Racing Cup status. Yes, that's actually a thing. In 2014, SAE published green racing protocols to ensure that efforts such as these have some meaningful impact. It's a technical manifesto that I think many here would be on board with, as laid out by its mission:

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in cars, EPA, green racing, IMSA, WeatherTech SportsCar Championship | Comments (0)

At Tesla shareholder meeting, Musk assures “there is not a demand problem”

June 12th, 2019
A Tesla sedan on a city street charges at a charging station.

Enlarge (credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Tesla held a shareholder meeting in Mountain View, Calif., on Tuesday afternoon, and CEO Elon Musk addressed the audience on a number of issues facing the company before taking questions from shareholders.

Tesla had a complicated first half of the year. It achieved significant Model 3 delivery, but reportedly sluggish demand for the Model S and X has dragged the company down. Some analysts have turned bearish on Tesla after Musk promised profitable quarters going forward in Q4 2018 but then missed profitability badly in Q1 2019.

But Musk defended his company's health in his initial statement to the audience. He told shareholders "I want to be clear that there is not a demand problem... Sales have far exceeded production, and production has been pretty good. We have a decent shot at a record quarter... if not, it's going to be very close." Musk added that 90 percent of orders are coming from non-reservation customers.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in battery electric vehicles, cars, Energy, Tesla | Comments (0)

Volkswagen snubs self-driving startup Aurora, eyes Ford partnership

June 11th, 2019
Ford CEO Jim Hackett, left, talks to Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess in January 2019.

Enlarge / Ford CEO Jim Hackett, left, talks to Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess in January 2019. (credit: Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Aurora—a self-driving startup founded by former leaders of self-driving projects at Tesla, Uber, and Google's Waymo—aims to make its self-driving technology an industry standard by licensing it to multiple car companies.

The company has made impressive progress securing automotive partners. On Monday, Aurora announced that it had scored a new partnership with Fiat Chrysler to develop self-driving commercial vehicles. That was in addition to existing deals with Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Chinese electric carmaker Byton.

On Tuesday, however, the Financial Times reported a significant setback: Volkswagen was ending its deal with Aurora.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in aurora, cars, Ford, Volkswagen | Comments (0)

Electric car charging in America just got a little bit easier

June 11th, 2019
An Electrify America charging station.

Enlarge / An Electrify America charging station. (credit: Electrify America)

At the risk of sounding like a stuck record (or perhaps a looped .mp3 file, since this is 2019), infrastructure matters when it comes to getting people to switch to an electric vehicle. The best electric vehicle in the world is still just a paperweight on wheels if you can't recharge it before you get to your destination, after all. It's something that Tesla has excelled at with its Supercharger network, both in geographical coverage and also ease of use.

Life with an EV from any other OEM is a bit more complicated when it comes to public chargers. There may be many more CCS and CHAdeMO DC fast-charging locations in the US than Tesla Supercharger stations (according to data from the US Department of Energy) but they're split across multiple different service providers. That usually means signing up for multiple accounts and carrying multiple RFID fobs, particularly if you're trying to drive long distance.

But on Tuesday, things got a little easier. ChargePoint and Electrify America, two of the leading US EV charging networks, just announced a roaming partnership. Starting later this year, if you're a ChargePoint member, you can use that account to charge at Electrify America chargers, and vice versa.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in cars, chargepoint, electric car charging, electrify america | Comments (0)

It watches you drive: Subaru Forester review

June 11th, 2019

When it comes to cars, there are two types of people: those who pledge their eternal love for Subaru, and everyone else. When I'm testing a Subaru, I get more questions and comments from friends and acquaintances than just about anything else I drive. And that was the case for Subaru's most popular model, the Forester.

Redesigned for 2019, the Forester comes standard with EyeSight, Subaru's suite of driver-assist technology. New to the Forester—and available only with the Touring model—is DriverFocus. Designed to fight distracted driving, DriverFocus uses the facial-recognition tech that has also found its way into smartphones. It can store profiles for up to five drivers and provides visual and auditory feedback if the system detects you're not paying attention to the road.

Look and feel

Sitting smack dab between the sub-compact Crosstrek and the sort-of-mid-size Outback, the Forester starts at $24,295 for the base model and comes in Premium, Sport, Limited, and Touring trim. The last is the most expensive, with an MSRP of $34,295. All five editions get the same 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder engine, continuously variable transmission, all-wheel drive, EyeSight, and Subaru's above-average dual-screen StarLink infotainment system. A panoramic moonroof is standard on all models other than the base.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in cars, Crossover, Subaru, Subaru Forester, SUV | Comments (0)

How self-driving startup Aurora is wooing carmakers

June 10th, 2019
AUSTIN, Texas - MARCH 09:  Chris Urmson speaks onstage at Featured Session: Self-Driving Cars: The Future is When? with Malcolm Gladwell & Chris Urmson during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Austin Convention Center on March 9, 2019 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Samantha Burkardt/Getty Images for SXSW)

Enlarge / AUSTIN, Texas - MARCH 09: Chris Urmson speaks onstage at Featured Session: Self-Driving Cars: The Future is When? with Malcolm Gladwell & Chris Urmson during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Austin Convention Center on March 9, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Samantha Burkardt/Getty Images for SXSW) (credit: Samantha Burkardt/Getty Images for SXSW)

The self-driving startup Aurora is less than three years old, and it has yet to demonstrate its technology publicly. But the company, founded by former leaders of the Google, Uber, and Tesla self-driving projects, has assembled an impressive roster of customers. On Monday, the company announced that Fiat Chrysler was the latest automaker to become an Aurora partner.

Most self-driving companies are aiming to build vertically integrated taxi services. Google's Waymo, for example, is planning to offer driverless rides in the Phoenix suburbs. Waymo is planning to design the hardware and software for is vehicles and own and operate a taxi fleet. Other self-driving companies, including Uber, Zoox, and Voyage, are planning to take a similar approach.

This model relegates automakers—in Waymo's case, Jaguar and Fiat Chrysler—to the role of anonymous suppliers. Aurora is taking a different approach—one that's attractive to automakers who are accustomed to sitting at the apex of the automotive supply chain. Aurora aims to develop an autonomy stack it can license to car makers, allowing car makers to continue manufacturing and selling cars under their own brands.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in aurora, cars, self driving cars, waymo | Comments (0)

17 automakers ask Trump to hold off on fuel economy rollback

June 7th, 2019
17 automakers ask Trump to hold off on fuel economy rollback

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

On Thursday, 17 automakers sent the White House a letter asking the Trump Administration to put the brakes on a fuel economy rollback, according to the New York Times.

Automakers including Ford, General Motors, Toyota, and Volvo reportedly asked the Trump Administration to go back to the negotiating table with California and a dozen other states following California's lead in imposing fuel economy standards that were agreed upon during the Obama Administration.

In December 2016, the Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a set of fuel economy standards that would require automakers to meet a target of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. When the Trump Administration took over, it set in motion the process to make those fuel economy standards less stringent—after considerable lobbying from the automotive industry. Last summer, the EPA finally proposed a fuel economy rollback that would freeze target miles-per-gallon at 2020 levels, ignoring the Obama Administration's final five years of increasingly stringent standards.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in cars, Energy, EPA, fuel economy, NHTSA | Comments (0)