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Archive for May, 2014

Autobrake Systems Earn 8 Models Top Safety Ratings

Collision warning technology showing marked improvement.

by on May.29, 2014

The 2014 Chevrolet Impala is one of four GM models on the IIHS list, and the only mainstream vehicle.

While autonomous vehicles may still be years away from production, one of the key technologies that will allow vehicles to drive on their own already has begun to find their way into today’s production vehicles, helping eight 2014 models earn top ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The group includes seven luxury vehicles and one large mainstream model. Notably, a full half of the vehicles that earned the IIHS Superior rating are built by General Motors, a company that has been struggling to salvage its reputation in the wake of an ignition switch scandal and the recall of nearly 14 million vehicles since January, more than in any single year in its history.

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All eight of the top-rated models share at least one critical technology: forward collision warning with auto-braking. That is a step up from earlier models that could detect a potential crash and warn the driver. The newer systems also can apply the brakes if a driver doesn’t respond quickly enough.

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Akerson Claims Barra Didn’t Know About Problem

Former CEO says board didn’t throw her under the bus.

by on May.28, 2014

Former GM CEO Dan Akerson told Forbes magazine he believes Mary Barra didn't know about the ignition switch problem before January.

Former General Motors CEO Dan Akerson came to the defense of his successor, Mary Barra, saying he doesn’t believe she knew about the ignition switch problem that kicked off the recall of more 2.6 million small cars.

He also said the company’s board of directors didn’t put Barra in an impossible position by knowingly saddling her with a crisis.

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“Mary has said it: The moment she became aware of the problem, as I would expect, she confronted it,” Akerson said in an interview with Forbes magazine. “She didn’t know about it. I bet my life on it.” (more…)

Hindustan Motors Long-Lived Ambassador May be Dead

Maker cites poor sales, low productivity, massive debt.

by on May.28, 2014

Hindustan Motors shut down production of its long-running Ambassador sedan. The King of Indian Roads was produced for more than 55 years.

Ford Mustang fans in the U.S. and mavens around the world have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first pony car. However, in India, many are mourning the apparent death of a car with an even longer history: the Hindustan Ambassador.

While the Mustang has carried on through several iterations – some better received than others – the Ambassador hasn’t changed much since its introduction in 1958. Despite its British origins, the Ambassador is called “The King of Indian roads.”

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A clunky looking sedan with a bulbous front end, the car – known affectionately as the “Amby” – has been the preferred mode of transport for politicians and celebrities alike in India since it was introduced more than 55 years ago. (more…)

DeltaWing Unveils 4-Seat Passenger Car Concept

Ultra-light and aero design goes from track to street.

by on May.28, 2014

The DeltaWing sedan concept picks up many of the design elements of the race car, notably its sleek aerodynamic shape and light weight.

The radical DeltaWing race car created quite a buzz when it made its debut a few years back, and this equally radical 4-seat passenger car concept is likely to stir things up even more.

Developed by the Georgia-based DeltaWing Technologies, the prototype features a narrow, windswept nose and ultra-light construction to significantly improve fuel economy without sacrificing performance. Whether potential buyers would take to the unusual design remains to be seen, but aerodynamics and “lightweighting” have become critical to the industry’s efforts to meet the tough 54.5 mpg federal fuel economy standards going into effect in 2025.

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“Many of the aerodynamic, lightweight and handling benefits of the race car can translate to the street,” said DeltaWing Chairman Don Panoz. “We are competing at the highest levels of road racing with half the weight, half the horsepower, and nearly half of the fuel consumption. We believe we can deliver similar results on the street without compromising safety, comfort and performance. We have a formula that’s highly efficient and still fun to drive.”

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GM, Ford Leading Automotive Innovation Pack

Makers secure patents for vehicles, drivetrains and fuel cells.

by on May.28, 2014

GM secured more than two dozen patents for the eight-speed transmission for the Corvette Stingray.

While a number of automakers claim they are leaders in innovation, General Motors and Ford can bask in the glory of knowing they can back those claims with hard data.

GM led all automakers for the 11th consecutive quarter in filing for patents while Ford’s new F-150 has more patents filed than any pickup truck in history.

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GM’s patents cover a number of areas and include patents for fuel cells and technology that reduces energy consumption and phone apps that make life more convenient for motorists, according to the Patent Board and Clean Energy Patent Growth Index. (more…)

Volvo Begins Slow Tease of XC90 Reveal

Swedish maker shows off new crossover’s interior.

by on May.28, 2014

The all-new Volvo XC90 is getting a slow reveal from the Swedish maker. It's revealed the new interior in a series of photos, which will be followed by more information throughout the summer.

Swedish automaker Volvo kicked off the slow reveal of its update of its best-selling XC90 crossover by sharing photos of the interior of the car, which looked…well, Swedish thanks to tiny Swedish flags sewn into the seats.

The new interior is clean and simple. In the early photos released yesterday, the crossover will be swathed in leather and wood. It also features a prominent touch screen display in the center stack that will control a multitude of functions, including the maker’s new infotainment system. The XC90 is designed to accommodate seven passengers and it appears that it’ll do that just fine with seats that appear to recline for all passengers.

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The all-new XC90 is the first Volvo to use the company’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), which allows the Swedish company to produce everything from sedans to coupes to this new crossover. This is the first vehicle created under the Geely regime, which bought Volvo from Ford a few years back. (more…)

Google Planning to Build 100 Self-Driving Cars

Prototypes will have no steering wheels.

by on May.28, 2014

Looking a bit like a cross betwen an old Beetle and a Smart Fortwo, Google will produce 100 of these autonomous prototypes this year.

Google will build 100 prototypes of its self-driving cars as the next step in plans to make autonomous driving a common feature on American roads in the not-too-distant future.

The high-tech firm has been one of the leaders of the effort to move autonomous driving out of the realm of science fiction and transform it into a day-to-day reality. Google’s announcement could put it ahead of automakers such as Nissan which has promised to put its own self-driving vehicle into production by 2020.

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The Google autonomous prototypes won’t be sold to the public, however. They will be used to prove out the technology the firm is developing. But they offer a glimpse of what could come much sooner than many experts had anticipated only a few years ago and will be distinctly different from even today’s  most technologically advanced vehicles in several key ways – among them the lack of a steering wheel.

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Volvo Wants to Electrify the Road – but Idaho Entrepreneurs Want to Pave them with Solar Cells

by on May.28, 2014

Volvo's prototype city bus will recharge its batteries using an induction system while driving.

While battery cars offer the advantage of zero-emissions driving, they also suffer from a number of disadvantages, notably their limited range and long charging times. But an ambitious new project from Volvo could solve both problems by giving a vehicle a way to charge up while its actually driving.

The maker is working with the Swedish Transport Association to create short stretches of electrified roadway in Gothenberg, the Scandinavian country’s second-largest city. Using a concept called inductive charging, specially designed city buses would simply have to drive along dedicated portions of pavement to partially replenish their batteries. But because there are no exposed wires, the system would be safe for humans and animals who might inadvertently walk across the chargers.

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Volvo isn’t the only one looking for ways to use highways to provide power. An Idaho couple has launched a $1 million campaign effort through the Indiegogo crowdsourcing site, while also tapping a $750,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration, with the idea of developing solar panels that can be used as an alternative to conventional pavement.

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Hyundai-Kia Topples Honda as Greenest Carmaker

Korean maker credited for hybrids, downsized turbos, other moves.

by on May.27, 2014

Hyundai is just bringing its Tucson-based hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle to market in Southern California.

While Japanese automakers have long worked hard to burnish their images as environmentally friendly manufacturers, Korean carmaker Hyundai-Kia has been named the greenest carmaker by an influential scientific research group.

The Korean partners displaced Tokyo-based Honda, which had been the top-ranked automaker during the previous five years, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. The UCS credited Hyundai’s belated push into hybrids, as well as its new, downsized turbo engines and other pollution control technologies, such as the hydrogen-powered Tucson Fuel Cell Vehicle just going on sale in California.

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Honda slipped to second in the study, followed by Toyota, Nissan and Volkswagen. Detroit’s Big three automakers lagged in the study which looked at a variety of variables, including the production of traditional, smog-causing pollutants, as well as CO2 and other gases linked to climate change.

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China Killing 6 Million Old Cars to Cut Smog

Large cities enveloped in perpetual health-threatening haze.

by on May.27, 2014

The Chinese government plans to remove 6 million vehicles from the country's fleet to alleviate some of the country's pollution problem.

During the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the world was exposed to the crippling smog that residents of the city are exposed to on a daily basis. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see Beijing residents wearing masks to ward off the effects of what’s floating around in their air.

The rest of the country faces similar environmental issues and after years of posturing, the government is taking action to mitigate the problem.

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It’s taking 6 million older vehicles off the roads this year in an attempt to offset the problem, although it hasn’t provided the plans yet for doing so. (more…)