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Waymo Set to Challenge Michigan Winter

Operating on snowy, icy roads the big challenge for autonomous tech.

by on Oct.26, 2017

Winter weather creates challenges for humans, and it can overwhelm autonomous vehicles.

There are already hundreds of autonomous prototypes cruising the nation’s roadways, and that number could soon climb into the thousands, thanks to a bill rapidly moving through Congress. But, for now, the vast majority of those vehicles are operating in warm weather climes like Phoenix and Silicon Valley.

The real challenge will be finding ways to make autonomous and fully driverless cars and trucks function in cold weather environments, experts stress, where things like lane markers may be obscured by road and ice.

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Tech News!

So, Waymo, the Google spinoff generally considered one of the leaders in self-driving technology, says it will begin testing in Michigan over the winter using some of its newest models, specially modified versions of the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid.

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Porsche, Ford Rated “Ideal” by Owners in New Study

Survey encompasses 54,000 vehicle owners.

by on Aug.23, 2017

Porsche was not only top brand but also had three segments winner with products like the 911.

Live with someone long enough and you’re sure to find some things you’d like to change. The same is true with a car, truck or crossover. Yet, some vehicles seem to come closer to the mark right from the moment they’re driven off the dealer lot.

Which ones? That’s what research firm AutoPacific Inc. set out to determine with this year’s Ideal Vehicle Awards. It’s based on a survey of 54,000 motorists who own 2016 and 2017 vehicles who were asked what changes they would make to those products. And Porsche and Ford were the brands that came closest to getting it right, right from the start.

Our Price is Right!

“Even the most satisfied owner would change something about their vehicle if given the opportunity,” said the research firm’s President George Peterson. “AutoPacific’s IVAs identify vehicles whose owners want the least amount of change – those that are truly hitting the mark with owners.”

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First Drive: 2018 Honda Odyssey

Putting some "fun" in functional.

by on May.15, 2017

Is this a minivan you can go nuts for?

The locals will tell you that if you don’t like the weather on the Big Island of Hawaii, you just have to drive 15 minutes. With 11 of the world’s 13 climactic zones on one volcanic rock in the middle of the Pacific, that gives us plenty of opportunity to check out the 2018 Honda Odyssey. About the only place we won’t be driving during our visit is up to the peak of Mauna Kea where there’s still some snow in the early days of May.

The Odyssey has long been at the top of the people-mover sales charts, and with the launch of the fifth-generation van, Honda is determined not to cede ground despite the fact that its key rival, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, launched a complete remake of its own minivan – renamed the Chrysler Pacifica – just last year.

Reviews You Can Trust!

Together the two dominate the segment, and while minivans have lost a lot of momentum in recent years — millions of owners and potential buyers opting instead for SUVs and CUVs — there’s still a sizable market, especially among family buyers and, to a lesser degree empty-nesters and retirees. While minivans may long ago have lost their cool factor, they remain the vehicle of choice for those who put a premium on space, flexibility and creature features.

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Waymo Invites Public to Join Autonomous Test Program

First public test for Google’s self-driving vehicle spin-off is good news for FCA, as well.

by on Apr.25, 2017

One of the first Phoenix families to join the Waymo pilot climbs into an autonomous Chrysler Pacifica.

After eight years of testing Waymo is ready to go public, Google’s autonomous vehicle spin-off offering families in the Phoenix area the chance to try out its self-driving cars as part of a new pilot ride-sharing program.

The move brings the technology a step closer to becoming a day-to-day reality and coincides with efforts by other entrants into the fast-emerging field who are rapidly expanding the number of autonomous vehicles now on public roads. The pilot program could cement Waymo’s position as a leader in the technology while also giving a big boost to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the automaker that will now provide another 500 Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivans for use in the Arizona project.

We'll Do the Driving!

Waymo quietly began offering rides to a “handful of Phoenix, AZ residents…over the last month,” the Alphabet subsidiary’s CEO John Krafcik revealed in a statement issued overnight. “Now residents in the Phoenix area can apply” to join the trial, Waymo planning on “accepting hundreds of people with diverse backgrounds and transportation needs who want to ride and give feedback about Waymo’s self-driving cars.”

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Electrifying Design

Autonomous and electric drive technologies will radically transform the way tomorrow’s car look, inside and out.

by on Feb.10, 2017

Double sliding doors make it easier than ever to climb in and out of the Chrysler Portal Concept.

You can call it a minivan, if you wish, but while the Portal shares the same, underlying platform as the Chrysler Pacifica minivan that debuted last year, they don’t have much else in common.

There are the four sliding doors, for example, and the unusually short nose. Though it’s a full 19 inches shorter than the Pacifica, the Portal boasts a larger interior. It also has a steering wheel that, with a touch of a button, folds into the instrument panel.

Stay Plugged In!

The Portal is, for now, just a concept vehicle, but it hints at some of the dramatic changes reshaping the auto industry as manufacturers start to adopt electrified drivelines and prepare to introduce autonomous driving systems. Both those technologies will, in turn, give automotive designers an opportunity to radically shift the way tomorrow’s vehicle look and are laid out, says Ralph Gilles, the head of design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

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Fiat Chrysler Earnings Near $2b for 2016

Company says it will boost profit-sharing for hourly workers by 25%.

by on Jan.26, 2017

Despite weak sales of the now-cancelled Chrysler 200, FCA earnings surged for 2016.

Detroit’s smallest automaker closed the books on 2016 on a high note, delivering full-year earnings of $1.92 billion, after only marginally squeezing into the black the year before.

The turnaround should be good news to both Fiat Chrysler Automobiles investors and workers. The Euro-American automaker said it will nearly halve its net debt in the coming year. It also announced it would boost profit-sharing for U.S. hourly workers by 25%.

By the Numbers!

Net profits for all of 2016 jumped to 1.81 billion euros, or $1.92 billion, for FCA, which is officially registered in Amsterdam but operates one of its primary headquarters in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills. That compares with a meager 93 million Euro profit for all of 2015.

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Waymo Launches Test of All-New Autonomous System

Google self-driving subsidiary starts producing its own hardware.

by on Jan.08, 2017

Waymo CEO John Krafcik with the specially modified Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid using the tech firm's latest autonomous technology.

Waymo, Google’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary, will start testing a fleet of specially modified Chrysler Pacifica minivans in Arizona and California later this month, moving a big step closer to reaching the point it can start moving its self-driving technology from prototype to production, CEO John Krafcik said during an appearance at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit Sunday.

That was one of several big announcements made by Krafcik during his appearance at the annual NAIAS. Krafcik also noted that Waymo is now producing the various LIDAR – 3D laser – cameras, radar sensors and other hardware used for its autonomous vehicle technology. That has helped it drop costs by as much as 90% and speed up the development process.

“This future isn’t very far away,” said Krafcik, a former Hyundai Motor America chief executive, adding that Waymo’s goal is “building cars that can help millions of people every day.”

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Chrysler Portal EV Concept Opens Door to Millennials

People-mover prototype offers 250 miles range, 20-minute fast charge.

by on Jan.03, 2017

The Chrysler Portal Concept offers a different take on family transportation aimed at Millennials.

Call it a minivan, if you want, but with the debut of the new Portal Concept, Chrysler is looking at an entirely new approach to family transportation.

Making its debut at CES, the annual consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, the Chrysler Portal envisions a “fifth generation” people-mover that is clean, roomy and even roomier than today’s familiar minivans despite a smaller exterior footprint.

Out of the Box!

Following on the recent launch of the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid which, despite its name, is actually an extended-range plug-in, the Portal opts for an all-electric drivetrain that can deliver up to 250 miles of range on a charge. And, using one of the new DC Fast Chargers just starting to pop up across the country, the Chrysler Portal can add another 150 miles of driving in less than 20 minutes.

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Last Chrysler 200 Rolls off Sterling Heights Line Today

Marks end of FCA compact car production in U.S.

by on Dec.02, 2016

An FCA employee installs a center console on a Chrysler 200. Production on the 200 ends today.

“Imported from Detroit” no more. Today marks the end of production for the Chrysler 200, a sedan seen only a few years ago as critical to the revival of the once-bankrupt automaker.

But like the Dodge Dart sedan that was pulled from production in September, Chrysler’s four-door has fallen victim to shifting market trends. Sedans, especially midsize ones, have taken a beating as motorists by the millions switch to sport- and crossover-utility vehicles. Light trucks, in general, now account for more than 60% of U.S. new vehicle sales.

Product News!

The precise time when the last Chrysler 200 will roll down the assembly line at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, isn’t clear. The 1,700 hourly employees are scheduled to work the line until around 3 p.m., “but it’s all a matter of parts,” noted spokesperson Jodi Tinson. When they run out, workers will be sent home. (more…)

New Film Reveals the Reality of the Auto Bailout

“Live Another Day” – but at what cost?

by on Sep.12, 2016

Storm clouds over Detroit. At the depth of the recession, two of the three US makers went bankrupt.

The economy was collapsing more rapidly than during the Great Depression, and nowhere was that more apparent than in Detroit, where the Big Three automakers faced the very real prospect of going out of business – destroying a million or more jobs in the process.

Ford Motor Co. was able to survive by mortgaging everything; not only its factories, but even its Blue Oval logo. General Motors and Chrysler didn’t move fast enough to secure equity lines. They had to be salvaged with the help of the largest federally funded bailout in history. It broke precedent and, many would argue, broke the law. The rescue effort may also have saved the economy, according to its proponents.

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Was it good or bad? “It was something in-between,” contends Bill Burke, suggests Bill Burke. He’s a media industry veteran and co-producer of the new documentary, “Live Another Day,” which has received strong praise on the film festival circuit and which will open at theaters nationwide on September 16th.

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