Friday, 31 August 2018

Toyota takes car connectivity for a spin in world's biggest testbed

Hideki Hada, executive engineer at Toyota's technical strategy department for advanced safety, calls the trial at the University of Michigan's Mcity an unparalleled opportunity. Photo credit: HANS GREIMEL

A network of roadside sensors will communicate with specially outfitted cars to improve everything from safety to traffic flow. The expanding system, expected to be the world's largest connected-car test bed by the end of this year, is run by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and builds on a network deployed in 2012. By year end, Ann Arbor will have 75 vehicle-to-infrastructure transmitter sites scattered among its streets and some 3,150 cars plugged in.
The expansive scope of the project is an unparalleled testing opportunity, said Hideki Hada, executive engineer at Toyota's technical strategy department for advanced safety.
"Even conservative Toyota became confident to move forward," Hada said in an interview. "It was in the research phase, but now it's in the realization phase."
Toyota Motor Corp., which employs about 1,800 people at its U.S. r&d hub near Ann Arbor, aims to leverage the system to test its dedicated short-range connectivity, or DSRC, technology.
The company in April said it would deploy the systems in Lexus and Toyota brand vehicles in 2021 and spread them across most of their lineups by the mid-2020s.
Toyota has offered the technology on some models in Japan since 2015, under the name ITS Connect. More than 100,000 DSRC-equipped cars are on the road there.
Those systems add about $250 to the base price, Hada said.
The Mcity autonomous driving proving ground in Ann Arbor, Mich. Photo credit: HANS GREIMEL
Now, Toyota is inviting the r&d hub employees and their family members to install the DSRC systems in their personal cars and participate in the Ann Arbor pilot project.
The test isn't limited to Toyota. Four other automakers, suppliers, city-operated vehicle fleets, local taxi companies and the University of Michigan are joining the endeavor, said Debby Bezzina, senior program manager for the Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment. She declined to name the other auto companies and suppliers taking part.
"It falls under the build-it-and-they-will-come model," Bezzina said. "We have significant usage of the environment, even now before it is fully deployed."
About 550 vehicles already are equipped with the system, and the total is expected to top 3,000 by year end. Volunteers are paid $40 to have their vehicle outfitted. The system includes a DSRC antenna and a global navigation satellite system antenna, along with a speaker and digital screen to communicate with the driver through tones, speech and signals.
DSRC systems use a dedicated 5.9 GHz radio bandwidth to allow cars to communicate with each other and with the infrastructure around them. They transmit much faster than today's 4G cellular links, enabling split-second reactions even at high speeds. And DSRC can transmit up to 300 meters and around corners, offering better visibility than most camera-based systems.
But to work, they require a network of DSRC boxes installed along roads and intersections.
DSRC suppliers include Michigan-based Lear Corp. and Danlaw Inc., Savari Inc. of California, and Aptiv PLC, the Ireland-based auto parts maker spun off by Delphi Automotive

Toyota Takes Car Connectivity for a Spin in Worlds Biggest Testbed

Friday, 24 August 2018

Study finds consumers uneasy about autonomous driving tech

Recent crashes and other incidents have shaken confidence in safety of self-driving cars

Study finds consumers uneasy about autonomous driving tech
Increasing awareness of self-driving vehicles is fueling apprehension about the safety of the technology, a new survey reveals.

Nearly half of the 1,250 consumers surveyed said they would never buy a Level 5 (or fully autonomous) vehicle, according to a Cox Automotive consumer attitudes study released Thursday. That's up from 30 percent of the 2,264 people polled two years ago.
The Society of Automotive Engineers recognizes five levels of vehicle autonomy, ranging from Level 0 (human-only control) to Level 5 (no steering wheels, pedals and human control).
2018 Volvo XC40

Driverless vehicles are seen as less safe by consumers compared to two years ago, with the vehicle autonomy preference shifting from Level 4 to Level 2 -- the level currently available. The number of respondents who believe roads would be safer if all vehicles were fully autonomous versus operated by people has decreased 18 percentage points in two years.
People, it seems, are not quite ready to let go of the steering wheel.
Nearly 85 percent of respondents in the 2018 survey think people should always have the option to drive themselves even in a self-driving vehicle, compared to 16 percent who would feel comfortable letting an autonomous vehicle drive them without the option of being able to take control.
Consumer confidence in autonomous vehicles has been eroding in the wake of recent crashes, such as the fatal Uber accident in Arizona and mishaps involving semi-autonomous systems in Tesla vehicles.
Google Waymo Pacifica Hybrid

While consumer awareness of full self-driving technology is up 24 percentage points in the past two years, the perception of its safety has dived nearly 20 percentage points.
"People now have a deeper understanding of the complexities involved when creating a self-driving car, and that has them reconsidering their comfort level when it comes to handing over control," noted Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book.
Despite current consumer trepidation, Cox sees autonomous vehicle adoption gaining traction. That will have broad implications on automakers and dealers.
"Miles traveled will shift toward fleet-owned vehicles, causing what we believe to be a potential 40 percent reduction in consumer vehicle sales," said Isabelle Helms, vice president of research and market intelligence at Cox Automotive.
Cox is making a big bet on that future today. The company recently created a business unit to sell software and services to car-sharing and ride-hailing companies, vehicle subscription programs and, eventually, robotaxi fleets.
Cox expects its Mobility Solutions Group to balloon into a $5 billion business in a decade, Automotive News first reported Aug. 13.

Study Finds Consumers Uneasy About Autonomous Driving Tech

Friday, 17 August 2018

The Hottest New Car And Truck Features For 2019

One of the 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS' more advanced new features is designed to protect occupants' hearing in a crash. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Sure, any car or truck can get you from the proverbial Point A to Point B, and these days most can be expected to make quick and pleasant work of it. But it's a car or truck's most fanciful features that make one stand out from another in a crowded parking lot. These are items that can not only enhance a given model's performance, safety, and comfort, in some cases they can even enhance a motorist's personal productivity.
To help you keep current, here's a quick look at some of the most fanciful vehicular gizmos and gadgets that are debuting for the 2019 model year.
Cunning Connectivity
For starters, virtually every automaker is introducing added connectivity and infotainment features to their fleets, with most now offering the Android Auto and/or Apple Car Play smartphone interfaces in addition to garden-variety Bluetooth. A number of models are debuting connections with home electronic-assist devices for 2019. Among them is the new Genesis G70 compact sports sedan. It can connect with an Amazon Alexa-enabled device to afford remote voice control that can, say, remotely lock or unlock the doors and remotely start with a specified interior temperature. The redesigned Hyundai Veloster sports coupe can wirelessly connect with an occupant's Android Wear/Apple Watch.
Both the updated 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 full-size pickup trucks leverage their enhanced connectivity systems to make towing easier and safer. Their advanced trailering systems interface with a smartphone app with functions that include a pre-departure checklist, maintenance reminders, trailer light test, trailer electrical diagnostics, trailer tire-pressure monitoring, and can track other vital statistics.

Performance-Minded Technology

Especially at the high end of the model range, automakers are developing advanced technology that improves their cars and crossovers' performance. The new-for-2019 Lincoln Aviator crossover SUV and the redesigned Audi A8 luxury sedan both offer a feature that uses cameras to scan the road ahead and automatically adjusts the suspension in anticipation of changing road conditions to maintain a smooth ride.
The new Toyota Corolla Hatchback and Lexus UX compact crossover SUV reinvent the gearless CVT automatic transmission by essentially adding a gear to the works. This so-called "launch gear" drives either vehicle exclusively at speeds up to 25 miles per hour, after which the transmission switches over to the belt-and-pulley system. This is claimed to improve the CVT's efficiency in lower-speed ratios, which in turn affords stronger and smoother off-the-line acceleration.
Though it's more of a simulated performance enhancer, the redesigned-for-2019 Toyota Avalon full-size sedan comes with an Intake Sound Generator, Active Noise Control, and Engine Sound Enhancement to add a touch of aural excitement to what would otherwise be a hushed noise-insulated cabin. The new full-electric Jaguar i-Pace goes a step further by piping in simulated engine sounds upon acceleration to compensate for the fact that an electric motor is virtually silent in its operation.
To help ensure an owner is getting the most bang for his or her performance buck, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT Four-Door Coupe offers an AMG "track pace" feature that allows drivers to capture and analyze more than 80 vehicle-specific sets of performance data. This includes car-nerd need-to-know numbers on such things aslateral and longitudinal acceleration, 0-60 mph times, accelerator and brake pedal position, and the car's steering and drift angle, either viewed in review or displayed in real time.
Safety First And Foremost
Safety is always a major selling point in the new-vehicle business, and automakers have been scrambling in recent years to add the latest accident avoidance systems at various price points. The latest twists on the technology are able to help prevent an even wider range of crashes. The 2019 Audi A8 not only offers a frontal auto-braking safety system can help prevent against cross-traffic collisions at intersections, it rides on an active suspension that can help minimize the effects of a side impact collision. It does this by automatically raising the body by 3.5 inches (so the other car would hit the most rigid part of the body) if sensors detect a crash is imminent.
Both the new Lincoln Nautilus and the 2019 Ford Edge crossover SUVs premiere a safety feature called Evasive Steering Assist. This system uses cameras to keep an electric eye on slower moving traffic and stationary vehicles in the vehicle's path and help the driver steer around them to help avoid a crash.
As if that's not enough, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS four-door coupe offers a Pre-Safe Impulse Side system that can nudge front occupants sideways in anticipation of a side impact to reduce the risk of injury. The car also comes standard with a leading-edge Pre-Safe Sound function to protect a passenger's hearing. The system emits a brief rushing sound if it determines a crash is imminent. This causes an ear muscle to contract in a reflex action to help protect reduce the risk of hearing discomfort or damage in an impact.
Convenience And Exclusivity
And then there's some of the more fanciful features that exist simply for convenience or bragging rights. Already, come luxury cars can be fitted with frippery like heated armrests and multi-program massaging seats; some Mercedes-Benz models include an "Energizing Comfort" control that adjusts various vehicle functions to relax or refresh occupants according to predefined programs.
What's next? The aforementioned Jaguar iPace electrified crossover taps the latest artificialintelligence technology to actually anticipate a motorist's needs. The vehicle can learn a driver's preferences and adjust the climate control settings, seat position and radio stations automatically. It can also do this at different times of the day to accommodate, say, a more determined morning commute with news and traffic reports, and a more laid-back ride home set to smooth jazz.
From the "why didn't somebody come up with this sooner" department, the above Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup can be fitted with the industry's first power operated tailgate that raises and lowers itself at the touch of a button. Meanwhile, the GMC Sierra 1500 includes a new MultiPro Tailgate with six separate functions and positions that can make loading and unloading easier, and can be configured as a standing workstation.
Finally, here's one new-car feature that's truly for the birds. In addition to coming with a whopping 19 cup and bottle holders and eight USB charging points across its three rows of seats,the new-for-2019 Subaru Ascent offers an "eBird" function. Using crowdsourced information, this outdoorsy item alerts onboard bird watchers to local sightings and where to find specific species. It's shared with other Subaru modelsas part of the automaker's "Starlink" multimedia system.


The Hottest New Car and Truck Features for 2019

Friday, 10 August 2018

Amazon releases Alexa software development kit for automotive infotainment systems

Amazon Alexa typically is used in the home for basic tasks such as setting reminders or playing music. But now, Amazon is making it easier to incorporate Alexa into a vehicle.
The e-commerce giant has released the Alexa Auto Software Development Kit, which provides developers a way to integrate all of Alexa's core functions into in-vehicle infotainment systems, Amazon announced Thursday.
Alexa, the cloud-based virtual assistant developed by Amazon in 2014, traditionally powers devices including Amazon Echo, Echo Show, Echo Dot and more. Over time, the service has expanded from voice interaction to providing real-time information, serving as a home automation system and provide other services.
The kit includes source code and function libraries that enable a vehicle to process audio input and triggers and handle interactions with Alexa. It also provides the hooks required to connect to a wake word engine, local media player, local phone and local navigation system, the company said in a release.
The development kit's primary capabilities include: instructing the native calling service in the vehicle to place calls, enabling customers to stream audio and display media info to the head unit, setting the destination of the native turn-by-turn navigation system and searching for businesses and locations.
Along with hosting auto-specific features, the kit will include basic Alexa functionality such as providing smart home controls and weather reports, setting other custom skills and enabling notifications, the company said.
Automakers including BMW, Ford Motor Co., Volkswagen's Seat brand and Toyota Motor Corp. already have begun working to integrate Alexa into their vehicles. Developers including Anker and Garmin have built aftermarket devices that bring Alexa into additional models. The kit -- available on GitHub under the Apache License, Version 2.0 -- will allow other automakers and suppliers to do the same.
The development by Amazon is another example of tech companies entering the auto space, particularly with infotainment systems. A study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety this year found Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were considered less distracting than several vehicles' built-in infotainment systems. It was based on how much visual and mental demand was placed on drivers for tasks including selecting or programming audio entertainment, calling and dialing, text messaging and programming navigation. It found many automakers' in-vehicle systems create high demand associated with completing these tasks compared with those created by tech companies.


Amazon Releases Alexa Software Development Kit for Automotive Infotainment Systems

Friday, 3 August 2018

Major Car Exporters Weigh Response to Trump's Threat of Tariffs

Image result for ship with cars
Trade officials from the world's top car-exporting nations agreed to respond if President Donald Trump slaps new U.S. tariffs on autos and auto parts.
Deputy trade ministers from the European Union, Canada, Mexico, Japan and South Korea are concerned that Trump may impose tariffs on foreign imports of cars and auto parts if the U.S. Commerce Department finds that they pose a threat to national security.
Participants at the meeting in Geneva on Tuesday said they are considering an array of options, including an appeal to the World Trade Organization's dispute settlement system and the imposition of retaliatory tariffs against U.S. goods.
"It's fair to say we all share the same concern that should Section 232 be applied, countries will consider their options," Mexico's Undersecretary of Foreign Trade Juan Carlos Baker said in an interview following the meeting.
The ministerial talks provided a useful occasion to inform the EU's trade partners about the results of last week's meeting between Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, according to a commission official.
The threat of U.S. auto tariffs was placed on hold July 26 after Trump and Juncker agreed to refrain from "unilateral actions" while the EU and the U.S. endeavor to negotiate a trade pact. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said his department will continue its investigation but will hold off on any new auto tariffs while negotiations are ongoing.
Car exporters remain concerned that Trump could change his mind and trigger tariffs when the Commerce Department wraps up its Section 232 probe in August or September.
Collectively, the countries represented at Tuesday's meeting account for nearly $1 trillion worth of annual auto exports to the rest of the world, according to data provided by the International Trade Center.


Participants said it's premature to begin discussions of a "plurilateral" trade deal to cut duties among the world's major car exporting nations on a most-favored-nation basis.
Plurilateral accords are trade deals among a group of like-minded countries that are typically limited to certain sectors of goods or services. The WTO permits this type of negotiation as long as the benefits are provided to all of its members.
Participants also discussed their views on reforming the WTO, which is confronting an array of systemic threats that could soon paralyze the global trade body. Over the past year Trump has challenged the rules that govern international trade, hitting WTO members with billions of dollars of tariffs and blocking nominees to the WTO's dispute-resolution panel.
Those tactics have plunged the WTO into multiple crises that could threaten its ability to mediate disputes among members and negotiate new accords.
In response, Canada's Minister of International Trade Jim Carr has invited a dozen trade ministers to meet in Canada in October to discuss ways to improve the WTO's operation. The European Commission is separately considering a draft proposal to address some of the Trump administration's concerns and offer ways to fill gaps in the WTO's 23-year-old rule book.


Major Car Exporters Weigh Response to Trump's Threat of Tariffs