Ex-Tata group CEO joins Gordon Murray design house

Autocar India:

Gordon Murray Design Limited has started the process of putting their ambitious iStream project into full scale production. The company, headed by Gordon Murray who is famous for designing and engineering of the Mclaren F1 road car, has now got former group CEO of Tata Motors, Carl-Peter Forster, on board.

“The Tesla of Scooters”

Sam Byford:

No electric vehicle is more iconic than Tesla Motors’ Model S, and none of its features are more notorious than the colossal 17-inch touchscreen that replaces many of the traditional buttons and knobs found on your regular car dashboard. The Verge’s Chris Ziegler wasn’t too impressed with the interface when he took the Model S for a spin, finding it overbearing and unreliable. But what if you could bring your own touchscreen to an electric vehicle, providing more useful information while keeping the standard controls intact?

That’s the idea being pushed by Terra Motors, a Japanese startup that says it’s created the first “sophisticated” electric scooter to enter mass production. The A4000i looks more or less like any other moped, but its spartan dashboard features a conspicuously iPhone-sized slot for you to insert your phone. Once connected over Bluetooth and running Terra’s app, the phone will display information such as the current battery charge and information about the trip. Although it’s not ready yet, Terra is also developing its own navigation software to be used with the scooter, and plans to include the option to upload GPS data to the cloud to assist cities in congestion management.

Income Based Speeding Fines [Finland]


Anssi Vanjoki, 44, has been ordered to pay a fine of 116,000 euros ($103,600) after being caught breaking the speed limit on his Harley Davidson motorbike in the capital, Helsinki, in October last year.

Mr Vanjoki is a Harley Davidson enthusiast
Police say he was driving at 75 km/h (47 mph) in a 50km/h (31 mph) zone.

In Finland, traffic fines are proportionate to the latest available data on an offender’s income.

Driverless Cars for the Road Ahead; Norman Bel Geddes

Dan Neil:

Autonomy “changes everything,” said Mr. Burns. “Giving automobiles the ability to drive themselves is the biggest thing to happen to the automobile since the automobile.”

How will it work? No one is quite sure.

The idea of self-piloting cars has been around a long time, but the vision belongs to Norman Bel Geddes, the American utopianist who designed General Motors’ Futurama exhibit for the ’39 World’s Fair in New York. In the future city (as per Bel Geddes’ sprawling set piece of miniatures), cars would move in tight squadrons safely under the control of a central traffic authority. They would be in constant radio contact with each other and the road. They would be electronically crash-proofed in a way that rules out random collisions. Speeds could rise, proximities close and road carrying capacities increase.

A beautiful order would be imposed on interurban traffic, and the cascading efficiencies would include a smaller infrastructural footprint, lower per-mile energy costs and higher system productivity (this vision being from the 1930s, the era of scientific management).

As of 2013, almost everything technically necessary to enact a real-world version of the Bel Geddes dream has been invented. But the details are shaping up differently. For this first generation of autonomy, for example, cars will rely on their own wits—their own cameras, sensors and map-keeping—rather than cede control to some master computer.

Massive Growth Of Electric Cars In US, + Who Drives Electric Cars

Clean Technica:

The infographic, reposted below, highlights several interesting facts, which I’ll real quickly note here in text for those of you who prefer straight text:

100% electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars grew tremendously in the US in 2011, and then again in 2012. And they are going to far eclipse 2012 sales in 2013. 2010 sales = 345; 2011 sales = 17,735; 2012 sales = 52,835; 2013 = an even much higher number.

Over 30% of 2013 US electric car and plug-in hybrid sales have occurred in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Partially automated Nissan Leaf prototype approved for use on Japanese roads

Sean Buckley:

Looking forward to Nissan’s 2020 autonomous vehicle push? Then get pumped: the company has just been given approval to test some of its automated driving systems on Japanese streets. Nissan has been issued a license plate to use with a Nissan Leaf kitted out with the firm’s Advanced Driver Assist System on, which will allow the vehicle to change lanes, pass cars, exit freeways and cruise down the road without driver assistance. Although the plate is technically just a normal license plate (unlike the distinctive red plates Nevada issues to automated vehicles), but marks the first time Nissan will be able to test these features on a public road. More importantly, the company says, it allows it to further develop the technologies that will eventually go into its fully automated vehicles. It’s a baby step, but at least it’s progress. Check out the company’s official announcement at the jump.

Via Paul Brody

“Ford’s expanding workplace charging network”

Ford PR:

Aggregate data from MyFord® Mobile app show customers drive more than 8,400 electric-only miles every hour and about 203,000 electric-only miles daily – enough to travel around the earth’s equator nearly eight times

MyFord Mobile is available on Ford plug-in hybrids, Fusion Energi and C-MAX Energi; and Focus Electric, a battery-electric vehicle

Data show that for plug-in hybrids, the number of all-electric trips increases by nearly 50 percent after the first six months of ownership, due to improved driving habits acquired through the use of exclusive features and a rapidly growing infrastructure, including Ford’s expanding workplace charging network

“Big Data” & the “Big Idea”

Peter DeLorenzo:

How so? No matter how much Big Data is floating around for car company marketers to tap into it will never replace the Big Idea. I can assure you that a boatload of marketers has lost sight of this one crucial fact: Even with all the data they desire at their fingertips, if there isn’t one good idea in front of it nothing good will come from it.

But that will not dissuade automotive marketers from craving it even more.

At any rate, what about Big Data? Where is it? For something that’s bandied about in this business does anyone really know – really know – about it other than those two words? It’s information. Detailed information that’s distilled down to focused details that allow marketers to target consumers in such a personalized way that they increase the likelihood of reaching them, so that they’ll actually buy something. Yes, social media and the digital age fuel it, but now it has become much bigger than that. It’s the be all and end all of the business. It’s also a panacea that is starting to stunt creativity, from where I sit.

But it doesn’t really matter, because Big Data is the runaway freight train to targeted consumer success. Or it could be the train to nowhere, depending on how you look at it.

Inside Google’s Quest To Popularize Self-Driving Cars

Adam Fisher:

Levandowski backs out of his suburban driveway in the usual manner. By the time he points his car down the street, it has used its GPS and other sensors to determine its location in the world. On the dashboard, right in front of the windshield, is a low-profile heads-up display. manual, it reads, in sober sans serif font, white on black. But the moment Levandowski enters the freeway ramp near his house, a colorful graphic appears. It’s a schematic view of the road: two solid white vertical lines marking the boundaries of the highway and three dashed lines dividing it into four lanes. The message now reads go to autodrive lane; there are two on the far side of the freeway, shown in green on the schematic. Levandowski’s car and those around him are represented by little white squares. The graphics are reminiscent of Pong. But the game play? Pure Frogger.

There are two buttons on Levandowski’s steering wheel, off and on, and after merging into an auto-drive lane, he hits on with his thumb. A dulcet female voice marks the moment by enunciating the words auto driving with textbook precision. And with that, Levandowski has handed off control of his vehicle to software named Google Chauffeur. He takes his feet off the pedals and puts his hands in his lap. The car’s computer is now driving him to work. Self-driving cars have been around in one form or another since the 1970s, but three DARPA Grand Challenges, in 2004, 2005, and 2007, jump-started the field. Grand Challenge alumni now populate self-driving laboratories worldwide. It’s not just Google that’s developing the technology, but also most of the major car manufacturers: Audi, Volkswagen, Toyota, GM, Volvo, BMW, Nissan. Arguably the most important outcome of the DARPA field trials was the development of a robust and reliable laser range finder. It’s the all-seeing eye mounted on top of Levandowski’s car, and it’s used by virtually every other experimental self-driving system ever built.

US Military Lags in Push for Robotic Ground Vehicles

John Markoff:

Cars that can park, brake at a sign of danger and navigate in traffic are on their way to dealers’ showrooms, turning science-fiction fantasies about consumer-owned self-driving vehicles into a new reality.

But as private investors have been pushing ahead to develop the systems needed for these new robotic machines, one crucial innovator has been largely out of the loop: the United States military.

The armed forces have lagged on deploying their own versions of unmanned road vehicles, despite goals to create new machines that could be used in place of “boots on the ground” in conflicts. Restrictions on government spending and technological challenges have left the military with virtually no chance of meeting the goal set by Congress to have a third of the military’s combat fleet consist of unmanned vehicles by 2015, military experts said.

The military’s failure to lead the way in self-driving ground vehicles is ironic, given that today’s commercial advances have their roots in research originally sponsored by Darpa, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s advanced technology organization. A decade ago, Darpa offered a series of “grand challenges” to private researchers, which helped push the technology forward.

Long, Strange Trip Ending for VW’s Hippie Van

Associated Press:

It carried hippies through the 1960s, hauled surfers in search of killer waves during endless summers and serves as a workhorse across the developing world, but the long, strange trip of the Volkswagen van is ending.

Brazil is the last place in the world still producing the iconic vehicle, or “bus” as it’s known by aficionados, but VW says production will end Dec. 31. Safety regulations mandate that every vehicle in Brazil must have air bags and anti-lock braking systems starting in 2014, and the company says it cannot change production to meet the law.

Although output will halt in Brazil, there should be plenty of VW vans rolling along for decades if only because there are so many, and they are so durable. VW produced more than 10 million Volkswagen Transporter vans globally since the model was introduced 63 years ago in Germany, though not all resemble the classic hippie machine. More than 1.5 million have been produced in Brazil since 1957.

The VW van is so deeply embedded in popular culture, it will likely live on even longer in the imagination.

Santa Monica bets on electric cars, but consumers are slow to switch

Jocylyn Trop:

It would seem to be a good time to own an electric car in Santa Monica.

From the charging stations dotted around town to the dedicated public parking spaces — all provided at no cost by the city — Santa Monica has rolled out the welcome mat for electric cars.

But even here, in this wealthy, environmentally conscious city of 90,000 west of Los Angeles, only a core group of owners has switched from traditional gasoline-powered cars.

Less than 4 percent of registered cars run only on battery power, according to an analysis by the industry researcher Edmunds.com of data from R.L. Polk, which records vehicle registrations nationwide. Hybrids, which run on some combination of gasoline and battery power, account for 15.5 percent, the data says, but many of those are traditional hybrids, which do not require a plug-in cord for recharging.

“the pay-as-you-go smartphone mentality seems to have seeped into the car market”

Tara Siegel Barnard:

“People’s attitudes are shifting,” said Philip Reed, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com. “The car is being seen more as a commodity to be used and then returned. Ownership was a big part of the World War II generation — people wanted to own their house and own their car. They were taught that was financially responsible.”

There are reasons certain people might want to lease (the first one being you have extra money to burn). But for the rest of us, the financial consequences are worth re-examining, especially when you have a slew of competing financial priorities like college tuition, retirement or even a nice vacation.

So let’s start with the hard numbers. Mr. Reed looked at three ways you could acquire a four-door Honda Accord EX: buying a new 2014 model, leasing the same 2014 car, or buying a used 2011 Accord with 36,000 miles. (Many people in the New York area are paying about $28,211 for the new car, including tax, title and registration.)

The analysis looked at the cost over six years, since the average person owns a car for that long, and it incorporated typical buying patterns: the new Accord is purchased with a five-year loan, the used car is financed with a four-year loan, and the person who is leasing must take out two consecutive 36-month leases. (The rest of the assumptions are detailed on the accompanying chart.)

Why aren’t young people buying cars?

Jay Nagley:

Possibly the greatest cinematic celebration of cars and youth, American Graffiti, celebrates its 40th anniversary this month.

The story of California teenagers’ lives revolving around their cars rang true once but would seem hopelessly contrived if made today. Nowadays, increasing numbers of teenagers across the developed world don’t even bother getting a driving licence, let alone a car.

Car manufacturers are starting to fret that young people – the car buyers of tomorrow – are falling out of love with their products. Given the ageing populations of developed countries, car companies are desperate to woo as many young buyers as possible, and the thought that the crucial youth market might dry up is giving bosses sleepless nights.
To see how bad things could get, just look at Japan, where the pheno menon was first noted. A stagnant economy for the past 20 years, serious congestion and a youth market focused on products with plugs, not petrol, has led to a collapse in the Japanese car market. It peaked in 1990 at 7.7 million, and then fell steadily to a low of 4.2 million in 2011, before recovering slightly to 5.0 million in 2012 (mainly because of government incentives).

BMW Tests Light-Weight Assembly for Electric Cars

Joseph White:

BMW AG is launching production here on Wednesday of its new Project i cars, the first large-scale test of whether building cars out of carbon fiber and plastic instead of steel can overcome the obstacles to adoption of electric vehicles.

The BMW i-Car project—including the $41,350 all-electric i3 city car, the $135,000 i8 plug-in hybrid sports car and more models in the future—aims to become the first high-volume supplier of the ultralight vehicles. Proponents of the idea say electric cars can be more competitive with internal combustion vehicles if car makers use exotic, lightweight materials, such as carbon fiber reinforced plastic, to reduce the weight the batteries have to propel. Plastic materials also would allow for a radically simplified body assembly system.

All car makers are under pressure from regulators around the world to move toward electric vehicles. In California, New York and several other U.S. states, BMW could face constraints on sales of its most popular models, such as the X5 sport utility or 3-series sedans, unless it starts selling zero emission cars and building up clean air credits.

GM Developing Car to Rival Tesla

Mike Ramsey:

General Motors Co. GM +0.44% is developing an electric car that can go 200 miles on a charge for around $30,000, officials at the largest U.S. auto maker said, offering a challenge to luxury electric-car startup Tesla Motors Inc. TSLA +0.63%

Doug Parks, GM’s vice president of global product programs, disclosed the effort on Monday at GM’s battery laboratory and test facility in Warren, Mich., but didn’t say when the car would be available. He said while the technology is available now, the cost of the batteries remains too high to be able to pull off the feat today.

GM’s move to raise the profile of its battery research efforts comes as Tesla is challenging the established auto industry’s claim to technology leadership with its $70,000 and up Model S. Mr. Parks’ comments came just a few days after Germany’s Volkswagen AG VOW.XE +0.43% said it intended to become the largest seller of electric vehicles by 2018.

Analysts and industry executives say Tesla, GM, VW and the current global electric vehicle sales leader, Nissan Motor Co., 7201.TO -0.20% all face the same problem: current electric vehicle batteries are too expensive, and deliver too little usable driving range compared with vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.

One chart that explains why the US auto industry is booming

Matt Phillips:

Anyone who keeps an eye on the US economy knows that the automotive business is going like gangbusters right now. In September US auto sales jumped to an annualized rate of 16.1 million, the best since December 2007.

How is this possible, given the relatively muted gains that US consumers have seen in their incomes?


Take a look at this chart from Deutsche Bank, which shows the breakdown of issuance this year of different types of asset-backed securities (meaning bundled loans that lenders sell off to investors in the secondary market).

“the uncluttered son-of-iPad instrumentation”

Gavin Green:

A fleet of BMW i3s silently lugged foot-weary hacks from hall to hall at the vast Frankfurt motor show, that biennial techfest that celebrates the global dominance of Germany’s car industry. It’s not often that the most important new car at a show also doubles as journalist taxi.

I had my go, impressed by the lack of any intrusive B-post (so easy egress and ingress), the uncluttered son-of-iPad instrumentation, excellent all-round visibility and the usual electric car whisper-quiet whirr and whoosh. The wood trim on ‘my’ car looked a little out of place – can you imagine an iPhone in walnut veneer? – but if there is one car that summed the cutting edge of the global (i.e. German) car industry, 2013, it was the i3.

Why Texas Banned Tesla Motors

Candidate Brian Boyko:

In fact, nobody can buy a Tesla car in Texas. The State of Texas has decided that you can’t buy a car from Tesla.

Why? Well, the Texas Automobile Dealers Association lobbied hard against letting Tesla sell cars in Texas, spending $276,750 on Texas political campaigns – about 75% to Republicans, (including $2000 to Rep. Dale, the incumbent in the seat I’m running for.)

Tesla doesn’t use car dealerships. They sell directly to the consumer. No haggling, no upselling, no commission for employees, and uniform prices at every store. You just point to the car, say “I want that,” and you buy it. It makes a lot of sense for Tesla. Customers don’t like car dealers, and car dealers don’t like electric cars, so why would you try to sell an electric car to a customer through a car dealership? It is capitalism – a producer of a good is responding to the incentives of the market.

Carmakers are desperate for ways to excite young buyers, who are increasingly apathetic about car ownership.

Jack Ewing:

“There are products that are hipper for young people than cars,” said Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, a professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen in northern Germany and an industry analyst. “The car companies are still using the old marketing pitch — more horsepower. That doesn’t speak to young people any more.”

Interest in battery-powered cars has faded after disappointing initial sales, but it could pick up again this year with the market introduction of the BMW i3. The vehicle has perhaps the most revolutionary new design by an established carmaker in years, not only because of its electric propulsion system but also because the passenger compartment is made of carbon fiber rather than steel, to save weight and extend the distance the car can travel between charges.

There is also speculation that Continental, a German parts supplier, will announce an alliance with Google next week to further develop self-driving cars. A spokesman for Continental, which will hold a news conference at the auto show on Tuesday, declined to comment.

“A Bicycle When You Want it, a Motorcycle When You Need it”


The idea of Greyp came to life when Zvonimir Sučić, a well-known designer of high-performance electric bicycles and motorcycles, joined Rimac Automobili as a mechanical engineer in 2010. Zvonimir developed and built electric bikes since 2001. in his garage with the help of a couple of friends as a hobby.

“In the U.S. though, Audi connectivity will most likely be tied to a specific operator”

Kevin Fitchard:

Audi is going fully integrated from the get go. The S3 and forthcoming A3 will use their LTE chips to link its on-board nav system to the cloud with access to Google Earth and Streetview. Drivers can access social media networks Facebook and Twitter with voice commands, though its Audi Connect platform is still light on other apps. And the LTE connection can also be redistributed to other devices in the car through Wi-Fi.

How you’ll wind up paying for the service is still an open question. Many people will balk at the thought of buying a separate mobile plan for their cars. That’s why I suspect we’ll see carriers include connected cars in their data share plans. You wind up paying a $5 to $10 monthly device fee to maintain your car’s mobile connection and then draw from the same data bucket shared by your smartphone and tablet.

“For instance, the automotive industry is in trouble because millennials aren’t buying cars. In 2010, despite being a large percentage of the population, millennials bought only 27% of all new vehicles sold in America, down from 38% in 1985.”

Jeremiah Owyang:

Jeremiah: Is it true that Millennials seek access to goods and products rather than owning them?. What impacts does that have to brands who’re trying to sell to “Consumers”? What should brands do?

Dan: A lot of industries are having a lot of trouble engaging millennials. For instance, the automotive industry is in trouble because millennials aren’t buying cars. In 2010, despite being a large percentage of the population, millennials bought only 27% of all new vehicles sold in America, down from 38% in 1985. When it comes to the travel industry, millennials are using Airbnb.com and Uber in order to save money and have a unique experience, which is why both are experiencing revenue growth.

The real estate industry is hurting because millennials would rather rent than own property. From 2009 through 2011, just 9% of millennials were approved for a first-time mortgage. Fast food restaurants, especially McDonalds, are hurting because millennials are health conscious. Hamburger chains have seen a 16% decline in traffic from millennials since 2007. Companies, in general, are having a very challenging time retaining millennials and the average tenure for a millennials is only two years.

If you want to sell to millennials, you have to build a strong brand personality, connect with them on social networks, align yourself with a cause, have an open culture and include their opinions as you build new products. They want custom brand experiences that take their wants and needs into account. If you want to retain them as workers, you need to invest in their careers, mentor them, provide them with internal hiring opportunities and feed their entrepreneurial ambitions.

A Ride in the Semi-Autonomous Leaf

Steve Rousseau:

Nissan wants to put a bevy of autonomous systems into production vehicles by 2020. To catch a glimpse of the future, we take a ride-along in their semi-autonomous car.

The semi-autonomous car exists, but it hasn’t arrived, much in the same way Google Glass exists on a select few peoples’ faces but not on store shelves. Beginning with a DARPA-sponsored research contests just under a decade ago and popularized by Google’s self-driving Toyota Priuses, automotive manufacturers are quickly developing their own self-piloting systems and creating a flurry of autonomous features in various states of development and sophistication.

Just a few examples: A route-programmed Audi TTS climbed Pikes Peak in 2010. The German automaker debuted a self-parking system in the A7 earlier this year at CES. For highway driving, GM is testing Super Cruise—a system capable of lane centering and adaptive cruise control. Mercedes-Benz’s Distronic Plus With Steering Assist, available now in the S-Class, does virtually the same thing—although NHTSA regulations demand that you still need to keep your hands on the wheel at all times. Even tire manufacturer and auto parts supplier Continental is developing a system known as Emergency Steer Assist to automatically perform evasive maneuvers.

Automakers Build a Showroom in an App

Jaclyn Trop:

Automakers trying to reach young buyers face a conundrum: How do they sell a car to people who stay away from a showroom?

“They won’t come into the stores to educate themselves,” said Peter Chung, general manager of Magic Toyota and Scion in Edmonds, Wash. “They’ll do that online.”

More than half of the younger buyers surveyed by AutoTrader.com, a car-buying site, said they wanted to avoid interacting with dealership sales representatives.

In response, automakers like Cadillac and Toyota are starting to embrace technology that tries to take the showroom to the buyer. Known as augmented reality, it embeds images and videos in a picture on the user’s smartphone or tablet. The result is a far more detailed view of the image, often in three dimensions with added layers of information.

For example, when Cadillac introduced the ATS last year, it created a campaign in cities across the country that allowed observers to point an iPad at a chalk mural and watch the car drive through scenes like China’s mountainous Guoliang Tunnel and Monaco’s Grand Prix circuit. The goal was to grab the attention of potential buyers, especially younger ones, who would not normally think of Cadillac when researching new cars.

Later, Cadillac added the technology to its print advertising, pointing readers to download the brand’s smartphone application to view a three-dimensional model of the car. The app allows users to zoom in on the car and turn it 360 degrees by swiping their finger across the screen.