A Maker of Bikes Now Makes a Point of Riding Them

Austin Ramzy:

HAVING learned to speak Japanese as a child while Taiwan was under Japanese occupation, he traveled to Japan and studied what was then the premier bike manufacturing economy. A major breakthrough came in 1977 when Giant’s chief executive, Tony Lo, negotiated a deal with Schwinn to begin manufacturing bikes for the iconic American brand.

Schwinn became both Giant’s strength and weakness. Bike sales leapt in the United States during the oil crisis, and after workers at the Schwinn plant in Chicago went on strike in 1980, Giant became a key supplier, making more than two-thirds of Schwinn’s bikes by the mid-1980s.

Then Schwinn decided to find a new source, and in 1987 signed a contract with China Bicycle Company to make bikes in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong. “We were terrified,” Mr. Liu said. Giant relied on Schwinn for 75 percent of its orders, and its survival was at risk.

Giant began focusing on building its own brand, setting up operations in Europe and the United States. Gradually sales of Giant-brand bicycles grew. At the same time Schwinn’s fortunes declined, and it filed for bankruptcy in 1992. The American company was never able to get cheaper production from its China Bicycle investment, said Jay Townley, an industry consultant who was an executive at Schwinn and later Giant’s American arm.

Swiss Researchers Make an 80-mpg Hybrid

Kevin Bullis:

Efficient engine: This modified Volkswagen diesel engine runs mostly on natural gas.

If electric vehicles don’t take off, maybe we can achieve fuel economy targets with cars that combine a little bit of everything.

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have developed an ultra-efficient new engine that runs on a combination of natural gas and diesel. When combined with a battery and electric motor to make a hybrid vehicle, it could allow a car to get the equivalent of 80 miles per gallon, the researchers say. That’s far better than the 50 miles per gallon you can expect from the most efficient existing hybrids such as the Toyota Prius. The only catch would be finding both natural gas and diesel for refueling.

In theory, the technology could provide an alternative to electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids for achieving strict fuel economy standards around the world. In Europe, the standards require cars to achieve the equivalent of 55 miles per gallon, on average, by 2020. In the U.S., vehicle fleets need to hit that target by 2025. Doing so will inevitably require automakers to sell some vehicles that surpass those targets to offset emissions from SUVs and other larger vehicles.

Bangle: Auto design is stuck in a rut

Claire Bal:

In Bangle’s opinion, many designers talk about innovation, but nobody is really doing it.

“Even concept cars today simply anticipate the next production model coming down the line. Is this innovation? No. And at the end of the day this is what’s preventing car design from moving into a new era,” Bangle said.

He said he has offers to become design director at some automakers, but has turned them down every time.

“Designing cars consumes you; it has a hold on your spirit which is incredibly powerful,” he said. “It’s not something you can do part time, you have do it with all your heart and soul or you’re going to get it wrong.”

While he loved working for BMW, he said “you have to know when to leave the party.”

Charging Time, Not Range, Is the Biggest EV Issue

Damon Lavrinc:

You have no idea how fast traffic moves on an interstate until you’re trundling along at 65 mph. At that speed, everyone is whizzing past, including what looks like someone’s grandmother out for a drive in her Buick LeSabre.

I am creeping along, relatively speaking, to conserve energy because I’m on an electric Zero DS motorcycle and I’m a long way from home. I’d gotten ambitious — riding to Napa seemed like a good idea when I’d set off — and the 70-mile trip home will require every last bit of energy in the battery.

I watch the needle on the speedo dip below 60 as I start up another hill and decide to get on the throttle. I figure it’s better to risk running out of juice than risk getting run down by a semi. As I ponder this, something Ben Rich told me goes through my mind.

Mercedes Stop-and-Go Autopilot Heralds Hands-Free Push

Dorothee Tschampa:

Bumper-to-bumper traffic slowed to a crawl, finding a space in a crowded garage, or squeezing into a tight parking spot is no fun for any driver. To ease such tedious aspects of driving, companies from Mercedes-Benz to Continental AG (CON) are rolling out systems that take over the wheel.

Daimler AG (DAI)’s Mercedes is leading the way with an add-on called “Stop&Go Pilot” available in its top-of-the-line S-Class sedan. Backed by an array of 12 ultrasonic detectors, five cameras and six radar sensors, the 79,800-euro ($105,800) S-Class can match the speed of the car in front of it, even coming to a complete stop and steering to stay in the lane. The feature costs 2,678 euros in Germany.

Sitting back to read emails or watch a video as the car takes you to your destination — a scenario envisioned by the likes of Google Inc. (GOOG) — is years away. But the Mercedes option and others being readied by rivals such as Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) and Volvo Cars (175) show that the roll-out is under way.

“Autonomous drive won’t come as a revolution overnight,” said Jochen Hermann, director of driver-assistance systems at Mercedes. “The driver needs to get used to the technology.”

HERE Auto: connect your car to the cloud

Pino Bonetti:

Today we introduced HERE Auto, an embedded in-dash navigation system, and the HERE Auto Companion app – the latest additions to our world-class location products and services.

Internet connectivity transforms the abilities of many devices, including cars. However, we believe that a connected car isn’t just about putting a smartphone in vehicles. We believe that connectivity creates vast new possibilities for the automobile industry. HERE Auto and HERE Auto Companion app aim to take advantage of those possibilities and bring our vision of a connected car to life.

With HERE Auto and its companion app, we are offering a complete location experience that assists you all the time:

When you plan your journey – on here.com or on your smartphone;

When you drive – with embedded voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation in 95 countries, traffic re-routing and fuel prices;

When you approach your destination – with street level images, parking availability and indoor maps.

Via Dirk Schmidt.

America’s Driving Less, and This Evidence Suggests It’s Not About the Economy

Emily Badger:

Driving has been on the decline in the United States since 2004, as researchers have documented every which way. What they still don’t know, though, is precisely why. The answer likely has to do with some messy mix of rising gas prices, changing demographics, new technology, a souring economy and the shifting preferences of Millennial drivers. But it’s tempting to lean on some of those explanations more heavily than others.

The economic theory is a particularly deceptive one. If you believe that driving trends have gone south because the economy has, too, then that means U.S. policy doesn’t need to adjust to a new transportation reality less focused on cars. Wait long enough, and everything will go back to the old normal.

Years will have to pass before we can look back on this moment and know for sure if the decline in driving was primarily a product of the economy or something else. For now, though, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund has proposed a “natural experiment” with the data we do have: vehicle mileage per capita by state. If the economy is a major factor here, then states hardest hit by the recession – with the steepest rise in unemployment – would experience the most significant drop in driving, right? For one thing, unemployed people without jobs to drive to don’t drive as much.

Via Steven Sinofsky

“Ford has included a driver’s seat that can monitor the occupant’s heart rate, and record data which can be sent to hospitals via Ford Sync in the event of an medical emergency”

Ollie Kew:

Plus, there’s a tablet docking system, which doubles as the rear-passenger entertainment screen system. All devices are interconnected via Ford’s Sync wireless service.
And it’s an ambulance too?

Sort of. Ford has included a driver’s seat that can monitor the occupant’s heart rate, and record data which can be sent to hospitals via Ford Sync in the event of an medical emergency. The same interface handles the glucose monitor, which warns the driver if a child in the car’s back seats is suffering a diabetic attack. Still no gadget to make the little blighters actually behave, though…
Any other tech highlights?

The S-Max concept is the latest car to boast ‘car-to-car communications’, which manufacturers suggest will allow cars of the future to share information regarding congestion, accidents, and weather. We’re promised intelligent cars could ease traffic flow thanks to automatic rerouting, and increase safety. It’s an appealing idea, as long as the communication network is standardised between all carmakers.

The S-Max concept will also parallel park itself, and brake automatically if it senses jay-walking pedestrians.

Tesla, Competitors & California Car Buyers

Mark Rogowsky:

The numbers at first glance don’t seem quite so bad as BMW and Mercedes are both registering double-digit sales increases for 2013. But a deeper dive (thanks to GoodCarBadCar and the California New Car Dealers Association) paints a different picture. As the accompanying chart shows, five competitive vehicles are all down significantly against their 2012 sales numbers. Given that overall U.S. auto sales are up by 7.7%, and 12.5% in California, the performance of the Mercedes E-Class, the BMW 5-Series, and the Lexus GS are especially disappointing.

But it’s in the BMW 7-Series and Porsche Panamera that the presence of the Model S is probably being felt most acutely. Both are performance luxury sedans capable of seating families comfortably and both are fairly commonplace in the wealthy neighborhoods of the San Francisco Bay Area. Those neighborhoods are now rife with Teslas. More than 4700 Model S registrations have been recorded in California and at least some are coming at the expense of the competition. Nationally, the Tesla has matched the total sales of the Lexus LS, Audi Audi A8 and Panamera combined.

It’s certainly true that for the moment, BMW and Mercedes are still going to sell plenty of cars. Together, their midsize sedans will have a 5:1 edge over the Tesla in 2013, and much greater if you also include the large sedans in the mix. But by the end of next year, Tesla hopes to double production and deliver as many cars outside the U.S. as it’s selling here. The competition is clearly heating up.

” thanks primarily to its new rigid cartilage of alloy tubes, panels and extrusions. This is pretty much the technology Scaglietti uses to build the monocoque of the Ferrari 458″

Dan Neil:

Indeed, the new word in the Stingray’s vocabulary is “structure.” Every good thing about it—its refinement and drivability, the fine-tuning of each of the five driving modes (Eco, Normal, Winter, Sport and Track), the “sportivity,” as the Germans would call it—is thanks primarily to its new rigid cartilage of alloy tubes, panels and extrusions. This is pretty much the technology Scaglietti uses to build the monocoque of the Ferrari 458 (except that car has a stressed aluminum skin); Aston Martin, Jaguar, and Lotus use something similar. Corvette doubters are going to have to show me a better mass-production chassis that is priced anything like a new Stingray ($52,000-$70,000).

Wait, there is actually one. Anybody? The Tesla Model S.

Arcane figures about Stingray’s torsional rigidity translate in the cabin to a sense of things being tightly tamped and torqued down. That is definitely novel for Corvette. The new car is almost entirely cured of Corvette’s distinctive cowl-shake or unpleasant noise, vibration and harshness. In previous ‘Vettes, hitting a big pothole would send an undamped shudder through the structure and, if the car was cornering, it would take a moment to recompose itself and regain the trace. In the C7, such impacts are reduced to a single, tympanic thump, instantly dissipated.

In fuel-saving Eco driving mode, the Stingray can deactivate four of its eight cylinders (itself a neat trick in a cam-in-block V8), helping the base car to lope to a 30-miles-per-gallon highway mileage rating. And yet the fluttering off and on of these cylinders, in this high-compression (11.5:1) V8, is virtually undetectable.

Code, you want code? In order to better calibrate the behavior of the various adaptive driving modes (weather, eco, tour, sport and track)—modulating no less than 12 vehicle systems including the electric steering and magnetic adaptive dampers—the Stingray Z51’s 19- and 20-inch wheels (front/rear) are fitted with tiny temperature sensors, because warm tires behave differently than cold tires. But because these sensing thermocouples heat up more slowly than the air inside the tires, their signals go through a special temperature-estimating algorithm before they are processed by the driving-mode head office.

Sign in with your Google account and pair the app to your vehicle’s Bluetooth® system


Re-imagine PunchDub
Every time you encounter another Volkswagen with SmileDrive, you get a punch. At the end of your drive, you’ll learn how many punches you’ve collected.

Earn stickers
You’ll receive stickers for special moments on the road such as late-night rides, extra long hauls and crack-of-dawn commutes.

Get your Smile Score
Each trip ends with a report that includes a Smile Score, which measures the fun factor of that drive.

Share and save Smilecasts
Friends can see where you are, who you’re with and what you’re doing while you’re on your road trip. Once it’s over, your Smilecast is saved so that you can revisit the adventure.

Interesting. I wonder what the data sharing & financial incentives behind this app might be?

Deloitte Survey of Generation Y Car Buyers

David Barkholz:

A group of Generation Y members surveyed who had bought a vehicle within three months said they visited on average 3.1 dealerships before buying vs. 2.5 visits for the slightly older Gen Xers and 1.9 for older-still baby boomers.

Helms said millennials tend to be thorough with online and in-store vehicle research, making trips to dealerships a key part of the shopping journey.

But after the experience, they said they were much more likely than their older counterparts to avoid interacting with salespeople in the future for fear of high-pressure sales tactics. Fifty-six percent said so vs. 49 percent for Gen Xers and 37 percent for baby boomers.

Helms said millennials head to dealerships thinking they’ll have a laidback Apple Store experience and end up not wanting to go back. “That reflects their dealership experience,” Helms said.

Read the Deloitte Gen Y survey here (PDF).

Google Designing Its Own Self-Driving Car, Considers ‘Robo Taxi’

Amir Efrati:

Google Inc., which has been working on software to help major automakers build self-driving cars, also is quietly going around them by designing and developing a full-fledged self-driving car, according to people familiar with the matter.

In recent months, Google has held talks with contract manufacturers to build new cars to Google’s specifications, said the people familiar with the matter. The move came after Google’s talks with big car brands about incorporating its technology into their vehicles failed to yield a partnership, one of these people said.

Google also has a novel idea for what it could do with these cars. The company has considered ways to sell self-driving vehicles to individuals. But it also has focused on the potential for an autonomous car it designs to become part of “robo-taxi” services that pick up passengers on demand, these people said. Whether Google would try to operate such services on its own is unclear.

Via Andy Assareh.

Thoughts on Ford’s OPENXC

John Battelle:

Ford has created a platform called OpenXC that opens APIs into 50 or so data streams coming out of your car. On the first day of Ingenuity, teams of makers, hackers, and regular folks came up with amazing ideas that leveraged Ford’s innovative platform. For example, one team built an app that senses when a pet or child is in your car, then monitors the car’s internal temperature. If it gets too hot, this app can lower the windows, turn on the AC, and text the car’s owner. I mean, how cool is that?!

Boing Boing’s editors presented the winners on stage on Sunday during Ingenuity, a day long celebration of, well, the weird and wonderful people and ideas that make Boing Boing, Boing Boing. There was a hack that turned driving data into music – if you drive aggressively and waste resources, the music gets aggravating. If you drive well, it gets soothing. Another hack interpreted braking, steering, and other information into new signals for other drivers – imagine a taillight flashing “Thank you!’ when someone lets you merge into oncoming traffic, for example. Yet another hack took all that data and turned it into a “cost per trip” dashboard that gamifies driving and encourages you to drive in a way that saves money.

These kinds of innovations can only occur in an ecosystem of openness. As our society tips toward one based on data, our collective decisions around how that data can be used will determine what kind of a culture we live in. And what I observed at Ingenuity strengthened my belief that companies that lean into an open approach to data will win. There will soon be streams of data coming from all manner of products – appliances, clothing, sporting goods, you name it. Wouldn’t you rather live in a world where you can export the data from your son’s football helmet to a new app that monitors force and impact against a cohort of high school players around the country? Or would a better world be one where Riddell Inc. owns and controls that data?

Way back in 2008 I wrote a piece about Facebook and data called It’s Time For Services on The Web to Compete On More Than Data. My point was this: winning on a strategy of data lockdown is a short-term play. What matters is the service you provide on top of that data. For companies like Ford, the key won’t be to lock in customer data and try to be the best at leveraging your proprietary insights. It’ll be allowing your customers to take that data out, remix it into a robust ecosystem, and feed it back to your company and products, so they can get better. Companies will compete on how they best leverage a customer’s data, not on whether or not they’ve locked those customers’ data assets in (are you listening, cable companies?!).

Ford’s OpenXC website.

Bradley GT Electric Car Encounter

On our way to a glorious outdoor concert recently, I parked next to the obscure Bradley GT electric kit car.

A timely reminder that electric cars have had a few stops and starts over the decades.

Bradley Automotive via wikipedia:

The production run of the Bradley GT was from 1971 to 1981 according to the BradleyGT.com website and owners of the last GT II vehicles to be produced although many of the parts for the vehicles may date back to Volkswagens, Chevy Corvairs and other vehicles from the 1960s.

EV Adventure! 24 hours with an electric vehicle: What it’s like to drive one, and what it’s like to “Drive Now” in the Bay Area.

Ben Guild:

I recently had the opportunity to spend a day (24 hours) with an all-electric BMW ActiveE sedan. After having had the chance to also drive a friend’s Tesla Model S a few weeks prior, I must say that these electric vehicles the most comfortable and quiet cars that I have ever been in. I am definitely excited to see where “EV’s” are in 10-20 years, and if it weren’t for their current limited travel range (due to energy storage constraints), I feel like I could recommend them to everyone.

I rented this BMW ActiveE through a new service here in San Francisco called Drive Now, which is offered by BMW directly and provides cars that are billed to the users by the minute. It costs just $39 USD to join for a lifetime membership, and because they do not accept advance reservations, there are usually plenty of cars available. You can grab any one of their available cars, drive it, end the reservation, and only be billed for the exact usage in between at their published rates. Cool, right? — The vehicles are equipped with a built-in Android smartphone (mounted behind the gear lever) that handles all of the vehicle’s reservation details and its connection with your Drive Now account. Enter your 4-digit passcode, and begin your driving experience!

Mercedes Is Testing Google Glass Integration, iOS Dominant Platform for M-B Owners

Damon Lavrinc:

I put the car in park, unplug the phone, and put Google Glass on my face. Within seconds, I’ve got step-by-step directions to a coffee shop down the street beamed directly to my eyeballs. This is what Mercedes-Benz has planned for the future, and not only do they have a functioning prototype, they’re working with Google to make it a reality.

It’s called “Door-to-Door Navigation,” and it’s just the latest in a string of high-tech pushes the automaker has made in the past few years. It started with Mercedes doubling its resources and employees at its Silicon Valley research center, which allowed the automaker to work on a thoroughly revised infotainment platform and develop one of the first comprehensive integrations of Apple’s iPhone into its entry level and youth-focused CLA.

Via Ben Thompson.

The percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds buying new subcompact cars fell to 12% through May, down from 17% in 2008, according to registration data.

Christina Rogers:

Last year, buyers 55 and older accounted for more than 40% of all new car sales, up from 33% in 2008 while buyers between the ages of 18 and 34 represented only 12% of new-car purchases. And that is down from 14% five years ago, according to Edmunds.com.

One reason auto makers have developed youthful brands and products is to latch onto young adults in the hope of keeping their loyalty as they age and buy more expensive vehicles. However, they face an uphill battle. Some can’t afford a new car or don’t want one because they live in cities where they have public transit, says Michael Sivak, a professor with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Auto makers’ big prize is the “Millennial Generation”—that group of consumers in their 20s and 30s whose numbers could rival the postwar baby boom that has dominated the auto market for decades.

In some cases they find the tastes and pocketbooks of 20-somethings similar to older buyers. Job- and cash-strapped millennials aren’t too different from boomers living on a fixed income, marketers said

Millennials Lead the Trend to Less Driving, But What Happens As They Get Older?

Emily Badger:

It is unquestionably true that Americans are driving less today than we did just a few years ago. Sometime around 2004, our addiction to driving – expressed on a graph in the decades-long steep expansion of “vehicle miles traveled” – took a turn in the opposite direction. Per capita, we began to drive fewer miles each year than we had the year before. As the U.S. population has continued to grow, our collective miles traveled by car has begun to stagnate.

Driving? Young Americans say they have better things to do

Steve LeVine:

For a couple of years, researchers have been reporting that young Americans—the daredevil and showy youths who brought sex and sizzle to cars, and cool to the road —lack the same passion for driving as prior generations. They are not obtaining driver’s licenses with the verve of their elders, and now we hear why: by and large, they are simply too busy to be bothered.

And for carmakers, the suffering seems likely to get worse.

Brandon Schoettle, part of a University of Michigan research team that has helped to capture the trend, previously reported that 2004 was the inflection point when Americans as a whole began to drive less. As part of this development, the number of Americans aged 17-19 with driver’s licenses had shrunk to just six in ten as of 2010, down from eight in ten 30 years ago.

But until now his team and researchers elsewhere had largely their own conjecture and relatively narrow surveys to explain why this was happening. Most guesses centered on the rise of digital devices—driving a car, it was thought, is simply less interesting than hovering over an iPhone.

Instead, when asked the main reason why they had no driver’s license, 56.6% of 18- and 19-year-olds questioned by Schoettle’s team said they were too busy to get one. “The priority of past generations of having a driver’s license has just fallen down the list,” Schoettle told Quartz.

via Paul Brody.

Metaio & Audi AG Release Interactive Augmented Reality Manual for Audi A3

Metaio & Audi:

Today we are happy to announce together with our partner, the Audi AG, global leader in luxury vehicles, the release of the Audi A3 eKurzinfo augmented reality mobile application, available for free download on iOS devices.

After the amazing success of the Audi eKurzinfo app for the Audi A1, which was nominated for the 2013 GSMA Global Mobile Awards for Best Mobile Solution for the Automotive Industry, Audi AG has extended the availability to the new Audi A3.

We still don’t really know how bicycles work

Michael Brooks:

Forget mysterious dark matter and the inexplicable accelerating expansion of the universe; the bicycle represents a far more embarrassing hole in the accomplishments of physics.

Let’s be honest, a bit of the pleasure at Chris Froome’s victory in the Tour de France is down to this being our second victory in a row and to the thought that the French haven’t won it since 1985. What must be worse for them, though, is that when it comes to the science of team cycling, even the Belgians are in front.

At the University of Mons, researchers are developing something called the Anaconda. It’s never going to be much of a speed machine because it is, in effect, a chain of monocycles with handlebars. These units are connected, by means of hinges that allow them to snake along, to a normal two-wheeled bike at the front. Every rider in the chain can be going in a slightly different direction, which means it takes an enormous amount of control and collaboration to move the thing forward. According to Olivier Verlinden, chief engineer on the project, the main qualification for riders is to be unafraid of falling off.

It’s fun, apparently. The idea is to unleash it as a beach-resort bike, the kind of thing that stag and hen parties will use to terrorise seaside towns across the world. But it is also scientifically interesting. Why? Because we still don’t really know how bicycles work.

Mobile phone drivers ‘not linked’ to accident figures


Researchers have found no link between the number of US drivers making phone calls while on the road and the number of accidents recorded.

A team at Carnegie Mellon University and the London School of Economics analysed more than eight million incidents of car crashes and all fatalities on roads in eight US states.

They examined data before and after 9pm local time over a three-year period.

However they say their results do not include texting or internet browsing.

The timeslot was chosen because during the period studied (2002 – 2005) many American mobile phone operators offered free calls after 9pm during the week.

The Great Debate: Do Millennials Really Want Cars, Or Not?

Brad Tuttle:

Why are young people less likely to purchase cars, or even have driver’s licenses nowadays? One theory has it that the generation that came of age with the Internet and smartphones thinks cars are pretty lame. Automakers prefer to see the situation differently—that young people today love cars just as much as any other group, but just can’t afford them right now.

The auto industry has been in recovery mode over the past few years. Automakers sold 14.5 million new cars and trucks in 2012, a 13% increase over the prior year, and the highest total since 2007. Projected auto sales totals for 2013 should easily beat last year too, topping 15 million. Even so, the comeback has been called a “subpar recovery,” and a prime reason why sales haven’t truly taken off is that younger consumers today aren’t buying cars like younger consumers traditionally have in the car-crazed U.S.

Gen Y has been dubbed “Gen N”, as in Generation Neutral—which is the way some describe how millennials feel about car ownership. Studies have shown that fewer young adults have driver’s licenses, that this group hates the traditional car-buying process more than other demographics, and that they prefer urban living and socializing online and therefore have less need for cars.

The latest data from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) bolsters the idea that younger Americans are much less interested in car ownership than their older siblings, parents, and grandparents. Bloomberg News highlighted data from the study showing that while consumers in the 35-to-44 age demographic were the most likely to be purchasing new cars four years ago, today it’s the 55-to-65 age Baby Boomers buying new cars with the most frequency. In 2011, boomers were 15 times more likely to purchase new vehicles than young millennials (ages 18 to 24), and even consumers ages 75 and up have been buying cars at higher rates than groups ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34.

Tesla, fast charging and why it’s getting inconvenient for future EV drivers

Adam Lesser:

Similar to Apple’s strategy, Tesla has been creating a closed ecosystem, and in Tesla’s case it’s around electric car charging. And that’s not so great for the electric car drivers of the future.

Now that’s all well and good for Tesla, but what about the entire EV landscape? Tesla’s supercharger utilizes a proprietary plug, and although the stations its planning to build will have four to six EV spots servicing any vehicle, four will be dedicated to Tesla. Imagine going to the gas station, and four of the pumps were reserved for BMWs. When the automakers get a say in the powering of their EVs, they are choosing to create closed systems that exclude their competition.

The latest version of the chassis that underpins the seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf will spawn 310 different variations across all of Volkswagen Group’s car brands

Richard Truett:

With its new production system, VW can build many vehicles of different brands on a common chassis. This saves money because assembly, often at different plants, uses uniform

  • Assembly sequences that specify the order in which parts are installed.
  • Manufacturing machinery, including common tools and fasteners.
  • Joining sequences for welding and bonding.
  • Modular kits for systems, such as brakes and heating and cooling.

Cisco: ‘Big data’ from a car is worth $1,400 a year

David Sedgwick:

Here’s how (Andreas) Mai estimates the value of a connected car’s Big Data:

  • The motorist can save $550 by enjoying better fuel economy, less time stuck in traffic, lower insurance rates, etc.
  • Society can save $420 by employing car platoons to speed up traffic and increase a road’s capacity.
  • Service providers can earn $150 by providing traffic guidance, navigation, parking, emergency services, etc.
  • Automakers can save $300 in lower warranty costs, profitable apps, etc.

There are privacy issues, Mai acknowledged. The big question is whether motorists will allow automakers to use their vehicle data. However, Mai believes motorists will agree to share their data if they get a concrete benefit from it, such as lower insurance rates if they share data with their insurer.

In short, younger buyers are broke.

Larry Vellequette:

Instead, it’s their ballooning student loan debt. And the rising cost of insuring young drivers. And difficulty finding a job.

In short, younger buyers are broke.

“I don’t see any evidence that the young people are losing interest in cars,” says Mustafa Mohatarem, GM’s longtime chief economist. “It’s really the economics doing what we’re seeing, and not a change in preferences.”

Economic data suggest that consumers aged 18 to 34 are delaying marriage, having children and even moving out of their parents’ home. That’s not surprising, given that their net worth as a demographic has declined 44 percent since the recession, while outstanding student loan balances have nearly doubled since 2003.

For those whose livelihoods depend on selling cars, SUVs and pickups, all this is good news over the long term.

Recent Manufacturer & Supplier Self driving car surveys

auto alliance:

According to Alliance poll results, consumers are still cool to automated or “self-driving” cars with 33 percent indicating that such cars are a good idea, 42 percent saying they are a bad idea, and 24 percent unsure. Many consumers are unsure about the importance of self-driving cars:

40 percent of respondents believe self-driving cars do not enhance safety.

24 percent say they enhance safety by limiting human error.

12 percent see them as important to allow elderly and disabled people to drive.

8 percent believe they liberate people to do other things in the vehicle.

16 percent are unsure of the importance of self-driving cars.

Today, the driver is responsible for controlling the vehicle, and consumers expect the same laws to apply for self-driving cars.

Polling shows strong consumer support for requiring the driver or operator of a self-driving vehicle to have a driver’s license (86 percent), for prohibiting the driver from texting/surfing the internet (72 percent), for not allowing the driver to be under 16 years old (86 percent) and for banning alcohol consumption while operating the vehicle (88 percent).

If a self-driving car were in an accident, who should be liable for the damage? About one third of respondents (31 percent) were unsure. According to the poll, 30 percent said the software company controlling the vehicle, 22 percent said the vehicle owner, 7 percent said the company that installed the equipment and 7 percent said the vehicle manufacturer.

I have been unable to find the raw poll information.

Joseph White:

A more clear-cut worry surfaced in the poll: Privacy. About 75% of respondents said they were concerned that companies would use the software that controls a self-driving car to collect personal data, and 70% were worried that data would be shared with the government. Asked whether they were worried that hackers could gain control of a self-driving vehicle, 81% of the respondents replied they were either very or somewhat concerned about that threat, the Alliance says.

A summary of Cisco’s recent self driving car survey can be found here.

Regulation & Disruption: The New Innovation Battlegrounds Are City Hall And The State House

Julius Genachowski:

Colorado is currently considering proposals to outlaw Uber and other services that enable passengers to book a car service from their smartphones. Uber and its competitors face similar challenges from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to Washington, DC.

In May, the North Carolina State Senate voted unanimously to prohibit Tesla Motors, the innovative electric car company, from selling cars directly to consumers, including via the Internet. The Texas legislature recently retained similar prohibitions until at least 2015.

Part of what’s so crazy about buying a car the traditional way is that the Wild West pricing means there’s no way to know whether the deck is stacked against you from the outset merely because you’re a woman

Libby Copeland:

For a variety of reasons, women are not as good at negotiating as men. For one thing, we’re not as practiced at it. Several studies have shown that women tend to negotiate less often, in part because the assertiveness required for the task gets socialized out of us. After all, nice girls aren’t supposed to cause conflict, and there are real-world implications for those who buck the rules. In one study, both men and women pronounced female job applicants less hirable when they asked for more compensation than when male applicants did the same thing. (Male subjects in particular were less likely to want to work with women who tried to negotiate.) So it’s not surprising that negotiating causes women more anxiety than it causes men and that women are less likely to realize they can negotiate in a given situation. You have to do all sorts of tricky things to get them to haggle, like describe it as “asking” instead of “negotiating” or explicitly tell them that they’re allowed to do it. It’s no wonder that women were said to flock to the defunct car company Saturn, which was known for its no-haggle policy.

Part of what’s so crazy about buying a car the traditional way is that the Wild West pricing means there’s no way to know whether the deck is stacked against you from the outset merely because you’re a woman. Studies conducted in the ’90s by economist Ian Ayres showed that Chicago-area dealerships routinely quoted blacks and women higher initial offers than white men, so that even after haggling they wound up with higher prices. Data from auto repair shops shows something more nuanced: Women are quoted higher prices unless they break gender stereotypes, either by showing they know the market rate for a repair or by insisting on a discount. All of which is why, when women buy a car, we first research the bejesus out of it. We know that certain salesmen will be inclined to treat us as easy marks, and we’ll need to defy their expectations. So we prep and prep and then show up, hoping we don’t get a jerk. Sure, we can request a different salesman or hit another dealership, but we’ll pay for it in wasted time.

Timing of Driver’s License Acquisition and Reasons for Delay among Young People in the United States, 2012


Graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems are designed to protect new drivers by limiting their exposure to risk initially and gradually phasing in additional driving privileges as they gain experience. Although numerous studies have shown that GDL has significantly reduced the numbers of 16- and 17-year-old drivers involved, injured, and killed in motor vehicle crashes, the few studies of its effects on 18- and 19-year-olds have produced conflicting results. Some researchers suspect that because most states’ GDL systems only apply to new drivers younger than 18, GDL might encourage young people to wait until age 18 to obtain a license to avoid the requirements and restrictions associated with GDL, resulting in older teenagers having less driving experience and higher crash risk than they would without GDL.

Via Syeven Sinofsky

Yesterday’s Fuel: The world’s thirst for oil could be nearing a peak. That is bad news for producers, excellent for everyone else

The Economist:

The other great change is in automotive technology. Rapid advances in engine and vehicle design also threaten oil’s dominance. Foremost is the efficiency of the internal-combustion engine itself. Petrol and diesel engines are becoming ever more frugal. The materials used to make cars are getting lighter and stronger. The growing popularity of electric and hybrid cars, as well as vehicles powered by natural gas or hydrogen fuel cells, will also have an effect on demand for oil.

Analysts at Citi, a bank, calculate that if the fuel-efficiency of cars and trucks improves by an average of 2.5% a year it will be enough to constrain oil demand; they predict that a peak of less than 92m b/d will come in the next few years. Ricardo, a big automotive engineer, has come to a similar conclusion.

Not surprisingly, the oil “supermajors” and the IEA disagree. They point out that most of the emerging world has a long way to go before it owns as many cars, or drives as many miles per head, as America.
But it would be foolish to extrapolate from the rich world’s past to booming Asia’s future. The sort of environmental policies that are reducing the thirst for fuel in Europe and America by imposing ever-tougher fuel-efficiency standards on vehicles are also being adopted in the emerging economies. China recently introduced its own set of fuel-economy measures. If, as a result of its determination to reduce its dependence on imported oil, the regime imposes policies designed to “leapfrog” the country’s transport system to hybrids, oil demand will come under even more pressure.

Hacking Driverless Cars

Meghan Kelly:

Unmanned vehicles rely on a number of sensors to be able to move without hitting anything. These include the GPS, laser range finders (LIDAR), cameras, inertial measurement units (IMU), wheel sensors, and more. But these sensors can be tricked to run your driverless car off the road, into walls, and, in the case of one van, over highway medians.

These hacks are scary when you consider how advanced Google’s driverless cars are. Many believe these are the future; that they’ll take us from place to place without our intervention. But if you can hack into the computers that exist in cars today, the extensive systems of unmanned cars will be ripe for “experimentation.”

The types of attacks that can derail the sensors vary but aren’t always very sophisticated. For example, LIDAR sensors use a rotating mirror to check for potential obstacles and weather changes in the area. It scans the area with a laser, and anything that reflects that laser is then picked up by the mirror. The sensor analyzes that data and decides what is in front of it.

Why are we still focusing on the car, or “Today, the lack of standardization in new options keeps us mired in old ones”

Allison Arieff:

The driverless car doesn’t look any more futuristic today (in fact, it pretty much looks like … a car), but what is radically different now is that the means to make that car drive autonomously have been figured out. For example, Google’s driverless cars — the ones you hear the most about — have completed over 300,000 autonomous-driving miles accident-free. Many experts, from architects to automobile executives, predict the ascendancy of the autonomous vehicle within three generations. Allstate is preparing actuarial tables; Ford, BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan, among other car manufacturers, in an unusual shift toward long-term planning, are seeing the writing on the wall and have developed working prototypes. (This may be a smart strategy, given how the United States is trending; in China, meanwhile, car ownership is growing by more than 10 percent annually.)

But all the geeky enthusiasm overlooks serious, um, roadblocks with regard to urban design and social equity. And, if you’ll forgive the hyperbole, the American dream — which is, after all, deeply grounded in the car, the social signifier that is the three-car garage and, even, the red Corvette that is the midlife crisis. There are some very good things autonomous vehicles might possibly provide — yet the obstacles to their integration seem insurmountable. If we’ve struggled so much to get a few hybrid cars on the road, how could we ever begin to get even near replacing our existing auto-dependent system?

But back to the possible upsides. First, a potentially safer way to get around. Cars are dangerous — over 32,000 people were killed by motor vehicles in 2011 alone — mostly because of the people who drive them. Remove the driver, say autonomous advocates, and you’ll remove the danger. Further, self-driving vehicles provide mobility for those who lack it — the disabled, seniors, even children — and for those who perhaps shouldn’t have access to it otherwise (i.e., drunken drivers).

Self-driving cars seemed futurist a century ago; today, it seems out of touch to focus on cars at all. Americans are buying fewer cars, driving less and getting fewer licenses as each year goes by. Rates of car ownership are decreasing. Bikeshare, rideshare and carshare programs are gaining in popularity and acceptance, as are transit-oriented communities.

So why continue to design and plan for a car-based society? Transit innovation is possible, and is indeed inspirational, in many non-North-American cities. The TransMilenio bus rapid transit system in Bogotá, Colombia, for example, comes to each bus stop every 10 seconds and carries close to 40,000 passengers per hour, 1.6 million per day. (Every 10 seconds — can you imagine?) In the United States, it feels like all that innovation is connected to the automobile with app-enabled carsharing, ridesharing and even the renting out of one’s driveway for extra revenue. While this sort of invention is a welcome addition and helps reduce the problem of one person driving alone in one car, it has the potential to lessen our belief in public transit as a public good as greater numbers of people turn to these customized solutions for getting to work.

I began writing this article during the Bay Area’s BART strike the week of July 1, and it was disconcerting to hear many folks in the Bay Area shrug their shoulders (or stick their feet in their mouth) about the loss in service. For them, it was a minor inconvenience, remedied with a $15 ride from the Uber car service (“everyone’s private driver”) or from the on-demand carsharing service Lyft in lieu of a train trip. (Forbes magazine, among others, has argued that the greatest obstacle to driverless cars may well be taxi drivers.)

I wish more start-ups would devote similar zeal to non-car-focused pursuits. And that these innovations were not app-dependent, and by extension, accessible to those without smartphones.

(And it must be said, inherent in an embrace of driverless cars is an assumption of benevolence. The utopian notion that these vehicles would eliminate danger from the driving equation is naïve at best — it’s not difficult to imagine how easily the freeway’s computer networks could be hacked.)

Apps & Ford’s Electric (Energi) Cars

Jay Ramey:

All of this research was made possible through the use of MyFord Mobile, which is available on Ford’s plug-in and battery-electric cars like the C-MAX Energi, the Fusion Energi, and the Focus Electric (why they didn’t give it a cool name like ElectroFocus we’ll never know). The MyFord Mobile app can also be downloaded from the App Store as well as Google Play.

The app allows Ford owners to link up their phone with their cars using an embedded AT&T wireless module, with the car supplying the app with information on its charge level and other vital stats. While not every plug-in hybrid Ford owner uses it, the app provides quite a bit of helpful info, including a charging-station finder.

Ford has been able to piece together more interesting data through the MyFord Mobile app, finding that the average charge time is just over three hours, once again suggesting that most owners tend to use their cars for commuting.

Ford’s original press release along with a more data is available here:

The station finding feature is one of the most frequently used functions of MyFord Mobile. Early data related specifically to charging show:

About 6 million charging stations are found every month through MyFord Mobile

Average charge time is 185 minutes

About 180,000 charge stations are located daily through MyFord Mobile

Noon to 2 p.m. is when most charge station searches are conducted

The top five most active regions for charge station searches are San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle and the northeast corridor

Ford doesn’t collect information on individual drivers, but aggregates group data so that it can continue to deliver the best possible ownership experience. And while not every owner uses MyFord Mobile, data available from those who do are showing:

More electric drive time:Early in the year, as little as 41 percent of drive time was being spent in electric mode; as recent as July 16, the figure was nearing 60 percent

More daily total miles: With Ford’s share of the U.S. electrified vehicle market at nearly 16 percent for the first half of 2013, between 100,000 and 160,000 miles are being driven every day

More daily trips: In the last month, roughly 5,000 to 7,000 trips have been made in vehicles using MyFord Mobile daily

Short trips: 84 percent of one-way trips are of distances 20 miles or less

Yesterdays Fuel? The world’s thirst for oil could be nearing a peak. That is bad news for producers, excellent for everyone else

The Economist:

We believe that they are wrong, and that oil is close to a peak. This is not the “peak oil” widely discussed several years ago, when several theorists, who have since gone strangely quiet, reckoned that supply would flatten and then fall. We believe that demand, not supply, could decline. In the rich world oil demand has already peaked: it has fallen since 2005. Even allowing for all those new drivers in Beijing and Delhi, two revolutions in technology will dampen the world’s thirst for the black stuff.

The first revolution was led by a Texan who has just died (see article). George Mitchell championed “fracking” as a way to release huge supplies of “unconventional” gas from shale beds. This, along with vast new discoveries of conventional gas, has recently helped increase the world’s reserves from 50 to 200 years. In America, where thanks to Mr Mitchell shale gas already billows from the ground, liquefied or compressed gas is finding its way into the tanks of lorries, buses and local-delivery vehicles. Gas could also replace oil in ships, power stations, petrochemical plants and domestic and industrial heating systems, and thus displace a few million barrels of oil a day by 2020.

Via the Oil Drum (worth reading).

How German cars beat British motors – and kept going


The UK car industry was once one of Germany’s biggest competitors; now it has become one of its biggest assets, argues author Dominic Sandbrook. How did Germany accelerate away?

Forty years ago, Germany’s biggest carmakers were putting the finishing touches to a product that would change their image forever.

The Volkswagen Golf is one of the bestselling cars of all time. It made its debut in 1974, the year West Germany won the World Cup at home in Munich and the German band Kraftwerk released their ground-breaking album Autobahn.

Ever since, the Golf has been shorthand for mass-market success. Last year VW sold more than 430,000 Golfs all over Europe – a staggering 125,000 ahead of its closest rival.

This year they brought out a brand-new, seventh incarnation. And even if you don’t own one yourself, there’s undoubtedly one in a drive near you.

Related: “The VW Camper Van: A Biography“.