29th July 2016

Mercedes-Benz and Tesla See a Future in Electric Self-Driving Buses

Mercedes-Benz Future BusPeople are moving toward the urban cores of our cities in record numbers. And while cities are pushing inward, it’s becoming harder than ever to have a car—or multiple cars—in a household. Meanwhile, new subways and rail lines require deep pockets and often controversial funding sources. The solution, as some see it, is the automated (or semi-automated) city bus. A bus ticket is hardly an aspirational purchase for middle-class American consumers, yet two aspirational brands—Mercedes-Benz and Tesla—both recently mentioned bus projects intended to address the urban mass-transit dilemma.

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It makes sense. Moving people on buses networked with the traffic signals might ease gridlock without making other (far costlier) changes such as building new subways or light-rail lines, or adding politically loaded policies like urban-area tolling for private vehicles. According to the Union Internationale des Transports Publica (UITP), an international organization for transport authorities and operators, a single, large articulated bus could replace 40 personal vehicles and take up just one-eighth of the road space.

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The Mercedes-Benz Future Bus, a semi-automated city bus with a technology suite called CityPilot, is a front-runner in this field. It can journey up to 12.4 miles (20 km) without a need for the driver to touch the steering, accelerator, or brake pedal. With a dozen cameras plus long- and short-range radar systems monitoring the route ahead, the Future Bus can spot obstacles and pedestrians, follow lane markings, and function as part of a new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, employing networked data about traffic and signals along the route.

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Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with driverThat Mercedes-Benz system requires a driver on board (a press of a button puts it in semi-automated mode). It’s also fully functioning today, and being tested on a route in the Netherlands, to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. Meanwhile, looking many more years into the future, Tesla recently announced a plan that sounds, in some respects, complementary to solutions like the Future Bus.

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Tesla Sees Future for Smaller Semi-Autonomous Buses

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Over the long term, Tesla says it intends not only to enter the bus business, but to produce a pilotless bus. As part of the much-discussed Tesla Master Plan Part Deux for the company to expand and “cover the major forms of terrestrial transport,” CEO Elon Musk said: “In addition to consumer vehicles, there are two other types of electric vehicles needed: heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport.”

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Musk suggested that a fleet of smaller semi-autonomous buses could transition the role of the bus driver to that of a fleet manager. In the Tesla scenario, you’d arrange to ride these buses via a cellphone app, although Musk also suggested placing fixed summon buttons at existing bus stops.

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Tesla says its bus design would have car-like performance, so as not to impede traffic flow, and would include a flexible seating layout that could accommodate wheelchairs, strollers, and bicycles.

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The Mercedes-Benz Future Bus, as it stands, is diesel-powered, but the company has announced an all-electric propulsion system for its buses on the way for 2018; that should beat Tesla by many years. Would getting the Tesla name, or Mercedes-Benz’s active-safety reputation, into city buses make Americans more likely to ride them? It’s too early to say, but with these two names involved, the future of public transit now looks not only safer but a little more glamorous.

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29th July 2016

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Tested: Back in the Game

2017-Chrysler-Pacifica-PLACEMENT

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Chrysler likes to take credit for introducing the minivan, way back in 1984. It was an overnight success, competition soon followed, and a generation of millennials grew up spilling Cheerios and sippy cups all over the spacious interiors of minivans. READ MORE ››

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29th July 2016

2017 Chrysler Pacifica – Instrumented Test

-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica-2017 Chrysler Pacifica 3.6-liter V-6 engine-2017 Chrysler Pacifica 3.6-liter V-6 engine--

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29th July 2016

Tesla Employees Raised Concerns About Autopilot Long Before Fatal Crash

2015-Tesla-Model-S-P85D-1151-876x535
-Tesla has had a tough couple of months defending its Autopilot advanced cruise control feature. The semi-autonomous technology has been linked to a crash that killed a Tesla driver in May, and brought up in numerous nonfatal accidents since then.
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Now, CNN has interviewed several current and former Tesla employees, all of whom say they raised significant safety concerns during Autopilot development—only to be dismissed by CEO Elon Musk.

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Those with inside knowledge of how Autopilot was developed and implemented describe a culture that eschewed safety precautions in the name of faster rollout of the new technology. One unnamed source told CNN that the team’s motto was “not to let the perfect be the enemy of the better,” with Musk insisting, “don’t let concerns slow progress.”

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Eric Meadows, a former Tesla autopilot engineer who has since been dismissed, told CNN that his initial excitement for the technology turned to fear as he realized its limitations. “I came in with this mentality that Elon had: I want to go from on-ramp to off-ramp and the driver doesn’t have to do anything,” he said.

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“The last two months I was scared someone was going to die.”

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According to Tesla insiders, Musk initially wanted Autopilot to let drivers abdicate the car’s controls completely, allowing videos to play on the Model S’s giant dashboard touchscreen while the car was in motion. Engineers raised safety and liability concerns, and Musk eventually relented, a former Tesla executive told CNN.

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While early reports from the fatal Model S Autopilot crash indicated that the driver may have been watching a movie on a portable video player at the time of impact, police later cast doubt on this conjecture.

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Tesla’s willingness to break from the slow-and-steady pace of traditional automakers is part of what has earned the electric car company so many fans. Where it can take years for a new tech advancement to be incorporated in a traditional new car lineup, Tesla pushes improvements to car owners nearly immediately via over-the-air updates. But car industry experts told CNN there’s a downside to Tesla’s fast pace.

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“It’s hard to believe a Toyota or a Mercedes would make that same trade-off,” David Keith, an assistant professor of system dynamics at MIT Sloan School of Management, told CNN. “But the whole ethos around Tesla is completely different: They believe in the minimum viable product you get out there that’s safe.”

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Raj Rajkumar, a Carnegie Mellon autonomous car expert, agrees. He says Tesla employees “say it’s an understatement to say [Tesla] is hyperaggressive.” When he has voiced concerns over the limitations of Autopilot, Tesla employees said they have to “wash their hands of it” because “it’s a business decision.”

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This story originally appeared on Road & Track.

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29th July 2016

The 30 Cars Expected to Sell for the Most Money at the 2016 Pebble Beach Auctions

-2016 Pebble Beach Auctions-$2,400,000–$2,700,000: 1957 BMW 507 Roadster-$2,500,000–$3,000,000 (tie): 2014 McLaren P1-$2,500,000–$3,000,000 (tie): 1932 Bentley 8-litre Tourer by Vanden Plas-$2,500,000–$3,000,000 (tie): 1904 Mercedes-Simplex 28-32HP Five Seat Rear Entrance Tonneau-$2,500,000–$3,500,000: 2003 Ferrari Enzo-$2,600,000–$2,800,000: 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB “Long Nose”-$2,700,000–$3,000,000: 1968 Ferrari 330 GTS-$2,800,000–$3,400,000: 1964 Ferrari 500 Superfast Series I-$3,000,000–$4,000,000: 1954 Aston Martin DB2/4 Spider-$3,200,000–$3,600,000: 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4-$3,250,000–$3,750,000 (tie): 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4-$3,250,000–$3,750,000 (tie): 1966 Ford GT40 “P/1057”-$3,500,000–$4,500,000: 1933 Deusenberg Model J Convertible Coupe-$3,600,000–$4,200,000: 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari-$3,750,000–$4,250,000: 1966 Ford GT40 “P/1061”-$3,900,000–$4,500,000: 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari-$4,000,000–$5,000,000 (tie): 1966 Ford GT40 MkI-$4,000,000–$5,000,000 (tie):1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spider-$4,500,000–$5,500,000: 1979 Porsche 935-$5,000,000–$6,000,000: 1958 Porsche 550A Spyder-$6,000,000–$8,000,000: 1950 Ferrari 166 MM Berlinetta-$7,000,000–$9,000,000: 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione “Tour de France” by Scaglietti-$10,000,000–$12,000,000: 1962 Ferrari 250GT SWB Berlinetta-$10,000,000–$14,000,000: 1932 Bugatti Type 55 Roadster-$12,000,000–$14,000,000: 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider-$12,000,000–$15,000,000 (tie): 1933 Alfa Romeo 2300 Monza-$15,000,000–$18,000,000: 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione-$18,000,000–$20,000,000: 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione-$20,000,000–$25,000,000 (tie): 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider by Touring-$20,000,000–$25,000,000 (tie): 1955 Jaguar D-type-Bonus! 1962 Shelby 260 Cobra “CSX 2000”--

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29th July 2016

Bristol and the Blue Sky: England’s Most Eccentric Sports-Car Maker Launches the Bullet

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It’s been two years since we first told you about the plans of Bristol, arguably Britain’s most eccentric low-volume sports-car maker, to build a new model. Back then, we were told that the company was planning its relaunch for 2015, and that the new car would have a hybrid powertrain.

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Neither of those things has happened, and although development of the gasoline-electric version is said to still be underway, the Bristol Bullet will be powered by a BMW-sourced V-8. We’re also told that production is expected to begin in early 2017, although it’s fair to say that we’re not holding our breath on that.

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We’re not going to be rude about the way the Bullet looks; that’s what the comment section is for. We’ll limit ourselves to observing that if, as Francis Bacon said, there is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion, then the Bristol’s bathtub stance and contrasting sharp and curved detailing make it very excellent indeed. The official line from the factory is that the car was styled by an eminent Italian designer who “chooses to remain anonymous.” To the point where, we imagine, said designer has since gone into hiding.

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Bristol Bullet

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Bristol says that the new Bullet is based on a prototype discovered at the back of its factory. We’re told that it has carbon bodywork over a bonded-aluminum chassis, materials that Britain’s low-volume carmakers seem to have preferred ever since the nation’s ash trees started to die out. The company claims that the car weighs just over 3000 pounds, and that its naturally aspirated 370-hp 4.8-liter BMW V-8 will enable it to dispatch the zero-to-60-mph dash in under four seconds on its way to a 155-mph top speed.

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Both left- and right-hand-drive versions will be available, although Bristol isn’t planning to sell the Bullet in the United States. The company says it hopes that future models, which will use an electric powertrain with a small, range-extender engine, will come here. Only 70 Bullets will be built with the official price, given—with aristocratic inexactitude—as being “around £250,000.” That’s $331,000 at current exchange rates.

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Reel

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29th July 2016

Bristol and the Blue Sky: England’s Most Eccentric Sports-Car Maker Launches the Bullet

-Bristol Bullet-Bristol Bullet-Bristol Bullet-Bristol Bullet-Bristol Bullet-Bristol Bullet-Bristol Bullet 4.8-liter V-8 engine--

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29th July 2016

Mercedes-Benz Pulls E-class Ad over Autonomous Confusion

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In an advertisement introducing its new E-class sedan, Mercedes-Benz touted the car as “a self-driving car from a very self-driven company.”

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Well, not exactly.

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Though the German automaker’s new sedan contains some automated-driving technology, it’s not a car capable of driving itself in all scenarios. Under pressure from consumer groups that said the advertising campaigns overstated the capabilities of the vehicle, Mercedes-Benz said Friday it would withdraw a similar ad, the TV spot “The Future,” from the market in hopes of avoiding any consumer confusion.

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The E-class is “a technological tour de force and is a significant step towards achieving our vision of an accident-free future,” a company spokesperson said in a written statement. “We do not want any potential confusion in the marketplace to detract from the giant step forward in vehicle safety the 2017 E-class represents.”

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The company’s decision comes amid fresh scrutiny of how automakers label and portray their advanced-driving technologies. In May, a motorist using Tesla Motors’ Autopilot semi-autonomous feature died in a crash when neither he nor the system applied the brakes as a tractor-trailer crossed the vehicle’s path. Tesla offers Autopilot as beta technology and reminds drivers they remain responsible for vehicle operations. Federal investigators are probing the incident and examining how the driver’s reliance on the technology contributed to the crash.

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With Autopilot, Mercedes-Benz’s Drive Pilot, General Motors’ upcoming Super Cruise, or any of the other advanced driver-assistance features offered by an increasing number of car companies, it’s still important for drivers to pay attention, look past the brand names, and understand the systems and their limitations.

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“The misrepresentations by Mercedes-Benz could give consumers a false sense of security in the ability of the car
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In its guidance to automakers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration parses autonomous functionality into four levels. Level 1 automation involves specific control functions where the vehicle automatically assists with stability control or braking. Level 2 involves the automation of at least two primary control functions designed to relieve the driver’s burden in controlling the vehicle. Examples might include adaptive cruise control combined with active lane centering. Level 3 automation contains vehicles that can handle all driving functions in limited scenarios; the driver is expected to be available to take occasional control. In Level 4 automation, the vehicle performs all driving functions and monitors road conditions for an entire trip.

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Good luck packaging all that into a marketing campaign. Yet that’s exactly the challenge automakers face.

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“We need to be cognizant with our messaging to build this trust over time,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction and human-machine interface at J.D. Power. “Trust is extremely fragile. It takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair. The Tesla incident is extremely unfortunate. We need to focus on ‘How do we message around this, built trust in these capabilities in terms of what they can and cannot do, and what the driver’s role will be?’ ”

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Screen-Shot-2016-07-29-at-3.20

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Outside groups are ensuring that the warning is followed. Consumer Reports, the Center for Auto Safety, the Consumer Federation of America, and former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook signed a letter to the Federal Trade Commission earlier this week that called on the agency to take enforcement action against Mercedes-Benz. In a letter to FTC chairman Edith Ramirez, they wrote, “The E-class does not meet the definition of either a fully or partially self-driving car, yet it is marketed in a way that a reasonable consumer would believe it does. In addition to a consumer possibly purchasing a car while being misled about its capabilities, the misrepresentations by Mercedes-Benz could give consumers a false sense of security in the ability of the car to operate autonomously.”

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“The Future” ad features Mercedes’ F015 autonomous research car. The ad intends to draw a connection between a vision of the self-driving future and the advanced driver-assistance features available on the E-class today, according to the spokesperson.

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In fine print, the ad says, “Vehicle cannot drive itself, but has semi-automated driving features. Always observe safe driving practices.” In their letter, the consumer advocates said the fine print “does not let Mercedes-Benz off the hook.”

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While car companies love to portray themselves as technically on the leading edge, nowhere more than in the push toward self-driving cars, we can bet that they will start to tread more carefully in making claims on that front—at least with regard to their current models.

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29th July 2016

Four on the Floor: All-Wheel-Drive Systems Explained

Four on the Floor: All-Wheel-Drive Systems Explained

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Torque, despite its industrious reputation, is lazy. Left undirected, like toddlers or teen­agers, it will frustrate, always preferring the path of least resistance. And in automotive terms, that most frequently means spinning tires. Not that we mind spinning tires, but since an engine’s job is to get us where we want to go, harnessing its torque to accomplish that task is only pragmatic. READ MORE ››

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29th July 2016

2016 Dodge Durango Quick-Take Review: The Crossover That Thinks It’s a Muscle Car

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Overview: Although the Dodge Durango SUV has been around for nearly two decades, it’s an oft-overlooked member of the three-row crossover class. Perhaps that’s because it has changed its mission several times over its three generations. The first Durango arrived in 1997 as a mid-size, truck-based SUV in the vein of the Ford Explorer, while the second-generation Durango, premiering in 2004, grew to become almost Chevy Tahoe-level gargantuan. The current Durango, introduced in 2012, took a different path, as it shrank down a bit and adopted the same unibody platform as the Jeep Grand Cherokee (which itself shares underpinnings with the previous Mercedes M-class). READ MORE ››

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