Apple Shifts Focus of Car Division to Totally Autonomous Vehicle

Trying to solve a challenge that has troubled the autonomous vehicle industry, Apple Inc is trying to accelerate its development of an electric car and has refocused the project around full self-driving capabilities, this according to sources.

In the past few years, Apple’s car team had pursued to different, but simultaneous paths to an autonomous vehicle. First, the most typical type—a limited self-driving car with steer and acceleration assistance. Or, the second option, a car that requires no human intervention to drive.

Software executive to the Apple Watch project Kevin Lynch is now in charge of the software engineers in the car division and under his leadership the project is focusing on the second option. Anonymous sources have stated Lynch wants a fully self-driving car in the first version.

The company reached a keystone moment, according to sources, when they finished most of the core work on the neural net processor needed to handle the complex A.I. needed for a computer to drive the car on its own. Ideally, Apple’s car would have no steering wheel or pedals.

The chip was designed by Apple’s silicon engineering group, outside of the car project. These are the people that develop chips for iPhone, iPad and Mac. They are not a part of the car team. Their work has included the underlying software that runs on the chip to power the autonomous A.I.

Apple plans to start using the new processor design and new sensors in its road tests soon.

 

Quick Tips: Buying a New Car

Here are some things to consider when going to buy a new car.

While many think in terms of budgets most car experts agree that isn’t a way to shop for a car. You can turn a $400 monthly payment into a $300 by increasing the loan terms by a year. Just know what the maximum is you are willing to spend.

Know what models and features you want for sure, so you don’t get caught up in the moment at the dealership and end up paying for things you don’t really want or need.

Don’t talk about your trade in until you are ready to make a deal. Also, know what you have. Do some research and make some inquirers about what your old car is really worth.

If you’re thinking of financing, don’t let the rate of a loan influence the price of the car. Settle on the price of the vehicle you’re interested in before you bring up financing.

Know your credit score before you go to the dealership – that way there won’t be any unpleasant surprises.

Global NCAP Cast Light on Lower Auto Safety Standards Around the World

The NCAP, global vehicle safety body, has again put a lens to the inequality between the safety standards Europeans enjoy and the lack of standards in low-income markets. NCAP’s data shows that this disparities account for 90% of the 1.3 million annual road deaths in the world.

As an example, the Renault Kwid, which tested poorly in India and Brazil, scored only two stars in the Global NCAP’s recent testing in its Safer Cars for Africa test even though the criteria were lower than those in the US or Europe. This even though the Kwid received upgrades like passenger and driver airbags.

The Kwid is much like the Dacia Spring Electric—this vehicle might be the cheapest mass-production electric car when it goes on sale. However, to go on sale in Europe it will need significant safety upgrades to the structure and electric safety system.

The Renault Kwid is just one example of vehicles whose lower-income markets receive vehicles made with inferior materials and at lower safety standards.

 

Porsche and Boeing Working on Flying Car Prototype

Just when it seems that the flying cars Futurism promised us sink back into the fog of fiction, someone resurrects the idea into a prototype that makes it feel as if flying cars are in our near-future reality.

Now Porsche and Boeing have teamed up to see how far they can push the concept into reality. The duo announced recently that they are in the planning stages of a concept vehicle that would feature a “fully electric” vertical takeoff and landing ability they are calling EVTOL.

As one might expect from Porsche concept designers the sketches of the version so far look like something a superhero might drive. This project actually involves three partners (kind of)—Porsche, Boeing and the Boeing owned Aurora Flight Sciences. AFS works on unmanned aerial vehicles. And AFS did release a new one recently, but it looks more like a traditional aircraft. Together the three are going to explore what kind of market might exist for premium flying vehicles.

Boeing’s NeXt unit is in charge of their so-called urban air mobility projects and use Aurora’s resources to develop the EVTOL craft.

Among the EVTOL rivals are Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk project which was granted testing approval from New Zealand and NFT which has developed an SUV sized vehicle that can drive and fly. NFT thinks it will begin selling vehicles around 2025 which is approximately when Porsche believes their sales will begin.

Toyota Testing Solar Prius

A super team consisting of Sharp Corp, Toyota Motor Corp, the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan (NEDO) have come together to develop a Prius that could someday completely change the face of transportation. This Prius would be 100% solar powered, would run day and night and might, theoretically, run forever.

While fully electric cars might take over fossil fueled market, it would require a total infrastructure remodel with the need for charging stations to be built world-wide. The sun, obviously, is everywhere and free. If solar collection and power storage are up to the task of running solar cars at night the solar car could jump ahead of hybrids, plug-ins and hydrogen fuel cell to make its bid as the alternative, renewable energy source.

Don’t get too excited though—the solar car is more dream and theory than tangible at the moment. However, this is for lack of effort on auto makers’ parts—both Hyundai and Toyota do offer solar panels on some commercial models, but they can’t even power the stereo systems on their own.

Since testing began in July, Toyota is the first to admit that a solar car that runs 24 hours a day is still in the future. Meanwhile, the technology to needed to make this happen is advancing.

Sharp has seen the most advancement by increasing their experimental solar panels light conversion efficiency by about 1.7 times—from 20% to 34%. The amazing solar panel tech is only .03 mm thick meaning it can be placed on plenty of surfaces. Even something like a curved roof or hood. These panels can charge the vehicle while in motion (current Prius solar panels only charge while the vehicle is parked).

Woman Sues Over Allegedly Rigged Casino Game

Assume you thought you won a $134,000 vehicle in a casino game, yet the dealership associated with the casino declined to turn over the car? Also, to exacerbate the situation,  you got hit with due tax based on the worth of said vehicle?

Well, it is exactly what happened to Merida Manipoun, when she didn’t get the 2016 Aston Martin Vantage GT she believed she won. In November, she sued the Aston Martin store that partook in the what she claims was a fraudulent casino game.

Be that as it may, Aston Martin of San Diego and Viejas Casino and Resort, say Manipoun was excluded in light of the fact that she ignored the tenets of the game.

A month ago, U.S. Judge Anthony Battaglia of the Southern District of California declined to expel the suit against the store and its sales representative on procedural grounds, however their legal counselor said he’ll request to have the case put down.

Viejas Casino wasn’t able to be sued due its tribal status.

2016 BMW M4 GTS

There are only 300 of these stunningly hot cars headed to the USA. The first water injection system on a production car and the M dual-clutch transmission with Drivelogic is an innovative 7-gear dual-clutch transmission are only a couple of the technological innovations BMW is introducing on this machine. There is even a heads up color display so you can keep your eyes ahead which is a pretty good idea particularly if you decide to apply the full 493 bHP to the asphalt! This is a seriously fast road car coming in at a reported (by BMW) top speed of 250 k/hr which translates in my book to slightly over 156 mph and the 0-100 k/hr is 4.1s which is under 4.1 for 0-60 translated into Detroit lingo. See it and read about it here at the webpage BMW dedicated to it. And after talking to Joe Victor the other day there is a rumor floating around that one of the 300 may be on the way to Stark County,

Jody

Another way to park it.

If you live in England, you might have already heard about the CarDok. If you want to protect your car from the elements, or need the space, you can park multiple cars one on top of the other and hide it underground, or keep them parked above ground. Park 2 cars in the space of 1 or 4 cars in the space of 2. It comes with a backup generator should the electric go out. It takes about 3 days to install. It works hydraulically so it is pretty quiet. It can handle up to 10 tonnes.

~ Joe Victor

Joe asks Jody Victor: 10 Best Values In Used Cars, 2012, Part II

When you start looking for a car, used or new, it helps to get some ideas about value, reliability, and safety. Here’s Jody Victor® with the second half taken from an article by Jessica Anderson of Kiplinger and msn.com.

Jody Victor®: Hey Joe, you are absolutely right! Having some info to go on gets you started and helps you make an informed decision when it comes to buying a new or used vehicle. Here’s the rest of the article.

2008 Subaru Outback 2.5i

Price when new: $25,240 (automatic)
Dealer used price: $15,218
Private-party price: $14,068
Certified used price: $16,256
MPG (city/hwy): 20/26

The Outback offers the best of both worlds: car-like construction to aid in maneuverability and fuel economy, plus the utility of all-wheel drive, copious amounts of cargo room (34 cubic feet) and a higher stance that improves visibility. Six airbags are standard, and it was an IIHS Top Safety Pick, too.

2009 Ford Taurus Limited

Price when new: $31,495
Dealer used price: $16,634
Private-party price: $15,271
Certified used price: $17,653
MPG (city/hwy): 18/28

Just a year after Ford revived the Taurus nameplate, it added standard stability control and earned a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The Limited trim comes with Ford’s voice-activated SYNC system, which allows you to connect music devices with USB and phones via Bluetooth, making them easier to use safely.

2008 Mazda CX-9 Sport

Price when new: $30,035
Dealer used price: $18,315
Private-party price: $16,689
Certified used price: $20,424
MPG (city/hwy): 16/22

It seats seven and has 17 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third-row seats (48 cubic feet with the third row folded down), which helped the CX-9 win Kiplinger’s Best in Class award for this model year. Safety bragging rights include an optional blind-spot monitoring system — which will alert you if there’s something in your blind spot when you attempt to change lanes — and standard stability control.

2009 Toyota Sienna LE

Price when new: $26,865 (7-passenger)
Dealer used price: $18,463
Private-party price: $16,692
Certified used price: $19,882
MPG (city/hwy): 17/23

Multiple seating configurations make this minivan family- and cargo-friendly. In the seven-passenger Sienna, the removable second row captain’s chairs can be spaced out to give your brood elbow room, or arranged as a bench for easier access to the third row. The third row is split 60/40, and the sections fold over or completely flat. Even the front passenger seat folds down, should you have serious cargo needs.

2009 Infiniti G37x AWD

Price when new: $36,615
Dealer used price: $23,889
Private-party price: $22,308
Certified used price: $26,174
MPG (city/hwy): 18/25

The G Sedan gives German sedans like the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4 a run for their money, but it costs thousands less. The 2009 model got a larger, 3.7-liter V6 engine that puts out 328 horsepower, as well as a seven-speed automatic transmission — plus, it packs in essential safety features, such as head and side airbags and stability control.

 Thanks, Jody! We’ll be sure to check them out!

Joe Victor

Joe asks Jody Victor: 10 Best Values In Used Cars, 2012

If you are in the market for a used car, you may have trouble finding one. Here’s Jody Victor® telling us about it from an article by Jessica Anderson of Kiplinger.

Jody Victor®: Hey, Joe, sometimes a used car is the way to go, no matter what kind of vehicle you are looking for. But since the Great Recession, used cars have not been around – people are hanging on to their older cars longer. Here’s a list, in two parts, from msn.com  that will give you something to go on.

2008 Hyundai Sonata GLS

Price when new: $19,545 (automatic)
Dealer used price: $9,902
Private-party price: $8,731
Certified used price: $11,480
MPG (city/hwy): 21/30

Hyundai’s Sonata offers a thrifty 2.4-liter engine, standard stability control and six airbags. Plus, it keeps ownership costs low — the brand’s 5-year/60,000-miles new-car warranty and five-year no-charge roadside assistance transfer to new owners (they get the remainder of both). The famed 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, however, doesn’t transfer.

2009 Subaru Impreza 2.5i sedan

Price when new: $18,190
Dealer used price: $12,191
Private-party price: $10,967
Certified used price: $12,859
MPG (city/hwy): 20/27

Engaging driving dynamics and Subaru’s always-standard all-wheel drive are only part of the Impreza’s appeal. It garnered a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS and has side and side-curtain airbags. If a collision causes the front airbags to deploy, smart technology protects the driver and front-seat passenger. Sensors measure the driver’s proximity to the steering wheel, as well as the passenger’s weight (to determine whether a child or an adult is occupying the seat), and adjust the airbags’ force accordingly.

2009 Chevrolet Malibu 1LT

Price when new: $23,225
Dealer used price: $13,114
Private-party price: $11,937
Certified used price: $14,141
MPG (city/hwy): 22/33

With its 2008 redesign, the Malibu garnered a lot of accolades: Kiplinger’s Best New Car and Best in Class awards were just a cherry topping to the industry’s prestigious North American Car of the Year award. But to play it safe, we recommend buying a redesigned vehicle in the second year of production — the first year’s examples often have kinks to work out. For 2009, stability control became standard across the trim lineup, along with side and side-curtain airbags.

2009 Nissan Rogue S

Price when new: $21,020
Dealer used price: $14,971
Private-party price: $13,435
Certified used price: $16,123
MPG (city/hwy): 22/27

After a 2008 redesign, when we named it Best New Small Crossover, the Rogue ascended to Kiplinger’s Best in Class award for 2009. Its stylish exterior complements the value it holds inside — including a peppy 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, stability and traction control, and six airbags. Plus, it was rated a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS.

2008 Honda CR-V LX

Price when new: $21,370
Dealer used price: $15,135
Private-party price: $14,089
Certified used price: $16,402
MPG (city/hwy): 20/27

A perennial Kiplinger’s Best New and Best Used pick, the CR-V keeps its value throughout its lifespan. It boasts fuel economy on par with a midsize sedan, but it has more than twice the cargo capacity (36 cubic feet behind the rear seats). Its standard stability control and six airbags helped win it a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS.

Thanks, Jody! More next time.

Joe Victor