Car Futures real innovation

The mystery is no more. Tonight in Las Vegas, right on the strip and just before the beginning of the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, Faraday Future—that secretive autonomous electric-vehicle company backed by a rich Chinese investor, loaded with top talent from across the automotive industry, and claiming to revolutionize the car business—has unveiled a new modular platform, more details on its relationship with Chinese technology company Letv, and its first ever concept car. It’s a fanciful sci-fi race car. It’s also the exact car that was leaked, twice, earlier today, but now we have a whole bunch more details on the car and the company’s plans.

First off, the platform. Because, well, that’s the only thing about the FFZero1 concept that’s real at this moment. Faraday has developed its own variable electric-vehicle architecture, a modular platform that it will use for a variety of cars. Faraday says the platform will be outfitted with all the hardware it needs for full Internet connectivity and autonomous driving.

Similar to a Tesla, the batteries will be positioned across the floor of the platform, creating a low center of gravity and increasing stability. However, Faraday says it’s developed a new battery structure that uses units the company calls strings—rectangles of connected battery cells that run the width of the vehicle’s floor. The platform can accept multiple battery configurations, adding or subtracting strings to fit various vehicle types and wheelbases. As Senior Vice President of R&D Nick Sampson explains it, the battery strings operate like Christmas lights—”if one battery goes out, the rest continue to function.”

Except for adjustments to the crumple zones, the front and rear suspension and related architecture will stay the same across all platform configurations. Think of it as an autonomous-ready, all-electric take on Volkswagen’s modular MQB platform, one parent architecture to spawn multiple vehicle types.

Cars concept imagine for production

The S5S Raptor was Saleen’s 2008 vision for a supercar that slotted in below the maniacal S7. The best part about it was that it was damn good looking. Had it been built, it would have been powered by a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 that made 650 hp. However, because of Saleen’s obvious financial woes, the car never wound up being built and we never got another great, American supercar.

The name, of course, comes from the Nardo test track, where Volkswagen set records with the prototype car. However, instead of building this car, VW went ahead and built the Bugatti Veyron instead. You can definitely see tones of the W12 Nardo in the Veyron, but there is something even cooler about the idea of a supercar from the company that brought you the people’s car.

In 2009, Bugatti released the Galibier concept: A sedan wearing the Bugatti badge that could potentially be the Veyron’s successor. It certainly looked related to the Veyron, too. It even kept the Veyron’s W16 engine, but, ultimately, Bugatti went with the Chiron as the Veyron’s successor instead of this crazy super sedan.

Beneath the hood that stretched past the horizon lay a V16 engine that was good for 1000 hp and 1000 lb-ft of torque. Cadillac unveiled the concept in 2003 as a nod to the famed Cadillac V16 from the 1930s. The engine was a 13.6-liter beast, and it was such a pity that these never made it to the road. It could have resurrected the great American grand touring luxury tradition.

Get The Lease a New Car With Your Friends

Can’t afford that new Mustang by yourself? No worries. Ford announced a whole new approach to ride-sharing at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week.It will let you lease a vehicle with your friends.

A new program called Ford Credit Link allows groups of three to six people to band together to lease that new Focus, Fiesta, or any other Ford vehicle, and organize everything from payments to who has the car when via an app. The program is intended for people who like the idea of having their own set of wheels but don’t need a car full time. Compared to a service like Zipcar, this way you could get a vehicle when you want it, share it with fewer people, and potentially save a little cash in the process.

You’ll need to organize your own group, and you’ll want to make sure it’s filled with only your most responsible friends. It’s a bit like leasing an apartment with several roommates: Everybody has their share, but together you’re all responsible for coming up with the total amount. That means if Bob suddenly stops paying, everyone in the group will get dinged for that missed payment. Also, everyone will need to qualify for a lease through Ford, so your buddy with poor credit is probably out of the mix.

As far as how much of the lease payment you’re responsible for, that’s up to the group. Within the app you’ll be able to divide up payments as the group sees fit. You’ll also be able to track how long each person has used the car, so if Sara takes it on a road trip for three weeks out of the month, you might collectively decide to make her responsible for 75 percent of the month’s payment. If she moves away halfway through your 24-month lease, you can also remove her fr

A Viable Alternative to Metal

Researchers from Gifu University in Japan might have developed a worthy metal gear replacement from two unlikely materials: plastic and carbon fiber.

Metal has long been used in cars because of its toughness, but a new plastic gear made with carbon fiber handles the pressure just as well. The researchers first identified which part of the gear is the weakest. Turns out it’s the teeth that connects to its core. So, they lined it with carbon fiber to strengthen that part, which gives it the same stamina a metal gear has.

Initial tests are promising because the gears hold up just as well as the metal gears do.

This plastic and carbon fiber gear has two major advantages over metal. The first is cost because it’s substantially cheaper than metal. Second, it’s much lighter so if it could help a vehicle’s fuel efficiency and increase its speed.

If all goes well, the gears could be commercialized by 2017. Sadly, it will take a few years after that before they hit the road because of regulatory approvals.

The first electric-powered big rig to hit the public roads in Europe is a 40-ton, zero-emissions behemoth.

The YT202-EV, which is actually built by Dutch manufacturer Teberg, is going into service in Munich. There it will carry car parts for BMW between the company’s manufacturing plant and warehouses belonging to the firm SCHERM. Since it’s just driving around town, the big truck’s 100 km (62 mi) range between charges shouldn’t give its drivers too much range anxiety.

Bimmer says the truck will draw all its electric power from renewable sources. Compared to a standard diesel truck, the company promises, the EV truck will reduce CO2 emissions by nearly 12 tons per years.

Electric Semi Truck For Business

The first electric-powered big rig to hit the public roads in Europe is a 40-ton, zero-emissions behemoth.

The YT202-EV, which is actually built by Dutch manufacturer Teberg, is going into service in Munich. There it will carry car parts for BMW between the company’s manufacturing plant and warehouses belonging to the firm SCHERM. Since it’s just driving around town, the big truck’s 100 km (62 mi) range between charges shouldn’t give its drivers too much range anxiety.

Bimmer says the truck will draw all its electric power from renewable sources. Compared to a standard diesel truck, the company promises, the EV truck will reduce CO2 emissions by nearly 12 tons per years.

Built atop an early prototype architecture of the i8 plug-in hybrid, this “eDrive Hydrogen Fuel Cell Prototype” is powered by a completely electric, 272-hp powertrain. The passenger compartment of the fully functional, 125-mph-plus sports car uses many i8 components, but the space typically occupied by the rear seats is instead taken up by the hydrogen-electric powertrain.

The car was assembled in BMW’s prototype shop, and it lacks the sophistication of an i8. But the headlight/front-grille treatment and the trapezoid taillights suggest that BMW’s styling department invested more than a cursory glance.

Tesla Model S While Driving

Car hacking has been a big concern lately. After a Wired article demonstrated how security researchers could remotely disable a new Jeep Cherokee by worming into the car’s infotainment system, automakers are under increased scrutiny over their digital security. Now, security researchers have reportedly figured out how to take control of one of the most tech-heavy vehicles on the road today: The Tesla Model S.

According to a Financial Times report (which can only be accessed through a subscription), researchers Kevin Mahaffey and Marc Rogers were able to completely disable a Model S as it drove along at low speed. Reuters quotes the researchers: “We shut the car down when it was driving initially at a low speed of five miles per hour [. . .] All the screens go black, the music turns off and the handbrake comes on, lurching it to a stop.” Mahaffey and Rogers will present their findings at the Def Con cybersecurity conference on Friday.

Wired goes into greater detail, explaining how the hackers were able to gain control of the vehicle. First off, unlike the Jeep hacking event, Mahaffey and Rogers’ exploit required physically plugging a laptop into the Model S dashboard. Once their computer was connected to the vehicle, they were able to start and drive the Tesla through laptop commands. The researchers say that they were also able to plant a remote-access Trojan into the car’s software while the laptop was connected, allowing them to remotely cut the car’s motor at a later time.

Wired also reports that the duo found that the Tesla’s large center dash touchscreen uses an out-of-date browser that, theoretically, could allow an attacker to gain wireless control of the car if the owner navigated the dashboard touchscreen to a malicious web page. The researchers did not specifically test this vulnerability.

In all, the researchers found six vulnerabilities in the Model S’s software, and worked hand-in-hand with Tesla to develop fixes. Wired reports that an over-the-air patch was distributed on Wednesday to every Model S to close the loopholes discovered by the researchers.

The researchers say they chose to hack the Tesla because of the electric carmaker’s reputation for understanding software. A Tesla spokeswoman emailed us the following statement:

“Our security team works closely with the security research community to ensure that we continue to protect our systems against vulnerabilities by constantly stress-testing, validating, and updating our safeguards. Lookout’s research was a result of physically being in Model S to test for vulnerabilities. We’ve already developed an update for the vulnerabilities they surfaced which was made available to all Model S customers through an OTA update that has been to deployed to all vehicles. “

Cars at the University of Arizona

Google may be winning the race to self-driving cars, but Uber isn’t giving up. The University of Arizona has announced that it will be partnering with the ride-sharing behemoth to help with the development of optical systems for its self-driving car.

Thanks to the deal, the University of Arizona will be the new test-bed for Uber’s prototype mapping vehicles and Uber will donate $25,000 to the university’s College of Optical Sciences. On top of all that, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has signed an executive order “supporting the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles in Arizona,” according to a release from the Arizona Governors Office,

As part of the intense, all-encompassing Star Wars: The Force Awakens marketing event known as Force Friday, Uber has partnered with Hot Wheels to offer rides around Manhattan in Stormtrooper cars.

How does it work? Well, if you’re looking for a ride in one of these shiny buggies until 5 p.m. today in Manhattan (specifically below 59th Street), you need to open up Uber and enter in the special “HOTWHEELSFF” promotional code, select the HOT WHEELS option, and pray. Supply’s limited, and it’s unclear just how high demand might be.

Previously Uber had been rumored to be partnering with Carnegie Mellon University to open a robotics lab in Pittsburg, where Uber’s prototype cars have been spotted already. It’s unclear if this deal is instead of that one, or in addition to it. After all, self-driving cars require optics research and robotics research. It may not be long before Uber can get rid of those pesky humans it needs to drive the cars around. 

Inspired Stormtrooper Cars

As part of the intense, all-encompassing Star Wars: The Force Awakens marketing event known as Force Friday, Uber has partnered with Hot Wheels to offer rides around Manhattan in Stormtrooper cars.

How does it work? Well, if you’re looking for a ride in one of these shiny buggies until 5 p.m. today in Manhattan (specifically below 59th Street), you need to open up Uber and enter in the special “HOTWHEELSFF” promotional code, select the HOT WHEELS option, and pray. Supply’s limited, and it’s unclear just how high demand might be.

Technically, they’re Dodge Chargers made up to look like First Order Stormtrooper Cars, which is one of Hot Wheels’ many newStar Wars toy offerings. In addition to any ride in one of the special vehicles being free, folks that manage to score a ride will also get a Star Wars: The Force Awakens Hot Wheels car.

If you reeeeeeeally like Star Wars, and you live in NYC, today is your day.

Thanks to the deal, the University of Arizona will be the new test-bed for Uber’s prototype mapping vehicles and Uber will donate $25,000 to the university’s College of Optical Sciences. On top of all that, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has signed an executive order “supporting the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles in Arizona,” according to a release from the Arizona Governors Office.

Involved Google vehicles

New research from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute indicates that self-driving cars are more frequently involved in accidents than conventional vehicles. For every million miles driven, autonomous cars had an average of 9.1 crashes, compared to 4.1 for conventional vehicles according to data for Google, Delphi, and Audi autonomous vehicles between 2012 and 2015 and the total accident rate of conventional human-piloted vehicles in 2013.

However, this data amounts to 11 total crashes for self-driving cars. All of these involved Google vehicles (which have been undergoing testing for much longer) but most importantly, the self-driving cars were not at fault in any of the accidents.

“One might conclude that self-driving vehicles are more dangerous, but I don’t think the data actually show that right now,” Brandon Schoettle, one of the study’s authors, told NBC. “They appear to be more likely to be involved in crashes in general (though not at fault and always being hit by conventional vehicles), but the injuries that occurred were less severe, and all minor so far.”

Schoettle went on to point out that no fatalities have occurred in accidents involving self-driving vehicles, and there were no severe crashes such as head-on collisions.

The University of Michigan identifies multiple caveats to be considered when drawing conclusions from their data, including the fact that self-driving cars have only traveled 1.2 million miles total, compared to 3 trillion miles travelled by conventional vehicles in the U.S. every year.  Also, self-driving cars have yet to be tested in dangerous driving conditions, such as in the snow.

Though there isn’t enough long-term data to draw any hard-and-fast conclusions about the safety of self-driving cars, it seems possible that they behave differently than conventional drivers, and we humans haven’t adjusted to having them on the road.

Bed Mattress Like Nothing

Somewhere out there, there’s a garbage truck driver named Jack who is very good at his job, and also has a great time doing it. In a truck equipped with an automated side loader (normally meant to grab and dump wheeled trashbins, like so), Jack decided to go after the ultimate target: a discarded bed mattress.

After carefully positioning the mattress using the truck’s claw, Jack manages to grab the thing (which flops around like a live fish the entire time, trying to escape the claw’s grasp) and slams it into his bin.

This is one video where you wanna make sure you have the sound on—half the fun is hearing Jack’s pure enthusiasm for his amazing feat. As Jack himself screams: “Ah! I’m awesome!” After a momentary pause to consider what he’s just done, he adds in thoughtfully, “Aw, I’m so cool.” Hard to argue with him.

First off, the platform. Because, well, that’s the only thing about the FFZero1 concept that’s real at this moment. Faraday has developed its own variable electric-vehicle architecture, a modular platform that it will use for a variety of cars. Faraday says the platform will be outfitted with all the hardware it needs for full Internet connectivity and autonomous driving.

Similar to a Tesla, the batteries will be positioned across the floor of the platform, creating a low center of gravity and increasing stability. However, Faraday says it’s developed a new battery structure that uses units the company calls strings—rectangles of connected battery cells that run the width of the vehicle’s floor. The platform can accept multiple battery configurations, adding or subtracting strings to fit various vehicle types and wheelbases. As Senior Vice President of R&D Nick Sampson explains it, the battery strings operate like Christmas lights—”if one battery goes out, the rest continue to function.”

The New Techno is Replacing Car Mirrors With Cameras

The dream of replacing car mirrors with cameras and displays continues, even though federal safety regulations prohibit the total transition from glass to, uh, backlit glass. BMW is the latest to jump onto the digitized-mirror bandwagon, albeit with a clever twist.

Unlike digitized rearview-mirror concepts from Cadillac and Nissan, not to mention the dozens of concept cars over the years with separate displays depicting left, right, and central rear views, the BMW i8 Mirrorless concept being shown at CES has just one display. Fairly large at 11.8 inches by 3 inches, the screen is mounted where a traditional rearview mirror would be, but it stitches together the feeds from three cameras to offer a panoramic and blind-spot-free view of what’s behind and to the sides of the car.

As BMW puts it, the “image of the traffic behind the car covers a greater viewing angle than could be observed using the interior and exterior mirrors. No adjustment of the camera is necessary.” Beyond a better view, the potential advantages of going digital run deeper. Exterior mirrors are bulky and unkind to a vehicle’s aerodynamic performance, while their internal workings—heaters, blind-spot warning lamps, turn indicators, and power-adjustment mechanicals—add weight. Erase those and replace them with tiny cameras, and the benefits start to roll in. BMW also set up the i8 Mirrorless concept to highlight warnings for potential trouble in its giant rearview screen; the automaker offers the example of a lane change in front of a faster-moving vehicle, during which the i8’s display will flash a warning to call out the potential risk.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to this technology that we can think of. First off, federal safety regulations continue to prohibit the use of cameras in place of mirrors. The 2016 Cadillac CT6’s digital rearview mirror passes muster only because it defaults to a normal mirror; the driver must manually switch the mirror over to its camera-fed mode. In the BMW’s case, such a work-around is impossible, since there is no traditional mirror. The side views come from tiny cameras mounted where the door mirrors used to be, while the central aft view is provided by a camera located above the rear window. Which brings us to our next potential issue: Keeping the cameras clean. If you drive at all on dirty, salted roads, you know that backup cameras easily become obscured in the muckiest of conditions. BMW claims this concept’s cameras feature Gorilla Glass lenses with a special dirt-repellent coating, and that the position of the side cameras is such that “spray water is conducted around the lens.” Let’s file the magically dirt-averse cameras under Stuff We Need to Try for Ourselves. (Nissan has dabbled in grime-resistant paint, but we haven’t tested that, either.)

After Massachusetts Reservoir

Typically, a car found at the bottom of a lake would arouse some concern or suspicion. But when a rusted, crumpled Fiat became visible in the mud of Foss Reservoir in Framingham, MA on Monday, it elicited little more than a shoulder shrug from officials.

The MetroWest Daily News reported that an old Fiat, if the hub caps identify it correctly, rests on the bottom of the reservoir, nestled between the Mass. Pike and Rte. 9. While it typically rests under millions of gallons of the state’s reserve drinking water, a recent effort to kill invasive weeds by lowering the water level has left the car in plain view.

In November, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) drew down the Foss Reservoir and some others in the area in hopes of freezing the little water left to kill invasive weeds.

Bringing the water level down about 10 feet, the MWRA revealed the car that has made the lake a home for about 40 years, MWRA representative Ria Convery said.

“(The car has) been there for a very long time,” Convery said. “I’m surprised it took someone this long to notice.”

Convery said the MWRA has known about the car for years and, if it’s the same car in question, removed its transmission and engine in 2011 when the authority last partially drained the reservoir. Though the agency removed the parts that would contain oil, Convery said removing the full vehicle would be difficult.

“We’re working with partners at (the Department of Conservation and Recreation) to see if there’s a way to get it out of there, but we want to make sure it doesn’t fall apart when you touch it,” she said. “It’s not like you can back a tow truck up to it.”

Convery said she’s not sure if there are other cars on the bottom of the reservoir.

Framingham Police Lt. Stephen Cronin said he’s not sure how the car got into the reservoir, but town officials checked it out a few years back to make sure there were no bodies inside. There were not.