Report: Google invests $250M in Uber ride-share service

Filed under: Technology

DENVER, CO. - FEBRUARY 10: Kevin Labonte, owner of Special Times Limousine, supplements his own fares with those he contracts out from Uber. State legislators may enact proposed changes supported by the taxi community that say Uber is an unregulated service. Though not regulated, Uber merely connects private drivers, who comply with all PUC regulations, to customers. (Photo By AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The number of people who haven’t yet heard of the transportation/technology startup Uber is shrinking by the minute. Uber produces a mobile application that is used to connect passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire, typically luxury vehicles – kind of a high-tech, high-zoot taxi calling service.

Use of the app may be spreading gospel of Uber within urban centers, but the company is also generating tremendous buzz for sourcing massive investment, including a reported $250 million sourced from Google Ventures. Google’s quarter-billion makes up the better part of a $360-million investment round, with a resultant company valuation set at a staggering $3.5 billion.

So, what does Google, famous researcher into autonomous car technology, want with Uber’s popular ride-sharing software? Our wandering minds immediately leap to fantasies about driverless limousines and taxis as a logical next step. And, while that type of service might be possible down the road, a recent article from Forbes indicates that the road in question is a long one.

The reality may be a bit less theatrical than robot cabs, but is interesting nevertheless. Forbes believes that Google likes the concept of repurposing Uber tech to work with its own blooming Google Shopping Express play in the near term, along with all kinds of on-demand delivery in the not-distant future. The core idea of Shopping Express is to create a near-seamless way to go from a one-click purchase on your laptop to the knock of a delivery driver at your front door. Imagine combining the depth of Amazon’s shopping experience with the instant gratification of ordering Chinese food, and you get the idea. Google would seem to believe that Uber’s app, technology, and engineer brains are a fast step forward in that direction.

Google invests $250M in Uber ride-share service originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 23 Aug 2013 17:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Official: Kia Sorento is the official ride of the Justice League

Filed under: Marketing/Advertising, Kia, Design/Style

2014 Kia Sorento Justice League

Toyota showed us a Spongebob Squarepants-themed Toyota Highlander last week. Kia has now revealed a Justice League themed Sorento. Can we just have normal, competent crossovers without all the animation frosting, please?

To be fair, this Sorento is for a good cause. It will be part of a charity auction on eBay, benefitting DC Entertainment’s We Can Be Heroes campaign, which raises money for the famine-ridden Horn of Africa, a region that’s facing its worst food crisis in six decades. DCE’s President, Diane Nelson, claims DC has managed to raise over $285,000 through crowd-funding campaigns and unique opportunities for its fans. The Justice League Sorento is just the latest such fund-raising opportunity, with the automaker having already commissioned a number of similar themed vehicles for individual members of the Justice League.

The seven-passenger Sorento was designed by Jim Lee and created by West Coast Customs. It sports graphics that, relative to the Spongebob Highlander, are downright subtle. Batman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman are depicted on the driver’s side, while Superman, the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg are on the passenger side. The Justice League logo is emblazoned on the Sorento’s hood.

Inside, the Kia’s leather seats have been customized to represent each member of the Justice League, with Superman naturally in the driver’s seat. Poor Green Lantern is stuck riding in the middle of the second row.

Starting today, DC will be auctioning of the Sorento, along with a bunch of other cool, unique artwork from DC artists on eBay. Bidding on the Sorento starts at $35,000. We Can Be Heroes will distribute the proceeds of the auction towards International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corp and Save the Children.

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Kia Sorento is the official ride of the Justice League originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 18 Jul 2013 15:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Quick Spin: Freightliner Cascadia Pikes Peak Special ride-along [w/video]

Filed under: Motorsports, Performance, Truck, Quick Spins, Racing

Mike Ryan's Freightliner Cascadia Pikes Peak Special drifting on track

It seems as if every type of powered vehicle is attacking the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb these days, each in search of a new record as they climb the 12.42-mile road course to its finish at a gasping 14,110-foot elevation. While the “anything goes” Unlimited class provides plenty of powerful eye candy, the Open class is where we find Mike Ryan and his new Freightliner Cascadia Pikes Peak Special.

Last year at Pikes Peak, the professional stunt driver campaigned a Freightliner and set his seventh record; that time climbing to the top in 12 minutes and 38 seconds. This year, he is back with a big rig that is significantly quicker – and “significantly” just may be an understatement.

We caught up with Ryan at Southern California’s Irwindale Speedway late last week as he was putting his latest creation through shakedown testing for this week’s event. When he offered us a ride, we had no hesitation.

Riding Notes

  • The Pikes Peak Freightliner is nothing like its cross-country load-hauling cousins. Rather, it is a purpose-built beast featuring a custom aluminum-rail frame and carbon-fiber and fiberglass body panels. Even so, it weighs a whopping 10,200 pounds wet.
  • Power comes by the way of a turbocharged 14.0-liter inline-six Detroit Series 60 marine diesel. The seven-foot long engine makes 825 horsepower in stock form, but the team at Gale Banks Engineering have fitted it with an 8.3-liter supercharger in addition to a 110-mm turbocharger (Banks calls it a “Super-Turbo”). But that wasn’t all, as the guys also added a methanol injection system to improve combustion and an intercooler spray system to reduce the intake temperatures. The modified engine, sitting a foot lower and six feet further rearward than stock, now delivers 2,400 horsepower and 5,000 pound-feet of torque – while burning No. 2 pump diesel fuel!
  • The transmission is a five-speed road racing automatic sending its power rearward to a Detroit locker limited-slip differential (permanently locked, so the rear wheels always scrub). The steering rack is from Howe Performance, designed for a Baja Trophy Truck, while the tires are custom-compound sticky racing rubber molded by Michelin to look like stock truck tires.
  • In addition to the 12-gallon diesel tank, there are five other tanks of fluid including 14 gallons of water/methanol for the engine, 7 gallons of water for the intercooler spray and 14 gallons of water to fog the brake rotors for additional cooling – yes, the brakes are water cooled.
  • Climbing into the cab requires a bit of gymnastic ability, and the seating position is startlingly high off the ground if you’re not used to a big rig. Ryan faces a thin plastic steering wheel and a custom aluminum dash chock full of temperature/pressure gauges and switches. Primary instrumentation is a Racepack digital cluster. The transmission control lever, and a separate handbrake just for the rear wheels, sits high between the two bucket seats.
  • The blown diesel engine is startling loud, even at idle, and full throttle (redline is 2,700 rpm) sends it into a whining frenzy. Despite its prodigious power output (weight to horsepower ratio of 4.25:1), acceleration is strong rather than truly brisk. Nevertheless, the two rear wheels have a very difficult time maintaining traction. The throttle response is slightly delayed as the boost builds, but once everything is pressurized, nothing holds it back. Shifting through the gears is surprisingly smooth, mainly because the rear tires had trouble maintaining contact with the track. The throttle response reminds me of a powerful off-shore power boat – a slight delay followed by incredibly strong thrust.
  • Oddly enough, especially after looking at the pictures, the truck doesn’t feel top heavy or unstable. However, Ryan would later run me around the oval at high speed, and the Freightliner fought all of the steering inputs as he attempted directional changes (the locked rear axle caused plenty of scrub/understeer on the front tires). His solution was to break the rear tires free, set the five-ton truck adrift and then point the nose in his desired direction.
  • I found myself hanging on to the cage with white knuckles as the semi floated on self-made molten rubber sliding sideways around the track (scroll down to watch the video). Thick, acrid smoke filled the cabin, making it hard to see, and I was thrown hard against my five-point harness straps (the most violent maneuvers were side-to-side as the tires gained and lost grip as the surface changed). It was crazy fun, but I constantly reminded myself that I was a passenger on a very safe and contained track. Doing the same thing on the treacherous Pikes Peak circuit, with sheer cliffs on each side, feels like it’s bordering on lunacy.

Mike Ryan and his Banks-tuned Freightliner, attack the mountain this week – best of luck to the team.

Continue reading Freightliner Cascadia Pikes Peak Special ride-along [w/video]

Freightliner Cascadia Pikes Peak Special ride-along [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 27 Jun 2013 14:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Ride: 2012 Hyundai Veloster

Filed under: Budget, Videos, Hatchback, Hyundai, Design/Style

CEO Takes Us For A Spin In This Innovative One, Two, Three-Door

2012 Hyundai Veloster

2012 Hyundai Veloster – Click above for high-res image gallery

“How about a ride in the Veloster?”

While the experience falls seriously short of taking a few orbits in the Space Shuttle, those seven words were enticing enough to motivate us to cross the dreaded Los Angeles basin during rainy rush-hour traffic last week. The Veloster is Hyundai’s latest addition to a rapidly expanding lineup that now encompasses everything from the modest $12,000 Accent to the Lexus-fighting $58,000 Equus. The new hatchback – uniquely configured with one driver door and two passenger doors – is parked on the low end of the model range, promoted as a compact coupe offering fun-to-drive chassis dynamics, a long list of standard innovative technology and hybrid-beating fuel economy in one cool-looking package.

Hyundai isn’t letting anyone drive the Veloster yet, but like proud parents, they are more than willing to show us around the car, from top to bottom, and take us for an extensive drive around the block – as passengers.

However, this isn’t just a simple low-level meet-and-greet, as our host will be John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America. Understandably, we had a slew of questions swirling around our minds before our ride: How comfortable is the cabin? Do tall adults fit in the second row? What does the engine sound like? How does it handle? Lastly, why does everyone keep comparing the new Veloster to the old Honda CRX?

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First Ride: 2012 Hyundai Veloster originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 26 May 2011 12:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Cab Cannonball? Men take taxi ride from New York to Los Angeles [w/video]

Filed under: SUV, Etc., Videos, Ford, Specialty

men take ford escape taxi cab across the country

Men take taxi ride from New York to Los Angeles – Click above to watch the video after the jump

We’ve taken a couple crazy cab rides in our lifetime, but we’ve never paid up for a ride that took us from New York to Los Angeles. John Belitsky and his buddy Dan Wuebben have done the deed, though, with cabbie Mohammed Alam providing the yellow Ford Escape taxi. The cost? $5,000. The media attention from paying a cabbie five grand to take you cross country? Priceless.

If you’re thinking that this sounds like the script to a movie, Belitsky is probably thinking the same thing. CNN reports that the investment banker and son of a cab driver is heading to Hollywood to pitch the story as a movie idea, adding “we’re going to take it to some movie people when we get there and see what happens.”

We’re all for a good (and we stress “good“) road trip movie, but we’re more impressed with the fact that Belitsky was able to convince a cab driver to take the fare in the first place. The traveling pair reportedly asked more than a few cabbies if they were up for the journey, but only Alam was interested in risking the hefty fare. But even at $5,000, Belitsky got off easy on the trip. We’re guessing the trip would have cost at least three times as much if the meter were actually running, and the cab driver still had to get his Escape all the way back to the Big Apple.

Hit the jump to watch a WBIR video report about the trio’s momentous road trip.

[Source: CNN]

Continue reading Cab Cannonball? Men take taxi ride from New York to Los Angeles [w/video]

Cab Cannonball? Men take taxi ride from New York to Los Angeles [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 26 Apr 2011 15:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Video: Ken Block and Zoo bikini model strap in for makeshift Gymkhana ride

Filed under: Motorsports, Marketing/Advertising, Videos, Ford, Racing

Zoo bikini model and Ken Block Gymkhana

Zoo bikini model and Ken Block on Gymkhana course – Click above to watch the video after the break

It’s a tried-and-true stunt: Take one professional driver (at least as often as not, it seems, Ken Block), put them in a fast car. Add one beautiful woman, a bunch of cameras, and stir. The result? Generally, lots of screams and nearly as many clicks on Youtube. We suspect the internet clicks will indeed come, but this particular video is suspiciously absent of screaming girls.

Judging by her lack of aural outbursts, we’d say that this particular bikini model, who was apparently plucked from the pages of Zoo Magazine, actually enjoyed her time in the passenger seat with Mr. Ken Block, he of Gymkhana fame. She even gives him a nice pat on the back upon exiting the Ford Fiesta Focus WRC racer.

This video was shot at a Gymkhana circuit at Battersea Power Station as a promotional event for the launch of DiRT 3, and both the video and GPS data overlaid over the screen were captured and recorded by a Racelogic Video VBOX. See it all go down for yourself in the video after the break.

[Source: Youtube]

Continue reading Video: Ken Block and Zoo bikini model strap in for makeshift Gymkhana ride

Video: Ken Block and Zoo bikini model strap in for makeshift Gymkhana ride originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 14 Apr 2011 15:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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William and Kate royal wedding ride a protest-damaged Rolls-Royce

Filed under: Sedan, Etc., Europe, Rolls-Royce, Celebrities, Luxury

1977 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI – Click above for full gallery of the royal wedding’s transportation

When Prince William and Kate Middleton tie the knot on April 29, the bride will ride to Westminster Abbey in a 1977 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI that student protesters attacked on December 9. The car, carrying Prince Charles and his wife Camilla at the time, suffered a broken window and new two-tone paint job. Follow the jump for some video footage of how the attack went down.

According to Alex Garty, the transport manager at Buckingham Palace, the car is being repaired as we speak and will be ready for the April 29 nuptials. Garty says the car is getting a quick freshening while it’s being repaired, just to make sure it’s looking its best for the royal bride.

Once the knot has been tied, William and Kate will proceed back to Buckingham Palace in an open-top 1902 State Landau carriage, provided it isn’t raining. The same State Landau also took Prince Charles to St. Paul’s Cathedral for his 1981 wedding to Princess Diana.

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the royal couple will ride in an 1881 Glass Coach, which is usually the vehicle of choice for royal brides to get to the church.

[Source: YouTube via Yahoo, Hello Magazine]

Continue reading William and Kate royal wedding ride a protest-damaged Rolls-Royce

William and Kate royal wedding ride a protest-damaged Rolls-Royce originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 28 Mar 2011 18:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Stalk your old car like your old girlfriend with Check My Ride

Filed under: Technology

1976 BMW 2002

I found it. After more than four years and 3,000 miles, my 1976 BMW 2002 is currently residing in Newberry, Florida, just east west of Gainesville. How did I track it down? A new website that allows you to plug in your long lost love’s VIN (that’s Vehicle Identification Number for those acronym averse) and spits out its last registered location.

Check My Ride from AutoCheck is a social network for cars, allowing you to build a profile, add vehicles, find your old hoopties and connect with their current owners. You can also import some of the data into Facebook and get a free history report on your current car.

Admittedly, AutoCheck is a big buggy at the moment (it took several tries to get the info on some of our past rides), but we’re currently scouring our file cabinets for old maintenance folders and I’m trying to track down the VIN for my very first car, a (God help me) 1991 Plymouth Horizon. After that, I’ve gotta find the 1984 Supra, the 1970 510, the 1972 2002, the E36 318i…

[Source: Check My Ride via Wired]

Stalk your old car like your old girlfriend with Check My Ride originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 24 Mar 2011 17:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Planters cracks open a new ride for Mr. Nut

Filed under: Etc., Marketing/Advertising, Celebrities, Specialty

Planters Nutmobile

Planters Nutmobile – Click above for high-res image gallery

Mr. Peanut can’t be relegated to just any automobile. After all, as the face of Nabisco’s Planters division and as one of the most beloved (though just a wee bit creepy, if we’re being honest) mascots in American history, Sir Nut needs a ride suitable of his stature. And, since he’s apparently over 12 feet tall and carries a six-foot-long cane, we’re talking some significant stature.

Fittingly then, Planters has seen fit to replace Mr. Peanut’s old set of wheels with a brand-new Nutmobile. And this is no ordinary Nutmobile… if such a thing actually existed. Based on a 2011 Isuzu NPR truck with a diesel engine running a five-percent mixture of biodiesel (oddly not actually nut-based), this latest Nutmobile will be making appearances all around the country to “promote the peanut lifestyle” and draw support for The Corps Network.

According to The New York Times, this latest Nutmobile is quite the green machine. In addition to the biodiesel blend, it features “a wind turbine, solar panels, LED interior lighting, recycled parts and wood floors reclaimed from a 19th century Pennsylvania barn.” Guess it’s not very nutty after all, is it? Top tip, Jeff!

[Sources: Wired, The New York Times]

Planters cracks open a new ride for Mr. Nut originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 22 Feb 2011 15:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Miss Evelyn’s “Wild Ride” in a Camaro most-watched ad of all time

Filed under: Coupe, Performance, Marketing/Advertising, Chevrolet

Miss Evelyn's Wide Ride in a Camaro

Miss Evelyn’s “Wild Ride” in a Camaro – Click above to watch video

The Nielsen Company has counted the numbers from last weekend’s Super Bowl and determined that General Motors’ “Wild Ride” Chevrolet Camaro commercial (its official name is “Miss Evelyn”) has become the most-watched ad of all time with an estimated 119,628,000 viewers. You can rewatch the ad after the jump, but as you may recall, it’s about two guys creating their own Camaro commercial on the fly. The new viewership record beat the old one set by a Doritos commercial during last year’s big game that was seen by 116,231,920 viewers.

The crazy thing is that the old record was beaten by every ad that made this year’s top ten most viewed list, which in addition to the Camaro commercial also included ads for the Chevy Cruze, Chrysler 200 and Bridgestone tires. Credit not only the quality of this year’s Super Bowl commericals, but also an excellent game of pigskin that got better with each passing quarter. The Camaro commercial, for instance, got a boost from appearing during the fourth quarter when the game was anything but decided.

Nielsen is also reporting that Volkswagen’s “The Force” ad starring Max Page as Darth Vader was this year’s ‘best-liked’ commercial during the Super Bowl. The top ten list for most liked Super Bowl commercials was also littered with car-related ad, but curiously, the top ten ‘most-recalled’ ads didn’t feature a single automotive spot.

Check out all three top ten lists after the jump.

[Source: The Nielsen Company]

Continue reading Miss Evelyn’s “Wild Ride” in a Camaro most-watched ad of all time

Miss Evelyn’s “Wild Ride” in a Camaro most-watched ad of all time originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 09 Feb 2011 14:21:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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