Report: GM intends to offer semi-autonomous vehicles by 2020

Filed under: Safety, Technology, Crossover, Cadillac, GM, Luxury

2013 Cadillac SRX

Prepare for a few years of technological saber-rattling, as the world’s automakers begin pushing to bring self-driving cars to market. Earlier this week, Nissan announced that it aims to offer autonomous vehicles by 2020, while Google, BMW and several other marks are working on similar efforts.

General Motors is doing things differently, though. Rather than push for a fully autonomous car, it’s continuing to refine its semi-autonomous Super Cruise, a product that we tested in April 2012 and that will eventually see use on some Cadillacs before trickling down to the rest of the General Motors family. Super Cruise, which is undergoing testing in the Cadillac SRX, doesn’t take complete control out of the driver’s hands. Rather, under a very specific set of circumstances on the freeway, it will marry the capabilities of things like lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control to allow the driver to take their hands off the wheel. All of which sounds a lot like the system Mercedes-Benz is launching on the 2014 S-Class.

The system is still in development, according to John Capp, GM’s director of electrical controls and active safety technology. Now that that the biggest hurdle, steering control, has been cleared, GM’s engineers can focus on things like teaching the system to adapt to differing road conditions and visibility levels. As we reported in 2012, Super Cruise is still befuddled in low-visibility situations or when road markings aren’t particularly clear.

And for those who are worried that semi-autonomous cars will lead to drivers treating the cars as fully autonomous (a seriously dangerous situation), GM engineer Charles Green tells USA Today, “Super Cruise will be designed in a way to help keep your visual attention on the road ahead. The ‘how’ is something that will become more apparent as we show Super Cruise in its later versions.”

GM intends to offer semi-autonomous vehicles by 2020 originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 30 Aug 2013 15:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Study: Berkeley study says drivers of roomier vehicles more likely to be unethical

Filed under: Etc., Safety

Bad Parking

Researchers from MIT and Berkeley have conducted a rather interesting study on the correlation between posture and behavior. While this normally wouldn’t be of much interest, the study analyzed more specifically how a car’s seating position can affect the driver’s behavior, which we find to be a rather interesting hypothesis.

The study conducted four experiments, although only the last two interest us. The gist is that expansive posture and positioning often led to unethical or dishonest behavior, such as noticing, accepting and not mentioning overpayment as well as cheating on tasks.

In particular, the third experiment focused on how a driver’s seating position influences their driving style. The researchers plopped participants down, not in a real vehicle on a public road or closed track, but in a desk chair, in front of a monitor and a Playstation 3, with a copy of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit playing. Using a $90 gaming steering wheel, participants were allowed one practice run before the actual race. If they completed the race in under five minutes, they’d win $10, with one major caveat: they’d be forced to stop for ten seconds after each impact or collision. Seating positions were randomly chosen for each participant, with some in a contracted and some in an expansive position. The study also took a trip into the real world to record the correlation between double parking, vehicle size and the amount of room drivers had.

The results? Drivers with more expansive driving positions drove more recklessly in Need For Speed, while they were also more likely to double park, regardless of the length and difficulty that came with parking their vehicles (which researchers accounted for).

Now, we’re not scientists, but a number of things stand out here that have us wondering how credible these findings are. In the third experiment, it can’t seriously be believed that a three-year-old, arcade-minded racing game with a cheap steering wheel and a one-monitor setup is an accurate replica of a real cockpit, right? People, regardless of driving position, tend to drive far more recklessly in video games because the sole consequence is having to press the Reset button (or in this case, miss out on $10). Death, lawsuit or severe bodily injury, on the other hand, are always there when driving in the real world.

As for the fourth study, it was conducted in the heart of New York City, a place where parking spots and driving manners are just rumors and whispers, with little evidence of either. We’d have to believe that if someone found one of these mystical parking spots, they’d be far more concerned about just getting their car in it – regardless of their vehicle type – because they’ve been driving around the city for three hours looking for a spot. Click over for the full research paper, and let us know what you think of the study in Comments.

Berkeley study says drivers of roomier vehicles more likely to be unethical originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 26 Aug 2013 14:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Official: GM investing $167m in Spring Hill for new midsize vehicles

Filed under: Plants/Manufacturing, Buick, GM, Earnings/Financials, UAW/Unions

General Motors' Spring Hill Assembly

General Motors has announced a large investment in its Spring Hill, Tennessee facility. The former home of Saturn production will be getting a $167 million addition to a previously announced $183 million, to cover a pair of new midsize vehicles. The investment is expected to create 1,800 jobs at the factory.

That $350 million is being divvied up for a pair of programs at Spring Hill. The first will take the bulk of the money ($223 million) and create 1,000 of the 1,800 jobs, while the other will take the remaining $127 million and generate the leftover 800 positions. But GM says the investment will cover “midsize vehicle programs.” So what could they be?

The leading candidate in our minds is a new crossover for Buick, called the Anthem, that will slot between the Encore and Enclave, but will be slightly smaller than the Equinox and Terrain. As we’ve explained, the new model will likely be the first product to sport GM’s new D2UX platform, which will eventually replace both the Delta and Theta platforms. Spring Hill is already building the Equinox, so there could be some credence to this theory.

As for the other project, well, that one is a bit more of a mystery. It seems unlikely that GM would earmark two separate funds for “midsize vehicles” only to build a pair of crossovers. Could there be a D2UX car in the works? Hopefully, we’ll find out soon.

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GM investing $167m in Spring Hill for new midsize vehicles originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 06 Aug 2013 18:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Report: France formally moves to ban Mercedes vehicles using contested refrigerant

Filed under: Sedan, Europe, Government/Legal, Hatchback, Mercedes-Benz, Luxury

That didn’t take long. Shortly after a French administrative court gave the French government a ten-day window to reconsider its ban on registrations of Mercedes-Benz A-, B- and CLA-Class cars using the prohibited R134a refrigerant, the government cited an EU directive to formalize banning the sale of the cars. The country’s environmental ministry said that registrations “will remain forbidden in France as long as the company does not to conform to European regulations,” meaning so long as they do not use the approved R1234yf refrigerant.

Daimler had won the administrative court decision by challenging France’s application of a “safeguard” provision in which the EU allows a country to block sales of cars that would “seriously harm the environment.” In spite of Daimler’s victory, France has cited that very provision as basis for the continuation of the ban.

Daimler got permission from Germany’s KBA federal motor authority to keep selling cars with the coolant banned by EU politicians, and is using that national permission as the right to sell the cars throughout Europe. Meanwhile, above that battle, German politicians are asking the EU to let Mercedes sell the cars in France while the KBA does more testing, at the same time as the EU is threatening Germany with repercussions if it doesn’t bring the KBA and Daimler into line.

The German carmaker has said France’s “argument is absolutely incomprehensible” and has vowed more courtroom action. The three models comprise most of Mercedes’ business in France; more than 4,500 vehicles have been kept from being registered, 2,704 of which have already been sold.

France formally moves to ban Mercedes vehicles using contested refrigerant originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 31 Jul 2013 18:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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ETC: Automoblox adds Emergency Line of rescue, police and fire vehicles

Filed under: Toys/Games, Police/Emergency

Automoblox Emergency Line pickup rescue vehicle

Automoblox Emergency Line police carOne of our favorite toymakers is branching out its lineup of heirloom-quality toy cars into the first responder category. Automoblox has unveiled a new Emergency Line of rescue, police and fire vehicles based on three of its most popular models. The T900 truck becomes a go-anywhere rescue vehicle, the S9 sedan a patrol cruiser and the X9-X sport utility a capable transport for fire fighters.

Automoblox Emergency Line fire rescue SUVRevealed on the company’s official Facebook page, the Emergency Line features color schemes appropriate to each branch of public service, new wheels (the S9’s dog-dish cop car wheels are particularly accurate and excellent), light bars and even new people figurines that represent the fire, police and rescue workers who help out the public from behind the wheel.

A typical regular-sized Automoblox model goes for between $40 and $50, so we’re impressed the company held the line for these special models: the T900 rescue truck goes for $50, the S9 police car for $45 and the X9-X fire SUV for $45. The Emergency Line will be available in the US, Australia and Hong Kong by August 5 at the latest, and then Germany, France, Italy and Canada later this year. They aren’t quite ready to accept pre-orders, but you can Like Automoblox on Facebook to stay in the loop.

Automoblox adds Emergency Line of rescue, police and fire vehicles originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 26 Jun 2013 07:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Official: Renault-Nissan debuts new Common Module Family for future vehicles

Filed under: Plants/Manufacturing, Technology, Nissan, Renault

Renault-Nissan Alliance's Common Module Family platform - exploded parts diagram view

Platform sharing is nothing new for the 14-year-old Renault-Nissan Alliance, but this partnership is set to introduce new modular platform components that will eventually underpin 11 Renault models and three Nissan vehicles by 2020. Rather than being a typical platform, the Common Module Family (CMF) actually represents five segments of a platform that can be used in various applications, and one of the first vehicles to use this architecture will be the 2014 Nissan Rogue (spy shots of which are shown below) when it arrives “in late 2013.”

As pictured in the image above (click to expand), CMF is composed of four chassis component, principally the front underbody, rear underbody, engine bay and cockpit as well as a common electrical system. Besides the next-gen Rogue, future Nissan models to share CMF will include the Qashqai and X-Trail, while Renault models will start using the platform next year on vehicles including the Scénic and Laguna. The CMF architecture is expected to help the Alliance reduce the parts cost of a vehicle by up to 30 percent and reduce the entry cost by up to 40 percent. The official press release with more details about CMF, and what it means for Renault-Nissan, is posted below.

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Renault-Nissan debuts new Common Module Family for future vehicles originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 20 Jun 2013 10:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Vehicles take flight at the ‘Ring’s Flugplatz

Filed under: Performance, Audi, Chevrolet, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche

chevrolet corvette zr1 gets air at flugplatz

All four off at Flugplatz – Click above for high-res image gallery

Many areas of Germany’s demanding 13-mile Nürburgring race track have became notorious in their own right, and have nicknames that hint at the challenge they present. One such section is called Flugplatz, which means “airport,” and the name certainly fits because this crest is enough to send some cars skyward.

Our friendly spy photographers decided to take a break from the cat-mouse-camo-car game, and trained their lenses on Flugplatz. In the gallery below, we have airborne units from Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, all attacking the airport. Engineers like to use this lift-off point to check a variety of parameters. They also like to use Flugplatz to force suspension setups to reenact heavyweight prize fights.

We hear that drivers need to exceed 100 miles per hour at Flugplatz in order to play games with gravity. That makes the shots of the Panamera that much scarier, and the shots of the McLaren MP4-12C that much more amazing. Check out all of Flugplatz finest in our high-res image gallery.

Vehicles take flight at the ‘Ring’s Flugplatz originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 25 May 2011 14:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Report: Ford bumping prices on 2011 model vehicles

Filed under: Car Buying, Ford, Toyota, Earnings/Financials

ford logo 2011 edge

When a barrel of oil soars past $100, it affects all of us in more ways than just the gas pump. That counts for auto production as well, as Toyota’s recent price increase clearly shows. And Toyota isn’t alone, as Automotive News reports that Ford has raised prices on its vehicles by an average of .4 percent across its lineup. That adds up to about $117, which won’t break the bank, but at the same won’t make any of consumers’ weary wallets any happier, either.

Ford analyst George Pipas tells AW that the price adjustment had been planned, adding “If you read the headlines, prices for food, energy, airline tickets are going up across the board.” We’re reading, George, and we’ve noticed.

Ford hasn’t detailed which vehicles will receive price increases, though we’re thinking not all models will be affected by the bump. Several automakers have intimated that rising commodity costs would eat into profits this year

[Source: Automotive News – sub. req.]

Report: Ford bumping prices on 2011 model vehicles originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 05 Apr 2011 16:41:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Study: Female buyers not considering many domestic vehicles

Filed under: Car Buying

RL Polk women car preferences

We don’t have a demographic breakdown for Autoblog’s core audience to share, but we can tell you that the overwhelming majority of our readers are men. That said, women tend to be very specific about which vehicles they choose, and according to R.L. Polk, Asian automakers ranging from Toyota to Kia are winning over women on a grand scale.

Take a look at the graphic above, which shows the top five vehicle selections by (non-Caucasian) ethnic group. The Toyota Camry takes the top spot, scoring the number one spot in five ethnic groups. The Corolla, Civic, Accord and CR-V round out the top five, which makes sense due to the fact that those five vehicles are typically among the top-selling passenger vehicles each month. But where are the domestics?

The bottom of the chart shows the top domestic model as chosen by each ethnic group. Ford dominates the list, taking the top spot in seven of the eight ethnic groups, though judging by Polk’s data, it’s apparent that domestics are very low on the priority list. The only ethnic groups to choose a domestic in the top 10 are African-Americans (Malibu) and Hispanics (Ford F-Series).

[Source: R.L. Polk]

Study: Female buyers not considering many domestic vehicles originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 04 Apr 2011 14:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Jeep offers sneak peak at Moab Easter Safari vehicles

Filed under: Concept Cars, SUV, Jeep

jeep renegade concept rendering

Jeep Renegade concept rendering – Click above for high-res image gallery

If you’re a Jeep fan, than it’s time to get excited ,because Easter is almost here. Why Easter? Eggs and candy! Because it signals the return of Jeep’s Moab Easter Safari. This event is often a showcase for new products and concept vehicles from Chrysler’s off-road brand.

In the past, Jeep has used the Moab Easter Safari to show off concept vehicles like the Lower Forty, Wrangler J7 and Trail Boss, Patriot Extreme and even the “Moparized” Ram Power Wagon. This time around, for the 45th annual Safari event, Jeep is feature two new vehicles that invoke visions of an older period in Jeep’s history: the Jeep Renegade and the Jeep “Porkchop.”

These are just two of the six vehicles that Jeep is bringing to Moab. The Easter Safari runs from April 16 through the 24.

Gallery: Jeep Moab Easter Safari Vehicles

Jeep Renegade Moab Easter SafariJeep Porkchop Moab Easter Safari

[Source: Jeep]

Jeep offers sneak peak at Moab Easter Safari vehicles originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 01 Apr 2011 14:28:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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