Author Archive

Exterior Airbags Could Save Lives of Passengers and Pedestrians

ZF bag automatically triggers ahead of an collision.

by on Jun.13, 2019

Auto supplier ZF has developed exterior airbags to help mitigate injuries to both vehicle occupants as well as pedestrians.

Today’s cars are loaded with smart safety systems, including technology like forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, designed to prevent crashes. But when a crash does occur, airbags can substantially reduce the risk for vehicle occupants.

Today’s airbags can pop out of all sorts of nooks and crannies, including the steering wheel, the instrument panel and a vehicle’s headliner. But ZF has unveiled a new airbag concept that is mounted outside the vehicle where it can be triggered in the milliseconds before a crash occurs, rather than after an impact already has taken place.

Safety News!

“Occupant safety is paramount when developing new vehicles for automated and autonomous driving,” said Michael Büchsner, head of ZF’s Passive Safety Systems Division. “Our concept of the pre-crash external side airbag is a great example of how ZF wants to achieve its Vision Zero, a world without accidents and emissions.” (more…)

Two Major Public Charging Companies Team Up

Goal is to make EV charging easier, more affordable.

by on Jun.11, 2019

ChargePoint and Electrify America are partnering to allow users of their charging networks to use both now at no additional cost.

Imagine trying to travel if you could only fill up your tank on one brand of gasoline – or had to pay a stiff premium if you pulled into some other brand’s station. That has been more the norm than the exception for EV owners, another reason why some potential buyers have been reluctant to plug in.

Now, however, the various charging companies that will depend on building up a market are starting to team up. Electrify America and ChargePoint today announced a roaming partnership that will let their customers plug in at each other’s stations and not have to pay additional fees or set up separate accounts.

Business News!

The move could mean substantial savings while also making it easier to find a place to plug in. Together, the two companies already operate more than 30,000 Level 2 and Level 3 quick chargers across the U.S., with thousands more expected to open in just the next year. (more…)

First Look: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250

A small SUV with room for seven.

by on Jun.11, 2019

Mercedes-Benz had a gap in its utility line-up between the GLA and GLC. There isn't one anymore with the debut of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB.

There’s a war out there among luxury automakers, the Germans, in particular, determined to fire a new model into every possible bit of “white space.” Nowhere is that more apparent than over in Stuttgart where Mercedes-Benz has rolled out an array of new offerings, including its first long-range all-electric model, the EQC, which was previewed at the New York International Auto Show a couple months back.

Now, Mercedes has pulled the wraps off yet another significant new offering: the even more downsized GLB, which was previewed at an event in Utah overnight. Slotted in-between the GLA and GLC models, the downsized crossover appears to have plenty going for it, including an array of tech features that should appeal to young buyers. But there’s another surprising . Despite its diminutive footprint, the GLB manages to offer seating for up to seven passengers.

Product News!

It’s the first three-row offering from the Stuttgart-based automaker in this segment and, considering the market demand for seven-seaters, could gain a leg up on its two-row competition. (more…)

Fiat Chrysler Teams Up With Autonomous Vehicle Start-Up Aurora

Move could fill a gaping hole left open after collapse of merger talks with Renault.

by on Jun.10, 2019

Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley hasn't stopped looking for partners the wake of the FCA-Renault falling apart.

Fiat Chrysler will form an alliance with autonomous vehicle start-up Aurora to develop technology for commercial vehicles that could range from hands-free taxis to driverless delivery trucks.

Aurora currently runs operations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as well as San Francisco and Palo Alto, California, three of the hotbeds of autonomous vehicle research, with more than 200 employees. Earlier this year it raised $530 million through a Series B funding round, with Amazon one of its key investors.

Business News!

“As part of FCA’s autonomous vehicle strategy, we will continue to work with strategic partners to address the needs of customers in a rapidly changing industry,” said Mike Manley, chief executive officer, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. “Aurora brings a unique skillset combined with advanced and purposeful technology that complements and enhances our approach to self-driving.”

The deal, which officially links Aurora with Fiat Chrysler’s North American unit, FCA US, was announced only days after the parent company broke off merger talks with Renault. One of the potential benefits of that tie-up would have been access to autonomous and electrified vehicle technologies being developed by the French automaker’s Japanese alliance partner, Nissan.

(French government blamed for collapse of Fiat Chrysler-Renault merger plan. Click Here for the story.)

Fiat Chrysler also supplied Waymo with 65,000 Pacifica minivans for its Waymo One service.

FCA insiders have blamed French government interference for scuttling the proposed “merger-of-equals,” but sources in France have, in turn, claimed that they were concerned that the deal could have fractured the two decade old Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

What is clear is that Fiat Chrysler has needed help when it comes to autonomous technology. Under Sergio Marchionne, the former CEO who passed away unexpectedly last summer, it was little more than an afterthought. There was little work done in-house, in sharp contrast to other major competitors such as Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen, General Motors and Ford.

Prior to this announcement, FCA’s biggest move in the autonomous field was to agree to provide as many as 60,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans for use in the new Waymo One ride-sharing service started by the Google spinoff Waymo in the Phoenix area – which is scheduled to expand to at least 20 more cities in the coming years.

In an ironic twist, Aurora’s CEO Chris Urmson, a pioneer in the autonomous field, previously headed Waymo before it was spun off by Google and new CEO John Krafcik came onboard.

In the non-monogamous world of high-tech transportation, the connecting lines crisscross all over one another. Amazon, which is now paired with FCA though Aurora, led a consortium that purchased a major stake in electric vehicle start-up Rivian earlier this year. While the digital retailer hasn’t explained its goals, it is widely believed to be working up plans to field a fleet of driverless delivery trucks.

Meanwhile, another investor in Rivian is Ford Motor Co., a key rival of Fiat Chrysler’s in the commercial vehicle market.

(Click Here for more about the failed FCA-Renault merger.)

Neither FCA nor Aurora would discuss specific details of their new alliance, including any financial arrangements. Earlier this year, after the Series B funding round was completed, the start-up reportedly had a $2.5 billion valuation, according to the Reuters news service.

Along with the new FCA deal, Aurora has also forged relationships with Hyundai, Volkswagen and Chinese electric vehicle start-up Byton.

“We are thrilled to forge a partnership with FCA US to develop a meaningful business model for delivering the benefits of self-driving commercial vehicles,” said Sterling Anderson, Aurora co-founder and chief product officer.

Precisely what those vehicles will be isn’t clear, but the dozens of automakers and research firms exploring autonomous technology see a number of possible options. The general consensus is that costs will run too high, at least in the early years, for most consumers, putting the focus on commercial ventures. These include autonomous cabs like those Waymo One is fielding, with General Motors and its Cruise Automation subsidiary promising to launch their own operation later this year.

Local delivery services would like to dispense with costly drivers, as well, though the challenge is resolving the “last 100 foot” problem, getting packages from the truck to the door. Some experiments have required customers to go and pick up their packages but that isn’t seen as a popular option. Drones are a possibility, but Ford last month demonstrated a robot that could take packages from truck to drop-off.

(Waymo kicks off autonomous taxi and ride-sharing service. Click Here for the story.)

Long-haul trucks are also a possibility, though not an area in which FCA competes. Its former partner, Daimler AG, however, has been fleet testing hands-free technology through several subsidiaries, including the U.S.-based Freightliner.

Automakers Push Back on Trump Plan to Relax Mileage Rules

Expected White House plan would trigger legal actions and “untenable” uncertainty, 17 OEs warn.

by on Jun.07, 2019

Pres. Donald Trump thought he would win industry support from industry leaders over CAFE cuts but has seen opposition, instead/

In an unusual move, 17 automakers, including giants General Motors, Ford and Toyota, have sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him not to move ahead on plans to roll back federal fuel economy standards – a move that puts the industry more in line with environmentalists than the anti-regulatory White House.

The Trump Administration has signaled since it was first inaugurated its intention to roll back Obama-era guidelines that would have seen the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standard rise to 54.5 mpg by 2025. The administration’s draft plans would freeze the numbers at 2021 model-year levels, or about 37 mpg.

The Last Word!

The proposal has already generated significant opposition from environmental and consumer groups, as well as the State of California which would effectively lose its current right to set standards higher than those established by the federal government. California has played lead in the various legal actions that have been filed to block any rollback even before the original outline of a plan the White House announced was formalized.

(more…)

EVs Will Reach Cost Parity with Gas Cars “Sooner than People Think,” says GM’s Reuss

That would be good news for an industry pumping billions into EV development.

by on Jun.07, 2019

GM's Mark Reuss believes that EVs will reach cost parity with gas-powered vehicles sooner than people think they will.

The auto industry is planning to spend in excess of $100 billion over the next decade on the development of electrified vehicles, pure battery-electric models, in particular – so much that even industry giants like Ford, Volkswagen and Toyota are opting to partner with traditional competitors to spread out spending.

One of the concerns is that manufacturers will have to not only put out that money up front but then swallow some of their production costs to keep those battery-cars competitive once they reach market because they will be more expensive to build. That was a warning delivered by a top Toyota official during a briefing in Tokyo on Friday morning.

News You Can Trust!

But that may not prove nearly as dire a problem as anticipated, General Motors President Mark Reuss said during a conference early this week where he said he sees the cost of a BEV and a comparable gas model will “reach parity a lot sooner than people think.” (more…)

Toyota Speeding up EV Program; Partnering with Subaru on New Platform

Finding enough batteries could pose a problem.

by on Jun.07, 2019

Toyota EVP Shegeki Terashi discusses the automaker's plans to accelerate its BEV program with the media.

Though it was a pioneer in the launch of hybrid technology, Toyota Motor Corp. has long been skeptical of more advanced forms of battery propulsion. But a senior official said today that the largest Japanese automaker now plans to speed up development of plug-ins and pure battery-electric vehicles, or PHEVs and BEVs, so that electrified vehicles account for fully half of its global sales by 2025.

That would be five years ahead of Toyota’s original timetable and reflects the broader industry transition that sees major competitors like Volkswagen and General Motors rapidly accelerating their own electrification efforts.

Beyond the Headlines!

One of the ways Toyota hopes to get there will be through a new partnership with Subaru that will see them working together to develop a new, dedicated BEV platform. (more…)

Porsche Will Electrify Everything, Even Iconic 911

But the roll-out will likely stretch out over the coming decade.

by on Jun.06, 2019

The new Porsche Taycan, formerly known as the Mission E, is just the beginning of a slew of new battery-electric cars coming from Porsche.

The Porsche Taycan will reach U.S. showrooms in the coming year, marking the first all-electric model from a brand that has built its reputation on high-performance versions of the internal combustion engine.

Initial demand is strong, a senior official told bingdb.info during an interview at the Movin’On Summit in Montreal this week, with preliminary orders expected to account for the first two years of production.

Technology News!

The sports car arm of the Volkswagen Group has already announced plans for a second model, the Cross Turismo set to share the same underpinnings as the Taycan. While Porsche officials have hinted that there will be more battery-electric vehicles to come, they’ve not yet confirmed what’s next. But the real question is what won’t be electrified eventually. And the answer appears to be “nothing.”

(more…)

French Government Blamed for Collapse of Fiat Chrysler – Renault Merger Plan

Government’s “cumulative demands and pressures” prove too much; FCA opts out rather than accepting further delays.

by on Jun.06, 2019

FCA CEO Mike Manley had hoped to create the world's third-largest automaker with Renault.

Less than two weeks after proposing a merger-of-equals with Renault that would have formed the world’s third-largest automaker, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles withdrew the offer late Wednesday citing government interference in the proposed deal.

“We went in different directions very rapidly,” said a source close to the ongoing negotiations, noting that only three hours earlier the two carmakers had been preparing to release a joint statement indicating that the Renault board had voted in favor of the proposal and would begin taking the necessary steps to complete a merger – a process expected to take 12 to 18 months.

Going into the negotiations, it was clear there would be some potential obstacles, notably finding a way to preserve Renault’s long-standing relationship with Japanese automakers Nissan and Mitsubishi. But, in the end, FCA formally pointed blame for the collapse of the deal at the French government that is Renault’s largest shareholder.

Breaking News!

“It has become clear that the political conditions in France do not currently exist for such a combination to proceed successfully,” FCA said in a statement.

(more…)

BMW, Jaguar Land Rover Team Up on Next-Gen Battery-Drive Technology

Move marks the latest in growing list of partnerships in new technologies expected to reshape auto industry.

by on Jun.05, 2019

Despite its success with electric vehicles like the Jaguar I-Pace, Jaguar Land Rover is partnering with BMW it accelerate its technology development curve.

BMW and Jaguar Land Rover will team up to develop next-generation electric drive systems, the two automakers announced Wednesday, a move that underscores both the industry’s push into new technologies like electrified and autonomous driving, as well as the push by manufacturers to form joint ventures to share costs and speed up development.

BMW was one of the pioneers in electrification with products like the battery-powered i3 and i8 plug-in hybrid, but it has lost momentum during the last several years as competitors – including Jaguar with its all-electric i-Pace – have begun launching a wave of new battery-cars.

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“We’ve proven we can build world-beating electric cars but now we need to scale the technology to support the next generation of Jaguar and Land Rover products,” said Nick Rogers, JLR’s Engineering Director. “It was clear from discussions with BMW Group that both companies’ requirements for next generation EDUs to support this transition have significant overlap making for a mutually beneficial collaboration.” (more…)


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