Automotive Newsline

Audi Starts Talking to Traffic Lights

In what is considered an industry first, Audi has launched a feature that will allow its cars to communicate with traffic signals – notifying drivers when lights are about to change.  The technology is considered to be another vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) advancement toward a fully autonomous car.  The plan is that eventually city grids will not just send data, but will be able to adjust traffic light times accordingly.

The system will be available on 2017 Audi Q7, A4 and A4 allroads equipped with Audi connect built after June 1st.  Industry sources report that the new technology will likely be rolled out in five to seven cities to start, but will expand later to more areas.

Fuel economy will benefit as this information begins to change driver behavior, as they slow down if they know a traffic light is about to turn red, or release the brakes if they know the light is about to turn green. The less the driver uses the brakes, the more efficient their driving habits.

Traffic flow will also benefit as eventually cities and cars could communicate with each other to find bottlenecks and congested areas, adjusting the flow of traffic to keep everyone moving more smoothly.

Ford to Offer a “Green” Sub Brand of Vehicles

The Ford Motor Company has announced its intentions to launch a “Green” line up of electrified vehicles for the 2019 model year.  To be marketed under its already trademarked “Model E” sub brand, early buzz suggests an availability of multiple body styles.  The Model E line-up is rumored to include a hybrid, plug-in-hybrid and battery electric variant, sharing a platform with the next generation Focus.  Body types may include a compact car and crossover.  The electric-hybrid movement at the sign of the Blue Oval will not be limited to the new green brand.  Ford has already indicated that it will invest some $4.5 Billion in electrified vehicles – adding as many as 13 hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicle lines by 2020.   The Dearborn-based automaker is following a similar strategy for a green sub brand as announced by Hyundai and it Ioniq EV line-up.

Hyundai to Add Pickup Truck to US Product Line

Hyundai is poised to add the Santa Cruz pickup to its American model line-up for the 2019 model year.  While the official announcement is not expected for another few months, Hyundai officials have admitted that “the decision has been made”.   The Santa Cruz concept has been showed at major American automotive shows over the last year.  The new “lifestyle pickup” as the automaker calls it, would share a platform with the Tucson compact crossover.  The production version of the new truck could have either a gasoline or diesel engine.  The Korean automaker believes that they can sell about 50,000 of the new truck a year, with estimates as high as 70,000.  Pricing would start around $25,000.

Hyundai is entering the pickup truck market in the United States at a time when 62 percent of total industry sales are trucks and SUVs while that number is only 25 percent of Hyundai sales.  Within the next four years the automaker expects to have a 45 percent truck mix through a combination of new products and production changes.

World’s First Self-Driving Taxis Launch in Singapore

Its official, Singapore is the first place in the world with autonomous taxis – sort of.  In late August, the first self-driving taxis began picking up retail passengers in Singapore.  Select members of the public can hail a free ride through their smartphones in taxis operated by nuTonomy, an autonomous vehicle start up company.  While a growing number of automotive and technology companies have been testing self-driving cars on public streets for several years,

nuTonomy’s launch in Singapore beats Uber’s self-driving efforts in Pittsburgh by several weeks.  The Singapore roll out is using modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electrics – six cars total – which will be limited to a 2.5 square mile business and residential district called “one-north”.  Pick-ups and drop-offs are limited to specified locations.  The cars will still have a driver at the wheel who is prepared to take back the wheel in case of problems and a researcher in back who watches the car’s computers.

Each car is fitted with six sets of Lidar – a detection system that uses lasers to operate like radar – including one that constantly spins on the roof.  There are also two cameras on the dashboard to scan for obstacles and detect changes in traffic lights.

Eventually, rides may start paying for the service and more pick-up and drop off points will be added.  Doug Parker, nuTonomy’s Chief Operating Officer, said autonomous taxis could ultimately reduce the number of cars on Singapore’s roads from 900,000 to 300,000.

nuTonomy is a 50-person company with offices in Massachusetts and Singapore that was formed in 2013 by two Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers who were studying robotics and developing autonomous vehicles for the Defense Department.

Computer Hacking: Your Car May Be Next

About this time last year, a pair of hackers demonstrated to WIRED that they could remotely hijack a Jeep’s digital systems over the Internet.  While Chrysler has since issued a recall that fixed that bug in its onboard vehicle systems, the threat is not over.   In Houston it is reported that recently a pair of car thieves was using nothing more than a laptop and a special type of software to steal some 30 Jeep and Dodge vehicles over the last several months.  By breaking into the vehicle and merely plugging in the laptop with software that can start the car, they could merely drive away without incident.

As vehicles add more electronic sophistication, so are thieves and hackers developing more sophisticated ways to compromise and override a vehicle’s computer and control systems.   In 2011 researchers at the University of California at San Diego and the University of Washington found ways into a Chevrolet Impala’s computers that included everything from its OnStar connection to a hacked smartphone connected to its infotainment system via Bluetooth to a CD containing a malicious file inserted into its CD player.  Last year, the same researchers showed that common, Internet-connected insurance dongles plugged into vehicles’ dashboards could create the same remote hacking vulnerabilities.

Ken Chester, Jr. is President & CEO of Motor News Media Corporation – an automotive news service founded in 1989 as The AutoBuyer Plus Corporation. Featured on numerous television and radio programs, viewers, listeners and readers alike relate to Ken's friendly manner and wealth of information about the many vehicles currently for sale in today's complex automotive marketplace.

Posted in In the News, On the Road

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