On the Road to Autonomy at the 2016 LA Auto Show

 

By Dean Adams Curtis

In the field of psychology, there is a branch called “developmental psychology. This branch of psychological thought is interested in how our brains develop understandings about, and reasoning behind, what is right and what is good. One stem within this branch is focused on moral psychology, which is particularly interested in how we develop on our road to autonomy, to our fully self-guided, autonomous, thoughtful adult selves.

In the field of automobile technology, thoughtful beings are rapidly steering we thoughtful adults (many of us vocally not-on-board-yet with full-auto autos) on the road to autonomy within fully self-guided cars.

So, let’s dig into the terms autonomy and autonomous a moment. As autonomous auto CONSUMERS, you are in control of what happens next. Analysts have been reporting for several years that autonomous vehicle tech is accelerating so rapidly that the main limitation to them now is driver acceptance.

From the beginning, “auto”mobiles have never been autonomous. Nor have they been “auto”matic. They have, however, offered humans more autonomy of movement. Autos provided freedom to move about towns and then to cruise the inevitable suburban landscape that automobiles facilitated. Autos also provided the freedom for autonomous individuals to get out of town, often to preserve their autonomy.

Discussions and displays at the 2016 LA Auto Show, revealed to TheFamilyCar and GreenFamilyCar correspondents that the autonomous vehicle age has already dawned.

Stare into the light of this new age for a moment. Imagine yourself driven to wherever you would like to go by your autonomous vehicle in the style and comfort to which we have become accustomed, more safely, speedily, and sustainably. Imagine that’s how all the other folks around you are travelling also. Terrified by the concept? Excited by it?

As we all try to wrap our real-road conditioned, car driver brains around whether autonomous vehicles are good, or right, for us, and for our roads, two important technology clusters, autonomous vehicle and electric vehicle technologies, will continue developing in parallel. And smart charging of autonomous EVs will most likely happen while both while they’re underway, as well as between uses.

Currently makers of vehicles with autonomous systems advise keeping both hands on the steering wheel. But, if the autonomous vehicle age is going to be truly desirable for consumers, it will need to offer more than vehicles that’re going to be wrestling control, or beeping annoyingly. For example, in the Chrysler Pacifica minivan that we test drove to and from the LA Auto Show, the lane-assist feature kept moving the steering wheel, providing an odd sensation that could diminish a driver’s sense of their own autonomy-over, control-over, the vehicle. Of course, just a little effort on the driver’s part turned the wheel in whatever direction the driver decided to go. And in the new Honda CRV, the lane assist doesn’t budge the wheel, but appears as a blinking and beeping circular warning light at the center of the dashboard cluster.

Revealing that we’re already into an autonomous electrical vehicle age, those auto-buyers fortunate enough to afford new high-end luxury vehicles are already benefiting from enhanced safety and convenience provided by automatic lane-keeping and collision avoidance, early-stages of the future’s autonomous auto guidance. Tesla drivers today are sometimes folding their arms on the freeway as they watch their vehicle do its own steering. But they can’t yet do so on surface streets. And well-established technology, such as collision avoidance radar and LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), are operating with all-around camera systems, combined with graphic-information-systems (GIS) programs, have all been integrated and are being observed in-action, in tests from San Francisco to Pittsburgh, PA being conducted by various entities such as Google and Uber.

Also revealing is the Obama administration’s recent requirement on automakers to implement additional cyber-security on vehicles connected to the internet. Good thing. If we’re going to take our hands off the wheel, we want to do so secure that someone who wishes us ill, or who is just plain malicious, doesn’t throw our steering wheel to or fro.

It’s a brave new world that has such features in it as autonomous electric vehicles. If, using our autonomous thoughtful minds, we chose to rely on self-driving EVs in the future, we will save astronomically on the energy expended to take us from point A to point B in style and comfort, in safety and at a desirable speed, sustainably and autonomously. And if you or I should suffer from a medical emergency in one of them, perhaps they’ll be able to drive us to the nearest hospital emergency room door.

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November 23, 2016 at 6:53 pm Leave a comment

7-Seat 2018 VW V6 ATLAS SUV Revealed

On the pier in Santa Monica, California, the end of historic U.S. Route 66, the route between Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, the route between the Great Lake Michigan and the vast Pacific Ocean, executives from Volkswagen North America recently revealed their 2018 ATLAS SUV.

The 2018 VW ATLAS is assembled in Tennessee.

Not a bug, not a bus, not an EV, it is a sport utility vehicle that looks like many others currently on the market. And obviously, that was VW North America’s design aesthetic for the ATLAS. They want to accrue a share of the U.S. SUV sales. Therefore, you would be forgiven for confusing it with a Toyota Highlander, or for an SUV from another automaker.

For a groundbreaking and apparently retro-VW-inspired design, we will all need to wait for the VW BUDD-e, the company’s electric vehicle concept, the availability of which Volkswagen is not specific about, committing only that it will be on offer to EV buyers sometime before 2020.

VW’s BUDD-e Concept Car, due by 20:20

vwBUDD-eOnWood

As I, The Family Car’s wayward co-editor Wayback, go way back to when a VW bus was revered as a great way to go across any country on Earth, it felt like it was a missed opportunity for Volkswagen not to reference the wayback look their iconic bus.

But, I confess that I may have VW bus envy. I crossed the U.S. by VW bug several times, but never by VW bus. Though I could sleep in the bug, rare was the night that I did so without thinking how nice it would have been to sleep totally flat, if I had only bought a VW bus instead of a bug. Yet did I ever abandon the VW bug? No, never for a VW bus.

But I digress. All alternative design musings set aside, to be fair to the 2018 VW ATLAS, if you fold down all the five back seats, you can lay flat. And the V6 engine burns as clean as VW can make it burn, fresh as it is on what it hopes is its road to recovery of consumer trust after the company’s diesel emission test rigging scandal.

October 31, 2016 at 11:04 pm Leave a comment

New Kia Cadenza a virtuoso passage

Watch our Kia Cadenza review in HD on TheFamilyCar YouTube channel.

Linear white fences, white columns and trees were not the only straight lines to be seen as TheFamilyCar co-editor/co-owner, Carguy Keith Turner, rolled through hills of Virginia horse country recently in the 2017 Kia Cadenza.

The vehicle is all-new, and arrives to market with higher levels of luxury, technology and convenience than its predecessor. It comes wrapped in a beautiful, bold design inspired by the simplicity of the straight line.

The second-generation Cadenza boasts a stronger body structure and powertrain enhancements along with a more engaging driving experience than before.

Designed at Kia’s California design center, the Cadenza’s high-end image exudes a modern confidence by use of a single contour that spans the length of the car, creating its sleek profile. This visually links matching Z-shaped lighting signatures in the headlights and LED tail lights, affording the all-new Cadenza a more distinctive road presence.

The Cadenza is available with two different grills. Lower trim models will come with the “Diamond Butterfly” front grill that features the same three-dimensional pattern as several siblings within the Kia lineup. Higher trim models will come with the “Intaglio” grill, featuring vertically oriented, faceted blades.

The Cadenza’s newly-designed “piano key” taillights add to the vehicle’s striking appearance, with chrome garnishes in all the right places.

Brimming with technology, the cockpit is designed to provide a more harmonious human-machine interface.

Heads-Up Display shows key driver information such as speed and turn-by-turn navigation directions on the windshield directly in the driver’s line of sight.

A Surround-View Monitor gives the driver a bird’s-eye view of the area around the vehicle, and the Smart Trunk opens the trunk lid if the key fob is detected from behind.

The Cadenza also features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, while a 12-speaker 630-watt Harman/Kardon audio system features Clari-Fi music restoration technology.

Pricing has not been announced, but is expected to start at under $32,000 for the Premium model and under $44,000 for the SXL version.

August 31, 2016 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

Into the Future at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show

By Dean Adams Curtis

The future of personal transport is definitely going to be propelled by electric, hydrogen-generated electric, and hybrid plug-in electric power. That future has already dawned and is on display at auto shows, as well as on the streets of forward-looking cities, states, and nations.

In our video report from the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit we focus only on electric, hydrogen and hybrid vehicles to give you a glimpse of the near future manifested by automakers today along the Motor City’s riverfront.

Our cast of vehicles, in order of their appearance, are the:

Audi Quattro h-tron – hydrogen concept
Chevy Malibu – hybrid
Chevy Volt – plug-in hybrid
Chevy Bolt EV – electric
BMW 330e – plug-in hybrid
BMW 740e – plug-in hybrid
BMW i3 – electric
BMW i8 – plug-in hybrid
Mercedes Benz C350e – plug-in hybrid
Volkswagen e-Golf – electric
Volkswagen Jetta – hybrid
Porsche Panamera S – plug-in hybrid
Porsche Cayenne S – plug-in hybrid
Fiat 500X (not an EV, hybrid, or hydrogen, but check out the 500e)
Kia Telluride – concept (power train not yet announced)
Lexus LF-FC – hydrogen concept (four in-wheel electric motors)
Audi A3 e-tron – plug-in hybrid
Toyota Mirai – hydrogen
Toyota Camry XLE – hybrid
Toyota RAV4 hybrid – hybrid
Toyota Prius – hybrid
Scion C-HR concept (power train not yet announced)
Toyota FCV Plus – hydrogen fuel cell vehicle concept
Toyota FV2 – single passenger future vehicle concept

Not shown in our video, but revealed at the Detroit auto show, is the Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid (below) that will be on sale in March or April. It comes with 7 or 8 seats, automatic breaking, collision alert and lane departure assist.

2017-Chrysler-Pacifica-plug-in-hybrid

And an interesting new electric vehicle not at Detroit, having been unveiled the week before at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, is the Volkswagen BUDD-e.

VW indicated that the BUDD-e  (below) will be available in 2018.

vwBUDD-eOnWood

January 31, 2016 at 10:48 pm Leave a comment

Hay bales take a ride with the 2016 Toyota Tundra CrewMax

Article and video by Keith Turner, video featuring Lawren Turner.

When the job called for hauling a trailer full of hay to a Sierra Mountain ranch, the super-sized, four-door, 2016 Toyota Tundra CrewMax handled the job with ease.

The Tundra’s 5.7-liter V8 engine with Trailer Brake Control tackled the ups and downs of the mountain roads like a pro, leaving plenty of power available for additional push when necessary.

With the standard Tow Package, 5.7-liter V8 Tundra offers a maximum tow capacity of 10,500 pounds (4×2 Regular Cab). So equipped, Tundra uses a one-piece towing receiver integrated into the frame prior to bed installation.

The Tundra’s Tow Package also comes with a tow/haul shift mode that adjusts throttle sensitivity and transmission shift control. This helps in favoring and holding lower gears when accelerating or decelerating.
TheFamilyCar.com and GreenFamilyCar.com

January 7, 2016 at 6:38 pm Leave a comment

Meet the Rubbernecks

thefamilycar-Rubbernecks-Wyatt

Story and art copyright by Dean Adams Curtis

Young Wyatt Rubberneck is in his family’s car kitchen cooking up his formula for vehicles that reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

The Rubberneck family is traveling on the Lincoln Highway, one of America’s roadways that were almost forgotten after the interstate highway system was built. They are traveling in their hand-built EV mobile home.

His mother Jo, short for Joanne, was the first to bring up the idea of the family making their own electric vehicle. She was an electrical engineering professor at the local college near their home in Ohio. Wyatt immediately jumped at the idea.

So did Wyatt’s father No, short for Nolan, who was a mechanical engineering professor at the same local college, which is also the same place where No and Jo first met while students.

Wyatt proposed they simply use laptop batteries, like Tesla’s Elon Musk had done when he first designed his Model S. It was pretty complicated, and if it wasn’t for Wyatt’s brainy sister Sandy creating a battery management system, their EV may not have rolled.

Once they managed to get their electric vehicle chassis to power itself up and down their driveway, Wyatt and his father began framing the mobile home in lightweight honeycombed recycled aluminum. It was Wyatt’s idea to make it look like a house.

It was his father No’s idea to check with BMW for any carbon fiber they might have that didn’t pass their quality inspection at their Washington State carbon fiber factory that bakes sprayed carbon onto gauze bandage-like ribbon. BMW sent a roll.

Together, the entire Rubberneck family carefully wrapped the honeycombed recycled aluminum frame of their skeletal mobile home with the carbon fiber. It wasn’t long before they were painting their mobile home to look like a little house on wheels.

And soon afterward, the Rubberneck family dog Mocha, named after the color of his mother Jo’s coffee with cream, jumped into the backseat of the EV mobile home and barked something that sounded to the Rubbernecks like the words “Road trip.”

Amazingly, the Rubberneck family’s reclusive cat Tiger, climbed up to a perch in the small second story of the new EV mobile home and meowed something that also sounded to the Rubbernecks like the words “Road trip.”

A family meeting followed, at which it was decided by all, due to the low speed that their EV was able to roll (top speed 25 miles per hour, but with 750 miles of battery range) to travel only on the forgotten back roads and byways of America.

Jo and Sandy roofed the EV mobile home with high yield solar cells and early in the summer of 2015 the Rubberneck family got rolling, slowly.

With the EV’s Internet connection, brainpower, scrounged sensors and GPS, Sandy Rubberneck helped her brother Wyatt create an autonomous driving system. Though their father No still insisted on driving, the system still prevented many accidents.

As their travel along America’s nearly forgotten highways progressed, the Rubbernecks became correspondents for several websites, writing blogs from the EV mobile home for thefamilycar.com, then greenfamilycar.com, and also for greeninterstate.com.

After traveling the old Lincoln Highway through Oklahoma, where Wyatt cooked up for his family a spaghetti feast on the kitchen’s electric range with magnetic no-skid surface around the burners, the Rubbernecks decided on the next leg of their trip.

STAY TUNED FOR: The Rubbernecks Roll on Historic Route 12

October 4, 2015 at 6:50 pm Leave a comment

2015 Ford F-150 bridges the gap between luxury and utility

By Carguy Keith Turner

No matter who you are or where you live – in the mountains, countryside or urban areas – you always have the need to haul something or carry a load from here to there.

That’s why pickup trucks have consistently been the No. 1 selling vehicle in the nation year after year. Whether gas prices are up or down, there has always been a huge demand for trucks among Americans. This year, with declining fuel prices and new, highly efficient trucks hitting the market, it’s no surprise the 2015 has been called by many as “The Year of the Truck.”

The totally redesigned F-150 made the biggest news in 2015 with an all-aluminum cab and box that cuts 700 pounds off the total weight, while still retaining its strength thanks to high-strength materials throughout. The new 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine not only provides better fuel efficiency, but a turbo that offers sports car-like acceleration. Safety features include a lane-keeping system that detects drifting and gently nudges the truck back to the center of the lane. (Base MSRP: $26,330 / 17-23 mpg).
— TheFamilyCar.com

October 4, 2015 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

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