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Automakers are pushing ahead with self-driving, autonomous vehicles, but 65 percent of drivers believe these vehicles are "a dangerous idea," according to a Harris poll conducted for AutoTrader.com. However, drivers are interested in automatic collision avoidance, parking assistance, and other features, with 61 percent saying they would consider buying cars with these features.
Despite public concern - and growing interaction with US lawmakers - automakers will continue to push ahead with autonomous vehicles. It will take some time before these types of self-driving cars will be available to the general public, and swarm the open road, but it appears that is the next step in the coming years.
There will be a continued blend of technology inside vehicles, with in-dash video, GPS, smartphone-enabled features, and similar perks being integrated into new vehicles.
Toyota will jump into the emissions-free, hydrogen-powered vehicle market with the launch of Mirai next month in Japan. The vehicle will debut in the United States and Europe and while the $57,600 price tag will scare many potential buyers away, there will only be several hundred released in Japan, as Toyota tests the waters.
The Japanese automaker hopes Mirai is the first successful step to help bring fuel cells to the mainstream - and prices will drop as technological breakthroughs occur - as interest in next-generation vehicles continues to increase.
"In time, the fuel cell vehicle will become mainstream. We wanted to take the first step," said Mitsuhisa Kato, Toyota executive vice president, in a recent statement. "We want to beat the leading edge."
The super-powered Model X SUV has been delayed, with Tesla Motors expecting it to first hit the bitumen last year, with a delay to 2014, and then another delay to early 2015, but now we're hearing it won't be arriving until Q3 2015.
Tesla Motors has said that it won't start sales of the Model X until the electric vehicle is ready to "delight customers". Tesla Motors' founder, Elon Musk, added: "Doing so negatively affects the short term, but positively affects the long term". Working these issues out, according to Musk, will allow the electric car maker to make more Model X vehicles than it could make Model S vehicles back in 2012.
During the investors call, Musk said: "Making one of something is quite easy. We need to make a bunch to know it's [a problem] there". It seems that testing and validation are two of the big reasons behind the delay, but when you're talking about a vehicle that costs much more than what most people make in a year, you want as much testing as possible, right?
The increase of keyless entry and ignition is leading to criminal groups spoofing keys that can unlock doors and turn vehicles on. The United States and United Kingdom have both seen a rise in auto theft for these newer vehicles, as criminals are able to bypass the keyless security. Automakers are working diligently with insurance companies and law enforcement to find new methods to ensure these tactics can be limited - and keep the equipment in the hands of licensed mechanics.
"The criminal act of stealing vehicles through the re-programming of remote-entry keys is an on-going industry-wide problem," said Jaguar Land Rover. "Our lineup continues to meet the insurance industry requirements as tested and agreed with relevant insurance bodies. Nevertheless we are taking this issue very seriously and our engineering teams are actively working in collaboration with insurance bodies and police forces to solve this continuously evolving problem."
Although this most recent report was based in the UK, the US National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) also found a similar "spike" in stolen vehicles in the United States.
After Tesla was banned from selling vehicles in Michigan, there has been growing amazement why the company continues to focus on direct sales instead of working with car dealerships. It doesn't appear the automaker is interested in working with existing franchise owners, or bother working with new dealership owners, and wants to sell its luxury vehicles directly to customers - entirely cutting out the middleman.
"I think Elon wants to have full control of having the cars retailed through a system has total say over," said Karl Brauer, Kelley Blue Book analyst. "And, two, I think he enjoys the concept of upsetting the apple cart; he enjoys knowing that he's breaking existing conventions on every level."
Musk wants his company to have complete control of sales, rather than handing over control to dealerships, allowing the company to handle customer service problems quickly and efficiently. This ensures potential customers don't have a sour experience trying to work with a dealership looking to potentially strong-arm car buyers.
As expected, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has signed a controversial bill that will ban the sale of Tesla vehicles in the state. Michigan isn't a major target for Tesla at the moment, but the company has ambitious nationwide growth plans through 2020, providing less potential future customers.
"This bill does not, as some have claimed, prevent auto manufacturers from selling automobiles directly to consumers at retail in Michigan - because this is already prohibited under Michigan law," Snyder said to lawmakers.
Not surprisingly, GM was in favor of the anti-Tesla bill, as Michigan joins Texas and North Carolina, shutting Tesla out in the cold. Due to the state's current laws, along with major influence from Michigan automakers, it seems unlikely that the bill would be overturned anytime soon.
Carmaker Audi has successfully tested the 560-horsepower RS 7 at the Hockenheimring race track, with the autonomous car reaching a top speed of 149 miles per hour. In fact, it became the fastest autonomous vehicle to be tested, offering a glimpse into the future of high-end vehicles. Audi has worked on its autonomous technology for more than 10 years, and while driving on a racetrack is one thing, the ultimate test will be when these types of vehicles are tested on busy suburban and city streets.
The Audi RS 7 was able to reach full throttle on the track straightaways, and successfully braked before entering the corners - with 1.3 g of force reached, according to Audi.
Tesla, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and other high-end carmakers believe autonomous driving is the future, and have invested a large amount of resources into developing the technology.
Tesla showed us all the D last week, unveiling their dual-motor AWD Model S vehicle, but now its founder is talking about the future of autonomous vehicles, where he says that a full autonomous vehicle isn't that far away.
Elon Musk, the Tony Stark of the real-world, has said "That will be the case at some point in the future. Like maybe five or six years from now I think we'll be able to achieve true autonomous driving where you could literally get in the car, go to sleep and wake up at your destination". He did add that it would be a few more years after that before regulators, governments and red tape can be cut before these things will be driving us around autonomously.
When it comes to a self-driving car, Musk reiterated that Tesla's autopilot system is not the same as a fully self-driving car. Tesla's autopilot system uses radar, ultrasonic sensing and cameras, where it creates a kind of super-smart cruise control, obstacle avoidance and lane-keeping system - but, it's not a self-driving car, not yet. Musk continued "Autopilot is what we have in airplanes. For example we use the same term that is in airplanes where there is still an expectation that there will be a pilot. So the onus is on the pilot to make sure that the autopilot is doing the right thing".
Toyota continues to develop hydrogen fuel cell technology, and the company has already invested 20 years to help develop it for widespread development. The Japanese automaker received praise for its plug-in Prius, and its 2015 FCV (fuel cell vehicle) has a range of 300 miles and only needs up to five minutes to refuel.
Details about the FCV will be revealed later down the road, as the real name of the vehicle, production volume, pricing, and interior specifications haven't been disclosed.
"We really see this as the technology for the future," said Jana Hartline, Toyota environmental communications manager. "The scalability of fuel cells is such that it's not only appropriate for passenger cars, but buses and heavy duty commercial applications, with zero emissions."
Not everyone is happy with the FAA's decision to allow use of personal electronic devices during flights, with news that on behalf of the flight attendant's union, a lawyer has filed a case in U.S. Court of Appeals raising safety concerns.
The Federal Aviation Administration gave a nod to 31 US airline operators to allow its passengers to use small electronic devices like tablets, smartphones, etc. during the flight, especially when taking off and landing. Smartphones and cellphones however need to be in airplane mode. It is also claimed that the FAA disregarded the Federal Administrative Procedure Act. According to the union, passengers are not interested to listen the safety announcements and these devices can become dangerous projectiles.