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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.
Elon Musk has officially unveiled the new dual-motor equipped P85D, which is an all-wheel drive (AWD) version of its popular Model S. The top-of-the-line vehicle has a measured 0-60 time of just 3.2 seconds, which should have performance fans pleased.
Not only has Tesla provided an all-wheel drive Model S, but the new vehicle has driver assist features, too. We have lane keeping and self-adjusting cruise control, which are similar features to what Mercedes and Lexus have been doing lately, with the new Tesla vehicles capable of reading speed limit signs, and adjusting the speed of the Model S accordingly. Continuing with the driver assist features, the new vehicle can even change lanes for you, all you have to do is activate the turn signal.
All of this is powered by 12 sensors that allow the AWD Model S to see around the car, but there's no details on how much these additions to the car will cost.
It looks like Mercedes Benz will be shining the spotlight on self-driving cars at CES 2015 next year, with company CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche to deliver a keynote about autonomous vehicle technology, and its greater impact.
The CEO will also be unveiling a new concept vehicle, which I'm sure will have everyone talking. The company has recently shown off a semi-truck that has an auto-pilot system, so we should expect the tease of its upcoming vehicle with some impressive autonomous abilities. Come 8pm Pacific, January 5, 2015, we will see what Mercedes has on offer.
As new technologies continue to roll out in new vehicles, distracted driving is still a major hazard, including the use of Siri and other voice-activated technologies. Using voice-activated services on a smartphone and in-car infotainment systems can be fun, but studies indicate participants struggled to safely and effectively complete cognitive tasks.
Despite many U.S. states adopting hands-free laws - or considering future legislation - conversations and a growing number of other tasks are becoming common place. Automakers are following increased demand from drivers to boost in-car technology, despite the threat of distracted driving.
"Infotainment systems are unregulated," said Deborah Hersman, National Safety Council president, when speaking of in-vehicle technology. "It is like the Wild West, where the most critical safety feature in the vehicle - the driver - is being treated like a guinea pig in human trials with new technologies."
German luxury automaker Mercedes-Benz is expanding its autonomous driving program from the Autobahn to the United States. Mercedes recently announced plans to test self-driving technology at the Concord Naval Weapons Station in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is perfect timing for Mercedes, able to use the old military base before it is turned over to the city for redevelopment.
Mercedes will conduct simulation tests with autonomous vehicles using the base's 20 miles of paved roads, including technology that allows vehicles to communicate with one another and traffic lights.
"There's very limited connected infrastructure right now, and that's what we're trying to bring and expand throughout the country," said Jack Hall, Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) program manager, in an interview with local media. "The goal is to not have cars idling at stoplights, to reduce congestion and (achieve) the vision of zero automobile fatalities."
Most are expecting self-driving cars to be something real before the end of the decade, but 2020 is too far away for Tesla. During a recent interview with CNNMoney, Tesla Motors' boss and real-life Tony Stark, Elon Musk, has teased that an autonomous car from the company is only months away from retail.
Musk said: "Autonomous cars will definitely be a reality. A Tesla car next year will probably be 90 percent capable of autopilot. Like, so 90 percent of your miles can be on auto. For sure highway travel. How's that going to happen? With a combination of various sensors. You combine cameras with image recognition with radar and long-range ultrasonics, that'll do it. Other car companies will follow. But you guys are going to be the leader? Of course. I mean, Tesla's a Silicon Valley company. If we're not the leader, shame on us".
Tesla Motors has an announcement ready for October 9, inviting media and promising to unveil "the D and something else". A self-driving car is a total surprise at this point, and could be the catalyst Tesla requires to become the undisputed new big thing in vehicles not only in the US, but the world. Cheap to run, high-quality, safe, autonomous cars? Sure, they might be expensive at first, but with the new Gigafactory, we could be looking at cheaper, mid-range autonomous cars being the norm by 2020, instead of the first one rolling off the production line.
German automaker BMW wants to test its autonomous driving abilities in China, and has partnered with Baidu to begin tests in both Beijing and Shanghai. Both companies hope the project will expand to other large cities in China, but didn't name which metropolitan areas could be next in line.
Despite thousands of kilometers logged on the German autobahn highway, trying to carefully navigate the chaotic streets and highways in China should prove to be a difficult test. Using Baidu's high-resolution maps and familiarity with the local area should help give BMW a more precise method to avoid missing turns and keeping vehicles safely on the road.
"BMW is embarking on a further research project which will pave the way for highly automated driving in China as well," BMW noted in a press statement. "China's fast-expanding urban centers present the engineers with challenges such as multi-level highways."
Much of the attention related to car technology is focused on in-car features to woo potential buyers - but not the technology that could prevent a vehicle from starting. A harsh lesson for those people late on car payments, as lenders are using technology to prevent vehicles from moving until payments are made.
Subprime auto loans have increased over the past five years - 25 percent of car loans in 2013 were made to people with credit scores at or below 640 - so vehicle lease holders want to try to protect themselves if payments aren't made. The starter interrupt device provides lenders the ability to remotely disable locks, along with track vehicles via GPS.
However, customers have complained that their vehicles have been shut down for payments just a few days late - or randomly shut down while waiting in traffic - further igniting a car technology debate.