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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.
Tech knickknack website ThinkGeek has reintroduced the Flux Capacitor USB Car Charger, a blast from the past for fans of the Back to the Future movies. The device plugs into a traditional 12V power adapter - i.e. cigarette lighter - and is able to charge a smartphone and tablet simultaneously.
Originally an April Fool's product earlier in the year, the device was popular enough that ThinkGeek decided to bring it back. The Flux Capacitor USB car charger is available for $24.99.
"We wanted to create something that would not only work, but give people the chance to enjoy a Flux Capacitor in the real-world," said Ty Liotta, GeekLabs' Chief Mad Scientist, in a press statement.
New car technologies that has paved the way for autonomous driving, cars communicating with one another, and other emerging features could scare some drivers away, according to Ford Chairman Bill Ford. To counter this initial fear, Ford and other carmakers need to make it easier for customers to opt out of high-tech car technologies they might not be interested in.
"A lot of this really cool technology... kind of freaks some people out," said Bill Ford, Ford Motor executive chairman, during a recent conference. "Some people hear 'autonomous driving,' and say, 'Oh my God, I never want to get into that vehicle.' Other people say, 'I don't want my car talking to other cars. That's terrible.' We have to do this thoughtfully."
Regardless of potential concerns, cars are getting smarter - and more connected - but automakers will continue to walk a fine-line to ensure they aren't forcing car buyers into uncomfortable situations.
During a recent interview with Reuters, Google's Lead Software Engineer Dmitri Dolgov said that Google's self-driving car is programmed to sit within the speed limits of the roads, most of the time.
However, if traffic around your autonomous car is speeding, your self-driving car will go up to 10 mph above the legal speed limit to keep up with the traffic around you. This is a double-edged sword, as the self-driving car removes human error, so even while speeding, it is picking up every single detail of the road - the speed and varying distance of the other cars around you, other objects, and would slow down and avoid accidents, even when speeding - better than most drivers.
What happens when you get a speeding fine, though? Who is at fault if you have an unavoidable accident while your self-driving car was speeding on your behalf? Would you drive a self-driving vehicle if you knew it was going to be speeding at times?
Drivers are used to seeing gas pumps, but California, the No. 1 electric-vehicle market globally, is seeing a wider expansion of electric vehicle charging stations. EV owners are able to recharge their vehicles at home, but there are a number of free charging stations being installed - and helping woo a growing number of car buyers to consider purchase electric vehicles.
Not surprisingly, most of the charging stations can be found in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, but are increasing in number in more rural areas. The state currently has more than 1,840 charging stations statewide, and that figure is only increasing.
"To put it in perspective, I sold 10 (Leafs) last month but the numbers out of the Bay Area are much higher," said John Driebe, Nissan car dealer in Elk Grove near Sacramento, California. "I'm seeing (monthly dealership) sales of 60, 70 and 74 at those dealerships. With the population density and the all high-tech people working in the Bay Area, it's crazy how many they're selling there."
Driverless cars should be on public roads in Britain by January 2015, according to an official announcement made by the UK's business secretary Vince Cable.
Three cities will be selected by the Technology Strategy Board to trial the autonomous vehicles, lasting up to 36 months. Meanwhile, Britain's government is making 10 million pounds - or 17 million dollars - available as an official fund for research in the sector, made possible by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Transport. Additionally, research institutions will be able to apply for a chunk of the money.
"The excellence of our scientists and engineers has established the UK as pioneers in the development of driverless vehicles through pilot projects," business secretary Vince Cable said. "Today's announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society."
If you own one of Tesla Motors' Model S cars, you can control your electric vehicle with the new Tesla Command app that is available for Android Wear. Right now, the app has basic options, but it'll soon feature more.
The Tesla Command app for Android Wear allows Model S owners to lock and unlock their doors, open and close the sunroof, and it allow you to honk the horn, if that's what you want to do from your wrist. In order to get it working, you'll need to log in to Tesla online services, but once you're there you can do everything the app offers, all from your wrist.
You can gran Tesla Command for Android Wear from the Google Play store.
Self-driving trucks and cars are in the works from a bunch of different manufacturers and other firms like Google. In Germany, a new self-driving truck was demoed recently by Daimler. The truck is able to drive itself down the road with the driver behind the wheel doing nothing but looking at a tablet in his lap.
The truck was tested on the A14 along a stretch of the autobahn near Magdeburg in eastern Germany last week. The trucks is known as the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, that year in the name is a nod to when the maker hopes to have the truck available for commercial use.
The vehicle is designed to respond to traffic and drive autonomously down the freeway at speeds of up to 85 kph or 52 mph. Right now only one prototype of the truck exists and no pricing information has been offered for what the truck might cost when it goes into commercial production. Self-driving vehicle tech is expected to add around $10,000 to the purchase price of a vehicle.