• Google details Android Auto infotainment interface [Video]

    June 25, 2014
    Google has fully revealed its Android Auto infotainment interface, which will be available in vehicles from 24 different marques.

    Introduced at the search company’s ‘I/O’ developer conference, Android Auto represents the production version of the interface project that has been under development through the Open Automotive Alliance with help from automakers and Nvidia.

    Users will be able to connect their Android smartphone to the vehicle’s infotainment hardware. The projected interface provides access to Google Maps, voice search, Google Now reminders and streaming or local audio content, all from an interface that has been simplified and optimized for use by a driver.

    This is accessible through your car’s controls, and more importantly, is far safer than fumbling around with your phone,” Google says.

    Drivers can choose to find a destination via Google Maps on their smartphone before entering the vehicle. The system seamlessly switches to turn-by-turn directions on the infotainment display when the phone is connected.

    Google believes its voice-recognition technology is ready for vehicle integration, allowing drivers to control the Android Auto features without fumbling with the infotainment touchscreen.

    Both Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay are taking a similar approach to smartphone integration, focusing on universal compatibility among supported vehicles. The technologies essentially projects the optimized interface from the smartphone, enabling features to be added or bugs to be quickly fixed — without requiring the vehicle to be brought in to a dealer’s service shop for a software update.

    With similar basic features from CarPlay and Android Auto, Google will be hoping its maps prowess will give it an edge in the automotive market. Luckily for vehicle buyers, most major automakers will likely support both platforms to avoid losing sales over incompatibility with the buyer’s preferred smartphone.

    Google suggests Android Auto will begin arriving in production vehicles later this year.

  • VW mulls Beetle Dune for production

    June 25, 2014
    Volkswagen has released more images promoting the Beetle Dune concept, along with a hint that it is still being considered for production.

    Introduced early this year at the Detroit auto show, the Dune represents VW’s own modern representation of the Baja Bug. It is based on the R-Line model, stretched in all directions with Audi Allroad-style plastic around the wheel arches and along the bottom of the bumpers.

    Power is provided by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine borrowed from the GTI. Sending 210 horsepower to the front wheels, the powerplant promises to complete a 62 mph sprint in approximately 7.5 seconds.

    VW unveiled a similar concept in 2000, but it did not carry the idea through to production. The revival and seemingly production-ready modesty of the latest concept raised hopes that the Dune will finally be heading to showrooms.

    While it remains a concept car, everything about it is feasible,” the company notes. “It is practically a production vehicle.”

    If it does receive a final greenlight, the Beetle Dune is expected to arrive for the 2015 model year.

  • GM blames Chinese supplier for out-of-spec ignition switches

    June 25, 2014
    General Motors has named a Chinese supplier as the source of defective ignition switches in millions of newer vehicles that were recalled earlier this month, in a separate campaign from the ignition-switch debacle that began early in the year.

    The company commissioned Dalian Alps Electronics to build the switches cited in the latest recall, however the supplier provided components that were slightly below the torque specifications outlined in the initial design.

    GM proceeded to install the out-of-spec switches in millions of vehicles spanning nearly a decade, including the Buick LaCrosse, Lucerne and Regal; the Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo; and the Cadillac Deville and DTS.

    The problem echoes the February recall that focused on older vehicles equipped with a defective ignition switch built by a Mexican supplier. The component designs and defects were both unique, however in both cases the recalls are said to have been avoidable if the parts were built to the specifications listed in the designs.

    Automakers typically test parts in both the prototype and initial production stages to verify that the components meet the design specs, making it unlikely that GM was unaware of the issue before approving the switches for installation.

    Details surrounding the latest switch recall appear to corroborate claims that GM was aggressively pushing suppliers to keep costs down, knowingly approving out-of-spec parts to avoid extra costs associated with late revisions during prototyping and initial production.

    GM has split its development division into separate groups, organizing a distinct ‘integrity’ unit that focuses on safety, though critics argue that the executive and managerial ranks are still filled with employees that contributed to the cultural problems.

  • Hyundai details Google-powered infotainment for 2015 Sonata

    June 25, 2014
    Hyundai has fully revealed its second-generation Blue Link infotainment system, which will be initially offered for the 2015 Sonata.

    Improved destination search is the highlight feature, powered by Google’s Android Auto technology. Users will be able to hunt for destinations via the touchscreen display, or through voice recognition when the Blue Link button is pressed. The system also works in conjunction with Hyundai’s owner website and smartphone app, enabling locations to be preselected and automatically sent to the car’s navigation system.

    A smartphone can also be used to remotely control a wide range of settings, notably including climate control and defroster activation. The app provides new options for starting the engine for a set amount of time, up to 10 minutes, to warm the engine and heat or cool the interior without wasting fuel if the driver is delayed getting to the vehicle.

    Safety features have ben expanded, allowing users to enter emergency contacts that are notified via SMS and e-mail if there is a problem. Owners can also now schedule service appointments directly from the infotainment interface.

    Hyundai is among several automakers that plan to offer both Google integration and Apple’s CarPlay technology, which projects many of the same features from a connected iPhone.

    Most of the features will be available when the 2015 Sonata arrives this summer, though the remote defroster control will be added later.

  • Chrysler details $63M investment in Michigan stamping plant

    June 25, 2014
    Chrysler has detailed a $63 million investment plan for its Warren Stamping Plant in the Detroit area.

    The company will be outfitting the facility with the latest servo tandem-press technology, enabling an extra 12,000 daily hits and annual output to increase by 3.6 million parts.

    The plant already employs 2,000 workers and produces 80 million parts each year, including hoods, roofs, liftgates, side apertures, fenders and floor plans. The components are sent to five different assembly facilities for the Ram Trucks range, the Dodge Dart, Durango and Grand Caravan; the Chrysler 200 and Town & Country; and the Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee.

    As production at our Chrysler Group assembly plants has nearly tripled in the past five years, we have been pushing our stamping facilities to keep up,” aid Chrysler Group manufacturing head Mauro Pino.

    The company has invested $5.3 billion in its US manufacturing facilities since 2009.