• Congressman proposes federal ban on red-light, speed cameras

    February 27, 2015
    A Congressman has taken a stand against ticketing cameras, proposing legislation that would effectively ban automated red-light and speed enforcement.
    Representative Ed Perlmutter, a Colorado Democrat, argues that the cameras are primarily focused on generating revenue, and there is little evidence of any public-safety benefit.

    His bill, the “Prohibited Automated Enforcement Act of 2015,” would prohibit state or local governments from implementing automated traffic enforcement for law-enforcement purposes, except near schools or in construction zones.

    “Police officers are the only sure way to apprehend seriously impaired, reckless or other dangerous drivers,” he wrote in a statement. “All of us are concerned with reducing accidents and reckless driving but it is not evident photo radar cameras improve highway safety, reduce accidents or improve traffic flow.”

    The legislator points to a 2013 University of Tennessee study as evidence that supports the move. The study did not find any consensus that cameras bring a clear improvement in traffic safety. Other research has found a decrease in side collisions, but an increase in rear-end crashes.

    Perlmutter’s bill is only in the beginning stages, introduced two weeks ago and currently lacking cosponsors. It is unclear if the legislation will receive more support and move forward to a formal vote.

  • Startup moves forward with Hyperloop test track

    February 27, 2015
    Elon Musk’s ‘Hyperloop’ idea has potentially taken one small step toward realization, as Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) secures enough land to build a five-mile test line in California.
    Under the leadership of JumpStartFund chief Dirk Ahlborn, the crowdfunded startup claims to have completed feasibility studies and is ready to begin full-scale testing along Interstate 5 halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Passenger capsules will likely not reach more than 200 mph on the short segment.

    “It’s time to take the Hyperloop from concept and design and build the first one,” Ahlborn said, as quoted by CNBC.

    Notably, HTT is operating separately from Elon Musk, apparently inspired by the Tesla Motors CEO’s vision proposed two years ago. The idea is also being pursued by Musk himself, with the promise of another test track in Texas. A third company, Los Angeles-based Hyperloop Technologies, is also pursuing the idea, according to Forbes.

    HTT’s test track is expected to be used by residents of a proposed development known as Quay Valley, a solar-powered town that is expected to have 25,000 homes. Musk’s test track is believed to be starting with a smaller-scale approach before scaling up to a system capable of transporting people.

    Funding for HTT remains a big question, as the company so far has been operating with the help of approximately 100 volunteer engineers. Building the test track is expected to cost at least $100 million, which Ahlborn plans to raise via a Dutch-auction IPO. The same strategy was once used by Google, but is considered a risky approach for a company that is far from bringing in its first revenue.

    If HTT receives sufficient funding, the track could be operational as early as 2019.

  • Geneva preview: Magna Steyr Mila Plus hybrid sports car

    February 27, 2015
    Contract manufacturer Magna Steyr has previewed a hybrid plug-in concept, the Mila Plus, that will make its formal debut in Geneva.
    With a vague resemblance to the BMW i8, the Mila Plus is described as a two-seat sports car featuring a light curb weight of around 3350 lbs and a high-performance hybrid drivetrain.

    Like the i8, Magna’s coupe integrates a three-cylinder gasoline engine. Electric power is sent to two electric motors, one between the internal-combustion engine and the transmission, sending power to the rear wheels, and another on the front axle for all-wheel-drive operation.

    The combined power output is said to reach 268 horsepower and 428 lb-ft of torque, enabling the car to reach 62 mph from a standstill in just 4.9 seconds. Electric-only acceleration is said to hit 50 mph in 3.6 seconds, with an all-electric driving range of 47 miles.

    The Mila Plus serves as a showcase for Magna’s design prowess and modern production capabilities. It is built upon a modular platform with an extruded aluminum space frame, with unique joining methods for the mixed-material external skin.

    The company is expected to release further details at its media event next week.

  • Lexus, Buick lead JD Power dependability study

    February 27, 2015
    Lexus has achieved another win in quality rankings, taking the top spot in JD Power’s latest vehicle dependability study.
    Buick has climbed to second place, moving up three positions since from 2014, echoing the results of Consumer Reportslatest rankings. Following behind Buick are Toyota, Cadillac, and Honda and Porsche in a tie.

    Scion showed the highest gains, improving by 13 rank positions, while Ram jumped by 11 spots — the only Fiat Chrysler brand to score above the industry average. Fiat sits at the bottom of the list, with more than three times the reported problems per 100 vehicles than Lexus.

    Toyota’s brands also dominated the top models in car segments, winning with the Corolla, the Lexus ES and the Scion xD and tC. General Motors took most of the others with its Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Camaro and Malibu, while the Mercedes-Benz E-Class was the only German vehicle to lead a car category.

    GM led the truck, van and pickup segments, with top honors for the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, Terrain and Yukon. Toyota topped three segments with its Sienna, Lexus GS and Scion xB. Other winners include the Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, Nissan Murano, Kia Sportage and Honda Ridgeline.

    Putting the reliability rankings into perspective, the top two problems reported by owners are Bluetooth connectivity issues and deficiencies with voice-command technology.

    “Owners clearly want the latest technology in their vehicles, and they don’t hesitate to express their disapproval when it doesn’t work,” said JD Power automotive VP Renee Stephens. “Their definition of dependability is increasingly influenced by usability.”

    Although most of the problems are related to arguably minor technology issues, the study still finds a high number of engine and transmission problems. Nearly 30 percent of such complaints are related to transmission hesitation and rough shifting.

    The study is based on responses from more than 34,000 original owners of 2012-model-year vehicles after three years of ownership.

  • Lexus tops Consumer Reports brand list, Fiat Chrysler hits bottom

    February 26, 2015
    Lexus has again topped Consumer Reports‘ overall brand rankings, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ marques continued to sit at the bottom of the list.
    The ranking is based on the average predicted reliability and road-test scores across each manufacturer’s entire lineup, providing a broad look at experiences with various brands.

    The magazine credits very good road-test performance and solid across-the-board reliability scores for keeping Lexus on top. Mazda was second on the list, while Toyota, Audi and Subaru rounded out the top five.

    “Buick’s improved reliability helped it take top honors among all domestic brands for the second year running,” CR noted in a blog post. “In addition, it moved up several spots in our overall rankings, even passing Honda.”

    The magazine blamed “teething problems” for killing Mercedes-Benz’ scores in the latest comparison, with reliability drops for several models and the “low-scoring and unreliable” new CLA.

    “Acura and Infiniti also fell from grace. Acura’s once-stellar reliability has declined in recent years, and the unimpressive RLX redesign fell short in our tests,” the authors added. “Infiniti is an example of how one low-scoring and unreliable model–here, the new Q50–can hurt a carmaker with a small lineup.”

    The Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Fiat brands all scored near the bottom, thanks to poor reliability and low road-test scores. Fiat Chrysler replaced its quality chief in October, after both Consumer Reports and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criticized the company, however the existing lineup has continued to receive low scores.

  • Toyota launches i-Road sharing program in Tokyo

    February 26, 2015
    Toyota has announced plans to use its i-Road for a public car-sharing service in Tokyo.
    The ultra-compact three-wheelers will available via Park24, a local company that already provides car-sharing services with traditional vehicles. Customers will be able to use the i-Road any time, day or night.

    The company will require interested drives to make online reservations and complete a compulsory i-Road training course before driving the unique vehicle, with usage rates set at 412 yen (~$3.50 USD) per 15-minute increment.

    The i-Road aims to combine the benefits of driving a motorcycle with the advantages of riding in a car. It measures less than three feet wide, with a completely enclosed cabin for two occupants. A pair of 2kW motors provide the power, getting up to 37 mph with a range of approximately 30 miles.

    Toyota already confirmed plans to begin limited production and begin trials on public roads, but the company has been slow to move toward commercial availability. The car-sharing program will put the vehicle into the hands of average drivers, allowing the company to continue gathering feedback and gauging receptiveness to the unconventional transportation method.

  • Lamborghini teases ‘most reactive car’ for Geneva [Video]

    February 26, 2015
    Lamborghini has released a cryptic teaser video for new car that will be unveiled in Geneva.
    The video does not provide any definitive details, aside from a mysterious promise of “the most reactive car ever.”

    Recent rumors suggest the mystery model is the Aventador SV, featuring lighter weight and more power than the standard model. A unique aero kit will likely help differentiate the design and improve downforce.

    The Super Veloce package is expected to produce at least 750 horsepower, a jump of nearly 60 ponies. Its zero-to-62 mph time will likely drop below 2.9 seconds, while top speed should rise beyond 217 mph.

    Dealers were reportedly accepting deposits as far back as July, suggesting a debut is imminent. The company has previously indicated that such a model could arrive in the second half of the year.

  • Lotus CEO claims 2-Eleven successor will set Nurburgring record

    February 26, 2015
    Lotus’ incoming CEO, Jean-Marc Gales, has made several bold claims about the company’s upcoming lineup, including one model that aims to break the Nurburgring record for production street cars.
    The executive promises that new versions of the Elise, Evora and Exige, due in the next two years, will all be lighter and faster than their predecessors, according to an interview with Top Gear.

    “The cars will be very advanced, but having nothing superfluous,” he said.

    Engineers are said to be willing to sacrifice a bit of ride quality to achieve handling improvements, but Gales suggests the new Evora will not be any harsher than the Porsche 911.

    Designers are also working on an Evora Roadster and a range of the expected track-focused variants. A successor to the 2-Eleven track-day car is in the works, with 400 horsepower and a curb weight under a ton.

    “It will be the fastest road car around the Nurburgring,” he claims.

    Gales will be attempting to lead the struggling company back to profitability, promising to expand the dealer network and avoid other “basic errors” such as launch delays.

    The company last week previewed one of the upcoming models, the Evora 400, that will make its global debut next month in Geneva.

  • GM to slow production at Michigan, Ontario plants

    February 26, 2015
    General Motors has reportedly planned further production cuts to help clear excess dealer inventory.
    The company plans to halt production for a week at its Orion Assembly plant in Detroit, along with one of its Canadian manufacturing facilities in Oshawa, Ontario, unnamed sources have told Automotive News.

    The Orion plant is said to have been idled this week and scheduled for another slowdown in early April. The production adjustment has been tied to lower-than-expected demand for the Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano.

    The Oshawa plant production adjustments are said to be aimed at reducing output of the Cadillac XTS, the Chevy Camaro and Impala, and the Buick Regal.

    Cadillac XTS and Chevy Camaro sales were up for the first month of the year in the US market, with respective gains of 14 percent and 5.5 percent. The other models were down during the same period, with Sonic sales dropping by nearly 47 percent and Regal deliveries falling by 45 percent.

  • Toyota Auris Facelift auf dem Genfer Salon mit technischen Daten

    February 25, 2015

    Auf dem Genfer Salon 2015 zeigt Toyota den überarbeiteten Auris

    Auch die Kombivariante wird nachgeschärft

    Auffälligste Änderung innen sind die Tuben um die Instrumente

    Köln, 24. Februar 2015
    Es gibt Momente, da ist man froh, dass es Fotos gibt. Etwa beim Toyota Auris, dessen Modellüberarbeitung auf dem Genfer Salon 2015 (5. bis 15. März) gezeigt wird. Hintergrundinformationen? Kaum bis gar nicht. Es ist ja auch nur das zweitmeistverkaufte Modell der japanischen Marke in Deutschland.

    Wirklich deutlich?
    Kratzen wir also die spärlichen Krümel zusammen: Der Toyota Auris und sein Kombiableger Auris Touring Sports werden drei Jahre nach ihrem Debüt modernisiert. Vom “markanteren und kraftvolleren Design” spricht der Hersteller. In erster Linie wurden der vordere Stoßfänger und die Scheinwerfer geändert. Letztere weisen ein neues Tagfahrlicht auf. Im Cockpit befinden sich die Instrumente nun in Tuben, die altbackene Digitaluhr wandert in der Mittelkonsole nach unten, wo sich nun ein moderneres Multimediasystem befindet. Inwiefern die Materialanmutung verbessert wurde, wird sich wohl erst auf der Messe in Genf klären lassen.

    Moderne Motoren?
    Herzstück des in Großbritannien gefertigten Auris bleibt der Hybridantrieb mit 136 PS Systemleistung, für den sich laut Toyota im Jahr 2014 die Hälfte aller Käufer entschieden hat. Abgerundet wird die Motorenpalette in Zukunft durch neue Benziner und Diesel. Ob es sich wirklich um komplett neue Aggregate handelt oder das bestehende Angebot lediglich auf die Euro-6-Abgasnorm umgestellt wird, ist noch offen. Derzeit haben Kunden die Wahl aus zwei Saugbenzinern mit 99 und 132 PS, die Dieselmotoren kommen auf 90 und 124 PS. Handlungsbedarf besteht bei den Automatikgetrieben. Bislang ist einzig eine stufenlose Lösung für den stärkeren Benziner im Programm.

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