GeneralIndustry News

Six Finalists in the Running for AOL Autos’ Technology of the Year Award

Six Finalists in the Running for AOL Autos’ Technology of the Year Award

The slate of six finalists for AOL Autos’ Technology of the Year Award have been named, each embodying the latest and greatest developments in automotive fuel economy, connectivity, telematics and active safety. Readers will now be charged with casting votes that will help determine which entrant takes the top honor.

Following a careful review of over 40 entries submitted by industry professionals, editorial staffers and readers alike, the judging panel has declared the finalists to be (in no particular order):

From midnight on November 19 onward, readers will be given the chance to vote for one of the six innovative technologies to take the top prize. The announcement and presentation of the honor to the victor will occur in Las Vegas at January’s 2014 Consumer Electronics Show.

Though it is certainly true that most readers of AOL Autos will not have had a personal opportunity to test the technologies in the running for the honor, they do have access to reviews written by site staffers, all of which are accompanied by videos explaining the finer points of each innovation. These summaries also include specific articulation of the reasons each finalist was selected by the judging panel. Once the readers’ choice is determined after voting closes, that selection will have the equal weight to the vote of one of the judges on the 14-judge panel.

AOL Autos editor David Kiley believes that the readership will have sufficient information to fairly judge the merits of each new technology offering, thanks to the detail provided in the site’s presentations. Those assessments, combined with the hands-on experience AOL Autos staffers enjoyed with each finalist, make for a thorough, accurate judging process.

In its inaugural technology contest last year, AOL Autos tapped the updated UConnect system from Chrysler as the top technological innovation, surging ahead of laudable submissions from Cadillac, Honda, Nissan and Ford.

The fuel economy category was a new addition to this year’s contest, largely because it is an arena that is seeing a major influx of technological development within the auto industry. Kiley asserted that since fuel economy innovations are so thoroughly intertwined with electronics, the decision to include this sector in an event affiliated with the Consumer Electronics Show is entirely fitting.

read more
GeneralIndustry News

Palo Alto to require electric car charger pre-wiring in new homes

Palo Alto to require electric car charger pre-wiring in new homes

The city of Palo Alto, in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, is already on the cutting edge of modern technology, as the home of Tesla Motors, Hewlett-Packard and Stanford University. It also has large facilities run by Facebook, Apple, Google and PayPal. Outside of the private sector, though, there’s not a lot to distinguish Palo Alta from other very wealthy ZIP codes.

A move is in the works to change that, though. According to both the San Jose Mercury News and Green Car Reports, all nine members of the Palo Alto City Council voted to change the city’s building code, requiring new homes to feature pre-wiring for 240-volt, level two, in-home chargers. It tacks on about $200 to the overall cost of a new home, which as Green Car Reports notes, is a mere fraction of what retrofitting would cost.

The city council also voted to streamline the process of obtaining a permit to install a fast charger. “It is important that we create the infrastructure necessary to allow [electric cars to catch on]. In Palo Alto, of all places, we should absolutely do that,” Council Member Marc Berman told the San Jose Mercury News.



read more

Who Is Using Solar Panels to Help Power Facility?

no thumb

Last week, Honda announced that it is now powering the Honda Performance Development Facility using newly installed solar cells. As the largest commercial solar-cell demonstration in the US, the project is one of Honda’s largest to date, and will help to reduce CO2 emissions by 64 metric tons per year.

Honda Performance Development is Honda’s racing development and sales organization, and helps develop engine technology for various racing programs, like the IZOD IndyCar series, American Le Mans series, the Le Mans Series in Europe, etc. HPD recently started pursuing “green racing” initiations, including the development of hybrid and alternative-fuel race vehicles.

The solar cell array is comprised of eight hundred 100-kilowatt cells, and the panels are made of a thin film made of copper, indium, gallium and selenium (CIGS). They are installed on the roof, the carport and the canopy of the loading dock, and will have the ability to follow the path of the sun.

The CIGS film in use is described as “next-generation,” introduces significant improvements to solar cell technology, and is one of the most efficient CIGS-based thin-film solar cell systems in the world. The film is said to have a conversion efficiency that exceeds 13%. It requires less raw material and 40% less energy to create and is easier to install. The technology is already used in Japan in fifteen facilities, and has a total output of 2.5 megawatts.

Besides helping to provide energy for the building, the installation also demonstrates the capabilities of the panels themselves, which were developed by Honda Soltec Co., Ltd. Honda will monitor their energy output using an internet-based monitoring system, and test the capabilities of the solar cells for commercial use.

It’s no surprise that Honda is implementing solar technology at one of its facilities. Honda has consistently outperformed other manufacturers with its serious pursuit of environmental friendly technology. Another current green project receiving attention recently is the Civic Natural Gas. Honda was also the first manufacturer in the US to introduce a hybrid vehicle. Last September, it was in the news for its 11th LEED-Certified green building in North America, and has made the list of top greenest vehicles for the past eleven years.

Source: MSN Money

read more

Mercedes-Benz’s Innovative Infotainment Technology

no thumb

Mercedes-Benz, like any other manufacturer, has come a long way over the decades in technological enhancements. Once upon a time, drivers had to use paper maps to find their way; now they can access navigation programs with the simple touch of a button.

To demonstrate the new technology being developed by Mercedes-Benz, reporter Christian Maier sat down with Johann Jungwirth, the president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America, and discussed the capabilities of the COMAND online multimedia system at the company’s “TecDay Telematics.”

The COMAND system, which comes in the C- and E-Class, SLK-Class, and CLS-Class vehicles currently, will be available in the new B-Class and M-Class. To connect with the system, drivers would use their Bluetooth connection on their mobile device – no SIM cards are necessary.

An advantage of the COMAND system is that apps are constantly updated. It comes with apps like Facebook, Google Street View and Panoramio by Google. Some examples of its capabilities include: the ability to send Google maps routes from your computer to the navigation system in the car, the ability to know where your Facebook friends are and let them know where you are, and the ability to plan events, invite your friends to said event, and then navigate to that event.

Mercedes-Benz knows the importance of staying up-to-date with technology. That’s why they were the first automotive manufacturer to open an office in Silicon Valley, surrounding themselves with companies like Google and Facebook. In the next few years, Mercedes-Benz plans on implementing a new infotainment option for iPhone users that sends information from the phone to the console display, and are developing their “MirrorLink” system which will allow seamless integration for smartphones by other manufacturers.

Despite being ahead in technology development, Mercedes-Benz still faces competition from other manufacturers, which are right on its heels in developing their own smartphone integration. Manufacturers know users want to be connected. It will be interesting to see how this competition fuels manufacturers’ production process and where they will take their concepts in the coming decade. We’ve come a long way since paper maps, and surely we’ll continue to see ground-breaking innovations as the 21st century progresses.

Check out the video for more information, and see Christian Maier feeling nostalgic while wearing Mercedes-Benz funky-looking driving goggles.


Source: Mercedes-Benz Reporter

read more

Aim to Keep Your Focus… on the Road

no thumb

Volvo designers have offered an insight into Volvo’s new touchscreen system. With plenty of pictures to demonstrate the abilities of the touchscreens, their post highlights some of the features and goals of the touchscreen.

Their main inspiration was the smart phone, and in Volvo cars they hope to replace buttons and levers completely with the touchscreen technology. They said some buttons and knobs may have a physical button – like the volume – but even those may mainly act as decoration.

There will be two touchscreens, one in the front center console for the driver, and one in the back for passengers. The screens will be able to communicate to each other by passing information along a light strip running from the front to the back.

Features included on the touch screen, which will be available on both screens, include entertainment, comfort, safety, playlists, etc. Drivers can get as many apps as they want, and can already choose from 6-7 Volvo apps.

To keep the driver’s hands on the wheel, there are touch-sensitive, translucent paddles that control the menus in the instrument cluster. A built-in camera also monitors eye movement so that when the driver looks at the touchscreen, it will light up, and as the driver reaches to use the screen, it will change to provide the controls the driver needs.

Volvo aims to keep the technology sophisticated, yet intuitive. However, some might prefer more traditional knobs and buttons because you can use them without looking. A flat screen, on the other hand, requires you to take your eyes off the road and onto the screen.

What do you think?

read more

GM Predicts Driverless Vehicles May Appear by 2020

no thumb

It’s 2011, and many science fiction fans may be wondering, “Where are the flying cars?” While flying cars are still fiction, another technology – self-driving vehicles – may now be on the horizon.

GM announced on Sunday that autonomous cars may appear in showrooms by the end of the decade. Using radars, sensors, cameras, GPS, and portable communication devices, GM aims to create a vehicle that could interact with surrounding cars on the road and ultimately drive without a driver.

The 2012 GMC Terrain provides a glimpse into the early beginnings of such technology. Using a front-mounted camera to detect lane markings and vehicle shapes, the crash avoidance system alerts the driver if he is tailgating, drifting out of the lane, or about to crash.

Currently, GM is developing “vehicle-to-vehicle” communication technology that will send and receive information about traffic, road hazards, accidents, etc. Such technology would communicate traffic speed and analyze what surrounding vehicles are doing; for example, if cars ahead are using traction control, it might indicate that the road is slippery. Vehicles would communicate using in-car hardware or through a smartphone app.

However, the technology still has a long way to go before it can be implemented. To be most effective, it needs more people to use it. The more people using the technology, the more data the system will be able to collect, and therefore the more accurate it will be. Aside from lack of users, driverless vehicles face other challenges as well: legal obstacles. Only one state, Nevada, has made it legal to operate an autonomous car.

Once it is ready, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration predicts it will help prevent 81% of crashes. Autonomous vehicles also present the opportunity for drivers to focus on other things, takes away concerns about being distracted, and could even help manage traffic flow. They could communicate traffic patterns, avoid accidents, and thus create a better commute for everyone. Not to mention, a computer won’t get road rage, and we wouldn’t have to worry about drivers making poor decisions. On the other hand, many people have already expressed reservations about relenting control of their vehicle to a robot.

What do you think? In ten years, will you want a driverless vehicle?

read more

Volvo Working on New Auto-Braking Technology to Prevent Deer Crashes

no thumb

It’s a common scene: the deer in the road stops, turns and stares, eyes flashing in your high beams, and the screech of your brakes fills your ears.  For some, the brakes prevent what could have been a terrible accident.  Others are not so lucky.  Deer may look harmless, but they have cost Americans $3.5 billion in damages.

Who should come to the rescue but Volvo?  In recent years, the Swedish manufacturer has focused on increasing safety.  In 2010, Volvo introduced a system in the S60 sedan that brakes for pedestrians.  This system includes a lane departure warning and pedestrian detection.

Now, the company is developing an Auto-Braking safety system that will detect movement on the side of the road and brake when a collision is imminent.  Swedish automakers studied moose and deer movements and analyzed that data to develop their technology.  Using infrared and radar technology, your Volvo car will be able to pick up motion off the side of the road and help you stay safe.

Although the safety system won’t be implemented for a few years, the announcement comes just in time for the fall, which is the worst season for deer collisions.  October, November, and December are deer mating and migration season, making the roads even more dangerous.  The news will surely be on the minds of many as they’re driving through deer-populated areas.

Deer collisions have dropped in the past couple of years, but Montana is still sixth on the list of states that have a high number of deer collisions.  The odds of hitting a deer are 1 in 93.  Hopefully Volvo’s new detection system will help decrease those odds in years to come.


In the meantime, while waiting for this technology to be perfected and implemented, here are some tips for staying safe:

  1. Slow down and stay alert
  2. Be wary around 6-9pm: this is when deer are most active
  3. Look for deer crossing signs
  4. Be careful in wooded areas
  5. Brake when you see a deer; swerving will confuse the animal and increases your chances of hitting another vehicle
  6. If you see one, look for more: deer travel in groups
  7. Wear your seat belt


If you do hit a deer, pull over carefully and call the police or animal control.  Do not attempt to touch the animal.  Call your insurance company when you get home.

Always be careful when driving and stay alert!

read more

Pricing Announced for 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas

no thumb

The 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas will start at $26,155, with an additional $750 destination fee.  The Civic Natural Gas, which is the only natural gas-burning passenger vehicle that will be produced in the United States, has somehow stayed under the radar.

As a fuel alternative in general, natural gas doesn’t get much press.  However, natural gas costs about 30 percent less than gasoline, and has lower smog-former emissions.  Possibly the reason that the natural gas alternative doesn’t get much press is that the Honda Civic GX is only currently offered in four states.   The Civic Natural Gas – which is the new name for the Civic GX – will be offered in an additional 38 states when it is released on October 18.

Honda is the only major car manufacturer in the US that has a natural gas car.  With all the benefits natural gas has to offer, though, maybe we’ll start to see more it more frequently.  Natural gas is abundant, domestically produced, and costs less than regular gasoline.  Honda is pushing the Civic Natural Gas in response to a growing interest in the US in fuel-efficient alternatives to regular gasoline.

Drivers can refuel in their own homes by tapping into their gas line, or use a natural gas refueling station.  To help you locate these less-common stations, the Civic Natural Gas comes with the Honda Satellite Navigation System, which includes a database of Compressed Natural Gas stations.

The Civic Natural Gas will qualify for state-issued decals that allow single occupant vehicles to drive in the HOV lanes in some states, giving it an added value.

Updates on the Civic Natural Gas include new styling, enhanced performance, and increased fuel economy.  Drivers can expect 27 mpg in the city, 38 on the highway, and 31 combined.  Under the hood is a 1.8L four-cylinder engine with 5-speed automatic transmission.

read more