Tag Archives | Cars

I’m Going to Want a Car With Built-In LTE…Eventually

GM equips new vehicles with broadband and hotspot capability
Buick 4G LTE

Buick owners enjoying their car’s built-in LTE in a photo provided by GM

Last week, General Motors invited me to a press event at which it showed off some new Buicks. Normally, such events involve driving new cars. But when we hit the road during this one, I willingly sat in the back seat and fooled around with my phone and tablet–because the primary purpose of the event was to demonstrate the 4G LTE broadband and Wi-Fi hotspot features built into the cars.

Across its brands, GM is being particularly aggressive about rolling out in-vehicle LTE connectivity. Most Buick models, for instance, are getting it now; all of them will have it by the 2016 model year. No other company has announced plans to put LTE into so many vehicles so soon.

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Tesla’s Touch-Screen Dashboard

Yesterday, I attended GigaOM’s RoadMap conference in San Francisco and got to check out Tesla’s upcoming Model S sedan. It’s an electric car. That’s neat. But the thing that got me excited was the fact that it sports a built-in 17″ touch screen right where you’d expect to see conventional gauges and knobs. More thoughts and photos over at CNET.


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Pioneer Does Augmented Reality–in a Visor

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I’m in Tokyo for CEATEC–the Consumer Electronics Show of Japan–and have been roaming the show floor and discovering nifty stuff. Some of it will show up in the U.S. eventually; some of it won’t.

Pioneer, which makes lots of aftermarket electronics for cars, is demoing a rather unusual visor. It’s an augmented reality heads-up display–Pioneer calls it an AR HUD–that uses lasers to overlay text and images on the road ahead. By doing so, it can do driving directions that use the world around you for imagery, not a digital recreation on a screen in the dashboard.

The technology should show up in commercial form in 2012, Pioneer says–in Japan at first, in a model that can be installed as an aftermarket accessory. It may be built into cars later, and should reach other countries. The price hasn’t been set yet.

(Full disclosure: I spoke at a CEATAC keynote and the show subsidized my travel costs.)


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A Supercar for Gadget Nerds

For my latest TIME.com column, I got to spend time with Audi’s new A7. It has a supercharged V6 engine, an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission, and all-wheel drive. That’s great, but what got me excited was the Google Earth-based navigation, dual SD slots, handwriting recognition, and onboard Wi-Fi hotspot…


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Google Lobbies Nevada to Pass Robot Car Bill

Google is lobbying the Nevada legislature to pass legislation that would make it the first state to allow the operation of robotically controlled cars on its roads. The company wants to be at the forefront of this: Harry’s post from last October reported on Google’s efforts to develop self driving technology.

It’s not really clear what business a search company has in developing robotic technologies, but hey, nobody ever said that Google shouldn’t attempt to expand its business. It needs the go-ahead by public officials before anything could happen.

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Gas Saving Tips (‘Cause the Prices are Killing Us)

Planning a road trip? Maybe you’ve heard about the new gas pricing scheme used by many gas stations. And with gas at over $4 a gallon, I’ve retrofitted the gas gauge in my ancient, 13-mpg Roadtrek camper van. This week: Internet resources to help me (and maybe you) get the best deal on gasoline — and better mileage.

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Cars With Web Smarts

Over at TIME.com, my Technologizer column for this week is about cars with truly modern, connected infotainment systems–such as Ford’s Sync and MyFord Touch, Toyota’s upcoming Entune, and Audi’s next-generation MMI with Google Earth. (A shorter version of the column–but with prettier pictures!–will also be in tomorrow’s print edition.)

Executive summary: These things are getting better much more rapidly than in the past, but have a ways to go before they catch up with the result of the consumer electronics industry.


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Eight Things I Liked at CES

I liked CES 2011. I found it useful and fun. I’m glad I went. None of those reactions were a given–I understand why some folks question the show’s very reasons for existing, and I’ve been known to accentuate the negative myself.  This year, however, there was a critical mass of interesting stuff, in multiple categories.

From Tuesday afternoon of last week through Saturday, I spent so much time learning about new products that I didn’t cover all that many of them here while the show was going on. So here’s a catch-up post with a few of the ones that made this CES one of the best ones in my memory–despite the insane crowds, the aisles and aisles of lookalike phone covers, and the jingling case of  slot-machine tinnitus that I still can’t quite shake.

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Look Ma, No Hands! A Brief History of Self-Driving Cars

Less than two weeks ago, I attended a talk by Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference. Schmidt spoke about a profoundly computer-augmented future, and said that there was no reason why super-safe self-driving cars couldn’t be built–in fact, he said he couldn’t understand why humans were allowed to drive automobiles at all. (As is fairly common with Schmidt comments, it wasn’t entirely clear where that comment sat on the continuum from utter frivolity to deadly seriousness.)

At the time, I wondered whether Google wanted to control the computers that controlled the world’s cars. Now we know the answer: It does, or at least it wants to play an active role in inventing the technology.

As the New York Times’ John Markoff reports and a Google blog post discloses, Google has been working on developing cars that can drive themselves. One such vehicle, a modified Prius, motored its way down the coast from San Francisco to Santa Monica. (Its route apparently came within a couple of miles of my house–maybe I shared the road with it.) The idea may stretch the definition of Google’s mission–”to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”–but the noble goals include saving lives, reducing pollution, and generally making travel more efficient.

The Google blog post says that its autopilot vehicles have logged more than 140,000 miles to date, which presumably means the project has been going on for quite a while. It sounds cool, but I’m unclear why it’s apparently been secret until now, or why Schmidt spoke so cryptically and so recently of laws restricting the roads to self-driving cars without mentioning that Google was building them.

Google isn’t the only outfit working on this idea–a few months ago, I went for a very brief ride in a self-driving, self-parking Volkswagen developed at Stanford University. And the basic idea has been fodder for magazines such as Popular Mechanics and Popular Science for decades. Herewith, a few examples from the past seventy-seven years ago–none of which seem to have gotten as far as Google’s experiments.

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