Archive for the 'Technology' Category

VOTW: Google’s autonomous autocross

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

I have to admit it, while the Toyota Prius is nothing much to drive, there are a few interesting applications of its technology. Most notably, Google has been testing the autonomous vehicle for some time now. They have racked up over 100,000 miles during testing on city streets.

Anyway, check out what Google is bringing to the world of weekend auto racing.

VOTW: The future of parking?

Monday, March 7th, 2011

There’s a German company called Wöhr that makes some really cool and intelligent parking systems. A lot of their systems are fully automated and a lot like parking with a valet – except this valet isn’t like likely to jaunt around town in your Lamborghini.

Analysis: Regulation is not the mortal enemy of automakers

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

I was recently visiting a new Porsche web site called 911 Nation. On the site, there was a new post arguing the U.S. President Obama and the Democratic Party, which presently controls the U.S. Senate, is working to take certain high performance cars off the road, much to the detriment of the car-buying public.

This is hyperbole and conjecture and it’s apex. They only one putting an end to the Porsche is those that own the company. CAFE standards do not nor will they ever prevent a company from operating. At worst, they charge a sort of fine for each vehicle that does not meet requirements. Though the OEM pays this fine, it is effectively passed on to the consumer, at the risk of that automaker being less competitive. That said, Porsche like every automaker has every incentive to develop state-of-the-art technology that provides us with both a great driving experience and the comfort of know that we are polluting ourselves to a lesser degree as the world population continues to climb.

Obviously, CAFE has nothing to do with extremism of the environmental or other kind. Extremism might dictate that none of us use powered vehicles of any kind, which is clearly not the case here. Indeed, one could further argue that generations of people who have lived in an era of fossil fuel consumption are cheating future generations by consuming resources that are not sustainable.

We need look no further than the new Porsche Panamera Hybrid S, which according to sources has a CO2 g/km of only 160. Indeed that is a competitive number, especially for a car capable of great handling and performance.

I might further posit that America is the follower, not the leader, in developing improved environmental standards with respect to the automotive industry.

Link of the Week: Smart(er) Cars

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Recently reviewing this link from Forbes:
Beyond the KM reflects on the significant technological improvements on the last few years…
No doubt, the features that actively improve safety deserve great acclaim. In that vane, one has to appreciate the achievements of the active cruise control system now available in most high-end luxury sedans. The technology uses radar in the front of the vehicle to throttle and brake the vehicle if it senses that you are too far or too close to the vehicle in front of you.

For several years now Mercedes has also included technology that senses when you are falling asleep behind the wheel of your Benz. If it believe your eyelids are getting heavy, the system will jiggle you in your seat and wake you with loud chirps and indicate to you that you should pull over and catch some “Schlafen”.

A less obvious choice for this category uses a very old technology indeed. BMW and subsidiary company Rolls-Royce have now integrated thermal cameras into their vehicles which assist drivers in recognizing animals or people on the road in front of the vehicle in low-visibility conditions.

Advanced airbags. 25-year-old airbags just exploded in your face, potentially injuring you. Newer technology still protects you, but it does it better because it is sensitive to the severity of the crash, position of the occupant, baby seat-aware, and the size of the passenger as well. Porsche’s Cayenne has this feature. Automakers are also adding more airbags, some vehicles having 8 or more!

Blind-spot assistance is nearly commonplace today as well. Sensors in the car know when another vehicle is in your blind spot, and will notify you with signal in the cabin or on the side-view mirror.

Other smart, but less safety-conscious features include assisted parallel parking (in case your car is too big to easily fit into that spot!). This technology, which involves little or no input from the user to get your car, parked properly without scrapping the paint off your bumper. Available from many automakers now including BMW, Lexus, Ford, and the list goes on…

Self-closing or soft-closing doors and trunks/boots are now de rigueur in many German cars, including the Mercedes and Maybach lineup, the Rolls-Royce lineup, and BMW, just to name a few.

Rear parking cameras. They appear in just about any car these days, from the Toyota Prius to the Lamborghini Gallardo. Never again will you have to worry about backing over you small child. Similarly, it makes parallel parking much easier, especially in larger vehicles.

Flexible fuel cars. This is current and future technology. Some supplier are developing systems to allow cars to run on any of 4 types of fuel, including biofuel, petrol, diesel, and natural gas. Hydrogen will eventually follow.

What’s next?

Inter-car communication. While this has already been attempted by several car makers, we can expect that the future of inter-car communication will include features such as accident avoidance and even vehicle pacing, which would reduce breaking/acceleration, and therefore increase fuel efficiency.

A couple of things, first, Mercedes has already announced they are testing an underbody airbag for their cars. The airbag would deploy in the event of an inevitable crash and by using massive friction, it would slow down the vehicle just a little bit extra – in a crash every millimeter counts!

Autonomous driving vehicles. Audi has been testing a version of the Audi TT, which actually has the ability to run on its own volition and even compete in hill climb racing events. What is next in this area? Well, for one, user acceptance must be achieved. No doubt many people will feel uncomfortable with a computer taking control of their vehicle. Google, too, has been testing a vehicle of this type, which uses a highly computerized Toyota Prius to navigate it around any city street.

A note to Nissan, your Leaf may be green, but the ads need some sprucing up…

Monday, May 24th, 2010
Vroom, vroom, or bust?

Vroom, vroom, or bust?

I am an automotive writer, and I have yet to review the new Nissan Leaf or even drive it. I did sit in it when it came to Tempe, AZ earlier in this year, but as it was a special event, I did not have the opportunity to test it.

Normally, we don’t cover Nissan’s on this web site because we specialize in European cars, but I heard earlier today that the car emits a particular noise to pedestrians that it was approaching. Clever, I thought, and was interested to read on that this noise was similar to one of the flying cars in the movie Blade Runner. This I HAD to check out.

So after 15 minutes spent searching online and this on Nissan’s Facebook page, I began to notice one thing – this marketing campaign is about the people, not the car. And to me that’s a weird approach. When Apple releases a new product, they interview executives of the company, potential users, and even celebrities. That launch then becomes more about the people and the product, and about what the two can do when you put them in a room together.

But when someone like Ferrari or Porsche releases a new car, the advertising tends to be more about the product. How fast is it? What does the vroom of the engine sound like? How fast can it lap around the Nürburgring? Yet, all of the marketing seems to be of the Apple sort. And that’s fine if you are selling a consumer electronic, but for a car, it just doesn’t make sense to me.

I want to see this reviewed on Top Gear, I want to see You Tube videos of it lapping the saltiest tracks in the world. I want to see a professional review. I want to see it compared to a Tesla and then to a Versa, or whatever comparison you may draw between this car and another. At the very least, I want to see it in motion.

But sadly, there is very little footage of this car doing what it is supposed to do: getting me from point A to point B. Com’mon Nissan, let’s see a little more vroom, vroom!

Weekend Entertainment: Drive your Porsche with your iPhone?

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

I know what you’re thinking. Sure there are lots of driving simulators out there for the iPhone, but they are all so dull. After 5 minutes, you delete them and move on the the next app. But what if there was an application out there that was genuinely useful. What if in the style of James Bond, you could you that iPhone to actually control your car?

Well, it seems someone has called up Q Branch to “modify” their Porsche… and now there’s an app for that!

… or have they? You be the judge!

VOTW: The weirdest seatbelt commercial ever

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

I saw this on Mercedes-Benz Press feed. They had it labeled at the “most beatiful seatbelt commercial ever”.

Respectfully, that seems like a rubbish statement. First, seatbelts are not beautiful, they are not a typical target for advertisers. That said, they are function. I suppose the creators of this ad probably thought, “let’s find a new way to demonstrate the usefulness of seatbelts, other than using the time-honored ‘crash-test’ scene”. I guess you can applaud the creativity, but let’s condemn the impact. I seriously doubt anyone is paying much attention to this advert – except us.


Video of the week: Hybrid Ferrari

Monday, March 29th, 2010

It should be of little surprise that Ferrari is announcing a hybrid version of the 599 model. At the Geneva Auto Show this year, the company known best for Formula One racing, introduced a more environmentally friendly drivetrain that draws from technology borne out of the company’s F1 motorsports division. The technology utilizes kinetic energy produced under breaking to recapture energy and store it in a battery. The HY-KERS systems as Ferrari markets it produces 35% fewer carbon emissions than the standard 599.

Source: Ferrari

New Porsche 911, now with Hybrid!

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

It wasn’t all that long ago (summer 2009) that we caught a glimpse of the Batmobile Porsche 911. That car appeared to have a special something hiding under the bonnet – an electric motor and battery. For pictures, see:

As a result ,of those photos, internet forums were set ablaze with speculation of what future iterations of the Porsche icon might include for a powertrain.

Then just weeks ago we heard from Porsche CEO Michael Macht in an interview with AutoCar Magazine that the company had no plans for hybrid technology, but wished to include some technologies including brake regeneration and start-stop. Brake regeneration captures the kenetic energy that occurs under braking conditions and start-stop stops the engine while the car is halted, such as in waiting for a red light at a stop.

In a bluff of some sort, Macht’s company announced earlier in the week the release of the 911 GT3 R Hybrid. Perhaps Macht would argue that a GT3 R is not a road car. Perhaps Porsche is really looking to develop a news sports-oriented technology to repel the charges of batteries adding immense weight to traditional hybrid vehicles. We knows that the company has announced a hybrid Cayenne, and one has to imagine a hybrid Panamera is also being developed. Sports cars, however, must remain light, so the test of this new GT3 is how quick can they make it.


Early Fall auto news round-up

Saturday, November 7th, 2009



VW in an effort to promote the tons of eco-friendlier cars launched at IAA in Frankfurt in September has decided to pursue eco-sales with a new eco-friendly racing series. The company is starting a single-make racing series where all of the cars run on bio-produced compressed natural gas. The model used in the series is the new Scirocco and should reduce racetrack CO2 output by 80 per cent over today’s racing fuels. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder cars will have 220 horsepower on tap. Not bad for an alt fuel car!


On other green fronts, VW Group is working with Stanford University in California in a US$5.75 million project to make VW the largest carmaker with R&D in Silicon Valley. Already the two companies have produced autonomous (read self-driving) versions of the VW Passat and now the Audi TT-S. The Audi TT-S will attempt to drive itself up the 14,110-foot Pike’s Peak next year, according Wired.



Audi’s Johan de Nysschen, critical of the Chevy Volt, took an interview with Time recently to express his views on the state of the luxury auto industry. He stated that Audi’s goal is to be the “top” German luxury manufacturer, but not necessarily in terms of sales. He also reiterated the push for more fuel-efficient vehicles leading to Zero emissions cars in the not so distant future.



Bugatti has unleashed a new concept car the 4-seat, 4-door (can you believe it???) Galibier 16C. Autocar magazine claims the production will start in 2013 at £900,000. We will believe it when we see it! Interestingly, the car’s engine will be the same as in the Veyron but will only sport 800BHP. Apparently, 200 get lost when adding 2 doors.


Rarely does Caterham make the news, except when they unleash new, wildly fun lightweight roadster, but unfortunately, Caterham’s found Graham Nearn died in late October. Nearn has been selling the then-titled Lotus 7 since its introduction in 1959, and then when the car was discontinued in 1973, Nearn bought the rights and has been producing the car ever since and in more exciting, evolving versions. You can even buy a kit and put a Caterham 7 together yourself. If you are not familiar with this brand, you should be!

Top Gear featured it in a segment awhile back:



Beyond the KM has previously marveled at the sales resiliency of the Ferrari nameplate. But even THIS economy has the prancing stallion kow-towing to the bear market of Wall Street.

Its third quarter results for 2009 showed revenues of 396 million euros (£359m) – down from 450m euros (£408m) in the same period last year. It sold 1454 cars, down 4.3 per cent year on year.

However, Ferrari announced that it has grown its market share in every market it monitors, against a drop in supercar sales of around 40 per cent.


A new engine to pay dividends

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

It is not every day that a car company reinvents the wheel, or in this case, the engine. Lotus thinks it has though with the implication that one engine can now run a variety of fuels with varying energy densities. There should also be fewer parts to break down as it is a mono-block construction eliminating the use of poppets.

Lotus' new Omnivore Engine

Lotus' new Omnivore Engine

From Lotus:

Lotus Engineering, the world-renowned automotive consultancy division of Lotus Cars Limited, unveils its latest research into engine efficiency at the 79th International Geneva Motor Show. The Omnivore engine concept has the potential to significantly increase fuel efficiency for sustainable alcohol based fuels, which increases the prospect of a greater amount of vehicle miles travelled using renewable fuels. On display will be the single cylinder research engine monoblock that demonstrates the novel architecture designed for high thermal efficiency when fuelled on any alcohol based fuel or gasoline.

The Omnivore concept features an innovative variable compression ratio system and uses a two-stroke operating cycle with direct fuel injection. It is ideally suited to flex-fuel operation with a higher degree of optimisation than is possible with existing four stroke engines.

The engine concept features a monoblock construction that blends the cylinder head and block together eliminating the need for a cylinder head gasket, improving durability and reducing weight. In this case, the application of a monoblock is facilitated by the absence of the requirement for poppet valves. A novel charge trapping valve in the exhaust port allows asymmetric timing of exhaust flow and continuous variation of the exhaust opening point.

The variable compression ratio is achieved by the use of a puck at the top of the combustion chamber. This simple, yet effective system moves up and down affecting the change in geometric compression depending on the load demands on the engine.

Mike Kimberley, Chief Executive Officer of Group Lotus plc said: “We are delighted to unveil this major milestone in the development of an engine configuration for a new breed of more efficient multi-fuel engines. The automotive sector is focusing on its environmental obligations to improve efficiency, minimise reliance on fossil fuels and reduce harmful emissions and Lotus continues to be an industry leader through our work on all aspects of future fuels. Sustainable alcohol based fuels have the potential to reduce the overall CO2 footprint of internal combustion engines towards zero and for this reason, need to be embraced as future fuels for road transport.”

In this collaboration with Queen’s University Belfast and Orbital Corporation Limited Australia, with sponsorship from DEFRA/DECC and DOE NI through the Renewables Materials LINK programme, Lotus Engineering is currently in the final stages of commissioning the Omnivore single-cylinder research engine. It uses the Orbital FlexDI™ fuel injection system which produces fine in-cylinder fuel preparation irrespective of fuel type, and together with air pre- mixing allows efficient two-stroke combustion and low-temperature starting, whilst offering singular opportunity for advanced HCCI control.

The Omnivore programme is another development of Lotus’ research into understanding the complex combustion processes involved in running an engine on mixtures of alcohol based fuels and gasoline, which included the Lotus Exige 270E Tri-fuel, unveiled at the International Geneva Motor Show in 2008. This research is vitally important for a successful transition from today’s fuels to the more efficient sustainable fuels of the future.

Geraint Castleton-White, Head of Powertrain at Lotus Engineering said, “The absence of poppet valves in two-stroke engines makes the incorporation of a variable compression ratio system relatively straightforward. Our research into these systems on four-stroke engines has led us to the conclusion that while thermodynamically it is a desirable technology to incorporate, practically it is very difficult, particularly taking into consideration production feasibility. This two-stroke engine could solve these practical difficulties and simultaneously permits a much larger range of compression ratio adjustment, with the potential to perform at a much higher efficiency when running on renewable fuels.”

Check it out, Beyond the KM’s new Hydrogen Car List

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009


We will be keeping this list updated with the latest cars that run on Hydrogen fuel. Check back soon!

Traffic camera fraud in Italy: is the U.S. next?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009


Are cameras proper enforcement?

Are cameras proper enforcement?



Late last month, the BBC’s Rome correspondent Duncan Kennedy wrote an article outlining what is the most egregious violation of traffic enforcement civil liberties to date. 

The BBC reports that over 100 police and law enforcement officers are being investigated in response to a senior officer’s discovered that traffic ticket issuances were suddenly increased from an average of 15 fines per day to over 1000. 

BBC reports that some US$170,000,000 may have been gained by those involved, include the enforcement company, T-Redspeed, which gained the contracts because it employs a technology that allows 3-dimensional photography of potential traffic violators. At least one person has been arrested in connection with the fraud.

That so many benefited from this fraud should make all of the driving public, law enforcement, and public officials seriously call into question the integrity of the photo traffic enforcement process. If the public in a small country as Italy can be defrauded to the tune of US$170million, imagine the amount German, or Britons, or even Americans could be defrauded.

The first step to gaining public confidence is to provide absolute transparency in the enforcement of traffic cameras. Public scrutiny must be upheld.



Future of cars: from Honda?

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

So BMW has been working on hydrogen cars for 40+ years. Kudos to them, but now Honda is fully in the game. Check this out:

Did you love BMW iDrive?

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

If you “loved” BMW’s iDrive system, now 7 year old, then you are going to continue the “love-fest” with BMW’s latest implementation of bizarro technology courtesy of Microsoft’s “Surface” computer. BMW wants to up the ante using this intriguing table-technology to better sell customized cars to its upscale clientele. Find out how here:


For more on surface, see this video:

Tesla partners with SMART – a “smart” move for both

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Earlier in the month, CNET reported that Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, announced a deal with Daimler at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. At the same auto show, Tesla unveiled a higher-end Sport version of its Tesla Roadster electric sports car.

CNET reported as well that a deal has been surfacing for quite some time: In August, Financial Times Germany reported that the supply agreement was for electric Smart cars planned for a pilot to test lithium-ion battery Smart cars and a network of charging stations in Berlin, Germany.

It seems that Daimler is planning to re-position the SMART car as a sort of “larger” G-Wiz. Hopefully the car will not suffer the same problems that plague the G-Wiz, which is little more than a glorified electric golf cart, except smaller, less reliable, slower, and far more expensive.

The deal seems to be for 1000 electric power trains for a limited run of SMARTs. One could assume that if successful, and there is little reason to suspect otherwise given the focus of the SMART car, we could expect electric SMART cars in every dealer, even in the new American market. (more…)

Weekend entertainment: a car that drives itself

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

A BMW that runs on pollution

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

No, it’s not April 1st. BMW’s engineers have done something seen only in Back to the Future: using pollution to fuel a car. Looking nothing like a modified DeLorean, the modified BMW 7 series has the ability to consume pollutants that typically occur in in their Hydrogen 7 model. The Hydrogen 7 model normal creates little pollution because the main resultant is water.

Ferrari Announces Standard Ceramic Disc Brakes – is your Mini next?

Monday, December 10th, 2007

Picture of a Yellow Ferrari F430

Ferrari recently announced that all of their models will come with Ceramic disc brakes as standard equipment from 2008. This is great news for Ferrari buyers as a once $10,000 optional extra is now standard. These disc brakes have, for a few years now, been a very expensive add-on, but a very good one as they nearly eliminate brake fade, and very lightweight, and work to reduce stopping distances – critical in preventing auto accidents.

Porsche Hybrid at LA Auto Show

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

At the LA Auto Show, Porsche announced an all-new version of the Cayenne SUV. What’s so different about this model? It is battery-powered. But this Cayenne is no Toyota Prius. Instead, this model is more practical, traveling at in excess of 75 KM/hour just on battery power! Revolutionary? Perhaps. Lighter on the the wallet? DEFINITELY!

Enjoy this brief introduction.