Nevada drivers might be seeing a new sight on the roads in the coming months. That state is the first to officially approve self-driving cars to use public roads. This is a necessary first step for Google’s autonomous vehicles to move forward, but other firms are likely to follow suit. Nevada worked with Google, as well as various industry groups and law enforcement to develop the regulations that will govern self-driving cars.
Why would any company boast about a processor clocked at a mere 128MHz? Easy answer -- Buick Regal's new "Viper" 32-bit embedded Engine Control Module (ECM) running at said clockspeed offers up the most processing power in the automotive industry, Buick claims.
Also known as the E39 ECM, this slice of silicon contains 3MB of integrated flash memory and controls all the functions of Buick's Ecotel 2.0L engine, including the operation of turbo, direct injection, and variable valve timing systems. The chip itself is somewhat similar to CPUs on the desktop front, but obviously has been designed specifically for use with engines.
"The ECM's microcontroller executes the commands such as when to inject fuel into the engine's combustion chambers," said Karla Wallace, GM senior manager, global powertrain electronics engineering. "The software executed by the microcontroller comes from almost a million lines of code developed by GM and uses over 300 kilobytes of calibration data."
Wallace goes on to explain that 128MHz and 3MB of flash memory doesn't sound like a lot in terms of computing power, but is nonetheless impressive when you consider the environment they live in.
"Unlike most home entertainment and electronic devices, our controllers are made to operate reliably up to 260 degrees (127C) and down to -40 degrees (-40C) for the life of the vehicle," Wallace said. "On top of this, they are sealed against air, water, dust, and electromagnetic interference. These are parameters that take the Regal's controller to the highest levels of reliability and durability."
Late model Ford drivers with Sync-equipped automobiles will soon be able to download directions to their cars and plot out their routes. Announced earlier this week, Ford's Sync Traffic, Directions, and Information (TDI) is a free cloud-based architecture that lets drivers access voice-activated services through their mobile phones.
"Printing paper directions from a Web site is a relic in our digital age," Doug VanDagens, director of Ford Connected Services Solutions Organization, said in a statement. "With Send to Sync, you can map a destination at home, at work--wherever you have connectivity--and when you get to your car, it already knows where you want to go."
As Ford explains it, the app uses a customer's mobile phone voice plan and their vehicle's integrated GPS receiver to deliver location-based services, like driving directions or business services, and can also provide on-demand info, like horoscopes, news, movie listings, stock quotes, and more. And because it's all cloud-based, there aren't any updates to worry about.
The Google Maps 'Send to Sync' capability will launch later this month, Ford said, adding that it will be the only automaker offering this capability without required a paid subscription.
The Ford Motor Company today announced plans to turn vehicles into rolling Wi-Fi hotspots when it introduces the second generation of its SYNC in-car connectivity system next year.
That means passengers will be able to connect to the Internet from just about anywhere. All the vehicle's owner has to do is plug in their USB mobile broadband modem into SYNC's USB port and it will start beaming out a secured Wi-Fi signal wherever the modem is able to connect.
"While you're driving to grandma's house, your spouse can be finishing the holiday shopping and the kids can be chatting with friends and updating their Facebook profiles," said Mark Fields, Ford president of The Americas. "And you're not paying for yet another mobile subscription or piece of hardware because Ford will let you use technology you already have."
To prevent unauthorized piggybacking, Ford says its SYNC Wi-Fi system will default to WPA2 with a randomly chosen password.
Who wouldn’t want Wi-Fi in their car? GM is offering up the option to purchase the Autonet Mobile Wi-Fi router for seven Chevy vehicles. The system will run $199, after mail-in rebate. While that may seem a bit steep, keep in mind that the normal price is $500. The system is available in the Equinox, Traverse, Silverado, Tahoe, Suburban, Avalanche, and Express. To get the cheap price, perspective customers have to buy one of these vehicles before December 31st.
Customers have to agree to a 2 year service agreement running $29 per month. That only comes with 1GB of data, after which the service shuts off until the next billing cycle. A 5GB plan is available for $59. The Autonet service uses the Verizon network to provide data. An interested party could just get a Verizon MiFi and have a Wi-Fi network powered by Verizon everywhere, not just in the car. Still, if your dream is to impress your friends with a Wi-Fi router in your car, the time to buy is now.
You'll have to kick it old-school and visit a dealership the next time you plan to buy a vehicle from General Motors. That's because the auto maker is puling the plug on its seven-week experiment of selling new cars in California through eBay, the online auction site.
As reported by The New York Times back in August, the eBay venture was considered a "crucial part of GM's effort to return to profitability after five years of heavy losses." Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president for U.S. sales, said the auctions would be attractive to a customers who wish to skip the whole negotiating process, but GM quickly found the opposite to be true. Vehicles were given a 'Buy-it-Now' price equal to GM's supplier price and potential customers could submit a lower offer. Not surprisingly (except to GM), dealers reported receiving low-ball offers. Welcome to eBay.
Had the program succeeded, eBay said it would try to expand it nationally and was open to working with other auto makers. But with GM dealers saying the online marketplace didn't boost sales, eBay may have a tough time drumming up interest from others.
If you’re in the market for a luxury car in the next few years, they might try to upsell you an Atom-based “infotainment” system. BMW and Mercedes-Benz expect to get the units in cars sometime in 2012. Mercedes-Benz will make the systems available to buyers of its S-Class and C-Class vehicles. BMW will have them in the 7-series.
Intel’s Paul Otellini said these would be just the first of many in-vehicle entertainment systems based on the Atom platform. It’s possible this is the beginning of a trend. Maybe these carputers won’t be relegated to luxury models for long. This is yet another creative use for the Atom chip, but will anyone be interested?
A major theme of this year’s TechFest—the conference for Microsoft’s researchers to show off all their coolest projects—has been human-computer communication. Of all the demos we’ve seen so far, we think the Commute UX in-car dialog system, seen in this video, is the most likely to actually impact our lives within the next, say, five years.
Commute UX is an advanced speech recognition system designed for use in cars. In the video, Principal Architect Ivan Tashev shows off how it can be used to quickly and smartly (based on incomplete information) select a song to play from an onboard MP3 player. It can also manage your cell phone, allowing you to dial a contact by voice (yawn), or even to dictate a reply to a text message (!). Finally, Tashev demonstrates how the car’s user manual can be integrated into the system, allowing you to ask questions about the operation of your vehicle, a feature that will be especially useful in rental cars.
We may have exaggerated a little in the title; Commute UX isn’t going to help you fight crime, or even keep you company on the long, lonely road. Still, it does look like it could be an incredibly practical technology for controlling the peripheral elements of your automobile. Stay tuned for coverage of other new technologies shown at TechFest!
The afternoon session at TED today wasn’t exactly a smorgasbord for those of us looking for high-tech tidbits, but there were some fascinating talks about emerging technologies that will make a major impact on the way we live our lives. So even though they're a little outside of our normal field, we’ll give you a quick rundown of some of the interesting developments.
One of the most exciting presentations of the afternoon was given by Shai Agassi, the one-time heir-apparent at SAP who gave it all up to found a company called Better Place. Better Place’s mission is to create a fossil-fuel-free transportation infrastructure, and after hearing his talk it’s hard not to believe that they can do it. His plan centers on a widespread grid of charging and battery-swapping stations that will allow electric cars a much greater operating range. Also interesting is his idea that when a person buys an electric car, they shouldn’t have to pay for the expensive battery, but rather “rent” it from his company. According to Agassi, the combined effect of this system will be electric cars that are cheaper and more efficient than their gas-guzzling brethren.