Autofield Blog

Audi Auto Pilot(ed)

By: Gary S. Vasilash 9. January 2015

Why is there a group of people surrounding an Audi A7 3.0 TFSI quattro on a red-carpeted patch in a Las Vegas parking lot?

Audi CES

Because that car—a concept actually—essentially drove itself—it was “piloted,” meaning that there was someone behind the week, and it met the California state law by having an experienced test driver in the passenger seat, presumably ready to jump to it if needs arose—from Silicon Valley to Vegas. That’s 560 miles.

And those are members of the team (including management) who made it happen.

It drove in city conditions. It drove on highways.

And the sensor array did most of the perceptual work and the on-board electronics and controllers did the rest.

The vehicle uses both production-ready and in-use sensors. Audi reckons that it is important to have technology that is affordable for consumer cars, not just for engineering projects.

There are adaptive cruise control and side-assist long-range radar sensors. Mid-range radar sensors positioned at the front and back of the vehicle, directed to the left and right in order to achieve a 360-degree view. There are laser scanners in the front grille as well as in the rear bumper. There are four cameras at the front and rear of the vehicle. And there is a high-resolution, wide-angle 3D video camera (which, incidentally, is being used in the new Audi Q7).

The reason for the multiplicity of sensors is because by getting redundant readings of the environment, better decisions can be made, which is a good thing when a vehicle is traveling at 70 mph or is in a massive downtown Vegas traffic jam.

IceRocket Tags: ,

Space, Time and Mercedes

By: Gary S. Vasilash 8. January 2015

Although when some people—and I count myself in that number—think “Las Vegas” and “automotive events,” SEMA comes to mind.

That, evidentially, is old-school thinking.

Because the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has become more than just a venue for software and wearables, TVs and washing machines.

It is now a place where vehicle manufacturers and suppliers not only display their latest infotainment systems, but actually reveal concept cars, despite the fact that the North American International Auto Show in Detroit takes place the following week, and if you want the eyes of the world’s automotive press on your products, doesn’t that make a little more sense than a place where the primary focus is on electronics?

Well, once, I guess.

World premiere of the Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion at the CES, Las Vegas 2015

Mercedes took CES as the opportunity to reveal the—and get ready for an exceedingly long name—F 015 Luxury in Motion. It is a car.

When making the reveal, Dr. Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, stated, “The single most important luxury goods of the 21st century are private space and time. Autonomously driving cars by Mercedes-Benz shall offer exactly that. With the F 015 Luxury in Motion, this revolutionary concept of mobility becomes tangible for the first time.”

They might have saved us all a little time with a shorter name.

Clearly, Mercedes is well advanced with autonomy given the capabilities of the current S-Class. And presumably they’re upping the ante in terms of a sensor array to assess outside conditions.

But an emphasized aspect of the F 015 Luxury in Motion was the Luxury on the Interior.

Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion

The sedan features four lounge chairs, not merely seats. The chairs swivel so that people can be face-to-face. Sort of like Chrysler offered in 2008 in its minivan with the Swivel ’n Go. Perhaps Zetsche remembered this from the time of DaimlerChrysler.

Because this is about consumer electronics, and not consumer furniture, the F 015 Luxury in Motion is loaded up with digital screens, not unlike the way tricked-out rides are loaded with speakers and amps to compete in a Soundoff.

There are six screens. Passengers—and as this is an autonomous vehicle, everyone is a passenger—can interact with gesture, eye movement or plain-old touch.

According to Mercedes, the F 015 Luxury in Motion is “a real social partner in traffic.”

Because you can never get enough of being digitally social.

Are French Cars French?

By: Gary S. Vasilash 7. January 2015

It used to be that people would say that while Americans would buy anything regardless of where it was produced, people in Europe tended to buy domestically produced products.

This was said to be the case when it came to automobiles, which explains why more than half of the U.S. vehicle market consists of Asian- and European-brand cars and trucks.


Hmm. . .those Twingos aren’t in France.                                (photo: Dingo)

So it came as a surprise to discover that French carmakers produced just 13% of their vehicles in France in 2013, according to research from Inovev.

Specifically, of the 10.5-million vehicles produced by Renault-Nissan and PSA Peugeot-Citroën, just 1.4-million were produced on French territory.

In the case of Renault, 6% of their vehicles were produced on French soil in 2013, down from 18% in 2000. (Admittedly, the creation of the Renault-Nissan Alliance in March 1999 undoubtedly had a little something to do with that.


Citroën’s 95th birthday party. . .in Shanghai.

PSA is doing a bit more domestically, as 33% of its vehicles were produced in France. (However, given that there is a strong push—production and sales—for the company in China, presumably there will be a shift in terms of its French output.)

Zut alors!

Smartwatch Meets Sonata

By: Gary S. Vasilash 6. January 2015

What do you do when you lose your car in a parking lot?

If you’re like Miles, shown here,

Blue Link Smartwatch

you adjust your watch.

Well, that’s not actually true.

Rather, Miles isn’t adjusting his watch, he is using the Hyundai Blue Link app on his smartwatch, which allows him to do a variety of things, either via touch or voice command, as in “Find my car,” “Lock my car,” and “Start my car.”

Blue Link is Hyundai’s cloud-based telematics platform.

Barry Ratzlaff, executive director, customer connect and service business development, Hyundai Motor America, said, “Connecting to your car through a smartwatch and voice recognition was previously something seen only in science fiction movies. Now, we can provide this capability to owners of Hyundai vehicles equipped with Blue Link.”

To make this work, the smartwatch app must be paired, via Bluetooth, to an owner’s smartphone that has the Blue Link mobile app. Then as long as the phone has a Bluetooth, cellular or Internet connection, the smartwatch can provide the Blue Link functionality (also including things like calling roadside assistance, which one would assume a phone would be used to do, but nowadays. . . .).

Hyundai is demoing the Blue Link smartwatch app this week at CES on Samsung, Motorola, Sony, and LG smartwatches.

And the plan is to have it Apple Watch-capable when that unit launches.

Ford & Disney

By: Gary S. Vasilash 5. January 2015

Back in 1999, General Motors and Warner Brothers announced a joint-marketing venture valued at around $30-million that not only generated ads that had cartoon characters from the venerable studio pitching cars, but even a Warner Bros. “WB” logo, with Bugs Bunny leaning against it, affixed to the back of the Chevy Venture minivan.

One could wonder how that worked out for them. But then we can recall that the Venture’s last model year was 2005, and GM got out of the traditional minivan segment in the U.S. six years ago. Presumably this had nothing to do with the Wily Wabbit.

Anyway, this week the Consumer Electronics Show is in full swing in Las Vegas, and it seems that the automobile is a consumer electronics product, given the proliferation of both OEMs and suppliers at the show. (Maybe former Sun chairman Scott McNealy, who said at a Convergence show in 2000 that a car is essentially a browser on wheels, was right.)


Looking to find whatever traction they can in terms of making news, Ford has announced that it has cut a deal with Disney, wherein the Radio Disney app will be part of the launch of SYNC 3, its new and improved (we’re not sure which) infotainment system.

The app will work when the driver connects her phone to SYNC via Bluetooth. Then, with simply the touch of a button or even just an uttered statement, there can be 24/7 music aimed at “kids, tweens and families.”

According to Julius Marchwicki, Ford Connected Services Product manager, “Drivers will be able to keep the entire family entertained while keeping their eyes on the road and their hands on the steering wheel.”

That “entire family” aspect is a dubious proposition at best.

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