Friday, September 22, 2017

What Makes Supercars Super: Yellow Compass Group

Near the end of last year, we decided to expand into video. We didn’t know exactly how to go about it or what the videos would look like; we just knew we wanted to do it. We thought people might enjoy a video series about cars. Our publication is growing steadily and to that end, we are deeply thankful for readers like yourself.

As we have grown, we decided this year was the ideal time to dive into video.

This past spring, I met Gino D’Orazio for coffee near Detroit. I was impressed by his candor and energy. A few days later, he had a conference call with Chris Burdick, Automoblog’s Founder who heads our office in Berlin, Germany. He felt the same about Gino. We hope you take as much of a liking to him as we did. Gino loves cars and in our line of work, loving cars goes a long way.

Gino is our first Video Content Director and Host. The fist episode of our first series, “What Makes Supercars Super” is below. Gino traveled to The Yellow Compass Group, a boutique Ferrari dealership, where he met Mike Berman. In this first installment, Berman, Chief of The Yellow Compass Group, shows us why Ferrari is so special to him and his customers. Through Berman, we begin to learn why supercars are in fact super.


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Expert Panels Lead Autonomous Car Discussions During Global Summit In Brussels

What does the future of mobility look like? It’s an increasingly common question with often contrasting answers. Those developing the technology are doing so with a number of challenges and opportunities in mind. These challenges and opportunities vary, depending on if it’s a large OEM, top tier supplier, or relatively new startup.

Challenges and opportunities: the two best words to describe the landscape of future mobility. AutoSens Brussels examined both in great detail this week.

Strength In Numbers

Inside the famed Autoworld Museum, AutoSens Brussels united over 400 senior level researchers, engineers, and other experts to identify the challenges and opportunities surrounding future mobility. Attendees, speakers, and sponsors were encouraged to leverage each other’s expertise.

“Don’t be the only one working in the silo,” said Rob Stead, Managing Director of Sense Media, during the event’s opening remarks on Wednesday. “We are here to work together, so please reach out and meet someone new.”

Sense Media Managing Director, Rob Stead opening AutoSens Brussels on Wednesday. Photo: Carl Anthony for

Distinguished Voices

A number of dynamic and diverse speakers took the stage to share their insights, experience, and visions. Richard Schram, Technical Manager, Euro NCAP, highlighted the organization’s 2025 Road Map, which details a number of initiatives, driver assistance and crash avoidance among them. The 2025 Road Map leads straight to automated driving, but interestingly, covers things like child safety with regard to heat stroke. In an informational video, representatives from Euro NCAP spoke about how parents can sometimes accidently leave their children in the vehicle.

It also takes into account, especially in Europe, the number of two-wheeled vehicles, from bikes to motorcycles. Euro NCAP is working to minimize the higher fatality rates associated with two-wheeled vehicles in an accident.

Financial Impacts

Rudy Burger, Managing Partner, Woodside Capital Partners, spoke on mergers and acquisitions within the automotive arena and how that affects future mobility. Burger highlighted the more recent acquisitions, like Harmon by Samsung, Mobileye by Intel, and Cruise Automation by General Motors, the latter of which he believes is promising.

“As an acquirer, I would have to take my hat off to GM,” Burger said on stage. “Their bet in Cruise Automation is significant.”

Burger also pointed out how corporate investors are much more active when it comes to future mobility. Burger’s presentation made mention of BMW, Daimler, Delphi, and Denso among others as the most diligent.

“What we are seeing is a number of very large companies placing bets – significant bets – whereby they believe in order to create a controlling position in the market, they must actually acquire a company,” Burger said.

AutoSens Brussels was held in the famed Autoworld Museum in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: Carl Anthony for

Pushing Limits

Corey Zehfus, an Optical Designer from Sunex, spoke on how automotive camera trends are influencing optical designs. He underscored the importance of why vehicle cameras must be durable, high performing, and able to handle a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions. Zehfus also addressed a reoccurring mindset with vehicle perception technology that effectively wants to do more with less.

“Now ADAS has grown to include many different functions and people are trying to do these functions and detections with as few sensors as possible,” he said during his presentation.

Zehfus also noted the increasingly critical role cameras play and how a number of ADAS systems, from emergency braking to pedestrian detection, rely on cameras. Zehfus explained how this demand means more sophisticated camera and lens specs.

“It’s pushing the state-of-the-art,” he said.

Corey Zehfus from Sunex speaks on Wednesday at AutoSens Brussels. Photo: Carl Anthony for

Human Versus Machine

Saskia de Craen from the SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research raised hard but necessary questions on automated driving. During her presentation, she addressed the distinctions between a human and machine driver, suggesting that even though automated technology is promising, there are some things only humans can detect.

“When a driver approaches this ball in the street, they can determine that perhaps a child is following,” she said, pointing to a basketball on the large screen above her. “Of course you can tell a computer this simple script, but a human can determine many different types of balls that could be in the road.”

de Craen, with a remote, changed the ball on the screen, from a football, to a beach ball, to even a Pokémon ball. She then challenged the audience to think in terms of other children’s toys that might inadvertently end up in the road: a little train, miniature car, or kite, for example. And if that scenario were encountered, would a machine be able to determine that not only a ball, but another toy in the road may mean a child is close behind. Would a machine be able to make that distinction as well as a human?

“Please let us not forget that our brain is the best computer ever invented,” she urged. “The point is that people are very good at adapting in situations like this and computers do make mistakes.”

Saskia de Craen from the SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research speaks at AutoSens Brussels on Thursday. Photo: Carl Anthony for

Extensive Panel

Other speakers and presenters included Dr. Heiko Hirschmuller, Co-Founder of Roboception, on how robotics and remote sensing play into autonomous driving; Erich Ramschak, Senior Product Manager ADAS Engineering, AVL List, on the importance of map data in autonomous driving, and Alain Dunoyer, Head of Safe Car, SBD Automotive, on the impacts of the autonomous car on traffic.

“It’s not every day you can find this many experts in one place,” remarked an attendee from the United States. “I have really learned a lot from watching the speakers.”

“The speakers are the best part because of their knowledge,” said another attendee from Germany.

AutoSens Brussels attendees had many networking opportunities, especially during lunch. Photo: Carl Anthony for

Collaboration & Connection

AutoSens creates an environment where those working on vehicle perception technology can collaborate. It’s not a trade show or convention, and attendees are not subjected to any sales literature. AutoSens is genuinely about getting the engineers, researchers, and other experts on ADAS together in one place. The vehicle and technology demonstrations combined with the expert panels make AutoSens a world-class event on something that will change the world as we know it.

“It’s important we don’t develop the technology behind closed doors and that we are all talking the same language,” Stead said. “We can bring some real benefits by doing that.”

AutoSens is returning to the U.S. next year. Although a venue and date have not been announced, organizers say they are planning a May event in the Detroit metro.

Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan.    

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2017 Volkswagen e-Golf Gets A Price (And It’s Not Just The MSRP)

VW’s 2018 E-Golf just had its price revealed, and it’s not all that bad. Cheaper than a new Tesla, for one thing, but the bottom line here is, as always, the bottom line: This better work. And I’m not saying that just for the sake of the planet, but I’m saying it for the sake of VW. After that diesel-gate screw up, Volkswagen has got to get their act together and start selling cars, a lot of cars, or things could turn out very bad for them.

Hand In The Cookie Jar

Volkswagen, like a number of other European automakers, has a lot of history in diesel engines. And a lot of them, VW chief among them, were not all that interested in pursuing EV technology. They decided to put their engineering focus on diesel engines for the sake of efficiency, but a funny thing happened on the way to the emissions testing station. VW was caught red-handed faking their diesel emissions scores and got the crap pounded out of them, legally and financially speaking. Shoot, one of the corporate higher ups just got a jail sentence for his part in L’affaire Diesel.

This leaves VW and any other automaker banking on diesel in a bit of a technological and political bind. With new efficiency and emissions standards looming on the horizon, car companies have to clean up their act. Which brings us to Volkswagen’s e-Golf: they better be able to make and sell these things by the boat-load. Funny thing is this just might work out. The Volkswagen E-Golf looks like a good alternative to most of the other EVs out there.

Photo: Volkswagen of America Inc.

Range Increase

The 2018 e-Golf has a starting price of $30,495, which I note is much cheaper than the hotly anticipated Tesla Model 3, and about what Nissan sells their Leaf EV for. The new e-Golf gets some improvements, like a longer EPA-estimated range, better economy, and more power. The updated lithium-ion battery improves energy capacity to 35.8 kWh, up from the previous 24.2 kWh, for an increase in vehicle range (83 miles to 125 miles on a single charge).

No, Jack, it’s obviously not a road trip car; it’s aimed at around town travel.

There’s also a 7.2 kW on-board charger standard on all trim levels, so you can charge the battery in less than 6 hours at a 240V station. And, when you go with the DC Fast Charging, optional on SE models, standard on Limited Edition and SEL Premium, the battery can be charged up to 80 percent within an hour at a DC fast charging station.

Battery chemistry improvements raise the overall “fuel” economy to 126 MPGe for city driving and 111 MPGe on the highway/autobahn. Combined city/ highway gets you 119 MPGe. These figures are slight improvements over the previous model.

Photo: Volkswagen of America Inc.

Power & Performance

All that juice is applied to the Straße via an upgraded 100 kW electric motor. It puts out 134 horsepower, a notable improvement over the previous 85 kW electric motor that put out 115 horsepower. Unsurprisingly, torque is also up, from 199 lb-ft. to 214 lb-ft., good enough to get you to 60 in just 9.6 seconds. Top speed is a lackadaisical 85 mph, but I doubt 99.9% of e-Golf buyers will care.

Trim Levels

Breaking it down by trim level, the base, or as VW puts it “value-oriented” e-Golf SE starts at $30,495. It comes with more standard equipment than the previous base model. The SE comes with an 8-inch glass-covered touchscreen display, LED taillights, cruise control, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, and the 7.2 kW on-board charger. Adding the DC Fast Charging package tacks on another $995.

The e-Golf Limited Edition rings out at $33,795 and includes all of the SE stuff, but adds DC Fast Charging capability, V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces, and Park Distance Control (ParkPilot), along with a new feature called Maneuver Braking to “avoid or mitigate the effects of a collision with stationary objects while parking.” No, seriously.

The range topping e-Golf SEL Premium will cost you $36,995 and offers an optional Driver Assistance package for $1,395. That includes a 12.3-inch Volkswagen Digital Cockpit instrument cluster, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning with Autonomous Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Monitoring, Lane Assist, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert, Park Assist, and Light Assist.

So, there it is. It’s not exactly a Hail Mary pass on Volkswagen’s part, but they better start selling these things like crazy.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias toward lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.

Photos & Source: Volkswagen of America Inc.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Genesis G70: South Korea’s S-Class Response

You have to hand it to them. And by them, I mean they. And by they, I mean Hyundai. The Genesis G70 surely isn’t a bad car, not even close to it. And, here’s the first of many rubs confronting the Genesis G70: they want it to be a thing in and of itself. It is The Genesis, not, most definitely not the Hyundai Genesis. Just: Genesis.

And all the press materials go to great lengths to refer to the car as just that. The mentions or uses of the word “Hyundai” tally up to two in over 2,000 words of verbiage. So what is it? What is the Genesis G70? In a nutshell, it’s pretty easy: Hyundai’s answer to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

Jack of All Trades

Hyundai, the South Korean mega-corp-conglomo-nopoly, does everything from construction projects to chemicals to electronics to shipbuilding to automobile manufacturing. Hyundai has been making good, solid, dependable yet affordable cars for decades now. In a lot of ways, they have out Toyota’d Toyota and the other Japanese marques whose stock in trade has long been good, solid, dependable yet affordable cars. But what if you want more than that? What if you, as an ambitious mega-corp-conglomo-nopoly, want more for your automobile division? Enter Genesis. Something well built, stylish, solid, safe, with an on-the-road and at-the-curb presence to make people notice. Enter Genesis.

Styling & Design

They describe the Genesis G70 as being “an athletic sedan characterized by its graceful and dynamic exterior styling” with an “elegant and intuitively designed interior.” This is all fair enough and, from a marketing perspective, the G70 completes the Genesis sedan lineup, slotting alongside the G90 flagship and the mid-luxury G80. No, I don’t know exactly what they mean by “mid-luxury” either.

The G70 offers a broad spectrum of color options, both inside and outside. There are ten exterior colors available, and they have come up with a new paint-finishing method: small, evenly distributed aluminum particles and high luminosity colors to maximize the exterior paint. Or, as Ed “Big Daddy” Roth calls it, “metalflake”. The inside has the same “big box of Crayolas” approach for available colors.

The G70 interior is prioritized around superb fit and finish with a focus on simplicity and an importance on real functionality. The overall layout is horizontal with a rather nice sport steering wheel. Since this is a Genesis, premium materials such as aluminum door handles, metal speaker grills, and quilted leather door panels are found throughout the cabin.

Photo: Genesis.

Power & Performance

The Genesis G70 aims to be agile yet safe, dynamic yet quiet, but it all starts from the powertrain. There are three powertrains on offer: a 3.3-liter V6 turbo, a 2.0-liter inline four-banger turbo, and a 2.2-liter inline four cylinder diesel. The engine to pay attention to here is the 3.3-liter V6 turbo – that’s the one found in the “enthusiast-focused” G70 Sport. That 3.3-liter V6 turbo plant cranks out 365 ponies and 376 lb-ft. of torque. All of this is good enough to get the G70 Sport to 60 in 4.7 seconds, with a top speed of 168 mph. The G70 Sport also comes with variable-ratio steering and an electronically controlled suspension for better response and ride and handling.

You also get a number of other fancy-schmancy performance goodies, such as launch control, rack-mounted, motor-driven power steering (R-MDPS), multi-link rear suspension, dynamic torque vectoring, and a mechanical limited slip differential. They have also put in this contraption called Active Sound Design (ASD). This system “creates an aural character that reflects the engine load and driving mode settings.” That’s all they say about the ASD deal, but I cry witchcraft and sorcery, or, at the very least, fakery and I don’t hold with it. Nosir!

Photo: Genesis.

Technology & Safety

The cabin is also drowning in high tech gee-gaws, like a smart posture control system for minimal stress on long journeys. There’s an 8-inch touchscreen display with MirrorLink, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. The G70 also comes with server-based voice recognition technology, using Kakao’s artificial intelligence platform Kakao I. A 15-speaker Lexicon system is there when you really want to crank the K-Pop.

The G70 has a buffet of safety doohickeys like pedestrian impact mitigation technology that lifts the hood to absorb shock and minimize injury. There’s Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Highway Driving Assist, Blind Spot Collision Warning, and J-Pop Avoidance Assist because we all know that Psy and Exo are totally hot and AKB48 and Arashi are totally not.

Photo: Genesis.

Big Questions

Will this work? Will the G70, along with the G80 and G90, be able to make Genesis into a brand of its own? That’s the obvious goal here, and I’m not saying they can’t do it. A lot of people in the car business have lost a lot of money saying that same thing about South Korean car companies. Perhaps Hyundai can defy the odds?

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias toward lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.

Photos & Source: Genesis.

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Lotus Evora GT430 Sport Joins The Party

Okay, so I’m starting to see a pattern here. Lotus, as lovely as they are, has been beating the hype machine drum every two or three months about a “new” model. If this were a major car manufacturer, this article would be nothing but calling them out for being stupidly old school and calling a trim package a “new” model.

But this is Lotus, and most importantly, with all these new Evora variants, they actually feature improvements to the car in terms of performance and design.

Reclaiming The Title

When the Evora fist came out, it was a bit of a puzzle to a lot of hardcore sports car types, and especially Lotus fanatics. It came out right in the middle of that whole Dany Bahar era of 100% horse manure (“Lotus cars aren’t about performance, they are about fashion and luxury”), and the overall layout, that 2 + 1 seating thing, struck a lot of people as odd and unnecessary. Then cooler heads prevailed, Bahar was run out of Hethel on a rail, and performance engineers took control and steered Lotus back on a course that benefits us all. Okay, all us gearheads, because to my knowledge, Lotus has never made a grocery-getter or kid picker-upper and if they ever do, we’re going to have a scrap on our hands.

Performance Engineering

As the name implies, the Lotus Evora GT430 Sport is a further variation and improvement on the GT430. There’s some slight nips and tucks here and there to make it prettier (in a way) and some judicious massaging of the drivetrain and chassis to make it do what Lotus cars have always done: Go, turn, and stop much better than you’d expect.

The Lotus Evora GT430 Sport is part of the extended Evora family, which also has the Evora 400, Evora Sport 410, and the recent addition of the Evora GT430. The new Evora GT430 range (that would be the GT and the Sport) includes two body options and a choice of manual or automatic transmission. To some, the thought of a slush box in a Lotus is outright blasphemy, but put down those pitchforks and torches for a second and hold up. We’ll get to why the automatic in the Evora is actually a pretty good deal. Like its GT430 sibling, the Evora GT430 Sport is motivated from county to county by the same 3.5-liter V6 supercharged engine that cranks out 430 horsepower and 440 Nm of torque, or 317 lb-ft.

Photo: Lotus Cars USA Inc.

Weight & Aerodynamics

The Evora GT430 Sport tips the scales at 10 kilos (22 pounds) less, for a total of 1,248 kg or right around 2,750 pounds. Divide that by the 430 horses and you come up with a power-to-weight ratio of 345 horsepower / tonne (that’s a metric ton) which guarantees you this little car is going to flat out fly when you mash the pedal. As a matter of fact, the Evora GT430 Sport has a top speed of 196 mph, making it the fastest Lotus production car ever.

The easiest way to tell the Sport apart from the Evora GT430 is how the Sport has “motorsport derived aerodynamics.” This is a very polite and British way of saying the flips, kicks, spoilers, and such are not Vin Diesel-inspired cake decorations of no performance utility, oh no. There’s a carbon fiber splitter and a large, profiled carbon wing to suck you onto the tarmac. Louvers at the top of each front wheel arch to cut lift and reduce pressure within the wheel well. The GT430 Sport also has wider wheels and tires.

Photo: Lotus Cars USA Inc.

Transmission, Live Wire

Now, about that automatic transmission and why we will not be marching on Lotus HQ for a righteous stoning – at least not today. That automatic transmission will be available for both of the GT430 models. If you opt for the automatic transmission, you will net 10 Nm more torque (for a total of 450 Nm or around 332 lb-ft.). The bottom line is, get this, that the automatic version is even quicker than the manual GT430. 60 mph comes up in a pretty scant 3.6 seconds.

To make a transmission that usually implies less performance actually give you more performance, the Lotus six-speed automatic has an optimized gearbox ECU for ultra-fast changes from cog to cog. Gear selection is made from the driver’s seat via lightweight aluminum paddles mounted to the steering wheel, natch.

Speed Tech

Other go-fast-goodies include standard Öhlins TTX two-way adjustable dampers (which would have given A.C.B. Chapman fits, if he were still with us), J-grooved and ventilated brake discs, AP Racing four-piston calipers at all four corners, a lovely Torsen-type limited slip differential, and an adjustable traction control system in case that Torsen isn’t good enough for you, and you have a right foot closer to a ham than what Jimmy Clark had on the end of his leg.

The GTs, both the Sport and “normal” are available now. They are more than most of us can afford, but I, for one, still want one of these … or two. Life is too short for boring cars.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias toward lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.

Photos & Source: Lotus Cars USA Inc.

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2018 Nissan Versa Note Pricing Announced, New Features Added

Nissan recently announced U.S. pricing for the 2018 Versa Note, which comes in three levels: S, SV, and SR. Nissan customers may be delighted to know that starting MSRPs for the 2018 Versa Note did not increase over the current 2017 model, despite new features being added.

Style & Comfort

The Versa Note hatchback SR, at the top of the range, stands out the most with its more sporty character. Fog lights, a rear spoiler, and 16-inch machine-finished aluminum alloy wheels decorate the exterior. Suede-like seats and a leather wrapper steering wheel provide further interior comfort. The SR also adds Intelligent Key with Push Button Ignition, the Nissan Vehicle Immobilizer System, and Easy Fill Tire Alert.

Design & Functionality

Regardless of model, the 2018 Nissan Versa Note features the automaker’s signature “V-Motion” grille. The design is found on a range of Nissan vehicles including the Sentra, Altima, and Maxima. Interior volume is 112.9 cubic feet, cargo space is 18.8 cubic feet, front headroom is 40.8 inches, and rear legroom is 38.3 inches. Nissan says their goal was to make everything comfortable and family friendly.

Power & Performance

The 2018 Versa Note is powered by a 1.6-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder, paired with a next-generation Xtronic transmission. The combination nets the Versa Note an EPA-estimated 39 miles per gallon on the highway. The transmission features a retuned D-step Logic Control, which simulates shifts, for a more natural feel.

The 2018 Nissan Versa Note is available now.

Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan.

Versa Note 1.6 S Xtronic $15,480 USD
Versa Note 1.6 SV Xtronic $16,380 USD
Versa Note 1.6 SR Xtronic $17,980 USD

Photo & Source: Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Letter From The UK: Are We Ready For Autonomous Cars?

As a motoring writer of long-standing and an old-school petrol-head through to my bones, I have to admit to being ambivalent about autonomous cars. What can you expect from a guy who still has AC/DC compact discs in the car? I’ve tried, really I have; I have listened to knowledgeable people and nodded sagely as they described the technology, but sorry, I can’t really get interested if I’m totally honest.

I don’t want to relinquish control.

I’m also getting tired of the vanilla cars being produced today for the mainstream market generally. They are mechanically sound certainly but where’s the flair; where’s the daring design? I’m not expecting something out of Isaac Asimov, just something that’s … fresh. Once upon a time, you could tell a car simply by silhouette. Bet you can’t now.

Land of Confusion

I’ve thought about this and yes, I have concluded it’s probably an age related thing. The simple fact is that older people are more resistant to change. A recent survey by Continental Tyres in the UK produced the same result as the one I mentioned in a previous letter a couple of weeks ago. We still have a bit of a “boy racer” (grown men loving The Fast and the Furious cars) culture here in the UK, but young people generally are not really engaged with driving. They prefer others to do it for them, hence Uber and the like. It costs a lot to learn and, although cheap first-timer cars are plentiful, insurance costs are through the roof.

They see the traffic jams and general traffic chaos, plus the running costs and just can’t be bothered.

Rural Challenges

This is especially true of urban dwellers. Now that all our public transport is in private hands, profit is always the only motive. Thus many towns and cities have brilliant internal transport hubs. Even the town I live, in the beautiful county of Wiltshire, the “around town” bus service is excellent.

Our UK main-line train service is very good too, but very expensive at peak times. Small branch lines have been shut down so for rural dwellers it is a different picture. If transport routes lose money, the companies don’t want to know. As a consequence, virtually everyone needs a vehicle in the countryside and this is another area likely to be problematic for autonomous cars. Our rural routes are often nothing more than country lanes with no road markings, blind bends and summits, and a very good chance of rounding a corner and locking headlights with an agricultural machine.

Human drivers are used to this; how will autonomy cope?

Autonomous cars in rural areas will face different challenges than those in urban settings.

Generational Gaps

Older drivers, in my view, see the current technological advances – autonomous emergency braking, hands-free cruise control, matrix LED headlights, surround reversing cameras, and the like as generally good things. They accept them as being available now. What they don’t like is letting go. It’s the loss of something they have always had – control over their destiny. That’s the perception that has to change. They see it like being on an aircraft with a drunken pilot.

They don’t know what is going to happen and there’s nothing they can do if it does. Autonomous cars should have the fail-safe for drivers to take over the autopilot at a moment’s notice.

Rooftop Shouting

Standards of driving are so bad here in Britain that a mix of autonomous and driver-controlled cars WILL lead to disaster. Right now, in my view, autonomy cannot possibly calculate the variables of stupid people unless it runs in special traffic lanes, which makes sense, but that won’t happen here on our antiquated road system. It seems to me that the approach being taken by the industry AND government is what’s at fault here. A positive message is fine but the enthusiasm for something not yet tried and tested, in the layman’s view, is too overwhelming. Proponents are far too pushy and prone to over-egging the pudding.

The answer, in my opinion, is for there to be a “softly, softly” approach. Stop shouting it from the rooftops. Move the technology forward slowly, taking time to introduce it into the cars we are encouraged to buy; EVs, hybrids, and the like. Get people used to the idea, like encouraging children to eat their vegetables. It takes time. There is nothing that upsets us more than people flagrantly waving things in our faces. Slow down the flood of information. Tell us when the feast is ready, not when it’s cooking.

General Motors became the first automaker to assemble driverless test vehicles in a mass-production facility when a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EV test vehicles began coming down the line at Orion Township Assembly in January. Photo: General Motors.

Autonomy Levels

There are, we are told, six levels of autonomy:

Level Zero: No Automation:

In other words, the driver drives. As it has always been: acceleration, braking, and steering are all controlled by a real human at all times, even if they’re assisted by warning sounds or safety intervention systems. If your car has automated emergency braking, for example, it can still be viewed as Level Zero.

Level One: Driver Assistance:

Hands on the wheel. In certain driving modes, the car can either take control of the steering wheel or the pedals. The best examples of Level 1 automation are adaptive cruise control and park assist. The computer is never in control of both steering and acceleration or braking.

Level Two: Partial Automation:

Now it begins: Hands off the wheel if you dare but keep your eyes on the road. A Level 2 vehicle has certain modes in which the car can take over both the pedals and the steering wheel, but only under certain conditions, and the driver must maintain ultimate control over the vehicle. Tesla’s Autopilot is an example of this.

Level Three: Conditional Automation:

You can take your hands off the wheel and eyes off the road – sometimes. This is going to take some getting used to. In a Level 3 vehicle, the car has certain modes that will fully take over the driving responsibilities, under certain conditions, but a driver is expected to retake control when the system asks for it. The car can decide when to change lanes, and how to respond to dynamic incidents on the road, but uses the human driver as the fallback system. This is where it starts to get a bit tricky, where insurance liability is concerned, for example.

The 2018 Cadillac CT6 features Super Cruise which utilizes a driver attention system and LiDAR map data. These systems are added to the network of cameras and radar sensors already in the CT6. Photo: Cadillac.

Level Four: High Automation:

Hands off, eyes off, mind off – sometimes. A Level 4 vehicle can be driven by a human, but it doesn’t ever need to be. It can drive itself under the right circumstances, and if it encounters something it can’t handle, it can ask for human assistance, but will park itself and put its passengers in no danger if human help isn’t forthcoming. Essentially, this is the first stage of a truly driverless motor. “For goodness sake Pops! Let go of the wheel!”

Level Five: Full Automation:

Do we even need a steering wheel? The interior might just as well be your parlour because the vehicle neither needs nor wants your help, thank you very much. It means full-time automation of all driving tasks on any road, under any conditions, whether there’s a human on board or not. The question is, “are we ready for this?”

Put simply like that we can see a natural progression, but enthusiasts for the technology won’t shut up about it. This in turn stirs up dormant politicians with the inevitable consequences. The technology is nowhere near ready yet and right now the onus is on the industry to prove it when it is, IF they want to convince the car buying public.

Leave It To The Young

As with any technological advances, it is young people who will pick up the challenge simply because they know nothing else. My seven-year-old granddaughter can work her way around an iPad as if born to it. They are not the problem. It’s the silver surfers; they won’t let go of their motoring past. The solution, of course, is to just wait the old ones out. That way, over the next 30 years, the herd of anti-autonomy aged will be thinned out by process of natural erosion. Then the world can be as autonomous as they like, but I’ll bet they won’t have so much fun.

Geoff Maxted is a motoring writer, photographer, and author of our Letter From The UK series. Follow his work on Twitter: @DriveWrite

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