Posts from ‘Technology’
April 1, 2013—Today, the Lincoln Motor Company announced that it is preparing to offer a groundbreaking connectivity/infotainment system on some 2015 Lincoln vehicles. Dubbed “MyLincoln SkyTouch,” the optional system uses next-generation head-up-display technology to deliver a full array of smartphone-app functionality to the fixed panoramic sunroof, as well as select apps to the vehicle’s windshield and center-stack touchscreen.
Jim Farley, Ford Motor Company’s executive vice president of Global Marketing, Sales and Service, and Lincoln, explained the need for Lincoln to offer the ambitious new feature. “We’re reinventing the Lincoln brand, and to do that, we need to take things to the next level,” he said. “We realized that to really stand out from the robust features of our class-leading SYNC/MyFord Touch systems, we had to obliterate the boundaries. We were struggling to define what that really meant, and then it hit us: Why not make the entire panoramic sunroof an interactive touchscreen?”
In this edition of “The Keymaster,” we take a look at the key fob for the 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S.
Unlike the last Keymaster post on this blog, which focused on the Jaguar XJL Supersport’s fob (which looks like a square with rounded corners), the Porsche’s key is much more imaginative. About as long as your index finger, the 911’s key is loosely shaped like the sports car to which it’s married. The Porsche shield is a textured badge set into the hood. The buttons on the “roof” have a rubbery feel and, when pressed, activate a blinking red light above the “Unlock” button. Though heavier than the average “smart” key, it won’t put a strain on your key ring. Its weight simply imparts a feel of quality and substantiality.
Like all transponder key fobs, the 911’s has a metal key hidden within its body. Its purpose is to allow entry to the car in case of a dead battery in the vehicle, the fob, or both. Turn the fob over, slide the switch on the bottom end, and voila!
Are you sick of snaking your car through a multi-layered parking garage, with its tight turns, traffic backups, narrow parking spaces, and no vacancies till the sixth floor? AutoParkiT (www.AutoParkiT.com) has come to the rescue. On February 21, the company will unveil a fully automated parking structure in Sherman Oaks, California.
The AutoParkiT system has the capacity to park up to twice as many cars in the same space as a traditional parking structure. Here’s how it works: Drivers enter the AutoParkiT facility through a traditional garage door, turn off their car, walk to a nearby kiosk, and wave their key fob. The car is then whisked away by what the company calls an “industrial proven, commercially adapted high tech system.” Once parked, cars are safely secured in the structure.
To retrieve the car, the driver needs to just wave the key fob at an HID reader on any floor of the building. About a minute later, the car is delivered, nose out, ready to drive away. AutoParkiT is a venture led by Los Angeles real estate developer Christopher Alan and supported by partners who are leaders in automation, integration and construction.
Check out the video:
In a previous post, we discussed the meaning behind MPGe ratings—which, essentially, are given to any vehicle that plugs into an outlet to recharge its battery. These vehicles are either all electric, such as the Nissan Leaf, or have both electric and gasoline powertrains, such as the Chevrolet Volt. In both cases, the cars can be driven a fair distance on just electric power.
One element brought up in the last post was that the “e” in MPGe stands for “equivalent,” and it’s based on the equivalent energy content of gasoline compared to electricity. The ratio that has been determined is that a gallon of gas contains the same amount of energy as 33.7 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity. Keep that 33.7 number in mind.
The Nissan Leaf has a 24 kWh battery and can go about 73 miles on a full charge. According to the comparison above, that 24 kWh battery contains the energy of only about three-quarters of a gallon of gas. If we were looking at that in terms of a conventional EPA rating, it would equate to roughly 99 mpg. And that’s exactly the combined MPGe figure that’s on the Leaf’s window sticker.
Hyundai used an opportunity at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show to show off an ultra-premium car called HCD-14 Genesis Concept.
This concept car reflects the carmaker’s aspirations in the high-end car market. The concept has new styling and rear-hinged back doors. They open to an interior divided down the center by a center console that starts at a dashboard that is devoid of a traditional central control panel. All of the driver’s instruments have been incorporated into the instrument panel ahead of the driver and a heads-up display projected onto the windshield. The “passenger comfort” functions are shown in a screen that is tilted toward the front passenger seat.
This flight-of-fancy includes such technological advances as a heads-up display paired with sensors that interpret the driver’s eye and hand movements. It also includes thumb controls to perform most vehicle functions, such as navigation, infotainment, audio, climate control, and the functions of a connected smartphone.
The HCD-14 Genesis Concept is powered by Hyundai’s 5.0-liter V8 engine connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission. It uses an electric-powered steering system and a drive-mode system that changes the characteristics of the suspension and other components. No key is needed to start the vehicle because sensors scan the driver’s eye to identify the driver and then start the car.
If you drive enough cars, you’ll encounter your fair share of weird stuff. Overwrought control systems designed by a masochist, inconvenient storage areas suited to a contortionist, costly options that would impress an extortionist, bedeviling colors in dire need of an exorcist; sooner or later, you’ll experience all of them—and more.
Following is a short list of, um, “curiosities” that I’ve encountered in cars in recent months. A word of explanation first: This is not a dumb-options-on-which-you-should-never-waste-a-dime piece. Indeed, the features mentioned (two out of three of them at least) are quite useful in the right vehicles. Here, though, they raise an eyebrow.
Synthetic-suede package shelf in the BWM 650i Gran Coupe
A number of high-end vehicles offer cushy, rich-looking headliners, seating surfaces, steering wheel rims, etc., in this material. But the bucks-up M Sport and Individual Composition option packages for the Gran Coupe extend the plush stuff beyond the ceiling, where at least it can be easily seen and appreciated, to the ledge under the backlight, where it can’t. Is that the height of luxury—or the height of excess?
Part of Consumer Guide’s new-car evaluation process includes maintaining a fleet of “extended-use” vehicles. These are cars we drive for six to 12 months to see how they hold up to the grinds of everything from daily commuting to extended road trips.
We’ve sampled many an extended-use Chrysler product over the years, with the versatile 2008 Town & Country minivan and comfy 2012 Dodge Durango among our favorites. The next vehicle to enter our long-term fold is one of the first to result from the brand’s alliance with Fiat. Though its underpinnings are Italian, the styling, name, and point of assembly are all American.
The 2013 Dodge Dart is the company’s attempt to flush the ill-fated 2007-2012 Caliber down the memory hole. We think they’ve done a good job, for the most part. We’ve driven several Dart iterations as part of our standard two-week evaluation process. Though not quite as sporty as a Ford Focus or Mazda 3, Dart scores big points for its quietness, interior design and materials, and high features-per-dollar quotient.
The purchase of a luxury item is usually more emotional than sensible or calculated. When someone purchases a high-end vehicle, they expect to get what they pay for: a car that is refined, distinctive, and crafted of fine materials. With that in mind, it simply wouldn’t do to attach a chintzy, cheap-feeling key to an expensive car. Appropriately, most luxury cars come with nice-looking keys.
Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the key to the 2012 Jaguar XJL Supersport.
Instead of a traditional metal key, this Jag uses a transponder-type key fob, commonly called a “smart” key. This kind of key allows the user to get into the car and start the engine without removing the key from their pocket or purse. It also weighs a bit more than a typical transponder car key, giving the impression of high-quality craftsmanship. After all, tossing a heavy, shiny key fob to a valet is sure to impress much more than a dull plastic one.
It used to be referred to as “tip-in acceleration”—those instances when you press the gas pedal either partway down or to the floor while already rolling in order to gain speed. Whether it’s to beat the light that just turned yellow or slip into an opening in fast-moving traffic, it’s something you want now rather than later.
In what I’m . . . uh . . . experienced enough to refer to as “the good old days,” this was rarely a concern. Back then, automatic transmissions had only two or three speeds and the engine was fed by a carburetor. The gas pedal was connected to the carburetor with a mechanical linkage, so any downward movement of the pedal caused an instantaneous power surge. Press the pedal far enough, and another mechanical linkage caused the transmission to instantly downshift a gear. This all provided very quick tip-in acceleration, but also lousy fuel mileage and choking exhaust emissions.
By 1958, cars didn’t have room for more chrome, and the public recoiled in horror. At the rate things are going, we should soon reach an LED moment of truth.