Are composite pickup trucks in our future?

The Bison mid-size composite pickup concept designed by Motive Industries.

The Bison mid-size composite pickup concept designed by Motive Industries.

(Credit:
Motive Industries)

Transportation design firm Motive Industries released computer-generated images of what a pickup made of composite material could look like.

The Bison is a mid-size truck concept with the the cargo capacity of a full-size Ford F-series, according to Motive. Constructed of carbon fiber composite, the Bison offers a 50 percent weight savings over a steel truck without sacrificing strength.

The same chassis could be used with conventional gas or diesel engines, and it can also accommodate a hybrid, electric, or fuel cell powertrain, according to Motive. The flexible platform and body design would make it an attractive option for automotive manufactures looking for a truck to produce and sell globally.

Motive Industries helped design and construct the now defunct Aptera 2e. The electric three-wheeler had a composite shell that was reportedly so strong you couldn’t dent the body with a hammer. The Canadian-based company also made headlines with its bio-composite electric car made from hemp mats.

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Crave giveaway: Nuance Dragon Dictate 2.5 for Mac

Nuance Dragon Dictate 2.5(Credit:
Nuance)

Speak now, or forever hold your chance to win this week’s Crave giveaway. The prize: Nuance’s Dragon Dictate 2.5 for Mac. The speech recognition software boasts some enhancements over earlier versions, including full support for Microsoft Word 2011 and new Facebook- and Twitter-sharing capabilities.

Dragon Dictate 2.5 also takes advantage of the recently introduced Dragon Remote Mic App, a free application that lets you use an
iPhone,
iPod Touch, or
iPad as a wireless microphone for Dragon via Wi-Fi.

Normally, Dragon Dictate 2.5 would cost you $179.99, but you have the chance to get it for nada, nothing, zip, zilch. So how do you go about snagging this week’s freebie? There are a few rules, so please take a moment to stop talking and read them carefully.

  • Register as a CNET user. Go to the top of this page and hit the Join CNET link to start the registration process. If you’re already registered, there’s no need to register again.
  • Leave a comment below. You can leave whatever comment you want. If it’s funny or insightful, it won’t help you win, but we’re trying to have fun here, so anything entertaining is appreciated.
  • Leave only one comment. You may enter for this specific giveaway only once. If you enter more than one comment, you will be automatically disqualified.
  • The winner will be chosen randomly. The winner will receive one (1) Nuance Dragon Dictate 2.5 for Mac with a retail value of $179.99.
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified via e-mail. The winner must respond within three days of the end of the contest. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen.
  • Entries can be submitted until Monday, February 6, at 12 p.m. ET.

And here’s the disclaimer that our legal department said we had to include (sorry for the caps, but rules are rules) :

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. MUST BE LEGAL RESIDENT OF ONE OF THE 50 UNITED STATES OR D.C., 18 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER AT DATE OF ENTRY INTO SWEEPSTAKES. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, ALL U.S. TERRITORIES AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Sweepstakes ends at 12 p.m. ET on Monday, Monday, February 6, 2012. See official rules for details.

Good luck.

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CNET Roadside Assistance 43: Considering the crazy colors of cars (podcast)

Classical music fan mourns the end of CDs in the
car, U.K. vs. U.S. mpg–why so different? Give your older car a total tech transplant, and why Bluetooth is so complicated–still!

Listen now:

Download today’s podcast

EPISODE 43


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Subscribe with RSS (video)

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Reckless Racing 2 power-slides into the iTunes App Store

Reckless Racing 2

Reckless Racing 2 is here and it’s got all the bells and whistles we were missing in the original.

(Credit:
Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

The sequel to one of our favorite iOS racing games is out today, and new game modes, customization options, and
car upgrades make Reckless Racing 2 the best in its genre at the iTunes App Store.

When the original Reckless Racing came out, it was a revelation of what a savvy developer could do on an iOS device. With great-looking graphics, ultra-realistic physics, and a retro edge, Reckless Racing demonstrated a new breed of racing game on iOS.

Reckless Racing 2 ($4.99) has all of the things we liked about the original, but adds tons of features and new tracks, and organizes the game modes to make a better all around gaming experience. The game comes with 24 routes with both dirt and tarmac variations and some races even have a mix of both surfaces. The physics in the original were exceptional, and this sequel continues the tradition, possibly making it the best power-slide racing game in the iTunes App Store. The tracks are also longer and more varied than the original, with big straightaways, clifflike drop-offs, and even better scenery.

Reckless Racing 2

On the dirt tracks, you can really feel the gravel as you slide around the corners.

(Credit:
Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

The original Reckless Racing had both single and multiplayer, but neither were very deep. The single-player mode was divided up between Dirt Rally, where you could try to improve your position on five different tracks; Hot Lap, where you would race to get your best time; and Delivery, which had you delivering packages around the map within a time limit. Reckless Racing 2 offers an Arcade mode with 40 challenges to race through and unlock on various surfaces and with different cars. Even better, there’s a fully realized Campaign mode with cups and championships and you even have car requirements to qualify. If you don’t want to commit to a long event, you can play single-event races or just try for your best time in Hot Lap mode. Reckless Racing 2 also offers online multiplayer, and in my testing I was able to find games easily and experienced no lag over my Wi-Fi connection.

Reckless Racing 2

Choose from several upgrades in each category to add power or improve your car’s handling.

(Credit:
Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Perhaps the biggest difference between Reckless Racing 2 and the original is you now have tons of cars to choose from and several upgrades for each car that will help you qualify for cups. There are now 18 different cars you can purchase with your winnings, each of which resemble real-world cars, but don’t have the actual names (probably to avoid licensing conflicts). You also have the option to buy extra credits through in-app purchase, but with some patience you can earn plenty of cash to buy whatever you want.

As you progress, you’ll be able to get upgrades for your car in the garage that will improve handling, top speed, and acceleration, and will prepare your car to enter tournaments with strict requirements (like the Real Racing games). Some of these modifications are visible (like whale tails and skirts) and others are in-engine upgrades. You also have the ability to repaint your car and can choose the base color as well as a second option to change the color of the design on your car. All of these customizations give you control over the look and drivability of your car, which were not available options in the original.

Reckless Racing 2

You’ll have to take it to the tarmac as well–less sliding, but same great racing action.

(Credit:
Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

One thing that didn’t change in the new version is the fun factor. True to its name, Reckless Racing 2 is a knock-down, drag-out fight to the finish as you slide around turns and muscle your way past your opponents. Whether it’s the physics or the overall style, something about this game makes it feel just right.

With all of the added tracks, improved scenery, car customization, and newly fleshed-out game modes, Reckless Racing 2 is everything a sequel should be. If you like off-road, slide-around-the-turns racing, this is the best game of its kind in the iTunes App Store and more than worth the introductory price of $4.99 (Universal).

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Automakers spoof movies in Super Bowl ads, and employ many dogs

TV legends Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld team up for a new Acura commercial.

(Credit:
Acura)

You won’t have to wait until Sunday to enjoy the latest crop of Super Bowl commercials. And from the looks of it there will be a bumper crop of automaker ads.

Wedged between the notoriously racy GoDaddy ad and various commercials for beverages and yogurt, will be more vehicle ads than ever.

Last week, Audi took a stab at trendy creatures of the night. This week Jerry Seinfeld revives his old shtick–complete with Soup Nazi and other characters–for an ad for the new Acura NSX. Jay Leno and other familiar faces appear in the extended version of the ad.

Seinfeld isn’t the only blast from the past. Matthew Broderick stars in a “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”-inspired ad for the 2012 Honda CR-V. Fans of the 1986 John Hughes flick will no doubt cringe.

Another famous face, Troy Aikman, lends his star power to hawking Bridgestone‘s latest tires.

Cars.com channels something out of the movie “Men in Black,” with a creepy disco-singing head sticking out of some dude’s shoulder while he shops for a new
car.

The winner of a Chevrolet’s Route 66 competition brings the latest Chevy ad. It starts off with a little misunderstanding and ends in a lot of hoopla.

Chevy is running deeper than just that with a Chevy Sonic “stunt anthem.” This one-minute spot features the Sonic skydiving, bungee jumping, kick-flipping, and performing with OK Go.

The Hyundai Veloster Turbo ad, I’m guessing, was shot in either Utah’s west desert, or somewhere in Nevada. The scenery certainly looks great, but the twist on “Cheetah” will have viewers watching this 34-second spot a few times.

Kia didn’t run out its full ad. Instead the Korean automaker delivered a 16-second teaser.

Suzuki entertains with a spot called “Sled,” to promote the automaker’s all-wheel-drive 2012 Suzuki Kizashi sport sedan.

Lexus is also banking on a teaser to entice viewers.

The car-and-dog combo is definitely a hit. Volkswagen has demonstrated that with more than 10 million views of its “Star Wars”-themed teaser, “The Bark Side.”

VW pretty much kills with an ad for the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle, which inspires a dog named Bolt to get in shape and start chasing cars.

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Pentax poised to reveal high-end, compact K-01 camera

The Pentax K-01

The Pentax K-01

(Credit:
PR Web/BH Photo)

Pentax fans will be delighted to know that they won’t have to make do with the ill-starred Pentax Q when it comes to higher-end compact cameras.

Thanks to a gun-jumping announcement by camera retail powerhouse BH Photo Video, details on the rumored Pentax’s K-01 have now emerged. The camera uses the relatively large APS-C-sized sensor and corresponding K mount lenses from Pentax’s SLR line, but omits the bulk-inducing flip-up reflex mirror used for SLRs’ optical viewfinders.

In short, Pentax seems to have made more of a mini-SLR than a mega-compact, compensating for the runty Pentax Q sensor with a large, premium-sensor design. (Though of course it’s not nearly as vast and expensive as the sensor in the medium-format Pentax 645D camera.) The K-01 approach means that Pentax shooters can keep their lenses–a contrast to how Sony came up with its new E mount for its NEX line of compact interchangeable-lens cameras with APS-C sensors.

Pentaxs new 40mm f2.8 pancake lens

Pentax’s new 40mm f2.8 pancake lens

(Credit:
PR Web/BH Photo)

Pentax’s choice also means that the K-01 design is relatively bulky. Smaller sensors don’t offer the same image quality, but they permit smaller lenses. Overall, the approach tilts more in the direction of a smaller option for SLR shooters than the step-up camera for compact camera owners.

Cutting down on the bulk will be a new pancake lens, the Pentax DA 40mm f/2.8 XS, which BH also revealed. The retailer is accepting pre-orders for the camera and said the lens will ship in March.

The K-01’s 16-megapixel sensor has a range up to ISO 25,600 and can shoot H.264-encoded video at 1080p and 30 frames per second or 720p at 60fps, BH said. The K-01 also uses Pentax’s sensor-shift technology to counteract camera shake.

The camera can shoot bursts of 6 frames per second and use shutter speeds up to 1/4000 sec., BH said. It’s got a pop-up flash and a mode for shooting in-camera HDR (high dynamic range) images. And the camera and lens were designed by Marc Newson, the company added.

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