Tag Archives: Electronics

Terra Motors launches electric tuk-tuk for Philippines

Terra Motors’ e-tricycle can carry six and travel 31 miles per charge.


(Credit:
Terra Motors)

Tuk-tuks are a common way to get around in many Asian cities, but they contribute to urban pollution and high fuel costs.

Tokyo-based startup Terra Motors wants to put more non-polluting vehicles on the streets with an electric tuk-tuk unveiled this week for the Philippines.

The blue and white “e-tricycle” is powered by a lithium-ion battery and can carry six people including the driver. It’s just under 11 feet long and is steered with handlebars.

It can travel some 31 miles per 2-hour charge, according to the firm, which is hoping to become the world’s top electric tuk-tuk maker.

“There is no single company in Asia that mass-produces electric bikes or tricycles,” president Toru Tokushige was quoted as saying by AFP.

“I think it could have a big impact if a Japanese company is the pioneer in the market with products of such a futuristic design.”

The tuk-tuks will go on sale in fall 2013 for about $6,300 apiece.

Terra Motors is gunning for a Philippine government plan, funded by a $300 million Asian Development Bank loan, to replace 100,000 gas-powered tricycle taxis with “e-trikes” by 2016.

The average tuk-tuk driver in the Philippines earns less than $10 a day, but e-trikes will save him $5 a day in fuel costs, according to the bank. The trikes will be introduced to Manila and other cities under a lease-to-own system.

“Replacing 100,000 gasoline-powered trikes will enable the Philippine government to save more than $100 million a year in avoided fuel imports, while decreasing annual CO2 emissions by about 260,000 tons,” the bank said in a release.

Asian Development Bank e-trikes ply the streets of Manila.


(Credit:
Asian Development Bank)

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Must-see videos from the New York auto show

This week our Car Tech team was on-hand at the 2013 New York auto show, busily scouring the floors in order to bring you the best from the event, here in video format.

1. 2014 Kia Soul

The 2014 Kia Soul is the surprise of the 2013 New York auto show and a hit of the “box on wheels” movement, plus it comes stacked with some nifty tech.

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Subaru gives a peek at next-generation WRX

Subaru WRX concept

Subaru’s WRX concept takes the stage during the 2013 New York auto show.


(Credit:
Sarah Tew/CNET)

NEW YORK–When Subaru updated its Impreza for the 2012 model year, enthusiast were left wondering when a WRX version would follow. Here at the 2013 New York International Auto Show, the wait wasn’t over, but Subaru did hint at its WRX development work.

At the show, Subaru pulled the covers off the WRX concept, a sedan with fastback styling.

Subaru WRX concept makes world debut in New York (pictures)

Although a concept, the
car looks almost production-ready. Its LED headlights would likely not make it to production, but the body style is something Subaru could pull off.

The company released no specifications at the unveiling of the concept, but a production version would likely use Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system and have a turbocharged boxer-style engine, both technologies to which Subaru is devoted.

However, Subaru’s recent development of continuously variable transmissions would not be suitable for a high-performance car. Expect a manual transmission similar to that in the BRZ.

Subaru released no timeline for a production version, but as it would probably be a big seller, the company should be hard at work, and may have something to show before the end of the year. A new WRX would likely go on sale next year.

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BMW adding Rhapsody and Audible to app roster

BMW Apps

BMW owners will soon be able to access their Rhapsody apps through the iDrive interface.


(Credit:
Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

NEW YORK–Adding to its existing roster of app integration, which currently comprises Pandora and Mog, BMW announced its next four apps to work with BMW
cars at the New York International Auto Show. Music fans will be able to easily use Rhapsody and TuneIn, book lovers can listen to Audible, and Glympse lets drivers share their current whereabouts and destination.

Each app shows up on the LCD in BMW models equipped with the app integration feature, in a format similar to other car applications, such as navigation or the hands-free phone system.

Rhapsody subscribers will get a similar feature set to what shows up on the smartphone app, including playlist access and the ability to download music. The app also shows album art for currently playing tracks.


BMW Apps

BMW Apps integrates apps running on an iPhone with the car, letting drivers access features through the car’s interface.


(Credit:
Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

The integration with Glympse includes the ability to share destinations from the car’s own navigation system, or use one previously saved in the app. Drivers will be able to set the amount of time the Glympse tracks their movement and specify whether to send it to a specific person or share it on a social network. Each Glympse a driver sends shows the car’s destination and its current location on a map.

Similar to the Audible app, BMW’s integration lets drivers choose a recorded book and play it over the car’s stereo. The interface lets drivers change the playback speed and skip back 30 seconds at the push of a button. Because the car integrates with the app on a phone, it starts playing from the most recent stop point. Audible book recordings integrate with Amazon’s Whispersync, so if a driver owns a book on
Kindle and Audible, the last Audible book starts at the last stopping point of the Kindle version, and vice versa.

With TuneIn, drivers can listen to radio stations streaming over the Internet from anywhere in the world.

All the apps are integrated through the BMW Apps feature, which means they must be installed on the phone, and the phone must be connected to the car through a cable. Currently, BMW Apps only works with iPhones.

BMW offered no timeline for when the new apps would work with BMW Apps, but it should be soon, as the demonstration looked finished.

Along with the app announcement, BMW also said it would extend its telematics-based collision notification feature by making it standard equipment in all of its models. Further, the service will be free of charge for 10 years, and will transfer to a new owner if the car is sold used.

BMW Apps

Glympse lets drivers share a real-time map of their locations and destinations with friends and social-networking services.


(Credit:
Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

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2014 Toyota Highlander gets a much-needed update in NYC

2014 Toyota Highlander
(Credit:
Sarah Tew/CNET)

NEW YORK–Toyota’s soccer-mom-mobile gets an infusion of cabin tech, modernized safety features, and an updated sense of style with the debut of the 2014 Toyota Highlander midsize SUV at the New York International Auto Show.

With the previous generation pushing seven years old, the Highlander was very much in need of an update. Also, the SUV still seats up to eight passengers across its three rows or seven passengers when equipped with the optional second-row captain’s chairs. Both configurations benefit from increased interior volume for passengers and cargo thanks to a new, double-wishbone rear suspension that removes the strut tower intrusions. Despite the increased interior volume, Toyota tells us that the exterior dimensions haven’t increased much. Overall length is only up a bit over 3 inches and width only increases by a fraction of an inch.

Of course, the new suspension’s primary function is keeping the wheels stuck to the road and, of course, Toyota tells us that handling has been improved. The Highlander should boast a more rigid chassis and more responsive steering.

Toyota’s 2014 Highlander SUV gets a truckish redesign

The new look is, to my eye, more truckish than before, with a more upright greenhouse that promotes better visibility and a chunky front fascia that features an enlarged upper grille opening. I’m seeing blended elements from Toyota’s Tundra and Tacoma trucks with echoes of elements from the automaker’s newest large sedan models here. While I’m not a fan of the new look, it is certainly less anonymous than the outgoing model.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Toyota’s Venza takes this more trucklike look when it is eventually redesigned or if the automaker will push its design closer to that of its sedans.

2014 Toyota Highlander

The new Highlander’s exterior dimensions haven’t changed much.


(Credit:
Sarah Tew/CNET)

The standard cabin tech package is built around Toyota’s 6.1-inch display audio system, which we’ve seen previously in the most recent batch of the automaker’s new models, and will come with a rearview camera as a standard feature. The automaker’s Entune infotainment, app integration, and navigation engine will also be available as an option, making use of an 8-inch color touch screen in this incarnation.

Interestingly, Toyota’s presentation made multiple references to a “unique” in-dash shelf for stowing small objects, sunglasses, or mobile phones. I suppose that bragging about storage nooks is the new bragging about number of cup holders. Sarcasm aside, the shelf is where you’ll find the vehicle’s USB port, audio input, and power point, so at least it’s a useful cabin design element.

2014 Toyota Highlander

Toyota’s mostly standardized its Entune-based tech options across the lineup.


(Credit:
Sarah Tew/CNET)

Toyota’s midsize SUV also plays catchup with its available safety tech options. Driver safety is augmented by blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, lane departure detection, automatic high-beam headlights, and front precollision monitoring system — all now par for the course where modern driver aid technology is concerned.

The 2014 Toyota Highlander will be available in 2.7-liter, four-cylinder or 3.5-liter, V-6 flavors — nothing new here — with front-wheel and all-wheel-drive power train options. The all-wheel drive system features a new Dynamic Torque Control system that the company says automatically and continuously monitors and adjusts the front-to-rear power distribution between the 100:0 default and 50:50 maximum split for finer control of traction without compromising fuel economy.

Additionally, the Highlander Hybrid model will make a return appearance. Today’s presentation didn’t mention any new details about the hybrid power train, so either not much has changed or the details are still being worked out. I’m betting on the former and possibly a slight bump in fuel economy estimates once the EPA testing is done.

Expect to see the updated 2014 Toyota Highlander at dealerships in early 2014. Pricing has not yet been announced.

Correction, 9:45 a.m. PT:
I’ve removed the inaccurate sentence referring to the Highlander’s use of a body-on-frame. Apparently, Toyota was referring to the FJ Cruiser during that portion of its presentation.

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New BMW 6-series takes dictation, shows virtual gauges

2014 BMW 6-series

BMW will offer this special edition of the 2014 6-series, called the Frozen Brilliant White Convertible.


(Credit:
BMW)

The tech arms race between BMW and Audi is yielding some amazing cars, such as the Audi S7 we recently reviewed. BMW fights back with its newly announced 2014 6-series, featuring revised cabin electronics that will not only take dictation and send out e-mails for the driver, but also debuts a new digital instrument cluster.


BMW Dynamic Digital Instrument Cluster

In Comfort mode, the new digital instrument cluster assumes a traditional look.


(Credit:
BMW)


BMW Dynamic Digital Instrument Cluster

The instrument cluster turns red in Sport mode.


(Credit:
BMW)

BMW touted the new voice-recognition system for the 6-series in a press release today, noting its simplified voice commands and control over most cabin tech features. The new system will let drivers activate a dictation mode, having the
car transcribe e-mails and text messages. The car reads out the resulting text and includes voice controls for making simple edits. The driver can send the text to anyone in her paired phone’s contact list through e-mail or text message.

The new 6-series also lets owners pair two phones at a time, a feature useful for couples. The system makes one shared contact list from the two phone accessible through voice command or with BMW’s iDrive system.

A special edition of the 6-series, the Frozen Brilliant White Convertible, comes out in early May, and will be the first BMW in the U.S. to feature the Dynamic Digital Instrument Cluster. This new instrument cluster from BMW is completely virtual, showing virtual gauges on an LCD. The type of gauges and the aesthetic design changes based on the car’s driving mode.

The 2014 6-series will be offered in coupe and convertible forms, and as the four door Gran Coupe. M6 versions will come out with a no-cost option for a six-speed manual transmission. BMW designed the manual transmission to automatically match engine speed for seamless shifts, although it turns off rev-matching in Sport Plus mode.

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