Tag Archives: Technology

Is it a motorcycle? Is it a disco? It’s a discomocycle!

Yuhan Zhang)

Wouldn’t it be great if you could have your very own disco everywhere you go? Forget the shoulder-borne boombox — student Yuhan Zhang from Sweden’s Umea Institute of Design has brought mobile music into the 21st century.

Called the Marshall Dicycle, the concept is designed around amp maker Marshall, although the look of the thing seems to skew more toward “Tron” than Marshall’s rather traditional style.

Slung between two enormous hubless wheels is the body of a motorcycle, with enough seating room for two riders. Storage space for musical instruments sits beneath the seat. The frame itself is rigid, as the wheels turn inside the rims, with a cutout at the base allowing them to come in contact with the road.

The wheels themselves also function as amplifiers, with an array of knobs on each one. All you have to do is plug in your instruments, and boom! Instant disco!

(Source: Crave Australia via Inhabitat)

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White House petition backs direct sales of Tesla cars

Tesla’s all-electric Model S sedan.

Josh Miller/CNET)

A Tesla fan is asking the White House for help. He wants the federal government to stop states from requiring that cars be sold only by third-party dealers.

In a White House petition he created, the fan asks the Obama administration to “allow Tesla Motors to sell directly to consumers in all 50 states.” He believes that states shouldn’t be allowed to stop the electric
car company from selling autos directly to customers.

“The state legislators are trying to unfairly protect automobile dealers in their states from competition,” the fan writes in the petition. “Tesla is providing competition, which is good for consumers.”

The fan, Ken (who doesn’t want his last name used), told CNET that he created the petition because he doesn’t think “states should prevent direct car sales.” He said that he doesn’t work for Tesla but does own some stock in the company. He also said he looks forward to buying a Tesla vehicle someday.

For the petition to be reviewed by President Obama it needs 100,000 signatures by July 5. As of this writing, it has nearly 17,000 signatures.

Normally, selling cars via third-party dealers isn’t a big deal, since it’s the way most car manufacturers sell their vehicles. But, for Tesla, it matters. The electric car company only sells its vehicles directly to buyers.

According to CNBC, several states are considering banning direct vehicle sales. However, only Texas has the law currently in place. So, while Tesla can show its all-electric Model S sedan in Texas car galleries, it cannot sell the vehicle in that state.

Auto dealers have a lot of political sway with state governments. They give a lot in donations to state lawmakers and car dealerships are one of the biggest generators of tax revenue for states, according to CNBC.

In the world of car manufacturers, Tesla is a fledgling company. It was founded just 10 years ago and began deliveries of its Model S in 2012. In May, CEO Elon Musk announced that the company had finally reached profitability for the first time.

CNET contacted Tesla for comment. We’ll update the story when we get more information.

Updated at 8:20 p.m. PT
to correct that the petition was created by a Tesla fan and not the car company.

Updated at 8:20 p.m. PT
with comment from Tesla fan Ken.

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850-hp Jaguar C-X75 hybrid supercar struts its speed

The C-X75’s stunning rear end. Catch it if you can.

Jaguar Land Rover)

With a name fit for a “Star Wars” droid, the Jaguar C-X75 boasts some out-of-this-world looks and seriously sexy specs. Jaguar engineers combined a 1.6-liter turbo supercharged four-cylinder engine (that delivers 502 horsepower) with two electric motors (390 horsepower) for a total output that exceeds 850 horsepower.

When the
car‘s at a complete standstill, racers cranking the C-X75’s seven-speed manual transmission can achieve 0-100 mph in less than six seconds. If that’s not fast enough for you, the theoretical top speed of 220 mph should set you straight, or at least put you in the next county quite quickly. The C-X75’s carbon composite chassis undoubtedly assists in creating a very light footprint.

Drop-dead, deliciously crushworthy cars (pictures)

“Our challenge was monumental: we needed to achieve the performance of a Veyron; the range of a Volt; and the CO2 of a Prius,” Jaguar C-X75 manager Rob Atkin says in a new video promoting the supercar.

Despite the glitz and glamor, the C-X75 isn’t all about insane speed and Batmobile aesthetics. Since Jaguar decided to move away from the idea of production in 2012, the speedster now serves as a testbed for the company to experiment with next-generation drivetrain combinations and advanced technologies. A spec sheet notes that the C-X75 outputs CO2 emissions at a less-than-Prius rate of 89 grams per kilometer, but the company doesn’t specify under what conditions. When running strictly in electric mode, the C-X75 can travel about 37 miles while outputting zero emissions. See more angles and behind-the-scenes information about the C-X75 in the video below (1080p recommended).

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Peugeot takes to the waves with high-tech surfboard

Peugeot/Laurent Picard)

If a FlowRider Surf Machine is making an appearance at a car festival, Peugeot steps up to the plate. At this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed in the U.K. (from July 11-14), the car manufacturer will debut the GTi Surfboard concept, based on its recent performance cars — the 208 GTi, in particular, as well as the RCZ R and the Onyx concept vehicle.

Carved into a coupe franche (“clean cut”) shape, the GTi board shows two distinct parts: the nose of the surfboard in wood, the original material for the craft before fiberglass and polyurethane came along. This wooden nose, Peugeot said, represents “emotion,” and is carved with the Peugeot GTi logo.

The tail end of the surfboard, representing “motion,” is carbon fiber — the material used for the Onyx — and is embellished with racing-stripe red on the outer fins. These, combined with the two inner fins, “are designed to give a responsive, exhilarating, and agile ride quality,” Peugeot said on its Web site.

It’s these two concepts — motion and emotion — that Peugeot seeks to embody in the experience of driving its
cars. Visitors to the festival can see the board on display by the FlowRider, but sadly, Peugeot makes no mention of seeing it in action.

Peugeot/Laurent Picard)

(Source: Crave Australia)

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Second-generation BMW X3 grows up, slims down

Perhaps it’s BMW’s fault for cramming so many similarly sized vehicles, between-size variants, and remixed configurations into its lineup, but I had the hardest time deciding if the 2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i is too big or too small.

The second-generation vehicle’s aesthetic is more wagonlike and it seems to press down into the ground when viewed in the round, which makes it look smaller — both in photographs and in person — than the pre-2010 model, which has a more angular, upright design. However, put the models side by side and it becomes apparent that the new model has actually grown by a few inches in every direction.

Adding to the spatial confusion, front and back seat passengers remarked that the 2013 X3’s cabin didn’t feel as spacious as they thought a small SUV should, even while I was raving about enjoying about the crossover’s tall driver’s seat position, which gives a good view of the road ahead and the area around the vehicle when maneuvering into tight parking spaces.

For the entire week, I went back and forth on the X3’s scale, but ultimately decided that I liked it — perhaps the X3 is just right. It looks and feels smaller than it is, which is a good thing for drivers who want a vehicle with more space for people and the flexibility of the crossover’s hatchback, but don’t want to feel like they’re behind the wheel of a Hummer.

Fortunately, it’s not my job to decide whether the X3 is rightly sized — that’s a subjective decision that ultimately lies in your, the buyer’s, hands — I’ve only got to decide whether it’s good or not.

Almost everything that you need to know about this BMW X3’s power train can be derived from the xDrive28i designation in the model name. Let’s break it down.

xDrive indicates BMW’s on-demand all-wheel-drive system, which in this implementation defaults to a rear-biased torque split of 40:60, front-to-rear. The system can steplessly and infinitely vary the torque split from front to rear, sending up to 100 percent of power to either axle as the system dictates. The X3 is only available with the xDrive all-wheel-drive system.

The 28i suffix lets us know that this X3 is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection and twin-scroll turbocharging technology that is designed to increase output while preserving the efficiency of the small engine. With a twin-scroll turbo, the X3 can avoid turbo lag — that hesitation followed by a surge of power when you stomp the accelerator on older turbocharged engines. The result is power delivery when you need it and efficiency when you don’t, with very little waiting in between.

Output is rated at 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Thanks to the engine’s technology and BMW’s EfficientDynamics system — which ditches the alternator in favor of charging the 12V system with regenerative braking, reducing drag on the engine — fuel efficiency is stated at 24 mpg combined, which breaks out to 21 city and 28 highway mpg. During our testing, the digital trip computer stayed safely within that range.

engine bay

The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine feels like a good fit for the relaxed X3, but there’s room in the engine bay for the more powerful 3.0-liter mill.

Josh Miller/CNET)

Between the xDrive system and the engine is a single-option eight-speed automatic transmission that features a manual shift mode and a sport program, but our tester didn’t have paddle shifters — which says something about the X3’s realistic sporting aspirations.

That doesn’t mean that the X3 xDrive28i doesn’t try to have a little fun. Our example was equipped with a $3,000 M Sport package that adds 19-inch wheels, an adaptive suspension system, BMW’s Performance Control torque-vectoring system, sport seats, and a variety of aerodynamic and styling upgrades. Also equipped was the Dynamic handling package, a $1,300 option that adds variable sport steering.

Drivers who want a bit more giddy-up can opt for the xDrive35i variant, which fills the X3’s spacious engine bay with a larger, 3.0-liter turbocharged engine that outputs 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque.

Performance and Drive modes
BMW combines the controls for the X3’s adaptive suspension, steering, and power train in one place: the drive mode selector. With this rocker, the driver can select from four drive modes at the touch of a button.

Comfort is the default setting that places the suspension and steering in their most, well, comfortable settings. The accelerator sensitivity and engine responsiveness in this mode are also baselined for relaxed, around-town driving.

drive selector

The X3’s various performance and economy modes are within easy reach of the driver’s seat.

Josh Miller/CNET)

Switching up to Sport mode boosts the responsiveness of the accelerator pedal, making the engine feel more alive under your foot. Variable sport steering and the adaptive suspension, if equipped, are also set to more aggressive settings, slightly improving turn-in and causing the car to at least feel more planted. There’s also a Sport+ mode that takes these settings just a step further and also loosens (but doesn’t fully release) the reins on the stability control system for more dynamic handling with a bit of slip when you want it.

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Delphi keeps track of your car

GM brands such as Chevrolet and Buick, along with most luxury automakers, offer their customers telematics services enabling connected features such as maintenance alerts, vehicle tracking, and even remote door unlocking. If you want these features, you don’t have to buy a whole new car — Delphi and Verizon have partnered to offer Vehicle Diagnostics, a plug-in module for adding advanced telematics to existing cars.

The Vehicle Diagnostics module, a little black box about 4 inches long, plugs into a car’s OBD II port, and comes packed with a GPS chip, a wireless data connection, and the ability to read your car’s trouble codes and other information.

Vehicle Diagnostics module tracks your car (pictures)

If your car was manufactured before 1996, then it won’t have an OBD II port, and won’t work with Delphi’s Vehicle Diagnostics system. Likewise, the system isn’t compatible with every vehicle made after 1996. Check Delphi’s Car Fitment Guide site to see if it will work in yours.

Setup and compatibility
To test out the module, I checked to see if my own 1999 BMW Z3 Coupe would work. No such luck. However, I happen to be a car reviewer, so looked to see if it would work the 2013 Mini Cooper S Paceman I had in this week. Voila — success!

Before plugging the module into the car, I loaded the associated app on my phone and created an account at Delphi’s My Connected Car site. Delphi makes it easy to find the exact location of the OBD II port, which is usually under a vehicle’s dashboard, with its online OBD II port locator. Conveniently, Delphi includes an OBD II port extension cable, as in some cars it will be inconvenient to have the module sticking out into the footwell.

Vehicle Diagnostics by Delphi

The Vehicle Diagnostics module plugs into a car’s OBD II port, usually located under the dashboard.

Josh Miller/CNET)

I plugged the Vehicle Diagnostics module into the Mini’s port, saw that its blue LED was lit, then went for a drive. Checking the app, I found none of the promised data filling its Alerts, Recent Trips, or Location screens. It wasn’t even showing the current fuel level.

Going to the manual, I found the module is not quite as plug-and-play as it says on Delphi’s site. Setting up the system required parking the car where it could get a Verizon signal, turning the engine off but leaving the car on, then plugging in the module. A series of blinking lights indicated it was establishing its wireless connection through Verizon and communicating with the car. Completed after about five minutes, I was ready to go.

Data logger
Leaving the module plugged in, it quietly collected data, sending it to the Delphi Web site and making it available through my phone’s app. After a series of trips, the Recent Trips screen filled with details for every time I drove the car. Each entry showed the start and end time, start and end location, and miles covered.

I could even look at a map with the start and end locations, although it didn’t show the actual path the car had taken.

Vehicle Diagnostics by Delphi

The Vehicle Diagnostics app showed where I had last parked my car.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

As the car was in good working order, the Health screen remained empty, but I triggered a number of Alerts in my travels, all having to do with the engine revving above 4,000. Vehicle Diagnostics will also send an alert if the car is driven over 75 mph, and I assume there are other issues of car abuse that will trigger an alert. However, Delphi allows only one customizable driving alert, geo-fencing, so you couldn’t set a lower maximum speed, for example.

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