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+++ As if seeing the future more than a decade from now, one of the top scientists in the world of robotics and automations is predicting that children born today won’t need to apply for a driving license in the next 10 to 15 years. Why did he say that? The person who made that prediction is Henrik Christensen, and he is not your ordinary tech guy. He is already a famous Danish roboticist and is serving as Professor of Computer Science in the University of California. His credentials have prompted the University of California to tap his services in July 2016 to run UC San Diego’s Contextual Robotics Institute. Next month, he will be gathering 30 of the world’s top scientists at the University of California for a discussion of the toughest challenges in robotics and automation — including making AUTONOMOUS cars safe on the road. Christensen was recently interviewed by The San Diego Union-Tribune about what he thinks about the near future. According to Christensen, he expects all vehicles in the next 10 to 15 years to be fully automated. This means that the children of today won’t need to drive anymore thanks to these autonomous vehicles, rendering getting a driving license moot and academic. He based his predictions on the promises and statements made by major global carmakers (like General Motors, Ford and Mercedes) that they would be able to introduce driverless cars into the road within the next 5 years. Going by Christensen’s scenario, fully autonomous vehicles would be a common thing on the road in the future, sending those with steering wheels to the scrap yard as they don’t have a place anymore on the road. Christensen predicts that people in the future would rather commute than drive if doing so makes them more productive. He also noted that self-driving cars would allow the volume of traffic to be doubled without improving the current infrastructure. He also added that fewer garages will be needed in the future that he is painting. Christensen said that this because in the future, car ownership will become an obsolete idea, and instead the car as a service will be the new road battle-cry. The only garages that will be needed are those by the operators of the car service. However, not everyone agrees with Christensen. Take Toyota, Lamborghini and Audi for example. While these carmakers see the future loaded with autonomous cars, they are also expecting quite a number of motorists to prefer technology-assisted drivable vehicles simply because these people love driving. Moreover, while autonomous cars could become a long-term trend in large cities, adoption of this technology in lesser developed places in globe could take decades. +++

+++ The 2018 model year could be an exciting year for fans and enthusiasts of the CHEVROLET Corvette. This comes as the 2018 version of the Corvette is bound to feature a powerful 6.2-liter DOHC V8 LT5 engine; although it remains unknown which Corvette would be lucky enough to be fitted with this new powerplant. This development was not officially confirmed yet by General Motors, but this is neither a rumor or speculation. This development was confirmed by an internal document from the General Motors service department. The fifth page of this internal document – which contains information such as internal codes that will be employed for the 2018 model year vehicles – shows a table in which a section was dubbed as “Passenger Car Engines for GM North America”. On the last portion of this section, the following descriptions were listed: ENGINE GAS 8 CYL, 6.2L, SIDI, DOHC, VVT, ALUM and GM. This means that this new powerplant is a 6.2-liter gasoline aluminum V8 engine with Spark Ignition Direct Injection (SIDI) and Variable Valve Timing (VVT) technologies. In addition, this engine is catalogued with the book code ‘Y’, which internally means that this powerplant will only be fitted in the Corvette with an internal name LT5. Interestingly, the internal name LT5 was the moniker given to the only other DOHC V8 engine for Corvette: the Lotus-designed aluminum-block engine powering the C4 ZR-1. As to which Corvette model that would receive this new 6.2-liter DOHC V8 LT5 engine, 2 vehicles come in mind: a new C7 Corvette ZR1 and a new C8 Corvette mid-engine car. Both the C7 ZR1 and the C8 mid-engine are up and coming models for Chevrolet in the 2018 model year, which means the 6.2-liter DOHC V8 LT5 powerplant would be installed in any of these 2 vehicles. It seems, however, that the C7 ZR1 would get the better hand over the C8 mid-engine. Its ancestor – the C4 ZR1 – also features an aluminum DOHC V8 LT5 engine that shares a name with the new engine described in GM’s internal document. However, there has to be some issues that need to be addressed before Chevrolet could fit the new 6.2-liter DOHC V8 engine into the C7 ZR1 like the amount of available (should it be more powerful than Z06 with 650 hp) power as well as packaging. It is also possible that the 6.2-liter DOHC V8 engine would be fitted into the C8 mid-engine, but this new Corvette is rumored to arrive for the 2019 model year at the earliest. Since the 6.2-liter DOHC V8 engine (as the internal document indicates) will be fitted into a 2018 model year Corvette, the 2019 C8 mid-engine is less likely to be picked. However, there is also the possibility that the 6.2-liter DOHC V8 engine would be fitted first into the C7 ZR1, and then to the C8 mid-engine. +++

+++ The DS E-Tense supercar has taken another step towards making production, patent files have revealed. DS has this week filed a trademark for the E-Tense name, further suggesting that the dramatic supercar concept of last year’s Geneva motor show could make production. The luxury arm of PSA Group (also parent company to Peugeot and Citroën) has been toying with the idea of its own supercar as a halo model since the car’s warm reception in Geneva, in addition to a new SUV. Unusually, however, a trademark for the SUV hasn’t yet been filed, despite the model being expected to make production before the supercar. We won’t be seeing the E-Tense in production form until after 2018 when the SUV is due to go on sale, and it could come as late as 2021, with all-wheel drive and a 410 hp electric powertrain. PSA boss Carlos Tavares has hinted more than once at the car’s potential for production, and PSA even took the E-Tense concept to the streets of Paris to gauge public reaction. The car is a far cry from the hatchbacks and SUVs that DS is using to increase its market share against German rivals; its hesitation to confirm the E-Tense is to be expected, given the risk involved in producing such a car. +++

+++ The LOTUS cross-over is still on the roadmap, but not until 2022 or later. The company has already started work on a prototype, but the project has not yet received an official greenlight for production. Lotus has reaffirmed its development plans for a lightweight crossover, but a high-riding model has taken a back seat as the company redesigns its core models in the coming years. Nearly 2 years ago Lotus chief Jean-Marc Gales seemed enthusiastic about the project, claiming the company was working on the “world’s first lightweight SUV” that would retain the essence of a “real Lotus” and invigorate the segment. It would be similarly sized to a Porsche Macan, with styling inspired by the 3-Eleven. The executive now tells the company has not given the crossover an official greenlight or finalized a design, and it may be “4 or 5 years away, as with the rest of the new range”. The British automaker has placed a higher priority on completing replacements for the Elise, due in 2020, along with the Exige and Evora. Despite the cautionary comments, Gales still argues that it is a good idea because no rival makes a “lightweight, good-handling SUV”. The company believes a higher-riding model could potentially double its sales volume, as the Cayenne and Macan have done for Porsche. +++

+++ MERCEDES is set to crown its current seven-strong SUV line-up with a plush new Maybach-badged GLS model that’s been conceived to act as an up-market rival to the likes of the Bentley Bentayga, Range Rover SV Autobiography Dynamic and yet-to-be-launched Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Planned for launch in 2019 at a price around 225,000 euro, the big new SUV is based around the upcoming third-generation GLS and is being developed to offer performance, accommodation and features consummate with the existing Mercedes-Maybach S-class launched in 2015, according to senior Mercedes-Benz officials, who cite China, North America and Russia among the new model’s key target markets. The new Mercedes-Maybach GLS will receive its own unique styling elements, many of which will be drawn directly from the racey Maybach 6 Coupe concept revealed at the Pebble Beach Concourse in 2016 as a preview to the future of Mercedes-Benz’s Maybach sub-brand. Despite retaining the same aluminium, high strength steel and composite body panels as future standard GLS models, the new up-market SUV is expected to sport a different grille and unique headlamp and tail lamp graphics as well as added chrome and individual wheel designs in a move aimed at providing it with a more noble appearance in line with the current Mercedes-Maybach S-class. Secrecy surrounds the layout of the new Mercedes-Maybach GLS, although there are suggestions it could also boast an extended wheelbase in a bid to provide it with the sort of rear seat legroom offered by the luxury SUV competition. The current 5.130 mm long second-generation GLS rides on a 3.080 mm wheelbase; some 40 mm shorter than that used by the 5.199 mm long Range Rover SV Autobiography long wheelbase but 80 mm longer than that of the 5.140 mm long Bentley Bentayga. Inside, the second of the new generation of Maybach models is planned to boast a luxuriously equipped cabin with appointments and materials beyond those of Mercedes-Benz’s existing Designo line. Among the more unique touches will be Maybach themed digital instrument infotainment system graphics, says an insider closely involved in the new model’s development. Although the standard third-generation GLS is planned to offer seating for up to 7 on 3 rows of seats, the new Maybach model is set to offer two rows of seats with dedicated seating for 4, or, as optional, 5. Among the engines likely to be offered by the future range-topping GLS model is Mercedes-Benz’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine mated to a standard 9-speed automatic, with both 4Matic four-wheel drive and Air Body Control air suspension set to be standard. Insiders also hint at plans for a twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre V12 flagship, although this is yet to be officially acknowledged. Also under development for the new GLS are petrol-electric and diesel-electric hybrid drivetrains; the latter of which is set to debut in the E-class later this year. Mercedes-Benz’s plan to extend the Maybach line-up to include a GLS based model comes after strong sales of the Mercedes-Maybach S-class, which has racked up some 15,000 sales worldwide since its launch in 2015. +++

+++ NISSAN will review the case for future investment in Britain when the terms of the country’s departure from the European Union finally become clear, the Japanese carmaker’s Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said. Nissan said in October it was going ahead with plans to build the next generation X-Trail and Qashqai at its plant in Sunderland, northeast England, after obtaining written government assurances that Brexit would not be allowed to harm the site’s export competitiveness. The decision was hailed by Prime Minister Theresa May’s government as evidence that the threat of new EU trade tariffs would not significantly damage investment in Britain. Ghosn said Nissan would re-examine the group’s investment strategy once the terms of Brexit become clear. The UK government has said it will trigger the 2 year process for exiting the EU by the end of March. “Obviously when the package comes, you are going to have to re-evaluate the situation, and say, okay, is the competitiveness of your plant preserved or not?” he told reporters. Ghosn, who also heads Nissan’s alliance partner Renault, said he trusted and assumed that May’s government would ensure that Sunderland remained competitive whatever the final outcome of Brexit talks. He added: “We’re going to have to make decisions on investment within the next 2 to 3 years. So obviously the faster the Brexit results come, the better”. May’s Conservative government has steadfastly rejected opposition demands that it publish the “letter of comfort” written to Ghosn by Business Secretary Greg Clark and first reported by Reuters on Oct. 27. +++

+++ TOYOTA ’s North American production rises to 2,1 million units in 2016. More than half the vehicles were built in America, while around 140,000 were assembled in Mexico. Toyota has highlighted another record year for its North American factories, which produced more than 2.1 million vehicles last year. Production volume increased 4.4 percent compared to last year’s total of more than two million vehicles from the same group of assembly plants. Toyota’s US factories accounted for the majority of the total, with more than 1.3 million vehicles rolling off assembly lines in Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi and Texas. Subaru’s Indiana plant also produced nearly 36,000 Toyota vehicles. Canada was second on the list with more than 600,000 vehicles produced last year. The Corolla and RAV4 accounted for most of the Canadian manufacturing tally. The Japanese automaker’s Mexico operations still produce far fewer vehicles than in the US and Canada, with 97,000 Tacoma pickups produced in Baja California and 43,500 Yaris and Yaris iA cars assembled at a Mazda factory. The company is currently working on a new factory in Mexico with an annual output volume of 200,000 vehicles. Despite threats from President-elect Donald Trump, the factory is moving forward with plans to kick off production in 2019 for the 2020-model-year Corolla. Aside from the production numbers, several Toyota factories celebrated significant anniversaries in 2016. The company’s Cambridge, Ontario, and Georgetown, Kentucky, plants have now been operational for 30 years, while Princetown, Indiana, and Buffalo, West Virginia, factories celebrated 20 years. +++

+++ Håkan Samuelsson, Chief Executive of VOLVO, said a stock market listing is an option for the Swedish carmaker. “A stock market listing is an option”, Samuelsson told, adding that there are no current plans for such a move and that it would be up to parent company Geely Holding to decide. Last month, Volvo raised 5 billion Swedish crowns ($532 million) from a group of Swedish institutional investors by selling newly-issued preference shares that would have “an immaterial dilutive effect” on Geely’s 100 percent ownership. “Today’s move is another step toward Volvo Cars’ long expressed ambition to act as a listed company”, Volvo said in a statement in December. +++

 

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