+++ Ride-hailing firm Lyft is getting ready to pick up Boston area customers in self-driving cars following an alliance with AUTONOMOUS tech startup NuTonomy. The 2 companies will collaborate to study human interactions with self-driving cars, while NuTonomy is already testing autonomous electric cars in certain Boston neighborhoods. “The first stage of the partnership is focused on research and development on passenger experience”, stated Lyft CEO Logan Green. “The next stages could lead to thousands of NuTonomy cars on the Lyft platform”. Green also announced that the pilot program will get underway in the “coming months” and that the 2 companies are currently in discussions with Boston regulators to set a date. As for NuTonomy, while they don’t build cars, they do develop self-driving software aimed at autonomous vehicle fleets. This program is set to use Renault Zoe electric vehicles, operating on NuTonomy’s platform and Lyft’s network. This recent partnership follows reports of Lyft doing another similar deal with Waymo, which started offering autonomous rides to Arizona residents back in April. Green said that each one of his company’s partnerships is “unique and different” and that Lyft’s agreement with NuTonomy will not affect any of their previous agreements, which include a deal with General Motors to deploy an autonomous fleet of cars next year. +++

+++ Even though President Donald Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, BMW will still be looking to do their part in reducing greenhouse gases and continuing to fight global warming. The Bavarian automaker’s U.S division released the following statement just days after German auto industry lobby group VDA went on record saying that Europe needs to revisit its environmental standards. One of the issues that needs their attention is the fact that electricity and energy prices are already higher in Germany than in the U.S., which in turn puts the EU member at a disadvantage. Following the announcement made by the United States, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also stated that there will be no turning back from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. +++

+++ HYUNDAI has named experienced Volkswagen Group designer Simon Loasby as its new head of design for the Chinese market. No stranger to the world’s biggest car market, Loasby has some 25 years’ experience (including a decade in China) that the South Korean auto giant is expecting him to apply in order to “ensure continuity of Hyundai Motor’s global design language, in addition to developing strategic localised models for the Chinese market”. This will be done as part of the Beijing Hyundai Motor Co joint venture between Hyundai and the BAIC Group that has now been in place for 15 years, creating models such as Celesta, Mingtoo, Yuedong and ix25; and expanding further soon with several new SUV models developed specifically for the Chinese market. Loasby will be based at the company’s technology and engineering centre in Yantai, reporting jointly to Hyundai president and chief design officer Peter Schreyer and senior-vice president and head of the Hyundai Design Centre, Luc Donckerwolke. Loasby has spent the past 10 years as director of design for Volkswagen Group China, delivering various concept and production models for VW: Jetta, Lavida and Lamando, to name just 3; and has also overseen work for affiliate brands such as Skoda. He previously spent 7 years working in Germany for Volkswagen, having relocated from the United Kingdom where he had spent a decade working on Rolls-Royce and Bentley vehicles, rising to chief designer for both brands and including the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph, Bentley Arnage and Bentley Continental GT among his list of credits. “Simon Loasby is a renowned designer with incomparable experience in automotive design for the Chinese market”, Schreyer said. “We are confident that Simon will greatly enhance our development of strategic models that will excite Chinese customers”. +++

+++ LEXUS Australia chief executive Peter McGregor has backed the Japanese company’ s selection of hybrid powertrains to lower emissions in its sportscar range, despite admitting that barely 10 per cent of LC coupe buyers would choose a V6 hybrid variant over the petrol V8. While rivals for the expensive on-road costs sportscar use turbocharged power to reduce fuel consumption, a chasm exists between the 5.0-litre V8 (11.6 litres per 100 kilometres) and 3.5-litre V6 hybrid (6.7 litres), compared with the meagre three-tenth difference in 0-100 km/h acceleration (4.7 seconds versus 5.0 seconds respectively). Despite the hybrid seeming the more ‘balanced’ option between performance and economy, however, McGregor accepted that traditional sound and acceleration virtues would more closely resonate with LC buyers. “A hybrid doesn’t have quite the same note as the V8 has, but it is still very enjoyable”, he told. Asked whether Lexus Australia considered not offering the LC500h hybrid given it is expected to only make up 10 of the 100 LCs set to be sold in full-year 2018, McGregor replied: “Not really, no. I think the multi-stage hybrid makes a statement to the market about the future of Lexus as well, about being able to provide people a choice, and in this market choice is very important. And it speaks to the quality of the franchise, because if you look where the franchise is headed in the future, the fuel efficiency, the emissions, will require us to be looking at all sorts of alternative technologies”. That could soon mean the end of the naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8, which in the LC500 is 3.0 liter/100 km thirstier than the faster (by a tenth 0-100km/h) BMW 650i 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, its closest rival. “I imagine at some point it might have to be dropped but I don’t know what it is yet”, McGregor said of the 5.0-litre V8’s future. “We’re talking about emissions deadlines that potentially go out in the corporation’s planning to 2050, and so we’re all going to be in a far different place in 2050 than we are today”. McGregor had earlier acknowledged in a presentation that, “like every great brand Lexus must shape its strategies for a changing consumer mindset and the shifting competitive environment”. But Lexus LC chief engineer Koji Sato explained that the company wanted to move directly into the performance hybrid space, until now only mostly occupied by hypercars such as the Ferrari LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder. “In the past, people only associated hybrid with ‘eco’ ”, Sato said in a statement. “We wanted to broaden that perception and create a true high-performance powertrain”. Lexus Australia product planning manager Sajid Hasan added that one of the reasons turbocharging was not selected for the company’s flagship coupe was because “that wasn’t fitting the profile for the LC”. “The engineers wanted to create and engaging driving experience and the response and the sound is only something that you can get from the naturally aspirated V8”, he continued. “Of course turbocharging would improve the fuel consumption, but first and foremost was the engaging driving experience which is why they chose the naturally aspirated engine. “For a naturally aspirated V8, 11.6 litres per 100 km is very respectable, and if customers want the additional fuel consumption they can opt for the V6 hybrid”. +++

+++ PEUGEOT is tapping out of its fast car range. The French brand will instead focus on building its more mainstream range in the short to medium term, including a move into the one-tonne ute market. The announcement comes from Peugeot CEO, Jean-Philippe Imparato. “Right now our main goal is to grow to beyond 2 million units a year, but also to spread our footprint and to sell more than 50 percent of our cars outside of Europe”, Imparato said. “Until we do that, I’m much more interested in cars that sell in hundreds of thousands than those that sell in smaller numbers”. This statement spells the end for low-volume cars like the RCZ and the high performance 308 R Hybrid which had already progressed from concept to prototype. However, Imparato didn’t rule out a future performance car entirely, he left the door open to a return to high-performance motoring over the longer term with the suggestion that a future car might be able to claim a Nurburgring lap record. “With Peugeot Sport, I believe we have the team to make such a car. It would be expensive, but so what? We could do it”, he claimed. While cars with enthusiast appeal aren’t high on Peugeot’s list of priorities, workhorse vehicles are. Imparato has revived talk of a Peugeot branded 4×4 pick-up, a vehicle considered vital to the French automaker’s plans to launch a full-scale return to the African market as part of the goal to expand its reach outside of Europe. “With a 1-tonne pick-up truck, we can tap into a huge global market. We could either develop one within the group or with a partner and our existing connections” Imparato revealed, reinforcing suggestions that Groupe PSA (Peugeot and Citroen’s parent company) could turn to existing commercial vehicle partner Toyota for assistance. Peugeot would have plenty of time to develop its own version of the Toyota 1-tonne pick-up as the current HiLux is only 2 years in to its product cycle. This move would help Peugeot compete with vehicles like the Renault Alaskan and Fiat Fullback, which are based on the Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton respectively. +++

+++ The mystery SUBARU BRZ with Subaru Technica International (STI) parts has been teased again on the company’s American Instagram profile ahead of its official reveal on June 8. While previous coverage speculated that this version of the BRZ sports car could be the turbocharged variant we’ve all been waiting for, Subaru of America has confirmed that it’s actually a US-market version of the BRZ tS that was previously exclusive to the Japanese market. Full details of the more focused special edition are yet to be revealed, though we already know from the teaser images that the BRZ tS will get a carbon-fibre rear wing, STI light alloy wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport tyres, Brembo brakes, and subtle black body kit extensions. The 2015 BRZ tS that was a Japan-only model, and limited to just 300 units, went without the wing, though it did have Bilstein suspension all round, an STI engine ‘V Bar’, carbon-fibre-look dash panel, Recaro bucket seats and Alcantara trimmings throughout the cabin. It’s believed the US version, which will be based on the facelifted 2017 BRZ, will likely retain its naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre boxer engine tune, which develops 212 Nm in 6-speed manual guise and 205 Nm with the 6-speed automatic. Subaru will also reveal the WRX STI Type RA on June 8, which has also been teased in the last week on social media. I already know the special WRX will get a carbon-fibre roof, though further details are yet to be confirmed. It’s believed, however, that the WRX Type RA will be a road-going version of the race-modified WRX STI Type RA NBR Special. We can expect the Type RA to also get gold 19-inch BBS alloy wheels (harking back to WRXs of years past) along with racy interior upgrades like Recaro sports seats. +++

+++ TOYOTA is looking to tackle the safety challenges posed by autonomous driving. The Japanese brand has committed more than 45 million dollar to fund a 5-year program at its Collaborative Safety Research Centre in the US. Research is being conducted in partnership with a range of universities including the world renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which will develop new systems that not only detect objects in the environment but also that understands social interactions in traffic. Collaborative Safety Research Centre director, Chuck Gulash, said. “These highly advanced systems are radically reshaping the transportation landscape, building a relationship between drivers, occupants and vehicles as teammates working together safely and conveniently”. The main objective of the study is to support a safe transition to future mobility by building an advanced user-vehicle experience to strength the relationship between driver and car, personalising crash protection through pre-crash sensors and better integration of active and passive safety features. Toyota is also looking to develop passenger health monitoring similar to the Mercedes’ technology first shown at the Consumer Electronics Show early in 2017 that helps detect if the driver is about to have a serious medical episode and warns the driver or acts accordingly by taking control of the vehicle. The Japanese car maker is also using computer crash simulators to help improve its advanced driver aids. Toyota as a company has been slow on the uptake with autonomous driving, falling behind other large auto makers such as Mercedes and General Motors. Lexus president Tokuo Fukuichi told at the 2017 Detroit motor show he believed companies were rushing to market with semi-autonomous tech just for the bragging rights. “One of the difficulties we have now is that all the companies are competing with having the most high-technology items, but part of the problem is that customers are lost in that conversation”, said Fukuichi. “Companies are putting on that technology but not always for the customers”. And Lexus has shied away from making grand statements like many other companies that it would have an autonomous car on the road by 2020. “That would be very hard”, the Lexus president said of a 2020 target for an autonomous car earlier this year. “There are a lot of different market environments so the ability to make something fully autonomous is still quite a few years off”. +++

Comments are closed.