+++ We all know Ingolstadt’s vehicles are progressing through technology, not design; they actually started the trend of making every single generation of a car look like a mild facelift. But at least they do honor their credo and deliver the best technologies: all embodied in the soon to be introduced all-new generation A8 flagship limousine. And AUDI is keen to let us know all about them, ahead of the actual introduction taking place on July 11 in Barcelona. This is why we’re treated to new information about the 48-volt mild hybrid system, the new active suspension that can detect potholes in advance and prepare for them, as well as the four-wheel steering system. The active suspension system uses a front-mounted camera that scans the road 18 times per second and sends the info to the suspension that has pre-settings for what’s ahead in an attempt to make the journey as comfortable as it is possible. The active control of the electromechanical suspension system is possible via an electric motor for each wheel, all powered by the new 48-volt main electrical system. In addition, beside enhancing comfort as well as handling, the active suspension works in conjunction with the safety systems. In case of a collision occurring at more than 25 km/h, the suspension’s actuators will deliberately increase the A8’s body height on the impact side by up to 80 millimeters in just half a second; in a bid to reflect the damage towards the reinforced areas, the floor structure and the side sills. +++

+++ According to the company’s test driver, Andy Wallace, the BUGATTI Chiron will be clocked at 450 km/h with the current tires, but to break the fabled 300 mph (480 km/h) barrier it will need a new generation of tires. The Chiron is officially sold with an electronic top speed enforcer that limits the car at no more than 381 km/h, which is still uber crazy in the real world. In case you have no respect for your life, then there’s the option of using the “top speed” key that can be placed in the doorsill and the electronic leash will be lengthened to a still limited 420 km/h, which is letting you feel like a world record man because it’s 5 km/h above the Veyron Super Sport World Record Edition. But allegedly the vehicle is capable of more, according to a source we tend to trust: company test driver Andy Wallace. He spoke in a recent interview and claimed the unleashed Chiron will top out at around 450 km/h with the tires it has in use. He is hinting that Michelin’s engineers are going to secure a safe attitude from the tires sometime next year when Bugatti has planned to go for the fastest production car record, standing at 431 km/h and established by an unrestricted Veyron Super Sport way back in 2010. Naturally, they’re going to use the same 13-mile Ehra-Lessien test track that is part of the Volkswagen Group. +++

+++ KIA has just revealed its all-new Stonic subcompact crossover and the South Korean automaker is treating it like the star attraction of the family for the year. The brand thinks it will attract a younger audience as well as new customers, with internal studies being cited to reveal 21 percent of buyers are now discarding the traditional hatchback in favor of something a bit taller. According to Kia’s European Chief Operating Officer, Michael Cole, the Stonic is set to remain the sole option for the B segment from the brand, because allegedly the small Venga is not going to be around for much longer. Apparently, a new generation of the MPV would be “difficult to justify”. I agree, and Opel did too, killing off the Meriva already. And I could go on with other examples. This is of course because customers in the B segment want crossovers, not small MPVs, and this means the Venga will be sent to greener pastures once the current generation has run its course. The Venga was introduced back in 2009 and received a facelift in time for the 2014 Paris Motor Show. The MPV is based on the previous generation Rio, and has slowly slid out of favor with customers ever since. +++

+++ The next NISSAN Leaf will be revealed this September, with the brand’s single-lane semi-autonomous Propilot system, the brand has confirmed. The new model will get a more aggressive design inspired by the Micra. There will be more angular lines and harder edges for the car’s design, something that would contrast its soft-looking predecessor. It also means the Leaf will likely take influence from the new and more striking Micra. Along with its new look, Nissan’s next-gen zero-emissions electric hatchback will also have an improved electric drivetrain that’s predicted to have a range of up to 550 kilometers; more than double the current car’s range. This is around 150 kilometers further than the latest Renault Zoe can offer, making the Leaf a likely class leader by some margin. The gains will come thanks to new battery pack options for the Leaf that will enable Nissan to sell it with a variety of specs, as Tesla does with its models. The largest battery could double the 30 kWh lithium ion pack found in the highest-spec version of today’s Leaf. When the future Leaf arrives next year, it will lead Nissan’s charge to grow Electric Vehicles to represent 20 percent of its sales by 2020. +++

+++ The PSA Group’s first fully-autonomous cars will reach market in 2020, after semi-autonomous systems are offered on the DS 7 Crossback next year. The first PSA car with ‘hands-off’ Level 2 autonomous system will be the DS 7 Crossback SUV, which is due for launch early in 2018. The Citroën C5 Aircross will follow suit in the second half of 2018 after launching in China at the end of this year. Equipped with a Level 2 system called Connected Pilot, the 7 Crossback will be capable of maintaining lane and choosing station to the left or right of the lane to allow cycles or motorcycles to pass. It will also be equipped with self-parking without any intervention by the driver, initiated by pressing a button on the centre console. This is in addition and to a suite of the usual advanced driver assistance systems. PSA will phase in Level 3 ‘eyes-off’ autonomous cars from 2020, with 2 systems called Traffic Jam Chauffeur and Highway Chauffeur. PSA has a fleet of 12 prototypes most of which are Level 3 Citroën C4 Picassos and Peugeot 3008 GTs with automatic transmissions. PSA is the first company licensed to drive autonomous cars on French roads, provided they have special registration plates to identify them. The company plans to phase in fully autonomous Level 4 ‘mind-off’ cars from 2025 with Level 5, completely driverless cars beyond 2030. The Peugeot 3008 GT was equipped with 5 cameras, 5 lidar sensors, 4 short-range radar sensors and 3 long-range radar sensors, giving 360 degree coverage around the car. The 3008 was able to cope with busy motorway traffic, overtaking and moving back into lane, keeping station behind other vehicles and braking to maintain distances even when traffic came to a halt. In production, cars will only allow hands-free autonomous driving on designated sections of roads free of pedestrians and cyclists, which it identifies through its embedded mapping system. The car handed back control to the driver at the end of the motorway, warning the driver with audio and visual prompts and braking if the driver didn’t respond within 10 seconds. PSA’s autonomous car programme is being launched under the banner of Autonomous Vehicles For All. The company plans to eventually roll out autonomous features on all cars across its three brands starting with the premium models that are based on the larger EMP2 platform, such as the 7 Crossback. Eventually, the technology will filter down to smaller cars on the new CMP platform due next year. Trials began in March 2017 with non-expert drivers, to gauge the reaction of customers to the technology. DS’s timing is on par with rivals such as Audi, whose A8 flagship saloon, due for reveal next month, will feature hands-off driving capability. Audi is also working with tech company Nvidia to bring a fully autonomous car to market in 2020 – the same timescale as DS. PSA says the the legal framework in Europe still need to evolve to support fully autonomous cars. Today, the Vienna Convention supports Level 1 and 2 cars, but Levels 3, 4 and 5 will require changes to the law to be allowed on the roads. Legal and insurance liability is also under scrutiny. Under the current framework, drivers are responsible in the event of an accident, even if the car is in a hands-off or eyes-off autonomous mode at the time. +++

+++ SUBARUis betting on an all-new platform and what it claims will be ‘class-leading, real-world’ safety to revitalise the brand in Europe. It also confirmed that it will launch a new-generation hybrid model at the end of 2018 and a new downsized turbocharged engine in 2019. In 2020, Subaru will launch its first all-electric model. Engineers say that they have started work on the Electric Vehicle, which will be based on an existing model, but are conducting crash tests to ensure that the battery location offers maximum safety. After some hesitation, Subaru says it will move into autonomy over the next few years, using its Eyesight stereo camera system as a basis for the required technology. Despite setting new sales records in the US and global sales of 1.012 million cars, Subaru took just 40,600 sales across the European market, giving it just 0.3% of the market and 0.8% of the booming SUV market. Subaru hopes that a new range of vehicles based on the new platform will mark a turning point. This will be first be used on the all-new XV, which goes on sale in Europe early next year, followed by the all-new Impreza and upcoming next-generation Forester. There’s no news on whether Europe will get the giant 7-seat Subaru Ascent SUV that’s due later next year. According to Atsushi Nakashima, one of the company’s most senior body design engineers, the Global Platform will deliver ‘premium-level’ refinement in a number of important areas including straight-line stability (reducing the need for tiring steering corrections during high-speed driving) and big reductions in vibration through the steering wheel and floor. The platform has been designed to be compatible with crash standards as far ahead as 2025. US versions of the Impreza structure already get a specially engineered B-pillar with a wall thickness of between 1.4 mm and 2.75 mm along its length to help better protect occupants. At a technical presentation in Belgium, Subaru showed a video of the new Impreza being struck head-on by a 2.5-tonne trolley at 90 km/h. The car’s boxer engine slides away under the floorpan rather than impacting on the passenger space, and the front structure is substantially crushed against the bulkhead, but the front doors are hardly impacted and could still be opened. Subaru has also just announced that it has opened a new test track facility in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. This will be used to develop ‘driver assist technologies’. The new Global Platform has been dramatically improved by the use of 6 structural box-sections running under the floorpan, up from four in the outgoing platform. The front suspension towers are now also braced against the lower A-pillar and bulkhead and adhesives used in addition to spot welding. Subaru claims a big improvement in platform stiffness. Torsional rigidity is up by 70%, front suspension rigidity by 70%, front body lateral rigidity by 90% and rear subframe rigidity by 100%. Tuning of the ride aims to be ‘comfortable but firm’. The improved front-end rigidity is such that Subaru claims that, thanks to a reduction of body flex, turn-in response of the vehicle is improved by 0.1 second, which is noticeable to the driver. The new architecture is also said to be able to absorb 40% more energy from an impact. Pedestrian safety has been improved on the new platform with the development of a new bonnet airbag system that doesn’t need an expensive pop-up bonnet. The airbag is deployed from beneath the rear edge of the bonnet and also protects the base of the A-pillars. Subaru’s Eyesight camera system, which uses tracking recognition for moving objects similar to the face recognition used by digital cameras, has reduced rear-end collisions by 83% and collisions with pedestrians crossing roads by 52%, according to the company’s own figures. In Japan, Eyesight has already received a Touring Assist function that can control acceleration, braking, and steering in motorway jams. +++

+++ TESLA has hired a Stanford University computer scientist specializing in artificial intelligence and deep learning to lead its efforts around driverless cars. Andrej Karpathy, previously a research scientist at OpenAI, was named director of AI and Autopilot Vision, reporting directly to Chief Executive Elon Musk, a Tesla spokesperson said. Karpathy is “one of the world’s leading experts in computer vision and deep learning”, the spokesperson said. He will work closely with Jim Keller, who is responsible for Autopilot hardware and software. Autopilot is Tesla’s suite of advanced driver assistance systems, which relies on an onboard Nvidia “supercomputer” to make sense of data from numerous sensors in and around Tesla vehicles and the company’s software. Several Silicon Valley companies, from titans such as Apple to startups, as well as traditional car makers, software companies, and others elsewhere, are vying to make driverless cars a common sight on roads. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook recently confirmed the company’s efforts around what he called “autonomous systems”, and called driverless cars “the mother of all AI projects”. Musk is co-chair of OpenAI, a nonprofit focused on AI research and on a path to “safe artificial general intelligence”. The hire comes as Tesla’s lead of Autopilot software, Chris Lattner, earlier this week announced he was leaving the company after six months on the job. Lattner worked for more than an decade at Apple. The Tesla spokesperson said Lattner “just wasn’t the right fit for Tesla, and we’ve decided to make a change”. The company is weeks away from starting production of the Model 3, the $35,000 all-electric sedan it hopes to sell to the masses. Tesla is expected to sell the car by the end of the year. Musk has said that several new vehicles, including a compact SUV and an electric commercial freight truck, are coming to Tesla’s lineup as the company aims to produce vehicles at a rate of half a million by the end of 2018. The stock has gained more than 74% so far this year, after a string of record highs in the past 2 months. +++

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