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+++ Intel and its newly-acquired Mobileye division have announced plans to build 100 prototype cars capable of Level 4 AUTONOMOUS operation before the end of the year. The SAE defines a Level 4 vehicle as capable of handling all driving tasks in certain conditions. Unlike Level 3 systems, which require the human driver to intervene when necessary, a Level 4 vehicle will be able to safely handle situations in which the human driver does not respond to a request to intervene. Mobileye will deploy its fleet of Level 4 prototypes in the US, Europe and Israel, enabling engineers to test the technology in widely diverse conditions. “Geographic diversity is very important as different regions have very diverse driving styles as well as different road conditions and signage”, says Mobileye co-founder Amnon Shashua. “Our goal is to develop autonomous vehicle technology that can be deployed anywhere, which means we need to test and train the vehicles in varying locations”. Intel suggests the test vehicles will showcase Mobileye’s computer vision, sensing, fusion, mapping and driving capabilities along with Intel’s open computing platforms and 5G communication technologies that enable a “car-to-cloud” system. The chip maker believes autonomous cars could present a $70 billion market opportunity by 2030. +++

+++ The pace of change in the industry is ferocious, as this week’s issue again testifies. But amid the hi-tech development, is there a more remarkable car on sale than the FIAT 500? Incredibly, it was 10 years ago this week that I first tested the then new 500. The reborn city car lost out to the Mini, but impressed sufficiently for us to say: “It signifies a new era for Fiat”. My reasoning was perfectly simple. “It’s a machine that makes people smile when they see it; even those who don’t have much interest in cars”, my test reflected. History has proven just how spot-on that assessment was. A decade and one major facelift (in 2015) down the line, what is ostensibly the same car continues to find buyers with ease, even though it is now some way off the pace dynamically in its class. As Fiat celebrates the 60th anniversary of the launch of the original 500, it deserves praise for such a successful rebirth. Redesigning a classic is no easy task, as Volkswagen will testify with the Beetle. But Fiat must also start thinking about what it’ll do when it comes to replacing the current car. Strong sales or not, it can’t go on forever, and there are surely only so many special editions one model can inspire. The company has been quiet on its plans, but I’d imagine we’ll likely see something new by 2019. And what to expect? When I last spoke to global boss Olivier François, he told me the 500 is “more relevant than ever because it is a city car and people are hungry for urban mobility solutions. Because it is our golden goose, we’re very protective of it”. You can deduce from that, then, that whatever is in store will in no way risk ending one of motoring’s most enduring success stories. +++

+++ A leak from a dealer order system has revealed new details on JEEP ’s upcoming Wrangler model. The all-new Wrangler is expected to make its global debut at the Los Angeles auto show. According to the document, which appeared on JL Wrangler Forums, the 2018 Wrangler will continue to be offered in both two- and four-door body styles, but the two-door Sahara will be dropped from the lineup. The Sahara will continue on as a four-door, but two-door Wrangler buyers will have to opt for either a Sport or Rubicon. The Wrangler will continue to be offered with a 3.6L V6, but 2 new mills will join the mix: a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder with a Belt Starter Generator and a 3.0L turbodiesel V6. Wrangler buyers will have access to a standard 6-speed manual and an optional 8-speed automatic, but it looks as though the 2.0L engine will be available exclusively with the 8-speed auto. Buyers that spring for the Sahara model will be able to get a new Selec-Trac full-time 4WD system. Other Wrangler options will include a “Trail Management System”, a black power soft-top and an LED lighting group. +++

+++ MCLAREN Automotive, the Fledgling British Sports car brand that only started building road cars in 2011, is already stealing ‘conquest’ sales from more established marques like Porsche and Audi. Founded by racing legend Bruce McLaren in 1963, as Bruce McLaren Motor Racing, the brand is steeped in top-level motor racing history, having notched up no less than 8 Constructors Championships and 12 Drivers Championships in Formula 1 alone. That kind of racing pedigree seems to have plenty of appeal, especially the entry-level Sports Series, which includes the 540C, and 570 model range, though a bit unexpected, according to Tom Taylor, Product Manager, Sports Series. “When we first launched the car, we expected around 50 percent of Sports Series customers to be existing McLaren owners who were adding to their 650S or 12C, when in actual fact, 91 percent are totally new to the brand. It proves the point with Sports Series that we are reaching a new audience. “Now, of that 91 percent, there’s a large percentage of Porsche 911 and Audi R8 owners trading their cars in for Sports Series cars. But what surprises us most are the numbers of Ferrari 458 and Lamborghini Huracan owners that have traded their cars in for one of our Sports Series cars”. And it’s not just petrolheads and car enthusiasts that are attracted to the brand: it’s a whole range of new McLaren buyers. “What we were hoping to do with the Sports Series was to distil our supercar DNA and our racing pedigree into a more useable and attainable car with real breadth of ability. “And in 2016, we built upon that with the 570 GT, which was our take on a more traditional grand tourer. Sports Series has also brought us a different customer to what we have had had before. There are more female buyers, and largely speaking, it’s a less petrolhead audience and more about luxury sports car buyers”, Taylor added. Interestingly, the 570S Spider loses nothing to its coupe sibling when it comes to performance and handling, due in part to the stiffness of the carbon-fibre tub and especially low weight of the roof itself. Even the aerodynamics is the same. “With the 570S Spider, the brief was simple; to keep everything that was great about the 570S Coupe, and lose the roof, but without losing anything else in the process. So, a ‘no compromise convertible’, is how we thought about it. “It’s also about weight management, which is absolutely integral to the McLaren story and the reason we use a carbon-fibre tub, which weighs just 75 kg. It’s super stiff and very lightweight, and the main reason we’ve been able to add a 2-piece retractable roof system that weighs just 46 kg. “Critically, there’s no other weight penalty for the Spider, as there’s none of the usual structural reinforcement required by rival makes in order to achieve similar levels of rigidity”, explained Taylor. Like the 570S Coupe, the 570S Spider will go from standstill to 100 km/h in just 3.2 seconds, while top speed is a claimed 328 km/h with the roof up. But, even with the roof off, it is only 13km slower than the coupe. +++

+++ Pedestrian protection is increasingly becoming one of the priorities in vehicular safety. In fact, EuroNCAP includes pedestrian protection as of one of the four aspects by which it rates overall safety in vehicles. Now, MERCEDES is trying to get ahead of its rivals in the field of pedestrian protection by registering a patent that would allow the German premium carmaker to install external airbags. According to its patent application with United States Patent and Trademark Office, the pedestrian protection device includes a bonnet that could be popped up or opened in order to further soften an impact. The car is fitted with a number of sensors that could detect when the vehicle hits a pedestrian. As soon as the car senses that a collision has occurred against the edge of the bonnet, this part of the vehicle would shift in the direction of the windscreen. The pedestrian protection device also includes two airbags, which when triggered, would extend across a region of the windscreen pillar, which is also known as the A pillar. The airbag would have a cylindrical shape (or even an oval shape) and would be fitted inside a fabric tube. The associated actuator system is also fitted in the fabric tube. One end of the fabric tube would be connected to the edge of the bonnet or to the hinge of the hood. Meanwhile, the other end is fixed to front frame cross-member of the roof or to the A-pillar. As it is, the airbags are covered by a decorative element that effectively conceals the A-pillar 5 and is not depicted in more detail such that it is not able to be seen in the figure. These airbags are triggered as soon as a pedestrian collision is detected. To unfold and increase the volume of the airbags, gas is supplied into them. The bonnet is simultaneously unlocked so it could be opened and shifted. All these actions are expected to soften the impact of the collision. Instead of hitting the windshield glass or the surrounding metal, the pedestrian would bump into the raised bonnet or into the airbags. To note, this patent application was applied more than two years ago in July 2015. However, the US Patent and Trademark Office only published the patent on August 3, 2017. Carmakers are racing to improve the pedestrian safety aspect of their vehicles. Volvo, Porsche and BMW have their own safety systems that should increase the survivability of pedestrians when they are hit by their vehicles. Some of these pedestrian protection systems include active bonnets and warning features. +++

+++ ROLLS-ROYCE just unveiled the 8th generation of its Phantom luxury flagship, launching the British luxury auto manufacturer into a new era. Aside from the upcoming Cullinan luxury SUV that will be introduced in 2018, Rolls-Royce is bent on expanding the premium brand from its current scope. Rolls-Royce chief executive Torsten Müller-Ötvös disclosed that the British luxury brand is looking at broadening the brand beyond its existing models. Despite this development, Rolls-Royce top honcho insisted that the brand isn’t in any pressure to grow, since such growth could be “be detrimental” to luxury. Müller-Ötvös noted that it would be nonsense to pursue volume since the brand’s customers wouldn’t be happy to see other Rolls-Royces hitting the road. Luxury brands like Rolls-Royce don’t see higher sales volumes as key to their continued operations. After all, exclusivity has been one of the key selling points of the brand. Affluent customers have been flocking to Rolls-Royce because of the brand’s exclusive nature. In fact, Rolls-Royce’s exclusivity has been proven by the fact that it has been the brand of choice for kings and queens, royalties and even the most powerful people in the world. With this in mind, Rolls-Royce would want to carefully expand its range in a way that wouldn’t affect its exclusive nature. This is also the reason why Rolls-Royce isn’t in a hurry to grow. But of course, growth is an appreciated matter. Müller-Ötvös told that after seeing more than 4,000 cars in 2016, Rolls-Royce sees further growth in the years to come. He said that sales would likely approach 5,000 units once the luxury carmaker launches the SUV in 2019, as it would bring new buyers to the brand. The Cullinan (not yet its official name) is underpinned by the same “Architecture of Luxury” that underpins the 8th generation of the Phantom and other Rolls-Royce model. According to Müller-Ötvös, he is seeking to best offer a broader model range within its current volumes. However, Rolls-Royce won’t be offering coupe or open-top (convertible) versions of the 2018 Phantom flagship, since the Dawn and the Wraith are already taking charge of these body types. In addition, Müller-Ötvös has already ruled out creating a new model that would be smaller than the Rolls-Royce Ghost. For now, the focus for Rolls-Royce is the Project Cullinan. The premium carmaker wants to take advantage of the fact that SUVs are increasingly the vehicle of choice of not just volume customers, but also luxury clients as well. Bentley has already jumped into the bandwagon with the Bentayga. Rolls-Royce has called the Cullinan as an “all-terrain, high-sided vehicle” with an aim is to create a final vehicle that could go “Effortless Everywhere”. +++

+++ TESLA is developing a long-haul, electric semi-truck that can drive itself and move in “platoons” that automatically follow a lead vehicle, and is getting closer to testing a prototype, according to an email discussion of potential road tests between the car company and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Meanwhile, California officials are meeting with Tesla “to talk about Tesla’s efforts with autonomous trucks”, state DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez told. The correspondence and meeting show that Tesla is putting self-driving technology into the electric truck it has said it plans to unveil in September, and is advancing toward real-life tests, potentially moving it forward in a highly competitive area of commercial transport also being pursued by Uber Technologies and Alphabet’s Waymo. After announcing intentions a year ago to produce a heavy-duty electric truck, Musk tweeted in April that the semi-truck would be revealed in September, and repeated that commitment at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in June, but he has never mentioned any autonomous-driving capabilities. Tesla has been a leader in developing self-driving technology for its luxury cars, including the lower-priced Model 3, which it is beginning to manufacture. Several Silicon Valley companies developing autonomous driving technology are working on long-haul trucks. They see the industry as a prime early market for the technology, citing the relatively consistent speeds and little cross-traffic trucks face on interstate highways and the benefits of allowing drivers to rest while trucks travel. Some companies also are working on technology for “platooning”, a driving formation where trucks follow one another closely. If trucks at the back of the formation were able to automatically follow a lead vehicle, that could cut the need for drivers. Silicon Valley startup Peloton Technology, for example, is working with several truck makers including Volvo on its platooning system, which it sees as a precursor to autonomy. An email exchange in May and June between Tesla and Nevada DMV representatives included an agenda for a June 16 meeting, along with the Nevada Department of Transportation, to discuss testing of 2 prototype trucks in Nevada, according to the exchange. “To insure we are on the same page, our primary goal is the ability to operate our prototype test trucks in a continuous manner across the state line and within the States of Nevada and California in a platooning and/or Autonomous mode without having a person in the vehicle”, Tesla regulatory official Nasser Zamani wrote to Nevada DMV official April Sanborn. He made no reference to any dates for potential road tests. No companies yet have tested self-driving trucks in Nevada without a person in the cab. On July 10, Zamani inquired further to the Nevada DMV about terms for a testing license, an email shows. California DMV spokeswoman Gonzalez said that Tesla had requested a meeting to introduce new staff and talk about Tesla’s efforts with autonomous trucks. She said that the DMV was not aware of the level of autonomy in the trucks. Tesla declined to comment on the matter, referring Reuters to the previous statements by Musk, who has discussed the truck in tweets and at the annual shareholder meeting. Nevada officials confirmed the meeting with Tesla had occurred and said that Tesla had not applied for a license so far. They declined to comment further. Musk has said that potential customers are eager to get a Tesla electric long-haul truck, but he faces doubt that the company can deliver. While established trucking companies and truck manufacturing startups have poured resources into electrifying local package delivery fleets, battery range limitations have largely kept the industry from making electric trucks that travel across swaths of the country. Lithium ion battery researcher Venkat Viswanathan of Carnegie Mellon University said electric long-haul trucking is not economically feasible yet. “Your cargo essentially becomes the battery”, Viswanathan said of the massive batteries that would be needed to make range competitive with diesel. Diesel trucks used for cross-country hauls by United Parcel Service Inc can travel up to 800 km on a single tank, according to UPS’s director of maintenance and engineering, international operations, Scott Phillippi. By comparison, the company’s electric local package delivery trucks travel up to 130 kilometers on a full charge. +++

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