Newsflash: alle Volkswagens krijgen een vriendelijk gezicht

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+++ The first cars that can drive themselves on motorways will be available to buy in the United Kingdom from within the next year, the government has announced, with a full rollout of AUTONOMOUS VEHICLESplanned from 2025. New legislation is currently being drawn up that would allow some vehicles, including cars, coaches and lorries, to be purchased in the UK and legally used in full autonomous mode on motorways, although not A-roads or B-roads. These cars would be more advanced than a Tesla in Autopilot mode, which still requires driver inputs and hands to remain on the steering wheel. Official papers add that self-driving vehicles to be used for public transport or deliveries will be given the green light to use any UK road from 2025 and wouldn’t require anyone on board to possess a full driving licence. These new laws, set to be debated in parliament in the coming months, would also cement that manufacturers will be held accountable if an autonomous vehicle crashes, meaning a human occupant wouldn’t be liable for incidents if the car was in control. However, a government-backed report released today by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) has warned that there’s “no easy answer” on how safe driverless vehicles should be, adding that the question of safety shouldn’t be one answered solely by science. The report notes that if the public expects self-driving cars to be as safe as trains or planes, a 10-fold increase in average safety over human-driven vehicles is required. “What we wanted to do was say there’s not an easy answer to this question”, professor Jack Stilgoe of University College London, who advised the CDEI, told. He added that establishing driverless car safety should be a democratic decision. Another worry noted in the report is that the public won’t accept any accidents caused by machines operated by Artifical Intelligence (AI), even if these are safer on average. The government has announced that it will be placing a major focus on safety, with an aim to bring in new standards that autonomous vehicles need to meet to be allowed to self-drive on the roads, and sanctions if these standards aren’t met. As well as this, £34 million is to be pumped into autonomous-vehicle safety research as part of the new legislation. This will look at the performance of self-driving cars in poor weather conditions and how they interact with pedestrians, other vehicles and cyclists. This cash is part of a wider £100m kitty to kick-start the autonomous vehicles sector in the UK. Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “The benefits of self-driving vehicles have the potential to be huge. Not only can they improve people’s access to education and other vital services, but [also] the industry itself can create tens of thousands of job opportunities throughout the country. Most importantly, they’re expected to make our roads safer by reducing the dangers of driver error in road collisions”. However, Automobile Association president Edmund King has a more tentative view. He said: “It’s still quite a big leap from assisted driving, where the driver is still in control, to self-driving, where the car takes control. “It’s important that the government does study how these vehicles would interact with other road users on different roads and changing weather conditions. However, the ultimate prize, in terms of saving thousands of lives and improving the mobility of the elderly and the less mobile, is well worth pursuing”. +++

+++ I’m really digging the first railgun shot fired in CADILLAC ’s battery-electric revolution. And with the Celestiq, I’m talking about a substantial shot in almost all ways. GM engineers took the big hatch for its first test drive outdoors, cruising the grounds around the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan where craftspeople have been fine-tuning the build processes to assemble production versions by hand. Cadillac didn’t share the car’s dimensions at the debut a month ago, but photos from the initial drive make it seem like something wicked large this way comes. Celestiq program manager Jeremy Loveday said, “It’s a huge moment for everyone at Cadillac to see Celestiq roll off the line at our pre-production facility and drive out onto public roads for the first time. There is so much more to come, and we are looking forward to continuing the development of Cadillac’s newest flagship”. Emphasis on the word “ship”. In fairness, length probably won’t be far off today’s maxi-sized and maxi-luxed sedans like the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class and Bentley Flying Spur, but the Celestiq’s roof and ground clearance look so low as to make it seem items in the trunk will arrive at the destination 3 minutes after the driver. We’re not sure if the camouflage, made up of Cadillac crests, enhances or diminishes the effect. For an idea of scale, those are Michelin Pilot Sport EV tires wrapping 23 inch wheels front and back. What we can tell is that the prototype retains all the major strokes we dug about the concept; the biggest change seems to be swapping U.S.-legal rear view mirrors for the cameras on the reveal model. The production version is expected to get its day onstage later this year. The retail model is thought to be 2 years away, showing up sometime in 2024 as a 2025-model-year offering rumoured to get a price even mightier than its length. Bring it. +++

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+++ A prototype of the all-electric MASERATI GranTurismo Folgore has been spotted without any camouflage, giving us a final good look at the super-coupé’s design before it’s officially revealed in the coming months. Images show Maserati’s first electric car charging at the side of the road in California, where it is thought to be appearing at a secret event on the fringes of Monterey Car Week. Clearly, the design is an evolution of that of the previous GranTurismo’s, with little clue as to its electric underpinnings, so presumably the electric ‘Folgore’ and expected petrol V6 variants will be all but identical. The electric GranTurismo Folgore was previously spotted lapping a private test facility in Italy last year. It was then pictured with quad rear exhausts, indicating that it was a petrol-powered version. Meanwhile, official ‘spy shots’ for the ICE model were released by Maserati earlier this year. Modena remains tight-lipped on what lies under the bonnet of the combustion car, but the new Nettuno V6, as fitted to the MC20 supercar and the top-rung Maserati Grecale Trofeo, is the most likely fit. The GranTurismo is also set to follow the Ghibli and Levante in adopting a hybrid option, but its positioning makes their mild-hybrid 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine an unlikely option, so it is a possibility that Maserati will hybridise the Nettuno motor. Technical details remain unconfirmed, but the electric variant will no doubt be the quickest and most potent in the GranTurismo line-up. Maserati has already confirmed that the electric version of the Grecale will pack up to 800 Nm and a 105 kWh battery, which could be expected to make for a 0-100 kph time of around 4.5 seconds and a range of more than 550 km. The lower-slung and probably lighter GranTurismo will no doubt be slightly quicker and longer-legged, with the same underpinnings. Maserati says that it’s working to ensure the EV’s powertrain has “a distinctive sound, already a unique attribute of all Maserati cars equipped with traditional combustion engines”. It’s not yet clear how this will be achieved, but it’s unlikely that the firm will artificially recreate the noise of its V6 or V8 engines. The electric GranTurismo and Grecale will launch in 2023, while a promised third EV due next year is likely to be the drop-top GranCabrio grand tourer (technically identical to the GranTurismo). Electric versions of the Quattroporte, Levante and MC20 will follow by 2025, in line with Modena’s plan to phase out combustion models over the next 3 years. +++

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+++ MERCEDES-BENZ has finally given us an official view of what to expect from the EQE SUV. In a set of life-like renderings, the German marque shows a first glimpse of the electric SUV, ahead of its launch happening in October 2022. Described as a “multi-purpose variant” of the Mercedes-Benz EQE saloon, the automaker touts the EQE SUV’s headroom, legroom, and elbow room as one of the leaders in its class. However, that isn’t the only thing that the Mercedes is proud of with its upcoming model. Mercedes presents an avantgarde architecture theme in the EQE SUV, primarily because there’s a mix of traditional and modern materials in the cabin. There’s also a 5-colour combination used, which utilises a cross between warm and cool tones. The Balao Brown represents the warm side of the spectrum, while the Neva Grey and Biscay Blue/Black represent the cool, technoid-looking end. Just like the other EQ models, backlit interior lighting is present inside the EQE SUV. There’s also the optional MBUX Hyperscreen that spans across the dashboard, along with the outer vents with turbine design. Trims of wood, aluminium, 3D anthracite, and fine metal pigments complete the elements in the cabin. The EQE SUV has been spied several times on the road, but powertrain info is scarce at this point. However, the EQE saloon should give you a preview of what to expect from the SUV. The EQE 53 SUV will likely adopt the same 685 hp rating from 2 electric motors with a 90.6 kWh battery. The EQE 43 SUV could offer 476 hp; the same as the EQE 43 saloon. Mercedes-Benz has officially revealed that the world premiere of the EQE SUV is happening on 16 October 2022, which should be a few weeks from now. We’ll know more about the model on or before that said date. +++

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+++ Though electric power seems like the future for most passenger cars from commuters to muscle machines, hydrogen powertrains haven’t been fully ruled out. Hydrogen internal combustion is even seeing a little bit of a resurgence after a long hiatus from when BMW designed a hydrogen V12 and Mazda created multiple hydrogen rotary engines. Toyota has recently campaigned a hydrogen, 3-cylinder powered Corolla in races and PORSCHE is playing with the idea. It has announced that it has looked at how it could change a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 for duty and achieved similar power as the gas version without the emissions. Unfortunately, it’s only virtual right now. Yes, Porsche has created an entirely virtual hydrogen-powered V8. But it’s not just some fantasy thing. Porsche used advanced simulations and applied some serious engineering to work out what would need to change to make hydrogen work. One of the key issues was a need for more air for equivalent power and for clean burning. That required more boost and lower compression. But Porsche noted that lower combustion temperatures from burning hydrogen resulted in slower exhaust speed and difficulty getting the turbos spinning fast enough at all times. So Porsche developed a number of possibilities for getting around it with electrically assisted turbochargers, various valves and adjustable intake vanes to reach necessary levels of boost (diagrams of which are shown at top). The results sound promising. Porsche claims 590 hp from the engine. It also lacks carbon and particulate emissions because it burns hydrogen. Nitrogen oxides were also very low, equivalent to what Air Quality Index would classify as good air quality. The company also ran a simulation with the engine in a vehicle weighing 2.600 kilos and achieved a Nürburgring lap time of 8 minutes 20.2 seconds. Porsche says it’s unlikely to actually produce this particular engine, but it would certainly seem that the company might apply what it has learned to some sort of powertrain in the future. At the very least, it seems like it would build a real prototype of one of its current engines or a future engine. +++

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+++ Electric auto giant TESLA said on Thursday it has slashed the delivery waiting time for its Model 3 and Model Y cars in China as it ramps up output at its Shanghai plant after upgrading production lines. The waiting time for the rear-wheel drive Model Y is now 4 to 8 weeks, while buyers of other versions of the SUV and Model 3 sedans need to wait for 12 to 20 weeks. Tesla previously said a buyer in China had to wait for eight to 24 weeks after placing an order for the best-selling models. Tesla confirmed the shortened waiting time, first disclosed on the company’s Chinese website, citing the output ramp-up at its Shanghai plant as one of the reasons. The automaker usually delivers more of its cars produced in Shanghai to Chinese customers in the latter half of each quarter, which also brings an acceleration in deliveries, the company said. Tesla has completed a major upgrade of the production lines at its Shanghai plant, its most productive manufacturing hub, and is ramping up output with a target of making 22.000 Model 3 and Model Y cars combined each week. Chief executive Elon Musk has said production is a bigger challenge for the company than demand. It is struggling to increase output in its Berlin and Texas plants, while production losses during a 2 month Covid-19 lockdown in Shanghai hurt Tesla’s profit margin in the second quarter. The company has stopped taking orders for its Cybertruck outside North America, and also for Model 3 Long Range vehicles in the United States and Canada, citing big delivery backlogs. +++

+++ All VOLKSWAGEN in the future will “have a smile” in their front-end styling, as part of plans to make the brand’s cars more emotional, less serious and more friendly-looking. VW design chief Jozef Kaban said the ID.Buzz marked the start of a new era of VWs that would be more fun and expressive in their styling, with each car given a smile. “This is fully emotional and an icon even before it hits the road”, said Kaban of the new ID.Buzz. “Nobody is not excited by this product. “We will be trying to do all cars with more emotion. It depends on the product, as not every car can have such a positive, friendly character, but one thing is clear: you will see more and more steps towards more expressive VW design, and not just on EVs. All cars will get more emotions, and also more quality”. A key priority of new Volkswagen CEO Thomas Schäfer is for people to fall in love with the firm’s cars once more, and he sees design as a huge part of that. “VW needs to be more friendly, not aggressive”, he told. “Aggressive fronts don’t work. Not all cars will be as friendly as Buzz but friendly will be one of our attributes for the future”. +++

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