Opening breakfast of the two-day media preview started with bacon, which is always a good way to begin for me. The opening remarks by Jill Ciminillo, the new president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), lead me to believe I am not alone because she mentioned it twice.
The Head of Design-Global for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA), Ottawa born design genius Ralph Gilles, keynoted the breakfast meeting with a presentation that grabbed the attention of all in the room. Usually these talks are full of facts and figures suited more for the investor meetings and boardroom thrashings by stakeholders, and are often boringly self-serving dribble. Not this one.
Gilles talked Sci-Fi, AI, Sentience and Infinite Memory. He tipped his hat to his competitors, like BMW and Tesla, and he tossed out questions like, “Have any of you yet heard of BINA48? Hanson Robotics?” then left it there with a teaser slide. I will definitely look them up.
There were, of course, some facts and figures, and bragging on the new nameplates added to the FCA Group – Alfa Romeo and Maserati. But it wasn’t just info dump, Gilles is head of design for these guys, too, and he said stay tuned for cool stuff for “a whole new generation” from Maserati. I cannot wait.
JEEP is in an exciting space as well. One on one Gilles told me he was very excited about the “dual personality of the new Renegade and the expanding personality of the Grand Cherokee” models. One of the factoids thrown out was that overall JEEP sales have climbed from 497,000 units in 2008 to 1,200,000 in 2016.
The Dodge Durango SRT, said Gilles, will be unveiled today. Some already say it is one bad-ass machine, the “supercharged 7-passenger Charger that sounds like a muscle car”. And speaking of Dodge, the passion of the MOPAR Car Clubs around the world are matched by the fervor of the Alfa Romeo fans, a factor in their acquisition of the nameplate.FIAT is looking into bringing its larger platform to the US market as the FIAT Toro truck is already #1 in Latin America, according to Mr. Gilles.
And then about the future, the designer had an awesome concept vehicle to talk about (the vehicle itself is on a slow boat to China for the Beijing Auto Show). It began with a group of a couple dozen millennials picked by Gilles to answer, “What does your generation want?” Answers came as questions like, Why do we need a grille if it’s electric, Why can’t we move the wheels out to the max if there’s no engine compartment, and Why won’t my car talk to me nicely?
PORTAL is something unlike any concept I have ever seen, a ‘third room’ of your living space, and the promotional video said it all with images, no words. So I am just offering eye candy here.
Las Vegas – January 3, 2017 – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles unveiled the Chrysler Portal Concept at CES 2017 today. Designed to grow with millennials through their life stages, the Chrysler Portal Concept is electric powered, seats six and has a number of high-tech sensors that allows it to be classified as a semi-autonomous vehicle. For more information visit media.fcanorthamerica.com.
Finally, no surprise, the MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year went to the Chrysler Pacifica, and after accepting the award for FCA-NA, Bruce Velisek, Director – Chrysler Brand at FCA Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, gave me the best sound bite ever – “the Pacifica makes parenting easier, and life better. We’re making mini vans sexy again.”
Founded in 1991, and now in its 26th year, the Midwest Automotive Media Association comprises 278 automotive journalists and public relations professionals from 25 states, D.C. and Canada. Jim Mateja, MAMA’s first president and automotive writer for the Chicago Tribune for over 45 years, recently passed away and was honored at the breakfast to a round of applause.
Douglas Black is a futurist, historian, writer and photographer based in Chicago. He also writes historical fiction under the name Duke Pierce Reade, including the online serial anthology THE RED AND THE GOLD found on Channillo.com
The BMW Group unveiled its vision of the future this week, and it looks fun. Following its launch of the Rolls Royce Vision Next 100 and Mini Vision Next 100, the iconic nameplate define the start of their second century delivering automotive excellence and style.
In a world where self-driving vehicles will be gliding riders along with subdued deliberate efficiency, the futurists at BMW Group envision an escape. Described by Head of Design Edgar Heinrich as a “Great Escape” from the mundane world, the BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100 is a concept motorcycle programed for an age of the symbiotic rider-machine experience with Steve McQueen style.
Futuristic ideas include a self-balancing mechanism that will keep the bike upright but allow for angles and banking suited to the riders skill. Special rider’s gear include a Visor that gives heads-up display with information like speed, directions, and connectivity directed by eye movement.
The machine comes with a companion suit that provides thermal support and structural support for the centrifugal pressures of performance riding, and the zero-emissions powertrain emulates a boxer-style engine. Turning the handlebars to steer the bike bends the frame rather than just the front wheel. The amount of force required for the rider to create a turn is adjusted according to the Motorrad Vision’s speed – the higher the speed, the more force that is required to make a turn, preventing over-steer and corrections.
The BMW Motorrad design team sees a future world in which digital elements are more common than are analog. In that respect, most aspects of human life are about virtual control and allowing robotic machines to do the mundane tasks of everyday living. In that world, a motorcycle that allows the rider to be in control would become a Great Escape.
The BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100 is on display in Los Angeles at the Iconic Impulses: BMW Group Future Experience exhibition until the 16th of October.
The author awkwardly aboard a BMW bike at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show.
Douglas Black writes from a room high above the streets of Chicago. He is also a photographer, historian, amateur astrophysicist, and collector of snake oils (some of which he sells).
It has been widely reported today that Apple is in talks to acquire McLaren. If this pans out, the F1 and luxury sports car brand could get a big boost.
According to the Financial Times, this acquisition could cost between $1.3 billion and $2 billion.
It has been no secret that Apple has had its eyes on the auto biz for some time. going so far as a $1 billion investment in the automotive giant Didi Chuxeng, and rumors of an Apple venture into the autonomous vehicle foray. Picking up McLaren could be a way to hire many engineers who know how to make cars, engines, chassis and more.
Imagine using your iPhone to send your car for groceries and to pick up the kids at school.
Time will tell how this shakes out.
Douglas Black has been blogging energy efficiency in the built and mobile environments since launching ENERFICIENCY.com in 1999.
.by Douglas black, enerficiency On The Road, February 13, 2013
My favorite car at the #CAS13 Chicago Auto Show has now gathered another feather in its cap. I fell for the Lexus LS-LC (as a concept) a year ago when covering the Chicago Auto Show for the first time.
Displayed in red last year, I really like the look of this new blue Lexus. Some are critical of the stylized hourglass grille, but I for one say it’s a bold step in the right direction.
This week J.D. Power and Associates released its 2013 U.S. Automakers Dependability Study.
By nameplate ranking, Lexus is judged fewest problems per 100 vehicles, followed by Porsche, Lincoln, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz.
The cellar is occupied by Volkswagen, Jeep, Mitsubishi, Dodge and finally Land Rover in descending order.
We kicked off the 2013 Chicago Auto Show Media Day with an inspirational talk from Andy Goss, President of Jaguar Land Rover North America, and it was exciting indeed. Mr. Goss presented what he called “the most important new car Jaguar has offered in decades”. A true sportscar, “this is the real deal” says Goss. And he should know with his background at Porsche, Toyota, Nissan and others.
Beetle Fender Guitar package
Well, Ok The gold Lamborghini was not reall there, It is owned by a wealthy merchant in Dubai’, but it would look nice zipping up LaSalle St. here in Chicago!
by Douglas Black, enerficiency On The Road, January 18, 2013
Last week Audi and Toyota unveiled ground-breaking advances in the fast-approaching world of Autonomous Automobiles (A2s). General Motors is also conducting road tests of self driving vehicles.
By now you have probably heard that there are some big players investing big money in developing driverless – or self driving vehicles.
While there are many technical and legal hurdles that must be overcome before hands-free/eyes-free driving is commonplace the biggest hurdle may be that of public opinion.
Many people are uneasy about sharing the highway with driverless cars. “(At work) when my computer crashes, it’s annoying. If the car’s computer crashes, we all crash”, warned Roger Abdella, a dispatcher from Flint who was attending the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit last week.
“It will take a lot of convincing” added Abdella, in line with many visitors we spoke to at the NAIAS who also expressed similar apprehension.
Google, the search engine giant and new technologies force, was first to take on the bleeding edge, investing millions and putting nearly a half million miles on their specially outfitted stable of Toyota Prius’.
Google contends that there will be many benefits to leaving control of traffic in the metaphorical hands of computer logarithms. These will include improved overall fuel efficiency, added safety, and another, less tangible, benefit – robots are never distracted. They don’t text or drink or get tired, and they see things no human being can.
DARPA, an acronym for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has been partnering with quasi-government contractors, public institutions and private sector companies like Google since 1968, funding many robotics research efforts among a host of other avenues.
After Sebastian Thurn, developer of Google’s Street View, won the Pentagon’s 2005 DARPA challenge with his robot car “Stanley,” the company quickly went road-ready. Since then, Google has successfully covered more than 400,000 miles while in self-driving mode, across a wide variety of terrain and road conditions in California.
According to Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google , self driving vehicles are the next logical step in transportation technology worldwide. “There are many, many people who are under-served by our transportation system today”, says Brin.
According to a study done in 2011 by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, a typical human reaction time without distractions is 0.88sec. For a driver texting, talking, or distracted by noisy conversation while in morning rush hour, reaction time slows to 1.5 seconds.
The technology employed in today’s A2s have the ability to make driving decisions 20 times per second, nearly 20 times better than that of humans. And that difference will continue to increase exponentially according to futurist, inventor, and artificial intelligence expert Ray Kurzweil.
In an exciting new development, Kurzweil began work last week at Google as its new Director of Engineering, saying he is anxious to develop Artificial Intelligence building upon the vast resources at Google, “that can behave as an all-knowing, learned friend”. It can be expected that the recreation of the mind under Kurzweil’s direction will be a core part of future A2 systems.
The decision to test on public highways certainly has its opposition. As states like Florida, Oklahoma and Hawaii look into approving similar rules, editorials like this one in the Tampa Bay Observer assert that it’s not safe to experiment on their streets: “This bill is potentially hazardous, even though it requires robot cars to be monitored by humans who can quickly take control…. The right places to optimize safety are the test track, parking lot, cow pasture, anywhere but on busy public roads.” Clearly a case of Not On My Street (NOMS), just like the Michiganders we spoke to during the Detroit Auto Show.
This is similar to the NIMBY (not in my backyard) reaction surrounding proposed large scale wind projects in the Great Lakes region. Surprisingly, the loudest NIMBY protests to wind have come from groups and individuals who identify themselves as green and environmentally conscious consumers.
Likewise, in the case of the self-drive NOMS, many tend to recycle their plastic empties and feel that better fuel efficiencies through car2car communication is a good thing. But, the possibility of accidents resulting from autonomous automobile mishaps outweighs any positive feelings toward the technology in some.
On the other hand, The New York Times recently opined the promise of decreasing deaths due to human error – as well as the potential for robotic vehicles to have greater fuel efficiency, lower emissions and possibly help restore the United States’ primacy in the global automobile industry – is an exciting prospect.
Further, a symposium on driverless cars sponsored by the Law Review and High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University showed that computerized systems could limit the human error that causes most of the injury and death yearly on the nation’s roads.
California Governor Jerry Brown has now signed into law a provision for driverless cars on the states highways. Google co-founder Sergey Brin, sporting his Google glasses, stood by as Brown signed the bill on the company’s sprawling campus. Also on hand was the bill’s author, state Sen. Alex Padilla.
“Today, we’re here to celebrate that we’re stepping on the accelerator when it comes to the Google car,” said Padilla during his opening remarks, going on to mention the potential for the driverless car to avoid accidents and reduce traffic.
“It really has the power to change people’s lives, that’s why I’m really excited about it,” said Brin during his remarks in the lead-up to the signing.
Brin went on to list a variety of groups, including the blind, people too young to drive and even those who get a little too deep in their cups — all of whom would be better enabled with a driverless car.
“I expect self-driving cars are going to be far safer than human-driven cars. It’s at a substantial cost that we embrace our transportation systems. And I believe self-driving cars can eradicate much of that cost.
We want to use and create technology to dramatically improve the world,” answered Brin when asked whether Google wanted to manufacture the cars. “We currently don’t have plans to develop our own cars from scratch.”
We can picture a couple of obvious positives here. Imagine sending your eleven year old kid to pick up the pizzas on a Friday night. Or perhaps simply sending the car on its own to pick up Junior from hockey practice.
Insurance rates will likely be higher, as the responsibility still lies with the “owner” who has handed the control over to a software program. Many questions and concerns will need to be thoroughly addressed before fully autonomous automobiles are given a full green light.
If there is a mechanical failure, and the vehicle is rear ended, will the other human driver get the traffic ticket as would be the case in most instances now? I am quite sure most would fight such a ticket and blame the driverless car in lawsuits.
Can a cop pull an empty car over? And finally the scenario where another reckless or intoxicated driver runs a stop light and striking the driverless car, sending RoboCar careening into a 7-11, smashing everything and sending store employees to hospital with bumps and bruises. And which insurance company would pony up and pay, and who would get the lawsuits?
On a lighter note, I can see that one industry will suffer if these autonomous automobiles become commonplace in the city. Valet parking attendants will secretly despise these smarty-pants sportscars, and will likely post signs in the best parking lots that read HUMANS ONLY NO ROBOT CARS – Even If Your Name Is KITT!
Having more than 30 years experience in the green and sustainable building field, Douglas Blackhas dedicated the past 20 years to energy efficiency in the built environment.