Apple and Tesla’s New “iCar”?

            Elon Musk, the owner of Tesla motors, has been in contact since last spring with the executives at Apple.  Speculations are beginning to run rampant around the industries about whether or not Tesla will be bought out or if the rumors are true about the companies coming together to build a new “iCar”.  With Tesla’s market cap at only $24 billion, Apple has the ability and funds to purchase the up and coming motor company, but will the powerhouse electronic company move in on the car industry. 

            With a new age of electronic cars beginning to hit the market, as well as the ever increasing need for new technology, it seems almost inevitable that Apple would begin to make its mark on the auto industry.  After conquering the computer, tablet, and phone industries, why not tackle the automobile as well?  Will we begin to see Apple as an emerging auto industry leader in the future?  It is hard to tell because there are only speculations and rumors surrounding why Musk met with the executives at Apple.  Likely it was to discuss the implementation of Apple’s touch screen technology into Tesla cars. 

            Jokes about the possible iCar have surfaced as well, making it enjoyable to read the reviews for the iCar.  One article talks about how the iCar would only come in two colors, “Space Grey. Of course, there also would be a hard-to-find gold-tone version.”  Also, the iCar would have apps included where you can “let your passengers watch the second season of “House of Cards”, just fire up the Netflix app. And Candy Crush Saga would come pre-installed to give you something to do while waiting out traffic jams.” The iCar would only precede the iCar 2 and iCar 3. 

            Overall, the idea that Apple would create its own iCar seems to be far reaching.  However, given Apple’s previous dominance in nearly all aspects of electronics, it does not seem as far reaching to say the company could have its day with an electric car in the future.


When is a Car not a “Car”?

Cars have four wheels, a motor, and are usually enclosed, right? If you get a vehicle that matches this description, it has to be a car, right?

Indian company Bajaj Auto is releasing the RE60, a vehicle that is neither car, nor “auto-rickshaw.” They are instead dubbing it a “quadricycle.” As I type this, that word gets the WordPress red-squiggle, so it obviously doesn’t exist. Not until Bajaj Auto petitions the Indian government to create a new classification for it, at least.

“Because at the end of the day it provides a very logical upgrade from a three-wheeler for people who want to pay a little more and want to have the comfort and safety of four wheels, four doors, a roof and seatbelts,” [Rajiv Bajaj] said.

Right now auto-rickshaws are a large portion of the motorized vehicle market in India, competing primarily with motorcycles on the busy and overcrowded streets of the country. Auto-rickshaws provide a covered alternative to their two wheeled friends, but do have problems with instability due to their three-wheeled nature (as the western world experienced with the Reliant Robin). The easy solution is to either swap to a tadpole configuration like we saw last week, or to add that fourth wheel to brace the center of gravity.

Once you add that fourth wheel though, it starts to sound an awful lot like a car, something Bajaj Auto would like to avoid due to the more rigorous safety standards that the term requires. The vehicle itself is safer than auto-rickshaws, which traditionally have soft roofs and no doors, but other competitors tested the RE60 against small-sized cars and found the safety comparison somewhat lacking. However, the vehicle tops out at 40mph and this is more comparable to auto-rickshaws which are usually 30-4omph as well. It can also run on traditional gasoline or compressed natural gas.

Overall, the vehicle itself is nothing to go crazy about, but it could provide a newer form of transportation to many people withing the developing world. The company is only looking at markets where the auto-rickshaw is currently the dominant force, so there are no plans to import it to the US (all the HEMI-enthusiasts can relax). The effect this has environmentally has yet to be seen, however, because it may mean an increasing amount of drivers on a global scale. However, it does have a potential at being a universal car at some scale where economic conditions are similar to the development of our “universal” cars.

Read more at:

Driverless Cars at the Consumer Electronics Show

This article describes some of the changing technology of driverless cars and how they are being applied to the cars of the future.  It describes the way that technology for driverless cars is shrinking, paving the way for their eventual commercial sale.  What’s most interesting about this piece is that it addresses many of the obstacles ahead for driverless cars and how these issues need to be tackled.  One of the biggest problems is the process of making a driverless car legal.  The legal implications of a car not having a person in control at all times are difficult ones to address.  The article discusses the safety features that will be included in many of the driverless cars already in development.  People driving won’t be allowed to sleep or interact extensively with anything other than the car’s built in entertainment or information system.  This is actually described as a safety precaution, as the car can warn the driver (who must always be in the driver’s seat) that he needs to take control of the car.  Laptops and newspapers are to distracting.  Insurance and liability also become difficult.  No doubt, accidents will happen eventually, and then who is to blame?  The recording of information is also problematic in terms of law making and regulation.

The article does leave many questions unanswered.  How many people are going to obey these rules about not leaving the front seat and not sleeping?  Who is going to be responsible if they do?  Will the car be able to stop itself if the “driver” leaves the front seat?  While many of these questions are important ones, they are no different than some of the problems that faced regular cars at the beginning of their creation, or the problems that face us today.  I think we’re going to see a long trial and error period with driverless cars, as we do with any new technology.

Pedestrian Airbags

Volvo has been working on new pedestrian airbag technology, to lower the rate of driver and pedestrian accidents. “According to Volvo’s research, 25-percent of traffic fatalities in China are pedestrians. While the numbers are lower for Europe (14-percent) and the United States (12-percent), they’re still significant” (Motor Authority).  Basically, Volvo’s concept is to deploy airbags around the front of the car to lessen the chance of a pedestrian being injured.

Volvo has developed advanced sensors into the front of their bumpers that are able to recognize the shape of a human-like leg form. When the car senses that there is a human in front of the car, a chain of events occurs within hundredths of a second. The airbag that deploys is designed to do two things. 1) raise the hood of the car (by nearly four inches) to lessen the impact of a human body on the hood; when the hood is raised, there is more distance between the human and the hard parts that are underneath the hood like the engine.  2) Airbags are deployed around the bottom of the windshield/windshield wipers, and across the A-pillars of the windshield.  These features are supposed to lessen the impact should a pedestrian walk in front of a car, the driver not see the pedestrian, etc. The system is supposed to be able to function between the speeds of [roughly] 12.5 to 31 miles per hour.

I think that the pedestrian airbag is a great concept, but I have a few concerns. Would the pedestrian airbag deploy if some sort of animal ran out in front of your car? (Like a deer, a coyote, etc.) I have also read a few articles where the author was expressing concern that this technology would cause drivers to be even more careless in their driving, simply because they know that they have this pedestrian airbag technology, and the risk of serious injury is minimal. I also feel that the external airbags should not just be for pedestrians, but should also be used in a regular collision to possibly prevent the driver from going through the windshield.

Here is a link of a video to see how the pedestrian airbags are deployed:

Ford Atlas Concept Truck

The new Ford Atlas Concept truck is ground breaking technology. Ford put the 3.5 liter v6 eco-boost engine with an option for 5.0 v8 for more towing power. The Interior of the truck is done in LED lighting for more efficiency. The inside is more luxurious with heated and cooled seats and cup holders. It’s got a huge navigation system and optional Wi-Fi. The bed of the truck has many tie down spots for cargo. The bed also has a pull out step that also acts as cargo cradle. The roof also acts as a place to carry cargo with tie  and rails. Three more unique factors to the Atlas is the ramps that slide out from under the bed for easy loading into the bed. One improvement for fuel economy is the active grill shutters that open or close to increase or decrease air flow causing better aerodynamics. My favorite part of the truck is the 360 degree rearview camera that lines the truck up to the trailer. The camera also helps with backing the trailer up because it lines the trailer up with the exact spot you want to park the trailer because you control the vehicle with the shifter. The Atlas truck is on track to be unveiled in 2015.

“Tacked on to the end of a presentation of its new Transit and Transit Connect commercial vans at the Detroit auto show, Ford added a surprise showing of its Atlas full-size pickup concept. The Atlas is a thinly veiled look at what Ford has in mind for the production-spec 2015 F-150. As Ford is happy to tell anyone who will listen, the F-series pickup has been the bestselling pickup in the U.S. for the past 36 years. That’s important stuff, especially considering GM just unveiled its all-new full-size pickups, the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, which compete over the same set of buyers. According to Ford, the Atlas is an exploration of fuel-efficiency improvements, potential technologies, and capacity advancements.

The look of the Atlas is unmistakable contemporary Built Ford Tough, with bulging wheel arches, a drop-down beltline at the front doors, and some of the biggest snarling grille nostrils ever seen on an F-150.”

Union Vote for VW and What It Might Mean


Original Post: February 10th, 2014

The role of unions, in particular the United Auto Workers (UAW), has changed drastically from the time of Ford, but a vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga may decide the future of how these organizations interface and interact with global/international corporations. This week, a vote among the plants workers will decide very simply if the majority of the workers will choose to be represented by the union.

The UAW is looking to secure a deal as a representative of the workers in Chattanooga to gain foothold in areas besides the more common Detroit companies. The alternative, however, looks grim for the UAW:

A loss, however, would be devastating, given that VW has all but invited the UAW into the Chattanooga plant to help create a German-style labor council that would give workers a say in corporate decisions about new products and manufacturing sites.

“If they don’t get this one, then there’s no hope for them anytime soon to have any success with BMW or Daimler,” says Steve Silvia, a professor at American University who recently wrote a book on German labor relations. “And the Japanese and Korean plants are reaches even beyond the German plants.”

As a current union worker myself, I know some of the implications that these kind of negotiations can have. The positive effects could range from stable schedules, retirement opportunities, expanded healthcare plans and options, regulated pay increases/promotions, and legal bargaining power on the side of the worker in class-action suits. More of the potential power lies within the political sway and lobbying power that unions hold today as well.

Negative effects are a little more broad, ranging from small-scale problems like non-competitive work environments, and more large-scale ones such as the effects on the local and state economy whenever other corporations start looking towards the state as an investment opportunity. In particular, if a union forms and proves itself to be unmanageable or too costly for certain corporations to engage with, it can prevent economic growth in the state.

Personally, I’ve found unions to be overall beneficial at my workplace, and they’ve provided me with a certain amount of job security as well as stead pay increases. However, they aren’t as powerful as most people think of them historically, and every new union contract we get, more and more things are cut from the agreements for new workers. In an age where there are alternative retirement and medical insurance plans being offered by the government, the role of the union might be replaced by the government, a broader and potentially more powerful representation of the people. Even if the UAW scores a success in Chattanooga, it may not be long before the idea of unions become irrelevant.

Original Article:

Toyota begins testing wireless recharging for electric cars

Toyota has begun testing a wireless charging system for their hybrid and electric cars.  The system can charge cars by having them park on top of a charging station.  The charging system uses magnetic-resonance technology, which is a method that “transmits electricity by using magnetic resonance that results from changes in magnetic field intensity between a coil positioned on the ground under the car and a receiving coil built into the underside of the vehicle.”  Toyota is not testing this in a normal, controlled lab environment.  Instead they are modifying three of their Priuses and giving them to three of their customers in Japan.  The customers will test the cars out for a year and report back to Toyota on their satisfaction.

Toyota is also testing out a self-park system on the cars to help the driver properly align the vehicle’s battery in the correct spot on the charging station.

All of this seems to be aimed at increasing the convenience for Toyota’s customers.  Toyota says, “This technology would eliminate the need for physically plugging in an electric car or a hybrid. It also has the potential to act as a universal charging station, reducing the need for multiple charging stations and plug standards.”

The wireless charging technology itself should be ready in a couple of years, but it will take a while for the infrastructure to catch up.  It will take a while for convenience store owners, office buildings, and other commercial property owners to install these charging stations.  I could see this making electric cars more popular when this happens, simply because they would be so convenient.  If your car could charge while you are at work, shopping, etc. then you would hardly ever have to worry about running out of battery.  The article says that Volvo is also working on a similar charging system, but they are not sure which company is further along in their development.