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Elon Musk is raising the price of Tesla’s ‘full self-driving’ feature by another $1,000

Elon Musk is raising the price of Tesla’s ‘full self-driving’ feature by another $1,000

July 16, 2019

The price of a Tesla vehicle equipped with “full self-driving” is about to get more expensive, the second time in the past several months the company has increased fees for a feature that isn’t completely functional.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Tuesday that the price of its full self-driving option will increase by $1,000 on August 16. Full self-driving, or FSD — a feature that Musk promises will one day deliver full autonomous driving capabilities — currently costs $6,000.

Musk has previously said the price of FSD will “increase substantially over time.” The first increase, which raised the price from $5,000 to $6,000, went into effect May 1. In previous tweets, Musk has said the total increase would be “something like” around the $3,000+ figure. This means buyers should prepare for more price hikes even after this latest one.

It’s a strategy that Musk repeated on Tuesday, noting in an additional tweet that the “cost of the Tesla FSD option will increase every few months. Those who buy it earlier will see the benefit.”

Tesla vehicles are not self-driving. Musk has promised that the advanced driver assistance capabilities on Tesla vehicles will continue to improve until eventually reaching full automation.

Today, Tesla vehicles come standard with Autopilot, an advanced driver assistance system that offers a combination of adaptive cruise control and lane steering. Tesla once charged for this feature as well, but made it standard in April 2019.

The more robust and higher-functioning version of Autopilot is called …

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The mid-engine 2020 Chevrolet Corvette has been given a name

The mid-engine 2020 Chevrolet Corvette has been given a name

July 15, 2019

The first mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette will have a familiar name. The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette will debut as a “Stingray” when it’s revealed July 18.

If that sounds familiar, it is. Numerous Corvette model years have been dubbed Stingray, beginning in 1963 with the second generation of the sports car.

The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette will debut as a Stingray on July 18, 2019.

The Stingray nameplate ran until 1976. GM’s Chevrolet brand brought the name back in 2014 with the seventh-generation Corvette. Chevrolet announced Monday that the “Stingray name will live on.”

For weeks now, Chevrolet has been trickling out news and other teasers about its eighth-generation Corvette. Earlier this month, the brand showed off the steering wheel of the next-generation Corvette.

The leather-wrapped steering wheel has the Corvette crossed flags logo as the centerpiece with two spokes. Controls are integrated into the wheel. The steering wheel has a squared-off shape with a rather large opening, which suggests that designers wanted to provide a proper view to a large digital cluster.

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Behold, the mid-engine 2020 C8 Corvette’s steering wheel

Behold, the mid-engine 2020 C8 Corvette’s steering wheel

July 12, 2019

The new 2020 C8 Corvette won’t be revealed for six more days. But to hold us over, Chevrolet is showing off the steering wheel of the eighth-generation vehicle.

The photo, which Chevy teased Friday, is just the steering wheel. But there are hints and insights that even this single photo provides. For one, this new generation is unlike any of its predecessors.

The leathered-wrapped steering wheel has the Corvette crossed flags logo as the centerpiece with two spokes. Controls are integrated into the wheel. The steering wheel has a squared-off shape with a rather large opening, which suggests that designers wanted to provide a proper view to a large digital cluster. (We’ll find out July 18.)

The steering wheel of the eighth generation of the Corvette C8.

Chevy also posted photos of all the previous generations of the Corvette steering wheels. Here’s a photo of the seventh generation, which had a flat-bottom design and was in model years 2014 to 2019.

corvette seventh gen steering wheel

Corvette will make its debut at 7:30 p.m. PT July 18 in Orange County, California. But it will also be live-streamed. The stream will include Corvette video footage, a hosted pre-show and the reveal presentation, the company has said.

This Corvette is hotly anticipated because it’s, well, a Corvette. But it’s also because this one will have a mid-mounted engine — which has been rumored and speculated about for decades.

Following the reveal, this new-generation Corvette will go on a U.S. roadshow, visiting some 125 dealerships. The tour will include vehicle specialists and numerous interactive displays, and customizable parts such as seats, wheels and accessories will be on display.

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Another state is looking at propelling people through tubes at 670 mph

Another state is looking at propelling people through tubes at 670 mph

July 12, 2019

Another state — this time North Carolina — has been enticed by the idea of hyperloop, the futuristic and still theoretical transit platform that will shuttle people and packages at speeds of up to 670 miles per hour between cities.

Virgin Hyperloop One and North Carolina’s Regional Transportation Alliance announced Friday the beginning of “an exploration” into using hyperloop to connect the state’s research triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.

There is still a long way to go before hyperloop or this particular route that Virgin Hyperloop One is exploring  becomes a reality. Theoretically, if this one were built, it would take less than 10 minutes to travel between Raleigh and Durham or Chapel Hill, according to a pre-feasibility study carried out by AECOM. That would be a lynchpin for the area, which is home to some of the country’s top companies, universities and healthcare centers.

How this plays out is now in the hands of the North Carolina Department of Transportation. But based on comments at an event Friday, the state agency is not only interested in the research triangle; it also plans to look at expanding on the original idea and investigate a line that would connect to Charlotte and Washington, D.C.

The process from here on out will be a slow one. While state agencies investigate the feasibility of building hyperloop, Virgin Hyperloop One (VHO) is working on certifying the technology to carry humans. That certification process, which currently doesn’t exist, will likely take years. VHO aims to be certified by 2023 and have one of its hyperloop platforms in place by 2029.

The announcement follows a few milestones for VHO, including a recent demonstration in Washington, D.C. and the funding of NETT, or the Non traditional & Emerging Transportation Technologies Council, which will research and …

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This new autonomous startup has designed its delivery robot to conquer winter

This new autonomous startup has designed its delivery robot to conquer winter

July 11, 2019

Refraction, a new autonomous delivery robot company that came out of stealth Wednesday at TC Sessions: Mobility, sees opportunity in areas most AV startups are avoiding: regions with the worst weather.

The company, founded by University of Michigan professors Matthew Johnson-Roberson and Ram Vasudevan, calls its REV-1 delivery robot the “Goldilocks of autonomous vehicles.”

The pair have a long history with autonomous vehicles. Johnson-Roberson got his start by participating in the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2004 and stayed in academia researching and then teaching robotics. Vasudevan’s career had a stint at Ford working on control algorithms for autonomous operations on snow and ice. Both work together at University of Michigan’s Robotics Program.

The REV-1 is lightweight and low cost — there are no expensive lidar sensors on the vehicle — it operates in a bike lane and is designed to travel in rain or snow, Johnson-Roberson, co-founder and CEO of Refraction told TechCrunch.

The robot, which debuted onstage at the California Theater in San Jose during the event, is about the size of an electric bicycle. The REV-1 weighs about 100 pounds and stands about 5 feet tall and is 4.5 feet long. Inside the robot is 16 cubic feet of space, enough room to fit four or five grocery bags.

It’s not particularly fast — top speed is 15 miles per hour. But because it’s designed for a bike lane, it doesn’t need to be. That slower speed and lightweight design allows the vehicle to have a short stopping distance of about five feet.

Refraction has backing from eLab Ventures and Trucks Venture Capital.

Consumers have an appetite and an expectation for on-demand goods that are delivered quickly. But companies are struggling to find consistent, reliable and economical ways to address that need, said Bob Stefanski, managing director …

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Luminar eyes production vehicles with $100M round and new Iris lidar platform

Luminar eyes production vehicles with $100M round and new Iris lidar platform

July 11, 2019

Luminar is one of the major players in the new crop of lidar companies that have sprung up all over the world, and it’s moving fast to outpace its peers. Today the company announced a new $100 million funding round, bringing its total raised to more than $250 million — as well as a perception platform and a new, compact lidar unit aimed at inclusion in actual cars. Big day!

The new hardware, called Iris, looks to be about a third of the size of the test unit Luminar has been sticking on vehicles thus far. That one was about the size of a couple hardbacks stacked up, and Iris is more like a really thick sandwich.

Size is very important, of course, as few cars just have caverns of unused space hidden away in prime surfaces like the corners and windshield area. Other lidar makers have lowered the profiles of their hardware in various ways; Luminar seems to have compactified in a fairly straightforward fashion, getting everything into a package smaller in every dimension.

Test model, left, Iris on the right.

Photos of Iris put it in various positions: below the headlights on one car, attached to the rear-view mirror in another and high up atop the cabin on a semi truck. It’s small enough that it won’t have to displace other components too much, although of course competitors are aiming to make theirs even more easy to integrate. That won’t matter, Luminar founder and CEO Austin Russell told me recently, if they can’t get it out of the lab.

“The development stage is a huge undertaking — to actually move it towards real-world adoption and into true series production vehicles,” he said (…

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Zoox’s self-driving car will provide a smooth ride via independent active suspension

Zoox’s self-driving car will provide a smooth ride via independent active suspension

July 10, 2019

Zoox CTO and co-founder Jesse Levinson revealed a few more details today about the company’s autonomous vehicle hardware, which it’s designing along with its software stack from the ground up. Levinson told us onstage at TC Sessions: Mobility that Zoox’s vehicle will have fully independent active four-wheel suspension — a design detail that will translate to a much smoother ride for passengers.

Levinson took us through the Zoox vehicle design at a high level, including covering some of the information he and the company have disclosed previously. The car will have four seats, with sets of two front and back facing inward toward each other. To help accommodate this unique seating arrangement, airbags used in the car will essentially “envelop” passengers, and the absence of both steering wheel and dashboard will actually mean that it’s one of the safest vehicles on the road, in the company’s opinion, because it prioritizes the safety of all passengers in the car equally, rather than weighting the features for driver or front seat passengers like traditional cars.

Levinson also told us after the onstage interview that the vehicle will be just a bit taller than a BMW i3, but slightly shorter front to back than that electric compact car. That’s a small footprint for a four-passenger vehicle, but inside there will presumably be considerable space savings from the lack of dash, steering wheel and gas and brake pedals. On the subject of the independent, four-corner active steering, Levinson explained that while it incurs an additional cost, that will ultimately be insignificant on a per-trip basis, and the benefits for consumes will be huge.

“If you think about it, you know, when you drive a car, people like to feel connected to the road and feel the bumps, and it’s exciting,” Levinson said. “But if …

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BMW 2019 i8 review: Driving yesterday’s car of tomorrow, today

BMW 2019 i8 review: Driving yesterday’s car of tomorrow, today

July 10, 2019

The BMW i8 is a lovely vehicle to drive even though it’s lacking. It hugs the road and commands attention. It’s thrilling in a way that few cars can achieve without speed. Sure, it’s quick, but it won’t set track records or quarter-mile times. It just feels great to drive.

By the numbers, there’s little reason to buy a $164,000 BMW i8 Roadster. Want speed? Buy a Porsche 911 Turbo for $161K or Corvette ZR1 for $123K or Nissan GT-R for $112K. Supercar aesthetics? Get an Acura NSX for $157K. Want all-electric? Get a Tesla Model S. All are faster and cheaper than the BMW i8.

The BMW i8 is just a stepping stone in BMW’s history. An oddball. It’s a limited-edition vehicle to try out new technology. From what I can tell, BMW never positioned the i8 as a top seller or market leader. It was an engineer’s playground. I love it.

Review

BMW released the first i8 in 2014 when the automotive scene looked different. Tesla was still a fledgling startup with only the Model S in its lineup. GM was working on the second-generation Chevy Volt. Hybrid powertrains seemed to be the answer, and BMW followed suit with the dual-power in the i8.

In 2015 I took the just-launched i8 from Vegas to LA in an epic, one-day adventure that took me through the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree National Park. It was a great way to appreciate the i8, and now that the model is on its way out, I wanted another go in the car.

This time, I had an i8 tester for a week. I took my kids to school in it, I got groceries with it and, in between rain storms, I lived my best life with the top down on in this …

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The future of car ownership: Cars-as-a-service

The future of car ownership: Cars-as-a-service

July 10, 2019

Car shoppers now have several new options to avoid long-term debt and commitments. Automakers and startups alike are increasingly offering services that give buyers new opportunities and greater flexibility around owning and using vehicles.

Cars-as-a-Service

In the first part of this feature, we explored the different startups attempting to change car buying. But not everyone wants to buy a car. After all, a vehicle traditionally loses its value at a dramatic rate.

Some startups are attempting to reinvent car ownership rather than car buying.

Don’t buy, lease

My favorite car blog Jalopnik said it best: “Cars Sales Could Be Heading Straight Into the Toilet.” Citing a Bloomberg report, the site explains automakers may have had the worst first half for new-vehicle retail sales since 2013. Car sales are tanking, but people still need cars.

Companies like Fair are offering new types of leases combining a traditional auto financing option with modern conveniences. Even car makers are looking at different ways to move vehicles from dealer lots.

Fair was founded in 2016 by an all-star team made up of automotive, retail and banking executives including Scott Painter, former founder and CEO of TrueCar.

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The future of autonomous vehicles runs off roads and on to farms, construction sites and mines

The future of autonomous vehicles runs off roads and on to farms, construction sites and mines

July 10, 2019

Fully self-driving passenger cars are not “just around the corner.” While the well-capitalized leaders — funded by corporations, multibillion-dollar VC funds or advertising revenue — are on more stable financial ground, many other full-stack autonomous vehicle startups may be looking for the off-ramp.

With no clear path to funds outside of venture capital, full-stack startups face two options: 1) get acquired for the talent and technology or 2) close shop. Cruise and Argo AI were big startup exits. Daimler Trucks acquired Torc Robotics (which did not follow the VC-startup model). And nuTonomy was marketed as a $450 million acquisition by Delphi/Aptiv.

But the most recent VC-backed valuations for some AV startups have stagnated at or below the $450 million mark, which doesn’t give much upside from their previous valuations in the height of the AV fervor. Without much further upside, it is more likely that many passenger car AV companies will close shop.

Full-stack autonomous passenger vehicle startups are dead.

But wait…

Passenger car autonomy projects attracted a lot of capital and top talent in the past decade and produced tremendous technological advances in autonomous perception, path planning and control. What happens to the talent and technology when the passenger AV bubble bursts?

Well, there are more vehicles than just passenger cars. The DARPA Grand Challenge held over a decade ago is cited as the catalyst behind the GoogleX self-driving car project and the explosion of passenger car AVs. The advances made during the challenges …

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