Kia Adds a Little Flavor to the Mix

Kia is the kind of automotive company that is rarely ever associated with the idea of fun driver focused vehicles. Nor are they associated with the idea of luxury or class. In fact that are very few good things anyone ever says about Kia, and this company from the nation of Korea has long been a kind of punch line car company. Even as recently as this year when they tried to release their luxury car that that featured NBA super star LeBron James using the car to get around and do his daily super start j. But in reality when it came time to selling them they realized that they had to make a followup ad campaign that directly addressed how most people did not believe that LeBron Jame would actually drive that car. In a kind of “he you guys gotta believe me, Lebron Does drive one, honest,” kind of pathetic attempt to convince people they acknowledge their own inadequacies. Even after that campaign it actually hurt their image and made it seem the case that most people, my self included are not convinced.

Fast forward to today, and they are at it again with their dupes up GT concept car that they first introduced back in 2011. This one is going to be the center piece of the imminent performance offensive. It is them trying to set their eyes on the sale of these puppies by the end of this year, so buckle up world they are going for you, The Kia Motor company that is, in terms of big money advertising. For the past 5 years or so Kia has been doing a kind of all in approach to getting their image re branded because until now it has been kind of seen as a distribute of fully functioning rolling garbage, more or less. But Kia in this time frame Kia has been largest sponsor of the NBA which is a huge attempt to break in to United States Market.

The GT moniker is something that is also be sportier version of their existing cars. This is enable them to have big time savings when it comes to R&D in addition to production costs of their chases and frames. What it all boils down to is that the Optima GT will be something similar to their SX trim that is already here in the USA.

The next generation of this player is going to be the spawn of a GT badges that hot hatch that will most certainly bet a big old turbocharged three cylinder engine in the name of its own fuel efficiency. Kia has always tried to stress that its performance is something that is offensive has bounties. “two door coupes are a little big on the decline. It would be nice to make a new coupe but if there is no demand what’s the point ?” That is the sense around the market and people are starting to think that these moves reek to high heaven. So don’t get your hopes up


A Closer Look at the Original Tesla Motors Master Plan

Elon Musk has been making headlines by teasing Part II of his “Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan”. Considering the company has been in rough waters for months now, many Tesla supporters and critics are likely to be interested to hear what Musk has planned. That said, what was in the original master plan, and how closely did Tesla end up following it?

roadsterThe original master plan was written by Elon Musk and posted on the Tesla website back in 2006. It begins with the following background, which is distinctly Musk:

“My day job is running a space transportation company called SpaceX, but on the side I am the chairman of Tesla Motors and help formulate the business and product strategy with Martin and the rest of the team. I have also been Tesla Motor’s primary funding source from when the company was just three people and a business plan.”

Musk goes on to say some deliciously dated, exciting premonitions: “As you know, the initial product of Tesla Motors is a high performance electric sports car called the Tesla Roadster. However, some readers may not be aware of the fact that out long term plan is to build a wide range of models, including affordably priced family cars. This is because the overarching purpose of Tesla Motors (and the reason I am funding the company) is to help expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy, which I believe to be the primary, but not exclusive, sustainable solution.”

Musk goes on to say that necessary to that changeover is “a car without compromises” that can drive faster than any gasoline powered sports car while being twice as energy efficient as a Prius. While Musk acknowledges that one high-end, electric-powered luxury sports car isn’t going to change the world, he also states “that misses the point, unless you understand the secret master plan alluded to above.”

“Almost any new technology initially has high unit cost before it can be optimized and this is no less true for electric cars,” he continued. “The strategy of Tesla is to enter at the high end of the market, where customers are prepared to pay a premium, and then drive down market as fast as possible to higher unit volume and lower prices with each successive model.”

model s5He explains that the second model of his car will be a “sporty four door family car” that will be “roughly half the $89k price point of the Tesla Roadster.” Just to clarify, the Roadster was about US$109,000 when it came out in 2010 while the Model S did cost around $57,400 the year it came out. This is 2006 when he states that when people buy the Tesla Roadster, they will be helping to pay for the development of the Model S.

Musk moves on to address argues made against electric vehicles, specifically that batteries are toxic to dispose of and that because electricity is often made in coal burning power plants, electric cars don’t lead to a reduction in carbon emissions.

Germany Investigates Former Volkswagen Boss

Martin Winkerton was the reigning CEO of Volkswagen when the infamous Volkswagen scandal rocked the media and German car industry last year. Winkerton dutifully stepped down in light of the discovery that Volkswagen cars were programmed with software that allowed them to cheat onUS deisel emissions tests, but now the ex-CEO is under investigation by German authorities for alleged market manipulation.

VW has publicly stated that prosecutors have offered “no new facts or information,” and that it has met its disclosure obligations fully. Winterkorn maintained that he was “not aware of any wrongdoing on my part,” and that his resignation had been in the best interest of his company but not as a result of his guilt in the scandal.

volkGerman prosecutors based in Braunschweig have stated that their investigation is based on “sufficient real signs” that Volkswagen didn’t alert investigators immediately after they were aware of the potential financial damage caused by their being caught manipulating emissions tests. Investors were notified of the issue on September 22 of last year.

Another board executive of Volkswagen is under investigation, but the prosecution has yet to announce the member’s identity. On the whole, the probe was requested by Germany’s financial watchdog agency, the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority.

Volkswagen released the following statement on Friday: “Today’s press release from the Braunschweig public prosecution service does not cite any new facts or information on any serious breaches of duty by the members of the Board of Management now accused.”

The Volkswagen scandal occurred in late September of last year when the US Environmental Protection Agency commissioned a study on the automaker’s diesel cars and found that the cars were equipped with a software that recognized when the car was being tested and made temporary revisions to the engine’s functioning so that it would pass the tests. When the car was taken out of the testing environment, it would return to functioning in a way that violated industry standards.

The discovery led to the German auto giant’s admission that over 11 million cars worldwide were affected by the cheating software, called “defeat devices.”

volkswagenSince the scandal, Volkswagen has come under new leadership and is struggling to run damage control on a situation that continues to unfold in ever-worse iterations of scandal. Millions of cars are expected to be recalled and those who do not return their vehicles will likely run up against issues when they get their vehicles smog tested in the future.

The environmental repercussions are also significant, as these vehicles spewed illegally large quantities of carbon emissions and harmful nitrogen-based chemicals into the air since first being equipped with the software some years ago.

The US government has requested that Volkswagen come out with new hybrid and fully electric models of their vehicles in order to make up for the environmentally unfriendly cheating in which they’ve participated. Volkswagen owes it not only to its customers on a global scale but to itself as a company to rebrand and modify its image; such a large-scale scandal is unheard of from such an established automaker.

BMW Commits to Autonomous Driving

BMW is going back to the drawing boards with their commitment to producing a self driving car on par with the rest of the automotive industries time frame in mind. This is an ambitious goal considering that they are trying to catch up considering they have been fairly quit in this regard to date. There is no amount of employee poaching or information acquisition that can over come the lack of time and infrastructure. There is going to be a real push by everyone on deck but if BMW pivots a vital focus of their vital computer engineering teams to overcoming this in the immediate they will see success in the long term.

The company is also committed to updating their commitment to zero-emission vehicles after a mediocre response to its fully battery powered car the i3, which recorded 25,000 sales last year, this is compared to Tesla’s Model 3 which has reorders of 400,000 cars, that no one has ever seen.

To enable them to improve their sales to improve to an acceptable level or at least to hit the targets they put on themselves they need to improve their fuel economy by at least 50 percent which is a pretty hefty goal.

At any rate they are committed to a full fledged electric car model that isn’t due out until 2021 but the Bavarian’s aren’t done there they also want to make sure they can release the new and improved i3 by 2018. It is a sportier brother for the i3 is their ambition for what is next for the Germans. Today the software engineers are there to make up just around 20 percent of the 30,000 employees who have contracts for the car company at this point.

An ambition of the company is the fact that with a fully autonomous vehicle BMW may still be able to launch a rode hailing or car sharing service similar to Uber or Lyft in a fraction of the time of their other plans that are a more long term play than something like the ride sharing because they would only need a fairly simple app to enable it to be operational and monetized within the appropriate time frame.

Another big play to consider here is that BMW is also considering expanding and widening their current area of reservation parking spaces and electric car charging stations over mobile phones, this is a kind of market which is still fragmented t a large extent among the current.

“We want to actively participate in a consolidation process.” says Froehilch.

This is going to be a new a big pivot for their company and although they are excited about it right now and people assume it will be a smooth transition the reality of the situation is that what they are trying to do is something they have never done before and that is make compelling software, not compelling motors and interiors of cars that handle well. They are positioned well but that may not be enough to keep them at the top of the totem pole when it comes to their place in the global market and engineering.

Toyota Hybrids Reign Supreme

The total sales for the Toyota hybrid Vehicle has just topped an unprecedented milestone with their announcement that they have edge out their 9 millionth unit sold. This according to Toyota happened in April, and that their global sales are currently at 9.014 million units. Although that sales figure is pretty significant, their hybridized vehicles is even more staggering. They have gone from being an niche environmentalists car with a limited market, to a major global player on par with the Ford F-150’s of the country. This is also impressive because after their initial cost of ownership decrease about 3 years into their creation there hasn’t really been much decrease in the cost. This is extremely rare considering their cost of production and maintenance has gone down significantly, however their demand has gone way up and these two factors effectively offset each other. Today, the hope is that they will be able to reach the 15 millionth hybrid sold by 2020, at which time the auto plant will be responsible for pumping out no less than 1.5 million hybrid vehicles every year. They currently have 33 hybrid models and one plug in hybrid that are sold in over 90 countries and regions across the globe. Alternative fuels are on the rise. 

They report that this has been responsible for a reduction in Co2 emissions to the tune of 67 million ton, which is something the auto maker should be extremely proud of. But don’t worry overly patriotic American, this victory is not only for Japans economy. In fact putting the environmental benefits aside, the selling of Toyota’s is actually a really good thing. This is because Toyota is responsible for a large swath of American manufacturing jobs. In fact the majority of their cars sold in the US are made here.

This is great news for their Hybrid department, but as a whole they still have some blind spots, mainly in terms of their efforts to break into the American truck market. The reason being The Ford F-150 has been the most popular selling car for over the 39 years. Americans want their trucks and they are willing to pay a pretty penny to get them.

The problem with Toyota in this regard is that they are trying to make their trucks with the same inspiration they put into their hybrids. What I mean by that is, they have made the most technically advanced truck on the market by most accounts, but its not even close to being the strongest. Its quick and fuel efficient, but not down right fast. That’s the problem, they are hitting the bulls eye off all the wrong targets. They are making a superior truck by any standard an outsider looking in would consider, However, they aren’t making it for what may be considered a pretty irrational desire. To put this into perspective, they are not willing to compromise their product for market means alone. Which is admirable, However, they are losing big in this regard, and if they don’t see a turn it may mean the resolving of the department. This will be a matter of time before we know for certain however.


Tesla Offers Upgradable Battery

Tesla has begun to sell a car with a revolutionary concept in mind; not only is the car and electric plug-in (old news given Tesla’s forward thinking team of engineers), but the battery itself is upgradable. And to upgrade a battery, a Tesla owner doesn’t have to take his or her model to the closest dealership for a hardware swap-out; instead, buyers can invest an additional few thousand dollars to “unlock” hardware that is actually already included in the car. With the payment will come an online software update enabling a car’s increased battery performance.

teslaThis revolutionary way of doing auto updates revolves around the Tesla Model S 70, which includes a 70kWh battery pack that offers about 240 miles of range on a single charge. For an additional $3,000 investment, a Model S 75 with a 75kWh battery pack offers an additional 19 miles of range per charge that owes its extra mileage to a 5kWh boost in energy storage. However, both models use identical batteries for logistics and manufacturing purposes.

While it may seem frustrating or even unfair to purchase a piece of hardware and then need to pay further to receive the full performance that that hardware can achieve, this may be yet another way that Tesla will be testing the waters and potentially changing the way the auto industry works.

And it’s not actually the first time that a consumer product has been upgradable in terms of software, for a fee, even in the realm of cars. Volvo offered XC90 owners the choice to add CarPlay to its cars post-purchase, which cost an additional $300. Tesla has allowed customers to unlock its Autopilot semi-autonomous driving feature for $3,000 for over a year now.

That said, Tesla’s battery upgrade is slightly different. It’s not so much a software update that people are paying for; they’re paying to unlock the full potential of a piece of hardware they already purchased. Some are calling the unlocking fee a ransom, just a clue to how this new system could become controversial and provoke some frustration on the customer end.

tesla3However, there is a logical thought process behind the strange new set of rules, and it’s important to note that certain features in other cars, like additional horsepower in many cars and trucks, can already be unlocked just by taking the car to a specialty performance shop. If the upgrade could be attained online, directly from the manufacturer as opposed to having to go through a third party dealer, that may be an improvement on a set of circumstances that already (for the most part) exist.

That said, people are uneasy about the shift in conversation that Tesla’s purchase model is guiding them through; it’s not about hardware, but hardware’s functionality. You’re not paying for the best possible hardware, you’re paying for the allowance to use existing hardware in the best possible way.

But software and the auto industry have both undergone rapid change in the past few years, and a lot of this change is actually beneficial to the consumer. Perhaps this will just be the next big convenience thought up by Tesla.

Volkswagen Makes Moves

On Wednesday, tech company Mirantis announced that Volkswagen Group had selected Mirantis OpenStack to be responsible for powering its various cloud applications.

mirantisApparently Volkswagen’s choice was made in light of the results of an in-depth selection process; a series of cloud-to-cloud performance trials were conducted between rival company Red Hat and Mirantis, which is one of the only pure-play OpenStack companies that has neither gone out of business nor been acquired by a larger company. Mirantis was able to beat Red Hat with its 98 percent execution rate across 64 use cases, making it (according to the company) the fastest-to-implement OpenStack distribution in the market.

The company’s contract with Volkswagen will likely cement the pure status of Mirantis, at least for a few more years. The contract decrees that Volkswagen will use Mirantis OpenStack to power applications in all its brands and involves dozens of data centers and tens of thousands of nodes between them.

The contract is highly significant not just for Mirantis, but for the OpenStack community as a whole. OpenStack offers benefits to its users related to its open source roots, the fact that it was designed from the ground up for hybrid cloud technology, and its markedly flexible orchestration capabilities.

“It’s a huge deal for Mirantis given Volkswagen’s position as Europe’s largest manufacturer. That should help raise the company’s profile considerably, especially given the broad popularity of open source technologies in Europe,” commented Charles King, chief analyst at Pund-IT.

“It’s also a significant win for OpenStack, though it is central to many other large-scale enterprise clouds.”

Mirantis claims to offer a way for IT companies to cut costs through joint standardization; it can offer support in both internal and consumer-facing applications and can connect people across the Volkswagen experience, ranging from dealers to suppliers to consumers.

The product is also said to add critical enterprise features to OpenStack in order to ensure that all applications can be offered with high performance. Mirantis hopes to enable full control of data center infrastructure for Volkswagen, optimizing all existing infrastructure for Intel platform capabilities.

red hat“As the automotive industry shifts to the service economy, Volkswagen is poised for agile software innovation. The team at Mirantis gives us a robust, hardened distribution, deep technical expertise, a commitment to the OpenStack community, and the ability to drive cloud transformation at Volkswagen,” stated Volkswagen’s vice president for IT infrastructure, Mario Muller.

Volkswagen plans to develop a variety of new applications for its customers in an attempt to stay competitive in a rapidly changing automotive industry. It will allegedly use OpenStack in the development of all of its upcoming digital services and cloud native applications. The project is likely to have profound effects across Volkswagen’s data centers all across America, Europe, and Asia.

“The size and complexity of Volkswagen’s planned deployment likely plays better to a pure player like Mirantis than a firm with wider horizons like Red Hat,” explained King, attempting to explain Volkswagen’s choice. Either way, Red Hat is likely feeling disappointed right now, as this will be a game-changing move for Mirantis, Volkswagen, and the auto industry in general.

Driverless Cars May Not Be As Close As We Want

When we consider the future of driver less cars many see a kind of science fiction world where we are at the heart of some Utopian future. But we can ofter forget that Sci-Fi is not always positive, and many insiders agree that they will not have as dramatic a change as people might imagine, and to be honest what they really want. Legendary car design Hendrik Fisker has been noted as saying that “If you look back in history, we’ve had a lot of new technology entering cars — whether it was ABS brakes or other safety features,” Fisker told Tech Insider. “I think that when driverless car technology enters vehicles, I don’t think it will have as dramatic a change as people might imagine.”fghfgh

He goes on to note that “I doubt you’d be able to program a driverless car to break the speed limit and, the fact is, most people break the speed limit simply because they are just making the traffic flow,” when whe consider the problems that are inherent to the leadership and how we expect the trajectory to go he goes on to consider that “The leadership of the federal government is critically important given the growing patchwork of State laws and regulations on self­-driving cars,”

These are clearly legitimate concerns and if you are going to take anyone’s opinion this is the one to take. This is the future of transportation, lets be honest, autonomous cars are coming, and they are going to change the world in unforeseen ways, but also in a lot of foreseeable ways. It is nieve to think that this won’t happen because of limitations today when we don’t consider that these limitations wont exist tomorrow. It may be the case that he was not on the money with some predictions and with a of bitterness the notion in general is taking it out on the community in thinking that it won’t happen, but there is much more pointing in the direction that it is inevitable.

dWe use the tern inevitable a lot and most of the times we use it to mean extremely likely. What I am saying is that it is inevitable, meaning that there is absolutely no way we won’t end up in this future. The reason being is that the target is set, and our desires aim towards them. Even if we do not see the path today or even the destination in its most realized sense, we will and we can. When Kennedy said we are going to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, there was hardly anything to support this belief other than a basic understanding of rockets and basic computers. Today when we say cars will all be driverless in 20 years and even have working protypes and many ready for market it seems pretty diluted to say that the few hurdles we still face are anything but that; hurdles. Meaning it is in their very definition that there is a way to get up and over them quickly.

The Future of Transportation

Automotive and digital technology is transforming extremely quickly, fast enough to leave a lot of analysts’ heads spinning.

Just over a decade ago, we were all amazed at the release of Toyota’s Prius, the first mainstream five-seater hybrid hit the market. It got 52 mpg in the city and 45 on the highway, and that just about blew people away.

Nowadays there’s concept cars boasting windshields with augmented reality capabilities, and cars are getting ready to drive themselves.

Given what we know today, what guesses can we really make regarding the future of the automobile for human society? Well, let’s try to take into consideration some more recent developments and see if we can expand from there.

future transportThe eco-friendly car momentum is about as real as global warming, even given the huge drop in oil prices that has plagued oil pumping countries but pleased motorists. Tesla’s all-electric car became the first battery-operated vehicle to connote sex appeal, and now BMW and other luxury brands are following suit. Huge environmentally conscious changes are starting to be made in the ride-sharing market as well; Dubai’s RTA is starting to phase hybrid taxis into their fleets and plans to have half the taxis on the road be hybrid by 2021.

Aspirations towards creating self-driving cars have also proliferated, and have already born fruit. Tesla released a software update a few months back that came with an Autopilot feature that allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel and be chauffeured by their cars from one place to the next. Google has been testing their autonomous vehicles in the Silicon Valley, Austin, and is about to start testing in Seattle. Ford has been testing autonomous car models in snowy Michigan to make sure they’re able to function in bad weather.

Autonomous driving will hopefully mean a variety of things; one, and most importantly, fewer mortal accidents. Two, cars will likely last longer. If people are letting computers do the work (and according to people who have sat in Google cars, they’re almost pathetically passive drivers), people are much less likely to get in accidents that will total their cars. Perhaps there will be less broken down cars and cars well have an added longevity to them.

ballsThe movement forward in green driving technology will likely keep continuing, as rather large manufacturing machines like GM have finally developed divisions that can create electric vehicles. Their Chevy Volt is set to actually beat Tesla in producing an all-electric vehicle for around $30,000, i.e. that’s affordable to normal people.

Finally, with the rise of smartphones and the continued employment of millennials, share economies continue their trajectory upward. That’s why companies like Ford are developing 6-person car lease plans that come with a corresponding organizational app and fewer people are projected to start buying cars. Millennials simply don’t feel like they need them, and would rather make use of public transportation then spend their hard earned cash on gas that creates carbon emissions anyway.

So perhaps we will see this: fewer, autonomous, zero-emissions cars that are shared by groups of people and that can come when called from one location to another. That sounds great.

How to Check Your Oil

Oil changes are important, and a car owner can save him or herself a lot of stress by performing them in an accurate and timely manner. Here’s how to check if you need a change or a refill, enacted specifically on a 2011 Rav4. By the way, you should do this once a month.

Before you start out, make sure your engine has had ample time to cool if you recently your car out for a spin. The engine must be cold in order for you to get an accurate reading, otherwise the dipstick will read slightly low.

oilSo if your engine is cool and you’re ready, your first step is to pop the hood. Check under your steering wheel and to the left for a tab with a picture of a car with a popper hood on it. As you would expect, this is relevant to this endeavor. Pull the tab and head to the front of the car, where the hood should have popped up slightly out of its frame. You’ll need to reach under the center of the hood to release the safety catch and open the hood fully. Insert the metal bar to the left of the engine into a hole designated on the underside of the hood to prop it open (it’s a bit heavy to do on your own).

Now you’re ready to locate the oil dipstick, which should be towards the front of the hood, near the center, and have a plastic looped handle that seems encouraging. Pull it out and wipe it with a towel, then reinsert it completely and remove it for a second time. Now look at the oil level.

If it’s below the lowest hole marker in the dipstick, your car needs more oil. If it’s above the highest hole marker in the dipstick, oil needs to be removed. If it’s in the center, you’re ok.

Remember that you don’t only want to check the oil level, but also the condition of the oil when you have the dipstick out. If it’s dirty or smells like gasoline, it’s probably about time for an oil change.

oil2If you recently added oil and it’s down to the lowest hole again or even below it, you’ll want to contact a mechanic; you’re likey dealign with an oil leak that could cause serious damage to your vehicle if neglected.

If everything looks fine, replace the dipstick and push slightly upward on the hood to release the metal rod. Put the metal rod in a non-abrasive place next to the engine that will allow for the hood to close and won’t cause the rod to come into inappropriate contact with other  engine parts.

Lower the hood slowly to about a lot above the engine, then let it drop so that its own force clicks it closed. If you’re not sure if’s closed properly, see if you can pull it past the safety hatch; if the safety hatch is fastened, you know it’s not going to blow up in your face when you start trying to drive. If the hatch is fastened but it’s still not closed completely, undo the hatch, lift the hood again and drop if from higher up to ensure that it gains the momentum it needs to close completely.