Monday, July 24, 2017

Nissan ProPILOT Level 2 Autonomous Driving System Will Debut On 2018 LEAF

Nissan’s intuitive new ProPILOT Assist is a fresh “hands-on-wheel” Level 2 autonomous driving technology that essentially eases driver workload. While providing steering aid and reducing the need for constant small steering adjustments, Nissan is moving another cautious step towards fully autonomous vehicles.As implied above, the driver’s hands must be on the steering wheel at all time. This is a notable departure from Tesla’s Autopilot, which lets you take your hands off the wheel for a while before warning you to grab hold or get kicked out of Autopilot.
Nissan autonomous driving system
I’ve never met a Nissan LEAF driver who did not love their EV. It is the most sold electric car in history, which may not get it the attention of a Tesla Model S but is still notable and marks Nissan’s leadership in this space. The ProPILOT news is another pioneering move for Nissan.
For the first time on public roads in the US, Nissan recently put media behind the wheel to experience its ProPILOT Assist technology. “ProPILOT Assist reduces the hassle of stop-and-go driving by helping control acceleration, braking, and steering during single-lane highway driving.”
As with all autonomous driving technologies, safety is a key issue and often out front, hand in hand with convenience. Nissan believes it helps lessen drivers’ fatigue, increasing their level of alertness when they need to manage a difficult situation.
“ProPILOT Assist uses a forward-facing camera, forward-facing radar, sensors and electronic control module to help the driver stay in the center of the driving lane and to maintain vehicle speed (set by the driver) or help maintain a gap to the preceding vehicle if the vehicle speed drops below the driver-set speed,” Nissan writes. “It also can slow the vehicle to a complete stop and holds the vehicle during traffic jam conditions.
“Hands-on detection is provided by the system’s steering torque sensor. If the driver only grips the steering system with a light touch, the warning system may activate, alerting the driver to apply more pressure or a tighter grip on the steering wheel.”
The recent ProPILOT Assist autonomous driving system was specifically tuned for US roads and drivers. Nissan Technical Center North America (NTCNA) in Michigan led the development — with more than 50,000 miles on roads across the United States. ProPILOT Assist is a perfect transition for those a bit nervous about self-driving features, as it is a “hands-on” driver assist system.
“Steering assist is canceled in inclement weather if the windshield wipers are in the low or high position (if lane lines can be detected, the system can remain active when the wipers are in the intermittent mode or if the mist function is activated).” As with Cruise Control, lane assistance is also canceled with the driver’s braking. “The driver’s input always takes priority, overriding the system when the steering wheel is turned or the turn signal is operated (steering assistance goes into a temporary standby mode). The system also goes into temporary standby mode when the accelerator pedal is pressed.”
ProPILOT Assist features “two-button” activation. The driver first must push the blue ProPILOT Assist “ON” button, which is integrated into the right-side steering wheel spoke. Step two is to set the Intelligent Cruise Control when the desired speed is reached, as with a normal advanced cruise control system.
“When lane markers are consistently detected, steering assist engages and the steering wheel/lane marker icons on the instrument panel turn green. Both right and left-hand markers need to be detected by the front camera. Steering assist will engage or disengage depending on the visibility or presence of lane markers, though the Intelligent Cruise Control will remain active.”
The driver just presses the resume button or taps the accelerator pedal to resume autonomous driving again if stopped in traffic.
“ProPILOT Assist functionally enhances the ICC system, including stop, hold and start, while the steering assist’s lane centering helps keep the vehicle in the center of the lane,” added Takeshi Yamaguchi, senior vice president, Research, and Development, Nissan Technical Center North America, Nissan North America, Inc.
“Drivers who have experienced ProPILOT Assist always remark about the difference it makes, not realizing how many accelerations, steering and braking inputs they make under normal driving – and how much more enjoyable it is to have ProPILOT Assist help to take care of it for them.”
Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist will be available later this year.
Nissan’s technology will extend 10 more models in Europe, Japan, China, and the United States by 2020 via the Renault-Nissan Alliance.
“Nissan is a technology pioneer and ProPILOT Assist sets a strong, consumer-focused foundation for fully autonomous vehicles of the future,” said Yamaguchi.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Chevy Volt May Be Casualty Of SUV Craze

The sedan is falling rapidly out of favor in many world markets but especially so in America, where demand for SUVs is rising to a fever pitch. GM is reporting sedan sales are down over 30% so far this year. Amid predictions that sedans will be even less popular in the future, The General is considering the elimination of 6 sedans from its product lineup, including the iconic Chevrolet Impala and its highly regarded PHEV vehicle, the Chevy Volt. The Volt may exit the Chevy lineup in 2022.

The company’s investment in the Voltec plug-in hybrid technology won’t go to waste, however. Word is that Chevrolet will introduce a new plug-in hybrid sport utility vehicle known as the CrossVolt in 2020. GM renewed its trademark on that name in late 2104.
An SUV version of the Volt makes a lot of sense. As good as the current Volt is, it suffers from a lack of passenger space, particularly in the back seat. The middle of the rear seat is not really suitable for a real person and the headliner needs two areas scooped out on either side to provide enough head room for adults. A PHEV SUV would likely prove quite popular.
Back in 2010, Chevrolet released photos of a concept plug-in hybrid SUV style vehicle it called the Volt MPV5. In today’s world, the styling of that concept may seem rather bland, but there’s nothing saying Chevy couldn’t knock the socks off the competition by making the CrossVolt look similar to the very tasty looking FNR-X concept it had on display at the Shanghai auto show this spring.
If the MPV5 was rather dowdy and Plain Jane in appearance, the FNR-X definitely has looks that sizzle. Put a plug-in hybrid powertrain in this sport utility and customers would line up around the block and down the street.In addition to the Impala — once the star of the Chevrolet bvand — and the Volt, GM is also planning to ax the Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac CT6, Cadillac XTS, and Chevrolet Sonic, all of which have seen sales tumble of late as the SUV craze gathers steam.

Dennis Williams, president of the UAW says, “We are talking to [GM] right now about the products that they currently have” at underused car plants such as Hamtramck in Michigan and Lordstown in Ohio, and whether they might be replaced with newer, more popular vehicles such as SUVs and crossovers. “We are tracking it (and) we are addressing it.”
GM must “create some innovative new products” to replace slow-selling sedans “or start closing plants,” said Sam Fiorani, vice president of AutoForecast Solutions. John Murphy, an auto analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimates that only 10 percent of the new vehicle models from GM over the next four years will be passenger cars. The rest will be trucks, SUVs, and crossovers.
Like it or not, SUVs and crossovers are the new normal in the auto business. As farsighted as Elon Musk is, he did not fully appreciate how quickly the tide would change when plans for the Model 3 were being finalized. A Model Y crossover is in the works but is 2 to 3 years away from production. Right now, Tesla doesn’t even have a factory to build the Model Y.
That could open up some space for legacy automakers to fill the gap and maybe beat Tesla to the punch with a competitive electric SUV. But if history is any guide, they will fail to seize the day and fall back on hybrids and new technologies to keep building cars with internal combustion engines a little while longer.
Legacy automakers are Elon Musk’s best friend. Despite the success of Tesla over the past 5 years, the other companies still treat electric cars like some sort of exotic beast that needs to be handled with extreme care. A plug-in SUV based on the Chevy Volt is a great idea — today. Whether it will still be a great idea in 2020 is another matter.
Source: Reuters

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Avionics Makes The World’s Coolest Retro Electric Bicycle

In the emerging electric bicycle world, there are all sorts of vehicles that blend peddle power with the convenience of an electric motor. Some are bland, some are lovely. Some are designed to carry cargo in crowded urban areas. Some resemble laid back cruisers and some are fat tire specials. But none is as drop dead gorgeous as the V1 from Avionics.

The V1 evokes a bygone era when motorcycles raced on board tracks all across America. It looks like it was designed and built 75 years ago and features many carefully thought out touches to amplify on that theme. The headlight nacelle and handgrips are made from jabota wood, also known as Brazilian cherry. Even the battery and all the electronics are encased in a beautifully crafted chest made from jabota and attached to the lower frame with authentic looking leather straps. Coupled with an oiled bronze finish on the frame, the overall effect is simply stunning.
But the V1 from Avionics is more than just a pretty face. It has the specs to go with the image of speed and power it presents. Its performance begins with a 5,00o watt brushless electric motor said to be good for 92 ft-lb of torque. That’s more twisting power than many cars built before 1990 came with from the factory.

Top speed is 36 miles per hour, which is more than many jurisdictions allow for an electric bicycle. The V1 comes with three electronically lower speed modes to ensure compliance with local ordinances. The battery is a 24 amp-hour unit that gives the V1 a range of about 75 miles. Charging time is listed as 3 hours and regenerative braking on the front wheel helps keep the battery charged.
Avionics is planning an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign in September and promises those who pre-order will be eligible for a 40% discount off the regular list price. And what is that list price?  That’s the part of the equation we don’t know yet, but it certainly won’t be at the low end of the scale. Hopefully it will be less than the equally stunning Fuoriserie, another retro electric bicycle created by Pininfarina and based on the 1936 Lancia Astura Bocca which was Mussolini’s favorite car.

Feast your eyes on the Avionics V1 in this video. Then don’t even try to pretend you don’t want one!
Source: Tree Hugger