Jaguar Land Rover and Ford test connected cars in Britain

Premium luxury car makers Jaguar Land Rover, Ford (F.N) as well as Tata Motors (TAMO.NS) are testing connected cars that can communicate with each other using technology designed to speed up journeys and cut accidents, the first such trials in Britain.

Imagine a world of cars that are able to warn drivers when another connected vehicle brakes suddenly and those which can monitor traffic signals and regulate their speed to encounter fewer red lights were being showcased at a testing ground in Central England.

With the rapid increase of technology and the up-rise of sophisticated technology in vehicles, the world is paving way for fully driverless vehicles with Jaguar (JLR) owned by India’s Tata Motors demonstrating a self-driving Range Rover Sport that can overtake even slower moving cars.

 

The benefits of having cars that can communicate with each other and their surroundings could be very significant — from increased road safety to improved traffic flow,” said Tim Armitage, a project director at government-backed UK Autodrive, which coordinated the trials.

As a part of government’s efforts to create an industry, which can serve a worldwide market, a driverless car was on trial on Britain’s streets for the first time. The worldwide market estimates to be worth an upwards of 1.1 billion dollars by 2025 and this figure is huge. Automakers are racing to head off the challenge from technology firms such as Alphabet Inc’s Google, which is developing autonomous vehicles. Jaguar Land Rover said earlier this year that it plans to create a fleet of more than 100 research vehicles over the next four years to test autonomous and connected technology and Volvo plans to trial driverless cars in London next year.

On the same lines, companies like Ford as well as Volvo are working with ride-hailing company Uber on trials of self-driving cars in the U.S city of Pittsburgh. The company views a driver take their hands off the wheel can be enough to unnerve even the most hardened front seat passenger.

Working with Ford and Tata Motors, the firms have launched a joint ‘Autodrive’ project, demonstrating a number of future vehicle technologies at Horiba Mira’s testing facility in Nun Eaton.

Land Rover has been fitted with communications technology, which will enable it to ‘talk’ to other makes and model of car and its surroundings – a key development on the road to driverless cars.

All three-vehicle manufacturers are all taking part in the £20 million ($24m) UK Autodrive research and development project, which will test connected and driverless tech over the course of three years. The project will be separated into two streams, with Ford focused on connected vehicle technologies rather than testing self-driving cars.

 

Tim Armitage, director of the UK Autodrive project, said: ‘The benefits of having cars that can communicate with each other and their surroundings could be very significant – from increased road safety to improved traffic flow, more efficient parking and better information for drivers.’

Advanced Highway Assist:

Among the array of features that are available on these cars, Land Rover’s Highway Assist feature enables the vehicle to overtake slower moving vehicles automatically as well as detecting any vehicles in the driver’s blind spot.

Other developments:

In the upcoming years, plenty of features will be tested that include safety parameters that sense when the driver is in front that haphazardly slams the brake even if the lights of the car are obscured either due to bad weather or other possible reasons. Drivers could welcome features that aim to reduce the amount of time spent waiting at the lights. Cars that are connected will receive real time updates from traffic lights to tell drivers to change their speed in advance while keeping the traffic moving.

This said, there are a slew of safety features that will enable vehicles to communicate with one another, while detecting hazards and even check for available parking spots:

Electronic Emergency Brake Light:

This feature comes in handy while alerting the driver when a vehicle in front suddenly brakes, providing advanced warning, especially when the driver is unable to see the lights of the braking vehicle due to weather conditions, road layout or other vehicles in between.
Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory:

This feature sends traffic light information to the connected car that is able to calculate the optimal speed for approaching lights, potentially minimizing the number of red light stops thereby improving traffic flow and reducing emission levels from the idling vehicles.

Emergency Vehicle Warning:

This feature sends a signal directly from the emergency vehicle such as an ambulance, fire engine, police vehicle to nearby connected cars. The driver is informed that the emergency vehicle is approaching and advised to make way for it.

Intersection Movement Assist:

This feature warns the driver when it is unsafe to enter an intersection due to a high probability of collision with other vehicles.

Intersection Priority Management:

This feature assigns priority when 2 or more vehicles come to an intersection without priority signs or traffic lights.

In-Vehicle Signage:

This feature helps send information about road conditions, congestion or other incidents directly to the in-car display rather than having to rely on expensive gantry systems.

Collaborative Parking:

Provides real-time information about free parking spaces either in the vicinity or close to the driver’s final destination.
Bottom Line:

As attractive as these safety features seem, companies need to realize that there is plenty at stake and there is no room for errors. If the companies pull it off, its going to be revolutionary, if not, it might be quite a risqué measure.

Ford C-Max Energi: This vehicle has all the energy to keep you going

There are those who love nature and then there are those who don’t care much about it. Its good to know that there are people who would like to do something good for the environment.  It isn’t a doubt that Toyota Prius has done pretty well as it can’t be confused for a gas only car. Ford had decided to take that to another level in the U.S simply by releasing the hybrid and plug-in C-Max. The model itself is available in Europe with gasoline and diesel-only power plants. The C-Max dates back to 2003 in Europe but until it got a facelift in 2007 and it is now known as Ford Focus C-Max. The name change came when ford decided that it wanted to have “Max” branded line of multi-purpose vehicles. The first plug-in energy back was introduced to North American International Auto Show in 2011. In the year 2013, the company launched a 5-seater model. Initially there was to be a 7-seater variant in the U.S but those plans were eventually cancelled before the launch. Ford C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi are practically the same in most aspects, but the Energi has a much larger battery pack than its hybrid brethren – allowing it to achieve electric-only operation and higher fuel economy numbers. Let’s take a deeper look at the 2016 Ford C-Max Energi.

Outside:

U.S of A isn’t really used to seeing car’s that carry the design shape of the C-max. The styling of the C-Max Enerji is quite popular in various other markets.

The vehicle is built on the same architecture of the focus but it is about 8-inches taller and this makes it look a little weird. The facelift version has done the C-Max a lot of justice compared to other models. The company attached a hexagonal grille later that other Ford models have and the headlights have been revised to give it a sleeker and a pointed look. The vehicle comes in a plentitude of colors such as Ingot silver, Kona Blue, Magnetic, Tectonic, Shadow black and Oxford white. There are a few optional colors include white platinum for a $595 premium and ruby red for a $395 premium. Additionally, the vehicle comes with a reverse sensing system, remote start, 17-inch, 15-spoke alloy wheels are all standard across other models too. It also has options such as bumper protection inserts with splashguards, hands free powered lift gate along with free powered lift gate and panoramic fixed glass roof with rear view camera.

Inside:

The vehicle comes with a leather interior that is available in Charcoal Black or medium Light Stone. It also has standard features that include leather-trimmed seats, Ambient lighting on the door panels and under the dash, Sync 3 infotainment system, Sirius XM radio and heated seats. Optional upgrades include Sony Audio with Sync 3, HD radio and navigation, or a premium Audio and Navigation package that also include voice activation and Sirius XM travel. All-weather rubber mats can be optioned for $175 extra, and a charge cord bag can be picked up for an extra $65.

Drive train:

The C-Max Energi is equipped with the same 2.0-liter, Atkinson-Cycle, four-cylinder engine as the standard C-Max Hybrid. It is mated to an electronic CVT transmission and puts out 141 horsepower and 129 pound-feet of torque. In the C-Max, engine only operation brings fuel economy ratings of 40 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway – leading to a combined rating of 38 mpg.

The Energi model uses a permanent magnet AC synchronous motor, but on the energy, a 7.6KWh lithium-ion battery powers it. When running in charge sustain mode the battery has a peak of 35 KW, but in charge depletion mode, the battery is capable of putting out 68 KW. When plugged into a standard 120-volt outlet, it takes about seven hours to fully charge the battery. On a 240-volt plug, it takes just 2.5 hours.

Price:

The main crux of this article is how much this vehicle worth. Well, the C-Max starts out at $31,770 before options, registration, and fees. That is a $4,600 premium over the Hybrid SEL trim and a $7,600 premium of the Standard Hybrid SE model. Fully Equipped with all options (including the $595 white-platinum paint) the Energi tops out at $38,565.

Bottom Line:

The Ford C-Max Energi is a pretty good car built for sustainability, performance and longevity. You’d definitely like this car for what its worth and if you wish to go premium on the color, you can choose the premium white platinum paint and stand out in the crowd.

Pioneers of Autonomous Cars

The field of driverless cars has been developing at an incredibly fast pace. Up until the early 2010’s, Google remained the sole proponent for fully autonomous cars. However, come CES 2014, BMW soon showcased their advancements in the field as well. As a result, other mainstream manufacturers soon jumped the bandwagon and have begun their in-house development of autonomous cars. We take a look at the current players playing an active role in bringing driverless cars to the general public.

Google

One of the earliest advocates for autonomous driving technology, tech giant Google has been tweaking and testing its driverless car for a few years now. Prior to its current in-house developed super mini, Google made use of existing cars such as Toyota Prius and the Lexus RX450h and retrofitted each of them with sensors, cameras and specialized hardware to allow for autonomous capabilities.

The Google driverless car
The Google driverless car

Soon after, Google developed its very own bespoke car to continue with its experiments and showcase what its fully production ready car might look like. The Google car is a small hatch with a neutral color paint job. Unlike other manufacturers that provide a manual override in the form of a steering wheel and conventional pedals, Google’s driverless car features nothing of the sort. A sign of complete confidence from the maker in its abilities. The car features no distinct features save for two ‘eyes’ and a ‘nose’. The main purpose of the car’s “cutesy” design is to disarm the general public.

The car make’s use of a dizzying array of sensors and cameras to map the road ahead. The on-board computer then processes this information with pre-existing map data to create an inch perfect replica of its immediate surroundings. Some computation is even performed on remote server locations. Each Google car is fitted with sensor equipment worth over $150,000.

BMW

Although Google may have been one of the first endorsers of driverless vehicles, recent reports suggest that the tech supergiant is not leading horse of this race. Mainstream manufacturers such as BMW may have a higher probability of launching a fully autonomous car for commercial purposes. Unlike the Google car that focused primary on city driving, BMW’s initiative proved a bit more entertaining. The self-driving car in its most advanced avatar was showcased at CES 2014 in the form of a live demo. The Bavarian car maker managed to develop a system that mapped a certain race track and “learnt” the quickest possible routes. Similar to Google’s self-driving car, BMW’s autonomous 2 Series and 6 Series were fitted with a host of sensors that generate a 3D map of the car’s surroundings.

BMW's ultimate "drifting" machine
BMW’s ultimate “drifting” machine

Tesla

Tesla’s entry into the autonomous vehicle industry was rather unexpected. Unlike other manufacturers that advertised the upcoming technology, Elon Musk quietly added an autopilot mode for the Model S in a recent update that allowed near complete autonomous driving. However, human intervention is required from time to time. However, with the addition of the feature, Tesla has officially joined the race.

Tesla Model S P85D
The new Tesla Model S models come with auto pilot

Ford

Ford has had a late start in the autonomous vehicle segment. Ford and one other South Korean car maker are the only two manufacturers on this list that cater to a wider spectrum of car buyers. With Ford’s entry this year, we may see small instances of autonomous driving technologies such as fully driverless parking and retrieval in budget cars such as the Fiesta or Taurus.

Ford has only recently jumped into the driverless car band wagon
Ford has only recently jumped into the driverless car band wagon

Kia

South Korean car maker Kia is the other budget manufacturer to begin testing its autonomous vehicular technology. Although Ford’s and Kia’s development phases have only just begun, 2016 provides far more resources and information regarding autonomous driving technology than all the previous years. As such, the manufacturers are now able to work with more than what most car makers began with.

Kia is a South Korean car maker under Hyundai's ownership
Kia is a South Korean car maker under Hyundai’s ownership

Audi

Audi is one of the only manufacturers on this list to have actually released its autonomous fleet to the media. As part of an event, a few journalists were offered a ride from Las Vegas to CES 2015. An interesting feature of Audi’s system is the inclusion of two cameras that constantly monitor the driver’s eyes. Should the driver close his eyes, the car begins beeping loudly and comes to a complete halt following which the car switches its hazard lights on.

Audi's fleet of autonomous cars ferried journalists from Las Vegas to CES
Audi’s fleet of autonomous cars ferried journalists from Las Vegas to CES

As with most new technologies, the latent complications and ethical dilemmas of various scenarios are yet to be fully explored. Similar to the internet, Einstein’s mass-energy equation and programming, autonomous vehicles are also susceptible to misuse. As such, fears of the public are not unfounded. However, one must progress and the only direction is forwards.

Ford B-Max: Ford’s new Maxed out MPV

"Ford B Max Interiors"

Ford India, after its successful launch of the Figo and Eco Sport has promised to launch around 8 new models in India. Ford seems to understand what the market demands, it also seems to understand the niche that small cars hold. The B-Max has been a successful car in most countries, and now its here to rival up with Honda Jazz.

The B-Max is supposedly the replacement of the Fusion, which itself was based on the previous Fiesta. This model from Ford is designed to appeal buyers who are looking to upgrade to a car with sharp styling as well as a luxurious and comfortable interior space.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDaRinrJCho 

Engine and Features:

The B-Max will come out with nothing short of an impressive engine. Sources suggest that the new B-Max may come fitted with a 1L three-cylinder SCTi engine belonging to the Ford Eco-boost family. The car delivers 120 bhp of power and the diesel engine produces 75 bhp. It is also likely to feature the Power Shift dual clutch automatic gearbox, turbocharged direct injection and, the stop and start system. The B-Max might also come with 1.2L petrol and 1.4 L diesel engines from the Ford Figo. The models will carry a standard five manual gearbox and will be available in 3 specifications. The entry-level model names Studio, the mid range Zetec and the top –spec named Titanium.

This car had received five star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, all thanks to the electronic stability control, traction control as well as driver, passenger curtain, side, driver’s knee air-bags. The B-Max handles well and makes driving in the town quite enjoyable. This car also has electronic windows all around, electric mirrors as well as remote locking. The car’s Anti-Lock Braking System is a great safety measure, it also has Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) as well as Electronic Stability program (ESP) that are added safety measures to ensure that the car remains safe at all times.

 

"Ford B-Max"
Image Source: www.autocar.co.uk

Exteriors:

The B-Max has a “pillar-less” body shell that is achieved by integrating its B-Pillar into the front and sliding read doors. Ford has integrated its ultra-high-strength boron steel in the doors and special safety inter-locks between its body panels and body structure.

"Ford B-max"
Image Source: de.autoblog.com

The car’s front and rear doors open independently of each other. Another ingenious feature in this car is its sliding back doors that give users easy access.  It is also believed that the B-Max will have shatter resistant glass that would make it extra tough and tough to crack.

"Ford B-Max"
Image Source: www.automobiledimension.com

 

The B-Max has been designed on the Fiesta’s platform and has a compact-looking practical design. The company’s kinetic design theme is evident in the styling and the B-pillar between its doors are eliminated. This car shares its design similarities with C-Max with swooping headlights and wraparound rear-lights.

"Ford B-Max"
Image Source: www.parkers.co.uk

The boot space of this car is rated at 397 liters, which can be increased to over 1000 liters. This is a pretty cool feature that is essential for families to carry their luggage. This car also carries Body Colored Bumpers, Tinted Glass as well as Electric Rear View Mirrors. B-Max also has 3 Rear Seat Belts, 2 Airbags and Parking sensors. The B-Max being a mini MPV will be a great addition to the Indian roads.

Image Source: forum.donanimhaber.com
Image Source: forum.donanimhaber.com

Interiors:

The B-Max has a compact design that is deceptively spacious and accommodates 5 passengers with ease. This is quite a resourceful car that has foldable rear-seats. The car has plenty of space for luggage and household goods. Also, there is 60:40 rear split seats that can also be found on the Maruti Suzuki Swift.

"Ford B Max Interiors"
Image Source: www.carwale.com

 

The car has SYNC technology along with special safety locks along with latch mechanisms. This car is a delight for both passengers as well as its driver. It comes with standard features inside. Overall, the interior of the car has a refined look thanks to its spacious and elegant design with high quality materials. This car has a Rear Defogger, Rear Washer and Wiper, Remote Boot Release, Remote Fuel Filler, Steering Mounted Controls, A/C, Power Windows and Power Steering.

Ford B-Max
Image Source: www.europecarnews.com

 

Bottom line:

Ford B-Max is a great MPV suited for most Indian families looking for a reasonably spacious car. The five seated makes a great addition for a family of 5 members. This car is expected to hit Indian roads in 2015 and as per speculation; the car is expected to be priced between Rs. 6-8 lakhs. This car is a great replacement to the Ford Fusion and is a fierce competitor to the Mini Xylo from Mahindra. There are plenty of other players waiting to prove their worth, but Ford has a promise that is pretty challenging to match up to.