Waymo releases Phoenix area self-driving car incident score card

OAKLAND, Calif — Self-driving tech company Waymo, which this month opened its driverless taxi service in the Phoenix suburbs to the public, on Friday said its autonomous vehicles there had been involved in 18 minor incidents since 2019 during tests and actual rides.

Waymo, a unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc, said it was releasing the data to improve transparency and open a public dialogue. Some residents have complained about the hundreds of Waymo vans driving around town, telling Reuters in the past that their driving patterns were dangerous as they stopped too often, running the risk of being rear-ended by a human driver.

Waymo also said it hopes its safety data will help companies and regulators devise industry-wide safety standards for self-driving cars.

According to the data, the Waymo vehicles in Phoenix had minor incidents once for about every 339,000 miles traveled and another 29 incidents were avoided with the intervention of a safety driver. That amounted to once in every 210,000 miles. Still none of the events, including those that were prevented, would have led to serious injuries, it said.

Waymo cars were rear ended 11 times, according to the data. Matthew Schwall, head of field safety at Waymo told reporters in a briefing that an analysis of the Phoenix operations show that its cars were not rear ended more than the average human-driven vehicle there.

He said that of the incidents recorded in Arizona, eight of the most significant ones involved human errors. Also he said Waymo self-driving technology was able to always avoid incidents like striking a fixed object or departing a roadway. These, he noted, are frequent incidents with human drivers that can lead to fatalities.

Schwall declined to say if Waymo would release collision and safety data on a regular basis.

(Reporting By Jane Lanhee Lee, Additional Reporting Paul Lienert; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Source: AutoBlog.com

Gaming Roundup | Playstation 5 loses a launch title but gains a better one

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In this week’s gaming roundup Playstation 5 loses a launch title but swaps it for a potentially better one, and yes, Cyberpunk 2077 has been delayed yet again.

Destruction Allstars gets delayed to February 2021

The biggest bummer of the week comes in the form of a delay for the ex-PS5-launch-title Destruction AllStars. The game is a vehicular combat game (RIP Twisted Metal) with a colorful, almost Overwatch-like aesthetic. Initially, the game was set to launch on November 12 alongside the new Playstation, but unfortunately, it’s now been delayed to February. Honestly, this game didn’t really look all that special to me, so this delay isn’t really breaking my heart. In fact, it comes with a fantastic silver lining. Although gamers are losing Destruction Allstars as a launch title, they’re gaining something that is likely even better…

WRC 9 revealed as PS5 launch title – featuring 4K, 60fps, and a free upgrade from the PS4 version

This one came out of absolutely nowhere and it’s a great surprise. It was announced this week that WRC 9 is releasing along with the Playstation 5, and this next-gen version looks great. WRC 9 was originally released on September 1st for current-gen consoles, but it’s getting a bit of a next-gen upgrade for this new release. This new version runs at 4K 60fps, which will offer a more smooth and graphically beautiful performance than what was possible on current-gen consoles. The best part, though, is that if you already own WRC 9 for PS4, you’ll be able to upgrade to the PS5 version of the game for free. Developers have been handling next-gen upgrades on a case-by-case basis, and I’m glad that Kylotonn and Nacon, the developer and publisher (respectively) of WRC 9 have done the consumer-friendly thing and decided to make their upgrade free. It’s a great look, and makes it even easier to recommend this truly awesome game. You can read some of our thoughts on the game right here, or look into getting a copy for yourself right here. 

Cyberpunk 2077 gets delayed for the … 3rd time? 

In news that isn’t particularly surprising at all, Cyberpunk 2077 has been delayed yet again, but thankfully, not for very long this time. The release date has been pushed back from November 19th to December 10th, so we’ll have to wait just a bit longer to start cruising around in those sweet, sweet future cars. While it’s always a bummer having to wait longer for a game you’re really excited about, I’m choosing to look at the positives here. We’re about to be hit with a truly absurd amount of new, seemingly great games over the next two months. The newest Call of Duty, the newest Assassin’s Creed, Need For Speed Hot Pursuit Remake and Cyberpunk were all originally going to release within 10 days of each other. That’s, uh, too much. Now, thanks to this delay, some other games will have some time to breathe, and maybe, just maybe, all of the games dropping in the next few weeks will get a fair amount of time to shine. If you want to pre-order a copy of Cyberpunk, you can do that right here. We’re pretty sure that no more delays are coming down the pipeline. Probably. 

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Fisker officially goes public, on track for 2022 production

Fisker has officially gone public, trading on the New York Stock Exchange under “FSR” as of Friday, the company announced this week. It was taken public as part of a merger/acquisition by Spartan Energy Acquisition Corp.

“All the external pieces are now in place to execute our unique, asset-light business strategy, with today’s funding and the strategic cooperation announced with Magna on Oct. 15,” said Fisker Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Henrik Fisker, in the company’s announcement. “We can now fully turn our attention to developing and launching the revolutionary, all-electric Fisker Ocean into the heart of the midsize SUV market, expected to commence in Q4 2022. We appreciate the confidence from all our shareholders and intend to deliver on our stated goals.”

Fisker announced last week that auto supplier Magna will provide the vehicle platform and build the electric carmaker’s Ocean SUV. As part of the deal, Magna will receive warrants to purchase a stake of up to 6% in Fisker, giving the EV maker an overall valuation of about $3 billion, Fisker Chief Executive Henrik Fisker told Reuters.

“As a result of the completion of the transaction, Fisker expects to have in excess of $1.0 billion (net of transaction fees and expenses) of cash on the balance sheet and no funded debt. This amount is expected to fully fund Fisker operations and the development of the Fisker Ocean program through the planned start of production in Q4 2022.”

Fisker, which is merging with Spartan Energy Acquisition Corp, said it had finalized a deal with Canada’s Magna to build the Ocean in Europe, marking the Canadian supplier’s first entry into contract manufacturing for an EV startup. While Magna has built vehicles for traditional automakers for years, analysts and investors have speculated it could eventually build for technology companies like Apple.

Fisker stock was up more than 10% in its first day of trading (as of publication time).

This article contains reporting by Reuters.

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Is the Ford Model T plant haunted?

Detroit has no shortage of urban decay and dilapidation. These abandoned sites are delightful backdrops for those who enjoy an edgy ambience, but there are plenty of operating (and occupied) places in the metro area with spooky stories of their own. The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, better known as the original home of Model T production, is one such venue. 

So says Piquette Plant event manager Jeff Pollock in a feature by the Detroit Free Press, anyway. Per Pollock, the unexplained is part of his daily routine, and in the 20 years since the facility was first converted into a museum, his stories are just a few of many shared by visitors and employees alike. 

Pollock leads off with an anecdote about one of the plant’s massive fire doors shutting itself without explanation while he was alone in the facility. 

“I honestly thought it was one of my guys slamming the door,” Pollock said. “We didn’t have a security system then where I could look back on video camera. So I asked if any of my guys were playing a trick on me. They swore no. If I wasn’t such a skeptical person, I could put together a paranormal explanation, but I think that maybe the weight of the door threw it off kilter and it slammed. It was a very intriguing experience.”

Then there’s the story of “Magneto Girl,” a presence who allegedly haunts a section of the facility where women once assembled the namesake electrical component for the Model T. 

These are just the tip of the iceberg, and if your appetite is whetted by reading the rest of the Freep‘s feature, you’re in luck: Detroit Paranormal Expeditions will take you on a Halloween tour of the facility for $70. 

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Ford confirms 2021 F-150 will be offered with hands-free driving technology

Ford confirmed the new 2021 F-150 will be offered with hands-off driving technology. Upmarket trim levels will be available with Co-Pilot 360, a suite of electronic driving aids that includes a feature called Active Drive Assist.

Already announced for the electric Mustang Mach-E, the Active Drive Assist feature will allow drivers to take their hands completely off the steering wheel when they’re traveling on the roughly 100,000 miles of American highways that Ford has mapped. It relies on camera- and radar-based technologies to keep the truck centered in its lane and traveling at a pre-determined speed; think of it as adaptive cruise control meets lane-keeping assist. It does not turn the F-150 into a fully autonomous car, and motorists will be required to keep both eyes on the road at all times. They will be monitored by a driver-facing camera that tracks their head and eye movements.

Ford told Autoblog that early F-150 buyers will either get the hardware that powers Active Drive Assist standard by ordering a top-of-the-line Limited model, or they’ll be able to add it to a Lariat, a King Ranch, or a Platinum trim for $895 once the company deducts a $100 early adopter incentive. They’ll then need to spend $600 to purchase the software, which they’ll receive via an over-the-air software update when it’s ready in the third quarter of 2021. At that point, the hardware and the software will be packaged together, and the bundle will cost $1,595.

Regardless, the Active Drive Assist feature will come with a three-year service period. Ford told Autoblog that, after that, “customers can choose to continue with it and get map updates with more hands-free driving zones by paying a competitively-priced monthly service cost.” Those that don’t opt in will presumably no longer be able to enable the hands-free driving feature. Full details will be announced in the coming months.

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Lexus LC 500 Aviation adds some aeronautic flair for 70 lucky owners (in Japan)

In our experience, there’s a notable overlap between enthusiasts of fine automobiles and aviation. Lexus seems to think so too, which is why it is releasing a plane-themed version of its flagship sport coupe. The Lexus LC Aviation will come in both LC 500 and LC 500h form, and features an aeronautic-inspired centerpiece on the rear decklid.

That would be a curved carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) spoiler that follows the trailing edge arc of the trunk, with two downturned winglets on either end. Lexus says the winglets are functional, generating a vertical vortex that smooths out the turbulence generated from airflow along the car’s flanks. The result is improved yaw and steering response, comfort, and stability at high speed.

The wing itself is made by craftsmen from the LFA project, which famously created and used a 3D carbon-fiber loom to weave parts of the V10 supercar’s body. Part of the development was conducted with Yoshihide Muroya, an acrobatic pilot and winner of the 2017 Red Bull Air Race Championships.

The rest of the package includes beautifully slim, black, 21-inch split-spoke wheels that you won’t find on the standard LC. The trademark “spindle” grille has been blacked out as have the side vent moldings, and head and taillight garnish. The cabin comes in an exclusive color Lexus calls Aviation Black, while other tidbits, like an Alcantara steering wheel, shift knob and door trim, as well as saddle-colored highlights, finish off the cabin. There are no powertrain upgrades. 

The only three colors are available are silver, white, and black. Alas, only 70 units will be produced for the Japanese market. It goes on sale Jan. 6, 2021.

Source: AutoBlog.com

US approves extradition of Americans accused of arranging Carlos Ghosn’s escape

In the latest chapter of ex-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn’s dramatic downfall, two Americans are about to face Japan’s notoriously tough justice system. The US State Department has approved the extradition of Michael and Peter Taylor, who are accused of helping Ghosn flee Japan, reports the Associated Press.

Ghosn was under house arrest in Japan, awaiting trial for alleged financial malfeasance during his tenure as head of Nissan and the Renault-Nissan Alliance. In December 2019, Michael Taylor (pictured), a former member of the US Special Forces, and his son Peter, allegedly smuggled Ghosn out of Japan in a musical instrument case on two charter flights, from Japan to Turkey, and then from Turkey to Ghosn’s childhood home of Lebanon.

According to the AP, the Taylors received two payments from the Ghosn family totaling $1.36 million (one to Peter Taylor’s company and the other in cryptocurrency). Michael Taylor ran a business security firm after retiring from the US Army.

The Taylors have been in jail in Massachusetts since their arrest in May. A Federal judge was attempting to block the extradition request from Japan, but on Wednesday, the State Department overruled her, the Taylors’ lawyers said.

Ghosn, for his part, maintains his innocence and says that he fled Japan because he didn’t expect a fair trial in Japan’s court system, which has a 99.9 percent conviction rate. Unless this saga takes another unexpected turn, the Taylors will now have to face that very system.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Chevy K5 Blazer-E project lead gives us more details on the electric Connect and Cruise eCrate

The reveal of not just a gorgeous, electric converted 1977 Chevy Blazer, but a glimpse at the production Connect and Cruise eCrate motor and battery package left us with multiple questions about each project. So we got in touch with GM, and we were able to talk with Jeff Trush, the program manager for the Specialty Show Vehicles division. He revealed some cool facts about the Blazer and gave us some more specifics about the conversion package.

One of our big questions was exactly what sort of transmission was used, in part to learn whether an array of transmissions will be available for hooking up. Trush told us that the Blazer uses a 4L75E four-speed automatic, which will be the transmission included with the kit. It’s a fairly common Chevy transmission, and the electric motor doesn’t require a large number of gear ratios. Interestingly, it’s a traditional torque converter automatic, with the torque converter still in place, and the motor is attached with an adapter for the transmission’s flex plate. Trush said there aren’t any plans for a manual transmission version right now. We suspect that creative builders could probably hook up a manual transmission, though.

It’s certainly possible that plans could change. Trush said that GM is still figuring out just how many accessory parts and what not will be included with the final kit. That includes whether a selection of motor mounts will be added, what kind of gauge set up, parts for power steering and brake boosters and other similar odds and ends. Regardless, the kit will give you everything that a Bolt EV gets from convenience to safety features. One of the surprising additions would be air conditioning, which is incorporated into the battery cooling system with the same compressor. All of the controllers for maintaining the battery, handling safe charging, and even impact protection are all included.

We were also curious about the final battery design, and Trush confirmed that the package uses the same size and shape battery pack that’s nestled in the base of the Chevy Bolt EV. He also said that this was one of the reasons that the two electric vehicles GM has converted, the K5 and last year’s E-10 pickup truck, were chosen — they had plenty of space for the battery pack as well as a suspension that could handle the extra weight. The battery pack weighs right around 1,000 pounds. And even in the K5, Trush’s team added helper springs. He did say that the truck wasn’t really squatting when they first put it in, but they still added the helpers just in case. He noted that properly anchoring the battery will be important, and in the Blazer, it’s bolted down at 10 different points through the body down to the frame.

As for the Blazer itself, Trush said the team managed to convert it in just 30 days. They used a Blazer GM already had in its fleet of old vehicles, but gave it a few finishing touches such as the highlighted “EV” in the middle of “Chevrolet” on the tailgate. The battery did require removing the rear seat, and it takes up a fair bit of the cargo area. But Trush said the team plans on building a shell over it and adding some cargo drawers to get back some utility. They’re also going to do other little upgrades to it such as a new rear axle ratio of 4.10:1 instead of the current 3.08:1. This should make it quicker off the line and give it an even better crawling ratio. Upgrades like this are also going to be fairly straight-forward since the axles and the transfer case are the same as any other old Blazer.

We also asked about the status of the high-power modular motors seen on last year’s E-10 as well as the potential pricing of this electric kit. Trush didn’t have any answers on those, unfortunately. He did say that GM is still doing some research and considering pricing for the kit. And in the press release for the Blazer, GM states that it’s looking at expanding its electric conversion offerings. All in all, the future of cool classic electric cars is looking exciting.

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GM VP alludes to a new Chevy Suburban HD

Though not available to retail customers, the previous-generation Chevrolet Suburban HD was the go-to vehicle for fleets that require something a bit more beefy than the run-of-the-mill Chevy full-size SUV. Think FBI or other government agencies that need power and durability while remaining incognito. They were discontinued when the last-gen Suburban ended production, but GM VP of Global Product Programs Tim Herrick recently suggested the Suburban HD could return.

According to GM Authority, while announcing delivery of the first GM Infantry Squad Vehicle to the US Army, Herrick responded to a question about the other potential military projects by saying, “I understand what it takes to make a light duty truck, a heavy duty truck, an SUV, make them all together architecturally work, and then expand that architecture, whether it’s putting batteries in, or different engines and the like.”

Herrick continued, “Expanding the architecture architecturally would be great. And with that, then you bring, maybe a heavy-duty Suburban.”

To our knowledge, this is the first mention of a Suburban HD based on the new GMT T1XX platform. The preceding Suburban HD came in two guises, 2500HD and a 3500HD, each boasting thicker frames, upgraded suspensions, and bigger brakes. Presumably, if GM goes ahead with this, the new Suburban’s independent rear suspension will have to revert to a solid rear axle setup from the Silverado. 

The top-spec 3500HD had a significantly increased payload capacity of 4,405 pounds and a GVWR of 11,000 pounds. It also started at $80,215. Compare that to the 1,670-pound payload capacity, 7,500-pound GVWR, and approximately $50,000 starting price tag for the regular Suburban. If you’re going to armor up and bulletproof a Suburban, though, there’s no better starting point.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Genesis GV70 crossover revealed with curvaceous styling and colorful cabins

The Hyundai Motor Group’s Korean website let the very sleek and curvaceous cat out of the bag this evening as the all-new Genesis GV70 compact crossover was revealed in all its purple glory. 

Though its face should certainly be familiar to anyone who’s seen the updated G70 sedan, it’s quite obvious now that that facelift was inspired by its upcoming GV70 sibling. The twin-slit headlight cluster and rounded fascia clearly dripped from the same designer’s pen, but the crossover’s grille is less pointy at the bottom. Thankfully, that grille isn’t ostentatiously enormous like so many vehicles these days, including Genesis’ own G90. At first glance to these eyes, it’s quite the handsome thing and there’s nothing that seems overtly evocative of another brand.

The rear three-quarter view is perhaps more distinctive with its unusual C pillar, rear quarter window (note the chrome trim that flows like a wave from A pillar to liftgate) and sliced-and-diced rear fender. We don’t have a full look at the rear, but it too has twin slit taillights like its big brother, the GV80. The rounded roofline is also vaguely similar to the Porsche Macan’s, which is no bad thing visually, but could mean a compromised cargo area. Note that the red car shown in pictures is equipped with a sport package.

Really, though, the real show stopper is the interior. First, apparently you can get the thing in purple. Just when you thought the blue G80 was cool and the green GV80 was nifty, well, Genesis outdid them both with the Prince Memorial GV70 Package (it likely will not be called this). You can also get it in red. Yet, even in beige or black, the design should wow with its vast widescreen display (shared with G80 and GV80, see video below), sleek integrated air vents and the most ovular control cluster since the 1996 Ford Taurus. It’s really quite something. 

Unless the Google translation from Korean missed something, the Hyundai Motor Group posting didn’t reveal anything beyond the GV70’s pictures and a whole bunch of words describing what you’re seeing in those pictures. So, you know, kind of like this post but with more flowery marketingy prose. 

Timing of when the GV70 might arrive stateside wasn’t indicated. Its timing for Korea wasn’t for that matter, either. We’ll be anxiously awaiting its arrival, though, because the compact luxury crossover segment is overdue for a nice shake up. 

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