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In the future, you might be able to stop car thieves with a text message [w/video]

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 5:45PM

Texting Standoff Negotiations

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Faced with a family member's carjacking, entrepreneur Kelvin Macharia Kuria wanted to do something to stem the massive problem with vehicle thefts in Nairobi, Kenya. Still in his early 20s, he founded a company called Sunrise Tracking in 2012 to do just that, and Macharia has come up with a novel way to potentially get people's cars back, according to CNN.

Sunrise's main business is signing clients and installing GPS devices to track their vehicles. The users also have access to their own cars' location data. Other companies already offer this service, of course – what makes Sunrise so interesting is that it then goes even further in an effort to get its customer's property back.

First, the company uses closed-circuit television systems that can snap photos of thieves. However, if a vehicle is stolen, then the owner has an easy solution. Sending a special text message immobilizes the car until it can be retrieved. To be drivable again, it just takes dispatching a second message.

As CNN points out, even this immobilization-by-text technology isn't entirely unheard of. But it's still an intriguing example of someone like Macharia seeing a local problem and finding a way to craft a business around solving it. Scroll down for a video from CNN that delves deeper in the story behind Sunrise Tracking.

News Source: CNN

Image Credit: Mark Bugnaski / AP Photo

Five awesome Lego car creations

So Much More Than Toys, These Cars Are Grown-Up Fun For Enthusiasts

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 4:59PM

Lego Chevy Corvette

Lego cars are among our favorite toys. They're fun for play, and if built properly, great to display. With that in mind, we've crafted a list of some of the best creations we've seen. Some are on sale now, while others are merely the work of fanciful enthusiasts. There are even a couple that you definitely cannot buy (we'll explain).

Our choices are diverse, including everything from a diminutive 1969 Chevy Corvette to a fullsize Ferrari Formula One racecar. These are just five projects that caught our eye – there are many more out there – so if you don't see your favorite Lego car on the list (or if you have your own creation), please tell us about it, in Comments.

Image Credit: Lego Ideas, Lego, Super Awesome Micro Project, Ferrari

Motorists losing right to see automated license-plate reader data [w/videos]

Three Recent Court Cases Pit Law Enforcement Against Privacy Advocates

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 4:29PM

License Plate Reading Devices Fuel Privacy Debate

Law enforcement agencies know a lot about the whereabouts and daily habits of millions of American motorists through the use of automated license-plate readers.

Motorists, on the other hand, don't know much about the records police officers have collected through the use of these machines. These records are getting harder to obtain.

"What it says is that we're all suspects in waiting," – Steve Orr

Even though the vast majority of these records involve ordinary drivers not accused of any crimes, law-enforcement officials are increasingly withholding license-plate reader data from public purview. Three court cases filed within the past month could go a long way in determining whether the public has a right to see this data.

Advocacy groups, reporters and private citizens behind these lawsuits all believe the records will shed light on how police officers collect and utilize records that can paint detailed portraits of a motorist's private life. But at a time when more Americans are growing concerned over widespread surveillance techniques and mass collection of personal data, authorities are justifying their decisions to keep this information secret by claiming the records are all part of ongoing investigations.

Audi recalls 850,000 A4 models globally for airbags that won't deploy

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 4:00PM

2013 Audi A4

Audi has announced that it will be recalling 850,000 A4 sedans, wagons and Allroad models across the globe due to a software problem that could prevent the front airbags from deploying. All 850,000 vehicles were built after 2012.

Audi has already adjusted production of new A4s to eliminate the software glitch. Meanwhile, the German manufacturer was quick to emphasize that Takata did not manufacture the affected airbags.

According to Reuters, 250,000 of the affected A4s were built for the Chinese market, while another 150,000 were sold in Germany. Audi didn't provide a breakdown beyond those two countries, although it'd be a surprise if there weren't at least some affected airbags in the US market.

We're still waiting on official word of the recall from Audi or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As soon as that's available, we'll be sure to update this post.
Related Gallery2013 Audi A4
2013 Audi A42013 Audi A42013 Audi A42013 Audi A42013 Audi A42013 Audi A42013 Audi A42013 Audi A4

News Source: Reuters

Image Credit: Audi

Why is Chevy testing 80s Camaros with its next-generation model?

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 3:29PM

Chevy Camaro

Third-generation Chevrolet CamaroIt's not unusual to see a new car, camo-covered and mysterious, testing alongside the current-generation model. In fact, it's pretty common. Seeing a brand-new car testing alongside its predecessor from 30 years prior, though, is downright unusual.

For reasons we can't even begin to comprehend, Chevrolet is doing just that, testing the next-generation Camaro alongside pristine third-gen models (really, they are damn clean examples of the breed). It's tough to tell what's going on with these manufacturer-plated F-Bodies, but according to our spies, one of the two examples allegedly had an intercooler and a distinctly V6 engine note. Your guess is as good as ours, here – SEMA specials in the making?

The camouflaged 2016 Camaro, meanwhile, is almost equally mysterious. Glance at the gallery and note the heavy camouflage on the roof. While a first guess might point to a prototype Camaro Convertible, our spies point to the unbroken A-pillar, which feeds into the roof. Instead, the leading theory (reinforced by some not so subtle yearning on our part) is that this car features a prototype T-top roof, or full removable panel.

We'd really like to hear what you think here. What do you think Chevy is up to with both these third-gen models and the new, heavily camo'd tester? Have your say in Comments.

Image Credit: KGP Photography, Chris Doane Automotive

Autobild blows China's fake BMW X5 sky high

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 2:57PM

Shuanghuan CEO blown up

The Germans famously love their cars. With high-speed cruising on the Autobahn and a lot of fun available from the country's back roads, they have every reason to. Apparently, the country's auto writers also take their jobs in advising the enthusiastic populace very seriously. As this video from Autobild shows, when a downright horrible vehicle like the Shuanghuan CEO comes around, it receives some sweeping destruction.

To be fair, the CEO might be one of the worst vehicles in the world. Not only is the SUV a pretty blatant copy of a first-generation BMW X5, it's a bad one at that. The horrible build quality shown by Autobild must be seen to be believed. Even worse, the example in this video is said to be just five years old, but practically every part is rusting or corroding. There are even dead flies in the headlights.

Autobild attempts to give the CEO a proper driving test, but it fails in spectacular fashion. This is a Chinese SUV with no apparent redeeming qualities, and the video shows what happens from there. Be warned, the clip is entirely in German, but it shows enough of the vehicle's qualities to make it clear what's happening and why.

News Source: Autobild via YouTube

GM beats quarterly earnings projections on strong NA sales

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 2:29PM

US-DETROIT-AUTO-SHOW

General Motors recently announced its best third-quarter unit sales since 1980 with over 2.4 million vehicles sold globally. Now, the automaker has put out the financial portion of its Q3 results, and as the previous figures suggested, GM did very well for the quarter. It even beat analysts' predictions.

GM's net income for Q3 was $1.4 billion, which was twice as much as its $700 million in income for the same quarter in 2013. The strong performance could have been even better, too, as the automaker said that special items like flood damage at the GM Technical Center in Warren, MI, and "long-lived asset impairments in Russia" cost the company $300 million.

Revenue was up slightly, as well, to $39.3 billion, compared to $39 billion for last year. For the first three quarters of 2014, total revenue has been $116.3 billion, versus $114.9 billion through the same period in 2013. According to The Motley Fool, analysts had expected lower numbers, and those predictions had led to a decline in GM's share price before the results were announced.

Regionally, the US strongly supported GM's bottom line during the quarter. Earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) reached $2.5 billion, compared to $2.2 billion last year. "Strong performance in North America, where we achieved a 9.5 percent margin, anchored our overall results," said Chuck Stevens, GM executive vice president and chief financial officer, in the company's financial announcement. The results are especially impressive when you consider this is a market with over 70 recalls from the automaker this year covering roughly 26.5 million vehicles.

Things were a bit more tempered elsewhere. Europe posted a $400 million loss in EBIT, including $200 million in restructuring costs, compared a $200 million loss in 2013. GM International Operations and South America remained exactly the same with an EBIT $300 million between this year and last year for both divisions.

The fourth quarter may continue GM's growth. In the US, the automaker is introducing the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, and for China it has the Cadillac ATS-L, Buick Envision and new Chevrolet Cruze. Scroll down for the company's full announcement.

News Source: General Motors, The Motley Fool

Image Credit: Stan Honda / AFP / Getty Images

2015 VW e-Golf scores 116 MPGe, 83 miles of range from EPA

Puts It At Top Of Compact Class, But Less Efficient Than BMW i3 Or Spark EV

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 2:00PM

2015 VW e-Golf

The e-Golf has official EPA ratings of 126 MPGe (city) and 105 (hwy).

When the 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf arrives in "select states" in the US, it will be the only model sold here that could also be purchased with a diesel or standard ICE powertrain. It will also be the most efficient compact EV. That's according to new numbers out today from the EPA, which rate the new e-Golf with a 116 mile per gallon equivalent number (combined). That's just enough to beat out the best-selling Nissan Leaf, which has 114 MPGe.

The electric Golf's official range limit is 83 miles (the Leaf is rated at 84 miles), but VW is saying that somewhere between 70 and 90 miles should be expected, depending on driving style. The e-Golf also has official EPA ratings of 126 MPGe in the city and 105 on the highway. The EPA measures MPGe using a formula that says that 33.7 kW/hour is equal to the energy in one gallon of gasoline energy.

The e-Golf comes with standard SAE Combo fast charging that can fill up an empty battery to 80 percent in 30 minutes, if you can find a plug. A Level 2, J1772 connector will take less than four hours, thanks to a 7.2-kW onboard charger while your standard 110 outlet will need 20 hours to fill up the 24.2-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The e-Golf will only be available in one trim line, the SEL Premium, for $35,445.

For the record, current models of the Chevy Spark EV, Fiat 500E, Honda Fit EV and the BMW i3 have higher MPGe ratings than the e-Golf (119, 116, 118 and 124, respectively), but they're in different classes. Of course, there's a case to be made that all of these numbers aren't exactly helping the EV cause, so perhaps it's better to forget that last sentence.
Related Gallery2015 VW e-Golf
2015 VW e-Golf2015 VW e-Golf2015 VW e-Golf2015 VW e-Golf2015 VW e-Golf2015 VW e-Golf2015 VW e-Golf2015 VW e-Golf

News Source: Volkswagen

Doctor: Schumacher making 'some progress,' could recover in three years

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 1:29PM

Dr. Payen, Schumacher

It's been about a month since Formula One star Michael Schumacher was moved from a French hospital to his home in Lausanne, Switzerland. While the Schumacher family has kept quiet since moving Michael home, one of the physicians that has been treating the seven-time World Champion is speaking out.

According to Dr. Jean-Francois Payen (above), the head of anesthesiology at Grenoble University Hospital, Schumi is making "some progress." Schumacher's spokesman, Sabine Kehm, confirmed that the German had emerged from his months-long coma in June. "It's like other patients, we are in a timescale that ranges from one year to three years, so it takes patience," Dr. Payen told France's Le Parisien.

Dr. Payen, while not a neurologist, has been one of the most visible figures in Schumacher's treatment, and he remains involved in the champ's care. "I kept seeing him, first at the University Hospital of Lausanne, and now at home. It's to see how he progresses and tell his wife and children what changes I observed," Dr. Payen said, according to The Telegraph. "He's in very favorable conditions. This plays a big role. The family environment is anyway best for the patient. His wife is surrounded by excellent advice and has implemented all it takes for it to move forward."

"Life after a brain injury is littered with stages. It must progress, we hope, but we must give him time," Payen added.

News Source: The Telegraph

Image Credit: Laurent Cipriani / AP

The List Shorts #0530: Change your own oil

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 12:45PM

Change your own oil

Having your oil changed falls under Car Maintenance 101, but doing it yourself has been a rite of passage for generations of auto enthusiasts. Patrick McIntyre of The List heads to Avus Autosport in Glendale, CA for some tips on how to properly swap the synthetic on an older model BMW.

Watch as Patrick checks "change your own oil" off of his list in this Shorts video – perhaps it'll inspire you to get under your own car this weekend.

2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

Off-Road Toy Has What It Takes, But Will Anyone Notice?

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 11:57AM

Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

Despite the earnest efforts of Japanese automakers like Toyota and Nissan, the American pickup truck scene remains wholly dominated by the likes of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. This is not news. Part of the reason is because of the sheer number of variants offered by US automakers – everything from work-spec base trucks to house-leveling heavy duty models can be had, with a seemingly endless combination of engines, cab sizes, bed lengths and trim levels. It's a hugely profitable business, and though the Japanese automakers still offer competitive fullsize trucks, in terms of sheer volume, they simply don't compete.

But American pickups aren't just about work; there's a huge play aspect involved, too. Look at the desert-storming Ford F-150 SVT Raptor or the Ram Power Wagon – these butch trucks are built with superb off-road prowess in mind, and Detroit's Japanese rivals have once again largely been silent in this segment. Until now.

Introduced at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show, Toyota now offers the TRD Pro series of models that, in addition to the crazy-orange Tundra seen here, includes the smaller Tacoma pickup and 4Runner SUV. And this isn't just some pretty appearance package, either – there's honest-to-goodness capability baked into all of the TRD Pro models. Intriguing, for sure, so I recently spent a weekend with the big boy Tundra to see what's what.

Driving Notes
  • Let me get this admission out of the way right now: I was offered a short, last-minute test of this pre-production model (notice the missing "T" from the grille), so I didn't take it off road. Correction: I drove through some abandoned lots in dismal Detroit settings and blasted down some manicured dirt roads, but that hardly counts.
  • Had I found some suitably rough trails to blaze, the TRD Tundra is equipped with goodies to make it more capable than other Tundras. There are uniquely tuned Bilstein shocks at all four corners, as well as TRD springs that not only offer two extra inches of ride height up front, but also include decreased rates that make the ride a bit more forgiving when crawling over harsh terrain. Of course, the flip side to this is that the Tundra's on-road manners are more vague, with pronounced body roll and less feedback through the front suspension. The TRD Pro offers a smooth and comfortable ride on highways and city streets, but the P255/40R18 Michelin ORP tires don't offer a ton of grip on the pavement (it's really easy to get them to chirp) and they're noisy at freeway speeds.
  • Speaking of freeway speeds, the Tundra TRD Pro gets there with ease thanks to the plentiful power on offer from the 5.7-liter naturally aspirated V8. 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque is more than enough for this truck, and the TRD dual exhaust gives it a pretty sweet aural element. There's a nice burble upon idle, and a progressive growl that's certainly more pronounced than in the standard Tundra, yet it still won't wake your neighbors.
  • This Toyota still can't really compare to the outgoing Ford SVT Raptor, however, a truck that offers more power from its 6.2-liter V8 and substantially revised suspension geometry that makes it a more formidable off-road monster. I've driven the Raptor on-road, though, and it feels about the same as this TRD Pro – quick, somewhat vague, and kind of fun to bomb around in.
  • Toyota sets its TRD Pro models apart with some noticeable visual tweaks, including the Inferno orange paint you see here. Additionally, the Pro gets a unique front grille, blacked-out headlamp bezels, 18-inch black wheels, red stitching throughout the interior, a TRD shift knob and floor mats, plus the obligatory TRD Pro badging on the exterior.
  • Moving back to the cabin, it isn't otherwise changed from the standard Tundra, with thick, comfortable, cloth seats, and an easy-to-use center stack with Toyota's Entune infotainment system. Buyers can opt for either the Double Cab version seen here or the larger CrewMax cab configuration.
  • The Tundra TRD Pro is available at dealerships now, priced from $41,285, not including $1,100 for destination. Stepping up to the CrewMax will set you back $43,900. That's a slight discount over the $44,995 2014 F-150 SVT Raptor, but in my book, you get what you pay for.
And really, that's what it comes down to. The Tundra TRD Pro is plenty good, from what I can surmise from my limited time with it, and it offers a unique take on the company's truck with added style and a bit more capability built in. It's nice to see Toyota expanding its Tundra models beyond its standard offerings, but once again, the Tundra is not likely to stand out against its American competition, bright orange paint or not.

Vital Stats

Engine:
5.7L V8
Power:
381 HP / 401 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Auto
Warranty:
3 Years / 36,000 Miles
Base Price:
$41,285
As-Tested Price:
$42,385

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Steven J. Ewing / AOL

Automakers forming consortium to combat hackers

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 11:30AM

Cars-Hacking

The evolution of the connected car is raising one big, overwhelming concern: the threat of hackers compromising a car's systems. To counteract this, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers are teaming up to prevent black hats from trying to crack a vehicle's security systems.

"The goal is to make it very, very hard" for hackers to break into a vehicle's systems, David Strickland, the former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said during a presentation at a Society of Automotive Engineers conference. Strickland is now a consultant for law firm Venable.

"Can you make it a zero risk? No, but you want to make it so hard that you can foreclose most opportunities," Strickland said.

"It's just getting started," said Toyota's Bentley Au, confirming that the Japanese manufacturer will be taking part. Au was also on hand at the SAE conference.

According to Automotive News, the consortium will work towards building vehicle firewalls, allowing secure communications and links to cloud-based data. Expect to hear much more on this new effort as it picks up speed.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Steven Senne / AP

Mercedes-AMG spotted testing GLC63 at the 'Ring

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 11:00AM

Mercedes-AMG GLC63

Mercedes is preparing to replace its aging GLK-Class crossover with an all-new generation, and it's tipped to alter the model's nameplate to more closely align with the C-Class sedan upon which it'll be based. The move to a GLC-Class nomenclature is all well and fine, but the tantalizing news revealed by this latest crop of spy shots is that an AMG version is apparently in the works.

Spied at the entrance to and roads around the Nürburgring, this prototype for the upcoming Mercedes-AMG GLC63 shows a performance crossover with a lower, sportier suspension, along with upgraded wheels, tires and brakes and a more aggressive aero kit.

Under the hood, we'd expect to find the same 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 as the Mercedes-AMG GT and C63 sedan, in which the engine is offered in both 456- and 503-horsepower specs. As to which version will power the GLC63, we can't speak at this point, but it could be both. Either version, however, figures to be more than enough to put the Audi SQ5 and the recently spied BMW X4 M40i to shame.

Image Credit: CarPix

Is Hyundai's conservative new Sonata struggling out of the gate?

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 10:15AM

2015 Hyundai Sonata

"But so far, Sonata sales are up compared with last year even while we're still ramping up to full speed." – Jim Trainor

According to Reuters, the redesigned-for-2015 Hyundai Sonata is not enjoying the same degree of success in the early going as the previous sixth-gen model, which proved to be one of the most important models in the company's history and ushered in the company's so-called "Fluidic Sculpture" design language that we still see today. Citing a recent review from The New York Times that called the car's more conservative styling "bland" and "boring," Reuters also points to analysts who claim the higher price of the new Sonata, as well as smaller rebates and incentives, are hurting sales. Honda and Toyota both offered anywhere from $600 to $800 more on the hoods of their Accord and Camry sedans last month.

We reached out to Hyundai Motor America's Jim Trainor, national manager of product public relations, and he strenuously argued in-depth against many of the claims made in the Reuters story, telling Autoblog that it's too early to judge the Sonata's success, as the entire range hasn't even made it to dealers yet. He may have a point.

"All along, we had planned for a phased rollout to be sure we were delivering high-quality cars to our dealers and customers right off the bat. For the first month, we began this ramp up with just the 2.4-liter models before we introduced the 2.0-liter turbos," says Trainor. "Additionally, the all-new 1.6-liter turbo models are just now being shipped to dealers. We are right on track where we wanted to be while delivering the highest quality Sonatas possible."

Trainor also takes issue with Reuters claim that the Sonata is off to a "slow start," pointing out that sales in October were actually up seven percent (over 1,000 units) versus the same period in 2013.

In regards to the "bland" and "boring" characterizations reiterated in the Reuters piece, Trainor argues "Picking two words from a car review is a little prejudicial, to say the least. The reporter could have selected from dozens and dozens of positive reviews."

"It might be fun for some to try to guess the ending of a movie while the popcorn is still warm but that doesn't guarantee an accurate calculation. But so far, Sonata sales are up compared with last year even while we're still ramping up to full speed," Trainor said. "It was one of only 10 cars [named] to the North American Car of the Year short list. So it's fair to say we're very happy with what our new, sophisticated Sonata is doing in the market."

So, who's right? We're doing some further investigating, but in the meantime, scroll down to see the rest of Hyundai's comments – they're worth reading.
Related Gallery2015 Hyundai Sonata
2015 Hyundai Sonata2015 Hyundai Sonata2015 Hyundai Sonata2015 Hyundai Sonata2015 Hyundai Sonata2015 Hyundai Sonata2015 Hyundai Sonata

News Source: Reuters

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