2014 BMW i3

Super CruiseOur friends at Popular Mechanics have announced the winners of their 2013 Breakthrough Awards, which honor innovations and new technologies in a variety of fields, ranging from medicine to electronics to space travel. Among the winners were a pair of automakers.

The BMW i3 was named one of PM's product breakthroughs, and while the diminutive city car has a range comparable to other electrics, Popular Mechanics was impressed the i3's use of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, which allows the i3 to tip the scales at just 2,800 pounds. But the i3's space-age materials wouldn't have been such a smash if it were priced beyond what the general public could afford. BMW's ability to offer a vehicle with such an advanced construction for around $42,000 (nearly half the price of the Cadillac ELR and only about $7,000 more than a Chevrolet Volt or Ford Focus Electric) is wildly impressive and speaks volumes about the future of ultra-light composites in the auto industry.

The other big winner comes from General Motors, which was named an Innovator this year for its semi-autonomous Super Cruise technology that's currently being tested on a Cadillac SRX. The technology, which we've reported on before, combines adaptive cruise control and lane centering into a super system that will allow hands-free driving under certain conditions.

For more on BMW and GM's awards, along with the entire list of winners, hop over to Popular Mechanics.
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