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Uber enabled surge pricing in downtown Sydney during hostage crisis [UPDATE]

Posted Dec 15th 2014 2:14PM

German Court Bans Uber Service Nationwide

UPDATE: Uber spokesperson Katie Curran sent a statement about the company's response. It can be read below.

Ridesharing service Uber is facing some controversy in Australia after implementing its so-called 'surge pricing' during the just-ended hostage crisis in a Sydney cafe. The flood of people trying to leave the area during the standoff reportedly triggered higher fares for the ridesharing service, but the company later canceled them.

According to Mashable, some people in the area reported the service showing demand four times higher than normal at one point during the crisis. It caused the minimum price for a ride out of the area to rise to $100 Australian dollars ($82 US).

Uber says it has since rectified the issue. In a post on its blog, the company announced that rides leaving the area would be free of charge for people to "get home safely." Anyone who paid the higher fares can contact the business for a refund.

Importantly, Uber's blog post doesn't deny that the surge pricing happened. A tweet from the company claims that fares increased as a mechanism to encourage more drivers to head toward the area. Less than an hour later, it issued a second tweet announcing the free rides.

According to BBC News, Australian military personnel raided the cafe to end the hostage situation, but not much more has been revealed about the crisis as of this writing.

News Source: Mashable, Uber, Twitter [1], [2], BBC

Image Credit: Adam Berry / Getty Images

Jaguar Land Rover develops 'transparent' A-pillar and ghost car [w/video]

Posted Dec 15th 2014 1:31PM

Jaguar Land Rover 360 Virtual Urban Windscreen

Jaguar and Land Rover are known for making highly covetable luxury, performance and off-road vehicles, but the British automakers are on a bit of a technology bent lately. Keen to show that it can not only keep up but lead the way when it comes to safety and convenience features, JLR has come out with two more systems to show the way forward.

JLR's new 360 Virtual Urban Windscreen system, showcased on an XJ sedan, adopts two novel approaches to getting around town. First up is the Transparent Pillar system, which uses a combination of cameras and display screens embedded in the A, B and C-pillars to make them virtually disappear. Instead of acting as blind spots limiting the driver's visibility, the system uses the roof pillars to display what's going on around the car. If there's an obstacle hidden by the A-pillars, the system shows you the potential hazard as if the pillars weren't there, and brings the obstacle to the driver's attention. If the driver turns his or her head to see a vehicle passing alongside, it projects the vehicle on the inside of the B- or C-pillar.

The second technology integrated in the next-generation head-up display is the Follow-Me Ghost Car Navigation system, which takes a page out of the video-game playbook by projecting a "ghost car" on the windscreen that the driver can then "follow" instead of listening to turn-by-turn directions or looking at a map in the dashboard display. The system is similar to what Jaguar recently showcased on an F-Type for track use, but applied for more practical use on city streets and highways.

The release of these systems also follows the integrated smart navigation and infotainment system displayed on the Range Rover Sport and the Transparent Bonnet showcased on the Discovery Vision concept. Though these new technologies might not be quite ready for production applications, their impressive sum total goes to show that Jaguar Land Rover is ahead of the curve when it comes to reducing driver distraction and increasing the driver's visibility. Scope out the latest systems in the press release and video below for a closer look of what the future holds for British-style luxury motoring.

Translogic 166: Porsche 918 Spyder

Posted Dec 15th 2014 12:44PM

Porsche 918 Spyder

In the same month that Porsche announced that its 918 Spyder is sold out, Translogic is getting its first (and likely last) shot at the plug-in hybrid hypercar. Our drive starts off in a very civilized fashion as we tour the 918 Spyder's e-power and hybrid modes, but the fun really starts when the naturally aspirated 4.6-liter V8 engine roars to life in sport and race hybrid modes, augmenting the electric motors with an additional 608 horsepower for a total of 887.

We even attempt an impromptu 0-60 test to see if we can match Porsche's gobsmacking official time of 2.5 seconds, but sadly we don't have the room to make a run on its 214-mph top speed.

Watch as Translogic host Jonathon Buckley pilots this Porsche around an airstrip in Irvine, CA, with a focus on the many driving modes that set the 918 Spyder apart from anything else in the storied automaker's history.

Porsche 911 GT3 Cup ANDIAL Edition

Driving The Very First Fruit Of A Revitalized Motorsports Legend

Posted Dec 15th 2014 11:57AM

Porsche 911 GT3 Cup ANDIAL Edition

There is only one Porsche 911 GT3 Cup ANDIAL Edition on the planet, and its owner is standing patiently in the hot pits at Oklahoma's Hallett Motor Racing Circuit, watching attentively as his prized possession circles the challenging road course at speed.

I'm the lucky soul strapped firmly in the cockpit of the white-and-blue racecar. The tight carbon-fiber seat is cutting into my hips, the racket from the gearbox is making me deaf and a river of sweat is flowing off the tip my nose – blame the high ambient temperatures combined with the stress of driving someone else's expensive machine on an utterly unfamiliar circuit.

But don't expect me to complain, gripe or come into the pits early, as I'm having the time of my life – I've eagerly waited nearly half-a-year for this moment, and short of me blacking out, there's no way I'm cutting it short.

Vital Stats

Engine:
4.0L Flat-6
Power:
515 HP / 331 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Sequential
As-Tested Price:
$220,000 (est)

News Source: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL / Porsche

ETC

Tractor Girl reaches South Pole after five-year expedition [w/videos]

Posted Dec 15th 2014 11:32AM

Antactica2

Meet Manon Osservoort. She's a theater actress from the Netherlands, but she's better know as Tractor Girl. That's because she's undertaken an epic transcontinental journey in an agricultural tractor that started out in Holland five years ago and just ended at the South Pole.

To say that Osservoort's odyssey took five years wouldn't be accurate, but it has been quite a journey. She left her home town near Amsterdam in 2005, driving her tractor across Europe, and Africa and in an expedition that took four years. But when she reached Cape Town, South Africa, behind schedule, she missed the boat that was supposed to take her to Antarctica to complete her mission. She returned home dejected, but a year later secured sponsorship from tractor manufacturer Massey Ferguson to complete her journey.

The agricultural equipment company once based in Canada and now part of Duluth, GA-based AGCO, provided her with an MF 5610 tractor specially equipped to handle the snow and the harsh temperatures, and hooked up to a couple of trailers to carry fuel and spare tires. Osservoort called the tractor Antarctica2 in honor of Sir Edmond Hillary, who was the first to reach the South Pole by tractor (although he made the journey on tracks, not tires, and traded said tractor for a seat on a flight back to civilization). It took 16 days to travel the 1,500 miles from Russia's Novo base to the Pole, crawling at speeds between 0.5 and 6 miles per hour due to the extreme conditions.

Tractor Girl was joined on this final leg of her years-long journey by a mother-daughter team of arctic explorers from Canada, a mechanic from France, a videographer and a logistics coordinator from the UK, and drivers for the pair of specially prepared Toyota pickups.

So what comes next for Tractor Girl? It looks like she's done traversing the world on farming equipment, and is heading home to her airline-pilot partner and 10-month-old baby. But first she'll need to make it back to the coast. Fortunately the return leg is expected to be easier since they already blazed the trail and the tracks will now be frozen solid. Watch her long-awaited arrival at the South Pole in the videos below.

News Source: Antarctica2 via Daily Mail, Toronto Star

US Honda Civic to get Type R engine

Posted Dec 15th 2014 11:01AM

Honda Civic Type R Concept

Honda is bent on kicking butt and taking names with its upcoming new Civic Type R, but since the Japanese hot hatch is based on the European model and isn't slated to come to the United States, it's been of little consolation to American enthusiasts. But if you're one of them, we've got good news for you.

According to Spanish site Motor Y Racing, a US version of the Civic Type R is in the works. The salient part of the Type R that would make the oceanic voyage to US showrooms would be the 2.0-liter turbo four that's said to produce between 276 and 320 horsepower, but we could expect upgraded suspension, rolling stock and other equipment to come as part of the package as well.

Just what form it would take we don't know. Currently American Honda offers the Civic as a coupe or sedan - not as a hatchback or wagon like it does overseas - so chances are that it'd be one of these betrunked body-styles that would get the upgrades. We're hoping for something more than an upgrade of the current Civic Si.

Competing rumors suggest that Honda could offer that same engine in a revised version of the CR-Z hybrid hatchback, which has long been begging for a more potent powerplant. But that's not to say that Honda couldn't offer both with the new turbo VTEC engine. Having driven prototypes for more performance-oriented versions of both the Civic and the CR-Z at Honda's R&D center in Japan a little over a year ago, this writer could tell you that either prospect bodes well for the return of the red H badge to the high-performance arena.

News Source: Motor y Racing via Motor Authority

Image Credit: Honda

Here's what the UAW will be angling for in next year's contract negotiations

Posted Dec 15th 2014 10:17AM

UAW New President

The United Auto Workers union is about to enter a new round of negotiations with the Detroit Three automakers, and this time, the focus is on the end of the two-tier wage system.

Introduced in 2007, the two-tier wage system was enacted to allow General Motors, Ford and Chrysler to categorize its hourly employees under two categories: Tier 1 for veteran employees with full rights and benefits, and Tier 2 for short-term or entry-level employees compensated under a different schedule. The idea was that the system would permit the automakers to invest more in their plants and hire new employees as part of their respective recovery plans without being saddled with all the costs associated with hiring full-time employees.

Now that the automakers are (more or less) back on their proverbial feet, however, the UAW wants to see an end to the two-tier system, and will likely make that a center-point of its negotiations next year to replace the current arrangement that is scheduled to end in September 2015.

Not all members of the UAW will necessarily be interested in ending the two-tier system, however. According to The Detroit News, some Tier 1 workers may be more interested in negotiating a raise in their hourly rate – something which they haven't received in almost a decade. Tier 2 workers, meanwhile, may be more motivated to keep the tiered system in place, as their arrangement includes provisions for profit-sharing payments that have seen the automakers pay out billions to so-called short-term employees in lump-sum payments.

Reconciling the two competing demands from two categories of union members and presenting a united front in negotiations may prove the biggest challenge for the UAW's new president, Dennis Williams. And with the right to strike – something which was suspended during the last round of negotiations in 2011 – the union has a bigger bargaining chip in its pocket.

News Source: The Detroit News

Image Credit: Carlos Osorio/AP

Burt Reynolds Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am sells for $450k

Posted Dec 15th 2014 9:30AM

1977 Pontiac Trans Am

Apparently, there's still a lot of love out there for by Burt Reynolds and his famous role in Smokey and the Bandit – or at least for his car. As you might remember, Autoblog reported on the auction of the 1977 Pontiac Trans Am a few week ago. At the time, the movie star's car was already well past its $80,000 top estimate, and bidding only shot up from there for a final price of $450,000.

That seems like a lot of money for a Trans Am that never actually appears in Smokey and the Bandit. According to the listing, the car was used to promote the film and was given to Reynolds afterward with his name on the title as proof of ownership.

The Trans Am looks practically identical to the one in the movie with black paint, the gold firebird on the hood and Bandit name on the driver's door. This one packs a 400-cubic-inch (6.6-liter) V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor under the hood, an automatic transmission and a plaque inside the door that proclaims "1977 Pontiac Trans Am Owned By Burt Reynolds."

The wedding stagecoach based on an International Harvester Scout we mentioned in the earlier story also beat its top estimate of $20,000. It went for $34,375, according to the auction house's website, and in total the sale raised about $2.5 million. Scroll down to read the full announcement from Julien's Auctions.

News Source: Julien's Auctions [1], [2]

Vanquish 60th anniversary model has knobs made from classic Aston Martins

Posted Dec 15th 2014 8:44AM

Aston Martin Works 60th Anniversary Vanquish, front three-quarter view.

To celebrate 60 years at Newport Pagnell, Aston Martin Works is producing six different takes on the Aston Martin Vanquish in conjunction with personalization arm Q by Aston Martin, each themed to one of the previous six decades. The collectibles will come in coupe and convertible forms and wear exterior features that immediately identify them as anniversary cars, but their finest detail is in the cockpit: the metal for the console knob bezels will come from pistons taken out of six Aston Martins built in Newport Pagnell over the past 60 years.

The first has been shown at the company's Christmas gathering for customers, and it represents the most recent decade, 2005 to 2015; its knob bezels come from pistons that once did duty in an original Vanquish. Working backwards through time, the remaining five cars will be ornamented by pistons from a V8 Vantage supercharged, a V8 Vantage X-pack, a V8 Coupe, a DB5 and a DB 2/4 Mk II saloon. One of the bezels in each car will be inscribed with the relevant model, the other bezels will feature 60th anniversary text.

Elsewhere around the offerings, each will be ornamented with Anniversary Yellow side strakes and wheels, heavy weave carbon fiber, the Q symbol on the fenders, the new Aston Martin Works 60th Anniversary logo embroidered into its leather and embossed on its sideplates and duotone seats with yellow cross stitching. You must apply to the Works department to ascertain the price, or you can head below to read the press release, which is free.

What happens to a car after you donate it to charity?

Posted Dec 15th 2014 8:00AM

Charities See Surge In Donors Before 2005 Tax Deduction Deadlines

Many people use the time around holidays as an opportunity to do something good for the world, whether buying gifts for needy children or volunteering time for a charity. Although, some significant acts of philanthropy take almost no work at all on your part, like donating a vehicle.

In a recent story, Boston.com finds out from charitable organizations what actually happens to your junker when it's turned in.

As you might expect, the answer varies with the charity. Many just sell the vehicles off or part them out to raise money. Although, some might hang onto a donation if the car is still in drivable condition. According to the story, this is what Meals on Wheels occasionally uses to make its deliveries.

Of course, there are some rewards to donating an old vehicle beyond just good feelings and warmth in your heart. The value of the car can be deducted from your taxes in many cases to soften the blow when the time comes to pay the IRS in a few months. Head over to Boston.com to read the whole story.

News Source: Boston.com

Image Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Jack Olsen built a Porsche 911 to drive every day and conquer Willow Springs

Posted Dec 14th 2014 8:01PM

Jack Olsen's 1972 Porsche 911 dubbed Black Beauty.

Almost two years ago we wrote about the 12-Gauge Garage Jack Olsen built to house his multifarious Porsche 911 - its 1972 bodywork hides four decades of Porsche parts, like the transaxle from a 1977 911 and the engine from 1995 911, for example. It weighs 2,400 pounds and has 272 horsepower, and Olsen uses it daily driving and for track days, the latter excursions featuring homemade, bolt-on aero parts.

German magazine Auto Bild stopped by Olsen's house to look in on the Porsche called "Black Beauty II," and we get a few more details about the mods he's made, like swapping out for fiberglass body panels and welding Fuchs wheel centers to wider Corvette barrels so he could run different tires.

Most importantly, though, Olsen divulges his passion for lowering his lap time at Willow Springs. Randy Pobst set the lap record for a production car around the 2.5-mile Big Willow track in a Porsche 918 Spyder at 1:23.54 during a Motor Trend test (the outright record, according to Willow Springs, is held by Michael Andretti at 1:06.050 in a CART car). Further down the list, Steve Millen drove a 415-hp 911 GT3 RS around the same track in 1:33.14 - a car 600 pounds heavier than Olsen's. Over the past 14 years of tinkering with his car, Olsen says his data shows his lap time is now down to 1:26.88, achieved on the day of filming the Auto Bild video. That time would put him in between the 1:26 flat posted by Dominik Farnbacher in a 608-hp Dodge Viper SRT-10 ACR and the 1:28.93 put up by Pobst in a 430-hp, 991-series 911. You can hear Olsen tell it in his own words in the video.

News Source: Jack Olsen via YouTube

Iowa working on smartphone driver's licenses

Posted Dec 14th 2014 6:33PM

Woman chaced and pulled over by police

The digital tar pit will eventually consume us all, but for now, we're still able to watch it swallow our analog lives. One of the next items to succumb could be your driver's license, at least as soon as Iowa straightens out the kinks. The Hawkeye State is working with MorphoTrust USA on an driver's license app for Android and iOS phones that can be used as a state-approved ID. Notably, the app wouldn't replace a laminated paper version, but either could be used to conduct business. Iowa is already one of 30 states that lets motorists use their phones to show proof of insurance.

Paul Trombino, director of the state's Department of Transportation, said the "identity vault app" would use a PIN for security and wouldn't cost drivers anything. In the meantime, there are plenty of issues to be addressed, like what to do when an officer wants to see your license. Trombino didn't comment on that, but a DOT spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal that the phone might never have to leave your hands - that authorities would have a device that could scan the information off your phone. If it worked as such, that might allay fears that an officer would get incriminating information off your phone, or, in the realm of privacy, that he could get access to other areas of your phone.

However, that scenario appears to be a non-starter: the Iowa State Patrol and Des Moines Police Department have already told The Des Moines Register that an officer's barcode scanner is in his cruiser. As recently as 2012, software firm InterAct had a product called PocketCop that could be installed on an officer's digital device to search state and national databases by driver's license number, but no one has mentioned that kind of possibility yet in this case. So although Trombino told Iowa governor Terry Branstad that the app would be ready in 2015, the DOT spokeswoman told the Journal that a release date hasn't been set yet due those unresolved privacy and security issues.

So even when – or even if – digital IDs get here, then, we still don't expect that plastic ID window in your wallet to go lonely for a few years.

News Source: Des Moines Register, Wall Street Journal via The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Image Credit: LukaTDB / Getty

Here's how Detroit is selling more luxury vehicles than Germany and Japan

Posted Dec 14th 2014 4:57PM

A table from TrueCar shows how pickup trucks costing more than $50K are outselling the German luxury brands.

Now there's an attention-grabbing headline, eh? Although the answer to the riddle - pickup trucks and SUVs - might be somehow deflating, the numbers involved deserve a going over. According to TrueCar's figures (click on the table to enlarge), six of the year's ten best-selling vehicles in the US that sell for a transaction price above $50,000 are body-on-frame, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the only foreigner to crack the top five.

Every enthusiast knows that pickup trucks are 'Murica's most popular vehicle by a colossal margin, and there have been plenty of reports about the popularity of luxuriously appointed trucks and SUVs, but compare these figures from TrueCar: 70 percent of Chevrolet Tahoe sales have a transaction price above $50K, and The Bowtie is expected to make $3.9 billion in revenue on 66,945 predicted high-dollar sales; 95.1 percent of E-Class sales break $50K, so the German company will make $4.0 billion on 67,006 predicted sales in that pricing sphere. It's about the only time you'll see the Tahoe ranked right next to Mercedes' bread-and-butter sedan. Ram is ahead of those two with $4.2B coming from $50K-plus sales. The Ford F-Series does almost as much revenue as the next three combined, with an expected $10.8 billion coming from sales of trucks over $50K - more than a quarter of the model's total sales, when a base F-150 can be had for about $26,000.

Yes, the Germans make a lot more money on fewer sales, but considering the comparison, the bottom line isn't too troubled by such facts. Weighing like-for-like, the full-size Ford walks it in every category; elsewhere, the Chevrolet Silverado outsells the Ram, but the Ram outsells the Chevy by 6.7 percent above $50K. And for all the flak GMC takes over swapping out grilles, the Sierra also outsells the Chevy in the well-appointed segment, 16.1 percent of sales versus 11 percent – the Professional Grade brand is a huge profit center for The General. You'll find more info in the TrueCar press release below.

News Source: TrueCar

10 automakers shack up in Detroit hotel to talk Takata airbags

Posted Dec 14th 2014 2:58PM

JAPAN-US-AUTO-RECALL-TAKATA-REGULATE-AUTOMOBILE

Since Takata has decided not to take the lead concerning potential issues with its airbag inflators, the automakers have. Perhaps that's unsurprising, since it's the automakers, not Takata, that will take a beating on the dealership floor if consumers decide its models are a health hazards. The Detroit News reports that Toyota, Honda, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Subaru met in a hotel conference room near the Detroit Metropolitan Airport last week to sort out a way to understand the technical issues involved.

So far, faulty airbag inflators have been ruled the cause of five deaths and 50 injuries around the world, but neither Takata nor investigators understands exactly why the inflators are malfunctioning. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently asked Takata to issue a national recall, Takata declined, citing a minuscule failure rate and the fact that it's still investigating the issue. Toyota and Honda then made an industry-wide appeal for "a coordinated, comprehensive testing program" that would pinpoint the problem inflators and get them replaced, and that's what the Detroit meeting was about.

Numerous issues, however, will make this a long row to hoe: simply getting the parts to replace the nearly 20 million inflators in cars recalled around the world so far - even working with other suppliers - will take a years, but more importantly, no one knows if the replacement inflators currently being installed will suffer the same issue. Answers will hopefully come quickly with Takata, the ten automakers and NHTSA all independently investigating the problem.

News Source: The Detroit News

Image Credit: Toru Yamanaka / AFP / Getty Images

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