Futuristic Fuel-Cell Powered Minivan By Toyota Ready For Prime Time

Toyota will debut its new hydrogen fuel-cell concept, the “Fine-Comfort Ride” futuristic minivan, at the Tokyo Motor Show later this month.

Dubbed a “new form of the premium saloon,” the Fine-Comfort Ride sports sharp angular contours and an absurdly long wheelbase. Its high wheel arches, missing front/rear pillars and bucket seating rest in a diamond-shaped cabin with a wider center that narrows towards the back. Regarding specifications, the concept promises 621-miles (1,000-km) of range using Japan’s ultra-liberal JC08 cycle, promising up to 50-percent more driving range than the current Mirai fuel-cell vehicle launched in late 2014. The Fine-Comfort ride also promises a three-minute refuel.

Its interior is emblematic of future mobility, featuring a six-seat configuration with cavernous seating space and flexible bucket seats. This helps maximize space for one passenger or a group with inward positioning for face-to-face conversations or group work. A “virtual agent” is also integrated into touch displays installed on driver and passenger side windows for a fully immersive experience.

No other specifications have been revealed regarding its powertrain or self-driving features.

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Mitsubishi to Show Us Hyper-Curvaceous Autonomous EV EMIRAI 4

Mitsubishi Electric, the electronic arm of Mitsubishi, has announced plans to introduce its latest autonomous EV concept at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show.

A neo roadster design with hyper-exaggerated curves, Mitsubishi’s EMIRAI 4 is an autonomous “smart mobility” electrified concept car featuring an augmented reality head-up display, 3D mapping/positioning, and a driver sensing system which uses a camera to analyze a driver and passenger’s head position. This cues EMIRAI 4’s smart technology to adjust cabin conditions, such as alerts for sleeping drivers or automatic shifting between autonomous and manual driving modes based on driver behavior.

Other artificial intelligence capabilities include a lighting system to project images onto the road to alert passersby before a door opens, as well as a knob-on display and crossed images display. The two latter items are intuitive dashboards or control systems with sliding knobs and LCD panels enabling 3D imagery in a way to keep the driver from taking his or her eyes off the road.

Other exhibits planned by Mitsubishi Electric include a video presentation on smart mobility outlining the brand’s electrification, autonomous driving, and connected principles, as well as displays on its next-generation electrification systems and the xAUTO autonomous-driving vehicle, now being field tested on Japanese expressways.

The Tokyo Motor Show takes place from Oct. 27 to Nov. 5 at the Tokyo International Exhibition Center. Look for Mitsubishi Electric at Booth No. E5201 in East Hall 5.

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2018 Nissan Rogue SUV Gets Semi-Autonomous Driving This Month

Nissan’s newest driver assistance technology suite, ProPILOT, will be integrated into its best-selling 2018 Rogue SUV to go on sale this month.

One of the carmaker’s most ambitious efforts to evangelize driver assistance technologies to date, ProPilot Assist is a semi-autonomous two-button operation that primarily focuses on optimizing single-lane highway driving using a camera and radar. It helps with lane control and maintaining vehicle speed, in part by measuring the distance of the vehicle ahead of the driver.

A secondary feature includes alarms that sound off when drivers leave steering wheels unattended for 10 seconds, prompting the system to pull the vehicle to a gradual stop with activated hazard lights.

“Nissan continues to democratize technology, bringing our most advanced systems to our highest volume models, rather than reserving them for our most expensive vehicles,” said Michael Bunce, vice president of product planning at Nissan. “Customers are delighted when they realize they can afford technology usually reserved for high-end, expensive luxury vehicles. Bringing unexpected value is core to the Nissan brand and our Nissan Intelligent Mobility mission.”

ProPilot Assist will be available on Nissan’s 2018 Rogue SL Platinum Package. It will arrive in U.S. dealerships on Oct. 24 with a starting price of under $35,000. This precedes its integration into the 2018 Nissan LEAF, which will go on sale in Jan. 2018.

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Amazon Patents EV Recharging by Drone

Amazon, the same company which will gladly sell you everything from barbells to a 1.5-ton belt sander, has received a patent for technology allowing EVs to be recharged by drone.

Environmental tech blog GreenTechMedia first noticed the filing, issued on Oct. 3 of this year. Patent number 9,778,653 is described as an “uncrewed autonomous vehicle” and is depicted in the filing as a six-rotor drone peppered with electrical contacts and docking connectors.

In a document that may simply be securing a patent for technology which hasn’t been invented yet, a retractable drone-docking mechanism is shown on top of a car extending to meet the drone, locking it in place with two clamps. Once enough juice is transferred to the EV batteries, the patent describes the drone unlocking itself from the vehicle and flying away.

There are a litany of issues with this concept, not the least of which is the inability of current battery technology to pack enough juice in a small drone to charge an EV in any meaningful amount.

The filing goes on to explain that the car itself could send an “energy request” to the drone network once it realizes the on-board batteries do not have enough range to make it to the intended destination.

Wording of the patent leaves the door open for this technology to be used on the fly and not restricted to recharging the nation’s EV fleet, with the filing referencing many other type of electric transportation such as bicycles and boats. Page 13 of the filing suggests the drone may have a range of about 35 miles, weigh about 2 pounds, and have a maximum altitude of nearly 2 miles.

The drone’s estimated weight should be cause for pause, given present-day battery technology. Such a diminutive source of electrons attempting to recharge an EV would be like charging one’s car with their laptop which might provide enough power for only the next 30 feet or 30 seconds of travel. There is also the matter of charging speed, as current fast-chargers are the size of large refrigerators.

Amazon’s patent has the potential to solve persistent question marks in the EV market, namely range anxiety and charging infrastructure. Charging points in urban areas have popped up like umbrellas during a rainstorm but rural connectivity remains lacking in many areas. Buried in the patent are suggestions that the drone could also be used for ferrying packages, something Amazon has longed to do for many years.

The thought of fully charged unmanned drone zipping about the sky puts this author slightly on edge, especially with Amazon’s patent filled with words like “target” and “execute.” I simply hope this future technology will transfer electricity more smoothly than when Harrison Ford tried to refuel his plane mid-flight in Air Force One.

The patent, all 32 pages of it, can be found here.

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VW to return to Pikes Peak with radical electric racecar

Teaser for Volkswagen’s entry for 2018 Pikes Pike International Hill ClimbIt appears Volkswagen’s motorsport division has been busy since ending its dominant run in the World Rally Championship at the close of the 2016 season. The German automaker has confirmed it will be returning to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 2018. Along with the confirmation, the automaker dropped a series of teaser shots of its...
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Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2018 nominee: Honda Civic Type R

2017 Honda Civic Type RHonda fans in America have wanted patiently. As other countries got four generations of Civic Type Rs, we looked on longingly. Now it's our turn. The 2017 Honda Civic Type R shoves 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque through its front wheels and handles it expertly. A front suspension geometry that moves the steering axis outboard where...
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Jaguar design boss proposes new XK

2015 Jaguar XKRSports cars are great for making a statement but they don’t often make good business sense. That’s why you’re seeing strange partnerships like the one between BMW and Toyota for the joint development of a new generation of their respective Supra and Z4 sports cars. Going it alone is just too risky, it seems. Given this premise...
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Nissan hints at electric SUV concept for 2017 Tokyo Motor Show

Teaser for Nissan concept debuting at 2017 Tokyo Motor ShowNissan has released a video teasing a new concept car set to debut next week at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show. The concept will embody Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility strategy which comprises the core tenets of connectivity, electrification and self-driving capability. The mystery car in profile looks a lot like the recently revealed 2018 Leaf...
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Teen builds own emergency truck, responds to distress calls

Teen converts truck to resemble emergency vehicle - Image via Seven News, AustraliaMany kids dream of joining the police force or becoming a firefighter, though most normally wait until adulthood before fulfilling it. That isn’t the case for a 16-year-old from Melbourne, Australia. The youngster, whose identity cannot be revealed because of his age, converted a white Isuzu truck into his very own emergency vehicle...
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