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MotorBeat

MotorBeat covers the latest developments in car manufacturing, and technological advancements in transportation as a whole. The blog will help automotive enthusiasts and drivers to get a glimpse of the motoring future.

Jordan Perch loves automotive innovation and that is his ultimate passion. He is managing the resourceful DMV.com and is an active contributor to numerous consumer and automotive blogs.

Google Unveils Updated Version of Android Auto Developed Together with Qualcomm

Posted July 20, 2016 5:40 AM by Jordan Perch

Cars are the latest arena that gives tech giants Google and Apple the opportunity to compete against each other, presenting yet another front where the two Silicon Valley powerhouses can try to establish digital supremacy. More specifically, the new battleground for the two companies is the in-car infotainment business, as both of them race to take over car dashboards with their own operating systems, replacing automakers' in-built dashboard systems.

At the moment, Google's Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay seem to have an equally significant presence in the in-vehicle infotainment system market, but the search engine giant hopes to change that and gain an edge over its largest rival. Google has teamed up with another technology powerhouse to develop an updated version of its existing system that would aim to become a standard infotainment solution for the entire auto industry.

Next-Generation Android Auto

At an event during Google's I/O annual software developer conference, the company has unveiled a new Android in-car system concept, that it developed together with wireless technology giant Qualcomm. The next-generation Android Auto – which is internally known as Android N at the moment – was showcased using a Maserati Ghibli, replacing the car maker's stock infotainment system and controlling all in-vehicle functions.

The Maserati Ghibli that Google rolled out has an embedded Android N, featuring a 15-inch touchscreen mounted where a typical center console would sit, along with a digital instrument display that replaces the traditional instrument cluster, powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820A chip.

This latest version of Google's in-car infotainment solution gives drivers and passengers access to various systems, including navigation, multimedia, and climate. The large touchscreen that is in place of the center console, looking a lot like the Tesla Model S solution, supports voice commands, as well, in order to reduce driver distraction. It allows the driver to play music, make phone calls, ask for directions to a desired destination, or adjust the temperature within the cabin, without taking their hands off the steering wheel, or taking their eyes off the road.

What's more, this Android Auto concept lets you lock and unlock the car's doors, and control the car windows, which no other infotainment system can do at moment.

Beneficial to Automakers

For Google, the development of advanced in-vehicle tech solutions is just one part of the efforts to increase in-car connectivity, as it continues to work towards developing a fully-autonomous car, in a bid to improve road safety and the overall in-car experience.

But automakers, themselves, can benefit from Google's infotainment systems, as well. By using an infotainment system developed by a third party, car makers will save a lot of money and time, since the development of such systems can be pretty costly and time-consuming. Also, automakers are not as well-versed in developing these types of software solutions as Google, or any other leading tech company, for that matter, and customer satisfaction with most of the infotainment systems offered by automakers at the moment is pretty low.

However, this Android N system is only a concept for now, and Google has yet to confirm whether it will offer a commercial version of it in the near future. In any case, it has given industry observers a great insight into how future in-vehicle infotainment solutions will look like, and will certainly make Google's biggest competitor Apple to ramp up its efforts for establishing a greater presence in cars.

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China's LeEco Challenges Tesla with Semi-Autonomous Electric Concept Sedan

Posted July 01, 2016 11:30 AM by Jordan Perch

Electric-car maker Tesla Motors continues to get new challengers with each passing day. The latest Tesla fighter comes from China, courtesy of a company that unlike other Tesla challengers, is not an established automaker.

LeEco, a Chinese consumer electronics giant, primarily known for making smartphones and smart TVs, has unveiled a concept for an electric car that will aim to dethrone the Model S as the world's most popular electric vehicle. But, LeEco has gone one step further than most companies looking to rival Tesla Motors, as it has developed an electric car with autonomous capabilities, which truly sets it apart from the competition.

Aiming to Disrupt the Electric Car Industry

At an event in Beijing, LeEco showed an all-electric four-door sedan concept called LeSEE, with the SEE acronym standing for Super Electronic Ecosystem. Although it is not a production version, at first glance, the LeSEE has what it takes to threaten Tesla's dominance, provided that it keeps all the features it currently has when it enters production.

The LeSEE has a few distinctive features on the outside. It is equipped with “suicide” rear doors, along with an LED screen on the front, that can display a wide variety of functions, and can be used as a headlight or turn signals, among other things.

The car's interior is quite extraordinary, as well. It is filled with several features that are supposed to reflect the company's superiority in the field of digital technology, including a couple of touch screens on the dashboard. Also, the steering wheel folds away when autonomous mode is activated, so that there is more room for the driver to sit back and relax.

The car was announced by the company's CEO, Jia Yueting, who summoned it remotely via voice command, as he had the LeSEE roll down the stage after exiting a shipping container all by itself. Then, Yueting ordered the car to go in reverse, before finally having it park itself.

Platform for Autonomous Taxis

The voice command capabilities that the LeSEE is equipped with, are among the things that might give it an edge over the Model S. Tesla's sedan can also be summoned, but only through a smartphone app, so LeEco's technology based on voice controls is more sophisticated and advanced.

This type of voice control is part of LeEco's plans for launching an autonomous taxi fleet, which is something that many automakers and tech companies are working towards. With this in mind, it's obvious that the Chinese company intends to become a global powerhouse in the future driverless car market, joining the ranks of Google, Tesla Motors, and several traditional, more established car manufacturers.

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IHS Expects Hydrogen Car Sales Boost by 2027

Posted June 21, 2016 6:26 AM by Jordan Perch

Thanks to drastically longer range and much shorter refueling times than electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are regarded as the best alternative to conventionally-powered vehicles, but they have yet to reach mass adoption, due to high production costs and lack of infrastructure.

However, although there are only a handful of hydrogen-powered models on the market at the moment, their number is bound to increase at a much faster rate over the next few years, slowly making their way into the mainstream. But, a new study now says that even though fuel cell car sales are going to see a significant boost in the next decade, they will still represent only a tiny fraction of total car sales.

70,000 Sales Annually

A recent report by IHS Automotive, the leading automotive industry market performance data firm, suggests that global sales of hydrogen fuel cell cars are expected to reach 70,000 per year by 2027, which would be a major jump compared to today's figures, but even with that large increase, they will only account for about 0.1% of all new vehicles sold.

“Recently there has been an increasing focus on battery electric vehicles and battery technology, but FCEVs could also play a key role in zero-carbon mobility,” said Ben Scott, senior analyst with IHS Automotive. “We are now in the third wave of FCEVs from OEMs and more Hydrogen Refueling Infrastructure is beginning to be rolled out,” he said. “This could be a ‘now or never’ situation for FCEVs in mass market mobility.”

Plenty of New Models Set to Be Introduced

According to the report, the number of hydrogen-powered models is expected to increase to 17, a strong jump over the current 3, over the next 11 years. At the moment, consumers can only choose from three fuel cell models: the Honda Clarity, the Hyundai ix35, and the Toyota Mirai, with some of them available for purchase, and others only available for lease.

IHS Automotive states that Japan and South Korea will continue to play a significant role in hydrogen car production, but their leading position will be taken by European car makers by 2021. The report states that stricter emission standards will make automakers based in Europe to ramp up their hydrogen vehicle production, in an effort to meet tougher regulations.

The IHS Automotive report goes on to state that the lack of refueling stations will continue to be a huge obstacle for hydrogen cars, noting the fact that they are very expensive to build and install, estimating the cost to be somewhere around $3 million.

The report concludes with a couple of arguments in favor of the viability of hydrogen cars, saying that their short refueling times and long range will make them appealing to future car buyers. “Refueling habits with an FCEV will be very similar to that of a conventional car. This will definitely help with customer acceptance of FCEVs,” Scott said. But, it also warns that if they don't achieve mass adoption within the next 20-25 years, they will never be able to become commonplace.

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Hyundai to Collaborate with Cisco Systems on Connected-Car Technologies

Posted May 30, 2016 11:38 AM by Jordan Perch

Internet connectivity is expected to become an integral part of future cars, as a key step towards the introduction of fully-autonomous vehicles. That is why many automakers are investing in in-car connectivity technologies, providing various functions, including navigation, car diagnosis, smartphone apps integration, roadside assistance, and much more.

South Korean manufacturer Hyundai Motor is now joining the large group of automakers developing connected vehicles, which have become the automotive industry's latest battlefield. Like most of its competitors, Hyundai will partner up with a tech company to develop connected-car technologies.

Cloud and Data Analytics

In their mission to build connected cars, Hyundai will be working together with Cisco Systems, one of the world's leading technology companies, specializing in networking equipment. In a press release, the car maker has announced that it will collaborate with Cisco on a global connected car project, that is aimed at developing technologies that will allow fast data transfer within and between vehicles.

"Future connected cars will open new innovations in quality, safety, and security, as never before. By expanding time and space, more safety will be guaranteed for our customers. Hyundai Motor will provide new values that go beyond our customers' expectations in safety, quality and security through cooperating with Cisco. This collaboration will be a chance to bring closer the Hyundai Motor-led future of connected cars and shift paradigms of new mobility," said Euisun Chung, Vice Chairman of Hyundai Motor.

Hyundai says that it will work on cloud, big data analytics, and connected car security technologies, and that it will invest heavily in research and development.

Connected Car Roadmap

Hyundai recently introduced the "Connected Car Roadmap" project, which focuses on developing technologies that have to do with autonomous driving, remote maintenance, "smart traffic" functionalities, and connectivity. The partnership with Cisco is a key part of that initiative.

The results of the research and development efforts conducted in collaboration with Cisco will be implemented in future projects centered around the above-mentioned technologies.

"This is truly an exciting time to collaborate with Hyundai Motor. Digital disruption into the automotive industry is being driven by technologies that are creating new user experiences; and our leadership in the areas of connected vehicles, security, and large-scale communication technologies will be crucial to establishing an industry-leading platform. Cisco is honored to join efforts with Hyundai Motor on the Connected Car initiative, and to play our part in the automotive industry's evolution," said Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco.

This partnership between Hyundai and Cisco is the latest in the series of collaborations between automakers and tech companies, and it is yet another indication that the auto industry will not be able to continue to grow without forming alliances with some of the key players in the tech industry.

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Dubai Poised to Take the Lead in Driverless Car Adoption

Posted May 12, 2016 10:51 AM by Jordan Perch

The United States may be at the forefront of driverless car research, but lately, some other countries have been expressing their desire to turn to autonomous vehicles as soon as possible in an effort to improve road safety and reduce congestion. China - the world's most populous country - has already taken concrete steps to allow testing of self-driving cars on public roads, while also accelerating the process for creating regulations for autonomous vehicles.

Now, there is another unlikely candidate for a widespread adoption of driverless cars, that may well leave the U.S. behind if it manages to realize its recently announced plan. It's the small small Middle-Eastern nation of United Arab Emirates, which is famous across the globe for being a popular tourist destination and for having one of the largest oil reserves in the world.

25 Percent of all Cars to Be Driverless by 2030

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Emir of Dubai, has announced that the country has set a very ambitious goal for autonomous transportation, turning to self-driving vehicles to tackle traffic congestion problems.

The ruler of Dubai, one of the seven emirates in the country, stated that the plan is to have 25 percent of all trips in the capital city, also named Dubai, made by driverless vehicles by 2030.

"We believe this commitment to outlining a growth path for the implementation of autonomous vehicle technology, coupled with Dubai's Smart City initiative, will support our view that Dubai will provide the biggest opportunities for connected car technology in the United Arab Emirates," read an official statement from the emirate.

An Achievable Goal

Sheikh Mphammed didn't offer too many details on the project, but he did mention that it will be carried out by the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority, in collaboration with the Dubai Future Foundation.

"Today, we lay down a clear strategy with specific goals for smart transportation to form one of the key drivers for achieving sustainable economy in the UAE," he said.

According to the official statement, Dubai will include its public transport system in this plan, rolling out driverless taxis, buses and cable cars, on top of encouraging private self-driving car ownership.

Even though this target might seem too optimistic at first glance, if anyone can do it, it's a city like Dubai. For starters, Dubai is an extremely wealthy city, so funding autonomous transportation projects will not be an issue for it. What's more, road and weather conditions are pretty favorable for deploying driverless vehicles. Dubai has plenty of wide, newly-constructed avenues, whereas inclement weather is practically non-existent, with just a light rainfall in certain periods of the year.

With this in mind, it's safe to assume that Dubai has what it takes to become the global center for autonomous driving technology, and it remains to be seen just how soon this announcement will make automakers and tech companies to start moving their driverless car testing projects to the Middle East.

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