Windshield Time

Car dealer of the future
From Automotive News: The year is 2030, and the 10,000-square-foot showrooms of the past are relics. So are many of the staffers who once worked in them. Those who remain need new skills to mirror the new realities of automotive retailing. Now, a few models of autonomous vehicles sit in the center of a tidy, tasteful and tiny showroom, available for purchase or subscription ride-hailing services. The vehicles are framed by just four desks where the transportation consultants – formerly called salespeople – work. Whether a customer buys an autonomous vehicle, or signs up for a subscription ride-hailing service, most transactions happen digitally, including virtual in-home test drives. On rare occasions, some customers visit the micro dealerships to touch the cars and work with a transportation consultant on a personalized subscription plan. The product presenters or transportation consultants understand the car, present its features online, arrange financing or payments, and deliver it if needed – tasks that go beyond today’s “Genius” staffers at BMW dealerships.

I want one of these
You probably won’t need one of these to get around in your town, but it is cool thinking about it. The Tesla Semi is a full-size electric truck that can go from 0 to 60 mph towing 80,000 lbs., its max tow load, in 20 seconds, according to Tech Crunch. It can go 500 miles at highway speed, and it requires no shifting of gears (as is normal for most electric vehicles), with regenerative braking, which provides “basically infinite” brake life per Tesla. One 30-minute charge will get you 400 miles. The driver is centered in the cab, with touchscreens on either side of him or her, offering navigation information, blind spot monitoring and trip data logging applications. Take advantage of the million-dollar warranty. And take pride in parking this beautiful vehicle in your driveway … or the nearest rest stop.

Self-driving shuttle buses
Despite this fall’s fender bender involving a small driverless shuttle in Las Vegas, autonomous shuttles could become viable tools of mass transit, according to Wired magazine. They could be used on college campuses, in retirement communities, or to supplement public transportation in the suburbs. “Most transit authorities are looking for opportunities to answer the first-mile, last-mile question,” bridging the distance between transit hubs and people’s final destinations, Maurice Bell, Keolis North America’s head of mobility, was quoted as saying.

By the way, here’s how the fender bender in November occurred: The shuttle encountered a semi-truck backing out of an alleyway and stopped. It couldn’t back up, because there was a vehicle directly behind it. So it just sat there as the truck slowly backed into it. (The shuttle could have honked, a Keolis representative said, but didn’t because the truck’s trailer moved in a way that the autonomous system did not anticipate.)

Flying cars on demand
Uber announced it wants to launch at least a few flying “cars” in Las Angeles in 2020, with a real commercial service to follow a few years later, reports Wired. Uber is reportedly working with aerospace partners at Embraer, Bell Helicopter, Pipistrel, Aurora Flight Sciences, and Mooney Aviation, to develop a drone. Don’t expect the program to look like Uber’s ground service, at least not for a while. It’s likely the first flights will have to follow agreed-upon routes, such as above freeway corridors.

On-demand test drives
A mobile used-car dealership in Nova Scotia is offering the opportunity for car buyers to inspect, test drive and purchase their next used-car from the comfort of their driveways. The service, Clutch, is only available to residents in the Halifax metro area. How it works: Clutch captures high definition photographs of its used cars at their headquarters. Once listed on their website, anyone with a computer or smartphone can browse, book an at-home inspection or test-drive and even get financing on Clutch’s proprietary buying platform. www.clutchcanada.com

How much longer?
Customers at automotive body repair shops can get a real-time update of the repair process via Carbeat™, a software application introduced by AkzoNobel’s Vehicle Refinishes business. The application is deployed on a large touch-screen monitor, and provides a comprehensive overview of the work in production. The company says Carbeat “enhances the quality and granularity of captured cycle time data, which enables deeper insight into ways to improve efficiency and eliminate waste.”

Cool dashcam
Car and Driver magazine introduced a new dashcam – the MinioPro – featuring 1080P video capture, auto recording, a microSD drive with up to 64GB card capacity and a GPS antenna. While dashcams are often used to document time spent on the track, they also are increasingly essential as electronic evidence resolving disputes stemming from road incidents, according to the magazine. The MinioPro features a built-in motion sensor, which detects abrupt changes in vehicle speed and automatically captures a still image and locks in the five seconds prior to and subsequent to an incident. It is available at Best Buy with a suggested retail price of $200.

Formula E
The first thing you notice about electric car racing is that it’s relatively quiet, according to the author of an article by the Consumer Technology Association. There is a high-pitched whining sound, but not nearly the eardrum-shattering blasts one gets at NASCAR races or from Indy cars. Formula E racing takes place in the world’s largest cities, right in the heart of the city. Hong Kong, Mexico City, Paris, Montreal, Marrakech and New York were on the calendar this year; Santiago, Rome and Sao Paolo are lining up for future races.

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