Ac2ated Sound: The Car is the HiFi

The New York Times: “Continental, a German auto-components supplier, has developed technology that makes parts of the car’s interior vibrate to create high-fidelity audio on a par with any premium sound system on the road now. The approach turns the rear window into a subwoofer. The windshield, floor, dashboard and seat frames produce the midrange. And the A-pillars — the posts between the windshield and the doors — become your tweeters, said Dominik Haefele, the leader of the team that developed the technology.” He comments: “It’s a 3-D immersive sound, and you’re experiencing the music in a very different way. You’re in the sound. You feel it all around you, like you’re adding another dimension to it.”

“The key components are transducers — small devices that use a magnet wrapped in a copper coil to convert electrical energy into mechanical energy. Run current through the wires, and the transducer vibrates. Continental has figured out a way to implant transducers in a car’s interior and use them to turn interior panels into speakers.”

“The system, which Continental calls Ac2ated Sound, should begin appearing by 2021, Mr. Haefele said. He declined to name the carmakers that will offer it, although Mercedes, BMW and Audi are all big customers — and frequent adopters — of Continental’s technology.”

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When is a Car a Tiger Crossed With an Iguana?

The New York Times: “When Volkswagen developed a smallish S.U.V. to meet the segment’s growing demand, it faced a challenge: The truck had no name … VW sought the public’s input — a tricky proposition. Its unorthodox approach included a poll, which produced a stunning response. About 350,000 readers of the German magazine Auto Bild cast votes. Among the names on the ballot: Namib, Rockton, Samun and Nanuk. The winner was Tiguan, a mélange of ‘tiger’ and ‘iguana.’ Sexy? Perhaps not. But it stuck, and the Tiguan has stuck around.”

“In 2003, the Canadian division of General Motors was about to introduce a Buick model it had christened the LaCrosse. It became apparent shortly before launch that in Québécois youth culture, LaCrosse is slang for masturbation. The name was changed.”

“When it comes to signing the deal on the showroom floor, however, the car name isn’t necessarily what pushes the buyer’s buttons.” Branding consultant Robert Pyrah comments: “The product has to be king. At the end of the day, I tell clients that as long as the name isn’t bad, you can get away with most things.”

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Merry ModelXmas!

Boing Boing: People who drive Tesla’s Model X have a cool ‘easter egg’ feature built right into their vehicle: a holiday music and light show set to the tune of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Wizards In Winter”! When activated, this all-electric luxury vehicle will display a synchronized show using the car’s headlights, turn signals, and falcon wings.”

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Quotes of the Day: Earl Lucas

Earl Lucas, Chief Exterior Designer, Lincoln Motor Company: “I always knew I wanted to do something with design. I studied industrial design focusing on jewelry — rings, pendants and earrings — for two years at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit. The college also happened to have an outstanding automobile design curriculum. After taking one class in that program, I was hooked. It turns out the principles of designing a ring are the same as designing a car.”

“I try to reflect the personality of the brand. In the case of Lincoln, our cars embody effortless luxury. We think of our car as a friend. We convey that through form, shape, color and texture. The most influential design element may be the front grille. It has to stand out but be in proportion with everything else. The centerpiece is our logo — called the Lincoln Star — which was developed in the 1950s. I have managed to tweak it a little.”

“While there’s something to be said for autonomous cars, I believe people will still want to drive. They want to be in control. They want to enjoy just taking a drive without knowing where they are going and being able to decide en route. It comes down to a bigger question: Do humans want to be part of a collective or be an individual? It’s a matter of how much freedom we want.”

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Toyota Yui: Your Father the Car

The Wall Street Journal: “If you love your car, Toyota Motor Corp. thinks your car should love you back. That’s the reasoning behind the company’s artificial-intelligence project, dubbed Yui: an onboard virtual assistant that gauges your mood, indulges in personal chitchat and offers to drive if it senses you are sleepy or distracted. In one Toyota video, shown at the Tokyo Motor Show, a woman sits on a seaside cliff, talking about her father with her car. ‘He sounds like a great father,’ says Yui, in a baritone male voice. ‘You’re a bit like him,’ the woman says.”

“To be sure, rarely do futuristic vehicles at auto shows make it to the roads. But Toyota plans to start testing a car equipped with Yui on Japanese roads in 2020. In autonomous-driving mode, the seats recline and massage your back in a manner Toyota says will slow your breathing and calm you down … Toyota imagines Yui being treated like a friend or family member, with whom access to social-media accounts is shared.”

“It wants to monitor your social-media posts to know if you are obsessed with a particular band or sports team. It also wants to monitor the news, so it has potential context when you look happy or sad. Did your favorite team drop out of the playoffs? Did your favorite singer come out with a new song? … Not all car makers see people wanting a humanlike relationship with their cars … ‘I’d rather not have this, because I’m a private person,’ said Yasuko Takahashi, a 54-year-old office worker… ‘I’d rather have the cars talk to each other, instead of me,’ she said.”

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Composing The Corvette Symphony

The New York Times: “I make Corvettes sound like Corvettes. I fine-tune what the engine sounds like, both inside and outside the car, at our Milford, Mich., testing facility, the Milford Proving Ground. There’s a 65-year heritage behind the way these performance cars sound, so we take the work very seriously. I’m the composer of a symphony, in a way.”

“The base model’s sound is the tamest. The Grand Sport, our midlevel model, has a wider body and sits lower, and the engine sound is more rambunctious. The Z06, our supercar, has a powerful, aggressive sound.”

“The sound is a combination of the engine and exhaust system outputs, and there needs to be a balance between the two. I manually adjust pipes in the exhaust system and record engine sounds digitally and adjust them. We place microphones all over the car for recording. I might do 40 iterations of the engine and exhaust system sounds before I’m satisfied.”

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Vision: Michelin Prints The ‘Perfect’ Tire

The Verge: “They’re completely airless, last virtually forever, and could be the perfect tire for our autonomous future. Michelin, the 128-year-old tire manufacturer based in Clermont-Ferrand, France, recently unveiled a 3D-printed tire concept that it says could be the ideal ride for self-driving cars. It just needs to figure out how to actually manufacture them first.”

“Dubbed ‘Vision,’ these spidery, psychedelic-looking sponges are printed from bio-sourced and biodegradable materials, including natural rubber, bamboo, paper, tin cans, wood, electronic and plastic waste, hay, tire chips, used metals, cloth, cardboard, molasses, and orange zest.”

“These tires would be embedded with RFID sensors to collect data and predict performance and function of the vehicle. And they will be adaptive to different conditions. Heading to the mountains for some skiing? Drive through a Michelin printing station and get your tires retrofitted for snowy terrain … this isn’t Michelin’s first rimless, airless tire to be released. The Twheel, an airless tire concept that emerged over a decade ago, is currently in use in small-frame, low-speed vehicles and appliances like golf carts and lawn mowers.”

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Heinz 57: Souped Up Car Giveaway

The Wall Street Journal: “In the mid-1960s, Heinz launched a contest in Britain. The entry form, which appeared in magazines, read ’57 Unique Cars to Be Won!’ after the company’s ’57 Varieties’ tagline that it still uses today. Contestants had to match a Heinz soup flavor (Cream of Celery, Cream of Green Pea) with the picnic item that best went with it (Liver Sausage Salad, Beefburgers). Contestants who got the matches right were put in a drawing, and 57 cars were given away.”

“The convertible cars were custom-built by a British company called Crayford, based on a model called the Wolseley Hornet. The vehicles came with a picnic basket, a Max Factor cosmetics tray, a tea kettle and the same carpeting used in Rolls-Royces. Nowhere did the vehicle say Heinz … Today there are reportedly 41 of the original 57 cars in existence.”

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Truth to Power: Tesla Flips The Switch

Quartz: “In 2016, Tesla sold two different versions of their Model S and X electric cars. One version had a 60 kilowatt per hour battery, and another a 75. The 75-kilowatt version cost $9,000 more. Prior to Irma’s landfall, Tesla announced that it would flip the proverbial switch, and allow the 60-kilowatt cars to become 75-kilowatt cars. This enabled the 60-kilowatt vehicles to go 230 miles per charge, rather than 200 … Tesla was able to upgrade the kilowattage in the cheaper version of the car because both models actually have the same 75-kilowatt battery. The company just chooses to limit the capacity in some cars so they can have two different price points.”

“The response to Tesla’s decision has been mixed. While some observers congratulated the company for proactively reacting to the impending storm, others were disturbed by the revelation that the company could so easily increase the capacity on their cars. If the battery could be more powerful without any extra cost to Tesla, ask critics, why deny this capability to certain drivers?”

“The answer: Limiting battery capacity actually makes Teslas more affordable. The extra $9,000 that Tesla gets from its less price-sensitive customers is what allows it to charge a lower price for the lesser version of the car, the one that more cost-conscious consumers might purchase (though of course anyone purchasing a $60,000 Tesla is not poor). Perverse as it may seem, having a version of the car that gets less mileage actually makes it more accessible.”

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Driverless Cars To Deliver Domino’s Pizza

The New York Times: “The Domino’s pizza chain this week plans to start testing deliveries using a self-driving Ford Fusion sedan outfitted with enough sensors, electronics and software to find its way to customers’ homes or offices in a section of this city 40 miles west of Detroit.” Dennis Maloney, chief digital officer at Domino’s, comments: “It’s going to be a real learning experience. No one really knows what’s going to happen when customers walk out to the car. They’re faced with a car. There’s no human interaction. What happens if they approach the car from the wrong direction? Will people mind coming out of their house? We want to understand all that.”

“For the Domino’s trial, Ford is providing a self-driving Fusion that scans the road with radar and cameras. It also uses lidar – a kind of radar based on laser beams – that can be found in a rooftop unit featuring distinctive spinning canisters. The images collected are compared instantaneously with highly detailed digital maps to ensure that the car knows precisely where it is on the road and how to reach its destination.”

“Because there is no delivery person to bring pizzas to the door, customers will have to walk outside the retrieve their order. They will be alerted by text when the car is nearing their home and when it arrives. A red arrow on the car’s rear, passenger-side window tells customers to ‘start here’ and directs them to a touch screen. Keying in the last four digits of the customer’s phone number causes the window to open, revealing an insulated compartment large enough to hold five pizzas and four side orders. One customer advantage of taking delivery from a self-driving car: If there’s no driver, there’s no tip.”

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