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Cooley On Cars
Checking the tech at America's biggest auto show (CNET On Cars, Episode 33)We check the tech at the Detroit auto show, see where headlight technology is going next, and explain self-driving cars three ways.
-Step back again. -All right, here we go. A look at America's biggest car show, CNET-style. Self-driving cars served up three ways. And lights that know the road better than you do. It's time to check the tech. We see cars differently. Nice. We love them on the road and under the hood, but also check the tech and are known for telling it like it is. Ugly is included at no extra cost. The good, the bad, the bottom line. This is CNET on Cars. Welcome to CNET on Cars, the show all about high-tech cars and modern driving. I'm Brian Cooley coming to you this time from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the biggest car event in America all year long. And folks keep asking me, "What was the biggest car at the biggest car event of the year?" I'd have to say the Ford F-150. A car so bread-and-butter essential to Ford you actually wouldn't expect them to radically zig and change up the formula, but in many ways, they did, so I picked it to lead off our pantheon of progress here at the show. -So, there you have it, a new era of Built Ford Tough. -The biggest story is, the technology of materials, they pulled some 700 pounds out of the weight of the F-150, much of it by having an aluminum body. Just about everything you see on the outside of the vehicle is now aluminum. That's a big change for the truck market. The other third or so comes out of a high-strength steel being used in the ladder frame, which is tougher, lighter, but less sort of bulky as the steel goes, but there's still steel underneath this guy. Now, when you take 700 pounds out of your vehicle, you get to do some interesting things with how you power it, including this headline grabber, a 2.7-liter V6 EcoBoost that means direct injection and turbo charging. This is seen as heresy by some in the truck world where anything below a V8 is seen as just not enough to move a proper truck, but this is a small displacement V6 on top of just having too fewer cylinders than tradition. What we're seeing here is an engine that is yet to have its horsepower or economy specified that will come later as Ford gets closer to late 2014 release, but notice, this guy has got standard auto start/stop technology that's also interesting in a full-sized pickup, although it's defeatable readily in all-wheel drive mode or at any time because truck demands can be so different than regular car. Ford Mustang wasn't unveiled here, but we got our first really good look at both body styles and that new engine choice that is raising a few eyebrows. Ford has done a real major redo on this car. It still looks like a Mustang clearly, but it's less parodic if you will. It doesn't have that kind of big haunches and squared-off-face look, although it's much wider in the back now in actual measurements compared to the previous vehicle which gives it a more interesting stance and perhaps better road dynamics as well. Now, if the body of the new Mustang is different, it ain't nothing compared to this new engine. This is a new entrant, a 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-4. They haven't had a turbo 4 in a Mustang since a limited production SVO back in the mid-80s. This is big news. They haven't published horsepower numbers on it yet, but guess around 300, a little bit more than that. This is also an engine that's gonna slot in the middle of the line. The base engine remains a 3.7 V6, and of course, this jug, the big boy, the 5-liter V8. That's iconic. They could never get rid of that. Porsche unveiled the Targa version of the new 911. It's the first Targa that articulates the entire rear glass window up and away to automatically stow the top. It starts at 100 grand and is all-wheel drive only. Truly a car for all seasons, if not all budgets. Chrysler has been struggling to really compete with the Accord, Camry, Fusion, Sonata, and Malibu, that may change now with the new Chrysler 200. -This new look is pretty indicative of Chrysler's new design language. They've got the textured grille that's integrated in the headlamps with the floating Chrysler badge up front. It looks a little third-generation Subaru Impreza to me, but it's a good-looking car and it's also very aerodynamically styled. Now, this 200 S model is the sportier of the two models that were unveiled today, the other one being the 200 C. This one is gonna have a lot of black trims, sport-tuned suspension, and what not. There's some interesting things happening under the hood of this vehicle. The new 200 is available either as a 2.4-liter Tigershark inline-4 engine that's gonna put out 184-horsepower or with the Pentastar V6 that's gonna output 295 horsepower. That's what you're gonna want under the hood of the sport model. Now, both of those engines are gonna be made it to a single option 9-speed automatic transmission. That's a lot of Ford gears and Chrysler says that's gonna help you get really good fuel economy without having to sacrifice a lot of performance. -The new seventh generation Corvette got huddled up in a Z06 edition with a big new V8 that can assume several positions, cylinder-wise. This guy will do a minimum of 625 horsepower -- it's probably gonna be more than that when it hits the market -- and some 635-foot pounds of torque. Now, here's where that prodigious power comes from. An all-new V8, they call the LT4, next to its cousin, the LT1, no slouch either. They did a couple of things here I wanna call out. First of all, dry-sump design. There is no traditional oil pan down there, allowing it to have a shorter undercarriage. The oil is pumped in and out under pressure, instead. And they've also got a very compact blower here, sitting almost entirely in the valley between the heads. Between those two dimensionally reducing feats, they've ended up with a very compact engine that they can allow to sit lower in the bay of the car that does good things for driving dynamics. But note that brawny motor has actually got some lean and green built into it. It's got cylinder deactivation to run in three different modes -- four-cylinder, eight-cylinder without the blower engaged, and eight-cylinder with the blower engaged. I'll be curious to what kind of MPG numbers they can score out of something so overpowering. But perhaps the coolest tech actually came out just ahead of this car with something called the performance data recorder. It grabs forward video and overlays it with a variety of selectable driving telemetry. It's the first time a carmaker has built in what's traditionally been a specialty aftermarket toy. BMW's 1 Series moved up, not really moved out, making room for the new 2 Series, not quite as big and expensive as the 3 and this one is coupe only. From the sides and three-quarter views, here's what I see. It still has kind of that tragic truncated ramp of the 1 Series, but they got rid of that sad mouth scallop on the side that made the 1 looked like it was melting and bending in the middle. Overall, it's a car with a little more presence, but they can still bring it at a price that's going to be in the zone of folks who would never spend 40 on a car. That's a hot zone because Mercedes' recent introduction of the CLA has been on fire and that car starts at just a tick under 30 before destination. So, all the Germans are rushing to do something cheaper. Now, I'm in for the M235i which is the hotrod model of the two they'll have, the inline-6 that everyone knows and loves, but the car I think that's gonna be really interesting is that guy. The 228i with a 2-liter turbo 4 that puts out 240 horse, gets to 60 in 5.4 seconds, and still delivers 23/35 MPG. Overall, to me, that's a great story, and again, a car that's gonna be starting somewhere around $33,000. And what is that? The Toyota FT-1 concept makes even the hottest of the past Supras that looked like a rental car. -This car is a signal, kind of a shot over the bow that Toyota has returned to dramatic styling, has returned to the kind of sports cars that they had with the Celica. In this car, we see a lot of aerodynamic features such as these huge air intakes in front to feed the engine, these air vents on the side to add cooling to the brakes. We have this big spoiler in the back. It looks like it will come up or down depending on the speed of the car. We even have a transparent cover over the engine, that's sort of a Ferrari kind of thing. We've got red valve covers. You can even see the strut brace on the top here. And on the cabin here, we have a head-up display and a little panel above the dashboard. This will show the driver's speed and engine speed and stuff like that, and Toyota has also put a couple of little displays at the top of the steering wheel. Here, we get to see what mode the car is in, whether it's in Sport mode or Normal mode, and also what gear it's in. Of course, all of this is kind of for show. This is actually not even intended for production. You can drive it in the Gran Turismo 6 video game. They've got a version as downloadable content, so you can put it on the track and try it out. Apparently, it handles really well in the game, but we won't be able to try that on the road. -Finally, if you've always thought of the Mercedes C Class as just too starter, check out the baby S class that it's become with the new model. Here's the 2015 that is free to fly now that the CLA occupies their $30,000 price point. This guy is coming upscale. Notice, they make you very obvious of that with that S Class-style front nose and very curvaceous styling, not the kind of pedestrian entry level look the C Class has often been cursed with. In the cabin, you're gonna find a lot of niceties from really high-end finishes and [unk] which this car didn't always have to a finger handwriting recognition pad you'll see on this car, kind of a tablet shape center screen in the main head unit. This car doesn't say mid or low scale anywhere. Engines will include a 235-horsepower, 2-liter turbo inline-4 or a 329-horsepower 3-liter V6. They are gonna make a wagon version of this, but because they hate me, they're not gonna bring it to the U.S. This car comes out in September of 2014. Pricing will be locked in around then. And those aren't everything from the show, by the way. If you wanna see more coverage videos, slideshows, and blogs, head over to our special Detroit 2014 coverage page and feast. Coming up, when headlights take aim. But because these guys are in communication-- And the three kinds of self-driving when CNET on Cars rolls on. Welcome back to CNET on Cars. I'm Brian Cooley coming to you this time from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. This is the big one. Here and at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we saw a lot more models of cars featuring adaptive headlights, and a lot more ways, those headlights do their adapting. It's of interest to the smarter driver. You can't avoid crashing into what you can't see. Traditional headlights show you what's in your path now. Adaptive headlights show you what's in your path next. The concept goes back all the way to the Tucker. It had a third-eye headlight that mechanically followed the steering rack rather crudely. Today, two major technologies get this done better. Some cars have special lights that aim off into the corners and only turn on as you turn the wheel to navigate a corner. More common are cars that have motorized headlamp assemblies that actually swivel left to right based on your steering angle and your vehicle speed. One of the newer technologies, though, has been shown by Audi. These are called LED Matrix headlights. Audi has developed these. If you look inside there, you're going to see five LED assemblies. Here-- They are there. And each of those is made up of five LED emitters, so 25 pieces here, 25 more on the other side. They tell me that you can do a billion combinations of light based on direction, based on the shape of the thing, and even based on where it's pointing. And they do the pointing not by moving things on swivels like most cars do, but by actually changing what light elements are on and the intensity of each of one. This is interesting because they can use GPS instead of the steering column to pre-aim the lights where you're going. It knows when the curve is coming before you steer into it, so the light is there even before you are, whereas current cars wait for your steering input, in theory putting the lights reaction a little bit behind where you need to be looking. This tech is not for sale in the U.S. yet, not because it isn't ready, but because the Department of Transportation and other regulators just haven't caught up with it yet and don't quite know how to classify it. Other countries do have it for sale. Now, this is laser light, coming in the future. This is really a cutting-edge stuff. What Audi has done here is envision the laser high-beam specific lighting system with incredible range. We're talking 500 meters, that's 1,500 feet. Trust me, your current high beams don't see out that far and of course with incredible intensity and purity of light the laser is known for and the similar low-energy consumption that LED is known for. What's happening inside here is actually a bit of a misnomer. You may think this is like some Pink Floyd concert where they're shooting lasers all over the road, not the case. This is the module that's in the guts of this thing. The actual laser is behind this piece of circuit board and it's only going as far as this barrel. It's pointing this way to that piece of phosphor there which gets excited by the laser light and then it emits the light, then through a lens, and then with its incredible brightness. So, if you think about this as being lasers fired all over the road, that's not how it works, but it harnesses laser technology nonetheless. As you can see a benefit of this design is its extreme compactness, freeing up more of the car's front anchorage for designers to do things other than just fitting in big lamp assemblies. The IIHS rates adaptive lighting among the best of the new crop of driver assistance tech. Recent surveys show that models of cars equipped with current adaptive headlights have as much as a 10% reduction in collision claims. And the IIHS estimates that full adoption of this technology one day could eliminate as many as 140,000 accidents a year, some 2,500 of those fatal. When you're in the market for a new car, new or late model used, it pays to double check if it's got adaptive headlight tech. Coming up, the layers of self-driving explained when CNET on Cars returns. Welcome back to CNET on Cars. I'm Brian Cooley. You know, undoubtedly, the car tech story in the next few decades is self-driving cars are autonomy. -[unk] -But we don't just get there. We have to go in phases. Here's a look at the sort of three-layer cake that's coming as seen here at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit as well as recently at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The first layer of this cake is what you might call V2E, vehicle to environment, where vehicles use sensors not on like these to figure out where they are and what surround them. They're sort of on their own right now to read the world as they navigate it. Just count the array of sensors on Audi's current self-driver that uses V2E technology to handle its own driving up to a full 40 miles per hour. Let's count up some of the sensors that make an Audi autonomous car of the future. Autonomous -- First of all, around the bumpers, you've seen these before, we've got these sensors here that do sonar for those pretty conventional. Back in these body panels hidden, there are also radar devices that are doing the same thing we see in the front on radar. Now, in the windshield, camera, actual optical camera that we've seen before, radomes, left and right up here. You might think those are fog lights, they are not. More sonar sensors here. Laser here is new in this technology demonstration. That's not in production yet, but this allows high-bandwidth, detailed 3D modeling of the shapes that are out in front of the car. Here's what Audi has done. They've combined adaptive cruise control which maintains distance and speed ahead of you. They've combined active lane departure which keeps the car in a lane using active steering. And they've added very sophisticated rear sensing technology to monitor what's going on behind the vehicle. Put that together and you get complete perimeter awareness. Now, in a pure V2E approach, the vehicle's responses are making sense of a lot of data. You can see on that screen behind me how the car sees me and that is not an easy bunch of bits to make sense of. That puts a lot of processing power in the car. In a lot of the past prototypes I've seen, that computing power fills the trunk of a self-driving car. But more recently, I'm seeing it fill up, maybe, a space the size of a shoebox. The next layer of self-driving is V2V, vehicle to vehicle, where cars report their position and trajectory to each other. Ford recently showed us a very clear demo of how this moves the ball forward. The gray car behind me is about to blow a red light. The blue car can't see it because of that truck. But because these guys are in communication, the gray car told the blue car's driver, "Something's wrong." He was able to hit the brakes. Nobody got into a collision. Here's another sphincter tightening scenario we all know. This car has stopped. The car, two vehicles behind it, can't tell because of traffic in the middle. But thanks to vehicle-to-vehicle communication, the driver in the back gets a warning to brake, even though he couldn't have seen it humanly. Also, current in-vehicle sensors wouldn't have been able to help here either, only vehicle to vehicle can see through other cars. Now, here's where the rubber or the RF as it were hits the road. The Shark Fin antenna you've seen before is doing a lot more now. There's a flat antenna right here facing the sky, picking up GPS satellite coordinates. There's a vertical antenna here in the sail that is broadcasting information out to other cars within about a thousand-foot radius. It broadcasts an update of this car's speed and position every 10 seconds. The speed data comes from the car's own internal computers and data bus. That's been in vehicles for decades. Now, a key part of V2V that carmakers don't entirely control is setting up the standard language and protocols that all vehicles of all brands will use to talk to each other. That needs to be done in concert with regulators. And so far, DOT and NHTSA are kind of late. They'd promised some early guidelines by late 2013. As of right now, early 2014, we still haven't seen them which brings us to V2I, vehicle to infrastructure. That's the ultimate layer where cars, roads, traffic signals, and network centers all talk to each other to really take self-driving to a rich level. Now, this stuff is pretty green, but it rolls up the concept of the car getting signals not just from other cars, but also from, let's say, the Metro Traffic Control Center or sensors in and around roads. It can manifest itself several ways. Traffic signal sequencing can be sent live to a car, so it knows the next signal and the ones after that and what they'll be showing and when. This helps traffic move more quickly and use less fuel due to less stop and go. Congestion management -- This is the vision where a central road authority can direct cars' connected nav systems during a commute to spread out from the main route and use alternate paths to alleviate congestion and yet get everyone there in less time. Intersection management -- Like we saw on the Ford cars a moment ago, that can be accomplished via smart intersections that tell cars who it sees approaching as well as V2V as we saw, sort of a digital return to the old days of traffic cop sitting in the middle of an intersection with white gloves on. Okay, some reality checks. Vehicle to environment -- That's already happening today. We test lots of cars at CNET where you see things like adaptive cruise control or active lane departure correction that is basically V2E and it's in inactive form. Then, you get to V2V. That's a little different thing. Vehicle to vehicle is not really on the market yet. Ford says that technology we showed you earlier can be retrofitted to cars in the near future if it's passive. If it's supposed to take over brakes and acceleration and steering, that requires factory integration. That's a little tougher. Finally, there's vehicle to infrastructure. This is the big dig if you will. We have millions and millions of relatively dumb cars and dumb roads out there right now. They're gonna have to be refreshed and that means the current stock of both has to age out and be replaced. Thanks for watching CNET on Cars. As we enter our third year, keep those e-mails coming, it's email@example.com. I'll read everyone even if I can't reply to them all. Forgive me on that front, there's a lot of them. Find me on Twitter, @BrianCooley, on Facebook, Facebook.com/askCNET, and I'll see you the next time we check the tech. Okay.