Mercedes F 015: Car of the future (CNET On Cars, Episode 62)
Cooley On Cars
Mercedes predicts what you'll think about when driving is become a memory.
A car with no transmission and cnet's top five affordable cars of the last year.
It's time to check the tech.
We see cars differently.
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.
Mercedes F 015 prototype car looks like it just drove in from the future.
It is autonomous, self driving.
It is also a fuel cell car, but those are almost footnotes.
The real story behind this is to get a sample of how we'll live differently, how society will change.
When cars are autonomous.
Let's drive it, well, ride in it and check the tech.
Let's face it, all that wood, leather, and 6,000 dollar audio upgrades are basically a way to make your time in prison more pleasant.
You're still suffering under the tyranny of driving.
You have to sit there and babysit a machine, the wheel, and the pedal, over a repeated route of driving that is not very interesting day to day.
This is what Mercedes is solving for, not so of driving.
That, we've already figured out.
This is more about what happens after you achieve self driving.
How do you get real luxury out of that?
And, the answer is two fold.
You get real space.
Space has always equalled luxury.
And you get your time back.
The greatest luxury of all.
Because mobility is, to be honest, it's mostly stressful.
To give the people the, the opportunity to relax, to have a private place while moving.
Yeah, the people will be more friendly.
And the changes in pursuit of that mission are clear even before you enter the F 015.
Notice the shape of the vehicle's very different let's say of a current S class.
This is not about having several volumes of boxes, as they call it, the free box design of most sedans today.
But instead having what's called a mono volume, pushing the wheels way out to the ends and creating big spacious doors that open up to almost entire open side of the car.
Here's one of the very first sketches they did of it.
And notice how similar it looks to a very old diagram above it.
There is an ancient carriage from what?
Couple 100 years ago.
And notice how its got some similarities to it.
Get rid of incursions from wheel wells, drive shaft tunnels, near by fire walls.
And protrusions where gas tanks or batteries live, and let's give the passengers the prime space all to themselves.
Like a bird's nest, or it's like a cocoon actually that creates this atmosphere of privacy that, that we consider is the next level of modern luxury.
The self driving technology enabled us.
To come up with a radical design concept, so this is a proof that technology and design stimulates each other to have such great results that we have now in the car.
Now, here's an example of what it's like to sit in the Mercedes FO15.
As you can see now, the seats are facing each other.
This is what they call lounge mode as opposed to everyone looking forward and some of them looking at someone elses head and.
That kind of communicates that everyone's view is about the drive, and where they're going.
But again, we're trying to break that tyranny.
The lower half of each door in this concept below the glass is a large screen that can do a lot of different modes.
One of the most important is what they call the Guided Path Mode, and you have several menus under that.
One which shows your point on the route and when you're going to arrive.
There's also a social screen to show you who's around you and who is at your destination.
There's a places area, which is kind of a rich POI presentation that is again, geographically sensitive.
Great when you're visiting a new city, right?
Well, this is interesting, bean can, this will allow you, with another driver's permission.
To actually log in to the surround cameras on their FO15 and watch their drive.
And this is one of the most interesting psychology of all.
Here's the drive mode menu.
But I have real questions about what the nature of a car's drive mode means when you're not driving.
[NOISE] When you want connected to shifter, wheel and pedals.
What do sport and dynamic modes deliver anymore?
Aren't sporty dynamics from a that's driving itself actually disruptive and distracting from the peaceful environment you're trying to establish in the cabin in the first place?
The face and rump of the F 015 are part of a new relationship with others.
Along with sensors and lighting they also included an array of LED indicators that can express what the car knows, sees, and expects from others around it.
The cities will become denser and denser.
Yeah, their will be competition about public space.
So we es, will be impossible that we maintain in the cities lanes for everybody.
Ya, free lane for everybody.
A separation so on that will become.
So the machine, the mobile robot so to say, the car has to give signs what he's doing.
So you have to build up the relationship between the people and the machinery.
Well, here we are.
This is the F 015.
Let's go for a ride and see what it's like under it's own control and power.
Now the autonomous driving in the Mercedes F 015 is not a new concept, what they're doing here along with having the car figure out how to drive itself, is also to allow it to be smart enough to work with new infrastructure to create dynamic shared spaces.
They're talking about smart pylons that could inexpensively and easily be adopted in your front yard to make sure no car ever backs over the curb into your lawn where you're having a picnic with your kid.
Powertrain tech isn't the main point of this car, but for what it's worth, it's envisioned as an electric electric hybrid.
That means it's a hydrogen fuel cell car that generates most electricity on demand.
From stored hydrogen, but it also has a battery storage system charged by that same fuel-cell powertrain, or by being plugged in.
It all goes out to twin electric motors, one on each rear wheel, with a total predicted range of 680 miles, 560 of those from the hydrogen fuel cell and 125 from the battery's stored charge.
Even more than what the FO 15 tells us about itself is what it tells us about the future of automotive design.
Reorienting interiors from the driving task.
Taking back time from the tyranny of the commute.
Redefining the concept of performance.
And rethinking how personal cars utilize road space.
Please go ahead.
Read more about the Mercedes F015 from our days spent with it over at cars.cnet.com.
The original auto safety improvements that were really technology were just three things, abs, anti lock brakes.
SRS, supplemental restraint systems, also known as air bags, and ESC electronic stability control.
But today, you've got a few more to keep in mind.
We'll run em down when C/Net On Cars continues.
Here's your new Safety Tech check list when buying a car.
Rear cameras, they'll be mandatory in all new cars by May 2018.
Meanwhile, they're becoming pretty common, but look for differentiating features like a variable-angle rear cam, a front cam, or surround-view cameras.
cross traffic alert.
This warns of cars that are about to T bone you as you creep out of a blind spot.
If another vehicle is approaching from the side, the system notifies you with warning lights in the side mirrors and a warning beep.
Adaptive, or smart cruise control.
This maintains not just speed but the distance between you and the car ahead.
Cruise Control without this is beginning to seem like unguided missile mode.
Forward Collision Technology.
It'll either warn you.
It lights up a warning on the dash and sounds [BLEEP] an alarm to alert the driver to the vehicle ahead.
There's the warning.
Or actually apply the brakes when you're closing too fast on something in front of you.
And there's the autobrake.
Vehicle stops by itself.
The insurance industry has found that either version of this can make a real difference in the rate of claims.
Blind spot check.
Like forward collision, it will typically warn you of a car in your blind spot.
You'll see an amber icon illuminated in the mirror to the.
Same side as the overtaking vehicle.
And on a few cars it will take active measures to keep you from drifting into its path.
Blind Spot Assist can take active measures by applying the breaks on the wheels on the opposite side of the vehicle, the vehicle is steered out of the danger zone.
Lane Departure Tech, also available as a passive warning or a corrective version.
Note the calibration of this when you take a car on a test drive.
This is set at the factory and some are just sort of off.
These steer with a car's turn.
They can buy you up to 15 feet of reaction time at 30 miles an hour.
Seven pedestrian widths, six more than you need to avoid hitting someone.
This calls out people or animals straying into your path, especially at night, that you may not see.
A variant of this is night vision display, which gives you a real time infrared view of the road ahead.
Its night vision, the driver sees approximately three times further than is possible with conventional low beam light.
The display shows the driver a clear black and white image of the driving scene.
This one is fairly rare.
Drowsy driver alert systems use variety of sensors and cameras to monitor your driving behavior.
New innovations in this area are coming a few model years down the road.
Most of these technologies are factory installed and not something you can retrofit.
So, it pays to double check if your next car offers them, or if the other car on your list does.
Welcome back to CNET On Cars.
Coming to you from our home at the Mount Tam Motor Club.
Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Well, we cover a lot of transmission tech on this show because, frankly, in the last two years there's been a lot of it to cover, but several of you wrote in about a transmission-less technology.
Getting rid of the gear box entirely, yet keeping the combustion engine.
It's from a company called Koenigsegg.
They're a boutique shop.
It's their direct drive platform.
Just came out in prototype form at the Geneva Auto Show.
It's not on the road yet, but it definitely is worth a look at, as it is their road to the future.
Your typical combustion engine passenger car has always put its power out through a transmission.
Either a three, five, seven, nine, today even a ten speed gearbox.
The reason that gearbox is in there is because your engines got a relatively narrow range of rpm's and sweet spot for power.
Yet your car runs at a wide range of speeds and offers different load requirements.
So, you broker the difference with a wide range of gears.
But the overall problem with transmissions, as amazing as they've become, is that they remain a crutch.
Ideally, you'd rather not have one, for three very good reasons.
First of all, transmissions tend to be heavy and complex.
They're one of the most elaborate things in the modern car.
Secondly, they're expensive, largely as a result of being heavy and complex.
Expensive to put in, expensive to fix, that's on you, and of course they tend to introduce some slop and some slow gear changes.
Now that's been improved a lot lately, but wouldn't it be nice to take all this out?
So Koenigsegg says we can do that because of two interesting.
Trans and power trans.
One, we have higher RPM high performance engines and turbo's give them better lower end grunt.
Secondly, we have very torquey electric motors that are quite well proven these days.
Electric motors have all their torque from zero on up and can spin at a wide range of RPM's.
Put it all together here and maybe your power train has a wide enough range of RPM.
And abilities to deliver power.
That it doesn't need gears to help it.
Let's take a look at how they lay that out.
Here's the spine of the car.
You can see you've got a vertical battery pack up-.
In-between the seats basically.
That brings you down to turbo charge gas engine which has an electric motor on the back side, turning the crank when it needs to.
Two more electric motors are back here that go out to your drive shafts to your rear wheel.
And in the middle there is fluid coupler and a final drive.
Here's how that looks in a schematic.
This fluid coupler and final drive do two important things.
If you didn't have that, you would have basically the automotive equivalent of a fixe.
A fixed gear machine, and that's not really useful in the practical world.
And then you know of the gear box of.
Sort, a reduction gear.
It's a single-speed transmission that never changes.
So, it's very simple.
And it's basically a three-to-one so the gas engine can run at the higher rpms, which is its sweet spot, without having to drive the car at like 60 to 180 miles an hour all the time.
Now, I'm not saying that this is the beyond end all of future drive trains.
We may never see this again.
But it does underline two important trends.
Engines that have more grunt because of augmented intakes from turbos and super chargers and electric motors that can pick up the slack where gas engines don't do so well.
Put it all together you've got a spectrum of power that maybe doesn't need to change gears one day.
In a moment, big block versus small block.
And five affordable cars, CNET style.
CNET On Cars continues.
This of course is the Bentley continental GT, a car known and loved across the world for welcoming in the beginning of a reclination of the original Bentley spirit.
The most power in the smallest amount of space.
The best possible weight distribution.
Buy more from the xcar team of cnetuk at cnet.com/xcar
Welcome back to cnet on cars, I'm Brian Cooley.
Here's the part of the show we take one of your emails.
This one's coming in from Muhamad in Kuwait who asks about engine blocks.
He says, We always hear in car shows about muscle cars having big blocks or small block engines.
What's the difference between them?
He want's to know.
How do you tell which is which?
And how does a big block work versus a small block affect performance and horsepower?
It's kind of a fuzzy question Mohamed.
There's no bright line between what delineates a big block engine or a small block engine.
Let's break it down briefly.
The block of course is the lower, largest single part of the engine.
It's where the crank that turns here, and the pistons and their connecting rods.
Above that are the heads with the valves.
But back down here on the block region here are two rules of thumb that make it a big block or a small block.
First of all, what is the spacing between the bores, between each of these cylinders.
If there's more space, it tends to be a big block.
if they're tightly close together, it has to be a small block.
when they're closer and tighter, the engine is more compact, and yet it could have more heat generation between the cylinders, which could make it harder to manage.
The second consideration is stroke, stroke is how far up and down.
These pistons travel each cycle.
If they travel more you can get more displacement, have a bigger, more powerful engine for a given diameter.
However to have that additional travel you have to have a crank.
That is more eccentric, that has longer or deeper throw lobes.
And that means it needs more room down here, that makes it a taller block.
So these are the two main factors that will delineated a big block from a small block where you don't hear much about either anymore in the modern era.
It tends to be a race performance or classic car terms.
Now I recently brought you our top five cars of 2014 as judged by CNet ratings, which quickly prompted many of you to write in and say that's crazy.
Wait, now how about something I can afford?
We hear ya.
Instead of a list riddled with Audi RS7s and BMW i8s, here, instead, is our top five affordable cars of the last year or so, according to their CNET ratings.
Now this is by no means an exhaustive list of the entire market, but it does cover cars reviewed by CNET in the last year that came in under 25 grand with destination and got really great review scores.
Basically, four stars or more or an 8.0 or higher, with one exception.
You can find cheaper cars, by the way, but they don't hit the top scores that we give.
I figured you wanted the good stuff.
So let's go.
I'm gonna rank these based on that CNET score but filtering in the MSRP to nuance it a bit.
Number five the Ford Fiesta ST, not quite an 8.0 score you'll notice but close enough to it.
For one of the hottest hatches on the market right now.
About 200 horsepower and 200 pound feet of torque.
From a little engine that delivers 26/35 mpg.
And equipped with wheels, suspension, and torque vectoring that are all geared for the curbs.
It's the cheapest way to show up at auto cross and have the right gear.
Number four, the Mazda MX-5, you know it as the Miata, easily the car that I would most wanna drive on a nice road, though not of course if that road leads to Costco.
The Miata just sneaks in under out price cut, and even then it leaves out bluetooth and USB unless you upgrade, so buy some earbuds.
And realize you're in a great handling, fun shifting, happy revving, open top icon for under 25 grand.
And bring something bigger to Costco.
Number three is the Subaru Legacy.
Even a base Legacy- has their great symmetrical all wheel drive.
That's a big plus, and it's the only car on our list that has all the wheels driven.
Subaru is not normally a cabin tech leader, to be diplomatic, but their system gave us less to complain about than last year.
And they distracted us from its shortcomings with their quite nice optional eyesight technology that handles driver assist well, and, again, comes in at a nice price point.
Number two is the Mini Cooper hardtop, the classic Mini.
Now, they have one less cylinder in the engine, this generation, but more power than they had with more cylinders.
The Mini connected infotainment platform is much improved.
Now, it taps much of the latest.
Generation of BMW iDrive design rather than tapping the first generation.
You either love the look of a Mini or wish its price owed to the dot com era would just go away.
But know that its iconic shape is now much roomier than it was last year.
Before I get you to number one, a couple cars I wanna give an honorable mention to.
First of all, you've got the GMC Canyon.
It misses the cut on our score requirement by just a little bit.
But it's a real pickup in a small package that drives like a car and is far from the bottom in terms of cabin tech.
And I gotta tip my hat of course to the VW GTI.
It missed the cut on cost by about 600 bucks, but it scored a list topping 8.2 score thanks to great driving dynamics, good cabin design, and not bad tech.
Our number one car on the list is so strongly the Mazda Mazda3.
It's the cheapest car on the list and it's the only one that got an editors choice from our reviewer.
It's fun to drive.
Has a choice of manual or automatic transmission.
You've got Pandora, Sticher, aha, and modern apps in the dash.
Even a little head up display that pops up.
Though it's a bit like something out of a cereal box.
Still, this is your bargain choice.
And knowing Mazda, likely built to stay that way.
Thanks for watching.
I hope you enjoyed this episode.
Keep those emails coming.
A whole bunch of this episode was driven by your requests.
I read them all, reply to as many as I can.
I'll see you next time we check the tech.
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