October 29th, 2010 at 11:26am
Italian researchers traveled 8,000 miles from Italy to China in four autonomous electric vehicles. A humanoid robot developed by GM and NASA is set for its first launch into outer space. In an astonishing development, the California Air Resources Board is rating the emissions of the Chevrolet Volt several levels below other cars. All that and more, plus a preview of this week’s Autoline Detroit with David Champion from Consumer Reports.
This is Autoline Daily for October 29, 2010. And now, the news.
R2 SET FOR LAUNCH
Earlier in the year we reported that GM and NASA had teamed up to develop a humanoid robot and now it’s ready for its first launch into outer space. The robot, named Robonaut 2, or R2 for short, will travel in the Discovery space-shuttle to the International Space Station this coming Monday. Up in space, R2 will help astronauts perform tasks that are ergonomically difficult, along with jobs that are dull and repetitive. GM believes the technology could be used to aid in manufacturing and to help develop systems for passenger safety using R2′s sensor capabilities.
AUTONOMOUS VANS COMPLETE TREK
Earlier this summer we reported that Italian researchers were riding shotgun in four autonomous electric vehicles traveling 8,000 miles from Italy to China, and now the AP reports the journey is complete. Solar-powered laser scanners and cameras were equipped in the vans to help navigate and detect objects, and the researchers rode in the vehicles in case of emergency situations. The trip took over three months to finish because the vans only traveled 60 km/h, that’s 38 MPH, and could only drive for two to three hours before they had to be recharged which took eight hours to juice up.
NASCAR TV SHOW?
How low will television networks go? Over the years we’ve seen all kinds of absurd reality shows. They’ve taken us inside the world of drug-addicted celebrities, they’ve chronicled the lives of people obsessed with plastic surgery, they’ve even given us the inside scoop on little people that own a chocolate shop. Now, according to Autoblog, NBC is cooking up a new series about a NASCAR family. Supposedly it will focus on two brothers with very different styles that race for the same team. Gee, maybe they should name them Kyle and Kurt. The network is currently trying to secure rights for everything the series needs – tracks, sponsors, teams and more. If you’re a big fan of stock-car racing don’t go punching up NBC on your TV just yet. Currently there’s no word if or when the show could hit the airwaves.
NISSAN CUBE IS SQUARE
Sometimes risky designs can really pay off . . . and sometimes not. Unfortunately for Nissan, its quirky Cube is proving that avant-garde design is just too much for some people. Autoblog reports that after a year on the market the company has only sold 686 Cubes in the United Kingdom. In fact, sales are so bad that dealers aren’t required to have one on hand for test drives! That number doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better, either. Nissan has no plans to introduce a diesel-powered version of the Cube. In the U.S. the Cube isn’t doing a whole lot better. It’s averaging just barely over 2,000 sales a month.
VOLT DENIED CALIFORNIA TAX CREDIT
In an astonishing development, the California Air Resources Board is rating the emissions of the Chevrolet Volt several levels below other cars. For example, it’s rated worse than a Volkswagen Jetta TDI or a Toyota Prius, and the same as a Honda Civic. There are two problems here. In testing the Volt with the engine running it emits a fraction of a gram over the limit for hydrocarbons. This, despite the fact that all Volt owners will be trying to run their cars in electric mode as much as possible, meaning those engines will not come on very often. The other problem is that the California Air Resources Board has set a 10-year 150,000-mile warranty for the battery pack in hybrids. But the battery pack in the Volt only comes with an eight-year 100,000-mile warranty. That’s the same warranty that Nissan offers with the LEAF. But because the LEAF only has batteries it does not have to meet the more stringent warranty. As a result, the Chevy Volt does not qualify for a $3000 tax credit from the state of California. GM says it will qualify for the cleanest emissions level, but it will take several years to get there because it first wanted to qualify as an ultra low emissions vehicle in all 50 states, rather than just concentrating on meeting California’s standard. To me this is crazy. It’s an example of overly complex regulations that stifle innovation and creativity, and limit consumer choice due to mere technicalities.
Are Toyota’s quality ratings going to go down simply because of a change in public opinion? We will be diving into that topic, right after this.
My guest on Autoline Detroit this weekend is David Champion from Consumer Reports, along with journalists Doron Levin who writes for Fortune magazine, and Scott Burgess with the Detroit News. In the following clip we talk about how changes in public opinion can affect the way consumers rate the quality of cars.
You can catch that entire interview on our website at AutolineDetroit.tv.
That brings us to the end of this week’s reports on the latest news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you next week.