Episode 991 – Conti’s Traffic Jam Assist, Big Trucks Hit Brakes, Are You Espresso or Decaf?

October 12th, 2012 at 12:00pm

Runtime: 7:19

John McElroy gets a first-hand sample of Continental’s semi-autonomous Traffic Jam Assist technology. Big truck sales hit the brakes in September. MINI wants to know: what sort of “coffee driver” are you? All that and more, plus a preview of Autoline This Week, which delves into the state of the used car business.

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Welcome to Autoline Daily as we cover what has got to be the coolest industry in the world. Thanks for joining us.

I recently got a chance to go for a ride in a semi-autonomous car, a modified Volkswagen Passat that is a development car from Continental, the giant German auto supplier. Essentially, it uses adaptive cruise control that also does the steering. Take a look.

(This video clip of Continental’s autonomous technology only available in the video version of today’s show.)

Continental calls the system Traffic Jam Assist. It works remarkably well, and Conti says it will be showroom-ready in only three years time and will probably be priced less than an optional sunroof.

Earlier in the week we reported that a new Porsche 911 S lapped the Nurburgring in 7:37.9, beating out cars like the Corvette ZR-1, Nissan GT-R, Lexus LF-A and Ferrari 458 Italia. “But wait a minute,” some of you wrote in to say. “We’ve seen those other cars beat that time, so what gives?” Well, it turns out that the times that get quoted depend on the track configuration, the season in which the time was turned, and what kind of tires were used. Porsche used the old pit lane configuration, which can add 200 meters to the lap distance. Check out Wikipedia for a great chart of the best lap times at the Nurburgring.

BIG TRUCK SALES SHRINK (subscription required)
Sales of big trucks have been growing all year but that streak snapped last month. According to WardsAuto, sales of medium and heavy duty trucks fell nearly 3 percent in September to just over 26,500 units, compared to the same period last year. But despite the drop, sales of big trucks are up nearly 20 percent so far this year. However the decrease in sales in September is something to keep an eye since trucks sales are an indicator of where the economy is heading.

Earlier this year, Nissan broke ground on a new engine plant in Tennessee, as part of a collaboration with Daimler. The facility will build 4-cylinder engines for both Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz. Production starts in 2014 and the plant will have the capacity to manufacture 250,000 engines a year. The Mercedes engines will be shipped to the company’s plant in Alabama where they will be used for the C-Class. But the two companies are partnering up on a lot more. The next generation smart will be built off a Renault platform and last month we reported that Renault-Nissan will license automatic transmission technology from Daimler which will be built by Nissan’s subsidiary Jatco.

Ford has jumped in the ring of plug-in hybrids with its C-MAX Energi, and so far it’s one of the most fuel-efficient ever produced. It received an EPA-certified 108 MPGe in the city and a combined MPGe of 100. That is one full combined MPGe better than the Nissan LEAF and five better than the Toyota Prius plug-in, and two better than the Chevy Volt. It is also the most affordable, with a starting price of just under $30,000 after a federal tax credit and including destination and delivery costs.

How do you drive your coffee? Well that is what MINI of Netherlands if asking. They are offering a free cup of coffee with your test drive. But the interesting part is they equipped the car with sensors that evaluated the driver’s style. The data was then placed into a special coffee maker that produces a blend based on your driving style. If you were a pedal-to-the-medal type driver you received a short but strong coffee, and if timid you received a watered-down espresso. So it begs the question, what kind of coffee driver are you?

Coming up next, there’s a big change taking place on the used car side of the business. Dealers are getting trade ins with the highest miles on them that they’ve ever seen.

On Autoline This Week the show is all about what’s going on in the used car side of the business. Due to the collapse of the economy four years ago and the Cash For Clunkers program, dealers are now getting trade-ins with more miles on them, a lot more.

(Our preview of Autoline This Week is only available in the video version of today’s show.)

By the way, my guests on the show are Ricky Beggs from Black Book, Ron MacEachern from a big dealer group called the Suburban Collection, and Steve Finlay, the editor of WardAuto Dealer Business. You can catch that entire show right now at www.Autoline.tv.

And that brings us to the end of covering another week’s worth of the latest developments in the coolest industry in the world. Thanks for joining us, we will be back here on Monday.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog and WardsAuto.com

21 Comments to “Episode 991 – Conti’s Traffic Jam Assist, Big Trucks Hit Brakes, Are You Espresso or Decaf?”

  1. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I still don’t get it….why the push for autonomous cars? What happened to the driving experience? If someone doesn’t like to drive there is public transportation.People complain that this or that car is more of an appliance.What does that make a autonomous vehicle? A toaster oven on wheels?

  2. Don MacConnel Says:

    Years ago Honeywell was involved in a Personal (Rapid) Transit project. The notion was that a rider would go to a station, punch a button for transportation, put in a destination and get into a sort of driverless cab that took them to their destination.

    The technology wasn’t there at the time but the idea could be implemented with today’s autonomous vehicle technology. Traffic management and routing were determined by a central system.

  3. C-Tech Says:

    The push for autonomous cars is PROFIT! Many people do think of their cars as an appliance, so a self-driving car is almost the ultimate appliance. Think of them as chaffeured vehicles for the middle class.

    If you are a pedal-to-the-metal type driver, the last thing you need is a strong coffee.

    Please clarify for me, is this Nissan-Mercedes engine plant building the same 4cyl which will be shared by the C-Class and Nissan vehicles?

  4. Bob in Atlanta Says:

    I’m still waiting for the autonomous wind and solar powered electric car to hit the market. I expect to see it here first.

  5. pedro fernandez Says:

    John, I had you as an auto enthusiast, but I guess I was wrong, you seem very excited about cars that drive themselves and honestly I just don’t get it. Is Peter as giddy about it as you are?

  6. HtG Says:

    The AP is reporting that SPEED is losing the F1 contract!!! Someone is reading my comments.
    John’s enthusiasm. If you’re an enthusiast why don’t you want the ‘puter to take over the most mundane parts of driving? I hate driving to DC from NY; if I can read or nap? awesome. Bumper to bumper traffic by Yankee stadium? Forza4 time vs Bwob in CA.

  7. pedro fernandez Says:

    There is always the Chattanooga choo-choo or the Amtrak Bullet. HtG I loved the NJ to DC drive, the NJ Pike near Newark never failed to clear up my stuffy nose.

  8. HtG Says:

    You can’t beat a car for time and money. Four hours door to door in the Civic, 6 gallons, 25 tolls. Nothing comes close

    That sulfur smell by the refinery on the NJTP? It’s a sensation

  9. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Speed is just plain losing it’s entire focus.Too bad.Back in the early 90′s when it first came on satellite it was damn good.Now,yawn……

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    On the way to the Keys, there is an area that has both a water treatment plant and a thrash processing plant as well next to each other, you can imagine the aroma that permeates the area when the wind is just right.

  11. pedro fernandez Says:

    From TTAC Chevy reports that they have to import more Sparks from Korea to meet US demand which proves to me that PT Barnum was correct, they discontinued the awful Aveo, here come Aveo light and it’s selling like banana pudding, go figure!

  12. Brett Says:

    We must always bear in mind that we are part of what is probably no more than 1% (if that) of the entire adult population of autombile drivers that are enthusiastic about automobiles and about driving them.

    It is generally a very bad idea to assume that others share your perspective or opinions about any one particular subject.

    I personally have driven automobiles across the California desert at speeds from 100 to 155 MPH. I’m comfortable running wheel-to-wheel in open wheeled race cars with other skilled performance drivers at those sorts of speeds and above.

    The vast, overwhelming majority of drivers would be utterly terrified in those circumstances and would pay good money to avoid them.

    We ain’t ordinary automobile consumers. Trust me.

  13. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I hear what your saying Brett.I never driven a race car other then my street rods back in the 60′s,and I don’t drive much at all anymore.But,I still enjoy the driving experience.It’s too bad the ‘other’ people don’t feel that way.Maybe those ‘appliance’ type of cars is for those who just don’t care as long as they can bliss out watching a movie while drinking their latte’s and let the car do the work.Progress?

  14. Ed K Says:

    Hey John,

    Didn’t you tell us that the Space Shuttle was going to be towed by a Toyota pick-up truck to it’s final destination in LA? I saw coverage of that on the news tonight and there wasn’t anything towing it, it was on top of a transporter that had it’s own power. What gives?

  15. HtG Says:

    check it Ed K. Go to the LATimes website, where there’s a Tundra ad with the Shuttle being pulled across the front page. latimes.com

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    According to WaPo, and a couple other articles I found, probably the first engine from the Tennessee Nissan/MB plant will be the Benz 1.8 turbo, and it will be shared by the brands. See:


    That engine always seemed quite underwhelming to me, given that its most direct competition, BMW’s 2.0 turbo, makes more power and uses less gas, significantly so on both counts.

  17. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Ed K: here’s the video of the pull:


  18. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Oh darn-it, now I’ve got to go buy a Toyota pickup (and I’m not even in the market for a truck); U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A…………………………really? (I don’t care whether it’s built in Texas or not, until the U.S. auto makers get equal access in Japan, they can go to

  19. pedro fernandez Says:

    TTAC reports that Tata plans to bring the Nano to the US, in 20 yrs we’ll look at this time period as the Obama malaise period in our history.

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    U.S. auto makers get special access to the Japanese car market. They are allowed to sell left-hand-drive, U.S. market cars in Japan, and people are allowed to register them and drive them on public roads.

    Japanese home market cars cannot be registered in the U.S., unless they are more than 25 years old. The Japanese companies have to build different cars to sell in the U.S.

  21. Brett Says:

    “The Obama malaise period”

    Yeah. Stock market at double what it was when he took office. Taxes as historic lows. Auto industry recovering nicely. Interest rates and inflation low. Heck, even unemployment is receding finally.

    All with an obstructionist Congress after one of the worst economic collapses in the country’s history.

    What a Hell we live in, eh?