SUVs to steal the New York International Auto Show

By Tom Krisher:

Yes, there will be a few cars, but SUVs will capture most of the headlines at this year’s New York International Auto Show.

Automakers will be shoring up gaps in their SUV lineups and revamping models that already are popular in the hottest-selling part of the U.S. market.

Leading the way is Toyota with an all-new RAV4 compact SUV, which last year was the most popular vehicle in the U.S. that isn’t a truck. There are also new SUVs coming from Subaru, Volkswagen, Acura, Cadillac and Lincoln.

There won’t be many cars. Nissan will show off a redesigned Altima midsize sedan, while Toyota will roll out a new Corolla hatchback. Kia will unveil a new K900 big luxury sedan, among others.

But SUVs, which hit a record 43 per cent of U.S. sales last year at just over 7.3 million, according to Kelley Blue Book, will steal the show. Here are some wheels to watch:

CADILLAC XT4

The compact SUV is now the largest part of the U.S. market, and Cadillac hasn’t had a product to offer _ until now. The General Motors luxury brand rolled out the new XT4 SUV at a pre-show event in New York Tuesday night. It’s built on underpinnings specifically designed for the Cadillac brand and comes with sculpted looks and an interior that Cadillac says is luxurious and spacious. The company says it will have segment-leading back-seat legroom. It’s powered by a 237 horsepower 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission that will get an estimated 30 miles per gallon on the highway. The XT4 is available in the fall and starts at $35,790 including shipping.

VOLKSWAGEN ATLAS CROSS SPORT CONCEPT

Volkswagen broadens its growing SUV lineup with a five-seat version of the three-row Atlas. The company calls the Atlas Cross Sport a concept, but it’s almost ready to be built at the automaker’s U.S. factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The new version is 7.5 inches shorter than the seven-seat Atlas. The concept is powered by a 355-horsepower plug-in hybrid system with a V6 gasoline engine and a battery that can take it 26 miles on electric power. The hybrid concept can go from zero to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, VW says. There’s also a “mild hybrid” with 310-horsepower from a V6 and a smaller hybrid battery. The SUV is due in showrooms sometime next year. Mileage and price were not announced.

TOYOTA RAV4

Toyota sold almost 408,000 RAV4 compact SUVs last year, making it the new American family car and the top-selling vehicle in the nation aside from Detroit’s popular big pickups. In an effort to stay on top, Toyota is revamping the RAV for the 2019 model year. The fifth-generation comes on all-new underpinnings that the company says will give it better handling and a smoother ride. It’s also slightly wider and a little lower. New looks are more chiseled and athletic, and the distance between the wheels grows by 1.2 inches for more passenger and cargo space. It comes standard with Toyota’s safety system that includes automatic emergency braking. It’s powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed transmission, or a 2.5-litre gas-electric hybrid system with a continuously variable transmission. Horsepower, gas mileage and price weren’t released. The new RAV hits showrooms in the fall.

LINCOLN AVIATOR

Ford’s luxury brand finally gets an Explorer-like midsize SUV with three rows of seats to compete in the hot luxury SUV market. The company was to unveil the Aviator Wednesday. Few details were given, except that it will have a twin-turbo engine of undisclosed size as well as a plug-in hybrid option. Ford says it will have tapered lines and a roomy interior. It also gets standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking and can be opened and started with a smart phone. The Aviator goes on sale sometime next year. The price wasn’t disclosed.

Uber Self Driving Crash Calls Safety, Rules Into Question

By Melissa Daniels And Bob Christie

Video of a fatal pedestrian crash involving a self-driving Uber vehicle that some experts say exposes flaws in autonomous vehicle technology is prompting calls to slow down testing on public roads and renewing concerns about regulatory readiness.

The 22-second video shows a woman walking from a darkened area onto a street just before an Uber SUV in self-driving mode strikes her. It was released by police in Tempe, Arizona, following the crash earlier this week.

Three experts who study the emerging technology concluded the video, which includes dashcam footage of the driver’s reaction, indicates the vehicle’s sensors should have spotted the pedestrian and that it should have initiated braking to avoid the crash that killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg on Sunday night.

It was the first fatality of a self-driving vehicle, and Uber has suspended its testing as the investigation proceeds.

Raj Rajkumar, who heads the autonomous vehicle program at Carnegie Mellon University, said the video was revealing in multiple ways, including that the driver appeared distracted and that Herzberg appeared to have been in the roadway and moving for several seconds and still her presence wasn’t sensed.

Laser systems used in the vehicles, called Lidar, can carry a blind spot, he said.

“All of this should be looked at in excruciating detail,” he said.

Herzberg’s death occurs at time when eagerness to put autonomous vehicles on public roads is accelerating in Silicon Valley, the auto industry and state and federal governments. More than 100 auto manufacturers and industry associations in early March sent a letter urging Congress to expedite passage of a proposal from Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, that aims to provide regulatory oversight and make it easier to deploy the technology.

After the crash, groups like Vision Zero, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and other safety-minded organizations urged the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to pause consideration of Thune’s proposal until the Tempe crash investigation is completed.

“The stage is now set for what will essentially be beta-testing on public roads with families as unwitting crash test dummies,” the letter said.

Thune, who chairs the science committee, said in a statement Thursday that the crash underscores the need to adopt laws and policies tailored to self-driving vehicles.

“Congress should act to update rules, direct manufacturers to address safety requirements, and enhance the technical expertise of regulators,” Thune said.

Scott Hall, spokesman for the Coalition of Future Mobility, which represents a variety of auto, consumer and taxpayer interest groups, said Thursday it supports the bill because a national framework of rules governing testing and deployment of technology is needed to avoid a 50-state patchwork of laws.

Data from the National Conference of State Legislatures shows that states are increasingly introducing legislation over autonomous vehicles — 33 in 2017. More than 20 states have already enacted autonomous vehicle legislation.

Uber, Intel, Waymo and GM are testing autonomous cars in Arizona, which does not require them to get a permit. After the Tempe crash, Gov. Doug Ducey, who lured the companies to the state with a promise of minimal regulation, warned against jumping to conclusions.

He noted both the Tempe police and the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

“So let’s see what happened.”

Earlier this month, Ducey issued an executive order that will allow companies to operate autonomous vehicles without a person on board. The only regulation is to send an advisory letter to the state Department of Transportation.

John Simpson of the California-based advocacy group Consumer Watchdog said Ducey was turning Arizona into “the wild West of automobile testing.”

“There’s no regulations, and if there’s not a sheriff in town somebody gets killed,” Simpson said.

His group is calling for a national moratorium on the testing of all autonomous vehicles until the cause of the fatal crash is determined. He said other states and Congress should look to California for a blueprint, where even minor crashes must be reported.

In Arizona, companies such as Uber only need to carry minimum liability insurance to operate self-driving cars. They are not required to track crashes or report any information to the state.

California requires a $5 million insurance policy, and companies must report accidents to the state within 10 days and release an annual tally documenting how many times test drivers had to take over.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who also has embraced limited regulations for autonomous vehicles, said the crash wasn’t causing him to rethink his state’s laws.

“What I would say is we need to find out all the issues associated with that (crash),” he said. “It’s terrible to have someone get in an accident and be killed in an event like that. Unfortunately we have traffic deaths going on far too often in our country. Let’s all work harder on having safe roads.”

Woman angry she became face of Twitter bot fraud

Global News

Meet Cheryl Montgomery.

Her Twitter profile shows her as hailing from Marlton, N.J., and she tweets a great deal about U.S. politics.

Her profile picture looks a lot like Catherine Simpson, a Vancouver-based public relations professional.

That’s because Cheryl Montgomery is a Twitter bot created by someone who stole Simpson’s photo from an online news article and used it as a profile photo.

“I said, ‘No way,’” Simpson said. “I’m typing it in and there’s my picture.”

Carr told Global News he is investigating “the use of automated social media accounts in spreading political messages in the U.S.”

He said it’s remarkably easy to create a Twitter bot.

“You can go online and Google how to make a bot and have one online in two hours,” Carr said.

This particular bot seems to be in favour of former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton and opposed to U.S. President Donald Trump.

The tweets from Cheryl Montgomery were relatively tame, but social media expert Jesse Miller said bots with more radical messaging can cause problems for the real people used in Twitter profile photos.

“People have believed the individual was the one behind the keyboard and they’ve actively looked to find the person and unfortunately that internet vigilante justice piece kind of rears its ugly head,” he said.

Simpson noted that if the bot “was retweeting on Canadian politics or local politics I would’ve been much more concerned.”

She said she has contacted Twitter in the hopes of having the account suspended.

Twitter said it recently suspended 1,062 automated accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian “troll farm” that systematically disseminated content designed to influence public opinion during the U.S. presidential election.

A recent New York Times report exposed how some public figures have paid for bots to follow them on social media.

“I sent them my drivers licence,” Simpson said. “I’ve sent them all sorts of information but I’m not really having any luck with them.”

Experts say it’s important to flag such bots to Twitter, even if the process is frustrating. It’s also important to be selective about who can see your pictures online.

If not, your favourite shot might be the new face for a Twitter bot.

Anheuser Busch orders 40 Tesla Semi trucks

Your beer could soon be delivered in a Tesla.

Brewer Anheuser-Busch _ which owns Budweiser and other brands _ has placed an order for 40 all-electric Tesla Semis.

Anheuser-Busch says it’s one of the largest orders Tesla has received for the truck, but Tesla isn’t confirming.

Tesla Inc. unveiled the Semi last month. Production will begin in 2019. Customers can put down a $5,000 deposit to reserve one.

Anheuser-Busch says the Tesla Semis would be part of a 750-truck U.S. fleet that transports products from breweries to wholesalers. The trucks will help the Belgium-based company meet its goal of reducing global carbon emissions by 30 per cent in 2025.

Tesla won’t say how many companies have put down deposits. But Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and midwest retailer Meijer Inc. are among those that have placed orders.

 

Insurance-Canada.ca announces highlights of its 2018 Insurance Technology Conference

Source: Insurance-Canada.ca

For its 16thAnnual Technology Conference (ICTC 2018) Insurance-Canada.ca is focusing on the opportunities and challenges provided by new technology in use by Canadian insurers and brokers.

Artificial Intelligence is becoming a reality for Canadian insurance. Since the origin of electronic computing, “Artificial Intelligence” (AI) has been a goal for programmers and fodder for science fiction. These two groups are now coming together as reality emerges. AI and its counterparts – machine learning and advanced analytics – are coming into play in insurance companies and larger brokerages. Early implementations are demonstrating the use of AI in claims settlements, providing more accurate insurance product pricing and allowing customers ease of access to a variety of coverages.

From the buyers’ perspective, insurers and brokers are finding that Customer Experience is a critical success factor for attracting consumers while utilizing advanced technologies. Kanetix Ltd will discuss some of the challenges for customer-facing insurance providers as they optimize the customer experience, and techniques – including AI – to better address human behaviours.

Other sessions at ICTC 2018 will cover a larger landscape.  Experts from the analyst, insurer and technology supplier communities are preparing sessions focused on Blockchain, IoT (Internet of Things) and Digital insurance technologies. These include:

  • New risks and developing insurance products
  • De-risking strategies through climate adaptation
  • The impact of autonomous vehicles on the automotive insurance product
  • Customer experience technologies on the business of insurance.

Taking a user’s angle on the insurance industry and its technologies, David Coletto, CEO at Abacus Data, will provide the keynote address. Based on more than seven years of research, Coletto’s presentation will describe the context around all the technologies, and will offer a Canadian perspective on generational change (Millennials and Gen Z) and the disruptive forces at work in both consumer and insurance markets.

The 2018 Insurance-Canada.ca Technology Conference, entitled Insurance Vectors in Play, will be held on February 27-28, 2018 at the Beanfield Centre in Toronto.  Details on the location, agenda, and registration can be found here. (www.insurance-canada.ca/ictc)

Main Attractions at L.A. Auto Show

The floor at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show will look a lot like America’s roads: full of SUVs.

Hyundai and Nissan will debut new small SUVs at the show, while Subaru will take the wraps off its new three-row SUV, the Ascent. Jeep will show a new version of its rough-and-tumble Wrangler, while Infiniti, Lexus, Lincoln and Porsche will debut more refined models.

A combination of low gas prices, growing millennial families and a host of new models is fueling the SUV boom. As of October, overall U.S. vehicle sales were down 2 per cent compared to the same period last year, but SUV sales were up 6 per cent, according to Autodata Corp.

The L.A. show will also have plenty of eco-friendly models in a nod to California buyers, who purchase a higher percentage of hybrids and electrics than the U.S. as a whole thanks to state tax credits and other incentives. Land Rover will debut its first-ever plug-in gas-electric hybrid, while Volkswagen will show its upcoming family of electric vehicles. Porsche will also have a plug-in hybrid.

Here are some of the vehicles being unveiled at the show, which opens to the public on Friday, December 1, 2017.

LINCOLN NAUTILUS

Lincoln’s midsize MKX SUV gets a new name, Nautilus, in an effort to separate itself from the alphanumeric luxury crowd. It also gets its first refresh since it went on sale in 2015. The 2019 Nautilus swaps its V6 engine for two turbocharged four-cylinder choices: a 2.0-litre that puts out 245 horsepower or a 2.7-litre with 335 horsepower. The Nautilus adopts Lincoln’s signature mesh grille. It also has a suite of new safety technologies, including a system that keeps the SUV centred in its lane and an evasive manoeuvring system that can automatically steer the vehicle around obstacles. The 2019 Nautilus goes on sale in the spring.

CHEVROLET CORVETTE ZR1 CONVERTIBLE

The fastest, most powerful version of General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Corvette gets its first drop-top in nearly a half-century. Chevrolet says the convertible won’t hurt the 755-horsepower car’s performance much. It’s only 60 pounds heavier than the standard coupe and still will have a top speed of over 200 miles per hour. The only changes for the convertible are the structure for the car’s folding top and repositioned seat belt mounts. The 2019 ZR1 made its debut earlier this month in Dubai. The ZR1 last had a convertible in its original model year in 1970. The coupe starts at $119,995 including shipping, while the convertible starts at $123,995. They’ll hit showrooms this spring.

INFINITI QX50

Infiniti’s midsize, five-seat SUV gets a complete overhaul, starting with a rigid but lightweight new underbody made from high-strength steel. The 2019 QX50 sits up higher than the outgoing model and has a beefier, more confident look. Under the hood is what Infiniti says is the world’s first production-ready variable compression ratio engine. The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder automatically adjusts the pistons’ performance to optimize power or fuel efficiency. Infiniti says the engine delivers 268 horsepower and 27 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, a 35 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency over the outgoing QX50. The new QX50 also boasts Infiniti’s ProPilot driver assistance system that can automatically control braking and speed and keep the SUV within its lane. The QX50 goes on sale in the first quarter of 2018.

SUBARU ASCENT

Known for its small all-wheel-drive cars and SUVs, Subaru enters the big people-hauler market with the new Ascent. It’s got three rows of seats and can carry as many as eight people. Built in Lafayette, Indiana, the Ascent will be sold only in North America to satisfy its thirst for bigger vehicles. The all-wheel-drive Ascent is powered by a new 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Second-row captain’s chairs are optional on some versions. The price wasn’t released, but the Ascent will go on sale next summer.

 

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