TIME Auto

Watch ‘Connected Cars’ Take Center Stage at CES

James Bond might be envious

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Nevada, several companies unveiled concept cars containing some seriously high-tech gadgets.

Audi, Mercedes-Benz and VW all showed demos of automated car technology, from driverless or “piloted” cars, to smartwatch apps.

TIME ces 2015

This Is the Audi That Is Driving Itself 550-Plus Miles to CES

550 Meilen pilotiert vom Silicon Valley nach Las Vegas: Langstrecken-Test im Audi A7 Sportback piloted driving concept
?Start zur 550 Meilen langen pilotierten Testfahrt vom Silicon Valley nach Las Vegas: Ricky Hudi, Leiter Entwicklung Elektrik/Elektronik, (links) und Ewald Goessmann, Excecutive Director Electronic Research Lab California (ERL), (Dritter von rechts) schicken den Audi A7 Sportback piloted driving concept auf die Strecke.? Audi's driverless A7 at the start of the 550 mile piloted drive from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas.

Audi's car goes it alone to CES—sort of

Audi’s A7 Sportback may not be what Jack Kerouac had in mind when he envisioned the freedom of the open road. But the self-driving car is still probably the coolest way to get to CES, a stunt the German carmaker is pulling this year by letting the bold test-drive the car more than 550 miles of highway from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas.

The A7 Sportback uses five radars, a laser scanner, and a number of 3D cameras as part of Audi’s “piloted driving” tech, which can drive on highways (but not city streets) without human interference. It can reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour on highways, Audi says, and can change lanes and adapt to the speeds of surrounding vehicles. The car warns drivers to take control when a city is approaching with an “acoustic warning indicator.”

When the technology will be commercially available is not yet known. But Audi says its piloted driving technology is “production ready.” This particular model could be an important move in testing the waters of the self-driving market, though Audi has been openly working on the technology for several years. At CES in 2013, the company debuted limited self-driving technology that allowed cars to park themselves.

Audi is presenting the A7 Sportback at CES beginning Tuesday.

Read next: The Science of Why Your Kids Can’t Resist ‘Frozen’

TIME ces 2015

Here Is Mercedes’ Outrageous Vision for the Future of Cars

Newest Innovations In Consumer Technology On Display At 2015 International CES
A Mercedes-Benz F 015 autonomous driving automobile is displayed at the Mercedes-Benz press event at the 2015 International CES on Jan. 5, 2015 in Las Vegas. David Becker—Getty Images

It looks a little like the cars from Minority Report

The self-driving car: everyone’s doing it. Google, Audi and BMW are all steering toward autopilot and, on Monday, Mercedes-Benz revealed its futuristic F 015 Luxury in Motion, a concept car designed for the future of transportation.

Passengers can sit face to face as if in a living room, and can control the car’s settings through gestures on high-resolution screens. LED displays on the front and rear of the car serve as signals to other vehicles. The F 015 also talks—in the promotional video, the car says to a pedestrian “Please go ahead.” It looks a little like the self-driving cars from Minority Report—futuristic and sleek, with a large cabin space.

So far the F 015 is just a concept car, so we probably won’t ever see this same model on the road. But it should give us a good sense of the direction automakers want to go.

TIME Auto

Toyota Wants Everyone to Know How It Made Its Hydrogen-Powered Car

Newest Innovations In Consumer Technology On Display At 2015 International CES
The Toyota Mirai is displayed at the 2015 International CES on January 5, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. David Becker—Getty Images

The Japanese car maker will let its competitors study its patents for the next five years, in order to give the fledgling industry a boost

Toyota announced Monday it will make available decades of research on its hydrogen-powered car to competitors in the auto industry, a move that the Japanese carmaker says will accelerate an industry-wide shift to hydrogen technology.

Toyota owns 5,680 global patents related to hydrogen fuel cells, acquired over two decades of research and development, and culminating at the end of last year with the release of its first commercial-scale hydrogen-powered vehicle, the Mirai.

All those patents will now be freely available to companies manufacturing and selling fuel cell vehicles until 2020, Toyota announced Monday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“Hopefully by sharing these patents with others, these new fuel systems can be refined and improved,” said Toyota Senior Vice President Bob Carter, “to attract a larger market of buyers.”

In December, Toyota began selling the hydrogen-powered Mirai in Japan, and the car goes on sale in the United States and Europe in the second half of this year. The Mirai can run for 300 miles on a 3- to 5-minute charge, and accelerates from 0-60mph in about nine seconds.

Tesla Motors, the electric car outfit headed by PayPal founder Elon Musk, opened up its patents last year. Tesla and Toyota’s goals are similar: to reach a larger consumer base by making their technology more visible, and to help build a burgeoning market for the types of technology they have pioneered.

A major challenge Toyota will face is building a sizable infrastructure of recharging stations. If consumers can’t easily recharge, it’s unlikely the Mirai will gain a market foothold. California began building 28 hydrogen charging stations last year with a $47-million investment.

Toyota is also opening up its hydrogen fuel cell charging station technology, indefinitely.

The Mirai is starting with a small batch of 700 vehicles in 2014 with the goal of growing to tens of thousands by the 2020s. “We believe hydrogen electric will be the primary fuel for the next 100 years,” Carter said.

TIME Auto

GM is Bringing Shopping and Hotel Reservations to Your Car

General Motors logo is shown at the General Motors Technical Center.
General Motors logo is shown at the General Motors Technical Center. Bill Pugliano—Getty Images

Now OnStar can get you a cheaper cruller

Your car is already the way you get where you’re going. Soon, it will make sure you’ll have something to do when you get there.

At the International Consumer Electronics Show, starting today in Las Vegas, General Motors will debut a few big additions to its OnStar services. The new feature, called “AtYourService,” will be able to hook drivers up with retailers, providing them with general information and sometimes deals and coupons.

It will also be able to make hotel reservations — which could come in useful if you’re on one of those road trips without a specific itinerary and you’re looking for a place to rest your head on relatively short notice.

Initial retail partners for the AtYourService include Dunkin’ Donuts and Priceline.com. RetailMeNot and Entertainment Book will be providing the coupons, and Amazon’s Audible.com will be providing audio book content. A new feature sure to please people who drive into unfamiliar cities with any frequency will be parking information provided by Parkopedia.

GM and other auto makers are all tinkering with ways to make their vehicles more “connected,” a range of features that has led to some experimentation among manufacturers as they angle to offer the right mix of real-time data often found on smartphones. Connected car services of all kinds have become standard on many new cars and trucks, according to Edmunds.com. Some of the features GM is touting, such as the parking information, have been featured in offerings by BMW and other auto makers.

Among the other OnStar features that will also be rolled out this summer — driver feedback.

Customers will be able to sign up for a service that tells them how they’re driving. If its good enough, users could be eligible for discounts through Progressive Insurance.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Auto

Smartphone Driver’s Licenses Could Be Coming to This State

Chances are, less people with forget their licenses at home

Iowa will soon allow citizens to use a mobile app on their smart phone as their driver’s license.

The free app will be available for Iowans in 2015, Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) director Paul Trombino announced during a state budget hearing, the Des Moines Register reports. The digital license can be used at airports and during traffic stops. The app would require a pin number to maintain security.

The new app is part of the Iowa DOT’s shift toward a variety of transportation-related technology advances, like cameras in snowplows and online bridge-building support.

The Register reported that Trombino is asking for $14.8 million for the license project: “We are really moving forward on this. The way things are going, we may be the first in the nation,” he said.

[Des Moines Register]

MONEY Autos

The $64,000 GMC Sierra Denali Shows How Pickups Have Gone Crazy Luxe

A powerful engine, a moon roof, USB ports and comfortable seating for five are all signs of booms in agriculture and construction.

Even in the darkest days of the American automobile industry, pickup trucks came through. Detroit couldn’t build profitable cars to save its soul, but pickups always delivered sales and profits.

In the last couple of years, with agriculture booming and construction recovering, the auto companies have been outdoing themselves to hang on to this lucrative turf. Ford is about to launch a new, aluminum version of its top selling F-150. Chrysler has had to increase production of its Ram 1500 to keep up with demand. Meanwhile, GM is about to debut two middleweight contenders, Canyon (GMC) and Colorado (Chevy).

GMC also rolled out new versions of its heavy duty 2500 and 3500 Sierra HD models that highlight another trend: the pickup gone crazy luxe. For the successful farmer who now pilots a climate-controlled, $325,000 John Deere 9370R tractor with mission-control computer display terminals, the fully-equipped Sierra Denali 2500HD that we tested might be no less than the minimum required. This diesel-driven, high-waisted brute feels more like a working Escalade, and at $64,000 for the crew-cab, diesel version, it’s priced in the neighborhood.

Who would drop $64,000 on a pickup? Look, I’m a car guy so I really can’t answer that question, but if I had to get up at 4 a.m. every day and do actual labor on a farm or ranch, or at construction sites, I’d like to think I’d earned a cushy ride. And in the Sierra Denali you’ll get one. Once you adjust to sitting a mile high and towering over mere cars — and in Manhattan (New York, that is, not Kansas) it’s kind of a cool perspective — you realize that the Sierra doesn’t feel like a truck. On the highway, it’s one of the quietest vehicles on the highway that I’ve tested this year.

That’s even more surprising considering that this particular Sierra Denali is powered by a 6.6 L V8 Duramax diesel tied to a 6-speed Allison Transmission. But this combo, odd to say, doesn’t shout its 397 h.p. worth of trucky-ness. Because the diesel delivers bigtime torque at low revs, (765 lb. ft. @ 1,600) the pickup’s power sounds more oceanlike as it gathers force. You’ll pay for that power, with the diesel package adding $8,845 to the standard price of $53,740. Since you are already in luxury car territory, why not throw in a power sunroof ($995), aluminum rims ($850), and 20-inch tires ($200)?

You are now styling in four-wheel drive and your buddies will appreciate it: You can fit four of them in the Sierra Denali 2500HD, and they will be properly seated in the more-than-roomy-enough crew cab. You, though, will have the best seat, one that’s heated and air conditioned and equipped with its own alarm system: The seat shimmies to keep you alert in slow traffic or if it senses you are drifting out of your lane. And because this is a work truck, the center console is loaded with storage for files, laptops, or even power tools; there’s also a power panel that includes USB ports, a couple of 12-volt ports, and a standard electrical outlet.

It would be silly of me to try to tow a trailer around New York City, but the Sierra Denali 2500HD can haul one weighing up to 13,000 lb. On the other hand, we did manage a brief four-wheel drive test on a rough patch of Harriman State Park about 50 miles north of New York. The fall foliage was beautiful and the pickup handled the high brush easily given its substantial ground clearance. I’d be looking forward to winter driving in this thing if I worked outside. Although I wouldn’t be looking forward to working outside.

MONEY Autos

Corvette Stingray: All American Muscle

TIME's Bill Saporito test drives the new Corvette Stingray and finds it's as fast and powerful as advertised.

The guy standing on the traffic island seeking donations didn’t want one from me. He just walked over to the car, gave the thumbs-up and then moved on to the unremarkable vehicle behind me.

The 2015 Corvette Stingray ZF1 convertible I was driving is the type of car that can do that. You park it at Home Depot and guys start circling, taking pictures. Parking lot attendants, who see everything on wheels, nod in admiration. New cars that attract this kind of attention are relatively few: The awesome Audi R-8 comes to mind, as do the recently remade Camaro and the old Jaguar XK8. Even that funky little Fiat 500 was a head turner when it first landed.

For Chevrolet, the Corvette is an iconic automobile and you redesign it at your peril. Yet as Ford proved with its Mustang this year, and Chevy itself with Camaro, you can remake trophy cars without denting their heritage. This Vette is a perfect example of heritage brought smartly—and swiftly— forward.

The Stingray did show up with a surprise: an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The automatic trans adds $1,725 to the base price of $58,000, and the other goodies on the car I drove—including a performance data and video recorder—pushed the price up to $71,255. Who would want to drive a Vette with an automatic? Turns out, lots of people, and fully 65% of new Vettes being sold are automatics, according to the company. And it’s not just Corvette owners. Manual transmissions simply can’t match the efficiency of a new generation of 8-, 9-, and 10- speed automatics now being introduced into high performance cars. (In fact, the new Porsche GT3 isn’t available with a manual transmission. It rides a dual-clutch automatic called a Doppelkupplungsgetriebe.) The manual transmission is going the way of the manual window. Do you miss cranking?

Although I absolutely doppelkupplungsgetriebed at the thought of a stickless Corvette, any disappointment disappeared when I stomped on the pedal at a highway on-ramp. Very instant gratification. Chevy has equipped this Vette with its LT1 6.2 liter V-8 engine, the latest version of a famous power plant known as the small block V-8. In GM lore, this engine actually saved the Corvette when it was introduced in 1955, because sales had been languishing with the underpowered 150-hp engine then in use. The small block V8 put the muscle in muscle cars. This updated one has variable valve timing that deactivates cylinders when you don’t need them—say cruising when the tachometer’s barely pushing 1,500 r.p.m.—which helps the car’s impressive 29-m.p.g. highway fuel rating.

But when you want’em, all eight cylinders snap to attention and report for duty, ready to throw out 455-to- 460 h.p. —the higher figure if you get the optional multimode exhaust option ($1,195) that is exquisitely tuned to zoom. This Vette will get you from here to there—0 to 60 mph—in a throaty 3.7 seconds. The eight-speed automatic is even a tick faster than the seven-speed manual, although the thrill of rocketing up the speedometer is very much the same. And if you insist on shifting the gears yourself, go right ahead and use the paddles. Automatic or no, this thing is still low, wide, and nasty. The two competition seats in the Z51 version come with adjustable side bolsters to lock yourself in on tight turns.

It’s not all about speed, I guess. The Stingray includes a 5-position Drive Mode selector (Sport, Track, Tour, Eco, Weather) that adjusts the performance to suit conditions or your whims. And on nice days, there’s that drop-top, which can be popped while moving at up to 30 m.p.h. if you’d like to really show off.

Chevy is also making the convertible available on a supercharged Z06 racing model rated at 650 h.p. that it will introduce next year. Which is going to provide a whole new definition of driving with the wind in your hair. You are probably going to need that automatic. Because you’ll be too busy hanging on to your hat to work a stick.

Correction: a previous version of this story stated the Corvette has a dual-clutch transmission.

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TIME Companies

Lyft Is Giving Rides to Baseball Fans During the Playoffs

Lyft Gives Up Pink Mustaches To Challenge Uber In New York City
The Lyft Inc. application (app) is demonstrated on an Apple Inc. iPhone 5s for an arranged photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Lyft will offer rides during the playoffs

Lyft announced Thursday that it will partner with Major League Baseball as the official ride for fans, just in time for the playoffs.

The ride will offer car-sharing services to 74 million fans for safe transport to and from ballparks during the 2014 Postseason, which begins Tuesday, Sept. 30, through the entire 2015 MLB season, according to a press release. During that time, Lyft and MLB will offer free ride giveaways and special promotions for the playoffs in October.

MLB hosts over 2,000 baseball events per year, more games than any other professional league. The partnership will give Lyft, which has rapidly expanded across the U.S. this year as a competitor to Uber and other rival services, a shot to further establish greater traction in the ride-sharing industry as it and other players navigate complex regulatory hurdles to entering new markets.

TIME Auto

There’s Good News About Ford’s Hardcore New Truck

Ford Aluminum Pickup
An attendee looks at the Ford Motor Co. F-150 pickup truck during the Washington Auto Show in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ford’s big gamble moves into price point. Will it work?

fortunelogo-blue
This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

One of the most closely watched automotive introductions of recent years is set to unfold as Ford Motor Co. retail dealers begin placing orders for the aluminum-body F Series pickup trucks, scheduled to arrive before year’s end.

This week Ford told dealers the retail price of the new truck will increase from $360 for entry-level models up to $3,615 for high-line luxury versions. The base model 2015 XL F-150 starts at $26,615, up $395 or 1.5% while the top-end Platinum version starts at $52,155, up $3,055, or 6.2%.

Ford is taking a big gamble on aluminum. The new trucks will be up to 700 pounds lighter to improve fuel efficiency, relying on customers’ acceptance that the metal will prove every bit as durable as steel. Ford is sailing into uncharted waters with regard to the manufacturing process, since no automaker has ever fabricated aluminum vehicle bodies at high speed.

Collision shops and dealerships have had to buy new tools and undergo training to gain expertise in repairing aluminum.

Ford so far hasn’t released fuel efficiency figures, which means that the potential savings are unclear. If the numbers are dramatic, they could attract buyers – especially those who use pickups for commercial purposes – providing an advantage for Ford over Fiat Chrysler’s Ram pickups or Chevrolet and GMC models from General Motors.

For the rest of the story, go to Fortune.com.

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