TIME BMW

Why BMW Is Paying Some Car Owners $1,000

BMW Launch Their First All- Electric Car
Dan Kitwood—Getty Images

It's trying to get people to change their behavior

Last year, Los Angeles carved out a plan to become a national electric vehicle leader by 2017. The city has since hit a roadblock. The environment would benefit radically if everyone had an electric car, but as the electric cars become more popular, utility companies have to figure out ways to support them.

BMW and PG&E, a California utility company, have joined forces in a trial that they’re calling the “BMW iCharge Forward” program, which they hope will solve the issue. They announced the 18-month trial in January and are finally starting it this month.

PG&E will alert BMW during peak hours when it wants to limit energy consumption. The car company will then alert drivers not to charge their cars for the next hour. The drivers can select their preferred driving hours, which BMW will keep in mind when choosing which customers they’ll request to refrain from charging. The drivers can also opt out if they can’t commit to a delay.

100 BMW i3 drivers have agreed to participate. Each participant receives a $1,000 gift card at the beginning of the program, and at the end of the 18 months they’ll get a second one worth up to $540, depending on how many times they’ve complied with the delay.

TIME Ford

Crash Test Results a Blow to Ford’s New Aluminum F-150

150728_EM_FordF150
courtesy Ford The 2015 Ford F-150.

The mediocre results apply only to the lower-selling extended cab version

A crash test of Ford’s new all-aluminum, F-150 extended cab model didn’t turn out well, according to results published by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

When the truck hit a 5-foot rigid barrier at 40 miles-per-hour — a setup meant to imitate a partial head-on collision — it crunched the front driver area to a point that “seriously compromised the driver’s survival space,” IIHS said.

The poor results were specific to the extended cab version only. The better-selling F-150 crew cab received a top safety pick award from the insurer-funded group after the same tests showed the smaller cab better preserved survival space for the driver.

“Ford added structural elements to the crew cab’s front frame to earn a good small overlap rating and a top safety pick award but didn’t do the same for the extended cab,” said David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer. “That shortchanges buyers who might pick the extended cab thinking it offers the same protection in this type of crash as the crew cab. It doesn’t.”

Ford said it plans to update all its 2016 models with the extra steel to help deflect energy in the event of a crash. Ford’s F-150 pickup is the U.S.’s best-selling pickup. It’s also the company’s most profitable model. The new 2015 F-150s are also the first mass-market vehicles with an all-aluminum body.

TIME car age

Here’s Why Lots Of Cars On The Road Probably Still Have Tape Decks

Toyota Opens Hybrid Engine Factory
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

The average U.S. vehicle age has hit a record

You know that slot in the middle of your center-console that you sometimes use as an iPhone holder? Well, that’s actually a tape deck—an ancient artifact once used to play cassette tapes. But what’s it doing in your car?

According to IHS Automotive, a consulting firm that provides insight into the automotive industry, the average age of vehicles in the U.S. has reached an all-time high of 11.5 years. Cars have become much more reliable throughout the years, so they can endure the road for a significantly longer period of time. With new smartphones and other devices being released every couple of years, cars far outlive the technology that comes with them; thus, tape decks.

IHS has been tracking this data since 2002. The average car age has gradually increased each year, with an even more dramatic boost during the recession due to a 40% drop in new car sales from 2008 to 2009. The climb has since slowed, and it has started to plateau. IHS predicts that the number will reach 11.6 in 2016 and remain stagnant until 2018, when the company thinks it will hit 11.7.

In case you’re wondering, the last new car to be factory-equipped with a cassette deck in the dashboard was a 2010 Lexus, according to the New York Times.

And here’s one caveat about owning and older car: make sure it has electronic stability control, and side curtain airbags — two key safety features introduced a little over a decade ago.

MONEY Autos

This Company Just Overtook Toyota to Become the World’s Top Automaker

2015 Volkswagen Jetta
courtesy Volkswagen 2015 Volkswagen Jetta

The world really likes German engineering.

During the first six months of 2015, Toyota sold 5.02 million cars. That represents a decline of 1.5% compared to the first half of 2014. More importantly in terms of bragging rights for automakers, Toyota’s total was slightly less than German rival Volkswagen, which sold 5.04 million vehicles from January through June of 2015.

Toyota has traditionally held the top spot in terms of global auto sales, though there have been flukey years like 2011, when natural disasters in Asia pushed the automaker to third place worldwide. Volkswagen, which sold just 6.2 million cars for all of 2007, has established a goal of selling 10+ million vehicles per year by 2018, if not sooner. The automaker came close in 2013, selling 9.73 million passenger cars and superseding General Motors as the world’s #2 automaker in the process.

Volkswagen just barely crossed the 10 million sales mark in 2014, and it is on pace to do so again in 2015, perhaps while taking the overall global sales crown as well. To do so, Volkswagen, which owns Audi and Porsche in addition to its flagship mid-market brand, must continue to post big sales in China—which won’t be an easy task.

“VW is snatching the sales crown in difficult times with major car markets in decline,” Stefan Bratzel, head of Germany’s Center of Automotive Management, said to the BBC. “They will need to withstand the slowdown in China if they want to keep the top spot.”

Toyota has struggled in China and wants to improve sales there. But overall, the Japanese automaker has stressed for quite some time that it’s not particularly worried about holding the global top spot for sales. “Their focus is not No. 1,” Peggy Furusaka, a Tokyo- based auto-credit analyst at Moody’s Investors Service, observed in January. “Toyota is more concerned about keeping profitability than chasing numbers. So for coming years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Toyota selling fewer cars than Volkswagen.”

MONEY Autos

Chrysler’s Parent Hit by Recalls and Monster Fine

Millions of Fiat Chrysler vehicles have been recalled for faulty air bags and cyberattack vulnerabilities.

MONEY Autos

Get Ready for a Jaguar You Might Actually Be Able to Afford

The entry-level Jaguar XE is no slouch.

Behold the Jaguar XE. It’s an all-new car from Jaguar, a British sports sedan aimed at taking away market share from the Germans.

The bad news. You can’t have it yet. The sedan won’t be available in North America until next year, although it’s already on sale in Europe. Blame the fact that the company is waiting until the all-important all-wheel-drive model is ready, a critical selling point in the snowier parts of the States and Canada.

The good news. We had an early drive of the car in northern Spain, and it proved a compelling alternative to the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Jaguar has been the lucky recipient of a huge influx of research and development dollars from its owner, Tata Motors, and the XE is a clear example of the movement to make the boutique car company more competitive. Jaguar’s sales numbers are low, and the brand dearly needs a contender in the luxury compact sedan segment.

To that, the engineers went all out. The XE is built from aluminum, its engines are fresh and capable, and the interior layout and electronic systems have been thoughtfully conceived.

We’ll get both a 340-hp, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel variant with 180 hp. Both are easy engines to live with. The V-6 sounds great and is potent when it needs to be, and the torque-rich diesel is an ideal tool for long highway drives.

The XE has the obvious dimensions of a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive car. To my mind it isn’t quite as sensuous as it might be, with the body lines a bit too rounded and soft. It lacks the sharp angularity and brash attitude of the all-new Audi A4, or the obvious sporting intentions of the BMW 3 Series.

But that aesthetic difference may also be one of its major selling points. The exterior is less in-your-face than is the Germans’ wont, with a good measure of British reserve showing through. Some buyers don’t want to look like they’re always in a hurry, with a predatory stance and grille hunched to the pavement.

This ethos translates to the ride as well. The suspension lends a happy, cushy equanimity, sashaying over crumbling asphalt and evening out bumps. Carrying medium speed, it rolls a bit into corners. Push it beyond that, interestingly, and its relative lightness and aluminum chassis begin working for it. On a series of twisting mountain roads, I blasted through tight turns, limited far more by the tires than the agility of the suspension.

Over a long day of driving, that was our takeaway. The XE is competing with the Germans, but it doesn’t really want to be German. It’s looking for the kind of buyers who want something else.

Read next: For About $78,000, You Can Buy an ‘Entry Level’ Maserati

TIME car hacking

Your Car Isn’t Safe From Hackers. Here’s Why

Jeep Cherokee Runs into Trouble
Darren McCollester—Getty Images A Jeep Cherokee.

Hacker carjackers are able to break into hundreds of thousands of vehicles on the road right now

The next time you’re buckled in behind the wheel, you may want to ask yourself: Am I really in control?

Two computer hackers have spent the past year cracking the digital defenses of Internet-connected vehicles. And what they’ve discovered is disturbing.

Charlie Miller, a security engineer at Twitter, and Chris Valasek, director of vehicle safety research at the cybersecurity firm IOActive, can take over certain vulnerable automobiles with ease. The pair recently demonstrated their abilities on a Jeep Cherokee, remotely hacking into the highway-cruising vehicle from miles away, as Wired reported.

“Their code is an automaker’s nightmare,” wrote Wired reporter Andy Greenberg, who intrepidly volunteered to serve as a crash test dummy for the hacker duo. “Software that lets hackers send commands through the Jeep’s entertainment system to its dashboard functions, steering, brakes, and transmission, all from a laptop that may be across the country.”

The remote attack could be used to compromise as many as 471,000 vehicles on the road today, the team estimates.

In 2013, the team similarly hacked into other cars, such as a Ford Escape and Toyota Prius. However, in those cases the two used computers that were plugged directly into the car’s dashboard.

Miller and Valasek plan to reveal more information about how they pulled off the Jeep stunt at the Black Hat conference next month. In the meantime, all they’ve said is that the trick involves using a cellular connection to break into the car’s entertainment system through a feature called UConnect. From there, they’re able to move laterally into other electronic parts of the vehicle, such as the air conditioning, transmission, and even the car’s steering controls.

Despite the security risks, automakers are more determined than ever to win the connected car race, and to turn their vehicles into computers. (And the reverse: Apple trying to turn its computers into cars.) Recently, a dozen of the top companies such as Ford and General Motors joined a coalition to share security data to protect their latest innovations from compromise.

In these early days, though, it seems the hackers have an edge. Watch the hackers’ antics in Wired’s video here.

TIME Apple

Apple’s Hiring More Car Industry Experts For a Secret Project

Transportation Sec'y Foxx Discusses Future Transportation Trends With Google CEO
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A Google self-driving car.

The project’s code-named ‘Titan’

First, Apple revolutionized the Walkman, then the cell phone, and later the watch. Now, Apple seems to be planning on reinventing the car, hiring experts from across the auto industry.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Apple has hired Doug Betts, a longtime auto industry expert who previously headed up global quality at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Earlier this year, Apple brought on Paul Furgale, an autonomous vehicle researcher in Switzerland, as well as hundreds of others from the auto industry.

The team for the secret project, code-named “Titan,” is working on creating an Apple-branded electric car, the Journal said. Some reports indicate that the car will be self-driving, but because Apple hasn’t said anything about the project, it’s difficult to parse out rumors from reality.

If the reports are true, however, then Apple will likely be going brain-to-brain with Google in seeking to produce a self-driving, electric car. The Google car, which has been explicitly discussed by the company, will be self-driving, and prototypes are already roving the streets of Mountain View, Calif. The autonomous cars have so far logged more than 2 million test miles, according to USA Today.

Of course, both Google and Apple will have a long way to go before electric, autonomous cars are in the hands of consumers. But Apple’s collection of auto industry experts potentially lends gravitas to a project that has long been obscured by rumor.

TIME Autos

Toyota’s New Trucks Will Come With a GoPro Mount

2016 Toyota Tacoma
Andrew Harrer—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LP 2016 Toyota Tacoma

Perfect for off-roading adventures

Have you ever wanted to record and broadcast all the the exploits you get into while driving your pickup truck? If so, Toyota is making it easier than ever to do just that.

Every 2016 Toyota Tacoma is going to come with a camera mount, ready for a GoPro device. The camera itself isn’t included, but Wired predicts it will be a popular throw-in for dealers trying to close the deal with potential customers.

This is the first time a carmaker has put a GoPro mount on a vehicle, but it is in keeping with the other products favored by “adventure sports” enthusiasts.

MONEY Autos

Google Blames Humans for Self-Driving Car Crash — Again

If the pod bay door doesn't open, Dave, it's your fault.

Google reports that one of its self-driving cars was involved in an accident July 1—apparently the first such accident in which humans suffered an injury (“a bit of minor whiplash,” according to a post on Medium by Chris Urmson, who heads up Google’s driverless car program). As with prior collisions, Google says, the fault wasn’t with the driverless car, which was stopped behind two other cars at the entry to an intersection, but with the driver of the car behind Google’s. That car never decelerated, says Google, and hit the driverless vehicle at 17 miles per hour. “This certainly seems like the driver was distracted and not watching the road ahead,” writes Urmson.

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