MONEY Autos

Get Behind the Wheel of a New Porsche…for Just $300

For the price of a speeding ticket, you can drive a Boxster or a 911 Carrera.

Race a brand-new Porsche for $300 — with a no-ticket guarantee!

Most Porsche models carry hefty sticker prices that keep them out of the reach of most people. But now, in its new Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta, you can climb behind the wheel of any Porsche and drive it on a track with a pro for only a few hundred dollars.

For many people, Porsche 911 sports cars, Panamera GTS sedans and Cayenne Turbo SUVs represent two pinnacles—excellent German engineering and cost. But as Porsche continues to grow its model line-up, the company has a vested interest in getting more consumers to experience its vehicles as well as its brand.

Last year, Porsche brought its new luxury compact crossover utility vehicle, the Macan, to the US market. The CUV starts at $49,900 and joins the Boxster ($51,400) at the entry level end of the lineup. To get more potential buyers into seats, the company has just opened a $100 million, 27-acre facility in Atlanta, where real people can sign up for 90 minutes of driving in any Porsche ($300 for a Boxster, up to $750 to compare a 911 Turbo with a GT3), get hours of track time on the 1.6-mile road circuit (or put SUVs on the off-road course), and get professional instruction.

Inside, customers can enjoy a meal in the Restaurant 356, use a racing simulator, or buy everything from fan gear to watches and leather jackets. Porsche will also rent out space for private events and business conferences.

My favorite stop: The Human Performance Center, where fitness experts can evaluate your physical strength, stamina, nutritional status — even your hydration levels. The Performance Center offers a menu of options, from a 90-minute assessment ($140) all the way up to a 12-month executive plan ($650).

MONEY Gas

Low Gas Prices Expected Until at Least 2017

OPEC doesn't plan to cut production.

OPEC’s long-term strategy report, shown to Reuters in advance of a June summit, shows the 12-nation cartel thinks no one plans to slow oil production. With the cost of a barrel of oil about half what it was last year, that’s good news for drivers who can expect low gas prices until at least 2017.

TIME Uber

Here’s Uber’s Plan for a New Sci-fi Headquarters

Photo courtesy of Uber

Fast-growing company will be moving into fancy new offices

Ride sharing service Uber is planning a fancy new headquarters to go with its recent stratospheric $50 billion valuation.

Futuristic buildings will be connected by glass walkways, according to designs recently released by the company.

The new headquarters, located in San Francisco’s Mission Bay, is expected to open by late 2017 or early 2018, according to Quartz. It will be comprised of a six-story building at 1515 Third St. as well as an 11-story building at 1455 Third St.

The buildings were designed by Shop Architects PC, a New York City firm. The structures measure approximately 423,000 square feet, which the San Francisco Chronicle reported last year will triple Uber’s footprint in the city.

Business software giant Salesforce previously occupied the space.

It will be the eighth move for Uber, according to the Chronicle.

Here are a couple more images of the designs:

Uber headquarters
Photo courtesy of Uber
Uber headquarters 3
Photo courtesy of Uber

 

TIME Autos

Watch BMW Test Driverless Cars and Virtual Reality

With tech companies on its heel, the top premium car maker taps the Internet to try and win the next race

Automakers have never had so much in common with Silicon Valley. Car makers are increasingly relying on technology to develop, market and sell cars to consumers. In fact, most of the world’s major auto companies established research and development labs of one sort or another in the Bay Area. BMW and Volkswagen set up shop there in 1998, General Motors in 2006, Toyota and Ford in 2012, Renault-Nissan in 2013. The automotive industry spends some $100 billion globally on R&D annually, about 16% of the world’s total for all industries.

Likewise, Bay Area firms are also increasingly interested in autos. Ever since the dawn of the personal computer, Silicon Valley has been inventing or reinventing new gadgets: the music player, the phone, the computer first as a phone and, later, as a tablet. Amazon remade the mall. Netflix and YouTube remade TV. Elon Musk’s Tesla notwithstanding, the last great remaining American preoccupation that tech hasn’t widely tackled is the automobile.

MORE: See Inside BMW’s Secret Design Lab

But automakers have a significantly more difficult task integrating technology into their vehicles. Where a new version of an Android phone, for example, might be reasonably expected to last its owner two or three years, most cars are on the roads for decades. That means built-in technology has to last over a much longer time fame. Legislation, as the fights over Tesla’s dealership model and Google’s self-driving cars have shown, can be limiting. And some high-tech bells and whistles simply never take. For every innovation like GPS navigation, there’s a numeric key pad.

In this video, TIME looks at how the top-selling premium manufacturer BMW is exploring new technology ranging from self-driving vehicles to virtual reality in an effort to keep pace with the competition.

TIME Autos

Ford’s Zipcar-Killer Is Launching in This City

Ford Brings Dynamic Car-Sharing Experiment to London; First Serv
Ford Ford Brings Dynamic Car-Sharing Experiment to London

It's an on-demand rental service called "GoDrive"

Ford is going head-to-head with Zipcar as it launches its new GoDrive car rental service in London.

The app-based service will allow users to pick up one of Ford’s 50 vehicles on-demand and drop it off at one of a number of hubs across central London. When a users books a car through the service, they automatically book a parking spot at one the 20 available locations, making one-way trips stress-free.

The service uses a pay-per-minute pricing approach that covers all fees, including congestion fees, insurance and fuel. A pilot program launched earlier this year with 100 members. Ford is now extending GoDrive’s reach to 2,000 members.

The global car-sharing industry is expected to exceed $6 billion by 2020, and the U.K. car-sharing sector alone is expected to grow 23% from 2013 to 2015, according to PwC research. But even as the industry booms, car-sharers are looking for more flexibility.

“Our research tells us that car clubs currently are perceived as inflexible when it comes to booking, time slots and return locations,”said Alicia Agius, project lead, GoDrive, Ford of Europe. “Features such as one-way journeys and pay-as-you-go extend the number of opportunities that drivers would want to car-share and could prove a game-changer.”

GoDrive is Ford’s move to take on car-sharing kings like Zipcar as well as ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft which are trying to become realistic replacements for car ownership, especially in major metropolitan areas. The service is also an opportunity for Ford to show off its electric vehicles. Half of the GoDrive fleet will consist of zero-emission Focus electric models.

The London launch is still in beta phase, and the automaker plans to tweak its service as it learns more about its members. Ford is also exploring car-sharing experiments in Germany, India and the U.S.

TIME Autos

Everything You Need to Know About Android Auto

Android Auto
Raymond Boyd/Getty Images 2015 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T at the 107th Annual Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois on FEBRUARY 13, 2015.

Reviewers say it trounces old-school in-car navigation systems

Google’s operating system for cars has finally arrived. Android Auto, which lets drivers control popular smartphone apps through their car’s dashboard interface, is now available in the 2015 Hyundai Sonata and will be rolled out to additional vehicles in the future.

Here are the key insights from reviewers at The Verge and the Wall Street Journal who have taken Android Auto for a test drive.

Android Auto truly replaces your phone

While driving, Google wants you to put your phone away completely and rely on Android Auto to make phone calls, get directions, queue up music and even send texts. Drivers are locked out of their smartphones while the device is connected to Android Auto. Apps like Maps are as fully-featured through the car as they are on a smartphone (though you can’t look up walking or transit directions).

You’ll be doing a lot of talking

In order to increase driver safety, Android Auto encourages people to use voice commands instead of having drivers type information. You can simply speak to ask Android Auto for directions or to place a call. The app itself is pretty talky as well. For instance, it will read aloud text messages you receive and also read back texts that you dictate before you send them off to friends.

Music is at your fingertips

Listening to music is one of the most common activities in the car, and it’s a key part of Anroid Auto. Currently compatible services include Google Play Music, Spotify and iHeartRadio (Pandora isn’t currently supported). Users can use voice search to find songs or artists, though reviewers said the feature worked much better with Google Play Music than with third-party apps. There’s also a quirk that limits how far drivers can scroll through a playlist in order to prevent long periods of distraction from the road, so it would be hard to comb through a whole music library using the app.

Your car is now your personal assistant

In addition to expected features like navigation and music playback, Android Auto makes use of Google’s digital assistant Google Now to offer context-sensitive suggestions for getting through your day. The app may present navigation directions to your office when you get in the car in the morning, for example, or present the route home when you boot up the car in the evening.

Overall, reviewers tended to agree that Android Auto is a big step up from the clunky navigation systems that have become standard in many new cars. With Apple’s CarPlay also planned to roll out to more vehicles soon, expect the smartphone to soon become a standard tool for in-car navigation and communication.

MONEY Autos

Why Your Toyota Prius Could Make You a Theft Target

JAPAN-AUTO-TOYOTA
KAZUHIRO NOGI—AFP/Getty Images An employee fixes a main battery of the hybrid system in Toyota Motor's Prius.

Hint: A Tesla Model S driver wouldn't have this problem.

Hybrid cars are increasingly the target of theft, thanks to lightweight batteries that are easy to steal—at least for thieves who know what they’re doing.

Toyota Prius drivers in San Francisco seem to be getting the worst of it, a California ABC affiliate reports, with several thefts across the city in recent months.

Though there’s a serious risk of electrocution, thieves in the area have succeeded in quickly cutting cables attached to the 200-volt batteries, then removing them within about 20 minutes.

Prius batteries can go for as much as $1,000 on Craigslist, a tidy profit given the speed of the job.

Unfortunately for Prius drivers, replacing a stolen battery can cost about $3,000—and once you account for the cost of other repairs, like replacing broken windows, the final bill could be as high as $10,000. Buying a used battery online might be cheaper, but then you can’t be sure of just how used it is (or whether it was come by honestly).

Despite the risks involved, what makes the theft relatively easy is portability: The battery in the Prius weighs only about 150 pounds. Compare that to the Tesla Model S battery, which weighs more than 1,000 pounds.

If you own a Prius, there are a few steps you can take to prevent theft, including replacing the bolts fastening down your battery with tamper-proof ones.

MONEY Autos

Watch Out for More Google Self-Driving Cars

Google’s latest in-house autonomous vehicles are now cleared for testing on public roads.

TIME Autos

Google’s New Self-Driving Cars Will Hit the Road This Summer

Company's tiny sedan will roam Mountain View autonomously

Google’s self-driving cars are taking to the open road in the coming months.

The company announced Friday that its compact prototype vehicle will begin driving on public streets in Mountain View, Calif. this summer. Though the cars are autonomous, each will be manned by a safety driver aboard who can use a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal and brake pedal if need be. The vehicles’ speed will be capped at 25 miles per hour.

The arrival of the Google-built cars on public roads follows Google’s extensive tests of a fleet of Lexus SUVs the company turned into self-driving vehicles. Those cars have driven nearly one million miles autonomously and are now traveling about 10,000 miles per week.

Earlier this week, Google revealed that its self-driving cars have been involved in 11 minor accidents over the last six years, though the company says they were all the fault of other human drivers that collided with Google’s vehicles.

MONEY Autos

Volvo to Open First U.S. Factory in South Carolina

The Swedish car maker is coming to America, opening a factory near Charleston, S.C. that Volvo says will create 4,000 new jobs.

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