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Tag Archives: NAIAS08

[NAIAS 2008] Auto Show Wrap-up – Going Green, Electric Cars And A Company Called Coskata

Chevrolet Volt Concept (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

When the Chevrolet Volt concept was revealed at last year’s NAIAS it not only made headlines in the major automotive publications and websites, but throughout the gadget and technology blogging community as well. Normally you have to stick a 32-inch LCD TV in the trunk of a car for it to be considered ‘gadget-fare’ but the Volt stood on its own as a great piece of technological innovation. And while there’s no doubt we’ll all be driving electric cars like the Volt some day, there are still some big hurdles to overcome before that’s a reality.

As much as I’d like to walk into a dealership right now and buy myself a Volt, it hasn’t officially been announced as a production vehicle just yet. While at the show I had an opportunity to speak to Tony Posawatz, the Volt’s Vehicle Line Director and Denise Gray who’s the Director of Hybrid Energy Storage Systems at GM. They both admitted that the biggest hurdle for the Volt to overcome was the current state of lithium ion batteries. A 20-hour battery life for an MP3 player might be totally acceptable, but if a larger version of that battery can only power a car for 3 miles, consumers just won’t buy it. And besides performance, there’s a long list of other issues that have to be dealt with on a battery designed to power something as large as a car. But GM has apparently been working hard with a handful of other companies to overcome these problems, and they’re confident they’ll be able to bring an affordable production version of the Volt to the masses in just a couple of years. (And by affordable I mean in comparison to expensive high-performance electric cars like the Tesla or Karma.)

But while the Volt and other hybrid vehicles will no doubt be a big step towards reducing our dependency on fossil fuels, there are still millions of vehicles on the road that exclusively rely on gasoline. It would be great if everyone was willing to just trade in their cars for a hybrid or electric model right now, but that’s simply not going to happen. So dealing with those legacy vehicles is probably the biggest obstacle when it comes to weaning the world off of gasoline.

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[NAIAS 2008] Hands-On With The Ford SYNC System

Ford SYNC (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

At the top of my list of things to see at the NAIAS this year was Ford’s new SYNC system. The company has been heavily marketing it as of late, and I’m sure any of you who are addicted to TV as much as me have seen the clever ‘Michael Bolton’ ad they’ve been running. At its core, SYNC is a voice recognition system that ties together your car’s stereo with your cellphone and MP3 player. A USB jack hidden in a compartment between the front seats allows you to connect any iPod (except the shuffle) or a Zune (given the SYNC software was developed by Microsoft) which then gives you access to your MP3 collection through the car stereo. Any time you want to initiate a voice command there’s a button on the steering wheel you need to press, but otherwise searching through your music and playing a particular genre or artist is pretty much hands-free.

And besides the slick voice recognition stuff, I think people will particularly like the SYNC’s ability to communicate with your cellphone via bluetooth. Now bbviously your phone has to have bluetooth capabilities in order for this to work, but based on this compatibility list on the SYNC website, it looks like a good majority of current phones on the market will work just fine. Once connected you’re not only able to make and receive calls via voice recognition, but you also have access to everything on your phone from your contact list, to MP3s, to even ringtones. The system is even able to hand-off or receive phone calls from your cellphone if you’re in the middle of a conversation while exiting or entering the vehicle.

Another clever feature is SYNC’s ability to read back text messages you get while driving. It’s even smart enough to recognize smiley faces, or LOL shortcuts, though I have to admit hearing a computer voice read back ‘laugh out loud’ takes away some of the dramatic effect. At the moment you’re limited to responding to text messages with one of 15 preset messages, but I was told that the ability to dictate a custom response should eventually be included. While it would be nice if everyone just stopped using a cellphone while driving, it’s just not going to happen. So providing a system like this that at least keeps the drivers hands on the steering wheel is a big improvement.

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[NAIAS 2008] Obligatory Ferrari And Lamborghini Gallery

Ferrari 430 Scuderia (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

When I was younger I thought the Ferrari and Lamborghini represented the ultimate in cars, but these days I’m not quite as infatuated. Now don’t get me wrong, if either one handed me a set of keys and told me to go crazy, I would probably burn through a tank or two of gas. Both companies have ridiculously well-engineered and assembled supercars, but given the choice of what to buy if money were no option, these wouldn’t be at the top of my list.

Lamborghini Murcielago LP 640 Coupe (Image property of OhGizmo!)

Of course based on the number of photographers swirling around both booths every time I walked by, it’s clear I’m in the minority. Also I’m sure it didn’t hurt that both Ferrari and Lamborghini were the only booths with models on hand during the press-only days.

You can find quite a few more pics of what Ferrari and Lamborghini brought to the show after the jump, and if anyone wants larger versions of any photo, just let me know in the comments.

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[NAIAS 2008] Audi R8 V12 TDI Concept – I’ll Take Ten

Audi R8 V12 TDI Concept (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

Earlier, I mentioned that the Corvette ZR-1 was 1 of 2 vehicles I would gladly leave the show with this year. Well here’s the other one. The Audi R8 V12 TDI concept is the first 12-cylinder diesel engine to find its way into a high-performance roadgoing sports car. Until now diesel engines have offered a poor ratio when it comes to power output vs. weight, so while they’re ideal for a massive ocean-going freighter, they’re not so great for a high-performance supercar.

Audi R8 V12 TDI Concept (Image property of OhGizmo!)

Not surprisingly the V12 TDI engine in the R8 is closely related to the engine used in the company’s Le Mans winning R10, with a few modifications made to improve the center-of-gravity, as well as making it fit into the narrower engine compartment of the roadgoing R8. What you end up with is a 0 to 60 time of 4.2 seconds, a top speed of about 186mph and 738 lb-ft of torque.

You’ll find some more pics of the Audi R8 V12 TDI after the jump, including a shot of the V12 engine itself.

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[NAIAS 2008] Fisker Automotive Karma – Another High Performance Electric

Fisker Automotive Karma (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

Another anticipated reveal at this year’s NAIAS was Fisker Automotive’s range extended electric vehicle (or REEV) called the Karma. Like the Chevrolet Volt, the Karma can operate on pure electric power for a limited range (about 50 miles) before a traditional combustion engine takes over. But since most people don’t drive 50 miles every day, there’s a good chance you won’t need to use the traditional engine that often, which also means far less trips to the gas station.

Fisker Automotive Karma (Image property of OhGizmo!)

But while the Karma is expected to launch in the forth quarter of 2009, don’t expect to see one in every driveway right away. For starters the car has two separate drivetrains, one for the electric motor and one for the combustion engine, and it also has an expensive set of solar panels on the roof resulting in a price tag of about $80,000. While the company admits the Karma is being marketed as a high performance sports car, the track record of the Tesla has probably made people a bit cautious about the success of an electric vehicle coming from a small manufacturer.

More shots of the Fisker Automotive Karma are available after the jump.

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[NAIAS 2008] Cadillac CTS Coupe Concept… Or Maybe Not?

Cadillac CTS Coupe Concept (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

I’ve been attending the NAIAS for many, many years now, and one trend I’ve recently noticed is the tendency for concept vehicles to be considerably less outrageous in design than in years gone by. At one time concepts were a look into the far-off future of the automobile, but these days it seems they’re designed with the possibility of being put into production in only a couple of years. I think the trend started with VW’s ‘Beetle’ concept a few years back, which we all know went into production a few years later. But it’s since continued with cars like the PT Cruiser and more recently the Dodge Challenger and the Chevrolet Camaro. And for the record, you’ll hear no complaints from me.

Cadillac CTS Coupe Concept (Image property of OhGizmo!)

According to Inside Line as reported by Autoblog, it looks like the Cadillac CTS Coupe concept, which was introduced at this years NAIAS will actually go into production in mid-2009 as a 2010 model. There will be some slight changes made to the concept to make it production-friendly, but the final design should closely mirror the concept rolled out this year.

You can find more pics of the Cadillac CTS Coupe concept after the jump.

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[NAIAS 2008] Hands-On With The Cadillac CTS Info/Entertainment System

Cadillac CTS (Image property of OhGizmo!)By Andrew Liszewski

CNET recently awarded the 2008 Cadillac CTS as the ‘Tech Car of the Year’ in its 2007 Car Tech Awards. And if you had told me this before I attended the NAIAS this year, I would have thought it to be an odd choice. Even though the CTS looks nothing like the Cadillac of yesteryear, I still wouldn’t have considered the brand to be a leader when it came to the in-car technologies that interest me most.

But I’m happy to admit I was wrong. While at the show I was able to get a private demo of the Cadillac CTS‘ stereo and navigation system from Randy Schwarz who’s the Vehicle Line Executive of Global Luxury RWD at GM. When you get into the car one of the dominating features is the center stack where all of the ‘goodies’ are laid out. At the top is a small LCD display that actually rises to reveal a larger, touch screen version which is easily the best way to navigate the stereo or GPS system.

The stand-out feature of the CTS is the included 40GB hard drive. Using a built in USB jack you can copy MP3s from a flash drive onto the drive, allowing you to port your MP3 collection (or at least a small chunk of it) to the vehicle. Alternately you can simply insert an audio CD and let the stereo automatically rip it to the drive. Track information is then provided by Gracenote (formerly CDDB) saving you the hassle of having to enter it by hand. Of course hard drive based stereo systems are nothing new, but the CTS’ ability to record up to 60 minutes of XM or live radio is. Basically it works like a TIVO for radio, allowing you to pause or record any station and play it back later. While this feature probably isn’t that useful for building a music collection, it’s ideal if you’re a sports fan or talk radio junkie.

If you’re interested, after the jump I also take a look at the navigation features of the CTS’ including the integrated traffic system.

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[NAIAS 2008] Ford’s VJ Hub Experience

Ford's VJ Hub (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

As a technology writer walking the floor of the auto show, you spend as much time looking at the cars as you do at the booths themselves. And from all the trade shows I’ve ever been to or seen over the years, the NAIAS has some of the most impressive (and largest) booths of any show. Ford was reusing the same booth style it had last year, but there was one new addition that caught my eye. The VJ Hub Experience offered a unique way for visitors to interact with the booth’s giant displays, as well as provide valuable feedback to the company.

Ford's VJ Hub (Image property of OhGizmo!)

A set of 3 connected LCDs and a series of small camera-equipped kiosks allowed visitors to answer a series of questions or take photos of themselves that could later be included on the gigantic displays circling the booth. You could also upload photos or videos to the system with a bluetooth equipped phone. A behind-the-scenes ‘VJ’ was responsible for mixing the photos into the demo reel shown on the floor, as well as removing any NSFT (not safe for tradeshow) images.

You can find some more detailed photos of the setup after the jump, as well as some more descriptions of how the VJ Hub worked.

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[NAIAS 2008] Mazda Furai Concept

Mazda Furai Concept (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

A lot of times when you look at a concept vehicle you have to wonder what the designers were thinking. This is not one of those times. The Mazda Furai (which means ‘sound of the wind’ in Japanese) is a result of the company’s Nagare design language which apparently describes the flow of water, air, people or things moving in one direction. And when you look at the car, it’s impressive how the design cues get the idea of ‘flow’ across, even when it’s not moving.

Mazda Furai Concept (Image property of OhGizmo!)

Under the hood (in a manner of speaking) you’ll find a 450 hp three-rotor rotary engine that actually runs on 100% ethanol produced in partnership with British Petroleum. (BP) If you plan on visiting the show when it’s open to the public next week you might want to stop by the Mazda exhibit early, as this one will surely attract a big crowd.

More pics are available after the jump.

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