BMW to Release AI Personal Assistant System in Vehicles

The way people interact while in their vehicles is changing. To keep up, vehicles are incorporating more technology; high definition screens and supercomputers are taking the place of buttons and knobs.

BMW has introduced an AI-powered system called Intelligent Personal Assistant that allows drivers to communicate with their vehicle as they do with their smartphone. The digital assistant can control entertainment systems, navigation, and vehicle settings while drivers can focus on the road. Driving will become more convenient as drivers are able to multitask while remaining safe. The technology is expected to release next year.

BMW isn’t the first to take on the concept, Mercedes is releasing a similar AI system called Mercedes Benz User Experience, or MBUX for short, that will released in this year’s A-Class sedan.

Dieter May, BMW Group’s Senior Vice President of digital products noted that values are shifting in the auto industry, powertrain is taking a back seat to in car digital experience.

May states the technology is not about voice commands, but “building a digital character which you can interact with”. The smart assistant responds to “Hey BMW”, but the name can be changed if the driver prefers. Artificial Intelligence allows the in car assistant to become smarter with each interaction, question, and command. In time, the assistant learns driver setting preferences and is able to make adjustments from non-specific requests. For example, saying “Hey BMW, I’m tired, adjusts lighting, music, and temperature to keep the driver awake and alert.

Further, BMW personal assistant can read e-mails, sync your calendar, choose optimal routes, remind you when service is due, and even schedule the service for you, talk about convenience.

Technology has become a driving force in auto sales, especially among younger generations. Many show willingness to give up their preferred color, brand, or style in pursuit of a vehicle with new innovative technology. The introduction of AI in BMW’s creates a new driver experience with the latest in digital interaction. The intelligent personal assistant will differentiate the BMW brand from competitors, but it’s only a matter of time before other automakers hop on board.

Autonomous Technology Could Put a Stop to Colored Cars

Cars come in a variety of colors from bright reds, to mild blues, to simple black and white.  It has been reported that many autonomous vehicles experience trouble picking up certain colored cars.  The best color choice is white.  The challenge comes from the lidar systems, which see highly-reflective colors like white better than other colors.  How many users would forgo a bright colored car if it meant a safer driving option on the road?

According to the Detroit Free Press, the lidar system has a hard time seeing dark colors and paints that are less reflective.  The issue isn’t as large as it seems, as we still have human drivers behind the wheel. However, as the technology progresses, it could pose an issue.

It has been reported that even road signs can be of trouble to autonomous vehicles because they are meant for the human eye. While human eyes adjust, the lidar system has a tough time seeing dark colors that absorb light.  As autonomous technology replaces humans, colors for vehicles will need to be bright enough for sensors to see, but not too dark where sensors will not see anything at all. Several studies are underway to solve the issue, but they require resting various paints and conditions in which we drive our cars.

The industry is specifically working to correct any issues related to autonomous cars.

Nissan Begins Production on new Leaf-based Electric Car in China

China has enforced a zero-emission vehicle mandate, bringing the country to the forefront of the electric vehicle race.  Nissan has begun production of a new leaf-based electric car in China, that will be priced at just $24,000 USD.  The company announced a deal through it’s joint-venture to mass produce zero emission vehicles in China earlier this year.  The vehicle is built on a leaf platform uses electric to further power it.

The range will be approximately 338 kilometers once completed.  The “Sylphy” has been around as a gasoline-powered car for some time.  The electric version is similar to the Leaf in many ways, but also seems to be more aesthetically pleasing for consumers.

The company states that they expect the car to become a “main player” in the EV market. Hiroto Saikawa, Nissan Motor president and CEO states that ““Growth in the Chinese market is a critical part of Nissan’s midterm plan, Nissan M.O.V.E. to 2022. China is already the world’s largest automotive market. But China isn’t just a leader in terms of market size: It stands at the forefront of the development of the industry itself. The market is now evolving extremely quickly, especially in the areas of electrification and connectivity. In fact, China is expected to lead the world in the adoption and spread of EVs in the coming years. We’re confident that the Sylphy Zero Emission rolling off the production line today will become a main player in the EV market here. It’s going to pave the way for our Nissan Intelligent Mobility strategy in the Chinese market.”

With proven technology as a part of the Leaf, the starting price is reasonable for such a vehicle.  Nissan has not confirmed any specific volume in production, but has discussed mass-producing the new electric car. Some conclude that the vehicle is further proof that China’s electric vehicle policies are working very well.

2 Honda Vehicles Rated “Superior” in Safety Tests

The 2019 Honda Pilot has now joined the 2019 Honda Insight hybrid. Both vehicles have earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick+ rating.

Earning the prestigious rating is no easy task, vehicles must have advanced front crash prevention that earns an “advanced” or “superior” rating and earn the highest rating of “good” in numerous categories including small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. Both Honda vehicles passed the toughest task of all- earning the highest rating for the headlight category.

The latest crossover now has a standard crash-prevention system, which was rated “superior” for avoiding collision in the 12-mph test and reduced impact in the 25-mph test.  The headlights are available in LED, and come with high-beam assist.

One individual stated “Honda is becoming the standard for safety in the industry.  Especially when they aren’t a high-cost luxury brand vehicle.”

 

Swap a lease: BMW increases spending, Q2 profits fall 6%

BMW reported a 6.3% dip in second quarter profits at a quarterly conference in Munich.

Earnings after taxes came out to $2.43 billion down from $2.58 in the previous year. The loss is result of the emerging trade war between the U.S and China along with increased spending develop electric and autonomous vehicles.

While it’s too early to know the impact, China retaliated to tariffs imposed with a 40% tax on US car imports forcing BMW to raise prices 4-7% on X-5 and X-6 models made in South Carolina. The impact on sales is expected to be minimal and BMW has no plans to reduce or relocate production in the United States or because of tariffs.

Despite decreased profits, BMW has seen an increase in vehicle sales, up 4,000 in the second quarter. The German Automaker prides themselves on their flexibility, claiming their long-term strategy has helped protect them from tariffs. Amid trade disputes, Harald Kruger says the company endures through the build up of local production. Vehicles are produced where BMW sells them: Asia, Europe, and The Americas.

Attributing to lower profits, BMW has been stepping up their investments. The automaker spent $50 million towards an expansion project and 2.61 billion euros on research and development focused on new technology. A key area of the spending has been on electric cars for which BMW has seen a 42% increase in sales.

Recently, the US and Europe made a trade agreement to hold off on tariffs until further talks. Kruger views this as a good step and is hopeful that trade talks “can be carried out in a constructive dialogue.”

While the Q2 decrease in profits may indicate otherwise, BMW remains the largest U.S exporter and they maintain their $600 million dollar plans to expand the Spartanburg plant, ramping up X production 450,000 cars a year.

Volkswagen may have to recall 124,000 cars for presence of poisonous cadmium

Germany’s auto industry has had a great year with a bright future ahead, but not every automaker is experiencing success. Following a massive emissions scandal, German automaker Volkswagen attempts to rebuild trust in the brand but is faced with a new crisis.

Reportedly, the presence of Cadmium, a poisonous heavy metal, was cited in the charger component of electric and hybrid cars. According to German magazine Wirtschaftswoche, Volkswagen may have to recall up to 124,000 vehicles of this kind. Audi and Porsche vehicles, the luxury brands of Volkswagen group, are included in the range of cars in question.

Cadmium is carcinogenic and therefore banned in most auto industries. With 0.0008 grams of the toxic metal each in charging device in question, Volkswagen indicates users would be protected from exposure during the vehicle’s life due to strong insulation. Allegedly, VW’s supplier never mentioned cadmium content and Volkswagen was unaware of it’s presence in the chargers.

Volkswagen is complying with the German Federal Motor Transport Authority and stated that if necessary, they will recall the vehicles. If Volkswagen recalls the vehicles, they will be faced with the major concern of safely disposing of cadmium waste.

In the meantime, series production and delivery of said vehicles was halted immediately. A new supplier replaced the charging component and production has since proceeded, cadmium free.

Volkswagen seems to have hit a rough patch and the presence of cadmium is the latest to join the long list of problems threatening profits. Now is a seemingly fit time for the VW Group to reconsider plans moving forward.

IIHS reveals top safety pick

Earning the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick distinction becomes increasingly challenging each year. To qualify, vehicles must earn the top score in five different crash tests which go far beyond federal tests. This year, Toyota overcame with ease and was the only vehicle in the large-car class to achieve the this years accolade.

 

IIHS has reported that 2019 Toyota Avalon has the highest safety rating, earning the Top Safety Pick award. Securing the top score in almost every category, the Avalon held strong in extensive crash testing. The Avalon’s crash-prevention technology, which boasts active and passive safety systems along with superior automatic breaking, earned an exceptional rating with impressive stats. The auto breaking system prevented crashes at 12 and 25 mph. Notably, this is safety feature is standard across all Avalon model trims.

 

Despite standard safety features, there is considerable discrepancy between trims for their headlight quality. When it came to evaluations, the more expensive trims proved superior, earning higher ratings than standard models. Thanks to LED projector headlights, the Limited and Touring models provided remarkable visibility while standard models struggled. Lacking low beam visibility generated poor ratings for XLE and XSE models.

 

The 2019 Avalon is new and greatly improved; in addition to top of the line safety, it cruises on a 3.5 L V 6 engine with 301 horsepower. The 2019 Avalon will remain Toyota’s flagship sedan,only with more upscale options and offerings. The large-car offers a comfortable interior with standard cabin tech that can be further upgraded. Safety tech features also come standard and include a lane keeping assist system, adaptive cruise control, and the award winning auto breaking system. For those looking to save on gas and, there is also an Avalon hybrid model.

Crossovers Preferred Vehicle of Choice for U.S. Consumers

With automakers selling a 2:1 ratio of trucks to cars, trucks are driving the rapid decline of sedans. We use the term “trucks” to classify SUVs, crossovers, and pickups which all fall under the broad class of “light trucks”. Though this includes a  range of vehicles, the market trend speaks volumes to the decline of the traditional car.

In the United States, crossovers are the perferred vehicle of choice. According to Automotive News, truck sales have more than doubled car sales this year. The increase in sales has some carmakers increasing their large vehicle offerings and halting their production of sedans.

Many people view the car to truck switch as an upgrade and alternative to smaller cars. Why would drivers revert back to a standard size car? With the wide range of trucks avaliable, they don’t need to; SUV, crossovers, and pickups are now easily accesible and avaliable for varying budgets, styles, and needs.

For example, a 2018 Kia Soul, a compact crossover, starts at $16,200 while the Ford F-150 pickup ranges into a high of $60,520.

According to Edmunds, forty-six percent of car shoppers are exchanging their car for an SUV, crossover, or pickup. The trend is expected to continue, becoming the overwhelming market standard by 2025, if not sooner. The Bank of America Merrill Lynch forecast predicts that between 2019 and 2022, 71 percent of vehicles released will be categorized as light trucks. More options in the truck market are likely to generate higher profits for carmakers.

The New Rolls Royce Cullinan

Make way, there’s a new player in the game. Rolls Royce is making a distinguised debut in super premium SUV space setting it apart from the pack. The new segment of luxury off road vehicles including models from Bentley and Lamborghini is expanding with the addition of the Rolls Royce new Cullinan.

With a starting price of $325,000 the tag on the new “high-sider vehicle” tops Bently’s W-12 powered Bentayga and Lamborghinis V-8 powered Urus. It’s alternative approach to the sport utility class and background defines why the Cullinan stands out amongst it’s ultra luxe competiton.

Cullinans only downer:

Air suspension and a 72.2 inch height enables the vehicle to cross flowing streams with ease. Riding high comes with no compromise, the UK based carmaker eliminates the struggle of mounting yourself in; by the tap of the stainless door levers, the Cullinan lowers 1.5 inches for an inviting entrance to the plush cabin.

Rolls Royce impressive offroad history:

Long ago, during the Scottish Reliability Trials of 1907 and the Alpine Trials of 1913 the UK based carmaker performed in rough road testing. Frank Norbury, a Brittish businessman of the time, traveled a total of 620 miles in the Rolls Silver Ghost on a jouney from Bombay to Kolhapu without a trouble. Two Silver Ghosts were also used by T.E Lawrnece transporting goods through Palestine and Sanai deserts.

It’s Solid:

The cullinan was tested to destruction across the globe and offers a different set of off road capabilites. Although it’s intended ride does not include steep hill climbs and hardcore off roading, it makes  a solid choice for venturing light tralis.

Turbocharged:

Speedy and Agile, Cullinan has a twin-turbocharged 6.75 liter V-12 capable of speedy 563 horsepower and all-wheel steering making Cullinan drive seemingly smaller than it’s frame suggests.

Equipped to Tailgate:

The boot of Cullinan contains “The Clasp”, a never before used feauture within the Rolls Royce lineup. Equipped with a fridge, whiskey decanter, champagne glasses, and plenty room to spare, Cullinan makes the perfect base for a tailgate party. If that wasn’t enough, the rear can also provide seating with two outward facing seats.

Mercedes Benz New A-Class Offering

With the new A-Class arriving for showcasing in the US this year, the luxury auto brand is taking a new approach to sales and it completely contrasts a typical dealership experience.

Mercedes-Benz has been experimenting with alternative environments for showcasing, educating and connecting with consumers. Mercedes-Benz plans to open their third pop up this year on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue after success with those prior. The venture in experimental retail began last year with one pop up store in Atlanta, and a second in Miami at Aventura Mall.

In addition to their plans to open one more pop up this year, Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Dietmar Exler adds they plan on “doing way more of them, probably focused on new product launches”.

The laid back, no pressure pop ups intend to make the Mercedes brand more approachable, especially to those who did not see the brand as an option in the past. To maintain the no pressure atmosphere, the pop ups don’t sell vehicles. Instead, employees will forward prospective customer’s email addresses to the dealerships. The approach is working; according to a company spokeswoman they “are seeing an appreciable number of people who had not previously considered the brand, but who bought a Mercedes following a visit to the brand stores”.

The modern spin on showcasing offers consumers a chance to experience the new technology Mercedes has to offer without making a purchase. In hopes to reach the millennial generation with the launch of the A class sedan; consumers will be able to test out MBUX , the new multimedia system which features predictive learning abilities, improved displays, and artificial intelligence.

The pop up stores are open for about two months and the brand is careful in selecting locations, sticking mostly to upscale areas. Unlike Porsche, Exler is not considering opening permanent accessory stores for the time being and is keeping that reserved for the dealerships.