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Tech News

Lyft's personal subscription locks in the cost of your favorite trip

July 30, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Lyft

Lyft has been trying out an All-Access subscription that lets you ride on a frequent basis for one flat fee, but it’s overkill for many people. What if you mainly tend to take one route every time? There’s now an option for you — Lyft has unveiled a Personal Plan that locks in your fare for a favorite route as long as it would normally cost $25 or less. If you sometimes need a ride to work or the gym, you won’t have to worry about Prime Time spikes (aka surge pricing) making it inordinately expensive.

The feature is available across the US starting today, and there’s no long-term commitment. You can invoke the Personal Plan only for busy months, in other words. The monthly rate varies — we saw an example of $8 per month, that’s not necessarily what you’ll pay.

This is only really a bargain if you’re a creature of habit who makes several trips to the same place each and every month, but can’t use a carpooling option like Lyft Line. It’s still more affordable than the $200 or more that some Lyft customers were seeing in the All-Access test, though. And it certainly makes sense for the company — this could give it a steadier source of income from passengers who might otherwise skip rides or look to alternative transportation options.

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Please don't jump out of your car and dance to Drake, NTSB pleads

July 30, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Getty Images

Drake might be the king of memes, but the latest one for his In My Feeling track has attracted the wrong kind of viral attention. The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is asking fans to please, please, not do that #InMyFeelings challenge that involves jumping out of a moving car and dancing. On top of that, drivers should definitely not film said challengers, as that’s equally stupid and in violation of pretty much all the distracted driving laws.

“Driver distraction features prominently in this viral challenge, but the more obvious risk is the poor decision to hop out of a moving vehicle to dance,” NTSB safety advocate chief Nicholas Worrell wrote. “Although ‘bad decision making’ is not on our [list of poor driver behaviors], we have seen a variety of crashes attributable to making poor choices.”

LMFAOOOOO pic.twitter.com/iUCVN19qWm

— carolina🍊 (@caarolin9) July 15, 2018

The In My Feelings challenge started as a Drake meme, via a dance featured on @TheShiggyShow. Soon, videos started popping up on social media, showing various Darwin candidates jumping out of moving cars in traffic, and naturally, falling on their faces. One particularly clueless individual planned to jump out of a car, dance, and then hop on the hood of another moving car. However, he slipped on a wet spot on the pavement and got hit by said car instead, luckily suffering only bruises and scratches.

The NTSB managed to both mildly threaten young drivers attempting this and mock them as well. “We have studied the particular challenges faced by teen drivers, and we have long focused on graduated driver licensing laws in part to gradually introduce young and novice drivers to the roadway environment,” said Worrell. “Now, it appears that certain drivers and passengers are intent on being introduced to that environment in a more literal way.”

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Tesla's latest zero-emissions ride is a $1,500 surfboard

July 29, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Good news: you won’t have to wait until 2020 to try a new Tesla-branded ride. However, you may want to learn how to hang ten first. Tesla has quietly introduced a limited-run (just 200 units) surfboard that matches the company’s vehicle aesthetic to a tee, including its red-and-black coloring and hints of carbon fiber (in this case, to reinforce the deck). Naturally, it’ll fit inside the Model 3 and Tesla’s other existing cars. And this isn’t a casual effort — Tesla had the help of Lost Surfboards and professional board maker Matt Biolos, so this design should carve the waves quite nicely.

There’s just one main problem… you can’t buy it anymore. Even if the $1,500 price didn’t give you pause (it probably didn’t if you can afford a Tesla vehicle), the custom-made board sold out soon after it appeared in the store. Even the Boring Company flamethrower took a few days to sell out, for context. If you’re determined to get a surfboard that matches your EV, you’ll likely have to make a very, very sweet offer to pry this out of an owner’s hands.

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NYC may cap the number of Uber and Lyft vehicles on its streets

July 27, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York City’s bid to regulate the ridesharing industry may include some hard limits on the size of those businesses — at least, for now. The City Council is looking at proposed legislation that would largely freeze the issuance of ridesharing vehicle licenses while officials work on a year-long study of the cars’ effects. The only exception would be for wheelchair-accessible vehicles, which have been in short supply.

This wouldn’t be the first time the city tried a cap — it abandoned an attempt in 2015. There’s greater pressure to consider a limit this time, though. NYC now has over 100,000 ride-hailing cars (up from 63,000 back in 2015), and a string of suicides by both ridesharing and taxi drivers has raised questions about working conditions that can include low pay, long hours and poor compensation for time off.

Not surprisingly, Uber is repeating many of the same objections it had three years earlier. In a statement to the New York Times, spokesman Josh Gold insisted that the cap would “leave New Yorkers stranded” without solving issues like congestion, taxi medallion ownership and mass transit. It claimed this would hinder passengers who live outside of Manhattan and don’t have reliable alternatives to cabs or public transportation. The company even went so far as to post a commercial underscoring how difficult it was for some residents to hail taxis, suggesting that cars would “disappear” from the Uber app if the cap went forward.

Not that this is likely to sway the city. On top of the cap, the Council is looking at raising minimum pay and otherwise regulating on-demand transportation services. NYC is concerned that the growth of ridesharing is coming at the expense of drivers’ well-being (regardless of who they work for), and it’s unlikely to back down until it’s satisfied these workers are receiving fair treatment.

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Audi to unveil the 2019 e-tron on September 17th

July 27, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Engadget/Steve Dent

Audi’s first all-electric car, the 2019 e-tron, will make its global debut on September 17th in San Francisco. The automaker will also reveal the price and specifications, and US customers will be able to place a $1,000 deposit to reserve and configure a vehicle from Audi’s website on the same day. The new reservation system is a big part of the launch, with Audi creating a Tesla-like process for customers to place and track orders online or with a dealer. The e-tron is expected to arrive in showrooms in the first part of 2019, said Audi.

“We’re introducing a premium, customer-centric vehicle in a premium, customer-centric way,” said president of Audi of America, Scott Keogh in a statement. “With our owners and our dealers, this process allows us to offer transparency from reservation and build all the way through delivery.” Audi said it will unveil more details about the system at the launch event.

The e-tron will be the first of three all-electric vehicles launched by Audi by 2020. It’s a five-passenger premium SUV with a range of about 245 miles and will support fast charging at up to 150kW, about the same delivered by Tesla’s superchargers. The standard home charger will deliver 11 kW, enough to juice up the e-tron in about 8.5 hours. Audi will likely reveal more about its US charging network plans on September 17th.

Audi reportedly delayed the launch of the e-tron because of the arrest of CEO Rupert Stadler over the “Dieselgate” scandal. That cost parent company Volkswagen $25 billion in the US alone, and resulted in up to 20,000 deaths per year by respiratory diseases, by some estimates. VW also had to take hundreds of thousands of cars off the road and store, repair or scrap them.

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Mercedes' new, affordable A-Class sedan is as smart as it is sleek

July 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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There’s a lot to say about Mercedes-Benz’s US-bound A-Class. It’s a car of many firsts: The first A-Class model to appear in the US when it hits dealerships later this year; the first A-Class sedan, well, ever (earlier Euro-spec models were glorious hatchbacks). And since we’ve been dutifully tracking the ways our cars are becoming more like smartphones, it’s important to note that this is the first vehicle to feature Mercedes’ voice-driven MBUX interface.

That might not seem particularly impressive when you consider the A-Class — the carmaker’s least-expensive luxury vehicle — also packs a more-than-capable straight-four turbo engine under the hood. But Mercedes’ goal with the A-Class was to capture the imaginations of a new breed of luxury-car owners: They’re younger, they have more nuanced expectations from their devices, and Mercedes is keen on keeping them for life. No wonder the infotainment system has received so much attention.

Smartphones have raised the bar for the kind of thoughtfulness people expect from their devices, and Mercedes seems to understand that very well. As a result, you can issue commands to the A-Class with a simple “Hey, Mercedes.” Importantly, commands that deal specifically with the car’s hardware are processed immediately without pinging a far-flung server, to ensure your cabin temperature is just right as quickly as possible.

Other tasks, like asking Mercedes to show you nearby restaurants on its spacious, center-mounted touchscreen, do require the car to pass your query to the cloud. The A-Class we tried was unfortunately stuck on the roof of an overly fancy Brooklyn hotel and running European software, so we couldn’t get a proper feel for the hardware or software just yet. That said, I’ve jumped into my fair share of new, smarter cars (a fringe benefit of being one of the few Engadget NY employees with a driver’s license), and little I’ve seen out there compares to MBUX’s thoughtful utility.

The “Hey, Mercedes” commands worked surprisingly well when automotive journalists weren’t jabbering in the back seat, and a company spokesperson confirmed that none of the car’s interface methods get locked out while the car is in motion. For better or worse, that means you — or whoever is in your passenger seat — is free to browse the web on Google Chrome while barreling down I-95.

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Best of all, MBUX is capable of surprising intelligence. Over time, the system adapts to your behavior and personalizes your driving experience. Are there certain songs you like to listen to on your commute to and from work? Are there certain people you call at specific times? These are factors MBUX takes into account, and as a result, it feels like the most seamless in-car control experience I’ve come across yet. It’s not dramatically different from interacting with Siri or Google’s Assistant, and considering its a car maker, that’s among the highest compliments I’m able

Tech News

Lamborghini’s high-performance Spyder turns physics into fun

July 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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If you’re a car person, you’ve at least looked at a Lamborghini and wondered, “Are they as awesome as the mystique around them?” Sure, they conjure up images of guys wearing too much cologne while blasting bad covers of popular songs over an EDM beat. Also, there’s probably a gold chain thrown in there somewhere. If you toss aside that weird stereotype and really look at the vehicles coming out of Italy, you’d realize they’re more than just fodder for posters. They’re actually pretty remarkable.

Gallery: 2019 Lamborghini Huracán Performante Spyder review | 46 Photos 46 +42

The 2019 Lamborghini Huracán Performante Spyder (starting at a savings-draining $308,859) looks like a Lamborghini supercar should. It has the aggressive angles you’d expect from the company that brought us the Diablo, Countach and Aventador. Plus it has the mid-engine power to back up that slightly insane design. Behind the seats is a 640 horsepower 5.2 liter V10 that’ll go from zero to 62 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds. That’s from a naturally aspirated engine. No turbos, superchargers or hybrid electric motor help.

Yes, the pure electric Tesla Model S P100D will do zero to 60 in 2.5 seconds for about $150,000 less than the Huracán Performante Spyder. But there’s more to life than going fast in a straight line, and while the Tesla is full of semiautonomous tech, you would never dream of letting a robot drive a Lamborghini for you. The Huracán demands both hands on the wheel. Driving a Lamborghini is not a passive activity; it requires all your senses. Especially with a car that doesn’t seem to lose traction. Believe me, I tried repeatedly to get it to break loose and I’ll tell you know, it was tough.

You expect a supercar to stick to the road, but this Lamborghini uses an all-new active aerodynamics system called ALA (Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva) and it’s very clever. Instead of adding a mechanically adjustable wing to the back — which adds weight thanks to motors, levers and wiring, — the Italian automaker created wind channels on both sides of the car. Air enters behind the cockpit, flows through the wing and exits via ports on the underside of the element.

Then Lamborghini added actuators to the channels that either let air flow through (reducing drag) or block it, creating downforce. The result is a system that can create downforce on the inside side of a car while it’s cornering to increase traction.

For example, when you take a right turn, the left side of your car (the outside) dips while the right-hand side (the inside) lifts up due to centrifugal force. Lamborghini counteracts that lift by creating downforce with ALA by closing the right actuator in the wing,

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Waymo partners with Walmart for grocery pick-up in Phoenix

July 25, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

JasonDoiy via Getty Images

Walmart’s latest move into tech is a partnership with Waymo. In Phoenix later this week, the pair will begin a pilot program where customers can order groceries on the retailer’s website, get a ride to and from the store in a Waymo car and then snag a discount on their groceries. More than that, Waymo is teaming up with Avis Budget Group to pick up and drop off customers when they need a rental car.

There are a few other deals in place as well. Local chain AutoNation will begin offering Waymo vehicles for customer loaner cars, too. Google’s self-driving wing also will serve as the house car for Element Hotel in nearby Chandler, dropping “select guests” off at the office and then back to the hotel during frequent stays.

Waymo says that in its tests thus far, it’s found that most of what customers use its cars for are quick errands, trips to the grocery store, a ride to dinner or to the service station. Since autonomous cars are likely going to be prohibitively expensive for awhile, this could be the way that Google builds mainstream acceptance.

After all, we’ve gone from being told not to get into cars with strangers as kids, to relying on Lyft and Uber to get around in relatively no time flat. Ride-hailing is too convenient and there’s definite utility in not having to rely on a friend or a taxi that may or may not show up when ordered. The same could happen with autonomous vehicles once people have good experiences with them, repeatedly.

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Bosch launches road condition alert service for self-driving vehicles

July 25, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Bosch

Today, Bosch has introduced a predictive road condition service that can help make sure self-driving vehicles remain safe even on wet and icy roads. The company says the technology can give automated vehicles that seat-of-the-pants feel — you know that sensation when you’re on the driver’s seat that tells you the road’s condition? That one. Bosch management board member Dr. Dirk Hoheisel says the service can alert AVs to hazards “before critical situations can develop.”

The technology takes multiple possible weather forecast scenarios from Finnish company Foreca into consideration, so a vehicle that uses it knows how and where it can drive autonomously. Bosch says this can prevent vehicles from having to hand over controls to a human driver at the first sign of poor road conditions. Of course, that only applies to vehicles that still have steering wheels and systems that haven’t reached Level 4 or 5 autonomous driving capabilities yet.

When Bosch rolls out its road condition alert service in 2020, it will rely entirely on Foreca’s weather information. In the future, though, it will also take data shared by self-driving cars using the technology into account. The system will upload temperatures inside and outside vehicles, as well as other information such as whether their windshield wipers are in use and how many times their anti-skid system got activated, to Bosch’s cloud. In other words, the technology is bound to become more accurate and reliable as more and more automated vehicles make their way to public roads.

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Ford's self-driving division is now its own company

July 25, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Ford

If Alphabet has Waymo and General Motors has GM Cruise, Ford has Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC. The automaker has created a separate company for its self-driving business, clearly taking a cue from the two aforementioned players in the industry. In its announcement, Ford said the spinoff was created to accelerate the growth of its autonomous vehicle business and to capitalize on market opportunities. It will oversee all its AV research and the self-driving car network the automaker plans to launch in 2021.

Ford will sink $4 billion into its new company from this year until 2023, though that includes the $1 billion it had already set aside for Argo AI, the self-driving startup it snapped up in 2017. It sounds like the automaker is open to partnerships and investors, though, since the new LLC is structured to take on third party investments.

According to Reuters, Ford formed the new company because its executives believe that the self-driving vehicle industry will eventually be dominated by three or four major players only. It apparently wants to rise above all the startups and all its other rivals to be one of those players, and forming a spinoff to concentrate on automotive vehicle development is its way of making sure that happens.

Ford CEO Jim Hackett said:

“Ford has made tremendous progress across the self driving value chain — from technology development to business model innovation to user experience. Now is the right time to consolidate our autonomous driving platform into one team to best position the business for the opportunities ahead.”