What’s Past Is Prologue: Looking Back on the Origins of Today’s Tech

June 7th, 2016

1962 Oldsmobile Cutlass Jetfire Advertisement

In The Tempest, William Shakespeare once wrote, “what’s past is prologue.” The quotation implies that one’s history can dictate his or her future actions. It’s written outside the United States National Archives Building, and I had a particularly intelligent and entertaining professor who reflected on it often. Looking at the auto industry, it’s clear that the sentiment extends beyond Shakespeare’s verse.

New automotive technologies emerge every year. We covered some of them last week. Some, like the airbag or the seat belt, have ushered in a new era of motoring, changing the landscape forever. Others fall flat—despite Saab’s creative thinking with the 9000 Prometheus, steering via joystick never really got off the ground (the Prometheus didn’t even make it to production). What I find most interesting is looking back on these advancements and seeing how they’ve impacted cars today, despite their often lackluster starts.

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The Carroll Shelby Cars You Forgot Exist

June 6th, 2016

1999_Shelby_Series_1

Carroll Shelby died just over four years ago, but he left a legacy that continues to this day.

Best known for his work on the Shelby Cobra and an association with Ford that resulted in high-performance Shelby Mustangs in the late 1960s and 2000s, Shelby forged a path for himself that also included some lesser known automobiles.

Some of the other projects that bore his name happened in the 1980s and were questionable at best.

We can’t deny, however, that Carroll Shelby changed the face of the automotive landscape and set the bar for high-powered muscle cars to this day.

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Digging Into Self-Driving Cars

June 3rd, 2016
NEMPA MIT panelists John Leonard, Gil Pratt, Timothy Anness, Mary Gustanski, and Michelle Finamore.

Panelists John Leonard, Gil Pratt, Timothy Anness, Mary Gustanski, and Michelle Finamore.

People are funny. We’ve complained about having to waste time sitting uncomfortably in traffic for decades now. But when the phrase “self-driving car” and the idea of traveling in a car without having to dedicate full attention to it started becoming unavoidable in auto news, drivers of all sorts cried foul, calling the idea bad for reasons ranging from practical and real to theoretical and imagined.

Too far along to abandon the self-driving idea, automakers experimented with new language; disruptor Elon Musk demonstrated his wisdom with words by naming Tesla’s system Autopilot, after an established technology that’s already trusted and relatively understood, at least conceptually. Another important differentiator for Tesla is the fact that Autopilot promises partial rather than full autonomy, a critical difference that came up repeatedly at the recent New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) conference on The Intersection of Technology and Design.

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Jeep: America’s New Favorite Brand?

June 3rd, 2016

2016-jeep-renegade

Sales of new vehicles, from nearly all brands, fell a combined 6 percent last month, but one brand defied the trend and set a new sales record.

Jeep managed to move more than 90,000 vehicles in May, a new record and an increase of nearly 14 percent over the same month last year. Even more remarkable is that May 2016 was two days shorter than May 2015.

Ford sales were down 6.6 percent, GMC went down 14.3 percent, and Chevrolet fell 18.6 percent. FCA’s other brands didn’t fare as well as Jeep, with Chrysler falling 18.5 percent and Fiat down 18.9 percent. Ram sales were flat.

All these percentages can be translated into one very interesting fact: Americans have fallen in love with Jeep.

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Buyers Want Used Cars That Will Last a Decade

June 2nd, 2016

1970_ford_bronco-pic-52750-640x480There’s an interesting quirk happening in used car buying that could affect new car sales for years to come. Almost half of all buyers want the car they buy to last at least 10 years.

The survey from AutoMD.com showed the majority of buyers are thinking pre-owned, or what we mortals would call used cars, crossovers, SUVs, and pickups. Price was the most important factor, but so was making sure the car would last a decade.

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BMW Aims for Perfection With Possible New 6 Series

June 2nd, 2016

2016_bmw_6_series

The thing about perfection is that it can’t be beat.

That’s why the word ‘perfect’ exists. There is nothing better and nothing can achieve a higher level of desirability. Perfect is as good as something can be and, by all measures, the Porsche 911 is perfect.

The 911 has all the qualities and characteristics one could ever desire from a sports car. Everything from the shape to the handling to the sound of the engine as it roars past 6,000 RPM is… in a word… perfect.

Yet other automakers continue in their attempts to achieve something beyond perfection. None have succeeded.

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Self-Driving Cars Gain Steam, But Are We Ready?

June 1st, 2016

tesla_self_driving

Who better to develop a self-driving car than a video-game company?

In video games, cars behave almost like real cars and are programmed to react to obstacles while racing around tracks or through city streets. Games today are essentially driving simulators, so it makes sense that the technology could transfer over to the real world.

Granted, when a car in a video game crashes, a simple reset results in a fresh car without any consequences from the accident. Real life is much different, but a company known for its role in video games is quickly becoming one of the hottest self-driving companies in the world.

A couple of videos from last week, though, prove that self-driving still has a long way to go.

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New England Motor Press Announces 2016 Winter Cars of the Year

May 31st, 2016

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With this past year being a rare exception, winters in New England are a serious business. So, when the New England Motor Press Association gets together to award the best winter vehicles of the year, the industry takes notice.

Although the typical winter’s day this year was more hospitable than during the past few years, the official winter testing day for NEMPA’s auto experts was still a bitterly cold, windy affair – complete with weather service advisories instructing people to stay inside (just check out our Infiniti QX50 impression for proof). Undeterred, we gathered at Bugsy Lawlor’s Automotion garage to test the best winter rigs of the year.

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Honda S2000 Revival Coming in 2018

May 30th, 2016
2009 Honda S2000

2009 Honda S2000

In 2018 Honda will turn 70, and it has a present in mind for itself that’s fit for a spry 30-year-old:

A shiny new S2000.

Honda wouldn’t give itself just any S2000 for such a special occasion, though. Certainly not a used model. Instead, Honda plans on building a brand new version of the sporty roadster, and sharing it with the rest of us in celebration.

Yes, after many years of speculation, rumors, and hope, a new version of the Honda S2000 could be just around the corner.

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The 10 Best Cars for Driving (and Sitting) in Traffic

May 27th, 2016

2016 Subaru Outback

Memorial Day is a time for remembrance and an opportunity to honor the men and women who lost their lives serving in the armed forces, but for many it’s also the symbolic start of summer. The upside: many Americans will be enjoying cookouts, baseball games, and getaways during the long memorial weekend. The downside: anyone residing in a major urban area will become all too familiar with the harsh realities of miles-long traffic jams that all started because that guy couldn’t be bothered to merge properly.

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