Tesla, Autopilot, and the Future of Self-Driving Cars

Tesla AutoPilot

From the first press release outlining Tesla’s Autopilot technology, potential customers have wondered how the system works, what its limitations are, and whether it will be welcomed or shunned. Since Joshua Brown’s fatal crash while using Autopilot in a Tesla Model S, these questions have grown larger and more pointed. Without a doubt, popular opinion has shifted toward negativity. But should it?

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Taking a Look at the Most and Least Expensive Cars to Own

2016 BMW 340i

There are some things we replace, and other things we repair. I have no qualms replacing a toothbrush every couple months, or buying a new pair of running shoes after a few hundred miles. When it comes to more expensive items, however, my point of view shifts dramatically. Companies like Patagonia have made a strong push against disposable merchandise, offering repair services for their products and encouraging shoppers to fix their gear rather than just throwing it away and buying replacements. It’s a commendable, environmentally friendly decision—and considering the price tags on Patagonia products, one that’s appreciated by shoppers, too.

Of course, when it comes to repairing vs. replacing, nothing trumps the auto industry. Drivers spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars per year keeping their cars on the road and, try as a I might, I just can’t visualize disposable cars showing up anytime soon. YourMechanic.com connects car owners with mechanics and in doing so has amassed an impressive data set breaking down the average cost of ownership by brand and specific model, including the maladies that most commonly afflict each brand.

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Mercedes-Benz and Audi Just Outsold BMW

2015-mercedes-benz-cla-class

BMW has been the benchmark of luxury car sales in the United States for decades. The BMW 3 Series, 5 Series, X3, and X5 have provided the German automaker with ample opportunity to dominate sales charts here.

Worldwide, though, the other two German companies have been slowly inching closer to the sales king by offering what many consider to be better-designed cars that provide superior value. Mercedes-Benz and Audi are top-tier luxury players and last month both managed to outsell their cross-country rival.

Does this mean we have a new champ in the luxury and performance category? Not yet. But BMW ought to quickly come up with a plan to keep itself on top.

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BMW Moves Closer to Front-Wheel Drive

BMW 2 Series

I have to wonder if BMW is still the “Ultimate Driving Machine.” The company dropped its legendary tagline in 2006, brought it back in 2012, and uses it sparingly today.

Maybe the company knows it’s becoming just “another driving machine.”

BMW has always been known as a performance-oriented luxury brand with the perfect balance between handling and power. The automaker has traditionally used a rear-wheel-drive setup on all of its vehicles, save for its full-time all-wheel-drive models.

Rear-wheel drive just makes sense given BMWs’ large engines, long hoods, and short rear decks. Power going to the rear wheels enhances every aspect of the driving experience.

But what happens when the engines get smaller and the cars shrink? Rear-wheel drive stops making sense. Welcome to the new generation of BMW.

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Which Cars Still Look Great After Decades on the Road?

1985 ferrari testarossa-pic-40441

The Ferrari Testarossa: Still a good-looking car!

If your family is anything like mine, going on a road trip generates plenty of interesting conversation. In many families, those conversations often end with intense bickering, due to heated opinions.

I’m lucky because our conversations tend to revolve around cars, but that doesn’t mean they’re not heated.

When the topic of cars that still look great after a couple decades came up, there were two distinct opinions .

The conversation began when a late model Ferrari California drove by while we shopped in the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.

Our daughter thought the Ferrari was a Porsche and pointed it out first. Thus began the Great Debate of 2015.

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The Two Tiers of Luxury: Which Do You Prefer?

"Tier 2" does not mean "inferior."

“Tier 2” does not mean “inferior.”

Is a Lincoln as good as a Lexus?

Can an Acura take down an Audi?

Will an Infiniti be as good as a BMW?

There are two groups of cars in the luxury world: the ones that command respect and the ones that desperately want it. Automotive News breaks these down a little more formally, calling them the “Tier 1” group and the “Tier 2” group.

Tier 1 includes BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz. Tier 2 includes Lincoln, Acura, Cadillac, and Audi.

If I were making the rules, I’d put Audi up in Tier 1, because it has decidedly outsold the others in Tier 2 and has, in my humble opinion, eclipsed the quality level of BMW.

The Tier 1 group continues to establish its dominance, while the Tier 2 group struggles to maintain relevance. Are cars from Tier 2 worth considering?

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New BMW Headlights Solve Old Problem

BMW headlights at CES

Imagine a world where you never have to worry about turning down your brights as you drive. We’ve all been there, happily zooming down a country lane or lonely highway with the road in front of us bathed in ample light, our cars cutting through the darkness with high beams in full force.

Then a car approaches.

We think nothing of it until the approaching vehicle flashes its high beams, causing us to remember that we are blinding this fellow traveler. In our haste to quickly turn off the high beams, we spill our drink and accidentally flip on our right turn signal.

By the time we recover, the approaching car is long gone and we flip the high beams back on, only to repeat the process a few miles down the road.

There has to be a better way.

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The Blood of BMW Flows Through Hyundai’s Veins

Hyundai performance

Here’s some pretty huge news coming out of South Korea:

Hyundai has wooed a longtime BMW engineer to head up a new performance division.

This isn’t just any BMW engineer, either. It’s not like Hyundai was content hiring away some guy who stepped on board with BMW last year and is making his way up the career ladder by heading over to Hyundai. Nope. This is Albert Biermann, former vice president of engineering at BMW’s M Division. Biermann has been at BMW since 1983. This is the guy who helped bring us every generation of M car including the latest M3, M4, M5 and M6.

And in April, he’ll work at Hyundai.

Did I mention this was huge?

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The New BMW: A MINI with a Spit Shine?

Just throw a BMW logo on it and call it good?

Just throw a BMW logo on it and call it good?

There are two kinds of people who buy BMWs:

  1. People who appreciate the dynamics of a true rear-wheel-drive performance machine.
  2. People who like the BMW logo.

As BMW embarks on a new era of vehicle production, it hopes it can please both types of people without alienating the first. Type 2 people really don’t care which wheels are propelling the car forward, while Type 1 people believe anything that’s front-wheel drive is undeserving of the BMW logo. After all, BMW owns MINI, so it can scratch that FWD itch, right?

For a while, BMW carefully walked the line while admitting some vague future plans for a FWD car, but now it seems the German automaker will pull out all the stops and bring at least 6 cars to market that are powered by the same wheels that steer.

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Fun and Fast Toyotas, Courtesy of BMW

Toyota-BMW-Sports-car-partnership-picture

No news is not really news.

Some media outlets and blogs are having fun with a variation of this headline: “BMW and Toyota finally agree on sports car platform amidst joint ventures.”

That sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Some might even say it’s enticing and worth clicking through to read the article and find out what platform they chose and what car might ride upon said platform.

It turns out, as of this writing, the information in that headline is all anyone really knows. Reading the article only restates the headline and the fact that the two companies have in fact agreed on a platform for some kind of new sports car.

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