2017 Silicon Valley Reinvents the Wheel

Save the Date
Monday, October 9th, 2017 Computer History Museum Mountain, View

Presented by

   

How Technology is Transforming the Automobile Autonomous Driving, Connectivity and Ownership Experience.

WAJ joins forces with the Autotech Council for an event in the epicenter of innovation that will bring together thought leaders from the auto and tech worlds to examine not only the future of cars but also how technology is transforming transportation. The event will feature engaging discussions on topics including next-generation powertrains and fuels, 21st Century automotive ownership, HMI, deep learning, connected and self-driving technology.

Additionally, there will be cutting edge vehicle and product demonstrations from automakers, their technology suppliers, and visionaries from Silicon Valley. Lunch will be provided by the finest in Silicon Valley Gourmet Food Trucks. 

Who: Western Automotive Journalists (WAJ) and The Autotech Council
When: Monday, October 9th, 2017 10 am
Where: Computer History Museum, Mountain View, CA
Participants: 300+ influential attendees including OEMs, suppliers, developers, startups, investors, educators, recruiters and journalists
Journalists: WAJ automotive journalists along with tech, lifestyle and local media.
Vehicle Demo: 20+ vehicles displaying the latest current technology available.
Auto Tech Science Fair: Up to 40 displays of current and future technologies.

There are still sponsorship, speaking, and demonstration opportunities available for this important technology event.  If you have questions or comments about SVRItW, Email Charlie Vogelheim, WAJ VP of Programs, you can also text or call at (949) 929-0716.

Registration will begin shortly.

 

2017 WAJ Media Days Member Articles

 

 

Seeking Alpha – Anton Wahlman
Anton Wahlman reviews automobiles and other technology products, as well as analyzes the automotive and technology industries. Anton represented Seeking Alpha at Media Days this year and wrote several stories on the vehicles there.  READ MORE

CLEAN FLEET REPORTS – Michael Coates

WAJ Media Day Offers Preview of Upcoming Test Drives
Once a year a group of automotive journalists including Clean Fleet Report gathers on the Monterey Peninsula to drive a selection of the latest models available. This year we had the opportunity to sample a variety of vehicles, with First Drive stories scheduled to appear in the near future. READ MORE

First Drive: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Buy It Because It’s a Great Minivan; Love It Because It Plugs In
Chrysler invented the minivan back in the Eighties and it’s been a mainstay in the market until recently, when car-based crossovers added a third row of seating, bumped up their styling and fuel economy. The one-box design of the minivan has always been the height of functionality, but that was pretty much all it had to offer. The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is the serious challenge to the new status quo—a strong attempt by Chrysler to retake the high ground with a new approach to the category. READ MORE

Mazda Keeps Upping the Ante in its Most Popular Car 
Mazda is a little auto company, but it’s got an oversize presence among those who value driving for pleasure and appreciate engineering that backs up that pleasure. We had a chance to do a brief drive of revamped 2017 Mazda CX-5. READ MORE

TIREKICKER – Mike Hagerty
The 2017 Jaguar XE35t AWD
Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days. Seven is typical. Occasionally, we’ll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it’ll only be three or four days. Our “30 Minutes With” series are cars that we spent half an hour behind the wheel of during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Days in Monterey, California. READ MORE

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC 
While Mercedes builds some of the best cars in the world, I’ve always been underwhelmed by their least-expensive cars. It costs money to build a car to a standard, and that’s why E-Classes and S-Classes cost what they do. The first ML SUV was built to a price, and it showed. The most egregious example was the GLA 250’s most direct ancestor, the 2001-2005 C230 Coupe. Car and Driver was as kind as it could be at the time, but if you read between the lines, you can see that Frank Markus had to really, really try. READ MORE

The 2017 BMW 540i  
The knock on BMW is that it has somehow lost its Ultimate Driving Machine mojo, that it’s become too soft, and that its expansion into pretty much every segment of the automotive marketplace has robbed its core products of their passion. Bull. READ MORE

The 2017 Lexus IS 200t F SPORT
The IS has been around a few years in both IS 250 and IS 350 guise. So what’s the 200t about? Well, it replaces the 250 (and the 350 is now the 300), replacing the 204-horsepower 2.5-liter V6, which, like all Lexus engines was creamy smooth, but which was a bit down on power compared to the competition, with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four. READ MORE

The 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392 
There is nothing subtle about the Dodge Charger Daytona 392. It is, pure and simply, a muscle car in this new Platinum Age of same, an era in which the cars are not only faster than the muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s, but do more than run in a straight line. They handle. They stop. READ MORE

The 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR 
The 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR is, without a doubt, the highest-grade machinery I drove all that day. Make that all this year. Possibly all this decade. The first clue came when I made the right turn onto Carmel Valley Road when leaving the Quail en route to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I gave it about one-third throttle and immediately and literally held onto my hat…which I then tucked between the driver’s seat and the console for safekeeping. READ MORE

The 2018 Jaguar F-Pace S 
My question about the F-Pace S wasn’t whether a company like Jaguar could build a satisfying SUV…that question’s been answered in spades by Porsche, Audi, Bentley and other luxury/performance manufacturers who’ve done it, and are prospering as a result. READ MORE

The 2017 Toyota Mirai
The Mirai (Japanese for “future”) is a different kind of high-grade machinery from what I’d been driving. It’s a hydrogen fuel cell car. The idea being to take an element of nature and use it to power a vehicle, with water vapor being the only tailpipe emission. True green car enthusiasts will tell you that this is what makes the most sense, as hybrids use some fossil fuels, and electric vehicles require a charge that comes from existing power plants, some of which…burn fossil fuels. READ MORE

The 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392 
The 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392 is only three rungs down from the top of the Dodge Challenger hierarchy. Above it, the SRT 392 with the same 485-horsepower 6.4-liter Hemi, but with configurable drive modes, the Hellcat, with a supercharged 6.4-liter Hemi making what until recently was considered an insane 707 horsepower, and the soon-to-be released (or is that unleashed?) Demon with 808 horsepower. READ MORE

The 2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400
To look at it, you might think this was just a garden-variety Q60 (they start at $38,950 for a model with a 208-horsepower turbo four) with some aggressive looking wheels and black accents in the right places, but no….this is a very special Q60. The Red Sport 400 is the top-of-the-line, with a 400-horsepower twin-turbo 3-liter six.  READ MORE

 

The 25th Annual 2017 WAJ Media Days Recap

From the Beach to Valley to Track
The 25th Annual Media Days was a hit for all participants.
By Brian Douglas
We’ve come quite a distance from our organization’s modest beginnings. Back in 1992, the models of new vehicles outnumbered journalists, a third of whom were full-time media employees reporting on the automotive industry. Our fledgling event was one full day at Sears Point (now Sonoma) Raceway. Media Day became Days in ’94 when a day of driving in the Marin countryside was added. Some things never change- a big hit on the track in 1992 was Acura’s new NSX. History repeated itself this year with the all-new NSX winding around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Welcome, Here’s Your Paperwork
It seemed that every automaker required a fully completed vehicle loan agreement, so many of us were getting writers’ cramp while wondering if there wasn’t a better way. Perhaps a blanket hold harmless would meet the requirements of 25 or so legal departments. Pre-event DocuSign is another possibility. Of course, the good news is that the big stack of agreements meant that there were plenty of vehicles to drive.

After the signing ceremonies and registration, attendees journeyed up to the Tides banquet room with a great view of Monterey Bay and a casual reception sponsored by Nissan.  A full bar was available for drink tickets. Beef and pulled pork sliders complemented the hors d’oeuvres spread for a light dinner.

Media Days participants returned to the Tides banquet room Wednesday morning for breakfast sponsored by Acura and Honda. Page One’s Stuart Langager described the day’s activities; driving from the Tides to Carmel Valley’s Quail Golf Club for street and off-road drives. Route guides with group numbers were passed out to journalists who proceeded out to the parking deck to pick a vehicle.

New Media Days Additions
The backbone of Media Days participants are the OEM automakers, bringing scores of vehicles to evaluate. This year, we added mobile charging trucks from Pacific Gas and Electric to maintain the number of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles at the event. Navdy, the technology company that produces hi-tech heads-up displays arrived with a Tesla Model X and two Audi SUVs for active demos of their new device. The Steel Market Development Institute, sponsors of Wednesday evening’s banquet, were on hand with a display and Zero electric motorcycles brought their new lineup for testing at Mazda Raceway’s paddock and nearby roads.

The Quail is a splendid location for our combined on and off-road evaluations. Road drives departed from the Quail and made a loop over nearby Laureles Grade or alternatively, over to Highway One and the iconic Bixby Bridge. Weather was picture perfect for both the drives. Along with great road drives, Land Rover, hosts a surprisingly challenging off-road course right at Quail. The mix of trails accommodate everything from crossover to trail-rated 4 X 4s and they’re short enough for testing a variety of vehicles. Before this venue, off-road testing was a separate event at Hollister Hills.

At noon, we walked over to the Quail Golf Club for a Toyota and Lexus sponsored lunch. Douglas opened a presentation with a remembrance of our good friend Terry Page, founder of Page One Automotive, who recently succumbed to cancer. Terry was well known and admired in the automotive community and will be dearly missed.

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s Gill Campbell followed with a presentation about the new plans for Laguna Seca Recreation Area and the world-renowned racetrack. We look forward to facility improvements coming soon.

Beach & Banquet
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is a generous sponsor of Media Days and led our banquet with an interesting product presentation from FCA executives. Since our host hotel is literally on the Monterey Bay beach, our organizers had planned to stage a Jeep presentation right on the beach around fire-pits. The area next to the hotel is appropriate for this use and all permissions were in place. But an eco-sensitive chap walking his dog became apoplectic when two new Jeeps began to drive from the lot onto the sand. He threatened to film the “outrage” and go public on social media. So the PR executives moved the presentation back to the outdoor parking structure. And the all-new Jeep Compass made a fine appearance without the full beach sand setting.

Our banquet included a presentation from Dave Anderson of the Steel Market Development Association that incorporated a dramatic film of an offset crash test with a sixties Chevrolet colliding with a 21st Century model. It was pretty graphic proof that engineering and new steel alloys keep us far safer than the old school vehicle’s mass. Anderson’s presentation was followed by PG&E’s Dave Meisel, Senior Director of Transportation Services who spoke about infrastructure support for electric vehicles. The good news is that there’s lots of electricity available in our grid as well as residential and commercial solar installations.

Our silent auction contained great products, from a complete leather interior by Katzin to a couple of Navdy heads-up systems and stereo gear from Harman. Funds raised go directly to WAJ’s scholarship program. And this year, we disbursed $4,500 to our Cordell Koland Journalism Scholarship at San Jose State University. WAJ Executive VP Alex Dykes presented the check to Professor Christine Di Salvo, representing SJ State’s Journalism School. The gift will fund three scholarship grants at the school. After the banquet, Mercedes-Benz hosted an afterglow gathering in the Tides Lounge.

Track with Ride & Drives and Display
Thursday morning began with a full breakfast at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca along with a driver’s orientation from Hooked On Driving’s David Rey. David’s talk was followed by Sam Paschel, the
newly hired CEO of Zero Motorcycles, sponsor of the breakfast.

Sam gave an entertaining and informative talk about his riding and executive history and his vision of electric motorcycles entering the mainstream.

 

This year, driving opportunities were nicely balanced between performance category vehicles on the race track and a wide selection of vehicles, including Zero motorcycles, available for road loops.

 

PG&E brought their remarkable Class 5 PHEV truck that is not only a unique hybrid vehicle, its generator can provide power for up to 100 homes in an emergency. Charging a handful of EVs at the track was as easy as recess for this rig.

 

The 25th annual WAJ Media Days was very successful, thanks to our sponsors, volunteers and attendees who evaluated a score of cars without incident. Let’s do even more next year!

Read our Members Stories from Media Days

See the Photos from the 2017 WAJ Media Days

Mazda: All Racing News Is Local

Word went out in late December that Dean Case of Mazda Motorsports would be hosting a Media Lunch at the Silicon Valley Auto Show in San Jose on Thursday January 5th to present the idea that there is a “local story” everywhere Mazda owners race their cars. The Auto Show features two Bay Area Mazda Racers that reinforce that premise. Mark Drennan, “the guy you don’t want to see in your rear view mirror” and Telo Stewart, Owner, World Speed Motorsports. The Sonoma-based World Speed team is known for putting Mazda drivetrains in just about anything and making them competitive.

As Barry Toepke, Maestro of the Monterey Reunion and Brad Littlefield new public relations Manager for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca were expected to be in attendance, there was a chance that we might learn the latest status in the ongoing challenge for the operation of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Dean Case, started the introductions by letting his audience of about two dozen journalists know that Mazda owners race their cars in 46 of the 50 states and, with his usual wry smile, that he was interested in seeing what could be done about the missing four. With a miniscule 2% market share on the road, 55% of ALL Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) entries are either Spec Mazda or Mazda-powered, with the Mazda Teen Challenge being one of the most fiercely competitive classes in racing. Dean admitted that Mazda sold millions in racing parts in 2016 and that Mazda had poured $1 million into payouts for club racing level prize money.

It was really interesting to learn that the engine in the World Speed Mazda Formula Cars were standard MZR production engines with zero internal changes. Only a changed ECU, exhaust and intake yield maximum performance with maximum longevity for a dependable 200 horsepower in the sealed engines assembled by famed builder Hasselgren Engineering of Berkeley. These engines typically go 3,000 miles compared to the significantly more costly Formula Atlantic engines that are anticipated to go 2,000 miles between rebuilds. One MRZ, Dean said, had still not been cracked open with 11,000 racing miles clocked on it.

Dean added a funny story about some consternation concerning a scion of the famed Brabham family being sent out in a car, winning eight races and a championship, only to be informed after the fact that he had been given a car with a used engine! Speaking of the Teen Mazda Challenge Dean stated: “We want the series that we support to be affordable. We encourage our drivers to put advertisements for non-profits on their cars.” He suggested Mazda racers race with passion and support their passions. Dean talked about Mazda support of the SPCA for Monterey County, Project Yellow Light, and mentioned that Mazda racer Sarah Montgomery was working with Lemons of Love.

We heard from Telo about Mazda-powered Formula Cars, the Mazda Challenge Race and the Mazda Road to Indy, setting up farm teams and several levels of competition to create a feeder series for American race car drivers who dream of Indy.

Barry Toepke introduced Brad Littlefield, the new PR Manager for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and spoke about the 60th Anniversary/Diamond Jubilee of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (which was opened in 1957). We also got to meet Mark Drennan a 50-year-old rookie who lead six races and won two in 2016. We also met Marissa Borjon, the new Mazda Western Regional PR person.

Dean kept us on schedule with a light-hearted touch and gave us a tour and walk-around of the Mazda booth and two race vehicles on display after the lunch. It was a great event, well-attended and what is probably the first of what might turn into a Mazda roadshow that will criss-cross the country shining a bright light on Mazda’s amazing footprint in the American racing scene.

Now you can pay for WAJ Events directly with your Debit or Credit Card

WAJ now accepts all major credit cards and PayPal online for all events.

Simply click on the Pay Now button.
paynow

Which will direct you to the payment screen.

 

 

paypal-Creditcard-paymentIf you wish to pay with PayPal, simply log into your PayPal account in the top screen.  If you wish to pay by debit or credit card, (WAJ accepts, MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover, and Bank Debit cards), click on the “Pay with a debit or credit card, or PayPal credit.”  It’s that simple, safe and secure.

Of course you can still pay by check at the door.  Just click on the “Pay by Check or at the Door” button.

WAJ May 3rd Meeting

Join us for a special WAJ dinner meeting on May 3rd with two presentations.

verizon-new-logoVerizon Telematics, a leading tier one provider of new vehicle connectivity also offers leading safety and security solutions in the aftermarket. CEO Andrés Irlando will discuss the company’s telematics solutions and the Verizon team will bring along a demonstration vehicle or two for hands-on testing.

DeltaWing GT blue buckDeltaWing Technology Group, which has raced successfully in America’s top sports car series, will soon unveil a GT consumer version as well as a three-wheel urban, ride sharing car.

Panoz head shot

CEO Dr. Don Panoz will present his company’s vision of the automotive future and bring both the IMSA racecar and winning driver Katherine Legge.

 Our meeting will be held at the Basque Cultural Center, 599 Railroad Avenue, South San Francisco. Displays will be available from 5 to 6 PM and the meeting will begin promptly at 6:30.

Dinner Selections are:
Roasted Veal
Chicken
Vegetarian Pasta
All Selections are $35.00

Click Here to RSVP

Silicon Valley Reinvents the Wheel 2016

Western Automotive Journalists event a big hit in the center of West Coast automotive technology.

By Brian Douglas

Display-&-Truck2wFor the last six years, WAJ has produced an automotive technology conference, gathering journalists, automakers and technology experts together with car demonstrations and informative panels. Two years ago, we elected to ramp up our conference, moving to The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, a venue with a central location and first class meeting and display space.

We learned quite a bit at our successful 2016 conference and on October 5th of this year, our second Silicon Valley Reinvents the Wheel was an unqualified success- attendance was sold out. For 2015, we teamed with the Churchill Club and AutoTech Council, two important Silicon Valley organizations that helped provide top talent and guests. Two hundred technology executives registered for the daylong conference, thirteen automotive brands were represented along with Tier One suppliers. And this year, the conference received major media coverage. You can find the full schedule here.

A Few Highlights
Early arrivals spent time evaluating a wide variety of vehicles in the museum’s large front parking area that’s reserved for our event. The exhibits included fuel cell cars from Hyundai and Toyota, electric and plug-in vehicles, infotainment systems with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and advanced hi fidelity from Alpine, Bose, Harmon and Tectonic. Look for an espresso truck to join the fun next year.

CNET’s Brian Cooley began the program inside in the big Hahn Auditorium with an Full-Room-woverview of trends and what the panels would offer. Then Veerender Kaul, Frost & Sullivan’s Vice President of Automotive and Transportation gave an overview of the industry. Kaul talked about timelines for alternative fuels as well as quickly emerging technologies including autonomous driving progress.

Mid morning, the AutoTec Council’s Liz Kerton introduced five startup entrepreneurs who each took the stage to pitch their technology. They were all interesting, but the most entertaining was the facial recognition technology from EYERIS. Its CEO J. R. Alaoui gave a real-time demonstration of his software that was convincing enough to solicit an inquiry from a major automaker’s lab.

The Infotainment and Connectivity panel followed with KIA’s Harry Bezih, GM’s Dan Kinney and Jaguar/Land Rover’s Matt Jones in an interesting dialogue moderated by Charlie Vogelheim. With both Apple and Google bringing mobile connectivity into car interiors, OEM systems and competition for driver attention, there’s a lot of growing interest in this space.

Automotive sound technology is more than hi fi these days. It also includes sonic enhancements for performance cars and mitigating external noise. WAJ’s Brian Douglas moderated a panel of experts from Alpine, Bose, Harmon and newcomer Tectonic, a company with new speaker technology found in Bentley models. Alpine’s Jim Walter brought a video demonstrating how the company built an entirely weatherproof hi fi system for the Jeep Wrangler and Tectonic punched up impressive sound from its speakers on either end of the stage. Following the panel, attendees were able to check out a great gathering of vehicles and gourmet food trucks during the lunch break.Dining-outside-w

After lunch, the program resumed with Michael Coates moderating a Zero Emissions panel with Dr. Alberto Ayala, Deputy Director of the State of California Air Resources Board and Dr. Morton Grosser, a Stanford and MIT schooled physicist and Silicon Valley venture capitalist. Ayala asserted that California’s aggressive carbon elimination program was attainable with new technology. Grosser spoke of the efficiency yet to be attained from petroleum and energy sources with wide infrastructure.

Google’s Robotics and Machine Learning chief Dave Ferguson took the podium and Google-Self-Driving-wdelivered an informative and entertaining presentation of his company’s autonomous driving progress. His highlight was the story of a Google vehicle encountering an elderly woman in a wheelchair chasing a goose back and forth across a city street with a broom. The vehicle’s camera footage was omitted for privacy, but the computers followed the action in front of the stopped research vehicle. You can’t make this up, let alone program for this occurrence.

That now famous question of whether the fully autonomous vehicle will decide to either save the occupant or the school children in a potential head-on collision and who is responsible for that decision was one of the ethics issues tackled by Stanford and Santa Clara professors. Since computer programmers can’t possibly code for every possibility, remember the broom-wielding goose chaser, some thorny issues were part of the discussion. Brian Cooley led a thoughtful discussion of Artificial Intelligence Ethics with a panel weighing in from an engineering, philosophical and legal viewpoint.

Attorney James Pooley, the former Deputy Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization, gave a compelling update on Cybersecurity. Pooley also ventured his opinion on VW’s scandal and how some corporate cultures can isolate management from problems that people outside the glass walls easily discover.

Academy of Art University design students are finding their way into major automaker’s studios with the reputation of the Industrial Design School now competitive with Pasadena’s Art Center and Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. Director Tom Matano and Associate Director Antonio Borja discussed how today’s designers consider interiors for autonomous vehicles where staples like steering and control aren’t required. It’s a fascinating concept to explore.

NVIDIA’s automotive director Danny Shapiro plunged into deep learning, an area of expansion for the visual computing firm based on its powerful processors. With new vehicles consuming more computing power than any other sector, it’s created a vibrant tier-one supplier structure right here in Silicon Valley.

Muri-Fuel-Cell-demo-wCNET’s Wayne Cunningham moderated the Road to Future Cars panel with representation from key Silicon Valley labs and technology offices. Panelists Nick Sugimoto from Honda Silicon Valley, Dr. Frankie James, GM’s Advanced Technology director, Delphi SV lab director John Absmeier and Dr. Maartan Sierhuis from Nissan’s Research Center in Silicon Valley took turns discussing where the automotive future was headed.

After a network reception, Eric Larsen provided the keynote address with WAJ’s BrianStanding-Room-w Douglas. Larsen shed some light on demographic trends that are counter to the notion that America’s population will cluster around transportation hubs and eschew car ownership. That’s more an aspiration of civic planners than the reality on the ground and perhaps good news for those of us who cherish personal freedom.

LA Auto Show’s Connected Car Expo (CCE)

cccThe rules for how vehicles are made, sold, serviced, owned and integrated into a multimodal transportation system are changing and the playbook is being written at LA Auto Show’s Connected Car Expo (CCE). The award-winning auto-tech conference and trade show unites the entire ecosystem defining new mobility.

CCE is where the New Automotive Industry gets business done, unveils groundbreaking products and makes strategic announcements in front of media from around the globe. The first of three LA Auto Show Press & Trade Days, CCE 2015 will take place at the JW Marriott (across from the L.A. Convention Center) on November 17, where more than 30 expert speakers and 40 exhibitors will take center stage.

Media may apply for credentials to attend both CCE and LA Auto Show Press & Trade Days HERE; non-media WAJ members that register by Nov. 1, can use special code 2015PARTNER to save $200 on any CCE pass.

REGISTER NOW.
http://laautoshow.com/join/

EVENT INFO.
LA Auto Show’s Connected Car Expo
JW Marriott L.A. Live | November 17, 2015
LA Auto Show Press & Trade Days

WAJ August 2015 Meeting

Academy of Art August is a busy automotive month with lots of events including a full week in Monterey, it will be well worth joining us Wednesday evening, August 19th to learn about Academy of Art’s automotive design school and its collaboration with Jaguar’s future F-Type development. Fellow member and the school’s Executive Director Tom Matano will bring his Associate Director Antonio Borja to present the program.