Kia Stinger GT AWD

By Jon Rosner

Kia originally positioned it’s cars as a value proposition. Handsome, but not daring, sporty, but not at the extreme, loaded with features and at a lower price to entice consideration.  At 4,000 pounds this is not a light car, but the responsiveness of the wheel and the ability of the suspension to handle potholes midway through off-angle switchback corners shows that the AWD Stinger is a nicely balanced canyon carver.  Taut handling with a reasonably supple ride are the signs of time and money well spent in suspension development.  The car felt rock solid when pushed to 7/10ths on the backroads. Very nice helpings of torque allowed the driver to power out of corners and position it for the next challenging turn.

The 3.3 liter twin-turbo V-6 engine was only turning 1,250 RPM in 8th gear at 55 MPH allowing the car to simply loaf along on highway sections, probably doing a nice job of sipping fuel. Per the fuel gauge we were seeing 17.5 MPG, but keep in mind that was the return with a bunch of eager journalists pounding  the snot out of it and wringing it out on every twisty section. Nice that Kia has the confidence in their product to offers a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty to go with the 5 yr/60,000 mile standard warranty.  With 365 horses and 376 pound-feet of torque zero to 60 for the Stinger AWD comes up in 4.7 seconds. The standard Stinger starts at just under $35,000 delivered, with the AWD coming at a bit over $41,000 MSRP.

With the Stinger Kia has grown up, offering a real sports car with a nicely sculpted shape and a very satisfying exhaust growl. This is a very long way from the tepid econoboxes that were the first Kias to hit American shores. But then again, the first Hondas and Toyotas were pretty much considered penalty boxes when they arrived. And Kia has also figured out something that has escaped a few too many of the current market offerings. Kia has developed a way  to make interiors of appealing soft-touch materials that match in color, fit together nicely, look balanced and house usable controls.

The Kia Stinger AWD is a very appealing package that has been thoroughly developed and well screwed together.  It is also a delight to drive.

 

 

Byton M-Byte Media Day Test Drive

The Byton Electric Car is coming,
or is it?

By Jon RosnerAt the 2019 Western  Automotive Journalists Meeting in Carmel CA we were treated to a presentation by Andrew Hussy of Byton supported by Dave Buchko and Jose Gurrero, all highly respected in the automobile industry for their accomplishments.

We heard about “non-traditional manufacturing.” How “Byton wants to drive the change in mobility,” “think about it (the car) as a smart device.” $45,000 price, better interface, “turn your commute downtime to useful uptime.”

All very appealing, the ideas look brilliant. It should be a fabulous car. That said, the American public has been ignoring pure electric cars by the droves. There are several brilliant hybrid electrics in the $130,000 range, aimed at the pretty narrow market, that being the price point where it is anticipated that these concepts will be viable. Costly, sales expected in small numbers.  But even the “that’s more like it” Prius is also suffering in the sales game as are the other well-developed hybrids. Leaving out the fact that the new Prius looks like some sort of pre-historic , and now deceased, sea creature probably doesn’t help the Prius on the sales front.  But even the simple and more appealing styles offered by its competitors don’t seem to be helping the cause very much.  US market share for plug-in electric vehicles hit .86% in 2017, 1.3% in 2017 and 2.1% in 2018 Hybrids, battery with an onboard internal combustion engine, hit 2.13% in 2017, down from over 3% in 2013, dropping back to around 2% for 2018 and 2019. There are now over 1 million electric cars on the road in the US today. And trend leader California has seen a large number of new designs hit the market and seeing a combined sales of all alternative vehicles, hydrogen, hybrid, battery electric hit a whopping 7.8% market share. Good long-term trend for the manufacturers spending billions in research, not so good for short-term sales though.

Aside from the Mustang, Ford is departing the car business in favor of selling trucks and SUVs, going so far as to propose the expansion of the Mustang brand to an upcoming SUV. Chrysler has some marvelous sports cars on offer to go with their hot selling Ram truck line.  In 1970 a Mustang with a small V-8 might get 9 to 15 MPG and few trucks sold by any of the big US based manufacturers could do better than 12 MPG without being tossed off a cliff. Sprint forward to 2019 and the United States is now one of the lowest cost producers and top world exporters of oil. Yes, we have seen our ups and downs, but essentially gasoline is still cheap and plentiful.  Global warming is on everyone’s lips except for out commander-in-chief, but in the meantime all but the most radical cars on the road are capable of over 20 MPG and many can easily return in the high 30’s and better. Trucks have also dramatically improved in fuel consumption. And both cars and trucks pollute at levels not even 1/20th what they were back in the day. Meanwhile aircraft and sea transport have had a fairly free ride in terms of pollution and global warming, as well as construction equipment, farming equipment and a host of other heavy users of petroleum distillates.

The point? The Byton looks very interesting. Ford, GM, Toyota, and Volkswagen have put tens of billions in investments into electric vehicle technologies that could revolutionize the market, but who is going to buy them? We Americans love our freedom to explore, to feel physically unlimited, ready to see the great untamed at the drop of a hat is weaved into our cultural identity. Just look at the revered Jeep, it is an icon because of the sense of freedom it represents.  Battery electric vehicles can now travel up to 300 miles a pop. But in the back of my head is the nagging thought. What if I get on the wrong road and run out of fuel? If I am driving a gasoline, diesel or some sort of hybrid AAA can bring me a gallon or two of gas and I am on my way. “Hey, AAA I am stuck on this backroad, can you being me a gallon of electrons?” It may happen, but we are not there yet.  

2019 Silicon Valley Reinvents the Wheel Wrap-up

2019 Silicon Valley Reinvents the Wheel Wrap-up
By Mike Hagerty
Photos by Alex Stack

Western Automotive Journalists and the Autotech Council got together at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View on Monday, October 14 for the annual high-tech automotive event known as Silicon Valley Re-Invents the Wheel.  More than a dozen industry insiders gave us their insights on electrification, autonomous vehicles and other mobility matters in an all-day forum.

CNET Roadshow’s Brian Cooley was this year’s MC, keeping the program moving along, asking on-point questions of speakers and sharing his knowledge form his perspective as one of the most prominent journalists in the space where cars and tech meet.

The day began with a research overview from Sven Beiker of Silicon Valley Mobility.  Sven told the audience that mobility is like a large puzzle with six pieces—Communication, Data Services, Maps and Information, Signage and Markings, Testing and Education, and Rules and Policies.   That, according to Sven, is the infrastructure for the mobility of the future—and he warned that’s it’s not quick and it’s not easy.

The next speaker dramatically underscored the need to get it right.  Kristin Kolodge of J.D. Power and Associates shared data from the company’s Mobility Confidence Index showing that not only is there still deep skepticism and doubt about autonomous vehicles ( a very small minority say they would feel comfortable riding in one), but there is still a huge disconnect between the availability and capabilities of today’s electric vehicles and the public’s understanding of them.  Most drivers have yet to even ride in an electric vehicle, much less drive one, and there’s a significant gap between real-world performance, range and cost and what most of the public thinks those benchmarks are—a misunderstanding to the detriment of electric vehicles.

From there,  Ziv Binyamini brought us up to date on the latest developments in Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) testing.  The biggest point?  There’s much more to be done. “Yes, we’ve driven 100 million miles and are using AI to create multiple scenarios for every one of those miles.  Do we need to do 100 million more?  And will that be enough?”  Ziv’s point was that the heady times of breakthrough after breakthrough may be over and that we’ve entered the phase where gains become tougher to reach as we try to produce as fail-safe a mobility system as is possible.  Ziv says the missing part in today’s testing is a quantifiable way to verify what’s been done and what still must be done and that regulators will insist on that as the move toward autonomy continues.

Liz Kerton of the Autotech Council moderated a discussion on technology start-ups with Gil Reiter of SafeRide, Macha Achour of Metawave and Rafael Maranon of Wavyn, with each doing a pitch of their companies’ products and what they believe make them the right choice.

And just before the lunch break, WAJ President Charlie Vogelheim brought Shiv Sikand, executive Vice-President of Drako Motors to the stage.  Shiv showed a video of the Drako GTE, a 1,200 horsepower luxury sports sedan with an electric motor powering each wheel of the car independent of the other three.
The Drako GTE was on display outside the Computer History Museum along with vehicles and tech from Ridecell, Local Motors, Techtonic and more.  Attendees were able to see the vehicles and devices and ask questions during the two-hour lunch break.  An assortment of box lunches were available as part of admission to the event.

After lunch and examining the vehicles in the parking lot, most attendees went upstairs to the Autotech Council Science Fair.  More than 30 companies were showing off their latest technologies for automobiles, both self-driven and autonomous, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The presentations resumed at 2:00, with Jan Becker from Apex.AI talking about the building blocks for autonomy.  His point was that autonomous vehicle manufacturers are, at present, where traditional carmakers were in the early days of the industry more than a hundred years ago—manufacturing virtually every part of their cars themselves.  Over time, Becker told the audience, the way forward will be for the new breed of carmakers to adopt the supplier pyramid model, to reduce costs, increase profitability and to focus all their energy on the total product.

I had the honor and pleasure of introducing Miguel Acosta, the chief of the Autonomous Vehicles Branch of the California Department of Motor Vehicles.  Miguel gave us an overview of how, when and why the DMV approves each step of autonomous vehicle testing and use in California.  Most interesting was the DMV’s study of disengagements—moments when the autonomous system in a vehicle either fails or the live safety driver feels the need to re-take control of the vehicle.  The DMV gets a yearly report of disengagements in the field along with details and explanations as to what happened and why, giving the Department insight into recurring weaknesses in autonomous systems.

Alex Thibault of Vulog put the global ride-sharing business into perspective.  His company works with vehicle sharing companies worldwide, and there are literally dozens in business in countries essentially worldwide.

Autonomous trucking is also rapidly evolving, as trucking companies try to solve a worsening driver shortage.  Michael Coates moderated a discussion with Jenny Eflsberg of Volvo and Chuck Price of TuSimple.

After a half-hour networking break, the final presentations of the afternoon began with Laura Wrisley of Velodyne Lidar.  She told us about a breakthrough in Lidar enabling high-definition, 360 degree recognition of objects.

Nadim Maluf of Qnovo took us back to electrification, with a report showing that building an adequate charging infrastructure will take time and that, rather than electric cars with great range, quick recharging and low price, there will likely be a mixture of those attributes at varying price points—not unlike how economy cars, SUVs and sports cars occupy different price points now, and are sold on varying attributes.

Mark Thomas of Ridecell talked about how the delay in autonomy (remember, many “experts” were predicting we’d be there by 2020 a few years ago) has put the business models of Uber and Lyft under pressure—since both companies originally saw live drivers as a stopgap until autonomy was approved, which would reduce their costs.  Ridecell is positioning itself as a company to build profitable and sustainable ride-sharing businesses—including app development and systems to put cars in the areas where they’re most likely to be rente

Then came a  take on software for mobility on demand with Gary Hseuh of ProspectSV and Drew Dara-Abrams of Interline Technologies.  Much of their focus is on a project to streamline transit ticketing—to make using public transit, and transitioning between transit agencies (there are 30 in the Bay Area) as user-friendly as possible.

Brian Cooley wrapped up the day with a quick look at the data that we can generate while we’re sitting in our cars—everything from our own health to shopping preferences—and what might be coming very soon to dealerships all over the world.

The evening wound down with a 90-minute reception featuring food, wine  and beer—an opportunity for SVRItW attendees to compare notes and wait out the 5:30 crunch on Silicon Valley freeways and surface streets.

 

Watch the Live Stream of SVRtW

Additional Stories from Cartrast by Satish Kondapavulur

WAJ MEDIA DAY 2019 Recap

WAJ Media Day 2019
A Hit for Journalists and Automakers

By Brian Douglas
Photography by Alex Stack and Maurice Liang

Media Day(s) has been a signature event for WAJ since the organization’s founding 27-years ago when Sears Point Raceway (Sonoma) was the venue for a day of vehicle evaluation focused on track driving. Over the years, race tracks that included Sonoma, Thunder Hill and most recently Laguna Seca hosted our annual event that grew to two days; one on-and-off-road at Quail Lodge
and the next day at Laguna Seca for a mixture of track and road testing.
Continue reading

Valeo April Meeting Recap

Valeo welcomed WAJ to its Mobility Tech Center for our April Members meeting. Valeo, not a household name, is a leading global automotive tech company. Valeo was created nearly 100 years ago has quite a presence worldwide. It is located in 33 countries with sales of $23 billion and 113k employees…40 of whom are based here in Silicon Valley. WAJ members were welcomed by Peter Groth who is the General Manager of the Mobility Tech Center. Peter introduced us to Daniel Benchetrite, North America Powertrain New Mobility Director, and David Hermina, Innovation & Collaboration Research Manager, who took turns with presentation duties. Continue reading

March Member Meeting Recap

Recap of our March Member Meeting At Unity
By Emme Hall, WAJ VP of Events

Our March meeting found us in the Unity offices in downtown San Francisco. Unity produces a real-time 3D development platforms and is mostly known in the video game world. However, the tech is also used by manufacturers like Volkswagen, Toyota, BMW and even niche producers and designers like Pininfarina.

The evening got off to a great start with Unity hosting a pizza and drinks mixer in their kitchen/dining room.  WAJ President, Charlie Vogelheim then kicked off the meeting with a brief update on WAJ, and to remind members that if they hadn’t renewed their membership it was time to do that. Continue reading

2018 Silicon Valley Reinvents the Wheel Recap

2018 Recap
A Review by Steve Schaefer

On Monday, October 1, the Western Automotive Journalists and the Autotech Council met at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California for their annual high-tech automotive event. The all-day program featured more than a dozen interesting speakers, the Autotech Council Science Fair, and some outdoor displays during the tasty lunch. Continue reading