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Power-Assisted Bicycles from Panasonic

Panasonic has announced that it will introduce the Gyutto and the Gyutti Mini power-assisted bicycles to the Japanese market on May 23rd, 2011. The two models are special due to the fact that they are equipped with two accompanying child seats, placed on the rotating shaft of the handle, ideal for mothers that want to take their children shopping or on rides in the park. This ensures a low position for the seats and improves the stability of the bicycles; it also makes it easier to place the baby in and take him/her out.

The difference between the two models is that Gyutto will have front and rear wheels of 22” and respectively 26”, while the Gyutto Mini will be only 20” in size. The way they are built ensures an increased stability, even if both children are carried at the same time: the small front wheels used by the Panasonic Cycle Technology lower the gravity, but still maintain the function of pedaling similar to a regular bicycle.

The two models come with three power assist models: automatic (which controls assist power), power (which keeps assisting pedaling effort strongly) and eco (which save power consumption by using a low power source as assistance). The bicycles have a 8Ah lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which means they’ll have a 36km range.

The suggested prices of the two models are around $1,604, no child seat included.

What is your opinion about those bicycle models: would you feel your child is safe on it? Do you think they’re appropriately priced?

[Source: Techon, Photo]

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Study: Women’s Favorite Cars Acquisitions

The automotive industry is for women too. So knowing their behavior and their favorite cars is really useful for car manufacturers. The R.L. Polk article presents a study that includes some relevant information: they rank the collective group of Asian OEMs (that include Toyota, Lexus, Honda, Acura, Hyundai, KIA, Nissan, Infiniti, Subaru and Mazda) as dominant in the top selections across all ethnic groups.

So, they apparently won over women big time. The Toyota Camry won the top spot – five different ethnic groups prefer it. Next on the list are the Corolla, the Civic, the Accord and the CR-V.

As for domestic cars, they cover the bottom of the chart (Ford is dominant in the preferences of eight ethnic groups), but only the African-Americans and Hispanics have included domestic cars in top 10 car buying preferences.

You can see the detailed numbers and statistics in the chart below:

What do you think about these results, do they seem realistic to you? What’s your top 5 cars you would like to buy?

[Source: Polk, Photos]

[press release] OnStar Mobile App Expands to China

OnStar is the first company to introduce an automotive mobile app in China

SHANGHAI – Today at the 2011 Shanghai Auto Show, Shanghai OnStar announced the debut of the popular OnStar Mobile App for all drivers of OnStar-equipped vehicles in China.

The app is the first automotive mobile app available in China and is similar to the U.S. and Canadian versions. It will allow OnStar subscribers in China access to all of the functions of a traditional key fob – remote start, horn and lights and door lock/unlock – securely from their smart phones.

“Giving our customers control of their vehicles with smart phone application technology is a key advantage of OnStar’s in-vehicle connectivity,” said Jon Hyde, general manager of Shanghai OnStar Telematics Co., Ltd, “This technology empowers drivers to have control over important vehicle information from anywhere they happen to be.”

In addition, the app will provide subscribers with key diagnostic information, including fuel level and range, remaining oil life, current and recommended tire pressure and lifetime average kilometers per liter. The diagnostic information is current as of the last vehicle start, giving OnStar subscribers an up-to-date status report of their vehicle when they need it.

“OnStar is continuously raising the bar in telematics and safety leadership as well as applying the newest and best technology for our customers in China,” said Hyde. “It is our vision to be the single most-admired telematics player with a clear focus on providing subscribers safety, security and peace-of-mind services.”

OnStar mobile app services will be available to all OnStar-equipped vehicles, including existing subscribers as well as new subscribers. For more information about the OnStar mobile application, please visit www.onstar.com.cn.

The U.S. and Canadian versions of the app are available on most 2011 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models, and a select number of 2010 models. The complete list of compatible vehicles is available at www.onstar.com/mobile.

About Shanghai OnStar Telematics Co., Ltd.

Shanghai OnStar Telematics Service Co., Ltd. is a joint venture officially established by General Motors, SAIC Group and Shanghai GM on October, 2009. OnStar is the leading provider of in-vehicle safety, security and peace of mind for Shanghai GM models manufactured and sold in China.

OnStar, parent company of Shanghai OnStar Telematics Service Co., aims at improving vehicle safety. Up till now, OnStar has 6 million customers all over the world and 253 million customer interactions. OnStar receives high praise from its customers and is the telematics industry leader.

OnStar provides the following 14 services in China:

  • Automatic crash response
  • Emergency services
  • Automatic air bag deployment response
  • OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics
  • On-demand diagnostics
  • Good Samaritan
  • Stolen vehicle location
  • Remote door unlock
  • Remote horn and lights
  • Roadside assistance
  • Hands-free calling
  • Points of interest
  • Turn-by-Turn Navigation
  • Destination Download

About OnStar

OnStar, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors, is the leading provider of connected safety and security solutions, value-added mobility services and advanced information technology. Currently available on more than 40 MY 2011 GM models, OnStar soon will be available for installation on most other vehicles already on the road through local electronics retailers, including Best Buy. OnStar safely connects its more than six million subscribers, in the U.S., Canada and China, in ways never thought possible. OnStar Stolen Vehicle Slowdown is a recipient of the 2010 Edison Award for Best New Product in the technology category. More information about OnStar can be found at www.onstar.com.

[Source: Photo]

McCar and its Scooter in the Rear – the Possible Answer to City Driving Needs

Heavy traffic and parking problem are well-known to us all. We often find ourselves in the situation to leave our car parked in a city area far from where we actually want to go. The solution to that might be the McCar, an ultra compact, two-door, four-seater, built by Geely, the Chinese company that owns Volvo. This hybrid electric car was showed at the Shanghai Motor Show and its innovative functionality is the folding three-wheeled electric scooter from the rear, which actually fulfills the transportation necessities of someone, when the car itself can no longer be used.

The McCar is capable of 93 miles per charge, while the scooter has a range of 18 miles per charge, being a completely independent vehicle. According to Geely, the McCar will be available in two versions and also with the option that replaces the scooter with a wheelchair; this will make this car a really good option for the people with mobility problems.

The prices for the McCar weren’t mentioned, but the car is expected to start rolling out next year.

That’s a pretty good solution for traffic jams, but where would we park the scooters? What do you think about this hybrid car?

[Source: Boston, Photo]

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Improved Ride Quality with Electromagnetic Automobile Suspension


A few months ago, The Netherlands’ Eindhoven University of Technology has announced its research on a new kind of electromagnetic vehicle suspension. So far, the technology was used on a car to be presented soon, on the AutoRAI exhibition in Amsterdam. Which is why the university has decided to release a few more details about the tested and researched system.

Accordingly to the researchers, the electromagnetic automobile suspension was proved to help improve the ride quality by up to 60%. The Eindhoven suspension is electromagnetic and active too, being controlled by an onboard computer. How it works? The sensors from the vehicle send information to the computer to be processed, and the computer then adjusts the suspension accordingly, within a fraction of a second. In addition, the system consists of a passive spring, an electromagnetic actuator, a control unit and batteries. So, if the batteries fail, the system will still work as a normal mechanical suspension.

Due to all those features, the electromagnetic vehicle suspension saves power to: to a peak consumption of 500 watts it ships around 25% of the power of hydraulic systems.

What do you think: is the electromagnetic vehicle suspension enough to improve the quality of a ride? Are any other improvements necessary?

[Source: Gizmag]

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Above and Below the Water – by Platypus

People are very creative, surprisingly, even when it comes to small submarines or underwater vehicles. Such an example is Platypus (not the semi-aquatic animal, just its “similar” vehicle), a two-person electric underwater exploration concept that can be used above and below the water simultaneously.

It can travel for eight hours above the water at 10-12 knots (18.5-22.2 km/h), or below the water at 3-4 knots (5.5-7.5 km/h). All that drivers need is a scuba gear (no other operating equipment), because the pontoons have some sort of integrated compressor which supplies air hoses.

This is how it works:

The Platypus uses two electric motors, one in each pontoon. The electrical energy is stored in lithium polymer batteries, with an operating duration of up to eight hours – just as with electric cars, the range is dependent on how gently each of us uses the power.
Platypus produces no local emissions, is silent and offers storage space too. And this is not all that it can do: it features a stable platform for many applications, such as diving, photography, bird watching, eco tourism, and is the first underwater that could be used by handicapped persons.

Options as GPS, lighting for night work, on-board computer and emergency system lift are currently explored by its creator.

Now dream a little bit with us about how joyful it would be to have such a cost-effectively underwater vehicle in all our tropical resorts!

Or should we be worried about the safety issue in case of a rough sea?
No worries, they’ll fix that. Dream on!

[Source: Ubergizmo, Photo]

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Blending Digital and Analogue Reading

“The future is digital” – this is what we hear at every conference, debate or any intention to develop new technologies. Books have not been ignored by this change either, so they slowly have made their entry into the digital area too, even if we talk about fiction books, workbooks (e.g. for cars) or manuals. However, the problem of classic books lovers still stays current. There are still people who cannot enjoy reading a book unless they feel its paper on their fingers, flip pages or add comments on their book pages’ corners.

A way to please both categories was found to be the action of blending those two reading options, the old and the new, into the same reading system. We are talking about the Smart Bookrest Docking System, based on a QR code printed on the top right corner of every page of a book and which, after being read by a smartphone, will display the page content on the digital tablet too.

Just think about the feeling of having the possibility to freely chose how to read a car brochure, illustrated, colored and informative, both printed and digital.

Is this the definition of the full experience of reading?

[Source: Yankodesign]

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[press release] OnStar Previews a Connected Future at Where 2.0

Student developers will present final OnStar app ideas at O’Reilly conference

DETROIT – OnStar heads to the O’Reilly Where 2.0 Conference Tuesday through Thursday with an eye on the future of automotive and digital connectivity. OnStar will be represented at the conference with a keynote address, panel discussion, interactive exhibit and presentations of student-developed apps.

In his keynote speech Wednesday, Nick Pudar, OnStar vice president of Planning and Business Development, will talk about the future of automotive connectivity and destination management, and will announce additional services for the OnStar Mobile App.

“Where 2.0 presents us with a great opportunity to share our vision for the future of personal mobility and connectivity, both inside and outside the automobile,” said Pudar.

Wednesday afternoon, finalists in the OnStar Student Developer Challenge will present their voice-based app submissions to judges. The students’ mission was to develop the most original and compelling in-vehicle, voice-enabled application using OnStar’s unique data model and QuickFuse, a voice application development platform.

Students from five universities, Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Michigan, University of Texas and University of Toledo, participated in the challenge. Six apps were selected as finalists. Each team received an all-expenses-paid trip to the conference to present the apps.

Judges will review the apps and announce the grand prize winner at an evening reception. The winner may choose one of two Developer Dream Packages, each valued at $10,000.

“We’re thrilled to give these students a chance to attend and present at such a distinguished technology conference. It’s a fantastic opportunity to meet and network with some of the brightest minds in the business, while also gaining valuable insight into the world of app development,” said Pudar.

Judges are Robert Scoble, noted tech influencer and managing director of Rackspace; Daniel Jacobson, director of engineering for the API at Netflix; and OnStar chief technology officer Jeff Liedel. Scoble and Jacobson will also take part in a panel discussion – moderated by Pudar – on the convergence of technology, the social web and personal connectivity.

OnStar will also host an exhibit where media and conference participants can meet OnStar executives, see demonstrations of OnStar’s most recent technologies – such as the OnStar Mobile App in and around the Chevrolet Volt – recharge their mobile devices.

About OnStar
OnStar, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors, is the leading provider of connected safety and security solutions, value-added mobility services and advanced information technology. Currently available on more than 40 MY 2011 GM models, OnStar soon will be available for installation on most other vehicles already on the road through local electronics retailers, including Best Buy. OnStar safely connects its more than six million subscribers, in the U.S., Canada and China, in ways never thought possible. More information about OnStar can be found at www.onstar.com.

[Source: Photo]

Telematics System for Vehicles – Study

We all know that drivers are using increasingly more mobile applications and devices while being behind the wheel, but nobody has lately tried to show, by comparative research, which of all those is safer or not so distracting so that the risk of accidents to be avoided.

This thing is no longer available: OnStar and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) have initiated a study on this subject and have shown that, apparently, voice-based telematics systems are a safer form of in-vehicle navigation compared to systems that rely solely on visual aids.

Tom Jeffers, vice president, OnStar Public Policy, said that the results give some much-needed attention to possible distracted driving behaviours that put people at risk every day. The moment couldn’t have been more appropriate than that, with April being Distracted Driving Awareness month.

For the comparative results, researchers have used a cell phone-based navigation application, a personal navigation device (PND), OnStar Turn-by-Turn directions and OnStar Destination Download, as well as printed driving directions.

How did they make the evaluation? They captured audio and video footage of 24 participants, aged 25 to 55 as they used the five different navigation options while driving. Combined with the vehicle’s key performance data, researchers have analysed video of the driver’s face and forward view and movements, for eye glances and other motions.

Here are some of the final results:
- Voice-based Turn-By-Turn Direction service result in better vehicle control.
- 80.8 percent of study participants prefer “least complicated option”.
- Drivers value visual aids combined with audio directions (which is available with OnStar Destination Download).
- Voiced-based OnStar Turn-by-Turn directions allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road for longer time.
- The OnStar systems required significantly less mental effort than the personal navigation device and cell phone application.
- 86.5 percent of participants liked “simple, quick instructions”.

“VTTI’s research showed that participants seemed to favor the presence of visual information to accompany the audio directions (…). Additionally, the results of the study showed sizeable advantages in the use of voice control for destination entry, suggesting that systems that offer an array of navigation options are preferred by drivers”

said Miguel Perez of Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

Personally, which one of the five different navigation options do you find more easy to use while driving?

[Source: OnStar Press Release, Photo]

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Green Consumerism on the Rise – American Survey

Going green appears to be the new tendency in all the areas: services, products, companies or personal ecological behavior. After all, this is a normally thing to happen, if we take into consideration the latest increasingly more dedicated campaigns or public speeches about the subject.

An NBC Universal’s online survey done on the U.S. adults has shown that people start to become morally more responsible toward the environment when they decide about the products or services they pay for. This study is a follow-up to a similar poll from 2009, and some of its results can be applied to the automotive industry too when we talk about hybrids, EVs, and other green vehicles.

Here are some of the general results revealed by the study:
- 68% of consumers say it’s worth paying more for a green product or service if it is a brand they trust.
- 93% of the respondents feel a personal responsibility to take care of the planet.
- 91% believe that their current behavior will influence the future of the planet, and if they won’t manage the “going green” action properly, the future generations will suffer.
- 90% consider that corporations should be preoccupied by to go green with their products and workplaces too.
- 77% of those surveyed say that their impression about a company is influenced by the company’s support for the green causes.
- 62% have declared that they choose the products from the companies which usually develop ecological activities.
- 27% of survey participants mentioned they had boycotted a company due to their non-environmentally products or policies (with 9% more than in 2009 – which proves the growing activism).

The results are a little bit surprising due to the fact a recent GfK Research’ study has shown the exactly opposite: the consumers are primarily interested in saving money and not in the environment problem. In the automotive industry, this last results are certified by the sales data too, which show that compact vehicles were at the top of the consumers’ preferences during the gas price spikes of 2008, but lower MPG models have gained ground once fuel prices slipped downward.

It appears to be that kind of situation in which what people say isn’t always what people do too.

What is your opinion: would you prefer a green car to a compact car, no matter the price?

[Source: Greencarreports, Photo]

The Aston Martin Experience by Using iPhone App

High-tech and mobile applications are increasingly widely used in the automotive industry, but this is part of its development, we say. What’s surprisingly pleasing to see is that even the exclusive sports cars and with a rich heritage around the world are doing the same thing, trying to stay tuned with all the evolution from the industry.

One of those cases is the cool Aston Martin brand, which has always tried to combine the latest technology with graceful styling and acclaimed performance. This time, their up to date improvement is the Aston Martin App, a way of creating and remaining loyal to its ethos and driving experience.

In the city or at home, the app is ready to use. This is what it does:
- ignition – the Aston Martin App offers the possibility to start-up by using an exhaust note.
- accelerator – you can use the phone as an accelerator, which is kind of awesome. V8 & V12 Vantage, DB9, DBS, Rapide and even One-77 are the featured models from the app.
- top roads – if you want to find the best driving roads or some information about checkpoints to share experience, you just have to use the app.
- speedometer – the app gives you access to speedometer race upwards via GPS and hear the sound of the Aston Martin model chosen by you. The results are shown with a faithful reproduction of the Aston Martin in car dial , with speeds in mph and km/h. Actually, we are talking about a digital version of the car.
- the guide of a city – it features information about 40 of the world’s coolest cities and the full London, including restaurants, bars or hotels.
- telemetry – the Aston Martin App displays the G Force from the vehicle with a 0-60 timer and sharing functions.
- camera on board – due to the app, the iPhone can be used as an onboard camera too, augmenting an overlay of key driving data into the driver’s view.

If this sounded interesting to you, you can get the Aston Martin Explore App on the App Store.
So, what do you think: is this mobile app a “wow” in the automotive industry?

[Source: Aston Martin]

Best Way to Cut Up Cars Shown in iPhone Application

Regardless of how secure a car could be, car accidents still occur and sometimes they are quite severe. Consequently, this often requires the intervention of the rescue team. In addition, the more complex and complicated cars are, the more difficult rescue operations can be.

Apparently, the rescue workers’ job can get easier by the help of a new application for iPhones. This is not a very smart one, but it’s a useful one, which solves the problem of undeployed airbags or blocked seatbelts that could harm even more the persons in the damaged car if not acted properly during rescue. Not to mention the situations of accidents involving electric cars, with the specific risks that those involve. Because of all this, a rescue crew should know which are the specific points of different vehicles where they can be easily cut in case of an accident.

So, Bohemian Innovations of Austin, Texas, has developed Extraction Zones, a catalog of diagrams with car physical structure, using the existing vehicle schematics. The results are generated by overlaying vehicle’s components, using multi-layers, color graphics, showing the best places were they can be cut in. It is easy to use and to be carried to the accident’s place, which makes this option even more useful.

“There is no splash screen to sit through, first responders can select and deselect what they wish to see at any given time, as well as choose a day or night vision mode to modify the colors as needed. (…) Each car layout also has the ability to zoom in and out easily.”

said company CEO Albert Swantner.

The entire project came from the idea of a firefighter and a paramedic to make their job easier and with less risks. For the moment, the app is available only for iPhone, but Android and iPad versions will be released soon. All that we can say is just good luck with that!

[Source: Wired, Photo]

4G Network Interfering with GPS Units?

We live into a world of real-time data, radio frequencies and different types of signals which, in our belief, improve our lives. But, when it comes to combining technologies like 4G and GPS, there seems to be a problem: we cannot use both of them simultaneously. Or at least this is the result of a report made by Scott Burgett and Bronson Hokuf, engineers at Garmin International.

The engineers made some lab simulations, trying to see if the de 4G base stations on the ground have any influence on the GPS satellite band. The result was that both occupy similar spectrum of bands: GPS satellites transmit signals in bands between 1559 and 1610 megahertz, while 4G stations use the 1525 to 1559 MHz range. This wouldn’t have been a problem if the tests wouldn’t have shown that the overlap of bands could seriously compromise GPS reception over vast areas of the United States. Consequently, difficulties with time serving, saving and monitoring activities could appear, which could seriously endanger human lives.

Meanwhile, LightSqared, the company that plans to build the new 4G transmitters says that the two systems can work together perfectly and their systems won’t be turned on until there are assurances that GPS signals won’t be lost.

What do you think: do the two systems interfere so that to generate important system issues and reception problems?

[Source: Gizmodo, Photo]

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Smartphones, Real-Time Information and Public Transit – Study

Initiatives to convince people to give up using their personal cars in favor of public transit can be found all over the world. No matter who is their generator (public transit companies or environmental NGOs), the general idea is that people should try the public transit, at least for a couple of days.

Several researchers of human behavior have tried to figure out how to make people to get out of their cars and onto mass transit, and their answer might be the use of smartphones and real-time information apps about schedules, delays, shops and services along the routes. This is based on an interesting study on commuters made in Boston and San Francisco, two of the places where there is a relative abundance of information about public transit; both cities provide open-source data to developers who can create any number of apps.

The study revealed that people are more willing to ride the public transportation vehicles if they have tools to manage their commutes effectively. For the study, 18 persons were asked to use only the public transit for one week. During this time, the researchers had free access to participants’ reactions and content or discontent. This could definitely improve public transportation planning or ridership experience and will generate new programs or applications to make commuting easier and mass transit more attractive.

As we would expect, any person using public transportation feels more comfortable about the situation if he has some control on his experience (such as knowing about buses’ delays) and if he has a greater choice in when and where to ride.

Richard Davey, MBTA general manager, has declared:

“Mobile technology has allowed us to provide customers with dramatically more information about their commutes at a relatively low cost. (…) Just a few years ago, providing riders with real-time information would have required the installation of costly signs at bus stops throughout the system or building a complicated phone system. Today, new technology allows us to simply open our data allowing third parties to provide great solutions for customers.”

Another benefit of the entire situation is that the participants in the research said that leaving their cars home and using public transit made them feel more connected with the communities where they work or live. This is even more pronounced by the technologies that connect riders to the cityscape, sending them information about the areas they pass through while being on the mass transit (some kind of a transit map).

That being said, would you leave your personal car home and use public transit if you would benefit of this type of smartphone app for your own town?

[Source: Wired, Photo]

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Coalition to Bring the Cloud to Cars – from Toyota and Microsoft

Another innovative alliance between car and software technology has come to light: Toyota and Microsoft have collaborated to bring clouds to the automotive industry. The $12 million venture offers a series of new benefits and possibilities to drivers, such as stream music, information services connections, GPS and multimedia options and even management of the batteries of their EV.

The general great objective: to generate a global network from the Windows Azure cloud-computing platform. Meanwhile, this will be used first in the electric and pug-in hybrids to be launched in 2012 by the Japanese car manufacturer. Microsoft’s and Toyota’s work together will provide

At the teleconference, Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp has declared

“Together, utilizing Windows Azure and Microsoft’s vast information infrastructure, we will boost the value of automobiles by making them information terminals, moving beyond today’s GPS navigation and wireless safety communications, while at the same time enhancing driver and traffic safety.”

This is how it supposes to work: by using cloud, the vehicles are connected to servers around the world, which reduces considerably the need for hardware and software in the car and makes the access to services much easier.

“Our cars will play a big role in the global expansion of what we call ’smart centers’ on-board systems capable of better managing overall energy consumption of cars, driving trips and homes”.

(Toyota)

So, all that both work at right now is to create this and to develop new applications and features based on this technology. What do you thing: it would be a totally success?

[Source: Wired, Photo: Facebook Toyota]


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