Audi tested its RS Q E-Tron hybrid in the deserts of Morocco

With a little more than three months before the start of the Dakar Rally in January, Audi took its RS Q E-Tron to the deserts of Morocco to test the custom-built hybrid ahead of the endurance competition. Over the two weeks that Audi was in the country, it subjected the RS Q E-Tron to temperatures hotter than 100 degrees Fahrenheit and sandstorms. The automaker says it tested the vehicle in Morocco specifically to put it through the most extreme conditions possible. The heat and other factors pushed the RS Q E-Tron's electric drivetrain and other components to their limit. 

Audi RS Q E-Tron
Audi

"The insights we gained in Morocco are invaluable, but they also show us that we still have a lot to do before the Dakar Rally and there is not much time left," said Andreas Roos, project manager of factory racing at Audi Sport.

Audi and the Volkswagen Group have a lot riding on the RS Q E-Tron. If it can win the Dakar Rally, it would be the first electrified vehicle to do so. While not a pure EV, it features an electric drivetrain with two modified Formula E motors. An energy conversion system with a TFSI engine charges the car's high-voltage battery while driving and braking. Volkswagen has already said it expects the RS Q E-Tron will help inform some of its future production cars.   

Google’s Android Automotive OS is coming to Honda cars in 2022

A host of features are being added to Google's Android Auto experience, and the company's Automotive OS will come to more cars including, for the first time, Honda vehicles from 2022 onwards.

Google introduced its Android Auto app in 2015, enabling drivers to run a tethered connection between their smartphone and their vehicle’s stereo system to play music from the device, have Maps’ turn-by-turn directions be read aloud, and take calls through the sound system. In the six years since, both Android Auto and the infotainment systems they operate on have gotten a whole lot smarter. On Thursday, Google announced that it will be rolling out even more features and capabilities to drivers, whether they run Android Auto on their phones or directly through their cars.

While Android Auto has been designed to minimize distractions to the driver when on the road, initially connecting the phone to the infotainment or stereo system has to date been a whole thing. You’d have to make sure the Bluetooth radio was live on your phone, then cajole the vehicle into recognizing and pairing with the device, then remember the myriad various oral commands to incite Android Auto into doing what you actually wanted it to. But no longer! Drivers will soon be able to effectively automate the tethering process just by saying “Hey Google, let’s drive.” 

What’s more, Google has redesigned the Auto UI to enable access to a bevy of content sources including Amazon Music, Audible, iHeartRadio, JioSaavn, Pandora, Podcast Addict, SoundCloud, and YouTube Music with one-tap accessibility as well as have the system read incoming text messages aloud and allow the driver to respond by voice. Expect to see these new features arrive over the next few weeks in English-speaking markets as well as Germany, Spain, Mexico, France and Italy.

And for international travelers using dual-SIM phones, Android Auto will allow you to establish separate Work and Personal profiles and have their relevant contact lists and calendar appointments display, depending on when and why they’re behind the wheel.

For vehicles with in-car displays, Android Auto (the mirroring version, not what you’d find on the Polestar 2 or the XC40 Recharge) will soon boast a few new features, such as games. Google is partnering with GameSnacks to offer drivers quick and fun diversions to play while the vehicle is parked. Finally, an end to doom-scrolling while sitting in public charging lots. Conversely, Google is making paying for gas less interactive. Just say “Hey Google, pay for gas” to have the vehicle’s infotainment system complete a contactless payment with Google Pay. You do have to select the fuel grade and, you know, actually pump the gas but, still. The feature will be available at Exxon and Mobil gas stations to start with support for Shell, Conoco, Phillips 66 and 76 stations coming soon.

As for the integrated Android Automotive OS (like what you’d find in select Ford, GM, and Volvo vehicles), get ready to see it in a whole bunch of new makes and models. Google announced on Thursday that its latest partner is Honda, which will begin producing vehicles with built-in AAOS come the 2022 model year, and will soon be available in both the Chevy Silverado and the Renault Mégane E-Tech.

A Dodge Viper high on testosterone with enough firepower to set the streets on fire!

A chunky Dodge Viper concept design filled with testosterone – ready to take command of the streets, race circuits, or conventional tracks for unparalleled dominance.

Dodge Viper is one sports car automotive enthusiasts will love to get a hold of, now that it is out of production and turning into a hot property with every passing year. While Dodge has no plans to revive the muscular hunk, the American sports car boasting a V10 engine lets the performance do all the talking – on the streets and tracks as well. While I still can’t get the flowing design of the Viper Basilisk Concept off my head, this new flashy Dodge Viper concept urges me to change my mind.

Designed and conceptualized by automotive designer Karan Adivi – who’s got a knack for visualizing hypnotic car designs – this concept shines with its wide-body stance and hot wheels – literally. Adivi tunes the already intimidating beast with his body kits on all sides to turn the Viper into a street racer god sent for the next Fast and Furious 10 shenanigans. The four-wheeler gets cheeky rear bumper lip diffusers, remodeled headlights, sharper front grill ducts, and a slightly uplifted hood nose that just stares at you so hard, you would eventually blink first!

The interiors are clad in red –matching the red on the wheels which is a hard thing to not get drawn into. The overall sports car appeal of the Dodge is certainly escalated in this concept design – and it’s highly desirable. Will this blue Dodge Viper with stylized white stripes capture my heart? It’s a close call, but I have to say a loud yes!

Designer: Karan Adivi

A sleek Nintendo Switch Bike like this would tempt the gamers to step out and play!

A Nintendo Switch-inspired electric bike that carries the definitive design language of the popular handheld gaming console – signaling the imagined form of Nintendo’s automotive character, if ever the company decides to take that road.

Handheld gaming consoles and Nintendo are synonyms that keep the nerdy crowd engaged for countless hours of fun. With the portable gaming console market size projected to touch 16 billion by 2026, it is destined to make up the major chunk of the overall gaming industry. Nintendo’s handheld gaming console commands an advantageous position in the fight for supremacy in the portable console market – and why not – it is designed well and comes with a unique collection of gaming titles!

Taking inspiration from Nintendo’s core beliefs and the radical design philosophy, product designer HTH Han has mustered up the idea of a Nintendo electric bicycle. Christened the Nintendo Switch Bike, this two-wheeler is modeled around the handheld gaming console’s core vision. A belief that what if Nintendo expands into the sports and outdoor market. Han uses the disoriented element of the Switch’s Joy-Con to create the frame of the bicycle. Frankly, this design element looks very nice.

Battery placement is one of the prime considerations in any electric bike, and this one accommodates it smartly in the frame. The lower section of the neon blue-colored frame to be precise, and it can be taken out for recharging with the push of a button. This increases the balanced styling approach of the hubless wheel electric bike as well. Han adapts the comfortable ergonomics, simple aesthetics, intuitive placement of buttons and keys, and the symmetrical interface of the controllers as the designing roadmap for the Nintendo Switch Bike.

The bicycle’s pedal comes with tactically placed LED lights on the outside face for driving safety at night. On the top of the pedal is a light indicator denoting the battery status to the rider for a quick glance at the information. Just like other electric bicycles, the front and rear have bright LED lights to keep the driver safe on the road from the road rage of other motorists. On the front, the flat panel display shows the map, current time, weather and battery status.

Designer: HTH Han

London’s largest cab company will go fully electric by 2023

London courier and private hire taxi firm Addison Lee has pledged to convert its whole passenger car fleet to electric vehicles by 2023. While the company's website says it has over 4,800 cars operating in the UK capital, its recent acquisition of black taxi service ComCab will make it the largest taxi company in London with over 7,000 vehicles. It already has 650 zero-emission vehicles in its fleet after the acquisition, but to be able to fully switch over to electric, it has teamed up with Volkswagen.

Addison Lee is investing £160 million ($218 million) to replace its existing fleet with slightly larger Volkswagen ID.4 vehicles. The standard ID.4 has a 77 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and has range of 250 miles, making it more suitable for city use than for long-distance driving. Its capable of 201 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque, with speeds reaching 100MPH. 

The firm will start by rolling out 450 EVs by the end of 2021, presumably in addition to the 650 electric cars it already has. Then, the company plans to add 200 electric cars per month until its whole fleet has been replaced within a couple of years. The firm also plans to set up charging infrastructure for its drivers using the new £3.5 million (US$4 million) Future Mobility Fund it has established.

If the company succeeds in transitioning to electric by 2023, it'll be ahead of its competitors like Uber, which previously pledged to replace its existing fleet with EVs by 2025. It also means up to 20,000 zero-emission trips each day in London, which will help the government achieve its goal of a net zero economy by 2050.

Mercedes-Benz’s EQS EV starts at $103,360 in the US

With the 2022 EQS making its way to American dealerships this fall, Mercedes-Benz has finally shared US pricing for its first fully electric vehicle. Initially, the automaker plans to offer two different models of the luxury sedan called the EQS 450+ and EQS 580 4Matic.

Both will be available in three different trims: Premium, Exclusive and Pinnacle. The base model EQS 450+ costs $102,310, while its counterpart will set you back $119,110. The Exclusive models are priced at $105,710 and $122,510 respectively, while the Pinnacle variants cost $108,510 and $125,310. One thing to note is the above prices don’t include a $1,050 destination and delivery charge you have to pay separately.

To put that pricing in perspective, it means you can buy an EQS sedan for less than you would pay for an entry-level S-Class model from Mercedes. The S500 4Matic and S580, with destination charge included, start at $110,850 and $117,350.

Some of the highlights of the Premium trim include heated and ventilated front seats, leather upholstery and a 10-speaker sound system. Moving up to the more expensive trims, you can look forward to features like a head-up display, four-zone climate control, additional USB-C ports and more. No matter the trim, each EQS will also come with two years of complementary fast-charging at Electrify America stations and 24-months of free maintenance.

One of the main reasons to go for the 580 rather than the 450+ is that it will come with the 56-inch MBUX Hyperscreen the automaker unveiled at CES 2021. On the more affordable model, you get a single 12.8-inch OLED touchscreen. The 580 also comes with 21-inch wheels, while the 450+ features 20-inch ones.

Mercedes-Benz’s EQS EV starts at $103,360 in the US

With the 2022 EQS making its way to American dealerships this fall, Mercedes-Benz has finally shared US pricing for its first fully electric vehicle. Initially, the automaker plans to offer two different models of the luxury sedan called the EQS 450+ and EQS 580 4Matic.

Both will be available in three different trims: Premium, Exclusive and Pinnacle. The base model EQS 450+ costs $102,310, while its counterpart will set you back $119,110. The Exclusive models are priced at $105,710 and $122,510 respectively, while the Pinnacle variants cost $108,510 and $125,310. One thing to note is the above prices don’t include a $1,050 destination and delivery charge you have to pay separately.

To put that pricing in perspective, it means you can buy an EQS sedan for less than you would pay for an entry-level S-Class model from Mercedes. The S500 4Matic and S580, with destination charge included, start at $110,850 and $117,350.

Some of the highlights of the Premium trim include heated and ventilated front seats, leather upholstery and a 10-speaker sound system. Moving up to the more expensive trims, you can look forward to features like a head-up display, four-zone climate control, additional USB-C ports and more. No matter the trim, each EQS will also come with two years of complementary fast-charging at Electrify America stations and 24-months of free maintenance.

One of the main reasons to go for the 580 rather than the 450+ is that it will come with the 56-inch MBUX Hyperscreen the automaker unveiled at CES 2021. On the more affordable model, you get a single 12.8-inch OLED touchscreen. The 580 also comes with 21-inch wheels, while the 450+ features 20-inch ones.

Android Auto can now realign Google Maps for right-hand drive cars

Google has released a handy Android Auto update for folks with vehicles where the driver sits on the right. The platform's version of Google Maps now shifts turn information and navigation bar closer to the driver.

Whether you have a left-hand drive vehicle or right-hand drive vehicle, the user interface will have more optimal orientation, Google says. As such, Brits, Indians, Aussies, Japanese drivers and those in the other dozens of countries where traffic moves on the left might find it a touch easier to reach the relevant buttons and enter a destination.

Maps will automatically switch the UI's orientation in right-hand drive vehicles, though you'll soon be able to return to the default look if you prefer. It's a relatively small quality-of-life update, but it's a thoughtful one. Google says the latest version of Android Auto also fixes some right-to-left language issues in the Maps app.

Android Auto can now realign Google Maps for right-hand drive cars

Google has released a handy Android Auto update for folks with vehicles where the driver sits on the right. The platform's version of Google Maps now shifts turn information and navigation bar closer to the driver.

Whether you have a left-hand drive vehicle or right-hand drive vehicle, the user interface will have more optimal orientation, Google says. As such, Brits, Indians, Aussies, Japanese drivers and those in the other dozens of countries where traffic moves on the left might find it a touch easier to reach the relevant buttons and enter a destination.

Maps will automatically switch the UI's orientation in right-hand drive vehicles, though you'll soon be able to return to the default look if you prefer. It's a relatively small quality-of-life update, but it's a thoughtful one. Google says the latest version of Android Auto also fixes some right-to-left language issues in the Maps app.

Tesla drivers become ‘inattentive’ when using Autopilot, study finds

Tesla may soon launch its latest FSD (full self-driving) Autopilot to a wide group of drivers, and US safety authorities aren't that happy about it. They have reason to be concerned, according to a new MIT study seen by TechCrunch. The researchers studied glance data and found that drivers become more inattentive when using Tesla's Autopilot system.  

"Visual behavior patterns change before and after [Autopilot] disengagement,” according to the study. “Before disengagement, drivers looked less on road and focused more on non-driving related areas compared to after the transition to manual driving. The higher proportion of off-road glances before disengagement to manual driving were not compensated by longer glances ahead."

Visual behavior patterns change before and after AP disengagement. Before disengagement, drivers looked less on road and focused more on non-driving related areas compared to after the transition to manual driving. The higher proportion of off-road glances before disengagement to manual driving were not compensated by longer glances ahead.

The fact that drivers may not pay as much attention to the road when using Autopilot is not exactly a shocker. What's new is that the researchers were able to see exactly where drivers were looking when the autopilot was engaged versus when it's disengaged.

Off-road glances were directed downwards and toward the center stack region, so they "were presumably non-driving related." Rather, looking in those directions is typically associated with activities like glancing down at a smartphone or interacting with the center-stack infotainment touchscreen. Those were often longer with Autopilot engaged and far more frequent than off-road glances in manual driving, according to the paper. 

Despite the name, Tesla's FSD (full self-driving) Autopilot is merely a driver assist system and far from being fully autonomous. As such, it requires that drivers keep their hands on the wheel and remain fully alert, but Tesla doesn't use cameras or other means to monitor the alertness part. 

The latest version, 10.0.1, supposedly makes more confident decisions on the road, but has so far only rolled out to a relatively small group of beta testers. Tesla plans to roll it out more widely starting September 24th, though, and may release it to all Autopilot FSD EVs, pending a seven day trial that will track owner behavior. 

The new release could pit Tesla against US regulators, however. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) head Jennifer Homendy recently said that Tesla shouldn't release the latest software update until it can address "basic safety issues." She also wasn't thrilled with Tesla essentially beta-testing upgrades on public streets.