Category Archive:

In Car Gadgets by Accident


When I was a teen, it was super cool to have an eight-track in your car. Of course, you’d have to pull the cartridge out and try to stuff the tape back into it on occasion, but it was fun and it helped with dates.


When I was in my twenties, it was cool to have a cassette player in your car. They were smaller, longer, more secure, and best of all sounded better. Did I mention the benefits with dates?

When I was in my thirties, having a CD-player in your car was way-cool. Cassettes were so old hat. Who would admit to having one? Not me. In fact, I opted for a six-disc CD-Changer in my trunk, plus the additional in-dash slot for that extra. CDs were cool. For some reason, they didn’t seem to have much of an impact in getting dates…

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Let's Talk Cars: Gadget Special Report – Part I


Let’s Talk Cars: Gadget Special Report – Part I

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While the Speciality Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in the Fall may be like a candy store to car guys, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is its equivalent to electronics geeks – NOT GEEKS – they are our friends! IN fact, at CES automotive electronics is a major, major feature with one building full of displays focusing on car stuff (with the traditional bling, babes and blaring).
With portable DVD players, built-in MP3 capability and surround sound speakers, our cars are quickly becoming rolling entertainment centers. In the first of three special reports from the Consumer Electronics Show, VehicleVoice takes a look at some ground-breaking new multimedia gadgets for your car. Our three featured interviews are with Delphi Electronics, TomTom and Scosche.
Show Rundown
01:19 Delphi’s Automotive Streaming Media: Ken Erickson, Integrated Media Systems, Delphi
09:53 TomTom’s New Portable Navigation System: Anne Louise Hanstad, Vice President of Marketing, TomTom
16:34 Scosche’s Bluetooth Transmitter: Marketing Administrator, Scosche

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When a Manual Becomes Automatic


I learned how to drive with a manual transmission. My instructor, a former racing driver turned attorney, explained how important it was to have control over the gears and to not assume anything – or to leave chance to an automatic transmission. I loved shifting when I started driving, and yes, it did make me feel as if I had more control over the vehicle. Once, during a rainstorm, my “total control” did put me (aged 16) and my BMW 1602 askew in somebody’s front yard. With that exception, I have always enjoyed driving a car with a manual transmission. I must be lucky, as my wife feels the same way.

A Typical 6-Speed Stick

Yet, manual transmission cars have been on the decline for many years, notably here in America. Drivers here seem to prefer the lack of exercise required when sitting on the highway or freeway with 200,000 of your closest neighbors sharing the same lane and destination. And recently, when searching for a new car, I’ve come across more and more situations where a manual transmission just wasn’t available.

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VW and Google Partner for Next Gen NAV System


Internet powerhouse Google and automobile manufacturer Volkswagen have announced a partnership in which Google will work with the American division of the German car maker to create a new generation navigation system. Using the satellite mapping software developed by Google as a starting point, the system will, according to sources at Google, provide drivers with a bird’s eye real-time view of the road ahead.

Also involved in the program is computer graphics maker Nvidia Corporation. Known for its high-speed rendering graphics engines, and used by both PC manufacturers and Apple Computer, Nvidia may be able to deliver a product that allows data from a satellite to update fast enough to keep a NAV system’s display from bogging down, notably when a driver is moving faster than 25 or 30 miles-per-hour.

Although VW is quick to state that no definitive plans have been secured for the Google-based NAV system to be included in any specific vehicle, it is a promising step. Many consumers feel that current generation NAV systems are slow, awkward to use, and use data that is two or three years old. The partnership is also a clear demonstration that Google is eager to expand outside of the traditional “Internet” environment.

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Of Blizzaks and Body Shops


This is a blog about which I have been hesitant to write. You see, it has to do with accepting my own bad judgment and the requisite payment for the same. For twenty years I have lived where it snows quite regularly and accumulates on the ground. Until maybe ten years ago, I never gave snow tires a second thought. Primarily because I was usually driving in something with very good all-season tires and either front- or four-wheel drive. Mobility was rarely a problem. But about ten years ago, I bought a relatively powerful rear-drive sedan that was delivered with some very aggressive 18-inch Z-rated performance tires. To say the car was difficult to drive in the snow is misleading. The car was undrivable in the snow. The sticky summer tires turned hard as linoleum once the temperature got below 45°F, and the jumbo 27/35-18s at the rear were so wide they couldn’t bite down and get anything even remotely resembling grip in snow. Without snow tires, the car would be little more than an attractive driveway ornament for about a third of the year.
If you live where it snows and you drive something with performance tires. be it rear-drive, front-drive or even all-wheel-drive, you NEED snow tires.

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As new Hybrid Vehicles Arrive, Firefighters Make Rescue Adjustments


Even as the drapes were pulled off new Hybrid models at the Los Angeles and Detroit Auto Show events in the first weeks of January 2006, firefighters across the country are just beginning to understand that traffic accident rescue methods need to be adjusted when dealing with Hybrid technology. In addition to other rescue-related risks, hybrids add electrocution to the risk-mix.

Manufacturers of hybrid vehicles, including Toyota, Honda, Ford and others, all incorporate the same basic components in their cars and trucks: a gas tank, an electrical generator, a high-voltage battery, and for safety purposes, air bags. Early electric vehicles ran a minor risk of battery explosion, but new Hybrids typically do not. The real risk relates to electricity itself. Hybrid batteries deliver up to 650 volts, enough to kill a human being. In addition, should the couplings for batteries become severed, free-flowing electricity can ignite leaking fuel or other combustibles, just as might occur if an electrical wire were to fall during a storm or other accident.

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Mercedes-Benz Introduces a New Clean Diesel System

Bluetec: Has Mercedes Developed a Global Clean Diesel System?
There were several Bluetec-equipped vehicles on DaimlerChrysler company stands at the 2006 North American International Auto Show this January, including a Jeep Grand Cherokee Bluetec, the E320 Bluetec, and the concept Vision GL320 Bluetec. AutoPacific explains a bit about this system and where U.S. consumers might see it in real applications.
The Bluetec system is the result of Mercedes search for a diesel emission-control system that can be applied worldwide, meeting federal and market conditions that vary from country to country. The overall difficulty with diesel is the amount of aftertreatment required to lower emissions to levels required by various governments, and how expensive these processes can be.

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Ford's Nancy Gioia – Hybrid Queen


Nancy Gioia replaced Mary Ann Wright as Director of Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrids for Ford Motor Company in Fall 2005. Mary Ann nurtured the launch of the Ford Escape Hybrid and contributed to the understanding of hybrids different from Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive.
We first met Nancy Gioia at the launch of the Thunderbird Roadster where she was the chief program engineer. She was open, friendly, conversational and a solid representative for Ford’s product development activities. She wouldn’t even rise to the bait that the T’Bird would not meet its sales potential because you couldn’t see out of it and because it didn’t have a retractable hardtop. Oh, well. The engineers can only implement the vision of others, right? (WRONG!)
Here is Ford’s blurb on Nancy Gioia…

Gioia Ford Blog.jpg

In its drive to become leader in “green” technology, Ford Motor Company has turned to one of its long-time engineers to lead the charge into a sustainable future. Nancy Gioia, Ford’s Director of Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrids, is committed not only to further development of the company’s hybrid vehicle portfolio, but also to raising the technology’s profile.
“The hybrids should be our generation’s Model T,” Gioia recently told The Detroit News, quoting her Uncle Harry, who continues to be a source of inspiration for her.
“He said the Model T became part of your life,” Gioia added. “They were more than just cars. You drilled wells with them. You drove them across your fields. Hybrids need to become part of people’s lives today.”
Gioia first became seriously interested in engineering as a high school student interning at Ford Motor Company. She changed her college plans from pre-law to electrical engineering, and upon graduation from University of Michigan selected Ford Motor Company over 14 other job offers.
“I don’t regret it one iota,” said Gioia, who is a native of southeast Michigan.
Gioia started her career at Ford in 1982 in its Electronics Division. “During the ’80s, vehicles went from having $200 worth of electronic components to having $1,200 worth,” Gioia recalled. “We’re seeing similarly rapid technology growth today with hybrid technology. It’s an opportunity to enhance vehicle performance and function while allowing us to get higher quality and reducing cost.”
Nancy’s career at Ford eventually led her to heading up the engineering team for the 2002 Ford Thunderbird and then as lead engineer for the company’s “lifestyle vehicle” group that includes the iconic Mustang.
“As a director I’m very participative and hands-on when my team needs me to be,” Gioia said, adding that she believes in including her team in decision making. “Ford’s hybrid team has some of best and brightest minds around. I have complete confidence in their technical breadth and depth.”
The only thing more important to Gioia than her work is her family. She is married to Tom Gioia, whom she met at Ford. They have a 13-year-old daughter, Samantha, in addition to a dog (Chloe) and two horses.

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The Rental Car Test – Every Design MUST Pass the Test

I just picked up a Hyundai Santa Fe from Hertz at DTW. My plane from Atlanta to Detroit was delayed by weather enough to have me picking up the Santa Fe in the dark. Well, Santa Fe did an outstanding job passing the rental car test. You know the one. This is where you pick up your car at the rental place, get in and you can find the ignition easily, adjust the steering wheel, mirrors, seats, climate control and radio without thinking hard about it. Oh yeah, and you can do it in the dark.

Santa Fe Int Blog.jpg

Keep it Simple, Stupid… Still Rings True
This is a challenge that many car stylists and designers fail to consider when they are designing their new products. But ease of use is a hugely important thing not only to rental car drivers but to everybody driving a car day-to-day. No-one wants a car that is difficult or confusing to drive and the rental car test helps guarantee ease of use.

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Dear Valued Hybrid Customer…


This editorial appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, November 30, 2005. Written tongue-in-cheek, Jenkins pokes fun at the hype hybrids have achieved to date. Indeed, his commentary reflects some of the perceptions gathered in our September, 2005 VehicleVoice ( Hybrid Study.

Dear Valued Hybrid Customer…

Business World/by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
We at the Toyota Motor Corporation are writing to address certain misconceptions that have arisen about your Toyota Prius model, which we are proud to note is driven by many celebriies, including Prince Charles and HBO’s Larry David.
Prius blog.jpg
Our pioneering gasoline-electric hybrid, introduced in 1999, has become an object of adoration to the world’s enlightened car buyers. Our competitors, including American’s Big Three, are rushing out hybrid vehicles of their own. Unconfirmed media reports say that we at Toyota intend to double our hybrid output to 500,000 vehicles next year. Along with other members of the auto industry, we will be lobbying for tax breaks and HOV privileges for hybrid vehicles.

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