VW’s California XXL, an amazing camper van that needs to come to the US

Volkswagen

I was alerted to this rather awesome-looking Volkswagen California XXL camper van by our policy editor and chief Ars van aficionado David Kravets. Based on the VW Crafter, this is a 21st-century descendent of the iconic VW bus (aka the Bulli/Camper/Kombi/Transporter/Type 2). It’s also perhaps the ultimate expression of car camping, short of one of those Russian things that are a spinoff of the armored personnel carrier.

Under the hood is a Euro 6-compliant TDI engine, pneumatic suspension, and a Haldex all-wheel drive system, but that’s pretty boring compared to the rest of this tricked-out ride. For one thing, the rear section has been stretched to provide room for a proper-sized bed, big enough for two adults to sleep comfortably.

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Source: Ars Technica

Project Cars 2 reviewed: It’s good, but don’t expect it to be easy

It’s a great time to be alive for fans of serious racing simulations. Codemasters has been in fine form, giving us two very good games this year. New installments of Forza and Gran Turismo are just around the corner.

But today, I’m here to talk to you about Project CARS 2. The work of Slightly Mad Studios and a followup to the original Project CARS of 2015, it’s an expansive title that features road cars, current and historic racing cars, a massive array of tracks to race on (including dirt and even ice), and some heavily revised physics. After several days behind a steering wheel putting the game to the test, I found Project CARS 2 to be extremely rewarding to play and a massive improvement on its predecessor. But it’s still no easy arcade racer, and the hardcore nature of its simulation means it’s not going to appeal to everyone.

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Source: Ars Technica

At 50 tons and 700 kilowatt-hours, this truck is the biggest EV in the world

Enlarge (credit: Andreas Sutter, Lithium Storage GmbH)

When it comes to bench-racing electric vehicles, the kilowatt-hour is king. And over in Switzerland, there’s an EV that will make Tesla’s P100Ds look positively puny. But this is no carbon-fiber hypercar, and it’s never going set any records for 0-60 times or the standing quarter. No, this is an altogether more practical creation that’s meant to work for a living. It’s a Komatsu quarry truck that’s being modified by Kuhn Schweiz and Lithium Storage, weighing in at almost 50 tons (45 tonnes) and powered by a whopping 700kWh battery pack.

The e-Dumper has been in the works for a couple of years now, during which time its battery capacity has grown from the original 600kWh to what is now the equivalent of seven top-of-the-line Teslas. The cells in question are nickel-manganese-cobalt, 1,440 of them in total, weighing almost 10,000lbs (4.5 tonnes). And once the team has found space in the chassis for all of that energy storage, the idea is for the e-Dumper to spend the next decade trundling between a Swiss cement quarry and the Ciments Vigier works near Biel.

Here’s the really cool part: each round trip actually generates electricity. Because the e-Dumper goes up the mountain empty and descends carrying 71 tons (65 tonnes) of rock, it captures 40kWh on the way to the cement works via regenerative braking. But climbing back up to the quarry only requires 30kWh, so every trip will feed an extra 10kWh into the local electricity grid. Not bad when you then consider that the e-Dumper will be doing that trip 20 times a day.

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Source: Ars Technica

Lidar tells distance, radar tells velocity, this new sensor aims to do both

Enlarge / A new startup aims to make conventional lidars, like the two shown here, obsolete. (credit: Wired)

Silicon Valley is crawling with startups looking for a piece of the emerging self-driving car business. One of those startups, Aeva, just came out of stealth mode with a big write-up in The New York Times. Its breakthrough: building a single sensor that can determine both the position and velocity of surrounding objects.

Most experts say that the best self-driving cars need a trifecta of sensors: cameras, lidar, and radar. They need all three sensor types because each performs a different function. Cameras can tell you what objects look like but not how far away they are or how fast they’re moving. Lidar measures distance, while radar provides a precise estimate of velocity.

According to the Times, Aeva’s sensor provides information about both position and velocity:

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Source: Ars Technica

Report: Tesla snubbing Nvidia, developing its own self-driving chip

Enlarge / Tesla CEO Elon Musk. (credit: Yuriko Nakao/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Tesla is working on custom silicon for its self-driving software in partnership with AMD, CNBC reported Wednesday. “The carmaker has received back samples of the first implementation of its processor and is now running tests on it,” a source told CNBC. Shares of AMD soared more than six percent on Wednesday after news of the partnership leaked.

Tesla has been working to beef up its in-house hardware capabilities over the last year after going through a nasty divorce with Mobileye, a leading supplier of self-driving hardware and software, a year ago. Mobileye had supplied the hardware for Tesla’s first-generation Autopilot technology, but the two companies went their separate ways after a Tesla customer died in a crash that occurred while Autopilot was active.

Since the split, Tesla has built a new Autopilot technology stack using non-Mobileye hardware, including Nvidia graphics processors. Developing chips in-house will make Tesla less reliant on Nvidia in the future, according to CNBC, and Nvidia stock fell almost 4 percent on Wednesday evening after the news broke.

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Source: Ars Technica

McLaren builds a virtual hypercar for the next Gran Turismo game

McLaren

Way back in the mists of time—OK, it was 2013—Polyphony Digital’s Kazunori Yamauchi challenged the automotive world to think outside the box for Gran Turismo 6. Kaz wanted some unique concept cars for the game, and a bunch of car companies (as well as a few design studios and even Nike) signed on to the project, called Vision GT.

I must confess, I thought the idea dead and buried what with GT6 being four years old and yesterday’s news. The Vision GT website hasn’t been updated since 2015, and there are plenty of placeholders for concepts that never materialized (including one from Tesla that I’d love to see). But it seems the project is still alive, and in the lead-up to the next installment of the franchise—allegedly due this October—McLaren has created the Ultimate Vision Gran Turismo.

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Source: Ars Technica

A Proterra electric bus just drove 1,100 miles on a single charge

Enlarge (credit: Proterra)

On Tuesday, Proterra revealed that one of its Catalyst E2 Max electric buses just set a new world record for the longest distance traveled by an electric vehicle on a single charge. The bus, which packs a hefty 660kWh of storage—equivalent to 11 Chevy Bolts—drove a total of 1,101.2 miles (1,772.2km) at the Navistar Proving Grounds in Indiana. It’s quite an impressive feat, considering the previous record holder was a lightweight experimental single-seat EV.

While 1,100 miles is a lot more than an average bus drives in a day, Proterra’s record may prove quite helpful in persuading range-anxious transit authorities to ditch internal combustion in favor of battery power for future fleets.

Of course, the other factor is how long it takes to recharge. This is probably less of an issue with vehicles like buses, delivery trucks, and garbage trucks that spend their lives crawling around cities, since that kind of low-speed, stop-and-go duty cycle plays right into the strengths of an electric powertrain, and the vehicles can recharge at the end of their route. Proterra also developed a high-speed charging system for buses (which it’s offering to anyone without licensing fees), although even with its high-voltage system in operation, the 660kWh record-breaking bus would still need at least an hour to get back to a full charge.

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Source: Ars Technica

Nikola Motor Company and Bosch team up on long-haul fuel cell truck

Enlarge / This is what the Nikola Two will look like. (credit: Nikola Motor Company)

Salt Lake City-based Nikola Motor Company and German auto components giant Bosch are teaming up to build the Nikola One and Nikola Two—a pair of hydrogen-electric, long-haul trucks that will compete with the handful of other low-emissions trucks and powertrains that have been announced in mid-2017.

The Nikola One truck isn’t a new development, but the startup’s partnership with Bosch is. Last December, Nikola Motor Company announced that it would build a hydrogen-electric truck that would be able to travel 1,200 miles on a tank of hydrogen and deliver 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 foot-pounds of torque. The company said at the time that its truck, deemed the Nikola One, would be market-ready by 2020.

Now, that market-ready date has been pushed back to 2021, but adding Bosch’s experience into the mix no doubt helps firm up Nikola Motor Company’s projections. According to a press release from the startup, the class 8 Nikola One and Nikola Two will now be built on Bosch’s eAxle—an integrated unit blending motor, power electronics, and transmission. Bosch’s eAxle was only just announced this January.

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Source: Ars Technica

The United States Air Force turned 70 today

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Source: Ars Technica

Intel reveals it’s been working with Google on self-driving cars since 2009

Enlarge (credit: Waymo / Aurich)

Self-driving cars have Silicon Valley salivating. Something of a gold rush is going on right now, as everyone is trying to perfect the technology that could banish gridlock and traffic casualties once and for all. Google started working on the problem back in 2009, then in 2016 spun the project out as a company in its own right called Waymo. Today, we learned something new about the Waymo project: it’s powered by Intel.

The chip-maker publicly stated today that it has been partnering with Waymo since 2009. Intel has been supplying Xeon processors, Arria field programmable gate arrays (for machine vision), and gigabit ethernet solutions (to let all the various components talk to each other).

“With three million miles of real-world driving, Waymo cars with Intel technology inside have already processed more self-driving car miles than any other autonomous fleet on US roads,” wrote Intel CEO Brian Krzanich in a blog post announcing the news.

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Source: Ars Technica

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