The 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, tested

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Source: Ars Technica

Pedestrian detection systems don’t work very well, AAA finds

Pedestrian detection systems don’t work very well, AAA finds

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Not only is the problem of cars killing pedestrians not going away, the annual death toll over the last decade has actually increased by 35%. The proliferation of cars with automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems that detect pedestrians is therefore a good thing, right?

But according to a study by the American Automobile Association, maybe we shouldn’t count on AEB. The association has just tested the pedestrian-detection behavior of four popular mid-sized model-year 2019 sedans—a Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Tesla Model 3, and Toyota Camry—in a variety of different scenarios. Unfortunately, the results are not promising, particularly when it comes to anything but the least challenging scenarios.

AEB and pedestrian detection are two features that fall under the growing category of stuff we call “ADAS”—advanced driver-assistance systems. ADAS is part of the same technological acceleration that’s driving autonomous vehicle development, but here the goal is to work with a human driver to make them safer. Cameras, automotive radar, ultrasonic sensors, and even lidar inputs are used, on their own or together, so that a car can perceive the world around it and warn its human operator if various safety thresholds are crossed.

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Source: Ars Technica

The VW Jetta GLI: A Golf GTI with a trunk, or cost-cut spiced-up sedan?

How people react to a Volkswagen Golf GTI says a lot about whether or not they actually like cars. What’s not to like? It’s more sprightly, agile and quicker than the standard Golf, yet just as practical, reliable and nearly as efficient. It has defined the hot hatch for 40 years. Company executives will even describe it as “the soul of VW.” But like it or not, mainstream America just doesn’t do hatchbacks. So it’s a good thing the GTI donates much of its formula to the Jetta equivalent, the GLI.

Being a four-door sedan, the Jetta GLI forgoes the Golf’s hatch for a bit of elongation and a conventional trunk. The balance of goodness should be pretty equal among the sportier Jetta and Golf, especially since it’s based on the same MQB car platform as the Golf.

And here’s where the qualifiers begin. The car we tested here is the GLI S, as bargain basement as GLIs and certainly GTIs come, complete with disappointing material quality at the door panels, the dash and the gauges, the latter looking like the worst of the early 2000s VW gauges, which had more of a Fisher-Price than fein feel. (The photos are of a better-equipped GLI Autobahn they sent me in DC.)

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Source: Ars Technica

SUV smackdown: Comparing a Nissan Rogue, Jeep Cherokee, and Mazda CX-5

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Source: Ars Technica

The Polaris Slingshot three-wheeler is not for shrinking violets

I hope curiosity for curiosity’s sake is sufficient reason to drive a car. In this case not even a car, not technically. With only three wheels, the Polaris Slingshot counts as a motorcycle when it comes to federal motor vehicle requirements, but it gets treated like a car by many state DMVs. This dichotomy has given birth to other unconventional fare like Arcimoto or Electra Meccanica’s trikes. But unlike either of those, Slingshot isn’t electric; I really did say “yes” to the press loan out of sheer curiosity.

I see Slingshots being driven in DC relatively often. Usually in the summer. Once, memorably, a double-file convoy of at least 20 went down Massachusetts Ave. in better grid formation than you’d ever see at the start of a Le Mans or NASCAR race. With “The Imperial March” playing. Loudly. Like I said, I got curious.

I know saying that a vehicle looks like nothing else is a cliche, and it’s not really true anyway. The Slingshot’s layout is front-engined and rear-wheel drive, as practiced by other manufacturers like the Morgan 3 Wheeler and the Grinnall Scorpion. Instead of a lightweight motorcycle engine, the Slingshot uses a 2.4L GM Ecotec engine which makes it a good deal heavier than either of those (although at 1,749lbs (791kg) it’s still much, much lighter than anything else you’ll encounter on the road). The Slingshot has pedals—three of them, including a clutch for the five-speed manual transmission. Because it’s a bike, the engine’s 177hp (132kW) and 166lb-ft (225Nm) is transmitted to the rear wheel by a belt, not a driveshaft. It even has traction and stability control.

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Source: Ars Technica

How Tesla became one of the Internet’s most polarizing companies

How Tesla became one of the Internet’s most polarizing companies

Enlarge (credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images/Aurich Lawson)

Journalist Ed Niedermeyer remembers the exact moment he became a Tesla skeptic: Memorial Day weekend 2015. That’s when Niedermeyer traveled to the Tesla Supercharger facility in Harris Ranch, California to see Tesla’s first (and, it turned out, only) battery-swap facility.

At a live demo two years earlier, Tesla CEO Elon Musk had shown a Model S getting a replacement battery pack in 90 seconds—compared with four minutes to refuel a conventional car. Now that the technology was available to the public, Niedermeyer wanted to see it in action.

“I was down there three or four days,” Niedermeyer told Ars recently. “There was a ton of traffic and a ton of lines for the Superchargers.” Some people faced multi-hour waits. Tesla brought in spare Superchargers powered by diesel generators to speed things along. But the battery-swap facility stayed closed.

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Source: Ars Technica

Audi is planning 20 all-electric models by 2025—here’s how it will do it

Electrify, or die. That’s the choice facing the world’s global automakers—at least if they plan to sell their wares in the European Union past 2020. That’s when strict new fleet-wide CO2 emissions regulations phase in, with massive fines for those who can’t comply with the new 95g CO2/km rules. Diesel’s disgrace means that battery power is the only real option for the OEMs, and few are embracing this reality more firmly than Volkswagen Group—a touch ironic given its previous stance on diesel power. Now, we’ve had our best look yet at one of the ways VW Group is going to do that with its forthcoming PPE (Premium Platform Electric), which will make up the bones of future Audis and Porsches.

Four platforms to rule them all?

VW Group has long championed the use of flexible vehicle architectures—its modular MQB platform lets it build everything from a diminutive Polo hatchback all the way up to the supersized Atlas SUV. That approach allows the automotive giant to take advantage of economies of scale across multiple brands, and it’s using the same playbook when it comes to battery electric vehicles. For smaller vehicles, its new MEB platform comes on stream in the next few months, first with the Europe-only ID.3 hatchback, then next year with the US-bound ID.4 crossover.

We’ll also get at least one MEB-based Audi in the US, the Q4 e-tron. This is going to be Audi’s entry-level BEV, comparable to the current Q3 in exterior dimensions, although with Q5 interior space courtesy of a BEV’s superior packaging. The Q4 e-tron, like other MEB variants, will be rear-wheel drive as standard. It’ll use a permanent magnet synchronous motor (PSM), although all-wheel drive with a front asynchronous motor (ASM) will be an option. But MEB is unsuitable for larger, more expensive, higher performance BEVs, just like MQB is unsuitable for bigger Audis and Porsches.

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Source: Ars Technica

Report: Musk’s $50,000 “pedo guy” investigator is a convicted felon

A casually dressed man gestures while speaking into a microphone.

Enlarge / Elon Musk. (credit: Robyn Beck-Pool/Getty Images)

Last year, Vernon Unsworth, a cave explorer who advised on the rescue of kids trapped in a Thailand cave, got in a spat with Elon Musk. Musk labeled Unsworth a “pedo guy” in a tweet—and later called him a “child rapist” who married a 12-year-old girl in an ill-considered email to a reporter.

Unsworth sued Musk for defamation. Musk’s legal response was that, while the accusations might not have been true, Musk believed they were true at the time he made them. The claim about marrying a 12-year-old (the woman in question says she was actually 33 when she met Unsworth) came from a private investigator Musk paid $50,000 to dig into Unsworth’s private life. Musk argued the high price tag was a sign that he was taking the issue seriously.

But now BuzzFeed is reporting that the private investigator Musk hired is a convicted felon and scammer.

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Source: Ars Technica

Tesla produced a record-breaking 96,155 cars last quarter

An aerial view of the construction site of Tesla's manufacturing facility is seen on April 8, 2019 in Shanghai. The factory is expected to begin production before the end of 2019, which could help Tesla meet its goal to deliver at least 360,000 vehicles for the year.

Enlarge / An aerial view of the construction site of Tesla’s manufacturing facility is seen on April 8, 2019 in Shanghai. The factory is expected to begin production before the end of 2019, which could help Tesla meet its goal to deliver at least 360,000 vehicles for the year. (credit: Zhang Hengwei/China News Service/Visual China Group via Getty Images)

Tesla set new records for both production and delivery of vehicles in the third quarter of 2019, the company announced on Wednesday. Tesla produced 96,155 vehicles and delivered slightly more—97,000.

It’s a modest improvement over the 95,200 cars Tesla delivered in the second quarter. But Wall Street wasn’t impressed by the new figures, with Tesla stock falling about 4% in after-hours trading.

One of the most significant trends in Tesla’s vehicle deliveries this year has been the sharp decline in sales of Tesla’s pricier Model S and Model X models. Tesla enjoyed combined S and X sales of almost 100,000 vehicles in 2018—or nearly 25,000 per quarter.

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Source: Ars Technica

Tesla just bought an AI startup to improve Autopilot—here’s what it does

DeepScale CEO Forrest Iandola, shown here in a 2013 photo, is Tesla's latest machine learning guru.

Enlarge / DeepScale CEO Forrest Iandola, shown here in a 2013 photo, is Tesla’s latest machine learning guru. (credit: D Coetzee)

Tesla has acquired the machine learning startup DeepScale, CNBC, Techcrunch, and other news outlets have reported. The company’s CEO, Forrest Iandola, announced Monday that he had joined Tesla’s Autopilot team.

Iandola explained his company’s mission to Ars during a phone call, just after the company raised $15 million from venture capitalists in April 2018. DeepScale was building image recognition software based on convolutional neural networks.

A key step for any self-driving software system is perception: identifying cars, pedestrians, bicycles, and other objects around the car. Identifying objects accurately is crucial because it allows software to make informed predictions about where they might move in the future. Most companies working on the problem use a technique called “convolutional neural networks” (CNNs) to tackle this problem. You can check out our deep dive on CNNs for full details on how they work.

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Source: Ars Technica

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