DSC Sport’s clever algorithms transform the Porsche Cayman GT4

Enlarge / Porsche’s Cayman GT4 has been lauded as one of the company’s best-ever driver’s cars, but it’s actually even better with one of DSC Sport’s controllers on it. (credit: Jordan Edwards)

A constant source of fascination for me is the software-defined car. Back in ye olden days, reconfiguring your car to suit the racetrack and then back again for the grocery run meant spending time wielding tools and getting your hands dirty. Today, it’s all done with the push of a button. Our new cars are coming preconfigured from the factory with a range of different driving flavors from which to pick. Want a re-mapped throttle pedal? Done. A completely different shift strategy for the gearbox? Easy. But to my mind, the ability to recalibrate a car’s suspension on the fly makes the biggest change to its character.

You would think this would make me a fan of magnetorheological dampers. These are shock absorbers that use a damping fluid that changes viscosity—and therefore damping behavior—upon the application of a magnetic field. (The fluid is full of micron-scale magnetic particles that align when subjected to a magnetic field, stiffening the fluid as a result.) But when I think of the best-riding cars I’ve been lucky enough to drive, they all have one thing in common: conventional valved dampers.

More conventional dampers don’t have to be any less clever than their magnet-empowered relatives. McLaren’s 650S is a great example, with its “banned in F1” system that links the front and rear of the car through a complex arrangement of hydraulic plumbing. But maybe the most impressive ride I’ve encountered was behind the wheel of DSC Sport‘s Porsche Cayman GT4.

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Source: Ars Technica

Uber rethinks defiance, will apply for self-driving car permit in California

Enlarge / PITTSBURGH, PA – SEPTEMBER 22: An Uber driverless Ford Fusion drives down Smallman Street on September, 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Uber has built its Uber Technical Center in Pittsburgh and is developing an autonomous vehicle that it hopes will be able to transport its millions of clients without the need for a driver. (credit: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

On Thursday, the San Jose Mercury News reported that Uber applied for a permit to test its self-driving cars on California roads. In December, the company said that it would not apply for the permit, but its Thursday announcement reverses this position.

The news comes after a very public spat between the ride-hailing startup and the California Department of Motor Vehicles. That spat ended with the California DMV revoking registrations for Uber’s test vehicles after Uber refused to apply for permitting. Uber had claimed that its cars were merely equipped with Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) and didn’t require permitting.

Uber took its cars to Arizona, where the state assured the company that it wouldn’t have to apply for a special permit to test self-driving software.

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Source: Ars Technica

Performance overkill? The 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Jim Resnick

For fifty years, Chevrolet’s Camaro has been the car of choice for hot rodders and amateur racers. It has provided a skeleton for engine transplants, bodywork for outlandish paint, and the canvas on which road racers project their Mark Donohue dreams. But no one has capitalized on the platform’s flexibility more than Chevy itself.

Just look at the new Camaro ZL1. Judge this book by its cover. It’s all splitters, scoops, spoilers, and shouting exhausts. It has big fenders only partially shrouding enormous Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires—of a construction not offered anywhere else—in sizes of 285/30ZR20 up front and 305/30ZR20 in the rear. I’ll save you the math—that’s over 11 inches of rubber width in front and 12 in the rear.

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Source: Ars Technica

Tesla’s P100D: I got 99 problems but not being able to go really fast ain’t one

Jonathan Gitlin

To coincide with the opening of its newest store in Washington, DC, Tesla asked us if we’d like to spend a few days with one of its latest Model S P100Ds. However, there was just one catch; we’d have to do all the driving ourselves. As one of the newest cars off the production line, this Model S was equipped with Tesla’s own self-driving sensors (known in Tesla-world as HW2), but the company is still in the process of pushing out the software necessary to enable Autopilot in these cars. Scratch that plan of road-tripping up to New York—a proper test of the new Autopilot will have to wait.

Autopilot may have been absent, but this P100D did have a rather special trick up it’s sleeve: an easter egg that makes Ludicrous Mode even more, well, ludicrous. So, rather than try out the P100D’s humongous (for an electric vehicle) range—315 miles according to the EPA—we spent our days finding out just how fast it really is. The answer? Ludicrously fast.

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Source: Ars Technica

Uber’s self-driving cars ran through 6 stoplights in California, NY Times says

Enlarge (credit: Uber)

According to internal documents seen by The New York Times, Uber’s self-driving cars ran six red lights in the short span of time that the company was shuttling customers around in autonomous vehicles in San Francisco, California.

The autonomous vehicle pilot program was announced suddenly in December and quickly drew controversy as the media noted that Uber wasn’t registered on the California DMV’s list of companies approved to test self-driving cars.

Documents obtained by The Verge through a public records request also showed that the California DMV had warned Uber for months prior to the launch of its pilot program that it would need an autonomous testing permit to drive on California’s roads.

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Source: Ars Technica

Formula 1 2017: The rest of the grid shows up

Ferrari

Over the weekend, the last of the new Formula 1 cars of 2017 were unveiled, just in time for the first official preseason test, which began Monday morning in Spain. Ferrari, McLaren, Haas, Red Bull, and Toro Rosso joined the five other teams that took the wraps off their cars earlier in the week, giving us our first complete look at the grid for the coming year.

We covered the big rules changes that have affected the design of the cars last Friday. To briefly recap, the cars—and their wings and tires—are wider than in recent years, and they are expected to be several seconds faster per lap thanks to better aerodynamic downforce.

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Source: Ars Technica

Waymo, Google’s self-driving car division, sues Uber over alleged patent infringement

Enlarge / The Pacificas are topped with LIDAR sensors, among other new appendages. (credit: Waymo)

Waymo, the division of Alphabet previously known as Google’s self-driving car project, has sued Uber and its self-driving truck acquisition, Otto, for patent infringement.

In a Medium post published Thursday afternoon, Waymo accused Anthony Levandowski—a former Google engineer now working for Uber—of having downloaded “over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo’s various hardware systems.” In particular this allegedly included “Waymo’s LiDAR and circuit board” designs—a total of nearly 10 gigabytes.

Uber did not immediately respond for comment.

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Source: Ars Technica

Formula 1 in 2017 means fat tires and wide wings

Mercedes-Benz GP

Formula 1 is set to be a radically different sport in 2017, and that mainly has to do with the change in ownership. Long-time F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has been shuffled out by new owner Liberty Media, replaced by a three-person team with Chase Carey as CEO, Sean Bratches as head of commercial operations, and legendary engineer Ross Brawn overseeing the sporting and technical stuff. But the changes for this season aren’t solely in the boardroom. 2017’s F1 cars have a few notable changes compared to recent years, and this week the teams started pulling off the dust sheets to show us.

Bigger Tires

For one thing, the tires are bigger. F1 is still sticking with those silly 13-inch wheels, but they’re about 25 percent wider this year: 305mm up front (compared to 245mm last year) and a whopping 405mm at the back (up from 325mm). Pirelli has also been told to make tires that won’t rapidly degrade, which means an end to drivers cruising around many seconds a lap slower than their cars are capable. (The tire company was instructed to make those rubbish tires on purpose following an exciting race in Canada in 2010, except that race was exciting because the teams were all reacting to the unknown. Once everyone knew how the new tires would behave, the racing turned out to be dull as dishwater.)

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Source: Ars Technica

Tesla posts a Q4 loss but the company’s revenue grows amid acquisitions

Enlarge / This is what every Tesla driver wants to see upon arrival at a Supercharger station. (credit: Tesla)

On Wednesday, Tesla posted a Q4 2016 loss of $121.3 million, but the loss was narrower than the $320 million net loss from the year earlier. The company said it made $2.28 billion in revenue in the quarter, up from $1.24 billion in Q4 the year before. Tesla reported $7 billion in annual gross revenue in 2016.

All that comes on the heels of a Q3 in which the company posted a rare profitable quarter that CEO Elon Musk called Tesla’s “best quarter ever.”

The company said its gross margin fell between the third and fourth quarters of 2016 due to lower Zero Emissions Vehicle credit sales in Q4 compared to the quarter before. In the last three months of the year, Tesla completed its acquisition of SolarCity as well as Grohmann Engineering, which will become Tesla Advanced Automation Germany.

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Source: Ars Technica

New Pruitt e-mails surface, automakers ask EPA to soften fuel economy rules

Enlarge (credit: Gage Skidmore)

Former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was confirmed to be administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week in a 52-46 Senate vote. His narrow confirmation is secure—Pruitt addressed EPA employees as their new boss just yesterday—but a trove of e-mails sent from Pruitt’s office during his tenure as Oklahoma attorney general was released yesterday evening. Collectively, they could shed light on how closely Pruitt may be willing to work with the industries he’s now in charge of regulating.

On Tuesday evening, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) received 2,500 e-mails from the Oklahoma AG’s office that had been sent during Pruitt’s tenure. The CMD had asked for the e-mails in an open records request made in 2015, but the AG’s office only turned over 411 of 3,000 e-mails initially. This month, with Pruitt’s confirmation vote just days away, the CMD requested that a judge order the missing documents finally be turned over. The judge gave the Oklahoma AG’s office until February 21 to share the remaining e-mails, which comprised more than 7,500 pages. Senate democrats tried to stall the vote on Pruitt’s nomination until the remaining e-mails were released, but they were unsuccessful.

The New York Times, which had been able to see some of the e-mails ahead of time due to records requests from the paper’s own reporting, notes that the e-mails “do not appear to include any request for [Pruitt’s] intervention explicitly in exchange for campaign contributions, although Mr. Pruitt was separately working as a member of the Republican Attorneys General Association to raise money from many of the same companies.”

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Source: Ars Technica

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