Building a reliable and robust automated driving system is really hard. In the past half decade a lot of progress has been made thanks to the advancements in machine learning and deep neural networks. One of the companies on the forefront of that effort is Nvidia. While most people think of Nvidia GPUs for graphics cards and bitcoin mining, they also have thousands of engineers that works on software. Neda Cvijetic is a senior manager on the automated driving team and she hosts the Nvidia Drive Labs video series explaining some of the core principles of how they are tackling this problem.
This time out, Sam is recording from a hotel room in Miami as we discuss the Volvo XC40 T5 and its goofy shifter design, the Audi Q5 and its surprisingly fast handwriting recognition and the marvelous Kia Stinger. Subscriptions may or may not be the future of car buying, assuming car buying even has a future in an age of automated vehicles. Faraday almost certainly has no Future and Walmart joins Ford’s automated delivery test program.
The first-phase of the ground up revamp of the entire Volvo product portfolio is nearing completion. Like most brands, Volvo has shifted heavily toward utility vehicles such as the midsize and large XC60 and XC90 as well as the slightly higher riding car variants like the V90 Cross-country. This year Volvo finally has an entry in the fast growing compact utility segment as well with the new XC40 and it has a lot to recommend it.
After a week off, we have an extended length show to make up for it. Dan drives a very expensive Ford F-150 and a sportier Acura MDX A-Spec. Sam goes from the not really a crossover Toyota C-HR to the ginormous Genesis G90. Then we dive into some discussion of sales and earnings, GM’s call for a national EV mandate in response to Trump administration moves to freeze fuel economy standards and cost cutting moves while profits are still reasonably healthy. We also discuss Consumer Reports reliability data and answer listener questions including the Hyundai pickup truck.
This week Sam drives the latest Mazda6 which is still his favorite midsize sedan while Dan samples the Hyundai Kona and Toyota Sienna with all-wheel-drive. As the auto industry changes, Mercedes-Benz considers paring down niche models while GM and Honda team up on automated driving and mobility.
Finally, we bid farewell to Tony Swan.
In this special episode of Wheel Bearings, Sam sits down with Larry Burns, retired SVP of R&D and Strategic Planning at General Motors to talk about his new book, Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car—And How It Will Reshape Our World. Since retiring from GM in 2009, Burns has been an educator and consultant including working with the Google Self-driving car project and Waymo since 2011. The book is a great read for anyone interested in learning more the history of the DARPA Grand Challenge and development of automated vehicles in the past decade.
This week Sam drives what may end up being the last Ford car to Pittsburgh to learn about how Argo AI is helping Ford build the future of transportation. Dan takes a road trip in the biggest of Ford’s passenger carrying vehicles. A lot of very cool vehicles climb Lord March’s driveway at the Goodwood festival of Speed. VW will build some of its new generation of EVs in America. Small Hyundai’s are really good. The guys discuss the meaning of crossover in an attempt to answer a listener question, too.
Bonus photo: Recaro Expert Houndstooth seat
This week Sam has been in the new Ford Expedition Max, Dan gets a re-run of the Lincoln Navigator and Mazda CX-9. Lots of news including the new Audi e-Tron quattro without mirrors, chargers for GM’s automated Chevy Bolts, rising prices due to the trade war and the Toyota Supra goes to NASCAR. Finally, Honda builds a 150 mph lawnmower because why not?
Audi e-tron camera mirrors
Tariffs and price increases
GM preparing to launch automated mobility in San Francisco
Nissan and Daimler cancel luxury compact car
Toyota Supra in NASCAR
Production Supra at Goodwood
Honda mean mower
This week Sam drives Ford’s new baby SUV, the EcoSport and Dan marvels at the progress of Kia over 20 years after driving the new Sorento. This week Fiat Chrysler held their annual What’s New preview and showed off the latest even faster Challenger variant, the Hellcat Redeye. Like the Challenger, many of the products in the FCA lineup have been around for quite a long time but the company has made an effort to continuously update them in ways that seem small on the surface but matter to customers. The show wraps up with a discussion of the impact of proposed tariffs on the auto industry.
The delay between episodes is always Dan’s fault. Most of the miles were put on this week via 737-700s and a rental Kia Soul. Sam was busy paying attention to all of the automotive goings-on, including leadership shuffles at General Motors, and Ford’s latest real estate investment in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, while also finding time to drive the 2019 Honda Insight. Because it’s been a while, there’s also a plethora of cars we’ve been driving. Sam was in the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and the 2018 Nissan Leaf while Dan tried out the 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie and the 2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label.