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technology

Technology Changes Everything, Moving Focus From Hardware To Software In Cars

 

When designing the next idea for a car most features developers focus in are hardware, however that is about to change. For decades, the development of power train technology and other hardware innovations gave automakers and suppliers an advantage in the market, and a significant source of ongoing profit through licensing. In recent years, however, there’s been a shift toward software rather than hardware giving car companies and Tier 1 suppliers an edge – not only in vehicle sales but in valuable intellectual property rights and revenue.

“Software is the major factor, and in some cases the deciding factor” in an automaker’s decision to buy one component over another, Egil Juliussen, a director of researcher at IHS Automotive, told Automotive News. He added that technology such as voice recognition and 3-D mapping and the software and electronics associated with such features can now cost more than a vehicle’s raw metal.

But “software expertise is in short supply in any industry, and certainly in the auto industry,” Juliussen noted. “That’s why suppliers are opening up research centers in Silicon Valley – it’s easier to attract talent.”

It’s why automotive supplier Continental recently launched a new career-training program in Germany for automotive software developers. It’s also part of the reason Continental purchased Elektrobit earlier this year, a company that specializes in software development.

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Voice Commands Distracted Driving or Safety Feature

When driving to the store how often do you tell Siri to turn on a certain song or to look up directions to certain location, and how dangerous is it each time you do that.

Drivers can remain distracted for up to 27 seconds after using voice commands on their phones or in-vehicle infotainment systems, research conducted for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found.

In a study released today, researchers tested voice-activated systems in ten 2015 model year vehicles on 257 drivers and three smartphone systems on 65 drivers. They found that each one increased mental distractions and can have residual effects for seconds after the driver has stopped talking.

Of the vehicles tested, the Chevrolet Equinox performed the best while the Mazda6 was found to be the most distracting.

“Hands-free isn’t risk-free,” said Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research. “That’s been our message for years.”

Each hands-free system was rated on a mental distraction scale between 1 and 5, with 5 being the most dangerous. AAA said Category 1 distractions are at the same level as listening to the radio, while Category 5 is equal to taking a challenging test while driving. A rating at or above Category 2, which is the equivalent of talking on the phone, is considered potentially dangerous by AAA.

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Pros and Cons of Autonomous Cars

While autonomous cars are expected to bring many benefits to drivers, there are also some drawbacks to consider.

Just as Wired magazine published a headline-grabbing story about hackers taking control of a new Jeep Cherokee with UConnect, engineers, computer programmers, professors, and lawyers were meeting in Ypsilanti, Michigan, to discuss evolution of the autonomous, connected automobile.

The Automated Vehicle Symposium is held every year by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the Transportation Research Board (TRB), and so it measures advances in these technologies in increments. Questions and concerns about security, ethics, and who’s responsible for the first crash caused by an autonomous car are not new for this group.

This year’s AVS followed the University of Michigan’s grand opening of its Mcity autonomous vehicle test track, where some of the suppliers and automakers participating in the symposium gave demonstrations of their latest technologies. I stayed indoors and listened to presentations. While there were no revelations, there were some interesting ideas that give clear indications where the automobile industry and our transportation system are heading. Herewith, a few tidbits:

The University of Michigan is extending its three-year-old testing of smart cars on public roads into an “entire system of connected roads,” entailing some of the major roads between metro Detroit and Ann Arbor, according to John Maddox, assistant director for the U-M Mobility Transformation Center (MTC). It could rival Google’s autonomous car-testing efforts in Silicon Valley and adds the element of ice- and snow-covered roads, which semi-automated cars can’t handle very well so far.

The MTC essentially is an extension of the university’s test of smart car technology that began on public roads in 2012, with a $100 million budget funded by automakers and suppliers, state and federal governments, and the university.

Read more here.

Jeep Taken Over While Driving Down The Road

As the cars become smarter, so do the hackers, and with technology controlled vehicles, becoming more popular choice for consumers the risk of it being hacked is one that needs to be fixed.

The idea that someone could remotely take over your car and cause it to behave erratically has been talked about for several years — though typically dismissed by auto companies as an irrational fear.

But it all got real on Tuesday after Andy Greenberg, a former FORBES writer now at Wired.com, posted a chilling story about how two hackers sitting on their living room couch managed to remotely take control of the Jeep Cherokee he was driving on a busy freeway in St. Louis. The car’s air conditioner suddenly cranked up to full blast, the radio started blasting hip-hop music and the windshield wipers kicked on. Then it got really dangerous as the hackers remotely turned off the car’s engine.

It was all part of an experiment to draw attention to the cyber-security risks in today’s cars which have morphed into rolling computers. The hackers, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, were able to exploit a weak spot in the Jeep’s Uconnect system, which links the vehicle to the Internet. It turns out as many as 471,000 Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram vehicles equipped with the 8.4-inch U-Connect touchscreen system could be vulnerable. All are made by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

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