Self-driving cars are coming, there’s no doubt about that. I myself have ridden in more than a few autonomous cars over the years, and the technology is MUCH closer than you think.
But with most of these concept, the approach is the same. You’ve got a car that you can switch into self-driving mode on a long trip, after which you can sit back and relax, letting the car deal with traffic and the monotony of a long drive, while you occupy yourself otherwise.
Volvo has a completely different vision for the future of passenger travel, reimagining the role and functionity of a self-driving vehicle like never before. Feast your eyes on the Volvo 360c autonomous concept; a bedroom, office, living room, or night club on wheels.
Sounds (and looks) pretty wild, right? To learn more about this unique vehicle, Volvo brought us out to their headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, where we got to speak with their design and product leaders and get a better understanding about how the Volvo 360c concept came to be, and how they see it playing a part in the the future.
“The 360c explores what becomes possible when we remove the human driver, using new freedoms in design and recapturing time – it’s a glimpse at how autonomous drive technology will change the world as we know it. The possibilities are mind-boggling,” said Mårten Levenstam, senior vice president of corporate strategy at Volvo Cars.
Volvo’s concept presents four potential configurations depending on your needs – a sleeping environment, mobile office, living room and entertainment space – representing an attractive travel option that could rival air, bus and train providers, but with competitive advantages in comfort, convenience and privacy.
Lets start with the most interesting of the bunch, the futuristic sleeper car. Volvo is suggesting that the 360c could be a viable alternative to air travel for short-haul flights. Consider a flight from Philadelphia to Washington DC. On paper, the flight is just over an hour long. But when you factor in the time it takes to drive to the airport, park your car, shuttle to the airport, go through security, and then get a ride to your destination once you arrive, it’s more like four hours or more, and it’s anything but a relaxing experience.
Or, you could simply call for a 360c on your smartphone when you’re good and ready to leave rather than operating on the airline’s schedule, and enjoy first-class private cabin travel from door to door, without the nightmare of airport security, queuing, noisy and cramped planes. Travel time would be roughly the same (maybe even faster if that flight is delayed), and you would arrive feeling nice and refreshed. Which option sounds better to you?
I actually got to try out the sleeper configuration in a prototype for myself, and it was really cool. The seat fully reclines into a bed, with a safety blanket serving to keep you securely in place while you sleep in place of a standard seatbelt. Three spacious drawers hold everything you need (personal belongings, food for the trip, a pillow and blanket). There’s even a sink where you can brush your teeth in the morning, and a table where you can eat breakfast. It’s an interesting alternative to flying for sure!
But that’s not all. There’s also a mobile office configuration that’s ideal for those people with long commutes to work. Instead of wasting hours on end in bumper-to-bumper traffic, you can simply let the vehicle deal with the gridlock while you enjoy a fully-functional, connected, comfortable, mobile office from which to work. With seating for four, you could even use the vehicle to hold meetings in, with a display window that you can cast presentations to from your laptop or phone. Heck, there’s even a coffee machine on board.
“People becoming less reliant on proximity to cities is just one example of the impact of removing the burden of unproductive travel time,” said Levenstam. “The 360c driving office makes it viable for people to live at greater distances from crowded cities and use their time both in a more pleasant and more effective way.”
Meanwhile, the living room configuration is how most people would utilize these vehicles, a comfortable environment that lets 1-4 people get from point A to point B, with a number of niceties to make your trip more enjoyable than a standard taxi. Touch panels let you control the temperature, there’s a scent selector, reclining seats when you want to relax, and whatever entertainment you desire courtesy of the voice assistant. And since there’s no driver, there’s no awkward small talk that you need to make. Simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
As you can see from these photos, the 360c is surprisingly roomy, despite being the same size as a Volvo XC90. But since there’s no bulky engine up front (it’s electric) or steering wheel or pedals to contend with, they’ve been able to recover a LOT of wasted space, which explains how they’ve managed to seat four people in comfort, along with a table, sink, etc.
Equally intriguing is Volvo’s ideas on how to have the vehicle communicate with other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians and let them know its intentions. To accomplish this, the 360c emits audible and visual signals, which should be very effective. At least until you end up in a dense city with hundreds of these vehicles driving around simultaneously, at which point it’s going to be a cacophony of sound effects and flashing lights.
“We strongly believe this communication method should be a universal standard, so all road users can communicate easily with any autonomous car, regardless of which maker built it,” said Malin Ekholm, vice president at the Volvo Cars Safety Centre. “But it is also important that we do not instruct others what to do next, in order to avoid potential confusion. Our research shows this is the safest way for fully autonomous cars to communicate with others.”
If you had your heart set on purchasing one of these vehicles, I’ve got some bad news for you. Volvo doesn’t plan on selling them to individuals, nor is it looking to become the next Uber or Lyft. Instead, they see themselves more like Boeing, simply selling the vehicles to airlines or ride-sharing companies as needed, and letting them handle the logistics of operating such a fleet. And honestly, with traditional car ownership gradually giving way to ride-sharing and such, that business model makes perfect sense.
There’s no question that the Volvo 360c concept has got us thinking about autonomous cars in an entirely new way, and that was exactly what Volvo set out to do. According to Levenstam, the car is “a conversation starter, with more ideas and answers to come as we learn more.” We are probably still a good 5-10 years away from seeing a vehicle like this on the road, but I’m really excited for what the future holds, and you should be too!
What do you think of the Volvo 360c autonomous concept?
The 335HP Ford Edge ST Is The Perfect Choice For Enthusiasts With Kids
When Ford first announced plans for a 335-horsepower performance SUV that would wear the iconic ST badge, I was.. surprised, as I didn’t see much of a market for a souped-up Ford Edge. Turns out, I was looking at it from the wrong perspective.
The majority of my friends with kids have SUVs or crossovers. According to them, it’s a must, as they need the extra room to shuttle their kids (and their friends) around to soccer practice. While many of them are gearheads who would love to drive something fun like a Mustang GT or Focus RS, “life” forced them to choose something more practical.
Enter the new 2019 Ford Edge ST, a potent yet practical crossover SUV that delivers the best of both worlds, satisfying your need for speed while passing the wife test. The first SUV from Ford Performance, the Edge ST builds upon last year’s Edge Sport, with a 2.7-liter twin turbo V6 that puts out 335 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque (an increase of 20HP and 30 lb-ft).
Coupled with a quick-shifting eight-speed transmission and a lower final drive ratio, the 2019 Edge ST rockets from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds, with a top speed of 130mph. That’s actually quicker than the Fiesta ST or Focus ST, which is really impressive given its size. And if you’re able to keep your foot out of it, the Edge ST returns a respectable 19 mpg / 26 mpg (city/hwy), thanks in part to Ford’s Intelligent AWD with AWD Disconnect system.
Ford recently brought us out to Park City, Utah to test out the 2019 Ford Edge ST, setting us loose on some winding roads up through the mountains, giving us a chance to put the SUV’s performance chops to the test. In a word.. impressive!
The ’19 Ford Edge ST gets going in a hurry, and shifts through the eight-speed automatic are absolutely seamless. Acceleration is so smooth and linear, it’s easy to think the car has a CVT. Switch into Sport mode, and the car is transformed even further, holding gears longer, with more aggressive shifts, and some added “noise” piped into the cabin.
As you might expect, the Edge ST suspension is retuned, with new shocks, firmer springs, and a thicker sway bar all working together to improve the car’s handling. The slow things down, the brakes get substantial upgrades as well. If that’s not enough, there’s even an optional ST performance brake package that takes things up another notch.
To show us just how capable the Edge ST is, Ford put together a tight autocross course for us to drive, where it performed incredibly well despite its larger size. Respect.
Visually, all 2019 Edge’s gets new front and rear styling, with the ST getting a wide mesh grille for optimal cooling, deep side skirts and dual-exhaust outlets. Unique 21-inch wheels are available (20-inch wheels are standard), with gloss black treatment that perfectly highlight the red calipers behind them. Inside, there’s an ST-specific instrument cluster, heavily bolstered seats to keep you in place, and gloss black and carbon fiber-style trim.
Technology has always been Ford’s strong suit, and they deliver it in spades in the Edge ST. Ford’s Co-Pilot360 safety technology package is standard, giving drivers forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, a lane-centering system, auto high beams and a backup camera standard. And the Edge ST keeps you connected with things like Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, Amazon Alexa integration (“Alexa, start my car”), and more.
With a starting price of $43,350 (and a fully optioned model coming in at around $55K), the 2019 Ford Edge ST isn’t exactly cheap. But there’s really nothing else out there quite like it, and we think enthusiasts who have a growing family and want something a little edgier than the status quo will be drawn to the ST.
Overall, I think the 2019 Ford Edge ST is a fun yet practical performance vehicle that checks off all the boxes, and I think it’s going to be a hot seller for the Blue Oval.
What do you think of the 2019 Ford Edge ST?
There’s No Better Car To Relive Your Youth Than The Camaro Hot Wheels Edition
Did you know that the first Hot Wheels car ever sold was a dark blue “Custom Camaro”, which went on sale on May 18, 1968? And that every generation (and nearly every variation) of the Camaro has been replicated in 1:64 scale by Hot Wheels?
So it should come as no surprise that Chevrolet and Hot Wheels partnered to celebrate their 50 year anniversary with an actually life-size Hot Wheels Camaro, the 2018 Camaro Hot Wheels 50th Anniversary Edition, which looks like it rolled right off of the orange track and onto the streets. And as soon as I laid eyes on this bad boy, I felt like a kid again!
Now, this was no ordinary review loaner for me. Instead, I was driving the Hot Wheels Camaro to Camp No Counselors, a summer camp for adults. Because what’s a better combination than driving a life-sized version of a toy sports car, and a weekend at sleepaway camp to relive your youth, right? And the 400-mile trip would give me plenty of time to evaluate the car.
When the car arrived, I was immediately smitten with the exclusive Orange Crush paint, which photos just don’t do justice. Now all of that orange would be too much by itself, but the satin graphite stripe (with silver ice metallic accents), satin graphite ground effects, and the black Chevrolet bowtie emblems help break things up and complete the look.
Inside, it’s more of the same, with a Jet Black leather-appointed interior with orange inserts and orange accent stitching. The suede-wrapped steering wheel has orange accent stitching and a Hot Wheels 50th Anniversary badge. The floor mats have orange stitching and ghost stripes, and orange knee bolsters and seat belts complete the look. While it’s a lot of orange, they somehow pull off the look without looking tacky.
Our 2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Hot Wheels Edition came equipped with a 6.2L V8 that puts out an incredible 455 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. The LT1 engine is something else, capable of propelling our orange missile from 0-60 in 4 seconds flat. But keep your eyes peeled for cops, as this car is anything but inconspicuous.
It also sounds the part, with an exhaust note that gave me goosebumps anytime I went wide open throttle with it (when passing other cars on the highway). Sure, those WOT romps will cost you in the gas department, but driving back home on cruise control, we managed to get an impressive 25.3 miles per gallon.
While an early rain storm got our car dirty in a hurry, that didn’t stop people from gawking at our car as we drove by, a child-like look of wonder and amazement on their faces. Clearly, Chevrolet and Hot Wheels knocked it out of the park in the styling department.
That said, it takes quite an extroverted person to drive this car given the amount of attention it gets. Personally, I think the car is awesome, and if I were in the market for a Camaro, I’d definitely pony up the extra $4,995 for the Hot Wheels package. It looks like you’re driving around in a life-sized Hot Wheels, turning that childhood fantasy into reality.
Overall, it was a pretty awesome weekend, reliving my youth at sleepaway camp, and driving around in a life-sized Hot Wheels car, making those “Vroom Vroom” sounds for real with the gas pedal, instead of with my mouth. 🙂
What do you think of the 2018 Camaro Hot Wheels 50th Anniversary Special Edition?
The 2018 Subaru BRZ tS Is Exclusive Awesomeness
We recently got to spend a week the 2018 Subaru BRZ tS, a special edition model of the little driver-oriented sport coupe, of which only 500 are being made. The verdict? Run out and get one before it’s too late!
Slip behind the wheel and it doesn’t take long to get amorous about the Subaru BRZ. The little car becomes fun quickly, with its ready-for-action appeal and genuine love of the road. While the naysayers will deride it for not having a turbocharged engine or “more power” in general, the rest of us see that this entry-level sport coupe is phenomenally awesome.
For the 2018 Subaru BRZ tS, Subaru dialed things up a notch, incorporating some fast-paced tuning from the company’s STI performance division.
The most noticeable addition to the BRZ is a large carbon fiber aero wing sitting on inverted V-shaped brackets. Those braces can be tuned to angle the spoiler for various performance tweaks, should you be headed to the track. Adding additional downforce at certain speed ranges, in corners, etc. is possible through those adjustments.
Larger wheels are also obvious on the BRZ tS model, as are added side skirts. Those 18-inch wheels are the largest yet on any Subaru BRZ and accommodate Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires that are measured at 215/40 (thin wall, wide track). The additional side skirts are the visible part of several aerodynamic tweaks made to the BRZ tS for added slipperiness in the wind.
The chassis of the 2018 BRZ tS now sports SACHS dampers and coil springs tuned by STI for the car. Flexible V-braces in the engine compartment add rigidity to the car. Draw stiffeners for the chassis and subframe have the same affect. Also of note are the Brembo brakes added to boost stopping power and reduce brake fade under heavy usage.
Inside, the 2018 Subaru BRZ tS is very similar to the BRZ Limited model, but with added tS and STI logos on the seats plus the STI hallmark of red seatbelts.
The powertrain for the little 2018 Subaru BRZ tS remains the same as it does in other versions of the sport coupe. The 2.0-liter boxer-style four puts out 205 honest horsepower and the six-speed manual transmission (in the tS, available in most other trims) exhibits short throws and a very positive clutch. It’s easy to fall in love with the tS, with its on-the-road feel and active driving engagement.
It’s also easy to get the BRZ tS to turn sideways almost at will.. Especially on a dirt surface. Jerking the wheel one way then the next usually results in some drift. Practice will make this easy. On pavement, more finesse is necessary to elicit the same response, but it can be done. All without turbos or complicated braking techniques. The Subaru BRZ tS loves curve carving, sharp corner drifting, and is a perfect learner car for heel-toe engagement.
The 2018 Subaru BRZ tS has a starting price of $33,495 and has three exclusive color options to match its STI roots. Toyota will offer similar enhancements to the BRZ’s twin, the Toyota 86, next year as the 86 TRD Special Edition.
What do you think of the 2018 Subaru BRZ tS?