Five things to see at the Tokyo Motor Show

Honda Motor Chief Executive Officer Takahiro Hachigo presents Honda Sports EV Concept during a media preview of the 45th Tokyo Motor Show in Tokyo, Japan October 25, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 October 2017
0

Five things to see at the Tokyo Motor Show

TOKYO: From a car that wants to be your friend to another that burns off the fat: here are five hot vehicles on display at the Tokyo Motor Show.
The biennial event opens for a media preview on Wednesday, before throwing its doors open to the public until November 5.
The event will feature concept vehicles from top Japanese manufacturers, as well as fresh offerings from major European firms, such as Volkswagen, Peugeot Citroen and Volvo.
The petrol heads that flock to the Tokyo Motor may really love their car but now there’s a car that loves them back.
Artificial intelligence is making further inroads into cars, with vehicles monitoring emotions, alertness, and stress levels for safe driving, including offering an option to take the wheel if the driver is tired or stressed.
Japanese giant Toyota has created a series of concept vehicles that aims to “understand” the driver so that machine and user can bond as “partners.”
“It loves you back,” said one Toyota executive.
The headline unit of Toyota’s “Concept-i” is a futuristic four-wheel model that talks to the motorist like a confidant.
It reviews the person’s behavior patterns, as well as latest news and social media activity, to assess what the driver needs or wants to hear in a given situation, like offering comforting words to a parent after a fight with a teenage daughter inside the vehicle.
Nissan, Honda and Mitsubishi will also feature vehicles assisted by artificial intelligence that analyzes the driver, passengers and road conditions for a safe and comfortable ride.
Japan is well on its way to becoming the first “ultra-aged” society, with 28 percent of the population over 65 and the car industry is doing its best for those who need a little help.
Toyota will showcase a vision for a two-seater electric vehicle that uses a joystick for easy operation, assisted by auto-drive technology.
Its design and spacious interior allow wheelchair users to easily transfer to the driver’s seat.
The vehicle also provides information on whether the driver’s destination is wheelchair-friendly.
Toyota will also display a Segway-like personal mobility unit called Concept-i Walk.
But unlike Segway, the concept unit monitors the surrounding environment and the operator’s physical and psychological conditions to ensure a safe ride.
For fitness freaks frustrated by the sedentary nature of driving, car-seat maker TS Tech has the answer, a seat that allows you to burn the calories on the road.
The seat surface shifts from side-to-side, exercising the pelvis and various muscles and burning off, so the firm claims from testing, as much as 100 calories in half an hour of driving.
When the dream of fully automated driving becomes a reality, there will be a much greater opportunity for in-car exercise, says the firm.
Fittingly in gadget-obsessed Japan, several car manufacturers are unveiling extras for vehicles that make life run that little bit more smoothly.
Smartphone texting app Line is teaming up with Toyota to show off “Clova,” a cyber assistant that can read text messages for motorists that cannot bear to disconnect while driving, among a range of other functions.
With automated driving all the rage, Honda will showcase its “NeuV” electric vehicle concept that drives itself, even when unmanned, so that multiple people can share the car.
This could be especially popular in Japan where many urban motorists are reluctant to buy cars because they only drive at the weekend.
As tighter emission regulations around the world force global automakers to develop electric units, manufacturers at the show will be parading their latest offerings, with the emphasis on polished, sporty design.
Nissan has put its LEAF electric in the hands of its motor sports engineers to create the NISMO concept that also offers autonomous drive features.
Honda is staying secretive, but has promised to unveil “Honda Sports EV Concept” for the first time.
Mitsubishi is displaying its e-Evolution concept, billed as a “high-performance all-electric crossover SUV.”
Meanwhile, Toyota will show off a hydrogen powered fuel-cell bus concept named “Sora,” which will serve as a base for 100 buses to be introduced next year to run in Tokyo ahead of 2020 Olympics.
Fuel cells work by combining hydrogen and oxygen in an electrochemical reaction to produce electricity that can then be used to power vehicles or home generators.


Audi launches electric SUV in Tesla’s backyard, with assist from Amazon

Updated 18 September 2018
0

Audi launches electric SUV in Tesla’s backyard, with assist from Amazon

SAN FRANCISCO: German luxury car brand Audi on Monday staged the global launch of a new electric sport utility vehicle on the home turf of rival Tesla Inc, and highlighted a deal with Amazon.com Inc. to make recharging its forthcoming e-tron models easier.
The Audi e-tron midsize SUV will be offered in the United States next year at a starting price of $75,795 before a $7,500 tax credit. It is one of a volley of electric vehicles coming from Volkswagen AG brands, as well as other European premium brands including Daimler-owned Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo Cars and Jaguar Land Rover.
All aim to expand the market for premium electric vehicles and also to grab share of that market from Palo Alto, California-based Tesla, which has had the niche largely to itself.
“I want Audi to be the number-one electric vehicle seller in America over the long term,” Audi of America President Scott Keogh told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is also head of rocket company SpaceX, planned to mark the e-tron launch occasion by staging a SpaceX event in Los Angeles at roughly the same time on Monday evening as Audi’s unveiling.
Audi and parent Volkswagen are using the US launch of the e-tron SUV in mid-2019 to take aim at one obstacle to expanding electric vehicle sales — the lack of convenient ways to recharge their batteries.
Audi will partner with online retailer Amazon to sell and install home electric vehicle charging systems to buyers of the e-tron, the companies said on Monday. Amazon will deliver the hardware and hire electricians to install them through its Amazon Home Services operation.
Amazon’s partnership with Audi to provide home charging systems is the first time the online retailer has struck such a deal with an automaker, and signals a new front in Amazon’s drive to expand its reach into consumers’ homes beyond the presence of its Alexa smart speakers in living rooms and kitchens.
“We see charging installation as a very important business,” Pat Bigatel, director of Amazon Home Services, told Reuters at Audi’s launch event in San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Center.
Audi executives said home charging stations would cost about $1,000, depending on the home’s electrical system.
Tesla offers wall connectors for home charging at a $500 list price, and will arrange for installation, according to the company.
At the same time, Electrify America, a company funded by Volkswagen as part of its settlement of US diesel emission cheating litigation, plans to launch next year the next round of installations of public charging stations, Electrify America executives told Reuters.
Tesla has developed its own network of Supercharger charging stations with more than 11,000 chargers in North America. Electrify America plans to have 2,000 chargers installed by mid-June next year. Those will be open to any vehicle, and customers can swipe a credit card to recharge.
“We want to work with all” automotive brands, said Giovanni Palazzo, Electrify America’s chief executive.

Lifting the Curtain

Audi has been heralding the launch of the e-tron SUV for some time, but until Monday it had not shared many details of the vehicle.
The e-tron is electric, and has two electric motors — one in the front and one in the rear — driving all four wheels. The Hungarian factory building motors for the e-tron will start with a production pace equivalent to 200 vehicles a day, Audi officials said.
In Europe, the vehicle will use cameras instead of conventional mirrors to give drivers a view to the rear. That feature is still not approved by US regulators.
However, in many other respects the e-tron is a conventional, mainstream luxury SUV. It offers seating for five, and its length and wheelbase position it in the center of the market for midsize, five-passenger luxury SUVs such as the BMW X5. The e-tron is 5 inches (13 cm) shorter than the Tesla Model X, and it has conventional doors. The Model X uses vertically opening “falcon wing” doors.
The e-tron will have an advanced cruise-control system that can keep the car within a lane and maintain a set distance behind another vehicle, but the system will be designed so that drivers must keep hands on the wheel.
Audi officials said they do not have official range estimates for the e-tron SUV under US testing procedures. The e-tron’s 95 kWh battery has less capacity than the 100 kWh battery used in the Tesla Model X 100D model, but more than the base Model X 75D.
The Model X 100D is rated at 295 miles (475 km) of range by the US government.