category_outlined / Cars & Motorcycles

Wheels August 2017

Wheels is Australia’s original motoring magazine. Launched in 1953, we’ve been trusted by generations of Australians to provide entertaining and forthright opinions on the good, the bad and the ugly of new and used cars. A world-class car mag with a formidable international reputation, Wheels covers the full gamut of cars – from sports cars to four-wheel-drives, economy to family cars – but it also covers the people, personalities and the power plays behind one of the world’s most dynamic industries.

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6 Issues


access_time4 min.
editor’s letter

BACK WHEN I JOINED WHEELS AS A BRIGHT-EYED AND BUSHY-TAILED JUNIOR STAFFER, I HAD A VERY SPECIFIC IDEA OF WHAT I NEEDED TO DO TO ‘MAKE IT’ AS A MOTORING WRITER. WEIRDLY, GIVEN MY FORMATIVE YEARS WERE SPENT DEVELOPING AN UNHEALTHY INFATUATION with Porsches (a favourite, and in retrospect rather embarrassing, pastime was downloading snippets of 911 engine sounds and listening to them over and over), I’d decided that this self-imposed benchmark of success would be achieved when I drove my first Ferrari away from the gates of Maranello. It seemed an impossible dream at the time – one reserved only for the most wizened and experienced road testers, not pimply uni grads in their early 20s – and also one that I struggled to reconcile. Aside from one rebellious summer…

access_time3 min.
hot property

A WAVE of tempting new metal is primed to hit the hot-hatch segment, promising Aussies new levels of track-honed keenness with everyday usability. This quartet of contenders give good reason to spend $50K on a performance car that really can do it all. Spearheading the charge is the Hyundai i30 N, pictured here in production-ready guise. Hyundai will launch two variants before the year is out. A base i30 N, with outputs of 184kW and 353Nm, will directly target the Golf GTI, and must be priced to undercut or match the VW’s $41,340 point of entry if Hyundai is to successfully break into the segment. The i30 N Performance Pack version shown here will turn the wick up to 202kW and, we understand, a minimum of 353Nm with more torque available via…

access_time5 min.
robot wars

“We have over 100 steering wheels on offer. Do we need that many variants?”BMW CFO Nicolas Peter discusses slashing showroom options to boost R&D budget WHAT NEXT? Will the iNext resemble the Vision Next 100 concept? Good question. We would have asked it, too, but while BMW brought plenty of tech whizzes, there wasn’t a single designer at the event. “THE WHEELS are primarily there to keep the computers from dragging on the ground.” So wrote Paul Saffo, US futurist and academic on autonomous cars, for Wired, in 2012. Humans who can drive are brilliant. You, me, and all the others who do it well are performing a task of great complexity with apparent ease, at least most of the time. Exactly how skilled we are becomes clear when you examine in detail what…

access_time1 min.
fishing for smarter chips

Here’s a clue to the sheer computational grunt needed for an autonomous vehicle to duplicate what a driver’s brain does… The chip is stamped ‘Intel Confidential’. It packs computing power equivalent to around 50 PCs, we’re told. Mounted on a board about 20cm square, this is what will eventually take the place of the electronic jumble that currently fills the boot of the autonomous 7 Series development prototype. “Teaching computers to solve problems,” is how BMW artificial intelligence expert Dr Reinhard Stolle describes what he does. “I like this definition because it fits driving.” And there are plenty of problems for a computer to solve. Plotting a route to the objective is the simple part. Awareness of the surrounding environment , and reacting appropriately, is the tough bit. So the computer must make…

access_time1 min.

This company is a world leader in camera-based sensor tech. The most advanced assistance systems available today, like those in BMW’s latest 5 and 7 Series, are classified Level 2 in the five-step autonomous driving scale (see p16). The steps to Level 3 and beyond means adding more cameras, for safety. Multiple redundancies will be built into sensor systems. The idea is that should a single sensor be taken out, others will be able to cover for it. Lidars or, as BMW’s engineers prefer, laser scanners, are the other key autonomous car-sensor tech. There’s progress here, too. BMW’s prototype Level 5 car, a 3 Series GT, has four compact laser scanners built into its bodywork instead of a large single scanner goofily mounted on its roof. BMW engineers plan to move to next-gen…

access_time1 min.
the race to autonomy

FORD The 113-year-old car manufacturer ranks first largely due to being well equippped to bring the tech to the masses. Will invest US$1bn over the next five years. GM Last month announced it has already built 130 self-driving Chevrolet Bolt test vehicles, and invests US$600 million a year into autonomous efforts. RENAULT-NISSAN Is working to launch a range of autonomous capable cars in US, Europe, Japan, and China through 2020, and will sell cars with “multiple-lane control” by 2018 DAIMLER Working with Bosch, and targeting a 2021 autonomous capable launch. New S-Class flagship will usher in latest and greatest tech for the brand. VOLKSWAGEN Revealed fully autonomous concept ‘Sedric’ earlier this year. Restructuring core automotive business to focus more on autonomous and electric tech by 2025…