Every company is striving towards autonomous driving, which means competition is very high. Cars that drive themselves would mean a revolution in how people get around.
But they might arrive just as much by evolution, with everyday cars getting gradually smarter, as by sudden shifts to fully self-driving vehicles.
Autonomous driving — and its potential for sweeping change — was much on the minds of top auto executives at the Geneva International Motor Show.
The exhibit space in Geneva was mostly used for the show’s primary purpose: showing off product to the news media and the public in order to boost sales. Expensive sports and luxury cars dominated the display stands for the rich and new SUVs for more middle-class buyers.
But the future beyond the upcoming model year was very much a topic of discussion, if less visible on the display stands. Executives think that cars that drive themselves at least part of the time may be upon us by the end of this decade. Technology such as autonomous driving by cars equipped with cameras and radar sensors could blend with Internet connections and apps. For instance, a car could be ordered for a few hours through an app and drive itself to the customer.
Google, meanwhile, is testing completely autonomous cars on streets in Mountain View, Austin, Texas, and Kirkland, Washington.
A simple way to save on money when buying a used car is to visit a car auction. You wouldn’t know it from the road, but there are typically around 4000 vehicles tucked away awaiting sale at the Copart auction facility in Newburgh, New York. And arriving on a Thursday morning for the regular weekly auction, you really wouldn’t guess that about 1000 of those vehicles would be on their way to new homes by day’s end—whether that means the driveway of a proud new owner, on a dealer’s lot, in a body shop for pre-resale repairs, or off to the crusher. On the Thursday of our visit, the parking lot is empty, save for one agitated tow-truck driver talking on a cell phone and whose half of the conversation consists almost entirely of expletives.
Inside, however, is a different story. A busy staff of about a dozen headset-wearing workers is fielding nonstop calls from dealers, and handling title issues, deliveries, and other questions. The auction is in full swing, but there’s no fast-talking auctioneer, slamming of gavels, shouting of bids, or cars crossing the block. As with many car auctions these days, all the bidding happens online. And fast.
Used-car auctions are big business, and companies like Copart, Adesa, and Manheim are the giants of the industry, with daily auctions nationwide. Copart puts 75,000 cars up for sale every day, but Manheim is the biggest, handling some 7 million vehicles in 11 countries annually. It’s a complicated business, with cars moving locally and across the country to maximize profits based on supply and demand, regional needs, and even the price of scrap metal. The vehicles come from a variety of sources, including fleets, rental companies, carmakers, financial institutions, insurance companies, and other wholesalers.
The bad news for bargain hunters is that the bulk of these auctions are for dealers only. But paddle-wielding wannabes have plenty of other options, from municipal and federal government auctions, to commercial auctions catering to the public, and auction sites like the ubiquitous eBay.
When packing your car to head out on a family road trip, do you have everything that is needed, or are you missing some key new items to make it even better. You’ve got your phone with its battery at 100 percent. You’ve got great playlists to get you down the road. You’ve even got a proper emergency kit full of essential tools in case of trouble on the road. Now all you need is something that will make it easy to sift through your music, mount your phone at eye level, and keep you from getting that speeding ticket.
iBolt Command Remote ($35)
Call it the magic button for your car. This Bluetooth button adheres to your dashboard using an adhesive strip, then syncs over Bluetooth to your phone. You use it to issue voice commands to your phone, such as skipping a music track or asking Siri for directions, so that you don’t have to take your eyes or hands off the wheel while you drive.
Cobra DSP 9200 BT Radar Detector ($400)
The price tag on this small windshield-mounted adapter might seem high if your only goal is to avoid speed traps; other radar detectors come a lot cheaper. But Cobra has packed in handy extra features here. Once it’s installed and synced to the Cobra iRadar app on your phone, the detector scans for lasers, radars, and cameras, and notifies you by voice prompts as you drive. Other users can flag caution areas. The app also lets you control your music, get directions, and locate your car.