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The automotive future is almost now

The autonomous vehicles are coming!
The autonomous vehicles are coming!
Photo by Mark Wilson

You may not have heard of a little car company called Elio Motors, but you will. Paul Elio has designed and plans to build a three-wheeled car in Shreveport, LA that can get 84 mpg on the highway and will sell for $6800 (he says). Actually, it’s a trike with two wheels in the front and one in the rear. Since it is licensed as a motorcycle, it requires helmet use in seven states. Elio is working on an exemption.
This tandem two-seater is powered by an in-line 3-cylinder 0.9-liter gas engine that gets 49 mpg in city driving. The Elio is nicely equipped with air-conditioning, power windows, power locks, ABS, air bags and an AM/FM radio. Pep Boys, with 800 locations, is the authorized service provider. See www.eliomotors.com for more info.

Alfa Romeo wants back in the U.S. and many car enthusiasts long for their return. Maybe it will actually happen. Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat-Chrysler Automotive (FCA) is making Alfa Romeo a stand-alone company among the FCA family. Look for the Alfa Romeo 4C to appear in Maserati and selected Fiat dealer showrooms later this year.
The 4C is an attention grabber with sexy Italian styling and a 1.75-liter turbocharged mid-engine developing 240 hp. Future plans call for six new models including two SUVs. Top of the line models will get V-6 engines developed by Ferrari. Prices and introduction dates have not been announced but stay tuned and check out http://4c.alfaromeo.com/

Google’s self-drive, autonomous car project is motoring along quite nicely. Improved software can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously. It can distinguish pedestrians, cars and cyclists, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard. It registers a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn, a car that runs a stop light, car doors unexpectedly open into traffic, jaywalking pedestrians, cars lurching out of hidden driveways, double-parked delivery trucks blocking your lane. See it in action at http://tinyurl.com/muunl4w
Driver error accounts for more than 90 percent of the nation’s 32,000 crash deaths and 2.2 million injuries annually. While we are a few years away from experiencing self-drive cars in the real world, they are on the way and will save time, money and lives. However, it looks like the driving “fun” has been greatly reduced.