Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Tag: Automotive

LiftMaster’s MyQ – Smartphone Control of Your Garage Door

Posted by Andrew at 12:28 AM on January 18, 2012

LiftMaster LogoLiftMaster is known for its range of garage door openers and this year, they’re introducing their new MyQ technology that will let home owners monitor and control their garage door from a smartphone or tablet anywhere in the world, including iPhones, iPads, Blackberries and Android devices.

Intended to be professionally installed, the cost is $350-$400 for a new door opener that incorporates MyQ technology and it’s available now.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Griffin Gets Gadgets On The Go

Posted by Andrew at 1:35 AM on January 13, 2012

Griffin has a great range of accessories for all kinds of smartphones, MP3 players and tablets, so it’s no surprise that they’ve a few additions to their product range here at CES. This year they’re announcing a two in-car mounts, some power solutions and a mount for air travellers.

First up, if you have a car that has an aux port (3.5 mm socket), then the WindowsSeat 3 Handsfree is the windshield or dashboard mount for your vehicle. It comes with combined aux cable and microphone that that can be used to make handsfree phone calls and stream music/navigation commands through the car speakers. WindowSeat’s mounting cradle holds iPods or iPhones in most shell- or skin-type cases, as well as a similar sized MP3 players and smartphones, including popular models from BlackBerry, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung. Price is $39.99 and available now.

Griffin AirCurve

If you don’t have  an aux jack, the AirCurve Window Mount is the alternative. This windshield mount is designed as an acoustic amplifier which can raise the volume by as much as 25 dB without any batteries or cables. Designed for the iPhone 4 / 4S, simply put the smartphone in speakerphone mode and chat away. Price is also $39.99 and available now.

Griffin’s PowerBlock range has been updated with new models –  PowerBlock Reserve, $59.99, a wall charger for iPod and iPhone that can be plugged into any AC wall outlet to provide a quick boost of power that also has a built-in rechargeable 2,000 mAh lithium-ion battery pack for charging on the go. The PowerBlock Reserve Universal, $49.99, is the same concept but quickly charges any USB device. Both models charge their own batteries at the same time they’re charging connected devices, which is often not the case with competing models. A row of LEDs serve as a power gauge, indicating how much charge is left.

Finally, Griffin is bringing a new product to the market in Q2 of 2012 with a Tray Table Latch Mount. Specifically for the air and rail traveller, the mount is designed to be compatible with 90% of the world’s airline and commuter rail tray table latches and holds your eReader, tablet or smartphone at eye level for comfortable viewing. Very handy.

Pop round to Griffin in North Hall, Booth 5212 at CES 2012 in Las Vegas to see all their latest goodies or you can checked out the dedicated CES section of their website.

Ford Mustang, Boss 302 and Shelby GT500

Posted by Andrew at 6:19 AM on November 17, 2011

Ford logoIf you believe that there’s no substitute for horsepower, then you’ll be rejoicing in 2012 as Ford updates the iconic Mustang muscle car line-up. The new Mustang  will be ready to go in spring but the real power will be later in the year with the return of the Boss 302 and the Shelby GT500, expected to be the most powerful production V8 available.

The 2013 Ford Mustang has a new exterior design with a bigger front grille, re-styled hood and signature LED lighting to give the car a high-tech look. The automatic gearbox now has “SelectShift Automatic” transmission as standard, for drivers who want greater control over the growling 5 liter V6 engine.

2013 Ford Mustang GT

But it’s not just high-tech on the outside, as in an industry-first, the Mustang comes with a 4.2″ LCD car information system with TrackApps; a suite of apps that monitor the car’s performance, including acceleration, cornering-g and braking.

The LCD screen is navigated by a five-way control button to access information relating to fuel economy and vehicle performance. The TrackApps give performance metrics for g-forces, acceleration times for quarter mile and 0-60, and braking times. It also indicates automatic and countdown starts.

Ford TrackApps

“The new Mustang is the perfect example of continuing to build on excellence. It takes the greatness of the 5.0-liter and V6 and pushes the refinement to the next level,” said Dave Pericak, Mustang chief engineer. “The car has been spot-on functionally and now we’re adding more features and technology to further improve the driver’s experience.

The Boss is back, paying homage to a 70′s legend, the Ford Boss 302 Mustang and the car that won the 1970 Trans-Am Championship, driven by Parnelli Jones. Building on this heritage, the new Boss 302 and Boss Laguna Seca will be available in School Bus Yellow, the same colour as the championship-winning car.

2013 Mustang Boss 302

The 2013 Boss 302 comes with 444 HP delivered to the rear wheels via a carbon fiber limited-slip differential – there’s over 380 lb-ft torque available. The orginal Boss 302 had a little under 300 HP under the right foot and in its day, the 302 was the fastest car to lap Ford’s test track.

Compared with 1970 model, the new Boss is totally high-tech, with Ford SYNC as standard. SYNC is a voice-activated in-car connectivity system, with features including
- hands-free control of mobile phones and USB-connected digital music players.
- 911-Assist that automatically calls the emergency services in the event of an accident.
- Vehicle Health Report, an on-demand diagnostic and maintenance system.

The real petrolheads will have to wait until later in 2012 before they can get their hands on the new 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang, which will lay claim to be the most power production V8 in the world, pumping out 650 HP from the 5.8 liter supercharged V8 engine. 600 lb-ft of torque will be on-tap and a 4 second 0-60 time is expected. Whoa!

2013 Ford Shelby GT500

While there may be no substitute for horsepower, a great deal of technology has gone into making sure that the Shelby GT500 goes round the corners quickly as well. Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT) has worked with world leaders in car design to ensure that the Shelby GT500 is fast. SVT-designed Bilstein electronic adjustable dampers can be adjusted from within the car. A Torsen limited-slip differential ensures that as much power as possible gets through the rubber to the road. Brembo braking system aggressively deccelerates the 3,850 lb car with six piston calipers and fade-resistance rotors.

SVT keeps the Shelby GT500 on the cutting edge of technology and takes muscle car performance to new heights,” said Jost Capito, director of Global Performance Vehicles and Motorsport Business Development. “We encapsulated every aspect of performance in this car – whether it’s 0-60, top speed, racetrack or quarter-mile times. Beyond that, the daily driver also will find this car perfectly fits his or her needs.

Nearly every part of the powertrain has been improved for producing the additional horsepower, including a new supercharger, new cross-drilled block and heads, updated camshaft profiles, a new carbon fiber driveshaft and upgraded clutch, transmission and axle. Putting down 650 HP isn’t easy – it’s not as easy as simply putting in a bigger engine.

The 200 mph top speed needed an enhanced aero-package to keep the wheels on the road at high speed and every aspect of the air flow over the vehicle was analysed and harnessed to improve cooling, maximise downforce and minimise drag. As a result, there’s over 33% more downforce at 160 mph compared with the previous model.

The Shelby GT500 is also equipped with an SVT-designed launch control system that allows the GT500′s pilot to adjust the start depending on tire temperature, street surface and other conditions. The launch system is smart enough to interface with both the engine managment system and traction contol to optimise the getaway.

2013 Ford Shelby GT500

For those drivers more confident of their skills or wanting to learn greater control, the electronic systems can be programmed for a range of situations. The Intermediate mode allows drivers to push the car without completely disabling the safety systems, allowing more aggressive driving before traction control and electronic stability control kick in. For real racing, both the systems can be completely disabled requiring maximum driver skill.

We took a completely different approach with this car so drivers can choose their settings instead of a computer making the selection,” said Jamal Hameedi, SVT chief engineer. “Nearly every system the driver interacts with can be tailored to his or her situation including the Bilstein electronic adjustable suspension, launch control, AdvanceTrac and steering assist levels.

Whether it’s the Mustang, the Boss 302 or the Shelby GT500, there is a ton of technology and gadgetry in all of these vehicles. Much of this technology would only have been available to race teams just a few years ago and here it is now in street-legal car. Visit your local Ford dealer for a test and once you’ve stopped fiddling with the gadgets, you can go out for a drive.

Ford Uses Gestures To Open Liftgate

Posted by Andrew at 1:10 AM on November 2, 2011

Ford Escape SUVFord today announced that the new Ford Escape SUV would come with a powered liftgate that opens and closes when you kick your foot under just below the bumper . Using gesture-based technology similar to games consoles, it ensures that the liftgate doesn’t open accidentally.

Todd’s Noytes: Having actually seen this work at a Ford Demo today. It’s pretty cool and unlike anything I have seen on a car.. You can essentially kick/wave/wiggle your foot just under the bumper from almost any angle and so long as you have the key on your person.

Combined with Ford’s Intelligent Access key-less entry, owners can unlock the car and open the liftgate without even getting the keys out of their pocket or bag. Very handy if your hands are full and need to dump stuff in the back before you drop it all! The ‘gate can be closed again with a similar motion: again handy if you are taking stuff out of the car.

The hands-free power liftgate is yet another innovative Ford technology that makes customers’ lives easier,” said Jason Sprawka, Escape brand manager. “New Escape owners will be able to load their vehicle without ever having to set packages or gear down.

The system is like that used in games consoles and has a pair of sensors to detect the shin and the kicking motion. This stops other motions, say, from an animal, or bumps on rough roads, from operating the liftgate by mistake. It’s the first time the technology has been used in this market segment.

The new Escape will debut at the Los Angeles Motor Show on 16 November and will go on sale in the US in the spring.

I was going to run with a headline about Ford “giving the boot a boot” but didn’t think enough people would get the joke…

Ford and Gogo Add to Inflight Entertainment

Posted by Andrew at 12:33 AM on October 26, 2011

Ford logoTravelling by air can be pretty dull – you’re jammed into a metal tube with nowhere to go even if you could get out of your seat. Inflight entertainment has evolved from one or two screens for the whole cabin to multichannel personal media players in seat headrests, which certainly helps to alleviate the boredom. More recently and largely responding to the requests of business travellers, more and more flights now have Wi-Fi, bringing the Internet to your foldaway table, albeit usually at a price.

Gogo LogoIf you are lucky enough to be on a plane equipped with Gogo‘s inflight Wi-Fi connectivity, Ford has teamed up with Gogo to offer access to Ford’s Mustang Customizer and free access to Facebook for the rest of the flight. The Customizer is a notch above the usual car modelling websites where you can only change the colour of the paint and the interior trim. Starting out with Mustang V6, GT, Boss 302 or Shelby GT500, the Customizer lets you choose the exterior before tweaking under the hood and then placing the car in one of three backgrounds – dragway, cityscape or drive-in restaurant. Apparently there are over 78,791,049,216,000 combinations of vehicle to dream up.

Once you’ve got the car of your dreams, the picture can be downloaded as a background or posted to Facebook and entered into contests to see who has the best car. If you’ve cash to match, you can get a .pdf pricing out the components you’ve chosen.

We are really excited to give Gogo users a chance to customize their very own Mustang while in flight,” added Brian McClary, emerging and social media specialist at Ford. “The Mustang Customizer has proven to be a great way for users to create their own Mustang and provides an interactive and immersive experience.

Definitely of interest to bored petrol heads, small boys and Facebook junkies. The special promotion starts 21 October, 2011 and ends 18 November, 2011

Ford Introduces Live Operator for SYNC Users

Posted by Andrew at 3:11 PM on July 12, 2011

Ford yesterday announced a new SYNC Services feature, “Operator Assist”, which lets drivers speak to a real person in order to help with enquiries such as business searches or address entry. It’s currently in beta and is being offered free to registered users of SYNC Services.

Operator Assist is voice activated and the new feature provides customers with the ability to safely connect with a live person who can quickly access information databases to help drivers get where they want to go. No additional hardware or software is needed and the driver (or passenger) simply says, “Operator” if he or she needs assistance with the automated system. After confirming the request, the individual is connected to a live operator for help in finding a business or entering an address. Directions can be sent directly to the vehicle’s navigation system or the business address and phone number can be texted to a mobile phone.

Taking the concept a step further, in the instance when a driver says an address or business that the automated system can’t identify, the driver will be offered the option to connect to a live operator for further assistance. If the user confirms he or she would like to speak with an operator, the system automatically connects the user to the live operator. This avoids the frustration that I think we’ve all encountered when we know where we want to go but the GPS doesn’t recognise the address.

Seventy percent of all SYNC Services calls are for business search and directions“, said David Gersabeck, product manager, SYNC Services. “Our customers asked for additional assistance in situations where their voice request was not understood…Being able to connect with a live person at any time contributes to that [assistance].

Nissan Leaf Electric Vehicle

Posted by Andrew at 12:11 PM on April 15, 2011

The Nissan Leaf is expected to be the first “normal” electric car and by the brief look I had today at Charles Hurst Nissan, it’s certainly not far off the mark.

To start with, it looks like a normal four door family saloon. Perhaps a little on the small side for US folk, but perfectly normal in Europe.

Inside, it’s a gadget-lovers dream – electronic dash, GPS, Bluetooth, the works. If you were expecting an electric car to be frugal with the juice, think again.

The gear stick only has three positions – park, forward and reverse – and is finished in a crystal blue that looks pretty good. In the picture, it’s the object in the bottom left.

The interior is pretty roomy, again by European standards. There’s plenty of space for four adults.

Moving round to the boot (trunk), there’s room to get the shopping in or a couple of suitcases.

That is the portable charger you can see in there. Plugs into any UK domestic 230V 3 pin socket.

Which brings us round to the front of the car. Just below the bonnet (hood), there’s a small flap which opens up to show two charging ports. The one on the right is for normal home or domestic charging, the one on the left is for commercial fast charging. Think petrol station for electric vehicles.

On the roof at the rear, there’s an optional rear roof spoiler with a solar panel which can charge the battery. From the size of the panel, I think you’d be waiting awhile to charge from flat, but I suppose every little bit helps.

Chatting to the salesman, he was using the Leaf as his daily car. He felt that the range of 100 miles was realistic and the regenerative braking was effective in returning power to the battery (and stopping the car!). The torque (acceleration) was good and the car easily kept up with other cars on the round. While he’d only driven it up to 70 mph – that’s the legal limit in the UK – the Leaf wasn’t struggling and would reach its top speed of 96 mph.

I would buy one of these in heartbeat – my daily commute is about 7 miles each way and I perhaps drive another 10 miles in the day visiting other businesses, so the 100 mile range would be no limitation. The only snag is the price. At £26,000, it’s nearly three times the price of my daily runabout when it was new and that’s even with a £5,000 discount from the UK Government for EVs. But with petrol prices being what they are – the UK pays about £1.35 per litre, that’s about $7.67 per US gallon – you can see that it can begin to look much more attractive. If the prices come down, I can see that EVs like the Leaf will sell very well as second cars for commuting and school runs.

Sitting next to the Leaf was another exciting Nissan – the GTR. Slightly different approach to motoring, mind you.

Thanks again to everyone at Charles Hurst Nissan in Belfast.

 

Oxygen Audio O Car iPhone Head Unit

Posted by Andrew at 4:43 PM on February 11, 2011

Esby and Jeffrey chat to Gregory Borchardt of Oxygen Audio about the O Car, a car stereo head unit that uses the iPhone as the control surface and media library. For me, this was the product of CES – it’s just so clever.

Oxygen Audio provide a custom app through the Apple store which controls all the features of the head unit and allows playback from the iTunes library. Any other application installed on the iPhone can still be used as well, e.g. GPS navigation, real-time traffic info, Pandora. Of course, you can make and receive phones calls.

If that wasn’t enough, the iPhone is mounted on a swivel, so it can rotate between landscape and portrait orientations. The O Car is a standard-sized unit and will fit most vehicles.

On pre-order now for $349.

Interview by Esbjorn Larsen of MrNetCast.com and Jeffrey Powers of The Geekazine Podcast.

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Ford Introduces The Ford Focus Electric

Posted by tomwiles at 9:17 AM on February 3, 2011

Sean from Ford introduces the all-electric version of the Ford Focus, which is set to be launched in 19 markets in late 2011. This is simply a remarkable vehicle. Esby takes you deep into the heart of the car to get a full rundown of all the features inside and out.  With the need in my family growing for an additional vehicle I could see the green Electric Ford Focus sitting in the driveway.

Interview by Esbjorn Larsen of MrNetCast.com.

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OnStar Available For Other Vehicles, Not Just GM

Posted by Andrew at 1:21 AM on January 26, 2011

OnStar has been fitted to GM vehicles for 15 years now and has been a success from the start – there are now over 6 million subscribers worldwide. During this time, GM have often been asked to retrofit OnStar to other vehicles but that hasn’t been possible…until now. From this spring, the OnStar hardware will be available from Best Buy (and other retailers) for $299.  Installation by qualified professionals is recommended.

If you are not familiar with OnStar, it’s a safety, security and communication service all rolled together. One of the useful features is automatic crash response which will summon assistance if you are unfortunate enough to be in a crash. Let’s hope you never have to use it.

If you want to check if your car is suitable, whether it’s an Audi or Toyota, there will be list of approved vehicles at OnStar.com when it goes on sale.

Interview by Jeffery Powers from Geekazine.com.

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