Cadillac to offer optional Wi-Fi in cars next month

The Internet is coming to Cadillac.

Starting next month, General Motors' luxury brand will offer optional dealer-installed equipment that allows people in and around the vehicle to use laptop computers and other devices to connect to the Internet, equipment provider Autonet Mobile Inc. said today.

Rear-seat passengers are the target users, said Autonet CEO Sterling Pratz.

"In the back seat they're basically going to YouTube, where they once watched DVD players," Pratz said. "Now every Cadillac CTS will come with the capability to have YouTube and Facebook in the car."

The system is built around a mobile router from Autonet, the same company that provides Uconnect Web, a wireless Internet service available in Chrysler LLC vehicles. It receives Internet signals through cellular data networks. It then creates a Wi-Fi hotspot in and around the car.

Autonet and Cadillac plan to show the device in a Cadillac CTS Sport at next month's New York auto show.

One major difference from the Chrysler device is that the Cadillac router will be portable. It will connect to the vehicle through a docking port. A driver can have the docking port installed in more than one GM vehicle.

"We did that because about 40 percent of our customers have asked for the ability to move it from their weekly car to their weekend car," Pratz said.

Autonet made the router smaller and sleeker for Cadillac. It will carry a Cadillac emblem and will be sold by Autonet Mobile under the name Cadillac WiFi.

Customers will buy it from a dealer or online for about $499. Monthly subscriptions to Autonet's Internet service start at $29.

Pratz said front-seat passengers are likely to use the Internet to stream music from such popular radio sites as Pandora or Flycast.

The technology raises a thorny issue: driver distraction. Because the Internet signal extends throughout the car, a person theoretically could surf the Internet while driving.

The only defense against that: the honor system.

Pratz said the customer has to agree to "terms of use" policies when signing up for the Internet service and before linking any devices to the Wi-Fi network.

"When they sign up for it, they have to agree that that's not what this is for," Pratz said. "We find customers are staying with it. We're not really seeing any problems out in the field."

Porsche Panamera Five Key Innovations Presented

Porsche will introduce the Panamera at the Auto Shanghai next month to help show a number of key innovations for its segment. On the list is the first-in-segment start/stop system that works with an automatic transmission.

Porsche's PDK (double-clutch system) is fitted to function effectively with the start/stop to give the Panamera S an average of 10.8 litres/100 kilometres on the new European driving cycle. The Panamera S has AWD and a 4.8-litre V8 engine producing 400bhp (298kW) and 500Nm of torque. It is said to run the 0 - 100km/h distance in around 5.4 seconds.

Another innovation is the adaptive air suspension system which allows the driver to activate more volume into it upon demand thus changing the driving characteristics of the Panamera at will. This feature is optional on other models but standard in the 500bhp (378kW) Turbo.

An important feature for fuel efficiency and performance is in the lightweight construction of the car which is thanks to the use of aluminium and magnesium, as well as plastics. Because of this and other reasons the Panamera S weighs 1,770kg (3,902 lbs). The rear seats offer tilting and adjustability too.

The underfloor of the Panamera is completely covered to give it better air flow capability, while at the same time allowing for its sporty sound characteristics to be appreciated even from inside. Low-resistance tyres are included to further improve fuel consumption.

World Agenda: Nano, symbol of modern India, completes its bumpy ride

The Tata Nano, billed as the world’s cheapest car, will finally hit the road in Mumbai on Monday, but the diminutive automobile already says a lot about India.

When it was first unveiled, in January 2008, the dinky two-stroke runabout was hailed as a wonder of super-thrifty engineering and a potent symbol of India’s wider ambitions – not least the country’s aspirations to become an economic power capable of rivalling China and, one day perhaps, the United States.

The road the Nano has had to travel down since has been bumpy, to say the least – something that makes it an even more appropriate symbol for its country of origin.

The car’s woes began last year, when the farmers whose land was acquired to build the factory that was to produce the Nano complained that it had been stolen from them. Violent demonstrations broke out around the plant that was being built in the communist-governed state of West Bengal. After a stand-off, Tata, the Indian manufacturer of the car, was forced to abandoned the site, writing off as much as $350 million (£250 million) in the process.
As a result, the Nano, which Tata has promised to sell for a basic price of 100,000 rupees (£1,400), is seven months late and will be produced only in tiny numbers for the next year or so – factors that will cost Tata dearly in lost sales and development costs that it needs to recoup.

The incident spoke volumes about India: not least that the country is struggling to reconcile the needs of big business with those of 800 million rural poor. The row also hinted at the existence of two increasingly divergent Indias: one populated by the affluent, educated middle classes – the kind of people likely to work, say, as executives for a company such as Tata; the other inhabited by villagers who rely on the land for a living, and who still make up the majority of the country’s population.

Over the past few years, it has been the first version of India that has caught the world’s imagination: the India that in 2008 hosted the world’s fastest growing population of dollar millionaires (125,000 and counting) and four of the world’s richest 10 billionaires; the India that has supplied Silicon Valley with many of its brightest minds and which spoke about “the Empire striking back” when Tata, the country's biggest maker of trucks, bought Land Rover and Jaguar, two of Britain’s most prestigious luxury car marques.

That India now looks chastened. Economic growth, which had been motoring along at about 9 per cent a year, has plummeted to about 5 per cent; corporate credit has dried up; and white-collar workers are losing their jobs. Amid a stock market meltdown, India's 40 richest men have lost a combined $212 billion – a jarring 60 per cent slide in their collective net worth, according to Forbes.

There is another reason why the second India – the India who still lives in her villages and often goes to bed hungry – has now moved into the spotlight: next month’s election. This India, while unglamorous, decides who rules the world’s largest democracy and has been courted assiduously by the Government, which has borrowed heavily to fund policies designed to support the poor.

It is when the population of this second India can contemplate buying a Nano that the country can claim to be realising its potential.

Tata Motors sprucing up its sales and technical team for Nano arrival

There is action at Tata Motors on account of the Nano launch. According to The Live Mint, Tata motors has instructed its dealerships across the country, to spruce up its Nano sales and technical team for more efficient customer service. Furthermore, Tata Motors has also instructed its dealers open as many showrooms as possible at the district level as the company is eyeing to mass-market Nano. In addition to that the company will introduce a comprehensive training scheme for the Nano sales force and the people who will man the dedicated service outlets. Prospective buyers would be educated about the fact that Nano uses plastic for parts such as engine and cylinder covers as well as fuels rails, instead of the conventional aluminum or steel, which enhances the performance of the car by making it significantly lighter. Furthermore, buyers will also be able to realise that a 623cc engined-Nano will also be amenable to on areas such as steep incline and others.

The company is in the process of successfully concluding critical training for its dealers. Furthermore, the groups of technical staff from dealerships across cities have undergone training at the company’s training centre in Pune the past few weeks. According to a Tata Motors’ dealer who requested anonymity, Tata Motors’s would like to tap semi-urban and rural markets. Apart from forming a dedicated sales team for Nano, they have also been instructed by Tata Motors to ramp up its service network in order to provide seamless and world-class after-sales services to Tata Nano customers

Scion Announces Micro-subcompact Concept Debut at New York Auto Show

Toyota will be bringing its iQ super-condensed, micro-subcompact car to the US market.

Only the iQ will come branded as a Scion.

Toyota is slated to unveil the concept version of the iQ at the New York auto show next month, although the Scion press release says nothing about the concept being that particular model. Instead, they say only that a "micro-subcompact concept car" will be presented. Of course, that can only mean the iQ.

But the US-bound iQ will likely be fitted with a 1.3 liter, 4-cylinder engine recently unveiled in Geneva rather than the 1.0 liter, 3-cylinder currently powering the car as it's being launched in the Japanese and European markets. The 1.0 liter engine produces 68 hp and 91 Nm (67 lb-ft) of torque while the 1.3 liter 4-banger pumps out a respectable 99 hp. But the latter engine will actually get better mileage (59 mpg or 4 liters/100 km as opposed to 55 mpg or 4.3 liters/100 km) than the 3-cylinder, which may make one wonder whether the current iQ is an underpowered city-dweller.

We must await the car's debut in New York for more details.

Tazzari ZERO EV to Arrive in North America Early 2010

A new electric vehicle is to be produced in Italy under the name Tazzari Zero. By the beginning of 2010 these cars will have begun their import journey into North America through a company called Verdek-EV. Verdek-EV was appointed as the sole distributor for the North America, Mexico and the Caribbean islands region. The Tazzari brand is situated in Italy within the same region as Ferrari and Lamborghini, but unlike those exotics it will concentrate on small electric vehicles.

The lithium-ion battery-powered Tazzari Zero has been tested to return a range of about 88 miles (142km) before a recharge which can take 6.5 hours on a 220 volt power supply unit. It has a rear-wheel-drive motor with peak torque of 150Nm. Tazzari says the Zero produces no emissions and has a top speed of 56mph but it can be limited to between 25mph and 45mph if required.

Measured dimensions for the two-door mini car are 2.88 metres for length, 1.55 metres width and 1.4 metres height.

For interior comfort features that are included are a radio/CD/MP3 player, leather steering wheel, air conditioning, fog lamps, LED tail lights, a removable sunroof and 15-inch custom coloured wheels.

The car's first public showing will be at the Bologna International Motor Show in December. The estimated launch price should be less than €20,000 a pop.

Terrafugia 'Flying Car' Makes Historic First Flight

Congratulations go out to Massachusetts-based Terrafugia on the successful first flight of their upcoming flying car. The short-lived flight can be seen in its entirety in this 45-second video.

The Transition Roadable Aircraft Proof of Concept is capable of converting from a plane into a car in about thirty seconds. As an aircraft, the two-seater should be allowed to take off and land at any local airport. When utilized as such, a Sport Pilot license is required. In the air, the vehicle is capable of about 115 mph, with a flying-only range of 450 miles. As a car, it travels up to 65 mph, and gets 30 mpg.

One engine is used to power the vehicle, either as a propeller plane or a front-wheel-drive car. No special fuel is used, either; just the same unleaded gasoline you would get at any gas station. Unfortunately, local authorities would probably frown on a pilot landing the plane at a highway oasis.

"This breakthrough changes the world of personal mobility. Travel now becomes a hassle-free integrated land-air experience. It's what aviation enthusiasts have been striving for since 1918," Terrafugia CEO Carl Dietrich said.

Purchase price for the first generation of the vehicle is estimated at $194,000. The idea is to provide a lower-cost solution to pilots who may want to fly somewhere on a weekend trip, and not have to rent a car. At only 80-inches wide, the vehicle would be equipped to taxi off the runway, into the parking lot, and out on the street.

Refundable reservations are being accepted for Terrafugia's project, but the Transition still has a long way to go. Following more advanced airborne and road testing, a new pre-production prototype will be built.

It looks like before long we will finally be able to say, "The flying cars are here!"