Researchers expose VW security flaw

Mark Schneider | 11/11/2016 8:17:31 AM

Concerns about the vulnerability of modern cars to hacking attacks have been heightened by the news that four researchers from the University of Birmingham have replicated the master keys for millions of VWs built since 1995. The computer security research team used $40 worth of freely available electronic equipment to reverse engineer VW’s encrypted master keys, allowing them to unlock the cars. And it’s not just VWs, it’s others from the VW group as well, including Sea...

Victoria is Australia’s car theft capital

Mark Schneider | 26/10/2016 10:01:44 AM

Australians tend to be a little parochial when it comes to their home state, proudly proclaiming the superiority of NSW, Victoria, Queensland, WA, or wherever else they call home. We even have a history of putting state slogans on our number plates. But here’s one you’re unlikely to see adorning Victorian number plates: “Australia’s car theft capital”. Yes, Victoria has earned that unwanted title after an extraordinary 33% rise in car thefts in the year to Ju...

Autonomous Cars Take a Giant Leap Forward

Mark Schneider | 2/08/2016 10:18:37 AM

Autonomous cars have just taken another big step into the future with the release of a new computer that collects data and enables autonomous navigation. NXP’s BlueBox computer collects information from radar, Lidar, cameras and other sensors and processes them in real time to build a model of the vehicle’s surroundings. The system can process an astonishing 90 million instructions per second and uses less than 40 watts in the process. It’s already had the s...

Chinese start-up poaches BMW’s electric experts

Mark Schneider | 19/07/2016 1:01:59 PM

In a sure sign that China is getting very serious indeed about the future of electric cars, Chinese electric vehicle startup Future Mobility has recruited the brains behind BMW’s electric i8 sports car. The Chinese company may be an unknown in the vehicle world, but it’s backed by some very big money - the curiously named Tencent Holdings and Foxconn. Tencent Holdings is an electronics, social media and online gaming giant worth over US$200 billion, while Foxconn, which manufa...

Ford's Australian Influence is Here to Stay

Mark Schneider | 15/07/2016 9:33:44 AM

The end of Ford Australia’s car production may be just months away but Ford Australia’s Research and Development and Product Development team will be playing a major role in developing new products world-wide. In doing so, the company will become Australia’s biggest automotive sector employer from next year, according to Ford. After its last cars have left the production line Ford’s Broadmeadows, Victoria plant will be transformed into its Asia-Pacific Product Deve...

Volvo is dead serious about death-free driving

Mark Schneider | 10/06/2016 12:03:38 PM

If you were to do a word association test and the word “Volvo” came up, then it’s a reasonable bet that the first word that popped into your head would be “safety”. Volvos have always been synonymous with safety. Long before safety equipment like airbags, head restraints and even seatbelts became compulsory, Volvo were building safety into their cars from the tyres up. Well lately they’ve been taking that commitment to a whole new level with a commi...

Tesla Model 3 "A Game Changer"

Mark Schneider | 28/04/2016 8:57:06 AM

It’s been described as “the fastest growing customer order book in the history of the automobile” and a “game changer” in the transition from the internal combustion engine to electric. Advance orders for Tesla’s Model 3, Tesla’s first affordable electric vehicle, soared past the 325,000 mark just days after release, representing a potential $US280 million and more in deposits alone to the Californian carmaker. If those orders all come to fruition tot...

Biofuels' Environmental Promise Falls Well Short

Mark Schneider | 16/03/2016 2:09:51 PM

Biofuels promised plenty of environmental benefits when their use became common in the US, Europe and elsewhere, but so far that promise has fallen well short of the reality. The idea of a carbon-neutral fuel that could be readily produced from plants, partially replacing non-renewable liquid fuels, spurred the Europeans to make a percentage of biofuel mandatory at filling stations throughout the continent. The EU wasn’t alone, with many other nations, including the US, mandating that a...

Self-driving cars may be a boon for older drivers

Mark Schneider | 15/03/2016 8:00:00 AM

The conventional wisdom that young people are the early adopters of new technology while older folk struggle to come to grips with it may be turned on its head when it comes to self-driving cars. Tech giant Google, a leader in self-driving cars, believes the technology will be a godsend for older drivers who can no longer drive or who lack the confidence to get behind the wheel in city or suburban streets. The oldest person so far to travel in one of Google’s cars is 94 year-ol...

Crumple Zones Save Lives

Mark Schneider | 8/03/2016 8:00:00 AM

The aftermath of car crashes is not a pretty sight. All too frequently the car or cars involved are a tangled mess of metal on the back of a truck even after relatively low speed collisions. The bad news is that the car may be a write-off, but the good news is that these days the driver and passengers are highly likely to have survived the crash relatively unharmed. It wasn’t always this way. In the bad old days when cars were rigid and strong drivers and passengers would freque...

Doctors campaign to make Autonomous Emergency Braking standard

Mark Schneider | 25/01/2016 8:00:00 AM

Picture this: you’re driving the kids to school in stop-start peak hour traffic on the freeway and it’s already been a difficult start to the day. The kids are squabbling and carrying on in the back seat and all of a sudden there’s the sound of slapping, a scream and crying. Instinctively you turn around to tell them to sit quietly, stop fighting and behave themselves - or else. And as you turn back round to the front you discover the car in front has stopped and you...

Is the internal combustion engine facing electrocution?

Mark Schneider | 18/01/2016 8:24:44 AM

The emergence of electric cars, such as the upmarket Tesla Model S and the more modest Nissan Leaf, have many pundits asking whether the days of the internal combustion engine are inevitably numbered. Electric cars are nothing new, as we revealed in the September 2015 edition of Fleettorque. Indeed, at the beginning of the motoring era electric vehicles dominated the market. Today there’s resurgence in electric vehicles, albeit a fairly modest one so far. While Tesla remains the...

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Aussie invention had a full head of steam

Mark Schneider | 2/12/2015 9:09:15 AM

Australians are an inventive lot and never more so than when it comes to cars. We’ve invented the ute, race cam, which revolutionised car racing coverage, rack and pinion steering, the baby safety capsule and the panel van. They’ve all been remarkably successful, but Australia has also had its share of heroic auto engineering failures as well, and one of the most interesting was Ted Pritchard’s steam-powered car. What was the dominant form of propulsion in the early ...

NASA’s flying all-terrain campervan is out of this world

Mark Schneider | 15/10/2015 8:00:00 AM

Those of us of a certain age will be alarmed at the realisation that it’s been well over 40 years since men walked on the moon for the last time. In fact walking was only part of what astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt got up to on the lunar surface. On the Apollo 17 mission they drove a Lunar Rover almost 36 km during their three-day stay on the moon. The Lunar Rover looked like an electric beach buggy. It could carry two astronauts, some equipment and lunar samples....

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New developments in water injection and turbocharging

Mark Schneider | 25/08/2015 4:01:55 PM

Water and petrol do mix, apparently Water and petrol seems an unlikely combination to put in your car - they certainly don’t mix very well - so why is one of Germany’s top car makers planning to inject water into the engines of its new petrol models? The news coming out of Bavaria is that BMW will be using water injection technology on all its turbocharged petrol engine cars in an effort to squeeze more power and better fuel consumption out of them. The science behind ...

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