In-Car Tech

Stop using your E-Z Pass and buy an Audi instead

Audi has pioneered new toll collection technology specifically for the North American market.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Thanks to COVID-19 and the national coin shortage, the days of throwing a few coins in a toll booth collection bin may have finally passed us by. But don't think that the thruway and bridge authorities are going to stop trying to get into your wallet.

According to Audi, the U.S. toll road system is comprised of five major tolling hardware and software protocols, 90 tolling agencies, 12 interoperable groups, and 20 tolling brands.

Audi Integrated Toll Module technology The system can work with most every toll collection system in the county.Photo courtesy of Audi AG

More and more people are using electric toll collection (ETC) systems, which allow them to prepay for their tolls then use a toll tag within their vehicle to transmit to an overhead antenna at a toll station, which reads the toll tag and accesses the associated account for funds. In some states, such as Texas, instead of using a transmission device, the ETC system simply reads your vehicle's license plate then charges the person responsible for the registration of the vehicle.

Audi's new MIB 3 system is taking this a step further. The company's cars are now available with an Integrated Toll Module (ITM), which allows the car to serve as a transponder to various toll collection services rather than having a series of gaudy transponders attached to your vehicle.

The technology used vehicle-to-infrastructure technology. ITM was created by Gentex, a company that is a longtime supplier to the automotive and aerospace industries. They also make auto-dimming rearview mirrors, integrated HomeLink garage door openers, and dimmable windows for aircrafts.

Gentex first floated the idea at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Shortly thereafter, Audi went all-in, with help from partner Payvaim. The result is a new consumer-based tolling technology adapted from the commercial trucking industry that utilizes greatly downsized hardware for automotive applications.

The technology is integrated into the vehicle meaning unattractive toll tags are a thing of the past.Photo courtesy of Audi AG

There were several issues to consider in the creation of the technology. Windshields also collect heat from outside the car and multiply the temperatures within the mirror housing. Additionally, the components also had to adhere to U.S. Federal Communications Commission guidelines regarding radio frequencies and limits on interference.

ITM's primary purpose would be to serve North American customers. ITM is the only factory-integrated, multi-protocol tolling device that allows access to all U.S. toll roads with one account.

The first Audi with the technology was the E-Tron SUV. ITM is now available in most of the 2021 lineup.

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New performance SUV

Hyundai announces pricing for 2022 Kona N

The Kona N is price right at $35,425.

Hyundai

Hyundai is hard at work developing new electric vehicles, and has released some truly interesting electric concepts in recent months. However, the automaker’s efforts in the electric world haven’t stopped it from rolling out fun-to-drive and affordable performance vehicles under its N brand. Today, Hyundai announced pricing for the latest vehicle in the series. The Kona N will go on sale soon with a reasonable starting price of $35,425, which includes a $1,225 destination charge.

2022 Hyundai Kona N One well-equipped model will be available.Hyundai

The Kona N joins Hyundai’s high-performance stable that also includes the Veloster N and Elantra N, though the latter hasn’t yet hit the streets. The hot crossover gets the same output numbers from its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder as the Elantra N: 276 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque. The Veloster gets 275 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. That rowdy four-banger is paired with an eight-speed wet dual-clutch transmission.

Hyundai’s full-on N cars get plenty of other go-fast bits to keep them planted in corners and stable at higher speeds. The Kona N gets an electronic limited-slip differential, an active sport exhaust system, electronically controlled suspension, and 19-inch wheels with Pirelli P-Zero performance tires.

2022 Hyundai Kona N Aggressive wheels and tires help keep the Kona N planted in corners.Hyundai

Hyundai generally knocks it out of the park with value, and the Kona N is no exception. Its modest price tag buys a generous helping of advanced driver aids in addition to its exciting specs. Standard features include forward collision warnings, lane keep assist, lane following assist, driver attention warnings, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, and a safe exit warning system.

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The CX-50 features body cladding and rugged styling.

Mazda

Mazda's got a busy 2021 and 2022 as it gears up to release several new vehicles. The first is almost here, and today the automaker shared preliminary details. The CX-50 is an all-new SUV that shares a platform with the Mazda 3 and CX-30.

2023 Mazda CX-50 Production begins in January 2022. Mazda

At first, the CX-50 will be offered with Mazda's 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines, one of which is turbocharged, but electrified powertrain options will join the lineup down the road, including a traditional hybrid. Both gas engines come with a six-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive. A new drive mode select system is also standard that allows the driver to change the CX-50's behavior to match road and driving conditions such as towing and off-roading.

2023 Mazda CX-50 A new drive mode selection feature allows the driver to change vehicle behavior. Mazda

The new SUV's styling is a departure from the norm for Mazda, whose typical designs are sleek and elegant but far from rugged. That changes with the CX-50. Mazda installed beefy fender flares, body cladding, and a chunky front bumper that make the SUV look ready for the trail. New colors debut with the CX-50 as well, including Zircon Sand for the exterior and a terracotta upholstery option for the interior. The SUV will be the first Mazda to be offered with a panoramic sunroof.

2023 Mazda CX-50 New color schemes are available for both the interior and exterior. Mazda

We don't have full pricing or options details yet, but Mazda says that the CX-50 will be built at the facility in Huntsville, Alabama that it shares with Toyota. Production is scheduled for January 2022.

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