Ride Sharing

This is the self-driving, all-electric Cruise Origin brought to you by GM

The Cruise Origin self-driving vehicle has been revealed.

Photo courtesy of Cruise LLC

Cruise has passed on a steering wheel, a rearview mirror, and pedals in its new Origin electric vehicle. The ride share mobility solution debuted last night in San Francisco was co-developed by the arm of General Motors in cooperation with Honda.

In addition to the self-driving aspect of the news, the biggest innovation with the vehicle is that it is nothing like the any other GM alternative fuel mobility solution. There's not really speck of Bolt in the design.

It's actually more like the Navy shuttle than the Bolt, resembling the most modern of train cars. Its exterior is smooth and not aerodynamic. Its sliding doors open wide via a sliding mechanism rather than outward like a traditional car door. There's a display area featuring a number on the outside of the vehicle to help with rider-vehicle identification.

The Origin is the same size as a full-size sedan but seats six in a different configuration than the typical car. It has a 78-inch height, which means it can still park in most garages.

Inside, the vehicle seats six on two sets of three seats that share a large space for legroom and bags.

What's more notable is what the Origin is lacking. There's no driver's seat, pedals, steering wheel, windshield wipers, gauges, nor rearview mirror. Because there's no driver, there's no need for that. Cruise has said that the vehicle features SAE Level 4 autonomy. In layman's terms, that means that a computer controls all the functionality of the vehicle and is contained within its service area only by things like a speed limiter or geofence.

Its software has been co-developed by GM and Honda.

Cruise hasn't divulged powertrain or range information.

In January, the federal government released a new set of guidelines concerning self-driving vehicles.

Under Cruise's plans, no individual will own the Origin. The ride sharing vehicles will be summoned via an app and offer ride service to anywhere in the vehicle's service area. The defined regions of the service area and fares associated with a ride have yet to be announced.

So, it's just an app-controlled electric short bus, right? Yes.

Cruise says that the model is ready for production and plans to that end will be announced shortly.

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The Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron Concept will go into production as soon.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Traditional or Sportback SUV? Turbocharged, hybrid, or electric? These are the dilemmas facing modern Audi buyers. Now, the company is poised to add one more variable to the mix - the Audi Q4 E-Tron.

A concept version of the Sportback was just unveiled showcasing typical Audi and E-Tron styling, but in a package slightly different than the Q3 and Q5 SUVs buyers have become accustomed to.

The new Sportback is similar to the Q4 E-Tron Concept that debuted at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. Both the traditional SUV and Sportback versions are set to enter production, making it seven all-electric vehicles in the Audi lineup.

Audi Q4 Sportback E-Tron Concept

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

The Q4 variants will be the first Audi models built on Volkswagen's modular electrification platform (MEB). It's this platform that will serve as the architecture for future Volkswagen Group EVs that are compact sized and larger.

Despite the fact that the Sportback looks longer thanks to its D-pillar design and horizontal splitter t the lower window edge, the two models share nearly identical measurements. They share the same 1.9-meter width and 2.77-meter wheelbase. The Q4 Sportback is slightly longer and wider with just one centimeter separating the models.

They're also technological twins. They each have two electric motors that deliver 225-kilowatts of power. All-wheel drive is standard. The models can go from zero to 62 mph in just 6.3 seconds and are restricted to a top speed of 111 mph.

Audi says that the model can go up to 310 miles of range (WLTP) when equipped with rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive models have a 279-mile range (WLTP).

The interior of the models focuses on sustainable solutions to traditional appointments. The floor covering is made of recycled materials and instead of chrome-plated metal decor frames, the surfaces are covered with a high-quality multi-layer paint finish. Still, it's meant to be luxurious with four seats with integrated head restraints that are upholstered with Alcantara material manufactured and double seams stitched with thick yarn.

A list of features in the two concept vehicles includes a head-up display, 12,3-inch infotainment touch screen, and mobile phone charging cradle.

Audi is expecting the Q4 E-Tron and Q4 Sportback E-Tron to go into production next year.

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The Toyota RAV4 Prime doesn't best its chief rival in every category.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The Environmental Protection Agency has certified the results of all-electric range testing for the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Prime, the company's new plug-in hybrid variant of the best-selling SUV in the U.S.

The RAV4 Prime delivers 42 miles of all-electric range and 600 miles of overall range. This is good for 94 MPGe ad 38 mpg (when running as a traditional hybrid).

MPGe, or miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent, is an Environmental Protection Agency metric to compare the amount of energy consumed by alternative fuel vehicles to what traditional gas-powered vehicles consume.

2020 Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid The 2020 Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid gets 100 MPGe and 37 miles of all-electric range for under $35,000 Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Compay

The chief rival to the 2020 RAV4 Prime is the new 2020 Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV). It delivers best-in-class EPA-estimated all-electric fuel economy rating of 100 MPGe. However, it's all-electric range is just 37 miles. When running on strictly gasoline, the SUV gets 41 mpg.

The front-wheel drive Escape is powered by a new 2.5-liter hybrid engine and electronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). Its liquid-cooled, 14.4-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery is positioned below the second-row seats. The Escape is significantly less powerful than the RAV4, getting just 221 horsepower.

Toyota has given the all-wheel drive RAV4 Prime a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gas engine and paired it with an 18.1-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery. The SUV has a total system output of 302 horsepower. Like the Escape, the Toyota's engine is paired with a CVT. The Toyota has two pound-feet of torque less than the Ford (168 vs. 170).

Buyers can get the PHEV powertrain on every Escape trim level except S and SE Sport. The Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid has a starting MSRP under $35,000. That MSRP is lower than the RAV4 Prime, but the Toyota model's over $38,000 starting price is reflective of the fact that it features mid-grade and higher features and equipment right off the bat.

RAV4 Prime Escape PHEV fuel economy side by side Photo courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency

The RAV4 Prime has a starting MSRP of $38,100. Toyota offers the model in just two grades: SE and XSE.

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