Autonomous

One year in, here's how Ford's Austin, Texas autonomous drive program is going

Ford continues to test self-driving vehicles in Austin, Texas.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company approached the end of 2019 with a sense of optimism for the future. They had just unveiled the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E and the hotly-anticipated debuts of the new Ford Bronco, Bronco Sport, and redesigned F-150 were on the immediate horizon.

Between then and now, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and Ford Motor Company switched CEOs. All the while, the automaker has been testing autonomous vehicle technology in Austin, Texas.

The company has made strides in the last year, which Kathleen Baireuther, Austin Market Manager, Ford Autonomous recently detailed the progress of the company in a blog post on Medium.

Ford Austin Texas Autonomous Self-Driving Ford expanded its self-driving vehicle operations to Austin lat year. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford has opened an autonomous vehicle terminal in East Austin and created a command near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, in close proximity to where Tesla recently began constructing the plant that will produce its Cybertruck. The terminal serves as a base for the self-driving test fleet.

Baireuther sees the proper maintenance of the fleet as a part of creating a service that people value, from the use of the models to the deep cleaning and maintenance. When the service is used, the fleet grows closer to making a profit. She shared, "We recently completed the first phase of a fleet operations pilot in Austin that will be utilized for our business in Austin and Ford's broader strategy."

The command center will serve as the "epicenter" of Ford's self-driving business and daily operations. It will house local customer relations, business development, research, safety evaluations and testing operations.

The company continues to be focused on safety. While stories of owners continually trusting their hands-on Tesla AutoPilot technology to drive their vehicles hands-free, Ford and other companies are cognizant of ensuring their test vehicles work within a set of limitations to ensure safety for passengers and those inhabiting the space surrounding the vehicle.

Part of keeping everyone safe is helping vehicles and their operators understand the parameters for use. This includes the landscape. Ford has partnered with Argo to create 3D maps of the streets where the vehicles are used including detailed information about lane geometry, sidewalk locations, bike lanes, traffic signals, street signs, speed limits and static landmarks.

These maps are updated when construction or foliage changes. In Austin, a city that is rapidly expanding and changing, these changes are frequent.

Following the mapping process, the Argo team began operating the vehicles on public roads in autonomous modes. This means confronting the construction changes but also the daily scenarios that conflict with autonomous operation. For instance, Austin has more scooter activity than Ford has encountered in its other test cities - Washington D.C. and Miami, Florida. There's also a good amount of pedestrians and cyclists.

Ford is committed to continuing its self-driving vehicle testing in various areas of the city including East Austin, South Congress, and downtown, including the University of Texas.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Volkswagen Arteon has been refreshed for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Americans aren't as in love with the Arteon as Europeans, but that won't stop Volkswagen from offering if for sale here, yet. The automaker, who has sold just over 2,600 Arteons this year, is pricing the 2021 edition to start at $36,995.

Only available as a sedan in the States, the Arteon will be sold in three trim levels: SE, SEL R-Line, and SEL Premium R-Line. Each comes with an additional $1,195 destination and delivery charge.

The Arteon gets its power from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Its engine is paired with an eight speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is available in the SEL R-Line and up grades.

2021 Volkswagen Arteon The Arteon has been reborn inside for the 2021 model year.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Among the changes to the refreshed Arteon for the 2021 model year are its wide and wide hood, available illuminated front light bar, and fresh paint color options: Kings Red Metallic, Oryx White Pearl, and Lapiz Blue Metallic.

2021 Volkswagen Arteon SE (MSRP: $36,995)

The Arteon SE comes standard with front-wheel drive, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, and LED taillights. It features keyless entry and has rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a leather-wrapped touch multifunction steering wheel, chrome window switches, and stainless steel door sills and pedal caps.

Twelve-way power-adjustable heated front seats, leatherette seating throughout the cabin, automatic trio-zone climate control, Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, navigation, wireless App-Connect, Bluetooth, two USB-C ports, a Wi-Fi hot spot, SiriusXM with 360L, and a rearview camera are also standard.

Each Arteon also comes with blind spot monitoring, forward collision assist, and rear traffic alert.

2021 Volkswagen Arteon SEL R-Line (MSRP: $41,595)

The Arteon SEL R-Line is avialable in front- and all-wheel drive. It builds on the SE grade, offering 19-inch wheels, an illuminated front grille bar, adaptive front lighting, panoramic sunroof, power-folding side mirrors, remote start, wireless charging, driver's seat and side mirror memory, translucent decor with ambient lighting, and leather seats.

The R-Line design accents include a front bumper with C-signature and rear lid spoiler in gloss black, black headliner, paddle shifters, contrast stitching on steering wheel and shift knob, and R-Line badging.

This model gets more standard drive assistance features including adaptive cruise control with stop and go, Lane Assist, Travel Assist, Emergency Assist, road sign display, rear park distance control, and Light Assist.

2021 Volkswagen Arteon SEL Premium R-Line (MSRP: $46,995)

2021 Volkswagen Arteon

Volkswagen has enhanced the Arteon for the 2021 model year with a thorough refresh.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The range-topping Arteon SEL Premium R-Line comes standard with all-wheel drive. It rides on 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and has a Harman/Kardon auto system, heated steering wheel with paddle shifters, massaging driver's seat, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, rear seat climate controls, an additional USB-C port, and power trunk. The model adds Park Assist and Area View.

The 2021 Volkswagen Arteon will be available in three trim levels and is expected to begin arriving at Volkswagen dealers in Q4 2020.

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The inter of the model features unique design with space age influence.

Photo courtesy of Aznom Automotive

The Aznom Palladium is all about extremes. It's set to be the world's first hyper limousine when it debuts later this month during the Milano-Monza Open Air Motor Show. In the lead up to its debut, Aznom Automotive has released a few teaser images of the exterior and interior of the vehicle.

Palladium's designers have described the car as a "hyper-limousine" that unites the traditional characteristics of a luxury sedan with dynamic drive qualities. Aznom lists the desirable sedan features as comfort, materials and manufacturing quality, ample space, and reliability. They also describe the Palladian as "powerful, strong and unstoppable like a true all-wheel drive off-road vehicle".

The seats in the Palladium are designed to recline.Photo courtesy of Aznom Automotive

The model was designed by Alessandro Camorali and his Camal Studio, which is based in Torino, Italy. He took inspiration from classic Greek and Roman style.

The Monza, Italy-based company is looking to create a vehicle that can be used by heads of state that employs the opulence of luxury automobiles from the 1930s. The vehicles Aznom admires had voluminous dimensions and all-terrain capability.

Azonm says that Palladium is "without a doubt a surprising vehicle and, in the manufacturer's intentions, is set up to fill an interesting and exclusive niche."

Its interior is filled with opulence - a reclining seat, refrigerated components, and hidden drawers fill the inside in the rendering shared by the company. The design is both futuristic and statuesque with brutish lines and space age-looking design.

Customers will be able to customize their model to include the materials of their choosing.

Stay tuned to learn more about the unique model.

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