Mobility

They lay strewn across sidewalks but Toyota sees e-scooters as a roadmap to vehicle safety

Toyota is working with a college in Indiana to study e-scooter interactions with vehicles.

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

The Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC) is currently in the midst of a multi-year study aimed at using real-world e-scooter riding data to better understand e-scooter and vehicle interactions. Rini Sherony, a Senior Principal Engineer at CSRC, is leading the effort, which includes partnerships with universities, hospitals, research institutions, and federal agencies.

Toyota, as a company, is focused on a variety of mobility solutions from alternative fuel technology to fresh transport solutions to improving safety. Sherony sees e-scooters as a way to better understand the world of mobility in current times and use that gleaned knowledge to improve safety technology for the future.

e-scooter Toyota LIDAR Toyota is using LiDAR to capture interactions between scooters and cars on the road.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

She became interested in the possibility of studying e-scooters after visiting her daughter at the University of Michigan. "Walking around campus, I saw many students riding e-scooters without much concern for the other vehicles around them and not following any rules regarding direction or speed. Around the same time, data from many hospital ERs were also reporting an uptick of e-scooter related incidents."

The laissez faire attitude of many e-scooter operators is not news to many inside and outside the transportation community. Cities are grappling with how to regulate their use while balancing the need for alternative transportation solutions for their residents. Plus, there's the fun factor.

According to Sherony, there are currently more than 85,000 such scooters in service throughout the U.S., but in 2018, there were approximately 14,600 e-scooter accidents, up from just 4,500 four years earlier.

"I thought it would be fascinating to take a more in-depth look at how e-scooters interact with vehicles, with the thought that a deeper understanding of those interactions could help to develop safety systems in vehicles that might mitigate or avoid crashes with e-scooters," she shared.

To take that in-depth look, CSRC is partnering with the School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). The collaborative effort involves collecting data from fully instrumented e-scooters and vehicles using LiDAR and front- and rearview cameras.

The study efforts may be the key to success to move the scooters move from burdensome transportation solution and recreation activity to a true mobility solution. "The ultimate goal is to use this research to potentially develop or modify advanced safety features that will help to prevent and/or mitigate crashes with e-scooters in the future," said Sherony.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Sierra HD Denali Black Diamond Edition is a new addition to the lineup for 2021.

Photo courtesy of GMC

Truck drivers are no stranger to the challenges of towing. With updates to the GMC Sierra 1500 and Sierra Heavy Duty pickup trucks for 2021, the premium division of General Motors is adding a suite of customer-focused technologies to the make trailering easier.

"Trailering is essential for pickup truck customers. More than half of our Sierra customers use their trucks to primarily tow equipment for outdoor adventures," said GMC Marketing Director Rich Latek. "We continually listen to customer feedback, which tells us they want class-leading safety, technology and comfort to tow what they need, whether it's a boat, an RV or a trailer hauling off-road toys."

2021 GMC Sierra: Jack-Knife Alert

Photo courtesy of GMC

New or enhanced trailering tech available on both 2021 GMC Sierra light-duty and heavy-duty models includes:

  • Trailer Length Indicator - New for 2021, when enabled and driving forward with the turn signal activated, the center console screen displays a red overlay twice the length of the compatible trailer and shows when other vehicles are present and may interfere with a lane-change maneuver.
  • Jack-Knife Alert - New for 2021, Jack-Knife Alert tracks the position of the compatible trailer in relation to the vehicle. If the front of the trailer approaches the rear of the vehicle, an alert is displayed when there may be a potential jack-knife situation.
  • Rear Trailer View now features guidelines and Trailer-Angle Indicator: Rear Trailer View has been enhanced to include guidelines that assist when backing a trailer into place and a Trailer-Angle Indicator to show the relationship between the truck and compatible trailer. Rear Trailer View requires the customer-installed available GM auxiliary accessory camera.
  • Rear Side View enhancement - When driving forward on the 2020 GMC Sierra, Rear Side View provides a split view of the left and right sides of the truck and compatible trailer that is automatically biased based on the trailer's angle. In the 2021 GMC Sierra, drivers will have access to this view while driving in reverse, making it easier to see surrounding vehicles and objects while positioning a trailer.
  • Cargo Bed View enhancement - New Cargo Bed Zoom View and Bed Hitch Guidance are now available, which can be helpful for aligning and hooking up a gooseneck/fifth-wheel trailer.

Select trailering features require a conventional-hitched box or camping trailer and additional setup may be required. Customers can see their dealers for full details.

Additionally, GMC is expanding the availability of their MultiPro Tailgate to Sierra 1500 SLE and Elevation trim models, which will also be offered in a number of new paint colors. The 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 will be available with 20-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory tires and off-road high-clearance step.

GMC is also reducing the price of its available 3.0-liter Duramax Turbo-Diesel engine by $1,500 for 2021 making it just $995 above the the Sierra 1500's 5.3L V-8 with Dynamic Fuel Management.

The 2021 GMC Sierra Heavy Duty Denali gets new standard equipment including HD Surround Visionn and Bed Video camera technology. The new Sierra HD Denali Black Diamond Edition will have several unique features, including exclusive 20-inch high-gloss black wheels and new power-retractable assist steps. Similar to the Sierra 1500, the Sierra Heavy Duty AT4 will now have available 18-inch Mud Terrain tires and an available off-road high clearance step accessory.

Other additions to Sierra HD include the MultiPro Tailgate standard on the SLE grade and three new available paint color options.

The 2021 GMC Sierra goes on sale later this year. Pricing will be announced closer to its on-sale date.

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The 2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X is the most off-road-ready version of the full-size truck.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In 1939, 65 years before the Nissan Titan first arrived at U.S. dealerships, Prime Minister Winston Churchill uttered the iconic phrase, "It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key." Here, in 2020, we find the Titan epitomizing the subject of the quote.

Don't get me wrong. I like the Titan. I just want to like it more.

The major facelift for the 2020 model year was kind to the Titan. As tested in the PRO-4X trim, the model is beefy and brawny looking with a black grille, tailgate finisher, and badging. Red-orange detailing is present on the Nissan emblem one the grille and tow hooks. The model looks unlike all the other Titans in the lineup and that's a good thing.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X Nissan has loaded the truck with standard safety features. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Moving inside the cabin, the highlight is the Titan's Zero Gravity Seats. They were co-designed with NASA and provide hours of fatigue-reducing comfort. The truck's leather-appointed upholstery is nice but the rest of the interior doesn't hold a candle to the supple materials in and luxe looks of Ram's mid-grade and up models.

The refreshed center stack in the Titan is at least as nice as what's in the GM pickups. As equipped, the model had a 9.0-inch infotainment touch screen that is reasonably responsive though the visual design of the system is not the best there is. Still, it's cleaner than the purple graphics-heavy design of the screen in the 2020 Subaru Outback and Legacy.

Nissan has made the system capable of over-the-air updates thanks to a standard Wi-Fi hot spot. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and two USB are also standard across the Titan lineup.

As fresh as the center stack is for the 2020 model year, there are still obvious places in the cabin where leftover buttons and equipment show their age. Chief among them is the trucks's steering wheel. While the blacked out emblem on its center and black button surrounds that are part of the PRO-4X grade helped the look, there's no getting around the fact that the wheel looks like something a decade older than the rest of the design. However, as ugly and dated as it may be, it's still perfectly functional.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X The Titan PRO-4X also has red-orange accents in the cabin. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Powering the truck is a 5.6-liter V8 engine. It offers 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, making it plenty strong (those are best-in-class figures) and plenty thirsty. Nissan doesn't offer the truck with a host of engine options like its competition does. It's not a matter of holding back. Currently they don't have anything in their lineup that would even be a contender to be made available.

The truck's nine-speed automatic transmission was also refreshed for 2020. It has more ability in higher gears now, which is good for towing, but, quite frankly, the lower gears of the transmission are a complete mess. The nine-speed can't decide what it wants to do while on daily driver duty at moderate speed. It hems and haws and switches positions more often than a politician scrambling to get your vote.

Being behind the wheel of the Titan makes one still feel like you're driving a truck. Like the Nissan Frontier, there's a connected and true truck experience when you're driving that is a reminder of the way it used to be (which is also a reminder of just how good the other truck manufacturers are at engineering their steering systems). It does soak up the bumps in the road well and, based on previous experience, the model is good and capable off-road.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X The truck's seats are very comfortable.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The truck also comes standard with Nissan Safety Shield 360, which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, high beam assist, and rear automatic braking. A number of additional driver assist technologies are available. If you're going to spend some extra cash on a Titan, let it be for the Intelligent Around View Monitor, which offers a 360-degree view of the truck's surrounds. This makes parking a breeze.

Nissan deserves kudos for putting that camera button in an easy-to-reach, quickly accessible location on the center stack. How is this not standard operating procedure for automakers?!

After test driving the Titan for a week, and seeing the evolution of the truck landscape over the last few years, the way Nissan has designed the model gets even more confusing. It seems like the truck was a victim of the budgetary process and time constraints more than any other model in the Nissan lineup.

The Titan feels like a compromise, not necessary for the average buyer, but for the truck's engineers. That may be the key here.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X The Titan PRO-4X stands out at the rear. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Granted, every decision in the automotive development process is a compromise, but with the Titan, the sore spots show through more than most. The Nissan Titan is the girl you date while you're waiting for the woman who will be your wife to come along - good enough for a good time, but not the one you want to commit to for life.

While there's a lot of reasons why Nissan isn't selling as many full-size trucks as their rivals, chief among them is the trucks the Titan is up against. They're more capable, nicer appointed, and filled with more innovative features. To gain market share, the Nissan Titan needs to do something, anything, better than the competition. Ram has its interiors. Ford has its capability. GM has innovative camera tech and a new type of tailgate. Toyota has historically good reliability.

On its own the 2020 Titan stands tall, but next to other full-size trucks, it sits in the shadows.

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