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 Venza is back for the 2021 model year.

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

Is it a Toyota or a Lexus? At first glance it may be hard to tell if you're not looking right at the badge on the front of the 2021 Toyota Venza. The car is luxe enough inside to be a Lexus too.

The Venza gets its name from a model that was popular for a few short years in the early 2010s. It disappeared, as models a little ahead of their time do (ahem, Pacifica), and the name has been brought back for this new, hybrid SUV. With the popularity of the RAV4 and Highlander, it's easy to wonder why Toyota would need another SUV that sits singly between the two. The answer is easy. It's for a different buyer and it's a hybrid.

2021 Toyota Venza The Venza looks more like a Lexus than a Toyota, and that's not a bad thing.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The Venza competes directly with the Nissan Murano, Honda Passport, Ford Edge, and Chevrolet Blazer. They're all two-row SUVs that give budget-conscious buyers (often empty nesters) a bit of luxe for a lower-than-premium price. It also comes only with a hybrid powertrain, which is something the competition does not have. All-wheel drive is also standard.

Toyota has built the Venza for fuel economy (it gets 39 mpg combined) rather than zippy performance. In this way, it's unlike the Toyota RAV4 Prime, which utilizes the available electric power to elicit a more thrilling drive experience. Acceleration and deceleration via the 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid engine are all about steady fuel savings rather than harsh or thrilling action.

No one would mistake the 219-horsepower combined drive experience as being invigorating. However, the payoff is that the Venza is nearly twice as fuel-efficient as its competition when similarly sized engines are compared.

The Venza doesn't come loaded with frills or too many unique features (it's a Toyota after all) but there's still plenty to like about it. Not the least of which is the fact that its interior design is wholly different than the RAV4 and Highlander. Despite being more streamlined and sophisticated, Toyota still manages to pack a lot of features and equipment into the package.

2021 Toyota Venza The sleek and stylish design of the Venza is unlike the RAV4 in many ways.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The RAV4's seats are uncomfortable after just a short time behind the wheel, but the Venza's are much better. Where the RAV4 does win is on cargo space, but the Venza's rear storage area has plenty of room for daily driver duty.

As tested in the top-tier trim, the Venza had a 12.3-inch infotainment touch screen (an 8.0-inch is standard on the lower two trim levels). All the screens run the Entune infotainment system, which has gotten easier to navigate thanks to updates over the years, but it is not the best in the industry, by far.

The coolest feature on the Venza is its Star Gaze fixed panoramic roof that uses electrochromic glass to block out the direct rays of the sun and instead allow in diffused sunlight. At the touch of a button, the frosted glass can turn to clear traditional panoramic roof glass. It's a proper replacement for a sunroof in areas where people frequently utilize them for their sunshine rather than the open windows feel.

Toyota has given the Venza the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of safety and driver assist technologies in every trim level. Unlike what you'll find in some luxury cars, the Toyota system serves as a backup to human direction rather than a constant reminder of a perceived needed correction.

2021 Toyota Venza The Star Gaze roof allows diffused sunlight to permeate the cabin.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The Toyota Venza starts at $32,470. Remember, that's with all-wheel drive, a hybrid powertrain, and a host of standard safety technologies. So, despite being a little pricier than the completion, it's an appropriate figure. Upgrading to the Venza XLE will cost you at least $36,000 and the top-of-the-line Venza Limited comes in at $39,800. There aren't many options boxes to check for the SUV so it ends up sitting between the pricing of the RAV4 Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid in the Toyota lineup.

Like most vehicles that Toyota makes, the Venza seems to be a well-designed and reasonable addition to a household. It should elicit plenty of interest from buyers. However, if you want more power you'll want to check out either the RAV4 Prime or the Passport, which are both winners as well.

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The Ducati Multistrada V4 has been born and is now available to configure online.

Photo courtesy of Ducati
Ducati has unveiled the fourth generation of its popular Multistrada motorcycle. The bike combines performance with tech-forward innovation that rivals some of the systems found in the most popular cars on the road today.

In the 18 years since the first-generation Multistrada was put on sale, Ducati has sold 110,000 of them, making the bike one of the most popular in the world. Originally a sports bike, in its third generation the motorcycle became more versatile offering four different ride modes.

Ducati Multistrada V4 The bike is made for touring and daily driver responsibilities.Photo courtesy of Ducati

For the new edition, Ducati has made the Multistrada easier to ride. This includes mechanical and technology innovations that also improve rider safety and allows users to remain more connected to their devices while at the helm.

The bike retains its light and compact body structure for V4. Designers worked to make the bike appear strong yet sexy, integrating the 22-liter tank with a slim rear and muscular front. Special attention has been paid to optimal riding position whether on- or off-road, and aerodynamics.

Its aluminum monocoque frame sits atop a 19-inch front wheel and double-sided swingarm. Its suspension allows for 170 mm of front wheel and 180 mm of rear wheel travel. The bike has 220 mm of ground clearance and a weight of 473 pounds.

The engine of the motorcycle has a displacement of 1,158 cc and delivers 170 horsepower at 10,500 rpm with 92 pound-feet of torque at 8,750 rpm. This engine has allowed Ducati to recommend longer intervals between service, with the oil change is scheduled every 9,230 miles, while valve clearance check and eventual adjustment is required every 37,282 miles. Those time periods are longer than any other bike on the market today.

Ducati Multistrada V4 Ducati has engineered the bike to have a comfortable seat position whether on- or off-road.Photo courtesy of Ducati

Ducati has made it so that the engine deactivates the rear bank when idling, a practice that improves the thermal comfort of the rider and reduces fuel consumption with the added benefit of lowering noise volumes while maintaining the signature Ducati exhaust note.

Safety and performance go hand-in-hand on the bike. The inertial platform manages the operation of ABS Cornering, Ducati Wheelie Control, Ducati Traction Control, semi-active, and available corning lights, vehicle hold control, Ducati Skyhook Suspension, and automatic leveling functionality.

The bike also gets a front and rear radar system which allows for adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection.

The Ducati Multistrada V4 base model comes with a red paint job. The next step up in the trim level lineup is the Multistrada V4 S, which is available in Aviator Grey and red, as well as options including alloy and spoked wheels. Buyers can upgrade their V4 S by checking the box for any number of package configurations direct from the factory (Essential, Travel, Radar, Performance, Full).

Ducati Multistrada V4

Photo courtesy of Ducati

The Multistrada V4 S Sport gets a bolder livery and standard Performance package with Akrapovič exhaust and carbon front fender.

The new Ducati Multistrada V4 will be available in Ducati dealerships from the end of November. The online configurator is now live.

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