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We record Autoblog Podcast #317 tonight, and you can drop us your questions and comments regarding the rest of the week's news via our Q&A module below. Subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes if you haven't already done so, and if you want to take it all in live, tune in to our UStream (audio only) channel at 10:00 PM Eastern tonight.
Discussion Topics for Autoblog Podcast Episode #317
While Google and Audi explore the possibilities of autonomous vehicles, Toyota and its Lexus division are studying the intermediate step of vehicles equipped with a deep suite of technology that help drivers make the best decisions. Introduced at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Lexus advanced safety research vehicle is an LS sedan fitted with three high-def color cameras to detect objects up to almost 500 feet away, 360-degree Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) lasers that can detect objects up to 220 feet away, three radar units to keep track of other vehicles at intersections, a precision odometer on the rear wheel, GPS that estimates orientation and an accelerometer.
Currently testing at a purpose-built 8.6 acre urban testing ground at the Higashi-Fuji Technical Center in Susono, Japan the Toyota research vehicle is being used to study how to make better drivers, as well as figuring out how to reduce crashes as the industry's journey through passive and active safety systems progresses. In the event of a crash, new rescue systems are also being tested.
Further investment is being put into the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) that would use shortwave signals to harness information from the car and from other vehicles on the road, as well as roadside infrastructure and even pedestrians. Toyota reasons it could then build a picture of interactions and, for instance, alert the driver to a potential collision at a blind intersection.
Hybrids are known for their great fuel economy and low emissions, but it looks like given current market conditions, only about three percent of new car consumers are willing to pay the premium for them. A new study from IHS/Polk finds that the hybrid market share among overall US auto sales are falling, despite more models with the technology on sale than ever before.
The study examined new car registrations in March from 2009 through 2014. In that time, the auto industry grew from 24 to 47 hybrid models available to consumers, but market share for the powertrain remained almost stagnant in that time. As of 2009, hybrids held 2.4 percent of the market; it fell slightly to 2.3 percent in 2010 and grew to 3.3 percent in 2013. However, 2014 showed a drop back to 3 percent. Overall hybrid sales have been growing since 2010, but they just aren't keeping up with the total auto market.
According to IHS/Polk, this isn't what you would expect to see. Usually, each new model in the market brings along with it a boost in sales. The growth in hybrid models 2009 to 2014 should have shown a larger increase in share for the segment.