T.E.N. Future Transport News 6th February 2015: Security Patches, Self-Driving A8, Apple Watch App

Welcome to T.E.N! Short for Transport Evolved News, T.E.N. is recorded every Friday to help your weekend get off to a flying start by making sure you haven’t missed the big future transport news stories of the week.

Weekly show about future cars and future car technology. This week news about: Tesla’s service reputation, BMW’s ConnectedDrive security flaw, SmartForTwo Electric Drive in San Diego, Audi’s 2017 A8 Autonomous Car, Tesla battery swap, Kia Trail’ster Concept, hydrogen price wars, noise makers for electric cars, Apple Watch app for Tesla electric cars.

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Top Notch Service

It’s really hard to get a good review from the leading U.S. independent reviewing firm Consumer Reports, so when your company does get high praise, you know it’s well-earned.  Getting it more than once is something of an honor, so when Tesla Motors came out top for the third time in a Consumer Reports survey, we’re sure there was much rejoicing down at Tesla HQ.

Previously, Tesla was awarded top marks by Consumer Reports for its Model S Electric car earning the highest rating of any car to be tested by the organisation. Then it won the accolade of being the most-loved car in the U.S. thanks to the lowest dissatisfaction scores of any automaker. Now it’s the turn of Tesla Service and repair, which aced a survey of more than one hundred and forty-four thousand Consumer Reports subscribers ahead of both independent repair shops and traditional franchised auto dealers.

We’re just waiting to see what Tesla does as an encore. Most likely car to make you scream while accelerating, perhaps?


It’s a sad yet inevitable part of life: as soon as you give any electronics device a connection to the Internet, it becomes at risk of being compromised by clever, crafty hackers.

But this week, BMW confirmed that it had patched a massive security flaw which should have never made it out of beta testing in its ConnectedDrive software for some 2.2 million BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce vehicles, including its cutting-edge i3 and i8 plug-in cars.

The flaw — essentially using unencrypted communication protocols between cars and BMW’s server — was recently demonstrated to be easily attacked by the German Automobile Club, granting hackers access to do everything from set the climate conditioning to unlocking affected cars without the need for a key.

BMW says it’s patched the problem already at its servers, and now requires a secure connection between car and server to keep everyone safe.

Glad that one’s fixed.

Smart Upgrades

It’s small, perfectly formed, and recently joined our staff fleet on the east coast of the U.S., yet very few pick the Tiny Smart ForTwo Electric Drive as their electric car of choice for everyday motoring.

Over in San Diego however, a 400-strong fleet of Smart ForTwo Electric Drive cars have joined Mercedes-Benz’s own Car2Go Car Share program, replacing previous-generation twenty ten model year Smart For Twos in the super-simple car club.

As with previous Smart ForTwo Electric Drives, the new cars will come with an incentive for any car2Go member who uses one, designed to ensure that they’re not left uncharged in some random part of the city: return the car to a charging station and plug in at the end of your rental, and you’ll get ten minutes of free rental next time.

So if you’re in San Diego, you may want to consider taking one of these fun cars for a little spin.

Piloted Drive

At the start of this year, Audi demonstrated how advanced its autonomous driving software had become by sending an Audi A7 Sportback Piloted Drive prototype from Palo Alto to Las Vegas in time for the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show. And while there were people behind the wheel for legal reasons — they didn’t actually drive.

Now its technology boss Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg  says it will bring that very same autonomous driving technology — called “Piloted Driving” to market as early as next year in the all-new Audi A8 Sedan.

In an interview with Automotive news, Hackenberg said that Audi’s piloted drive technology is just about ready for market, but that the technology we’ll see next year in the 2017  A8 won’t be the fully-autonomous dream some of us have. Instead, it will handle low-speed traffic without human input and will still require you to step in if things get too complicated.

As for full autonomy? That’s ten years away, Hackenberg said, due in part to the horrendous, complicated legislative process that blocks the way for all self driving cars.


At the end of last year, we told you that Tesla’s first battery swap station – located just off I-5 at the Harris Ranch in California — would be going live before the start of this year.

A month later and it’s still not open for beta testing, but according to recent reports this week from Katie Fehrenbacher at Gigaom, the site is tantalisingly close to opening its doors to the first battery swap customers.

But don’t get too excited yet. Initially, customers will only be able to swap their car’s battery packs “by invitation” as special beta-testers; and you’ll also have to ‘pre-book’ your battery swap before you arrive. Swapping will also take a fair bit longer than the 90 seconds Tesla originally demonstrated the battery swap technology as being back in 2013, due to new underbody panels which are a little tougher to remove.

Watch this space.

Kia Trail’ster Concept

With just two weeks left until the twenty fifteen Chicago Auto Show, South-Korean automaker Kia has teased a two images of a new concept car it plans on unveiling there.

Kia, which already makes the funky, fun Soul EV, is a fairly recent entrant to the plug-in car marketplace, says the new concept car — which it’s calling the Kia Electric All-Wheel Drive Trail’ster — will be a perfect vehicle for the city-dweller turned outdoor-adventurer, and will have a rear-mounted all-wheel drive electric drivetrain.

Other features include a fully-retractable rag-top roof, and go-anywhere attitude, so keep your eyes peeled for this new ride that may take those urban hamsters back to a more bucolic life.

Price Warz

In the automotive world, price wars are a fairly normal side effect of one automaker trying desperately to undercut another in the marketplace. And so far, we’ve seen price wars happen with everything from hybrid cars to trucks and electric cars to sports cars.

But now there’s a brewing price war among the few hydrogen fuel cell car manufacturers in the world, with the news that Hyundai has slashed an amazing 43 percent off the price of its Fuel Cell CUV in South Korea.

Although the five-seat CUV has been available as lease-only in the U.S. and Europe, South Koreans with enough money have been able to buy one for a while for around $86,000 U.S. after incentives but now that price has been slashed to the equivaelnt of $54,000.

While that price is currently for domestic customers only, we’d like to remind you that it’s also just under Toyota’s promised U.S. pricing for the twenty sixteen Miria fuel cell sedan, which goes on sale later this year. Let the fuel cell battle commence.

A silent pause

Regardless of your opinions on the matter, under the twenty ten Pedestrian Safety Act passed by the U.S. Government,  all electric-powered and hybrid vehicles will one day have to emit artificially-generated noise to alert pedestrians and other road users of their presence at speeds below twenty miles per hour.

But this week, we found out that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — the safety body responsible for setting out the final targets and standards in the law — has extended the deadline by which automakers can build noise-less cars until September first, twenty eighteen.

While that means electric cars and hybrids — and presumably fuel cell vehicles too — will eventually need to make weird bleeps, blops and whirs, those who prefer their cars quiet will have a little while longer to enjoy it before they have to loudly announce their presence to everyone around them.

(You can’t) Watch this

Even though it doesn’t have an announced launch date or price yet, Apple’s first wearable device — the upcoming and unimaginatively-named Apple Watch — is already one of 2015’s hottest gadgets, with tech news portals going crazy the moment an Apple Watch is spotted in the wild.

But now a team of developers at ELEKS — a software engineering company —  have used Apple’s emulated-only Watch Kit developer API to mock up a Tesla app for the Apple Watch in an attempt to figure out just how far Apple is letting its developers go with its current SDK.

It offers all the usual Tesla App functionality, but happens to come on a watch we don’t even know a launch date for.

Still, if you’re an Apple and a Tesla fan, you’ve just got one more reason to buy both — that’s if the engineering prototype app ever officially finds its way into the App Store, of course.


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