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10 Techno-Cool Cars 472

Posted by michael
from the rice-rocket dept.
mrv writes "The IEEE Spectrum picks their '10 Techno-Cool Cars'. The article picks vehicles from the 2003 or upcoming model years, that feature significant jumps in performance, convenience, or comfort, are technologically bold, and otherwise cool (for engineers, not just the 'motorhead' type)."
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10 Techno-Cool Cars

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  • by $$$$$exyGal (638164) on Friday February 21, 2003 @06:46PM (#5356875) Homepage Journal
    The best car of all time. [aboyd.com]

    Poor Uncie Herb ;-)

    --sex [slashdot.org]

  • Hmmm. . . (Score:5, Funny)

    by bplipschitz (265300) on Friday February 21, 2003 @06:48PM (#5356889)
    "Refuel it at home with an optional $1000 (natural) gas station".

    I wonder if that comes with an optional (taco) bell, instead of a horn.
    • I really want to buy the Civic GX. You get to use the HOV lane with 1 person (in California), and you get all the power of a "real" vehicle. Something the Honda Hybrid is missing. The Hybrid supposedly has a $2,000 federal tax deduction [cleancarcampaign.org] associated with it, but I talked to a dealer yesterday and he said the program was over. He might be lying.

      The refueling station isn't available yet. The GX is however. In the short term, you can find CNG refuelling stations on Web sites [ngv.org] all over.

      This site lists sites in California [cngvc.org] and a couple other states [cngvc.org].

      These stations are open 24 hours a day and allow you to use a credit card or a fuel card (from PG&E) to do a "quick refuel." A quick refuel takes place in about the same time as a regular car does at a gas station. Phill, the Home Refueller [fuelmaker.com] from FuelMaker is supposed to be out in late 2003. This would allow you to refuel overnight and get a few more miles out of each "tank."

      The price of CNG is a little less expensive on a mileage basis compared to gas (at least in California). It really depends on the price of unleaded.

      One contributor said keeping a spare fuel tank around might be an option, but I think those tanks at gas stations are LPG (propane), not CNG (methane). Maybe not, but the GX's tank is certainly bigger than what you find at the gas station.

      So, yeah, it's sort of a "commuter-only" car. I wouldn't be able to take this up to the mountains. Though if you look at the CA map, you'll find a number of stations that could allow you to get pretty far around California anyway.

      The problem I think about is that I'm not going to be "saving" much in terms of fuel costs. The Hybrid might save you some more money per year, or at least trips to the gas station. The CNG car does pollute even less than a hybrid does. Another plus is that a CNG vehicle operates more like a "real" car than a hybrid.

      Speaking of batteries, is the process for making the batteries more pollution causing? What about disposal?

      TTFN
  • Excellent (Score:5, Funny)

    by mao che minh (611166) on Friday February 21, 2003 @06:48PM (#5356892) Journal
    Cool, I can't wait to abandon my clingy android son in the middle of the woods, his eyes tearing and hangs clinging feebily to the bumper, while driving away in my stylish Honda FCX. I can't wait for the future.
  • by Scott Hussey (599497) <sthussey+slashdotNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday February 21, 2003 @06:49PM (#5356896)
    Doesn't speak well for American engineering. Mostly European and Japanese makes it looks like. Maybe when GM gets their fuel-cell cars in production, America will look a little more updated. Or maybe the Ford Model U [autoguide.ee].
    • by SoCalChris (573049) on Friday February 21, 2003 @07:20PM (#5357189) Journal
      Volvo Safety Concept Car - Volvo is owned by Ford
      Saab 9-3 - Saab is owned by General Motors
      Honda Civic GX - I'm pretty sure that Honda has a design studio in California
      Honda FCX - See above
      Cadillac XLR - Owned by General Motors
      Audi A8
      Mercedes-Benz SL500
      Fiat Stilo
      Chevrolet Trailblazer - Owned by General Motors
      Toyota Prius

      So, in review four of the 10 cars are American, and two of them were probably designed in America. That's not bad considering that most of the "high end" cars that you would expect to see on a list like this such as Mercedes, Audi, Lexus etc... aren't American.
      • Oh good. The ugliest cars on the page (two Hondas and a Chevy) were all designed here. And the Volvo and Saab have managed to retain their own identity, because their American parents noticed that they (unlike Detroit) were actually making cars people want to buy.

        Woo woo. *waves flag*

        At least the new Cadillac roadster looks like nothing else on the road. I'll need to see one in person to say whether I in fact like it.
  • I'm surprised by the mix -- I would have expected either the geekmobile set (a car like the Prius -- sends both the message "I'm saving the planet" and "Beat me up for my lunch money") or the beasty sports car set.
    They seem to have a bit of each, along with two or three that someone might actually buy
  • No BMW 7-series [bmw.com]?

    Check out the force-feedback controller.

    • Every time I think of the BMW-7 Series I always think about what the dad in
      Tokyo [albinoblacksheep.com]
      Breakfast said to his weeping daughter.

      (please follow link and watch video)


      Father: You failed every class except animation!

      Daughter: So What?

      Father: So what? If nigga no go to school, nigga no get a job, if nigga no get
      a job, nigga no make no money, if nigga make no money, nigga can no afford BMW
      seVUHN series nigga!


      I know it sounds horrible, just watch the video if you've never seen it,
      funny ass shit.

  • by JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) on Friday February 21, 2003 @06:52PM (#5356925) Homepage
    A third feature is the radar-enhanced automatic cruise control, ...
    Sweet! So I can set it for 95, but when the fuzzbuster detects a speed trap, it'll revert to the speed limit!
    ...which maintains a constant speed until the car gets too close to a vehicle in front of it, at which point it slows down enough to maintain a constant distance.
    Awwwwwww.......
    • Actually, Mercedes has something similar. It sends out a radar ahead of you, and if it detects another car that you're coming up on, it will ease up on the gas, apply some brakes, or sound an alarm if you're about to hit them. The first generation of these cruise control systems were known to drive cheap radar detecters nuts. The new ones don't bother the detecters any more though.
    • Yeah, but if everybody has cars like this, that will totally throw off my $300 just-purchased-state-of-the-art radar detector, now won't it? I'll be pissed if I have to quit speeding every 5 minutes on the interstate just because I think a radar trap is set up, only to find out it's some jerk with a car like this!
    • I wonder how long before this and GPS guidance systems combine to make for a road trip where my wife and I can both relax in the back of the winebego for the trip. Or even better, I can truely put it in cruise control and follow through on the age old parental threat, "don't make me come back there".

      ----------------
      Extreme [onlawn.net] fuel efficiency. 200mpg carburator and Smokey Yunick's miracle engine evaluated.
      • Or even better, I can truely put it in cruise control and follow through on the age old parental threat, "don't make me come back there".
        My dad used to use the old "Don't make me separate you!"
        It was pretty effective though, since I'm an only child.
  • No WinCE (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dynedain (141758) <.slashdot2. .at. .anthonymclin.com.> on Friday February 21, 2003 @06:52PM (#5356930) Homepage
    Glad to see that the BMW-Windows hybrid is NOT on the list....showing these guys are impressed by well thought out, practical solutions, not gimmicks and gadgets
    • Re:No WinCE (Score:3, Funny)

      by homer_ca (144738)
      But they did include the Saab 9-3 with Bluetooth and the Audi A8 with a Multi Media Interface that looks just as complex as BMW's Idrive. No word on which embedded OS Audi is using.

      Still, those stories about the 745i are funny, like these from Autoweek [autoweek.com]:

      "Many owners' cars have been suffering from an overwhelming number of electrical problems, from faulty tire pressure monitor readings to clocks that would run slow, to headrests that popped up on their own. One reader actually got a "limited danger of complete transmission failure" warning from his car--for no reason."
  • by Doobian Coedifier (316239) on Friday February 21, 2003 @06:53PM (#5356935)
    Ummm.....GM has done this before... in 1981 Cadillacs [100megsfree4.com]. The system got mixed reviews. Some people said it worked great, some said it was nothing but trouble (getting stuck in V8 mode was one problem, IIRC). They scrapped it after MY 1984, presumably in favor of 4 cylinders.
  • No RX8? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21, 2003 @06:54PM (#5356941)
    Man that just ticks me off that they are not putting the RX8 in there. I mean the Rotary engine is coming back and it is suppose to be pretty nice with the RX8. These engines are amazing....why not point that car out?
    • Re:No RX8? (Score:3, Interesting)

      Yep, I was going to make the same post. The rotary isn't that revolutionary anymore as a concept, but now Mazda has one that runs clean and makes almost 200 HP per L naturally aspirated (I'm sure with a little tuning it will reach that mark.)

      Of course I'll stick with my car for a bit, at least until I get it done. (See sig.)
  • Hybrids? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kevinvh (652481)
    Almost half the cars on the list were cars running on alternate fuel sources/hybrids.. that's nice and all, but not what I would consider "Techno-cool".
  • by binaryDigit (557647) on Friday February 21, 2003 @06:54PM (#5356944)
    I have an '89 750il, which for it's time was way high tech. Antilock, electric everything, fly by wire throttle. And of course, one of the most hated things about this vehicle is all the electronic doodads. When it works it's great. When it doesn't, rottsaruck. BMW is having some problems now with it's latest 7 series and their on board computers going wacko. There was a funny post about it, can't remember if it was here or not, some guy even video taped his car doing strange stuff (cell phone not working, stereo acting strange, car doesn't want to accelerate, etc).

    I can see the mechanics repair books now:

    Replace head gaskets 2hrs
    Replace starter 2.5hrs
    Debug car suddenly speaking in German 40 man hours

    Funny thing about the last problem is that it is one that actually occurs!
    • Debug car suddenly speaking in German 40 man hours

      I'm sure that if they can't reset it they'll just replace it. People are all to used to paying mechanics $500 each time they visit them. Besides at 10 hours of mechanic time you've already hit the price of the component.

      ------------------
      Extreme [onlawn.net] fuel efficiency! 200mpg carburator and Smokey Yunicks miracle engine evaluated.
  • Toyota Fine-S (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21, 2003 @06:54PM (#5356945)
    Check it out [motortrend.com]

    For some reason it's gotten almost no press, even though it's both amazing looking (like a car version of the Tron cycle) and uses impressive technology.
  • I'm suprised that the dashpc prototype linux vehicle [dashpc.com] didn't make the cut.

    Oh well, maybe next year...

  • This one got me as odd... with the way the "Prius" electric+gas motors work, you actually tend to get much better milage in the city (50-75mpg) than on the highway (45mpg).

    This is probably due the power required for highway speeds, but maybe also due to the charging effect start/stop traffic would have.

    Guess this one would be a good vehicle for those who drive to work in bad city traffic - 75mpg would be quite nice under current gas prices.
    • I assume its because the electric motor is taxed much more at high speeds. While a conventional engine is just wasting energy when stopping or idling, the electric is doing fine. So, speed becomes the dominant concern in the Hybrid - low speed = better mileage.
    • >> This one got me as odd... with the way the "Prius" electric+gas motors work, you actually tend to get much better milage in the city (50-75mpg) than on the highway (45mpg). mechanical). With each transfer you lose energy to heat and such. But for city driving Series in the future will be great. But for now there are none out there.

      hope this helps
  • by airrage (514164) on Friday February 21, 2003 @06:59PM (#5357003) Homepage Journal
    Frankly, all this concept from an industry severely lacking it in, seems, well contrived. Yet, I am drawn to a couple of the designs, and the fuel mileage on some is outstanding.

    The problem is the pump (or the adapter) if you will. What we need to do is insure that any pump can supply and type of fuel seamlessly.

    Reminds me of the Universal Adapter ad from IBM. Where the engineer is spouting all the things that can be integrated, and yet when asked 'Does it work in Europe?', he replies, 'You need an adapter for that'.

    We typically accept this type of stuff in new technology -- serial was good for a long time -- but USB was good too. It allowed for one cord for many devices. It was hub in nature. We need to get the same thinking into the universal fuel pump so that these cars have a chance.

    The car alone is risky, the infrastructure is even more so, I mean how much dark fiber is buried around the US?

    • The pump isn't the problem... that's pretty trivial.

      But where the heck are you going to store all the fuel? The average gas station already has three huge tanks - regular unleaded, plus, and premium. Some have a fourth for diesel. You want to add two or more? One for natural gas, one for hydrogen, and maybe one for bio-diesel? The cost to add them to even a small number of gas stations is immense... and that's what keeps killing any attempts to switch to an alternate fuel... well, that and the problems with a lot of the alternate fuel sources (especially fuel cells).
  • Best Feature (Score:2, Interesting)

    by (54)T-Dub (642521)
    "a card in the driver's wallet opens the car and lets him start it up by simply pushing a button."
    • The Renault Laguna has this feature - and it doesn't cost $75,000!

      I can pick up a top specced model tomorrow for £22,000 (about $30,000).
  • by sulli (195030) on Friday February 21, 2003 @07:05PM (#5357060) Journal
    The usual hydraulically controlled brakes are no longer prime; the brake pedal you push is like a mouse click to a computer.

    So when the computer crashes, so do you? No thanks.

  • Rotating Headlights (Score:3, Interesting)

    by riedquat (226343) on Friday February 21, 2003 @07:06PM (#5357073) Homepage
    The rotating headlights on the Volvo safety concept car are hardly a new feature - they were present on the far more attractive Citroen DS [retromobile.com], amongst many other features before its time.
  • thoughts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oyenstikker (536040) <slashdot@@@sbyrne...org> on Friday February 21, 2003 @07:08PM (#5357091) Homepage Journal
    1.) Smokey Diesels.
    Diesels do not have a history of being smokey. 1 diesel engine, the 70s GM diesel V-8. It was an America only engine. EU doesn't have a problem with diesels.

    2.) 8/4 Cylinders.
    Lets hope it fares better than GMs infamaous 8-6-4 of the 80s.
    • The smokey diesels thing is not entirely true.. have you ever followed a diesel car, and watched it when they stick their foot down? Or have you ever followed a diesel car at speed on a motorway / highway?

      In both of those situations, even brand new diesels can bellow out quite a bit of smoke.. and I am not talking about cheap models here... Even decent Audi and BMW models all it.

      Not that I am complaining.. I think diesel is a great technology, and I think the continued advancement and development of it is excellent - but as it is, it still needs a little work.
      • High pressure common rail diesel engines hardly smoke at all.

        You're likely to get some smoke from a big diesel that isn't using fine injection control (things like Land Rover Discoverys and the like) but on any 2002/2003 diesel it's been pretty much eliminated.
    • Because it's a lousy idea. There are far better ways to handle variable power output and energy usage.

      This one is just designed to feed off the public's misconception that "4 cylinders weak, but thrifty. 8 cylinders strong, but gas hog. Uggg."

      It's a marketing ploy and not only technologically uninteresting, it's repugnant.

      KFG
    • 1.) Smokey Diesels. Diesels do not have a history of being smokey. 1 diesel engine, the 70s GM diesel V-8. It was an America only engine. EU doesn't have a problem with diesels.

      Agreed. Whoever said that needs to check out the VW/Audi TDI engines. Very high tech with their direct-injection and turbos, very economical with 50 miles per gallon, quite powerful with 150 ft/lbs of torque from a 1.9l engine, and QUIET and CLEAN. No clatter and black smoke here.
  • Greenhouse Gases (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LongJohnStewartMill (645597) on Friday February 21, 2003 @07:16PM (#5357158)
    The FCX is the first car for the U.S. market that is powered purely by fuel cells. It meets zero-emissions standards by exhaling water vapor--no noxious fumes and no greenhouse gases.

    As far as I know, water vapor is a greenhouse gas. Others are Carbon Dioxide, Methane, and Nitrous Oxide. This was told to me by an Earth and Atmospheric Science professor in university, so the source is reputable.
  • If I ever get to go through one of those awesome mid life crisis thingees I'm getting one of these:

    Merlin Roadsters [corbinmotors.com]

    or one of these:

    Merlin Coupe [corbinmotors.com]

    I'm just a few more years, a little more disposable income, and a massive emotional breakdown away from buying one of these sweet little machines... (wow, I can finally say that about a product that -isn't- produced by Apple!)

    -dameron
    • Those cars look really cool but I think they are overpriced. I mean, especially since the MINI Cooper is in the same price range and it seats two and can handle highway travel.

      Perhaps most people drive alone most of the time. But for me, I would like to have at least one extra seat for a chick or something. Don't need four, but I definitely need two.

    • If you're looking for a sweet little impractical car, consider a Caterham [uscaterham.com]. Better looking than the above, only slightly more expensive, and instead of apologizing for their performamce, they're *rockets*.

      Plus, you can save some money and buy it in kit form if you're feeling like a real geek.

  • Bugatti Veyron... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chicane-UK (455253) <chicane-uk@ntl w o rld.com> on Friday February 21, 2003 @07:33PM (#5357275) Homepage
    I guess the petrolhead in me was hoping to see the Bugatti Veyron in there. Yeah, sure it wouldn't exactly make it in there for safety, but for engineering perfection it pretty much has it in the bag. The engine is a Volkswagen developed 16 cylinder, 8 litre, 64 valve quad turbo lump outputting 1001BHP..

    Acceleration on this machine must only be comparable to a ride in a jet plane.. 0-62MPH is estimated at just over 3 seconds, and do from 0-186MPH in little under 14 seconds. And the top speed is around 250MPH.

    If you fancy Slashdotting someone, try this link for more information and pictures :

    http://www.gizmo.com.au/public/News/news.asp?artic leid=1290 [gizmo.com.au]
  • The XLR shares the Corvette platform, it's cool magnetic suspension is in this year's Vette (standard on the Z06, optional on the coupe and vert.)

    ~Berj
  • I was bummed not to see the Ford Escape HEV that comes out in the fall. It's the first mass production hybrid and is a very practical one at that. It gets 40mpg to in a SUV. It at least is a vehicle that will be on sale, where some of these are just concepts. Apparently uber-practical and avalible wasn't the tech they like. There is only one other real hybrid out there right now and that's the prius, it's nice but not what many people want/need. The insight and civic are mild hybirds and should not be to closely compaired to the prius. Also all of those vehicles are special built. For the Escape, hybrid is just an option, this is why it's mass production. The prius is not an echo option, it's completely differant underneath.
    • Actually, the Prius is a production vehicle. Been in Japan since the '98 model year (1997).

      The Toyota Echo came out in '99 or '00 or so, and except for some similar looks (like the new '03 Corolla), that's about all it shares with the Prius.

      Oh, and the Ford Escape HEV gets several of its hybrid components from the same vendor as Toyota gets their hybrid Prius components. Go figure.
  • by RedWizzard (192002) on Friday February 21, 2003 @07:59PM (#5357448)
    I would have liked to have seen something about Audi's "Multitronic" [audiworld.com] continuously variable transmission. I guess it's evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but it's a big deal in that it's the first time a CVT has been shown to be practical with a performance engine. According to Audi the Multitronic has both better acceleration and better fuel economy than a manual gearbox. It's the first nail in the coffin of the traditional automatic.
  • some users report more than 3 L/100 km (75 mpg) in particularly snarled traffic.

    here in miami, that thing might get 100 miles to the gallon during rush hour. . . .

  • Did you ever wonder about the cars, noted in this article, that will have voice activated technology and how the technology will react when you crank up the tunes?

    What will happen when you loudly play the following songs:

    Metallica - Seek and Destroy
    "Searching...Seek and Destroy!!!"

    Rush - Red Barchetta
    "Drive like the wind, straining the limits of machine and man."

    The Clash - "Brand New Cadillac"
    "Driiiiiiiive!!! Driiiiiiiive!!! My baby drove up in a brand new Cadillac."

    Prince - "Little Red Corvette"
    "Baby you're much 2 fast. Little red corvette.
    U need a love, U need a love that's That's gonna last. (Little red corvette) U got 2 slow down (U got 2 slow down) Little red corvette."

    Hmmmmmm...

    Dolemite

  • Personally... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chunkwhite86 (593696) on Friday February 21, 2003 @08:12PM (#5357546)
    I don't want a car that's cool from a geek perspective. I want a car that's cool from a motorhead perspective.

    Asking for a car that is cool from a geek perspective is like asking for a computer that's cool from a motor-head perspective.

    I personally dislike all the electronic gadgets and doo-dads. I drive a Porsche 911, special ordered to have NO sunroof, NO power locks, NO heated seats, NO power windows, and yes folks... NO stereo. I absolutely love it. It is the best car in the world. Powerful, reliable, clean... And no wacky electronic gadgets standing between me, and the most ultimate driving experience available to a human.

    Save the gadgets for your cubicle.
  • by Black Rabbit (236299) on Friday February 21, 2003 @10:42PM (#5358290)
    What I'd like to see is a list of the ten lowest tech cars...easy to fix, cheap to run and repair, something i could get seriously dirty and take a hose to the inside. Why does just about every car these days come pre-yuppie-fied? I'd prefer to ditch things like ABS, any sort of airbag, auto-door locks, auto-trans, auto-dome lights...you get the idea. This is all shit that has done nothing more than add to the price of a new car, and a good deal of it is totally unnecessary. Just give me four wheels, a reliable engine with adequate power, a body that won't rust out in less than a decade, canvas seats, and a decent manual transmission. Do any cars like these exist at all, or am I condemned to fork out extra for power windows and heated seats on even the lowest end econobox?

    The two things I mention that are safety related, namely ABS and airbags, can be replaced by a far more effective five point harness and good driver trtaining. Ever see a race car with either ABS or airbags?
  • by jrstewart (46866) on Friday February 21, 2003 @11:06PM (#5358393) Homepage
    ...Will Los Angeles have a humidity problem?

    While not on the level of CO2, water vapor is a greenhouse gas. I also wonder if it might affect local climates.

    I don't know how much water vapor fuel cell cars emit, or the environmental impact of refining hydrogen for them to use, but nothing comes for free.

    (yes, yes, fuel cells are a vast improvement over burning gasoline.)

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