Top Automotive News & Stories: August 20-26

Each week we compile the best announcements and developments from the world of cars. Here are the topics you can’t miss from August 20 through August 26.

Honda files patent for 11-speed transmission

Honda 11 Speed Transmission

Automakers are constantly searching for ways to make their cars more fuel efficient. One of the solutions that’s become popular in recent years is to fit cars with transmissions that have high gear counts. It used to be that six speeds in a transmission was a lot, but now it’s not uncommon to find everyday cars with eight speed gearboxes.

Now, Honda has turned things up to 11 – literally – with a patent filing for a new 11 speed transmission. This would allow for incredibly frequent shifting to help keep RPMs low and MPGs high. A high gear count like this would doubtless increase fuel efficiency, but you have to wonder when the race to add gears will ever end.

Autoguide has more details on Honda’s transmission patent.

And the most beautiful classic car in the world is…

1936 Lancia Asturia Pinin Farina Cabriolet
Image: Sports Car Digest

Every year in August, car aficionados from around the world gather in Monterey, California for the glitzy Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Heralded as the premier car show in North America, the event draws hundreds of rare and obscure cars from every era of automotive history. A panel of expert judges rates each for its condition, style, and value.

The judges have a tough job. There are numerous classic Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and other exotics to scrutinize. This year, 17 Ford GT race cars were on display – comparing details among them requires an encyclopedic knowledge of automobiles. Ultimately, the judges vote to determine a best in show.

For 2016, that honor went to a 1936 Lancia Asturia Pinin Farina Cabriolet, one of only six examples ever created. The gorgeous black convertible, previously owned by Eric Clapton, features streamlined fenders, woven leather seats, and chrome details on nearly every body panel. Having just completed a five-year restoration, it was in perfect shape for the show. The Pebble Beach Concours is renowned for the incredible machinery it attracts, and this year’s event did not disappoint.

To see amazing photos from the 2016 show, head to Sports Car Digest.

A look at the future on the Concept Lawn

Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo
Image: Autoblog

Classic cars are the main focus at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, but that doesn’t mean that modern automakers ignore the event. The display their wares on the Concept Lawn, a special area reserved for new or upcoming cars and one-off concepts that hint at a brand’s future designs.

Standouts from the 2016 Concept Lawn included the new Ford GT, one of the most hotly anticipated cars of this decade, as well as the multimillion dollar Lamborghini Centenario Roadster, which was only unveiled at Pebble Beach but sold out months ago. Also present was the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6, an 18-foot-long electric-powered coupe that’s the epitome of opulent luxury.

Cadillac earned attention with its Escala concept, an angular fastback sedan that previews the modern direction the brand is headed. However, it was the Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo, a car so outlandish that it was literally designed for a video game, that stole the spotlight. While the Concept Lawn is only one small part of the massive Pebble Beach Concours, it’s perhaps the most important in terms of seeing what’s next for the auto industry.

{For an in-depth photo gallery, head to Autoblog](

Faraday Future prototype seen in the open

Faraday Future Prototype
Image: Everette Taylor

Secretive California car startup Faraday Future has been hard at work on something. What that something is no one really knows, but a photograph that surfaced on Twitter gives us our best look yet at their upcoming vehicle.

Spotted testing in a Los Angeles parking lot, it’s nearly impossible to see any details of the heavily camouflaged prototype. However, its large size and sloping profile hint at a crossover vehicle similar to the Tesla Model X.

The car is expected to feature an electric drivetrain and a host of autonomous driving technologies. Not much else is apparent from the photo, but the fact that their car is out testing in public indicates that Faraday Future is making progress. Expect more updates in the coming months.

Until then, you can read more about Farady Future at Green Car Reports.

What makes an autonomous car?

Google Self Driving Car
Image: Google

Automakers are heading into uncharted territory with self-driving technology, and we’re starting to see features like lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control in normal cars. To prepare for an autonomous future, legislators and experts have defined particular “levels” of autonomous driving to rate how much control a car can have with the driver’s hands off the wheel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) have each developed their own rating systems. On both scales, level zero relates to the cars we’re used to, which require full human control at all times. NHTSA level four and SAE level five are the maximum, which indicate total autonomous driving that requires no human control whatsoever.

Tesla’s Autopilot system, which currently sets the benchmark for autonomous technology, rates at level two on both scales – so clearly there’s a long way to go before it’s totally safe to let the car drive itself. Still, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with these levels as we head into the autonomous era.

Jalopnik has a fun and informative infographic explaining the different levels of autonomy.

Tesla Model S is quicker than gravity

Tesla Model S P100D Ludicrous
Image: Tesla

The Tesla Model S has made headlines before for its supercar-like acceleration, but a new version of the all-electric sedan is the quickest one yet. Dubbed the Model S P100D Ludicrous, the car rips from zero to 60 miles per hour in an astounding 2.5 seconds – which means it accelerates more rapidly than if it were dropped from an airplane.

According to Jalopnik, “an object in a vacuum accelerates at 32 feet per second squared (ft/s2). What many people may not know is that 60 mph = 88 ft/s. Thus, an object gets to about 47 mph in two seconds and by the time it gets to 60 mph it’s been approximately 2.75 seconds (88/32 = 2.75).”

Note that this calculation measures acceleration in a vacuum. In real-world conditions, with factors like air resistance, gravity would accelerate a falling object even more slowly. Therefore a Model S P100D making a launch would reach 60 mph more quickly than a skydiver making a jump.

Such intense acceleration is thanks to the Model S’ electric motors, which generate peak power from zero RPM. What’s more, manufacturers’ acceleration claims are often conservative, meaning it’s possible the car is quicker than Tesla says. No one yet knows the car’s true acceleration potential, but expect a slew of videos showing the Model S P100D tearing up drag strips to hit YouTube soon.

Head to Jalopnik to see the full set of acceleration calculations.

Americans drove how many miles?!

American Driving Record

American motorists have broken their own record for miles driven during the first six months of a year. Between January and June 2016, the total distance driven in the United States was a whopping 1.58 trillion miles, up 3.3% from 2015’s 1.54 trillion miles.

To put things into perspective, that’s equal to traveling from Earth to Pluto and back 250 times. It’s hard to say exactly what caused the increase, but warmer weather and lower gas prices nationwide might be among the factors that contributed.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has the full report.

Recalls of the week

Recalls of the Week

It seems there are new car recalls every week. It’s good that automakers are taking charge to keep their customers safe and happy, but if your car is recalled it’s still a major inconvenience. Here are some of the recalls that were announced this week.

Over 190,000 examples of the Mazda CX-7 SUV are being recalled to replace their ball joints. It seems the problem is caused by salted roads in winter months. The salt can get inside the ball joints, causing them to corrode and potentially fail, which could lead to steering problems or even a complete loss of steering control. Owners of 2007 - 2012 CX-7s will be notified by Maza once the recall is officially underway.

Airbags are critically important for staying safe in a car, and Mini is recalling about 8,000 copies of its Clubman wagon to replace the side curtain airbags. The airbags’ fabric construction seems to be problematic, causing the potential for improper deployment in a crash. While Mini hasn’t received any reports of injuries due to this problem, they will recall 2015 - 2016 Clubmans starting September 12 to replace the side curtain airbags as a precaution.

Hyundai will recall approximately 64,500 Elantra sedans from the 2013 model year to remedy a brake light which can stay on even when the brake pedal isn’t depressed. The problem is caused by a stopper pad underneath the pedal which can deteriorate, leading to the improperly functioning brake light. The problem can also allow the gear selector to be moved out of park without first pushing the brake pedal. Both of these issues are unsafe, and Hyundai will begin the recall on September 30.

For more information on these recalls and others, head to Car Complaints.

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