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Apple eyes satellite internet for data project

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How can a Mac Pro cost $52,599? There are a few extras
Apple’s new Mac Pro has landed, and while the starting price is only — only — $5,999, that quickly spirals to $52,599 with a few clicks.

Apple is reportedly hiring engineers to help deliver a satellite project that would beam internet services directly to devices without the aid of mobile networks.

Bloomberg reports that Apple has an early stage project with about 12 engineers from the aerospace, satellite and antenna design industries who hope to launch the project within five years.

Exactly what Apple is cooking up is not clear and it could have many different interpretations. The company is expected to launch a 5G iPhone in 2020, as usual a little later than rivals. Apple is also focussing more on services these days, which makes the idea of it providing internet connectivity directly to iPhone users from a SpaceX-like satellite constellation a tantalizing prospect.

SEE: Sensor’d enterprise: IoT, ML, and big data (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

Apparently Apple CEO Tim Cook has shown interest in the project but Bloomberg’s source said that a clear direction and use for satellites has not been finalized. 

Bloomberg reports that Apple’s “work on communications satellites and next-generation wireless technology means the aim is likely to beam data to a user’s device, potentially mitigating the dependence on wireless carriers, or for linking devices together without a traditional network.”

The second piece of speculation at least fits with some recent moves, such as what Apple describes as “the groundbreaking capability of distributed finding of an offline Mac” with its Find My app. The app works offline by devices emitting short range Bluetooth signals that are picked up by other Apple devices, creating a kind of mesh network.  

Apple could also be hiring engineers with satellite experience just to improve maps and location-tracking services, which again could feed into its services business. 

Bloomberg notes that it isn’t known whether Apple wants to launch something on the scale of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet program, which recently launched 60 small satellites into low Earth orbit. But other internet giants looking at space for tomorrow’s internet include Facebook and Amazon, which is planning to launch over 3,000 satellites into low Earth orbit. 

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Rumor claims Mercedes-AMG C63 will go hybrid

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One of the hottest AMG cars made by Mercedes-AMG is the C63. This car has traditionally had a big burly V-8 engine under the hood, making gobs of power. A new rumor has surfaced that claims that will change with the V-8 engine out and a hybrid four-cylinder powertrain in.

Automotive enthusiasts know that means an exhaust note that will lack the throaty rumble of the V-8 engine, but the hybridized four-cylinder will reportedly have massive amounts of power. What’s expected to live under the hood of the car is the AMG M139 turbocharged engine, which is used in the A45 S, combined with an electric rear-wheel-drive unit and integrated starter generator.

The turbocharger used on the four-cylinder also has electric assistance to reduce lag and improve throttle response. When all the electric and gas power is combined, rumor has it total output will be over 550 horsepower with maximum torque up to 590 pound-foot. The car will have active all-wheel drive, but a Drift mode will be standard for those who feel like putting on a smoke show.

All that power goes to the road via a nine-speed sport transmission, and the car will feature adaptive suspension and staggered tires. The vehicle will use a 400-volt electrical architecture rather than the 48-volt system used in other C-Class cars. Another interesting tidbit is that the car is tipped to drive about 40 miles on electricity alone.

One downside with hybridizing cars is the additional weight, with reports indicating the electric components add about 250 kilograms pushing the car close to 2000 kilograms overall. The upside is the smaller four-cylinder engine is reportedly 60 kilograms lighter than the outgoing V-8, and the vehicle will have a 50:50 weight distribution. The car is expected the land in the UK in early 2022, with the reveal by the end of the year.

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2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L starts at $37,000

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Many SUV fans and Jeep fans are excited to hear that an all-new three-row Grand Cherokee was coming. Jeep has officially announced the starting prices for the all-new 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L line, including the entry-level Laredo, Limited, Overland, and Summit models. This vehicle marks the first three-row Grand Cherokee Jeep has ever offered.

The Laredo trim will start at $36,995 and promises a host of standard safety features. Standard features include adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring along with all new LED exterior lighting, leather-wrapped steering wheel, tip and slide second-row seats, and a 10.25-inch frameless digital driver cluster with customizable menu options.

The next step up the ladder is the Limited model starting at $43,995. It includes Capri leather seats, a heated steering wheel, standard heated seats in the first two rows, remote start, and a power liftgate. The Overland model starts at $52,995, and 4×4 versions of this model include the Jeep Quadra-Trac II system and a unique Overland appearance.

Overland models get Nappa leather seats and door panels, standard ventilated front seats, premium navigation, LED ambient lighting, length adjustable front-row cushions, hands-free foot-activated power liftgate, and a dual-pane sunroof. Overland buyers can also opt for the optional Trail Rated-Road Group on 4×4 versions that adds skid plates, electronic limited-slip differential, 18-inch wheels, and all-season tires.

The Summit model starts at $56,995 and packs quilted leather seats, real wood veneers, 16-way adjustable front-row seats, and much more. The Summit Reserve starts at $61,995 and features quilted Palermo leather, open-pore waxed walnut wood trim, ventilated second-row seats, and a 950 Watt McIntosh audio system. None of the MSRP’s include the $1695 destination charge.

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The Hyundai Ioniq 5’s cleverest trick happens when the EV is standing still

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The 2021 Hyundai Ioniq 5 may be the automaker’s most dramatic – and appealing – production EV so far, but it’s the technology the automaker is pushing for when the electric hatchback is standing still that gives a taste of what’s to come. Announced earlier this week, the Ioniq 5 adopts a distinctly retro-futuristic aesthetic with its sharp creases and segmented LED lights.

At the front, the squared-off headlamps squint out from under a frowning hood edge. EVs often do away with a traditional grille – since the cooling needs are in different areas to those of internal combustion vehicles – but Hyundai has still applied one for design reasons, and with great result.

Cleanly fared-in bumpers and that sharp Z-shaped zigzag side crease lead around to a tapering hatchback rear. There, the rectangular light graphic makes another appearance, but without looking like there’s been a compromise in practicality with the tailgate opening. Factor in wheels that luxe sibling Genesis could be proud of, and you have a real looker of an EV.

According to Hyundai, we can expect a 72.6 kWh battery and either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive for the US-spec Ioniq 5. 350 kW DC fast charging means a 5-percent to 80-percent top-up in under 20 minutes, assuming you can find a sufficiently-speedy charger. In the AWD version, with 302 horsepower and 446 lb-ft of torque, figure on 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds.

The general response to how the Ioniq 5 looks and its performance numbers have been positive, but Hyundai is pushing the functionality you use when it’s standing still just as aggressively. V2L – or Vehicle to Load – basically allows you to use the Ioniq 5 as a huge mobile battery pack. Think along the lines of a Tesla Powerwall on wheels.

There are two power outlets in the Ioniq 5. One is in the rear, under the second-row seats; it’s active whenever the EV is switched on. A second is located alongside the charging port on the outside, and it’s capable of supply power even if the car is off. A converter, Hyundai says, can be used for running high-power electronic equipment off that port.

Relying on an EV as a mobile source of power isn’t new. We’ve already seen experiments with V2G – Vehicle to Grid – where electric cars act as temporary storage for times of low-cost excess power in the grid, and then feed it back when rates would typically be higher. The Plug & Charge standard beginning to get more commonplace among EV chargers also includes bidirectional charging elements alongside its zero-login session management.

Still, it’s not exactly a well-known feature at present, though that could change in the near future. The outages in Texas already this year, along with sky-rocketing costs as gas and electricity demand surged far beyond predicted levels, have demonstrated just what an impact climate change could have on utilities. Even if the grid is up to the task, natural perils like forest fires can still force a switch-off, as California has discovered over several seasons.

Home backup generators, which typically run on natural gas, are available but can be expensive, both to install and – depending on prices when you need that power – to run. Meanwhile home batteries, like those from Tesla and others, are increasingly capacious and can store power from solar, but are still expensive. If you don’t have solar panels, meanwhile – or you have the wrong sort of system installed – then once the home batteries run down you’re left out of power.

If your home battery is part of an EV, however, you could in theory drive to a charger and top up. That does, of course, rely on chargers themselves having power still, and it would leave the home offline while you were away charging, but a smaller fixed battery could potentially take up the slack during that shorter period.

For now, that sort of V2L application is beyond what Hyundai is explicitly talking about with the Ioniq 5. Its focus has been more on charging things like laptops and electric scooters, or running useful appliances while camping. Those sort of applications are probably going to be more readily understood to a mass market audience still learning to see an EV as more than just a car which happens to run on electricity.

Hyundai will explain more on that front as we get closer to the 2022 Ioniq 5’s arrival in US dealerships this fall. Down the line, though, it seems increasingly likely that the concept of an electric car using its power simply to drive around will be considered short-sighted. That’s only going to be accelerated as we see more examples of just how fragile the grid we rely on every day can be.

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