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Volvo created the “ultimate driving simulator” using the latest gaming tech

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Engineers at Volvo have created what they call the ultimate driving simulator. The driving simulator wasn’t created for fun. Rather it was created to help them improve vehicle safety and autonomous driving technology. Volvo has a very long history of vehicle safety innovations.

The new ultimate driving simulator provides Volvo with groundbreaking mixed-reality simulation. The set up has a moving driving seat, steering wheel with haptic feedback, and a virtual reality headset. Volvo engineers say the driving simulator makes it hard to tell reality from simulation, which was precisely the point of building it.

The technology behind the driving simulator uses the real-time 3D development platform Unity and tech from a virtual and mixed reality company called Varjo. The simulator involves driving a real car on real roads combining life-like high definition 3D graphics with an augmented reality headset and a full-body Teslasuit providing feedback from a virtual world and monitoring bodily reactions.

The software and hardware allow Volvo engineers to simulate fewer traffic scenarios on a real test track while using a real car in complete safety. The system allows the engineers to gain important insights on the interaction between drivers and the vehicle to develop new safety, driver assistance, and autonomous driving features.

Test drivers can be exposed to imagined active safety and driver assistance features, upcoming autonomous drive user interfaces, future car models, and many other scenarios. The system can be used on a real test track road or in the test lab with fully customizable scenarios of endless variety. Volvo recently demonstrated its ultimate driving simulator, and the video can be seen above. Engineers note that when developing safety systems for vehicles, testing is critical, but testing the systems in the real world can be dangerous, time-consuming, and expensive. Moving the testing to the virtual world saves significant time and money.

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Tesla Model S Convertible by Ares Design: Elon Musk will be proud

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Italian coachbuilder and automotive engineering firm Ares Design is on a roll. After unveiling its latest Land Rover Defender Spec 1.2 earlier this year, the company has come up with a Tesla Model S Convertible with two less doors and a retractable fabric roof.

“At Ares, our Co-create philosophy allows clients to work side by side with our designers and engineers to create their very own bespoke vehicle, a service that is unique to Ares,” said Dany Bahar, Co-founder and CEO of Ares Design. “This Tesla project is a superb example of this; it was a pure coachbuilding project which we very much enjoy doing and seeing the results of our uncompromising standards.”

Wow. We never thought the Tesla Model S would look this good as a convertible model, and Elon Musk should be proud. In our opinion, it’s a better project than retrofitting a gasoline engine to what is otherwise a brilliant electric car, and this project is more than chopping off the roof and calling it a day. If you know Ares, the coachbuilder has a habit of going the extra mile in all its creations, like the C8 Corvette-based S1 Project Spyder, for example.

For the Tesla Model S, Ares modified the chassis, body, aerodynamics, and interior as part of the conversion. Ares engineers got rid of the factory roof, the B-pillars, and the rear doors before installing longer front doors. Also new is the trunk, which is now big enough to stow the folding roof. It also gets new 21-inch bespoke wheels wrapped in 245/35 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.

The Model S also gets an Ares-designed carbon-fiber aero kit to smoothen the airflow when the roof is down. Meanwhile, the interior has custom rear seats, Ice White leather upholstery, and a dash of color with orange detailing.

An anonymous client privately commissions this particular Model S, but the service is available to other Model S owners for a price. Ares has yet to reveal the project’s conversion costs, but we assume it’ll cost a lot. Least to say, this convertible is one of the best reinterpretations of the Model S we’ve seen so far.

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VW Golf production ends for US – Here’s what comes next

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Volkswagen is ending production of the US-spec Golf, calling time on its iconic hatchback, though it won’t be the last of the nameplate in America. Perennially popular, the Golf has seen almost 2.5 million sales in the US since VW first launched it in the market back in 1974.

Now, though, VW’s focus is changing, and electrification is arguably the biggest motivator. Though the Golf offered an early taste of the automaker’s EV plans in the US, the e-Golf was a fairly short-lived car, and predated the new MEB all-electric platform.

Effectively sweeping up what might ordinarily be Golf sales in the US will be the fast-approaching VW ID.4. Volkswagen’s electric crossover will be North America’s first example of an MEB-based vehicle – given the ID.3 hatchback is only being offered in Europe right now – with more distinctive styling and a higher level of technology.

Still, it’s not the end of the Golf nameplate in the US. Come the fall, the new Mk 8 2022 Golf GTI and 2022 Golf R will arrive on American shores, offering a performance take on the hatchback. The 2022 Golf GTI will have a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 245 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic as an option.

The 2022 VW Golf R, meanwhile, will have a more powerful tune of the 2.0-liter engine. It’s expected to get 315 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, with the same choice of transmissions. 4Motion all-wheel drive will also be included as standard, with torque vectoring and a special drift mode.

Although production of the US Golf ended at its Puebla, Mexico plant last week, VW does have a backlog of vehicles to sell through. The automaker expects that the 2021 Golf cars built there will cater to remaining demand in America through to the end of this year.

Unlike in Europe, where there are multiple configurations of Golf – and where sales of the hatchback will continue – the US gets a single trim. The 2021 Golf TSI has a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine with 147 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. It can be had either with a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic with Tiptronic, and has features like 16-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, and leatherette seating surfaces with heated front seats. It’s priced from $23,195 (plus $995 destination) for the stick-shift, or from $23,995 (plus destination) for the automatic.

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Porsche quietly tweaked its Taycan EV’s biggest problem for 2021

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Porsche has quietly increased its range estimates for the 2021 Taycan, addressing arguably the biggest criticism of the Tesla-rivaling electric vehicle as it launches its most affordable version yet. The new 2021 Taycan RWD brings ownership of the EV Porsche sedan down to around $80k before incentives, but there are also changes for the rest of the line-up that the German automaker hadn’t mentioned before.

As is usually the case, the new model year brings a variety of updates and tweaks to the 2021 Taycan. Along with new colors and cabin trim options, Porsche confirmed back in August 2020 that it would be making the 2021 Taycan Turbo S a little faster, and adding Plug & Charge to all variants of the car.

What it didn’t seem to be addressing was range, a dark cloud under which the Taycan had lingered since its initial debut. Despite Porsche’s early estimates, once the US EPA weighed in with its range testing the results weren’t exactly impressive. The automaker pushed back with testing of its own – with very different numbers as a result – but it’s the EPA figures that must be listed officially.

The Environmental Protection Agency is yet to weigh in with range numbers for the 2021 Taycan, but Porsche has previewed what it expects to see the line-up achieve. Its estimates, InsideEVs spotted, show a comfortable improvement over 2020’s figures.

The 2020 Taycan 4S with the 93 kWh battery was rated for 203 miles by the EPA; Porsche says the 2021 Taycan 4S (94 kWh) should do 227 miles, a 24 mile improvement. The 79 kW version of the 2021 Taycan 4S, new for MY21, is expected to get 199 miles of range when the EPA finalizes the numbers, Porsche suggests.

As for the Taycan Turbo, the 2020 version of the car with the 93 kW battery was rated at 201 miles by the EPA. For 2021, Porsche says it should achieve 212 miles, an 11 mile improvement.

Finally, the 2020 Taycan Turbo S was rated at 192 miles of range by the EPA. For the 2021 model year, Porsche suggests it should get 201 miles, a 9 mile improvement that nudges it just past the 200 mile boundary.

Porsche is clear that its numbers are still estimates, and the EPA may well decide differently. It’s unclear whether the automaker has used different test methods, or made improvements in power management that have unlocked a few extra miles along the way. That’s not unusual in the EV space: Chevrolet managed to add 21 miles of extra range to its 2020 Bolt EV with no change in battery size, for example. Instead, it modified cell chemistry and electronics.

Even with Porsche’s new numbers, the Taycan still doesn’t best key rivals like Tesla’s Model S. With the combination of a little extra mileage per charge, however, and support for DC fast charging along with Plug & Charge convenience, living with just what the electric Porsche’s batteries are capable of should be a lot easier.

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