Car Tech Live 243: Chevy Volt is the wrong way (podcast)

Chevy Volt spontaneous combustion is investigated, Toyota and BMW swap tech, Tokyo Motor Show wows us with weird (duh), and Maybach is dead.

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BMW and Toyota push the pedal on greener cars

Hybrid car leader Toyota and BMW are joining forces in pursuit of a better vehicle battery.

The two automakers today announced a research partnership around basic research to speed development of next-generation lithium ion battery cells.

As part of the collaboration, BMW will supply its "clean diesel" engines to Toyota for vehicles sold in Europe. The 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter diesel engines are slated for certain Toyota models in Europe starting in 2014, the companies said.

The joint research is designed to give the two companies a leg up on competitors for core technology in cleaner, fuel-efficient … Read more

Toyota Fun-Vii concept is a configurable, connected car

What if changing the color of your car was as simple as tapping an app? Toyota's Fun-Vii concept promises exactly that and more.

The Fun-Vii's skin is actually a massive display that can change its color at will, and display graphics, images, and custom messages for other drivers or bystanders. Toyota gives the visual example of a business using the Fun-Vii to display advertisement livery, but I'd love to be able to quickly throw up a "Back off, chump!" to a tailgater.

The custom graphics aren't limited to the exterior. Toyota also envisions that large interior display surfaces can add augmented reality functionality to the driving experience while allowing the vehicle's interior to be "freely adjustable to match the mood of the moment."… Read more

Toyota's FT-86 gets production specs, new 'GT 86' moniker

We finally have official specs and details about the production model of Toyota's FT-86 small sports car, one of which is its new name: the Toyota GT 86.

At least, it will be known as the GT 86 in the European market. In the Japanese market, it may be simply known as the Toyota 86 or Hachiroku in the Japanese tongue. And when the model reaches U.S. shores next year, it may do so wearing a Scion badge with an FR-S or similar nameplate.

We already knew that Toyota's small sports car would be motivated by a … Read more

Toyota begins Corolla production at new Mississippi plant

Toyota today announced the opening of a new plant near Tupelo, Miss. The $800-million plant will assemble the new Corolla.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Mississippi (TMMMS) covers 1,700 acres. The plant will produce 150,000 vehicles per year and will employ about 2,000 workers, Toyota said in a press release.

Toyota opened the Mississippi plant to keep production closer to its U.S. customers. Engines for the new Corollas will be provided by Toyota's Buffalo, W. Va., engine plant. And cylinder heads and blocks for those engines are produced at Toyota's Bodine Aluminum castings plants, in Troy, … Read more

Baby Toyota Prius c toddles towards production

The Prius family is about to get bigger and smaller at the same time.

Toyota continues its diversification of the Prius line of hybrid vehicles (which currently comprises the Prius v, the Prius Plug-in, and, of course, the standard Prius) with a new downsized model that the automaker thinks will be great for the tight-quarters driving of major metropolitan areas and as an entry point for young drivers interested in hybridization. We've known that this was coming--we've already seen the concept. Now, however, we finally know what the production model of the Prius c will look like when … Read more

Toyota announcement means Intel inside

Toyota and Intel have agreed to jointly research a new automotive infotainment platform with connected car elements and advanced, safe usability.

Although the details remain vague, Toyota and Intel will begin working together on a new cabin tech platform, which not only should cover the basics, such as navigation and phone systems, but also reach through the CAN Bus to interact with vehicle subsystems.

At a meeting with journalists in San Francisco, Staci Palmer, general manager of Intel's automotive division, emphasized developing in-vehicle interfaces that would minimize distraction for the driver. Palmer pointed out that Intel has conducted studies into human machine interfaces (HMI), which will help the company develop the new system with Toyota.… Read more

Peugeot enters the Supermini market

Peugeot is capitalizing on the familiar "renew, reuse, recycle" campaign by adding "regenerate." The French car maker will debut the all-new 208 in Europe in the spring of 2012, replacing the 206 and 207 models.

The automaker also introduced a new range of three-cylinder engines promising fuel economy of 83.1 mpg (2.83 l/100km) using the diesel engines. The 1.0- and 1.2-liter VTi gas engines, also available, offer an estimated 65.7 mpg (3.58 l/100km).

The 208 has been completely redesigned. The controls are positioned around a small steering wheel, … Read more

Toyota plans nursing robots for aging Japan

Toyota wants to help Japan's aging population with machines than can help people move around with a leg brace and a personal transporter.

The Walk Assist Robot is made of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic and attaches to the legs of patients who have suffered paralysis to help them walk.

Weighing 7.7 pounds, the device has a position sensor on the thigh area, a pressure sensor on the sole, and a knee actuator that moves the brace based on data from the sensors.

A timing-lock mechanism ensures that the brace doesn't bend when the foot is planted. The device can also be used for physiotherapy when patients are relearning to walk, according to Toyota.

If the Walk Assist Robot looks like part of Cyberdyne's HAL robot suit, then Toyota's Care Assist Robot takes a page from Riken's Riba person mover.

The Care Assist Robot doesn't look like a giant teddy bear, but it's also designed to help reduce the burden on caregivers who have to move bedridden patients. … Read more

2012 Toyota Camry preview: Inappropriate behavior in a midsize sedan

Toyota showed off the new Camry's maneuverability by letting a group of journalists plow it around a cone course.

A sea of cones littered the blacktop, an orange hell describing a half-mile autocross course filled with tight turns, chicanes, and one long straightaway. A small fleet of 2012 Toyota Camrys waited to tackle this course, not the kind of car I would expect to pilot through here.

But Toyota insisted that, with the 2012 Camry update, the engineers emphasized driving dynamics, along with the mundane virtues that made this midsize sedan a top seller in the U.S. Despite lessening the amount of option configurations to 36 for the 2012 model, I still had quite a choice in which to drive: 2.5-liter four cylinder, 3.5-liter V-6, or hybrid, with three trim levels ranging from LE to XLE. … Read more