Auto Industry News: New Porsche 911 Speedster, Mixed Feelings About Autonomy, and Robot to Deliver Groceries

Last week’s news of the ongoing global economic rollercoaster has us looking to the future for something brighter on the horizon. Luckily, we found a few things. (Whether or not you consider them bright is up to you.) Porsche has teamed up with video game developer Epic Games to create a computer rendering of the new Porsche 911 Speedster. It’s so realistic, it’s almost unsettling. A new survey by Cox Automotive reveals that the average Joe isn’t too keen on a world with fully autonomous vehicles. But that might change when people meet the new adorable grocery-delivery pods Kroger and Nuro are currently deploying in Arizona. All that and more, this week in the Auto News.

New Porsche 911 Speedster: Perfect But Not Real… Yet

Through a collaboration with gaming companies Nvidia and Epic Games, German automaker Porsche developed a video rendering of the new Porsche 911 Speedster concept through what’s called “real-time ray tracing”. This method creates unbelievably realistic reproductions of objects and scenes by tracing individual rays of light as they bounce off surfaces. For a long time, it’s been an intensive and lengthy process. One that requires major computer power. But thanks to some new developments, that technology has just become much more practical—and affordable.

So far, the new Porsche 911 Speedster is the first vehicle designed with the software. And the automaker has been exceedingly happy with the outcome. “The achieved results are proof that real-time technology is revolutionizing how we design and market our vehicles,” said Porsche’s Virtual Design manager, Christian Braun. If you already thought it was difficult pulling your kid away from Fortnite, just wait until this technology picks up steam. Either car commercials are going to get really cool, or we’re only going to enjoy speeding down switchbacks when we plug into the Matrix. Check out the video above and see what you think.

The New Verdict on Fully Autonomous Vehicles

Despite Porsche showing us that Man and Machine can work together harmoniously, the general consensus among human beings seems to be No Thanks… at least in terms of fully autonomous vehicles. According to a new Cox Automotive survey, “the number of respondents that believe roadways would be safer if all vehicles were fully autonomous versus operated by people has decreased 18 percentage points in just two years.” It also reports that while people like having autonomous features—like driver assist options—84 percent of the people surveyed would want the ability to take over in a self-driving vehicle. (We have a few serious questions for the other 16%.)

That means some major PR management will need to go down before the Court of Public Opinion forgets about the woman killed by an UBER in Tempe or Tesla’s deadly autopilot incident in LA. The people have spoken. And as of now: Self-driving cars, you are out.

Nuro and Kroger Launch Fleet of “Cute” Delivery Pods

Unless, you’re going to bring us pizza when it’s rainy outside. Then you can stay, apparently. Kroger just announced that, together with California-based robotics company Nuro, it is testing out driverless delivery vehicles at a Fry’s Food and Drug in Scottsdale, Arizona. The cute and unassuming delivery pod is a fully electric, fully autonomous, purpose-built vehicle. And it’s going to revolutionize the future of e-commerce. With the market for people-movers getting a little crowded by companies like UBER and Waymo, Nuro hopes to carve out its own lucrative niche in the home delivery sector.

The motorized robot that vaguely resembles a toaster is roughly 6 feet tall, 8 feet long, and 3.6 feet wide. Or half the width of a Toyota Corolla, according to Popular Science magazine. It weighs in around 1500 pounds, most of which comes from its battery pack (which can last all day without recharging). Currently, the model can only go about 25 mph and has two main compartments that can each store six grocery bags. Future plans envision increasing that speed and enlarging the cargo space.

Interested consumers order via an app, with no minimum required and only a small $5.95 delivery fee. The technology could be particularly useful for non-drivers, the elderly, or those with disabilities. (As well as a real game-changer for lazy college kids with their parents’ credit cards.) The Nuro car will start its new job sometime in the Fall. We’re betting social media will be documenting its every move.

Get Your Own First-Gen Formula-E Car

And for those of you who don’t mind the progressive future of auto technology, but prefer it to remain fast and staffed by a living, breathing human being, the first-generation Formula-E cars are now on sale. You’ll have to cough up somewhere between $200,000-$289,000. But, considering they were purchased for almost double that back in 2013, it’s practically a steal!

The power output during race mode is 150 kW or 201-hp. Qualifying mode puts up 200 kW or 268-hp. That means these lightweight racers, though retired, are still fit for competition. (If you can fork over the dough.) The new second generation vehicles will debut later this year with more power in qualifying mode and a battery that can withstand the new format of a 45-minute race.

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