Sound Comparison: Ferrari 458 Challenge vs. 488 GT3

Many have cried sacrilege since the debut of the not-so-naturally aspirated Ferrari 488 family. The model's downsized turbo engine has increased both horsepower and torque significantly over the 458, but some people don't seem to care about that. We recently posted a clip of the 488 GT3 racer flying around track with turbos spooling and whooshing, and now we've stumbled upon footage of the last generation 458 Challenge car. In order to settle some disputes, we're going to pit them against each other to see which you prefer once and for all—high-revving N/A or theatrical forced induction?

First to bat is the old school 458 Challenge. Lightened significantly from the standard Italia model, this car is a no-nonsense screamer that incorporates Ferrari's racing pedigree in a beautiful way. It's clad with carbon fiber and polycarbonate windows to enhance the motorsport feel, and thanks to the 4.5-liter V-8, it catapults to a 9,000 rpm redline. It makes 570 horsepower way up high in the rev range, and thanks to a wonderfully tuned exhaust, it emits a noise like this:

Next up is the 488 GT3, a title-contending machine with a pair of snails. The small displacement 3.9-liter V-8 provides more low-end oomph thanks to its turbochargers and has proven successful in the GT3 series against competition like the Audi R8 LMS and BMW M6. Though not a direct comparison as far as racing spec goes, the testing stands true to the purpose. Listen here as the car whistles and wallops around the circuit.

So which do you prefer? The atmospheric, traditional 458 Challenge or the hardcore 488 GT3? Both have their place, but only one can hold the title of Soundtrack King. Let us know in the comments or on The Drive's Facebook page!

Let BBC Earth Lab Explain The Meaning of Horsepower

The origin of "horsepower" may seem obvious, but it has a lot of details that you may not have known about. It was first coined prior to the Industrial Revolution to determine the amount of work steam engines could perform, and then exploded into a marketing ploy that has remained relevant since the 1800s. James Watt formulated the exact meaning of a horsepower, but it's often forgotten as we use the term so commonly, making its beginnings a bit blurry, so let BBC Earth Lab explain.

The video draws comparisons between the automobile and other machines and creatures that perform work—after all, that's the basis of how horsepower is measured. Farmers often used the term to decide how many horses it would take to haul a load—whether it be equipment, grain, or other crops—and it quickly gained popularity once its specifics were sorted out. Famed scientist Watt determined that horsepower would be defined as one horse's ability to pull 75 kilograms at the rate of one meter per second, characterizing the measurement for the masses.

It was then picked up by those who sold products that performed the work of many horses, like steam engines, who boasted seemingly astronomical figures. Whereas today we normally associate horsepower with speed, it started out as a work-focused calculation. Use of the figure has now exploded as auto manufacturers battle for high-horsepower numbers in an effort to sell more cars.

Watch as BBC's Greg Foot gives a quick history lesson on the unit's beginnings.

Mercedes-Benz’s Famous High-Banked Test Track Turns 50

Manufacturer test tracks are playgrounds for both engineers and enthusiasts alike, with sections to simulate nearly every conceivable road condition—and push their cars to the limit and beyond. Given the work-in-progress nature of the new models being tested they're usually off-limits to the public, but some are so unique they manage to capture the collective imagination of the automotive res publica. General Motors has its collage of famous corners at the Milford Proving Grounds, and Volkswagen rocks a five-mile straight at Ehra-Lessien, but Mercedes-Benz wants you to know its iconic 90-degree banked curve is still alive and kicking as it celebrates its 50th birthday this year.

By the mid-1950s, things were looking up for European automakers as the continent recovered from World War II. Mercedes-Benz in particular had a good little business going between the sublime 300SL, their dopey little Ponton cars, and a whole range of commercial vehicles that helped power West Germany's new economy. But as their ambitions increased along with their product lines, Daimler executives realized that they lacked a central one-stop testing facility that could handle every car and truck they produced. After receiving approval to develop an oddly-shaped sliver of land shoehorned between the Neckar River and one of their plants in Stuttgart, Mercedes opened the first iteration in 1957.

While that skidpad and its concentric circles of different road surfaces is undoubtedly very nifty, that was basically the extent of it, and Mercedes engineers soon realized they needed a much more comprehensive setup to fully vet the new models that were already in the pipeline by the late 1950's. After almost a decade of development, the updated facility was revealed to the public in the spring of 1967, featuring high-speed straights, new rough-road tracks, a crosswind simulator, steep inclines, and of course that insanely-banked curve, totaling almost 10 miles of testing surfaces.

And yes, believe it or not Mercedes-Benz does send its commercial vehicles around that bend. This video shows a bunch of bus drivers riding along for a testing session in the Tourismo K coach, and things look pretty hairy from the inside as it basically goes horizontal on the attempt. Mercedes notes in its press release that once a car gets above 93 mph, the driver can take their hands off the wheel as the centrifugal force keeps the front wheels pointed straight.

For a little reference, the curve at NASCAR's Bristol Motor Speedway only reaches 36 degrees, while this one goes completely vertical at its top. On approach, it literally looks like you're about to drive into a wall. Mercedes notes the maximum speed on the turn is just shy of 125 mph—any faster than that and drivers are at risk of blacking out from the excessive G-forces.

Over the years Daimler has continued to add on to the facility, including new off-road sections and "whisper asphalt" surface to isolate and test car noise, but the bones unveiled in 1967 are still its most recognizable parts.

Here’s What a $64 Million Supercar Photo Shoot Looks Like

Supercars are the pinnacle of automotive engineering—that's what makes it so painful to think about how so many special edition Aston Martins or 1-of-1 Ferraris end up parked in sterile garages for the vast majority of their existence. To a lot of buyers, they're mainly investments and eye candy to be occasionally paraded around town or a track, then back to climate-controlled storage for another three months. That's why it's so incredibly cool to watch this new video of the U.K.'s Supercar Driver Club's annual "secret meet" and photo shoot earlier this month, featuring 208 modern and classic supercars with a combined value of almost $64 million.

Supercar Driver is Britain's largest club for supercar owners, and their website makes it clear they strongly believe in living up to the "Driver" half of their name. The result is a slate of annual events focused on getting these machines out of their garage bays and into the world, promising participants "a Matchbox toy collection in the metal." And honestly, it's hard to think of a better way to describe the sight of their show-of-force "secret meet" at the Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground in Leicestershire. Ferraris, McLarens, Lamborghinis, Jaguars, Porches, BMWs, Aston Martins, Audis, TVRs—it's almost impossible to keep track of them all. Not that we're complaining about such a stunning smorgasbord.

The video is full of sweeping, slow-motion shots of the cars parading around the airfield before lining up for the big photo shoot. In case we haven't driven home just how many special cars were involved, check out the list of highlights on their website, or just use your eyes - in the front row alone, there's an Enzo Ferrari, a Porsche 918 Spyder, several F40's, both a Jaguar XJ220 and XJR15, and a Bugatti Chiron smack in the middle. Moving to the second tier there's a boatload of other special editions from Maranello and Stuttgart joined by Aston Martins, Lamborghinis, and McLarens, and if your mind can handle it, another ten rows behind that. Finally, a regal old Hawker Siddeley Nimrod jet brings up the rear. It's basically the ultimate version of that "Justification for Higher Education" garage poster from the eighties.

The event also raised over $16,000 for the Bluebell Wood Children's Hospice. Though that might sound like pocket change compared to all those supercars, they'll be fundraising throughout the year at other events on the schedule. We're not sure how they'll be able to top this spectacle, though.

The Biggest Opportunity Everyone Is Missing In Self-Driving Cars

The self-driving car industry is blowin’ it.

The definitions of self-driving—from ADAS to SAE automation levels to the inconsistent nomenclature used by the media—are a semantic disaster concealing a vast opportunity. There is no doubt increasing automation will make driving safer, but the safest possible implementation is one that maximizes human capabilities rather than treating them like a cancer.

Automakers are missing the biggest opportunity to profit from saving lives on what is likely to be a long, gentle ascent to Level 4. It requires tossing the insufficient logic behind L2/L3 semi-autonomy and probably even Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), and deploying the same hardware and software being developed for L4 as a way to augment human driving.

Though augmented driving represents a clear break from the current crop of semi-autonomous systems, it’s not without precedent. Aircraft are being transformed by automation just as profoundly as cars, but because there is no impetus to move toward pilotless airliners, flight automation systems have been developed to enhance rather than replace human pilots. By following the example set by the commercial aviation sector, automakers can replace the risks inherent to semi-autonomy with the comprehensive assistance of augmented driving.

The Problem is the Transition Gap

Virtually all criticism of Semi-Autonomy focuses on transitions, meaning the length and nature of the control handoff from the system to a human operator.

Transitions are not the problem.

The flaw in Semi-Autonomous driving is inherent: it temporarily substitutes rather than comprehensively assists. The more it improves, the more human skills decline. Even as it improves, every “failure” is attributed to technology rather than human ignorance of it. Its perceived limitations discourage rather than encourage adoption of any form of automation, including future iterations decreasingly skilled drivers will need most, like L4.

Even if someone could “perfect” transitions the overall safety of partial automation will always remain hostage to the atrophying skills of humans in the loop. As Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger stated in an interview about automation, driver’s education is “a national disgrace.” Human driving skills — especially in the United States — have never been great, and the recent spikein American road deaths suggests they are in decline well in advance of automation’s rise. If semi-autonomous systems continue to focus on replacing these skills rather than enhancing them, they will contribute to the very problem they are supposed to solve.

The “transition gap” between declining skills and rising automation will always exist, as untrained humans will always place more faith in technology (and their skills) than warranted. This gap is inherent to semi-autonomy because it is totally binary: it is on, or it is off. That such systems are safer than the average human driver when engaged makes commercializing them a moral imperative, but since they can never improve as quickly as human skill declines, and since the only solution offered by current thinking is L4, they will remain a conceptual dead end, a snake of safety technology eating its own tail until L4 magically becomes ubiquitous at some future date.

That’s nowhere near the best we can do using all the technologies developed along the way.

The Most Important Lesson of Aviation Has Been Ignored

What is Augmented Driving? It’s the synthesis of concepts pioneered in commercial aviation but so far ignored in automotive. What few examples automakers have tried to follow have been limited to infrastructure and protocols impossible to duplicate on the ground in the near or mid-term, like traffic control and ubiquitous communications/location broadcasting.

Augmented Driving ditches the pipe dreams of V2V and V2I by using technology already in place — like drive-by-wire and the increasingly commoditized radars and cameras already part of ADAS/L2 — and adds the higher-resolution GPS and LIDAR-based maps (almost) everyone will build or buy on the way to L4.

The core of Augmented Driving is a car-based implementation of aviation safety systems called Flight Envelope Protections. Airbus and Boeing have been debating and refining these systems for nearly 40 years. That everyone in self-driving research isn’t intimately familiar with them is a disgrace.

What are Flight Envelope Protections? Here’s the wiki:

“...A human machine interfaceextension of an aircraft’s controlsystem that prevents the pilot of an aircraft from making control commands that would force the aircraft to exceed its structural and aerodynamic operating limits. It is used in some form in all modern commercial fly-by-wire aircraft. Its advantage is that it restricts pilots in emergency situations so they can react quickly without endangering the safety of their aircraft.”

Boeing and Airbus differ over the optimal implementation of Envelope Protections. An Airbus will not allow a pilot to exceed certain bank, roll and pitch angles, regardless of input. A Boeing will, but with deterrent haptic feedback that should shame automotive engineers into retirement. Either type of aircraft, flown properly by a trained pilot, is unlikely to bump up against the protections. An untrained, incompetent or drunk pilot, say, equivalent to most drivers on the road today? Envelope protections are their safety net.

Why don’t we have Driving Envelope Protections (DEP)? We do, in the form of ADAS, but they’re relatively primitive. They exist in the form of Anti-Lock Brakes, Traction Control, Stability Control, and Evasive Steering Assistancesystems, but their intervention is inconsistent and largely invisible to — and misunderstood by — drivers. They are poorly or rarely integrated with peer technologieseven within state-of-the-art ADAS suites like that in the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Why should drivers be able to panic steer into a wall clearly indicated by their car’s radar sensors? Or steer into a lane where their Blind Spot Monitoring system has identified a truck?

If we can’t guarantee an improvement in driver training outside of car, let’s move it inside by more closely integrating guardrail technologies with the human driving experience, improving both. Let’s gamify driving in a way that encourages and rewards safer driving, building trust between generations raised on analog driving and the technology that can save them from their own mistakes until L4 arrives.

Driving Envelope Protections Are The Future

No one wants to own a connected Porsche 911 capped at the speed limit for safety, but I would love to own an augmented, very-difficult-to-crash 911 that makes me a safer driver in all conditions, at any speed.

Sound crazy? Here’s what Sully had to say about automation vs augmentation:

“It would be much better — at least at a conceptual level — for humans to have more direct engagement with the operation, and technology to provide guardrails to prevent us from making egregious errors, and to monitor our performance. That would be, in terms of our inherent abilities and limitations, a much better way to go.”

All the pieces of real DEP are falling into place. Add high-resolution maps to ADAS, make driver monitoring systems and hands-on-wheel intervals mandatory, add windshield-mounted Augmented Reality/Head-Up-Displays to improve situational awareness, and you have the L2/3 we need, a system where people will remain sufficiently engaged to resolve edge cases binary L2/3 cannot. Drive well and — like aviation protections — DEP will remain completely invisible. Drive poorly and DEP will catch you.

How precisely would DEP work? What about the UI and UX? That’s for future pieces, but here’s my humorous take on how it might work in a 2036 Porsche 911.

Alex Roy is founder of Geotegic Consulting and the Human Driving Association; editor-at-large at The Drive; host of The Autonocast; co-host of /DRIVE on NBC Sports; and author of The Driver. He has set numerous endurance driving records, including the infamous Cannonball Run record. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram..

Mother Of All Bombs Certainly Did Its Job Based On These New Satellite Images

Estimates as to how many ISIS fighters were killed as a result of America's highly publicized Mother Of All Bombs attack on an ISIS stronghold in Afghanistan's Nangarhar Province continue to grow. New estimates based on what the Afghan National Army saw at the site nearly tripled the original estimate to nearly 100 fighters. That may or may not be accurate, but by looking at new before and after satellite imagery of the target area, it seems as if nearly all features built up on the targeted hillside were wiped off the face of the earth by the strike.

The massive air blast appeared to have worked just as advertised, with the mountainside focusing it effects, and the shockwave expanding down into the valley below. The images above also closely correlate with the official infrared video we have seen of the strike.

When Defense Secretary Mattis was asked earlier today for an updated casualty report from the MOAB strike he said "frankly digging into tunnels to count dead bodies is probably not a good use of our troops’ time when they’re chasing down the enemy that’s still capable.” Mattis also elaborated on his disdain for killed in action metrics as a focus of ongoing military operations, telling reporters while traveling to the Middle East that "for many years we have not been calculating the results of warfare by simply quantifying the number of enemy killed. You all know of the corrosive effect of that sort of metric back in the Vietnam War. It’s something that has stayed with us all these years... You don’t want to start calculating things, as far as what matters, in the crude terms of battle casualties.”

Fair enough, and considering all the streaming video and hyperspectral and radar imagery from aerial and satellite sources the Pentagon has at its disposal, they can ascertain better than anyone that what was is no longer when it comes to ISIS's remote hillside fortification in Nangarhar province.

Mattis speaking to the press aboard an E-4B during his trip to the Middle East.

The area remains closed to civilians and journalists supposedly because fighting continues in pockets throughout the region, and in the vacinity of the MOAB strike. Some think the level of devastation caused by the exotic attack is something the US does not want to share with the press. FLIR imagery of the blast and even satellite photos are one thing, but seeing close-up what an air burst weapon like MOAB can do may be another manner.

Mattis and his team are also fully aware of how big an impact the use of the GBU-43 would have on the media, and like its BLU-82 "Daisy Cutter" predecessor, MOAB is as much a psychological weapon as anything else. When asked about his commanders' decision to use weapon, and if they realized how big of a story it would become, Mattis responded that "I have no doubt that they do. And if they didn’t, I’d remove them.”

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Watch the Best Battles at Round 1 of Formula Drift Japan

Formula Drift returned to Japan at the Suzuka Twin Circuit and the official Formula Drift YouTube channel shared a rerun of the full Top 16 battles. Check out the crazy runs in the video below:

Just like Formula Drift in the United States, the drivers are judged based on angle, speed, and proximity to the inner and outer clip indicators. Extra points are given to those that get close enough to give the wall a light slap.

But what's very different about Formula Drift in Japan compared to the U.S. are the cars themselves – the Top 5 qualifiers at Formula Drift Japan consisted of a JZX100 Chaser, Mark II, and S15 Silvias (sadly, none of which are available here). And while most Formula D competitors in the States prefer the Chevy small-block for its reliability and its accessibility to parts from the local AutoZone, the Japanese prefer their 2JZ and SR20 engines for similar reasons back at their Up Garage and Super Autobacs.

Earlier this week, we also shared a dope video of the legendary Running Free AE86 drift team having fun at Nikko Circuit as well as Hiroshi Takahashi attacking the Gunsai Touge. Drifting was different in the '90s and Running Free's new video allows us to compare drifting back in the day compared to the competitive drifting in Formula Drift we see now.

Be sure to also check out the Formula Drift Top 5 Qualifiers highlight via YouTube drift channel Network A below:

Toyota Introduces ‘Project Portal,’ a Hydrogen-Powered Semi-Truck

As part of a feasibility study, Toyota has announced it will introduce a hydrogen-powered heavy-duty truck into service at the Port of Los Angeles. Dubbed "Project Portal," the hydrogen fuel system is ultimately derived from the one found in the Toyota Mirai—but since Project Portal is slated for heavy-duty operations, it makes heavy-duty power. That means two Mirai fuel cell stacks are combined with an additional 12-kilowatt battery that together create more than 670 horsepower and 1,325 pound-feet of torque, which allows it to handle a maximum combined weight capacity of 80,000 pounds. It also boasts a driving range of more than 200 miles per each fill-up.

Toyota Motor North America EVP Bob Carter said, "Toyota believes that hydrogen fuel cell technology has tremendous potential to become the powertrain of the future. From creating one of the world’s first mass market fuel cell vehicles, to introducing fuel cell buses in Japan, Toyota is a leader in expanding the use of versatile and scalable zero-emission technology."

While infrastructure has been one of the most prohibitive factors preventing the proliferation of hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles, Toyota is working on building out more hydrogen filling stations throughout the state of California, thanks to a recent partnership with Shell.

Project Portal will be deployed this summer and will be a part of the port's Clean Air Action Plan, an agreement that has fought to reduce emissions from port-related operations at both the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach since 2005.

Top Gear’s RC Car Drift Competition Proves Chris Harris Can’t Drift Everything

One of Top Gear's best moments in its already-great season was the challenge set for Chris Harris in episode two, where he had to drift an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio through a car-shaped cutout in a wall. Not only did we get to see the Alfa slide over and over again, but the segment also yielded a few hilarious mistakes and one hell of a finish when Harris finally pulled it off. Now the producers have returned with a sequel—only this time in 1/10 scale, pitting Rory Reid and Chris Harris head-to-head to see who can slide a radio-controlled Nissan 240Z through a piece of cardboard.

Rory Reid played evil umpire in the first video, watching the whole thing from a stilted chair and poking fun at Harris over every missed attempt (and especially the smashed windshield). This time, the two hosts get a few solo practice sessions before going up against each other for all the marbles. Precision drifting in a real car is incredibly difficult, but honestly, it seems like sliding a tiny RC car using the standard twin-stick controller is even tougher. There are purpose-build RC drifters out there, but the distance between the real thing and the scale-model facsimile is pretty stark, if Harris's attempts are any indication.

Reid at least manages to get the little Fairlady sliding in the general direction at first, while Harris keeps plunging straight ahead into the wall or missing it entirely. Once it's time for the actual competition, Reid shocks everyone (including himself, probably) by nailing a perfect drift through the cutout on his first try. We have to admit, it's incredibly satisfying to watch him succeed, and the slow-motion replay revealing a slight reverse-entry approach and fully-locked steering wheels is the cherry on top. Unfortunately for Harris, he can't quite get the hang of it despite Reid's "helpful" advice.

The finale for Top Gear's 24th season airs this Sunday across the pond on the BBC, but as usual, those of us Stateside will have to wait another week (or resort to more questionable methods) to tune in.

Volkswagen Has 4 New EVs Coming

Preparing for the Shanghai Auto Show, Christian Segner, boss of Volkswagen’s EV project, told the press that VW has made “huge progress” in cutting production costs for electric cars. This cost-cutting will translate into four new affordable, zero-emission vehicles coming from Volkswagen. Segner was also a developer for the BMW i3, so he knows a thing or two about bringing futuristic electric cars into the real world.

Volkswagen is making a big EV push in an effort to recover from the Dieselgate disaster, where they got caught cheating on emissions testing. (If you eliminate emissions, you can’t cheat on emissions!) This news also comes in the wake of Volkswagen’s announcement it will invest $300 million in a network of charging stations in the US. Those stations will come in handy when these new EVs hit dealerships—which right now is slated for 2020.

The electric Volkswagens will be sold under the I.D. sub-brand, but it looks like they’ll still wear VW badges. The lineup will consist of two crossovers, a hatchback, and a sedan, with one of the crossovers being unveiled at Auto Shanghai. It’s called the I.D. Crozz, and it’s still very much a concept. It does, however, give us a good idea of where VW is headed with EVs, and the sense that they’re pretty serious about this plug-in effort. The figures we have right now are 302 horsepower, 80 percent charge in thirty minutes, and a range of 311 miles—better than the Tesla Model X.

If VW can execute as well as they’re hoping, it will be a boon for the effort to bringing EVs into the mainstream. We’re not close enough to production to know prices, but Volkswagen is stressing the affordability of I.D. Here’s hoping this new sub-brand finally produces a proper successor to the Microbus, like the I.D. Buzz we saw in Detroit.