Porsche Won’t be Making a Fully-Electric 911, Says CEO

Electrification of cars is the new hot topic, and everything from econoboxes to supercars is getting battery packs. Porsche purists rejoice because the beautiful 911 won't be losing its guts, according to an interview AutoGuide had with Porsche CEO Oliver Blume.

Now, don't get too giddy, because there's a keyword we need to look at: "fully." That is, the Porsche 911 will be getting an electrified drivetrain, which is something we already knew, but it's not going to lose the driving experience that made the German luxury sports car manufacturer so popular to begin with.

Porsche CEO Oliver Blume confirmed that Porsche has been working on a plug-in hybrid version of the 911 that will likely come in time for Porsche's next-generation refresh. With that information came the knowledge that the 911 will never be fully electric, or the company at least has no plans in the works to completely electrify the platform. This could be the reason that Porsche broke off its electrification into the Mission E project rather than just work with its current lineup, to allow for a separation of the purist and pure electric cars.

What about the rest of the Porsche lineup, though? The Cayenne and Panamera already have ventured into electrification in the form of hybrids, so Porsche is open to the idea of electrification. The Boxster and Cayman, two of Porsche's other more entry-level sports cars, may also see electrification, but Blue says that that is still undecided.

“We launched the 718 Boxster and Cayman in 2016,” Blume told AutoGuide. “We are not yet at the point where we have to decide how things will progress.”

Even though Porsche is looking to keep its heritage, the manufacturer seems genuinely open to hybridization and even electrification. It appears that Porsche has identified that there are some consumers who still prefer the grunt of a gasoline-powered sports car and are resisting electrification. Not only is it important to satisfy the consumer, but retaining Porsche's rich heritage is key to the company's vision.

Chinese iPhone Smugglers Used Drones to Transport Mobile Phones Into Shenzhen

Smuggling iPhones from one Chinese city to another might be pretty difficult through the conventional, ground-based methods, but a group of smugglers recently thought of a different way to move that payload: via drone. Unfortunately for them, China customs officials caught them in the act, as the group was attempting to transport the smartphones from Hong Kong into Shenzhen—but not before they successfully smuggled $79.8 million (500 million yuan) worth of refurbished iPhones along that same route prior to the bust.

According to Reuters, 26 suspects were arrested. The smugglers reportedly used unmanned aerial vehicles to pilot two 660-foot cables from Hong Kong and China’s mainland as the foundation to move the series of payloads between cities. If you’re a regular reader of The Drive, you’re well aware that Shenzhen is essentially China’s tech hub, where even DJI has set up shop.

“It’s the first case found in China that drones were being used in cross-border smuggling crimes,” said the Legal Daily, who cited a Shenzhen customs news conference on Thursday. According to Reuters, the gang of smugglers would usually transport the phones in the dead of night, requiring mere seconds to get small packages holding more than 10 phones across the aforementioned distance via drones. Apparently, this group was capable of smuggling up to 15,000 iPhones across the border in one single night. While what they did was clearly illegal, those numbers are absolutely stunning.

According to Reuters, China enacted heavy drone laws in 2017 in order to combat the frequency of near-misses with airplanes. We’ve reported on this very issue before, with Air Newzealand officials calling for harsher penalties for those breaking that law. China also established a mandatory registry for all owners of UAVs weighing a particular amount.

Essentially, this is just another case of drones being used as a tool, like any other. For those calling for stricter regulations regarding drone ownership simply because one group of criminals used them for illegal activities, is like urging congressmen to ban hammers because someone could use one to harm someone else. However, we here at The Drive certainly encourage legal, responsible drone use—no matter how nifty they can be used for criminal activity.

U.S. Energy Providers Reach for Electric Cars to Increase Flatlining Energy Needs

Despite more and more electronics becoming commonplace in the world, electricity demand isn't growing in the United States. More efficient circuitry has finally made waves enough to cause the demand to flatline, leaving utility providers scrambling for a way to increase revenue. That increase may come in the form of electric cars.

Experts have said that utility providers grossly underestimated the viability of renewable energy and its falling cost, eventually leading them to the situation that these providers have found them in now. Some utility companies are teaming up with automakers to offer rebates to their prospective customers who purchase an electric car while others are working to invest in expanding the charging infrastructure to allow for another form of energy reselling.

Recently, a group of lobbying power suppliers wrote a letter to Congress to protest the current EV rebate system and urge legislators to extend the tax credit. Currently, consumers who purchase an EV are entitled to a $7,500 tax credit until the automaker sells combined 200,000 units of any battery-powered vehicle in its fleet. Top U.S. manufacturers like Tesla and GM are on track lose their rebate status by the end of the year, given that they continue to produce and sell EVs in large quantities. This could put U.S. based manufacturers at a disadvantage should they lose the eligibility to offer customers the credit and overseas companies still remain eligible.

Currently, NPR says that less than one percent of cars on the road are electrified. While that may be minuscule now, it is set to rapidly increase as manufacturers and consumers alike are looking towards electrification as the future of their vehicle needs. One out of three consumers say that they would consider buying an EV as their next vehicle, and companies like Volkswagen are planning ahead to set themselves up to produce the necessary amount of cars for the future.

Improving the power situation is going to be a complicated task; it will cost billions of dollars to improve the infrastructure to handle all of the upcoming vehicles to plug in to charge. On top of this, renewable energy is becoming commonplace which adds complexity to balancing the grid. Both are growing at an unprecedented rate that, until just a few years ago, not many people would have predicted.

What to Expect at Richmond Raceway’s 2018 Toyota Series NASCAR Event

NASCAR’s Monster Energy series hit Martinsville Speedway in Virginia last week, and Clint Bowyer came out on top. Virginia’s next NASCAR event takes place at the Richmond Raceway and will be the ToyotaCare 250 and Toyota Owners 400 on April 20 and 21.

The high-powered races will feature some of the best talent. Last year’s Monster Energy champion Martin Truex Jr., longtime Xfinity vet Denny Hamlin, tenured racer Kyle Busch, champion of the World Camping Truck Series Eric Jones, and Daniel Suarez, NASCAR’s first Mexican-born winner, will lead the pack. Each of these men will also drive a Toyota stock car.

The men have all contributed to Toyota’s success in NASCAR. Busch holds nearly half of Toyota’s 332 NASCAR wins, Jones drives the No. 20 Toyota Camry, and Suarez, Hamlin, and Truex Jr. piloted customized Camry models with bold liveries and top-notch performance last year.

Toyota has served as a leading sponsor of the Richmond Raceway since 2013. The Raceway’s Vice President, Michael Waddell, said that Toyota was chosen as a sponsor because of its outstanding customer service.

“They really look to put value back into that relationship,” said Waddell in an interview with The Drive. "It’s not a transaction but a true relationship.”

The raceway staff attends monthly meetings with mid-Atlantic Toyota Dealerships and recently hosted a go-karting competition with the company. At the race, Toyota customers will be rewarded with promotional gifts and exclusive parking.

Michael Rooker, who played Rowdy Burns in the racing doc Days of Thunder, will wave the green flag at Saturday’s race. “We felt like that would certainly be a thrill for our fans to meet him,” said Waddell. Rooker, who was just named the raceway’s “Honorary Pace Car Driver,” will also drive onto the track in an Official Toyota Camry Pace Car to inaugurate the race.

Saturday’s race will feature a “Track Takeover,” a unique event that allows attendees to walk around the track with Daytona 500 champion Austin Dillon while viewing interactive displays.

With the Toyota series’ impressive roster of celebrity-packed, engaging activities, the race is bound to have a positive financial impact on NASCAR, which has faced recent monetary woes. Richmond Raceway only hosts two annual events but is working hard to address and combat NASCAR’s tribulations.

Richmond Raceway execs including Waddell and the track’s president, Dennis Bickmeier founded racingvirgina.com last April to showcase news and racing events at Virginia commonwealth’s 23 racetracks. In December, Waddell met with staff from eight of these tracks to discuss what they can do to improve the financially challenged industry. According to Waddell, Virginia now hosts more than 400 motorsport-related events every year.

The raceway is also in the midst of a major reconstruction, titled Richmond Raceway Reimagined, to be completed this fall. The $30 million project is run by the International Speedway Corporation, which will help build new garages, a revamped infield, and modernized seating for close-up views of each race.

“We are known as the try-something track,” Waddell said. “We’re going to be very aggressive in developing new programming that differentiates our track from others.”

Still, Waddell emphasized that the Toyota races are more about customer satisfaction than monetary gain.

“We’re gonna give them the opportunity to just engage and just be a part of our experience like no other,” he said.

The Richmond Raceway will host one more NASCAR event in September—the Federated Autoparts 400, also sponsored by Monster Energy.

One of GM’s Cruise Self Driving Cars Just Got a Ticket in California

Autonomous car development is having a rough month. From a self-driving Uber striking and killing a pedestrian in Arizona to Tesla's Autopilot being engaged in a fatal crash in California, the news just keeps piling up. Now, an autonomous Chevy Bolt by GM's autonomous division, Cruise, has been ticketed according to local news. The company disagrees and says it has the data to prove that no wrongdoing occurred.

The car was pulled over by an officer on the streets of San Francisco for not yielding to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, according to reports. Cruise feels that this is an incorrect assertation of events. The Bolt was in an autonomous driving mode, meaning that its sensors were collecting data as it drove down the street and the car logged the information as it used it to make decisions on just how to operate. The data it collected suggests that the pedestrian was 10.8 feet away from the car while it passed through the intersection, insinuating that the car did nothing wrong.

“Safety is our priority in testing our self-driving vehicles," Cruise said in a statement. "California law requires the vehicle to yield the right of way to pedestrians, allowing them to proceed undisturbed and unhurried without fear of interference of their safe passage through an intersection. Our data indicates that’s what happened here.”

One concern that many have is the ability for autonomous cars to be "bullied" by pedestrians who walk into traffic or are otherwise aggressive with oncoming cars. As long as the technology is working right, we should be seeing autonomy being more adaptive to pedestrians who are in its path. Cruise stated that its systems were functioning as intended and followed all laws pertaining to pedestrians.

The driver behind the wheel of the Bolt has been issued a ticket, according to the Bay Area news station. This brings into question just who should be held responsible for scenarios such as the one which Cruise found themselves in. If a ticket is issued, whether valid or not, while a car is in an autonomous driving mode, who is ultimately responsible for the illegal maneuver? Should drivers be expected to override the vehicle? These are all questions which further elaborate on the need for legislation surrounding self-driving cars.

Tesla Driver Allegedly Reported Autopilot Issues to Dealer Several Times Prior to Fatal Crash

Tesla confirmed that its self-driving feature, Autopilot, was engaged in a fatal accident that occurred in California. Walter Huang, the driver of the Model X, struck a compressed traffic attenuator and was killed despite having Autopilot engaged. Prior to the data being revealed, the man's family made complaints to local outlet Mercury News that he had reportedly brought his Model X to Tesla several times over complaints about the Autopilot system.

Tesla's Autopilot is far from being crowned a perfect driver. Complaints about the company's latest hardware revision, called AP2, have been made by drivers for many months, often claiming that they felt the system was not as accurate as the company's first iteration, AP1. The updated technology has often shown past difficulty of being able to avoid traveling into other lanes; however, Tesla's over-the-air firmware updates have seemingly improved upon them since the introduction of AP2.

Huang's family reportedly told local news that Huang made several complaints to his local Tesla dealer regarding the vehicle veering off the road with Autopilot engaged. What seemingly makes matters worse is that the dealer was allegedly told that it wasn't just any stretch of road Huang experienced the problem with, but the same stretch of road where the accident occurred.

A Tesla spokesperson told local news that they could find no record suggesting that Huang ever reported the Autopilot performance complaints to Tesla.

The manufacturer's investigation over the crash revealed that Huang had his hands off of the steering wheel when the accident occurred, and despite receiving warnings for over six seconds prior to the crash, no action was said to be taken by the driver. Tesla goes on to defend Autopilot by stating that it is 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident than a human driver.

Judging by the new information found by Tesla and the opposing details from Huang's family over past Autopilot complaints, it's quite likely that we will continue to read about this accident for some time. Autonomy is under a microscope after a self-driving Uber car struck and killed a pedestrian several weeks ago. Lawmakers will likely use the two cases to help decide the future legislation governing autonomous driving.

Colorado Cops Concede Car Chase To Ford Mustang Doing 150 MPH

Will you tone it down, Maverick? A driver in Colorado felt the need for speed, which initially attracted, and later repelled responding red-and-blue.

The Denver Post reports that an unknown individual, in an older, dark-colored Ford Mustang, blitzed along a stretch of Interstate 70 that follows the contours of the Colorado River, west of the mountain town Glenwood Springs. Their speed scratched 140 miles per hour, and when the Colorado State Patrol began pursuit with full sirens and flashing lights around 12:30 a.m., the errant driver's speed increased to 150 miles per hour.

"They tried to catch up. They weren’t doing it," stated Colorado State Patrol spokesman, Trooper Gary Cooper, to The Denver Post. "They couldn’t get close enough."

"It’s extremely reckless, especially with people who haven’t been trained to drive at those speeds," continued Trooper Cooper, who advised of the risks of high-speed driving, calling to attention the possibility of tire blowouts and overheated brakes, which are particularly common with out-of-state travelers new to mountain driving.

The Drive reached out to the Colorado State Patrol for confirmation of the driver's speed and information on Interstate 70's speed limit in the area of the pursuit, though no response has yet been received.

While this Mustang's driver was fortunate that their plates were not read, on account of their speed, high-speed police chases almost never end favorably for the fleeing party. While a pair of maniacs in a rented Corvette in Florida may have not been caught in the heat of the moment, at least one has so far received comeuppance. Sometimes, even bystanders interfere, as a speeding Dodge Challenger Hellcat driver learned when two semi trucks, sick of his antics, boxed him in for law enforcement to catch up.

Keep in mind that people always talk about the one that got away, never the dozens that were caught. Remember that the next time you decided to weave through traffic at three-digit speeds.

Alibaba’s Car Vending Machine Will Soon Open in China

Ford and Alibaba have been working together to launch a car sales platform in China for quite some time. Together, the two companies designed a large vending machine used to enhance the test drive experience for customers and making getting into a car easier than having to visit a dealership.

The vending machine is coined the "Super Test-Drive Center," and is located in China's southern city, Guangzhou. Its name is fairly appropriate because over 100 vehicles will be available to test drive at any given time, including the Edge, Explorer, Mustang, and Chinese-built Everest SUV.

Ford Asia-Pacific's VP of Marketing, Dean Stoneley, agreed that the vending machine was all about convenience. In a statement, the VP said, “We are looking for ways to simplify customers’ lives and give them the ultimate try-before-you-buy experience.”

Customers will be able to drive the vehicles for up to three days at no cost, so as long as they have a high enough Zhima (also called "Sesame") social credit score. Otherwise, customers will be required somewhere between $16 and $32 for the experience, depending on what model they choose. Frankly, that doesn't seem to be that bad of a price for renting a car for three days. Once booked via the mobile app, test drivers will need to snap a selfie to confirm the booking.

This vending machine might not be as cool as the one in neighboring country Singapore (and it might not be the first in the world either) but it's still a neat concept. We all know what it's like to walk into a car dealer and feel the pressure of a salesperson, even when we just want to test how it feels to sit or shift a particular model. This approach takes the stress away from just that and makes the car trying process a lot more enjoyable, plus Ford doesn't have to fight the Car Dealer's Association to put up this contraption. The vending machine will open on April 23.

What You Need to Know About the Haas F1 ‘Ferrari Replica’ Row

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso dubbed it a ‘Ferrari replica,’ McLaren director Zak Brown a ‘Faas,’ and it’s been compared to both last and this year’s prancing hors; whatever you want to call it, the Haas VF-18 is a divisive machine.

Haas’ technical tie-up with Ferrari is nothing new. It was announced in 2014 before the team even debuted in Formula 1 come 2016. From its very first charger, the VF-16, there’s always been a ‘Ferrari familiarity’ to Haas’ cars, but the American team’s strong pace at the start of the 2018 season has its rivals (back) up in arms about its relationship with Ferrari and what is and isn’t allowed.

What is allowed?

Technical partnerships are perfectly fine, provided a team still meets the criteria for being a constructor. This is determined by designing (or owning the IP to) certain so-called ‘listed parts’. That includes, crucially, all bodywork “in contact with the external airstream,” i.e. all aerodynamic surfaces of the car, excluding items such as cameras, lights, etc.

Haas designs its own bodywork and supplies its drawings to Italian chassis constructor and manufacturer Dallara. Haas uses Ferrari’s Maranello wind tunnel for part of this aerodynamic development work, however, and in addition buys whatever it’s allowed to from Ferrari ranging from engines, gearboxes, and the suspension system to mechanical parts.

So what are Haas’ rivals upset about?

McLaren and Force India have been particularly critical following Haas’ strong showing in winter testing and the season-opening Australian Grand Prix weekend, where it locked out the third row in qualifying but failed to score due to trouble in the pits. Their chief concern is not Haas running as many Ferrari parts as possible, but the similarity of its car concept and aerodynamics to recent Ferraris. “Is it yours or somebody else’s [idea]? That’s the real question,” Force India’s chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer told Autosport.

“Maybe it’s their own, it’s just suspect,” said Szafnauer, who is baffled by Haas’ ideas and solutions compared to its limited experience, small scale and infrastructure. “How can you gain that knowledge without history and the right tools and people?” Force India’s technical director Andrew Green took it one step further, telling Auto, Motor und Sport that “you can’t tell me they [Haas and Ferrari] don’t communicate to develop more quickly and problem-solve.”

McLaren’s Zak Brown told Autosport he doesn’t have evidence of anything untoward happening, but: “We all know they have a very close alliance with Ferrari and I think we just need to make sure it’s not too close. There could be some influence, there’s certainly some parts of the car that look very similar to last year’s [Ferrari] car.”

Why are they complaining now?

Haas finished eighth in the constructors’ championship in 2016 and 2017, but based on the first race of 2018 could turn out to be a serious contender to finish a ‘best of the rest’ fourth behind the big three: Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. Force India claimed fourth in both 2016 and 2017, with the Silverstone-based team targeting a repeat and McLaren—ninth in 2017—aiming for fourth or better this year.

What is Haas’ response?

“Everybody is allowed to have an opinion. Some people have an opinion, which I think is based on no facts. It does not have a lot of value to me,” Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner countered in a team press release. “If people have an issue, fine with me. We report what we are doing, like everybody else, to the FIA. That’s why I’m more than confident we are not doing anything wrong.”

Romain Grosjean in the Haas VF-18.

Now what?

That depends. Force India and McLaren could file an official protest against the VF-18 at next weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, as Steiner has invited (or challenged) them to do. Will Haas’ rivals take it that far? A lot will no doubt depend on how strong the U.S. team performs in the coming races. Force India and McLaren could also raise questions about how the FIA, which has said it has no concerns about the Haas-Ferrari relationship, regulates such technical partnerships, which would turn it into a different discussion altogether.

IndyCar’s Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden Involved in Legit Autograph War

Much like the legendary (and non-existent) Ricky Bobby once signed a baby's forehead while surrounded by dozens of clamoring fans, IndyCar's reigning champion Josef Newgarden and his teammate Simon Pagenaud are running loose autographing everything they can get their hands on. But not to worry, because everything Pagenaud is singing only belongs to Newgarden, and everything Newgarden is branding only belongs to Pagenaud. Especially his house...

It's safe to say that this autograph battle currently trending on social media as #IndyCarAutographBattle doesn't come as a surprise. After all, we're talking about two guys who race for Team Penske, one of the most prestigious IndyCar organizations, and love doing nothing more than competing and winning. Of course, in this case, we're not sure what actually accounts for "winning," as the sport of Sharpie-ing doesn't quite have a governing body, rulebook, or really even exist yet.

The autograph battle, which by now has seen the homes of both racing drivers autographed by their respective teammates began when Pagenaud had to transport Newgarden's racing suit and helmet so he could have it on time for a promo shoot at the Indianapolis airport. Following the drivers' return to their respective homes in Charlotte, North Carolina, Newgarden forgot to request the suit and helmet back from Pagenaud who, like any good teammate would, proceeded to sign the visor of Newgarden's helmet and share the video on Twitter.

But don't think for a minute that Newgarden is the victim of Pagenaud's mischief, because Newgarden had already taunted Pagenaud and other IndyCar drivers while going on an autographing spree at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway boutique at the airport, which saw the IndyCar show car and even an innocent bystander get autographed by the Tennessee native.

How did this even happen; where will it end; who or what will get attacked by these outlaw Sharpie-maniacs? This is what Pagenaud told The Drive: "The #IndyCarAutographBattle totally happened out of nowhere, but we're having some fun with it that's for sure. Josef and I have really serious jobs, but at the end of the day we're big, competitive kids. After Josef signed my house last night we went ahead and instituted a few boundaries, but I absolutely plan to get really creative. Hopefully the fans are enjoying this too, and if any fans have ideas for things I should sign please don't hesitate to let me know."

Who will strike next?