Police: Michigan Teen Driver Caught Speeding at 138 MPH Was ‘Late for Curfew’

There are few terrors comparable to a teenager's dawning realization that there's absolutely no chance they'll make curfew. The helpless panic, the flop sweat, the knowledge of impending doom—it's a Greek tragedy in miniature. It can also get much worse from there, as a 17-year-old in Michigan found out last weekend when he was busted speeding home at 138 mph outside Detroit in a failed attempt to beat the clock.

Michigan State Police laid out the story in a cautionary Twitter post on Thursday afternoon. A trooper spotted a "2012 Chevy" flying up the northbound lanes of I-75 between Pontiac and Flint around 8:45 pm on November 23. At a radar-confirmed 138 mph, it had to be either a Camaro or a Corvette. Need a better argument for not tossing the key for one to someone whose brain is still developing?

Making things even more dangerous, the driver was also reportedly weaving around other cars on the darkened highway. One wrong move—or even one innocent lane change at exactly the wrong time from another car—in that situation could have easily turned this tale into a genuine tragedy. The trooper immediately flicked on his lights and chased after the speeder, who tried to dodge the law by dipping off the highway at the next exit. It didn't work.

When the officer approached the car, he found a scared 17-year-old in the driver's seat who immediately admitted to speeding because he was going to be late for curfew. It's likely the kid's in greater parental peril now; while the trooper decided to cut him some slack and held back on a reckless driving charge, he still handed the teen a ticket for doing 138 in a 70 zone.

As adults, the vision of a panicked teen feeling the mortal stakes of making curfew is funny. The reality of that teen actually putting innocent lives in mortal danger out of a misplaced sense of urgency is decidedly not. Hopefully, he now understands there are fates far worse than being late.

The 5 Hottest Tech Trends of the 2018 LA Auto Show

If there's one thing that's most prevalent at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, it's technology. Many automakers have brought a plethora of future offerings which showcase their forthcoming features to the iPhone generation, packed full of screens, voice recognition, and even the future of software-based driving technology. Let's take a look at some of the hottest upcoming tech-trends we spotted at the L.a. Auto Show this year:

Screens. Everywhere.

Chinese Startup Byton's M-Byte Concept car features an ultra-wide plastered across the dashboard.

As if the bright glowing screen of an iPhone wasn't enough to distract drivers, automakers have opted to now place large displays in front of the driver. This new trend has been popularized following Tesla's adoption as a status symbol, as the Model S and Model 3 both feature large displays as the keystone of their respective interiors. Couple style with the requirement of backup cameras in all new cars sold in the U.S. and the perfect storm has been born.

Some cars, like the Genesis G90, took a more modest approach and snuck the large infotainment screens into the flowing lines of the dashboard. Then you have luxury land-yachts like the all-new Lincoln Navigator which proudly display a large-format tablet protruding from the top of the dashboard. But, perhaps the most extreme case of screen-in-face we could imagine, is the Byton M-Byte (pictured above) which features a screen that measures 49 inches long and spans across the dash, plus a second display mounted on the steering wheel for extra real estate. The BMW Vision iNext followed suit and placed two very large displays on its dashboard as well.

Familiarity With Connected Devices

Familiar technology is rapidly integrating itself into mobility, shifting its focus toward the road rather than solely in your home or pocket. That's why a heavy focus of the 2018 L.A. Auto Show has been the synchrony between technology used in everyday life, like a cell phone, and the automobile.

Volvo expanded on its use of native Android support. Earlier this year, the automaker noted that it looped Google in on the development of its new infotainment platform, meaning that its cars will run Android natively, which includes integration with the Google Play store. The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance made a similar decision in September.

Amazon is even pushing the use of its conversational AI system, Alexa, in cars. For those with an Echo ecosystem at home, it will be second nature to have Alexa usher a playlist or add groceries to a shopping list using only their voice.

Software-Based Driving

Volvo shows off its newest LiDAR technology at the 2018 L.A. Auto Show.

Software-Based Driving solutions are becoming more commonplace than ever. With several iterations already on the market like Tesla's Autopilot and GM's Super Cruise, the technology is beginning to be explored by other automakers. Most concept cars at the L.A. Auto Show noted that they featured some form of driver assistance or autonomy, showing that the auto industry is moving in that direction whether consumers are ready or not. At this point, it's becoming a race to the finish line for manufacturers.

Automakers also held sessions where they spoke on overcoming future hurdles to implement more software-based driving solutions, including preparing more connected highway systems and preparing for the shift it will cause in personal mobility. Volvo was likely the automaker showing the most enthusiasm about its software-driven future, highlighting its advanced LiDAR imaging products alongside technology partners Luminar. BMW explored the future of autonomy with its Vision iNext; although conceptual, the automaker's development chief, Klaus Frohlich, approached the future of self-driving vehicles as a time saver for drivers

Car Sharing and Automobility

Will you give up car ownership in your lifetime? Most people will answer "no," but many of the automakers who attended the L.A. Auto Show are betting against that answer. With congestion running rampant in city centers and ownership models moving in a direction that more aligns with mobility services, analysts believe that the effects of an industry shift will be felt in the next two decades.

Volvo, for example, made a statement by not bringing any cars to the auto show. Instead, company President and CEO Hakan Samuelsson said, "If somebody asks us three years in the future what our mission is we will not answer 'to develop and build and sell cars.' It is to provide the freedom to move in a personal, safe and sustainable way."

Meanwhile, Byton chimed in on its future as well, denouncing cars as means for simple transportation between two points and explaining that the company envisions vehicles to be used for selling digital content to consumers. "Our business model is not selling cars. This is a platform for selling digital content. And eventually we will sell mobility miles." said Carsten Breitfeld, Byton's CEO.

Electric Cars Are the Future

One thing you absolutely can't miss is just how many cars are receiving an electrified treatment. It's undeniable that the industry is shifting to electric cars, and automakers are certainly taking the opportunity to flex just what's coming down the pike.

Some new cars, like startup Rivian's R1S (pictured above) SUV and RT1 pickup truck, are clear targets for the electric automobile market, but land squarely in an area which Tesla isn't currently occupying. The beautiful Audi E-Tron GT, which is built on the same platform as the Porsche Taycan, was teased as well, showing off just how quickly mainstream automakers are moving in towards electrification. Even Kia squeezed in to show off the Soul EV, a moderately priced, aggressively styled city car that gets up to 300 miles of range on a charge.

2019 Mazda3 Can Mate Manual to AWD and Skyactiv-X, but Will It?

A Mazda official revealed in an interview at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, site for Mazda's reveal of its 2019 Mazda3, that the updated compact is mechanically capable of combining its most enthusiast-friendly components.

The 2019 Mazda3 will be available with both manual and automatic transmissions, as confirmed by the automaker on Tuesday. It also stated that the model would be sold with available all-wheel-drive in the United States for the first time (base models will remain front-wheel-drive), and that as many as five engine options will be available to customers. 1.5-, 2.0-, and 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G gasoline engines and a 1.8-liter Skyactiv-D diesel make up the traditional offerings, while the highly-anticipated, supercharged 2.0-liter Skyactiv-X compression ignition engine will be the most advanced option.

Mazda North America's engineering manager Dave Coleman revealed in an interview with Road & Track that the ideal combination of these—manual transmission, AWD, and Skyactiv-X—is feasible.

"The all-wheel drive can be paired with automatic and manual, there's no limitation on that," Coleman told the publication. "It just comes down to us looking at the current climate of customers. Everything is on the table."

Skyactiv-X itself has been designed for compatibility with both manual and automatic transmissions, meaning that the above holy trinity is possible. As for whether Mazda will put the combination into production, the company has not yet decided. A Mazda spokesperson told The Drive that the automaker has "not locked" powertrain configurations or trim levels yet, meaning even Mazda doesn't know if it'll ship Skyactiv-X-powered Mazda3s with manuals and AWD—presumably, it'll come down to the business case for such a vehicle.

Additionally, the company spokesperson confirmed that Skyactiv-X will not be an engine available at launch for the car, with the 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G powering early production models, but no timeline for when the Skyactiv-X will become an option. Even if Mazda decides to build the Mazda3 with Skyactiv-X, AWD, and a manual, it'll be some time before such vehicles roll from the production line. Even if Mazda3s aren't built in this spec, the apparent compatibility of the components means the aftermarket may be able to figure that out for us.

Volkswagen’s Tiniest Car Is All You Need To Terrify Yourself On The Nürburgring

One of the best things about the Nürburgring is that it's just a small town in rural Germany. The same handful of regulars you spend hours watching hoon the 'Ring on YouTube are not that hard to see in person—like real people who exist in real life—if you decide to go. Their showstealing cars are sometimes there, too. You can even rent some of them. That's how I got to drive the true pride of Nürburg this summer: Misha Charoudin's souped-up Volkswagen Up!

If Misha sounds familiar, it's because you've probably killed some time to his 'Ring-centric YouTube channels. His hilarious Boosted Boris YouTube channel led to a job offer at 'Ring rental/taxi shop Apex Nürburg, and he's been living by the Nürburgring since 2015.

This year, Misha broke the news that Porsche was preparing and able to break the all-time Nürburgring record in his typical way: by listening in to marshal chatter, measuring it out, and vlogging it. As for how he got tipped off that Porsche was out preparing their 919 Evo for a record run, he mentioned that Nürburg's a small town like any other, with only around 160 year-round residents.

"People talk," Charoudin said.

This is a squat of approval.

I, a deeply mediocre track driver who'd only driven one lap of the Nürburgring ever, was not there to steal Porsche's fresh new record. I was there to merely experience and enjoy the track, and not end up on a crash compilation video. So, I did the cautious thing and signed up for a rental with an instructor—and luckily, I ended up with Misha himself sitting in the right seat of his internet-famous Sub7Up!

Sure, the car's "Sub7Up!" moniker pokes fun at the fact that only the fastest cars on the Nürburgring have been able to lap its infamous 12.9-mile Nordschleife course in under 7 minutes. However, this modified Up!—which is the smallest car Volkswagen currently sells—is one of the lowest-powered 'Ring rentals you can get. Its times are more in the sub-nine-minute range.

That doesn't mean it isn't fun, though. The Sub7Up! is a turbocharged Up! TSI that has been tastefully modified for 'Ring duty, with the addition of a full roll cage, custom JRZ RS Pro suspension, Recaro racing seats, harnesses and a Guerilla Exhaust system. Power went from the original 90 horses it was rated for up to 126 hp at the wheels thanks to a mild tune. It all rides on Nankang AR-1 semi-slick tires mounted on shiny chrome green 15-inch Cosmis S1 wheels. The Apex team even passed on replacing it with a Volkswagen Up! GTI because they felt their Sub7Up! creation was more fun.

Another driver heads out in the Sub7Up! It's an eye-catching car even during Oldtimer Grand Prix Weekend.

Before Misha and I went out in the Sub7Up!, the Nürburgring reminded me why I was a little nervous about driving it again with a closure. Someone out there done screw'd up, pausing the tourist drive session for a brief cleanup. After a quick tour of the Apex barn and some ogling of fast Porsches that showed up in the driveway, we were off.

The beauty of the Sub7Up! is that it isn't too harsh or twitchy like some track-prepped cars. It still feels like a normal subcompact car. After all, the suspension was set up for one of the most notoriously bumpy tracks on earth, so of course it's a bit compliant.

The car's 2,048-pound weight meant that its five-speed manual transmission was easy to get going, even on a hill. The one-liter, three-cylinder engine put out just enough power in the stripped-down Up! to be fun. It even still had enough of the dashboard inside to have a convenient bin for my Nürburgring entrance card to fit, albeit wedged underneath one of the Puffalumps I often take as passengers on track laps so it wouldn't fly out mid-turn.

In a way, I felt right at home in this little car. I'm used to flogging around a pretty normal front-wheel-drive car—a 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS—on tracks at home. The Up! was lighter and easier to chuck into corners with glee than my Lancer, though. You still had some understeer as you'd expect in a front-wheel-drive car, but not too much to enjoy yourself.

My worries about crashing someone else's Up! because it was an unfamiliar car soon melted away. It's delightfully simple to drive, so much so that I could take my mind off of the car and focus on not eating a wall—and maybe even enjoying myself—on the 'Ring.

Misha's instruction style for my couple laps was not unlike the narrated lap of the Nordschleife he did for Shmee150's channel: a smooth, calm voice running a mile a minute, but letting you know what was Up! (ha) ahead. He was heavy on the details as to where to shift, turn in and brake, and I was grateful for that on a track I'd only been on a handful of times.

It was this calm voice of reason running next to me that was pushing me to keep my foot in it on a track I didn't know, though. This is the part that really broke my brain in perhaps a way it needed to be broken.

Most of the tracks I've driven at home don't have a ton of truly high-speed corners. The Nürburgring does, though—many of which were both unfamiliar and blind. There's a long uphill section in particular where I kept wanting to brake out of habit, but it wasn't time yet. Gravity does more than enough braking for you on that steep section in a small, low-powered car. It's extremely unnerving to hold your foot on the throttle for so long, but by lap two, I was starting to get used to it.

I hadn't been to any instructed track days in over a year, so this drive also served to knock a lot of cobwebs off—especially whatever cobweb kept yo-yoing my foot to the brake pedal when it shouldn't be.

The Sub7Up! was so much fun out there that I came in giggling after my first lap. "I actually got to pass people!" I said when Misha asked how I liked the Sub7Up! It's been a long time since I've gotten to say that.

There's simply nothing more rewarding than getting a slower car to pass faster cars on the same race track. That's all you, man. Not the car. You. I mean, why else do you think I hoon my Lancer all the time when I'm at home?

I noticed that I was starting to make more mistakes on the second lap, which makes sense when you remember that one lap of the 12.9-mile Nordschleife is about the length of four laps at Circuit of the Americas, or six or more laps of most of the other tracks near me. Trying to figure out a track that has anywhere between 73 and 170 curves depending on who you ask can be sensory overload. That's another unexpected thing you need to watch out for at the 'Ring: brain fade. If you feel like you're starting to make dumb little mistakes, it's probably time for a break.

You really notice how small Volkswagen's smallest car is when it's parked between two BMWs.

I left Apex immensely jealous that we don't get the Volkswagen Up! This car was Misha's daily driver before it was a 'Ring rental, after all, as it's all you really need from a basic runabout in a tiny package, with a manual transmission so you won't get bored. This particular Up! was extremely fun to drive with a relatively short list of well-chosen mods. Why can't we have nice things, America?

The funniest part is, I had one of Volkswagen's biggest vehicles for the weekend: an Amarok pickup. Driving the friendly little Up! with an instructor was a good way to prepare myself for the slow, careful mayhem of taking a truck for a lap of the 'Ring—which I had to do, duh. While there's a certain charm to towering over everyone's souped-up 'Ring-tools, the Amarok was far more nose-heavy in the turns. I can now say for certain that the Up! is better suited for track use.

It's impossible not to have some fun in this thing.

So, if you're going to the Nürburgring, it's definitely worth meeting a few of your internet heroes. The locals are nice, and the cars are as good as they are on video. Rent something easy to drive your first few times there so you can concentrate on learning the track, though, as simply remembering what turns are next is a skull-full of information to deal with on its own. You'll find new and fascinating ways to scare yourself in a regular hatchback if you have a good instructor pushing you not to be such a wuss in the right seat, anyway.

And trust me: 126 hp is more than enough to terrify yourself on one of the world's most intimidating race tracks.

[Disclosure: Apex comped everything but fuel for the laps when I mentioned that I was a journalist who was probably going to write about spending a weekend at the Nürburgring. Turns out, they were right! Additionally, the Amarok was a press loaner from Volkswagen, dropped off with a full tank of diesel to use for the week.]

Off-the-Shelf Drones Are Being Used by Bio-Researchers to Accurately Track Aquatic Life

A research team at North Carolina State University (NCSU) has found that an off-the-shelf quadcopter drone is sufficient to effectively collect marine life data as well as aerially track and monitor a variety of species, New Atlas reports.

If you’ve been following the drone industry and its advancements in both affordability and technological sophistication closely enough, you’ll know that UAVs in wildlife research are nothing new. We’ve seen aerial and underwater drones used in everything from studying hurricane aftereffects on marine life and the disentanglement of whales from nets to the effective vaccination of ferrets.

What the NCSU is doing here is using publically available DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ drones to track, monitor, and study a wide variety of megafauna and their behaviors in relation to human populations, as well as the effectiveness of a drone as a research tool itself. The research report was recently published in the Latin American Journal of Aquatic Research.

“Demonstrating the viability of drones for this work matters, because these are inexpensive tools for collecting accurate abundance estimates,” explained NCSU Ph.D. candidate and co-author of the paper, Ernie Hensel. “Those estimates are important for both informing the development of conservation efforts and for assessing the effectiveness of those efforts.”

In addition to unmanned aerial technology allowing for a more accurate assessment of species abundance, and how accurate those assessments themselves have previously been, drones are a helpful method of collecting data while remaining as nonintrusive as possible.

“Drone surveys are also a good way to monitor shallow water, megafauna species because they are not intrusive,” said Hensel. “More traditional monitoring methods—such as both surveys or gill nets—are more invasive, and have the potential to harm individuals or alter their movement patterns.”

In doing so, Hensel and his team managed to spot and monitor a wide swath of marine life at every site they incorporated into their research thanks to the Phantom 2 Vision+.

Additionally, the study incorporated a focus on environmental changes in terms of human encroachment on local marine life populations, with researchers finding that fewer humans resulted in a higher number of megafauna.

“One reason we chose these sites, all of which were on Great Abaco Island in The Bahamas, was because The Bahamas are interested in using several of the sites as a pilot for managed conservation effort,” said Hensel. “Our surveys provide baseline data for marine megafauna abundances within these newly established parks and we show that drones offer a new management tool for the park service of The Bahamas. And, of course, the technology certainly opens doors for us to explore a range of conservation issues.”

Drones seemingly continue to surprise experts in professions across industries with every passing month, with NCSU marine life scientists being no exception. When you have a flying camera that is not only egregiously affordable but can be easily piloted and mastered within hours, it’s no surprise that those in the business of collecting data and information of any sort would be drawn to that modern solution. Hence, we are getting a clearer, more accurate representation of what exactly is happening to a wide group of aquatic species through the mere implementation of a consumer drone. As such, since more information allows for a broader spectrum of possible solutions, that can only be a good thing.

US Border Patrol Spikes-Strips Chevrolet Silverado During Chase, Kills 3 and Injuries 8

A speeding Chevrolet Silverado pickup rolled after hitting a spike strip set by U.S. Border Patrol agents, killing at least three and injuring eight more near San Diego, California.

The truck was spotted weaving through traffic on westbound Interstate 8 at speeds above 100 miles per hour on Thursday afternoon, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. The Silverado was reportedly occupied by 11 people, two in the cab, and nine in the bed, which had no topper or shell.

Border Patrol agents, whose doctrine mandates taking action in chases only when the benefits outweigh the estimated risks, reportedly launched a chase of the vehicle at 4:25 pm PST according to California Highway Patrol spokesperson Officer Travis Garrow. Border Patrol's solution was the deployment of a spike strip to destroy the truck's tires, which although successful, resulted in the driver losing control and hitting an embankment, where the truck rolled.

"It was spike-stripped by the Border Patrol, continued westbound, went up a dirt and rock embankment and rolled, ejecting either nine or 10 people out of the vehicle," stated Garrow.

Of the 11 reported occupants, three were confirmed dead, five had major injuries, and three had minor injuries according to Cal Fire San Diego. Among the three dead was the only female passenger, who was reportedly riding in the cab. The male driver was in the custody of Border Patrol agents as of Thursday evening, for much of which Interstate 8 reportedly remained closed, until at least 7:30 pm.

None of the truck's occupants' ages or immigration statuses are known at this time.

A similar incident occurred in June, when an SUV stuffed with 13 occupants also rolled after a 100 mph-plus chase, resulting in the deaths of at least five.

For Tuners and Hot Rodders, the Electric Cars of the Future Present a Host of New Challenges

Car culture was built on the backs of tuners and tinkerers, the diehard automotive enthusiasts who, for more than a century, have been willing to swap out engines and transmissions and body parts for stronger, lighter, more powerful upgrades—or in more recent times, even just tweak onboard computers for more turbo boost than the manufacturer might have thought prudent. Cars, after all—even the sportiest of them—must still tow the line on economic, efficiency, longevity, durability, and safety when they leave the factory. Why not dig in a bit once it’s yours, even if it means giving up a bit of something the carmaker or government would rather you have to feed your need for speed?

But with the coming age of electrification, is the juice that fuels tuner/hot-rodder/customizer culture about to vanish? After all, electric and hybrid cars are complex black boxes that would scare off even the most committed gearheads. Their motors—dense, sealed cylinders buried deep in the machines—possess no discernible entry point or remotely tweak-able appendages. Batteries present terrifying challenges to anyone without an electrical engineering degree—and rightly so. What’s a wrench looking to dial in quicker acceleration from an electrified ride to do?

At first glance, not much. When I asked a Honda representative at the Los Angeles Auto Show about the potential for owner enhancement of electrified vehicles, the typically tuner-friendly company was—predictably, perhaps—decidedly cautious, despite the rabid car culture that surrounded the Southern California venue.

“We recognize and appreciate that people want to personalize their vehicles, and we don’t expect that to change as more vehicles become electrified,” said Chris Naughton, after consulting with colleagues on the clearly sensitive matter. “That is why we offer a full range of accessories to help personalize vehicle appearance and, depending on the model, a variety of driving modes to suit the mood or need of the driver.”

That said, he then definitively discouraged monkeying with the carmaker's machines in any fashion not developed or endorsed by the company itself, particularly with respect to electric powertrains. “Working with high voltage electrical systems in modern EVs can be very dangerous, with potentially deadly consequences if certain service procedures are not followed precisely,” Naughton said. “Thus, the stakes can be much higher modifying an electric vehicle versus modifying a traditional vehicle, and these risks should not be taken lightly.”

But if owners or even professional aftermarket tuners were to try and climb into an EV’s powertrain to monkey around, they’d likely have a tough time figuring out where to even start. Today’s electric vehicles no longer simply have electric motors in place of the engines and batteries where the gas tank used to be; they’re fully integrated in ways that internal combustion vehicles simply never have been. In the new Audi E-Tron SUV, for example, the Quattro all-wheel-drive system alone taps very specific elements of battery, suspension, and motor capability to fine-tune its off-road scrambling and on-road handling.

“Such powertrains are very hard to mess with,” said Audi engineer Michael Wein, project manager for the electric Quattro system. “You can’t just boost the turbos anymore or put in new gear ratios. They have to be fit precisely to the right battery and the electronics of the motor itself, and all the thermal management systems factor in, as well. It’s nearly impossible to turn this system because it’s really, really complicated.”

He notes by way of example that in internal combustion vehicle programs, each system could be developed more or less independently—but in an electric vehicle, the battery, motor, cooling, chassis, transmission, and electronics, and even the suspension, are all developed as a complete package in a single, very large team. The resulting systems work much faster and in complete harmony with each other—and are in fact already engineered to maximize performance as much as possible. After all, the Tesla Model S P100D electric sedan can accelerate to 60 mph in less than 2.5 seconds, the Audi E-Tron can fully disable its traction control to unleash some legitimately good drifting capabilities, and the Jaguar I-Pace can shred racetracks in the morning then tackle gnarly off-road ascents in the afternoon.

On the other hand, we’ve been monkeying with machines since before the Industrial Revolution, so to think that whole line of human desire might grind to a halt simply because we’re transitioning from cylinders and gasoline to magnets and electrons is ridiculous. Just ask Andrew Saul, founder of Genovation, a Rockville, Maryland-based company that caused a stir at the Los Angeles show with its all-electric Corvette conversion. That 200-plus mph car mates dual electric motors with a conventional, stock seven-speed manual transmission, and multiple battery packs distributed throughout the chassis. He scoffs at the idea that EVs are either untouchable or, more critically, boring.

“My vision for the future of electrification is that it’s going to be fun,” Saul said. “People see this car and are amazed that you can have an electric car with a stick. That’s been extremely gratifying for our team.”

While he acknowledges that many systems, such as in the aforementioned Audi, will be difficult to penetrate, that doesn’t mean you can’t swap components or get creative to fashion a fully customized vision. “It is going to be tricky, because there’s not a lot you can do with a stock system and not many ways you can soup up an electric motor,” he said. “But you can reduce weight to help with braking, handling, and acceleration, and you can change the gear ratios and other parameters, and use higher performance tires for better acceleration and handling.”

The real success, he argues, will come with more deep-tissue approaches that capitalize on the new capabilities brought by the EV revolution. His electric Corvette, for instance, will soon have the ability to instantaneously change performance profiles to ones developed by professional race drivers. For instance, you’ll be able to experience the setup Emerson Fittipaldi developed for the Laguna Seca racetrack, choosing one that most closely matches your current driving environment or preferences. Even more accessibly, many EVs are already starting to come embedded with granular controls of such things as regenerative braking, such as in Honda’s Clarity plug-in hybrid. Though in some respects cryptic to the average owner—and not exactly appearing in the kind of car the import-tuner crowd would go nuts for—its paddle-based braking adjustment system and modulation of the hybrid powertrain does answer many enthusiast driver’s desire for a degree of controllability. As that thinking trickles over to other models, it’ll go a long way toward scratching tuner itches.

That still won’t fully feed the bulldog, though, and modders will inevitably go as deep as they can to achieve the performance they crave. In some ways, this will simply be an extension of what we’ve already mastered: hacking the ECU, the process in which the car’s firmware is tweaked by individuals or aftermarket companies to boost performance. Audi’s Wein noted that even when it comes to full EVs, “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” and a Jaguar engineer echoed that sentiment.

“Anything is possible, particularly as we move toward a more software-driven world,” said Dave Shaw, the chief product engineer for Jaguar Land Rover who oversaw that development in the company's sporty and highly off-roadable I-Pace electric crossover. “Especially if you understand the way the cars or their systems are integrated, the possibilities become endless, really.”

Though the company doesn’t recommend such modifications to its own vehicles, Shaw spoke generally about EVs and the relative ease with which a knowledgeable tuner could dial performance parameters up or down. “As long as you have the battery, the capacity, the current, and the cabling to move one to the other, you can quite literally just ask for more amps to make the car go faster or dial it down to make it more efficient,” he said. “It’s a lot easier than balancing fuel and air mixture ratios. You are governed by the laws of physics, of course—cable sizes, cell characteristics—but you have the flexibility to chip away at the parameter you want to sacrifice, whether its durability, reliability, or something else.”

Hardware modification will be harder, he adds, noting that electric vehicles are engineered very tightly to maximize interior space—but even there, “everything seems to be getting smaller,” so a creative tuner could in the future swap in new or more powerful or more efficient components that will do more with the space originally allotted in the vehicle. For an example of this, consider Orbis Wheels, a California company that has developed a “ring-drive” wheel for the new, already-sporty Honda Civic Type R. This system replaces the undriven rear wheels with a pair of motor-driven rims that provide an additional 50 horsepower and 70 pound-feet of torque to the car’s own 306 hp and 295 lb-ft. Though the system adds 180 pounds to the vehicle weight, the unsprung weight—that of the wheels themselves—is unchanged, since most of the hardware sits in place of the rear seats.

Of course, beyond those ring-drive motors, the Type R is a fully gasoline-powered machine—and this aftermarket hybridization strategy is just one way such a system can be deployed. It coul be used on other hybrids and EVs, as well, boosting their power and performance similarly—and signaling yet again that the future of electrification may be as bright for tuners as anybody else.

Nissan’s Leaf NISMO RC Electric Race Car Wows With 322 HP and AWD

Nissan revealed a racing version of its electric Leaf hatchback on Thursday, naming the car the Leaf Nismo RC. Sadly, it doesn't appear that Nissan will organize a spec racing series for customers or professional racers.

The Leaf Nismo RC is an almost fully redesigned version of the electric road car, sharing but a few styling cues and drivetrain components. As opposed to the road car, the Nismo RC uses a carbon fiber monocoque with an integrated roll cage for rigidity and lightness, giving the car a weight of just 2,690 pounds (1,220 kilograms).

As opposed to the road-going Leaf's 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque from its front axle, the Leaf Nismo RC possesses an inverter and electric motor on each axle, together generating 322 horsepower (240 kilowatts) and 472 pound-feet (640 newton-meters) of torque. This power is distributed to the tires with the most grip at all times, though Nissan doesn't state whether this is done with an electronic differential and active torque vectoring or a traditional mechanical diff and step-down transmission, like on the Volkswagen I.D. R.

All this is good for a zero-to-60 scramble in approximately 3.4 seconds.

Juice flows from a mid-mounted lithium-ion battery, mounted amidships for favorable weight distribution. This battery is identical to the 40-kilowatt-hour unit found in the road car, meaning it too is light, but also not particularly capacious, especially for a race car.

"The all-new LEAF NISMO RC shows how we're setting our sights even higher when it comes to raw power and performance—making electric vehicles even more exciting for customers," stated Nissan's global EV marketing head, Daniele Schillaci. "It's our most thrilling expression yet of the philosophy of Nissan Intelligent Mobility."

Nissan plans to build only six of the Leaf Nismo RC, meaning no customer race cars, and certainly no road cars. The automaker will exhibit the Leaf Nismo RC to the public on Sunday, December 2 at its Nismo Festival at Fuji International Speedway, where Nissan will also show off its second-generation Formula E car, due to race for the first time in mid-December.

The Drive contacted Nissan for additional technical information about the Leaf Nismo RC, and we will update when we receive a response.

GM’s Cruise Autonomous Driving Division Names Dan Ammann as New CEO

General Motors' Cruise self-driving car division has a new leader. Effective January 1, 2019, Dan Ammann will be Cruise's CEO. He replaces Kyle Vogt, who co-founded Cruise as an independent startup. Vogt becomes CTO and president under the new arrangement. GM is leaning heavily on Cruise's tech as it races rival automakers and tech companies to deploy production self-driving cars.

As GM president, Ammann spearheaded the automaker's 2016 acquisition of Cruise, and has managed the relationship with Cruise ever since, the press release said. He recently secured two major investments for Cruise: one from Honda, and one from Japan's SoftBank. The latter is also a major investor in Uber. Ammann's appointment as Cruise CEO has been applauded by analysts, who view it as a sign GM is taking self-driving cars seriously, noted the Detroit Free Press.

Ammann joined GM from Morgan Stanley in 2010. The New Zealand native managed GM's initial public offering (IPO) after the automaker emerged from bankruptcy. He appointed CFO in 2011 and became president in 2014.

Cruise currently tests prototype self-driving cars based on the Chevrolet Bolt EV in Michigan, California, and Arizona. The cars are built on the same Michigan assembly line as regular Bolt EVs, which GM has touted as proof that it will be ready to manufacture large volumes of autonomous cars when the technology matures. The automaker hopes to eventually launch a production self-driving car with no manual controls, likely for ride-hailing services.

News of Ammann's appointment as Cruise CEO comes shortly after GM announced major staff cuts, plant closures, and the culling of many cars from its lineup. GM has said the cuts are being made to free up cash for the development of new technologies. Ammann is currently GM's number-two executive, behind GM CEO Mary Barra, so shifting him to Cruise indicates GM will actually follow through on that plan.

F1: Force India Confirms Lance Stroll Will Partner Sergio Perez in 2019

Formula 1 team Racing Point Force India confirmed Friday the worst-kept secret in F1: Lance Stroll will race for the team in 2019.

The team was put in a precarious financial position over the summer break between the Hungarian and Belgian Grands Prix when a creditor attempted to get its money from the indebted team. Team racing driver Sergio Perez reacted by filing a motion to put the team into administration, rather than forcing the insolvency the creditor sought, putting the team's assets on the market. Lance Stroll's father Lawrence, a fashion mogul and a consortium of financial partners, stepped up to buy the team's assets and the team reappeared not as Sahara Force India, but as Racing Point Force India in Belgium, successfully removing evidence of legally-embattled former team owner Vijay Mallya's involvement.

Perez's continued contract with the team was confirmed in October, and Stroll was assumed to be in the second seat, owing to the important role his father played in getting Stroll to F1. Stroll leapt Formula 2 entirely after winning the 2016 season of FIA Formula 3 Euro by a huge margin, and drove for Williams in 2017 with Felipe Massa, who retired at the end of the year, giving up his seat to Sergey Sirotkin. Stroll again drove for Williams in 2018, but the team announced its drivers to be Robert Kubica and George Russell by the end of the season, confirming Stroll's exodus and making near-certain his replacement of Esteban Ocon at Force India.

"This is the beginning of an incredibly exciting journey in my Formula One career," stated Stroll. "I look forward to working alongside a successful team with a great culture. It’s a new challenge and I am excited to embrace this new opportunity!"

"I'm pleased that we can finally confirm Lance's arrival to race alongside Sergio next year. It gives us an exciting line-up with the perfect blend of youth, talent, and experience," added team principal Otmar Szafnauer. "Lance is only twenty and already has two years of Formula One experience under his belt, as well as a podium finish and a front row start. We see huge potential in Lance and believe we can create an environment in which he can flourish."

"Our team has enjoyed great success nurturing and developing young and talented drivers, and we are very excited to begin our journey with Lance. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Esteban Ocon for his contribution to the team over the last two seasons and wish him well for the future," Szafnauer concluded.

Despite holding the record for the youngest rookie to score a podium finish and youngest driver to start on the front row, Stroll's stock as a driver is doubted by many. He compared unfavorably to the near-retirement Massa in his rookie year and was out-qualified (albeit by a smaller margin) by Sirotkin in 2018. The Canadian has displayed flashes of brilliant driving per the above but struggles to wow consistently, though that may be down in part to the Williams FW41 being a well-established disaster of a car.

Stroll is on a "long-term deal," and the years following 2019 will be pivotal seasons for Stroll, as he will partner the venerable Perez, who is known for his consistency and friendliness to tires. Comparison to a known quantity may determine whether his F1 career will result in more upward movement or a fizzling-out against a stronger teammate at a midfield team. The falling green flag in Australia come 2019 will set the most important years of Stroll's career so far in motion.