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A Gearhead's Motorhead

Automotive editor John Voelcker wants to explain

2 min read

One afternoon in November 2003, John Voelcker was driving the back roads near Woodstock, N.Y., when he got a call from a colleague from his days at IEEE Spectrum in the 1980s. It was Glenn Zorpette, now Spectrum ’s executive ­editor, who wanted to know whether Voelcker would like to do a feature story called ”Top 10 Tech Cars”--but Zorpette could hardly finish the question. ”Are you kidding?” Voelcker shot back. ”Of course I would!” And he’s done it ever since.

This January he went to the North American International Auto Show, in Detroit, one of the global auto industry’s most ­visible events. In three days packed with 37 ­scheduled media events, Voelcker ­interviewed engineers and ­executives; attended a ­blizzard of receptions, dinners, and social events; and ­eyeballed a lot of ­vehicles (the photo above shows him standing in front of Toyota’s A-BAT hybrid concept truck). He boiled it all down as part of this year’s story.

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Chinese Joint Venture Will Begin Mass-Producing an Autonomous Electric Car

With the Robo-01, Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely aim for a fully self-driving car

4 min read
A black car sits against a white backdrop decorated with Chinese writing. The car’s doors are open, like a butterfly’s wings. Two charging stations are on the car’s left; two men stand on the right.

The Robo-01 autonomous electric car shows off its butterfly doors at a reveal to the media in Beijing, in June 2022.

Tingshu Wang/Reuters/Alamy

In October, a startup called Jidu Automotive, backed by Chinese AI giant Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely, officially released an autonomous electric car, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition. In 2023, the car will go on sale.

At roughly US $55,000, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition is a limited edition, cobranded with China’s Lunar Exploration Project. It has two lidars, a 5-millimeter-wave radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 12 high-definition cameras. It is the first vehicle to offer on-board, AI-assisted voice recognition, with voice response speeds within 700 milliseconds, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8295 chip.

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