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The crew at +The Verge took up John Oliver's challenge and create an awesome video report of the Aereo case being argued in the supreme court?

Here's a good video explaining why its important to replace your tires when the tread is too worn

Here's a good video explaining why its important to replace your tires when the tread is too worn

It seems like a lifetime ago now, but I actually got a patent back in my engineering days for an algorithm to detect aquaplaning as part of ABS systems.

2015 Chrysler 200C V6, Finally a Real Midsize Competitor

2015 Chrysler 200C 01

When Chrysler unveiled the new 2015 200 midsize sedan at the Detroit Auto Show last January, the team from Auburn Hills was clearly trying to expunge the final remnants of the company’s lost decade under first Daimler and then private equity ownership. Chrysler’s new mainstream family sedan was certainly a huge leap forward from its disappointing predecessor in the aesthetic department, but could it compete with the class leaders from Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai and Ford? The only way to find out was to drive one.

The previous generation Chrysler 200 started life badged as the Sebring and it along with the discontinued Dodge Avenger was to put it mildly, lumpy and homely. For a company that had set a then-highwater mark for sedan styling in the early to mid-1990s, the Sebring and Avenger were clear evidence of a company that had lost its way. In the wake of Chrysler’s 2009 bankruptcy reorganization and the takeover by Fiat, Chrysler rushed through a crash program to update its entire model lineup in just 18 months. While these efforts helped, and showed there was still a lot of life in Auburn Hills, the renamed 200 was still far from being either competitive or attractive.

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Four years later, Chrysler done complete redesigns of virtually its entire model lineup and now has greater integration and collaboration with Fiat than they ever had with Daimler. The Chrysler design team led by Ralph Gilles, has adopted the current design trend of sleek, coupe-like profiles for the 200. The result is a contemporary shape that wouldn’t look out of place parked among the latest creations from Ingolstadt, Munich, Stuttgart or Dearborn.


The optional 19-inch wheels on the 200C bear a striking resemblance to those on this 2009 Audi R8 V10

Interestingly, when I first saw the test car, the 19-inch alloy wheels looked surprisingly familiar until I realized that they were virtually identical to those on an Audi R8 I had reviewed five years ago. If you’re going to copy a wheel design that’s certainly not a bad place to start.

The contemporary look and feel extends into the cabin which is lined with attractive and nice to the touch materials. Once settled in, it’s nice to see that aside from the 8.4-inch touchscreen display, the designers have opted for physical switches and controls, eschewing capacitive touch interfaces.

The rotary control knob for 9-speed transmission recalls the one in the Jaguar XF

The rotary control knob for 9-speed transmission recalls the one in the Jaguar XF

The center console gets a touch of Jaguar with a large rotary knob to control the transmission, but unlike the British cars, this one doesn’t recess into the console when the car is shut off making one less thing to potentially go wrong. Like most other mainstream sedans today, the 200C also forgoes the option of a manual transmission. The upside is that the electronic switchgear in the upward sloping console doesn’t take much space, leaving room for an ample storage area below that is accessible from either the driver or passenger side.

The absence of a mechanical shift linkage allows a storage bin below the center stack

The absence of a mechanical shift linkage allows a storage bin below the center stack

The storage continues behind the shift knob. A release ahead of and to the right of the cup holders lets the entire top portion of the console slide backward, exposing a deep bin with USB ports for connecting and charging devices, an auxiliary audio in and in the loaded 200C I drove, a 110-volt AC outlet for powering larger devices. A small opening allows charging cables to be passed forward to the front storage area for easy access to phones.

The one somewhat disappointing aspect of the interior is the front seats. At first glance they appear to be well shaped and supportive, but as soon as you sit down, you realize they are simply too wide to provide any useful bracing during spirited cornering. They are reasonably comfortable when driving in a straight line and provide good thigh and back support, but unless your torso is exceptionally wide of girth, you won’t be using the side bolsters until you slide into them. Once in place you’ll also notice that the pillars are all relatively thick and the roof wraps down over the sides, impacting visibility out of the car.

The front seats look supportive but they are too wide

The front seats look supportive but they are too wide

Interestingly, the “midsize” 200 is only marginally larger than the compact Dodge Dart which also rides on the same Alfa Romeo-based platform. While the overall length and width of the 200 is comparable to the Fusion, the wheelbase is more than four inches shorter and only 1.6 inches longer than the Dart. Nonetheless, the 200 offers plenty of rear seat leg, hip and shoulder room. The rear seat is actually set fairly high up so adults won’t be sitting with their knees much above their hips. However, that sleek roofline means that anyone over about six feet in height might find themselves ducking a bit.

2015 Chrysler 200C 21Back in 2012 when Ford launched the current Fusion, a big part of the story of the car was that it had the most complete suite of advanced driver assist features of any mainstream family sedan. Ford can no longer make that claim now that the new 200 is available. The Chrysler has everything the Fusion offers and more.Chrysler was the first automaker to introduce a radar-based blind spot information and cross-traffic alert system on its minivans back in 2008 and that continues on the 200 along with a rear backup camera. The backup camera is enabled by an auto-brake system that will automatically apply the brakes below 4 mph to help prevent you from reversing into an object.

Chrysler one-ups Ford’s very cool active park assist by enabling perpendicular parking in addition to parallel. Lexus was the first to introduce a system like this back around 2008, but unlike that feature which quickly became the butt of jokes, the Chrysler system really works. The 200 has six ultrasonic sensors in the bumpers and corners to measure if a space is large enough to accommodate the car. if it fits, the driver just has to put the transmission in reverse, release the steering wheel and use the brake to control vehicle speed. The car will automatically maneuver itself into the parking space, flawlessly centering itself everytime. If the maneuvering room for perpendicular parking is too tight, the car might alert the driver to go into drive partway through as the car adjusts before resuming rearward motion, but there will be no more parking embarrassment with this car.

The rear seats offer plenty of leg, shoulder and hip room but taller riders might find head room tight

The rear seats offer plenty of leg, shoulder and hip room but taller riders might find head room tight

The lane departure warning and lane keeping system, works much like what Ford offers, providing alerts in the instrument cluster display if the car drifts out of the lane without a turn signal activated. If the driver doesn’t correct the direction, the electric power steering will automatically nudge the car back toward the center of the lane.

Another feature where the 200 outperforms the Fusion is the adaptive cruise control. The Ford system automatically disengages at about 20 mph.Ford does offer full-speed city stop and go ACC in Europe, but for some reason has not yet made it available in North America. Like the systems in premium German cars, Chrysler uses two radar sensors, one for medium to longer distances and a second short-range sensor.

This enables the 200 to come to a complete stop when following another car in traffic. If traffic resumes within a couple of seconds after a stop, the car will automatically accelerate and follow. If you are stationary for more than a few seconds, a tap of the resume button on the steering wheel will get the car moving again without touch the pedals. It’s not quite as sophisticated as the SuperCruise semi-autonomous system that Cadillac is bringing to market in 2016, but it did a really great job when I encountered some stop and go traffic on the freeway on my way to an appointment.

2015 Chrysler 200C 22Chrysler’s most advanced UConnect 8.4 infotainment system was a bit of a mixed bag. The user interface is fairly clean and responds well to touch inputs unlike a certain system from Dearborn. The voice recognition system was also reasonably accurate although it exhibits the same problem that most factory navigation systems have when it comes to map completeness. Cloud-based maps from Google and even to a lesser extent, Apple have far and away the most thorough databases of streets and points of interest and they can virtually all be called up by voice. Integrated systems are by nature less thorough and static so its not unusual to not be able to find newer restaurants or streets.

One area where Ford still leads all automakers including Chrysler is the SYNC AppLink system. Smartphone apps that incorporate the interface hooks to AppLink can be easily controlled directly from the car’s voice recognition or radio controls. There is nothing to sign up for or pay for. Like many other automakers including Toyota and Nissan, Chrysler has opted to create a proprietary UConnect app that incorporates several other apps including Pandora, iHeartRadio, Slacker and Aha Radio. I can’t tell you how or if it works because like NissanConnect I couldn’t get an account to work with the test car. I can’t wait until everyone just adopts Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and stops trying to do this stuff in-house.

Chrysler is the first automaker to adopt the ZF-designed nine-speed automatic transaxle. This unit debuted last year in the new Jeep Cherokee after some delays to correct some calibration issues and it is used with both the standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder and the optional 3.6-liter V6 engines in the 200. For the most part, it shifted pretty smoothly when the transmission knob was in the D position.

However, in sport mode, the shifts were much more noticeable with a significant jerk each time a new gear was selected. There was no mechanical clunking from the transmission, it just seemed like less than ideal control on the software side. This might be more forgivable if the 200C offered more aggressive acceleration, but frankly it felt equally relaxed regardless of the transmission mode. Not slow, but not spritely either, just adequate.

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Ride quality was quite good on what passes for pavement in southeast Michigan, especially considering the no doubt ample mass of those 19-inch wheels. Steering responsiveness and effort was quite good although the electric power steering didn’t really provide much in the way of real feedback about the forces at the front wheels.

The use of a nine-speed transmission would be expected to improve fuel efficiency and in fact the four-cylinder 200 gets an EPA estimate of 23 mpg city and 36 mpg highway, in the same ball-park as its competitors. However, the V6-powered car I drove is only rated at 19 mpg city, well short of the 22 mpg ratings for the 2.0-liter EcoBoost Fusion and 3.5-liter V6 Honda Accord. In mixed city and highway driving I saw about 22 mpg combined, not a particularly impressive result.

Given the merely adequate performance of the V6, the four-cylinder may be a better choice especially if you’re interested in saving some money at the pump. The four-cylinder will also save you $2,000 upfront compared to the big engine. The example I drove stickered at $34,415 with pretty much every option except all-wheel-drive and the sunroof. At about $1,000 less than a comparably equipped Fusion, that’s a pretty decent value and the smaller engine is even better. It’s not a world-beater, but overall, the 2015 Chrysler 200C is finally a very serious competitor in one of the highest volume segments in the American car market.

Click here for full 2015 Chrysler 200 specs

A surge in big truck sales triggered a drop in average fuel economy in September, but even these behemoths are getting a lot more efficient

A surge in big truck sales triggered a drop in average fuel economy in September, but even these behemoths are getting a lot more efficient?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just published its 2014 fuel economy trends report, and though the news is generally positive, some potential storm clouds remain on the horizon f…

Audi Puts on Impressive Show With Autonomous RS7

However, it didn’t really prove anything other than that the basic technology for self-driving cars is now fairly well understood.  That doesn’t bring the full-function self-driving car any closer to regular use on open roads. That probably won’t happen until the end of the 2020s.

This demonstration was done on a closed course that is well mapped with no other vehicles around. The real issue that Audi and every other manufacturer has to deal with is working out all the kinks of dealing with weather, less than ideal road conditions, system robustness and of course programming ethics into the system.

That’s not something this particular group of engineers had to deal with. Not to take anything away from their achievement, but there is still a huge amount of work to do before we let self-driving cars loose.

Audi RS 7 piloted driving concept