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New 591bhp Audi RS Q8 arrives to swell the fast SUV ranks



Worried the world was short of a near-600bhp SUV? Worry not, because Audi is here with its 591bhp RS Q8. All 2315kg and 189mph of it.

The pinnacle of the Q8 line-up, the RS Q8 takes the running gear of a Porsche Cayenne Turbo/Lamborghini Urus/RS6 Avant and sticks it in Audi’s four-door coupe SUV body, which, front and rear PUs aside, is pretty much a Lamborghini Urus. Or is it the Urus that’s a Q8 in drag…

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While Audi Sport claims its hyper-SUV isn’t as extreme as its Italian cousin, the performance numbers suggest otherwise. Some 591bhp and 590lb ft of torque from the same 4-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 are substantial enough numbers to hurl this behemoth along the road at frankly obscene speeds for something so large. Zero to 62mph flashes by in 3.8sec (a tenth quicker than a Carrera GT), and 125mph in 13.7sec. And its delimited top speed of 189mph defies the laws of physics. And sanity.

What we do know is that Audi is claiming to have s completed a 7m 42s lap of the Nurburgring Nordschliefe in the RS Q8, some 5s faster than the unofficial 7m 47s that being widely attributed to the Urus.

There are some ‘green’ credentials to the RSQ8’s powertrain, because it also includes a mild-hybrid system based on a 48V electrical system. At its core is a belt alternator-starter connected to the crankshaft. When the driver lifts off or is braking, up to 12kW of power can be stored in the lithium-ion battery. Lift off at any speed between 34 and 99mph and the drive system will do one of two things depending on the driver mode selected: it will either recuperate energy or allow the engine to coast for up to 40 seconds. In stop-start traffic the car will drive on electric power up to 13mph and utilities the front camera system to restart the engine in anticipation of the traffic flowing once again.

Audi’s quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system is standard along with an eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox, with a mechanical centre differential distributing power and torque 40:60 front to rear. As much as 75 per cent can be directed to the front and 85 per cent to the rear if slip is detected. An optional quattro Sport differential is also available. Standard active torque vectoring works with the wheel-selective torque control system to manage traction, stability and the RSQ8’s dynamics.

Five-link suspension is fitted front and rear with adaptive air suspension and active damping as standard, the latter tuned to an RS-specific spec, and it combines to provide a ride hight variation of 90mm depending on the mode selected. Active anti-roll bars are optional, although these are included with the optional Dynamic Package Plus, which also raises the top speed from 155 to 189mph and adds a quattro sport diff and ceramic brakes.

Audi Drive Select provides the driver modes: Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Efficiency, All-Road, Off-road and the two configurable RS-specific modes – RS1 and RS2. Both RS modes are accessible via the RS-MODE button on the steering wheel and allow you to play with the engine, gearbox, steering (including the all-wheel steering) and suspension settings, along with the exhaust note.

A set of 22-inch wheels are standard fitment, with 23s optional, which, incidentally, weigh 45kg each with a tyre fitted. That’s 45kg of unsprung mass capable of travelling at 189mph. Madness. The standard composite brakes come with 420mm front discs and ten-piston calipers, with 370mm rotors for the rears. The optional ceramic discs measure 440mm at the front.

While the body in white for the RS Q8 is untouched from that of a regular SQ8, the fixtures and fittings are unique. These include the single-frame RS-specific and honeycomb radiator grilles, a pair of solid state air inlets and vertical air blades.

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Additional width is achieved by fitting wheelarch trim strips, adding 10mm and 5mm front and rear. The side sills, rear diffuser and rear roof spoiler are all bespoke, the last providing downforce across the car’s rear axle at high speed to improve stability.

RS Sport seats and Alcantara highlight the interior as an RS model, as do the special RS displays within the Audi virtual cockpit. RS logos adorn the cabin, from the steering wheel to the kick plates in the sills.

And the price? At least £105,000.

Here are our top 10 current performance SUVs, will the RS Q8 make the list?



Elon Musk on road to $50bn payout as Tesla’s value passes $100bn




Under pay scheme, founder must build electric carmaker into $650bn company by 2028

The Tesla founder, Elon Musk, has taken the first step to becoming $50bn (38bn) richer after the value of the electric car company surged past $100bn.

Musk, already a multibillionaire with a net worth estimated at about $30bn, secured approval in 2018 for a pay deal that would dwarf existing records for renumeration if it was paid out in full.

Under the scheme corporate governance experts have described as staggering, Musk must build Tesla into a $650bn company over the next 10 years.

Hitting this landmark would make Tesla one of the worlds most valuable tech companies worth more than seven times the combined value today of automotive powerhouses Ford and General Motors .

Provided Tesla also hits ambitious revenue and profit targets, and assuming Musk remains its chief executive, such growth would also trigger payments in stock worth about $50bn over the course of the scheme.

At the time the deal was agreed in March 2018, Tesla was valued by the stock market at $54.6bn. Its share price has nearly doubled since then, breaking the $100bn barrier on Wednesday.

Improved sentiment about Tesla on Wall Street is partly down to a surprise third-quarter profit of $143m, which bolstered hopes that the company could end its habit of making significant losses.

If Musk can keep the stock market value at above $100bn on average over the next six months, he will be entitled to the first of up to 12 stock payouts, worth around $350m each.

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The pay deal is staggered so that he receives further awards for every $50bn Tesla increases in stock market value, up to a maximum of $50bn in shares if the company achieves a valuation of $650bn by 2028.

That is still some way behind trillion-dollar companies such as Apple, the first to reach the Wall Street milestone, and Googles parent company, Alphabet.

Tesla supporters have argued that the way the pay plan is structured will help keep Musk focused on the company at a time when he is also increasingly involved in SpaceX, his space exploration company, and other ventures.

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A Move to Make Auto-Safety Features Speak the Same Language




Pop quiz! What’s the difference between Automatic Emergency Braking, Collision Imminent Braking, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Collision Intervention, Autonomous Braking, and a Dynamic Brake System?

Trick question: nothing. All six of those terms have been used by important auto industry organizations—regulators at the US Department of Transportation, standards developers at SAE International, and influential research organization Thatcham Research—to describe automatic emergency braking systems. If your car comes equipped with Automatic Emergency Braking, it should be able to detect a potential collision in front of the car and automatically apply the brakes to avoid it, or at least to cushion the blow.

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Last week, the Transportation Department said it would join an effort to get everyone in the auto industry, including safety advocates, regulators, manufacturers, suppliers, dealers, and of course drivers themselves, on the same page, language-wise. “We want to make sure that drivers are aware that these systems are designed to ‘assist,’ not replace an engaged driver,” Secretary Elaine Chao told an annual research conference in Washington, DC.

The DOT endorsed a standardized list of advanced driver-assistance terminology, released late last year by the National Safety Council, AAA, Consumer Reports, and JD Power, the automotive marketing research company. The list clarifies, for example, that even when using “Active Driving Assistance” features (like General Motors’ Super Cruise, Audi’s Traffic Jam Assist, or Tesla’s Autopilot), the “driver is responsible for the primary task of driving.” Translation: Keep your eyes on the road! Some sort of advanced driver-assistance feature is available on almost all new cars sold in the US.

If you’re confused by the way your car’s new tech works, you are far from alone. Research suggests that people wildly overestimate the effectiveness of driver-assistance features. Thatcham Research surveyed 1,500 people in seven countries in 2018 and found that 70 percent believed you could buy an autonomous car, and 11 percent would be tempted to nap, watch a movie, or read the paper while using a driver-assistance feature. (Do! Not! Do! That!) Undercover researchers with MIT found in 2017 that not all car dealers accurately describe new features’ abilities or limitations to customers. Studies by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety suggest many drivers don’t understand the range of features like adaptive cruise control, which can adjust vehicle speed when it detects another vehicle ahead. The research also suggests that, without specific instruction, drivers can’t actually tell when a feature like lane-keeping assistance is actually on.

An industry review by AAA found that automakers selling in the US use at least 20 different brand names to market adaptive cruise control; there were 19 names for blind-spot warning systems.

But advanced assistance features also make driving much safer, which is why advocates say it’s important to make sure people understand how they work. Another IIHS study compared police-reported crash data and insurance claims from cars with crash-avoidance tech to those without, and found that cars with forward-collision warning are involved in 27 percent fewer front-to-rear crashes than those without the feature; those with forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are in 50 percent fewer crashes.

(What’s forward-collision warning? The document endorsed by the DOT defines it as a system that “detects impending collision while traveling forward and alerts [the] driver. Some systems include pedestrian or other object detection.”)


Having DOT on board with the new definitions won’t by itself fix the industry’s vocab issues, or solve its wide-ranging consumer education issues. The most important players, the automakers who devise and market the names, were absent from the DOT announcement. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents the automakers that produce almost 99 percent of light-duty vehicles sold in the US, did not respond to requests for comment.

The Feds are working on performance standards for the tech, and their endorsement suggests their language might be consistent within its regulations. “Hopefully we get some commonality when the automakers start complying with those standards,” says Greg Brannon, the director of automotive engineering and industry relations at AAA. He says his and other groups pushing for more harmonization aren’t trying to get carmakers to nix their unique marketing of these features altogether. But wouldn’t it be nice if, say, Jeep were to clearly label its LaneSense Lane Departure Warning-Plus system a “Lane-Keeping Assistance” feature?

“Unfortunately, there's usually a pretty big gap between the marketing and engineering departments,” Brannon says.

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Waymos self-driving trucks and minivans are headed to New Mexico and Texas




Waymo said Thursday it will begin mapping and eventually testing its autonomous long-haul trucks in Texas and parts of New Mexico, the latest sign that the Alphabet company is expanding beyond its core focus of launching a robotaxi business.

Waymo said in a tweet posted early Thursday it had picked these areas because they are “interesting and promising commercial routes.” Waymo also said it would “explore how the Waymo Driver” — the company’s branded self-driving system — could be used to “create new transportation solutions.”

Waymo plans to mostly focus on interstates because Texas has a particularly high freight volume, the company said. The program will begin with mapping conducted by Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

The mapping and eventual testing will occur on highways around Dallas, Houston and El Paso. In New Mexico, Waymo will focus on the southern most part of the state.

Interstate 10 will be a critical stretch of highway in both states — and one that is already a testbed for TuSimple, a self-driving trucking startup that has operations in Tucson and San Diego. TuSimple tests and carries freight along the Tucson to Phoenix corridor on I-10. The company also tests on I-10 in New Mexico and Texas.

Waymo, which is best known for its pursuit of a robotaxi service, integrated its self-driving system into Class 8 trucks and began testing them in Arizona in August 2017. The company stopped testing its trucks on Arizona roads sometime later that year. The company brought back its truck testing to Arizona in May 2019.

Those early Arizona tests were aimed at gathering initial information about driving trucks in the region, while the new round of truck testing in Arizona marks a more advanced stage in the program’s development, Waymo said at the time.

Waymo has been testing its self-driving trucks in a handful of locations in the U.S., including Arizona, the San Francisco area and Atlanta. In 2018, the company announced plans to use its self-driving trucks to deliver freight bound for Google’s  data centers in Atlanta.

Waymo’s trucking program has had a higher profile in the past year. In June, Waymo brought on 13 robotics experts, a group that includes Anki’s  co-founder and former CEO Boris Sofman, to lead engineering in the autonomous trucking division.

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