BMW and Microsoft partner up for Google Now-like functions

BMW and Microsoft partner up for Google Now-like functions

BMW used Build 2016 to launch its new BMW Connected North America app for iOS users, which brings a Google Now personal assistant to its cars. The platform is powered by the Microsoft Azure-based Open Mobility Cloud.

The idea is to leverage your cloud-based data, like your calendar, messages, contacts, commute times, real-time traffic data and driving habits, to predict travel times and provide a reminder, at first.

If this sounds a lot like what Google Now does, you’re right, because most of those features are available on Android phones, which can connect to your car via Android Auto. But, BMW plans to integrate smart home features, so it predicts when you’ll be home and turn on smart lights or increase the thermostat temperature – features available with Google Now and Nest.

Positively, the BMW Connected North America app integrates with the ConnectedDrive app to let you access vehicle functions remotely, which is not something Google Now supports. However, unlike Google Now, which can easily transfer to any Android phone, BMW’s cloud is only beneficial to its vehicles.

As an Android user, I don’t find value in this feature and would rather have Android Auto integration, which BMW plans on supporting in future models. But for those that have an iPhone and a recent BMW that works with the previous Connected app, the new cloud-based features are a nice gesture that brings predictive driving features to existing cars.

Here’s the Tesla Model 3 and we reserved one

Here's the Tesla Model 3 and we reserved one

Elon Musk took the stage tonight to unveil the affordable Model 3 during a private event at its Hawthorne, Calif. facility. The car looks fantastic and I reserved one online to replace my wife’s Nissan Leaf.

Tesla expects a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rating of 215 miles of range on the base model and hints at available longer-range models. Supercharging is standard on all models to take advantage of the fast network of over 3,600 charging stations.

Tesla Model 3

Musk claims 0-60 mph performance in under 6-seconds, which puts its straight-line performance in the same territory as the BMW 328i. But, like its bigger brothers, expect even faster models available when deliveries begin next year. Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving technology – Autopilot – will be standard on all Model 3’s, which gives it a major technological leap over the Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf.


  • Expected safety rating: 5-stars across the board, including small overlap
  • 0-60 mph: Under 6 seconds
  • Supercharging standard
  • Technology: Autopilot standard on all models
  • Seating: Seats 5 adults comfortably
  • Base price: $35,000 (£30,000)

Tesla Model 3 release date, news and features

Tesla Model 3 release date, news and features

Reservations started in Australia last night (PST). Many have waited in line to reserve a Model 3 across the globe. Hundreds are lined up at the Bellevue, Wash. Tesla store by 7:30 am PST. Online reservations begin at 7:30 PST. The big unveil happens tonight at 8:30 pm PST.

Tesla was founded 13 years ago and shipped its first car in 2008 – the Roadster. At a base price of $109,000 (£86,950, AU$191,888), it was a long shot away from Elon Musk’s vision of an affordable EV.

It took four years before the first Model S reached buyers, which now starts at $70,000 (£50,000, AU$97,245) before incentives and is still not very cheap.

Now that the Model S and X are out the door, Tesla is ready to unveil its first affordable car – the Model 3. Sadly, the Model 3 doesn’t insert itself between the S and X, so there’s a missed textual seduction opportunity.

Cut to the chase

What is it? Tesla’s most affordable EV with 200 miles of range
When it is out? The unveil is happening on March 31 at 8:30 pm PT, 11:30 EST, 3:30 am GMT (April 1) and 1:30 pm (April 1), and production begins late 2017
How do I watch it? A live-stream will be available on the Tesla website
What will it cost? Starting at $35,000 (£30,000)

What is it?

The Model 3 is the first affordable Tesla, expected to start at $35,000 (£30,000) before any government tax incentives. It should qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit for US buyers, which brings the price below $30,000 before state incentives.

Depending on the state you live in, more incentives are available to bring the price down even further.

Tesla Model S interior

Tesla is targeting an electric range of 200 miles with the Model 3, which isn’t quite as far as its siblings, but plenty of range to commute to work or go on a mini-roadtrip. As an owner of a 2015 Nissan Leaf rated for 84-miles of range, 200 miles would save me the trouble of having to charge in public for 95% of my driving and let me drive from Tacoma, Wash. to Portland Ore. without stopping to charge.

I’ve made the trip to Portland once in a Kia Soul EV (standing for “electric vehicle”) and took twice as long, just to stop every 45 miles to use a CHAdeMO charger for 20 minutes, for a typical trip that takes me 2.5 hours by gasoline car.

When can I see it?

Tesla plans to unveil the Model 3 at a private event on March 31 at 8:30 pm PT, 11:30 EST, 3:30 am GMT (April 1) and 1:30 pm AEST (April 1) to press and select owners. The event is being held at the Tesla Hawthorne, Calif. facility and not its Fremont headquarters.

Tesla Model S

A teaser was released on Twitter that shows a silhouette of the Model 3, but no clear images of the car have been released or leaked. Judging by the stylings of the Model S and X, expect the 3 to look similar, albeit in a smaller sedan frame.

What about the competition?

The Tesla Model 3 competes with luxury gasoline and mainstream electric vehicles. On the luxury side, it’s base price puts it in the crosshairs of the BMW 3-series, Mercedes C-class, Audi A4 and Lexus IS – all gasoline sedans. There’s also the all-electric BMW i3 and plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, which have higher base prices but shorter pure-electric range.

The mainstream competition consists of current available EVs, like the Ford Focus Electric, Kia Soul EV, Volkswagen e-Golf and Nissan Leaf. Competition gets tougher if you expand to include PHEV’s from Chevrolet, Ford, Hyundai and Kia.

But that’s not all, because the competition from EV makers heats up, too. Chevrolet announced the Bolt EV, with 200 miles of all-electric range at CES 2016 and availability by the end of the year. Nissan is expected to replace the aging Leaf with a newer, longer-range model in the near future, and Hyundai’s upcoming all-electric Ioniq is expected to have 110-miles of range, too.

How do I buy one?

You can reserve your Model 3 starting March 31st at your local Tesla store as soon as it opens. Online reservations begin at 7:30pm PT, an hour before Tesla pulls the wraps off the Model 3.

It will cost $1,000 (£1000 and AU$1,500) to reserve a Model 3. The deposit is fully refundable if you change your mind, and you can can apply it towards a Model S or X at any time.

Tesla expects production to begin in late 2017, giving the Chevrolet Bolt a one-year head start. North American buyers will get the first Model 3’s, starting from West to East coasts. Europe and Asia-Pacific regions are next, while right-hand drive markets (i.e. the UK) are last.

Our thoughts

The Tesla Model S was a revolutionary car that changed the public perception of EVs. It has insane performance and over 250 miles of electric range, when mainstream EVs couldn’t even push 100 miles then. But, despite the price, the interior wasn’t quite up to snuff, and I found the suspension tuning lacking around an autocross course compared to luxury brands.

Tesla Model X

With the Model 3, the EV landscape has drastically changed. Chevy expects to ship the Bolt by the end of this year as an model-year 2017 vehicle with 200 miles of range, giving it a long head start. However, a base Model 3 has a $2,500 base price advantage, but we do not know what level equipment you get yet.

If the Tesla Model 3 can have a fraction of the performance and gadgetry of its bigger brethren while maintaining a rear wheel drive layout, that would be enough reason for me to pick it over the Bolt. But we’ll have to wait another week to find out.

IITian Major’s jetpack to give wings to Army

The jetpack can fly for over a minute at a speed of about 50km per hour and reach an altitude of 800 metres, features that can come handy for emergency purposes or for special military operations.
In the frozen heights of Siachen, the world’s toughest and highest battle field, weather takes more lives than bullets. The count of casualties at Siachen was more than 860 due to hostile weather conditions till last year. Not to forget the ten soldiers from Madras Regiment who were buried under mounds of snow in an avalanche recently, soldiers do not have choice but to traverse these hilly terrains by foot.

Now, an Indian Army engineer, who was once posted in Siachen has come up with a technology that would perhaps save many lives guarding inhospitable terrains. Major Lakshyajeet Singh Chauhan, who completed his MTech in IIT-Madras, has designed a jetpack, a device with a backpack rocket, allowing an individual to fly by means of propulsion produced by rapidly expelled gases.

Chauhan says the jetpack could fly for over a minute at a speed of about 50km per hour and reach an altitude of 800 metres, features that can come handy for emergency purposes or for special military operations.

The project has been proposed to be considered under the ‘Imprint India’ initiative of the ministry of human resource development (MHRD), which can fund for the development of a prototype. The propulsion system, which is vital to the functioning of the jetpack, has already been developed and tested at IIT-M.

“In Siachen, there are earmarked avalanche areas. As of now, soldiers cross these areas by foot. So, while crossing these areas, if an avalanche is triggered, soldiers can fly using these jetpacks,” said Chauhan, who is posted at the Military College of Electronics and Mechanical Engineering, Secunderabad.

The concept of jetpack is not new. USA attempted at developing a jetpack as early as in the 1950s for its Army. Dubai recently signed a deal to supply jetpacks for its firefighters.

Aerospace engineering department professor PA Ramakrishna says that the jetpack they have designed varies on several parameters that makes it highly safe. It has a hybrid rocket, which is considered safe and cost-effective, that operates on solid fuel and liquid oxidizer. The solid fuel here is a powdered form of aluminium, which is cast as per design requirements. Water, which is used as an oxidizer, is injected for the fuel to burn.

“To suit the requirements of the Army, we needed a thrust that is greater than the weight of the individual. With aluminized fuel we have developed in-house, we were able to achieve better thrust at 1800 Newtons. It can lift a soldier weighing up to 60 kg and an additional 20kg, which can be arms or fuel to travel long distances,” the professor said.

He said though US had the concept in 1950s, they had several limitations in terms of fuel, weight and flight time. “They used hydrogen peroxide as fuel. It is dangerous as it is highly reactive that can cause immediate fire,” he said. “They also used fine particles of platinum as a catalyst, which made the jetpack expensive.”