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In-wheel autonomy with Icona Nucleus

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The Icona Nucleus, an in-wheel electronic drive system, was showcased at this year’s Geneva Motor Show bringing a new meaning to autonomous driving.

The Icona concept Nucleus represents the synthesis of futurism and a human-centered mindset. With its fully autonomous driving level five, the Nucleus jumps two generations ahead. Inside the vehicle, the absence of a driver does not only mean the absence of a steering wheel and a dashboard, but the opportunity for a new understanding of mobile living spaces, where the focus is no longer the road but the journey.

Technology should be felt but not seen and so a “less is more approach” has been used, resulting in a fluid and sculptural body that combines the needs of both aerodynamics and ergonomics. Beyond its technological innovation, Nucleus also shows us the future for the next generation of cars.

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Icona and Elaphe both believe that the transformation through different levels of vehicle autonomy and digitalization needs to be supported by a transformation in the underlying technology that performs the base functionality – the powertrain. In order to build the vehicle around the user’s needs, the powertrain should become virtually invisible to the user, with the focus instead on “the front-end functionality”.

The future-oriented Icona Nucleus uses the most forward-looking Elaphe in-wheel motor technology for its electric powertrain, with each wheel featuring the highest-performance production in-wheel motor in the world.

Headquartered in Europe, Elapse is a in-wheel motor technology company. The Elaphe™ L1500 in-wheel motor is currently the brand’s highest-performance product, producing a staggering 1500 Nm peak torque which available to each wheel throughout the speed range, delivering 110kW of maximum power to each wheel. The four L1500 in-wheel motors on the Nucleus provide the stunning concept with a total of 440kW of wheel power (in the same range as the Lamborghini Huracan).

Not only does the in-wheel motor deliver superior performance without the technical complexities of a combustion engine, gears, transmissions, differential, driveshafts and other components, it allows designers more flexibility in space design (https://youtu.be/GdV42IPxBac).

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Benefitting from this, the Icona Nucleus’ luxury interior design redefines the rules of people’s activities in the car – six comfortable seats can be seamlessly adjusted, or even joined into two large sofas; it also features a lamp, and a table, to allow passengers the freedom of choice between an office or leisure time. The passengers get to feel like if they are sitting in a luxurious living room, fully enjoying the graceful time on the road.

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Volvo and Uber get closer to self-driving XC90

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Volvo Cars’ first autonomous drive (AD) ready car has entered the next stage of pre-series production at Volvo’s manufacturing plant in Torslanda, Sweden ahead of full production start later this year. The AD-ready XC90 SUV, developed together with Uber, the leading ride-hailing firm, marks a key milestone in the strategic collaboration between the two companies.

Pre series production refers to the stage in the manufacturing process that is undertaken before full-fledged mass scale production. These cars are built in limited numbers for testing and verification purposes.

Uber and Volvo Cars entered a joint engineering agreement in 2016 and have since developed several prototypes aimed at accelerating the companies’ self-driving car development.

The autonomous drive-capable production vehicle is part of Volvo Cars’ 2016 commercial agreement with Uber for the delivery of tens of thousands of autonomous drive-ready base cars in coming years.

The AD-ready XC90 SUV, developed on the SPA2 modular platform is equipped with features that facilitate the introduction of autonomous drive systems and robotaxi services. In particular, the car is equipped with back-up systems for functions such as steering, braking and the battery. If any of the primary systems fail, these systems would immediately act to bring the car to a safe stop instead of relying on a human driver to achieve the task.

The XC90 is one of the first autonomous drive-ready cars in the world and previews the type of autonomous base platform that will be available to consumers on SPA2 cars from the early 2020s.

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Maserati goes ‘e’

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In line with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ €5 billion investment program for Italy, Maserati has announces an innovation plan for production, electrification and autonomous driving technologies. 

With regards to production, Maserati has announced plans for a lineup of new and electrified products at Modena, Cassino and Turin (Mirafiori and Grugliasco). 

All of Maserati’s new models will be 100 percent made in Italy and will adopt hybrid and battery electric propulsion systems capable of providing both innovation and the high performance embedded in the brand’s DNA. Maserati’s all electric models will combine traditional Maserati driving dynamics together with next-generation battery electric technology, offering unique driving modes, extended range and ultra-fast charging capabilities. 

An important step for Maserati innovation is the level of autonomous driving. All new Maseratis, including the updated current models, will offer a range of autonomous driving capabilities, starting with Maserati Level 2 enhanced Highway Assist, progressing to Level 3 with hands-off offering close to full autonomy, having the ability to maneuver in and out of lanes or bring the vehicle to a safe stop at the side of the road if the driver is unable to take control of the vehicle.  

In 2020, the Company will embark on electrification and the Maserati Ghibli, produced in Turin, will be the first hybrid electric propulsion for the brand. 

The first of the totally new Maseratis to appear will be an eagerly-anticipated sports car – packed with technology and reminescent of Maserati’s traditional values. It will be produced in the Modena plant, where major production line upgrades are also underway to accommodate its electric powertrain. 

Next up will be a new Maserati utility vehicle, set to be built at Cassino and destined to play a leading role for the Brand thanks to its innovative technologies. An investment of approximately €800 million has been earmarked for the construction of the new production line, scheduled to open at the end of the first quarter of 2020. The first pre-series cars are expected to roll off the line by 2021. 

After many years of success, GranTurismo and GranCabrio remain part of the Brand’s roots and these models will herald the full electrification era for Maserati. The totally New GranTurismo and GranCabrio will be produced at the Turin production hub, where FCA is investing €800 million.  

Production of the new models will complement that of the prestigious and continuously improving line-up of current Maserati range: Levante, Quattroporte and Ghibli. 

With the introduction of various product innovations, Maserati is reinforcing the importance of Italy with regards to its production — particularly Modena, which will also continue to play a strategic role as the Brand’s headquarters.  

Construction has already begun in Modena on a paint shop, a new feature for the plant, which will be equipped with innovative, low environmental-impact technologies. The design of the paint shop will also allow Maserati customers to watch their car being painted. 

Finally, Maserati is developing an entirely new customization program for customers seeking a one-of-akind level of exclusivity. A dedicated customization workshop will be created within the Modena plant. 

The 2019-2021 FCA investment plan for Italy, announced on 29th November in Turin, includes thirteen totally new or significantly updated FCA models and electrified versions of 12 new or existing models, including the Maserati products, the recently announced all-new electric version of the Fiat 500 to be produced at Mirafiori, and a new premium vehicle for Alfa Romeo to be produced at Pomigliano. 

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