Henry Payne Blog

Cartoon: Santa, beards, and Flannel

Posted by hpayne on December 15, 2017

Cartoon: California Warming and Fires

Posted by hpayne on December 15, 2017

Cartoon: Moore Toy

Posted by hpayne on December 13, 2017

Cartoon: Wildfire Sex Accusations

Posted by hpayne on December 12, 2017

Cartoon: Bitcoin Record Value

Posted by hpayne on December 11, 2017

Cartoon: Conyers Icon

Posted by hpayne on December 9, 2017

Cartoon: Jerusalem Capitol Elites

Posted by hpayne on December 8, 2017

Cartoon: Media

Posted by hpayne on December 7, 2017

Cartoon: Obamacare Fine Cancelled

Posted by hpayne on December 6, 2017

Cartoon: Scrooge Schumer Tax Cut

Posted by hpayne on December 5, 2017

CARtoon: Lamborghini SUV

Posted by hpayne on December 5, 2017

Cartoon: Tax Cut Economy

Posted by hpayne on December 2, 2017

Cartoon: Trump Tweets England

Posted by hpayne on December 1, 2017

Payne’s 10 best from the LA Auto Show

Posted by hpayne on December 1, 2017


Los Angeles — Drive to the Detroit auto show, and the General’s Renaissance Center reminds this is Detroit 3 territory. Take Interstate 105 to the Los Angeles Auto Show, and you know this is Elon Musk’s town.

Space X headquarters — with a tall rocket marking the spot — anchors Hawthorne Airport where Tesla recently debuted its semi-truck and lightning-quick Roadster supercar. Model S sedans are as common as Cadillacs in Motown. Californians embrace Musk’s electric vision as surely as Michigan loves V-8s.

LA is very green and very rich, and its auto show generally echoes that demographic with world premieres of battery-powered cars and luxury chariots. Enter the show floor and Tesla’s booth of premium Model S, Model X and Model 3 sets the tone. Jaguar, Audi, Mercedes and BMW follow with their own green machines.

But new SUV debuts from Subaru and Jeep and Corvette remind that Californians are hardly monolithic in their vehicle choices. They have big families, love the rugged outdoors and crave power. At this show they’ll find a diverse lineup of vehicles to scratch every itch.

Here are the 10 best new vehicles on the floor:

Jeep Wrangler: The original World War II Willys Jeep would be jealous. The Wrangler gets a modern makeover including the latest UConnect infotainment system, smartphone app connectivity, rear heat and air conditioning, and sippy hybrid turbo-4. Nice. But this rugged, adult-size Lego toy is still about escaping to the Outback. The roof, doors — even the front windshield — are easier to snap off so you can lock the differentials, climb mountains and ogle nature.

Audi A8: The Audi packs a different kind of versatility. The all-new flagship sedan packs more toys into its long wheelbase than Santa’s bag: rear-seat foot massage, touchscreen display (goodbye rotary dial), 360-camera views and electronic body control which smooths every road wrinkle. Wrapped in an elegant design, it’ll even drive itself when Traffic Jam assist comes online. A 48-volt battery supplies the juice for all the new gizmos.

Mercedes Project One: Talk about applying racing technology to the street. Ripping the driveline right out of F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton’s Malaren, the 1,000-horsepower, 1.6-liter, V-6 Merc hybrid is a 217 mph, all-wheel drive weapon. From its F1-style steering wheel to its carbon chassis, this is a grand prix car with fenders. If you have to ask how much it costs you can’t afford it.

Corvette ZR1: Corvette wants some of that high-tech performance for itself, which is why its building a mid-engine sports car of its own. Watch for it at January’s Detroit show. In the meantime we have the throwback ZR1 which pushes the very limit of what a front-engine sports car can do. With 755 ponies, 13 heat exchangers and a supercharger poking through the hood, this Hulk is busting out of its shirt. Without 1,000-pounds of downforce, this rocket would fly.

Nissan Kicks: Nissan kicks its funky Juke to the curb. The frog-eyed Juke is no more as the Nissan’s subcompact design pendulum swings wildly to the conservative side. The Kicks joins the Chevy Trax and Honda HR-V as conventional utes in the segment, downgrading the Juke’s 188-horse fun-factor to a 125-horse, CVT-driven four-banger. Want a quirkmobile? Try a Toyota C-HR.

Subaru Ascent: A year after dropping the extra-extra-large Viziv-7 concept on the LA show, Subaru is back with the real thing. The eight-passenger Ascent is the all-wheel drive second shot at the three-row market (after the late, failed Tribeca), and this one should stick. That’s assuming Subie buyers can stomach an un-PC supersized ute. They’ll feel better about its sippy, CVT-driven turbo-4 — though I hope it’s not too underpowered for the big fella.

BMW i8 Roadster: BMW dropped a stunning eight new models on the LA show, but the topless, gull-winged i8 was the showstopper. The plug-in hybrid Roadster ditches the coupe’s small backseats and the top goes down in just 16 seconds up to 31 mph. Battery-only range grows from 15 to 18 miles, but like its supercar peers the BMW puts the battery to best use in acceleration. Zero-60 in just 4.4 ticks.

Porsche Cayenne: This is the SUV that started it all. Today, every premium performance automaker has translated their sports car DNA to a Frankenstein SUV: Maserati Levante, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Jaguar F-Pace — even Ferrari has committed to a crossover. The Cayenne, now in its third generation, mints money that Stuttgart plows back into sports cars. The new ute sheds 143 pounds with 550 horses available from a twin-turbo V-8.

Mazda Vision/Mazda6: I don’t normally honor design concepts with a top 10, but if the Vision’s vision eventually translates to the already pretty, production Mazda6 sedan, it’ll be the best-looking sedan made. Period. The simple, sleek Vision is so luscious you want to lick it. The story of the production Mazda6 that debuted this week is under the skin, where Mazda introduces the nimble mid-sizer’s first turbo-4 – a 310 pound-feet of torque stump-puller.

Tesla Model 3: Making its debut on the auto show circuit, the Model 3 deserves its hype. Though not as lovely as big-brother Model S, it is no less stunning for its simple, iPhone-like interior and electrifying performance. Motor Trend’s LA-based team were the first journalists to test the low-center-of-gravity Model 3 and confirm it’s as nimble as it is quick out of a light.

Self-driving race heats up at LA Auto Show

Posted by hpayne on December 1, 2017


Los Angeles — The traffic on California freeways outside the Los Angeles Convention Center is relentless. So it’s fitting that automakers are thinking big at the Los Angeles Auto Show about autonomous cars that relieve driving stress.

But while the industry agrees on an autonomous, self-driving future, the paths that automakers are taking to get there vary from Audi to Tesla to General Motors to Toyota.

Audi made headlines this week with the U.S. introduction of its flagship A8 sedan with Traffic Jam Assist, the first so-called Level 3 autonomous system that lets the car take full control from the pilot. It will drive itself under 37 mph, allowing drivers to disengage from the car to check email, text and engage in other distractions.

Cadillac debuted its similar “SuperCruise” system this fall on the brand’s flagship CT6 sedan. It will also be hands-free, but is considered a Level 2 system because its still requires driver attention on a defined network of divided, limited-access highways. GM’s Chevy division is testing a fleet of autonomous Bolt EVs equipped with LIDAR sensors that allow fully-autonomous, Level 4 capability.

Tesla has been the most aggressive proponent of a self-driving cars. It’s outfitted the Model S sedan with an array of camera, radar and sonar hardware augmented by regular, over-the-air software updates.

And then there’s Toyota. In contrast to America’s colossus GM, the Japanese giant has kept a low profile. But with the LA show it’s starting to show its hand.

Lexus, Toyota’s premium brand, introduced the latest version of its Lexus Safety Sense system, LSS+A, on Tuesday to the media. Building on previous systems that automatically brake to mitigate impact with other vehicles or pedestrians, LSS+A takes a big step toward autonomy by steering and braking to a stop to avoid impact. The Level 4-like feature only works when the driver is disengaged.

It’s Toyota’s mantra that self-driving cars should be about safety first. But the modest LSS+A masks a larger, more aggressive autonomy program.

“They are creating a path to much more advanced autonomous-driving technology,” says Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer.

He’s referring to the confluence of two Toyota autonomy streams by 2020: Toyota’s “Mobility Teammate” hands-free driving system for consumer cars and a fully autonomous ride-sharing service for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games for which Toyota is the exclusive transportation partner.

“If Toyota had the ability to demonstrate at the Olympics to attendees — and to the watching world — how much easier they made it to get around the Olympic venue with autonomous technology, that’s a huge opportunity,” says Brauer.

If Toyota’s product plans have been less ambitious than players like GM and Tesla, its two-track autonomy business model is one of the industry’s clearest.

Speaking at the AutoMobility LA tech conference that coincided with the show, Gill Pratt, director of the U.S.-based Toyota Research Institute that’s dedicated to autonomous driving, explained the two tracks referred to internally as “Chauffeur” and “Guardian.”

Chauffeur-related technologies lead down the path to full, so-called Level 4 mobility that will be on display at the Tokyo Olympics. Driverless Olympic Village shuttles will use “Mobility Teammate” — Toyota’s trademark, urban autonomy system.

The system mirrors what GM, Chrysler, and Volvo are testing with ride-sharing services.

“Increase productivity for mobility as a service is the major motivation for why so much money is being spent in this space right now,” says Pratt who helped create TRI in late 2015.

Manned driving services today costs $1.50 a mile according to a Deutsche Bank analysis. Remove the driver and the cost plummets to 85 cents. That’s a whopping 65 cents per mile of available profit to be made.

“It’s hard for anyone to make money right now (in the ride-share business),” says Pratt. “The potential is, if you don’t have drivers you become very profitable. The ride-share companies are in it for their life. They know that the first one that manages to eliminate the cost, they will make tremendous profits.”

As will the manufacturer that can supply them hundreds of thousands of vehicles.

But Pratt says there is money to be made in the Guardian space, too — even though its motivation is more safety than bottom line. Guardian-type technology is what the Lexus LS500 uses to shadow drivers should they encounter trouble.

“Guardian is also driven by sales, particularly as society ages,” explains Pratt. “Older people tend not to drive very much, and not to buy cars very much.”

How do manufacturers like Toyota extend the auto-buying years? Sell seniors safer, semi-autonomous vehicles that keep them out of trouble. Pratt says Guardian-type systems will also drive more sales to young people.

“If I want to buy a car for my 16-year-old, I want a car that won’t crash. So that will boost sales,” he says.

There are many obstacles to autonomy. Waymo CEO John Krafcik points to the challenge of cameras seeing through bad weather. “That’s why we’re testing in Phoenix, not Michigan,” he says of Waymo’s real-world autonomy program.

But Toyota’s Pratt has no doubt that manufacturers will get there and soon. There is too much money at stake.

Cartoon: Shopping Calendar

Posted by hpayne on November 27, 2017

Cartoon: Santa Conyers’ Lap

Posted by hpayne on November 27, 2017

Cartoon: Turkey Moore

Posted by hpayne on November 22, 2017

Cartoon: Thanksgiving Politics

Posted by hpayne on November 22, 2017

Cartoon: Thanksgiving Turkey

Posted by hpayne on November 22, 2017