Recently an ad popped up on Seattle Craigslist for a 2001 Toyota Prius “sleeper” conversion powered by none other than the LS1 V8 from a Chevy Corvette. A V8-powered Prius, you say? The ultimate insult to environmentalists, and yet the ultimate in awesomeness for fans of cars that look slow but are actually very fast, indeed. The ad claims 450 RWHP from the LS1, a Jaguar rear end, and a long list of modifications.
Did you know that now for the 2014 model year, Toyota’s million-selling Prius hybrid now comes in four distinct models? The pluralization of Prius (Prii?) is now complete with the addition of three more highly fuel efficient dedicated hybrid models, joining the standard Prius Liftback to provide the perfect fit for drivers and families with varying needs.
Just a few years ago, if you wanted a high-quality hybrid car to serve all your daily family needs, Toyota was really the only dance in town. The company’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system was so far ahead of competition during the 2000s that it almost wasn’t fair to call a Prius and, say, an early Ford Escape Hybrid by the same title at all.
While it may sound scary to turn over control of the steering wheel to a computer, the fact of the matter is driverless cars can already drive more safely and efficiently than we can. And with development led by Google, as well as Nissan and others, we’re talking a multi-trillion-dollar industry.
Writing for Forbes, Chunka Mui is in the midst of a startling 5-part series that looks into the future at the impacts of removing human error from the driving equation. What starts with a gee-whiz new technology could soon have far-reaching impacts on industries from new cars to auto insurance, parts and repair service; from health care to energy and telecommunications.
Google makes some bold claims about what life would look like in a future with every car on the road going autonomous.
90% fewer traffic accidents.
90% reduction in wasted commute time and energy.
90% reduction in the number of cars on the road.
A fleet of Google-developed autonomous Toyota Prius cars logged hundreds of thousands of miles on California public roadways before its first traffic accident, which was actually caused during a moment of driver intervention, the company says.
Thinking big picture, a huge drop in collisions means a complete reorganization of the car insurance industry. It means hundreds of billions in lost revenue for the health care industry that treats the millions of Americans injured every year in auto accidents. The same goes for body shops and parts suppliers.
Driverless cars, each connected to the cloud, can hum along at 75 mph on narrower roadways just inches apart. Commute times would drop, removing the downside to living further away from a city center. Fuel that would have been wasted by inefficient drivers would be saved. Driverless cars could park themselves stacked five-tall, then come when summoned by an owner or car sharing service.
The technology will be ready for prime time long before the public is ready to accept it, but Forbes’ Mr. Mui makes a strong case for autonomous cars completely shaking up industry as we know it, with Google and other key innovators standing to become titans, the likes of which we’ve never seen.
Consumer Reports has named the Toyota Prius the overall best value for your new car dollars. The Prius edged out the Honda Fit, which held the title for the previous 4 years. Although the Prius ($24,200) starts at around $8,500 more than the Fit, testers felt the Toyota’s winning blend of low cost of operation and excellent overall quality were enough to place it on top.
Said CR Automotive Editor Rik Paul:
“The Prius may not be the most exciting vehicle to drive, nor the cheapest to purchase, but it’s extremely reliable, roomy, rides well, gets great fuel economy, and is inexpensive to operate.”
Much more than just a car’s purchase price goes into overall value. An oft-overlooked factor is resale value, where the Prius excels even as cheaper-priced cars like the Nissan Versa falter. Costs of daily operation and repairs are just as important: luxury cars do not generally make good value buys, owing to their poorer fuel efficiency and the sky-high cost of parts and labor as much as their higher transaction prices.
The 2013 Consumer Reports Best Value award winners by segment: