Gary S. Vasilash

Gary S. Vasilash is the founding editor of Automotive Design & Production (AD&P) magazine, a publication established in 1997 by Gardner Publications with the cooperation of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). He is responsible for the editorial management and direction of the monthly magazine. Vasilash continues to write a monthly column for AD&P and contributes several stories to each issue.

Vasilash has more than 20 years of experience writing about the automotive industry, best practices and new technologies. His work has appeared in a variety of venues, ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Lightworks, a journal of contemporary art. He has made numerous presentations at a variety of venues ranging from the annual meeting of the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) to the Center for Constructive alternatives at Hillsdale College.

Prior to his present position, Vasilash was editor-in-chief of both Automotive Production and Production magazines—predecessors to AD&P. He joined Cincinnati, Ohio-based Gardner Publications in 1987 as executive editor of Production magazine.

Prior to that, Vasilash had editorial positions with the Rockford Institute and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME).

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism and a Master of Arts degree from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He is a member of the Automotive Press Association.

Adient, Diesels and Artificial Intelligence
20. February 2017

Did you ever wonder about how interior designers go about developing seats for vehicles? How they think. What methodologies they use. What the parameters are.

We did. So we asked Tom Gould, Director of Design, Research & Craftsmanship, Adient, to explain it to us on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.”

Adient

Adient’s AI17, a concept seating solution for Level 3 and Level 4 autonomous vehicles

Adient, if you’re not familiar with it, is the former Johnson Controls Automotive Experience seating business which became a company onto itself this past fall. The company produces seats and components for some 25,000,000 million annually, seats that find their way into vehicles in 33 countries, and so Gould and his colleagues have an extensive breadth of knowledge of seats that are now—and seats that could be at some point.

So we learn about different approaches to designs and materials for existing vehicles as well as learn about things that may be deployed at some point in the not-too-distant future, when vehicles become more automated and so interiors become all the more important.

Gould talks with Autoline’s John McElroy, Todd Lassa of Automobile magazine and me about the trends and developments in seating.

The EPA has certified all-new 2017 Cruze Diesel Sedan with the six-speed manual transmission to achieve 52 mpg highway mileage – the highest highway fuel economy of any non-hybrid in America.

Chevy Cruze Diesel

Then the three of us discuss a variety of subjects including the 137-hp, 240 lb-ft of torque, 1.6-liter turbo-diesel that Chevy is offering in the Cruze. (This Ecotec will also find its way into the next Equinox.) Do diesels have a future in passenger cars in the U.S.? And that segues into a discussion of hybrid vehicles.

Another subject is the probable acquisition of Opel by PSA Group, which would result in the second-largest auto company, based on sales, in Europe. PSA presently has about 10.5% of the market and Opel 6.3%. VW is at 22.4%. (Interestingly, Carlos Tavares, PSA Group CEO, had previously been a senior executive at Renault—a company that will go into third place in the western European market should the acquisition go through.)

And we talk about Ford’s $5-billion investment in Argo AI, a company that will be tasked with developing the “virtual driver system” for Ford’s forthcoming Level 4 autonomous vehicle, which is still anticipated for launch in mobility services in 2021.

You can see it all here:

Mercedes, Ahoy!
17. February 2017

This, of course, is a boat:

Mercedes-AMG and Cigarette Racing celebrate 10 years of collabor

But it is not just any boat, it is the Cigarette Racing Team 50' Marauder AMG, introduced this week at the Miami International Boat Show.

It is a boat powered by a pair of Mercury Racing 1550/1350 QC4v (Quad Cam 4 Valve) engines and M8 stern drives, delivering up to 3,100 hp.

When the boat’s Race Key fob is used and race fuel is in the tank, then the captain gets a boost of up to 1,550 hp. When the Pleasure key fob is employed and there’s 91 octane on board, there’s 1,350 hp.

And the boat is carbon fiber-intensive. The deck, cockpit and consoles are constructed with carbon fiber over a foam core. (Advanced laminate analysis techniques were deployed to determine the appropriate structure.) The engine hatch, also carbon fiber, was produced via vacuum infusion.

It has been determined that through the use of the material, as well as even paying attention to the weight of the boat’s electrical system (remember: wire in abundance, as is increasingly common in high-end boats like high-end cars, is heavy), they’ve been able to shed more than 1,300 pounds.

But why, you might be wondering, are we talking about a boat here?

Simple. Because the 2017 50' Marauder AMG celebrates 10 years of collaboration between Cigarette Racing and Mercedes-AMG.

Mercedes-AMG and Cigarette Racing celebrate 10 years of collabor

According to Gorden Wagener, chief design officer of Daimler AG, "The 2017 50' Marauder AMG is a particularly striking result of our continued collaboration with the Cigarette Racing Team, and a fitting tribute to honor 10 years of working together. One racing icon has inspired another, and we are proud to continue to set the benchmark and seamlessly combine design and performance both on land and on the sea.”

Wagener was deployed in designing the paint and the detailing for the boat. The color is “Green Hell Magno,” which is a reference to the Mercedes-AMG GT R.

The boat is one-of-a-kind.

Just like Detective Sonny Crockett was.

Ford Enhancing Development Capabilities
16. February 2017

Although computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and other digital tools are extensively used by Ford (as well as all other major—and minor—vehicle developers), at the end of the day, cars and trucks exist in the real world.

Consequently, development calls for vehicles-in-becoming to be tested and analyzed in the real world, as well as the digital.

To that end, Ford is undertaking the construction of a new wind tunnel complex in Allen Park, Michigan (which is essentially next door to its Dearborn campus) on 13 acres adjacent to its Driveability Test Facility.

Wind Tunnel Testing

The company is investing a non-trivial $200-million in the wind tunnel.

Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, global product development and chief technical officer, said, “This investment in new world-class test facilities underpins Ford’s on going commitment to advance our capabilities to continue to provide our customers with high-quality vehicles.”

The wind tunnel, which will be able to provide wind speeds up to 200 mph, will feature a five-belt conveyor system. In this setup there is a conveyor belt for each of a car’s—or truck’s, as the tunnel will be capable of handling a Super Duty—wheel, as well as a belt under the entire vehicle, thereby helping provide conditions that simulate real-world drag.

The system can also operate with just a single belt—at speeds up to 200 mph.

Which means, of course, that Ford will also be deploying the new wind tunnel for development of racing vehicles.

The complex will also include an environmental chamber, which will provide the means to bring vehicles to minus 40 F to plus 140 F. After all, those temps are part of the real world that Ford cars and trucks have to deal with on a daily basis (assuming, of course, that those vehicles are in places like the Arctic and the Sahara).

VW, Mobileye and Swarm Data
15. February 2017

Generally when there are photographs of autonomous vehicles, they are often singular: there is a vehicle.

Sometimes they’re put in a realistic setting but it seems as though while they may be doing a bit of vehicle-to-infrastructure communicating, the vehicle in question is, again, the singular vehicle in question.

Ask yourself this question: short of pulling out of your driveway, when are you driving anywhere not pretty much surrounded by other vehicles?

VW

Where are the other cars?

The point is, autonomous vehicles are likely not to be just one here or there, but a multiplicity of them.

So it makes all the sense in the world that Volkswagen and Mobileye, the company that makes computer vision systems for autonomous vehicles (a.k.a., cameras and the attendant processors that make the systems all the more useful and functional), have entered into an agreement that will crowd-source information from vehicles on the road, with the information being sent to the cloud in real time so that there is accurate and up-to-date information for purposes of having high-definition information about the road ahead.

This is based on the Mobileye “Road Experience Management” technology; it will be implemented as a new navigation standard by the two companies in 2018.

Consider: there will be a large number of Volkswagen vehicles equipped with front cameras driving around. These cameras will obtain information about the lanes and traffic conditions. It is compressed and sent to the cloud. Then it is downloaded from the cloud and then used to update navigation information that can then be sent back to vehicles not only to help in getting from A to B, but even for such services as finding available parking.

According to Prof. Amnon Shashua, co-founder and chief technology officer of Mobileye, “The future of autonomous driving depends on the ability to create and maintain precise high-definition maps and scale them at minimal cost.” Which he says the agreement with Volkswagen will facilitate. He adds, “A much more important aspect is that the agreement provides a framework for industry-wide cooperation between automobile manufacturers to jointly produce the map contents that are needed for autonomous driving.”

Meaning that in addition to the millions of VWs that can be providing information, should other OEMs join in, then there will be a tremendous amount of real-time information about road conditions, which can certainly benefit autonomous driving capability.

2017 Buick LaCrosse Premium AWD
14. February 2017

The Buick design team deserves the strongest of accolades for their work at transforming the appearance of the brand from one of, well something akin to “the last ride” to one of contemporary stylishness befitting of a the cohort of automotive customers who didn’t cast their first presidential ballot in 1968 or earlier.

While I have previously thought that the “That’s a Buick!?” commercials were off-point, given the utter transformation of the sedan in question, I truly thought, in effect, “That’s a LaCrosse!?” when I first saw the vehicle.

2017 Buick LaCrosse

I can think of no automotive brand that has undergone such a profound change in styling—in a positive way, I should add—in the last several years. One could say that perhaps when Cadillac brought out the first generation CTS in 2002 (model year 2003) that there was a similar change to what’s going on in the Buick showroom.

And in many ways, what Cadillac has done in changing its position in the market (let’s face it, it was pretty much the car that was popular among the well-heeled who were retired and needed to buy American) is what Buick is doing with striking designs.

The 2017 LaCrosse is long, low and wide. It is a full-size sedan that doesn’t appear in anyway to be like a blobby barge on wheels. It is sizable—but sleek.

The All – New 2017 Buick LaCrosse

And what is more than somewhat remarkable is that the starting MSRP for the sedan is $32,900, which means it is a lot of car for the cash—although one is likely to add things to bring it to a higher trim level, because it brings the goods like AWD on the top trim level, as driven here, as well as electronically controlled damping control for the suspension that allows adjustment for softer or stiffer setups, depending on how you’re driving (i.e., in an area strewn with potholes, the touring grade is best; when you have the opportunity to drive on roads that are smooth and curving, sport is where you want to be).

(One of the more amusing names for an option package—it may be accurate in what it delivers, but still seems sort of funny—is “Driver Confidence Package.” There are actually two of them. One is available on the Essence trim, which is just behind the top-of-the-line Premium package, on which it is standard: rear cross-traffic alert and side blind-zone alert with lane-change alert. Then the second package is available on Premium: automatic park assist, front pedestrian detection, front automatic braking, and full speed-range adaptive cruise control. I don’t know if they make one feel more confident, but they surely are useful in most driving conditions.)

The LaCrosse comes with a 310-hp 3.6-liter V6 engine that’s mated to an eight-speed electronically controlled transmission. A word about the transmission shifter. Unless you’ve just started driving (and I have to say that if you just started driving, chances are you aren’t reading this), you’ve spent most of your time behind the wheel with a gear selector that’s essentially a mechanical device that you pull or push some inches or fractions thereof into position. With the setup in the LaCrosse, you’re moving it in the fractions thereof category, which can seem somewhat strange at first. To put it in reverse the movement is up and to the left. To put it into drive it is straight down. In both cases, there is a button on the side of the handle that you depress with your thumb. And to put it into park, there is a button on top that’s engaged. I’ve got to say that I found it a bit difficult when switching from drive to reverse multiple times maneuvering into a tight parking place in a street lot during Industry Days at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), when the lot owner wanted to get every possible vehicle he could onto his property.

2017 Buick LaCrosse

That said, I found the AWD and the overall performance of the car absolutely superb when I was driving down to NAIAS one snowy morning.

Buick has been promoting its “QuietTuning” for the past few years. The operative word in that combo is “quiet.” In a stately sedan like the LaCrosse, you surely don’t want road noise, wind noise or other noise that comes from outside the cabin. And they’ve accomplished that in good order in this car.

Engine: 3.6-liter direct-injected V6, 310 hp// Transmission: Eight-speed automatic//Wheelbase/length/width/height: 114.4, 197.5, 73.5, 57.5 inches//Seating: 5// Passenger volume: 102 cu. ft.//Cargo volume: 15 cu. ft.// Fuel economy: 20/29/20 city/highway/combined mpg




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