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The month in tech: Mercedes’ vision quest

(Mercedes-Benz USA)

(Mercedes-Benz USA)

A monthly roundup of the latest car technology news.

Mercedes-Benz brings 360 viewing to Formula 1 tracks

Mercedes-Benz utilised 360-degree cameras to film Formula 1 team driver Nico Rosberg take the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W05 to a track for the first time. The racing car, new for the 2014 season, was fitted with six cameras shooting 40 frames per second to give viewers a first-hand experience of England’s Silverstone Circuit. The F1 360 mobile app, available for free from the Apple App Store, allows users to control the angles of the camera as they watch, as well as experience the multidirectional sound as they change angles. Enthusiasts can also view the footage at www.MercedesAMGF1.com

Bankrupt carmaker Fisker lives on

(Fisker Automotive)

High-end hybrid-electric carmaker Fisker Automotive was purchased for $149m in bankruptcy court by Chinese-owned automotive parts conglomerate Wanxiang Group. Fisker stopped production on its hybrid-electric sedan, the Karma, in 2012 due to myriad financial and production problems, including the bankruptcy of its sole battery supplier, A123 Systems. Under Wanxiang, which previously purchased A123, Fisker is expected to produce a second generation of vehicles, led by the Atlantic mid-size sedan, previewed in concept form at the 2012 New York auto show. The US and European markets will be the relaunched Fisker’s main focus, but the brand may eventually enter China as well.

Audi, in the fuel business?

(Audi of America)

As part of Audi's so-called e-fuels initiative to produce carbon-dioxide-free alternatives to gasoline or diesel, the German automaker recently constructed an engine partially comprised of quartz glass. Researchers wanted to observe how Audi’s proprietary e-fuel – a substance created by microorganisms in a photosynthetic process – interacted with air in a combustion chamber. Audi's team squirted a small amount of fuel into the glass cylinder and then observed its compression and ignition, with the engine running at 3,000rpm. Audi said it would continue optimising the fuel and combustion sequence, with an eye towards manufacturing mass quantities of the e-fuel.

Retractable studs come to all-season tire

(Nokian Tyres)

Finnish manufacturer Nokian Tyres has created a conceptual model with retractable metal studs embedded in the tread. A flange sits flush with the tire tread, housing a metal stud that can be deployed at the push of a button within the car for icy road conditions. The tires' advantage lies in its adaptability to both dry and icy road conditions, without a driver having to change from all-season to winter tires. The model is not slated for production, but Nokian indicated it would continue to refine the concept.

Lasers light the road for BMW

(BMW of North America)

BMW is starting production of what it calls the first production car outfitted with laser headlights, the sports plug-in hybrid i8. The laser lights, which BMW says are 30% more efficient than LEDs, can shoot a beam nearly 2,000 feet and utilise reflectors that are about 10 times smaller than those used for LEDs. The laser diode beams are "bundled" using fluorescent phosphorus lenses in the headlamp, which makes the resulting headlamp 10 times brighter than conventional models. BMW uses a camera-aided system to direct the beam in a manner that does not fluster oncoming traffic. Audi has also experimented with laser headlights, vowing in January at the Consumer Electronics Show to beat BMW to production with its own system. The laser lights are optional on the $136,000 i8 and will debut on additional BMWs in the near future, the brand said.

Safety agency moves on V2V communication

(NHTSA)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the US agency charged with automotive safety regulation, announced it was working towards proposed requirements for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication. NHTSA says V2V systems will decrease car crashes and considers the technology as important as seat belts, air bags and electronic stability control. V2V-enabled cars can send location and speed information to surrounding vehicles up to hundreds of yards away, 10 times per second. This data would alert drivers to unseen hazards  or when a collision may be imminent. No date has been set for the V2V requirements, and  NHTSA says collected data would not be stored and vehicles not tracked.

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