Google+

BBC Autos

CarTech

The month in tech: Why Fiat hates its own electric car

Stellar, but unloved by its maker. The Fiat 500e. (Nick Czap)

Stellar, but unloved by its maker. The Fiat 500e. (Nick Czap)

A monthly roundup of the biggest car technology stories.

Maker’s remorse?

Some auto companies boast of their new car tech, while others, like Fiat, take a different tack. Fiat Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne said the company lost roughly $14,000 on every all-electric Fiat 500e the company sells, so he said he would prefer that people not buy them. Speaking at the Brookings Institute he said, "I hope you don't buy it because every time I sell one it costs me $14,000. I'm honest enough to tell you that." Honest indeed. He went to say that if Fiat Chrysler continued building the cars the company would be back in Washington DC asking for another bailout.

Read about our California joyride in the Fiat 500e here.

Google: No steering wheel, no problem

Google is at it again with driverless cars, but this time the internet giant is taking its vehicles to an entirely new level. The company said this week it would build 100 driverless cars that remove all controls from the driver, leaving just a start button and an emergency cut-off button. As Google said in a blog post, "They won’t have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal… because they don’t need them." Instead, the company's software and sensors will do all the work. Beginning this summer Google will start testing the vehicles – though manual controls will be fitted to comply with laws in California, where the company is based – and hopes to start a pilot program in a couple of years.

Virtual reality comes to Norwegian tanks

As our BBC News colleagues reported, the Norwegian army is testing virtual reality goggles, including the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift, to provide its tank operators with an unobstructed view of their surrounding landscape. The army mounted four cameras, each with a 185-degree field of view, onto the sides of a tank, and hooked them up to an on-board computer tied to virtual reality goggles. As the tank operators turned their head they saw exactly what they would if the tank were not in the way. Virtual reality in military applications is just at the preliminary stage, but the army said it intended to start operational testing soon.

Toyota's new carbide processors could boost fuel efficiency

(Toyota Motor Sales)

The Japanese automaker has developed a new semiconductor processor made out of carbide, which the company says will increase fuel efficiency in its hybrids by up 10%. Toyota claims the new silicon-carbide semiconductors have one-tenth the power loss of the company’s current chips, , and will reduce the size of its vehicle power control units (or PCUs) buy about 80%. In testing, Toyota has observed a 5% fuel efficiency increase with the new semiconductors, but expects that figure to double before 2020, when it commercialises the tech.

Volvo plans to build an electric avenue

(Volvo Group)

The Swedish Transportation Administration is collaborating with the Swedish automaker on a proposed electric road that would charge EVs – whether privately or publicly owned –  wirelessly. The road will be built along an existing bus route in Gothenburg, Volvo’s corporate base, and will use inductive technology, which can charge vehicles while they're moving, eliminating the need for physical charging stations. Among European carmakers Volvo has been among the staunchest proponents of plug-in vehicles. Volvo Group buses would initially be used on the proposed road section, which may be built as early as 2015.

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Autos, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.