2020 Toyota Yaris

The 2020 Toyota Yaris goes far on thrift and short on just about everything else. 

The subcompact sedan starts at just $16,605 (including $955 destination) in base L trim. The sedan and hatchback are offered in LE and XLE trim, which tops out at $19,705. 

Despite that low starting price, the Yaris is undercut by the Chevy Spark, Mitsubishi Mirage, and Nissan Versa. The Yaris comes with standard power features, two USB ports, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and automatic emergency braking that can avoid crashes at 12 mph or slower. The Versa offers more active safety features, but is more expensive. The 2020 Yaris earns a TCC Rating of 5.2 out of 10. 

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The jump in the Yaris L from a 6-speed manual to a 6-speed automatic is $1,100. The hatchback only comes with the automatic. Both transmissions are moved by a 106-horsepower 1.5-liter inline-4 that powers the front wheels. The Yaris doesn’t go anywhere in a hurry, but a sport mode in the 6-speed automatic revs the engine enough to fill the cabin with noise. 

The Yaris sedan is thrifty on the road, too, thanks to its low 2,400-pound weight. The sedan is nearly a foot longer and a bit heavier, but gets 40 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA. The hatchback is expected to be the same. 

Under the skin, the Yazda uses a MacPherson front strut and a torsion-beam rear axle. The base L has 15-inch wheels, while the others have 16-inch wheels. The road is ever-present, the cabin can be loud, yet the Yaris has firm footing and good outward vision to help you avoid all those road imperfections. Even though it’s slow, the subcompact is comparatively quick to react, and the thick three-spoke steering wheel has good heft—like the MX-5 Miata—compared to the bargain-bin competitors. 

The 2020 Yaris sedan earned top marks from federal and independent crash-testing agencies, which is impressive for a subcompact. As an added bonus, the Yaris hatchback includes two years/25,000 miles of scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance.

These Are America’s Most And Least Popular Car Colors For 2019

These Are America’s Most And Least Popular Car Colors For 2019

Did you say white? Well, then, you are right, because this is still the most popular car color among customers on our side of the world (and not only).

According to a study conducted by iSeeCars, who looked at 9.4 million vehicles on the road last year, from the 2014-2018MY, to determine the market share of each shade, white leads the chart with 23.9 percent, followed closely by black, with 23.2 percent.

Related: These Are The Best And Worst Car Colors For Resale Value

The podium is completed by gray, with 15.5 percent, followed by silver, red and blue, in this order, with 14.5, 10.3 and 9.0 percent, respectively. Next we find brown, green and beige, which account for 1.4, 0.7 and 0.4 percent, respectively. Orange may be popular among those buying a sports car or a supercar, but it only accounts for 0.4 percent, while another 0.3 percent goes to gold. Yellow holds on to 0.2 percent and purple ends the chart with 0.1 percent.

The study breaks it down to each state, in alphabetical order, and varies between white and black, while the non-gray scale second option is either blue or red. In the 50 most populated areas across the nation, 28 of them are dominated by white and the rest exclusively by black. The most popular non-gray color is red and can be found in 41 areas, followed by blue with 9. You can check out the charts below and tell us what color your vehicle of choice is in the comments section.

more photos…

Note: 2020 Toyota Corolla Nightshade pictured in the Gallery

Luminar lights up lidar for AV highway

LAS VEGAS — Riding along Interstate 15 at dusk, you can see the sun set behind the mountains and canyons west of Las Vegas, casting brilliant hues of purple and pink, red and orange, across the desert floor.

But instead of looking outside, Austin Russell admires the view on the screen in front of him.

“This looks great,” said Russell, the founder and CEO of Luminar, a lidar technology company. “This is the first time I’ve really seen this.”

He examines the point cloud produced on the screen by his company’s latest product, Hydra, which combines sensing, software and computing into a single platform tailor-made for exactly these sorts of highway environments.

The technology underpinning Hydra allows automated systems to detect and classify objects out to a distance of 250 meters, and the software is optimized for highway environments. It’s targeted at companies seeking to enable driver-assist features or highway pilots involving Level 3 and 4 systems.

With a realization throughout the industry that more comprehensive applications of autonomy remain far off, Russell says applications geared toward niche environments such as highways are a way to meet today’s market demands.

“That’s the only way to get real cars on real roads in a near-term time frame, as opposed to this being a decade-plus problem,” he said.

Hydra, which ships to customers this quarter, was among a number of notable lidar-related unveilings at CES this month.

Among the others: Ouster showcased its OS0, a lidar sensor with a 90-degree field of view. The company says the technology was developed in collaboration with automaker and Tier 1 clients. It’s comparable to the Laser Bear Honeycomb lidar that Waymo developed in-house, and it allows customers to customize and configure beam spacing.

Elsewhere around CES, Velodyne introduced a new CEO and a new product — the Velabit, a $100 lidar sensor the company says can detect objects at a range of 100 meters and easily integrate into a variety of driver-assist and AV applications.

While each is tailored for different environments and applications, what might be remembered most from CES may not be products, but a shift in business model.

Luminar says it’s shying away from selling sensors and instead will sell subscriptions to its lidar services.

Russell says it’s a “natural progression” that better reflects the ongoing software development that Luminar does to improve features with customers as they become available.

Jeffrey Hannah, director of North America for technology research company SBD Automotive, says the new subscription model is a “reflection of an increasingly brutal lidar space,” where “market players are seeking any type of differentiation.”

Luminar has developed one additional feature with Hydra that might differentiate it from competitors that also make amplitude-modulated lidar: The technology can now determine the three-dimensional velocity of those targets.

Gathering velocity information from lidar traditionally was an arduous engineering challenge — and one that only companies working on frequency-modulated, continuous-wave approaches have achieved.

Doing so with amplitude-modulated lidars, such as the ones Luminar makes, is something of a breakthrough. Russell says the company cracked the velocity conundrum with a special scanning pattern that measures how the distance from an object has changed between pulses, and it gives automakers a new trove of information.

“It’s a pretty cool functionality,” he said. “And we’re getting it without trade-offs on performance and cost. It’s pretty crazy.”

Yosemite Scenery Travelling from Ridgecrest to Placerville, CA – Ultimate Adventure 2016

Part 2 of Ultimate Adventure 2016. Participating in Ultimate Adventure definitely is not for the faint of heart. While UA always promises epic adventure, it can also test the limits of both man and machinery. No sleep, soaking rain, freezing mountain passes, and in this case, oven-like heat, are all part and parcel to the UA experience. And this year was no exception. On Day 2, Editor-in-Chief and UA leader, Christian Hazel, hammered that point home as he led the group from Ridgecrest, California, up to the night’s campsite in June Lake, California. But instead of a leisurely 200-mile jaunt up Highway 395 with plentiful fuel and ice cream stops, he drove the UA through the scorching valleys and passes of Death Valley…in the summer…on what turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year. And while we didn’t lose any men, we did kill a few machines. We also visited a ghost town, got to make some trail repairs, towed out some broken rigs, drank lots of water, removed some hoods to try to get engines to run cooler, and ran out of fuel. Then, on Day 3, we left the furnace in the rear view and pointed the rigs skyward, enjoying the incredible drive and picturesque views over the Sierra Nevadas through Yosemite National Park. For more action, videos, pictures check out www.4wor-ua.com.

Catch the entire week of 2016 Ultimate Adventure on the Motor Trend Channel December 12th through December 16th with a new video premiering each day!

Event coverage and photos at: http://www.fourwheeler.com/ultimate-adventure

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NASA’s newest space observatory could sniff exoplanet atmospheres for signs of life

NASA’s newest space observatory could sniff exoplanet atmospheres for signs of life

Over the course of our existence, humanity has struggled to definitively answer the question: “Are we alone?”

Is Earth the only planet in the vast cosmic sea that contains life? As our technology becomes more advanced, we get closer and closer to the answer.

Our solar system contains a multitude of worlds, planetary bodies ranging from ice planets to gas giants with magnificent rings to rocky, terrestrial worlds like our own. But what lies out beyond our stellar neighborhood?

It’s only been in the last few decades that scientists have detected planets orbiting other stars. We call them exoplanets. Since that initial discovery, researchers have trained their telescopes on the cosmos in search of new and different worlds.

Their efforts were not in vain, as thousands of exoplanets have been detected. Now, scientists are starting to shift their focus to the individual planets and learning as much as they can about them. Do they contain life? What are they made of? What kind of atmosphere do they have?

These are the types of questions we hope to answer about the alien worlds that fill our universe.

One element essential to life on Earth is oxygen. Its presence is what scientists refer to as a biosignature. (These are the types of things NASA’s next Mars rover will look for.) A recent paper published in Nature Astronomy details a new technique that scientists are hoping will help them detect the presence of oxygen in exoplanet atmospheres.

Like methane, oxygen is a biosignature but its presence does not guarantee we will find life. There are plenty of non-biological processes that produce oxygen (as well as methane). However, if other biosignatures are detected in addition to oxygen, the chances of life increase significantly.

NASA’s Curiosity rover detected a methane cycle on Mars that varies with the seasons. However, its orbital counterparts — European spacecraft TGO and Mars Express — have not. The science team is working to identify what is causing the methane spikes as well as why it seems to disappear as it rises through the atmosphere. 

Possible sources and sinks of methane on Mars. Credit: NASA

“Oxygen is one of the most exciting molecules to detect because of its link with life, but we don’t know if life is the only cause of oxygen in an atmosphere,” Edward Schwieterman, an astrobiologist at UC Riverside and co-author on the study, said in a statement. “This technique will allow us to find oxygen in planets both living and dead.”

The new method was developed by a team led by Thomas Fauchez, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. It is derived from the behavior of oxygen molecules in Earth’s atmosphere.

When oxygen molecules collide, they produce a signala very subtle dip in infrared radiation. Unfortunately, that signal is so faint that current observatories cannot detect it in distant planets. But that will soon change. NASA’s latest and greatest telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will come online sometime in the next few years. Fauchez’s team has shown that JWST, which will observe the universe in the infrared, should have what it takes to spot it.

“Before our work, oxygen at similar levels as on Earth was thought to be undetectable with Webb,” said Fauchez in a statement. “This oxygen signal is known since the early 1980s from Earth’s atmospheric studies but has never been studied for exoplanet research.”

In the meantime, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will launch to the red planet in July. Once it’s on Mars, it will study Jezero Crater, the site of an ancient river delta and scan the region for signs of life (like oxygen, methane, and other biosignatures). The rover will also bag up bits of Mars to be returned to Earth at a later date.

NASA’s newest space observatory could sniff exoplanet atmospheres for signs of life