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Why driving can provide psychological benefits

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Professor Lynne Pearce discusses the psychological benefits of driving

Is driving good for your mental health? Porsche, which, granted, has a vested interest in the concept, found one person making strong arguments for the psychological benefits of driving.

Professor Lynne Pearce teaches literary and cultural theory at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. The daughter of a mechanic and garage owner, she’s written extensively on the benefits of driving, including the book “Drivetime: Literary Excursions in Automotive Consciousness.”

“Whenever I get into the car I feel a sense of relief,” Pearce said in a statement. “My body relaxes, and I looked forward to the uninterrupted time I have to think.”

In her book, Pearce talks about using long drives (she has made an 800-mile trip between her childhood home in Cornwall, England, and current home in Glasgow, Scotland, for decades) to work out issues both personal and professional.

Professor Lynne Pearce discusses the psychological benefits of driving

“Since the early days of motoring, psychologists have been interested in the fact that driving—as well as being one of the most complex, everyday tasks—is also one that frees up parts of the brain to think productively,” Pearce said.

It’s now “widely understood” that it’s possible to work through other thoughts while driving because the brain’s central executive remains alert, she said. That’s why it’s harder to focus on other things during more challenging situations, such as driving in bad weather, she added.

At the same time, driving can also help alleviate mental distress because it gives the brain something else to focus on, she said. While driving fast can be “exhilarating,” Pearce said she feels a slower pace can be under appreciated.

“I love to use the minor roads close to where I live and driving slowly enables me to bond much more closely with the environment.”

We’re all for the bonding, but we also like having more driving fun on B roads, which we think is also good for the soul.

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Toyota begins construction of its smart city

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Toyota's Woven City

Just before the coronavirus pandemic hit, at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show, Toyota announced an ambitious plan to build an entire city in Japan as a showcase for futuristic tech. Despite everything that’s happened since that announcement, Toyota is still going ahead with this scheme.

Toyota held a groundbreaking ceremony for the project, dubbed Woven City, Tuesday at a construction site adjacent to one of its former factories. The automaker didn’t give any other updates on construction, or on its efforts to recruit people to live in the city.

Woven City will be built from the ground up on 175 acres of land at the base of Japan’s iconic Mt. Fuji. At its CES 2020 press conference, Toyota said the city would allow for testing and development of autonomous vehicles, robotics, smart-home systems, and other future tech in a real-world environment.

The name Woven City comes from the use of designated streets for three types of traffic: faster vehicles, mixed usage for lower-speed personal mobility devices (such as scooters), and pedestrians, as well as pedestrian-only zones. There will also be one underground road to transport goods, according to Toyota. The name also refers to Toyota’s roots in the textile industry.

Toyota’s Woven City

Toyota previously said it would deploy working versions of its e-Palette and LQ concepts in Woven City, plus an assortment of scooters and mobility aids for the pedestrian-only areas. The e-Palette is a reconfigurable box-shaped autonomous vehicle designed for both ride-sharing and delivery services, while the LQ is a small hatchback with an AI interface and some degree of autonomous-driving capability.

Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, whose team designed Google’s Mountain View headquarters, was commissioned to design the city, which will be built from sustainable materials and powered by renewable energy, including hydrogen fuel cells (a Toyota favorite) and rooftop solar panels.

Toyota also previously said homes would have robots and sensors to monitor occupants’ health, and that all buildings, vehicles, and people would be connected through a citywide network managed by AI.

Initially, Woven City will have just 360 residents, mostly older adults, families with young children and inventors. Toyota plans to eventually house more than 2,000 people, including some of its own employees, in the futuristic city.

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Tesla won’t maintain growth as industry catches up

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Incoming BMW CEO Oliver Zipse

Tesla humbled the established German luxury automakers by leading the way for electric cars, but the rest of the industry is catching up, BMW’s chief executive believes.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Tesla’s 2020 deliveries were up nearly 36% from 2019, at just under 500,000 cars, the automaker said in its year-end financial results call. Tesla is also expanding, with new factories in Germany and Texas scheduled to come online, alongside its existing California and China plants, in 2021.

“It won’t be easy for Tesla to continue at that speed because the rest of the industry is moving ahead big time,” BMW CEO Oliver Zipse told Bloomberg Monday during the DLD All Stars tech conference, a gathering of tech visionaries.

Established automakers were not prepared for the Tesla Model S when it launched in 2012, and they are still struggling to match Tesla, which is now planning to launch a version of the Model S with more than 500 miles of range. Most German luxury brands are just beginning to roll out high-volume EVs and they are struggling to hit 300 miles of range.

Incoming BMW CEO Oliver Zipse

The Texas factory will build the Cybertruck, targeting the most popular vehicle segment in the U.S., and CEO Elon Musk has teased an entry-level $25,000 EV as well.

However, German automakers are finally beginning to ramp up production of EVs. BMW has several new models in the works, including the iX SUV, i4 sedan, and an electric version of the next-generation 7-Series. They’ll join the iX3 (which isn’t sold in the U.S.) and Mini Cooper SE, both of which debuted last year. The automaker plans to launch 25 electrified models by 2023, with more than half all-electric.

Mercedes-Benz plans to have eight EVs under its new EQ sub-brand by 2022. That includes the EQC crossover and EQV minivan already on sale in Europe, the upcoming EQA and EQB compact crossovers, as well as larger EQE and EQS models—each in sedan an SUV body styles. The EQS sedan starts production in Sindelfingen, Germany, later this year, while the SUV version, along with the EQE SUV, will be built in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, starting in 2022.

The Volkswagen Group may already be ahead of Tesla in Europe at least. It sold more EVs than Tesla in that market last year, and delivered 231,600 globally—more than triple its 2019 total. VW is adding the ID.4 crossover to its lineup in both Europe and the U.S. this year. Audi will get its own version, dubbed Q4 E-Tron, along with the Porsche Taycan-based E-Tron GT this year.

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None of Jaguar’s current model lines will remain after EV transformation

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Thierry Bollore

Jaguar Land Rover CEO Thierry Bollore last week made the shock announcement that Jaguar’s full lineup will consist exclusively of electric vehicles as soon as 2025.

But the automaker doesn’t plan to simply redesign current models like the XF sedan and F-Pace crossover with battery-electric power. Instead, it plans a full reboot that will see new model lines introduced and the lineup likely pruned.

The reboot could also see the Jaguar brand repositioned as a more premium offering. Citing people familiar with Bollore’s plans, Automotive News (subscription required) reported this week that Jaguar will ditch the premium market dominated by the German brands and target the luxury market where brands like Aston Martin, Bentley and Maserati operate.

Thierry Bollore

The claim is backed by comments made by Bollore in a press conference following last week’s announcement, where he said, “we will reposition completely the Jaguar brand.” He also said in the conference that the repositioning is why plans for an electric XJ originally due in 2020 have been scrapped.

Key to the repositioning will be the development of a battery-electric platform exclusive to Jaguar. Land Rover will have two platforms of its own, both of them designed to support hybrid and battery-electric vehicles.

At this point Jaguar doesn’t have much to lose with a reboot. Last year it managed to sell slightly more than 100,000 vehicles. That’s only one fifth of what Tesla sold, despite Jaguar having two more model lines.

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