Detroit automakers have always dominated the full-size pickup market, but they’ve more or less ceded the midsize one to Japanese automakers Nissan and Toyota. General Motors plans to reclaim it with all-new versions of the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, which were discontinued in 2012.
Although larger than before, the trucks are still much smaller than their full-size counterparts. A midsize Colorado with an extended cab is 17 inches shorter and more than 1,000 pounds lighter than a double-cab Silverado. As a result, the trucks are more maneuverable and get better fuel economy by two to five miles per gallon.
The downside is a diminished towing capability, but let’s be real: Only a small fraction of potential owners actually need 10,000 pounds of hauling capacity. Most people would probably welcome a more versatile, fuel-efficient truck made right here in the U.S.—and now they have two.
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Drivers rejoice. The price of crude oil has fallen 20 percent since June, driving down gas prices. The drop is a result of increased U.S. supply without a decrease from other countries. The U.S. produces nearly twice the petroleum it did six years ago.
Automakers are exploring noise-canceling technology to replace heavy sound-deadening materials. The system would pipe targeted frequencies through a vehicle’s speakers to mute sounds, like the roar of tires against the road.
Most of the world’s natural rubber comes from one type of plant found almost exclusively in Southeast Asia. Bridgestone and Cooper Tires are investigating a new source native to North America: a shrub called guayule. It could diversify the global supply of rubber.
French auto-parts maker Valeo is building an app-supported system that allows vehicles to park autonomously in public garages. Ultrasonic sound-wave sensors, cameras, and lasers attached to the car help it park within just a few inches of objects.
This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of Popular Science.