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The Hottest Cars at the 2017 Frankfurt Auto Show

The Frankfurt auto show, officially known as the International Motor Show or IAA, is the largest of its kind both in terms of scale and the volume of new vehicle debuts. It's also a chance for the European auto industry to shine and for German car companies to unveil their most important models and coolest concepts.

This year it was also an opportunity for beleaguered German brands embroiled in the diesel emission imbroglio (which broke two years ago during the biennial Frankfurt show) to look forward to a brighter future filled with electric and autonomous vehicles, although there were still plenty of good old-fashioned petrol-fueled performance sports car to be found at the massive Messe Frankfurt fairgrounds.

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  • 1

    Mercedes-AMG Project ONE

    The talk of the show, the Mercedes-AMG Project One is the only road-legal production supercar with a genuine Formula 1 hybrid powertrain and other mechanical parts shared with the automaker's grand prix race car. With more than 1,000 horsepower on tap, this supercar can reach top speeds above 200mph and rockets from 0 to 124mph in under six seconds. But the sexy two-seater beast will also set you back $2.5 million.

  • 2

    Smart Vision EQ Concept

    Also in the massive Mercedes-Benz pavilion in Frankfurt was the Smart Vision EQ, parent company Daimler's vision of an autonomous robo-taxi. It features translucent doors and a front screen that can display messages or the names of the people it's picking up. The self-driving Smart Vision EQ has no steering wheel or pedals, but there’s a large touch screen to show occupants a map of their route and destination, and the car can connect with occupants' portable devices to create a profile based on their preferences for, say, music and other content.

  • 3

    Bentley Continental GT

    The dash-to-axle ratio of the latest Continental GT has been extended to make the luxury coupe look even longer, lower, and sleeker than its predecessor. And with a 6.0-liter 626-horsepower engine that propels the new Conti GT from 0 to 62mph in 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 207mph, it's also more powerful. Of course, occupants are cossetted in an opulent interior that features brushed metal, lush leather, and lavish wood trim, while the center console rotates between three different configurations.

  • 4

    Land Rover Discovery SVX

    Leave it to Land Rover to develop a high-performance variant of the legendary Discovery that can go almost anywhere while still delivering a posh experience for passengers. The Discovery SVX received an overhaul by Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations treatment, which tweaked the 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 engine to deliver 517 horsepower and added extra ground clearance, unique bumpers, and skid plates, and a standard winch that allows the lux rig to get out of any jam.

  • 5

    Ferrari Portofino

    As the successor to Ferrari l California convertible, the Portofino keeps its predecessor’s 3.9-liter twin-turbo V-8, but gets an additional 39 horsepower that puts it at just under 600 total and gives it a 0 to 60mph time of 3.5 seconds and a top speed of "at least 199mph," according to Ferrari. It also keeps the California’s retractable hardtop that makes the car looks gorgeous whether the roof is open or closed.

  • 6

    Borgward Isabella Concept

    This automaker’s moniker may sound like something out of sci-fi thriller, but it dates back to a defunct German car brand that disappeared in 1961, and has been resurrected by Chinese backers. After launching a pair of SUVs in China, the brand unveiled the Isabella concept coupe in Frankfurt that combines the two-tone color palettes and elegant exterior of the brand’s past cars with modern touches such as an electric powertrain, sliding doors, a three-piece steering wheel, and a multi-layer touch screen that flows from the center of the dash.

  • 7

    Honda Urban EV Concept

    There was almost as much buzz about the Honda Urban EV Concept as the Mercedes-AMG Project One, but for entirely different reasons. While it looks like a concept and Honda provided few facts on it, the automaker did confirm that a production version of the Urban EV will go on sale in Europe in 2019 (no word on whether it will come to the US market). It also previews a new EV platform as well as a bold new design direction for the normally conservative Japanese automaker.

  • 8

    Renault Symbioz Concept

    The Renault Symbioz was one of the wildest concepts shown in Frankfurt in that the car is designed to integrate into a modern home. It's meant to be driven into a house instead of a garage, where it doubles as an extra room. And since it’s an EV, the Symbioz can either pull juice from the house or send it the other way once fully charged. Oh, it’s also self-driving and has 670 horsepower.

  • 9

    Hyundai i30N

    Not every car in Frankfurt was autonomous, electric, or exotic. The Hyundai i30N is the Korean automaker’s entry into the hot hatch segment and designed to compete with budget boy-racers like the Ford Focus ST and Subaru WRX. With 271 horsepower and dynamics tuned on the famous Nürburgring test track, the i30N will likely be a welcome track-day weapon for the masses.

  • 10

    Toyota CH-R Concept

    Toyota’s C-HR HY-Power concept is a hybrid version of the automaker’s new C-HR midsize crossover that not only sips fuel, but boosts power and performance above the 122 horsepower of the tepid gasoline-only European version. Toyota said it doesn't plan to offer the C-HR HY Power in the US, but hopefully it will bring the hybrid’s hipper styling here.

  • 11

    Chery Tiggo Coupe Concept

    One of the cool things about the Frankfurt Auto Show is seeing all the Chinese automakers’ crazy concept cars. Case in point is Chery’s Tiggo Coupe, an autonomous plug-in hybrid with a sleek shape and ample LED lightings all around the car. Inside are four armchair-like seats that swivel to turn it into a mobile living room, complete with several large screens for personal entertainment.

  • 12

    Audi Aicon Concept

    The Aicon Concept is Audi’s vision of an autonomous driving future that has no steering wheel or pedals. The car uses eye tracking, voice control, and haptic surfaces for passengers to communicate with PIA, an “empathetic electronic vehicle assistant.” (The AI in the concept’s name stands for artificial intelligence.) In place of traditional headlights are more than 600 individual front-facing pixels that also serve as a digital display to present information to other vehicles and pedestrians.

  • 13

    Audi Elaine Concept

    Displayed next to the Aicon on the Audi stand was the Elaine concept electric SUV that the automaker said will be available "in a few short years." It features an electric motor on the front axle and two on the rear to power all four wheels, while a battery pack delivers a range of over 311 miles. Like the Aicon, the Elaine concept also uses artificial intelligence to anticipate the wishes of drivers or passengers.

  • 14

    Porsche Cayenne

    Porsche is known for its more powerful variants, and less than two weeks after unveiling the new 2019 Cayenne the automaker unwrapped the 2019 Cayenne Turbo version of the midsize SUV in Frankfurt. The new Cayenne Turbo is faster than the prior-generation Cayenne Turbo S, thanks to a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine that produces 550 horsepower. It also features Porsche’s new double-row front lighting for night driving and an adaptive rear roof spoiler designed to enhance acceleration and braking.

  • 15

    Mini Electric Concept

    After teasing the Mini Electric Concept leading up to the Frankfurt show, the BMW sub-brand finally took the wraps off the production model, which is expected to go on sale in 2019. The lines of the car are unmistakable Mini, but with visual cues indicating that it’s an EV, such as headlights, a front grille, and other body parts sporting a plug icon. There's no word on the car's range, specs, or cost, but since the Mini Electric shares an electric drivetrain with the BMW i3, the two vehicles will have roughly equal performance.

  • 16

    Kia Stonic

    The Kia Stonic is the Korean brand’s compact crossover, and corporate cousin to the Hyundai Kona that also debuted at the Frankfurt show. It features the automaker’s familiar 1.0-liter 3-cylinder gas engine and 1.6-liter diesel used in Europe and the company’s trademark "tiger-nose" grille. The exterior also has black plastic cladding, a "floating" two-tone roof, and a raised ride height. The Stonic goes on sale in Europe next month, although pricing was not announced.

  • 17

    BMW i Vision Concept

    Considered BMW's future Tesla fighter, the i Vision Dynamics concept is an electric four-door coupe designed to fit the wide gap between the i3 and i8. While still a concept, BMW is targeting a 373-mile EV range, acceleration of 0 to 60mph in 4 seconds, and a 120mph top speed. The interior wasn’t shown in Frankfurt but the size of the vehicle and its full-length glass roof indicate a large and airy cabin.

  • 18

    Aspark Owl Concept

    While it didn’t get the attention of the Mercedes Project One, the Aspark Owl electric supercar prototype also boats 1,000-horsepower—and a staggering price tag. Backed by a wealthy Japanese tech entrepreneur, the Owl claims to be the world’s fastest accelerating electric road car, and the most expensive at $2.7 million. The Owl sits just 39 inches tall—an inch lower than the Ford GT—and its 3.5 inches of ground clearance will make it barely road legal.

  • 19

    Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster

    This new open-top version of the Lamborghini Aventador gets its hardtop sibling’s naturally aspirated V12, which packs 730 horsepower and has a 0—60mph time of three seconds and a 217mph top speed. It also keeps the coupe's four-wheel drive system and active suspension and—in a move that’s sure to peeve purists but please average Lambo owners (if there is such a thing)—the Aventador S Roadster also gets Apple CarPlay.

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Does Google’s Duplex violate two-party consent laws?

Google’s Duplex, which calls businesses on your behalf and imitates a real human, ums and ahs included, has sparked a bit of controversy among privacy advocates. Doesn’t Google recording a person’s voice and sending it to a data center for analysis violate two-party consent law, which requires everyone in a conversation to agree to being recorded? The answer isn’t immediately clear, and Google’s silence isn’t helping. Let’s take California’s law as the example, since that’s the state where Google is based and where it used the system. Penal Code section 632 forbids recording any “confidential communication” (defined more or less as any non-public conversation) without the consent of all parties. (The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press has a good state-by-state guide to these laws.) Google has provided very little in the way of details about how Duplex actually works, so attempting to answer this question involves a certain amount of informed speculation. To begin with I’m going to consider all phone calls as “confidential” for the purposes of the law. What constitutes a reasonable expectation of privacy is far from settled, and some will have it that you there isn’t such an expectation when making an appointment with a salon. But what about a doctor’s office, or if you need to give personal details over the phone? Though some edge cases may qualify as public, it’s simpler and safer (for us and for Google) to treat all phone conversations as confidential. What we know about Google’s Duplex demo so far As a second assumption, it seems clear that, like most Google services, Duplex’s work takes place in a data center somewhere, not locally on your device. So fundamentally there is a requirement in the system that the other party’s audio will be recorded and sent in some form to that data center for processing, at which point a response is formulated and spoken. On its face it sounds bad for Google. There’s no way the system is getting consent from whomever picks up the phone. That would spoil the whole interaction — “This call is being conducted by a Google system using speech recognition and synthesis; your voice will be analyzed at Google data centers. Press 1 or say ‘I consent’ to consent.” I would have hung up after about two words. The whole idea is to mask the fact that it’s an AI system at all, so getting consent that way won’t work. But there’s wiggle room as far as the consent requirement in how the audio is recorded, transmitted and stored. After all, there are systems out there that may have to temporarily store a recording of a person’s voice without their consent — think of a VoIP call that caches audio for a fraction of a second in case of packet loss. There’s even a specific cutout in the law for hearing aids, which if you think about it do in fact do “record” private conversations. Temporary copies produced as part of a legal, beneficial service aren’t the target of this law. This is partly because the law is about preventing eavesdropping and wiretapping, not preventing any recorded representation of conversation whatsoever that isn’t explicitly authorized. Legislative intent is important. “There’s a little legal uncertainty there, in the sense of what degree of permanence is required to constitute eavesdropping,” said Mason Kortz, of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. “The big question is what is being sent to the data center and how is it being retained. If it’s retained in the condition that the original conversation is understandable, that’s a violation.” For instance, Google could conceivably keep a recording of the call, perhaps for AI training purposes, perhaps for quality assurance, perhaps for users’ own records (in case of time slot dispute at the salon, for example). They do retain other data along these lines. But it would be foolish. Google has an army of lawyers and consent would have been one of the first things they tackled in the deployment of Duplex. For the onstage demos it would be simple enough to collect proactive consent from the businesses they were going to contact. But for actual use by consumers the system needs to engineered with the law in mind. What would a functioning but legal Duplex look like? The conversation would likely have to be deconstructed and permanently discarded immediately after intake, the way audio is cached in a device like a hearing aid or a service like digital voice transmission. A closer example of this is Amazon, which might have found itself in violation of COPPA, a law protecting children’s data, whenever a kid asked an Echo to play a Raffi song or do long division. The FTC decided that as long as Amazon and companies in that position immediately turn the data into text and then delete it afterwards, no harm and, therefore, no violation. That’s not an exact analogue to Google’s system, but it is nonetheless instructive. “It may be possible with careful design to extract the features you need without keeping the original, in a way where it’s mathematically impossible to recreate the recording,” Kortz said. If that process is verifiable and there’s no possibility of eavesdropping — no chance any Google employee, law enforcement officer or hacker could get into the system and intercept or collect that data — then potentially Duplex could be deemed benign, transitory recording in the eye of the law. That assumes a lot, though. Frustratingly, Google could clear this up with a sentence or two. It’s suspicious that the company didn’t address this obvious question with even a single phrase, like Sundar Pichai adding during the presentation that “yes, we are compliant with recording consent laws.” Instead of people wondering if, they’d be wondering how. And of course we’d all still be wondering why. We’ve reached out to Google multiple times on various aspects of this story, but for a company with such talkative products, they sure clammed up fast.

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