Monday Motor & Vision Mashup: A Weekly Roundup of Auto and Eye Health News

In this week's "Monday Motor & Vision Mix," we explore Ford's new Raptor R aiming to outperform the Ram TRX, major carmakers' plans for 30,000 EV chargers, GPT-4's virtual volunteer app for the visually impaired, and groundbreaking bionic eye technology.

By Bethany Waelchi
Sep 18, 2023
20 Minutes
Monday Motor & Vision Mashup: A Weekly Roundup of Auto and Eye Health News

Welcome to "Monday Motor & Vision Mix," your go-to roundup for the latest happenings in the automotive and eye health sectors. This week, we're diving into five captivating stories that range from horsepower wars and EV infrastructure to groundbreaking eye technology and a detailed vehicle comparison. Buckle up and let's get started!

Ford F-150 Raptor R Sets Sights on Becoming the Most Powerful Off-Road Truck

Ford has recently pulled the covers off its refreshed 2024 F-150 Raptor R, revealing a truck that's not just built for the off-road but aims to dominate it. The Raptor R is equipped with a supercharged 5.2-liter V8 engine that currently churns out an impressive 700 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. While these numbers are already noteworthy, Ford Performance has set its sights even higher. The goal? To eclipse the Ram 1500 TRX's 702 horsepower and claim the title of the most potent off-road truck ever.

This ambition comes at an opportune time as Ram has announced the discontinuation of the TRX model after the 2024 year. This leaves the field wide open for Ford to not just match but exceed the performance metrics set by Ram. But Ford isn't stopping at just engine power; the company is also focusing on enhancing the Raptor R's off-road capabilities. Among the new features are a modular front bumper and new symmetrical hood graphics, both aimed at improving the truck's off-road prowess. The modular front bumper, in particular, is designed to offer the tire easier access to obstacles, making for a more versatile off-road experience.

The Raptor R's design also includes blackout tape micro-texture paired with Code Orange coloring to create a distinctive theme. This ensures that the truck stands out as a member of the esteemed Raptor family. With these upgrades, Ford is not just looking to win the horsepower wars but also to offer a truck that is as versatile off the road as it is powerful on it.

As the automotive landscape continues to evolve, Ford's latest offering serves as a testament to the brand's commitment to innovation and performance. With the 2024 F-150 Raptor R, Ford is not just building a truck; it's setting a new standard for what off-road trucks can be. Source: Muscle Cars and Trucks

Seven Top Carmakers Unite to Build a Massive EV Charging Network

In a groundbreaking move, seven of the world's leading automakers—BMW, Mercedes, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, and Stellantis—have announced a joint venture to build an expansive EV charging network across North America. The ambitious plan aims to install at least 30,000 high-powered charging points, compatible with both the popular CCS and the increasingly sought-after Tesla NACS standard. The first of these new stations are expected to be operational by the summer of 2024.

The initiative is not just about numbers; it's about making EV charging as convenient as possible for consumers. The network will be open to all EV drivers, not just those who own vehicles made by the seven participating companies. While the specifics regarding billing, access, and maintenance are yet to be disclosed, the overarching goal is to provide a seamless and positive charging experience for all.

This venture comes at a crucial time, as the adoption of electric vehicles is on the rise. According to the International Energy Association, 14% of new cars sold in 2022 were electric, up from 9% in 2021 and less than 5% in 2020. The U.S., being the third-largest market for EVs globally, saw a 55% increase in EV sales last year. With this new network, the automakers aim to further accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, making it easier for consumers to charge their cars whenever and wherever they need.

The funding for this massive project is still under discussion. It may either come directly from the $5 billion US National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program or be funded by the carmakers themselves, or possibly a combination of both. Regardless of the funding source, this joint venture signifies a monumental step in making electric vehicles more accessible and convenient for the masses. Source: Autoweek

GPT-4 Powers a 'Virtual Volunteer' for the Visually Impaired

OpenAI has partnered with Be My Eyes, an app designed to assist people with visual impairments, to introduce a "virtual volunteer" powered by its latest AI model, GPT-4. This new feature enhances the app's capabilities by offering AI-driven assistance around the clock. The virtual volunteer can understand and interpret images sent via the app, providing instant visual aid for a wide range of tasks. For instance, it can identify items in a refrigerator and suggest recipes based on those ingredients.

The feature is currently in closed beta and will be rolled out to a broader audience in the coming months. It aims to complement the human volunteers who have been the backbone of the Be My Eyes service. While human assistance remains invaluable, the AI-powered virtual volunteer raises the bar for when human intervention is needed, thereby making the service more efficient and accessible.

This initiative marks a significant step in leveraging AI technology for social good, especially in making urban and commercial infrastructure more friendly for people with vision issues. Source: TechCrunch

University of Oregon Scientists Develop Advanced Bionic Eye Technology

Researchers at the University of Oregon are making strides in the development of bionic eye technology, aiming to restore vision for millions suffering from retinal diseases like macular degeneration. Led by physicist Saba Moslehi, the team is working on a silicon electrode designed to serve as a new interface for retinal implants. This electrode aims to improve the communication between the implant and the brain, addressing one of the main challenges in current retinal implant technology.

The team's innovative approach involves using fractal geometry, inspired by natural structures, to create an electrode pattern that encourages neurons to attach. This fractal design mimics the shape of neurons, potentially increasing the resolution of future implants. The researchers have also found a way to manage glial cells, which often interfere with neuron-implant interactions, by funneling them into gaps in the fractal pattern. This ensures that neurons can function properly while still receiving the necessary support from glial cells.

The project is still in its early stages, but the team is optimistic about its potential to significantly improve the performance of retinal implants, making them more effective in restoring vision. Source: OPB

Subaru Outback XT vs Volkswagen Passat Alltrack - A Detailed Comparison

When it comes to high-riding wagons that offer an alternative to the ubiquitous SUV, the Subaru Outback and Volkswagen Passat Alltrack are two names that often come up. Both vehicles offer a blend of comfort, off-road capability, and practicality, but how do they stack up against each other? Let's delve into a detailed comparison to find out.

Price and Value

The Subaru Outback XT is priced at $52,190 before on-road costs, carrying a $5,000 premium over its naturally-aspirated counterpart. On the other hand, the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack starts at a slightly lower $50,790. While the Passat seems more budget-friendly, the Outback offers more features, making it a better value for the money.

Interior and Features

The Outback boasts an 11.6-inch vertical touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, and heated front and rear seats. The Passat counters with an 8.0-inch touchscreen and tri-zone climate control. Both vehicles offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the Outback's larger screen and additional features give it an edge.


Both vehicles are equipped with a range of safety features, including autonomous emergency braking and lane-keeping assist. The Outback has a current five-star ANCAP rating, while the Passat's has expired. This gives the Subaru a slight advantage in terms of safety.


The Outback XT comes with a 2.4-liter turbocharged engine delivering 183 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque. The Passat Alltrack is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine producing 162 kW and 350 Nm. Both are mated to all-wheel-drive systems, but the Outback's engine feels more robust, especially in the mid-range.

Driving Experience

The Outback offers a comfortable and secure driving experience, thanks to its direct steering and well-controlled body. The Passat, however, feels more polished and is the better pick for those who enjoy driving. Its 4Motion all-wheel-drive system provides excellent traction, making it a strong contender in this category.


Both the Subaru Outback XT and the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack offer compelling packages for those looking to escape the SUV mold. However, the Outback edges out the Passat in terms of features, safety, and performance, making it the better all-around choice for a high-riding wagon.


This wraps up our Monday Morning Roundup blog, where we've explored exciting developments in the automotive and eye health spaces. Stay tuned for more updates next week!