Newsflash II

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+++ The new vehicle market in AUSTRALIA scaled new heights in 2017, growing 0.9 percent to 1.189.116 sales for the year. But some grew more than others. This story tracks the brands that recorded the most sales growth by raw numbers, and also those which grew the most proportionally. The former measure favours big-volume companies with high profiles, the latter favours smaller operators where low number increases can represent big percentage growth. The top5 growers by sales were: Kia (up 12.069 units), Mitsubishi (up 7.286 units), Toyota (up 6.956 units), Honda (up 5.945 units) and Subaru (up 5.493 units). The top5 growers by percentage were: Haval (up 148.3 percent; a Chinese SUV maker), Lotus (up 100 percent), LDV (up 67.3 percent; Australia’s biggest-selling brand from China), Maserati (up 53.2 percent) and Alfa Romeo (up 48.7 percent). The top brands of 2017 by sales were: Toyota (216.566), Mazda (116.349), Hyundai (97.013), Holden (90.306), Mitsubishi (80.654), Ford (78.161), Volkswagen (58.004), Nissan (56.594), Kia (54.737), Subaru (52.511), Honda (46.783), Mercedes (42.489), Isuzu (25.804), BMW (23.619), Audi (22.011), Suzuki (19.256), Land Rover (13.112), Renault (10.812), Lexus (8.800) and Jeep (8.270). +++

+++ The world’s leader in graphics processor unit manufacturing and the supplier of both software and hardware to the automotive industry for AUTONOMOUS vehicles, says the computing challenge facing the industry is daunting. Nvidia boss Jensen Huang said: “building a computer for autonomous vehicles is at a level of complexity the world has never known. In order to make autonomous vehicles possible, you have to solve this incredible computing problem, the largest scale computing problem of its kind from the bottom all the way to the top. This is a processor architecture problem, an algorithm problem, a system problem, a cloud computing problem, a car system and sensor problem. The number of challenges necessary to solve, in order for the auto industry to bring autonomous vehicles to the world, is utterly daunting”. Huang said that Nvidia has taken the first step by producing the world’s first processor built specifically for autonomous vehicles, called the Nvidia Xavier drive. According to Huang, the hardware and software required to run autonomous vehicles needs to be “always on and never fail”, running software that “the world has never known how to write”. According to Nvidia, the Xavier drive processor is the largest R&D effort the world has ever made for a processor. The chip encompasses 9 billion transistors and took eight thousand engineering years to design and engineer. It has multiple layers of built-in redundancy, 8 cores, and dual execution so that each computation is carried twice for accuracy. Nvidia’s recently announced Volta GPU (125 teraflops-per-second of computing power), is capable of recording every video input at full high-dynamic range in real time, while processing 1.5 gigapixels of imagery per second. Nvidia says the chip will be used for level 3 and 4 autonomous vehicles, with the system to go into production before the end of this year. So far, the likes of Volkswagen, Hyundai, Baidu and ZF have partnered with Nvidia to use its autonomous vehicle and artificial intelligence architectures. Uber will also become a big partner to Nvidia as it seeks to create an autonomous vehicle fleet for its services. As for the holy grail, which is level 5 and fully autonomous driving capability, Nvidia is building its Pegasus system, which the company claims has enough processing power to allow the vehicle to face situations for which it has never faced before and operate safely in real time. In order to test its hardware, Nvidia is using an automotive simulation system that allows its processors and their associated software to run in a virtual environment using real-world data (high definition video recordings as well as simulated environments). This allows engineers to retest the vehicle in the same scenario with updated hardware or software. Nvidia says that it will aim to build a systems that is capable of Automotive Safety Integrity Level D (ASIL-D), which means it has the highest classification of initial hazard (injury risk) defined within ISO 26262. Otherwise, it’s the most stringent level of safety measures to apply for avoiding an unreasonable residual risk in the event of a system failure. The GPU and chip manufacturers foray into the world of autonomous vehicles is only strengthening as time goes by. Companies from Toyota to Mercedes-Benz and Tesla all use Nvidia processing units for their autonomous vehicle systems, with the company positioning itself at the very forefront of the autonomous vehicle revolution. +++

+++ FORD revealed that it will be offering a new Power Stroke 3.0-liter V6 engine for its F-150 trucks. With this addition, customers now have a total of 6 choices for the engine of the F-150. The new engine is capable of delivering 250 hp with peak torque of 600 Nm, figures that customers are sure to love. Fuel efficiency meanwhile is expected to be at an EPA-estimated value of 30 mpg highway. Towing capacity is projected to be the best for its segment at 11,400 lbs. with payload capacity measured to be at 2,020 lbs. This latest engine was designed by none other than the same powertrain team responsible for coming up with the Power Stroke 6.7-liter engine used in Ford’s Super Duty trucks going back as far as 2011. The new engine was developed in order to meet the specific demands of F-150 customers in North America. These are customers that haul and tow more frequently compared to customers in other markets. Proof of this is the fact that the maximum torque is accessible at 1,750 rpm, with strong torque being delivered all across the rpm range. These features make the F-150 the best vehicle to haul, or even tow, heavy loads across long distances. For this new engine, the team utilized a variable-geometry high-efficiency turbocharger in order to lower any turbo lag and increase the responsiveness. Adding in a common-rail fuel injection system has resulted in optimizing both the fuel efficiency and performance. Further, the injection calibration that allows for a high-pressure of 29,000 lbs. per square inch not only means quieter and smoother operation but also lowers emissions. The team also put in dual fuel filters in order to enhance the break-in. The 2-stage oil pump and cast-aluminum oil pan allowed for better fuel efficiency while reducing any parasitic loss. In terms of composition, the new engine has a forged-steel crank and the iron block compacted-graphite material construction. These are the same ones used in the EcoBoost 2.7-liter engine. It helps lower the weight but at the same time offers better durability and strength. Ford diesel engine technical specialist David Ives said that most diesel engines that have electric cooling fans generally lower power when experiencing extreme altitude and heat. However for this new engine, he added, the team went for viscous-controlled mechanical fan. This fan, he continued, could move more air across the intercooler and radiator even in extreme conditions. Owners therefore can experience more passing capability and more power despite the harsh conditions. Ford Vice-President for Global Powertrain Engineering Dave Filipe meanwhile said that every truck owner wanted an engine that can offer excellent fuel economy as they haul and tow. The new Power Stroke engine, he added, delivers just that. Ford will be accepting orders for the new engine in mid-January with deliveries set to start this spring. +++

+++ The head of design for HYUNDAI says that autonomous and electric vehicles will likely adapt a non-aggressive design philosophy to suit their inherent nature going forward, with only the second-generation of these vehicles likely to deviate from the path. The South Korean brand’s head of design, Luc Donckerwolke (designer of the Lamborghini Gallardo and Murcielago), says that he learnt from Tesla that cars of the future don’t need to look all that different from today’s conventional cars. “When Tesla brought the Model S, I was kind of disappointed that it wasn’t moving forward. Its styling was conservative and not aggressive, that it wasn’t moving forward. I learnt that I was wrong”, Donckerwolke admitted. “When you’re changing the basic concept of powertrain you are already making consumers insecure. So we found out that you still have to be careful how you approach this big change of consuming automotive products, because customers have a certain inertia in accepting new ideas”. Speaking about designing Hyundai’s electric and autonomous vehicles, Donckerwolke said that these cars need to adapt flowing designs to suit their image. “At the same time we wanted a car because of the electric powertrain that was non aggressive; it’s a car with a lot of autonomous support, when you are driving an autonomous vehicle, it should not look like an aggressive race car; it should flow harmoniously. The whole design has to be non-aggressive and aerodynamic, pleasant and harmonized. When you’re driving a car which is silent, you don’t want optical noise, you want the same silence in the aesthetics as you have in the acoustics of the car”. He conceded that other companies may take a different approach, but that it’s likely we will have to wait till the second generation of electric and autonomous cars to see the design freedoms that come with not having an internal combustion engine taking up valuable space. “I think not all the cars are going to be that way, but the general cars that are fulfilling means of transportation are going to have non-aggressive styling. That doesn’t mean they won’t be emotional, but they will be a non-aggressive emotions that we will convey. I don’t want an autonomous or electric car looking like a Lamborghini”. Tesla has adopted a similar design approach with its Model S, Model X and Model 3, however its recently unveiled new Roadster supercar takes a different approach to its current design philosophy. +++

+++ MCLAREN has announced a new Sport Pack for its popular 570GT supercar. The pack adds £4900 to the price of the £157,000 GT and comprises stiffer springs, quicker steering, new uprights and actuators, in addition to the more generous stability control settings from the 570S, as well as that car’s steering and damper software. The package is completed by the standard fitment of hybrid road/track Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres in place of the usual P Zeroes.
Moreover, as part of the changes for the 2018 model year, 570GT cars now also come with carbon ceramic brakes as standard, bringing it into line with the 570S and other more expensive McLarens. The move to sharpen the 570GT appears to be in response to criticism from some quarters that the car puts too great an emphasis on ride comfort in standard form, at the expense of outright body control. With springs that are 15% stiffer at the front, 10% stiffer at the rear and steering that’s 2% quicker overall, the hope is that the car will provide the looks and practicality that form the core of the 570GT’s appeal, together with the dynamic response that has earned the 570S near-universal praise. And it looks like the pack will prove popular: McLaren estimates that 60% of 570GT customers will choose the Sport Pack. As the 570GT already makes up 80% of 570 coupé sales, this means that almost half of all 570 coupés will be GTs with the pack. The 570 Spider already has Sport specification settings as standard. +++

+++ Autointernationaal.nl had had a taste of MERCEDES ’ all-new smartphone-style operating system, MBUX, in (of all vehicles) the upcoming A-Class. You’d expect such clever, high-end technology to debut in something far more exotic such as a new S-Class, but according to the German Manufacturer, the all-new A-Class is the perfect platform to showcase the technology. Ola Kallenius, member of the board of management for Mercedes, said the A-Class is exactly where this new interactive smart-car technology makes the most sense. “The A-Class has the youngest customer group for us”, Kallenius said. “The new-generation car is therefore the right one for us to showcase the MBUX system”. Effectively ‘Hey Siri’ or ‘Hey Google’ for cars, MBUX brings numerous clever technical advances to the cabin of the A-Class, all while keeping your eyes focused on the road, and your hands on the wheel. MBUX will eventually expand further into the same kind of app store system we’re all used to now, where some apps will be free, while owners can opt to buy other apps as well. While we initially thought MBUX might cut down on the different ways you could interact with the system, that hasn’t happened, with Mercedes-Benz still offering control via voice, the steering wheel, the touchscreen or the rotary dial. However, with voice commands working as sharply as they do, there’s no real need to access any of the other options in the real world. I’m not yet sure how the system will be specified for The Netherlands and Dutch-bound A-Class variants, but there is effectively a base option, followed by 3 different ‘layers’ of tech that can be added on top. I tested the full-tilt system from the passenger seat of a heavily-disguised A-Class and in short, it is both accurate and impressive. The speed with which it picks up requests and commands looks like it will rival the best Apple or Android users currently experience. The system works with all facets of the interface, including satellite navigation, lighting, climate control, contacts, mapping, weather, and your calendar. For example, if you get into the cabin and the temperature is set at 18 degrees, you can say “Hey Mercedes, I’m too cold”, and it will raise the temperature by a few degrees. Alternatively, you can also ask the system to raise or lower to a specified temperature. MBUX will even control the cabin lights, including ambient LED lighting. “Hey Mercedes, will it rain tomorrow” is met with a voice weather update, as well as a forecast for the next few days on the central screen. Finding the nearest restaurant is also clever, given Mercedes-Benz’s collaboration with Yelp. Tell MBUX you’re hungry and it won’t just show the nearest restaurants and their distance from you, but also the Yelp rating out of five as well. There’s also a partnership with Trip Advisor, taking the effective information even further again. Mercedes-Benz isn’t going to cut out other smartphone systems either, leaving owners to decide whether they prefer MBUX, or Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. “We believe in the two Cs”, said Sajjad Khan, vice president of digital vehicle and mobility for Mercedes-Benz. “Compete and Collaborate. So other smartphone connections will be available as well as MBUX”. I’ve asked often in testing, for manufacturers to stop developing their own systems and allow us to simply use our smartphones as we wish, however, the MBUX system may make me eat my words. It will connect securely to your WiFi network for quick updates, has the best available hardware that shouldn’t go out of date too quickly, and works in much the same way as the intuitive command system of any smartphone. It’s no surprise then, that Mercedes-Benz reckons it’s the best of its kind in the world. “We call it ‘human centred innovation”, Kallenius said. “We are turning the car into the ultimate mobile device, more mobile than a mobile phone. MBUX has exceptional graphics and controls and it will be the best conversation you’ve ever had with a car”. +++

+++ 2 months ago, there were reports about TESLA Semi sales as it skyrocketed just a few weeks after being launched in the United States. Huge companies like J.B. Hunt, Walmart, Loblaws and Meijer had placed their reservations on the all-electric truck, as well as some other international companies. Also, the largest reservation that has been made was for 125 units (by none other than UPS). Furthermore, Tesla received a total of around 140 pre-orders from the companies that ordered from them. And now, that number has probably doubled or tripled. The electric car maker promises to begin deliveries for the first batch of orders starting in late 2019. Other companies that made reservations late last year include Sysco, DHL Supply Chain, Mecca & Son Trucking, Fercam, European based Girteka Logistics, Ryder and some others. Naturally, because of that success, Tesla decided to open reservations for the Semi in at least three countries in Europe including the Netherlands, Norway, and the UK. For the first customers who made reservations, such as Norwegian company Asko, which booked 10 units, it did not take them too long to wait. But they wanted to know more about the truck before they push through with their orders. For European buyers, they will have to wait a little later before deliveries begin as it will likely start in the beginning of the next decade. And we do not know yet whether the Semi will need a special adaptation for European regulations. Customers will be given 2 battery choices when buying the Tesla Semi, one with a range of 480 kilometers, and one with a larger battery that can do 800 kilometers. Prices for the Tesla Semi range from 120,000 to 155,000 euro, depending on the version you get. The Tesla Semi is the very first all-electric heavy duty truck worldwide, which is the reason why it is getting so much hype and attention from massive companies around the world. This project was led by Jerome Guillen, who was once an executive of the Daimler, where he successfully led the development of the Cascadia truck program. Aside from the impressive range achieved on a single charge with a full load, it is definitely friendlier to the environment too; another reason why companies like Budweiser are looking into this. With all the orders lined up for the Tesla Semi, the automaker needs to be very organized when it comes to production, to be able to deliver to everyone on time. Especially now that they have to build a US-spec and a European-spec models of the all-electric truck. Will they be able to cope with the growing number of orders? We have yet to find out. +++

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