Newsflash: Subaru omarmt autonoom rijden

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+++ Around a quarter of potential car buyers in CHINA said smart onboard features sit atop the list of factors they will consider when choosing new vehicles, according to a recent JD Power survey. The annual survey, now in its 13th year, examines consumer perceptions of vehicles and interest in new technologies. The results this year, released last week, were based on responses from 11.266 respondents who would like to purchase new vehicles in 6 months. A total of 67 Chinese and international vehicles brands were involved in the survey and the responses were collected online in January and June 2021. JD Power found that the demand for advanced technology configurations has notably increased in China. Of the respondents, 24 % said easy-to-use smart features are the decisive factor. It also found that the lack of cutting-edge technological features is among the top three factors that turn potential buyers away from a vehicle brand or model. “With vehicle intelligence becoming a key factor for consumer purchase decisions, automakers need to leverage different strategies for different tech features”, said Edward Wang, managing director of syndicated research at JD Power China. Wang said for popular onboard smart features automakers shall make them easy to use, and when it comes to less popular features, automakers should first help consumers learn about them. JD Power also found that new energy vehicles’ acceptance varies with different customer groups in the country. Women customers born after 1995 are most likely to choose NEVs, while men customers aged between 30 and 40 prefer gasoline cars from international brands. Three primary reasons potential car buyers to choose one model over another are attractive design and styling exterior, good purchase experience and good driving experience, according to JD Power. In terms of brand awareness, international brands still took the lead this year, but Chinese brands, particularly the NEV startups, showed notable improvement, said JD Power. +++

+++ As automakers make their shift to electrification of vehicles to meet stricter emission regulations, many have started collaborating with composers of game and film music in search of a signature tune that can replace ENGINE SOUNDS . Since electrified cars using motors are quieter than internal combustion engine vehicles, drivers tend to pay more attention to interior sounds of electric vehicles and gasoline-electric hybrids, automakers say. Nissan and a research unit of major entertainment company Bandai Namco Holdings, which produces various games from the “Pac-Man” to “Mobile Suit Gundam” series, developed sound effects such as to inform drivers to wear seat belts and a door is not shut. The sounds are introduced in new models of its Note compact car in Japan as well as the sport utility vehicles Rogue and Pathfinder in the United States and Qashqai in Europe that went on sale since fall last year. The collaboration reflected a knowledge accumulated in the video game industry on how to accurately convey necessary information and alert a change in situation, the companies said. In 5 years of trial and error, the companies tried various patterns of scales and tempos and sought their ideal sound that is sophisticated, comfortable to hear and not alarming like a buzzer. “We cut away any excessive expression and created a sound easy to hear”, said Minamo Takahashi, the sound director at Bandai Namco Research. Hiroyuki Suzuki, Nissan’s lead engineer for in-car information sound design, said, “The latest Note now gives a modern impression with the contemporary sound”. Some other carmakers are trying to distinguish their vehicles by crafting driving sounds comparable to ignition and speeding up of gasoline engines. BMW tapped Academy Award winner Hans Zimmer, who composed soundtracks for the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ series, to develop suitable sounds for its EVs. In Japan, the new acoustic features will be available on its iX model from this fall. Toyota created artificial sounds for acceleration, when it redesigned its Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in December. The sound change responsive to braking and accelerating helps the driver intuitively understand the condition of the car, the company said. +++

+++ With an aging population in need of transport, JAPAN is betting on autonomous cars, but an accident involving a self-driving vehicle at the Paralympics illustrates the challenges ahead. Japan is far from the only place with autonomous vehicles on the roads, but its government has set acceleration of the technology as a key priority. Last year, it became the first country in the world to allow a vehicle capable of taking full control in certain situations to operate on public roads. A Honda car has “Level 3” autonomy, meaning it can take certain decisions alone, though a driver has to be ready to take the wheel in emergencies. The government has changed the law to pave the way for increasingly advanced autonomous vehicles, and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has plans for 40 autonomous taxi test sites nationwide by 2025. It’s a policy driven by a serious problem: Japan’s population is the oldest in the world, and the country is plagued by persistent labor shortages. “In the cargo and transport sectors, drivers have become older and the shortage of human resources has become serious,” a recent METI report said. It also warned of “terrible traffic accidents caused by elderly drivers making operational errors”. With demand clear, local automakers have lined up to develop technologies. Top-selling Toyota plans to run its e-Palette self-driving buses along dedicated roads in the smart city it is building at the foot of Mount Fuji. The buses ran in the athletes village during the Tokyo 2020 Games, but the project was briefly suspended after a vehicle hit and lightly injured a visually impaired Paralympian. The bus had detected the man and stopped, but an operator on board overrode the system. For Christopher Richter, head of Japan research at brokerage CLSA and an automotive specialist, the incident demonstrates how far the sector has to go. “People said autonomous is ready for these kinds of controlled communities”, but even there “it failed”, he said. For rural Japan, autonomous vehicles “will become a necessity”, Richter added. “I can see why it’s a priority for the government and for carmakers but big-scale autonomous driving is probably not coming in our decade”. Japan’s automakers admit the time horizon is a complex proposition at this stage. When Nissan launched tests of its Easy Ride self-driving taxis in 2018, it said it expected them to be commercially available from the early 2020s. But Kazuhiro Doi, the company’s global vice president in charge of research, is more circumspect now. “Social acceptance (of autonomous cars) is not high enough”, he said. “Very few people have experience with autonomous driving. Without having experience, I think it’s very hard to accept it, because it’s too new”. This month, the Easy Ride taxis are in their third round of tests on public roads in Yokohama, albeit in a limited area designated for the purpose. “Doors closing”; a woman’s voice says after a passenger presses the car’s “go” button, and the vehicle sets off by itself, moving cautiously in the drizzle. “When we provide a test ride for customers, everybody is surprised. It’s better than what they expected”, Doi said. “And that kind of experience needs to be accumulated”. But he admits it is hard to say when autonomous taxis could be commercially available in Japan, noting that the Easy Ride cars currently avoid “complicated” areas with narrow or winding streets. “Unfortunately, complicated areas have customers”, he said. +++

+++ Major global automakers and experts have called for more intensive cooperation in the field of NEW ENERGY VEHICLES (NEVs) to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality. Speaking at the 3rd World New Energy Vehicle Congress (WNEVC), the international participants said since China is the biggest auto market in the world, they are willing to work with Chinese partners to fight against climate change for a clean, beautiful world. Themed “Comprehensively promoting marketization, accelerating cross-industry integration, jointly achieving carbon neutrality”, the event was held in Haikou, capital of south China’s Hainan Province, from September 15. John Edwards, British Trade Commissioner for China, said he encourages more Chinese companies to explore collaboration opportunities with the UK and help shape the battery and new energy vehicle market. “Both China and the UK have detailed plans for zero-emission vehicles. I firmly believe, through exchanges and cooperation such as in this event, we can accelerate innovation, and foster a successful environment to meet our zero-emission vehicle objectives”, Edwards said. As a company that has operated in the Chinese market for decades, BMW expressed its support for the green transition in China. The German automaker said it will provide more zero-emission vehicles for the Chinese market and expand the scale of public charging stations by collaborating with Chinese companies. BMW is forging cooperation with Chinese tech giants to help startups in tech innovation, BMW chief of development Frank Weber said in a video speech. Global auto-system supplier ZF has set up nearly 50 manufacturing companies and 4 R&D centers in more than 20 cities in China. Holger Klein, member of the board of management of ZF Group, said the company will continue to enhance its innovation and development capabilities and promote digital manufacturing for the Chinese NEV market, and contribute to China’s sustainable development and next generation mobility. Noting that China is the largest electric vehicle market, Hans Georg Engel, senior executive vice president of Daimler Greater China, said the company will set up an R&D center in Beijing with over 1.000 engineers and will continue to invest in China to make its research capabilities more remarkable. To be specific, Daimler will focus on the research and development of electric cars and battery technologies to provide customized products to meet the demand of Chinese consumers, he added. German automaker Volkswagen plans to build 17.000 high-power charging piles in China before 2025 and 32,000 by 2030, according to Liu Yunfeng, vice CEO of Volkswagen Group China, noting that achieving carbon neutrality requires effort from every country across the world. Liu’s remarks were echoed by Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO of the Global Environment Facility, who urged intensive cooperation in terms of technologies and markets to help the development of the NEV industry in developing countries. +++

+++ 43.618. That’s how many Macans were delivered in the first half of the year, putting PORSCHE ‘s smaller crossover in second place in terms of sales, right behind the Cayenne with 44.050 units. It’s safe to say the Macan has been a veritable cash cow for the Zuffenhausen brand ever since its introduction in 2014, but the sporty crossover isn’t immune to increasingly stringent emissions regulations. Consequently, the petrol-fuelled Macan will stick around for only a few more years before Porsche will pull the proverbial plug. This isn’t just some wild speculation on our part as the news comes straight from the vehicle’s product line boss. In an interview with Autocar magazine, Sebastian Staiger said the model will likely be dropped in just three years’ time. Asked when the Macan will switch entirely to electric propulsion, Staiger said “Today, no final decision has been taken, but we assume that 2024 will be the year”. He explained legislation plays a major role in a vehicle’s life, adding “emission laws are another limiting factor”. With Euro 7 due to come into effect in 2025, it’s no wonder Porsche is accelerating its EV efforts by switching focus to the zero-emissions model. Speaking of which, it will be revealed at some point next year and go on sale in 2023. It will be the first electric model to ride on the Premium Platform Electric architecture jointly developed by Porsche and Audi, with the latter working on a Q6 e-Tron also coming next year. The Four Rings are also working on a PPE-based A6 e-Tron as previewed by a namesake concept earlier this year. As a refresher, Porsche recently updated the petrol-powered Macan with minor visual tweaks inside and out, along with a modified hierarchy as the Turbo has been dropped. Instead, GTS is now the top dog in the lineup, packing the same twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 as the old Turbo, complete with 440 hp. The Macan S now takes the place of the previous GTS with 380 hp on tap, while the base 4-cylinder model has been upgraded to 265 hp. It remains to be seen whether the Macan will be updated furthermore before bidding adieu, but it’s pretty obvious time is running out for the gas model as Porsche’s R&D team is now channelling most of its efforts towards the upcoming EV model. +++

+++ SUBARU aims to start selling vehicles equipped with the equivalent of Level 2 autonomous technology, which can steer, accelerate and slow down on ordinary roads, in the second half of the decade, company officials said. Several automakers, including Toyota and Nissan, already offer Level-2 autonomous vehicles for use on expressways. But developing such vehicles to run on ordinary roads has been a challenge, due to the need to respond to unexpected scenarios such as pedestrians’ movements in order to avoid accidents. Subaru plans to develop a next-generation system using its EyeSight Driver Assist Technology and artificial intelligence to recognize a traffic lane even when the white line on the roads cannot be seen. Level-2 technologies allow drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel under certain conditions, but drivers are still required to monitor the vehicle’s driving at all times. Earlier this year, Toyota launched new models of its luxury sedan Lexus LS and hydrogen-powered Mirai that are equipped with level-2 assistant technologies. In March, Honda launched the revamped Legend sedan in Japan with Level 3 autonomous technology, becoming the world’s first vehicle on sale to allow the driver to engage in different tasks, such as reading and watching TV, when the car is driving in certain conditions, including congested traffic on expressways. In the case of an emergency, the driver still needs to take full control of the vehicle. Autonomous driving technology is classified into five levels, ranging from Level 1, which allows either steering, acceleration or braking to be automated, to Level 5, which offers full automation. Japan has been keen to push for the development of self-driving cars, with a revised law taking effect in April last year that allows Level 3 autonomous vehicles to run on public roads. There has also been intensifying competition among global automakers to develop vehicles with Level 4 self-driving technology, which can conduct driving tasks without human intervention within limited areas. +++

+++ TESLA boss Elon Musk said that he sees huge potential in China for fully autonomous vehicles, as Chinese customers want cars with better connected and more intelligent features. He made the remarks in a video speech at the 2021 World New Energy Vehicle Congress held in Haikou, capital of South China’s Hainan province. A J.D. Power survey shows that among consumers in China who intend to buy a new vehicle in the next 6 months, nearly 25 % consider intelligent features as the most crucial factor. The survey is based on responses from 11.266 respondents in January and June 2021. In his video message, Musk said Chinese companies are the most competitive in the world, especially because some are very good at software, which is reshaping the auto industry from design and manufacturing to autonomous driving. Autonomous driving is gaining momentum in the country. Startups including Momenta and Pony.ai and carmakers including SAIC have been working on autonomous vehicles solutions. Nio expects its autonomous driving staff members to number around 800 by the end of this year from 500 in August. Baidu’s Apollo is offering pilot robotaxi services in cities including Beijing, Shanghai as well as Changsha in Huanan province. The Beijing-based technology company said it expects users of its robotaxi services to hit 3 million in 2 to 3 years across the country. Musk said data security will become even more important when vehicles are becoming smart and autonomous. “Data security is not only the responsibility of any single company but also the cornerstone of the whole industry development. Tesla will work with national authorities in all countries to ensure data security of intelligent and connected vehicles”, he said. In an earlier statement Tesla said data about its vehicles sold in China as well as their local production, sales, after-service and charging information are stored locally in the country. +++

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