Genesis sheds a new light over NY motor show…VW eventually ‘choke’ on cheat mode results…Artificial intelligence is learning to drive…plus lots, lots more…

New York being New York, it’s hardly a surprise that a bubble-topped, gullwinged, long-hooded, cab-rearward electric grand tourer concept was the star of the city that never sleeps motor show.

Behold the Genesis Essentia!

Created in the sort of styling that is making quite a comeback thanks to the Renault Trézor and Mazda Vision Coupe, but as you’d expect, the Genesis has some extra clever touches, a little more adventurous engineering, a thoroughly well crafted interior and a rather beautifully sculpted shape.

And it is this ‘shape’ that designer SangYup Lee and his colleague Luc Donckerwolke, were raving about when we and a million other auto journo junkies invaded the Genesis display.

According to SangYup, the body has the company’s parabolic line, which is an anti-wedge dropping line that makes the car look very elegant, plus a four-lamp signature.

“It’s easy to make a headlamp big, but making it as small and bright as possible is tricky, but it’s very important for the brand identity. We also took it past the wheel arch. Why can’t a headlamp go from the front round to the side, to give a really interesting light signature?” he said.

Another interesting element is the transparent hood. Being an electric vehicle there’s no engine under there, so the space has been used for a lot of airflow channels and to expose the suspension.

“We made the whole car very aerodynamic, but in an elegant way rather than aggressively sporty. The cornerstone of the design philosophy was ‘athletic elegance’ and I think it’s worked very well.

“It’s not quite a traditional grand tourer as it’s on an electric vehicle platform so the proportions are different. But it’s fresh, but with a beauty and timelessness to it.

“Having an electric vehicle means that you have to rethink everything you do. What you do with the hood, or the roof, or the back and what electric performance actually means as a grand tourer.”

Next it was Luc’s turn to explanation how the Essentia’s structure is put together. Apparently, it’s a carbon fibre matrix, which can be printed using a rapid prototyping method. 3D is perfect for short production runs as nowadays its possible to print almost anything.

“We’ve been able to fill the usual gaps in a car’s body shell with structural latticework, which can also be used for airflow and ventilation. You wouldn’t have door shuts; you’d want to see the framework. The thing about this car, unlike many other concepts, is that it looks perfect under the skin as well as on top.

“Some concepts are really ugly underneath, all filler and brackets, but because we were able to print these parts straight from our data, they came out so well. And that structure carries on through the interior.

“There’s a little grey on the dash keying into the structure and the exterior, and we’ve used rich, classic materials like leather and velvet. The dash display itself is deliberately calm and restrained. There’s so much information available now that sometimes a driver can feel like he or she is piloting a 747, so we’ve gone out our way to keep it simple and clean.”

 

VW eventually ‘choke’ on cheat mode results

A bombshell has been dropped on the final days of the Maurice Blackburn-led Dieselgate class action trial, with the vehicle giant finally conceding that its vehicles fail the required emissions standards tests unless operating in cheat mode, known within Volkswagen as ‘customer’ or ‘comfort’ mode.

As the trial in Sydney entered its closing submissions phase, VW finally conceded that only its ‘test’ mode was able to pass Australia’s emissions testing standards. The trial has seen VW come under intense ridicule for objecting to its own witness evidence.

Class action principal at Maurice Blackburn, Jason Geisker, said the admission from VW was a major bombshell given that the carmaker had vigorously defended any attempts to show these vehicles would fail emissions testing without using a cheat mode.

“The admission that these vehicles fail Australia’s emissions requirements without the use of a ‘test’ mode, although blindingly obvious to everyone else, is a crucial admission from Volkswagen,” he said.

“This belated concession was only wrested from the company after sustained pressure and in the face of overwhelming evidence put before the court. This entire Dieselgate scandal as it impacts on Australian consumers, could and should have been resolved a long time ago. Australian motorists deserve far better from VW.

In Jason’s opinion, people should have had straight answers and proper redress from the company just like their North American counterparts and that VW’s corporate conduct towards Australians is abysmal.

It’s taken more than two years of continual effort by Maurice Blackburn to extract an admission that VW has willing provided in other parts of the world.

“This is not only a pivotal moment in the case, but clearly demonstrates the broader social benefit of pursuing rogue corporate conduct through the class actions regime we are lucky enough to have in this country.

“Australian consumers would have no hope of receiving any meaningful answers or proper treatment from this company if people couldn’t band together to seek greater accountability,” added Jason.

 

Artificial intelligence is learning to drive

Nick Gill, chairman of Global Automotive Sector at Capgemini, a French multinational professional services and business consulting corporation, outlines the benefits of artificial intelligence in vehicles and across the automotive industry.

Artificial intelligence is learning to drive. Within the next 20 years it will take over from humans as the main entity behind the wheel. However, AI in the automotive industry is more than the technology merely passing its driving test.

This piece that first appeared in Automotive Megatrends explores not only the impact of AI on driving, but how it will fundamentally alter the way OEMs do business and the laws surrounding road use across the world.

Manufacturers are sitting on a huge amount of information from cars already on the road, but are unable to harness it for sales purposes with insights buried amongst mountains of data. AI will change this.

In thinking about AI in the automotive industry, there is one trend that can’t be ignored, autonomous vehicles. As noted by Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, developing autonomous vehicles is the mother of all AI projects.

Driverless cars, as they are commonly known, will become commonplace on our roads within the next ten to 15 years. Dozens of automotive and technology companies have cars currently in development.

Most public debate has focused on Google and Tesla’s efforts, but traditional manufacturers including Audi, BMW, Ford, Hyundai and GM have all entered the autonomous vehicle race. With all these firms trying to get their cars on the road first, at least US$80bn has been ploughed into research in the past three years.

This shift to autonomous vehicles, however, will not happen overnight. There will be a lengthy and organic evolution from human-driven cars to those without any human controls. The development of autonomous car technology is measured in five levels, where fundamentally L5 is a car without a steering wheel.

Some vehicles, like the new Audi A8, claim to have reached L3 and we can expect to see L4 cars on the road within the next few years. However, the technology becoming available will only facilitate the move to autonomous vehicles, not immediately make every car on the road driverless.

The willingness of humans to step into a driverless car for the first time, coupled with infrequent car purchases will slow the adoption cycle. As with every technology, there will be early adopters, but most consumers will wait until their car needs replacing before assessing whether or not to go driverless.

With AI set to change the automotive industry, there will also be great changes in the way humans use their cars. Instead of having to negotiate the roads and find parking spots, users will be freed up to spend their travelling time in different ways.

For example, passengers could work on their laptops, catch up with family and friends over the phone, read a book or watch a film, the possibilities are endless. We might even start to see travel time counting towards working hours, as employees are able to do tasks on the move and get to the office later.

As with everything, however, there will also be mitigating factors the automotive industry will need to consider. For instance, the impact on the insurance industry and the ripple effect to other industries, including hotels.

It is not just cars that will be transformed by AI; manufacturers’ processes, sales and business models will change too. Unlike industries which are faltering from the pressures of tech giants and start-ups taking market share because of AI-related innovation, automotive incumbents retain a distinct advantage.

The main reason for this is the automotive industry’s high cost barrier to entry. Any new entrant would have to invest significant capital in large-scale research and manufacturing facilities before being able to produce their first car.

And even then, producing vehicles at scale remains a challenge. Tesla, for example, has only managed to produce a very limited number of cars each quarter up to now.

In manufacturing plants today, there are thousands of robots and cobots (collaborative robots), all with functions important to the car making process. Each of these collects data which AI and machine learning is able to use to predict failures and enable engineers to pre-empt downtime, which improves uptime and productivity.

The same is true of when driverless cars go on the road. Autonomous vehicles also collect immense amounts of data, enabling engineers to advise when cars are likely to break down and fix faults before they occur.

While humans get used to the concept of not having to sit behind a steering wheel again, car manufacturers have a great opportunity to grow their businesses on the back of this new technology

AI will also enhance manufacturers’ sales and marketing processes. Manufacturers are sitting on a huge amount of information from cars already on the road, but are unable to harness it for sales purposes with insights buried amongst mountains of data.

AI will change this with, for example, the ability to sift through the huge amount of data that their cars produce, AI will enable marketers to identify which non-vital functions are most useful to owners and target their campaigns as such.

Furthermore, AI will be able to distinguish the most valuable sales leads based on past behaviour and propensity to buy, meaning traders can direct their efforts towards customers who are most likely to make a purchase.

Regulation and legislation

Advances in AI technology will also spell change in the way the automotive industry is regulated. Driverless cars will require legislation updates in order to come onto roads, and across areas such as driving licences, insurance and the rules of the road. Whilst adoption is still in progress, driverless car lanes will be necessary to ensure the safety of all vehicles.

There will need to be rules put in place around driverless vehicles and junctions. No one wants to be stuck behind large trucks at the best of times, but a convoy of eight driverless trucks could block junctions and stop cars from leaving roads at the right point.

More seriously, tough decisions need to be taken by regulators on how AI should be programmed in the case of traffic incidents – when a collision cannot be avoided, which car (or person) should come off worse?

Insurance policies will have to change. Car insurance is mandatory now, but this could change to ‘passenger insurance’, whereby every person who enters a vehicle needs to be insured for any injury caused to him or her while in an autonomous car. In addition, premiums should go down as autonomous cars make roads safer and less unpredictable.

Finally, while AI learns to drive, the need for humans to pass their tests will diminish. To the joy of teenagers around the world, there will be no need to take a rigorous driving test with the availability of autonomous cars.

However, that’s not to say there won’t be a requirement to have some kind of instruction on how to use driverless cars and what to do in the case of emergencies. This will be a huge regulatory debate within the coming years as autonomous vehicles become omnipresent.

Skoda announce a blitz of new models

 

Hot on the heels of its owners VW, Skoda’s boss Berhard Maier has announced its intension to launch a slew of new ‘alternative energy vehicles’ over the next few years.

Ten electrified models are set to feature in the range by 2025, including the production form of the Vision E concept, an all-electric Coupe-SUV based on the VW MEB platform.

And it’s not all about hybrid and electric with the Czech brand confirming that amongst 19 new models, including derivatives, will be the much-anticipated the Skoda Kodiaq vRS SUV in both petrol and diesel versions.

Production of the Skoda e-CItigo, a pure electric version of the manufacturer’s city car, is due to start next year, along with a plug-in hybrid version of the Superb, set to offer over 40 miles of electric-only range, supplemented by the 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine.

Fitting in beneath the Kodiaq and the Karoq in the Skoda range, the Vision X was showcased in New York with an engine that runs on compressed natural gas.

Much of the confidence behind such an ambitious production program stems from an operating profit last year grew by more than 35% with China sucking in a whopping 325,000 units. Germany was the second biggest market (173,300) followed by the Czech Republic (95,000) and the UK (80,100).

And this success looks set to continue, with the company managing its best ever worldwide delivery figure for January and February of 196,600 units, more than 20,000 more than the for the same period last year.

 

Projecta has released a 45amp version of its dc/solar battery charger (IDC45) with a larger output designed to deliver faster charging and handle more demanding applications.

Users can charge a 12v second/auxiliary deep cycle battery on the go as the new unit allows for simultaneous dual battery from both solar and alternator inputs without the need for manual switching.

It can also function as a MPPT solar controller, with its dual charging modes granting compatibility with both smart and conventional alternators. The Projecta IDC45’s safeguard features including over/under voltage, anti-sparking, reverse connection and over temperature protection systems. 

It will also automatically adjust its output voltage based on battery temperature, preventing overcharging and overheating in small batteries and hotter climates. The Projecta IDC45 is available at CoolDrive branches or online at www


 

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