Good ‘ole fashion lock keeps thieves at bay…JLR power ahead with level four autonomous vehicle…Robo racers get another run in Berlin…

 

You’d imagine that given all the sophisticated electronic security gadgetry that manufacturers have been installing in modern vehicles car thieves would be forming long lines at Centrelink. Not so! In fact, after a period that has seen a bit of dip in car theft, figures are once again on the rise.

The latest statistics indicate that 57,173 vehicles were stolen in Australia within a twelve months period to March 2017 with most of them ending up as spare parts on the local and overseas black market.

Despite all the hard work by the manufacturers, in some ways things have never been easier for the professional car thief thanks to the availability of cheap electronic devices on the internet. Items such as immobiliser modules, GSM jammers, wireless detectors and encryption duplicate key programmers, continue to expose serious security issues for vehicle owners, manufacturers and law enforcement agencies.

On-board vehicle computers can be quickly accessed through a diagnostic port connected to the ECU enabling a thief to reprogram a blank key and immobilisers can be accessed directly through the wiring loom. Not only are these relatively cheap electronic devices relatively cheap and easy to obtain, in many cases they come with tutorials on ‘How to unlock a car in seconds.’

Some even provide advice on reprogramming a key using radio transmitters that are designed to trick the car into thinking that the owner’s key is present. So what’s the answer?

The good old-fashioned steering lock could be a good start. Well not quite the steering lock of old that was attached to a pedal and the steering wheel from which a chunk could be cut out in seconds and the lock discarded.

What’s needed is something like the Cop-Lock, a simple mechanical locking device, which attaches to the brake or clutch pedal.

Designed and developed over more than two years by Bob Lycoudis, a retired police officer with heaps of experience in car thefts, the lock is compact, lightweight and easy to use and it’s said to be virtually indestructible unless attacked by an oxyacetylene torch.

With a hardened steel ratchet system and locking mechanism there is simply no easy way of bypassing it, plus it can also be seen from the exterior of the vehicle. This alone can prove a deterrent to the professional who knows how difficult it is to break and the opportunist will not take the risk.

It may also help prevent an attempted vehicle theft by break-in where a thief is disturbed, or unsuccessful, and often leaves behind some expensive damage.

With a retail price of around $80, plus shipping and handling, it appears a small price to pay for added peace of mind and to help avoid such damage. CLICK HERE for more details and to place an order.

(The Cop-Lock doesn’t fit every vehicle in the local car park, but Bob promises to make a refund if this turns out to be the case)

JLR power ahead with level four autonomous vehicle

Jaguar Land Rover is powering ahead in its pursuit of a driverless future, showing off its so-called Autonomous Urban Drive technology as it gears up for public trials. The technology is designed to steer a vehicle through urban streets and is said to be a step towards ‘level four autonomy’ where vehicles can operate independently in built up environments.

JLR hope to achieve this level within the next decade on its way to level five and full automation. Honda is another big name racing towards the same goal.

A level four vehicle can be driven without human intervention, provided it is operating in a specific environment such as on a motorway, or through busy city streets. JLR has fitted out a Range Rover Sport with AUD tech that allows an occupant to simply enter a location and have the vehicle choose and follow the best route.

The vehicle uses GPS for navigation, along with radar and camera to detect nearby vehicles and obstacles, making its way through traffic lights, roundabouts and intersections.

Trials on public roads will begin in Milton Keynes and Coventry before the year is out. At first, these roads will be closed but if all goes to plan, the autonomous vehicles will be roaming around in open-road trials and demonstrations by summertime (northern hemisphere) 2018.     Source: Jaguar

Robo racers gets a run in Berlin

It’s all a bit messy with long periods coasting along at a pace Ma and Pa Kettle would better, missing most apexes and overall looking decidedly ‘lumpy’. But make no mistake RoboRace is shaping up as an intriguing motorsport category, even if there’s still plenty of work to be done judging from this little spin around Berlin ePrix Circuit.

Despite the lows mentioned above, the DevBot prototype did get around at something approaching race pace, which can be considered a huge step towards fully functioning autonomous racers.

It’s certainly a step up on last year’s outing in Buenos Aires when a couple of cars took to the track but only one returned to the pits and a working example of the Daniel Simon-designed racer in Paris that never got above walking pace.

The series will eventually run alongside Formula E and when it finally gets going teams will be able to program a Nvidia Drive PX2 processor to try and make their car faster than the rest. Top speed will be pegged at 322km/h produced from four 300kW electric motors.

New app puts the brake on replacement parts

If you’re a brake repairer with an appetite for apps, then this latest little number from Bendix will really get you all ‘amped’. All you need do is put an old brake pad against a clear background, or a piece of white paper, use your phone to take a picture and the app does the rest.
Within seconds the image will select the replacement part number along with other technical information. Pretty cool eh! And it’s an Aussie idea that is said to have taken 18 months of intense development working closely with researchers at Victoria University and software developers.
Using an app to identify a brake part is not new, but now a lot simpler, as the original app required the input of image data and additional specifications.

The secret of the new app revolves around a newly developed algorithm, based on a very advanced and innovative extraction technique, aimed at minimising processing time and data stored.

For those into this sort of thing, the optimised core recognition engine is written in Java and can be deployed on a smart device or cloud-based server. The new algorithm can, depending on internet connection speed, process an image in seconds and recognises more than 2000 different Bendix brake pads, all with an accuracy of about 95%.

To download, or update, the identifier app use an android or smartphone to log onto Google Play, search for the ‘Bendix Brake Pad Identifier’, select and install. With an iphone, select the app store icon, make the same search and select ‘Free’ to install.

Consumers can register their interest by CLICKING HERE.

 

Michelin has laid enough cash on the table to take possession of NexTraq, a US provider of commercial fleet telematics, fuel cards and workforce payment products. The company also provides systems for driver safety, fuel management and enhancing fleet productivity.
According to Michelin’s Ralph Dimenna, telematics and fleet management services are a rapidly growing category worldwide and an important area of the tyre group’s overall business plans.

“NexTraq represents a strategic acquisition that accelerates our growth in telematics with synergies that increase our scale, expand our geographic footprint and strengthen overall competitiveness in fleet management technology and services.”

NexTraq has 117 employees, approximately 7000 fleet customers and 116,000 individual subscribers and will operate independently within Michelin North America.

Up here for thinking, down there for dancing

Audi is gearing up to tackle the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series with a smart new A8 with a suspension system that automatically adjusts to the condition of the road ahead.

This forward thinking system is facilitated by the car’s 48-volt main electrical system. Each wheel is hooked up to an electric motor, which can exert up to 1100Nm of force on the suspension through a coupling rod.

A similar system has been fitted to the SQ7 SUV, which uses an electric motor and three-speed planetary gearbox as a form of active anti-roll bar to reduce body roll in the corners, and pitch when accelerating or braking.

In the upcoming A8, a front-mounted camera is used to detect bumps in the road ahead. It scans the road 18 times per second, and shares the information with the new electronic chassis platform processor, which subsequently tunes the suspension to match what’s coming up ahead.

Audi say the electro-mechanical system delivers a smooth ride without negatively impacting on handling. Speaking of handling, Audi say a combination of adaptive front-wheel steering and rear-wheel steering will make the A8 feel significantly smaller than it actually is.

At low speeds, the system will give the car a smaller turning circle than you get in an A4, while it should deliver a stable, planted feeling at high speeds.

Audi’s smarter suspension is also handy in an accident. When the A8s active safety sensors detect an imminent side-impact collision, the suspension actuators raise one side of the car by 80mm within half a second.

This allows the stronger parts of the car – including the sills and floor structure – to absorb more of the force. Audi says the system reduces the load on occupants by up to 50% in a serious side-impact collision.

Engine of the year awards a big night out for paid petrolheads

Honda’s 3.5-litre petrol-electric V6 hybrid powertrain has won the best new engine title at the 2017 International Engine of the Year Awards with surprise, surprise, Ferrari taking out the top performance engine award.
The awards, presented by Engine Technology International magazine, are now in their 19th year and are judged by a panel of experts from around the world who consider performance, noise, driveability, fuel economy and smoothness.

There are eight class categories involving power units that must have appeared in a passenger car that was on sale in more than one country as of June 2017.Best New Engine

Honda set out to produce an engine with the best possible performance, but which was also easy to enjoy and control.

One of the most significant challenges in the development program was the integration of electric drive elements to create a truly high-performance hybrid vehicle. The result is an engine with instantaneous torque response, where the electric motors are used to enhance every element of the car’s dynamic capabilities.

Performance Engine of the Year

Ferrari with this big little beauty hooked the big one yet again beating a field of 50 competitors, with a high-output, quick-revving 3.9-ltr twin turbo V8. This innovative powerplant has been considered by some to be the best example of what the future of fast fun turbocharging with soul can be.

1.4-1.8L Class

BMW changed the face of enthusiast driving with the i8 powerplant and still dominates. The only other three-time winner for this class was Toyota’s 1.5-ltr hybrid snergy drive. Its closest competitor was the 1.5-ltr from the same stable used the 1Series and various Minis.

1.8-2L Class

Porsche’s turbo topped a class that was almost too close to call, demonstrating just how much importance, engineering and budget considerations are aimed at this engine capacity.

The Porsche unit used in the 718 Cayman and Boxster, very very, narrowly edging out previous winner, the Mercedes-AMG 2-ltr turbo and the Audi 2-ltr, four-cylinder TFSI.

This is the first time the Stuttgart designers have taken out this capacity-segment award, thanks heavily to the smooth power delivery in a package that supports the excellent handling characteristics of the 718s without overshadowing them.

2-2.5L Class

Audi held on to this award for the eighth year in a row, which is all getting a bit boring as each year is a triumph of tweaking, tuning and improving rather than innovating. But the power unit that now graces RS 3 and the TT RS, still sounds great and there’s a touch of excitement that makes it a favourite for both everyday use and hard fast weekend drives.

 

3-4L Class

Ferrari’s 3.9L, twin turbo, v8 continues to stay significantly ahead of the closest rivals, which isn’t that surprising given that this powerplant also took out the big time Performance Engine Award. All the engineering brilliance and funding that used to go to the biggest of boys’ toys is now used in this and the smaller capacity levels. With this size becoming the most important power class, stay tuned for increasingly close battles.

Above 4L Class

Ferrari yet again this with its normally aspirated, 6.3L, V12 used to power the F12 and F12tdf and yes, nothing else in the world sounds like this thing run hard. Contenders included the Audi R8 and Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R in a segment that’s destined to become more fierce.