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Autonomous goes off-road

Jaguar Land Rover is developing autonomous cars capable of all-terrain, off-road driving in any weather condition. 

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The CORTEX project will take self-driving cars off-road, ensuring they are fully capable in any weather condition: dirt, rain, ice, snow or fog. As part of the project, a “5D” technique combining acoustic, video, radar, light detection and distance sensing (LiDAR) data live in real-time is being engineered. Access to this combined data improves the awareness of the environment the car is in. Machine-learning enables the self-driving car to behave in an increasingly sophisticated way, allowing it to handle any weather condition on any terrain.

“It’s important that we develop our self-driving vehicles with the same capability and performance customers expect from all Jaguars and Land Rovers,” said Chris Holmes, Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover.

“Self-driving is an inevitability for the automotive industry and ensuring that our autonomous offering is the most enjoyable, capable and safe is what drives us to explore the boundaries of innovation. CORTEX gives us the opportunity to work with some fantastic partners whose expertise will help us realise this vision in the near future.”

Jaguar Land Rover is developing fully- and semi-automated vehicle technologies, offering customers a choice of the level of automation, while maintaining an enjoyable and safe driving experience. This project forms part of the company’s vision to make the self-driving car viable in the widest range of real-life, on- and off-road driving environments and weather.

CORTEX will develop the technology through algorithm development, sensor optimisation and physical testing on off-road tracks in the UK. The University of Birmingham, with its world leading research in radar and sensing for autonomous platforms and Myrtle AI, machine learning experts, join the project. CORTEX was announced as part of Innovate UK’s third round of Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Funding in March 2018.

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Cars

Smart car window brings scenery to partially sighted

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From rolling hills to mountain ranges, views make any road trip memorable, but for blind passengers this is part of the experience that they miss. A prototype smart car window aims to change this – by enabling blind or partially-sighted people to visualise passing scenery through touch.

Feel The View takes pictures that are turned into high-contrast monochrome images. These are then reproduced on the glass using special LEDs.

By touching the image, different shades of grey vibrate with a range of 255 intensities, allowing passengers to touch the scene and rebuild in their mind the landscape in front of them. Feel The

View was conceived and developed by Ford of Italy and GTB Roma, in collaboration with Aedo – an Italian start-up that specialises in devices for the visually impaired.

“We seek to make people’s lives better and this was a fantastic opportunity to help blind passengers experience a great aspect of driving. The technology is advanced, but the concept is simple – and could turn mundane journeys into truly memorable ones,” said Marco Alù Saffi, Ford of Italy.

For now, the technology is an early prototype, with no current plans for production.

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Cars

Online sales boost used cars

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Recent trends have shown that pre-owned car sales are far outweighing new car sales. In TransUnion’s latest quarterly report, the Vehicle Price Index (VPI), which analyses monthly data it receives from dealers, vehicle financiers and banks throughout the country, it states that vehicle financiers are financing 2.22 used vehicles for every single new vehicle bought. Used car finance deals have increased by 4% with the average used car loan being around R234 000.

At an average price of R100 000 and average age of 11 years old for pre-owned cars sold online on OLX in the last year (adding to that the improvements in maintenance plans and advancements in manufacturing over the last ten years), the second-hand car market has some appealing options for growing families, first time drivers, entrepreneurs and small businesses.

6 out of the top 10 most wanted cars on OLX of 2017 were larger vehicles – bakkies, SUVs and minibuses.

1.    Toyota Hiace, average price R95,329

2.    Mazda Rustler, average price R34,490

3.    Toyota Conquest, average price R37,201

4.    Volkswagen Caddy P/U, average price R70,573

5.     Volkswagen Microbus, average price R 59,476

6.    Toyota Tazz, average price R45,472

7.    Toyota RunX, average price R80,384

8.    Isuzu KB280, average price R65,332

9.    Volkswagen Caravelle, average price R131,808

10.  BMW M3, average price R224,244

“Global stats show that smaller cars dominate the pre-owned market but the fact that OLX sees 6 out of the top 10 most wanted vehicles being larger models speaks to the uniqueness of the South African market. It’s likely linked to the larger business/entrepreneur market we have in South Africa and how making smart financial decisions for a business, growing family or career change is now the major driving force.” says Brett Faure, Business Development Manager at OLX South Africa.

It’s no secret the current economic climate has played a pivotal role in many car buyers’ pockets, however, consumers are becoming smarter when purchasing vehicles and understand the value of buying second hand. The allure of status when purchasing a new car is losing its appeal to great deals and good resale value in the larger vehicle market.

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