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Ford car sees in dark

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Recently, under the cover of night, a Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle with no headlights on navigated along lonely desert roads, performing a task that would be perilous for a human driver.

Driving in pitch black at Ford Arizona Proving Ground marks the next step on the company’s journey to delivering fully autonomous vehicles to customers around the globe. It’s an important development, in that it shows that even without cameras, which rely on light, Ford’s LiDAR – working with the car’s virtual driver software – is robust enough to steer flawlessly around winding roads. While it’s ideal to have all three modes of sensors – radar, cameras and LiDAR – the latter can function independently on roads without stoplights.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data has found the passenger vehicle occupant fatality rate during dark hours to be about three times higher than the daytime rate.

“Thanks to LiDAR, the test cars aren’t reliant on the sun shining, nor cameras detecting painted white lines on the asphalt,” says Jim McBride, Ford technical leader for autonomous vehicles. “In fact, LiDAR allows autonomous cars to drive just as well in the dark as they do in the light of day.”

To navigate in the dark, Ford self-driving cars use high-resolution 3D maps – complete with information about the road, road markings, geography, topography and landmarks like signs, buildings and trees. The vehicle uses LiDAR pulses to pinpoint itself on the map in real time. Additional data from radar gets fused with that of LiDAR to complete the full sensing capability of the autonomous vehicle.

For the desert test, Ford engineers, sporting night-vision goggles, monitored the Fusion from inside and outside the vehicle. Night vision allowed them to see the LiDAR doing its job in the form of a grid of infrared laser beams projected around the vehicle as it drove past. LiDAR sensors shoot out 2.8 million laser pulses a second to precisely scan the surrounding environment.

“Inside the car, I could feel it moving, but when I looked out the window, I only saw darkness,” describes Wayne Williams, a Ford research scientist and engineer. “As I rode in the back seat, I was following the car’s progression in real time using computer monitoring. Sure enough, it stayed precisely on track along those winding roads.”

After more than a decade of Ford autonomous vehicle research, the company is dedicated to achieving fully autonomous driving capability, which, as defined by SAE International Level 4, does not require the driver to intervene and take control of the vehicle.

This year, Ford will triple its autonomous vehicle test fleet – bringing the number to about 30 self-driving Fusion Hybrid sedans for testing on roads in California, Arizona and Michigan.

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Jaguar charges South Africa

Jaguar, in partnership with electric vehicle charging authority GridCars, has laid the foundation for the future of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in South Africa with 82 new public charging stations in the country’s major hubs and along frequently-travelled holiday routes.

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The R30-million infrastructure investment will make day-to-day travel, as well as longer day trips and even very long journeys possible for owners of electric vehicles, such as the soon to be introduced Jaguar I-PACE. With a range of up to 470km depending on driving style and conditions on a single charge, an I-PACE will comfortably fit into most drivers’ lifestyles, whether it’s commuting to and from work on a daily basis, or travelling the long distances required for inter-city holiday destinations.

In addition to the publicly available charging stations to be installed in customer parking areas at every Jaguar Land Rover retailer in South Africa, a total of 30 public charging stations will be erected at various points of convenience, such as shopping centres, in the country’s major hubs including Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Bloemfontein.

South Africa’s city centres will now also be connected by the Jaguar Powerway – a series of 22 charging stations along the N3 between Gauteng and Durban and the N1 between Gauteng and Cape Town. Cape Town will also be connected to the Garden Route with a series of charging stations along the N2 all the way to East London.

Richard Gouverneur, Managing Director of Jaguar Land Rover South Africa and sub-Sahara Africa said:“As Jaguar we are proud to be setting the pace for the new generation of electric vehicles in South Africa. The launch of the Jaguar Powerway demonstrates our commitment to electrification technology and the future of mobility in our market. This new network provides peace of mind to our Jaguar I-PACE customers who can now experience more of their world with less range restrictions.”

The majority of charging stations on the public network will be 60kWh fast chargers, meaning 100km of range will take around 20 minutes for Jaguar I-PACE owners. A charge from 0 to 80% will take around 72 minutes.

Every charging station will also be equipped with a 22kWh AC fast charger to accommodate plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs). The AC standard Type 2 socket will allow charging of all EVs currently available in South Africa. The DC charger is fitted with the CCS DC type socket used by the vast majority of EVs in SA.

Jaguar Land Rover owners will use an RFID card to activate the charging station and manage electricity billing to the card. Cards can be credited with simple EFT payments, much like cellphone airtime top-ups. Charging station electricity rates will also be discounted by 25% for all Jaguar Land Rover EV or PHEV owners.

Like petrol, the price of electricity fluctuates, but for now the rate for 1kWh on the card will be between R3 and R3.50 depending where in South Africa it’s redeemed. With a 90kWh battery, a full recharge in an I-PACE will cost between R270 and R315 – a fraction of the fueling costs of conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

The entire Jaguar charging grid and Powerway is expected to be operational by the end of November, 2018. The Jaguar I-PACE will be available in South Africa in the first quarter of 2019.

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Merc challenges students to pitch digital innovation

Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) has partnered with the LaunchLab to offer a pitching opportunity to students and professionals in South Africa.

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The Mercedes-Benz South Africa Ideas Challenge will target interested students and professionals to pitch their innovative ideas around a set of challenges, tailor-made to advance manufacturing as well as relevant industry topics, as identified by Mercedes-Benz South Africa. The challenge spans various focus areas – ranging from big data and machine learning for manufacturing, the digitisation of logistics and production, machine learning, Industry 4.0 and many more.

The two partners are well-matched to create this unique opportunity for innovative South African talent.

Mercedes-Benz South Africa has a proud history and heritage in South Africa spanning more than six decades. Being part of the global Daimler network, a company with a track record in innovation and pioneering spirit of over a century, will offer the successful participants access to expert input and guidance.

The LaunchLab, a cutting edge, mixed-use business incubator based at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape, will facilitate the challenge which will run from August to November 2018. LaunchLab’s mission is to facilitate valuable connections between strategic partners and startups in order for Africa to develop into an entrepreneurial ecosystem that accelerates entrepreneurs to a new level.

The Ideas Programme is intended primarily for students and young professionals to validate their innovative ideas and concepts in the manufacturing environment. At the end of the process successful participants from the students and professionals, stand the chance to win various prizes and if selected have the opportunity to work on a proof of concept with Mercedes- Benz South Africa.

To book for this information seminar, visit https://launchlab.co.za/ideas2018.

Submission requirements: Participants should submit an entry form with a 3-minute video explaining their business idea on the LaunchLab website:

http://www.launchlab.co.za/ideas2018.

The deadline for submissions is 28 September 2018, thereafter, a shortlist of candidates will participate in an ideas bootcamp to further refine and validate their ideas. A group of finalists will then be selected and will then in November have the opportunity to present their ideas to Mercedes-Benz South Africa decision makers.

LaunchLab’s terms and conditions apply, and are available for download here:

https://launchlab.co.za/innovationchallenges/competition-terms-conditions/

“MBSA has partnered with the LaunchLab as part of our continuing efforts to contribute to youth development, the economic growth and sustainability of the country as a whole. The areas that the challenge is focusing on are key to our continued growth and success as we operate in a highly competitive space,” says Andreas Engling, CEO and Executive Director Manufacturing, Mercedes-Benz South Africa.

“The LaunchLab is very excited to have joined hands once again with Mercedes-Benz South Africa on the Ideas Challenge. This is another example of a well-known multinational company seeing the value of engaging with the start-up ecosystem and we are very pleased to be able to facilitate the interaction between these two groups to leverage the strengths of both, for mutual benefit. This is an awesome opportunity for our local entrepreneurs,” says Philip Marais, CEO of the LaunchLab.

Throughout the challenge, progress and news will be shared online and on social media platforms, using the hashtag #LLIdeas2018.

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