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MWC: Ford unveils new car, new vision

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At this week’s Mobile World Congress, Ford unveiled the new Kuga SUV and also announced various new advancements towards its fully autonomous vehicle.

Ford CEO Mark Fields this week unveiled the new Kuga SUV at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and committed to tripling Ford’s engineering investment in semi-autonomous vehicle technologies as the company continues to expand its Ford Smart Mobility plan.

Fields’ keynote at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona focused on Ford’s transition from an automotive company to an auto and a mobility company through Ford Smart Mobility – the company’s plan to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience, and data and analytics.

Fields also confirmed FordPass, the company’s new customer experience platform, debuts this year in Europe. New partners for FordPass include BP and Mobile City, a leading mobile parking payment company. FordPass also will integrate Ford Carsharing, run with Germany’s Flinkster Carsharing.

“As we look to the future, it is clear we are on the cusp of a revolution in mobility – from car sharing to autonomous driving to the customer experience,” Fields said. “Technology and innovation provide us with the opportunity to address these trends and to make people’s lives better by changing the way the world moves.”

Ford provided the following information:

The new Kuga

The sophisticated new Kuga will offer technologies and updates to make driving simpler, safer, more enjoyable and more affordable. These include Ford’s new SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system, innovative driver assistance technologies, an ergonomic and comfortable interior and a new 120 PS 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine.

The bold and sporty new Kuga that debuts at Mobile World Congress also will offer Ford’s Perpendicular Parking technology that helps drivers park hands-free in spaces alongside other cars; an enhanced version of the Active City Stop collision avoidance system; and Ford’s Adaptive Front Lighting System for optimised visibility in low light. Further sophisticated technologies include Hands-Free Liftgate and Ford Intelligent All Wheel Drive.

Ford is tripling its driver assist technology engineering investment to make it easier to drive in heavy traffic and park, while developing fully autonomous vehicles for the future. The significant increase in investment announced today will enable Ford to research and develop driver assist technology that transfer more driving tasks to the vehicle and provide more comfort and safety to the driver.

These will include Traffic Jam Assist and Fully Active Park Assist that Fields announced Ford will roll out in the next three years.

Autonomous vehicles

Ford is taking two distinct pathways toward vehicle automation. First, the company has a dedicated team developing driver assist technology that is focused on delivering increasing levels of automation.

Traffic Jam Assist helps the driver with steering, braking and acceleration in heavily congested traffic situations on motorways. Easily activated by pushing a button, the system helps keep the vehicle centred in the lane and brakes and accelerates to keep pace with the vehicle in front.

Fully Active Park Assist will help drivers by steering and controlling the transmission, throttle and brake to seamlessly pull into a parking spot at the touch of a button.

Further semi-autonomous technologies already introduced by Ford include  Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, a camera- and radar-based system that detects vehicles and people in the road ahead; and Intelligent Speed Limiter, which could help prevent drivers from exceeding speed limits, and potentially from incurring costly speeding penalties.

“The use of semi-autonomous functions such as Traffic Jam Assist and Fully Active Park Assist make driving easier and more enjoyable for our customers,” said Ken Washington, vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.

As for the future, Ford also has a dedicated fully autonomous vehicle programme in Aachen, Germany, and in Palo Alto, California, and Dearborn, Michigan, in the U.S., with more than a decade of experience.

Ford is seeking to deliver autonomous capability that does not require driver input described by the SAE International as Level 4 of automation. At this level of capability, autonomous vehicles will likely be offered first in climates that support optimal sensor performance and in areas that have been mapped in high resolution 3D.

Already, Ford is the first automaker to test fully autonomous vehicles in winter weather, including snow, and recently announced plans to triple the company’s autonomous vehicle development fleet making it the largest of all automakers.

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“We are committed to making autonomous vehicles available for millions of people,” Washington said. “Within well-defined areas and with favourable environmental conditions, we predict that fully autonomous driving will be possible within four years, and that autonomous vehicles will play a significant role in making travel safer, more enjoyable, and more accessible.”

A new customer experience

FordPass features four elements. A Marketplace offering access to mobility services and partners; trusted and knowledgeable FordGuides who are always there to help members to resolve mobility challenges; Appreciation, where members are recognised for their loyalty; and FordHubs, where consumers can experience new innovations.*

Through FordPass owners will be able to manage their vehicle, including scheduling maintenance services. The partnerships announced today will bring significant benefits to FordPass members as follows:

  • The partnership with BP will reward members with exclusive offers and geolocation services, adding to loyalty partners including McDonalds and 7-Eleven. In the future, FordPass may enable members to search for nearby BP locations based on facilities available. Ford and BP can envision helping members to fill up at the right time and in the right place. This might for example include members remaining comfortable inside a vehicle and not stand outside in the cold or the heat, while a robot does the refuelling
  • Through its existing partnership with Flinkster, one of the biggest car sharing companies in Germany incorporating dealerships, FordPass will offer 24-hour access to more than 4,000 cars country-wide. This includes Ford Carsharing’s fleet of 190 vehicles, from Transit to Fiesta, and Flinkster’s own fleet of cars, most of which are Ford vehicles
  • Parkopedia, the global database for parking spaces, allows all FordPass members to search for parking, based on location, cost, availability and user ratings. In addition, as an on-street parking payment provider, Mobile City will help to provide a more seamless parking experience by enabling drivers to pay fees through FordPass . That could mean no need to keep coins, or for the right change, and beyond that – supporting a future that could see members’ cars park themselves in off-street facilities

“This all-new platform that we are launching in Europe later this year is really about listening to people’s needs and developing ways to help them move better. It’s also about convenience, connecting consumers with the world and making it all incredibly easy,” Fields said.

Mobility – new ways of getting about

As part of Ford Smart Mobility, the company is working to expand the range of car-sharing and parking services offered in European cities and towns.

In London, with its new GoPark pilot, Ford is building a predictive parking system – capable of directing drivers to streets where they’re most likely to find a space. A group of residents from the borough of Islington have volunteered to take part – with their cars being equipped with plug-in devices to give live data for traffic and parking conditions. The pilot includes both Ford and non-Ford vehicles.

Also in London, Ford’s on-demand GoDrive car-sharing pilot is now trialling on-street parking on certain streets. Since launching last year, the service has expanded to 25 hubs across the city, each with guaranteed parking, at locations that include London Waterloo railway station and London City Airport.

In Germany, bookings for Ford Carsharing, designed to serve small and medium sized cities, as well as large towns, were up by 76 per cent in 2015, with customers already driving more than 1 million kilometres in total during the year. The service is offered by Ford Germany and their dealers with 170 Ford Carsharing stations all over Germany.

Connectivity, data and analytics

Ford also at Mobile World Congress demonstrated on the new Kuga, for the first time in Europe, its new SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system. SYNC 3 allows drivers to control audio, navigation, and climate functions plus connected smartphones using simple, conversational voice commands.

The company announced new apps for the system that can be voice-activated using SYNC AppLink, and include enabling drivers to earn money by transporting packages. The MyBoxMan app enables drivers delivering a package for others to earn around ?5-8 for a typical five kilometre journey.**

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Car buyers to start abandoning fuel-power by 2025

Car buyers in the United States and Europe expect electric vehicles to become a viable alternative to fuel-powered cars in the next five years.

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A new report outlining consumer expectations of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and their viability as replacements for traditional fuel-powered cars or internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles suggests a massive shift beginning in 2025.

The conclusion emerges from a report by human behaviour and analytics firm Escalent, entitled The Future of BEV: How to Capture the Hearts and Minds of Consumers. It reveals the intent of many consumers in the United States and Europe to abandon ICE vehicles altogether, citing the improved infrastructure and range of BEVs.

The Future of BEV gives auto and mobility manufacturers a strategic view of the benefits of their products in the eyes of consumers and highlights the areas of opportunity for automakers to push the innovation boundaries of BEVs to spur broad adoption of the technology.

“While most buyers don’t plan to choose BEVs over gasoline-powered cars within the next five years, consumers have told us there is a clear intention to take BEVs seriously in the five years that follow,” says Mark Carpenter, joint managing director of Escalent’s UK office. “However, manufacturers will need to tap into the emotional value of BEVs rather than just the rational and functional aspects to seize on that intent and inspire broader consumer adoption.”

The study demonstrates a significant shift in consumers’ expectations that BEVs will become viable alternatives to—and competitors with—ICE vehicles over the coming decade. Though 70% of Americans plan to buy a gasoline-powered car within the next year, just 37% expect to make that same purchase in five to ten years. Similarly, while 50% of European consumers favour buying vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel in the near-term, that figure drops to just 23% in five to ten years.

At the same time, consumers on both sides of the Atlantic see BEV adoption rising to 36% in Europe and 16% in the US, with respondents also indicating intent to purchase hybrids and hydrogen-powered cars.

Infrastructure clearly continues to be one of the biggest barriers to adoption. While some work is being done in Europe as well as in the US, the data show there is a significant need for some players to take ownership if manufacturers want to move the needle on BEV adoption.

US and European consumers have stark differences in opinion as to which entities they believe are primarily responsible for providing BEV charging stations. American consumers consider carmakers (45%) the primary party responsible, followed by fuel companies, local government/transport authorities, and the national government in fourth. On the other hand, European consumers view the national government (29%) as the primary party responsible for providing BEV infrastructure, followed by carmakers, local government/transport authorities and fuel companies.

For a full copy of the report, visit https://landing.escalent.co/download-the-future-of-bev.

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Mercedes brings older models to the connected world

The Mercedes Me Adapter is designed to bring older Mercedes Benz models into the connected world, allowing one to keep a close eye on the car via a smartphone. SEAN BACHER installs a unit

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In this day and age, just about any device, from speakers to TVs to alarm systems, can be connected and controlled via a smartphone.

In keeping with this trend, Daimler Chrysler has launched a Mercedes Me Adapter – a system designed to connect your car to your phone.

The Mercedes Me Adapter comprises a hardware and software component. The hardware is an adapter that is no bigger than a match box and plugs into the OBD2 diagnostics socket under the car’s steering wheel column. 

The software component is the Mercedes Me app, which can be downloaded for Android and iOS devices. (See downloading instructions at the end of the review.)

Setting up

Before you can start using the Mercedes Me Adapter, you need to download the app and begin the registration process. This includes setting up an account, inputting the vehicle’s VIN number, the year it was manufactured and the model name – among many other details. This information is sent to Daimler Chrysler. It is advisable to get this done before heading off to Mercedes to have the adapter installed, as it takes quite some time getting all the details in.

The next step is locating your nearest Merc dealer to get the adapter installed. You have to produce the registration papers and a copy of your ID – something Mercedes neglects to mention on its website, or anywhere else, for that matter.

What it does

The Mercedes Me Adapter is designed to show the car’s vital statistics on your mobile device. On the home screen, information like parking time, odometer reading and fuel level is displayed.

Below that is information about your most recent journeys, such as the distance, time taken, departure address and destination address. Your driving style is also indicated in percentage – taking into account acceleration, braking and coasting.

A Start Cockpit button displayed on the home screen includes a range of widgets offering additional information, including where your car is parked – right down to the address – as well as battery voltage, total driving time, distance and driver score since the adapter was installed. A variety of other widgets can be added to the screen, allowing for complete customisation.

Many users have have pointed out that that there is no real point to the adapter. However it does offer benefits. Firstly, your trips can be organised into personal and business categories and then exported into a spreadsheet for tax purposes. Secondly, you can keep a very close eye on your fuel consumption, as it automatically measures how many litres you put in each time you visit the garage and the cost (the cost per litre must be entered manually so it can work out total refuelling costs). This is also quite beneficial in terms of working out how much fuel you go through, without keeping all the pesky slips when it comes to claiming at the end of the month.

Probably the most important benefit is that it monitors the engine, electrical, transmission and gearbox, sending notifications as soon as any faults are detected. A perfect example was encountered on a recent trip I made to Pretoria. Upon arriving, I received a notification that I needed to check my engine, with the Mercedes roadside assist number blinking and ready for me to dial.

The notification did not even show up on the actual fault detection system, except for the faint glow of the orange engine light, which I would never have noticed in the bright light. I immediately took it Mercedes and they diagnosed it as an intermittent thermostat error, which they said is fine for now but that I have to keep an eye on the engine temperature.

Conclusion

The convenience of easily being able to export mileage for tax purposes and refuelling stops as well as being able to locate your car at anytime should be more than enough to qualify it as a pretty useful companion for your car.

Add to this the fact that it is completely free from Mercedes, and that makes it an absolute no-brainer. Should you not like it, simply unplug the adapter and uninstall the app. The only thing lost is half an hour while the Mercedes technician sets it up, ensures it is working and gives you a crash course on how to operate the app.

The adapter will only work in Mercedes Benz models from 2002 onwards. No warranties are lost, as the adapter does not increase the car’s performance and is a genuine Mercedes part.

2017 models and above do not need the adapter as everything is installed when the car is manufactured. All one needs to do is install the app and pair it with the car.

Get the Mercedes me iOS app here

Get the Mercedes Me Android app here

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