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New Fords ‘see’ round corners

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Ford has released the Ford Split View Camera which allows drivers to see around corners and through intersections without them having to inch to their cars forward into oncoming traffic.

For drivers, blind junctions can be a nerve-wracking experience as they slowly inch forward into traffic and strain to see and hear oncoming vehicles.

Now Ford Motor Company is introducing a new camera technology that can see around corners even when drivers cannot – reducing stress and potentially helping avert collisions.

The innovative Front Split View Camera – now available as an option in the all-new Ford S-MAX and Galaxy – displays to the driver a 180-degree view from the front of the car, using a video camera in the grille. At a blind junction or exiting a driveway, the camera enables drivers to easily spot approaching vehicles, pedestrians or cyclists.

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“We have all been there and it’s not just blind junctions that can be stressful, sometimes an overhanging tree, or bushes can be the problem,” said Ronny Hause, engineer, Driver Assistance Electronic Systems, Ford of Europe, whose team worked closely on the project with their U.S. counterparts. “For some, simply driving off their own driveways is a challenge. Much like rear-view cameras, Front Split View Camera is one of those technologies that people will soon wonder how they managed without.”

The first-in-segment technology is activated at the push of a button. A 1-megapixel camera in the front grille enables drivers to see a real-time 180-degree view – both left and right – on the vehicle’s 8-inch colour touchscreen. Drivers can track road-users that approach on either side and pass in front of the vehicle. The camera, just 33 millimetres wide, is kept clear by a specially designed retractable jet-washer that operates automatically when the windscreen wipers are activated.

Data recorded by the European Road Safety Observatory SafetyNet project indicated that approximately 19 per cent of drivers involved in accidents at junctions experienced obstructions to view. The U.K. Department of Transport said that in 2013, vision affected by external factors contributed to 11 per cent of all road accidents.

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“From sunrise to sunset we tested the Front Split View Camera on all kinds of roads, congested urban streets and areas with a lot of cyclists and pedestrians,” Hause said. “Tackling tunnels, narrow alleys and garages in all light conditions also meant we could ensure the technology worked well even when sunlight was shining directly into the camera.”

Ford models including the all-new S-MAX and Galaxy already offer Rear View Camera technology that helps drivers manoeuvre the vehicle when in reverse; and Cross Traffic Alert system, which uses rear-mounted sensors to warn drivers reversing out of a parking space of vehicles that may soon be crossing behind them. Further new driver assistance technologies offered for the all-new S-MAX and Galaxy include:

  • Intelligent Speed Limiter, which when activated scans traffic signs and adjusts the throttle to help drivers stay within legal speed limits and avoid fines
  • Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, which will reduce the severity of some frontal collisions involving vehicles and pedestrians, or help drivers avoid some impacts altogether
  • Glare-Free Highbeam technology for the adaptive LED headlamps, which detects vehicles ahead and fades out light that could dazzle oncoming drivers, while retaining maximum illumination for other areas

“Pulling out at a blind junction can be a tricky manoeuvre for new and experienced drivers alike. The best approach has traditionally been to simply lean forward to get the best view whilst creeping forwards with the windows wound down to listen for approaching vehicles, but cyclists are a particular risk as they can’t be heard,” said Keith Freeman, an AA Quality Training Manager in the U.K. who also trains young drivers as part of the Ford Driving Skills For Life programme. “This technology will certainly make emerging from anywhere with a restricted view so much safer and the experience less nerve-wracking for those behind the wheel.”

The all-new S-MAX and Galaxy are available to order now. Front Split View Camera also will be offered for the all-new Ford Edge upscale SUV, available in Europe later this year.

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Project Bloodhound saved

The British project to break the world landspeed record at a site in the Northern Cape has been saved by a new backer, after it went into bankruptcy proceedings in October.

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Two weeks ago,  and two months after entering voluntary administration, the Bloodhound Programme Limited announced it was shutting down. This week it announced that its assets, including the Bloodhound Supersonic Car (SSC), had been acquired by an enthusiastic – and wealthy – supporter.

“We are absolutely delighted that on Monday 17th December, the business and assets were bought, allowing the Project to continue,” the team said in a statement.

“The acquisition was made by Yorkshire-based entrepreneur Ian Warhurst. Ian is a mechanical engineer by training, with a strong background in managing a highly successful business in the automotive engineering sector, so he will bring a lot of expertise to the Project.”

Warhurst and his family, says the team, have been enthusiastic Bloodhound supporters for many years, and this inspired his new involvement with the Project.

“I am delighted to have been able to safeguard the business and assets preventing the project breakup,” he said. “I know how important it is to inspire young people about science, technology, engineering and maths, and I want to ensure Bloodhound can continue doing that into the future.

“It’s clear how much this unique British project means to people and I have been overwhelmed by the messages of thanks I have received in the last few days.”

The record attempt was due to be made late next year at Hakskeen Pan in the Kalahari Desert, where retired pilot Andy Green planned to beat the 1228km/h land-speed record he set in the United States in 1997. The target is for Bloodhound to become the first car to reach 1000mph (1610km/h). A track 19km long and 500 metres wide has been prepared, with members of the local community hired to clear 16 000 tons of rock and stone to smooth the surface.

The team said in its announcement this week: “Although it has been a frustrating few months for Bloodhound, we are thrilled that Ian has saved Bloodhound SSC from closure for the country and the many supporters around the world who have been inspired by the Project. We now have a lot of planning to do for 2019 and beyond.”

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Motor Racing meets Machine Learning

The futuristic car technology of tomorrow is being built today in both racing cars and
toys, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The car of tomorrow, most of us imagine, is being built by the great automobile manufacturers of the world. More and more, however, we are seeing information technology companies joining the race to power the autonomous vehicle future.

Last year, chip-maker Intel paid $15.3-billion to acquire Israeli company Mobileye, a leader in computer vision for autonomous driving technology. Google’s autonomous taxi division, Waymo, has been valued at $45-billion.

Now there’s a new name to add to the roster of technology giants driving the future.

DeepRacer on the inside

Amazon Web Services, the world’s biggest cloud computing service and a subsidiary of Amazon.com,  last month unveiled a scale model autonomous racing car for developers to build new artificial intelligence applications. Almost in the same breath, at its annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, it showcased the work being done with machine learning in Formula 1 racing.

AWS DeepRacer is a 1/18th scale fully autonomous race car, designed to incorporate the features and behaviour of a full-sized vehicle. It boasts all-wheel drive, monster truck tires, an HD video camera, and on-board computing power. In short, everything a kid would want of a self-driving toy car.

But then, it also adds everything a developer would need to make the car autonomous in ways that, for now, can only be imagined. It uses a new form of machine learning (ML), the technology that allows computer systems to improve their functions progressively as they receive feedback from their activities. ML is at the heart of artificial intelligence (AI), and will be core to autonomous, self-driving vehicles.

AWS has taken ML a step further, with an approach called reinforcement learning. This allows for quicker development of ML models and applications, and DeepRacer is designed to allow developers to experiment with and hone their skill in this area. It is built on top of another AWS platform, called Amazon SageMaker, which enables developers and data scientists to build, train, and deploy machine learning quickly and easily.

Along with DeepRacer, AWS also announced the DeepRacer League, the world’s first global autonomous racing league, open to anyone who orders the scale model from AWS.

DeepRacer on the outside

As if to prove that DeepRacer is not just a quirky entry into the world of motor racing, AWS also showcased the work it is doing with the Formula One Group. Ross Brawn, Formula 1’s managing director of Motor Sports, joined AWS CEO Andy Jassy during the keynote address at the re:Invent conference, to demonstrate how motor racing meets machine learning.

“More than a million data points a second are transmitted between car and team during a Formula 1 race,” he said. “From this data, we can make predictions about what we expect to happen in a wheel-to-wheel situation, overtaking advantage, and pit stop advantage. ML can help us apply a proper analysis of a situation, and also bring it to fans.

“Formula 1 is a complete team contest. If you look at a video of tyre-changing in a pit stop – it takes 1.6 seconds to change four wheels and tyres – blink and you will miss it. Imagine the training that goes into it? It’s also a contest of innovative minds.”

AWS CEO Andy Jassy unveils DeepRacer

Formula 1 racing has more than 500 million global fans and generated $1.8 billion in revenue in 2017. As a result, there are massive demands on performance, analysis and information. 

During a race, up to 120 sensors on each car generate up to 3GB of data and 1 500 data points – every second. It is impossible to analyse this data on the fly without an ML platform like Amazon SageMaker. It has a further advantage: the data scientists are able to incorporate 65 years of historical race data to compare performance, make predictions, and provide insights into the teams’ and drivers’ split-second decisions and strategies.

This means Formula 1 can pinpoint how a driver is performing and whether or not drivers have pushed themselves over the limit.

“By leveraging Amazon SageMaker and AWS’s machine-learning services, we are able to deliver these powerful insights and predictions to fans in real time,” said Pete Samara, director of innovation and digital technology at Formula 1.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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