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Nissan starts engine for driverless future

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At the Tokyo Motor Show this week, Nissan unveiled a concept car that combines manual and self-driving mode with zero emission electric vehicle technology. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK looks at why this is different to your standard vision of the driverless car.|At the Tokyo Motor Show this week, Nissan unveiled a concept car that combines manual and self-driving mode with zero emission electric vehicle technology. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK looks at why this is different to your standard vision of the driverless car.|At the Tokyo Motor Show this week, Nissan unveiled a concept car that combines manual and self-driving mode with zero emission electric vehicle technology. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK looks at why this is different to your standard vision of the driverless car.

Imagine you’re the driver on a long journey with family or friends. Imagine you key in the destination address onto a screen, much as you may do on your phone or personal navigation device today. Now imagine you pull a lever, and the steering wheel recedes into the dashboard. You swing your seat around, and you are sitting in a moving lounge, facing your companions, settling in for a chat, a meal or even a board game.

That future came a step closer last week at the Tokyo Motor Show 2015. Nissan Motor unveiled the Nissan IDS Concept, a concept car that combines autonomous driving and zero emission technology for electric vehicles (EVs).

“Nissan’s forthcoming technologies will revolutionise the relationship between car and driver, and future mobility,” said Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn.

“Nissan Intelligent Driving improves a driver’s ability to see, think and react. It compensates for human error, which causes more than 90 per cent of all car accidents. As a result, time spent behind the wheel is safer, cleaner, more efficient and more fun.”

Nissan points out that some have compared a future with autonomous drive to living in a world of conveyer belts that simply ferry people from point A to B. However, Nissan’s IDS Concept looks a little different to this soulless vision of tomorrow. Piloted Drive, it turns out, is not the same as automatic drive. When the driver turns over the driving to a computer, the car’s performance is claimed to imitate the driver’s own style and preferences.

That may sound like a recipe for disaster, given the aggressive driving style many driver’s adopt. The idea, however, is to provide for a seamless experience as the car moves from manual to self-driving.

In Manual Drive mode, says Nissan, the driver has control, although sensors continually monitor conditions and the IDS assists the driver in taking appropriate action when danger is sensed.

In other words, this isn’t artificial intelligence (AI) that takes over from the driver, but rather partners with the driver.

“From information concerning traffic conditions, the driver’s schedule to personal interests, Nissan IDS Concept’s AI helps create a driving experience that is comfortable, enjoyable and safe,” says the company.

“A key point behind the Nissan IDS Concept is communication,” according to Mitsunori Morita, Nissan’s design director. “For autonomous drive to become reality, as a society we have to consider not only communication between car and driver but also between cars and people. The Nissan IDS Concept’s design embodies Nissan’s vision of autonomous drive as expressed in the phrase, ‘Together, we ride’.

“The Nissan IDS Concept has different interiors depending on whether the driver opts for Piloted Drive or Manual Drive. This was something that we thought was absolutely necessary to express our idea of autonomous drive.”

That’s the one side of the equation. The other is the travel experience for all the passengers.

Nissan says the IDS Concept’s long wheelbase allows for a cabin with comfortable seating space for four adults. It becomes even more spacious when the driver pulls the lever that engages selects Piloted Drive: the steering wheel recedes, a large flat screen comes out, the seats rotate slightly inward, and the passengers are driving into the future.

In Manual Drive is engaged via the PD Commander, a switch between the front seats. Once activated, the seats all face forward and the steering wheel emerges, along with a heads-up display showing route, road and vehicle information.

At last, warning lights for pedestrians are also built into a car. The side body line contains an Intention Indicator, an LED strip that shines red when the vehicle senses pedestrians or cyclists nearby. A second electronic display, facing outside, flashes messages to pedestrians. Many drivers are going to take full advantage of that one!

Nissan will also bring its research into electric vehicle (EV) technology to bear on driverless cars. Right now, a typical EV has a range of no more than 140km of in-town driving. That makes it almost useless for long-distance travel. However, the technology is evolving fast, says Nissan.

Aside from emerging wireless charging technologies and piloted park that can be managed via smartphone or tablet, the IDS Concept also carries a high-capacity battery.

“By the time Nissan Intelligent Driving technology is available on production cars, EVs will be able to go great distances on a single charge,” said Morita. “Getting to this point will, of course, require the further evolution of batteries, but aerodynamic performance is also very important. We incorporated our most advanced aerodynamic technology in the design of the Nissan IDS Concept.”

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee, and subscribe to his YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/GGadgets

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As selfie cameras rise, so must selfie etiquette

Selfies were once a sign of narcissism or self-obsession. Now they are the new normal, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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You can blame Oxford Dictionaries for making the “selfie” respectable. After all, being named Word of the Year, as it was in 2013, does tend to soften some of the self-consciousness in this most self-conscious of actions.

Once seen as a symbol of narcissism and self-obsession, it is now the new normal, to the extent that most smartphones are sold on the basis of the front camera. Or, as that feature is now almost universally named by manufacturers, the “selfie camera”.

I was one of the hold-outs, having a near-allergy to the selfie. I still resist, but succumb more often than I would like. The reason for continued resistance is that it remains a big leap from the word becoming respectable to the action itself shedding its narcissistic image. 

For most, it’s already happened, and for that you can blame Ellen DeGeneres. She  choreographed the most famous group selfie yet at the 2014 Oscars, when she roped a bunch of actors into a group selfie, using the then-new Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone. Her tweet of the photo became what was then the most retweeted posting ever on Twitter, and was estimated to have been worth a million dollars in marketing value to Samsung.

Ironically, it was Samsung’s up-and-coming challenger, Huawei, that came up with a new word for this type of selfie: the “groufie”. Thanks to an 8 Megapixel front camera on the new Huawei Ascend P7 camera that year which took the highest quality selfies – and groufies – possible on a smartphone at the time.

It didn’t end there, and selfies and groufies have morphed into variations like selfscapes (selfie in a landscape), skyfies (selfies from the air, using remote controlled devices) and jerkies (selfies to make an idiot out of yourself). I invented all of those on the fly, so it’s easy to imagine a new word emerging for every type of selfie.

Continue reading about selfie improvements through the years.

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Mickey’s 90th for SA

Disney Africa announced the local launch of the Mickey the True Original campaign, joining the global festivities honouring 9 decades of Mickey Mouse, his heritage, personality and status as a pop-culture icon.

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As 18 November 2018 marks 90 years since his first appearance in Steamboat Willie in November 1928, a series of world-wide celebrations will be taking place this year and South Africa is no different.

The campaign will come to life with engaging content and events that embrace Mickey’s impact on the past, present and future. The local festivities kick off in earnest this month, leading up to Mickey’s 90th anniversary on 18 November 2018 and beyond:

  • An exclusive local design project where ten highly talented South African artists will apply their own inspiration and artistic interpretation on 6-foot Mickey Mouse statues.
  • Once revealed to the public, the statues will form part of the Mickey the True Original South African Exhibition, inspired by Mickey’s status as a ‘true original’ and his global impact on popular culture. The exhibition will travel to 3 cities and delight fans and families alike as they journey with Mickey over the years. Featuring 4 sections highlighting Mickey’s innovation, his evolution, influence on fashion and also pop culture, the exhibition is in collaboration with Samsung and Edgars, and will visit:

o   Sandton City, Centre Court: 28 September – 14 October

o   Gateway Theatre of Shopping, Expo Explore Court: 19 October – 11 November

o   Canal Walk Shopping Centre. Centre Court: 16 November – 26 November

  • Samsung continues their collaboration with Disney as they honour Mickey’s 90th anniversary nationally at all Samsung and Edgars Stores. Entitled Unlocking the Imagination, fans are encouraged to visit these stores, take a selfie with a giant Mickey plush toy using their Samsung Galaxy Note9 and stand a chance to win not only a giant Mickey plush, but also an international family trip. Visit www.Samsung.com for more information
  • Mickey’s 90th Spectacular, a two-hour prime-time special, will be screened on M-Net 101 later this year. The elegant affair will feature star-studded musical performances, moving tributes and never-before-seen short films. Superstars from music, film and television will join the birthday fun for the internationally beloved character.
  • In addition, look out for special programming on Mickey’s birthday (18 November) across Disney Channel (DStv, Channel 303), Disney XD (DStv, Channel 304) and Disney Junior (DStv, Channel 309).
  • In retailers, Edgars will be stocking a complete collection of trendy fashion, accessories and footwear for the whole family, inspired entirely by Mickey Mouse.
  • Mickey will be the central theme of an in-store campaign nationwide this November and December, with brand new products, apparel, toys, as well as titles from Disney Publishing Worldwide, including books, arts & crafts and comics
  • Discovery Vitality and Disney are celebrating healthy, happy families this festive season by offering helpful and exciting tips and tricks on how to eat nutritious, yet delicious, foods, all inspired by Mickey. There’s also a trip to Disneyland Paris up for grabs. Log on to www.discovery.co.za/vitality for information.
  • And much more – check the press for updates

“Binding generations together more than any other animated character, Mickey Mouse is the “True Original” who reminds people of all ages of the benefits of laughter, optimism and hope,” says Christine Service, Senior Vice President and Country Manager of The Walt Disney Company Africa. “With his universal appeal and ability to emotionally connect with generations all over the world, no other character quite occupies a similar space in the hearts and minds of a global fan base and we are thrilled to be sharing these local festivities.”

Mickey’s birthday is celebrated in honour of the release of his first theatrical film, Steamboat Willie, on 18th November 1928, at the Colony Theatre in New York City. Since then, he has starred in more than 100 cartoons and can currently be seen on Disney Channel (DStv, Channel 303) in the Mickey Mouse cartoon series and on Disney Junior (DStv, Channel 309) in Mickey and the Roadster Racers.

South African fans are encouraged to share their Mickey Mouse moments on social media using the hashtag#Mickey90Africa.

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