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Swedish VC hitches a ride with CarZar

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CarZar.co.za, which was founded in 2016, is now being backed by Vostok New Ventures, the Sweden-listed investment firm behind Avito, Russia’s leading online classifieds company.

Vostok New Ventures is listed on the NASDAQ Stockholm Exchange and has also funded other successful online tech-brands: BlaBlaCar, a leading long-distance ride sharing service; Gett, an on-demand taxi hailing service available in Israel, Russia, UK and New York City; and babylon, a leading AI-driven digital healthcare company.

Vostok New Ventures’ investment in CarZar is part of a larger funding round. CarZar is also backed by Silvertree Capital, the South-African based venture capital firm behind PriceCheck, the lprice comparison website, and CyberCellar, South Africa’s oldest online bottle store.

CarZar is an online car buying service for the second hand auto-trade industry in South Africa. In operation for only a year, the startup has been disrupting the second-hand car market by introducing technology to an industry that has remained traditional for decades.

CarZar Joint MD Fernando Pineiro says that, with this new round of funding, it will focus more on improving customer experience, as well as boosting marketing, and recruiting more talent to join their international team.

CarZar entered the second-hand car market with a clear mission: “empowering SA consumers to sell their pre-loved vehicles seamlessly”.

Potential sellers can go onto the CarZar.co.za website, and enter their cars details. CarZar’s algorithm will generate an estimate for the vehicle’s selling price instantly. If the sellers are happy with the estimated value, they can book a free inspection with one of CarZar’s fully trained car inspectors, at one of CarZar’s Car Buying Centres or at their preferred location. Within 20 minutes, the inspector will make a final offer to the seller. CarZar then makes an instant payment and takes care of all the paperwork. In all, the process takes 30 minutes.

The CarZar service comes at no cost to customers and is 100 percent obligation-free.

Vostok New Ventures identifies investment opportunities with strong network effect characteristics through expertise, experience and a widespread network.

Although CarZar may be a young tech-startup, the company has seen extensive growth while entering the market with a strong brand promise to guarantee safety, transparency, convenience and competence throughout the car selling experience. CarZar has expanded its scope from Cape Town to Johannesburg and Durban.

Pinheiro says consumer education is one of the biggest challenges CarZar has faced: “South Africans are proving to be ready to welcome new ways of getting ‘stuff done’. With the local market being extremely diverse and the auto industry being among the most traditional ones, South Africans are still familiarising themselves with new ways of selling their vehicles.

“We see technology being our key differentiator and main driver of growth. Additionally, we foresee territorial expansion in South Africa, introducing our services to even the smallest of towns.”

Cars

Why sports cars make us feel good

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Forget romance, fine dining or an epic boxset binge – new preliminary research reveals that driving a sports car on a daily basis is among the best ways to boost your sense of wellbeing and emotional fulfilment.

The study measured “buzz moments” – peak thrills that play a vital role in our overall wellness – as volunteers cheered on their favourite football team, watched a gripping Game of Thrones episode, enjoyed a passionate kiss with a loved one or took an intense salsa dancing class. Only the occasional highs of riding a roller coaster ranked higher than the daily buzz of a commute in a sports car.

Working with neuroscientists and designers, Ford brought the research to life with the unique Ford Performance Buzz Car: a customised Ford Focus RS incorporating wearable and artificial intelligence technology to animate the driver’s emotions in real time across the car’s exterior. 

Watch the video here https://youtu.be/AFpt6jziFsU

“A roller coaster may be good for a quick thrill, but it’s not great for getting you to work every day,” said Dr Harry Witchel, Discipline Leader in Physiology. “This study shows how driving a performance car does much more than get you from A to B – it could be a valuable part of your daily wellbeing routine.”

Study participants who sat behind the wheel of a Ford Focus RS, Focus ST or Mustang experienced an average of 2.1 high-intensity buzz moments during a typical commute; this compared with an average of 3 buzz moments while riding on a roller coaster, 1.7 while on a shopping trip, 1.5 each while watching a Game of Thrones episode or a football match, and none at all while salsa dancing, fine dining or sharing a passionate kiss. 

For the research, Ford took one Focus RS and worked with Designworks to create the Buzz Car:

From concept, design and installation to software development and programming, the Buzz Car took 1,400 man-hours to create. Each “buzz moment” experienced by the driver – analysed using a real-time “emotional AI” system developed by leading empathic technology firm Sensum – produces a dazzling animation across almost 200,000 LED lights integrated into the car. The Buzz Car also features:

  • High-performance Zotac VR GO gaming PC
  • 110 x 500-lumen daylight-bright light strips
  • 82 display panels with 188,416 individually addressable LEDs

Driver state research

Researchers at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany are already looking into how vehicles can better understand and respond to drivers’ emotions. As part of the EUfunded ADAS&ME project, Ford experts are investigating how in-car systems may one day be aware of our emotions – as well as levels of stress, distraction and fatigue – providing prompts and warnings, and could even take control of the car in emergency situations.

“We think driving should be an enjoyable, emotional experience,” said Dr Marcel Mathissen, research scientist at Ford of Europe. “The driver-state research Ford and its partners are undertaking is helping to lead us towards safer roads and – importantly – healthier driving.”

Activity Buzz Moments *
Roller Coaster 3
Driving 2.1
Shopping 1.7
Game of Thrones 1.5
Football Game 1.5
Kissing 0
Salsa Dancing 0
Dining 0

* Average number of high-intensity buzz moments per participant

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Car that sees round corners

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Jaguar Land Rover is leading a £4.7 million (approximately R79 million) project to develop self-driving cars that can ‘see’ at blind junctions and through obstacles.

Britain’s biggest carmaker is leading a project called AutopleX to combine connected, automated and live mapping tech so more information is provided earlier to the self-driving car. This enables automated cars to communicate with all road users and obstacles where there is no direct view, effectively helping them see, so they can safely merge lanes and negotiate complex roundabouts autonomously.

Chris Holmes, Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover said: “This project is crucial in order to bring self-driving cars to our customers in the near future. Together with our AutopleX partners, we will merge our connected and autonomous research to empower our self-driving vehicles to operate safely in the most challenging, real-world traffic situations. This project will ensure we deliver the most sophisticated and capable automated driving technology.”

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

AutopleX will develop the technology through simulation and public road testing both on motorways and in urban environments in the West Midlands. Highways England, INRIX, Ricardo, Siemens, Transport for West Midlands and WMG at the University of Warwick join the AutopleX consortium, which was announced as part of Innovate UK’s third round of Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Funding in March 2018.

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