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The future of motoring

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At this year’s Ford Go Further conference, LIRON SEGEV chatted to ERICA KLAMPFI about the trends that are going to change the future of motoring.

There is one conference that is out of my ordinary tech-scene and that is the Ford Go Further conference. Today’s vehicles are essentially computers on wheels. They are the Internet of Things example where mobility, connectivity and data reside in a vehicle that transports us from point A to B. Gone are the days when all you needed was a spanner and a tool box; in order to understand vehicles as today, the mechanic plugs in a laptop and all the required information becomes available at a touch of a button.

I chatted to Erica Klampfl, Ford’s Global Mobility Solutions Manager, who is in charge of keeping the company ahead of its time (and competitors) by understanding the most important megatrends which will define mobility of the future.

Klampfl states that there are currently 28 megacities with more than 10 million people living in the cities worldwide “we can expect that number to grow to 41 megacities by 2030. The current infrastructure cannot sustain this. Therefore roads and vehicles need to be smarter.”

Erica Klampfl

Erica Klampfl

There is a rapid growth of middle class which will double by 2030. This might seem non-related however one of the first purchases of the growing middle class is a vehicle, which will place even more burden on the existing infrastructure.

There are changing consumer attitudes of the Millennials who behave differently when it comes to mobility. For the Millennials, not owning a car is acceptable especially with the ride-sharing apps and on-demand apps such as Uber becoming a norm. “There are stats that show that Millennials are also in no rush to get their driver’s licence. These trends change the way we need to view mobility at Ford.”

In order to understand the future, Ford has set up 25 experiments which will allow it to understand detailed information such as connectivity, big data, autonomous driving and driver-assistance. These learnings will help to define the Ford of the future.

The Ford journey is keeping true to the original vision of Henry Ford, which is making transport available to everyone not just the elite. Therefore, current driver-assistance technology such as self-park will begin to spread across the entire fleet and not just to their top-end cars.

Jeff Nemeth

Jeff Nemeth

Jeff Nemeth, President and CEO Sub Saharan African Region confirms that Ford’s market share has grown to 15% in 2015 from 7% in 2008. In 2014, at the same event Ford committed to having 17 new vehicles introduced into Sub Saharan Africa. To date, Ford is on track to fulfil this promise and has already introduced 11 new products.

This growth is due to Ford’s specific emphasis on empowerment and has extensive training programs for mechanics throughout Africa. “Youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow,” says Nemeth, therefore Ford recognises this role and as a result, Ford Fund partners with Enctus to give universities the ability to take part in a global program to improve their local communities. Ford supports wildlife foundations and has invested over R35 million in these initiatives.

* Liron Segev is also known as The Techie Guy. You can read his blog at http://www.thetechieguy.com or follow him on Twitter on @Liron_Segev

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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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