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Volvo builds high-tech concierge into cars

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Volvo Cars has announced a new way for customers to interact with their vehicles – a concierge service which will form part of the Volvo On Call smartphone-based service offering.

Available initially as part of a pilot project involving 300 Volvo owners in San Francisco, the concierge service, available within Volvo’s smartphone app, aim to make the lives of Volvo owners easier by providing certified Volvo service providers to take care of mundane vehicle tasks like fuelling and servicing, while the owner continues about their daily business.

While Volvo On Call is still under review for South African introduction, the announcement of the concierge service pilot programme shows how, globally, Volvo has dug deep into consumer research to deliver on customers’ unmet needs.

“Imagine parking your car in the morning at work and when you head home your car has been serviced, cleaned and refuelled. These are the kind of services we want to deliver to our customers. Our research shows that people spend hours every week running these small errands – we want to give that time back to Volvo drivers, so they can do something more valuable instead,” says Björn Annwall, Senior Vice President, Global Consumer Experience at Volvo Car Group.

Research by Volvo has shown that over 70 per cent of customers want fuelling services at their fingertips, while 56 per cent want their car picked up for routine maintenance, and 49 per cent would like to be able to have their car moved to another location when desired.

“Our approach is a simple one – we aim to make life easier by employing the latest connected technology in an easy-to-use smartphone app. We are taking an open and agile approach to this, and welcome collaboration with partners which offer new and innovative services. This is just the beginning,” says Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz, Vice President Consumer Connectivity Services at Volvo Car Group.

The Volvo owners participating in the pilot project will be able to use the pilot app to identify concierge services available in the immediate vicinity and order them via their smartphone. Requests are then sent to an authorised Volvo service provider, who will refuel the vehicle, perform scheduled maintenance, or whatever additional service the owner has requested.

The app also provides a one-time-use digital key, which is location and time-specific, and sends it out to the authorised service provider. When services are complete, the car is locked and the digital key expires. The car can also be returned to where the customer left it or delivered to a completely new location at the customer’s request.

Volvo Cars’ network of digital innovation labs in California, Shanghai and Gothenburg are focusing on understanding the needs of the company’s growing customer base in an effort to further expand the range of services on offer. Due to the scalable nature of the Volvo On Call platform, new services can be easily added to ultimately offer a whole range of time-saving services around customer vehicles.

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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