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Autonomy comes to Range Rover

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Land Rover has introduced advanced autonomous driving technologies in the Range Rover with a new model from Special Vehicle Operations (SVO), the Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic.

Since it redefined the luxury SUV sector more than 46 years ago, Range Rover has achieved more than one million sales. The original Classic model debuted in 1970 and over four generations the luxury SUV has established itself as a design reference for all-terrain luxury.

The new SVAutobiography Dynamic brings new levels of performance to the Range Rover, powered by a 405kW V8 supercharged engine. Building on the successful launch of the long-wheelbase Range Rover SVAutobiography, the SVAutobiography Dynamic is available in standard wheelbase specification and comes fitted with specially configured suspension designed to optimise agility without compromising Range Rover’s trademark refinement and comfort.

The 2017 model year Range Rover also debuts a selection of innovative new technologies, which provide the building blocks towards fully autonomous driving. These features include Advanced Tow Assist, an intelligent driver aid that takes the stress out of reversing a trailer.

In addition, Driver Condition Monitor and Blind Spot Assist, which autonomously steers the vehicle back into its lane if sensors detect the driver is steering into the path of another road user, are added to an extensive selection of advanced safety features.

Interior changes include a new larger 10-inch dual view touchscreen display, powered by Land Rover’s market-leading InControl Touch Pro system. The pinch and zoom, tablet-style touchscreen provides a host of new features including customisable homepages, enhanced satellite navigation functions and instant access to the driver’s favourite apps.

“Range Rover has been the world’s leading luxury SUV since its debut more than 46 years ago,” said Gerry McGovern, Land Rover Chief Design Officer. “Design is fundamental to this vehicle and the latest refinements reinforce its status as the ultimate luxury SUV. By offering our customers more choice, more technology and more power we ensure Range Rover remains in a class of its own.”

Land Rover provided the following summary:

The SVAutobiography Dynamic is the most powerful production Range Rover. Its potent 405kW 5.0-litre V8 supercharged engine is shared with the acclaimed Range Rover Sport SVR. The engine has been specifically calibrated for the flagship Range Rover and delivers 680Nm of torque, powering the SVAutobiography Dynamic from 0-100km/h in only 5.4 seconds. It is paired with ZF’s eight-speed automatic transmission for seamless gear changes and supreme performance.

The interior takes Range Rover to new heights of desirability and refinement. Diamond quilted leather seats with contrast stitching are available in four exclusive colourways, which complement the Ebony perforated leather headliner, giving an immediate impression of luxury. The front fascia and door casings feature a Grand Black veneer, with an additional Red keyline finish on the door casings. In addition, key features, such as the rotary shift controller, start stop button and pedals have a sophisticated knurled finish. Underlining its dynamic positioning, the paddle shifters are finished in anodized red (except when specified with a tan interior) while the driver’s handbook is bound in quilted leather chosen to match the interior.

The new addition to the range is identified by a series of unique exterior features. The side vents, bonnet finisher, grille, front bumper accents, Range Rover script and tailgate finisher are all finished in Graphite Atlas. Customers have a choice of 21 and 22-inch alloy wheel designs, as well as three unique finishes. The SVAutobiography Dynamic is also the first Range Rover available with eye-catching red brake calipers and Brembo brake technology.

Jaguar Land Rover’s SVO division has fine-tuned the suspension to achieve the optimum combination of performance and comfort. Revisions to the knuckles, links, springs and dampers provide a lower ride height (8mm lower than standard) and more immediate responses.

SVAutobiography Dynamic also features two driver-focused technologies designed to deliver improved body control and agility. Dynamic Response improves vehicle handling and occupant comfort by reducing the amount of body lean during cornering. The system controls the front and rear axles independently, delivering increased low-speed agility, superior high-speed stability and greater steering precision. Adaptive Dynamics monitors vehicle movements up to 500 times a second, reacting to driver inputs and changes in the road surface to provide greater control without compromising Range Rover’s peerless refinement.

In keeping with its more purposeful character, the SVAutobiography Dynamic features bright chrome quad tailpipes that have been optimised to enhance its distinctive V8 soundtrack.

“The Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic has been specially developed by the Special Vehicle Operations team to deliver a more engaging driving experience,” said Mark Stanton, Director of Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations. “It delivers the ultimate combination of performance and Range Rover luxury, befitting its unique position in the portfolio.”

2017 Range Rover adds convenience through innovative technology

Range Rover is the ultimate expression of luxury and 2017 Model Year customers can access more advanced autonomous technologies than ever before. Advanced Tow Assist debuts and takes the stress out of the potentially difficult task of reversing while towing a trailer.

Using the vehicle’s existing Surround Camera System the clever technology enables drivers to guide a trailer into position with minimal effort. By following the trajectory lines overlaid on an image from the rear-facing camera displayed on the central touchscreen, Advanced Tow Assist is able to automatically steer the vehicle to follow the path selected by the driver using the Terrain Response 2 rotary controller.

Advanced Tow Assist allows even the most inexperienced drivers to manoeuvre a trailer into position quickly, easily and safely – the intelligent set-up even alerts the driver if they are approaching a jack-knife situation.

Specialist technology enhances all-terrain credentials

Peerless all-terrain capability is a cornerstone of the Range Rover family and new 2017 model year Range Rover features a pair of new technologies designed to reinforce its class-leading credentials:

Low Traction Launch – A manually selectable driving mode designed to assist drivers when pulling away from a standstill on slippery surfaces such as wet grass, snow or ice. By controlling the amount of torque that can be applied by the driver, the system reduces the likelihood of wheelspin to maintain traction and ensure smooth acceleration.

The feature can be accessed independently through the central touchscreen and the driver is prompted to engage Low Traction Launch whenever Grass/Gravel/Snow mode is selected using Terrain Response 2. The system remains active until the vehicle reaches 30km/h.

All-Terrain Info Centre – Relays useful information to the driver relating to the vehicle’s configuration and status via the central touchscreen display.

Improved connectivity and intuitive interactivity

The introduction of Jaguar Land Rover’s InControl Touch Pro infotainment is a significant enhancement to 2017 Model Year Range Rover. The class-leading system delivers improved satellite navigation functionality and connectivity while its more intuitive operation is augmented by the new larger 10-inch dual-view touchscreen display.

InControl Touch Pro introduces a series of new app services to Range Rover. InControl Remote Premium allows customers to remotely control vehicle functions such as activating the climate control to cool or heat the car ready for departure, set and deactivate the alarm, and even start the engine. The app will alert owners if their vehicle alarm has been triggered.

Additional InControl Touch Pro Services include live apps that can be downloaded to the system to provide information such as weather reporting and flight tracking.

Improved satellite navigation and services

As part of the new InControl Touch Pro system fitted to 2017 model year Range Rover, the fully integrated satellite navigation has been extensively developed with a range of new features including door-to-door routing. The comprehensive system allows customers to set a destination on the Land Rover-dedicated smartphone Route Planner app.

The app will navigate you to the vehicle, before transferring further directions to the in-vehicle system. Once parked close to your destination, the system will switch back to the smartphone to guide owners to their chosen location on foot.

Commute mode automatically learns frequently used routes, such as the journey to work, and recommends the best route dependent on live traffic data. Meanwhile the sharing function allows owners to share their destination, arrival time and current location with friends, family and colleagues.

The driver is also able to view a partial or full navigation screen within the Virtual Instrument Display, depending on their preference. Rear passengers can also view the journey time and distance to destination using the built-in rear seat entertainment system and even browse navigation maps and send suggested destinations to the driver, who can choose to reject or accept them using the central touchscreen display.

Advanced safety systems

New 2017 model year Range Rover introduces a host of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) to the luxury SUV. Standard driver assistance technologies include Rear Park Distance Control, Cruise Control and Speed Limiter and Lane Departure Warning

The additional Drive Pack includes existing features such as Blind Spot Monitor and Reverse Traffic Detection.

The Drive Pro Pack takes the features from the Drive Pack and adds Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist. New to 2017 model year Range Rover is Blind Spot Assist, which automatically applies counter steering if the driver begins to change lane into the path of a following vehicle. Lane Keep Assist is another new feature for 2017 model year. It provides gentle, corrective steering input if it detects the vehicle drifting across the white lines out of its lane.

Unique colours and finishes for most luxurious Range Rover

The level of personalisation available for 2017 Model Year Range Rover is taken to new heights with the introduction of new exterior finishes available through Special Vehicle Operations.

The mix of 19 new colours gives customers a more varied choice of metallic and pearlescent colours, all available in either gloss or satin matte finishes. The additional options range from traditional shades to bolder, more contemporary choices. From spectacular, deep blacks to dramatic reds, the new colours perfectly complement and finish the design of the world’s most luxurious SUV.

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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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