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Big change for tyre biz

Technology-driven change will radically change all aspects of tyre design and production, to the benefit of drivers, says DRIES LOTTERING, Manufacturing Renewal Executive, Bridgestone South Africa.

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Much of the innovation in manufacturing will soon become synonymous with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and the impact that robotics, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things will have on production processes, and possible job losses. There is no doubt that these impacts will be profound—but they need not be negative.

As regards job cuts; while there is no denying that many unskilled jobs will ultimately be at threat, in general 4IR is likely to produce more jobs than it destroys—but they will be different types of job. The trick here will be to develop clear strategies for helping existing work forces make the transition, bearing in mind that there are likely to be more than one. It will be necessary to identify those that can adapt frequently to become part of a “liquid” workforce.

Learning to work alongside, and “manage”, robots is likely to be one of the immediate challenges for workers on production lines.

But perhaps more exciting is the impact that machine learning and artificial intelligence, combined with the expanded range of capabilities that sophisticated robotics will bring, will have on the design and production of new products. The R&D teams at leading tyre manufacturers like Bridgestone are continuously working on new ideas that the emerging 4IR technologies will make possible, and there is no doubt that current innovation initiatives will gain strength.

One of the ongoing challenges in the tyre world is to design and then produce tyres better suited to driving conditions. One example would be a tyre that would enable motorists in geographical areas experiencing a wide range of climatic conditions to use the same tyre the whole year round. At present, in certain parts of Europe and the North America, it is necessary to change tyres in winter to cope with snow and icy. The quest is on for a tyre designed to cope with all weather conditions, and very likely made of a new material.

Another goal is a low rolling resistance tyre; that is, one that requires less energy to roll and thus is more fuel efficient. These are already on the market, but the pressure to reduce energy use in an effort to boost sustainability is unremitting. In similar vein, tyre companies’ R&D teams are continuously searching for new ways to recycle tyres, and to find new materials, that will reduce environmental damage.

Then, of course, there is the impact of electric and driverless vehicles, which will require totally new approaches to tyre design. For example, how will a driverless vehicle change a flat or damaged tyre? Could 3-D printing be used to effect repairs or even, in true futuristic mode, reconfigure tyre tread for a change in terrain, based on alerts from the satellite navigation system?

When it comes to tyres for electric vehicles, a whole new set of requirements, some apparently contradictory, come into play. Low rolling resistance is one, but so is high torque at low speeds, not to forget high load capability to accommodate the weight of large batteries. The lighter vehicles and virtually soundless engines will mean that reducing tyre noise in urban settings will become critical.

Another concept is “tyres as a service”. This would combine the smart car concept with an array of sensors to enable continuous monitoring of tyre condition and pressure, in conjunction with the general condition of the car. The end goal would be that motorists would never buy a tyre again, but rather subscribe to a service that fitted tyres, monitored them continuously, was on hand to make repairs as needed and fit new tyres at the correct time—all for a monthly fee.

These are just some of the innovations in the pipeline or on the drawing board, and the 4IR will contribute to making them a reality, and to inspiring more. And, to return to where we began, the other side of the coin is that these and other innovations will need to the kind of smart factories that 4IR will enable. In all cases, as noted, the key will be to prepare today’s work forces to make the transition.

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Cars connect to traffic lights

New Jaguar Land Rover technology using Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2X) connects cars to traffic lights so drivers can avoid getting stuck at red and help free up traffic flow in cities.

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The world’s first traffic lights were installed exactly 150 years ago outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Since then drivers around the globe have spent billions of hours waiting for green. With Jaguar Land Rover’s latest tech, however, their days could be numbered.

The Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory (GLOSA) system allows cars to “talk” to traffic lights and inform the driver the speed they should drive as they approach junctions or signals.

Widespread adoption of the V2X technology will prevent drivers from racing to beat the lights and improve air quality by reducing harsh acceleration or braking near lights. The goal is for the V2X revolution to create free-flowing cities with fewer delays and less commuter stress.

The connected technology is currently being trialed on a Jaguar F-PACE, as part of a £20 million (R371 million) collaborative research project.

Like all Jaguar or Land Rover vehicles today, the F-PACE already boasts a wide range of sophisticated Advanced Driver Assistance (ADAS) features. The connected technology trials are enhancing existing ADAS features by increasing the line of sight of a vehicle when it is connected via the internet to other vehicles and infrastructure. GLOSA is being tested alongside a host of other measures to slash the time commuters spend in traffic.

For example, Intersection Collision Warning (ICW) alerts drivers when it is unsafe to proceed at a junction. ICW informs drivers if other cars are approaching from another road and can suggest the order in which cars should proceed at a junction.

Jaguar Land Rover has also addressed time lost to searching for a parking space by providing real-time information of available spaces to drivers and developed an Emergency Vehicle Warning to alert motorists when a fire engine, police car or ambulance is approaching. The advanced technology builds on the connected systems already available on the Jaguar F-PACE such as Adaptive Cruise Control.

Oriol Quintana-Morales, Jaguar Land Rover Connected Technology Research Engineer, said: “This cutting-edge technology will radically reduce the time we waste at traffic lights. It has the potential to revolutionise driving by creating safe, free-flowing cities that take the stress out of commuting. Our research is motivated by the chance to make future journeys as comfortable and stress-free as possible for all our customers.”

The trials are part of the £20 million government-funded project, UK Autodrive, which has helped accelerate the development of Jaguar Land Rover’s future self-driving and connected technology. As well as strengthening the Midlands’ position as a hub of mobility innovation. Britain’s biggest car maker, headquartered in Coventry, is working on connected technology as part of its pledge to deliver zero accidents, zero congestion and zero emissions.

Connected technology will link the vehicle to everything around it, allowing seamless, free-flowing traffic that will pave the way for delivering self-driving vehicles.

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Roborace reveals new vehicle

Roborace has given its fans a first look at what the new competition vehicle for Season Alpha will look like at the WebSummmit conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

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DevBot 2.0 utilizes sensors similar to that in Robocar and is also fully electric, but has the addition of a cockpit for a human driver.

Season Alpha will see teams comprising of both a human driver and an AI driver. Lap times from the duo will be compared with that of other human + machine teams to determine a winner.

DevBot 2.0 will be launched in the new year but Roborace CEO Lucas Di Grassi has shared some first glimpses of what 2019 holds for the series in an interview on stage at WebSummit.

Season Alpha will see teams compete starting in Spring 2019 using the DevBot 2.0 vehicles to develop their automated driving systems, with professional drivers teaching the AI how to improve, as well as learning from the AI how to better their own performance.

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