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Bots taking over the boring bits of Audi jobs

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Colleague robot moves into the office: Audi is now developing bots to carry out monotonous tasks for employees at PC workstations. The digital robots can perform tasks such as entering data or creating standardized reports faster, more efficiently and without errors. The company wants to relieve its employees of such work so that they can concentrate on complex and value-adding tasks. For this purpose, Audi built up development expertise in the area of robotic process automation (RPA) last year. In mid-2019, Audi IT founded a center of excellence that provides the central platform for RPA.

In the premium manufacturer’s production plants, man and machine have been working hand in hand for some years. Now, employees with PC workstations are also receiving help from robots in the form of a digital assistant called “Audi myMate.” After a pilot phase, the first virtual robot started work in asset accounting in August 2019 and has since been entering and booking capital goods in the system. The employees in this area have thus gained time for more demanding tasks such as analyzing the recorded data. At present, several bots are already in use for the Four Rings, and Audi intends to continuously increase the number of digital assistants.

The software robots imitate human employees in the desktop interface. They have their own identity, for example as SAP users, and work in a virtual environment. RPA is suitable for all processes in which decisions are made on the basis of clear “if-then” rules. Starting in 2020, the company plans to equip some of its digital assistants with artificial intelligence.

“With the introduction of RPA, we are pushing forward the digitalization of our business,” says Dr. Bernd Martens, Member of the Board of Management for Procurement and IT. “We are using bots to make our processes more efficient and faster, and at the same time are giving our employees more time for more interesting work – a win-win situation for everyone.” 

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Volvo to use blockchain to trace battery cobalt

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Volvo Cars will become the first carmaker to implement global traceability of cobalt used in its batteries by applying blockchain technology. The announcement follows the reveal last month of the company’s first fully electric car, the XC40 Recharge.

Traceability of raw materials used in the production of lithium-ion batteries, such as cobalt, is one of the main sustainability challenges faced by carmakers. Volvo says its committed to full traceability, ensuring that customers can drive electrified Volvos knowing the material for the batteries has been sourced responsibly.

“It is a mineral that is essential to the production of the lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars,” says Greg Maruszewski, Managing Director of Volvo Cars South Africa. “But, sadly, it has long been suspected that some of the cobalt comes from mines that don’t use ethical mining practices. Now, thanks to blockchain traceability, we will know that the cobalt has been sourced responsibly. We are the first and only vehicle manufacturer that can make this statement. Accordingly, South African motorists who buy a Volvo in our XC90 T8 range can do so with pride – with the guaranteed knowledge that only ethical mining practices have taken place in the cobalt supply chain.”

Blockchain technology, which establishes a transparent and reliable shared data network, significantly boosts transparency of the raw material supply chain as the information about the material’s origin cannot be changed undetected.

Volvo Cars has now reached an agreement with its two global battery suppliers, CATL of China and LG Chem of South Korea, and leading global blockchain technology firms to implement traceability of cobalt starting this year.

Technology firms Circulor and Oracle operate the blockchain technology across CATL’s supply chain following a successful pilot earlier this summer, while the Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network (RSBN), together with responsible sourcing specialists RCS Global and IBM, is rolling out the technology in LG Chem’s supply chain.

“We have always been committed to an ethical supply chain for our raw materials,” says Martina Buchhauser, head of procurement at Volvo Cars. “With blockchain technology we can take the next step towards ensuring full traceability of our supply chain and minimising any related risks, in close collaboration with our suppliers.”

A blockchain is a digital ledger containing a list of records linked to each other via cryptography. Within supply chains, the technology creates records of transactions, which cannot be changed while also enforcing a common set of rules for what data can be recorded. This allows participants to verify and audit transactions independently.

In this particular case, data in the blockchain include the cobalt’s origin, attributes such as weight and size, the chain of custody and information establishing that participants’ behavior is consistent with OECD supply chain guidelines. This approach helps create trust between participants along a supply chain.

Volvo Cars last month launched the XC40 Recharge, the first of an upcoming family of fully electric cars under the Recharge banner. By 2025, it expects half of its global sales to consist of fully electric cars, with the rest hybrids.

Last month, Volvo Cars also launched an ambitious climate plan, which includes a radical reduction of carbon emissions by 40% per vehicle by 2025, as well as a continued commitment to ethical business across its entire operations and supply chain.

CATL and LG Chem are renowned battery manufacturers, both with long and successful track records supplying lithium-ion batteries to the global automotive industry. They fulfil Volvo Cars’ strict sourcing guidelines in terms of technology leadership, responsible supply chains, reduction of carbon emissions and competitive cost models.

The agreements between Volvo Cars, CATL and LG Chem cover the supply of batteries over the coming decade for next-generation Volvo and Polestar models, including the XC40 Recharge.

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Jaguar tech delivers wake-up call for drivers

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From long working hours to daily school runs and the potentially stressful commute, Jaguar understands life for many is busier than ever. We’re so busy that 1 in 8 UK drivers admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel* – and this causes up to 25% of fatal accidents**.

As part of a wider vision to enrich and improve the lives of its drivers and passengers, Jaguar has developed a piece of technology, Driver Condition Monitor, which alerts the driver if it detects the tell-tale signs of drowsiness. The system takes inputs from thousands of data points, some of which are measured every thousandth of a second, including the Electronic Power Assisted Steering system, pedal inputs and general driving behaviour. Complex algorithms analyse all this to accurately determine whether a driver is becoming fatigued.

Fitted as standard on E-PACE and across the Jaguar range, Driver Condition Monitor detects if the driver is starting to feel drowsy and when required, provides an early warning to take a break. E-PACE’s instrument cluster displays a coffee-cup icon and sounds an alert when a prompt is needed. 

Edmund King, Director of the AA Charitable Trust, said: “The statistics around drowsy drivers are shocking, even more so when you realise it is an under-reported issue. Any measure that helps reduce the risk of tired drivers, such as Jaguar’s Driver Condition Monitor, is to be welcomed. The only real cure for tiredness is to rest – if drivers feel tired, or are alerted to possible tiredness by their car, they should pull over at the next safe place, drink a caffeinated drink and take a short nap.”

David Willey, Assisted and Automated Driving Attributes Senior Manager, Jaguar, said: “At Jaguar, we continuously review the latest advances in vehicle safety and develop innovative technologies to improve the driving experience, making it safer and more enjoyable. Driver Condition Monitor, along with a range of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are offered as standard across the Jaguar range.”

The Jaguar E-PACE is also fitted with an array of other advanced driver assistance systems to help keep the driver and occupants safe. Standard features on all Jaguar models include Automated Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist, Cruise Control with Speed Limiter, front and rear parking aid and a rear facing camera.

The Jaguar E-PACE’s unique combination of sporty looks, dynamic driving and innovative safety features mean it’s fun to drive and safe, too. The SUV you’ll never tire of, is priced from R684,400 in South Africa and can be configured at www.jaguar.co.za.

AA Charitable Trust research. AA-Populus 11-17 September 2018. Online poll of 20,561 drivers

** Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) Fitness to Drive report 2016

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