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Ford SA rolls out SYNC3

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Ford South Africa is launching the SYNC3 infotainment and embedded navigation system for the first time on its local model line-up.

Released initially as part of specification upgrades for the Ford Ranger and Everest this month, this will be followed by the Ford Focus.

“We have had great customer interest in adding navigation to our innovative SYNC  technology, and are proud to now launch SYNC 3 with navigation,” says Tracey Delate, General Manager, Marketing – Sub-Saharan Africa Region. “Adding SYNC 3 with navigation allows us to introduce further practical features customers use every day, seamlessly integrated into the vehicle to provide both convenience and driving safety.”

“We will introduce SYNC 3 with navigation to a total of seven models over the next 14 months, which is a great benefit for our customers.”

Next-Level Connectivity

The latest-generation SYNC 3 infotainment system was launched late last year, delivering the next level of connectivity with an easy-to-use design, high-speed performance and enhanced voice recognition.

With the addition of SYNC 3 with navigation, the system boasts full feature embedded navigation, along with all the benefits of SYNC 3’s faster performance, brighter capacitive eight-inch colour touch screen that offers clearer icons and convenient multi-touch gestures (such as swipe, slide, scroll and pinch-to-zoom), plus voice recognition that uses simple, real-world voice commands.

SYNC 3 with navigation provides a full 3-D experience with elevated map view, enhanced full colour graphics and point of interest (POI) building images. Similar to searching on Google, destinations can be entered via the simple one-box search by typing the address, POI category, intersection, city, postal code or GPS coordinates. The search function is predictive, with results appearing as the information is typed. Voice commands can also be used to select a POI.

The system allows addresses or points of interest to be saved as favourites, which can be accessed through the Favourites icon on the touch screen, or the “Destination Favourites” voice command.

When driving, the navigation map displays a raft of information, including the next manoeuvre; current speed limit; current GPS speed; and a choice of estimated time of arrival; time to reach destination; or distance to destination. Enhanced junction view zooms in as the vehicle approaches a crossing, providing detailed lane visuals and guidance. Similarly, it zooms out when the next manoeuvre is more than 3km away. Highway services information is included, such as rest stops and garages, with the nearest filling stations automatically appearing on the map when the fuel is low.

Mapping for over 20 countries, plus Tracks4Africa

All SYNC 3 with navigation systems sold in South Africa have access to more than 20 country maps including: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. More than 3.6-million kilometres of road and 869 000 POIs are listed.

Another fantastic innovation is the inclusion of Tracks4Africa, allowing owners to take advantage of the unique mapping created from the collective travel experience of the Tracks4Africa travelling community. This includes gravel roads with hazard notifications, off-road tracks, four-wheel drive routes and rocky roads, as well as deep sand routes. Additionally, more than 129 000 POIs are included, encompassing diverse types of accommodation, services (fuel stops, tyre repair shops), leisure and recreational venues, as well as emergency points of interest (police, hospitals, embassies and clinics).

In order to ensure that customers have the best possible experience, all models equipped with SYNC 3 with navigation in South Africa receive free annual map updates for a period of five years. Additionally, text and voice guidance are available in a multitude of languages, comprising Afrikaans, Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Zulu.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Aside from the addition of navigation, SYNC 3 also offers the benefits of smartphone integration provided through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which transforms the phone’s connectivity with the car. Through Apple CarPlay, SYNC 3 can be used to access Siri, make calls, return missed calls and listen to voice mail, as well as send, read and reply to text messages. Songs, playlists and compatible apps like Apple Maps, can also be accessed.

Similar functionality is provided with Android Auto, with the Google platform used to interact with the phone, and access apps such as Google Maps. Licenses for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are still being finalised for official release in the collective Middle East and Africa region, and therefore will be introduced as they become available in market.

To keep the system up to date, periodic over-the-air software updates for SYNC 3 can be downloaded via Wi-Fi, once it is set up on a trusted wireless network.

Cars

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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