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How music and passion fuels your driving

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Listening to music, and a passion for driving, are two factors that make South Africans better drivers, according to an international emotion-tracking study conducted by Shell and Goldsmiths, a college at the University of London.

Shell South Africa and Goldsmiths announced the results of its new ground-breaking emotion tracking research at the recent Shell V-Power SEFAC Experience Day at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit north of Johannesburg.

Observing diverse driving conditions from three continents across the globe, the study used a combination of the latest wearable emotion tracking devices with chatbot technology, GPS, as well as weather and traffic information and personality questionnaires, to give the most complete picture of what drivers are experiencing on the road. Nearly 3 000 drivers are participating in the study across 10 countries.

In South Africa, the findings revealed that despite intense traffic conditions across the country, it’s not all doom and gloom. Journey times of those studied in South Africa proved to be shorter than motorists in Europe and Asia, averaging 27 minutes per trip verses up to 40 minutes in the Netherlands and 60 minutes in the Philippines. South African motorists in the study saved more time on the road than motorists in Asia at an average speed of 35km/h, compared with just 14km/h in Malaysia and 18km/h in the Philippines.

The study uncovered the tactics that South African motorists are using to remain focused and calm on the roads, and an overall high-performance mindset amongst the nation’s drivers:

Move to the music: drivers who listen to music achieved the strongest driver performance scores. Similarly, drivers who made a conscious effort to relax while driving listening music and other mindfulness techniques performed best behind the wheel.

Always look on the bright side: drivers that displayed a high-performance, optimistic mindset and are full of life achieved the highest driving performance and smoothest journeys.

Family comes first: who we drive with determines how we drive. Drivers who reported to have children, family members or friends in the car used less harsh driving techniques and achieved higher smooth trip scores.

Rural vs urban drivers: motorists in rural areas had the highest performance and smooth scores compared with city slickers.

Passion pays off: drivers who reported a passion or enjoyment of driving paid more attention to their performance on the road, and achieved higher performance scores.

Dr Chris Brauer, Director of Innovation at Goldsmiths, University of London, said: “The nature of this study allows us to observe not only the impact of external factors such as weather and traffic on drivers whilst on the road, but also the internal factors that we as drivers have more control over.”

“Looking at drivers in South Africa, we can see that the highest performing drivers displayed an overall sense of positivity and optimism, making a conscious effort to relax and stay chilled behind the wheel by listening to music.”

Brand, Fuels and Customer Experience Manager at Shell SA Frans Maluleke said: “This experiment was an interesting and valuable insight for us about our valuable customers and the South African market in general.”

“We understand that drivers face many challenges on their daily commutes. Our aim is to utilise the findings of the research to enhance the customer experience and design offers that cater for their needs”, said Maluleke, “We are confident this is a step forward to our journey of becoming South Africa’s favourite forecourt retailer and to making customers life’s journeys better.”

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Body-tracking tech moves to assembly line

Technology typically used by the world’s top sport stars to raise their game, or ensure their signature skills are accurately replicated in leading video games, is now being used on an auto assembly line.

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Employees at Ford’s Valencia Engine Assembly Plant, in Spain, are using a special suit equipped with advanced body tracking technology. The pilot system, created by Ford and the Instituto Biomecánica de Valencia, has involved 70 employees in 21 work areas. 

Player motion technology usually records how athletes sprint or turn, enabling sport coaches or game developers to unlock the potential of sport stars in the real world or on screen. Ford is using it to design less physically stressful workstations for enhanced manufacturing quality.

“It’s been proven on the sports field that with motion tracking technology, tiny adjustments to the way you move can have a huge benefit,” said Javier Gisbert, production area manager, Ford Valencia Engine Assembly Plant. “For our employees, changes made to work areas using similar technology can ultimately ensure that, even on a long day, they are able to work comfortably.”

Engineers took inspiration from a suit they saw at a trade fair that demonstrated how robots could replicate human movement and then applied it to their workplace, where production of the  new Ford Transit Connect and 2.0-litre EcoBoost Duratec engines began this month.

The skin-tight suit consists of 15 tiny movement tracking light sensors connected to a wireless detection unit. The system tracks how the person moves at work, highlighting head, neck, shoulder and limb movements. Movement is recorded by four specialised motion-tracking cameras – similar to those usually paired with computer game consoles – placed near the worker and captured as a 3D skeletal character animation of the user.

Specially trained ergonomists then use the data to help employees align their posture correctly. Measurements captured by the system, such as an employee’s height or arm length, are used to design workstations, so they better fit employees. 

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Electric cars begin to bridge the luxury gap

A new era has dawned as electric mobility bridges the gap between luxury and necessity, writes TREVOR HILL – head of Audi South Africa.

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Mobility is essential to today’s world. We travel to get to work, to go shopping, and to meet friends and family – in short, effective transport impacts on all aspects of our modern lives. Access to mobility is critical to economic growth and progress, bringing more opportunities and better productivity. At the same time however, growing environmental concerns and a looming shortage of fossil fuels have created tension between our ever-growing demand for mobility and the health of our planet.

Growing populations, increasing urbanization and economic and social development mean that there are more cars on our roads each day. The knock-on effects of this are greater levels of congestion and longer times spent commuting, which means more stress and higher levels of aggression on the road. Skyrocketing levels of air pollution – to which transportation is one of the leading contributors – has negative effects on both health and climate change, both of which are key issues in global policy agendas.

So, the writing has been on the wall for some time. The gold standard in automotive technological progress has thus been to achieve a radical reduction of engine emissions and the development of electric cars has been at the forefront of this charge. We have now entered the beginning of a new era, as more and more of these vehicles take to the roads. Electric cars are now at the cusp of the mass market, with a steady stream of new models set to reach the consumer in future. Last week, we launched the Audi e-tron, our first all-electric-drive SUV, at a world premiere in San Francisco – one huge leap forward in pursuit of our goal. Audi will also bring more than 20 electrified models to the market by 2025, from the compact class to the full-size category. Around a dozen models will be all-electric, while the remainder will be plug-in hybrids for emission-free driving on shorter journeys.

Powering this development is ongoing improvement in battery technology, with increasing energy density and lengthened driving ranges possible between charges. Consumers have noted that they feel confident using electric cars for day-to-day use once battery technology can sustain a driving range of 300 or more kilometres, which is now possible. The Audi e-tron has a range of 400 kilometers, making it ideal for long distance driving. Drivers who charge the e-tron overnight can set off in the morning in full confidence that they won’t need to stop at a charging station as they go about their day.

What this technological progress also means however, is that the levels of power and performance achieved by an electric car draw ever closer to those of traditional engines. For anyone who loves high strung, powerful engines and the rush of adrenaline that comes from flooring the throttle on an empty stretch of road, this is no small thing.  At Audi, we are lucky to be surrounded by some of the most exceptional engines ever produced, so few people understand the thrill of an extraordinary driving experience better than we do. So, the holy grail is to achieve this same performance with vastly improved economy.

The Audi e-tron’s electric drive has two asynchronous motors, one at the front, one at the rear, with a total output of 300 kW of power. This allows the Audi e-tron to accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in just 5.7 seconds.

The next step will be the development of electric cars suitable for those who regularly drive long distances, entailing further advances in battery technology, and the development of a network of charging stations across the country. The battery for the Audi e-tron is designed to last the entire life cycle of the vehicle. When charged at a high-power charging station at up to 150 kW, the Audi e-tron can be restored to 80% in less than half an hour. At 22 kW, the Audi e-tron can charge its battery to 100% in around four and a half hours.

For city dwellers, however, the age of electric mobility has well and truly arrived. Rapid advances in technology continue to drive progress; the rise of electric cars is only one of many developments set to transform transportation as we know it, heralding a cleaner, more efficient future.

 

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