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How we sell our cars

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A recent survey has revealed that many South Africans wont get a fair deal when selling their car through a dealership, but at the same time many are worried about the security implications when selling privately.

87% of South Africans are worried that they won’t get a fair deal when selling their car through a dealership and 64% claim getting a fair price for their car as their top priority when selling. This is according to a poll commissioned by online secondhand car buyer , CarZar and executed via News24. The survey also found that 58% prefer to receive cash for their car rather than trading-in. However, in contrast, safety concerns mean that 80% of respondents prefer to have their car inspected at a dealership than in a private location.

Other survey findings were:

●      85% of respondents had sold a car during their lifetime

●      50% of South Africans prefer to sell their car privately, although in practice many do not go this route

●      85% of people are concerned about the safety of money transfers when selling a car online

●      61% of respondents have concerns about transfers and paperwork being handled correctly – these are valid concerns because, the new owner has 30 days after the purchase to transfer ownership and if he gets any fines within that period; the seller is still liable

●      The vast majority of people (81%) gather their information online before selling, with online car websites being the most consulted source (61%)

Rob Thompsett, Relationship Manager at CarZar says South Africans seem to be quite knowledgeable about how to get the best price for their car, but there are still a lot of perceived risks to not selling via a dealership. “The fact that you will almost always get a better price by selling privately or via an online car buyer like CarZar seems to be well understood. But security risks – both in terms of fraud and personal safety still weigh on the minds of a lot of South Africans.”

According to Thompsett, consumers still do not fully understand the big difference in price for a trade-in compared to the price you get when selling privately or through an online sales facilitator, “CarZar was launched for those South Africans who prefer to find a convenient and easy way to sell their car and have cash in hands to buy their new vehicle without losing any value when trading-in.”

It is likely that the convenience of a trade-in is also likely to draw some people to go this route. “There is often a perception that the paperwork associated with selling a car is very cumbersome, actually it is a pretty quick process and can be completed in half an hour. The convenience of driving one car into a dealership and leaving with another is appealing to consumer, but they are losing thousands of Rands in the process.”

He said having cash in hand gives the seller far more bargaining power at dealer level. “If you have a cash deposit, you are able to negotiate a far better deal for yourself. With a trade-in, they have to make their mark-up on your vehicle so the deal has less flexibility.”

Thompsett said sites like CarZar are a nice middle-ground between selling privately and selling at a dealer. “A lot of the concerns raised in this survey are addressed by the online car buying model. Pricing is reached transparently, paperwork is handled for you, there are inspection centres for people preferring to go that route, or thoroughly verified assessors visit you. Cash is paid on the day and, if the seller is buying another vehicle, they are placed in an excellent negotiation position.

He concluded that word of mouth is key in South Africa. “More than half of us consult a friend or family member when buying a car. This could be the reason for the rapid uptake in business for sites like ours!”

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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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