Storm chaser ‘Tornado Tim’ Baker drove the Jaguar XF through America’s Midwest in search of a tornado as this year’s storm season came to a dramatic close.
A storm chaser’s role is vital to help predict tornadoes and save lives, so the XF was the perfect mobile lab for the chase team to catch their tornado and collect vital data.
The chase, which covered 2,000 miles (3, 218kms) of highway and farm tracks through seven US states, saw the XF evade baseball-sized hailstones and drive through floods and high winds before intercepting a twister on the Iowa-Illinois border.
After the encounter, Baker said: “Storm chasing is all about getting to the right place at the right time – and also staying out of trouble. It has been an interesting year for storms and it was great to try this car out as the season came to a close.”
“It took us a while to track one down, but when the weather map delivered, the car did too. The navigation and in-car Wi-Fi, which allowed us to connect our multiple devices, worked brilliantly in the chase. The all-wheel-drive capability was also excellent as we travelled through rain and floods on loose gravel roads.”
The chase began with the biggest storm of the 2016 season looming over the American Midwest, with a potential 95 million people in its path. It took Tim from Denver, Colorado, right up into Minnesota and down to Illinois.
During the chase, Baker met Brian Smith, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the Omaha office of the National Weather Service (NWS), which uses radar data to help scientists issue prompt, life-saving warnings to agencies and the general public.
Tornado chasers like Tim, and the vehicles they use, are a vital part of the modern network of weather warning. Having people on the ground to confirm the storms and analyse their path can help experts study them and predict future disasters.
The AWD XF found its twister when Baker intercepted a Category EF 0 (60-70 mph winds) tornado, two hours west of Chicago. The storm drenched the region, flooding roads and scattering debris, but the car coped brilliantly with the dirt roads and slippery highways.
With roads blocked, Tim used the super quick, pinch and zoom in-car navigation system, with 3D and satellite mapping, to find a safe way around the twister. Overnight, the storm delivered several more tornadoes, damaging buildings.
Kevin Stride, Vehicle Line Director for Jaguar XF said: “This was a real showcase for the XF’s capabilities. Tim was able to view storm data on the car’s 10 inch touchscreen and use the world-class In-Control Touch Pro navigation system to find them while travelling in comfort.”
“When the weather deteriorated, the car’s all surface capability with Adaptive Surface Response and torque on demand all-wheel-drive came into its own. The XF’s AdSR was able to fully exploit all available traction by altering mapping of the throttle, automatic transmission and DSC system to give confidence on the gravel tracks and cope with extreme flooding and high winds.”
“As expected, the tornado chase provided some extremely diverse challenges and we knew this would be a real genuine test for the XF, so we were delighted to see it handle all the conditions with ease…and come back in one piece.”
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.
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.
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.
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.