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Mini embraces innovation

Mini has launched its 2018 models with customisable interior features and major technology upgrades, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Mini has never been known as a high-tech car, due to its small form factor being the differentiator. But now the well-known brand has received a long-awaited strategy overhaul, bringing with it a new technology focus. Even the Mini logo underwent a subtle redesign, opting to use negative space to show the gaps in the wings of the logo instead of a raised metal look. This forms part of the new “MINImalism” strategy. 

Mini’s strategy for now and the foreseeable future is to increase automation in its cars.

Connected Drive, pioneered by BMW, allows for an intelligent connection between the car and smartphone. This enables one to check the fuel level, heat the interior and start the onboard navigation, all without having to be near the car, from a smartphone. When one is in the car, calendar events with location data can trigger the onboard navigation to calculate ETAs and time in traffic, offset on real-time data collected through the smartphone’s Internet connection.

We tested it with both the Mini Connected Drive and BMW Connected Drive apps, and both interfaced well with the car. Surprisingly, the BMW Connected Drive app seemed to interface slightly better with the Mini than the Mini Connected Drive app.

While the app is recommended, it’s not required, because the car integrates excellently with Bluetooth-enabled devices. iPhone users are in luck, because the entertainment system includes CarPlay, Apple’s simplified connected car interface software. This allows for music, maps and other CarPlay-enabled apps to be shown directly on the car’s touchscreen ,as they do on the iPhone, save some text-sizing adjustments. 

Pairing the iPhone is as easy as holding down a button on the steering wheel and tapping the car when it appears in the built-in CarPlay menu on the iPhone. No app download is required.

MINImalism runs through the car’s technology. The Mini’s 6.5-inch touch screen control panel shows an image of the car with layman’s terms of what the internal systems are doing, keeping to minimalist design patterns. The new Mini Coopers come standard with a Harman/Kardon 12-speaker setup, which features in the Mini Connected Drive. 

The steering wheel is redesigned, now featuring more buttons to help keep one’s hands on the wheel. The left side of the wheel features cruise control buttons, while volume and call controls are located on the right side. This bears a strong resemblance to the BMW configuration, featuring similarly placed steering controls. 

With all the Mini’s customisations, the company invites consumers to take it further with optional extra.s Mini Yours Customised (yours-customised.mini) is a web platform where one can choose custom side scuttles, custom cockpit facia, customised LED door stills and even a customised door projection light. These parts are either 3D-printed or laser-cut, depending on the material, to the specification outlined on the web app.

As optional extras, one can opt for a wireless charger in the armrest compartment and secondary front USB port for both the driver and front passenger, to charge their phones simultaneously. A SIM card connecting to the 4G/LTE network can be fitted directly into the car, allowing for use of Mini Teleservices and Intelligent Emergency Calling, with automatic vehicle location reporting. The Mini Find Mate is an extra service that uses wireless tags to track items from the car’s onboard system or from the Mini Connected Drive app. This tag can be attached to frequently misplaced items or travel items, like  backpacks, suitcases and briefcases.  

Future Minis are expected to be electric by 2019 in Europe and are expected to arrive in South Africa in mid-2020. This seems realistic, considering that the BMW i3 forms part of the same group. 

Overall, the Mini range has received a subtle yet effective cosmetic and technology overhaul, delivering loads of functionality in a minimalist package.

Cars

Bloodhound land speed record attempt in SA back on track

The Bloodhound land speed record attempt is back on track, with the news that the team will be going to Hakskeen Pan in South Africa in October for high-speed testing.

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The Bloodhound land speed record attempt is back on track, with the news that the Bloodhound team will be going to Hakskeen Pan in South Africa in October 2019 for high-speed testing.

The plans were confirmed at a press conference last week by Bloodhound LSR CEO Ian Warhurst.

“I’m thrilled that we can announce Bloodhound’s first trip to South Africa for these high-speed testing runs,” he said

“This world land speed record campaign is unlike any other, with the opportunities opened up by digital technology that enabled the team to test the car’s design using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and that will allow us to gather and share data about the car’s performance in real-time.”

Why High-Speed Testing?
The Bloodhound LSR team says it has been hard at work preparing the car for these high-speed test runs, upgrading and changing many aspects of the car following successful low-speed test runs at Cornwall Airport Newquay in 2017.

It said in a newsletter last week: “We’ll be using the high speed runs to test the car’s performance and handling at much higher speeds. It will also be a full dress rehearsal for the overall record-breaking campaign. This will include developing operational procedures, perfecting our practices for desert working and testing radio communications.”

One of the most obvious changes to the car is the wheels, which have been swapped for the specially designed solid aluminium desert wheels.

Warhurst said: “We’re running the car on a brand new surface. The wheels have been designed specifically for this desert lake bed, but it will still be vital to test them at high speeds before making record speed runs.”

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This car responds to moods

Jaguar Land Rover is developing new AI technology to better understand changes in the driver’s mood while behind the wheel

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Jaguar Land Rover is researching new artificial intelligence (AI) technology to understand our state of mind while driving – and adjust cabin settings to improve driver wellbeing.

The technology uses a driver-facing camera and biometric sensing to monitor and evaluate the driver’s mood and adapt a host of cabin features, including the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, media and ambient lighting. The settings will be altered in response to the driver’s facial expressions to help tackle stress. Reports suggest 74 per cent of us admit to feeling stressed or overwhelmed every day*. 

The mood-detection system will use the latest AI techniques to continually adapt to nuances in the driver’s facial expressions and implement appropriate settings automatically. In time the system will learn a driver’s preference and make increasingly tailored adjustments.

Personalisation settings could include changing the ambient lighting to calming colours if the system detects the driver is under stress, selecting a favourite playlist if signs of weariness are identified, and lowering the temperature in response to yawning or other signs of tiring.

Jaguar Land Rover is also trialing similar technology for rear passengers, with a camera mounted in the headrest. If the system detects signs of tiredness, it could dim the lights, tint the windows and raise the temperature in the back, to help an occupant get to sleep.

Dr Steve Iley, Jaguar Land Rover Chief Medical Officer, said: “As we move towards a self-driving future, the emphasis for us remains as much on the driver as it ever has. By taking a holistic approach to the individual driver, and implementing much of what we’ve learnt from the advances in research around personal wellbeing over the last 10 or 15 years, we can make sure our customers remain comfortable, engaged and alert behind the wheel in all driving scenarios, even monotonous motorway journeys.”

The new mood–detection system is one of a suite of technologies that Jaguar Land Rover is exploring as part of its ‘tranquil sanctuary’ vision to improve the driving experience. Designed to create a sanctuary inside each of its luxury vehicles, the manufacturer is trialing a wide range of driver and passenger wellbeing features, to ensure occupants are as comfortable as possible whilst ensuring the driver remains mindful, alert and in control.

Mood-detection software is the next-generation of Jaguar Land Rover’s existing driver tracking technology. The Driver Condition Monitor, which is capable of detecting if a driver is starting to feel drowsy and will give an early warning to take a break, is available on all Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles. 

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