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Nissan reveals next step in its electric future

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Nissan has unveiled plans around the four key pillars of its future electric ecosystem in Europe, launching of new electric vehicles, additional infrastructure investment, battery charging and home storage advances.

It also presented a revolutionary new vision to give Nissan customers free power for their EV using its unique bi-directional charging technology. The announcements were made at the third Nissan Futures event, “The Car and Beyond”, in Oslo, Norway.

“Nissan kick-started the electric vehicle revolution almost a decade ago,” said Paul Willcox, chairman of Nissan Europe.  “In that time, we’ve sold more EVs than any other manufacture on the planet. Now we’re outlining our plans for the next decade, which will see even bigger investments in infrastructure, new battery advances and will even change the way people access and pay for the power in their cars. Put simply, we’ve been doing it longer than anyone else, we’ve sold more than anyone else, and we have a more exciting plan for the future than anyone else.”

New vehicles

Headlining the Nissan Futures 3.0 event was the European premiere of the new Nissan LEAF, with a special “2.ZERO” version for Europe. As the icon of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, the new Nissan LEAF is capable of travelling 378km on a single charge* and is packed with ingenious technology, including ProPILOT advanced driver assistance system for a safer, more comfortable drive and ProPILOT Park for fully autonomous parking. The car’s e-Pedal technology also lets motorists drive and brake seamlessly, while a sleeker design makes the world’s best-selling electric vehicle even more desirable than before.

Another new product announced at Nissan Futures was the new longer-range 100% electric van – the e-NV200. With a 280km range*, Europe’s best selling electric van, can now travel 100km further than ever before on a single charge – a 60% range improvement. And, with no increase in size or weight of the battery itself, customers do not have to compromise in either load space or payload. Crucially, it can help make 100% electric last mile delivery a reality for businesses and professional drivers everywhere.

Infrastructure commitment

Nissan announced its plan to expand its existing outdoor charging network in Europe by 20% over the next 18 months. Working with EV fast charging standard CHAdeMO, the company has already built Europe’s most comprehensive charging network, with over 4600 quick chargers across the region. Nissan now plans to invest in supporting the installation of a further 1000 chargers over the next 18 months. The company is working with its partners, business owners, municipalities and sector leaders across Europe to ensure the roll out plans are focused on providing maximum convenience to its drivers, with installations on highways, in towns, and throughout key European cities.

New battery advances

Nissan also announced its new 2018 range of home and office charging units giving more choice to owners than ever before.

The Nissan double speed 7kW home charger allows Nissan electric vehicle owners to achieve 100% charge in just 5.5 hours – a 70% reduction in charging time from the previous charging technology. The double speed charger has been designed to benefit consumer EV owners, with faster home charging than Nissan has ever offered before.

The Nissan 22kW charger goes even faster, capable of charging your Nissan EV in just two hours. Designed for fleet and business owners, the super-fast charger can also be purchased by consumers who want an even quicker charging experience.

Nissan also showcased its new home energy storage system, which follows on from the success of xStorage. Created especially for EV owners, customers can plug their electric vehicle directly into the wall box to charge. It comes with its own built in energy storage system, giving customers the ability to better manage their energy costs and even generate their own electricity from solar panels, delivering 100% renewable and zero emission power for their car.

It follows the success of Nissan’s existing xStorage solution, which was developed in partnership with Eaton and has sold more than 1,000 units across Europe in just three months, with 5,000 units expected to be sold by the end of March 2018. Nissan expects to sell 100,000 home energy units by the end of FY2020 in Europe.

The new range of home and office charging units will be available from early 2018.

Revolutionary free energy breakthrough for EV drivers

Nissan also revealed its bold mission to offer customers free power for its EVs.

Over the past year in Denmark, Nissan has been testing this revolutionary new way of driving and today, this has become an offer open to all fleet customers throughout the country. Using Nissan bi-directional charging, customers can draw energy from the grid to power their car or van and then “sell” back to the grid for others to use. This means, once a nominal charge has been paid by the business for the installation of a V2G charger there are no fuel or energy costs – just free power for your EV.

And Denmark is just the start. Nissan also announced a UK collaboration with OVO allowing customers to purchase an xStorage home energy unit at a discounted price enabling them to “sell” back energy to the grid. This helps contribute to grid stability in a world where demand for energy is increasing due to a growing, urbanizing population. It can result in an additional expected income for users averaging £350 / €400 per year.

Nissan is already exploring other regions in Europe to make free power for EVs a milestone for the future.

“Step by step, we are removing any barriers to electric vehicle adoption, from infrastructure investment to how people access the power itself,” said Willcox. “Over the coming decades, through our Nissan Intelligent Mobility vision, the electric ecosystem will transform modern life as we know it. But while the starting point for it is 100% electric vehicles like the new LEAF and e-NV200, the impact goes much further. With fewer emissions, our cities and air will be cleaner. With more intelligent safety features, car accidents would be reduced dramatically. With better connections between vehicles and their surroundings, the school run or daily commute will no longer be clogged with traffic. And by letting people charge their vehicle and their home from each other, we can use our time and energy supplies more efficiently than ever.”

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The promise of the self-driving car: Getting closer to reality?

Although the technology still faces plenty of hurdles before commercial viability, autonomous vehicles will one day rule the road, writes ANNA KUČÍRKOVÁ

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Are you ready for your next car to drive itself?

The promise of the self-driving car: Getting closer to reality? 

It’s a question being asked more frequently – “when will self-driving cars become the dominant presence on streets everywhere?” 

Automakers and tech companies alike continue to push the narrative that self-driving cars have indeed arrived. However, a better answer of when they actually will scale to consumers is some variation of “be patient.” 

For better and for worse, it remains the best possible response in today’s tech-heavy, yet uncertain climate.

Back in 2015, outspoken Tesla CEO Elon Musk foresaw a self-driving car by 2018, with the claim: “My guess for when we will have full autonomy is approximately three years. In some markets, regulators will be more forward-leaning than others, but in terms of when it will be technologically possible, it will be three years.” 

That bold prediction has yet to materialize.

Google was also bullish on the fast rise and adoption of vehicle automation. While parent company Alphabet continues to advance their Waymo self-driving division beyond most competitors, it’s offset by the need for someone to sit in the driver’s seat. 

In 2018, GM and Ford made bold declarations of putting cars into production that were free of steering wheels and pedals, by 2019 and 2021, respectively. Since that time, GM has backed off their original plan with Doug Parks, GM’s vice president of autonomous vehicles, citing regulation: “Until we have exemptions [from the federal government], which we filed a petition for, and/or law changes, we probably wouldn’t go forward with Gen 4. But we think it’s really something we’ve got to talk about, we’ve got to work on.”

Ford, however, continues to push ahead towards their goal.

The hard truth though is that similar to many of history’s biggest advancements, there will be growing pains.

While that’s not as optimistic as one would hope, the reality is the sphere of self-driving technology, and the vehicles and they’re deployment, remains a work in progress. 

The good news is that real-world testing and application of certain autonomous concepts are well past the infancy stage.

As technology matures and the idea of a car without a steering column or pedals become less radical, the day will arrive when autonomous, self-driving vehicles rule the road.

But where are we now?

Let’s look at how far we’ve come in self-driving tech, including where the industry leaders stand in their development. And, what’s holding us back from a fully autonomous future.

The Current State of Automotive Autonomy

Any ground-up discussion on self-driving cars begins with the question, “what does it mean for a car to be considered self-driving or fully autonomous?”

Autonomous standards defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and adopted by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) include six levels of vehicle automation.

Starting at Level 0, where there is no automation, the standards top out at Level 5 – full self-driving capabilities, no steering wheel, no pedals.

Most personal vehicles on the road today possess Level 1 or Level 2 automation – features such as adaptive cruise control, advanced assistance with acceleration and steering, automatic braking, or lane guidance. 

Many of these features are becoming standard on most classes of vehicle. So unless you’re driving around in a car built prior to the early 1990s, chances are high that yours has some form of automation.

However, the leap from Level 2 to Level 3 automation is a big one. Then the holy grail, of course, is Level 5. But how close are manufacturers to this pinnacle of long-promised self-driving technology?

Who’s Leading the Revolution?

No fewer than 50 different companies are working to bring self-driving vehicles to a street near you. The diverse list of firms involved ranges from luxury automakers such as Mercedes-Benz and Audi to small tech startups responsible for creating key components of the driverless technology. 

Others companies making a play include rideshare giants Lyft and Uber, the latter of which recently netted a $1 billion investment into their self-driving program. German manufacturer Continental who aims to revolutionize delivery and distribution by blending autonomous vehicles with delivery robots.

American legacy automakers GM and Ford have also made substantial investments towards mass-producing driverless cars. Even as they backed off their bold 2019 production goals, GM’s self-driving car program, Cruise, pulled in roughly $5 billion in outside investments.

Ford, for their part, have flown under the radar relative to others in the driverless segment. Even after admitting initial plans might have been too lofty, the automaker, in a partnership with startup Argo, are testing autonomous vehicles in Detroit, Miami, and Washington, D.C. They remain optimistic in hitting their 2021 production goal.

There are three companies, however, that collectively appear to be outpacing most others in the push to go driverless – Nvidia, Waymo, and Tesla.

Nvidia

In producing some of the top next-gen GPU and AI platforms for self-driving solutions, Nvidia has built an impressive partner roster which includes Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and Volkswagen. 

Earlier this year, the company announced that Volvo is adopting Nvidia’s AutoPilot solution to deliver Level 2+ vehicle automation. In all, over 300 companies use Nvidia in the production of self-driving vehicles and related technologies.

Waymo

When looking at actual miles driven by autonomous vehicles, no one comes remotely close to Alphabet (Google’s parent company) subsidiary Waymo. More significant, Waymo’s commercial self-driving taxi service, Waymo One, is set to expand beyond its Phoenix-based test group of  400 early riders. 

With the opening of a new tech center in Mesa, Arizona, it positions the company to increase its fleet of driverless cars (with safety operator in the driver’s seat) and the group of early adopters.

Tesla

Perhaps most ambitious of all is Tesla, thanks in large part to its outspoken Principal and CEO, Elon Musk. The electric car company continues to push the boundaries of its current automated software, Tesla Autopilot, into a full-blown “self-driving suite.” Their commitment to doing so as early as next year runs counter to the measured approach adopted by the rest of the industry. 

It reflects just how far ahead Tesla might be (or believe they are) from everyone else. Consider the company’s claims that the self-driving hardware is already in place, and bringing it to the public is now only a matter of getting the software right. In addition, Tesla is pursuing automation without the bulky equipment that accompanies other self-driving cars.

The concern is that the rush without reason or continued research might lead to accidents.  Some worry a backlash would reinforce the belief that the world isn’t ready for fully autonomous cars. Or add to the laundry list of reasons why others maintain they are doomed to fail.

Expressing concern is Dieter Zetsche, former chairman at Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz. Mr. Zetsche, according to the Washington Post, likens it to Boeing’s 737 Max air crashes: “Even if autonomous cars are 10 times safer than those driven by humans, it takes one spectacular incident to make it much harder to win widespread acceptance.”

The Question of Safety

There is little doubt that eventually, autonomous cars will become ubiquitous on streets and highways throughout the country. To reach that point, there are still plenty of obstacles the self-driving segment must clear.

As evidenced by Mr. Zetsche, first among them is safety, or in more precise terms, the perception of safety.

Currently, perception lingers that autonomous technology is far from safe. Before achieving mass acceptance, people will require reassurance that an AI-driven car is more adept at keeping them safe than their own driving instincts and abilities.

Long term, the point of AI performing better at navigating the hazards of the road will prove accurate. Humans, after all, are flawed beings, and there’s little doubt when viewing it collectively, self-driving cars will make roads safer. Consider this:

  • They’ll eliminate drunk and distracted driving.
  • AI controlling one car may better anticipate the actions of the AI in another vehicle, removing the unpredictability of two human drivers interacting.
  • Travel will also become more efficient, thus reducing the prevalence of speeding or dangerous/aggressive drivers.

Even with our shortcomings behind the wheel, recent accidents involving self-driving tech do give people pause. As the knowledge level of self-driving AI expands at an increasingly rapid pace, there is still a considerable learning curve to navigate.

Self Driving Cars Are Coming, Be Patient

Let’s reconsider our original question:

When will self-driving cars become the dominant presence on streets everywhere? 

While lacking a consistent approach to solving, then advancing, the pursuit of a self-driving car, that so many have committed to finding an answer is a positive sign for the future of automated transportation.

For a timely comparison, the 50th Anniversary of the first Apollo moon landings has reignited interest it what it took to reach the lunar surface. Hundreds of companies and billions of dollars moving toward a singular goal. And it was accomplished in less than a decade.

The circumstances may be different, the interests more disparate than unified, it remains a worthwhile note of what’s possible with industry and innovation all seeking a common goal. 

So while the answer to when we’ll see mass adoption of self-driving cars may still be some variation of “be patient,” the scope continues to narrow. Soon enough, being patient will give way to being a passenger.

Article reposted with permission. Original article here.

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SA pioneers connected car strategy

Toyota has partnered with Vodacom and Altron to make smarter cars, using SIM cards to automate car management across its entire range, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Vodacom has announced a partnership with Toyota and Altron Netstar to connect every Toyota car to the Internet. The solution is South African-engineered and pioneers connected driving in the global market, in terms of standardising the offering across the entire range of cars.

“From the 1st of September, every Toyota and Lexus model sold will be connected,” says Kerry Roodt, General Manager of Marketing Communications at Toyota South Africa. “This includes Wi-Fi connectivity and 15GB of data. This enables the app to work wherever the driver is situated, so they don’t need to be near the car to use the app.”

Those who don’t want the 15GB of data will still be able to use the features of the connected car, without the Wi-Fi hotspot, free of charge.

Andrew Kirby, President and CEO of Toyota South Africa Motors, says: “For any mainstream brand, we are a first to introduce this technology as standard across all models, whether it be a Land Cruiser or an Etios. This is not cheap technology; it is a significant investment on our part that we were ready to make.”

The benefits of having a connected car are: 

  • being connected to a reliable secondary network;
  • having an automated log book;
  • functionality to book a service with the tap of a button;
  • having connected safety features like a battery monitor;
  • being cognisant of driving habits with a driving score, which monitors harsh breaking, fast cornering, and speeding.

“Our collaboration with Toyota has been a global first,” says Mteto Nyathi, chief executive officer of Altron Group. “We needed to make sure we met the global standards, as well. Anyone who knows Toyota’s standards knows that they’re high. We’re excited because now we’ve made this high-quality technology that can compete in the global market.”

“This is important when you consider where we’re coming from,” says William Mzimba, CEO of Vodacom Business. “When you contextualise this partnership, this speaks to a connected future. We don’t have to wait for 5G, we have technologies that can connect us at rapid speeds. It’s exciting to see that Toyota is not just talking about it, they’re actually doing it. We are now taking the user experience and connecting users with their car.”

The Altron Netstar group has pioneered connected tracking technology, but had to develop new technology to make this happen.

“It should never be confused with stolen vehicle technology,” says Nyathi. “We have a completely separate solution for telematics and WiFi. To combine WiFi with telematics in a small device, I am proud of our team to address these challenges. To be able to come up with a technology that’s developed and manufactured in South Africa is quite something, and ultimately contributes to South Africa’s economy.”

Kirby says: “Vodacom has managed to separate telematics data on a prepaid portion of the SIM, while another portion belongs to the WiFi in the car. If the WiFi runs out, the car can continue running applications like linked GPS maps and car tracking free of charge.”

This partnership marks the start of a longer-term vision to enable a more connected society by paving the way for the expansion of broadband access to as many South Africans as possible.

Vodacom’s partnership with Altron Netstar and Toyota is the first step towards a more connected future, where autonomous cars will become a reality.

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