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Range Rover plugs into electric car movement

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Updates revealed across the Range Rover Sport line-up are headlined with the new PHEV, combining electric and petrol power for sustainable performance

Jaguar Land Rover has announced that the new Range Rover Sport will be transformed by technology, with a plug-in hybrid electric powertrain delivering efficiency, capability and performance.

The reveal follows the news that, from 2020, all new Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles will be electrified and marks the next step on the Great British company’s electrification journey.

Jaguar Land Rover provided the following information:

In addition to efficient PHEV options, every Range Rover Sport has an enhanced design and new consumer technology. The flagship SVR now delivers 423kW, making it the fastest Range Rover to date. This is an SUV driven to another level of dynamic capability, with breadth of appeal and desirability like no other.

Gerry McGovern, Chief Design Officer, Land Rover said: “When we started the design process with this new Range Rover Sport, it was important that we maintained its sporting prowess while evolving the exterior design. The addition of design-enabled technologies, such as our new infotainment system and the LED headlights demonstrate our drive towards ever greater desirability for the customer.”

The British-designed, engineered and built Range Rover Sport has sold more than 732,000 since it was introduced in 2004. Its unrivalled mix of refinement and exhilarating performance has starred on TV and in movies around the world.

The latest Range Rover Sport is Jaguar Land Rover’s first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Badged P400e, the new model provides sustainable performance by combining a 221kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine with an 85kW electric motor. The 297kW total available power output* – available through the permanent four-wheel drive system – delivers 0-100km/h in only 6.7 seconds and a maximum speed of 220km/h. With an impressive 640Nm of torque, the new powertrain mixes dynamic and sustainable performance with traditional Land Rover capability, comfort and refinement.

Thanks to its electrified powertrain, Range Rover Sport P400e emits only 64g/km on the NEDC combined cycle and offers an all-electric range of up to 51km without the petrol engine running. For the first, time Land Rover customers can experience zero-emission, near-silent off-road luxury with uncompromised all-terrain capability as well as entry into areas with restrictions for air quality, including most congestion charging zones.

Drivers can select from two driving modes to best suit their needs:

* Parallel Hybrid mode (the default driving mode) – combines petrol and electric drive. The driver can optimise battery charge or fuel economy by utilising one of two charge management functions:

* SAVE function – prevents the battery charge dropping below a pre-selected level.

Predictive Energy Optimisation (PEO) function – entering a destination in the navigation system enables the feature, which utilises in built GPS altitude data for the selected route, to intelligently combine the electric motor and petrol engine to maximise fuel economy.

EV (Electric Vehicle) mode – enables the vehicle to run solely on the electric motor using the energy stored in the battery, the ideal solution for quiet, zero emission journeys.

Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 technology has a unique calibration to intelligently and precisely distribute torque from the electric motor, which has no creep speed and maximum torque from zero rpm, to all four wheels. This gives greater control during low-speed off-road manoeuvres, reaffirming Range Rover Sport’s outstanding breadth of capability.

Nick Collins, Vehicle Line Director, Jaguar Land Rover said: “The new Range Rover Sport strikes a compelling balance between dynamic capability, passenger comfort and efficiency. The introduction of our advanced plug-in hybrid powertrain is a watershed moment in the history of our performance SUV.”

The motor is powered by a 13.1kWh high-voltage lithium-ion battery. Land Rover engineers delivered a set-up that maximises interior space and provides ideal weight distribution. The 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol engine is longitudinally mounted, with the 85kW electric motor housed in the ZF automatic eight-speed transmission at the centre of the vehicle alongside the 7kW on-board charger. The access point for the cable is at the front of the vehicle, while the prismatic cell lithium-ion battery is mounted at the rear beneath the boot floor.

When rapid charging, a full charge can be achieved in as little as 2 hours 45 minutes at home using a dedicated 32 amp wall box. The battery can be fully charged in 7 hours 30 minutes using the 10 amp home charging cable supplied as standard.

With significant changes under the skin, the exterior has evolved to harmonise and modernise the design, making the Range Rover Sport look more dynamic without changing its character.

At the front, the striking new design is enabled by intelligent Pixel-laser LED headlights, sitting alongside a redesigned grille. This is complemented by a new bumper with a more aggressive profile. The new PHEV derivative also includes access to the 7kW on-board charger hidden behind the Land Rover badge on the right of the grille.

Inside the cabin the new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, called ‘Blade’ by its developers, is the most advanced ever created by Jaguar Land Rover and is truly state-of-the-art. Two high-definition 10-inch touchscreens form the centrepiece of the minimalist cabin, blending a futuristic, elegant feel with an intuitive, engaging interface and unrivalled functionality.

In-car connectivity is enhanced with up to 14 power points, including a domestic plug socket to keep laptops and other devices topped up. The introduction of the Jaguar Land Rover Activity Key also brings new levels of convenience to the Range Rover Sport, allowing customers to lock and unlock their vehicle without the need to carry a key fob – ideal for outdoor pursuits.

The new Range Rover Sport has been enhanced with further technologies for greater comfort and convenience:

* Gesture sunblind: opened and closed by an advanced gesture control system that senses an occupant’s hand movement. All it takes to open the blind is a rearward swipe in front of the rear-view mirror, and forwards to close

* Advanced Tow Assist: takes care of the difficult counter-steering required to position trailers accurately when reversing. The driver can simply guide the trailer into the desired space using the rotary controller for the Terrain Response 2 system

* Pixel-laser LED headlights: advanced technology provides greater luminance and intelligently blanks sections of LEDs to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers

* Those looking for the ultimate performance SUV will relish the potent new SVR derivative, which takes the Range Rover Sport into new territory. Power is up to 423kW, delivering the 0-100km/h sprint in 4.5 seconds, while bold design revisions and the increased use of carbon fibre construction make the new SVR more dramatic, faster and more agile than before.

The new Range Rover Sport is headed to South Africa. A launch date and pricing will be made available at a future date.

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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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