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‘Slippery mode’ for safer roads

They may be a crucial ingredient in creating the stunning autumnal landscapes so beloved by photographers, but in certain situations – when they are wet and in multiple layers – leaves can present a significant danger to drivers.



Those in the know have long compared the effect to driving on snow. But could the humble leaf really be as slippery as the white stuff? A group of Ford engineers have come up with an answer – after conducting a unique experiment in order to find out.

Getting the data for the snow was the easy part. This was sourced from vehicle testing in snowy Scandinavian locations. But there was no research to show how slippery leaves were. To fix that, the team gathered bags of leaves and used them to cover the test track at the company’s proving ground in Belgium. They then called in the help of a friction-testing device that identifies how slippery surfaces are by rolling over them.

After testing they did indeed find that, in certain situations, the leaves were as slippery as snow.

“It was fun to conduct the experiment but there was a serious point,” said Eddy Kasteel, development engineer, Ford of Europe. “Most people know to slow down and drive more cautiously for snow. But far fewer of us give the same respect to roads covered in leaves – that can be just as slippery.”

Slipperiness is measured in units called µ. The more slippery the surface the lower the number. In testing, and at their most slippery, the leaves measured a µ level between 0.3 and 0.4. Typically, the same µ levels observed on snow surfaces

The same engineers helped to develop “Slippery Mode” for the all-new Ford Focus Active crossover that goes on sale next month. Designed to improve traction on surfaces including ice snow and wet leaves, the system makes rapid readjustments to stability systems, acceleration and braking to help prevent the car from skidding, swerving or deviating from its intended path.

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“Hello BMW” – Now we’re talking

BMW brings impressive safety features and a built-in voice assistant to its 4th generation X5, writes BRYAN TURNER.



Marking 20 years since its release, the BMW X5 has been given a substantial redesign for its fourth generation. A major revamp of aesthetics and functionality affirms this luxury Sports Activity Vehicle’s (SAV) position in the market.

New safety features not only make it safer but also more comfortable to drive. The redesigned headlights utilise laser lighting, which eliminates glare on reflective objects like signboards in dark driving conditions. The laser lighting technology also extends the distance of bright lighting to about 500 meters, 200 meters further than the previous generation.

The Driving Assist Professional package, an option for the SAV, comprises a steering and lane control assistant as well as a lane keeping assistant. These assistants work closely with a smart collision evasion system, which helps avoid collisions with vehicles or pedestrians suddenly appearing in the driver’s path. As soon as an evasive manoeuvre is detected, the system assists the driver with steering inputs to direct the vehicle into a clear, adjacent lane.

BMW Operating System 7.0, the latest version of the car’s software, focuses on customisability. This means that more aspects of the vehicle can be set up in a way that is most comfortable for the driver. For example, the 12.3” infotainment panel features a home screen which uses a three-tile layout, where one can have one large tile and two smaller tiles. These tiles can be swapped around and configured to the point where drivers no longer have to search through menus to get what they would need, as their favourites sit on a customised home screen.

The X5 gets a voice assistant with the BMW Assistant Professional. “Hello BMW” will wake the onboard voice assistant for voice commands. These voice commands could be anything from “Play rock music” to “Is my tyre pressure okay?”. Renaming the voice assistant’s wake prompt is also possible if the driver has named their car something other than BMW.

Keeping in line with the latest technology, the X5 features options for a wireless charging tray in the front and two additional USB Type-C ports. Other features include an adaptive navigation system, a hard-drive-based multimedia system with 20 GB of memory, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity.

BMW’s attention to minor details goes a long way with massage seats and thermo-cupholders. Electrically adjustable and heated sports seats are fitted standard. Additional options include seat massage functionality and ventilated seats. The thermo-cupholder option allows a driver to keep a beverage heated or cooled during a drive.

Unlocking the X5 with a smartphone will soon be a reality with a planned update to the BMW Connected Drive app, in the second quarter of 2019. BMW Digital Key brings functionality to lock and unlock the car with a smartphone’s NFC chip, which eliminates the need for a traditional car key. The driver will simply hold the smartphone to the door’s handle and the car will unlock. Once the driver is inside, the smartphone can be placed on the built-in wireless charging tray, and the NFC chip will register again to verify the driver. From there, the engine can be started.

Overall, exciting technology features come with the new X5 and even more impressive features will come with software updates in 2019.

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Buying a car now? 5 tips for December



The famous Mariah Carey song – “All I Want For Christmas Is You” – is hitting the airwaves, as it always does at this time of the year. But what if all you want for Christmas is a car? Here are the five most important things that you need to know when shopping for wheels over the festive season:

  1. Buy on auction right now

According to Darryl Jacobson, managing director of True Price, auction houses close mid-December. “Dealers attend vehicle auctions to source stock. However these auctions are not closed to the public. Members of the public are welcome to bid against the dealers, thereby saving the dealer margin. But, if you want to do this and grab a great deal, don’t delay,” he points out.

  1. Avoid shopping for student or entry-level cars

If you’re looking to buy an inexpensive (sub-R150 000) car, don’t shop now. “This is probably the worst time of the year to be shopping for one of these cars. The market is flooded with buyers – especially parents who are buying a car for their children, who are about to enter university. Thanks to this demand, you will pay top dollar,” Jacobson warns.

January is a better time to buy one of these cars, as Johan Olivier, head of marketing and sales at Auction Finance (True Price’s financing arm), reveals. “We attend all the vehicle auctions and January is traditionally the quietest month. Sellers will be hungry to make a sale, meaning you will get a better deal,” he says.

  1. Go for an expensive car

December is the very best time to buy a more expensive car. “The dealers will be looking to liquidate their stock before year-end. The last thing that they want is a high-end car sitting on their showroom floor,” explains Jacobson.

In November 2018, the new car market in South Africa registered a decline of 1 764 cars (or 5.4%) versus the 32 818 new cars sold in November last year. “The dealers will be looking to bounce back in December. There are typically lots of specials on high-end new cars at this time of the year and, given a November market that was off the boil, this will be even more so the case this year. This means that used car dealers have to offer really great deals – otherwise they will lose out to their new car colleagues.”

  1. Buy a “fixer-upper”

Are you willing to buy a car that needs to be repaired? December is a great time to buy a “fixer-upper”. “This is because all the panelbeaters close. Accordingly dealers will not buy these vehicles and, if they have one in stock, they will be very keen to dispose of it. They cannot fix it up in order to sell it, and they don’t want a vehicle like this one sitting on their books,” explains Jacobson.

  1. Shop on 29 December

Want that once-in-a-lifetime deal? Saturday, December 29, is the best day to shop. “This is the last trading day for most dealers, because they will close on Sunday the 30th and Monday the 31st. They will be exceptionally keen to liquidate their stock before year-end … so you’re likely to bag a bargain,” Jacobson predicts.

Before going shopping, Jacobson points out that it would be a good idea to visit and enquire about the car of your dreams. “We will provide a free and accurate indication of what you should be paying for that vehicle. Should you be trading in a vehicle, we can also provide you with a highly accurate vehicle evaluation – so you will know exactly what to ask for. Remember, when it comes to buying or selling a car, knowledge is power. Happy shopping!” he concludes.

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