Volvo Cars has announced a new way for customers to interact with their vehicles – a concierge service which will form part of the Volvo On Call smartphone-based service offering.
Available initially as part of a pilot project involving 300 Volvo owners in San Francisco, the concierge service, available within Volvo’s smartphone app, aim to make the lives of Volvo owners easier by providing certified Volvo service providers to take care of mundane vehicle tasks like fuelling and servicing, while the owner continues about their daily business.
While Volvo On Call is still under review for South African introduction, the announcement of the concierge service pilot programme shows how, globally, Volvo has dug deep into consumer research to deliver on customers’ unmet needs.
“Imagine parking your car in the morning at work and when you head home your car has been serviced, cleaned and refuelled. These are the kind of services we want to deliver to our customers. Our research shows that people spend hours every week running these small errands – we want to give that time back to Volvo drivers, so they can do something more valuable instead,” says Björn Annwall, Senior Vice President, Global Consumer Experience at Volvo Car Group.
Research by Volvo has shown that over 70 per cent of customers want fuelling services at their fingertips, while 56 per cent want their car picked up for routine maintenance, and 49 per cent would like to be able to have their car moved to another location when desired.
“Our approach is a simple one – we aim to make life easier by employing the latest connected technology in an easy-to-use smartphone app. We are taking an open and agile approach to this, and welcome collaboration with partners which offer new and innovative services. This is just the beginning,” says Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz, Vice President Consumer Connectivity Services at Volvo Car Group.
The Volvo owners participating in the pilot project will be able to use the pilot app to identify concierge services available in the immediate vicinity and order them via their smartphone. Requests are then sent to an authorised Volvo service provider, who will refuel the vehicle, perform scheduled maintenance, or whatever additional service the owner has requested.
The app also provides a one-time-use digital key, which is location and time-specific, and sends it out to the authorised service provider. When services are complete, the car is locked and the digital key expires. The car can also be returned to where the customer left it or delivered to a completely new location at the customer’s request.
Volvo Cars’ network of digital innovation labs in California, Shanghai and Gothenburg are focusing on understanding the needs of the company’s growing customer base in an effort to further expand the range of services on offer. Due to the scalable nature of the Volvo On Call platform, new services can be easily added to ultimately offer a whole range of time-saving services around customer vehicles.
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.
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.”
Motor Racing meets Machine Learning
The futuristic car technology of tomorrow is being built today in both racing cars and
toys, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK
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.
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.
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.”
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.