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Auto industry’s first commerce platform

General Motors said it will equip it’s latest cars with the automotive industry’s first commerce platform for on-demand reservations and purchases of goods and services.

With ‘Marketplace,’ drivers can order and pay for their favourite food, and much more, with a simple tap on the dashboard.

GM lets customers order their morning coffee with their car.

Marketplace allows customers the opportunity to more safely interact with a growing number of their favourite brands in retail, fuel, hospitality, food, hotel and transportation through the in-vehicle touchscreen.

Marketplace also features a “Shop” section dedicated to offers specific to GM vehicles, for instance purchasing Wi-Fi data, discounts for an oil change or deals on GM accessories. Simple on-screen notifications can identify relevant offers.

“The average American spends 46 minutes per day on the road driving. Leveraging connectivity and our unique data capabilities, we have an opportunity to make every trip more productive and give our customers time back,” said Santiago Chamorro, vice president for Global Connected Customer Experience, GM.

“Marketplace is the first of a suite of new personalisation features that we will roll out over the next 12 to 18 months to nearly four million U.S. drivers.”

“For most retailers and consumer brands the daily commute is the only time not accessible in a consumers’ day,” said Chamorro. “Marketplace gives merchants the ability to more safely engage with drivers and passengers in a meaningful way that provides true value for our customers.”

Marketplace is designed to be used while driving. It uses machine learning from real-time interaction data, such as location, time of day and a driver’s established digital relationship with third-party merchants.

GM designs its in-vehicle systems to minimise manual interactions, which in turn allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.

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The Smart Home market is growing

Starting with smart home voice control, vehicle integration with smart home management will increasingly draw other functions into the connected vehicle.

The smart home market is growing, and it is drawing in car manufacturers and their development strategies. Mercedes, BMW, Ford, and others are all utilising smart home voice control platforms into their connected cars.

According to ABI Research, by 2022, more than 500 million cars will have shipped with the smart home connect device.

The ability to tie those vehicles into the platforms controlling more than 300 million smart homes is driving investment and partnerships across both markets.

“Extending smart home voice control into the connected vehicle is part of an ongoing integration that will pull together home and vehicle personalisation. It marks a weakening of Original Equipment Manufacturers’ (OEMs) total control over the technologies embedded into their vehicles,” says Jonathan Collins, Research Director at ABI Research.

“That means OEMs will have to select partnerships and technology suppliers that can best support the widest integrations.”

Combining vehicle integration with smart home management will draw other functions into the connected vehicle. Navigation, insurance, health, energy management, AI, media management, and other applications and supporting industries will integrate with connected vehicles and often directly through smart home interaction.

However, OEM manufacturers are often faced with conflicting options for technologies and smart home partnerships.

The smart home market has a variety of vendors, including Amazon, Apple, Google, and others building platforms with industry-wide standards remaining minimal.

“With the looming potential of autonomous vehicles, OEMs are faced with an array of potential partners to help support that generation of vehicles that increasingly threaten the OEMs sole role in controlling the functionality and appeal of their vehicles,” says Collins.

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Cancer care and self-driving cars

Mike Butler became fascinated by the process through which patients were treated after being diagnosed with cancer.

After being diagnosed with cancer Mike Butler, Ford’s quality director, saw an opportunity to introduce practices from the car manufacturing facility into the treatment process of cancer patients.

Butler and the team at the Ford assembly plant in Cologne, Germany researched and developed changes that are now being implemented as part of what is expected to become Germany’s biggest dedicated cancer outpatient unit.

Furthermore, this has since developed into a two-way flow of ideas. Hospital staff at the renowned Centre for Integrated Oncology (CIO) at the University of Cologne are using their big data techniques to help Ford explore future vehicles.

“I spent five years in treatment rooms and thought about how I could make life easier for patients,” said Butler, who is now in remission from colon cancer. “There was a real lightbulb moment when I realised that many of the systems that ensure car plants run smoothly could be applied to the hospital. Now there is an ideas exchange that is benefitting patients today, and could also help the way we move tomorrow. The more we work together the more synergies we find between our work at Ford and the challenges faced in cancer research.”

It all began in 2008 where Ford engineers met with medical staff to demonstrate the efficient practices and advance technologies that were being utilised at the Ford Fiesta Cologne plant, one of the world’s most competent vehicle production plants.

Designed to ensure treatment is less stressful and faster, coloured lines on walls and floors make it easier for staff, patients and visitors to find their way around.

Large screens will help make communication between key medical employees easier. The team also proposed flexible rooms with removable dividers rather than rigid wards and fixed nursing stations.

“Medicine is an ever-changing science where small changes have a huge impact on the lives of patients,” said Prof Dr Michael Hallek, the director of the CIO – that has been repeatedly honoured by German Cancer Aid as one of the top oncological centres in Germany. “With Ford’s help, we are making huge improvements that will benefit the lives and treatment of future patients for years to come. And hopefully, some of our methods of doing things will help Ford to develop what mobility might look like in the future.”



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New vehicles on show

The 45th Tokyo Motor Show is about to begin late in October this year and will showcase some of the best Japanese vehicles available on the market.

While there will be a variety of European vehicles at the show, the Japanese exhibits should remain the stand-out exhibits.

In preparation for its centenary in 2020, Suzuki has developed a range of new compact concept cars and a sport’s saloon concept as well as limited edition models of the WRX STi and BRZ.

Meanwhile, Mazda should be set to launch a new version of the RX-8 sequel at the show. The RX-Vision was first showcased in the 2015 Motor Show. The Mazda stand will also include the Product Concept with Sky-Activ technology and the new Mazda CX-8 production car.

Honda has unveiled a sketch of its Sports EV Concept ahead of its full showing at Tokyo this month. The sketch reveals a sports car body shape alongside a fully electric powertrain coupled with Honda’s AI technology.

Mitsubishi is set to show off its all-electric SUV concept called the e-Evolution.

Nissan will also unveil its seventh-generation Z-car which is the successor to the 370Z. Production of the Z-car is expected to being in 2019. A newer version of the Nissan Leaf is also set to be revealed. The Nismo Leaf is set to be similar to the Ford Focus RS and should feature the same 235-mile range as the Leaf.

Subaru has teased some images of the VIZIV Performance concept car which is a saloon vehicle similar to the Impreza WRX STi. Subaru will also be unveiling a special edition S208 model of the WRX STi.

Unsurprisingly, Toyota has a large line up of vehicles that will be on show. Including the GR HV Sports concept which features a hybrid motor and targa roof. The TJ Cruiser van/SUV crossover will also be on show along with the i-RIDE concept – a small, fully electric ‘mobility vehicle’ making use of artificial intelligence to learn the habits of the driver.

Lexus will showcase its brand new LS luxury saloon. A hybrid edition has already been unveiled in Geneva in March, featuring a twin-turbo V6 petrol engine alongside two electric motors. There is also rumours of an unnamed concept car and the Japanese media speculates that there might be a seven-seater version of the RX SUV at the show as well.

The Tokyo Motor show is open to the public from October 28th to November 5th.

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Toyota’s FY2017-18 sustainability targets

“Climate change is arguably the single biggest issue facing society today.”

This message from Toyota New Zealand’s CEO, is outlined in his foreword to the company’s 2017 sustainability report. The report outlines the company’s vision for the future of personal transportation, corporate responsibility, and ongoing strong economic performance.

The company outlines a number of environmental initiatives in the report, including a trial of waterborne paint systems at a Thames used vehicle refurbishment facility to reduce volatile organic compound emissions and continue with a hybrid battery recycling programme.

Toyota NZ CEO Alistair Davis, with Steve Maharey, former Vice Chancellor, Massey University.

Toyota also outlined new sales targets for their EV and PHEV ranges. The company will undergo a review of the new PHV Prius for NZ market and introduce 5 Toyota and 8 Lexus hybrid vehicle models in 2017-18.  They have set sales targets of 1,188 and 4,777 for these Toyota and Lexus models respectively.

“We commend the Government’s target of 64,000 electric vehicles in New Zealand by 2021.”

To assist with the uptake of electric vehicles, Toyota will rollout charging stations throughout their dealer network later this year.

Toyota has outlined plans to support the uptake of EVs in the report.

With regards to economic performance, Toyota says that while 2017 has posed its challenges, the company is expecting further growth.

“A key challenge this year was responding to the infrastructure damage caused by the Kaikoura and Wellington earthquakes,” the report says.

“Next year we are expecting further market growth across all new vehicle sales operations. Stock availability to meet this demand remains a challenge… With a number of Japanese manufacturing plants already operating at maximum capacity, we are improving the forecast modelling to assist with improved stock management.”

Toyota also notes the significant impact that transporting their goods to, and throughout New Zealand has on the company’s environmental impact.

“This year emissions relating specifically to vehicle logistics rose, and accounted for 81 per cent of our total carbon emissions. 86 per cent of this can be accredited to our inbound operations (importing to New Zealand), and 14 per cent to outbound (distribution within New Zealand).

While some savings in emissions and logistic costs have been made, it has taken longer to reach our target of 10% of vehicles discharged in Wellington, due to the implementation of the new vehicle management system and earthquake disruptions.”

The report also notes the company’s health and safety, employment and other sustainability initiatives. The 31 page report is available in full here.

Toyota notes the difficulties faced as a result of the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake in transporting vehicles and parts around the country.

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GM to increase focus on EVs

General Motors has said it will combine operations outside of China and North America into a new organization based in Detroit, in an attempt to further scale back its operations that are losing money, and increase their presence in the EV market.

Automotive News reports that GM said it will combine the leadership of its Southeast Asia, India and Oceania operations, with its South American operations, effective January 1 next year. The new company will be led by Barry Engle, currently GM executive vice president and president of GM South America.

GM CEO Mary Barra.

On Monday GM outlined plans to add 20 new battery electric and fuel cell vehicles to its global lineup by 2023, financed by robust profits from sales of gasoline-fueled trucks and sport utility vehicles in the United States and China.

GM’s Latin American and Asia/Pacific operations both lost money in 2016, excluding profits from GM’s operations in China.

“Our strategy (is) to refocus our traditional business operations to free up the resources and financial power needed to really step into the next chapter of the automotive industry,” Stefan Jacoby, executive vice president of GM’s International Operations told Reuters.

GM has shrunk its international operations over the past five years, ceasing manufacturing in Australia and Indonesia entirely, while restructuring its Thai operations. The car maker is also reducing its presence in India.

GM has also sold its European unit Opel, to French automaker Peugeot SA.


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Update: NISMO Leaf to debut late this month

The first all-electric hot hatch is set to debut at the upcoming 45th Toyko Motor Show, and we now have a number of images and features of the new model.

Nissan says the NISMO Concept version has a sporty exterior and enhanced aerodynamic performance and less lift.

The Nissan Leaf NISMO concept.

The black interior features NISMO’s signature red accents and styling.

Sport-tuned suspension, high-performance tires and a custom-tuned computer are part of the performance upgrades.

Nissan is introducing the “Leaf e-Pedal”, which lets the driver start, accelerate, decelerate, stop and hold the car by using only the accelerator pedal.

It will also include fully automated parking technology.

The concept will feature “e-Pedal” technology, that allows the driver to accellerate, brake, and come to a complete stop, all with the accellerator pedal

Other differences from the base model leaf appear to be large alloy wheels, a lower ride height, a two-tone black and white paint finish, more aggressive looking front bumpers and side skirts, plus sporty looking red accents on the bodywork.

Nissan will also premier a new NISMO Skyline model and a NISMO Serena Minivan concept at the Motor Show.

Nissan announced plans earlier this year to refresh the NISMO brand, the company’s performance wing, in a bid to boost global NISMO sales to upwards of 15,000 per year.

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Ford to increase EV range

Ford Motor Co. said Monday it will increase its battery electric vehicle offerings beyond the 480 km range crossover EV it plans to offer by 2020.

To develop and research EVs, Ford is setting up an internal team named “Team Edison” in a clear nod to the historical rivalry between its namesake and his contemporary, Nicola Tesla. It will be separate from Ford’s other electrification efforts, which include hybrid and plug-in hybrid offerings.

Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.

“We see an inflection point in the major markets toward battery electric vehicles,” Sherif Marakby, Ford’s head of electrification and autonomous vehicles told website Automotive News. “We feel it’s important to have a cross-functional team all the way from defining the strategy plans and implementation to advanced marketing.”

Marakby said Ford is on track to deliver 13 electrified vehicles over the next five years, and has announced seven of those.

He also said the new team will explore partnerships. Ford was rumored to be in talks earlier this year about acquiring Lucid Motors, and in August said it would form a joint venture with a Chinese manufacturer to produce all-electric vehicles for the Chinese market.

“We are open to partnerships, but this team will be responsible to define the strategy,” Marakby said.

He said the team’s goal was to “move fast and think big and really grow the BEV offerings from Ford.”

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ANCAP releases its own safety app

ANCAP will officially launch a new app tomorrow that will provide users with an up to date, in hand tool that can be easily used to compare vehicles safety information.

While the official launch is tomorrow, the app is free and available to download now on iOS and Android.

A screenshot of the app comparing three different models.

The app has been developed to provide a new mechanism for consumers to access ANCAP safety rating information in the lead-up to a vehicle purchase, as well as provide additional safety-related content and features to see the safer vehicles conversation continue post-purchase.

Users will be able to select from a wide range of the most commonly available models, and compare up to three different cars at once.

The app has been developed in collaboration with the NZTA, AA New Zealand and a number of Australian road safety and automotive agencies.

“The road toll is increasing so we must work harder and do more to see this reversed. The ‘ANCAP Safety’ app will assist consumers make safer vehicle choices in an effort to reduce road trauma,” the agency said in a statement today.

ANCAP is Australasia’s leading independent vehicle safety advocate and provides consumers with advice and information on the vehicle safety.

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VW’s emissions scandal bill hits $30bn

Amid arrests, falling share prices and continued uncertainty, Volkswagen’s bill from the ongoing emissions scandal has reached USD$30 Billion.

Reuters reports that on Thursday, German prosecutors arrested Wolfgang Hatz, the first top executive within the group to be detained amid a widening probe into cheating at VW’s Audi brand.

Wolfgang Hatz, arrested on Thursday by German prosecutors for his senior level role in VW’s emissions cheating scandal.

VW’s growing financial woes and Hatz’s arrest were also discussed on Friday at a regular meeting of the carmaker’s supervisory board, one person familiar with the matter said.

VW shares fell as much as 3 per cent on Friday, as traders and analysts reacted to the continuing fallout from the scandal.

VW, Europe’s biggest automaker, admitted in September 2015 that it had used illegal software to cheat U.S. diesel emissions tests, sparking the biggest business crisis in its 80-year history. Before Friday, it had set aside 22.6 billion euros ($26.7 billion) to cover costs such as fines and vehicle refits.

Last year, VW agreed with U.S. authorities to spend up to $15.3 billion to buy back or fix up to 475,000 2.0-litre polluting diesel cars.

On Friday, VW said it was extending the timeline and setting aside an additional 2.5 billion euros (USD$3.0 billion) as hardware. VW says the complications will amount to 5,200 euros per car.

“We have to do more with the hardware,” a VW spokesman said.

In Europe, where only a software update is required for the 8.5 million affected cars, plus a minor component integration for about 3.7 million 1.6-litre vehicles included in that number, fixes are running smoothly, the spokesman added.

The additional provision will be reflected in third-quarter results due on October 27, VW said.



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China relaxes EV sales targets

Car makers in China will need to make sure at least 10 per cent of their annual sales in the country are electric plug-in and hybrid vehicles by 2019.

The new sales target is a slight relaxation of earlier plans from the Chinese Government to set that target for the end of this year, Reuters reports. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a statement on Thursday that by 2020, the required level would be 20 per cent.

The quotas are a part of a drive by China, the world’s largest auto market, to develop its own EV market, with a long-term aim to ban the production and sale of combustion engine vehicles.

The Chinese Government appears to have heeded warnings from car makers that they would not be able to meet the strict targets initially set. Car makers petitioned the Chinese Government in June asking for leniency.

Curbing pollution is a crucial challenge for the Chinese Government and one that they hope this quota will contribute to.

Under the new rules, car makers will receive credits for EVs that can be transferred or traded. These credits will be used to calculate if firms have met the quotas.

“We welcome the Chinese auto industry’s shift towards greater adoption of NEVs and will comply with relevant regulations presented by authorities,” Ford Motor Company said in a statement responding to the announcement.

General Motors Co said it would “strive to comply with the NEV mandatory requirements”, though it added “continued joint efforts by the government and companies are essential to build broad-based consumer acceptance for NEVs”.

“GM has sufficient capacity to manufacture NEVs in China,” it said in a statement.

Japan’s Honda Motor Co Ltd said it planned to launch an electric battery car in China next year and would “try to expand our lineup of new energy vehicles” to meet the quotas.