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Toyota to get cars ‘talking’

2017 Toyota Corolla

Toyota has announced they will start putting short-range communications chips in US vehicles in the next three years, in order to make cars safer by getting them to “talk” with one another.

The American car manufacturer will put the chips in Toyota and Lexus models in the US starting in 2021, said Andrew Coetzee, group vice president of product planning for North America. The technology will enable cars to send data on their location and speed to surrounding vehicles and roadside infrastructure to curb crashes.

Toyota is going public with the campaign in order to get the rest of the auto industry and industry regulators to embrace the technology.

It’s also headed for a clash with phone companies that would rather see carmakers embrace 5G cellular networks to accomplish the same task. 

“The dedicated short-range communications systems Toyota will start using, known as DSRC, send information back and forth to one another several times a second and can alert drivers to potential collisions before they happen,” said Bloomberg.  A broad coalition of auto companies, including Toyota and General Motors, urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in November to support a “talking cars” mandate for all new passenger vehicles by 2023.

 “We need to make a technology choice when there’s no regulatory requirement in place,” John Kenney said to Bloomberg, director of networking research at the Toyota InfoTechnology Center in Mountain View, California. “What we’re doing today is speaking up and saying ‘We will deploy DSRC technology and we encourage other automakers to do the same.’”

When the Transportation Department released a proposal for the requirement in December 2016, regulators under the Obama administration estimated the technology could prevent or mitigate 80 percent of vehicle crashes not influenced by driver impairment.

Coetzee said he’s not convinced automakers should share the spectrum band with cable or tech companies.

“We need to make sure we’re got super, super reliable and very quick transmission speeds,” Coetzee said to Bloomberg. “More testing will be needed to show you can do this” while sharing airwaves.

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Mini gets more digitally advanced

From March 2018, all new MINI models will be available with the option of a built-in 4G SIM card that will usher in a new era of connectivity.

This means the existing features in the portfolio, such as Intelligent Emergency Call and Tele-services, will be joined by new services including the Concierge Service, Real Time Traffic Information with navigation map updates and MINI Online.

The 4G SIM card and an update for the MINI Connected app will allow customers to access a variety of new digital services from March 2018.

These include:

  • Send to Car (for importing destinations from a smartphone to the car),
  • Remote Services (e.g. for locking the car’s doors from a smartphone) and,
  • In electrified MINI models – a charging timer, charging station search facility and personal efficiency status display.

The new MINI Connected services will be offered in a choice of three packages: Connected Media, Connected Navigation and Connected Navigation Plus. When used together with the MINI Connected app on a smartphone, they will open up access to a host of digital services both inside the car and beyond.

The first models to be made available with this new and extensive connectivity capability are the new 3-door MINI, new 5-door MINI and new MINI Convertible.


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Top auto trends from CES

At the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), technology companies from around the world unveil and showcase their latest and greatest inventions. Here are the top auto trends at CES this year:

Horizontal infotainment screens.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class interior

At CES, Mercedes Benz launched a new infotainment system for its cars – Mercedes Benz User Experience, or MBUX. 

The “widescreen cockpit” replaces the traditional centre-stack touchscreen and instrument cluster with two side-by-side screens that run about half the length of the dashboard. 

MBUX debuts on the next Mercedes A-Class hatchback later this year. That model won’t be sold in the United States, but MBUX will be available here on a new four-door variant that will replace the current CLA-Class.

Pod cars

Toyota, Rinspeed and Smart Car all brought along autonomous pod shaped vehicles to CES to showcase their ideas on the future of mobility. 

Toyota’s e-Palette is a fully-automated, next generation battery electric vehicle (BEV) designed to be scalable and customisable for a range of “mobility as a service” businesses. Each e-Palette is also designed to be shared between businesses and to quickly transition between applications.


Efficient and affordable mobility is the true goal of the tech industry’s disruption of the transportation sector.

VW released further details at CES on its  ride-sharing service, which it says will enable the elderly, disadvantaged and disabled to get around easier, and Toyota and Honda showed some self-driving scooter-style mobility concepts designed to make your life easier.

In-Car A.I.

In-car assistants and artificial intelligence systems were present in just about every vehicle presented at CES.

In the new Byton SUV, for example, the AI assistant can analyse your calendar, frequently visited locations, hobbies and smartphone application data to deliver a personalised in-car experience on its various screens.

Mercedes’ MBUX in-car display is powered by a digital assistant that can be prompted by saying ‘Hey Mercedes..’ The system also has natural language recognition, so you could say ‘Hey Mercedes, I’m hot’ and the system would turn the AC on, for example. 


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Porsche utilises latest technology

Porsche have announced the introduction of “Tech Live Look,” an Augmented Reality (AR) technology designed to improve technical services at Porsche dealerships in the United States.

These high-tech spectacles feature the latest in projection technology and come equipped with a high-resolution, auto focus camera that shows even fine details such as threading on screws. The glasses include a powerful LED to illuminate dark spaces in the engine compartment or under the car.

“Our main goal is to provide a better overall experience for our customers. Tech Live Look allows us to be more efficient and helps get vehicles back in the hands of our customers faster, all while still delivering exceptional service quality” explained Klaus Zellmer, President and CEO of PCNA.

How does this technology work?
When a service technician at a dealership in Los Angeles wears the spectacles and connects through the software with the Atlanta-based Porsche technical support team 2,200 miles away, it allows the support team to see exactly what he is seeing, in real time.

This “see what I see” video-conferencing capability with instant access to remote experts allows both parties to quickly identify and resolve technical issues. It can also help decrease service resolution time by up to 40 per cent, based on the findings of a pilot program undertaken in July 2017 at eight Porsche dealerships in California, Florida, Indiana, New Jersey, and Washington, along with one in Canada.

“Tech Live Look” can do much more than just provide real-time video capability. It allows the technical support team to take screen shots or send technical bulletins and instructions onto the projection surface of the glasses while the service technician is working on the vehicle. This type of information exchange is far more efficient than sending emails and photos or explaining complex technical issues over the phone.

“Tech Live Look” will officially launch in dealerships in North America in 2018.

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POAL reveal plans for port

It was another year of strong performance and growth for the Ports of Auckland, (POAL).

Over the past year POAL have started and finished several infrastructure projects that have enabled them to deliver improvements through technology and innovation and handle future growth.

The latest financial year saw a significant lift in cargo volumes across the POAL. The highest growth was in general cargo, which includes vehicles, which grew to 6.5m tonnes, an increase of 12.1 per cent year on year.

Over the past year POAL have started and finished several infrastructure projects that have enabled them to deliver improvements through technology and innovation and handle future growth. 

According to the December report, POAL expects infrastructure developments in the region to continue to fuel growth and demand for the ports services including the import of vehicles which increased again this year to 297,383 units – up nearly 20 per cent from last year.

The report also goes into detail about how moving the import car business out of Auckland into an alternative wouldn’t be sustainable and would result in excessive cost. POAL claim that recent studies show that Auckland is indeed the cheapest and the most environmentally friendly option for the import car trade in New Zealand. Not foregoing the fact that Auckland is also the main market for import vehicles into New Zealand.

The growth in non-containerised cargo has also put more pressure on POAL’s multi-cargo wharves which are operating above capacity. 

POAL Chief Executive Tony Gibson announced in the report that without changes to Bledisloe, Jellicoe, Marsden and Captain Cook multi-cargo wharves, the port will experience worsening congestion in this area.

To deal with this the POAL Draft 30-year Master Plan proposes a number of projects: faster clearance of cars from the wharf and the public preference to move the cars from view, the plan also includes a plan to develop a multi-storey car handling and storage facility with a green park rooftop.

This development would house vehicles currently parked on Captain Cook Wharf and in the Toyota Building at the Bledisloe Terminal and provide additional capacity to cater for forecast import vehicle volume increases.

Next to the car handling building and adjacent to Quay Street, POAL has earmarked space for a new hotel which would have connecting access to the adjoining rooftop park. “This would be a very different and exciting way of achieving a port/city interface” observes Alistair Kirk, POAL General Manager Infrastructure and Property.

The draft plan proposes building a new wharf on the end of Bledisloe multi-purpose terminal. It will be a piled structure, which is in line with POALs commitment to do no further retrieval in the harbour.

To increase their useable area for general cargo, Marsden Wharf will be removed which would allow the unlocking of the two wharves on either side, Bledisloe South and Captain Cook East. This would mean that part of the Bledisloe wharf would finally accommodate two 200m car carriers thereby increasing capacity and enabling the port to meet the challenge of the growing freight task.

Read more on the port development here.




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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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Ford’s China expansion strategy

Ford has outlined the next phase of its China expansion strategy which revolves around SUVs, electric and connected vehicles and a new business model.

Photo shows (left to right): Jason Luo, Chairman and CEO, Ford China, Jim Hackett, CEO, Ford Motor Company, Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company, Peter Fleet, Group Vice President and President, Ford Asia Pacific.

Executive Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett shared the vision yesterday while in China this week to meet with employees, customers, dealers and government officials.

“China is not only the largest car market in the world, it’s also at the heart of electric vehicle and SUV growth and the mobility movement,” said Bill Ford. “The progress we have achieved in China is just the start. We now have a chance to expand our presence in China and deliver even more for customers, our partners and society.”

Ford plans to expand its product portfolio by introducing more than 50 new vehicles by 2025. The fleet will include 8 all-new SUVs and at least 15 electrified vehicles from Ford and Lincoln. And a new Zotye-Ford JV venture will deliver a separate range of affordable all-electric vehicles under a new brand.

“From luxury Lincolns, to Ford cars and SUVs, to an all-new electric vehicle brand, we will meet the growing desire and need in China for great new energy vehicles,” said Jason Luo, chairman and CEO, Ford China. “Each of them will be safe, efficient, fun to drive and backed by an ecosystem that makes charging, sharing and servicing easy,” said Hackett.

Jim Hackett, President and CEO, Ford Motor Company, outlines his plans for Ford to become the world’s most trusted mobility company.

It was also announced that by the end of 2019, 100 percent of new Ford and Lincoln-badged vehicles in China will be connected through either embedded modems or plug-in devices. Company leaders also are working on broader infrastructure opportunities to improve future mobility experiences.

“We are responding to the rapid pace of change by delivering increased connectivity and working to improve and simplify mobility for everyone,” Hackett said. “This builds on our commitment to deliver smart vehicles for a smart world, helping people around the world move more safely, confidently and freely.”

“All of the actions outlined today reflect an unprecedented commitment to focus on the needs of consumers in China through a more fit and streamlined Ford,” he added. “They are proof of our dedication to grow our business in China.”

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World-first VR app for Auckland

LWA Solutions, a Christchurch-based app design company, is launching a world-first virtual reality (VR) pilot training app in conjunction with the Ports of Auckland.

John Barker trying out the reality pilot training VR headset.

Maritime pilots guide ships safely into harbours all around the world. Their job requires them to get on and off moving cargo ships via rope ladder, a situation that can be both demanding and risky.

The LWA app uses VR to safely simulate the above situation.

Atta Elayyan, LWA chief executive, showcased the virtual reality training solution at the recent New Zealand Maritime Pilot Association’s 30th anniversary annual conference in Christchurch and it received overwhelmingly positive feedback from pilots and trainers.

“It’s a highly cost-effective training method, safely simulating highly variable conditions making it superior to current training methods,” Elayyan says.

“We believe virtual reality training will become an industry standard in the very near future. It provides a risk-free way to prepare trainee pilots for the tasks they will need to undertake during their job and can also efficiently vet out those who may not be cut out for the role.”

“We understand there are no solutions like this anywhere in the world using virtual reality headsets. Our simulation is targeting the ‘embarkation training’, which is the physical process of safely maneuvering outside the pilot boat and climbing a nine metre ladder to board the ship, while both the pilot boat and ship are under way.”

“Some ports overseas use ship bridge simulators, which are very costly to set up or hire. We are using a highly cost-effective virtual reality training system which requires minimal physical space and is portable. We can see this disrupting bridge simulation in future.”

John Barker left, with LWA CEO, Atta Elayyan

Ports of Auckland Senior Pilot John Barker says they are always looking for ways to do more with less.LWA’s most recent venture was another app for the Ports of Auckland that increased efficiency and reduced human error by consolidating multiple processes into a single app highlighting ship schedules, tidal calculations and manoeuvre drawings.

The Ports of Auckland has about 1500 shipping arrivals a year.

The world-first VR app aims to be live by early next year.

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Daimler’s new ‘Ask Mercedes’ chatbot

Daimler will soon be introducing a digital assistant called “Ask Mercedes” that ties together previous 
digital customer support projects into a single voice-activated app.

Chief digital officer Sabine Scheunert said “Ask Mercedes” will be available in several markets and languages immediately before being rolled out globally. Mercedes is one of Daimler’s leading car brands.

Scheunert said the “chatbot” will allow both existing and also potential customers to interact with Daimler services, day or night, using voice-activated commands or text-based chat.

Chatbots are software programmes which can respond to posed questions from users using a conversational approach.

Customers can present questions to the Ask Mercedes app when it is installed in the company’s recent model cars, or by using an app or by speaking to a Google Assistant voice-activated electronics controller when they are at home.

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Sumitomo reveals its Smart Tyre Concept

Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd. revealed its ‘Smart Tyre Concept’ at the 45th Tokyo Motor Show 2017.

The new development will provide balanced safety and environmental performance at higher levels than ever before so that they can keep up with the future of the automotive industry. 

The automotive industry is currently facing massive changes, with growing concern over environmental issues, shifting demographics brought about by increasingly urbanised and ageing societies, and revolutionary new technologies such as artificial technology. 

At this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, Sumitomo introduced some of their research and development trends at the core of its Smart Tyre Concept, including: “Sensing Core,” “Active Tread,” “Performance Sustaining Technology,” and “Airless Tyres”.

In 2020, Sumitomo plans to begin mass production of a new tyre that maintains the performance of brand new tyre for longer.

In 2023, they plan to unveil a new concept tyre that incorporates its Active Tread Technology, which will enable the tyre to perform the same high level of performance regardless of what road condition. 

Sumitomo maintains that it will continue these and other research developments towards creating an all-new tyre for the new decade. 

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Nissan’s sales plummet amid scandal

Nissan Motor Co announced earlier this week that Japanese sales of new vehicles has dropped by approximately 50% in October compared to last years figures. 

Last month the discovery of improper final inspection procedures at Nissan Motor Co.’s domestic plants caused it to partly suspend production. 

Nissan didn’t provide exact figures for this month’s sales, but the car company sold 38,708 vehicles in Japan in October 2016.

The plants will resume production once the final inspection procedures have been brought in line with transport ministry requirements, a spokesman for the automaker said.

Nissan has completed those measures at one assembly plant and expects to have made similar changes at five other plants by the end of the week, he said.

This month was supposed to mark the unveiling of an electric-vehicle offensive for Nissan, who is eager to establish itself as the leader in the race to electrify its vehicle line-up.

Nissan is anticipated to outline a global EV sales push when it reports its earnings next week.

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