Among vehicle types that have evolved from a purely commercial to a multi-purpose fun-to-drive vehicle is the pickup truck.
Way back then, a pickup truck was a very basic vehicle designed to carry loads of materials and nothing more. There was nothing exciting about a pickup truck. It came in as a two seater transport vehicle coupled with a long bed, and steel wheel rims with practically nothing to talk of as far as its interior features are concerned. It is more of a farm or delivery equipment than a multi-purpose transportation equipment.
Automotive design is very dynamic. Major car manufacturers listened to the needs of the market thus the evolution of a pickup truck from a purely commercial equipment to an all-around multi — purpose people and cargo mover all rolled into one.
I took the Chevy Colorado for a spin from Alabang to BGC. And boy, was I impressed! It was a far cry from the pickup truck of yesteryears. At first I was a bit skeptical about the handling of this vehicle. It is still a 4×4 truck. But my doubt was erased as soon as I entered the Skyway. Its powerful, yet quiet 2.8 L diesel engine traversed the Skyway with ease. It was really reassuring that there were 200 horses under the Colorado’s hood while driving inside the Skyway. As I approached EDSA, where heavy traffic is the norm, the Colorado showed off its car-like handling through it electronic power steering. I have never imagined driving a pickup truck in comfort in stop and go traffic. Its wide front windshield offers great visibility even from a raised 4×4 platform. Its automatic dimming rear view mirror was a welcome relief while driving home after sundown from BGC. The glare coming from headlights of cars coming from behind can be irritating and unsafe. Thanks to the automatic dimming rear view mirror of the Colorado, night driving is made a lot safer.
I am pleasantly surprised that the Colorado has a lot of features that can only be found in luxury cars like leather seats with driver side power adjustment, keyless entry with remote engine start, auto light, rain sensing wipers, daylight running lamps, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, front and rear park assist with reverse camera. But wait, there is still more. It has a host of more safety features like, traction control, hill start assist, anti-lock braking system, electronic brake force distribution and electronic stability control.
Three thumbs up for the Chevy Colorado for being the complete pickup truck! Its stunning good looks, safety and comfort features made my driving experience very enjoyable.
Whether it is for business, sports or recreation, the Chevy Colorado can be it!
Self-driving vehicles are cars that are simply operated without requiring the need of human drivers. Also known as autonomous or “driverless” cars, they feature a slew of sensors and software to control, navigate and drive the vehicle.
In fact, experiments were already done as early as the 1920s. The first successful semi-automated car was developed in 1977 by Japan’s Tsukuba Mechanical Engineering Laboratory which required specially marked streets that were interpreted by two car cameras and an analog computer.
By the 1980s, driverless cars were traversing public roads, already running at 31kph. Obstacle avoidance was eventually added, together with off-road driving in day and nighttime conditions. And by 1995, a major milestone was achieved when the first autonomous coast-to-coast drive was completed in the United States.
In 2017, carmakers such as Audi was able to build the A8 that could go up to speeds of 60kph using its “Audi AI.”
Autonomous driving levels
Eventually, the world of self-driving cars came up with a globally active professional association known as SAE International, a US-based group that would oversee these kinds of technology.
And so — in SAE standards — levels of automation were established.
Level 0 (No automation): The automated system can issue warnings and may momentarily intervene. But it has no sustained control of the vehicle.
Level 1 (Driver Assistance/“Hands on”): Both driver and the automated system have shared control over the vehicle. Examples of these are cruise control, parking assistance, lane-keeping assistance and automatic emergency braking, to name a few.
Level 2 (Partial automation/“Hands off”): The automated system takes full control of the vehicle — meaning, accelerating, braking and steering. However; the driver must still be in constant alert to instantly intervene at any time. Here, the eyes of the driver are simultaneously monitored by a camera to see if he/ she is still keeping track of the road.
Level 3 (Conditional automation/“Eyes off”): The driver can already safely not attend to driving while on the road — which means, he/ she can already text or watch a movie. The vehicle itself can already handle situations wherein quick responses are needed, such as emergency braking. The driver — however —must still be ready to take over the reins when called upon by the vehicle itself.
Audi claimed to have reached this level in 2017, touting the A8 to be the first production car to ever do so.
Level 4 (“Mind off”/High Automation): Here, the driver may safely go to sleep or even leave the driver’s seat. The vehicle may — however — safely abort the trip by parking the car, if the driver does not retake the wheel when called to do so.
Level 5 (Full automation/“Steering wheel optional”): At this level, no human intervention is required. One is example is a robotic taxi.
Self-driving car in the Philippines
In the country, the pilot-testing of autonomous vehicles was said to have taken place in New Clark City in Pampanga during our hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games late last year. It was even said that we were the first country in Asia to have experienced these self-driving vehicles.
They were used to ferry the athletes and the riding public, and traveled a 500-meter distance at low speeds.
The intention was designed to put pedestrians first and make the cities more walkable and breathable by cutting down pollution and build a sense of community.
Challenges of automation
Since self-driving cars are operated by artificial intelligence (AI), there are already a number of perennial stumbling blocks these vehicles have encountered. One is the human factor. Factors such as pedestrians, bicyclists and animals have yet to have been effectively programmed in driving algorithms. On the other hand, humans on the road are also puzzled in determining whether the car is operated by AI or otherwise since they usually make eye contact with the driver or use hand signals.
In 2018, an Uber safety driver in an autonomous car in Arizona, US fatally killed a pedestrian who was pushing a bicycle across an unlit section of the road at night. It was said that the driver was not paying attention on the road and was instead attending to her smartphone at the time of the accident.
Another obstacle these automated vehicles encounter are moral issues. While initially the intention of creating these autonomous cars were to reduce road crashes by as much as to 90 percent and providing convenience for the elderly and young passengers, a number of ethical issues have not yet been fully addressed. These are: moral, financial and criminal liabilities in fatal crashes, privacy issues, including potential for mass surveillance, exposure to hacking and malware and other concerns in AI capabilities.
With a host of concerns troubling driverless cars, a number of regulating bodies have set the tone to properly safeguard the public’s safety on the road.
In 2016, the California Department of Motor Vehicles ordered Uber to remove its self-driving vehicles in response to a couple of violations. While in Singapore, a transit authority partnered with United Kingdom to begin test runs for a fleet of automated taxis.
Meantime, 2017 saw Hungary allow public road tests to further develop these vehicles. In South Korea, the lack of universal standards is preventing its own legislation from implementing new domestic rules.
Just this year, according to a statement by the National Transportation Safety Board in the US: “There is not a vehicle currently available to US consumers that is self-driving. Period. Every vehicle sold to US consumers still requires the driver to be actively engaged in the driving task, even when advanced driver assistance systems are activated. If you are selling a car with an advanced driver assistance system, you’re not selling a self-driving car. If you are driving a car with an advanced driver assistance system, you don’t own a self-driving car.”
Future of driverless cars
Autonomous cars have the potential to reduce accidents and insurance rates — but early data is not showing this. Still, a handful of companies like Tesla are striving their best to fast-track the progress of these vehicles.
Currently, most players in the automotive industry are cautiously moving towards the safe side and are in a “plateau of productivity” for mass use. For them, driverless cars are in “the trough of disillusionment” for the moment and are sticking to — at least — the lower levels of automation.
Hence — according to one report — fully autonomous cars in the mass market are still decades away — for now.
Man ‘asleep’ while speeding on autopilot indicted
OTTAWA, Canada (AFP) — A driver who allegedly set his car to autopilot and then took a nap as it broke the speed limit on a rural Canadian highway has been charged with dangerous driving, police said.
The incident took place near the town of Ponoka in Alberta province, the local force said in a tweet on Thursday.
“The car appeared to be self-driving, traveling over 140 km/h with both front seats completely reclined and occupants appeared to be asleep,” it said.
According to Canadian public broadcaster CBC, the car was an electric Tesla model set to autopilot and the man charged was 20 years old.
The speed limit on that section of the highway is 110 kilometers per hour, it added.
Police Sergeant Darrin Turnbull told CBC that he was “speechless” and had not seen such a case in his two-decade career — “but of course the technology wasn’t there.”
“Nobody was looking out the windshield to see where the car was going,” he said.
Tesla’s autopilot mode allows cars to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within a lane, but is not supposed to enable trips without human intervention.
The US company warns on its website that “current autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”
But the president of a Canadian Tesla owners’ club, who condemned the incident, told CBC that there were videos circulating online with instructions on how to “hack” the cars’ safety systems.
Mitsubishi L300 boosts sales by 35 percent
The Mitsubishi L300 — the marque’s iconic workhorse — still produced a strong performance last August with 699 units sold, which translates to a 35-percent increase compared to its July retail sales of 517 units. This despite the two-week modified enhanced community quarantine implemented in Manila, Cavite, Laguna and Bulacan.
The rising demand for utility vans may be attributed to the steady recovery of the economy and the growing business for delivery services.
Overall, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation (MMPC) capped off the month of August with a total of 2,621 units, retaining its number two spot in the automotive industry. The Mitsubishi Xpander became the brand’s second bestselling model with 620 unit sales, followed by the Mitsubishi Strada with 564.
“We at Mitsubishi Motors Philippine Corporation are optimistic that the economy will continue to improve in the succeeding months. We are geared to provide better offerings to the market to support their vehicle needs during these trying times,” MMPC president and CEO, Mutsuhiro Oshikiri said.
“For the Mirage G4 and L300 which both are proudly Filipino-made, we rolled back its prices as far as seven years to make it more affordable to the market,” he added.
Currently, MMPC is offering the rollback promo which reduces the price of the Mirage G4 GLX MT to just P528,000 and the Mitsubishi L300 (cab and chassis only) to P698,000.
Autonomous driving reshaping industry within 5 years
BEIJING, China (China Daily) — Self-driving technology is expected to witness large-scale commercial application in the next five years, according to Robin Li Yanhong, chairman and CEO of internet search giant Baidu Inc.
Traffic congestion will be greatly alleviated and there will be no restrictions on vehicle purchase and use in the first-tier cities of China within five years, as autonomous driving technology becomes more popular, said Li at the Baidu World 2020, the company’s annual flagship technology conference, in Beijing on Tuesday.
Li said the rate of traffic accidents will also be greatly reduced. “The intelligent transformation of the industry will bring conveniences to people’s lives and promote economic development,” he said.
According to Li, intelligent infrastructure based on the vehicle-road coordination system is expected to improve traffic efficiency by 15 to 30 percent, thus bringing 2.4 percent to 4.8 percent absolute economic growth.
The Beijing-based tech heavyweight also unveiled its cutting-edge 5G-powered remote driving service on Tuesday. Based on the smart transportation system, vehicle-to-everything or V2X technologies and high-speed 5G networks, the 5G remote driving service allows human operators to remotely control vehicles through cloud in the case of emergencies.
The company will carry out in-depth strategic cooperation with China FAW Group Corp. — a state-owned carmaker — in the fields of self-driving, artificial intelligence and digitalization. It has fully introduced Apollo Go Robotaxi, its self-driving taxi service, in Changsha, Hunan province, Cangzhou, Hebei province and Beijing.
“Autonomous driving is definitely the future development direction of the automobile industry. It not only solves traffic safety problems, but also greatly improves the efficiency of transportation, brings about economic benefits and liberates people from repetitive driving,” said Jiang Zheng, a self-driving expert at China’s GAC research and development center.
Jiang said some countries are trying to promote implementation of relevant policies and regulations related to self-driving technology.
Chinese automaker Weltmeister will launch a new car next year equipped with Apollo’s level four autonomous valet parking technology, allowing people to park and summon the vehicle autonomously. Vehicles at L4 can complete all driving operations independently.
China is planning to realize the mass production of vehicles capable of conditional autonomous driving and commercialization of highly autonomous vehicles in certain circumstances by 2025, according to a blueprint issued by the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and nine other ministries.
Road tests for self-driving vehicles are available in more than 20 provinces and cities in China. Companies such as SAIC Motor, BMW, Didi Chuxing and DeepBlue Technology have obtained authorization for passenger-carrying tests.
Baidu is one of several Chinese technology firms that have launched autonomous taxi services to the public in the country in an attempt to bolster the large-scale commercial use of such cutting-edge technology. Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ride-hailing platform, announced in June the opening of its on-demand robotaxi service for passengers in Shanghai.
Intelligent vehicles with fully autonomous functions may account for 10 percent of the new vehicles this year and self-driving vehicles will likely be part of people’s daily lives in 2030, Tsinghua University automobile engineering department dean, Yang Diange said.
Epitome of brilliance
Maserati enters the new era with the MC20, the new super sports car that combines performance, sportiness and luxury in the unique Maserati style. This prodigy was presented to the world in Modena during the iconic marque’s “MMXX: Time to be audacious” event.
The new MC20 — MC for Maserati Corse and 20 for 2020, the year of its world première and the start of the brand’s new era — is the Maserati everyone was waiting for. It is a car with incredible aerodynamic efficiency, wherein underneath thrives a sporty soul, with the new Nettuno engine, a 630 horsepower V6 with torque of 730 N-m that delivers 0-100 km/h acceleration in under 2.9 seconds, while topping a speed over 325 kph. An engine that signals Maserati’s return to producing its own power units after a hiatus of more than 20 years.
The MC20 is an extremely lightweight car under 1,500 kg and thanks to its power output of 630hp it comes out best-in-class in weight/power ratio — at just 2.33 kg/hp. This record is achieved through the use of choice quality materials, exploiting all the potentials of carbon fiber without any sacrifices with regard to comfort.
Nettuno, the first engine in this new chapter of the Trident’s history, is the MC20’s twin turbo V6, a technologic gem already awarded an international patent, which puts the MTC (Maserati Twin Combustion) technology, the ground-breaking combustion system developed in-house, onto the world’s roads.
This revolutionary project has resulted in a car that epitomizes Italian excellence. In fact, MC20 was designed in Modena and will be built at the Viale Ciro Menotti plant, where the Trident’s models have been built for more than 80 years. The new production line — created in the spaces where the GranTurismo and GranCabrio models were assembled until November 2019 — is now ready for action in the historic plant. The site also features a new paint shop incorporating innovative, environment-friendly technologies. Nettuno will also be built at the newly established Maserati Engine Lab in Modena—making all its components 100 percent Italian-made.
The MC20’s architecture was produced in about 24 months — with the involvement from the outset, in an innovative approach — of a team of Maserati Innovation Lab engineers, its own technical specialists.
The virtual vehicle dynamics development system, which includes the use of one of the world’s most advanced dynamic simulators, was developed in-house by the Maserati Innovation Lab and is based on a complex mathematical model called “Virtual Car”. This method allowed performance of 97 percent of dynamic tests, optimizing development times. The car was then fine-tuned in the best Maserati tradition with exhaustive track and road test-driving sessions in the most widely varying conditions of use.
The guiding theme of the MC20’S design was the Brand’s historic identity, with all the elegance, performance and comfort integral to its genetic make-up. The focus on performance led to the conception of a car with a distinct personality, with unmistakable forms that render it unique.
The butterfly doors are not only stunningly beautiful but also functional, as they improve the car’s ergonomics and enable optimal access to and from the cabin.
The aerodynamics were designed through over two thousand man-hours in the Dallara Wind Tunnel and more than a thousand CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) simulations, which enabled the creation of a genuine work of art. The resulting car has a sleek line, with no mobile appendages but just a discreet rear spoiler that improves downforce without detracting from the MC20’s beauty.
Inside, every component has a purpose and is completely driver-oriented. Simple forms, very few sharp edges and minimal distractions. Two 10-inch screens: one for the cockpit and the other for the Maserati Touch Control Plus. Simplicity is also the keynote of the carbon fiber-clad central console, with just a few features: the wireless smartphone charger, the driving mode selector (GT, Wet, Sport, Corsa and a fifth, ESC Off, which deactivates the control functions), two speed selection buttons, the power window controls, the multimedia system controls and a handy storage compartment underneath the armrest. All the other controls are on the steering wheel, with the ignition button on the left and the launch control on the right.
For the launch, Maserati has also developed six new colors to characterize MC20: Bianco Audace, Giallo Genio, Rosso Vincente, Blu Infinito, Nero Enigma and Grigio Mistero.
In the same way as its predecessor, MC12, the MC20 — with its bold racing soul palpable from its name alone — also announced its intention to return to the world of racing.
Better chats with Toyota
Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) customers now have more ways to connect with the brand online with the launch of two new chat channels — its official Viber Community and its enhanced Facebook Messenger chat.
Anticipating the need of more people to use online touchpoints to access information and send inquiries, TMP continues to explore more ways to provide customers efficient, convenient and safer ways to engage and transact with Toyota and its network of dealers across the country. With social distancing requirements and quarantine guidelines in place, Toyota is giving customers easy options to get updates or send inquiries, without leaving the safety of their homes.
Toyota PH — the official Viber Community for all Filipino Toyota owners, future customers and aficionado — can be accessed by searching for the verified Toyota PH community on Viber or by visiting https://bit.ly/toyotaviber via mobile or desktop Internet browsers.
Upon joining the Toyota PH community, members will start receiving the latest news and updates straight from TMP, car care tips, special deals and promos, exclusive content and more. Soon, members will also get to use the 2020 edition of the official Toyota PH Viber sticker set for free.
Meanwhile, Facebook users can start using TMP’s enhanced Facebook Messenger chat to send inquiries and be connected with the official Facebook Messenger chat of their preferred Toyota dealer.
To start, users can go to http://m.me/toyotamotorphilippines or search the verified Toyota Motor Philippines account (with the blue check mark) on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ToyotaMotorPhilippines) and tap on the Messenger icon or link.
A Messenger chat bubble is also available while browsing TMP’s official website so that users can immediately fire up the chat box while reading vehicle information.
The enhanced Messenger chat allows users to select their preferred vehicles and dealers with just a few taps. Dealer representatives will then contact the customer to assist them to make their car purchase process quick and seamless.
Automatically connecting the customer to the Facebook Messenger account of official dealers also lessens the chances of communicating with unauthorized accounts, protecting them from fraudulent transactions.
Prior to this, TMP launched its virtual showroom (www.toyota.com.ph/showroom).
TMP will soon launch more digital solutions to continuously help its customers enjoy the best possible car purchase and ownership experience as they navigate the new normal.
Truck kings achieve 300,000-unit sales milestone
Good news for loyal patrons of the country’s “King of Diesel Engines” as Isuzu Philippines Corporation (IPC) recently achieved its 300,000-unit sales milestone last month.
As one of the country’s leading vehicle manufacturers, IPC sold a total of 300,133 units by end-August amid the decrease in sales volume since the beginning of the quarantine restrictions last March.
IPC has generated total unit sales of 241,389 light commercial vehicles and 58,744 commercial vehicles — with majority of its vehicles being locally manufactured in its assembly plant in Laguna since it started operations in 1996.
For 23 years, the company has maintained a strong foot hold in the local truck segment, making 2020 its 20th consecutive year as the number one truck brand in the country. Thanks to the company’s wide range of commercial vehicles that serves as a reliable business solution to its clientele nationwide.
“The company is honored to have achieved this milestone. And as we move towards the next, we vow to continue to provide business solutions and at the same time uphold local manufacturing, contributing to the Philippine economy” IPC president Hajime Koso said.
“We are very thankful to our loyal customers, who have been our brand champions and stand as our inspiration in attaining utmost ‘Customer Success,’” he added.
With more than 40 Isuzu dealerships nationwide, IPC also expressed gratitude to its dealer network, stakeholders and local suppliers.
“We take pride on our strong dealer network, especially with the support we are getting from our dealer principals, shareholders and parts suppliers, this sales milestone will not be possible without them,” Koso said.
In line with the celebration of its 300,000-unit sales milestone, IPC is set to announce special promotions as a treat to its new clients and loyal customers alike.
On top of this, the company is also giving back to the community a P300,000-donation of personal protective equipment to various quarantine facilities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao regions, living up to its tagline: “Your Responsible Partner.” These promotion and donation activities are set from the last week of September up to the end of October this year.
Safety driver in autonomous car charged
WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — An Uber safety driver at the wheel of an autonomous car during a 2018 accident in Arizona that killed a pedestrian has been charged with negligent homicide, prosecutors said.
The Maricopa County prosecutor’s office said in a statement Tuesday that 46-year-old Rafaela Vasquez had been indicted in the death of Elaine Herzberg on 18 March 2018.
Vasquez was behind the wheel of the Uber self-driving car operating in autonomous mode when it struck and killed Herzberg, who was pushing a bicycle across an unlit section of roadway at night.
No charges were filed immediately after the incident, but a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation found that Vasquez, who was able to take the controls from the autonomous car at any time, “was visually distracted throughout the trip by a personal cell phone.”
“Distracted driving is an issue of great importance in our community,” Maricopa prosecutor Allister Adel said.
“When a driver gets behind the wheel of a car, they have a responsibility to control and operate that vehicle safely and in a law-abiding manner.”
Officials said Vasquez pleaded not guilty and was released with an ankle monitor.
The incident halted Uber’s testing and raised questions about the technology used in autonomous vehicles.
The NTSB report also concluded that Uber’s “inadequate safety risk assessment procedures” contributed to the accident.
Uber had disabled a factory-installed collision warning system and automatic emergency braking system for the Volvo sport utility vehicle.
Uber temporarily suspended its autonomous ridesharing program, eventually putting its self-driving cars back on the road in Pittsburgh in “manual mode,” with a driver at the wheel at all times.
Uber did not immediately respond to an AFP query on the indictment.
Without Alonso, 250,000 fans, Toyota still favorites
LE MANS, France (AFP) — Fernando Alonso and 250,000 diehard fans haven’t made it to this weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hour race which Toyota are hot favorites to win for a third consecutive year.
The 2020 edition of the motorsport classic will be played out in the shadow of COVID-19, with the famous La Sarthe circuit’s cavernous grandstands eerily empty.
Organizers ACO had initially hoped to allow in a portion of the quarter of a million petrol heads making the annual sleep-deprived pilgrimage.
But maintaining social distancing protocol around the entire 13-kilometer track was proving too problematic, resulting in the total crowd ban for the event uprooted by the pandemic from its usual June slot for the first time since 1968.
Two-time Formula One world champion Alonso helped Toyota win in 2018 and 2019, but he forgoes a chance to land the treble to focus instead on his F1 return next year with Renault, competing as Alpine in 2021.
Alonso’s seat in the team comprising Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima has been taken by Brendon Hartley.
The New Zealander won the 2017 Le Mans for Porsche.
Sharing the wheel of Toyota’s second car are Michael Conway, Kamui Koyabashi and Jose Maria Lopez.