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  • TaxiGo app launched – ride-hailing for taxi services

    Another ride-hailing app has been launched, making it the second to come about in a week, The Star reports. The arrival of TaxiGo on to the scene comes after the cALLme app – meant for passengers to hail taxi drivers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) – was introduced over the weekend.

    Developed by local company Cab Mmobility in collaboration with experts from Taiwan and Japan, the TaxiGo app is expected to benefit some 60,000 registered taxis across the country. TaxiGo will not take a percentage of commission from the cab fare, only imposing a RM2 fee for any trip.

    Cabbies will also have the opportunity to earn at least 10% to 20% additional income from advertisements, these being via digital displays placed on the car’s roof. The app is available on both Android and iOS platforms.

    At the launch, transport minister Anthony Loke said that having more taxi drivers embracing e-hailing was a positive development for the industry. “I am glad taxi drivers are taking up the ministry’s call for them to get on the e-hailing platform. This is the way forward for the industry. When more taxi drivers take up e-hailing, it will be good for both the industry and the consumers,” he said.

    Loke said that consumers usually did not mind taking traditional taxis if the vehicles were comfortable and the fares were affordable and clearly defined. “The most important element for consumers when calling for a taxi or private car is that they must know how much they have to pay before they enter the car,” he explained.

     
  • Apple hires ex-Tesla senior designer Andrew Kim

    Tech giant Apple has hired former Tesla senior designer manager Andrew Kim, sparking speculations that Apple will once again attempt to build its own car. The timing of Kim’s hire also seems to coincide with Doug Field’s (former Tesla chief vehicle engineer) return to Apple, although their exact roles in the tech firm remain undisclosed as yet.

    Kim’s work, according to his LinkedIn profile, include design contributions of the Model 3, Model S, Model X, Model Y as well as the Roadster V2 and the Semi. Prior to his role in Tesla, Kim spent three and a half years at Microsoft where he developed the Windows 10 user interface and products like HoloLens and the Xbox One S.

    The hiring of both Kim and Field certainly raises eyebrows – last year in an interview with Bloomberg, Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook said “we’re focusing on autonomous systems. It’s a core technology that we view as very important,” adding that it is “probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on.”

    ford-021c-concept

    Apple had previously retrofitted three Lexus RX450h SUVs with Logitech G27 steering wheel and pedals for its self-driving car programme. However, initial plans to build its own car was eventually shelved in favour of the shifting of focus towards autonomous technologies.

    Apple drastically scaled back Project Titan, which it started in 2014, hoping to make an impact on the automotive market in the same way it did for mobile phones when the iPhone was introduced in 2007. Towards the end of 2015, progress was hindered by infighting for the project’s direction, which ultimately led to the hiatus.

    According to The Verge, Cook recently stated that the company’s ambitions are broader than cars, emphasising “autonomous systems” as the mother of all machine learning projects that benefit everything that Apple does. Besides Kim and Field, Apple also reportedly hired scores of ex-Tesla employees throughout the year. So, want to take a guess at what Apple is Cooking?

     
  • CIMB files arbitration to stop PLUS’ RFID system

    There can be only one. Or there should be only one, in the case of RFID-based toll payment collection. The Star reports that Touch ‘n Go parent company CIMB Group Holdings is seeking to halt PLUS from introducing its own radio-frequency identification (RFID) toll collection system, first announced last month.

    The financial institution said it has filed a notice of arbitration dated December 17 on PLUS. In May 1998, CIMB, CIMB SI 1 and PLUS entered into a joint venture agreement in relation to Touch ‘n Go – CIMB says that PLUS’ introduction of its own RFID system breaches the obligations under the Touch ‘n Go JV.

    “The company and CIMB SI 1 are, amongst others, seeking an injunction to restrain PLUS from engaging in further business of the PLUS RFID system together with damages, interests and costs,” it said in a filing with the Bursa.

    On November 19, PLUS had announced that its RFID pilot project was set to begin trials on December 15 at four locations, these being the Penang Bridge toll plaza, the Kubang Semang and Lunas toll plazas on the Butterworth-Kulim Expressway (BKE) and the Jitra toll plaza in Kedah.

    The PLUS RFID system differs from the Touch ‘n Go RFID system, which began trials in early September ahead of an official rollout in January 2019, is in the method of payment. While the latter uses the Touch ‘n Go eWallet that needs to be topped up, PLUS’ product is an open payment system, tied to the user’s debit or credit card (including American Express charge cards), debiting the toll charge straight from the user’s account.

     
  • Petron sponsors Rainforest Challenge 2018 in M’sia

    Fuel retailer Petron was once again the official fuel and engine oil sponsor of the Rainforest Challenge (RFC) Grand Finale in Malaysia, the 2018 edition of which concluded on December 4. The company provided fuel for over 150 4×4 vehicles, as 300 off-road enthusiasts from 30 countries braved Malaysia’s tropical rainforest starting from November 24.

    The Malaysia leg was the finale event of the RFC Global Series (RFCGS), a worldwide off-road racing circuit with 45 events across 22 nations. This year, participants went from Kota Bharu to Gua Musang, via Tanah Merah and Kuala Krai. The Predator, Terminator and Twilight Zone stages featured steep downhill and uphill sections, narrow bridges, tropical swamps, mud pools and crossings of Sungai Bering.

    Flagged off at Dataran Redha in Kota Bahru, the convoy was escorted by local police to the first overnight campsite at Tumpat Pantai Sri Tujuh. After refuelling at a Petron petrol station in Belimbing, Tanah Merah, participants entered the pitstops at Air Naga, Gua Harimau and Bering.

    All race and support vehicles were required to carry enough fuel to last the whole event, due to the long off-road section far away from other towns and villages. The teams reached their sixth and final campsite in Pos Gob, a deep aborigines settlement in Kelantan, before proceeding to Kuala Betis, refuelling for the final time at another Petron station in Gua Musang.

    “Petron is proud to be a partner of this super league of extreme 4×4 motor sports as its official fuel partner for the third year. This year, we introduced our engine oil Petron Rev-X Engine Oil to complement the Turbo Diesel Euro 5 in this legendary race for an even better performance and excellent engine cleaning action,” said Petron Malaysia head of retail business Choong Kum Choy.

    Rainforest Challenge founder and RFC Global Series creator Luis J.A. Wee added, “RFC is, indeed, proud to have Petron as our fuel and engine oil partner especially as we face tough conditions during the monsoon season. This year, we faced the longest off-road sector under monsoon conditions but we were very confident that the fuel and engine oil from Petron [would] enable us to finish the race.”

     
  • Minister denies colleague’s revelation that Qatar will invest RM1.6 trillion in new national car project

    Earlier, it was reported that a sheikh from Qatar had expressed interest to invest up to US$400 billion (RM1.6 trillion) in Malaysia’s new national car project (NNCP). It was revealed by Federal Territories minister Khalid Abdul Samad, reported by Bernama. That came out from a meeting between prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the Qatari, the Shah Alam MP said.

    Now, Khalid’s cabinet colleague, entrepreneur development minister Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Yusof, has come out to deny such an investment in the NNCP, according to Malaysiakini.

    “The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) said they were interested to invest in the country, but there were no specific mention of the project (NNCP). I don’t know what’s his (Khalid) source, but I think what he meant was QIA has plenty of funds to invest in our country,” Mohd Redzuan told reporters in Cyberjaya today.

    Unlike Khalid, Mohd Redzuan is directly involved in the NNCP. News of the “third national car” first came from his ministry and the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT, under the purview of the PM’s department) in October.

    Then, the timelines for the NNCP was announced – the new national car’s name will be revealed by the end of this year, while the prototype for the NNCP model is expected to be ready by early next year, ahead of a 2020 roll out. The car is expected to feature semi-autonomous capabilities and advanced safety features, while remaining affordable.

    Earlier this month, economic affairs minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said the NNCP was discussed in a recent National Development Council meeting chaired by the PM, and “we will share the prototype with the public soonest next year.”

    The ministry of international trade and industry has received over 20 proposals for the NNCP, which will receive R&D grants from the government.

     
  • SPIED: Next-gen Audi S3 cabin seen for the first time!

    Just shortly after our spy photographers captured the next-generation Audi A3 and S3 out in the open, a new set of photos came through, complete with a single image clearly showing the top half of the cabin.

    As seen in the picture above, the dashboard is entirely new, complete with a deeply recessed instrument binnacle that houses the Audi Virtual Cockpit. The steering wheel here is of the fancier kind, with a trapezoidal centrepiece and chromed lower spokes, which looks virtually identical to that of the Audi Q5.

    Elsewhere, the A3 and S3’s cabin looks set to get horizontal air vents as opposed to the outgoing model’s circular units. The overall layout is similar to the all-new Audi A1, in that the instrument binnacle is flanked by two air-con vents, one on each side. Over to the centre, one can clearly see the new MMI infotainment unit (also angled towards the driver), which is most likely the range-topping 10.1-inch MMI Navigation plus with hybrid route guidance and Audi connect. Besides that, not much else is known of its interior.

    On the outside, the A3 and S3 will get a brand new look, although interestingly the jagged headlights would seemingly be the single most identifiable feature of the car. Expect the hotter S3 model to get largely the same looks, albeit dressed in a suitably more aggressive body kit, larger wheels and beefier brakes.

    For performance, again, not much is known, but it’s likely that the A3 will be underpinned by an upgraded version of VW Group’s MQB platform. Expect the existing range of engines to be fine tuned and carried over – the Group’s 1.5 litre EA211 TSI evo engine with Active Cylinder Technology could be offered, as well as a range of advanced electrified powertrains.

    Also, the A3 could possibly be joined by a new four-door coupe, in addition to the current hatch, five-door Sportback, Cabriolet and four-door sedan models. The coupe is said to be modelled after the TT Sportback concept and will go head to head against the Mercedes-Benz CLA.

     
  • Aston Martin to build own straight-six, replace AMG V8

    Aston Martin is currently leaning heavily on its engine deal with Mercedes-AMG, with the latter’s 4.0 litre twin-turbocharged V8 being offered on both the DB11 and the brand new Vantage. However, Gaydon is seeking to break away from this reliance and regain its independence with the development of its own straight-six, if a recent report by Autocar is correct.

    According to a source close to the company, Aston has already began working on the engine – unrelated to AMG’s own 3.0 litre mill, previously tipped to be used by the company – that would be key to helping it stringent future emissions regulations. The AMG deal signed in 2013 was apparently only meant to be temporary, buying Aston time to work on its own engine, which could be based on its 5.2 litre biturbo V12.

    No technical details have been revealed just yet, but the engine should make use of hybrid technology derived from the Rapide E electric vehicle programme. Autocar said that it probably won’t be a plug-in hybrid, as the company said last year such a powertrain setup still doesn’t deliver an experience that is “premium enough” for its customers. Expect a similar mild hybrid system as on the AMG straight-six.

    The forthcoming DBX crossover is the most likely recipient of the new mill, although it is expected debut with the AMG V8 and Aston’s V12 first. The SUV will be launched in the fourth quarter of next year and built at a new facility in St Athan, Wales.

    GALLERY: Aston Martin DBX prototype

     
  • Mitsubishi returns to Dakar Rally with Eclipse Cross

    When you hear “Dakar Rally”, what comes to mind? I’m pretty sure the image for most is of a Mitsubishi Pajero with a brown background of desert sand. Right? MMC has strong heritage in the famous rally, having won it 12 times (seven of those wins were consecutive), a feat unmatched by any other manufacturer. Now, it’s making a comeback with a different car.

    Mitsubishi, via its Spanish arm, is entering the 2019 Dakar Rally with a Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross T1 Prototype. The machine will be driven by Spanish Cristina Gutierrez, assisted by compatriot Pablo Huete. Backed by Mitsubishi Motors Spain for the past four years, Gutierrez, 26, was the first Spanish woman to complete Dakar in a car in 2017. The following year, she was the highest placed female driver.

    “As always when you face a Dakar, you do it with great expectation but also a lot of respect for the test. The first objective, of course, is to finish what is the toughest rally in the world, for the third time in a row,” she said.

    The Eclipse Cross T1 prototype is built around a steel spaceframe chassis with a carbon fibre body, and employs double wishbone suspension with two fully-adjustable Ohlins dampers on each wheel. The full-time 4WD system uses a mechanical centre differential and limited slip differentials at both ends, helping transmit the turbodiesel engine’s 340 hp/686 Nm to ground via a six-speed sequential transmission. Stopping power is courtesy of four-piston AP Racing brakes at each corner.

    “For me, it is a big step ahead compared to the previous years. You can go very fast with it, while it is easier to drive and has greater off road capabilities. It’s the most spectacular car I’ve ever driven and attracts a lot of attention!” commented Gutierrez.

    The 2019 Dakar Rally takes place solely in Peru (it has been held in South America since 2009) next month, with drivers and riders facing 5,000 km of timed competition over ten stages, 70% of which on sand. After racing on Sunday, they’ll be hoping to sell this on Monday.

    GALLERY: Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross 1.5T in Singapore

     
  • Volvo’s next-gen Android-based Sensus system to debut in Polestar 2, third-gen XC90 to follow suit

    The Polestar 2, Volvo’s forthcoming Tesla Model 3 rival will be the first from the Swedish manufacturer to have the Android infotainment operating system embedded when it enters production in 2020, according to Automotive News.

    In May, Volvo said that it will embed the voice-controlled Google Assistant, Google Play Store, Google Maps as well as other Google services into its own next-generation Sensus infotainment system. The tech giant has a similar agreement with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, Automotive News adds.

    Upon taking over from Peter Mertens in 2016, chief of research and development Henrik Green changed direction from adopting an in-house upgrade of the Sensus infotainment system in favour of adopting the Google setup. “Why would you ever pick that fight and invest the same amount of money. It would be an endless struggle to make it as good as Google’s system,” Green said.

    “We want to give our consumers a fantastic experience where their cars are as seamlessly integrated as any other device. After coming to that conclusion, it was super easy to jump on board with the Android embedded program,” he continued.

    Taking this approach towards infotainment systems helps Volvo save on development costs, Green said. Having a partner to help maintain and fix any issues that arise once the system is launched will be a ‘huge advantage in overall quality,’ he added.

    The Google solution replaces a Windows-based infotainment system, and will be first available on Compact Modular Architecture (CMA)-based cars, including the XC40 and the forthcoming Polestar 2. This approach will extend further across the group as well; sister marque Lynk & Co also currently uses the Android infotainment system, albeit one that is open-source rather than the embedded version.

    This embedded version of the Android system will be built into Volvo’s second-generation SPA (SPA2) platform-based models such as the third-generation XC90, which will debut in 2021, the report said.

    The Swedish automaker confirmed that it will also emphasise the presence of Google products in its cars, adding that “it is a a good selling point,” the R&D chief said. “People are used to having Google maps and Google assistant on their Android phone or on their iPhone or on their watch so we want to make sure that digital life continues when I get into the car,” added Google director of product management Mickey Kataria.

     
  • Maybach brand to stand on its own – Mercedes CEO

    The Mercedes-Maybach nameplate currently represents the most luxurious segment within the German automaker’s range of offerings, with the likes of the Mercedes-Maybach S600 Pullman. The luxury brand made its modern-day comeback in 2002 with the Maybach 57 and 62, before getting a facelift in 2010 before eventually bowing out in 2012.

    “The long-term plan for Maybach is for it to “stand on its own two feet, like AMG,” said Mercedes-Benz chief Dieter Zetsche. The SUV direction taken by examples such as the Bentley Bentayga and Rolls-Royce Cullinan is certainly under serious consideration at Maybach, in the vein of the Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury powered by four electric motors.

    Where the earlier Maybach models took on the likes of full-sized Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, the current Mercedes-Maybach range stands in the realm populated by the likes of the Bentley Flying Spur and the Rolls-Royce Ghost, a rung above cars like the Audi A8 and the BMW 7 Series. With that foothold established, Mercedes-Maybach may be working to renew its mark at the top of the luxury tree.

     
 

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