Saturday, 29 November 2008


World and Olympic 100m and 200m sprint champion Usain Bolt’s dream as a boy was to be world and Olympic champion. In August this year he became the fastest man ever, breaking both world and Olympic records. He ran 0 – 100m in 9.69 seconds and 0 – 200m in 19.3 seconds. That’s a staggering 9.7 metres per second! Recently another dream of “Lightening” Bolt’s came true; the childhood dream of owning a BMW M3.


The Mercedes-Benz stand at the 15th World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) highlighted vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication systems, technologies for monitoring vehicle surroundings, and systems for measuring driver stress. Mercedes-Benz also used the occasion of the ITS to unveil myCOMAND — the completely Internet-based in-vehicle infotainment system of the future.

With some 10,000 international participants, the ITS World Congress is the world’s biggest exhibition of state-of-the-art information and communication technologies for automotive applications.

Improved Safety Through Vehicle-To-Vehicle Communication

Mercedes-Benz are supporting the Vehicle Infrastructure Integration (VII) initiative, which tests concepts for vehicle-to-vehicle communication as well as communication between vehicles and transmission/ receiving stations along a route.

The technical basis for VII is provided by dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) technology, which enables vehicles to communicate with each other and their surrounding environment. Information obtained via DSRC can make drivers more attentive and enable dangerous situations to be recognised, and, in the ideal case, avoided.

Preventing the Unintentional Running of Red Lights

If a vehicle equipped with the new system approaches a VII-enabled traffic light and the system’s camera-based traffic light recognition unit registers that the light is red, the vehicle receives a DSRC signal containing information on the current state of the light. If the driver continues on toward the red light, he or she is warned by a beep and a symbol on the dashboard display, which give the driver enough time to brake the vehicle before it runs the light. Should the driver fail to react, the next acoustic and visual warning stage is engaged, which still allows the driver enough time to avoid running the light, although harder braking will now be required. If the driver still doesn’t respond, the vehicle itself initiates an autonomous emergency braking manoeuvre, whereby the driver can still overrule the system at any time.

Improved Safety Due to Relaxed Drivers

“Mindlab” is a method developed by Mercedes researchers that uses brainwave measurements to evaluate driver stress, whereby the scientists are also working to determine the best way to issue warnings in such stress situations. Here, electrodes attached to the heads of test subjects provide the scientists with an image of the processes occurring in the individuals’ brains. These images depict the characteristic patterns of brainwaves, which allow experts to determine, for example, how attentive a person is, or how much stress and/or fatigue he or she is currently suffering.

Improved Safety Through Predictive Technologies

Ensuring that assistance systems can effectively support drivers requires precise and reliable analyses of traffic situations. The “6D-Vision” system from Mercedes-Benz uses two cameras that view their surroundings in the same manner that a human being’s two eyes do. This stereo arrangement enables 3D depiction of the vehicle’s surroundings in real time. The system uses this information to identify every object around the vehicle and assess the risk it might pose for a potential collision. The Mercedes researchers are particularly hopeful that the system can be used in the future to significantly reduce accidents involving pedestrians, and also lessen the severity of those accidents that occur nevertheless.

Improved Comfort Through Internet-Based Infotainment System

MyCOMAND is a brand-new infotainment system developed by Mercedes-Benz. As a completely Internet-based application, it offers a preview of the vehicle telematics systems of the future. MyCOMAND uses the Web to continually update all data and information, which it makes available through a single interface. Users can thus access individual services at any time — and in accordance with their current position and situation — via an attractive and intuitive operating system.

Friday, 28 November 2008


The Alfa Romeo MiTo has been awarded a prestigious five-star Euro NCAP rating, setting it at the top of its segment in the field of safety. The ‘sportiest ever compact car' notched up a score of 36 out of 37 in the Euro NCAP adult ratings and a judgement of “Good” (the only car in its segment to obtain 3.35 points of out a maximum of 4) in the new tests that Euro NCAP has introduced to assess the ability of the front seats to prevent whiplash”.

The Alfa Romeo MiTo was designed and built to obtain the maximum score in passive and active safety tests. Examples include sophisticated electronic devices for control of vehicle dynamic behaviour (from braking to traction): Vehicle Dynamic Control (not disengageable) that manages important functions such as the Hill Holder, traction control, assisted panic braking, MSR to prevent the wheels locking during over-run, ‘active electronic steering’ DST (Dynamic Steering Torque) and Q2 Electronic that simulates the presence of a self-locking differential electronically.

In the field of preventive safety, the Alfa Romeo MiTo also offers headlights with a daytime function (known as Daytime Running Lights) that automatically turns on the side lights when the engine is turned on – to meet a specific standard that will enter into force in 2012 – and LED tail-lights that offer greater brightness than conventional bulbs, for greater safety.

MiTo is a MINI competitor and will make its Mzansi debut in May 2009.


Mzansi’s best-selling vehicle of any body type has received a mild mild-life facelift. The Toyota Hilux, recognised as the leader in its segment, has been changed slightly to reflect a more 2008 look. Front end has been changed to look more aggressive, and so has some of the rear end too.

Hilux is comfortable inside, giving the feeling of almost driving an SUV, rather than a bakkie. I sampled models fitted with air conditioning, power steering, CD/ radio player, central locking facility and electrically-adjustable side mirrors. Doesn’t sound like a bakkie does it? Of course you pay for most of these comforts, but baseline models which are cheaper, can come bare without them.

Three new engine additions are included, and these are 3.0D-4D Raised Body Raider automatic with a 4X2 system, and the 3.0D-4D 4X4 Raider automatic. The third new Raider model in the Hilux range is a 4.0-litre V6 petrol Raised Body Double Cab Raider 4X2 with 5-speed automatic gearbox. You might try and knock these auto boxes on a bakkie, but damn, I can assure you, they rock.

We took these babies out to the wild bush through places that even walking would make any one sweat, and they just kept on. Rock faces on mountains where you have to do 2km/h to make it, shifty sand dunes and of course average gravel. Toyota’s new slogan for the Hilux is “Beyond Tough” and the Hilux sure lives up to this.

On the road it surprised again by being able to handle itself around twisties in the Cape mountains. Granted, it was driven by someone who knows his stuff around fast cars, but still, that a Hilux could go up and down a mountain pass faster than a lot of sedans, says a lot for the car’s handling ability.

Buyers of Hilux now have a choice of 18 derivatives to choose from, from basic workhorse models through to the luxury Raider specification models that provide a versatile combination of utility space and a luxury specification passenger cab. Ten of these derivatives have a single cab configuration and the remaining eight are double cab models.

New 2008 Toyota Hilux prices range from about R140 000 to around R370 000, depending on model.


Porsche’s new Panamera is coming to town. Not this year, but within the next 18 months. Great news is that Mzansi is getting the Panamera too. The Porsche Panamera is a four-door coupe in similar layout as the Mercedes-Benz CLS, in that it has four doors but only sits four. This means where normally a middle seat lies, there is storage space. So it will compete with the CLS, along the new Audi A7 which is to be seen in 2010, as well as BMW’s own four-door coupe, based on the CS Concept car. Aston Martin is also planning a four-door coupe called the Rapide.

The Panamera will be powered by a variety of engines, V6 and V8s with power figures starting from about 225kW up to around 380kW for the V8 Turbo version. A Turbo S is also possible and could hit the 450kW mark. Porsche says it is preparing a hybrid as well, but no diesel at this point.

A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard, while Porsche’s new 7-speed double-clutch is optional. The double-clutch, called PDK, is similar to other such systems currently in place, such as Volkswagen Group’s 6-speed DSG and BMW’s 7-speed M-DCT.