Automotive

A Father’s Day drive up north

Story time!

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We recently got the Ranger Raptor for the second time to use at this year’s STV ARCC and represent Ford Philippines. And since we had a free day before the event itself happened, I decided to use it and take out my dad along with my brother for a road trip. Good thing Mom had an errand to do that day!

Dad wanted to visit a certain theme park restaurant north of Metro Manila so I agreed and went for it. We already brought the Raptor to a 4×4 route for some off-road action, so now we go for long, paved roads with hungry stomachs.

That’s Dad, my brother Kiefer, and me on the road

After four hours of driving from the south, past the traffic metro, and all the way up north, we reached our destination. The place is called Isdaan Floating Restaurant and it’s at the municipality of Talavera in Nueva Ecija in the Philippines. “Isdaan,” when translated, means “fishery” so it already paints you a picture of what to expect. The restaurant is hard to miss as it has a wide, inviting facade fronted with sculptures.

The staff greeted us with a warm welcome and led us to our private floating nipa hut with koi fish swimming around and under us. Looking at the menu, there were lots of choices from appetizers, meat, seafood obviously, and even specialties that you don’t usually see in city restaurants.

“Guarding” the floating nipa huts

We got Bicol Express (spicy stew), Sinigang na Liempo (pork belly soup), and Binukadkad na Plapla (butterflied fish) from the menu. One of their signatures is a Boat Special. Basically, they offer select dishes in a long sizzling plate mounted on a wooden counter-top that resembles a boat. This was how Bicol Express was served which greatly added to the presentation value.

Food was really great especially the soup. While the service wasn’t too snappy and could definitely be improved, the food compensated for it. It has that home-cooked taste that hits the spot after a long drive.

After eating, we decided to walk around the area and check out the theme park side of the place. There were giant statues everywhere — from the Charging Bull similar to New York’s, Big Buddha of Phuket, and even prehistoric dinosaurs. It does make for great photo opportunities as you’ll see in the following photos.

Apart from the gigantic and humorous characters, another attraction to find here is a corner to vent out all your pent-up emotions. For a reasonable price, you can choose objects like those plates or coffee mugs that you can smash onto the wall. If you ask me, I feel it’s a bit out of place in this family-friendly restaurant but it still does make the place unique.

Those are all fun but what usually entices people to visit this place is the fact that you can dip your feet in this shallow pond and have large koi fish swimming in between your legs. It might sound weird and it’s probably not for everyone, but the novelty of being able to do it was actually fun.

These koi quickly gather around you as you go near the water

Caught this little guy trying to nibble on his watch

Can’t leave the place without this obligatory shot!

After all the photos were taken and a few minor mishaps (one of us slipping trying to get in with the fish, not telling who), we were ready to go back home. It was another four hours inside the Raptor and we ended up exchanging stories and laughing our way through the expressways while the truck was mostly on cruise control. It was definitely a trip to remember.

Automotive

Spotify launches Car Thing, a voice-controlled music player for cars

Wherever you go, music shall follow

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Spotify is a music streaming service, and the company is always categorized as a software major. Things are gradually changing as it has unveiled a new dedicated music player called Car Thing and is literally supposed to be used in a car.

It’s a small gadget that features a display, mic, physical buttons, and a huge knob in a nutshell. Spotify has clearly mentioned that it has no ambitions to be a hardware company and focus on one thing — becoming the world’s number one audio platform.

All you need to do is fit the player near an AC vent, plug it into a USB port for power, and connect your phone to it. The player connects to your phone, which in turn connects to the car via aux, USB, or Bluetooth. So, why wouldn’t you just directly play Spotify from your phone?

Spotify says the Car Thing is about creating a truly frictionless audio experience for users, irrespective of where they are. The player shows thousands of curated playlists like Daily Drive or Songs to Sing in the Car. Thanks to a dedicated player in front of you, playing a song, podcast, or playlist is much more seamless and instant.

The player also lets you decide how you want to use it — voice commands, touch, or physical buttons. There’s a massive knob on the front that gives a retro vibe in a world dominated by touchscreens. The “Hey Spotify” command can summon the device, and there are four mics to ensure the assistant isn’t caught off-guard.

It’s also got four physical buttons that can be preset to play your favorite album, artist, playlist, or podcast. There’s no actual speaker within the device, and it completely relies on your car’s audio system.

Car Thing availability

Car Thing is currently rolling out in a controlled manner, available in the US on an invite-only basis. For now, Spotify is sending it out for free, and users just have to pay the shipping charges. It requires a paid Spotify Premium subscription plan and a phone with WiFi or mobile data reception.

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Automotive

Volkswagen lied about rebranding its America division to ‘Voltswagen’

The carmaker should just stop lying

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On March 29, Volkswagen’s America division released a press note saying that the company shall be changing its name to ‘Voltswagen.’ The rebranding was to stress its commitment to electric vehicles.

As it turns out, the press release was fake and the carmaker purposely leaked it ahead of April 1, which is universally celebrated as April Fool’s day. Mark Gillies, a company spokesman, confirmed Tuesday that the statement had been a pre-April Fool’s Day joke.

The stunt was supposed to be a marketing campaign for the new electric SUV — ID.4. While the name change may have been deemed a joke, Volkswagen states that the underlining theme was the emphasis on EVs.

However, the joke wasn’t funny for many because the announcement prompted the company’s stock to go up by almost five percent in one day. Following the name change, many investors believed Volkswagen is serious about the EV space and has future potential. Those who fell for the news and invested in the company are now left in limbo.

The joke has received a lot of criticism because this isn’t the first time Volkswagen has lied to the public. The German carmaker was infamously found guilty of Dieselgate, a high-profile scandal wherein the company was caught cheating and manipulating emission tests via dedicated software changes.

In a nutshell, diesel cars were emitting much more pollutants than they should, but regulators were not able to detect this due to special modifications. Volkswagen admitted that about 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide were fitted with deceptive software. The scandal cost the company US$ 35 billion in fines, penalties, and recall of millions of vehicles.

April Fool’s day is a joke and it’s normal to see companies come up with unbelievable or even bizarre ideas to grab the limelight. Although, it’s easy to distinguish between humor and serious news on April 1 since jokes are expected by everyone. Volkswagen’s timing was extremely poor and gave little opportunity for media organizations as well as investors to consider it humor.

The poorly planned publicity stunt could boomerang for the automaker. US securities regulator, the SEC, has often fined companies for fake disclosures that mislead investors. In 2018, Tesla CEO Elon Musk was fined US$ 20 million when he tweeted about turning the company private, without any funding actually lined up. The tweet boosted Tesla’s stock temporarily and created a false market frenzy, prompting a crackdown by regulators.

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Automotive

Xiaomi is venturing into smart vehicles

Ready to ride on a Mi Car?

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Image by GadgetMatch

It was just rumors a few weeks back but we now have confirmation from Xiaomi that they are indeed entering into the business of making smart vehicles.

An announcement shared by a Xiaomi representative to GadgetMatch reads the following:

The board of directors of the Company has resolved to commence the smart electric vehicle business. The Company will set up a wholly-owned subsidiary to operate the smart electric vehicle business. The initial phase of investment will be RMB 10 billion, with the total investment amount over the course of the next 10 years estimated to be USD 10 billion. Mr. Lei Jun, the Chief Executive Officer of the Group, will concurrently serve as the Chief Executive Officer of the smart electric vehicle business.

Seeing as Xiaomi has practically dipped its toes into pretty much everything, the decision to venture into this new business isn’t exactly surprising. The company already has a firm hold in the smartphone market but, as Engadget noted on their report, expanding into electric vehicles will give them another revenue stream with bigger profit margins and is not susceptible to risks of chipset shortage.

The company will face tough competition not just from existing car manufacturers like Tesla and Nissan, but also other big tech companies like Apple who are looking at widening their horizon and expanding into smart transportation.

We still don’t know when an actual Mi Car will first hit the market. However, with this announcement, we can expect the company to start showing of a concept or a prototype to generate buzz and develop interest.

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