Automotive

STV breathes life to old motorsport with ARCC

Keeping the spirit of rallying alive

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I was at Clark, Pampanga in a former United States Air Force base in the Philippines for the STV Auto Rally Corporate Challenge (ARCC).

For the unfamiliar, it’s also called Sampaguita Rally in the Philippines, but it was actually inspired by the Dutch’s Tulpenrallye (Tulip Rally) for the way the directions in the handbook look like. It gained popularity in Europe at the beginning of 1950s and was also the number one motorsport in the Philippines back in the 80s. The sport eventually died down but Sunshine Television has been faithful to breathe life into the sport until today.

STV Chairman and CEO Ray Butch Gamboa kicks off the event.

Now, the “rally” in its name might paint a different picture for some. Usually, speed is associated when you hear the term “rallying,” and that’s because of the modified rally races that are popular today. STV’s ARCC doesn’t follow this trend and stays true to its roots wherein drivers are not required to go fast to win.

Taking an oath to play fair and square.

Car manufacturers, importers, and distributors were the event’s participants and I was invited to be one of Ford Philippines’ representatives. There were a total of nine media reps split into three groups and Ford gave the groups a vehicle each to use in the event.

Our group was in a 3.2-liter Ford Everest Titanium with me at the helm, while one was assigned as timekeeper and the other as navigator.

You, as a participant, get in the vehicle with your teammates and are put on a public road along with other motorists. You’re expected to follow driving rules just like you normally would while following the tulip-shaped directions written on the handbook.

This is what the handbook looks like with tulip-shaped arrows for directions. The smaller sheet is filled with our time for all the checkpoints.

More than speed, the key factor to winning is precision. A series of checkpoints were set up throughout the course, and our team, along with hundreds of participants from other brands, had to arrive at the perfect time at each checkpoint. Get there one second late/early and you get a demerit. In the end, the group with the least number of demerits wins. Having said these, the goal is simple: Be on time, all the time.

With more than 150km of driving, the goal of the event was to promote driver discipline and road safety. This means if you violate traffic rules, authorities can and will flag you and issue a ticket (plus the organizers can disqualify you from the event depending on your offense).

There’s our ride, Vehicle 24.

The dynamics inside the vehicle (at least for us) worked like this: The navigator obviously had the handbook and told the driver where to turn. Meanwhile, the timekeeper calculated the time needed from one point to the next to made sure we get to the checkpoints at the perfect time — all while inside a moving car. Then there’s an average speed indicated per direction so I, the driver, had to maintain constant speeds depending on the instruction. Mix in traffic lights and buildup of cars and the feeling of frustration crept in knowing we needed to catch up.

Still, it was a great practice for coordination and communication among us inside the vehicle. Since Rally Director Georges Ramirez chose a route with tricky turns and hidden checkpoints, it made things more exciting and required us to almost be at the edge of our seats looking out where that next turn would be.

Team Ford (although not complete)

The 2018 ARCC was indeed a challenging experience, but it’s for that same reason that all of us enjoyed the event. Our group didn’t make it to the top list but hey, it was an adventure that you don’t do every day. It also taught us a thing or two about teamwork and precision driving, and I even ended up making new friends. So it’s not all that bad.

Automotive

Audi’s Holoride is a VR experience like no other

Back seat car rides will never be the same again

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It had been a long day, but I could still barely contain my excitement as a fancy car whizzed me down the interstate to a race track on the outskirts of Las Vegas, one chilly evening before the start of the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show. 

While the in-seat back massage made me wish the ride was longer, I also couldn’t wait to get there. Tonight would be my first time in an e-Tron, Audi’s new fully electric SUV, and my first taste of what Audi calls the future of mobility, one with entertainment content at its center.

It’s an interesting proposition, one I’m more than willing to chew on. With self-driving vehicles on the horizon, tonight, instead of getting behind the wheel, I take a back seat, put on a VR headset, and trade my current reality for one that promises to be more exhilarating.

Called “Rocket’s Rescue Run,” it’s the first title in a collaboration between Marvel and Disney and Audi’s new spin off venture Holoride, that aims to make VR entertainment a mainstay in cars of the future.

As the e-tron’s driver steps on the accelerator, in my alternate universe my ship surges through space. I’m joined by my sidekick Rocket Raccoon, and together we team up to help Iron Man take down a mob of Thanos’ space goons.

I’ve had many VR experiences before, but none like this. As soon as the SUV pulls away, the whole experience makes perfect sense. Every twist, every sharp turn, every bit of acceleration or sudden brake is matched by the same sensation in the game. For the entire 5-minute ride, my body is tricked into believing this reality. Not an easy feat for an utterly nitpicky tech journalist, I can only begin to imagine how big of a technical challenge it was to pull off.

I wield my laser gun like a pro, take down an evil mothership, and celebrate our victory with fireworks. The experience ends, and the e-tron stops. Reluctantly, I take off my headset. It feels like I’ve just been on a theme park ride, but from the privacy of my own car — well, not really, but I wish — and without standing in an hour-long line. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that during my adventure the e-tron reached speeds of up to 90mph. We’ve navigated plenty of sharp turns, too, but I don’t feel so woozy.

Supposedly matching the car’s movements to the virtual reality experience helps in mitigating nausea. As I get out, I thank my driver, but also can’t help but imagine a world that’s driver-optional.

At CES, we saw Audi’s vision of the future, a concept car called the Aicon, with an interior that resembles more of a lounge than a current automobile. As with Holoride, the development of Aicon represents a shift in the idea of mobility, one that’s ushered in by a focus on passengers instead of drivers. Together, Aicon and Holoride make perfect sense in a future world of fully autonomous vehicles. If no one is driving, what else are we to do?

Anything you want to, apparently. Cars are now seen as multi-purpose spaces, just another room that we occupy as we travel from place to place: be it a relaxation pod, a meeting room, or your own private cinema.

The team behind Holoride is most invested in the latter, creating entertainment experiences that are just long enough to fill the entire duration of your trip. They’re calling it “elastic content,” VR games and adventures that automatically adjust to congestion and shortcuts, so that you’re never left without something to occupy you.

Together, Aicon and Holoride make perfect sense in a future world of fully autonomous vehicles.”

Soon, Holoride plans to open its technology to more car manufacturers, content creators, and game developers. The goal is for a wide range of immersive experiences, customized to events in the real world like traffic jams or stop lights, and for those experiences to be available in more car brands. Apart from games, like the one I played, the company is also planning movies, interactive features, and educational tours. Indeed, the type of content you could enjoy is limited only by the imagination.

A few minutes later, I find myself getting another back massage inside another chauffeured Audi A8, making our way back into downtown Las Vegas. These days, when I do travel by car, the experience is similar to this, albeit less fancy. I’m bored, maybe antsy or impatient, in the back seat, with only my phone and social media to distract me. I hadn’t given it much thought till today, but in a world where one constantly thirsts for something to capture one’s attention, I can certainly see how “content will be a major driving force for the mobility experience of the future.”

The day is almost over and I am exhausted. I recline my chair, close my eyes, and enjoy the back massage for a few minutes more. I dream I am back in the e-tron, and wonder when this future will arrive, what it would be like if the next Avengers movie was interactive, and most importantly, what it would be like to watch it from the back seat of a fully autonomous Audi.

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Automotive

Suzuki Philippines unveils a redesigned Ertiga MPV

This seven-seater could be your next family vehicle

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Suzuki Philippines introduced its all-new 2019 Ertiga at a grand event attended by dealers, partners, and the media. The new seven-seater comes with a fresh design, updated features, and safety tech for the demanding needs within the city and beyond.

The upgraded MPV now features more prominent accents compared to its predecessor. For starters, the wide grille in front easily catches the eye and gives it a sportier look. Just below that, an integrated lower grille is flanked by stylish fog lamps. There are now deeper curves on its sides and lines run through the body, giving it more appeal on the road.

Stepping inside, the new Ertiga offers a more spacious cabin since the length, width, and height have all been stretched. This simply means passengers have more legroom and headspace even in the usually cramped third row seats. Speaking of the passenger seats, both the second and third row have their own AC vents to ensure a comfortable ride.

For bigger hauls, the second and third row seats fold down

The entire interior is fitted with small storage spaces including ventilated cup holders, an improved center console, and door pockets for everyone’s phones and chargers

There are no displays mounted for the rear passengers; however, a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen display in front should be enough to make up for it. Do take note, though, that this is only present in the top variant while a smaller 8-inch touch display is available for the mid-tier models.

With a fresh look comes a fresh engine. It now runs on a 1.5-liter engine compared to the previous 1.4-liter. Transmission remains the same with a choice of either a five-speed MT or four-speed AT.

Apart from the usual array of safety features, this MPV boasts its new generation platform — the HEARTECT. In case an accident happens, collision energy should be distributed across the vehicle frame to minimize damage to the car and protect its passengers.

Available in Pearl Glorious Brown, Metallic Magma Gray, Pearl Burgundy Red, Prime Cool Black, Metallic Silky SIlver, Pearl Radiant Red, and Pearl Snow White, pricing for the 2019 Suzuki Ertiga are as follows:

  • GA – PhP 728,000
  • GL MT – PhP 848,000
  • GL AT – PhP 888,000
  • GLX – PhP 978,000

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Automotive

Nissan’s I2V technology merges two worlds while driving

It combines its Metaverse with our real world

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While other automotive brands promise lengthy distances on one charge for their electric vehicles, or acceleration to jump from zero to 60mph in the shortest time, Nissan goes for empowering drivers by showing them the bigger picture. And this is done through their Invisible-to-Visible or I2V technology.

I2V, as its name suggests, aims to show people what they don’t usually see. With this technology, the driver will know what’s going on in the entire environment — whether it’s a stalled car up ahead or a tree blocking the way at the next block. If you’re manually driving, the safety tech also works during curves with blind spots. An image of the path ahead will come up to better guide the driver.

According to Nissan, I2V will support drivers by merging information from sensors found outside and inside the vehicle with data from the cloud, all in real time. This makes it possible for the system to track the vehicle’s immediate surroundings and anticipate what’s ahead.

What’s interesting is that the technology can be used to connect to what the company calls a Metaverse virtual world. By accessing the Metaverse, the driver and passengers can call their family and friends and they will appear inside the car as 3D avatars! You can watch the video from Nissan (around 2:04 in) if you’re in doubt:

There’s more to the I2V than just turning your friend into an avatar. It can help you look for recommended spots using the Metaverse when you’re in an unfamiliar place, turn rainy weather with poor visibility into a bright, clear day, and finally, Nissan says it can bring you a professional driver from the same Metaverse to get personal driving instructions in real time. You then have a choice if the professional driver would appear as a projected avatar or as a virtual chase car in your field of vision to demonstrate the best way to drive.

In addition, when you enter a parking lot, I2V can scan the area for available parking space and park the vehicle for the driver supposedly even in tight situations.

You can watch this two-minute video to see more of its practical uses in action:

This future that Nissan envisions does sound like a fun and safe way of improving how people will travel. Of course, this is still just a plan, but if this is the future that Nissan is heading towards, then I’m curious to see how it would look when one is driving and arguing with his or her partner in avatar form.

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