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General news updateBack

FTAFTA urges Government to rethink approach to licence checking

FTA is urging the Government to rethink its approach to licence checking after it today replaced the paper counterpart to the driving licence with an online service.

The abolition of the paper counterpart means endorsements will no longer be recorded on the paper part of the licence, therefore the only way an employer is able to make a check is by contacting the DVLA, says FTA.

Despite continued requests that this information be made available through the online systems, DVLA has failed to provide a facility other than a telephone number which is available only during working hours, it adds.

To check if a driver has the correct licence, the driver himself must first request an access code from DVLA, which remains active for only 72 hours.

This is then provided to the employer, who uses the online service to make the check.

If checks can’t be done online, the driver can call DVLA to give permission for a check and the employer then uses a premium rate number to follow up.

Checking non-GB licences cannot be done on the same system – checks have to be made on a premium rate phone line during normal office hours.

Source: fleetnews.co.uk

FTA launches Van Excellence Certificate of Driver Competence

Freight Transport Association has launched the Van Excellence Certificate of Driver Competence after recognising the need for van driver qualifications.

The project has been created in conjunction with the FTA Van Excellence scheme to meet the demand from operators who want to demonstrate how professional their drivers are, and how seriously they take their responsibilities in the work that they do.

For operators, the scheme will provide validation to the role of a van driver as well as demonstrating, encouraging and creating a route for employee development.

Mark Cartwright, FTA head of vans, said: “This project really underlines the strength of Van Excellence.

“Accredited operators of the scheme very often share best practice, and the need for a nationally-recognised van driver standard was identified from this.

“Operators want to demonstrate that their drivers are professional and take their duties seriously. They’ve worked closely with us to develop the course and the qualification process.”

As part of the Van Excellence Certificate of Driver Competence, the FTA will offer two elements:

• Training: FTA will provide in-house van driver competence training, and ‘train-the-trainer’ using the Community Driver CPC model.Users will be able to access computer-based training.
• Assessment: Van drivers can be put through assessments at recognised centres. Operators will be offered the chance to become recognised as assessment centres, and FTA will also be able to provide assessment centres.

Source: fleetnews.co.uk

BVRLABVRLA expands training and development services

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) is widening the range of training, accreditation and professional development services available to its members and has appointed a new learning and development professional, Gursh Gill.

Gill will enable the BVRLA to implement an ambitious training and development programme as it helps members comply with a range of new consumer and financial regulatory regimes.

One of the first priorities will be to assist leasing brokers in achieving, maintaining and demonstrating full compliance with Financial Conduct Authority rules. Elsewhere there will be more opportunities for small- and medium-sized daily rental members who lack their own dedicated training resources.

Commenting on Gill’s appointment, BVRLA head of member services Nora Leggett said: “With his extensive training and operational experience in the rental industry, we’re confident that Gursh is ideally qualified to lead our initiatives in this area.

“We want to increase the range of training, accreditation and professional development we offer as part of our wider commitment to maintain and improve standards within the industry. We will be working through our partners at the ICFM, Grosvenor Training, Manheim and Professional Inspiration to increase public confidence in the industry.”

The news comes as two members of staff from Fleet Assist received their Automotive Technician Accreditation certificates at a recent BVRLA forum.

More than 400 people achieved success in BVRLA training in 2014, with the association hosting more than 60 seminars, webinars, forums and workshops.

Source: fleetnews.co.uk

MercLogoMercedes-Benz highlights green cars at Company Car in Action

Mercedes-Benz will be highlighting some of its greenest ever cars at Company Car in Action, three months after taking a hat-trick of Fleet News Awards.

Diesel-electric hybrid models, a plug-in petrol hybrid, a battery electric vehicle, and alternative fuel powertrains will take their place alongside efficient conventional engine variants as well as a new line-up of compact Smart cars at the event in Millbrook.

Mercedes-Benz launched the latest version of the C-Class saloon and estate in 2014, and while the lowest CO2 from a conventional diesel version is 101g/km, the C-Class is also available as a diesel-electric hybrid with CO2 emissions from 94g/km.

The S-Class range gained an ultra-low CO2 variant in 2014, when Mercedes-Benz added a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid powertrain. This model, which has CO2 emissions of 65g/km and qualifies for a 100% discount on the London congestion charge, will also be available to drive at company car in action.

Sally Dennis, head of fleet at Mercedes-Benz, said: “Mercedes-Benz will showcase a variety of vehicles across the range to highlight our dedication to meeting diverse fleet customer requirements, and to satisfy the ever increasing demand for class-leading green credentials.

“Vehicles available to test drive include the C-Class – recently named World Car of the Year 2015 with CO2 emissions from 94 g/km, the S 500 Plug-in Hybrid with CO2 emissions from as low as 65 g/km, the zero-emission B-Class Electric Drive – released earlier this year – and the Smart Forfour.”

While all of those vehicles have variants with CO2 emissions below 100g/km, attendees will also have the opportunity of a high-performance accompanied ride in a car with CO2 emissions of 219g/km – although perhaps modest given the vehicle’s performance.

The Mercedes-AMG GT coupé is currently used at the official safety car in the Formula One World Championship, and according to Mercedes-Benz, along with other AMG variants at Company Car in Action, Mercedes-Benz helps illustrate the breadth of the range and ability of its models.

Company Car in Action is held at Millbrook Proving Ground, in Bedfordshire, and vehicles are available to drive on one or more of four circuits purpose built for appraising road vehicles.

Fleet decision makers have the opportunity to assess vehicles back to back in a controlled environment to help them make better decisions about the future make-up of their fleets. To book a place visit www.companycarinaction.com

Source: fleetnews.co.uk

CitroenTrio of new models due as DS cuts Citroen ties

The DS brand will expand its model range from three to six models before 2020.

The expansion of the new premium brand will follow its complete separation from Citroen by early 2016. This is the point at which the supermini DS3 model gets a model-year change, three months behind the DS4’s rebrand, which sees Citroen’s logo and branding removed completely as it seeks to establish DS as its premium offering.

The upper medium DS5 is first to show the new grille, dominated by the DS logo. The facelifted car arrives in the UK in July (see page 27 for the first test report).

DS has not confirmed what the extra three models will be, but said they would all be in “the fastest-growing segments”, and added that a crossover is likely. There are also plans for a plug-in hybrid, but Yves Bonnefont, DS global chief executive, would not reveal on which model or when it would arrive.

Bekir Hassan, DS and Citroen UK brand director, said: “DS will be our premium brand. We feel we have cars in the future that can certainly perform in that sector as the premier brand of PSA.”

DS will take a leadership position on technology, displaying advances in autonomous tech before it filters down to Citroen and Peugeot.

Hassan confirmed the UK as the biggest market for the DS3 in Europe, with one-in-three European DS3 registrations being right-hand drive models, a figure that rises to 45% for the cabrio version. The changes for the DS4 and then DS3 inside the next nine months will be cosmetic and not as pronounced as the DS5 facelift, with the new grille and DS logo replacing the Citroen one, ahead of all-new models arriving in 2017 and ’18.

Bonnefont wants to establish DS as a credible rival to German premium brands and admits it may take up to two model cycles or 15 years for this to happen. He also wants residual values to improve to be on par too.

He said: “We have to measure the strength of our brand by our RVs. Improving the RV on our products is a specific key performance indicator on our product programmes.”

The shift will also allow Citroen to become more individual, characterised, Hassan said, by the new Cactus crossover model, which “epitomises what Citroen stands for – it has a distinct identity”.

He added: “The 2CV also had a distinct identity and this is where we want to take the Citroen brand.”

Hassan said buyer habits are evolving, with customers wanting an economical and practical car more so than ever, but a car that’s “an experience, an extension of them”, with more personalisation, added value, innovation, practicality and connectivity.

Source: businesscar.co.uk

LexusLogoLexus, Infiniti pick potentially polarizing designs for Europe

Japanese premium automakers are counting on bold, potentially polarizing designs for their forthcoming small cars to lure customers in Europe from rivals BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. All premium brands competing in Europe are strengthening their lineups of fuel-efficient compact- and subcompact-sized offerings to better comply with the region’s toughening CO2 regulations.

Infiniti’s first moves in that direction are the Q30, a rival to the BMW 1 series, and the QX30, which is aimed at the Audi Q3. Lexus hinted at its plans for a rival to the Audi A1 and Mini with the Lexus LF-SA concept, which debuted at the Geneva auto show in March.

Source: Automotive News Europe

CO2Automakers, regulators and green campaigners set for CO2 battle

Automakers will meet with EU officials and green campaigners this month to open discussions on what will likely be a tough 2030 target for the reduction of CO2 emissions from new cars sold in Europe. The meeting likely will be tense. After achieving a 34 percent drop in emissions over the past 20 years, car companies say they are reaching the limit of what is doable. European Commission officials and environmental campaigners are likely to disagree with the automakers and instead seek further cuts to CO2 emissions, which are partly blamed for climate change. On June 18 the Commission will present studies evaluating areas including the need for CO2 cuts, which technologies will help meet the goal and whether investing to cut emissions will hurt automakers’ competitiveness.

The EU wants automakers to cut fleet CO2 emissions to 95 grams per kilometer by 2021, down from an average of 123.4g/km currently. The European Parliament voted last year for a CO2 target of 68g/km to 78g/km for 2025. The parliament’s target is an “indicative range” that has to go through consultation. The auto industry’s lobby group, ACEA, said on April 16 that “delivering on that aim requires ever greater technical investments to achieve smaller reductions.” The next target, for 2030, could be even tougher with the EU seeking a 30 percent reduction in emissions for the transport, housing and agricultural sectors — in essence asking carmakers to achieve in 10 years what they achieved in 20 years for the last set of targets. “This gives you the idea of the technological challenge we are facing,” said Massimo Beccarello, vice director for development, energy and environmental policy at Italy’s Confindustria business lobby.

The EU is marshaling its research to make an unassailable case for lower targets. For example, one of its studies debunks the assertion that European carmakers’ competitiveness has been hurt by the expense of creating emissions-reducing technology. Electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, fuel cell and natural gas-powered cars — and how to pay for them — will be crucial to reaching the new target, ACEA said. Automakers have introduced alternative powertrains such as EVs and plug-ins to their fleets, but most of the fuel-efficiency gains to date have come from improvements to traditional engines. That will have to change

Source: Automotive News Europe

DvlaDVLA website struggles with new rules on hiring a car

Motorists trying to access a new system for hiring a car have been experiencing problems with the DVLA website.

A number said the system – which does not apply in Northern Ireland – was not working properly, while some car hire firms struggled to cope with queues.

The changes, which involve the abolition of the paper counterpart, take effect on Monday 8 June.

But the DVLA said that more than 20,000 drivers had managed to access the site without difficulty.

From now on, motorists hiring a car may have to produce a special temporary code as evidence of their convictions.

The DVLA said it had been working on the new system “for months”.

Source: BBC News

McDonaldsWhat can dealers learn from McDonald’s and their dentists?

The words McDonald’s and dentist don’t often come up in our workshops, but author and consultant Rob Purfield said the motor trade can learn from them.

As part of McDonald’s’ sales process, said Purfield, you get asked if you “want fries with that”, “make it a meal”, “go large”. This upsell is something we have come to expect.

Similarly, if your service adviser asks a customer how they would like to pay – credit card, cash, service plan etc. – and they answer anything but ‘service plan’, Purfield said the service adviser should say “you haven’t got a service plan? I thought everyone did – I’ll talk to you about it when you come in”. This is a pre-sell, because they’re now wondering what a service plan is.

O2, Delphi and Vodafone are already offering on-board diagnostics tools to the independent aftermarket elsewhere in Europe.

“If I went to your service adviser and asked what a typical service plan costs, they’d probably give me a monthly payment,” he said, which can imply a cost to a customer.

What they probably should be saying is: “the service plan is free, it’s just a way of spreading your yearly service cost across the months”.

Purfield said dealers should make time-sensitive special offers available on the service desk, and incentivise service staff to sell them.

Another way of retaining customers, he said, is to ‘think like a dentist’ and book amber work in, in advance.

Source: am-online.com

TyreserveEpyx launches Tyreserve platform so dealers can serve fleets

A new e-commerce service designed to help franchise dealers compete for fleet tyre business has been launched by Epyx.

Tyreserve can be easily adopted by any garage that is registered as a supplier on Epyx’s 1link Service Network platform.

Similarly, fleets who use 1link Service Network can opt to employ Tyreserve as part of their normal, daily use of the platform to manage overall service and maintenance spending.

Currently, fleets users of the platform total more than three million vehicles, including all of the UK’s top 50 vehicle leasing companies.

A complete tyre catalogue is available through 1link Service Network that will be charged at agreed prices. Dealers can draw tyres from their own stock or order them from distributors via epyx.

David Goodyear, head of business development at Epyx, said: “At launch, we will have around 1,000 dealers signed up to offer Tyreserve from across a wide variety of franchises, which gives us a strong initial base of suppliers.

“Many, many franchise dealers do not really attempt to compete with fast-fits for tyre business at all but Tyreserve provides a mechanism for them to offer competitive pricing and a high level of customer service.”

“It is relatively common practice for a dealer to carry out a service on a company car or van, spot that tyres need replacing, and then advise the driver to take it to the nearest fast-fit.

“This is a waste of time for the driver and is not really a very good customer service offering. It makes much more sense for the vehicle to have its tyres replaced in the same workshop.”

“The success of a project like this very much depends on being able to achieve significant numbers and we should be able to announce our first signing very soon.

“We are seeing considerable fleet interest but really everything depends on franchise dealers coming on board and recognising the profit and service potential that exists.”

Source: fleetnews.co.uk

ChargerChargemaster completes 156 charge points for London Fire Brigade

Chargemaster has installed one hundred and fifty six charging points at seventy one fire stations and five other Brigade sites across London.

The electric vehicle charging equipment supplier has installed the points for the London Fire Brigade’s growing fleet of electric support vehicles. Eighteen of the points in 9 locations are also available for public use.

The brigade chose Chargemaster’s twin socket fast charging units that can supply charge at a rate of up to 22kW, claim the company.

Members of the public can use the charge points at Croydon, East Ham, Edmonton, Finchley, Hainault, Harold Hill, Hornsey, Ilford and New Malden fire stations, and can register for access and unlock the charging points on the spot via their smartphone.

The charging points are part of Chargemaster’s POLAR network, which they say is the largest in the country with over four thousand publicly available charging points.

Government funding contributed seventy five % to the total cost of installing the charging points, with the remaining cost being covered by Chargemaster.

Speaking about the co-funding deal between Chargemaster and the Department for Transport, transport minister Andrew Jones, commented: “I want cleaner, greener cars across the capital and this money will make a real difference. The Department for Transport’s funding for the 156 new charge points will make it easier for people to use these increasingly popular low emission vehicles. It is an example of Britain leading the way in developing sustainable transport options that are accessible to everyone.”

Chargemaster cheif executive officer, David Martell, said: “We are pleased to have worked with London Fire Brigade and to have invested in partnership with Government to expand the charging network available to electric vehicle users in the city. All charge points were installed on schedule and are now part of the UK’s most reliable charging network. We are committed to increasing the uptake of electric motoring in the UK and to make it as convenient as possible for motorists.”

London fire commissioner Ron Dobson, said: “I am delighted the Brigade’s electric vehicle charge points have been installed across London and are now ready for use by both Brigade staff and members of the public.

“Electric cars offer big environmental benefits and play an important part in keeping London clean. The new charging network not only makes it easy and convenient to charge up a car’s battery making electric cars easier to use, but also reaffirms London Fire Brigade’s commitment to lead on sustainability in the fire service and reducing our impact on the environment.”

The Brigade currently uses five electric cars through its lease car scheme and hopes to have a further five in its fleet towards the end of year, as a result of additional government funding secured from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles.

Source: fleetnews.co.uk

Ford1Ford adds 99g/km diesel to Transit Connect range

Ford is adding its Euro 6-compliant 1.5-litre diesel engine to its Transit Connect as part of a tweak to the range.

The engine is also fitted to the Transit Courier van. It emits 99g/km of CO2 and returns 74.3mpg, which Ford claims is a 6% improvement over the 1.6-litre diesel engine, already used in the Connect.

The minor update to the model range will also include the firm’s traffic sign recognition tool and lane keeping aid. Ford said the Connect is the first vehicle in its segment to offer the technologies.

“The Transit Connect has proved a real hit with European businesses thanks to its smart looks, great fuel economy and capable load space,” said Phil Hollins, commercial vehicle marketing, sales and service director at Ford, “With even lower fuel costs and amazing new technologies, Transit Connect delivers an even stronger proposition to our commercial customers.”

Source: businesscar.co.uk

BMWLogo“Car data: why closed networks could result in a closed shop.”

The European eCall Regulation will make the installation of the automatic new emergency call mandatory by 2018.

Wendy Williamson, Chief Executive of the IAAF, explains why BMW’s recent security loophole highlights further the aftermarket’s need for telematics to be tightened.

ADAC, the German motorist association, recently identified a flaw in BMW’s Connected Drive software, which uses an on-board SIM card and can operate door locks, air-conditioning and traffic updates, but no driving systems such as brakes or steering.

Researchers found that the cars would try to communicate via a spoofed phone network, leaving potential hackers able to control anything activated by the SIM and thieves able to unlock doors and track car data through a mobile phone without leaving a trace.

While BMW announced that these security loopholes were closed by the end of January 2015, the incident exemplifies the deficiencies in vehicle manufacturers’ current arguments in Brussels that only VMs’ closed proprietary systems are truly secure.

Interoperable networks

The IAAF & FIGIEFA, together with a wide alliance of consumer, automotive aftermarket, insurance and leasing company federations, has long advocated for secure, interoperable networks for vehicle connectivity. This proposal has been taken up as a principle by the new European eCall Regulation, which is particularly pertinent, as it makes the installation of the automatic new emergency call mandatory by 2018.

The platform would allow drivers to choose to whom they send their vehicle data, and under what terms and conditions, whilst maintaining the highest – constantly updated, state of the art – security standards for both communication to and from the vehicle, as well as within the vehicle. The required levels of safety and security would be further strengthened through the validation of applications by an independent authority prior to them being implemented.

Complete structure

Together, these measures would provide a complete safety and security structure whenever communicating or exchanging data with the vehicle.

Currently, independent operators, such as repairers, road-patrols or leasing companies, do not get the same wireless access to the vehicle’s technical data as VMs enjoy. This allows VMs to choose which companies eventually receive the data, under what conditions and timescales, and what services are allowed to be offered to consumers – thereby giving them an exclusive control over their vehicles’ data.

As a result, there is the threat of a monopolisation over the important ‘online’ data, crucial to ascertain the ‘health status’ of the vehicle when it is being driven and vital for the independent sector to continue to provide competitive, new and innovative services.

Source: pmmonline.co.uk

Euro6Will September’s Euro 6 really see the demise of the small diesel?

Experts say new emissions standards leave the future of diesel uncertain but hybrid technology looks positive

From September 2015, all new cars must be compliant with Euro 6 emissions standards, which aims to reduce the levels of harmful exhaust emissions such as nitrogen oxide (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (THC and NMHS) and particulate matter (PM).

The new regulations mean that Euro 6 diesel cars must emit more than 50 per cent less NOx than their Euro 5 counterparts.

The legislation has been under constant review since it was first established in 1992 when NOx limits stood at 490mg/km for petrol and 780mg/km for diesel engines.

The latest cuts come as the industry continues to fight-back against so-called diesel demonsiation and the threat of ultra low emissions zones, which could soon see diesel drivers having to pay extra to drive in the city.

Across the Channel, Paris’s mayor has called for diesel-engined cars to be banned from the city all together by 2020 – a bold step from a country that was once an advocate to diesel technology, says Blue Print’s Senior Technical Coordinator, Rob Head.

Source: garagewire.co.uk

DieselNewsExhaust sensor demand to rise as emissions standards tighten

New range of Lucas Electrical exhaust sensors will ensure businesses maximize the potential benefits

Lucas has said it is anticipating a quick and significant increase in demand for exhaust gas temperature and pressure sensors as more and more technologically advanced, environmentally friendly vehicles reach an age where they fall into the target market of the independent automotive repair sector.

European emissions standards define the acceptable limits for exhaust emissions of new vehicles sold throughout Europe.

In order to meet these standards vehicle manufacturers have introduced a host of new components to their vehicles that monitor and help to control harmful emissions.

The UK aftermarket is familiar with Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) Valves and Lambda (Oxygen) Sensors, which now feature on a large percentage of the cars on our roads.

The aftermarket is currently less familiar, Lucas Electrical say, with newer technological advancements such as Exhaust Gas Temperature Sensors (EGTS) and Exhaust Gas Pressure Sensors (EGPS), introduced as recently as 2008 to monitor conditions in the exhaust system.

Over 30 per cent of all new vehicles, including Volkswagen Automotive Group, Ford, Fiat, BMW, Renault and Mercedes, now use EGTS and EGPS.

EGPS plays a vital role in the regeneration of the Diesel Particulate Filter and so all sensors are built to original equipment specifications to ensure maximum longevity of the DPF.

Source: garagewire.co.uk

HalfordsHalfords Autocentre fined £47,000 following undercover sting

The company failed to fix 11 out of 20 defects deliberately fixed by Trading Standards

The national company failed to find more than half of the faults on the car.

An illegal Vauxhall Astra with broken or missing light bulbs, irregular tyre pressures, oil leaks and faulty windscreen wipers was sent to the Halfords Autocentre in Filton, Bristol by South Gloucestershire Council for a major service at a cost of £235.

Lee Reynolds, for the council, told North Avon Magistrates’ Court: “It became obvious that not all the checks were done.

“Things were ticked as having been done that had not been and the consumer was not made aware (of the defects).

“This is a national company. A consumer puts a lot of trust and faith in a national firm to do a proper job to ensure a car service is conducted thoroughly and professionally and in these circumstances it was not.”

Halfords pleaded guilty to eight counts of breaching consumer protection laws and Alex Tovey, who carried out the service, resigned.

Reports suggest the investigation was sparked by a rising number of complaints about the car industry in Bristol.

Magistrates fined the company £32,000, ordered them to pay £14,862.04 costs and a £120 victim surcharge.

Source: garagewire.co.uk

TVRTVR roars back into production with all-new Cosworth powered car

The iconic British brand is returning to the market with an all-new British designed and built sports car

With over a year of development already completed, the new sports car been is being developed in collaboration with Gordon Murray Design and Cosworth.

Les Edgar, Chairman of TVR said: “From the outset we only wanted to work with the best partners in the business, and both Gordon Murray’s and Cosworth’s track records within motor sport and high performance car design and engineering speaks for themselves.”

Full specifications and images are to be released later this year, but a press release has indicated that the new TVR will continue the tradition of a classic British two-seat sports car with a composite ground effect aero chassis and body package.

Powered by a dry-sumped, V8 engine, developed and engineered by Cosworth, the car will be front engined with rear wheel drive and a manual transmission.

UK production will begin in 2017 and pricing is thought to be consistent with TVR’s positioning in the past.

Gordon Murray, Chairman of Gordon Murray Design said: “TVR is an iconic brand which has been an important part of British sports car manufacturing for many decades.

“Its return to manufacturing is an exciting development and the car deserves the best chassis and powertrain that can possibly be delivered.”

Source: garagewire.co.uk

SurveyGarages not checking recall information

Survey finds 92% don’t check as standard

Vehicle supply company OSV has revealed the results of a survey suggesting local garages do not check vehicles for outstanding recalls.

Following the news that Toyota and Nissan are recalling over 6.5 million vehicles due to issues with airbags, the company wanted to find out whether garages were checking for notifications while a car is in for a service. After questioning 100 local garages, the company found that only 8% would check as standard.

43% of the garages explained that they would check for recalls if asked to by the cars owner but a whopping 49% of local garages do not and would not check for vital vehicle recalls.

OSV then decided to take the report one step further and find out how many people use local garages to service their vehicle over approved dealerships. Overall, 45% of the UK would take their vehicle to be serviced in a local garage, only 22% would take it to an approved dealership and then 33% did not have vehicles so could not take part.

Interestingly, women were more likely to take their car to an approved dealership. When comparing the results OSV found the figure rises to 29% for women but shrinks to just 15% for men.

Maybe not so surprising is the fact that OSV Ltd found that 18-24’s were less likely to book at an approved dealership. Only 11% of the participants in that age range take their car to an approved dealership. This could be down to a number of factors such as monetary constraints.

OSV Ltd surveyed 100 local garages and 500 UK residents.

Source: Aftermarket online

MercedesE-ClassMercedes’s new E class will offer automated driving at highway speeds

Drivers of Mercedes-Benz’s next-generation E-class sedan will have to get used to a startling feeling: the steering wheel moving in their hands as it pilots motorways and country lanes by itself.

What has so far only been shown in test situations will be available as of about March next year, when Daimler’s new model goes on sale. The technology packing the vehicle shows how quickly automated driving systems have advanced since 1998, when the Mercedes S class first featured cruise control that could adjust its speed to follow a car in front.

“Innovations in this area are coming thick and fast,” Thomas Weber, Daimler’s head of development, said in his office in Sindelfingen, near Stuttgart, Germany. “While we don’t want to feed wrong expectations such as sleeping in the car, autonomous driving is set to become a reality much more quickly than the public thinks.”

Self-driving systems are among many areas in which Mercedes is working to gain an edge on rivals Audi and BMW. Currently No. 3 in luxury-car sales, Daimler is fighting to take the lead in the segment by 2020.

It’s also testing the limits of what’s allowed under current regulations, which in most places require the driver to be in a position to control the vehicle at all times.

The E class, which competes with the BMW 5 series, Audi A6 and Lexus GS, is Mercedes’s bread-and-butter luxury sedan. Offering options more advanced than those in the flagship S class shows how much Daimler is raising the stakes in their battle to reclaim the top spot in high-end cars. Audi has already sent an unmanned RS7 around a track at racing speeds.

Source: Automotive News Europe

Posted by Sue Robinson on 12/06/2015