5 big motoring news stories from 2018
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Another year of motoring highs and lows, and — without a doubt — another year of change.
From the introduction of artificially intelligent (AI) vehicle technology and insects creating havoc, to increased crash testing criteria and a tease from Tesla, here are five events that made headlines in 2018.
1. Mercedes-Benz gets us talking to our cars
The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class launched in August and got us all talking — literally. It arrived fully equipped with a new intelligent voice control system enabled with natural speech comprehension, activated by saying “Hey Mercedes”.
Conventional voice control systems usually require fixed commands, but thanks to its natural speech recognition, “Mercedes” obeys virtually every command and recognises and understands most sentences, from infotainment to vehicle operation.
The system also has an AI learning capability, so it can suggest frequently used navigation routes or radio stations.
This technology was a factor in the A-Class winning the 2018 AA Driven NZ Car of the Year.
2. Stink bugs cause NZ vehicle import mayhem
In early 2018 many vehicle-carrying ships were turned away from New Zealand ports because of high-risk marmorated stink bug being found in cars.
The marmorated stink bug is a native insect in Japan. It hibernates in contained spaces during the northern winter and when threatened, releases a pungent odour. The bugs had the potential to cause hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to the New Zealand economy if they made it ashore.
Our vehicle import industry felt the impact when thousands of vehicles couldn’t be unloaded and the ships were turned away to be treated.
3. Tesla teases NZ
In August, the much anticipated “cheaper” Tesla Model 3 landed on our shores. The only problem was it arrived as a left-hand-drive variant, meaning it couldn’t be driven in New Zealand. However, the purpose of the launch was to whet the appetite of those who had placed a deposit and desired to be the first to own one in New Zealand.
The new model is minimalistic in design, with innovations such as key unlock using a smartphone app, and vehicle functions and adjustments all managed through a central command screen.
4. The end is nigh ... well, almost ...
In December, Volkswagen indicated that the last generation of combustion-engine Volkswagen cars were under development and would be introduced in 2026. Beyond that date, new models will be built on one of its several upcoming electric car platforms.
Meanwhile, Volvo had announced earlier in the year that, starting with the new S60, it was dropping diesel engines. “Our future is electric and we will no longer develop a new generation of diesel engines,” Volvo president and CEO Hakan Samuelsson said. “We will phase out cars with only an internal combustion engine with petrol hybrid versions as a transitional option, as we move towards full electrification.”
5. Ancap aligns with Euro NCAP
In January, these two safety organisations aligned and now share common test and assessment protocols.
The alignment has seen an overhaul of testing processes and the addition of extra requirements in order to get that all-important 5-star safety rating.
A change to the scoring system sees the previous “best out of 37” tally replaced with the EuroNcap model of four pillars of safety performance.
These four important areas of assessment are: Adult Occupant Protection, Child Occupant Protection, Pedestrian Protection and Safety Assist — active safety technology such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane Support System (LSS) and Speed Assistance Systems (SAS).