Category: Technology

Which vehicle tracking system is best for you?

Technology Tuesday: Vehicle Tracking, what is the best option for you?

I’ve heard many people say they don’t want to install a vehicle tracking unit in their vehicle because if their car gets stolen, they don’t want it back. This is understandable because the feeling of violation that is felt after your car gets stolen is one people shouldn’t have to go through. That being said, a vehicle tracking system – in crime riddled South Africa is a very useful thing to have in your car, for a few reasons. The obvious one being that if they steal your car, it can be recovered. The second one being that through the process of your car getting recovered, the police can expose car theft syndicates and arrest bad people. Another big reason why people are getting vehicle tracking units installed, is because having one fitted into your car lowers your insurance premium (slightly). Most people who have had a tracker fitted in their car, were probably sold one when they bought the car at the dealership.

The question is, if you’re going to get a vehicle tracking system fitted, which one is the best for you? The reason for this question is because the vehicle tracking business is a very big one, with various options available. Your sales person will rattle off names like “Retrieve”, “Alert” and all other complicated jargon. So today we want to make things slightly easier. The two main systems that we feel should be of importance to you are these: “Dormant” versus “Active” systems. Generally you have entry level vehicle tracking systems that lie dormant in the car until activated when an emergency happens. For instance, if your car gets stolen overnight whilst you’re sleeping, only when you wake up and realise that your car is gone will you then phone the tracking company to begin the process. Whereas an active system is basically “awake” all the time, with signals that tell the tracking company if there is unauthorised entry into the car. Personally we feel that the latter system is the better one to choose because if you only realise that your car is stolen after an 8 hour sleep, it can be too late.

There are other more sophisticated tracker’s nowadays, system that allow for you to have an app that gives you a live location for your car. These systems are very nifty as they can pinpoint various details such as vehicle speed and the tracking company will even alert you when you enter into an unsafe area. You as the consumer have many options to choose from when it comes to vehicle tracking. So next time when your sales person is talking the usual jargon, ask him or her if it’s a dormant or active system and choose the one that is best for you. Happy Tech Tuesday Motorists.

*Image courtesy of : www.pictures.dealer.com

Does the aircon really waste fuel?

Technology Tuesday: Does the aircon really waste fuel?

Being young comes with many positives, you have energy, optimism and your whole life ahead of you. What many young people don’t have is money and as we know, money makes things happen. Money gets you those nice clothes, pays for your nights out and puts an important liquid into your car. That important liquid called petrol is one of the most important factors in a young persons life. It often is the deciding factor regarding where you’re going to go out that night or even if you’re going to go out that night.

I’m sure you have been in a car with your friends during the burning summer, windows rolled down but the breeze still feels like a sauna. You suggest that the driver switches the aircon on but he or she replies, “My dad said the aircon wastes petrol so I can’t switch it on”. At this point it’s so hot you’re willing to sacrifice your food money, to pay for the supposed fuel that will be wasted because the aircon is on. The real question is, does the aircon really waste fuel? Or is it just an urban legend told by the older generation to troll us? Well here’s a little run down as to how the aircon works.

The aircon is powered by the a device called the alternator, this device uses power from the engine to charge the battery of the car. The aircon has a compressor which also uses power from the alternator. Since all the components use engine power, when they’re working they put added stress to the engine of the car, forcing it work harder and use more fuel. So yes, having the aircon on does indeed use more fuel when driving. So what is the alternative? Simply rolling the windows down? Not entirely.

Rolling the windows down causes more drag on the car (wind travelling against the car at speed) and this also wastes more fuel. The amount of drag on your car depends what on speeds you are travelling, so if you’re on the highway there will be more drag if your windows are open and your car will use more fuel. There will be dramatically less drag on your car if you are travelling in the city at lower speeds and the effect on your fuel consumption will be decreased. Smart people have researched this topic extensively and have come up with the following conclusion. When you’re driving on the highway, it is more fuel efficient to travel with your windows up and the aircon on because the drag on your car wastes more fuel than having the aircon on. Whereas when you’re in the city travelling at lower speeds, it is better to have you’re aircon off and your windows down because the drag is far less when you’re driving slower.

So when you’re cruising on the streets with your mates, you’re going to have to bear with the hot winds in the summer if you plan on saving more fuel. The good thing is that when you go for road trips or long distances, you can confidently put the aircon on and know that you’re not wasting petrol. Happy Tech Tuesday Motorists.

Image courtesy of www.ncae.com.au

Mileage fraud: Things to look out for when buying a used car.

Tech Tuesday: Mileage fraud

Buying a new car is a process filled with different emotions. On the one hand, you’re excited, on the other hand you’re frustrated because the process is never as seamless as you want it to be. Buying a used car is a whole different ball game though, usually there is more frustration that happiness involved. Many questions come to your mind when you’re thinking of buying a used car. If you’re at a dealership the situation is better because there are laws in place to protect you as a consumer but if you’re buying a used car privately, it’s a whole different process. The term “voetstoets” (as is) comes into play and that term means you have to be extra careful before paying anyone for their used goods. One question in particular comes to mind for many buying a used car, especially if it is online on mediums such as Gumtree or OLX. “Is it possible that the previous owner changed the mileage on the car?” you may ask yourself.

The simple answer to that question is yes. There is and has always been technology to change the mileage on a car. Most vehicles today have digital odometers that can be manipulated using a computer and specific software. Another way the mileage can be changed on a car is if a different cluster is installed, one reflecting less kilometres than what the car really has. Are there ways to see if this was done to a car you are interested in buying? Yes. First things first, you need to use discretion. If the cars mileage is too good to be true for the year model of the car, chances are it’s too good to be true. You do get scenarios where the mileage advertised is real, as low as it is. The best way to get to the bottom of it though is to ask for a service history. A service history on the car is essential to see if the mileage is genuine or not.

Instead of relying on a good ol’ service book, I would phone any dealership that sells that brand and ask for a vin number check up. This allows you to check if all services were done and at what mileage there were done. If the mileage doesn’t match, be weary. If the car has a partial service history with the agents and the rest of the history with a private service centre, check both the establishments but again, be weary. The truth is when buying a used car, unless its someone you know very well, be very careful where and how you buy your car. With today’s technology there are systems which allow you to track your car and even see what speed it’s going, so changing the mileage on a car is not an impossible thing to do. So remember when you’re in the process of buying a used car, use discretion and do your research. A little bit of scrutiny can take you far, but closer to what your future cars’ mileage really is. Happy Tech Tuesday Motorists.

*image courtesy of www.stopfraudcolorado.gov

The Technology Behind You Getting a Fine

Tech Tuesday: Speed Cameras and how they work.

There’s nothing like travelling on the highway, minding your own business on your way to wherever you’re going and then FLASH, you’ve just gotten a ticket. Automatically you slam the brake as if that will reverse time and the fine will disappear. When you realise that it’s too light late you then go into the different stages of grief.

Denial: “I’m sure it wasn’t me they flashed, I wasn’t doing more than 120” you think to yourself, but you’re unsure, that Katy Perry song had you distracted.

Anger: “Who do these cops think they are? They’re so busy looking for people speeding but they don’t do anything about taxi drivers!” You scream to yourself, but deep down you know you’re wrong.

Bargaining: “Please God don’t let it be me that they fined, I promise if you let it be someone else, I’ll go to church every Sunday” you pray, because you may or may not have been travelling over 160 kph.

Depression: “I knew one day this was going to happen, I just hope I braked below 160 kph, if not they’ll come arrest me at home” you think to yourself, knowing it was definitely you they fined.

Acceptance: “It is what it is, whatever happens will happen, isn’t the post office still on strike? I hope they’re still on strike so they won’t deliver the fine to my house” you say hoping that it gets lost and never makes it your house.

If you’ve ever wondered how our friends in orange, blue and white manage to fine us, especially on the highway, well here is a brief explanation. Most speed traps use a camera with a radar system which fires a frequency on the road and picks up what speed each moving object is coming at. Once the radar picks up that you’re above the speed limit, it then captures your number plate and the rest is history. These radar systems can pick up vehicles on multiple lanes and capture individual vehicles because of the angle that they’re set-up at, so no you can’t dodge a fine if there are other cars next to you.

The other type is the fixed cameras such as the ones at stop lights. These systems use embedded wires on the road that can detect speed and again if you’re over the limit or you’re crossing the stop light when its red, it will capture your vehicle. The last type which are more rare are the average speed cameras. These are notoriously known on the N3 on route to KwaZulu Natal. These cameras use maths and a picture to decide if you’re eligible for a fine or not. Once you pass the first set, a picture of your registration is taken and the system knows that it should take you a specific amount of time to reach the next set of cameras. When you reach the next set another picture is taken. If you have gotten there before the average time it should take you if you were driving the correct speed, you will be fined.

It’s that simple, well it’s not really simple but you understand what we mean. There are many devices on offer to help you detect a speed camera, but really the best option is to slow down. From an expensive point of view, it’s better to slow down. From a safety point of view, it’s better to slow down, even if you are an excellent driver and you can handle yourself, it’s the other person that you can’t handle. Lastly from a stress point of view, it’s better to just slow down. No-one wants to go through the stages of grief over a fine, worse yet no-one wants officer Mazibuko and Oom Piet visiting their house. Happy Tech Tuesday.

Image courtesy of www.iol.co.za

One more gear to brag about: Nine speed automatic

Technology Tuesday

Ah, the old discussion about gearboxes. A topic so heavily discussed by car people both young and old. Long ago, it was a cause to brag when you told someone you had a five speed gearbox. My grandfather was in awe in his later years when he found out that many cars now had six speed gearboxes. The debate was mainly between the automatic camp versus the manual camp though. Those for the automatic punted the effortless driving experience it created and the ease of driving an automatic. Those against the automatic judged it for its poor fuel economy and the lack of connection it created for the driver. Both parties were right, but in the time we’re living in, things have changed.

Automatic gearboxes have become the preferred choice for the majority, even if you are an enthusiast. The reason for that is because companies such as ZF have refined the automatic gearbox so well, you get the best of both worlds in one package. Of course you cannot heal and toe in an automatic and you don’t feel the same sensation that you feel when your’e manually changing gears. The reality though is that even if you’re a hardcore enthusiast, your’e not in “race” mode all the time. Most times you will be in “traffic” mode, “family” mode and even “it’s Friday and I’m exhausted after a long week” mode. So like it or not, the automatic is the gearbox to choose.

Enthusiasts don’t have much to winge about too since the automatics on offer nowadays in many cars aren’t sluggish, fuel guzzling and annoying as they used to be. The eight speed automatic made by ZF and found in cars such as BMW are amazing to drive. Now ZF offers something even better, a nine speed automatic. Why on earth would you need a nine speed gearbox you many wonder? Fuel economy for one and a better driving experience too. The ZF nine speed is apparently 16% more fuel efficient than a six speed automatic gearbox. In terms of better driving experience, someone once illustrated it this way, he said “a gearbox is like a manual labourer, the more tools he has, the better he can do his job”. This is very true because with right amount of gears and the right settings on the gearbox, your car will always be in the right gear for the task it needs to do.

This gearbox is available in  South Africa on cars such as the Land Rover Discovery Sport (New Freelander) and Jeep’s new Renegade but not many other cars in our country are using it at the moment. I’m sure in time though we will see more cars using the nine speed automatic soon, when they do, people will have one more gear to brag about, for good reason too. Happy Technology Tuesday.

*Photo courtesy of www.autoenthuse.com

Tech Tuesday: Mercedes AMG GT and GTS in South Africa

Each time I have to go on a trip, packing is my biggest fear. What items should I take? Will it get cold? Is eleven pairs of underwear enough? All these questions run through my head and after I have figured it all out, I then ask myself, how is all this going to fit in my suitcase? I don’t like to lug around a big bag when going on a trip, I’m only 5 foot 7 so I look ridiculous if I carry a whale of a suitcase. At the risk of sounding redundant, I’ll let you in on my secret of how I manage to fit a lot of clothing in a small suitcase. My mother. Yes I said it, as a grown man my mother still advises me on how to pack my suitcase in the most effective way. This is how she does it, she removes non essentials and then systematically arranges the pants and shirts and then places the toiletries in the middle of it all and voila, I’m set.

I’m not the only who uses their mothers experience to assist them in important tasks. Mercedes’s tuning mother had to do the same for the development of the new AMG GT and GTS which is being launched in South Africa today. Mercedes had a similar problem to me, it needed to fit 4.0 litres of an engine and two turbochargers in quite a small body and still create 375kW and 650Nm of torque in the GTS and 350kW and 600Nm of torque in the GT. So Mommy AMG advised them to fit the turbochargers in the V section of the 8 cylinders in order to save weight and increase throttle response, she calls this the “Hot V setup”, an effective way of packaging the engine. She then further advised them to use a dry sump setup in order to lower the centre of gravity of the car and therefore better the handling. She also got rid of non essentials to save weight but still kept important creature comforts, but used an aluminium body to house all these items. As a result you get a 3,8 second 0- 100Kph time for the GTS and a 4,0 second time of the GT. Not bad Mommy, not bad.

The AMG GT and GTS are very pretty cars indeed, the cars are the replacement for the SLS AMG, so gone are the gull-wing doors and the normally aspirated V8. The sacrifice of fancy doors is a small one compared to the new technologies introduced by “Mommy” in the new AMG GT and GTS. Tis an interesting time to be in the Porsche 911 market, because Mercedes’s little monster is a very appealing package indeed, at the right price as well. The GT will start at around R1.7M and the GTS at around R2M. Let’s see what happens between these two rivals in the very near future, it could be a case of the old “my Mom is stronger than you’re Mom” debate.

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Tech Tuesday: Forgetting where you parked is so last year…

If you have been around many females, the saying “so last year” is something that you’ve heard before. Whether it’s shoes,bags or even the colour black, anything can be “so last year”. In the future though, losing your car in a car park will be so last year too. Let me explain why. See technology in cars is so advanced nowadays, you can sit in your home and see various details about your cars from your phone by means of an app. With some brands you can check what your fuel range is in your car, whilst sitting on your couch or office. BMW call it Connected Drive, Mercedes calls it Connect me and Audi calls it MMI Connect.

These apps are all different but they all have similar features. For instance, BMW and Mercedes’ apps have a nifty feature that uses the cars sensors to inform emergency services if you have been involved in an accident. Audi and Mercedes’ apps allows you to locate your car after you have parked it, a feature that will prove to be very helpful to city folk who park in multi story car parks. All three apps enhance your GPS functionality and work with your phone to help you navigate yourself to the exact destination you need to go. All these apps ensure you that you are connected to your car in a more convenient way, through the one object we can’t do without, our cell phones. We feel that this technology is very useful. As long as it is used correctly these apps can prove to be very beneficial to the driver. A few years ago, the best technology that linked a phone to a car was bluetooth, but now that’s so last year.

*image taken from www.mercedesbenz.com.au

Tech Tuesday: Volkswagen’s Trailer Assist

Once upon a time, my mother decided to move her business premises. Instead of hiring a moving company, she did what any mother with two sons working in the motor industry would do, she exploited us. My brother and I both had access to Bakkies that we could use for personal use, provided we bought the relevant manager some lunch.  I used a Volkswagen Amarok, a bakkie that can tow at ease and my brother used an Isuzu KB, another great workhorse. I needed to tow a large trailer, which I thought would be a cinch and it was in fact. I felt like such a hardcore guy in my big Volkswagen Amarok, which was then fitted with higher suspension and a Taxi proof nudge bar. My hardcore feelings of manliness were ruined when the time came for me to park this man truck that was lugging fridges and washing machines.

I had never parked a car towing a trailer before, let alone a two ton Bakkie. I then did what any other man would do, I tried anyway.  In hindsight, I should have admitted to my shortcomings before attempting the manoeuvre and allowed my brother who had parked a car pulling a trailer before to take over. The sound of a trailer knocking into something isn’t good, nor is the sound of the people watching all this happen. So you can be sure that I was quite pleased when I heard that new Volkswagen Passat will have an option called “Trailer-Assist”. As the name states, this option will be brilliant for people like myself to avoid embarrassment and even emasculation. The system uses the Park Assist option as its base but makes it better. The great thing is that Trailer Assist even helps you when it comes to matching up the hitch and the car, ensuring that you look like a professional all the time. My gripe with Park Assist is that it seldom works the way you want it to, so I hope the folks at Volkswagen will get this feature right. The video below has given me the confidence to say that this will be a very useful option to those who pull trailers frequently. Happy Tech Tuesday Motorists.

Tech Tuesday: Samsung’s Transparent Truck

Your’e late for work and nothing is going your way. For starters, the alarm “failed” and you didn’t wake up when you were supposed to. Secondly, all your socks were missing their right partner, so after searching for a matching pair for what seems like an eternity you decided that no one will notice that black and blue are different colours. You skipped breakfast to make up for lost time and merely gargled three seconds of Listerine before you jumped into your car and headed out. To make up for lost time, you drive faster than usual, only two find a truck larger than your mother in laws friend blocking your way. Trying to overtake it seems is basically like playing Russian roulette, the only difference is that instead of a possible bullet, a moving piece of machinery could be the cause of death. At this point, your inner voice tells you to choose wisely and live another day, so instead you scream obscenities in your car and carry on at 20Kph until its safe to overtake. Does this scenario seem familiar? Samsung understands. That is why they have adopted a very nifty set-up that could save your life and even your job.

What happens when you place a camera in the front of a truck and transmit what it sees to four large screens in the back of the truck? A transparent truck is what you get. Cool right? This is all part of an initiative that Samsung is piloting to see how they can help with road safety. We think it’s brilliant! In a perfect world, if a system like this was rolled out, imagine the amount of happy motorists there would be? Especially in big cities where trucks are the bane of many drivers lives. There is a problem though. Money. Last we checked, four large screens weren’t cheap and expensive is not a word that accountants of big businesses like. So the likelihood of technology like this coming to fruition on a large scale is probably slim. The concept of it is awesome though and for that, Samsung, we salute you. Happy Tech Tuesday Motorists.

Tech Tuesday: All that in an Opel Corsa?

It’s no secret that Opel has recently undergone some brand rejuvenation through its current offerings. Not too long ago you would look at the Corsa and think “meh”, but now you stop and think “hmm”. The Adam is a funky little car and I quite liked it. The Corsa seems a little more grown up but still maintains the funky persona found in its new sibling, the Adam. As I have mentioned in previous articles, a customer  looking for something entry level will struggle to find a terrible car when comparing between the major brands. The competition is tight, so manufacturers have to make sure that they’re on their “A” game to stay in the running. So much so that nowadays you can get an entry level car with more spec in it than a luxury saloon from ten years ago.

The new Opel Corsa is an example of this, the Cosmo (top of the range version) for instance has xenons, bluetooth, touch screen radio and rain sensors as standard equipment. This is on top of the spicy little 1.0l 85kw/170Nm engine it has. Now if that doesn’t get it’s competitors sweating than maybe the fact that you can even get Park Assist as an option will. We spoke about saloons from ten years ago remember? Forget those cars, the Corsa of that time itself was as basic as a loaf of bread, now I can get Park Assist in the current one? That’s progression I tell you. Is it overkill? I don’t think so, let me tell you why. If you’re a person who has been around for a while, certain features like a touch screen radio and park assist will mean nothing to you. It’s all gimmicks to that type of client. The older generation that grew up on cassette players and cigarette lighters don’t get ditsy about things like those. My dad often says “as long as I can send texts and make calls, that’s fine”.

I on the other hand, being part of a newer generation, want something that can text, call, email and Instagram at the same time. Why? Because that is what I am used to. So when it comes to cars, for the target market of the new Opel Corsa, it makes sense to throw in all the options because that is what that target market wants. We are the gimmick generation and gimmicks sell. I wouldn’t say that the new Corsa is full or gimmicks, I would refer to them as “luxuries”. As much as I don’t like Park Assist in any car, the fact that you can get it in an entry level car like the new Opel Corsa makes me wonder what will be available in 2025. Happy Tech Tuesday