Rwanda a go for VWSA

Volkswagen South Africa’s previously announced plans for an operation in Rwanda kicked into high gear in the capital, Kigali, today with the formal registration of the company Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda.

This means the roll out of Volkswagen’s integrated automotive mobility solution, a first for the Volkswagen Group, under the auspices of Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA), which is responsible for the Sub Saharan African Region.

Thomas Schaefer, Chairman and Managing Director of Volkswagen Group South Africa, says: “In December 2016 Volkswagen signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to conduct a detailed study to develop a business case for Volkswagen to introduce an integrated automotive mobility concept in Rwanda, which would be a first for Volkswagen worldwide.

“Our studies are complete and we believe we have a business case that will work and we are now ready to commence with the implementation of our plans for Rwanda. In short after today there is no going back, we are now fully committed to implementing our unique integrated automotive mobility solution in Rwanda together with Rwandans.”

VWSA chose Rwanda as the country in Africa to study the feasibility of an integrated automotive mobility solution for the following reasons:-

  • There is political stability and zero tolerance for corruption
  • There is dynamic economic growth of some 7% per annum
  • There is a young and tech savvy population
  • Rwanda is a leader in innovation and technology
  • Volkswagen have received strong support for our plans from Government and had great cooperation and support from the RDB
  • There is a real need for modern mobility solutions
  • Kigali is spearheading the smart city agenda

Volkswagen will adopt a phased approach in the implementation of the integrated automotive mobility solution and the first phase will focus on:

  • Establishing a local Mobility Services company
  • Oversee the establishment of a Volkswagen manufacturing and sales entity
  • Set up a vehicle assembly operation
  • Establish a sales and service structure
  • Set up a training centre
  • Offer the new mobility solution

“The production facility will have an initial annual installed capacity of up to 5 000 units, with 2018 being our start-up year. The Volkswagen product portfolio will initially include the Hatchback Polo, the Passat, a sedan and possibly the Teramont, a large SUV,” says Schaefer.

Volkswagen will run the production and retail operations, which will include the importation of other Volkswagen models to be sold on the Rwandan market.

The current business plan assumes employment of between 500 and 1 000 people in Kigali in phase one for Mobility Solutions admin, production, training, sales and service and the drivers..

A Rwandan software development start-up company Awesomity Lab has been appointed to develop the mobility App. Volkswagen is also in negotiation with other potential Rwandan suppliers.

The first service to be offered will be community car sharing, which will launch in quarter two, with around 150 vehicles in service within a few months. This will be followed by a ride hailing service with some initial 150 vehicles planned in the medium term still in 2018.

In 2019 public car sharing with some initial 250 cars planned will be launched and this will be followed by a shuttle service and lastly a peer to peer car sharing service is envisaged.  These numbers are based on assumed market demand, as such an innovative integrated mobility solution is a first for the automotive industry.

All the mobility services will be accessed by the custom developed App through which all bookings and payment will be made. Services will also be able to be booked online or via a hotline to cater for people who do not have a smartphone.

Some US $20-million (R246-million) will be spent in Rwanda by VWSA during phase one of the integrated automotive mobility solutions.

“We are delighted with the progress that has been made since we signed the MOU with Volkswagen in 2016. We are ready to partner with Volkswagen as they implement their integrated automotive mobility solutions as well as vehicle assembly operation in Rwanda.

“Our country is determined to become the leading innovator in Africa.  This project is in line with Rwanda’s policies to protect the environment, create jobs, and reduce our trade deficit. We are confident that this partnership will help create countless opportunities for young Rwandans not only in terms of employment but also in terms of skills transfer,” says Clare Akamanzi, CEO of the RDB.

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Limitless concept

The sharply chiselled lines of the luxury Lexus NX go even further on the LF-1 Limitless concept car, presented at the Detroit Auto Show – as does the tech installed in what the company calls a ‘new genre’ of luxury vehicle.

Combining high performance with unrestrained luxury, the Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept is a showcase of technology, innovation and the latest evolution of design at Lexus.

The concept envisages fully autonomous driving and could be powered by fuel cells, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, petrol or even all-electric. By around 2025, every Lexus model around the world will be available either as a dedicated electrified model, or have an electrified option.

Lexus International president; Yoshihiro Sawa says Lexus models such as the RX had helped drive the global popularity of the luxury SUV category.

“This new crossover concept captures a future that involves a high level of dynamic capability and utility matched by a more exciting, emotional design that we hope challenges expectations in the category,” he says.

The innovative spirit styling of the LF-1 was created at CALTY Design Research in California.

The design language is rooted in the design concept of ‘molten katana’ – fusing the organic shapes of liquid (molten) metal with the sharp edges of a traditional Japanese sword (katana).

CALTY Design Research president Kevin Hunter said imagining that shift – from a smooth, flowing mass into a solid, chiselled shape – formed the basis for the fluid, yet aggressive design of the LF-1.

“This is our vision for a new kind of flagship vehicle that embraces crossover capability without giving up the performance and luxury delivered by today’s top sedans,” Hunter says. “The Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept incorporates imaginative technology while creating a strong emotional connection by improving the human experience for the driver and passengers.”

The LF-1 has an exaggerated dash-to-axle ratio (long bonnet, short front overhang)  and combined with a cabin that sits deep within the rear-wheel-drive chassis and aggressive 22-inch wheels under bulging fenders, has a powerful stance that conveys its performance intentions at a glance.

Like all current Lexus models, the spindle grille on the LF-1 is a core element to the overall design. On the LF-1, it has been taken even further: details suggest the start of the spindle forms at the rear of the vehicle, then continues forward toward the nose.

The grille itself features a three-dimensional design with colours developed in-house by CALTY. Ridges radiating away from the central emblem suggest magnetism guiding metal filings into shape. There is no chrome, as the LF-1 instead uses LED lighting around the grille that greets you on arrival.

The Lexus LF-1 rear features a split roof spoiler and there are interesting curves and details along every inch of the rear fascia. The sculpted openings at each corner might look like exhaust pipes, but they are actually vents for the air coming past the rear wheels.

The cockpit is designed to allow the driver to concentrate on the task at hand: distracting analogue knobs and buttons have been removed in favour of motion-activated controls and a minimalist display directly ahead.

The front passenger space is far more open, with even fewer controls and a wide unobstructed dashboard. Those in back get the same seats as those in front with expansive legroom and individual display screens for adjusting the climate control or entertainment options.

Technology enhances the luxurious feel of the LF-1 by expanding the options offered to the driver. It starts with the LF-1’s Chauffeur mode, which allows for hands-free operation thanks to the vehicle’s by-wire steering, braking, acceleration, lights and signals.

For engaged driving, all powertrain controls are on the steering wheel to keep the driver focused on the road. Paddles mounted to the steering wheel control the transmission in manual mode for sporty driving while buttons on the lower section of the steering wheel engage standard drive mode options like park and reverse.

There is also a four-dimensional navigation system, which builds on traditional systems by adding the element of time to the equation.

It acts as a concierge for the occupants by anticipating the needs of the driver and passengers based on the progress, traffic and road conditions along the programmed trip, suggesting fuel stops, rest breaks and restaurants, even offering to make hotel reservations.

Navigation and route information are displayed on the in-dash monitor, the rear seat entertainment screens, or wirelessly connected to passengers’ tablets and smart phones.

Touch-responsive haptic controls easily reached from the steering wheel link provide a seamless interface with the 4D navigation system and integrated comfort and entertainment systems.

A touch-tracer pad embedded in the leather-covered centre console supports character recognition for data entry. An additional haptic controller in the rear-seat centre console allows passengers to make their own comfort and entertainment choices.

 

 

Slight improvement

For the first time in four years total vehicle sales in South Africa for the year have gone up with 2017 showing a 1,8% percent improvement over 2016.

The new vehicle industry ended 2017 on a positive note, according to the annual sales data from the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa).  Despite December 2017’s year-on-year sales declining 2,4%, the year-to-date new car sales for 2017 still grew 1,8%. In total, 557 586 new vehicles were sold in South Africa during 2017.

“The new vehicle market’s positive performance for the last year was almost exactly in line with our forecast of 1.74% growth,” says Rudolf Mahoney, Head of Brand and Communications, WesBank. “This can be attributed to the Rand being resilient in the face of volatility and the South African economy performing better than anticipated. However, the economy is still underperforming and faces a long road to recovery.”

In the second half of 2017, OEMs were able to stave off price increases as the Rand firmed against foreign currencies. This allowed manufacturers to pass value back to consumers through very attractive marketing incentives when purchasing new vehicles.

WesBank’s data for 2017 also reflected the continued shift back to the new vehicle market, especially when measuring demand through the number of vehicle finance applications received. Demand for new vehicles rose 6,4% in December, while demand for used vehicles slowed 0,2%. Overall, demand for new vehicles grew 3% in 2017, while demand for used vehicles declined 1,5%.

Since the introduction of the Polo and Polo Vivo in 2010, Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) has been passenger market leader every year. The Volkswagen Group ended the year with 80 308  sales giving VWSA a total market share of 21,8%, with the Volkswagen brand achieving 18,9% share in a run out year of its volume models.

“The Polo Vivo and Polo remained the first and second best-selling passenger cars in 2017, which is also for the seventh consecutive year – this is an incredible achievement for the Volkswagen brand considering that we effectively ran out of supply in December of the key models which is illustrated by the unusually low 14,8% market share we achieved in December,” says VWSA Chairman and Managing Director Thomas Schaefer.

“I am delighted by the performance of both the Volkswagen and Audi brands in 2017 and know that we will do even better in 2018”,

Volkswagen will be launching the new Polo later this month which will be followed by the Polo Vivo still in this quarter.

According to Naamsa, export sales recorded a decline in December, 2017 and at 17 374 units reflected a fall of 1 333 vehicles or 7,1% compared to the 18 707 vehicles exported during December, 2016.  This was largely attributable to the effect of model run out and new model introduction of the new VW Polo range in 2018.

Annual aggregate annual industry sales by sector, since 2014, were as follows –

 

Sector

 

2014 2015 2016 2017 2017 / 2016

% Change

Cars 438 938 412 478 361 264 368 068 +1.9%
Light Commercials 173 492 174 701 159 283 163 346 +2.6%
Medium Commercials 10 780 10 394 8 315 7 785 -6.4%
Heavy Trucks,  Buses 20 534 20 075 18 685 18 387 -1.6%
Total Vehicles 643 744 617 648 547 547 557 586 1.8%

Source:  Lightstone Auto, NAAMSA

Whilst the modest improvement was welcome, the figures should be seen in the context of industry sales 11 years ago when the domestic market recorded an all-time high sales number of 714 314 units of which the new car market had represented 481 558 vehicles.

2017 Vehicle exports represented the third highest annual Industry export figure on record and total vehicle exports at 329 053 units were down on the 344 820 vehicles exported in 2016 – a decline of 15 767 units or a fall of 4,6%.

2017 Industry export sales data, compared to previous years, were as follows –

  2015 2016 2017 2017 / 2016

% Change

Cars 229 723 238 547 221 928 -7.0%
Light Commercials 103 000 105 219 106 126 +0.9%
Trucks & Buses 1 124 1 054 999 -5.2%
Total Exports 333 847 344 820 329 053 -4.6%

Source:  Lightstone Auto, NAAMSA

South African financial markets have reacted positively to the outcome of the December, 2017 ANC elective conference.  However, economic and fiscal policy uncertainty, political challenges, the risk of further credit rating downgrades and increasing geo-political tensions make forecasting difficult.

On the positive side, several recent economic indicators support the view the South African economy is performing better than anticipated despite low levels of business and consumer confidence.  Barring a further credit rating downgrade, an improvement in economic growth from about 1,0% in 2017 to around 1,9% in 2018 remains possible and this would lend support to new vehicle sales in the domestic market.

The substantial improvement in the Reserve Bank’s leading indicator of economic activity heralds improved economic prospects. Also on an encouraging note, the positive global economic environment – with International Monetary Fund projections of 3,7% global expansion – will lend support to industry export sales.

Faster economic growth remains an imperative to address South Africa’s socio-economic challenges and to take pressure off strained public finances and overburdened taxpayers.  In this context, concerted steps are needed by Business, Government and Labour to create a more investor-friendly environment as a means of boosting growth.

NAAMSA anticipates further modest improvement in domestic new vehicle sales during 2018 as well as further growth in vehicle exports and industry production numbers.

The outlook for 2018 in terms of Industry domestic vehicle sales by sector

 

Sector

 

2015 2016 2017 2018 Projected
Cars 412 478 361 264 368 068 375 000
Light Commercials 174 701 159 283 163 346 170 000
Medium Commercials 10 394 8 315 7 785 8 000
Heavy, Extra Heavy, Commercials, Buses 20 075 18 685 18 387 19 000
Total Vehicles 617 648 547 547 557 586 572 000

 

 

Road Impressions – Mahindra Pik Up Double Cab S10 4×4

Idioms and expressions – in the English language certainly – can sometimes be unfair or even politically incorrect and the (oft) used ‘so ugly he/she/it is beautiful’ comes to mind when referring to the all-new Mahindra PikUp.

It is unfair because the designers have made significant changes to the styling, especially at the front, and even if it does look as if it were carved from a brick, the return on that is excellent front and rear headroom – often compromised on the more svelte looking opposition.

Although it retains much of the look of the original Scorpio bakkie, the most compelling changes are to the front of the Mahindra Pik Up, where the grille, headlights, bonnet and fog lamps have all undergone a substantial redesign.

The new grille design is smarter, utilising a glossy black finish with subtle chrome accents, as well as a more prominent Mahindra badge, while the lower air intake has been reshaped to provide a stronger visual integration with the grille.

Black mesh inserts are consistently applied to both the main grille and the lower air intake, creating a more consistent appearance.

The headlights on either side of the grille are also completely new, with a cleaner, more resolute appearance and a new curved LED daytime running light signature for the S10 Double Cab.

Bolder fog lamps are mounted in restyled apertures that are linked to the lower edge of the headlights. The redesigned front-end styling is accompanied by 16-inch alloy wheels.

These, however, need a redesign and the protruding wheel centres are ugly and cheapen the overall outside appearance.

Inside, the most obvious improvements are the upholstery and the large six-inch, full colour touch screen display on the S10 Double Cab models located in the centre console.

The Mahindra Pik Up’s cabin is also comprehensively equipped. As the flagship model of the range, the S10 Double Cab gets remote central locking, cruise control, navigation and a multifunction steering wheel.

Safety features such as anti-lock brakes, EBD, Dual air bags, crash protection crumple zones and collapsible steering column are standard features.

The management system provides vehicle related information, while the automatic temperature control maintains the cabin ambience.

On the driver’s side the easy to read instrument cluster provides the vital statistics of the drive and journey and the new steering wheel incorporates  cruise control, audio and telephone controls.

Other advances include the introduction of Micro-hybrid technology that enables the engine intelligently to switch into standby mode when not in use, saving on both fuel and the environment. Rain and light sensors automatically turn the lights on in adverse lighting conditions and the wipers on in the rain.

There are three headrests in the rear and three-point seat belts for all seats along with two ISOFIX anchors in rear seat. Static bending headlamp technology improves the comfort of driving during the night.

The Pik Up has an updated 2,2-litre four-cylinder mHawk turbo-diesel engine, which makes use of a variable geometry turbo-charger to produce 103 kW. The torque peak of 320 Nm is reached at just 1 600 r/min and sustained to 2 800 r/min,.

The turbo-diesel engine is linked to a six-speed manual gearbox driving the rear wheels and  features ‘on-the-fly’ switching from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive. The entire range is fitted with an Eaton MLD (Mechanical Locking Differential) as standard.

Initial impressions on the launch drive were of a quiet engine, much improved ride and handling, less deviance in cross winds – in short, a capable vehicle that should have huge fleet appeal, especially in the small business sector.

This is emphasised by its 1 000 kg maximum payload and 2 500 kg braked towing capacity – supporting the pay off line of ‘Loves Work, Loves Weekends’.

It offers a load space measuring 1 489 x 1 520 x 550 mm and even with some intrusion from the rear wheel arches, the additional depth of the load bed compared to other double cabs on the market is some level of compensation.

Comparisons are inevitable, if possibly a little unfair as the PikUp has no garden party aspirations where the only ‘off-road’ experience likely are urban speed humps and the odd pothole.

The PikUp is designed to work and play and most weekend off-roaders will be a lot happier to press this into more demanding ‘donga-diving’ with the chance of a couple of dings and scrapes than they would their vastly more expensive kerb-crawlers.

Against vehicles such as the Hilux 2.4 GD6, Amarok 2.0 BiTDi, Triton 2.4Di and Ranger 2.2, it does give away a fair bit in terms of both power and torque – the Hilux offering 110/400, the Amarok 132/420 and the Ranger 118/385 for example. It is, however, a tad stronger than the Isuzu KB 2500 D-Teq, which has 100 kW and 320 Nm.

There is not a lot in it – on the highway the PikUp will easily chortle along at the speed limit with enough in reserve for most overtaking requirements without the need to drop a cog and it runs with an overall fuel consumption of 7,9 l/100 km. Carbon emission are 211 g/km.

In 4×4 country, it offers more than enough low rev grunt to weasel its way through pretty much any obstacle. Perhaps its biggest downfall in really tight situations is its 5 175 mm length but compensation for this is the good height of the driver’s seat and the forward vision over the shortish bonnet.

The 6,7 metre turning circle radius could, I believe, be improved and it needs a rear parking distance sensor – but definitely needs to lose the audible shriek every time reverse gear is engaged.

The pricing – well below that of its opposition – includes a 4 Year /120 000 km Warranty and roadside assistance, and a 5 Year / 90 000 km Service Plan. Services are at 20 000 km intervals or every 12 months, whichever comes first.

In the world of double cab off-roaders, the Mahindra PikUp is the unsophisticated sophisticate.

What the difference in Retail price is really worth:

  Mahindra Hilux Amarok Ranger
Retail Price R354 995 R570 700 R596 200 R586 900
Lease Repayments

(4 years/120 000km

R7 253 R11 660 R12 180 R11 990
Insurance – Monthly R1 509 R2 425 R2 534 R2 494

 

Wasted hours

Cape Town is South Africa’s most congested city and number 48 on the world rankings with Johannesburg number 70 in the world – and South Africans are wasting an extra 119 travel hours a year on the roads.

According to TomTom Telematics research, South Africa is reported to have an average congestion level of 27%, resulting in 14,8 lost business days a year. This will come as no surprise to business owners and fleet managers who lose time and money to traffic jams daily.

Cape Town is once again the country’s most congested city,and the 5% congestion increase experienced over the 2016 period resulted in 163 extra travel hours a year – that’s 20,3 business days lost to traffic and congestion. Johannesburg, ranked 70 in the world, saw a 3% increase resulting in 141 extra hours a year, or 17,6 business days.

The report found Monday morning from 7am to 8am is the worst time to travel in five of the six most congested South African cities, although if you live in Bloemfontein, Tuesday mornings between 7am and 8am see the heaviest traffic. Cape Town experienced the most significant evening traffic, with congestion levels peaking from Tuesday to Friday.

East London, Pretoria, Durban and Bloemfontein have all seen an increase in congestion, according to the new report, with commuters losing out on between 8,5 (Bloemfontein) and 15,3 (Pretoria) extra business days a year.

Justin Manson, Business Development Manager at TomTom Telematics South Africa, says, “Traffic congestion is a reality we all have to face, and it will not be going away anytime soon. Businesses that rely on a mobile workforce are impacted most negatively by congestion.

“In most cases the impact relates to loss of billable hours, fuel wastage, overtime paid, a negative impact on customer service, and of course the frustration and irritability that congestion causes the drivers.”

“It is imperative any business with a mobile workforce, whether this entails deliveries, sales, maintenance, merchandising, etc, make use of a telematics solution that will keep drivers out of traffic congestion,” says Manson.

“The benefits are massive, less time spent in traffic means better customer service, more billable hours, less overtime and wasted fuel, and just as important – a less stressed mobile workforce.

“Knowing and understanding traffic patterns and congestion peaks will also help office staff to plan and dispatch drivers more efficiently.”

An effective telematics solution, such as Webfleet, helps fleet drivers avoid the most heavily congested routes. Real-time data gathered from thousands of devices across the country ensures drivers and fleet managers are able to plan the most cost- and fuel-efficient routes, avoid congestion and major traffic incidents, re-route quickly when necessary, and manage realistic ETAs.

This results in time, fuel and cost savings, as well as an increase in service delivery efficiency, despite the ever-increasing congestion facing drivers today.

The TomTom Traffic Index can also help fleet managers plan routes and times that avoid the heaviest congestion – a win for drivers and business.

South Africa’s’s Top 6 Most Congested Cities

City Congestion Level Extra Travel Per Year (Hours)
Cape Town 35% 163
Johannesburg 30% 141
East London 29% 121
Pretoria 26% 123
Durban 22% 100
Bloemfontein 18% 68

 

 

 

Efforts rewarded

Nissan South Africa managing director, Mike Whitfield, has warned that although the company will continue to invest, industrial action could lead to decreased international support making other countries better manufacturing propositions.

He was speaking at a function at which Nissan was rewarded for its efforts with regard to economic growth and job creation by the Capital City Business Chamber (CCBC) in the form of the 2017 CCBC Award for Manufacturing.

The CCBC, which was established in 2008, aims to encourage business development in the greater Tshwane region.

Nissan Group of Africa MD, Mike Whitfield, accepted the award and participated in a panel discussion about smart cities being a driver for economic growth.

“Nissan South Africa has been committed to skills development and job creation for decades with our Rosslyn, Pretoria plant and we are proud of this award that recognises our much-needed contribution to economic development,” he says.

The automotive industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the local economy and contributed 7,5% of South Africa’s GDP of R3,99-trillion in 2015. Vehicle and component production represents about 30% of SA’s manufacturing output.

“While we will continue to invest in the country, it must be said there are potential stumbling blocks in our future as frequent industrial action combined with a decrease in domestic and international support could make other countries a more lucrative option for vehicle manufacturer.”

He went on to highlight that South Africa remains a strong manufacturing destination for a variety of reasons that include access to Africa, a sophisticated financial services and business sector, relatively low production costs, well-developed logistics, government support, skills development programmes and excellent quality of locally produced vehicles.

In recent years, the Rosslyn plant, which employs 2 000 people, has been running an engineering training programme after Nissan realised there was a shortage of core skills in the motoring sector. Roughly 50% of the students selected to participate in the training programme are black women.

“There is great potential for growth locally and throughout Africa. We are optimistic about the long-term future of the automotive and manufacturing sectors, and Nissan will continue to do its part to stimulate economic growth and job creation well into the future,” says Whitfield.

Check it out

The autonomous car has come to South Africa and Cape Town drivers may spot the S-Class Mercedes-Benz on roads in and around the city until the end of January.

Road traffic in South Africa presents some special challenges with different road surfaces, wildlife on rural roads and many pedestrians in the city as well as in the interurban traffic who often cross lanes completely unexpectedly.

Automated and autonomous vehicles have to be aware of these peculiarities and respond in a reliable manner. In the fourth leg of the Mercedes-Benz Intelligent World Drive, the test vehicle – based on the current S-Class series-production saloon – is facing up to South Africa’s idiosyncrasies with automated test drives on the roads of the Western Cape and in the city of Cape Town.

Mercedes-Benz started the Intelligent World Drive at the Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA) in September to adapt more highly automated driving functions to national traffic and user practices. The aim is to gather global insights into real-life traffic conditions for the advancement of the technologies.

As part of this, up until January 2018 the test vehicle is collecting comprehensive information in a variety of complex traffic situations on five continents and in doing so is sounding out the limitations of the current systems.

The focus of the test drives on the Western Cape is on pedestrian detection in many unfamiliar situations in particular, both in dense city traffic as well as on rural roads. Furthermore, the test vehicle based on the S-Class is collecting information for detecting road signs specific to the country, validating the digital map material of HERE MAPS and testing out a prototype of the innovative light system DIGITAL LIGHT.

In the extremely dense urban traffic in Cape Town, driving is truly a precision task – particularly in narrow streets, where the pavements are mostly overflowing with parked cars on both sides. But even on national roads outside of towns, and on the motorway too, drivers always have to expect to encounter crossing pedestrians.

Cameras and radar systems have to detect passers-by and interpret their movement correctly so that the vehicle can react within milliseconds in the event of an emergency.

 Further special features include traffic signs, which are only found in the 15 Member States of the Southern African Development Community, such as South Africa, Namibia, Botswana or the Seychelles.

For example, the no stopping sign shows a crossed-out letter ‘S’ in a red circle, while the sign for no entry is made up of two black horizontal bars in a red circle. In addition, the road traffic signs in South Africa are often incomplete.

Intersections where you have to stop are not always indicated by a stop sign – in some cases they only have wide, white lines across the road surface. Warning signs before the commonly-found speed bumps are also not always present, or are positioned close to the obstacle that there is insufficient time to react.

The lack of signs presents a major challenge for the performance of the camera and radar systems as well as the quality of the digital maps, which enable automated driving functions such as the Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC with route-based speed adjustment to function reliably.

Validating the latest digital map material from HERE, particularly with regard to intersections where the vehicle would need to stop and traffic obstructions such as speed bumps, is therefore a particular focus of the test drives on the Western Cape.

 In addition to the features specific to the country, Mercedes-Benz is testing a headlamp prototype featuring the innovative DIGITAL LIGHT technology. This is because light equally has a central role to play on the road to automated and autonomous mobility.

The non-dazzle continuous high beam in HD quality uses chips with over one million micro-mirrors, and therefore pixels, per headlamp. As such it achieves ideal light distribution in any driving situation – without dazzling other road users.

Furthermore, this  lighting system makes functions possible that were unveiled as a vision of the future in the F 015 Luxury in Motion research vehicle in early 2015. Among other things it is able to project light corridors onto the road in order to communicate with its surroundings.

In the past seven years, Mercedes-Benz has conducted 5 100 test drives around the world with 175 test vehicles for validations of driver assistance systems in the field alone. The majority of these have taken place as part of near-launch road trials.

The performance of the driver assistance systems has been assessed some 9,5-million kilometres in Europe, the USA, China, Australia and South Africa, and more than 1,2-million measurements have been made in real-life traffic situations in particular for their continuous enhancement.