Fuel prices to drop in February, says AA
Good news for South African motorists is that fuel prices are expected to drop next month.
According to the AA, 95 Octane petrol will decrease by around 13 cents a litre, with 93 Octane petrol and both grades of diesel by four cents, and illuminating paraffin by three cents.
“Ongoing declines in the price of oil since the second week of the year will give South African fuel users a breather for February,” says the AA, which was commenting on unaudited month-end fuel price data released by the Central Energy Fund.
"Rising tensions between the US and Iran in the opening days of 2020 sparked a sharp increase in international oil prices, but the commodity has rebounded quickly. In fact, the oil price has returned to a level we might have expected had the US-Iran flare-up not taken place at all," the AA says.
Oil has dipped to its lowest level since the start of December. However, the rand/US dollar exchange rate is steadily moving in the opposite direction, with the rand having softened from its January 1 level of about R14.05 to the dollar to its current average of R14.30.
"We have some concerns over this ongoing weakening in the absence of any overt rand shocks," the AA says. "It is not a good sign of confidence in the South African economy."
"We're pleased fuel prices have managed to tread water at the start of a year, a year which is likely to again be extremely economically challenging," the AA concludes.
The new year started with a reprieve for drivers of petrol cars when fuel prices dropped, though diesel owners were hit by a 9c/l increase.
However, all motorists are paying substantially more for fuel than they did a year ago. Inland pump prices are now R16.16 for a litre of 95 octane unleaded petrol and R14.67 for 50 ppm diesel.
Ferrari named world’s strongest brand
Ferrari has been awarded the title of the world's strongest brand for the second consecutive year by Brand Finance, an international independent brand valuation and strategy consultancy.
With a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 94.1 out of 100, Ferrari tops the rankings of only 12 brands to be awarded the highest AAA+ rating.
Presented at last week’s World Economic Forum at Davos, the Brand Finance Global 500 2020 report calculates the value of the Ferrari brand at $9.1bn (R133bn) with year on year growth of 9%, boosted by positive sales and overall brand strength.
Brand Finance determines brand value by estimating the net economic benefit to the brand owner of licensing the trademark on the open market. It measures brand strength on the basis of the efficacy of a brand's performance on intangible measures compared to its competitors.
Maserati promises operatic electric cars
Maserati has announced that the replacements to its recently-discontinued GranTurismo and GranCabrio ranges will be 100% electric. However, the Italian automaker promises that they’ll still have the distinctive sound Maserati owners have become used to with traditional combustion engines.
Experimental EVs have been developed at the new Innovation Lab in Modena, Italy, where the sound that will characterise the electric engine will also be developed.
“Customers will therefore benefit from 100% electric propulsion vehicles that will combine driving pleasure, comfort and performance with a unique and unmistakable sound,”says Maserati.
Uber self-driving cars, with humans in control, cruise Washington DC
Uber Technologies Inc put self-driving vehicles on Washington, DC roads last week with human drivers in control, as the ride share company looks to collect data for future deployment of fully autonomous cars.
Washington has some of the worst traffic congestion in America, and a very complex street layout.
Uber is collecting similar road data to support development of self-driving in Dallas, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Toronto with human drivers in control. The goal is for computers to operate the vehicles eventually.
The company said it hopes "this first round of manually driven data collection will lay the foundation for testing our vehicles in self-driving mode in Washington, DC".
Uber has taken a more cautious approach to testing since one of its self-driving vehicles killed a pedestrian in March 2018 in Tempe, Arizona, the first death involving an autonomous vehicle.
In the aftermath of the crash, Uber suspended all testing of self-driving vehicles. It resumed testing in December 2018 in Pittsburgh with revised software and significant new restrictions and safeguards.
During manual driving in Washington, Uber said it is using a fleet of three vehicles collecting sensor data using a top-mounted sensor wing with cameras and LiDAR, a detection technology that uses pulsed laser light instead of the radio waves used by radar.
In Washington and other cities with self-driving Uber cars, a second employee will be in the passenger seat.
The National Transportation Safety Board in November faulted Uber for inadequate attention to safety and decisions in the autonomous vehicle involved in the Arizona fatality, as well as the vehicle’s distracted back-up driver.
The crash in March 2018 killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she was walking a bicycle across a street at night in Tempe, Arizona. The crash prompted significant safety concerns about the nascent self-driving car industry. — Reuters
Toyota recalls more cars with faulty airbags
Toyota said last week it is recalling 361,000 older vehicles worldwide for potentially defective air bag inflators.
The defect involves a different type of Takata inflator than those that have prompted the largest-ever auto safety recalls worldwide covering more than 42-million US vehicles by 19 carmakers with Takata air bag inflators.
Honda said it will recall 2.7-million older US vehicles in North America for the same type of Takata inflator that Toyota is also recalling. Takata issued a new defect notice in November for inflators from four automakers, including Honda and Toyota.
Toyota's new recall covers some 1998-2000 Toyota RAV4, 1998-1999 RAV4 EV, 1998-1999 Celica and 1997-1998 Model Year Supra vehicles.
The notice came after BMW recalled more than 200,000 vehicles in the US for the same type of inflator after the death of a driver in Australia from an air bag rupture involving one of the inflators, along with two other injury incidents in Australia and Cyprus.
At least 25 people worldwide have been killed and 290 injured from the inflators, which can explode when deployed and spray deadly metal fragments.
Under a 2015 consent order, Takata airbag inflators using ammonium nitrate, a widely used chemical explosive, were progressively banned because the propellant tended to become unstable in humid climates.
Bankrupt supplier Takata is now owned by China’s Ningbo Joyson Electronic.