Japanese ICT giants put AI on the road

DENSO Corporation and Toshiba are jointly developing an artificial intelligence (AI) technology, called Deep Neural Network-Intellectual Property (DNN-IP), which will accelerate driver assistance and automated driving technologies and open up new business applications.

The move combines image recognition systems which have been independently developed by the two companies to help achieve automated driving technologies way ahead of what exists today – aiming to rival and exceed the human brain. 

DNN is an algorithm modelled after the neural networks of the human brain. It is expected to perform recognition processing as accurately as, or even better than the human brain.
A Denso spokesperson said to achieve automated driving, automotive computers need to be able to identify different road traffic situations including a variety of obstacles and road markings, availability of road space for driving, and potentially dangerous situations.

“In image recognition based on conventional pattern recognition and machine learning, objects that need to be recognised by computers must be characterised and extracted in advance,” the spokesperson said.

“In DNN-based image recognition, computers can extract and learn the characteristics of objects on their own, thus significantly improving the accuracy of detection and identification of a wide range of objects.”

Because of the rapid progress in DNN technology, the two companies plan to make the technology flexibly extendable to various network configurations. They will also make the technology able to be implemented on in-vehicle processors that are smaller, consume less power, and feature other optimizations.

Denso has been developing DNN-IP for in-vehicle applications. By accelerating the process to commercialise DNN-IP through the joint development and incorporating DNN-IP in in-vehicle cameras, Denso will develop high-performance, advanced driver assistance and automated driving systems, and continue to contribute to building a safe and secure automotive society for people around the world, not just for drivers and pedestrians.

In addition to its conventional image processing technologies, Toshiba will partition this jointly developed DNN-IP technology into dedicated hardware components and implement them on its in-vehicle image recognition processors to improve their image processing performance and enable them to process images using less power than image processing systems with digital signal processors (DSPs) or graphics processing units (GPUs).




On the road again: Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions

THE Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions met recently to progress the Turnbull Government's commitment to reduce Australia's vehicle emissions.

Minister for Urban Infrastructure Paul Fletcher and Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg resolved to advance the work the Forum started before the Federal Election. 

“The Ministerial Forum was established to examine options to reduce emissions from motor vehicles and improve air quality in our cities,” Mr Fletcher said.

“We are determined to build on the consultations we initiated prior to the election and deliver emissions reductions in our vehicle fleet.

“The Turnbull Government recognises that the vehicle emissions reform agenda raises issues which need to be carefully considered, including for their impact on motorists, the automotive sector and others.”

Mr Frydenberg said vehicles accounted for around 17 percent of Australia's emissions and reductions in this area were an important part of the Turnbull Government's broader strategy.

“The government has committed to reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions so they are 26–28 percent below 2005 levels by 2030,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“Since the Forum was announced in October, we have held formal roundtable discussions with industry and consumers and have invited the public to comment on a vehicle emissions discussion paper.”

More than 80 submissions have been received so far and will inform the development of draft regulatory impact statements on emissions, fuel efficiency measures and fuel quality standards.

Mr Fletcher said the government expected to release these impact statements before the end of the year for public comment.

The interdepartmental working group supporting the Forum will then report in the first half of 2017 on a draft implementation plan for new measures.



Supercheap Auto gears up Click & Collect service at 300 stores

SUPERCHEAP AUTO has launched a 90-minute ‘Click & Collect’ service across more than 300 stores in Australia and New Zealand.

The service is a smart logistical adaptation that integrates online service with Supercheap’s substantial retail distribution network. 

The region’s largest retailer of automotive parts and accessories identified a demand for the service from time-poor consumers increasingly looking for shopping shortcuts, as well as ways to save money.

Supercheap Auto digital business manager, Matt Rowse, said Click & Collect offered customers certainty that an item was in stock and there waiting for them, as well as saving money on shipping fees and the potential cost of returns.

“We know that customer habits are changing and they increasingly want to decide how, when and where they buy and receive their purchase,” Mr Rowse said. “so this service was implemented to support their shopping journey and save them both time and money.

“We’ve also made sure the service is free with no additional charges, so you pay for your products only, and we’ve made the online experience extremely user-friendly,” Mr Rowse said.

He said customers can seamlessly shop online, choose their products and collect from their chosen store in 90 minutes, within store trading hours.

Early customer feedback on the market-leading initiative has been extremely positive, he said, and he was confident the service would keep the automotive retailer at the forefront of customer service.



Australian quality vehicle brokerage gets service ‘Plum’ on target

NATIONAL car brokerage Red Plum Automotive (RPA) has rapidly expanded since the business launched in 2013 – the result of astutely driving a handful of savvy business practices.

RPA managing director, Christopher Lee actually started the business from his kitchen bench in 2013, aiming to provide the widest possible variety of vehicles to meet customer needs, ranging from work utilities to luxury saloons to high-end sports cars. Red Plum aims to find precisely the right vehicle at precisely the right price for customers. 

His high powered ambitions and lofty service ideals has paid off, with the team this year expanding to five staff and the service offerings also developing strongly.

“Our brand has evolved in two years from just sourcing new and used vehicles to also facilitating finance, vehicle aftermarket and protection, comprehensive insurance, extensions on manufacturers’ warranties and trade-in opportunities,” Mr Lee said.

He attributed RPA’s success to a number of core practices the business has embraced from day one, ranging through careful planning to having a strong brand.

“Everything we do is thought out to reflect our business, our branding and our philosophies,” Mr Lee said. 

“From the way we present ourselves with tailor-made shirts and jackets, to the beautiful paper we send our delivery thank you letters on, our website design and the stock that we use for our business cards. Whilst our visual commitment to our branding never stops, it is in place to project the level of care and regard that we have for our business partners, ourselves and our clients alike.

“It is the personal commitment to each of our clients that drives us forward,” Mr Lee said.

Having a clear vision for the business was also important for Christopher Lee from the outset.

“Any business needs clear visions,” he said. “A mountain of work went into establishing what it was that we were trying to achieve and how we were trying to differentiate ourselves from the pack.

“We have a very clear and concise picture about how we want to be perceived – we want it to be obvious that we provide the highest levels of service, regard and presentation.”

Red Plum Automotive is a complimentary service to clients that aims to save the customer time, effort and money.

“We facilitate one-off private vehicles and do everything from Great Wall utes to Aston Martins,” Mr Lee said.

“We also facilitate fleet purchases and manage fleet accounts including mining providers. We have services in place to quote any kind of financing including novated lease structures and service maintenance programs.”

Being a serviced based business, Mr Lee said he was naturally very selective about who joins the RPA team – ensuring they not only suit the company’s culture, but their dedicated to the needs of clients.

“Good service is having 100 percent accountability, and resolving all sorts of unforeseen issues for the client, not just the day-to-day easy stuff,” Mr Lee said.

“Having a genuine desire to deliver what we profess to is a mandatory requirement for all involved in RPA. I am so proud of all my staff. I get 150 percent from them every day, of their own volition.

“I consider myself extremely fortunate to have the staff that I do. They are absolutely the mortar that binds this business together.”

From people to profits, RPA has no debt or loans, which enables Mr Lee to plan for the future “with a certain degree of strength in position”.

RPA is a low overhead business with systems in place to handle each phase of growth easily.

“We have created an easily manageable multiplier effect and have always viewed the business model from the beginning as growth into a much larger enterprise,” Mr Lee said.

From the outset, Mr Lee identified income generating referral streams; creating professional working relationships and a sales force outside of his team.

“We quickly identified that financiers were going to be a primary source of client referrals,” he said. “Referral partners are always the most successful leads for us.

“Having the approval of a third party to a client expedites the process for us enormously. We make a conscious effort to look after all our business partners and alliances as best we can.”

While RPA is still a new business and the future looks bright, Mr Lee said there was, nevertheless, no room for complacency.

“We are still growing the business. We are constantly reviewing, projecting, and discussing our position with our accountant. Whilst I am very comfortable with our position and direction I will eternally be on the lookout for the unexpected.

“I have great confidence in the products and services we deliver. The process now is to educate more people on what we do and how we can save them an enormous amount of time and money.”

Now with such fast-growth experience behind RPA, Mr Lee cautioned other start-up business leaders “not just to consider what it is you are selling and the benefit you can bring to the market, but how it is that you are going to hold yourself accountable for the level of product or service you deliver”.

Astute advice, indeed.