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At least 186 EU ISPs use deep-packet inspection to shape traffic, break net neutrality

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Despite net neutrality regulation being in effect in the EU since 2016, European internet service providers are already breaking the rules and shaping traffic, according to a conglomerate of NGOs, academics, and private companies.

Earlier this week, this group — made up of 45 entities from 15 countries — has sent an open letter to EU authorities expressing concerns about European ISPs breaking net neutrality rules, and local regulators ignoring their actions.

The letter was sent as European authorities are in the midst of negotiations on the EU’s new net neutrality rules. These negotiations are currently being held behind closed doors with national telecom regulators.

The group of NGOs and academics, spearheaded by the European Digital Rights (EDRi) organization, are worried that “some telecom regulators appear to be pushing for the legalisation of DPI [deep packet inspection].”

The EDRi is worried about the increased usage of deep-packet inspection technology as a whole, because this technology allows ISPs to shape traffic and enforce tiered pricing plans, but it also poses a threat to user privacy, as it allows telcos a deeper look at the sites users are accessing.

Some EU ISPs already breaking the rules

The current net neutrality rules allow European ISPs to inspect and shape traffic under certain circumstances, but only for network resource optimization, and not for commercial or surveillance purposes.

The EDRi points out in its letter that EU ISPs are already ignoring net neutrality rules, and, for the past years, have been deploying DPI to examine customer traffic and detect intended traffic destinations.

EDRi cited a report published in January 2019, which found that 186 European ISPs appeared to be using DPI to offer customers differential pricing offers.

“[ISPs] are increasingly using DPI technology for the purpose of traffic management and the differentiated pricing of specific applications or services (e.g. zero-rating) as part of their product design,” the EDRi and partners said.

“DPI allows [ISPs] to identify and distinguish traffic in their networks in order to identify traffic of specific applications or services for the purpose such as billing them differently throttling or prioritising them over other traffic.”

“Most regulators have so far turned a blind eye on these net neutrality violations. Instead of fulfilling their enforcement duties, they seem to now aim at watering down the rules that prohibit DPI,” the EDRi said.

DPI should not be legalized

If ISPs get exemptions to use DPI technology legally, the fear is that telcos might use it as a legal loophole to mask tiered pricing plans as mundane traffic management operations and bypass any current net neutrality rules.

Further, the EDRi warns about the huge threat DPI poses to EU users’ privacy, as it would also allow telcos access to user data without their consent, under the guise of “approved” traffic management operations.

European authorities are expected to hold a public consultation on new net neutrality rules in the autumn of 2019. The EU’s revised net neutrality rules are expected to come under vote in March 2020. The EDRi and its partners hope DPI will not be legalized, and effectively neuter both net neutrality and EU privacy legislations.

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The 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL is beautifully powerful

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The first Mercedes-Benz SL debuted nearly seven decades ago in Germany and was a success in both racing and sales to the public. Mercedes-AMG has launched the latest 2022 SL in the line, and the car has been completely reborn. Mercedes says its new sporty car combines genes from the original SL along with modern AMG driving performance.

The car has features characteristic of its SL lineage with a long wheelbase, short overhangs, long hood, the passenger compartment set well back on the chassis with a steeply raked windshield. The grille of the new SL was designed specifically to emphasize the width of the front and features 14 vertical slats as a design element linking the new car to SLs of the past, specifically the 300 SL racing car from 1952.

Mercedes also integrates LED headlamps with sharp outlines and slim LED rear lamps. The interior is designed around a theme of performance luxury with something Mercedes-AMG calls a “hyper analog” cockpit. As one would expect inside of a Mercedes-AMG vehicle, only the best materials and quality can be seen to bring the highest level of comfort, style, and performance. The interior of the 300 SL Roadster is minimalist and features an adjustable center display located in the center console that’s focused on the driver.

The vehicle is a 2+2, and the seats bring more functionality than in SLs of the past. Of particular note, the rear seats are designed for daily practicality and usable space. The interior design combines what Mercedes calls analog geometry and the digital world to create the “hyper analog” design that’s attractive and functional without overwhelming.

The instrument panel is fully digital and features the standard MBUX infotainment system with a choice of multiple display styles and different modes. The electrically adjustable AMG sports seats have a sculptural design. Mercedes fits the Roadster with its AIRSCARF neck-level heating system as standard to blow warm air into the passenger compartment from outlets in the head restraints of the seats for driver and passenger. The goal is to allow the owner to drop the top and enjoy fresh air even if it’s cold out.

Mercedes-AMG designed the body of the SL utilizing a completely new 2+2 seat vehicle architecture designed to be as lightweight as possible utilizing composite aluminum and an aluminum space frame with a self-supporting structure. In addition, the design of the chassis provides maximum rigidity for precision driving, comfort, and sporty proportions. No components of the body or structure of the car are carried over from the past generation SL or any other AMG model.

Compared to the previous SL series, the torsional rigidity of the body shell is 18 percent higher, transverse rigidity is 50 percent higher than the AMG GT Roadster, and longitudinal rigidity is 40 percent higher. The body shell alone weighs 595 pounds making a lightweight yet strong structure. Aerodynamics is also a focus for the vehicle design providing a drag coefficient of 0.31, which Mercedes says is excellent for an open-air sports car. For the first time, Mercedes has also integrated an AIRPANEL air control system with two pieces for improved aerodynamics. The first piece has vertical louvers hidden beneath the lower air intake in the front bumper. The second component is behind the upper air intake and has horizontal louvers. In normal operation, all louvers are closed, reducing drag allowing air to be directed to the car’s underbody, reducing front-end lift. However, when temperatures on predefined components reach a specific number and the car needs cooling air, louvers open to allow maximum cooling to the heat exchangers.

The rear spoiler is integrated into the trunk lid and is active, changing position depending on driving status. To determine the ideal position, software controlling the spoiler factors in driving speed, longitudinal and lateral acceleration, and steering speed. Considering all that data, the splitter can adjust through five different angular positions starting at 50 mph to optimize handling or reduce drag.

Buyers can choose the optional AMG Aerodynamics Package adding an active element hidden in the underbody in front of the engine to contribute to handling. The active element is a carbon profile weighing 4.4 pounds that reacts to AMG driving modes and extends downward to about 1.6 inches at 50 mph. The carbon profile component creates a Venturi effect to suck the car to the road surface and reduce front-axle lift. In addition, Mercedes AMG offers a range of aerodynamically optimized wheels in 20, or 21-inch diameters, including 20-inch wheels with plastic aero rings to save weight.

The SL also has a soft top optimized for lightweight and low center of gravity that replaces the previous metal vario roof. Moving back to a soft-top, Mercedes shaved 46 pounds and lowered the center of gravity for the all-new SL. Another interesting feature is that the soft top has a weight-saving z-fold mechanism that allowed Mercedes to dispense with a conventional soft-top compartment cover. The soft top is flush with the surface in its final position.

One of the highlights of any Mercedes-AMG vehicle is the engine. Mercedes-AMG continues with its “One Man, One Engine” principle with each SL engine built completely by one tech by hand. The SL offers two output levels of an AMG 4.0-liter V-8 biturbo engine. In the SL 63, which is the high-end model, the engine makes 577 horsepower and 590 pound-foot of torque. Fitted with that engine, the SL can reach 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. In the SL 55, the V-8 makes 469 horsepower and 516 pound-foot of torque. When fitted with that engine, the SL can reach 60 mph in 3.8 seconds. A performance hybrid version is in development.

Both engines are paired with an AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 9G transmission featuring a wet start-off clutch that replaces the torque converter for lower weight and optimized response. Both SL models feature AMG Performance 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive standard. The SL 55 has a newly developed AMG RIDE CONTROL steel suspension featuring aluminum shock absorbers and lightweight coil springs. This is also the first production Mercedes-AMG vehicle utilizing a multi-link front axle with five links that are arranged entirely inside the wheel rim. The SL 63 uses AMG ACTIVE RIDE CONTROL suspension with active hydraulic anti-roll stabilization debuting in the model.

Another first for the new SL is active rear-axle steering that can turn the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the front at certain speeds to improve handling. The SL has six different driving modes, including slippery, comfort, sport, sport+, individual, and race. The race mode is standard on the SL 63 and optional with the AMG DYNAMIC PLUS package for the SL 55. The SL 63 also has a standard AMG TRACK PACE data logging system for use on the racetrack, and the system is optional for the SL 55. The system can also be fitted with an optional dash cam to record video complete with overlaid data for lap times, speed, acceleration, and more. Pricing and availability on the new Mercedes-AMG SL are unannounced at this time.

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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV combines efficiency and all-wheel drive

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Mitsubishi has premiered its redesigned plug-in hybrid Outlander crossover SUV. The Outlander PHEV will go on sale in Japan on December 16 and will land in Australia and New Zealand in the first half of 2022. Mitsubishi does plan on bringing the Outlander PHEV to North America in the second half of 2022.

Mitsubishi promises the crossover will have low CO2 emissions and a low environmental impact in terms of its lifecycle assessment. The all-new model has significant upgrades compared to previous versions. It utilizes a new PHEV system with more powerful road performance and a longer electric driving range.

Its all-wheel-drive system delivers safety and comfortable driving no matter the weather or road conditions. Mitsubishi also designed the vehicle with an attractive exterior and what it calls an “advanced, high-class interior.” The Outlander PHEV has an increase of about 40 percent total output for the front and rear electric motors and drive battery. That allows the model to drive in EV mode and avoid using the internal combustion engine as much as possible.

The system can operate on pure electricity even under hard acceleration. The drive battery has a total capacity of 20 kilowatts and delivers an all-electric range of 87 kilometers. Along with driving range, Mitsubishi promises optimized electric operation even with the air-conditioning on. Mitsubishi integrated a larger gas tank to expand the total driving range of the vehicle.

Outlander has a seven-passenger seating layout, and the control unit for the vehicle is outside the passenger compartment for improved quietness during use. The vehicle’s Super All Wheel Control vehicle dynamics control system is based on a twin-motor 4WD system with one drive motor in the front and another in the rear. The vehicle has seven drive modes, including Eco and Power. Mitsubishi promises that trim levels and pricing for the Outlander PHEV in the US will be announced closer to the on-sale date in the second half of 2022.

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The Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost is payoff from a high-stakes luxury gamble

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Back when Rolls-Royce unveiled the Ghost last year, it described the luxury sedan as “Post Opulent” design. Now, it’s giving the V12 car a sinister twist. The Black Badge Ghost joins the ranks of Rolls-Royce’s wildly successful Black Badge series, getting distinctive styling, an uptick in power, and a very particular appeal.

You could make a solid argument that Black Badge and Ghost really were made for each other. Both have proved to be wildly popular: Ghost may have launched in the midst of a global pandemic, but it was still Rolls-Royce’s most successful debut so far in terms of demand.

Similarly, though the automaker expected perhaps 10-15 percent of orders to be Black Badge models when it launched the sub-brand five years ago – and, indeed, faced some consternation that the customizations might dilute Rolls-Royce’s cachet – sales have significantly outpaced those conservative estimates. A full 40-percent of Cullinan SUVs are now ordered as Black Badge models, for example. Expectations for the Black Badge Ghost, then, are even higher.

The 6.75-liter V12 engine is kept, of course, but tuned for 591 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque. A “regular” Ghost offers 563 hp and 627 lb-ft. 0-60 mph arrives in 4.5 seconds, while top speed is an electronically-limited 155 mph. Not bad at all for a four-door which still tips the scales at almost 5,500 pounds.

Rolls-Royce has paired the extra power with retuning of the eight-speed transmission. Peak torque arrives at just 1,700 rpm; switch to Low Mode and the gearshifts are completed in half the time. There’s custom mapping for the front and rear axle steering, too, and bigger air springs to ensure the “magic carpet” ride keeps up with more enthusiastic drivers.

What first grabs you, of course, is the styling. The Ghost was off to a good start there, taking elements of Phantom and reimagining them for a smaller, more lithe sedan. The rear-hinged back doors, upright grille, and Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament remain, only now they’ve been paired with a darker, moodier palette of colors and finishes.

Though Rolls-Royce will happily complete your Black Badge Ghost in any of its paints, or indeed mix you up a custom hue, there’s also the “signature black” of the Black Badge label. Dubbed the auto industry’s darkest black, it’s a high-gloss finish that requires four craftspeople’s handiwork – a 3-5 hour job – after the final two layers of clear coat are applied. A pinstripe line – again, hand-applied – picks out the Ghost’s sharp creases along the hood and shoulder.

Dark chrome on the Spirit of Ecstasy, grille, and other brightwork tones down the glitter, and there are custom 21-inch wheels that are themselves something of an engineering marvel. Exclusive to the Black Badge Ghost, they start with a carbon fiber barrel – made up of 22 layers that are then doubled up for a 44 layer form – to which a 3D forged aluminum hub is attached with titanium fasteners.

Inside, popular features like the Shooting Star Starlight Headliner are kept, together with the glowing star-like motif that glitters in the dashboard. It’s paired here with custom timepieces for the Black Badge Ghost, and metal trim pieces given the same smoky finish as the exterior trim.

Time remains one of the Ghost’s big luxuries. The carbon fiber veneer, for example, first requires multiple wood layers be combined, with a top layer of black Bolivar; onto that, resin-coated carbon and contrasting metal-coated thread are applied, by hand, in a diamond pattern. Each part is cured for an hour, and then the whole thing is sand-blasted before six layers of lacquer are applied, hand-sanded, and polished.

Lashings of leather cover the rest of the surfaces, and while Black Badge cars typically feature a darker exterior color scheme, Rolls-Royce says its clients often go for something brighter and more striking inside. The technology remains surreptitious, with physical controls alongside twin displays for the infotainment system and driver instrumentation.

A standard Ghost begins at $393,500. The Black Badge Ghost package adds $43,850 to that, but then figure on spending more for the custom paint and other options. That might be plenty, but the order books are already open and Rolls-Royce says demand is already strong.

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