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Australia is at a three-year low for TIO complaints

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(Image: Comms Alliance)

The Australian telecommunications industry body Communications Alliance is revelling in a three-year low on its Complaints in Context report.

Measuring complaints per 10,000 services made to Australia’s Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) for the period covering October to December 2018, the report now has a metric of 6. Throughout 2018, the metric fell from a high of 9.3 to its current level.

The order of the telcos measured in the report has stayed consisent, with Optus topping out at 6.9 complaints per 10,000 services, followed by Telstra at 6.6, Vodafone with 3, and Amaysim and Pivotel recording 0.5 each.

“A full year of improvement demonstrates without question that the hard work by telecommunications providers is reaping dividends for customers,” Comms Alliance CEO John Stanton said.

“This has been a multi-faceted effort, and collaboration between industry, government, and regulators has been an important part of this success.”

The TIO escaped from being axed last year, when Part A of the Consumer Safeguards Review, which focused on complaints handling, saw the Australian government decide against abolishing the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

“[There was] near universal support from both consumers, industry, and other industry Ombudsman schemes for EDR [external dispute resolution] in the telecommunications sector to continue being provided by the TIO, but acknowledgement that improvements could be made to the TIO Scheme,” the review said.

“The review suggests that it would be appropriate to implement reforms to the current TIO scheme rather than establish a new EDR body at this time. This approach would see the existing EDR arrangements maintained, but further reformed and enhanced.”

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This is the new Tesla Model S

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Tesla has redesigned the Model S, its electric sedan, with a new interior and even more range on offer. The upgrade includes new battery modules, battery packs, and drive units, Tesla said today, complete with an entirely new interior. The automaker is also reworking its Model X SUV, it says.

It’s a welcome revamp for what is the oldest EV that Tesla currently sells. The Model S was certainly groundbreaking when Tesla first launched it, and not only for its reliance on all-electric propulsion: its touchscreen-dominated dashboard went on to arguably set expectations for what a modern car interior should look like.

Tesla built on that with the Model 3 and Model Y, its more affordable models, and in comparison to their minimalistic lines the Model S’ interior looked positively fussy. That’s all being upturned today, with the reveal of the new Model S cabin that Tesla says it’s been preparing its Fremont factory to build.

It’s definitely unique. The steering wheel has been cut down to a pared-back rectangle which Tesla calls the yoke, similar to what we’ve seen Tesla show before on the second-generation Roadster. That has simple controls built-in – a pair of scroll wheels flanked by buttons for indicators, lights, and multimedia control – with a dedicated 12.3-inch driver instrumentation display behind.

In the center console, meanwhile, there’s a full touchscreen for controlling the infotainment system. As in the Model 3, it’s oriented horizontally, a change from the Model S’ vertical touchscreen. Beneath it there’s cubbies along with a wireless charging pad for phones.

The 17-inch center display has a 2200 x 1300 resolution now, and can be tilted from left to right depending on visibility needs. Tesla says the onboard processing is good for up to 10 teraflops of power, which can be used for in-car gaming. There’ll be support for wireless controllers, too.

Overhead, there’s a full glass roof as standard, which uses infrared and UV blocking to avoid heat and glare. Meanwhile, there’s a 22-speaker, 960 watt audio system for music, with microphones embedded for active noise canceling. Each seat gets heating, as does the steering wheel and the windshield; front seats also get ventilation.

Tri-zone climate control with HEPA air filtration is standard, as is ambient lighting. Custom driver profiles are supported, and the power liftgate and power folding side mirrors are standard too. Wireless and USB-C fast charging is fitted for each passenger. Buyers of the new Model S get a year’s Premium Connectivity bundled, with live traffic, satellite view maps, music streaming, internet browser, and video streaming with access to services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Twitch.

The dashboard as a whole is far cleaner, with Tesla’s invisible air vents system for the HVAC. In the rear, meanwhile, there’s now a second, 8-inch touchscreen display presented at the back of the center console. That’s used to control things like climate control and other settings.

Outside, the changes aren’t quite so dramatic, though it’s still a different look to the Model S we’re familiar with. The big difference is the arrival of the redesigned Model S Plaid, its most potent version of the EV. That, the automaker says, should be capable of doing 0-60 mph in under 2.0 seconds, the quarter mile in under 9.3 seconds, and a top speed of 200 mph. It starts at $119,990 for the Plaid with 390 miles of range, or $139,990 for the Plaid+ with a whopping 520+ miles of range. The new Model S Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive Long Range – which can do 412 miles – starts at $79,990

Under the sheet metal, the changes have been led by advancements made for the Model 3 and Model Y, Tesla says. “While our Model S and Model X battery module architecture evolved over the past 8 years, both the battery pack and modules have now been fully redesigned,” Tesla says. “Additionally, we have incorporated Model 3 and Model Y motor technology throughout as well as our heat pump for better winter range.”

The changes also help with high-speed quarter-mile runs, Tesla claims, with an apparent 5x improvement in how many can be carried out. The Model S and Model X Performance models have been replaced by the Plaid trim, with its tri-motor configuration. The controversial “Full Self-Driving Capability” package is $10,000.

Production of the new Model S and Model X will resume later in Q1 2021, Tesla says, “and ramp back to full capacity over time.” According to the online order system, new orders should ship from March for the Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive and Plaid, and late 2021 for the Model S Plaid+.

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EV drivers are getting better Google Maps route planning – with a catch

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Google is adding new features for electric vehicle drivers to Google Maps, improving its algorithms for EV route planning, though just who’ll be able to make the most of them will depend on what’s parked in your garage. The goal, Google says, is to improve how trip planning for journeys that involve two or more recharging pitstops is handled, to reduce stress and trim driving time.

The new routing algorithms rely on what’s known as graph theory, effectively calculating multiple routes through different charging locations so as to pick the most efficient. That’s not just a matter of distance: factors like speed, altitude changes, weather, traffic, and other trip metrics have a significant impact on how far an EV can actually go on a charge. Meanwhile, the speed of individual chargers also needs to be taken into account.

Google says that it can combine all of those factors for the best route in under 10 seconds. “You can see how long each charge will take and your updated total trip time,” Alex Donaldson, Product Manager for Google Maps explains, “so your final ETA will never again be a mystery.”

It’s not the first addition to Google Maps with EVs in mind. Google previously updated its listings for charging locations with extra details about just what sort of connectors you might find at each charger, so that drivers could better match their car’s capabilities to the plugs on offer. It then added real-time status to the maps, so that drivers would know not only whether a compatible plug was there, but if it was currently in use with another vehicle.

The difference between that and Google’s new features announced today, of course, is just who can access them. The real-time charger location and status information is available to anybody with Google Maps on their phone or in the browser, whereas the updated routing algorithms launching today require having a vehicle that’s running Android Automotive OS. That’s Google’s platform for vehicles – not to be confused with Android Auto, which involves projecting your smartphone display on top of the car’s underlying infotainment system – which so far is only available on a couple of models.

Right now, indeed, you’ll need to be driving either a new Polestar 2 or a new Volvo XC40 Recharge in order to have Android Automotive OS on your dashboard. Volvo is set to launch more models with the platform, along with other automakers like GM, but it’s worth noting that the timescales of car companies are typically a lot more protracted than that of consumer tech firms.

Other additions to the version of Google Maps built into car dashboards are more information on charging locations. That includes which are the fastest, and which are compatible with any specific charging company membership you might have. “You can also see if a charging spot is close to a grocery store or coffee shop,” Donaldson says, “so you can knock out errands or recharge yourself with a latte while you wait.”

In Europe, Google Maps will also begin showing what payment methods are supported at different stations. That’s launching initially in twelve countries – Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, and Luxembourg – with more promised in the pipeline.

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This Ferrari Breadvan pays homage to a 1960s racing icon

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What you’re staring at is a one-off homage to Ferrari’s 250 GT SWB Breadvan racecar that first appeared at the 1962 24 Hours of Le Mans. The vintage-inspired bodywork is the brainchild of Dutch coachbuilder Niels van Roij Design and is commissioned by an anonymous client.

“We see it as a great privilege that we can honor the Breadvan through this Hommage commission,” said Van Roij. “It is a complex task to translate the essence of the legendry ’62 car into a contemporary design. We intend to be inspired by the old car, but will ensure we are not limited by it in our creativity.”

This modern Ferrari Breadvan started life as a Ferrari 550 Maranello. After many sketches and building a full-size clay model, the Breadvan Hommage gains a new front bumper, a domed hood, and fresh air vents. The body panels were hand-beaten to perfection by coachbuilder Bas van Roomen, and only the windshield was carried over from the donor vehicle.

It’s a different story in the rear. The roofline stretches flat towards the back, where the line breaks into a nearly 90-degree angle to form the silhouette of a bread van. Like the vintage model, Niels van Roij saw it proper to fit four round taillights, a glass rear window, and lengthy quad exhaust tips as the original.

Of course, the retro theme is applied to the cabin with hand-beaten aluminum trim pieces, quilted black leather trim, and milled aluminum switchgear. Meanwhile, carbon-fiber sport seats are standard, and the groovy blue upholstery adds a nice vintage flair.

Otherwise, the mechanical bits and pieces were untouched save for a new handmade exhaust system, bespoke Koni shock absorbers, and Vredestein Ultrac Vorti+ tires. Motivating this modern Ferrari Breadvan is a naturally-aspirated 5.5-liter V8 engine producing 478 horsepower and 419 pound-feet of torque with a six-speed gated manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive.

Since the Ferrari Breadvan Hommage is a one-off, you won’t expect to see it outside a swanky coffee shop or restaurant anytime soon, unless you’re lucky. We’ve seen a lot of one-off Ferraris before, but the Breadvan is definitely one of the most fascinating by far.

Ferrari Breadvan Hommage Gallery

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