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Telstra and Optus complaints jump: Comms Alliance

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Telco complaints have grown from 6 per 10,000 services in operation (SIO) to 7.5 complaints in just one quarter, according to the latest quarterly report from the Australian Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) and Communications Alliance.

Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone Australia all clocked in with higher complaints ratios — with Optus’ rise being the highest, from 6.9 to 9 complaints per 10,000 SIO.

During the quarter to March 2019, Telstra had a complaints ratio of 8.2 per 10,000 SIO, up from 6.6 last quarter. Vodafone’s rise in complaints was only marginal, growing from 3 to 3.1 complaints during the quarter.

Pivotal and Amaysim both remained at just 0.5 complaints per 10,000 SIO.

According to Comms Alliance CEO John Stanton, the January to March quarter usually sees a higher number of complaints.

“Some of our members have reported that the latest result has been influenced by adverse weather events and natural disasters. Nonetheless, we acknowledge there is more work to be done by all players in the supply chain to ensure a positive experience for Australian telecommunications consumers, including during transition from one network to another,” Stanton said.

“The proposed upcoming registration of a revised and strengthened Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code by the industry regulator will provide additional consumer protections and an expanded Complaints in Context report, driving continued improvements through the co-regulatory system.”

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is currently looking to revise the TCP Code.

Every quarter, the TIO in conjunction with Comms Alliance publishes a Complaints in Context report covering landline, mobile, and internet service complaints from residential and small business consumers.

The new report follows the TIO’s annual report in October saying telco complaints, including those about the National Broadband Network (NBN), are “turning a corner”.

“I am pleased to report that the number of complaints about telecommunications services in Australia appear to be turning the corner, with complaints trending down in the latter part of the year,” Ombudsman Judi Jones said last year.

For the year to June 30, the TIO received 167,831 complaints in total, with 146,958 from consumers and 20,433 from small business.

Mobile phone services made up 51,328 complaints; multiple services accounted for 49,875 complaints; internet services caused 46,703 complaints; landline phone services 18,736 complaints; and property 1,189 complaints.

For complaint types, customer service made up the most complaints, at 40% overall, followed by payment for a service at 36%; service delivery at 31%; establishing a service at 2%; and property at 1%.

Earlier this month, the TIO also said complaints about the NBN had halved for the six months to December 2018, sitting at 61,000 made between July 1 and December 31, 2018.

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2022 Acura MDX reveal date confirmed – What to expect

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Acura is on a roll right now, with the unexpectedly-capable 2021 TLX under its belt, and now we know when the next big launch, the 2022 Acura MDX, is taking place. The automaker’s three-row SUV is already one of its most important vehicles, but with this fourth-generation update it’s set to double-down on the concept of pairing rewarding dynamics with plenty of space.

We’ve already seen some heavy hints of what Acura has in mind. The MDX Prototype shown off in October gave a thinly-veiled preview of the upcoming production SUV, with bolder creases, a more muscular body, and high-end detailing.

At the front, the MDX Prototype featured the Diamond Pentagon grille and JewelEye LED headlamps that Acura launched with its head-turning concepts over the past few years. It’s also a bigger car, with a longer dash-to-axle distance to emphasize the hood, and a stretched wheelbase for more cabin space.

The engineering tidbits Acura dropped for the MDX Prototype should be carried over to the 2022 MDX, too. That means a new light-truck platform, with double wishbone front suspension on the MDX line for the first time. Fourth-generation Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) will, unsurprisingly, be available too, with torque vectoring for the rear wheels.

Under the hood there’ll be a 3.5-liter VTEC V6 engine, paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. No word on power figures there, yet. Inside, there’ll be more space and an uptick in both quality and technology, Acura promises. The prototype had more room in all three rows, along with new sports seats with integrated massage, Milano leather with French stitched detailing, and an ultra-wide panoramic moonroof covering all three rows overhead.

The analog gauges are gone, with a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument binnacle in their place. Another 12.3-inch screen sits in the center console for infotainment duties; it’s the interface for a new “Signature Edition” ELS STUDIO 3D premium audio system as well, boasting 22 channels, 25 speakers, and 1,000+ watts of power. Figure on plenty of active safety tech as well, including the multi-segment front passenger airbag that made its debut on the 2021 TLX.

Perhaps most exciting is the promise of an even more potent version. The MDX Type S will follow on in summer 2021, Acura says, and be the first such sports SUV that the automaker offers. It’ll have a special 3.0-liter turbocharged V6, good for 355 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque, and come with SH-AWD as standard.

We’ll see the 2022 Acura MDX officially on December 8, with a livestream kicking off from 11:30am PST. It’s due to arrive in dealerships from early 2021, meanwhile.

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Waymo is building a new replica city to test its driverless tech

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Waymo is opening two new autonomous vehicle facilities, including a dense urban playground for its self-driving passenger cars as they refine their human-replacing technology. The Alphabet-owned company, spun out from Google’s labs, currently operates a ride-hailing program in Phoenix, AZ, Waymo One, but has visions of far broader applications for driverless cars and trucks.

Waymo One recently came out of closed beta, offering app-summoned rides in a self-driving vehicle around a geofenced area. At the wheel is the Waymo Driver, the company’s name for its autonomous driving technology – including software and hardware – which it plans to apply not only to taxi-alternatives but Class 8 trucks, too.

Both of those concepts will now have a new place for research, development, and testing. First up, Waymo is working with the Transportation Research Center (TRC) in East Liberty, Ohio, to open a brand new testing environment for the Waymo Driver. It’ll be built according to Waymo’s specific requirements for its autonomous vehicles, and allow for testing rare or more dangerous events that are uncommonly seen on public roads.

“This new testing facility will model a dense urban environment and enable us to test longtail challenges you might never encounter on public roads as we continue to advance the fifth-generation Waymo Driver,” the company said today, “our most advanced software and hardware (including lidar, cameras, and radar) yet.”

Waymo will also use TRC’s other facilities, including its truck testing tracks. That’s part of the company’s focus on replacing human drivers in semi-trucks for haulage, with the Waymo Driver set to be at the heart of new autonomous trucks in a collaboration with industry heavyweight Daimler. The goal there is production driverless trucks – based on the Freightliner Cascadia – on sale in the US “in the coming years.”

Focusing on that goal specifically, a new R&D facility for trucking will be opening in Menlo Park, CA. It’ll move into the new location early in the new year, and allow Waymo space not only to refine the fifth-generation Waymo Driver on Class 8 trucks, but provide space for its fleet of test vehicles and the team working on them.

This isn’t the first time Waymo has used closed-course testing, mind. The company already has a 91 acre city mock-up, at Castle Air Force base in Merced, CA, which includes a variety of setups including suburbs and high-speed highways. There, it can run repeated trials on specific challenges – such as dealing safety with railroad crossings or roundabouts – at a much more rapid pace than out on public roads.

The TRC partnership, however, will add to that with a number of advantages. Given the location, it’ll introduce different weather types: much more rain and snow, particularly. Since autonomous vehicle sensors can be challenged by reduced visibility and other conditions, that’s an important area of testing. Waymo is also taking advantage of the proximity to Waymo Detroit, in Novi, MI, for easier transportation of newly Driver-equipped vehicles to the test site.

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Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition makes crossover EV even faster

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Ford is adding a new, even more potent version of its electric crossover, with the Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition adding speed and torque to live up to the pony badging. Based on the Mustang Mach-E GT announced at the end of 2019, the Performance Edition package will trim the estimated 0-60 mph time from 3.8 seconds, Ford says, to 3.5 seconds.

With two electric motors – one for the front and one for the rear, for e-AWD – there’ll be the same 480 horsepower or 358 kW of power. Torque, however, will increase: the regular GT gets 600 lb-ft, but the GT Performance Edition will bump that up to 634 lb-ft.

Other changes include 19-inch front brakes with red-painted Brembo calipers, plus different wheels. The Performance Edition gets 20-inch machined-face alloys, with Ebony Black-painted pockets. 245/45R20 Pirelli summer tires are standard on the package, too, as is MagneRide damping. Ride height is lowered by 0.1 inches, to 5.1 inches.

Inside, there are Ford Performance front seats, covered in Performance Gray ActiveX fabric with metallic stitching and Miko perforated reflective inserts. A special aluminum appliqué has been added to the instrument panel, too, and there’ll be Performance Edition GT badging. Ford will offer the same array of exterior Mustang colors on the more potent version.

The downside is a cut in range. Ford is targeting 250 miles from the Mustang Mach-E GT’s 88 kWh battery – official EPA range figures won’t be available until closer to the crossover’s release next year, though the US agency did confirm other 2021 Mustang Mach-E range numbers recently – but the GT Performance Edition is expected to dip to 235 miles.

Obviously just how far you can go on a charge will depend on how you drive it, and it’s likely that those eager for the most powerful of the Mustang Mach-E family won’t so much mind the compromise. As with most of the rest of the variants, the GT Performance Edition will support up to 150 kW DC fast charging. You’ll also be able to add the Ford Drive Assist system, when it’s enabled by the automaker, for hands-free driving on the highway.

Reservations for the Mustang Mach-E GT are already open, with the car expected to begin deliveries late in summer 2021. Those who have already reserved the GT will have the option to add the Performance Edition package when they convert their reservation to a full order; that process is expected to start in the spring of next year. Pricing for the package will be confirmed closer to that point.

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