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Vocus loses another potential suitor as AGL walks away



(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Vocus has seen another potential buyer of its business walk away as AGL has withdrawn the AU$4.85 per share offer it put forward last week.

Following its proposal, AGL was offered exclusive due diligence access for four weeks.

“We believe there will be material opportunities for AGL as energy and data value streams continue to converge and the traditional energy sector accelerates its transformation,” AGL told the ASX on Monday morning, a week into its diligence.

“The approach to Vocus reflected our view that the Vocus asset base has attributes that could support the execution of this strategy and benefit our customers.

“However, we are no longer confident that an acquisition of Vocus at the proposed terms would represent sufficient certainty of creating value for AGL shareholders.”

AGL had previously said its proposed purchase would allow it to offer data and energy bundles to enterprise customers, and that it expected the company to have a positive impact on its earnings within the first year.

Earlier this month, EQT Infrastructure walked away from a AU$5.25 proposal after conducting due diligence.

In its half-year results announced in February, Vocus reported revenue as being up 1% to AU$974 million, while underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) was down 10% to AU$171 million, and statutory earnings before interest and tax was down a third to AU$50 million.

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Vocus receives all cash takeover proposal from EQT Infrastructure

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I got this car tech prediction totally wrong (so buy these instead)



Predicting the future is tough. It’s easy to get caught up in new technology, particularly when it promises to address a common pain point, but sometimes the reality isn’t quite so appealing. That’s just what happened with a new concept car safety tech feature I tried all the way back in 2014, and which is now increasingly commonplace on production vehicles.

You can’t argue with Nissan’s motivation behind the Smart Rearview Mirror, which I tested in a prototype about seven years ago. Traditional rearview mirrors have a relatively narrow field of view, and they’re easily blocked with rear seat passengers and cargo.

Better, surely, to replace them with a camera on the back of the vehicle itself, beaming a live video feed to a display squeezed into the mirror housing. The result is a wider, unobstructed view: about 50-degrees, Nissan said at the time, versus 18-degrees for a traditional mirror. It was, I decided, something every car should have; who, after all, would argue with more visibility?

Today, systems like this are fairly widely available. Nissan has it on production models, and General Motors was pretty quick to launch such a system. Indeed, it beat Nissan to the punch, with the 2017 Cadillac XT5.

Problem is, having now driven multiple cars with the tech, I’ve discovered it’s not quite the safety must-have I thought it would be. Yes, you see more of the road behind you, and it doesn’t matter how big-headed those in the rear seats are, but a combination of the technology and human eyesight have turned out to be considerable drawbacks.

On the tech side, the resolution of the display just can’t match an actual mirror. I might get more in my view from a camera mirror, but I can see more details from the old-school system. More frustrating is the change in the depth of field.

When you glance up from the windshield to the rearview mirror, your eyes are primed to focus on the cars behind you, at the distance you’re expecting to see them at. With a camera mirror system, however, you need to focus on the display itself. The result, I’ve found, is a moment of uncomfortable blurring each time, as I try to refocus from distance to the close-up mirror.

Each time I have a car with the technology fitted, I try it. Each time, after a while, I flip the switch underneath to go back to the “regular” mirror instead. I want to like it, but I just can’t.

I’m not the only one, either. While clearly there are plenty of people who don’t have the same problems, I’ve spoken to a fair number of people – who often, it seems, also wear prescription glasses like I do – that struggle.

So, I’m respectfully withdrawing my suggestion that a rear camera mirror should be standard on every car. While I’m glad it’s out there for drivers who appreciate it, I think there are other safety tech features which offer broader usefulness. Here are three I think are worth looking for as you pick a new vehicle.

360 Degree Camera

I know, I just said that more cameras aren’t necessarily the key to car safety, and that reversing cameras were now mandated on new vehicles. However there’s an option beyond that, still typically a paid upgrade on most cars, which goes one stage further. 360-degree cameras, sometimes known as bird’s eye view cameras, are a worthy upgrade for seeing what’s going on around you.

At first, they can seem fairly magical: a view from overhead, as though you were looking down at your vehicle from a drone. In reality they rely on four cameras, typically – one at the front, one at the rear, and one in each side mirror housing – with wide-angle lenses and some clever software to stitch the whole thing together. The result is a panoramic image around the car, which can make navigating tight parking garages far easier.

Some automakers have gone even further, turning the system into a 3D model. Generally limited to luxury cars and large SUVs, they allow you to drag the view around to focus on different areas – an ominously close curb, for example – on the vehicle’s touchscreen.

Auto Hold

With the prevalence in electronic parking brakes, some automakers have added another useful convenience feature: Auto Hold. Whether it counts as safety tech, or luxury tech, or a blend of the two is a good question. However, it’s something you probably want either way if you’ve ever found yourself inadvertently creeping forward into someone’s bumper at a stop sign or traffic light.

Basically, when you pull to a halt, the vehicle applies the brakes. You can take your foot off the brake pedal and it’ll stay in place, rather than creeping forward, even though you’re still in Drive. Press the accelerator again, and the brake seamlessly deactivates.

Bonus points for those automakers who make the Auto Hold setting latching. A lot of cars “forget” it whenever they’re shut off, and you have to remember to hit the button again when you start them back up again. Double-bonus points to Mercedes, which makes it easy to choose whether to use Auto Hold each time you stop, by applying a little extra pressure on the brake as you come to a halt. After a while that becomes second nature.

Blind Spot Warnings

In another prediction I now feel a lot more confident about having made, blind spot warnings – otherwise known as blind spot indicators – are becoming the next big must-have feature in car safety tech. We’re not quite at the level where regulators are making the system mandatory, as they did with reversing cameras. However, the automakers themselves seem to be heading that way regardless.

Using sensors on the sides of the car, you get a warning when there’s another vehicle in your blind spot: the area you might need to look over your shoulder, or crane your neck, to see. Typically there’s a warning light in the side mirror housing or on the inner window frame. If you pull over regardless, the system will beep an alert, and some vehicles will even steer you away from the other car.

Back in early 2017, when I made the argument that blind spot alerts should be made standard, the system was only really commonplace on luxury cars – or in the top trims of more attainable models. Fast forward to today and you’re far more likely to find it either available, or even standard, on a broad range of vehicles. Having driven thousands of miles on cars with it, I’d say it should be top of your list of safety tech priorities if you’re buying a new or used vehicle.

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Check out the 2+2 Chevrolet Corvette that never was



The 60s was an iconic era in the automotive realm in the United States, with some incredibly popular cars getting their start then Vehicles like the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Chevrolet Corvette, and Dodge Charger, to name a few. Sometimes it takes one vehicle to change the industry and spawn many similar products from the other automakers. Case in point is Ford and its Mustang, which kicked off the pony car era eliciting responses with other iconic vehicles.

Another of the iconic Ford vehicles in the era that sold extremely well was the Thunderbird. The Thunderbird routinely outsold the Chevrolet Corvette. Early in its production, the Thunderbird was a two-seat sports car very similar to the Corvette. It grew in later generations, becoming a 2+2, offering a back seat to carry more passengers. The vehicle in the image above looks like the iconic 60s split-window Corvettes that are so valuable today, but there’s a key difference.

The difference is readily apparent when you look at the side view image in the Instagram post below, where General Motors Design shared photos of a one-off design buck. A design buck is essentially the shell of the vehicle used by automotive designers of the day to get the vehicle’s design just right. This particular example was never powered and never cruised the streets.

The car was a response to the Thunderbird, adding backseats to the Corvette in 1962. Sadly, the 2+2 Corvette was never built, and reports indicate the design buck was later crushed. Another interesting tidbit is that GM reportedly brought in a Ferrari to help with the styling and proportions of the car.

As for what finally became of the project, a GM executive named Bunkie Knudsen, who was part of the styling team but wasn’t a fan of the project, reportedly worked to get the project scrapped. He believed it would taint the Corvette brand and wouldn’t sell in large enough numbers to justify building it. The only Corvettes ever sold by GM have all been two-seat sports cars.

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Alpha Motors Superwolf is a completely decked out electric pickup



Alpha Motors unveiled a new version of its all-electric pickup called the Superwolf. The difference between this particular version of the truck and the ones that have been shown before is that the Superwolf is completely decked out with all sorts of accessories you might expect to find only on the aftermarket. One of the more interesting accessories seen on the truck is tube doors similar to what you commonly see on Jeeps.

Superwolf also has custom KMC wheels with large off-road tires, a custom front bumper with tow rings and skid plates, as well as a complete roof rack featuring an LED light bar and large locking case. In the bed of the truck is a rack that adds more style to the truck and supports the roof basket.

Under the doors are also compact step rails that look like they are intended to protect the vehicle’s body while off-roading. The truck also features wide fender flares and looks fantastic in general. Other interesting features of the truck include a bed cover that appears to be made out of aluminum and a rack that spans the bed allowing for items to be attached on top of the bed itself.

Several other accessories are available for the truck, including a bed extension and more. Other than the accessories, Superwolf features a driving range of up to 300 miles per charge. It has two motors for four-wheel drive and can reach 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. The truck has a tow rating of 6724 pounds and features a rapid charger with battery cooling and heating.

The truck’s interior can hold four passengers and has a digital display for the driver along with the wide-format center display. Bluetooth connectivity and premium sound are also featured. Superwolf can be reserved now with a starting MSRP listed at between $48,000 and $56,000.

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