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The following research on ASIMO is engaged by Honda Advanced Technology

Honda is generally associated as a company that produces cars and motorcycles. In a departure to traditional wheeled vehicles, Honda also pursuit in researching more radical mobility technology. The result is ASIMO, Honda’s Advanced Mobility Technology.

The concept behind Honda’s robot R&D was to create a viable mobility technology that allows robot to live with and help human kind. With two-legged walking capability, the robot would be free from purpose built roads and be able to maneuver with human. This includes circumventing objects, going up and down stairs, and walking on uneven roads. The ultimate objective is, of course, to allow the robot to live in a human home and not confined to purpose built environments.

Contrary to popular misconception, ASIMO is not a reference to popular science fiction writer and the inventor of the Three Laws of Robotics, Issac Asimov, but an acronym for “Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility”

Asimo's History
the whole lineup, from experimental models to the new ASIMO

The first version of ASIMO was unveiled in 2000 following a slew of experimental models developed by Honda started from the 1986. The first seven models (E0 to E6) were basically just walking legs, three other humanoid robots with upper limbs were developed from 1993 to 1997 before ASIMO was launched. Almost a quarter century of dedicated development.

The current version of ASIMO, first unveiled in 2005, has seen numerous improvement over the previous version. The robot can walk at a leisure speed of 2.7 km/hour, and for the first time, run at 6 km/hour. ASIMO can also do what most other things human is capable of, this includes recognizing people’s face and interact with them via its head-mounted camera, maneuver around obstructions, as well as dance in tune with music.

By being programmed and operated wirelessly, ASIMO can perform a number of tasks including fetching coffee, walking hand-in-hand with a human, and even conducting a symphony ochestra.

ASIMO runs on Lithium Ion battery with a continuous operating time of 40 minutes to 1 hour. The robot will automatically identify and walk to the closest charging station when its remaining battery level falls below a certain level. This ensures that there isn’t any human intervention needed to recharge the robot.

Honda’s commitment to continue development of ASIMO and its advanced mobility technology will only mean that the robot will one day take an active role in fulfilling serious functions in society. It may serve as another set of eyes, ears, hands, and legs for all kinds of people in need.

Hopefully soon enough, we will all have an ASIMO or equivalent serving as the helper at home instead of having to hire foreign maids like we do now.

For more information, you can visit Honda Advanced Technology

Thanks to AutoConnexion, the official dealer of Ford in Malaysia,I had a chance to take the Ford Focus 2.0 Sports for the weekends not long ago.

Ford Focus was the car that replaced the venerable Ford Escort (or Ford Laser in this region) about 10 years ago. The car I got was the newly face lifted 2nd generation Focus, the 2.0 Sports hatch.

Ford Focus 2.0 Sports

At first glance, I was quite impressed with the built of the car. The doors felt solid, workmanship on the exterior pretty much flawless, and the interior too was rather refined.

After adjusting the seats (manually) and steering wheel to make myself comfortable, I noticed that the visibility of the car was very good. Very big windshield and the small A pillars gives you a very clear picture of what’s happening in front, while the bigger than usual side mirrors offer a clear rear view. The smallish center rear view mirror though, is no different from most other cars.

Ford Focus 2.0 Interior

Meter cluster is mounted right in front of the wheel with the tachometer (red line at 6500 rpm) and speedometer sandwiching a central display and two smaller meters on top (temperature and fuel indicator).

The display is bright and pretty easy to read in both day and nighttime driving conditions, with the central display showing current fuel consumption, number of kilometers left for available fuel, outside temperature, current gear (with sequential shift), trip meter, and a few other information with the manipulation of a little control stick.

Ford Focus meter cluster

The car also comes with a 6 speed CD changer (with mp3 function) and 6 speakers that performs pretty decent for an OEM unit. There is also a steering column mounted audio control for changing radio channels, volume, track, etc.

Air conditioning performance is one of those things that is of supreme importance in this country. While this fully imported model still comes with heater, the air conditioning did not disappoint. Driver and passenger gets to control their own temperature zone, and there are also two air vents for the rear passengers.

Ford Focus 2.0 Sports

The ride of this car was actually pretty smooth and comfortable with a very good level of noise insulation. However, the car really shines when you attack the corners with heavier foot. While the 143hp engine with it’s 4 speed auto transmission isn’t exactly in the sports car’s league, it is pretty sufficient for city driving and those occasional spirited moments.

The price? RM 116k or so for both the sedan (with leather seats) and sports hatch model.

The first generation Proton Saga that came out in 1985 was also the first ever Malaysian automobile production, based on the 1983 Mitsubishi Lancer. 23 years later, Proton finally came up with an all new second generation Proton Saga, also known as the BLM (base line model).

Proton Saga BLM front shot
The 2008 white Proton Saga BLM

While the first generation saga came with a choice of 1.3 or 1.5 liter engine (the later Iswara face lift model only had 1.3), the BLM come with only one engine choice. The 1.3 liter Campro I4 that churns out a respectable 94 bhp at 6000 rpm. For a car that weigh just over 1 tonne (about 100kg heavier than it’s predecessor), this is a pretty reasonable power to weight ratio for city and highway driving with an occasional trip to Genting.

The new car is also bigger and better than the previous version. More interior space as well as new and improved design in every aspects. It is actually quite surprising that the car is based on the same platform with Proton Savvy.

Rear view, Proton Saga BLM 2008
2008 Proton Saga BLM rear view

Proton Saga comes either with Automatic or Manual transmission. Pricing is from RM31,500 to RM39,800 and they are currently selling like hot cakes. Proton is planning to sell about 50,000 to 60,000 Sagas per year. In fact, together with Proton Persona, the car maker has improved it’s financial stage tremendously, announcing a net income in the three months ended March 31 at 236.4 million ringgit.

After a quarter century since the 2nd generation Dodge Challenger stopped production, the the classic muscle car is back again with a vengeance. The 3rd generation Challenger, the SRT8, is bigger, heavier, more luxury, meaner, and way, way more powerful than its predecessors.

2008 dodge challenger action shot
2008 Dodge Challenger, the classic muscle car

This baby churns out 425 bhp with a massive 420 lbs/ft torque off the 6.1-liter HEMI V8. A 5 speed AutoStick automatic transmission is mated with this engine. A set of 20″ wheels complete the package. Although the car weighs a hefty 4140 lbs, it is still able to do 0-100km/h in less than 6 seconds and a 1/4 mile time below 14 seconds. We shall wait for the real world results before the end of this year.

Other than the in-your-face exterior that is both very effective and aesthetically pleasing, the race inspired interior is equally as good. The simple black and blue lume color scheme is a stark contrast with the loud orange exterior, but somehow jives very well.

interior of dodge challenger 2008
luxurious and classy interior

Of course, for the US $40k you pay, the Challenger SRT8 does come with other bells and whistles like GPS, keyless entry and hands-free system. Then again, for a car this impractical with the current fuel price, who cares? All we want is to have some tire-burning fun. I’m sure there aren’t many people from the 6400 cars booked this year who’ll use it as a daily driver.

After hanging around the car industry for around 2 decades, the Korean manufacturer Kia Motors is finally gaining some respect by coming out with models that are actually very attractive, especially in terms of look. The Kia Soul 2009 is a production car that was first shown as a concept car at the 2006 Detroit Auto Show.

Kia soul concept car
Kia Soul concept in the Autoshow

The design of Soul is very distinctive and quite unlike any other compact SUVs, the chief designer at Kia Motors Europe Gregory Guillaume was quoted saying “The all-new Kia production car will be a car that defies classification and encourages customers to build an emotional bond with their new purchase by providing a creative platform that they can customise to match their car to their own character. It will appeal especially to the young-at-heart – whatever their age”.

white kia soul
Kia Soul on the road

A 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine mated with a 5-speed automatic transmission would be driving the Soul. Although an SUV, this car is most likely to get only front wheel drive, there is no 4 wheel drive version as yet. You can call this a car-type SUV rather than something you would want to take off road.

To give you an idea on the power from this car, the current 2.0 liter engine used in Kia Spectra produces 138 bhp. Pretty tame for an SUV, hopefully they boost up the power output a little since the Spectra is certainly a lighter car.

interior of Kia Soul 2009

This car is definitely going along the line of Mini Cooper and VW Beetle 2.0, with attractive styler that will likely to capture the younger crowd. Pricing should be around US $16-18k when it is launched this summer.