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Audi Q8 2019,the new flagship SUV

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Audi Q8

It’s taken a while for Audi to join the coupe-style SUV market, but as the market for lifted vehicles grows it’s better to be late than never.

And even though the Q8’s styling won’t suit all tastes – Audi maintains the boxy arches are inspired by the ur-Quattro, skimming over the fact that they were genuinely functional on that car rather than a stylistic frippery – it’s perhaps the best interpretation of the formula we’ve seen yet.

The Q8 looks less uncomfortable than its rivals and its wider, lower silhouette is an undoubted improvement on the Audi Q7 with which it shares so much under the skin.

With five seats to the Q7’s seven it’s the less practical option, but the trade-off, according to Audi, is a more dynamic drive. Just one power unit will be available from launch – a 3-litre V6 TDI badged 50 TDI – with a 45 TDI diesel and 55 TFSI petrol (both still 3-litre and both V6s) arriving in 2019. The 50 TDI is identical to that recently seen in the A6, A7, A8 and others, producing 286PS from 3500-4000rpm and 442lb ft from 2250-3250rpm.

The standard transmission is an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic, with the option to select gears using steering wheel-mounted paddles. The behaviour of the gearbox can be adjusted with Audi’s Drive Select system and the car has the ability to coast and recuperate energy thanks to its 48v mild hybrid technology.

Power is sent through a Quattro all-wheel-drive system with a locking centre differential, with power split 40:60 in normal driving and more still sent to the rear when required. The upshot of all this is a 6.3-second 0-62mph run and a top speed of 144mph. Official fuel consumption and CO2 figures are yet to be confirmed, but a similarly-powered (but slightly lighter) Audi A8 manages 50.4mpg, so expect the taller, heavier Q8 to return a figure in the mid-40s.

There’s little here we haven’t seen before, but to review the basics, the Q8’s structure is what Audi calls its Space Frame concept, a mixture of cast aluminium and high-strength hot-formed steel. Kerb weight is 2145kg for the 3-litre TDI versions, which is still fairly hefty – Audi quotes 2060kg for the seven-seat Q7. Dynamic all-wheel steering, standard on the special Vorsprung models and optional on the S line, does help mitigate the Q8’s size and weight.

Audi’s 48v mild hybrid technology is the same here as we’ve seen previously, using a belt-driven starter/alternator to kick the engine into life, stop it when necessary, recuperate energy under deceleration, and reduce load under acceleration to improve both performance and efficiency.

TECH

Elon Musk Unveils Revolutionary AI Startup xAI

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xAI Elon Musk

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, has announced the formation of a new artificial intelligence startup called xAI. The company comprises engineers who have previously worked at companies like OpenAI and Google. Musk has previously expressed his belief that AI development should be paused and regulated.

The aim of xAI is to “understand reality” and “the true nature of the universe,” although its specific objectives and funding are currently unknown. The company will host a Twitter Spaces chat on Friday that may reveal more details. Musk was an original backer of OpenAI, but his relationship with the company has deteriorated due to his criticisms of their language model, ChatGPT, for having a liberal bias and its relationship with Microsoft.

He has also signed an open letter calling for a pause to “Giant AI Experiments” and has expressed concerns about AI safety and the data used to train chatbots. Musk purchased Twitter and made significant changes, leading to some high-profile departures from the platform.

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BUSINESS

Econet goes into forex exchange. Launches bureau de change

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Ecocash Zimbabwe

ECOCASH has launched a digital mobile phone-based bureau de change in a move set to increase competition in the foreign currency exchange business.

The innovative facility, a first by a mobile money service provider, will likely revolutionise the business by providing the much-needed convenience to the platform’s 10 million registered customers.

According to the company, the new service will allow EcoCash customers to sell foreign currency in real-time and instantly have the local currency converted and credited to their wallets.

The move follows the granting of an operating licence to EcoCash by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, which has an effect of increasing access to specialised digital financial services to millions of Zimbabweans.

Speaking at the launch of the service in Harare yesterday, EcoCash chief executive officer, Ms Natalie Jabangwe, explained how the service would work.

“Before performing a currency conversion transaction, one needs to fund their EcoCash wallet,” she said, adding that a wallet could be funded in a number of ways.

“You fund your wallet by doing a cash-in of physical US dollars (or forex) into the wallet. Or you fund your wallet over the counter, at any Econet Shop. You can also fund your wallet through a direct in-wallet receipt of remittances from the diaspora into your EcoCash wallet. This could be through existing EcoCash remittance partners, which include Cassava Remit, World Remit, Mukuru, Western Union, Money Gram, Orange Botswana and MTN.”
Ms Jabangwe said an EcoCash customer could also fund their wallet via a Nostro bank-to-wallet transfer on their phone, from their respective FCA bank account linked to the EcoCash FCA wallet. She said once the wallet was funded, a customer could then proceed to dial a dedicated EcoCash Bureau de Change menu on the access code *150# to carry out their transaction.

“Customers will be able to check the rate of the day, get a quote for the amount to be sold and receive instant ‘confirmation of sale’ of foreign currency and the ZW$ conversation amount – all this happening via their mobile phone,” Ms Jabangwe said.

Cassava Smartech CEO, Mr Eddie Chibi, the parent company of EcoCash, said: “We are excited to be the first and only mobile financial service provider in Africa to offer this innovative service to our customers, empowering them with a simple, convenient, fast and real-time Bureau de Change service that they can access and use to transact anywhere, anytime.”

He said the service will help customers access competitive exchange rates quickly, convert or change their money in real-time, and transact on a secure platform that they have come to trust.

Ms Jabangwe said EcoCash Zimbabwe continued to leverage on the dynamic innovation capabilities that technology gives by building new products and services that go beyond the early services of financial inclusion.

“The advantage of having a scaled transaction platform is that you can build new services in line with a changing market environment. Accessibility of these services on the mobile phone enables us to travel the journey with our customers towards more complex but necessary financial services in the future,” she said. The Chronicle

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BUSINESS

Cassava Smartech Zimbabwe ventures into trucks business

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Cassava Smartech Zimbabwe

Cassava Smartech Zimbabwe, yesterday launched the Vaya logistics unit, an additional entity that deals with delivery trucks and van services under its Vaya division.

The launch of the new product was done at the Cassava Smartech stand at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF).

Like any ordinary ride, the trucks and vans can be “easily” booked from anywhere at any time via the convenience of a mobile application, management said.

Chief executive officer Mrs Dorothy Zimuto said the launch came about after Cassava had noticed high demand for service to transport cargo on the market.

“Today, here in Bulawayo, we are launching Vaya logistics under the Vaya division because we noticed that there is a need to transport cargo from one place to another,” she said.

She said the company noticed that people using Vaya mobile were bringing cargo along with them which small rides could not transport.

“Previously we only had Vaya express, which moved small packages from one point to another but we have now introduced vans and trucks that can transport heavier cargo,” said Mrs Zimuto.

She said the services were not in competition with any business but were rather complementing what is already on the market.

Mrs Zimuto said Cassava was working on introducing waste disposal services and Vaya specialists services such as borehole drilling, road construction and plumbing under the Vaya division.

She said Cassava was looking at creating a pool of builders, plumbers, electricians, agronomists, mechanics, drivers, nurse aides, carpenters, tillers, tailors, tutors, hairdressers, barbers and domestic workers so that they can be connected to their various markets under an initiative called Technites.

Cassava Smartech has managed to successfully bring into operation Vaya tractor and ambulance services, which can also be accessed on the Vaya mobile app.

Meanwhile, Cassava Smartech, taking advantage of the ZITF platform, has also launched its shuttle services by offering free rides to exhibitors, business people and professionals travelling to the trade fair by air.

Throughout the trade fair week, the Vaya shuttle will be offering free shuttle service to all visitors to ZITF landing at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport. The Chronicle

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