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Bentley Motors blends tech and coachbuilding in the 2022 Continental GT Speed

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Bentley Motors stands bestride the old world and the modern era. For over a century, the automaker has been at the forefront of automotive luxury and performance, and while it has constantly adapted to change during the years, classic, tactile coachbuilding has always remained as its ethos.

This romantic view of automotive manufacturing seems almost at odds with our current level of technological advancement and the demands of the modern luxury consumer.

If Bentley has mastered anything, it’s rolling with the times while sticking to the classic hits. The best example of this is the 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed, a powerful two-door grand tourer that’s simply unlike any other car on the road today.

Nuts and bolts

Image Credits: Alex Kalogianni

The Bentley Continental GT is the two-door sibling to the four-door Bentley Continental Flying Spur sedan. Though they share many elements, the GT is much more than a halved version of the larger car, and distinguishes itself in design and performance, among other factors.

The centerpiece of the GT is a 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 engine, a massive power unit that is a unique outlier in this era of shrinking (or indeed vanishing) engines. This signature system produces 650 horsepower for the Speed, a 24 hp bump from the standard Conti GT W12. It doles out an impressive 664 pound-feet of torque and is sent through a dual-clutch eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Power is sent through all four wheels while an enhanced chassis system puts it all to use.

“Our chassis engineers have an incredible array of technology at their disposal, to give the car genuine duality in ride and handling, and controlled by the driver using Drive Dynamics Control,” Mike Sayer, Head of Product Communications for Bentley Motors Ltd. told TechCrunch. “To enable the chassis to be varied, we utilize three-chamber air springs, which allow three distinct spring stiffnesses. In Sport mode, a single chamber in each air spring is utilized, providing a high spring stiffness. In Comfort, solenoid valves bring all three chambers into play, at a low pressure, providing a softer spring. To this we then add Bentley Dynamic Ride — our 48V electric anti-roll control.”

This iteration of the Speed brings some new tech to the GT for the first time, specifically an electronic rear differential and rear-wheel steering.

For the E-diff, this distributes torque across the rear angle to give it balance and control during turn-in when driving in a sporty manner. Rear-wheel steering was first applied to the Flying Spur to give the full-sized luxury four-door a tighter turning radius as well as enhanced stability at speed. On the GT Speed, it’s meant to give the two-door sharper turning and is far more active on this car than on the sedan.

All told, the over-5,000-pound GT can sail at up to 208 mph, rocketing off the line in just 3.5 seconds, something cars without a cruise ship’s worth of luxury accouterments struggle to achieve.

Bentley sprinkles in tech

Image Credits: Alex Kalogianni

Within the Continental GT Speed is a carefully crafted interior that has been a signature element of Bentley vehicles.

A substantial sum of the car’s assembly is by hand, and while there are some automated tasks, there are very few elements that don’t receive attention from a master craftsperson. The interior is replete with premium leather and real wood surfaces that range from burr walnut to rare, naturally-felled redwood.

Seat elements and the steering wheel are all hand-stitched, and the hefty metal switches are scored with diamond-pattern knurling.

“The knurling that’s used on the main rotary controls took 18 months to develop, and involved the creation of an algorithm to accurately describe the way the facets of the knurling are angled,’” added Sayer, highlighting the degree of focus given to every detail. This ornate, meticulously-built interior is the setting for a high degree of modern technology, and yet it’s all very well integrated.

Image Credits: Alex Kalogianni

A 12.3-inch touchscreen can be found in the center of the dashboard, as a modern luxury car buyer would expect, and it performs the usual functions. It’s the source for navigation and entertainment, as well as the interface for several vehicle functions. Drivers can customize their preferred throttle and steering settings, raise the suspension for a few inches of extra clearance and access the full driver’s manual if need be.

This is paired with an all-digital gauge cluster that can also be customized to mirror much of the same information displayed on the touchscreen. There’s even a heat-based night vision option that highlights the area in front of the car for enhanced night driving. This system also has integrated pedestrian recognition, so any persons encountered in the night are highlighted by a red box.

The high-resolution screens feature graphics styled to mitigate their juxtaposition against all of the tangible craftsmanship.

“The design of the graphics of those gauges was subject to the same attention to detail as physical components,”said Sayer. “Beyond that, our ethos includes retaining physical, haptic buttons and rotary controls in lieu of multiple touchscreens.”

In case it’s still too much tech to tolerate, the screen tumbles away into the panel and is replaced with three analog gauges; a clock, compass and air temp monitor. A touch of in-car gadgetry theater? Perhaps, but another way of looking at it is future-proofing the interior of a vehicle in a way. Aesthetically speaking, the rest of the cabin will age far better than the display will, and having a method to tuck it out of sight fits the accommodating nature of this luxury grand tourer.

The UX

Image Credits: Alex Kalogianni

Seated at the wheel of the GT Speed can be a little dazzling at first due to the glitzy chrome and polished veneer, but it’s quick to demonstrate how driver focused it is from the moment of ignition.

Assists such as a head-up display and traffic sign recognition are on hand to improve situational awareness, and on long journeys, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control relieve some of the burden. Convenient, though the GT Speed is most rewarding when fully engaged.

The W12 engine is blustery and sonorous when its note rumbles out the back of the exhaust. Stepping on the throttle feels and sounds like accelerating in the single-engined fighter planes that the GT Speed shares a lineage with. That’s as far as the similarities go because everything else beyond is far from antiquated. Power delivery is smooth yet forceful, and there’s quite a ways to go before experiencing any drop-off, though reaching that point requires a length of unrestricted highway.

In that regard, the GT Speed mirrors the Flying Spur in that it feels heavy and grounded like a steam locomotive, and when it’s time to take a sharp corner, this leads to a great degree of hesitation. Muster up some trust and bravery, though, and the GT Speed is surprisingly dynamic.

The car is at its best in those moments when a windy back road presents itself. Its size and weight are still palpable, but the active tech in play allow the Bentley to round corners with confidence. The enjoyment diminishes when things get increasingly challenging, however, and all the physics-warping engineering can’t disguise the car’s heft. It’s in those moments where you make a mental note to return with something smaller and more spry.

Regardless if it’s in sport or comfort, the speed at which the GT’s dual-clutch transmission fires through gears is near seamless, giving spirited drivers the power they need and cruising ones a touch more serenity. On the highway or as a daily driver, the GT Speed doesn’t put one foot wrong, making the over $274,000 price tag feel worth it. One would hope, at least.

Contenders

From a competitor standpoint, the GT Speed does stand largely on its own, not because of a lack of sporty luxury coupes, but due to how uniquely it executes the same mission. Segment stalwarts BMW and Mercedes-Benz can’t rightly match the level of lavishness and exclusivity that the Bentley provides, so anything equally dynamic would still be lesser. In terms of handling and power, the AMG S63 Coupe comes close and at a relatively lower starting price ($173,100), but though it’s in the same weight class, the Continental GT Speed simply does it better.

For a true contender, its not-too-distant cousin, the Rolls Royce Wraith is the closest match. Beyond its similarly stacked luxury pedigree and exclusivity, the Wraith sports its own whopper of a power unit, a 624-horsepower 6.6-liter V12. This two-door grand tourer has an equally staggering $300,000 price tag and can pull off similar tricks that the GT Speed can in terms of acceleration and cruising smoothness.

As with anything, the future is uncertain for how Bentley plans to continue this union of old and new. As the past has proven, it’s planning ahead.

“Firstly, the product range will be hybridized — we’ve already launched hybrid versions of the Bentayga and Flying Spur, and the Continental family will follow. We’ll then launch the first Bentley BEV in 2025, ahead of Bentley being an electric-only brand by 2030,” Sayer stated.

For now, we still have the Bentley Continental GT Speed, a near-anachronistic luxury powerhouse that sets the standard in its segment while marching to the beat of its own thumping 12 cylinder engine. Its the culmination of Bentley’s dogged adherence to sticking to what they do best while still being flexible enough to bend with the winds of change.

Source: Tech

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Baidu’s electric car brand Jidu closes $400M Series A round

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Once an industry with long development cycles, the automotive space is being upended by China’s tech giants. One can hardly keep up with all the new electric vehicle brands that come out of the country nowadays. Jidu, an electric carmaking company founded by Baidu and its Chinese auto partner Geely only a year ago, said Wednesday it has banked nearly $400 million in a Series A funding round.

The new injection, bankrolled by Baidu and Geely, which owns Volvo, is a boost to the $300 million initiation capital that Jidu closed last March. The proceeds will speed up Jidu’s R&D and mass production process and allow it to showcase its first concept “robocar” — which it classifies as an automotive robot rather than a car — at the Beijing auto show in April. The mass-produced version of the robocar will launch in 2023.

Jidu’s chief executive Xia Yiping previously headed the connected car unit of Fiat Chrysler in the APAC region and co-founded Mobike, the Chinese bike-sharing pioneer acquired by Meituan in 2018.

The rate at which Jidu has moved forward is remarkable but could easily attract skeptics who question its tech’s viability. The speedy cycle, the carmaker explained, is thanks to its strategy of using a simulated prototype car to develop its smart cockpit and autonomous driving systems, rather than testing individual hardware parts in a mass-produced vehicle.

The carmaker said in as short as nine months, it has “tested and proven” the safety and reliability of its Level 4 (autonomous driving without human interaction in most circumstances) capabilities for urban and highway roads.

The EV startup is also putting a big emphasis on branding and fan community, something its competitor Nio is known for. In December, it started recruiting car lovers to join its “Jidu Union” to geek out about cars at online and offline events.

Moving forward, Jidu will be hiring and training talent specializing in autonomous driving, smart cockpits, smart manufacturing and other related technologies.

Source: Tech

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Resilience raises $45 million for its cancer care startup

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French startup Resilience announced yesterday that it has raised a $45 million (€40 million) Series A round led by Cathay Innovation. The startup wants to improve the treatment journey when you’re diagnosed with cancer so that you live a healthier and longer life.

In addition to Cathay Innovation, existing investor Singular is also participating. Other funds are joining the round, such as Exor Seeds, Picus Capital and Seaya Ventures. Finally some healthcare investors are rounding up the round — Fondation Santé Service, MACSF, Ramsay Santé and Vivalto Ventures.

I already profiled Resilience in March 2021 so I encourage you to read my previous article to learn more about the company. Co-founded by two serial entrepreneurs, Céline Lazorthes and Jonathan Benhamou, the company wants to help both patients and caregivers when it comes to cancer care.

On the patient side, Resilience helps you measure, understand and deal with the effects and side effects of cancer and cancer treatments. Users can track various data points in the app and find content and information about their illness.

But Resilience isn’t just an app that you use at home. It is also a software-as-a-service solution for hospitals so that they can better personalize their treatments. Resilience has been founded in partnership with Gustave Roussy, one of the leading cancer research institutes in the world.

Practitioners will be able to take advantage of all the data that patients have gathered from the app. This way, cancer treatment facilities understand the patient better and can adapt their care more quickly. Resilience has acquired Betterise to gain a head start when it comes to data-driven cancer care.

The long-term vision is even more ambitious than that. If you talk with a caregiver working for a cancer treatment facility, they’ll tell you they never have enough time.

And it’s even more difficult to keep track of new treatments that are becoming more and more specialized. Resilience doesn’t want to replace doctors. But it wants to help them overcome blindspots.

The result should be better care for patients, as well as more support through the Resilience app. Cancer care is a long and painful process, so anything that can improve this process is a good thing.

Source: Tech

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PQShield raises $20M for its quantum-ready, future-proof cryptographic security solutions

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Quantum computing promises to unlock a new wave of processing power for the most complex calculations, but that could prove to be just as harmful as it is helpful: security specialists warn that malicious hackers will be able to use quantum machines to break through today’s standards in cryptography and encryption. Today, a startup called PQShield that is working on “future-proof” cryptographic products — software and hardware solutions that not only keep data secure today, but also secure in anticipation of a computationally more sophisticated tomorrow — is announcing some funding as it finds some significant traction for its approach.

The startup, spun out of the research labs at Oxford, has raised $20 million, a Series A that it will be using to continue its research and, in conjunction with partners and customers, product development. The startup is already staffed with an impressive number of PhDs and other researchers across the UK (its base remains in Oxford), the U.S., France and the Netherlands, but it will also be using the funds to recruit more talent to the team.

Addition, the investment firm founded by Lee Fixel, is leading this round with Oxford Science Enterprises (formerly known as OSI) and Crane also participating. The latter two are previous backers from PQShield’s $7 million seed round in 2020.

If machine learning is shaping up to be one of the more popular (and perhaps most obvious) applications for quantum computing, security is perhaps that theme’s most ominous leitmotif.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. identified the risks of using quantum computing for malicious security intent some eight years ago and has been receiving research submissions globally in search of coming up with some standards to counteract that threat. (PQShield is one of the contributors.) Based on signals from other government bodies like the Department of Homeland Security — coupled with a memo from the White House just earlier this month mandating that the government’s intelligence and defense services make the switch to “quantum-resistant” algorithms in 180 days — it looks like the standards process will be completed this year, getting the wheels in motion for companies that are building solutions to address all this.

“One memo can change everything,” PQShield’s CEO and founder Ali El Kaafarani said in an interview.

PQShield (the PQ stands for “post-quantum”) has been working with governments, OEMs and others that are part of the customer base for this technology — adopting it to secure their systems, or building components that will be going into products that will secure their data, or in some cases, both. Its customers includes both private and public organizations impacted by the threat. Bosch is one OEM name that it has disclosed, and El Kaafarani said more will be revealed when PQShield announces its first commercially available solutions. (Other sectors it’s working with include automotive OEM, industrial IoT, and technology consulting, it says.)

PQShield’s solutions, meanwhile, are currently coming in three formats. There is a system on a chip that is designed to sit on hardware like smartcards or processors. It also is making software by way of a cryptographic SDK that can be integrated into mobile and server apps and technologies used to process data or run security operations. And thirdly, in a new addition since it raised its seed round, it’s making a toolkit aimed at communications companies designed specifically to secure messaging services. This latter is perhaps the one that might most immediately touch the consumer market, which has been fertile ground for malicious hackers, and has increasingly become a focus for regulators and ordinary people concerned about how and where their data gets used.

All of these, El Kaafarani said, are designed to work together, or separately as needed by a would-be customer, with the key being that what it is building now can be used today, as well as in a quantum computing future.

The idea of a “quantum threat” might sound remote to most people, considering that we’re still some years away from quantum computing becoming a commercial, scalable industry, but the reality is that malicious hackers have been collecting data that will help them “solve” current cryptographic keys using those machines for years at this point. Some of this data has been publicly shown off, and much has not. All of this has been leading, El Kaafarani noted, to an “inflection point where people are now ready to think about the next phase of public key infrastructure,” which he summed up in layman’s terms as the difference between “math that is still easy to solve, and math that will still be very difficult to solve, even on a quantum computer,” due to particular combinations of math problems and aspects of complexity theory.

Quantum computing, even at its still largely nascent stage, has been fueling a lot of startup and big-tech activity. Atom Computing (which designs quantum computing systems) and Terra Quantum (building quantum-computing-as-a-service, given the likely high cost of these machines) each raised $60 million earlier this month. Intel, IBM and Amazon are among those that have making significant investments in quantum servers and processors for years now. There are others also working specifically on quantum security.

In that context, PQShield groundbreaking role in helping develop standards, and its existing network of customers and partners, spells a clear opportunity and promise for investors:

“Thanks to an industry-leading team, decades of combined experience and a best-in-class product offering, PQShield has quickly emerged as a front runner and true authority in post-quantum cryptography for hardware and software, a field with enormous market potential,” said Fixel in a statement. “PQShield is already helping to define the future of information security, and we are excited to support their ongoing growth.”

Source: Tech

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