Illustration by Graham Roumieu for The National
Illustration by Graham Roumieu for The National

Driver stranded in Morocco after technology takes its toll



I love technology in new cars as much as the next geek but just occasionally I wonder what would happen if it all failed, and whether we have become a bit too clever for our own good in recent years. Rain-sensing wipers, 360° cameras and doors that close themselves are OK; they won't threaten your life if they break down, but how would you react if your fly-by-wire steering, adaptive cruise control, traction or stability control failed when you needed them?

If you're off-roading, and all the electronic wizardry decided to call it a day, would your SUV be competent enough to get you home without a brain box full of computer code?

I was faced with this latter scenario when the soft-roader I was driving left me stranded atop a mountain in Morocco, away from phone reception and civilisation, in the rain and in fading light.

When its ABS, hill descent control, hill start, traction control and the ECU that controls its ability to transfer power between wheels all overheated at the same time and broke down in unison, I quickly realised I was in a land-locked equivalent of being up a stream without a paddle. I effectively had a small, four-cylinder hatchback stranded in a place where only serious 4x4s should venture.

I felt deceived that this shopping car masqueraded as a four-wheel drive, purely through the electronic wonders of its ECU, which controlled where it sent what little power its puny engine developed. Instead of driving all four wheels, like it says on the badge, this new breed of crossover uses computers to transfer power from one wheel to another, effectively robbing Peter to pay Paul and hope that it's enough to get you home.

In full automatic mode, torque distribution is split 50-50 on start up and, if no slip is detected, the onboard computer transfers 100 per cent of its power to the front wheels via a viscous coupling centre diff. As the going gets tough, power is gradually transferred away from the front wheels to the rear and, in the most extreme cases, it will send up to 50 per cent of the torque down the back. Perhaps after our encounter, had more torque been allowed to go to the rear wheels where it was needed, we wouldn't have ended up in as much trouble.

Hill descent control is activated when the descent is greater than 10 degrees and the electronic diff locks are engaged. When this happens, the anti-lock brake system refuses to let the vehicle travel faster than seven kilometres an hour. It's a boon for novices, as it lets the driver take both feet off the pedals and allows the car to drive itself down with computers applying the correct brake pressure. But when it's not there, the road tyres and a lack of engine braking from the wheezy four-cylinder engine gives you no back up plan should it break away and start to slide down the hill.

A hill start is effectively the reverse and works on inclines greater than 10°. Engage first gear, take your foot off the brake and it will hold it without rolling back until the clutch is released.

The three of us in the car knew that, for a soft-roader, we had pushed this car far beyond its engineering brief, brought on by the fast-changing weather mixed with steep inclines and descents on some of the most slippery mud I have ever encountered.

The factory-fitted regular road tyres were hopelessly inadequate to deal with the uniquely sticky mud you find in Morocco and, with every rotation of the wheels, clay wrapped itself around the tyres, adding layer after layer to the point where the rolling diameter filled the wheel arches and our car literally ground to a halt.

With less than six kilometres remaining from more than 60, ploughing through this claylike mud in drizzling rain, climbing slithery tracks and nearly tumbling down a giant ravine, the call came from my co-driver just as we hit level ground on the top of our last hill.

"I think the handbrake's stuck on, she cannae take any more cap'n," my silver-bearded Scottish friend behind the wheel said.

And, with that, our baby 4x4 called it quits, shut down all its electrical traction safety nets and also promptly devoured its own clutch in a steaming mess. Throwing the proverbial hissy fit, it left us abandoned on top of a desolate hill in the rain without tools, phone reception or any signs of life somewhere outside of Fez.

The fact that the sun was soon to drop behind the mountains we'd just traversed meant that we had to face the prospect of camping until daylight returned or hope that a miracle would occur and we'd be moving again soon.

How we got into this mess was a classic piece of poor event organising to start with, as we were on a press launch to test this new model. After our lunch stop when we motored off along the designated route, the track was deemed impassable due to the light rain shower that descended while we were eating. So it was closed, but only after we had started to venture along its slippery path.

With the event organisers unaware that we were on the track, with no radios or communication between the cars, and no recovery vehicles following, we were left to our own devices on how best to get the car running again.

With hindsight, even a basic tool kit would have been handy.

Stranded in a remote corner of the globe, where a donkey and cart (and the goods on it) are still traded as currency, the beauty of an endless view of bald hills laced with grain crops was now punctuated by the pungent aroma of a burnt-out clutch. While the clutch plate stoked its own smoke signals in the vain hope of attracting help from a far-off villager, we got down and dirty, pulling huge clumps of cake-like mud away from the jammed wheel arches with nothing more than a tyre lever and our hands.

After an hour-and-a-half digging mud away from the wheels, the clutch had cooled sufficiently to return enough bite to get us mobile, but with no electronic 4x4 driver aids. The traction and hill descent functions were not keen on rejoining the party, which meant we effectively had a four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive car with no anti-lock brakes, or any devices to control the car in an environment where, in all reality, it should never have been.

With so much mud wedged around the suspension struts suffocating the brake discs, the electronics went into "limp home" mode and, once it had cooled down enough (by which stage we were back on sealed roads thanks to the skills of my co-driver who has decades of off-roading experience), it was back to business as usual.

I like to think that, with many years of driving in virtually every condition imaginable, there's not much that could faze me. But the reality in this situation was that I was dependent on the vehicle to carry me through and, when it failed, if it wasn't for the wily veteran beside me (who forged on ahead, as the tracks were too narrow to turn around, and literally hugged the edges of enormous drops), who knows what the outcome could have been.

The fact we made it through those 60km, in those conditions, was testament to how well electronic wizardry such as hill descent control works in modern off-roaders. The final 6km proved how utterly useless you are should everything not be 100 per cent right.

Before it departed, the traction control light was blinking for more than 90 per cent of the journey, as it strained and struggled to keep everything in control, and strange noises from the over-worked ABS system showed that everything was working madly in what turned out to be a futile attempt to stop our baby 4x4 from turning into an uncontrollable bobsled.

Which brings me back to my original thought. If the car in question had the basics to be considered an off-road vehicle, such as a big enough engine to provide decent compression braking, mechanically lockable diffs and a transfer case - in other words, all the things that make an SUV competent - we wouldn't have had anything to worry about.

Had the conditions been dry and sunny, the track would have been easy but instead, our cold-sweated relief at getting out alive and achieving something everyone - including the company's own engineers who heard our story and inspected our car after we got back to the hotel three hours later - knew the little beast was not designed for, left us more than a little fearful for some of the techno solutions you find in modern crossovers. It also left me with the realisation that there's no substitute for experience behind the wheel.

Match info:

Real Betis v Sevilla, 10.45pm (UAE)

Ballon d’Or shortlists

Men

Sadio Mane (Senegal/Liverpool), Sergio Aguero (Aregentina/Manchester City), Frenkie de Jong (Netherlans/Barcelona), Hugo Lloris (France/Tottenham), Dusan Tadic (Serbia/Ajax), Kylian Mbappe (France/PSG), Trent Alexander-Arnold (England/Liverpool), Donny van de Beek (Netherlands/Ajax), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon/Arsenal), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Germany/Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Juventus), Alisson (Brazil/Liverpool), Matthijs de Ligt (Netherlands/Juventus), Karim Benzema (France/Real Madrid), Georginio Wijnaldum (Netherlands/Liverpool), Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands/Liverpool), Bernardo Silva (Portugal/Manchester City), Son Heung-min (South Korea/Tottenham), Robert Lewandowski (Poland/Bayern Munich), Roberto Firmino (Brazil/Liverpool), Lionel Messi (Argentina/Barcelona), Riyad Mahrez (Algeria/Manchester City), Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium/Manchester City), Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal/Napoli), Antoine Griezmann (France/Barcelona), Mohamed Salah (Egypt/Liverpool), Eden Hazard (BEL/Real Madrid), Marquinhos (Brazil/Paris-SG), Raheem Sterling (Eengland/Manchester City), Joao Félix(Portugal/Atletico Madrid)

Women

Sam Kerr (Austria/Chelsea), Ellen White (England/Manchester City), Nilla Fischer (Sweden/Linkopings), Amandine Henry (France/Lyon), Lucy Bronze(England/Lyon), Alex Morgan (USA/Orlando Pride), Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands/Arsenal), Dzsenifer Marozsan (Germany/Lyon), Pernille Harder (Denmark/Wolfsburg), Sarah Bouhaddi (France/Lyon), Megan Rapinoe (USA/Reign FC), Lieke Martens (Netherlands/Barcelona), Sari van Veenendal (Netherlands/Atletico Madrid), Wendie Renard (France/Lyon), Rose Lavelle(USA/Washington Spirit), Marta (Brazil/Orlando Pride), Ada Hegerberg (Norway/Lyon), Kosovare Asllani (Sweden/CD Tacon), Sofia Jakobsson (Sweden/CD Tacon), Tobin Heath (USA/Portland Thorns)

 

 

FIXTURES

UAE’s remaining fixtures in World Cup qualification R2
Oct 8: Malaysia (h)
Oct 13: Indonesia (a)
Nov 12: Thailand (h)
Nov 17: Vietnam (h)
 

THE LOWDOWN

Photograph

Rating: 4/5

Produced by: Poetic License Motion Pictures; RSVP Movies

Director: Ritesh Batra

Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra, Farrukh Jaffar, Deepak Chauhan, Vijay Raaz

The specs

Engine: four-litre V6 and 3.5-litre V6 twin-turbo

Transmission: six-speed and 10-speed

Power: 271 and 409 horsepower

Torque: 385 and 650Nm

Price: from Dh229,900 to Dh355,000

FIXTURES

Fixtures for Round 15 (all times UAE)

Friday
Inter Milan v AS Roma (11.45pm)
Saturday
Atalanta v Verona (6pm)
Udinese v Napoli (9pm)
Lazio v Juventus (11.45pm)
Sunday
Lecce v Genoa (3.30pm)
Sassuolo v Cagliari (6pm)
SPAL v Brescia (6pm)
Torino v Fiorentina (6pm)
Sampdoria v Parma (9pm)
Bologna v AC Milan (11.45pm)

The biog

Favourite book: Animal Farm by George Orwell

Favourite music: Classical

Hobbies: Reading and writing

 

Spare

Profile

Company name: Spare

Started: March 2018

Co-founders: Dalal Alrayes and Saurabh Shah

Based: UAE

Sector: FinTech

Investment: Own savings. Going for first round of fund-raising in March 2019

The stats and facts

1.9 million women are at risk of developing cervical cancer in the UAE

80% of people, females and males, will get human papillomavirus (HPV) once in their lifetime

Out of more than 100 types of HPV, 14 strains are cancer-causing

99.9% of cervical cancers are caused by the virus

A five-year survival rate of close to 96% can be achieved with regular screenings for cervical cancer detection

Women aged 25 to 29 should get a Pap smear every three years

Women aged 30 to 65 should do a Pap smear and HPV test every five years

Children aged 13 and above should get the HPV vaccine

Living in...

This article is part of a guide on where to live in the UAE. Our reporters will profile some of the country’s most desirable districts, provide an estimate of rental prices and introduce you to some of the residents who call each area home. 

Results

6.30pm: Maiden Dh165,000 (Dirt) 1,400m. Winner: Rio Angie, Pat Dobbs (jockey), Doug Watson (trainer).

7.05pm: Handicap Dh170,000 (D) 1,600m. Winner: Trenchard, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson.

7.40pm: Maiden Dh165,000 (D) 1,600m. Winner: Mulfit, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson.

8.15pm: Handicap Dh210,000 (D) 1,200m. Winner: Waady, Dane O’Neill, Doug Watson.

8.50pm: Handicap Dh210,000 (D) 2,000m. Winner: Tried And True, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson.

9.25pm:Handicap Dh185,000 (D) 1,400m. Winner: Midnight Sands, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson.

Our family matters legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

THE BIO

Ms Davison came to Dubai from Kerala after her marriage in 1996 when she was 21-years-old

Since 2001, Ms Davison has worked at many affordable schools such as Our Own English High School in Sharjah, and The Apple International School and Amled School in Dubai

Favourite Book: The Alchemist

Favourite quote: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

Favourite place to Travel to: Vienna

Favourite cuisine: Italian food

Favourite Movie : Scent of a Woman

 

 

Three ways to boost your credit score

Marwan Lutfi says the core fundamentals that drive better payment behaviour and can improve your credit score are:

1. Make sure you make your payments on time;

2. Limit the number of products you borrow on: the more loans and credit cards you have, the more it will affect your credit score;

3. Don't max out all your debts: how much you maximise those credit facilities will have an impact. If you have five credit cards and utilise 90 per cent of that credit, it will negatively affect your score.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

RACE SCHEDULE

All times UAE (+4 GMT)

Friday, September 29
First practice: 7am - 8.30am
Second practice: 11am - 12.30pm

Saturday, September 30
Qualifying: 1pm - 2pm

Sunday, October 1
Race: 11am - 1pm

Company profile

Date started: January, 2014

Founders: Mike Dawson, Varuna Singh, and Benita Rowe

Based: Dubai

Sector: Education technology

Size: Five employees

Investment: $100,000 from the ExpoLive Innovation Grant programme in 2018 and an initial $30,000 pre-seed investment from the Turn8 Accelerator in 2014. Most of the projects are government funded.

Partners/incubators: Turn8 Accelerator; In5 Innovation Centre; Expo Live Innovation Impact Grant Programme; Dubai Future Accelerators; FHI 360; VSO and Consult and Coach for a Cause (C3)

How to avoid getting scammed
  • Never click on links provided via app or SMS, even if they seem to come from authorised senders at first glance
  • Always double-check the authenticity of websites
  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) for all your working and personal services
  • Only use official links published by the respective entity
  • Double-check the web addresses to reduce exposure to fake sites created with domain names containing spelling errors
The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo
Power: 261hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,750-4,000rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto
Fuel consumption: 10.5L/100km
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh129,999 (VX Luxury); from Dh149,999 (VX Black Gold)

The biog

Family: He is the youngest of five brothers, of whom two are dentists. 

Celebrities he worked on: Fabio Canavaro, Lojain Omran, RedOne, Saber Al Rabai.

Where he works: Liberty Dental Clinic 

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

The specs

Engine: 3.5-litre, twin-turbo V6
Transmission: 10-speed auto
Power: 410hp
Torque: 495Nm
Price: starts from Dh495,000 (Dh610,000 for the F-Sport launch edition tested)
On sale: now

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

MATCH INFO

England 241-3 (20 ovs)

Malan 130 no, Morgan 91

New Zealand 165 all out (16.5ovs)

Southee 39, Parkinson 4-47

England win by 76 runs

Series level at 2-2

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

The years Ramadan fell in May

1987

1954

1921

1888

BACK TO ALEXANDRIA

Director: Tamer Ruggli

Starring: Nadine Labaki, Fanny Ardant

Rating: 3.5/5

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

ANDROID VERSION NAMES, IN ORDER

Android Alpha

Android Beta

Android Cupcake

Android Donut

Android Eclair

Android Froyo

Android Gingerbread

Android Honeycomb

Android Ice Cream Sandwich

Android Jelly Bean

Android KitKat

Android Lollipop

Android Marshmallow

Android Nougat

Android Oreo

Android Pie

Android 10 (Quince Tart*)

Android 11 (Red Velvet Cake*)

Android 12 (Snow Cone*)

Android 13 (Tiramisu*)

Android 14 (Upside Down Cake*)

Android 15 (Vanilla Ice Cream*)

* internal codenames


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