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The Volkswagen Emissions Scandal Explained

September 28, 2015
Posted in Media — Written by Nationla Numbers

Volkswagen, one of the biggest vehicle manufacturers in the world, is in a lot of bother right now. The company has already paid the price with a huge drop in shares, but this is only just the beginning.The company will likely see billions in fines, as well as potential prison time for some key figures. If you’re just catching up …

This Is Everything You Need To Know About The Volkswagen Scandal

volkswagen omissions scandal

What has Volkswagen done?

Volkswagen diesel vehicles in both the United States and Europe have been found to contain software which circumnavigates omissions tests. The so-called “Defeat Devices” recognises when the vehicle is being tested and chances to performance accordingly, thus making the vehicle appear cleaner than it really it. Diesel vehicles have been found to produce as much as 40 times the legal level of nitrogen oxides.

Who found out?

An independent group, the International Council on Clean Transportation, commission a study on the vehicles in 2014. It was West Virginia University that first discovered what Volkswagen had been doing. ICCT brought the findings to the key authorities in the US, which of course rippled to the company being found out in Europe as well.

Who is to blame?

It is too early to say as Volkswagen is still under investigation, but we have a rough idea. Martin Winkerton, the former CEO of Volkswagen, has claimed responsibility since resigning recently but he also denies any wrong-doing. Volkswagen have agreed to work with German prosecutors in a criminal investigation. Employees found to have had a hand in the scandal could receive fines and up to 10 years in prison for fraud.

How many vehicles have been affected?

It is estimated that around 11 million vehicles will hold the fault. The key years are between 2009 and 2015, and it affects more than just Volkswagen. Around 2 million Audi vehicles, which use the Volkswagen diesel engine, have also been affected.

What are Volkswagen doing about it?

So far we know 500,000 vehicles in the US have to be recalled, but it could be much more than that. European countries have been encouraged to conduct their own investigations on the German car company and act accordingly. It has not been clear exactly how Volkswagen intend to fix the problem.

How has Volkswagen been affected?

As well as have sales of the vehicles frozen in the US and the company value dropping by 25%, Volkswagen is facing heavy fines. They have already set aside 6.5 billion Euros, and that is just to cover the cost of recalls. In theory they can be fined up to $18 billion by the US government. They could also be hit with fines in Europe and they may be ordered to pay compensation to drivers as well.

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Jeremy Clarkson is Breaking Beeb

March 11, 2015
Posted in Humour,Interesting,Media — Written by Nationla Numbers

It has happened. Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended by BBC after another controversy. This time the 54 year-old host of Top Gear has got himself in bother after allegedly punching one of the show’s producers. As a result the remaining episodes of the current series of Top Gear will not be shown, but the fans are having none of it. Upon last glance a petition to reinstate the embattled presenter had reached an amazing 350,000. [UPDATE: Signatures are reaching 850,000]

Clarkson certainly does divide the public but surely after so many final warnings the BBC cannot waver now? Will this be the straw that broke the channel’s back?

Here is a run through of all of Jeremy Clarkson’s Top Gear controversies. Decide for yourself whether you think Clarkson has pushed the envelope too far, or if he is just a greatly misunderstood entertainer.

How Jeremy Clarkson is Breaking Beeb

Jeremy Clarkson is Breaking Beeb BBC

 

November, 2003 – BBC Pays lb250 After Jeremy Clarkson’s First Stunt

During an episode of Top Gear, Clarkson attempted to demonstrate the strength of a Toyota Hilux by driving it into a tree. Unfortunately it was a 30-year-old horse-chestnut tree that was valued by the local Somerset community. By February 2004 the BBC had apologised for the incident and had paid lb250 to the parish in compensation.

November, 2005 – Don’t Mention The War

During a discussion about the design of the Mini a comment was made about it being “quintessentially German”. This was Jeremy Clarkson’s cue to lead a mock Nazi salute as well as other references to the Nazi regime in poor taste. For good measure he even set the satnav to Poland.

July, 2006 – Clarkson Under Fire Again For Homophobic Slang

When discussing the Daihatsu Copen in the studio Clarkson used the phrase “ginger beer”, which is rhyming slang of “queer”, in response to an audience statement about the vehicle being “a bit gay”. Only four people complained about this, but it is one that BBC upheld and apologised for.

February, 2007 – Beating The Dead Cow

Jeremy Clarkson makes an enemy out of vegetarian viewers during the US special after driving with a dead cow strapped to the roof of the vehicle. He then slammed the beef carcass to the ground by applying the brakes.

July, 2007 – Drink Driving Jibe Leaves BBC Out In The Cold

During Top Gear’s Polar Special, Jeremy Clarkson drove over international frozen waters and made the comment that he wasn’t drink driving because technically he was “sailing”. Clarkson was accused of glamorising drink driving and BBC said the scene itself was not “editorially justified”. Jeremy Clarkson would like to remind us he was outside the jurisdiction of any drink driving laws though.

November, 2008 – LorryGate

In his most controversial incident yet, Jeremy Clarkson made a comment on his show about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes. Two years earlier in Ipswich, five prostitutes had been murdered. Perhaps it is unfair to judge without context, so the full quote goes as follows: “Change gear, change gear, check mirror, murder a prostitute, change gear, change gear, murder. That’s a lot of effort in a day.” Obviously, Clarkson’s comment was seen in bad taste and netted the presenter over 1,000 complaints and the first call for him to be sacked.

July, 2010 – Another Homophobic Comment

In a comment that did not make it to air, Clarkson said that he “Demanded the right not to get bummed” in an interview with Alistair Campbell on Top Gear. Of course the comment was cut because Jeremy Clarkson deeply regretted the comment … nope, he went on to say it was just cut because the interview was too long.

August, 2010 – Alienates The Disabled Community

With further tactless and inconsiderate comments, Jeremy Clarkson referred to co-presenter James May’s Ferrari F430 “special needs” and “simpleton”. Ofcom received a number of complaints but amazingly Clarkson got away with it.

December, 2010 – Mexico’s Most Wanted

The Mexican ambassador said comments made by Jeremy Clarkson were “outrageous, vulgar and inexcusable” after the presenter described Mexicans as “lazy, feckless and flatulent”. He even said Mexican food was “refried sick”.

February, 2011 – Because It Worked So Well The First Time

During a segment the hosts pretended they had been sent to Albania to test cars for a mafia boss and attempted to fit overweight “murder” victims into the boots of their cars. Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson received hundreds of complaints in response, probably because it seemed like a blatant attempt to play off previous controversy.

January, 2012 – Christmas Spirit

During the Top Gear Christmas Special, Clarkson and Crew made numerous digs at Indian culture, food, dress, trains, toilets and people. The Indian High Commission called the jokes “tasteless” and lodged a formal complaint.

February, 2012 – Grotesque

Jeremy Clarkson followed up by annoying facial disfigurement charity, Changing Faces, by comparing a Japanese camper van to a person with a growth on their face.

March, 2014 – Down Hill From Here

During the Top Gear Burma Special, Clarkson made the following comment to fellow presenter, Richard Hammond, about a wooden bridge they had built: “That is a proud moment, but there’s a slope on it.” Jeremy Clarkson made this comment as a native of Burma crossed the bridge. BBC claimed it was a light-hearted comment referencing the quality of the bridge, though viewers noted that it was clearly an offensive jab at the local Asian male on screen. BBC later said they did not realise the word “slope” was considered offensive.

May, 2014 – Pushing The Boundaries

Clarkson’s biggest controversy today came after the Daily Mirror unearthed unused footage from a 2013 episode in which Jeremy Clarkson appeared to is the “N word”. The racial slur stirred up prompt reaction as the presenter was chastised for the act, as well as the shameless attempt to deny it. He later apologised and was given his final warning by BBC.

October, 2014 – NumberPlateGate

Next, Jeremy Clarkson almost caused an international incident after he and the entire Top Gear crew was chased out of Argentina while filming the Patagonia Special. The reason was blamed on a number plate, H982 FKL, which locals believed to be in reference to the Falklands War in 1982. BBC and Top Gear staff, including Clarkson, have defended the controversy as a coincidence, despite claims to the contrary by the Argentinian Government. Of course, the “final warning” isn’t considered violated at this point.

 

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Top Gear meets LEGO

January 17, 2015
Posted in Humour,Interesting,Media — Written by Nationla Numbers

This trailer for Top Gear Series 22 shows the crew plastic’d up in the style of LEGO. The whole Top Gear team is these, with Clarkson, May and Hammond, and even The Stig, all being turned into the blocky characters you know and love from childhood and last years hit LEGO Movie. Everything is awesome indeed!


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Top 5 Mustang Movie Scenes

September 29, 2014
Posted in Famous Cars,Media — Written by Guest Author

Car chases, stunt drivers, drag races – modern cinema loves putting its cars through the wars and we love seeing them. One of the most common and most beloved is the Mustang so we have collected the five best movie scenes for you all.

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Is this Australian number plate ad “sexist”?

July 31, 2014
Posted in Media — Written by Nationla Numbers

An Australian number plate firm called MyPlates have received hundreds of complaints due to a recent ad campaign.

The ad, targeted at female drivers, welcomes its audience to “man-proof” their cars by accessorising them with … erm … I guess you can say “girly” number plates?

It has proven controversial due to the picture of the male driver, who breaks wind and picks his nose, disgustingly wiping it on the interior of the car in unnecessary detail.

Obviously it is meant to be tongue-in-cheek (or finger-in-nose) but many are calling the advert outright sexist. Take a look for yourself:

As you can see MyPlates offers such elegant images such as shoes, hearts, flowers and tiger print for their woman-centric number plates. Not tacky at all.

But that one ad resulted in 350 complaints to the Australian Standard Bureau. Comments on the YouTube called the ads “stupid” and “disgusting” whereas others saw the funny side.

One commenter said: “Apart from being disgusting and, in the case of the nose picking one, virtually unwatchable, they’re highly sexist, implying that men are all filthy pigs and women have no unpleasant habits whatsoever. Nobody needs this kind of crap.”

Plus YouTube comments include cries of “disgusting” and “stupid”, and other things I’m not repeating.

So what do you think? Over-reaction? Is it sexist? Let us know.

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In Response to the recent “Fraudulent” Number Plate Supplier case

June 7, 2014
Posted in Cars,Editorial,Media — Written by Nationla Numbers

We have recently reported on a number plate supplier in Stockport who has received a two-year suspended sentence due to the illegal supply of acrylic number plates. The man sold over 13,000 number plates over a two-year period and the illegality of the operation only came to light after a customer noticed an issue with the address the plates were sent from.

Despite the man declaring not guilty the court came down hard on him. He received a two-year jail sentence (suspended due to him being a single parent) plus community service, a driving ban and even a curfew. All for fraudulently selling number plates. But what does this mean?

You are probably aware of the legal requirements on the display of number plates. Letters have to be a certain size with an exact spacing between them. But did you know there are also legal requirements to even sell these number plates? Most don’t, and if you believe the man in Stockport neither did he.

The judge called him an “inefficient and lazy business man” who “chose to take a shortcut”, but the same time accepting that he had “no intention” of actually selling illegal number plates. But he was found guilty anyway. Ignorance is not a great defence by any means, but could it be that this 39-year-old set it up as a side business without actually knowing the legal requirements?

You’ve got to look at how the DVLA themselves regulate this. Since the 1st of January 2003, it was illegal to sell number plates unless you were on DVLA’s RNPS (Registered Number Plate Suppliers) list. Being on this list confirmed you were selling legal number plates in a legal fashion. Part of those requirements were:

  1. Record Keeping. All number plate suppliers must keep a record of the registrations they have issued and who they have been supplied to. These must be kept for a minimum of three years. Details must include the registration mark, the customer name, contact details and method of purchase.
  2. Customers must prove their identity. This can be via a photo card ID, bank statement, and utility bill or credit/debit card.
  3. Customers must prove their right to display the registration. This can be proven with a number of DVLA documents including a V5 logbook, V778 retention document, V750 certificate of entitlement, or letter of authorisation from DVLA/leading company/fleet supplier.

Of course, the companies are expected to supply legal plates only also.

The Stockport business man allegedly asked for no evidence from his customers, which is why they courts came down hard on me. Problem is there is a grey area here, as there are websites who knowingly sell “illegal” plates by specifying that they are in fact supplying “show plates”. My research has found no indication that there is anything wrong with this and in fact DVLA say so themselves.

question on dvla about show plates

 

dvla rep explains number plates

The key quote being:

The companies you have identified in your email all state that ‘show plates’ can only be displayed on vehicles ‘off road’ for shows, rallies etc and ultimately it is the responsibility of the person keeping or using a vehicle on the public road to ensure that the number plate displayed on their vehicle complies fully with the regulatory requirements.

Given that the offending company was “showplates2go.co.uk”, you would assume that he could be cleared from blame on this basis? They are clearly a show plate supplier rather than a legal number plate supplier going by the name of the website. However, as the website is no longer around I cannot say whether or not the website content itself made this clear.

I think the issue is there is too much of a grey area. If the DVLA are cracking down on show plates as well perhaps there should be clearer guides in place about who can supply what? In light of this I have to say a lot of the comments I have seen that damn Andrew Shaw might be judgemental of the situation. Clearly it is not a black and white case of a man wilfully doing something illegal to make money, there is some misunderstanding all the way around.

What do you think? Do you think the punishment fits the crime? Do you think the Stockport man got what he deserved or have the courts been unfair? Let us know in the comments below.

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How do car number plate readers work?

February 19, 2014
Posted in DVLA,Media,Other News — Written by Sam Ryder

There has been a spark of interest over these nifty little machines recently. As the use of number plate readers increase over the next few years there are going to be more questions from the public about that they do and what they are for, not to mention more scaremongering from those who might have to believe this is one more steps towards a 1984 dystopia.

Did you know that number plate readers were actually invented in 1976, but have come a long way since then. When previously technology was limited and things like light, vehicle speed, how the plates were spaced and even what angle they where captured could skew the reading, now some clever clogs has perfected the system that eliminates most common inaccuracies.

Since then number plate readers, or Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) to give them their proper name, have been impeccable public servants.

How number plate readers work …

Number plate recognition involves capturing a video or an image of a vehicle’s license plates and running them through a system of algorithms that converts the image to a text entry into a computer. The computers can then look up and all information in the vehicle’s history.

This is difficult to programme if you think about it. If you look at CAPTCHA images for example you can see why. Computers can only read data – as in text entry – and when confronted with an image it can only make out a bunch of pixels. Unlike the human eye it cannot pick out patterns and can therefore no read like we can. This is why this is so difficult and it takes a number of defining rules to make it possible.

1. Localisation

This algorithm determines which part of the vehicle the number plate reader looks at. Much like facial recognition of your camera phone, the localisation rule identifies key features of the vehicle and rules them out. For example, the bumper, the headlights, the mirrors, etc. Once these features have been identified and then ignored the camera is left with only the number plate to look at.

2. Sizing and Orientation

This part of the number plate reader’s algorithm accounts for distance and angular skews that may distort the image. This is the sort of thing you might see used alongside CCTV footage. It takes an image that is off angle and adjusts it into regular size and appearance. Obviously this correction makes the characters easier to read.

3. Normalisation

Like sizing and orientation this algorithm you might have previously seen alongside CCTV footage, however this corrects for blur, colour, brightness and contrast. Once again this makes the registration easier for the number plate reader to make sense of.

4. Segmentation

Faced with what we might think of a standard, front-and-centre picture of a number plate the ANPRs can really start getting to work. This part also makes it clear exactly why we have strict rules when it comes to how number plates can be displayed.

How segmentation works is be defining the boundaries in which the computer expects a character to appear in. It figuratively draws a box around each letter and uses those boxes to work out each letter individually. This is why the DVLA come down hard on anyone who changes the spacing or font on a number plate, since this stops the number plate reader doing its job!

5. OCR or Optical Character Recognition

This is the part where humans have to help a bit. Once the machine has isolated a character it is essentially left with a box of pixels that don’t make a lot of sense. Humans have to tell the number plate readers how to turn the pixels into letters by pre-programming the patterns to be expected. This is why font and size are important.

Upon recognition of these letters the computer can match the pattern to a specific letter, thus triggering an actual text entry. This obviously makes the searching and the reporting effortless on the technological side of things.

6. Analysis

This final step is so fast it is barely even a step. Using the number plate in text form it can check certain characters against their position on the number plate to check for age, area of registration and much more. It can use this to not only look up vehicle history but also add to that history. It literally takes milliseconds to do, but as you can see this function is the whole point of number plate readers in the first place.

We are now at a time when ANPRs are incredibly useful to society and really are not anything new to be scared of. In fact, they have been in wider-scale use since the 1990s and these modern versions have been very successful helping the DVLA and the police.

So why the bother? Probably because UK the most watched population in the world. In this country we have nearly 5 million CCTV cameras, which makes us the most watched population in the world. They say most Britons can’t go a regular working day within being filmed by 300 CCTV cameras. Feeling frightened? Feeling safe? No matter what side of the argument you fall on, CCTV and number plate readers are here to stay.

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By . Sam is Nationla Numbers’s resident busy-body and writer. She is new to the game but she is learning fast. Keep a look out for her other content, as well as her writing which you can find across the internet.


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Personalised Coca-Cola? Well, I never …

May 20, 2013
Posted in Humour,Interesting,Media — Written by Nationla Numbers

I am sure many of you who have been to the shops lately have noticed a change to the red labels you are so used to seeing.

Turns out one of the world’s biggest brands has taken a page from Nationla Numbers’s book by offering personalised bottles of Coke to their customers.

The “Share A Coke” campaign, which is being called ‘brave’ by those behind it, simply replaces the classic Coca-Cola logo with one of 150 popular names.

“It is a brave move to replace the world’s most iconic brand with 150 names” said Jon Woods, Managing Director of Coca-Cola GB and Ireland. “It will drive huge buzz and drive engagement. No other brand has gone to this scale of personalisation.”

Indeed, personalisation is key to this campaign. It allows consumers to gift bottles of Coke to friends and family or buy themselves a little treat (if you can find your name). But … is it as unique as they say?

The private number plate industry, ever since its birth, has been based on this concept of ‘personalisation’. The idea is that a plain, everyday thing like registration numbers can be lifted to vanity product status, reflecting a little bit of the owner’s personality. This is how the business was built.

In this sense, Coke might be onto an idea, but where they differ from us at Nationla Numbers is that our products are all unique – there is literally only one of every registration in existence. Coke’s ‘personalised’ labels are still mass-produced.

To put that into perspective, Coca-Cola plans to put 100 million bottles into circulation. If there are 150 names available that means there is more than 6 million of the same product out there.

Alternatively, we have 34 million number plates on the market, each of them one-of-a-kind.

Number plates also have something for almost everyone one. Depending on how creative you are you could quite literally get any name on a number plate. Coke maybe catering to Laura, James and Chris but what about young Roslynn, who is giving her attention?

We’ve got you covered, Roslynn!

In terms of personalisation, Coca-Cola has a lot of catching up to do. However, it is only a one-off thing, and if successful they may even expand their selection to include more names. It wouldn’t be out of the question to see other brands try a similar campaign … your name on an M&M anyone?

 

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See the trailer for Gran Turismo 6!

May 16, 2013
Posted in Media,Other News — Written by Nationla Numbers

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Posted yesterday by PlayStation, the official announcement trailer for the sixth installment of the Gran Turismo series.

As you will see, it is pretty epic.

Probably not enough of the cars to judge the true quality of the graphics, but with this intended for the PS4 release we can expect great things.

See the trailer below:


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