Archive for Driver’s Seat

Toward the Generic Car

Used to be, the enterprising automaker spent some effort on homologation. Today, it’s more like homogenization:

Five decades ago, nearly ever car on the market was designed and built soup-to-nuts by the company with its name on the hood. Ford wasn’t going to go through the trouble of redesigning its seatbelt latches just because people liked the GM one a little better. Nor was Saab going to abandon the turbo four-cylinder engine just because everybody was going to the V6; they had too much invested in the tooling and the design.

In 2016, computer cycles are all but free and the various tiers of suppliers are cheap and as a result there is a constant pressure to hand the design of automotive components over to external parties. We’ve seen this with CTS accelerator pedals and Takata airbags and AmCast wheels. In addition, today’s consumer is a querulous little feeb of a human being who agonizes endlessly about even the slightest deviation from average in any product that he buys. Gone is the man who bought a Bristol or a Studebaker because it was different. Today’s buyer wants exactly what everybody else has, only with a slightly more prestigious badge attached.

I was going to say something about Consumer Reports, advocates of quiet competence, as one of the forces pushing us toward standardization — but it’s not like Fiat Chrysler, for example, goes to a whole lot of trouble to earn their imprimatur.

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Tugs on the wheel

Dave Schuler is skeptical about self-driving cars, and he has plenty of good reasons why. I’ll just cite the last two:

  • Big, rich companies with deep pockets will be irresistible targets for liability suits.
  • The first liability suit could deep-six the move to autonomous vehicles for the foreseeable future.

I don’t see any way around these. If you thought people were litigious before, just wait until one of them gets a fender bent, or worse, by an automaton.

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It’s almost a truck

Those of us who have fond memories of such automotive follies as the Chevrolet El Camino or the Ford Ranchero or even the Subaru BRAT will gaze longingly on this up-and-comer:

Hyundai Santa Cruz concept

Hyundai has been showing the Santa Cruz concept for more than a year now, though they’re only just now admitting that they’re going to build it, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, for model year 2019.

I am, shall we say, at least slightly tempted.

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Clear that channel!

Radio, notes Doc Searls, really isn’t “radio” anymore:

It’s just a name for one legacy-labeled stream among countless others on the Net. Radio’s boat-anchor legacy is called “range” and “coverage.” On AM and FM, those are limited to a city or region, and to legacy receiving devices mostly used in cars, where more and more sources of content (Apple, Pandora, Spotify, SiriusXM, et. al.) are appearing on the dashboard. The quality of legacy radio electronics is also limited to cheap available chipsets and by the fashion of concealing antennas, which makes reception even worse.

This latter, after looking at my car, certainly seems true to me: Bose, or whoever made this auto system for them, might have spent maybe 85 cents on the AM section, and the antenna is more or less hidden among the rear-defroster wires, good for aesthetics, not so good for reception.

But this I did not know, though I shouldn’t have been surprised:

AM won’t even work in all-electric cars, thanks to interference from computing machinery. That’s why it’s not included in Teslas.

Nissan will sell you an AM/FM/CD system for the all-electric Leaf, but then it’s probably got a lot fewer sources of interference than the Tesla.

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To make a few extra bucks

Kevin Durant wanted you to come to dinner, and a lot of people did, while KD himself was still in town. Now his restaurant has closed.

Russell Westbrook, meanwhile, wants to sell you a car:

This summer, Westbrook has opened a car dealership with his name on it in Van Nuys, Calif., a neighborhood of his native Los Angeles. This month, Westbrook posted a video on his Snapchat with a brief glimpse of the showroom at Russell Westbrook Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Van Nuys. The video showed off Westbrook’s trademark RW logo painted on the floor, as well as a NBA-style clear backboard and rim mounted on a wall in the dealership.

They have, at the moment, a fair number of “Aged New Cars”: unsold 2015s going out for well under sticker.

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I say, old chap, it’s bitching

General Motors, having failed to establish a beachhead for Chevrolet in Europe, is now thinking smaller: they’ve named a single agent in Britain to sell the Chevrolet Camaro.

Volume is expected to be minimal:

General Motors will ship 15 copies of the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro coupe to the United Kingdom for deliveries in September. Another three Camaro convertibles are expected to find homes one month later.

The General might be able to move a few more of them if they converted them to right-hand drive, but apparently that’s not part of the plan.

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Please don’t tab away

I was looking up Nissan OEM automatic transmission fluids here, and then tabbed away for a moment. The tab changed, and this was the text under it:

Z1 Motorsports Rickroll via Javascript

Yeah, I laughed. I admit it.

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Vaporware condensing

Elio Motors, the company that’s been working on an 84-mpg three-wheeler all these years, has finally announced a price: $7300. And it might even be less than that, but there’s a twist:

Since Elio has yet to deliver a single one of its cars, it needs loans to stay afloat and build its creation. In order to prevent more fenders from falling off, a loan from the Department of Energy would offer them support, if the company can meet its guidelines.

The loan agreement specifies that non-binding (i.e. refundable) customer reservations are usually not sufficient, which means the 56,000 reservations the company currently has is not enough to satisfy the DoE.

To get the ever-important boost, Elio has gone ahead and announced official pricing so its potential customers know what they’ll have to pay: $7300. Additionally, Elio stated a number of just $7000 for anyone willing to lay down a full, non-refundable payment. That’s $200 more than previously stated, but still quite the deal for something resembling an actual car.

I don’t think anyone believed the original $6800 price.

Still, it requires a fair amount of faith to put up seven grand without any guarantee that a vehicle will be forthcoming.

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Engulfed

This has been floating around Facebook with the question “Do you remember when gas prices were this low?”

1960s price stand at a Gulf station

If you’re immediately thinking “1950s,” you’re just a little too early. This sign can’t be from any earlier than 1961, when Gulf decided to drop its super-premium Gulfcrest (from a purple pump!) and replace it with the sub-regular Gulftane.

Why would they do a thing like that? Presumably to compete with the cheap gas from that questionable-looking station on the wrong side of the tracks.

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The spirit of Kenosha

A TTAC commenter suggests that it’s time for Fiat Chrysler to bring back American Motors:

The AMC brand name could be revived, for modern takes on archaic models — the Gremlin could be a Kia Soul/Nissan Juke competitor, weird and ugly and all that; the Eagle wagon would now be a mainstream competitor for Subaru; the Matador would be a huge failure, but would make the variations of the [Fiat] 500 look successful by comparison; the [Chrysler] 200 could be restyled and called the Concord or the Hornet — it couldn’t sell any worse than it does at the present.

There is, of course, a limit to this sort of thing:

A modern interpretation of the Pacer will never be seen, though, because window glass has pretty much gone out of style.

I blame side-impact door standards.

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Same pod, different peas

I am reminded of the days when Ford owned 33.4 percent of Mazda, and while Ford was in a position to call at least some of the shots, Mazda happily went its own way when it could. Now, Hyundai Motor Group owns 33.88 percent of Kia Motors, but no more than that, and the same sort of thing is happening:

According to the automaker’s performance development chief, Kia plans to offer a global GT line of its most popular vehicles, boosting the models’ performance and appearance.

“Kia is meant to be more emotional than Hyundai and we have to make cars that reflect that when you drive them,” [Albert] Biermann told Autocar. “Hyundai is the quieter brand, that’s why the N-Division was created, because the brand cannot stretch as far. Kia can stretch much further, and I think we will be able to do more aggressive cars.”

Then again, that N-Division, conceived in 2013, has yet to bear any fruit. And Hyundai is outselling Kia, but not by much: through the end of July, 449,063 Hyundais and 388,296 Kias were sold in the States.

Still, I keep coming back to that “more emotional” description. You wouldn’t have said that of, say, Dodge over Plymouth. And Pontiac, arguably GM’s most emotionally-charged car (no trucks and such) brand — “We Build Excitement,” after all — ultimately could not be saved.

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Worst and worster

I take issue with this particular conclusion:

It’s been confirmed — Floridians are the worst drivers in the U.S.

SmartAsset, a personal finance company, conducted a study looking at the number of drivers in each state, DUI arrests, people killed, percentage of insured drivers, and Google trends for speeding tickets.

So what put Florida at the top of the ranking?

Floridians have the second lowest number of insured drivers in the nation at just 76.2 percent. We also Google about speeding and traffic tickets, a lot. In fact, we conduct more searches than any other state in the U.S.

Here’s where I demur. Number Three Oklahoma’s insured percentage is 74.1, worse than Florida’s. We have a 70-percent higher DUI-arrest rate, and a 60-percent higher death rate on the highways. What keeps us out of the Number One slot is, apparently, fewer Googlers. I suggest that there’s something a tad screwy about this methodology.

(In between Florida and Oklahoma: Mississippi. Well, yeah. Just look at the map.)

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One of these lanes is just like the other

We could probably call this “Pergiel’s Law of Traffic Equalization”:

I have noticed a couple of things while driving on Highway 26 during rush hour. The left hand lane (the “fast” lane) attracts those who will leap ahead at the slightest opportunity and then jam on their brakes when they run into a clog. People in the next to fast lane maintain a more even pace that is much calmer and does not deliver as much wear and tear to the car. Both lanes travel at about the same rate. If two cars start evenly in the two lanes, one will soon pull ahead for a moment, but then will run into a jam and the car in the slower lane will overtake them. Then the jam will evaporate and the fast lane will take off and the car in the left lane will once again retake the lead, momentarily. By the time they get to the end neither one will be more than a few seconds ahead of the other.

There is, of course, a potential Unequalizer:

[J]ams generally seem to be caused by exit ramps filling up. Even if they aren’t full, people start slowing down before they get to them, which causes people behind them to slow down. So it isn’t that the freeway doesn’t have the capacity, it’s the exit ramps that can’t handle [the] traffic that is using them.

Interstate 35 northbound beyond downtown Oklahoma City could be the poster child for either of these descriptions.

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The new eugenics

Same as the old eugenics, when you get right down to it:

I am aghast at this article on Mom Jones, that interviews a guy who lauds the selection of embryos to get your perfect baby…

[Professor Hank] Greely [of Stanford] believes embryo selection will become popular in the United States. “My guess is more than half of babies are likely to be conceived this way,” he predicts.

After all, it’s just selection: “You want to get the best car. Why don’t you want to get the best baby?”

Well, maybe because a because a baby is not a “thing” to be bought, but a person to be loved and cherished. By not seeing babies as persons, it is implied that you can return them if defective (which is what is done by discarding embryos, and has been done by parents who refuse to accept an imperfect baby or twins etc. gestated by a pay-for surrogate mother).

And, of course, I’m old enough to remember that when one grew up and married, that babies weren’t planned, but just came along and were accepted and welcomed. Kids were considered part of one’s vocation of being married, and even among the non “religious”, there was the idea that well, God had a plan for the kid even if he/she came at an inconvenient time.

And God forbid these … these creatures should appear at a time when it’s inconvenient:

I don’t think I could mentally handle such demands on my time and energy, on my very body itself. I don’t want to give up all that brainspace that was previously spent on friends, work, writing, and other stuff and instead spend it on feeding schedules, shopping lists, doctor visits, and all the many, many other forms of emotional labor mothers have to do… I don’t want to slow or damage my career. I don’t want to stop having sex, or be forced to have it in secrecy and silence.

Don’t worry, we’re not going to force you. Life is not The Handmaid’s Tale no matter what you read on Tumblr.

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Fans of these vans

Mercedes-Benz wants to sell you a Sprinter van. In fact, M-B is going to be supplementing their existing facility in North Charleston, South Carolina, where complete knock-down kits have been assembled for several years, with a brand-new full-scale assembly plant:

The reason Mercedes-Benz Vans decided to build a Sprinter manufacturing plant in North Charleston is simple: The U.S. market can’t seem to get enough of the tall, boxy commercial vehicles.

“Production follows the market,” Bobby Hitt, the state’s Commerce Secretary, said Wednesday as Mercedes-Benz Vans broke ground on a $500 million facility at Palmetto Commerce Park. “Companies want to produce where they sell.”

Mercedes-Benz Vans sold 28,600 Sprinters to U.S. customers in 2015 — its fifth consecutive year of record growth and an 11 percent increase over 2014 totals. Sales are up 16.5 percent so far this year. By the time the North Charleston plant starts producing vans at the end of this decade, the company expects to be selling at least 40,000 vehicles per year throughout North America.

That’s a lot of vans. Expect to see more Ford Transits and such to combat the Benzes.

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Will it blend?

Into the background, yeah, probably better than anything you’ve ever driven. It showed up, so to speak, on craigslist a few days back:

Invisible Truck

“A marvel of modern science,” says the Road & Track guy:

What was once a perfectly ordinary 1984 Chevrolet (Fleetside, short-bed) with a scant 74,000 miles on its hidden-from-view odometer has been transformed by a cadre of our nation’s brightest materials science engineers to remain perfectly unseen by the ordinary eye. Every surface and part has been coated with some sort of invisibility-inducing substance: its 305ci V8, its 4WD drivetrain, its clean windows, its “like new” interior, its stack of Don Henley cassettes strewn across the bench seats.

Craigslist is pulling the listing for some inscrutable reason. Me, I want to see Wonder Woman driving this thing.

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Wapiti wap

It’s 900 pounds of elk versus 1600 pounds of Smart Fortwo, and the driver walks away:

A lot to be said for that little safety cage. And better yet, the car is so small that the critter couldn’t come crashing through the windshield.

Not so lucky: an elk. We may never hear that new theory about the brontosaurus.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Here a nudge, there a nudge

If I encounter this thing, I’m going to assume that the throttle body is in need of repair:

Who’s to say whether I’m “overusing” fuel? (Hint: not you.)

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Out of the mass market

Mercury sold nearly 66,000 cars with a Monterey badge in 1966. Most of them are gone. Not that the remaining owners necessarily understand that:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Where can I find a good Radiator for a 1966 Mercury Monterey without paying big bucks!?? I've searched almost every parts site, but no luck

I will never understand these folks who think all auto parts, even for 50-year-old models, should be right there at the corner parts store and should sell for no more than $19.99.

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When they were all SUVs

There was, of course, a reason for that:

In their first few decades all cars were SUV’s, meaning high ground clearance, body on frame and tractor-like gearing. The reason was simple enough, intercity highways and roads were largely paved by the end of the ‘twenties, but dirt roads lingered elsewhere. Power meant getting up hills and schlepping over rough, rutted roads. In 1926 this was understood.

Advertising of the time duly reflected these priorities:

Advertisement for 1926 Oldsmobile

The powerplant is a 40-hp 2.8-liter straight-six.

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It’s the V

I have stuck by Shell V-Power despite its lofty price: of late, it’s been 50, even 60 cents higher than regular.

Apparently it could be worse:

Shell V-power is always about a dollar more than 87 here in Ohio. Growing up it was always a $.10 difference between the octanes. Are we paying for the extra additives or marketing?

The Magic 8-Ball says we are.

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Left-lane bandit alert

Hoosiers get, well, semi-tough:

The state of Indiana is cracking down on motorists driving too slowly in the left lane.

In the first year of the State’s highway slowpokes law, state police issued 109 tickets and at least 1,535 warnings to drivers that didn’t move from the left lane when they should reasonably know another vehicle is trying to overtake them. The law went into effect last July.

Hey, it’s a start.

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Dragged into the next century

From 2010:

Last month, you’ll remember, privately-owned (but Senate-appointed) tag agents registered their displeasure with the state’s plan to process orders over the Web, which might put a dent in their business model.

Displeasure duly noted, the Oklahoma Tax Commission has now opened up that Web site and bestowed upon it the incredibly-obvious acronym CARS, which stands for “Convenient Auto Renewal System.”

At the time, I noted that this wasn’t likely to change my own habits; I have an agent of choice, and I’ve been going there for a decade or so.

Then again, I spent none of that decade in the hospital. And now that I’m at an appalling level of incapacitation, now is the time to learn the online stuff.

Elapsed time: about six minutes. Trickiest bit was on insurance verification, where they have options for either name or NAIC number of insurer: perhaps they never expected anyone actually to have the NAIC number. There’s a $1.50 fee. And some time next week, right about the time the old year tab expires, I should have a new one. I just hope I feel well enough to put it in place.

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Are you hanging on the edge of your seat?

This European ad for the Dacia Duster is, um, killer:

Although there’s always the question of whether Freddie would have approved. But then, Mercury’s dead, and so is Freddie.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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10 out of something

The post-auto service survey pressed upon you by the dealer is genuinely a pain, and often dealer personnel will turn humble, even servile, hoping to persuade you to max out the black circles on the far right.

TTAC reader pch101 explains why this is so:

I seriously doubt that the OEMs genuinely care about the survey data per se.

The point of the survey is to motivate the dealer to provide better customer service. That includes all of the hoops that the store has to jump through in order to get the perfect survey score.

The survey process forces the dealer to follow up after the sale and to be nice to you if you weren’t happy. Instead of suffering in silence, the customer gets to complain and the dealership is given an opportunity to fix it. Forcing the dealer to grovel its way to a perfect score is the automaker’s best tool for imposing better practices on the store; presumably, the dealer will eventually be motivated to improve its behavior in order to reduce the amount of sucking up and freebies that it will have to provide in the future.

Makes sense to me. You?

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No more Saabs (maybe)

Are we at last done with the subject of Saab motorcars? I’d call this a Yes:

National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS), the Swedish holding company that bought up Saab Automobile’s assets in a 2012 bankruptcy sale, just announced it won’t sell any vehicles under the Saab name…

NEVS produced a handful of electric Saab 9-3s using the vehicle’s old platform for a brief period in 2013-2014, but production stopped as the company filed for bankruptcy protection and went on the hunt for wealthy investors. It also lost the licensing agreement from the defunct brand’s parent company that allowed it to use the Saab name.

In a message published today on its website, the company states, “NEVS will be the trademark of the company’s products including the first electric vehicle based on the 9-3 platform with start in 2017. That means that NEVS will no longer use the Saab trademark.”

The pitch to the general public is a bit more florid, but no less specific:

From today onwards, we are NEVS — both on a company and product level. With that comes a new logo, a new look and a reinstated commitment to, and focus on, electric vehicles and mobility solutions.

Building on our car manufacturing heritage, we will continue to focus on quality, craftsmanship and people-centric solutions, but we will add new dimensions to our business through our partnerships and collaborations. In doing so, we will leave the Saab trademark and go forth with a new identity that will support our large and increasingly important vision — to shape mobility for a more sustainable future.

And yet I can’t help thinking that the Saab story isn’t quite over yet.

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Now this is answering

A very typical Y!A car question:

I recently found two cars that I like. One is a 2004 bmw m3 and one is a 2003 g35.

How much should I expect the monthly insurance to be?
Is it expensive as a 2004 bmw m3?

There are basically three types of drivers who ask this:

  • Young drivers
  • Shitty drivers
  • Young, shitty drivers

I blew off this question, but fortunately, someone else gave this little twerp what he needed:

Yes, Mark. Performance cars are very expensive to maintain and insure. And you’ve already been told hundreds of times that at this point in your life, it makes absolutely no sense to purchase one.

Last year, after graduating high school, you started classes at Bergen Community College, but dropped out a week later because you read on one of your course syllabi that class participation counted for five percent of your grade. Since you were nervous about talking in class, you quit school and went to work full-time stocking shelves at Costco.

Now, you are considering returning to college at age 19 (almost twenty). You clearly need a more practical car — one that has good reliability and gas mileage. The money you’ve managed to save should go entirely towards your educational expenses, which is an investment in the future.

I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why you think it’s so important to go from 0-60 in a short time. There’s absolutely no benefit in that. Since you live with your parents, you should sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk about your future. Perhaps they can set you straight and help fix some of your delusions. For example, you’re not a “straight-up gangster” and you’re obviously not black.

You are an extremely short and plump Indonesian teenager, with delusional aspirations towards the thug lifestyle. (You’re 5-5, small-framed, and a whopping 232 pounds!) In other words, you’re a fat little “gangsta-baby.” A Toyota Corolla would would be a much more practical option for you. Get an education and lose that 100 pounds of fat. Once you graduate college or university and get a decent job, you can start thinking about high-performance sports cars.

Basically, Mark, you need to fix your life-priorities. You are wasting your time fantasizing about being an inner-city hoodlum and driving fast cars. This makes absolutely sense no at all and you ought to be ashamed of yourself. You seriously need to grow up and start acting like a responsible adult. The waitress you are crushing on was totally correct about that.

Even if only a third of this is dead accurate, he has the twerp dead to rights.

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Bum steering

Last time Gwendolyn had a spa day, the dealership sent me off in a Q50, the first time I’d gotten any seat time in the official G37 replacement. It was, I determined early on, the bottom of the line, and last year’s line at that, so it probably wasn’t affected by this recall:

Nissan’s Infiniti luxury brand will recall roughly 60,000 vehicles globally, a spokesman for the brand said on Thursday, as the steering system key to the Q50 sedan’s autonomous driving capabilities could malfunction.

If this car could drive itself, I didn’t know about it. Certainly I didn’t try to persuade it to.

The Q50 is Infiniti’s first model that can drive itself on highways under certain conditions thanks to its direct adaptive steering system.

That system could malfunction “in certain rare circumstances, just after starting the vehicle” when a software glitch “can lead to a lack of steering responsiveness and change in turning radius.”

Well, isn’t that special?

Maybe this is just the Spirit of Get Off My Lawn talking: about half my 40 years on the road were spent with steering that not only didn’t have software, it didn’t even have power assist. Then again, that period ended with a steering gear (recirculating-ball type) actually grenading, leaving a car that could go straight or turn in one direction, but not the other. Downloading a software patch would not, alas, be the answer.

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Being for the benefit of Mr Clueless

It occurs to me that if you actually need this feature, you might be too stupid to be allowed on the road:

General Motors is introducing an industry-first rear seat reminder that warns drivers that they may have left someone behind.

The feature is standard on the 2017 GMC Acadia SUV.

The system monitors the rear doors. If either door is opened and closed within 10 minutes of the vehicle starting, or if they’re opened while it’s running, the Acadia will sound a chime when it’s turned off. It will also display a message reminding the driver to check the rear seats.

This is the situation the system is supposed to alleviate:

Janette Fennell, president of the advocacy group Kids and Cars, praised the system and said she hopes others adopt it. Fennell says at least 12 children have died so far this year after they were left in hot cars.

And it’s only mid-June.

Still, this seems inarguable to me:

I mean, this goes beyond “distracted.” Way beyond.

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From the Gimme Pages

Some species, we hear, eat their young. I wonder if this is why:

So I’m 19 now , and I’ve really been looking into getting a car. I’ve asked my parents one for Christmas and they said no cuz $. Its really annoying because all my friends have one and they ask girls out using them. Whenever I ask a girl out we have to arrange public transport and that usually turns them off. I know this sounds stupid but don’t worry I’m not just asking for a car to get the ladies. It’s mainly about getting to college. It takes me roughly 2 hours using public transport, meanwhile i checked how much time it would take me If i was using a car. And saw that it would only take me about 30-45 minutes. So I would be getting about 1h30-1hr15 minutes more sleep. Which is a lot.
Now my family isn’t very rich so I’ve narrowed down my options,
The one car I am looking at now is this one: https://www.teslamotors.com/models/design?redirect=no
So it wold be 844$ per month with 5000 $ in down payment.
Now, I want a Tesla because
1. It helps with the ladies
2. Its super quiet
3.Its environment friendly because it is electric/
So before you start yelling at me because the car is so expesive, I’ve done the Maths.
So my dad earns around 55k a year. Which is around 4583$ a month. Now Seeing as he must have 5000$ in his bake account ( I’m assuming) He can make the down payment. And if you substract the 1.5k he pays for rent and the 844$ each month for the car you get 2239$ EVERY MONTH! For you to buy, groceries or hose appliances whatever,
So you can see why I’m frustrated…

I want to know what his dad does that gets him out of paying taxes.

I’m sorry. A child like this, assuming this one actually exists — the trolls have been working overtime of late — is far too stupid to be in college.

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