Archive for Driver’s Seat

Fair to mittening

Yours truly, in the midst of World Tour ’03:

Two of the four major automotive magazines are based in Ann Arbor, and they complain routinely about the Third World quality of Michigan roads. I didn’t cover a whole lot of Washtenaw County, where I-94 is quite acceptable, but I-69 just south of 94 is somewhere between wretched and horrible; I kept looking around for Ba’ath Party members with remote-control devices.

Today, two of the four major automotive magazines are based in Ann Arbor, but not the same two. (Okay, one of the same two.) How are the roads?

Well when you see a medium duty truck slow to a 15 mph crawl in a 40 mph zone so the cargo (or truck) isn’t damaged, you know the roads are somewhere between “is this really paved?” and “the dark side of the moon.” The double whammy of repeated freeze/thaw cycles and a poor state economy for a couple of decades has resulted in potholes, craters and chasms in our roads. Two of the steel rims on my daily driver have been bent.

Although Lansing apparently has decided that neglect is no longer Option One:

Things are getting better. Just about everyone in the state agrees that the roads need fixing and even our fiscally conservative governor has advocated an increase in the gasoline tax to repave the worst roads here.

They certainly don’t fix themselves.

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Somewhat lacking in dash

Attack with Numbers has a subtle little piece called “The laws of shitty dashboards,” the second of which is “If it’s called ‘Dashboard,’ it’s probably shitty.”

Of course, they’re talking software dashboards, but the principle could be extended further:

Take car dashboards for example. They use vast amount of real estate to display information that is useless 99% of the time. How often do you need to know the RPM on an automatic car? Can’t you just take that stupid dial out and put something useful instead?

Then again, if you don’t have that information in the remaining 1% of the time, you’re hosed. And I look at the RPM all the time, if only to see what sort of shift points I’m using. And there’s this, for instance: the car is fully warmed up when, and only when, 70 rpm can be had below 2500 rpm, useful information of the sort you can’t count on from today’s typically wonky temperature gauges.

On the other hand, I’m definitely down with this:

They also employ UX techniques that dates from a time where the only UI component you can use was a light bulb. If that red thing is critical, can’t you tell me right away what it means?

One wants to know, after all, what the engine is doing, not what it just quit doing.

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Ferric oxide never sleeps

My car’s otherwise pristine flanks are marred by none-too-faint traces of the tinworm along the rear wheel wells, the right worse than the left. (There’s another outcropping along the radiator support, less visible but more worrisome.) I tend to think of it as a reminder that unto dust we shall return, and that goes for our toys as well. And at least it was a good paint job at one time, unlike some we’ve heard about:

I finally got around to putting a bunch of Zaino not-quite-wax on the thing last week and I noticed that Honda’s inability to paint cars properly in the United States has yet to be completely addressed. After 12,000 miles, the Accord has more rock chip damage and wear on the front than any of my Volkswagens, BMWs, or Porsches had after three times that much distance. No orange in history has ever had as much orange peel as this Honda and where the paint has chipped off you can see just how thin it is. Oh well. My 1986 Jaguar Vanden Plas had brilliant and flawless lacquer that was approximately as thick as a trauma-plated bulletproof vest but it also failed to make it to 75,000 miles without requiring the replacement of every rubber part in the suspension and body. Choose your battles.

Indeed. (Gwendolyn has a shade under 153,000 miles at this writing.)

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The new automotive priorities

The big thing at General Motors this fall, apparently, is in-car Wi-Fi. A two-page Buick ad in the new InStyle (October) contains this image:

In the back seat of a Buick Regal

The young lady, resplendent in orange, is obviously making best use of her time in the back seat. (Of course it’s the back seat: you don’t want drivers doing this, the curve of the roofline gives it away, and anyway this is the view from outside the car.) Apart from telling you that you can get a mobile hotspot, though, this ad tucks in a couple of additional messages that aren’t spelled out:

  • The average age of Buick buyers has actually been declining, from recently deceased to somewhere in the fifties, but there’s really no percentage to marketing to us old codgers, set in our ways, so let’s show someone about half that age.
  • Fear of cramped back seats haunts us all, or at least those of us who occasionally might find occasion to carry someone in the back seat, so the fact that Miss Tablet can actually cross her legs back there is reassuring, though I’m not sure how close her head is to the ceiling.

This latter point is seldom made by automakers; I can remember only once in recent years when it was blatant, and even then it was only a tweet.

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Your seventy years are up?

For a dead car brand, Saab certainly gets a lot of notice. The Economic Times of India buried this near the bottom of a column, but still:

Recent international reports indicate that one of Saab’s potential saviours could be Mahindra.

National Electric Vehicle Sweden, a Chinese-run company seeking to revive Saab, recently lost the right to use the brand’s name as it negotiates with potential investors on a revival plan.

The Indian company was keen on acquiring Saab in 2012, only to be beaten by the current owner. Saab didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

“Saab was a highly respected brand in both Europe and the US, and had a small, but strong following,” said [French auto analyst Gautam] Sen. “So, picking up Saab and using the brand could be a good way for Mahindra to make some headway into these markets. Even Ssangyong has had problems getting anywhere in Europe as many consumers believe that it is a Chinese brand. So re-branding (and redesigning) Ssangyong and Mahindra products into Saabs may work, if quality and design can come up to the expectations of the typically discerning Saab enthusiast,” he said. “Having said that, relaunching a brand as specific as Saab would not be that easy either.”

Mahindra took a 70-percent share of Ssangyong, the fourth-largest Korean automaker (behind Hyundai, Kia and GM Daewoo), after the Double Dragon fell into receivership in 2009.

Weirdly, both Mahindra and Saab Automobile were formed the same year: 1945.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Wheelbase measured in inches

Enough of this “overcompensation” stuff, says Bark M.:

These guys hate me with a passion. Not only does my car have over four hundred horsepower, it’s yellow. To this particular group of internet commenters, I may as well have a target placed on my size 38 chest. According to them, my dong is actually so small that it’s inverted.

I would suggest that, in this day and age, that line of thought is outdated as the stereotype that only women of a certain persuasion drive Subarus. The only thing my car is an extension of is of my personality. In fact, I’d suggest that perhaps the opposite might be true — that men who drive underpowered cars do so because they think it supplements their identities as hipsters or intellectuals. Also, your girl just drooled over that Viper that drove by.

That Subaru stereotype, incidentally, once got a TTAC editor lambasted and then sacked.

I’m not buying the tweedy-hipster routine, though. In any given automotive class, the car with the least horsepower is likely to be the Mazda; this particular automaker values lightness and litheness more than pony count. If J. Random Wuss persistently chose the smallest horsepower number available, Mazda would be selling a million cars a year in the States instead of a mere 300,000.

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For the long term

The October Motor Trend has an interview, not with the usual grand high muckety-muck of the automotive industry, but with a 70-year-old corporate accountant, unaffiliated with the industry, who’s been on their subscription rolls ever since 1960, at which time he was sixteen and the magazine was eleven.

I did like this interchange:

Have we ever steered you wrong?

No, absolutely not. Never was sorry on anything I ever bought, really.

So you never bought a Vega, huh?

The Vega was MT’s 1971 Car of the Year; they’re still living that one down.

I did some counting, and my current longest subscription run is with MT rival Car and Driver, which I started in 1978. I’m sure someone — possibly Tam — can beat that.

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Why we hate buying cars

A field report from Bayou Renaissance Man:

As part of my search for solutions to my truck’s electrical problems, I visited a few used car dealers (and used car departments of new car dealers) to price alternative transport. I went well armed with information, having researched possible cars and trucks on Edmunds.com and made lists of what Edmunds terms the “true market value” of relevant ones for several model years. I always found that the cars’ sticker prices were several thousand dollars above those listed by Edmunds, and I always asked the salesmen to justify that. They uniformly tried to persuade me that Edmunds.com didn’t know what it was talking about. When I produced corroborating values from NADA and the Kelley Blue Book, they’d fall back on the old “Well, we use a different book” excuse. When I refused to buckle, and insisted on answers, about half of them hemmed and hawed and waffled; the other half simply refused to talk any further.

It was always thus. When I retired Deirdre, my ’84 Mercury Cougar, I was offered something like $1400 above KBB for her in trade. This made no sense to me, but I was ready to deal. The new(ish) car was a ’93 Mazda 626, for which they were asking $9995. In plum condition, and this one was close to it, it was worth a KBB-estimated $8600. By any definition of the term, this was a wash.

(The next Mazda was bought new. Sticker was just over $20,000. But that’s another story.)

There is, however, a silver lining:

Only one dealer was honest enough to tell me that they charged the price they believed the market would bear. If their price was higher than Edmunds’ recommendation, it was because that make and model were in demand in this area, or they’d had to invest extra money in getting the vehicle ready for sale (which they backed up with invoices showing the work that had been done). They made no excuses and didn’t try to waffle.

That sort of forthright statement deserves some sort of signal boost.

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Nothing new under the sunroof

The view from the driver’s seat of the freshly-hatched 2015 Lincoln MKC:

Instrument panel of 2015 Lincoln MKC

(Photo from worldautomodification.com.)

The buttons down the upper left side of the center stack bear letters you’ve seen before: P, R, N, D, S. (The last one is the engine start/stop switch.)

Now really: how much has changed in fifty-nine years?

Advertisement for 1956 Dodge

Oh, yeah: the Lincoln has shift paddles. Hot (actually kinda tepid) diggity.

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Now that’s total recall

It’s seldom that an automaker has to recall 100 percent of a model year, but it’s happened to supercar maker Koenigsegg. Not that this is a lot of cars, of course:

Koenigsegg Automotive AB (Koenigsegg) is recalling one model year 2013 Agera vehicle manufactured in December 2012, equipped [with] a BF1 Systems Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). The affected vehicle may experience the TPMS system not illuminating the TPMS malfunction indicator light when the vehicle is restarted. Thus, this vehicle fails to comply to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 138, “Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems.”

One. Apparently this car is the only ’13 Agera actually sold in the States. I don’t know how many of them were actually built, but “planned volume is 12 to 15 cars per year,” most of which probably went to Dubai or some such place.

The bf1systems (to give it its proper stylization) TPMS is very popular in the supercar market:

bf1systems’ Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems can be found as standard fit on cars such as the Bugatti Veyron, Lamborghini Aventador, Pagani Huayra and all Aston Martins.

Not a slouch in the bunch.

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Added to the colander of saints

“Lose the glasses,” they told me when they took the picture for my driver’s license. “Too much glare.” Good thing they didn’t shoot the top of my head.

Then again, I’m not a Pastafarian:

It may sound like a joke but an Enid woman says her Oklahoma driver’s license features a unique symbol of her religious freedom.

It may even prompt a giggle, but for Shawna Hammond, the spaghetti strainer is a symbol of freedom.

“It doesn’t cover my face. I mean you can still see my face. We have to take off our glasses, so I took off my glasses,” Hammond said.

Letter of the law, doncha know. And this is the law:

According to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety’s rules, religious headpieces cannot cause shadows on your face and the photograph must present a clear view of your face.

Hammond declares herself to be an atheist, her manifest devotion to the Flying Spaghetti Monster notwithstanding.

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256 shades of grey

For as long as I can remember, the back page of the Oklahoma Gazette, the local sort-of-alt-weekly, has been purchased by the local BMW dealer to showcase the current lease deals. After a while, they start to blur: all those Bimmers look pretty much the same. Jack Baruth is happy to explain one of the reasons why:

Let’s put aside for a minute the staggering historical ignorance in thinking that German cars have always been limited to non-colors. After all, the Porsches of the Sixties and the Audis of the Seventies came in colors from lime green to light tan and at no time was the integrity of the German people harmed in any way as a result. Trabants were always wacky colors and that was despite East Germany being pretty much a collection of unheated concrete buildings. The monochromization of the Fatherland’s automobiles didn’t start in earnest until it became possible to lease them cheaply and all the newbies wanted a silver BMW with the lowest possible payment. What can you do about that? It sucks and that’s why when you drive by your local Bimmer dealer the colorful Bavarias and 320is of yesteryear have been replaced by a line of grey blobs with BMW Financial’s preferred package of auction-friendly equipment.

Well, this week they have an X1 sDrive28i in actual red for $359 for 36 months, and while this is the Bimmer toward which I am most favorably disposed, I refuse to pay actual money for anything with an asinine label like “sDrive28i.” (MSRP, if you’re asking, is $36,650.) And apparently this ad is updated piecemeal, when it’s updated at all, because some of these deals expired on the first of August, the rest on the first of September. Cover date is the third of September. (The bottom-feeder 320i, offered for $309, is indeed in silver, or a very shiny grey.)

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Barrier on the side of the road

The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard in question is Number 214, and the Feds will not yield:

FMVSS No. 214 incorporates a new test that replicates the scenario where a car slides sideways into a tree or pole. Finalized in 2007, the test began being phased in to new cars starting in 2010, but automakers that produce fewer than 5,000 units have been exempt from the phase-in period. That is until September 1, 2014 when all vehicles (excluding convertibles) are expected to be compliant; convertible have until September 1, 2015.

According to the petition [by several US Aston Martin dealers], the coupe and convertible models of the DB9 and Vantage will not meet this regulation within that timeframe, and claims that Aston Martin would require an investment of $30 million (€22.4 million) to make the necessary changes to the vehicles, which the petition says that automaker doesn’t have. Even worse, the next-generation models of both cars have been delayed with no specific time table for their arrival.

Feds: “Drop dead”:

So that would seem to be that. Formal statements are expected shortly.

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Dynaflub

I have occasionally grumbled about the four-speed automatic that sits behind Gwendolyn’s engine: the big(gish) V6 is happy to rev, but getting the slushbox to do a downshift when called upon occasionally tries my patience. This is done, I am told, to preserve fuel economy. I, of course, find this argument specious: we may or may not run out of oil some day, but I will definitely run out of time.

Still, however lethargic this Jatco unit seems to be, it’s way speedier than Dale Franks’ description of the Hydra-Matic 6T40 (I think) the General bolts into the Buick Encore:

As near as I can figure it, the engine writes out a 5-page shift request form in longhand, then walks down to the mailbox to send it off. When the transmission receives it, it properly logs the request — in longhand, of course — then proceeds to shift. You can speed the process up, as the transmission has a manual option, with a shift switch on the shifter handle. Don’t do that. You won’t like it.

And that’s a six-speed.

In the long run, it might be easier just to get the damn knee replacement and a car with an actual stick shift, while such contraptions still exist.

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The last Saab story ever?

Maybe. The company that makes Saab cars — except, of course, that it’s not actually making any cars right now — has won protection from its creditors, but at a dear price:

China’s National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), which bought bankrupt carmaker Saab in 2012, won protection from creditors from a Swedish court on Friday while it concludes funding talks.

The decision gives the company, which has not built any cars since May because of a shortage of money, breathing space from creditors to whom it owes some 400 million Swedish crowns ($57.56 million).

There’s just this one minor detail:

Separately, Saab AB, the defense firm from which Saab Automobile was created in 1990, added to NEVS’ troubles on Friday by saying it had withdrawn its right to use the brand name Saab.

Swedish business daily Dagens Industri quoted a Saab AB spokesperson as saying NEVS’ application for creditor protection gave Saab AB the right to cancel the brand agreement.

So there will be cars from NEVS, maybe, but with a new brand name — unless they can pull off something miraculous like persuading General Motors to sell them Pontiac or Saturn. Fat chance of that.

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Armed with 45s

Those of you who were taken aback at the fact that I worked a Blondie reference into a Spottings post presumably haven’t been around here very long: if a lyric comes into my head, it will almost always appear in the current post.

Even people who get paid to write stuff do this. K. C. Colwell, in Car and Driver‘s 2015 New Cars issue:

If the [BMW] M3 has been reduced to a parts-bin fluff job, well, then, God is dead and the war’s begun.

Alvin Tostig (Levon’s father) was not available for comment.

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Never be mist

TTAC commenter “turf3″ explains fog lights:

The purpose of fog lights is to blind oncoming drivers by using them in conjunction with high beams on clear nights when driving on streets with street lights located every 150 feet.

In practice, though, the high beams will blind you more than the fog lights will. (And in some cars, the fog lights turn off when the high beams come on.)

The secondary purpose of fog lights is to add an easily broken feature to plastic bumpers so the cost of using bumpers for their intended purpose (bumping!!!) can be even more expensive.

Now that’s pretty indisputable.

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Damn laws of physics

What in the world could this yahoo possibly have been thinking?

Yahoo! Answers screenshot: What suv has a tow capacity of 7000 lbs and gets good gas mileage?

This is right up there with “How much do I have to spend on a suit to win the heart of a supermodel?”

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The sourest of grapes

A TTAC article about a line of “Prius fighters” to be built by Ford drew this surly comment:

Ford will never be able to compete with the Toyota hybrid. Consider the difference between the two companies. Ford is big on workplace diversity. This means Ford managers are often selected on the color of their skin rather than their IQ. Toyota promotes the best and brightest.

Many times, a white guy, who graduates from a top college with high SAT scores, is passed over for promotion in favor of a minority who gained entrance to a comparable college using affirmative action policies and lesser SAT scores. So, the smarter white guy has no career opportunities at Ford while less smart minority is steadily promoted. The smarter white guy leaves the state of Michigan. Result? Ford can not compete with Toyota.

Go ahead Ford. Keep up the workplace diversity. Then, wonder why your vehicles continue to score black dots in Consumer Reports.

It never occurred to this “smarter white guy” to apply for a position at Toyota? They do have, after all, a technical center in Michigan, and if he’s among the “best and brightest,” shouldn’t he be a shoo-in?

Since it’s likely not the policy of any automaker, foreign or domestic, to introduce an applicant to the person who actually got the job, I have to figure that this chap is hoping someone will buy him a hat so he can talk through it.

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Immovable objects

I was still puzzling over this, four hours after the fact — it happened on the way home during Friday rush hour — and finally I decided to toss it up here.

Exiting I-44 westbound at Classen puts you on the Classen Circle, which is no longer even slightly circular, and gives you a quarter-mile of This Is Not A Ramp before you discover you’ve gotten yourself into the southeastern terminus of the Northwest Distressway. The light was yellow, and I chose not to floor it; after all, there’ll be another green in a couple of minutes.

There wasn’t. The usual pattern for this light ignored westbound traffic entirely for a minimum of three cycles. Something was apparently stuck. Off in the distance, I could see a fire truck, probably from Station 17, heading east; it turned in at 50 Penn Place. That’s odd, I thought; Station 11 is probably closer. Then again, Station 11 probably couldn’t get there because of this damn stuck light.

At which moment I looked towards the rear, and stuck about three car lengths behind me in the left lane — I was in the center — was another fire truck. Station 11, I reckoned.

Now the lights along the Distressway aren’t synchronized worth a damn, but I could swear I’ve seen one or two of them temporarily disabled to make way for emergency vehicles. Is it possible that both engines pushed the magic button, a third of a mile in advance, and their signals managed to screw with each other?

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Advance information

The beatings will continue, it appears, until the equine is no longer deceased:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How many citizens have a problem of buying 'havinga new vehicle before the calendar year?

If that makes little sense, this won’t make much more:

I got this response that I didn’t expect from one of my other questions about model years. I think it is weird, but I still find it acceptable for cars because think if I wanted it to be strict, then it could mean that i would have less fun according to my guardian’s rules. Here is this response.

“Haven’t we had enough of this whinging about the discrepancy between model and calendar years? No one in the Real World has a problem with it.

“Role model: William Maxwell Gaines, founder of Mad magazine, who set it up with an 8-issues-per-year schedule that guaranteed that no issue was ever on sale during the month printed on its cover.”

I started to wonder who has a problem with it.

For school buses, I think a 2013 school bus was there in 2012 for school bus fleet reasoning like meeting emission standards for 2013 for this school bus.

I have a problem when transit buses often enter service before the calendar year (if there is no need to or no reason to) because fleet age is something very important.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that emissions standards are set by model year, not by calendar year, therefore his concerns are somewhere between misplaced and pathological. Moreover, it’s hard not to wonder about the nature of his, um, “guardian.”

And besides, I’ve obviously told the little peckerhead enough already.

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While sticking to the seat

Advice for the unclothed driver, aside from the obvious “Don’t get pulled over”:

If you can drive without air conditioning, good for you. It’s my preferred way to do it. But: on very hot days cool down your car (and your body) before you put on your clothes. Otherwise your natural body heat will be caught beneath your clothes and that can feel very bad/hot.

I admit to not having thought of that.

Incidentally, if you need gas, you should probably get dressed before swiping your MasterCard through the pump reader.

(Via Nudiarist. Neither link should be considered safe for work unless you are the sysadmin or you have something on him.)

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Dissipated fizz

Last time this state scratched around for a new plate design, I proposed something like this:

Oklahoma Sonic plate, drawn by me, never used

It never occurred to me that Texas would actually do something like that:

Dr Pepper plate issued by Texas

And now they’re undoing it:

The Dallas Morning News broke the news over the weekend that the state of Texas is planning to kill off its least popular specialty license plates, and we couldn’t be more thrilled… We were, however, dismayed to notice that Dr Pepper is … on the chopping block.

How does this happen? How is it that the most Texan of non-alcoholic carbonated beverages, which, if it didn’t help sustain the last defenders of the Alamo then definitely should have, failed to meet the 200-plate threshold put in place by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles?

Did it ever occur to anyone in either state that there might simply be too damn many plate designs?

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Brief exercise

Interstate 35 northeast of downtown, once it splits away from 40, is cursed for several miles with the penury-induced deficiency called Onrampus insufficienti, which imposes certain conditions on the driver wishing to climb on. Chief among these is “Accelerate like a sumbitch.” In the case of the US 62 onramp, this has a prerequisite: make the right turn onto the ramp and hope you can see what’s sliding down the hill at you.

I was transitioning between these two modes when I saw it. A minivan. Worse, a white minivan. The Anti-Destination League gives these out as longevity awards. And it wasn’t going to budge horizontally, what with an 18-wheeler in the fast — well, the less-slow lane. Okay, fine. I pushed the loud pedal once more, and Gwendolyn’s ill-bred four-speed slushbox, having just climbed all the way to fourth, was in no hurry to drop back to third.

So I readied myself for the Killing of Overdrive, which is faster than waiting for the machine to shift on its own, when a 2-series BMW rocketed toward the right and into the space I’d chosen for myself. Oh, great. The van, meanwhile, had managed to creep above the speed limit. I began calculating closing distances and where I’d end up in the breakdown lane, such as it is.

Fortunately, Bimmer Dude was paying attention after all, and he opened up more space, mostly by scaring the Mazda in front of him into cranking it up. I duly slid into the flow, reached for my hat to tip to the guy, realized I wasn’t wearing a hat, and staked out a place in front of the big rig. The van, down to 45 mph or so, departed at the next exit, short-circuiting any plans I may have had to curse its driver for staying in the lane.

This sort of thing is consistent with what I’ve been telling the road-building guys: we have enough highway capacity. What we don’t have is a way to sweep away the people who think the D on the shift lever stands for “Dawdle.”

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Dream yon, autocorrupt

As more and more mobile users enter the fray, you’re going to see stuff like this:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Where is the speed control sensor for a 2000 Nassau maximum?

At least, I think he means “speed control sensor.”

Still: “Nassau”? Could this actually be the bitchin’ Camaro his folks drove up from the Bahamas?

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Spilled watts

If I draw 10 gallons of Shell V-Power out of the pump, I’m getting, give or take a tablespoon or two, 10 gallons; the Corporation Commission sees to that. After that, the laws of physics kick in, and internal-combustion engines are not exactly celebrated for their efficiency, which is one reason why electric-powered cars are selling in quantities no longer describable as miniscule.

Then again, if you draw 100 kilowatt-hours out of the line, how much of that is the car going to use? Here’s what one Tesla Model S owner found, after installing a digital submeter to determine exactly how much juice is leaving the outlet and going into the car:

[T]he Model S reported 728 kWh used during the period but the meter reported 894 kWh used. This means my charging efficiency is only about 82% and electric usage (and cost) is 18% higher than I may have expected based on the readings the Model S provides. For that month this is an extra $26 of charging cost which is a small number but a notable percentage of the total.

At his, um, current (sorry) electrical rate, he wound up using $143 worth of electricity for that month — to drive 2,417 miles. At my around-town figure of 21.5 mpg, this means I’d be buying 112.4 gallons of gas to drive that same distance, and at last weekend’s fillup price ($3.299), I’m looking at $370 in fuel costs. So even if Tesla doesn’t win by as much as he’d hoped — some electrics, he says, manage 90-percent charging efficiency — it’s still a pretty substantial win.

(Via Autoblog Green.)

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Besides, the cat moves faster

Tam spots a ’78ish Camaro, and waxes lyrical on the lack of performance in the Malaise Era:

Even the highest-zoot 350-c.i. engine available in the Z-28 was a wheezing smog motor that put out four horsepower less than the normally aspirated 2.8L 6-cyl in my Z3. Car and Driver clocked 7.3 seconds to sixty and a 16.0 ¼-mile time from a 4-speed car with a 3.73 rear end, which would barely keep up with Marko’s new minivan, but was pretty beastly in that benighted era. (And most Camaros then were 305-motored cars with slushboxes, which wouldn’t accelerate hard enough to pull a greased string out of a cat’s ass.)

Long about 1978, the Mrs. and I took delivery of a ’76 Nova, a 305-motored car with a slushbox, and in terms of feline string removal, it barely kept up with her 96-hp ’75 Toyota Celica (5-speed manual, 3.73 rear end) — which, when the marriage went sour, became my 96-hp ’75 Toyota Celica, which I drove until the mid-Nineties. Neither car was exactly frugal: we got maybe 16 mpg out of the Chevy, and the Toyota managed only about 18 in town, though it did better out on the road. Weirdly, fuel economy improved slightly after an Exxon station in Redondo Beach tweaked the carb and the timing enough to somehow pass a California smog test in 1988 despite the lack of a catalytic converter. Even more weirdly, the absolute best gas mileage I ever saw on the Celica was 29 mpg, achieved with a tailwind on Interstate 35 with a curio cabinet lashed to the roof, which should tell you how good the stock aerodynamics were.

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No time to talk

Stateside, we dither about drivers with cell phones. For those who contend that we must Do Something, even if it’s wrong, this is what’s being done in the United Kingdom:

UK drivers who find themselves in an accident may also see their cell phones confiscated by the police to determine if they were used prior to said accident.

Visordown reports one Suzette Davenport, chief constable in Gloucestershire in charge of roads policing for the Association of Chief Police Officers, issued the order to check all phones on the scene, no matter the severity of the accident.

If everyone in the US had shiny new smartphones with substantial resale value, they’d do that here, because, you know, forfeiture.

And even if the Brits weren’t doing this, they were definitely thinking “draconian”:

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin proclaimed those who are caught using their phones while driving should see six points knocked off of their license, leading to a driving ban if a driver is caught twice in three years; newly minted drivers would lose their license if caught once during the first two years of holding said license.

Which leads to another question: If Britain, which chafes under restrictive European Union decrees, can come up with something like this, what on earth can the EUrocrats be planning in Brussels?

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Operationally green

I’m not sure yet whether this is supposed to scare me:

In a few weeks, at WOOT (the USENIX Workshop on Offensive Technologies — an academic conference where security researchers demonstrate broken stuff), a team from the University of Michigan will be presenting a lovely paper, Green Lights Forever: Analyzing the Security of Traffic Infrastructure. It’s a short and fun read. In summary, it’s common for traffic light controllers to speak to each other over a 5.8GHz wireless channel (much like WiFi, but a dedicated frequency) with no cryptography, default usernames and passwords, and well-known and exploitable bugs.

Oh, great. Everybody and his kid brother will be trying to hack traffic lights. Or maybe not:

One of the curious things about the computer design for traffic light controllers is that there are really two computers stacked one atop the other. The “MMU” computer has a bunch of basic rules it has to enforce (e.g., minimum duration of yellow lights) and if the fancy controller tries to create panic at the disco, the MMU says “umm, no” and goes into flashing red, requiring somebody to manually come out and reset it. Which is to say, an attacker who wants to do more than a little tweaking here and there is likely to just dump all the lights into blinking-red mode and just piss everybody off.

And if they’re on the Northwest Distressway near where I live, people, pissed off or otherwise, are going to run the lights anyway; I can’t remember two consecutive weekdays with nobody running the light at either Pennsylvania or Villa.

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From shooting brakes to shooting guards

Kobe Bryant’s company is setting up in his hometown in Orange County:

Kobe Bryant’s new company is setting up shop in the famed basketball player’s hometown.

Council members authorized the sale Tuesday of a city-owned property in West Newport Beach to Kobe Inc. for use as a global headquarters.

Ordinarily I would give this the MEGO treatment, but:

The roughly 1-acre site, at 1499 Monrovia Ave., includes a 16,550 square foot office building, where Road & Track Magazine used to operate. It was sold for $5.8 million.

Which is probably more than Hearst Magazines could get for R&T itself, now having to bunk with Car and Driver in Ann Arbor.

Somehow I get the feeling the late John R. Bond is doing 2000 rpm or so right about now. (Think of it as a fast idle.)

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