Archive for Driver’s Seat

You serfs have no right to do that

And we’re going to sue you for voting against our revenue measure:

Three towns in Missouri joined together to sue the the residents of St. Charles [County] who voted to ban red light cameras. St. Peters, Lake Saint Louis and O’Fallon are asking a county circuit court judge to overturn the charter amendment banning automated enforcement adopted in November with the support of 73 percent of voters. City leaders argue that the 69,469 residents who voted for the measure had no business limiting the right of local politicians to use automated ticketing machines.

“The charter amendment invades the legislative jurisdiction of cities in contravention of state policy, and conflicts with the authority specifically delegated to cities by the state to address their specific needs including traffic and enforcement of traffic regulations,” attorney Matthew J. Fairless wrote in the cities’ complaint.

The suit alleges the charter amendment will result in “a loss of revenue” and, therefore, each of the cities has standing to sue. The cities also argue that the Missouri General Assembly gave each city government “exclusive control over all streets, alleys, avenues and public highways within the limits of such city” so that the people who live in the county have no say in the decisions made by political leaders.

Meanwhile, the state has never actually authorized these things, and a case is pending before the state Supreme Court to determine whether they can. Which clearly doesn’t bother at least one of these towns:

St. Peters was the first American city to see a red light camera corruption trial. Former Mayor Shawn Brown was convicted of soliciting a bribe from Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia. He was released from prison in 2008.

Not that this counts as motivation or anything.

(Via Fark.)

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Right smack in the puss

I have owned three cars equipped with Supplemental Restraint Systems, a.k.a. airbags. I have never seen them deploy, even in the car that was wrecked. (That said, I walked away from that wreck without a scratch, which I attribute to the use of the Standard Restraint System, a.k.a. the seat belt.) In this case, one might argue that the airbags didn’t actually work; then again, that these things work at all, says Mike Smitka, is fairly miraculous in itself:

A car going 30 miles per hour is traveling 44 feet per second. If you hit a tree, the worst sort of accident, and are sitting 5 feet behind your car’s bumper, the airbag has 5/44 = 110 milliseconds to do its thing. Your airbag sensor needs to detect a sudden deceleration within 20 milliseconds, has to start the propellant igniting in another 2-3 milliseconds, and the airbag (some are over 20 gallons = 70 liters!) must inflate into the proper shape in another 60 or so milliseconds.

Airbags ignite with the bang comparable to a fair-sized firecracker. Those who complain of airbag burns after an accident — not that such burns aren’t real, I’ve been at accident scenes — should be made to go to their local gym and have a boxer hit their face with a steering wheel to see what they missed. That airbags can be made to work, yet seldom cause serious injury, is to me pretty amazing.

I have a 70-liter (closer to 18.5 gallons) gas tank, and something that size in my lap is hard to imagine, especially if it wasn’t there a tenth of a second ago. Fortunately, I’ve never had to experience this sort of thing. (And they totaled my car anyway, once the repair estimate went over five grand or so.)

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Beyond comprehensive

One of the arguments in favor of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act — which, to the surprise of no one actually paying attention, required a mere 67-percent increase in my annual deductible to qualify the corporate policy without sending the premium to the stratosphere — was that “it’s just like car insurance, nobody has a problem with that being mandatory.”

Well, no, I don’t have a problem with that. I’d point out that rather a large percentage of drivers have been ignoring that particular mandate all along, but ultimately I suppose I need to be more concerned about people who simply can’t read policies:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: My motor is messed up in my car will my car insurance pay for it to get fix?

Short answer: no. And there’s really no need for a long answer.


Put one in your garage

Well, it won’t fit in my garage, not at 85 inches wide. (My Infiniti sedan is a tight-ish squeeze at just over 70 inches. Then again, my garage was built in the tall-car era, back in 1951.) That said, the Defense Logistics Agency has turned loose 25 genuine military HMMWVs from their stash of about 4,000, and they sold for an average of just under $30,000 each at auction.

Presumably you won’t be able to tag them for on-road use, so you’ll have to tow it (all 5900 lb worth) to whatever rocks you want to crush with it. Don’t even ask about fuel economy. (Actually, it’s probably in double digits, but the lowest double digits possible; Northrop Grumman has offered a chassis upgrade for Humvees that brings them up to a theoretical 18 mpg, but it costs six figures all by itself.)

A new batch of Humvees is expected to come to market after the first of the year.


Plus intangibles

Jalopnik’s Doug DeMuro gets rid of his Ferrari, and passes on this bit of wisdom to those still coveting the prancing horse:

I have enough money to own it, but not enough money to own it. I can afford to fix it when it breaks, pay the insurance, cover the fuel, do the major services, etc. But I can’t afford to drive it around without worrying about a random $5k repair or a $10k accident — and that is real wealth. However I think to be in that world you have to be worth millions.

All those yutzim on Yahoo! Answers who want to spend the next ten years in Mom’s basement so they can afford their dream cars need to have this stenciled on whichever body part will hurt most.

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Faster, please

The opening sentence of John Phillips’ column in the January Car and Driver:

In 1991, I wrote about a Top Fuel dragster that was homing in on the NHRA’s first 300-mph quarter-mile pass, a velocity that many felt might teleport the driver so far into the future that he’d land in an era where Congress couldn’t pass bills.

Current NHRA Top Fuel quarter-mile record at this writing is held by Spencer Massey of Fort Worth, Texas, who has done the deed in a certified 332.18 mph.

Apparently that’s still not fast enough.

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Winter tires

Not for use when it’s warm out:

Pumpkin Spice Rubber

(From reddit via Miss Cellania.)


Avoid this dude at all cost

Because he’s not paying attention to where he’s going:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: What color is the wire coming from the radio in a 2013 GMC Sierra Denali for the parking brake bypass?

Why would anyone want to know this, you ask?

Trying to do a bypass so I can watch dvd while driving

Look around for a bridge abutment with a GMC nosepiece embedded about, oh, this deep.


Dawning is the day

When this appeared in the media a couple of days ago, noises were made to the effect that we might be seeing a Whole New Era:

Gas price at OnCue, 44th and Shields

Of course, for this to be true, everyone else would have had to rush out and match this price, seen at the OnCue Express at 44th and Shields. As of today, the Duo at 59th and Blackwelder will sell you E10 at $1.999, if you’re paying cash — add a dime for plastic — and the 44 Food Mart, just east of that OnCue, has dropped to $1.989. That’s it. This is not, I shouldn’t have to point out, a Whole New Era. And GasBuddy counsels caution:

GasBuddy anticipates that some motorists in Texas, South Carolina, and Missouri may see $1.99 show up soon as well. Areas of Houston, Spartanburg, and St. Louis are the only metro areas within “striking distance” of less than 20c/gallon.

We should make clear that at this time, we do not believe any city or state will see average prices under $2/gal, but yes, a handful of stations across the United States may see these prices. Should oil prices continue to decline, as some of our analysts have predicted, it will open the door to motorists in more cities seeing a few $1.99 prices.

I’m still paying $2.619 for premium, of course.

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A definite lack of curves

According to urban — or maybe rural — legend, one mile in every five of the Interstate Highway System is perfectly straight, so it can be used as an emergency runway for aircraft. (The Federal Highway Administration begs to differ.) A one-mile straightaway is no big deal, though: it’s not enough to get hypercars like the various Bugatti Veyrons up to top speed, and, based on my own road-trip experience, it’s not enough to put you to sleep.

At the other end of the spectrum, on the other side of the world, there’s this:

Imagine a drive, a thousand miles long with no turns or bends, across a vast featureless plain with repetitive landscape, and hundreds of kilometers between towns and service stations. That’s Eyre Highway, the road that connects Western Australia to Southern Australia via the Nullarbor Plain, a flat and treeless, giant bed of limestone 200,000 square kilometres in area. With no hills or lakes to obstruct, the highway was laid down as a straight road that runs for 1,675 km from Port Augusta in the east to Norseman in the west, and includes what is said to be the longest straight stretch of road in the world: 145.6 kilometres, between the small roadhouse communities of Balladonia and Caiguna.

The very name “Nullarbor” tells you how many trees you can expect, give or take a few.

While in the East you still find some towns like Kimba, Wudinna and Ceduna, the western three quarters is almost devoid of life. This section lies almost entirely on the Nullarbor Plain. The typical view is that of a straight highway and practically unchanging flat saltbush-covered terrain, although some parts are located on ridges. Spread throughout the length of the highway at approximately 200 km to 300 km apart are roadhouses providing basic services such as fuel, food, refreshments, accommodation and repairs, but not all are open 24 hours.

About this time of year, the Nullarbor seems almost inviting, at least to me, partly because it’s still spring for the next few weeks, but mostly because there’s not much of a crowd.

Oh, and there’s this:

Because of its remoteness, some sections of the Highway serve as emergency airstrips for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. These airstrips are signposted and have runway “piano keys” painted on the road, and turnaround bays for small aircraft.

You definitely won’t see that on the likes of I-35.

(Via The Presurfer.)

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Shtick shift

It is not sufficient to sell products anymore: we must now sell brands, vague, inchoate floating clouds of image that are supposed to justify the purchase of those products in a way that “It works good” never could. I get sent hints every week on establishing and furthering my personal brand, despite the fact that after six decades it ought to be pretty much obvious.

Melody Lee is Cadillac’s Director of Brand and Reputation Strategy, a title which would have made Henry Ford spit in his whiskey. And this is how she sees the task before her:

[T]o get more millennials like herself to start thinking about buying a Cadillac as opposed to an Audi or a BMW, Lee isn’t focusing on the cars themselves. Instead, she is putting her energy into changing what the cars represent.

“We want to be a global luxury brand that happens to sell cars. We don’t want to be an automotive brand,” Lee said in an interview. “There is nothing that exciting about an ad with a car in it by itself. We need to start injecting more humanity into our brand and into our advertising.”

This could be difficult, since Cadillac’s sole market-dominant product is the overwrought Escalade, a sport-utility vehicle with hardly any sport, damned little utility, and dehumanizing levels of bling. Inasmuch as the ‘Slade is GM’s single most profitable model, you’d think this would be precisely the image they wanted, but apparently they’re embarrassed by it, perhaps because the Wrong Sort of People — people who don’t subscribe to Architectural Digest, let’s say — are buying it.

But Lee is immersed in her mission:

“I don’t buy products, I buy brands,” explained Lee. “I don’t use Apple computers because they are the best computers, I use them because Apple is cool. We need to show drivers what the Cadillac lifestyle is all about.”

Between that and the notion of Lee’s boss, Johan de Nysschen, that Cadillac ought to compete in the six-digit range with Bentley and Rolls-Royce, and suddenly you have to ask yourself: “Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?”

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Regression to the meanest

We’ve all seen them: cars barely worth $500, thumping along with $1000 worth of audio equipment. It never occurs to us that the reverse could ever be true:

Yahoo Answers screenshot:

You have to figure that every dime he has is tied up in that S-Class. And the only generation of S-Class that had an S320 is the W220 series, roughly 1998 to 2006, so I’m betting he doesn’t have an AUX input or a USB port and is desperate for anything that will incorporate them but won’t actually break him. Given this example of Walmart pricing, though, I’d suggest he shop elsewhere.

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Kind of a floaty ride

I’ve seen exactly one of these in my life. The Tupelo Automobile Museum has another one, in decidedly better shape:

Amphicar at Tupelo Automobile Museum

About 3500 Amphicars were produced between 1960 and 1968, priced starting at $3395. One of those coffee-table collector’s books describes it thusly:

Superb neither on water or land, but nonetheless the world’s only amphibious passenger car. Designed by Hans Trippel and powered by a Triumph Herald four-cylinder engine, it did what its maker claimed: run on the road (68 mph tops), sail on water (7 knots maximum) without sinking (rubber gaskets seal the doors; a bilge pump is available if the scupper-level rises). A transfer case handles the drive to twin props, and water navigation is via the steering wheel (the front wheels act as rudders). The sure cure for marina fees, yacht club sharks, and people who want to borrow your boat.

The Museum itself contains about 150 cars from the collection of the late Frank K. Spain, founder of WTWV (now WTVA) in Tupelo, a character in his own right:

Spain hoped to parlay his good relations with NBC officials into getting his new station an affiliation with the network. However, several NBC executives believed Tupelo was not a desirable place for a local station because of its rural location, even though most viewers in northern Mississippi could only get NBC via grade B coverage from WMC-TV in Memphis, Tennessee and WAPI-TV (now WVTM-TV) in Birmingham, Alabama). Nonetheless, they told Spain that if he could figure out a way to obtain a network signal, he could carry it.

Spain allegedly negotiated under-the-table deals with WMC-TV and set up a network of microwave relays and repeater systems to carry the WMC-TV signal to Tupelo. Station engineers then switched to and from the signal when network programming aired. This setup, necessary in the days before satellites, enabled WTWV to bring NBC programming to northeastern Mississippi and northwestern Alabama.

You got to figure a guy like that would appreciate a car that floats.

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H2 = 0

Drivers of Hyundai’s Tucson Fuel Cell and Toyota’s Mirai fuel-cell buggy will be getting actual hydrogen without having to pay for it, at least at first. This is not, you should know, a manufacturer incentive:

According to Autoblog, a seminar held at the Mirai launch regarding hydrogen revealed the fueling stations currently in place in the United States aren’t able to accurately measure how much hydrogen is pumped into a given vehicle. Without that accuracy, no FCV owner can be charged for the fuel, a problem the California Air Resources Board is working to fix. Deputy Executive Officer Alberto Ayala explains:

“If you think about it, it’s a real simple yet real practical challenge. If you’re going to pay for X amount of hydrogen, you’re actually getting that amount of hydrogen… We are at a point where we are solving multiple remaining questions [with hydrogen infrastructure], and that just happens to be one of them.”

Cynics suggest that it really doesn’t matter, since these cars exist solely to collect ZEV credits from CARB. The chemistry student I used to be notes simply that there’s more hydrogen in the universe than anything else, with the possible exception of bad ideas for reality shows: the tricky part, of course, is that none of that hydrogen is sitting around uncombined, waiting to be pumped into your fuel cell.

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Arriving at my decidedly non-reserved slot in the company parking lot after 4:30, I noticed that creatures unknown had taken a dump on Gwendolyn’s hood. (The British term “bonnet” seems even worse here.) The stuff was just slightly darker than burnt sienna, which told me that it likely wasn’t a bird; any bird passing something that color, and in that volume, would very likely be found dead a few yards away. So: some sort of humanoid, perhaps in prankster mode. I swore vengeance, vowing that if I ever caught the perp messing around my motor vehicle again, I would kill him, and tell God he died.

This sounded even sillier after a couple of iterations, so I tried to come up with another explanation. Could something have slopped onto me during the morning commute? And why didn’t I notice it, if it had? The latter question, at least, was easier to answer: I leave for work in the first half of the six o’clock hour. Sunrise that morning: 7:12.

I grabbed a paper towel from my in-car stash and pinched off the bulk of the, um, loaf. This time I had an ID: old-style axle grease. Now I can always think of a good reason not to go to the car wash, especially when there’s a 70-percent chance of rain in the next 24 hours, so I decided I would address this mess at home. As it turned out, I had the solution right at the kitchen sink: I covered the stuff with a thin layer of Dawn dishwashing liquid, squeezed a sponge or two worth of water on the blob, waited a little while, and whisked about 75 percent of it away on the first swipe. Probably damaged the sponge beyond repair — the Law of Conservation of Filth, which states that to get something clean, you must also get something dirty, is inflexible and adamantine — but hey, I got that crap off my car without messing up the clearcoat.

Later, I contemplated the source once more. If something going down the road is sloughing off grease in such quantities, I reasoned, very soon it will not be going down the road at all, because a bearing will be baked to a crackly crunch.

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Looks better from the inside

Says Fillyjonk: “I wouldn’t buy an aggressively ugly car, like the bad old Aztek, even if it was highly rated.” I’m not sure that Pontiac really, truly wanted a mobile eyesore, but the command came down from the General — “Turn this minivan platform into a proper SUV, and don’t spend a lot of money on it” — and the Aztek was the unfortunate result. Buick sold the same basic vehicle as the Rendezvous, and while it didn’t assault the eyes the way the Aztek did, it was still ungainly and ill-proportioned.

That said, in this age of wind-tunnel conformity, automakers have had to come up with styling that separates them from the crowd, and some of those efforts paid negative dividends: the idiot grin on last-generation Mazdas; the “spindle grille” being affixed to current Lexus models; the chrome beak from which Acura is slowly backing away.

Still, some cars are, well, cuter than others: the VW New Beetle (New New Beetle, simply styled “Beetle,” is less cute than its predecessor), the Fiat 500, various Minis. Of course, “cute” suggests “small,” and all these cars are: the only large vehicle I’d think of as cute is the Ford Flex wagon, whose bricklike appearance suggests it was built up from LEGO blocks.

And then there’s the Dodge Neon, introduced in the middle 1990s. It was all about that cute: typical advertising showed the car making eye-to-headlight contact and saying “Hi.” After a decade or so of this, Dodge decided that their next small car would be the very antithesis of cute:

Now that’s aggressively ugly.

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Hearts strong as horses

It doesn’t happen very often, but now and then Car and Driver will put together a comparison test of the sort that boggles the mind. In the December issue, it’s a comparo between a horse-drawn carriage in New York’s Central Park and the electrified buggy that’s been proposed as its replacement. The new horseless contraption has a couple of advantages, including an 84-hp electric motor — the original carriage has, um, 1 horsepower — and comparatively easy rechargeability. The horse, meanwhile, gets a minimum of five weeks’ pasture time each year by city ordinance. But both vehicles have rigid axles and leaf springs underneath.

C/D, as usual, presented their test results — the carriage with an actual horse, an 11-year-old gelding, was 1.2 seconds faster from 0 to 3 mph — and their conclusion box. For the original horse-drawn carriage:

+ Quaint, quiet, semi-autonomous, pleasantly furry.

- Occasional stubbornness, no emissions controls.

= Working horses built civilization. Here’s one of the last that still has a job.

In terms of experience, the old-fashioned buggy outpointed the new one, 51-36:

Having two brains at the controls allows the driver to interact with his customers, face to face; that’s impossible with the eCarriage. A horse just makes it a better tourist experience, even if you’re looking at the back end of it.

And speaking of horse’s asses:

In the long run … NYCLASS [New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets] will likely win this battle, if not because it’s able to get the horses banned, but because the land under the horses’ stables is so valuable that the stable owners won’t be able to resist selling.

Those stables are located just off the West Side Highway in Hell’s Kitchen, an area of Manhattan that has been rapidly gentrifying of late.

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Outdoor batroom

Bat house from old Volt partsOn the off-chance that your first question is “Why is that Chevrolet Volt battery housing sitting on top of a pole?” the answer is that it’s scrap from the General Motors battery plant in Brownstown Township, in the southern end of Wayne County, Michigan, which has no landfill, and the stuff is difficult to recycle for some obscure chemical reason, so the General came up with something else to do with the little plastic boxes: provide homes for bats. Yes, really:

The company … creates bat houses out of scrap Chevrolet Volt battery covers that can hold up to 150 little brown bats each. John Bradburn, GM global manager of waste reduction, came up with the reuse idea, transforming the difficult-to-recycle material into nesting structures. So far, 232 of these bat houses have been installed on its properties and in other private and public lands in the United States. A tweak of the design has led to 368 specially designed structures to serve wood ducks, owls, bluebirds and scaly-sided mergansers — an endangered species.

Which means shipping the stuff off to China, since Mergus squamatus is native to east Asia and is presumably never seen around Detroit.

This isn’t the only bat-related Chevy recycling program, either:

Artificial stalactites give hibernating bats more surface area from which to hang, thus spreading them out around the cave. Creation of the stalactite is simple; robots that apply a structural adhesive that helps join Corvette body parts are purged regularly to keep the adhesive applicator clean and free of dried material. This dried gunk is the perfect shape for a stalactite, and its use in artificial bat caves avoids sending it to landfills.

Seems like a swell idea to me.

(Nicole originally posted the stalactite story; I just padded it out a bit.)

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Go thou and don’t do likewise

Acts 5:12 (KJV):

And by the hands of the Apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; and they were all with one Accord in Solomon’s porch.

If you’re not an apostle — there were only twelve, after all — or anywhere near Solomon’s porch (Solomon’s Porsche, maybe?), you probably should not try this yourself:

A Catoosa teacher has been suspended with pay after she was accused of piling kids into her [Honda Accord] and putting two kids in the trunk to run an errand.

The school board set a hearing for the teacher to fight a possible firing.

Parents claim Heather Cagle left Wells Middle School with 11 kids and drove to Wal-Mart to get snacks.

The Lord, who driveth a Plymouth, would not approve:

Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my Fury.

(Via Fark.)

Update, 23 December: She’s been sacked.

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A truck for ewe

This may, or may not, be the Ram 700 pickup truck:

Ram variant of Fiat Strada

In real life, this is the Fiat Strada, built in Brazil since 1996 and no relation to the Fiat Strada sold in the US and Britain back in the Eighties, which everywhere else was a Ritmo. (I once got a few minutes to drive one of those Stradas; it was serious fun despite having only 69 hp, perhaps because it handled like an Italian car, and made noises like an Italian car.)

Autoblog thinks this little darb is coming to the States:

Fiat was spotted testing a heavily camouflaged example of the Strada in Michigan months ago. Is it a bit difficult to imagine these 700s lined up next to the 1500 and its HD siblings at modern Ram dealers in the US? Perhaps, but we like options.

Of course, they’d have to start building it in Mexico to avoid the dreaded Chicken Tax. This might not be a problem, since the Strada is already sold in Mexico, and Fiat already has a plant in Toluca, currently turning out 500s and Dodge Journeys.

And “700” makes sense, if you figure that it looks about half the size of a Ram 1500, Chrysler’s standard half-ton pickup. And the two-door version — the model pictured is actually a 3-door, with two doors on the passenger side — has a rated cargo capacity of 705 kg, which is right around three quarters of a ton. However, being a teensy front-driver with a 1.6-liter inline-four and a five-speed manual, the 700 probably can’t tow anything much bigger than your daughter’s Radio Flyer.

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A lot of apps for that

Pergiel’s Corollary to Parkinson’s Law:

I’m pretty much convinced that the amount of driving expands to fill the available space. No wonder people (Google at least) are working on self driving cars. It’s not so cars can fly down the freeway without anybody at the wheel, it’s so people can play tiddly-winks on their iPhones while their car spends an hour crawling along at five MPH to deliver them to work or home.

Well, okay, as long as I don’t have to do any actual work.

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It needs to be 20% thirstier

Lisa has a Prius named Rainbow Dash, and it was perfectly fine until she moved out of Ponyville:

Whereas the Prius used to be perfectly fine for the usually slow traffic on Highway 101 then sleepy Route 37 up to Sonoma, now I’m doing the two hour plus drive up north on what must be the scariest freeway in Northern California. I start out on a quick spur of the 880 which local cops call Blood Alley because of all the accidents. Then I switch to the 680 where I seem to have a life-flashing-before-my-eyes event on every run. The problem is the huge number of trucks and tractor trailers on this road. Which means I, in my little fiberglass sardine can, am sharing road space with massive eight tired rigs at least ten times my size. In the Prius’s defense, let me say that it has fabulous visibility with a large windshield, super large (for its size) rear view mirrors and almost a 180 degree view to the rear through a large rear hatchback window and side windows. Let me tell you, you need that visibility. Because NOBODY can see a Prius. Even Subaru station wagons can’t see the Prius. So if you can’t get out of harm’s way, no one else is going to prevent that accident. And how bad would that accident be? Well, judging from the damage done at low speeds on my recent roadtrip, I don’t even want to contemplate what that car would look like after a 65-70 MPH impact. Although I’m all about the great gas mileage, I’m starting to wonder how much that will matter to me after I’m splattered on a concrete shoulder by a merging big rig.

The problem, of course, is that something taller and easier to see is likely to drink a whole lot more go-juice than a Prius:

I’ve spent more than a decade in Priusland. I’m nearly fainting at the gas mileage that the average car gets. Are you people really driving around thinking 30 or 35 MPG is good gas mileage?

In eight years and change, Gwendolyn has only twice returned as much as 30 mpg, and both times they were back East, where 93-octane fuel is more common than it is here in the Quarter-Mile-High City. Then again, she’s a solid highway cruiser, if not particularly tall, and her Blinding White paint may or may not enhance her visibility. (Rarity? But of course, darling.)

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Treadmill extensions

On the off-chance that automakers are going to push self-driving cars with the idea that “Look how much work you can get done during your daily commute!” — well, thanks, but no thanks.

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Just a few blocks ahead of you

One of the locals who believes fervently that there need to be enough traffic lanes to convey him — the hell with the rest of us — from Point A to any subsequent point without any discernible delay, once made the mistake of calling, in my presence, for the widening of Interstate 35 between 40 and 44, a five-mile stretch that is only two lanes in each direction for four of those miles. I have to drive those four miles twice a day, and when things are moving the way they’re supposed to be moving, there are, in fact, no discernible delays; the highway accommodates its capacity at the indicated speed limit — 60 mph — or perhaps a little over, with ease.

What’s slowing things down, of course, is this guy:

Do you know someone whose confidence in his driving strikes you as unwarranted? Who swishes back and forth among the lanes like a matador showing off before a packed stadium? Who routinely takes his eyes off the road for frivolous reasons, for example to send a text message? Who removes both hands from the wheel to grope through the snacks in his center console or the CDs on the passenger side floor? Have you ever said to yourself “He’s an accident looking for a place to happen?”

You’re right. The odds are that he, or someone very like him, will cause the next highway accident, and possibly a few lives in the bargain. But there’s no telling that to him. He takes the mere mention of risk as a mortal insult. He probably has one of those idiotic “NO FEAR” decals emblazoned on his rear windshield, where it can conveniently obstruct his road vision.

And even if he hasn’t caused an accident this time, he’s certainly caused discombobulation among his fellow motorists, who will slam on the brakes lest they encounter him more closely; the next 3.5 miles, the pattern repeats, and all of a sudden there’s a traffic jam despite perfectly ordinary levels of traffic. This is probably inevitable in an area where 75 percent of the drivers consider themselves to be above average.

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Endless loopiness

Will Truman will tell you that this is not the routine you want to see running at the Department of Motor Vehicles:

Basically, the issue was this:

1) Without the VIN, the car was not officially registered.
2) Registration was required before they could accept the VIN verification form.
3) The car could not be registered without an accepted VIN verification form.

You can prove you have (unofficial?) registration by giving them the temporary registration card, but we didn’t have that. The lady at the DMV was actually skeptical there was any way out of this that didn’t involve buying a new car.

But on their second visit, they somehow managed to exit this loop:

[W]e got a different lady who was much more helpful. Actually, she wasn’t helpful at all, but since it was a complicated situation and she had just started the job two days before, she took us to someone who could help us. Within an hour, everything had been settled. She basically called the person in the state capital who had transcribed the VIN number incorrectly, and they quietly corrected it, with everything quietly falling into place.

The advantage of dealing with new and untried personnel: they don’t yet know all the reasons why the customer is always wrong.

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Nor will it stay dead

The auto company once known as Luftfahrzeug-Motorenbau GmbH, founded in 1909 by Wilhelm Maybach, wound down operations after World War II, and Daimler-Benz bought what was left of it in 1960. For some reason, forty years later Daimler decided to revive the make as an ultra-lux brand — sort of a Mercedes-Benz SS-Class, if you know what I mean — positioning it against the likes of Rolls-Royce. Between 2002 and 2011, Maybach moved about 3000 cars, about what Rolls-Royce did in any one of those years, and the badge was quietly put back into the vault.

Now it’s coming out again:

Once a name best known for providing a platform for Kanye West’s and Jay Z’s Mad Maxian fantasies, Maybach is set to return from the grave under the bright lights of the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show as a Mercedes model.

Car and Driver reports the Maybach will be around 18 feet in length, slotting between the S550 and the deceased Maybach 57, according to head of global design, Gordon Wagener.

Other features include a turbocharged V12, rear-wheel drive, Mercedes’ Magic Body Control suspension, luxurious materials, and a badge here and there to let the proletariat know a god and/or goddess is being chauffeured, not some Silicon Valley dirtbag.

The 57, in case you’d forgotten, was so called because it stretched 5.7 meters, out there with the late, lamented Buick Electra 225. (There was an even-longer 62, which made it four inches past the twenty-foot mark.)

Something this size ought to seat about eight; I expect it will hold just about half that many.

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Benzifying man

In the November issue, Car and Driver’s Aaron Robinson describes their tested Mercedes-Benz C400 4Matic as “solid and Benzily secure.” As adverbification of an automotive marque goes, this is pretty euphonious: “Benzily, Benzily, Benzily, Benzily, life is but a dream,” especially if you can pony up $61,755, which is E-Class money, for a spiffed up C-Class. And besides, anyone with road experience in an older Mercedes — even I, who had only a few minutes in a Seventies-vintage 240D with acceleration at the lawn-tractor level — knows the feeling of being Benzily secure: it’s like having a bank vault around you.

Still, what I care about here is the word itself. While the Mercedes half of the name is long and inflexible, Benz enters into compounds nearly as avidly as oxygen: already I’m contemplating the FWD demi-lux buggy coming from Daimler, which will also be sold by Infiniti as the Q30 after, I assume, serious deBenzification.

One can play this game all day long. Complain about the indifferent Lincoln product line? You’ve just called for increased — or maybe decreased — Forditude. Quality problems with the ATS and CTS sedans can be traced to Cadillaxity. And if the two of you were getting jiggy in a Tahoe … well, never mind.

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Runs in the family

As usual, I can assume that they’re not referring to me:

Children are a blank slate. They draw their habits, behaviors and mannerisms from their parents. If you subscribe to that viewpoint, then this study out of Michigan State University won’t really come as a surprise. According to Soren Anderson, an MSU economist, kids are 39 percent more likely to buy cars from the brands their parents support.

So, if your parents buy Jeeps, there’s a strong correlation that you’re going to end up behind a seven-slat grille at some point. Same goes for Cadillac owners, Toyota fans and Bimmerphiles.

I’m told we had a ’49 Chevy when I was born, but if I saw it, I don’t remember it. This was followed by:

  • ’54 Ford Ranch Wagon
  • ’59 Ford (GB) Anglia
  • ’62 Rambler Classic
  • ’66 Volkswagen Microbus
  • ’69 Volkswagen Microbus

Shortly afterward, we became a two-car household, adding a ’69 Dodge Coronet to the fleet. It was the later Vee Dub in which I learned to drive. This doesn’t at all seem to have affected my own vehicular purchases, nor have mine affected those of my kids. (We will definitely overlook my daughter’s ratty early-80s Ford Escort, dubbed “Muff, the Tragic Wagon.”)

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Get off my driveway

It’s that concrete strip that interrupts the lawn. You can’t miss it.

Actually, you probably can, if these numbers from Nielsen have any validity:

Nielsen, who are better known for its television ratings system than much else, recently published a report narrowing down who exactly goes for connected-vehicle technology the most.

Short answer: Men 55 and over, college degree in one hand, $100,000 in the other.

Breaking it down further, men comprised the majority of all connected-vehicle users at 58 percent, with 42 percent over the age of 55, 62 percent in possession of a college degree, and 37 percent making over $100,000 annually.

Damn gadget freaks. And actually, it’s worse than that:

As for how all users end up in a connected vehicle, Nielsen says safety is the biggest factor, with 79 percent believing the vehicle’s technology will keep them safe on the road. Crash notifications, Internet-enabled navigation and safety alerts were at the top of the users’ list when shopping for a new vehicle.

Technology is seldom a match for stupidity; and it’s stupidity, either yours or that guy’s [see next lane], that’s most likely to get you killed out on the superslab.

In a couple of these cases, it’s yours:

The entertainment side of the infotainment divide also had its day in the sun, with 36 percent of users streaming audio into their car on a regular basis, 26 percent going online, and 21 percent downloading media while riding the real superhighway.

What percent, I wonder, are bitching about teenagers texting?

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Straining the argument

Last month, we found out that Oklahoma apparently does not have a problem with a driver’s-license photo featuring the traditional headgear of the Pastafarians. British Columbia, by contrast, has a problem:

Here in one of the most religiously diverse communities in Canada, it is possible to obtain a driver’s license wearing a kipa, hijab, habit, turban or Amish cap — really, any piece of religious headgear that does not obscure the face.

But lifelong Surreyite Obi Canuel is currently unable to drive because he has refused to remove a spaghetti colander from his head for his driver’s license photo. He does it, he claims, because he believes the world was created by an intoxicated Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The FSM soused? Perish the thought.

Last November, Mr. Canuel posed for his driver’s license photo while wearing a blue toga and plastic spaghetti colander.

The unusual photo was deemed fit for Mr. Canuel’s provincial I.D. card, but after lengthy review by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia — the province’s official licensing agency — it was ultimately deemed insufficient for his driver’s license.

This may be a mission-creep issue: the ICBC was originally created as a Crown Corporation to provide auto insurance, and only later was handed the responsibility for licensing drivers. And drivers don’t think much of their insurance these days.

Still, British Columbia could legitimately be seen as a laggard:

U.S. soldiers have had “FSM” listed as a religion on their dog tags, a town councilmember in Pomfret, N.Y., was recently sworn in while solemnly wearing a plastic pasta colander, and colander-wearing pastafarians have been able to obtain driver’s licenses in Austria, the Czech Republic, California, Texas, Oklahoma and New Zealand.

And I suspect Victoria won’t stand for that for long.

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