Archive for Driver’s Seat

Playing the Pathetic Card

Yet another bozo who thinks himself too clever by half:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How do I bring up that dad has cancer in my next drivers test?

Apparently he’s perfectly serious:

I just failed my drivers test. Now, I am trying to make a new date in PA and if anyone has any advice on how to make an appointment as soon as possible, that would GREATLY help. Now also, my dad has cancer and is going through chemo (its not too too bad, just really sad), and i want to work in a sympathy angle where i subtly mention it, but I can’t just come right out and say it. So I need your help to transition my words into mentioning this. Like if I said “wow I’m really nervous, i just need to drive my dad to chemo.” Something like that, but with a smoother transition, my dad said if helps me pass, do it.

“If you really cared about the old man, you’d try harder.” Which is the kind response; I wouldn’t blame the examiner for failing the little twerp for trying to influence him.

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Spoiler alert

I suspect this isn’t going to do squat for the Civic’s aerodynamics:

(Via Jack Baruth.)

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Adventures in commuting

A lot can happen in 10.7 miles, especially if you’re sleepy in the morning or weary in the afternoon, or, in my case, both of the above.

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Dancing around laps

[Not to be confused with lap dancing.] Herewith, the tale of Jessica Gottlieb at the Las Vegas Speedway. She aches just like a woman, but she brakes just like Mario Andretti:

When you decide that Dream Racing is going to be part of your Las Vegas Vacation there is an optional shuttle that picks you up inside the shops at Crystals at City Center. There’s a big red Ferrari on display, you can’t miss it. Someone will check you in, make sure you have your driver’s license on you and then a driver will shuttle you there in a well maintained, impeccably cleaned van. My experience beginning at check in was that everyone spoke to my husband and then as an aside asked if I would be driving too. Uniformly they were stunned when I said yes and congratulated me on my decision to drive.

Apparently the default assumption at DR, as it is in too many other places, is that the woman is there to support her husband’s effort and nothing more. And, well:

Upon our arrival at the track while wearing the identical red wristband as my husband no one offered me a helmet. The assumption was that only my husband would be driving. As I grew more and more annoyed with the entire crew at Dream Racing my husband pulled me aside and said, “It’s not their fault. Look around.”

When I looked around the track I saw ten women. None of them were driving. They were there to watch their husbands. I will never understand this behavior.

I know several women who can outdrive me, and I think it would be seriously cool to have any of them absolutely crush my best lap time.

In this specific case, though, while he recorded the faster lap time, she hit the higher top speed, which seems consistent with her own estimation of her mad driving skillz: “My track driving is like my golf game, slightly better than novice but wildly enthusiastic.”

This is, incidentally, the same Jessica Gottlieb who thumbed down a weird-looking Italian sandal a few days back.

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Hit ’em where they drive

Nothing, I suspect, makes a bogus email more persuasive than the inclusion of something actually (sort of) true. This particular scam, by that reckoning, is utterly convincing in its presentation:

A new malware scam is posing as a speeding ticket email with a fake link that is said to load malicious code onto users’ computers. The emails, sent to at least few local residents in Tredyffrin, Pennsylvania, purport to come from the local police department. Malware emails that masquerade as something official are not rare, but these messages are fairly unique: they are said to contain accurate speeding data, including street names, speed limits, and actual driving speeds, according to the Tredyffrin Police Department, located close to Philadelphia.

It’s suspected that the data is coming from an app with permission to track phone GPS data. That could either be a legitimate app that has been compromised, or a purpose-built malicious app that was uploaded online. As anyone who has used a GPS navigator knows, location data can be used to roughly calculate your travel speed. The emails ask for payment of the speeding ticket, but no apparatus is set up to receive such fines. Instead, a link that claims to lead to a photo of the user’s license plate instead loads malware onto the user’s device.

“Citations,” says the PD, “are never emailed or sent in the form of an email attachment.” Still, people believe that banks and such will send you email to ask you your email address — which they obviously already have.

“Tredyffrin,” incidentally, is Welsh; it only looks like a J. K. Rowling place name.

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They often call it Speedo

But its real job, at least in the 2017 Bugatti Chiron, is “marketing tool.” Angus MacKenzie reports in Motor Trend (5/16):

The speedo is analog and reads to 500 km/h (311 mph). It’s clever, subtle marketing. “The speedo doesn’t fade away when the ignition is off,” says Bugatti chief Wolfgang Dürheimer, “and so when people look inside they can see how fast the car can go, and they all will talk about it.”

This is astonishingly disingenuous, even for a Volkswagen subsidiary. The car, as delivered, won’t get anywhere close to 500 km/h. In the very same article:

The Bugatti Chiron is limited to 261 mph. It will go even faster, and for those owners who want to go to the very edge of the performance envelope, Bugatti will help them do it, either in a factory-owned car or the owners’ own Chiron, either fitted with a set of special, ultra-finely balanced wheels and tires, plus a battery of additional sensors to be monitored by factory technicians during the V-max run. And V-max is? The Bugatti boys demur, but drop enough hints to suggest 275 mph or more.

Two hundred seventy-five miles per hour is 443 km/h, which ain’t 500 unless you work for the government. And if you work for the government, you presumably can’t afford this car:

The average Chiron buyer owns 42 cars, at least one jet, three helicopters, and four houses. More than half are art collectors.

Four houses? You might as well own a hotel.

Then again, I have a long history of suspicion of speedometers.

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How do you handle a problem like VW?

A TTAC reader offers a modest proposal to deal with Volkswagen’s travails, at least in the North American marketplace:

Don’t do any deals with anyone in the US. Let VW USA go bust and withdraw the VW brand from the US market. But at the same time buy FCA. Then scrap the Chrysler range and rebadge VWs as Chryslers. Do bail out Audi in the US but only if it can be done for a reasonable sum. Otherwise kill that and resell Audis as Lancias or Alfas. Job done. VW saves billions, acquires Jeep and gets a US brand in Chrysler to replace VW. It also gets Alfa and the Fiat 500. The Fiat 500 range should then merge with the Seat range. VW should then kill off whichever brand is weaker in each local market. e.g. Fiat lives in Italy but dies in Spain.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles chair Sergio Marchionne has made noises before about looking for a sugar daddy, though I have to wonder just how sweet acquisition by the staid Germans might be. (My guess: Sergio pockets a bundle, FCA shareholders are left wondering what happened.)

And really, Audi, which is fully competitive in this market, has to be worth preserving.

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Two doors, no waiting

For Road & Track, Jack Baruth makes the case for a big Lincoln coupe to top off the line, picking a proper platform (same one as the current Mustang), a proper engine (the modular V10 given the Coyote treatment, buzzed up to 500 hp or so), and even a proper price point:

It should cost exactly $100,000. That price should be front and center in every advertisement. Your neighbors should know that your new Mark Nine cost $100,000. There should be no guessing. Think of all the free advertising Lincoln would get. “The Hundred Thousand Dollar Car.” Make the price part of the story. That’s the smart way to do it. Cadillac does the opposite with the Escalade; in my mind and the minds of my neighbors, an Escalade costs about 50 grand, but in fact they run well above 90 with the right equipment. The Mark Nine, by contrast, should embrace its six-figure price tag as a true exemplar of a revitalized American luxury aesthetic. The same person who spends $800 on cordovan Alden boots and $5500 on a Chicago-sewn Oxxford suit will sign right up. If 40 grand of the price is pure profit … well, then you only need to sell 25 thousand of them to recoup a billion dollars’ worth of development.

What’s neat about this, of course, is that if you look around, you can find domestics with even stiffer Monroney stickers: it’s no trick, for instance, to worry a Dodge Viper to well beyond $100k. But people are going to think that the Mark is the most expensive car in America — Dodge isn’t making a great deal of obvious effort to sell Vipers at all, let alone sell them on the basis of the price tag — and there are people who will respond to that. And Lincoln’s been there before: the Continental Mark II of 1956 was priced at $9995 — air conditioning was the only extra-cost option — at a time when you could get a heck of a lot of luxe for three grand. Then again, Ford somehow managed to lose money on every one they sold, and they almost certainly remember that.

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Desperate for amusement

This guy clearly has no idea about the size of the task he proposes:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How do i make the steering wheel in my friends car turn the back tires instead of the front tires?

That said, someone willing to go to that much trouble and expense just to prank a friend should probably be exiled to Lower Slobbovia, just as a precautionary measure.

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Nor was the seat belt fastened

A chap from Googlevania, in the letters column of Motor Trend (May ’16), describes the experience of happening upon one of the Big G’s self-driving cars:

I was driving to the gym one evening when I encountered Google’s prototype SDC as it was waiting at a stoplight. (It was easy to recognize, looking like a cross between a Fiat 500 and R2-D2, with its rooftop lidar pod and “Google self-driving car” inscribed on the rear bumper.) It didn’t seem to have any human occupants. This didn’t surprise me, as I’d heard that Mountain View had given Google limited permission to do driverless testing. Still, I was curious, so when the light changed, I pulled alongside and confirmed — no one inside.

I was struck with two conflicting thoughts simultaneously, one rational, one irrational. Rational: There is virtually no complex software that is bug-free. Irrational: This is strange, weird, and just not right! I was surprised at the later reaction since I knew exactly what was happening. I decided to pass by, just in case.

I think he could have left off “virtually”; any program longer than a few lines has bugs. And we’ve seen the irrational reaction before:

Then again, our prankster here, disguised as the seat, was not driving an easily recognized, purpose-built vehicle; he was driving a fairly ordinary Japanese sedan. When fairly ordinary Japanese sedans start showing up without drivers, I plan to let out a scream or three.

Oh, and the guy from Mountain View? He got increasingly paranoid when the Googlemobile started following him.

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Third gear, hang on tight

Always did love this tune:

Of course, they were talking about a Honda two-wheeler; Honda didn’t mail us any actual cars until the N600, a variation on the Japanese home-market N360, with a larger engine, deemed necessary for the States. This was the very first one to arrive here, in 1969:

Apparently this car had been “collecting dust in a junk pile for nearly 50 years,” which is a neat trick for a 47-year-old car. Still, it’s a nifty little piece of history, with a teensy 598cc inline-twin engine, surprisingly peppy, mostly because it had to haul around less than 1200 lb of car. By contrast, VW Beetles of this era weighed 1800 lb or so; then again, the Beetles had four cylinders.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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A Teutonic for the troops

Germans, at least, seem to respect their adversaries:

(Via Martin Spencer.)

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Vaporware slow to condense

The oft-delayed Elio Motors three-wheeler will be put off a hair longer: the first 100 vehicles will be delivered to fleet buyers in the last quarter of 2016, but folks on the waiting list will be stuck until 2017.

Those first hundred were considered pre-production models, but no more:

Elio originally told the Securities and Exchange Commission that the automaker would use these pre-production vehicles for internal purposes, but it now decided to sell them. By getting the trikes on the road, the company claims there’s a better opportunity to evaluate how they perform in real conditions. This also offers a chance to improve the three-wheelers before the full launch.

The company admits that selling the trikes also generates increased revenue, which the business needs. Elio’s announcement doesn’t disclose the exact price of these pre-production examples, but the final version is supposed to start at just $6,800.

Not much increased revenue, either: at sixty-eight hundred per, we’re talking not quite $700,000 here.

The Elio trike is powered by a 0.9-liter inline-three, and they’re hoping to get 84 mpg out of production models.

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The ‘roll goes ever on

Somebody has been handing out fake parking tickets in beautiful downtown Asheville, North Carolina:

Asheville’s Transportation Director says somebody downtown has been giving people fake parking tickets… The fake tickets were for $100, while the city’s normal fine is only $10. The city wants to stop whoever is behind it. The police say they can only charge the person with littering. If a person pays the fine, then the charges get more serious.

And this somebody did a fairly decent job of fakery:

“When someone first glances at the citation it does look official, but there are some key things when you start looking at it,” said [Transportation Director] Putnam.

The ticket is physically larger. It was dated Friday, March 5th when it was the 4th. It had a fake officer ID and made up violation code. The ticket also had a QR code for smart phones to scan. The city’s tickets do not have QR codes.

So what happens if you scan that QR code? This happens.

It’s nice to know that some things never change.

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Hack this, pal

Who knows what might be lurking in the firmware?

It seems Tesla is set to bump the battery capacity of its Model S sedan up to a hefty 100kWh some time in the near future. We know this thanks to the work of a white-hat hacker and Tesla P85D owner named Jason Hughes. Hughes — who previously turned the battery pack from a wrecked Tesla into a storage array for his solar panels — was poking around in the latest firmware of his Model S (version 2.13.77) and discovered an image of the new car’s badge, the P100D.

In not exactly a humblebrag, Hughes tweeted what he’d found — as an encrypted hash. Said hash was quickly decrypted. Tesla’s response was quick: they rolled Hughes’ firmware back to an earlier version. (“We get sauce too?” asked the gander, plaintively.)

Hughes complained; Elon Musk himself said that he hadn’t asked for the rollback. And Hughes wasn’t particularly put out, since — you knew this was coming, right? — he’d already backed up that newest incremental upgrade.

Damn, but cars are getting complicated.

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Maximum dumbth

Warning light on dashboard? Who cares? It’s my sacred honor at stake:

My Mazda has the check engine light on but for one of the catalytic converters, But the light started to blink just about 2 hours ago. I was on the freeway and an Acura TL raced me. I hit around 105 before the transmission wouldn’t shift past 4th gear (automatic) and by this time I noticed the check engine light blinking. I began to slow down and the light kept blinking for around 5 seconds then stopped blinking and remained solid. My question is, is there anything I may have damaged other than the catalytic converter which was already damaged?

Your credibility, which will never, ever be repaired.

Seriously, what kind of stubby-fingered moron goes impromptu racing when he’s already facing a repair bill?

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Waiting for DIY-9000

I’m sure this seemed like a swell idea at the time:

A Sardinia [New York] woman is facing several charges after Erie County Sheriff’s deputies discovered her hand crafted license plate during a traffic stop.

A deputy pulled over Amanda Schweickert, 28, in the western New York town of Springville Wednesday morning after the officer noticed that Schweickert’s license plate just didn’t look right.

According to the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, Schweickert’s license plate had been fashioned from cardboard and then painted to look like a legit plate.

Well, it didn’t look that much like a legit plate:

Bogus cardboard New York license plate

And heck, we have people doing this all the time in Oklahoma.

Schwieckert was also driving a car with a suspended registration and without insurance.

[sigh] We have people doing that all the time in Oklahoma, too.

(Via Fark.)

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The car that wouldn’t die

Remember the guy with the Volvo with almost three million miles on it? In the three years since, he’s run up another quarter of a million:

A Long Islander’s revered red Volvo — known for having racked up more than 3 million miles — is still hitting the pavement in mint condition.

Irvin Gordon says he has cranked out another 273,895 miles in his 1966 P1800 convertible since he hit the triple-million mark in September 2013 — with no signs of stopping.

“It’s better than new,” the 75-year-old retired teacher told The Post. “Everything is 100 percent. It has never broken down and it always starts right up no matter how hot or cold it is outside.”

Of course, this kind of reliability takes a bit of elbow grease, either your own or a technician’s:

Gordon has given his baby 28 oil changes, four tuneups and changed the transmission fluid four times in the last year.

Which sounds like a lot until you consider that he probably did 90,000 miles in those twelve months, in which case he’s right on the service schedule for a ’66 Volvo.

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No flying car for you

However, you might get something else in its place, maybe:

Instead, the future is probably something closer to personal drone transport. People will have quadcopters that can take them on short trips around town and drop them off safely back onto the ground. This would be fun, safe and solve some of the transportation issues of the modern world.

We already have the technology to build a drone that can navigate around obstacles and use GPS to locate a target. The small drones you can by from hobbyist sites are simple to operate because of the built-in navigation technology. Scaling this up is nothing. Building a drone that can lift a person is basic engineering that has been done to death. Add in the software for guidance and navigation and you have a safe flying gizmo average people could use.

Except for the minor detail that average people are not good drivers: your average city thoroughfare is Lake Wobegon in reverse. Expecting these mooks to operate a vehicle a mere five feet tall that’s touching the ground most of the time is tricky enough; putting them several hundred feet in the air is the sort of thing that would get Charles Darwin to twirl at 2000 rpm, deep within Westminster Abbey.

Obviously, the safety issue is the issue. But that’s where the technology of robot cars comes into the mix. If you can safely navigate around a city street, the same technology can be applied to the drone. That way, the typical user does not slam into a building or crash into the ground when landing. Unlike cars, the drone-space would be free of dogs, pedestrians, kids running into the street, potholes, etc.

One word: liability. Nothing is allowed to happen in this world anymore unless there’s someone designated to take the blame when it doesn’t. We’re nowhere near solving this problem with ordinary cars, given the sheer volume of drivers who can’t be bothered to buy insurance no matter what sort of mandate is slapped upon them.

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The remotest remote car hack

Once upon a time, it was discovered that if you can splice your way into the car’s wiring, you can do all sorts of wicked things to the computers that run everything. But that was over five years ago. Last year, it was revealed that such things can be done remotely, if you know how to take advantage of certain vulnerabilities in the operating system.

Which brings us to this year:

Last month I was over in Norway doing training for ProgramUtvikling, the good folks who run the NDC conferences I’ve become so attached to. I was running my usual “Hack Yourself First” workshop which is targeted at software developers who’d like to get up to speed on the things they should be doing to protect their apps against today’s online threats. Across the two days of training, I cover 16 separate discrete modules ranging from SQL injection to password cracking to enumeration risks, basically all the highest priority security bits modern developers need to be thinking about. I also cover how to inspect, intercept and control API requests between rich client apps such as those you find on a modern smart phone and the services running on the back end server. And that’s where things got interesting.

One of the guys was a bit inspired by what we’d done and just happened to own … the world’s best-selling electric car, a Nissan LEAF. What the workshop attendee ultimately discovered was that not only could he connect to his LEAF over the internet and control features independently of how Nissan had designed the app, he could control other people’s LEAFs.

The guy’s experiments proved to be reproducible:

Nissan, of course, will have to implement a fix.

It’s a different class of vulnerability to the Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek Jeep hacking shenanigans of last year, but in both good and bad ways. Good in that it doesn’t impact the driving controls of the vehicle, yet bad in that the ease of gaining access to vehicle controls in this fashion doesn’t get much easier — it’s profoundly trivial. As car manufacturers rush towards joining in on the “internet of things” craze, security cannot be an afterthought nor something we’re told they take seriously after realising that they didn’t take it seriously enough in the first place.

And it’s a great argument for fixing up that old ’96 Maxima, which is mostly immune to stuff like this, unless you’re right there with the wires.

(Via @SwiftOnSecurity.)

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Traffic uncalmed

One might wonder why it’s there in the first place, but knowing why probably does not help the situation:

And were it not for the Internationally Approved Sign, I could imagine this somewhere in the American South.

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WWPD?

Provoked by that gratuitous pony reference in that Jack Baruth article I cited earlier, I waited until about 500 comments had accumulated, and then threw in this observation:

A friend insists that Twilight Sparkle would drive a Volvo; I see her as more of a Honda Civic (and not a Civic Si, either) type.

Applejack, however, is destined for an F-150.

The response I got was nowhere near what I was expecting:

I can’t believe I’m asking this, but what year F-150?

To which I replied:

2010. I figure AJ would be unimpressed by all that aluminum stuff, so she’d want the previous generation — but she’s also not the sort to buy a new model in its first year, either.

This is, of course, my headcanon. Your mileage may vary.

The last all-steel F-150 generation was introduced in, yes, 2009.

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Meanwhile under the hood

Jack Baruth has discerned the one connection between that 1970s automotive excrescence, the Personal Luxury Coupe, and the 2010s automotive excrescence, the neither-car-nor-SUV crossover:

Only two things separate the crossover phenomenon from that of the PLC. The first is sex. Or gender, if you insist on using the wrong word. Forty years ago, most purchase decisions were made by men. No surprise, then, that personal-luxury-coupes are basically dicks on wheels. Remember that the artificially long hood is the defining characteristic of the PLC. Crossovers, on the other hand, are exclusively purchased by women and the men who can’t stand up to them. No authentic man has ever had any genuine feeling for a modern crossover, any more than he would have a settled opinion on a panty liner. Women buy the things and therefore they are cocoons that suggest height and protection and safety and capability in reserve.

This may explain my fondness for the Infiniti QX50, née EX35; it’s never been advertised as being safe, and it’s not jacked up several inches for the sake of, um, height.

Oh, and I’ve owned a PLC: a 1984 Mercury Cougar. It was a very nice ride when it wasn’t digesting its head gaskets.

The second difference between 1976 and 2016 is something I can only call give-a-damn. Nobody gives a damn about cars any more. It is understood by the reader that the “nobody” to which I refer includes him, the same way that if I wrote “Nobody truly cares about Twilight Sparkle” on a “subreddit” it would be generally true no matter how many thousands of “bronys” there are in this country.

It’s even understood by this reader, who is not at all bothered by “nobody” caring about Twi; I don’t need the competition, and I have better things to do with my life than hang around [insert name of subreddit].

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As opposed to those scary sedans

I found this comment at TTAC, and the more I looked at it, the more sense it seemed to make:

I believe one of the biggest reasons for SUV and crossover buying is this era’s subliminal fear of crime.

I compare it to the sense of peace we feel when we’re at the water’s edge. I’ve heard it suggested that we feel that peace because it’s biologically programmed into our simian ancestors to relax near the water because there’s only 180 degrees from which we could be attacked by a predator, not 360 as in the woods or tall grass. In fact, the water presents its own set of hazards, from drowning to waves to undersea predators, but we feel safer.

Similarly, we’ve been bombarded with media telling us we’re under siege. Statistics say there’s actually less violent crime per capita in most parts of American than decades ago, but whether that’s true or not, we FEEL besieged, so we’re reassured by the sensation of a commanding position seated safely above the fray, whether that “fray” is motorists hitting us or pedestrians assaulting us. Like the sea, the tall vehicle in fact brings its own hazard — in this case, greater risk of one-car accidents — but the psyche trumps the rational. And we’re all generally much more irrational buyers than we think.

I definitely believe that last sentence. In 2006, the last time I went car shopping, I wound up with something almost too big for my garage that got 3 mpg less than its predecessor and cost quite a bit more to maintain, mostly because the interior was so incredibly coddling compared to what I was used to. (And it still looks pretty good today, though the leather on the driver’s seat is starting to wrinkle a bit.) This is, I suspect, the experience of a lot of people: due diligence before hitting the lots, and then buying something that steals away the heart, facts and figures notwithstanding.

And siege mentality is all around us, due in no small part, I think, to the omnipresence of TV news, the heir to the old newspaper adage that “if it bleeds, it leads.” Lots of bleeding going on out there, and if it’s not actually in your neighborhood, as it’s not in mine, it’s still too close for comfort.

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Lower forms of automotive life

There’s a 23rd Street on the south side, but it pales into relative insignificance next to its northside counterpart, which runs for many miles through neighborhoods of several ethnicities. None of it is particularly picturesque, even the stretch that runs past the Capitol, but the northeast segment has some fairly woeful motor vehicles along its length:

I spend a lot of time driving on 23rd. I can’t stand people “acting casual” to avoid attention from police by doing 5 under the already low and mostly unenforced/disregarded limit of 30. **NEWS FLASH** you’re doing 25 on a 4-6 lane avenue in a hoopty with rusted off mufflers, 3 missing hub caps, and threads of weathered duct tape holding bits of smashed car parts onto the chassis. If a cop wants to shake you down for the substance you might be carrying: he’s just going to point out that you’ve hot glued a maybelline compact in the gaping hole where side mirror used to be. OR just say you were swerving.

I admit here to having once duct-taped an exhaust manifold into place, but it wasn’t an offense to the eyeballs unless you were actually looking under the hood.

With gas prices in decline, though, there are now considerably fewer cars that can double their value just by filling the tank.

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Not featured in that football game

But it’s at least as ambitious, in its low-key way, as any of the car commercials that are:

And there’s a reason why he never hits 88 mph.

(From Road & Track, with a hat tip to the Instant Man.)

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But is it safe?

Under certain conditions I suspect neither one of us would prefer to contemplate, nothing whatsoever is safe. Absent those conditions, and we hope we are, it’s possible to estimate, but watch that methodology:

Which car is safest to drive, you may wonder. How will you find out? You could simply sort the number of fatal crashes by model of car and then compare the totals. The car with the fewest fatalities must be safer.

But is it? By simply sorting and counting fatalities, you have decided to ignore lots of other variables that may play a role, and according to psychology professor Richard Nisbett that means your analysis may be so flawed as to be useless. He uses the car safety study as his own example, pointing out that drivers with unsafe driving habits may gravitate towards certain automobile types and thus skew the results. If all the leadfoots (leadfeet?) suddenly switched to Volvos, that vehicle model’s safety record might be quite different than it is. And if little old ladies started buying Dodge Challengers, their record might improve. Although you might have to select out the ones from Pasadena, at least when they are driving on Colorado Boulevard.

Dean — and Jan, were he still alive — would support that latter premise.

Incidentally, the Pasadena contingent had rivals off to the east, who drove Pontiacs.

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Bring your own flux capacitor

Otherwise, it’s almost as it was before:

Thanks to the wonderful-but-flawed low-volume “Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act” (H.R. 2675) , it’s now legal for the company that bought all of the old leftover DeLorean parts to start putting them together to make new DMC-12s. And this time it seems like it’ll actually happen, starting early next year.

Stainless-steel body panels? Check. Doors that rise to meet the sky? Check. 2.8-liter Peugeot-Renault-Volvo V6? Not a chance:

They’re looking at three possible suppliers, two domestic, one foreign. There’s one favorite though, and the engine that’s the frontrunner is a normally-aspirated V6 making between 300-400 hp.

As opposed to 130 hp from that old European boat anchor. And really, this is to be expected, says the company:

The vehicles must meet current Clean Air Act standards for the model year in which they are produced. The new law allows the low volume vehicle manufacturer to meet the standards by installing an engine and emissions equipment produced by another automaker (GM, Ford, etc.) for a similar EPA-certified vehicle configuration or a create engine that has been granted a California Air Resources Board (CARB) Executive Order (EO). This reasonable regulatory reform will also spur innovation, including advances in alternative-fuel and green vehicle technologies.

Said boat anchor wouldn’t come close to meeting contemporary standards, for emissions or for anything else.

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DDIY

Which means, of course, “Don’t Do It Yourself.” If you ask questions like this, you will definitely qualify:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Where are the spark plugs located on a 2000 Mustang gt 4.6 motor?

Now what are the chances that a person who can’t find spark plugs on his own will be able to service said plugs?

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Arbitrary levels

Bozi Tatarevic complains about the audio system in the Subaru WRX:

The volume control starts at 0 things and ends at 40 things (take that, Spinal Tap), but it needs to be turned up to 25 things before you can figure out if its playing anything at all. Passing anything over 34 units of thing will cause the speakers to emit horrendous crackly tones.

It would be nice if they standardized these things, but that’s not going to happen.

I have two different audio devices with numerical readouts for volume: the ancient (1999) JBL Harmony, which sits beside my work box, and a brace of Cambridge Soundworks Model 88 radios. The JBL’s volume control runs 0 to 40; typical office volume, with the computer’s sound card set at three-fourths of maximum, is about 25. I’m assuming the 88s will go to 99; the loudest I’ve ever tried was 97, and that was on FM interchannel noise. (Fear of something, either damage or deafness, had set in by then.) Typical radio volume is 35.

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