Archive for Driver’s Seat

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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Keep it to yourself

No further explanation was offered:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How can I blacklist someone from buying a car?

I suspect middle-school-level drama somewhere between here and the background.

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She’d be fine in this town

In the US, it seems like if you can count the sides on a STOP sign and promise to learn how to parallel-park some day, you can get a driver’s license: we don’t even care if you’re an actual citizen. It appears, though, that things are a little tougher in Jolly Old:

A 28-year-old woman has spent £3,410 on driving theory tests and still not passed, data has revealed.

The woman, from Southwark, south east London, has sat the test a record 110 times, according to results of a Freedom of Information request published in the MailOnline.

And they won’t let her behind the wheel until she passes the written test, which I have to assume isn’t the easiest thing on earth:

The driving theory tests costs learners £31 a time to take and is made up of multiple choice questions and a hazard perception test. The national pass rate is 65.4 per cent.

The fee for the actual behind-the-wheel test is £62 on weekdays, £75 evenings, weekends or bank holidays. (American DMVs please copy. It is not necessary that everyone in the farging office be home in time to watch Jeopardy!) A chap from Stoke-on-Trent finally passed it on his 37th try; there’s one woman from Horsforth who has yet to pass after 32 attempts.

(Via Autoblog.)

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El Q

I found this ad on the Fark Politics tab, which I suppose makes sense, inasmuch as pretty much all public policy these days calls for spending money, and many of the recipients — not to mention many of the dispensers of said cash — are decidedly challenged by actual English:

Banner ad for Infiniti Q50 in Spanish

Then again, I have to wonder what I’d been reading to be sent this particular ad in the first place.

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You can barely get there from here

I remain a believer in the Great American Road Trip, mostly because I need a couple more of them to finish off the Roll of the States. (Actually, I can do five of the six remaining on one trip, though it will take a hell of a lot of global cooling to make it possible to drive to Hawaii.) But yes, I’m a fan of stuffing the bags and easing on down the road.

Bill Quick, based on recent experience, thinks otherwise:

Many people chose to drive rather than fly, because it was so much cheaper to do so. That’s no longer true, of course. My SUV gets twenty average on the highway. That’s a hundred gallons of gas each way, 200 total, and at four bucks a gallon, gas alone costs me 800 dollars for a roundtrip to visit my sister. Not to mention the two nights (or even three, depending on how tired I get) spent in motels, almost none of which cost less than a hundred dollars. Toss in thirty bucks a day for travel food, and I’m looking at travel costs for the trip of nearly $1500. Not to mention worrying about the police state drug gestapo lying in wait along my route like brigands of old.

The numbers are certainly consistent with my experience. (Gwendolyn, over the past eight years, has gotten somewhat better mileage than that, but she drinks premium, so it’s essentially a wash.)

So he took to the sky:

$460 for a round trip ticket to Chicago from San Francisco. Forty bucks for the Supershuttle to and from SFO. Another forty bucks for the bus from O’Hare to Michigan City, where my sister met me. No meal or lodging costs. My savings are nearly a thousand bucks.

Of course I have to negotiate the petty tyranny of TSA, which will never go away because it has become yet another quasi-unionized make-work occupation reserved for favored ethnic minorities who aren’t really workers, but de facto welfare recipients at a level far more lucrative than what is available to them via direct transfer payments.

The operative phrase here, unfortunately, is “yet another.”

Then again, Bill was going to see someone. I generally go to see something, which is a somewhat different dynamic.

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The wrong parts were ordered, or something

I spent several June evenings reading The Life of the Automobile: The Complete History of the Motor Car (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2014), a British-y tome by Steven Parissien that tries its best to walk the narrow path between the scholarly and the conversational. As you might expect, this is a good way to stumble, and while a few things struck me as a little off, Joe Sherlock found a whole warehouse full of howlers:

Sadly, the book told many interesting stories but was so riddled with errors that I didn’t know what to believe, especially Parissien’s tales about the European auto industry, about which I have little expertise. So, I don’t know if the British Citroën factory was really used to make Milky Way and Twix candy bars after Citroën closed it. But I found a plethora of errors and misinformation about subjects I know.

The enormous Slough Trading Estate, founded in Berkshire in 1920, was home to both a Citroën plant and a Mars confectionery; what I’d figured was that when Michelin took over a dead-broke Citroën in 1935, they let go of their piece of the Estate, into which Mars expanded. (Twix did not appear until 1967, at which point the statute of limitations, or something, should have kicked in.)

But Sherlock’s list of anomalies is substantial. A few examples:

Ray Kroc did not force the McDonald brothers out of business; he bought out the fast food pioneers.

The book claims that in “1968, the Toyota Corolla became the first Japanese car to be manufactured in the U.S.” The first Japanese car to be made in America was a Honda, made in Ohio beginning in 1979. Toyota did not begin U.S. assembly until 1984.

The author has a lot of trouble with Lincoln nomenclature, mixing up the iconic ’56-57 Continental Mark II with the 1960 Lincoln Continental Mark V and often refers to the iconic slabside Lincolns of ’61-’65 as “Continental IIIs.”

Although in this latter case, Lincoln almost asked for it; after the ’60 Mark V, the series started again with the Mark III in ’69. Still, there were no Roman numerals associated with the ’61 through ’68 Continentals. (And the current-day MK-whatever practice at Lincoln is a fitting heir to this insanity.)

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More than mere speed

Neil deGrasse Tyson, introducing Car and Driver’s Speed Issue for 2014:

What we really seek are rapid changes in our speed. Those who recite the fast-lane mantra “I feel the need for speed” almost surely instead mean “I can’t wait to accelerate.”

People who like the feel of going fast prefer a stiff suspension because it allows you to “feel the road,” which is driver’s code for feeling all the abrupt disruptions to what would otherwise be a smooth and steady ride.

In the formal language of physics, we go a step further: Acceleration is not only a change in speed (up or down) but also a change in direction. That’s why going around tight turns — especially banked turns — is vastly more fun than driving in a straight line. That’s why the most-fun roller coasters are not the ones that go fast, but the ones that flip, twist and turn you incessantly.

Two or three months from now, we’ll see a couple of letters from drag-strip fans who question that “change in direction” line. (Sorry, guys: acceleration is a vector quantity, with both magnitude and direction.) Then again, what can you say about someone whose fun is over in 16 seconds or less?

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That’s your Q to leave

Johan de Nysschen, last heard explaining why Infiniti needed to replace all its alphanumerics with more inscrutable alphanumerics, is moving on, to an American marque whose badges already make no damn sense:

Johan de Nysschen, the executive largely credited with Audi’s rise to Tier 1 luxury brand status, has left his post at Infiniti after just two years on the job. He will assume the top job at Cadillac, after former President Bob Ferguson was moved to a new post as GM’s head of public policy… de Nysschen, who took the helm as Infiniti moved its headquarters to Hong Kong and re-organized its nomenclature (into the confusing “Q” and “QX” lines), was expected to lead a long, progressive turnaround for the brand, much as he did with the once-struggling Audi.

ATS? CTS? ELR? WTF, Cadillac?

This may not be a matter of mere letters, though:

An Automotive News story suggests that CEO Carlos Ghosn’s extremely ambitious targets may have played a part in de Nysschen’s departure.

And let’s face it, you don’t mess with the Johan.

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The lines are drawn

Sometimes you cherish the easy questions. “Do Americans have the right to free parking?” Well, no: nobody, I suggest, properly has a right to anything that anyone else has to pay for.

Still, there are those who remain unpersuaded by this argument:

In Los Angeles, activists have been organizing for months under the banner of The Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative. They argue that the city takes advantage of its citizens to ameliorate its budget problems. The Los Angeles Times reports that an average L.A. parking ticket costs $68, and that money secured from parking fines has grown from about $110 million in 2003 to almost $161 million this year. Activists are now seeking to cap non-public safety related parking fines at $23.

Activists in Keene, New Hampshire, are fighting for more than just a decreased financial penalty; they want parking fines eliminated altogether. Although there is free parking in Keene after 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and all day on Sunday [pdf], libertarian activists involved in the Free Keene campaign are not satisfied. To demonstrate their discontent, they are feeding expired meters before tickets can be issued, and have allegedly prevented the city from issuing more than 4,000 parking tickets since 2009. They also have taken to harassing parking enforcement officers.

What the hell kind of “libertarian” thinks parking at a meter they do not own is a “right”?

A Washington Post (!) reporter actually seems to understand some of this:

The ostensible policy goal of parking tickets isn’t really to generate municipal revenue — it’s to manage the supply of a public asset. If parking is plentiful and cheap, people will use tons of it. If the cost of violating parking regulations is low on top of that, the city has even less leverage over how curb space should be used for the public good. Maybe a cheap parking spot feels good for the individual parker, but a city overrun by parking — where there’s little incentive to invest in alternative transportation, among other things — probably doesn’t feel like somewhere you’d want to live.

Of course, once you’ve seen some Family Truckster on stilts making six passes through the lot at Lowe’s looking for a space within 50 feet of the building, you begin to despair. Or at least I do.

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Quote of the week

Your humble narrator, having previously contemplated continuing shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund, has recommended an increase in the fuel tax, one of the less intrusive options available.

Congressmen don’t think like that. Jack Baruth quotes one, and gets at the heart of the matter:

“If all we did was set this up to collect the road fee, that’s actually a more expensive way to collect the fee. The gas tax is actually a very inexpensive tax to collect. But if we are able to have a platform that does all these other things, to share the costs, and give people a richer transportation experience, I think people will voluntarily make that transition.”

We’re missing all the air quotes, I think, let’s put them back in:

I “think” people will “voluntarily” make that “transition”

When you read “voluntarily” in modern wonk-speak, you can take that to mean “Any amount of resistance short of facing down the Bureau of Land Management with the local redneck militia,” and that’s what it means here as well. The motorists of America will be given a single option: GPS-based usage tracking tied to a central payment account that will also be debited for parking and traffic tickets. It’s perfectly easy to imagine a speed camera just sitting by the site of the road dinging every motorist who goes by at 1mph over the limit a nice, round five hundred bucks. And why not?

Naturally, the same government that manages to lose all the incriminating IRS emails will keep solid-gold-permanent records of your travels until the end of time. If they do it with the justly-reviled public-private partnership, those records will be sold to Equifax and your insurance company as well. With your travel and your Carnivore records, the government knows exactly who and what you are. In real time, they’ll be able to understand your entire life. Imagine the day when driving to an oncology clinic results in a sit-down with your company’s HR representative to discuss your future with the company. Or the day when your employer can simply buy a list of your whereabouts sorted to its particular interest. Or the day when parking your car outside a gun store every Sunday and walking across the street for ice cream results in the ATF visiting your house to discuss your gun-nut tendencies. Or the day when driving through known drug-sales areas results in a SWAT team tossing a flashbang into your child’s crib.

Note the ludicrous phrase “richer transportation experience.” Any “richer” experience, as defined in DC-speak, makes you poorer by definition: not only are the results not favorable to you, but you have to pay for them in the first place.

“Oh, Jack, you teatard anarchist commie libertarian,” you’re sighing. “How else are they supposed to address the Highway Fund problem?” Well, I would suggest that destroying the last vestiges of privacy and liberty in this country are not any less meaningful than keeping up the pace of road construction. I would also suggest that it’s not my job to come up with ideas as to how the government can easily accomplish its goals without trampling its citizens underfoot. But since you asked, I’ll come up with one: A ten percent tariff on cheap goods imported from China would add 50% to the existing Highway Fund tax level, enough to address all concerns for the foreseeable future.

Assuming, of course, you could get the idiots in Washington to spend it on that, as opposed to any of the useless crap they’d want to spend it on.

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Buy here, pay forever

About six months ago, I said something about the “opening” of the Cuban new-car market, which at the time seemed less like an actual market opening and more like the introduction of new sources of graft for the regime. Halfway through Year One, it’s been, let us say, less than a roaring success:

Reuters reports that because of the markup, only 50 cars and four motorcycles left the 11 nationalized lots in Cuba during the first six months of 2014, netting a total of $1.28 million USD in new car sales.

You remember the markup, don’t you?

In one example cited by the news organization, a Havana Peugeot dealership wanted $91,000 for a 2013 206, and $262,000 for a 506 of similar vintage, which makes the government’s goal of investing 75 percent of all new-car sales into public transportation easier said than done; most state workers make the equivalent of $20 USD per month.

“But Cuba has free health care!” I hear you cry. Enjoy your walk to the emergency room.

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Niner zero

The old-timers among you will remember the Joan Claybrook Memorial Speedometer, inflicted on American car buyers during the Malaise Era: it drew Special Attention to the much-derided 55-mph speed limit, and topped out at a meager 85 mph. Both the regulation and the double-nickel itself are gone, but there’s only a single road in the nation where you can do 85 legally: a toll road in Texas.

With a nod to the late Jimi Hendrix — “Ninety miles an hour, girl, is the speed I drive” — there’s apparently an internal pool at Car and Driver on, well, just about anything, and one of the developments under discussion is “First state to set a highway speed limit at 90 mph or higher.” (They disclosed rather a lot of these in the August issue.) Here are the current odds:

    Texas: 1-1
    Utah: 2-1
    Wyoming: 3-1
    Idaho: 4-1
    Montana: 20-1

Of course, Montana got burned, despite an enviable safety record, during a period when there was no numerical speed limit at all; you can blame the appeal of State of Montana v. Rudy Stanko, Mr Stanko being the recipient of three tickets, all at triple-digit speeds, to which he objected on the grounds of vagueness. The State Supreme Court agreed about the vagueness while upholding two of his three busts.

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Hard cells

Apart from a general lack of range, Tesla’s Model S notwithstanding, the major objection to electric cars seems to be the price of replacement batteries, and battery packs for full electrics like Nissan’s Leaf would cost much more than packs for hybrids like the Toyota Prius. Some recent (well, within the last two years, anyway) estimates:

Lithium-ion battery costs will fall to about $400 per kilowatt hour by the end of the decade, more than double the $150 per kilowatt hour the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium says will be required for battery-electric vehicles to be affordable to most of the car-buying public. So says a new report from Lux Research.

Estimates of battery costs have varied as automakers and tech analysts have looked into ways to make them cheaper. The Nissan Leaf EV’s battery pack has been reported to be as cheap as $375 per kilowatt hour, while Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said last month that battery costs may fall to less than $200 per kilowatt hour “in the not-too-distant future.”

But that was two years ago. How about now? How about $270?

Battery replacements are now available for purchase at your certified Nissan LEAF dealers in the United States. The suggested retail price of the Nissan LEAF battery pack is $5,499. This price includes and requires a return of your original battery pack (valued at $1,000) to the dealer in exchange for the new battery. This price does not include tax, installation fees or an installation kit required for 2011 and 2012 vehicles. The MSRP for the installation kit (which includes brackets and other minor parts required to retrofit the newer pack to original vehicles) is approximately $225. Nissan expects the installation to take about three hours. However, dealers set the final pricing, so we recommend confirming with your local retailer.

Figuring $6500 as a worst-case estimate, the 24-kWh replacement battery pack for the Leaf comes in at $270.83/kWh, and comes with the same warranty as the pack installed in new cars — 8 years/100,000 miles against failure, 5 years/60,000 miles against loss of capacity. (A new battery pack at full charge shows 12 bars on the Leaf’s display screen; capacity is deemed insufficient if it won’t charge up to at least 9.)

The smaller NiMH battery packs in Toyota hybrids sell for $2300 and up, depending on application; however, the 2015 Prius will switch to lithium-ion cells.

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Console the lonely

In fact, right on top of the console, if necessary:

Here’s a sobering statistic for you: according to this study, almost 16% of midwestern college students have had sex while driving (SWD), and nearly half did so while driving at speeds of 61-80 mph(!). And no, these numbers didn’t include masturbation. As you might guess, SWD was reported by more men than women, and usually consisted of oral sex, although 11% of SWD participants had actual intercourse. Amazingly, none of those surveyed reported having an accident, though 1.8% “nearly had a crash.” I guess there’s not much else to do during those long boring drives through the cornfields?

Well, yeah, but at least they’re not texting.

(Via Fark.)

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Horsing around with radar

“But, officer,” you plead, “it’s not my car you picked up on the radar.”

Sure it’s not,” he says, and keeps writing the ticket.

And once in a great while, it’s not:

At first glance it seemed as if the speed camera had caught a pony travelling at almost 40 mph in a 30 mile per hour zone.

But in fact according to police who had to analyse this snap, the radar zeroed in on a car behind the pony that it of breaking the speed limit, but unfortunately the pony was in the way just as the camera took the image of the speeding car.

With an incomplete image of the car — the pony apparently obscured the number plate — there was no way to ticket the driver.

And 40 mph is pretty darn fast for a pony, unless you’re Rainbow Dash, which I’m pretty sure you’re not.

(Via MandoPony’s mom.)

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Your basic tiny roadster returns

About seven years ago, I tried to talk up the Daihatsu Copen, a kei-class Japanese roadster that never appeared on these shores, and I noted with dismay later that the model was apparently being allowed to die without a replacement.

Behold, now, the replacement:

2014 Daihatsu Copen

The powerplant, such as it is, remains unchanged: 660-cc turbocharged inline four, 63 hp. Says Derek Kreindler at TTAC, and I have no reason to doubt him: “Seriously, this thing makes a Miata look like a Ford Galaxie 500 in comparison.” I still think it’s wonderful, even though there’s no chance in hell I could ever fit into it.

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Where have all the Hummers gone?

Not every one, but certainly a lot of them, wound up in Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia:

I saw dozens of Hummers every day in UB and no, it was not the same doing the rounds, I checked.

All models are represented, with the H2 being the most frequent. When riding my bike to Terelj National Park, I was even passed by a hugely huge H1 Alpha Wagon and it took both sides of the road to pass my tiny mountain bike! Scary. I also spotted a few pick-ups. One interesting fact in Ulaanbaatar is that a majority of these Hummers are driven by women. With 80% of the highest-ranking jobs in the capital held by women it makes sense that they drive one of the most expensive American vehicles around.

Is this the answer to “What would Genghis Khan drive?”

In 2010 Terbish Bolor-Erdene, a 30 year-old entrepreneur president of the Mongolia Hummer Club, said there are around 300 Hummers in Ulaanbaatar, a quarter of them sold through his dealership. This number could well have jumped to 500 or 600 today. “The Hummer started out as a military vehicle and we Mongols still think of ourselves as warriors. It’s just a perfect fit for our country and our people,” he said.

And if it’s not a Hummer, it’s a hybrid:

If the very high ratio of used right-hand drive Japanese imports in the streets of Ulaanbaatar was a logical continuation of what I had progressively observed as I traveled further East in Russia, the big difference is the extremely high occurrence of hybrid models, namely the first two generations Toyota Prius. It turns out that imported used hybrid cars are exempt from import taxes, but the very harsh weather Ulaanbaatar experiences during winter still makes it a puzzling choice.

Somehow hybrid cars and temperatures going down as low as -40° to -45°C seems to be an odd combination. But speaking with a few drivers in the capital city, they all told me one of the main advantages of owning a hybrid car and particularly a Toyota Prius is that they always start without a fault each morning in winter, no matter how crazy the temperature is. That is definitely not the case for non-hybrid cars, in particular the hordes of used and battered Hyundais I spotted all across the country.

There are, says the roving reporter, “thousands” of Prii in the Mongolian capital, and, to his surprise, rather a lot of these contraptions.

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UnCooperative

Have you ever been spammed by an auto dealer? Rob O’Hara has, and he’s tired of it:

I’ve had a gmail address for a long time — I got it back when gmail was invite-only, in fact. Shortly after signing up for gmail I began getting spam e-mails from a Mini Cooper car dealership located in Peabody, Massachusetts named Mini of Peabody. Just to be clear: I have no interest in Mini Coopers, have never owned one, never plan to, and never signed up for Mini of Peabody’s e-mail newsletter.

The monthly e-mails from Mini of Peabody are big and colorful and hard to miss. I deleted the first one and the second one and the third one. The e-mails suggested that I add [address redacted] to my address book to ensure that I received their e-mails, but instead I did the opposite and added [same address still redacted] to my spam list. I also clicked on the “report this e-mail as spam” button in gmail. Still, somehow, the e-mails get through.

You don’t suppose this might be some of Google’s doing, do you? I mean, gmail is at least as important to their world-domination schemes as the tracking cookie.

Anyway, their ideas are not intriguing to him, and he does not wish to subscribe to their newsletter:

Back then I was naive enough to believe that clicking “unsubscribe from this newsletter” worked. It doesn’t, or at least didn’t in this case. I clicked their “unsubscribe” button, followed the weblink, entered my e-mail address to remove it from their mailing list … and still, the newsletters came. I have tried this multiple times.

And finally:

In October of 2013, a representative of Mini of Peabody contacted me personally and said they would remove my e-mail from their mailing list. They didn’t.

I wonder if escalation might be useful here. Anyone had any experience dealing with BMW of North America?

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I just can’t recall anymore

Are we at the point where we don’t even notice a recall notice?

So far, 2014 has been a year of automotive recalls, beginning with the General Motors ignition recall. After just one company recalled 11 million vehicles, any other recalls just feel like piling on. Experts worry that consumers are starting to tune out and not pay attention to any recall announcements in the media at all.

Research by USA Today shows that most years, there are 21 million cars recalled in the United States by all automakers combined. In 2014, GM has announced 38 recalls totaling more than 14.4 million vehicles, and we’re not even halfway through the year yet.

Some years you don’t see 14.4 million vehicles sold in this country.

One market analyst for KBB told USA Today, “The typical consumer reaction seems to be, ‘My car’s running fine. Do I need to bother?'”

At the other extreme are the nimrods who hang around automotive message boards hoping, even praying, for new recall news, in the desperate hope that the repairs they need will be covered by the automaker. It almost never works.

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And lo, the meter shall run

Nissan has been calling it the Taxi of Tomorrow, and this is what it’s like:

2.0L 4-cylinder engine, a low-annoyance horn with exterior lights that indicate when the vehicle is honking, sliding doors with entry step and grab handles, transparent roof panel (with shade), independently controlled rear air conditioning with a grape phenol-coated air filter, breathable, antimicrobial, environmentally friendly and easy-to-clean seat fabric that simulates the look and feel of leather; overhead reading lights for passengers and floor lighting to help locate belongings, a mobile charging station for passengers that includes a 12V electrical outlet and two USB plugs, a six-way adjustable driver’s seat that features both recline and lumbar adjustments, even with a partition installed; standard driver’s navigation and telematics systems; front and rear-seat occupant curtain airbags, as well as seat-mounted airbags for the front row; standard traction control and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), lights that alert other road users that taxi doors are opening.

Needless to say, this little darb is controversial. Consider, if you will, Greater New York Taxi Association v. New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, which apparently has now gone as far as it can:

New York’s plan for a new fleet of cabs from Nissan Motor Co. is legal, an appeals court ruled, overturning a judge who said the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission overstepped its authority by requiring owners to buy a specific vehicle.

The so-called Taxi of Tomorrow program is a “legally appropriate response to the agency’s statutory obligation to produce a 21st-century taxicab consistent with the broad interests and perspectives that the agency is charged with protecting,” Justice David B. Saxe wrote [this week] for the appeals court in Manhattan.

Nissan won a contract in 2011 valued at $1 billion over 10 years to supply more than 15,000 minivans with sliding doors, more luggage space and airbags in the back, for the city’s taxi fleet. The commission in September 2012 designated the Nissan NV200 as the official “Taxi of Tomorrow” and required owners of medallions, which confer the right to operate yellow cabs in New York, to buy the $29,700 vehicles.

What does Hizzoner think of this?

Mayor Bill De Blasio, who received more than $200,000 in taxi-industry donations during his campaign, said before taking office that he opposed the plan because not all cabs would be wheelchair-accessible. The proposal calls for about 2,000 of the taxis to be fitted for disabled riders.

But this, too, had apparently been settled:

U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels ruled in December 2011 that the commission subjects disabled people who use wheelchairs and scooters to discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York overturned Daniels’ ruling in June 2012 and found that the act doesn’t obligate the commission to require taxi owners to provide access for disabled people.

It seems to me that we could have avoided all this, or most of it anyway, by forcing Ford to keep building the Crown Victoria.

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Oily in the morning

I think this individual is looking for the wrong emollients:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Many woman trust castrol oil for their natural treatment. What are benefits of castrol oil for woman?

Then again, it’s more than just oil: it’s liquid engineering.

[insert "Fram filter" joke here]

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Dialed in to ponies

We have here a Mazda MX-5 with the Mane Six gauge package:

Custom My Little Pony gauges for Mazda Miata

With thanks to the fandom:

The MLP fandom is awesome. Artwork exists for just about anything you can imagine. Cutie marks for the main characters? How many different file formats would you like? Exact color codes for every aspect of anything ever in the show? Yup, those are plentiful too. The fans really made this custom gauge design come together quick.

Apart from “WANT,” all I can say is “You should see these at night.”

And no, I don’t know where you could work in an Applejack reference. The Malfunction Indicator Light, maybe? “Sugarcube, Ah don’t know just how to tell ya this, but yer emissions are worse than Big Mac after a bucket of broccoli.” Eeyup.

(Via this @LazyGrayBrony tweet.)

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That’s a switch

The General Motors ignition-switch incident is growing like the Blob, and the part that perplexes me is that so much of it seemed avoidable. Yes, GM’s part-handling procedures seem dubious; yes, this debacle should have been dealt with before the rest of the world stuck its nose in. I admittedly never have owned one of the cars in question. But it never occurred to me that having the switch slide over from ON to OFF or ACC in the middle of the road was a death-dealing scenario.

Car and Driver’s July issue checks out the claims. They got themselves a Saturn Ion, one of the vehicles being recalled, and then rigged it to kill power assist to steering and brakes to simulate the problem. The results were not surprising: steering effort went up markedly, though not to a point where it couldn’t be dealt with, and braking effort quadrupled — once the vacuum was gone. It wasn’t on the first panic stop, because there’s a check valve in the line.

Still, neither of these is a problem if you simply restart the car, no trick if you remember that there’s an interlock and you have to shift the lever into neutral. Somewhere around ninety percent of panicky drivers, I suspect, will not remember that. (Trini, who actually owned one of these Ions, and was almost certainly aware of the vagaries of the car’s ignition switch, having replaced one once, would have; then again, she’s one of the least-panicky individuals on the planet.)

There remains the question of why the airbags didn’t deploy when Mr and Mrs Panicky hit the wall, but since there’s no legal specification other than “test dummies must not be subjected to this much force,” it’s difficult to compare notes among individual incidents. And I am reminded of my one and only Major Crash, out on a two-lane state highway in 2006, in which my car and a doe came to mutual death blows at an appallingly high speed. The airbags didn’t budge. Then again, I didn’t get so much as a scratch.

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Negatory on that Pontiactivity

This seems straightforward enough:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Does Pontiac still manufacture cars?

And then this amazing statement followed:

I’ve rarely seen any Pontiac cars on the road lately. Are they still manufacturing cars? I need an answer OTHER THAN YES OR NO, I WILL NOT accept those as answers.

In which case, the most reasonable answer is “Bite me, Bat Boy.”

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Celling points

Three years ago, Hyundai announced that they’d build a thousand Tucsons with fuel-cell propulsion, the first batch of which would be in place by 2015.

They will be profitable, perhaps, but not because of their pricing:

While the first hydrogen-powered Tucson FCVs left the docks in California in the last week of May, Hyundai knows the vehicles aren’t meant to add to the company’s bottom line, but are meant to garner credits for future use.

WardsAuto reports the Korean automaker will earn as much as 26 CARB credits for every Tucson FCV leased through 2017, each vehicle equal to $130,000 in credit. Fuel cell boss Byung Ki Ahn believes his company could then sell those credits to automakers in need of offsetting their carbon footprint, though Hyundai has no plans on the table to do so at this time, preferring to use the credits for themselves for less compliant vehicles of their own design.

Ahn, at the time of the announcement of the program, said that Hyundai hoped eventually to be able to sell the Tucson FCV for $50,000.

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Spending above your weight

Message boards are full of people wanting to know how they can buy their Dream Car with the resources they claim to have, or expect to have. Invariably they can’t. This guy wanted a Ferrari 458 so bad:

Ok lets say I earn 80k a year Il wait a few years to actually buy the ferrari because I have to think about food clothes and stuff like that, how many years would it take to actully afford the car if I save some money to get it and would it be possible to actually get the car with 80k a year ?

Everyone told him no, it wasn’t happening, though some were more gentle than others.

This is what happens when you do overextend yourself in this realm. [Warning: some NSFW language.]

(Via Autoblog.)

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The new one-drop rule

Whatever the opposite of “booster” is, that’s what I am towards gasoline adulterated with 15 percent ethanol. I tolerate E10, since it doesn’t seem to have had any negative effects on my car as yet, but E15 I just don’t trust.

I hadn’t seen any E15 around town yet, so I had no idea how to respond to this:

But being me, I am required to get the facts of the matter, and they go like this:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated that all consumers in the United States must purchase at least 4 gallons of gasoline when they go to the gas station, if they are getting fuel from a pump that also offers a new E15 ethanol-gasoline blend.

The Obama administration wants consumers to use more of the E15 fuel — a blend that contains 15 percent ethanol — but the problem is that many gas stations use blender pumps, which offer several types of fuel and, after pumping, there always is a residual amount of fuel in the hose. E15 fuel can potentially damage engines made prior to 2000 and it cannot be used in motorcycles, ATVs, and many other engines, such as lawn mowers and boat engines.

So, to circumvent the potential problems, the EPA is requiring a 4-gallon minimum from blender pumps to ensure that any E15 fuel residue is diluted. (Stations that provide a completely separate, single hose for E15 only are exempt from the rule.)

The pump in the picture apparently vends both E10 and E15 — and possibly even E0.

My car, you’ll remember, was made in 2000. (Actually, it was made in September 1999, but it’s a 2000 model.)

The people most inconvenienced by this, I suspect, will be the ones who come up to you on the street and beg for gas money: they’re going to have to raise $15 or so to pay for four gallons’ worth.

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Yet no hose was gotten

What’s the point of having a humongously long warranty if you can’t find exceptions to it now and then? Motor Trend reports on their long-term Kia Rio (July):

The cabin’s build quality and materials are $18,794-appropriate, blighted by a peeling steering wheel rim first noticed at the 30K-mile mark, not unlike what affected our old long-term 2012 Hyundai Elantra. The local dealer’s reply, after explaining that it wouldn’t be covered under warranty: The wear is likely caused by lotions or other oil-based substances, which is ludicrous because many people use lotions, and 30K is barely any mileage at all.

You gotta wonder if Kia’s going to fix it anyway before selling the car as a CPO.

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Someone else, please

Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Seriously. They like the idea of being organized, but not through this organization:

Employees who want to unionize Alabama’s Mercedes-Benz auto plant say they no longer want to work with the United Auto Workers union to accomplish that goal.

A core group of pro-union employees has asked the UAW to stop campaigning at the German automaker’s Tuscaloosa County plant, because the current effort has gone on too long without success.

Now how could this possibly be?

At one point … the campaign had enough union authorization cards to legally file for an election, as more than 30 percent of the plant’s hourly production and maintenance workers had signed one.

But the UAW was pushing for a much higher percentage, 65 percent, because it wanted a sure win, they said. “It’s all about the image with the UAW, and it’s not about the workers.”

They’d like some other union to come in, though the AFL-CIO won’t permit that sort of thing.

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