Archive for Driver’s Seat

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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Feature not featured

I have entirely too much reason to trust Jack Baruth on this matter:

Like most cars built in the past 60 years or so, the VW Phaeton has a movable driver’s seat. Like the vast majority of the cars built in the past 30 years or so, the VW Phaeton has a center console. Now pay attention, because this is the important part. In pretty much every car I’ve driven since the day I got my license, ranging from raggedy old Escorts to brand-new Rolls-Royces, there is a small gap between the driver’s seat and the center console. If you are sitting in any of those cars and you are holding your phone, or your keys, or your wallet, or anything else that is less than an inch and a half wide, and you drop that item, it will fall between the seat and the center console. At that point, you will discover that, although the gap between the driver’s seat and the center console easily accommodates a smartphone or, say, an ex-West-Berlin-Police Walther PP pistol in caliber .32 ACP, it does not accommodate the hand of an adult male. Not without scratching and/or cutting it into ribbons.

For example: there was the time I dropped my phone during World Tour ’08, and the retrieval of same unearthed a wallet belonging to a teenaged girl, which had been hiding in the gap for over two years.

The gap also attracts coins; I think I’ve lost about $30 in change over nine and a half years.

So maybe I should have opted for the most expensive Volkswagen in creation, huh?

In the VW Phaeton, however, there is a thing. It’s a velour-covered molded piece and it fills in the gap between the driver’s seat and the center console. It’s made to flex a bit so even though the relationship of the seat to the console changes a bit throughout its range of travel, that piece still prevents anything from falling between the seat and the console. If you drop your phone or your keys or your Walther, it will land on that piece and there it will stay in easy reach of your hand.

This would not seem difficult to replicate in less-costly models, but so far nobody, not even Volkswagen, has seen fit to do so.

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The cervid economy

The upcoming Volvo S90 has a feature I wish had existed, oh, several years ago:

Important for some parts of the country is “Large Animal Detection,” which, unsurprisingly, detects and warns of roadside deer, moose, and other large animals to minimize collisions.

Let’s hope this catches on and is replicated through less expensive makes, so that either I or Robert Stacy McCain will have a chance of getting it.

Note: Title changed since original publication.

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It’s better for the bearings

That’s the story, and they’re sticking to it:

Gluten-Free Mufflers at Mighty Auto

So far as I can tell, this is in Halifax, which proves — well, nothing, really.

(From reddit via Miss Cellania.)

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Spontaneous-combustion engine

Consumer Reports, it appears, is trying its best to sound a bit less Consumer Reports-y. From a February review of the new Volkswagen Jetta with the 1.4-liter turbo four:

Since its 2011 redesign, the Jetta sedan has offered more engines than Spinal Tap had drummers.

This will not encourage people who question VW’s overall reliability, if you know what I mean.

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Optional at extra, extra cost

Is this the most expensive automotive option ever? (Betteridge says no.) Jared Gall reports for Car and Driver (February):

[T]he coolest (and most appalling) thing in the [Bentley] Bentayga interior is the optional Breitling clock set atop the dashboard. It’s available in either white or rose gold, with a face of black or white mother-of-pearl, and studded with eight diamonds. Cost? 150,000 euros, or about $160,000. Only a handful of craftspeople make the clocks, which take three months apiece. That exclusivity guarantees that Bentley will sell the four it can offer every year.

The Bentayga is Bentley’s first-ever sport-utility vehicle; they plan to make 5500 of them each year at a base price of $231,825. Not one of them will actually cost that little, of course.

And if you go searching for this little bauble, you’ll discover that Breitling is also making a watch and a desk clock for Bentley, neither included with your purchase of a new Bentayga.

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And you thought it was cold outside

Volkswagen’s little Evade the Emissions stunt has now been hacked and examined, and at least one of the findings is startling:

[Felix] Domke said he graphed the European emissions testing cycle and overlaid those results with the upper and lower limits of the ECU’s “normal mode” and discovered that the mode aligned perfectly with the limits.

He didn’t test differences in engine performance, nor could he say whether the cheat applied to cars in other countries. But Domke pointed to a parameter in the engine’s code that seemingly always initiated its “alternative” exhaust program: the outside temperature would only need to be suitable for life to exist — above -6,357.9 degrees Fahrenheit (-3,550 degrees Celsius).

This condition is available pretty much anywhere in the universe at any imaginable time. Well feigned, Vee Dub.

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You dropped your Q

Infiniti, which has done more to sully the fine art of model naming than any automaker not named Cadillac — it’s probably no coincidence that both Cadillac and Infiniti have had Johan de Nysschen running them, and apparently nobody dares mess with the Johan — has decided that we dumb Americans can’t tell the difference between a front-wheel-drive sedan and a jacked-up AWD pseudo-crossover using exactly the same bodyshell:

Though Infiniti will sell its new Q30 hatchback and QX30 crossover as two distinct models elsewhere in the world, the cars will be sold in the U.S. only with the QX30 badge. The cars are already basically identical, and the new naming strategy will help prevent any confusion between the Q30 and QX30 on our shores.

As a result, there will be three versions of the 2017 Infiniti QX30 in the US: Two front-wheel-drive models, matching the Q30 sold overseas; plus one all-wheel-drive version with a higher ride height that aligns with the global QX30.

I suspect this is being done, not so much to defuzz the brand image, but to justify even higher prices for the fake-SUV version: if they’re all the “same model,” buyers won’t even flinch at a $15k difference between top and bottom of the line.

And I’d still rather have the QX50, the wagon formerly known as EX35, comparatively lacking in upjacking.

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Getting ahead of ourselves

It was almost too good to be true:

Actually, the phone wasn’t what got me so much as it was the decidedly not-Forties-attired young lady, who more than a little resembles someone I used to want to look at more than I did. (Whatever the heck that means.) So I turned my attention to the background, and eventually hit upon the truth of the matter:

Then again, mobile technology is changing so rapidly that almost anything you can say about them results in an anachronism or two. Karen and Wade Sheeler were available for comment way back in 1990.

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Still needs work

I have never actually had in-dash navigation in a car. Gwendolyn has a place for a nav screen, under a lid on top of the center stack, but it’s my understanding that they didn’t actually get any installed until the following model year, and while it could theoretically be retrofitted, assuming the parts could be found, the price would be somewhere between prohibitive and ridiculous.

And anyway, the concept is apparently a long way from being perfected. In the February Automobile, Ronald Ahrens discusses an issue with the nav system in the new Audi A3 e-tron:

The test car had voice-activated navigation, which worked well for one driver but evidently needed a stronger sarcasm detector for the other.

I figure fixing this will give VW Group something to do while they forget they ever built any diesels.

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Gutless supreme

This “1975 Oldsmobile Donk on 28s Forgiatos” is offered on Craigslist:

1975 Oldsmobile for sale

Seller’s description, unedited:

Runs good music loud has matts competition speakers, was in rides magazine and Marreece Speights from the Nba golden states warrior owned it previously before me any more questions give me a cal

What is a donk, you ask? The person from Urban Dictionary:

Any POS late 80’s or early 90’s American heap (preferably an Impala) that has large enough wheels installed until it resembles (and rides and handles like) a Conestoga wagon. This is done so it sits up high enough so as to be at the same eye level as the Playas with real juice ridin in their Escalades. Adding in a bad candy paint job and Wal-Mart sub box completes the transformation. With no money left over for necessary suspension and brake upgrades, the lifespan is limited to a few drug runs or the first Police chase, whichever occurs first.

Twenty grand, and this donk can be your donk. And hey, he almost spelled “Marreese” correctly. (“Speights” is correct.) But no, it’s not actually a Cutlass; this is the larger Delta 88 Royale, offered with the Olds 350 (175 hp) or the big-block 455 (215), with catalytic converters and mandatory single exhausts. And Forgiato 28s on eBay run about $3000.

(Via Susannah Breslin.)

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Maloodicrous speed

GM’s British outpost is importing an Australian ute that looks for all the world like the 2016 El Camino Chevrolet would never, ever build:

Vauxhall Maloo LSA

The press release announcing it reads this way:

Vauxhall only sells one pick up vehicle these days, and while our rivals will wow you with improvements in emissions and fuel economy in a CV’s new model year, our offering — the new Maloo LSA — is more likely to impress with the arrival of its all-new, supercharged 6.2-litre, 536PS V8 engine.

So while it’s possibly not a contender for next year’s MPG Marathon, the Vauxhall Maloo LSA will haul … well, up to 540kgs from standstill to sixty in an unfeasibly short space of time, and do so with the utmost composure, despite the fact that it’s classed as a commercial vehicle (business users can even claim the VAT back from its very reasonable £54,500 on-the-road price).

For 2016, the new LSA engine brings maximum power up from 431PS for the outgoing LS3 V8 to 536PS, and an increase in torque from 570Nm to 671Nm. First seen in the current VXR8 GTS launched last year, the LSA is essentially the same unit fitted to the Camaro ZL1, albeit in a slightly re-tuned form. An Eaton 4-lobe supercharger, stand-alone water-to-air charge-air cooling system and high-flow exhaust system with bi-modal exhaust function turn the Maloo into the fastest production “ute” manufactured in Australia, and the fastest CV available in the UK.

Translations and conversions: CV = “commercial vehicle”; 431PS = 425 hp; 536PS = 528 hp; 570Nm = 420 ft-lb; 671Nm = 495 ft-lb; 540kg = 1190 lb; £54,500 = $81,150.

I am trying my very best to keep my index finger away from the “WANT” button.

(Via Autoblog.)

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Semi-indefatigable

Zombie Saab has yet another deal in the works:

National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs) and the Chinese company Panda New Energy Co., Ltd. have signed a strategic collaboration agreement. According to the agreement, Nevs will provide Panda with 150,000 9-3 sedan electric vehicles until the end of 2020. In addition, the agreement also includes 100 000 other EV products and services from companies associated to Nevs and its owners. The total value of the agreement is 78 billion RMB.

Hey, it could happen. The first-generation 9-3 (1999-2003) moved 326,370 units. Then again, back then Saab had General Motors calling the shots.

This discussion ensued on Twitter:

That last bit, incidentally, is the sound made when you start up the old two-stroke three-cylinder Saab 93, which is not at all the same car as the 9-3.

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Soon: bladeless knives without handles

A proposed California law would require your self-driving car be occupied by your self:

In what is sure to be seen by some as government interference and general misunderstanding of technology, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has released a proposal [pdf] that would require drivers to be present in self-driving vehicles in the state.

Then again, it might be seen by others as simply “Forget it, Jake. It’s California.”

That limits any possibility for parents to send their kids off alone, any delivery services hoping to utilize autonomous vehicles without paying human workers and future designs Uber might have to deploy cars to pick up riders, sans “driver-partners” in California.

It’s also caused some disappointment at Google, which has been testing driverless cars for a couple of years in the state of California.

The measure might be defensible on technological grounds:

[W]e are sure to run into unforeseen scenarios without a unified and open-source driverless car codebase shared by all driverless car manufacturers — something we don’t presently have.

Consider this scenario: a human driven car starts heading the wrong way on the freeway and is barreling toward two autonomous vehicles. The lane is fairly narrow; if one of the cars slows and gets behind the other, they’ll both be fine. But without a shared, open codebase there are no rules to determine which one should slow down. If they both speed up, neither can pass the other. If both slow down, same problem.

There is time to deal with this, I think. Then again, the idea of killing an earlier regulation once it’s no longer needed is something Sacramento doesn’t quite comprehend.

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Accelerate and turn a phrase

The 10Best issue of Car and Driver (January 2016) contains more quotable quotes than usual for some reason, and I agonized over about half a dozen of them before deciding on one to place here. From page 040 (that’s what it says), Aaron Robinson on an automaker with a possibly sketchy future:

Tesla is an American venture building American cars in America, so I can’t understand some of the virulent hatred toward it. Okay, its business plan is fraught, its overhead is too high, and its product is expensive, imperfect, and subsidized by taxpayers. By this definition, it is a standard defense contractor.

I had a really spiffy title picked out for this, too, but its connection was too vague to justify. You’ll see it eventually, though.

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Scalp burn

The argument against the automotive sunroof:

The car has a sunroof. I doubt I will ever use it. After my experience with the [Mitsubishi] Endeavor I am seriously considering disabling it. Actually, the car manufacturers should put in a switch that automatically closes the sunroof if you close the sunshade. What happens is that you’re driving along on a nice sunny day and you want to enjoy the sunshine, so you open the sunroof. After a while you start to get hot, so you close the sunshade, but you forget about the sunroof. Then you decide to go to the carwash and when water starts pouring into the passenger compartment you try and close the sunroof. Due to Murphy’s law, this usually happens just when the big overhead rotary brush is scrubbing the roof. The little wheels and levers that allow the sunroof to slide back and forth are relatively delicate and not up to repelling the big, strong brush, so they break and now the sunroof won’t properly close. The problem is worse with the Endeavor because it is tall enough that you can’t see the sunroof when you are standing next to the car.

Gwendolyn, who has lived in my garage for nine and a half years now, has a sunroof. I have never actually run into this problem myself.

Then again, the reason why I didn’t have one on my previous car is because it reduced headroom substantially: I banged my head on the sunshade during a test run, and wound up buying the same car in a lower trim level so I wouldn’t have to deal with that sort of thing. I don’t have this problem now, because the ceiling is actually recessed a bit, giving me an inch of headroom I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Why this is so, I do not know, unless it’s because they didn’t build any of this model without the sunroof; I’ve never seen one without it.

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Road ending prematurely

Cars in the scrapyard often end up crushed. Some of them end up there because of crushing debt:

According to a recent PEW study [pdf], one out of every nine title loans results in a repossession, with the titled vehicle eventually heading to auction.

And after that, maybe the car finds a new home, but maybe not:

One vehicle, a 1995 Chevrolet Blazer, currently shows 271,285 miles. Pulling up its history, we see it shows up at auction in December 2011 with 199,683 miles, then it’s sold with a lien attached in February 2013. Since it had almost 200,000 miles at the time, it is highly unlikely any traditional lending institution would have written a loan for it, meaning this loan was almost certainly processed by a subprime lender. The February sale comes during one of the bigger months for subprime and “Buy Here Pay Here” dealers as many potential customers are receiving tax returns that can give them enough money for a down payment on a new-to-them car.

The Blazer’s owner was immediately in the hole since they were likely taking out a loan with an annual percentage rate of 30 percent for a vehicle that was only worth its weight in scrap. We see three more liens reported on the vehicle with the last one hitting in October of this year. The vehicle’s owner could have taken out multiple title loans or refinanced his loan, the last one being too expensive to cover. Since the vehicle was not worth more than $300 or $400, they would have only been able to get a loan for $150 or so, which would have cost them double or triple the original amount once interest was added. The owner may have been in a tight situation or the car could have broken down, making default a more affordable proposition. Due to the mileage and condition, [the] next stop for this Blazer is likely a salvage yard.

Five will get you ten the guy who bought this Blazer in 2013 went scurrying to Yahoo! Answers to see if there was a chance he could plunge himself further into debt to get himself something newer. Not that it matters what anyone actually told him. (I started suggesting that people start pricing bus passes, a practice some would dub cruel and insensitive.)

Most of the other cars I checked on the run list followed a similar path where they spent a few years in the mainstream market before ending up at a subprime dealer. Some of them experience accidents that should leave them with a branded title, but there are loopholes that allow the title to be washed. Others live a long life with their first owners before reaching the subprime market. The second and third owners of these vehicles are usually underwater as soon as they buy the vehicle and the title loans just put them further into debt.

That Blazer, says the intrepid reporter, was “not worth more than $300 or $400.” What would a BHPH dealer have sold it for? I’m guessing $1999.

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