Archive for Driver’s Seat

Barrier on the side of the road

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

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

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

Feds: “Drop dead”:

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

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Dynaflub

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

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

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

And that’s a six-speed.

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

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The last Saab story ever?

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

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

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

There’s just this one minor detail:

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

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

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

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Armed with 45s

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

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

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

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

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Never be mist

TTAC commenter “turf3″ explains fog lights:

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

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

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

Now that’s pretty indisputable.

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Damn laws of physics

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

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

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

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The sourest of grapes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Immovable objects

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

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

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

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

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

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Advance information

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

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

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

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

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

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

I started to wonder who has a problem with it.

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

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

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

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

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While sticking to the seat

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

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

I admit to not having thought of that.

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

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

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Dissipated fizz

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

Oklahoma Sonic plate, drawn by me, never used

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

Dr Pepper plate issued by Texas

And now they’re undoing it:

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

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

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

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Brief exercise

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

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

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

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

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

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Dream yon, autocorrupt

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

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

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

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

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Spilled watts

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

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

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

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

(Via Autoblog Green.)

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Besides, the cat moves faster

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

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

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

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No time to talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Operationally green

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

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

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

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

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

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From shooting brakes to shooting guards

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

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

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

Ordinarily I would give this the MEGO treatment, but:

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

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

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

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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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