Volkswagen is currently the largest car manufacturer in the world, but that distinction is endangered by what mainstream media are dubbing a major scandal. Listening to the major news outlets, one would come to believe the German company’s actions are on par with a certain series of events from about 70 years ago. What heinous crime has this evil corporation burdened the good citizens of this planet with? Is it exploding gas tanks? Shoddy workmanship? An unacceptably low number of cup holders?
No, it’s because they programmed their cars to adjust their performance levels when they were being tested, and when the test was over, readjust to a more optimum performance setting. As a result, the diesel cars emitted 40% more nitrous oxide than “allowable limits” set by the E.P.A. Now that certainly sounds like a lot of NOx escaping into the atmosphere, doesn’t it? What they aren’t telling us is that it is not 40% of 100%. It’s 40% of a fraction of 1%. (Good luck researching the exact number.) The excessive pollution emitted by vehicles was largely taken care of by the late 80s with catalytic converters, port injection and computer monitoring systems. These exact same cars would have no trouble whatsoever passing the E.U.’s strict air quality tests, and the Europeans don’t seem to have ant trouble breathing. Even so, almost 500,000 cars in the U.S. are being recalled to repair what has been called appalling, and the Diesel Dupe. This will cost the company tens of billions of dollars, never mind the imminent fines that will surely be levied.
Volkswagen has committed one of the greatest sins imaginable in this world of government micromanaged protectionist bologna. They dared to try to put the customer, not the edicts of the almighty E.P.A., first. What is lost in the shuffle is that the cars actually got better mileage and performed better (i.e. the way people want a car to perform) by ignoring the orders of the Transportpolizei. These vehicles were not poorly made, nor were the diesel engines as “dirty” as the media would have you believe. They are, in fact, very advanced and efficient engines.
The problem is the government has for many years been pursuing the impossible; zero emissions from an internal combustion engine. If such a thing were even possible, it would mean there would be no more need for the E.P.A..
And we can’t have that now, can we?
Cars and trucks would be far more advanced than they are now, if only the government would get out of the way. Government, as you might suspect, is made up not of experts in any particular field, or scientists, engineers, or entrepreneurs for that matter. It’s mainly comprised of control freaks, busybodies and egomaniacs whose sole concern is keeping their personal gravy train fueled and rolling. To believe that any politician actually cares whether cars have air bags and back up cameras, or how the most recent CAFE -fuel economy- numbers are achieved is the height of naivete. Far more important to please those who would directly benefit from any mandates in the name of safety, such as those self same manufacturers providing said mandatory equipment.
In the utopian view of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there will be no car accidents. There will be no injuries. Death by Motor Vehicle will be an unpleasant memory in the annals of the Unregulated Times. We will all be shuttled about in expertly engineered and regulated boxes, each with 8 airbags per passenger, fully restrained in the latest and greatest in “Passive Restraint Systems,” comforted by the knowledge that the vehicle its watching for any possible scenario that may cause harm. And secure in the belief that in the unlikely event anything should happen, our beneficent benefactors will know exactly where to send help, because our cars will tell them exactly where we are. No need to concern ourselves with anything bit the ride. The car knows what to do.
That is the opening paragraph to a piece I wrote almost two years ago about Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) communications. In short, cars and trucks will be able to “talk” to and avoid hitting each other. It’s the principal technology behind the idealistic wet dream of self driving cars, as championed by Elon Musk – CEO of Tesla Motors and Chris Urmson – Google’s director of self-driving cars. And it is with some dismay that I report that Moors Law is in full effect, as the Google-Mobile is currently being tested, and Mr. Musk has ambitious plans for release of the Tesla Model S, a vehicle fully capable of autonomous driving.
“So why all the fuss?” I hear you ask. “Why this Luddite hatred of technology? Don’t you see, humans are dangerous! We should have machines to eliminate any possible human error!”
Well there are several Levels to my concern. First I do not have a hatred of the tech. It is a tool, like any other, and it can be used for better or worse; it is entirely neutral. What I have a problem with is the assumption that all drivers are dangerous. Every one of them. Even those who are cautious or have a high degree of training do not escape this broad brush. We are presumed guilty until we prove ourselves innocent, much like
police revenue generation sobriety/seat belt check points. Witness this quote from Big Musky, “It’s too dangerous. You can’t have a person driving a two-tonne death machine.” Or This from The Oatmeal : “Human Beings are terrible drivers.” That’s right, every one of us. Because in their minds, there is no individual, only “The People.”
Another issue is the way the concept, and eventual reality, is being forced on us, much like the subsidized hybrid and electric cars. You see Tesla receive $4.9 Billion in “subsidies,” that is, taxpayer dollars. In other words, money taken from taxpayers under threat if incarceration or violence. (Please don’t tell me you pay your taxes voluntarily.) That’s not to mention the several other companies receiving funding to develop these cars, or the “tax incentives” used to sell them. So how will they be forced on us? Slowly. First, there will be “Self-driving only” lanes. Then, eventually, all lanes. In time, insurance companies will determine regular cars to be “too dangerous” and price policies out of reach, much as was done with muscle cars. The Large Sibling will determine all non-autonomous cars to be too dangerous and outlaw them entirely. Remember, driving on the road is a privilege. not a right. (Sarcasm intended)
I am thankful I was living in a time when the pure pleasure of driving was something to be enjoyed. I pity the younger generation. ahr
A sinkhole at the National Corvette Museum has swallowed a total of eight “Vettes,valued at more than a million dollars. The incident was reported at 5:44 am in the Skydome area of the museum. The vehicles affected were:
- 1993 ZR-1 Spyder on loan from General Motors
- 2009 ZR1 “Blue Devil” on loan from General Motors
- 1962 Black Corvette
- 1984 PPG Pace Car
- 1992 White 1 Millionth Corvette
- 1993 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary Corvette
- 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 Corvette
- 2009 White 1.5 Millionth Corvette
None of the cars were on loan from individuals. Two were loaned to the museum by General Motors, while the other six were property of the museum. More coverage can be found, including videos, at BangShift.com, and the museum’s website.
Many dealerships take extra time explaining things when you take your car in for repairs, and sometimes we wonder if they are just trying to up-sale us into an additional service or part, but in the case of good guys like those at Ken Garff Used Cars in Utah, their suggestions are always in your best interest, not theirs. A good service tech knows there is more to properly functioning “safety features” than good brake systems and functioning airbags.
Does My Car Have One?
Most late-model vehicles have something called a “cabin air filter” that many car owners are unaware of. Sadly this filter can make you sick if you don’t change it periodically as it is the filter that filters the air you breath inside of your car. Whether you are recycling inside-air or flowing it from the outside in, it still goes through this filter.
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Before the Fast & Furious franchise, before the Blues Brothers, before Smokey and the Bandit, before the French Connection, there was Bullitt. Steve McQueen, director Peter Yates, and stunt drivers Bud Elkins, Bill Hickman, and Carey Loftin worked together to craft a car chase that, to this day is the standard by which all car chases are judged, and none have surpassed. Here, courtesy of The Selvedge Yard, is a behind the scenes glimpse into the making of this legendary and ground breaking scene. ahr
To say thatBullitt had a car chase scene is like saying Steve McQueen was a good actor. Both are arguably gross understatements. The history-making car chase from Bullitt is still considered the gold standard for which all such scenes are held to today.
McQueen hadn’t planned on a driving double– in fact, he firmly insisted on doing all the Mustang stunt driving himself. But that all quickly changed– while shooting an early scene (that can be seen in the film), he missed a turn pretty hard and nearly lost it. The studio exec’s immediately pulled the plug on McQueen’s plans and tapped professional stunt drivers with a little more practical experience and skill. As fate would have it, main driving duties were handed over to none other than McQueen’s good buddy (and auto and motorcycle racing legend) Bud Ekins.
The story behind the filming of this ground-breaking scene
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I don’t envy those who live in warmer and less snowy places. They miss out on one of my favorite winter pastimes; driving in a snowstorm. You read correctly. I enjoy the challenge of maintaining control of a vehicle, be it car, truck, or school bus, in conditions that would cause Rudolph and Santa to consider UPS this year. Give me low visibility and limited traction and I will be one happy little lobster.
Where I live we have had two snowstorms in the last few days, and there is freezing rain on the way for the weekend. Such a spate of inconvenient weather, (not bad weather; all weather is good,) usually means three things:
- Grocery stores are packed to the rafters with folks buying provisions as though the end was nigh
- Local highway department workers are busy planning their plow routes so that they will pass the end of the driveway just as you are finished clearing it, creating a six foot bank you must remove
- Otherwise competent and skilled drivers completely forget how to control a car, either performing the equivalent of a Ken Block Gymkhana video or skidding into a tree.
The first two are products of human nature, a subject on which I’ve long given up. So let’s take a look at some ways to cope with less than adequate traction.
First bit of advice is do as I say, not as I do. Stay home until the worst is over, and let the plow guys do their jobs. But after the storm, roads will still be slick, so slow down and keep a good distance between vehicles. this goes doubly for you folks with AWD and 4X4’s. Very few things are more irritating than being passed (in weather!) by some high end computer mobile or lifted lorrie because they think “Power to all wheels! I got this!” What they have is four tires. Under power. Losing traction. Not steering, Or Stopping. Smarten up.
Then it’s just common sense stuff, Clean ALL the snow off the car. Don’t jam on the brakes, pump them easily. Don’t use cruise control. Follow the plow, don’t pass it. Turn on lights.
If you should start to skid at the rear wheels, easily remove your foot from the gas and steer into the skid. (Tail left, turn left, & vice verse,) Do not touch the brakes! Repeat as necessary. If the front starts to slide, remove foot from gas pedal, put car in neutral and do NOT steer. The car will straighten itself out.
I suggest just after a storm finding an empty lot and practicing skids a few times. Yes you’ll look like a Hoonigan, but it may keep you out of trouble later on. Or it would be good to take a winter driving course like the one offered by Team O’Neil Rally School. Either way, do what you can to make yourself a better driver in all conditions!