Opinion

Fahrvergnügen ist Verboten

Posted on Updated on

Volkswagen is currently the largest car manufacturer in the world, but that distinction is endangered by what mainstream vw-goldmedia 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?

Das AutoNo, 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.Powerplant-and-EPA_jpg_800x1000_q100

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?

Winter Wobbling

Posted on Updated on

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 Northeast Snowconditions 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 winter-driving-2and 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!

ahr

Let Us Now Remember…

Posted on

On Saturday, November 30th, a charity event was held in Los Angeles  for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. At the conclusion of the succRodasheadshot_200x250essful event, Roger Rodas fired up his Porsche Carrera GT and, with passenger Paul Walker, left the festivities. Shortly thereafter, the car slammed st speed into a utility pole and burst into flames. Both occupants were killed. Rodas is survived by his wife, Kristine, and two children. He was 38.

Roger Rodas was a successful financial adviser for Bank of America/Merril Lynch,having been named one of America’s top wealth management advisers three years in a row. He was a successful business owner and entrepreneur; he owned Always Evolving, an automotive specialty shop, and sponsor of the November 30th charity event. And he was a successful racing driver, competing in the Pirelli  World Challenge in 2013 as a rookie, and placing 2nd in points in the Pirelli Porsche Driver’s Cup Series championship in 2012, with2 race wins and 6 podium finishes.

With his well earned wealth and extensive financial knowledge, Rodas was extremely generous with both his time, money, and expertise. He was a board member of Asomugha Foundation, a charity who aided young women and children in Nigera and South African countries who were victims of poverty, human rights violations and national widespread health epidemics. Also he, along with Walker, founded Reach Out World Wide, which brought skilled volunteers to disaster stricken areas such as Haiti. Rodas was also instrumental in developing waste to energy power plants and wind farms in Central America, and he was also owner of Cielo Recycling, a Central American recycling plant. Finally, Rodas helped Walker establish a foundation in Reach Out World Wide that enabled Walker to accept donations on behalf of his foundation and bring the biggest bang for his philanthropic buck when it came to bringing skilled volunteers to areas hit hard by natural disasters.

Roger Rodas exemplified the American Dream. He worked hard, played hard, and most importantly gave of his time, fortune, and knowledge to leave the world a better place. His example should be used as a life model for anyone, young, old, rich, poor, Native, immigrant.  There are actually many more like him out there who give unselfishly. They come from all walks of life. Sadly had Mr. Rodas not had a famous passenger on that fateful drive, we may never have heard of him. Let us focus on his accomplishments, and not make his memory merely the answer to a trivia question.

ahr

Here I am! ( or My Car is a Snitch)

Posted on Updated on

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.

V2VThink this is far fetched? It may be closer than you think. Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) communication systems have been in the works for some time. There are already cars on the market with the ability to park themselves, see behind them and apply the brakes if you get too close to the car in front of you. They also monitor more systems than the Lunar Modules, and control consoles with everything from GPS to Bluetooth to entertainment are becoming the norm. Cars are now equipped with “Black Box” technology as well.

So, what’s the problem? Well, it seems our friends at the NHTSA are poised to require all new cars and trucks to be equipped with all the gadgetry that will broadcast speed, location, and perhaps number of passengers. The technology will also relay whether a car’s systems are all functioning, or if it’s been “hacked.” That’s right, Large Sibling even wants your car to snitch on you.

Of course, the current administration denies it wants more spy power: “NHTSA has no plans to modify the current V2V system design in a way that would enable the government or private entities to track individual motor vehicles,” a NHTSA spokesman said to CNSNews. But  note the word “current.” Nothing said about the future systems that will be developed. And according to the Government Accounting Office, the DoT does want any new tech to be able to detect “Bad Actors.” And who are these miscreants?
Cars with malfunctioning parts, or have been hacked. In other words those who may choose to modify the car so it behaves as the driver wishes, not the government. Replace the factory exhaust with a less restrictive one?  Install a Stage II chip to override factory settings? No, no, no, my friend!Crash

Oh, and Data from EDRs has already been accessed and used by law enforcement authorities in court to contradict testimony.

So what? Don’t we want to be  safer? Don’t we want The Children to be protected? If you want an honest answer, no. Not at the excessive reach of an overbearing tyranny anyway. You see, most accidents are caused by driver inattention, distraction and general incompetence, not a lack of tech. This is an excuse to control not only cars, but the people as well.  Not to mention the corporations who will root on these new regulations, rather than let the market decide whether their toys are wanted. All in all, if you want safer cars, educate yourselves as drivers. Stop looking to gadgets or government to save you.

ahr

Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) – See more at: http://www.its.dot.gov/research/v2v.htm#sthash.7CcgFdds.dpuf