The Weight of the Govenment on Their Axles

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Everything government touches turns to crap.

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 reality, modern cars perform about the same as cars from the mid to late 80s. Fuel mileage is still in the mid 20s. And there were some cars in that era that got as high as 50+ mpg.  With mechanical fuel pumps and carburetors, no less. Surely with modern electronic engine management, better manufacturing methods with higher tolerances and improved tire technology even the most hyper horse-powered car should be able to significantly improve fuel mileage? Nope. And the reason is simpler than you might think.
You see, the average new car for sale today is 500-800 pounds heavier than cars from yesteryear. And weight is not the friend of fuel economy. What with the airbags, cameras, engine management tech, bigger wheels, more metal and myriad other stuff added for the sake of “safety,” it’s no wonder that manufacturers struggle to meet fuel standard. It’s also no small wonder why mane fuel efficient cars that are available elsewhere in the world are unavailable here; companies like Renault and Vauxhall just don’t find the added expense of making their cars U.S. compliant worth the trouble.Passenger Airbag_web
It’s not as though we, the consumer have any choice in the matter. It matters not if you want airbags, or computers, or even seat belts in your car. You have no choice. It’s not like it was with power windows and air conditioning, which became so popular the are now de facto standard equipment. Heck, who under the age of 40 remembers when a radio was an option? I venture to say that without government mandates, most safety stuff, like seat belts, would be a popular dealer installed option. Multiple bombs airbags? Maybe, maybe not.
Modern engineers and designers must constantly work to make their creations compliant with the whims of an overreaching and frankly clueless apparatus more concerned with self preservation than with actual advancement. I say get the politburo out of the way, let the creative and brainy types do thier jobs, and let the market decide what is safe. Believe it or not, it might just work.

Winter Wobbling

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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 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!


Here I am! ( or My Car is a Snitch)

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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.


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