Archive for the ‘cars’ tag
Tom Vanderbilt has an enjoyable piece in Wired about the convergence between Google’s famous driverless car, and the progress toward a similar goal being made by traditional automakers. He spends some time, as well, considering the legal wasteland that exists around these technologies. The crucial point though:
[As we ride, Google’s driver-less] Prius begins to seem like the Platonic ideal of a driver, against which all others fall short. It can think faster than any mortal driver. It can attend to more information, react more quickly to emergencies, and keep track of more complicated routes. It never panics. It never gets angry. It never even blinks. In short, it is better than human in just about every way.
(via The Browser)
This is a great wide-ranging piece about parking, urban design, and the appeal to visitors of those methods used in various southern California cities. But it’s better that that kind of dry sentence, I swear. It starts with an interesting anecdote about the rather famous Disney Hall:
Yet before an auditorium could be raised, a six-floor subterranean garage capable of holding 2,188 cars needed to be sunk below it at a cost of $110 million—money raised from county bonds. Parking spaces can be amazingly expensive to fabricate. In aboveground structures they cost as much as $40,000 apiece. Belowground, all that excavating and shoring may run a developer $140,000 per space. The debt on Disney Hall’s garage would have to be paid off for decades to come, and as it turned out, a minimum schedule of 128 annual shows would be enough to cover the bill. The figure “128” was even written into the L.A. Philharmonic’s lease.
Until I saw this Flickr set of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s sign shop, I’d never stopped to think about where exactly those road signs come from.
Also, the Washington State Department of Transportation has a Flickr account?
(via BB Gadgets)
There’s no doubt in my mind that this doesn’t capture everyone, but this seems like a reasonable explanation of most of the opposition to the auto industry bailout:
Most Americans simply no longer identify with the domestic auto industry (or with the states of Michigan and Ohio). To the Southerners who now make up the core constituency of the Republican Party, it’s a bunch of coddled, unionized workers trying to get handouts that the South’s auto industry (Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, Mercedes, BMW …) doesn’t need. To the coastal urbanites and suburbanites who now make up the core constituency of the Democratic Party, it’s an industry that makes crappy big cars and fights against higher fuel efficiency standards. And to the business press it’s the worst thing of all: a trio of companies that are neither exciting nor financially successful.
I was about to post to Twitter my displeasure with the Democrat’s indefatigable plan to give money to Detroit, when I saw that David Brook said it much better than I would:
Not so long ago, corporate giants with names like PanAm, ITT and Montgomery Ward roamed the earth. They faded and were replaced by new companies with names like Microsoft, Southwest Airlines and Target. The U.S. became famous for this pattern of decay and new growth. Over time, American government built a bigger safety net so workers could survive the vicissitudes of this creative destruction — with unemployment insurance and soon, one hopes, health care security. But the government has generally not interfered in the dynamic process itself, which is the source of the country’s prosperity.
But this, apparently, is about to change. Democrats from Barack Obama to Nancy Pelosi want to grant immortality to General Motors, Chrysler and Ford. They have decided to follow an earlier $25 billion loan with a $50 billion bailout, which would inevitably be followed by more billions later, because if these companies are not permitted to go bankrupt now, they never will be.
This bit, further down the page, was also good:
It is all a reminder that the biggest threat to a healthy economy is not the socialists of campaign lore. It’s C.E.O.’s. It’s politically powerful crony capitalists who use their influence to create a stagnant corporate welfare state.
The National Weather Service think they may have found a driver going 130 miles per hour around Chicago. Using a weather doppler. Who knew? As Gizmodo explains, It works something like this:
Sometimes, when a warm layer of air rolls in up above the surface, the beam from the Doppler radar can be deflected towards the ground—picking up traffic and other objects much like a police radar gun. The weather service alluded to the fact that the “speeder” could have been nothing more than noise, but it still makes you wonder how long it will be before they figure out how to bust motorists from space.
An interesting look at the reality of the much heralded and fretted over Tata Nano:
Malhotra is having second thoughts. He’s done the math and realized that once taxes and insurance costs are added, the price of the entry-level Nano rises to just over $3,000. For an extra $500, he says, he could buy a decent used car with a more powerful engine and air conditioning, which the Nano won’t have.
Philadelphia has an interesting plan to get people to slow down: paint optical illusions onto the road.
There are so many of them that we’re ignoring the road. So says John Staddon:
And I began to think that the American system of traffic control, with its many signs and stops, and with its specific rules tailored to every bend in the road, has had the unintended consequence of causing more accidents than it prevents. Paradoxically, almost every new sign put up in the U.S. probably makes drivers a little safer on the stretch of road it guards. But collectively, the forests of signs along American roadways, and the multitude of rules to look out for, are quite deadly.
Despite my ambivalence about that thesis, I do enjoy his railing against stop signs: “The four-way stop deserves special recognition as a masterpiece of counterproductive public-safety efforts.”
Nothing in this table about the cost of driving different vehicles should surprise you, but the presentation’s rather clever.
In a thorough summary of the basics of hybrid auto technology, The Economist’s Tech.view column sees a future that may favor less-efficient (but cheaper) mild hybrids over “stronger” ones like the Prius.
The complexity and cost of such drive-trains has made many in the industry think twice about strong hybrids. Mild hybrids like Honda’s may offer only modest fuel savings, but they are considerably cheaper to make. Selling for less than a Toyota Prius, the new mild-hybrid version of the Chevrolet Malibu has been a runaway success, despite having only 2mpg better fuel economy than a conventional Malibu.
Short answer: no. Slightly longer answer:
Virtually no fuel is wasted during startup, and only a thimbleful is burned as the car roars to life. So forget about the 30-minute axiom you were raised on—the threshold at which it makes more sense to shut off rather than to idle should be expressed in seconds, not minutes.
A lot of environmental organizations advocate the 10-second rule: If you’re going to be stopped for more than 10 seconds, it’s best to shut off your engine.
While economists may argue that gas is poorly priced, that imbalance can’t compare with how poorly insurance is priced. Imagine that Arthur and Zelda live in the same city and occupy the same insurance risk pool but that Arthur drives 30,000 miles a year while Zelda drives just 3,000. Under the current system, Zelda probably pays the same amount for insurance as Arthur.
While some insurance companies do offer a small discount for driving less — usually based on self-reporting, which has an obvious shortcoming — U.S. auto insurance is generally an all-you-can-eat affair. Which means that the 27,000 more miles than Zelda that Arthur drives don’t cost him a penny, even as each mile produces externalities for everyone. It also means that low-mileage drivers like Zelda subsidize high-mileage drivers like Arthur.
It’s a hard question, and Salon’s Pablo Päster doesn’t give a broad answer — though he offers how to figure it out for yourself. For a 1986 Mercedes-Benz W126:
Given that your car is already built, we can write off the energy used in making it. We can also write off the emissions that it has already created from burning gasoline. That means that over the next 116,000 miles, your car’s greenhouse gas emissions will essentially break even with the emissions from the production and use of a Prius. I’m guessing your 22-year-old car probably has over 200,000 miles on it. If you’re lucky, you can get another few years out of it. So if you can afford a new Prius, you are better off switching now. And think of the fewer hassles of owning a new car.
Tomorrow Ford is supposed to announce the sale of its high-end Jaguar and Land Rover brands to India’s Tata Motors — the company that recently announced a $2500 car. We truly live in a changing world.
Tata is likely to pay about $2bn (£1bn) in the deal, although analysts will be keen to see the exact price and terms.
The agreement will bring to an end a lengthy sale process which started last June when Ford announced its intention to sell the companies as a package.
No doubt encouraged by the success of their technology post of a few weeks ago, Neatorama has compiled logos from many major car companies. The thing I found notable: distinct presences of a swastika behind the Volkswagen’s logo from the war years.
Having felt it was a kick, I decided it may as well be a full-blown trend. The Economist’s got a very interesting piece about the recent developments with capacititors, and suggests that the technology may even one day replace batteries are our storage medium of choice.
EEStor also envisages employing its devices to build an “energy bank” to store off-peak power and release it when demand is high. One use of such a bank, the firm suggests, could be the rapid charging of electric cars—which would, of course, also be fitted with capacitors.
That would remove a big obstacle to the adoption of electric vehicles in general—that it takes so long to refuel them. If a driver could pull into an electrical filling station and top up his capacitors as rapidly as he can now replenish his petrol tank it would both increase the effective range of all-electric vehicles and decrease resistance to buying them in the first place.
It was closer than ever, but it appears that GM will keep the title for at least one more year.
GM, which was expected to lose its title of the world’s largest automaker for the first time in 76 years, sold 9,369,524 vehicles in 2007. Toyota sold about 9,366,000 units, a source told Reuters on Wednesday.