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The following story hit the wires this week:

"Many new cars are equipped with wireless technology that can make a driver's time on the road more stress-free and entertaining, but the technology can also bring a dark side.

Two hackers were able to take control of a connected Jeep Cherokee from their living room as a reporter, who agreed to be their test case, drove the SUV down the highway at 70 mph.

Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, the two hacking experts behind the stunt, were able to access the SUV's Internet connected computer system and then rewrite the firmware to plant the malicious code allowing them to commandeer the vehicle, including everything from the air conditioning and music to the Jeep's steering, brakes and transmission.

Miller works as a security researcher at Twitter, while Valasek is the Director of Security Intelligence at IOActive, an industry leader in comprehensive computer security services.

While it may seem like an extreme case, experts say connected car drivers need to be proactive in order to ensure they don't potentially fall victim to a sophisticated hacking attack that could have the potential to cause serious human and physical damage on the road."

Rushing to roll out the next big thing, automakers have left cars terribly vulnerable to hackers and data-trackers.

Which is exactly why, when choosing a new car last year, I chose a Mazda3 with a good reliability record, a drivers edge car with excellent driveability and the absolute minimum degree of connectability it was possible to obtain. Sure, it has blue tooth capability and a push button starter which means the computer starts the car, not the driver. But all the controls, steering, brakes, air conditioning and cruise control are in my hands. Avoiding as much wifi as possible also means I paid less for the car and in the long run will pay less for  maintenance.

And this a good thing.

Because we will have to keep this car for a very long time if we want to avoid all these problems that are getting worse and worse as every month proceeds the last!

Fiat Chrysler has issued a safety recall affecting 1.4m vehicles in the US, after security researchers showed that one of its cars could be hacked.

Chrysler said it was issuing a voluntary recall to update the software in affected vehicles.

The company added that hacking its vehicles was a "criminal action".

Shortly after the recall was announced, Mr Miller tweeted: "I wonder what is cheaper, designing secure cars or doing recalls?"

Fiat Chrysler said exploiting the flaw "required unique and extensive technical knowledge, prolonged physical access to a subject vehicle and extended periods of time to write code" and added manipulating its software "constitutes criminal action".

Affected vehicles

  • 2013-2015 MY Dodge Viper specialty vehicles
  • 2013-2015 Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickups
  • 2013-2015 Ram 3500, 4500, 5500 Chassis Cabs
  • 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Cherokee SUVs
  • 2014-2015 Dodge Durango SUVs
  • 2015 MY Chrysler 200, Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans
  • 2015 Dodge Challenger sports coupes

Should you try to recharge your A/C system yourself?

Surprisingly, running the air conditioner in your car is more efficient at highway speeds, than leaving the windows open. Today's aerodynamic body shapes are much more effective if the drag of open windows is eliminated.

In stop-and-go traffic, where conditions are often the most sweltering, the system operates at its lowest efficiency because there is little wind to cool the radiator. Steady highway speeds usually let the engine achieve its highest gas mileage. Turning on the air conditioning at 60 mph can be more efficient than having the windows open because the car doesn’t have to fight air turbulence. Motorists who want to save gas can try leaving the a/c off in dense city traffic, if atmospheric conditions allow, then roll the windows up and turn the cooling on when things are moving swiftly.

In hot weather, cars tend to get lower gas mileage than at other times. That’s not a flaw in the engine control system. It’s the extra work that the air conditioning makes the engine do. Which is something I''m trying to evaluate, using the fuel economy read out in our "skyactiv" Mazda.

The cold season is very different. Every engine produces heat, and we simply route that waste heat into the car’s interior. Heating the car during driving comes with no extra cost.

But air conditioning requires removing heat from the interior. So an extra radiator is required. The big energy consumer, though, is the compressor. It squeezes a refrigerant gas into a very small volume. The compressed gas is then cooled in its radiator. When a valve system lets it expand again, it gets very cold. A fan then cycles the indoor air across another type of radiator — the “evaporator” — which gradually cools the air inside the car. All this costs extra gasoline.

A real waste of money occurs when the air conditioning puts out lukewarm instead of cold air. Most of the time, it needs a recharge of refrigerant, but the compressor pump also wears over the years. In that case, gas is wasted running it, but no real cooling results. Servicing the system is best left to a professional shop, because some parts are under very high pressure, and injuries can occur easily.

Although it is illegal for a garage to recharge a defective system in the hope that the freon leak is small enough to last to the end of the summer, it is perfectly legal for you to buy a recharge kit and try to do it yourself. In most cases the recharge lasts about a week and it is usually an exercise in futility.

The new electric cars are a different story. Both heating and cooling cost money, because the heater as well as the air conditioner draw power from the battery pack. It’s still rare to get 100 kilometres out of a single charge.

If mileage is critical, an electric car needs to be driven as much as possible without the comfort features of heating or air conditioning.

Improvements in battery technology hopefully will some day, provide higher mileage per charge in the years to come.

Are you excited about the dawn of the autonomous car?

Who among us doesn’t share the dream of climbing into our vehicle, stretching out in the back seat, and letting technology handle the arduous chore of getting flipped off by cyclists?

Alas, there’s one teeny-tiny problem with the futuristic self-driving cars of tomorrow: We’ll still have to drive them.

Audi, Nissan, Volvo and the rest—they’ve all talked about putting “self-driving cars” on the road within the next five years.

But that’s not what they really mean. The cars of 2020 will include high-tech features, but drivers will still need to watch the road and be ready to take the wheel at a split-second’s notice. We were expecting these machines to have the smarts of Jarvis in Iron Man.

Turns out, they’re going to be about as autonomous as a blender on Iron Chef.

Bottom line: We will still bear all the responsibility of driving—without experiencing any of the fun. Drivers will putter around in cars that adhere precisely to the speed limit and accelerate from 0 to 100 in just a tick under “eventually.”

But when a squirrel sprints across the road, the Artificial Intelligence will freak out, set off 84 warning dings and basically go, “YOU DEAL WITH THIS ONE” Sounds super-relaxing. Thanks, technology.

So what’s the holdup? Turns out, autonomous-car technology is suffering from a bad case of the close - but no cigar.
As in: We’re close to having cars that drive themselves, buuuut . . .

Most “buts” are tech-based: ensuring the accuracy of GPS maps and teaching the AI (artificial intelligence) how to adapt to severe weather.

There are also ethical and legal hurdles. Some predict outrage and backlash the first time a computer makes a driving decision that, in the words of a BMW executive, “may not be acceptable from a cultural or societal point of view”—such as injuring the driver as part of an attempt to avoid a dog.

Meanwhile, lawyers can’t wait to get paid by the hour to argue who’s liable for accidents involving self-driving vehicles. Is it the “driver” of the robo-car? Is it the manufacturer? The software developer? These are questions with no easy answers. We are, at least, several decades away from the prime-time debut of Law & Order: SUV.

Despite the hype, there’s a downside to be found in even the most promising of self-driving experiments. Take the Google car, a vehicle that places the engine power of up to five squirrels in a cage  within the rugged, masculine contours of a koenisegg. Word has it that Google’s autonomous car may ultimately be equipped with memory-foam airbags along the exterior—presumably, to ensure that any collision with a pedestrian is as safe and restful as possible. It’s going to take forever to get to work if you have to keep tucking people backin.

Keen to manage consumer expectations, many car companies are now tweaking the way they describe the vehicles of tomorrow. Some are using the terms “semi-self-driving” or “semi-autonomous.” Which is a shame, because using the prefix “semi” makes a word about 95 per cent less interesting. Don’t believe me? Semi-naked.

Mark Fields, CEO of Ford, recently acknowledged that we are at least 20 years away from hopping in a car, pressing a button, falling asleep and “magically winding up at grandma’s house.” He sounded matter-of-fact about it, but I’m not sure I can hold out that long.

In the meantime, we are on the verge of discovering that the only thing more boring than driving a car a long distance is being forced to stay alert while an invisible robot drives our car a long distance.

Our Mazda3 - an update.

This car has now covered 23000 Km. in 18 months.

And, (touch wood) absolutely nothing has gone wrong.

I just checked the motor oil and after 13000 Km since the last oil change, the level on the stick is down 1/5th of a litre and the high end
synthetic oil is still clean.

This is unlike some cars, reported elsewhere on this site this week, that are using oil at much higher rates.

Most of them are turbos, which use oil as a self sacrificial lubricant for the turbo bearings.
A boxer engine tends to use more oil as the piston rings wear in and the oil slops around in the sump and floods the cylinders as the car navigates a hard curve in the road.

Two of the reasons why I chose a non turbo engine with a conventional configuration.

Additionally, the average fuel economy since day one works out to 7.6 litres per 100 km, or in my world, an average of  36 mpg.

On the highway, on cruise at 117 km/hr the readout goes as low as 5.6 litres per 100 km, which works out to 48 mpg.

Occasionally, we've topped the 50 mpg magic figure that Obama loves so much!

What I aim to do on my next long highway run is to set the cruise control to various speeds, starting at 117 km/hr, the "forgiveness speed" and then lower the cruise speed by increments of 10 km/hr down to 90.

The readout takes one minute to report the next level of fuel economy and so staying at lower speeds is not necessary for very long.

Additionally, turning the air conditioner on and off will give another set of readings that should show a 10% drop in fuel efficiency - we'll see.

The important thing is to make these readings as close together as possible, so that exterior conditions such as wind speed, humidity, tire pressures and ambient temperature remain as standard as is possible.

Since I expect to be carrying out this experiment on the 401 highway, the worlds most boring road, at least I'll have something to amuse myself with as we drone on and on below the 80 year old speed limit, plus the forgiveness speed of course!

Stay tuned.

Other blogs worth reading

40) Treat your car battery with respect, or it can kill you.

41) In praise of the good old station wagon.

44) Future shock, the unending complication of electronic devices in you car.

45) Overheating engines.

47)  The case for annual safety inspections.

50) Rusty brake rotors (or discs)- no easy solution.

51) The piston engine is going to be with us for a very, very long time.

52) Avoiding rip offs in the car repair business.

58) Electronic brake force distribution.

61) Hydrogen vs electricity - no contest.

63) Why flushing brake oil makes sense.

64) When should I change my oil?

66) W/W antifreeze and long term warranties.

67) Nitrogen

68) Recirc A/C

70) Electric car radiation danger

71) Fuel saving devices that don't

75) Scheduling appointments.

78 Modern design of alternators and batteries.

79) Autumn leaves.