Apple and Google seem intent upon the idea that concerns about driver distraction don't apply to them. This latest "app" called CarPlay is going to be installed in a lot of new cars very soon. Makes me so glad that (possibly) my last new car avoided most of this latest attempt to get you to look down and......crash.
Every country in the Western world is going on ad infinitum about the dangers of driver distraction and here we have.........CarPlay.
The unfortunate name speaks for itself
Of course, the tree huggers at Apple and Google will tell you the the autonomous car is just around the corner, so distraction will be a thing of the past. Of course, they haven't said how much this will all cost and the insurance companies and lawyers haven't been heard from yet, so don't hold your breath for a car with a built in electronic chauffeur.
Driving is the most death-defying activity the average driver embarks upon.
Not only do we voluntarily embark upon these death-defying drives from which a disturbing number of us never return, we add in degrees of difficulty. Nearly a quarter of these auto mishaps are caused by cell phone use, and teen drivers ages 16 to 19, the heaviest users of new tech, are three times more likely than other drivers to be in a fatal crash.
Into this maelstrom of self-imposed motorized mishaps steps Apple with its just-announced CarPlay. CarPlay provides seamless interaction with your iPhone through a dashboard touch screen, a more advanced way of playing with your iPhone while driving -- or, simply a more advanced way to advancing unintentionally into another car or some other obstruction at high speeds.
CarPlay is just one of a series of smartphone-integrated smart car technologies, which include Chevy's MyLink, Ford's SYNC, Chrysler's Uconnect Access, Hyundai's Blue Link, Kia's UVO, Audi's connect, Lexus' Enform App Suite, and a variety of third-party after-market car entertainment/navigation systems using the industry standard MirrorLink protocol, all of make it easier to distract you from the most important aspect of being behind the wheel -- driving.Just like the Rain Man, I'm an excellent driver. Well, maybe not just like Rain Man. I can't memorise the phone book or win big in Las Vegas.
Except to pass, I drive no more than 6-7 MPH over the speed limit and stay to the right.
I try to keep one car length between me and the car in front of me for every 10 MPH I'm traveling, even though this invites an unsignalled, last minute intrusion by a yobbo apparently without mirrors, or mirrors obscured by snow and ice..
I try to stay out of people's blind spots and try to keep people out of mine. I constantly check mirrors to see who may be gaining on me and look far afield and through 180 degrees to see where trouble may be brewing.
A lot of this is ingrained in me after a million road miles, thousands of professional rally miles and a course at the Jim Russell racing school.
I hate being even the least bit distracted. I don't even listen to the radio and I don't much like engaging in conversation while I'm driving, in person or on the phone. Not only do I want to pay attention to what I'm doing to protect me and mine, I need to pay attention to what other distracted nimrods are doing (or not) behind the wheel.
And then there are the distracted nimrods who drive with me as a passenger. I cringe each time I'm driving with someone else as they search for just the right Sirius satellite radio station or play list or adjust their GPS while hurtling down winding and tight-laned autoroutes filled with crazy car service and cab drivers. Or ladies checking the sun visor mirror, or even putting on eye shadow.
Now Apple wants bring more advanced iPhone interplay to the car? Did a Dr. Kevorkian protégé design CarPlay?
'Smart' cars are stupid
I consider myself fairly adept at touch screen dynamics. But during numerous smart car test drives, I found myself with extra butterflies in the stomach tapping the GPS map, tapping to fuss with the music and car speaker balance and tone, tapping to check my voice mail, tapping to make a Bluetooth hands-free phone call, all while attempting to stay in lane and out of trouble navigating chaotic, life-threatening thoroughfares.
Asking me -- or any driver -- to simply ignore touch screen temptation while driving is like telling a kitten not to attack a knotted string dangled in front of its face.
In a few years, highways will be jammed with smart cars only partially controlled by distracted drivers. If the National Safety Council is right, if ANY multitasking distracts the driver, then lethal asphalt mishaps are sure to occur.
At the recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show, there were demos of self parking technology and Predictive Emergency Braking Systems. The former would be handy, the latter possibly life saving or thoroughly annoying.
Self parking gives you ample amounts of time to finish your shopping before it also finishes its' task. And no one seems to know how self parking behaves entering a snow bank or with its' cameras covered with ice.
I might even look forward to totally autonomous cars, which could eliminate the distracted human from the automotive equation, in 20 years or so, since the odds are, I won't be around.
But most humans cannot tap their heads and rub their stomachs while they are careening along at 100, 120 or even 140 Kph.
We can all agree driving while watching a movie, a relatively passive type of multitasking, is a bad idea. But is constant physical interaction with that same in-dash screen is not only a good idea but a technological leap to be celebrated?
What am I missing here?
Oh, voice control. Right. Car voice control: 3-5 second lag time between command and usually incorrect execution, requiring interaction with the touch screen.
CarPlay and all of these screen based app/navigation/music operations, except GPS maps, ought to be somehow locked, at least to the driver, while the car is in motion. Nothing except GPS, voice and steering wheel operations (and these only as concessions to current distractions) -- should be available, period.
Let's be smart about these stupid smart cars. The life you save may be your own.
The good old days when cars were really cars - not PCs on wheels.
It's no secret I've had a life long romance with cars. Real cars.
Forget hybrid vehicles and whining SVT transmissions, forget flappy paddle gear shifters, and by all means, forget all electric automobiles.
My preference is for a good old fashioned internal combustion engine, a manual gearbox in my hand, and a gas tank I don’t fill with an extension cord. Let me tell you why.
Listen up all you Prius drivers, Tesla coveters, and battery heads, there’s something that Al Gore, Elon Musk, and DiCaprio aren’t telling you.
A study published on the Green Car Congress website reports that green car production actually has a higher carbon footprint than conventional car production. That means that in order for you to drive that car that can only go 300 miles (if that) at 65 miles per hour before recharging, the car manufacturers are actually having a worse impact on the environment than if you bought a gas sipping micro-car, a Mercedes, or a Corvette.
Over the lifetime of an internal combustion vehicle, a conventional car creates, on average, 24 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, when the manufacturing carbon emissions are factored in, an average EV, hybrid, or all-battery-powered car only saves 6 tonnes of CO2 over its entire life cycle, coming in at 18 tonnes of CO2.
That’s not enough CO2-savings to really feel as good about as the electric car manufacturers would have you believe, and it gets worse. The average battery takes centuries to decompose, and some battery components never degrade. Decomposing battery acids can leech into soils, water supplies, and cause widespread damage to the environment, making bigger and more batteries to power vehicles an overall more dangerous prospect to the environment than continuing with the conventional V-6, for example, until something truly revolutionary can be invented.
And where are electric cars getting their energy from, anyway?
Well, from burning coal and smashing atoms, mostly. To meet the needs of all this rechargeable battery usage, we are actually burning more coal than ever, and coal burning may well be the most caustic contributor to industrial CO2 emissions. How many more Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents do we need before we temper our construction of nuclear facilities? These are the “solutions” to cleaning up the environment that Musk, Obama and Suzuki are selling you? Doesn’t seem so green anymore, does it?
You see, you can burn fossil fuels to fill your conventional gas tank, or you can burn fossil fuels to make the energy to power your electric car.
Is there really an appreciably significant difference? True, an electric car might burn slightly less fossil fuels in its operation, but that electric car polluted the environment more to manufacture than an Escalade can in its whole lifetime. Perhaps, then, it is more environmentally beneficial for car owners to purchase internal combustion automobiles that get vastly improved MPG and appreciably reduced emissions.
So why are most automobile manufacturers making hybrid and electric cars?
For politics and subsidies - like consumer funded rebates.
Because environmental awareness is a hot topic and gullible people will put themselves on waiting lists to buy them in an effort to think they are being environmentally aware. The wool has been pulled over your eyes for the sake of car sales, and worse, potentially at the further expense of the environment these car buyers think they are saving.
There is hope, however. Researchers are working on clean hydrogen-based engines, and one university team in China is experimenting with a vehicle that actually runs on CO2, and outputs O2, making their vehicle as environmentally friendly as a leafy tree.
THAT would be progress.
Until then, I’ll continue to fill up with unleaded – and check the oil, please. You know, the long life synthetic engine oil that will last 30,000 kilometers without a change. - Now THAT"S a real environmental improvement that I can wholeheartedly endorse.
Maybe this fashion statement has its' uses after all.
There's some straws in the wind this week that should serve as warnings to all us car owners.
On the recall page of this website is the listing of two significant problems.
First, there the ignition switch failures that are plaguing some GM cars. For years I've been telling car owners not to hang two pounds of other keys and accessories off their ignition key. I've even seen a nightstick attached to a poor little key ring. Test driving is always frustrating and irritating when a huge bunch of keys are banging against your knees or against the dashboard, or both. I used to hand such bunches of keys back to their owners with the prediction that "We'll be replacing your ignition switch one of these days" and it happens frequently. Usually this is manifested by a tow in and a "turn the key, no start" situation. Maybe the new keyless entry and push button start systems that are now almost unavoidable, have some less than obvious uses after all.
Secondly, Toyota is recalling a ton of Prius cars because they can suddenly stall for no apparent reason, whilst being driven on the highway.
Now this has happened before and turned out last time to be just one line of programing in the stop/start feature which turns off the engine at traffic lights or in very slow traffic. I always thought that this idea was equivalent to taking a sledge hammer to crack a walnut and fortunately our new Mazda3 does not have this electronic demon waiting in the dark.
A feature that I would recommend that you avoid wherever possible.
The cost of new starter motors and alternators is in the stratosphere because of the electrical demand on the systems.
In addition to theses two items this week, it seems that another Tesla has self immolated and this one was in a garage, and not plugged in.
Battery fires are still a huge problem and imagine the cost to Tesla if they have to recall half a million cars instead of just 9600.
Sell short, the apocalypse approaches for this vastly over extended, not ready for prime time, car manufacturer.
The technically naive popular media have been flogging away at the so called "autonomous car" lately. Especially after the Consumer Electronics Show 2014.
However, the noise, seemingly, may not be loud enough to usher in the radical industry innovation and inventiveness required to bring it to reality. The vision of a self-driving car will remain as it is, a vision. A twinkle in a bureaucrats' eye.
The CES accord might have been summarized by BMW's chief of EVP Electrics and Electronics. Faced with the "critical issue" of reconciling the average car's lifespan of seven years with the barely 18-month life cycle of a consumer electronics device, as though peering through an icy windshield, he said, "I don't see any solution."
The chief technology strategist for Kia Motors, was even blunter about this disconnect between the fast moving CE world, in which people want a new gadget every Christmas, and the slower automotive cycle, in which car-buyers expect their vehicles to last a long time.
"It's like a bad marriage," he said.
But it's looking like an arranged marriage in which neither bride nor groom has a choice.
Among the industry representatives were delegates from three of the many carmakers displaying their wares at this year's auto-intensive CES.
Among these, are a multitude of in-car cameras that eliminate blind spots, monitor the driver's attention, and help with parking, among other tasks. Safety improvements include active cruise control and automatic emergency braking.
But the goal, as everyone conceded, is supposed to be a car that serves as a sort of electronic chauffeur, leaving the driver, to take his hands off the wheel and read the paper and that is still a long way away.
This outcome will proceed incrementally, with a car able to perform relatively simple functions like finding its own space in a parking garage, perhaps by 2020. But this cannot be classified as a big bang.
The entirely self driving car might never come to pass, because it will never be as good as a human driver at coping with the unexpected on the road.
Kia tossed in the almost taboo topic of cost. "How much does it cost to build an automobile that can drive itself?".
And can it even be mass-produced?"
Among additions to the features in and around the dashboard-to-be (or already there) are multi-app smart phones with Facebook and Twitter, email, mapping, TV traffic updates, hotel reservations, shopping, and, certainly (though nobody's bringing it up), porn.
With the arrival of all this new stuff in the cockpit, the question that kept popping up, and kept slipping through industry fingers like an overheated radiator cap, was driver distraction.
There has to be a better, more relevant way so that you're not in search mode while you're trying to keep your eyes on the road.
Everyone agreed that dials and buttons, to control all the new automotive electronics, lend to greater distraction. No one was sure whether touch pads, or even gesture recognition, would make things much better. And everyone agreed that "eye-tracking" technology is still science fiction.
Voice recognition is a well advanced technology that could reduce driver distraction except that it doesn't work consistently in cars, because so many drivers don't like it and tend to turn it off, after which they resort to good old buttons and dials.
Further concerns about driver distraction came from the public, including one man who wondered whether drivers will be less skilled when the car is doing most of the driving.
The auto industry is plainly being dragged, kicking and protesting, into providing systems in which they have absolutely no faith. And they sounded one of the session's many cautionary notes by wondering if too much is really never enough.
More and more cockpit features can't help but add complications, distractions, and expense to the design of a car, especially with software updates that can either improve a feature or add even more features on the run.
Eventually uttering words rarely heard at CES, automakers and technologists must start to consider actually taking something out.
When you talk about an add-on, you have to ask, what is the subtraction... I don't think you can continue to stack features into a vehicle forever.
Aluminium (NOT aluminum, that's just a lazy way of saying the same thing) is a chemical element with the symbol AL and atomic number 13. It is a silvery white, soft, ductile metal. Aluminium is the third most abundant element (after oxygen and silicon), and the most abundant metal, in the Earth's crust. It makes up about 8% by weight of the Earth's solid surface and should, therefore, be the obvious choice for lightweight metal structures, particularly when combined with other alloys such as magnesium.
But it's just not that simple.
And that's reflected in an announcement by Ford Motor Co. that will require all repair shops to be certified if they want to fix the new aluminium-bodied F-150 that debuts later this year. The Dearborn automaker said Sunday that it expects most of its dealers to seek certification, which includes tooling upgrades that will cost between $30,000 and $50,000. Ford will chip in $10,000 to any interested dealer with a service shop. This method of certifying service centers and repair shops is not new. German automakers with aluminum-intensive vehicles won’t ship parts to service and repair facilities unless they are certified.
The 40th-anniversary F-150 will be up to 700 pounds lighter than the current truck. About 70 pounds of weight savings are the result of a new, high-strength steel chassis; the rest come from an all-aluminium body and bed. In the trucks currently on dealer lots, the hood is the only body component made of aluminum.Why the precautionary tone of Fords' latest pronouncement?
Let me tell you the tale of a bodyshop owner I know who bought an Acura NSX that had gone sideways into an armco barrier and was bent like a banana. The insurance company had written it off as impossible to repair, even though the car was less than a year old. So my friend acquired it for a song, or even less.
First, some background:
Upon its release in 1990, the NSX design concept measured 46 in height and was 5.6 in taller than a Ford GT40 and showcased Honda's technology. The car maker's race track innovations and competitive history were further exemplified on the road by the NSX's ultra-rigid, ultra-light all aluminium monocoque chassis and front and rear double wishbone suspension, with forged control arms connected to forged alloy wheels. The car additionally boasted the world's first production car engine with titanium connecting rods, forged pistons, and ultra high-revving capabilities — the redline was at a lofty 8,000 rpm - all traits usually associated with track and race engineered motor cars of the time. The NSX exterior had a dedicated 23-step paint process, including an aircraft type chromate coating designed for chemically protecting the aluminium bodywork.
So this bent NSX was towed over to the bodyshop that specialised in the repair of high end cars such as Lamboghinis, Ferraris, and Jaguars.
The car was still moveable, so at weekends, he would drive the NSX onto his high tech chassis straightening machine and hook up his pull chains and hydraulic straightening gear.
But it was an absolute nightmare. Pull in one place until it looked straight, then go round the other side and there was another kink.
He finally got it straight and it passed its tech inspection to be replated, but if the work involved had been charged at a regular hourly rate, the project would have lost money.
All this to say that aluminium is a nightmare to repair. So are the glued together 6 &7series BMWs that only a few shops in the USA are allowed to touch. Equally, the new electric i3 from BMW is made of carbon fibre and is also going to be difficult to repair and expensive to insure.
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