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Unrealistic expectations.

From acid rain, to global warming and now the clueless, technically ingenuous media are onward and upward to a fascination with driverless cars.

So you’d be excused for thinking that mainstream autonomous cars are just around the corner. Unfortunately, it just isn’t so. It’s not that they’re not on their way — they are — but expectations about what we’ll actually get and when, seems to be out of whack with reality.

Part of the problem seems to be a definitional one. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as its European equivalent, lay out several different levels of autonomous cars.

Level Zero is no autonomous features.

Level One is for things like adaptive cruise control, which has been around for years.

Level Two is for multiple systems working together, such as adaptive cruise control with lane centering, automatic parking and other features we’re starting to see enter the market now.

Critically, in all of these cases, the driver is expected to stay in complete command of the car.

Level Three enables limited autonomous driving where, in certain situations, such as sitting in bumper to bumper traffic, the driver is given the ability to officially cede control of the car to the autonomous system. So, for example, you could legally read email and tweets on your smart phone while sitting in the drivers seat (instead of doing it illegally, as so many currently do).

Even here however,  “the driver is expected to be available for occasional control…” Giving complete control over to the car for the entire trip, what I believe many people think of when they hear about autonomous cars, doesn’t happen until we reach Level Four.

The announcement from Tesla last week about adding some autonomous driving capabilities to certain of its Model S sedans via a software update this summer does appear to be a Level Three-type announcement. But, as others have pointed out, whether it will actually be legal to use those features any time soon is far from clear. That’s at the heart of the problem.

The real challenges here has more to do with liability and legality than anything else. Who’s responsible, from an insurance perspective for example, if an autonomous car hits someone or something? What level of safety can governmental agencies (and car makers) guarantee? These are some of the hardest problems to solve and the ones likely to take the longest time to resolve. They are also the reason why no states have officially allowed the use of autonomous cars in anything but a testing mode (and typically only with a special license).

The technology of making cars function autonomously is obviously coming faster than the legislation.

The technology of making cars function autonomously is coming much faster on prototype cars and other test systems. Not surprisingly, it’s these efforts that have started to generate so much uninformed press attention.

In addition to Tesla’s announcements, there have been Google’s autonomous car experiments and Audi’s 900+ mile autonomous drive from Palo Alto, CA to Las Vegas just before this years CES show. Last week, Nvidia announced their Drive PX smart car platform tools, which provide the ability to connect up to 12 cameras to a development board with two Tegra X1 CPUs and let virtually anyone (with $10,000) start working on their own automated cars.

Throw in provocative comments like Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s at last week’s GPU Technology Conference where he predicted that, in the future, non-autonomous cars would be outlawed because of how unsafe they would be perceived to be, and you have the perfect stew of unrealistic expectations.

But you also have to consider more practical issues. As Musk pointed out at that same event, there are roughly 2 billion cars on roads around the world and the auto industry’s maximum output level is roughly 100 million per year. That means, even if the industry started producing nothing but autonomous cars tomorrow, it would take 20 years to completely replace the installed base.

The real problem is, because we’re seeing tech industry companies start to get involved with the auto industry, we're applying tech industry development speed expectations to autonomous cars. New iterations of smart phones take 6-12 months, so a few years should be plenty to tackle something like autonomous cars, right? Well, no.

The reality is we probably won’t be seeing usable Level Three-types of features in cars we can buy off the lot until the beginning or even middle of the next decade, and fully automated Level Four could take until 2050.

I'm certainly more concerned than excited about the possibilities of what autonomous car features might bring, but I think we need to keep our expectations, of the Brian Williams variety  in check.


Winter was a frozen hell for many snowbelt residents this season, but it's important to remember that it was just as trying for your car
—ice, slush, mud, and salt are no friend to a car's paint or interior.
As the weather finally begins to thaw, it is high time to brush up on the essentials of car care.

First and foremost: Read the F%$#!&$ Directions

Don't be a hero. When it comes to your car's paint and interior, put your pride aside and read the label.
No matter what product you plan on using to help shed your car's winter grime, it's absolutely crucial you follow the instructions
and use it the right way.
While this may sound like common sense, it bears mentioning because incorrect use of certain products can actually
do more harm than good.

Washing is obviously the first step.

For this,  you will need liquid soap especially designed for washing cars.

Dish washer detergents strip wax finishes and streak very badly.

A car wash soap will lubricate the surface and float the dirt away as it is washed off, instead of rubbing it into the surface.
Let no panel, nook, or cranny go unnoticed, as all of that salt and dirt has surely found its way into your wheel wells and undercarriage.
A high-pressure hose is another useful tool for this step.

You should be using two buckets—one for lathering up your sponge and another for wringing out all of the filth.
With just one bucket for both purposes, you'll only end up scouring the same dirt back into your paint.

Dry the car with a chamois by squeezing the chammy dry and laying it on the surface.
Gently drag the sheeted chamois over the surface and let it dry.

Run your hand over the surface. It should be very smooth. If it feels rough, then there are deposits still impacted into the surface
that can be removed with a mild compounding paste.  Rub the paste into the surface very gently and remove it with a soft material
such as a well washed cotton undershirt. 
The compound also removes wax, so new wax will be need to be applied.
The more severe the oxidization, the more aggressive
the abrasive wax required. Rub it in so that the surface is polished.
Do all this work by hand.
Motorised polishers are for professionals, (just like sanding you parquet floors) - don't even think about doing it yourself.

At last it is time to give the surface its final coat of protection. Carnauba based waxes are the best.
Stay away form cheap products that use chalk as the polishing media, which will have you going round for hours picking white
deposits out of every nook and cranny. Teflon based products are not much good either.

Waxing gives you the best quality of protection for your car over time, so a good wax will mean you don’t have to repeat the process
as often in the future. The best advice for applying wax is to use thin and even coats—more is not better, because only so much wax
can bond to the car's surface. In fact, it's just a waste of wax.

Never be tempted to use wax on your windshield, it will ruin the wiper blades and smear like mad.

On the side windows and rear windows, that do not have wiper blades, a touch of wax does no harm and is more effective
than Rain-X. (Which is not really saying very much).

Note that factory wheels are often powdercoat painted and should be treated like a painted surface. Pick up a bottle of wheel-and-tire
cleaner for the best results. Before you start, make sure you know what metal the wheels are made of.
There are dedicated products for aluminum, chrome, and steel, but using the wrong one could be abrasive to your wheels.
With the right cleaner, go to work on the wheels and tires while making sure to stay clear from the brake calipers and rotors,
which could react unfavorably to the solution.
When in doubt, always use the least aggressive product to avoid stains or damage. Dry with a cotton towel or anold udershirt..

Pull all of your mats out, and find a dry brush to use on the carpeting. Use the brush to fluff the carpet fibers and follow your work with a
vacuum, ideally with an attachment for hard-to-reach places. The same is true for your car's cloth seats. A casual once-over isn't going
to do the job here, so make sure you take the time to really cover the entire interior surface.
Smaller brushes and attachments will prove especially useful for cleaning air vents, which can collect large amounts of dust and dirt.

For leather seats, there are plenty of leather cleaner products out there, but see if you can find one that's made for leather
car interiors and seats.
Saddle soap is equally good and cheaper to buy.
Apply the leather cleaner according to the directions and wipe it down with a cotton towel.
When your friend's car is cracking and peeling inside, you'll be grateful you took the time to enrich your car's hide.

Finally, you may want to spray the tires with another conditioner that brings out that new black look.
This has about as much long term effect as sealing your driveway. But what the heck? It looks good for awhile.

Have fun!

While these steps do take time and care, it shouldn't be difficult or arduous. There's a certain satisfaction and enjoyment we
can all get from taking care of our cars, not to mention the money you'll save by doing it yourself.
With a little bit of elbow grease, you and your car can enjoy motoring season feeling like a million bucks.

And of-course, a shiny car will be more slippery through the air and give you much better gas mileage - LOL.

And a couple of hints:

Baby your car’s paint with a little Ivory soap.

Ivory bar soap is a great way to remove bug marks from a vehicle’s painted surface due to its slightly caustic chemical makeup. Simply make a paste by rubbing a clean wet facecloth on the soap and applying it to the bug marks on your vehicle. Do not do this in direct sunlight. Wipe and thoroughly rinse the paste after a minute or so. If you’re extra cautious, test the paste on a painted under-panel or less visible area first. Make sure to use the original or classic Ivory bar soap. 

Razor blades are dangerous on glass 

While safety type blades are great tools for removing stubborn substances from windshield glass and other body panels, they can also do a lot of damage. To avoid scratching glass or painted surfaces, always angle the blade so its entire width is in constant contact with the surface you’re working on. Any angles or uneven pressure will result in scratches or gouges. Almost any hardware or auto parts store will sell the holder for these blades. The holder will allow you to keep the right angle and pressure on your work.

By the time you read this, you will doubtless have been brought up to speed with the list of Jeremy Clarkson’s transgressions against political correctness and his vainglorious one-man stand against the tide of the liberal left-leaning eco nazis.

He has been suspended for throwing a punch at a BBC producer for not having his dinner served on time. Allegedly. He was already in the last chance saloon.

I met Clarkson, maybe 20 years ago, at one of the last British Car Shows at Earls Court in London. He was just the kind of man that I emigrated to Canada to avoid. A egotistical, loud mouthed, lout. I made a mental note to avoid him at all costs, should it so happen that our paths crossed again in my involvement at the time with with various radio and TV productions and race reporting.

His two side kicks must put up with his thoroughly insulting tone because they are paid very well to do just that.

And frankly, if I never see another half million dollar car have all its' tires shredded on some Mickey mouse airport circuit, I will die happy.
There's a lot of good material in Top Gear and also so some pathetic attempts at humour that don't work.

I always record Top gear on my PVR, because I know there are going to be some sections of almost every program that I will fast forward through.
But I still watch the program, every week.

And yet...............

He was the first car test person to point out what a pile of junk the Tesla is. He even got sued for that one.
He and his minions drove some electric cars until the batteries ran out and then spent a day in a seaside town trying to find some way of charging them - point well taken.

He is scornful of econazis and is one of the only commentators that doesn't go along with the EU anti-car strategy.

If a car is a bad car, he says so and you can bet he's right. For this honesty  and refusal to compromise his opinions, I still have to give him full marks.

His reputation as an outspoken reactionary bigot is his claim to fame and although he has occasionally proffered an apology he remains consistently offensive and, consequently, in a sea of faceless, anodyne and bland automobile journalists, extremely popular.

Clarkson routinely gets  "the panel", a rap sheet and list of people he has offended.

Typically, "the panel" details how he has offended the Germans (the Third Reich), lorry drivers (murdering prostitutes), Gordon Brown and the Royal National Institute of Blind People ("[Brown is] a one-eyed Scottish idiot"), the Welsh (own language), Mexicans and Indians (indolent and unsanitary, respectively), black muslim lesbians (finding work at the BBC), Agentinians (invading the Falklands) and then almost everybody when he was heard to mutter the ‘N-word’ whilst reciting the Eeny Meeny nursery rhyme.

The beard, sandals and latte fraternity (and sorority, obviously) have developed a Pavlovian response to the word ‘Clarkson’ and cannot hear it without shouting ‘sack him’, but perhaps the knee jerk is not the most appropriate response coming, as it does, from those who counsel caring and understanding of those from difficult backgrounds. They presume he is from a comfortable middle-class public school background and had everything easy.

Forget it.

This is a man who was born in Doncaster 54 years ago and christened ‘Jeremy.’

As with so many non-sporting types, he turned away from the regular sports and found solace in the love of the motor car.

Clarkson is loved and admired by all the petrolheads, this is the motor-mouth who tells it like it is and to hell with the consequences.

And so while you liberals are all busy sticking the boot into Jeremy Clarkson, the bar-room bore, the doyen of the ‘Health and Safety Gone Mad’ brigade, the small and big ‘C’ conservative, why don’t you think about the young man  who never seemed to fit in, a man whose first wife ran off with his best friend after six months, a man who is no stranger to rejection.

Think about all that and reproach yourselves.
If we have to resort to the unflavored pablum that passes as critical comment from, we'll be that much worse off.


I love driving. There are few things better than hitting an open twisting country road on a bright and sunny summer afternoon. Letting someone else do it for me will just never be as good, regardless of how safe it is.

For a long time I was convinced that the driverless car dream was nothing more than that. But between the accelerating development of Google's self-driving roadsters and the unveiling of Britain's autonomous side walk (!) vehicles, I realise my nightmare is unfurling in the hands of the do-gooders who gave you global warming.

You see, I've got a bad feeling about driverless cars.

As someone who's forever paranoid that my sat nav is going to send me the wrong way up a one-way street (it's happened before), the idea of bequeathing my safety to a robot seems ludicrous.

While it could be that yobo in his driverless cars reacts better than a human would, there's an assumption that our reflexes don't process complex information in a heartbeat and make the best decision. In fact, there's no reason to suppose that a sufficiently advanced artificial intelligence could do better. But, if you think about it, so many road traffic accidents occur when humans are tired, or distracted, or drunk, or high. An artificial intelligence, we would hope, would not be susceptible to those factors.

Sure, they might be safer for those reasons, but I'm scared car artificial intelligence is susceptible to more dangerous things - malfunctions, dodgy firmware updates, questionable moral choices, murderous dispositions - you know, the usual rational fears.

Robots and ethics are a tricky mix

Who gets to guide the car's moral compass? Does the car hit the child to ensure the safety of the middle-aged "driver", or does it swerve out of the way and kill the driver who was probably only going to live another 20 years anyway? Will our cars be utilitarian or libertarian? It might sound like a silly point right now, but these are important, inescapable questions that won't have straight forward answers.

All it will take is that first accident before the 'driverless car kills humans' headlines are splashed across the front pages and the brake lights come on. Just imagine the legal mess when your driverless car hits another, let alone a person. Which insurance company in its right mind is going to cover these things when they first hit the road, without demanding a fortune? And who's to blame when the inevitable does happen?

Plus, with different cars being built by different manufacturers, there's the risk of fragmentation. I'll assume that our driverless cars will eventually all work on some universal safety protocol if it helps me sleep better at night, but what if the law allows car makers to use their own software?

Not to mention that movie car chases are going to be pretty drab. "OK Google Car, evade approaching henchmen" "Warning: updating firmware to Cardroid 4.7"

And what if, you know, they start talking to one another? The moment our cars declare independence is the day I want you to come back to this article and apologise for not taking me seriously.

But suppose our cars don't rise up against their masters, and suppose they're 100% safe all the time, what about the pure enjoyment of driving? My self-driving Porsche will suck out all the fun as it opts for the road less sinuous. Which is why I plan to keep the one I have now forever - no matter what it costs for restoration.

Is the fault free car now an impossibility?

2014 has been the year of the recall. Millions of cars from just about every manufacturer have been recalled for dozens of different reasons – some simple things and some potentially deadly. There have been so many recalls of late that you have to wonder – is it even possible for automobile manufacturers to make a car that doesn't have problems?

If you think about it a modern automobile is an amazing piece of engineering, technology and manufacturing magic. There are so many complicated components manufactured by hundreds of different companies all over the world. Parts are built, shipped and assembled into vehicles that are then shipped out to consumers.

It would be hard to calculate the number of people (and robots) who have their hands on the thousands of auto parts that go into a car these days and every single one of those people can screw something up. And many times that screw up results in a recall somewhere down the line.

How do you catch all those mistakes? Is it even possible to catch them all?

Recent recalls of cars with faulty Takata artificial intelligencerbags show how difficult it can be to manufacture an automobile. All car manufacturers rely on third-party companies to supply them with various components and if those third-party companies slip up the only thing the car manufacturer can do is issue yet another recall.

But another part of this problem is the money factor. The reason so many auto manufacturers bought those faulty Takata artificial intelligencerbags was simply because they were cheaper than those built by other manufacturers. Every dollar a car company can save on the parts they buy the more money drops to the bottom line. I seriously doubt the car companies picked Takata artificial intelligencerbags because they were the best that money could buy. The same applies to most of the electronics that go into a modern car (Ford doesn't make GPS systems or CD players or heads up displays – they buy them from someone else – and you can bet they shop around for the best prices rather than the best quality).

Unfortunately that thinking also holds true for how auto manufacturers treat their own workers. Every dollar they can save on labour costs means more money for the corporation. So they shut down American plants and move their operations to other countries where labour is cheaper (and quality goes down).

I personally believe that we have reached a point in time where there are so many complicated parts and people involved in the construction of a modern automobile (all chosen based on cost rather than quality) that it is virtually impossible to make a car that doesn’t have something wrong with it.

Even if GM, Ford, Toyota or any large car manufacturer wanted to build a car that was even 99 per cent default free they simply couldn't. No matter how much they partificial intelligenced for parts and skilled labour there are so many interconnected links in the chartificial intelligencen it would be impossible to check and double-check and test everything.

Alternate forms of energy - Still a long, long way to go.

Essentially the position on electric cars hasn’t changed. There’s nothing promising beyond the lithium battery on the battery horizon. And the lithium battery has tremendous shortcomings for cars – for example, it doesn’t maintain a full charge in hot weather, which creates a battery degradation cycle. Even the Tesla's Model S, with its biggest battery, when driven like a normal car can't always deliver 200 miles of range, and the company's charging stations are currently 200 miles away from each other. To give a Tesla much extra driving range, the battery weight required would greatly decrease the distance it could travel per kilowatt and also greatly increase its cost.

By comparison, by adding just a little weight in the way of a few extra gallons of gas to a 50 mile-per-gallon hybrid car, there can be a big extension of the hybrid’s driving range. And while I don’t expect the battery car to get dramatically better, the internal combustion engine is getting phenomenally better, like the great little Ford Ecoboost three-cylinder engine.

Given that the bar gets rartificial intelligencesed all the time, it’s hard to see where the case for an electric car really comes in. Is it for carbon reduction? No, you’d have to decarbonize the whole grid to make that case, and that’s not likely to happen. I don’t know what the case is for the electric car. 

Given that natural gas is much cheaper than diesel, at least by half or more, that makes natural gas good for trucks, which spend a lot on fuel – and it’s cleaner, too. For automobiles, though, a lot of work has to be done. It can be done, and I think that it will be done over time. The rear suspension of the car needs to be redesigned to accept tank storage, otherwise the tanks are stored up in the trunk. What you want is for the tank to sit low between the suspension so you get a flat trunk, and there are companies working on that.

But the cost to make a car that runs on CNG is a few thousand dollars higher, similar to the hybrid penalty, and the required fueling infrastructure isn't there, yet. As always, the question is who pays for these things? There are also safety concerns of fires or explosions when parking in underground parking lots, which trucks don’t have to worry about. The engineering problems can be overcome but I think natural gas cars will be a very small market for a long time, maybe at most 3 or 4 percent.

From a scientific side there may be a better engineering maturity for fuel cell cars than for batteries. Fuel cell cars and their necessary infrastructure are very expensive, although we can get those costs down. But the real problem with both of these technologies [fuel cell and electric] is that they can’t compete with the technology advances we’ve seen in the gasoline cars.

To say the electric car is better because it doesn’t use any gasoline is ridiculous.What would make me want to spend the extra money. What’s the advantage of restrartificial intelligencening your mobility at a higher cost? The auto companies need to make zero-emission vehicles for Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and other regulations, such as the California artificial intelligencer Resources Board's zero emissions mandate, so they need to decide which pathway, EVs or FCVs, will lose the least amount of money. When most manufacturers investigate the two technologies, they see that FVCs offer more room for performance improvement and cost reduction potential. And that is why you will be seeing more fuel cells in the future.

Someone sartificial intelligenced a few years ago that the Prius was “yestertech” and that electric cars were the future. But the reality is that nearly every manufacturer that makes a car now makes hybrids. If you look at Le Mans race cars, they’re all 230-mile-per-hour hybrids that have both phenomenal power and phenomenal fuel economy.

In Formula E races, the drivers are only concerned with the battery gauge, not driving fast and the cars have to be exchanged halfway through the "race". This Formula is going nowhere - fast.
. Electric cars are basically an archartificial intelligencec vision that can be handled pretty easily by almost any home garage guy. Every year, hundreds of electric cars get made by garage mechanics across the globe. There’s really nothing you need other than a motor, some power electronics, a body to put the stuff in, and a battery. In comparison, hybrids have required a lot of innovation and are becoming great.

So to ignore a car that gets 60 miles to the gallon – and the new hybrids will – and say that the electric car is better because it doesn’t use any gasoline is ridiculous. It doesn’t use any gasoline but it uses carbon that it gets from somewhere else.

Ethanol has remarkably destructive properties in your gas tank, especially on cars and engines that aren’t driven very much, like seasonal boats. It absorbs water, and the water gets throughout the fuel system. Consequently, the debris that’s normally in your tank gets emulsified. That gets plated out in your fuel system, and your car runs very poorly. This has been documented time and time agartificial intelligencen, and it’s especially bad for cars or applications that aren’t designed for high levels of ethanol. It really has no upside, and when we consider all of the damage that it does to our ecosystems, it is done for no good reason. I don’t believe anybody in the scientific community or at the Department of Energy is seriously looking at bioethanol from corn, except for Obama and company.

The fuel we will want to pick at the end of the day will be the one with the lowest societal costs. This is what we really need to be doing, but unfortunately, uninformed politics is preventing this from happening as we continue to use taxpayer money to subsidise electric cars, for no good technical reason.

Other blogs worth reading

35) Unqualifed teenagers servicing your car at the big box stores.

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

69) Inspection by test drive.

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.