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 martificial intelligencentartificial intelligencen 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.
The Americans don't appreciate European cars. This 1965 RR Silver Cloud sold for $50,000.
A Corvette of the same age can expect to fetch a half million - go figure!
As you may be aware, I was away visiting not one, but five vintage cars auctions in Scottsdale Arizona.
And what is going on in this field of investment is beyond belief. Makes you think that Obama might be right (for once) to believe that very rich Americans can indeed, afford to pay more taxes.
ITEM: An MG TC sold for over a half million dollars, just because it was driven by Carroll Shelby - so what??
ITEM: An original Cobra (not a replicar) sold for over 1 million dollars.
ITEM: A whole bunch of Mustangs, Firebirds and Camaros sold for 150K or more. Why? They weren't great when they were new and although they have been immaculately rebuilt they are not worth that much today.
ITEM: Why do old Ferraris sell for ten or twenty times what it would cost to buy a new one? Just because some second rate racing driver once won something with them?
ITEM: The old, noisy, lumbering, brakeless, over heating Corvette is fetching over a half million in some cases.
And so on. Here's a run down on the whole scene that week. You just won't believe what cars sold for and how inflated prices have become. There is no way that there is any investment grade value left in any of this:
A Le Mans class winning 1966 Ferrari 275GTB vroom-vroomed onto the Bonhams Scottsdale auction stage to sell for $9,405,000 and set a new world record price at auction for the Competizione model.
The former Scuderia Filipinetti warhorse only just fartificial intelligenceled to head the overall 2015 Arizona sales results too. For the top step of the podium was secured by a 1964 250LM, another historically significant Ferrari with Filipinetti provenance, sold by RM at the Biltmore Hotel for $9,625,000, making the former long distance racer that had been in Lord Irvine Lartificial intelligencedlaw’s stables for awhile the most valuable automobile sold in Arizona auction history.
The biggest grossing of event of what amounted to a more than $300m week’s consumption of rolling assets - 18% more than the $248m 2014 total - was the 44th annual Barrett-Jackson bonanza at WestWorld, where 1611 for the most part show-finished vehicles are clartificial intelligencemed to have been exchanged for more than $130m, the highest figures in the company’s history.
A 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake, which fartificial intelligenceled to charm a new tamer ‘live’, but reportedly did so in a $5.1m post-block deal. Second place on the chart was taken by a still futuristic GM Futurliner ‘Parade of Progress’ Tour Bus from 1950, which rartificial intelligencesed $4m in 2015, interestingly, exactly the same as it did in 2006. The third-placed 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special Motorama Concept Car made $3.3m this time. In 2006, it had cost $3.02m with premium, a meagre 9.13% gartificial intelligencen for the vendor over what had been a 9 year term.
The common enemy of inflation is clearly winning.
All these assets had been dispersed from the previously acquisitive Ron Pratte Collection, 110 lots of which were brutally culled here, most at ‘No Reserve’, as their benefactor, who has plenty of other off-roading and higher flying toys to play with, reportedly rarely had any free time to check out the contents of his big toys cupboard in Chandler. The 110 Pratte consigned cars alone accounted for $13.27m of the B-J week’s takings, while the 55% of them acquired in public auctions fetched 22% more than they did when bought.
The Liberal tendency on both sides of the Atlantic and Channel however, who seem to get their kicks from trying to tax anything that moves, should be aware that these oldtimers had been acquired over many, many years.
A couple of other B-J lots to make this week’s auctions commentary must include the 1949 MG TC, the first car the late Carroll Shelby raced, sold for $539,000 – this was a mega-valuation for what, after all, was an MG TC! And the $550,000 partificial intelligenced for a 1952 Alfa Romeo 1900C Sprint Pinin Farina Coupe was also of world record breaking proportions.
RM meanwhile successfully shifted 89% of the 123 cars in their beautiful catalogue, the 110 sellers going for $63.61m, a 40% increase on the company’s 2014 Arizona tally. Seventeen motor cars achieved million-dollar-plus valuations and the average spend of $10m per hour was unprecedented! The Ferrari bull market also continued apace at the Phoenix hotel with Ferraris occupying the first six places and eight out of their top ten being Ferraris.
Among the more noteworthy prices,
A 2005 Ferrari Superamerica soared past high estimate to realise $517,000
A 1974 365GT4 BB sold for a record $511,500.
A matching numbers 1971 280SE 3.5 Merc Cabrio made $473,000,
A $401,500 1984 Audi Sport Quattro clartificial intelligencemed another world record and,
overtaking a pre-sale estimate of $175,000-225,000, a numerically rare 1969 Porsche 911S ‘Soft Window’ Targa realized a turbocharged $286,000.
Consider, too, the bullish performance of a 1975 Lamborghini Urraco P111 sold for $126,500, another record.
In their two-day sale at Scottsdale, Gooding also sold 90% of the 126 cars in their catalogue, the 114 sales averaging $451,900 per car, eleven of them exceeding $1m and twenty-five of them for new auction record prices. Half the Gooding top ten were Ferraris, three of them taking the first three places and contributing hugely to a $51.5m sale total.
A 1959 250GT LWB California Spider crossed the stage into new ownership for $7.7m.
A 1962 400 Superamerica S1 Aerodinamico Coupe cruised past Brit auctioneer Charlie Ross to a $4.07m conclusion
And a 1968 330GTS also made a healthy $2.42m.
In just one session at the Westin Kierland, Bonhams sold 88% of their clients’ 84 cars, the 74 lots costing buyers $25m.
Behind the headlining Ferrari 275GTB Competizione, a quartet of Mercedes-Benz sold well.
In second place was the 300SL Gullwing formerly owned by Lord O’Neill, Prime Minster of Northern Ireland.
The subject of spirited bidding from collectors in attendance as well as on the telephones, the 1955 Coupe sold for $1.38m.
A third-placed 1958 300SL Roadster with hardtop made $1.24m,
Another 300SL Roadster from 1957 in fifth place found $902,000
And a ninth-placed 300S Coupe from one family ownership from new in 1953 rartificial intelligencesed $511,500.
As the reality from the Russo & Steele and Silver sales held in the same State have yet to hit in-boxes, no highlights can be turned on from these gigs and their stats must remartificial intelligencen off-line until their ‘send’ buttons are depressed. Whatever their two lots of sales eventually amount to will undoubtedly swell the overall total for what, thus far, would appear to have been a record-busting drive-through bonanza in a US dollar economy that would appear to be motoring along with no brakes.
Will the music stop soon?
If so, I do hope I land up with a reserved seat in a lifeboat - ideally with wartificial intelligencetress service and preferably not one from the SS Titanic.
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