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Understanding The VIN

by james on 02 Sep 2016
Understanding the VIN   Every vehicle manufactured since 1954 carries a unique identifier, the VIN (Vehicle Identificati...

Who Made This?

by james on 22 Dec 2015
Who Made This?   In the world of medicine, you will often have the choice between brand name drugs or generic equivalent...

Who's Driving This Thing?

 by james on 26 May 2014 |
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Cars are taking over the world!
 
The rot started to set in with the introduction of ABS braking.  For as long as I’ve known the option, I’ve preferred cars that do nothing for me, but what I ask them to do.  As a result, I find myself increasingly drawn to older cars.  And, giving my age away a bit, I find it scary that some of those “older cars” are models that I recall as brand new cars.  If you’re laughing at that, don’t.  It’ll happen to you sooner than you think.
 
Apple has announced an initiative to integrate their CarPlay technology with cars from Mercedes, Ferrari and Volvo, and is in talks with several other manufacturers.  An Apple marketing executive is quoted as saying “CarPlay has been designed from the ground up to provide drivers with an incredible experience using their iPhone in the car”, other manufacturers already have links to tap into Apple’s hands-free technology.  While there is an argument that says that bored drivers are easily distracted and therefore more accident-prone, does anybody seriously think that offering motorists “incredible experiences” is a clever idea?
 
The ability to cover hundreds of kilometres in a single day, or cross a city in minutes is already an “incredible experience”.  The incredible experience of being in charge of over a ton of metal, capable of injuring its occupants and the occupants of similar missiles, not to mention those poor schlubs reliant on their own legs to get around demands fewer driver distractions, not more.
 
When they’re not offering us “incredible experiences”, tech companies are working on delivering autonomous cars.  Google are road testing driverless cars in the US.  Audi is likely to launch a self-driving car in 2016, according to this article which is kind of ironic, given that according to another article a woman was trapped inside her Audi when the car’s keyless entry malfunctioned and locked itself.  The thought of going from a car that can’t remember where its keys are to one that can keep track of everything else stretches credibility.
 
One of the necessary evils of responsible motoring is the requirement to be insured.  The first case involving person A’s autonomous car driving into person B’s autonomous car will be an interesting one from a legal point of view.  Expect to see an unseemly rush of insurance companies falling over one another to avoid liability while government authorities wring their hands and bounce from foot to foot while they try to decide whether to hold the vehicle manufacturer, the software writer or the “driver” responsible.
 
“Why Things Bite Back” is book by Edward Tenner, which describes what he calls revenge effects.  Among other safety innovations, the author looks at research into ABS systems and their effect on accident rates.  Once upon a time, shortly after the start of the Industrial Revolution, ABS was an option on some cars.  It seemed that accident rates for cars equipped with ABS were slightly worse than accident rates for the same model of car without ABS.  One theory was that drivers were compensating for the increased car safety by driving more dangerously, showing a touching degree of faith in ABS to save their skins.  From conversations I’ve had with less car-obsessed friends, you can probably add a mis-understanding of what ABS is supposed to do into the mix.
 
This may be an unfair stereotype, but I suspect that most acronym-laden technology for preventing vehicle/scenery interfaces does more to keep over-exuberant owners of pocket rockets safe than it does to keep Mabel from spinning her Nissan Micra into the hedge.  OK, make that two unfair stereotypes.  The point is, fast cars should be capable of killing you for a moment’s inattention.  If you own an air cooled  911, go on, admit it: there’s a huge amount of satisfaction in driving a car that, if not driven with suitable respect, has a propensity to do a half-pirouette in every corner and then use its engine to seek out the nearest immovable object.
 
Some of the changes in automotive technology are genuine steps forward.  Modern cars need far less maintenance than their forefathers did.  While old tech such as points-based ignition and carburettors were reliable as long as they were properly maintained, modern cars require far less routine maintenance and are easier to live with.  But there’s still a nagging feeling that for those of us of a petrol headed persuasion, the bargain we’ve struck is not a good one.
 
I, for one, do not welcome our four wheeled overlords.  

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