ಗುರುವಾರ, ಏಪ್ರಿಲ್ 29, 2010

Aptera Flounders On Lane Change

This is bad news.  If the Aptera, a supposedly well developed and carefully engineered vehicle, can't negotiate a Consumers Union lane change at a measly 45mph, they are in big trouble.  It probably has a lot to do with the tricycle design -- the rear end is likely to want to come around without strong ESC intervention because it has so much less grip than the front.  From CU's blog:

Watched by a large group, including many note-taking and video-taping team members, the three-wheeled Aptera car struggled to find a clean run. More than two dozen attempts were made, with the car routinely sliding enough to topple several cones. In watching, it seemed natural to question how difficult this test is to pass. However, all current production vehicles, from small cars to large trucks, can successfully negotiate this test. We expect the Auto X Prize finalists to do the same.

For reference, just about any mass produced four wheel car can easily negotiate a lane change maneuver at 45mph.

Automotive Companies Doing Business In Iran

The New York Times recently published a list of international companies who are doing business in Iran. Here are the automotive companies on the list which have joint ventures or licensing agreements with Iranian companies:

  • Daimler -- Active
  • Fiat -- Active
  • Kia -- Active
  • Mazda -- Active
  • Suzuki-- Active

Any American who cares about our national security, and particularly anyone who cares about the state of Israel should think carefully before supporting any of these companies.

Mazda is most upsetting to me, because I have owned Mazda vehicles in the past, without knowing that they have a joint production agreement with Bahman of Iran. Bahman is, according to a Rand report, partly owned by the Iranian government.

I will discourage anyone I know from purchasing these brands until they stop doing business on the ground in Iran.

ಭಾನುವಾರ, ಏಪ್ರಿಲ್ 25, 2010

Lt. Steve Zilberman RIP

I saw this story and was moved. Lt. Zilberman, a US Navy Hawkeye pilot lost an engine while returning from a mission. He fought the controls long enough to let his three crewmates bail out, but did not survive his water landing. He leaves behind a young wife and two young children.


Also, there is a fund you can donate to for his kid's college education. See the VAW/VRC Memorial Scholarship Fund here.

ಗುರುವಾರ, ಏಪ್ರಿಲ್ 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day, Obama!

For Earth Day, President Obama and Vice President Biden are flying, with their respective entourages, to New York.  In separate planes (as required by security).  

While the heads of state travel, the other airplanes will have to circle overhead, and planes on the ground will have to idle, again for security reasons.  

So, for Earth Day, Obama is going to burn literally tons of aviation fuel.  Couldn't he have led by example, and appeared by satellite link, or something?

Rant: Gun Safety

I just read a very sad story about a 4 year old boy who accidentally killed himself by playing with a loaded gun that his parents left in their bedroom.

The parents should be prosecuted.  They should lose their gun ownership rights, permanently.

I am a solid 2nd supporter and a life member of the NRA.  I don't believe in waiting periods, assault weapons bans, ammunition serial numbers, "smart guns", or any of it.  But I do believe in responsibility.  All gun owners are responsible for the safe storage of their weapons.  Period.

There are inexpensive gun locks and quick-access boxes which would allow you to get your piece out quickly if you need to.  I myself have a fantastic pistol safe with a Simplex pushbutton combination lock.  I can get my .45 out and ready to shoot in about 10 seconds.

There is no excuse, ever, for leaving a loaded gun around where a little kid could find it and hurt themselves.  

Epic Car Forum Breakup

This is one of the saddest, funniest, craziest things I have ever read.  Read it for yourself.  You get the details slowly, but by the end, you see the whole picture: illegal immigrant live-in boyfriend sperm donor who works 3 nights a week spends all his money on his car and brags on the Acura forum.  Baby mama finds his account open, and dumps him right on the forum.   

ಗುರುವಾರ, ಏಪ್ರಿಲ್ 15, 2010

2011 Explorer: Off Road Machine?

This interesting video that was posted on Youtube shows the vehicle dynamics manager for the 2011 Explorer program at Ford explaining the benefits of their new Terrain Management System (TMS). Ford's TMS is similar to Land Rover's Terrain Response, where the driver turns a dial to select one of several icons representing different road conditions.

The video is unusual, in that it shows (camouflaged) Explorer prototypes being driven off-road, before the product has been revealed. This isn't often done in the industry.

The video also shows the Explorer playing in the sand and mud, doing some more-than-casual offroading.

Even though the 2011 Explorer is going to be a unibody design with front-wheel-drive powertrain, it looks like Ford has some more serious off-road capability built in.

ಮಂಗಳವಾರ, ಏಪ್ರಿಲ್ 13, 2010

More Bad News For Toyota -- CR "Do Not Buy"

This is bad.

Consumer Reports tests vehicles for emergency handling by running them through some high speed dynamic maneuvers, such as a lane change.  When CR did this test to the Lexus GX 460 SUV (the luxury cousin of the 4Runner) the vehicle exhibited a very yaw angle.  This is good for sports cars, where the driver is assumed to have enough control to manage oversteer.  But on a high center of gravity SUV, a loose stability control tuning is dangerous.  Says CR:

We believe that in real-world driving, that situation could lead to a rollover accident, which could cause serious injury or death. We are not aware, however, of any such reports. 


In real-world driving, lift-off oversteer could occur when a driver enters a highway's exit ramp or drives through a sweeping turn and encounters an unexpected obstacle or suddenly finds that the turn is too tight for the vehicle's speed. A natural impulse is to quickly lift off the accelerator pedal. If that were to happen in the GX, the rear could slide around far enough that a wheel could strike a curb or slide off the pavement.

Because of this behavior, CR has given Toyota another black eye, with a rare and embarrassing "Do Not Buy" rating.  This puts the Lexus GX460 in the same company as the Suzuki Samurai.

ಬುಧವಾರ, ಏಪ್ರಿಲ್ 7, 2010

Edmunds $1,000,000 Unintended Acceleration Challenge

Edmunds has published the official rules for the promised $1,000,000 contest to see if anyone can create a plausible failure mode that results in unintended acceleration in a factory stock mass produced vehicle.  Rules here.

My prediction:  some college engineering students will come up with something similar to Prof Gilbert, where they will induce a specific multi-point failure.  Edmunds will deem it not "plausible", and will keep their money.

Me, I'm going to submit a photo of a guy stepping on the brake and gas pedals at the same time.  It is not following the rules, but, it probably explains a large part of the cases.

ಶುಕ್ರವಾರ, ಏಪ್ರಿಲ್ 2, 2010

ಗುರುವಾರ, ಏಪ್ರಿಲ್ 1, 2010

"Naughty Volvo"?

So Volvo has launched a web marketing theme of "naughty".  I went to Volvo's web site to look at it and well, videos of a Volvo stopping automatically to keep from hitting a pedestrian isn't exactly naughty.  When you try to dial up the naughty-ness, the video gets more shaky, the driver seems to be driving faster, and some naked (male) jogger runs through the frame for some reason.

Here's an idea, Volvo, if you want to get "naughty".

V60 wagon + Haldex AWD + manual transmission + direct injected turbo engine = V60R 

Then film the V60R running the Nurburgring, in the wet, with gobs of heroic drifting.  That might be naughty.