Every so often e need to clean up, and clean out, our garages. Here’s my version of that exercise — sorting through some accumulated emails and sharing some notes and quotes and anecdotes:
• Remember when Elon Musk launched his own Tesla Roadster into space last year? Well, LiveScience.com reports that the car and its mannequin driver Starman have traveled more than 470 million miles and are in a 557 Earth-day orbit that takes them around the sun.
If you want to follow the flight, you can check the WhereIsRoadster.com website.
• Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, the Motorcycle Industry Council reports that 8 percent of U.S. households include at least one motorcycle, and that’s the highest figure recorded in decades of tracking such ownership.
• The “automotive industry is in a change. We are changing the car in the next 10 to 15 years probably more than in the past 130 years before.”
— Gordon Wagenen, chief design officer, Daimler AG, speaking at the recent South by Southwest Conference
• Three hundred fifty dollars may sound like a lot to spend on a book (though I spent nearly double that to acquire my 4-volume set of The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile), but even without seeing a copy, I’m recommending the recently published 3-volume Twice Around the Clock: The Yanks at Le Mans.
The nearly 1,350-page work, which was just awarded the Dean Batchelor Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, covers the more than 320 American drivers and cars that participated in the famed French race from 1923-1979. Many of those participants were personally interviewed by author Tim Considine.
If Considine’s name rings a bell, it may be because you grew up watching him in Disney’s The Adventures of Spin and Marty, in My Three Sons or in his numerous other acting roles before he became an automotive writer and historian, authoring among other titles American Grand Prix Racing: A Century of Drivers & Cars.
By the way, while spanning 3 volumes and including nearly 1,000 photographs, Yanks is only the start. Considine plans four more volumes that will cover Le Mans races from 1980 to whatever year he finishes the project.
• ‘The underside of a car after a few thousand miles is as hygienic as an operating theatre, compared with a locomotive in for overhaul!’
— W. O. Bentley, who spent five years as a railroad apprentice for 25 pence a week before launching the car company that bears his name
• You may be familiar with the Adam Smith Society’s Intelligence Squared U.S. programs on public radio. The society’s next debate is scheduled for April 13 and the subject will be “Our Driverless Future/All Hail the Driverless Car (or Not).”
Arguing for a driverless future will be a two-person team comprising the director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the c0-founder of a company that develops self-driving technology. Arguing against will be the author of Artificial Unitelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World and a research scientist from MIT.
• Speaking of autonomous vehicles, Rice University and Texas Tech have done a joint study that put people into driving simulators programmed to simulate autonomous vehicles. Sixty licensed drivers took part. They were told that while they weren’t operating the steering wheel or brake or accelerator pedals, they still needed to monitor traffic for dangers the autonomous technology might miss.
Within the first 10 minutes to riding along, drivers missed things, and their attention diminished greatly over a 40-minute simulation.
Rice professor Pat DeLucia suggested that people get used to the act of not driving and become complacent passengers.
“The bottom line is, until automated driving systems are completely reliable and can respond in all situations, the driver must stay alert and be prepared to take over,” added Eric Greenlee of Texas Tech. “And this research clearly shows that is not happening, and gets worse as time passes.”
• Beginning with the 2021 model year, Volvo will limit its cars to a top speed of 112 mph (180 km/h), the company has announced. It also said it is investigating “smart speed control” and geofencing technology that could limit speeds when a vehicle was near schools or hospitals.
“We want to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right or maybe even an obligation to install technology in cars that changes their driver’s behavior, to tackle things like speeding, intoxication or distraction,” said Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo Car Group president. “We don’t have a firm answer to this question, but believe we should take leadership in the discussion and be a pioneer.”
• Volvo’s announcement reminded me of an invitation a few years ago from Volkswagen to fly to Germany to see and to drive its newest vehicle. My recollection is that it was the ill-fated Phaeton.
The driving route included quite a bit of speed-limit-free autobahn, on which we were mystified and frustrated that we couldn’t get the big German sedan to exceed 120 mph even though we had the pedal to the floor.
Our hosts offered the answer: The cars we were driving were U.S.-spec versions and thus were equipped with only T speed-rated tires, and thus were speed limited to 190 km/h, or 118 mph.
• You likely are familiar with Airbnb, Uber and Lyft, and even DriveShare, but what about YourParkingSpace.co.uk, which claims that in the last year to have saved British car owners almost £6 million (nearly $8 million) in parking fees by renting out unused space in people’s driveways.
Of course, while car owners are saving that money, people with empty space in their driveways are making money from those parking rental fees.
“Driveways in high demand include those near train stations, airports, sports stadiums, music venues, plus town and city centres,” the website said in its news release.
By the way, you can rent a driveway parking space on an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis, the company says.
• In 2018, the Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens presented its inaugural “Culture Awards.” They went to the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs, to the Motorcycle Republic Symposium organized by the Hellenic Motorcycle Museum, and to the Federación Mexicana de Automoviles Antiguos y de Colección.
Currently, FIVA is accepting nominations for its 2019 culture awards in three categories — research, dedicated service and education/training/awareness.
“These awards are open to everyone, to any classic vehicle enthusiast – they are not limited to FIVA members,” said Natasa Grom Jerina, chair of the FIVA Culture Commission. “Our aim is to find the best project in each category, whether it’s within a business, a project in a school or university, a public sector program, a project run by a community organization, an individual or a club, a museum exhibition, a symposium, a piece of research… and so on.
“The possibilities are endless. What we’ll be looking at are the dynamics of the project – the organizational skills and vision – when choosing the winning entries.”
For more information, visit the FIVA website.
• “We’re having a different time zone within our design department. Currently we are doing the program for 2023/2024 in production cars, in architectures, we go beyond 2030, and in vision cars, we even go beyond that.”
— Gordon Wagenen, Daimler AG