How Close are AV’s (Driverless Cars)?

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“The results of a national survey last year by Kelley Blue Book found that—perhaps unsurprisingly—American consumers are not nearly as excited about the car of the future as the experts are.”

In a LinkedIn article dated August 1st, 2017, Scott Nyquist echoed sentiments of a previous post here on the Kicker Blog.  The LinkedIn article, entitled “why driverless cars might not hit the road so fast,” makes well-researched points that reinforce the conclusion that driverless cars will likely be a part of the future but not in the near future.

Nyquist compares AVs to EVs (all electronic vehicles) in that experts were enthusiastic about them and were quick to predict their inevitable dominance. If the comparison is true then EVs will also not become the norm as quickly as experts predict.

In late 2010, for example, one expert prediction was that by 2013, 200,000 electric cars would be sold in the US, and in 2015, 280,000; in fact, the figures were 96,600 and 119,000, respectively. Carlos Ghosn, the well-respected CEO of Nissan, said in 2011, that by 2016, there would be1.6 million Renault-Nissan EVs on the road; that forecast was off by more than 80 percent. President Obama saw a million EVs on American roads by 2016; the real figure is fewer than 300,000.

Considering the legal and physical blockades that need to be overcome it seems more likely that autonomous cars will become a feature of cars in the future but will be restricted in use much the way current cruise control is. Certain well-mapped zones will open up to them to take advantage of their ability to crowd more cars onto the roads, but other areas that are under construction or too rural to be mapped up to the minute will remain human-required. This balanced, gradual approach will take decades to bring about a total driverless age.

But that’s just an opinion. We’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out.

Auto Safety US vs Them

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By C.J. Rooney

Almost from the day that automobiles took to the streets, accidents became commonplace, with the first recorded injury coming in 1869. The victim of that first accident was an Irish woman named Mary Ward. She was thrown from a steam-powered carriage after the vehicle hit a deep rut in the road, falling under one of the wheels and getting crushed. Miss Ward died on impact, and the irony here is that it was one of her cousins who had invented the steam vehicle.

CJ_Auto Safety 1Automakers have come a long way since those early days, and auto accidents resulting in death have dropped an impressive 50% globally over the last quarter century. It’s also fair to say that governments have played a role in these improved statistics, as they have introduced safety measures as law. These include the implementation of air bags which have been responsible for saving many lives over the years.

Unfortunately, the United States is behind most other nations in terms of injuries and fatalities in vehicles, with those numbers rising in that same 25-year period. Experts believe that there are a number of factors in play here, including an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads, the use of large trucks and SUV’s, and more recently, people using cell phones and other devices while they are behind the wheel. (For a post on WA States new law click here.)

“Rubbernecking” is another cause of accidents and injuries. This occurs when drivers in vehicles passing an issue on the road slow down or stop to get a better look at what is going on. What happens here is that the vehicles behind the slower vehicle end up smashing into the rear-end of said vehicle, often setting off a chain reaction of vehicles further down the line. This is the #1 cause of rear-end accidents in the US, with whiplash and other neck and back injuries the most common in these collisions.

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Notice aged tire w/ new tread. Rubber decays on the shelf folks.

 

In an effort to reduce the number of auto injuries and fatalities, technology is being brought in that takes current human behavior into account. Modern vehicles now routinely come equipped with proximity and drifting sensors that warn drivers of common dangers. These warnings come via loud alerts in the cabin that let drivers know when they are not paying attention. The results in Europe have been incredibly promising when these technologies are introduced, with a reduction in both multi-vehicle and single-car collisions.

Changing how drivers behave behind the wheel is proving to be a little more problematic, especially in the US where getting a vehicle is a rite of passage. People use their vehicles even when taking short trips, and tend to develop a feeling of invulnerability. Defensive driving in the United States is almost non-existent, which is causing accidental injury number to spike while they drop in other parts of the world.

It may come as a surprise to learn that the states with less restrictive speed limit laws tend to have a lower incidence of accidents and injuries. Part of the reason for this statistic is that there tend to be fewer vehicles on the road in those states. Even when the number is adjusted to take into account the number of vehicles, the edge still goes to those US states with fewer speed restrictions. This somewhat proves that the push to enforce posted speed limits may not be the correct tactic to use when trying to reduce the number of injury accidents.CJ_Auto Safety 3

The goal here should be to put more focus on the two main reasons that lie at the heart of auto accidents, which are age and distractions. Cell phones are becoming a major issue on the roads, with a growing number of states taking the step of banning their use while the driver has their vehicle in motion. Even if it is not illegal where you live, using a cell phone while you drive is a terrible idea. The statistics clearly show that phone use and car accidents are joined at the hip.

The age of the driver also appears to directly correlate with accidents that include injuries and fatalities. It’s not just inexperience at fault, though, as 16-20 years old and the 70+ age group both have a higher percentage of accidents than other age groups. It’s no easy feat to try and improve accident prevention among these groups, but efforts are being made to educate and inform, as well as to look at bringing in mandatory driver testing each year for drivers in certain age demographics. There is also the idea of a magnetic decal being used to show that drivers in these age groups are driving, which would perhaps allow drivers around those vehicles to be a little more aware of the potential for an accident.

Car Hack Series: Part 1

Welcome to a new series for the Kicker. A lot of our readers are professional drives, including TNC drivers (people who drive for rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft). We’ll do our best to post more information that’s of interest to this segment of our audience from now on. We’re also excited to introduce our first video blog, or Vlog, and with it one of our newest staff contributors, Mike. We hope you take a moment and follow his social media for what he’s up to even when he’s not hacking and reviewing accessories for the Kicker Blog.

Welcome, Mike!

Our staff tried to review a number of car accessories but we kept being distracted by the fact that almost everything used suction cups and almost nothing in a car made after 1989 has much flat space that can support a suction cup. So rather than gripe about it ourselves, we thought you’d be more entertained by watching Mike and the solution he came up with to hacking your own accessory support.

Parts List for this Hack:

  • GPS sand weighted holder
  • Steel strength plumbers epoxy
  • petroleum jelly
  • A selfie stick

Hybrid Cars: The Standard For the Future

 

K_Hybrid 1A hybrid car: what is it was and how is it comparable to a conventional vehicle. Sure, they’re better for the environment, but if I wanted to research it right, I would have to learn the nuts and bolts of it.

What is a hybrid car, exactly? How does it work?  Is the mileage better? Is there less maintenance? A hybrid car uses a standard fuel engine, which creates electric power through a generator. The goal is a more eco-friendly transport, with lower emissions. Hybrids cars utilize both the engine and the generator’s store of electric power to increase cleaner efficiency. The car runs on electricity at slower speeds and the engine kicks in around 55 mph extending the vehicle’s range. Every year, more cities plan for plug-in sites for the increasing hybrid market. This will be especially important, as fuel cell cars that chemically bind hydrogen and oxygen to create water for hydro electric become more mainstream.

 

K_Hydrib 3At safe highway speeds, a hybrid vehicle is just as efficient as most standard vehicles. In terms of maintenance, as the number of automotive shops with qualified technicians increases, the overall costs of upkeep, parts, and accessories will drop. Many manufacturers, looking to capture the global-conscious millennial market, see the benefit of phasing in alternate-energy cars, trucks, and sport utility vehicles. This looks like a realistic goal, which will see a majority of hybrid-type vehicles on the road within the next twenty years. Switching the engine makeup increasingly to cleaner electric energy will create a new renaissance in an otherwise flat market.

Engineers have been working for the last couple of decades on other types of alternate, clean energy for next-generation hybrids. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy within the U.S. Department of Energy is working with their development teams to create cars and trucks with zero-emissions, including for mass-transit. Ethanol/gasoline fuel blends help in the interim to reduce pollutants into the atmosphere, burning cleaner and producing fewer by-products and total petroleum waste. The engine that runs on used vegetable oil is also another not-quite-completely-forgotten option, the multitasker of viable alternatives as we increasingly have to deal with ways to process the millions of tons of excess waste our populations create each year.

 

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It is a step in the right direction, as hybrids become a sound environmental and increasingly financial choice. May it be too much of a dream that one day we might be able to use the wind generated by these vehicles on our highways, collected into generators we will build into bridges and overpasses, to create usable wind-generated electric power? Will someday we be able to take sound, compress it, and in a way amplify it to create power to run hybrids of the future? Who knows for certain; however, in the automotive world we have seen innovation time and again, and there may be ideas that no man thought possible in our day and age.

Plasma converter hybrid, anyone?

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Coastal Classic Car Collector

Story by Greg Zschomler

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A Dodge Challenger, like the one shown here at Scoops, was John’s first car as a teen. This one is the first car of his collection. Photo by Gregory E. Zschomler

“You have to drive them if you want to keep them.” ~John Yonich

John Yonich of Grays Harbor, Washington is a visionary entrepreneur and vehicle enthusiast. He has a dozen classic automobiles in his assemblage, and, though he has a warehouse to store them, he regularly drives and shares them with the community he’s a part of.

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John Yonich introduces Kansas at his D and R Theatre in Aberdeen, Wash. Phot courtesy of the D and R Theatre.

 

This morning he drove into work, from his Westport home, in a teal 1955 Ford Fairlane “woody” (his latest acquisition) which he’s parked at the Aberdeen, Wash. Scoops—one of the coffee and ice cream shops he owns. In his office on the third floor of the D and R Theatre (which he owns), he’s enjoying a cup of Grays Harbor Coffee (which he also owns) while answering emails and calls and catching up on O.J. Simpson. Now, I’m catching up with him—or trying to—while drinking my own Americano from the barista downstairs.

 

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John Yonich with Beatles tribute band, Fab Four, at his D and R Theatre in Aberdeen, Wash. Photo courtesy of the D and R Theatre.

Yonich, a warm and giving man with a sense of humor and a nose for business, is also known for his dogged activism and tenacious development. He owns several businesses in the area—among them the growing Scoops Ice Cream & Espresso chain (there are now two locations with a third in the works), Amore Italian Restaurant, a soon to be opened bakery, and, perhaps his most well-known, the aforementioned D and R Theatre. And while he’s occasionally ruffled a few feathers in his commercial pursuits, the businessman isn’t about selfishly building an empire; he gives a lot to the community and genuinely works hard for its betterment.

 

He’s also known for his collection of distinct “vintage” automobiles.

“I’ve always had a passion [for cars],” he says. “In high school, I had a Challenger much like I have now.” It took him thirty-one years to find that baby. The first classic he bought was a 1952 MG TD in 1978.

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The D & R Chevy 3100, shown here in the 2017 Aberdeen Founder’s Day Parade, is often seen about town. Photo by Elijah Zschomler

 

The local tycoon and car collector, who says he rarely goes to auto auctions, frequently rubs shoulders with nationally well-known performers who have appeared at the D and R. More than eighty big names have done shows at his theater since 2009; names like Kansas, Air Supply, White Snake and Fleetwood Mac. [Yonich bought and restored the 1923 Vaudevillian venue, which closed in 1980, in 2009.] And many artists such as Bad Company, Bill Cosby, Bret Michaels and LeAnne Rimes have ridden from the Sea-Tac airport to the theater in his classic black 1990 Lincoln limousine—just one of the vehicles in his myriad of motorcars.

When I asked him about what makes and models he owned he had trouble naming them all off the top of his head.

The most commonly seen among them is the cream-colored 1950 Chevy 3100 truck with the D and R logo painted on the side. That one pretty much stays in town and frequently appears in local parades. Of the classics he owns there are the 1950 Ford 3100, a 1952 MG TD Roadster, 1955 Ford Fairlane, a 1955 Buick, a 1955 Packard Caribbean, a 1958 Oldsmobile 88, a 1962 Corvette (red, of course), a 1957 Chevy Bel Air (naturally), a 1964 Lincoln Continental, a 1970 Dodge Challenger and the 1990 limo. He also cruises town in his black 2010 Mercedes SL63 AMG—which isn’t quite yet a classic (it has two and a half years to go) —with the top down, when it’s not raining.

As for entering his vehicles in cars shows he says, “I’ve only entered…on occasion. Car shows, it’s the time. I’m so busy, [but] I’d love to do more of them.” He’s entered his Buick in a couple of shows and won first in a local show and third in a national.

What’s it like buying, restoring and owning classic cars?

“There’s so much info out there now,” he says of the Internet, indicating that it’s easier to shop vintage cars than it ever was. He says the market for cars from the 50s is “softening up now that baby boomers are seeking cars from the 60s and 70s.”

Buying, restoring, owning and “having work done is expensive,” says Yonich, noting that a good paint job alone can “cost around $20K because a good restorer takes the car apart piece by piece for painting” before reassembling. Plus there’s the cost of keeping them in good running shape.

“You have to do some of the tinkering,” he says. “They don’t always just start up and go down the road. There’s weeks I don’t have to do anything [and] some weeks you wonder what [repair] you’ll have to do next. You have to drive them if you want to keep them.”

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John’s classic woody, shown at his Scoops Espresso and Ice Cream shop, is just one of the twelve in his classic collection that cycle through the popular drive-in, Photo by Gregory E. Zschomler

 

Lower cost collector’s licensing allows for infrequent driving; that is, to shows, in parades, and for maintenance (especially vintage or replica parts). And, “it’s not like you can plug them into computers,” to see what’s wrong says Yonich, who regularly displays his vehicles at Scoops for the historical effect (see photo). He says that, though the cars need driven regularly, they aren’t really a picnic to drive.

“I like driving them and I don’t,” he says. “It’s not like you’re driving your F-250 or Taurus; you don’t drive these cars, they drive you. There’s a reason they had ten and two [positions on the wheel].”

“Up in the Seattle area you never know what to expect with traffic,” he says. “Sitting on a freeway [in heavy traffic] in hot weather isn’t what [the older cars] are designed for.” He says, “There’s some worry about driving,” his classics in traffic. For him, 55 mph is tops, not only to keep from stressing the engines but for safety in traffic.

Plus, there’s insurance, maintenance, and storage. This week he’s cycling each of his cars in for an oil change. Twelve oil changes; that’s at least $300 right there.

So, if it takes all that time and money, I asked, why buy them? And what’s next?

“I buy them for the joy and the investment,” says the man with fingers in all sorts of business investments. “Some of them go up [in value], but that’s not important.” For Yonich it’s all about beauty and nostalgia.

“If I was looking now,” says Yonich, who’s currently tied up with reopening a restaurant, opening a new bakery and working on a project that will bring a music-technology branch of Grays Harbor College to downtown Aberdeen, “I’d buy a 1963 Corvette split-window.”

Why Mercedes Is Axing The SLC

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By Ezekiel Gacee

2017 has been a year of surprises to many auto users. In recent news, Mercedes will be axing SLC series from its range of convertible cars. This comes after it was recently rebranded from SLK to SLC series. The move of axing the series was revealed to the media and customers by the Mercedes-Benzes’ CEO, Dieter Zetsche in a recent held Geneva auto show.

Zetsche said the famous car manufacturer would be pruning back a number of specialty cars that it offers today. The affected car lines will be coupe and convertibles. He announced that Mercedes will continue to offer multiple specialty cars but not as they are available in today’s market. The carmaker is reported to have six convertibles with a body style that performs poorly.

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Performance and Sales

Poor sales performance seems to be the reason for removing SLC from the market. According to a sales report, Mercedes was only selling an average of 300 SLC a month in the United States market. This is seen as the major reason why the automaker will be doing away with the attractive convertible car series.

This move comes at a time when BMW is bound to launch its long waited convertible BMW Z5. This means BMW will enjoy a good time in the market, as their closest rival will not be up to the competition. BMW might yield a lot from that window of opportunity.  However, it is expected Mercedes will be relying on C-Class Cabrio to fill the gap left by SLC.

Besides axing the SLC-series, Mercedes is also reported to be on a move to drop the S-Class Coupe and settle on a more up scaled E-Class. In addition, the future of S-class cabriolet in the market seems to be uncertain.

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Identical Platform

On the same note, the newer models of Mercedes SL and AMG GT will be sharing an identical platform.  The platform is estimated to be priced at $50K.

The SL is reported to be upgraded into a larger 2+2 convertible. They will also see to it that their roof top will be replaced with a soft one made from fine fabric similar to that of AMG GT C. This move is suggested to help separate the next SL from AMG’s next GT, which sources say will maintain a similar formula to the current model.

It is however uncertain when the SLC will actually be dropped from the list and therefore discontinued from market sales. But as a pointer from auto observers, it can be sooner than expected. If the SLC series is, your favorite car model watch out it will be vanishing soon. Nevertheless, you can be sure to get more convertible cars from Mercedes Benz as an alternative.