Mustang Monday: High Performance Tires

tire-416189_1920As winter approaches its time to think about winter tire solutions. We’ll post a special report on the topic soon but first, we wanted to remind you that tires expire even when they’re sitting on a shelf. Rubber simply degrades so consider this, if you still have the spare tire that came with your car, and your car is more than six years old, you will want to get a newer spare or your back up tire might not back you up very well.

Now, please enjoy a look into high-performance tires as an accessory.

High-Performance Tires

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Although now a mainstay of racing culture, high-performance tires weren’t actually introduced by Goodyear until 1980 for the Corvette. That’s right, it was only thirty years ago before “regular” passenger cars could have race car inspired wheels. The original Gatorback tire had big tread blocks to better grip the roads and hard and low side walls in order to make a machine that was built for speed perform even better.

A new rating system was in order and the Gatorback got a “V” which meant it had been safely tested in a laboratory to perform at speeds up to 149 mph. Quickly, other speed ratings (which are now called “performance ratings”) were created including “S (112 mph)”, “H (up to 130 mph), and “Z (unlimited).” Instantly, horsepower enthusiasts were hooked.

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Unsurprisingly, high-performance tires have always been costly – much like other parts necessary for a “modded” ride. Original high-performance tires cost around $200 each and not much has changed over the years. Today’s price of high-performance tires varies, but drivers interested in these accessories should expect to spend a few thousand dollars.

Types of Performance Tires

“Performance” no longer means solely racing tires. There are performance tires for all seasons, for all weather conditions, and of course still for speed. There are many different tire makers touting an abundance of options. It’s important to consider what your particular car is used for. Touring tires are a popular option for luxury cars and provide a very high-quality tire to ensure comfort and great handling – this is the option for daily commuters.

Performance, and even ultra-performance tires, are the go-to for racers. Of course, there is never a “perfect” tire and if you opt for these tires there will be a decline in comfort. However, the way the machine handles and grips the road can be vastly improved.

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Do I Really Need to Upgrade?

The good news is that manufacturers of sport and muscle cars quickly realized the benefit of high-performance tires. Many companies include quality performance tires with every new vehicle. After all, what better way to add even more of a boost to a car’s performance than with tires that provide better grip and handling? If you have factory tires already, there’s a good chance that they provide more than enough for the average driver.

There is also a downside. Some people don’t realize, until it comes time to replace the tires, just how much they cost. If you’re at the point where you need to replace factory tires, it can be a tough decision. You can go with similar tires, or the same, as you had before, opt to improve them, or settle for something more affordable (just don’t expect your car to perform quite the same way).

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Who Really Needs It?

“But I’m not a performance driver!” is a common complaint when drivers realize they’ve been taking advantage of these prime factory tires. It’s true, most people don’t (or at least shouldn’t) be going over the lowest performance rating of “S.” That doesn’t mean they aren’t performance drivers. Everyone wants and deserves the best from their machine. A good grip on the roads, tight turns, and the ability to withstand a summer road trip all require quality tires – so look around. Choose a median performance and price, unless of course, you are a racer.

 

Are you Greenlighting Car Theft?

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How You’re Green Lighting Car Theft

You’re faced with quite the conundrum when you have a souped-up or luxury car. You want to show it off, but doing so also tempts car thieves and jealous vandals. How can you sit on the fence between enjoying your ride and protecting it? It’s important to know the siren’s calls that criminals just can’t resist so you can avoid them.

I spent one-year researching car theft around the country for an insurance agency. I learned more about what makes a grand theft auto pro tick than I ever imagined possible. Just like any industry, you need to know your audience to be successful. In this case, your audience is the slew of would-be criminals.

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Showboating Leads to Trouble

A gorgeous car that’s left uncovered and seemingly alone is irresistible. Always garage your car when you’re home, and black out the windows of the garage or install curtains to keep people from peeking. Garage locking systems are often very easy to break into. Consider installing a little extra security to protect your ride.

A car that’s left visible with a cover is letting everyone know that something valuable is under there. When you can’t garage your car, don’t draw attention to it by covering it up. People are curious, and they might be more inclined to check out what’s under there if you keep it hidden. You need to think like a thief and treat your car accordingly.

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Where You Park Matters

You might be inclined to park as far away from other cars as possible when you’re in a parking lot. That shady spot in the corner might even help your car avoid sun damage. That’s possible, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be parked long enough for much damage to happen. Theft and vandalism happen in parking lots, so don’t think you’re safe just because you’re in public.

You still want to avoid nicks from shopping carts, so park a few lanes away from the traffic but in a highly visible area. If it’s dark, park near a light if that’s possible. Your best defense against accidental nicks is a good parking job. Don’t take up too much room and make sure you pull all the way into the spot.

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Don’t Tempt the Thieves

Most cars are stolen, or items are stolen from inside cars, because they’re unlocked. This seems obvious, but always lock up your car. Remove stereo faceplates and never leave any bags or items on the seat. Even if you don’t think the item looks valuable (like your coat), it might seem otherwise to a thief.

It’s unfortunate that you have to worry about someone stealing or vandalizing your car. However, that’s the risk you take when you have a stunning vehicle. Take precautions to keep your car as safe as possible. Just a little effort can deter a thief to move onto greener pastures.

 

Mobile Living (Part 1)

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by A.R. Bunch

Something we’ve been threatening to cover for months now, mobile living. Going mobile has become a craze and we don’t automatically cover fads, but is there some legitimacy to the trend that skeptics might be overlooking?

To start with, we should establish the distinction between some of the terminology you’ve probably heard bantered about on this topic. There’s a difference between living mobile and living tiny. They’re closely aligned topics and tend to appeal to the same crowds but they aren’t exactly the same.

Living tiny is a combination of modern minimalism and nostalgia for a time when our grandparents cared more about building a life than having it all right now. You almost can’t divorce the topic of living tiny from concept of debt because not only are many people going tiny in order to pay off debt but those who are inspired by the way people used to live often refer to the fact that people avoided using debt to finance having lots of things that you could eventually have if you delayed buying them until you could actually afford them.

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Living Mobile and Free

There is a category of people going tiny for, in their words, “freedom.” They want to be less tied to location and local economies. That leads us to living mobile, and yes many who chose to live tiny also want to live mobile. Others end up getting a house on wheels simply because it avoids local building codes and makes the home cheaper to construct. In that case, the wheels under the home are incidental to the purpose of living tiny. Likewise, there are folks living mobile who only live tiny because it’s not practical to take a lot of stuff with you on the road.

Like living tiny, mobile living isn’t a new idea. There has been Bedouins, nomads, and gypsies for hundreds of years. More recently many long-haul truckers could be classified as partially living mobile, and many folks retire to snowbird, following the weather between a couple locations they have a family to be near.

Mobile Work vs Working Mobile

What is new is the large number of people who are making RV living a multiyear lifestyle while still in their working years. Remote work has made it possible for some professionals to live on the road, while other folks are simply surrendering to unstable local job markets by taking their skill set from locations with fading opportunities to locations on the rise.

In the latter situation, the jobs themselves aren’t really mobile, but the workplace changes periodically making it more economical to be able to pull up stakes without much trauma.

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Mobile Work Working Mobile
Trades like nursing, welding, real estate and construction fit into the category of job that you could do anywhere but may not be able to do in a particular location indefinitely. Writing, programming, financial advising and virtual assisting fit into the category of jobs that could be done from one place one day and another then next.

 

Mobile but Not Free

So clearly there’s a number of reasons to “go mobile” and a number of ways to do so. We can’t ignore the urban camper who straddles the line of homelessness. A few years ago I spoke to a young woman who lived out of her car, but you’d never know it. After graduating college with a degree in massage therapy, she had a lot of school debt and a business to build. She paired down her belongings to a strategic minimum; got a P.O. box, cell phone, laptop, and gym membership. She parked in few locations, showered at her gym and took her portable table to appointments. She eventually augmented her income by teaching classes at her gym, but all of her mobile massage income went to paying her student loans. Her hope was to live mobile for two years, have enough clients to open a combo living/ working place and cut 30% off her loan payoff time out.

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Movement Hits Resistance

As these movements have grown in popularity a number of cable shows have popped up to cover it. What the movement lacked were common definitions for things like “tiny home.” And a common definition would come in handy.

Many cities have rushed to use code enforcement to combat not only mobile living but tiny living as well. They cite concerns about being able to protect citizens from fire, congested roads and freeways, overused parks and public works facilities. One can empathize with a city trying to have the right number of firefighters in a neighborhood but not actually know how many people reside there.

Police also want to be able to tie identities to a permanent address and many homeowners aren’t excited by what they see as transients occupying the curbs outside their homes. Still, while self-sufficient people sheltered on their own dime, albeit in non-permanent structures may not pay into the systems as much as residents of permanent structures, they don’t create the same draw on the system as truly homeless city dwellers who require shelters, soup kitchens, and often panhandle.

Municipalities have the option of creating definitions for the different classifications of mobile living groups and could create zones where it is and is not allowed. The writing is on the wall and cities had better decide how to handle it.

The ICC Steps Up

“In 2017, Andrew Morrison and Martin Hammer wrote International Residential Code (IRC) Appendix Q: Tiny Houses, and after intense vetting and a three-stage voting process, it was approved by the International Code Council (ICC).”

So here is the new definition of a tiny home according to the ICC. “TINY HOUSE. A dwelling that is 400 square feet (37 sq m) or less in floor area excluding lofts.”

Imagine seeking a certificate of occupancy for a custom-built, tiny home and being told that they don’t officially know what that is. Well, now that’s fixed.

Some opponents of formal codes point out that cities have a harder time ordering you not to living in something when they don’t have any rules or definitions on the subject but supporters claim that if you do want to create a legal abode you’d need a certificate of occupancy and that means they need an official code.

Another thing to notice about this definition is that it doesn’t mention having wheels. For long time cities, and even states have created stringent building codes but decided to exclude vehicles (anything on wheels) because technically it could be moved away from danger. It’s a sensible shortcut, but with more and more people seeking to go tiny and with the obvious benefit to cities that are running out of space, it’s high time that these governmental bodies simply decide what their expectations are for these types of dwellings.

Why is this level of hair-splitting important? Because intended use matters. Many tiny homes are built to high standards and those that aren’t should fall into a different classification because they aren’t suited to the purpose they may appear to be built for. Simply slapping wheels on something is a workaround to make something legal but it can mislead consumers and create a bad reputation with regulating bodies. Not because there is a problem but because there appears to be one. It’s easier to explain by simply stating some of the other categories often lumped in with tiny homes.

Types of Tiny Living Space by Purpose

RV – meant for temporary or recreational use requiring RV permits/ vehicle tags etc.

Manufactured home – Meant for year-round residence, always on a chassis so it can be transported, and built by a licensed manufacturer after 1976, (because before 1976 it was a mobile home).

Park Model – an RV built typically by a licensed manufactured home builder, meant for an extended recreational stay, but which can never obtain a certificate of occupancy.

With this new Code (Addendum Q) a DIY built tiny home could apply for a CoO. That paves the way for city and state governments to create tiny home developments which may well allow residents an option to apartment/condo dwelling or manufactured home parks. It could become a more livable option for folks that doesn’t place as much burden on the municipal utility grid.

In order to avoid writing an extra-long blog post, we’ll cover types of tiny home and go deeper into other forms of truly mobile living in upcoming posts. When we do, we’ll update this post with links to the latest installments. For now, we’ll leave you with this infographic created by tinyhousebuild.com

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Mustang Mondays – Lighting Options

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Latest Lighting Options

Interior decorators will tell you that lighting can make the difference between a home and a house. A little mood lighting can go a long way and is one of the best ways homes reflect the character of the owner. Great news – homes no longer have a corner on that market. Beginning with later models in the “aughts,” key Ford Mustang parts now include custom lighting. Everything from headlights to third brake lights is one more thing for Pony pros to think about.

A Blaze of Glory

The color of your aura or chakra might be dismissed as hippie talk, but let’s be real – a glowing blue power machine sends a very different message than a fire red. Bulb covers come in a variety of colors to give your Pony style and more oomph. The best part is that installing a bulb cover is very affordable (often in the $5 range) and easy to swap out so you can change the color depending on mood or occasion. A more permanent option is a LED replacement bulb for not much extra.

Keep it Legal

Make sure you check with local and state police regulations when it comes to modifying lighting. Some precincts and states do not allow certain hues. Avoid any trouble down the road with a simple online search. However, one of the most common no-no’s is blue lights because of the similarity to police lights. If that’s the case, you’re still in luck – there are plenty of other options like red, green, or yellow. It might just be the excuse you need to heat up your ride with a fierier shade.

That Third Point

Some coupes come with that tell-tale third headlight. However, it might also be an add-on option for those who like the look. This additional red bar on the top of the rear window provides added visibility – not to mention a sleek look. Third light burned out? This is a very inexpensive fix at around $50.

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Beginning in 2005, MyColor was introduced for Ford. Never before have Mustang accessories been so easily customized. The Delphi system allows drivers to control interior light “color themes.” Need some ideas on which are most popular? Option 555 is a clear, bright white which is a great option for driving at night. Selecting 512 will give you a brighter teal color which is a little jazzier than the default blue. Some people go with 111, which is a calming gray that gives the visibility of 555 but with less glare. There are 127 combinations in total, so get to experimenting. Feel like you’re in a completely different ride – with the same power that you’re used to – by switching it up.

 

AVs Autonomous Vehicles (part 10?)

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Progress toward Autonomous Vehicles So Far:

2016 Qualcomm’s purchased NXP Semiconductors for it’s chip tech for AVs ($39 billion)

2017 Intel purchased Mobileye for its AV sensors ($15 billion)

2017 GM purchased Cruise Automation for AV tech patents ($1 billion)

Other companies with AV projects…Apple, Baidu, Google/Waymo, Intel, Tesla, and Uber. Experts are projecting a $7 trillion market for AVs.

 

Predictions about when we can expect them, range from as early as 2019 (Morgan Stanly) to 2032 (ABI Research). The National Highway Trafic Safety Administration predicts 2025. However, there’s a big push to make it by 2020: NuTonomy, Ford, Audi, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen. Uber ex-CEO said 2030.

The reason its become such a holy grail is based on a prediction that they’ll be more reliable than humans at driving safely, and allow more cars on the road per mile, traveling faster, which equates to less need to expand or improve infrastructure.city-1487891_1920

Critics point out that while AI’s might drive more consistently that doesn’t always equate to safer, and of course if you need to spend a bunch of money to say, equip every bridge, crosswalk, and road sign with a transmitter broadcasting don’t hit me, that negates the savings on infrastructure.

There’s often a disparity between the potential a new technology represents and how the market responds. Look no further than Electric Powered Vehicles (EVs). President Obama predicted one million EVs driven by 2016 and missed it by 700,000. Look at the initial launch of the personal computer. A lot of Apple 2e’s sat next to kitchens being the world’s most expensive Rolodex/recipe holder until the internet came along and gave them purpose.

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And who do we hold responsible when a crash does happen? The car owner or the programmer that created the algorithm that told the car it’s okay to run over your poodle if it avoids a 27% chance of concussing a passenger? States like Oregon require an attendant to pump your gas for you in order to create jobs. Will the threat of mass professional driver layoffs cause legislature to throttle the spread of AV’s? What happens when some states okay AVs and others don’t. I private owner/driver can simply engage or disengage the feature during travel, but if you’re a package delivery service trying to save money paying CDL drivers for long haul, do you drive around certain states in order to use driver-less trucks?

What about mapping every square inch of the US? Most people assume that navigation has been on the market long enough that virtually everywhere is mapped. But companies like Uber are buying whole other companies for their mapping data. Not how they map but the maps themselves. Road’s change, constantly and we don’t need AVs driving through a building that used to be a road or going the wrong way on a one way street because its maps are 6 months out of date.

Take for example a simple thing. GPS navigation will take you to the front door of a local restaurant where you can get out and walk in. Except that the restaurant has it’s front door on the street instead of the parking lot. So the car will stop in traffic for you to exit because it’s at it’s destination. What happens when a teenage girl hails a ride from a rides hare company and the GPS puts the car in the alley behind her apartment complex? When she walks to meet it and is attacked is the ride share company going to compensate her?

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These aren’t hurtles that can never be overcome, but when a programmer says he’s six months from producing a program that doesn’t mean your seven months from seeing it on store shelves. A lot has to happen in a lot of areas a programmer wouldn’t think about because it’s not his/her responsibility.

Another similarity to electric vehicles is that what makes sense in one setting doesn’t in another. Dense populations in highly developed areas may be early adapters to EVs and AVs where they’d be less attractive in rural Texas (for example). When a technology executive does an interview and says we’re only a year away from having AVs roaming the road around you ask yourself if she’s more intimately familiar with the programming capabilities than the legal implications and if she more likely lives in a dense urban area or a ranch in Montana. Could there be some paradigm blindness going on?

Perhaps one of the most telling indicators is a 2016 Kelly Blue Book Survey. Among EV owners only 53% said they’d re-buy the same car (31% if it only plugged in) compared to traditional engine vehicles where 82% would re-buy. 74% of Americans surveyed felt that AVs weren’t safe. Think about that. Imagine for a second that three out of four people felt you were less likely to die from a crash if you didn’t wear a seat belt. That’s a significant PR problem for companies that hope to sell $7 trillion worth of these cars.

Here’s an aspect seldom covered when pondering the topic, you can’t buy a new car today for less than $8,000 because in part that’s the cost of building it to modern safety standards. Even if the law requires cars be able to drive themselves how much more will people pay for the feature? We actually have some data on this. The Tesla model 3 sells for $10,000 more than cars in it’s class. Certainly Tesla has showed they can sell cars, but Tesla has more going for it than just autonomous driving and it’s not a Traditional Automotive Manufacturer. So you can’t get an apples to apples comparison to establish what consumers are willing to pay $10,000 more for. When surveyed directly they report that their willingness to pay more for automation has dropped by a 30% since 2014 and that they don’t trust Original manufacturers to provide safe AVs to market.

So while most writers on this topic are defending the position that they can get a car to drive itself by a certain date, there remains some doubt as to it’s market viability.

 

Rideshare (TNC) Showdown Uber vs Lyft

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by A.R. Bunch

A good question that, surprisingly, doesn’t get a lot of attention is, just which is better to drive for, Uber or Lyft. I have two years’ experience driving for Uber but haven’t actually driven for Lyft although I’ve tried to sign up for them. More on that later. This article in Insider Envy provides a more neutral look at the question and I’ll recap their findings here then provide my own experience.

Recap of Insider Envy article:

Sign up Bonus Lyft wins (Uber now varies market to market but not the $500 they used to offer)
Tipping Lyft edges out because they’ve been doing it longer
Earning Potential Uber keeps you busier and has more rider options (x, xl, SUV, etc.) which can mean you’d earn more, but in my experience it depends.
Public Image Lyft presents as Happy Hippy (which they aren’t) and Uber comes off like the evil empire.
Facts/Figures Lyft wins both driver satisfaction & hourly earnings (according to 2017 survey)

My Experience: Uber

I don’t think Uber deserves every ounce of its bad reputation. There’s a lot they could have done better, a lot of improvements they’ve made, and a lot more room to improve. However, Uber has a mechanism for improving how they operate and is becoming aware of their tragic flaw.

Uber’s tragic flaw, in my opinion, is a hyper-focus on their goals, which were to grow worldwide by using technology to exploit a void in transportation market they thought they alone saw, before anyone else saw it, and use that as a springboard to dominate autonomous driving vehicles from the birth of that market. To accomplish that goal they put different departments in charge of rider experience and driver experience and promised both the moon. Whenever there is a conflict between the needs of the rider and the needs of the driver, Uber chooses the rider. They didn’t seem to spend any time on contemplating corporate culture, brand perception, or win/win solutions. They knew they’d make enemies in every city they went to so they put on their thickest skin and took a damn-them-all-to-hell attitude to everyone’s problems. It served they well, ultimately.

Two Sides to Every Battle:

To be fair, the cities they sparred with weren’t lily white in their efforts to keep Uber out. They were often protecting a local taxi cartel who’d operated without competition for decades, or even their own mass transit systems that ran so inefficiently that people would pay twice the price to rideshare just to get where they needed to go in a timely manner. But the cities came out looking like they were looking out for their citizens’ safety when in fact they were delaying inevitable technology advancements that actually pull drunk drivers off the road, making it safer.

Since Uber was focused on winning they treated all press like good press and marched like Sherman to the Sea across America and the world. In my opinion, they saw themselves as resilient, while the public saw them uncaring. In the past not caring about something was often appropriate—like minding your own business. In today’s political climate, not caring is the darkest of evils.

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Mistakes vs Sins

Uber has heard the clarion call, however. Not just the CEO stepping down, etc. which we’ve covered (internal link), but recently they’ve been sewed by google’s Waymo over stolen secrets. While the lawsuit is not resolved, Alphabet has already awarded Lyft $500 million in venture capital which has to be connected to the suit.

In my opinion, Uber is a young company despite its size and making typical young company mistakes. They only become a problem if they don’t do anything about them, and they’re already working on them.

My Experience: Lyft

Lyft on the other hand. I’ve not had great experiences with. Nothing tragic and that’s probably telling. I tried to sign up with Lyft soon after I started driving for Uber. The app hung up and when I went to the local Lyft Hub they said I’d need an appointment. I couldn’t get an appointment because the app hung up before I got that far. I had a similar issue while on-boarding for Uber and when I dropped into the local green light hub they fixed it. I’ve gone in for several issues, as I said they aren’t perfect, and each time I’ve had a great experience. They know they have bugs and they created a way to address them. Lyft seemed surprised that something didn’t work and not interested in doing anything about it. Now, that’s just one person’s experience and may not be typical.

 

 

I did try to sign up again. It took a while to break through the previous hang up, but I finally got to go into the hub again and they treated me well. However, I had a hang up with my insurance card. I co-own my vehicle and the insurance card only listed the other driver. It took me three weeks to get my insurance company to mail me a card with my name on it and by then I’d decided to drive for Roadie, a package delivery company instead of adding another rideshare like Lyft.

Earnings:

My reason for giving up on Lyft is based on two factors around the topic of earnings. When I turn the Uber app on I don’t usually have a lot of downtime. I talk with a large number of other TNC drivers. Many who driver for both, and repeatedly I get the same comment. “I earn more per trip with Lyft, but they account for less than a third of all my rides. So my weekly earnings are bigger from Uber.”

Now, most of my contact is in the Portland, OR, market. I’m told that in Vegas everything is Lyft. I’m betting that Lyft does have a better toehold in some markets. It’s just not possible for Uber to dominate all the cities worldwide they’re trying to focus on. The recent hit to their reputation will probably shove them out of some cities, like London, and even if the city government doesn’t step in formally, it wouldn’t take too much for a local taxi company to launch their own app and keep the big players out.

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So at the end of the day, it’s pretty much impossible for me to recommend one rideshare giant over the other. Fortunately, you can easily audition them both for yourself. You’re going to need a lot of the same paperwork for either one so you may as well higher on for both at the same time. It’ll make for a busy week, but I’ve you’ve just lost you’ve got the time I’d race them against each other to see who starts you faster. Then I’d drive them each for a week and see who makes you more money and who treats you better. Then do us a big favor and respond to this article to share your experience.