Can We Live Without Vehicle Insights?


Op-Ed by Paul Wimsett

First what are Insights?

Your car’s computer gathers and transmits information about how your car performs under various conditions—like when you’re stomping on the gas.

According to IBM

“IBM® IoT Connected Vehicle Insights extends the power of cognitive computing to connected cars, acquiring data from sensors and systems to improve the in-car experience. Today’s cars are moving data centers with onboard sensors and computers that can capture information about the vehicle and access it in near real time. IBM IoT Connected Vehicle Insights is an IBM Cloud service that you can use to retrieve, manage and analyze big data from connected vehicles.”

It’s all designed to improve your business, or so says

It’s about optimizing your fleet. Instead of drivers checking in via CB radio, dispatchers know everything about where you are, what speed and direction you’re traveling. They know when you’ll need to refuel.

Does it sound a little invasive? Yes! But it also allows logistics companies to optimize everything they do.

It is meant to go hand-in-hand with monitoring inventory and warehousing. For example, Walmart is pretty famous for their distribution model. While the specifics are a proprietary secret, in general it involves using the content of trucks as part of their warehouse system.

In an old logistics scenario, trucks would pick up an entire order from a factory when it’s completed and taking it to a distribution center to be stored until loads are dispatched to stores. Now trucks pick up smaller batches of product daily as they are produced. These trucks can swing by several factories or warehouses in a day so their load contains a mix of products. Then when a store orders a case of inventory the nearest truck can drop it off on the fly.


When it comes to day-to-day operations, the number one cost for logistics business would be fuel costs, hands down.

A logistic business is one which organizes movement of materials.

The key with vehicle insights is that all the information is fed live to the company.

It produces graphs which might mean nothing to you unless you have a degree in statistics, but it all amounts to time and motion–saving time and reducing the amount of motion (that is movement of traffic) involved. It’s about knowing where all your vehicles are at any one time, and what’s on them, so that you can reroute them on at a moment’s notice.

It is hard to think of cars or trucks as “moving data centers” but this is how IBM puts it. Nor is it easy to imagine what they call “big data” coming from such a business, but that’s another way of saying that there is a huge output of data available to analyse.

What about unsafe practices:

How do you know that a specific driver is keeping to the best rules of the road?

Car insights are used to monitor driving performance and decision-making. Only a few years ago this was accomplished via putting the company phone number on it’s trucks so virtuous members of the public could report bad the behaviour of drivers. Many companies also employed a “governor” which limited the maximum speed of it’s fleet vehicle.

But times have changed. Nowadays the driving patterns can be investigated at a distance. The idea is that drivers will take fewer risks if they know someone is watching. Whether that’s true or not, hasn’t been statistically proven. Clearly it’s not a popular feature for drivers who don’t enjoy being micromanaged. Most drivers who are forced to be conscious of how they are driving are more stressed and perform more poorly than drivers that are simply paying attention to the road and not to how they’re driving.

Weather and Traffic—the real benefit:

Perhaps the biggest blessing to drivers themselves is aiding them with unfamiliar weather conditions and constantly changing traffic. When one vehicle hits a traffic slow down it will notify other vehicles to try an alternate route. It will also let a destination know that their shipment is delayed.

In summary, car insights allow companies to see problems for themselves and do more with the information, which can translate to money. However, this could also mean less and less freedom for drivers in such enterprises. Safety and money is one thing, but what is the real toll on the health of drivers who feel like they’re under a microscope all day at work?

How Hot Was It?


While the pictures tell the tale of just how hot it’s been, there is a serious side to this. Animals and children who get locked in a car are at serious risk of permanent brain damage or even death.


picture found Fun Cage

According to when the outside temperature is 90 the air inside your car can climb to 119 degrees in as little as 20 minutes. If it’s 95 it could climb to 140 degrees after an hour. Please make sure your children and animals are not left unattended in this summer heat wave we’re having.

Signs-Its-Too-Hot-Outside-009.jpgThis message is brought to you by Tire Kickers. Make sure the car you buy has working power locks.


What’s New: Walmart and Tesla tussle over solar panel fires.

  • On Tuesday, Walmart filed suit against Tesla alleging its solar panels had caused fires at seven of its stores.
  • Tesla short David Einhorn tweeted Friday, “A recall should have happened long ago” and that CEO Elon Musk should resign.
  • Walmart and Tesla said in a statement Thursday that they “look forward to addressing all issues and re-energizing Tesla solar installations at Walmart stores, once all parties are certain that all concerns have been addressed.”

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Seeing the USA in a Van


By Paul Wimsett of the U.K. Desk

It seems madness to live in a van, but the caravan has had a long history. But when it comes to taking a road trip across America it surely is the only way to travel.

Although many people do own camper vans outright it takes out so much of the hassle to hire them instead.

Companies such as Campervan Hire USA feed off people’s wanderlust to see the sights around the USA. (Although Campervans are used abroad the idea of hiring a campervan for a limited period seems to be an idea confined to the USA. It may have something to do with the narrowness of roads elsewhere). You have a choice of traveling from A to B or taking a round trip. You need to be over 21 to drive a camper-van and you need to have had a license for more than 12 months.


car-3314753_1920.jpgWhen it comes to luxuries you have a short list: a stove, clean bedding, pots and pans, table and chairs and a fridge. Presumably the fridge has somewhere to store frozen goods, which can be a matter of controversy. You hope for quite a substantial spot but many only have a tiny “most cold corner of the fridge.” There’s nothing like travelling all day to make one want to snack.


What might worry people is if they pay to go on a trip and they do not take the whole journey. Do they still have to pay the same amount of money? No, because it all comes down to the recorded mileage. If you are traveling from another country you can even get a reduction on your flight.

Special Types of Camper-Vans…

With all these hire firms there are number of pick up centers throughout the USA. As well as general campers, it is possible to hire what is known as an “A-Class Motorhome”, also known as a RV. Opinions vary on what an A-Class Motorhome is, but the consensus is that it’s an RV built on a van frame that doesn’t require altering the basic shape of the vehicle. Class A’s do accommodate larger groups – for instance four adults and two children—where a typical caravan is better suited to a couple of surfers and their boards.

Pre-Trip Prep…

If you’re from a place like England traveling to America it’s important to remember that even though the culture isn’t radically different, some of the climates you encounter are quite different. Do you have the right clothes for the climate? That’s the first question, you’d ask for a trip to a location, but this is a touring holiday. If you plan to explore New Mexico for instance and you research weather in New Mexico, everything will indicate that the place is generally warm. Then you learn how close you are to the Rocky Mountains and you decide its worth a few hours just to say you’ve been there. Well if you don’t want to pay tourist prices for a jumper it’s vital to plan ahead.

The Trip Itself…

roadtrip-4087903_1920.jpgThere are a number of things you need to remember such as booking the campsites. You also need to check they have all the amenities you need.

The big shocker for those of us from small, but populous places like Java, Japan, or Great Britten is the distances in America. It feels strange just how far apart things are. And while petrol seems cheap compared to home, if you want to explore the West coast and go from Phoenix to Seattle that’s 1441 miles. No matter how cheap price per liter its a hell of a lot of diesel.

The right tool for the job…

We’ve spoken a lot of Class As and simple caravans, which are more dissimilar than we’ve perhaps described. Here’s why it matters. The motorhome/RV is no good in urban areas but comes into its own in the country. If you have in mind, hitting the world’s longest yard sale in but you also want to hit the statue of liberty then you have an issue on your hands. The better vehicle to navigate the streets of “The Big Apple” is a small camper van, but a Class A will provide more comfort on the open road.

The answer any American will give you is to fly into New York and site see for a couple days, then get out of the city to pick up a descent sized Class A and start traveling. Almost any direction you go will provide mind blowing things to see and neat people to meet.

Where to go…

boat-1834837_1920.jpgWe can’t include it all here, but assuming you started in New York, you could drive North and see Niagra Falls, Boston where you can’t throw a crate of tea without hitting a bit of history, then head to main for some lobster. Or, you could head south and go to the nation’s capital where you’ll catch as many museums as America has to offer in one town. (In America 17 museums in one city is a lot, so try not to bring it up London’s 250.)

If you head west there is so much to see but you’ll learn just how spread out America can be. It’s truly impossible see it all if you had a year, but go ahead and throw a dart in the map, you’ll find adventure and friends wherever you go. The most boring state will take more than a day to explore and you’ll never be bored. (I confess that Yanks love our accent, which helps you make new friends and if you speak engine, well, good like buying your own pint.)


The websites will refer to “tumbleweed deserts” to “palm lined” roads, but it’s important just to see these as brochures. See if you can find someone online who has actually taken a trip and can inform the best ways to enjoy the trip and stay safe.

By the way, the English version of an ugly American tourist is to say you’ve been to the states and then confess you’ve only been to Walt Disney World in Florida. However, instead of a scowl or good withering look, a yank will smile in amusement. They take for granted that we’ve all glanced at a map and noticed that Florida is one extreme corner of the country and the park is built for fanciful amusement. Expect a follow up comment along the lines of, “Ahh, well your seen it all then.”

But the unexpected truth is, real America is shockingly more amazing than the place they built to escape reality. So what are you waiting for? Explore what’s out there.


What’s News: Tesla shares take a hit


  • Shares of Tesla initially rise Thursday after a German business publication reports that Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess is interested in buying a stake in the company, citing sources.
  • The stock pares some of its gains after Volkswagen denies the report.
  • A VW spokesman tells CNBC the report is “completely unfounded.”

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Where did they get a crazy idea of a VW acquisition? Well, from stories like this one.

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What’s News: Ford EV SUV inspired by mustang?


Brian Williams snapped some photos outside of the automaker’s Dearborn, Mich., development center, of what’s assumed to be a prototype for the upcoming utility vehicle. The high-performance vehicle is wearing a bulky wrap to obscure it a little. The testers always drive each new prototype on public roads for real-world testing at some point in the process. What can’t be known for sure is if this is truly the mustang “inspired” SUV that has been rumored.

Original story

What’s News: Rent a brand new Mustang?

“For $177, you can stand in lines at Disney all day. You can cover a night in a decent hotel room or eat a plate of deconstructed fried pickles at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Or you can invest in 24 hours with the supercharged 600-plus-hp Mustang Shelby GT-S. Let’s put that last one into perspective: You can’t buy even half of a rear tire for the Shelby with $177.”

German automotive rental giant, Sixt, entered the US market in 2011, and has grown quickly since–probably due in part to sharp decisions like this. Sixt’s Shelby fleet currently stands at 20 nationwide among cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami, (price tags vary by market). When Car and Driver rented one in Florida the cost was $177 / day with an extra $0.83 /mi after the first 175 miles.

This sure beats renting a minivan to haul the family to a world famous amusement park and doesn’t cost that much more, really, does it???

“The Shelby GT-S turns every open road into a thrill ride that you pilot. And if it takes your entire vacation budget to make it happen, know that you can probably cook a steak on the car’s supercharger and sleep in the passenger’s seat.”

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How Tricky Are Car Seats?


(Special Note: you can get a free Slurpee today at most 7/11 stores!!!)

When it comes to safety features there are three standards or different ways to think about it:

  • The basic steps to avoid danger.
  • What the law requires or bans.
  • The best practices.

In the end, most of us use a mishmash of all three depending on the specific situation and based highly on our perception of what’s dangerous.

When it comes to car seats, most of us would agree that a best practice standard is in order, but what’s available for sale, state by state, is based instead on local law. Most of us don’t take the time to vet our state laws, instead assuming that if you can buy it in a reputable store it’s probably, “safe.” However, you’d be surprised by how many states have laws that fall far short of a best-practice standard, while others actually wastefully exceed it.

South Dakota is an example of falling short of best practice by not even having a booster seat law at all. But not to pick on them too much, Missouri, Connecticut, and New York don’t have laws requiring “proper use.” This means that if an adult puts a child in a seat not designed for their weight or height the adult can’t be held responsible.

But to be fair, sometimes draconian laws can be counterproductive. The absolute best practice can be expensive, and impractical to a point that officers are handing out tickets to loving parents who find it too burdensome to fully comply. It’s actually impossible to make a car safe at all times for all occupants and therefor some laws are impractical.

A good example of this is a Kentucky law that passed in 2015, that’s so poorly written it makes it technically illegal for a child over 40 inches tall to use a five-point harness. The issue, as you’ll notice when you read on, is that 40 inches is an average height for a four-year-old who should be transitioning into a booster, but most boosters start when a child is 43 inches tall. This creates a potential year gap when your child can’t legally use either device. As a stop gap, Kentucky has circulated a pamphlet explaining that they won’t be enforcing the broken parts of the law.

Best Practices:

The following advice stems from the best practice recommended by experts at the NHTSA and at The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP). It starts even before the baby is born. A pregnant woman should have her lap top belt under her baby bump. Some ingenious folks have invented a devise called a tummy shield which may prevent a woman from injuring herself using the seatbelt. (

Between birth and about age four a child must be in a rear-facing carrier which attaches to the seat belt. This is based upon the age at which a child’s neck bones will be strong enough to handle a crash the way an adult’s neck can. Now this is where we need to get practical. A child of average height for age four doesn’t fit backwards in most vehicles. A law requiring this would ban parents from buying almost every vehicle currently made. So a common sense compromise is made in most states requiring backward facing car seats from birth to age two.

Clearly the only answer to the rear facing issue is to leave your child rear facing as long as you can after age two.

The front facing seat begins with a harness which attaches at 5 points. The harness is best until they reach 50 lbs. However, in the most recent recommendations (Aug. 2018) AAP gives a lot of credence to the car seat manufacturers, since they are required to test the performance of their seats. We’ve found a bit of variety from one manufacturer to another. For example, if your child is born early, it can be difficult to find a car seat that rates itself for under 5 pounds.

When a child outgrows a 5-point restraint seat, a booster seat is recommended. Children should remain in a booster until 4’ 9” and 8 to 12 years of age.

5steptest-280x460Is it ridiculous to put your 12 year old in a booster? Well, yes! Here’s the actual reasoning behind it. If the seat belt restraint doesn’t land on a passenger’s body where it was designed to it can cause damage. It’s important that it doesn’t land across a child’s neck for obvious reasons. Isn’t there a better option than a booster seat? Sure, but it depends on your definition of the word, ‘better.’ A company called RideSafer makes a vest that a child wears, not unlike a life jacket, which positions the seat-belt correctly. There are other belt-positioning devises—none of which are really well known, and therefore largely ignored by agencies which write safety laws and recommendations.

The image to the left shows a “test” you can perform to graduate your child from a booster devise.


Of course it’s all out the window (bad pun intended) if you don’t correctly install a car seat. Many towns have classes on correctly installing a car seat, often put on by the fire department. These happened when NHSA published data about the number of injuries that occurred when a seat wasn’t installed properly.

Here’s a video by the Virginia MDV showing how to install a front facing child car seat.

Flying with Children

For those traveling in rented cars, items such as boosters and carriers can also be rented, which saves you the trouble of carrying them through airports. If you do need to fly with a car seat they now make car seat bags that make it much safer and easier to carry them. They’re easier because they have shoulder straps and safer because corralling all those straps and hooks inside a bag keep them from snagging on other passengers or worse, the escalator.

Although there is nothing wrong in buying a used car seat, most of the industry seems to be against it, maybe for obvious reasons!

The reality is that plastic degrades and after as little as six months many child seats are no longer considered by the manufacturer to be in the condition that safety tested. Most manufacturers consider the seats safe for up to two years, but that doesn’t stop them from lobbying state governments to outlaw buying/selling used car seats on the grounds that they might be expired. If you get a used car seat from say, your cousin, Craig, just be sure to check the expiration date which should be stamped somewhere in the plastic.

Buying a Car Seat

The biggest key to choosing a seat is actually if fits in your car. Another is if it’s easy to transfer from car to car, because you’re going to be doing that more often than you think. Some car seats even come with indicators which tell you if they are fitted incorrectly. Others come with additional padding to provide further peace of mind while a baby is newly born, which is removed as a child grows. Graco makes a 4 in 1 car seat which transitions from rear facing to front facing to booster. This one is a car seat that snaps onto a stroller so you don’t have to wake your baby up to transition out of a car. If you have ever had to sit in a running car because you don’t want to wake your baby up this could be a handy feature BUT by far the most important feature in seat is that it fits in your car.

Additional parts of the infant car seat include the canopy which is designed to protect the baby further as well as allowing them to sleep. How do you navigate the world of car seats? In the end, you do what you do with ever other aspect of raising a child—you ask people you trust. If you don’t know any other parents read reviews on line. Google at leisure and shop with ease, skip google in haste and regret at leisure or something like that.

I hope that you find the right car seat for you and that you don’t find it too much of a problem to install. As you can see it’s a complex subject.