Best of the web: infotainment

“There are a lot of noteworthy things about the Koenigsegg Gemera, one of the craziest vehicles to come out of the Sweden-based high-performance car manufacturer. It’s insanely quick, it produces 1700 hp, it seats four, it even has anchor points for child seats. The most exciting feature about the Gemera, however, is its infotainment system, which is inspired by the Tesla Model 3.”

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Virtual Travelling in 7 fun steps.

With a lack of movement and everyone stuck indoors now is the time to take a virtual journey.

Here’s How:

Your starting point is a map, (you can’t use Sat-Nav yet). Choose a map of a place you’ve never been, either a country or a state. We recommend starting with a pencil at first but as you get more experience you can switch to a highlighter. A word of caution, you’re going to be ruining this map for other things, so pick one with that in mind. Don’t worry, that map shall not have died in vane—this is an excellent creative exercise.

First Choose the Scope and Mission of your Trip:

There are two potential goals for a virtual trip:

  1. This is a detailed plan/dry run for a trip on your bucket list (You will take this trip.)
  2. Since you can’t really go right now, you may as well travel somewhere you’ll never get to in real life.

Which you choose A, or B, will determine a few details later, but either way, we recommend making this trip as detailed and real as you possibly can. This is going to be fun.

There are Two Factors to any Trip:

  1. Are you focused on the destination/objective? (or)
  2. Are you more excited by the serendipitous things that might happen along the way?
1 Destination2 Adventure
A Practice1A Practice Destination2A Practice Adventure
B Fantasy1B Fantasy Destination2B Fantasy Adventure

A good trip will have elements of both, but knowing which factors is your priority will make your planning easier. For the purpose of this trip lets assume that you are traveling the US (since there are so many good guidebooks to Europe that a virtual trip is limited in benefit).

How to Take your Virtual Road Trip:

You’ll be planning this trip step by step and collecting picture, sound, or video to support your journey experience. As you trace the map in pencil, figure out how far you are going each day and where you’ll stay on your over nights. What sites are available to see along the way? What’s worth a detour?

One great resource for this is google earth. You can zoom in and follow your map on the virtual map. Get down into the street level view and grab screen shots of the places you’ll stay and the attractions you’ll visit.

Build a play list for each leg of the journey. Dig into the web pages for each site you’ll visit. Look up the menu of local restaurants and pic out what items you’d like to eat when you’re there.

One last question to answer up front:

Is there something you haven’t done before? Is there some reason you haven’t visited a region? If so, and you intend to really do this trip, what’s you’re plan to overcome that obstacle?

Remember, Detail is King. Make this as Real as Possible!

Step 1: Who is going with you?

Regardless of whether your goal is a practice destination or a fantasy adventure you might be thinking anything from a romantic getaway to a reunion road trip. If your single and you’re wanting a romantic getaway, well, just pick someone you wish was going with you.

If you’re re-living a road trip with college buddies maybe build a Facebook group and plan it together. Have them dig up photos to post too. You can laugh about some of the adventures from the first trip and listen to the soundtrack of that time in your lives.

Step 2: What is your ideal vehicle to travel?

Remember it needs to have enough legroom, cargo space and so on. If you wish to take more than six are you renting a large van? Another option would be a Class A or Class B RV. You could split the cost between you and save on hotel costs.

Price it out and collect a picture of the potential vehicle.

Don’t forget to figure out the fuel economy of the rig, and the size of the gas tank. How many times a day will you need to stop for fuel?

Step 3: What’s the maximum length of each leg on your journey?

A journey needs a destination, but it also needs a number of stop off points. What do you want to do at these stop off points? If you’re travelling for over eight hours it is advisable to eat out somewhere.

Professional drivers are required to stop for a significant rest every 10 hours. That’s a good outside limit for a days journey, but we recommend that you’re really missing the point of a road trip if you go more than 7 hours in a day—and that’s not all in one shot.

Step 4: What to do at each stop.

Eating is a factor. You might pack some food so that you can eat without stopping, or to bring the coast down, or simply to keep from starving in the middle of nowhere when the car breaks down.

However, you will need to stop for bathroom breaks and you’re smart if you move your body a bit on these stops. You’ll also need to get gas. For efficiency it’s best to plan the bathroom breaks with the fuel stops BUT that may not always work out perfectly.

If you’re stopping off at a town or city what you want to see while there? It all comes down to how mobile you are and how long you give yourself to see different attractions. The stops can really zap your progress toward your end goal, or they can be the most memorable part of the whole journey. It depends a little on luck, a little on planning, and a lot on your perspective. This is a virtual trip so hope for the best and leave some wiggle room for life to go sideways.

Step 5: Speaking of Life Going Sideways

Is there a way through cities that avoids all the traffic? Are there back roads leading to the center of town? You might want to start each leg of your trip to avoid the rush hours. Nothing worse than spending vacation time, sitting in on the freeway. LA logjams are no more exotic than New York nightmares.

Is there a place with a view you want to see on the way? These tend to be marked on the map. Do you want to see mountains, lakes or do you want to see something else? Plan the route accordingly. This is a balancing act between driving the long beautiful route and driving the short, fast, boring route.

Step 6: Over Nights

Where are you going to stay in this virtual trip? A hotel? A hostel? A camp site? A chalet? Though you might travel in a camper van you can’t park it anywhere. This all needs to be planned and marked on your map.

Do you want to explore the city where you are staying? Take a look at its city limits or downtown region? You might like to seek out guides for the area or ask questions on forums, just so you have all the details?

One smart idea from European guidebooks is to stay at certain, strategic locations and day trip out to excursions. It can save a little time on checking in and out of hotels and let you plan around traffic more strategically.

There’s always a tendency, even in a virtual plan, to attempt to take on too much. Even if it’s only a fantasy game, try to limit a day to a stretch of coastline or thirty miles movement in a circuit. Keep things as simple as possible.

Think about the people you are travelling with. Look for activities that would please all the party. Not all the people you want to travel with will be with you in a lockdown, your ideal date for instance. What would keep them happy?

Step 7: Your Destination

When you plan your trips it’s not advisable to travel very far on the first day or the last day. You need to use that time to rest. Just be conscious of what you want to do when you get “there,” wherever “there” is? If you will need your wits about you, don’t plan to come in at midnight after a 10-hour straight drive.

Bonus Step 8: How can you make this a real-life adventure?

Could you afford the trip in real life? Maybe you can’t pull it off right after the pandemic lifts, but you could save up for it.

Decide if you could put ½ a percent of your income into an envelope in your sock drawer. If you can pull it off soon, Gas is under $3 a gallon right now and your emotional heart could use a break. Really, how far are you planning to go?

One last word of caution though, there’s always the need to have extra spending money, and money for emergencies, it will end up costing a bit more than the raw date you collect, but you won’t know until you work it out.

So, when are you doing this journey for real, then?

Tesla Cybertruck: Here’s what it looks like with Elon Musk’s design changes

Tesla Cybertruck’s insane design is going to be updated for the production version, and we now get to see what it could look like based on recent comments by Elon Musk.

Over the last week,  CEO Elon Musk has made several comments regarding the Tesla Cybertruck.

He talked about how owners will need to wrap the electric pickup to get different colors, and he said that Tesla is updating the Cybertruck’s adaptive air suspension.

Musk has said before that “there’s more” to the Cybertruck and “It’s better than people realize.”

Tesla is updating several aspects of the electric pickup for the production version compared to the prototype unveiled last year.

Earlier this week, Musk was asked what the biggest change is to Cybertruck from prototype and he responded that Tesla “reduced the size by ~3%,” made the “center line more level,” and “lowered the window sill height.”

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The Minimal Car Which Could Get Anywhere.

There are huge number of public spaces in European towns, especially in Italy, tight areas where it would be hard for sedans to navigate. Whether the roads are too rough, or the area is designated to pedestrians, it is not a place for normal cars. Added to this are car-free islands where there is no way to transport anything substantial to the place.

Is there a Motorized Vehicle Solution?

This is where you need some kind of minimalist car. What is a minimalist car? Well there are a few examples already in existence, and if the market demands it, perhaps they will design more.

In Slovenia, for instance, where the elderly and the infirm are moved about by Ljubjani or slow-moving taxis. But there are hundreds of such regions from the Spandau of Berlin to the Renaissance Quarter of Seville. There must be a market here for mini vehicles?

Such was the concept that Giorgetto Guigiaro hoped to innovate. One of the chief designers of Italdesign, he had created a number of specialist cars like the famous Delorean. Giorgetto was ahead of his time, thinking up concepts like ride-sharing long before others created it. Could he create a car that narrowed everything down to the basic essentials, for use in these urban enclaves where other cars cannot go?

A New Approach to A New Type of Car

In terms of car design, Italdesign does a little of everything, including creating prototypes for automobiles and design validation. At least according to their website. It’s not clear how validation differs from testing, maybe it’s about getting from a prototype to a product that can enter the market.

Guigiaro planned to get a minimalist car to market by 1992, but there’s little point in researching a new vehicle unless you plan for some kind of success. Previous attempts at minimalist cars, like the Sinclair C5, had a toy car look and feel. These cars embraced their identity as novelty cars and therefore had no mass marketability.

The car that Guigiaro came up with was the Biga, one of the first electric cars. This type of car looks more like a small van than a car and it has been built to save space.

Which parts did the vehicle need and what could be left out?

To look at the Biga from the outside you might find it hard to believe it is possible for this tiny a vehicle to transport four people. The way round this is to only to have the driver’s seat where it usually is. The other three seats are at 90° from the driver’s seat and access is only available through a back door. If each seat had its own door this would take up needless space.

You might have thought that the Biga was made of fiberglass, but it was actually made of a lightweight steel. The overall effect is a cube on wheels. Like a number of compact cars since, the Biga can be parked at right angles to the sidewalk (where the law permits), this allows you to easily fit three Biga’s in the length of two normal parking spots.

Not all cars can be Cadiallacs, there are hundreds of vehicles that aren’t there for the mass market. It’s hard to find accurate sales of the Biga. It would be difficult to judge those numbers in context if you found them. The reason is that the Biga is a cross between a novelty car and a mass market production vehicle—more in the category of a four-wheel drive off-road vehicle, only most off-road vehicles are still able to serve as a daily driver in a pinch. The Biga is the type of car which encourages creative thought and solves a problem, rather than one that makes a huge impression. So it makes a splash in its own way.

Covid Roads and Borders…What’s New

Revised 4/20/2020 (links updated.)

Things seems to have changed since the end of March when it was reported that 85% of Americans traveled to work by car but now, thanks to the virus it seems that congestion is easing. It may be quicker to your designated place but due to the lack of open shops, restaurants and so on there may be less reason to get there.

A Heatmap of Seattle for Instance:

An aerial “heatmap” of the streets shows that the majority of roads have no traffic at all. It’s a similar story with San Francisco but somehow there are still a number of bottlenecks here where congestion has built up. This doesn’t include areas round ports and airports as neither are working at full capacity.

Washington DC seems off-script though as its traffic is up 47℅ and this must surely be governmental traffic. Although other countries are allowing its bureaucrats to govern through computers, the internet and teleworking the USA is taking the all hands on deck approach to governance where they crowd everyone into business as usual and hope John Q Public doesn’t wonder why its safe for them and not you. This is according to Government Executive, a trade journal.

The Northern Boarder:

It’s a stressful period for the Canada/US borders. Drivers who test positive for Corvid-19 may be denied entry and have to self-isolate for 14 days. Anyone passing through must state whether they have a cough or fever.

There wasn’t any legislation against services like Fed-Ex when crossing these borders at the end of March, but this appears to have altered.

If this situation continues trucks will find it difficult to reach shops and there will be a shortage of product if this carries on much longer. Although food trucks are still allowed to operate there’s a break in the supply chain. As well as food trucks, equipment for hospitals and raw materials (such as materials to build ventilators, masks and soap) must be transported. So, its hard to really be critical of what is and what isn’t “essential.”

Because of the urgency of these journeys, some regulations about off-road breaks have been suspended, meaning that they might work more than 14 hours a day. They have been told to stop driving if they feel drowsy.

While some states are allowing restaurants in general to remain open others have restricted all but Drivers’ cafes, but usually only to serve take out. There are reports of truck drivers taking care to wash down their trucks and wash their hands. It’s important to stay vigilant at this time.

There is a curfew in New Jersey between the hours of 10am and 5pm so it’s impossible to drive at night. At various state boundaries checkpoints have been set up with officers wearing masks and keeping their distance from drivers. Every road sign in the nation is now broadcasting some sort of reminder to stay home, it seems.

You are still allowed to use buses or Ubers at this time. Many cities however have a shelter-in-place order where you can only leave home to receive food or medical supplies.

We don’t know how these procedures will be continue but it seems in order to stay safe we should stick to them for the time being, if for our own safety.

Trump’s War on Clean Cars?

Op-Ed by Paul W

At this point where this is far less traffic on the road, it is good time to revisit what Trump said on electric cars.

You might think of some states as “truck-friendly” and some like California as “truck-unfriendly.”

During Obama’s presidency certain standards involving fuel efficiency were greatly increased. In economic terms this hits America where it hurts. Despite Trump’s protest, no state has supported a revocation.

The idea of the Clean Cars 4 All program was to replace a old polluting car and replace it with one with zero emissions or close to it. It was previously known as the Enhanced Flat Modernisation Plus-Up Program which is not exactly catchy. It worked with similar programs to reduce greenhouse gases.

One of these proposed plans was to replace a polluting car with an electric bike though presumably with a financial incentive. While this might fly in California where the weather is agreeable it’s not likely to work on a national level. It’s just possible that they were commuting from home and a bike was a suitable replacement, but it might just lead you to wonder if they missed the car after a few weeks.

Although it seems that California is creating ambitious and unreachable standards to remove carbon dioxide from the air but it’s not a new thing as far as the state is concerned. Is President Trump really at war with these new standards?

As to the question of President Trumps lobbying over fuel economy, there are two possible motives:
1) Either he is protecting Big Business (as some people contend). Or…
2) He’s allowing the buyers to decide for themselves what type of car they want to buy.

If the first is true, then why is big auto battling for higher fuel economy standards?

You would have thought the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers who represent the interests of General Motors, Toyota, Ford and others in America would have taken a stand on this but they might just be seeing where the winds are blowing.

Maybe the car companies did want the rules to relax so that cars do not keep becoming fuel efficient every few years, but they’ve been pretty disapproving of Trump’s concession to keep the standard at 29 miles per gallon until 2015, that seems to go too far even for automakers.

A recession, if it happens, will complicate things. American car makers will start fighting for a fuel economy standard they can produce without losing their dominance on trucks and larger cars—like they did in the 11970s. The consumer may show more interest in fuel efficient cars even if it means being cramped in their small accommodations. It’s hard to tell if that would swing the popularity of the standards one way or the other.

What was known as the final action was released last November which was a compromise between Trump’s proposals and Obama’s laws. It may be difficult to keep everyone happy. They still aren’t about zero emissions but about slowing down the rate that cars pollute. It won’t make the city air clear overnight though, but any change is a good thing.

If the market is left to decide, one could argue that a tax incentive simply a way to level the playing field—since E-Cars are more expensive to produce in the short term. On the other hand, do we really have a bead on what the market wants when we spend tax dollars trying to sway their decisions.

It may essentially come down to whether the general public wish to pay the extra for these type of vehicles. And as said above, people are a bit edgy about travelling in general right now.

Regardless of President Trump’s motives should he lose the election things could change. It would be up to the new President to put their plans in place. Could they follow Obama era thinking or will they continue to let citizens decide the type of vehicle they want to buy and roll the dice with the environment?

This may be academic though because there may not even be an election this year.

What do you call Car Fans?

Op-Ed from the UK Desk

There is no real name for fans of cars, apart from simply drivers, fans of trucks are known as truckers, and fans of motorcycles are bikers. But there’s no overall name for fans of cars.

A chauffeur for one doesn’t sit quite right. It was one of the first names for a driver, derived from the French for “heater-up.” It was used as a term for those who stoked the engine in a train or on a ship.

Probably a better term might be motorhead, but due to the heavy metal group with the similar name it doesn’t sound quite right. Those with a need for speed might be known a speed freak. If you constantly rev up your engine but don’t necessarily go fast you might call yourself a “revhead.” But that might get confused with a Vicar with a penchant for cars? Who can say?

In the UK, a slang term for the fast, teenage speeder is a “boy racer” (there doesn’t seem to be that many girl racers). The dictionary points to “hoon” as an alternative, which is short for hooligan. But these are not names young speeders give themselves as much as derogatory names given to them by the older member of society (who may need to think twice before throwing stones as they have their own driving problems.)

Someone with a lack of consideration for other road users might be known as a “road hog”. Those who drive at you, “taking their half out of the middle,” might be called “line hogs”. Or you might look elsewhere in the Animal Kingdom and call them “Mr. Toad”, the character from the children’s classic The Wind in the Willows? If they cut you off you might just call them a rude word?

Apart from driving style we have what you like about cars:
… those who like to look under the hood–a “gear head”
…those who look for car parts online or junk yards–a “piston head”
…those who tinker with their cars– a grease monkey

No doubt they can also be called “greaseballs” or “greasers”; it depends on the amount of grease involved. Maybe tinkerer is better? Originally it meant someone who sold pots and pans but now it means someone who might not be that competent, but has a go, especially in the area of car repair.

Perhaps we should look to the noises and motions that mechanics make and call them tutters or head-shakers? Maybe “bangers” to describe the mystery sounds they make under your car when it should be ready now. There must be something to call someone with a strange sensation to see underneath – a dipper? A diver? Someone who runs amok with your beloved car?

What about fans of individual cars? Again, there’s no specific name. Fans of 4×4 might be known as “fourbys” and fans of Minis might name themselves after the recent film “Minions” (they could take refuge in an early film franchise and call themselves “Herbies.” Women who like vans could possibly call themselves “vanettes” and female lovers of BMW could be “Beemettes” but it’s not clear what the male version could be. Still it all comes down to your imagination, really.

In the end it’s all in fun. If you have a suggestion on what to call fans of cars leave a comment on this post.

High Mileage Doesn’t have to Mean Low Value

So you have a car and you want to drive it, but that’s the rub – the more you drive the sooner it wears out. Well, the reality may not be so dire. Below are a few words on how to maintain your car to make it go further.

A car with a number of miles on the clock can cause problems, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that a car needs to be replaced after say, 100,000 miles. In truth, it’s all about maintenance; you might be able to get your run-around to reach 200,000 miles or more.

The idea that your car cannot go above 100,000 miles is so engrained in the car industry that odometers in the 1960s and the 1970s only went up to 99,999. If you went any further, the count would reset. Irreputable dealers used to get a coat hanger up under the dash roll the odometer forward until it reset and then act as though it’s a low mileage car.

Nowadays we see it different.

People don’t like buying high mileage cars, but it doesn’t mean that this type of car cannot hold its value if looked after correctly. You just need to watch over things like the automatic transmission, battery and tread, especially after a long journey.

Recommendations for making a car last include fixing any problem which comes up immediately. Most drivers do ignore problems and they can come back to bite you. So if you see a warning light or hear a strange noise remember to check it out or get a mechanic to check it out.

Although many people don’t like being tied to the maintenance manual it’s a good idea to follow recommendation on when to check the tire pressure or looking at fluids such as oil and water.

It’s essential to keep the car clean, as foreign bodies such as road salt can damage your car. Most people don’t drive their car respectfully and this can also cause difficulty to a high mileage cars. This includes doing things like not using the brake or clutch too violently, after all you want it to last.

As with any car it is essential to have the right insurance and breakdown cover, especially if you are travelling long distances. No car is safe from breakdown, so it’s best to be careful with a well-used vehicle.

Ways of Jumping Your Car

In the winter it’s important to that everything is working as normal. If it is not, you might walk out to your car one morning and find it doesn’t start. It’s especially likely on a very cold morning. There could be another reason for the drained battery, such as the lights being left on it, but whatever the reason, car batteries do get run down.

Warning! Not all Cars are Alike!

A word of warning though, it is vital that you check the procedure in your manual carefully before attempting it. What follows is merely a guideline, because auto makers sometimes crowd the battery into a space that won’t allow you to access both posts. So, you may need to verify the exact procedure for your model of car.

Also worth noting, you would not jump start an electric car, but if you are attempting to jump a car with an electric car, you’ll need to follow the specific directions for that vehicle.

Before attempting to jump a car make sure the battery isn’t completely dry, frozen, corroded, leaking, or damaged.

Never let the metal leads touch each other, and never hold the leads by the metal parts.

Procedure

Boosting a car battery (also known as a safety jump) is done by attaching red and black cables correctly. You may think that both sides of the dead battery should be attached to the live battery in the other car but if you do that it will cause an explosion.

  • First, clamp the plus (red) wire to the dead car battery by clipping it onto the metallic + post (aka terminal) at least 30cm up the post from the battery top.
  • Second, connect the plus (red) wire to the donor car (the live battery) by clipping it onto the metallic + post (aka terminal) at least 30cm up the post from the battery top.
  • Third, clamp the black, negative wire to the dead car battery in similar fashion.
  • Forth, clamp the black, negative wire to the live (donor car) battery.

You then start the engine of the car, obviously the donor car, and let it idle and feed electricity to the dead car’s battery for a few minutes. The car with the dead battery will not start straight away after a boost; it is more like a car starting in cold weather. If it still doesn’t start you may need to start pushing it, or revving the engine on the giving car.

There is a possibility for complications for the car which is being boosted, such as having their battery drained. It could even cause some kind of electrical issue with your battery. It is vital that you check the procedure carefully before attempting it.

The Electrical Charge Gauge

In some cars the dashboard may have a gauge for the alternator. This gauge will indicate what you might think of as electrical pressure (not a technical term), when a boost is taking place. These could be found in various places such as near the radio slot or on the “side pillar” near the driver. It is similar in looks to the speedometer. Functionally, most of the time you’ll easily start the car and not engage with this gauge, but if you aren’t able to start your car this gauge may help in diagnosis.

Turbo Chargers

Then there is the turbocharger. It consists of two small fans, one called the turbine and one called the compressor. To make things simple, a turbocharger steels the energy found in a crankshaft. Not all cars and trucks have turbochargers as they are rough on your fuel economy. They also make the engine much more complex than it would be otherwise.

Turbochargers are more typically found in sports cars, and race cars, but if you have one it makes it harder to get a jump.

Here’s The official Recommendation from The Kicker—carry a portable jumper with you, to avoid needing to jump a stranger’s vehicle engine to engine.