Autonomous Cars vs Driver Assistance in 2021

Op-Ed by Wimsett and A.R. Bunch

Swiss Semi-Autonomous Street Car

People are worried about sharing the road with autonomous cars, although there is a race by the car companies to create a level 5…

Level 5?

Every car has a level of autonomy. Level 5 is the highest.

Here is this list in full:

Level 0: This is a regular car with no autonomous features. The driver is in full capability – and full liability – of the car.

Level 1: Only one task is done autonomously, whether it is braking or so on. Otherwise the driver needs to be in charge. Presumably if anything goes wrong with the one thing being done autonomously, you need to take that over too.

Level 2: This car can handle more than one task, for example driver assist, braking and so on. This is being carried out by the big names such as Cadillac and Tesla. Unfortunately, it still isn’t considered self-driving as such, you need human intervention.

Level 3: This type of vehicle can only be driven autonomously if the conditions are correct. In emergencies, the car needs to switch to a regular car. Only the Audi A8 currently fits this description in the US.

Level 4: These show a massive difference from Level 3, they don’t require a driver. These at the moment cannot be purchased, they can’t drive in bad weather or at high speeds.

Level 5: Fully autonomous car and cannot switch off even for emergencies.

This technology relies on a number of sensors, but they need to be thorough. As hinted above there is a whole range of outside variables such as weather, traffic, road layout and so on. Either radar or laser can be used. But it is needs to be better in order to work on US roads.

The whole idea of autonomous cars is that comprehensive self-driving removes all the “driver error” but what of computer error? The theory is that even if a particular driver was able to outperform a computer driver, if every car on the road were computer driven, we’d have fewer accidents. The bad drivers wouldn’t be wracking up wrecks and the computers would learn to avoid each other by driving in a predictable manor.

Right now, at level 1, 2, and 3 the most effective use of autonomous driving capability is to reduce driver fatigue. In a way, these systems are just sophisticated versions of cruise control. Driver assists like emergency breaking, etc. aren’t controversial and don’t require a huge outlay of federal highway dollars to build infrastructure in order to enable them to operate “autonomously.” So how long before we’re banned from driving our own cars? Maybe we at the kicker will hazard a guess when car makers actually create the first level 5 car.

80’s Cars vs Todays Cars

From the UK desk

In the 80s a number of station wagon were introduced and before the introduction of Coupes and Sedans. The number of strikes in the 80s meant it was a tough time for car factories.

A car which had the power of the Acura is unknown these days. In the late 80s they were considered pretty cool with 118 hp.

The Audi Quattro was truly iconic with five turbocharged cylinders. These hatchbacks took the world rallies by storm. Sadly, not many of them made their way across to the US; most of the cars were rather neutral in comparison. Despite some strong contenders’ acceleration wasn’t as good as today’s vehicles.

Vehicle that did make it across the pond include the Pontiac Firebird and the Ford Mustang GT. The price however has fallen down in recent years due to lack of parts. Who’d have thought red convertibles would go out of style, but everything has its period of glory.

As Chrysler merged with Maserati the Chrysler TC was born. The Chrysler company has created a number of improved vehicles since. They did have a 5-year warranty, including maintenance. In 1987 Chrysler purchased another big player: AMC.

Look at the Dodge Daytona with its dipping headlights. Again, the lack of horsepower let it down.

Although these cars may not yet be known as classic, they show their age.

You could adapt these cars to get a better horsepower but then you’d lose something of the essential flavor of these vehicles.

Too Many Cars or Too Few?

Op-Ed by P. Wimsett and A.R. Bunch

Obviously, there is political pressure discouraging everyone from driving their cars, but is it really going to work? Has it already worked? Or is the answer to simply make cars more environmentally friendly? Do the powers that be want us to buy more cars or less? These are some of the questions we’ll look at today.

Carbon emission problems are discouraging folks from driving yet the need for domestic manufacturing jobs means it shouldn’t affect people’s car buying habits. The answer could be electric cars—that seems to be what car manufacturers are planning to do in response to the situation. The environment seems to be leading car production decisions.

Gridlock & Congestion

One issue with simply reducing vehicle carbon emissions is that it doesn’t eliminate gridlock. Unlike traffic jams, which result from accidents or construction, gridlock is that annoying traffic slowdown created by having too many commuters on the road at the same time. Gridlock is named for the grid pattern of city streets where efforts to coordinate traffic flow breaks down when capacity is reached. Clearly, your city doesn’t need a good grid-like layout in order to have gridlock—London and Rome manage to lockup pretty well and their streets meander about in every direction, seemingly at random.

People dislike gridlock but it doesn’t seem to detour them from going out at the prime times of the day when everyone else wants to go out–commuters for instance. Most people start and end work about same time as each other, which creates high demand. The laws of fluid dynamics come into play and suddenly congestion slows you down.

We reference fluid dynamics because that’s truly what governs traffic flow. It’s worth noting that gridlock and congestion don’t occur when traffic stops, they’re already happening when traffic goes under the posted speed. The simple act of having too much traffic causes the roadways to reduce capacity for throughput. Think of it in terms of supply and demand. Since supply can’t increase to meet demand, the price goes up. What are we paying the price with? Not dollars but time. Time is more precious than gold because when it’s spent, it’s gone forever.

Avoiding Gridlock

If you avoid the busy periods like rush hours you can avoid some of the gridlock.

Another way is to use public transport, although it cannot go exactly where the commuter wants to go and runs on it’s own schedule, and let’s face it, services are often delayed or interrupted. Even a gridlocked road may get you to your place of work quicker than public transport. So if you have a problem paying a lot of time to gridlock you may pay just as much for mass transit.

Peak Car

Traffic seems to be shrinking since 2007, also known as “peak car.” (Peak Car is a term that came from Peak Oil, or the theory that oil will become too hard to pull out of the ground, and at some point, no longer be cost effective.)

We know empirically that there are fewer cars on the roads because traffic cameras count the number of cars on high volume roads. But why? The population as a whole has continued to grow.

One possibility is demand reduction people are moving out of cities to rural places that don’t suffer congestion. We’ll return to demand in a minute. Another possible reason would be people using mass transit, but we also know the ridership levels and while they’re on the rise it’s not enough to account for reduced traffic.

Car Prices

The key way to tell if we’re truly diving less or if it just people not using high traffic roads (where they’d get counted), is if people are buying fewer cars. If we really had a peak car situation then you’d see people avoiding new cars in favor of cheap and plentiful used cars. And that has been a trend since 2016.

But as with everything in this article, Peak Car isn’t the only explanation for people buying used over new. As cars become too expensive, drivers are opting to share a vehicle or find an alternate way to get to work. It especially affects the supercar market but even names like General Motors are decreasing in new car sales.

Automakers are trying to respond to car prices by including high class extras, but the customer still needs to be able to afford these extras. Another possible way to counter the “too expensive” issue some auto makers are trying is to make cars less luxurious, cutting corners but not compromising safety.

This may be linked to the bad economy and people using public transit; however, affordability might not be the reason new car sales are down.

Demand Issues

There are demand issues. The baby-boomers are starting to not be able to drive. More people are working from home and the unemployed don’t need to commute to work. The digital age means people don’t need to drive to go shopping.

A big reason both road use and car buying are down is that millennials just don’t seem to want to buy cars, or even get a licence. In 2008 less than half of eligible drivers had a license when in 1998 two thirds of the population used did.

Is the car no longer a status symbol? It seems to be the case with young people and the trend continues: 26% of US 16 years old had a license in 2017. However, many Americans love having a car, even millennials. Vehicle registrations did go up in 2018.

There are a number of factors which affect car buying, not just finances. Some people think the reduction of cars is cyclical; others think it may be more permanent. This is why e-scooters, e-bikes and mini-motos are trying to gain a foothold.

“Research and forecast firms Cox Automotive, Edmunds and J.D. Power/LMC Automotive expect sales declined about 1% last year to roughly 17 million vehicles compared with 2018. Such results are considered healthy but would mark the lowest sales since 16.5 million vehicles in 2014.”

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/02/americans-bought-fewer-new-vehicles-in-2019-but-spending-to-hit-record.html

Despite research into this field, no one exactly knows what the future holds regarding the car economy.

The Future of Commuting Based on Current Trends:

The way things are going seems to be moving towards self-driving technology and electronic technology and we are moving into SUV, crossovers, and trucks. The kind of car to get away from the crowd, not the urban dweller.

What about taxis and Ubers? 95% of all trips will be made by taxis by 2030. This could be a piece of the answer, if not the whole, no matter what forces are driving the problem. It resolves the gridlock issue and affordability issue, and even the environmental issue. People are using Uber and Lyft – $20,000 a year and many people feel they won’t go back to a private car. Didi, a Chinese version of this kind of service took 10 million.

When we combine the trend toward larger off road vehicle purchases with the increase in rideshare usage the trend is easy to predict—people in cities will increasingly avoid owning a car and people in rural areas will insist on having them so they can “get away.”

Best of the Web: new radar for visual self-driving cars.

Just like with any new technology, autonomous cars have faced their fair share of speed bumps from concept to product, especially when it comes to navigating in inclement weather. Recent developments in autonomous car technology, however, could be the solution to this problem.

Similar to human drivers, self-driving vehicles can have trouble “seeing” in inclement weather such as rain or fog. The car’s sensors can be blocked by snow, ice or torrential downpours, and their ability to “read” road signs and markings can be impaired. 

Story link

A Rearview of 2020

It would be hard to write the story of 2020 without reference to Covid 19, the unprecedented nature of which caught everyone off guard. Sales were stopped altogether in March and there were difficulties between April-June. The rest of the year could be thought of as “mixed market forces” as everyone looked towards selling online.

Market Forces:

Another problem with the year was the lack of motor shows, the New York show was first to postpone from April to August, later to be dropped altogether.

For the many automakers which relied on the Chinese supply chain both production levels and importing issues affected US supply. This was one of the many reasons that used car vehicle sales increased here – as much as 30%.

New Models:

As with any year there were always the new models, such as the iconic Cadillac OT5 with a 335-horsepower twin turbo. An additional rear camera helps remove the blind spot you sometimes encounter when parking.

Ford introduced a 2020 Mustang and 2020 Fusion, the latter having an Ecoboost engine and driving assist.

Underperforming Sales:

One of the more popular cars was a compact crossover from Hyandai, the Tucson. Sales were still down at 900,00 units. Ford Transits sold 93,000 units which proves that businesses still need vans, even if sales were down.

Although new Jeeps and Cherokees were planned for this year as well as Toyota Highlander what happened was a slight drop; 17% for the Highlander. It could have been a whole lot worse.

The Subaru Forester showed the miniscule increase in sales: 2%.

International Car Sales:

In both May and June sales for passenger cars increased in China. Japan had the strongest sales, even if their sales were down by a fifth. Light vehicle sales were down by a quarter, but they recovered better than Europe for instance. In Russia sales were down by a quarter.

In June, France was the only country that outdid Germany and the UK. September 2020 was a good month for China, USA and Europe as sales increased, though recovery had not quite improved for Europe, it was still down by a third. Brazil had a similar decrease in figures.

There were some difficulties in September when car companies weren’t able to create WLTP** compliant vehicles. Still, Italian car sales increased by 10%, and Germany by 8%, despite the numbers from other countries contracted. Numbers of registrations increased in China for the fifth month running, which shows great promise for the rest of the world after the virus.

November 2020 the VW was the top selling model, the second being the Toyota Yaris.

Conclusion:

Maybe it’s best to draw a line in the sand for 2020, those who run car factories and those who sell cars are more aware of the difficulty but the general conclusion inside the industry is that car sales will resume with a few modifications in 2021. After all, people are longing to get back to normal (not just new normal) as well as getting away. If planned correctly, 2021 will show a big difference, we will wait and see.

**The Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) laboratory test is used to measure fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from passenger cars and vans, as well as their pollutant emissions.

Roads in 2030

Will 2030 roads be totally different from those of 2020? More likely than not, no; but here are some of the ideas that futurologists are speculating about, given that every year vehicles will grow by 3% up to 2030 and beyond.

The US has the world’s biggest and largest roadways, with 4.3 million km of paved roads and 2.28 million km of unpaved roads, according to government figures. Uber may at the moment be looking at flying cars, but this seems to be a pipe dream; in 2030 cars will still be confined to the roads.

Predictions

  • A way of communicating with vehicles, so that you know how the lanes are managed, which ones are busy, which ones are closed and so on.
  • In a similar way all road users can operate safely with the bad moves anticipated, though it is still possible to break the rules of the road.
  • The surface of the road will be designed to help the environment, giving it a low carbon use. Electric vehicles can be charged by the roadside. Bike lanes will have their lighting system through LEDs.
  • With 60% of the population living in cities there is an argument for using shared spaces, known as “Tripanel.” How we use the roads will be integrated. Many people believe the way we use the city is wrong–we should be more flexible and open.
  • Companies like Daimler are looking for self-driving trucks in 2030, but this has been in the planning stage since 2014. Many countries such as Denmark are planning to flood the market with electric cars.
  • The numbers of electric cars on the roads can only improve-at the moment it’s only 1% of cars which are electric. By 2025 GM will add another 25 different models to their portfolio, at least according to the Houston Chronicle. During the same period Ford is planning 13 electric models.
  • Apple, Dyson and Google are also planning to dominate the car market, though it is unlikely that they will take over from the more conventional names, even the car of the future will become more tech-savvy.
  • Gas stations may go out of business a number of years after 2030 as we start to use chargers instead, which may be found in such places as fast food places and hotels. It’s likely that net-zero emissions will soon be possible. Another plus for this is size: the charger takes up far less space than a gas pump. It’s not just electric though, some cars will run off sugar beet or flax, though these are not likely to be available at the pump!
  • There will be intelligent transport solutions where all the vehicles will move at the same speed to remove gridlock. However, it is believed that only city roads and the huge freeways will change, with the more rural roads you will have to rely on your natural driving ability. You may also have your new tech to help you in this situation though, which may be helpful.

An Alternative Look At Mercedes

Do we still pray for a Mercedes-Benz and if so, which ones? Though people associate Mercedes-Benz with passenger cars, there are many other vehicles out there, both light commercial and more heavy ones, even buses as far as the German branch of the company is concerned. It depends on whether you want something for you personally or one for your business.

Emil Jellinek raced in an event in 1899 under the name Monsieur Mercedes as a way of an alias, actually Mercedes was the name of his young daughter. Nor would it stay an alias for very long as he registered it as a trademark as early as 1901. A merger between Jellinek with Karl Benz and Gottleib Daimler and the Mercedes-Benz factory was created.

In 1999 the company Mercedes-AMG became the largest division of the company. There are so many individual classes it’s hard to keep track; A class is a subcompact luxury hatchback or sedan and B class is a subcompact MPV and so on.

Let’s say you require a Mercedes van for your brood; Metris is marketed as the ultimate in van building, it can seat between 5 to 8 passengers; so ideal for your family and friends at the same time. They were built in Germany and so unfortunately are subject to tax.

The eVito can be charged for 92 miles or 103 miles for the “extra urban range”, taking approximately 6 hours. It has cargo space for up to 905Kg. In order to be used away from home there’s a special recouping mode. The charge point is free. The vehicle monitoring software can assist you.

The PRO connect monitors the vehicles in “real time,” especially useful if you are running a business. The GPS tracking will make sure that you know where you are. The upgrade includes air conditioning and parking assist (which can also help with reversing).

The Sprinter is a large sized van while the Vito is medium sized. The Citan is the most compact. There is a eSprinter and eVito panel van, a panel van – also known as a sedan delivery van – being one which is based on the chassis of a passenger car but lacking in side windows at the rear of the vehicles.

You can ask for a video demonstration to see what the van feels like to drive. Essential for some businesses, there are chiller vans available. Alternately if you are requiring a van with extra capacity you may like to try the Vita or Citan.

The Mercedes pickup resembles a Misubishi or VW pickup though it hasn’t been all that popular unfortunately so buy it while you can before it is discontinued. It has a dual cab design and acts as either a 6 speed manual or 7 speed automatic.

Maybe this article doesn’t name the more usual suspects, but then again, most people know about the coupes and the sedans, the vehicles you may call “roadsters.” The normal passenger cars may have sealed their reputation but there are hundreds of different types which come under the Mercedes brand.

How to Make the Most Out of Your Commute

If you are one of the millions of people that have to commute to and from your job every day, it may seem like that time spent in your car is wasted. While it is for most people, it doesn’t have to be for you. Believe it or not, there are a variety of ways you can make the most out of your commute, and better yourself in the process. Taking this time for yourself can help to start your day off on a positive note and set the tone for the rest of your day.

Interested in transitioning your boring commute into some productive alone time? Read below for some tips and suggestions on how to do so.

Daily Personal Reflection

One of the most productive things you can do during your commute is to take some time to perform a daily self-reflection. While you drive or bike or ride on a train or subway, take a moment to become aware of your physical and emotional well-being. You can’t meditate while driving or biking, but you can still become self-aware.

Take a moment to feel your body. Notice if there are any places of extra tension that you can try to release. Do the same for your mental state. Notice your general mood and any negative emotions that you are holding onto. Try to release what you can to start your day on a positive note.

Learn Something New

You don’t have to be in an actual classroom to learn something new nowadays. Take the time during your commute to better yourself intellectually. Maybe there is a language that you have always wanted to learn. Apps like Duolingo or recorded programs like Rosetta Stone help you learn a language from anywhere. A little bit of practice and learning a day, during your commute, will add up faster than you think.

If a language seems a little too ambitious for you, maybe try for something a little more accessible. Podcasts are becoming more and more popular, and are made about basically any subject you can think of. Choose a podcast about a topic in which you are interested. Or, choose a podcast that is more of a talk show. Either way, you are filling the down time of your commute with new knowledge.

Lastly, if podcasts just don’t do it for you, audio books are another great option. They are incredibly easy to access, and much cheaper than their physical counterparts. If you download an audio book app on your smart phone, like Audible, for example, you can purchase audio books that interest you. You can listen to them easily during your commute. These apps have great features that allow you to pick up easily where you left off before, among other things.

Work On Personal Relationships

If you have a headset for your phone, you can safely make phone calls while you are driving. Use your commuting time to catch up with friends. Most people are too busy to fit time into their day to call their friends and family. Using the time during your commute to call the important people in your life will give you a chance to work on and maintain these relationships.

Blow Off Steam

Frustrations with work or home life may mean that, on some days, you are not in the mood to learn something new or work on your personal relationships. What you may find that you need is to blow off some steam. Whether you are on your way to work or on your way home, there is something incredibly therapeutic about rolling down the windows and turning up your music. Finding the perfect song and breathing the fresh air can make you feel like a new person.

You may already listen to music and think, “why suggest that?” Well, the real reason listening to music stops being refreshing is that it’s the go-to choice for commuting. You hear the same songs repeatedly, often in the same order during the same part of you journey. When you shake it up and do some other things during your commute, don’t throw out your tunes altogether. You’ll find that taking a few days off from your tunes will bring back some of the joy they can bring.

In Conclusion

All of the options described above do not have to be done every day. Mix and match these ideas to find the best combination for you. Some weeks you will need to blow off steam more frequently than others. Some weeks you may be hooked on an audio book that you listen to nonstop. No matter what you choose, all of these options are beneficial, and a great way to maximize that alone time you have during your commute.