F vs F Week: Ferrari – From Race Track to the Freeway

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Editors Notes: Welcome to Ford vs Ferrari week. Since it’s the 50 year anniversary of the legendary event (when Ford Motor Company took on racing giant Ferrari in their figurative home court and won), and since a movie celebrating the event will release this month, The Kicker will be using this event for our weeks theme.  Please enjoy this installment.

 

Ferrari is an Italian sports car manufacturer based in Maranello, Northern Italy where the Ferrari Formula One racing team is also based. The company was originally called Auto Avio Construzioni or AAC which was created when Enzo Ferrari left the racing company Scuderia Ferrari (which is now known as the racing division of the company. At that point, naturally, it was the whole company).

Ferrari-01-GQ-2Nov17_bAlthough AAC began by creating aircraft parts for the Italian government – please note this was 1938 it soon had commissions to build its own racing cars for the 1940 Brescia Grand Prix.

The first car was the AAC Tipo 815 which had an engine loosely based on a Fiat model with four-speed transmission. Two cars entered the Brescia, the 020 and the 021 – these were the only two cars of this make ever produced. The 021 had problems with its valves and broke down. The 020 wasn’t that much of an improvement, breaking down after another half an hour.

Ferrari only really became a manufacturer of automobiles in 1947 when the first car to feature the badge of a horse rampant (on its hind legs), also known as the prancing horse. Another noticeable part of the badge is the Italian flag at the top of the design.

Ferrari popularised the idea of Berlinetta or two door sports saloons and later 1980s Supercars such as the GTO also use the same standard. Many other brands also now make Berlinettas or “little saloon cars” such as Opel, Alfa Romeo and Maserati.

“Road cars” created at this time by Ferrari included Dino which had a mid-engine, the lower power making it more suitable for road use than its racing cousins. The idea was to create more affordable sports cars to take on brands such as Porsche.

enzo1The huge selling point of Ferrari cars, at least in the 1950s and the 1960s was customization so that any individual customer can specify what they require from the car. This philosophy was updated in 2011 as the Tailor Made Programme where customers can work with the Maranello designers to look at such items as trim, color and interior material and make it as unique as possible. It is ideas like this that helped Ferrari become a world player.

In the 1980s the handling and acceleration were improved, thanks mainly to the racing car section of the company. This could only be achieved through lighter bodywork, including a carbon fiber roof.

Although Evoluzione were originally built in 1986 as a racing car with it just couldn’t be matched with any racing project, the body styling just didn’t seem to fit. So in the end six cars of this type were ever made. It did however influence the later F40 make.

Since then, Ferrari have created grand tourers, concept cars such as the Modulo and the Mythos and even one-off cars. It seems to be a brand that insists on going its own way and creating special versions just for the customers.

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Racing Merchandise

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When you think of merchandise associated with racing cars, whether track-side or online,you probably think of helmets and race suits (full of sleeved panels and pre-curved sleeves apparently, though why you’d want to pre-curve a sleeve is anyone’s guess). However, the big seller might just be the posters.

There’s certainly a long history. You can get copies of posters for Monaco races from 1932 online and maybe the originals if you are prepared to spend money. Some posters are even signed by the drivers involved (which certainly increases their value.) For this type of merchandise, it is best to buy track-side rather than rely on an anonymous EBay seller, though many people are used to shopping the web and don’t realize that it’s not a good idea in this situation.

helmet-1038400_1920.jpgWhen seeking out original items be wary of too much damage but given that they are only made of paper and likely to be folded up in any case some depreciation is probably inevitable. Many posters had limited runs so that may be where the value is.

One strategy in collecting is to look for the more obscure race teams and the more obscure drivers, though the big names are unlikely to lose value overnight. Most people prefer to buy from the owner’s website (for example, Ferrari) rather than on auction sites as there are a number of fakes around. It all depends on how well you trust people and how much you are willing to spend.

For the more souvenir like items, beanies, mugs, coasters and all that haven’t caught on in racing to the degree seen with Elvis, Star Wars or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. People do like to buy things associated with a race team or a big name (for instance Schumacher) but it’s no Grateful Dead.

These items are certainly suitable for a boy or girl who visits the track for the first time and wishes to obtain a souvenir. They are probably unlikely to hold their value though, unless it is a very rare team or racing car driver. You can’t think about profit every time you buy something though, it’s for entertainment purposes mainly.

It’s possible to get decent merchandise that’s not the “official” stuff but still collectable. Items related to specific racing drivers for example, created by independent craftsmen, such as T-shirts or portrait painters. This is a good way to follow a driver’s career (or remember them, if they are no longer driving) but not break the bank in the process. Whether they are worth anything in the long run might not even be important if you are a True Fan.

colorful-4486382_1920.jpgWhen it comes to toy racing cars the biggest name at the moment seems to be Hot Wheels, though Scalextric remains popular for an older age group, especially those would-be racers who want to race round their own mini-track. There were other slot-car racing sets in their day – so-called because the cars race along a special groove or slot in the track) but Scalextric seems to be the only one that remains to this day.

 

Getting Business Done With Your Car.

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Would it shock you to know that only 17% of people commute by car?!?! It does us.

Sure in part it’s a tribute to how popular commuting by motorbike, bike, train, etc. And of course, working from home has become very popular. But cars transporting workers to jobs is only one way in which cars are involved in business.

car-438029_1920.jpgAnother way to view vehicles and business is when they transport goods to consumers, delivery vehicles, or transporting people to do business away from the office. An example of the latter would be if your business involves visiting people in their own homes as a tradesman or salesperson.

There are also company owned vehicles which could be delivery vans, or work trucks, etc. but are also the company car. This is a sign of status; and an employee is advancing in the world. Companies can treat the car as an expense and write off many of the costs. (We should pointed out that only business use can be included as an expense, so you can’t get money back on ferrying your children around, visiting friends or relatives, popping down the looking store and so on.)

oldtimer-2436018_1920.jpgFor some hypocritical reason, even though an employer can write off these vehicles an employee who uses there vehicle to get to and from work cannot. Employers can, in some instances, write off more than just the lease cost. In the case of a work truck, the cost of the insurance can also be deducted.

coffee-mobile-2715696_1920.jpgMany businesses chose to lease a vehicle instead of owing it. It’s not recommended you do this if you are in the taxi business however, LOL. The good thing about leasing it that you pay the current market value for leasing rather than having a car which value depreciates the minute it is bought. You also don’t need to worry about down payments for the vehicle and worrying out whether all your cars are insured properly, you can let a third party handle that.

Despite the amount of people employed in the virtual world it seems that the link to the car and being able to visit your client or your contact won’t get away and if they are located nearby, why wouldn’t you?

There are still two types of vehicle in business.

The first is a vehicle that’s been wrapped in advertising. Many companies, and small business, are seeing their vehicles as a moving billboard and double dipping. Not only can they transport employees and good to market, they can increase brand awareness.

But the last and most interesting way to combined cars and business is the mobile office!

Business professionals are spending more and more time in their vehicles. In large cities this could mean hiring a driving service, which leaves hands and eyes free for checking emails or scheduling appointments, etc. In most of the less urban areas this looks like portable office equipment.

Here are some examples of the required equipment if you’re interested in taking your business mobile. Of course, you’ll need a laptop and cell phone. But there’s a couple more handy items that may not have leapt to mind.

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Work Station Work station

Battery Backup,  Steering Wheel Desk ,

Car Organizer  Car Organizer

 

Behind the Wheel

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By Paul Wimsett (UK Desk: So read it with an accent.)

Is steering more complicated than it should be? It’s all right for complicated turns and for parking but it’s hard for a learner driver to keep on the straight and narrow using a steering wheel. It should be noted that what allows you to steer isn’t just the steering wheel but also the steering column, the axels and the front wheels of a car (and in the case of 4 by 4 cars in difficult terrain, the back wheels).

What exactly is the steering column? Well it attaches the wheel to the rest of the mechanism. It also provides the mounting for various functions such as the transmission gear selector. To help with safety this column can collapse in an emergency.

The piece that causes this to happen is known as the “tolerance ring.” This part is designed to become unmoored from its housing. There are several federal regulations which must be applied to any steering column in the US. In China the regulations are more strict and requires an additional anti-theft mechanism in the column.

steering-wheel-801994_1920.jpgSteering depends on getting the series of linkages absolutely right and although a driver behind a wheel seems blind to the rest to the car it is better to see the whole machine as guiding you to where you want to go. The axel part is divided into the pinion, which appears like a cog, a steer arm and a fusee. To be even more precise there is also the Worm and roller gearbox and the Pitman arm. Too much jargon can be annoying though, so it might be best to leave things there.

Why might a car become hard to steer?

Well, the one most drivers seem to refer to first is icy terrain or something like rainy conditions. But setting aside environmental factors, things like lack of air pressure in your tires, your fluid level and a faulty pulley on your power safety unit may also make a difference as can un-lubricated axles. Maybe it’s just the steering wheel itself which is sticking, but even this can cause accidents.

If you find that the steering is harder than usual, it is definitely a good idea to take the car in for a service, as there might be more than one thing wrong. Should you be gearing up for a long journey it is recommended that you find out if there any potential steering problems.

Here’s a fact about holding a steering wheel which might just save your life, or at the very least save you from excess pain. A warning though it is rather distasteful. It seems that the old way of holding the wheel – in a ten to two position is incompatible with cars with air bags. To save your arms it is recommended that you hold the wheel in a quarter to three position, in order to be on the safe side.

 

The Down & Dirty on Car Washes

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The first semi-automatic car wash which used a series of pulleys was introduced in Detroit in 1914. It did require manual brushing of the vehicle though.

car-wash-1408492_1920.jpgThe first big car washing franchise was Dan Hanna’s Rub-a-Dub. Starting in Oregon, Hanna Enterprises (as it became known) in 1955 it soon had 31 car washes all other America. In the 1960s the idea of soft friction washing, roller on demand conveyor belt (also known as a tunnel) and wrap around brush was introduced. It was not until the 1970s that you they introduced the automatic wheel cleaner and polish ‘n’ wax. By 1988, Hanna Enterprises grew to 80,000 car washes in 56 countries, the second biggest franchiser of the time, after McDonald’s of course. It now trades as Colman Hanna Carwash Systems and still owns a number of patents and trademarks linked to the car wash. So if you’ve used a car wash, you’ve probably used a system created by Hanna Enterprises.

Mobile car washes are a more recent invention using plastic water tanks and pressure washers. A number of car users prefer this type of car wash to the automatic type as they believe it damages the paintwork, etc. Just because they don’t use machines doesn’t mean that this type of service can’t deal with a huge number of customers, some of them even operate a fleet cleaning service.

With an average price per basic wash of $15 it’s likely that most of the profit comes from upgraded services. 20% of car businesses charge more than $18 per customer, which doesn’t sound too unreasonable though it is not clear what the maximum amount is. If a car wash is getting enough passing trade it should be receiving at least $1,500 per month.

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As with anyone starting a business you need traffic, (pun intended) which you might derive from social media. However, conventional wisdom is to generate your leads offline as well. This starts with the golden trifecta of business—location, location, location! Find somewhere which is easy to get to, especially if it is near a supermarket or freeway. There also needs enough room for you to operate, there’s no point if you can only get two or three cars on site. As with any other business look to see what the competition are doing-can you undercut them? Or maybe you should look to offering a premium service instead? It sounds obvious but still many businesses go bust in the first six months.

Here is a glossary of terms:

A car wash service which wishes to clean the inside and the outside of a vehicle with at least one automatic system is technically known as a detail shop.

A full service is a garage that both repairs, clean cars, inspects the vehicle, etc.

Exterior only is a car wash that only cleans the outside, usually an automatic system one step at a time.

Self-service is similar but it isn’t done by a machine.

 

 

The Secret Parts of Cars (part 2)

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From the UK desk…Paul Wimsett

In part 1 we discussed some of the neat secret parts designers work into a car to help it appeal to a consumer, but Mercedes-Benz has included a secret part strictly for its own good. Location circuitry which can be used to invade privacy and spy on you.

Not disclosing that a car has spyware that pinpoint its location seems controversial. We are talking 170,000 cars in Britain and it could be further afield too. Apparently according to Mercedes-Benz, it is not about permanently tracking customers, though the same equipment could be used that way so it is hard to see how it would not work like that.

secret-2725302_1920It should come as no surprise that this is illegal according to the laws in Britain, should it be used in that manor, which again is not what the car maker claims the circuits are for.

It is not known how long these “sensors” (trackers might be a better word for them) have been in operation. The fact that Mercedes-Benz didn’t tell anyone about their built-in tracker makes it seem more suspect. The fact that no other car dealer factory installs such trackers also makes it seem more suspect. It seems that Mercs are on their own when it comes to this practice, Land Rover, BMW and Volkswagen confirmed that they do not use similar techniques and as far as I know the same is true for other car companies.

Company -owned fleet vehicles often have tracking built in which that company can use to determine the location of property they own, which seems reasonable. Police cars and government owned vehicles also have built in tracking in case someone steels them. Citizens can have “lo-jack” equipment installed into their vehicle to aid in recover for the same reason. And of course, you can often use Sat-Nav to locate a lost vehicle. But all these things are intentionally installed “after-market,” and the people who can access this information are the legal owners of the vehicle.

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So why is Mercedes-Benz doing it? The idea is it should only be used when customer has breached the financial agreement and hasn’t made other arrangements. The ability to repossess a vehicle in America is limited to it being parked on a publicly visible location. Certainly, it would assist agents of the lender to know exactly where a vehicle is, and perhaps even when it will be at a location it might be more easily seized.

This is a big grey area for many of us. It relies on an interpretation of a person’s rites under the law, that is based on the notion a car is stolen when you are far enough behind on your payments.

Presumably other terms of sale could be made, or bailiffs could be brought in? And the fact that the cars are tracked 100% of the time is a reason to worry. We’ve only the company’s word that they only check the location when they need to take the car back.

The customer should know when they are being spied on and not disclosing this feature until it was discovered independently deprives consumers of their rites in my opinion.

The Secret Parts of Cars (part 1)

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From the UK desk…Paul Wimsett

Leaving the controversial secret car parts for later, let’s start with the fun ones. Let’s begin, instead with the “not exactly hidden” feature. For instance, the “Curry hook” in a Nissan. This hook, about the height of your seat, allows you hang a bag containing your curry. This will make more sense when if you know that the British “pop out for a curry” the way Americans order in Chinese when they’re going to binge-watch their favourite show on the telly.

Then there is a gear stalk for the Volkswagen Golf in the shape of a golf ball. Again, these are maybe not exactly secret but just hard to spot.

brake-2026820_1280Now for some that are truly not visible. The Murano has a technique which is ideal for the driver either of less than average height or of greater than average height. It’s the ability to move the pedals both nearer to you and further away than you. It’s certainly a plus if you’ve ever got into a car and thought “These pedals are not designed for me.”

The secret vase in a Volkswagen Beetle is quite an attractive addition. Who doesn’t want flowers in their car? Quite a few people, now I think of it…

You might not expect to find sand in a car door but it can be discovered in early Lexus cars. This is used to deaden the sound of the radio, though it is debatable how much sand in a car door would fix this problem. An innovation which seems more complex than the problem, in my mind.

bmw-m3-e30-2995003_1920.jpgIf your hood gets stuck there’s an addition in the E30 which allows you to enter a screwdriver and make sure that the hood is released. This one seems so simple; you should be able to adjust things easily after all.

Not all secret parts are hidden or practical. The Spatz cars have additions which might cause a bit of confusion. Designers found they had room for a number of clocks on the dashboard. But instead of just having clocks they decided to paint on several analogue faces, just for design’s sake I suppose.

All this goes to show that the secret parts might help to sell a car, or alternately, confuse a potential buyer.

Keep a sharp eye out for the part two in this series, because there is a car out there with a secret feature that’s not strictly legal…

Lightweight Cars

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Caterham 7

“Lightweight” is a subjective term but many cars, usually sporty varieties have special techniques to get the weight down. Reducing the weight can increase road performance, cost to manufacture and fuel economy. Lightweight can refer to hardcore sports cars and many of the mass market cars as well. The challenge is to have the same horsepower as a more built up car in the lighter model.

There is the Caterham 7 for example which only weighs 1,201 lbs. They market themselves as “less is more” and with good reason. The tubular steel chassis is apparently important to make the car so light. Should you have the opportunity to see it on the racetrack you’ll be impressed with the Caterham’s fantastic top speed–155 MPH.

Ariel Atom

Ariel Atom

On the other hand, the Ariel Atom might resemble driving a go-cart. The light weight is accomplished through what the company calls Lightweight Innovative Flexible Technology, which is car jargon for a “double unequal length wishbones” which is really just o a pair of flexible components which slightly resemble a wishbone. The suspension doesn’t just move up and down so dump that Y Shape in your mind’s eye and picture instead thick strands of hair. We’re assuming there’s still something wishbone-like about the design.

The way the Lotus Elise Sprint managed to shave off the pounds was by substituting carbon fiber for the metal used in making the car. The designers couldn’t just leave it at that, so they also redesigned the interior and added a new instrument panel with Bluetooth. It seems it’s not just about being light with Lotus Elise Sprint it’s also about creating a brilliant experience while you drive.

210300Another car which uses carbon fiber is the Noble M600. It is given the description “Superlight” by its marketing team. There are three different types of M600; the Coupe, the CarbonSport and the Speedster (the original version was the Coupe).  Perhaps the most unique feature here isn’t the weight but the fully bespoke interior meaning you have to design it yourself. Clever marketers call it an “unlimited color palette.” Could you design a car’s interior? Yeah, us neither.

mazda-1296295_1920.jpgAnother popular example is the Mazda Miata. In common with the Noble M600, it comes in three different trims; those being Sport, Club and Grand Touring. The Grand Touring price tag weighs the most. Despite the lightness in weight they still have both back and front suspension as well as power assist. Many of the cars above skimp on the power steering, but to be fair, lighter cars don’t need as much. Perhaps the Miata targets a crowd with a smaller physical stature.

ktm-x-bow-gt-photos-and-info-news-car-and-driver-photo-503669-s-originalThe KTM X-Bow GT may look like a racing car but it’s still a brilliant car to drive on the streets. The most unusual item that the X-Bow comes with is a luggage system, but it does have some additions which might suit a racing car, a center console, sun visors; a windshield with no actual frame and so on. The design calls to mind Tony the Tiger, but it sort of pulls it off, if that makes sense.

This is by no means an exhaustive list…there’s no end of light weights, and that’s okay.

Gears and the Gearshift (for Youngsters)

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Op-Ed by Paul Wimsett and Andy Bunch

The old joke among generation X and Baby Boomers is that you can completely handicap a millennial by taking away their cellphone, giving them a manual transmission and writing the directions in cursive. Well, if you are want to understand gearshifts but don’t want to appear foolish by asking about it, here’s the skinny. Sorry, here’s the 4-1-1.

Those of us who grew up with gear shits are united by a common memory having the driver reach over and invade your space every time they needed to change a gear—which is pretty much all the time. The worst was the pickup trucks, which often had bench seats. If you had to fit in three people, and you lost the ro sham bo, you had to sit in the middle and move your legs all the time.

steering-801807_1920When car makers developed the automatic transmission, they moved the gear selector to the steering column which improved life immensely. As car makers increasingly started installing bucket seats in the front most modern cars have a “gear selectors” which looks like a gear shift, but instead of manually operating a physical gear box the way a manual stick shift does, it merely selects the gear for the automatic transmission.

(On a side note: some high end sports models allow for a manual operation of the automatic transmission by adding functionality to the gear selector.)

But by far, the biggest difference between manual and automatic is the amount of time it takes when first learning to drive a car.

To Operate a Manual

Since we know all of you can already drive a stick I know you’ll all be skipping this section, but just in case you don’t know how…

In order to engage the engine the driver must depress a pedal on the floor, called a clutch pedal. This disengages the engine from the drive train which powers the wheels. With the clutch depressed the driver must select a gear and slowly release the clutch while applying some gas to keep the engine from dying while it must re-engage the drive train. It’s a bit of an art form, officially known as “feathering the clutch.”

car-interior-1834270_1920The difficulty of feathering the cutch goes up exponentially when you’re attempting to start on a hill. The dreaded “hill start” is so bad because the moment you depress the clutch the car begins to roll backwards. The answer to going uphill is getting the engine engaged quickly. So effectively the driver must engage the engine before the car runs into another car behind it, but not so quickly that it kills the engine instantly.

If everything is going well there should be a slight vibration. Only now should you release the clutch pedal. Should you wish to accelerate further continue to take your foot off the foot pedal and put your other foot on the accelerator pedal.

Do you always need a gear shaft?

Not necessarily – sports cars often have levers known as paddles. One paddle shifts up a gear and the other down. Formula One cars also have paddles but they are mounted on the steering wheel. This complicated procedure is definitely not suited for the amateur and even paddles haven’t made their way into the mainstream. However, paddle shifter on the steering wheel in place or a gear selector on an automatic transmission has made it into the mainstream, but this isn’t the same thing as a true paddle shift.

Special Accommodation

It can be hard for those with either limited mobility or arthritis to operate a manual gearshift because it requires a certain amount of force. Instead a special adaption needs to be made or purchased. One way that they work is pressing a comfort handle rather than adjusting the gearshaft itself. Clearly an automatic transmission is way to go, depending on your disability.

Automatic Transmissions have proven themselves reliable and simple to operate. They are easier to learn to operate and make the entire process of learning to drive simpler. They can also reduce driver fatigue for city, stop-and-go, driving.

So are Manual Transmissions Obsolete?

Not exactly! Manual transmissions are a bit more fuel efficient, because a human intelligence can keep the engine in neutral at stop lights. Most stunt drivers agree that manuals give them better performance when precision moves are required. Other than heavy traffic, most drivers who know how to operate a “stick” prefer them over automatic.

Here’s the real difference that no one really talks about. An automatic transmission is a complicated thing. It’s more likely to breakdown and when it does, it’s more expensive to fix. The other issue is that manual transmissions can be rebuilt from pretty simple parts. It’s possible to get these parts long after that particular car is no longer manufactured.

Automatic transmissions are so complicated inside that rebuilding them isn’t cheap and soon the internal parts aren’t available for order. Then the only source of a replacement transmission is a junk yard. Even the junk yard becomes difficult eventually. How soon depends on the popularity of the vehicle you bought, but generally things start getting hard to find after 10 or 12 years.

So when you buy an automatic you’re basically buying a car with a shelf life, which seems counter to the ethics of most environmentally conscious millennials.

The Mind Car?

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Could the next step from the self-driving car be the car with thoughts of their own? Is this a dip into science fiction, perhaps, but it’s more likely a dip into future science fact.

Although we think of self-driving or autonomous vehicles (AVs) as “cars with minds of their own” in reality they’re no different from a calculator or a computer. It’s actually just following a sophisticated set of logical steps as a result of stimuli, which is a fancy way of saying when something triggers it the car responds according to it’s programming.

A car having it’s own thoughts comes under the umbrella of artificial intelligence.

To be fair, most of us sort of feel like computers have a mind of their own. When a computer breaks down it feels like its acting out of spite. Even non-autonomous cars are sometime feel like they have minds of their own. And most car owners take refuge in giving their car a personality, sometimes even a name.

There are two possible ways a car might gain the ability to generate its own thoughts.

  • True artificial intelligence: where programming become so sophisticated that the program writes additional programming to deal with situations it wasn’t already programmed to handle.
  • Creating a digital imprint of a human to act as a logic engine from which programs will feed in questions and carry out instructions

A current example of the first kind is Siri, which sort of spoofs intelligence by being able to intuit what is being asked of it and trying to carry out instructions as best it can. A science fiction example would be HAL 9000 the murderous computer in “2001 a Space Odyssey” who decided it was self-defense to wipe out the astronauts who want to disable it for making an error.

eeg-2680957_1920Science fiction is rife with examples of the second kind of artificial intelligence as it has become a common trope. The idea that a human nearing the end of his/her life could “upload” their conscious into an android, for example, is alluring and entertaining. But taking it the extra step and uploading the contents of the human brain into a vehicle is also portrayed frequently. Take for example, “The Tunnel Under the World” by Frederick Pohl (1955), which is perhaps the first story about transferring a mind into a machine. (Earlier works cantered on transferring the mind into another person.)

The advantage (or disadvantage) is that the new computer would have a personality as well as experiences and the ability to really read the subtext of spoken questions or instructions. The result would be giving your car an actual personality.

Do we really need a car to flip out when we pass gas while driving? That’s what our spouse is for, right? We’ll leave you to wrestle with these deep questions.

Current examples the second type of AI don’t exist, but how far off could they really be? Well, the science behind how you might do this is still in its infancy so you are unlikely to get a car with a real brain any time soon, but… there is a Wikipedia page devoted to whole brain emulation (WBE) so efforts are underway.

If a car can’t gain a mind what about cars that can read your mind? An institute in Lausanne in Switzerland reported that they had invented the brain-machine transference that allows wheelchairs to be powered by thought alone in disabled people. The next step, and it could be tricky, is to find a way they can interact with cars.

Nissan plans to look at the brainwaves of drivers to study the patterns as they about to react to driving situations. They Nissan will pilot the cars off their driver based on the actions it reads the driver attempting to make. Right now it requires you to wear an EEG headset which isn’t the kind of thing you might wear out to the mall, so there is room for improvement. The other key part of the research is keeping drivers focused on the road. Most drivers don’t actually concentrate on driving while driving any more than most pedestrians concentrate on walking while strolling down the sidewalk.

It could be said that this system won’t produce autonomic driving cars as much as it is could improving the system of “human driving.”

Nissan is not alone though; there have been similar plans with Jaguar and Renault. As with all things autonomous there’s always the problem of legally deciding who’s driving the vehicle, because our laws currently hold the driver liable for moving infractions. If an AV kills someone in an accident is the human occupant responsible or the company that made the AI in the AV.

Based on the money companies are throwing at these projects, it’s not likely they’ll give up.

The first idea on brain waves came not from a car company but from an EEG company in 2011, no doubt looking for a way to use their product. It’s commonly believed that General Motors got involved in the first experiments into fatigue though it wasn’t officially established. If that sounds a little wonky you have to remember that GM spent decades as the largest defense contractor in the US, and worked on many secret projects for the US military developing technology that we may never truly learn the origins of.

hand-prosthesis-3853267_1920Regardless of origin, the idea of brain scans was seen as a quite controversial idea at the time, maybe we’re just more used to augmented and virtual reality now?

When we throw in the ideas of reading human brains to drive, whether we’re leaving the brain in the head of the driver or transferring it into the vehicle, the better label for the topic should cybernetics. We are, after all, trying to meld man and machine, which is the heart of the idea when you say the word “driving.”

The term cybernetics was created in 1948 and apparently refers to both “control and communication.” So presumably the machine part allows human augmentation, in the case of the Swiss EEG driving experiment, a disabled person gets augmented control and an ability to express themselves.