Night Systems

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It’s not just the darkness, but fog, smog and even the glare of light can prevent you seeing nearby obstacles. Introducing the automotive night system which can detect objects you wouldn’t see with mere headlights and alert the driver to them. Given its potential to improve safety and how long we’ve had the basic technology it may come as a shock that it only dates back to 2000. That means it came in about the same era as  Sat-Nav, which is also handy, but not a safety concern.

As with most innovations night systems were first installed in the luxury brand and even now hasn’t become a standard safety feature in mid-cost vehicles. The first car to employ an automotive night system was a Cadillac de Ville.  This style of Cadillac was originally developed in the 1950s, but it has undergone several generations of improvement.

From the start, the goal was to make automotive night system passive and intuitive so that they didn’t provide more distraction than a driver simply concentrating on the road ahead. All the systems employ an infrared beam to pick up on objects which the human eye would miss. The main difference in the systems is how it alerts the driver.

Less passive systems were introduced by  Mercedes and Toyota, which produce a black and white image for the driver.  The Mercedes can only use this function when you are going at 28 mph, presumably because you are less likely to be killed by a car traveling below 28 mph. (But honestly who  wants to be hit at any speed?)

You might think that as people aren’t used to black and white images that it might hard for a driver to know when to react. The people behind the DS Night Vision have thought of this. Its sensors give a red border around any objects that may be a potential danger, and then adds a yellow border if the danger changes to critical.

The BMW has a pedestrian detecting device which flashes a caution symbol if its infra-red senses that a pedestrian is in the driver’s “eye-line.” In recent years they added an animal detection device. If an animal is in the vicinity a number of LEDs will start flashing.

Should you discover something called “active vision” it means it only works on nearby obstacles. Far away obstacles can appear grainy in this type of footage, which isn’t necessarily a problem as such obstacles can generally be ignored.

Naturally the idea of creating a live stream in front of you to show you how the road is looking seems an obvious evolution. However, it’s currently thought to be too distracting.  As drivers become more accustomed to technology in cars its quite possible we’ll see this innovation soon.

As this is the latest in tech it will remain quite expensive for some time, to the detriment of the pedestrian and maybe other drivers. This isn’t, from a tech standpoint, much different than ordinary surveillance devices. Night vision comes standard on baby monitors these days. The safety of others seems to come secondary to price, which isn’t how other safety features have been prioritized. The court of public opinion can shift swiftly so perhaps we’re one bad night accident away from a handy new standard safety feature.

The Car in the Landscape

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An Op-Ed by Paul Wimsett

Much has been written about the battle between nature and cars. To hear some folks talk about it, cars are the worst thing to happen to the environment. thousands of miles of the landscape have been paved for roads and parking lots. This paving of nature goes back further than the combustion engine but environmental types seem to narrow the culprit down to the mass ownership of cars.

Do we really need to rehash it again? Well, brace yourself.

It’s worthy of note that between car and nature the latter sometimes wins? There are hundreds of mountains which cannot be tunneled through (sometimes because they are too large, sometimes because tunneling might interrupt a mine or another internal structure), hundreds of bodies of water which cannot be crossed by a bridge and many animals that get in the way of a car.

These animal “trespassings” on the interstate don’t have a good ending for anybody. This means death for the creature but also trauma and injury for the passengers of a car that has the misfortune to collide with it.

We’re talking big animals here, giant moose, deer, and cows. Even if you have a near miss with one of these large animals, it doesn’t mean another member of its pack is likely nearby. This is why you should be extra vigilant if you see an accident caused by one of these animals.

If there is an animal up ahead the best thing you can do is perform an emergency stop. It is ill-advised to try and swerve to avoid the animal as you can end up causing a greater accident with other vehicles on the road. Sounding your horn is as likely to make the animal rear up instead of move. Put your hazard lights on though, to warn motorists, especially if it’s a foggy day.

You are more likely to hit a wild animal near a heavily forested region you are also more likely to hit one in the early spring or late fall. During winter and summer animals are more sluggish and do not travel so far.

It’s human nature to try and comfort an animal in distress but this isn’t advisable with something like a deer or a bigger animal. After all, its hoofs are sharp and it may take its distress out on you.

Deer seem to be the main culprit of wildlife accidents. State Farm reported that there were approximately 1.35 million accidents involving deer between July 2016 and June 2017. On average the damage for an accident was estimated at $4,100. And larger animals such as moose or bear can cause more expensive accidents.

You can install a small whistling device on your car to warn deer you’re coming. I don’t know of a study proving that they work, but if you live in a rural area it might be worth a try.

Different states have different laws about reporting car accidents with animals. It is best to err on the safe side and report them anyway as it will probably help your insurance case. Likely you’ll have to report the accident when you call for a tow.

A Look Ahead To 2019—for Commuters at least

 

car-3866120_1920Trying to predict the future of the automobile is like trying to predict the weather. There’s the farmer’s almanac method which examines the last century of trends and cycles, then mathematically predicts what’s most likely to happen. Then there’s the meteorological method which involves Doppler radar, satellite imagery, and computer models. In this method, well-educated experts analyze the data to produce a percentage chance of an outcome—usually, something like it will rain or not, odds are 50/50.

There’s a third method that involves Granny Clampett and a beetle she keeps in an old matchbox…but in all seriousness natural observation can’t be completely discounted. It’s maybe odd that the first two methods don’t involve stepping outside and looking up.

So let’s take a look at the automobile, it’s industry and environment in 2019 from all three viewpoints.

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The Market/Industry

The automotive version of the Farmer’s Almanac might be the Cox Automotive Dealer Sentiment Index. It says that the fourth quarter of 2018 was not as profitable as it could have been and the market may be heading south.

The meteorological approach would see a number of new tariffs for the market put there so that we might compete with China for manufacturing jobs. This includes all the pieces which make up a car, the engine, the tires, the transmission shafts and so on. But manufacturing jobs will be hit hard by automation in 2019.

Fewer imports mean less crude oil burnt to bring goods from China, but a bigger cut to fuel consumption is coming from electric vehicles. This is where we get some conflicting indicators. GM is closing plants because it gambled on hybrids that no one seems to want to buy. So fuel economy may not be the single biggest driving force in market decisions. And the current power grid and generation level can’t handle charging all those cars, so it’s not likely that electric cars (EVs) will quickly supplant traditional ICE Cars (internal combustion engine).

If EVs are truly more reliable and the cost of fuel, which has come down, is the big car consumer driver then we’re heading for a big oil surplus in three to five years, along with cheap used cars, and almost no new ICE Cars being purchased. This will mean a temporary boon for repair shops as the driving public buys cheap surplus used cars to exclusion of new cars (unless they’re EVs). For more on that theory see our post from 12/28/18.

The tariffs won’t hit for a couple months into 2018 and then we’ll get a better idea what the impact might be.

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Financing

The Almanac student would point to the fact that new cars price tags have gone up and up. Some of this could be that EV’s are in development phase more than really in the production phase. Companies like Tesla have released their luxury versions first because it’s better able to absorb the high cost of buying something so new to the market. Even as Tesla moves on to more consumer-friendly car models their price won’t fall until they get into their second and third rendition (where new the new model uses the old assembly). Also, more EV manufacturers will enter the market and need to go through the same cycle.

If we exclude EV’s entirely we still see a trend to more expensive new car prices as the amount of mandatory safety features increases every year. However, it’s likely that the big driver of cost in cars is that makers aren’t able to sell as many. The reduced demand should bring prices down, but not if automakers believe that the people opting to not own a car are a cheap car buying people.

In other words:

  • Generationals aren’t as interested in driving
  • Jobs are concentrated in population centers where parking is scarce, gas is expensive, and mass transit is an option,
  • While baby-boomers are staying in the job market longer, they’re finding other ways to get around.

With young and old not buying cars, that leaves only the more affluent of the smaller generations to market to and they’re not as afraid of a high price tag.

The car meteorologist would notice the number of creative financing options popping up. (Whoever heard of an 18-year house loan, right?) Well, if manufacturers think the answer to their woes is to sell fewer, but more expensive cars, then it’s likely we’ll see longer term car loans. Many experts are predicting that your FICA score will become more volatile as technology can now track your income and debt down to the minute. It puts the whole subprime loan process into a new light.

Assuming all the above is true we’re looking at a giant used car market coming, which could see lenders sending consumers to car inspection services, to verify the condition of their next purchase as early as June 2019.

One way dealerships and automakers might partner to respond to changing conditions are with leases and cashback services. The idea is to make cars more like cell phones where you buy the car but the trade in value follows the market better when you return it to the maker’s official dealership. Then you can turn it in toward the new model. One could imagine it coupled with levels of extended warranty so that after a year you can upgrade at a good trade-in price and the next buyer would get a special extended warranty based on mileage. This might sound like what already happens but it’s not. This plan would take some of the sting out of the new car depreciation but offer people more flexibility that they have with a lease.

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Type & Trend

The car meteorologist says there is a host of new EV and hybrid models coming out, including the Lexus UX HUV and the Jaguar’s i-Pace. There are also new manufactures entering the market. A startup called Rivian (https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/27/rivian-electric-truck-suv-r1s/) is going to enter the market in 2019.

The car almanac reader says it’s a bit too early to tell if EVs area fad or a revolution. Most of the time cost of operation is a major influence and power rates may not always be cheaper than gas and diesel. Many new technologies have false started a few years before they actually took off. The more expensive the item the slower it’s adopted.

As for dealerships, CarMax has become the number one used car dealership in the world based on volume. But their system isn’t perfect (you can’t get it inspected pre-purchase) and just because they have a lead doesn’t mean they won’t get competition. There’s no barrier to entry for their system. In fact, it’s likely that they’ll get at least one big competitor in 2019.

Certainly, the appeal of new models means new car dealerships will thrive, but what about long-term? It seems that optimism is declining in both new car sales and used car sales. The optimism for used car dealerships is down to about 57% from 60%, according to the Kelley Blue Book. It should mean that when new car dealerships are declining that used car dealerships pick up, but that doesn’t seem to be happening and it’s not clear why.

One thing is likely, 2019 will see hybrids start to fade as European clean diesel and longer range EVs start to take market share.

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Car Design Trends (Mid-engine Mainia!?!?)

The car meteorologist points to sudden interest in mid-engine design. Mid-engine cars aren’t new. In fact, it’s basically the first design for cars (see 1901 autocar). It’s common sense that placing the heavy engine closer to the back wheels increases torque and evenly distributes the weight. It’s become quite the rage in sports cars where performance is more important than a back seat. But Chevrolet is gambling on a mid-engine Corvette in 2020. (Note that cars stated as 2020 are sold in 2019. An advertising gimmick, but it confuses some people.)

A mid-engine just means it has an engine located centrally between the axles. Confusingly, there is also a rear-mid engine type car. It’s possible that automakers who embrace EVs will go to a low engine/battery compartment that sits entirely below the seats and between the wheel wells. This might enable them to build all their car lines on the same base frame and engine platform. Imagine a thick car-sized surfboard with wheels attached that you can just attach seats to and then add a body over.

The car almanac reader says that certainly, the SUV fashion will remain. At least Ford is banking on it by bringing back the Bronco. The last Bronco was manufactured in 1996 but in order to compete with jeep, the design has been rejuvenated. In many ways, it looks more like the Ford Ranger than the 1996 Ford Bronco.

 

afterfx-custom-jeep-2774671_1920In Conclusion

Is there a devastating storm brewing that will leave the American auto industry in turmoil or is it just shifting from ICE cars to EVs?

The car meteorologist would say that apart from giving cars a facelift and what appears at concept car shows is relatively unchanged from past shows.

The car almanac reader points out that new trends move slower with expensive items (like cars) and the current power grid won’t sustain an army of electric cars. Unless the government does another round of incentives it’s unlikely EV’s will grow their market share drastically in 2019.

So the net answer is the American Car Maker should be able to ride the storm if there is one, but no one really knows, except perhaps Granny Clampetts weather bug. The weather bug has rolled onto it’s back and started wiggling its legs, so 2019 will ease in deceptively slow, but big changes are coming in the spring.

PS if you thought we’d update you on autonomous driving cars…well, the weather there changes by the minute. Look for stretches of long desolate highway in the southern Midwest (Arizona/Texas) to be upgraded with paint and electronic location devises so that driverless semis can be tested. The shortage of drivers and brutally boring sections of road with relatively stable weather conditions make it a good place to implement automated driving. Market forces will power this so it will happen, but maybe not 2019.

But Granny’s weather bug remains convinced that we’re five or more years away from regular use of AVs. That’s a controversial opinion these days, but Granny stands by her bug.

And The 2018 Awards For Best…

 

cup-1613315_1920Op-Ed by Paul Wimsett

I know, you’re probably sick of award shows. It’s always the best-in-class, or bestselling, or the most important. Do we need to crown the next “his royal arrogance, Ipopygooogly?” Well, it does help us decide which movies might be worth seeing after all, (or maybe finally figure out who sings that song you can’t get out of your head).

It’s the same with cars, although some people want to look away from the obvious when picking up a vehicle, we can’t help be intrigued as to what the movers and shakers are driving.

What were the greatest achievements over the past 12 months? Which car has excelled? It’s December, and it’s time to open the envelopes.

The best-selling car over-all of 2018 was the Ford F series pickup, according to Capital One; over 80,000 sold this year. It might come as a shock that such a truck-like vehicle was so profitable but are useful for both work and play. The redesign of the Ford pickup was thought by many to potentially disastrous, as the pickup formula is not easily tampered with, but it seems to have paid off.

The best-selling small car of 2018 would is Nissan Sentra. Despite its compact design, it appears quite spacious inside, including a substantial trunk size. It may have felt less compromised than others compacts.

The most surprising car of 2018 is the Lexus LC 300h. What makes it surprising? The mixture of Japanese and German design, that shouldn’t work together but somehow, does. At least aesthetically speaking–there might be slight problems with the transmission in the vehicle.

As a category, the Sedan tries to be both aspirational and practical, if not as practical as something like a pickup. The most powerful Sedan of 2018 is the Jaguar XJ, making the Kelley Blue Book’s Top List. The sales pitch of Jaguar XJ is ‘power meets beauty’ and despite being tweaked over a number of years it remains one of the best-selling models.

The best-selling electric car is the Tesla Model 3 (according to Clean Technica). Many might not think this category important, as electric cars have yet to reach mainstream market-share, but Tesla could take over from the big players in the years to come, especially if incentive programs come back. The big drawback to electric vehicles is range and the Model three is shorter than others in its class (distance without charging 263 miles). Likely reasons for the Model 3’s popularity despite a mid-range battery pack include brand recognition and that it has come down in price.

As for the best-selling hybrid for 2018 the winner is the Toyota Prius Four. The seating for five and the heated front seats seem to be a strong selling point. People look for family cars instead of those which are kinder to the environment (just as long as you remember to use the electricity settings once in a while) but this car does both.

The special prize goes to The Connected Car. The rage at the moment seems to be all about the internet of things and as the largest “thing” we use every day is the car. So it seems that money will be spent to increase both safety and in-car entertainment.

Thanks for attending the awards. We will see you next year.

 

Best of the Web: Future of Cars & Oil?

One of our friends uncovered this video and it’s worth watching. It contains one interpretation of facts and one possible future of Electronic Vehicles (EVs) and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars.  The video is based on a rather scholarly work that’s no doubt less entertaining than this video.

We reached out to a member of the tech industry who gave us his response to the video on the condition that his name be withheld. His counterpoints speak for themselves. We’ve listed them below the video.

Interesting.  A couple of flaws with their logic:
  • EV’s take a long time to recharge. For anyone that travels more than 150-200 miles a day this causes a massive problem so these people will not be flocking to EV’s.
  • Lots of people live in areas that still have difficulty plugging-in to recharge.
  • The adoption curve they show is too step.  A car still costs a lot so assuming a super straight up adoption like an MP3 player or cell phone is not realistic.
  • That said, we probably will hit a point where we have an oil glut but I predict it will be slower.
  • Another thing to consider–Self-driving cars and Uber are predicted to make many cars obsolete.
  • In metro centers, people will rely on mass transit to avoid fighting for the increasingly rare parking spots.  Both rideshare and mass transit compete directly with EV’s because of EV range restrictions.

Lord, Will You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz? Modern Spiritual or Cynical Advertising?

 

amg-1880381_1920Merry Christmas Everybody! Please enjoy an OP-ED by Paul Wimsett that we thought fitting for the season.

Janis Joplin first sung the song entitled Mercedes Benz in 1970, though it has been covered by Stephanie Wenger, T-Spoon and Celeste Carballo. Even Elton John performed a version of it.

The song, done in the style of a modern spiritual, seems to embrace consumerism, which creates an absolute cognitive conundrum in most listeners. The singer suggests that they deserve the Lord (God or Jesus – it’s not clear?) should deliver her a Merc after all her friends drive Porsches.

It’s also rather unclear if Porsches or Mercs are the better cars. Certainly, both vehicles seem to be aspirational items. Other things she asks for is a color TV (which kind of dates the song) and a night out on the town.

She comes across a bit down and out really. There’s an obscure reference in the song to a phone-in program called Dancing For Dollars, which allows those considered not very well off to win cash prizes. Many later versions of the song omit the verse.

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The song was written by Janis Joplin, Bob Neuworth and Michael McClure, the other two names spent most of their time writing poetry. What seems to give the song added poignancy is that Janis Joplin died three days later.

The consensus among Joplin Fans is that the song is a commentary on the dissolution of the American dream (streets paved with Gold, etc.) and the reality most working class Americans face. Basically, in this land where surely everyone drives a fancy imported car, I need an even more expensive car to make up for not living the American dream so far.

It’s a clever way of expressing a sentiment that it’s a sin to be poor and no matter how hard a person works they may never shake their shameful poverty.

With that in mind, Mercedes is simply a cultural icon to represent wealth. You have to tip your hat to the songwriters for the car choice in terms of staying relevant.

It should come as no surprise that Mercedes Benz has used the song a couple of times to promote their cars: one in 1995 and another one in 2011 (aired during the Superbowl). It is not clear whether the advertisers are aware of the irony, or don’t care. Perhaps they look at a song as a background, nothing else.

Oh, Lord wasn’t the only song composed about the Mercedes Benz.

Pebbles did, “Mercedes Boy.”

Juelz Santana and Lloyd Banks created a rap called Beamer Benz and Bentley in 2010.

Mercedes Benz by Say Yes, all about following a girl in the Mercedes Benz, which seems a little stocker-ish by today’s standards.

It seems those who commit notes to paper look at Mercs as a common icon of the upper crust. There are so many songs about Mercs it would seem that a number of songwriters are just including the brand in the hopes of getting a free one!

The first official Mercedes Benz came in 1926. It was developed from the first gas-powered vehicle (created by Benz) in 1886 called the Benz Patent-Wagon.

As most of you know the inventor, Emil Jenninek, named it after his daughter, Mercedes.

Mercedes-Benz is not just about luxury cars, they also manufacture Sports Utility models in the US. Although they no longer make trucks in the US they do have several truck manufacturing plants in Mexico, Russia, and several other countries.

It’s unlikely another car will replace the Merc as the popular icon of wealth and luxury in our time. Ergo, the materialistic desire to obtain Mercedes-Benz will not be going away any time soon.

I doubt that Janis hoped to discourage anyone from buying any of the items in her song, but she did land her point about unfulfilled desire with the American consumer. We may very well feel a tinge of guilt when we drive to the dealership to buy our own luxury car, because once you ride in a Merc you kind of get hooked. Maybe, in the final analysis, that’s what makes the car worthy of singing about.

Well, there you have it. From all of us at the Kicker, we wish you a Merry Christmas (and a Merc)!

Notes:

Lyrics Courtesy of https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/janisjoplin/mercedesbenz.html

Could the Christmas Car Traditions Be Under Threat?

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You might not immediately associate cars with Christmas, but how else do you visit malls and other stores? Driving home has become a tradition. In some cases, we’re driving home from a tree stand with the corps of a perfectly good conifer shedding needles all over your interior of affixing pitch to your roof. In other cases, it’s the dreaded winter road trip to Nana and Pops. The drive there is hallmarked by your children brimming with the excitement of presents you hope you got right. The drive home is equally invigorating as your kids have just ingested a year’s worth of sugar.

There will be 100 million cars on the road this Christmas, according to Reuters. But will this number be the same next Christmas? Shopping on eBay and Amazon might damage the tradition of shopping on the Mall and Skyping your relatives may soon replace driving home. And Christmas traditions are the ones we least like to change.

Sure there are good reasons not to travel at this time of year, but let’s face it, most of our favorite holiday traditions are inseparable from a degree of misery. We certainly need the company of family and even the sociability of shopping in the Mall (though it might not feel like that at the time.) The key to success here is remembering where the car was parked.

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Some cars might be less suitable for shopping than others. You’re going to need a car with a fairly large trunk. The same thing applies for driving to and from the relatives. The key to success is when you should pack the car. It’s a good idea to pack the car the night before to save you dealing with the darkness. (I know most of us to forget and struggle out with heavy loads in the darkness.) Another trick is to take regular breaks during a long journey and bring some food and coffee to sustain you.

Another tradition that people have, though it is by no means widespread, is traveling to your nearest and dearest delivering cards and wishing them season’s greetings in person. E-mail and text message are a poor substitute. Sure you’ll catch some folks off guard but if it’s someone you only get to see once a year then do it personally? They will be glad to see you.

There are two good reasons you might want to take an Uber or taxi to and from your Christmas parties. Of course the first is if you’re intending to drink. (Let’s face it you’ll be stuck around your family all evening—your going to drink.) The second little bonus is that your family can actually track your approach or verify that you’ve made it home. See there’s one upside to the modern age.

Another new technology you might incorporate is using an Alexa, or similar device, to come up with a playlist to keep you busy on the journey. Be sure to include songs for you as well as the kids. It reduces stress if you do this sort of things beforehand.

One technology we’re not recommending? There are new devices being advertised this year, that simplify the use of video conferencing so that it’s easier for seniors. To this, we say, “roads converge for a reason and that is surely so we can meet up.” Skype is hardly the same thing. Contrary to the commercials out there, anyone over forty can’t have a meaningful conversation with someone over Skype.

Seniors merely pretend to like Skype conversation, something just doesn’t feel right. And how is a Skype visitor going to eat Christmas dinner or unwrap presents? It’s a bit of a confusing “visitor”, all-in-all.

We’ll stop short of calling it a piece of technology we don’t really need. If you want to give that device at for Christmas so your family can engage more richly and more often than they have been, great! But it’s not going to replace a visit for Christmas.

So, why shouldn’t you get your car out of the garage this time of year? Well, obviously do not drink and drive. But in general, Christmas celebrates the spirit of giving in the middle of dismal winter. It’s the inextricable paradox of giving when it hurts. Christmas traditions remind us that hard work and fun are married and the people in our lives are the presents we really want.

 

Digital Side Mirrors

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Op-Ed by Andy Bunch

You may have heard that digital side mirrors are coming. This is a loose interpretation of equipment automakers have been tossing onto concept cars or adding to limited runs of super-luxury vehicles these last few years. However, most of us who cover the car business have been skeptical. Edison once had his people come up with an electric pen.

Does the world really need one more doodad that must be better because it relies on technology rather than simple physics?

We’ll Lexus has announced that they’re ready to put them into production on their full line of cars and the US is evaluating them for safety, so someones pushing hard for them. My real question was echoed by Stephen Williams in his September article on the topic, entitled “Digital Side Mirrors Become a Production Reality, but You Can’t Get Your Hands on One Just Yet.

“…replacing side mirrors with two 5-inch screens located at the base of the vehicle’s A-pillar is an extra measure of radical….But how much do we really see in our side-view mirrors?”

I’d put his question more as a statement, “it better do something really great if you’re going to continue to train people not to look outside there own car.

Williams eventual support can be summed up in four words, “Bike lanes & night vision.”

But there are other potential advantages. The cameras are designed to be less affected by rain and to reduce road noise. The screens can replace ones already employed for side impact warnings and parking assistance. On the whole, drivers report them as more intuitive than other center-column backup camera screens.

Bottom line they show a wider angle, which has long been a desire of many drivers. How many times do you see people fasten extra mirrors onto their side mirrors, especially when towing a trailer?  Well, that issue could be a thing of the past. These mirrors could add zooming in and out to the adjustments you already make to accommodate the height and taste of the individual driver.

It’s likely these cameras will succeed in gaining mainstream use as early as 2019.

Here’s some video, see for yourself:

Peace and Cars

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(BTW: It’s a Pearl Harbor Day. Don’t forget to take a moment and reflect on the men and women who stand between us and danger.)

Many of us find driving very relaxing. Though it shouldn’t be a place to doze off, being behind the wheel of a car should be a relatively peaceful experience where you can forget your current woes, maybe listen to some classical music or light pop? (Of course, if you love rock-n-roll peace of mind might not be how you relax in the first place.) Something like a comic song or a discussion from talk radio might also distract, but it’s important not to forget the road altogether! Obviously stay alert, or accidents happen.

If you don’t want to employ the radio to drown out road noise you can try some gentle driving techniques make a car quieter but this means you take longer in reach your destination! There needs to be a better way.

You may have noticed that, in general, cars are getting quieter with each new model. The Green City project has spent some time trying to figure out how to make cars quieter for those inside or outside, in order to promote a more peaceful coexistence of cars in dense urban areas. They promoted an idea about reducing the sound in cities by changing tire design and adding more sound cancellation tech to new cars.

The problem is that you can’t really do much with the wind and the vibration that moving at speed is all about. It costs money to make an active difference, mechanically, though many car companies seem to be making some progress. Adding cost is a big obstacle.

So that brings us back to needing to cover up the sound. Try a download of something like whale music. Seriously, some folks swear by it. Not of fan of watery mammals? Then maybe an extract of spoken meditation will suit? Not something to make you sleep, just something to make you more comfortable.

Okay, OKAY! We have a real answer and its cheap, simple, and won’t slow down your commute. To explain it we need to look at one simple reality. Folks either find driving relaxing or stressful. Even more promising, most of us would probably say it depends on the day. So we just need to examine the forces that make it stressful one day and the polar opposite the next.

#1 Change the Situation:

Clearly, there’s a difference between a drive on a country road and sitting in traffic on the way to work. Not much you can do about your destination, right? Well, you can plan ahead. Leave a bit early and find something totally self-indulgent to do with the time you have by getting there early. Maybe sit in a coffee shop or look for a new pleasure read. Whatever it is, just make sure it’s something you can look forward to enough to jump in your car a bit ahead of the last minute.

Speaking of last minutes. Don’t add to your stress by having to make up time. You’re literally making your commute more stressful and it’s entirely in your hands to prevent it. It’s your fault you’re late and that’s good news!

#2 Examine your Options:

Whether the car doesn’t do precisely what you want, or the other drivers seem to be working hard to wreck your day, it doesn’t seem a place to relax. Well, have you checked into mass transit? We’re big fans of personal cars here, but frankly, it’s not worth dying for. If driving to work is shortening your life, consider taking a bus or train for all or part of your commute. You might save on parking and stress, and you can use the time to read or catch up on social media.

Carpooling is another way to possibly save money and time can pass more quickly when you have someone to chat with.

#3 Examine your Company:

On the opposite side of the coin from carpooling is the dreaded school run. Driving with kids can be the not-relaxing kind of conversation. You’re the adult AND the driver–it’s going to land on you to set rules and train your passengers to help not hinder.

Here are some helpful tips: getting into a routine, try to let your children know you need to concentrate on the road, not them. Try a book on CD that the whole family can get into. Or get them headphones.

If reasonable arguments aren’t working pull rank. Don’t let your kids do things that make you not like them. Remember if you battle out the rules on the way to school picking them up will be easier, not harder. Also, remember that they’ll be driving in a few years and modeling the priority of taking it seriously is going to pay off very soon.

#4 Try Silence:

Having the car in perfect quiet can act as a detox to your routine, until the next time you have to make the school run or head to a work presentation. If the rest of your life is stressful, try thinking about your time in a car as a single activity worthy of your full attention. There’s a meditation in the simple operation of the multi-thousand-pound beast surrounding you. It’s your job to at that moment to get yourself and everyone around you to their destination safely. if the rest of your life is so hectic, you may soon begin to yearn for the simplicity of driving alone in the quiet.

#5 It’s a choice:

At the end of the day, all these tips revolve around taking charge of your perspective. If you don’t like our commute, change it. If you absolutely can’t change anything else, try changing your attitude.

Many of these problems revolve around the theme of not being where you want to be. Not being at home, or being stuck in a traffic jam. Make a choice to remember that the journey is more important than the destination. It’s not just about being there instead of here, it’s about how well you do where you are right now. You can only impact the here and now. Don’t lose out on opportunities to do something well now because you wish you were somewhere else.

Whatever problem your mind is drifting back to, won’t be solved by obsessing on it. You will be home soon, or relatively soon. It’ll be fixed in a short while.

 

 

The Car Propping Up the US

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

The car industry has long been considered too big to fail in America. The car manufacturers employ tens of thousands of mostly union members, not to mention sales, marketing, and transportation to market. Clearly, if no one buys cars it would seem self-evident that the steel industry and the petroleum industry would be greatly affected, but economists say the impact can be felt as far afield as healthcare and agriculture.

The news cycle has been dominated by recent political wrangling over keeping the parts and components of cars domestically manufactured as well, from haggling with Canada over steel, to haggling with Mexico over assembly, to threatening tariff wars with China over parts.

They’ve Been Connected from the Start:

The direct tie between the American Economy and automobile manufacturer was first recognized in the 1940s as “Fordism”, the phrase invented by Antonio Gramsci, a Marxist philosopher. Ford had the idea to pay workers more money $5 a day (the equivalent of $90 today). The first effect was actually to decrease the city population as more people moved to suburban areas. Motorized transport, in general, made the population more portable, allowing working-class citizens access to opportunity and freedom.

Recent Historical Context:

A quick check of recent history confirms that when the economy dives it takes the car industry with it. Take the housing, bank, and stock market crash of 2008 for example. In that year alone around 52,000 workers in the automobile industry became unemployed. So what happened to those people?

Most states do not have that many automobile workers. So most of those job losses were in states such as Michigan. When unemployment happened to people here the only answer seemed to be to leave the state entirely. Between the years of 2001 and 2009, Michigan lost the equivalent of one resident every nine minutes (or 465,000 people), the equivalent of a small town. Luckily this wasn’t a permanent fixture the state did recover if only a little way.

Predictions of the Near Future:

If a drop in car sales impacts the economy and vice versa then even a slight drop in car sales is an indicator of potential economic disaster.

That is why the industry starts getting rattled if there seems to be a drop in car sales, which might be happening right now in 2018. 2015 and 2016 recorded sales years for new cars, when the NADA released its forecast for 2017 & 2018. The 2017 number was 17.1 million, a modest plateauing in sales, which they pretty much hit. Their 2018 number was only 16.7 million, a 2% drop from 2017 sales numbers.

Why the negativity? One could point to the end of the impact of the Cash for Clunkers government buyback. Fear over rising fuel prices, rising interest rates, and the rise in vehicle sticker prices. In reality, though, millennials aren’t buying cars the way previous generations did. Remote work has become attractive, especially in younger workers.

There is good news for the economy on the whole and gas prices have been fairly stable. However, many of the unfilled jobs are in blue collar jobs which means until they’re filled people aren’t driving to work. The job growth is primarily in areas which can be done remotely. In many ways, as the car and the economy go hand in glove, gas prices will continue to be the key indicator to watch.

What’s the Worst that Could Happen?

But look at it like this: There are 226 assembly plants in America. If they all were to disappear tomorrow the effect would be catastrophic.

But not all the impacts of the motor car are economic. Currently, about 85% of American people drive to their jobs on their own. The effect of this is not only financial, something you must do to earn money; it also has a distancing effect on our fellow humans. As we spend several hours behind the wheel trying to get to and from work each day, many people are struggling to feel like they’re more than just part of a large machine.

This is why we at the Kicker have long encouraged the commuting public to remember the romance we once had with our car. If we can fall in love with the experience of driving again, and keep buying cars, we can keep our economy strong and free.