Last week I mentioned that a French car company decided to
expand beyond its national boundaries and opened up a new factory in 1906. This
venture was not successful and three years later it was taken over, and started
producing cars using foreign designs and a line of credit from several banks.
This was again not successful, so the principal creditor called in a railway
engineer to run the manufacturing business. He turned out some very creditable
designs (nothing like a railway engine), and although still somewhat financially
shaky, the company still exists today. The question is – what was the name of
the railway engineer? It was Nicola Romeo who gave the world Alfa Romeo.
So to this week. The first Monaco Grand Prix was won by a
Williams. True or false?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email au [email protected]
What did we learn from the Chinese GP?
Well, it was a fittingly dull end to a dreadfully dull year.
Forget the media hype about the “young guns” on their way up, “Schumi’s
reign ended” and “an exciting finish, all the way through to the last race
of the year before the manufacturer’s championship was decided.” At best the
manufacturer’s championship is second prize in the beauty contest. Who cares?
Only the manufacturers themselves. I certainly do not.
What else? Schumi and Albers come together on the way to the
grid. The concept is unbelievable. That’s like Paradorn hitting Agassi on the
head as they come down the steps on the way to the tennis court! The only thing
you can draw from that effort is that both teams managed to get their drivers
out in new cars by the time the lights went out. Fine efforts under pressure, by
The Chinese GP will also be remembered for 26 minutes under
the safety car. Any more and it would have had to come in for refuelling! The
ground crews seemed totally inept as far as clearing debris in a hurry was
concerned. One quarter of the world’s population is Chinese, and here they
were, standing in a line, kicking at the debris with their imitation Dunlop
sandshoes! Spare me! Don’t they have brooms over there? And the guy who picked
up the drain cover and sprinted away with it looked more like a scrap metal
merchant on a mission than a marshal. Or perhaps there’s a new entry in eBay
– “as abused by Juan Pablo Montoya”.
Passing? What’s that? Other than Rooby Baby being pressured
into mistakes by just about everyone, I can’t really remember any, but that
might indicate that I spent the race nodding off with excitement.
The Chinese GP was also the swansong for Minardi, but I do
not think there is anyone in pit lane who will be mourning the non-attendance of
the Johnny-come-lately abrasive Aussie, Paul Stoddart, giving farewell speeches
as if he had started Minardi and kept it afloat. He will not have lost money.
His type never do. Minardi now becomes Squadro Toro Rosso or something similar.
Final place on the grid is already reserved.
Peter Sauber retires and Sauber becomes BMW, who will only
stay in motorsport until they win a championship, or the board of directors look
at the balance sheet and pull the pin. It is difficult to justify involvement in
F1 to bean-counters.
And Jordan becomes Midland F1, bankrolled by roubles from Russia and headed
up by the Kremlin’s answer to Paul Stoddart. Or am I becoming cynical in my
Petrol-electric Camry on the
The news from down-under, where many of the Toyota products
come from, is that there could be a petrol-electric hybrid coming mid year 2006
in the new Camry line-up. Considering that Toyota is selling as many hybrids as
they can manufacture, this is probably a very positive sign as to where the
motoring world is heading. Apparently the Japanese production has gone from
10,000 a month to 15,000. The proposed diesel-powered Camry does not look as if
it is going to see the light of day.
The original hybrid vehicle that Toyota promoted in Australia
was the Prius. Listen to these interesting figures. Originally, the market
penetration for private buyers was around 4 percent, the rest of the quota being
taken by “green” government departments. Prius II now enjoys a 38 percent
private market penetration.
Toyota Motor Corporation also says it will send the hybrid
Camry to America. The next generation of “limousines” at Suvarnabhumi
Airport look like being clean and green!
Three robotic vehicles finish $2 million
Mojave Desert race
Not generally reported in the popular press was the result of
a two million dollar challenge in the US for driverless vehicles. These were not
small radio-controlled toys, but full-sized vehicles such as a Hummer, a
Volkswagen and a HumVee.
According to Alicia Chang, AP’s Science Writer, 23 robotic
vehicles left the starting line to race to the finish across the Mojave Dessert
132 miles away, with eight making it through to the end.
It was not a straight line course either; the unmanned
vehicles had to use their computer brains and sensing devices to follow a
programmed route and avoid hitting obstacles.
Teams were given a CD-ROM with GPS coordinates that charted
the exact route, which included rough, winding desert roads and dry lake beds
filled with overhanging brush and man-made obstacles. The machines had also to
traverse a narrow 1.3 mile mountain pass with a steep drop-off and go through
three tunnels designed to knock out their GPS signals.
The vehicles were tricked out with the latest sensors,
lasers, cameras and radar that fed information to several onboard computers.
This, in turn, helped vehicles make intelligent decisions such as distinguishing
a dangerous boulder from a tumbleweed and calculating whether a chasm was too
deep to cross.
The Grand Challenge race was part of the Pentagon’s effort to cut the risk
of casualties by fulfilling a congressional mandate to have a third of all
military ground vehicles unmanned by 2015. The military currently has a small
fleet of autonomous ground vehicles stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the
machines are remotely controlled by a soldier who usually rides in the same
convoy. The Pentagon wants to eliminate the human factor and use self-thinking
robotic vehicles to ferry supplies in war zones.