Last week I mentioned that Pope Pius XI’s Nurburg Popemobile was a present from
Daimler-Benz AG. I asked what was interesting about the wheels? The correct
answer was that they were wooden, and in fact Daimler-Benz was the last auto
manufacturer to provide wooden spokes all the way till 1939!
So to this week. Between 1920 and 1928, A.B.C. light cars had
a peculiar fuel filler cap. What was it?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected]
Bring your coloring-in books
Ever bought some fuel and a few kilometers later the car
begins running like the proverbial hairy goat? You have just been scammed with
Not only is 91 octane sold as 95 and Diesel B5 is sold as
diesel B2 but also alcohol mix cocktails are produced and sold to increase
The Thai government thinks it has found the way to fix the
scammers by legislating colored fuels and from February 1, 91 octane petrol will
be yellow, 95 octane will be blue, and diesel B5 will be red.
Of course, this presupposes that the garages don’t know where
to go to buy the colored dyes that are used. Motorists who are colorblind will
also continue to have a problem…
Proton hints at a hybrid
Proton and Giugiaro have jointly revealed the concept version
of a striking new city car that will become the Malaysian national car-maker’s
first hybrid model.
Expected to go on sale around the world next year, the as-yet-unnamed
vehicle will be previewed by a show car to debut at the Geneva motor show on
The smartly-styled five-door hatchback, which is just 3550mm
long (160mm shorter than Proton’s tiny Savvy - available in Thailand) and
features four identical and independently sliding seats, was designed by the
Italdesign Giugiaro design studio.
Expected to closely resemble the forthcoming production
version, it is built on a new Giugiaro-designed platform featuring a higher than
usual roofline and floorpan to accommodate the hybrid system’s rear-mounted
lithium-ion battery pack while offering cabin space that’s claimed to match many
The hybrid system incorporates a front-mounted internal
combustion engine to charge the batteries which, in a similar arrangement to
GM’s Volt plug-in hybrid, drive the front wheels exclusively at all times.
Pikes Peak and no driver
The team at the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS)
are aiming to send a specially-equipped robotic Audi up Pikes Peak without a
driver - something that hasn’t been done before.
Hope they tied all the equipment down.
Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs, has 156 turns and a climb of
4,720 ft. An official contest for human drivers will take place in June, but the
Audi will attempt a timed run in September, alone on the track.
“Our first goal is to go up Pikes Peak at speeds resembling
race speeds, keep the car stable around the corners and have everything work the
way we want it to,” said Chris Gerdes, program director of CARS and leader of
the graduate research team.
Following on from past impressive results - winning its first
autonomous race in 2005 with a car developed for the Grand Challenge held in the
Mojave Desert by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); and a
second car runner-up in DARPA’S 2007 Urban Challenge - the team is hoping to be
the fastest up the mountain with this remote controlled Audi. Other autonomous
vehicles have reached the summit but only at speeds of around 25 mph, say the
This new car will follow a GPS trail from start to finish. It
has reached speeds of over 200 km/h without a driver on testing grounds at the
Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
Its GPS system corrects for interference in the atmosphere,
showing the car’s position on the Earth with an accuracy of less than 2 cm. The
remote control Audi measures speed and acceleration with wheel-speed sensors and
an accelerometer, and gets her bearings from gyroscopes, which control
equilibrium and direction.
“The computer puts all this information together and then
compares it to a digital map to figure out how close the car is to the path that
we want it to take up Pikes Peak,” said Gerdes.
The team says that the computers in the boot space will plug
into the car’s existing electric steering system and the car will move into
action with stock automatic gear shifting and brakes with an active vacuum
booster, a feature that normal cars use for emergency braking.
Using complex algorithms, the researchers have programmed the
car to handle like a racecar. For example, as the car approaches a turn, it
calculates a ‘best guess’ on steering and acceleration. Audi’s steering system
normally responds to the steering wheel, but since there is no driver, it
responds to algorithms that combine information such as the GPS path and
inertial movement picked up from its sensors.
In addition to high-tech racing, the team is hopeful that its
research may lead to safer cars that respond to human error. “We hope this
project demonstrates that the technologies of stabilizing the car and helping
the car stay in its lane will work with each other all the way up to the very
limits of the vehicle.”
The end of driving as we know it is almost finished. Formula
1 cars will not only be in contact with the pits, they will be driven from the
Old drivers versus bold drivers
The world’s population is aging rapidly, with implications in
numerous areas, not the least of which is that the number of male drivers over
the age of 70 will double in the next 20 years, and the number of female drivers
over 70 will treble. Does this pose a greater risk on the roads?
A new in-depth report released by the UK’s IAM (Institute of
Advanced Motorists) contradicts the common assumption that older drivers are a
danger on the roads, comprehensively proving that drivers over 70 are no more
likely to cause crashes than any other driver, and are indeed, considerably
safer than younger drivers.
The report shows that older drivers are safer than young
drivers. Just eight percent of drivers are currently over 70 years of age, and
they are involved in around four percent of injury crashes; fifteen percent of
drivers are in their teens and twenties but are involved in 34 percent of injury
Age-related decline in mental and physical abilities can make
older drivers more prone to certain types of crash though, and this is
exacerbated by age-related frailty which makes older drivers more vulnerable to
serious injuries. An elderly person’s risk of being killed or suffering a
serious injury as a result of a road crash is between two and five times greater
than that of a younger person because of their increased physical frailty.
However, the IAM analysis pinpoints no particular age at which an older driver’s
functioning and skills suddenly deteriorate to the point where driving becomes
too difficult or unsafe.
Older people rely heavily on their cars, and the ability to
drive gives many older people better mobility and access to more activities. Men
in their seventies make more trips as car drivers than men in their late teens
“The IAM recommends that, rather than seeking to prevent
older people from driving, we need to make them aware of the risks they face,
and offer them driving assessments to help them cope with these risks,” said
Neil Greig, IAM’s director of Policy and Research.
“The IAM strongly believes that there is no case for
compulsory retesting of older drivers at an arbitrary age. More research is
needed on the best age to renew driving licenses and there needs to be a wider
debate on the introduction of restricted licensing,” said Mr Greig.
Other key findings of the report include:
Drivers over 70 are safer on bends and overtaking than 50
year olds, but are more at risk at roundabouts, junctions and slip roads on high
speed roads. In some traffic situations, older drivers are less likely to be in
a crash because they tend to adopt a more careful and restrained driving style.
No particular age was identified where there is sudden increase in crash
involvement. Older drivers self regulate and take fewer trips on motorways, in
poor light or wet weather, or at peak times. Drivers over 85 are four times more
likely to have caused a crash than to have been an innocent victim of one.
Crashes in which older women are to blame peak about five years earlier than
those for older men.