Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

New Thai-built Ford Focus, as well as Fiesta for export

FoMoCo (Ford Motor Company) is building a new (another) manufacturing plant in Rayong province which will increase Ford’s South-East Asian production capacity by more than 50 percent, and is part of a major push by FoMoCo to increase its presence in emerging markets. It is expected that the new Thai plant should be on-line by early 2012. Ford had made similar investments in Argentina and Brazil in recent years.

Focus on Thailand

The new plant’s annual capacity will exceed 150,000 units and is designed to fuel the growing demand for cars in the ten countries that make up the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

With Ford announcing that it will begin producing Fiesta and Ranger models in Thailand from later this year comes the news that other models may also be sourced from Thailand once the firm’s new $450 million plant is operational.

Although the list is yet to be finalized, a Ford spokesperson told the Carsales Network in Australia that the Focus, once slated for Australian production, was “a safe bet” for inclusion in the Thai production schedule, the car being produced in Asia for Australian, New Zealand and South-East Asian consumption.

Autotrivia Quiz

What British car, designed with America in mind, broke 63 American stock car records at Indianapolis over seven days?

The Unlovely Austin A90 Atlantic

Autotrivia: I asked what British car, designed with America in mind, broke 63 American stock car records at Indianapolis over seven days? As unbelievable as it sounds, it was the Austin A90 Atlantic, which is better remembered for the fact that its electric convertible top stuck in the half open position for the entire New York show!


This time it’s F1 technology for bicycles!

Zircotec, a coatings manufacturer has discovered a new application for their technology. The coatings have two applications in braking systems. The first is a ceramic coating that is used as a heat barrier on F1 cars and the second is the new bicycle application

The UK based firm, formerly part of the UK’s Atomic Energy Authority, originally developed its technologies for use in reactors and in the last ten years has been expanding into new sectors with a greater emphasis on composites. The solutions for composites can be separated into two categories; those that protect against heat and those that protect against wear and abrasion. For wear, the solutions are metal based and for temperature, they are ceramic, notably zirconia. The composite materials that can be coated include carbon fiber, sintered nylon and fiberglass.

F1 brakes

High-temperature plasma-sprayed ceramic coatings can, on the other hand, provide lightweight, easily packaged and highly durable thermal barriers suitable for a wide range of highly aggressive environments. Zirconia has a thermal efficiency of less than 1.7 W/m K (compared with 4 W/m K for alumina), creating a coating that is very effective at inhibiting the radiation of heat from a surface

Believed to be the only product of its type available commercially, the process is so effective it allows composites to function in temperatures above their melting point; testing for a typical application gave a reduction in composite surface temperature of more than 125บC. This has been particularly useful in 2010 for F1 brake components such as air ducts. “With no refuelling in F1 this year, the cars are heavier and the brakes are under higher strains,” says Zircotec’s sales director Peter Whyman.

Just like F1 teams, suppliers don’t stand still and one of Zircotec’s latest projects is refining anti-wear coatings that are expected to make a big impact in the cycling world. “Our ultra thin ceramic coating provides a tough, long lasting solution which allows cyclists to retain the simplicity and weight benefits of rim brakes and achieve improvements in stopping distance, wear and wet weather performance,” suggests Whyman.

Up until now, however, using carbon as a braking surface has led to compromises in brake performance, notably in wet weather conditions or where high temperatures are experienced such as on steep descents. Cork-based pads reduce the risk of damage to the rim surface but these can disintegrate in the wet. Other methods, such as aluminum braking rings or switching to more complex disc setups negate the weight benefits of a carbon wheel.

Whether we like it or not, the new technologies are all around us, and being applied in all kinds of different ways. Imagine a computer keyboard where the numbers and letters don’t wear off!


Is your engine about to expire?

We have all become used to on-board computers that can tell us how many km before the tank runs dry, and how much fuel we are consuming at this speed, etc., etc., etc. But what about an on-board computer that can tell you the engine is about to expire?

Andrew Yeoman

Trimble MRM, an expert in telematics, has developed an in-vehicle black-box - officially called the TVG660 - which is already provided to some of the UK’s largest fleets, and is now being made available to the public, and is called ‘Driver DNA’.

Andrew Yeoman, managing director of Trimble MRM Europe says, “The technology provides real-time information on vehicle condition as well as fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions. This would mean the worry over breakdowns will be a thing of the past. We’ve already seen how useful ‘Driver DNA’ is to our fleet clients but families could also benefit hugely from having it in their cars.”

The pioneering device sends alerts with information on engine, health, faults and even battery life, improving both fuel economy and of course, the dreaded repair and breakdown costs.

Used sensibly, you can begin to predict when your vehicle really needs servicing, and whether or not it is well enough to drive to Bangkok or Nakhon Nowhere. I won’t put one on my Mira. It would tell me not to drive it out of the car port.


Formula 1 technology for patient rehabilitation?

A new British company uses motor sport technology to create objective analysis and measurement physiotherapy products to improve patient assessment, condition and the need for surgical intervention.

This new organization, combining Formula 1 technology and the experience of one of Britain’s most renowned research physiotherapists aims to advance patient rehabilitation and conditioning techniques.

The Gatherer Partnership, created by Don Gatherer and motorsport engineering expert John Bailey, will develop a range of innovative products and support packages that for the first time, offer physiotherapists accurate and objective data for the management of neuromusculoskeletal conditions. Data such as peak force and fatigue rating of voluntary muscle contraction will enable physiotherapists to assess the patient’s true condition, determine the need for surgery as well as the ability to create and administer bespoke conditioning and rehabilitation programs.

“Physiotherapy often relies on subjective data that can affect recovery levels and times,” says Don Gatherer. “Our equipment will provide information on what the patient really can achieve and how their condition is developing over time. Extensive work undertaken with rugby players suggests we can improve recovery times too.”

To acquire such objective data, The Gatherer Partnership is incorporating electronic measurement devices that are typically found in F1 racing cars. “Using load-cells and associated telemetry will introduce previously unseen levels of accuracy, repeatability and quality data to the physiotherapy profession,” says John Bailey. “It genuinely can revolutionize the role of the physiotherapist.”

Aside from the professional sports sector where Gatherer, a former Great Britain Olympic and England rugby physio is highly regarded, The Gatherer Partnership expects its tools to be relevant to a range of applications including defense, medical, insurance and leisure industries. “Examples include physical fitness assessments and monitoring at a gym or whether a physical injury claim was legitimate,” suggests Bailey. “Users would have access to objective data on a patient’s condition and its progression based on actual data rather than a subjective assessment. This could be very useful to the insurance industry or even for benefits agencies for example.”


Road deaths

Almost 4,000 people are killed on the world’s roads every day, according to the campaigning charity RoadPeace which is marking National Road Victim Month. So who was the UK’s first fatal car accident victim - 114 years ago - and what happened?

There were little more than a handful of petrol cars in Britain when Bridget Driscoll, 44, took a trip to the Crystal Palace, south-east London, on 17 August 1896. She could be forgiven for being bewildered by Arthur Edsall’s imported Roger-Benz which was part of a motoring exhibition taking place as she attended a Catholic League of the Cross fete with her 16 year-old daughter, May, and a friend.

At the inquest, Florence Ashmore, a domestic servant, gave evidence that the car went at a ‘tremendous pace’, like a fire engine - ‘as fast as a good horse could gallop’.

On the other side, the driver, working for the Anglo-French Motor Co, said that he was doing 4 mph when he killed Mrs Driscoll and that he had rung his bell and shouted.

One of Mr Edsell’s two passengers during the exhibition ride, Ellen Standing, told the inquest she heard the driver shout “stand back” and then the car swerved.

Mrs Driscoll had hesitated in front of the car and seemed “bewildered” before being hit, the inquest heard.

Edsell had been driving only three weeks at the time and - with no license requirement - had been given no instruction as to which side of the road to keep to (very similar to some of the drivers in Pattaya).

With conflicting reports about the speed and manner of Mr Edsall’s driving, the jury returned an accidental death verdict.

Nonetheless, the National Motor Museum’s libraries officer Patrick Collins admits there was “quite a lot of anti-car feeling” in the UK at the time. “A lot of people didn’t want drivers running around the country scaring horses,” he explained, adding that there were fewer than 20 petrol cars in Britain at the time.

These first cars were subject to strict safety laws which had been designed for steam locomotives weighing up to 12 tonnes. Each vehicle was expected to have a team of three in control; the driver, the fireman - to stoke the engine - and the flagman, whose job was to walk 60 yards in front waving a red flag to warn horse-drawn traffic of the machine’s approach.

The flag requirement was ditched in 1865 and the walking distance reduced to 20 yards, although speed limits of 2 mph in towns and 4 mph in the country remained in place.

Mrs Driscoll died just a few weeks after a new Parliamentary act - designed for the new and lighter petrol, electricity and steam-driven cars - raised the speed limit to 14 mph, while the flagman role was scrapped altogether.

The coroner told her inquest that he hoped hers would be the last death in this sort of accident. Little did he know how times would change over the following century, with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents estimating more than 550,000 people have been killed on Britain’s roads since then (and Thailand’s road traffic accident experience is even worse).

Road accident way back then