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Vol. XII No.25 - Sunday December 15 - Saturday December 28, 2013


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Update by Saichon Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

Road mortality to be lowered 50 percent

Another road accident.

The Ministry of Transport has set a target to lower traffic-related mortality rate by 50 percent in the next seven years.
According to Deputy Permanent Secretary Theerapong Rodprasert, about 14,000 people were killed in road accidents in 2012, or around 38 people a day. One-third of the number was breadwinners prompting their families to face financial difficulties.
Those accidents have disabled around 5,000 - 6,000 people a year which can be translated into an economic loss of 230 billion baht annually, or 2.8 percent of Thailand’s GDP.
The ministry aims to reduce the number of accident-related deaths to 7,000 in 2020 by working closely with other ministries and bodies such as the Interior Ministry, local and provincial administrations, to monitor and prevent road accidents, under the ten-year master plan on road safety started two years ago.
On December 11-12, the ministry also held the 11th national seminar on road safety to encourage every party involved to speed up their works on how to lower the number of road accidents and increase awareness among road users
That was derived from a press release from the Ministry of Transport, but it must be examined in a little more depth than has been the case. Firstly, the death toll is far higher than the “official” figures. Secondly, to be classified as a statistic in the road toll, you actually have to be killed outright on the spot. Those who die later in hospital are not included! (In the west, any deaths within 30 days of hospitalization are counted in the road toll.)
According to the WHO, Thailand has the 6th worst road toll per capita in the world at 42.9 deaths per 100,000 population. Only countries worse are Namibia (53), Swaziland (48), Malawi (45), Iraq (44), Iran (43). Even Zambia and Uganda are better than Thailand.
Now to break down our deaths - between 75-80 percent of them involve motorbikes. The vast majority of these deaths have no crash helmet having been worn.
It isn’t rocket science to see that if the compulsory helmet laws were rigidly enforced, and the helmets were of an international standard, you would see a dramatic decrease in our road toll. And that doesn’t need committees, sub-committees and seminars. The answer is staring the Transport Ministry in the face!
But will they do anything? We both know the answer!


Turkey time!

“Where’s the rest of your car, toots?” AMC Gremlin.

What with Thanksgiving Day and Xmas, the turkeys have all headed for the hills. However, one of the American motor mags surveyed their writers as to their opinion on the biggest automobile turkeys that have been made.
Their list has many cars which were not released in Thailand, but the list is interesting.
AMC Gremlin - a very strange and fugly motor car. Look at the photo, I am sure you will agree.
Ford Thunderbird - that one I find confusing. Their writer had bought a secondhand one and it had problems. I don’t believe the normal Thunderbirds were that bad myself.
Toyota Yaris - received a slating as being cramped and noisy. Really? I know lots of 6 footers that drive a Yaris. I do not agree with that one at all.
Yugo - the writer said it was the biggest turkey ever with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Built in Soviet-bloc Yugoslavia it really was dreadful. So we agree on that one.
Pontiac Aztec - an American car about which I have no knowledge, so I cannot comment.
Renault Alliance - another that never made it to these shores. The writer complained about French technology, stating that they had not done much for us since the invention of the guillotine. Just to put the record straight, the British invented the guillotine!
The Porsche 924 - yes, I agree but just because it wasn’t such a bad car, but it because it wasn’t a Porsche, being originally to be a VW sports car. The 944, however, was a true Porsche and the Porschephiles made a pact to forget about the 924.
Edsel - no list of turkey’s can exist without an Edsel. Again it wasn’t such a ‘bad’ car, it just looked dreadful. Time magazine called the division, named after Henry Ford’s only son, “the $250 million flop” (nearly $4 billion in today’s dollars).
And if might add my own lemon, sorry turkey, what about the Lightburn Zeta? Go on - look it up!


Is Technology heading in the right direction?

Have you ever stopped to consider as to where technology is taking us? Or is it not taking us anywhere, but is merely following global trends? Is public opinion the driver, and what exactly does the public expect? Or even more important, what does the public want?
The answer to these rhetorical questions might just be in a publication published by the KPMG International people, the Swiss national cooperative advisory service, with overviews in many areas.
As part of their survey, they asked automotive companies just how important they felt were the issues of fuel efficiency, environmental friendliness and safety innovation, and repeated these enquiries over three years.
The top three issues, as being rated as important, by the greatest percentage of auto companies, were then looked at. The results were very interesting. The main concern, shared by 96 percent of the companies in 2008 was fuel efficiency, but that fell slightly to 93.5 percent in 2009. Environmental friendliness, which was only at 50 percent in 2007, had steadily grown to 80.5 percent by 2009, but Safety innovation was fairly stagnant at around 71 percent for the three years.
The writing would seem to be on the wall for safety as the major indicator of technology direction, no matter how much of a good feeling this gives the manufacturer. “Safety” would appear to be at the same level of attraction as cold porridge sandwiches, for the general public.
Even the environment is not doing that well as a technology driver, despite all the doomsayers and governments pushing the ‘global warming’ wheelbarrow. Perhaps GM’s Bob Lutz, with his famous catch-cry, “Global warming is a crock of sh*t,” goes much deeper and more to the point than the industry would like to admit.
So the final, and most popular driver is fuel efficiency, well over 90 percent for the past two years. This should not be surprising, with the global financial meltdown, decreased earnings, increased unemployment, and all the factors that come into play when money is tight.
I have always said that fuel is the cheapest thing you put in a motor car, and fuel consumption does not really matter, but it would seem I am swimming against the tide here.
However, I do contend that if fuel consumption was a major factor, why do we not see more electric cars and hybrids on the roads?


Trollhattan out from the doldrums?

SAAB has released its first new car since it went bankrupt in 2011 putting 6,000 workers on to the unemployment lines.
It was bought out of Bankruptcy in 2012 by the National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB group (NEVS) and the new 9-3 Aero is their first offering.
Despite being “electric”, the first 9-3 Aero’s are petrol powered, though an electric version is planned for later when “electric cars fully meet customer demands,” said Mattias Bergman, the acting President of SAAB.
SAAB has many followers throughout the world, with its history going back to 1937 when it began making planes, and then spun off the auto side in 1947. Its backers have been numerous, with the last two, GM and Spyker, both going into bankruptcy. Let us hope NEVS does better with the brand!


Mustang breaks out of the corral

New Mustang

When a new car is about to be released, the manufacturers send pre-release details to motoring magazines with what is called an ‘embargo’. That means publication must be held until the embargo date is passed. Most magazines honor this, but occasionally one will not, letting the cat out of the bag early. Or in this case out of the corral.
Now the embargo has been passed, I am at liberty to say that the new Ford Mustang will be available with four cylinder turbo or V8 power and is due on sale in Australia in late 2015, priced from about $45,000.
It is the first right-hand-drive Mustang made on a Ford mass-production line. Mustangs sold in Australia in the 1960s and early 2000s were converted to right-hand-drive locally.
Already the world’s motoring press are asking if the new, sixth generation Mustang has the same design sizzle as the hugely successful model on sale in the US currently, whose design was inspired by the classic 1968 model.
The new Mustang appears to have carried the 1968 theme, but with a more modern and sleek appearance. In this week’s issue of Autoweek Magazine USA, which leaked the Mustang images early, the headline asks, “Is It All You Hoped It Would Be?”


More driver-less cars

The latest manufacturer to embrace cars with no drivers is Volvo, who is promoting the concept with a catch phrase “Drive Me”. This is set up as a joint venture by Volvo, the Swedish Transport Authority and Gothenburg City. (Not to be confused with Gotham City!)
The self-driving cars rely on 360 degree camera systems with GPS and perimeter sensors, which are already available in many new cars (for example, the Nissan Teana has it).
The “drivers” who will be carried by the self-drive cars will be trained on what to do if the technology fails.
Hands up those who are old enough to have seen “2001: A Space Odyssey” with the supercomputer HAL 9000. Remember these lines? “The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.”
However, just in case, the legal experts in Sweden are looking at who or what is liable in the event of a crash.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Road mortality to be lowered 50 percent

Turkey time!

Is Technology heading in the right direction?

Trollhattan out from the doldrums?

Mustang breaks out of the corral

More driver-less cars

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