Archive for the ‘Driving’ Category

What Signs?

Since it’s football season, that means I’m watching TV.

And since I’m watching TV, that means I’m seeing commercials.

One commercial that I’ve noticed is for a Volkswagen SUV. It shows a family on a road trip and they’re driving through a sparse area – looks like a desert. The daughter is holding a map and a marker and she asks the dad something like “How about now?”

The dad looks down at the nav system in the vehicle and waits for a couple seconds before saying “Ok, now.” At which point the daughter scribbles on the map. I assume she’s crossing of a state, keeping track of which states they have gone through on their long road trip.

The commercial then finishes by showing the view from a slight distance, and we see the car driving off down the road. And we see a road sign that tells us it’s the New Mexico state line.

That’s my problem with the commercial. Dad should be looking at the road, not the nav system. And he should tell the daughter to watch for the road sign.

The fact that the dad doesn’t know or realize or care there’s a physical marker that they can see at the state line tells me that he trusts too much whatever’s on a glowing screen in front of him. Volkswagen must be marketing this vehicle to the types of people who drive into lakes or off bridges because the nav system told them to.

And the commercial is not consistent, because if the dad is so into glowing screens, I would expect the rest of the family would be too. But the daughter has a paper map. If the dad were the type of parent to give his daughter a paper map instead of phone or tablet with a map app, then why is he not doing the same for himself?

As a dad, one of your responsibilities is to teach your kids how to handle the world around them. He should have instructed his daughter on what to look for outside the SUV. He is not teaching her to fish – he just handed her the answer.

We do not see our signs; There is no longer any prophet, Nor is there any among us who knows how long.

Psalm 74:9

Distracted Driving

Since it’s football season, that means I’m watching TV.

And since I’m watching TV, that means I’m seeing commercials.

One things I’ve noticed about the various car commercials is that various car manufacturers are promoting their version of collision avoidance or pedestrian detection or the like.

The most common theme seems to be showing distracted people darting into traffic. The next common theme seems to be showing distracted drivers not noticing normal traffic patterns.

Either way, the message is that one (whether driver or pedestrian) doesn’t need to pay attention closely to traffic or road conditions or potential hazards because the car will handle it.

I realize there are emergency situations where the car can detect and avoid a collision better than a person can. The commercials are trying to sell “safe car” but they are not accounting for human psychology. The commercials are training the millions of viewers to trust that cars will fix their mistakes and they can relax behind the wheel, which I think will make the roads less safe.

Remember people, the way the law is written, if you are driving a vehicle then you are responsible for what it does.

He led them safely, so that they did not fear; But the sea engulfed their enemies.

Psalm 78:53

Construction Sign Improvement

My problem with the normal variety of portable electronic construction signs is that they are too slow. There are usually two screens of information, but when traffic is moving I get to see only one screen, leaving me to wonder what the other half of the information is. Like this:

image of electronic road construction sign


Fun Trucks

I recently drove a 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. That was a fun vehicle to drive. I’m used to my 16-year-old Buick (capable of moderate acceleration) and my 20-year-old Jeep (not capable of moderate acceleration), so to have a vehicle that powerful was pleasing. My usual vehicles don’t always do what I want, but that JGC SRT did. Want to accelerate? No problem. Want to stop? No problem. Good times.

I have also – about a dozen years ago – driven a Dodge Ram 1500 SRT. That was the SRT-10. Ten whole cylinders of engine, instead of the puny 8 cylinders found in the JCG SRT. And 506 cubic inches instead of 390 (that’s 8.3L compared to 6.4L, for those of you who are mathematically impaired metrically inclined.) With that vehicle, the hype was bigger than the fun. While it had an impressive top speed, I was never able to approach it, seeing as I was always on public roads with speed limits. So the only thing I was able to use that power for was acceleration. However, the gears in the transmission has such long ratios in order to reach a top speed of 180mph that they were not well suited for acceleration.

That brings me to the final vehicle of today’s post: the Dodge Ram 1500 R/T. Its engine is nothing special – the standard 5.7L Hemi that’s used across many of Chrysler’s vehicles. But the transmission is geared for quickness. Actually, if you want to be technical: the transmission is normal, it’s the final drive ratio that makes it quick. That R/T seemed a lot faster off the line than the SRT-10. And since I was accelerating from 0 to 40mph, that’s about all I could do. This was also many years ago. I believe it was a manual transmission back then. I know they’ve kept selling the R/T 1500 for all these years even as the SRT-10 dropped away, but they’re only in automatic transmissions now.

To summarize: Ram 1500 R/T = most fun.

I’m sure there are sports cars that are more fun, but as far as SUVs and pickups go, the R/T gets my vote.

He caused their chariot wheels to swerve, and He made them drive with difficulty; so the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from Israel, for the Lord is fighting for them against the Egyptians.”

Exodus 14:25

Mind the Gap

Most car critics judge a car’s quality by the panel gaps. The smaller the gaps, the better the car. My 20-year-old Jeep has no such pretenses. In fact, the headlights were designed with a large gap on purpose – to change the turn signal bulbs, you have to remove a screw and the only way to get to that screw is between the bulb covers.

image of headlight gaps on a Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ

To those who criticize the build quality of this Jeep, what’s your car going to be doing when it is 20? I don’t care as much about build quality as I do about the design quality. If the vehicle was designed to last, that’s the quality I want. I take build quality out of the equation by buying used cars. If it wasn’t built well, it’s either been repaired or junked after 10 years.

I personally think it is a bad user design have the screw there, but I don’t mind the gaps themselves.

I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.

Ezekiel 22:30

Fast Electric Cars

As is usually the case, there are pick-2-out-of-3 choices to be made when choosing a car. Originally, I had offered this trichotomy for vehicles:

image of choice among performance and safety and fuel economy for cars

Performance vs. Safety vs. Fuel Economy

But there is also another trichotomy that applies: Speed, Strength, and Endurance

image of choice among speed and strength and endurance for athletes

Normally, this applies to athletes. For example, you have sprinters or distance runners, but you don’t have anyone who trains for both.

And this is obvious to anyone who has spent time with Mario Kart. You can choose cars that accelerate quickly or cars that have a good top speed, but not both.

For cars, it might make more sense if we call it top speed, acceleration, and endurance.

There will be cars that are good at 1 or 2 of those, but not all 3. So the people that claim electric cars are the best because they’re so quick, I would be confident in challenging them to a race. Their battery-powered car versus my 16-year-old Buick.

The key is to propose the terms of the race that favor your corner of the triangle, not theirs. So if they say “You’re on!” I would reply with “Okay, first one to St. Louis wins.”

Because my Buick is neither quick nor fast, but it is durable.

By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Luke 21:19

Too Much Acceleration

I connected two different news stories about electric cars, and I wonder if anyone else sees the relationship.

First story: electric cars have incredible acceleration. You can go to Wikipedia for some general overview about it. But it seems that every month for the last couple of months, the electric car manufacturers (or electric car concept show-ers) have a press release touting that their car is the quickest from 0-60.

Second story: Electric cars are crashing through walls, with people claiming the car did it on its own. The ol’ “unintended acceleration” bit. The car maker, of course, says that its car is fine and the problem was the driver pressed the wrong pedal.

Now put them both together. People have the equivalent of 800 horsepower in their electric performance vehicles (I’m excluding electric commuter vehicles such as the Smart car because they’re not involved in the 0-60 war, staying north of 10 seconds). I’m guessing that most of the people who bought electric cars would not buy a car with an 800HP engine because they realize that it’s overkill and dangerous. It’s also fun, which they find out when they mash the accelerator pedal on their electric car and get all that acceleration. But they don’t realize how much power it is.

And then the electric cars don’t have to rev up. The power is there instantaneously, such as when you in a parking lot or approaching your garage (or even in your garage). And also couple that with the fact that electric cars do not creep along, and people need to be retrained for how to drive slowly.

With a normal car, the engine idles. If you let off the brake, the car will move along slowly. People are in the habit of handling slow maneuvers, such as parking, by lightly pressing the brake pedal and letting the idling engine overpower the light brake apply. Then when the car is in the right place, they press harder on the brake and stop. In other words, people use the same pedal to drive slowly and to stop.

Now jump in an electric car. There is no idle. If you’re not pressing the accel pedal, nothing happens. So to roll into a parking spot, you need to keep your foot lightly on the “gas” pedal. Now you want to stop. Your years of training have taught your foot to press down on the same pedal, so your mind doesn’t really even think about it – you creep along and then when you’re ready to stop you press down hard. Only, this is an electric car, so you had your foot on the accelerator. So you start to move. And it’s not like a gas-powered car, where there is a slight lag and a spooling up of speed. No, this is full instant power, so there’s no chance for your brain to recognize that the wrong thing is happening.

Electric cars need something like a Parking Lot Mode. Where it will move slowly and you can modulate your speed with the brake pedal. A number of electric vehicles have a one-pedal operation mode, but that’s with the accelerator, where you press it to go and release it to stop. They need the opposite, where the car goes when you let off the brake. But only for low speeds. I can see some liability issues there too. But everyone should already be used to cars behaving that way.

The alternative is that people need to be trained to drive cars two-footedly. That way, your right foot will never get confused as to which pedal it is pressing. Stop is left foot and go is right foot. The best part is that it will work in gas cars too. At least those with automatic transmissions.

Can anyone smash iron, Iron from the north, or bronze?

Jeremiah 15:12