Will the Transition Into Autonomous Cars Be Too Fast?

Courtesy of carlsagan.com

Courtesy of carlsagan.com

American author and astrophysicist, Carl Sagan, once said, “You have to know the past to understand the present.” So, as we thrust forward into a science fiction like world of autonomous cars and emission free vehicles, it’s time to take a look back at one of the earliest and most influential vehicle types: the Model T Ford. Historically, the Model T will be remembered in both positive and negative lights, but its impact on the world and today’s automotive scene can never be doubted.

From 1908 to 1927, the Model T dominated the American streets, comprising as much as 40 percent of the cars on the road at one point. Popularly referred to at the time as “Tin Lizzie” and “flivver”, the Model T was made affordable to the common man with an asking price of just $300 in 1925. Of course, most people realize that this was made possible by Henry Ford’s development of the cheap assembly line work style, which went down as Ford’s most recognized innovation. However, it wasn’t the only innovation brought about by the Model T Ford. Some others include:

  • Being the first company to use left hand drive, which is still popular here in America. Across the pond, however, they do like their steering wheel to be on the right side of the vehicle.
  • Being the first to have a separate head and block. In a recent article from Popular Mechanics, author Lindsay Brooke says, “The Model T’s engine pioneered the use of a removable cylinder head, and cylinders that were cast integrally with the engine block. Both are mainstays of modern auto engines.”
Courtesy of Time magazine

Courtesy of Time magazine

But with the innovation and progress brought about by the Model T, many historians and critics like to point out the often forgotten negatives. In a recent Time magazine article entitled “The 50 Worst Cars of All-Time,” the 1909 Ford Model T actually came in as the 2nd worst car ever! Some of this had to do with a poorly put together product, but the main complaint with this Model T is that it was given to too many people too soon.

According to the article, “The Model T- whose mass production technique was the work of engineer William C. Klann, who had visited a slaughterhouse’s ‘disassembly line’- conferred to Americans the notion of automobility as something akin to natural law, a right endowed by our Creator. A century later, the consequences of putting every living soul on gas-powered wheels are piling up, from the air over our cities to the sand under our soldiers’ boots.”

For current automakers, there is a lot to learn from the successes and failures of the Model T. Over the next few decades, automakers will be attempting to transform the roads into one that is dominated with autonomous cars. According to a recent IHS report, “In all, there should be nearly 54 million self-driving cars in global use by 2035.” By 2050, it is expected that nearly all cars will have some sort of self-driving component. Fortunately, it seems that many environmental issues have been shored up and that there are a lot of positives going on. But will automakers lead us into potential, unforeseen dangers (as seen with the Model T) by forcing change at too fast a rate? Hopefully, the answer is no because we have already learned from the past and are moving forward in a progressive way. Only time will tell.

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Mary Barra Gets Due Credit During the State of the Union

stateoftheunion32014 has been the year of Mary Barra. Earlier this month, she was officially handed the position as the CEO of GM, and since then, she’s been featured on countless magazine covers and in depth articles. Everybody wants a piece, including everyone in the political arena.

Last night, President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union Address and spent a portion of it praising Barra and the American auto industry. In his speech, the President said, “Our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. It’s how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America’s largest automaker. [Mary Barra illustrates] the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams.” Currently, the Barra led American auto industry  is doing the best it has in years, signaled by the US Treasury selling off the last of its GM stock in December.

stateoftheunionDuring the speech, Barra sat one row behind Michelle Obama and inside of the first lady’s specialized box. The entire night was a testament to not only the resurgence of the auto industry, but the growing power of women in the workplace.

After the State of the Union, Barra said, “I was honored to accept the first lady’s invitation, and delighted to represent the men and women of GM who are doing their best to make GM a company that Americans can be proud of again. America’s resurgent auto industry is a great comeback story and its contribution to our nation’s economy should be a source of bipartisan pride. GM is doing its part to help lead a stronger auto industry that is creating new jobs and technologies.”

stateoftheunion2Of course, this isn’t Barra’s first run in with a major political figure this year. Earlier this year, Hillary Clinton was waiting in the wings to lavish praise on GM’s new CEO. During an interview at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in New Orleans, Clinton said, “I’m excited about GM’s new CEO- you might guess I would be. I guess you could say she broke through the steel ceiling, not the glass ceiling…It sends a really good signal to little girls and little boys across our country that we don’t have a person to waste.”

Many critics are saying that the support from Hillary and the Obama’s is only political propaganda. Undoubtedly, some of this true, but there is a bigger story here, a story that deserves to be void of political criticism. The story: the American auto industry is doing great, women are making progress, and the world is a better place for it.

So Far, Volkswagen Is Leading the Race for Top Super Bowl Commercial

superbowlOver the years, the Super Bowl has become more American than apple pie and super models and cursing at baseball umpires. It is an American event unrivaled by anything else, other than the 4th of July of course! Annually, the game pulls in over 100 million viewers. Some people watch it to see what happens in the game, others watch it for the 10,000 dollar bet they put down, and then there are a lot of people that just like the camaraderie and the parties. But EVERY ONE watches it for the commercials.

In the past few decades, the over the top nature of the Super Bowl has grown astronomically. Half time shows have gotten longer (and flashed some skin!) and advertisers have spent more and more money advertising. In a recent Sporting Charts article, author Chad Langager tells us, “During Super Bowl I, it cost an advertiser $45,000 for a 30-second commercial during the broadcast. Most recently, the cost of a Super Bowl advertisement was $4,000,000, which means that Super Bowl commercial costs have risen by an average of 10.18% per year on average.” That means that today advertisers are willing to pay $133,000 per second (Oh lawd, I think I done passed out).

superbowlcom

One of America’s favorite Super Bowl commercials in recent memory.

Now, Super Bowl commercials have become part of the American consciousness, being discussed in the days leading up to the event and the days after. Auto manufacturers have been aware of this for years. That is why many car companies are even releasing teasers of their Super Bowl ads! Don’t fool yourself; these teasers are no joke, either. They pull in upwards of 1,000,000 views on Youtube.

So far this year, the most popular teaser- regardless of genre- that has been released has come from Volkswagen. As of January 28th, the teaser has pulled over 1.7 million views and has been passed around the internet more than a joint at a Cheech and Chong screening. The commercial features a couple of hyperbolic German engineers discussing what Americans want out of a commercial. After that, the screen becomes littered with everything that is stereotypical of America. It’s unbelievably funny and will leave you wanting more on Super Bowl Sunday.

Of course, other auto makers are not just sitting on the sidelines as Volkswagen takes over the internet. Toyota is currently third in the teaser race (see video below), having released a very popular commercial that features an appearance from the Muppets. Coming in at 7th is a Ford teaser that features comedian Rob Riggle. But none have become as popular as the VW commercial, which is just another step in Volkswagen’s plan to become the top auto maker in the world by 2018.

Nissan’s 1.5 L- 400HP Engine Will Make History

The classic Ford RS200

The classic Ford RS200

From 1984 to 1986, Ford produced one of their most memorable vehicles, the Ford RS200. This car was extremely rare. In fact, today you’d probably be more likely to see Big Foot than an RS200; there were only 200 road legal versions ever built!

The RS200’s were composed of a plastic/fiberglass composite body (produced by Ghia), a mid-mounted engine, and 4 wheel drive. Even though it was a rarity on the road, the RS200 was featured in a number of races during the mid-80s and will be remembered for two things.

1. The RS200 was a part of one of the worst accidents in the history of racing at the Rally de Portugal. The crash ended up killing 3 spectators and injuring many more (Check out the video below).

2. The RS200 holds the record for horse power efficiency for a street legal, forced induction piston engine. It produced a whopping 246.6 horsepower per liter. And it did this all with a 1.8 Liter engine!

The Ford RS200 has held this prestigious record for nearly 30 years, an unbelievable accomplishment in today’s technological world. However, this record could be crumbling down.

The new Nissan engine weighs an unbelievable 88 pounds!!

The new Nissan engine weighs an unbelievable 88 pounds!!

This week, Nissan and its motorsport partner NISMO announced a new engine that gives the classic Ford a run for its money. The motor is a turbo charged 1.5 liter three-cylinder that puts out a mind melting 400 horsepower. More impressively, though, is the fact that it only weighs 88 pounds! As of now, there is no information regarding whether or not this will be available in any street legal car, but if it was, it would take the efficiency title away from the RS200.

The new motor, however, will be featured in the 2014 ZEOD RC electrified race care and will be a participant in the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans race (June 14th). While there, the engine will make history. Because it is an electric-gasoline power hybrid, the car will run one lap on electric power alone, becoming the first car to ever complete a lap in a sanctioned motor race with zero emissions!

The new Nissan will make history at the Le Mans race in June.

The new Nissan will make history at the Le Mans race in June.

Overall, Nissan is extremely excited about this latest development. Nissan Global Motorsport Director, Darren Cox, says, “Our engine has done a truly remarkable job with the internal combustion engine. We knew the electric component of the Nissan ZEOD RC was certainly going to turn heads at Le Mans, but our combined zero emission on demand electric/petrol powerplant is quite a stunning piece of engineering. Nissan will become the first major manufacturer to use a three-cylinder engine in major international motorsport. We’re aiming to maintain our position as industry leaders in focusing on downsizing. Lessons learned from the development of the engine will be seen in Nissan road cars of the future.”

This Weekend’s Rolex 24 Was Full of Buzz and Tragedy

Photo courtesy of Fox Sports

Photo courtesy of Fox Sports

Last weekend, this year’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship racing season finally amped up to another level with the Rolex 24. The Rolex 24, which was originally known as 24 hours of Daytona, has been going on since 1966 and has been home to some of the wildest racing moments in history. This is because the event itself is conducive to chaos.

Vehicles that participate in the Rolex 24 are required to be out on the track for a legitimate 24 hours!! Of course, the teams switch drivers out every few hours, but the vehicles are pushed to the limits. Rob Kauffman, a driver for the AF Waltrip team, said, “This is a fantastic environment and this week has been a tremendous experience. This is something every driver in NASCAR should experience. I radioed my team during the middle of the night just to tell them how much fun I was having.”

rolex24For racing lovers, endurance based events like the Rolex 24 register as one of the more exciting events on the racing calendar. Watching these races allows viewers and gearheads to witness vehicles getting tested in ways that they usually don’t. In today’s world, it’s all about drag racing and speed. But, this…This is a test of everything. During the weekend, the big winner of the event was the Action Express Racing team, which was backed by Chevy and ECR. The Action Express drivers – Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbose, and Sebastian Bourdais- were ecstatic about the victory; “I think it speaks for itself, really, the Chevy power and the ECR guys did an awesome job. They locked up the entire podium. It was a pretty strong showing this weekend.”

Unfortunately though, this year’s race also displayed one of the more vicious crashes in recent memory. Less than 3 hours into the race, drivers Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli were transported to the Halifax Health Medical Center after Gidley’s Bob Stalling’s Corvette slammed into Gidley’s Ferrari. For the first time since 2004, the race was immediately red flagged while both drivers were attended to. Memo Gidley’s vehicle, which at the time was in 4th place, was in such bad condition that the driver had to be cut from his car before being hauled away.

Darren Law, one of Gidley’s driving teammates, foggily said, “These things happen in racing, but you never expect it to be your car and your team. I don’t know what’s going. I hope he’s OK. I’m pretty sure we’re out of the deal. I don’t really know what happened. I looked up on the TV and saw we were in a crash. We’re going to the hospital now.”

Fortunately, reports have surfaced today that Malucelli has been released from the hospital, but the same can’t be said for Gidley. Gidley is said to have a broken left leg and arm, as well as an unstable fracture in his spine. In the meantime, we should all keep our prayers with Gidley and wish him a strong, speedy recovery.

DUI Is A Serious Offense: Why Is Bieber’s Arrest Treated As a Joke?

bieberEarly Thursday morning, Justin Bieber was driving a Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder when he was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence, resisting arrest, and driving without a valid driver’s license. There have also been reports that he was street racing. Adding to the spectacle is a mug shot of Bieber, who is grinning from ear to ear. The photo is already being laughed at and talked about as one of the more memorable celebrity DUI mug shots in recent memory.

For Bieber, this has just been the latest in a long line of problems for Bieber, who seems to be enjoying every minute of the bad boy publicity. Earlier this month, Bieber was involved in an investigation surrounding accusations of vandalism (he allegedly caused 20,000 dollars’ worth of damage to his neighbor’s home with eggs). After the investigation, police reported that they found large amounts of drugs in Bieber’s home.

Bieber may be looking to “up his street cred”, but he is becoming more and more of a joke, especially amongst late night television shows:

 

Some are angry about Bieber’s portrayal in the media, saying that he is getting preferential treatment because he is white. Overnight, a very popular Richard Sherman-Justin Bieber photo has been passed around asking why Sherman is portrayed as a thug while Bieber is just a misguided kid? It’s definitely a good question to ask.

bieber-sherman

 

The Nissan GT-R NISMO Has An Unbelievable Zero to 60 Time

Some things are just built for speed, like leopards and Usain Bolt and a Rick James party. Sometimes, speed is the only thing that matters, and sometimes:

 

Image courtesy of Motor Trend

Image courtesy of Motor Trend

Now, Nissan is adding something else to the list: the 2015 Nissan GT-R Nismo. Originally introduced by Usain Bolt (the world’s fastest man) at the Los Angeles Auto Show, this vehicle is priced at 103,000 dollars and is one of the most impressive speed machines ever made. In a recent article from Motor Trend, writer Alex Nishimoto says, “[The Nismo] is said to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 2.0 seconds.” Considering performance vehicles only need to clock in at under 6 seconds, this time is mind blowing. Actually, according to Zero to 60 Times website, there is only one car that clocks in at a faster rate: 2002 Lingenfelter Chevrolet Corvette, which had a 1.97 second 0-60 time.

Nissan has been able to amp up the speed on this vehicle by incorporating a number of high performance upgrades. Some of these include:

  • An Adaptive Front lighting system, which automatically adjusts the beam angle at high speeds
  • A 55 horsepower upgrade to the 3.8 liter twin-turbo V6. It currently powers out a 600 hp at 6,800 rpm, as well as 481 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm.
  • It’s 66 pounds lighter than the GT-R Premium. This is made possible by a few changes, including carbon-fiber trunk lid and bumpers, a hollow rear antiroll bar, and the elimination of 22 pounds of sound deadening material.

Fred Diaz, the Divisional Vice President of Nissan Sales and Marketing, says of the car, “Nissan has always been the brand that did things differently. Our designs have stretched the envelope over the years. All Nissan products, just like the new GT-R NISMO, stand out among the competition because they are about the driver first and foremost and about using innovation to transform the driving experience.”