Thursday, 31 July 2014

A Software Engineer and a Hardware Engineer are in a Car Driving down a road...

Suddenly, there is a catstrophic steering failure and the car slams into a tree and catches fire.

The engineers manage to get out and the hardware engineer suggests phoning the emergency services.

But the software engineer says, "No, let's just get back in and see if it happens again."

So, who's Getting Excited About Driverless Cars?

Not me.

But The BBC are.

Three stories from them since it was announced that driverless cars will be allowed on British shores.

Here's the first one that makes the announcement.

Then Business Secretary Vince Cable had a ride in one.

Then a BBC Journalist had a go.

The Government want cities to bid for the right to trial driverless cars next January.  I hope none do.  But if are going to get lumbered with them, at least let them be like in the video with someone competent and sober at the steering wheel to take control.  I could live with that.

I don't like Vince Cable much since he helped his mate get the Lib Dem leadership by shafting the likeable Charles Kennedy in return for a senior post within the Party.  But that's beside the point.  He was asked in the report whether or not he was nervous.  Stupid question - he was travelling slowly-ish on a private test-track with massive run-off areas next to a professional test-driver who could take control at any second.  It's not like he'd accepted a high-speed lift across London off Charles Kennedy.

Maybe it is because I like cars and driving that I don't like the idea of driverless cars - I foresee accidents unless these cars go so slowly that they can cater for all of the eventualities that may or may not have been programmed in to them.  They are unlikely to travel above the speed limit and I doubt if they will get the concept of accelerating OUT of trouble.

But at least if someone in the driver's seat can arrest control, it shouldn't be too horrific - assuming he isn't texting or reading a book or having forty winks at the time.  Or blind drunk.  Or blind.

The Google driverless cars seem much scarier.  They have no steering wheel or pedals and a top speed of 25mph.  They will have no facility for a human to take control, other than an emergency stop button.  That will be really useful when an out-of-control bus is heading straight towards you.  I chose bus for dramatic effect but a motorbike would be bad enough.
Oh yes, and they look stupid.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Sign Here...

I'm not really a fan of the UK MSN Cars page.
There will be some interesting articles in there but any with a series of photos, like the one I'm about to mention, always tend to crash out after you've seen three or four.  Then you have to start reloading the page or trying to be clever by editting the URL to up the frame number by one.
This is probably my own fault for still having a laptop with Windows Vista and therefore IE9.  I don't like Chrome, do have Firefox but prefer IE so there.
Given that the article I'm about to mention has 77 photos, I thought I was very persistant in getting to 41 before giving up.
And given that the article I'm about to mention was completely mis-titled - definitely deserve praise for getting to picture 41.
Here is the article I'm about to mention.  It is entitled "Funny road signs from around the world" but doesn't feature funny road signs from around the world.
Well, there is one:
but the rest mostly feature animal warning signs that aren't funny but are slightly unusual if you don't live where they are out in the wild.  I suppose this one of a stag tickling a man is OK: 
but there's nothing funny about a roadsign warning of possums.
Another about 10 of the "funny signs" are not really signs at all - or funny - they are suggestions for signs by London taxi drivers.
The first sign in the article I have just mentioned is also not funny.

It is quite interesting though. It is meant to be very simplified sign telling Americans when they can park in a certain area:

It doesn't look particularly simple but when compared with what the authorities had, it is amazingly straightforward:
The improved version is the work of New York designer Nikki Sylianteng and her Website "To Park or Not to Park" - it's worth a click.
Meanwhile, over in Ireland: 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Testing Britain's Worst Drivers: Crash Course

This was a programme on ITV last night.

And it was absolutely brilliant!

I'm surprised I haven't read more about it today.  The Radio Times have a listing on it and there was a brief discussion on Pistonheads but apart from that - nothing.

ITV don't even have anything on it apart from on their watch-again service.

There have been many shows in the past - such as "Britain's Worst Driver" - that have shown ordinary people who don't care about how they drive.  The shows go on to demonstrate how bad these individuals are and hopefully cure them.

This show last night felt like it was going to be one of those.  That's OK - I like those shows.

It was narrated by Jamie Theakston - a stalwart of narrating motorway cop shows and the like.

But this had a twist.

The first poor driver (poor as in "bad" not as in "unfortunate") was Jason, a fancy-dress shop owner who was aggressive on the road and ignored red traffic lights and speed limits:
His friend's expression says it all.
There was plenty of footage of him whizzing around Blackpool in his blue BMW Z4 breaking rules of the road and traffic laws.
The show claimed that the most accident-prone drivers tend to be men aged 35 to 50 who drive blue BMWs.  A perfect match.
Anyway, Jason was taken to a test-track and told to drive a Mini around while sat next to an instructor.  The instructor had him calmed down and he was driving perfectly safely.
Before I continue, I would actually recommend you watch this show - as previously mentioned it is on the ITVPlayer, but if you aren't going to, or it's past ITVPlayer time or you are abroad somewhere, then I will go on...
The footage from inside the Mini looked a bit like they were sat in a driving simulator.  But the footage from outside showed the car moving around the track matching what was happening inside. 
Must have been a camera-effect then.
Anyway, they came to some traffic-light controlled roadworks and Jason came to a stop at the red light - as you or I would but as he previously may not have.
The lights turn green and he set's off, slowly and steadily.
He then stalls.
Or, more precisely - it is stalled for him - but he doesn't know this.
As he's fiddling trying to restart the car, you see a blue BMW Z4 heading straight for his door.  The instructor yells "Look out!", Jason looks out and has the shock of his life.
It turns out he was in a simulator that he had been driving for several hours so it felt to him like he was really driving.  It was particularly realistic because his driving was controlling a remote-controlled Mini around the test-track and that Mini has a series of cameras in it to display what was being seen on the simulator.
The BMW Z4 (carrying Jason's number plate) was remotely driven into the Mini at high speed to show what happens when people jump red lights.
He was left shaking.  He was then taken down to see what had happened to the remote cars and learned that Mini occupants may well have been killed but the Z4 driver (ie him) would probably have survived - with a maximum 14 year jail sentence and the knowledge that he'd killed someone.
The second poor driver, Laura, a beauty student, spent all her driving time being distracted by doing make-up, eating and drinking, playing on her Smartphone etc.  She had a white Nissan Juke and the footage of her in it looked downright dangerous - certainly illegal. 
She's pictured with her mother but she was so bad, I'm surprised her mother or anyone else would want to be driven by her.  I know I wouldn't.
I'm not convinced that the curing worked as well here.  For a starter, the car that was meant to be hers was an old, white Honda HR-V.
Then, after a demonstration of what happens when you are given distractions while driving, she was on her best behaviour and concentrating on what she was doing - so when the distracted Honda came across the road towards her, she avoided it and didn't know that it had then gone on to hit some carefully placed parked cars.
If they had had a head-on collision it would have been unforgetable for her.
As it was, she was shown the damage that the Honda had done, specifically to the back door of an Escort "where a small child could have been killed if it was strapped into a car-seat in there".
She did claim to have been affected by it and stated how she regretted her previous driving and vowed to change.  Hopefully she was telling the truth.
Both drivers were revisited a month later and their respective passengers both commented on how they had changed and their driving was noticably improved.
So, an excellent, thought-provoking show - catch it if you can.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Ditch the Peugeot

MSN seem very excited this week by this story of a crash involving Jeremy Clarkson & James May in a couple of Peugeots.
MSN summise that it must have happened while filming a new series of Top Gear.
Well, DUH!!
I actually knew that they were filming a new series because Jeremy mentioned it recently on something he was on that I can't remeber what it was.
Given the nature of Top Gear, this crash may well have been planned anyway.  Clearly nobody was hurt.
Unlike in this crash story that I also read this week.  It is in the Liverpool Echo and involves a three-car collision between a Rolls, a Nissan Navara and something called a "Daimler Mercedes".  Not sure what a "Daimler Mercedes" would be - I know that the two companies were once one and the same at board level but I don't believe they ever produced anything with that name.  Besides, Daimler the corporate entity was always separate to Daimler the car manufacturer which did happen to be named after the founder of Daimler the corporate entity.
But I digress.
Without any knowledge of what actually happened here, I blame the Navara driver.
It looks like the Rolls hasn't come off too well - but it should be repairable. 
Two of three cars were wedding cars so I bet there were a few frantic phone calls being made this weekend.
With hindsight, should have gone for something like this:

Monday, 7 July 2014

Commonplace Rarities

I saw a Mark I Cavalier the other day.
It made me smile.
Not because I ever owned one.
Or even knew someone who owned one.
Possibly because it reminded me of my childhood.
This story in The Telegraph got me thinking about cars from that era.  Not for the first time, but today's post will be a bit more Hegarty-ish.
Hegarty are an insurance company that seem to specialise in classic cars but also produce a magazine for classic car enthusiasts.  I always thought Hegarty were American.  I was right.  They usually have an article at the weekend on the Fox News car page listing 5 or 10 classics in some context.  But they also have a British arm.
Lead story at this time is "London to Lisbon in Little George", the story of the triennial (happens every three years) London to Lisbon Rally organized by the Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation (HERO) with Hagerty International as both sponsor and competitor in a barn-found 1930 Austin Ulster (Little George).  The article is interesting but feels like it was written by a Year 7 student doing a "What I did in the Summer Holidays" essay.  He must have been a bit behind with his homework too because the Rally happened in Spring 2013.
Anyway, as The Telegraph article points out, Hegarty are also sponsoring The Festival of the Unexceptional, subtitled, "Concours de l'ordinaire" inviting you to "Celebrate Your Mundane Classic".  A car show for once mass-produced cars that you wouldn't look twice at twenty years ago but are now virtually disappeared from our roads.
I would love to go but it's just too far away.
Probably not welcome would be the Top Gear Team.