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Driverless On The Hockenheim Racetrack

At Germany’s Touring Car race finale at Hockenheim Audi will stage one of the most extreme piloted driving demonstrations to date. They will underscore piloted driving potential as part of the programme for the final German Touring Car Championship race at Hockenheim.

There will be a live broadcast on Audi Media TV from 12:45pm on October 19, 2014 when an autonomous car will undertake a two-minute lap time and try and achieve a speed of 149mph.

driverless Driverless On The Hockenheim RacetrackA driverless Audi RS7 Sportback will tackle Germany’s famous circuit at race speed next week to underscore the potential of their piloted driving technology. With the latest Audi developments on board, the concept car will drive autonomously to its physical limits with millimetre precision as an exciting sideshow for the Touring Car Championship (DTM) finale on the 19th.

As its sophisticated sensors guide it around the challenging circuit, the RS7 Sportback piloted driving concept car will be approximately as fast as with a professional racing driver at the wheel. Tests conducted so far indicate that on the grand prix track a lap time of just over two minutes can be expected, and that the technology demonstrator should reach speeds, as mentioned, of up to 149mph.

The performance will be broadcast live and exclusively on the Internet starting at 12:45 pm on Audi Media TV.

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Fight Back Down Under

Down under, on the far side of the world, Australian motor enthusiasts have had enough of being the whipping boys for all the swivel-eyed, health and safety, car-hating monomaniacs who for too long have, just as it’s been for UK motorists, done their level best to brow-beat the drivers of Oz into meek submission.

Australians like their freedoms. They like to quaff a few cold beers, grill shrimps, watch a bizarre form of sleeveless rugby and drive proper V8-powered cars. They are done with being interfered with. In Britain it seems like we just roll over and accept our lot, but in Australia in 2013 they formed their own political party — the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party and they are determined to have their say.

aus2 Fight Back Down UnderSee if this sounds in any way familiar: According the Party’s website, “with the rights and civil liberties of everyday Australians being eroded at an alarming rate, the Party aims to bring focus back to the notion that the Government is there for the people; not, as it increasingly appears, the other way around.”

The Party launched in response to widespread anti-hooning (hooning is the Aussie term for anyone taking place in racing, burnouts, joyriding, etc.) legislation passed by the Australian government, as well as the closing of many areas that off-roaders used in the past. The regulations passed last year were especially concerning to Australian petrolheads because a first offence for “wilfully starting or driving a motor vehicle in a way that makes unnecessary noise or smoke” could lead to an immediate ninety day impound of the allegedly offending motor. The Party are not condoning reckless or illegal activities; they are concerned about the potential over-zealous interpretation of the law.

The AMEP was formed and instead of just making a lot of noise, ran a candidate for Senate, and to a whole lot of peoples’ surprise, won a seat in the Federal Senate. “The success of the AMEP at a Federal level will open doors to negotiation which have previously been unavailable to us as motoring enthusiasts,” reads the AMEP’s website. “The unity displayed by supporters of the AMEP at the election sends a clear message to those who would see our culture dismantled – we are not a minority, and we will not give up the fight for our rights and freedom.” Senator Elect Ricky Muir takes his seat on last Monday. We watch with interest. Not to say envy.

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Driving Between The Lines

It seems hard to understand but new research seems to show that removing the white lines down the middle of the road actually reduces speeding.

These findings have come out of government work to reassess road markings and street furniture generally because, they believe, drivers are being confused by the plethora of signage out there. For now, this page will ignore the issue that they clearly think that most of us are as thick as two short planks and look at what they are up to.

Transport for London – for it is they who are doing this work – believe that by removing central white lines that separate two lanes of opposing traffic will result in a significant decrease in the speed of vehicles. They are suggesting that rubbing out lines will ‘introduce an element of uncertainty into the minds of motorists’, thus causing us to slow down. It’s like some sort of reverse Pavlovian exercise.

They’ve tried it on three roads in London. At all three test sites it was shown that traffic slowed down. The biggest decrease on the Seven sisters Road was by just over four miles per hour.

Their psychology appears to suggest that we motorists think that white lines, hatching and the like, provide some sort of magical barrier over which cars on the other side cannot cross. They take no account of the fact that most drivers don’t trust any other drivers on the road to do anything right and are, therefore, alert to dangers, but there you are. Such is their opinion of the great unwashed public.

This all stems from finding out in the bosky avenues of Wiltshire in 2003 which appear to show similar reductions in accidents. If it was so good then, how come it hasn’t been picked up earlier? This is another knee-jerk reaction to the perils of speed because, as we know, officials like to blame speed for all motoring ills, seemingly forgetting about the phone users, texters and all the myriad other reasons why people have accidents.

Most drivers have mostly become inured to the constant fiddling with the rules of the road but pretty soon now they are going to take umbrage for being treated like idiots. Mind you, they have got one thing right – there are indeed too many unnecessary signs.

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We Need More Police

In a surprising turn and clearly bought on by the invidious use of heartless speed cameras, law-abiding motorists have become frustrated by the lack of a police presence on Britain’s highways and byways and believe there is little chance of law-breakers being caught and prosecuted.

Motor Blogger spends a lot of time behind the wheel and can confirm that driving standards are dropping. The purpose of indicators is to let other roads users know your intentions, for example, yet increasingly bad drivers are manoeuvring without recourse to that troublesome indicator stalk.

We’ve all seen idiots using mobile phones, sending texts and so on and sadly it is clear that many lazy brainless motorists in modern Britain think there is little risk of being caught breaking the law for anything other than speeding or running a red light – offences typically enforced via cameras – so why, they think, bother with the rules at all?

For the best part of the 20th Century, motorists bemoaned what they saw then as the draconian enforcement of traffic rules by actual human policemen. At every turn there seemed to be cops lurking in lay-by’s ready to catch the unwary, but here’s the thing: although there’s a bad apple in every barrel, for the most part the cops were able to judge each infringement on merit and act accordingly. Oftentimes this resulted in a reprimand and a stern warning rather than an instant penalty. As a motoring nation we moaned about this but now, perhaps, we are beginning to see the light.

It seems that forty percent of law-abiding car users believe anyone committing common offences such as texting at the wheel of either a moving or stationary vehicle, aggressive driving, tailgating, middle lane hogging or undertaking on the motorway would more than likely get away with it. Sixty percent of motorists surveyed believe this is because there are insufficient numbers of police officers on the roads to enforce driving laws.

The only offences that motorists truly believe are dealt with effectively are the ones that are enforced via cameras such as speeding and traffic light violations which is why we‘ve long since arrived at the ‘cash-cow’ debate. It isn’t just the roads either, there are simply not enough cops, period.

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When Cars Were Simple

At the last count there are 8,176 original Minis rolling around on the ruined roads of Britain, whereas its unloved replacement, the Mini Metro – sold by the last vestiges of the Austin Rover disaster – has fared less well with just 3,262 left despite being produced later on.

The Mini continues to cast its spell fifty years on and the latest versions, great though they are, simply can’t match the simplicity and sheer fun of the original. Open the bonnet of the latest model and you will be none the wiser. Open the bonnet of an original Mini and you’ll find it is completely basic. Anyone can fix it.1 When Cars Were Simple

As with everything in life, we have to move forward but not necessarily when that which follows isn’t as good as that which has passed. This is why the ancient wrinkly rock bands of the Sixties and Seventies can still pull huge audiences today. The problem with the Metro was that it wasn’t introduced until 1980 and it arrived too late with too little. Also, it is generally agreed that the build quality was terrible.

This should have been obvious to the crumbling Austin Rover empire. Had they listened they would have heard – way back in 1971 – that a vessel bearing something called a Datsun was approaching our shores. Presumably they though it was one of those exotic new fruits and thought no more about it. They were wrong on so many levels.

Records show that there are thirty four different Austin Mini models remaining on our roads. Some models are the last of their kind; someone is driving around Britain in the last licensed Austin Mini ‘850 Van’ and there are just 3 Mini ‘SPL’ versions left.

Only 3,261 of the badly-built (thanks to the ruinous actions of Red Robbo and the total incompetence and lack of vision of the management) and unloved Austin and Rover Metros are left on the roads with an amazingly high 77 model versions. Some are facing total extinction; there is just one Austin Metro ‘HL’ left and two licensed Rover Metro ‘MG Turbo’ versions remaining, it seems.

BMW has been hugely successful worldwide with the modern massive Mini and there are nearly half a million registered for British roads. One stand-out fact is that there are 206 different modern Mini models registered thanks to the extremes of customisation now available. Some of these personalised cars are going to be hard to sell on the used car market. When the original Mini came out there wasn’t this problem. The choice was, in the beginning, a Mini, a Cooper and a Cooper S – that was it. Simple, effective and a hoot to drive, it remains today the iconic British car and, like the Rolling Stones and others, continues to appeal by doing exactly as it always has done.

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Panasonic Provide Spark For Tesla

As the relentless march towards alternative automotive fuels continues, it has been announced that Panasonic and Tesla Motors, have signed an agreement that lays out their cooperation on the construction of a large-scale battery manufacturing plant in the USA, to be known, rather unimaginatively, as the Gigafactory.

Inside The Gigafactory

According to the agreement, Tesla will prepare, provide and manage the land, buildings and utilities. Panasonic will manufacture and supply cylindrical lithium-ion cells and invest in the associated equipment, machinery, and other manufacturing tools based on their mutual approval. A network of supplier partners is planned to produce the required precursor materials.

t1 Panasonic Provide Spark For TeslaTesla will take the cells and other components to assemble battery modules and packs. To meet the projected demand for cells, Tesla will continue to purchase battery cells produced in Panasonic’s factories in Japan.

The Gigafactory is being created to enable a continuous reduction in the cost of long-range battery packs in parallel with manufacturing at the volumes required to enable Tesla to meet its goal of advancing mass market electric vehicles. The Gigafactory will be managed by Tesla with Panasonic joining as the principal partner responsible for lithium-ion battery cells and occupying approximately half of the planned manufacturing space; key suppliers combined with Tesla’s module and pack assembly will comprise the other half of this fully integrated industrial complex.

The Electric Future

The Gigafactory is meant to represent a fundamental change in the way large scale battery production can be realized. Not only does the Gigafactory enable capacity needed for the Model 3 Tesla but it sets the path for a dramatic reduction in the cost of energy storage across a broad range of applications. Economies of scale, in other words.

Cost reductions will be achieved through optimized manufacturing processes previously unobtainable in battery cell and pack production. Further price reductions are achieved by manufacturing cells that have been optimized for electric vehicle design, both in size and function and also by co-locating suppliers on-site to eliminate packaging, transportation and duty costs along with other ancillary expenses. Anything that brings down the cost of EV’s in the medium to long term has got to be a good thing.

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The Selfish Selfie

The mobile telephonic device has developed until it has become virtually an extension of many peoples’ bodies, like some robot appendage. The trouble is that it has the potential to lead to road deaths. Research has revealed that young Brit drivers are the most likely to take a ‘selfie’ while at the wheel.

According to the survey, a third of British drivers were the most likely to photograph themselves while on the move, ahead of their counterparts in Germany (28%), France (28%), Romania (27%), Italy (26%), Spain (18%), and our more sensible neighbours in Belgium (17%).

This new survey of some seven thousand smartphone users aged between 18-24 – from across Europe – also showed one in four people had used social media sites behind the wheel; and that young male drivers were the most likely to ignore the risks. So no change there then. Amazingly, nearly all the drivers surveyed agreed the activities were dangerous yet still did it. The old adage that youth believes it is immortal still holds good it seems.

It has been shown that snapping a ‘selfie’ at the wheel could distract a driver for 14sec, whilst checking social media distracts for as much as 20sec – long enough, at 60mph, to travel the length of five football pitches. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for young drivers  and training programmes have been introduced that will highlight the dangers of taking a ‘selfie’ and other smartphone and social media activities behind the wheel.

Taking a ‘selfie’ has for many young people quickly become an integral part of everyday life – but it’s the last thing you should be doing behind the wheel of a car. It is deeply worrying that so many young drivers admit to taking a photo while driving and there is an urgent need to highlight the potential dangers through driver education.

As a nation we have known for years about the dangerous situations that young, inexperienced drivers tend to get themselves into. Despite corrective action – speed limits and the like – gung-ho youth continues to find new ways of digging themselves a hole only to realise – too late – that they should maybe stop digging. There is one hole you can never get out of.

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Avoid Buying Sports Cars If You Want Your Teenager Drive It

It takes time, money and planning to buy a new vehicle for families. There are a few things to consider before making the decision. Parents may want to buy a nice car even before their children comes to driving age. Children grow really fast and before you know they have their driving license and want to drive. Having a safe family car for them to practice on would reduce the immediate pressures to buy them a car of their own.

Even though you may be comfortable with your child driving your car this may prove to be problematic for certain models. One of the problems may be adding the newly qualified teen driver onto your existing policy. If you want to avoid such problems you need to think about who will drive the car when you are looking at certain models with high insurance ratings.

Sports cars and teenagers are two high risk combinations for auto insurers. They usually charge high rates for both owning a high performance vehicle and having a teenage driver in the family. When these two combined you may face serious problems. You may have to pay extortionate premiums if you want your teenager drive a sporty looking auto. In some cases, it may actually be impossible to insure the teenage driver.

There are cars that are clearly sporty and there is no argument about it. And there are the ones that have powerful engines but they may not be considered sports car by many people. In some cases, people buy those automobiles for family use and advanced safety and security features they come with.

For example, BMW X3 and Porsche Cayenne are great cars for families. They have spacious and luxuries interior, large boots and generally considered safe cars in terms of protection they provide in accidents. However, they have powerful engines and take off really fast.

You can understand why families buy them. In the same time you can see why insurance companies would consider them to be riskier.  Most companies not only wouldn’t want a teenage driver included in the policy but also they would impose a condition that any driver allowed should be over the age of 25 years old.

Keep this in mind when you are considering a new auto for your family. says “families should look for more modest automobiles when they want their teenage daughters or sons drive it, too”. It is always a good idea to look at insurance ratings of a new car and it is even a better idea to get a few quotes before making the final decision.

Otherwise, your insurer may exclude young drivers from driving the insured automobile. This will force you to buy another auto for your children to drive and improve their skills or you may have to accept that they cannot drive for some time. Understandably, this will result in resentments and disappointments within the family. And it would cost a lot of money to sort it out with another automobile and insurance policy purchase.

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Connected Cars

Did you know that once upon a time during the 1950’s and 1960’s actual in-car record players were available as options. Older readers may remember the ‘Highway Hi-Fi’. Following on, there was eight-track, the cassette tape and the good old CD.

In car entertainment and infotainment has come a long way since those olden times and now it is going further.

Today’s car infotainment systems offer a panoply of great features. As far as audio is concerned, for example, the options are vast, including AM/FM, satellite, and internet radio, CDs and DVDs, and audio files you play via plugged-in or Bluetooth-enabled smart phones and so on.

Turns out we like all this stuff. We appreciate the ease with which we can connect our mobile devices to most of the cars on our roads. Now, with the arrival of Apple CarPlay for iPhones (available this year on some brands) and the forthcoming Android Auto (which will also be featured on many automotive brands) we are going to become even more connected.

Demand for connected cars is growing and apparently more than seventy percent of drivers are said to be interested in using, or are already using, connected car services. In a recent survey many people said that they would now consider connected features to be an important part of their next new car purchase. What modern motorists want the technology for is primarily increased safety, early warning systems, smarter navigation and diagnostics. Most want to access connected services through a single user point on their dashboard.

In short, drivers want to be able to access all the same features that they can get at home. They want to send and receive messages and they want SIRI to do it for them. They want up-to-the-minute traffic reports and idiot-proof navigation that doesn’t put them in a remote field somewhere. They want to play their choice of music at the touch of a button or a spoken word and they want apps for everything else. The infotainment future is here.

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Use That Air-Con!

When proper air-conditioning arrived in cars it was like a sort of heaven. No more having to open windows only to find that the air outside was as hot as the air inside; no more getting blown to bits by the wind and no more encounters with massive, dangerous insects, like wasps.

Air-conditioning is great, but there’s a problem. Because of the expense of fuel and the fact that we are told – and it’s true – that cars use more juice when the air-con’s on, we have taken to minimising the use of that chilly blaster, especially in the winter when we don’t use it at all.

This is a bad thing for air-conditioner units. The system uses a refrigerant fluid that is compressed and decompressed within a sealed system, changing it from a liquid to a gas and back again. This process absorbs heat from the air, thus cooling the cabin. Loss of fluid means the system won’t work.

If the air-con remains unused for long periods the pipes and seals can begin to dry out and start to leak. Because many people never read their car handbooks they miss the manufacturers advice to run the air-conditioning system at least once or twice a week  for between ten and fifteen minutes – regardless of the weather.

If the system stops working because it has lost fluid for the above reason – and this happens a lot to bemused drivers, especially of older cars – the car manufacturer will probably deem this to be a consumable and therefore not covered by any warranty. It will be your fault and there’s nothing you can do about it except reach for the credit card and have the system re-gassed.

On a new or nearly new car this fault shouldn’t happen. If something does go wrong then it’s probably a real fault and will be covered at the manufacturers effect.

Solution? Always run your air-con regularly, all year round. You don’t have to suffer an icy blast because you’ll have the heater on. If fact, running the air-con will help freshen the air inside a heated muggy car. Also, always ensure the system is checked – and re-gassed if necessary – at every service. That way the air-conditioner will always be tip-top and ready for work.

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