Category Archives: Cars


Flying cars under development vary significantly

Spurred by technology advances and demand for transportation alternatives in increasingly congested cities, entrepreneurs around the globe are vying to become the first to develop a commercially viable “flying car.” The designs vary greatly, and most aren’t actually cars capable of driving on roads. Here are some examples:


European aircraft manufacturer Airbus is working at its Silicon Valley research center on a driverless flying taxi that at first will have a pilot, but will later be autonomous. The vertical takeoff-landing, all-electric aircraft is a cockpit mounted on a sled and flanked by propellers in front and back. Airbus plans to test a prototype before the end of 2017, and to have the first Vahanas ready for production by 2020.



Israeli tech firm Urban Aeronautics originally designed its people-carrying drone as an “air mule” for military use. It takes off vertically and has a standard helicopter engine, but no large main rotor. Its lift comes from two fans buried inside the fuselage. Two smaller ducted “fans” mounted in the rear provide forward movement. It can fly between buildings and below power lines, attain speeds up to 115 mph, stay aloft for an hour and carry up to 1,100 pounds


Lilium Jet

German technology company Lilium Aviation is working on a two-seater aircraft that will take off vertically using 36 electric fan engines arrayed along its wings. The aircraft will hover and climb until the fans are turned backward slowly. After that, it flies forward like a plane using electric jet engines. The company has been flight-testing small scale models. The aircraft will have an estimated cruising speed of up to 190 mph and a range of 190 miles.


AeroMobil 3.0

The Slovakian company AeroMobil has developed a car with wings that unfold for flight. It uses regular gasoline and fits into standard parking spaces. It can also take off from airports or “any grass strip or paved surface just a few hundred meters long,” according to the company’s website. Driver and pilot licenses will be required.


EHang 184

Chinese drone maker EHang has been flight-testing a person-carrying drone in Nevada. The vehicle is a cockpit with four arms equipped with rotors. Takeoff and landing targets are pre-programmed. A command station in China will be able to monitor and control the aircraft anywhere in the world, company officials say.



Joby Aviation of Santa Cruz, California is developing a two-seat, all-electric plane with 12 tilt rotors arrayed along its wings and tail. The aircraft takes off and lands vertically and can achieve speeds up to 200 mph, according to the company’s website.



Terrafugia, based in Woburn, Massachusetts, began working a decade ago on a car folding wings that can fly or be driven on roads that’s called the Transition. The company says it plans to begin production of the Transition in 2019. Terrafugia is also working on a “flying car” called the TF-X — a car with folding arms and rotors for vertical takeoff and landing.



This two-seater, electric multicopter from German company e-volo has 18-rotors and looks like a cross between a helicopter and a drone. It is controlled from the ground, eliminating the need for a pilot license.



This Mountain View, California, aircraft developer bankrolled by Google co-founder Larry Page says on its webpage that it is working on a “revolutionary new form of transportation” at the “intersection of aerodynamics, advanced manufacturing and electric propulsion.” Company officials declined to provide details about Zee’s projects.


This image provided by Urban Aeronautics/Tactical Robotics shows an Israeli-made flying car. Urban Aeronautics conducted flight tests of its passenger-carrying drone call the Cormorant in Megiddo, Israel, late in 2016. (Urban Aeronautics/Tactical Robotics via AP)

This image provided by Urban Aeronautics/Tactical Robotics shows an Israeli-made flying car. Urban Aeronautics conducted flight tests of its passenger-carrying drone call the Cormorant in Megiddo,… (Urban Aeronautics/Tactical Robotics via AP


This image provided by Urban Aeronautics/Tactical Robotics shows an Israeli-made flying car. Urban Aeronautics conducted flight tests of its passenger-carrying drone call the Cormorant in Megiddo, Israel, late in 2016. (Urban Aeronautics/Tactical Robotics via AP)

This image provided by Urban Aeronautics/Tactical Robotics shows an Israeli-made flying car. Urban Aeronautics conducted flight tests of its passenger-carrying drone call the Cormorant in Megiddo,… (Urban Aeronautics/Tactical Robotics via AP)




Via: Flying cars under development vary significantly 

The electric stars set to light up 2017

Via: The electric stars set to light up 2017

Audi Q8 concept debuts, production version coming in 2018





Via: Audi Q8 concept debuts, production version coming in 2018

The Joy of Complex


What did the Cizeta-Moroder V16T and the Mazda MX-3 have in common? Wait—do you even remember the Cizeta-Moroder V16T or the Mazda MX-3? I’d forgive you if you didn’t. Neither one of them made much of an impact on the automotive landscape. So here’s a brief recap. The Cizeta-Moroder V16T was a small-batch Italian supercar built by a bunch of ex-Lamborghini engineers. The Mazda MX-3 was a competitor to the Honda CRX, Geo Storm, and Nissan NX2000. Does that help at all? And if it does, if it brings some vague memories swimming back up … what did those two cars have in common?

The answer, of course, is this: unnecessary complexity. The Cizeta-Moroder V16T, shown above, had a transversely mounted “V16” that was actually two V8s driving a center-mounted transfer gear. The Mazda MX-3 contained a tiny 1.8-liter quad-cam V6 with a unique computer-controlled variable resonance intake. In neither case did this deliberately Byzantine approach to engine technology result in quantifiable benefits. The 1990 Lamborghini Diablo made similar power with a version of the aging Countach’s V12; the Nissan NX2000 was faster than the MX-3 thanks to an SR20 engine borrowed from the Sentra SE-R.

I could have added Ducati’s 916 and Honda’s RC51 to my question; the V-twin engines in those bikes were thoroughly and lovingly engineered, but they still couldn’t match the power on tap from the inline-fours available in various Suzukis, Kawasakis, and Yamahas at the time. Yet all four of these vehicles were the subject of intense interest at the time of their release and they still maintain strong, if small, followings today. Which leads me to another question: Why?


I’ve long thought that car enthusiasts could be split into “Timex people” and “Tourbillon people.” A Timex, as you know, is the watch that takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Cheap, durable, accurate. The perfected expression of the Timex philosophy is probably the Casio F-91W, a twelve-dollar watch that was given to al-Qaeda operatives upon their graduation from training. Although millions of the F-91W have been made, the watch became so closely associated with terrorism that the mere ownership of one was apparently enough to sweep a couple of suspicious-looking fellows into Guantanamo Bay. I once dated a young lady who worked for the FBI and I sent an F-91W to her house anonymously as a joke. Stuff like that is why I’m going to die alone. But that’s a discussion for another time. Time—get it?

A tourbillon, on the other hand, is an extraordinarily complex mechanical device used in very high-end watches. It will cost you at least $100,000 to get a tourbillon-equipped watch from the major Swiss brands. In fact, it’s so hard to make a tourbillon that there was some agitation in the watch press a few years back about the “$5000 Chinese tourbillons” that were supposedly going to take the prestige-timepiece industry by storm. Think about that. The Chinese can make a whole watch for under a dollar—look in a Happy Meal for proof—but it would still cost them five grand to make a tourbillon.

The tourbillon is the alpha example of what watch fans call “complications.” A complication is something that adds functionality to a traditional mechanical watch. My old IWC Spitfire UTC had a “complication” that let you see two different timezones at once. It was an additional layer of clockwork laid over top of the basic movement that literally complicated the watch.

In regular life, complications are bad. There’s even a song about it: Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated? But in watches, complications are desirable. They cost extra. People want them. They are considered to be a sign of true enthusiasm in the owner. Chances are that you’ll never use them; setting the extra time zone in my IWC was such a hassle that I never did it, even when I was actually in a different time zone and could have used the information. It’s enough to have the capability, to know that your watch is more complicated, more interesting, than the one on the wrist next to yours.

Dive into any aspect of the automotive hobby and you’ll find both Timex people and tourbillon people. Spec Miata is the ultimate group of roadracing Timexers. They just want to compete in the simplest machine possible. The NASA Championships of 2008 had about fifty Spec Miatas. It also had one guy who had built a Morgan Aero 8 into a Super Unlimited road racer. That is a tourbillon person. It didn’t bother him one bit that he was racing heads-up against a bunch of Corvettes and ASA stock cars, all of which went just as fast for between one-quarter and one-half as much money. He wanted to race a Morgan.

Many of history’s most memorable and/or unusual specialty and sports cars have been deliberate attempts to satisfy the tourbillon people. The Mosler TwinStar. The first-gen Corvette ZR1. The Cadillac XLR-V. Even the E30 M3 could be considered a “complication;” it was no faster on the street than the cheaper 325i.

You’re still our favorite

The appeal of the Mazda MX-3 wasn’t raw speed. It was the knowledge that you had this wonderfully complex little V6 humming away under your hood while everybody around you was stuck with a droning inline-four. The same is true for the Ducatis; why not have a characterful twin? It’s why I consider my VFR800 to be an “upgrade” over my old YZF600R even though it isn’t even a tiny bit faster. The V-four VFR has a unique sound and behavior.

This natural love of complication comes off like snobbishness to the Timex people out there. They just want results. If the numbers say that a Corvette Z06 and a Ferrari 458 Speciale are equal, why would you buy the Ferrari? You can’t explain tourbillon thinking to a Timex fanatic.

Nor can you explain it to car companies that are hell-bent on maintaining a profit margin in the face of blistering competition and ever-fiercer government regulation. And that, my friend, is why the bland, charmless, lumpy low-pressure turbo four-banger has become the de rigeur motivating power of everything from the Honda Civic to the BMW 5-Series. The thriving engine-design ecosystem of 20 years ago is collapsing into monoculture faster than a farmer’s field with the Monsanto seeds blowing in on the wind. Inline sixes, high-revving naturally-aspirated fours, straight-fives, even the once-omnipresent V6. They’re all fading away. It’s the triumph of the Timex people.

We should rage against the dying of this light, if we can. There are still a few cars left that offer unique engines, manual transmissions, station-wagon bodies, that sort of thing. That’s why I have a two-door, V6, manual transmission Accord; all three of those distinguishing features won’t be around much longer.

The wealthy will always have tourbillon choices like the Cizeta and its modern equivalents from Pagani et al. Those of us without trust funds, on the other hand, will have to get our complications where we can find them. And it’s getting tougher. Maybe we should bring Avril Lavigne back from obscurity so she can sing, on our angst-ridden behalf: Why’d you have to go and make things so simple?

Born in Brooklyn but banished to Ohio, Jack Baruth has won races on four different kinds of bicycles and in seven different kinds of cars




Source: The Joy of Complex

Can You Get a DUI for Drinking Too Much Coffee?

We all know you shouldn’t “drink and drive” and usually understand “drink” to be a euphemism for consuming alcohol. A man named Joseph Schwab, however, has a case that could obliterate that understanding. He has been charged in California with driving under the influence of a drug. The drug? Caffeine.

Mr. Schwab was arrested on August 5 of last year after being pulled over by a California alcoholic beverage control agent in an unmarked car. The agent claimed Schwab’s driving indicated he was under the influence of something. A breathalyzer revealed a blood alcohol content of zero. Zero point zero zero to be precise.

Convinced he was on something, authorities took Schwab to jail and drew blood which was tested in a laboratory. The blood test came back negative and that was after it had been screened for cocaine, opiates, oxycodone and all kinds of other drugs few people can pronounce. Never one to give up, law enforcement sent the sample out to another laboratory, presumably to see if they could find anything in the blood. And then they found something: caffeine.

They charged Schwab with driving while impaired.

Despite caffeine being the only thing found in Schwab’s bloodstream, the authorities are pursuing the case against him. But here is where it gets murky. The district attorney’s office insists that Schwab is not being prosecuted on the basis of the caffeine in his system. But if not caffeine, then what? Beyond the caffeine, all he had in his veins that day was blood. Good, clean, unadulterated blood.

I assure you that defendants in this country have the right to know the charges against them and the basis of those charges. It’s a fundamental right of our legal system. Schwab’s attorney has asked for any evidence beyond that which is mentioned above–the reports which are all negative except for caffeine–and so far she has been given nothing.

Now, I will point out to you that a prosecution for driving under the influence of caffeine is theoretically possible in California. This is largely because California defines “drugs” so broadly: They are any substance (excluding alcohol, which is prohibited elsewhere) affecting your brain, nervous system or muscles. And if you have those “drugs” in your system and they prevent you from operating your vehicle in the same manner as a sober person, they you are impaired. Could coffee do that to you? Seems possible. So could many cold and allergy medicines too.

Court cases like this often involve forensic toxicologists, like you might see on TV. One such toxicologist, Jeffrey Zehnder, called this case “really stupid.” He noted that in his forty-plus years of working on cases of impaired driving allegations, he has never seen one where the “drug” in question was caffeine or coffee. He suspects it is because no one has ever even bothered to study the links between coffee and driving ability. That could be because there really isn’t one. Or it could be that the Starbucks lobby is too powerful for anyone to take on.

Meanwhile, Schwab’s attorney has asked the court to throw out his case so he can get on with his life. If the case proceeds, we can all find out whether it really is illegal to drive while hopped up on coffee.

Steve Lehto is a writer and attorney from Michigan. He specializes in Lemon Law and frequently writes about cars and the law.

Source: Can You Get a DUI for Drinking Too Much Coffee?

How the Internet Killed Canada’s First Supercar

In the early 1990s, a company called Motion Concept Vehicles began work on what it hoped would be the first Canadian supercar. The plan was to build 100 cars per year, selling them for a quarter-million dollars each. And unlike most pipe-dream auto startups, MCV came scarily close to succeeding, which ultimately made its failure that much more of a disappointment for the founders.

Canada’s Autofocus recently wrote an in-depth feature on MCV that you should definitely, absolutely read, and it’s fascinating.

The gist of the story is that a group of enthusiasts got together and built a chassis. Then, they hired a designer they found in the newspaper to design a body that would fit around the chassis. The result is the car you see above, called the CH4.

But unlike most supercars, the CH4 ran on natural gas. That decision got MCV a sponsorship deal with two natural gas companies, which helped fund the project. The other benefit was in performance—natural gas is 130 octane.

The car debuted at the Canadian International Auto Show in 1995 and got tons of attention, but then the real work began for the team. They’d built one car, but they had to figure out how to put it into production. Even with a goal of only building two per week, it was still going to be difficult.

Despite the CH4’s curvy design and sub-4.5-second 0-60 time, MCV struggled to find funding. Why? According to the founders, it was because the Internet was booming, and investors were putting their money there. They wanted to hit it big with the next popular website, not invest in a natural gas-powered supercar from Canada.

With his wife was diagnosed with cancer, founder Bob Waddell was forced to shut down the company. But he still has that first car. “You look at the car now and it still looks great, and it’s aged well,” Waddell told Autofocus. “It really hasn’t lost its appeal after twenty years.”





Source: How the Internet Killed Canada’s First Supercar

Honda Self-Balancing Motorcycle – Autonomous Motorcycle Drives Itself

Dropping your bike at a stop sign or during a low-speed maneuver is the fear of any new motorcyclist. It’s easy enough to keep your bike upright at speed, but sneaking through a parking lot, all that mass is dying to tumble. Honda seems to have the perfect solution, with a new concept bike that can balance itself either during a low-speed crawl or when stopped completely.

Honda Riding Assist was first demonstrated today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The system is brilliantly simple: When engaged, the system increases the fork angle, lengthening the bike’s wheelbase and, apparently, disconnecting the front forks from the handlebars. The system then uses minute steering inputs to keep the bike perfectly balanced, without the use of heavy gyroscopes or other mass-shifting devices. The concept bike Honda built to demonstrate the tech can even silently propel itself along, following its owner through a hallway like an obedient puppy.

Honda says the technology was developed as an offshoot of the Uni-Cub, the automaker’s nifty self-balancing mobility unicycle concept. At the company’s presentation at CES, Honda demonstrated Riding Assist by having a motorcycle slowly wheel itself onstage, following a Uni-Cub.

While Honda hasn’t announced any plans to put Riding Assist into production, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the technology included in a future Honda motorcycle of some sort. It’s not exactly an autonomous, self-driving motorcycle, but it’s a step in that direction—and one that, while slightly eerie to watch, would be a huge help to newbie bikers, or anyone who’s struggled to squeeze a 900-lb. Gold Wing out of a packed garage.




Source: Honda Self-Balancing Motorcycle – Autonomous Motorcycle Drives Itself