Friday, June 22, 2012

Excessive automation and excessively low speed on motorways...kills people

Is  not news....not rocket science...the more your car drives for you, the less you'll be driving.

It's a simple fact; sure it's nice to have a car that ESP's you out of a potential spin...and let's the most hand-fisted driver endure a long life, and eventually procreate. Some might say that it's manipulating the 'natural selection'; some say it's just wonderful. I'm going for a good mid term: either you know how to drive and handle your car, or you go and get some driving skills...but that does not mean you should crash and die a horrible death at the very first try.

So yes, thought I hate having the car decide for me in 99% of situations; reckon that there is the remaining 1% (snow or ice for instance) where ESP is good. And thought my cars never have ESP, I find it a life saving feature for 90% of drivers, saving them constantly from their lack of skill and knowledge.
But my tolerance towards vehicle automation stops there. Cruise control for instance kills people.
I loved to read this article as someone is actually starting to give some thought into this.

Mercedes has been doing it for some time now; as the king of excessive automation and excessive comfort, they soon realized that a car that maintains it's speed alone, brakes before hitting the next car and re-accelerates back to cruising speed after passing it, handles it self out of a hazard manoeuvre and still maintains the level of comfort that most living room sofas can't reach....will make it's driver sleepy, distracted or even wonder what should he do with the all that extra time.
As a result, they figured out ways to sense if the steering is too wobbly or the drivers corneas are not in a road oriented angle...and they did go beyond that assisting the driver in tasks towards others comfort, like lowering your high beams to oncoming cars.

This does however point out something very important:
Ever tried to drive 300km at a constant motorway speed of 120km/h with cruise control? I did the test. Unlike the usual 1 to none stops along the way, this time I've done 3... I had to eat 3 apples and had 3 espressos, trying to wake my self up. But still I missed my exits twice...and I'm used to this path. I've known it for the last 20 years or so and apart from the first time,I've never ever got it wrong...but then again I'm usually driving (not the cruise control) and well over the 120km/h 'parking lot' speed.

Excessive driver assistance is the dangerous mid-field of automation evolution.
It's not full driving automation, so the car can't actually drive for you 100% of the trip time.
So the distraction created from the partial assistance will generate hundreds or thousands of 2ton zombies cruising around.
When is it good? Well, when you get into a big mess and the ESP takes-over 100%.
Its simple... either you have 0% automation or you have 100% automation. The in-between is a dangerous territory for us humans...we tend to fail here by just getting distracted.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Crossover Face-lift from Peugeot

Back in 2009 Peugeot unveiled the 3008 as a Crossover concept.
It is basically an SUV shaped as a minivan for better habitability. It's a Minivan-SUV cross-bread and that's why they call-it Crossover.
It is however a bad concept if you take stability and handling in mind. You see, a SUV will never be a good handler... the soft suspension coupled with the heavy body and a high standing position will always make it tip-over just too easy. It's pure physics! High center of gravity together with a soft and long suspension make anything (take the old Mercedes A-Class, the smart, the Kangoo... for example) unstable.
The minivan is not a particularly happy example. Sure it sits low like a car, but it's much heavier and the center of gravity is too high due to all that extra room for your kids to be able to play soccer in it. It's no wonder that the best handling minivan out-there is the Focus C-Max and if you look at it, it's low and it's also wider than it is high...and despite the brilliant chassis, do a left-then-right and you'll feel all that excess weight in motion.

The crossing between these 2 types of car is everything but a good idea. It reminds-me of an exert from "The Silence of the Lambs" where Dr. Hannibal Lecter  talks about FBI agent Clarice: "There are shallow rollers, and there are deep rollers. You can't breed two deep rollers... or their young, their offspring, will roll all the way down... hit and die. Agent Starling is a deep roller. Let us hope one of her parents was not."
It's about the same with car cross-breads...if you cross-bread a car that's prone to tip over with another prone to tip-over car, you'll have a really unstable car.

But that's not all the bad news. The really really bad news is the way it looks. It's just horrible.
Meet "Peugeous Horribilis":

I mean, there is not a single angle in which this design generates a different (or less violent) feeling this side of sickness and nausea.

So is this all? Unfortunately no! Today's mania of creating GLASS roof-topped cars allows for an option where you can have this horrible car and it's bad handling together with a roof that is about 10 times more heavy that the steel-roof in the absolute worse place...the very top end of the car.

The result? Well Peugeot tried really hard to control this design madness by stiffing it up (way beyond reason)...resulting in a comfortable car while stopped or in a good pavement, but totally uncomfortable in bad pavement or bumpy roads.
While driving it, you can feel all that excessive weight and how it tries to unsettle the chassis constantly...and how constantly the chassis tries to compensate. It's a full none-sense on wheels.
It's no coincidence that ESP is a standard "option" in this... and even with the ESP constantly watching over, do the Left-then-right and you'll be able to experience wheel lift even while under ESP control... that's a scary on-the-verge setup...and please mind that this is the normal steel-roof car. Add the Glass roof and you'll probably see it tip-over even on this slower test.

Now that the monstrous thing has been introduced, it's time to talk about it's new face-lift...and if they take this design forward, we're in for good news from this point onwards.

First impression: It's beautiful! That looks like a Peugeot...and unlike it's "3008 horribilis" predecessor, this HAS design.
Clearly there is some inspiration on the very successful KIA sportage front-end, and I do still read a lot of VW tiguan at the Back-end... but hey, it's beautiful.

The best part? Well, take a good look at the car and you'll always find it wider than it is tall. A very important thing because of all the right reasons that anyone with some physics knowledge would tell you - A lower center of gravity = better and safer handling.

Nice job so far let's see this find its way into production AS IS, just like Mercedes pulled with the new A-class and you'll get back on my "car builder" list, as opposed to "construction builder" list.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Small comment on the new sports Hybrid trend.

I had to copy this text from a post I've just done on a Linkedin thead, discussing the new Ferrari Hybrid news:

I'm much pleased with this NEW hybrid trend. I mean I've always hated the stupid hybrid trend. The lack of engine in a Prius or IMA will make the petrol unit consume more just to drive around; then add 200kg of battery weight (and calculate the impact to mine and process all those heavy metals...and multiply by 2 cause they will have to be recycled some day)...let's face it. It's just a TAX scheme so politicians can charge more for ALL THE OTHER NORMAL CARS, and then use the money with their own V12 engines and private jets instead of applying the TAX in environmental equilibrium measures (like planting trees for instance).
But Lexus got this right the first time. If Hybrid is an environmental nonsense, let's use it for performance, with a small, light battery and an electric assist engine for launch-control torque...and best of all, most governments will charge HALF the tax they did cause it's hybrid.
Porsche did the same but took one step further and decided to mate it with a trajectory computer and make a torque vectoring system.
Audi followed and so did Honda.
Let's wait for the Italians and check it out.
But I must say...FINALLY someone uses the Hybrid for the only thing it's actually good : melting rubber!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

BMW GINA - The best automotive Innovation effort since the year 2000

Hello again, I've dedicated some time trying to find exactly how is the car industry evolving, what are the best efforts being done and just how needed or logical they are.
To my deception, I've seen very few good products and a growing trend of spoiling what's good and create bad products following politicians unneeded laws that serve the sole purpose of non representative taxation.

Presenting GINA:
I've tried to go back 12 years. During that time I've seen some interesting Ideas and implementations, but none that could really make the wow factor...except this beauty:
Back in 2001, BMW, in a move I can only quality as ingenious, gave birth to the GINA concept Project. GINA (Geometry and Functions In “N” Adaptations) was a project of full creative nature intended to fuse disrupting technology and design with Form&Function Design bases.

They grabbed the Z8 full aluminium rolling chassis, with it's 400bhp 4.0 V8 and semi-automatic 6 speed gearbox driving the rear wheels, and started substituting the body panels with a wire-frame of aluminium structures. Some are fixed, but most are articulated and servo'ed.
To cover the skeleton, they created a "skin" made out of a translucent polyurethane reinforced silk fabric.
The result is brilliant. The looks organic...alive and the articulated structures move under the skin and change the car's shape according to need...
..whether it's a simple get in our out of the car...
... to carrying objects that are bigger than the trunk's original volume...
...or you are just a bigger, or smaller than your wife/husband his, because the obsession with Form-Function Adaptability goes all the way into the interior of the car.

If you haven't Seen the video:

As usual when it comes to prototypes (like the Asterio)... MY thoughts:
I'm an absolute fan of this car, and in particular, the concept it's self. I feel however that they were blinded by their own initial idea and left the improvements on the skin/skeleton side...and condemned it to the eternal prototype stage with lack of production engineering.
However since the time of it's début and consequent moving to BMW's museum, some advances have happened, making the engineering part of this marvel car a lot easy.
I'll break my analysis down into Problems and Solutions:
Problem 1:
Aero-Dynamics! Sure the car can change it's form as is and get slimmer and faster, but the car's skin is flexible and that will make it deform inwards when submitted to high pressures, and outwards when submitted to low pressures. 
Ever seen a convertible-soft-top passing you by at speed with it's fabric soft-top inflated like a balloon? Picture that the front of that same car was made from the same material and you would see-it deformed inwards.
New Electro-active Polymer Materials could compose an inner layer network of tissue, glued to the outer skin. This material will bend one way or another depending on voltage strength or polarity. Watch the video and you'll get how a soft skin would react to aero-dynamics deformation if reinforced with this fabric.
This would allow the car to strength the front with more voltage, the bonnet with moderate voltage, the soft top with huge inverted polarity voltage, and so on.

Problem 2:
Excessive Weight due to the articulated structures like the car's eye-like headlights.
Solution 2:
Once again Electro-active Polymers come to action with this video:

Problem 3:
Wheels! While focusing into creating a marvellous design evolution, BMW forgot to evolve the wheels into something lighter, with less unsprung weight, bigger braking power and killer looks.
Solution 3:
Osmos Hubless wheels.

Problem 4:
Excessive unsprung weight in the suspension. 
Solution 4:
F1 Style Push-rod Suspension.

Problem 5:
Doors. The doors should fold under the car instead of lifting like the Lamborghini's do. They should also reinforce the structure.
Solution 5:
Fuse the design of a NASCAR lateral protection Bar-frame with an umbrella like articulation of fixed mount joints. Then cover it with fabric and make the car side panel fold down to the car floor-line and back-up when you "close the door".

Problem 6:
The engine. Huge V engines age not the way to go.
Solution 6:
Either a 4, 5 or 6 cylinder in-line petrol engine, super-squared with reinforced valve-train and bottom-end to sustain over 11.000rpm. And a couple more engine options and mods I'm not writing about until I file my patents ;)

Still I absolutely adore this car and consider it the ONE thing representing quantifiable and award-able evolution since 2000.
Pity I don't work at BMW.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Congratulations Mercedes... welcome back to the car business.

I've written several articles in which is easy to understand that I hate most Mercedes.
In particular I hate the A and B class Mercedes. But I was right to hate the A-Class, and WAS is the keyword.
The new A-Class is a car built with logic and brains. So I congrat Mercedes for quitting the construction business and entering the car making world.
The new A-Class is no longer built in high but rather (and like this post I've written before) like the best cars on it's segment. It looks like a mix between the audiA3, the Golf and the BMW3 series.

My Opinion:
I'm honestly anxious to test-drive this car. In engineering terms this makes perfect sense and it's a REALLY big evolution from it's ancestor. But dynamically you must drive-it to feel-it. But I will try to pull a few strings (a.k.a. contacts inside Mercedes) and make a real test drive and review out of the next article.

Improvement is obvious and easy to spot. The Old A-Class Mercedes was both ugly and dangerous. It was a dynamically nonsense and the tip-over during the moose test proved-it immediately.
But this one, this one is a CAR... not building.
Does this mean the car loses habitability? Probably, but who cares? IT'S A CAR! Not your living room! It's supposed to carry you from your work-place to your living room at home in a safe and logical manner. And when you arrive home, then you can enjoy the comfort of your living room.

Like the article mentioned above, this car clearly copies a lot from it's rivals... but if sometimes I condemn this, in this particular case I applause-it and congratulate Mercedes for the excellent evolution.
Copy-cat? Copy-cat is good when it comes to improving the "should never be born" old A-Class.

 More like Brothers!?

I've seen that ass before!!! Sisters for sure!

So I've clear that Mercedes pulled out the biggest automotive Orgy in the history of the auto-mobile. It must have been quite a Gang-bang between the Audi-A3, the Citroen DS3, the BMW 1 series and the Volvo S60.... but hey, it worked and I like it.

It's my new favourite "bastard". And I'm actually thinking, that if this car drives? I could even consider-it in my buy list...and that is quite a compliment.

Dislikes? Sure, a couple so far... but nothing odd

I would agree to these "X" shaped venting decorations, but the Mercedes logo is more logical and I can only understand this if it's going to première the car in the next X-Men movie.

I can't understand this latest trend of substituting a steel sheet (and a B pillar union reinforcement bar) with heavy-glass. Want to see the sky? Buy a Cabriolet... but don't go fitting something heavy on the top of the car, or it will unsettle the handling. It's just stupid!

It's going to be Front Wheel Drive... and I kinda Expected it to be Rear Wheel drive, but copying out BMW didn't go that far. Pity, cause the car is prettier than the frankensteinic BMW 1 Series, but I doubt it will be able to eclipse it's chassis driving everything through the 2 front wheels. Guess it's a wait and see.

It seems that AMG is already working on it, and there are plans for an 1.6 and 2.0 direct injection turbo, making the car available from factory with up to 200bhp...but the cherry on the top is that it will be available with an optional 7 speed gearbox, and that could make-it quite a rocket. That one I MUST TRY! ;)

While some of the best car makers I've always loved are making mistake after mistake, some of the ones that I've always hated are making progress after progress and creating interesting products. I like this! I would love a world with nothing but well engineered, involving, passionate cars.
Seems like I'm going to have to test drive a Mercedes because I want to, instead of HAVING to,and at the same time have to test drive a Honda because I have to instead of actually wanting to... you have no idea just how bizarre this is.

Behold, the best Mercedes since the Gullwing (in my scale):