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.