Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Are we ready for a future not too dissimilar to that portrayed in Minority Report? I’m not referring to bald people predicting murders before they occur, but rather to cars that don’t need us — the drivers. Being a big fan of driving myself, this is a question that naturally presented itself when I read news of Audi’s new autonomous car system.

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Audi itself prefers to call it a “piloted” system, reinforcing the idea that these cars should not necessarily be left entirely to their own devices, but that human guidance should still be present to supervise the whole driving experience. The human element is then not altogether done away with, but still present like pilots are with commercial sized airplanes — ready to take the wheel should gremlins suddenly make their presence felt.

Autonomous cars have been on the radar for a while, with Google being the main pioneer in this field, but Audi has proven itself to be at the forefront of this technology where automakers are concerned.

In 2010, working alongside Stanford University, the Volkswagen Group put an autonomous Audi TTSon the Pikes Peak hill climb, completing the 156-turn, 19.99 km track in 27 minutes. Proof then, that although we are encouraged to be mindful over driving, a truly autonomous form of personal transportation is not that far in the future. In fact, the Nevada DMV recently awarded Audi with the first automaker autonomous car license — making Audi autonomous vehicles road-legal.

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What are the implications of such technology though? Well, we can imagine that it will take navigation to the next level, wherein tech will not only guide you to your destination, but drive you there as well. Self-parking vehicles are already entering the market, but as it becomes a standard feature busy parking lots will now have more space than ever, with regular and consistent parking behavior occurring across the board.

A couple of years ago I would have looked upon this technological advance with disdain, pretending to be a purist and reminding others of the sheer driving pleasure that can be derived from jumping into a car and driving through a mountain pass. However, I am a bit older now, and maybe the novelty and excitement of driving has subsided because I can look at this and think — wow, how nice would it be to actually look at, and appreciate, the mountain pass that I’m driving through? The end verdict — we’re looking at the best of both worlds. Drive when you want, relax when you want.

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So, a little disclaimer at the bottom here just to say that this is a story that I wrote for a very good website – Gearburn.com.  Click for all things gadgety.  Click Here for a direct link to the story on their website.

 

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Alright, so this is probably one of the coolest things that I have seen in a while.  This is a new music video done by the band OK Go in partnership with Chevrolet.  To be honest, I’ve never heard of this group until I stumbled across this little nugget. After this though, I think I’m going to be quite the fan…

OK Go set up over 1000 instruments over two miles of desert outside Los Angeles.  They drive a Chevrolet Sonic through an obstacle course of these instruments, fitted with retractable pneumatic arms designed to play the instruments as they drive past.

The video took four months to prepare and 4 days to shoot.  Everything is legit, no stand-ins or anything.  Front man Damian even took stunt-driving lessons.  Get this: the pianos had their lowest octaves tuned to the same note so that they’d play the right note no matter where they were struck.

Genius.  Now watch and learn.

So, in the grand scheme of things, life has happened.  Where I once lived in Hong Kong, I now live in England.  The move was a strategic one for my career, but that’s a story for another day.  What I want to share with you is my experiences around one of life’s basic necessities – owning a car.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate in the past, as I had access to a car from the moment that I passed my driving test.  For those unfamiliar with South African roads and public transport, having your own car is more beneficial than one can believe.  I drove a Fiat Palio 1.2l, and she was my first love.  How could she not be after having passed my driver’s on Valentine’s Day?  For the rest of my final year in high school, I felt more independent than ever before, and having the ability to drive around and take care of myself became part of my identity.  There was just something infinitely cool about driving home from school on a sunny Friday afternoon, AC/DC blasting from the stereo, and thoughts of the possibly epic weekend that lay ahead.

With only my phone's camera at hand, I used to love snapping pictures of Patricia.

Then, I matriculated and I was off to University.  My little Palio just wouldn’t cut the mustard anymore, not with the long haul drives that I would now be doing on a fairly regular basis.  At least, this was my parents’ logic, as I have seen the mighty Palio perform well in this area before.  Knowing that it was more for safety than anything else, we hit the car market, where I sadly bid farewell to Patricia the Palio and greeted Chewbacca the Opel Astra 2.0l (so named because of the little noise he developed on the odd occasion over the years as he pulled off from a stop sign).

The Astra was in my life from age 19 to 25, right through university and loyally awaiting my return home after I left for Hong Kong.  And despite the many memories that we had made together, a truth had to be faced.  With my long absences – much longer than anticipated – poor Chewbacca was sitting alone in the garage, aging and not being looked after, the wheels slowly going square and the battery dying.  Chewy belonged on the road, not dying a disgraceful death in some garage.  So, I’d agreed to sell him, it was for his own good really, and I do need the cash to buy something for England.

Weirdly, the day that my Dad took the car in to the dealer to be evaluated, he bumped into one of my friends from high school.  Coincidentally, he was looking to buy a car, and my Dad was looking to sell one.  They struck up a deal on the spot, and not two hours after leaving my garage the car was sold.  That’s how special a car Chewbacca is.  I had mixed feelings about the whole thing.  On one hand, he was my loyal steed, and I didn’t even have a chance to say good-bye properly.  On the other, he was going to someone that I knew well, and I know that ol’ Chewy will be looked after.

Ol' Faithful Chewbacca the Astra

Now with the cash in hand from the sale, I’ve been looking to buy something in England.  Used cars in England are relatively cheap, and I can get a pretty good car for the money that I got from selling the Astra.  There is always a catch though, and in this case it was a particularly frustrating one.  It is illegal to drive a car without being insured, a valid and important system to have I believe, but car insurance rates have risen to a point where unless you can actually afford a really good car, insurance is just too expensive.  The following two links explain this phenomenon a bit further:

Car Insurance costs soar 15%

Car Insurance going up due to whiplash claims

As an experiment, I tried to insure a Ford KA costing £394 (not that I was ever considering buying this).  The cheapest quote that I got back was £674.  Now, quotes do go according to driver age and experience, and fortunately being over 25 costs should go down for me, but for anyone younger than 25 the costs are just insane.  Even if you agree to pay an excess of £500, you’re still in a unique situation.  If I were to claim on insurance in this scenario, not only would I be paying close to twice the value of the car in insurance, I would still have to pay an excess of £500 before seeing any claim for that car come through.  The only time these numbers make any kind of sense is when you start getting the cost ratios correct, i.e. that you’re spending enough cash on the car for it to be worthwhile insuring.

This in turn nullifies the positives behind having cheap second-hand cars.  Even if it is in good condition and has low mileage, it makes absolutely no sense to buy cheap.  So now I find myself in a position where I have sold my car only to find that I can’t actually afford anything half-decent here.

Then again, I have been wrong before, and I’m really hoping that I am wrong again now.  I’m going car shopping on Thursday to see if I can get some hands-on experience with this market and you can expect a report on that soon.  Having completed my rant, I must leave you to rant about something else.

Keep on driving.

 

Hello! It’s been way too long since my last update on this here blog, and for that I am eternally apologetic.  Here’s something pretty to look at:

The Ferrari 458 - quite the looker...

To be honest, I have no truly valid excuse to give as to why I have been so slack.  Without wanting to go into too much detail, my life has been pretty crazy of late.  What with relocations and job-hunting, I’ve only recently found myself settling down a little bit.

Now that I have the time and energy to devote back into my writing, I think it’s about high time that I get things rolling with this blog again.  I have some plans for growth and expansion in the future, and yet again I want to encourage you, the readers, to get involved.  The glory of using a platform such as this is that it really allows us to create a community, and I can hardly think of anything more Utopian than a car-loving community.

On that note, you can look forward to more news, fun, eye-candy and opinion pieces, as well as input from new contributors.  In short, I’m talking about progress.  MADmotoring is back, come ride with us…

This posting is just for fun, because like a dullard I was slow to react to the unveiling of the new Lamborghini Aventador.  However, seeing as I’m a massive fan of Lamborghini, and seeing as this is my blog where my rules apply, I’ve decided to showcase a gallery and two videos of the Aventador.  Enjoy the eye-candy!

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The Old Quarter in Hanoi

Well, well, I’ve been gone for long enough I think.  Now it’s time for a much needed update.

The reason for my long absence, to be quite frank, cannot be appropriately explained, other than saying that I was distracted by life.  Yes, life – that quirky, irritating thing that tends to tap you on the shoulder and beg your attention when all you really want to do is ignore it and continue pursuing your hobbies.

Life isn’t all that bad though.  I recently had the opportunity to do a short tour of Vietnam, a really interesting nation.  Being a fan of history in general, and also after having seen Vietnam in one of the TopGear specials, I thought that this was a country that was suitably different and exciting enough for a bit of an adventure.

Now you’re reading this and wondering: “What on earth does this have to do with motoring?”  Well, here it is.  The traffic in Vietnam’s cities is really something else.  The TopGear special really doesn’t do it justice.  The amount of small bikes that populate the roads is just beyond ridiculous.  It’s a veritable chaotic buzz of mosquito-like vehicles that swarm around the roads, filling every available space.  If I remember correctly, there are about 5 million motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh City alone.

I had the opportunity to ride pinion on one of these bikes, and although it wouldn’t necessarily work in many other parts of the world, it makes total sense in Vietnam.  Weaving in and out, and then hitting the rural areas, a motorbike can go and fit anywhere.  After having been immersed in this traffic, I finally figured out how it works.  Just like in Chaos Theory, if you study it long enough a pattern emerges.  Generally, it’s much easier to be in this traffic if you’re the one of the millions on the bike!

Mad traffic in Saigon

When it comes to crossing roads, well, it’s a bit of a leap of faith, especially during your first attempt.  Most people are tempted to make a mad dash across the road, but doing this will only result in your being sashimi-ed by a dozen speeding bikes.  The trick is to make slow progress, as if wading through a river, so that bikers have the time to see you and manoeuvre around you.

Although the trip fulfilled every bit of adventure I was looking for, I have to be honest and admit that I’m glad I’m back in a place where the lines on the road are treated as a bit more than just a guideline.

From me to you...

As anyone who may actually be following this blog will have noticed, this “Hong Kong Car of the Week” thing is not happening on a weekly basis.  This is entirely my own fault, because sometimes I am human and can be lazy.  Other times, I can actually be really busy too.  Either way, to quote Top Gear: “We were ambitious, but rubbish.”

So I’ve decided to change the segment to “Spotted” for a couple of reasons.  This will now give me more freedom to blog about vehicles as I see them, rather than seeing one and waiting up to a week before writing about it, whilst also giving some leeway for a period of not spotting any cars.  This also gives me further freedom in that I just have to change the end of the segment’s name to suit my location.  So say I’m in the UK for a holiday and I see a gorgeous Aston.  Now I can snap a pic and write about it, with the title “Spotted in the UK”.  Great right?  Awesome.  Here’s one to freedom…

 

Spotted in Stanley - Tesla Roadster

I found it quite serendipitous when, after having read just this morning how Tesla were taking Top Gear to court on defamation charges regarding a review done on their roadster, I bump into one in person.  This was the first time that I had seen one, and to be honest I was a little stumped at first, until I got close enough to see the badge properly.

The Tesla Roadster is a battery electric vehicle sports car, produced by the electric car firm Tesla Motors in California.  Now, you may look at this car and think “Why, it’s a mid-engined, rear-wheel drive sports car.  How marvelous.”  Marvelous indeed, except in that it has a crucial element missing – that lovely internal combustive growl, but that’s just my opinion.  If you want to save the planet and look pretty while doing it, this car is a good thing.  As you peruse its Wikipedia page you can see a whole mound of interesting facts and figures that proclaim what a wonderful vehicle it is, and how far it can go.  Personally, I’d love the chance to get behind the wheel and see for myself how it performs.

I’m probably being archaic in my ways, so lets flip the chart for a bit.  It’s an electric vehicle, pioneering the lithium-ion battery cell’s abilities to power a sports car.  Which is damn good thing to be pioneering.  I’d rather be in a Tesla than a Prius any day, and what with new regulations constantly being passed, we have to be honest and look toward a future of alternatively fueled cars.  All in all, it’s a good thing to have people working away on something as important to our futures as the humble sports car.  I look forward to what the future, and Tesla, has in store for us.

As the motoring enthusiast you probably are, you’re bound to have seen the legendary Gallardo patrol car.  Well, I happened to come across some shocking images of its demise; so I thought I’d blog about it.  This happened quite a while ago, so it doesn’t qualify as news, but it is something worth revisiting.

The Gallardo LP560-4 was a gift from Lamborghini to the Italian State Police, fully kitted out with all that you may need as a police officer including guns, radar, video-broadcasting and GPS.  The official story is that the officer driving the supercar at the time of the unfortunate mishap, swerved to avoid a collision with a car moving in the opposite direction, forcing him to plough into a row of stationary cars.

The officers inside weren’t too badly injured, apart from a scratch and a broken rib here and there, but the Gallardo was not as fortunate.  Although it could be salvaged and repaired it would never be able to return to its former, criminal-menacing glory.

Not the most clever of headlines, but it works.  I’ve found a couple of cool vids from around the net, the first is a nice high-def video of a Dodge Viper pulling off some great burnouts, but due to copyrights or some story, I can’t post it on my blog, so click here to watch it on youtube.

The next one is not as exciting to watch, but the content is great as it shows the highlights from this year’s Geneva Motor Show.

And lastly, I just thought that this was a cool looking game, and you can watch the launch trailer for it below.  Driving supercars and buying luxurious houses on an international scale… What’s not to like?