The Aeromobile 3.0: Is it a titan or a ‘Terror’?

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Still from The Fifth Element. Gotta love those flying cars!

Flying cars. They’re a staple in any futuristic movie, other than those featuring a dystopia of course. They’ve been a part of our collective consciousness for well over 100 years. First discussed by Jules Verne’s “Master of the World” with “The Terror” a boat, car, AND aircraft that moves through space more quickly and easily than the largest birds. From the image below it looks more like a glider to me. How is it propelled?

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I don’t know about you, but the thought of riding in that is a bit terrifying. It looks like a canoe shaped submersible with wings and wheels. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, does it?

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I think Mr. Rickenbacker was a few decades early with this article…

And looking back through history ‘they’ have been promising us flying cars since 1944. (We’re looking at you Popular Science.) Long before a certain Hannah Barbara cartoon. So, where is my flying car? It’s been nearly 75 years.

Well, one company is in fact working on a flying car prototype (their fourth) that has actually flown and landed without incident. It is the 4th or 5th to reach this stage  if you’ve read through one of the many histories on flying cars. It can easily go from car to plane and back again with ease.

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Meet the AeroMobile 3.0.

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It even looks nice from the rear.

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Are you ready to take her for a spin?

The Slovakian company AeroMobil has released footage and information about their prototype (soon to be in production) vehicle the AeroMobile 3.0. If you visit their website you can see the current prototype flexing it’s wings. Pun absolutely intended.

Specs for the AeroMobil 3.0

  • 2 passengers + parachute deployment
  • Uses regular gasoline
  • 29 mpg road use  /  4 gallons an hour flying
  • Auto-pilot available in flight mode
  • Max speed: 99 mph road  /  124 mph flight
  • Will fit in a standard parking space (always good to know! The big question is, is it American or British?)
  • Licensing requirements:
    Standard driving license for road driving
    Private Pilot’s License (PPL) for flying

Weirdly enough you may see the resemblance between “The Terror” on the cover of Jules Verne’s novel and illustrations within and the AeroMobile 3.0.

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I can see it, do you?

Or maybe, being a part of the company building one of the world’s first flying car is something you’ve always dreamed of doing? Here’s your chance because they’re hiring!

I shall leave you with this quote from Henry Ford in 1940 that’s featured prominently on the AeroMobile website:

“Mark my words: a combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile, but it will come.”

Not soon enough for the majority of us, but hopefully sometime soon in the next few years for the lucky few. I’m still waiting for the flying car and the robo-nanny/housekeeper the Jetson’s had!

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Throwing Shade at Electric Cars: Hidden state fees

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Electric cars have been heralded as the cars of the future, our current solution to the United States’ dependence on petroleum products. The irony here is that electric automobiles were actually built and sold before petroleum powered automobiles. (The first electric vehicle was built in 1842, compared to 1864 for the first gasoline powered one.) The combustion engine over took the electric automobile in the early 20th century due to their high top speeds and a much higher range of travel on a single tank of gas vs an electric charge.

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Now this looks just like a horseless carriage… 1901 Waverly Runabout.

Nothing ever really changes, does it? People still complain about the relatively short range of fully electric vehicles nowadays. And back on track.

Yes, electric cars are seen as environmentally friendly due to the lack of carbon dioxide and other chemicals spewing from the exhaust pipe and into the atmosphere as you drive. Electricity is indeed cleaner, but you’re still using fossil fuels to power your car here in America. We don’t have many nuclear reactors or other large scale alternate power sources. A better solution is needed in the long run. Maybe we should burn all of our trash like Sweden? They’ve started to import trash from their neighbors to power their waste-to-energy generators.

And, back on track again. Sorry, there are so many interesting avenues we could follow.

One way the governments in the US are incentivizing EV purchases (as you probably already know) is through tax rebates to help offset the additional cost of your new car purchase. But did you know that there are at least 10 states that charge you extra fees for Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEVs)?

Yep, 10 states. And they all have an annual fee that you’ll pay above and beyond the ‘traditional’ registration fees paid to your state each year. Ranging from $47.50-$235 a year, that’s a pretty hefty sum to pay yearly. Indiana has a legislative plan in the works that includes a proposed $150 annual fee for electric vehicles, this would make them state number 11.

Is your state one of them?

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Colorado
Law:  H.B. 1110 (2013) $50 annual fee

Georgia
Law: H.B. 170 (2015) – $200 annual fee

Idaho
Law: H.B. 312 (2015) $75 – $140 depending on vehicle

Michigan
Law: H.B. 4736 (2015) varies from $47.50- $235 depending on vehicle

Missouri
S.B. 619 (1998) – $75 annual fee

Nebraska
L.B. 289 (2011) – $75 annual fee

North Carolina
S.B. 402 (2013) $100 annual fee
H.B. 97 (2015) increased the fee to $130

Virginia
S.B. 127 (2014) $64 annual fee

Washington
H.B. 2660 (2012) – $100 annual fee

Wyoming
H.B. 9 (2015) -$50 one-time fee
H.B. 2 makes the fee applicable every year

Can you believe it?- 10 crazy laws

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There really are some crazy laws out there and I did see a LOT of lists, but no one ever stated if they were true or not. Which is something I would want to know, especially if I plan on sharing them with other people! So here is a list of 10 crazy laws, of which I could find reasonable proof for 8, and some promising information on the other 2.

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  1. You’ll get fined if your truck leaves a mess in Minnetonka, Minnesota.
    This one is true, but it’s not just about vehicles. As seen is this newsletter, pg. 7.
    ‘It is illegal to drive a truck or other vehicle whose wheels or tires deposit mud, dirt, sticky substances, litter or other material on any street or highway. (Minnetonka). This one is still on the books in Minnetonka under section 845.010 – Public Nuisances.’

 

  1. Dunn, North Carolina, it’s illegal to play in traffic.
    I can’t find anything that shows this law is actually on the books, but it is one that would seem likely since the people who would be playing in the street would probably be children or young adults.

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  1. Skateboarders in Florida need a license.
    This one is actually true according to the Orlando Sentinel. A special license used to be required to skateboard, but the law is ignored today.

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  1. In California it’s illegal to shoot at any kind of game from a moving vehicle, of course, unless you’re shooting at a whale, that’s completely fine.
    According to Etags, this law is in fact true! It’s also listed across the internet as a law, but I really can’t find any actual proof it exists.

  1. It’s illegal to shoot whales from your car in Connecticut.
    Nissan of Norwich says this is true, so it must be. Right? It’s also one of those law’s that’s absolutely everywhere on the internet.

  1. In Alabama it is completely fine and legal to drive the wrong way down a one-way street as long as you have a lantern attached to the front of your car.
    Well this guy says it’s real! Michael Shafer, Personal Injury Attorney

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  1. Texas requires windshield wipers, but not necessarily a windshield.
    I’ve been finding a lot of hearsay evidence on this one, including someone who said they were a Texas inspector on a Cobra forum, but I can’t find the actual law. So jury’s still out.

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  1. Pennsylvania requires any motorist who sights a team of horses coming toward him must pull well off the road, cover his car with a blanket or canvas that blends with the countryside, and let the horses pass.
    Now this is one law I’ve heard about since high school and I am entertained to know that it is in fact true! Here it is cited in the book You Can Get Arrested for That.

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  1. In West Virginia Officials it’s perfectly legal for anyone to scavenge road kill.
    This one is absolutely true. In Marlinton, West Virginia they even have a Roadkill Cook-off, they’ll be having the 25th in the fall of 2017.

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  1. In Oklahoma you’ll be ticketed if caught reading a comic book while driving.
    You really have to wonder about some of these laws… but this one is also cited in a book, It’s the Law!.

Foil those morning frosts – Volkswagen’s climate windshield

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It’s one of those unifying daily tasks that no one enjoys doing, especially when you’re out in the freezing cold and the sun’s not even up yet. We all know the drill: Bundle up in our outdoor gear. Start the car. Turn the heater to defrost and (if you have it) turn on the defroster for your rear window. Then, you get out your scraper and spend the next 5-10 minutes putting scraper to windows clearing as much frost as you can.

Well, it turns out there may be a light at the end of the tunnel after all. You might even call it a silver lining. It’s an ultra-thin layer of silver sandwiched (or as the say ‘laminated’) between two layers of glass in Volkswagen’s new climate windshield. Unlike typical heated windshields with filaments of wire running through them, Volkswagen’s newest invention uses an invisible layer of silver that doesn’t affect your visibility at all. Imagine that.

Right now this is only available on the Volkswagen Golf, Golf Sportsvan, Tiguan, Sharan, Passat and Passat Variant… Which means it’s not actually available in the US. I did a bit of searching and I can’t find any mention of it anywhere on the US Volkswagen sites. I’m think this would be a big selling point in most of the country though. Most American deal with frost frequently during the winter months.

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A frosty 2016 Volkswagen Passat. source.

Yes, Volkswagen is in the middle of a public relations snafu of their own making, but this could be one of those things to bring them back into our (America’s) good graces. It’s not even that expensive but it could save you so much time and effort. Not to mention spending less time in the cold.

I’ve seen a few comparisons to the Ford QuickClear system, which is again only available in Europe, that uses a grid of wire filaments to clear your windshield. I can’t help but think why does Europe get all the good tech? So I looked into it… Apparently we had it in the 1990’s but it wasn’t popular. How strange, it seems like it would be a major selling point to me. Way to go earlier generation, why didn’t you like this?

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A Vehicle before Ford QuickClear was turned on. source.

Oh, and Volkswagen says that this state of the art windshield isn’t just for winter. The ‘the thin layer of silver acts as a passive heat shield. As it reflects up to 60 per cent of the summer heat.’ Thus reducing the interior temperature of the car by 15 degrees Celsius, or 27 degrees for those of us who live by Fahrenheit.

Prices start at €340 (approximately $363.03) depending on the model.

 

Look who’s back! -2020 Ford Bronco

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Back again…  Ford Bronco’s back… tell a friend.
(Sung to the tune of ‘Real Slim Shady.’ Just showing my age here.)

I know, the news has already taken twitter and other social media by storm. I should have written this last week, but you know me. I like to take my time. Like good coffee you need a bit of extra time for ideas to percolate.

I have to say it’s pretty awesome that both the Ford Bronco and the Chevy Blazer are going to be making a comeback by 2020. They’re two iconic US vehicle that have been gone for far too long. I bet this is how people felt about the Volkswagen Beetle’s return for the 1998 model year.

Arbitrary shots of the prototype.

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Such a great shot of the 2020 Ford Bronco! source 

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Look at that suspension. source

What? You’re telling me those are just outdoor shots and there’s nothing there? Yeah, you’re right. That’s because there aren’t any photos of the upcoming Ford Bronco at this point in time. All we’ve got is this teaser.

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Oh, nostalgia. I always thought the Bronco had a great logo. source

The concrete information we know is:

  • The new Bronco is one of four (possibly five) new utility vehicles that Ford is adding to it’s line up.
  • We’ve got the same logo as it was last used in 1996 on the F-150 based vehicle.
    There was also the Bronco II (my family had these) based on the Ford Ranger. FYI, the Ranger is also making a comeback in 2019.

Yep,  two facts. That’s all we actually know. Not really much, is it? It’s all very hush-hush.

There’s been chatter about how the Bronco is going to be Ford’s rival to the Jeep Wrangler JL, and I suppose it will be. As they fill the same space in their respective line-ups. But I really think that the revival of the name is more to do with how well it will do on  the nostalgia factor alone. 30 somethings and older are going to have a lot of memories involving the Bronco and people just LOVE to own the cars from their childhoods. Just look how amazingly well the Dodge Challenger and Volkswagen New Beetle have done. I would bet the Bronco scored really well with focus groups too.

What I want to know is:

  • How many doors will it have?
    2 is iconic look for the Bronco, but are more people wanting a 4-door? Would it still be a Bronco is it has 4 doors and you don’t have to awkwardly climb in to get to the back seat?
  • What body style is it going to have?
    Please don’t make it a cross-over, Ford. We’re begging you.
    (Luckily, Ford has mentioned that the Bronco and the Ranger will share a platform, so we’ll have to see.)
  • What kind of engine will be going into it?
    I know we all want a little bit of power to make off-roading fun.
  • Is it going to be available in 4-wheel drive or an all-wheel drive?
    I certainly hope so. It won’t be a Bronco without it.
  • What kind of mileage is it going to have?
    I remember my family’s Bronco IIs were pretty dismal…

I know, I know I really should also write about the Chevy Blazer, I did mention it. But truth be told? We were always a Ford family…  I’ll leave that to another blogger to cover.

UPDATE: As The Speed Trap mentioned in the comments below, Dana, the longtime supplier of Jeep stick axles, is going to supply solid axles in the front and rear for the Bronco. At least, according to Automotive News who cited an investor presentation from Dana. Thanks for the tip The Speed Trap!

 

 

 

Giving the Boot the boot

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If you’re like me your first introduction to the car clamp, aka ‘The Boot’ was on a TV show or movie. The Simpson’s episode ‘the City of New York vs Homer Simpson’ springs to mind.

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Homer being upset over all the parking fines and the boot.

To see one in action you had to be from a more urban area and I was stuck out in the suburbs. Well, this specific parking punishment may be heading towards the end of its usefulness. At least, if Barnacle Parking has their way. Meet the Barnacle. And I don’t mean Barney from How I Met Your Mother.

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Left: Yes, this is the Barnacle parking enforcement device. Right: Not Barney Stinson

Last summer a new parking enforcement product entered the scene. The Barnacle is a relatively lightweight, plastic device that is attached to the vehicle’s windshield using commercial grade suction cups. You ask, ‘Wouldn’t the driver easily remove this device?’ Nope. There’s an integrated pump that provides 100’s of pounds of force to secure the Barnacle to the windshield. It even has a built-in anti-tamper alarm and a GPS to detect if someone is either attempting to move the vehicle or illegally remove the device. Pretty slick.

Barnacle Parking created their device because they saw a need for a new parking enforcement device that was efficient, user friendly and lightweight. One that would make the entire process of parking enforcement easier for all parties involved: the administration, enforcement personnel and the violator.

With the Barancle, gone are the days of waiting around for someone to come and remove the boot at their convenience. All you have to do is pay your fine over the phone and they’ll give you a code to punch in that will release the device. You’ll then have to drop the Barnacle at a specified drop point, but that’s easily done.

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The man in this photo looks too pleased with himself. Shouldn’t he look more annoyed?

Will the Barnacle be making its debut in a city near you? Well, it’s currently undergoing a trial period in Allentown, Pennsylvania and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “We wanted to see how the Barnacle held up in a variety of environments, and Fort Lauderdale’s heat and humidity made it a perfect test market,” company president Kevin Dougherty told City Lab.

Depending on how things go, will your city ditch the Boot and switch to the Barnacle? Only time will tell.

Barnacle photos courtesy of Barnacle Parking.

Detroit Auto Show: Concepts

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I’m sure I’m not the only person who was a bit…underwhelmed by the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this year. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I can say that this certainly wasn’t it. I mean, one of my favorite things about auto shows is seeing all of the concept cars. You’ve certainly seen my posts about them. Here, and Here.

But Detroit’s? Well, there wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary unless you count the Rinspeed Oasis, which reminds me of a very tiny train engine. It’s a two-seater, car sharing vehicle that has both a self-driving and manual mode.

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One of the quirkiest things about it is the tiny garden area on the dashboard. I’m not sure that’s an accessory I would really want myself. During the day you would get a small oxygen boost at least.

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Not sure how likely this is to making it into production but the ideas behind it are worth more attention. It’s not exactly an eye catching vehicle though. I suppose it’s on par with the Smart cars. I wasn’t ever terribly impressed with those. A truck looks like it could take one out.

Not a whole lot to say about the Acura Precision, it’s got strong flowing lines AND it looks like it’s happy to see me! Look at that smile.

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It really is a good looking car. I wouldn’t mind driving one. Or you know, you could give it to me as a gift

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And have you seen headlights like these?

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Now the car I most like the look of is the Nissan Vmotion 2.0 concept. In a lot of its pictures the paint job looks like quicksilver (mercury). (I accidentally broke an old school thermometer once, the mercury went everywhere and it looked a lot like this paint.)

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I like the sharp lines on the body panels and how the windshield sweeps back. Whoa, hold on. The doors. I hate when they put suicide rear doors with  a normal front doors. It just looks so wrong to me.

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I know, I know. It’s not exactly new. Lincoln Continentals back in the day had doors just like these. And the typical style is ‘boring.’ But hey, why screw with something that works really well? Suicide doors always make me worry a bit since you can’t really see cars coming up from behind. Then again, that’s why they’re called suicide doors.

Here’s hoping the next auto show has a few more interesting concepts out there.

Thanks to: AutoExpress, Car and Driver, Top Honda Cars, AutoBlog, and Carbuzz for the images.

Distracted Driving Guidelines: Too Much or Too Little Oversight?

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I saw the other day that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released new, proposed, guidelines designed to combat distracted driving accidents and deaths. Just how do they plan on doing this? They want your cell phone to know when it’s in a moving vehicle and for it to pair (where a portable device is linked to a vehicle’s infotainment system) with your car and to have a ‘Driver Mode’ (a simplified user interface) that would be active while you’re driving.

Now neither of these things sounds like a bad thing. My last car had Blue Connect, and I could make and answer calls through my car rather than having to hunt for my phone when it rang. Basically, it ‘paired’ with my car (when I remembered to turn the Bluetooth on), it even called it that. And I know that trying to make a call on my smart phone when I’m driving can be a pain, so a simplified user interface could be useful.

If you stop and think about it, though… Your phone could make all apps and games off limits while your phone is in a moving vehicle. Texting will definitely not be available. But just how will your phone know you’re in the car, and whether or not you’re actually driving?

 

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Screen grab from Pokemon Go.

Well, they could use your smartphone’s accelerometer and use it to decide if you should be in ‘Driver Mode’ or not, but that would affect your passengers as well. Not to mention how annoying it would be to anyone on public transportation. The app Pokemon Go has done just that, if you’re moving above a certain speed a message pops up stopping the game to make sure you aren’t driving until you press the ‘I’m a passenger’ button. You can see it to the left.

 

 

I suppose we are lucky that the NHTSA knows that what they are proposing could really annoy the general public as this is a part of their proposal:

NHTSA has learned that technologies to detect whether a driver or passenger is using a device have been developed but are currently being refined such that they can reliably detect whether the device user is the driver or a passenger and are not overly annoying and impractical.

So, until they come up with better technology/apps, they’ll have to fall back on the actual users activating ‘Driver Mode’ themselves. Considering how often I remembered to activate my Bluetooth when I was driving, I can bet that only a specific group of drivers would actually do it.

Have you reached Carvana?

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In Japan, they say you can buy just about anything from a vending machine. Now I haven’t had a chance to visit myself, but it does seem more or less true. There were some…interesting results in my google search when I looked into it.

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Vending machine are everywhere in Japan and they sell just about anything!

You’re probably wondering why I even brought up vending machines. Well, I saw today that a company called Carvana opened up a second (yes, you read that right), a second car vending machine in Houston this week. When did this become a thing? I can’t remember reading about the first one opening up down in Nashville and I certainly don’t remember their catchy Superbowl ad or their hashtag #thatdidntsuck. Though, #thatdidntsuck does kind of ring some bells now that I think about it.

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The  original Nashville Carvana vending machine.

Since I hadn’t heard of them, I spent a bit of time today looking into what the company is. Of course it’s a portmanteau of ‘car’ and ‘nirvana’, but what kind of company are they that they have vehicle vending machines?

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Turns out they are an online car seller. They do show the guy in the commercial buying a car in his kimono. And to top it all off I only saw good things about them. They have 9 ‘home’ locations that if you live within 100 miles of them you can get free delivery, directly to your house. I mean, seriously what could be easier? I just realized this is starting to sound a little bit like a sales pitch. Sorry about that. I’m just amazed by the car vending machines.

And the vending machines? They are actually really innovative and the buildings themselves are made of glass so you can see the vehicles inside, just like the ones you’d find at your grocery store. It looks like the center is hollow and that’s how the cars get taken out of the building. It’s a slick system actually and it looks amazing. There are some Youtube videos out there by people who bought their cars with them so you can see it in action.

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The newest car vending machine in Houston. 8 stories tall!

I have to say my favorite part of the whole thing is they send you a large coin to use at the location to get your car. It’s a proper vending machine experience, though you don’t get to turn a crank or anything. So minus a few points for that.

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The actual Carvana vending machine, where you insert your Carvana coin.

It’s definitely an innovative way to buy a car, and they’ve got me interested. I’ll have to look into some accessories for the next time I buy a new car. What do you think about this? Is it the way of the future, buying your car online and not at a dealership?

Mercedes and Bosch: finding you that needle in the haystack

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If you’re reading my blogs, chances are that just like me you love driving. However, even to the most fanatical drivers there is a downside to cars: at the end of the ride you have to find a place to park them. That’s where a lot of people’s problems start as these days finding a good spot in certain towns and cities can be harder than finding that proverbial needle in a haystack. Because they are well aware of this problem, Mercedes has teamed up with Bosch to help drivers.

Try finding a needle in this mess

Try finding a needle in this mess

Together Mercedes and Bosch are working on developing a community-based parking system. When installed in the cars, this system will use infrared sensors to look for parking spaces during the car ride. However, the developers are smart enough to know that you won’t be looking for a place to park on the highway. So they limited the system to only scan its surrounding when travelling up to 35 miles per hour.

This must be Heaven: a full lot of available spaces

This must be Heaven: a full lot of available spaces

When it has found an available spot, the data will be sent to the cloud which Bosch is developing. This way your car will have access to a database of available spaces for you to park. Apparently in the future they want the sensors to pick up not only whether there is a place, but also measure how big it is. This way the car would know whether a certain place is big enough or not. The system won’t solve the problem altogether. However with it Mercedes and Bosch have provided you with a handy tool, like say a magnet, to help you find that needle in the haystack.

Found it!

Found it!

If you’re looking for another handy tool for your Mercedes, take a look at the Travall Guards. They won’t help you find a space, but they help you get there safely.