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

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.

 

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.

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?

Reflections on the future: Car mirrors

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I’ve written about advancements in cars before when I wrote several posts about futuristic concept cars from the BMW Group. However, today I want to talk about something that will be changing on cars in the nearer future. But don’t fear, this is not yet another article about self-driving cars. Instead I’ll be reflecting on the future of car mirrors.

Car mirrors- soon to be extinct?

Car mirrors- soon to be extinct?

 

These are a small, but significant part of any car (and bikes, trucks etc.) that often gets overlooked. However, with recent advancements in technology car mirrors will be replaced all together. Instead car manufacturers will be likely be equipping their new models with cameras.  Already Japan will be allowing the use of these cameras.

And they’re right to do so. Cameras hold some advantages over mirrors. For one, they make the car more aerodynamic. And with

side camera’s, gone are the days that your mirrors get knocked off or stolen. The images from the cameras would be shown together on a display inside the car, so drivers will also have a

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BMW i8 without mirrors

better overview of their surroundings in one place. Already some manufacturers are working on this. BMW has the i8 concept where they also added a camera below the rear windshield to give a full picture of what’s outside the car.

Drivers will probably need some time to get used to this new concept of car camera mirrors. Not only will we need to change our driving habits – looking at a display instead of looking at each mirror in turn. But we will also need to get used to cars being just that bit slimmer than we are used to. Even non-drivers will have to adjust to this new sight. But cars will be just this bit safer again because of it.

And if you want to make your car safer today, you might want to install a pet barrier.