Off to the Races

With all the advances made with electric cars, a thought occurred to me, a race with all electric cars.  One of the reasons for car races is to prove the cars.  Races put stress on vehicles and expose weaknesses.  Many improvements have come from the auto racetrack.

Maybe the ultimate improvement is to prepare society for the conversion to electric autos.  The races would put the cars to the test allowing us to see any weaknesses.  Conceivably, it would encourage improvements that will make them competitive with gas powered vehicles.

Already, from what I understand, the electric cars accelerate very fast.  However the race cars would be altered for speed, safety and range.  The rear seats and air-conditioner would be removed to reduce the weight.  I’m sure the engineers can think of many things I have no knowledge.  On the other hand, maybe the racecars could be designed and built from scratch.  Certainly, classes would have to be established: size, weight, etc.

I’m sure a venue could be found.  There are many tracks all over the county that remain inactive most of the year.  I’m sure that the bleachers could be filled with fans.  It would help the track as well as those who want to race the cars.

Wait a minute.  Maybe it wouldn’t work.  Just how many fans are going to want to see a race that is virtually silent?  Electric motors hardly make any noise, certainly the big noises that the current race cars make.  I suppose they could pipe a bunch of sound effects into the bleachers.  The cars would pretend to make noise and the fans would pretend to cheer.

Then again, they could have some of the internal combustion engines nearby.  Whenever the electric cars go by, they could rev the engines for the delight of all the observers.  They could even put their hands over their ears just as they would if the noise came from the electric cars.

Sounds like a plan to me.

Revisiting the Chairman of the Board Effect

There was a time that, when my headlight went out, I went to the local store and bought a replacement.  Oddly, they  were sort of standard.  There weren’t but about three types.  Then I popped the hood, got out a screwdriver, and a couple of minutes later, the light was replaced.

Not only did it take just a few minutes, it also took just a few dollars.

Today, things are different.  The little lamp is fifty dollars and it takes another fifty to put it in.  It is impractical to replace it myself.  The car has to go on a lift and the steering wheel has to be cut all the way to one side.  Even then, replacing the lamp is difficult.

That tells me something about those that built my car.  It is not used by those that design it.  It certainly is not used by the chairman of the board.  If so, things would not be built that way.

More than that, it does make me wonder about the motives of the design engineers.  It seems that they have made it difficult to repair on purpose.  They don’t want customers like me fixing our own cars with a screwdriver.  They want me to come back to their garage to get it fixed.  That is something I avoid.  I don’t go back to the dealer unless I have to.

About Electric Cars

I published a post on electric cars a few years ago.  Since then, they have made a few improvements.  I saw on TV where a man was going to make a car where the batteries could be recharged in five minutes.  I would be satisfied with thirty minutes.  On long distance trips, it would allow me to eat while my car was being charged.

I really do like the concept of electric cars.  I saw a Tesla the other day.  It was very impressive.  It never made a noise and it had an impressive appearance.  Still, I wonder how the driver stayed warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  Here in the Memphis it does get above the century mark in the summer and well below freezing in the winter.  The thing is, gasoline motors generate heat.  In the winter, we take advantage of that.  For cooling, the A/C compressor is driven by the engine.  Would someone like to tell me how the Tesla does it.  I can’t imagine such an expensive car existing without heat and air.

Regardless, there are still some problems, ignoring the creature features.  If, suddenly, everyone was to go out and get an electric car, our electric grid would likely be taxed beyond its limits.

Speaking of tax, we who drive gas cars pay a road tax.  It varies from state to state, but it helps to pay for our roads.  Those that drive Tesla autos get to use the highways for free.  I don’t know.  It might also apply to the battery powered trucks.  Eventually, the governments at all levels aren’t going to like that.  When and if electric vehicles become numerous enough, they will figure out a way to collect taxes on the vehicles.  There are a number of ways to do it and I would suspect there are a few that are already considering it.

So.  Whatever you are paying to run your car now, you might want to figure that you will likely pay a little bit more.  Let’s figure out what a fair amount would be.  Nowadays, I use about one gallon of gas for every 28 miles, more-or-less.  I guess, for that gallon, I pay about 25 cents.  (I remember paying 25 cents a gallon, gas and taxes.  Things sure have improved.)

At any rate, that means that those driving a Tesla should pay a little less than a penny a mile.  Maybe that would mean a meter placed in each car by law.  Maybe the driver would pay in advance as the rest of us do.  On the other hand, he might pay as with any other utility.  Once a month, the odometer is read and the driver pays based on his mileage.

It could also be done electrically over the internet.  The car would send a signal to the billing authority and a credit card would be billed.  I’m sure people smarter than I am have considered it.

I have no idea how it will be done, but those of you driving electric cars might as well get used to it.  You will start paying road taxes too.

Then, there’s those pesky batteries.  They just don’t last forever.  Occasionally, they will have to be replaced.  I have no earthly idea how much that will cost, but when I look at the cost of replacing my laptop battery, I get the feeling that they don’t just give the things away.

Maybe, sometime in the next few decades, we will all drive electric cars.  I hope so.  As I said, I do like electric cars.  I just don’t know if I would like paying for them.  Besides, I really like my A/C and heater.

A Few Words About Self-Driving Cars

I am sure there is much to be said about this subject, but let me start with the obvious.  I would suspect there are hundreds, maybe thousands of lawyers that are salivating at the prospect of taking some big company to court over an accident piloted by a computer.

First, there is the possibility of suing the car manufacturer.  Then they might sue the company that built the computer, or one of the sensors.  Then there is the software company or person who wrote the programming of the computer.  Then again, why discriminate.  They can sue all of them and let the jurors sort it out.

Each time they level a lawsuit, it means 40% of something they would be able to put in their pocket.  My guess is, few if any of the suits would go to court.  The defendants would not want to set any kind of precedent, so they would likely settle out of court.  They would admit no guilt and the plaintiffs would agree to drop the suit.

It would mean, after an accident, the lawyer would raise his hand and say “Suit,” and the defendants would ask how much.  Then, the nation would have two more instant millionaires,  The lawyer and his client.

Then again, I’m not sure.  It might be four more millionaires.  It is entirely plausible that the parties from both cars might sue to to get a piece of the pie.  On the other hand, what if there are more than two cars involved.  The little glitch in the software just might cause a ten car pileup.  I don’t want to even think about that.

The point is, the lawsuits are no longer limited to the tens of thousands of dollars that an individual driver can cough up.  We are talking megabucks now, millions of dollars over what we now call a fender-bender.  Every dent is a possible lawsuit.

It is all ironic.  Eventually, the driver-less cars will be safer than those driven by humans.  It is quite possible that the computer just might reduce crashes and deaths on the highway.  The computers, after all, have three advantages over humans.

Computers are not distracted.  That little instant that a man takes his eyes off the road to look at that barely dressed woman will no longer be a problem.  That misbehaving child in the back seat will not keep you from seeing that car pull out in front of you.  Moreover, should you nod off from staring at that endless ribbon of highway, it’s no problem.  The robot has it all in control.

It takes us humans about 1/4 of a second to react to an emergency.  From the time we see some child dart out in front of us to the time we put our foot on the brake, it takes at least two tenths of a second.  On the other hand, the computer would apply the brake in millionths of a second.  Even at thirty miles an hour, a car can travel quite a distance in a quarter of a second.

It has often been asked, what if the computer fails.  What if a component goes bad.  Today’s computers are incredibly reliable and will likely become far more reliable in the future.  On the other hand, we humans can and do fail from time to time.  I have known of many accidents that were the result of someone pressing on the throttle instead of the brake.  Then too, there are a few of us that are old.  If a heart goes out while we are driving, it can cause people to die… besides the heart attack victim.  Besides, even young people can have heart attacks, or black out from other ailments.

In the long run, computers will be far more reliable, though I would still be hesitant to put my life in the hands of one.

However, until something is done with the legal aspects, autonomous cars will continue to be the exception rather than the rule.  It means that women will not be able to put their makeup on at seventy mph and men will have to ignore that good-looking woman walking by.  As usual, it will be the lawyers that will impede the progress.  Even when it makes the roads safer, the driver-less cars are going to have to wait.  There is no way that our legal system will be able to handle it.  Our courts will be so backed up that they won’t be able to deal with the less important things… such as rape, robbery and murder.

Besides the legal problems, there are the recalls.  One accident, and it would likely result in the recall of millions of autos.  Talk about a nightmare.

Then again, there is one thing that I am really looking forward to… keeping all those alcoholics from driving.  That in itself would save uncountable lives, pain and suffering.  The problem is, as long as lawyers make the laws, driver-less autos will remain quite rare.