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Archive for June, 2016

Glow In The Dark Highways

11-glowing-lines-roosegaarde-1600.jpg__1600x0_q69_crop-scale crop_subsampling-2Have you ever been driving along a road at night and suddenly had that moment of disorientation as you realise that something has happened to the road markings?  It’s pretty disconcerting and if you have been a little drowsy, that tends to snap you awake… well, it snaps me into full alert, anyway. It’s particularly alarming on rural roads, where there isn’t much other light from streetlights and the like around to guide you.

The safe and sane thing to do here is to slow down a tad and to look around you more carefully. Usually, you’ll be able to spot the white lines and yellow lines showing you where you ought to be and where the road is going. The posts marking the sides of the roads can be a different story. Although they’re vital for road safety, things always happen to them.  Cows use them as scratching posts and snap them. People who tackle corners far too quickly clip them and take them out (there’s only so much all the active safety features in any car can do and the laws of angular momentum still apply). Idiots think that it’s fun to pull them out and do goodness knows what with them. Bushes and grass grow over them and obscure them.

If only the markings telling you where the road begins and ends were a bit more visible.

Well, they can be.  In the Netherlands, where they really pull out the stops and concentrate on designing safer roads, an urban and transport design company called Heijmans has come up with the Smart Highway. This looks like just a normal road during the daytime but at night, the lines glow. They don’t just reflect light, like normal road markings do; they actually give out light.  It’s similar to the concept of glow-in-the-dark paint. During the daytime when there’s lots of light, the paint charges up. When it’s dark, it starts glowing.  When you think about how many other things we use every day come in glow-in-the-dark (including nail polish, condoms and basketballs), it’s kind of surprising that glow-in-the-dark road markings haven’t been tried earlier.

The other bonus with having glowing lines is that it reduces the need for having quite as much other lighting provided by the roading companies and town councils. With the glow-in-the-dark technology, you get all the advantages of having lights at the side of the road but without the hassle of setting up electrical systems for this. This means that you get all the advantages of good lighting but without the energy demands.

A pilot Smart Highway is in place in the Netherlands – the N329 in Oss, found about roughly in the middle of the country not too far from the border with Germany.

More information is available at the Heijmans website.

The other thing about the Glowing Lines smart highway is that it has had some design input from an artist. This means that it isn’t bland and boring like a lot of road safety features. It’s designed to be pretty as well as practical. The artist behind the concept has also worked on a cycleway (in the Netherlands again) that uses the same glow-in-the-dark technology but has based the arrangement of the lights on a Van Gogh painting so you can bike through “Starry Night” come to life.

The question I have to ask is why on earth other road design companies don’t have artists on their team. Just imagine what our roads and road signs could look like if they weren’t just boring and utilitarian. Car designers have cottoned on – just compare the bland boxes of the 1980s with, say, the Toyota Corolla of today with its interesting angles and lines. So why don’t road designers give it a go?

Road Rules That Time Forgot

Driving a car seems to be, for some people, one of the hardest things to do. Not necessarily the act of driving itself, but some of the legal requirements that will make your drive, and theirs, safer.

Some surveys state that the number one peeve of drivers is others that don’t indicate. That’s a fair point, as far too many drivers don’t do that on the straight road but did you know it’s also a requirement when merging from a freeway/highway on/off ramp? It also ties in with the relatively simple yet seemingly over complicated act of merging.

Here’s how it should work: you’re on the merge lane and the road you’re coming to is on your right. The first thing you should be doing is be looking for the traffic that will be coming up behind you. This is where the law AND common sense come into play. Merge LaneIndicate right; not once, not twice, but until you’ve entered the left hand lane from the merge lane. At the same time you should have either accelerated or slowed in order to “zip merge”.

A tip: if you’re on the highway and coming to a section where it’s clear there’s a merge lane, move right, allow the incoming traffic to do so with a higher safety factor.
By setting up your approach speed correctly, you’ll aid in keeping the flow of traffic up plus, by using your indicator, you’ll give plenty of warning to the highway or freeway traffic and you may even see them do the right thing and move right.

Another road safety tip involving indicating is when you pull over or leave from a roadside location. Let’s say you’ve just got a call on your mobile phone and you haven’t got it bluetoothed to your car. It’s a call you need to take; when pulling over to the left, onto the verge and off the road, indicate to show following traffic you’re doing so. When ready to continue, it’s a legal requirement that you indicate right BEFORE entering back into the flow of traffic.indicators

Wet weather driving seems to be more fraught with danger than what it should be. The simplest safety tip you can take advantage of is to ensure your headlight switch, if fitted with Off/Auto instead of Off, is to switch it to Auto. It’s also legislation that your headlights should be switched on once it’s sunset however there’s good sense in having them on anyway. The New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services says:” Headlights. In many daytime situations driving with your vehicle’s headlights on can improve the likelihood of being seen by other road users. This applies to both country and city driving situations. Your headlights must be on when:

Driving between sunset and sunrise
At any other time when there is not enough daylight to be able to see a person wearing dark clothing at a distance of 100 metres.”

If your car has driving lights fitted, as most modern cars do, they’ll be visible to the cars in front but your tail lights won’t be on until the Auto function kicks in or you move your light switch to the next setting. Simple, and safety is raised.

Finally, a hint on roundabouts. These are, surprisingly, seen as a complex item to deal with but here’s how to make them easy to live with.
If it’s a roundabout that is a four way entry and exit and you wish to go left, you indicate left.roundabout-left If you’re going straight ahead, you indicate left once you’ve reached the half way point between entering the roundabout and exiting.roundabout-straight If you’re going right, you indicate right as you enter then left to show you’re exiting. The same applies to all three way roundabouts.roundabout-right

Road Noise

Noise pollution

Noise levels inside a car can come from many different exterior factors, as well as from the car’s mechanical componentry.  Are there ways to nullify the racket?  When some cars get up and going they are just purely noisy contraptions.  The road and wind racket inside a noisy car’s interior can be almost deafening; and even at the best of times, your conversations are kept short, sharp and to the point.  Any lengthy journeys inside the worst culprits can be painful and wearisome.

Not so long ago some researchers in Germany thoroughly tested a range of cars to see which ones were the noisiest cars to travel inside, and which cars were the quietest.  This sort of information would be handy when one might be considering purchasing a potential vehicle for commuting purposes – particularly when it will be a car that you frequently spend long hours journeying in.  What the researchers came up with is amusing to read.  The noisiest was a Porsche 911, but here were the top 30 noisiest cars they tested:

Noise level in decibels (dBA) at different speeds 100 km/h 130 km/h
Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0 78 83
Tesla Roadster Sport 1.7i Hunter 78 82
Lada Niva 1.7i Hunter 77 82
Renault Twingo 1.2 LEV 16V 75 Night & Day 75 78
Lotus Evora S 2+0 75 79
Audi R8 GT Spyder 5.2 R tronic 75 78
Mazda MX-5 1.8 MZR Kaminari 74 79
Porsche Cayman S PDK 73 77
MW M3 GTS 73 76
Seat Leon 2.0 T FSI Cupra R 72 75
Ford Ka Titanium 72 77
BMW Z4 sDrive35is Automatik 72 75
Suzuki Swift 1.2 Comfort 71 75
Opel Corsa 1.3 CDTI DPF ecoFlex Start/Stop 71 75
Nissan GT-R Black Edition 71 78
Mazda3 2.3 MZR DISI Turbo MPS 71 74
Kia Rio 1.2 Spirit 71 74
Kia Picanto 1.2 Spirit 71 76
Hyundai i10 1.1 Classic 71 77
Honda Civic 1.4 i-VTEC Sport 71 74
Ford Focus 1.6 16V Concept 71 74
Dacia Sandero 1.6 MPI Stepway 71 74
Audi TT RS Roadster 71 75
Seat Ibiza 2.0 TDI CR FR 70 72
Porsche Boxster PDK 70 74
Peugeot 308 CC HDi FAP 140 Premium 70 73
Mini Clubman One 70 74
Fiat Doblo 1.6 16V Multijet 70 75
Fiat 500C 1.3 Multijet 16V DPF Lounge 70 75
BMW M3 Coupé 70 74

 

The following were the quietest cars the team tested, and the top positions were taken by the BMW 730d, Jaguar XJ and Audi A8:

 

Noise level in decibels (dBA) at different speeds 100 km/h 130 km/h
BMW 730d Blue Performance 58 62
Jaguar XJ 3.0 V6 Diesel S Luxury 58 63
Audi A8 4.2 TDI DPF quattro tiptronic 59 64
VW Touareg 4.2 V8 TDI DPF Automatik 59 66
Jaguar XF 3.0 V6 Diesel 60 66
Audi Q7 3.0 TDI DPF quattro tiptronic 60 63
BMW X6 ActiveHybrid 60 65
Mercedes R 350 CDI L DPF 4Matic 7G-Tronic 60 65
BMW 520d Touring 61 65
Mercedes S 400 Hybrid 7G-Tronic 61 66
VW Sharan 2.0 TDI BlueMotion Comfortline 61 65
Audi A4 2.0 TDI DPF Ambition 61 65
Saab 9-5 2.0T Aero 61 65
Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid Tiptronic 62 66
Mercedes-Benz E 200 CGI BlueEfficiency Avantgarde 62 66
Volvo S60 D3 Summum 62 66
BMW 135i Cabrio Automatik 62 68
Audi A7 3.0 TDI quattro S tronic 62 69
Seat Alhambra 2.0 TDI Ecomotive Reference 62 65
Citroën C5 HDi 165 FAP Exclusive 62 66
Ford Galaxy 2.0 TDCi DPF Titanium 62 67
VW Touran 1.4 TSI Comfortline 62 67
Mercedes C 180 T BlueEfficiency Avantgarde 62 70
Mercedes-Benz ML 250 BlueTec 4Matic 7G-Tronic 62 71
VW Tiguan 2.0 TDI DPF 4Motion DSG Sport & Style 62 67
Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI DPF 62 67
Lexus RX 450h Impression Line 63 70
Land Rover Range Rover Sport TDV6 63 66
VW Polo 1.2 TSI DSG Highline 63 67
BMW X3 xDrive28i Automatik 63 68

 

What interests me the most was the lack of Japanese cars in the top 30 quietest cars?  I always thought the Honda Legend was remarkably quiet.  Maybe, they didn’t add this model to the list because of the German bias?

There is such a thing as road cancellation technology, where new acoustic technology helps to nullify road noise in cars.  Audio giant Harman and British automobile-maker Lotus have recently collaborated to produce the Road Noise Cancellation (RNC) system.  By fitting accelerometers into the chassis of the vehicle, these gadgets identify and monitor the frequencies of unwanted tyre noise and relay the information back to a main control unit in the body of the car.  An algorithm in the controller creates inverse sound waves through the car’s speakers to cancel out the road noise.  With rolling road noise cancelled out, the cabin is a more relaxed and peaceful place for the driver and passengers to be.

Tell us about some of the quietest or nosiest cars you’ve ever ridden inside – or driven.