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Safety

Goldilocks Goodyear* And The Three Tyre Pressure Bears

 

Getting the tyre pressure right is a bit of a Goldilocks process – it can’t be too hard or too soft, but has to be just right.  If you don’t get it right, it could result in an accident that leaves you looking like you have indeed had an encounter with three grouchy, hungry grizzly bears. Or it could turn your vehicle into a beast with one heck of an appetite for fuel. (On a complete sidetrack, wouldn’t Ursus or the word for Bear in some other language make a great name for a 4×4?)

The most common scenario is that you end up with Mama Bear’s tyres: too soft.  This is because valves aren’t perfect and slow leaks happen over time, what with little air molecules being sneaky.  Ideally, we ought to check our tyre pressure monthly but not many of us actually do this (and that’s me at the front of the queue for the confessional!).

The problem with too-soft Mama Bear tyres is that they bulge out.  This leads to two problems.  Firstly, because the walls of the tyre weren’t designed to balloon out like that, you’re increasing the chance of the tyre going boom on you.  Yes – underinflation and being too soft is what increases the chance of getting a blowout, not being too hard.

The second problem of having too-soft Mama Bear tyres that bulge out is because this increases the area of tyre contacting the road.  A moment’s thought will tell you that this has to be better for grip, right?  Well, yes.  It does increase the amount of grip between the tyre and the road surface, and that’s just the problem.  This means increased friction, and this means that your car has to work harder to get up to the speed you want to.  Remember what it was like when you were a kid and your bike tyre started getting a leak so you had to pedal that much harder when the tyre was flat?  Well, the same thing happens when your car tyres are flat (or your trailer tyres for that matter).  What this adds up to is terrible, terrible fuel economy.  If you’ve wondered why you don’t get the same fuel economy as the stats in the car ads say you should, this is one of the reasons why (the other reasons are because the vehicles are tested minus any load at all and in the lab where there’s no crosswinds or headwinds).

OK, so having the tyres too soft is a bad thing.  However, is there such a thing as being too hard?

As Goldilocks would tell us, yes, tyres can be too hard.  Papa Bear tyres might not increase your chance of a blowout the same way that Mama Bear tyres do, in spite of what the cartoons tell us. Papa Bear tyres are dangerous in another way.  Because they make the bottom of the tyre narrower and more convex, there’s less of the tyre touching the road.  This means less friction.

Less friction, of course, means less grip around corners and greatly increased braking time.  If it’s wet, then proportionally less water can be channelled out of the way, so the friction decreases even further.  Let’s stop and think about the implications of that for a moment, but not for too long.  The results certainly won’t be pretty, especially if speed is involved.  It’s a wonder that the cops don’t have random tyre pressure checks the same way they do random breath testing and random speed checks.  Oops, maybe I shouldn’t have written that – I might give them new ideas and new ways to milk our wallets.

So how do you get those nice Baby Bear tyres that aren’t too hard or too soft but just right, where you’ve got enough friction to make the car handle well but not so much that your car guzzles petrol?

The answer, of course, is to check your tyre pressure regularly.  Some say that you should even check the pressure every time you fill up with fuel, but this may be going a bit too far.  Maybe.  Most modern vehicles are very, very nice to us and have tyre pressure monitors installed and provide us with an alert when the pressure strays out of the Goldilocks Zone.

OK, so how do you know what pressure you should inflate your tyres to?  The answer to that is usually provided very kindly by the car manufacturers, either in the owner’s manual or on the door pillars (either on the driver’s or the passenger’s side).  In my Volvo  S70, the info is in the manual.  In my Nissan  Terrano, the information is on a sticker on the door pillar on the driver’s side… unfortunately in Japanese where it hasn’t totally faded away.  Curses and naught words!  Fortunately in situations like this, you can use online tools and good old Google to help you out (here’s one possibility: http://www.tyre-pressures.com/).

Tyre pressure, like porridge, can’t be taken too hot.  However, there is no such thing as too cold when it comes to measuring tyre pressure.   This is because heat makes the rubber a bit softer and the air inside take up a wee bit more space.

When you check the tyre pressure, you need to be sure that you use the right units.  Car tyre pressure is one of the few things that we still like to think about in Imperial units rather than metric (the others are height and the birth weight of babies).  The Imperial unit is pounds per square inch (psi) but the metric equivalent is kiloPascals (kPA).  The conversion formula is 1 psi = 6.8947 kPA, so if you use the wrong unit, you’ll either be underinflated or overinflated by sixfold.

Of course, getting Baby Bear tyres isn’t as simple as that.  If you’ve got a heavier than normal load in your vehicle, this will press down on the tyres so they bulge out and get a Mama Bear tyre profile and will therefore act like a Mama Bear tyre.  This really adds up to a beast with a big appetite, as the engine doesn’t just have to cope with the extra load, it also has to cope with the extra friction if you don’t increase the tyre pressure.  And don’t forget to make like Johnny Farnham and take the pressure down once you’ve dropped off the load!  Oh yes – and make sure that your tyres aren’t too worn or getting the pressure right won’t do diddly-squat.

To make things even more interesting, if you’re into off-roading, you need to adjust the tyre pressure according to the surface you’re driving on.  In sand, for example, you need the extra friction, so Mama Bear might be able to help you out if you get stuck.

Catch you later – I’m off to check the tyre pressure in both cars.

* This is not the name of a blonde model in the Goodyear equivalent of the Pirelli calendar.

A Wee Rant About Road Works

I’ll slow down… if there really are road works ahead.

Yes, yes, I know that roads need to be repaired regularly so they stay safe to drive on.  I also know that we need to keep the guys and girls working on the roads safe and that we shouldn’t just roar through road works at our usual speed.  However, there are times when seeing those “road works ahead” signs up ahead really makes me see red.

I particularly see red when I’m on my pushbike and the road works people have decided the bike lane is the best place to put out their warning signs, forcing me to either nip into the main stream of the traffic or onto the footpath.  However, there are times that even when I’m behind the wheel of a car that those road works signs arouse my ire.

Not that I’m complaining about the road works themselves.  I don’t mind slowing down when something’s actually going on or there really is something I need to take care with – lots of busy people, a single lane or stacks of loose gravel.  If there’s one of those traffic controllers with a stop/go sign on a pole, I’ll give them a friendly smile and wave, or even say hello if I’m close enough – after all, traffic controlling work is one of the most mind-bogglingly boring jobs out there, although it’s probably better than it was 25 years ago, seeing as one could now probably listen to a podcast or audiobook on the smartphone through one ear.  And I’d much rather see a real human employed for traffic control duty than one of those temporary traffic lights that keeps going at night and will hold up a huge line of cars for no reason whatsoever thanks to its internal programming.

The problem happens when the road works warning signs are the only type of road works out there.

You know how this scenario goes.  You’re travelling along and you see one of those temporary warning signs on the road up ahead of you, so you slow down. However, as you get closer to where the signs are, what do you see?  Do you see bulldozers and bitumen mixers?  Do you see sweaty guys in high-viz with power tools jackhammering the road surface open?  Is there a massive hole in the road or similar amusements?

Nope.  The only thing that you can see is maybe a single road cone marking where the road works have been… and beside that sits a tiny little patch of loose gravel over where they’ve repaired a pothole. Alternatively, all you can see is a few spraypainted marks where they’re going to repair something.  Or possibly, there’s a half-done kerb on the side of the road that they’re going to finish off when it’s stopped raining or when the weekend is over.  Or the road works are taking place on a side road that intersects with the road you’re driving on (but don’t affect the road you’re driving on, except indirectly).

You have to ask yourself sometimes: are the warning signs the first things that they put up before beginning a job and the last things they take away?  Honestly, I’m convinced that the road signs go up as soon as they’ve decided to fix something on the road and stay there until they’ve finished the paperwork to sign the job off after it’s done.

And then they wonder why people don’t like to slow down when they see those signs.  Haven’t they all heard the fable of the boy who cried wolf?  You’d think that they’re trying to condition us to ignore the road signs. I know for one that my reaction upon seeing those road signs is “What road works where?” I’m probably not the only one who gets into the very bad habit of not quite slowing down to the temporary speed limit when seeing these signs.

Dear road workers, us drivers appreciate all your hard work, we really do, and we don’t want to put you in danger.  However, you guys need to do your bit.  Let’s do a deal: you put the warning signs up when you’re actually working on the road, not three weeks beforehand, take them down when you’re finished and maybe even lay them facedown during the weekend if the road isn’t actually hazardous.  It can’t take you that long to put them up and take them down. In return, we’ll pay much more attention to the signs and really will slow down to 80, 50 or 30 as the case may be, and we’ll probably be nicer to you when we drive past.

Particularly annoying road works signs I have seen over the years (with specific locations removed) include:

  • The ones on a large chunk of main road that could only be fixed on a sunny day… and the road signs went out in the rainy season when sunny days were few and far between. They stayed there for at least three weeks with no sign of action on the roads before the work began.  I’m not sure when they came down, because by that stage, I’d found an alternate route on a minor road.
  • The traffic control light that stopped a major highway for ten minutes (I was counting) just so they could set up a line of road cones. Honestly, after having waited that long, I was expecting to see something major going on!  Couldn’t they have maybe set them out in small batches rather than letting a long line of traffic build up?
  • Not quite so annoying this time: the sign warning that road marking was going on ahead. We’d kind of guessed, as the tank of yellow paint had sprung a leak and there was a thin trail of yellow in the middle of the lane near some very new, very white centre lines.

Right, that’s my rant over.  Now it’s your turn.  What’s your worst experience with road works and pointless signs?  Have a good old grizzle in the comments and let us sympathise with you.

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

One of the things that I’m sure you’ve noticed in a lot of new cars coming out these days is all the adjustable this and that in the seats, especially the driver’s seat.  You can adjust the seat angle, the seat back and how far the seat is from the steering wheel.  With a lot of seats, you can also throw in lumbar support and (oh glory – one of my favourite bells and whistles) heating and even cooling in the seats.  Then you’ve got the ability to adjust the steering wheel itself.

With the ability to adjust the seat to a position that’s just right, it’s something of an irony that a lot of us don’t really adjust the seat much at all, or not really beyond how far forward or back the seat is, plus the seat angle. And if this is all you do, you could be making a big mistake.

Believe it or not, seating position is actually a safety issue. This is for at least three reasons. Firstly, where and how you are seated affects things like how well you can see the road around you, including the mirrors and what’s over your shoulder (even if you have blind spot warning sensors on your vehicle, you still need to do a head check like your driving instructor told you to, just in case).  Secondly, the position of your legs and feet affects the speed of your reactions if you need to bang on the brake and/or the clutch – and the same applies to your hands and arms working the steering wheel. Thirdly, bad driving position also increases driver fatigue, which is a contributing factor in a lot of crashes.

Given the importance of proper seating position for road safety, you might wonder why cars don’t just come with one configuration. Fortunately, the powers that be haven’t decided that this is the best solution, mostly because even the densest pen-pushing analyst knows that you can’t have just one ideal seating configuration because humans don’t come with the ideal proportions of the Vitruvian Man, crash test dummies, Barbie, etc. etc. I’m thinking of the four drivers in my family. My son is tall and lanky to the extent that he nearly hits his head on the roof of little hatchbacks, but my daughter is petite. My husband is stocky with long arms and has long since traded his six-pack for a grown-up keg, and I’m average height but with a long torso in proportion to my legs. There is no way that a single seat configuration would suit every single member of the family and the mathematical average would end up with all of us sitting in less-than-ideal positions.

So you’re going to have to adjust your seat and make sure that you’re sitting comfortably – and properly.  Unfortunately, for a lot of people, what’s “comfortable” for them is not the best driving position. The worst of these “comfortable” positions are the two extremes: the driver (stereotypically young and male) who has the seat as back from the pedals as possible and the seat tilted back with the steering wheel low, and the driver (stereotypically older and female) who has hunches over a high steering wheel and the seat so far forward that she could just about steer it with her boobs or teeth.  These positions will be hell on your back and neck if you stay in them for a long time, and they don’t make for great road safety.

So what’s the right way to sit in the driver’s seat?

First, get yourself ready.  You want to have your back and front pockets free of house keys, wallets and cell phones (and put that phone somewhere you can’t reach it so you’re not tempted!). You also want to have footwear that plays nicely with the pedals. Footwear at both ends of the formality spectrum are unsuitable for driving, with work boots, flip-flop thongs, stiletto heels and wedge heels all being atrocious.  Even bare feet are better than those.  Flats and low heels that aren’t at the risk of coming off your feet or jamming around the pedals. Wear comfortable clothing, too. Anything that’s too tight, too baggy or itchy will distract you.

Now you can get into the car.  Firstly, let’s get the seat at the right distance from the pedals and the wheel.  Get it where you can rest your heels on the ground ready to operate your pedals and so your knees are slightly bent. Having your knees bent slightly but not too much reduces fatigue (a lot of us sleep with slightly bent knees) and also means that you can use more of your leg muscles if you need to bang on the brake hard and suddenly. Also play around with the seat height and tilt so that your hips are level with your knees.

Now for the seat back.  You want it somewhere so that you can have your elbows bent so that your wrists are straight when you hold the steering wheel correctly.  And the correct way to hold the steering wheel is the way that your driving instructor told you: 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock with your thumbs up as if you were holding wine glasses – or 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock if you want a bit of variation. What you need to avoid is 12 o’clock, or 5 o’clock and 7 o’ clock – and definitely not 6 o’clock!   The seat back should be tilted somewhere so that your shoulders can press against the back – if you have to hunch forwards, your seat is too far back. Now pull the headrest forward so it cushions your head.

Your bum should be pressed all the way back to where the seat back meets the seat of the seat.  You’ll strain your back if your bum is too far forward and there’s a big triangular gap between you and the seat back.  Lumbar support helps but your bum should still be well back.  Use cushions if you have short legs or if your car doesn’t provide you with lumbar support.

Some suggestions you see for ideal seat position go to the bother of telling you the ideal angles for this, that and the other thing. These are all very well in their way but forget that people don’t always have the proper proportions for the proper angles. I know that I don’t and if I have my seat back to the proper 100-degree angle recommended by some, I can’t bend my arms when holding the steering wheel.

Next, adjust the steering wheel.  You should be able to hold it correctly as described above. It should also not be squashed against your thighs or your stomach or any other bits. You should also get the height of the steering wheel to that happy medium where it doesn’t block your view of the windscreen or of the dashboard controls.  If you have to obscure some of the dashboard, make sure that you can see the important bits of the speedo so you can tell if you’re going over the speed limit.

Next, adjust all of your mirrors so you can see the road behind and around you. Never think that you can rely entirely on rear vision cameras and blind spot sensors.  You may also adjust the vents on the climate control system so you get a nice cooling breeze on your face or warm air to toast your chilly toes.

Lastly, put on your seatbelt so that the lap belt is resting on the top of your hip bones (or where they’d be if you could see them) and so the sash runs from shoulder to hip and doesn’t press against your neck when you lean forwards.  This is a bit of a nuisance for female drivers with bigger boobs, as the sash part of the seat belt is continually sliding up to the throat area.  The right bra helps – something that separates the girls so you can get the sash between them rather than a hoist-me-high cleavage enhancer if possible.  (Yes, I’m the wowser who says that it’s best not to drive in tight clothes that enhance your cleavage and stiletto heels – change when you get to the party!)  It’s another story again if you’re pregnant – but that’s worth a whole post of its own.

Now, are you sitting comfortably?  Good – then you can begin.

Should Motorists Complete First Aid Training?

It’s a topic that rears its head every now and then, yet continually the issue has been overlooked by authorities. We pay particular attention to the road toll, yet for some reason one of the efforts we could employ to mitigate this issue hasn’t warranted a national response. Why is first aid training not compulsory for every motorist, and should it be part of our licensing requirements?

When you put things into perspective, we spend a considerable amount of our lives driving from point A to point B. We may be lucky to escape accidents but the chances of seeing one, either take place or the result thereof, are far greater. And even though our cars have become a lot safer through technological innovation, poor driving habits and behaviours have crept into our society and created larger issues. The result has been a recent increase in the number of fatalities on our roads, although many of these fatalities have often been preventable, even after the accident.

With this concerning trend already in motion, it’s time we also start to prepare drivers by training them to engage in reactive behaviour in the form of being a first responder. As it currently stands, the overwhelming majority of drivers and bystanders are ill equipped to administer first aid at an accident scene. In fact, in what should be viewed as a major concern, many wouldn’t even know where to begin. Even I know, that despite my former first aid training, it’s a moment you can never be entirely prepared for as shock sets in and time stands still.

Now let me clarify, bystanders and other motorists shouldn’t be expected to fill the void of professional emergency services personnel. However, in the event of an accident, every second matters. Early treatment can be the difference between life and death. And in the moments where emergency services personnel need to fight traffic to make it to the scene of an accident, those seconds are potentially ticking away.

Even in the absence of specific treatment, a bystander with composure to secure the scene, or calm the anxieties of those involved in the incident is an invaluable asset. These are specific elements to first aid training, which every motorist should be taught as part of their licensing requirements. Whereas drivers cover a gamut of issues concerning driving technique and etiquette, there is no reason why we shouldn’t all be equipped to administer first aid as a first responder in the event of an accident.

The course would be easy to include as part of our license tests, and it could also be renewed on a periodic basis along with our licenses. Several countries in Europe already adopt this approach, and if we want to keep up with the rest of the world, it’s time we start paying attention to the issues on our roads that really matter.

Test, Retest…Or Not. When Should Australian Drivers Be Retested?

For most of us, the most stressful thing we would do after finishing high school, be that after year ten or twelve, is learn to drive. Life’s hard enough when you’re dealing with no longer being at school, dealing with puberty and discovering the appeal of the opposite or same sex, sneaking in a durry or a beer without “the olds” finding out, trying to find work and realising that the trains, trams, buses, don’t go anywhere near where you need them to be….so we learn to drive.

I learned to drive after I was 18 thanks to a stint in Her Majesty’s Royal Australian Army, “marching in” a week before my 18th birthday. Back in the day, before the decision in some states to allow Mum, Dad, or a legal adult, to teach driving, it was pretty much mandatory to undertake driving lessons through a recognised driving school. This is when the basics of driving were taught: get in, get a proper and comfortable driving position, check the seatbelt was plugged in, the mirrors were in the right position, and there was go-go juice in the tank. This was before airbags, anti-lock braking systems (ABS), electronic driver aids and, frankly, before automatic transmissions took over from manuals as the cogger of choice.The instructor would emphasise, for manual transmissions, that you had a foot on the clutch, the handbrake was on (a lever style, not today’s electronic type), then you’d turn the key, maybe even need to adjust the choke, before feeding in a fine balance of accelerator and clutch as you’d pull away either smoothly or bunny hopping…You’d find out that speed and lack of experience made for trouser puckering moments, that instructors were human judging by the strangled gasps, that brakes work wonderfully well when the pedal is mashed hard and that ABS was a long way off…

Indicators were mandatory, not optional extras like they seem to be now, with climate control air-conditioning controlled by how far you wound the window up or down and that the radio was AM, FM, maybe a cassette, and that USB and 3.5 mm auxiliary ports were something from Star Trek. Handling skills improved, judging distances for trailing the car/truck/bus in front were more related to speed than attitude, and the mirrors were scanned every so often to double check for following traffic rather than squeezing pimples or checking your hair.

After a few, let’s say ten lessons, the instructor would say words along the lines of “Think ya ready?” and you’d book a test, a test to get your driver’s licence. On the day, you’d either be in a cold sweat as you struggled to remember everything, or you’d be cool as Fonzie in the serene knowledge that “I got this”. You might luck out and get your licence in the first attempt, or you’d make a simple mistake or three and have to redo it at a later date. But once you got the piece of paper that said Mr/Miss Smith is certified capable of driving, you’d beg/borrow/steal the keys to Mum and/or Dad’s car and away you’d go. For me, it was in my Dad’s ex work car. Dad was a Telecom worker and drove the Toyota HiAce van, complete with four speed column shift MANUAL. Top speed in first? 20 kph…But I managed. I learned to drive this beast, took girlfriends and mates to the drives (drive in movies, for you young whipper snappers) before I got my first car. But I never had to take another test.

We’re now on the downhill slide towards Christmas of 2017, with just a couple of years before one fifth of the twenty first century is over. And in all states and territories but the state of New South Wales, you still don’t have a mandatory requirement to take another driver’s test, regardless of age. The NSW requirement that anyone older than 85 pass the driving test every two years seems to be doing nothing according to a recent submission to the NSW government’s StaySafe inquiry, as from 2010 to 2015, the number of licence holders older than 85 increased by 54 per cent while the number of fatalities increased 300 per cent. There was a 40 per cent increase in drivers aged 60 to 64.It seems nary a week goes by where the news doesn’t mention a crash allegedly caused by an elderly driver forgetting which pedal is for stop and which is for go. However, the inquiry is investigating whether drivers of all ages should be required to do more driver training to address the recent increase in road fatalities. Just about every independent driver training institution says yes, but in which forms, is yet to be decided. The inquiry did note, however, that a pensioner’s group asked to be part of the inquiry had not provided any suggestions appropriate for this group of drivers.

NSW is the only state to offer the very popular modified licence to drive to the shops for drivers over a certain age, for example, or within a radius around their homes. Around a third of older drivers have a modified licence. This doesn’t require drivers to sit the test, providing their doctor says they’re healthy enough to continue driving. 85 year old Shirley Bains, from the Blue Mountains, was one of those that said the driving test for people of her age was discriminatory, having passed her mandatory re-test on the first attempt.Herein lies a major problem with road safety. Under the current system in NSW, Australia’s most populous state, there’s a gap of nearly seventy years between obtaining your driver’s licence and having to undertake another test, whilst elsewhere there’s NO requirement to be retested. However, it’s clear that there’s more to the driver issues seen on the road than “merely” undertaking another test. Driver trainers will tell you, emphatically, that speed is not the problem, but the emphasis placed on speeding as the cause of crashes, fatal or non, by the governments, overlooks and even shadows other aspects of why people crash. Drive around in Sydney and the surrounds, you’ll be constantly reminded of this as there’s no other signage warning you to drive appropriately apart from the ones that tell you of the use of speed cameras. Cross the border into Victoria or the ACT, and the same applies.

Where’s the signage telling you to indicate, to use headlights, to not tailgate, to stay in the left lane if travelling at more than 80 kph? Where’s the government advertising for the same? Why isn’t it law to NOT have earpods in whilst driving? There’s so many more questions to be asked. So what do YOU think? What do you feel can be, should be, done to improve our driver standards? Should people 85 and over Australia wide be rested or should ALL drivers be retested every five or ten years after obtaining their licence?

A Prancing Horse SUV and Sweden Gets Plugged In.

It’s now confirmed that Ferrari, one of the world’s great luxury sports car makers, will also release an SUV. This brings Ferrari into line with companies such as Bentley, Maserati, Jaguar, and Lamborghini.
Sergio Marchionne, Ferrari’s global chairman, dubbed the vehicle a FUV, a Ferrari Utility Vehicle, during an address in the US recently.With a mooted release date of 2020, currently, Marchionne said: ““We’re dead serious about this. We need to learn how to master this whole new relationship between exclusivity and scarcity of product, then we’re going to balance this desire to grow with a widening of the product portfolio.” Australia’s Ferrari representative, Herbert Appleroth said: “He has certainly given everyone some information on where he is thinking.”

When questioned if an SUV model would be an appropriate addition to Ferrari’s Australian range, Mr Appleroth said any future product would be embraced by the local arm and its customers. “Look, any new model that enters this market is highly popular, whatever that is,” he said. “As Enzo always said, he was asked once, ‘What is your favourite Ferrari?’ And he famously quoted, ‘The next one.’ And I think that is the same for us.

It’s said that the vehicle, in line with Ferrari’s business model model, would be exclusive and limited in release numbers.

Volvo‘s performance arm, Polestar, has unveiled its concept car, Polestar 1, and in a first for the Swedish icon, said that future cars would be exclusively electric. Polestar 1 will be manufactured in a new factory currently being built in Chengdu, China. The engine will be a super- and turbo-charged petrol engine assisted by two 80 kilowatt electric motors. Total power and torque is quoted as being 440 kW and 1000 Nm.

Thomas Ingenlath, Chief Executive Officer of Polestar said; “Polestar 1 is the first car to carry the Polestar on the bonnet. A beautiful GT with amazing technology packed into it – a great start for our new Polestar brand. All future cars from Polestar will feature a fully electric drivetrain, delivering on our brand vision of being the new standalone electric performance brand”.Also, Polestar cars will be ordered 100% online and offered on a two or three year subscription basis. The zero-deposit, all-inclusive subscription will also add features such as pick-up and delivery servicing and the ability to rent alternative vehicles within the Volvo and Polestar range, all incorporated into one monthly payment. However, Polestar will open shopfronts where people can visit and physically interact with a vehicle, enhancing the tactile experience. Polestar commenced taking orders from October 17, 2017.

Auto Industry News – Q3 2017

We review all the major news events in the automotive industry from the third quarter of 2017.

 

Safety and Environment

In what became the first ever compulsory recall for vehicles in Australia, the ACCC intervened to shine the spotlight on cars affected by defective Takata airbags. The recall eventuated amid a rising number of fatalities worldwide attributed to the faulty components, including a local fatality in Sydney.

Emissions scandals continue to plague manufacturers, with Peugeot and Citroen being looked into for their alleged use of ‘cheating’ devices similar to those used by Volkswagen. The companies join Renault and Fiat Chrysler to be looked into, however, they have strongly denied the accusations. Also being accused of unconscionable conduct, Daimler is facing concerns it sold over one million cars with excess emissions.

In a boost for environmentalists, Queensland’s government announced plans to develop the world’s longest electric highway that will promote the use of electric vehicles.

 

Technology

Fuel technology continues to be a major focal point. Volvo has drawn a line in the sand, as the auto maker plans to begin phasing out petrol and diesel in the coming years. This aligns with legislation in France and the UK that will ban said vehicles from 2040, and China planning to soon ban the production of these vehicles, although Australia isn’t expected to follow suit any time soon.

Locally, the nation could be at the forefront of hydrogen fuel technology, with a world first trial set for hydrogen powered vehicles next year. South Australia even became the first Australian state to endorse hydrogen as the next fuel technology.

On a related note, Sydney will play host to integral trials surrounding the future of autonomous vehicles in Australia, while first round results from testing in Victoria suggest infrastructure and technology are currently ill equipped for self-driving vehicles. Abroad however, and vacuum cleaner maker Dyson is eyeing the electric vehicle market, set to take on dedicated manufacturers as soon as 2020.

Other technology developments include:

 

Legal and Regulatory Issues

The government was caught up in a vehicle ‘carbon tax’ controversy, with auto bodies and car makers slamming a rumoured proposal, although the government went on the front foot to deny its prospects.

Elsewhere, the ACCC commenced proceedings against Ford Australia over its ‘faulty’ auto transmissions, however the car maker announced it will contend the accusations. Also facing scrutiny from the ACCC, Holden settled an investigation by announcing the industry’s first vehicle refund and replacement scheme for the first 60 days of vehicle ownership

However, the ACCC saved its biggest salvo for the broader new car industry, detailing a wide range of concerns regarding the way customers’ complaints are dealt with, the sharing of manufacturer data with independent repairers, and real world fuel/emissions tests. The developments could give rise to lemon laws. Naturally, this provoked concern and consternation from the automotive bodies.
Finally, the Federal Court has requested Volkswagen publish changes to vehicle performance on its website and social media arising from the Dieselgate saga.

Indicate, Mate. That’d Be Great.

In surveys of the things that annoy drivers, it’s always in the order of over eighty percent that respondents say people nott indicating that rates as an annoyance. Yet, in any city or town, in any Australian state or territory, you’ll find people that either use their indicators or use them correctly as being of the minority.

In NSW a very common transgression is not indicating when crossing a merge lane, along with non indicating when pulling away from the roadside. Here’s the legislation in NSW:

(2)  The driver must give the change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

(3)  If the driver is about to change direction by moving from a stationary position at the side of the road or in a median strip parking area, the driver must give the change of direction signal for at least 5 seconds before the driver changes direction.

In fact, the legislation even specifies what needs to be done: “How to give a left change of direction signal. The driver of a vehicle must give a left change of direction signal by operating the vehicle’s left direction indicator lights.” Naturally this applies for the right hand side of the car too. Note also the time requirement: at LEAST five seconds. Even more confusing is when to use an indicator if a road curves and also has an exit at the apex. Far too many DON’T indicate at the apex or actually indicate as they follow the road….and don’t need to indicate.

Complicated stuff, right? So why are there so many drivers that don’t indicate? Don’t indicate for more than one or two blinks? This also coincides with drivers wrestling their cars from lane to lane almost as if they’re being blown around like a leaf in the wind. Is there something wrong with a gentle, easy, merge along with enough indication?

Roundabouts are another bugbear and these, too, are easy to deal with.

  Giving a left change of direction signal when entering a roundabout

(1)  This rule applies to a driver entering a roundabout if:

(a)  the driver is to leave the roundabout at the first exit after entering the roundabout, and

(b)  the exit is less than halfway around the roundabout.

(2)  Before entering the roundabout, the driver must give a left change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

(3)  The driver must continue to give the change of direction signal until the driver has left the roundabout.

And:

Giving a right change of direction signal when entering a roundabout;

(1)  This rule applies to a driver entering a roundabout if the driver is to leave the roundabout more than halfway around it.

(2)  Before entering the roundabout, the driver must give a right change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

(3)  The driver must continue to give the change of direction signal while the driver is driving in the roundabout, unless:

(a)  the driver is changing marked lanes, or entering another line of traffic, or

(b)  the driver’s vehicle is not fitted with direction indicator lights, or

(c)  the driver is about to leave the roundabout.

Note 2.

Rule 117 deals with giving change of direction signals before changing marked lanes, or entering another line of traffic, in a roundabout.

Note 3. Rule 118 requires a driver, if practicable, to give a left change of direction signal when leaving a roundabout.
What’s important here is the last comment: indicate left when leaving a roundabout. I could count on one finger the amount of times this is seen on our our roads. What’s more troubling about the lack of indication Aussie drivers do is just how SIMPLE it is to indicate. Cars are designed, engineered, and built with many factors of safety, including how easy it is to access the indicator stalk. They’re literally at your finger tips. So what causes drivers to not uses them? Pride? Arrogance? Stupidity? Laziness? Distracted whilst wearing earbuds (a stupidly non-illegal rule!)?
Non indicating means no involvement in your driving, and having no involvement in driving heightens the risk factor, increases the danger factor. This is also exacerbated by the somewhat myopic focus our police and governments have on speeding as being the allegedly sole cause of crashing. Perhaps if more effort was expended on policing non indicators, not only would the revenue come but the message about being involved as a driver (as ANY worthwhile driver trainer and educator will insist upon) as a high point for safety may start seeing better examples of driving.
Be a safe driver. Indicate, mate. That’d be great.

Private Fleet Book Review: How To Drive. The Ultimate Guide From The Man Who Was The Stig by Ben Collins

As we’re less than 100 days away from Christmas, it might be time to start dropping some hints as to what you’d like your nearest and dearest to get you. For most of us, a new car is out of the question in the Christmas stocking, but a new book is probably much more feasible as a present for the typical Australian.

How To Drive by Ben Collins is a book that satisfies a number of appetites whetted by the BBC TV show Top Gear – and I’m talking about the old version with the Unholy Trinity of Jezza, Richard and James. Firstly, you finally get to find out who The Stig really is: the author of this book, former racing driver and movie stunt driver Ben Collins.  Secondly, this is the closest you’re likely to get to being taught how to drive by The Stig like those Stars In Reasonably Priced Cars.

To say that this rather chunky book (269 pages, not counting the index) is comprehensive is something of an understatement. It is packed with tips and facts to make you a better driver, starting with some historical bits and pieces, such as the development of the tyre, and goes from the basics through to advanced stunt driving as you work your way through the book. And when I say “the basics”, I really do mean the basics: starting with the importance of good seating position and holding the wheel correctly. In the final section, you get all the really fun stuff you don’t want to do anywhere apart from a proper track or else a deserted field (with permission of the farmer, of course): doughnuts, burnouts, drifting and the J-turn… and the “don’t try this at home” 180-degree and 90-degree stunt turns into a parking space.

As most of us want to know more about The Stig and who he really is, the book is peppered with anecdotes, not just about Stiggy’s time with Top Gear but also the movie driving and race driving he’s done.  For the record, Ben Collins has been a stunt driver in Fast and Furious, Spiderman 2 and Quantum of Solace… at the very least. Those are the movies cited in the index, anyway.  And yes, he’s body-doubled James Bond for these stunts.  There are photos to prove it.  You also get glimpses of behind the scenes at Le Mans and NASCAR, etc.  The stories aren’t all “look at how good I am” showing off: there are a few “how I got it wrong” tales in there as well.

It’s also not just a how-to book, although there are tons and tons of step-by-step instructions and handy diagrams.  The physics of what’s going on is explained, as well as the psychology, and plenty of it.  Again and again, the importance of having being in the right headspace is emphasised, and it’s not all testosterone-fuelled drive and competition, which will come as something of a relief for those of us whom Nature didn’t give loads of testosterone, aka 50% of the population.  Collins provides tips not just from the motor racing world but also from Samurai warriors and jet pilots.  There’s even a diet to help you stay alert when expecting a long day’s driving.  The physics and the psychology – and the instructions – are all presented in a very readable way with a sense of humour.  It’s hard to forget the mnemonic for correcting oversteer, for example: Steer, Hold It, Turn (the initial letters are probably what you’re saying…).  The ebook version would certainly be great when you’re waiting in the doctor’s surgery and would pass the time very pleasantly (the hardcover is a bit hard to cart about in your pocket).

It’s a British book, so some of the explanations and complaints about roundabouts, give way rules, motorways and the licensing system may not (and in many cases do not) apply to Australia. However, the majority of what’s in there does apply (including, hooray, hooray, the keep-left rule).

This is a book that will keep plenty of drivers happy, as there’s something for everyone in there, whether the reader’s on their L-Plates or whether he/she has been driving for decades.  It’s a goldmine of motoring trivia that will make you chuckle as well as being a great practical tome that ought to be standard issue along with a copy of the Road Code to learner drivers.

How To Drive. The Ultimate Guide – From The Man Who Was The Stig
Ben Collins
Published 2014 by Pan Macmillan, ISBN 978-1-4472-7283-0 (hardback), 978-1-4472-7285-4 (paperback). 272 pages. Ebook available.

Car Review: 2017 Suzuki S-Cross Turbo Prestige.

Suzuki continues to cement its position as a leader in the small car market by giving us an updated 2017 Suzuki SX-4 S-Cross. Although a sort of SUV look, it’s not. It’s front wheel drive only, powered by a ripper petrol fuelled turbo four. Like it so far? Private Fleet does.There’s three trim levels, simply named GL, Turbo, and Suzuki S-Cross Turbo Prestige. The test car, the Prestige, gets the same 1.4 litre turbo engine as the Turbo, however the GL is the outgoing model. Just need to clarify that…

Anyways, there’s a simple question the S-Cross Turbo poses. Is it any good? Most of the time a simple question has a simple answer and so it is with this car. Yes.First up, there’s that belter of an engine. 1.4L. 16 valves. Turbocharged. 103 kilowatts. Torque: 220 of them between 1500 to 4000. Transmission: six pseed auto. Potency level? High. This combination is superb. It reacts to a breath on the go pedal, the gearbox is crisp, shifts quickly and without fuss, and even with traction control on, will happily and merrily chirp the front driven 215/55/17 Continental tyres. It’s a corker. Consumption in a mainly urban environment finshed on 6.7L per 100 km from the 1170 kilogram plus fuel (47 litre) and passenger vehicle.It’s a ripper handler too, with beautifully weighted steering connecting the driver to the road and providing plenty of feedback. The ride quality also is near nigh perfect with a supple mix of sporting and absorption offering an ideal combination of tautness and comfort from the McPherson strut/torsion beam suspension.Tip it into a tightening radius corner and the body will lean but ever so slightly, whilst the tiller requires minimal input to adjust to the curver coming in on itself. Pound it across the sunken and raised sections of various tarmac roads and you’ll feel a small bump before it passes and the chassis settles rapidly. Brake wise it’s spot on, with feedback straight away and a progressive travel allowing a driver to judge just….when…more or less pressure was needed.Suzuki have also performed a stunning piece of engineering upon the S-Cross, managing to squeeze apartment sized room inside a shoebox. The S-Cross is a mere 4300 mm in length, stands tallish at 1585 mm and spans 1785 mm horizontally. Inside that overall length is a 2600 mm wheelbase, ensuring ample leg, shoulder, and head room for four people, although three up in the rear seat is a touch squeezy. Luggage space is also huge at 430L to 1269L, including a double tray storage plus there’s the usual assortment of bottle and cup holders.The interior design is now familiar and standard Suzuki; there’s the four quarter touchscreen with Navigation, Apps, radio and Phone plus voice activation, traditional and eminently usable dials for the aircon, blue backlit driver’s binnacle dials and a simple to read and use monochrome screen between them. The dash and console design is a curvy design, flowing around into the doors in a clear swoop and with airvents/gear selector surround/door trim highlighted in alloy look plastic. The manually adjusted seats seats are heated (not cooled) and are a comfortable mix of leather and cloth. Of course the rear seats are 60/40 in split and foldable to allow access to that capacious and well trimmed boot. If there’s a negative it’s a small but persistent one. The setbelt straps in the height adjustable locaters were double strapped, as in both front and rear were reachable to pull over and it was the rear strap, not front, that kept getting grabbed.Outside it’s unrecognisable from the original SX4 of 2007 and noticeably different from the superceded model The tail lights have been subtly but obviously refreshed however it’s the bluffer, more “no nonsense” front end that has the 2017 S-Cross standing out. Although the headlight cluster (LED projector on the Prestige) looks almost the same, they’re a touch more angular and feature dusk sensing in the Prestige. It’s the stand out proud reprofiled nose, with an assertive chrome grille, polyurethane black running from the centre to the rear along the flanks and with a splash of metal chrome around the globe lit DRLs. There’s a crease line and stance not unlike Ford’s Escape, a 180 mm ride height, and hi-vis polished alloys to finish the visual appeal.Safety is high, as usual, with reverse camara, sensors front and rear, Hill Hold Control, 2 ISOFIX points, seven airbags including knee, electronic driver aids, even an auto dimming rear vision mirror. Servicing is capped for up to 5 Years / 100,000km and you’ll get a 100,000 km or three year warranty.

At The End Of The Drive.
Suzuki have pretty much stamped themselves leaders of the small car builders. There’s a new Jimny on the way as well to further fuel the fire of desire for this slightly quirky but nonetheless enjoyable brand from Japan. The 2017 Suzuki S-Cross Prestige Turbo builds upon their revamped range and is a genuine contender for best in class. Find out more about this pearler, here: 2017 Suzuki S-Cross Turbo Prestige