Have you driven a — lately?
The braintrusts at Ford Motor Co. are trying to quantify how distracting in-vehicle cell phones, navigation systems and laptop computers are to drivers. (They didn't mention the availability in some vehicles of fax machines and in-car e-mail and Internet access.)
So, according to Automotive News, the car maker is going to use a $10 million vehicle simulator to measure how use of in-vehicle electronic gear alters a driver's behavior and concentration on the road. The gizmo will measure vehicle data on steering, speed control and braking when the driver is using various devices.
And perhaps to make them feel like they're participating in one of those TV network "reality" shows like "Big Brother," Ford's also planning to mount five in-car cameras that will record the driver's hand, eye and foot movements (and cussing as they spill hot coffee in their laps?)
In an effort to save Ford a lot of money, we have a suggestion: Just get out on the roadways and follow someone yacking on a hand-held cell phone.|.|.|while they're also trying to brush their hair (or teeth), drink a cup of coffee and, oh yeah, steer the car, too. Then jot down some observations (not while driving, please). We'd guess that it will take only a few road trips to realize, hey people, these things are a distraction.
Factor in that half-eaten cheeseburger in the driver's hand occupying some of his or her attention, or that pizza box beckoning to them from the passenger's seat and, to paraphrase Tom Hanks playing a famous astronaut: "Detroit, we have a problem."
This 'n that
They know the score—Why do these types of comments always seem to be uttered by sports types? H.K. "Cootie" Reeves, the football coach for Hokes Bluff High School in Alabama, observed: "If we hadn't given them those first four touchdowns, it might have been different." That was after his team lost 53-0 in the state Double A title game.
But Kenny Dalgleish, a soccer player in the United Kingdom, apparently has a pretty good grasp of how scoring works: "As I say, if we score more goals than them, then we'll win." (By jove, he's got it.)
Cruising for trivia—It's one of the hottest cars to make the scene in the last couple years (check out the Market Data Book cover in this TB issue), but do you know what the "PT" stands for in DaimlerChrysler's PT Cruiser?
"Pretty Tough"? "Purchase This"? "Passenger Tire"? Wrong on all counts. It's nothing more than "Personal Transportation"—and that's what most of the vehicles we drive are, right?
Here's a trivia question dealing with the same car maker: What 2000-model vehicle sports 17-inch wheels on the front and 20-inchers on the rear? It's another retro-looking rod from Chrysler—the Prowler. Speaking of retro throwbacks to the '50s, better get your order in early for the upcoming T-Bird from Ford Motor Co. It looks like they'll be as hot an item as the Cruisers have been.
Resetting his sights—The Cleveland Plain Dealer's outdoors writer did a nice feature on a gent who had been a wildlife technician until diabetes robbed him of his eyesight and prompted a kidney transplant.
The strange thing about Rod Bland, though, is that he's getting ready to head back into the woods, with the help of a long-time friend, to go hunting. Somehow, a blind person armed with a rifle trying to take aim at animals he can't see seems a little odd. But we've seen film of wonderful one-legged skiers and golfers, so what the heck...more power to Mr. Bland.
Not your father's Olds anymore —The recent "North American International Auto Show" in Detroit offered a plethora of concept vehicles from the sublime to the outlandish, depending on one's tastes. How about a vehicle equipped with night vision, a rear-view video system and adaptive cruise control that maintains distance from the car ahead?
One strange twist: General Motors Corp. said it was going to target its upcoming vehicles at a "younger crowd." Then it unveiled the concept Oldsmobile 04—designed for drivers who want a convertible with European flair, but also room to bring along their friends. The only problem, of course, is that GM is doing away with the Olds badge. What are they thinking?
Not dreamin' of a...
Shelli Dawson wasn't sweatin' to the oldies. It was more like a weather-induced cold sweat. (Cue up Bing Crosby here singing Irving Berlin's "White Christmas.")
During the recent holidays, it was freezing outside in Oklahoma City. Let's run a special promotion, thought Ms. Dawson, a used-car dealer who manages Premier Auto Inc. A plan was hatched for customers who purchased cars in December: If it snowed 3 inches or more on Christmas, the cars were completely paid for, as in "free."
Did the weatherman, er, weatherperson cooperate? "The news was forecasting snow that day," Ms. Dawson told Automotive News. "We got a bunch of snow all right—but it came in after midnight. We got like 7 inches. And it kept snowing."
There were 23 car buyers anxiously watching the weather for some flake action, since they would have been affected by the promo. Luckily, all ended well—at least for the dealership, which had insurance to cover the $236,500 cost of the cars.
Why did Ms. Dawson go out on the proverbial limb? She thought she had a safe bet, she said, because "historically in Oklahoma it doesn't snow on Christmas."
OK, you can turn off Bing now.
Wild and woolly
Goodyear got into the weather predictin' business itself recently when it issued a press release warning that "fuzzy caterpillars and scientists may agree that a colder winter is coming."
Fuzzy caterpillars? Sure. In Northeast Ohio, where Akron-based Goodyear hails from, one supposed prognosticator of winter weather is known as the woolly bear caterpillar. As legend has it, one can tell what kind of winter it'll be based on the stripes of the brown and black creature.
Could be a whole new sideline for the tire maker. But we suggest that dealers preparing now for next fall's snow tire orders rely not on crawly things, but on more reputable sources of predictable weather patterns.|.|.|like the Farmer's Almanac? Or more like the reality that it seems the fewer winter tires you stockpile, the more it tends to snow.