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Made In China? Wheels Buyers Beware

Wheel disks exports from China are very popular in the automotive aftermarket, largely due to their low price. For example, experts say in 2016 Russia imported about 1 million Chinese-made wheel disks.  But extensive expert  testing and evaluation show that these wheels are not worth even their low price, and may pose a risk to consumers who buy them. Continue reading “Made In China? Wheels Buyers Beware”

Honda earth dreams

Signs of the Times: Are Gas Engines Going, Going…?

Steam was the key to the engines of the first self-powered road vehicles (credit Frenchman Nicolas Joseph Cugnot with “first honors” in 1769). Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz among others made their own important contributions to the development of successful, practical gasoline-powered vehicles that (along with Diesel-powered engines) gave us the age of modern cars and modern driving.

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Google's_Lexus_RX

Autonomous Cars: Issues, Challenges, Solutions

Self-driving automobiles were once “the future.”  Well, self-driving, or autonomous vehicles, are actually “now.”  Major brands like Mercedes, BMW and Tesla are pursuing the technology, with self-driving features that enable a vehicle to drive itself to some degree, if not completely, without an operator at the wheel.  And in 2015, as part of the company’s ongoing goal of “building a safer driver for everyone,” Google famously “completed the world’s first truly driverless ride on public roads.”

 

Some research estimates project 10 million self-driving cars will be sharing the roads by 2020 (that’s only 3 model years away!) But is fully, or even mostly self-driving technology really easier and safer? How do self-driving cars navigate, integrate, anticipate–in all kinds of weather, all sorts of terrains, all types of traffic and pedestrian situations?  Continue reading “Autonomous Cars: Issues, Challenges, Solutions”

ford

What Makes a Good Car “Good”?

What are the makings of a well-thought-out, well-built, well-performing car? Forward-thinking design. Precision tooling. Skilled workers and quality workmanship. Structural integrity and functionality. Quality parts and components. A great car has them all. A good, or really good car, has some or most of those inputs and attributes in equal quantity.

The average car is made up of thousands of parts–some large composite ones, like the engine, itself made of thousands of individual pieces, which is then installed as a unit, others discrete or truly singular things like nuts and bolts. Every piece needs to be machined, inspected and connected to another piece–welded, bolted, glued, screwed or snapped on by people, by robots, by people manipulating robots–generally on an assembly line that can roll out many hundreds of finished automobiles in a day. There are “bespoke” cars, too, many parts of which are handmade and hand-finished, and which are priced accordingly. How well each of the steps is accomplished, how much attention paid to ‘tolerances’ (how tightly the windows and doors close), paint and trim finishes, and overall consistency, determines a car’s quality and long-term, reliable serviceability.  Continue reading “What Makes a Good Car “Good”?”

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SUVs: The Evolution of A Driving Favorite

The SUV family tree includes station wagons, estate cars, light pickup trucks, minivans, large sedans, and even some standout forebears like the WWII-era Willys MB (or Jeep). SUVs began their more modern, widespread, popular presence in the 1990s, peaked in appeal because of high oil prices, then got hot again, especially when gas started getting cheaper and prices more stable. According to Wikipedia, “At the end of 2016, sales of SUVs and light duty trucks had surpassed traditional car sales for the year by over 3 million units.” Buyers like the bigger passenger and cargo space, safety features, towing possibilities and off-road capability.
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