Dr. Iain Corness

Thursday, 12 December 2013 16:52

Is Technology heading in the right direction?

Have you ever stopped to consider as to where technology is taking us?  Or is it not taking us anywhere, but is merely following global trends?  Is public opinion the driver, and what exactly does the public expect?  Or even more important, what does the public want?

The answer to these rhetorical questions might just be in a publication published by the KPMG International people, the Swiss national cooperative advisory service, with overviews in many areas.

As part of their survey, they asked automotive companies just how important they felt were the issues of fuel efficiency, environmental friendliness and safety innovation, and repeated these enquiries over three years.

The top three issues, as being rated as important, by the greatest percentage of auto companies, were then looked at.  The results were very interesting.  The main concern, shared by 96 percent of the companies in 2008 was fuel efficiency, but that fell slightly to 93.5 percent in 2009.  Environmental friendliness, which was only at 50 percent in 2007, had steadily grown to 80.5 percent by 2009, but Safety innovation was fairly stagnant at around 71 percent for the three years.

The writing would seem to be on the wall for safety as the major indicator of technology direction, no matter how much of a good feeling this gives the manufacturer.  “Safety” would appear to be at the same level of attraction as cold porridge sandwiches, for the general public.

Even the environment is not doing that well as a technology driver, despite all the doomsayers and governments pushing the ‘global warming’ wheelbarrow.  Perhaps GM’s Bob Lutz, with his famous catch-cry, “Global warming is a crock of sh*t,” goes much deeper and more to the point than the industry would like to admit.

So the final, and most popular driver is fuel efficiency, well over 90 percent for the past two years.  This should not be surprising, with the global financial meltdown, decreased earnings, increased unemployment, and all the factors that come into play when money is tight.

I have always said that fuel is the cheapest thing you put in a motor car, and fuel consumption does not really matter, but it would seem I am swimming against the tide here.

However, I do contend that if fuel consumption was a major factor, why do we not see more electric cars and hybrids on the roads?

Thursday, 12 December 2013 16:52

More driver-less cars

The latest manufacturer to embrace cars with no drivers is Volvo, who is promoting the concept with a catch phrase “Drive Me”.  This is set up as a joint venture by Volvo, the Swedish Transport Authority and Gothenburg City.  (Not to be confused with Gotham City!)

The self-driving cars rely on 360 degree camera systems with GPS and perimeter sensors, which are already available in many new cars (for example, the Nissan Teana has it).

The “drivers” who will be carried by the self-drive cars will be trained on what to do if the technology fails.

Hands up those who are old enough to have seen “2001: A Space Odyssey” with the supercomputer HAL 9000.  Remember these lines?  “The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made.  No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information.  We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.”

However, just in case, the legal experts in Sweden are looking at who or what is liable in the event of a crash.

Last week I asked what is the connection between the Bugatti Atlantic and the Lunar Roving Vehicle?  And I mean construction, not the fact that men rode in them.  The answer was that they used piano wire in the construction of the wheels on both of them.

So to this week.  What do these cars have in common?  The Mini, the Aston Martin DB5, the Ford Mustang, the DeLorean and the Alfa Spyder, and it has nothing to do with engines, wheels or steering wheels, in fact nothing to do with their construction at all!

For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Thursday, 12 December 2013 10:55

Deadly Sins? There’s seven of them!

Were you aware that heart disease is still one of the greatest killers of mankind, ranking a strong second after the Thailand motorcycle riders road toll - OK, I exaggerated that a little, but the road toll in this country is a blight on the face of the community.

Interestingly, if you look at the major causes of death by development of the countries, in the high income countries death toll comes from heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, middle income countries have stroke, heart disease and lung disease and for the low income countries it is heart disease, respiratory infections and then HIV/AIDS.

There are many reasons for the differences, including dietary, socio-economic, educational, development of health services and tobacco and alcohol abuse.  However, this week I am only going to address heart disease, and the seven deadly ‘sins’ that can predict your likelihood of getting (and suffering from) heart disease.

1. High Blood Pressure: 20 percent of elderly people suffer from this condition.  Imagine trying to blow through a long tube.  If the tube becomes constricted for any reason, you will have to blow harder, increasing the pressure.  Blood pressure is the same - if the arteries are constricted or less pliable, it takes a greater pressure to force the blood around.  The heart has to work harder to produce the increased pressure, and eventually the heart gets tired and fails.

2. High cholesterol: High cholesterol foods such as egg yolk, offal, animal brain, animal fats, dairy products, seafood, oyster, squid, etc, leave deposits in the blood vessel walls.  As a result, the fat “plaque” on the vessel walls obstructs the blood flow and this will eventually cause heart disease, as per the first deadly sin above.

3. Smoking:  Smoking is a primary factor in the causation of coronary artery disease.  Smokers are at a much higher risk, even two times more than non-smokers.  Smoking increases adrenaline, which causes an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and lowers the amount of oxygen carried by the blood.

4. Diabetes: Diabetic people have twice the risk of congestive heart failure than people with normal blood sugar levels, due to their increased weight (see number 5) and high cholesterol levels produced in the blood.

5. Obesity: People who are fatter than average have to face a 30-40 percent increase in risk of heart disease compared to thin people.  In just carting around the extra weight, the heart has to work harder (and the knee and hip joints wear out).  Try walking around with 10 kg extra on your back and tell me how you feel at the end of a week.  Tired?  Of course.  And your heart is tired too.

6. Stress: Stress is not totally bad for us, as it keeps you going, and in an appropriate level actually stimulates our curiosity and motivation; however, by getting over-stressed, adrenaline levels are increased and this may lead to abnormal heart function.  Though stress is not the main cause of heart disease, it can make the artery walls less flexible, which is the beginning of heart disease.

7. Lack of exercise: Exercise is the best way to increase high density lipoprotein (HDL) - “good” cholesterol that prevents the arteries becoming abnormal.  By exercising, blood pressure, body weight, and the possibility of thrombosis will be reduced.

So you can see just how these seven risk factors all are inter-related.  Keep the arteries clean, watch the diet and ensure you have a reasonable level of exercise.  Check the Blood Pressure and stop smoking.

Remember too, that as you get older, the chances (and risks) of heart disease are higher.  (Young males are more likely to die from clumsy motorcycle parking.)  Statistically, men aged over 40 years as well as the postmenopausal women have a higher risk than adolescents.

Despite our knowledge, we still cannot predict exactly when the demise will come, but looking at the big picture, we do know that smoking, overweight, unfit diabetics with high blood pressure and high cholesterol do not live as long as non-smoking, fit, lean people with normal blood pressure, and normal blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Do you know your levels?  A brief medical check-up will tell you.

Thursday, 05 December 2013 13:33

Racing at Bira this weekend

The Nitto 3K people have scheduled a meeting at Bira this weekend.  As always with this promoter there will be many classes competing, including the Retro Cars, in which my BBX/Acorn Gastropub Mk1 Ford Escort competes.  Main event is for the Isuzu pick-ups.

The Bira Circuit is on Highway 36 about three km past the Regent’s School, heading towards Sattahip.

Two-wheeling EscortTwo-wheeling Escort

We will be having our hospitality tent there and you are invited to join us for hamburgers and hot dogs by saying the magic words “Saw it in the Pattaya Mail!”  To find the hospitality tent you have to come in the back entrance to the circuit, which is about 50 meters before the main entrance when coming from Sattahip.  Go through the tunnel and then turn immediately right and go up the hill 20 meters and you will see the red gazebo.

Thursday, 05 December 2013 13:30

Some very interesting history

A regular reader, Kevin Maguire contacted me with the following:

Seeing the picture of the lovely little Jowett Jupiter in this week’s Autotrivia quiz made me think a little.

You will, I am sure, know that Jowett Cars started life in the town of Bradford, before moving, still in the environs of Bradford, to Idle (the home of the ‘famous’ Idle Working Men’s Club).  But did you know that Jowett also built the very first few Scott motorcycles.  This year is in fact the 100th anniversary of the move of the Scott factory to Shipley.  The two stroke, water cooled twin was a lovely thing to ride (although I did learn a salutary lesson once, when after leaving town and getting on the open road, I had forgotten to open up the Pilgrim oil pump and had the engine ‘nip’ under me!).

Panther Motorcycle and sidecar.

Not many miles away on the other side of Bradford, Cleckheaton, was the home of another well known motorcycle manufacturer Phelon & Moore, who built the Panther (no - nothing to do with Bob Jankel’s Panther Cars).  Panther motorcycles were built from 1904 until 1967, the most famous models being based around the big single cylinder ‘Sloper’ engines ranging from 500cc up to 654cc.  I well remember a hot Summer’s day, shirt off, as a 16 year old, full of bravado, persuading a friend to let me have a ‘go’ on his Panther outfit.  This sadly ended up with me, who had never handled a motorcycle combination before, let alone a heavy Panther, coupled to a double adult Busmar sidecar, put the thing into a ditch, which just happened to be full of stinging nettles!  Ouch!

Thanks Kevin.  It is a wonder we all lived through our early motoring/motorcycling years!

Thursday, 05 December 2013 13:28

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Kia coming

Kia’s first hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle will begin production in 2015, starting with a small run of around 1,000 units, in line with the present lack of refueling infrastructure, according to an engineer.

The carmaker is developing a portfolio of electrically powered vehicles, including hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery-electric models, but sees hydrogen fuel cells as its eventual goal, with mass production expected to begin in 2020 once the refueling infrastructure has expanded.

The Hydrogen fuel cell technology is being shared with Hyundai, which recently began series production of 1,000 ix35 FCEVs now being leased to fleets across Europe.

Kia is also preparing to launch its first electric vehicle sold outside Korea.  The Soul EV will go on sale globally in the second half of 2014 and a version is being developed for European customers.

This offers a LEAF-rivalling 109 bhp and a range of over 180 km on a single charge, but will be available with either a new Combined Charging Standard plug in Europe, or CHAdeMo plug for Asian markets, allowing a full charge in 25 minutes.

Volumes are expected to be very small as Kia investigates demand.  Just 30 Soul EVs will be brought to the UK at the end of next year, and Kia has yet to decide whether it will offer a leasing option for the batteries in the UK.

Thursday, 05 December 2013 13:27

Killed by the anti-social media

‘Gadget overload’ is making driving riskier, says new research from Zurich Insurance.  Motor manufacturers may have made cars safer, but more than four out of five UK motorists say distractions from gadgets including Sat Navs, iPods, mobile phones and DVD players is now making driving riskier.

Nearly half of the motorists admitted to being distracted by phone calls and texts while driving, with 22 percent checking social media accounts behind the wheel.

The research also found that a rise in the number of cyclists on Britain’s roads is contributing to drivers feeling at risk, with almost a third of motorists blaming them as the number one distraction ‘outside of their control.’  (They would have a nervous breakdown dealing with our motorcycle maniacs!)

The top 10 road risks today versus 10 years ago:

1. More people using mobile phones (68%)

2. More cars on road (67%)

3. More reckless drivers (61%)

4. More urgency to get to destination (44%)

5. More people using sat navs (39%)

6. The number of vans/lorries on the road (30%)

7. More speed cameras (29%)

8. More cyclists (29%)

9. More signs on the road (27%)

10. More motorcyclists on the road (16%)

Thursday, 05 December 2013 13:25

New 441 kW Nismo GT-R on the way

The Nismo version of Nissan’s GT-R supercar with 441 kW and 652 Nm is coming with a revised 3.8 liter twin-turbo V6 (up from 404 kW/628 Nm).

The Nismo GT-R’s uprated performance comes through the use of new high-flow, large-capacity turbochargers, as used in GT3 racing, while optimized individual ignition timing control for each cylinder and an upgraded fuel pump are said to improve combustion.

Thursday, 05 December 2013 13:25

The new F1 regulations

There are many changes for 2014, so Adrian Newey will have to really sharpen his pencil.

The 2014 season will see the introduction of a new engine formula, with the return of turbocharged engines for the first time since 1988.  The new engines will be a 1.6 litre V6 format with an 8-speed semi automatic gearbox.  The rules dictate the use of a ninety-degree engine bank, with fixed crankshaft axis and mounting points for the chassis, while the engines will be limited to 15,000 rpm.  Individual engine units under the 2014 specifications must last for at least 4,000 km before being replaced, in comparison to the pre-2014 engines, which were required to last for just 2,000 km.

The Kinetic Energy Recovery System (known from 2009 to 2013 as KERS, and renamed from 2014 as ERS-K) will be incorporated into the design of the engine and its usage increased; its function as a supplementary power source will be taken by the introduction of the heat-based Energy Recovery System (ERS).  The ERS unit captures waste heat as it is dispelled from the exhaust turbocharger, using an electrical device known as a Heat Motor Generator Unit.  This waste heat is stored as an electrical charge until it is utilized by a complementary system called the Kinetic Motor Generator Unit.  This device is connected directly to the drive train to deliver the additional power in the most direct and efficient way.  In combination with the ERS-K it will give drivers an additional 161 bhp (120 kW) for thirty-three seconds per lap, compared to the KERS units used prior to 2014, which gave drivers 80 bhp (60 kW) for six seconds per lap.

Teams will be able to use electronic braking devices to manage the braking of the rear wheels as the increased power output of the ERS-K units will make regulating the brake bias much harder than previously.

Drivers will only be able to use five engines over the course of a season in 2014, down from eight in 2013.  Drivers who use a sixth engine will start the race from pit lane, as opposed to the ten-place grid penalty handed down for going over the engine quota in previous season.  In the event that individual elements of the engine unit - including the turbocharger, ERS unit or KERS battery - are replaced, drivers will incur a ten-place grid penalty.

The pit lane speed limit will be reduced from 100 km/h to 80 km/h.

There are other changes, but mainly relate to the bodywork and exhaust placement.

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