Monday, April 24, 2017

Justice is served - William Crum rots in jail

If you're a motorcyclist, you likely already know who William Crum is. If not, read on.
William Crum is a driver who decided that he'd had enough, and decided to try to kill two motorcyclists. I don't mean this in the sense of him getting angry, showing them the bird, or chasing them down. No - he swerved into a motorcycle and knocked the rider and passenger off deliberately as they were passing.
Fortunately, another rider in the group had a camera running and caught the whole thing, even when Crum told the other rider he didn't care that he'd basically attempted to murder two people.
The issue he had was that the bikes were passing on a double yellow line. Now I don't care how self-righteous you are, or how you feel about people passing on double yellows (even when it's perfectly safe to do so), it's not up to you to be the law. By all means take numberplates, take photos and call the police. But you don't try to murder two people because you think you're entitled to.
Crum was finally convicted of two counts of aggrevated assault with a deadly weapon and sent to jail for 15 years. That's not enough if you ask me, but maybe when he gets out (at 84, with no license) he'll think differently.
In case you should think that Crum is somehow deserving of sympathy given his age, or some other reason, bear in mind he's also previously threatened to murder two children by telling them he was going to run them down with his car. One of the kids in that case testified.
This guy is a career lunatic and having him behind bars is the best solution for everyone.
Drivers tend not to understand just how quick motorbikes are. We can pass cars in the blink of an eye. The rider in this case was doing nothing to harm Crum - he gave plenty of room, he didn't badger Crum before passing. He just pulled out and attempted to pass cleanly before Crum tried to kill the pair of them.
I'm convinced that if everyone was forced to ride a motorbike for 12 months before ever being allowed to drive a car, the number of motorbike accidents and incidents like this would be cut dramatically. People who've only ever driven around in a two ton cage, surrounded by music, insulation and airbags, have little to no idea what's going on outside, and to have Crum's attitude towards others where he clearly treats his vehicle as a weapon, is reason enough to throw this piece of garbage away.
This link has more details including the original video where you can see him at his asshole best from the attempted murder right up to the point where he tells the other rider that he simply doesn't care that he tried to kill two people.
William Crum gets 15 years in jail for attempted murder of two motorcyclists

Monday, April 17, 2017

Driver training and vehicle maintenance is the key to road fatalities

"Drone cars will cut accident rates" is what the headlines scream. Sure - they might but we have no proof of that yet.
What we do have proof of is that proper driving training cuts accident rates. I'll use America as my baseline because this is where I live at the moment, and in this country the driving test is laughably easy. In some states the theory test is open-book (meaning they give you the answers) yet people still fail it. And the practical test can be 5 minutes in deserted suburbia. There's no training or testing for motorway driving, driving at night, in snow, on ice, or in the rain. There's no training or testing for driving in congested city centers. Driving licenses are handed out like free candy.
This is reflected in the driver fatality numbers for America. You can't just look at the number of accidents - it's high because there's a large population. You need to look at the number of accidents per-capita. This helps give a meaningful number. Even more meaningful is the accident rate per-capita-per-mile-driven but that's a harder number to come by. So we'll use the number of deaths per 100,000 people. In America, this averages 10.6 deaths for every 100,000.
Looking at Germany, where speed is of the essence, vast stretches of the autobahn are still unrestricted, and driver training is considerably more involved (and expensive) than it is in America. Their rate is 4.3 deaths per 100,000 people - less than half that of America.
But we can do better - the Nordic countries, where getting a driving license can take up to a year and involves training and testing in all weather conditions and times of day. Norway - 3.8 per 100,000. Sweden - 2.8 per 100,000.
These numbers don't tell the whole story though. The condition of the vehicles also has a large part to play. In America, the average age of a car on the road is nearly 12 years. That's the AVERAGE, meaning there's a considerable number of old bangers still driving around with drum brakes and no airbags. In Europe the average car age is 9 years. In Sweden it's less than 5 years.
So the key to reducing road deaths is pretty obvious - better driver training and safer vehicles. I'm sure there's still a lot of people who look forward to the day they can get into their soulless automated minicab and be driven everywhere by an AI that is programmed to sacrifice their lives if the need arises, but this driver prefers to use traditional methods. I do occasional driver safety and top-up courses. Everyone should, but of course barely anyone does.
And that's the real reason drone cars are coming - because drivers have become too stupid to take responsibility for their own actions.

Monday, April 10, 2017

There are too many 'stop' signs in America

Coming from Europe, where drivers are generally much better trained than they are in America, we're sort of used to looking out for other vehicles, and giving priority where it's due (although I still don't like Priorite A Droit - that makes no sense if you're on a main road).
But here in America, we're plagued with 'stop' signs everywhere. In my neighborhood they even put in a roundabout then put 4-way stop signs on it. That destroys the entire concept of a roundabout (better traffic flow, less waiting).
My problem with 'stop' signs is that it increases wear and tear on vehicles, it reduces gas-mileage, and the signs themselves are placed with so little logic that they're easy to miss. Many of the streets where I live have vast long stretches with no 'stop' signs, then at one intersection - for no apparent reason - there is a 4-way stop. These intersections look no different from any of the dozen or more leading up to them - it's like the city just decided "here's a good place to mess with people".
My other problem with 'stop' signs is that we're expected to come to a complete stop at every one, every time. Even on a deserted road in the middle of the night. To be honest, I've given up with those situations. If it's patently obvious that there's no other traffic around, I just go straight through them now. And I don't feel bad about it because I'm exercising due care and attention because I'm watching the side roads as I approach to see if there are any vehicles, bikes or pedestrians. If not, then there's literally no reason at all why I should stop other than the arbitrary 'stop' sign placed there by a city that doesn't understand how traffic flows.
This has become so out-of-control here in America that we have 'stop' signs in the most idiotic places now. The picture below shows a street near where I work. That's a corner there. Nothing more than a bend in the road. I've circled the 'stop' sign. You'll notice there's only one. This makes absolutely no sense. Nobody observes this sign any more because there's zero point in it being there.
Now I can already feel people getting on their high horse about breaking the law, but let's be honest - show me someone who says they've never broken a traffic law and I'll show you a liar. You / we all do it whether you want to admit it or not. Whether it's rolling through a 'stop' sign, jumping a yellow light, going faster than the speed limit, not using your indicators, not using your fog lights appropriately - literally EVERYONE breaks traffic laws.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Uber suspends all its drone cars after a crash

One of Uber's drone Volvos has had a pretty bad crash where it ended up on its side. It was in self-driving mode at the time. The crash happened when another car failed to yield and Uber's software couldn't compensate and kept going.
Chalk this up to the growing list of crashes involving cars that we're told can't crash, and will make the roads safer. I don't care if this was caused by another driver, the software should have contingency code to deal with the fact it's operating a 2-ton car in a world where it is surrounded by human drivers.
To-date they've had problem with pedestrians, other drivers, stop signs, parked trucks, lane closures, debris in the road and now other vehicles failing to yield.
Fortunately this time nobody was killed.
Uber suspends self-driving cars after Arizona crash

Monday, March 27, 2017

New F1 season, new Hamilton complaints, new arms race between the FIA and the engineers

Regular readers will know two things about me and F1. First, I love the sport no matter what it's detractors have to say. And second, I think Hamilton is quick to blame everyone and everything but himself when stuff doesn't go his way. It's never his fault. It's the team, the pit crew, the chassis, the tyres, the suspension - and this time it's the floor of the car.
Could it be that he's just not the amazing driver everyone thinks he is?
Anyway the F1 season kicked off in Australia this weekend with some good racing, some interesting incidents and failures, and with Albert Park possibly being slapped with the mother of all FIA fines for letting the crowd on to the track while the cars were still present.
The cars look so much better this year than they've done in the last few years - lower, wider, better-looking aero, smarter wings, more doodads around the radiator intakes, and the raked front wing looks so much better. Of course this was yet another attempt by the FIA to slow the cars down, and as always happens, the drivers and teams have found ways to make the cars faster again.
As usual at the beginning of the season, the arms race between the engineers and the FIA is in full-swing. Right now it's the 'whale tail' T-wing up on top of the shark's fin behind the airbox. It's an "unregulated area" of the car from the FIA's point of view, so the aero guys instantly found a way to capitalize on that.
I expect that particular feature will be ruled out by the second or third race, just like when Brawn Racing had their blown double-diffuser a few years back.
It will be fun to see how the technical regulations change during the season. It'll be fun to watch everyone complain about Verstappen's blocking (because - you know - he's a race driver). And it'll be fun to play the Hamilton drinking game where you drink every time he complains.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Tesla Model S autopilot crashes. Again.

I'll just leave this here. A Tesla model S, a couple of weeks ago outside Dallas. A lane-shift comes up, the autopilot doesn't see it and slams into the bright yellow barrier. Airbags deployed, a lot of smoke, car comes to a total stop. The insurance company wrote it off. This is another case of autopilot missing a really obvious obstruction or change of circumstance. Not only did it not alert the driver (who should have been paying attention anyway) but it did absolutely nothing to avoid the barrier. Never slowed down, never steered.

But tell me again how accidents will become a thing of the past with drone cars ....

The exploded left-front wheel, left-side damage and all the detonated airbags:

The full sad, sorry story is over at Reddit for everyone to enjoy: My Tesla hit a barrier while I was on autopilot