A Minimal Motoring Manifesto

A couple of years ago, Hackaday published an article, “Electric Vehicles Continue the Same Wasteful Mistakes That Limit Longevity“, in which we took a look at the way the car industry, instead of taking the move to electric traction as an opportunity to simplify their products, was instead making their electric offerings far more complex. It touched a nerve and received a very large comment volume, such that now it is our 19th most commented story of all time.

It’s something brought back to the fore by seeing a The Drive piece bemoaning the evolution of the automobile as a software receptacle governed by end-user licenses rather than a machine under the control of its owner. In turn that’s posed the question: Just what do you really need for a car, and what is superfluous? Time to provide an answer to that question, so here it is: a minimal motoring manifesto. Continue reading “A Minimal Motoring Manifesto”

From Car To Device: How Software Is Changing Vehicle Ownership

For much of the last century, the ownership, loving care, and maintenance of an aged and decrepit automobile has been a rite of passage among the mechanically inclined. Sure, the battle against rust and worn-out parts may eventually be lost, but through that bond between hacker and machine are the formative experiences of motoring forged. In middle-age we wouldn’t think of setting off across the continent on a wing and a prayer in a decades-old vehicle, but somehow in our twenties we managed it. The Drive have a piece that explores how technological shifts in motor vehicle design  are changing our relationship with cars such that what we’ve just described may become a thing of the past. Titled “The Era of ‘the Car You Own Forever’ Is Coming to an End“, it’s well worth a read.

At the crux of their argument is that carmakers are moving from a model in which they produce motor vehicles that are simply machines, into one where the vehicles are more like receptacles for their software. In much the same way as a smartphone is obsolete not necessarily through its hardware becoming useless but through its software becoming unmaintained, so will the cars of the future. Behind this is a commercial shift as the manufacturers chase profits and shareholder valuations, and a legal change in the relationship between customer and manufacturer that moves from ownership of a machine into being subject to the terms of a software license.

This last should be particularly concerning to all of us, after all if we’re expected to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a car it’s not unreasonable to expect that it will continue to serve us at our convenience rather than at that of its manufacturer.

If you’re a long-time Hackaday reader, you may remember that we’ve touched on this topic before.

Header image: Carolyn Williams, CC BY 2.0.

Does This Lead Make My Car Look Fat?

When looking at the performance of a vehicle, weight is one of the most important factors in the equation. Heavier vehicles take more energy to accelerate and are harder to stop. They’re also more difficult to control through the corners. Overall, anything that makes a vehicle heavier typically comes with a load of drawbacks to both performance and efficiency. You want your racecar as light as possible.

However, now and then, automakers have found reason to intentionally add large weights to vehicles. We’ll look at a couple of key examples, and discuss why this strange design decision can sometimes be just what the engineers ordered.

Continue reading “Does This Lead Make My Car Look Fat?”

The Current State Of Play In Autonomous Cars

Bluster around the advent of self-driving cars has become a constant in the automotive world in recent years. Much is promised by all comers, but real-world results – and customer-ready technologies – remain scarce on the street.

Today, we’ll dive in and take a look at the current state of play. What makes a self-driving car, how close are the main players, and what can we expect to come around the corner?

Continue reading “The Current State Of Play In Autonomous Cars”

How To Get Into Cars: E85 Fuel

If you’ve spent any time around the modified car scene in the last few years, you’ve probably heard about E85. Maybe you’ve even noticed a sweet smell emanating from the pitlane, or heard people cracking jokes about “corn juice.”

The blended fuel, which combines alcohol and traditional gasoline, can have significant performance benefits if used properly. Today, we’ll explore what those are, and how you can set your ride up to run on E85.

Continue reading “How To Get Into Cars: E85 Fuel”

Mr Fusion powering a vehicle

Motorsports Are Turning To Alternative Fuels

As the world grapples with the issue of climate change, there’s a huge pressure to move transport away from carbon-based fuels across the board. Whether it’s turning to electric cars for commuting or improving the efficiency of the trucking industry, there’s much work to be done.

It’s a drop in the ocean in comparison, but the world of motorsports has not escaped attention when it comes to cleaning up its act. As a result, many motorsports are beginning to explore the use of alternative fuels in order to reduce their impact on the environment.

Continue reading “Motorsports Are Turning To Alternative Fuels”

Roll-on/roll-off vessel docking

RORO Vessels: Driving Cars Across The Ocean

YouTube does a pretty good job of making itself a target for criticism, but one thing you can say about their algorithms: when they work, they really work. Case in point, the other day I found a suggestion in my feed for a very recent video about salvaging a shipwreck. I can’t begin to guess what combination of view history and metadata Google mined to come to the conclusion that I’d be interested in this video, but they hit the nail on the head.

But more importantly, their algorithmic assessment of my interests must have been a goldmine to them — or it could have been if I didn’t have a minefield of ad blockers protecting me — because I fell down a rabbit hole that led me to a bunch of interesting videos. As it turns out, the shipwreck in that first video was of a cargo ship that was carrying thousands of brand-new automobiles, which were all destroyed in the fire and subsequent capsizing of a “roll-on/roll-off” (RORO) vessel off the coast of Georgia (the state, not the country) in 2019.

Thus began my journey into RORO vessels, on which automobiles and other bulky cargo are transported around the world. And while my personal assessment of the interests of Hackaday readers probably is not as finely tuned as Google’s algos, I figured there’s a better than decent chance that people might enjoy tagging along too.

Continue reading “RORO Vessels: Driving Cars Across The Ocean”