By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario — June 8, 2018 — In today’s Friday Fun: The worst roads in Ontario, China produces a knock-off Lambo, a distracted driving conviction for checking an Apple watch, and much, much more.
A troubling police report from Connecticut details a dark conspiracy to kill a local autobody shop owner cooked up by a group of local criminals. Police in the city of Danbury say the gang was only thwarted in carrying out their nefarious plot by a broken tail light. According to a news report local dim bulb, Luis “Pops” Mercado was in the process of carrying out the plot, which unraveled when a police officer patrolling the city’s west side spotted a green Toyota sedan with its tail light out. “The officer attempted to pull the car over but instead … the Toyota sped up leading officers on a chase. During the pursuit officers saw the driver, later identified as Mercado throw something shiny out the window of the car… The objects were later found to be two loaded handguns,” according to the media report. Officers eventually pulled the Toyota over. When the officer checked inside the vehicle, “… both Mercado and his passenger, were wearing gloves and they had a black ski mask, binoculars and a container of gasoline in the car. Both were arrested at the time on weapons charges.” Based on further information police subsequently raided a room at a Howard Johnson, where they arrested three others. A 12-gauge shotgun, an AR-15 assault rifle, a Smith and Wesson .22-caliber rifle, a handgun, gloves and ski masks were found in the room. According to the report, “The Danbury group had [been assigned] to go down to Bridgeport and kill the shop owner… and then burn the body shop down.” That the crew decided to drive around while armed and wearing ski masks, but with a light out on the car, indicates the level of intelligence involved. https://bit.ly/2xL1loG
A story about a Canadian woman named Victoria Ambrose made global headlines this week after she was found guilty of breaking Ontario’s distracted driving law. The women was charged with distracted driving after an officer saw he look at her Apple watch. The case will be a warning for anyone who might own one of these digital devices. According to one of the many media reports published this week about the case, “Ms. Ambrose got a traffic ticket in April after being seen by a police officer from the University of Guelph lingering at a red light at a junction on the campus… In court, the police officer said Ms. Ambrose did not move off when the light turned green because her attention was fixed on the watch. She only started moving when the officer shone a side light from the police cruiser at her car… The officer then pulled Ms. Ambrose over and issued the ticket.” According to a report in the National Post, “In court, Ms. Ambrose said she looked at the watch to find out the time… This claim was rejected by the judge who said smartwatches were a distraction as much as a “cellphone taped to someone’s wrist’.” The story goes on to note that, “Ms. Ambrose did not dispute that she had consulted her watch, but said she only looked distracted because the device must be tapped twice to tell the time… She also argued that because the watch was worn on her wrist it was subject to an exemption in the Ontario law which covers devices that are ‘securely mounted’.” According to the Post, the presiding judge rejected the argument. “Checking one’s timepiece is normally done in a moment, even if it had to be touched to be activated,” according to the judge. He went on to say, “… it was clear Ms Ambrose was distracted.” Now you know. https://bbc.in/2xH0KV2
California introduced new digital licensee plates. The plates are made by a company called Reviver Auto. They cost a hefty USD $699 and will be able to display messages, such as Amber Alerts, weather alerts and advertisements. The state began testing the new plates this month. They’re basically a flat tablet-like screen that displays the license number of the vehicle. One of the many media reports suggests that, “According to Neville Boston, CEO and co-founder of Reviver Auto, the new plates will make it easier and faster for people who don’t want to wait in line at the DMV to register their vehicles.” Reviver Auto is said to be the only company making and selling the plates. The CBC radio program As It Happens, interviewed a company executive, who said, “You now have an opportunity to be able to do your registration for your vehicle over an app and then you can have it uploaded right in real time on your vehicle… You don’t have to put stickers on your car anymore…” Privacy activists suggested the plates will allow vehicles to be tracked. According to the CEO, “… drivers can be assured that their information will be stored in an encrypted space and that users can turn their location data on and off.” Boston was also quoted as saying that his company takes “extra care” to not share a person’s information to law enforcement agencies, the DMV or insurance companies. However, he admitted that, “If there is a subpoena or something of that nature, then we would have to, I believe, comply… But I think people would get more information off their cellphone than they would from our information because your cellphone goes with you everywhere you go.” The plates are currently on sale at some California dealerships. They also require a monthly payment from the owner. https://bit.ly/2swZP4o
China has long had a reputation as a country where rip-offs of western intellectual property is not only tolerated, but is often seen as a form of national economic liberation. In China the period when the UK used gunboats to force the country to allow opium sales is remembered as the period of the “Great Humiliation.” The sense among many in the country is that western powers exploited a weak China in the years before the Communist government came to power in 1947. What has evolved since is a belief that copying western technology and ripping off intellectual property is not just okay, but is actually a matter of national pride and strength. Violating IP claims of western companies is perfectly acceptable payback for the decades of humiliation according to many Chinese, and it has long been a complaint of western companies that their intellectual property rights are ignored in the country. Courts in China have rarely held up western IP claims, leading to the flood of copycat products that have flowed out of China over the past several decades. The most extreme cases of this copyright warfare involves full cars. It was not that many years ago an entire auto plant built by VW ended up being sold to another company that began producing VW Jetta’s, but under a different name. This week another remarkable case emerged of a local Chinese company producing a copycat car. The Huansu Auto C60 Hyosow is a midsize crossover SUV that, “… bears a striking resemblance to the new Lamborghini Urus at approximately one-tenth the price.” According to a report in the western media these copycat vehicles are no longer perfect reproductions, as the manufacturers are making just enough changes to the design to avoid IP challenges. According to the story, “There are several strategic tweaks in the design to keep things out of obvious lawsuit territory, including a slightly different lower front fascia, a more upright roofline, and fewer creases in the body. Its wheelbase is also about seven inches shorter than the Lamborghini. Still, the renderings show a near-wholesale recreation of the angular Italian design of the original.” You’ve got to appreciate the chutzpah. https://bit.ly/2Hl9OOM
There is a new podcast series for collision repair shop owners. According to a report out of the U.S., Ron Perretta, owner and operator of Professionals Auto Body, has now started up the digital broadcast, Body Shop Pioneers. According to an interview with Perretta that ran in a U.S.-based trade publication, “We reach out to shops around the country that have made a difference in the collision repair industry, or are trying to do so. With our podcast, we interview top people in the industry and discuss some of their achievements and how they’ve impacted the business.” https://bit.ly/2M0ZuiD
A fascinating conversation took place at a recent conference south of the border. According to a report from the event, the auto repair industry needs to create a new, “… hybrid mechanical-body technician.” This super-tech would be able to perform both mechanical and auto body repair work to, “… handle vehicles with repair procedures straddling both worlds.” The idea was floated by an executive with a prominent regional MSO in the United States. According to the report the Collision Industry Conference heard that it made sense to have a “unique technician” on hand for “…. scanning, calibration and work on advanced driver assistance systems and supplemental restraint systems. There is a proposal floating around for a new definition of a repair tech who can handle the new advanced driver collision avoidance systems. The report suggests the new job category could be defined as an automotive technician, “…. skilled in computer functions, advanced diagnostic equipment, and new vehicle technologies. Knowledgeable in OEM repair procedures, having mechanical aptitude and qualifications, with primary focus on (SRS) Supplemental Restraint System and (ADAS) Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.” VeriFacts CEO Farzam Afshar was quoted as saying that, “Europe for years has offered such a role, known as an EMT – electrical, mechanical and trimming role.” https://bit.ly/2LmoG1K
The Ontario chapter of the CAA released its list of the ten worst roads in the province. Coming in at number one again for the second year in a row is Burlington Street East in Hamilton. The winner in 2016, County Road 49 in Prince Edward County, remains on the top ten in second spot. Filling out the group are roads in Barrie, Belleville, Toronto, Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Innisfil. Clearly, Ontarians are annoyed with the state of the roads in the province. The CAA received a remarkable number of nominations for “worst road.” More than 3,500 nominations came into the organization this year.