By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario -- November 26, 2015 -- Our weekly collection of highlights, lowlights and general weirdness from the last week.
- A perfect example of how not to pull of an insurance scam unfolded recently in Ireland. David Ward, driving an Opel Corsa, rear-ended a Volkswagen Passat driven by Lynsey Ivory. Both claimed to suffer an injury. When authorities showed up the two denied knowing each other. Transferred to hospital in the same ambulance they pretended to be strangers. Both submitted personal injury claims, again, denying knowing each other. An insurance investigator happened to check their Facebook pages and found pictures of the two together. When an investigator showed up at Ivory's house to bring her in for questioning Ward answered the door. Turns out the couple were going to use the money for their wedding. Presumably that event is going to be postponed
- A new use for technology in the auto world? A US newspaper is reporting that police in Waller County Texas are installing devices around town that can read license plates and determine if that vehicle has insurance. The devices are being installed on a major highway that runs through town. It is thought that between 10 and 17 percent of cars in the US do not have insurance. Presumably the scanners will be a new revenue stream for the county. IX Group is the Oklahoma company that provides license plate scanners. The private vendor provides the equipment and installs it at no cost to the police department (presumably they get a cut of the revenue stream). The technology scans license plates in about 1.2 seconds.
- The Guangzhuo Auto Show is going ahead in China this week, and one highlight was the presentation of the China Car of the Year award. The winner was the Geely GC9. It's the first domestic (to China) model to win the award. It must be a heck of a car ... it beat the Mercedes-Benz Maybach S-Class and the Jaguar XE.
"This year's winner demonstrates that the Chinese auto industry is fully capable of creating cars that take the lead in a tough and fair competition,” an executive of the show was quoted as saying. Interestingly, the Wikipedia page on Geely notes that the company is the owner these days of Volvo. It bought the company off of Ford a couple of years ago. It also owns the London Taxi Company. Who knew?
- On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of BMW's Art Car project, a jury of museum directors and curators chose two renowned artists to design this year's cars. Artists are chosen annually to paint a brand new BMW. Don't laugh. Some of the biggest names in the art world have taken part. Revered names like Jeff Koons, Jenny Holzer, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and David Hockney. This year the two artists chosen are a Chinese artist Cao Fei, and American artist John Baldessari. These two are respectively the youngest and the oldest artists to be chosen. Fei was born in 1978. Baldessari was born in the 1930s. Ian Robertson, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, announced the collaboration at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Both artists will create a BMW M6 GT3 in the coming year. The newly-designed vehicles will then be presented in museums in 2017, while also having proving themselves on the racetrack as pace cars. This will be the last year the program will run. Cao Fei was quoted as saying, “This will definitely be my fastest artwork yet.”
- Could the auto industry warm to the open source car? As the connected car becomes the new holy grail of the modern auto industr,y some digital activists are agitating for an ability to have a so-called “open source” car. In the digital world advocates of open source use operating systems like Linux, rather than Microsoft or Apple products, which are copyrighted. Supporters of Linux have access to the source code of that operating system and customize it as they see fit. Now these same digital activists are working to bring the open source movement to cars. A handful of companies, among them OSVehicle, Riversimple and Local Motors, are racing to make open source vehicles a reality.
“It is a natural extension of other complex systems that have been open sourced, for example, operating systems, database management systems, and the like. But it is in its infancy because companies using an open source vehicle development methodology are still deciphering the complexity of the tools and the supply chain,” John B. Rogers, Jr., Chief Executive and Co-Founder of Local Motors was recently quoted as saying.
Founded in 2007 as a low-volume, microfactory-focused vehicle manufacturer, Local Motors is focused on 3D printing. That is, the Phoenix-based company hopes to have 3D printed cars on the road by the end of 2016. And you though the Apple car was going to be disruptive. Local Motors hopes to provide local car manufacturing through micro-factories, which the company hopes will be an alternative to massive assembly lines. The company's CEO sees the parts sector being particularly vulnerable: “If we are right, parts of the industry are going to rapidly reformulate their place in the value chain in order to be able to respond to the new tools that are available. If we want to see flying cars within our lifetime, we need to embrace open source,” said the Local Motors CEO recently.
- Well, that didn't take long. VW claims it has an easy, fast fix to its emissions problem. The company says it has developed a plastic tube that can fit in front of the air mass sensor, improving the accuracy of that device. VW claims the proposed new component, called a "flow transformer" will bring the cars into compliance in Europe without impeding fuel efficiency or engine output. The piece is being roundly derided by auto industry trade journalists. The obvious question, of course: If this was so easy to fix, why is this only coming out now?