By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario -- November 10, 2017 -- In this week's edition of Friday Fun, Alberta police arrest nude motorists, self-repairing auto bodies, Toronto’s quick clear collision squads and much, much more.
An odd accident in Alberta last week is turning into a bit of a mystery. Police in Alberta reported that five people had been arrested following a two-vehicle crash in Nisku on Monday. Some of the people involved in the collision were naked when officers arrived on the scene. According to a local report from Global News, the RCMP say that a “... preliminary investigation led them to believe the collision was not accidental… Investigators also believe drugs and alcohol could be factors in the collision.” At the time the five people, “... all from one of the vehicles and all naked at the time, were taken to hospital and are in police custody.” At the time of the crash the temperature was about -8C.
But as if the situation was not weird enough, a couple of days later an RCMP spokesperson updated the state of the investigation, deepening the mystery. Apparently the incident began with a kidnapping. “A man, a woman and a six-week-old child were kidnapped by an unknown number of assailants at a Leduc County home at 9:30 a.m. Monday,” according to an RCMP news release. “The man, whose age was not given, was forced into a vehicle’s trunk… The kidnapping victims were targeted and all parties knew each other.” According to one of the media reports, “While the car was in motion, the man escaped. A short time later, the woman and baby managed to get out of the vehicle. None of three were injured.”
The press release goes on to say that, “A passerby offered assistance and secured all three in his truck. The suspect vehicle rammed the rear of the truck and ended up in the ditch.” The RCMP arrested the five people after the collision, “... which happened just 17 minutes after the kidnapping.” An RCMP spokesperson said the investigation was "convoluted" and still in its infancy. No kidding. The odd events have yet to find an explanation. The RCMP also reiterated Tuesday, “... that the kidnappers were the ones who were naked - not the three people who were kidnapped. [Police] did not know whether they were naked at the time of the kidnapping, or whether they removed their clothes after,” according to a report. “Three adults remained in police custody Tuesday. Two youth were released without charges. Weird.
A report on financial website Bloomberg.com notes that the next generation Lamborghini could be able to repair itself. The company unveiled a concept car at a recent conference. The product is the result of a partnership between the automaker and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). According to the story the carbon-fibre panels that make up the body will also have super capacitors in them. As a result the, “... concept promises a car that will be able to continuously monitor the condition of its own structure, detecting wear and damage. Micro-channels containing ‘healing chemistries’ in the carbon-fibre body will automatically repair small cracks that would otherwise spread.”
Video appeared on line recently showing a Lamborghini passing a car on the Don Valley Expressway in Ontario. A minute later the car then passes an accident scene involving the same Lambo. Not sure there would ever be a chance of this car repairing itself:
John Tory, the mayor of Toronto, was elected on a promise to get stalled traffic moving. To that end it seems accidents on expressways in the city will be cleared in a much more rapid fashion. According to CBC News, two "quick clear squads" will now be permanently stationed on Toronto's major roadways during the morning rush hour. The mayor created the squads, which have just finished a successful two-month pilot program. The squads will become a, “... key part of Toronto's updated traffic plan moving forward.
The two squads, which will be co-ordinated by the city's traffic services department, include specialized vehicles and trained members that will clear crash scenes quickly while keeping drivers and pedestrians safe. The quick clear squads respond to collisions or other traffic obstructions within a half hour, as opposed to the two to three hours on average it takes now,” according to a local media report. The mayor reported that during the test period the two crews, “... were dispatched 330 times, with an average of about seven calls during each of the morning and afternoon commutes. Nearly 150 of the incidents involved disabled vehicles,” according to the report. The mayor was quoted as saying he wants to see similar squads on all the major corridors and key roads in the city.
Another news report in the Toronto Star notes that police in the city are, “... issuing far fewer roadside suspensions to drunk drivers, an apparent result of writing fewer tickets in general.” New statistics show that the number of impaired charges issued by Toronto police has fallen dramatically over the past couple years. But the decline in tickets is not a result of better driving among the population. The story notes that, “Since 2005, Toronto has consistently seen about 10,000-12,000 collisions a year in which someone was hurt or killed.” As well, every region around the city are issuing the same number of tickets. Even so, “Traffic charges laid by Toronto police started to fall steadily starting in 2013, and are now about half the level they were in 2011, provincial statistics show…” So what’s leading to the decline? One city councillor who was a vice-chair of the police services board was quoted as saying, “I know in 2013 this was a major issue. I made comments then, and I still believe in the comments I made then, that are relevant today, which was that maybe it’s a work-to-rule.” The head of the police union blamed the reduction on falling numbers of police officers. “It has nothing to do with the roads being safe. And in no way is Toronto unique in that there are less drunk drivers,” the union head was quoted as saying.
This week news broke about the death of former MBA pitcher Roy Halladay died in a plane crash. An interesting part of the story involves the machine he was flying. It’s a new type of vehicle just coming to market called an Icon A5 that is designed to bring “non-pilots” into the flight market. According to the products Wikipedia page, the cockpit was “designed to look like an automobile.” The controls are said to be easier to monitor than those in a traditional plane. The hope was that the amphibious aircraft would “democratize piloting,” and that the, “... A5 would make recreational piloting accessible to everyone who could afford the aircraft.”
According to advertising materials from the company, “... executives and pilots compare flying the plane to driving a sports car or riding a motorcycle.” The CEO was quoted as saying, “[It's] not about the usual metrics of speed, range, payload, altitude, and complex cockpits. It's about getting you out there and interacting with your world.” The interior of the cockpit was designed by BMW designers. It was thought there was significant interest from outside the aviation community, with the company reporting that, “... 35% of its customers are not pilots.” And the vehicle does look like a fancy jet ski, albeit, one with a large wing. It looks an adult consumer recreational toy. "It is strictly designed to be the ultimate flying toy… A personal watercraft with wings,” according to a review in an industry review.
But it doesn’t look like the product will continue flying. The plane had been moving closer to mass production according to reports. But complications have mounted of late. The company was supposed to have built 175 by 2016, but shipped just 20 (according to Wikipedia). And then this past May, “... an A5 carrying two of the company's top engineers crashed in a California canyon, killing both men and subjecting Icon to fresh scrutiny.
On top of that, last week, Icon announced another round of price increases on its signature plane.... the fully-loaded version would jump to $389,000 from $257,000.” The accident involving Haladay may be the end of the company. An aviation expert quoted in a story on Bloomberg.com said he is sure the A5 is a safe aircraft, but isn't quite as confident the company will come back from Halladay's death. "It's very possibly going to be a blow from which the company will have difficulty recovering," the source was quoted as saying. A video of Halladay taking delivery of his A5 was removed Tuesday afternoon.
Be careful to read the fine print on cut-rate insurance plans. A Toronto woman complained this week to a consumer rights report after an insurance claim for a crashed SUV was rejected recently. The woman says she makes the occasional delivery for her small company, and had told the company that. But when the woman’s Chevrolet SUV suffered significant front-end damage in a recent accident she took the claim to her new insurance provider, only to have it denied. The driver had recently signed up with a new insurer, according to CTV News. As the driver told a consumer rights reporter, “... she has paid insurance premiums for 30 years without an accident but recently changed to an online insurance company to try to save money. I'm a widow with three kids. I've got to watch my pennies, so it seemed like a good idea to get better insurance rates."
She signed up for auto insurance with a company called Sonnet Insurance. She told the company she uses her vehicle for work, perhaps 30 per cent of the time (she owns a small business selling heaters to kill bedbugs). The company didn’t say anything at the time she revealed that information. Only when she brought in her claim did she find out the policy had been voided and that there will be no payout for this claim. A spokesperson for Sonnet told the CTV reporter, "If you use your vehicle for business, you may cover it under your personal policy as long as it doesn't have commercial plates and isn't used for deliveries, carrying passengers for hire, renting to others or as an emergency vehicle.” The woman sometimes drops off heaters at the homes of customers. Apparently that was the reason for the denial of the claim. "Nobody ever asked me to clarify what my business use was," she said. She feels ripped off. "I truly believed I had insurance at the time,” said the driver. Again, read the fineprint and don’t assume a company rep will point out the details.
Car & Driver magazine recently ran a list asking interesting questions about the future of the auto industry. Among the musings were the following:
- Will car buying ever be as easy as upgrading a cellphone? “In California, Hyundai sells the Ioniq Electric like a cellphone subscription. [Consumers] choose from one of three monthly prices with all fees and options baked in.”
- Will the 12-volt electrical architecture go away? “As automakers lean on power-hungry hardware such as electric compressors, the humble 12-volt battery will die hard… [eventually] cars will likely use 48-volt subsystems in addition to the 12-volt--as the Bentley Bentayga does…”
- Is diesel dead? “European diesel sales peaked at 56 percent in 2011; last year, analysts AlixPartners predicted that number will drop to 9 percent by 2030, when only trucks will burn oil in the US”