Friday, August 10, 2007

Topping instapundit in auto tech
Tom Smith

I am thrilled to discover that I am ahead of the InstaGlenn in at least one techno-nerd area.  We are referred to this digital tire pressure monitor.  Oh, puh-leeese.  How quaint.  How retro.  Last week I signed up for the free service with OnStar, by which The Man or somebody, GM maybe, monitors various critical systems in my Suburban and emails them to me periodically.  Including, and this is my point, the pressure in each of my all terrain tires, which rarely, if ever, leave a paved surface.  But I'm ready, just in case of a break down in civil order.  To wit, I have just recently received an email telling me my tire pressure is fine.  Of course, the gas mileage in my Suburban sucks (14 mpg) but at least there is room for everybody.  When filling up the tank on this thing, a good book is recommended, however.

WELCOME Instapundit readers!  As long as you are here, let me just relay an interesting conversation I had at an otherwise excruciatingly boring event for people interested in start-ups, venture capital, etc. etc., that is sort of related.  I spoke to a guy who had a start up whose business model was to put GPS trackers in automobiles, which could then keep track of your speed at every location, and thus whether you were speeding and by how much.  This information would be reported to your insurance company, which could then discount (or not) your rates accordingly.  My contribution was to suggest that it also keep track of inertial information, which could detect the very annoying and dangerous weaving and lane changing that a lot of idiots do on San Diego freeways. I would be all for this, and as for the privacy concerns, I basically don't care.  I would be more than willing for The Man to know I just spent 3 hours at Starbucks instead of the gym, if it reduced the number of slammed Hondas scaring me out of my wits on the I-8.

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Tom Smith


A friend has a commute of 1 hour 10 minutes each way. In his diesel-engined Nissan Micra he gets 70 mpg. True, the Imperial gallon is 20% bigger than yours, but still.

Posted by: dearieme | Aug 11, 2007 1:05:59 PM

But can he carry 8 humans and 2 large dogs?

Posted by: tom smith | Aug 11, 2007 2:14:04 PM

That depends... Are they Mexican? I'll be here all week folks.

Seriously though, you can thank either our EPA or maybe the NHTSA for keeping cars like the Micra off our shores, for any nationality that might want them.

So we've got a clean-air agency telling us that the car doesn't burn clean enough, so we get a car that burns twice as much fuel. Thanks.

Then we get an agency tasked with keeping us safe telling us certain cars aren't safe enough in a crash, but we are permitted to sit open-air, unsecured, on two wheels with an engine mounted between them. Stupid.

Posted by: Morgan | Aug 11, 2007 8:25:36 PM

As a YukonXL owner, I could check my tire pressure the old-fashioned way by using a tire gauge or even by using the more modern system buttons on my dash - but those methods are so yesterday. OnStar online is great.

Posted by: DRJ | Aug 11, 2007 8:55:42 PM

Just as Weyerhauser supports environmental orgs and their push
for regulations in the nations forests, since the result of
regulations is to keep the price of their logs high, I wonder if
the regulations preventing diesels into the U.S., are somehow,
if indirectly, funded by the Detroit Auto Manufacturers.
Diesels makes just too much sense for the U.S.. They get great
fuel economy, the engines last longer, have good power, and the
fuel can be made from coal.

Posted by: Muggins | Aug 11, 2007 9:35:48 PM

A thought.

How does onstar do this? Is there a electrical sensor within the little cap? Honestly, I don't really feel comfortable with someone who very well could be thousands of miles away, telling me something I can take 10 secs and check out myself. Plus, the "safe" range of tire pressure can be quite large and while the pressure may be "safe" if I put in a couple lbs of air, it could actually save me a lot of gas money. Does onstar check to see if your Oil needs a change? Coolant? Wiper Flud? Ashtray too full?

Maybe I'm just an old fogey stuck in a 26 year old body, but manually checking the tire pressure, to me, is just part of being a good automobile owner/driver.

Just a thought.

Posted by: chris ahn | Aug 11, 2007 10:00:23 PM

tom smith said:

>>we are permitted to sit open-air, unsecured, on two wheels with an engine mounted between them. Stupid.<<

So, you would recommend that the government make motorcycles illegal?

Staying awake for 24 hours straight then driving a car has been shown to be as dangerous as DUI. Is the solution a law that requires that we sleep 8 hours a day as well?

The point being, do you *really* want the government regulating our lives like to that degree? Talk about "Big Brother!"


Posted by: Scott | Aug 11, 2007 11:54:36 PM

Scott said:

>> ... do you *really* want the government regulating our lives like to that degree? <<

Ummmm, I don't know tom smith as I'm visiting here for the first time, but really, considering that "rightcoast" blogrolls libertarian sites like Cato, Instapundit, and Marginal Revolution, did you *really* believe tom was advocating for *more* regulation. My reading of his motocycle comment is that over-the-top safety regulations on cars are rather inconsistent (and demonstrably foolhardy) because the government (for now) allows us to choose to drive other, obviously-more-dangerous vehicles (which *cannot* have similar safety requirements--consider side-impact airbags on a moped, for example). Yes, some bonehead is always trying to reign in our freedom to make that choice as well, but I think tom was simply showing how absurd many existing safety requirements in the ever-inconsistent nanny-state.


Posted by: Stephen Humphrey | Aug 12, 2007 3:34:33 AM

I agree with Tom that we need to bring smaller more efficient cars into the country. For goodness' sakes they're already in production elsewhere. BUT. Keep. Your. Nasty. Namby-Pamby. Sissypants. Pinko. Fingers. Off. The. Bike.


Find something else stupid and dangerous (yes, I hear it from the nurses I worked with, my mom, the Navy, etc) to illustrate your point, please.

Posted by: Tugboat | Aug 12, 2007 5:49:58 AM

Upon rereading my last post, it doesn't sound nearly as lighthearted as it did BEFORE my morning coffee. Please understand that I (attempted) to have tongue somewhat in cheek.

Posted by: Tugboat | Aug 12, 2007 6:13:34 AM

America ( most of it at least ) does not really want fuel efficient cars. I have a '94 Civic DX - not a hybred or anything - that gets 50 mpg highway and damn near as good in town. I drive about 100,000 miles a year for work, and when this car needs to be replaced, I'm screwed. The newer Civics are bigger, more plush, and use more gas. I'll have to over spend for the hard to find, low production HX model. Everyone says they want economy, but whenever one is offered - Civic HX/VX, Tercel, ETC - no one buys them in large numbers because they're small and don't have heated cup holders and built-in foot massagers.

Posted by: instapundit reader | Aug 12, 2007 7:48:32 AM

I've been in San Diego for about six months. What's the deal with the family census stickers on the backs of SUVs?

Posted by: Klug | Aug 12, 2007 8:20:29 AM

Instapundit Reader nailed it - Americans don't want (for good and bad reasons) small cars. All other things being equal, smaller cars get better gas mileage. And americans also expect cars to be unreasonably safe; even if they don't take active precautions to make them so. Safety equipment is heavy, and weight reduces gas mileage.

The good reasons: we drive a hell of a lot more miles, both collectively and individually, than europeans; having longer commutes and driving further for pleasure (the last you can blame the US airlines on - I won't fly for less than a 6hr drive now). We have larger families and more stuff.

The bad: cars are status symbols for americans - this explains why both the Prius and the Hummer are so popular.

The ugly: action by the US government isn't going ot change things

Posted by: Ian Argent | Aug 12, 2007 8:33:00 AM

Don't know the economics of the OnStar device, but entry-level GPS-based data loggers for race cars run almost a grand. That's with GPS, two axis accelerometers and RPM input. OBDII data is usually available, too. Telemetry is not included, as most racers don't need the data in real time and it's way cheaper to download it after the session.

By the way, has OnStar solved the problem of being a legacy analog cell system?

Posted by: ronbo | Aug 12, 2007 2:42:56 PM

Actually chris ahn I think that driving after 20 or so hours of no sleep should be illegal. I forget the exact amount of time awake it takes for the enzyme to appear in your saliva (its atleast 20 hours) but there has been preliminary research finding that there may just be an enzyme that appears in your saliva that could be searched for to find if you are over the legal limit of .. sleep deprivation. So I'm all for a sleep deprivation breathalyzer test, as sleep deprivation causes more accidents than drunkeness..

Posted by: Grant Walmer | Aug 12, 2007 7:02:44 PM