Observations on the News: Car-Talk Edition

  • From the Yackity Yak Department: The LA Times is reporting that the Governator condemned on Wednesday one of the most prototypical Los Angeles driving practices — grasping a steering wheel with one hand and a cellphone with the other — and gave a strong boost to legislative efforts to outlaw hand-held mobile phones throughout California. My question: How is holding a phone any different from holding anything else. Why can one hold a cup of coffee, a newspaper, makeup, but not a phone. I agree that cell-phones are a distraction in a vehicle, but the engineer in me know that it is not the phone that is the root cause: it is the focus on the conversation… and we can’t outlaw conversations in cars. For if it is the conversation (and the fact that the party on the other end can’t see the driving distractions), then hands-free is not the answer. We already have laws on the books about driving while distracted. Let’s start enforcing those.

    Of course, the Governator can get a bit creepy. Talking about his daughter, who just started driving, he said, “I told her, I have had many, many conversations with her that if I ever catch her making a phone call while she is driving — and I sometimes follow her to make sure that she doesn’t make that mistake — [that] I will take the car away from her and she can drive the bus because it’s inexcusable.”

  • From the Globalization Department: MGs are coming back… being made by a Chinese company using an old English design in Oklahoma. According to the Daily News, Nanjing Automobile Corp., China’s oldest carmaker, just announced they will be building a manufacturing facility at the Ardmore Airpark in south-central Oklahoma. The Oklahoma plant will produce a newly designed TF Coupe. The rear-wheel-drive two-seater was designed by MG’s former owners but never built. There will be additional MG models: Three sedans will be built at Nanjing’s facilities in China and the MG TF roadster will be built at the former MG Rover Longbridge assembly plant near Birmingham, England. Nanjing also will fund a new research and development facility at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. I particularly like this quote: “We can take those junior-level, senior-level, graduate-level engineering students that have interest in automotive and give them practical experience. We are going to give something back to the community, not just take.”

QOTD: From summer_of_6 on his roadtrip along US 6: “Because most highways would otherwise continue into the lake, which is advantageous for depleting population centres of stupid motorists but generally considered poor form for highway continuity, US 6 in Ohio is a frequent terminus.”