The Scenic Route

Current mapping programs seek out the shortest route, either by time (accounting for traffic and speed limits) or distance. Why are these the only options though?

Unless I’m on a strict schedule, I would rather my drive take an extra few minutes, but avoid as much traffic as possible. This makes the drive much more enjoyable.

Additionally, what if I could say I had a certain amount of time and the program would find a route, with back roads, to fill that time, helping me find a scenic route? This would be great for road trips.

Shortest time and distance routing feels like it’s well polished at this point. I would love to see mapping applications experiment with other routing goals to help make our drives more enjoyable and memorable.

RCMP in BC Watching for Distracted Driving

As reported by the CBC, in BC the RCMP are starting to watch more closely for distracted drivers, from a long ways away:

The long arm of the law now has a super-long lens to catch distracted drivers — from as far as 1.2 kilometres away.

RCMP in B.C. are rolling out the powerful new lenses over the May long weekend, aimed at catching drivers texting or otherwise being distracted while behind the wheel.

While they can’t follow a moving vehicle, they will be watching vehicles stopped at intersections. If they see someone is distracted, they’ll take a photo or radio to an officer closer to the intersection to flag down the vehicle.

While the biggest reason for the new strategy is people distracted by cell phones, they will be looking for any other type of distraction as well:

“Putting on makeup, eating a bowl of cereal, reading a novel — we see all sorts of things as people are sitting in traffic,” said Wutke.

Overall I agree with this new strategy. Seemingly every day on my drive to and from work, delays are caused at lights were people are distracted and miss the light change. While less efficient traffic is a problem, those people are also more likely to be distracted while moving. Seeing someone distracted, swerving in their lane at highway speeds is unnerving every time and distraction does result in accidents.

Manure Test

If you spend enough time reading and talking about trucks, one question inevitably comes up: what is a truck?

This, of course, is a question with highly opinionated answers and has little meaningful impact in life, but I’m passionate about trucks so I’m going to throw my opinion into the fray.

To determine whether a vehicle is a truck or not, I’ve come up with a simple test: The Manure Test.

To apply The Manure Test, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the vehicle that you want to evaluate.
  2. Ask yourself this question: “Would I willingly carry a load of raw manure with this vehicle, without any attachments or modifications?”
  3. If you answered “yes”, then it’s a truck. Otherwise, it’s something else.

To come up with this test, I asked myself what differentiates a truck from other types of vehicles. Features commonly listed in response to this question, such as body on frame construction or having a V-8 engine, simply aren’t unique to a truck. Many of these fearures are shared by full size SUV’s, as well as many cars designed in the mid 20th century.

The one truly unique feature that all trucks have, but other vehicle types do not, is the truck bed. More generally, a cargo area that is physically separated from the passenger cabin. The Manure Test validates this physical separation by smell. If there isn’t complete separation between manure and passengers, the smell would be over-bearing for most anyone.

If I’m ever in a discussion with someone about what makes a truck a truck, I now have an easy way to explain my thinking.

Merry Model X-mas

Tesla said Merry Christmas in a particularly relevant way this year.

Nissan Titan XD, Heavy Half

Most of the numbers for the new Nissan Titan XD are now released, along with first drive reviews. I particularly liked the reviews from TFL Truck, and TruckTrend.

The Titan XD is interesting due to how Nissan is marketing it as a “heavy half”.

The components seem to bear this out. Many core components of the Titan XD resemble a 3/4 ton truck. From the V-8 Cummins diesel engine and Aisin transmission, to the larger rear differential and brakes, the Titan XD is different than regular half tons. Its GVWR and curb weight are also notably higher than the rest of the half tons, at 8,800 and 6,709 pounds respectively, classifying it as a heavy duty from the perspective of the government.

You would be forgiven for expecting those components to result in impressive capacity numbers, but they turn out to be anticlimactic:

CapacityTitan XDF-150SilveradoRAM
Towing Capacity (pounds)12,31411,90011,70010,540
Payload Capacity (pounds)2,0912,2602,0001,864

Note: All numbers are the maximum values for 4x2 Crew Cab models.

While the Titan XD does have the highest towing capacity of the half tons at 12,314 pounds, it is by a small margin and doesn’t approach the starting capacity of 14,000 pounds for 3/4 ton trucks. Payload capacity is only mid-range, with the F-150 being the standout in the segment.

So what will those beefier components provide, exactly? Durability and reliability when the truck is used consistently at its limits, particularly with regards to towing. Wear and tear should be minimized while safety and control will be maximized, similar to that of a 3/4 ton truck at those capacities. Making up for the average capacity numbers, according to first drive reviews, the Titan XD still maintains the ride quality of a half-ton, being noticeably quieter and smoother than the heavy duty trucks especially when empty.

With the caveat that I haven’t seen the Titan XD in person, I believe Nissan truly has created a “heavy-half”. The question now is whether there is a market for it.

A Driver's Car

In the automotive world there are many types of vehicles.

The average sedan or minivan are mundanely practical.

Jeeps and other SUVs inspire exploration.

Pickup trucks are workhorses, adapting to many purposes.

Sports cars are fun and entertaining.

Then there are the driver’s cars. Inspired by dreams. Built with passion. Fueled by desire. They beg to be driven.

Welcome to the Mustang GT350 - a driver’s car.

Hyundai will launch Genesis brand in December


Hyundai is about to go global with a new, high-end sub-brand called Genesis. Rumors of this spinoff have been swirling for years, but an announcement Tuesday confirms that the Genesis brand will launch in December of this year.

It isn’t too often in the automotive world that a new brand is created. It’s particularly impressive to think of how far Hyundai has come: previously cheap and poor quality, now launching their own luxury brand.

While I’ve never driven a Hyundai, many people in my family own one and love it. Since the Genesis model was created, I’ve been impressed by their styling. Congratulations, Hyundai.

Daytime Running Lights

One of the biggest changes on the road for me, after moving from Canada to the US, has been the lack of daytime runing lights (DRL). In Canada and much of Europe, all vehicles are required by law to have functioning daytime running lights, whereas in the US they are merely permitted.

For those who don’t know, daytime running lights are clear or amber lights on a vehicle that are on whenever that vehicle is moving, regardless of time of day.

As a driver, I firmly believe that daytime running lights should be mandated in the US, and all countries around the world. The few possible negative effects are easily avoided, while the benefits are numerous and improve road safety for everyone.

To start, let’s look at headlights, which are better understood. Headlights serve two purposes at night:

  1. Illuminate the road ahead (and to the side to a small degree)
  2. Make your vehicle visible to others

It is the second purpose that is most frequently overlooked, and where DRL shine (pun intended). In any condition where road illumination isn’t necessary but visibility is restricted, DRL are always on, eliminating user error. These situations include rain, dawn, dusk, fog, dust and more.

Daytime running lights also provide guaranteed lighting at night, should someone forget to turn their headlights on. While automatic headlights solve this issue, many vehicles are still sold without. Multiple times since being in the US I have come close to turning in front of a car that didn’t have their headlights on at night, which prevented me from seeing them until they were much closer.

The primary arguments against daytime running lights revolve around them being too bright. If they are too bright they can cause glare and/or obscure a vehicle’s turn signals. These are valid concerns, but are easily remedied: mandate that DRL run at a lower intensity than regular headlights, which is exactly what Canada has done.

The National Highway and Traffice Safety Association (NHTSA) has performed multiple studies over the years showing no or minimal safety benefits from having daytime running lights. As a driver, I know the safety benefits I have seen on the road, as well as the level of comfort daytime running lights provide, knowing that I can see other cars on the road.