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Smart Cars Coming to Canada and U.S. 605

AgniTheSane writes "Most importantly the Smart Car looks cool. It also gets 60 mpg, is four feet smaller than a Mini Cooper (you can park two in a standard parking spot), the plastic panels are easily swappable and one color all the way through (so you can't scratch the paint), the steel frame makes it safe in an accident, and you can get it with in-dash Bluetooth (and in Europe can read and write email via the car speakers and a microphone). The Smart car is coming to the US soon, and will cost as little as $12,000. You can read about it in Wired or on MSNBC, or you can go straight to ZAP who will be selling them in the US soon, or the smart car website in the UK. "
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Smart Cars Coming to Canada and U.S.

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  • by wombatmobile ( 623057 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:06AM (#10478238)
    These [] are already popular in parts of the USA.
  • Heh (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:06AM (#10478240)
    Yanks won't give up their monstrous SUVs for these. Too insecure about their sexuality.
    • Re:Heh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by macrom ( 537566 ) <> on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:19AM (#10478273) Homepage
      While meant as a joke, there is too much truth to this statement (the giving up SUVs part, that is). Especially in larger cities that have a widespread suburban sprawl (like Dallas, Houston, LA, Seattle, Atlanta) that makes owning a bigger car easier, if not something of a status symbol. In cities where parking space is a premium or driving to work doesn't regularly involve an hour+ commute, people may jump on these cars, but we Yanks like big cars to cart our big families around in.

      Then again, I figured that only teenage girls would buy the MINI, and I see those things all over the place.
      • MINI (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Don't dismiss the MINI so quickly. Have you driven one? The thing handles like a go-kart. The supercharged Cooper S is an absolute joy to drive. Like BMW's, the MINI tends to attract the trendy crowd, but the hardware is definitely up to snuff.
      • Re:Heh (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:28AM (#10478309)
        Big European familes seem to be able to cope with brand=Zafira&vehicleType=Car []sub compact people carriers like these which can seat 7. Is the averge american family that large or is it more to do with status really?
        • Re:Heh (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Yes, the average American family is that large (read obscenely FAT).
          • Re:Heh (Score:4, Funny)

            by edgrale ( 216858 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @10:58AM (#10479058)

            Yes, the average American family is that large (read obscenely FAT).

            Lucky for you that Microsoft didn't get the patent on FAT then, imagine the license fees! ;)
          • Re:Heh (Score:3, Informative)

            by ccmay ( 116316 )
            Yes, the average American family is that large (read obscenely FAT).

            Don't get feeling too smug and superior; the Europeans are following closely behind.

            I was in the deep East End of London recently, and the residents of the council estates there were as fat as any trailer-park trash in Arkansas.

            The chattering classes are of course nice and trim, but that is mostly the case over here too.


        • Re:Heh (Score:5, Funny)

          by Ford Prefect ( 8777 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @09:53AM (#10478692) Homepage
          Big European familes seem to be able to cope with sub compact people carriers like these which can seat 7.

          Speaking from experience, a Vauxhall Nova can also seat seven.

          Eight if you push extra hard, nine or more if you include the boot...
        • Re:Heh (Score:5, Insightful)

          by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <`barbara.hudson' ...'> on Saturday October 09, 2004 @09:54AM (#10478697) Journal
          Is the averge american family that large?
          You obviusly didn't watch []Supersize Me!

          Here's the trends from the Centers for Disease Control _char.htm []

          Currently, more than 44 million Americans are considered obese by BMI index; that is, have a Body Mass Index (Kg/m2) greater than or equal to 30. This reflects an increase of 74 percent since 1991.
          This is over and above those who are just considered overweight.

          Back on-topic, the car weights 1500 pounds. You won't see it hauling 2 300-pounders with a sub-700cc motor. Then again, as gas prices keep doubling, Mr. and Mrs. Lard-belly won't have the $$$ to both stuff their faces AND run their 8mpg SUVs/cattle haulers, so either they or their vehicles are going on a diet, one way or another.

      • The new MINI isn't, you can fit two of the old ones inside one of the new ones!
      • Delta P, Delta E (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ehack ( 115197 )
        The moms love the SUVs coz they feel safe - problem is, when they hit a Smart even slighly, they kill the occupant. Then they get a fine :)
        • by Lars T. ( 470328 ) <Lars DOT Traeger AT googlemail DOT com> on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:55AM (#10478429) Journal
          And when they hit another SUV, everybody dies.
        • by JonTurner ( 178845 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @09:04AM (#10478474) Journal
          >>problem is, when they hit a Smart even slighly, they kill the occupant.

          There's an upside, however. In the event of a collision, the Smart folds conveniently into the shape of a coffin.
        • Re:Delta P, Delta E (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @10:59AM (#10479068) Homepage Journal
          (disclaimer, I just Swapped my For2-shape Smart for a Smart Roadster) The Smart is actually one of the safest small cars there is thanks to the stridion safety cage, ands also since you can't t-bone one between the wheels in anything wide than a motorbike, due to the short wheelbase.

          Smart were well aware that the car looks easy to break, so they put a LOT of effort into safety. I've seen pictures of a from end collision between a Samrt and a Mercedes E-class, the Merc was a write-off, while the Smart drove away.
          • Re:Delta P, Delta E (Score:4, Interesting)

            by jeremyp ( 130771 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @11:51AM (#10479403) Homepage Journal
            The Smart car has a Euro NCAP [] rating of 3, which is not good by modern standards.
          • Re:Delta P, Delta E (Score:5, Interesting)

            by NtroP ( 649992 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @01:30PM (#10479930)
            I've seen pictures of a from end collision between a Samrt and a Mercedes E-class, the Merc was a write-off, while the Smart drove away.
            They want $1,200.00 EACH for the headlights on my mercedes, another $1,200.00 for the 6 CD changer in the trunk, etc. It doesn't take very many pieces to need replacing in an accident before "total write-off" is much cheaper :-)

            All the same, in an accident where I need to walk away, I'll take my Mercedes or my old Volvo before I'd take some of the cheap, tinfoil crap I see on the road every day (not saying the the Smart is one). On top of that, at the price I paid for my car, I'm much more careful with my driving and keeping the car in top mechanical condition. Small, cheap, disposable cars tend to be more dangerous simply from the standpoint that their owners may not have the same "investment" in keeping it in one piece.

            Also, having a rigid frame around the driver is a great idea IF there is something sacrificial around it to absorb the impact energy in an accident. I can build a car that's strong enough to withstand an impact and drive away, but you'd have to scrape the occupants out with a paper towel. I have some experience in this. I built an ultra-light aircraft for my wife and decided to make is extra strong. When she crashed it (pilot error), it took almost nothing to put the ultra-light back in the air. My wife, on the other hand, was almost killed and spent 2 years with countless surgeries recovering. The investigation concluded that had the aircraft structure been weaker and able to absorb the impact, she might have been able to walk away. Needless to say, I don't fly that one any more.

            On the other side of the equation, I was filming from the back seat of an ultra-light for an instructional video when we augured in (yep, camera rolling - great footage!). There was nothing left of the plane. It practically disintegrated around us, but we both walked away. The pilot broke a bone in his hand and the restraint system left some really impressive bruises on me, but we were able to spend the night out and wait for rescue just fine. The aircraft I fly now is designed to absorb the impact of a crash (I've also added a ballistic parachute to it).

            Last week I was early on the scene of an accident where I thought for sure someone would be dead. One of the cars looked like no-one could have survived. However, upon closer inspection the driver's compartment was entirely intact, with several airbags deployed. The driver was standing a short distance away, talking to one of the other people one the scene. He looked shaken, but [apparently] unhurt. The other car look like it was in better condition, but the driver was still sitting in it (and was being attended to - so I didn't get any closer).

            It sucks big-time to have your car looking like a grotesque piece of $50,000 modern art, but seeing your kid getting safely out: priceless!


        • Re:Delta P, Delta E (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @11:36AM (#10479307) Homepage
          Actually, I've seen one that had been heavily rear-ended, in a scrapyard. The doors still opened and shut as normal, and there was no visible intrusion into the passenger area. The engine had folded under the floor as the engine support frame had twisted (just the way it's meant to). The Mondeo that hit it was sitting alongside, with an impressively bent front, and the driver's side footwell squashed. The pedals were about level with the gear lever.

          Of the two, I would have certainly preferred to be in the Smart. Of course, cars tend to fare better when hit from behind, but even so, the disparity in damage caused was incredible. I always thought that Smarts looked really fragile, being used to old Citroens and Volvos (which are can run over armoured personnel carriers with barely a scratch), but this was impressively strong.

          They still look like they'd flip up and lie on their tailgates, though.

        • Re:Delta P, Delta E (Score:5, Informative)

          by Trurl's Machine ( 651488 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @12:02PM (#10479475) Journal
          The moms love the SUVs coz they feel safe - problem is, when they hit a Smart even slighly, they kill the occupant.

          Not necessarily. Smart is designed with safety in mind and has pretty good crash test [] results. Don't forget that crash tests describe only the passive safety (can you survive when bad things happen?), while Smart excels in active safety (can you avoid the bad things to happen in the first place?). I was driving a rented one on a business trip and the thing is agile like a TIE-fighter. Unless you're asleep at the wheel, you will be able to make an evasive manoeuvre avoiding getting hitted by the SUV.

          On the other hand, large SUVs are hopeless in active safety (a pick-up truck with a wagon-like interior will always remain a pick-up truck in terms of agility), they prone to rollover [] and the frame chassis does not add to passive safety, contrary to popular belief. Yes, the chassis will remain untouched by a minor collision, but it does not mean your spine will remain untouched as well. If someone drops you in a steel cage from a steep cliff, the cage might itself remain untouched on the bottom - but your spine probably won't. Modern cars wreck so horribly precisely because the chassis takes all the energy that would otherwise release - among other things - on your spine. It's no wonder that the safest 4x4 according to NHTSA is subaru forester []. It's a car-based SUV that gets totally wrecked in a crash - but that's because the driver leaves from collision in perfectly good health. Someone has to explain this to all the SUV moms...
        • The thing is, SUV's are the most unsafe vehicles out there.

          For starters, an SUV is far more likely to be involved in an accident, thanks to increased stopping distances and high center of gravity and weight mean that they are hard to perform emergency manouveurs in.

          Once in the accident, it's not the sudden stop that will kill you. The crumple zone in the front isn't designed to slow you gradually. The cabin deforming and crushing you is what kills.

          The reason the cabin crushes is because there is a lot of
    • Re:Heh (Score:5, Funny)

      by johannesg ( 664142 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @09:17AM (#10478523)
      You could always put a Smart in the back of your SUV as a backup...
  • by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:09AM (#10478246) Homepage
    the steel frame makes it safe in an accident

    Provided the accident is a frontal collision with a Mercedes Benz sedan, like in the publicity video, with the Mercedes' crumple zone absorbing all the impact.

    • by Omega Leader-(P12) ( 240225 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:17AM (#10478266)
      The short wheelbase ensures any side inpact will hit an axel and not intrude into the passenger cabin. Far better than many other vehicles. (Like the king of fatal side impacts the Ford F-150)
      • Doesn't that presume that you're not being hit by a truck? What about at a 45-degree angle, common for people crossing intersections?
        • by Anonymous Coward
          Then you're going to get Teed and will slide across the road several hundred yards, stuck to the front of the truck. Just like any other car that gets hit by a truck travelling at speed, in fact.

          Everyone in America seems to paranoid about driving. I don't get it. It's not like they don't have 18 wheeler monster trucks in Europe, and they seem to manage.
          • We just like big cars, and we'll use any excuse to justify them. Personally, I've been waiting for one of these cars for a long time. Where I live, Boston, they'd be perfect.
            • by killersneakersofdeat ( 807957 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @09:31AM (#10478575)
              or, seeing as you live in a city, you could use a bike. no, I'm not trolling. I'm completely serious. I live in New York City, and I ride a bike everywhere. literally, the only car I own is sitting at a train station near my summer home, waiting for me when I go out there. Bikes make more sense than you'd think in the city: with a good bag or rack on your bike, the short distance riding involved makes shopping quicker and less stressful, and remarkably easy. I am not necessarily suggesting going carless, but in a city like boston, which I know is of the more bike-friendly cities out there, riding places when its almost as fast or faster than a car in traffic, can make sense sometime. think the smart taken to its logical extreme.
              • Boston Bike Friendly?! I biked 6 miles every day for years in Cambridge & Brookline, and it's no picnic. Downtown Boston I've biked through many times and it's even worse.

                Small winding streets give you insufficient room to avoid being doored and limit visibility. It's playing russian roulette every day. I've been lucky so far *knocks wood*.

                Heavy traffic load makes motorists impatient, agitated and unpredictable. Busses swerve into and out of what few "bike lanes" exist.

                And the potholes...
      • What about the "death-in-any-front-collision-greater-than-15-MPH" Voltswagon Beatle?
    • All the more reason to give up SUVs, think of the people thinking of the environment! Think of the people giving the finger to the middle east buy not buying as much oil. Think of the terrorist revenue reduced! Stop driving SUVs. (gawd I think I need to shower again...)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:53AM (#10478416)
      Don't forget that this car was originaly developped for the european market. In europe safety in a car is regarded as very important.

      In the brussels car fair they did the test by driving the SMART car against a concrete wall at 60 kmph, the doors opened without problems and the passenger-cage was perfectly intact.

      ps.:My girlfriend drives a smart. It's the perfect car for women; you don't need to be able to parrallel park as you can just drive into a parking spot under a 90 angle :)
  • by maddskillz ( 207500 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:16AM (#10478262)
    They are already here. I have seen a few driving around here already
  • I'd rather see smart drivers. Ones that could park one of those small cars in no more than one regular parking spot for example.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "Anything that size in this country is basically SUV road kill," sneers recent New Yorker Michelle Baran. []

    To paraphrase Basil Fawlty, "You realise they are equipped with steering wheels?"
  • It is a safe car (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:23AM (#10478285)
    For all those screaming about security - this car has been specifically designed to be safe despite it's size; to achieve this, there are certain tricks involved, eg sliding the motor under the chassis in case of a crash.
    It _has_ been rigourously tested.

    You know, we here in Europe do make more out of less and don't need a 2 Ton SUV to have a save car.
    • Re:It is a safe car (Score:5, Informative)

      by GroovBird ( 209391 ) * on Saturday October 09, 2004 @01:30PM (#10479927) Homepage Journal
      Sliding the motor under the chassis in a crash is not what happens with this car since the engine is between the rear wheels. The technology you're describing is of the Mercedes A-class cars. They look similar but the Mercedes is a tad bigger and is a front engine/front wheel drive car.

      I owned such a car for four years, specifically a Smart Cabrio. It feels much safer from the inside than from the outside. Even the most basic model comes standard with all the safety features: double airbags, ABS, stabilization... The room in front of you is all made up of buffer zone that folds when you crash. The distance between the wheels is so short that in any side crash at least one wheel takes a part of the punch.

      It's a fun car to drive, with a direct feel but not like a go-cart. The suspension may be a bit dry but it corners well and is handles well in any situation.
  • This is a good car if you live in a crowed city. Over here are lots of these little cars, and each time their acceleration surprises me.


    Little parking space required

    Coolness of especially the cabrio version

    Price and costs of ownership


    Speed limit of 140 km/h (although less speeding tickets is ok)

    Little storage space

  • by Jonah Hex ( 651948 ) <hexdotms@gmai l . com> on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:25AM (#10478295) Homepage Journal
    From the Wired article:
    where an entire Fortwo comes together in only 41¼2 hours (compared with more than 20 hours at a conventional car plant)
    That really makes my brain hurt, the best I can untwist this one is that the author meant to write "4 1/2 hours" or "4¼ hours" or the "¼" is really the "/" or ... screw it.

    Jonah Hex
  • Not so cool (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lomby ( 147071 ) <andrea&lombardoni,ch> on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:27AM (#10478303) Homepage
    I live in Switzerland and had the possibility to test drive one of the two seats model.

    Positive points:
    - looks cool
    - each passenger has a lot of room (really)

    Negative points:
    - automatic shift is very slow, it is dangerous and reduces confort (it brakes the car during the shift)
    - the vertical construction implies rather hard suspensions, with reduced confort (you feel every bump in the road in your spine)
    - noisy inside
    - pricy

    In Europe you can find lots of small cars that have a comparable MPG (or better km/l), have 4 seats and are cheaper.

    To sum it up, coolness factor aside, I would not reccomend it.
    • "In Europe you can find lots of small cars that have a comparable MPG"

      Can you tell me please? I looked amoung all of the manufacturers last year and couldn't find anything actually on the market which was as efficient. The diesel in particular does 84mpg.

      • Re:Not so cool (Score:3, Informative)

        by Lomby ( 147071 )
        I am not informed about the diesel, but for normal engines you could look at the Suzuki Alto 1.1.

        It's 4.7 l/100km vs the 4.7 l/100km of the smart fortwo coupe 37kW.

        Or the Daihatsu Cuore which sports a 4.6 l/100 km.
      • Re:Not so cool (Score:5, Informative)

        by Chilles ( 79797 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:54AM (#10478418)
        volkswagen Lupo 3L.
        3L means it does 100km on 3 litres of diesel. My limited knowledge of ancient measurement systems indicates that that is around 20% more efficient than a smart. It costs a bit more though.
  • There's a useful term when you need to refer to Canada and the USA together: "North America".

    Canadians use this more than Americans do, and there can be confusion about whether you intend to include Mexico and the Caribbean Basin, but all in all Americans underuse the term.
  • It's about time a very small 4 wheeled city vehicle for short distance commuting was released into the mainstream in the US . . .

    When I first saw these released in Europe many people said that such tiny vehicles would never be released in the US because the small size made it impossible to meet US safety standards (similar reasons for the Ford Ka (no real bumpers), and Mazda 121). I'm glad to see that perhaps with some engineering creativity, we now know that is not the case . . .

  • In all seriousness, if two of these fit into a standard parking spot, can you double up at a meter? Does the first person in to the meter spot pay, and the second one piggybacks and adds on as necessary?
  • Acceleration (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brian Kendig ( 1959 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:32AM (#10478328) Homepage
    Zero to sixty in twenty seconds?

    These things are going to need all the crash protection they can get. They're going to get flattened on any highway on-ramp.

    • Re:Acceleration (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ianoo ( 711633 )
      Erm, you shouldn't come to a stop on highway on-ramps...
    • Re:Acceleration (Score:2, Insightful)

      With all these "It'll get flattened" comments you'd think the average american driver has his eyes shut.

      Repeat two points from the (modified) highway code after me...

      Up and over is not a valid alternative to overtaking.

      Cars are not sexy. Meet some women. They can be sexy.
  • On the downside... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mvdwege ( 243851 ) <> on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:32AM (#10478330) Homepage Journal

    ...It is not user-serviceable without a proprietary toolset.

    Jokes about comparing proprietary software to a car with the hood welded shut are very chilling if this car is the beginning of a trend.

    • by harakh ( 304850 )
      uhm... There are quite alot of cars that are "contains no user-serviceable parts" - Audi A2 comes into mind - You can't open the hood without a proprietary key. But it's not like there is alot in a modern car that joe sixpack can poke around with to their advantage.
    • by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @11:13AM (#10479151) Homepage Journal
      Completely untrue. I owned one of the orginal smarts for 3 years (I've since switched to the Smart Roadster), and found it far easier to work on than my old Ford car was.

      As for a welded-shut hood, good luck trying to weld plastic, if you do manage it, I'd be interested to see which bits you plan to weld, considering the engine is at the back of the car, reached by lifting out a panel in the trunk.

      There are NO proprietary fastenings that I managed to find, apart from some very clevel soft plastic fixings that are designed to be undone with your fingers to allow access to the bulbs. You can even swap the coloured panels with another colour when you get bored with them. I've known Smart owner's club members do this in a car park with no unusual tools, it's that easy.
  • Style issues (Score:5, Insightful)

    by StateOfTheUnion ( 762194 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:36AM (#10478358) Homepage
    Many of the style issues that I'm reading on /. are the same ones I heard from European comsumers when the SMART car was first released. Too small, too silly, girly looking bright colors. Just not a macho car.

    A few years later I heard things like great mileage, funky distinct design, low price, reliable, and most importantly able to park it in the tiniest of spaces.

    I don't think that the SMART will ever be the cross country driving car of choice, but as a second car in the city for the 2 parent working family I think its a brilliant idea . . . Why drive a 4000 pound SUV to pick up a gallon of milk at the supermarket if you don't have to?

    • Re:Style issues (Score:4, Insightful)

      by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @09:16AM (#10478517)
      My bicycle is my second car. Smaller, cheaper, zero emissions, and in town, almost as fast.
    • Re:Style issues (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CreationLtd ( 541052 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @09:51AM (#10478676)
      Here in Madrid, Spain there are masses of Smart Cars. It is definitely a success here especially due to the appalling parking problem. There is so much double parking that the sound of someone honking their horn trying to get their car free is a hourly occurrence.

      Smart Cars are so short they can park nose in parking spaces that aren't wide enough for a Hummer to park laterally.

      As for style, my wife squeaked in delight for months on seeing them and often wanted no more than to "hug" them. They've even turned into small art and advertising billboards in the case of rental and corporate vehicles.

      They're definitely a cool car by most Spaniards' measurements.

  • Here's the crash test results for MCC Smarts.

    Go figure for yourself if that's safe(enough) for your. Generally -at least here in Germany- the cars are considered safe, but we don't have that many 5000lbs SUVs to crash against either... []
  • Cars != smart (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cenuij ( 526885 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:43AM (#10478378)

    I would expect that the majority of the US and Canada will continue to buy more 'full on gas guzzzlers' as opposed to these not so smart cars. We've had them in Europe for a while and they really haven't made a big impact here, even with the more green and liberal thinking that we have.

    Why? welll like i say, they really arent that smart. Selling cars that reduce the amount of co2 is always a worthwhile thing however you cannot substitute sensible, flexible and economically sound [] public transport policy for the automotive industry's equivalent of the 'light/lite' cigarette. Not that most of the tax payers in the western hemisphere care anyway, that's why we still buy and love the freedom of our cars.

    Make no mistake, car sharing and long distance travel is pretty much unviable in these things so understandably they only really get bought in urban areas. Mostly smart cars are seen and viewed as a posher and wankier version of the scooter []. Mercedes would be thrilled if everyone in the city bought one; I'm not so sure our planet would be

    Cool? not...
    Disclaimer: I'm not a 'manc', I'm Scottish

  • " It's cute, tiny, and plastic. The kids love it "

    Only if they hate their parents as there is no where for them to get into this 2 seater so they cannot go out with mum and dad anymore. This is not a family car so kids are not a part of the picture. This is for stupid young idiots who like to look 'different' and end up all looking the same because they all go around in the latest fashion. If you want an economical family car get a diesel VW Passat estate which is several times bigger and just as econom
  • There things have been available in europe for a few years, and I've observed that their true reason for being is to be given away as the first prize in all kinds of stupid contests and quiz shows.
  • How I miss.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bigattichouse ( 527527 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:54AM (#10478425) Homepage
    How I miss my Subaru Justy [], not quite as efficient as this, but a great little car. I would get 50mpg+ if I drove on the interstate and occassionally got behind a semi.
  • by SamSim ( 630795 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:56AM (#10478433) Homepage Journal
    Keep the box it came in.
  • by debrain ( 29228 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:57AM (#10478439) Journal
    To complain about people not understanding Linux or open source would be entirely hypocritical of this community, with all the posts about the lack of safety of Smart Cars posted here! This is one of the safest vehicles in the world.

    Lighter = safer
    Everything else aside, this vehicle is safer because it's lighter. There is no substitute for a lack of mass when your vehicle becomes a ball of plastic and metal momentum; the more weight, the more force is required to curb that momentum, so to speak. Force, in this case, typically translates into rolling, or crumpling. Modern vehicles do lots of both, particuarly SUV's. So bear in mind, mass is an inherent evil in vehicle safety.

    Solid cage = safer
    Second, this little critter has a solid cage that can withstand the problem I just mentioned - its own mass. Most vehicles will crumple under their own mass at moderate speeds. At 65 km/h, head-on this car will walk away mostly unscathed, and the passenger will only have minor injuries.

    Lateral weakness = myth
    From the side, the risk of being "T-boned", or laterally impaled, is highly overrated. The solid beam connecting the rear wheels, the axle, and the similarly reinforced front wheels, in such close proximity pretty much insure that if you are hit, unless it's a motorcycle, two of your strongest and most reinforced points of impact (the tires) are involved in the crash. Furthermore, there is a metal cage surrounding you that can easily withstand substantial impact.

    Run-over = myth
    The risk that it will be "run over" are also highly overrated. If a big vehicle hits a smart car, it becomes a wedge, pushing the larger vehicle into the air so that the larger vehicle can dissipate its energy on other things, like concrete, pavement and telephone poles.

    See, eg. Smart and Tough, The National Post, 6/11/04

    Arguing that this car isn't safe is being on the wrong side of competence, akin to arguing the superiority of Microsoft Windows' security. There may be valid points, but for the most part, you're just wrong.

    (Not to sound too cynicial, but I think it's a valid point, and hypocricy is a peeve)
    • Solid cage = safer Second, this little critter has a solid cage that can withstand the problem I just mentioned - its own mass. Most vehicles will crumple under their own mass at moderate speeds. At 65 km/h, head-on this car will walk away mostly unscathed, and the passenger will only have minor injuries.

      From what I hear, cars crumple for a reason. That reason being changing your deceleration from 60 mph to 0 in .0001 seconds to .01 seconds (made up numbers, but it's something like that). Now with the
    • Lighter = safer
      Everything else aside, this vehicle is safer because it's lighter. There is no substitute for a lack of mass when your vehicle becomes a ball of plastic and metal momentum; the more weight, the more force is required to curb that momentum, so to speak. Force, in this case, typically translates into rolling, or crumpling. Modern vehicles do lots of both, particuarly SUV's. So bear in mind, mass is an inherent evil in vehicle safety.

      Uh, where did you learn physics? Or did you mean "safer

      • by debrain ( 29228 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @12:26PM (#10479611) Journal
        Lighter is safer. Ask any traffic engineer.

        Reduce braking distance
        Having done any research into vehicle safety would reveal this (though, admittedly, I didn't mention it, presuming that anyone with a iota of physics background would take this for granted): Even though you can't reduce reaction time, the next most important factor in traffic safety is braking distance, which is directly proportional to mass. You stop faster with less weight.

        Accident avoidance
        After that, I understand the next most important safety factor is avoidance, a function of lateral traction, proportional to tire width, gumminess, and closeness of the axels, and inversely proportional to mass. The less your mass, the more lateral traction. If you can avoid or stop before the accident, the odds of a detrimental accident decrease.

        Functions of time
        So, as you say, "it's not the speed that kills you, it's the sudden stop", the Smart Car simply slows faster prior to the sudden stop, so when that sudden stop happens, you're going much slower. Safety as a human function is directly proportional to the time of the stages in an accident: realization, reaction, braking or avoidance, and impact. More effective braking and avoidance make your time more useful.

        Crumple zones
        Albeit, in a smaller vehicle, there is a small but substantial increase in the potentially vital impact component. However, if you put a 730kg (1600lb) vehicle (the Smart car) against an average vehicle sized sedan at 1500kg (3300lb), the sedan will simply stop further away from the point where the driver realized and acted on an emergency situation. That distance translates into not just fewer accidents, but lower speed at the point of impact, hence less force involved in the impact, and hence fewer and less severe injuries.

        Emperical questions
        To measure the safety, you have to look at the merits of the differences between this vehicle and others. These merits are not necessarily obvious, involving at least:
        * How do most accidents happen?
        * How do most injuries happen? I believe the vast majority of accidents are rear-enders, which can be substantially reduced with better breaking distance and avoidance.
        * How many vehicle accidents are related to inadequate lateral traction?
        * Does the increase in avoidance and braking capacity result in fewer accidents?
        * Lower the cost insurance?
        * Lower fatalities? Of the owners? Of SUV drivers?
        * Result in fewer fender-benders?
        * How many are head-on collisions? (The only case where this vehicle would seem to be substantially less safe, isn't it? This is the case where momentum clashes and your body velocity goes from +X to -X)

        Geneology of Driving
        These are sort of anecdotal arguments that I've bought into: Humans aren't designed to acquire and react to information at speeds provided for by vehicles, though we have compensated very well. Two factors remain very good at making drivers more comfortable, and hence more adequate: visibility and fit. The more visiblity you have, the less compensation your brain has to do to make up for blind spots. The better you feel you have control of the vehicle, ie. how it 'fits' you, the less time your brain spend compensating for unresponsive or poorly responsive mechanics. However, a large car can have both of these. There is also a question of security; insecure drivers, ie. those in a smart car who are uncomfortable being surrounded by SUV's, may react poorly (or perhaps drive more cautiously; who's to say).

        I hope that clarifies the reality and reveals to you how physics of lighter vehicles can, and typically emperically does, make them inherently safer. Bear in mind, the old Volvo tank model of safety has its merits, too. But the Smart Car is not a death trap, unlike nearly all SUV's (save the Subaru Forrester, in the USA, iirc).

    • by bgarcia ( 33222 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @10:26AM (#10478876) Homepage Journal
      This has got to be the biggest bunch of B.S. I've ever read. And the moderators who modded the parent post up should be ashamed of themselves for their complete and total lack of understanding of simple physics.
      Lighter = safer Everything else aside, this vehicle is safer because it's lighter...
      Everything else aside, the vehicle is LESS SAFE to the occupants because it's lighter. I suppose that makes it more safe to the people in the other vehicle. When two masses hit, the lighter mass undergoes a greater change in velocity. This will be "felt" by the occupants, which means they're going to be injured easier.
      Solid cage = safer Second, this little critter has a solid cage that can withstand the problem I just mentioned - its own mass. Most vehicles will crumple under their own mass at moderate speeds...
      All cars have solid cages to protect the passengers. The difference is that the Smart has very little of the car that is not within this cage. Other cars are meant to crumple in an accident. Crumpling reduces the speed at which the rest of the car slows to a stop during a crash. This is so that the occupants of the car do not feel the full "smack" of going from 60mph to 0mph in a hundredth of a second. Decelerating that quickly will severely injure a person. Airbags can help, but regular cars have those as well. Advantage larger car.

      • This has got to be the biggest bunch of B.S. I've ever read. And the moderators who modded the parent post up should be ashamed of themselves for their complete and total lack of understanding of simple physics.

        A rudimentary knowledge of physics is no compensation for ignorance of traffic engineering and safety. Prior to spreading FUD, perhaps read the referenced, or looking up on google a relevant, article. (Would you do any less if Windows were claimed to be the patron saint of network efficiency?)

    • by radiotalent ( 546684 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @10:56AM (#10479039)
      Everything else aside, this vehicle is safer because it's lighter.

      Which is why we hear of so accidents involving Mack Trucks and Yugos that end badly for the over-the-road truck driver.
    • When the SUV's bumper just start at the top of the Smart's 14" wheels, I don't see how a solid axel or reinforced ties are going to help at all. In fact, that would go for the car as a whole. In Europe it would seem safe, but in North America, where there's a lot more SUVs and semi's, I think it's a different story. The Smart car isn't as dangerous as it might first look, but by no means is it "invincible" as you seem to make it out.
  • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @08:58AM (#10478443)
    Smart cars are one thing, but how about smart drivers?

    Drivers seem to be getting dumber, and ruder, by the day.

    So, I'd like smart cars that pull over to the curb and turn themselves off when the driver does something stupid, like turning right across three lanes of traffic from the far left lane, or speeding along the right shoulder on an Interstate to pass, or speeding up to go through a yellow light, or....
  • I tried the download, but it timed out between the dash and front seat.
  • by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @10:16AM (#10478816) Homepage
    I have a feeling that the manufacturer hasn't seen the state of the roads in Detroit. One of these could seriously fall into a pot hole and be gone forever. I have a Nissan Sentra and a Sierra, and driving the car around Detroit is like commuting through an obstacle course every day. The SMART car is half the size of that. I don't care how well it performs in an accident, I'd rather not BE in an accident.
  • by haggar ( 72771 ) on Saturday October 09, 2004 @11:34AM (#10479295) Homepage Journal
    It requires no parking (space, effort or cost), zero maintenance, it's extremely environment-friendly and it's very silent.

    Other advantages: no need for a garage, no problem starting it up in winter and, best of all, it steers itself to destination.

    It's only used in urban areas, but so are the SMARTs.

    This wonder of modern technology is our rock-solid public transportation network. My visit to Dallas a couple of years ago has convinced me that Americans have no clue of this concept. Heck, I'm not even sure you guys ever heard of bycile lanes or walkways.
  • The gripping hand... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Daniel Rutter ( 126873 ) <> on Saturday October 09, 2004 @06:44PM (#10481872) Homepage that the Smart city cars (as opposed to the impossible-to-hate roadster []) are just not good cars for the money.

    There's unquestionably room in the market, especially in highly urbanised countries where fuel is expensive, for tiny funky city cars like these. I'd buy one. But the Smarts, despite being a Mercedes co-production (which would lead you to think it'd be nice but have lousy quality control...), are just lousy to drive and too expensive, according to all reports. The reviews (Review 1 [], Review 2 []) have been so lousy that I ruled out even ever test driving one; if the things cost $AU5000 then that'd be another matter [], but they're really quite expensive here, and the US pricing would seem to be similarly inflated, compared with the lower pricing of regular cars in the States.

    Here in Sydney, Australia, I see a Smart tooling around every now and then, but every single one I've seen has been a corporate promotional vehicle, not a private car. There's no reason at all for a private citizen to buy one of these expensive, annoying little things, when perfectly good four-seat Japanese subcompacts are available for the same money. Korean ones [] cost rather less.

If you're not careful, you're going to catch something.