Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Fred Meier reports that Ferrari has unveiled its fastest car ever, a nearly 1000 hp. gas-electric hybrid dubbed LaFerrari that does 0-62 mph in less than 3 seconds, 0-124 in less than 7 seconds, 0-186 mph in 15 seconds. "We chose to call this model LaFerrari," says Ferrari's President, Luca di Montezemolo, "because it is the maximum expression of what defines our company – excellence....Aimed at our collectors, this is a truly extraordinary car which encompasses advanced solutions that, in the future, will find their way onto the rest of the range." LaFerrari is the company's first hybrid and has a system that incorporates technology developed for the Scuderia Ferrari Formula One race car's KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) setup. In LaFerrari, the hybrid (HY-KERS) version uses a 6.26-liter, non-turbo, V-12 gas engine rated at 800 hp coupled with a 163 hp. electric motor for a combined rating of 963 hp. A second, separate electric motor drives the power accessories. The 60 kilogram battery pack in the cabin floor is charged during braking and also when the gas engine is producing more torque than needed to move the car, in which case that torque is converted to energy and stored. The LaFerrari, priced at over $1 million and limited to 499 buyers fits into Ferrari’s strategy of boosting profitability with ever-more-luxurious offerings while limiting its annual output to about 7,000 cars to maintain exclusivity. “After several depressing years, wealthy drivers in Europe think the worst is behind us, and they’ll start spending again on their favorite cars,” says Fabio Barone, the owner of two Ferraris ."
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "USA Today reports that Australian billionaire Clive Palmer has unveiled plans for construction of Titanic II, a cruise ship designed as a "full-scale re-creation" of the Titanic adding that the ship will be built in China and begin carrying passengers in 2016. The Titanic II will be built 883 feet long – 3 inches longer than the original Titanic– and weigh 55,800 gross tons, according to Palmer who stopped short of calling the vessel unsinkable. It will carry a maximum of 2,435 passengers and 900 crew members, and include a gymnasium, Turkish baths, a squash court, a swimming pool, a theater and a casino. Like the original ship, there will no TVs aboard and probably no Internet service, Palmer says. Passengers will be able to dress in 1912-style clothing, giving them an opportunity to step back in time, or pretend they are DiCaprio or Kate Winslet, who starred in James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster movie. But industry insiders are skeptical about the commercial viability of the ship. "Titanic II is a curiosity and may have a draw as a floating hotel, but the idea of spending close to a week at sea on a vessel built around such a thin premise is seen as a stretch, at least by many within the industry," says Michael Driscoll, the editor of the industry newsletter Cruise Week adding that he is skeptical about the future of Titanic II in the aftermath of the Carnival Triumph fire and last year's shipwreck of the Costa Concordia off the coast of Tuscany. Paul Kurzman, whose great-grandparents, Isidor and Ida Straus, died on the Titanic, says he has "no problem" with the construction of Titanic II. "I don't think they would have had any problem whatsoever, as long as the Titanic II steers clear of icebergs.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Guardian reports that Frank Lecerf was driving his Renault Laguna in Northern France when the car's speed jammed at 60mph. Then each time he tried to brake, the car accelerated, eventually reaching 125mph and sticking there. While uncontrollably speeding through the fast lane as other cars swerved out of his way, he managed to call emergency services who immediately dispatched a platoon of police cars. Realizing Lecerf had no choice but to keep racing along until his fuel ran out, they escorted him at high speed across almost 125 miles of French motorway, past Calais and Dunkirk, and over the Belgian border. After about an hour, Lecerf's tank spluttered empty and he managed to swerve into a ditch in Alveringem in Belgium, about 125 miles from his home. "My life flashed before me," says Lecerf. "I just wanted it to stop." His lawyer says Lecerf will file a legal complaint over "endangerment of a person's life"."
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner is grounded until Boeing can show it’s safe to fly following a series of technical problems. This isn’t the first time aeronautical engineers have been up against system glitches or even major design flaws in new aircraft. Many in the industry offhandedly refer to them as teething problems. Now Marketwatch takes a look at four other planes whose careers got off to rough starts: the Airbus 380, the McDonnell-Douglas DC-10, the De Haviland Comet, and the Lockheed Constellation."
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Facing a $10 billion dollar revenue shortfall for transportation financing, the Oregon Legislature is expected to consider a bill to require drivers with a vehicle getting at least 55 miles per gallon of gasoline to pay a per-mile tax after 2015 to offset the loss in tax revenue for fuel efficient cars at the gas pump where the government has traditionally collected money to build and fix roads. Oregonians currently pay 30 cents per gallon, a tax that is automatically added at the pump but as cars become more fuel efficient and alternative fuel sources are identified, state officials project gas tax revenue will decline. "Everybody uses the road, and if some pay and some don't, then that's an unfair situation that's got to be resolved," says Jim Whitty of the Department of Transportation. Opponents of the Oregon proposal say it will hurt a new industry. "It will be one more obstacle that the industry and auto dealers will face in convincing consumers to buy these new cars," says Paul Cosgrove, a lobbyist for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Other states, such as Nevada and Washington, are also looking at a per-mile charge and a Washington law that would charge electric car owners an annual fee goes into effect in February. Oregon did a pilot study of the mileage tax (PDF) where participants paid 1.56 cents per mile and got a credit for any gasoline tax they paid at the pump. According to the study although initial media portrayals of the system were almost uniformly negative 91% of test participants preferred the mileage tax to paying gas taxes."
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Eriq Gardner writes that Warner Brothers is suing California resident Mark Towle, a specialist in customizing replicas of automobiles featured in films and TV shows, for selling replicas of automobiles from the 1960s ABC series Batman by arguing that copyright protection extends to the overall look and feel of the Batmobile. The case hinges on what exactly is a Batmobile — an automobile or a piece of intellectual property? Warner attorney J. Andrew Coombs argues in legal papers that the Batmobile incorporates trademarks with distinctive secondary meaning and that by selling an unauthorized replica, Towle is likely to confuse consumers about whether the cars are DC products are not. Towle's attorney Larry Zerner, argues that automobiles aren't copyrightable. ""It is black letter law that useful articles, such as automobiles, do not qualify as 'sculptural works' and are thus not eligible for copyright protection," writes Zerner adding that a decision to affirm copyright elements of automotive design features could be exploited by automobile manufacturers. "The implications of a ruling upholding this standard are easy to imagine. Ford, Toyota, Ferrari and Honda would start publishing comic books, so that they could protect what, up until now, was unprotectable.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "About 80 percent of the gasoline consumed in the US is blended with ethanol, primarily E10 meaning gasoline with a 10 percent mix of ethanol, generally derived from corn. Now Kate Sheppard writes that the Environmental Protection Agency has approved a new policy that will allow states to raise the blend to up to 15 percent ethanol (also known as E15), approved for use for cars and light trucks from the model year 2001 and later. A few weeks ago, AAA issued a statement saying that the EPA's new policy creates the "strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties and vehicle damage." The worry is that people will put E15 in their cars without realizing it. AAA surveyed vehicle manufacturers, and found that only about 12 million of the 240 million vehicles on the roads today are built to use E15 gasoline. The EPA will require that gas pumps with E15 bear a warning sign noting the blend and that it is not recommended for cars older than the 2001 model year. But what happens if you accidentally use it? "Nobody really knows what negative effects [E15 is] going to have on the vehicle," says Brian Lyons, Toyota's safety and quality communications manager. "We think that there needs to be a lot more study conducted to make sure there are no longer term effects on the vehicle. So far everything we've seen says there will be." The concern is that repeated, long-term exposure could cause the higher-alcohol-content fuel to degrade engine parts like valves and cylinder heads—which could potentially cost thousands of dollars to replace. Gas station owners don't like it very much either, because they'd likely have to upgrade their equipment to use it. Nor are environmental groups big fans of the EPA's decision arguing that increasing the use of ethanol can drive up food prices, and isn't the best means of reducing our reliance on foreign fuels. The ethanol lobby is the only group that really seems to like the new rule. "We've force fed a fuel into every American's car that benefits a few thousand corn farmers and ethanol refiners at the expense of virtually every other American," says Scott Faber."
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "AFP reports that Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski is calling for an easing of the ban on using mobile phones and other electronic devices on airplanes during takeoff and landing saying devices such as smartphones "empower people" and can boost economic productivity. "I write to urge the FAA to enable greater use of tablets, e-readers and other portable electronic devices during flight, consistent with public safety," the FCC chief said in the letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. "They empower people to stay informed and connected with friends and family, and they enable both large and small businesses to be more productive and efficient, helping drive economic growth and boost US competitiveness." The ban is in place based on the assumption that devices could interfere with an airplane's navigation equipment. But a number of news stories have questioned the validity of this claim, and many point out that some people forget to turn off their devices during flights. The FCC studied the question several years ago but found insufficient evidence to support lifting the ban at the time. But not everyone has been forced to put their gadgets away. Earlier this year the FAA approved iPads instead of paper flight manuals in the cockpit for pilots, but the agency still refuses to allow passengers to read Kindles and iPads during takeoff and landing."
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Tracy Loew and Elida S. Perez report that at least 16 US cities, including Austin, Denver, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC, have now installed bicycle-specific traffic signals that pop up alongside the traditional round red, yellow and green signals controlling intersections. The reason for the new signals? Bicyclists can be at risk when entering an intersection on a yellow light that allows enough time for cars to clear the intersection, but not for bikes and even traditional green lights may not allow enough time for a bicyclist starting from a stopped position to make it across. Bicycle signals can also help prevent collisions when a motorist is turning right and a cyclist is going straight, by allowing the cyclist a few seconds head start. "It's a lot quicker and easier to make my way through that intersection now," says Joel Cleland, 39, who rides his bike two miles to and from work each day. "I've never waited more than 20 seconds for the new light to turn green." Portland, Oregon, installed one-of-a-kind active warning sign last fall, requiring drivers turning right at a busy intersection to look over their shoulders and yield to cyclists passing through in the bike lane. The sign, triggered by a sensor, flashes only when a bike is approaching. California passed laws setting out rules and regulations for bicycle traffic signals in the early 2000s and last year Oregon lawmakers approved Senate Bill 130, adding bicycle-only signals to the state's list of traffic control devices. "At some point they will appear in our national standards," says traffic engineer Gary Obery, "but that process involves trying things out and seeing what works best.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "A recent assessment by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, based on random roadside checks, found that 16.3% of all drivers nationwide at night were on various legal and illegal impairing drugs, half them high on marijuana. Now AP reports that with marijuana soon legal under state laws in Washington and Colorado, setting a standard comparable to blood-alcohol limits has sparked intense disagreement because unlike portable breath tests for alcohol, there's no easily available way to determine whether someone is impaired from recent pot use and if scientists can't tell someone how much marijuana it will take for him or her to test over the threshold, how is the average pot user supposed to know? "We've had decades of studies and experience with alcohol," says Washington State Patrol spokesman Dan Coon. "Marijuana is new, so it's going to take some time to figure out how the courts and prosecutors are going to handle it." Driving within three hours of smoking pot is associated with a near doubling of the risk of fatal crashes. However, THC can remain in blood and saliva for highly variable times after the last use of the drug. Although the marijuana “high” only lasts three to five hours, studies of heavy users in a locked hospital ward showed THC can be detected in the blood up to a week after they are abstinent, and the outer limit of detection time in saliva tests is not known. "A lot of effort has gone into the study of drugged driving and marijuana, because that is the most prevalent drug, but we are not nearly to the point where we are with alcohol," says Jeffrey P. Michael, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's impaired-driving director. "We don't know what level of marijuana impairs a driver.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "AP reports that with Pot soon legal under state laws in Washington and Colorado, officials in both states are trying to figure out how to keep stoned drivers off the road as law enforcement officials wonder about whether the ability to buy or possess marijuana legally will bring about an increase of marijuana users on the roads. "We've had decades of studies and experience with alcohol," says Washington State Patrol spokesman Dan Coon. "Marijuana is new, so it's going to take some time to figure out how the courts and prosecutors are going to handle it. But the key is impairment: We will arrest drivers who drive impaired, whether it be drugs or alcohol." Marijuana can cause dizziness and slowed reaction time, and drivers are more likely to drift and swerve while they're high and Marijuana legalization activists agree people shouldn't smoke and drive. But setting a standard comparable to blood-alcohol limits has sparked intense disagreement because unlike portable breath tests for alcohol, there's no easily available way to determine whether someone is impaired from recent pot use. If scientists can't tell someone how much marijuana it will take for him or her to test over the threshold, how is the average pot user supposed to know? "A lot of effort has gone into the study of drugged driving and marijuana, because that is the most prevalent drug, but we are not nearly to the point where we are with alcohol," says Jeffrey P. Michael, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's impaired-driving director. "We don't know what level of marijuana impairs a driver.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The WSJ reports that US airlines are facing their most serious pilot shortage since the 1960s, with federal mandates taking effect that will require all newly hired pilots to have at least 1,500 hours of prior flight experience—six times the current minimum—raising the cost and time to train new fliers in an era when pay cuts and more-demanding schedules already have made the profession less attractive. Meanwhile, thousands of senior pilots at major airlines soon will start hitting the mandatory retirement age of 65. "We are about four years from a solution, but we are only about six months away from a problem.,” says Bob Reding, recently retired executive vice president of operations at AMR Corp. A study by the University of North Dakota's aviation department indicates major airlines will need to hire 60,000 pilots by 2025 to replace departures and cover expansion over the next eight years. Meanwhile only 36,000 pilots have passed the Air Transport Pilot exam in the past eight years, which all pilots would have to pass under the congressionally imposed rules and there are limits to the ability of airlines, especially the regional carriers, to attract more pilots by raising wages. While the industry's health has improved in recent years, many carriers still operate on thin profit margins, with the airlines sandwiched between rising costs for fuel and unsteady demand from price-sensitive consumers. "It certainly will result in challenges to maintain quality," says John Marshall, an independent aviation-safety consultant who spent 26 years in the Air Force before overseeing Delta's safety. "Regional carriers will be creative and have to take shortcuts" to fill their cockpits."
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Alexander George writes about a new app that takes the data from a smartphone’s accelerometers, GPS, and inclinometer to plot information for braking force, lean angles, speed, and on-track location onto Google Maps to shave precious milliseconds off each lap time in motorcyle races. Race Sense is designed to be a useful tool for someone who races for a living and a very fun toy for those who just like to brag about what lean angle they got at their ride day, and what top speed they reached down the main straight. Australian Grand Prix motorcycle road racer Anthony West provided much of the R&D that went into tweaking the app. "With sponsorship's so hard to find and I need another way to survive. I spent some of my own money developing it with an Italian guy who also likes to ride himself, and who writes programs," says West who designed Race Sense to fulfill the needs of a genuine MotoGP racer. "Sometimes it's one second [separating] 20 people. If you adjust one little thing thinking about something in one corner you can lose four places.""