Thursday, February 25, 2010

Passive-Aggressive Parking

Passive-Aggressive Parking: "

Townmouse points to this wonderful series of passive-aggressive “winter dibs” notes.

And, yes, we do think highly of ourselves here in NY — so much so that we wouldn’t think to claim ownership of a parking space, leaving it sitting vacant the entire day, just because we exhumed our car from it.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Free NY Parking Thanks to Meter Beaters

Free NY Parking Thanks to Meter Beaters: "


After record numbers of scheming motorists beat, jammed and otherwise vandalized NYC parking meters last year, the number of operational meters is at an all-time low. Officials say some drivers are mad about increased parking fees, and take it out on the meters. Others jam things (not money) in the slots in order to take advantage of a new law that says cars parked at broken meters won’t be ticketed for as long as the time-limit allows. According to the NY Post, 83.9 percent of the 55,000 on-street meters were working from July 1 to Oct. 31, 2009. Why not just turn them all into into bike racks!

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Adjust Your Car Mirrors to Fully Cover Your Blind Spots [Driving]

Adjust Your Car Mirrors to Fully Cover Your Blind Spots [Driving]: "

The way most drivers, and car makers, keep their side mirrors doesn't actually cover the blind spot outside the driver's vision. Car and Driver illustrates a car mirror setup that, once you get used to it, could prevent lane change freak-outs.

The auto magazine culls its mirror alignment diagram from a paper published in 1995 by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). That paper suggested, basically, moving your side mirrors to point further out into adjacent lanes, a trick that can take some getting used to:

The paper advocates adjusting the mirrors so far outward that the viewing angle of the side mirrors just overlaps that of the cabin's rearview mirror. This can be disorienting for drivers used to seeing the flanks of their own car in the side mirrors. But when correctly positioned, the mirrors negate a car's blind spots. This obviates the need to glance over your shoulder to safely change lanes as well as the need for an expensive blind-spot warning system.

So the trick is to get the side mirrors aligned just outside what your rearview mirror covers, and rely on your own vision to cover the areas in your peripheral vision. Neat trick, but as the magazine (and their commenters) mention, you'll want to train yourself on a neighborhood road before taking this setup out on the interstate.

Check out the Car and Driver post for a full look and explanation of the SAE-approved side mirror setup. Got a better solution to your side mirror setup? Do tell in the comments.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Firsthand look at 2010 @toyota Prius cruise control via @scobleizer

Firsthand look at 2010 @toyota Prius cruise control:
"I uploaded a YouTube video: You've heard Steve Wozniak claim that his Toyota Prius (same model as mine) accelerates on its own in a potentially dangerous way. I show how the radar system works and demonstrate that it can accelerate wildly even when it's working normally. It especially doesn't work well in tight turns, for instance, but I never feel out of control or feel that the system is dangerous. Anyway, I've put more than 12,000 miles on my new Prius so far and find the system is the best cruise control on the market -- by far -- and is safer than other types of cruise control, which can lull you to sleep. Take a ride with me as I demonstrate this new feature, which uses radar to follow the car in front of you."

This is an excellent, albeit uneasy example, of Robert Scoble's experience of the cruise control issues with the Toyota Prius cruise control. Watch the video at the link.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Broadway Traffic Redo Yields Mixed Results, Mayor Says via NYT

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg acknowledged on Tuesday that the city’s ambitious re-engineering of the Midtown street grid had a mixed impact on traffic in the area, although he seemed to express general support for the pilot project, which barred automobile traffic along two sections of Broadway.

“Some of the roads are better; some of the roads are worse. Not everybody likes everything,” Mr. Bloomberg said at a press conference on Tuesday at a city-run career center in downtown Brooklyn. “On balance,” he added, “I hear very few complaints.”

The mayor spoke a day after The New York Times reported that two officials briefed on traffic data from the project characterized the results as disappointing. The project includes the closing of Broadway to motor traffic near Herald and Times Squares and was expected to speed traffic along Avenue of the Americas and Seventh Avenue. One official said the traffic flow did not meet the department’s goals. Mr. Bloomberg must approve the changes before they can become permanent.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Toyota's remedy for recalled pedals announced, dealers to remain open extended hours

Toyota announced early this morning exactly how it's going to repair 2.3 million Toyota brand vehicles affected by its latest sticking accelerator pedal recall. The fix involves installing a 'precision-cut steel reinforcement bar' into the pedal assembly that will reduce friction between a shoe and the adjoining surface, the place where Toyota has found these defective pedals to be sticking. The automaker says the fix is 'effective and simple' - it should take around 30 minutes to perform - and has been rigorously tested on pedal assemblies that have been known to stick. Since words only paint so clear a picture, we'll be searching for more visual evidence today of how the repair works, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, Toyota says owners of vehicles affected by the sticking pedal recall can expect a letter by mail sometime in the next couple of days with instructions on how to coordinate their repair with a dealer. Dealers, meanwhile, will remain open extended hours to perform the repairs, some even 24 hours a day. And for those owners whose vehicles are affected by both the floormat recall and sticking pedal recall, Toyota will try to coordinate only one trip to the dealer for both fixes.

Follow the jump for Toyota's official statement as well as a video released today in which Toyota Motor Sales President and COO Jim Lentz expresses some heart felt apologies to current customers.

[Source: Toyota]

Continue reading Toyota's remedy for recalled pedals announced, dealers to remain open extended hours

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How Not to Convince People Your Cars Won't Kill Them [Badvertising]

How Not to Convince People Your Cars Won't Kill Them [Badvertising]: "

Usually car companies talk about how awesome their cars are. Since recalling millions of its vehicles, Toyota has had to persuade people their vehicles won't kill them. Today, they bought newspaper ads throughout the country to try to do this.

The full-page ad—which appeared in major markets Sunday—is the first step in a massive PR push as Toyota goes about trying to rehabilitate its image after the company shut down production of eight of its affected models last week. This is not going to be easy given the uniquely terrifying problem a few of their cars had: The gas pedal got stuck, causing drivers to go faster and faster until they died. Late last year, Toyota recalled some 3.8 million cars because of the problem. Tiger Woods did some bad stuff, but he never killed anyone.

So does today's ad make us feel better about not dying in a Toyota? Not really. Instead of the straightforward mea culpa Toyota should have offered, the ad is a mealy-mouthed attempt to spin a major misstep into an honorable sacrifice by Toyota on behalf of its precious customers, so fragile and easily damaged by car crashes. Here is our annotated edition (click for full size):

1) Font, Helvetica: Good choice. Spare and sans-serif, Helvetica projects reliability and remind us of road-signs signs expressly meant to keep us from crashing into things. (DO NOT ENTER.) The font was was in fact originally designed to be devoid of emotional content, a completely neutral form of information conveyance. Incidentally, neutral is the gear Toyota suggests you shift into if your accelerator gets stuck and you find yourself careening out-of-control down the Jersey Turnpike. Write that down!

2) Slogan, 'A Temporary Pause. To Put You First': Toyota recalled millions of cars because some of them do the worst thing possible for a car to do: They get stuck in 'go'. To spin the production stoppage as 'putting customers first' rather than 'keeping customers from getting killed by our dangerously defective product' is lame. This is like if Abraham Lincoln had proposed abolishing slavery as way to 'put black people first.' No: slavery is wrong, and so is making cars that sometimes double as coffins with power windows. What about 'putting us first' by making sure your cars do not infinitely accelerate for no reason. Seriously, we're having trouble imagining any worse defect a car could have. Maybe: The GPS system is screwed up so it only gives you directions to sex offenders' houses?

3) Pause button icon: Taken with the Helvetica font and gray/white color-scheme, we're getting a very iPod vibe here. This is confusing because we don't see much of a connection between a music player renowned for its design and a car that can maybe lead to your fiery demise. FLASH POLL: What song do you want to be listening to when your Prius' accelerator gets stuck under the floor-mat, propelling you at 98 mph through a guardrail on California One, out into the Pacific and eternal sleep? Pantera? Yeah, probably Pantera.

4) Blurb: 'Why we've temporarily stopped some of our plants.' OK, we are not brand identity consultants, but we've read enough Malcom Gladwell to know that Toyota owners and potential buyers do not care at all about the fact that Toyota has 'stopped some of their plants.' They are mainly worried about: Is my Toyota going to autonomously attempt a landspeed record when I'm driving to the grocery store? How do I protect my family from this threat that has apparently been lurking right beneath my feet for years? Will I ever feel safe again? The only guy sitting over his cereal and his Sunday New York Times wondering why Toyota has stopped some of its plants is the guy who lives next door to one of those plants and notices the bilious yellow smoke that spews constantly from its smokestacks is gone and he is able to see the mountains.

5) 'Toyota Customer Experience Center' hot-line: Hello, thank you for calling the Toyota Customer Experience Center. If you have questions about your vehicle's warranty, please say 'Warranty'. If you'd like to find a Toyota dealer near you, please say 'nearest dealer'. If your accelerator has become stuck to the floor of your vehicle, please scream in abject terror. You have selected [blood-curdling scream]. I'm sorry, all of our Customer Experience Specialists are assisting other customers. Please hold. Your call is important to us.

6) 'Toyota: Moving Forward': And there's nothing you can do to stop us. Literally.