Category Archives: Driving

Classic Cars May Be Gorgeous, But Millennials Don’t Care. Will They Become Orphans?

Mustang Row at the Woodward Dream Cruise. Photo by David Guralnick of the Detroit News, shared on Twitter.

Across the United States, it’s car show season. This past week, as many as a million spectators crowded Woodward Avenue north of Detroit, for the annual Woodward Dream Cruise.

In Pebble Beach, California, ultra-expensive collector cars were on display at the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

And, there have been less-extravagant car shows of many sizes in towns around the country — if those car shows weren’t canceled due to the expense, the weather, lack of interest or someone to organize it.

As much as many people love classic cars, there’s a growing concern among the owners of this rolling architecture that nobody will want to take care of the iron that they’ve so lovingly maintained.

Scary data

Even as the elite gathered out west, Fortune Magazine reported that auction estimates at Pebble Beach fell 14 percent, to $290 million. It’s the third straight year in which Pebble Beach auction figures have dropped.

The fear about the future of classic cars also shows up in data from Hagerty, which tracks collector car values for insurance purposes. Their website is a gold mine of information about the value of and future trends in vintage cars.

Right now, there’s a definite reason to worry. Hagerty’s monthly index of collector car values stood at 64.86 in August, falling for the sixth time this year.

Says Hagerty: “The number of owners expressing the belief that the values of their vehicles are increasing continues to gradually decline, and this is true for the owners of both mainstream and high-end vehicles. The drop is particularly pronounced, however, for owners of previously hot models like the Ferrari 308 and Ford GT.” Continue reading

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Filed under cars, Driving

Readers: Tell Us How You’re Getting Around — And How You Plan To Get Around

Curbing Cars readers: we’d like your insight. We’d love to know how you’re getting around and how you plan to get around in the future.

Send us an email at curbingcars@gmail.com, and let us know:

How old is your car? What’s the approximate mileage? Is this the longest you’ve ever kept a vehicle?

Have you downsized the number of vehicles in your family fleet? Or, are you adding vehicles?

Would you consider an electric vehicle or hybrid for your next vehicle? What would convince you to buy one? How about an autonomous vehicle?

And, do you think you could get along without a vehicle all together?

We’ll publish the best responses in a future story, so please make sure we have the correct spelling of your name and your hometown.

Thanks!

 

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Filed under cars, Driving

Self-Driving Vehicles Are Coming Faster Than You Think

This fall, University of Michigan students can test out self-driving shuttles. Photo: University of Michigan

Self-driving car testing is now so common that people in California don’t even look up when one goes by. Tests have taken place in Arizona and Michigan, too, while New York State recently approved a year-long pilot program to test autonomous vehicles.

But thus far, members of the public have largely been unable to ride in the latest self-driving vehicles. That’s about to change.

This fall, the University of Michigan will become the first campus in the country to offer a self-driving shuttle service. There will be 15 Nayva Arma buses that will take riders between the North Campus Research Complex on the north side of Ann Arbor and the Lurie Engineering Center about a mile away. In all, the loop will be about two miles.

These students, faculty and staff members may be part of a historic shift in the way we get around. And, it could cause some societal disruption.

This past week, Robin Young, co-host of NPR’s Here & Now, talked to Huei Peng, the director of MCity, where the university is conducting its self-driving vehicle research. (I interviewed Peng at MCity for Here & Now last February.)

The self-driving shuttles grow out of the miniature town that Michigan has created so that car and technology companies can test their vehicles and autonomous vehicle features.

How they get around

In the interview with Young, Peng answered some of the questions that many people have had about self-driving vehicles. They operate in two ways. One is by fixed routes, in which the shuttles only travel from point A to point B and back. The other is by GPS, so that the shuttles can figure out alternative routes in case something gets in the way of their programmed route.

That’s vital in Ann Arbor, where construction is taking place all over town, and where accidents and other obstructions are common. To be sure, the shuttles will travel a construction-free route, but high winds and blizzards can always cause havoc.

The university is also concerned about something I’ve worried about. The shuttles just seem too tempting for student mischief. Peng talked about students wanting to cram into a shuttle and set a Guinness World Record. I’ve been concerned that some smart tech geek will figure out how to re-program a shuttle and take it to Chicago. Continue reading

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Filed under autonomous, Driving, public transportation

As Bike Lanes And Riders Increase, So Does The Controversy

Philadelphia has been installing bike lanes for over a decade. They’re a big draw for its young residents.

You can’t drive through any major U.S. city now without spotting a bike lane. Separate spaces for bikes have surged in popularity, prompting cities across the country to widen their roads, and in some cases reduce car lanes, to accommodate for cyclists.

Bike lanes are typically five feet wide. They run adjacent to car lanes, generally traveling in the same direction as cars.  They can next to the car lanes, separated by either by a parking lane or other barriers, and are most often in addition to sidewalks.

Based on data from seven major U.S. cities, the number of bike lane miles has increased about 50 percent from between 2006 and 2013, and cycling has increased about 100 percent, according to the National Association of Transportation Officials (NACTO).

Bike lanes also decrease risk for bicyclists. The same NACTO survey showed that an increase in bike lanes was correlated with a decrease in risk, which diminished by about 50 percent between 2006 and 2013.

Between 2000 and 2012, the number of commuters who rode their bicycles to work rose by 60 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of bicycle commuters rose from about 488,000 in 2000 to about 786,000 in 2012.

Despite the positive impact of bike lanes in the U.S., a number of factors are causing bike lane backlash, making some people weary of them and their implementation. Continue reading

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Filed under bicycling, Driving, urban planning

The Auto Industry Prepares For A Big Change In Direction

Which direction will the auto industry take?

If you follow auto sales, you know two things about how they’ve been doing recently. They boomed the past couple of years, but they’ve started to trail off this year.

That’s no surprise. The auto industry is a cyclical business. But, there’s a growing awareness that the automotive landscape is changing, and even people who produce cars for a living may not realize what is heading their way.

That’s a conclusion from a new report by AlixPartners, the strategic planning and consulting firm used by major companies worldwide. Some of AlixPartners’ experts were involved in advising the Obama Administration about the  bailout of the auto industry, back in 2009, so it’s a prestigious name.

There’s an all-new automotive ecosystem developing, and I fear that many players really aren’t prepared for it,” says John Hoffecker, global vice chairman at AlixPartners. “The changes coming are the biggest since the internal-combustion engine pushed aside horses and buggies.”

But, Hoffecker also says the changes are as unpredictable as “trying to guess which app is going to be most popular on next year’s smartphones.”

I spent some time reading the report this past week, and these things jumped out at me.

New ideas and competition

Five years ago, Tesla was a curiosity, a billionaire’s pet project promising to produce ultra-luxury electric cars. Now, Tesla is one of the most valuable brands in the automobile industry and it just built the first Model 3, the moderately priced electric car it wants to sell to the masses.

Tesla’s rise shows just how fast things are moving in the industry and the influence that an outsider can have. To give it some perspective, five years is the length of a car company’s production cycle, the number of years that a model is generally on the market before a major change.

AlixPartners says there are now 50 companies competing to produce autonomous vehicle systems. It’s a “wild west” atmosphere that the industry hasn’t seen in more than a century, when there were dozens of car companies in the U.S. and around the world. Continue reading

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Filed under car sharing, cars, cities, Driving, economy, ride sharing

My Transportation Diet: Getting Around By Bus And Bike In Des Moines

This week, Curbing Cars inaugurates a new feature called My Transportation Diet. We’re asking our audience to tell us how they get around where they live and work.

First up is Michael Leland, who is the News Director of Iowa Public Radio. He lives in Des Moines.

“My transportation habits are a little of several things.  I live about a half-mile from my office in Des Moines, so it takes me about 10 minutes to walk to work.  I’ve mostly walked to work for the last two jobs I’ve had over the last 10 years.

I drive if I need to do something after work, like grocery shop.

I live a couple of blocks from a commercial district, so a coffee shop, my bank, and several restaurants and bars are all within a 15 minute walk from my home.

I live close enough to downtown (20-25 minutes) to walk to things like the library, barber, farmer’s market, church, etc., though sometimes I take a free circulator bus into downtown from the office, and then walk home.

I mostly use my car for errands like grocery shopping and other weekend needs.  Sadly, the downtown area in Des Moines doesn’t have stores like Target, PetsMart, and other major retailers, so I need my car for those.

I do some errands by bike,  but Des Moines is sort of behind the curve in developing a good system of bike routes and lanes.  I would do more if that was the case.”

We’d love to feature you in My Transportation Diet. Send us your story at curbingcars@gmail.com. We’d welcome your photos and video, too.

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Filed under bicycling, cars, cities, Driving, My Transportation Diet, public transportation

What’s Your Transportation Diet?

Summer is underway, and we’d like to hear from you. What is your transportation diet these days?

How would you describe your mix of personal transportation? Do you primarily drive, walk, or use public transportation? How often do you bike, use a skateboard or even get around by boat or plane?

Perhaps things change depending on your schedule. For instance, you drive in one or two days a week, and share a ride the rest of the time. Or, you’ll only drive if you have an early meeting. Let us know.

Knowing how you get around will help us frame our future coverage. We want to know whether our audience is relying on cars, buses, streetcars, their two feet, etc.

We’ll publish your responses and we’d love it if you’d include a photo of a video of your commute or leisure travel.

Please tell us your name (not a screen name, please) where you live, and if there are any roads you regularly take (for instance, Interstate 96, Milwaukee Avenue, Canal Street, and so on) or transportation systems that you regularly use, like the New York subway, the Boston T or rapid bus lines.

Send comments, photos and videos to curbingcars@gmail.com.

Thanks!

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Filed under bicycling, cars, cities, Driving, Travel, walking

Ford’s CEO Is Out, But Its Journey To The Future Continues

Among Detroit auto companies, Ford Motor has been the most vocal about the need to adapt to the new future of transportation.

Its executive chairman, Bill Ford Jr., has talked for years about the need to balance transportation modes with protecting the environment. The company has taken office space in a shopping mall near its Dearborn, Mich., world headquarters for an effort to come up with new ideas.

Unfortunately, its investors have not been convinced Ford was moving fast enough. Ford shares have fallen nearly 40 percent since 2014. And now, that perception has cost CEO Mark Fields his job.

Ford announced Monday that Fields will be replaced by James Hackett, who has been in charge of Ford Smart Mobility, the new division that is tasked with the company’s efforts on self-driving cars, ride sharing and everything to do with mobility.

The swift action, which was barely rumored for a week, puts mobility front and center among Ford’s priorities.

Under the old rules by which car companies played, Fields should have had a solid grip on the company’s operations. Ford, like other Detroit carmakers, has enjoyed recent record profits based on strong sales of pickups and sport utility vehicles. It even posted a $2 billion profit last year in Europe, long a sore spot.

But the old rules are no longer how car companies are judged. The competition is no longer between Detroit, Tokyo, Korea and Germany. The Americans have to prove they can keep up with Silicon Valley companies, such as Google, Apple and especially Tesla, which has become a darling of the technology world for its electric vehicles.  Continue reading

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Filed under cars, Driving, mobility

A Look At The Future Of Transportation With Bob Brinker On MoneyTalk

Curbing Cars editor Micheline Maynard spent time on MoneyTalk with Bob Brinker this week, discussing General Motors, driverless cars, Detroit bankruptcy and the journalism industry. Listen to the radio segment here (the interview begins at about 9:15):

Micheline Maynard On Moneytalk

 

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Filed under book, car sharing, Driving, media, public transportation

Solar Roads Next Bright Idea?

The next big idea in renewable energy might be right below our feet and under our tires. Idaho inventor Scott Brusaw has an interesting vision for the future of America’s roadways and it involves turning each one into its own powerhouse, the Associate Press reported last week.

While the millions of miles of U.S. roads work each day to transport people and goods, Brusaw came up with a new way to put them to work by replacing asphalt with solar panels. Brusaw’s invention involves hexagon-shaped panels that can replace traditional road surfaces and at the same time they function as normal highways, they can also use energy from the sun to create electricity.

The AP said the panels are quite durable and “can withstand the wear and tear that comes from inclement weather and vehicles, big and small, to generate electricity;” a seriously need when considering our traditional highways span mountains, valley, deserts and all sorts of terrain and weather. The product is already in use at Brusaw’s company headquarters in Idaho, where it’s parking lot is comprised of 108 panels that vehicles have driving on without damage, according to AP.

Brusaw’s company estimates that if every road was covered with solar panels, it would produce three times more electricity than the U.S. consumes each year. The company also highlights the added benefit of construction and engineering jobs to install the panels nationwide.

Solar roads could provide more services than just roadway and energy production though. The AP reports the panels are heated, which would melt ice and reduce hazards in colder climates, and each panel has LED lights that can be used to configure parking lots, lane lines, or notify drivers of upcoming hazards, reducing the need to repaint and re-asphalt roadways.

For Brusaw, the applications are endless and his company would like to see the panels installed not just on roadways, but bike paths, driveways, tarmacs and parking lots as well.

 

 

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Filed under Driving, economy, infrastructure