The “triple black” look ( known more iniquitously as “murdered out”) remains popular across the entire demographic range here in L.A. Cruising Culver City yesterday I spotted two Toyotas, on opposite ends of the brand’s lineup, sporting the ever-intimidating black paint/black rims/black interior formerly reserved for the only the most gangsta-asses of, well, another part of town.
This FJ Cruiser caught my attention first, with that sweet hood-covering bull bar. It was also sporting some light armor on the rear and an always awesome roof access ladder. Naturally, I sprinted across four lanes of traffic to have a look.
The hood protection apparatus, while cool looking, appeared to be on a hinge (for engine access) and therefore pretty much useless. What’s the point of one-inch steel bars if they’re going to be secured by a five-millimeter flex point? You know that thing’s going to snap the first time an elephant sits on it.
I would have gone with a drop-in style link, and held it in with a few massive cotter pins or shackle links but whaddo I know.
At least the smashed roof lights indicate that this guy’s been doing some real off-roading. Or he just tried to park in the Trader Joe’s garage on Washington Street, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt because I don’t care what the haters say- this is a sick looking rig.
Less than thirty minutes later I spotted this Prius rocking the same kickass color scheme.
To be honest, I was so surprised/pleased to see aftermarket wheels on a Prius that I almost glossed over the fact that the badges and interior had been soaked in sinister pitch-black paint.
It’s pretty tough to stand out amongst the horde of Prii running around California, but I think this dude’s got it dialed in pretty nicely. He even paid for his parking space! Good on ya, mate.
I would make a comment about how the Prius is really the perfect drive-by assault vehicle, its silent operation ideal for a sneak attack, but posting that kind of shit on the internet will get you straight shot… so I’ll just leave it for you to infer.
The “self driving car” concept isn’t completely new- we’ve even explored it here on this site.
But Google has made a new stride in the technology that’s worth mentioning- adaptive autopilot that actually lets cars drive themselves in traffic.
Many previous systems depended upon either a magnetic trail to follow or a pre-programmed route. This new automation equipment – the giant hat on the Prius in photo below – is capable of 360 degree perception, anticipation of other vehicles movements, and best of all it can’t get drunk.
Apparently Google testers have covered over 140,000 miles with “minimal human intervention” (probably latte stops) and 1,000 miles without any human control at all.
Six Toyota Pruii and one Audi TT have been equipped with this gear, and have been lumbering around the streets of San Francisco in beta testing.
Of course, mass production of such vehicles is still “a long way off” as admitted by Google R&D staff, but the fact that it’s being tested in public roads must mean Big G is pretty confident in what they’ve got so far.
And no, none of them have crashed into anything as of this writing.
The tech is impressive, but I’m not sure I’m completely sold. Haven’t these people seen I, Robot?
But having to choose between a world run by robots or one littered with shitty drivers, I guess it’s a toss up.
As long as they keep this stuff away from my motorcycles, I wish Big G the best of luck.
Here’s the breakdown of a test car, from CNET:
The debate rages on about whether or not hybrid cars are “better” for the environment than, say, a 1984 Honda Civic (of course, the answer is that they are not).
But the fact remains that some people would just rather have a new car- and can actually afford it.
When first introduced in the 1990′s hybrids like the original Honda Insight were laughed off as goofy and nerdy, an unfortunate stigma that tended to plague their drivers as well.
I mean, come on- gasoline was $0.99 a gallon and the new Suburban just came out.
Once environmentalism came into fashion, the “hybrid movement” had another shot and the cars manifested themselves in the shapes we’re more familiar with today:
So it’s a little more “practical”, but it’s still reserved for people confident enough to ride around in a jellybean/shuttlecraft/dorkmobile.
Before you start commenting that Toyota “couldn’t keep Priui on their lots” and they “sold out quickly” I will say yes that’s true, but you’ve got to consider that these cars were produced in quite limited numbers for the first few years of their lives. Something to do with the government not having enough cash to award all those “green” rebates.
In the last few years, a new hybrid market emerged: high-end luxury. Now that Green is the new Gucci, the sex appeal of a Range Rover is just a little dented thanks to its bigfoot-sized carbon footprint.
So Lexus introduces the 460h, and later its RX and GX series hybrid vehicles.
Not to be left behind their Japanese rivals… Mercedes Benz cooks up the S400 Hybrid:
This thing takes the “green” concept a step further with interior parts made of recycled fibers and all that crap.
Plus, it’s an F-ing S Class. This car is decidedly awesome.
Well now that rich people ride around in hybrids… the rest of us start wanting them too.
Ford provides the Fusion hybrid, Toyota releases a Camry hybrid.
Decidedly less exciting than a new S-Class… you can Google you own images for those if you’re that interested.
And no I didn’t forget about the SUV hybrid market. I just think it’s stupid.
Ford Escape: too small to carry a lot or tow anything and definitely not going off-road, so why deal with poor aerodynamics?
Chevy Tahoe/Escalade Hybrid: It’s sad when automakers can brag about 20 MPG. If you need a vehicle this big, get a diesel.
So let’s recap.
Ten years after the original Insight rolled out, we’ve got a pretty dynamic family of hybrid cars on the market for all four of the major car-buying demographics:
Nerds: Toyota Prius, Honda Insight
Rich People: Lexus LS460h, GX…h, RX…h
Normal People: Toyota Camry Hybrid, Ford Fusion Hybrid (and I think the Ford Escape hybrid snuck over here from the SUV category).
SUVs (also applicable to Rich People): Chevy Tahoe Hybrid/Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
But in the next year or two, the forerunners of hybrid cars are promising two new models to appeal to the most important demographic of all: Cool Kids.
You know, the people that marketing companies everywhere want you to be- the Facebook using, vintage sunglass-wearing, music-loving party people that are in catalogs.
These people need cars like the Lexus CT200h and Honda CR-Z.
The “hot hatch” category is finally getting back to its MPG-friendly roots with this pair of tiny-yet-heterosexual cars that I wouldn’t mind owning.
Once thought of as just a teaser concept, I’m now pretty sure the CR-Z is for real. The picture above is from Honda’s official website.
These cars are pretty cool, but don’t get your hopes up about neck-snapping performance.
Despite what the world’s ricers and eurotrash will have you believe, you’ve got to remember to take “hot hatch” performance with a grain of salt.
I’m afraid you will get crushed by creepy old guys in Mustangs at a stoplight in one of these.
But you’ve got to remember you’re getting 30+ MPG, you don’t have to rebuild your carburetor every Sunday, and your girlfriend won’t complain about the omnipresent smell of gasoline when you take her places.
And if you can’t afford one… try an 88 CRX.
In the next stage of its world-takeover scheme, internet superbrand Google has set up “RechargeIT.org” an electric-car initiative that puts- you guessed it- electric cars in the hands of their employees to use as commuter vehicles.
They’ve got a large garage of plug-in electric hybrids called the “GFleet” made up of Toyota Priui and Ford Escapes, some with full-plug in technology, and few gas-burning cars too for the sake of comparison.
It seems like the experiment was pretty straightforward- see how much fuel/CO2, cute baby whales they could save by swapping SUVs for plug-in hybrids.
The test results are pretty much exactly what you would expect, the plug-ins used a lot less gas than the Ford Expedition they were comparing it to. Google chose not to publish the chart of how many more times the guy driving the SUV got laid during the experiment.
But it’s not these results that make RechargeIT.org significant.
This initiative is the first of a non-automaker corporation throwing serious money and research into revamping the American automotive infrastructure.
And if other companies want to be as cool as Google, which I bet a few will, we might see further adaptations of the technology with private funding.
The worlds governments are trying their best to save our planet and solve the petrol problem, but sometimes a little “private funding” is what a movement needs to really get its feet off the ground and start making headway.
When large corporations in America and worldwide start contributing to the solution to the problem of “our current transportation system is not sustainable” situation, I’m sure we’ll see results faster than if it were left for Uncle Sam to deal with all by himself.
If you’re ambitious and want to learn more/waste a little more time, check out some of the links above or watch Google’s goofy promotional video: