In the recent 2nd Philippine International Motor Show, INQUIRER.net speaks with several car manufacturers about the recent concept cars they have lined up in the future. These "cars of the future" are now using other alternative means of powering engines, including electricity (using more powerful and less expensive batteries). Hybrid cars are also the rage today, as manufacturers respond to pressures the global green movement to come up with ways to cut on energy consumption amid the oil price increases. Here's a video interview with Mitsubishi vice president for customer service Dante Santos who explains how an electric car works. Here's a video interview with Korean carmaker Kia Motors explaining the displayed "fuel cell electric vehicle" or FCEV. The FCEV runs on electricity produced by combining stored liquid hydrogen with oxygen, as explained by Edgardo Castro Jr., training manager for Columbian Autocar Corp, Kia's local distributor. Here's also a closer look at Toyota's hybrid Prius sedan that alternately runs on gas and electricity. Toyota has created a hybrid pickup naming it as one of their "cars for the future." Unveiled earlier this year, the Toyota A-Bat is further elaborated on by Allen Rufo, Toyota Philippines vice president for customer service marketing, who also gives his views about hybrid vehicles in the local market. Video taken at the Philippine International Motor Show held at the World Trade Center. Finally, Japanese carmaker Honda unveils a new version of the Jazz, also called Fit in other countries. In this video interview, Honda Philippines head of sales operations Voltaire Gonzales talks about the new features in the Jazz.
August 2008 Archives
Those who saw the 1975 film “Death Race 2000” based on Ib Melchior’s short story “The Racer” might get a kick out of the 2008 remake written and directed by Paul W. S. Anderson simply titled “Death Race.” In a future America, prison inmates are forced to compete against each other in a driving arena. The prison warden forces a prisoner (Jason Statham of “The Transporter”) into becoming a driver, and he becomes a crowd favorite known as “Frankenstein.” The cars in “Death Race” are deadly as the title implies. Take a gander at these awesome road machines, view the images here but don’t take these cars out on the road!
By Reed Stevenson Reuters AMSTERDAM -- Next time you're stuck in traffic on the way to an unfamiliar destination, navigation device pointing the way, look around. Chances are, there are other drivers just like you, staring back and forth between the tail lights ahead and the little screen with a digital map instructing you to stay on the road -- a road often clogged with bumper-to-bumper traffic. A new wave of personal navigation devices, led by TomTom of the Netherlands, promises smarter, more reliable traffic information to help them avoid road congestion and find alternate routes to their destinations. Traffic information on navigation devices has long been available over radio frequencies and more recently, over mobile data connections, by using information from traffic cameras and sensors on the road. Garmin, TomTom's main rival, has a deal with Sirius XM Radio's XM Satellite Radio to offer traffic information across North America. Taking a further step, TomTom's HD Traffic series uses a nifty source of congestion data: the mobile phones of drivers inching through traffic jams. Mobile radio towers anonymously track the progression of mobile signals on roadways, and TomTom analyzes that information for users of its HD Traffic-enabled devices. The updates arrive every three minutes, Amsterdam-based TomTom says, five times more often than any other service. "Almost every car I see in a traffic jam has a TomTom," said John Meijer, an accountant in Amsterdam. With 16 million people packed into a country only slightly larger than the U.S. state of Maryland, congestion in the Netherlands can be a real problem. That's why TomTom is betting that drivers will be willing to pay as much as 500 euros ($750) for its top-of-the-line TomTom GO 930 HD Traffic device. Although the new traffic service is available only in the Netherlands, and only in four major cities right now, TomTom continues to add features to its regularly updated models and make them more available on both sides of the Atlantic. Garmin's top portable car navigation model, the nuvi 880, by comparison, costs $880, but more affordable models are priced closer to $500. Both offer other features, such as multimedia features, speech and the ability to connect to a wireless Bluetooth device. Such features might sound daunting, even for most technophiles, but navigation device makers have made ease of use a top priority, an important consideration given the distractions for drivers who need to keep their eyes on the road. TomTom's device displays traffic information on the main touch-sensitive screen, and with just three or four taps, reroutes drivers with new directions. Its top models also aim to solve another problem potentially more annoying and dangerous than traffic jams: outdated maps. Users can tap through their devices to report missing roads, bad traffic signs and other errors. That information is then shared and used as a guide to update digital maps, which can in turn be downloaded onto other navigation devices.
By Cenon Bibe Philippine Daily Inquirer IT WAS not what I had expected. The trip from our place in Cainta to the station of the Light Rail Transit in Santolan, Pasig City, usually took 15 to 20 minutes. In the morning of August 5, the day for the Santolan to C.M. Recto leg of the Rush Hour Commute project of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and INQUIRER.net, it took 40 minutes. Sitting in heavy traffic throughout the usually short trip, I was dead sure that I would be in for a long journey to Manila that morning. My watch read “8:12” a.m. as I met my partner Alex Villafania of INQUIRER.net at the waiting shed across the train station on Marcos Highway. We were supposed to have met before 8 a.m. to undertake our part of the project to gauge the various ways of getting from one point of Metro Manila to another. “If my trip is any indication, we can be sure that traffic will be killing us all the way to (Claro M.) Recto,” I told Alex, trying to prep him for our journey—a series of jeepney rides that would take us from Pasig to Cubao in Quezon City to San Juan and then to Manila. After a brief discussion of how we would go about our trip, we jumped onto a Cogeo-Cubao jeepney. “This would take us straight to Edsa,” I said. It would be in Cubao where we would take another jeepney to Recto. Traffic was light to moderate on the Cubao-bound lane of Marcos Highway, but the jeepney driver took his time trying to pick up every possible passenger he could find along the way. It was 8:18 a.m. and we had just crossed the Marcos Highway Bridge over the Marikina River when our journey came to a crawl. We later discovered that traffic was backed up from Aurora Boulevard, fronting the Philippine School of Business Administration (PSBA), to Barangka in Marikina City, because of a buildup of vehicles trying to navigate the U-Turn slot fronting the school. The less than one-kilometer stretch of road that intersected with Katipunan Avenue took eight minutes to conquer. “Simula pa lang yan,” I thought out loud. I was so sure the road to Cubao would be the real test of our resolve—or so I thought. The time was 8:26 a.m. when we passed by PSBA. Eight minutes later, we were already on the outskirts of the Cubao commercial center, or more precisely the Araneta Center. What?! Two to three kilometers in eight minutes? It must be a fluke. It should have taken at least 30 minutes. To my mind, it was impossible. Traffic was light to moderate. It was either something was wrong that day or it had been a very long time since I went to Cubao riding a jeepney that the traffic gridlock that I knew while I was growing up in Quezon City had become a thing of the past. Anyway, it was a very pleasant surprise. What was not surprising was when the jeepney that Alex and I had taken suddenly took a right turn at Stanford street. It was no longer going to Edsa. “Hanggang dito na lang po tayo,” the young yet be-mustachioed aide of the driver told us. Trip cutting...Well, some things don’t change. We didn’t get the full distance for the P10 a piece fare that we paid for the ride. Choosing not to protest, Alex and I jumped out and started an eight-minute walk to Westpoint street, right under the Araneta Center-Cubao station of the LRT Purple Line. After a minute wait, a jeepney came up from Westpoint and we jumped on as it turned right on Aurora Boulevard going toward Manila. “Brod, magkano hanggang Recto?” I asked the driver, who later gave his name as Roseldo Pacia, a 41-year-old driver from Batangas. Peering back to us through his rear-view mirror, Pacia responded, “Sebentin pipti.” Then, sounding more cautious than curious, he abruptly added, “Para saan ba yan?” as he looked back at Alex who was taking a video of passengers getting on. We explained about the project and that put him at ease. As we started this step of our journey, I was still waiting for the horrendous traffic that would make our morning miserable … but it did not happen. At least, it not happen where I had expected it to happen. Apart from the five-minute stops to wait for and pick up passengers at Seattle street, V. Mapa and Stop and Shop, the jeepney ride was smooth and continuous up to Pureza in Manila. Pacia later told us that traffic had become lighter partly because of the jump in fuel prices and largely because of the operation of the LRT. More people have been taking the train, said Pacia, who has been plying that Cubao-Divisoria route for the last 18 years. But the silver lining for commuters and motorists has been a dark line for drivers. The driver said that it had one mishap after another for them. The full operation of the LRT in 2004 saw their daily earnings fall from P1,500 to P700. When the price of diesel started it upward spiral, the P700 take home of drivers has gone down to P300, Pacia said. Passengers have been so scarce that when a saleslady paid 50 centavos short of the P8.50 minimum fare, Pacia said he was even thankful that she took his jeepney. As if to grant my “wish” of traffic turning heavy, vehicle flow came to a crawl from Pureza to the Nagtahan bridge and then from the Legarda station of the LRT to Mendiola. The “crawl” from Pureza to Mendiola took 15 minutes. From thereon, traffic was again light to moderate. By 9:38 a.m.—or 1 hour and 26 minutes later—Alex and I got to the CM Recto station of the LRT’s Purple Line. Not bad, I thought. The misery I had anticipated did not happen. Gladly, things did not turn out as I had expected. But even though I believed we made good time, we were still last among all the volunteers to the Rush Hour project to arrive at our destination. Well, the time and the P27.50 I spent for the trip were worth the adventure.
By Agence France-Presse SINGUR, India -- His voice shaking, security guard Sanjib Chowdhury says he fears opening the gate of the eastern Indian factory that is assembling what will be the world's cheapest car. Furious farmers and rights groups say the expropriation of land in West Bengal state for the plant was little more than theft and protesters are doing their best to throw a spanner in the works. "Villagers are threatening to kill us if we keep working at the site," he quakes through the iron gate of the project where the Nano, dubbed the "king of econoboxes" with its promised price tag of $2,500, is being made. "I didn't report for duty for two days, I was so scared," Chowdhury said at the factory in Singur in West Bengal, viewed by the state's Marxist government as a test case for drawing more big-scale industry to the impoverished region. The car -- which Tata chairman Ratan Tata conceived with the aim of getting Indians off their motorcycles and into safer cars -- was unveiled with huge fanfare early this year at India's premier automobile show in New Delhi. But since the sporty four-door, five-seater with its 623-cc engine was shown to the world to industry acclaim its ride has been anything but smooth. "Hardly a day goes by" without often violent protests by activists angered by the government's seizure of farmland for the project, said Chowdhury. The walls of the plant owned by Indian giant Tata, which earlier this year bought British motoring icons Jaguar and Land Rover, are plastered with warnings to workers to leave or "face the consequences." "Opposition parties and land owners protesting the land acquisition are threatening the workers not to report to duty," said senior police official Raj Kanojia, adding that security in the area had been tightened and police watch towers are being built. Standing near a factory shed, labourer Tapan Gayen said: "We're working under the shadow of fear. Work has almost come to halt." But despite the protests, Tata officials say the plant -- slated to produce 250,000 Nanos annually -- is nearly complete and insist the car will roll off the assembly line before year end. The head of the Singur Land Protection Committee protesters, Becharam Manna said, the group is "not against industry" and wants Tata to set up the factory in Singur. But the group is angered at how land for the factory was taken by the state government, and wants it to return 400 acres (161 hectares) of 997 acres seized from farmers who did not want compensation. Some farmers value their land "more than gold," he said, adding the money given was too little and they can't find other work. The farmers' protests have sparked a debate over whether farmland should be used for industry in India, where 60 percent of the more than 1.1 billion-plus population lives off agriculture. A showdown looms as the protest group, backed by the powerful regional Trinamool Congress party, aims to cut off the plant's power and water supplies starting August 24. So far, neither Tata nor the state government is budging. Tata Motors managing director Ravi Kant concedes the situation is "bad" but not so bad for the car company to exit, and insists the Nano will roll out from the Singur plant sometime in the October-December financial quarter. "We could have set up the plant anywhere. But we decided on West Bengal as we want this part of the country to see development," Kant told shareholders late last month. "Some elements are causing problems. But we're moving ahead," he said. Opposition to the plant is not the only problem Tata Motors faces. Global steel prices are at record highs, making it tougher than ever for the company to keep the Nano's base price at $2,500. Still, it is expected to hold the price at the announced $2,500 for the launch period at least as chairman Ratan Tata said, "a promise is a promise."
By Agence France-Presse BRUSSELS -- Cars stuck in traffic or on slippery roads will be able to communicate with other vehicles in a bid to cut down on traffic jams and road accidents, plans of the European Commission showed. "Today's commission decision is a decisive step towards meeting the European goal of reducing road accidents," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. Getting critical messages through quickly and accurately is a must for road safety, Reding said. She said 24 percent of driving time in Europe was spent in traffic jams that could cost the EU economy 80 billion Euros ($124 million) by 2010. "So clearly saving time through smart vehicles communications systems means saving money," she said. The commission believes that the agreed communication system could also save lives. In 2006, more than 42,000 people died and more than 1.6 million were injured in road accidents in the European Union. The commission's decision was also aimed at "spurring public funding in essential roadside infrastructure," the EU's executive arm said in a statement. Commission spokesman Martin Selmayr stressed that the decision gave the green light for industry to set up the systems in new cars. But there would be no obligation on European road users to obtain or use the new technology when it became available. A typical scenario for the use of the system would be for a vehicle to detect a slippery patch on a road and deliver the information automatically to cars located nearby. Also if a traffic management center wanted to inform drivers of a sudden road closure, and the alternative route to take, it could do send the information to a transmitter detector along the respective road, which would then pass it on to vehicles driving by. Selmayr said the technlogy already existed and now the automobile and telecoms industries could work on putting it in cars, something that had been impossible before the pan-European bandwidth was made available. While he would not put a date on its availabity to car users, a European source said it was hoped it could be available by 2010 or 2011.
Editor's Note: This is an account of Team CAR in the Rush Hour Commute race written by Stephanie Asuncion and Elvira Mata. WE may have clocked in second and spent a fortune on gas, but we got to our destination without killing anyone for a seat. Best of all, our clothes were unwrinkled. Expecting the ride to be long, we packed mineral water, pan de sal, gummy bears, audio CDs and weird conversation ranging from the difference between WiFi and WeRoam and how to tell if that homeless man is sniffing glue or just happy to see us. Team CAR took an hour and 19 minutes to travel from EDSA North station all the way to Pasay Taft station, which has a distance of 16.8 kilometers. A dry run of the same route done on a rainy Sunday took all of 22 minutes. Team CAR members are: driver Elvira Mata, navigator and note taker Stephanie Asuncion, both from the Philippine Daily Inquirer and videographer Alex Villafania of INQUIRER.net. The Honda CRV 2004 (manual transmission) traveled an average of 7.8 km per liter of unleaded gasoline. Elvira had two pan de sals, Stephanie had a handful of gummy bears while Alex just drank water. Timeline and details follow: 8:01 a.m. Elvira, Stephanie and Alex meet on Edsa beside the North Avenue MRT station. While waiting for Alex to arrive, Elvira and Stephanie look up at the MRT overpass and gasped as they watched the long line of sardines, er, people inch their way from the stairs to the counter to buy tickets. Alex has texted saying he was on the other side of EDSA trying to cross (part or swim) through the multitudes. Opening prayer: Thank God we chose to take the car. 8:02 a.m. A quick establishing shot, a round of introductions, and they're off! Stephanie offers sustenance in the form of gummy bears, Elvira apologizes for her "hooded look," mumbling something about not wishing anyone to see her face on the Internet and yes, she is taking medication for the strange behavior, while Alex takes a swig of mineral water, perhaps to calm his nerves? Kidding. Final destination: Pasay-Taft MRT station. 8:06 a.m. Four minutes into the race, Team CAR is caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic near the Timog Avenue flyover. Stephanie tells Elvira to turn right, find a short cut, anything as long as they're moving. Because of Elvira's inability to swerve like a crazy person, Team car gets stuck a few meters from GMA-7. A jampacked MRT train zips by. We wonder if team MRT is on that train. Elvira pops in a CD in the player, Ravi Shankar's "Chants of India" and everyone settles in for a very slow, clutch-riding trip. 8:16 a.m. Team car still caught in traffic near the GMA-Kamuning MRT station. It starts to drizzle. Dark clouds loom over the horizon. We spot a man on a motorcycle dressed for the worst weather—bright yellow raincoat down to his ankles, shoes wrapped in plastic bags, one, SM blue and the other, clear plastic. Alex, a techie, sends updates to the mother net. 8:22 a.m. Team CAR reaches GMA-Kamuning MRT station. Finally. The drizzle turns into a heavy downpour. Alex, who's shooting the sights, tries to roll down the windows at the back but they are stuck. Uh-oh. Elvira explains this is the first time she's had this many human passengers (she usually travels with cats) so the doors and windows are hardly ever used. 8:24 a.m. Traffic eases up a bit. Another MRT train races past the team. We are now on top of the Edsa Kamuning flyover. Mercifully, Elvira gives her CD of Indian chanting a rest and turns on the AM radio: Mike Enriquez reports about a fire at the Good Earth Emporium in Sta. Cruz, Manila that has affected LRT operations. Stephanie: Good thing MRT operations are normal, otherwise, this race would be reset and we'd all have to get up at 5 a.m. Again. Elvira: I've only seen the dawn twice. This is my second time. 8:29 a.m. Team CAR crawls past EDSA-Kamuning intersection. Elvira is stressed by the radio news and plays her Indian chanting CD again. All together now: Deep, cleansing breath. 8:32 a.m. Vehicles start to pick up speed near the Aurora underpass in Cubao. On our right, passenger buses take turns to cross the Aurora Boulevard-EDSA intersection. Motorcycle riders definitely have an advantage over us, as they can weave in and out of traffic. The downside, however, is that they are exposed to the elements. 8:37 a.m. Team CAR moves at a much faster pace and reaches Araneta Center-Cubao MRT station. Nine stations (of the cross?) to go. 8:39 a.m. Traffic builds up near the Santolan flyover as passenger buses swerve to the left to get on the flyover. 8:41 a.m. On top of the flyover, we see a long line of vehicles occupying all lanes on EDSA all the way to the Santolan MRT station. 8:42 a.m. After the Santolan MRT station, vehicles start to pick up speed. It starts to rain again. A Krispy Kreme billboard makes Stephanie's mouth water. 8:45 a.m. The car is traveling at 60 kph, the team's fastest speed since the start of the race. 8:47 a.m. Team car passes the Ortigas MRT station, slowing down as we approach Shaw underpass. 8:53 a.m. The good news is that the rain has stopped. The bad news is that we are moving at a snail's pace as we approach Pioneer Street. We pass by the Boni MRT station four minutes later. Buses and taxis crowd the yellow lane, watched closely by MMDA traffic enforcers. People in rain gear stand at intersections while those who forgot their umbrellas at home seek shelter underneath the MRT station. At the corner of EDSA-Mandaluyong rotunda, two MMDA traffic enforcers hold up signs which read, "Bawal bumisina (Don't honk)." 8:58 a.m. Traffic stretches all the way to the Guadalupe MRT station. Change of pace. Elvira pops in Alanis Morrisette's latest CD "Flavors of Entanglement." Team is happy that after four quiet years, Alanis has another CD out. But is it as good as her phenomenal "Jagged Little Pill" CD? Not too bad. 9:02 a.m. We finally reach the MRT station in Guadalupe. The yellow lane is empty. Where have all the buses gone? Several billboards catch our attention especially that of a hottie lying supine, dressed only in his underwear. Eye candy. Alex disagrees but quietly. 9:05 a.m. Team CAR is caught in heavy traffic once more as it approaches the intersection of Estrella Street. Aaaaaaarghs! Team MRT is probably having breakfast and reading the Inquirer at the Mall of Asia. 9:07 a.m. Team CAR joins the long line of vehicles inching their way along the Ayala underpass. 9:11 a.m. We pick up speed. 9:13 a.m. We are traveling at 65 kph (a record!) as we approach Magallanes MRT station. 9:18 a.m. We finally arrive at our destination - Pasay MRT station. Stephanie keeps a sharp eye out for a gas station, Elvira dreams of pancakes for breakfast, while Alex wants to go straight to the INQUIRER.net office to upload the video of this amazing race. For more accounts about Day 1 of the Rush Hour Commute race, visit this website.
By Reuters TOKYO, Japan - Nissan Motor Co. has developed an accelerator pedal that can push back on the driver's foot when it detects excess pressure and poor fuel efficiency. Japan's No.3 automaker said it would install the "ECO pedal", which can be switched on or off by the driver, in its cars from next year. It didn't specify which models would be equipped with the new technology. Internal research showed that the system, which comes with real-time fuel consumption levels displayed in the instrument panel, could improve fuel efficiency by 5 to 10 percent depending on driving conditions. Nissan is taking a three-pronged approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, comprising improvements in vehicle technologies, driving behaviour and traffic conditions. Last year, it promised to equip all new cars with the fuel consumption indicator, which indicates the optimal level for fuel-efficient driving by displaying a green, flashing or amber light.