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  Government powers at work

Banning traffic cameras may be a growing trend

Cops in Maryland are quickly cutting down on their time spent running license plates by using what are called automatic license plate readers (ALPR). These nifty devices scan your plates automatically and check for insurance, validity, and other key safety issues. This is all well and good, according to civil liberties watchdog, the ACLU, but what they do with said information has the ACLU up in arms.

The ACLU has growing concerns with how long the information is retained in these ALPRs and worries that this ever-rowing data may eventually allow the government to precisely predict every move you make. So for all of you conspiracy theorists that think the gummament is watchin’ ya, this is just another nugget to keep in your head.

In a released statement, the ACLU says:

“If license plate scans, which are typically stamped with a location, time, and date, were used just for these purposes and deleted shortly thereafter, privacy concerns would be minimal to non-existent. After all, police can run license plates against these databases themselves. ALPR technology simply cuts down on the time and manpower required to perform these functions on a large scale. 

The privacy issues arise with the retention of the information. A police officer will not forever remember the exact location and time of an innocent motorist’s travels. With ALPR technology, those details can be stored indefinitely, creating an ever-growing historical record of the daily comings and goings of every Marylander. As ALPRs become more ubiquitous and that record becomes longer and more detailed, it will become possible for the government to determine a person’s exact movements during any given time period.”

However, the police taking records of our license plate activity is one of the more primitive tracking devices that the government has access to in order to track us. There are many more active and precise devices that we all use on a daily basis that allows the government to keep tabs on us.

To see what other devices the government can use to track us, simply click past the jump.

Autonomous driving is on the tips of all of our tongues at any given moment, as it is the most likely “next generation” step in the automotive world. One of the key components of perfecting automated driving is the introduction of car-to-car-to-object communication – communication between cars and traffic-control devices. Think of it as a Facebook for the automotive world. Every car needs to update its status and plans to all of the other cars and the traffic controls “in its network” (in the area), so that they know how to plan accordingly.

Sure automated driving works okay via a series of sensors, but that only allows so much. This social networking allows car to plan routes, avoid traffic, avoid accidents, and so forth, ahead of time. Germany has taking the driver’s seat in this matter, by introducing the Safe Intelligent Mobility – Testfield Germany (sim TD) - which allows controlled testing of these communication systems. Mercedes-Benz is one maker that will provide Germany with cars for this testing program and has now chosen to do some of its own car-to-car-to-object testing at its own facility in Palo Alto, California. During its infancy, this system will utilize the network of cars to sense a line of stopped cars over the peak of a hill or around a blind turn, helping prevent a rear-end collision because the driver and automated sensing devices couldn’t see the stopped cars.

In the long run, this system may end up being the basis that automated driving on a regular basis spawns from. Using sensors alone to eliminate the driver’s need to control a car is pretty dangerous, as the sensors can only see what the human eye can see. This automotive network, on the other hand, allows the car to see things well in advance, making automated driving the safest driving method. That sounds like a good plan to us.

We’ll keep you updates as testing continues.

The Famed Nürburgring is in Financial Trouble

There are some very strange things going on between the Nürburgring and F1 right now. Just a few weeks ago, we reported that Bernie Eccelstone was willing to step up to the plate and help the Ring out of its issue. One report stated that Eccelstone would even waive his standard sanction fee for all Nürburgring F1 events in 2013. Just days later, a report emerged that Eccelstone said he will not waive fees, but was instead interested in purchasing the famed raceway .

A report from our friends over at World Car Fans is stating that the Nürburgring cannot afford to host any F1 events in 2013, as it cannot foot the sanctioning bills. That totally negates the rumors about Ecclestone waiving fees or he has rescinded or simply forgotten that offer. According to the report, Nürburgring officials and F1 will go into talks soon to try and keep F1 racing at the `Ring.

Either way, we feel that Eccelstone needs to step up and waive these sanction fees, so that racing can continue at the Nürburgring. The `Ring without F1 racing, just doesn’t quite feel right to us. Nürburgring officials are confident and vow that they can still turn a profit without F1 races, but we are fairly certain that if they miss any races, they are going to have trouble continuing the recovery process.

We will keep a close eye on this whole situation and try to figure out what in the world is going on between the Nürburgring and F1.

We love vehicles that have two and four wheels, so why shouldn’t we love those that have six wheels? No, we’re not talking about the latest Ford F-350 Dually. We are talking about the technological marvel that has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue lately: the Mars Science Laboratory, which is better known simply as the Curiosity Rover.

Recently, we showed you an infographic that pitted the 2013 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor against the Curiosity Rover, and that was obviously done in jest. See, the Curiosity Rover is set to go where no F-150 could ever go... the red planet – Mars to those that are not also Sci-Fi nerds.

With the Curiosity’s touchdown coming in just a few days, we thought it was time to give it the TopSpeed once over to see if it is really ready to embark on this 253-day journey, which is quite a commute...

UPDATE 08/07/2012: The Curiosity Rover has touched down on Mars and has officially taken its first color picture of the surface of the Red Planet. The picture was taken with the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. Check out the image, as well as many others, in the gallery provided!

Click past the jump to read our full review on the Curiosity Rover.

Anyone that has seen Super Troopers can appreciate the fact that some cops do play pranks on one another. As a friend of many law enforcement folk, I can attest to the fact that it does happen and its usually benign. Things like the cat prank are awesome and completely innocent, though no officer would ever actually do it, as it undermines his authority.

Alright, meow, enter in several boneheads from Florida and you have a complete and utter failure of a prank. It’s not that the prank itself was not a success, but rather the fact that said prank could have killed many people if it had gone awry.

These two officers we’re talking about meow decided it would be funny to go speeding through a construction zone at 90 mph and get a fellow officer to chase them. After a little while the car stops in the middle of the road, with the chasing officer still unaware of the “prank,” and the driver hops out as if he is about to run.

The pursuing officer, Christina Fowler, draws her gun, then the driver finally identifies himself as fellow officer, Marc Thompson, just before bursting into a fit of ridiculous laughter. In the speed car were two other officers, a sergeant and another beat officer. For this “prank,” Thompson and the sergeant were terminated and the officer in the rear got a one-day vacation without pay.

The firings are being contested by the union, but in our opinion, these guys got what they deserved. Imaging if a worker was late getting off his shift at the construction site and was hit by Thompson’s car. That prank wouldn’t be so funny then...

What would have really made us laugh is if Fowler would have very business-like just written Thompson a ticket, or better yet, taken him straight to jail for his idiotic idea of a joke. Check out the above video to see the idiocy unfold.

MEOW!

Ford Boss 335 GT

As the global recession rolls around the Earth, automakers everywhere are starting to hit their breaking points. There have already been talks of Ford and Chevy pulling out of Europe and recently, Ford announced that it was cutting 15 percent of job in Australia due to poor sales.

On the heels of that announcement comes a report from International Business Times that claims Ford is simply ramping up to end its Australia-based manufacturing altogether. The consensus is that Ford of Australia will cease production in the Outback by 2016.

Now, the Ford pull-out from Australia, much like the potential pull-out from Europe, does not mean there won’t be any Fords sold there. This simply means that the Australia-built fords, like the Territory and the fairly bad-ass Falcon sedan, will no longer exist. In their place will likely be imported Fusions and Explorers , maybe bearing different names.

Slow sales are not the only cause to Australia’s No. 3 automaker pulling out, the enactment of tough-to-meet Euro 5 emission standards are likely the straw that broke Ford’s back. Both the Falcon and Territory cannot meet these stringent regulations without expensive revisions to the driveline.

Ford has yet to make any announcement regarding its Outback exit, but it looks to be a certainty. We’ll update you if Ford finally announces this exit.

Audi officially buys Ducati

Okay, for ease of understanding we always just place Lamborghini under Volkswagen AG’s umbrella, but in reality, VW owns 99 percent of Audi AG who in turn owns Lamborghini ... got it? In a third party, back-door kinda way, yes, VW does own Lamborghini... sort of. So earlier in the year, we mentioned that Audi had secured the Italian motorcycle builder, Ducati, for about $1 billion.

According to Audi’s financial report, it is not the owner of Ducati . How in the world does that kind of error slip through the cracks, right? Well, apparently, Audi follows the same school of thought as its parent company, Volkswagen AG, and tries to push the bounds of legality to get things done, a la Porsche getting a share of VW to exempt VW from paying taxes on the buyout .

Instead of Audi buying Ducati, Lamborghini actually bought it. This does two things for VW, Audi, and Lamborghini. First, it allows it to retain its Italian roots and secondly, it helps push Lamborghini’s overall fuel economy and emissions closer to the European standards that have plagued it in recent years.

So VW has found a way to slither its way through the EU rulebook and find a way around a very important law. Touché, VW, we bow to your supreme rule-bending abilities and the way you do it without us even noticing sometimes.

The Famed Nürburgring is in Financial Trouble

In the 11th hour, German officials have come through for their famed racetrack, the Nürburgring . The Ring had been in a bundle of issues, mostly caused by the decision to use public funds to build a roller coaster and a hotel in the vicinity of the track. This loan ultimately went into default and the European Union was, and presumably still is, investigating the legality of these funds.

This latest loan was provided by the German state Rhineland-Palatinate (RLP) and totals €254 million ($312 million at the current exchange rate) to help keep the track afloat and ultimately assure that its original loan is paid back.

The Christian Democrats (CDU) were strongly opposed to the loan and even went as far as to say it violates the EU’s competition laws. The German finance minister rejected the CDU’s questions of legality and continued on with the loan.

So for now, we can consider the Nürburgring safe, but for how long? If it spiraled toward bankruptcy once for reasons that appear unresolved, what’s going to prevent it from doing so again? For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.

We are also interested to see if Bernie Eccelstone will hold true to his offer to help the Nürburgring by offering sanction-free F1 races next year. With the condition of worldwide road racing leagues deteriorating, we are willing to bet that Eccelstone forgets his promise pretty quickly now that the Ring is not in immediate danger.

Volkswagen's Takeover of Porsche is Complete

Finally! After a long and drawn out process, the corporate restructuring that brings full control of Porsche’s automotive side under Volkswagen Volkswagen ’s control is approved and official. The deal sent 4.49 billion Euros and one voting share of VW stock from VW and Porsche SE to Porsche AG, the latter item being simply a concession to avoid paying a load of taxes and was left out of VW’s press release.

This officially gives Volkswagen AG 100 percent holdings in Porsche and effectively gives VW the ability to do whatever it wants with the famed sports car builder. We have already alluded to the possibility of VW overriding Porsche’s CEO and continuing on with the “Baby Boxster” project that gained notoriety lately. That possibility was given more solid ground with a statement released by VW CEO, Martin Winterkorn.

Winterkorn was quoted saying “The path is now finally clear for a bright future together. Even closer cooperation will enable us to significantly strengthen Volkswagen and Porsche, and further expand the group‘s product portfolio with fascinating new vehicles.”

You see, it is that last section about bringing new models that really drives home the possibility that VW may be about to force Porsche to build a lesser-priced version of the Boxster . We see that as making perfect business sense because if Porsche buyers can accept a sedan and a pair of SUVs, why can’t they accept a lower-priced Boxster?

Either way, congrats to both sides and we are glad to finally see this issue laid to rest.

Click past the jump to read the full press release.

BMW 3 Series Sedan

There are some pretty shady repossession companies in the world and “reality” shows like Lizard Lick Towing and Operation Repo dramatize some of the shady actions. Well, apparently in South Africa, they take repossessing a car to a whole new level.

A customer took his brand new BMW 320d to a dealership due to defective air conditioning. The dealer never fixed the car to the customer’s liking, so the customer left the 320d at the dealership until either the issue was fixed or he was issued a replacement car. In the meantime, BMW gave him a loaner 325.

There was some kind of misunderstanding between the customer and BMW about how long he was allowed to use the loaner car for, as BMW had tried multiple times to recover said loaner. Well, this last time, BMW sent Netstar to his house armed with guns and a helicopter hovering overhead and allegedly forced the customer to turn over the keys.

After turning over the keys, the customer got a court order forcing the BMW dealer to give him back the loaner car and both sides will have to present their case in front of the High Court within 30 days for a final judgment. The customer claims that BMW said that he could keep the loaner car until the situation is resolved, but the BMW dealer is claiming that the case may take up to three years and they would never loan a car for that long.

In all, this is a messy situation for the dealership and BMW as a whole. We think it might be time for BMW’s corporate offices to step in and just handle this situation and give the customer a new car with correctly operating A/C. It’ll be a small price to pay to keep negative press from spreading too far.

Source: IOL Motoring

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