Thursday, April 05, 2007

No user servicable parts inside.

I read in Bloomberg today about a group of Japanese tinkerers: back yard mechanics and neo-hotrodders who have been re-engineering their hybrid cars and sometimes doubling the advertised gas mileage. Software and hardware modifications which in the US are usually illegal, can often significantly improve efficiency and power over the levels produced by the compromise engineering of the automobile manufacturers, but so great is the power arrogated by the US government that the car you may be making payments on is your car only as long as you don't go near it with intent to change anything. What once was called American ingenuity, is now called "tampering."

Is one more avenue to creativity being closed off by forcing us to be consumers dependent entirely upon others? At the very least they are making it difficult. Your car's computer is already capable of recording just how fast you have driven it, among other data and the technology is here to allow it to report it all to the authorities while you drive. The automobile, which for over 100 years has been an expression of the owners individuality and talent, may no longer be that, save for the few variations allowed by the factories, the feds and Ralph Nader. What color truck would you like, Mr. consumer?

I once had a 1993 Corvette that was the recipient of a number of mechanical and software modifications done over time which resulted in a car producing about 400 hp and yet which at a sustained speed of 70MPH got 30 MPG. The emission levels were below that of a new car. Take that, Ralph Nader!

The purpose of all this nattering is merely to uphold the role of folk-engineering; an encomium to hot-rodders, street-racers and tinkerers whose innovations have done as much for the advancement of automobile technology as have the hired guns of the automakers. Maybe there will be a day when we're all driving electric cars, but you'll have to pry my torque wrench from my cold, dead fingers. . .

No comments: