Britain producing cars again, but they don’t come cheap

Against the background of the Eurozone economic crisis, surging unemployment and rising car insurance costs, it is good to hear some positive economic news, however short-lived it might prove to be.

It was recently revealed that Britain was at last a net exporter in cars and car parts for the first time since 1976. Although Britain’s once mighty automotive industry might nowadays be in the hands of foreign owners, at least we’re busy producing vehicles and parts and sending them off to Russia, America and the emerging economies of China and India.

What do Aston Martin, Bentley, Jaguar, Range Rover, Lotus, McLaren, MG, Mini, Rolls Royce, Vauxhall, as well as the less British seeming names of Honda and Toyota have in common? They’re all building cars in Britain, bringing jobs as well as pride and status back to the British manufacturing sector.

Another thing that strikes me about the list is that, generally, these are not cheap cars. Compared to the average family vehicle, these are high-end models that come at a real premium both in the showroom and when it comes to buying car insurance, which, in the main, is a positive I guess.

When manufacturers look for a really first-class product, it seems they know they can rely on Britain to produce them. The only question that remains is, will our economy bounce back in such a way as to give the average Briton a good shot at buying one?

Photo © sports-cars.fr via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Baked beans or car insurance, the choice for young drivers

Us older drivers who have years of experience and, sometimes, the cherry-on-top of a long-standing no claims bonus, can’t help but feel sorry for younger drivers these days.

Not only are they having to pay for the economic extravagance of their forefathers by coming to terms with years of likely austerity, they are also, compared to us, having to pay through the roof for their car insurance.

According to one comparison site, which teamed up with professional services giant Towers Watson, drivers between the ages of 17 and 20 are having to pay an average of £2,500 for their car insurance.

This is a huge figure, but actually pales into comparison besides the average figure for a male driver – £3,635.

Perhaps most shockingly of all, this £3,500 plus figure is actually more than a quarter of the average annual salary for a young man.

Fine enough if you don’t need to drive, but many, such as my nephew, live miles away from bus services and have no choice but to commute to and from work.

All of which makes it more important than ever that customers are shrewd about finding the cheapest car insurance on the market.

Photo © Matski_98, under Creative Commons Licence

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Sea Lion, the amphibious car

A man who set about building a racy amphibious car in 2006, has finally finished it and is putting it up for sale.

The futuristic-looking vehicle, which has been built on top of a 174hp Mazda rotary engine, can do 125mph on tarmac and 60mph in water (that’s on top of it like a boat, not under it like a sub).

The Sea Lion, as it has been lovingly named by its creator, is being sold for $259,500 – about £163,355 – and I don’t know how much it will cost to insure.

I can imagine a car insurance company would look at this vehicle and just see ‘very high risk car’ written all over it.  Not only is there a risk that it will crash on the roads, but there’s the added risk of it crashing into a boat or sinking.

Would they still sort out maintenance and pick-up if you were stranded on open water? I’d like to see a road-side repairs company try their hand at some boating.

Nevertheless, I have no doubt that the car has been well built – after all it took six years to make it. 

The creator states, “Building Sea Lion has been an enjoyable exploration. I have provided the basic architecture for the car and resolved every conflicting interaction between car and boat.”

I’d love to have a car-boat, but this model’s a bit too speedy-looking for me. When an amphibious mini or VW camper comes along, I’ll be buying it no matter the cost.

Photo © sly06 via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Honda’s new…unicycle

Would you buy a car that had a top speed of 3.7mph? Can you cycle faster than a walking pace?

Well if you answered no to the first and yes to the second, you might not be too gutted that Honda’s latest creation is not available for public purchase yet and has not been given a release date either.

The creation, the Uni-Cub, is a motorised unicycle.  Riders can steer it by leaning to one side or another, just as you would on a peddle unicycle. The difference is that you don’t have to work your legs to move the machine and reportedly it is brilliantly easy to get the hand of riding one.

As clever an invention as the Uni-Cub is, I’m not surprised the manufacturer hasn’t come out with a release date yet.  It doesn’t go any faster than 3.7mph – some people walk faster than that.

However, to give you a more balanced view of the machine, it apparently folds up into a carrycase, and is safe enough to use indoors.

I wonder how much it would cost to insure this strange machine? Would it even need insurance?

Photo © Gamma Man via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Age the new growth market

It is a sad truth that as many people get older their reaction times slow, their senses are less acute and, consequently, their lives less independent.

Against this background, some will find that they are unable to keep their driving licence or have to face up to a reality of more expensive car insurance, certainly compared to what they might have paid previously.

But, at just a time when we’re facing up to the reality of an older than ever before population, technology is beginning to offer some hope to those who might otherwise lose the capacity to drive.

A team at Newcastle University has converted an electric car into a mobile research station which has navigation tools, night vision systems and intelligent speed adaptations.

As well as being able to monitor concentration and stress levels it can track eye movement and assess potential hazards in older drivers.

Phil Blythe, one of the professor’s behind the Newcastle University study, comments, "For many older people, particularly those living alone or in rural areas, driving is essential for maintaining their independence, giving them the freedom to get out and about without having to rely on others.

"And people base their whole lives around driving a car, having mobility.

"But we all have to accept that as we get older our reactions slow down and this often results in people avoiding any potentially challenging driving conditions and losing confidence in their driving skills. The result is that people stop driving before they really need to.

"What we are doing is to look at ways of keeping people driving safely for longer, which in turn boosts independence and keeps us socially connected."

All good news. And it seems that car insurance for older drivers may be about to become the next growth area of the motor insurance market. Who would have predicted that?

Photo © jessiejacobson via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence




Welcome to the future

Welcome to the 21st century. Yes, we’ve been here for 12 years already, but there is still something about saying it that makes it feel like we’ve suddenly arrived in the future.

I guess it’s because for so long it was the future, and now we’re here.

However, so far it’s turned out to be rather more mundane than we anticipated. None of us has humanoid robots running about the house performing chores, man still hasn’t landed on Mars and we still don’t have driverless cars.... Sorry, what’s that? Oh, yes. I’ll let them know.

Hello, and welcome to the 21st century. In news just in, it has been confirmed that for the first time in automotive history, driverless vehicles, adapted Toyota Prius models, have been given the go-ahead for use on public roads.

Although the only place so far to sanction their use is the US state of Nevada, where they can be used "along freeways, state highways and neighborhoods both in Carson City and the busy Las Vegas Strip", California is expected to follow suit shortly.

"The vast majority of vehicle accidents are due to human error," comments a Californian senator.

"Through the use of computers, sensors and other systems, an autonomous vehicle is capable of analyzing the driving environment more quickly and operating the vehicle more safely."

How long, I wonder, before we see the like on UK roads? And, how long, I wonder, before duck2water is selling car insurance for driverless cars?

Photo © DoNotLick via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Could video games make you a better driver?

A study from the University of Toronto shows those who play first-person shooting games can significantly improve their brain activity – and consequently become better drivers.

Researchers tested 25 participants who had never tried video games before. The test subjects were split into two control groups, with 16 playing first-person shooters and nine using 3D puzzle games.

After a total of ten hours gaming, in sessions lasting no longer than two hours, those who played shooters demonstrated improved visual attention.

Professor Ian Spence, University of Toronto, said this skill is crucial in many important everyday activities.

He said, “Studies in different labs, including here at the University of Toronto, have shown that action video games can improve selective visual attention, such as the ability to quickly detect and identify a target in a cluttered background.

 “It's necessary for things such as driving a car, monitoring changes on a computer display, or even avoiding tripping while walking through a room with children's toys scattered on the floor.”

However if you are into mystery games, prepare to be disappointed – the 3D puzzle group did not display any improved brain functions.  

Photo © Psycho AI via Flickr Under Creative Commons Licence

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A Ferrari for £23 thousand

What if you could buy a Ferrari for £23k?

Yes, it’s a lot of money, but considering that they usually cost closer to £150k, it’s an amazing deal, isn’t it?

Well, yes and no, because this £23k Ferrari, is actually just a Ferrari camera.

Apparently though, the H4D-40 is actually a very good camera, and it looks great too in Ferrari red with the famous logo on the side.

Sounds like you should look into insuring this piece of kit if you buy it, just like you’d have to get car insurance for a Ferrari vehicle (and in fact any car you purchase at all).

If I had a thousands of pounds spare, I might be tempted to buy this camera, but I imagine I’d never take it anywhere with me because I’d be frightened of it getting lost, stolen or dropping it by accident.

Similarly, if I had a Ferrari car, I’d keep it in a garage all the time, safe from harm. I think I’m better off with the little second-hand car I have now. It may not be flash, but at least I’m not scared to use it.

Photo © roland via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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