This Lawn Chair Driver’s Seat Didn’t Fly With Canadian Police

Canadians have a reputation for being extremely polite, but that doesn’t mean they can’t say no. Thunder Bay, Ontario police recently said “no” to a driver who was caught using a lawn chair instead of a seat that was properly attached to the vehicle, according to a press release.

The truck was initially pulled over for having license plates that didn’t appear to match it. (That’s happened to me, too, though in my case the police had a right to be confused.) Upon approaching the vehicle, officers immediately noticed something out of place—specifically, a missing driver’s seat that had been replaced with an ordinary lawn chair.

There have been occasions when I, too, have substituted an alternative seating surface for the one the factory intended while working on a car. But in every case, the car was stationary at the time I did it, so safety was not an issue. For driving down the road, it’s pretty important that the seat is physically attached to the car, not just for safety during a crash but simply to make sure you don’t tip over during a gentle turn. A seat belt would not have helped in this case, either. There weren’t any.

But he wouldn’t have fallen out the driver’s door. The handle was broken, forcing the driver to enter and exit through the window, Dukes of Hazzard style. Also, the windshield was cracked, and the load in the bed of the truck was not secure. To top it all off, the driver had no insurance and was driving with a suspended license.

The Thunder Bay Police Service was polite enough to not arrest the driver for these numerous offenses. But it did issue the driver numerous citations, as well as impound the truck. Being polite doesn’t mean you can’t enforce the law effectively, in this case for the driver’s own good.

Motorcycles Should Have Three Headlights for Improved Visibility

The most common excuse heard in a car vs. motorcycle crash is the car driver saying, “I didn’t see the motorcycle.” The fact that motorcycles have their headlights on during the day by design and by law is no longer adequate to ensure that others on the road can see them. As cars have gained additional daytime lighting, motorcycles need to stay ahead in the visibility game as well.

My 1980 Suzuki GS550E had a rather unique feature that you won’t find on any modern motorcycle: A headlight switch. That’s right, you could manually turn the bike’s lights on and off while it was running. That was the last year such a switch was available. As of 1981, motorcycles sold in the U.S. have been required to have their lights on at all times to make them more visible.

This worked well for a while. But today, nearly all cars in the U.S. have daytime running lights. There are good safety reasons for this, but they create their own unique dangers as well. One of them is that they erase the visibility advantage that motorcycles once enjoyed over cars that did not have their lights on during the day. In fact, since cars run two daytime running lights as opposed to the motorcycle’s single headlight, bikes are now less visible than ever.

The solution is to add more lights to motorcycles. But it’s important to do so intelligently, and not start an illumination arms race that will cause burned out batteries and charging systems. Big cruisers often come with a pair of driving lights on either side of the main headlight. This provides not only more light, but also an appearance unique to a motorcycle.

As a motorcycle rider, I’ve suffered my own fair share of oncoming vehicles turning left across my path. But ever since adding a pair of LED driving lights to my Honda Shadow I’ve noticed this happening far less often than it used to. In fact, other drivers seem less likely to cut me off or crowd me in all situations. Perhaps this is because having multiple lights on my bike helps them gauge the distance between us more accurately, something the single point of light from a single headlight doesn’t allow.

You can easily drop hundreds of dollars on chrome light bars or specialized LED lighting that will throw light thousands of feet down the road ahead of you. But all I’m using is a $14.99 pair of LED driving lights from Yitamotor that I originally bought for the Jetta Ute project before upgrading its headlights. I would have chosen a different design if I’d bought them specifically for the bike, but these work fine. Why fix what isn’t broken?

It’s unlikely that regulations will change to require a three-headlight configuration on all motorcycles anytime soon. But as I’ve learned, it’s both cheap and easy to install extra lighting on a motorcycle yourself. The improvement in safety is well worth the minimal investment of time and money.

Formula Drift Drivers James Deane and Piotr Wiecek Thrash Around at Hoonigan

On the most recent episode of Hoonigan’s Daily Transmission series, Formula Drift Worthouse team drivers James Deane and Piotr Wiecek stopped by Hoonigan’s Donut Garage with their Nissan S15 drift cars.

Deane is the current reigning Formula Drift champion, winning the title in 2017. During the first round of the 2018 Formula Drift season at Long Beach, Deane was forced to settle for fourth place after having to deal with an issue with the rear left side of his drift car that could not be fixed in time with the competition timeout.

Wiecek is currently on a hot streak. He was the 2017 Formula Drift Rookie of the Year and in the first round of the season at Long Beach he finished the race third overall just behind Fredric Aasbo and Forrest Wang. Wiecek also recently dominated the field at the Motegi Super Drift Challenge at Long Beach last weekend, which featured the top eight drivers from the Long Beach round of the season. He won both days of the challenge weekend.

Deane and Wiecek brought their near identical Worthouse Nissan S15 Formula Drift cars to Hoonigan. Deane’s car is right-hand drive and has a blue roof, while Wiecek’s car is left-hand drive with a red roof. The Worthouse duo show the Hoonigan crew their cars inside and out, then have some fun. They do arguably the best tandem drifting the Hoonigan lot has seen.

Check out Hoonigan’s newest episode of Daily Transmission featuring James Deane and Piotr Wiecek thrashing their Formula Drift cars below.

MG Motors to Debut in India

MG Motors, the Chinese-born auto giant formerly known as MG Rover, is about to enter the market in India.

MG is owned by Shanghai-based company SAIC, the largest importer of Chinese vehicles in the U.K. In China, SAIC also runs Roewe, an automaker known for its high-selling luxury EV models.

A new compact SUV, which will either be an MG ZS, a GS, or a brand new model, will mark the debut. The luxury car will rival the Hyundai Creta, the Jeep Compass, and the KIA SP-concept SUV, and might even be a hybrid model.

We can expect the model to have a BS-VI-compliant engine, which will reduce the sulfur emissions by 80 percent. Aesthetically, it will have MG’s signature aerodynamic steel body and a roomy interior.

The SUV will be showcased starting March 28 in cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, but won’t be for sale until early 2019. The car will be produced in a factory in Halol, a manufacturing plant formerly owned by General Motors before it exited the Indian market last year. MG also plans to hire 1000 employees in India by the end of 2018, and will increase its percentage of female workers (women currently comprise 22 percent of total employees).

The shift of Asian auto giants into India is a recurring trend. Hyundai produced its Creta SUV and its powerful Verna sedan in the country last year, and KIA will build a factory in the Andhra Pradesh region by early 2019.

India anticipates sales of 11.7 million vehicles by 2020, and expects to reach the global “big three,” according to a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The country is currently the fourth-largest manufacturer of automobiles in the world.

The company’s changes will arrive just in time for British MG’s 12th anniversary this April. William Morris, one of Britain’s greatest philanthropists, founded MG, which he named Morris Garage, in 1923.

Testing the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace Electric Crossover on a High-Tech Mini-Autocross

Strutting the Jaguar I-Pace’s Stuff on a High-Tech Mini-Autocross Is a Blast

There are autocrosses—coned-out lanes plopped down in parking lots—and then there’s the crazy bit of automotive electric boogaloo set up by Jaguar to give a hint of the new I-Pace‘s prowess during the Geneva International Motor Show in March. The tiny course, adjacent to the airport, featured about 15 pairs of special waist-high posts with computer-operated lights on them for gates. When you rocket through one, the next targeted gate starts blinking green. They’re completely random, so no two drivers end up running the same course—and it’s almost impossible to know where you’ll be going more than a couple seconds in advance.

It’s an addictive game—even more so because you’re in the all-electric 2019 I-Pace, which handily tackles the aggressively jarring sequences as briskly and flatly as you could ever hope for from a crossover. The Jag sprints forward easily as you come out of each turn thanks to the 512 pound-ft of torque supplied by the dual motors, which will get the car to 60 mph in a brisk 4.5 seconds. The active air suspension keeps things tidy by mitigating body roll, even though you’re frantically playing connect-the-dots with the diabolical digital overlord in control of your autocross destiny. The I-Pace made quick work of even the most jarring zig-zags required to hit the next targets.

That performance should make Tesla sweat a bit—and since it’s rather astonishing given that the first mass-market all-electric crossover with usable (240 miles, per Jag) range actually didn’t come from Stuttgart or Ingolstadt, it’s safe to say zee Germans are probably sweating a bit, too. Porsche’s Mission E and Audi’s E-Tron are next in the pipeline, so it will be great fun to see how they stack up with the I-Pace in the turns.

As for design, the new model looks fantastic in person—distinct from Jaguar’s other crossovers, namely the F-Pace and E-Pace, thanks to a lower stance and curvier, more dynamic lines. Inside, the vibe is familiar. Though Jaguar designer Ian Callum say he was thrilled with the design flexibility the electric configuration afforded, you don’t really feel the difference inside. Tesla celebrates electrification with open, airy interiors; Jag’s version feels like most other crossovers—a big center console, wraparound dash, etc. You don’t have that anything-goes feeling that Tesla provides, or the streamlined, minimalist look that’s the hallmark of EV interiors.

Then again, Jaguar customers aren’t necessarily Tesla customers, or BMW i3 customers, or Chevy Bolt customers—and the company is rightly obligated to make the cars that their buyers would want. Inside, it feels like any modern Jag…just one with no combustion engine noise that can shred autocrosses like a champ without spilling your coffee.

But all that just comes from a mere first impression, of course. Once the world’s media has the chance to spend some real time with the I-Pace in a few months’ time, it’ll be possible to unpack all the enhancements Jaguar brought to the crossover challenge by virtue of electrification—and all the performance JLR has been able to squeeze out of the 90-kWh battery tucked down beneath the seats.

The Honda Accord Is Great, but It’s Not Selling

The all-new 2018 Honda Accord is a significant improvement over the already good previous model. It won the North American Car of the Year Award, and we certainly enjoyed it when we drove it. Yet sales are down significantly month-to-month over last year since the new Accord became available last fall, according to GoodCarBadCar.

Part of this can be attributed to the general market shift away from sedans and toward crossovers and SUVs. But the Accord’s closest competitor, the Toyota Camry, was also redesigned for 2018, and unlike the Accord its sales have increased. Something else must be at work here.

Automotive News reports that dealers are complaining about Honda’s leasing terms not being competitive with other manufacturers. Honda quotes a standard three-year Accord lease for a $249 monthly payment with $3,199 down on the base LX model. But the Camry is available for lease in Los Angeles for $219 a month with $1,999 down. In Miami qualified buyers can lease a Camry for $199 per month with $3,198 down.

Additionally, the Accord’s $24,460 base price is higher than the previous model, as well as the base $23,495 Camry. This, plus leasing terms that aren’t as competitive as the Camry’s, means that customers at the end of a lease on a 2015 Accord are finding they will have to pay significantly more for a 2018 Accord and are shopping elsewhere.

As a result, Accord inventory levels nationwide stood at a 104-day supply as of March 1. That’s much higher than the industry average of a 70-day supply. Many dealers are declining further Accord shipments from the factory since their lots are already full of unsold models.

Both the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are excellent cars. You won’t go wrong with either one. But customers want a deal, and for now, it seems the Camry is the better deal.

DJI’s Mavic Pro Is Currently Selling for Its Lowest Price Ever

If you snagged yourself a DJI Mavic Pro during last year’s Black Friday sale, you fortuitously purchased this top-of-the-line drone at its lower price point ever—until now, that is. The Mavic Pro, essentially the high watermark of sophisticated hobby drones, originally sold for a thousand dollars. If that rather steep price has had you clinging to your pocketbook all these years, today’s news might entice you to reconsider. According to The Verge, this 20-percent price drop puts DJI’s Mavic Pro at a retail price of $801.95. That’s $197.05 you won’t be spending.

It all makes sense, of course, when you look at the current landscape of DJI’s drone line. With a new Mavic Air capable of shooting footage in 4K announced in January, the company is adjusting for appeal of its preceding products, here. This recalibration of the DJI ecosystem is currently only affecting the Mavic Pro, but it wouldn’t be too surprising if we noticed other UAVs—now slightly less exciting than the new Mavic Air—drop in price, as well. For now, we’ll just have to appreciate this substantial deal and seriously consider purchasing a Mavic Pro ourselves.

Of course, it all depends on what kind of drone you’re in the market for. If you simply want to pilot a camera-drone around the yard and engage your nephew with the exciting advent of functional, affordable hobby drones, a Parrot Mambo FPV might be of interest, with its medium price point and user-friendly design. If you’re a serious drone fanatic and have the disposable income to warrant the best of the best, of course, you’re probably considering the DJI Phantom 4 Pro, in addition to the newest Mavic Air. This deal is aimed squarely at those shuffling in between these two paths. For those with enough savings, hitherto hesitant to spend that much but eager to own a Mavic Pro, your time has come.

Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Exec Would ‘Take a Chainsaw’ to a Halo Safety Device

Formula 1’s newest driver safety device, the Halo, has ridden a wave of commotion from the moment it was approved by the FIA, until the recent car unveilings ahead of the first pre-season test in Barcelona, Spain. The latest comment surrounding the Halo came courtesy Toto Wolff, Executive Director and Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, who didn’t wait until the first race in Australia to share his lack of enthusiasm for the new device.

Wolff made the harsh comment in the company of the entire racing team, including drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, while at the Mercedes-AMG W09’s world debut in Silverstone, according to Autosport. The former racer turned executive joins other members of the F1 fraternity who have shared their discontent with the expensive piece of scaffolding.

“I’m not impressed with the whole thing,” said Wolff. “If you give me a chainsaw, I would take it off.”

Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 W09.

Wolff also zeroed in on the aesthetics of the Halo, which in turn, made him sound rather vain.

“We need to look after the drivers’ safety but what we have implemented is aesthetically not appealing. We need to tackle that and come up with a solution that looks better,” Wolff told members of the media.

McLaren-Renault’s Fernando Alonso responded to Wolff’s harsh criticism of a device that’s implemented for driver’s safety by saying that, “there shouldn’t be any debate” around a measure that’s designed to protect the drivers. Perhaps an individual’s position on the device will vary depending on whether they sit inside or outside the cockpit during a race.

African Firm Has Big Hopes For Rebranded Bronco II Surveillance Plane In Americas Market

A new company called Bronco Combat Systems, or BCS USA, a joint venture between South Africa’s Paramount Group International and American defense contractor Fulcrum Concepts, has unveiled a new light attack aircraft it calls the Bronco II, an homage to the old OV-10 Bronco. The partnership hopes it can break into an increasingly saturated market of modified trainer, utility, and agricultural aircraft with a design it says was purpose built for limited conflicts and low-threat environments.

While BCS has yet to release any specifics about the Bronco II’s capabilities or performance, it is clearly a derivative of the earlier Advanced High Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft, or AHRLAC. Paramount began development of that aircraft, also known as the Mwari, in cooperation with South African aviation firm Aerosud in 2009 and the initial prototype made its first flight five years later. The lead engineers responsible for the Rooivalk attack helicopter had joined together with individuals who had worked on South Africa’s upgraded Mirage III-based Cheetah fighter jet and other aerospace projects to form Aerosud in 1990.

“This is not simply an armed variant of a civilian crop-duster or a modified training aircraft,” Paramount Group International Chairman Ivor Ichikowitz said according to the BCS USA press release. “Every inch of this aircraft is designed for [a] purpose – specifically for the kind of asymmetrical warfare that sophisticated military forces are now being asked to conduct.”

At its most basic, the Bronco II is a pusher engine aircraft with a single turboprop engine in the rear of the center fuselage, as was the AHRLAC. Combined with a cockpit with a large canopy with minimal framing, the crew of two, sitting in ejection seats, has good views forward and to the sides, but limited visibly to the rear.

One of the photoshopped images depicting the Bronco II in US Marine Corps markings that BCS USA distributed in its initial press release.

The aircraft also has a high wing and twin boom and tail configuration that is vaguely reminiscent of the long out of production North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco, which, as we noted, provided the inspiration for name of the plane and the joint venture company. The artwork BCS USA released along with its press statement are photoshopped images of one of the prototypes, with the civil registration ZU-PDM, carrying the markings of the U.S. Marine Corps, which was the last branch of the U.S. military to actively operate the OV-10.

It’s not clear how much the final Bronco II might differ from the existing AHRLAC prototypes, if at all. The first iterations of the aircraft were relatively light and compact with a wingspan of less than 40 feet, shorter than that of an MQ-1 Predator drone, and an empty weight of less than 4,500 pounds, less than half that of an A-29 Super Tucano light attack plane.

This picture shows an ex-US Marine Corps OV-10 that subsequently went to NASA for flight test purposes, clearly showing its twin-boom configuration.

Paramount said the initial versions, which had a top speed of approximately 315 miles per hour, could stay aloft for seven to 10 hours at a time and had a maximum total range of more than 1,300 miles, but this did not necessarily reflect an aircraft fully loaded with weapons and other additional mission systems on board. Different weapon fits and other payloads could easily limit that performance.

As such, the South African firm initially pitched the aircraft as a cost-effective alternative intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platform for smaller countries compared to larger, more complex drones. Now, BCS USA is heavily promoting the idea of the plane as “hybrid” design capable of performing those functions, as well as light attack and close air support missions.

The original promotional shot of AHRLAC prototype ZU-PDM.

This has been in the planning stages for some time. In 2016, Boeing announced it would help integrate weapons and other systems onto the AHRLAC and bring it to the U.S. market. What happened to that deal and whether Boeing is still a part of the project is unclear. At the time of writing the company has not yet responded to our request for clarification.

However, it does appear that Fulcrum Concepts, a smaller defense contractor that provides various aviation design and modification services, now has responsibility for adding weapons and other equipment to the aircraft. As a light attack aircraft, the AHRLAC was supposed to be able to carry various different kinds of weapons, including precision guided munitions, on up to six under wing pylons, as well as have provisions for an internal 20mm cannon.

There do not appear to be any pictures of the AHRLAC prototypes carrying actual weaponry. The Bronco II artwork shows the aircraft carrying a pair of Belgian-designed FN HMP .50 caliber machine gun pods and four South African-made Mokopa guided anti-tank missiles, which are available with laser, millimeter wave radar, and infrared guidance options. Fulcrum Concepts presently offers a weapons management system it says is compatible with the AGM-114 Hellfire laser-guided missile and the smaller AGM-176 Griffin GPS- and laser-guided missile, as well as various unguided weapons and gun pods.

Earlier concept art of the armed AHRLAC aircraft, or Mwari.

In an armed reconnaissance or pure intelligence and surveillance roles, the planes would also be able to carry sensors or other equipment in a modular bay in the fuselage behind the cockpit. A prototype AHRLAC did appear at the Africa Aerospace and Defense show in South Africa in September 2016 equipped with an Airbus Argos II electro-optical and infrared video camera turret mounted on its nose. It also carried a Thales Anvi infrared line scanner camera and GEW Technologies radio direction finding system, which can located and track hostile communication signals, in the payload bay.

The pilot could use a helmet-mounted sighting system to direct the nose turret and the line scanner fed into a display in the rear cockpit. Fulcrum Concepts also offers what it calls the Fulcrum Battlestation, which it could potentially configure to fit inside the new Bronco II.

At that event in South Africa, Paramount also told reporters that it had test fitted a sensor turret in the payload bay and fitted the aircraft with a radar warning receiver to the alert the pilots to hostile threats. The prototype did not appear to have any actual countermeasures systems, such as decoy flares.

An AHRLAC prototype with a sensor turret in the nose.

As of 2017, Paramount said it had already sold two AHRLACs to unnamed customers and could support production of two planes per month at its factory in Wonderboom, South Africa. It’s not entirely clear who BCS USA might be expecting to sell U.S.-made Bronco IIs to, though. In a statement to Flightglobal, the joint venture company said that the faux Marine Corps livery in its marketing literature did not mean it was looking to sell the aircraft to that service or that it had expressed an interest in the plane already.

While the joint venture could be hoping to find a way into the U.S. Air Force’s light attack aircraft experiment, it missed the first round of that evaluation. The service is running another round of tests, but only with the Textron AT-6 Wolverine and Embraer and Sierra Nevada Corporation’s A-29 Super Tucano, and it’s unclear when, if ever, it might actually buy any such planes.

U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is running a separate light attack aircraft effort, which is focused more on the particular systems that would go into such an aircraft rather than any particular airframe. BCS USA’s press release did appear to speak directly to the operational capabilities that a pair of modified OV-10G+ Broncos already demonstrated during a SOCOM-sponsored field test in Iraq in 2015.

“The aircraft is a purpose-built, sophisticated airborne Find/Fix/Finish/Exploit/Analyze (F3EA) system able to operate for extended periods in remote theaters with minimal infrastructure and a small logistics and maintenance footprint,” the statement says. “The Bronco II operates at a fraction of the procurement and lifecycle cost of an aircraft with similar mission applications and capabilities.”

One of the modified OV-10G+ Broncos that went to Iraq in 2015.

During their deployment to Iraq, the OV-10G+ aircraft each had just one dedicated maintainer, with the crew assisting in basic maintenance and other support activities. This allowed SOCOM’s task force in the country to move the planes around quickly to where they would be most useful in “F3EA” missions focused on locating, tracking and striking individual ISIS terrorists.

But from what we know about its capabilities so far, the Bronco II still appears best suited to offer a cheaper and more readily accessible alternative to medium-range, long-endurance drones, such as the MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper. It offers more capability than smaller, tactical drones, as well, but would still be cheaper to operate, especially during longer duration missions, than more traditional light turboprop surveillance aircraft. The aircraft’s cockpit configuration gives its on board crew a higher degree of situational awareness over those unmanned aircraft, too.

As such, the Bronco II might be an option for other U.S. government agencies, as well, especially those involved in domestic and overseas counter-drug efforts. At the federal level, Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and even the U.S. Marshals, among others, fly a variety of manned surveillance aircraft with electro-optical and infrared cameras and signals intelligence suites to patrol America’s borders and monitor criminal activity at home and abroad.

Some state law enforcement agencies have also begun to purchased manned surveillance aircraft and small unmanned aircraft for these missions. The U.S. State Department’s own air wing regularly partners with foreign law enforcement agencies conducting counter-drug missions, often planning to eventually gift surveillance and utility aircraft it operates to those groups, an arrangement that could be a particularly good fit for the Bronco II.

A US State Department helicopter escorts an armored crop duster on an counter-drug mission in Colombia in 2003.

And by having a U.S.-based manufacturing facility and an expanded American supply chain for weapons and other mission systems, BCS USA will also be able to pitch the Bronco II as an option for any American ally or partner looking to purchase or otherwise acquire light attack planes through U.S. government military assistance programs. The aircraft could be particularly attractive to countries the United States won’t allow to buy more sophisticated drones.

The U.S. military has already facilitated the delivery of A-29s, AT-802L Longsword modified agricultural aircraft, and armed versions of the Cessna C-208 Grand Caravan to other countries. It, along with the U.S. State Department, has also helped deliver unarmed C-208s and other light aircraft to foreign military and other state security forces. Independently, American-based firms, such as IOMAX, have also delivered various light attack aircraft to customers overseas.

With such a crowded market already, the BCS USA is clearly betting that the Bronco II’s distinctive, clean-sheet design will help set it apart from the competition. There is a chance now that the old Bronco may return to the battlefield, at least in spirit, either with a branch of the U.S. military or one of America’s allies or partners.

Contact the author: jtrevithickpr@gmail.com