My interest in the motor car is only modest (at best) and my interest in the hosting of a comedy show about them almost non-existent. I do find the engineering used in some fascinating and the aesthetics of most puzzling. Homo sapiens has (occasionally) demonstrated that it is perfectly capable of designing an aesthetically pleasing car, but mostly (apparently) choses not to. I struggle to believe that paying the designer(s) makes up a major element of the cost of our vehicles – so can only assume that there is some strategic reason to make cars so ugly: maybe it encourages faster replacement or helps to keep the aspirations of we proles suitably low?
Anyway, yesterday I found myself (and my bike) stopped behind a largish Mazda – which in addition to the usual collection of semi-random alphanumeric characters which identify the model to the cognoscenti also boasted something called SkyActiv Technology. The car looked perfectly normal to me, so my mind raced as to what amazing features this technology might provide. Would the car convert into a plane on pressing a button on the dash? Could the driver confidently state that “where we’re going we don’t need roads” before taking-off vertically and disappearing into the aether? Did the car offer Satellite TV? Upon my return home, I used the power of the internet to discover the true nature of SkyActiv Technology: readers should prepare themselves for the disappointment I have already experienced. Apparently, the technology means that the engine has a compression ratio of 14:1 – which, if Mazda are to be believed, is quite high. What this has to with the sky or even the partial word activ is beyond me – it doesn’t even seem to be an anagram of something more plausible. It would seem that in addition to an inability to correctly use the apostrophe (as shown on the SkyActiv portion of their website) Mazda have jumped the product-naming shark.
In other recent car-related news, I understand that the Driving Test is to be changed. Despite my age, I am no dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist bemoaning every change to a much loved institution – for a start, I never loved the Driving Test, merely endured a brace of them in Herne Bay back in the mid-80s, nor am I all that keen on wool. However, the change being proposed is to drop the three point turn (which, for the avoidance of doubt, is not a turn in a very small font) – I believe on the basis that it is out-dated. Even as a chap who tries to leave the reverse gear on his car untouched, I have had to perform the odd three point turn – though I cannot ever remember having to reverse round a corner. More importantly, rare is a trip out of my garret where I do not encounter someone performing the n-point turn (for suitable n≥3). Even with it forming part of the Driving Test, the average turner is really not very competent and appears to have little concern about the appropriateness of their chosen location or the inconvenience caused to other road users. I really don’t see that dropping it is going to help matters. If you want to drop a now largely unused skill from the driving test, might I suggest indicating? Given the huge effort required in moving a finger a centimetre-or-two, most motorists have already abandoned this particular skill – so its loss from the examination would go largely unnoticed.