Big Leaps vs. the Status Quo

For about 40 years, I had at least some of my fingers into some area of mid-to-high-tech every day. When I moved from engineering into academia, I was pretty much down to one finger on the edge of what was going on in technology. Retirement put an end to that connection in any practical sense. One of the few ways I have left to stay in touch with what is going on in the tech world is my subscription to “Design News.” This month, Design News had a few articles that should be interesting to a motorcyclist.

In this month’s review of the magazine’s past home gadget builder projects, “Gadget Freak Case #235: Ignition Control Unit for Harley Davidson Panhead Engine” described how one gearhead tried to resolve the problem of getting an old Harley to start reliably. There isn’t much follow-up in the article, so I don’t know (or care) how it all worked out. Reading the story of his analysis and design solution was interesting, though.

In case you are still suffering the delusion that autonomous cars are in the distant future, “Hope or Hype? Big Automakers Look to Autonomous Vehicles” should relieve you of that false hope. You might know how I think autonomous vehicles are going to affect street legal motorcycling, so read it and weep. “Ford president and CEO Mark Fields made it clear that the giant automaker is not settling for half-measures in its effort and is going straight to self-driving cars by 2021. ‘That means there’s going to be no steering wheel. There’s not going to be a gas pedal. There’s not going to be a brake pedal and, of course, a driver is not going to be required,’ he said.”

As for the noise, pollution, energy inefficiency of internal combustion engines, “6 Automakers Will Lead the Way to EV Battery Growth” describes how “Six big automakers will carry the electric vehicle (EV) battery market to a five-fold sales increase by 2020, a new study says . . .Tesla, General Motors (GM), Renault-Nissan, Volkswagen, BMW, and BYD will account for 90% of the electric car battery sales during those five years, mostly on the strength of bigger battery packs.” By “bigger” the article is not talking about physicial size, later this year Chevy will be hyping a “60-kWh battery in the all-electric Chevy Bolt.” The number of electric cars on the road is going to change, too. Tesla is planning for “annual sales of 500,000 of the affordable Model 3 vehicles by 2018.” There is some debate over how much of the cage market electric vehicles will be in the next few years, but I think the end of the Age of Oil is in sight and if I were a younger motorcyclist I’d be really interested in how that will play out on two wheels.

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