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Don’t Turn Off the BMW i3 While You’re Driving It

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Don’t Turn Off the BMW i3 While You’re Driving It

Posted on 13 February 2014 by Adam Kaslikowski

Orange 2014 BMW i3 Exterior

If you ever find yourself in a BMW i3 learn from my mistake and don’t suddenly turn it off while you’re in the middle of a busy street. Now, I’m not an idiot – okay, I probably am but try and remember that you’re on my side here – I didn’t know I was turning it off. Let me spin you the story:

BMW was kind enough to host a driving event for their new i3 in the heart of Las Vegas recently. Unlike most of the journosaurs who were assembled, the DrivingScene crew chose to forgo the cargo shorts and leather sandals look. Perhaps that’s why our careers have suffered so unjustly.  We ignored veiled attempts at small talk from people named Daren, quickly grabbed the key fob for a sunburst orange tester, and jumped in. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the i3 (you can read our full i3 review on our sister site FactoryTwoFour) but that doesn’t mean that we almost didn’t break it. In fact, whenever the team here enjoys a new vehicle it usually winds up broken.

Within the first two miles of the driving loop BMW had put us on, I had already started pushing as many buttons in the cabin as I possibly could with these fat sausage fingers. Radio, check. Climate control, check. Storage compartments, check. Stop/Start? Now that’s got to go. I hate stop/start tech, especially on a limited test drive. Now, the smarter of you will quickly whisper confusingly to your screen, “but electric cars don’t need stop/start…” Congrats, you’re smart! Smarter than me! In my defense, I jump in and out of so many new test cars that they all kind of blend together.

Regardless, I’m in the middle of traffic a few streets over from the strip and I jab the Start/Stop labelled button so violently that you’d be sure it insulted my lineage. IMMEDIATELY the i3 starts shuttering and jolting forward, all while making the wost possible combination of groan and whine you can imagine. After a few seconds of riding a bucking BMW, I’m stopped dead in the middle of the street with a line of cars piling up behind me. HIT THE BUTTON AGAIN screams through my brain milliseconds after I realize the button is the exact same one the BMW handler had told me to press to start the car when we first got in. I told you, you’re smarter than me.

Now, I’m from LA so as the cars stack up behind me I’m mentally preparing to ignore the symphony of horns that should soon begin blaring at me. And to the credit of Las Vegas residents, not a single horn was sounded that day. Perhaps they knew I already felt and knew I was/am a complete ass.

Ass or not, the Start/Stop button isn’t working and I’m loosing my mind. Park! The i3 needs to be back in Park before I can turn it on! Okay, so now the challenge is to remember where the hell the gear selector is. I grabbed the turkey leg-like selector jutting out of the steering column and selected Park by basically giving a repeated thumbs-up to the silver tab that serves as the button for such things. In Park, I again try the Stop/Start button and wait what feels like 30 years for the startup sequence of lights and sounds to complete before I again flick the selector towards me now and get this damn tub into Drive.

Still no honks. Miraculous. Perhaps I’m all wrong about Vegas and it’s actually the friendliest place on earth… I’m under motion now and the trail of tears I have produced is dissolving as we all move forward. I swear to you when I looked in my rearview mirror I saw a smile on the lady behind me. And not a “oh good” smile, no it was definitely a “I think I’m following a mentally disabled person, perhaps I should give him a wide berth” smile.

If you don’t want to see that smile for yourself, learn from me. Leave the Stop/Start button alone while you’re driving. And who says this site isn’t educational?

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Why Don’t Cars Go Into Beta?

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Why Don’t Cars Go Into Beta?

Posted on 15 February 2013 by Adam Kaslikowski

Why don't cars go into beta?

Remember when Spotify was in private beta? Only the cool kids could get in and non-cool kids openly begged their friends for a referral code into the music site. Betas serve the dual purpose of building buzz and working out bugs in a controlled environment. So……rhetorical question: Why don’t cars go into beta?

An automotive beta could look like trying the car out for a week or buying it outright. It could involve weekly debriefs with an engineering liaison or monthly surveys. It could be as simple, and as risky, as trying out a new part and not telling the public. It could be any or none of these options. Betas are not set in stone, but the point is that they could be hugely useful to the companies and welcomed by the public.

If I’ve faithfully bought every Corvette since they hit the road, I sure want to get my hands on a new one before the unwashed masses. Hell, I’d probably pay a premium for the privileged of filling out weekly surveys for Chevy’s Quality Assurance Department just to feel like “part of the process.” I’m sure I’d drive it around even if it was covered in camo and stuffed with computers and logging equipment. If Barrett-Jackson has taught us anything, it’s that collectors will pay a premium to be first.

This goes beyond lust-worthy sports cars like the Corvette also. By using special pricing or other incentives, manufacturers could enroll beta customers for such pedestrian offerings as a Versa or CX-7. Offering a lower price, better rates, or an extended warranty would certainly be enough to enroll willing testers. Who doesn’t like good deal?

In exchange for giving select customers bragging rights or a sweet deal, the OEM’s would get real world non-engineer road use and that cool buzz of being experimental. How many recalls have we seen on basically new cars, and how many of those could have been avoided by letting the public get our greasy fingers on the cars in a controlled environment like a beta? Maybe a lot, maybe a few, but the downside of trying is vanishingly small.

So small in fact that automotive betas aren’t unheard of per se, just uncommon. The General Motors EV-1, the electric 1-Series, the Honda FCX Clarity, and to lesser extents the Ferrari FXX and the Rolls Royce electric Phantom. Some of these are perfect examples while some are merely a good start. What I’m talking about though is a widespread adoption of the beta system to more than just cutting-edge tech like EVs. Manufacturers want to get younger customers into their cars? Giving them a discount for being a tester is a great place to start. The age bracket between 18 and 35 that manufacturers so desperately crave are used to the latest and greatest tech being in beta first. They have shown their proclivity for trading polish and completeness for exclusivity and having the latest technology.

These wouldn’t be unfinished or dangerous cars either, the DOT wouldn’t allow that. At least they would be no more dangerous that any other new vehicle on our roads. Beta cars could be lease-only, so then auto companies could get the cars back and tear them down to see what failed. Leasing would also provide a great way to track the customers and make sure where the beta vehicles are being driven, how often, how much, and who is working on the car.

The most innovative companies are using white labels, A/B testing, beta releases, and innovation labs to stay on the cutting edge. For some reason, these methods have not percolated into the auto industry. Too bad for them, and us. Maybe I’ll give Telsa a call; I’m sure Elon would recognize many of these approaches and be happy to allocate a corner office for me to implement them.


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This Is Your Boss’s New 3 Series

Posted on 14 October 2011 by Adam Kaslikowski

Behold the sixth generation BMW 3 series. Made from the powder of ground up 80’s yuppies and fueled exclusively by orphan’s tears, this Bavarian bomber will soon be occupying golf course and salon parking lots near you. The first 100 buyers will also receive a vial of Chris Bangle’s blood intended to ward off any criticism of the new styling.

The new 3 series, available in Feb. 2012 will pack either a 6 or 4 cylinder engine, the option of an 8-speed automatic transmission, and stop-start functionality. With upwards to 300 hp and 88 fewer pounds to lug around (compared to last years model), the 3 should be a stormer. BMW will also be debuting a hybrid 3 series next year for those middle managers with an eco touch.

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