Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


AUTOMOTIVE NEWS is the weekly source of its industry’s happenings, data, and trends. It has been around since 1925. At one time called Automotive Daily News, it was published on the five business days each week; since 1938, it has been a weekly. Another nugget: According to Wikipedia, even in 1942-1945 with its industry devoted to wartime production, Automotive News retained 73 percent of its circulation.

All this is preface to today’s tidbits here at SimanaitisSays: three things I recently learned from the pages of Automotive News.

Uber’s Deadly Scam. On March 18, 2018, an Uber autonomous vehicle killed a pedestrian when its driver/overseer failed to respond. I hadn’t followed this until the December 2, 2019, Automotive News Editorial titled “Uber Case Should Prompt Tighter AV Controls.”

Noted Automotive News, “Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group revealed that potentially life-saving software was disabled in the vehicle… because it triggered harsh braking too often at a time the company was trying to show progress to investors….”

This is multiply damning: Disabling the safety software to improve investors’ impression is bad enough. Actuating “too often” indicates a software fault. Harshness suggests the system in no way improves on practiced drivers’ responses. (This “better-than-human-driver” is a much touted claim of AV proponents.)

Last, and most critical, it is absurd that such evidently unready systems should be on public highways. As Automotive News writes, “… federal and state governments have the unenviable but necessary task of ensuring that people aren’t exposed to unnecessary risk in what is essentially a beta test of unproven technology.”

Three-Cylinder Engines. In the same December 2, 2019, issue, the Automotive News Cars & Concepts section writes about “G.M. Bringing 3-Cylinder Back to N.A.”

Back in 2000, the Chevrolet Metro had a normally aspirated 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine producing all of 55 hp. The coming Buick Encore GX and its Chevrolet Trailblazer sibling will have a choice of turbocharged inline-threes; a 1.3-liter rated at 155 hp; a 1.2-liter now available overseas at 137 hp.

The Chevrolet Trailblazer will get a three-cylinder engine this spring as a 2021 model. Image from Automotive News, December 1, 2020.

Ford, Mini, and Mitsubishi have inline-threes in their current lineups: Ford’s 1.5-liter EcoBoost-powered Escape, Mini’s BMW-designed 1.5-liter, and Mitisubishi’s 1.2-liter Mirage.

Raise You Two. This got me thinking of other odd-number cylinder counts. In the early 1980s, G.M. fooled with a V5 diesel, essentially an Oldsmobile V-6 with one cylinder replaced by the fuel injection pump.

Volkswagen’s 2.3-liter narrow-angled VR5 (three cylinders on one bank, two, staggered, on the other) was offered from 1997 to 2006; only 100-200 were produced.

Audi has had inline-fives as part of its lineup since the mid-1970s; the Ford Power Stroke diesel is another inline-five design. Among others, Mercedes-Benz had a five-cylinder diesel. In 2017, Car and Driver summarized a bunch of others around the world.

Syd Mead. Futurist extraordinaire Syd Mead died at age 86, December 30, 2019. Automotive News, January 6, 2020, reported this in “Syd Mead Brought Futuristic Visions to Autos.”

Sydney Jay Mead, 1933–2019, American industrial designer and concept artist. This and the image following from Automotive News, January 6, 2020.

Mead’s involvement in motion pictures includes Star Trek: The Motion Picture; Blade Runner; Tron; Aliens; and Blade Runner 2049.

The Automotive News tribute cited “The clearest sign of his influence may be the electric Tesla Cybertruck that debuted in late November.

Automotive News reported, “Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the Cybertruck was inspired by 1982’s ‘Blade Runner.’ ”

I remember Syd’s visions of the future appearing in Automobile Quarterly, Vol. 13 No. 1 First Quarter 1975. Syd’s illustrations always portrayed people in settings that displayed a wonderfully provocative future only vaguely related to the present.

Image from

Thanks for the inspiring glimpses, Syd. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020


  1. Bob DuBois
    January 13, 2020

    In 1992 Acura produced the Vigor sedan for 3 years. It, too, had a 5 cylinder engine. The Vigor was replaced by the TL with a conventional even-number of cylinders.

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