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Total Road Rage: Why I Hate Driving in the US

After five years of driving in the Midwest, I can only say: they’re all crazy!

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Infinite expanses, wide streets, little traffic and great landscapes. This is why so many rave about the driving in the USA. These things may also be true if you are traveling in the Western part of the US or outside big cities. But after five years of driving in the Midwest, I can only say: they’re all crazy!

I have been in Ohio for a few months a year for the past five years. In the middle of the US. In many ways, Ohio is a very beautiful spot in the world. But this is not necessarily true when it comes to driving. The courtesy of the Midwesterners on the road leaves me with total road rage …

This lane belongs to me

Typical drivers in the Midwest take it easy. Even if this means missing two green lights because they are on the phone, chowing down on some fast food, or who knows what else. Taking it easy sounds nice, but it also leads to grotesque driving.

Thus, the leisurely Midwesterner does not change lanes. Not at all. That would be too stressful. If someone knows that they have to turn left in 10 kilometers, they’ll stay in the left lane all the way. Whether the traffic situation allows it or not. It doesn’t matter if they hold up the entire flow of traffic. All the way!

So if I try to stay in the right lane, for example if I’m driving slowly (okay, I drive a little slow, but not under the speed limit), then need to get in the left lane to make a turn, it can be a problem: nobody lets me over. For the Midwesterners, it is quite clear: I am trying to cut them! (Yes, they are relaxed, but if you try to get in front of someone in their lane, suddenly it’s back to kindergarten).

Here, forward-looking driving means switching lanes a few kilometers before the turn. If I have not done that, it’s nobody’s fault but mine.

This leads to such absurd situations. I have to stay in the middle lane. The cars in the middle lane behind me are held up (again, I’m not such a slow driver, but I prefer to take it easy with all the recklessness around me which I will soon describe). Of course, they do not change into the right lane to get past me, because they don’t change lanes. There is a jam. The cars on the left lane, on the other hand, do not care about it and I just have to wait for a gap big enough so I can change lanes.

After all, no one honks.

Passing on both sides

On the highways in the US, exits are on the right and the left. That is why there is only the recommendation, but no strict rule that you only have to pass on the left lane.

Thus, Americans are accustomed to passing cars from both the left and the right.

At the same time, there is not the fixed rule that you have to drive faster on the left than on the right. Also it is quite acceptable to spend hours in the middle lane.

America

Driving in the middle lane for hours? Completely normal in the Midwest (Photo: Marinela Potor)

This results in two things that drive me nuts (and one day very well may give me a heart attack): wolfpacks and (completely unnecessary) risky passing maneuvers.

Like the wolves

The wolfpack comes from a combination of Midwesterners’ stubbornness and the fact that you can ride in any lane at any time, however long you want. The pack can develop over three lanes when one driver is blocking the middle lane, another is to his right because he’s going to exit from that lane (in 20 kilometers) and on the left, a driver is going at the same speed as the other two because he is chilling in the fast lane without passing anyone – just because he can.

These three cars traveling at the same pace across all the available lanes are the start of a wolfpack. Soon, they will be joined by others from behind, who of course, just want to keep moving, but can’t because, the three cars holding things up across all the lanes  won’t budge.

In this situation, if you want to drive faster, too bad for you. If you want to change lanes to the left or right, too bad. I have missed my exits several times, because I simply could not break out of the pack to get in the proper lane to exit.

Logic, where are you?

Often, precisely because of the wolfpack, arise very risky passing maneuvers. Or so they appear to me at least. I also get the feeling that I am the only one almost having a nervous breakdown from how everyone drives.

Maybe I just don’t understand what is going on. Indeed, in all these years, I have not found any logic in how people pass on the highway in the Midwest. The cars go along for 10 minutes blocking all the lanes, without it seeming to bother anyone.

Until someone suddenly seems to decide “I’ll give it some gas.” Maybe a fast song came on the radio or someone suddenly got hungry or got bored with the view of the same two cars on the right and left for 30 kilometers.

This happens, of course, exactly when a different driver is starting to think “Maybe I should change lanes.” As I said, I have not yet been able to decipher when and why the frequent synchronicity in these lane-change decisions.

The result is in any case the following: three cars trying to change lanes at the same time (of course, from all sides), which ends either in a quick accident or with me freaked out and clutching the wheel with very shaky, sweaty hands ,


Blinkers are unnecessary, you do not need mirrors

Now this strange passing behavior might not be quite so annoying if the Americans were to use their turn signals or mirrors. But somehow, the motto seems to be here: the others will already know where I am going.

Mirrors also seem to be understood as a senseless accessory, so that it is constantly happening that the drivers do not look into the rear or side-view mirror before their strange passing attempts.

But if you just do not understand when, where, and who is overtaking from where, and then nobody else uses the blinker or looks into the mirror, this is the perfect recipe for chaos!

And then there will be honking . . .

You know how I said no one honks? I lied. True, Midwesterners seem quite averse to using the horn, but then come moments when even this staid lot lose their patience. For reasons unclear. (I have not seen a real pattern in why they sometimes just seem to lose it). And in such moments, anything is possible.

Yelled curses, interesting hand signals, just hope they don’t reach in the glove compartment.

Now, I have simply given up on trying to understand drivers in the Midwest. Perhaps I should rather adhere to the old wisdom: when in Rome, do as the Romans. And when in the Midwest, forget all the driving rules you’ve ever learned.

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Expansion In The USA: Flixbus Challenges Greyhound

Flixbus goes USA. The German long-distance bus operator has officially announced today that Flixbus is planning to expand its US operations.

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Flixbus

Since Flixbus has already built a presence in 26 countries in Europe and transported over 30 million passengers last year, the long-distance bus company is now looking to try its luck across the pond. It is not yet clear when Flixbus plans to start its business and which routes will be offered. However, the first location and headquarters of Flixbus in the USA has already been established: Los Angeles.  “A small team is already on site and is responsible for setting up the American headquarters,”says Flixbus.

Greyhound is the biggest competitor

In the USA, Flixbus will have to compete with Greyhound, the bus company with the widest route network and the largest share of the bus market in the United States. Greyhound employs around 7,000 people and transports 18 million passengers per year. Greyhound is not the only competition, however. Megabus has also built up a considerable route network throughout the country.

But Flixbus founder André Schwämmlein believes that the American market is ready for a new player. “The American mobility market is undergoing significant change – public transport and sustainable travel are becoming increasingly important,” says Schwämmlein.

Flixbus wants to operate in the USA according to the same business model as in Europe. Flixbus does not operate its own buses, but works with medium-sized bus companies on site. “The same principle is to be followed in the United States of America, too.”

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Chinese “Train” Soon to Run Autonomously – On Painted Rails

As early as next year, the Chinese city of Zhuzhou wants to transport passengers in an autonomous “train” – on pre-painted rails.

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China Train
CRRCGC

The Chinese railway company CRRC wants to have an autonomous train in the inland city of Zhuzhou for 2018. The Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit (ART) is the name of this marvelous train which does not actual need any rails, but travels on painted tracks.

The train, which is actually a bus

The ART cheats a little bit. First of all, the ART avoids the typical problems that autonomous vehicles havebecause of its guide tracks. Autonomous vehicles must be able to recognize and evaluate traffic situations in real time and react accordingly. The ART will not have to deal with this challenge since it only travels on its painted tracks and, like a tram, is separated from the rest of traffic.

Secondly, the ART is not really a train, but a bus. Because even if the vehicle looks like a train in design, it is in reality an electric bus.

Environmentally friendly and cheap, but also safe?

The reason for the unusual design was probably also the intention to create an environmentally friendly transport solution for Zhuzhou. The ART should therefore have as little as possible in common with a diesel bus in terms of appearance. Well, and CRRC is a railroad company.

A “virtual bus track”is the name given for it by Feng Jianghua, chief developer at the Zhuzhou Institute, who has been developing the vehicle for CRRC since 2013.

The demand for public transport is great because like many cities in China, Zhuzhou, in the province of Hunan, has become a city of millions in just a few years. However, a subway for mass transport is too expensive, says Feng Jianghua. One kilometer of metro costs between $58 and $102 million. ART, on the other hand, cost only $2.2 million.

However, there are also concerns that the ART could quickly push ruts into the roadway by always taking the same route. It is also not yet clear how the bus would perform on the ice or snow.

One bus can carry up to 500 passengers

The e-bus runs on a fast-charging battery and can reach a top speed of 70 kilometers per hour. The standard model consists of three gondolas, is 30 meters long and can transport up to 300 passengers for 40 kilometers. The Maxi model is 50 meters long, with a capacity of up to 500 passengers. It is said that the gondolas can also be coupled in any way. The ART is also equipped with sensors that allow it to detect road dimensions and plan its own route.

The first virtual rail for the ART will pass through downtown Zhuzhou and be put into operation in 2018.

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Where Are The Electric Pickup Trucks?

There are electric cars, electric bikes and the first e-trucks are already on our roads. But where are the electric pick up trucks? Even in the country of the Pick Ups, the USA, they are still looking for in vain. Why?

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In Europe, pickup trucks have never been particularly popular. There is the VW Amarok, and in the GDR the pickup-like Wartburg 353 was built and Peugeot also had some models on offer. Currently, however, almost exclusively Japanese manufacturers are building pickups for the European market. This type of truck was never really a success with us. It is no wonder that no German car dealer is officially working on electric pickup trucks, at least not for the local market. But even in the country of pickups, the USA, the electric pickup is not a success either.

Americans love pickups – with gasoline

This question of where are the electric pickups was recently dealt with by the Washington Post in an article, with some interesting insights.

If you look at annual US car sales statistics, you will soon realize that Americans love their pickup trucks. They stand for freedom and solidarity and are part of the national image, just like hot dogs and the Super Bowl.

Not only in the country, but also in the city, Americans drive a lot of trucks. In 2016, pickup sales rose 6 percent. A clear leader in sales statistics is the Ford F-Series. But these trucks all have one thing in common: they run on gasoline. Diesel had a bad reputation in the USA even before Dieselgate.

However, while sales figures for electric vehicles in the US have risen rapidly – from January to May 2017, 46.2 percent more e-vehicles were sold in the US than in the same period last year – this does not apply to pickups.

Electric pickups as workstations

At least not yet. Various American car manufacturers, from Tesla to Workhorse to Ford, have announced they will roll out electric pickups in the coming years. Actually, Pick Ups would be ideal for an electric drive. Owners could use their small trucks not only as a vehicle but also as an electrical workstation. The connection of electrical tools, from the drill to the chainsaw, would thus not be a problem even away from civilization. And, of course, the change from non-low-emission pickups could greatly relieve the environment, as the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University suggests in a recent study.

This all sounds good in theory, but in practice, it is more complicated. Because with an electric pickup, quite different questions arise than with a small electric city car.

Range

There is, as always with electric cars, the delicate question of the range. “That’s a big deal for trucks because you’re dragging something or carrying a big load!” This is what Steve Burns, the CEO of Workhorse, explains to the Washington Post. Thus, when consumers are already thinking about the range in a small car, these concerns are even greater for pickups. The off-road vehicles are, of course, mainly used to transport heavy loads. However, the more weight an electric vehicle is carrying, the more battery power it needs – and the more range it loses.

No matter whether you are transporting tools for work, hay bales or bicycles, or furniture for the move: pickups are bought because they can take big loads. If this advantage is lessened by the shorter range, automotive groups have a sales problem.

Off-road trips must be safe

Of course, car manufacturers are working hard on solutions to this problem. Tesla is allegedly still this month to present its version of an electric semi-truck.

But it is questionable whether manufacturers can solve another problem with for pickups: safe driving in off-road terrain. This is where the vehicles are used particularly often. In the past, Tesla had problems with the durability of its floor on the Model S – something which is of course a bigger problem on uneven ground and therefore has to be taken into consideration during the construction phase, especially when heavy loads will be carried on the trucks. Because no one wants to be stranded when their truck breaks down in the middle of nowhere.

Too expensive?

However, even if all these aspects can be solved, electric pickups will have a hard time. They still cost more than comparable petrol engines. In the long term, however, they could save money for the users, experts say. In some cities and US states, there are tax credits for the purchase of an electric vehicle, and in the long term, electric cars are even cheaper, as researchers at Stanford University explain. However, long-term benefits must first come to the attention of consumers, which is often more difficult to see than the direct financial advantage.

And then there are also some “cultural” reasons that could deter a typical pick-up driver from buying an electric vehicle, as this Facebook user notes.

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