2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA200 (C117)

After 8 months with the A200, I’ve managed a switch to the CLA200. What is this? Well it’s the A-class that they made a bit longer and chopped the hatch off. Although it looks a bit like a sedan, Mercedes naming conventions have it down as a coupĂ©. This is further aligned by the limited head-space for the rear seat passengers.

The CLA by name is not an A-Class, but by every other measure it is. Both cars share interior and exterior design features, have the same engine options and are based on the same platform. The CLA was introduced 8 months after the launch of the A-Class. A CLA station wagon (or shooting brake) has been released this year, looks beautiful, but is not yet available in South Africa.

Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake

Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake (this is not my car)

The specific cars (A and CLA) I drove have the identical engine, gearbox and FWD system. Sitting in the CLA feels exactly the same as sitting in the A-Class, besides the media screen’s thinner frame, and noticeable changes to the door due to the frameless doors on the CLA.

So I thought the A-Class I drove had no extras, but the CLA had even less. No ‘Mirror’ package, means the side mirrors don’t fold away (a nice visual cue for whether your car is locked or not) and also that the mirrors don’t auto dim when lights shine on them. Even with the lack of extras, the car still came with cruise-control, bluetooth and tyre pressure monitoring.

This is kinda like my car

This is kinda like my car

Outside, the bonnet has some extra styling lines, the side profile obviously differs with the boot instead of the hatch. Doors don’t have a window frame, and the stock 16″ wheels encourage an optional upgrade. Inside there are some minor design changes to the vents and trim, not specifically to my liking compared to the A-Class, but not bad. The rear seats do fold down, so I’ll still be able to get my bike in, which was something I was concerned about after the fixed rear seats of the old C-Class (split rear seats was an option).

this is my one

this is my one

The engine revving/noise seems to be tweaked slightly compared to the A-class, which means it doesn’t sound as strained. I also feel that the way it manages gears has also been tweaked slightly for the better, meaning I no longer have the issue of being in the wrong- or out of a gear when leaving a speed bump.

Although the CLA is marginally heavier (like 30kg) than the A-class, it still manages improved fuel-economy figures. Partially due to the car’s lower wind-resistance profile and partially due to an added ‘Charge’ fuel-saving feature. Only time will tell how accurate this is. Over the 18,810 km I did in the A-Class, I averaged 8.7 l/100km.2015-06-22 16.45.52

Overall I do like the CLA more. It’s a nicer looking car; I’ve always preferred a sedan shape to a hatchback (although the shooting brake really does take the cake) and I also feel it drives nicer than the A-Class. Suspension seems marginally stiffer, but this may be because I’m comparing a brand new CLA to an A-Class with several thousand Ks on the clock.2015-06-22 16.45.41

Another nice car, nothing amazing from Mercedes, but good looking, comfortable and decent handling. A very expensive car for what is a small sedan, but it is a premium brand, and the price is only marginally more than what you’d pay for the equivalent A3 sedan.

Sani Pass – June 2015

panoramaLast weekend a friend and I spent some time with my family in Kokstad. While there we decided to take a trip up the Sani Pass, on mountain bikes. Sunday we headed out through Underberg and Himeville and on to the pass. The road to the South African border post was mostly good with a couple rough patches, and a bit of ground clearance would come in handy. That being said we saw a ford fiesta with 4 people that somehow managed to scrape its way to the border post.border postPassports are required, but it’s a quick stamp at the SA offices before you climb on your bike. The pass officially starts several kilometres earlier, but we decided to ride post to post. It was a long climb up. The route is only 8km, but you climb vertically from 1965m up to 2873m. A tough job for my sea-level accustomed lungs. It took us about 2hr15min to do the trip up, of which we were stationary for half an hour.up and upOnce up top we had a quick meal at the self-proclaimed ‘highest pub in Africa’, a glass of gluehwein to warm us up and a cup of coffee to sober us up for the trip down. It had snowed there several days prior, but most of the snow had already melted. Coming up the pass some sections which don’t get the sun were still iced over though. Only 4×4 vehicles are permitted to go up the pass, that doesn’t stop everyone though, and we saw some sliding fun by a RWD Ford Ranger on one particularly icy section.Frozen WaterfallThe trip down was a lot of fun. Definitely worth the tough climb, and I’d love to do it again. The first sections are particularly slow due to the ice. We also had a fair amount of traffic both ways, but it’s usually relatively easy to get past the vehicles. Especially on the way down they are driving much slower than a bike.High PubWhile there are a lot of rumours of tarring the route, till  now no work has taken place, nor any visible preparation. It’s gravel the whole way till you cross the Lesotho border, at which point you ride onto nice smooth asphalt.looking backMy full trip down can be seen below:


Putting the A into AI

In a recent episode of Top Gear (S22E06), the hosts got going about driverless cars and how one day these cars are going to being making decisions about whether they should kill a bunch of kids or let you die instead. And it’s a funny little skit they do, but many people seem to believe that this is a current issue.

What I find surprising, is that no one is actually worried about these things, until someone starts a conversation about it, and then it’s fun to joke about, but in a serious manner. It’s the same thing we saw in the movie adaptation of iRobot, where Will Smith hates robots because one chose to save his life over a child’s, because the odds were better. It’s also why during the rest of the movie the robots try to imprison us, for the ‘better good’.

But it’s called Artificial Intelligence for a reason, mainly because it’s not real. It’s true that we’re doubling the processing capabilities of computers on a very frequent basis, but we’re still decades away from being able to get a computer to take in and process enough data to be able to make that kind of decision, and then it’s still only making a decision based on what we’ve taught it, there is no intelligence in the true sense of the word. Nevermind who gets to make those decisions anyway? Is there an ISO standard which dictates the hierarchy of people. For example: two 20 year olds > one 50 year old? No. Not any time soon anyway. And I don’t know if I want my car making these kinds of decisions in any case. I don’t want it to know that much.

The sad (maybe) truth is that it’s really really hard for a computer to quickly recognise different kinds of objects. It can quite possibly recognise obstructions, but to differentiate what these all are in any usable time frame is nigh impossible. More likely the car will see it’s about to crash, will slam on brakes and determine if there is an area to its left (for RHD cars) that it can swerve and avoid hitting something else. This is where we are currently. And it’s great, because as much as we as people can analyse, people make bad decisions. More often than not though, the car will avoid being in situations where it has to make this kind of decision. It won’t be tailgaiting like humans do, it’ll have a nice following distance that gives it time to react. And it can react quicker than us.

I’ve written about autonomous vehicles before, the ‘Yay’, but ‘ahh’ feelings I have towards them. The biggest factor against them at the moment is the lack of regulations governing them. And no one really knows how to react to this. There are too many uncontrolled variables, which I don’t see being solved in the next 10 years, not on public roads in any case.

Some of my posts (such as this one), I’ll have the idea for the post, sketch out one or two paragraphs, but then it sits as a draft for almost 3 months. And as time goes on, more and more people write and speak about the topic, such as the below 2 articles which have al come out in this time :) It is an exciting time to be in, and I look forward to seeing how the rate of penetration increases. I’m not as optimistic as others may be, but agree that it is the future, and hope to be able to be a part of it.

Elon Musk mentioned it in a recent key note address

Another very relevant link: Self-driving cars and the Trolley problem

Busy does not mean bad

Several years ago I read an article, can’t remember too much about it, but the one point that stuck with me is the generic response to “How are you?” is “Busy”. The author pointed out that that’s not a very good answer, and I’ve taken note of it every time I’ve given that answer since. A few weeks ago another article popped up on one of my feeds, with a similar message. And every time I give the answer (and I find myself doing it regularly) I kick myself, and then try expound.

But being busy isn’t a bad thing (I’ve even written about it before). The problem is when telling someone you’re busy, it doesn’t mean anything. Everyone’s busy, always. Except when you’re not, but that’s like never, right? I make time for the things I want to do (or feel compelled to do). It’s about prioritising. I do this at work all the time, however there it’s aligning your priorities with your manager’s.

Being ‘busy’ is an offhand comment we give to appease the masses. I don’t really care if you’re busy or not. I want to know if you’re well. If you’re having trouble. If you’re happy. If I can help. It’s become customary to accept being ‘busy’ as an answer; no one bats an eye. It’s like being fine. You’re as fine as you are busy.

If I’m busy I feel like I’m working effectively. And that kind of attitude carries over into my personal life. Don’t get me wrong, I spend a fair amount of time doing non-value adding things like browsing Reddit and watching Youtube videos, I have lots of time I could be spending ‘achieving’ something, but I still feel busy. As long as we’re not doing nothing, we’re busy. And so it adds to the lack of meaning in the word.

Are you busy because you have been given lots of work? Are you keeping yourself busy? Why are you busy?

So what is an acceptable way to reply? I get it, saying you’re busy or you’re fine has it’s places. It’s great in impersonal communication with acquaintances. You’ve only been asked out of politeness and custom, it’s a nice answer that doesn’t have to trigger an in depth discussion. But when it’s someone close to you, when it’s someone you care about, don’t say you’re busy, they don’t care if you’re busy.

DCIM101GOPROI really have no idea what pictures I can put in this post…