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Trabant Cabriolet

Trabant Cabriolet

Cut the top off your Trabbi and you’ve got yourself a wild ride!

Yes, when you think of Communist cars, you don’t think of the Lada Riva or the Wartburg or that weird Chinese Austin Maestro/Montego hybrid, you think of the Trabbi!

Built in East Germany, the Trabant started production in 1957 and continued right through until the end of the Eastern Bloc in 1991! And in that entire time the car went through pretty much no modifications from its original design. This car pictured is in fact a 1988 Universal model, which looks exactly the same as a 1958 Universal!

The car has the distinction however of being the first car built out of recycled materials, although today many eco-cars can claim they were constructed from several fridges or tin cans, the Trabant was the one that perfected it. But these recycled materials were not tin cans or fridges, or any other rigid metallic materials, but was in fact recycled cotton! Cotton waste from the Soviet Union and East German dye industry was compacted into a material known as Duroplast (hard plastic), and this is what the body was made of. Although at the time this was claimed to be stronger in crashes than any Western cars of comparative size and shape, I have a strong suspicion that these tests were carried out at 3mph against a mattress!

The car was powered by a 600cc two-stroke engine for the first 30 years of its life, although for the last 4 it was powered by a Volkswagen 1.6L engine from the Polo. In total, the best part of 3.7 million Trabants were built and plied their trade along the roads of the Eastern Bloc until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when thousands of these cars and their owners made their way into West Germany and dispersed across Europe. Although many were abandoned within days of the crossing, the Trabbi has since become probably the most famous cult car of all time, with many Westerners picking them up in 1990 for a single Deutsche Mark.

So why would people want to buy a car that’s as slow as sin, as reliable as lighting a match in a Force 10 Gale, has the crash safety of a paper bag and the prospect of the wheels falling off at any given moment?

Novelty of course! I’ve met many Trabant collectors at car shows, and their answers have consistently been for the novelty. Be it because the car was made by a Communist regime that no longer exists, the time-capsule styling of the 1950’s on a 1990’s car, the fact that it is so unreliable and unsafe that it inspires a sense of danger and risk, or mostly because it’s something of a cultural symbol that is easily personable. Today you’ll find that a lot of Trabant’s aren’t exactly in an original guise like the one here, most have been converted into caravans, racing cars, rally cars, mock military vehicles, police …

Driverless Cars – How About Autonomous Garbage Trucks, Mail Keeps, and Military Convoys First?

The work being done right now with automous cars is absolutely awesome, and I'd say it is about time too as it will save lives, improve efficiency, and help eliminate costs. Indeed, I'd like to take a few moments of your time to discuss some applications which may bring this technology to fruition faster, and allow citizens to watch its value as they come to accept it.

There was an interesting piece on April 5, 2013 in Manufacturing News online titled; "Race To Build Driverless Cars Is In Full Throttle," by Rick Montgomery, reposted from the Kansas Star and I'd say this is good news from a technology standpoint, and good for American companies to be on the leading edge of these future innovations . As we see more autonomous features in our cars; self-parallel parking features, automatic stopping, pedestrian avoidance, and lane departure features it is probably no stretch of the imagination that we could see completely autonomous cars being sold within ten years.

Personally, I think the best place to start with autonomous vehicle technology resides in military convoys, USPS mail delivery, and for refuse or garbage trucks. There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal on September 6, 2011 titled; "Garbage Trucks Pick Up Fuel Savings," by James R. Hagerty which noted all of the modern features on today's refuse trucks and how it has saved companies millions in increased efficiencies. Now, then with all this awesome trash picking-up technology, one could ask why we need a driver in the age of autonomous vehicles?

The trash truck can easily identify the trash cans, the sensors can ensure that they are picked-up properly, and we have all the technologies for collision avoidance available, why not start there and with USPS mail delivery. Delivering the mail by robot makes sense also, the vehicle goes to the same homes and puts the mail in the same mailboxes every day, this is the type of repetition that robots do very well, even using older technology, and the AI ​​systems only get better as they are used.

Occasionally, you'll be able to get robotic special delivery where the robot comes and knocks on the door and electronically records the delivery. This would be easy with the next generation of technology once we master the mail. Later, last time I checked the United States Postal Service was really in the red and needed a way to cut costs, well, this sort of automation would definitely help, and Google has the car for them! Please consider all this and think on it. …