Two car news stories that may have passed you by in

Two Car News Stories That May Have Passed You By In 2009

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On a weekly basis car news is often dominated by stories about the latest product, the results of the latest test drive or the results of the most recent motorsports event. Look back on a year though and you find a few stories that are a little more general – and dare we say, a little more interesting. Here’s a couple of car news stories that broke over the last year that you may have missed:

Were Top Gear Live’s Ferrari’s the real deal?

The presenters of Top Gear may court controversy on a regular basis, but the show itself usually manages to keep its distance from the wilder stunts and comments seen on air. However, in 2009 it was the Top Gear Live show that generated one of the most intriguing stories of the year – were the Ferrari 360’s seen at the Australian show actually dressed up Toyota MR2s? Fans certainly believed so, crying foul on the vehicles design and the lack of the distinctive roar of the Ferrari engine.

After a Ferrari spokesperson claimed that they had asked Top Gear Live to “please use real Ferrari’s” for the Hong Kong show, it seemed as though the rumour had been confirmed. A statement from Phil Fleming, head of communications at BBC worldwide almost corroborated it – certainly the possibility wasn’t ruled out! However Fleming’s phrasing left a little room to manoeuvre and a big question mark over the truth.

Saying “magicians never divulge their secrets – we also don’t want to spoil the enjoyment and impact of the sequence by revealing how it’s done”, he didn’t exactly rule out the possibility. Whatever the truth, it certainly made for an interesting story!

London tests ‘big brother’ GPS-based speed limiters

Surprisingly, expressions of fear over the future of freedom in UK motoring were fairly subdued last year when Transport For London pioneered a new style of ‘Big Brother’ speed control. 12 cars were fitted with GPS-linked speed limiters that used a computer to control the maximum speed, rather than the drivers foot.

The experiment was said to be part of a test to determine whether accident rates can be reduced through high technology. A ‘black box’ fitted to the engine combined GPS location data with a national database of speed limits and would override the throttle if a driver pushed past the specified limit.

Strangely, given that the vast majority of drivers go just past the speed limit most of the time no matter where they are and that speed cameras have been likened to the worst forms of authoritarianism, this story didn’t make many waves in the UK.

Perhaps this was because the tabloids spent all their fury in the very last days of 2008, when the Commission for Integrated Transport suggested that these devices could prevent up to 29% of road accidents resulting in injury if introduced in all new cars. Funnily enough, nearly all of the major newspapers failed to pay nearly the same amount of attention when the devices were actually used.

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