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Motorists give red light to driverless cars

Motorists could stop self driving cars in their tracks with more than 70 per cent ready to turn their backs on the march of automotive progress, according to a new survey.

Just over five per cent of motorists asked by the UK’s largest specialist insurance broker Adrian Flux said they would embrace the new technology that’s causing such a buzz in the motoring world, with 24 per cent undecided.

Google has sunk millions of dollars into developing autonomous vehicles that have so far travelled more than 1.7 million miles with just 11 minor accidents – all the fault of other drivers.

But despite the clear implications for road safety, 70.3 per cent of 1,784 customers surveyed by Flux, which specialises in providing cover for modified and unusual vehicles, gave a red light to giving control of their driving to a computer.AF3490---future-of-motoring-info-driverlessv4

Of those, more than 45 per cent don’t like the idea of not being in control, while nearly 36 per cent said they simply enjoy driving too much to hand over the reins.

Nearly five per cent worry about the implications of hacking, 4.4 per cent fear they will be too expensive, and 2.9 per cent don’t believe they will ever catch on.

One customer said: “I love the overall driving experience and being in control. I love technological advance but love to drive and the overall experience and the sensation it provides.”

Another, who spent a career in IT, added: “I know that if something could go wrong, there will come a time when it will.”

With even current cars open to hacking, including a Jeep that was brought to a halt on a US highway by a laptop-wielding hacker, some people are loathe to put their safety in the hands of a computer.

“I would not want my safety decided by a software engineer,” said one respondent, while another added: “Quite simply they have CPUs that by their very nature can be hacked in much the same way wi-fi can be hijacked.”

Gerry Bucke, general manager at Flux, said the survey showed that the biggest obstacle to the uptake of driverless cars is people’s love of driving, fear of the unknown and reluctance to give yet more of their lives over to computers.

“There appears little doubt that driverless cars will become a reality in one form or another, but motorists are clearly struggling with the idea of giving up the freedom of the open road and simple pleasure of driving great cars,” he added.

“Many people have a real passion for cars and driving, and if vehicles are all essentially the same, moving around the country at fixed speeds with no input from the driver, one of life’s pleasures will be taken away.

“The biggest stumbling block to this new technology, however good it may be, could well be that people simply don’t want it.”

10 more reasons people said no to driverless cars:

  • We are a long way from having such devices as a practical option. A mix of self-driving cars and ‘driver’ driven cars would seem a recipe for disaster.
  • I don’t trust the ability to write software to control a vehicle without including bugs.
  • I am worried that when they develop faults (and they will – all cars do), the consequences could be a whole lot more serious than with conventional cars.
  • You will never enjoy going for a drive for pleasure again.
  • A person can make better decisions than a computer in certain circumstances.
  • Hacking is proven to be prolific and systems are not secure – one hack is one too many.
  • How will they cope once people learn that they can step or ride out and expect cars to stop, regardless of potential injury to occupants in an emergency stop? What about being stopped and robbed or attacked?
  • I don’t like modern cars and I wouldn’t replace my Beetle with anything.
  • If I’m heading towards a person or a cliff which choice would the car take?
  • We live in a tiny village that does not even have fibre optic broadband so driverless cars is a pipe dream


Living with a Hot Rod

Lurking in a suburban garage, among the neatly-trimmed lawns and well-tended flowerbeds, lurks a monster.

When new, the Ford Popular was Britain’s lowest priced car, a sit-up-and-beg budget model featuring a sidevalve 1172cc, 30bhp engine capable of just 60mph (which took about 30 seconds to reach).

But now, Michael Bates’ Pop could blow most modern cars away in a race from the lights with a dip of the throttle – thanks to a 5.7-litre Chevvy V8, churning out about 300bhp.

We chatted to Michael, from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, to find out why…and you can see much more about the British hot rod scene over at Influx.


The Essential Guide to Insurance for New Drivers

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Congratulations! You’ve passed your test. You’ve saved up for the car, or maybe you’ve been given your mum or dad’s old runabout. It might not be the trendiest car out there but you know it works and you know it’s been looked after and well maintained. You might even have been in the car when that runaway shopping trolley collided with the bumper in the supermarket car park on that dark and rainy day many moons ago. There’s a history there you know and trust. Fair enough.

But no matter how hard you revised or how well you drove on your test, and whether or not you’ve already got your hands on a car, the one thing you need right now is insurance. We know you just want to get out there and enjoy your new-found independence but insurance needs to be taken care of because you can’t drive without it. Unless you’re planning on being the getaway driver at the next bank heist? Definitely not recommended. That kind of career move is best left to the movies.

And despite all the hours you put into driving and passing your theory test, your instructor probably didn’t teach you too much about insurance. It’s understandable. They’re driving instructors, not insurance experts. That’s where we come in. Figuring out what type of insurance you need doesn’t have to be rocket science but it can be a bit confusing to the uninitiated. Worse, if you rush into it you could easily end up paying much more than you should and a policy that isn’t reflective of your situation.

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What you need is a quick-fire guide to the essentials. Something that explains:

  • the types of insurance
  • what an insurance group is and how it relates to your car
  • how buying a modified car can influence the price you pay
  • what to do if you have an accident, and…
  • how installing a black box in the engine can save you money on your premium too

As luck would have it, we have just such a guide that covers all these things. It also explains what the mish mash of bizarre sounding terms like Excess, No-Claims Bonus (NCB), and Third Party Fire and Theft mean. With our guide to insurance for new drivers, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision and feel much more confident when buying your first policy.

Download it now and get up to speed!

When cars had chokes, lead and lashings of chrome

Tesla-beating Enfield Europe’s quickest street legal electric car

A three-year project to turn a 40-year-old electric city car into a Tesla-beating dragster has climaxed with TV presenter Jonny Smith’s Flux Capacitor becoming Europe’s quickest street legal electric car.

The 1975 Enfield 8000 electric city car, capable of just 40mph when new, this weekend smashed the Tesla’s record over a quarter mile in the FIA European Finals at Santa Pod.

With the Fifth Gear presenter at the wheel, the tiny Enfield – boosted from its original 8hp to 1000hp – silently charged through the quarter mile in 10.84 seconds at 121mph, dismantling the Tesla’s record of 11.5 seconds.

“I still cannot believe what that little car is capable of,” said Jonny. “The little paper timing slip never lies, and when it revealed a 10 second pass I was so happy I kissed my crew mate Nick Farrow on the lips.

“This weekend the car not only clinched but blitzed the European record for a street legal electric car. Never in my dreams did I think the Enfield was capable of this kind of performance.”

Long before Tesla launched its supercar-killing model S P85 electric saloon, and prior to the Formula E race series, Jonny started restoring the rare but derelict Enfield.

Jonny with Enfield before the restoration began

Jonny with Enfield before the restoration began

He dubbed the car the Flux Capacitor with the idea of going Back to the Future of the electric car, and as a nod to the sponsor, insurance broker Adrian Flux.

Earlier in the year the car managed to run a 12-second quarter mile, then into the 11s.

But at Santa Pod this weekend the silent David was pitched against the piston-powered Goliaths. Jonny entered the highly contested Street Eliminator category, where some of the fastest cars compete, all with current MoTs, tax and running on street legal tyres.

In order to prove its road legal credentials, prior to the racing there is a mandatory 25-mile street cruise around the Northants countryside.

The Flux Capacitor on its 25-mile road cruise

The Flux Capacitor on its 25-mile road cruise

“This doesn’t sound much for normal cars, but these are vehicles treading the fine line between all-out dragsters and Sunday cruisers,” said Jonny.

“If you break down and can’t get back to the race track without outside help, you’re disqualified. Harsh, but we managed to keep our charge and complete the event.”

Qualifying with an 11.27 second quarter mile at 118mph, Jonny fitted taller axle gears to try to go even faster.

“We had two hours to recharge after the gruelling cruise before heading into race one. It wasn’t a lot of time. To be honest I was happy to have qualified at all given most of my competitors are running over 1500bhp twin turbo V8s,” said Jonny.

And then, 40 years after it was built on the Isle of Wight, the car originally designed as an electric city runabout in the midst of the 1970s oil crisis, tore up the strip in a staggering 10.84 seconds at 121mph.

The Flux Capacitor on the strip at Santa Pod

The Flux Capacitor on the strip at Santa Pod

Not quite 1.21 gigawatts of power, but 1900 amps and over 250 volts of electric muscle.

“This would be a serious feat for a modern supercar, let alone something 2.8 metres long that was designed for a maximum of 40 mph,” said Jonny.

“The numbers showed we’d got the thing from 0-102mph in 6.9 seconds. When new it couldn’t even do 60. They measured performance in the brochure quoting 0-30mph in 12.5 seconds. Mind you, it had 6kW of power then. Now it’s got 600kW.

“I was racing against a 2000bhp Nissan GT-R, so I knew I’d need some miracle to win. With a 10 second quarter mile in a tiny electric car in front of thousands of spectactors, I couldn’t have been happier to lose.

“While it is a very left-field project, the attention the Flux Capacitor got over the last few days is ridiculous. We had serious dyed in the wool drag racers come over and give us respect. I think – I hope – the Flux Capacitor has gone a little way to showing people that electric cars are nothing new, and that they can be charismatic and mighty fast.”

Jonny proudly holds aloft the timeslip showing the new record

Jonny proudly holds aloft the timeslip showing the new record

The question now is, can it go even faster?

“Maybe,” said Jonny. “I’m just chuffed to have achieved two major hurdles. Firstly completing the mandatory 25 mile street cruise around Northamptonshire without breaking down or accepting ‘outside’ help. It was tough, I won’t lie…three days before the event me and my brother were busy getting the hazard warning lights and horn to work properly!

“Then two hours later the car ran the fastest it’s ever run and consequently became Europe’s quickest street legal electric car.”

Of course, the Enfield is also tax and London congestion charge exempt.

“When I started this project I estimated a 12.5 second quarter mile, which we achieved within six runs of the car back in May,” said Jonny.

“A few months later we got into the 11s and now we’re running in the tens. And it never once tried to bite me. Despite its ludicrous proportions the car just gripped and ran straight and smooth. It’s a testament to the specialist engineers I chose to get involved with the project like Current Racing, Webster Race Engineering, BG Developments and GAS IT.

“It simply wouldn’t  have been possible without the support of Adrian Flux insurance, so I’m glad I phoned them by chance to check they’d be able to insure the car before starting to build it. It feels apt that 30 years after Back to the Future my Flux Capacitor has seen 88mph and beyond.”

Smoking ban extends to cars from October 1

The days of children suffering in smoke-bound cars will end on October 1 in the latest effort to reduce lung disease among youngsters.  From next month it will be illegal to smoke in a vehicle when anyone under the age of 18 is present.

According to the British Lung Foundation, more than 43,000 children are exposed to smoke in cars every week. As with any enclosed space, the toxic chemicals from cigarette smoke become concentrated in a car, even with the windows down. Now, thanks to new legislation, smokers will be hit with a £50 fine if they are caught lighting up with a minor in the vehicle. Convertible cars with the roof down will be exempt from the ban, and those in need of a nicotine fix will still be able to puff away on electronic cigarettes.


Gerry Bucke, general manager at Flux, said many people could remember sitting as children in the back seat of the car, hemmed in while parents turned the car into a densely-fogged health hazard. “Smoking was commonplace in cars – most cars had fixed ashtrays in the front and back seats – and often youngsters would go from smoke-filled living rooms at home into smoke-filled cars on the road,” he added.

“But since smoking was banned in places like pubs, shops and offices, primarily to protect people from second-hand smoke, this change in the law has been coming for a while.

“There’ll be some resistance from those who believe their car is their own private space, but with increased awareness of respiratory disorders from passive smoking – particularly among children – it’s hard to dispute that the ban is welcome.

“It will reduce the amount of GP and hospital admissions for smoking-related illnesses in children, which can only be a positive thing.”

10 tiny sports cars – big isn’t always best

How well do you know your Porsche 911s?

The Porsche 911 has been a motoring constant since it was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963.

But although that iconic silhouette has always remained unmistakably 911, its sheer longevity has ensured a myriad of styling revisions, models and special versions.

So to coincide with this month’s edition of Influx – a celebration of all things 911 – we’re putting your knowledge of Stuttgart’s finest to the test.

Thanks to our friends at Total 911 magazine, the world’s only magazine dedicated to the 911, for compiling the questions.

Are you a 911 novice or know-it-all? Correctly identify these 10 cars to find out.


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David v Goliath as Flux Capacitor takes on big guns

So what happens when you pit a 1975 Enfield electric city car against a British Touring Car Championships Audi A4 and a race-prepped Porsche 911 Turbo fitted with launch control? Not quite what you’d expect, that’s for sure…




But this is no ordinary electric car – this is the Flux Capacitor which, in the hands of Fifth Gear’s Jonny Smith, now packs more punch than your average supercar.

First, the Audi, a Rob Austin Racing A4 driven by Hunter Abbott – on slicks, as opposed to the Enfield’s road legal footwear:

Jonny, who has spent three years turning the derelict Enfield into a 1000bhp, street-legal dragster, said: “We ran at 1500 amps of power out of a maximum 2000amps, though we did lose a window at over 105mph – the Enfield was only designed for 40mph remember…

“At least we’ve still got a good few amps left in reserve, and I’m intending to change the rear axle gearing to get faster.”

So, having demolished a BTCC race car, next up was a Porsche 911 (997) Turbo:

A true David v Goliath drag race, the little Flux Capacitor was ahead right up until near the line, with electric muscle outstripping piston-power until the 1/8 mile mark, when the Porsche started gaining.

“This was my fastest run to date at 11.67 seconds. Look at the difference in speed off the line – in the end he beat me by 0.2 second, but this was respectable heads-up drag racing!” said Jonny.

“The Porsche driver told me it was remapped and had an aftermarket exhaust fitted, so it was over 600bhp. It was also 4-wheel-drive and had launch control too.”

Jonny’s stated aim was to build the fastest street-legal electric vehicle in Europe – and only an MoT and a race with a Tesla P85D stands between him and his goal…watch this space.

The Flux Capacitor is sponsored by Adrian Flux, and for more pictures and history visit the website.




Buying a black cab as a private car


"Taxi in London 2" by Ralf Roletschek (talk) - Fahrradtechnik auf fahrradmonteur.de - Own work. Licensed under FAL via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Taxi_in_London_2.jpg#/media/File:Taxi_in_London_2.jpg

Parents across the country are used to using their cars as taxis, ferrying children to and from parties, events, sports and clubs.

So why not go the whole hog and invest in an ex black cab, one of the most iconic and practical vehicles on the road?

Specialist insurance broker Adrian Flux takes a look at turning one of these ubiquitous vehicles into the ultimate people carrier.


Black cabs as we know them today have been a permanent feature of our cities and towns for well over half a century, when the FX4 superseded the antiquated Austin FX3.

Since then, the shape remained unchanged until the revamped TX1 appeared on our streets in 1997 – and even then the design was merely updated rather than ripped apart.

Black cabs – which also come in other colours, such as red! – can carry five passengers in comfort (six if you add a front passenger seat, which is possible), and have that turn-on-a-sixpence capability (actually 25ft) that’s a boon in congested school car parks.

So here are 10 reasons you may want to consider an actual taxi for your parental taxi service:


1) They are incredibly roomy – unrivalled passenger headroom and leg-room and, unless you have a full load of passengers, there’s plenty of space for shopping and luggage. The boot is actually quite small, but luggage can be stowed in various places in the passenger compartment.


2) Cheap insurance – it’s true that most insurers will struggle to know what to rate your FX4 or TX1, it’s unlikely to appear in computerised listing of car makes and models used on comparison websites but, once you’ve identified a specialist broker like Adrian Flux, insurance costs can be much lower than many current people carriers on the market.


3) They’re cool – OK, so they may not have the wow factor of a Ferrari, or the cache of a Mercedes, but the chances are you’ll turn as many heads turning up in a black cab, and raise a smile rather than a jealous scowl. You’d also be joining the ranks of the celebrity cabbies – over the years Sid James, Laurence Olivier, Stanley Kubrick, the Duke of Edinburgh, Stephen Fry and Kate Moss have used a black cab as personal transport. Fry once said: “I sometimes park it on taxi stands all day and no one notices.”


4) Safety – they are easily one of the safest cars on the roads. As a licensed passenger vehicle, safety was clearly of major importance when these cars were commissioned, and they are among the most robust and safe conveyances on four wheels. Granted, that’s partly because they don’t go very fast.

"Hackney carriage" by ed g2s • talk - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hackney_carriage.jpg#/media/File:Hackney_carriage.jpg

5) Peace and quiet – the chances are, if you’re thinking of buying a black cab, you’re planning on using it to convey kids. And as any parent will know, there are few more irritating and distracting things for a driver than little ones shouting, screaming, crying, arguing and well, being kids. So simply close off the driver’s partition, put on the stereo and forget they exist for a few minutes. Bliss.


6) Good value – you can pick up an ex black cab for about £3,000, sometimes less. Yes, they are likely to have covered a decent amount of miles, but bear in mind that these cars have been incredibly well maintained over the years, almost certainly much better than your average second hand people carrier, the Nissan 2.7 diesel engine used in the TX1 is pretty bomb-proof, and the chassis is incredibly robust. You can buy taxis from places like Elite London Taxis.


7) Access – black cabs can cope with the most “urban” of pushchairs – you know, those new ones that look like they’re built for off-roading in the Grand Canyon. They can also easily be adapted for wheelchair users, and general access to and from the vehicle is good because of the large doors and high position on the road.


8) Cheap spare parts – because of the hugely competitive nature of the taxi maintenance market, spare parts are much, much cheaper than your average people carrier. Brakes and body panels are cheaper than on most cars, and the panels bolt on and off, making repairs quicker, easier and therefore cheaper.


9) Great for business – in more recent years, black cabs have been well utilised as advertising mediums, with vast panels available for graphics. So if you run your own business, black cabs are the perfect way to get about and plug your services at the same time.


10) You can use bus lanes – actually, you can’t, that’s a myth. It’s illegal, although some owners probably do.


Adrian Flux provide quotes for all sorts of unusual vehicles, from former taxis to modified motors, bespoke vehicles and everything in between.