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On the future of the common auto repair shop

I saw this article on Wired about how high-tech vehicles are killing the auto repair shop. I have to agree with the observation. Perhaps it’s more imminent in the First World where newer model vehicles including electric and hybrid vehicles cannot just be repaired at a conventional auto repair shop. And they do have more of the newer vehicles as they have phased out the older ones that don’t comply with the higher standards that are now in place in terms of things like emissions and fuel consumption.

Marshall, A. (October 20, 2022) “High-Tech Cars Are Killing the Auto Repair Shop,” Wired, [Last accessed: 10/22/2022]

To quote from the article:

“As the traditional auto repair shop disappears, so might the stereotype about the grizzled and grimy auto repair tech with a wrench in his hand. “These complexities have made it more difficult for a shop to operate if it’s not running properly—if it’s not properly funded, not properly insured, doesn’t have the correct tooling, doesn’t have the right insurance,” says Lucas Underwood, the North Carolina shop owner.”

In our case, there are still so many of the conventional vehicles operating including the locally fabricated ones using surplus engines. At least for the more basic repairs the neighborhood repair shops, the “talyers” as we call them, will survive for now and perhaps for a longer while than how it is in the First World. Even the backyard or self taught auto mechanics are trying to keep up with the electronics and many are honest enough to tell you to go to the ‘casa’ if they cannot repair your vehicle or perhaps the parts are not available at the typical auto supply shop.

On ‘electric cars’ still being ‘cars’

With the current climate talks in the background, there is also a parallel discussion on the impacts of electric vehicles and self-driving cars. Will they help solve our transport or traffic problems? Perhaps e-cars will contribute to the reduction of emissions and greenhouse gases. Perhaps they can also help in reducing dependence on fossil fuels. But can they alleviate congestion? Or will they just promote more car-dependence? Here’s a nice article from early this year that discusses the “big problem” with electric cars:

I also read another article about the issues concerning the batteries (e.g., lithium batteries) used by these e-vehicles. We are only beginning to see how difficult it is to deal with the waste of used batteries not just from e-vehicles but from other sources as well. Renewables like solar, for example, requires batteries for storage. These are issues that need to be addressed ASAP. Otherwise, it will be a losing proposition for people in general as they end up with modes of transport that are not sustainable for the future. Perhaps we can just walk or bike?

Skylab – motorcycle taxi

We are currently doing research on motorcycles and a major part of the research is on motorcycle taxis. Motorcycle taxis are popular in many areas in the Philippines despite national and local government agencies have not sanctioned or legalized their operations. There are two popular versions of the motorcycle taxis – the habal-habal and the Skylab. Both are basically motorcycles with some add-ons to increase passenger capacity or to be able to carry more goods or cargo.

The habal-habal is carries all passengers or cargo on the motorcycle with some variants having a plank for extension to the back or a customized seat over the gas tank that is usually for children. The Skylab owes its name from the US satellite that fell to the earth in the 1970s. The shape of the satellite inspired innovative extensions along each side of the motorcycle. This enabled riders to take in triple the number of passengers they could with the habal-habal set-up.  Both have variants with roofs.

The following video shows a Skylab in Surigao Del Sur care of a very good friend, Dr. Alex Ladaga of Surigao Del Sur State University, whom we are collaborating with in this research:

More on these motorcycle taxis soon!

Is a truck ban the solution to truck-related crashes in Antipolo?

The crash near Masinag Junction in Antipolo City that led fatalities, injuries, damage to property  and terrific costs due to the congestion was caused by a truck that apparently had defective brakes. I’ve read some posts on social media calling for a truck ban in Antipolo City. Some comments go as far as specifying major roads like Sumulong Highway and Marcos Highway where a truck ban can be ‘most effective’.

Is a truck ban in Antipolo City and particularly along major roads like Marcos Highway and Sumulong Highway going to solve truck-related road safety issues? It should have some success but it does not address the root causes of the problem. Among these root causes are related to driver behaviour and the maintenance or condition of trucks. Issues pertaining to driver behaviour can be seen in the form of aggressive or reckless driving (e.g., speeding trucks, trucks weaving in traffic, overtaking at critical sections, etc.). Meanwhile, issues pertaining to vehicle maintenance/condition can be seen in instances where trucks climbing Sumulong Highway, Marcos Highway or Ortigas Ave. Extension tend to slow down traffic (overloaded and/or underpowered?) as well as in crashes involving the malfunctioning braking systems. These cannot be addressed through truck bans, which are likely to be more effective for cases of severe congestion that can be directly attributed to trucks.

A truck ban will only punish the good (read: disciplined and competent) drivers and responsible truckers/truck operators. Good drivers know their traffic rules and regulations and how to position themselves on the roads as well as the speeds they need to travel by together with mixed traffic. They exercise caution especially along areas where there are a lot of pedestrian activity (e.g., Masinag area, Mambugan, Cogeo, Tikling, Cainta Junction, etc.). Meanwhile, responsible trucking company operators would likely have more structured or organised maintenance regimes for their trucks and likely would have newer and standard (read: non-modified) vehicles in their fleets. These would be able to carry load according to their specifications and maneuver safely in varying traffic and road conditions. On a larger scale, truck bans will definitely have a detrimental impact on logistics that will carry over to the local economy as well as Antipolo is the origin of many goods/freight and much also pass through the city.

Transport related topics in the 2013 UP College of Engineering Professorial Chair Colloquium

The College of Engineering of the University of the Philippines Diliman is holding its Professorial Chair Colloquium on July 11 and 12, 2013. These will be held mainly at the Melchor Hall, which has been the home of the College since it transferred to Quezon City after the Second World War. The colloquium is an annual event where Professorial Chair holders deliver lectures on selected topics of research being undertaken in the various institutes and departments of the college.

On July 11, 2013 (Thursday) at the Geodetic Engineering Theater, 4th Floor, Melchor Hall, U.P. Diliman:

  • Dr. Hilario Sean O. Palmiano, Institute of Civil Engineering, “Traffic Noise Perception in UP Campus Dormitories” [DMCI Developers Professorial Chair] – 0950 to 1010.
  • Dr. Nathaniel B. Diola, Institute of Civil Engineering, “Blended Cement for Road Construction” [Prof. Jose Ma. Diago de Castro Professorial Chair in Civil Engineering] – 1010 to 1030.
  • Dr. Ricardo G. Sigua, Institute of Civil Engineering, “Blackspots and Their Identification” [Primary Group of Builders Professorial Chair Award in Engineering] – 1050 to 1110.

On July 12, 2013 (Friday) at the Maynilad Room, 3rd Floor, Melchor Hall, U.P. Diliman:

  • Dr. Jose Regin F. Regidor, Institute of Civil Engineering, “Transport Infrastructure, Poverty and Inclusive Growth” [Pozzolanic Philippines Inc. Professorial Chair] – 0910 to 0930.
  • Asst. Prof. Gerald Jo C. Denoga, Department of Mechanical Engineering, “Optimization of Parallel-Series Hybrid Powertrain for Public Transportation” [Emerson Professorial Chair in Engineering] – 0930 to 0950.
  • Dr. Karl B.N. Vergel, Institute of Civil Engineering, “Evaluation of Compliance of Specifications of Customized Local Road Vehicles (CLRV) with Local Regulations and International Standards” [Maynilad Professorial Chair] – 0950 to 1010.
  • Dr. Edwin N. Quiros, Department of Mechanical Engineering, ” Coconut Methyl Esther (CME) Performance and Emission Characteristics Using a Common-Rail Direct Injection (CRDI) Engine” [Emerson Professorial Chair in Mechanical Engineering] – 1010 to 1030.

Dr. Palmiano is the current Director of the National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS). Dr. Diola is the immediate past Director of the Building Research Service (BRS). Dr. Sigua is the head of the Road Safety Research Laboratory (RSRL) of the NCTS. Dr. Regidor is past Director of the NCTS. And Dr. Vergel is the head of the Transport & Environment Laboratory of the NCTS.

Asst. Prof. Denoga is the past Chair of the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering (DME) and has led teams in the design of vehicles that participated and won in international competitions on energy efficient vehicles, representing the country and the university in these contests. Dr. Quiroz is the head of the DME’s Vehicle Research and Testing Laboratory (VRTL).

These lectures as well as others on the mornings of July 11 and 12 are open to the public. Venues are at the Melchor Hall (along the Academic Oval), and the UPAE Hall and the EEEI Building at the College of Engineering Complex along Velasquez Street (across from the College of Science complex).

UP-AGT test runs

Happy New Year!

I start the year with a short feature on the Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) prototype at the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) campus. The prototype has been featured in a number of articles in quad media in the recent weeks of November and December after its delivery and a few runs along the elevated test track at the campus. A project of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through its PCIEERD and MIRDC, and in cooperation with UPD, the vehicle has caught the attention of the general public and particularly those who have advocated for better public transport services in Metro Manila and other Philippine cities. Many are excited about the prospects of a “home-grown” system being constructed and operated in Metro Manila, and the buzz about the AGT replacing the IKOT jeepneys of UP Diliman is still very much alive despite clarifications by both the DOST and UP about this being a R&D project as well as questions regarding sustainability and practicality. Following are a few photos of the AGT prototype during one of its demonstration runs last December.

IMG05182-20121213-1036Unfinished platform at the Jacinto Street end of the test track allowing access to the vehicle’s underside and bogey and the loading platform

IMG05185-20121213-1048View of the test track from the platform – note again the absence of rail tracks as the AGT employs rubber tires. Wheels travel along the two concrete guideways shown in the photo. That’s the CHED building along C.P. Garcia Ave. downstream from the position of the AGT

IMG05187-20121213-1107Driver’s perspective of the test track – the vehicle will eventually be driver-less (hence, automated) but for the test runs, there will initially be a driver to make sure the train operates correctly

IMG05195-20121213-1117Connection – the two prototype vehicles are connected by this crude assembly that is definitely one of the things that would need to be reconsidered in subsequent vehicles. Perhaps an automatic coupler should be installed in the future?

IMG05213-20121213-1148Dr. Ric Sigua of the Institute of Civil Engineering inspecting the pick-up system for the AGT prototype with DOST project staff.

IMG05242-20121220-0947DOST-PCIEERD and UP Diliman faculty (from the Institute of Civil Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute and School of Urban and Regional Planning) exchange ideas on the prototype.

IMG05190-20121213-1110View of the end of the test track showing the two guideways employed by the vehicle and traffic along the University Avenue

The initial runs of the AGT have been exclusive demonstrations to government officials including those in national agencies, guests from the private sector, and partners with UP Diliman. The formal test runs will start in January 2013 but there are still no details on how these will be carried out in order to determine the functionality and safety of the prototype. Already, there are informal discussions on what needs to be improved in the prototype based on the initial observations and inspections conducted by faculty members from UP Diliman’s College of Engineering who will be involved in the technical evaluation of the prototype. Hopefully, such evaluations can be completed at the soonest and improvements are considered prior to a full system eventually being constructed and made available for public use. Where that system can be constructed and operated is still up in the air but should definitely be somewhere where the system is needed and where it can be a showcase for localized technology.

Comparative study of jeepneys: LPG Jeepney

The University of the Philippines Diliman, through its National Engineering Center (NEC), National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) and the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Vehicle Research and Testing Laboratory (VRTL), is conducting a comparative study on jeepneys. Three jeepneys will be the subject of road and laboratory tests including one conventional (diesel), one LPG, and an electric jeepney. The study is supported by the Department of Energy (DOE) through its Energy Utilization and Management Bureau (EUMB).

The following photos show the LPG jeepney provided by Pasang Masda that will be used for the study. Road tests will simulate actual operation along an actual jeepney route. The DOE secured permits from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) for the deployment of the 3 jeepneys for the UP-North EDSA (SM) route. A similar permit was also secured from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) for the jeepneys to be exempt from the number coding scheme.

LPG jeepney unit used in the study

The LPG jeepney provided by Pasang Masda was assembled by David Motors, the pioneer of the LPG jeepney, and is owned by the jeepney group’s leader himself, Ka Obet Martin.

NCTS and David Motors staff work on the LPG jeepney’s engine in preparation for road tests. All jeepneys must be in tip-top condition prior to the tests in order for the comparisons to be objective.

A look at the LPG jeepney engine

The jeepney’s engine is supposedly not a converted one from a gasoline engine but is said to be an original Hyundai LPG engine.

The LPG engine needed some maintenance work as it was apparently not well-maintained according to David Motors’ staff.

Fuel indicator for the LPG jeepney

It turned out that it wasn’t only the engine that needed some attention. David Motors staff had to check everything that may affect the performance of this jeepney unit.

9The brakes on this unit seemed to be defective; something that will affect the performance in both road and lab tests to be conducted.

As of this writing, the road and lab tests have not been conducted for the LPG jeepney due to the many issues about the unit provided by Pasang Masda. Apparently, the group was not doing its part in the study and it was as if they were passing on the costs of fixing the unit they provided to the study team. We hope it was not a conscious effort on their part, which if it did meant they were dealing with us in bad faith – not a good thing if they wanted to be a partner in this research collaboration.

Transportation-related lectures at the UP College of Engineering 2012 Professorial Chair Colloquium

The College of Engineering of the University of the Philippines Diliman will be holding its Professorial Chair Colloquium for 2012 on July 30, 2012 at the Melchor Hall and the UP Alumni Engineers Centennial Hall at the UP Diliman campus. Among the topics under many disciplines of engineering are several lectures on transportation. These are the following and mainly under three departments of the college.

Institute of Civil Engineering [P & G Room, Melchor Hall]

  • “Investigation of Road Crash Causes in Metro Manila,” Dr. Hilario Sean O. Palmiano, DMCI Developers Professorial Chair [8:30 – 8:50 am]
  • “Design of Traffic Signal Timing and Traffic Impacts of the Re-introduction of Traffic Signal Control at the Intersection of the University Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue,” Dr. Karl B.N. Vergel, Maynilad Professorial Chair [8:50 – 9:10 am]
  • “Microscopic Simulation: A Tool for Evaluation of Traffic Schemes,” Dr. Ricardo G. Sigua, Prof. Emeritus Norbert S. Vila Professorial Chair [9:10 – 9:30 am]
  • “Revisiting the Costs of Traffic Congestion in Metro Manila and Their Implications,” Dr. Jose Regin F. Regidor, Pozzolanic Philippines, Inc. Professorial Chair [9:30 – 9:50 am]

Department of Mechanical Engineering [Maynilad Room, Melchor Hall]

  • “Performance And Emission Characteristics of a Direct Injection Diesel Vehicle with Different Blends of CME Biodiesel,” Dr. Edwin N. Quiros, Emerson Professorial Chair in Mechanical Engineering [9:30- 9:50 am]
  • “Design and Local Fabrication of an Energy- Efficient Electric Vehicle,” Asst. Prof. Joseph Gerard T. Reyes, Emerson Professorial Chair in Engineering [10:30 – 10:50 am]

Department of Chemical Engineering [Maynilad Room, Melchor Hall]

  • “Co-Production of Alternative Fuels for the Philippines,” Dr. Rizalinda L. De Leon, Semirara Professorial Chair in Engineering [10:50 – 11:10 am]

The lectures are all open to the public and will be held from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM. There are 8 lecture groups that are assigned to 8 venues at Melchor Hall and UPAE Centennial Hall. Melchor Hall is located at the university core along the Academic Oval while the UPAE Hall is located along Velasquez Street beside the EEE Institute Building and across from the National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS).