Saturday, April 28, 2012


Some more driving today to acclimate to the car.  Starting to get a little more comfortable with where it is in the road now, but I slightly underestimated the curb distance when drawing up at a low curb for a trial park. There were still a couple of centimetres, but I thought I was 6 inches off - I'll have to be careful about that.

One nice feature that I've had in a few recent vehicles is the dipping of the passenger-side door mirror when the car is in reverse in order to view the position of the wheels in relation to the curb.  The Fisker Karma doesn't (yet) have that feature, but perhaps if it's as flexible a platform as I'm hoping, then things like that could be added.  We'll see.  In fact, I've often thought in the vehicles with this feature, that it would simply be nice to have a 'parking mode' where the mirror dips regardless of being in a forward or reverse gear (sometimes you're cruising into a curbside park without any reversing at all).  So, perhaps there's a way for Fisker to actually improve on this feature with a simple soft-button that puts mirrors into a temporary preset parking position.

I'm starting to 'open the envelope' a little on the road and therefore get a real feel for the handling and performance.  This is a great car to drive.  It's a heavy car of course, unlike the R8, but it's no slouch off the line even in "Stealth" mode and the handling is actually wonderful.  Balanced and smooth in the corners, it feels like it is on rails and actually there's an illusion of going slower than you are actually traveling.  West Vancouver's Marine Drive and "Sky to Sky" highway are two classic drives in these parts where I always enjoy taking a new set up wheels.  There are plenty of bends but also little stretches to accelerate a bit, including rather more duel-lane sections than when the road was modeled for the game "Need for Speed", thanks to the pre-Olympic infrastructure upgrade given to the road.

Aside from driving, I managed to get a few remaining set-ups completed today:
  • I called Sirius and transferred my subscription from the Audi to the Karma.  They had the audacity to charge me over $40 for the privilege, despite how inconsequential and simple that is to accomplish, and the fact that as a 3-year package subscriber, I was pretty much locked in.  I might have some things to think about when my Sirius subscription comes up for renewal at this end of this year.
  • I bought a new 64Gb USB flash stick in the hope that the car would accept this as an appropriate bulk storage medium for my iTunes library (which is fairly big at this point).  I thought I would start by just doing a file copy of my entire iTunes music library, omitting the obvious video directories ("TV Shows" and "Movies").  This ended up being 54Gb and took a few minutes to copy to the flash drive.  I was a bit apprehensive that this would work - firstly from the size of the drive and secondly the file formats from the Apple world.  My 2010 Audi did not read large format media (greater than 16Gb apparently) and did not work with iTunes' .m4p/.m4a files, which made getting my iTunes library into the vehicle other than via the iPhone link pretty awkward.  Anyway, to my very pleasant surprise, the Karma devoured the large directory structure, which took a short while (without any user feedback that it was doing anything), but as far as I can tell everything works!  Even the cover art seems to appear for a lot of the music, so the Karma is evidently well educated in the iTunes music library structure.  That makes complete sense given the enormous popularity of iTunes, but it was far from a given - well done Fisker!

I learnt a few more little details about the car's behaviour today as well.  It looks like the seat position recovery seems to work when you hit enter Accessory mode if you entered the car with "Easy Entry/Exit" turned on.  If you go straight to "On" mode, the seats seem to stay in the entry position.  That's probably so you are not driving with everything still moving, but I would have thought that they could still allow the seats to move until the vehicle is moved out of Park mode.

Also, the automatic door mirror folding, which I wasn't sure of, appears to be linked to the exit timing.  The mirrors fold some time after you have exited the vehicle and locked it.

At the time of writing, Fisker's documentation is acceptable, but not outstanding... in the sense that many details like these are completely missing.  I'm sure it's tough keeping up with lots of change and there's also the cost of producing what would obviously be a much larger set of manuals, if all the details were included.  Being in software management, I know this to be tricky with a fast moving target.  I don't know how many of Fisker's customers are tech-savvy, but online manuals and/or downloadable PDFs for reading on computers, tablets and smart phones would, I think, be quite acceptable in this day and age anyway.  That would perhaps also further boost Fisker Automotive's green credentials.  

On the subject of the standard (premium) audio system in the EchoChic, I played a bit today with the sound, given my new access to high-quality audio media.  I was spoiled in the R8 with a mix of both the standard Bang & Olufsen system, augmented with an after-market Audion amp and sub-woofer.  Audio in the R8 always sounded great.  The Karma actually sounds rather good too.  There's undoubtedly a different ambience - the R8's interior is quite hard, whereas the Karma is wall-to-wall carpets and soft trims with the large central 'baffle' of the battery tunnel.  The sound system provides a simple equalization screen that I toyed with a bit with various kinds of music.  It felt to me like the highs needed a bit of a boost to crisp up vocals a bit  but the in any case the sound was great.  With the volume jacked a bit, stepping out the car to listen to the sound leakage I could also hear a bit of a rattle from the trunk on the bass beats - I think the trunk lid was vibrating due to the proximity of the rear central woofer.

A couple more things to investigate when I next have time (unfortunately, I'm traveling on business for half a week from tomorrow, so my Karma fun will be on hiatus).  First, I noticed that my onboard phone directory now has about three copies of every entry.  I think that's because I was messing about with my iPhone yesterday to get it working properly with Apple's iCloud - maybe this resulted in copies of contacts with different IDs.  I'll have to see if I can reset the Red Carmeleon's directory to empty and try to sync my phone again for the first time.

The second item on the "To Do" agenda is to research how to enter numbered street addresses.  I tried (while out on a drive, with limited time) to enter Fisker of Vancouver's address on West 5th Street in Vancouver.   The system didn't seem to take number characters when asking for a street in "Greater Vancouver" and neither did it seem to understand "West" as being a street prefix.  I'm sure it's easy when you know how...!

I did manage to easily select my preset "Home" special location, and so experienced the turn-by-turn navigation for the first time.  The system is growing on me, though in many ways it seems simpler than the systems currently offered on the Audi and Acura (my two most recent comparatives).  One great thing about the Fisker system IMO is that text is entered via a screen keyboard - that's like the Lexus GS I used to own, but unlike both the Audi and Acura that make use of a rotary input method.  I have always found those to be pretty awkward.  As an aside I'm always amused that car touch screen keyboards present characters in alphabetic order, whereas tablets and phones still tend to use the more 'computery' QWERTY ordering.  These devices, and computers in general, are pretty ubiquitous now - but I suppose the car industry clings to the notion that some part of its market will never have used a computer keyboard!

The Karma's navigation and indeed all voice messages are in fact produced by a phonetic speech synthesis engine.  While I don't know the facts, that seems to be different to the current practice with larger manufacturers that seem to sample longer, more specialized speech for common words and phrases used in the vehicle (such as turn notices from the navigation system).  The 'voice of Karma' isn't the highest quality speech synthesis engine, with quite a few audible synthesis artifacts and odd vocalization/pronunciation.  Nonetheless, one advantage of the system is that it speaks road names, whereas in many other systems you have simple audio messages such as "take the next right" and you have to glance at a screen to see the name of the road.

Oh yes, one last thing to research from today's experience pertains to how to balance the voice prompts with the audio system.  I've noticed that the audio system volume is attenuated when the parking system beeps, but I don't think that's true when the navigation system is speaking.  The volume of this speech follows the general volume level along with any music you are playing and seems a little low actually.  That caused me to try to find a "music off" button, but actually I haven't found that either (the mute button actually mutes the navigation directions too!).  I resorted to selecting the (unconnected) aux audio input to get complete musical silence in order to hear the navigation system as I wanted.  Maybe there's a better way?

No comments:

Post a Comment