Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Automotive news: Italian vehicle proximity sensor

They say not to rent a car when you visit Italy. They say that as a way to warn you that Italian drivers have all taken leave of their senses.

Well, they may be right.

Susan and I rented a car in Sorrento. We planned to drive to Positano, then on to Amalfi, Ravello and back.

We were picked up near our hotel by the rental company (we stayed at the Hotel Astoria, which we highly recommend). I say near our hotel because the streets around the hotel are too narrow for anything larger than a scooter to negotiate. Certainly the Mercedes the rental company picked us up in would never fit, that is not without first taking a side trip through a car crusher.

We rented a recent model Peugeot something-or-other. It's a large-ish family hatchback by Italian standards. About the size of three or four original Fiat cinque centos.

When I did the walk-around with the rental agent I noticed that this poor Frenchman of a car had been in a few scrapes with neighborhood Italians. All in good fun I suppose. No worse for wear than the ancient Roman Empire-period Vespas I see buzzing around.

So we set off in our rental for our first stop: Positano.

The manual drive train in this car only had one truly useful gear: second. First was a torqueless wonder, and I rarely got to third, so in all fairness I can't write a review on that one.

The road to Positano is a visual feast of breathtaking beauty. It seems to have been specially designed as a two-lane autostrada for 50cc, two-cycle motorbikes.

The folly of this 'highway' is that cars use it. And tour buses too. And everyone does 50 km/h. At least everyone who doesn't want to be passed with a scowl tossed in for good measure that is.

After an hour or so of hairpin turns, negotiated at breakneck speeds, careening madly on this cliff-side ledge of a road, dodging buses and oncoming cars, pedestrians, cyclists, dogs and cats, and being passed on blind corners by knee-down sport bikers with their pillions clutching their boyfriends' backs for dear life, I lost my fear, and began to drive like an Italian.

The first rule is like riding a motorbike. Look calmly through the space, not at the other vehicles. Learn that ten inches on either side is oodles of room with lots of margin for error.

In the blind hairpins, on a right-hand curve, with an oncoming bus, and the unforgiving cliff wall to your right, it's best hit the accelerator hard, keep one eye out for pedestrians or pets around the bend, and the other eye on the instrument.

By instrument, I am referring of course to the Italian vehicle proximity sensor. All four-wheel vehicles in Italy seem to have them, so I imagine they are required by law.

The trick is to learn that if the proximity sensor isn't touching the cliff face, or smacking pedestrians, cyclists, or parked cars, it's all good!

Here is a photo of the one our Peugeot had.


Unknown said...


I presume that this isn't much different than Montreal traffic ?

Riding the Wet Coast

Trobairitz said...

I have heard stories of driving in Italy from an old boss I had who was from "the old country". This sounds no different. Scary is how it sounds to me.

What is a man to do.......when in Rome.......

David Masse said...

Bob, Montreal has its moments, but Italian traffic is like a massive game of chicken among all road users.

David Masse said...

Trobairitz, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.