Do what the robots can’t


If robots can replace your job, it’s not the robots’ fault

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. June 8, 2016

Robots are here to make our lives easier, and in the process, they are eliminating a lot of menial work. We see it everywhere from the banking to the food industry, and all areas of retail and trade. These industries employ people all across the globe. The idea of all of these jobs becoming obsolete is a bit concerning since there has yet to be a real replacement.

When a worker is made redundant, replaced by a machine or an algorithm, the situation is met with pessimism. The notion is that if you don’t know how to code, you might as well starve. However, the rise of the automated, robotic workforce is something we have been experiencing since our youth. We grew up with computers and machines, so why is it so shocking when a new system replaces us on the assembly line?

In tech, there is a lot of talk about disruption. Is this software or hardware capable of changing the way we accomplish a task? Can the iPhone change the way we pay our bills? Will streaming services make video rental stores relics? How can virtual reality change the way we shop online? Not only do innovators consider how a product can disrupt an industry, they consider the industries ripe for disruption. They find the problem before the solution.

A controversial disruption at the moment is with driverless cars. The technology is there, but regulations and lobbyists are preventing it from reaching the next phase. The transportation network Uber has openly announced that as soon as driverless cars are available, clients will be able to select that as an option when hailing a ride. Who’s angry with this? Taxi drivers, chauffeurs, transit people, and anybody else that makes a living working in transportation.

Only time will tell if driverless cars will become a fixture in our daily society. But if I was a taxi driver, I’m not going to bank on my driving skills to sustain me for the next 40 years, I’m going to start developing some other set of skills just in case. Learning how to fix cars can be another skill to add on. That’s just a thought.

So often we are pessimistic when it comes to new technology stealing our jobs. But these technologies didn’t sneak up on us. These technologies took years and years of development. They are all over the news and they gave us every opportunity to be more relevant. Like a rival, it is pushing us to improve. You cannot and should not fight against it, as it has been shown all through history, humans will veer to the side of convenience, profitability, and security.

Turn the lens onto yourself and ask: “How will a robot disrupt my career?” Then, either build that robot, or be better than it. The question is not how robots can replace you, but how can you replace the robots when they come? I’m confident that you will figure it out.

Don’t be a passenger your whole life

Image via Thinkstock

Why driving is a life-long skill worth having

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. March 16, 2015

Younger generations are no longer putting car ownership as a top priority, and because of that the attitude towards learning to drive or earning a driver’s licence is left idling. Many have even accepted that they will never own a vehicle and that public transit is just something that will be a part of their lives forever. It’s true that owning a car is a big responsibility and learning to drive is a hassle, but while the economy may place a roadblock in our plans, we cannot be ignorant towards a fundamental skill of urban society.

Being able to drive is more than simply having an alternative to walking or taking the bus, being able to drive is being fluent in the rules of the road and having a lifeline for travelling. If you don’t know how to drive you will always be a passenger—always. It doesn’t matter if you are taking a taxi, bus, or if your friends are chauffeuring you around, you are always governed by someone’s driving habits and navigation skills. In a way, you are someone’s luggage.

Having the skills to drive gives you the freedom to travel. If you decide you want to—in a split second—rent a car and visit another city, province, or country, you can. The ability to drive will take you further in life.

You become a more valuable, respectable, and dependable person when you know how to drive. Pedestrians who don’t know the difference between a turn signal lever and a windshield wiper controller have little sympathy toward drivers and behave as though they own the roads. They are blind to what drivers have to deal with on a busy street and seldom give them a benefit of the doubt.

People who have never driven also have weaker navigational skills and direction-giving abilities. Often they will tell the driver to take a turn too late or have no idea where they are because they are not travelling along a bus route. Driving enables people to understand the layout of a city better. Getting lost is not a big deal when you are in a car, unlike if you take the wrong bus.

Not everybody needs a car. In fact, if you have spent time pondering life in rush hour traffic, you would believe that fewer people should actually drive. But that does not change the fact that cars are one of the most valuable technologies of the past century. Traffic is the pulse of a city and we need to help it beat. Knowing how to drive is the ability to see how a city functions. It’s a language we should all understand.

Not a walk in a park(ing lot)

Opinions_Parking Space

The problem with hoarding parking spaces

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. September 30, 2014

Unless you have paid to reserve a spot to park your vehicle, you have no right to block a space on a public road with a lawn chair, a traffic cone, or an empty milk jug.

While some residential street parking requires a visible permit, many others don’t. This can cause unpredictability for those who drive to and from work. Drivers tend to have little patience to seek out an empty spot; so instead, they will just mark one as their own. Parking spaces are a limited commodity, especially in neighbourhoods where homes don’t have driveways, and garages are used as multi-purpose storages and home fitness centres. With each family having an average of two cars, the streets can become crowded, causing people to wrongfully reserve public property.

While homeowners will argue that the property immediately in front of their house belongs to them, that is untrue. The area belongs to the city and that means anyone in the city can use it. Although the “No Parking” sign people buy from dollar stores is forthright, it often ushers a tone of entitlement, instead of asking for others to be considerate. Perhaps—in Canadian fashion—there should be “Please, I had a long day at work and would like to just get home with as little effort as possible” signs available at Dollarama. Alas, there are not. And unless it’s a government-issued sign, it doesn’t have any authority.

Private or reserved street parking in residential areas do not exist in this city. It doesn’t matter what sign or obstruction you have, you cannot claim a space that doesn’t belong to you.

Street parking is completely legal, and if you see someone who has placed objects on the road to assert their territory, throw them in the trash, because that is littering. With that being said, drivers should also know that according to Vancouver’s city bylaws, a vehicle may only be parked in front of a stranger’s house for a maximum of 72 hours, unless signage states otherwise.

I understand that having someone else parked in front of your house feels like a violation of your privacy, but it isn’t. You live in a community with people who have equal rights as you. The same way you don’t have a reserved spot on the bus or SkyTrain when you get on board, you cannot have a reserved parking space on a public street.

Driving is all about sharing the road, but just as important, it should also be about sharing parking spots. So what? Walk a little for once.

Unhaggle | How Much Should You Spend On A New Car?

Posted by  | February 27, 2014 |
Ghost written by Elliot Chan. Originally published in 
Life is full of those little magical moments and buying a new car is one of them. Whether it’s a Lexus IS or a Honda Odyssey, you have envisioned it for years: the make, the model, the features and even the colour – especially the colour. But, one thing you probably haven’t considered much was how you were going to pay for it. After all, a car is a big chunk out of your piggy bank, so make sure it doesn’t cost more than you can afford.

Gross Income Ratio or Debt-to-Income Ratio

We all have financial obligations: mortgages, credit card bills, rent and other loans. But if you strategize properly, you can fit a car into the ebb and flow of your monthly payments. Start by measuring your gross income ratio.

Add up your revolving monthly debts, these consistent payments are a reliable marker, showing you how much you need in order to sustain your lifestyle. After that, divide the total by your gross monthly income. The result is the percentage of your gross income ratio or your debt-to-income ratio.

For example, if your revolving monthly debt is $600 and your monthly income is $3,000, then your gross income ratio is 20% (600/3,000=0.2). An affordable car that keeps your gross income ratio healthy should prevent it from exceeding 36% after including car payments, according to Consumer Reports. Meanwhile, MSN Auto suggests that owners should not exceed 15%.

Find a happy medium for yourself – since your debt should never exceed 75%. You’ve been warned.

Calculating these figures may feel like punishment, but it’s far from difficult – there are simple online calculators to help you figure out the important numbers.

Down Payment

Ideally, 20% has always been the conventional amount for the down payment (the initial payment, whether in cash and/or trade-in). But it is always better to put down as much as you can, just to avoid the fact that it might come back and bite you later.

That being said, many new owners are choosing to pay a lower down payment. One reason is because the interest rates a getting lower, people are not pressured to pay right away. Don’t follow the trend – car depletion is as inevitable as paying for insurance, gas and sales tax. Less only means you pay more in the long run.

There are many useful tools online, such as this down payment calculator that will help you decide how much you are willing to spend right from the get go.

Monthly Payment

If paying right away is not a viable option, you may consider taking a loan or leasing the vehicle and paying for it every month. But with monthly payment comes interest and that is just something that you’ll need to add on.

So, how much can you afford if you do choose to pay in monthly instalments for your car? Well, the financial experts at Consumer Reports did the math for us (well, at least, they found the formula). Begin by calculating 36% of your gross monthly income. Then add up your monthly payments including mortgages, credit card bills, etc. Subtract your debts from your gross monthly income. The difference is how much you can comfortably spend monthly on your new vehicle.

I’ll use smaller numbers for our example, lest I confuse you more. Let’s say your monthly income is $3,000. Then $1,090 is 36% of your gross monthly income (1,090/3,000=0.36). Now, let’s say you have $500 in monthly debt (1,090-500=590). If the math is correct, then you’ll know that you shouldn’t spend over $590 a month on your car.

Other Considerations

Before you go off and purchase your vehicle, it is also important to note the extra fees that will undoubtedly cost you. Sales tax, registration fees and insurance premiums may cost you 10% more.

There are many things to consider when buying a car that might complicate the whole process and make you sick. If you want to forego all this math and simply want to recognize where you are in the car buying ladder understand the following rules:

The 50/50 Rule

If you make $40,000 a year, you can afford a $20,000 car. Half of what you make.

The 20/4/10 Rule

This rule suggests that you pay a 20% down payment, finance the vehicle for four years and never have the total expense of the car go over 10% of your gross income.

Respectful shrines or highway distractions?


More roadside memorials may equal fewer accidents

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in the Other Press. Jan. 7, 2014

We often see them at intersections and long stretches of highway: roadside memorials set up in remembrance of those lost as a result of traffic accidents and collisions. These shrines commonly take the form of a cross, some flowers, some candles, perhaps a picture of the departed. They give no details of the crash, no signs of the carnage, and there’s rarely even any damage to the roadside. Regardless of the cause, roadside memorials offer people a chance to mourn the loss of a loved one, in addition to cautioning other drivers and reminding them about the dangers of the road.

According to Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics, an estimated 2,227 fatalities occurred on the roads in 2010. These numbers seem meaningless to us as we rush through traffic, disregarding the speed limit signs. Associating numbers with people is not an easy thing to do. People just don’t personify numbers that way, so it’s hard to sympathize with a number. Like Joseph Stalin once said, “The death of one is a tragedy, the death of a million is a statistic.”

Some consider roadside memorials to be a distraction; drivers shouldn’t have to feel wary when they navigate through a hazardous stretch of road, they should be focussed on what they need to do, instead of worrying about those who have died. But what better way to remind drivers to stay focussed, than to show the consequences of negligent driving? We often get so concentrated on the things we need to do and the places we need to be that we forget about our morality. After all, the most important thing about being alive is living.

Roadside memorials shouldn’t only be sites for mourning the dead; they should be visual reminders alerting us that we are still alive, and that the safety of us, our passengers, and other people on the road is alive as well. Don’t let the deaths of others be in vain—we should always learn something from the mistakes of others. That way, the story of our lives won’t result in tragedy and our memories won’t wind up in a statistic.

On the highways around Quito, Ecuador, drivers and passengers can often see blue hearts painted onto the road. In Spanish, those blue hearts are referred to as “Corazones Azules,” and each one symbolizes a death upon the road. This campaign was initiated after a school bus crashed in 2007, with very few survivors, to remind drivers to drive safely in all conditions. More than 40 blue hearts now mark the roads of the accident-prone country built upon the lip of the Andes Mountains. Canadians should take inspiration from that idea; small, unobtrusive markings may do more than mere speed limit signs and police radar.

Fines, warnings, and criminal recorders may take those who violate the rules off the streets—but it’s more important to put the humanity back into the drivers. We all have places to go, but for now, let’s avoid the hospital, the morgue, and the cemetery.

The Origin of Five World-Class Car Manufacturers

Posted by  | November 06, 2013 | 
Ghostwritten by Elliot Chan. Formerly published in
Ferruccio-at-Tractor-Factory-1968The automotive origin can be traced back to the 18th century, so is it fair that we now treat it like ancient history? Modern ingenuity has changed the way we perceive the world—what was once considered revolutionary; today it’s just the norm. Cars, vehicles, horseless carriages or whatever else you called it were one of those groundbreaking leaps that people today take for granted. But the dawn of automobiles is a story worth revisiting. How did these big car manufacturers come to be? What can the history of our cars tell us about the history of the world at large?


Since arriving to Canada in 1969, Honda had been one of the leading choices for Canadian commuters, with the Civic being one of the best selling cars for 15 years.

Soichiro Honda, an automotive enthusiast, founded the automobile and motorcycle company in 1948, but that was not how he started out. Honda initially founded Tokai Seiki, a machine company, that eventually helped produce piston rings for Toyota. In 1944 during WWII, US B-29 bomber destroyed Tokai Seiki’s Yamashita plant and in 1945 the plant in Itawa fell due to an earthquake—Honda decided to sell the remains to Toyota for 450,000 yen and developed the Honda Technical Research Institution in 1946.

From there, with only 12 staff members, Honda began to attract customers by enabling them to attach an engine onto their bikes, thus creating their first motorbike model, the Honda Model A—also known as the Bata Bata. In years to come, Honda will increase their production line by hundredfolds.


In Sweden, Saab is not only a car manufacturer, but they are also the aerospace and defence company—Svenska Aeroplane Aktiebolaget, which means Swedish Aeroplane Corporation.

For a while Saab was flourishing in Canada peaking in 2006 with 2,640 sold. Although Saab had recent turmoil due to General Motor’s financial state, the brand will return to European owners, a Swedish sports car company named Koenigsegg Group.

The Scandinavian automobile company has gone through many identities since it was established in 1937. Built initially to design aircrafts for the Swedish Air Force during WWII—the company found that due to the country’s neutral stance, automotive was a better alterative than fighter planes.

In 1947, the first commercial automobile model, Ursaab, hit the road. From there Saab was fueled by their unconventional way of developing products.


01 FORD 8x10 1Ford remains one of the top choices for Canadians selling 275,953 in 2012. But they weren’t always recognized for their rugged reliable machines—in July 1903, Dr. Ernst Pfenning, a dentist, boughtthe first Ford Model A. It was vehicle far from tough Ford image; after all, it only reached maximum speeds of 30 miles per hour. And for $850 it was considered very affordable.

The Ford Motor Company went through many different orientations before becoming the well-known motor company it is today. In 1901 it was known as the Henry Ford Company, in 1902 it changed its name to Cadillac Motor Company and finally in 1903 it settled as The Ford Motor Company.

Henry Ford became the founder of one of the largest family-controlled companies in the world and the tradition continues to this day. While many large companies folded during the Great Depression, Ford powered through, proving that although they didn’t start with a rugged exterior and a powerful engine, they were destined for toughness.


Ferruccio Lamborghini was always a fan of Ferraris, but always considered them too loud and aggressive to be a conventional car on the road.

After serving in WWII as a mechanic, Lamborghini went on to start a business building tractors. That was the initial start of his sports car business, but it wasn’t until 1963, did Lamborghini Automobiliwas officially established.

Because of Lamborghini’s fortune, he was able to cultivate many luxury vehicles during his life, even if he was just a tractor manufacturer. During the mid 50s, he found that the clutch to his Ferrari was broken; he decided to replace it with one from his tractor and discovered that it was the same. When he approached Enzo Ferrari—Ferrari told him he knew nothing about sports cars, perhaps that sparked a new pursuit and a rivalry.

Lamborghini still remains an extravagant form of transportation for Canadians today. With so many models noted as the most expensive vehicles in the world—what began, as a dream of tractor company owner is now a highly touted pristine automobile.


hitler-mercedesWar had been a common theme for automobile innovation and most of us already know the history of Mercedes-Benz. Often considered to be a trophy for Adolf Hitler, Mercedes-Benz has survived the dark history to become a prestigious vehicle of choice for many.

In Canada, Mercedes-Benz is one of the most revered automobiles on the road. With 35,503 units sold in 2012 the manufacturer is reaching many milestones.

The first milestone for Mercedes-Benz and automobile in general, began with Karl Benz and his first petrol-powered car in 1886. It was named the Benz Patent-Motorwagen. Although there have been attempts at automobiles before, Benz’s creation is commonly referred to as the first automobile ever.

Even though the brand is associated with a dark moment in history, Mercedes-Benz did introduced many technological and safety innovation and is continuing to create trends both in popular culture, fashion and of course automotives.

The German car company has been around for over a hundred years will still be around for many more—and only time will tell what will happen to all the other automobile manufacturers as they compete for a spot in our garage and on the road.

Why You Will Never Win a High Speed Chase

Posted by  | October 16, 2013 | 

Ghostwritten by Elliot Chan
Formerly published in 

vwtouareg-road-blockFirst off, you’re not Vin Diesel and life is not a movie. In our unscripted world, there are just too many things working against you if a high-speed chase is your choice in escaping the law. Plain and simple, you won’t win. But if you dare tempt fate, turning your speeding ticket into a felony might be your best-case scenario. A car can be after all a dangerous weapon.

What You’re Up Against, The Pursuit Vehicles

At a glance, there is nothing spectacular about a RCMP pursuit vehicle. Yes, they have the common police paint job, flashy lights and sirens. But it’s the interior that makes pursuit cars superior to civilian cars. First off, they have engines with more horsepower to compensate for the additional equipment and also to keep up with suspects’ cars.

The common (yet declining use in service) second generation, Ford Crown Victoria has 4.6 L Modular V8 engine. The Dodge Charger Pursuit (the likely replacement to Crown Victoria) has 292 hp, 5.7 L and V8 Hemi engine. The Ford Taurus, another common pursuit car used by the RCMP, can have up to 3.5 L EcoBoost V6, 365hp. Also, an external oil-to-engine-coolant and heavy-duty radiator help pursuit vehicles reach up to 211 km/h (131 mph). Pursuit cars are constantly being reviewed to get the most benefits for taxpayer dollars and reduce carbon footprint… even a smart car?

Pursuit vehicles might have advanced modification, but the real reason you won’t escape them isn’t because of the speedy cop car, it’s also everything else on the road. Even if you are driving a speedy new car with the ability to outrun a Police Interceptor, odds are, someone will see your erratic driving and inform the authority. You’ll hit roadside debris, another car or a pothole—that’ll end your escape pretty quickly.

High Speed Pursuit Strategies

North American authority takes pursuits seriously. With 350 death in the States every year caused by high-speed chases (30% of those innocent bystanders), most pursuit protocols call for the officer to avoid this dangerous form of arrest as best as possible—but often it only works with the suspect’s cooperation. Multiple techniques are used to stun the driver.

A common one is known as The Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT) also known as The Tactical Vehicle Intervention. This technique requires the pursuit vehicle to make contact with the fleeing vehicle, by striking it behind the rear wheel. With enough force, the pursuit vehicle will cause the suspect to lose control and spin out. The road must be cleared for police to execute PIT safely, or in the safest way possible.blockade

There are several methods police use to avoid and halt high-speed chases. And if you are like me, you will remember all those blockbuster movies you’ve seen. You know, those with police cars barricading, creating a roadblock causing the fleeing vehicle to stop or to turn off the road, damaging the car in the process. Although this is becoming less popular pursuit intervention technique as it puts several officers in harms way.

Another Hollywood approach to stopping a runaway vehicle is with spike belts. The 35 to 75mm spikes are strategically built to puncture tires, allowing air to slowly expel. Tires don’t burst when they hit the spikes, but soon suspects will be driving on their rims, turning the chase into a slow crawl. Spike belts are effective, yet notoriously dangerous. Since 1973 approximately 20 police officers lost their lives deploying them. Due to the risk, this method of attaining fleeing suspects is banned by numerous North American police departments.

Helicopters also play a large role in high-speed chases, but in Canada there is a more reserved usage of aerial surveillance. The RCMP simply doesn’t see the value in having them. Instead, they rely more heavily on radio communication. Even though they don’t have an eye in the sky, modern vehicles are equip with a built in GPS—so it’s not really a game of hide and seek anymore.

Lesson of the Day

With vehicle, technology and authority aside, driving is still a complicated undertaking. Wrong turns, constructions, detours, dead ends, school zones, traffic jams and everything else that you see on a daily commute will become an obstacle for anyone on a high-speed chase. Overwhelmed with stress, confusion and lack of rational thoughts—a driver on the run is bound to make a mistake. And one mistake is all it takes.