Breaking radios, breaking records, and breaking the bank

This column published as "Gimme a Break" in April 2022 issue

David Matthews / April 05, 2022 / 3 minute read
David Matthews

Seattle drivers’ love for public radio was put to the test when a bizarre glitch caused the radio in local Mazdas to get stuck on an NPR station.

In January, Mazda drivers listening to the Seattle NPR news station 94.9 KUOW-FM found that their infotainment system started to malfunction.

For some, the software repeatedly tried to reboot, while others lost navigation functionality, Bluetooth connectivity, and their back-up camera.

In most cases, the radio also became stuck on KUOW.

Mazda dealerships around Seattle were besieged with frustrated tote bag wielding drivers who had discovered that, contrary to popular opinion, there is such a thing as too much Ira Glass.

Finally in February, the mystery was solved. Mazda North American Operations told that sometime between Jan. 24 and 31, “a radio station in the Seattle area sent image files with no extension, which caused an issue on some 2014-2017 Mazda vehicles with older software.”

Mazda promised to fix the issue at no charge to owners.

Meanwhile, KUOW had fun with the issue on social media, teasing a new bumper sticker that read “94.9 FM Seattle. I can’t stop listening … and I’ve tried!”

Expensive tastes

Cars are expensive to buy, but they’re really expensive to own.

A new study finds that even a small sedan will cost $650,000 to own over a driver’s lifetime.

In a new study published in Ecological Economics, the costs of automobile ownership over 50 years was comprehensively modeled by an international team of researchers, accounting for both what the driver pays to purchase and maintain the vehicle, and what society pays as a result of that vehicle being on the road.

The study found that the average German driver can expect to pay about $404,375 for a lifetime of driving a small vehicle like the Opel Corsa (an economy-class electric hatchback that’s around the same price and size of a Mini Cooper SE).

The costs to the driver are the obvious expenses like the fuel, insurance, repairs, licensing, and parking.

The driver’s neighbors will also collectively pay about $245,600 over that same period to support the ownership of that small sedan in less obvious ways: contributing to the maintenance of transportation infrastructure, offsetting the rising costs associated with climate change, and building billions of free parking spaces.

And those are just the costs for a small electric sedan. When researchers modeled the lifetime costs of a Mercedes GLC SUV, the total exceeded $1.09 million.

The study’s lead author Stefan Gössling believes a better understanding of the costs of car ownership shows why cities need to be designed so that “people can be mobile without a car.”

“In our research, we’re not saying you should start taking away cars from people,” Gössling told Forbes. “We’re just saying it’s probably more prudent, economically, to invest in those infrastructures that are less costly—such as for active mobility—and where people will make a switch voluntarily.”

Corn-centrate on success

The food truck industry is ultra-competitive, so standing out from the pack is key.

Phillip and Avrie Powell, the owners of the Aww Shucks Fire Roasted Corn food truck in Birmingham, Alabama, thought that setting a Guinness World Record might create some buzz for their business.

It didn’t take long for the Powells to find the perfect record to break: most ears of corn shucked by a four-man team in one minute.

The record was 31, which sounded easy to beat for the Aww Shucks team, who shuck thousands of ears of corn each week.

The team was so confident that they waited until three days before their official attempt to begin practicing, and their early trials didn’t go well.

“We finish our first practice run … 17,” Phillip Powell told “Our second run, we got 20. We were stuck at 25 for the longest time. We needed to put in work.”

After some YouTube research, the team found the winning technique and got through 38 ears during their official attempt, smashing the record and leaving the Guinness observers shucked and a-maized.

About the Author

Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news since 2000. The stories are all true.

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