As one of the four dozen judges for the North American Car and Truck of the Year, I'm always driving and evaluating a different vehicle. It's a tough, thankless job, but somebody needs to do it.
This is the time of year when we judges must vote, so it can get hectic as we scramble to get seat time in any of the new vehicles we haven't driven.
For a few days last week, I drove the Smart ForTwo, which goes on sale in January and is one of the vehicles under consideration this year.
I had been looking forward to it.
The cars and trucks we evaluate aren't all exciting. But I frequently drive new vehicles that make people turn their heads on the expressway and give me a thumbs-up or roll down the window at a stoplight to ask questions. That happened a lot in the Smart.
No big deal. I'm used to it.
But I'm not used to being cut off and nearly run off the road as many times as I have been in the Smart.
Other drivers here in Detroit either didn't see the Smart because they're not used to driving among tiny commuter cars ... or they saw it and figured they could ignore it like some buzzing bug and just aim their vehicles wherever they wanted.
The trespassers were driving everything from 18-wheelers and big SUVS to Ford Focus and Honda Civic sedans.
When I parked the Smart in the driveway next to my full-sized pickup, I could clearly see the issue, though I couldn't see the Smart on the other side of the truck.
As fuel prices continue to rise, it will become obvious to more drivers that there's a place in the United States for the Smart and other cars of that size. But early adapters had better be prepared to drive defensively. Very defensively.
Just as Volkswagen Beetle drivers did 50 years ago.