Tag Archive | "car gadgets"

Could Ultimate Car Control Be Taken From You?


A few days ago Motor Blogger queried the intentions behind technology whereby your car could be controlled by others. You can refresh your knowledge here. Now there’s a new, or additional, threat – depending on your point of view. It is called Intelligent Speed Adaptation.

It seems that seventy five percent of European drivers are concerned that the use of Intelligent Speed Adaptations (ISAs) will compromise safety, according to new research. Last month, the European Union announced that they were considering rules for new cars to be fitted with ISA technology. This would be capable of detecting speed limits through cameras or satellites and automatically applying the brakes of your car without so much as a by-your-leave. Even existing vehicles could be forced to have the technology fitted, no doubt at the owners expense.

Seventy-eight per cent of motorists don’t want to see the retro fitting of ISA technology onto older vehicles. The research also shows that fifty-seven per cent of drivers feel that ISAs would not have a positive impact on road safety – avoiding crashes, deaths and injuries and so on.

However, there is overwhelming support for the science when car control remains with the driver. Sixty-seven per cent of respondents would prefer ISAs to operate with warning messages with no control of the vehicle. That does make sense.

Respondents do feel that there are some benefits to ISAs. Fifty-two per cent see a reduced likelihood of speeding convictions and less money spent on traffic calming measures such as road humps. Thirty-one per cent of respondents – presumably older, more experienced ones – feel that, if enforced, ISAs should be restricted to younger drivers, newly qualified drivers and drivers with previous road-related convictions.

Certainly this high-tech stuff could help to save lives but it’s clear that drivers remain dubious about the benefits of the technology. More research into the benefits would help to reassure the public that this will improve road safety.

In short – we don’t trust it. We suspect – with good reason – it is yet another way to control drivers. The real answer is of course to ensure that drivers are trained properly in the first place.

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Summer Silly Season


We all like to assert our individuality. We like to have something about us that is unique, interesting or quirky. Some men will walk about nonchalantly sporting inadvisable summer shorts whilst wearing socks with their sandals. Other men would sooner bleed copiously from their sandal-chaffed feet than do such a thing.

This is why, when driving around, we see British cars festooned with wholly inappropriate trinkets and additions completely out of keeping with our traditional reserved values. This is the driver or owner asserting his or her right to be different or cutting edge.

It is said that you can tell a persons occupation by the colour of the car they drive. To a certain extent this could well be true as it is borne out by insurance company stats. Hairdressers favour purple cars – which seems obvious – whilst florists apparently select orange ones. This probably also applies to tanning salon owners. Accountants favour grey cars. Sadly there are no details on the preferences of politicians – as far as cars are concerned anyway.

So colour doesn’t make a motorist as individual as they may think but rather a member of the employment group they belong to. So they go further with the embellishments. Some manufacturers have even offered twinkly lights in the headlining of the car’s interior, presumably to emulate the night sky. It just looks over-the-top and distracting. The only really useful thing about it is that it could bring a whole new showbiz dimension to, erm, nocturnal activities.LIGHTS3 Summer Silly Season

Being a proud parent is one thing but publishing the fact all over your car is quite another. Americans are fond of this in the form of bumper stickers. “Proud Parents of a J. F. Long Honor Student” shrieks one. “Proud Parent of the Child Who Beat Up Your Honor Student,” announces another. Eventually, the poor mortified offspring become more notorious than Honey Boo Boo Child of trailer park and TV fame. Before you think otherwise – it is happening here. People, a ‘Baby On Board’ sticker is sufficient; she is not a little princess! There”s only one car that carry a “Little Prince On Board” and actually mean it.

Then of course there are the body parts. Eyelashes on headlights or Santa’s legs or a set of fingers poking out of the boot lid come to mind; but it’s not just car buyers – manufacturers are keen on pointless novelties too. On a couple of their convertible models one company offers a neck heater in the head restraint. It”s just a novelty and like all novelties interest palls after about five minutes. They might work but why would you pay for such a thing? Wear a scarf. These options don’t make the buyer individual they just make them slightly less wealthy than they were.

Why bother with it all? Punks wanted to be individuals but they became so numerous as to negate the very thing they were trying to achieve. The clothes became a uniform. That’s what happens. A hot hatch with a body kit is just a daft hot hatch. Don’t let any of it bother you. Just save your money. Don”t try and buy individuality - just be yourself. That’s all most of us can hope for.

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Spoil Your Dad This Coming Father’s Day.


You know your Dad, right? He’s that suspicious looking old guy sitting at the computer reading Motor Blogger and paying scant attention to your long-suffering Mother. The one who leaves oily engine parts on the kitchen table and towels on the bathroom floor and who consistently refused to lend you his wheels when you first passed your driving test. Your Dad. The man who has driven you crazy but has also driven you all over the country; to friends and sporting venues and nightclubs and A&E. The man who, possibly through gritted teeth, bought you your first car. Well, once a year you are officially allowed to show your appreciation. June 16th is Father’s Day, so get planning.

Forget the male grooming products, he gave up on that caper as soon as he said his marriage vows; but there are many gifts available that are auto-orientated and will bring a smile to his face – but you have to get it right. For example, if he drives a Suzuki there is a whole range goodies available in the form of clothing or merchandise with a subtle Japanese motif; but not all Dads drive Suzuki’s. Most manufacturers have a selection of products.

It is not possible to separate a man and his motor so how about some driving music? There are many compilations out there but they have to have a driving beat so none of your soppy Coldplay or that incessant EDM racket. Dads are like Lemmy from Motorhead: old and warty but always ready to rock. Inside every middle-aged man there lurks a head-banger just under the surface. In true Jekyll and Hyde fashion this ‘dad-dancing’ alter-ego often appears at weddings and family celebrations.

If you’ve got some cash on the hip, why not treat him to a race or rally driving experience day at your local circuit or venue. Times are hard and there are some great deals on offer. Or you could rent him a classic car for the day or take him karting – there are a wealth of opportunities to spend some time together.

If however you are cash-poor or just irredeemably tight-fisted then how about doing something for him? Cleaning the car is always appreciated. A proper clean mind, no taking him to the supermarket to get one of those trolley blokes to do it. Give his pride and joy a good going over with some familial TLC.

There is nothing like some parent/child activity, no matter what your age and remember - Mum’s appreciate the children taking Dad out on Father’s Day too. They see it as a form of respite.

What do you mean you’re too busy? It’s one day of the year for pity’s sake. So give the old guy a break. Treat him. You never know – if you don’t have a car of your own he may lend you his before the tears of pleasure dry in his eyes. It’s called bonding. Get used to it.

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When Safe Could Mean Sorry


Not that many years ago motor racing was considerably more dangerous than it is now. Tragedy was fairly common but as time and technology have moved forward so safety precautions have saved many lives, as Mark Webber can surely attest after his horrific F1 crash at Valencia in 2010.

The good news is that these racing test beds allow the science of safety to filter down to the cars that we drive today. Current studies however seem to be showing that the more aware we are of the safety features on our cars, the more likely we are to take chances on the basis that we will probably walk away from a shunt.

We have ABS, ESP, TCS, EDS and others that are variously scattered around the new and used cars on sale today. Couple these with any number of airbags which, if they all went off in a crash, would give an understanding of how it would feel to be inside a blancmange and it is no wonder that drivers are possibly being overconfident.

Surrey County Council have published research on road deaths in the first ten years of this century. Previously, give or take the odd aberration, motoring deaths have steadily been decreasing but between the 2000-2006, the number remained broadly level. There has been a drop off in the three years up to 2010 but that is thought to be the result of the economic downturn.

From these figures the researchers have deduced that some car users are being a tad reckless in their driving habits. This may well be so but it could also represent the increasing numbers of cars on our roads and possibly just a drop in driving standards because the cars have become too easy to drive. Nevertheless, it is valid research and a timely reminder to complacent drivers.

Just because there is a greater likelihood that drivers and passengers will walk away from an accident doesn’t mean to say that this will necessarily be so. That is the nature of accidents; they are unpredictable, as the tragic death of the great Ayrton Senna showed.

In the first one hundred years of the automobile drivers were more aware of the fact that they were operating machinery. Clutches and steering were heavier and suspension more basic. If you wanted to throw a car around then an accident was sure to result unless you could really drive. This isn’t the case today. Cars are so technologically advanced that they virtually drive themselves. Yet in the rush to more and more legislation inspired safety options, are we in danger of forgetting that we are in charge of a tonne or so of metal travelling at speed?

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More MOT Pain To Come


As if things weren’t bad enough for UK motorists, yesterday saw the arrival of new MOT rules. To be fair to our own Ministry for Transport, all they are doing is implementing changes to bring us in line with the latest Euro-rules. Politicians across Europe feel they must be seen to be doing something about road safety so they are constantly thinking up new ideas, although sometimes we could wish that they might be tempered with a little bit of common sense.

Nevertheless, here we are. Manufacturers are partly to blame as cars have become increasingly complex. Sophisticated new systems and gadgets are added whether we want them or not. Many of these now fall under the new MOT rules. The downside is that many motorists could face hefty bills as more and more cars fail.

Warning lights are a case in point. There is no doubt that there are many vehicles out there with a little light twinkling away on the display. The car may well be running fine but that’s not the point. The term ‘warning light’ signifies a problem – now it means a potential failure. It could for example mean an airbag issue which may not be of immediate concern because you have no intention of having a shunt. Too bad.

The cars of today have computers and much complex technology on board. For the most part it is there for a reason, although some will argue that a lot of it is superfluous. The trouble is that the current MOT rules have been around for twenty years now and it stands to reason that they are in need of updating. Unfortunately, financially crippled drivers are hanging on to their cars for much longer. The older the car the more likely it is to have faults.

If your car has tyre pressure monitoring – compulsory on any car since January 2012 – then this will be checked. The movement of car seats back and forth will be tested to ensure compliance and if the seat has electric power then that too comes under the rules. Can you imagine the potential cost of fixing a powered seat – something that drivers have never needed?

Even if the seatbelt is actually about your person but the little light stays on – fail. Brake fluid a bit low? Fail. Car doors must open and close properly and the warning light extinguished; all the dials, catalytic converters, stability controls and so on all come under examination. You have been warned.

In some parts of Europe, testing doesn’t start until four years after first registration and some countries allow two years between tests. Our government are resisting this and will stick with the three year / twelve month rule for now. Now that is something you can blame them for.

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Volvo Lights The Way


Here’s an interesting new development from the Swedish car maker.  Three of the six new cars that Volvo are showing at the Geneva Motor Show can be optionally fitted with their latest innovation to make driving at night a much safer experience. Volvo, of course, have always been at the forefront of safety and this new lighting system follows that lead.

The Active High Beam Control allows the driver to use high beam all the time because AHBC has an ingenious mechanism that prevents on-coming drivers from being dazzled because a specific area is shaded (see the image). Amazing. This makes redundant the need to switch to low beam when encountering traffic from the opposite direction.

The benefits of this include the ability to ‘see’ into the surrounding traffic area outside of the shaded area revealing hazards that might otherwise be missed on low beam. Unlit parked cars, pedestrians and cyclists will be more visible. This technology is bound to make motoring safer in the dark as the driver isn’t constantly having to flick the beam stalk and can concentrate on what’s really important – good driving.

This is cutting edge auto science. When a car approaches – or when your car catches up with a slower vehicle – the system shades out only as much light as is needed from the beam. AHBC works by utilising the camera located by the driver mirror which is already working with the collision technology and auto-brake system. It is so accurate that the on-comer will be ‘framed’ with only a 1.5° margin.

The control unit instantly relays the information to an ingenious projector module fitted in the Xenon headlamp. This in turns activates a tiny cylinder with metal pieces of differing sizes which deploy to the effect described. It works with two-wheeled vehicles as well, so owners won‘t be blinding motor cyclists. The AHBC will be available on the new Volvo S60, V60 and XC60. The cars will be introduced at Geneva along with three other new cars the V70, XC70 and the S80.

There is an argument which says there is simply too much technology on cars these days but it is hard to argue against a safety feature like this.

 

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Silent But Deadly


Over the English Channel at that bastion of frugality and common sense known as the European Parliament they have recently had an actual vote. Yes – that’s right. Amazingly, the members signed off their expenses, poured out of the nightclubs and bars and headed to work to cast their opinions on the noise electric cars should make. They didn’t come up with any viable ideas obviously but all agreed that a new rule was needed. This is likely to come into force by the end of next year.

It is a much belated victory for the various campaign groups who long ago realised that the new quiet cars coming onto the market were a threat to life, particularly at low speeds. The Guide Dogs For The Blind Association have been saying this for years so any legislation is not before time; after all, cyclists have been encouraged to fit and use a bell or warning device for a long time now and even the heftiest biker can’t compete with a tonne or so of car.

The USA and Japan already have laws in place to cover this issue. In Europe it was first thought that an artificial noise should be voluntary – like bikes – but it seems, quite rightly, that this policy needs to be strengthened in law. It makes sense that vulnerable others be protected -the blind and partially sighted who have to be acutely aware of noises, obviously, but also children and pedestrians on speed restricted streets, the elderly and the infirm.

Current statistics show that there are some 2700 electric cars and nearly one hundred and fifty thousand hybrids and plug-ins on UK roads. This number is expected to rapidly double within the next two years or so. Even the biggest of them is virtually silent when running on electric power alone. Research has apparently already shown that a pedestrian is more likely to be struck by an EV than a petrol-powered vehicle.

A couple of years ago some entitled wag in the House of Lords suggested a cow-bell as being appropriate. That’s the sort of blue-sky thinking that our Nation needs, isn’t it? Meanwhile car makers have got to come up with a solution, bearing in mind that the vulnerable need to be able to hear it over background noise and that different people hear at different decibel levels. It has also got to be non-aggravating for the driver. A graduated noise that sounds like a car might be a good idea.

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Don’t Forget The Old Technology


We live in a techno age. That which would have been thought of as science fiction not so long ago has now become the norm. Almost daily some new miracle gadget is announced that changes our lives in ways that belies their size. This is especially true of cars. The technology that now appears on the average motor makes even cars from the 1990’s look fit only for the museum. Yet, despite all these advances, it seems that more and more drivers are forgetting one of the original and best features of their car. The indicators.

Ye gods; what is the matter with everybody? Increasingly we are seeing sloppy driving techniques that confuse and endanger other motorists. We all have to pass a driving test that involves the use of indicators yet those flicking lights are left neglected on the steering column. How hard can it be?

First, there was hand signals; those elementary arm movements were followed by little reflective stalks – known rather charmingly as semaphore trafficators – that would spring from the centre pillar at the driver’s bidding until finally, flashing lights found their way onto the corners of the our cars. They are directional lamps that indicate (see?) our intentions to other road users by flashing – in the nicest sense of the word, obviously.

Drivers today are failing to use them when pulling out at junctions and are especially guilty on roundabouts. Other innocent folk stop to give way to the right only to find that the approaching offending vehicle shoots off up another exit. A quick calculation shows that the average motorist who has been thus inconvenienced looses at least one second each time. If we could but have that time back we would all be minutes younger!

It is just as bad for pedestrians who spend a lot of time on kerbs apparently doing the Hokey-cokey as they put one leg in and take one leg out of the traffic stream in desperate attempts to cross the road, simply because they don’t know what a driver is going to do. It is not even as if it’s difficult. It’s simple; except for Ferrari drivers who are exempt because they have to control everything from an array of buttons like the flight deck of the starship Enterprise, and that’s just the ones on the steering wheel.

When used an indicator will also make a clacking noise and some form of green arrow that will indicate the direction of turn, which brings us to another point. What about the people who never turn them off? How many times have you driven along a road with the car in front permanently indicating left or right? It’s nerve-wracking: you never know what’s going to happen. Surely they can hear the irritating clacker or see the flashing light, you think, and yet they drive blithely on without a care in the world. This is especially true on roundabouts – see above.

People! These things are not some fad that should be used when the mood takes hold. Twinkling lights aren’t just for Christmas, they’re for life – literally.

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People’s Choice


There was a time, not so long ago, when motorists aspired to bigger, better and faster cars. The automobile as status symbol. Ownership of a prestige brand was a demonstration that the driver was successful and people aspired to this. Well, now it has all changed and the car is seen as just part of what we are pleased to call lifestyle.

This means that performance figures and sheer physical size are being ignored in favour of real world choices like running costs, fuel consumption and safety. We like our cars to be part of what we do and, increasingly, they are being electronically connected to our social activities, like a home away from home.

Car makers have responded to this very astutely. Cars are, by and large, pretty good value. They are very reliable. Most importantly they are becoming smaller and much more efficient. Out and out performance has given way to comfort and mod-cons.

Traditionally, new developments have slowly trickled down from the R&D departments, through the luxury end of the market until such time as the economies of scale could see them fitted to our everyday motors. It took ten years for the airbag to filter down from its introduction in an expensive Mercedes to be fitted as standard to a family hatchback – the Honda Civic.

Today, the pace of change is much faster. Cars that are within everyday budgets can do some remarkable things for themselves and this year – seen recently at the Paris motor show – many popular models will be available with real cutting edge technology.

Seatbelt airbags, intelligent lighting that gets brighter the faster the car is going, parallel parking assistance and auto-braking are all in evidence as standard. Lane departure warnings and adaptive radar based cruise control are becoming the norm.

Ford have taken another important step. At some point in the life of an adult a day will come when, as parents, they become afraid; very afraid. One of the kids has just passed their driving test and want to borrow the car. This of course is a cunning ruse by the former ankle-biter to get the parent to buy a separate car for them; but for those grown-ups of a sterner disposition who hold their ground, be thankful for Ford’s MyKey system.

This allows for certain parameters to be enforced on the car. Set speeds can be programmed and warnings emitted. Volume controls can be set to stun rather than loud enough to make ears bleed and so on. It’s a great step forward that teenagers will hate, but, hey, that’s part of the fun of being a parent. We may no longer aspire to expensive vehicles but at least we are now able to avail ourselves of the best and latest safety features. We might not ride in luxury but we ride well and you can’t say fairer than that.

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Go Faster Stripes Really Work


Over the years the practice of car customisation has become a big business. Gizmo’s abound, and cars that were once thought of as transport for people whose idea of stirring performance was the ability to get out of bed in the morning are now bristling with bolt-on bonus goodies. In a way, this is understandable because motoring is so expensive these days that many drivers, especially the young, are making the best of that which they can afford.

Once upon a time all you really needed was some furry dice hanging from the rear-view mirror and maybe a cherry-bomb exhaust tail-pipe for those racetrack sound effects to effectively stylise your car. Since then motors have been adorned with flaming decals, had ‘spinners’ fitted to the wheels and been generally festooned with after-market parts to emulate more modern vehicles. Furry dice are even a little en vogue today, although if you mention it to the driver don’t be surprised if they get a little defensive and mumble something about an ‘ironic statement’.

All this has not escaped the car manufacturers. They are well aware of the level of taxation and rising household costs that the general public are subject to. For this reason buyers have seen a change in the nature of most of the cars offered to us.

It is a well known fact – even to those that own them – that the rules of our crowded roads pretty much preclude using a powerful vehicle to the max. This general slow-down has meant that high performance is ceasing to be an issue with all but the most hardcore sporting drivers. The car is becoming either a lifestyle attachment or a simple tool to do a job.

The result of these changing conditions is that most people are happy with a well priced car that looks the business without actually doing the business. Now it is about how a car looks. Some city cars for example are now decorated with go-faster stripes in an effort to look sporty. Not that long ago this would have been greeted with derision, but now it is not only accepted but appreciated as a styling choice.

So it is about how cars look. An attractively styled set of alloys really sets off a car. In design, virtually all modern cars have swooping lines, designer creases and headlights like eyes which actually do give an impression of speed and performance. Others look butch and macho for that rugged ‘Marlboro Man’ appeal, and so on. The interesting thing is that it works. We like it. Even if we aren’t allowed to put the pedal to the metal anymore in regulated Britain at least we can look as if we do. And that’s the important thing.

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