Ford Motor Co. issued several recalls Wednesday, including one covering more than 1.2 million Ford Explorer SUVs that could be at risk of losing steering control.
When you have a family, you need a car that is roomy, comfortable, and safe. You want your children to have their own space to avoid those screaming fights and for the baby seat to buckle in with ease. So, what are the top picks for 2019? Here is a rundown of cars that are ideal for families in minivans and SUVs.
What Makes a Car Ideal?
You want to make sure that your vehicle is equipped with at least the standard features and that others are available should you choose. These features should include a rear camera, lane stay assist, and Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), among others.
Safety testing is one of the most important parts of choosing any vehicle for your family. You want to know how it fares in an accident and how safe your family will be. Make sure you check the safety ranking for each vehicle that you look at. Specifics like crash rating and overall rating are a good place to start.
Convenience and Technology almost go hand in hand nowadays. Make sure that the vehicle you choose has the features you want or the option to add them. This can include things like remote start, remote door access, smartphone connections, touchless entry, heated seating, and more.
With its top rate technology for safer driving including CMBS, Road Departure Mitigation System (RDM), Blind Spot Information System, and multi-angle rear camera, it is no wonder it has received Kelly Blue Book’s minivan best buy award. With ample seating allowing up to eight passengers and options for a rear entertainment center, your children will be happy and give you fewer distractions.
The Chrysler Pacifica gives you the technology you are looking for and the comfort you need. This hybrid minivan has the safety features to help keep you safe like all around camera, Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) and adaptive cruise control. It also provides seven-passenger seating with stowaway seats for all of those necessities. It also has the option of dual entertainment screens and connection to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Again, keeping your children occupied while you stay in control.
The Subaru Forester has standard-on-all safety features that include EyeSight to monitor traffic. It also features optimized cruise control, lane assist technology, and automatic pre-collision braking with full braking capabilities. It has memory seating for up to five drivers and adjusts to their preferences upon entering the car. The Forester also has different entertainment packages to choose from and space for the extra cargo you may be transporting to and from the game.
The Honda CR-V gives you room and style in one package. With convenient features like automatic adjusting wipers that sense the speed of the rain and adjust accordingly to hands-free rear entry, you will be hard pressed to find something you don’t like. Some of its safety features include lane change sensors that sense if cars are close when changing lanes, reverse sensors, multi-angle rear camera, and smart entry. The CR-V also comes with CMBS, RDM, lane assist, and adaptive cruise control. With plenty of space and stow away seats, you will be ready to go where ever the road calls.
The Chevy Traverse gives you the comfort you want and the size that you need for a big family. With seating for eight, this SUV gives you convenience with hands-free rear entry, easy-slide seating, and hidden storage. It includes sixteen different safety features like forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, lane keep assisting, rear vision camera and alert, lane change assist and backup assist, among others. It also comes with connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to keep your children entertained and get you safely where you need to go.
The Volkswagen Atlas comes with seating for seven and stowaway seats for comfort no matter how big your family is. The Atlas also comes with hands-free rear entry, remote doors, driver memory for four drivers, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay, and remote start. The safety features on the Atlas include pedestrian monitoring, overhead view camera, adaptive cruise control, LKAS, and blight spot detection, light assist, and rear traffic alert. The Volkswagen Atlas gives you space, comfort, and safety you need for your family’s road trips.
Many of us practically live in our car, which means the front door of our house is actually the garage door. The big exceptions are those who live in apartments and those who live further off the beaten track.
Not so Humble Origins
The tradition of a garage is as old as the car itself, as it began with wealthy people to store vehicles out of the weather. In the beginning, only the rich had cars and it was natural to keep them like they had the horses it replaced, in a stable where the maintenance, care and well, waste could be handled by household employees. So the first garages were repurposed “carriage houses”.
Apart from having money what kind of people would have a carriage house? Well, it depends on how you define one. If you think of it as a cart shed, then anyone with a horse or donkey probably had one. We’re not talking about people in slum areas, but everyone else. The posher ones had living space for staff and no doubt the first garages used the sleeping quarters for chauffeurs.
Modern racing fans know of pit row where cars pit-in for service, but we probably don’t think about the source of the name, which is a pit you dug in your garage so your chauffeur can perform regular maintenance on your vehicle. Now we use hydraulic lifts of course.
The Evolution of the Garage
Garages haven’t changed much with one big exception–where they are in relation to the rest of your house. Most houses now have an attached garage. The big advantage is that you can drive right up to, and really into, your abode without getting out in the weather.
Of course, it goes without saying that you need some sort of shelter for a convertible but there are some advantages for any vehicle. Garaging your vehicle keeps its exterior in better condition, prolongs the paint job, and reduces creature infestations like mice in the engine or yellow jackets in the air intake.
Are there any disadvantages to an attached garage? There must be. How many of us park in front of our garage and use it as a large storage facility. You can try to make the garage double for storage of things and cars, but things like ladders pose a bigger threat to your paint job than the weather outside.
An attached garage also either takes up room from your house (under the roof) or from your yard. Most of us have come to accept the loss of front green space and perhaps even consider it an advantage to have less mowing to do. Still, the modern house, with it’s living quarters tucked behind an amorphous garage is less conducive to a neighborhood feel than say, a wraparound porch.
If you’ve ever lived in a situation where you needed to walk outside for a bit, in order to get in your car, you notice how much the air wakes you up in the morning. You might also notice a lack of smell. Cars have a lot of chemicals, etc. that can gather in the sale air of a garage. The material used for the car such as diesel and anti-freeze also whiff a bit. If you don’t use the car a rust smell will also develop. Many people might prefer these kinds of odors further from the house.
Note: Now that some of us have remote start on their cars, it’s a good idea to make sure the garage door is up before starting your car. That carbon monoxide is dangerous. Then there is the smell. A number of older cars smell especially diesel cars.
Another big advantage to a garage is the safety factor. Garages are thought by insurers to a safer place to keep a car than say the street. For an insurer, it’s all about managing risk in any case. Your pride and joy might not be perfectly safe in a garage but it is better than the alternatives. Many single people feel personally safer walking into a garage attached to their house than walking outside to get in their car.
Whatever you choose, and garage placement may not be a big factor in choosing where you live, there are some plusses and minuses to having a garage. It’s worth giving some thought to.
We’ve all probably seen those episodes of Mythbusters where they show the intense force that can result from something as simple as a car crash. That’s why it’s wild so many people don’t fully understand how cars are tested for safety or performance overall.
In 2016 there were 272.48 million cars registered in the United States, and that is a huge chunk of the population buying and driving cars. Obviously, cars are a lot safer than the vehicles we were driving 100 years ago, and that is definitely due to laws concerning safety performance.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards
The need for motor vehicle safety standards came to light in the 1960s. In fact, we weren’t even required to have seat belts as a standard safety feature in cars until 1968. Now, seat belts feel like such an ingrained and necessary part of cars that it’s unbelievable they have only been around for the last fifty years or so.
Once it became a requirement for cars to meet certain standards and safety minimums, companies started performing their own crash safety tests to help maintain their standards.
Crash Safety Tests
These crash safety tests have grown more intense over the years to make sure that people are protected from all sorts of issues. Whenever you talk safety, you’re looking at things like:
- How to prevent accidents
- How to minimize the severity of the damage
- How to prevent secondary damage
You never know what can go wrong in a car accident as it isn’t always as simple as a fender bender. There can be pile-ups, rolls, and more cause an accident to be fatal. No company wants their car to put people at risk because of faulty airbags or poor design.
If a car is unlikely to be hit, but when it is hit from the side it flips easily on its top and pours gas on the passengers, well, that’s not a safe car.
The best way to crash test a vehicle is by putting it through the wringer. These cars that show up on the market have often faced all sorts of abuse and disaster to make certain it adds no unnecessary risks or danger to the drivers.
Car manufacturers want to test every aspect of cars through production to make sure they needle out any potential issues. They don’t want customers having to complain about a problem after the car is on the market. It goes without saying that it’s more expensive to fix a problem after you’ve sold a hundred thousand units.
A lot of car testing is done in Death Valley, California. Car companies have actually received express permission to crash test cars in Death Valley National Park. It is a great remote area for companies to do this so bystanders aren’t hurt.
Both the structural design of a car and applied safety systems can really contribute to safety. Crash tests are meant to help show what would happen to a car in different events and it shows what parts are structurally weak and need to be fixed.
Side Note: An example of a post-design safety system is a two-pound plastic plate which Canadian Ford Pintos included, which radically reduced the chance of gas tank puncture when rear-ended.
Often these days crash test dummies are used to demonstrate the impact a crash would have on a human being. This is to help discover what protections might be needed to make the car safer for passengers. Crash test dummies are meant to mimic real people and employ advanced designs to lead to proper results of the impact.
Crash Test Ratings
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives out crash test ratings based on a scale of one to five stars. How it rates cars is based on a number of certain factors. Tests that are included in these ratings are a front crash test, side crash test, and rollover crash tests.
The crash test rating involves aspects of all the results from multiple crash tests. Included are results based on damage sustained by crash test dummies such as neck extension or other potential injuries. Multiple injuries are counted as well, data is taken from all parts of the body.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also has its own vehicle safety ratings that impact how cars are manufactured. Their determination for crashworthiness is similar to the NHTSA, though focuses on a few different aspects. The testing is a bit more hardcore than with the NHTSA to help ensure safety.
Crash test ratings have helped improve the quality of cars produced over the years. Now it is an important part of car production to make sure that cars protect passengers as much as possible.
When it is time to go buy a car there are many ways to take a look at how safe they really are. You can check the car safety ratings and even watch the crash testing videos if you think that would reassure you.
People worry about the rise of self-driving cars but it seems like most people struggle to negotiate the road with normal cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 94% are due to dangerous choices or errors which people make when they are behind the wheel. Whether they are blatantly dangerous or are revealed to be so after hindsight must be worth looking into though.
The statistics divide things into “distracted driving,” “drunken driving,” or “driving while drowsy.” Possibly a crash might be caused by a combination of factors which no one can get to the bottom of. Some of which might be natural, such as ice on the road, stormy winds etc. Certainly, there are days when it pays to be more vigilant.
The errors can be divided into five types:
- Recognition error
- Decision error
- Performance error
- Non-performance error
Distraction is usually regarded as a recognition error. Deciding to speed or do another illegal maneuver or not anticipating what other drivers will do is known as decision error. Performance error is losing control of the vehicle or pushing the car too far. Non-performance is another name for drowsiness and falling asleep. 8% of car accidents were caused by miscellaneous human error or “other”.
Something which seems on the rise is drugged driving. There are warning signs of drunk or stoned driving you might watch out for, such as a driver weaving in and out of the traffic. Or it may be that a driver goes far too slowly, though that could be down to a number of factors, the weaving is more obvious a sign.
The problem with many drivers is that driving consists of many tiny micro-tasks which all need to be obeyed to keep the car on the road. If something changes then there could be a problem. It may be something the brain has yet to process or it could be something that is making the person behave in a reckless manner.
Teens age drivers are most likely to behave irresponsibly, and they win high insurance premiums as their only prize. It’s likely a combination of being less experienced drivers (not knowing how to react to a situation) and less experienced decision makers.
So what can you do to reduce the risk? Well, you’ve likely heard a lot of ideas that, while technically sound, are really difficult to carry out. Things like:
- Never drive with someone to distract you?
- Never drive late at night?
You can’t really avoid every situation that is inherently unsafe. Perhaps the bigger shift needs to happen in our thinking. Many people don’t think they are doing anything which might cause an accident, and that’s when it gets you.
Although self-driving is said to wipe out death by human error it is unlikely to be widespread any time soon. The same can be said for laws about what lanes trucks use, or sensors to detect pedestrians. The kicker has pondered these efforts before and we generally recommend actually trying things out before making sweeping changes because computers have yet to prove themselves as better decision makers than humans in the driving seat.
For many people, the idea of street racing creates bad vibes especially if it’s an illegal event. As an event, it precedes cars by several centuries as there were many illegal horse races and chariot races on the roads before the invention of the motor car.
The heyday for street racing was in the 1960s with a race that should have taken place at Woodward Avenue Drag Strip in Detroit, Michigan. However, because the racecourse was often unavailable the organizers took it to public roads instead. This was only the beginning of their problems.
The consensus among street race organizers is that it’s best to avoid the busier areas of the city and suburbs. This might have to do with safety or it possibly could have something to do with not getting caught!
Apart from that, there seems to be a whole spectrum of how an event can be held. Some are almost spontaneous; others are planned precisely over several months-it all depends on who the organizers are.
However, it comes together and despite the best planning things can still go wrong. In an event in Southern California in 2018, several bystanders were killed as well as a number of the drivers. One of those killed was to a nineteen-year-old returning from Disneyland.
As for the money aspect, the amount of money being bet on these events is staggering. It’s a ready-made audience of gamblers.
As well as racing another activity bet on is the “side-show” or “takeover,” which refers to a crowd of cars associated with the organizers who will block a junction just ahead of the racers coming through. As the racing cars need to get as close to each other as they can, crashes often occur. Side bets get placed on that as well. Basically when it comes to street racing “High Stakes” is measured in peoples’ lives.
Law Enforcement Response
The police are trying to fix the problem using a special task force but they face challenges including that they are likely to suffer assault while physically attempting to break up events. Even when they do raid a race they may find the ringleaders are elsewhere, remember that it is a virtual event too. The task force must look at the big picture.
With modern social media and the ability to generate flash mobs many, it can tough for police to prevent a race. Organizers have plenty of incentive to keep it up too, because there’s a lot of money in it, as we’ll return to in a moment.
Race organizers sometimes move to a whole new area where police haven’t had a chance to prepare. An event in Sweden was covered by filmmaker Stephanie Benini who used a reality TV style way of broadcasting to focus on the event itself. The video shows a number of police cars at the scene. The whole thing lasted nine hours, between 11pm and 8am and police weren’t able to shut it down.
If racing weren’t dangerous enough inherently, experts viewing the movie footage have observed some of the cars have been massively upgraded. One Volvo, for example, has rear tires in the film that don’t match any Volvo being sold on forecourts. Maybe improper customization will play a part in future street races and future race accidents.
Even though it is an illegal event the organizers tried to be as sensible as they could be, closing down roads for the racers. But as stated above, the danger aspect cannot be removed completely.
As an interesting side note, racing returned to Woodward in 2018. Here’s a story on the topic.
Like all modern cars, Tesla is computer controlled. Unlike most modern cars, Tesla equips there cars with the latest in Automated Driving Technology, which is to say they believe their cars can drive themselves. For the most part, they seem to have succeeded in the self-driving part.
Of course, our minds instantly begin to ponder what happens if a hacker gets it. I mean in most cars you might be able to give it bad fuel economy or lock the doors. What happens when you hack an A.V.
Well, a couple of white hat hackers have given it a try and managed to turn on the windshield wipers. While that doesn’t sound like much it does shoot down the hope that Tesla somehow created a hack-proof car.
HOWEVER, the hackers, Tencent, were also able to take over control of the steering wheel and run it via a gamepad controller. They did this even though the autopilot feature wasn’t activated. Here’s a link to more details below.
But first, let’s take a fast look at the basics because I know most of us never see a freeway that’s not a packed with slow-moving traffic in every lane.
The Right Lane
According to the Uniform Vehicle Code, the right-most lane, a.k.a. slow lane is primarily for vehicles that have just entered the freeway or intend to leave it at the next exit. It has a second purpose, however, and that is to house vehicles that aren’t traveling with the flow of other vehicles. We’ll return to that in a second.
The slow lane in hilly terrain is also known as the climbing lane. The layout is such that two lanes head upwards on a freeway and one head downward. Heavy vehicles are more likely to use the climbing lane.
The Left Lane
The U.V.C also defines the use of the left-most lane, a.k.a. fast lane. The right lane is also known as the passing lane, because vehicles in this lane are, in theory, overtaking slower traffic in lanes to the right.
It’s worth noting that Colorado Police are particularly well known for handing out tickets for going slow in the fast lane. The high altitude and pitch of the climb on certain roads make it more likely for cars to travel slowly in the fast lane, which is truly a hazard.
The Middle Lane
The middle lane, or lanes, is for “through traffic.” These vehicles should be traveling at or near the speed limit. Since you’re supposed to be using the left lane for passing, it’s illegal in most states to travel in the left with the flow of traffic and not yield if someone is overtaking you.
Legitimate Reason to Drive Slow in the Slow Lane
Many states have a lower posted speed limit for Tractor Trailers or other vehicles with more than two axles. Also, most states have special speed restrictions for oversized loads. Some vehicles may be overloaded or awkwardly loaded which causes them to drive slower for safety. Also, temporary car trouble could be a legitimate reason to drive slower until a good exit can be found.
Being too old, too impaired or too blind to safely drive at freeway speeds is not a legitimate reason to camp out in the slow lane. If you don’t feel able to safely operate your vehicle at freeway speed, please avoid using freeways.
Differential Rate of Speed
The issue isn’t really about top speed. In theory, we’re all traveling the speed limit (wink) and if we’re not the police take care of it.
No, the issue is the difference in speed between one vehicle and another. It’s the rate at which you overtake the other vehicles on the road, which means acceleration and deceleration. If someone enters your lane going 20 MPH slower than you, you’d better have good brakes. The opposite issue is the source of most frustration.
When you finally break free of that slow car in the fast lane you want to get back to your cruising speed which is all about engine acceleration. It may seem like a little thing but it might just save your life. Cars which fail to accelerate at intersections or up hills or ramps can cause accidents. You need to be able to pick up speed when necessary.
Car acceleration performance is measured by the time it takes to go from 0 to 60 mph. It is not always possible to tell this just by looking at a car. The Chevrolet Camaro Iron Duke may have been marketed as a sports car but it still has an embarrassingly low acceleration rate of 0 to 60 in 20 seconds.
Did you Know the term ‘Slow’ travel is actually a thing?
But let’s move on from slow lanes to another kind of slowness; slow travel.
Sure we’ve all been on road trips where someone took too many rest breaks. For some people, due to their age, health or some other condition must slow travel–it’s the best they can do. (Though it is not an area the Kicker spends much time on.) For most car enthusiasts the slow traveler is the enemy.
The term, ‘Slow Travel’ was inspired by the term ‘Slow Food’ which came about in the 1980s. Slow food was a counter-movement against the sudden domination of unhealthy & over processed ‘Fast Food.’ It was based in the notion that it’s okay to have a different priority for your food than mere speed–things like taste and atmosphere. If some people preferred a ‘Slow Food’ experience maybe it some folks would also enjoy a slower pace of travel.
If freeways make you feel stressed, you might be one of the folks who understand that life is a journey, not a destination.
For the traveler who wishes to take the slow routes across America, possible suggestions include the Lincoln Highway from New York to San Francisco or Route 6 from Provincetown, Mass. to Bishop, California.
Likely as not, it will go up the mountains and through the valleys. Ironically, traveling slowly is what the car commercials are all about. These routes are slower, which means more stops. More stops mean more meals and more nights in a hotel. It’s not cheaper, but it is more picturesque and you may actually get to meet some nice people you’d normally zoom past.
It’s not just the darkness, but fog, smog and even the glare of light can prevent you seeing nearby obstacles. Introducing the automotive night system which can detect objects you wouldn’t see with mere headlights and alert the driver to them. Given its potential to improve safety and how long we’ve had the basic technology it may come as a shock that it only dates back to 2000. That means it came in about the same era as Sat-Nav, which is also handy, but not a safety concern.
As with most innovations night systems were first installed in the luxury brand and even now hasn’t become a standard safety feature in mid-cost vehicles. The first car to employ an automotive night system was a Cadillac de Ville. This style of Cadillac was originally developed in the 1950s, but it has undergone several generations of improvement.
From the start, the goal was to make automotive night system passive and intuitive so that they didn’t provide more distraction than a driver simply concentrating on the road ahead. All the systems employ an infrared beam to pick up on objects which the human eye would miss. The main difference in the systems is how it alerts the driver.
Less passive systems were introduced by Mercedes and Toyota, which produce a black and white image for the driver. The Mercedes can only use this function when you are going at 28 mph, presumably because you are less likely to be killed by a car traveling below 28 mph. (But honestly who wants to be hit at any speed?)
You might think that as people aren’t used to black and white images that it might hard for a driver to know when to react. The people behind the DS Night Vision have thought of this. Its sensors give a red border around any objects that may be a potential danger, and then adds a yellow border if the danger changes to critical.
The BMW has a pedestrian detecting device which flashes a caution symbol if its infra-red senses that a pedestrian is in the driver’s “eye-line.” In recent years they added an animal detection device. If an animal is in the vicinity a number of LEDs will start flashing.
Should you discover something called “active vision” it means it only works on nearby obstacles. Far away obstacles can appear grainy in this type of footage, which isn’t necessarily a problem as such obstacles can generally be ignored.
Naturally the idea of creating a live stream in front of you to show you how the road is looking seems an obvious evolution. However, it’s currently thought to be too distracting. As drivers become more accustomed to technology in cars its quite possible we’ll see this innovation soon.
As this is the latest in tech it will remain quite expensive for some time, to the detriment of the pedestrian and maybe other drivers. This isn’t, from a tech standpoint, much different than ordinary surveillance devices. Night vision comes standard on baby monitors these days. The safety of others seems to come secondary to price, which isn’t how other safety features have been prioritized. The court of public opinion can shift swiftly so perhaps we’re one bad night accident away from a handy new standard safety feature.