Night Systems

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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.

Best of the Web: Ford Issues Recall

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Original Post

Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday issued a safety recall for roughly 327,000 trucks over potential issues with the vehicles that can lead to overheating or fires.

The announcement affects Ford F-150 trucks from 2015 to 2019 and Super Duty vehicles from 2017 to 2019 that were inspected and serviced after a separate December recall spurred by potential fire concerns.

Best of the Web: Honda Ridgeline wins for safety record.

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The Honda Ridgeline is the only pickup to earn a Top Safety Pick designation in the latest Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash test ratings, thanks in part to the performance of its headlights and collision avoidance technology.

The Ridgeline is also the only pickup that employs a car-like unibody chassis rather than body-on-frame construction.

https://video.foxnews.com/v/embed.js?id=5161157786001&w=466&h=263Watch the latest video at foxnews.com

Link to Original Story

Winter Roads and Ice Roads

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Most of the time when we’re talking about winter weather and roads we’re talking about getting rid of it’s effects on the road to improve safety. However, there is a type of road which is built over snow or a similar substance called a winter road due to their reliance on seasonal climate. A special type of winter road is called ice road and this is what the majority of this article is in reference to.

If you live in a temperate region you may live your whole life without seeing an ice road. It is a road built over a frozen lake or even a bay of the ocean, though the word “road” may be pushing it somewhat.

Ice roads can be permanent or temporary–some only exist between late Fall and early Spring. Even when they are melted the lack of vegetation in a specific part of the water shows where the road used to be.

But why use an ice road when you can wait until the thaw occurs? As with many other things it comes down to expense. It’s cheaper to transport things by truck than by air freight. The other concern is that for some items, carrying by air is impractical. But the basic reason is the old adage, “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” If you can drive straight across a lake instead of taking a twisty road around it and a mountain you save a lot of time and fuel.

Making an Ice Road

In order to keep the road as traversable as it can be this routes are often snow plowed. Most people consider ice to be level, but not all types of water being frozen provide a level surface–snowplowing helps make it level.

To create a road takes more than plowing a couple lanes. Often you need to thicken the ice by drilling holes at intervals. The water from these holes floods out and in turn thickens the ice.

The vehicles on the ice road tend to be big trucks, though smaller pickups are also used. The speed limit for ice road is about 25 mph to help prevent the truck from falling through the ice.

Because you can’t just drive out onto most lakes you need some bizarre engineering. One way is a ramp made of slush. It doesn’t sound like a good solution, but it seems to work.

History of Ice Roads

Perhaps the most famous ice road in history is the 900-day siege of Leningrad. In June of 1941, the German and Finnish Army attacked and ultimately blockaded the city where many munitions were manufactured for the Red Army. The attempt to starve out the army and inhabitants failed in large part to allies driving supplies across Lake Ladoga at night. The Nazi Army simply didn’t think anyone was crazy enough to do it so they didn’t waste bombs breaking up the ice.

The ice roads in Canada have a long history going back to the 1930s. These weren’t used by trucks though but by caterpillar sleds. A number of them can be traced back to Al Hamilton of Grimshaw Transport, which still exists. Their main business is to transport fish from the topmost parts of Canada to the USA and beyond. These roads have since been improved by other trucking companies.

Car Security

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This blog has covered an electronic key fob before and that our assumption as consumers is that it is safer than a simple key. The truth is that automakers were actually trying for convenience, not theft resistance. The fact that you can just point the fob at your car and press the button makes it easier to use, especially since you can also usually “pop” your trunk without even taking your hand out of your pocket.

Unfortunately, as safety precautions go, automatic locks can be at best a chink in your armor and at worst, entirely unsafe. This matters not only to the owners of cars but to their designers. This issue isn’t with key fobs that only put out a signal when you push a button, but with the more sophisticated proxemics style of fob that allows you to unlock and start your car as long as you have the fob on your person or in a purse.

The issue is a piece of equipment called a relay box, which is a signal booster available online. You’re fob is essentially “leaking” a little signal continuously, so that if you’re near your car it will allow you to push a button on your car door to unlock it. It’s usually harmlessly since you aren’t near your car when a thief is trying to break in. However, this signal can escape your home through windows and doors though it’s easily blocked by metal among other things.

All that the relay box does is boost the signal. One thief goes near enough to your home to pick up the signal with a relay booster then another thief stands near your car with another relay box. When the second thief pushes the button on your car door he the car will believe it’s you. He can then start the car before driving out of signal range. Some of these relay boxes can even store you signal allow the thief to turn your car off and back on again.

Here’s a link to a video of thieves using this exact process. (https://youtu.be/8pffcngJJq0)

A test by a German company shows that this relay box is amazingly effective and can open 230 out of the 237 car models tested, that’s a success rate of 97% (or a failure rate, depending on your viewpoint). This is highly disconcerting if you have this type of lock.

This particular breed of miscreant is known as a “relay thief.” What’s truly frightening here isn’t that the thieves will simply start your car and go. It’s that if their real target is inside your home, aka you, then your garage door opener is right there in your car.

There are several versions of this car fob hacking. One is to use the fob keys to jam the signal when the driver attempts to lock the car, in the same way, that you might have heard of radio messages or mobile phone calls getting jammed. It’s also possible to though rare to combine jamming with key programming in order to get the car started.

Slightly more advanced is app hacking if your car should be equipped with a cell phone remote unlock/starter. Essentially it means entering the right password either through stealing the details or guessing. This may well be the latest growth area in car crime, who can say?

car-keys-2653311_1920If you have a proximity key fob it’s a good idea to not store your keys next to the front door in a dish. Keep them further inside your home. It is generally a good idea to keep your car in a garage though keeping it behind a locked gate works relatively well and is a lot cheaper. When leaving your car parked most people know not to leave valuables in plain sight, yet we still do it. In particular, we leave navigation systems and dash cams mounted in plain view. It’s could be worth the effort to store them away each time you exit your car.

It’s advisable to use a steering lock, though it tends to be one of those things that drivers receive as a gift and never take out of its box. Procrastination is never a good idea. It’s not that these locks are impossible to beat it’s that there’s probably a car right next to yours without one and that makes these sorts of physical deterrents nearly 100% effective.

The jury is out whether car alarms actually work or if they just slow the criminals down a bit and annoy the neighbors and passers-by. Still, it’s another security device you can use. And if you’ve got something to lose chances are you’ll spend money to prevent it.

Stunt Driving

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At one-time stunt driving was only for the chosen few, but now in the age of experience gifts, it is possible to experience stunt car driving for yourself. They are especially popular for bachelor parties and few bachelorette parties. Perhaps in the age of the virtual more of us yearn for a real day out.

Like other forms of enhanced driving, you do need to know how to drive before you attempt stunt driving. The broad category might be called precision driving and includes such things as racing and the obstacle course work used by law enforcement. However, stunt driving is the form of precision driving where the goal is to create the illusion that your vehicle is out of control when in fact you’re driving at the edge of what the vehicle can handle.

automobile-automotive-car-804130.jpgMany courses offer small class sizes and you are taught by professional stunt people (sometimes, people who work in Hollywood) to get the tricks right. Some of the stunts referred to on their website are the J-turn, Drifting and Threshold Braking. It is a bit confusing for someone who is not familiar with stunts to work out what these are. The names combine aspects of precision driving with the visual effects it creates for an audience or camera.

To do a J turn first you need to reverse and then turn 180°. You should continue driving forward in the same direction as if nothing has happened.

To drift or to counter-steer is drive in one direction while the car wheel s are facing in the other direction. It employs using the car’s inertia to perform a controlled skid around a corner instead of breaking into the corner and accelerating out like you learn in regular driver’s education.

Threshold braking is to slow the vehicle at the maximum rate using the brakes. Many states require a form of this during your driving exam, but it’s done from the speed of 10 MPH. Real threshold breaking is done from high rates of speed. If you have to use it in real life, be warned that it’s easy to lose control of your vehicle.

There are additional moves such as the slide 90s but the stunt driving websites seem a bit cagey about what kind of move this is. If you know perhaps you can comment below?

Obviously, you don’t do any smashing out of a ten story building with your car on fire as part of these stunt days, it’s only the basics. But you get to learn more about how to control your vehicle and you also have a fully immersive experience with your friends.

Tanner Foust is one of the more well-known stunt drivers to the public. Despite his degree in biology, he is better known for rally driving, which he started as a way to off steam. Since then he became an ice driving coach, which led to his destiny as a Hollywood stunt driver on films, including Need For Speed and Iron Man 2. Foust keeps his skills sharp at the race track.

Should you take up further stunt experiences be warned, the prices racks up considerably for the more advanced seminars. You can also take a refresher course at some schools. The best places to learn tend to be the coastal states though it is not clear why.

What’s in a Driver’s License?

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Sixteen is the minimum age for issuing driver’s license in most states, but there are states in which you can be younger and states where you need to be older. It wasn’t always the case.

Brief History

The first licensed vehicle was in 1901 in New York and it took another seventeen years before all states issued license plates. Licensed drivers, however, were harder to come by, in 1935 for example only 39 states issued licenses and barely any needed a test.

There were no driving schools at this time, incidentally. People were taught by the YMCA, high schools and similar organizations. Even now, some schools still teach their students to drive. Even if your school does not, you may still be entitled to reduced insurance rates so it is worth starting early.

Types of Licenses

The license that most people own is called “unrestricted” which allows you to drive most vehicles, provided that you don’t ply for hire. The various types include restricted, chauffeur, motorcycle and so on, which some states call endorsements since they’re added to a basic driver’s license.

Hardship licenses are especially interesting in that they are for teenagers between 14 and 18 who have to drive themselves back and forth to school or work. They are issued if their family has medical or financial needs which prevent them from driving. There’s a different type of hardship license issued for those which would be otherwise a suspended or revoked unrestricted license.

The provisional license is another form of beginner’s license, issued to the newly qualified, usually between 14-17 years old. This type of license doesn’t let you drive at night or and restricts the number of passengers.

Professional Licenses

A chauffeur’s license is slightly misnamed as most states require them for other forms of passenger transport like a taxi or a tuk-tuk. Usually, you do have to be over 25 to be awarded this type of license.school-buses-2801134_1920

You may also need CDL endorsement to drive specific vehicles, such as a tractor with a trailer or a bus. There are other types of endorsements needed for hazardous materials, vehicles carrying bulk liquids and so on. It’s very complex. For example, a liquid such as diesel is flammable & combustible which is an upgrade from mere flammable. It’s also an upgrade from a liquid endorsement, which requires extra stopping distance when transported in large quantities.

Testing

The test is both written and driving (or practical). There is an additional visual test required. It is recommended that if have glasses or contact lenses normally that you wear them for the test, as it is to give an idea of your usual driving state.

As well as these three parts there may be additional courses, for instance, drugs awareness, traffic awareness and so on.

It is also a good idea to know the validity of your driver’s permit and to get another one should you need it. They are conditional and they expire. (In other words, if something is stopping you getting a full driver’s license). Making a mistake while driving with a permit could result in a severe delay in getting your full license.

As Identification

The advantage of owning an enhanced license doesn’t involve driving. It means that your license can be used as a document for establishing US nationality. Many states that border Canada have begun issuing this type of license to reduce the need for a passport when traveling to such a friendly neighboring nation.

You also need to show proof of identity in order to prove who you are and where you live. If you’re taking the test while under age 18 many states need proof that you are attending school.

The license is all about the freedom of the road, as long as you remember everyone else too!

3 Excuses for Not Caring for Your Car

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It doesn’t matter if it only has 100 miles on it or it’s a lemon in the worst sense (but still manages to get you from Point A to Point B occasionally). Most people don’t take care of their cars in the best way possible. This leads to more frequent and costlier repairs, potentially higher insurance premiums, and less safety on the road. Even if you’re the most skilled driver imaginable, that doesn’t mean much when your car isn’t equipped to handle icy conditions or drunk drivers sharing the highway.

Unfortunately, it’s really easy to come up with excuses for skipping that scheduled maintenance or ignoring the check engine light. If you need a kick in the pants to change your bad habits, check out Mint’s list of the most expensive car repairs. With a little preventative care and foresight, many of these can be avoided. For example, a small crack in the windshield can turn into an emergency windshield replacement in a snap.

Here are the most common excuses for poor car care and how to change your perspective:

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  1. “My mechanic recommends this just to make more money”

 That might be true if you don’t research and find a reputable mechanic. “Upselling” is nothing new in any business, which is why you should cross check a mechanic’s recommendation with another mechanic as well as the owner’s manual. Everyone should have a mechanic they trust, and if you don’t there’s no time better than the present to start searching for one.

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  1. “It’ll make X more miles”

 Maybe, or maybe not. Do you really want to test fate and your luck with something as important and expensive as your car? There are many reasons why a check engine light (for example) might turn on, and Lifehacker has outlined a few of the most common for you. However, just because you think you “made it” another few miles doesn’t mean damage hasn’t been done under the hood.

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  1. “It’s a recommendation, not a requirement”

 While there’s some controversy over just how often an oil change really needs to take place, those “recommendations” are actually best practices for keeping your car running well as long as possible. No matter what you drive, it’s likely your biggest investment besides buying a house or taking out student loans. Why not protect it?

Schedule routing tune-ups each autumn and spring for the best results. Otherwise, you’re just flushing your investment down the toilet.

 

Attacks on Self Drive Vehicles

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When the title says “protests” pictures of angry mobs in the streets come to mind, and that’s not exactly what’s happened yet. Instead, Autonomous Vehicles are being outright attacked or vandalized by individuals, but in numbers that indicate more than something random. Though the media has yet to sensationalize it, they are reporting it, and you might be surprised by who that upsets most.

Before diving into that aspect lets make the case that these attacks are significant. Do they, in fact, indicate that the public isn’t embracing this whole notion of computer-driven vehicles? If you were in an AV, how many times would someone have to attempt to intentionally ram you before you decided John Q Public is not quite ready for this kind of technology?

Another example involved a taxi driver exiting his car and slapping the windscreen of a General Motors self-driving car.

This came to a head in Chandler, Arizona in December 2018 when police were informed of members of the public slashing tires, throwing rocks and pointing guns (thankfully so far no bullets fired) at driverless cars.

It seems that this kind of behavior happens nearly every day and just isn’t being reported, to the police or the media. Waymo, who have created a fleet of self-driving cars, also had vehicles attacked in October 2018. They expressed doubt that a police presence on the issue would reduce attacks, in fact, they felt it generally not a good idea to popularize the idea that you can attack a self-driving car.

Not unsurprisingly the police take a dim view of rock throwing and tire slashing and likely desire a solution to the heightened tensions. But it seems unlikely these protests will do much to change the march of tech in places like California, which since March last year has allowed driverless cars to operate without anyone in the driving seat.  Other states which approve driverless cars are Alabama and Washington.

Surely someone should do something! Maybe the marketers of these cars should worry about this strength of feeling they face instead of sticking their heads in the sand? AV makers seem focused on the inevitability of their product and not very focused on consumer sentiment.

That is the problem with self-driving cars though; it is easier to get annoyed with a person in a car. A self-driving car is a bit more removed.

Think about when robotic answering services took over answering your phone calls. Ten years ago when you’d have a problem with a product you’d call the helpline and spend an eternity of hold listening to music. Sometimes when someone answered they’d pass you around to different departments but eventually, someone helped.

woman-3797696_1920Then came the automated service that pre-sorted your call based on your needs. Push one for “X,” push two for “Y.” It felt efficient. And they could take some basic information while you waited. Companies jumped at the chance to lay off extra help desk employees. Then they turned the automated system into an automated runaround. When a human finally answered they usually asked for all the same info you already gave, proving that it was just a delay tactic to waste your time.

If you’re a maker of AV’s think about that angry guy who just hung up on the automated answering device because he’s the same guy who isn’t excited to share the road with automated cars.

Maybe people are right to protest, the ability to drive is all about complicated algorithms or programs in order to be safe and the driverless car has yet to learn all these algorithms. Humans make mistakes, sure, but robots with a systematic error will make the same mistake over and again until a human fixes their programming. John Q. Public maybe doesn’t have much faith that companies will even bother to fix these problems. Not based on their last call to correct a utility bill.

The driverless car industry is valued at 100 billion dollars so it may need a massive PR campaign in order to get people to change their mind about using it. Makers are throwing money into attempts to get the government on their side, but the Senate isn’t planning to launch a self-driving bill until either 2022 because they don’t think there is enough public support for a bill any earlier.

Poles and sales data indicate that 25% of all cars will be driverless by 2030, yet they also say that 15% of the public don’t see a fully autonomous car as ever happening, despite “forever” being a hell of a stretch. This might simply be the product of cynical minds and may even change over time, but fixing all the safety issues and a PR campaign faced toward the public would help in that effort.

The big players such as Uber want driverless to be the way of the world but it’s yet to be carved in stone. In addition to the safety issue, they might want to consider making these cars less like something from a sci-fi dystopia.

The Car in the Landscape

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An Op-Ed by Paul Wimsett

Much has been written about the battle between nature and cars. To hear some folks talk about it, cars are the worst thing to happen to the environment. thousands of miles of the landscape have been paved for roads and parking lots. This paving of nature goes back further than the combustion engine but environmental types seem to narrow the culprit down to the mass ownership of cars.

Do we really need to rehash it again? Well, brace yourself.

It’s worthy of note that between car and nature the latter sometimes wins? There are hundreds of mountains which cannot be tunneled through (sometimes because they are too large, sometimes because tunneling might interrupt a mine or another internal structure), hundreds of bodies of water which cannot be crossed by a bridge and many animals that get in the way of a car.

These animal “trespassings” on the interstate don’t have a good ending for anybody. This means death for the creature but also trauma and injury for the passengers of a car that has the misfortune to collide with it.

We’re talking big animals here, giant moose, deer, and cows. Even if you have a near miss with one of these large animals, it doesn’t mean another member of its pack is likely nearby. This is why you should be extra vigilant if you see an accident caused by one of these animals.

If there is an animal up ahead the best thing you can do is perform an emergency stop. It is ill-advised to try and swerve to avoid the animal as you can end up causing a greater accident with other vehicles on the road. Sounding your horn is as likely to make the animal rear up instead of move. Put your hazard lights on though, to warn motorists, especially if it’s a foggy day.

You are more likely to hit a wild animal near a heavily forested region you are also more likely to hit one in the early spring or late fall. During winter and summer animals are more sluggish and do not travel so far.

It’s human nature to try and comfort an animal in distress but this isn’t advisable with something like a deer or a bigger animal. After all, its hoofs are sharp and it may take its distress out on you.

Deer seem to be the main culprit of wildlife accidents. State Farm reported that there were approximately 1.35 million accidents involving deer between July 2016 and June 2017. On average the damage for an accident was estimated at $4,100. And larger animals such as moose or bear can cause more expensive accidents.

You can install a small whistling device on your car to warn deer you’re coming. I don’t know of a study proving that they work, but if you live in a rural area it might be worth a try.

Different states have different laws about reporting car accidents with animals. It is best to err on the safe side and report them anyway as it will probably help your insurance case. Likely you’ll have to report the accident when you call for a tow.