Distracted Driving Awareness Month!

With as much attention having been raised in regards to distracted driving over the past several years one would think this top cause of preventable accidents and deaths would be on the decline. Since 2015 vehicle deaths are up 6%, killing over 40,000 people this last year. Unfortunately, it is on the rise.  The National Safety Council  (NSC) has an entire page devoted to tools, information and statistics dedicated to educate drivers about the severity of this crisis.  So what will it take to reprogram our brains to ignore every little beep, buzz and ring from our cell phones? Well, for starters here’s a few of those NSC statistics for some terrifying motivation:

  • Drivers talking on handheld or hands free devices don’t see 50% of their surroundings
  • 1.6 Million crashes per year are attributed to drivers using their cell phone
  • 1 out of every 4 accidents is caused by texting and driving
  • Using voice to text is actually more distracting than texting
  • 7% of all drivers of cars on the road are on their phone

So why are we seemingly incapable of turning off that need to immediately respond? For many smart phone owners, the answer is addiction. In CNN’s article, “Smartphone Addiction Could be Changing Your Brain” study after study reveals just how addicted many of us are to that digital rectangle in our pockets and purses.  Per a 2010 Pew Research Study half of American adults send or read texts while driving. For 16 to 17 year olds that number increases to one in three. Even walking while distracted has been blamed for putting the walker at ten times the risk of being injured. Distracted drivers combined with distracted walkers simply can’t have a good outcome.

But wait, the term distracted driving isn’t anything new. We’re simply more distracted than ever before. The hashtag #JustDrive has been created to make the point that the only way to keep ourselves and others safe on the road is to do just that…drive. Lest we forget, our cell phones, texts, calls, and social media updates are only one aspect of the driving behaviors that keep us from being focused on…driving. NSC has several links on information to remind us of all those other preventable causes of accidents still exist such as driving drunk, under the influence of drugs and driving while drowsy, not to mention the simple things that take our eyes off the road just long enough to miss a swerving car or a darting bicyclist.  Eating, applying makeup, flipping through a folder, even just changing the radio station are all seemingly benign activities until one day, one second without focus becomes one accident that never should have happened.

We hope that each and every one of you will take this year’s pledge to #JustDrive.  Share your commitment to that pledge on social media with the #JustDrive hashtag. Spread a life-saving message! 

Blog by: Allison Green

New 2018 Vehicles to Dazzle Your Holidays!

Whether you're a driver that prefers a sedan, coupe, convertible, SUV, truck, pickup, van, minivan, crossover, wagon or hatchback, charting all of the redesigned changes can lead you to pick out the best new vehicle option to suit your preferences. Some models are all-new while others are redesigns.

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Artificial Intelligence to Make Your Drive Safer & Even More Fun!

Do you have one of the many personal assistants through Amazon’s Alexa, Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, or a Google Assistant that can communicate with other devices at your home and control them?  Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take your personal assistant with you on the road? Artificial Intelligence is expanding through the universe at furious speeds with a German Company, called German AutoLabs offering up the first personal assistant to compliment our driving experience.  This will also be the first male personal assistant with the name Chris.

Chris will allow you to make calls, listen to voicemail, checkout your Facebook, What’s App, or even check your email messages all while safely keeping your hands on the wheel.  (Yahoo Tech)

According to the company it will also include assistance with navigation and allow you to listen to your favorite music with merely a simple voice command. “Chris, play the Lumineers.”  Wala! Discover more about Chris through the informational video on Youtube.com.

According to Forbes.com:  “Investment in AI has accelerated from $282 million in 2011 to $2.4 billion in 2015, a 746% increase in five years. In 2016, this continued to increase with roughly another $1.5 billion being invested in more than 200 AI-focused companies in 2016.”

It's not only Chris making a splash in this competitive industry, another report from @FordOnline delves deeper into the future of AI in our cars through Cloud-based voice control that will be available on 75% of new vehicles by 2022. The future personal assistants will do everything for us in our cars as they do in our homes with smart technology taking over the world! 

 "This summer, Ford’s in-car connectivity system SYNC 3 will enable drivers to connect to Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa and offers 23 different languages and many local accents. By accessing cloud-based resources, cars of the future could enable even more drivers to speak their native language…” 

“Voice commands like ‘I’m hungry’ to find a restaurant and ‘I need coffee’ have already brought SYNC 3 into personal assistant territory,” said Mareike Sauer, voice control engineer, Connectivity Application Team, Ford of Europe. “Eventually, drivers will not only be able to use their native tongue, spoken in their own accent, but also use their own wording, for more natural speech.”  

Discover more about a research project Ford is currently running with RWTH Aachen University which includes using multiple microphones to improve speech processing and reduce the effect of external noise and potential disruptions. Nuance says that within the next two years, voice control systems could prompt us with: “Would you like to order flowers for your mum for Mothers’ Day?” “Shall I choose a less congested but slower route home?” and “You’re running low on your favorite chocolate and your favorite store has some in stock. Want to stop by and pick some up?”  

"Future gesture and eye control would enable drivers to answer calls by nodding their head, adjust the volume with short twisting motions, and set the navigation with a quick glance at their destination on a map." @FordOnline.com

Lastly, the future of AI is meeting us coming and going in a world of fast paced answers to every question.  In addition, it will provide more safety and security in our daily commutes. As AI grows our cars will even be able to sense our moods through facial recognition software. Learn more about this amazing AI feat at nytimes.com.  The future looks bright with the advancement of AI! 

 

American Made Ford Mustang Icon Races through Time to 2018!  

For over 50 years the American made Ford Mustang has delighted young and old alike.  The first generation (1964 ½  to 1973) production of the Ford Mustang was revealed to the public in the Ford Pavilion during the New York World’s Fair on April 17, 1964, the very same day that it would go up for sale around the Country.  

To everyone’s surprise the Ford Mustang was affordable and loved right out of the lot.  Ford anticipated selling approximately 100,000 models the first year, but phenomenally beat their own goal selling close to half a million! 

From the 1st generation Ford Mustang to the present 6th generation there is no stopping the fame of this beloved American made icon. To learn more about the history of the Mustang visit Edmunds.com who have an excellent article showcasing all the generational history up to 2005 in superb detail. 

How about the 2018 Mustang? Amazing like most previous generations with a slightly sportier redesign in comparison to the 2017 model. As the photo above displays, Ford offers another brilliant new color to dazzle us: Orange Fury Metallic Tri-Coat.

Yahoo.com Daniel Howley, Technology Editor, showcases an interesting informative video of the 2018 model along with an article with extra details including: 

"The biggest changes to the new Mustang’s front end include all-LED lights and updated hood vents. Around back, the Mustang’s rear lights have been reshaped to look like large parentheses. Ford has also outfitted the rear of the Mustang with a new quad-tip exhaust, which just plain looks cool."  

As far as cost this American icon remains beautifully and powerfully affordable for most. The 2018 base 2.3L EcoBoost will cost about the same as the 2017 model at around $27K with the GT V8 costing close to $35K.  Ready to buy one?  The wait will not be long as the 2018 models will be made available for purchase this fall. See Ford.com to receive updates and prepare for the ride of your life! 

By Gina Sifers, Bella Media Services, LLC

 

 

Autonomous Vehicles – Pros & Cons

Small and large Automakers in 2017 are making impressive progress toward offering fully autonomous vehicles.  There are pros and cons to this new amazing technology that many of us anticipate with excitement and some with dread and uncertainty. We will begin with the cons and end with the pros.

First of all, many people are worried about their jobs. The Insurance Journal reports that as many as four million truck, bus, delivery and taxi driving jobs could be lost if fully autonomous vehicle technology is adopted in a short period of time, according to a new report (Center for Global Policy Solutions (CGPS).  US states where workers have the most to lose when the new technology is adopted:  North Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, West Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Iowa and Indiana. 

Driving jobs in these states offer the highest wages in comparison to non-driving jobs and when fully autonomous vehicles take hold it could leave a very serious economic toll. To learn more about the 2017 CGPS study visit the Insurance Journal.

Fully autonomous vehicles are not likely to hit the roadways anytime soon as coordination efforts between government, insurance and automakers must be scrutinized and enacted in accordance to hammered over policies and regulations. 

 The Daimler Freightliner Inspiration, a self-driving long-haul truck, is seen during an event at the Hoover Dam, May 5, 2015, near Boulder City, Nev.  John Locher/AP

The Daimler Freightliner Inspiration, a self-driving long-haul truck, is seen during an event at the Hoover Dam, May 5, 2015, near Boulder City, Nev.  John Locher/AP

In 2017 most manufacturers are creating cars/trucks with partial autonomous control but not completely driverless control. The Inspiration Truck by Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) is the first licensed autonomous commercial truck to operate on an open public highway in the U.S. called a level 3 autonomous vehicle where the trucker is still largely in control. Discover the videos that bring to life this cutting edge first commercial autonomous truck on US Highways.

General Motors Executive, Gier, reports that:  “In 2017, we’ll launch our Super Cruise feature, which keeps you centered in your lane and lets you take your hands off the steering wheel,” he said. That development will position the automotive industry at the brink of what he terms Level 3 in the progression toward vehicle autonomy.   

From GM – Detroit: On the heels of the signing of the SAVE Act legislation to support autonomous vehicle testing and deployment in Michigan, General Motors will immediately begin testing autonomous vehicles on public roads. GM also announced it will produce the next generation of its autonomous test vehicles at its Orion Township assembly plant beginning in early 2017. Discover more at their media page.  

Volvo plans to make their autonomous model by 2020 — in 2017 they will be testing 100 cars on China's public roads.  This is the largest test to date and will include Chinese citizen volunteers.  Per Volvo:

"Even in a self-driving car, you’re always in control when you want to be. You can mix and match your journey with both autonomous and active driving. And there is no doubt that Autopilot driving technology has the potential to improve road safety dramatically, helping Volvo Cars to reach its goal that nobody should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by 2020.

For instance, the all-new Volvo XC90 has automatic braking at intersections—so if you turn in front of an oncoming vehicle, the car will apply the brakes for you."  Click here to discover more from Volvo’s dynamic videos and site content.  

With more than 30 companies working diligently on this life changing technology the future is bright for automakers.  For us average joes the new technology promises to save many lives but also the loss of many future jobs. 

The Insurance Journal states that U.S. regulators are encouraging development of automated vehicle systems to reduce traffic accidents that annually kill more than 30,000 people. Regulatory and legal issues with self- driving cars, such as liability in accidents, have yet to be addressed.

Learn more about autonomous vehicles and the promising progress made by the major players, such as Tesla, Ford, GM, Google, Volvo and Uber: 

See BusinessInsider.com to discover the 7 self-driving car milestones to look out for in 2017.

For more details check out Driverless-Car Market Watch.

 

Rip Roaring Fast Cars in 2017!

Last year we brought you “Rip Roaring Fast Cars in 2016” which highlighted the Venom GT taking you up to 270 miles per hour, the McLaren 675LT at 205 mph and the Audi R8 also up to 205 mph.  So will 2017 cars move even faster? As unimaginable as it may seem, the answer is YES!

Photo Credit: venomgt.com/venom-f5/

The Texas manufacturer has beat its own record of 207 mph with the 2017 Hennessy Venom F5 at 290 miles per hour made in America!   This hypercar has 1500 horsepower and reaches speed in two seconds.  However, don’t expect to see too many of these in the grocery store parking lot.  According to Hennessy Venom website: "Production is very limited, making the Hennessey Venom F5 not only one of the quickest and fastest hypercar in the World, but also one of the most exclusive."

The Venom GT that we reported on last year sold 12 of its $1.2 million Venom GTs in its six-year production run. But now, the era of the Venom GT draws to a close.  According to Road and Track, as of January 19th, all these beauties are SOLD OUT

Coming in second place is the Bugatti Chiron with a speed up to 260 mph, 1500 horsepower, and a 16 cylinder engine. This super-car is manufactured by the Bugatti Automotive Group which is owned by Volkswagen.  Start saving your pennies for this one, it is currently running around $2.6 million plus (based on current exchange rate).

Also making the list this year:

  • The Saleen S7 Twin Turbo at 248 mph and $550,000

  • The McLaren F1 at 240 mph and $1.1 million

  • The Noble M600 at 225 mph and $300,000

For something a little more affordable, fast and fun you might want to check these winners out.

  •  The 2017 Lotus Evora 400 will get you 0 to 60 in 4.1 seconds for just under $90,000.  The Lotus is returning to the United States after two years and capable of reaching 186 mph.
  • The 2017 Hyundai Genesis Coupe will take you up to 146 mph at a kinder price tag of around $30,000. 
  • The 2017 Chevrolet Camaro makes a fast highway pass reaching 60 mph in 4.3 seconds for around $27,000. 

Looking even further into the future, the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon promises, even more fun rolling off the assembly line 200 pounds lighter than the Dodge Hellcat.

Looking for speed and fuel efficiency? According to Forbes, this is entirely possible through a few engineering marvels. The Audi TSS gets up to 27 miles per gallon while still capable of making 60 mph in 5.8 seconds.

The Chevrolet Camaro previously mentioned can maintain up to 29 miles per gallon and the Ford Mustang up to 31 miles per gallon hitting 50 in 5.3 seconds. 

Out of all of the dynamic super sonic fast cars which one would you choose? For those willing to travel at hyper speed with all the bells and whistles car manufactures can instill there appears to be something for everyone.

Happy, fast and safe travels to all!  

2017 Auto Design Summed Up In One Word - Technology

It feels like a recent memory that Auto Technology meant having a CD player instead of a tape deck.  Previous to that, we had a portable CD player that plugged into the cigarette lighter with a cassette tape popped into the car’s tape deck.  One bump and that ever so fun music jam was over.  Just twenty years later, 2017 is proving that auto technology is far from ceasing to surprise us in improving our driving experience.

So let’s start with the ever present device of the times, the smartphone. Automakers have found new ways to make the smartphone experience safer while driving by integrating the technology into our vehicles and for good reason. Smartphone use while driving is attributed to 26% of all car accidents. According to ATT, texting alone causes 1.3 million crashes a year, and this doesn’t include gaming, app use, checking in on social media, video chat, and web searches.

The Providence of Newfoundland, Canada began banning cell phone use while driving in 2003. Today, all ten provinces have strict driving with cell phone laws. Touching your phone while driving in Ontario will result in a $490 - $1000 fine.

Here in the United States as recent as September of this year, California extended its cell phone/driving laws to include banning all uses of a cell phone. To our health, and, longevity 2017 autos bring even more hands-free options for that cell phone than ever before.

 Photo Credit: Chrysler Pacifica -  http://www.nwitimes.com

Photo Credit: Chrysler Pacifica - http://www.nwitimes.com

Addressing this issue, and one up-ing smartphone/vehicle technology, we now have… Onboard Infotainment.  Which is, basically, everything you love about your smartphone in that center spot of the car where only your stereo used to reside. A simple, touch screen access to Bluetooth, social media, GPS navigation and more. The Bluetooth technology even allows connecting to your favorite online commercial-free music such as Jango or Pandora. 

This technology is too new at this juncture to analyze if it’s less a distraction overall than actually touching a phone while driving, although as of today it is a legally allowable way to continue communicating with the outside world as you drive by it.

A few other new technologies coming to a dealer near you include:

  • Predictive Forward Collision Warning system
  • Improved Smartphone Infotainment Integration
  • Smartphone Vehicle Management
  • Self-Parking Systems

Ford, Lincoln, Toyota, Lexus and BMW all have new Self Parking technology. Thus far, my system of landing a parallel parking spot has been to keep driving until a more convenient parking spot appears.  The 2017 Ford Super Duty Pickup Truck has at least SEVEN cameras to make anyone look like an expert parker. 

Also look to see more vehicles with Predictive Forward Collision Warning systems and smart braking technology. Those capabilities are sure to help avoid accidents, an August 2016 report from AAA, states it is best to still keep you as the driver in control of the brakes.

For more mind-blowing details on what to expect in 2017, check out the following links:

Whereas it may still be a few years before the standard vehicle drives itself like that awesome car from Night Rider, we are every year closer to living like the Jetsons than we ever thought possible.

By Guest Blogger: Audrey Elder - See more of Audrey's blogs at Past to Present Research 

 

 

Greener is Better! Top Vehicle Picks in the Green!

If you are looking to go “Green” in your next vehicle purchase, we have laid out some of the best Green models available in the US! Recently awarded as the top Green pickup in the US is the RAM 1500 Eco-Diesel truck. The award was given by Green Car Journal at the 46th annual San Antonio Auto & Truck Show in San Antonio, Texas in November 2015.  This magnificent truck has a 28-mpg rating from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  

The RAM 1500 is at the top of the charts for highway-cycle test result ever achieved by a full-size, half-ton pickup. The RAM also exceeds the EPA highway rating for the top-ranked small pickup. The RAM 1500 leads the way in pickup trucks in EPA's current highway fuel-economy rankings.  Learn more about this award winning pick-up truck at Auto Body News.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) in Washington, D.C. rates the greenest vehicles with many elements in mind:  “We analyze automakers' test results for fuel economy and emissions as reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board, along with other specifications reported by automakers. We estimate pollution from vehicle manufacturing, from the production and distribution of fuel and from vehicle tailpipes. We count air pollution, such as fine particles, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and other pollutants according to the health problems caused by each pollutant. We then factor in greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide) and combine the emissions estimates into a “Green Score” that runs on a scale from 0 to 100. The top vehicle this year scores a 63, the average is 40 and the worst gas-guzzlers score around 20.”

hybrid.vehicle

Electric vehicles win over with all 12 slots in the annual “Greenest Cars” list by the ACEEE.  Another favorable point for Green vehicle purchasers of full-electric and plug-in hybrid cars are still eligible for a federal tax credit as rich as $7,500, in addition to any state and local incentives that may apply.

For the third year - the ACEEE says the greenest car sold in the U.S. is the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, which receives a top “Green Score” of 63, and is EPA rated at the electric equivalent of 107 mpg in combined city/highway driving. In addition, receiving a Green Score of 63 is the Chevrolet Spark EV with an “e-mpg” rating of 119 city/highway. Toyota leads the list with three hybrids represented, with Chevrolet placing two electric cars among this year’s greenest models. See the full list at Forbes.com

You can find the Greenercar ratings for any vehicle between 2000 and 2016 and you can even build custom lists to compare vehicles at greenercars.org.  Happy Greener vehicle shopping! 

 

Autonomous Driving Steering the Future

Many automakers have recently released their concepts of autonomous cars.  We are astounded by the profound technology that make the autonomous cars a much safer form of driving and ultimately the most efficient driving that the world has ever known.  

We will present some fine details of a few of our favorite autonomous cars and touch on the trust factor.  How many drivers and passengers will truly be comfortable giving ultimate control to their cars?  The stats are in and there is much work to be done to prepare the population for a new way of driving.   

The Swedish auto maker, Volvo, recently reported that they plan to launch their version of self-driving splendor and convenience in 2017 with a goal of 100 vehicles due to drive Swedish byways. Until then we are allowed to take a peek inside one of the most amazing self-driving concepts that we have seen to date. 

Through a study Volvo estimates that people lose approximately 26 minutes of productivity during their daily commute.  The concept packs convenience and efficiency by sporting a driver side digital desktop, with a desktop table and a 25” mega monitor controlled to pop up on the passenger side from a central, front, console touch screen. 

“The system was the first autonomous concept interior placed on a workable platform.” Learn more about this amazing autonomous dream at Yahoo.com/autos.  To see many of the new self-driving concept cars in action around the world check out these awesome videos: https://goo.gl/PhhOJZ.

Now, regarding the trust factor: with new concepts of self-driving cars coming out every year we wondered how many people trust the technology? 

“A Pew report last year showed that less than 50 percent of people wanted to ride in a driverless car. While this is not an insignificant portion of the population, for car manufacturers to fully commit to producing autonomous cars, they clearly will need to work on winning the trust of over half the population. Both Google and Ford have publicly stated that 2020 is a realistic date for when fully autonomous cars will be seen on our roads.”

The leader in building trust in the minds of would be driverless drivers has been primarily Google through their ongoing testing of their cars in California in some of the most congested city driving in America.  They have a strong belief that autonomous vehicles are safer without human intervention.  

Their coaxing has obviously paid off well as a letter posted online in February 2016 stated that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave its OK to the idea of a self-driving car without a steering wheel and so forth, that cannot be controlled by a human driver.  Discover more about the details of this very important decree by the NHTSA:  http://goo.gl/bTFNtt.

As we await 2020 we will be focusing on Google’s fleet of autonomous cars as they learn more about the many complicated driving scenarios that plague drivers every day.  Many people around the world have probably already heard about the Google Lexus-model autonomous vehicle ("Google AV") that hit a bus at slow speed last week.  The first to be partly the fault of a Google self-driving car.  No injuries reported, but, precisely why testing and constant tweaking of their autonomous software continues for several more years. Read more about this recent accident at endgadget.com.  

Lastly, as Google’s autonomous functional prototypes have cruised 1 million miles on the roads of California Google experts are continually discovering ways to perfect the genius software that make the future of self-driving cars most promising.  Until then we will keep dreaming of accident free driving that saves time and provides the best of technology without the wheel and worry. 

All about Google’s self-driving cars with monthly progress reports: https://www.google.com/selfdrivingcar/