“If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Push for a Universal Ignition Interlock Mandate

People never listen. That’s a fact of life. No matter how many times you advocate that drunk driving is not good, at the end of the day you are just labeled a nuisance. What’s the solution to prevent all these alcohol-related road accidents then? Simple. Special Breathalyzers.

In the Los Angeles Times, Ken Bensinger wrote: For more than 20 years, special breathalyzers — hard-wired to a car’s ignition to prevent the vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected — have been installed under judicial order in the cars of repeat, or especially egregious, alcohol offenders. But in the past few years, six states have passed laws that require the devices, called ignition interlocks, in the cars of everyone convicted of driving under the influence.

Now, several more states, including California, are considering making interlocks mandatory for all offenders. And a group of automakers has launched a major project with the federal government to develop advanced technologies that could someday make alcohol detectors a standard feature in all cars.

Advocates of interlocks, particularly Mothers Against Drunk Driving, say the devices could reduce the nation’s estimated 17,000 annual alcohol-related automotive fatalities and thereby ease the burden that drunken driving places on the nation’s criminal justice system.

Critics say that it is not that effective. I say let’s give it a try.

Source: LJWorld

Drunk Driving: Not as fun as “Just Drinking”

Alcohol and cars don’t mix. Nothing good ever comes out of drinking and then driving. However, adults and teens alike still find reasons to do it. I wouldn’t say it’s fun, because I’ve been on that road once. It was, for me, a matter of necessity. I happen to have had a couple of drinks with a friend. I had to come home and didn’t have time to sober up. Luckily I was alert enough to get home in one piece.

However, hundreds of teens are not as lucky as I am. The number of deaths attributed to drunk driving has alarmingly increased over the past years. We may not be able to monitor our kids all the time, but we can talk and listen to them. During the recent 2008 Lifesavers Conference, participants tackled this issue and they came up with a number of tips for every concerned parent. It’s not foolproof, but it’s worth a shot.
  • Lecturing doesn’t work. Teens have heard all the sermons before.
  • Keep the messages positive. Point out how mutual respect works in everyone’s self-interest.
  • Teach your kids to listen by listening to what they have to say.
  • Set a good example. If you don’t buckle up, why would they? If they see you drinking and driving, they’ll think it’s OK.
  • Look at your own drinking habits. What do they say about you?
  • Talk and listen positively and persistently. Don’t throw in the towel.
  • Read between the lines. Some things are hard to say directly.
  • Try to understand the teen’s world.
  • Praise your kids for doing little things, the sort of things you might think are taken for granted.
  • Lighten up. Let there be humor, whenever possible.
  • If you’re looking for a solution to a behavior issue, ask the teens what they think should be done.
  • Use logic and love.
  • Talk about results as the consequence of decisions rather than actions. Good decisions get good results.
  • Give teens the power to make decisions. That way, teens can feel they’re taking control of their own lives, acting responsibly because they want to.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no or set boundaries.
It’ll be years before I have that kind of talk with my son, but surely when the time comes I’ll never put off following all those pieces of advice.

Source: Consumer Reports; Lifesavers

Friday, May 30, 2008

OnStar Technology: In Hot Pursuit of Criminals

Telematics. In-Car Advertisements. Infotainment System. These are all available with the OnStar technology. Just when you think things can no longer get any better, OnStar pulled another one from up its sleeve – a tool that will help police officers catch criminals who are running away on a stolen vehicle, or any vehicle that has the OnStar system on it. It’s projected to be released by the end of the year, and is expected to be fully-functional by the start of next year.

Val Clifton reports for the
Houston Community Newspapers: Aimed at reducing car thefts and the high speed chases they can incur, OnStar has developed a device that can remotely decrease the speed of stolen vehicles.

The Stolen Vehicle Slowdown technology is an enhancement to OnStar’s existing Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance, which aids in more than 6,000 vehicle theft cases each year.

Emergency Service Line Manager Cathy McCormick said the SVS feature, which will be available later this year, was announced last October.

“For 2009, depending on the model, it will be a part of the “Safe and Sound” package, so it won’t be any additional cost for the customers,” McCormick said. “OnStar expects 1.6 million vehicles will be equipped with the technology next year.”

OnStar has been working with police for more than a decade, she said, sometimes as often as 700 times a month.

“The beauty of this particular technology is that it will allow them to get within view of the vehicle without the thief even knowing it,” McCormick said. “The tool can be used before a high speed pursuit can even be contemplated.”

Once OnStar has identified the vehicle’s location using its Global Positioning Satellite technology, it will work with police officers on the ground to confirm they have the correct vehicle in their sight.

OnStar can flash the lights of the car so that the officer can verify they are following the correct car. Once police have confirmed the scene is safe for a slowdown, the OnStar advisor can initiate one.

SVS can only be activated if the subscriber has filed a stolen vehicle report, and the police have a direct line of sight on the vehicle in question and have confirmed with OnStar that conditions are safe to activate a slowdown.

“It slows the vehicle, but the braking and steering will still work,” McCormick said. “The thieves will just think they are experiencing a mechanical malfunction.”

In 2007, more than 31,000 vehicle thefts occurred in Houston, according to OnStar data. Across the country, that figure numbers closer to 1.2 million with many thefts resulting in one of the 30,000 high-speed chases that occur yearly.

The National Traffic Safety Administration reports that these chases result in 12,000 incidents of property damage, 7,500 injuries and 300 fatalities each year.

Harris County Sheriff’s Lt. John Legg said that OnStar has been of assistance to law enforcement and that the department welcomes any tool that will aid them in dealing with auto thefts.

“It would appear that this new technology would be beneficial by way of preventing high speed pursuits for those vehicles in which this technology has been installed,” Legg said. “It does seem like it’s a promising advancement.”

If this pushes through, we’ll see less and less car thefts and police pursuits. Although it is pretty alarming how fast these technologies that allow other people to “mess” with our car is cropping up. I’ve recently heard about in-car advertisements and how advertisers can monitor your every move. It’s quite scary. But if for it’s a good reason, then I’m up for it. I wonder what OnStar can come up with next.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

In-Car Advertising

How would you feel about advertisements in your car? Pretty irritating, right? That’s also what I thought when I first heard about the concept. I’ve tried so hard to keep my name off telemarketers’ lists. I even called up the Do Not Call (DNC) ministry (if that’s indeed what it’s called) and had my name placed on the DNC list. I change channels whenever a commercial is on. And besides what use is 250 channels if I don’t browse all of them during a commercial break, right? I hate advertisements. But I had a change of heart about in-car advertising when I heard the upsides to it.

Here’s the deal. Automakers pack a lot of stuff into our cars, some of which are General Motors’ OnStar and Ford’s SYNC system. But then again are we amenable to paying a monthly fee for them? With the rising cost of gasoline, I highly doubt it. But now because of in-car advertisements, which are already rumored to be in the offing, we no longer have to pay a monthly fee, or we’ll have to pay just a smaller amount. Why? It’s because companies will sponsor these technologies so they will be given rights to broadcast their products while you are on the go. That does not sound bad, right?

Detroit Free Press reports that, “Getting people to pay for a monthly subscription -- General Motors Corp.'s OnStar starts at $18.95 a month -- or even a flat fee -- Ford Motor Co.'s Sync costs $395 -- is a hurdle that can be lowered by allowing advertisers to sponsor services or parts of the technology. That could mean drivers can download online movies for the kids in the minivan courtesy of Netflix, book oil-change appointments courtesy of Pennzoil, or handle that outstanding recall on their air bags courtesy of the Detroit Medical Center. "It's something that can speed up" the digital revolution in the car, explained Antonino Damiano, product line manager for Magneti Marelli, an Italian company with local offices in Farmington Hills and Troy. That firm has taken on a leadership role in this global revolution. "Ad-supported is the way this can go mass-market," explained Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis for the Consumer Electronics Association in Arlington, Va. In the next few years, for example, Kolde says most new vehicles could have navigation systems that are almost entirely supported through advertising listings tied to the map. Advertisers would pay for premier placement in the map listings that come up when a driver is searching for a nearby coffee shop or a pharmacy.

But just like all things, this also has its disadvantages. Advertisers can keep tabs on where you’ve been, where you’re going and what you’re about to do. Paul Stephens, a spokesman for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego, related to the Free Press that, "We're being tracked in more ways than you can imagine," he said. "There are some people that are going to be extremely sensitive to this sort of tracking. There are others that will find it desirable, especially if there's some sort of inducement." But then again, "If it's managed right, it's a big opportunity," he said.

It’s a thinker, actually. I haven’t yet made up my mind about it. It’s great to have discounts on in-car technologies and to be informed where the next gasoline station or fastfood is, but do I really want that kind of invasion of privacy in my car? I’m sensitive when it comes to my home phone ringing all the time because companies want me to change telephone, satellite and internet services. But this is something. A little assurance from the automakers and advertisers won’t hurt.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Soaring Gas Prices: Looking at the Glass Half-Full

An article in U.S. News entitled “5 Upsides of $4 Gas” by Rick Newman caught me by surprise. We’ve been focusing too much on the downside of rising fuel costs that we fail to see that there are also upsides, as Rick Newman quickly points out. Now, this is a man who looks at a glass as half-full, instead of half-empty. The article is pretty interesting and is an eye-opener so I decided to post an excerpt here. The 5 Upsides of $4 Gas are…

1. Breakthrough technologies

Over the past 20 years, when gas was relatively cheap, automakers put a lot of effort into making cars more powerful—and not so much into making them more efficient. But with drivers suddenly desperate for better mileage, there's growing demand for technologies that improve efficiency without turning cars into threadbare econoboxes. A boom in hybrids—likely to double in sales by 2010, according to J. D. Power & Associates—is one obvious trend. But manufacturers are also ramping up investment in advanced transmissions, new kinds of diesels, better engines, cars that run on renewable fuels, and many other innovations that will make cars better and cheaper to operate. If developed in the United States, such technologies could become valuable exports, since gas is even more expensive in lots of other countries.

Here's the irony: This benefit will accrue only if gas prices stay high. In the early '80s, when gas hit the equivalent of about $3.25 per gallon, automakers did the same thing, plowing R&D money into more efficient cars. Then gas prices plummeted. "All that alternative fuel and powertrain research died instantly," says David Cole of the Center for Automotive Research. That will probably happen again if gas prices head back toward $2 per gallon and drivers return to big, powerful vehicles.

2. Less petroleum use

There's been talk for years—especially since 9/11—about conserving energy and reducing America's dependence on foreign oil. Finally, it seems to be happening. U.S. gasoline consumption has ticked down so far in 2008, for the first time in 17 years. That will probably intensify as people drive less and trade in big cars for smaller ones. There's a catch, though: If consumers cut back dramatically, that will reduce demand for oil, which in turn could lower prices—exactly what happened during other energy shocks. This time, it does appear that stronger demand from overseas is keeping prices high, so cutbacks in America may not trigger falling prices.

3. Better driving habits

Everybody knows that good car hygiene means keeping your tires properly inflated, changing the oil and air filter regularly, and turning off the car instead of idling. But it's like flossing: Who actually bothers? Well, now people are actually doing these things, since a 4 or 5 percent gas-mileage improvement can add up. In households with more than one car, there's better use of the family fleet, too: The smallest car is getting more of a workout, while the big hauler is reserved for carpooling or weekend getaways.

4. Greater awareness.

It goes without saying that ordinary Joes care a lot more about fuel economy these days. But even rich people are paying more attention. Three years ago, only 2.6 percent of the wealthiest consumers said the price of gas affected the kind of car they bought, according to surveys conducted by
CNW Marketing Research. By this spring, that had jumped to 26.7 percent. That's almost as high as the rate among middle-income buyers.

5. Less traffic

Americans have been logging fewer miles in their cars since last November, and the drop in March was the biggest since government tracking began in 1942. Train and bus use is up, more people are carpooling, and bicycle sales are rising. Among other things, that lowers greenhouse-gas emissions from cars. If drivers also continue to downsize their cars, that means less metal clogging the roads. I'm just speaking for myself here, but—hurray! A robust auto industry is great, but let's add value through technology and innovation, not mass and weight. And save a few minutes on the highway in the process.
You can read the rest of the article

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How to Turn Your Car into an Office

Who said work can only be done at the office? You can do it from the comfort of your car. You can ask someone to drive while you finish some reports, or you can do the driving while the missus prepare for a presentation. The kids can also do their homework on their way home, or on their way to the school. However, if you don’t have the necessary tools, gadgets and accessories, working and studying inside the car can be awkward and taxing. Here are some things that you can get to make your second office a l’il more comfortable.

Lap Desks

Balancing your laptop, notepad, calculator and worksheets on your lap can be very tricky. The solution? A lap desk. Most travel lap desks have a ridged surface or a felt covering to prevent the things laid on it from slipping. There’s even room for your morning coffee. If your kids forgot to bring their playthings and would like to color some books or draw instead, then you can get a kiddie lap desk too. They vary in size. Some are big enough to hold a notepad and a calculator, while others can hold a big-sized laptop.

Lap DeskTrash Receptacles

Of course there are those occasional bumps on the road that would cause you to make mistakes while writing on your notepad or worksheet. If you need to start over again, you can just scrap that piece of paper and throw it in the trash bag. The floor is big enough to hold all your trash, but if you don’t want to clutter up your car then having a trash receptacle would be nice. If you want one that can be hidden from view, get a under-the-seat trash bag. On the other hand, if you want one that’s more accessible you can get a trash can, instead.

Trash BinPortable Fans

You can work comfortably if it’s cool inside the car. If the a/c is no longer up to its usual standards, then a portable fan is just the device to get. These are lightweight fans that don’t take up that much space. There are clip-on fans if you don’t want to go through the hassle of drilling a hole in your dashboard. But if you have the time, then you should get one that can be mounted permanently on the dash. These can be plugged into any 12V socket. You can use the slot for the cigarette lighter for that, or the one you use for the cellphone charger.

Portable Car HeaterPortable Appliances

After working long and hard, the only thing that can get you going is a hot cup of coffee and pizza. But if the nearest fastfood chain is nowhere near then you can make do if you have portable appliances like a 12V coffeemaker and an oven. Other useful appliances are a blender, stove, cooler and warmer and travel mugs. These are also great when you are on long trips. The food and drink can keep you awake at night while you are driving. The food can also keep your kids occupied so you can enjoy some peace and quiet.

Portable Car RefrigeratorAir Fresheners

How will you be able to work inside your car if the carpet stinks, or if all you smell is your pet dog that’s in tow? There’s a simple solution to that problem – an air freshener. Again there are a number to choose from. They can be categorized according to type and of course, smell. You can hang one on your rear view mirror. There are also others that you can stick to your dash. If you want a more powerful air freshener, an air sanitizer and deodorizer is the one to get. But of course nothing ever beats a clean car.

Air Freshener

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Must-have Gadgets and Interior Accessories

There are a lot of gadgets and accessories that you can get that would put all those high-tech stuff on modern cars to shame. From entertainment to temperature control, this list will highlight all the must-haves available in the market today. The price range is varied so I will no longer place estimates. Feel free to browse any online store for the pricing.

Video Unit

This is extremely useful during long drives, especially if you have kids in tow. You can play a video or have them play a game. So you won’t be tempted to sneak a look while you are driving the best system that you can get is one that can be placed at the back of the headrest. Some of these units still need to be attached to a central entertainment system in the dash, but there are already new designs that integrate the CD player in the headrest. However, if you want to be able to watch a movie while you are resting you can get either an overhead monitor or a sunvisor monitor. This also comes in handy when the missus throws you out of the house in the middle of the night because you snore too hard.

Video UnitHeater

It’s winter and you’re stuck inside your car watching the latest blockbuster movie. It will be very comfy if you have a heater installed. You can get a 12V portable heater that you can plug and use inside the car. You can place one in the backseat so you’ll feel comfortable whilst enjoying the movie. If you have the habit of driving in cold weather, then you should get a defroster too. It’ll be much safer if your windows are clear.

Portable Car Heater
Cellphone Accessories

Do you need to call someone while you are on the go? Not advisable to do so. But if you have a hands-free kit, you can call as many times as you want. This device enables you to answer and make calls without holding on to the cellphone; that’s why it’s called hands-free. But of course you can’t make calls if you are low on battery. And so, a charger should also be on your shopping list. Or if not, you can get a battery backup. If you’re out for a long drive, like if you are gonna catch the NBA finals in the next state, then you should have a spare battery or a charger at hand.Cellphone AccessoriesCompass/Clock

Men have a good sense of direction. That’s true. But if you have already forgotten which way is north and which is south, then a compass will come in handy if you use a map to get around. This is extremely useful if you don’t want to re-live what happened in the movies Wrong Turn and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Anyway, compasses usually have built-in clocks just in case your stock one is already broken. They are also very stylish.

Compass / ClockInterior Lights

Do you know what one of the differences between a UFO and a car is? Well a UFO has a lot of lights, that’s for sure. If you don’t want to be outdone, then run to the nearest store and get as many lights as you can. Dash lights. Seat belt clip lights. Moodlights. Book lights. LED lights. Map lights. Trim lights. Light tubes. The list is virtually endless. You shouldn’t overdo it, however. Not unless if you are gunning for the Guinness record for Most Interior Lights in a Car. Because if you are, I sure am interested in knowing how it all pans out. I’d even pay for a picture so I can post it online.

Neon Interior Lights

Friday, May 23, 2008

Easy Dashboard Fixes

You may be able to get away with a dirty floor and a stained seat by covering them up with something, but you will find it really taxing to hide your dashboard from view. I must admit there are very few things that can damage it, and it does not get old and dingy that fast. For some people the original design of the dash grows on them, but for most people it could get very boring. If you want your interior to have that unique and personal look, I may be able to help you. Just read on…

Dashboard Cover ($27 - $45)

This gives your dashboard a more stylish look and it serves as protection against the harmful rays of the sun, which is often the cause of dashboard warping, discoloration and cracking. Your dash will look drastically different once you fit a cover over it. One type of cover is the dash mat. It looks like a floor mat, but it’s made to fit the contours of the dash. The great thing about this is you can have the maker put logos of your favorite sports team, a flag, college / university or even have your name monogrammed into it. And as you may have noticed, it is virtually inexpensive. If you look around you might find one that’s even less expensive.
Dashboard CoverDash Kit ($130 - $200)

In some cars the area around the stereo, glove box and the top console is devoid of any paneling. This does not bother most people, but if you are one of those who are then you should rush to the nearest store so you can get a dash kit. There are a lot to choose from, but be careful not to pick one that isn’t made for your vehicle otherwise you’ll find it hard to attach it. It is recommended that you get one that matches the trim of your interior, but if you want to be adventurous you can get one that offers a sharp contrast so you can mix and match. Take your pick from wood panels, carbon fiber fitting and aluminum dash kits. Aside from those three there are others to choose from.

Dash Kit
Interior Trim Strip ($40)

Are there bare panels in your dash that you cannot fill with a cover or a dash kit? That is not a problem. You can get a interior trim strip that you can peel and stick. These are about 1 inch wide strips that vary in length which you can stick anywhere in the interior. There are a couple of colors and designs to choose from, but it would make an elegant effect if you follow the trim of your dash kit and/or cover. I found a site that offers it at $40, but I bet some offer it at a cheaper price.

Interior Trim Strip
Steering Wheel Cover ($9 - $60)

Do not be confused about the price range. The cheapest ones are the standard and those with print. I recommend you get this because although it costs about $9 or $10, it is usually made from the same material as those that costs more. So why is it that some costs way over $50? Well, those are the custom-made ones. Let’s face it there are millions of cars on the streets nowadays, and the variety of interior designs and aftermarket styling accessories do not make it easier for steering wheel cover manufacturers. They cannot make a complete lineup that fits cars to a T. The solution? You place an order, indicate what style, size and design you want and voila! You can have one made in no time. This is a quick fix if you can’t find a cover that suits your vehicle’s interior styling.

Steering Wheel Cover

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What You Should Have to Avoid Being a WHO Statistic

I got a message this morning from my friend. He said he had his car towed to the service station jut a couple of blocks away from my house, and that if I had the time that I check on it once in a while. It seems that he got into an accident last night because he was driving under the influence. The funny thing is, he tried telling the police that he wasn’t drunk but the cop with the breathalyzer thought different. For this past months state troopers and traffic enforcers have been really strict with this sort of behavior here. And rightly so because according to latest surveys by WHO car-related accidents are the leading causes of injury-related deaths worldwide.

But safety should not be the concern of a third-person. It should be a first-person effort. Once my friend gets out of the hospital, he’ll definitely hear from me. I’ve told him many times that they should have a designated driver every time they go out, but they just won’t listen. Safety is a very big issue for me, and so I’m taking a break from my tips-on-how-to-make-your-car-more-stylish posts and focus on safety.

Safety features are categorized into two: active and passive. The former are those that prevent accidents from happening, while the latter are those that minimize injury when danger is imminent. It is important that your car has majority of these features installed.

The active safety features in a vehicle are:
  • Intelligent speed adaptation which physically prevents vehicles from being able to exceed the speed limit through electronic throttle control governed by a GPS matched database of speed limits.
  • Turn signals and brake lights, including Center High Mounted Stop Lamps (CHMSL)
  • Rear end Collision Warning Lamps senses deceleration of lead vehicle and flashes amber warning strobe rearward to warn following vehicles of a pending braking or stopping event
  • Variable assist power steering allows assistance to the motorist while parking, but reduces steering effort assistance at motorway speeds
  • Headlight wipers/washers
  • Mercedes-style ribbed tail lights to prevent snow and grime build-up
  • Dynamic steering response (DSR) corrects the rate of power steering system to adapt it to vehicle's speed and road conditions.
  • Traction control (TCS) actuates brakes or reduces throttle to restore traction if driven wheels begin to spin.
  • Hill holder.
  • Four wheel drive (AWD). Distributing power to all four wheels lessens the chances of wheel spin. It also suffers less from oversteer and understeer than front wheel drive, but more understeer than rear wheel drive. However, some four wheel drive vehicles (particularly SUVs have a higher center of gravity and are more prone to roll-over and cause injury or death to passengers.
  • Reverse backup sensors, which alert drivers to nearby objects in their path, are installed in some high-end vehicles, but may also be purchased separately.
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC, also known by ESP and other numerous manufacturer-specific names). Uses various sensors to intervene when the car senses a possible loss of control. The car's control unit can reduce power from the engine and even apply the brakes to prevent the car from understeering or oversteering. See car stability
  • Lateral Support : Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS).
  • Directional headlights, which allow the driver to see obstacles ahead in the roadway while cornering.
  • Low center of gravity and other conventional features promoting good car handling and braking, and helping to avoid rollover.
  • Comfortable suspension and seating to avoid accidents from driver fatigue.
  • Large (relative to weight) high performance tires, suited to the weather and road conditions, contribute to braking and handling. Soft high histeresis rubber, tread and cord design are important. See Run flat tire.
  • Visibility for the driver, mirrors, elimination of blind spots and possibly other awareness aids such as radar, wireless vehicle safety communications and night vision.
  • Death Brake; there is a move to introduce deadman's braking into automotive application, primarily heavy vehicles, there may also be a need to add penalty switches to cruise controls.
  • Four wheel steering gives, at the cost of mechanical complexity, quicker, more accurate maneuvers at high speed and/or decreased turning circle at low speed. It may also help stability.
  • Adaptive cruise control (ACC).
  • AWAKE and intelligent car features.
  • Precrash system
  • Seatbelts might also play a minor role in active safety by keeping (via locking of the inertial reel) the driver firm on his/her seat in a high-g turn or deceleration. This has been further developed and patented by Mercedes-Benz in the PreSafe technology which provides a synergy between active and passive systems, helping the driver avoid a danger and preparing him/her for an imminent crash.
  • Brakes
    • Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
      • Electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD)
      • Cornering Brake Control (CBC)
    • Emergency brake assist (EBA)
    • Brake assist system (BAS)
    • Forward Collision Warning System (FCW)
    • Lane Departure Warning System (LDW)
    • Dynamic Brake Control (DBC).
    • Inboard brakes allow large fade resistant discs or drums, without contributing to unsprung weight and wheel bounce, which degrade braking, handling and ride, and increase mechanical loads.
The passive safety features are:
  • Seatbelts (or safety belts) absorb energy and limit forward motion of an occupant, and help keep occupants from being ejected from the vehicle.
  • Shoulder harnesses add additional protection to seatbelts by restraining the upper body, absorbing energy and preventing injuries from second collisions where the moving occupant hits the stationary dashboard or windshield.
  • Energy absorbing windshields. Beginning in 1966, windshields in cars sold in the US have had a deformable polymer layer that allows the windshield to deform on impact absorbing energy and preventing penetration of the head through the windshield.
  • Airbags: There are many types of airbags, all of which should be considered supplemental restraint systems (SRS), used in addition to belts.
    • Front airbags inflate in a medium speed head on collision to cushion the impact of the head to the steering wheel (driver) or dashboard to the (front passenger) .
    • Side airbags inflate in a side impact (T-bone) collision to cushion the torso and sometimes the pelvis and head.
    • Curtain airbags protect the head and upper body of passengers in a side collision. Newer models may stay inflated for a longer period of time, and may help to keep unbelted occupants in vehicle during a rollover, but should be considered supplemental to belts and never used in place of belts.
    • Knee airbags inflate in frontal impact collisions to protect the driver's knees and are now available in many newer high end model vehicles.
  • Crumple zone technology absorbs the energy of a collision by displacing the impact of a crash and diverting it from the internal (passenger compartment) critical structure of the vehicle.
  • Side impact bars for protection against side on collisions
  • Collapsible steering column, sometimes provided with steel sheet bellows.
  • Crash compatibility can be improved by matching vehicles by weight and by matching crumple zones with points of structural rigidity, particularly for side-on collisions. Some pairs of vehicle front end structures interact better than others in crashes.
  • Cage construction is designed to protect vehicle occupants. Some racing vehicles have a tubular roll cage
  • Reinforced side door structural members
  • Door handles secure enough for emergency occupant extrication through a winch.
  • Fuel pump shutoff devices turn off gas flow in the event of a collision for the purpose of preventing gasoline fires.
  • Active pedestrian protection systems.
  • Driver State Sensor - The system measures 3D head pose and eyelid motion parameters of the driver.
  • Padding of the instrument panel and other interior parts of the vehicle likely to be struck by the occupants during a crash. Whilst largely being supplanted by airbags, it still plays an important role in preventing injuries.
Source: Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Take A Seat, Please

So now your floor is okay. What about the rest of the interior? Aside from the floor, the other things that people notice upon entering a car are the seats and the dashboard. Why? Simply because they occupy a large percentage of the passenger compartment. When you first laid eyes on your car, you probably sat inside to get a feel of the seat. It may be one of the reasons why you bought the car in the first place. Because of the material used in the production of car seats as well as the design, you don’t need to replace it very often, and maybe even not once in a lifetime. It can even outlive the vehicle itself.

Here’s an example of how durable a car seat is. A friend of mine owned a mid size crossover SUV once. He decided to trade it in for a hybrid. At the last minute he decided to keep it. He remodeled the interior and had to replace the second row seat with a custom-made one. He didn’t scrap the old one. What he did was attach a couple of blocks of wood at the bottom which acted as legs and welded a back support. He then had a cover tailored-fit for the seat. Now you can see it in the den, still being used. That is how hardy a seat is. If you take care not to damage it, it will serve you long and well. But that only happens in a perfect world. No matter how careful you are there are times when you spill coffee on the seats, or drop a lighted cigarette. If you have a habit of bringing along your pet on trips, they can damage the seats as well with their long nails. And even if the seats are not damaged, if it no longer goes with the new trim of your vehicle then you can opt to replace it with a new one.

Seat Covers ($25 - $350)

If you can’t afford a new seat, you can buy a new seat cover instead. The price ranges depending on the material, design and sometimes the brand name. If you have one custom-made to fit over your original seat it sometimes costs more. But then again, the cost is way more economical than buying a new one. Seat covers afford protection so you can preserve the original upholstery. It can also be used to cover up existing damage. And if you have the extra dough, you can even have a logo or a picture emblazoned at the front. These covers are also very easy to install. Furthermore there are designs that feature storage pockets and slots for existing components.

Seat Cover
Seat Cushion ($10 - $50)

Does your back ache after driving? It’s either you are not sitting properly or the seat is just not comfy. To eliminate this problem you should get a seat cushion. There are ones that have offer lumbar support. Sometimes it comes fitted with massage bubbles. Seat cushions are also handy during weather extremes. During summer you can get a seat that absorbs body heat so you’ll feel cool. During winter you can get a heated seat cushion. And to top it all off, these are also great styling tools and they can be used to hide stains and other signs of damage.

Seat Cushion
Storage Nets and Bags ($15 - $30)

Is your glove box not big enough to hold all your stuff? Get a storage net/bag that you can put over your seat or at the side. These great space-savers can hold spare change, keys, papers, magazines and soda. As long as it fits inside it, it can hold it. They are also not that expensive.

Storage Net
We now turn to the dashboard…

Friday, May 16, 2008

Interior Makeover Ideas

From the outside, we now move to the inside. Only those that enter your car can see the inside but it is nevertheless important that you go out of your way to make it presentable. The factory original design is good, but over time it tends to become boring. A car owner probably spends about 2-3 hours and maybe even more inside his car every day. It already acts as a third home (next to the house and the office, of course), and it is but right that you make it as homey as possible, partly for other people but mainly for yourself. There are myriads of ways to customize the look of your interior. If all you want to do is restore the original look, you can do so as well.

Anyway, the best place to start when giving your interior a makeover is the floor. This is the part that easily gets dingy. Here is what you’ll often find on the floor of a stock car: sound deadeners, carpet and a mat. All these three can get damaged easily. Rubber floor mats can crack and break apart under weather extremes. The carpet easily gets dirty, and if you smoke inside the vehicle there is a chance that you’ll see cigarette holes on the carpet. If you forget to take off your golf shoes you’re also likely to do some damage. The deadeners can also lose its effectivity over time. Read on so you’ll get an idea what to get for your vehicle’s floor.

Cargo liners ($50 - $350)

These are rubber pads that have raised edges that fit over an entire section of the car floor. The raised edges prevent water and dust from seeping into the floor. The surface features anti-skid plates that prevent sliding, even the back is ridged so that it does not slip. Most cargo liners in the market are resistant against automotive substances like motor oil, coolant and fuel as well as other liquids like soda and coffee. It does not crack like ordinary rubber mats because the rubber material used is weather-resistant. The icing on the cake is, cargo liners are very easy to clean. You can just take it out any time and you can just sweep it, hose it down, brush it or whatever it is that you do to keep things clean.

Cargo Liners
Custom Floor Mats ($13 - $280)

I know what you’re thinking. Why is it so darn expensive? Well, for starters, the materials used are premium grade; they’re probably 10 times better (and costlier) than your stock floor mats. These are very durable mats; in fact it may even outlive your vehicle, as long as you clean it periodically of course. They are custom-made also. That means it is configured to fit a section of your car’s floor perfectly. The color, shape and design is also completely up to you. If you support a sports team, a school or a particular group you can advertise that fact on your floor mats. And to think that they are placed over a car floor primarily to keep it from getting dirty.

Custom Floor Mats
Auto Carpet ($50 – $450)

If your car’s interior smells like a wet dog, then it is already time to re-carpet the floor. No matter how much you vacuum the carpet, you won’t be able to completely get rid of the dirt. Also, it’s not as if you can hang the carpet to dry when it is wet. A wet carpet is a hotbed for all kinds of germs. If you get a new carpet, not only will you be making your vehicle nice-smelling, you’ll also protect your kids from diseases. I suggest you run to the nearest carpet “fitter” now.

Auto Carpet

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Not Your Routine Trip to the Salon (Part II)

There are a thousand options to choose from if you want to give your car a makeover. These range from subtle to drastic alterations. The cost also varies, and most of the time it depends on how much change you are willing to make. Emblems, logos and badges are very economical because they only offer subtle changes. On the other hand, spoilers are easily noticeable so they rake in more money. Giving a car a makeover depends highly on how much money you are willing to part with. So it is actually more of a question of resource than desire. Remember however that no matter how subtle a change is as long as it is properly done can produce a significant outcome. Do not be disheartened if you can’t give your car a complete makeover. It is not a one day project. You can take your time with it. It took me about 4 months to restore an ’84 Ford EXP, not because I am lame at my hobby but because I saved up first and bought the replacements as well as the aftermarket parts one by one. You can do the same thing. Here are a couple of things that should also be on your shopping list.

Wing-doors Conversion Kit ($600 - $2500)

Yep! Converting your ordinary car door to wing-doors can be pretty expensive. And that is just a ballpark figure. Some can even be more expensive. I think the cheapest one is priced at about $599.99 so I just rounded it up. Lambo doors, which are also called scissor doors are priced at $1000 - $1500. It depends on what are included in the conversion kit and highly on the make of your car. The options are suicide doors (the rear doors are hinged to the trailing edge, the one near the rear part of the vehicle), gull-wing doors (doors that open outwards and then up) and Lambo doors (one that open upwards and twists at an angle) which are also called beetle-wing doors, jackknife doors and switchblade doors.

Window Graphics ($120 - $200)

A window graphic is different from a decal. The latter is a pattern that can be transferred to another surface. The former, on the other hand, is a poster (or you can call it a sticker if you must) that is attached to the window of a car, usually the rear. Unlike a sticker though, the one with the print is the one pasted to the window so that other people can see it from the outside. But there are others that can be attached outside of the window. The price depends on the design as well as the size. A custom-made one is even more expensive than the projected cost mentioned above. It stays on for a very long period of time because it is UV-resistant and it won’t peel off even if you go to the car wash regularly. There are thousands of designs to choose from.

Window Graphics
Aftermarket Grilles ($50 - $720)

Chrome grilles. Billet grilles. Mesh grilles. Custom grilles. OEM grilles. Chrome grille overlays. Those are just a few of the choices. These are great options too. If for example you own a Honda Fit just like about a hundred thousand Americans do. In the sea of Honda Fits, how can you stand out? Well one thing that these have in common is that they have the trademark Honda grille. You can make your car more unique if you get a different kind of grille, say one that is made for another vehicle make or model. Wouldn’t that be much simpler than buying a new car?

Aftermarket Grille

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Not Your Routine Trip to the Salon

A complete car makeover like the one often done in MTV’s Pimp My Ride probably cost a couple of thousand dollars. If you find that price too steep, yet you want to give your car a complete new look, lemme help you out. Instead of completely remodeling your car, you can make a few changes here and there so you can alter, enhance and improve your car’s appearance for just a few dollars, or a couple of hundred dollars. OK! That price is still too steep, but compared to a thousand bucks which do you prefer? Anyway, just read on.

Car Decal ($5 - $80)

This option is probably the most popular one among car stylists not to mention the easiest. A decal is a material, often plastic, that has a pattern that can be transferred to another surface by heat or water treatment. You may have seen the immensely popular pee-on decal on most cars. It’s a black and white sticker of Calvin of “Calvin and Hobbes” peeing with his back turned to you. But that is just one of the many examples. You can choose among decals that feature school names, sports teams, short funny messages, organizations, advertisements, brand names and a lot more. It can be placed almost anywhere. You can transfer it to your windshield, hood, side panel, tailgate, rear window, license plate and fuel tank cover. You can even have one custom-made, but that one would cost you extra.

Calvin Peeing Decal
Spoiler ($80 - $270)

A spoiler is a panel that can be attached to a vehicle for various reasons: 1) to reduce drag or wind resistance; 2) to increase traction between the tires and road surface so as to prevent the cars from “lifting off” ; 3) to draw in air to various parts of the vehicle; 4) to accessorize. There are various kinds of spoilers and each one vary in price. The most common is the rear spoiler. This is the one that you’d often see on sports cars and race cars. It is that device attached over the trunk door. Another kind of spoiler is the air dam. It is placed at the front, just below the bumper. It draws in air towards the engine and increases traction. It is a great option if you wan to give your car a bit of a sporty look. The expensive ones usually include some extras like LED lights so if you want to save money then you can do away with those and just avail of an inexpensive one.

Car Spoiler
Aftermarket Lighting Assemblies ($60 - $120)
Factory original lights complement the look of your vehicle, but they tend to look too conventional over time. You can remove them and replace them with aftermarket ones that are more eye-catching. You can get altezza lights for about $65 - $80. PIAA bulbs cost about $100 and some cost even more. Other options are projector lamps and fog lamps. The options are endless so you can try browsing online for online stores that offer them. If you google “Aftermarket Lighting Assemblies” you’ll get more than 200,000 hits so just take your pick from all those choices.

Hummer with Aftermarket Lights
Badges, Emblems & Logos ($9 - $20)

Most emblems and logos are priced at $9.95, but there are a few online stores that offer them at a slightly higher rate. These are also very popular because not only are they economical, they are also very easy to install. They typically have a pre-set adhesive backing. You can just peel and stick. And it is guaranteed to stay on come rain or shine. If you do not want to do that much work you can just get yourself one of these.

Cadillac Car Logos

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What Women Want

I’ve been reading this article in KRISTV about what cars appeal most to women drivers. It was cited there that men have their eyes on cars which have attributes that appeal to the wants, needs and whims of a male person. Women, on the other hand, take into consideration all these desired attributes and add a couple more to them, some of which are incomprehensible or insignificant to the male point of view. GM vehicle line director Mary Sipes asked her team (which is composed mainly of men) to wear women’s clothes in order to make them feel what it’s like to climb aboard a beefy SUV. The exercise is aimed towards giving the men on the team a feel of what it’s like to be a woman and climb a beefy SUV. This can be very useful because nowadays automakers are no longer aiming only for the male market, but they are also reaching out to the female population. And they have enough reason to do so because we are seeing a lot of women drivers these days on the streets.

It is said in the write-up that the availability of space for the purse, the easy of entry and exit may be important to women, but there are more serious consideration which can make or break a sale. Bengt Halvorson of KRISTV provided an excellent overview of what it is women look for in a car.

What Matters Most

Safety, comfort, practicality and value are top priorities for women car buyers, experts say. Styling, design and performance are also important, but not necessarily more so than practicality.

Our all-inclusive list of vehicles with the highest percentage of female primary drivers includes some of the smallest, least expensive cars available, such as the Honda Fit, Kia Spectra and Toyota Yaris. The Fit tops our list encompassing both luxury and non-luxury vehicles, with 80.46 percent driven primarily by women.

Show Me Practicality

Women might be more inclined than men to buy smaller vehicles, but many prefer large models. Three sport utility vehicles made our list that takes into account both luxury and non-luxury vehicles: The Honda Pilot in seventh place (with 60.28 percent female primary drivers), the Mazda's CX-7 in eighth (60.19 percent), and the wagon-like Chrysler Pacifica in 10th (59.81 percent).

"Women are looking for practicality and versatility," says Alexander Edwards, automotive division president at consulting firm Strategic Vision.

Value-Minded Luxury

When looking only at luxury vehicles, it's clear that even wealthy women focus on price more than do affluent men. Many of the luxury vehicles with the highest percentage of female primary drivers are among the most affordable premium models on the market.

Among the most affordable models on our second list, which is limited to luxury or premium models, are the second-place $25,930 Audi A3, with 54.85 percent female primary drivers, and the third-ranked $24,365 Volvo S40 with 53.69 percent.

The Form Factor

The BMW Z4 is the only model to make both of our lists of vehicles with the highest percentage of female primary drivers. With 60.31 percent driven primarily by women, BMW's sleek Z4 two-seater sports car tops our luxury-only list and ranks sixth on the all-encompassing list.

It has the kind of styling women gravitate toward, says Imre Molnar, dean of Detroit's College for Creative Studies, home to one of the country's top automotive design programs. The BMW Z4 has a "complex and sophisticated compound form that's very feminine," he says, adding that some women are attracted to so-called "masculine" designs, but most gravitate toward vehicles with softer curves.

Here are the cars that made the list:

1. Honda Fit
2. Kia Spectra
3. Hyundai Elantra
4. Toyota Yaris
5. Nissan Versa
6. BMW Z4
7. Honda Pilot
8. Mazda CX-7
9. Hyundai Tiburon
10. Chrysler Pacifica

Source: KRISTV

Monday, May 12, 2008

Infotainment In, Entertainment Out

Lately, it seems I have been talking a lot about the environment as well as the rising cost of gasoline. Well, hybrids and green cars are already old news. Some of ‘em are even beginning to be phased out and replaced with new models. I’ve been thinking that we already have problems of our own, what with all the typhoons and earthquakes that continue to plague our country. So… I’m on to less serious topics, some that can make us really look forward to car models that will come out probably in the next year or so.

So here it is. It has been in the news for some time now that Ford already made a deal with Microsoft to provide some of its vehicles with a Sync system, one that makes use of voice-activated technologies to control communication and entertainment features. Recently, Hyundai-Kia also followed suit and made the same deal. Last Tuesday, the company announced the deal it made with Microsoft to develop a revolutionary automotive software that will make all other entertainment systems obsolete, even the new ones. This is set to be introduced to the market in two years time.

The details of the said venture are not that clear but this I was able to gather. Some of the features of the proposed venture are:
  • An infotainment system that provides voice controlled connectivity between mobile devices and car stereo systems
  • A more user-friendly entertainment system capable of playing various digital formats
  • A system that has PC-functions such as the ability to accept software upgrades and add-ons
Furthermore, it was revealed by South Korea’s presidential Blue House that: Microsoft and Hyundai Motor Group will invest $113 million and $166 million, respectively, in the `Automotive IT Innovation Center' they will set up jointly.

In an article in
domain-b.com, it was stated that:

With both Ford and Hyundai as customers, Microsoft's software could potentially be put into more than eight million vehicles worldwide each year.

Its competitors include OnStar from General Motors, Johnson Controls and QNX Software Systems from Harman International.

Systems based on Microsoft Automotive are available in Fiat Group vehicles in Europe and South America, as well as in 12 Ford models in North America.

Windows Automotive will first appear in Hyundai vehicles in North America in 2010, said Martin Thall, general manager of Microsoft's automotive business unit. Subsequent versions will give drivers voice control over navigation systems and video entertainment, in addition to cellphones and digital music players.

The market for car-based information and data systems is expected to grow sharply in coming years, and automakers such as BMW AG and Chrysler LLC have projects in the works to bring regular iInternet access to vehicles.

This venture will mark a very interesting point in car entertainment history. And the good thing about this is, probably in a few years to come this technology will be available on most, if not all, cars. With all the problems we have, it is a good thing we can turn to automakers to surprise us at least with this kind of news. The downside is, there may be a slight increase in vehicle price tags. But with entertainment systems like those, I wouldn’t mind buying me one of those Hyundais that will come out in 2010. I wonder what they will come up with next? Voice-controlled driving? Auto-pilot? Remote driving? Or maybe self-inflating tires like the ones seen in Die Another Day? Either one will be pretty much interesting. At least we have some things to look forward to because it seems oil deregulation laws are very far from the minds of our legislators.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Green Olympics

There are only 90 days left before the start of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. That’s 3 more months of waiting, but with all the work that I am putting through right now, I bet time will just blow by. Some of my younger office buddies are gonna take a week off from work to go to Beijing in August. It seems that they do that kind of stuff every Olympics. I did not make plans with them; anyway, I only want to watch the basketball games, which I can do online or via satellite TV. I gotta ask my provider if they’ll be carrying the games. But I bet it’s all included in my Premium package. Well, anyway, I guess the basketball games are already decided and team USA is gonna bring home the bacon. It’s payback time so I bet the NBA stars are gonna go out with guns a-blazing. I just wanna see how many points they win by.

The torch run caused quite a stir, what with all the protests that it met. I just saw a picture of the mascots, by the way. That’s right! Mascots with an “S”. There are 5 actually. And it’s supposed to be symbolic. Why don’t they just stick to tradition and just have one. Well, what can I do. They spent a lot of money so I can’t complain. The Olympics is causing a lot of concerns and controversies. Mass displacement. Human rights violations. Sabotage plots. Boycotts. Protests and counter-protests. Health issues. Even eco-lovers are joining in. I read in an article that during the Olympics, cars within and those in close proximity to the venues as well those that will be used are going to produce zero emissions. Now, that is gonna be one for the books if they’re indeed able to achieve that. Here’s the whole article.

The Beijing Olympic venues will achieve "zero emissions," first in the history of the Games, with the use of more environmentally-friendly vehicles, China's minister of science and technology told reporters in Beijing on Thursday. Automakers and the event's organizers are also experimenting with new-energy automobile technology, including hybrid electric vehicles.

"Te 'Green Olympics' will control the use of vehicles and reduce emissions by between 1 million and 1.29 million tons," Wan told a news conference. Areas around the venues and priority Olympic traffic routes would meet the target of "low emissions" from vehicles. Some 500 clean fuel vehicles to travel in and between the venues, including 50 electricity-powered buses, 400 electric venue vehicles and 15 electric cleaning vehicles, are expected to achieve "zero-emissions" for the first time in Olympic history.

And in a more traditional green approach, solar, wind and geothermal power will also be used at venues and other Olympic-related buildings. Carmakers and authorities were working to have another 105 hybrid vehicles and 23 fuel cell cars and buses in use during the games.

These vehicles would continue to run on the roads as a demonstration project after the games, Wan said, adding that more Chinese cities would use such clean fuel vehicles, especially energy-efficiency hybrids with mature auto technology.

Whoever thought of this should be given an award. Al Gore may have won the Nobel prize for promoting environmental awareness, but these people are actually doing something about it instead of blabbering about it. Things like this snowball, and before you know it events will be organized in that fashion. Here in the US, incentives are offered to promote eco-friendly cars. Employers are doin’ it. So do local governments and even a few automakers. But the existence of green cars is still comparatively rare. Some more steps should be taken to protect the environment.

Source: The Auto Channel

Friday, May 9, 2008

Get Smart

Europe is the stage for the emergence of Smart cars. If you’ve seen the movie the Da Vinci Code, you probably saw how the female protagonist was able to elude all those policemen by snaking through heavy traffic in her small, but surprisingly fast, car. That was in France. In places like London and Paris, Smart cars are very popular because they are very practical to drive in congested streets. This, plus the fact that Smart cars are integrated with new technologies, did not elude the US market. A couple of years ago, the same model that you saw in the Da Vinci Code was introduced in the US.

Now, there are various new models that are set to debut in Europe and are expected to take the world by storm. One of these is Norwegian-owned Th!nk’s lithium-ion battery powered car. That is the same kind of battery you would often find on cellular phones; although the one that you’ll find on this vehicle is probably a lot larger. The battery is developed by A123 sytems and Enerdel and is expected to last for 180 km (city) as long as it has been charged for a minimum of 8 hours. And unlike other electric cars, it does not even need to be charged when not in use. And if you think that it is sluggish just by the looks of it, then you are mistaken. Th!nk says that it tops out at 100 km/h. It even takes little effort to maintain as compared to your run-of-the-mill gasoline-powered vehicle. It is set to debut in the UK market in autumn of this year and its msrp will be around £14,000.

Th!nk Lithium-Ion Battery Powered Car
In the US, Smart cars may not be as popular as it is in cities like London, Rome and Paris but people are beginning to get smart and getting one. Mercedes introduced one that has three cylinders and it scores about 30 mpg in the city and as much as 40 mpg on the highway. That is twice as much as what you can get from an SUV, and even a family sedan. It may take twice as much time get to where you are going if you are accustomed to driving fast cars, but then again for a dollar or less for a complete 8 hour charge, who’s gonna complain about the speed difference? It’s all about the math. For a gallon of gasoline, you’ll shell out about $3.20 and you will get about 25-35 km. But with a Smart car, all you have to do is plug it in for 8 hours (that costs about $0.60 cents to $1 on an electric bill) and you can drive it for almost 100 km, or in the case of the Th!nk vehicle mentioned above, 180 km in the city. Hybrid Smart cars also are very economical. You can get over 40 mpg even while driving at 60-70 mph. With the hype being generated by these cars, it is no surprise that there is a long wait list.

There are drawbacks. No one is denying that. It’s small, definitely not as flashy as your average vehicle, it seats only two people and there is little room for cargo. But its advantages definitely outweigh most of the disadvantages. You will be able to save up on gas money. And it’s practical to drive in the city where locating a parking space can be very taxing. You will also have no problems with the seating capacity if you only use it to go to work or to the grocery store. It is guaranteed to be safe notwithstanding its compact size because numerous tests have been conducted before it was mass-produced. All in all, it is a smart choice.

Source: ClimateChangeCorp

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Recent Technological Advances in the Automotive Industry

What’s new in automotive technology? Here are a few things that I came across while I was browsing the Net yesterday.

A system that alerts your doctor when you get a heart attack or if you figured in an accident. A technology that calculates the time needed for you to reach your destination, and one that gives you a simpler and quicker route. And a device that communicates with other people’s car if they are veering dangerously to your own vehicle. That’s wireless technology at its best. These are just some of the new technologies that car engineers are working on at present. Some of these may sound surreal, but they are within reach, experts say. There are, however, a few obstacles along the way.

In an article,
A Wireless Wonderland, featured in the Telegraph, Britain’s No. 1 quality newspaper website, the pros and cons of these technologies are put in detail.

Beat the jams, avoid prangs

The vision: Cars will communicate wirelessly with other vehicles to warn them when they are about to break sharply, reducing accidents. Cars will also boast intelligent sat-nav systems, wirelessly connected to a transport hub relaying real-time road and rail info, capable of planning the fastest route by road and of informing you when it would be faster to take another mode of transport. Tickets will be automatically booked at the touch of a button, and paid for using a pre?pay card.

The reality: This kind of in-car technology is already well advanced: parking sensors alert drivers to hazards, while auto-braking on some vehicles will bring the car to an emergency stop. Combining this technology with that which powers self-driving cars is the next logical step. Sat-nav systems are already able to access real-time traffic updates; improving this to make it link into a central database would be easy enough - the difficulty comes in developing a software platform used across the whole transport network that will allow operators to share information in a consistent, usable format.

Mayday alerts and enhanced medical care

The vision: Cars of the future will contain a "black box" style communications hub that will be able to alert the emergency services if you have a crash or pass out at the wheel. If the person involved in the crash has their medical details embedded on their person, paramedics will be able to access them and decide on the most effective course of treatment.

The reality: Crash-response technology already exists and is an extra on many high-end vehicles. Enhancing this technology to alert the emergency services in the event of any accident will be relatively straightforward. And software already allows people to store their medical records on their mobile phones. However, finding a way to securely and confidentially embed them in wearable technology will be the main challenge.

These technologies could prove to be very beneficial once they hit production lines. The emergence of so-called “Smart” cars will be in the offing once these are perfected. Maybe in a few years time your car will be able to tell you where you are likely to get jammed in traffic, or maybe even where you can fill up your tank if it’s already almost running empty. Some even went so far as to say that your car can even order for you at the rest stop that’s in close proximity to your vehicle. Safety and convenience will be increased because of the existence of wireless technology. We did not believe them when they said they can invent cars that run on electricity, and even water. And now the streets are replete with them. So when they say Smart cars will be the new thing, I am in no position to argue any longer.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

To Wait or Not to Wait?

If those (Shell’s) FuelStretch Tips are not working out for you, maybe you are doin’ it wrong. Or, then again, it may be time that you bought a new car that’s really more fuel-efficient. You will shell out some hard-earned cash but consider it as an investment. Analysts see no decrease in the price of gasoline in the near future, so your new car will be more useful in the months, and maybe even years, to come. I’m actually giving you options here. One day I’m encouraging you to keep your car and just try to do things that can let you make the most out of every drop of gasoline, then, the next day I advise you to buy a hybrid instead. Well, it’s all a matter of perspective. I’m just posting for the sake of providing information. The choice is still up to you.

Well, a lot of hybrids showed up recently, some of which are just concept cars that aren’t that far from coming out of the production lines. Hyundai brought two eco-friendly concept cars to the recent Busan Auto Show, namely the i-Mode and i-Blue. It was revealed in a press release featured by Damon Lavrinc of the AutoBlog that:
The i-Mode is an innovatively styled, eco-friendly and socially adaptive vehicle.

The materials used are lighter and more adaptable than the metal and glass they replace. This, in combination with a light weight body construction, reduces fuel consumption and CO2 emission. Self-healing water based bodywork finishes from Bayer add to the environmentally friendly concept of the vehicle and even let minor scratches magically disappear by themselves.
If the i-Mode is innovative as it is adaptive, then the i-Blue concept is downright impressive.
The i-blue concept, which was developed at Hyundai's research center in Japan, is an eco-friendly model that emits nothing but water.

At the Geneva International Motor Show in March, Hyundai Motor unveiled three i-blue line-ups, including i10 blue, i10 blue CNG and i30 blue.

i-30 Blue:
With the 90PS new 1.6CRDi diesel engine, the i30 5-door emits an impressively low 125 g/km CO2. With the i-blue package, this is reduced by 15.2% lowering the CO2 emissions to just 106g/km. Naturally, this percentile reduction is also reflected in reduced fuel consumption.

"Blue" represents Hyundai Motor's eco-friendly strategy and related technologies.

Hyundai and the Eco-Sphere:
Hyundai has always been at the forefront of ecological consideration. From the very beginning, we have offered our customers the best possible economy combined with technology designed to protect them and our world. Long before legislation arrived, Hyundai had cut pollution in all of its factories and introduced recycling codes.
Hyundai is indeed giving other automakers a reason to keep on researching ways to make their vehicles far better. But Toyota is a step ahead of most of the other car manufacturers. In fact, they have already announced their plans of redesigning the Prius hybrid. The plan is to make it more buff and give it more oomph in the horsepower department. More upgrades will also be available. There will be no significant changes in the weight though. The plan to unveil this new concept Prius is scheduled for January of next year.

If you do not want to wait for the Hyundai concept cars or the next Prius to go out in the market, then you can just consider getting a small car like the Honda Fit, or what’s called the Jazz in some places. You can get 30 miles on a gallon; that’s twice as much as what you can get from an SUV. Or you can get a Chrysler and get yourself one of those pre-paid cards that get you free gasoline for a fixed amount of time.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tips That Could Save You Some Gas Money

Gasoline prices could reach an all time high $4 a gallon before the end of spring this year, analysts said. Just this March, the price at the pump rose to $3.222 a gallon, a far cry from last year’s prices. And this trend is expected to continue for months to come. More people are trooping to commuter stations. And even more people are turning in their SUVs for hybrids. But there are still people who still want to make use of their good old gas-guzzling vehicle, primarily because it is more comfortable that way.

Aside from buying hybrid vehicles or taking the train, there are ways that you can reduce your gasoline expenses as what John and Helen Taylor, the couple who holds the Guinness World Record for Fuel Efficiency, has proven. First, here is a background information about the car, a Volkswagen Golf FSI 1.6, that they used.

DICOMWG12 scores the fuel-efficiency of the Volkswagen Golf FSI 1.6 at a combined rate of 40.40 mpg. The Auto Express gives it a combined rating of 42 mpg. CarPriceChecker rates it at 42.2 mpg. While both the AutoWeb and Yahoo! Cars scores it at 44.1 mpg. All in all, that’s about 42.56. Now, here’s the exciting part, the record-holding couple was able to crank it up to an average of 52.1 mpg on several trips. How were they able to do that? They followed Shell’s “FuelStretch" tips, to wit:

  1. Drive smoothly: Avoid heavy acceleration or braking. Speeding, rapid acceleration and braking can lower your gasoline mileage by 5 percent at lower speeds around town and by 33 percent at highway speeds.
  2. Replace dirty or clogged air filters: Replacing a dirty or clogged air filter with a clean one can improve gasoline mileage by as much as 10 percent. A car's air filter can protect the engine from impurities.
  3. Keep your engine well-tuned and repair any problems immediately: If your car has failed an emissions test or is noticeably out of tune, repairing the problem could improve your gasoline mileage by 4 percent on average.
  4. Make sure tires are not over or under-inflated: Proper air pressure cuts down on fuel used while driving. Keeping tires at the correct pressure can improve your gasoline mileage by more than 3 percent.
  5. Minimize vehicle drag: Keep your trunk and back seat clear of unnecessary items that only add weight. Removing excess weight can improve your gasoline mileage.
  6. Use the recommended grade of oil in your engine: Following your manufacturer's motor oil recommendation can improve gasoline mileage by up to 2 percent. Look for motor oil that says "Energy Conserving" on the API performance symbol to ensure it contains friction-reducing additives.
  7. Choose a high-quality gasoline: Top automakers say that carbon deposits can build up on critical engine parts, which can decrease the power, performance and fuel efficiency of your vehicle. Audi, BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen recommend using TOP TIER Detergent Gasolines to help keep engines clean. All Shell gasolines meet TOP TIER standards and stop gunky build-up on critical engine parts to help cars perform at their best.
  8. Use cruise control on major roads and in free-flowing traffic: Maintaining a constant speed can improve gasoline mileage.
  9. Avoid idling: When you idle, you get zero miles per gallon.
  10. Avoid higher speeds: Gasoline mileage usually decreases when driving at speeds over 60 miles per hour.
  11. Plan your outings to avoid separate trips: Combine your errands into one outing to avoid short separate trips. This helps avoid unnecessary cold starts and keeps your car's engine running warm and more efficiently.
  12. Pay with a rebate credit card: Credit cards offer a simple way to pay for things quickly, but using a rebate credit card means earning rewards with every purchase. For example, with a 5 percent rebate on Shell gasoline purchases and a 1 percent rebate on all other purchases**, the Shell Platinum MasterCard(R) is one of the best rebate cards of its kind, helping consumers lower the cost of driving without sacrificing the quality of their gasoline.
Source: The Auto Channel