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Tesla, Autopilot, and the Future of Self-Driving Cars

July 26th, 2016

Tesla AutoPilot

From the first press release outlining Tesla’s Autopilot technology, potential customers have wondered how the system works, what its limitations are, and whether it will be welcomed or shunned. Since Joshua Brown’s fatal crash while using Autopilot in a Tesla Model S, these questions have grown larger and more pointed. Without a doubt, popular opinion has shifted toward negativity. But should it?

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A Beginner’s Guide to Digital Instrumentation

June 30th, 2016
Courtesy Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz Head-Up Display

Chances are, anyone reading this post learned to drive a car with some sort of traditional gauge setup. Speedometer, tachometer, engine temperature, gas level, maybe a warning that someone needs to fasten their seatbelt. But is it possible the near future will leave such an interior feeling old-fashioned, obsolete, better suited for classic cars and car shows? We all know how fondly our zealously up-to-date culture likes to deride (or sometimes obsess over) old technological “breakthroughs” like cassette tapes or first-generation iPods, computing devices that look and feel like bricks in comparison to the sleek devices of today. With their growing computing power and ever-more-sophisticated interiors, why would cars be exempt from this double-time march of progress?

Surely we’ve seen this coming. Nothing moves as quickly as technology or has quite the same way of spreading across all parts of a particular product or experience. We have our award-winning infotainment systems; how long could it have been before some of the operating philosophy behind fighter-jet cockpits or the crisp graphics and formidable computing power of smartphones began showing up right in front of drivers’ noses? Not long, apparently: just take a look at the new display setups appearing in consumer vehicles, from the head-up displays (yes, like fighter jets, sort of) to fully computerized dashboards. But if you haven’t necessarily been keeping an enthusiast’s eye on the automotive market, you might not quite know what these new features are all about. They are, after all, still pretty new. So here’s a quick rundown of a few of the more important (or common) among them.

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Car Accessories, Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Safety, Car Shopping, Cars Coming Soon, Electric Vehicles, General Chat, New Cars, Used Cars , , , ,

Use Your Smartphone Instead of a Factory-Installed Nav System

March 17th, 2016

Spark Android AutoAs a new-car reviewer, it’s my job to drive a new car pretty much every week. Sometimes it’s more than one a week. Over the course of a year, I can experience scores of different automotive navigation systems.

Some are good, some are horrible, and some are somewhere in between. Yet what I consistently find is that none are as easy to use as Google Maps on my iPhone. Until recently, the only advantage the factory-installed navigation systems had was the built-in screen.

But that’s all changing now. Some manufacturers are getting savvy and realizing that it’s better to offer infotainment systems that can work with your smartphone to provide navigation instead of selling you a more expensive navigation system.

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Car Accessories, Car Audio, Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Shopping, New Cars , , , , ,

Holiday Gifts for the Car Lover on Your List

December 3rd, 2015

2014 Ford Taurus

Looking for a gift for the car lover in your life, but don’t want to have to wrap, or fund, a new vehicle? Here’s a gift guide with plenty of items that shouldn’t bust your holiday budget too badly.

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Car Accessories, Car Minded, General Chat

Questions and Answers About Winter Tires

November 25th, 2015

Snowy roadWinter weather has already started its sloppy march across the northern parts of the United States. But that doesn’t mean it’s too late for some winter tire advice.

Why do you need winter tires? The fast answer is handling. Well-designed winter tires have deeper treads than summer or all-season tires. (The latter, by the way, are really three-season tires if you live in the snow belt.)

Winter tires’ deeper treads help them deal with snow and the icy precipitation that creates slush. An interesting side benefit of winter tires is that they improve traction by packing snow in those treads for better grip on snow.

Also, winter tires are designed with tiny slits in the treads (or as Bridgestone calls them “snipes”). These provide biting edges on ice that help with acceleration, deceleration, and stopping.

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Older Cars Gaining Traction With Young People

September 15th, 2015

Breaking Bad Aztek

These are the zombie cars.

These are the cars that died ages ago, forgotten and unwanted by the American masses. They are the Chrysler Pacifica, the Dodge Magnum, the Pontiac Aztek, and the Chevy TrailBlazer. There are many more, but today it’s these cars that have caught our attention.

Why?

Because they are back from the dead and living among us once more.

The source of their surprise resurrection might be a little shocking. It’s not the original owners looking to experience the vehicles they let get away. No, this time it’s their kids.

It’s the new generation, the group known as the millennials, who are snatching up these old dead cars and bringing them back to life.

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Distracted Driving: The New Normal?

May 29th, 2015

Texting While Driving

How many times per day do you see people texting behind the wheel?

I’d venture to guess that every time you’re stopped at a light or stopped on the highway in heavy traffic, you’ll be able take a look at your fellow drivers and see at least one with his or her face buried in a phone.

It’s dangerous, and it shouldn’t happen, but we, as modern-day Americans, have outsourced our brains to our devices, and we can’t sever the connection. We text and drive, we e-mail and drive, we shop and drive, and we talk and drive. Many of us go about these activities while also eating or putting on makeup.

Driving has become the secondary or even tertiary activity while behind the wheel. Nobody can seem to stop it from happening.

So we must embrace it.

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Can You Spare the Spare?

April 16th, 2015

2015_volvo_s60

My daughter’s birthday nearly ended in the bitter cold, stranded on the side of the road in a questionable area of downtown.

After a nice birthday dinner, my wife and two of our girls clambered into the Legacy to thaw from the unusually frozen April night. With the car started and the heat on, I was ready to pull out of my prime parking space and embark on the journey home.

But I noticed a woman on the sidewalk taking a funny glance at the car as she walked past. Her brief but concerned look caused me to pause enough to wonder what she saw. I got out of the car and found my passenger-side front tire nearly out of air.

“Oh no,” I said to myself, “not here. Not now.”

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The New Must-Haves in Car Shopping

June 30th, 2014

MyFord Touch 6312_sirius-660

The average car in the United States is 10 years old.

In an age when computers and phones are obsolete in 3 years, a decade is an eternity.

Back in 2004, things like USB ports, Bluetooth and backup cameras were fare for top-of-the-line luxury cars, if they were available at all. Today, that kind of technology is considered must-have for many new-car shoppers.

The exponential leap in technology is a major reason some shoppers will consider only new or late-model used cars. Is the latest whiz-bang wizardry worth the extra cash?

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Let’s Get a Little Weird with Cars and Bacon

August 30th, 2013

ford_fiesta_bacon

If you’ve ever heard comedian Jim Gaffigan talk about bacon, you know his bacon bit goes on for an uncomfortably long time.

The man loves bacon, as do most citizens of these great United States.

Some of the bacon-related things we obsess over are the sound of bacon cooking (like applause, according to Mr. Gaffigan), the hunt for bits o’ bacon in lettuce, Kevin Bacon and the ability to wrap almost anything in bacon to make it better. People love bacon.

And, now, buyers of a certain car can opt to have it wrapped in… bacon. Because that can only make it better, right?

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