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Happy Holidays To All The Pets At Home, And How To Bring Them Along This Year

Some families sign their pets names at the bottom of the Christmas cards, so this years bring them along to celebrate the holidays.

According to the AAA, 91.3 million Americans will be hitting the roads to visit friends and/or relatives 50 miles or farther from home this holiday season. And many of them will be making the trip with one or more family pets in tow, rather than have them boarded or sat with back home.

But taking Fido or Fifi along on a road trip has its own challenges, both for the pets and their owners.

The first consideration when taking one’s animal companion over the proverbial river and through the woods, according to VetIQ.com, is perhaps an obvious one. Determine ahead of time whether your dog or cat is welcome wherever you’re headed, whether it’s a hotel or a relative’s house. Hey – the holidays are stressful enough than to force others to put up with a “surprise” visitor. Then there’s the issue of whether or not the family dog or cat is fit for travel in the first place. Health is an obvious consideration, but so is a dog or cat’s travel demeanor; spending hours confined in a vehicle with an unduly distressed or carsick pet is no fun for all parties concerned. Most cats abhor car travel on a good day. See a veterinarian if you think your pet will require sedatives or anti-nausea medication.

Otherwise, experts suggest it’s prudent to only feed a pet lightly before disembarking and provide fresh water along the way for longer trips, but only when the vehicle is stopped, of course, to avoid spillage. Be sure to bring along a comfortable mat or bed and a favorite toy. We’ve had good luck leaving a towel or small blanket out ahead of time to absorb both the scents of home and our cats as a calming tool. And ensure the pet is wearing an ID tag with your name, address, and phone number in case he or she gets loose at some point and runs off.

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New Air Bag Technology Increases Driver Safety Inside The Vehicle

In an accident it is the airbag that we rely on to save our lives.

Over the decades automakers have developed airbags to mitigate injuries from frontal impacts as well as those from the side, including rollovers, but until recently manufacturers and parts suppliers have not addressed the dangers associated with occupants suffering injury through contact with one another or parts of a vehicle’s interior during a crash. GM was the first to announce center-mounted airbags starting in 2013, and Toyota and Mercedes-Benz have been testing similar systems.

That could change soon as regulatory agencies are giving this technology a second look.

“We are experiencing rising interest in this new airbag technology and Euro NCAP is currently assessing new side impact test protocols for 2018 and beyond,” said Dirk Schultz, global engineering director, ZF TRW Inflatable Restraints Systems.  “If implemented, we believe that many new vehicles could require far-side airbag modules.”

German supplier ZF TRW has developed a new center airbag design aimed at protecting occupants in “far-side” and “near-side” crashes, in which the vehicle sustains an impact from the side and occupants hit each other, even if side-impact airbags deploy as designed.

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Technology Changes Everything, Moving Focus From Hardware To Software In Cars

 

When designing the next idea for a car most features developers focus in are hardware, however that is about to change. For decades, the development of power train technology and other hardware innovations gave automakers and suppliers an advantage in the market, and a significant source of ongoing profit through licensing. In recent years, however, there’s been a shift toward software rather than hardware giving car companies and Tier 1 suppliers an edge – not only in vehicle sales but in valuable intellectual property rights and revenue.

“Software is the major factor, and in some cases the deciding factor” in an automaker’s decision to buy one component over another, Egil Juliussen, a director of researcher at IHS Automotive, told Automotive News. He added that technology such as voice recognition and 3-D mapping and the software and electronics associated with such features can now cost more than a vehicle’s raw metal.

But “software expertise is in short supply in any industry, and certainly in the auto industry,” Juliussen noted. “That’s why suppliers are opening up research centers in Silicon Valley – it’s easier to attract talent.”

It’s why automotive supplier Continental recently launched a new career-training program in Germany for automotive software developers. It’s also part of the reason Continental purchased Elektrobit earlier this year, a company that specializes in software development.

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Stuck In Traffic? Top 50 Worst Traffic Gridlocks Across The Nation

It may be an accident, a lane closed, construction or a rush of people trying to come home but there are many reasons why traffic jams occur.

The top-ranked chokepoint in the nation is in Chicago, a stretch of highway that extends 12 miles, costs motorists 16.9 million hours’ worth of time and wastes more than 6.3 million gallons of fuel while cars idle or crawl in traffic. The Los Angeles region has far more gridlocked areas than any other metropolitan area, claiming the next six of the ten worst spots.

Those are among the findings of a new study that identifies and ranks the country’s 50 worst traffic bottlenecks.

In addition to 3 in Chicago and a total of 12 in Los Angeles, the list includes trouble spots in these other metropolitan regions: 9 in and around New York City, 3 near Washington, 3 in Houston, 3 in Boston, 3 in Dallas, 3 in Miami, 2 in Atlanta, 2 in Philadelphia, and 2 in San Francisco/Oakland. Austin ranked number 10 on the list.

The report, “Unclogging America’s Arteries 2015; Prescriptions for Healthier Highways,” released on Monday by the American Highway Users Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group, also provided a detailed analysis on the top 30 bottlenecks, including the size and costs of the delays, and environmental and safety impacts.

Bottlenecks were ranked based on backups in both directions over the entire day, not just during rush hours, the group said.

“The good news is that this problem is solvable, and Congress can be part of the solution, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement following his address at a press conference at The National Press Club in Washington to announce the release of the report. “As a long-term surface transportation bill moves through conference, I urge our elected leaders to provide the funding growth and policies that are necessary to improve commutes, to raise the bar for safety, and to keep the country moving in the 21st century.”

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Voice Commands Distracted Driving or Safety Feature

When driving to the store how often do you tell Siri to turn on a certain song or to look up directions to certain location, and how dangerous is it each time you do that.

Drivers can remain distracted for up to 27 seconds after using voice commands on their phones or in-vehicle infotainment systems, research conducted for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found.

In a study released today, researchers tested voice-activated systems in ten 2015 model year vehicles on 257 drivers and three smartphone systems on 65 drivers. They found that each one increased mental distractions and can have residual effects for seconds after the driver has stopped talking.

Of the vehicles tested, the Chevrolet Equinox performed the best while the Mazda6 was found to be the most distracting.

“Hands-free isn’t risk-free,” said Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research. “That’s been our message for years.”

Each hands-free system was rated on a mental distraction scale between 1 and 5, with 5 being the most dangerous. AAA said Category 1 distractions are at the same level as listening to the radio, while Category 5 is equal to taking a challenging test while driving. A rating at or above Category 2, which is the equivalent of talking on the phone, is considered potentially dangerous by AAA.

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Model S “Autopilot” Is The Beginning To Self Driving Cars

For the past couple of months car companies have been moving towards cars that drive for themselves.

Tesla Motors, in its most ambitious step toward self-driving cars, is rolling out a long-awaited software package called Autopilot for its Model S sedan, rivaling features from luxury brands such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Autopilot, which will be downloaded to Tesla’s cars using an over-the-air software update starting tonight, includes a sophisticated version of cruise control that allows the Model S to follow a lane on the highway and change lanes when the driver flicks the turn signal level. It also includes an automatic parallel parking feature that detects an open parking space and takes control of the wheel and pedals if the driver asks for the car to park itself.

“We’re advising drivers to keep their hands on the wheel just in case, because the software is still at an early stage,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk told reporters during a press conference today. “It’s important that people exercise caution at the beginning,” he added, but “in the long term, people will not need to have their hands on the wheel, and eventually, there won’t be wheels.”

Tesla has been working on Autopilot since 2013, when it started assembling its team of automated driving engineers. Last year Tesla started building the Model S with the necessary hardware for autopilot — a forward-looking camera, long-range radar and ultrasonic sensors — in anticipation of today’s software update.

Since then, Tesla has built about 60,000 cars with Autopilot hardware. Customers must pay a one-time fee of $2,500 to activate the self-driving software when they buy a car, or $3,000 to activate the feature after delivery.
As part of Tesla’s new Version 7.0 software package, Autopilot will be beamed down to cars in the United States over the next week, followed by Europe and Asia. Tesla’s new Model X crossover, which is at the early stages of a production ramp-up at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, Calif., will also offer Version 7.0 and Autopilot.

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Different Strategies For Toyota And Nissan When Striving For Green Vehicles

 

Competing companies Nissan and Toyota continue to challenge each other towards the goal of a fully connective car, autonomous driving and especially with electric cars.

Within the span of a month, Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Corp. have doubled down on starkly divergent strategies for hybrid and electric vehicles.

While other global automakers hedge their bets on alternative powertrain technologies, Nissan and Toyota are placing risky wagers that each knows exactly which powertrain will dominate among next-generation green vehicles.

Nissan aims to be the global leader in EVs. Toyota wants to expand its lead as the world’s top maker of gasoline-electric hybrids.

On June 9, Nissan released the second of four promised EVs, its e-NV200 battery-powered van.

Just weeks earlier, Toyota pulled the plug on its own EV program by ending a two-year deal to build electric Toyota RAV4 crossovers with Tesla Motors Inc. When the last RAV-4 rolls off the line later this year, the world’s largest automaker will no longer be producing electric cars.

No other major automakers are as zealous about their chosen path.

Risky business

“When it comes to zero emissions, we’re absolutely religious,” Andy Palmer, Nissan’s chief planning officer, said at the launch of the e-NV200, Nissan’s second EV after the Leaf. “We’ll be the absolute, No. 1 leader in zero emissions. No doubt. That’s our positioning.”

Publicly, both companies say they see a need for a range of alternative powertrains to meet different driving conditions. But their product plans clearly show where each is plowing the big bucks: Nissan into EVs, while Toyota shuns them for hybrids.

Each gambit is risky. EVs are still hobbled by high costs and range limitations. Hybrids, also still pricey, face tougher competition from improved internal-combustion engines.

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20 Thrill Finding Roads Around The World

 

Everyday driving is forgotten when it comes to these top roads found world wide.

A great road challenges everyday notions, replacing the familiar–the dull grind of everyday commuting–with the epic: turns, terrain and landscape that adjust our perception of the world. But most of all, it elicits a thrill. These 20 mythic highways inspire us to hit the road.

Highway 1, aka “Big Sur”

This stretch of Highway 1 chases the ragged central California coastline through Big Sur, which runs from San Simeon to Carmel. This drive is renowned for its staggering views over perilous cliffs, revealing the Pacific Ocean’s whitecaps as they rush past immense dark rocks.

During peak traffic hours, lumbering rental cars and motorhomes dampen the pace. If you’re stuck in slow motion, we suggest a detour through the nearby but less-traveled Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, which cuts east and offers an amazing bird’s-eye view of the coast below.

Deals Gap, aka “Tail of The Dragon”

This stretch of U.S. Route 129 offers some of the sweetest curves outside of the Atlantic coast, with no fewer than 318 turns in the course of 11 miles. No driveways or intersections interrupt this forest-lined thoroughfare, though there are plenty of peg-scraping cruisers who knock down the average speed. While you’re there, be sure to visit the Tree of Shame, where crashed motorcycle bits adorn the tree and dangle from its branches as a reminder of the road’s dangers.

Nurburgring Nordschleife

Arguably the most notorious racetrack in the world, this 12.93-mile loop of tarmac also happens to be a toll road that anyone with 24 euros and a need for speed can drive on non-race days. Racer Jackie Stewart once called the Nurburgring “the green hell,” and it features treacherous landmarks, including the Caracciola Karussell (the Carousel) and Flugplatz (also known as “the Airport,” for its tendency to launch vehicles airborne). But keep your inner Michael Schumacher in check: This series of 154 turns has a nasty reputation for humbling even the most seasoned drivers.

 

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  Improvements in Driving Done By Entrepreneurs

 

Startup companies think they can change driving. Here’s how.

A veteran computer scientist hates sitting in his car at stoplights, so he creates software that makes the experience less annoying. A former engineering professor wants to double the range of today’s electric vehicles. And an aeronautics expert believes flying cars shouldn’t be science fiction.

It’s no secret that technology is changing the car industry. The major automakers, as well as tech giants such as Google and possibly Apple, are laying the groundwork for the first driverless cars.

Meanwhile, a number of engineers and entrepreneurs have started their own companies to tackle other automotive challenges. Here are six startups that want to change the way you drive:

CONNECTED SIGNALS

Traffic lights bring order to intersections, but have their inconveniences: They turn red when you’re in a hurry; they take forever to change green. And then your mind wanders while you wait — until the guy behind you starts leaning on his horn.

Entrepreneur and computer scientist Matt Ginsberg hates red lights. So he started Connected Signals, based in Eugene, Oregon, to collect real-time data from cities that synchronize their traffic signals. The company’s smartphone app tells motorists if an upcoming signal is about to change color. It shows drivers how long they’ll have to wait if a light is red — and chimes a warning just before it turns green.

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Traffic Deaths Not Decreasing Even Though Safety Features Are Increasing

Driving to and from work everyday, you usually see at least one car accident if not more. With all the new safety features, why is this not decreasing the amount of accidents in the United States?

Today’s cars are safer than they’ve ever been, with increasing numbers of models delivering top scores in what have become stricter crash tests, and offering an array of the latest safety features. We now have airbags in the front, rear and sides of a vehicle, with some even at knee height, mounted between the front seats and incorporated into the rear shoulder belts. There’s backup cameras, lane departure and blind spot warning systems and forward auto-braking systems now being offered on all but the smallest and cheapest models.

And yet, nearly 19,000 lives were lost in traffic accidents over the first six months of 2015, according to preliminary statistics just released by the National Safety Council (NSC). That’s a sizeable 14% increase in fatalities over the same period in 2014.

What’s more, over 2.2 million people were seriously injured, which represents a staggering 30% increase. The NSC warns that this year could wind up as the deadliest for motorists and passengers since 2007.

Previously, vehicle-related fatalities had dropped from a peak of 43,510 in 2005 to 32,719 in 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which was largely attributed to improved vehicle engineering in accordance with stricter state DUI, seatbelt use and teen-driving laws.

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