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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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Ethics Of Drivers and Driverless Technology Compared And Questioned

Some drivers when in a hurry do not slow down to let others in, they will speed up over the speed limit and may hurry up through a yellow light, when our cars are driving for us how are they going to respond in these situations. Will technology and cars be able to soon judge a situation better than the driver itself and react appropriately?

Skeptics of driverless cars have a variety of criticisms, from technical to demand based, but perhaps the most curious is the supposed ethical trolley problem it creates. While the question of how driverless cars will behave in ethical situations is interesting and will ultimately have to be answered by programmers, critics greatly exaggerate it’s importance. In addition, they assume that driverless cars have to be perfect rather than just better.

The basic trolley problem involves being put in a situation where you have to choose between killing some people and killing others. For example, imaging you are driving your car and another car is headign right towards you and you have to either hit them head on or swerve into a group of pedestrians. What does a robot do!? This, it is argued, presents a big issue for driverless cars. How do we program them? How will they react in such situations?

The first problem with this is that humans are assumed to be doing a pretty good job at driving already, including in so-called trolley car situations. For example, here is Patrick Lin writing at the Atlantic with a paean to human’s driving abilities:

“But there are important differences between humans and machines that could warrant a stricter test. For one thing, we’re reasonably confident that human drivers can exercise judgment in a wide range of dynamic situations that don’t appear in a standard 40-minute driving test; we presume they can act ethically and wisely. Autonomous cars are new technologies and won’t have that track record for quite some time.”

The idea that humans will act ethically and wisely while driving is an absurd and false assumption. For starters, in 2013 over 10,000 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, which accounts for 31% of vehicle related deaths. So from the start we have a third of all driving deaths resulting from humans who are probably often using poor judgment, and unethical and unwise decision-making.

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Where Does The Insurance Liability Fall When It Comes To Autonomous Driving

 

After several incidents with autonomous driving and cars being hacked and taken over, a more dangerous side of the new technology appears.

Hacker attacks or faulty software could shift the burden of legal and regulatory liability toward makers of self-driving cars and away from customers, experts say, forcing regulators and insurers to develop new models.

Autonomous cars have the potential to reduce the rate of traffic accidents as sensors and software give a car faster and better reflexes to prevent a collision. However, a greater level of automation increases the need for cyber security and sophisticated software, experts said.

“Although accident rates will theoretically fall, new risks will come with autonomous vehicles,” said Domenico Savarese, Group head of Proposition Development and Telematics at Zurich Insurance.

“What should be done in the case of a faulty software algorithm? Should manufacturers be required to monitor vehicles post-sale in the case of a malfunction or a hacker attack?” Savarese asked.

While established models for assigning liability – such as holding the owner responsible for what the car does – will still be relevant, the onus may shift toward manufacturers.

Greater automation may also change consumer behavior and affect insurance costs if drivers become less vigilant and less practiced in their ability to avert an accident.

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One Step Forward Towards Protecting Our Cars From Hackers

 

You do not want to have to worry about your car being hacked and taken over while drive, or to have your information stolen through your vehicle, which is why the automotive industry has taken the first step.

Given the multitude of recalls announced by other automakers, the industry must take action. FCA’s recent 1.4 million vehicle cyber security-related recall is not a one-off occurrence. These types of recalls can be minimized, however, it will not be a singular effort by a single automaker. Today’s connected car includes upward of 300 million lines of code compared to a 747, with roughly 75 million lines. Automotive vulnerabilities are at an all-time high and FCA’s recent recall is perfect evidence of said vulnerabilities. The real question is, who is taking the necessary action?

On July 21, Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal introduced first-of-its-kind legislation, the Security and Privacy in Your Car Act (SPY Car Act). The senators’ legislation directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to establish federal standards that will secure today’s connected car. There was no in-vehicle system regulation until the SPY Car Act.

FCA is suffering $105 million costs in just civil penalties alone, with recall costs entering into the billions. Automotive recalls, SPY Car implications, and improved user experiences can all be alleviated through a common industry trend—collaboration. The recent governmental legislation will kick automakers into high gear with respect to addressing cyber security.

While the SPY Car Act was truly an unprecedented announcement, it was also long overdue. As a whole the automotive industry’s cybersecurity posture is weak. Change is inevitable, and Frost & Sullivan believes the industry will see laser focus and fully secure systems within the next two to three years.

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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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Apple Hiding Autonomous Testing In Old Military Grounds

Apple has recently been cautious about how much information is shared as they continue in the race towards autonomous driving and the no testing location isn’t any different.

Apple is looking into using a former military base northeast of San Francisco as a high-security proving ground for autonomous vehicles it is developing, according to an online report by British newspaper The Guardian.

Engineers from the technology giant’s Special Projects group have been in contact with representatives of GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre facility on the site of what used to be the Concord Naval Weapons Station, in Concord, Calif.

Correspondence obtained by The Guardian through public records requests shows Apple is interested in using the sprawling sites, which has more than 20 miles of paved roads, city streets, railroad crossings and tunnels, to test self-driving vehicles.

Both Honda and Mercedes-Benz have been using GoMentum Station for testing their own autonomous cars.

News of Apple’s interest in the former base is the latest glimpse into Apple’s secretive autonomous-car program. The maker of iPhones and MacBooks had said little publicly about its vehicle-development efforts, but in recent months it has hired some well-known executives from automakers.

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