Edition: September 2012 - Vol 20 Number 09
Article#: 4059
Author: Repertoire

Personalized driving experience

Honda will unveil HondaLink™, an in-vehicle connectivity system, on the 2013 Honda Accord. Featuring the first automotive OEM application of Aha™ by Harman, HondaLink is said to provide a personalized experience connecting drivers to cloud-based news, information and entertainment feeds, using an intuitive, audio-system based interface. The HondaLink smartphone application allows owners to preset content on their phone. Once in the car, consumers will be able to listen to personalized content accessible via voice recognition, steering-wheel mounted controls and in-dash audio system controls. HondaLink will also incorporate Pandora Internet radio and voice-to-text SMS text services with pre-programmed responses, which Honda introduced on the 2012 CR-V.

Dangers of sleep-deprived driving

Young drivers don’t recognize the dangers of sleep-deprived driving, according to a recent study in the Journal of Safety Research from the National Safety Council. Sleep-deprived driving can be as dangerous as alcohol-impaired driving, but attitudes about drowsy driving are less known, according to the Council. The study explains that: 1) sleep-related and alcohol-related car crashes occur predominantly among young drivers; 2) among drivers taking long trips on the highway, drivers under the age of 30 are more sleep-deprived than other age groups, and 3) the driving errors displayed by drinking drivers are very similar to those of drowsy drivers

550 miles for Ford’s plug-in hybrid

Ford’s first-ever plug-in hybrid – the C-MAX Energi utility – is projected to deliver 550 miles of total range, including more than 20 miles in electric-only mode – nearly double the electric-only range of the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, according to Ford. The C-MAX Energi – available this fall – will be Ford’s first production plug-in hybrid and part of Ford’s first hybrid-only dedicated line of vehicles. The vehicle is said to operate as a traditional hybrid, with two differences: Owners must plug in the vehicle using its charge port, and C-MAX Energi has a larger battery pack. Ford’s other electrified vehicles for 2013 are the Focus Electric, C-MAX Hybrid, Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid.

Soybean-oil-based tires

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company said that its researchers have found that using soybean oil in tires can potentially increase tread life by 10 percent and reduce the tiremaker’s use of petroleum-based oil by up to seven million gallons each year. In addition, testing at Goodyear’s tire plant in Lawton, Okla., showed improved mixing capabilities in the manufacturing process. The company found that rubber compounds made with soybean oil blend more easily with the silica used in building tires; this can improve plant efficiency and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Prototype tires built in Lawton will be tested at Goodyear’s Proving Grounds in San Angelo, Texas. If indicators remain positive, Goodyear expects consumers will be able to purchase tires made with soybean oil as early as 2015. The United Soybean Board is helping fund the Goodyear project with a grant of $500,000 over two years.

Crash course

Vehicle collisions occur, regardless of how careful you are. The best defense to avoid any problems after a crash is to be prepared, says AAA. Keeping a pen and paper, disposable camera or cell phone camera, and copy of your insurance card easily accessible at all times will help keep you organized and decrease stress moments after a collision. AAA has a mobile app, AAA Insurance, to help drivers properly document the event. After stopping your vehicle, AAA recommends motorists involved in an auto crash follow these steps: 1) assist the injured, calling 911 if necessary; 2) control the scene, that is, move your vehicle to a safe place, such as to the side of the road, and turn on your hazard lights if possible; 3) notify the police; 4) exchange and gather information with all parties involved in the crash (including witnesses), including names, addresses, vehicle information and identification, driver’s license numbers, insurance carriers and policy numbers; and 5) notify your insurance carrier. Drivers and owners of motor vehicles must be prepared to assume legal and financial responsibility if involved in a crash. That said, AAA advises not to let your emotions and feelings get in the way of deciding who is at fault. Never allow yourself to be pressured into admitting fault or giving an opinion about the cause of a crash. If you wish, consult with an attorney before giving a statement. Regarding No. 3, the law requires you notify the police, says AAA. So, no matter what either party says, call the police and file a report. If the police do not come to the scene to open an investigation, you can file a report by visiting a local police department or automobile insurance agency in the days after a crash. Having a report on file may help later if a liability claim is filed.

Carfax on Android

Carfax announced that an Android version of the Carfax Reports mobile app is available to smartphone users. Carfax Vehicle History Reports can be viewed in a matter of seconds with just a few screen taps. Used car shoppers needing Carfax information have three ways to access it – entering the vehicle identification number (VIN), license plate or scanning the barcode. Carfax created the Vehicle History Report in 1986 and maintains the largest vehicle history database ever assembled, comprising over 10 billion vehicle records from more than 34,000 sources across North America, according to the company.

Green is the new black

In recent years, the color green has not played much of a role on the roads, yet in four to five years, the color is predicted to become more popular on cars, says BASF Automotive Coatings. Similarly, white, silver, and gray will gradually wane in popularity at the expense of more saturated colors like blues and browns. “There are signs from automakers and consumers that the desire for more color on the roads is continuing,” says Mark Gutjahr, head of design for BASF in Europe. “We will be tapping into further color spaces, such as bronzes and emeralds. The continued high value assigned to the notion of ecology may now again be signified by the color green.”

Look for more aluminum

Ford Motor Company has gone on record declaring that high-volume application of lightweight materials, including aluminum, will be key to increasing fuel economy and decreasing emissions. With reports that the next generation of its F-150 truck will have an aluminum body, shaving about 700 pounds from the truck, the company appears to be making good on its promise. The Aluminum Association’s Aluminum Transportation Group couldn’t be happier. The association says aluminum use is at an all-time high, and is the No. 2 material used to make cars today. Its use among car makers is expected to double by 2025. Aluminum has the lowest overall carbon footprint and is infinitely recyclable, says the association. What’s more, it is highly crash absorbent and can be designed to deflect crash energies away from vehicle occupants, the association says.

Report card for crash-avoidance systems

An early crop of advanced crash avoidance technologies includes some clear success stories when it comes to preventing crashes, insurance claim analyses by the Highway Loss Data Institute show. But some aren’t so promising. Forward collision avoidance systems, particularly those that can brake autonomously, along with adaptive headlights, which shift direction as the driver steers, show the biggest crash reductions. However, lane departure warning appears to hurt, rather than help, though it’s not clear why. Other systems, such as blind spot detection and park assist, aren’t showing clear effects on crash patterns yet. Forward collision warning systems alert the driver if the vehicle is gaining on the traffic ahead of it so quickly that it is about to crash. Some of these systems also are equipped with autonomous braking, meaning the vehicle will brake on its own if the driver doesn’t respond in time. Adaptive headlights respond to steering input to help a driver see around a curve in the dark. The headlights’ horizontal aim is adjusted based on the speed of the vehicle, direction of the steering wheel and other factors so that the lights are directed where the vehicle is heading. In contrast to the better-than-expected results for adaptive headlights, lane departure warning systems from Buick and Mercedes appeared to have the opposite of their intended effect, says the Institute. Both were associated with increased claim rates under collision and product damage liability coverages and for injuries to occupants of the insured vehicles. Although the increases were not statistically significant, the results suggest these particular systems aren’t reducing overall crashes. Volvos with lane departure warning had lower claim frequencies under most coverages than Volvos without the feature, but those vehicles also had forward collision warning with auto brake, which more likely accounts for the benefits.