In our last blog we looked at autonomous vehicles, which are said to be the future of driving. Google’s self-driving car is set to be widely available by 2018, and it could revolutionise the way in which we travel. While the self-driving car is an incredibly impressive robotic invention, there are also some downsides to such an advanced vehicle. Continue reading
Driver error is the most common cause of road traffic accidents; and with the number of cars on the road ever increasing this is likely to remain the case. Distractions like mobile phones, sat nav, and the kids whinging in the back seat mean that drivers are never fully concentrating on the road as they should. If drivers aren’t going to concentrate on the road, then who is? Autonomous cars, that’s who. Continue reading
Leading vehicle warranty providers, Warranty Direct, claim to have found the ten most reliable family cars. They studied the data of 30,000 of their policies linked to family cars, and came up with a list of cars which suffer the least faults and breakdowns, making them the most reliable to drive. Continue reading
In our last blog we looked at what to do if your car breaks down whilst you’re travelling on the motorway, but what should you do if you breakdown on a road that is not a motorway? This is a great question as in this instance the rules are slightly different, in this blog we’ll look at what steps you should take if you find yourself broken down on a normal road.
Survey the situation
Ask yourself whether it is safe to get out of the car? Is it safe to try to move the car off the road? Is the problem something you can easily fix yourself or do you need to call for help? If you feel that there is any risk of your car getting struck by another car then make sure that you carefully get all passengers out of the car and to safety, away from the road.
Use your warning triangle
If you have a warning triangle in your car then now is the time to use it! When it is safe to do so, place your warning triangle at a distance of about 45 metres (50 yards) behind your vehicle, make sure it is on the same side of the road.
If your car slows down rapidly and comes to stop in the middle of the road then you should switch on your hazard lights to warn other road users. If visibility is at all impaired or if it is dark outside then even if you manage to get your car to the side of the road you should leave your vehicle’s sidelights on to make sure that other drivers can clearly see your broken down vehicle. Make sure that no one is standing near the vehicle in a way that may obstruct its lights or prevent it from being seen by other vehicles.
Make sure that neither you nor any of your passengers are standing between your vehicle and oncoming traffic. If you have reflective jackets in the vehicle then make sure that you put them on so that you are clearly visible to other motorists.
Call for help
Once you’ve assessed the situation and made sure that you and your passengers are safe you should use your mobile phone to call the company that you have your breakdown cover with.
If you don’t have a mobile phone or if it is out of battery or doesn’t have signal then you will need to walk to the nearest payphone or ask a passerby to call for help.
In the news this week…
The Lexus that can paint
Lexus Belgium have just launched an interesting new project. It’s called ART IS MOTION, and it involves a car (the new Lexus IS 300 hybrid), a driver and some digital art software.
Essentially, Lexus have introduced a car that can paint, with a unique system that renders the driver in real-time.
And the way the car paints your portrait depends on how you drive. It looks at the speed you drive and at how you accelerate – amongst various other inputs – and converts them into different colours and brush strokes.
So if you’re a fast driver, your portrait will be rendered with stronger brush strokes. And it’ll be more vibrant in its choice of colours. If you’re slower you’ll be painted with cooler colours, like blues and greens.
It’s all based on the work of multi-meda Spanish artist Sergio Albiac, and Lexus Belgium’s marketing director, Joris Peeters, had this to say:
“The project is ‘amazing’ in finding a way to link our advanced technology with art and the driver in such a unique way. The car itself is transformed into a real-time piece of art.”
You can find out more about the Lexus IS 300 and see some of the digital portraits it’s produced in this Lexus-released video.
Ferrari V8 engine quad bike
The Lazereth Wazuma V8F is a quad bike the likes of which we’ve never seen before.
To get the obvious out of the way: the Wazuma looks nothing like a quad bike. Its low profile racing tyre and its sleek wide frame make it look more like a compact F1 racer than anything else.
And in terms of performance, the analogy’s not far off.
The Wazuma get its power from a 3.0-litre V8 engine taken from a Ferrari 308, and to get the enormous 250hp it produces from the engine to the wheels, it has to make use of a BMW M3 six-speed sequential gearbox, which is operated with buttons mounted on the handlebars.
With specially-designed parts and an engine and gearbox culled from different performance cars, the Wazuma’s a bit of racing hybrid. But quite how it handles on the track hasn’t yet been reported, and no performance figures have been released either, so there’s not much to go on.
But we don’t care.
Just look at it…
Next-gen SUVs from Mitsubishi
All at once, Mitsubishi have unveiled three new concept cars, teasing us with a few very dark and mysterious promo shots.
The new SUVs show the latest direction Mitsubishi will be taking in their future vehicle designs, with a more prominent front grille, sleek headlights and low front end (and that’s really all we can make out!).
Mitsubishi have said that the larger concept model, the GC-PHEV, will be an environmentally-friendly yet fun-to-drive SUV, although emission or MPG figures have been released as yet.
The XR-PHEV is a smaller, more compact vehicle that’s said to rival the Honda CR-V with its lightweight hybrid system, and the smallest concept, the AR (which is short for Active Runabout)has been described by the company as having ‘both the mobility of an SUV and the occupant space of an MPV’, and comes with a turbocharged petrol engine.
We expect Mitsubishi to release further detail about their trio of SUVs over the coming weeks in the run-up to their public unveiling at the Tokyo Motor Show next month.
Things not looking so bright for UK in ‘World Solar Challenge’
38 teams from around the world are set to compete in the biennial World Solar Challenge in Australia this year, racing their solar-powered vehicles 1,864 miles right across the country, from Darwin to Adelaide.
But things haven’t turned out so well for the UK, and unfortunately our hopes for winning the title have already been dashed, just five days before the competition was set to start.
Built by a team from Cambridge University, the UK’s solar vehicle entry rolled onto its side during testing, slid 50 meters, came off the road and stopped, looking more than a little worse for wear at the bottom of an embankment.
The driver managed to escape unharmed, but the vehicle was withdrawn from the competition after it suffered what the team described as ‘dynamic instabilities’ too difficult to fix in time before the race.
Oh well. There’s always 2015’s race to look forward to.
Ford’s Facebook Car
Ford has launched a limited edition version of its EcoSport, with orders for the vehicle being taken through the social networking site, Facebook.
It costs £16,995 and only 500 units have been made, with just 120 reserved for the UK market -but what’s so special about it, apart from its Facebook-blue paint job?
Well, it looks like Ford are pushing their in-car app functionality with a new, more advanced version of Ford’s Sync AppLink infotainment system.
Upgrades to the system include the addition of Autoread (currently available on android and iOS devices) which allows the driver to dictate text messages and emails and have the responses read back to them completely hands-free.
The EcoSport also features Hotels.com’s app for booking hotel rooms, and Wcities Eventseeker’s popular app for spotting nearby events, which are displayed on the in-car Sat-Nav.
Ford have embraced all-new in-car technology this year, with the app-ready EcoSport launching just a few weeks after we first heard about the Ford S-Max Concept’s intuitive road safety and traffic flow ‘car-to-car’ communication features.
But Ford differs from other manufacturers in its willingness to make its software (which is completely open source) available to other developers and manufacturers to improve and add new functionality.
So will Fords be the smartest, most practical cars on UK roads in a few years?
Conkers or bonkers?
Three car parks in Leeds and Manchester city centre have devised a way to offset the release of emissions caused by drivers travelling to them.
Their solution? To pay with conkers.
A conker is valued at 20p each, so it only takes a handful to secure a couple of hours parking in the busy centres (with £10 worth of conkers being the maximum redeemable amount).
All the conkers collected by Town Centre Car Parks (TCCP) – the parking chain responsible for the scheme – will be donated to Hetchell Wood Nature Reserve in Leeds, where they hope money will be raised to help increase the profile of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s woodlands.
Earlier this year we covered how to stay safe when driving during the summer months. Well, it’s now the middle of September and the weather’s taken a turn for the worse. The days have been getting darker, the night’s longer, and things are set to get much colder, wetter and more miserable in the coming weeks.
So it’s probably about time we went through our top winter driving tips to help you stay safe on the roads in difficult conditions.
1. Plan your journeys
Pay attention to the local news and travel bulletins. That way you’ll be alerted to any disruptions before you encounter them on the road, giving you time to plan out an alternative and faster route.
And if the weather is particularly bad, it’s advised that you rearrange your plans to avoid driving if at all possible.
2. Stay seen, and see others
In winter it’s especially important to see what’s on the road, and to make sure that you yourself can be seen easily.
There’s a lot of mud, slush and snow around that can reduce your visibility though the front and rear windscreens, and the brightness of your headlights may also be reduced, which will limit how far you can see.
And if your windscreen is frozen over, you should avoid using hot water or using your wipers to clear it, as this could cause damage – arm yourself with a window scraper and a bottle of de-icer instead.
3. Check your tyres
With rain and snow on the roads you’ll have much less traction than normal, so it’s important to make sure that your tyres are kept in a good condition, with enough tread depth.
Tyre tread should be no less than 2mm for winter driving, with at least 3mm being the optimum treat depth.
Despite what a lot of motorists might tell you, reducing the pressure in your tyres won’t give you any more grip, and it can be dangerous.
4. Ensure a healthy car battery
Using your headlights, removing condensation and trying to stay warm mean that there’s a higher demand on your car’s battery when making trips in winters.
So try to avoid running these electrical systems for longer than needed, and preserve your battery’s life.
5. Drive smoothly
Driving on snow-covered roads or in icy conditions means that you need to change the way you drive. You don’t have the same kind of responsiveness as you do on dry roads, so you need to pay close attention to your speed – reduce it to increase your stopping ability and to reduce the changes of skidding.
You should also apply the brakes in good time and avoid using them harshly – especially on bends, where the centrifugal force can cause you to spin off the road.
6. Always be prepared for the worst
Always take your mobile phone with you, and make sure that you’ve got the essentials with you in your car at all times.
We’d recommend keeping a torch, blanket, jump leads, di-icer and a shovel to help you out of some sticky situations, and it’s also a good idea to let someone know that you’re travelling in difficult conditions. That way, if you happen to find yourself in trouble and don’t turn up when expected, there’s someone ready to get help to you as quickly as possible.
The redesigned front bumper, updated headlights and new grille give the classic Disco design a subtle but effective shake up, further heightened by the brand new alloy wheel designs.
And those who prefer the sportier look will appreciate the optional Discovery ‘Black Design Pack’, which includes black alloys and extra black trim for a more sleek and stylish overall look.
But it’s not all about the revised exterior; there are some crucial new modifications made under the bonnet as well with an efficient new SDV6 engine.
The 3 litre diesel engine offers up 252bhp, and features a stop/start system which improves fuel economy and reduces CO2 emission to 213g/km from 230g/km.
Things going well for Audi
Less than 5 months after hiring Nick Ratcliffe as the new marketing director, Audi looks to be on the up and up in the UK.
The German car manufacturer is expected to break the UK sales record of 140,000 at the end of this year, making it the country’s leading prestige German brand.
Last year Audi closed just behind BMW’s total of 127,500 with 123,622 registered vehicles, but with a strong range of vehicles, and with more new models to come, the company are expected to surpass their native rivals.
‘Test Drive’ car theft
A young couple turn up at a car showroom, ask to take a desirable BMW convertible for a test drive and never return. Sounds like the plot of a B grade movie, doesn’t it?
But it’s actually happened, in Barrow In Furness, Cumbria.
The convertible – which is worth £19,000 – was reportedly stolen after the showroom allowed the couple (who’re said to be in their 30s) to take the car on an unaccompanied test drive.
The dealership has since released CCTV images in an effort to locate and bring back the missing car.
Hypermiling refers to a number of driving techniques that can be employed to improve your car’s fuel efficiency – and in the last few years, its popularity amongst Britain’s drivers has greatly increased.
So what are these money-saving driving techniques?
Let’s take a look at some of the easiest ways to boost your MPG.
1. Plan your route
It seems pretty obvious: the fewer miles you drive, the less petrol you use.
But picking the shortest route isn’t the best way to hypermile.
Since hypermiling is all about smooth driving, a slightly longer route that’s obstruction free will probably result in a much better MPG, so it’s important to plan your route very carefully.
2. Drive smoothly
If you push down hard on the accelerator, you send more fuel into the engine, the engine runs faster and your speed is increased.
But do you really need this speed injection?
Remember that hypermiling involves adopting a smooth driving approach, and accelerating gently (and quickly taking your foot off the accelerator when you see that you’re going to have to come to a stop) will use much less fuel.
3. Turn off the air-con
You’re probably already aware that having the air conditioning on can decrease your MPG – but did you know that it can increase your normal fuel consumption by up to 10%?
4. Get rid of excess weight
The heavier your car, the harder your car’s engine has to work to get you from A to B – and the harder it has to work, the worse your fuel consumption is going to be.
Take a look in the boot. Is there anything there you could get rid of to lighten the load?
5. Turn off the engine
If you find yourself stuck in traffic, or if you anticipate being help up at the lights for more than 10 or so seconds, consider turning off the engine entirely.
You might not be moving, but idling still consumes fuel.
6. Avoid driving
The ultimate hypermiling technique: not driving at all!
We all have our habits and our preferences, but the next time you think about turning the ignition, think about whether another mode of transport is available to you.
Could you walk instead? Or is cycling an option?
You’ll save money, and you might start feeling a little healthier too!