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Road Trip Safety When You Have A Pet Along For The Ride

Many families buy gifts for their pets so that they receive something as well, but don’t let your celebrating end at the door, bring them along to visit in the car.

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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Feds Change Their Minds On Authorization Self Driving Cars

LOS ANGELES – Discussion after discussion between government officials has occurred about cars that drive for themselves, to a point where they are coming closer to a decision.

Just two years ago, the U.S. Department of Transportation struck a cautious tone. Its official policy statement, published in May 2013, says cars should be limited to testing and not “authorized for use by members of the public for general driving purposes.”

For several years, Google and several traditional automakers have been running prototypes equipped with a suite of sensors and cameras around public streets and highways, mostly in California.

Those cars must have someone behind the wheel, ready to take over. Some have gotten into collisions, though the companies say a person in another car caused the accident in each case.

Google has advocated spreading self-driving cars into the public, once the tech titan concludes the technology is safe.

While states have taken the lead on regulating self-driving cars, policymakers in Washington hold some sway over states’ decision-making. California’s Department of Motor Vehicles in particular has asked for federal guidance as it struggles with how to move the cars safely from small-scale road tests to broader adoption.

In a written statement Monday, U.S. Department of Transportation spokeswoman Suzanne Emmerling said that with rapid development of the technology, federal policy is being updated.

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The Car Industry Is Changing Gears When It Comes To Connectivity

Remoteless key entry, a trunk that opens automatically if your hands are full and rear seat DVD player are some of the most popular features when people are looking at buying a car, which may change with innovative software technology. 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 also 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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U.S.’s Worst Traffic Jams

Everyday going to and from work many people experience rush hour and grid lock traffic that doubles or triples traveling time, especially in these places.

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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Traffic Death Numbers a Wake-Up Call for Drivers, Cyclists and Pedestrians

Our vehicles are getting safer, yet deaths on our roadways are epidemic. The number of vehicle occupants killed in traffic accidents dipped to 21,022 in 2014, according to the federal agency that tracks the numbers. It’s the lowest total since record-keeping began in 1975. In other respects, American roads remain precarious places for certain users, and the dangers are growing for everyone.

Although the number of overall traffic fatalities inched downward 0.1 percent in 2014, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials said Tuesday early estimates show a dramatic rise in deaths over the first half in 2015. In the first six months of the year, their projections show an 8.1-percent jump in deaths year over year. Part of the reason is because Americans, fueled by cheap gas prices and a good economy, are driving more miles. But that’s not the only reason. The deaths are rising at twice the rate as miles driven, and the spike has left highway safety officials scratching their heads. Should that figure hold, it would represent the single greatest year-over-year increase in the percentage of traffic deaths since 1946.

“These numbers are a wake-up call,” NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind said Tuesday. “The essentially flat number in 2014 is unsatisfactory. A potential increase for 2015 is unacceptable. It really is time for our nation to get serious about the epidemic of death on our roadways.”

Nowhere is that epidemic more acute than among the most vulnerable of road users – cyclists and pedestrians. With the number of vehicle occupant deaths falling to new lows, pedestrians and cyclists represent a bigger chunk of the 32,675 overall deaths recorded in 2014. Pedestrian deaths in particular jumped 3.1 percent between 2013 and 2014 to 4,884 people, and those on foot now account for 14.9 percent of all traffic deaths.

Read more here.

Automakers Slow to Move to Use of Aluminum

The world’s largest rolled aluminum producer says its plans to shift rolling mill capacity to automotive body sheet are moving slower than expected, proving that automakers are slow to follow Ford’s lead in the widespread use of aluminum.

Novelis CEO Steve Fisher said the industry is going through a “digestion period” after Ford Motor Co. adopted an aluminum body in its top-selling F-150 pickup model. Other automobile manufacturers have not followed with similar major commitments for leading models.

“While Ford has gone very aluminum-intensive and been very successful with the F-150 more recently, everyone’s going to look at their portfolios of vehicles and take their own views on how quickly they need to move to aluminum,” Fisher said during the company’s second-quarter earnings call for its fiscal year 2016.

The U.S. aluminum industry, including producers like Alcoa Inc., are bullish on rising demand from the auto industry as carmakers seek to move away from steel, which is heavier, in order to comply with new emissions standards.

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Which Collector Car is the Best Investment?

What do the Citroën DS Wagon, Chevrolet Caprice Classic Wagon and the Toyota Land Cruiser FJ have in common? They’re all collector cars and while they can be fun to have around, that doesn’t always mean they’re ideal for running to the grocery store — or, say, camping.

On the other hand, collectible cars can still be useful in real-world scenarios. Automotive valuation expert Donald Osborne spoke with Jay Leno about three such ultra-utilitarian vehicles, to determine which was the best investment.

First up, the Citroën DS Wagon. In 1972, this vehicle looked like it was from the future — and, somehow, it still sort of does. What made the Citroën special was its load engineering. Special hydropneumatics controlled the suspension in this spacious wagon, meaning no matter how much you crammed into the back, it wouldn’t sag. This Citroën originally sold for about $4,500.

Speaking of spacious, the 1977 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Wagon might as well have been a yacht. The behemoth originally sold for about $5,600, and you got a lot for your money. It had power everything: locks, windows, cruise control, air conditioning. And with 100 cubic feet of load space, you could basically take everyone in Wyoming out for ice cream.

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How To Keep Food Hot in Your Car and More Cool Car Hacks

Seat warmers are great for keeping your buns toasty on a cold day, but they also double as a food warmer. Next time you’re taking of a pizza, place it on a seat with the seat warmer on so it won’t cool off on your way home. That’s one of many cool car hacks to try.

1. Take a photo of where you parked

You know you need to do this. Instead of trying to remember your parking spot, make it easier on yourself by taking a photo of where you parked your car with your cell phone.

2. Hang a shoe organizer on the back of a seat.

Store your stuff in a shoe organizer — great for road trips.

3. Remove dents with a plunger

Use a plunger to suck out dents. It’s best for medium-sized dents, according to Lifehacker.

4. Buff your car with conditioner

Wax your car with hair conditioner to give it an extra shine and prevent water streaks from forming.

5. Clean the interior with a coffee filter

Dab the coffee filter with a little bit of olive oil to clean your car with. If you don’t want to use the oils, feel free to go without it or use another cleaning solution instead. The filters are much better as cleaners than dryer sheets, which are often recommended as well. That’s because dryer sheets can contain a lot of chemicals.

Read more here.

Updated List Of Cars That Will Keep Your Teens Safe Behind The Wheel

When picking out a car for your teen to drive do you know which vehicle is most likely to keep them safe and sound if an accident were to occur?

The goods news is that parents looking for a safe, affordable vehicle for their teen driver have many more options than just a year ago, theInsurance Institute for Highway Safety announced last week with the release of its new, updated recommendations for used vehicles for teens. The list has grown by more than 50 percent since the group’s initial report in 2014, even though the price and safety criteria haven’t changed since last year, the group said.

“Time is on the consumer’s side,” Anne McCartt, the institute’s senior vice president for research, said in a statement. “It’s easier than ever to find a used vehicle with must-have safety features and decent crash test performance without spending a fortune.”

The institute, a nonprofit financed by the insurance industry, compiled its first list of recommended used vehicles after finding that the vast majority of parents who bought a vehicle for their teen driver bought it used.

“The prices for most of the vehicles we recommend for young, novice drivers are still higher than what a lot of people are used to spending,” McCartt added. “We would encourage parents to consider paying a little more for safety if they can.”

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Voice Commands Are Supposed to Stop Distracted Driving But It Makes It Worse


Voice commands were installed into cars to help take away fro distracted driving but is it really that successful?

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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