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Safety

Honda’s Latest

As with many other automotive manufacturers, Honda is on the hunt for having its fleet become fully electrified.  Honda’s vision is to have 100% of its new vehicles with zero emissions by 2040.  There are some neat EV models in the pipeline, but also some vehicles that help transition the gap from petrol to hybrid to 100% electric.  Honda’s 2022 Civic models are set to be enjoyable.

Honda recently announced that their Prologue SUV, which will be Honda’s first new EV sold in big volume, will be a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) that will go on sale in 2024.  It is likely that the Prologue SUV will be an American-only seller first, so how that fits in with Australia remains to be seen.  As EV infrastructure expands, and customer interest grows nationwide and globally, the company will expand sales and marketing efforts accordingly.  Following the launch of the Honda Prologue, the company will create additional EVs based on the new e-Architecture that is currently being developed and customer demand.

Honda Prologue SUV

Honda has a long history of being a leader in creating hybrid and electrified vehicles.  Honda’s Insight still is a very good example of how a hybrid should perform, and it remains a strong seller with people who are looking for low emissions and frugality in fuel usage.  As Honda prepares for the launch of the Honda Prologue for America, the company will introduce hybrid-electric systems to other core models to continue to reduce CO2 emissions while helping create a bridge for customers to move from fossil fuels to hybrid to EVs.

Honda’s management have stated that they are aware that customers who have a good experience with a hybrid vehicle are more likely to buy an electric vehicle in the future.  We can see that their hybrid sales have increased over the last few years.  Led by models such as the CR-V Hybrid and the Accord Hybrid, Honda just recorded its best-ever first-half year of electrified vehicle sales.  The Insight has also sold well.

2022 Honda Civic Sedan

Now what about now?  Let’s take a look at the all-new Honda Civic Hatchback!  In 2022, Honda will be selling the latest Civic in Australia.  The car is aimed predominantly at young buyers who are captured by its fastback design and sporty driving character.  The new Civic will offer a slick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission as well as an automatic CVT option to go with the 2.0-liter normally aspirated motor or the 1.5-liter turbo engine.  High-performance Si and Type R models are to be available, and they are cars I’ll be keeping my eyes out for.

The largest back seat to ever be inside a Civic Hatchback comes with 2022 models, and the cars also features new standards of safety technologies.  All 2022 Honda Civic Hatchbacks include Honda’s new next-gen driver and front passenger airbags and an expanded Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistive and safety technology that adds Traffic Jam Assist and a smoother, more natural feeling to functions like Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and the Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS).  It will also include Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning, and Road Departure Mitigation (RDM).

2022 Honda Civic Dash

2022 Honda Civic EX-L models will boast all the luxury features, so big color touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, push-button start, partial digital instrumentation, blind-spot information (BSI), leather upholstery, an 8-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, heated outside mirrors, a one-touch power sliding moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control and LED headlights are the go.

Sportier Civics will have racy looks thanks to things like a short shifting 6-speed manual transmission (or CVT), Berlina Black 18-inch wheels, low-profile 235/40R-18 tyres, black exterior accents, an 8-speaker audio system, sport-specific upholstery, a leather-wrapped shifter and steering wheel, paddle shifters (CVT only) and sport pedals.

As the automaker prepares for the launch of the Prologue SUV in America, expect to see more hybrid variants of current core models to ease the transition to full electrification.

The Things We Do in Our Cars

I was thinking about the different demands that we all put our vehicle through on our daily drives throughout a year.  It got me thinking about all the changes that can happen to us inside 12 months – whether the weather seasons change dramatically, families get larger or smaller, job promotions happen, we can change jobs for whatever reason, building renovations happen, moving house occurs, we make new friends, we start a fitness schedule at the gym, we try out a new sport across town, go fishing, go for that caravan trip around Australia and what not…  Our lives are fun and full of regular tasks that we both love or put up with, have jobs that we stick with or change, are full of people that come and go and people that we just love to be around and who will always be a part of our life.  The cars we drive regularly, are often a reflection of our lifestyle and can tell us a story about who we are and where we are in life.

With this ticking through my thought processing, I started to think about the changes that may or may not happen to our cars as we drive them, and how the lifestyle changes and choices that we make can affect the cars we drive.  In essence, a car is a very adaptable machine (or at least should be), and it has to be fit for purpose to cater to our own individual needs.  Often, I find myself needing to hitch up the trailer to grab some more compost for the garden, take a load to the recycling centre or help out a mate who is shifting house.  I like to make use of my drive into town to charge my mobile phone up on the way and listen to my favourite music with the volume wound right up.  Some days the temperature outside can get so cold in wintertime that I need to wind up the heater in order to thaw my fingers out and demist the rear window.  But then in summer, when the temperatures soar, I’ll have the air-conditioning wound up to maximum to keep the family inside the car nice and cool, particularly when we have the tiny grandchild travelling with us.

We have different drives that we frequently make in a month, and they all take different roads and cover varying landscapes.  Some journeys require us to drive up steep streets to get us to our friend’s house on top of the cliffs overlooking the sea, other roads have us in the middle of congested city streets and then another drive may take us for an hour or two north into the wild blue yonder through flat and undulating scenery to visit family.

We’ve learned to trust our cars to get us from A-to-B whatever the weather, whoever we have onboard, whatever we have to tow or carry.  Can a new EV manage all the lifestyle changes and demands dependably?  I’d hate to be late for my daughter’s graduation because my EV ran out of power halfway there, or that I missed the ferry because the EV had to be topped up at a charging point that had a long queue, and what about the police who aborted a chase after a dangerous criminal because he spent too long with the heater on and the siren going at the same time.

We need a car fit for purpose, a car that is cheap to run, nice to the environment and above all dependable!

How Secure is Your New Car?

As more new vehicles come to the market boasting the latest and greatest technology, manufacturers are looking to simplify the driving experience. This means getting you up and running with easier access to your car. So, what’s one of the prominent solutions?

Well, this has translated into keyless entry and push-button ignition becoming commonplace across the latest models. That’s not to say it was ever difficult to use a key, but clearly the boffins behind this technology thought that was getting all too cumbersome. So with the traditional and trusted key now looking lonely on the outer, is everything actually all fine and well?

 

 

The risk associated with keyless entry

Not everything may be as it seems. In some corners there is a growing chorus of industry experts suggesting that today’s new cars are becoming too easy to steal. How, you might ask, as you look quizzically down at your keyless entry remote. Well, that very device is among the design aspects that some have reasonable grounds to be concerned.

This new generation of remotes transmit wireless signals that are automatically picked up within a proximity of the vehicle. As these transmitters work in much the same way as any other device that emits a code over a certain frequency, they are not necessarily immune from interference. And while it may not sound the easiest workaround, the risk remains, a device configured to pick up and read these frequencies has the ability to mimic the remote and replicate those very codes to the same effect.

On the contrary, however, some auto-makers, Tesla perhaps being the most prominent example, have designed a level of security across their cars that few of us have ever seen. Tesla Sentry Mode is used to deter thieves before they even attempt to steal the car, ensuring that the car is constantly in a ‘monitoring’ state thanks to its side cameras, front camera, and sensors that remain active even while the car is off.

The system is able to notify the owner and individuals within range of the car should a theft take place, displaying a message that recording is in progress on the dash. There is also the Pin to Drive feature that complicates things for a would-be thief. With that said, Tesla vehicles have also fallen foul to bluetooth and other cyber-intrusive instances of theft.

 

 

How realistic is the problem?

Sure, you can lock your car, but a keyless entry remote will continually transmit a code in anticipation that you will return to your car at some point and access the vehicle without retrieving the remote. Some manufacturers have embedded additional safety features, such as PIN-activated ignition like we mentioned with Tesla, or a motion-activated fob that is immobilised when no longer moving, or a remote that broadcasts across a wider range of frequencies.

Now if you’re thinking all this sounds highly preposterous and a convoluted way to steal a car, you may want to pause on those thoughts. Check out this field test from What Car, or this one from Which. In what is likely to be surprising news to many drivers out there, some of the market’s most premium vehicles are susceptible to being ‘stolen’ in under 30 seconds.

For now manufacturers are continuing to work on refining and improving the technology. Tesla might be a leader in this field at this stage, but the latest tech does not necessarily mean the greatest tech. In the meantime, you may want to consider requesting your dealer disables that keyless entry remote, or you take to buying a Faraday Bag to shield the remote from emitting electromagnetic signals. Sometimes keeping it simple truly is better.

Leaving the Past Behind

Over the last decade an array of features has been evolving expeditiously in automotive circles.  New cars that we drive today are vastly different to the cars that were driven 10 to 15 years ago.  Technology has come on very quickly, and so too has the world that we live in.  Today we have amazing things like online streaming, extensive EV models, the invention of the Android phone, accident avoidance, adaptive cruise control, infotainment everything, GPS tracking, Rover on Mars… The list is long.  What big features are found in today’s new cars that weren’t part of the package in an equivalent new car bought back in the noughties?

Here are just some of the changes:

Parking Assist

With the introduction of cameras around the outside of the car (the most common, of course is front and back), backing into small spaces, parallel parking or even just checking your blind spot have all become much easier tasks to perform about town, at home and up the neighbour’s tricky driveway.  Rear-view cameras have made a big impression to the level of satisfaction enjoyed by customers across all car models for some time; it has been a real winner.  360-degree cams, a bird’s eye view camera and integrated dash cams are also making their way on-board.  Citroen C3’s Connected-CAM gives you a recording through the dash cam, which, should you be involved in a collision, may vastly help in making your insurance claim run smoothly.

Information and entertainment

Put these two words together and we get ‘Infotainment’, and this word originated from the infotainment systems that we now find as standard features of almost every new car on the market.  Our huge desire to be connected with the internet and with others seems insatiable, and 10 to 15 years ago the luxury of a CD player and cruise control are now pretty standard items for new base level cars.  The impressive growth in Social Media and instant messaging has created a huge vacuum for car designers to fill, so developing systems inside their cars to keep up with this growing trend to satisfy their customer’s hankering for media and phone connections is a must.  The Auxiliary socket, the Bluetooth connectivity feature, built in hard drives and now the ability to stream our library of music through our entertainment screens have all become pretty common on a new current model of car.  Voice activated controls, bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are all recent features that have been designed to keep a vehicle’s driver and occupants constantly connected to people and information.  I don’t think it’s such a great thing to have mobile phone connections inside a car, but then I like driving for driving sake, so who am I to pass judgement.

Crash Avoidance Systems

Since the 1st of November 2014, Europe took a major step forward in mandatory safety features.  In addition to standard electronic stability control systems, all new cars sold in the EU had to be equipped with new safety features like the driver’s seatbelt reminders and ISOFIX child seat anchorage.  As of March 2018, all car manufacturers were required to install eCall, an automatic emergency call system, which reduces the time it takes for an emergency response team to arrive at the scene of the accident.  And, since 2014, auto manufacturers has picked up even more so on the importance of top safety credentials being a consumer’s expectation, and so massive developments in driver assistive technology started to find their way into new cars.  Collision Warning Systems, Pedestrian Alert, Automatic Braking, Blind Spot Information and Cross Traffic Alerts were incorporated to avoid common causes of road traffic accidents.  These are features I do applaud, though I wish there was a way to stop people being so fixated with their mobile phones when travelling in the first place!

Keyless entry, keyless Start and Stop systems, alarms and warning systems are all examples of ever-developing security systems that we find on the new cars today.  And these days you will be struggling to find a vehicle without some sort of satellite navigation connection (a possible cause of many car accidents).  Platforms like MirrorLink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto all allow you to display your maps on your actual car display screen in the centre of the dash (as well as the digital driver’s display on flash cars like an Audi or Mercedes Benz) and the phone’s audio connectivity allows for verbal instruction via voice commands and control.

Have we moved on?  Yes we have, but then the hard task master applying the pressure to always having to come up with something new in order to make more money is an evident presence in all of this.  I wonder if a simple crash avoidance system for those nasty severe head-ons would be a simple barrier down the centre of most major highways and to stay off the phone…

When ADAS Features Fail

I don’t quite know why I’ve become more attentive to learning about a car’s ability to protect its occupants in the event of a collision, along with its ability to avoid the collision altogether in the first place.  I expect it has a lot to do with having close family members who occasionally need to drive themselves places.  Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) are growing in popularity.  ADAS systems can help prevent accidents not only at speed, but also when parked as a stationary car.  ADAS features are designed with one purpose in mind and that is to increase driver and occupant safety.

ADAS features include things like automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection, collision warning systems, cross-traffic alert, forward and rear collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, park assist, pedestrian detection and avoidance systems, cyclist detection and avoidance systems, road sign recognition, active radar cruise control… and the list goes on.  ADAS employs cameras and sensors to detect a potential collision or event and then proceed to activate systems of avoidance if necessary.  These are important safety features which help prevent accidents.

Research on insurance claims that was carried out by LexisNexis Risk Solutions showed that vehicles involved in incidents that had ADAS on-board exhibited a 27% reduction in the frequency of claims made for bodily injury.  The results also showed that vehicles that had ADAS on-board exhibited a 19% reduction in the frequency of claims made for property damage.  Obviously, this would suggest that the systems must be doing some good.

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) revealed that the crash involvement rate for vehicles with blind-spot monitoring was 14% lower than for the same vehicle without the equipment.  Researchers also stated that the study also suggested that if every vehicle sold in the US in 2015 was equipped with blind-spot monitoring, 50,000 crashes and 16,000 crash injuries might have been prevented.

At present, one of the big downsides of the ADAS features is that they are darn expensive.  Not only do they put the price of a new car up, they also make the car costlier to insure because if any of the systems gets damaged the insurance and repair bills are usually eye-watering.  Hopefully, ADAS features will come way down in price and become similar to standard computer software and technology which is, on the whole, a dime-a-dozen now.

The other thing is that I hope ADAS will function 100% of the time correctly as intended, because vehicles designed to be able to automatically brake for objects such as other cars, pedestrians, and cyclists, and to drive themselves inside highway lanes without driver input, is not an exact science.  A slightly frightening example of my concern here is when Volvo was demonstrating its pedestrian AEB technology to journalists in 2016.  Volvo used their V60 model in the demonstration, where it was travelling toward a dummy named Bob.  The V60 didn’t detect Bob being in the way, and so Bob was hit in what was a controlled environment.  An alert driver in the V60 may well have returned a better outcome.

Then shortly after, another Volvo V60 was demonstrating its collision detection and avoidance system where it was to avoid hitting a stationary truck.  The failure to detect and avoid the collision can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNi17YLnZpg

Again, an alert and competent driver could well have resulted in a better outcome, should this have happened in the real world.

In 2018, the IIHS took five new vehicles and tested them.  The Tesla Model 3, the Tesla Model S, the BMW 5 Series, the Mercedes E-Class and the Volvo S90 were the test vehicles.  Each vehicle’s AEB, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist systems were tested.  Some of the problems IIHS encountered was that the AEB didn’t actually work in some vehicles in some circumstances.

In other tests, the IIHS observed: “The BMW 5-series steered toward or across the lane line regularly, requiring drivers to override the steering support to get it back on track.  Sometimes the car disengaged steering assistance on its own.  The car failed to stay in the lane on all 14 valid trials.  The Model S was also errant in the hill tests.”

Sadly, just a couple of years ago an autonomous Uber fitted with even more sensors than any standard ADAS-equipped road car killed a pedestrian at night in the US.  This happened while researchers and designers were conducting public testing.  What this suggests is that the ADAS technology is amazing and good enough to be placed into new cars.  However, it doesn’t mean ADAS will always work as intended, and it does point to the fact that drivers must still always be fully alert at the wheel.  If the driver is not fully alert, the outcome from these system fails can sometimes be way worse than if the driver was fractionally slower to manually override the systems detection time and action times.

I’ve heard of numerous occasions when vehicles have falsely detected situations.  A more common fail is when accident emergency braking (AEB) engaged on-board a car when it shouldn’t have, which meant that the AEB stopped the vehicle abruptly and unexpectedly on a clear road.  At the time, traffic is still coming up behind the vehicle.  Lane keep assist isn’t always that great either, and the results of a high-speed mishap on a main highway is tragic.

ANCAP is Australian’s big car-safety tester, and a recent representative suggested that AEB and lane-keeping assist technology, which is where the car will steer itself, was beginning to be put under the microscope.  This would test for how accurate the system actually is, and if it would actually do the opposite and steer the vehicles into a dangerous situation.  Testing ADAS features should take priority over just saying that the technology is available in the car at the time of crash testing, whereby the appropriate ADAS feature box is ticked and the job done.

ADAS mostly works for the better.  It does raise obvious safety problems, particularly when manufacturers have all the pressure to pack in as many ADAS features into their vehicles as possible for as little cost as possible to remain competitive on the sales front.  This pressure would suggest that these systems could be prone to potentially become unsafe.

With cars loaded with ADAS features, you could also say that drivers of these new vehicles might be tempted to hop on the mobile phone to check messages once they have activated the adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist systems.  Essentially, it becomes easier to break the law; which takes us back to the point that we shouldn’t rely heavily on ADAS technology because it can fail to work.  We don’t often hear this preached at the car sales yard or on new-car adverts.

In Australia, features such as antilock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC) are mandatory in new vehicles that are sold to the public.  These mandatory requirements are set to be pushed to the next level, where automatic emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist would have to be on-board any new vehicle being sold to the public.  Even alcohol detection devices may well be part of these standard requirements.  Europe is set to introduce some of these requirements over the next few years, and Australia is likely to follow the lead.  Newly imported European cars would end up with these features anyways, a win-win for us new-car buyers.

ADAS is good, but we still need to drive our cars.

Small Overlap Crash Test

The influx of all the amazing new electronic safety aids and crash avoidance systems found on-board new cars has been exceptional.  There is no doubt that these systems are helping save lives and minimising injury.  There has been one part of the latest car crash testing regime that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has brought in as part of their testing in order to help make cars safer.

The IIHS is an independent, non-profit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing deaths, injuries and property damage from motor vehicle crashes through their ongoing research and evaluation, and through the education of consumers, policymakers and safety professionals.  The IIHS is funded by auto insurance companies and was established back in 1959.  Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia, USA.  A lot of what the IIHS does is crash test cars in a variety of ways to gather data, analyse the data, and observe the vehicles during and after the crash tests to quantify how safe each car is.  The results and findings are published on their website at IIHS.org.  Car manufacturers have been forced to take these tests seriously because, at the end of the day, these results matter and will affect car sales as the public become informed about how safe their cars will likely be in the event of an accident.

Since 2012, the IIHS has introduced a couple of new tests that they put the vehicles through to see how safe they are in an event of small overlap collision.  The driver-side small overlap frontal test was brought about to help encourage further improvements in vehicle frontal crash protection.  Keeping in mind that these IIHS tests are carried out using cars with left-hand-drive, the test is designed to replicate what happens when the front left corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole.  This crash test is a challenge for some safety belt and airbag designs because occupants move both forward and toward the side of the vehicle from the time of impact.  In the driver-side small overlap frontal test, a vehicle travels at 40 mph (64 km/h) toward a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier.  A Hybrid III dummy representing an average-size man is positioned in the driver seat.  25% percent of the total width of the vehicle strikes the barrier on the driver side.

Most modern cars have safety cages encapsulating the occupant compartment and are built to withstand head-on collisions and moderate overlap frontal crashes with little deformation.  At the same time, crush zones help manage crash energy to reduce forces on the occupant compartment.  The main crush-zone structures are concentrated in the middle 50% of the front end.  When a crash involves these structures, the occupant compartment is protected from intrusion, and front airbags and safety belts can effectively restrain and protect occupants.

However, the small overlap frontal crashes primarily affect a vehicle’s outer edges, which aren’t well protected by the crush-zone structures.  Crash forces go directly into the front wheel, the suspension system and the firewall.  It is not uncommon for the wheel to be forced rearward into the footwell, contributing to even more intrusion into the occupant compartment, which often results in serious leg and foot injuries.  To provide effective protection in these small overlap crashes, the safety cage needs to resist crash forces that haven’t been amplified, concentrated on one area or aren’t tempered by crush-zone structures.  Widening these front-end crash protection structures does help.

The IIHS also performs the passenger-side small overlap frontal test.  The passenger-side test is the same as the driver-side test, except the vehicle overlaps the barrier on the right side.  In addition, instead of just one Hybrid III dummy, there are two — one in the driver seat and one in the passenger seat.

Automotive manufacturers initially responded to these driver-side small overlap test results by improving vehicle structures and airbags, and most vehicles now earn good ratings.  However, IIHS research tests demonstrated that those improvements didn’t always carry over to the passenger side.  Discrepancies between the left and right sides of vehicles spurred the IIHS to develop a passenger-side small overlap test and begin issuing passenger-side ratings in 2017.

It is good that vehicle safety always seems to be on the improve and, with each new model, the new-car buyer can expect a safer vehicle.  Thanks to crash testers like the IIHS, ANCAP and Euro NCAP, we are experiencing safer cars on our roads.

Don’t Buy a Car Without These Active Safety Features

Shopping for a new car will introduce you to a swathe of new features that you probably never even knew existed. While you may have your eyes set on a particular vehicle, it never hurts to consider your other options. So once you line up car finance, it pays to check what is in demand within the car industry these days.

From different types of performance oriented specs, to efficiency features and even amenity perks, there are wide variances from one car to the next. Arguably however, none of these come close to the importance that safety features hold. On that note, here are 5 key active safety aids that you should be on the lookout for.

Of course, you’ll also have the now-standard ABS, airbags, brakes and the like, but the following ‘active’ features are among those yet to become standard in all cars. If your next car doesn’t have all of these features, we say keep searching.

 

Autonomous Emergency Braking

Fast becoming a standard feature on many new cars, this is a potentially life-saving technology for all road users. It incorporates a range of sensors and a camera that keeps an eye on the car’s distance from other things within its proximity – typically, people and other cars, albeit objects too.

If an obstruction is detected and the car is on course to collide with it, the vehicle will sound alerts and automatically begin to brake. AEB comes in various forms of sophistication, with more recent formats of the technology working to detect cyclists and pedestrians.

Driver Fatigue Detection

Known by a few different names, driver fatigue detection technology uses sensors within the cabin to monitor the driver for signs of drowsiness. It does this by looking for any sudden movements or rapid changes in the drivers posture, which is considered a potential sign that the person may have drifted off or lost concentration.

If you love getting away for the weekend on long drives this is an essential piece of equipment and thankfully, more cars are starting to feature it, although it is usually reserved for higher spec variants in a car company’s line-up.

 

Rear cross traffic alerts

It was previously thought that a reversing camera would be sufficient to keep an eye on any hazards while reversing. The number of incidents that still take place however, suggests otherwise. After all, vision is often impaired adjacent to the rear bumper.

Rear cross traffic alerts are designed to keep an eye behind and to each side of you while reversing and alert you to any potential hazards that you could collide with. It measures and interprets the speed, distance and anticipated path other vehicles may take. The range extends to as much as 50m, so it is particularly useful when reversing from a spot where your visibility to each side of the car is limited.

 

Blind spot monitoring

As every motorist would know, sometimes that blind spot can be a major problem when changing lanes. This technology is designed to monitor adjacent lanes for vehicles and alert the driver via sound or light that a car is travelling in the adjacent lane they may wish to merge in. If you travel in peak hour traffic regularly, this could make your journey a much safer one.

 

Lane departure warning

Using a series of cameras that keep track of the lines on the road, lane departure warning will alert you if you are about to veer from your lane. If it detects this is about to happen, the car may automatically readjust its positioning so that it returns into its lane.

 

Make sure your next car has all these features, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Top Six Tips For Ending The School Run Motoring Madness

If you listen carefully, you might hear the sound of parents (and quite a few children) cheering because the long summer holidays are over and it’s time for the school year to start.  Or maybe you won’t hear the cheering because all you can hear is the sound of traffic as everybody carts the little nippers to school.

I don’t suppose I’m the only person with grown-up children who avoids certain parts of the road at certain times of day, namely the places nearest the school and the times when school is starting and finishing.  We all know that the traffic goes mad at this time of day, with everybody wanting to pick up their kids or drop them off, depending on what the case may be.

I get it, I really do.  I’ve brought up kids and got them to school, and I appreciate how you want your children to arrive on time and safely.  I can understand how you’re busy and how you need to fit the school run into a hectic day.  However, there are things that we can all do to ease the congestion a bit so that there is less chance of an accident.  After all, if the road outside the school is madly full of cars of all sizes all trying to get the best parking spots to pick up young Jack and Olivia, then there is more chance of what the traffic analysts will coldly call a “human–vehicle conflict” and what everybody else calls a tragic accident.

So what can we do to make sure that everybody gets their kids to school and back safely? Now that the school year is starting off, here my six best ideas that you might like to apply.

  1. Do the kids actually need to be dropped off at the gate? This is where I trot out the old “I had to walk to school” speech, although I had to walk along a main road rather than through the snow, barefoot and uphill both ways. If your children are reasonably fit and active, and they have good traffic awareness around driveways and intersections (especially if there are good traffic lights or pedestrian crossings), then consider having the kids walk to school. It’s good exercise for them – and possibly you.  If the school is within 2 km of your home and your children are over 10, then there probably isn’t any good reason why they can’t walk themselves to school.
  2. Can you stay out of the crazy congestion zone? If the school is a bit further away and/or your regular commute takes you near it, then you could consider dropping the kids off outside the crazy zone right outside the school.  For example, instead of taking that detour on the way to work to drop the kids at the school gate, why not drop them off where you would have turned off? If they’re too young to walk alone, then park the car and walk with them for those last few blocks to the school gate. If they’re old enough to walk alone… well, they’re probably at the age when having Mummy walk with them to school is embarrassing anyway.
  3. Try carpooling. If you are not the only person on your street who does the school run, or if your kids go to the same after-school activities as someone else at the same school, then maybe it’s time to organise a car pool. This will be limited by the number of seats in your vehicle, of course.  Perhaps it’s time to think about getting a seven-seat MPV? However, car pooling can be a great way to build community and make some connections.
  4. Don’t double-park. If your only option is to drop the kids off at school yourself, then be a courteous driver. Don’t double park so that you can drop the youngsters off as close as possible to the gate. Double-parking makes things extremely difficult for those who are still learning how to cross the road as well as being supremely annoying for other drivers.  It’s also illegal.  Even if you’re not technically parked but are just stopping just for a moment to just let the kids out, still don’t do it.
  5. Keep out of any No Parking zones. Yes, your children are special, valuable and important. So are everybody else’s children. Let’s all respect the No Parking zones and don’t think that the rules don’t apply to you because you’re doing it for your children and they come first.
  6. If your school drop-off zone has time limits, respect them. Quite a few school have “kiss and run” drop-off points where you can stop for long enough to drop the kids off and say goodbye with a hug or kiss (if your kids are young enough to let you do this).  If we all respect the time limits here, then these systems will work.  These places are not the time to discuss lost homework, nosebleeds, etc. If an emergency arises, deal with it further down the street, not in the “kiss and run” spot.

Oh yes – if you want to try any of the ideas that involve children walking and there’s a chance that they’ll be late, you can take advantage of the fact that children who are old enough to walk by themselves are also at the age when parents are embarrassing because they exist.  Acquire some ghastly piece of clothing and state that if you have to drop them off because they mucked around and are now running late, you will do so wearing said item of clothing IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY.  It works.

Driving the Hours of Darkness

One of my favourite times for driving is at night or in the early morning; and by early morning I mean well before ‘sparrow’s fart’.  The roads are mostly empty and everything is quiet and serene.  It is possible to travel during the hours of darkness and quite quickly cover the ground.  Here are some definite advantages of travelling by night, with a few of the disadvantages thrown in as well.

First of all there is nothing quite like the fresh, cool air that you get during nightfall.  A lot of the wildlife has settled for the night and the night air has a pristine smell that I love.  When you get out and stretch and take a break during the night drive, the air is always satisfying and refreshing – but just as long as it’s not a frog strangling gulley washer!  You can hear the silence with only the odd chirp or bark, squeak or rustle of wind filling the air.  Just after midnight, the roads are mostly empty and it can be an ideal time to drive.  You will get the odd long haul truck unit doing the intercity run, but on the whole, I find driving at night to be pretty relaxing.

Who doesn’t like getting places faster?  At night, driving with very few other vehicles on the road means that you can keep up a steadier speed at higher velocity which allows you to cover the ground in a shorter amount of time.  You can hit the speed limit and stay at it for longer.  This is a win-win because it also links in with fuel efficiency, which I’ll touch on later.

Not having the sun about means the night air is cooler, which is a phenomenon that’s rather nice in a hot sunny country by-day – like it is in Australia.  Your air-conditioning requirements are not quite so demanding, therefore avoiding the need to pump through gallons of cool fresh air at maximum levels in order to keep cool inside the car.  You also have less heat streaming in through the closed windows and onto your skin, another nice feature about night driving.  Sun strike is not a problem, either.

If you are getting from A to B quicker at night, then it is obvious that the lack of traffic will mean that the drive will be more fuel efficient.  Because there are fewer cars on the road, your speed is even and you avoid the stop and go motion of other cars around you.  There actions and choices slow you down, and the more of these the slower you go as they the weave in and out of your lane and generally make life more stressful. Because you’re avoiding other cars by travelling at night, you are going to get better fuel efficiency.  A steady higher speed is good for economy.  Putting a lighter load on the air-conditioning system by driving at night in the cooler air is also good for fuel economy.  More economic, cooler, more relaxed, quicker and more fuel efficient at night: now who doesn’t like that?

When you do need to refuel at a gas station, getting fuel at night is a breeze, with nobody around other than the sleepy cashier.  And there are even no cashiers at card-only fuel stations.

As with most things, there can be a downside to night driving.  Yes, you could get sleepy when driving during the hours that you’re normally in bed.  Not many shops open; and should you want to stop for a sleep, then most motels are closed up by 9/10 pm.  Kangaroos and other larger creatures still wander, shuffle or bounce onto the road from seemingly out of nowhere in the dark.  They can even do this in daylight, mind you…

Driving at night is/or can be fun and enjoyable.  I personally enjoy it but realise that it’s not for everyone.  After I have done a long haul at night, I do tend to take things pretty cruisy the next day, while ensuring I get a great night’s sleep the following night.  I sense a few roadies coming on; it is the festive season, after all.

MG Powers Up With Australian Release of ZS EV.

Historic nameplate MG joins the EV revolution with the all-new, full-electric MG ZS EV compact SUV. Now available to customers in Australia and New Zealand in one trim level only, it’s the cheapest EV available with a drive-away price of $43,990. That price includes an eight year, 160,000 kilometre battery warranty, and a five year, unlimited kilometre, car warranty. Roadside assistance is included for five years.It’s a price that is sure to attract keen interest. The CEO of MG Australia and New Zealand, Peter Ciao, said: “Until now, buyers have had to pay a premium price for an EV. This has meant that only a small portion of the public can afford to buy an EV. Our vision at MG Motor is to change this situation by making electric vehicles available and accessible to everyone. By removing the affordability barrier, we are seeking to fast track EV adoption in Australia and New Zealand.” MG have located the charge port for the front electric motor rated at 105kW and 353Nm at a central point. Charging is provided via a standard CCS2 socket located conveniently behind the grille. The flexibility comes from plugging in a standard household socket or a DC charge cable up to 350kW. This will bring the battery to 80 percent charge from zero in just 45 minutes. At home, it’s a standard overnight charge time for the 44.5kW battery, itself an in-house development by MG. The company is just one of three to have their own battery building facility.That battery size allows for the MG ZS EV to look at a range of just over 260 kilometres. It also endows the MG ZS EV with a 0-100kph time of a scintillating 3.1 seconds from a 1,532kg body, just 50kg heavier than a standard ZS. There are three drive modes to take advantage of, being Eco, Normal, and Sport.

The sole trim level doesn’t skimp on the niceties. Above the passengers is a Panoramic Stargazer glass roof, and at a surface coverage area of 90%, it’s one of the largest of its type. The fronts eat passengers have an 8.0 inch touchscreen complete with Apple and Android smartphone connectivity, satnav, and six speaker audio. drive selection is via a rotary gear selector and there are three regenerative modes.

The dimensions (4,314mm length, 1,809mm wide, 1,644mm tall on a 2,585mm wheelbase) provide plenty of head, leg, and shoulder room as well, along with a flat rear floor that provides up to 1,166L worth of cargo space when the 60/40 splitfold rears are folded. The leather seats have tight stitching and are well padded for comfort. Outside is the familiar “London Eye” headlight design and dual-tone alloys at 17 inches in diameter. Exterior colour choices will include one that is exclusive to the ZS EV, Clipper Blue. Buyers can also choose from Diamond Red metallic paint, Regal Blue,, metallic paint, and Dover White or Pebble Black.MG Pilot is the main safety system including Adaptive Cruise Control, Front Collision and Lane Departure Warning, plus Emergency Braking, and Speed Assist. It’s a five star safety rating for the MG ZS EV, with a high torsional strength cabin and rigidity factor. The battery has been certified independently to be fire, submersion, dust, pressure, impact, and salt spray resistant.

Our friends over at Exhaust Notes Australia attended the launch, and have provided this initial review

‘Electric for everyone’
MG Motor’s parent company, SAIC Motor, has invested heavily in electric as well as other new energy vehicle technologies, processes and battery production, making it one of only a handful of auto manufacturers to own its EV supply chain. In 2019, that expertise resulted in the production of more than 185,000 electric vehicles, making it one of the top five EV producers globally by volume. MG Motor now brings this experience to the local market, enabling it to deliver state-of-the-art EV technology at the best value and packed with features.