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Safety

New Cars and Software Updates

How would you react if you had to pay for the apps that appear on the touchscreen of your new car?  Various auto manufacturers are looking at new ways to charge owners money for features that were previously sold as an option for the car when you bought it new.  One idea that has shown up in their brainstorming sessions was to charge car owners subscription fees for features like Apple CarPlay and its phone-pairing connectivity – as BMW is already doing.  Of course, this has been a feature that has been included for free on many mainstream cars.

Perhaps not so surprising to many would be the results that Cox Automotive collected, which were collected from a survey that asked a relatively small group of a little over 200 people about their thoughts and attitudes towards having to pay over and over again for features that used to be included at the point of sale.  Around 75% of the survey respondents would refuse to pay for features on an ongoing basis.

When asked about having to pay for any safety features on an ongoing basis, the survey showed that around 80% would not want to pay for these safety items again and again.  However, if forced to, these same respondents would be prepared to pay up to $35 per month.  I’m not sure whether the people surveyed were by enlarge high-flyers or a decent cross-section of society that included your average wage earner.  This cost per month was the highest level that these respondents would be prepared to pay for them if they were forced to.

A full 92% of respondents said that the physical items like heated and cooled seats, massage functions, or a refrigerated drinks box should be purchased as a one-off-at-the-point-of-sale option, just like anyone does now when they buy a new car with extra options.

A new car these days is full of computerised technology, so any software updates or subscription fees for software enhancements, EV power upgrades, satellite or vehicle locator enhancements need to be paid for somewhere along the line.  The funny thing is that, even as with a standard Office update on a desktop, the real-life software updates rarely have any significant practical benefits in real-life usage for the user.  Sometimes a new desktop Office update can even complicate things with the user having to relearn the fifth new visual format and appearance update in two years – I know, I was probably exaggerating.

I guess I would be prepared to pay for a driving range enhancement or a better battery capacity after purchasing a new EV, though I guess this could be a bargaining carrot for keeping a customer longer and loyal to a brand, or even enticing them to buy a certain car in the first place.

Interestingly, around 50% of the survey respondents weren’t even aware that subscription fees for car features were a prerequisite.  Rising costs that grow quicker than someone’s usable income is never a welcome scenario, so these sorts of surveys and results will hopefully provide auto manufacturers with the necessary feedback from their customers, and on the customers’ tolerance for any new additional fees in general.

Solid-State Batteries for EVs

The flourish of new electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids on the auto markets hint towards the diminishing of fossil fuel use.  EV sales have a long, long way to go before outselling vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICEs), but the goals have been set by international emission standard agreements.  Certainly, doing away with EV range anxiety, the liquid lithium-ion batteries proneness to catching fire, having EVs with brief recharging times that are in line with current ICE refuelling times, and have pricing parity between a new EV and an equivalent new ICE vehicle would make a world of difference in the minds of people on the lookout for a new car.  Once these EV problems have been solved, perhaps consumers will genuinely buy into an all-EV future.

The good news for EV enthusiasts is that essentially every big automotive manufacturer in the world has unveiled its fleet’s electrification plans and zero-emission target dates. Some manufacturers have even gone further, declaring that gasoline and diesel engines would no longer be available in their model line-ups by 2050.  And, in order for these claims to become reality, some big landmark advancements in the EV future are being made right now, with huge money currently being pumped into various manufacturer’s kitties to research and create the perfect solid-state battery – especially designed for use in EVs.

One automotive manufacturer with a big sway in what goes down in the automotive world is Toyota, and they have pumped billions into creating a solid-state battery for use in their future hybrid vehicles and EVs.  A version of Toyota’s LQ Concept, which first debuted at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, is now using working solid-state batteries, and has been doing so since June 2020.  Toyota has been collecting all the performance data from the solid state batteries in the LQ for research, development, and better solid-state battery designs.  The LQ Concept car is unlikely to end up as a production vehicle, however the solid-state batteries inside the car, and their development, will be used as a blueprint in Toyota’s new hybrid vehicles and EVs soon to make an appearance on the market for buyers to purchase.

Toyota LQ Concept Solid-State

Toyota’s quick development of solid-state batteries for use in all their hybrid and electric vehicles by 2030 is a sign of the ramping up in EV production that is happening not only at Toyota but in all other big global automotive brands who are boosting investments in the anticipation of greater EV and hybrid vehicle consumerism.

What battery type does Tesla use?  Currently, Tesla has been using heavy liquid lithium-ion battery technology.  However solid-state batteries are really the next step in clever battery technology, especially for EVs.  Why?  Solid-state batteries offer much better energy density, which leads to smaller, lighter batteries for cars but with a vastly improved range before recharging is necessary.  Solid-state batteries will also be able to recharge from empty (flat) to 80 % in just 15 min – not anywhere between 2 to 10 hours that is currently the norm, if you can find a spare fast charger to park up at.

The good news for solid-state batteries doesn’t stop here either, because solid-state batteries are inherently safer due to the lack of flammable liquid electrolytes that you’ll find in liquid lithium-ion batteries.  You may have heard of various electronic devices bursting into flame?  Well, liquid lithium-ion batteries bursting into flame and causing fires in various EVs over the last couple of decades has been an issue.  This in itself has deterred many people away from buying into EVs altogether.

So, big dollars are being spent in the design of solid electrolyte batteries (solid-state batteries) that are stable, chemically inert, and still a good conductor of ions between the electrodes.  In essence solid-state batteries will be doing away with the slopping, flammable liquid lithium-ion electrolyte battery designs.

By default, solid-state batteries are more stable, but they are also more compact in design, and therefore lighter.  Solid state batteries thus pack more energy output into the same amount of storage space that heavier and lower-output liquid lithium-ion batteries require.  Because solid-state batteries are lighter, they have more energy density, offer more range, and deliver a better power to weight ratio, and they also recharge faster.

Solid-state batteries have been used in small electronic devices like pacemakers (an amazing bit of life-changing tech) as well as radio frequency identification (RFID), and wearable devices for years.  Having fewer bits and pieces involved in the solid-state battery design means fewer things are present to go wrong.  In addition to their improved safety, size, and stability, solid-state batteries in EVs would also offer faster charging times, more travel range, and even greater energy density.

Solid electrolytes in solid-state batteries can even be composed from a number of everyday materials – even ceramics and glass.  The challenge to making solid-state batteries viable, however, is developing the technology that is commonly used in small devices and applying it to large-scale applications like in an EV.  Currently, solid state batteries are expensive to fabricate because they have been prone to cracking, which has been a result of the brittleness of the electrolytes inside the battery expanding and contracting during continual use.  The new research and development is setting out to change this.

Toyota is cracking the problem and will be using their solid-state batteries in their new range of hybrid vehicles first, which is an ideal testing ground for their fully-kitted EVs soon.  Volkswagen is also promising that they will have solid-state batteries in use and in their cars by 2024.  Like Toyota and Volkswagen, BMW anticipates that solid-state batteries could make it into production cars by 2025.  Tech giants Samsung and Panasonic are working away at creating a range of solid state batteries that automakers will be able to use.  Toyota has partnered with Panasonic to pave the way to an EV future.

What to Look for in a Family Car

The humble family car has become central to the everyday life of Australians right around the country. Whether it’s the school run, day trips or weekends away, you want to ensure that you have a vehicle that is cut out for the task.

With that, there are certain traits that endear themselves well when it comes to picking up a great family car. We take a look at some of these key features so that you know what to look for when searching for your next family car.

 

First-rate safety technology

When it comes to the family car, this is one area you don’t want to sacrifice. After all, nothing is more important than the wellbeing of your family, so it only makes sense to see to it that you protect them in every which way.

Opt for a vehicle that has a five-star ANCAP safety rating. These cars have passed strict testing to ensure they are among the safest vehicles on the road. You’ll also want to make sure that the car is equipped with the latest safety technology, including the likes of ABS, AEB, lane-departure and lane-keep assistance, blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alerts, reversing cameras and more.

Spend a little more on these areas, it doesn’t hurt to be safe and secure.

 

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Comfort, amenity and space

For those long trips on the road, who doesn’t value a bit of extra comfort and leg room to keep everyone happy?

While the value of having additional seating cannot be overlooked – and it’s something we’ll touch on shortly – it’s also important to have space that allows everyone to be at ease.

Look for supportive and ergonomic seating, large windows (with sunshades) that afford rear-seated occupants plenty of visibility, and also rear climate control. Happy family, happy life!

 

Entertainment

As technology has become so ingrained in the latest vehicles, an increasing number of cars are equipped with fantastic entertainment options.

This includes in-car entertainment systems with rear-screens, but just as important – given our dependence on mobiles – is smartphone integration. It goes without saying, make sure there are plenty of ports available to recharge those mobiles as well!

 

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Practicality

As a family you’ll often head out for a variety of purposes. This means that you’ll need a car with practicality to allow for such flexibility. Whether it be off-roading capabilities to help you embark on those camping plans, additional boot space for the kids’ sports gear, or compartments to keep all those extra items you need at hand, there is great value in searching for a car that is as much an ‘all-rounder’ as anything.

 

Extra seating

Earlier we briefly touched on the trade-off that comes with extra seating and leg room for everyone. Of course, it’s great to have capacity for up to 8 occupants, but if that means cramped conditions, no one will enjoy that. Fortunately, many of the latest SUVs and people-movers include third-row seats that can be configured and folded away when you don’t need them. The perfect solution to balance that predicament!

 

There you have it, these are the key things to look for in your next family car!

It’s School Run Time Again!

Well, the start of another school year is upon us, which means that the roads at certain times of the day are going to be super-busy as mums and dads do the school run.  If your child is starting school for the first time or if he/she is going to a new school that’s beyond walking distance, you might be wondering about doing the school run for the first time.  What do you need to know?  And how do you get your car ready for the school run?

First of all, figure out whether you want to be part of a car pool scheme or whether you’re only going to pick up and drop off your own kids.  This depends on a number of factors, including how large your family is and where all the other families involved in the car pool scheme live. It also depends on how large your family vehicle is.  If what’s handy for the school run is a smaller two-door hatchback that requires passengers to do a fair bit of clambering in order to be squished in the back seat, then you may not be all that popular.  However, if you have a minivan or MPV handy, then you’re probably the obvious choice for doing the school run.

If you choose to go down the car pool route, then sit down and negotiate everything with the others involved in the scheme. What happens when someone is ill or has an unexpected meeting at an awkward time? If someone has to do the lion’s share of the driving (that person with the seven-seater, for example), how will they be compensated for the extra fuel (or power) costs? Will the car pool only be for the mornings, or will it be for afternoons as well – and what happens when one (or more) of the kids has after-school sports or drama or something along those lines? Carpooling, while good in theory, might not work for everybody in all situations.

Getting The Car Ready

Here, we’ll assume that your situation is like mine: two kids and no nearby families, so you’re doing the school run on your own. Do you need to do anything to get your car ready specifically for the school run?

Your car will already be set up in many ways for carrying your own kids (booster seats, for example) but there may be a few more things that you need to think about. For example, will you carry school bags in the boot or in the car cabin? What happens if someone has to carry an extra-big delicate school project – where will that go? How will you make sure that the inevitable paper notices that kids come out of school clutching at the end of the school day don’t get lost in all the other bits that creep into a car’s cabin over time (we’ve all been there!). If you have some sort of system, the chances that an important notice will get lost in the seat-back storage pocket or in the footwell will be minimised.

Other things you might want to get ready include:

  • Having USB chargers ready to go in case someone needs to charge their phone, tablet or laptop – especially if they have only just realised that the laptop has low battery and they’re going to be the first person to present a speech when they get to school.
  • Snacks for after school. Kids are often hungry after a busy day, and this can make them grumpy and whiny, especially if you end up getting stuck in a traffic jam. Dried fruit, nuts, rice crackers and bliss balls are all easy to store in the glove box to restore flagging blood sugar levels while still being reasonably healthy.
  • An umbrella. Weather can be fickle, and if you opt to park further down the road then walk to meet your kids at the school gate, there will inevitably be a day when you didn’t think it was going to rain but…

Cleaning your car before the school year begins is your choice, although I’d recommend giving the inside a good vacuum just to give it that fresh, new feeling that you always get at the start of a new school year. If your kids are old enough to be embarrassed by a dirty car exterior, or if they’re old enough to find writing “Clean Me” messages in the dust funny, they’re old enough to be made to wash the car themselves.  You could make going to the car wash a bit of a weekly ritual – perhaps at the end of the week.

School Run Etiquette

When you do the school run, it’s important to be courteous and considerate of other parents and other children. Don’t go all Mama Bear, ready to run roughshod all over other people in order to get your kids.  Every other parent is as stressed and protective as you are.  What’s more, congestion and visibility are real hazards around school gates at the busy times of day.  To ensure that everybody stays safe, follow the etiquette rules:

  • Don’t double-park, park in bus stops or park in No Parking zones. Parking a little way down the road and having a short walk won’t do you or your kids any harm.
  • Keep your speed down, no matter how busy or rushed for time you are.
  • Respect zebra crossings – that’s a no brainer.
  • Don’t honk your horn to get your child’s attention.
  • Avoid getting into silly status games with other parents involving fashion, achievements and vehicle type.
  • Respect rules such as the time limit in the “kiss and run” zones.
  • Model the sort of patience that you would expect your kids to demonstrate, especially regarding places in the queue, waiting your turn and so forth.
  • If someone else breaks these rules, refrain from shouting corrections and comments out the window. You don’t want to be a Karen.

An MPV – Great for School Runs!

Is it Time All Drivers Learn First Aid?

It’s a topic that rears its head every now and then, yet continually the issue has been overlooked by authorities.

We pay particular attention to the road toll, yet for some reason one of the efforts we could employ to mitigate this issue hasn’t warranted a national response. Why is first aid training not compulsory for every motorist, and should it be part of our licensing requirements?

When you put things into perspective, we spend a considerable amount of our lives driving from point A to point B. We may be lucky to escape accidents but the chances of seeing one, either take place or the result thereof, are far greater. And even though our cars have become a lot safer through technological innovation, poor driving habits and behaviours have crept into our society and created larger issues.

On that note, it’s time we also start to prepare drivers by training them to engage in reactive behaviour in the form of being a first responder. As it currently stands, the overwhelming majority of drivers and bystanders are ill equipped to administer first aid at an accident scene. In fact, in what should be viewed as a major concern, many wouldn’t even know where to begin. Even I know, that despite my former first aid training, it’s a moment you can never be entirely prepared for as shock sets in and time stands still.

Now let me clarify, bystanders and other motorists shouldn’t be expected to fill the void of professional emergency services personnel. However, in the event of an accident, every second matters. Early treatment can be the difference between life and death. And in the moments where emergency services personnel need to fight traffic to make it to the scene of an accident, those seconds are potentially ticking away.

Even in the absence of specific treatment, a bystander with composure to secure the scene, or calm the anxieties of those involved in the incident is an invaluable asset. These are specific elements to first aid training, which every motorist should be taught as part of their licensing requirements. Whereas drivers cover a gamut of issues concerning driving technique and etiquette, there is no reason why we shouldn’t all be equipped to administer first aid as a first responder in the event of an accident.

The course would be easy to include as part of our license tests, and it could also be renewed on a periodic basis along with our licenses. Several countries in Europe already adopt this approach, and if we want to keep up with the rest of the world, it’s time we start paying attention to the issues on our roads that really matter.

What Tyre do I Need?

Tyres are the most crucial component to any drive.  Safety matters out there on the roads, and ensuring that you have a good set of tyres rolling beneath your car makes all the difference to aspects of driving like your stopping ability, road holding capacity and anti-aquaplaning.

What the heck is aquaplaning?  You may have experienced aquaplaning already when driving on a wet road and in the rain where puddles have formed over the road.  Hit these puddles at a reasonable speed, and the tyres can skid over the top of the puddles, causing complete loss of traction to whichever tyre is aquaplaning at the time.  Aquaplaning and sliding in the wet can and unfortunately does cause accidents.

Obviously, slowing down in the wet helps lessen the chance of having an aquaplane experience.  However, there are other aspects to the tyre which can affect how your tyres will cope with puddles and water on the road during wet driving conditions.  The condition of the tyre, the tread pattern the tyre has, and the amount of tread depth left on the tyre all decide how your tyre will cope with wet road conditions. These three components combined with how fast your car is travelling are the main players to whether or not you’ll roll through the puddle, displacing the water, or skid over the top of the puddle in much the same way as a skim board does in the shallow water at the beach.

Tyres are the only element of a car that is in contact with the ground while driving.  Choosing the right tyres can increase the entire performance of your vehicle.  Every tyre has its strengths and weaknesses.  Some tyres are long-lasting, while others offer better grip.  Some tyres are designed to be quiet and smooth while driving, while others have a tread pattern designed for better fuel consumption.  There are tyre testers out there like, Tyre Lab at www.thetyrelab.com, that single out tyres that perform best for all road conditions or for certain types of road conditions.  However, it is a fairly well-known fact that the more you invest in a tyre, the better the tyre quality will be and, consequently, the safer your driving experience.  That said, you might be surprised (or not) at which tyres are rated highly for braking, anti -aquaplaning and road holding by The Tyre Lab.

By law, in Australia the minimum tread depth for a tyre is 1.5 mm.  When it’s raining, the tread is responsible for securing contact between the tyre and the road, effectively pushing the water out from under the tyre as it rolls along.

Need new tyres?

First, find out the specifications in size and type from your car’s manufacturer, and this is the best size to go for.  You can also find out what kind of tyres you need, by looking on the side wall of your current tyres.  You will see a combination of characters which look a bit like this: 215/55R17 94H.  If your car has been mucked with, then make sure you check the manufacturer’s specs.

You will need to have an idea of how much you are going to spend at the tyre shop.  Choosing between a premium tyre and value is not always easy, or maybe it’s just too easy.  There are even budget tyres, which can be good if you aren’t into driving quickly, however, if you do go for these, they won’t have the best grip for all occasions and for emergency situations in the wet and dry.

Tyre choice really does come down to your own individual needs, the weather conditions and climate you’ll be driving in, how icy or cold the roads can get, how hot it is, and definitely how hard and fast you drive your car.

Not all tyres are the same.  So, if you buy a premium tyre that is designed with performance ability and grip for extreme hard and fast driving, but you drive like a snail, you’ll be perfectly safe in all road conditions.  If on the other hand you drive like a racing car driver, where you pass every other car in sight, and yet you are driving with budget tyres, your safety and the safety of others will be massively compromised.

There are those of us who drive within the law and try to maintain a decent speed in all road and weather conditions.  We will try and slowdown in the wet for example.  We all need to be driving safely, yet it does help to know just what sort of tyres are on the car you drive and what they are capable of out there on the road.  Just as equally-valid is knowing just what your tyres are not capable of.  There is nothing worse than losing traction or have a tyre’s integrity let go in a life threatening situation.

Every journey is dependent on the performance of your tyres and their effect on your driving.  Tyres impact on your steering, acceleration, handling, and braking. They’re also a key part of your car’s suspension and braking systems.  If you don’t have the right tyres for your car, tyres that are legal and in good shape, you’re putting yourself, your passengers and other road users at risk.

Budget tyres versus Premium tyres

Even though all tyres look pretty much the same, the difference between a budget tyre and a quality tyre is huge.  It comes down to the fact that the quality of the materials used in creating a premium tyre just can’t be replicated in a cheaply-made tyre.

Premium tyres have to meet high standards and are therefore made with more steel and specially formulated rubber and silica compounds.  These high quality tyre materials ensure that the final product is much stronger, longer-lasting, and one that offers better grip than a cheap tyre option.

Premium tyre manufacturers focus on research and development, and often they will be linked with the motorsport world where competition in tyres really matters.  Years of testing has proven that premium tyres do perform better and more consistently than a cheaper tyre alternative.

Premium tyres generally include names like: Dunlop, Michelin, Pirelli, Bridgestone, Kumho, Hankook and Continental.  Manufacturers of quality tyres will achieve higher standards than a budget or value tyre in all aspects of a tyre’s job prescription.  This will include: good grip for all driving conditions, exceptional wet and dry braking, superior handling at any speed, a higher impact damage threshold, better load-carrying capability, a longer service life (unless, of course, they are track racing tyres with a super-soft compound for ultimate grip on the track), better fuel economy, improved driving comfort; reduced noise, vibration and harshness.

We hope this was helpful.

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…