Auto Infotainment Systems Are the New Black—Here’s Why We Should Think Twice About How We Engage Them

While powerful auto infotainment systems are becoming hugely popular among drivers and passengers alike, they can also prove to be a problem if they aren’t designed intuitively. Distracted driving is a real issue that causes real fatalities—it’s time we learn how to use all the fun and fancy gadgets, touchscreens, and wireless capability in a manner that is conducive to safety rather than a hindrance to it.

Nowadays, everything from climate control to turn-by-turn navigation can be managed through in-dash computer systems. Even in-drive high definition movies are possible through HDMI ports built right into cars. However, because these systems are so new, both users and developers are fairly unfamiliar with how they will be utilized—thus far, there have really not been any checks and balances put in place with infotainment systems and their end users. And while developers are keen on adapting to the learning curve, drivers mostly aren’t.

According to Egil Juliussen, a researcher and analyst from HIS Automotive, drivers spend very little time getting to know their onboard computer systems before hitting the road. Compared to getting to know a smartphone or tablet, users just aren’t that excited about learning to operate vehicular computers—that means a lot of learning curves are being overcome while cars are rolling down the highway or cruising surface streets. Learning while driving is not the ideal scenario and it genuinely puts human lives at risk.

The fragmentation of the market isn’t helping, either, as systems differ between automakers. That means menus, buttons, and features vary from brand to brand, making it even more difficult for drivers to become accustomed to in-car technology when they switch from one brand to another or in two (or more) car households.

Additionally, because state-of-the-art infotainment systems are usually reserved for higher-priced autos, younger, less financially established, but more technologically literate car buyers aren’t generally the ones using infotainment systems. In direct contrast, it is the drivers in the older demographic—those who are more likely to be able to afford luxury automobiles—who are privy to technology they are less likely to understand.

Unfortunately, the problem is also due in part to the inexperience of many automakers. While car manufacturers are eager to jump on the bandwagon, their inability to design advanced infotainment systems that are more intuitive and user-friendly results in a final product that works against the grain of what many drivers have been accustomed to over decades of driving.

Many onboard infotainment systems just don’t work as they are intended to. For example, 20 percent of people who own Infinity Q50 sedans have reported issues with the car’s Intouch system. Ford’s MyTouch was long disparaged for being one of the worst infotainment systems on the market. However, updates and time have improved the user experience greatly in both the Q50 and Ford’s MyTouch—maybe that’s just what the auto infotainment industry really needs: more time. Undoubtedly, as the years go on, more and more innovations will result in onboard infotainment technology becoming something the most tech savvy to the least will want to explore to its fullest potential.

Are You Still Able To Drive Safely? Facing the Truth About Letting Go of Your License

There comes a time in every elderly person’s life when consideration to giving up his or her driver’s license becomes a reality. If you find yourself in that position because you are dealing with this realization for yourself or have parents or grandparents who should probably relinquish the car keys, here are a few pieces of advice for determining if it really is the time to let go.

First of all, it is important to remember that age is not the deciding factor when reasoning for the revocation of a driver’s license. Many licensed drivers are in their 80s and above, and are able to drive as safely as anyone else on the road. There are numerous variables that must be taken into consideration beyond age when determining whether a person is still fit to be operating a vehicle.

We must consider a person’s physical and mental state, not simply how many birthdays they have had. The real concerns should be things like conditions affecting vision, including cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration, which can all interfere with driving ability. Talk to your or your parent’s optometrist or ophthalmologist to identify any probable issues related to vision that could make driving dangerous for you or them and other motorists.

Driving is also a skill that requires dexterity and body strength. If there are possible physical limitations, then it is critical that they be addressed. If you or your parent are smaller statured due to arthritis or osteoporosis, adjusting the driver’s seat or adding a pillow made especially for the driver’s seat can help greatly.

Debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s can cause dangerous situations while driving. Men and women with diabetes can possibly fall into a diabetic coma while on the road. A history of heart attack could mean cardiac arrest could occur while behind the wheel. And the list goes on. Be sure to speak with a doctor and discuss the possible risks any diseases or disabilities can have on operating an automobile.

Medications can also directly affect driving ability. Because drugs utilize chemicals that alter brain activity, this can have a significant impact on you or your parent’s aptitude while driving. Be very aware of possible side effects of any prescription medications you or your parent are using, and always adjust to any new medications for a period of at least seven days before operating any vehicle.

The decision to let go of or take away a person’s license is not one to be taken lightly; it removes a great deal of independence from a person who has for decades become accustomed to being able to get themselves where they need to go. This newfound lack of freedom can be depressing, distressing, and can make a person feel like a burden on their family. It is always important, especially when making the decision for another person, to include that person in the decision-making process so they are a part of the resolution. Being the primary decision maker is empowering to a person who has been in the driver’s seat for a long time, so make it about them, and make them feel safe and comfortable to let go if the time has come.

Preparing Your Car for Snow, Freezing Rain, and Frankenstorms

Whether it is a thick coat or a warm hat, every year when the cold fall and winter months roll around, we carefully pick out our clothes to ensure our protection from the elements before we head outside. Similarly, our vehicles require the same kind of care in the colder months to ensure they are safeguarded from the havoc low temperatures, snowstorms, hail, and blizzards can have on them. Here are a few things you can do to make sure your car survives the winter season year after year.

Keeping an emergency kit inside your vehicle is an excellent idea. A few spare bottles of engine oil, premixed coolant, and an ice scraper are all very handy to have in case you find yourself in a tight (cold) jam. Additionally, you may want to consider keeping flashlights and flares in your car in case things go south while driving late at night or during heavy fog or other harsh weather conditions.

Be sure to also replace your windshield wipers as needed and fill your wiper fluid tank before the temperatures begin to drop. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in a heavy storm and having a dense mixture of snow, rain, and ice covering your windshield with nothing to combat it; this coupled with your anxiety makes for literally the perfect storm.

It is also imperative that your car’s defrosting and heating systems are in working order—so again, make sure these work before the chill factor comes on. During winter, you could be fighting off sheets of sleet on your windshield while also facing the visual impairment caused by fog or built-up precipitation. Fog, frost, ice, and snow may all be present at the same time. A fast-working defroster is a winter motorist’s best friend while driving, and a quality heater in good working order is imperative—if you get stuck in blizzard or wind up covered in a snow bank, your heater could be the difference between life and death.

Antifreeze is a very important variable in keeping a vehicle winter-safe, as it protects your car’s engine from freezing in cold weather conditions. Remember to keep a fifty-fifty ratio of water to antifreeze in your automobile’s radiator to keep fluids from freezing unless otherwise specified by the instructions on the antifreeze container or extreme freezing circumstances that could call for more antifreeze and less water. These scenarios are uncommon, but your car’s dealer or your local automotive shops can let you know if you live in an area where this is called for.

Your car’s battery is also integral to normal functioning during the later months of the year. While car batteries are built to last for about three to five years, it’s always a good idea to check on the health of your car’s battery, especially since cold weather can be harsh on everything under the hood. You’ll want to keep your eyes open for corrosion and any signs of fraying on the connecting cables. If any of these things are under par, replace the battery before it’s too late. Chances are, it’s still covered under warranty or can be replaced at a discount when you return to the same retailer where you purchased your existing battery.

Lastly, check your tire pressure. Icy roads are known for causing dangerous accidents, so you’ll want to stay safe by making sure each tire is filled to the right PSI (pounds per square inch). If you live in an area that suffers from more extreme winters, snow tires can provide better traction and control when driving on wintery roads.

Thinking of Buying a Car on Craigslist? Here’s Some Food for Thought

Craigslist is great for just about anything: used furniture, finding rare collectibles, or even for major purchases, including houses and of course, cars. However, Craigslist is infamous for sour run-ins, and can be a sketchy place to do business because of the crowd it can attract in some instances. Here are a few tips to ensure buying a used car on Craigslist doesn’t having you playing right into the hands of a scam artist.

Assume the worst in your potential seller

It’s sad to have to start out with this mindset, but it’s reality based in the world of online or offline commerce between private buyers and sellers. We’ve all heard horror stories from unwitting buyers who have been conned by people on Craigslist—so many, in fact, that it’s probably a good idea to have a healthy skepticism toward anyone trying to sell you anything. Even if the person attempting to sell you their used automobile seems like a normal person, be cautious. If you find a deal from a private seller that is almost unreal, it probably is.

Meet publically and bring someone with you

Never, ever meet a Craigslist seller at their home or anywhere else that isn’t in the full view of the public. Always set up meetings with sellers somewhere that is very busy, and during daylight hours only. The dangers of meeting a stranger you’ve connected with via the Internet cannot be stressed enough. Also, with a friend in tow, you can feel confident and secure that nothing bad will happen. Mall parking lots, busy parks, and open strip malls and plazas make ideal meeting spots when eyeing a potential new ride.

Ask why they’re selling their car

While oftentimes the reason behind someone selling a car is simple, sometimes you may receive an overly complicated answer when you ask, “Why?” If this is the case, you’re likely being tricked or mislead in some way. Ask for records regarding the car. If they don’t have them, don’t be too alarmed, but remain vigilant. Bottom line: do not purchase a car that does not have a proper title. Match the VIN number on the title to the one on the car itself—this can usually be viewed from the outside through the front windshield by looking down into the driver’s side in front of the steering wheel. If they don’t match or something looks smudged or tampered with, walk away politely.

Know how much the car is worth

A great way to avoid being scammed is to know how much what you’re buying is actually worth. Check Kelley Blue Book or similar public resources online or off to be sure you aren’t being conned. Each vehicle make and model has a given worth based on age, make, model, condition, mileage, and more—know the numbers from the low end the high end on the year and make you’ll be taking a look at.

Get all the necessary paperwork and a test drive

Insist on a test drive of the car, but first ask the seller for identification, registration papers, and proof of insurance. This is just one more way you can ensure you aren’t being sold a stolen car.

During your test drive, make sure each of the car’s systems is in working order, including air conditioning, brake system, speedometer, odometer (some people will tamper with these for the appearance of lower mileage) windows, locks, sound system, CD player or MP3 adapter, Bluetooth if applicable, four wheel drive, and so on. Ensure brake lights are working by having the friend you brought with you stand behind the car while you pump the brakes, and do the same to ensure the turn signals are working.

If you take all these steps and feel you are looking at the car that meets your needs and budget, and as long as you don’t have a nagging feeling in your gut that something is off, go for it—and make sure there is proof of purchase along with the signing over of the title.

US Consumers Willing To Pay Record Prices For The Cars They Want

A new trend in the auto industry is taking everyone by surprise: more and more Americans are spending money on cars they want—record amounts of money, in fact. The growing development is taking the industry by storm, creating a surge in profits.

According to TrueCar, an automotive pricing and comparison website, revenues from car sales have increased by over 60 percent since five years ago. This year is set to become the most profitable for the auto industry since 2006, as Americans are expected to purchase six percent more cars than last year.

The reasons behind this increase in spending are diverse. Americans seemingly desire larger, more luxurious vehicles. According to Businessweek, crossover vehicles have become one of the fastest-expanding markets in auto history. Plain and simple, Americans think bigger is better— and they are willing to pay a lot of money for a car, truck, or SUV that’s roomier inside and has a more commanding presence on the outside than their neighbors’ vehicle.

Cars outfitted with all the bells and whistles expected of an automobile in the Information Age are very attractive—and they also boost the MSRP of any car on the lot. Nowadays, vehicles are fashioned with all kinds of cool features and technologies, ranging from voice command systems, Bluetooth capabilities, heated seats, and smartphone integration. Needless to say, these cars are more expensive than their less-sophisticated counterparts. That said, many American consumers don’t feel these modernized dashboard features are optional or for those living the life of excess: they see them as everyday necessity.

Because the top one percent of Americans continues to grow richer, luxury automakers are able to release cars with price tags ranging in the hundreds of thousands to the millions. Ferrari, for example, has a car set with a price tag of around $1.3 million. Likewise, Mercedes-Benz’s new armored, plate-secured sedan is available for purchase for around $1 million.

Americans feel financially safer about purchasing new cars due to low interest rates as well—especially when compared to those of earlier years. Nowadays, the effective Federal Funds rate is practically zero, meaning car buyers can purchase new cars with no interest (or close to no interest) payments for five years. With all of these changes in the world of automobiles, it’s a no-brainer as to why Americans are willing to dish out more cash to get the latest and greatest. Plus, with interest rates at virtual zero, buyers are more confident than ever.

Whether or not this trend will continue to stay with the biggest and most spacious cars is a hot debate. While it is likely that Americans will continue to spend more money to get the car they want, it is fervently debated as to whether this trend will turn more toward electric cars and hybrids over the next several model seasons. Only time will tell which car models American consumers covet most, but in the current economic climate and what is forecasted, we can certainly bet that drivers in the US will continue to be willing to pay top dollar for what they want—whatever that is.

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