Thursday, May 31, 2012

Some news on driverless autos and auto insurance

In the movie Minority Report, Stephen Spielberg has an extended sequence showing cars of the future being assembled and how they drive themselves. It's pleasing how well a film made some ten years ago has been predicting the future. The multitouch computer interfaces are here as are the retina scanners. Facial recognition software is routinely used at airports and other safety-critical locations, and we are now carrying pads around on which we can read the latest newspapers and books. Strangely enough, the driverless vehicles are also on our streets being tested. That might surprise you. Except the states of California and Nevada have already passed laws making it legal to have these vehicles drive you. So what's the problem?
In a sense, we have most of the technology already available off-the-shelf. Cameras can be fitted to give 360 degree vision. Radar can tell the vehicle when anything else is moving nearby. GPS transponders tell the vehicle exactly where it is. Computers can easily be configured to talk to each other so that each vehicle can be told when there's something else nearby on the road. We have voice recognition software which will allow owners to input the desired destination and route preferences. Many of the standard vehicles are already drive-by-wire, i.e. electronic rather than mechanical links to the accelerator, brakes, and so on. All we need are the software packages to interpret all this data and translate it into instructions for the vehicle. For the record, in March, Google announced that its driverless car has traveled over 200,000 miles on roads in all types of traffic conditions. There has not yet been an accident. Indeed, so confident is Google that it has begun discussions both with government and the insurance industry.
The theoretical advantages are enormous. A computer never takes its "eyes" off the road to answer a cell phone or comb its hair. It never drives too close to the vehicle in front. There's no reckless overtaking or speeding. If this technology was adopted across all our roads, the number and seriousness of traffic accidents would be significantly reduced. Given that more than 30,000 people are killed on our roads every year, this would be a major improvement. With the number of accidents falling, insurance costs would fall and premium rates could be reduced. Except we all know technology can break down. There's a world of difference between trusting the PC on your table at home to keep your personal information safe and allowing the same PC to drive you at 70 mph down a busy interstate.

Auto insurance cost reduction in the industry

It seems the discussions with the auto insurance industry have been going well because Google recently announced a more positive testing program for the software. Instead of this being ten or more years in the future, it has lost its speculative nature and could be approved in the next two or three years. The question for you as individual drivers is whether you will surrender your hands-on control to a computer in return for significant reductions in auto insurance rates . It's actually a very good deal and only dangerous if a few reckless people insist on continuing to drive themselves or it amuses hackers to take over vehicles and stage crashes.

How to rent a car and get good service?

Everyone knows the potential advantages of renting a vehicle. You get the freedom of the road and, in those parts of the world where the public transport system is not so hot, it's the only way to get where you want to go in a timely fashion. Yet we all have friends with horror stories about the poor service they received when collecting and returning their vehicles. Allowing for cultural differences and language problems, the first and best step to getting the best service is to write to the renter explaining your needs. Sadly, mental telepathy is still very limited and, unless you tell people what you need, they can only guess. When they guess wrong, you get upset and that's where the problems grow bigger. So a simple list of your needs - trying not to make them sound like a list of demands - will smooth the way. If you arrive and find things still not ready, show the email. This usually produces apologies and more urgent attention to those needs.
How to get the most out of car rental companies
Let's start by thinking about your choice of vehicle. If you have children or a lot of stuff to carry around, remember some countries prefer smaller cars. Telling the renter what size of vehicle you need is essential. Put the other way round, if you want to make the biggest savings, you're going to want the smallest, most fuel-efficient vehicle on the lot. Now come to the driving itself. In the US, we're used to automatic transmissions. In other countries, stick shift is the norm. If you can't drive a stick shift or you're worried about a stick shift using the "wrong" hand (yes, some of these pesky foreigners drive on the other side of the road), tell the renter you want an automatic transmission. Now start thinking about all that stuff. How big is it? For example, if you're off to a ski resort, do you want a rack on the roof to carry your skis and poles? Is one of your children young enough to need a special seat? Better still, if you don't know exactly where you're going, do you want a GPS system?
Now think about where you're proposing to drive. This is not something that needs to be cared in stone, but if you think you may go into different countries, remember to ensure you are carrying all the equipment required under local laws. For example, as of July 1, 2012, the French Government has decided you must carry a breathalyzer. If you fail to produce one when asked by the nice police officer with a gun strapped to his waist, there's an instant fine. It's about $15 a time and these police officers have radios so can ensure you get stopped every mile if you don't smile when asked to pay up. So ask your friendly car rental company to stock up your vehicle with all the mandatory equipment for the countries in which you propose to drive. Ask for a list and know exactly where it is. If you tell a car rental company what you actually need you can receive really good service.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Car insurance and winter driving

For example, did you prepare your vehicle for facing bad weather conditions? After all, it's predictable there will be snow and ice in winter. So did you fit new tires so you would have the maximum possible traction in slippery conditions? Or did you remember to put chains in the trunk so that, when the snow gets deeper, you can still drive reasonably safely? We all know the risk of sliding or skidding out of control. Why then do we fail to take action to protect ourselves and other road users? There are probably several reasons, not the least of which are that this means spending money on buying the chains, some think it inconvenient to fit them, and you cannot drive fast when you have them fitted. The fact local governments may require chains to be fitted as a condition to using the roads in some areas is not considered a reason for action (curiously, there are no chain laws in Florida and Missouri - strange oversight).
Then we come to all those routine maintenance tasks like adding antifreeze and retuning the engine so it's more likely to start when the temperature drops. Did you fit new blades on the windshield to give you better visibility when there's snow fall or a blizzard? And then we come to all the steps to protect you should your vehicle break down or be involved in an accident. Do you have an emergency bag packed with warm clothing and blankets should you need to keep warm while rescue comes? You did remember to charge your cell so you could call for help? If you are making a trip cross-country where signal strength may be low, did you tell people when you were expected so they could send out search and rescue teams?
All these things are basic common sense yet, when the first snows hit, we seem to have forgotten to prepare. If accidents are more likely because of this failure and it's shown to be a regular failure, your car insurance rates will rise. If you have been making claims, the car insurance quotes coming in from other insurers will not be welcoming. No insurer wants to take on someone who fails to prepare in the face of obvious dangers. That's why insurers in the states where the weather is worst offer discounts for drivers who go on defensive driving courses and learn how to drive more safely. Your choice!

Top 10 Stolen Cars in the U.S.

Looking for car insurance quotes? Having a number of car insurance quotes in your possession will give you an insight on what type of insurance you should get and where to get it from but aside from your insurance policy, another thing to consider when you are buying a new car is to ensure that it has all the features you want. Your premium is based on a number of factors - the type and model of car you have, your records at the DMV, and your profile. If you want lower premiums, getting a car that is not in car thieves' hot wheels list is a good idea. Sure you'd be insured with it and you can easily replace your car but filing a claim is a very long process so if you do not want to be inconvenienced by your insurer's processes or protocols, better not get any of these top 10 hot wheels. Here is the list of top 10 stolen cars in the United States in 2011 alone:
  • No 10. 2002 Ford Explorer 11, 783 stolen
  • No. 9 1999 Ford Taurus 12, 000 stolen
  • No. 8 1994 Acura Integra Over 12, 000 stolen
  • No. 7 1996 Jeep Cherokee 14, 350 stolen
  • No. 6 2000 Dodge Caravan Over 15, 000
  • No. 5 2004 Dodge Ram 17, 405 stolen
  • No. 4 1997 Ford F-1 About 17, 500 stolen
  • No. 3 1989 Toyota Camry Almost 27, 000 stolen
  • No. 2 1995 Honda Civic Almost 50, 000 stolen
  • No. 1 1994 Honda Accord 55, 170 stolen
As found in Forbes magazine, thieves have been stealing American-made cars since 2002 - preferring these cars over European ones. According to a report by CNBC, supporting what Forbes magazine has published, thieves steal cars that do not draw much attention that is why you didn't see BMWs on this list.
The good news is, if you get a car that is technologically more advanced than the ones in this list, thieves won't try to steal them. This is because of the security these cars provide. Now that you know which models are the favorites of thieves, you can concentrate on getting a car that is not on this list and then look at car insurance quotes afterwards. If you do not have an idea where to get your coverage yet, go to a car insurance quotes comparison site asap.

Things to consider when booking a vehicle with a car rental company

The companies sitting with fleets of vehicles to rent out have set packages and want you to fit into one of them. By default, if the booking is imprecise, you'll find yourself arbitrarily dumped into their "standard" vehicles on the "usual" terms. Perhaps this will work well for you. But when it proves a bad guess, you need to unpick the agreement when you arrive at the collection point without causing a major war. Remember you need the company to give you a vehicle at a good price so upsetting the local representatives before you start is not the best way to win. Indeed, you should have done all the heavy lifting by email before you set off for the collection point.
Start with the question of how long you want the vehicle. If this is literally one or two days, you will nearly always do better with one of the national or international companies. The large companies always carry a big fleet of vehicles of different sizes so can more easily fit you in for short periods. When you approach a "local" company, it will want you to take the vehicle for a minimum period, usually a week. If you insist on a shorter period of hire from a small company, you will be denied any possibility of a discount. Companies that rent out on predictable cycles can be left with a vehicle sitting in the lot waiting for the start of the next period of hire to start.
Now ask yourself how far you're proposing to drive. If this is going to be within the immediate area, going local will be safe. Should you breakdown or hit problems, people can come and rescue you. But if you're planning to take off into the boondocks, a national company is going to give you more protection because, hopefully, you will always be within range of a branch office or the national company can tap a local garage to give roadside assistance. Alternatively, ensure you have membership of the national roadside rescue services in the countries you propose to visit. You always need to be just one cell phone call away from help.
To get the best deals, always ask about discounts. It's a rule of life. If you don't ask, you never get a discount. If this is going to be a regular event, ask about a loyalty program. Most are free but, some times, you pay a small amount to join. Once in, you get a discount on all the bookings you make. The same applies if you're already a member of frequent flier programs or your credit card provider has a local promotion. In the other direction, always ask about any terms entitling the car rental companies to impose charges or fees. For example, what are the no-show rules? Some companies charge you only if you fail to collect at all. Others charge you if you're late. So, if you're stuck in traffic on your way to the collection point, are you calm or is there frustration because a fee will be imposed unless you can get there in the next five minutes? Car rental companies like the chance to add to your bill. Know what you're getting into before you sign up.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Auto insurance and car-sharing services

In the past, people living together in the c ommunity were expected to act as good neighbors. If someone had a problem, you were expected to help out. But times change and trust issues have arisen. Today, the majority of people have their own problems and prefer to deal with them without outside interference. This reflects a shift away from old-fashioned Christian values to a Libertarian attack on the scrounger. People who feel they are entitled to assistance or who depend on others to do what they should do themselves are discouraged.
That's what makes the car-sharing services so interesting. Now instead of trying to ask your neighbors if you can borrow a vehicle to solve an emergency problem, there's an alternative to rental. This is a service that enables you to use another vehicle for short periods of time. It helps out the people who only need access to a vehicle occasionally. Some of the services are run as cooperatives. Local people club together to produce a pool of vehicles and members of the group can book them by the hour. Others run as commercial organizations, renting out on a for-profit basis. The common denominators are that, unlike many rental agencies, you can get access to shared vehicles at any time of the day. It's all self-service. But, as you will understand, every member has to be approved before any vehicle is made available.

Car-sharing and auto insurance

The problem, as always, has been insurance. When working on an informal basis, some owners have found their policies cancelled by their insurers. There are terms limiting ownership to noncommercial use. Letting another use your vehicle for money becomes a commercial use if you do it on a regular basis. Now states like California, Oregon and Washington are passing laws to control the emerging market. This allows you to share your vehicle and make a little extra income without loosing your auto insurance cover. This is good for the environment with fewer vehicles needed. It also meets a growing social need because more people find vehicle ownership too expensive. The laws require the sharing organization to hold a fleet policy. When you hand over your vehicle, it's then covered by the common policy. There are also new rules about safety to ensure the vehicles are in a roadworthy condition when others are allowed to drive them. Everyone benefits!

Does going Green affect your Car Insurance?

Many factors affect your car insurance premium like:
  • Your Driving Habits
  • Your Driving History: number of violations and accidents
  • Your average yearly mileage
  • Your number of claims filed
  • Your neighborhood
  • Your Credit Score
Insurance companies rate the risk of all of these factors and follow trends to set your premiums. A recent trend in the automotive industry is the introduction of green car or hybrids. Several types of automobiles are labeled green or hybrids. There are two types of combination hybrids series and parallel. The combination hybrid uses both a battery driven electric motor and a gas engine. The electric motor allows for a smaller, lighter more fuel efficient gas engine. In a parallel hybrid the electric and combustion motors both the transmission together. In a series hybrid, the combustion engine is only used to recharge the batteries, and the electric motor does all the work of driving the transmission. There are PEV's (plug in electrical vehicles like the Nissan leaf) that use battery as the only power source; not to mention automobiles developed around natural gas as the fuel source are available on the market.
Most green cars on the road today are combination hybrids (gas and battery). They average between 45 and 55 mpg. With today's volatile fuel prices that can add up to considerable savings at the pump, and the most popular models have good safety ratings. So does going green save you on car insurance? The answer is yes and no.
Many of the green cars are higher end, and higher price tag automobiles. The higher the initial cost of the car, the more expensive your car insurance. Don't lose heart if you want to go green to save the environment, or just to save money at the pump. Most automobile manufacturers are rolling more moderately priced green machines off the assembly line. While the sticker price is still a bit higher than their non-green models, the range of models is opening up. There are green versions now offered in most price ranges. You can now buy a mid priced 4 door sedan version that is not only limited to the luxury line. If you want to go green the mid to compact size models will save you on car insurance and at the pump.

About car types and auto insurance rates

Many drivers usually get surprised when they learn about different insurance rates for different car types. They think that it doesn't matter whether it's a small car or a hot rod as long as they have a good driving record and don't get in trouble in traffic. With all this, for auto insurance providers it's a whole other perspective and they will charge you with different premiums according the type of car you're trying to insure. Thus, it's important to understand the following characteristics of each car type and make your decisions correctly if you want your auto insurance budget to be limited:
Small cars. Smaller vehicles are typically cheap and quite comfortable in conditions of heavy traffic. They usually have low engine volumes, top speed, get stolen quite rarely and are inexpensive to handle at repair. However, auto insurance can sometimes be a bit costly for small cars because they tend to get damaged very bad during accidents. It's all about the physics, which states that the smaller object tends to get the most damage regardless of the safety features the manufacturer has included. Because of this, costly claims tend to arise more often with such vehicles, and the insurers respond with respective pricing.
Medium sized cars and family vehicles. This car type is typically regarded as the safest and the cheapest to insure. Sure, there are different makes and models, but the general rule is that these cars are quite safe, have low repair costs and theft rates, and tend to get damaged much less than smaller vehicles during an accident. So you will usually get the best auto insurance rates for this type of vehicles.
SUVs. SUVs like trucks and minivans are very comfortable and give you a whole different perspective in traffic. However, the size can turn into a problem with these vehicles. Due to their size and increased mass as compared to other vehicle types SUVs tend to produce more damage during accidents, especially involving other cars. The claims arising with an SUV are likely to be higher because the other car tends to get damaged quite bad and there are likely to be injuries as well. Coupled with higher repair costs for such vehicles, SUVs are usually more expensive to insure.
Sports vehicles. Being both cool and relatively cheap, sports cars often seem as an advantageous option for car buyers. Nevertheless, when insuring a typical sports car, you will actually have a hard time finding cheap auto insurance because insurers tend to classify such cars as high risk. Increased top speed, engine volume, elevated theft and accident rates as well as the likelihood to produce a very serious car crash all lead to higher auto insurance rates for sports vehicles.
Luxury vehicles. It may seem natural that expensive luxury cars will cost more to insure than other car types. However, it's not because they are expensive to buy - insurers have other reasons to charge higher rates for such vehicles. First of all, these cars are usually very costly to repair, often requiring exclusive and overpriced repair parts that are hard to find in an ordinary repair shop. Besides, such vehicles are often targeted by car thieves and burglars due to their value and scarcity. So don't expect to get cheap auto insurance for any luxury car.

Auto insurance cost reduction tips

It's difficult to find anyone who would pay more for something they can actually get at a lower price. This is true when it comes to auto insurance. The only problem in this case is the lack of knowledge about saving methods that can effectively reduce one's insurance rates. Knowing even the basic saving strategies will help you save your money and avoid situations when you are to pay for something you don't really need with your insurance policy. So the next time you will shop for auto insurance use the following tips:
  1. Buy only what you really need
    The prevailing mistake customers make when buying a policy is getting all the coverage, they can get assuming that it's better that way. Having different insurance options with your policy is very nice since you never know when you will need them, but this increases the cost of your policy. Consequently, you end up with higher premiums and lots of coverage options that you do not need to buy. So, firstly you should analyze your current auto insurance needs and outline the types of coverage that are really necessary. See if you need any other coverage options besides the mandatory third party liability and consider buying them only if they are really necessary. Otherwise it will have to overpay for insurance.
  2. Never choose to buy the first policy you come across
    For a lot of drivers, auto insurance is an obligation they want to get done with as soon as possible. So there's not surprise about the fact that a lot of people choose to take the first policy offered without even spending some time on rate comparison, assuming that all the policies have the same price. This often results in additional costs you could easily avoid by getting a cheaper policy after some comparison shopping. The truth is that all insurers have different pricing methods, and you can actually get a policy that carries the same amount of coverage cheaper by comparing insurance quotes. With so many sites giving you the opportunity to do it online there's no excuse for avoiding comparison shopping, which can result in substantial savings.
  3. Get discounts if you can
    If you don't know about any discounts offered by your auto insurance provider this doesn't mean that there aren't any. Some insurers do not want to advertise it widely but still give you a discount if you comply with their requirements. Discounts are usually offered to low risk drivers who maintain a clean driving record and don't file any claims, good students who have an average of B or higher, owners of multiple vehicles, senior citizens and drivers who have a low yearly mileage. It never hurts to ask the insurer if they can give you a discount while the result can cut your insurance costs.
  4. If you need change your insurance factors
    Some of the factors that influence your auto insurance costs are difficult to change such as your sex, age or place of residence. However, you can improve other factors such as your driving record, your credit score or even change the current vehicle with something that is cheaper to insure.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The 2012 Ford Focus Model

The people of today love to drive sporty cars; however, at the same time they want their cars to be compact and reasonably priced too. The 2012 Ford Focus model accurately fits this description. As far as the car's appearance is concerned, its flamboyance has been considerably enhanced by redesigning the design of previous models. Among the selection of vehicles manufactured by Ford, the Focus has been significantly popular ever since it was introduced in the car markets during the 90s era.
The 4-cylinder engine that is present under the hood of the 2012 Ford Focus is capable of generating 140 horsepower. A torque vectoring control is a feature that most costly vehicles are equipped with; however, what makes the 2012 Ford Focus so special is that it is not as expensive but still has this feature. Those who are interested in buying the latest model of the Focus can choose from the hatchback or the sedan version.
The 2012 Ford Focus model offers splendid mileage, which is the most exceptional trait of this vehicle. Buyers who select the SFE (Super Fuel Economy) package will be able to attain up to 40 miles per gallon. When it comes to the gas expenses, people who want to make sure that they achieve mileage depending on the money they spend on gas, will considerably benefit from this package.
The innovative MyFord system of the 2012 Focus is another feature that drivers will relish and significantly benefit from. Drivers who will drive this latest Focus model will not have to move their hands off the steering wheel if they want to change the music that is playing since everything in the vehicle can be controlled via voice commands. When it comes to parking this vehicle, drivers will simply have to control the brakes. The Parking Assist that the Titanium model is equipped with will take care of the rest.
The 2012 Ford Focus has an elegant, comfy and cozy interior within the cabin. To give the interior a modern contemporary look, aluminum and silver trims have been designed as a part of the interior. A V12 power outlet, an adjustable steering wheel, etc., are some of the typical features that this latest Ford Focus is also equipped with. By paying a slightly higher price, buyers can even upgrade the car seats to premium leather that will be much more comfy.
ABS, air bags, etc. are some of the safety features that have also been engineered into the 2012 Ford Focus model. To ensure that this car is completely safe for drivers, more than twelve thousand real-life and virtual tests were conducted by Ford Motors before they approved the manufacturing of the vehicle. Since drivers in the past have been impacted from the side during accidents, therefore, drivers in the latest Ford Focus are protected from the side too by the added B-pillar.
It is therefore, apparent how versatile the 2012 Ford Focus model is, and the best part is that buyers merely have to spend about $18,300 to purchase it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why Should I Buy A Fuel Station?

When it comes to costly investments, purchasing your own professional fuel station is one of the most expensive. It is not something that you can simply slide under the bed if it doesn't work out, so you need to do a lot of thinking before you shell out your hard-earned money. Asking yourself certain questions will not only help you decide whether or not you do need a professional fuel station, but can also give you an idea of what kind of fuel station you need.
· Do you travel a lot?
Just because you have a car doesn't mean you need a professional fuel type station of your own. However, if you have an RV, trailer or truck, and you tend to travel long distances, a fuel station might make things more convenient. People who do a lot of long-distance driving for business or recreation might feel a bit more secure if they can always start their journey on a full tank of gas, and they have around 15 gallons of gas in the back of their truck in case of emergencies. Nobody likes getting stranded in the middle of nowhere.
· Are there a lot of gas stations in your area?
The biggest reason why people buy professional fuel stations in the first place is convenience. If this is the case, it certainly wouldn't be practical to have one if there's a gas station just a few blocks away and you're never in danger of running out of gas in the most inconvenient of places. In fact, dragging along a fuel station to the nearest gas station to gravity feed it and then lugging it all the way home would just mean a lot of unnecessary work. However, if gas stations are a rarity, and you have to travel far just to reach one, having your own gas station may not only help you but your neighbors as well.
· Do you expect to gain any other benefit from it?
If you live in an area where fuel is scarce, having your very own professional station might not only make life easier for you, but more profitable as well. This doesn't mean you should open your own makeshift gas station, because then you'll have to contend with a lot of legalities. It doesn't hurt though to help out a neighbor every now and then in exchange for a small fee. This way, you can get even a small percentage of the investment you put in for the station.
Even after careful consideration, one must realize that operating a professional station is not as easy as it seems. You may want to get yourself a fuel station that is easy to mount, transport and can siphon fuel efficiently. Fortunately, fuel stations can be ordered online so you can compare brands and see which product best suits your needs.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

How To Give Your Car New Life

A brand new set of hubcaps can give your car a new lease on life. As a basic car accessory it does more than most and is surprisingly inexpensive. There is no reason not to enjoy the beauty that they can instantly give your car. If you think of all the dirt, grime and bumps your tires endure on the roads each day it's no wonder your wheel covers look like they have been through World War 4. But your hubcaps won't just freshen up the look of your tires they will give your whole ride a facelift.
Whoever said that rims were the ultimate in customization never met a set of hubcaps that look just like rims. Some people need a little bling in their lives and they automatically think of rims. But let's face it those things cost an arm, a leg and a kidney. So why do people still buy them? Well, many persons may not realize the benefits of choosing hubcaps over rims.
Firstly, hubcaps are less expensive and that's a major consideration in these current economic conditions. Secondly, weight is another concern for the average car enthusiast. Drivers who are obsessed with saving gas always try to keep their trunks as empty as possible. So the concept is the same here, as you can unwittingly add several extra pounds to your car when you put on rims. You would never intentionally strap four boulders onto your car and go careening down the highway so... just... why? The fact is the most weight your hubcaps may add is maybe 1 or 2lbs each so you're looking at 8lbs total compared to 88lbs with a set of 16" rims. You do the math.
The relationship between you and your car is like a marriage without the arguing. Your car has been faithful to you over the years and has taken you just about everywhere you wanted to go. The thing is eventually you may sell that car due to depreciation but how will you create new interest in it? How will you get total strangers to take a second look at it? You can easily accomplish that coveted double-take with a new set of hubcaps so you can get your car sold fast.
Giving your car that new look may give you both a new lease on life and it could be the start of some new adventures for you both. Even if your car looks so amazing you start to have second thoughts about selling, it would be much cheaper than buying a new car so it's a win-win scenario. Although most people think hubcaps are just about looks, there are deeper most lasting benefits for the average car lover.
Now that you know how to give your car new life here is an awesome resource that you can use to find the latest wheel covers and black hubcaps that look like rims.