Vehicle App Downloads Increase As Temperatures Decrease

Grandpa may not understand how to use Facebook but he sure wasn’t going to go out in -50°F windchill to start up his car! The polar vortex brought many troubles, challenges, and delays to Michigan drivers. The bone-chilling wind and subzero temperatures were horrifying enough that even technophobic people downloaded and used mobile connected apps to self start their vehicle engines.

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On January 30, 2019, self-starting apps were used more than 59 million times, which is a 70% increase from an average day in January, according to General Motors. These apps include myChevrolet, myBuick, myGMC, and myCadillac.

Santiago Chamorro, GM’s Vice President for Global Connected Customer Experience said, “With access to an app that connects directly to the vehicle, our customers are able remote start their vehicle from anywhere, and avoid spending extra time outside during unpleasant weather conditions."

GM stated that Michigan, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Minnesota were the states with the most users hitting “start” on their phones to warm up their vehicles.

According to USA Today, the GM vehicle self-starting app was introduced 9 years ago and was the auto industry’s first connected mobile app. In addition to starting up their engines, GM owners of Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC vehicles can also check their vehicle's oil life, tire pressure, and fuel level. The app can even help drivers locate the car if it’s ever lost.

Other automotive brands have also jumped at the vehicle app trend. For example, Chrysler vehicles such as Jeep, Dodge, Ram, and FIAT have Uconnect, Toyota has Toyota Owners, and the Ford Motor Company has FordPass. All of these apps allow drivers to start their vehicle engines, check their vehicle's oil life, tire pressure, fuel level, locates the car in a crowded parking lot, and some even allow users to sound the vehicle's horn and flash the headlights. Though connected car apps used to only be a feature in luxury vehicles, like BMW’s BMW Connected Drive, this technology has become widely available for most newer model vehicles regardless of their price tag.

There is nothing like stepping into a toasty car on a frosty morning, and thanks to automakers’ mobile connected apps, many people can start off their morning drive without worrying about their hands freezing and sticking to the steering wheel! However, there are dangers to letting a car warm up. The Michigan Law Firm, PC blog recently informed readers of some bad habits drivers carry out that can hurt their vehicles. One such bad habit is letting the engine idle too long in an effort to warm up the car. According to AutoBlog, “idling for too long causes buildup on the spark plugs, rendering them less efficient. This may be bad news for your wallet, too, as it wastes gas.”


Mobile connected apps have made winter driving a bit more tolerable for Michigan drivers. However, the winter driving dangers of icy roads, vision-impairing snowfall, and other car accident causing winter driving threats still exist. Car accidents may lead to serious injuries and seriously expensive medical bills. Like a snow plow clearing the road, the car accident attorneys at The Michigan Law Firm, PC help clear up the legal process for victims of car crashes. For a free legal consultation with a Michigan accident attorney, call 844.4MI.FIRM.

New Tech May Prevent Hot Car Child Deaths

On average, 37 children die every year due to being left in a hot car, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Since 1998, a devastating total of 772 children have died due to vehicular heatstroke. It’s heartbreaking that so many young lives have been lost, and although these fatalities are 100% preventable, the number continues to rise each year. Newsweek reported that as of July 24, there have been 28 hot car deaths reported so far, with an additional 3 child hot car deaths currently under investigation.

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It is difficult to imagine that a parent or guardian could forget their child in the car, yet according to San Antonio Express News, this is the case for approximately half of the reported heatstroke incidents. While stories of children being intentionally left in hot vehicles receive a lot of media attention, this type of hot car fatality occurs less frequently. Parents do not always have to be directly involved, because the NHTSA claims that approximately every 3 in 10 heat stroke fatalities take place when children are playing and decide to climb into unattended, unlocked vehicles.

In just a few minutes, the inside of a car can climb up to 125 °F. This is a dangerous temperature for any human, but it is especially dangerous for children because, “a child's body temperatures rise 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s.” For perspective, according to the NHTSA, “a core body temperature of about 107 degrees is lethal.” Temperature increases occur in the first 10 minutes after the ignition is turned off, regardless of whether the windows are rolled down or not. That is why, even if the windows are left cracked, it is never acceptable to leave children alone in vehicle.

In recent years, technology has been developed to help remind parents to check their backseat, with the goal of preventing children from being left in the vehicle. Since over half of the hot car death cases involve caretakers unintentionally forgetting children, increased use of this new technology has the potential to significantly lower the annual fatality rate. San Antonio Express News recently published an article naming three technology-based options parents can take advantage of to protect the safety of their child, which are discussed below.

In early 2018, car-seat company Cybex released “SensorSafe” technology into their Sirona model car seat. The chest buckle of the car seat is connected via bluetooth to the car and the caretaker’s cell phone. When the buckle is closed, a bluetooth connection is activated. Once the vehicle’s ignition is turned off, a series of alerts are sent to the car dashboard and the connected phone. The car buckle must be unclasped in 4 minutes, or else additional alerts will be sent, not only to the parent, but also to emergency contacts listed. Parents can choose to click either “ignore” or “acknowledge” on the notification itself, showing that they were indeed aware that their child was still in the car seat. Once the belt is unclasped, the bluetooth connection is deactivated. While the Sirona car seat retails for $329.99, it uses cutting edge technology that could be extremely helpful to parents who can afford to purchase it.

Waze

Waze

Car manufacturers are also aware of the problem surrounding child hot car deaths. In 2017, General Motors added a rear-seat reminder system to over 20 of their models. It’s only standard on 10 Chevrolet models, but it can be selected as an add on feature to others. It simply works by sending the driver an alert to remind them that they opened the rear door of their vehicle after they turn off the ignition. This is a great option for any parent looking to buy a new car, but is not practical for those who are currently content with the vehicle they own. For these parents, they can download an app called Waze. In 2016, the popular navigation app added a “Child Reminder” feature, which when activated, sends the driver a notification to, “check your car before you leave” once the destination is reached. This solution is completely free and only requires that the parent inputs their destination once they enter the vehicle, which they might already have done to receive navigational directions.

Most people have experienced the feeling of discomfort after getting into a car that has been sitting in the sun. Now imagine being a child and being unable to escape the excruciating heat. This is a situation that should never happen. Taking advantage of technology like the Cybex “SensorSafe” car seat or the Waze App “Child Reminder” feature can help prevent the fatalities that result from leaving kids unintentionally in vehicles. However, technology may not be an option for all families. Something all parents can do that is free and simple is to, “look before you lock,” as recommended by the NHTSA. It’s an easy habit that could potentially be life saving. With daily life increasingly revolving around cellphones, it is even suggested that parents put their phones or something important like a briefcase or groceries in the backseat to help remind them to check for their child. Ultimately, parents need to find a effective solution, whether it involves technology or not, that works for them and ensures their child does not become another statistic.


Unfortunately, stories of children and pets left alone in hot cars every time summer rolls around has become all too common. While it’s easy to get distracted in today’s nonstop world, parents need to make the safety of their children their number one priority. No matter how hectic life gets, it is never okay to leave a child or a pet in a hot car. Parents should always check the back seat when they reach their destination, and lock their car after making sure no one is inside. For a free legal consultation with an experienced accident attorney regarding any type of auto accident, call The Michigan Law Firm, PC at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free consultation.

GM Super Cruise: The Future of Hands-Free Driving

One of the first things we are taught in driver’s education is how to properly hold a steering wheel. However, as technology progresses, our vehicles are increasingly gaining the ability to drive themselves. It seems that the future of driving is hands-free.

As reported by the Detroit Free Press, General Motors made an exciting announcement during the Intelligent Transportation Society’s annual conference in Detroit. GM revealed that their newest hands-free technology, known as the Super Cruise, will be implemented in their entire line of Cadillac vehicles as soon as 2020. Super Cruise is already available in the 2018 Cadillac CT6 Sedan, and after 2020, it will be introduced into other GM models, including GMC and Chevrolet. This innovative feature is described as, “the world’s first true hands-free driving system for the freeway.” It should be noted that “hands-free” driving only applies to simple cruising, and that manual control is necessary when changing lanes and merging or exiting the highway.

According to Cadillac, Super Cruise relies on LiDar mapping, short for Light Detection and Ranging, to allow hands-free driving across 130,000 miles of limited-access freeway stretching the US and Canada. Along with LiDar, GPS informs the system of upcoming curves and hills for the vehicle to adjust accordingly.  Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), another element of Super Cruise, accelerates the vehicle and actives the brakes when necessary.

Another main component of Super Cruise is the embedded Driver Attention System. While the emphasis is on hands-free driving, that does not mean attention free driving! Cadillac’s exclusive head tracking software certifies that drivers have their eyes on the road. If the system notices a lack of attention, it will send a series of alerts to inform the driver to either pay attention, or re-engage their hands on the steering wheel. Additional cameras and sensors work to maintain the vehicle within the proper lane markings as a part of the Lane Keep Assist feature.

It is important to keep in mind that while this technology is cutting-edge, it has not yet been perfected. There are many limitations that drivers should be aware of to avoid an unintended distracted driving car accident. As mentioned earlier, full attention is required by the driver while using Super Cruise. This means that any handheld devices, particularly cell phones, should be kept out of sight. It can be tempting to rely on this innovative technology to do the driving while the occupants of the vehicle watch TV or text, but in doing so, the distracted driver puts themselves at risk of a car accident injury. A fast reaction time may be vital in preventing a car crash, if a traffic obstacle requires the driver to manually take control of the vehicle.

While important, it is not enough to simply pay attention to the road when Super Cruise is activated. The vehicle must be regularly taken in for scheduled maintenance to ensure that all cameras and sensors are working properly. Additionally, for the technology to work as intended, road lane markings must be able to be detected by the vehicle. Because poor weather conditions may impact detection, Super Cruise is best used in good weather.

As stated by Steve Carlisle, Senior Vice President of GM and President of Cadillac, “Cadillac is proud to be the leader for the company’s [General Motors] innovation.” Super Cruise is an impressive, realistic step towards fully autonomous driving. The ultimate goal of autonomous vehicles is to eliminate human error, making driving safer and easier. But for the time being, the technology necessary to make this goal a reality is still developing. While the concept of Super Cruise is hands-free, the driver’s hands should still be nearby, and their eyes should stay on the road ahead.


No matter which vehicle make you are driving, and no matter if it has Super Cruise or not, the driver's full attention to the road is essential. All it takes is a few seconds for a car accident to occur. If you or someone you know has been involved in a distracted driving car accident, contact The Michigan Law Firm, PC at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free legal consultation.

Automakers Respond To Consumer Technology Demands

Forget about fuel economy, acceleration times, or reliability. What many new car shoppers want to know is if they will be able to integrate their smartphone with their new car’s multimedia system, and if the latest vehicle is Wi-Fi compatible. Automakers are increasingly developing new cars with these consumer demands in mind.  People in the market of buying a new car want to be able to access things like navigation, music, phone calls and text through their car's dashboard touchscreen, steering wheel buttons, or by voice command for a more hands-free experience. In response, the 2017 lineup of vehicles include one or more tech-savvy feature. Demand for multimedia systems, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, continues to increase, and with it, the number of vehicles catering to these needs.

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A year ago, fewer than 50 vehicles were offering one or more of these features. The list has reached over 100 this year, as reported by the Detroit Free Press. General Motors now has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in 30 of its models. Ford, a company that one year ago didn’t even have one vehicle with a multimedia system, is now the first vehicle manufacturer to offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on every vehicle line it sells, including the luxury Lincoln brand. BMW and Porsche have the option for Apple CarPlay in a majority of their models, though no plans to add Android Auto have been announced.

While many automakers are jumping to integrate already existing technology into their cars, Toyota is going against the grain by creating their own system, called Scout GPS Link. This system allows the integration of a smartphone navigation app with the vehicle's multimedia system on many of the Toyota and Lexus models.

On the Wi-Fi front, GM and Ford are following in the footsteps of Chrysler by implementing Wi-Fi in some of their vehicles, thereby bringing wireless connection to models other than just luxury cars. Some GM cars now even have OnStar 4G LTE, Ford has upgraded their MyFord Touch system to make accessibility easier for users, and even Chrysler has extended Wi-Fi to its Jeep and Dodge models, giving vehicles an extended 150-foot range for secure and private network connections.

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As with all new inventions, the latest and greatest vehicle technology is not without its setbacks. When a driver is too busy changing the music, sending a text message, or consulting the multimedia system for directions, they are engaging in distracted driving behavior and are putting themselves and other drivers at risk of being involved in a distracted driving car crash.

Not only do these high-tech systems pose a car accident risk, but they also increase the likelihood of car hacking incidents. Researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek conducted a controlled experiment to test the capabilities of the software, finding that they could remotely access a Jeep Wrangler and control its functions through its multimedia system. They were even able to cut the brakes and engine!

In response to the rising threat of car hacking, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) accounced that "to ensure a robust cybersecurity environment for these dynamic new technologies, NHTSA adopted a layered research approach, modified its organizational structure, and is continually developing vital partnerships, encouraging members of the industry to take independent steps to help improve the cybersecurity posture of vehicles in the United States. NHTSA's goal is to stay ahead of potential vehicle cybersecurity challenges, and to continue seeking ways to address or avoid them altogether."

Despite the public’s desire for a wireless network while on the road, it comes at a price some are not willing to pay. It has been proven that the Wi-Fi systems in cars can be exploited. Until the guidelines and regulations concerning cybersecurity in cars and their multimedia systems are tested, improved and enforced, drivers must use their car's technology with caution in order to avoid being hacked. Drivers should also be wary of interacting with their car while driving in order to avoid distracted driving car accidents.


Multimedia systems are designed to make things easier for the driver since they allow the driver to be able to use the features of their smartphone, without actually using their phone. While this hands-free technology may help to prevent the number of car accidents caused by distracted driving, it doesn't complete eliminate distracted driving behaviors. If you or anyone you know has been involved in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, contact The Michigan Law Firm PLLC. For a free consultation, call us today, at 844.4MI.FIRM.

 

 

Chrysler Portal: A Concept Vehicle Made With Millennials In Mind

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They've popularized the selfie, revolutionized the uses for social media, and thrive off of constant action. Who are they? They are millennials of course!

Also known as Generation Y, millennials  are the youngest generation of adults, made up of people born from 1980-2000, who are currently coming in to their own in today's world. While most associations to millennials seem to be negative, for example, one big stereotype is that millennials are lazy and narcissistic, they are the future of the world and of the economy. Recently, however millennials have been labeled as “ruining the American economy,” since statistics have shown that millennials commute by car less than any other generation, thus raising concerns for the multi-billion dollar auto industry. 

To address this lack of millennial car consumer demand, Chrysler unveiled its all-electric Portal concept car at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, 2017. Fiat Chrysler, CNN News reports, is said to have spent 20 years conducting research on these potential customers, understanding their behavior and greatest vehicle desires. There is little surprise that technology was found to be the main requirement millennials were looking for in their cars. With the constant connections and multi-tasking young people do nowadays, both at home and in the workplace, automakers are developing new products with a different crowd in mind.

Chrysler Portal Concept Car

Chrysler Portal's Millennial Inspired Vehicle Features

  1. Portal’s most touted feature involves something as millennial as it gets: selfies. The car is able to take a photo of all six passengers, and then send the image to everyone’s mobile device so it can be shared on social media, connected via plug-in ports.
  2. Another important aspect of Portal is its music, a valuable part of the driving experience for potential millennial customers. The car allows everyone in the vehicle to combine their songs and videos into one shared playlist to listen to while on the road. Portal’s stereo also has “zoned audio” that lets passengers listen to different audio in different parts of the car, without wearing headphones. This technology also can amplify certain external sounds for the driver, like the sound of sirens from an approaching ambulance.
  3. A display screen on the car’s ceiling lets the vehicle’s occupants access a shared playlist from the passengers’ mobile devices, along with putting together things like a drive-thru dinner order. Portal can even pay for the dinner order by linking payment information with the feature.
  4. Portal also has a fully customizable interior. Indoor LED accent lighting can be changed to any color, and car sears may be moved back and forth along tracks and even removed completely to create more storage space. 
  5. All-electric, Chrysler's proposed vehicle can drive up to 250 miles on a full charge. In fact, just 20 minutes of charging allows vehicle operators to drive 150 miles. Not only is this convenient, but it caters to millennials' environmentally friendly mindset. 
  6. While Portal still has a steering wheel and pedals, its limited self-driving capabilities keep the product current with autonomous car technology. The steering wheel is able to fold into the dashboard when not in use. 
  7. Perhaps most importantly to the busy, career driven young person, Chrysler’s millennial-focused vehicle uses cameras with facial recognition software mounted on the outside of the car to recognize people approaching the vehicle. That allows for custom interior and entertainment features to automatically be set up for the passengers before they even enter the vehicle. Portal sounds like it has everything a millennial could ever dream for!
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While automakers are busy working to develop new vehicles with millennial customers in mind, cities on the other hand, are continuing to expand public transportation and other alternative forms of getting around. This recent growth in alternative transportation including city bike share programs, like Detroit's own MoGo, is why Citylab predicts that millennials will rely less and less on cars. Additionally, people who have more money tend to drive more, and millennials just aren’t making much income right now.  Also, this age group cares more about their environmental impact than other generations, choosing other forms of transportation to get around in order to keep the planet clean.  

Chrysler seems to be on the right track in gearing their new motor vehicle concepts towards millennials. However, it is important to remember to focus on the road at all times, as fancy selfie features and multitasking audio systems may increase the chances of a car crash due to distracted driving. Millennials can call themselves the “cool” generation all they want, but new cars like the Portal must promote safety as well as tech savvy, because nothing is cool about causing a car crash.


By designing a vehicle tailored to millennial preferences and driving style, Chrysler's concept vehicle could become a hit among America's biggest generation. However, with the introduction of even more technology in the car, millennial drivers must remember to always keep their eyes on the road, no matter what angle the in-car selfie is snapping a photo from. If you or someone you know has been involved in a distracted driving car accident, contact The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free legal consultation.