Category Archives: Automotive Technology

Lane Changes and Mirrors

Here is a question I received and answered on the now-defunct website

I recently got my drivers license that now allows me to drive alone. I’m still a bit nervous with certain things like changing lanes and left hand turns. When changing lanes how should the cars appear in my mirrors to let me know I have enough space without cutting them off? Someone told me if I can see their head lights in my rear mirror I have enough room, is this correct? I always check my blind spot as well but changing lanes really gives me bad nerves. Any advice is appreciated!

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Best Way To Improve Gas Mileage?

Here is a question I received and answered on the now-defunct website

I had read in a book for better gas mileage and better tire wear that a person could look on the side wall of the tire and note the maximum tire pressure for maximum full load and then inflate the tires to that pressure when they are cold or unused for 4 hours. Naturally in snowy conditions you should drive slower. What is your opinion?

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What Hand Signals?

Here is a question I received and answered on the now-defunct website

I am 35 and have been driving for nearly 20 years and so don’t remember my driver’s test. It was brought to my attention today that there are hand signals people are supposed to know if ever there signals don’t work? Honestly never had that issue as I take care of my vehicle and don’t remember that on driver’s test either. That’s an actual thing? I mean if someone was waving an arm out the window like a crazy person I would make a point to let them do whatever they want.

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MDI Car Care Clinic Pre-Registration

This summer, Modern Driver Institute will provide Car Care Clinic sessions, which will teach new drivers how to:

  • change a flat tire
  • safely use jumper cables
  • safely use road flares
  • check fluid levels
  • diagnose vehicle trouble

The MDI Car Care Clinic will be held once a month on a Saturday, and will be about 3 hours in length.  Enrollment will be limited to 12 participants per session.  All participants will receive an emergency kit for their trunk!  Location and dates to be announced shortly.

If you’re interested, complete the pre-registration form below and we’ll contact you as soon as the classes are announced.

MDI Car Care Clinic Pre-Registration

What do those lights on the dash mean?

Modern cars have a variety of icon lights that provide information to the driver about the current state of the car.  Most will appear briefly during start-up, and then only appear again if that particular system is activated or that particular status is detected.

In general, yellow or amber colored icons are advisories – they represent conditions you should be aware of, but may not require your immediate attention.    Red colored icons are warnings – the vehicle should not be driven until these issues have been resolved.

Click on any image below to learn more about the icon pictured.

Walmart’s New Vehicle Concept

OK, raise your hands if you really thought Walmart was developing its own concept vehicle.

Me, either.  But they were, and they have.  Their new creation is called the WAVE (Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience), and it represents their vision of the future of trucking.

What looks like a corvette on steroids is, according to Walmart, 20% more aerodynamic than their current fleet trucks.  Part of the aerodynamics boost comes from moving the driver to the center of the vehicle, F1 style.  Additional gains come from making the entire trailer from carbon fiber.

Check out the presentation video below for a better look.

Cars That Drive Themselves

The February 2012 issue of Wired Magazine features a cover story about cars that drive themselves.  No longer a technology of the future, these cars are actually here already, navigating themselves through busy rush hour freeway traffic at 70 miles per hour.  And they’re doing it more safely than the human beings around them.

Google's Self-Driving Car

These cars utilize everything from radar to laser arrays to identify and track targets around them, and they can make 20 threat assessments every second.  Recently, I had a high school class take a hazard perception challenge in which I showed them a slide for four seconds and then asked them three questions about what they saw.  Whines and grumbles flared up with the first question, as students complained that that wasn’t enough time.  I then showed them several video clips in which unrecognized threats turned into crashes in less than two seconds – the idea being to reinforce how every second counts when driving for survival.

But, 20 threat assessments each second?  If there’s a human mind capable of matching that, I’ve never been in its company.

I’m one of those people who loves to drive.  I prefer a standard transmission to an automatic and would rather be on a curvy mountain road alone than on a crowded freeway.  But I’m keenly aware most people don’t share my passion for it.  Most people use their car simply to get them from one place to another as quickly as possible.  For them, automatic transmissions, power steering, ABS, electronic stability control and even automated parallel parking are welcome conveniences, elements of the driving task they are happy to hand over to computer control.

Nevada has become the first state to pass laws concerning self-driving cars – they’re exempt from anti-texting laws, for one.  As the Wired author puts it, “Maybe the problem is not that texting and Facebook are distracting us from driving. Maybe the problem is that driving distracts us from our digital lives.”

Read the full WIRED article online here.

What would you prefer?

Would you rather sign off from your digital world for an hour at a time and tackle the physical and cognitive tasks required to drive safely, or would you prefer to select your destination and let the car handle getting you there while you multitask through your commute?