Posts tagged cars

New technology will tell drivers when traffic lights change


Should you slow down with urgency or coast with caution to a red light?

A new feature set to be available on certain BMWs will tell drivers when traffic lights will change, and whether they’ll be seeing red or green.

The Bavarian automaker is rolling out a new feature that taps into the traffic signal network of certain cities in the U.S. and Australia in order to tell drivers what’s about happen on the lights ahead.

Powered by Connected Signals, a cloud-based system that receives red or green light data from various cities, drivers will receive a relevant chime or visual notification  based on the anticipated behaviour of upcoming lights. The app also uses data from the car, such as its location and speed.

If the light is about to turn red, they will see a red light notification on the dashboard display accompanied with a countdown. Likewise, the same will happen for a green light.

What if the driver is about to turn left or right rather than drive straight through? If the turning signal is activated, the driver won’t receive a traffic light notification.

In a statement released late last week, BMW USA said any BMW with the BMW Apps feature will be compatible with Connected Signals’ Enlighten App.

This screenshot of the BMW EnLighten app shows when a left turn signal will expire.

This screenshot of the BMW EnLighten app shows when a left turn signal will expire.

Drivers without a BMW can still get the app, but it won’t integrate with their dashboard displays.

It’s not known if the feature will be available to Canadian BMW customers at the same time as U.S. availability.

Why know the lights?

One obvious benefit is that drivers may be able to arrive at their destination more quickly if they’re able to “beat” the lights.

However, BMW highlights the potential for this feature to increase safety and save fuel because the predictions will help drivers avoid unnecessary acceleration or sudden breaking.

The actual savings might not be as remarkable, however.

Other features available from a handful of automakers are also designed to save fuel, without having to keep an eye on the traffic signals.

Many vehicles are available with start-stop systems which turn off the engine at stop lights, or in stop-and-go traffic. The fuel savings, however, may not be considerable. 

Some cars with large engines can also turn off cylinders when the extra oomph isn’t needed.

How to make your old car smart

Today’s new cars are available with enough technology to keep you travelling at the right speed, in your lane and awake for the journey.

However, your 2002 Audi or GM might look sleek but seem long in the tooth without the ability topark autonomously and create Wi-Fi hotspots.

Fortunately, there are ways to make your old car smart without having to get dirty under the hood.

Dash uses a car's on-board diagnostics port to communicate vital vehicle information back to a driver's smartphone

Dash uses a car’s on-board diagnostics port to communicate vital vehicle information back to a driver’s smartphone

Almost all cars built since 1996 have something called an on-board diagnostic port, or more technically speaking, an OBD-II port.

It’s this portal that lets you turn your old ride into a more modern, Internet-connected machine.

Most drivers probably don’t even know what an OBD-II port is, much less know where it is. Hint: look at the bottom of your dashboard, probably in the bottom-left corner by your hood release lever.

When dealerships say they’re going to “scan your car” for problems after you report seeing a dreaded “Check Engine” light, they plug their garage’s computer or tablet to the OBD-II to see what’s wrong with your car.

It’s this port that gives you a window to your vehicle’s soul. All drivers need is an OBD-II port reader and a smartphone.

Get connected

Lemur’s BlueDriver is a simple, basic option that costs about $100.

The dongle, about the size of your key fob, plugs into the OBD-II port and then links up with your phone over a Bluetooth connection.

Drivers and passengers are able to see real-time data from the car, including engine load, emissions information, fuel consumption, etc.

The BlueDriver can also identify and decipher error codes, suggesting possible solutions to a variety of problems. Perhaps that pesky “Check Engine” light is due to a bad oxygen sensor.

While most dealerships may still want to perform their own diagnostics, drivers can still head to the shop with a good idea of what’s wrong under the hood.

Get smarter

Mojio is a niftier OBD-II gadget from a Vancouver-based company. But unlike BlueDriver (and similar competitors), this one is more advanced.

It relies on an always-active 3G Internet connection to transmit your vehicle and driving information back to the cloud — and the driver.


From hard acceleration to unnecessary breaking, Moijo is designed to provide drivers with more than just raw numbers.

Error codes will prompt mobile alerts, while the analytics platform will help drivers see why their fuel-sipping car is blowing through tanks of gas.

However, the steady Internet connection requires a subscription ($4.99/month) so the Mojio won’t be constantly communicating with the driver’s cellphone over a battery-draining Bluetooth connection.

Drivers not wanting to pay a monthly subscription can also consider the Dash or Automatic OBD-II port devices.

Recipes for automation

Ok, you can’t program your old jalopy to drive itself just yet. But the cloud can help make your time behind the wheel more efficient.

Recipes available on IFTT (If This, Then That) can trigger events in your digital ecosystem based on where you drive, how you drive, or what you need to do while driving.

For example, Mojio drivers can receive a mobile alert if their battery runs low. Automatic drivers can prompt their car to turn on their house lights when they get home. Dash can send a tweet to let your followers know you’re on the road and not reading their 140-character posts.

And should your dashboard’s error display light up like a Christmas tree, Automatic can send those error codes to your mechanic via email before you’ve even had a chance to open the owner’s manual.

Three years later, traditional cab companies ready to compete with Uber

Days before lawyers from the City of Toronto and Uber appeared in court to deal with an injunction against the ride-hailing service, two local taxi companies released new mobile apps.

The apps would give customers the power to book a ride, track their cab and pay through the app itself. Sound familiar?

Uber first disrupted the Toronto cab industry more than three years ago, launching on March 15, 2012. It’s since expanded in Canada to Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa and Edmonton.

Uber customers could check the location of nearby drivers, see a fare estimate, track the location of their cab and pay through the app.

In May 2015, Toronto’s Beck and Co-op Cabs were ready to compete.

Beck’s app, released on May 20, is billed as “Canada’s first taxi-company app with in-app payment, map views and many more features…”

Testing out the app, it doesn’t seem to compare as well. The Beck app doesn’t show the location of nearby cabs (until a booking was made), and an attempt to change a booking prompted an error message that read “Order Not Editable.”

During one of my attempts to book a cab, I received a call back from a friendly Beck agent because I didn’t specify an address, I had just dropped the “Pick Me Up” pin at an intersection (and the app didn’t detect a nearby address). The agent on the phone did tell me that humans dispatch the cab drivers, not the app — much like the Beck app in 2012.

The app, however, did provide a fare estimate.

Co-op’s ‘GATA Hub’ app (get a taxi anywhere) wasannounced Friday and is a better solution. It provides fare estimates, advanced cab tracking and in-app payments. Reviews left in the App Store are favourable.

Legality vs. convenience

With the case in court, Uber launched a social media campaign Monday to build support for its ride-hailing service in Toronto.

Early Monday afternoon, the hashtag #uber4to was trending on Twitter in Canada.

Only Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair photos were trending higher.

Most tweets marked with #uber4to praised the convenience and affordability of Uber rides.

Some posts, however, raised concerns over safety and pricing.

Also Monday, traditional taxi drivers gathered outside Toronto City Hall, staging a protest against the digital disrupter.

In an ironic twist captured by one Twitter user, several cab drivers appeared to be protesting the very service they may be active on

When asked how many “normal” taxi drivers use Uber, company spokesperson Susie Heath told that “thousands of drivers in Toronto have partnered on the platform as a new way to earn.”

So much support for a service tangled in legal and policy proceedings may be a testament to its convenience, but Uber isn’t in top gear just yet.

Cross-Canada conundrum

Despite customer praise shared on social media, Uber continues to run into trouble with policymakers.

In Ottawa, some UberX drivers have been fined by bylaw officers while Montreal’s mayor said he believes UberX is illegal.

In a statement issued last October, the City of Toronto said UberX – a version of the app that allows everyday drivers to pick up fare-paying passengersin their own vehicles — violates municipal bylaws and “may post a serious safety risk.”

Uber continues to claim it is a technology company, connecting riders with drivers, while city regulators across Canada say it is an unregulated taxi service.

2015 Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto: 10 cars to see

The Toronto car show can be overwhelming. Many people spend too much time waiting to slide behind the wheel of a BMW M3, only to realize they’ve missed out on checking out a supercar in a different building.

Save yourself the hassle, just worry about checking out these ten must-see vehicles at the show.

1. Acura NSX

Acura NSX

Acura NSX

Gearheads have been drooling over this car since it made its official debut at the Detroit auto show. Well, prepare to pull your jaw off the ground after seeing this gem in Toronto.

Sharp, angular edges hint at the NSX’s powerful, yet modern cabin. The supercar’s rear wheels are powered primarily by a twin-turbo V6 coupled to a nine-speed DCT transmission. Two electric motors, meanwhile, power the front wheels – effectively providing four-wheel drive for the NSX.

2. Maserati Alfieri Concept

Maserati Alfieri Concept

Maserati Alfieri Concept


Making its Canadian debut at the show, the Maserati Alfieri Concept is sure to stun showgoers with its graceful body contours and Italian flair. It’s only fitting that a car designed to celebrate Maserati’s 100th anniversary is this gorgeous.

Exactly what’s powering this thing, and how much will it cost? As is the case with many concept cars, nothing is confirmed. But – this luxury model is an indication of what the next Maserati could look like.

3. 2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell



2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

Ok, I’ll admit this Hyundai won’t be turning heads. There’s no Italian design or Germanic power here, but pay attention to this car. Why? It’s the first production fuel cell electric vehicle that will be available in Canada.

Sure, you have a better chance of finding snow in Mexico than finding a hydrogen station to fill ‘er up, but on the positive side, this Hyundai has a range of 425 km on one tank. Also, nothing but water comes out of the exhaust.

4. Infiniti Q80

Infiniti Q80

Infiniti Q80


The Q80 isn’t a car you’ll find in a dealership anytime soon. Rather, the Q80 is Infiniti’s hint at what’s to come from the Japanese automaker. It’s not just a concept car based on bold, stretched curves, but on smart and connected technology too.

Infiniti says the Q80 is an autonomous car, meaning that it can drive itself. There’s also a hybrid powertrain under the hood to keep things green.

5. Jaguar Project 7


Jaguar Project 7

Jaguar Project 7


The Project 7 is an F-Type on steroids, borrowing some design inspiration from the classic D-Type that won Le Mans three times.

The high-performance sports car from Jaguar has a lightweight all-aluminum body that wraps around a 5-litre supercharged V8. It’ll hit 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds before topping out at 300 km/h.

Don’t get too attached, all seven Canadian models have been sold.

6. 2016 Audi TTS Coupe, Roadster

2016 Audi TTS Coupe, Roadster

2016 Audi TTS Coupe, Roadster


Audi’s small sports car has been redesigned for the next model year. The new look blends styling cues from modern Audi design language with the TT’s original lines.

For the third-generation model, Audi is equipping these two-door cars with an all-digital instrument cluster in a move that’s designed to reduce driver distraction.

7. MINI Superleggera Vision

MINI Superleggera Vision

MINI Superleggera Vision

This is car is the most extreme MINI at the show. It’s as if a British car went to get a suit from an Italian tailor, and walked out of the shop looking like this.

It’s a hand-made concept, a collaboration with Italian design and tuning shop Touring Superleggera.

The swooping hood and wide-mouthed rear are uncharacteristic of Mini cars, but this model offers a drastic look at what happens when the British and Italians team up.

8. 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

If straight-line speed is what gets you excited, check out this Charger, which Dodge claims is the fastest and most powerful production sedan in the world.

All that oomph comes from a 6.2-litre supercharged HEMI V8 that pumps out an intense 707 hp for a top speed of 328 km/h.

The big front grille and hood scoop isn’t just for show. Those body modifications are necessary to properly cool such a big engine, and to feed the superchargers enough air.

Did I mention it’s made in Canada?

9. 2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S

2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S

2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S

This is the car that little kids will want as a poster hanging on their bedroom walls, and the car that grown adults will want on their driveways.

Its wide, gracefully curved body makes the GT S one of the most elegant yet athletic vehicles at the show. Power comes from a beefy 4-litre V8 biturbo engine tuned by AMG, which is the performance arm of Mercedes. The 510 hp engine will get the GT S up to legal highway speed in 3.8 seconds.

Possible deal breaker? No back seats.

10. 2017 Ford GT

2017 Ford GT

2017 Ford GT

The GT dropped jaws when Ford unveiled it to the world in Detroit last month, and now we’ve learned that there’s a Canadian connection.

The 2017 GT will be built in Markham, Ont. beginning later next year, but you can check it out now at the Toronto show’s Ford booth.

The mid-engine car features a twin-turbo V6 engine that’s designed to pump at least 600 hp to the rear wheels. Carbon fibre construction means the weight is kept low, so this car should deliver dramatic results on the road.


Self-driving cars – the best part of CES

Look ma, no hands required. A modified Audi A7 drives on its own.

Look ma, no hands required. A modified Audi A7 drives on its own.

The International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas used to be all about…consumer technology. From sleek new 4K TVs to next-generation connected home devices to wearable fitness trackers, most analysts and journalists appeared to ignore the automotive side of the show, until now.

This year, several keynotes were delivered by auto industry bigwigs as they flaunted the latest features their cars will ship with next year, or next decade.

From better connectivity to cars that drive themselves, CES is now one of the biggest shows to show what’s next for the auto industry.

Volkswagen at CES: Golf R Touch virtual dashboard

Volkswagen, for example, showed off the Golf R Touch. Its dashboard is comprised of several touchscreens. There’s no traditional tachometer or speedo, just a display you can customize to show exactly that.

Although the dash can be controlled with touch, controls can also be managed with motion from the driver or other occupants.

No longer will drivers be distracted by searching for the rear defroster button, buried at the bottom of their dash centre stack. It’ll be just a matter of waving your hand over a certain part of the cabin, with a twist of the finger to control the intensity of the heat.

Audi shows off self-driving cars


Last year, Audi unveiled a self-driving car which contained a computer that was significantly smaller than the self-driving A7 they brought to CES in 2013. This year, the Germans sent their cars driving around Vegas on their own.


Woman posts ‘happy’ photo to Facebook before fatal crash

If you need another example of why people shouldn’t text and drive, a North Carolina woman has provided it.

Courtney Sanford, 32, was driving along when she posted a photo of herself in her car, happy that she was listening to Pharell’s song ‘Happy.’

The woman’s last Facebook post went up at 8:33 a.m. – and drivers report the accident occurring at 8:34 a.m.

According to a local news report, Sanford drifted across the median and into oncoming traffic, smashing head-on into a big truck.

Seriously people, texting/Facebooking/emailing and driving don’t mix.


Police: Woman Posted To Facebook Before Deadly Crash.

Review: Cadillac ATS 4 is a sports car in the body of a family car

The Cadillac ATS sits in 10 cm of snow. It's also quite good on clear roads - serious.

The Cadillac ATS sits in 10 cm of snow. It’s also quite good on clear roads – serious.

When most people think of Cadillac, they think of old men with white (or no) hair, skin as wrinkled as the leather on a sofa in a frat house and a smile as straight as an Italian politician.

Generally, Cadillacs were known for being big boats on wheels with handling as nimble as an elephant’s, and luxury as current as a turntable.

photoSo, given the chance to take the new 2013 Cadillac ATS for an extended test drive, I had low expectations – and I was a little anxious.

The weekend I was handed the keys to the car was the weekend I was supposed to head out of town to check out a wedding venue off the shores of Georgian Bay.

Snow was falling in the city and my trusty Audi TT, outfitted with winter tires and Ingolstadt’s legendary Quattro all wheel drive system, would stay tucked away in my parking garage.

So instead of driving the car with four rings, I had a car that GM boasts was developed at the ‘Ring – the Nürburgring, that is.

About three centimetres of snow coated the roads Friday night as I ventured through city streets to pick up my fiance who was meeting me at a subway station.

Cars around me slid to a stop and spun their wheels through the white stuff.

The rear Cadillac logo, a little frosty after a night on the roads.

The rear Cadillac logo, a little frosty after a night on the roads.

This was no ordinary ATS, however. Cadillac had sent me the four-wheel-drive ATS 4. Setting it into Snow mode adapted the ride and power for trudging through the fluffy stuff that most of the other drivers were struggling with.

And that gave me extra time at stop lights to get acquainted with the bells and whistles of the ATS. Seat warmer? Of course. Heated steering wheel? Nice – especially after dusting off the car. More USB charging ports than I can think of using? Check – including one hidden behind the centre console that lets me plug my phone into CUE, Cadillac’s techy  control system.

CUE – while taking some time to learn – offers up a large capacitative touchscreen to control everything from the temperature to the navigation system to my music, tunes which pumped out through a potent BOSE sound system designed to mask the sound of the four-cylinder turbocharged 2-litre engine.

But despite being a gadget guy, I’m also a gearhead. And I wasn’t going to dwell on the gadgetry of this car configured in the Performance trim level.

The rest of the night, I charged on through country roads covered in snow. The Heads Up Display meant I could focus on the road ahead, without having to move my eyes down to the instrument cluster.

It’s not that the rest of the interior is something I’d want to avoid, however. For the most part, it’s built of good-quality materials. Bucket seats keep the front occupants snug in position.

My only complaint about the interior surround the plastic cover on top of the instrument cluster. Everything else feels like it belongs in a modern luxury car, but that one piece of plastic over the instrument panel feels cheap and plasticky.

Twisty roads surround my destination, and clear weather provided the ultimate conditions for putting the ATS through it’s paces. With traction coming from each wheel, I drove into a corner carrying enough speed that would have sent a RWD car into the ditch. (more…)

Toyota to put wireless phone chargers in cars

Toyota is going to have a feature in one of its new models that will let you wirelessly charge your phone while you drive.

The 2013 Toyota Avalon, when equipped with the technology package, will have a charging mat in the cabin, according to a BBC report.

All the driver (or passenger) will need to do is leave their smartphone on the mat and let it charge.

This saves you from having to fumble around for a charging cord – or battle over the cigarette adaptor socket.

The feature isn’t cheap, however. It’s bundled in the $1,950 “technology package.”

And don’t expect that feature to work with all phones right away. Toyota says it’s only compatible with handsets that use the Qi standard (pronounced chee).

Read more

App calls out bad parking with humiliation for all to see

Are you sick of those smug guys with flashy BMWs, who park their cars diagonally across two spots? Or the fellow with the Land Rover who parks on the curb, because he can?

We’ve all seen awful parking jobs and stared helplessly at their disgraceful automotive habits. But some folks have decided to call out the bad parkers.

An online news group in Russia has created an app to call out the most hideous parkers around.

The Village is using its new app – Parking Douche – to call out bad parking jobs for all to see.

Read more

Fiat’s ‘Boob Job’ – an ad gone too far?

Fiat is under fire for a new car advertisement. In it, a woman tells her significant other she’s going to get a boob job. The punch line is the car “for the best time of your life.”

Have a look for yourself – is the ad going too far?


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