Feb 042019
 

Autonomous VehiclesWhile fully self-driving vehicles aren’t quite part of today’s reality just yet, many new cars feature assisted and partial automation already.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders predicts the technology being developed for connected and autonomous vehicles will have prevented 25,000 accidents by 2030.

Warranty Direct looks at some of the key self-driving technologies making today’s vehicles safer and more efficient.

Ultrasonic sensors

 Most drivers will be familiar with ultrasonic sensors, with many vehicles already adopting the technology to help with reversing into tight parking spaces and more.

Ultrasonic sensors send out sound waves to detect surrounding objects. When the waves hit an object, it gives the car an accurate measurement of how close they are, to avoid collisions.

Blind-spot information system

Blind spot monitoring technology uses radar systems or rear-facing digital cameras, to sense vehicles which appear in a car’s blind spot. If this happens, a warning light shows in either the door mirror or within the A-pillar to alert the driver and make them aware of a potential hazard.

It’s become particularly useful when a motorist wishes to change lanes, as the technology offers an audible or haptic message if there is another vehicle in a car’s blind spot.

While it should reduce the number of collisions caused from changing lanes, drivers still need to check their blind spots and mirrors regularly and not become dependent on this technology alone.

IoT connectivity

Utilising IoT connectivity gives vehicles the ability to access wider data, like real-time traffic and weather updates, to ensure the safest and smoothest drive possible.

Connecting to a world of internet devices poses its problems, though. Privacy and safety are the biggest issue, with automated cars open to hacking, and the threat of information theft from connected devices like mobile phones.

Lane-keeping alert and automatic steering assist

By using a forward-looking camera, this technology has been developed to recognise when drivers are drifting out of a lane. Most vehicles will give either a visual or audible warning, but some higher-end motors now have automatic systems to divert a car safely back into the correct lane.

At the moment the technology is most effective on dry motorways and in a smooth flow of traffic, but there are developments being made to make it more precise and better suited to other situations such as driving on rural roads.

Traffic sign recognition

This uses a camera to scan road signs, then communicates this information back to either the dashboard or infotainment section of a vehicle.

All drivers should be well-versed on the Highway Code, which provides information on all the relevant road signs. However, this technology has been designed more as “extra driving assistance”, to help people when on unfamiliar roads or if they may have missed a change in the speed limit.

What’s next…?

Automation is measured in five stages; with the final, most advanced stage being a fully autonomous system. This is when a vehicle’s performance is equal to that of a human driver.

The majority of vehicles are currently at stage two, which is what the systems listed earlier like park assist and lane-keeping alert are currently rated.

But what are some of the technologies the motoring industry has in the pipeline to take us to stage five?

Car-to-x

Mercedes-Benz is currently working on a new technology – car-to-x – which will allow drivers to see ‘into the future’ – past multiple bends and maybe even further.

The sophisticated technology establishes networked links among and between vehicles and traffic infrastructure, so you can adjust your driving behaviour and defuse potentially dangerous situations.

The new GPS

Fully self-driving cars will rely on GPS devices to locate their position, helping to establish a route, know when to turn and more.

The worry is GPS devices can sometimes be off by a few metres, which would be extremely dangerous for a travelling vehicle. However, by connecting to other built-in sensors and cameras, vehicles can pinpoint an exact location.

Nov 192018
 

Even for confident and experienced drivers, fog can be one of the most daunting (and dangerous!) weather conditions to drive in. With limited visibility, it’s vital that you’re prepared in order to keep you and those you’re sharing the road with safe.

While standard rules of the road of course apply, these 10 tips will help you navigate even extremely dense fog to avoid an accident.

  1. Leave plenty of room between your car and the car in front of you. While it’s always important to keep a bit of distance, amid fog, it’s an absolute must. We recommend allowing 3-4 seconds between your car and the car in front of you, giving yourself extra time to brake.
  2. Look and listen. When visibility is low, use your sense of hearing in addition to sight. For example, at a foggy junction, roll down your window to listen to traffic. With this in mind, it’s also wise to turn down – or even turn off – your radio to allow you to focus your attention completely on the road.
  3. Turn your headlights on. This should go without saying. Make sure you turn on your headlights or your fog-lights if visibility is reduced to 100 metres. Also, bear in mind that automatic lights might not turn on in foggy conditions and you can’t rely on them all the time.
  4. Use windshield wipers and defrosters. Foggy conditions often go hand-in-hand with cold or damp conditions and a build-up of moisture and ice can create a glare, making it even more difficult to see. Use your defroster and windshield wipers to make your view of the road as clear as possible.
  5. Slow down! It can be extremely dangerous to drive the speed limit or faster when it’s foggy. Slow down to allow extra time to react to potentially hazardous situations. This will also help enable others on the road to drive more safely.
  6. Don’t use the taillights from the vehicle in front of you as a guide. This is an easy trap to fall in to but using the taillights from the vehicle in front of you could give you a false sense of security. It also acts as a distraction, limiting your awareness of the road and landscape in front of you.
  7. Be aware of the car behind you. Constantly check your mirrors so that you know how close the car behind you is and brake accordingly. If the car behind you is following too closely, resist the urge to speed off. Without being able to see very far ahead, you run the risk of causing an accident. Stick with a safe speed, even if the driver behind you doesn’t seem to want to.
  8. Expect delays. As is the case with other unfavourable weather conditions, fog could cause delays. Wait patiently and don’t attempt to ‘make up time’ by speeding.
  9. Minimise distractions. You should never attempt to multi-task when driving in foggy conditions. Put your phone away, keep conversations with passengers to a minimum, and give your full attention to the road in front of you.
  10. Don’t be afraid to pull over. Only you can determine how comfortable you feel and, if you don’t feel right about being on the road, pull over! But, make sure you pull as far off the road as possible and turn on your hazard lights. Remember that everyone on the road is struggling to see, so make sure you’re well out of the way and do your best to make sure other drivers know where you are. If possible, pull into a service station or car park.

 

Nov 012018
 

UK motorway lit upDespite smart motorways existing for more than ten years in the UK, research by the Institute of Advanced Motorists showed 67% of drivers felt there has been no publicity surrounding their creation, meaning many don’t fully understand the concept of smart motorways or how they work.

If you’re in the majority, Warranty Direct has put together a guide to explain the changes, benefits and potential new fines smart motorways might bring in the future.

The basics

A smart motorway is a section of a motorway that uses traffic management methods to increase capacity and reduce congestion in, particularly busy areas.

These methods include using the hard shoulder as a running lane and applying variable speed limits to control the flow of traffic.

Smart motorways are an effective and cost efficient way of increasing space on our roads, cutting jams and speeding up journey times.

In fact, government predictions suggest journey times will be improved by ten per cent along the M1 and 15 per cent on the M3 once work to create Smart motorways along these routes is complete.

There are three types of schemes which are classed as smart motorways:

  • Controlled motorways use at least three lanes, with variable speed limits set accordingly along the stretch of road and a hard shoulder which should only be used in emergencies
  • Dynamic hard shoulder running schemes use variable speed limits and a hard shoulder that can be opened as a running lane at busy times. Illuminated overhead signs tell you when you may drive on the hard shoulder
  • All lane running schemes mean you will notice there is no hard shoulder. Instead, every lane is in use, with variable speed limits again being set as and when required. As a result of this design, motorists should do their utmost to stop at an emergency refuge area if they encounter a problem

Not so fast and furious

Of course, all normal road rules and laws apply to smart motorways, but there are a few points in particular worth highlighting.

The same laws apply for speeding on a smart motorway, but with more cameras and variable speed limits, motorists have a much higher chance of getting caught and fined for speeding.

Given the new speeding sentencing structures, offenders can be charged a maximum of £2,500 on a motorway or up to 175% of their weekly income. Fines are worked out on a sliding scale depending on the severity of the speeding offence. Motorists who break the rules leave themselves wide open to these more severe penalties.

New digital speed cameras are now widely used to enforce variable speed limits too. Though they are clearly signed, these are smaller and less visible than the more familiar ‘yellow box’ cameras. So, make sure you pay attention to road signage when driving and adjust your speed accordingly.

Don’t follow the red X

Earlier this year, Highways England found as many as 20% of vehicles were driving through the red X signs used on smart motorways.

On a smart motorway, the red X indicates a lane is closed, due to there not being the necessity to have it open, an accident or maintenance occurring.

It is an offence to drive in a lane with a red X on the gantry above it. Not only is it extremely dangerous, but there are also plans to introduce fixed penalty fines in the future instead of the manual enforcement currently in place. So it’s best to get into the habit of leaving a closed lane as soon as you can.

If you are still unsure about how to drive on a smart motorway, here are some more quick tips to give you clarity:

  • Keep to the speed limit shown on the gantries
  • A solid white line indicates the hard shoulder, so don’t drive in it unless directed
  • A broken white line indicates a normal running lane
  • If your vehicle experiences difficulties, exit the smart motorway as soon as possible
  • Use the refuge areas for emergencies if there’s no hard shoulder
  • Never drive in a lane closed by a red “X”
  • Put your hazard lights on if you break down
Sep 042018
 

Essential Driving AppsBeing able to drive is one of life’s luxuries, but, it can also bring with it a host of frustrations. There’s parking, fuel costs and car maintenance to consider (as well as the initial stress of selecting the right vehicle for you at the start.)

However, with the rise of driving apps, motorists can now enjoy additional car add-ons, without the hefty price tags.

Here, Warranty Direct shares some of the best apps to take some of the stress out of your daily drive.

Triumph over traffic

There’s nothing worse than having your morning commute to work ruined by stand-still traffic.

This is where your trusty sat-nav can come in useful, as it helps plan the best and quickest route to your chosen destination. It can also work out the best alternative route, if you find yourself stuck in a bit of a jam.

There are apps available to assist too, such as Waze. All you need to do is log the journey and destination before you start driving and, voila, a less time-consuming travel experience should await!

You can use maps on your iPhone or Android to stay up-to-date with the latest traffic conditions as well, but make sure your phone is set up as hands-free, to avoid any safety issues on the roads.

Stay on track

As most drivers know only too well, keeping a car on the road can be costly. There’s car maintenance, fuel costs, insurance and tax to think about.

There’s a lot to consider, but luckily car management apps can help put you on the right course. Drivvo is designed to help you manage the cost of fuel consumption, car maintenance expenses and service costs.

It also has an innovative feature which allows you to check fuel prices at stations nearby.

Park your troubles

Research on the cost of parking in the UK found the average motorist spends almost £2000 a year on parking. Thankfully, apps such as JustPark help motorists find a solution to this costly problem.

From work journeys to weekend trips, JustPark can provide you with directions to car parks and on-street spaces, plus information on availability and restrictions.

It also offers 20,000+ reservable locations, so you can book parking in advance too.

With the average Brit spending an estimated four days every year looking for parking spaces, this app could bring an end to hours of parking woes.

In a dash

According to a recent AA study, dashcam usage has rocketed from 1 to 15% in just four years.

One of the reasons behind this boom is because these small cameras (usually mounted on the dashboard or windscreen of your car) document crucial evidence that could protect you in the event of a car accident.

Not only does dashcam footage help in the event of an accident, but some insurers are offering motorists discounts on their car insurance premiums if they have a dashcam installed.

While the reliability of dashcam apps greatly depends on the quality of your smartphone, they can give drivers additional peace of mind.

Breaking it down

Sometimes it’s hard to know what condition the internal components of your car are in. Unless a fault happens, you won’t know and if it happens suddenly, it could take away your control over your vehicle.

Warranty Direct recently teamed up with Engie to help put control back in your hands with its diagnostic device.

By connecting its Bluetooth device to a car’s computer via the OBD2 port, it can transfer data such as daily vehicle diagnosis, journey data and more to the accompanying smart phone app.

In the event of a malfunction or an upcoming vehicle service, the Engie app can also help aggregate real time quotes from nearby mechanics as well; helping you save money during your vehicle ownership.

We believe the Engie device and app brings more control to vehicle owners and allows them to talk directly to their cars. As such, we’re offering an Engie device to new and renewing customers for FREE*.

*Subject to Warranty Direct and Engie terms and conditions. See warrantydirect.co.uk for further information.


Policies underwritten by Pinnacle Insurance plc. Arranged and administered by Warranty Direct. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Jun 222018
 

For many, going on holiday means hopping on a plane and jetting off to the sunshine.

However, with regular ferries and the Channel Tunnel, it’s never been easier to escape the UK by car. If you need some extra convincing, Warranty Direct has put together eight fool-proof reasons why driving is better than flying…

1. Take charge

If the thought of flying makes your palms sweaty, forget the plane; sit back and enjoy the feeling of being behind the wheel in your own car.

Many phobias of flying stem from the fear of not being in control, so keeping your feet firmly on the pedals could be the best choice if being air bound is not your favourite pastime.

2. Forget baggage allowances

Driving allows you a lot more flexibility with luggage, so load up the boot and be on your way.

Just make sure you’re within the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) or Maximum Permitted Weight (MPW) for your car, which can be found in your handbook. Always load responsibly, with heavier items at the bottom for added stability.

3. It’s all about the food

While in recent years plane food may have improved, it’s still not going to be your first-choice cuisine.

When driving, not only can you stock up on your favourite snacks, you could even stop at some gastronomically fantastic cafes or restaurants. Check sites such as Trip Adviser before you leave, so you won’t be disappointed.

4. You can have ‘fun stops’

You can also visit sights on your journey. Plan your route and put in some cities or attractions you’ve always wanted to see to make travelling part of the holiday. This is also a great way to keep kids entertained along the way!

However, with driving you run the risk of the less-fun stops; breakdowns. To get you on the road again as quickly as possible, make sure you’re covered in case of emergencies.

5. You can control the temperature

One of the worst things about being on a plane is temperature control. Sure, you have an individual air vent, but there’s very little you can do if you find yourself too hot or too cold.

In your own temperature-controlled car, you get to be in charge of the in-car environment. That is until the children have their way with the dial.

6. Think about the children

Flights with children can be stressful. With the extra baggage, the early morning start and the queue for security, you may find yourself needing a holiday before you’ve even taken off.

When driving, you can avoid airport queues, stop whenever is needed and even put children in the car in pyjamas, so they continue to sleep while en route.

7. Your wallet will thank you

Plane tickets can be pricey, even short-haul ones. If you calculate the cost of flights for the whole family, the price can quickly mount up.

Driving can often work out much better economically, even when accounting for fuel, ferry or channel crossing costs. If you have a car full of friends you can split the fuel costs, which will make the journey even more affordable and potentially a lot more fun.

8. Leave no one behind

If you’re a pet owner, you will know the pain of leaving your furry friend behind and also the hassle of finding a good quality pet sitter, kennel or cattery while you’re away.

If you’re driving, it’s easy to make your pet part of your holiday. Install either a pet seatbelt to clip into your car or a travel cage in the boot, as a loose pet could be distracting for a driver. If you’re going abroad, pets will still need passports, so make sure you’re covered.

Warranty Direct is a trading style of BNP Paribas Cardif Limited. BNP Paribas Cardif Limited is a company, registered in England and Wales No. 3233010 at Pinnacle House, A1 Barnet Way, Borehamwood, Herts, WD6 2XX and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, Register No.309075.