Oct 152018
 

Autonomous Vehicles
The ‘future’ is finally here as self-driving cars aren’t a ‘what if?’ but rather a ‘why not’? Just a few years ago it was largely uncharted territory but now, every major car manufacturer is pursuing the technology and some autonomous vehicles are already on the road in Paris, Singapore and several states in the US.

What Car Manufacturers Are Involved?

GM tops the list with Daimler-Bosch (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz), Ford, Volkswagen and BMW not far behind. What’s more, whole manufacturers are working together, with Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi having formed an alliance while Volvo, Autoliv, Ericsson and Zenuity have formed a separate alliance.

With GM having promised the release of driverless taxis in large cities by 2019, it’s about time we all figured out how they work.

How Do Self-Driving Cars Work?

In short: self-driving cars create and maintain an internal map of their surroundings using lasers, sensors, radars and even sonar. Every system is different and technologies (unsurprisingly) continue to evolve. The ‘map’ is then continually processed by the cars software and a path is plotted. The car is able to accelerate, brake and steer through actuators while algorithms, codes and predictive modelling help the car follow the rules of the road and avoid hitting people and other objects.

Machine Learning and AI

The most important feature of these man-less machines is Machine Learning. This AI (artificial intelligence) tool trains computers to detect pedestrians and differentiate between a bicycle and a motorcycle. Because it’s impossible to write a rule (those algorithms we talked about above) for every situation in this complex world, the cars have to be trained to learn and navigate on their own.

The Future

There are currently several levels of autonomy and researchers have created a scale from 0-5.

Most of us are currently driving either a Level 0 or a Level 1, with Level 0 being a car completely controlled by the human and Level 1 being a car that has features like cruise control. Level 2 offers several systems, like automatic acceleration and braking, but it still requires a human for operation. Moving up to Level 3, the car can – for all intents and purposes – drive on its own, but a human can be alerted to take over under certain circumstances. Level 4 is a fully autonomous car in most situations while Level 5 is fully autonomous and self-drives in every situation.

With Level 5’s driving around several cities in the world on their own, we should expect to see them in the UK sooner than any of us could have expected.

 

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.


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Jun 222018
 

 

With environmental concerns at the forefront of news stories, documentaries and media campaigns, it’s not surprising many people are now considering whether to ‘go green’ with their next vehicle.

However, if you have your eye on a certain non-eco model or are in the market for a higher performance vehicle, there are still ways you can be economical and as environmentally friendly as possible. Once you have a shortlist, make sure you check out the Reliability Index to compare models.

Here are Warranty Direct’s tips on how to make sure you’re efficient, without sacrificing the enjoyment of driving a performance vehicle.

What are you looking for?

Whether price, fuel efficiency, practicality or enjoyment is your priority when buying a car, you need to weigh up your options and see which vehicle matches your lifestyle.

If you are mainly going to be using the car for city driving, which doesn’t require high speeds or fast acceleration, look at smaller vehicles with an engine size of around 1L. This will not only be a practical size for urban driving, it should work out to be more economical than a larger engine.

If a small engine is constantly used at high speed, it’ll need to work much harder than a large engine to keep the car moving at 70mph. This will increase fuel consumption and could lead to greater long-term wear and tear as the engine’s components are put under strain.

So, if you do a lot of long distance or motorway driving, choose a car with a larger engine, which provides a good mpg.

Eco-driving

If you can’t help but go for a high-performance or sports car, there are still ways you can limit your fuel consumption to save money and cut pollution.

Get your car serviced regularly to make sure it’s running well and always use the right specification of engine oil, which you will find in your handbook. Check your tyre pressures at least once a month and before any long journeys, as under-inflated tyres will cause your car to use more fuel to overcome the added resistance.

Driving smoothly, accelerating gently and reading the road ahead to avoid breaking unnecessarily will all reduce fuel consumption. Stick to the speed limit, as not only is speeding dangerous it also uses more fuel.

Technological advances

Due to advances in engine technology, some of today’s smaller engines are able to produce more power than some bigger, older engines due to turbocharging. When looking at buying a new car, research into models such as Suzuki’s BoosterJet or Ford’s EcoBoost, where there is little or no sacrifice in power or style.

Some manufacturers now include a ‘sports’ mode or a ‘4WD’ mode in their cars. This means you can have all the fun of a high-performance car when you want it, but the practicality of a more economic drive for everyday use.

It’s all about the extras

Many cars now incorporate eco features, so you can get the style of car you want, but with the benefits of efficiency too. For instance, some modern cars now have LED head-lights and can even incorporate emissions sensors to help keep our air clean.

Extras which aim to improve your in-car experience can also help to improve driving economy. Many cars – even on the more affordable end – now come with cruise control and using this will not only give you a more comfortable ride, it could even save you up to six percent in fuel costs during motorway driving.

For extra savings, adaptive cruise control will speed up or slow down based on the position of cars in front. It uses either a radar or camera system to track the vehicles ahead and adjusts speed accordingly, alleviating the need for sharp braking and accelerating.

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.

 

Jul 312016
 

The race is currently on to create the next breakthrough in driving – autonomous cars. With technology companies and car manufacturers rigorously testing their own take on the driverless car, how far are we from the new future of motoring?

The support for autonomous / driverless cars was front and centre of recent new government backed legislation in early 2016. The overall aim was to have motorists buying and using self-driving cars by 2020. Chances are, if you’ve followed news within the motoring world, you’ve likely been hearing a lot recently about plans for driverless cars and many are keen to jump on the bandwagon.

Partially autonomous cars are already available now to motorists; with the ‘Parking Assist’ feature widely embodied in a variety of car makes and models.  Furthermore, some cars on the market are already experimenting with the technology themselves such as the high profile Tesla Model S “Autopilot” feature. But this has only been an indication of what a fully driverless car could potentially achieve.

Plans for full autonomous cars have been frequently announced across manufacturers and mainstream companies. Volvo laid down plans earlier in the year regarding their ambitious trial of recruiting members of the British public to test their autonomous technology on a public highway. This particular test will see a limited number of semi-AD cars running in London early next year.  Similarly, The GATEway project has also opened their doors to the public to participate in similar trials – conducted at the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab in Greenwich.

Search engine giants Google have also been flying their flag for driverless cars for a considerable amount of time. They’ve been constantly in the spotlight with their own vehicle throughout its testing phase. However, early reviews from journalists were not thrilled by the car’s performance. This hasn’t been helped by some additional public testing hiccups along the way with the occasional crash and police pulling a test model over for being too slow. It seems Google’s advantage in the race to create the first driverless car has faded. With other companies like Uber and possibilities surrounding Apple’s involvement in the motor industry, it’s clear that this method of transport seems high on agenda’s for the manufacturer and technology companies.

As it stands it’s too early to see who will launch their driverless vehicle first, so don’t expect them to appear on driveways near you just yet. There are still many other areas to address before driverless cars can be properly inducted onto our roads. Motor insurance guidelines, driving tests and other areas of established road rules and regulations also need to be prepared for the dawn of the driverless motor. Despite the backing of UK legislation, the autonomous future seems to be coming though at a cautious pace.