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The coronavirus pandemic has hit home for millions as it has evolved into serious business over the past few weeks in North America.

The virus known as COVID-19 has forced the world indoors, with individuals and families scrambling to adjust to what’s become our new normal. Federal and international guidelines broadcast over social media can read like a mother’s list of commands: "Wash your hands! Don’t touch your face! Stay indoors and work at home!" Businesses of all sizes are bracing for losses, with schools, houses of worship, and sports leagues closing down overnight. What has become an international crisis seems far beyond our control, unlike so much of our technologically-driven society.

Speaking of technology: cars have become the final frontier -- the last thing standing between people and the outside world. With the uncertainty surrounding the virus and knowing that anyone is at risk of transmitting it, retreating to your car while you look for food or essential supplies allows you to practice social distancing and (if it’s clean enough) maintain a controlled zone that keeps you and others safe. Over the last decade, technological advancements in vehicles -- including Bluetooth, streaming services, and Wi-Fi can help make your car feel like home.

Bluetooth

This wireless tool has been a staple of electronic communications since the 2000s and has been the catalyst for both public events and private time. This technology exists in cars, especially those built in the last decade-plus, and has quickly replaced the AUX cord as the remote connection device of the time period. With smartphones becoming the telecommunications standard, and with state laws prohibiting distracted driving, it’s become paramount to create safe and comfortable environments to still use your phone while behind the wheel.

Bluetooth allows for the driver to connect remotely with their phone and perform a number of tasks, such as play music, run a GPS, and make phone calls. While many newer cars have the technology pre-installed and simply require a connection with an existing phone, older vehicles may need inexpensive add-ons, such as universal Bluetooth kits or car adapters.

Streaming Services

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and newly launched Disney+ have become ubiquitous as the video-on-demand experience has evolved from DVD and Blu-ray players in minivans to backseat passengers keeping themselves busy with hours’ worth of entertainment at their fingertips.

If you have children, quarantining can be more challenging – considering how school and work schedules have evaporated and with the pandemic’s full extent still unknown. As you would at home, a smart idea for making your car-ride experience more enjoyable is providing your children with portable, on-demand devices such as tablets and smartphones equipped with the streaming services (and potential child restrictions) of your choice.

In addition, you can use Bluetooth to amplify the sound and turn your car into a movie theater. With the right sound coming from the speaker, your child can have an all-encompassing experience that will add more value to an inevitable car ride to the nearest store that still has hand sanitizer or toilet paper.

Wi-Fi

In newer cars, Wi-Fi hotspots have emerged as a way to use the internet without spending valuable amounts of data. General Motors, for example, has made it standard amongst its brands. However, if this is not the case for your car, consider utilizing a Wi-Fi hotspot on your phone, which could open up options for further internet connection.

Using Wi-Fi in your car opens up the other two aforementioned technologies while providing a steady connection in your vehicle. If you have children, this wireless connection can keep them company during long breaks. If you’re single or have a partner who's along for the ride, in-car Wi-Fi gives your bank account a break by allowing you to alleviate unnecessary data usage.

Considering how much technology has affected society, car Wi-Fi can also make for a more creative way to stay “indoors” while outside the house. If you’re willing, turn on the car and use Wi-Fi to have a movie night -- battery permitting. The way cars have worked throughout history, it’s not surprising that people would want a respite from the deluge of horrific pandemic updates. Using car Wi-Fi to have a movie night is relatively safe, provided everyone is healthy.

The ‘Internet of Things’

As the internet becomes more essential to our existence, so have the capabilities to connect to the internet. The Internet of Things (IoT) is defined as the various ways our devices connect to the internet. Items such as phones, computers, and televisions are good examples, but more advanced options include wireless headphones, wearable fitness devices, remote monitors, and more.

As it applies to vehicles, IoT has major capabilities. Most new cars are equipped to be IoT-friendly. This has implications for using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other digital technologies. And as our society adjusts to our new wired future, our most universal devices are stepping up to the plate. By the end of 2020, IoT capabilities will be present in more than 250 million vehicles.

Some other examples of this breakthrough include automotive IoT, which aims to make driving a more perfect endeavor with features such as automotive cameras (which aid the driver when they are reversing the car, for example), radar, and in-car GPS. Many utilize traffic patterns through internet technologies, whether from your phone or from outside sources, to ensure the driver has a safe ride.

Bonus: Cleanliness

The coronavirus pandemic has created inconveniences for everyone, from billion-dollar corporations to everyday workers and their loved ones. With our cars becoming more of a safe harbor than usual due to the outbreak, it’s imperative to remain vigilant and be one step ahead of the spread.

HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) air purifiers can come in handy in combating airborne particles, especially considering how the COVID-19 virus can remain in the air for up to three hours. Trust in name-brand purifiers used by major companies like Toyota (Plasmacluster from Sharp is a good example). Devices such as HEPA are CDC-approved for a minimum defense mechanism against coronaviruses.

Other car companies such as Jaguar and Yanfeng have adapted ultraviolet light to kill various airborne germs. These should be used with caution, however, especially considering the effects of UV and UV-C rays on the human body. Car disinfectants and odor eliminators, while more traditional, can at least mitigate the risks. That said, they cannot be guaranteed to actually kill the major flu viruses -- but they do help maintain a safer and cleaner car experience.

With the virus reaching its most powerful form in North America, people can maintain their cars as a viable safe space for quarantining. Technological improvements and advances such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, streaming services, and cleanliness measures can make your method of transportation a safe haven. With these advancements, you can take care of your health and well-being along the way.

Pictured top: Apple CarPlay

Published in Rock Father Rides
Friday, March 13 2020 13:42

Cars or Trucks: Which One is Safer?

When it comes to choosing between a car or a truck, safety concerns are often at the forefront of buyer’s minds. However, is one safer than the other and which is better for families? To help make this decision simpler here is what you need to know about the differences between cars and trucks.

Comparing Safety Features

Over 15.5 million trucks operate on roads daily, when combined with cars, the combined number of vehicles on the roads can reach 115 million every day in the United States. With so many other drivers to share the road with, having a safe vehicle can help give you peace of mind while driving. However, when trying to decide between a car or truck there are a couple of key points to consider.

Trucks:

Trucks have a couple of significant pros that bear mention. Firstly, in a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it was found that heavier vehicles tend to push lighter ones during impact. This results in a lower amount of force being put on the occupants in the heavier vehicle. Because trucks tend to be larger and heavier than cars, this is a point to their side. Additionally, trucks now benefit from many of the same safety features that cars do such as automatic braking, crumple zones, and improved airbags.

Size is also something that can benefit trucks. In the event of a side impact with a car, only the lower bumper will make contact with the truck’s frame. This is opposed to a truck colliding with a car in which the higher bumper could hit nearly halfway up the door. Depending on the force of the impact, this could be devastating for the car’s passengers.

Cars:

Small cars are the fastest-growing category in the U.S. auto industry. When it comes to front end collisions, where windshields provide nearly 45% of the structural integrity of the cabin — and in a rollover up to 60% — small cars rank high. This, in addition to the improved front end and side airbags, helps to make small cars some of the safest vehicles on the road. In the newest IIHS Top Safety Picks for 2020, four cars made the cut for Top Safety Pick+ while 14 made the cut for Top Safety Pick. As of now, no trucks have been added to their lists.

Also, cars are also much less likely to flip or rollover, making them more ideal in single-vehicle accidents. It’s only when they’re faced with a much larger vehicle that their safety level decreases.

Weight and Size

While the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 features a widened truck bed, it weighs nearly 450 pounds less than previous models. This has helped to boost the Silverado’s fuel efficiency, making it more appealing to money-conscious buyers. Generally, the rule of thumb is that lighter vehicles will get better gas mileage. While this is certainly a plus for more lightweight cars, Chevrolet proves that trucks can be just as efficient. Furthermore, lighter vehicles tend to be easier to maneuver away from collisions or during inclement weather. The major trade-off here is that lightweight vehicles also tend to have increased noise and vibration. This is because there is less weight to dampen the sounds and movement that would otherwise have been hidden.

On the other hand, heavy vehicles, as mentioned above, can be beneficial during accidents; however, the trade-off here is maneuverability and gas mileage. Unless you’re planning on using a truck for hauling large trailers, it’s probably best to spring for a lighter weight alternative.

Families vs Individuals

So, now that we’ve seen the pros and cons of safety, weight, and size, let’s consider which vehicles are best for families and individuals. While the ultimate choice will be up to personal taste, both cars and trucks can make excellent family vehicles.

Trucks today are quite spacious with many seating up to five people comfortably. While cars also have standard seating for five, trucks can be beneficial for families that enjoy driving vacations and day trips. They can also be used for hauling all of your kid’s dirty sports gear without worrying about it getting all over the interior. While we usually wouldn’t think of them as family vehicles they certainly can pull their weight in that area.

On the other hand, cars can have similar benefits for families, and allow for slightly easier maneuvering if you’re not familiar with larger vehicles. Most have ample trunk space for school bags and sports gear, while still allowing passengers enough space to be comfortable.

On an individual level, whether you decide to buy a car or truck will come down to what you are looking to get out of your vehicle. If you need a heavy-duty vehicle for work or if you enjoy outdoor excursions, trucks may be something to consider. However, if you’re looking to a simple, yet reliable vehicle for driving around town, cars are always a safe bet.

Furthermore, cars tend to be more prevalent in urban areas, whereas trucks seen more frequently in rural areas. Where you live could also play a factor in which vehicle you decide is right for you.

Shop Around

While investing in a safe vehicle is important, what’s even more important is investing in a vehicle that you’ll love. If you enjoy driving trucks, take time to speak with different dealers and shop different truck brands before resigning to buy a car. Both cars and trucks have their pros and cons, both can make great family vehicles, and both can help keep you safe on the roads in different ways. While some features might be a must-have, make sure to explore every avenue before making a final decision.

At the end of the day, both cars and trucks can be fun to drive safe choices. If you’re currently in the market for a new vehicle, take a moment to shop around your local area and test drive both to see which one you enjoy most. You may even end up falling in love with a vehicle that you ever would have considered otherwise.

Published in Rock Father Rides

With there being about 5.4 million non-fatal car accidents every year on U.S. roads, people are always looking for the safest, most reliable car on the market. And thanks to J.D. Power's 2019 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, U.S. consumers can now know which car is best to buy and why.

Research firm J.D. Power has been putting together it's annual study for the past 30 years. This study looks at three-year-old models, so this year they looked at 2016 models. The researchers examine any and all problems that original owners of 2016 models have reported within the past 12 months. And to rank the dependability of the vehicle, the researchers also take into account the number of problems that were experienced per 100 vehicles. With this ranking system, a lower score means a vehicle is more dependable.

Published in Rock Father Rides

When it comes to radio-controlled vehicles, 2015 is already off to an exciting start with the arrival of the HOT WHEELS R/C High Jump Frenzy vehicle from Toy State. The latest entry into Toy State's growing Hot Wheels line (produced under license from Mattel) actually hit the streets just before Christmas last year, but it's taken a little time to get back up-to-speed here in our state-of-the-art Toy Testing Facility at Rock Father HQ  (our house) to present an accurate review.

Published in Rock Father Rides

It used to be a rare feat to find a sequel that surpasses the original film. With a few notable and major exceptions (THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, DESPICABLE ME 2, etc), generally the second go is not as fun, which makes it even more surprising that I enjoyed Disney's PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE more than last year's PLANES (review).

Published in Movies, TV and More

Seven movies in, and for the first time, I actually have a desire to see a film from THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise. I was lost on the first two movies, which I thought at the time (perhaps a revisit is in order?) were terrible - the first I recall being worse than I'd expected. So I tuned out for the next four installments, and here lands the trailer for FURIOUS 7, and I'm in. Directed by James Wan (SAW) and with Jason Statham (EVERYTHING) joining the massive ensemble cast, how the crew has become parachuting globetrotting government agents (?) with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Kurt Russell is beyond me, but the film that the late Paul Walker was working on prior to his untimely death is now planted firmly on my "most anticipated" list for 2015. Check out the trailer below...

Published in Rock Father Rides
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