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Entries in cars (5)


California's Advanced Red-light Cameras Hit Drivers Where it Hurts

Fines from red-light cameras are a pain. But in California, they really hurt—to the tune of $480.

In a recent San Francisco Chronicle article, residents vented their frustration over the technology, which happens to rake in about $130 million annually for the state and various cities. Meanwhile, intersection accidents have decreased 40 percent since many of the cameras were installed in 2000.

By far, California hands out the most expensive red-light camera tickets in the world, and a group of citizens is hoping to change the system.

The Red Light Camera Protest Group is calling for the elimination of red-light cameras and a reduction in the fine. If not, they say they’ll accept the duration of yellow lights, giving drivers more time to safely get through an intersection or turn right on red. (After all, a recent study in South San Francisco found that 98 percent of its tickets at one red-light camera were for rolling right turns.)

Not surprisingly, police and city officials maintain that red-light cameras make intersections safer for both drivers and pedestrians—even in right-turn-on-red situations.

Even citizens seem to be divided on the issue, the Chronicle reports:

Halfway down the block on 27th from the light, Phuong Nguyen works at MP Flowers and sees the camera light flicker all day. She shook her fist in its direction.

"Three members of my family got tickets at that light in the past month while driving to work," she said. "Lot of money for the government, not such a good idea for the rest of us."

Jessica Lubnieski, 27, lives a few blocks north of the light, though, and says she is grateful for it.

"I walk my dog this route all the time, and people go flying through that light when they turn," she said as she strolled by the intersection with Cooper, her mutt. "They so often don't even see us. I just have to think that camera makes people more careful."

It's a touchy subject. But maybe as technology advances--and these cameras become more adept at detecting vehicular crime--people will become more accepting of them.

In the meantime, consider the numbers:

$480 Current fine for violating a red light in California.

$80 million Paid annually to state.

$50 million Fines paid annually to cities and counties.

$4.2 million Amount generated in 2010 by one camera near the on-ramp to Interstate 980 at 27th Street and Northgate Avenue in Oakland.


Back-to-School Safety: There's an App for That

Did you know that 22 percent of car accidents in 2009 were attributed to cell phone use? Let's face it, drivers: It's time to hang up, stop texting and focus on the road.

And now you can force your teenage driver to do just that with the help of these handy new apps. Just in time for back-to-school driving, here's a run-down of the top "don't text and drive" tools for your smartphone and car:

  • StopTxting, a free app for Android, uses your phone's built-in GPS sensor to prevent users from texting, emailing or web browsing when traveling over 10 miles per hour.
  • Key2SafeDriving uses an app and a small device that prevents a cell phone from being used altogether once the ignition is turned. The downside? It costs about $100.
  • CellControl also uses a combination of hardware and an app to prevent cell phone use when the car is moving.

In each case, missed calls are sent to voicemail and texts are stored in the phone's inbox (so your teen can respond to them during class, of course).

While these may not be the perfect solution, they certainly outdo some previous apps, such as Don't Text Me (which uses up other people's text messages) and ShoutOut, a speech-to-text tool that still enabled people to text. After all, distracted driving is dangerous, even if your teen's hands are still on the wheel.


Amazing New Car Enables the Blind to Drive

This month, Daytona International Speedway isn't just about racing. A unique car that enables blind people to drive will be unveiled there Jan. 29. 

The car, a modified Ford Escape Hybrid, features special sensors, computers and interfaces that help it gain an unprecedented understanding of its road environment -- and even enable the driver to make his or her own decisions. It was designed by engineers and students at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, College of Engineering in Blacksburg, Va.

How does it work? According to the Vancouver Sun, the first step is the sensors, which include lasers and cameras. 

"The laser shoots around, scans the environment and makes a map around the vehicle," said Dr. Dennis Hong, an associate professor in the mechanical engineering department. "The camera system looks all around the vehicle by using some very sophisticated computer vision algorithms to identify and classify objects so that the vehicle knows ... a tree is over there, a rock is over here."

The sensor information enables the car's computer to create a virtual map of the environment. It then interfaces with the driver when necessary: 

Special driving gloves, for example, vibrate across each knuckle to let the vehicle's operator know how sharply to turn, while speed strips, which vibrate along the driver's legs and back, indicate how much to accelerate, says Anil Lewis, director of strategic communications with the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore, Md.

One interface, for example, is the AirPix, a small tablet-like device with holes on it. Compressed air comes out from these holes and forms an image of what is around the vehicle.

"You put your hand over it and feel these are the roads. That's a tree over there; there is a moving vehicle to my right," says Hong. "The computer provides information about the vehicle so that it is you, the driver, who makes active decisions," he adds. "That is the concept."


A Car that Works Like a Plant

The YeZ concept car, unveiled by the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. at the Shanghai Expo 2010, converts carbon dioxide and releases oxygen.

According to CNET:

YeZ works its magic of photoelectric conversion with the help of state-of-the-art solar panels on the roof, wind power conversion via small wind turbines in the wheels, and carbon dioxide absorption and conversion through the bodywork. This last bit is made of a metal-organic framework that can apparently absorb carbon dioxide and water molecules from the air. Through the series of chemical reactions, energy is generated, and it's then stored in the car's lithium ion batteries.


Research Proves Hackers Can Take Control of Your Car

Researchers from the University of Washington and the University of California San Diego have proved that cars' functions can be hacked.

With cars increasing their connectivity to the Internet, the researchers were able to remotely control braking, stopping the engine and other functions, while cars were in motion and completely overriding the driver.

Their research paper, “Experimental Security Analysis of a Modern Automobile,” states, "We demonstrate that an attacker who is able to infiltrate virtually any electronic control unit can leverage this ability to completely circumvent a broad array of safety-critical systems."