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Toyota’s wedding gift to an amazing bride: a wheelchair van

Tragic accidents do happen and people stop being able to walk by themselves. Whether they are caused or not by cars, the important is that even for those who suffered serious injuries there is still the possibility to travel by car and sometimes even driving a car, thanks to car makers efforts to adapt their cars to disabled people.

Related to this issue, Toyota did a very nice gesture and partnered with The Braun Corporation (one of the leading manufacturers of wheelchair-accessible van conversions) for providing a special wedding gift on July 22. The bride was Rachelle Friedman, a woman with a truly emotional story: she became a quadriplegic by falling into the swimming pool during her bachelorette party, in May 2010.

As you all could imagine being a disable person is not an easy or comfortable position. Which is why during the preparing for the wedding, Toyota and Braun lent Rachelle a vehicle, in order to make her task easier. The best was when Toyota gave the wedded pair a brand new 2011 Toyota Sienna with a BraunAbility Rampvan XT conversion of their own.

Why is this great news for Rachelle? Because Sienna Rampvan is comfortable and offers a lot of independence to the disabled person.

“The van’s made all the difference in the world. (…) Not only has it saved my mom’s back, it’s just made it so much easier to get out and do things. I’ve missed this level of comfort, convenience and independence. Next up…learning to drive on my own!”, said Rachelle.

So, I congratulate Toyota’s initiative. I guess these kinds of actions make a brand to be called human, don’t you think so?

[Source: Autoblog, Photo]

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How About a Home of Hummers

You know, when you see a Hummer, you kinda get scarred and get the impression that the things would be different if you were the one sitting inside of that car. Now, you could have the chance to actually leave in a house build of Hummers.

Who had this idea? Architects Craig Hodges and HsinMing Fung, who joined forces in 1984 to create the agency HplusF. After working at important buildings and leaving their stylistic print on them, the two architects had the idea of building a HummerHaus using eight identical Hummer body shells, wrapped around a steel skeleton. The result? A lovely and imposing living space; the sheet-metal components of the body shell were structurally sufficient to create such a space.

“Optional geothermal storage tanks, photo-voltaic cells, and soy insulation will complete a sustainable project which has, at its core, the recycling of an automobile plant and the resuscitation of its supply chain.”

For the moment, this is still a concept, but I bet that its inhabitants would feel less fear of thieves.

What other car would you like to see it transformed into a house?

[Source: Dornob]

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Suzuki Hayabusa J.Lo-Pepsi Edition Up for Sale!

Probably you all remember the 2003 Pepsi ad campaign, with Beyonce and J.Lo. as guest stars droving the two Suzuki Hayabusa with a special design. The news is that the motorcycle used by Jennifer Lopez is now up for sale at GBP19,995. And we are not talking about any motorcycle, but probably about one of the most desirable bikes on the planet.

The motorcycle looks great: it still has the dragon graphics and, additionally, it features LED lighting underbody, all so important for ladies wih good taste. As about the technical part, the superbike is well-preserved, it has 160 kilometers on board and it comes with a set of exclusive photos of the modification and processing time in Hong Kong.

So, this is the last chance for you to get your hands on this beauty on two wheels, as Beyonce’s motorcycle has been already been sold to a collector during a closed auction.

Here it is the 2003 Pepsi commercial:

Would you want this Suzuki Hayabusa J.Lo-Pepsi Edition for yourself?

[Source: Topspeed, Intro Photo, Photo]

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Volvo City Safety System is really useful – NHTSA and IIHS support it

Apparently, investing in all the new technologies which to increase driving safety are not a waste of time and resources for car manufacturers. They really work, they are useful and they succeed in protecting drivers and passengers while being in the car.

This is also the case of Volvo City Safety System: National Highway Traffic Safety Institute and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have stated that Volvo’s technology not only that helps, but also prevents accidents that happen at low speed. As about the numbers, City Safety users fill almost 30% less at-fault claims.

For the moment, this safety system is installed only on the Volvo XC60. The system monitors the traffic in front of the vehicle and at a speed of between two and 19 miles per hour the car can apply the brakes. In case the distance between your car and the one in front is nine mph or less, the system will activate the brakes quick enough to avoid the crash. Although sometimes the crash cannot be avoided, at least the damage will be consistently reduced compared to accidents involving cars not featuring this City Safety System.

This is a presentation video:

So, so much noise is not for nothing.

Do you have a safety system installed on your car? Does it help you while being behind the wheel?

[Source: Autoblog]

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Harley Davidson Contest for Women

If you are a woman and also bike enthusiast, you can be happy: you are not ignored by bikes makers. Harley Davidson organizes a new contest for female bikers, called “My Time to Ride”. The competition has some pretty attractive prices, which should not be ignored by any chopper passionate. So, here there are:

- a rider training experience for you and a friend in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the hometown of the well-known bike producer. Consequently, what you will receive is a round trip to Milwaukee, instruction on how to ride a motorcycle and a VIP Harley Davidson Experience (which sound good and fun).
- a custom motorcycle from Harley Davidson and accessories up to $15,000 value.
- a $1,000 gift card for Harley Davidson motor clothes.

The idea seems to be a great opportunity for bike fans firstly, and for Harley Davidsons secondly. So you should be careful when completing the contest entry form, as the answers given in there are taken into account when the semifinalists are chosen.

What do you think about this contest: if you were a biker, would you have participated?

[Source: Caradvice, Photo]

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Cooling Down your Car with some Personal Touch

It’s not a gadget, it’s not any complicated technology. It’s just your personal touch that can save you from the nightmare of driving during the hot days of summer.

Ok, maybe you’re a little confused! Let me explain it to you: according to a Japanese video, a quick solution to cool down the air inside your car is to roll down one window and to open and close the opposite door for several times. Of course, you have to take care of hands and finders, for avoiding hurting yourself or others.
Like I said, it’s all about your personal touch and the success is guaranteed.

Here it is the demonstration video. Unfortunately, the video is in Japanese, which significantly limits our understanding:

Apparently, the outside temperature was 86.9 F, and the inside temperature decreased from 106.8 F to 92.3 F.

What do you think about the trick: would you try it? If you do, let us know the results!

[Source: Jalopnik]

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Toyota’s Window to the World for Back-Seat Passengers

Today we continue with another innovation coming from Toyota for entertaining back-seat passengers: Window to the World, a smart technology embedded into the car window’s glass which uses an interactive tool to watch the outside world. This innovation is perfect for kids, as it maintains them entertained and can be used as teaching tool too, for kids to learn identifying objects and to correctly pronounce their name whenever they see them.

One of Toyota’s cars already has such a window, with touch screen glass and all the features active. This is how the rear window gets to replace some of the objects you carry with you whenever you travel (such as binoculars) and provides various options, such as calculating the distance to objects that you see from the car, information about what you see on the outside.

The presentation video is below:

This project is the result of a team work between engineers from Toyota Motor Europe and Copenhagen Instituted of Interaction Design, and we think that it’s a really interesting and creative window concept, that has potential to become a real success in the industry.

Would you like such a window in your car?

[Source: Autoblog]

Ford Teaches the Blind to Drive

However surprising it may seem, driving has become possible for blind people too: Ford from Europe has organized a test drive with 30 blind and visually impaired drivers in Cologne, Germany. By doing this, Ford has tried to teach these persons about driving, about how to recognize car crashes by sound and for a better understanding of their interaction with cars, from touching to hearing them.

During the tests, drivers had totally control on vehicle’s inputs as they responded to directions from professional driving instructors. The most skilled one (meaning the fastest) got a Ford Fiesta up to 74 mph. According to Ford representatives, all the drivers used only the sound and their feeling when driving the cars and they were doing great.

“In traffic situations, people with visual impairments orient themselves using sounds, so it’s easy for them to misjudge size and speed of cars. (…)We want to help resolve such problems by encouraging greater participation in traffic that can leave us all more enlightened and confident.” said Dr. Wolfgang Schneider, Ford of Europe’s VP of legal, governmental and environmental affairs.

With this test drive, the goal of teaching blind people to drive becomes even more feasible for the car industry. Even if this time human instructions were used, these results are due to the latest technologies and sophisticated sensors which have reached the point in which the sight is not essential any more for driving a car. So, the sight became dispensable, if not the driver himself. An autonomous Audi TT participated to the summit of Pikes Peak; a blind person drove a car during a lap of Daytona International Speedway by only using tactile prompts which were receiving visual information from in-car-technology – those are the proofs of the evolution of automotive industry worldwide.

According to Schneider, by following this direction in the development of auto industry, blind people could be driving cars within 15 to 20 years. This is why Ford also used this drive test as a focus groups for researching blind people’s interaction with cars and their shape (apparently, they prefer round cars rather than angular ones) and in-car controllers.

What do you think about the idea of letting blind persons drive: could this be totally safe?

[Source: Wired, Photo]

[press release] General Motors to Launch First Real-World Smart Grid Pilot

OnStar connectivity will help Chevy Volt Customers reduce driving costs

• Smart grid solutions enable utilities to manage electric vehicle energy demands
• OnStar will be the lone telematics provider able to create wireless bridge between electric vehicles and the grid
• Regional utility employees will drive Volts as every day vehicles in Q3

RALEIGH, N.C. – General Motors and OnStar will launch the first real-world pilot of smart grid solutions for electric vehicles this year, paving the way for utilities to increase energy efficiency and offer lower charging costs to customers.

Starting this quarter, hundreds of employees of regional utilities will drive leased Chevrolet Volts as their everyday vehicles and participate in the pilot.

“In contrast to other OEMs who are only talking about smart grid technology, we’re moving beyond research and development projects to a program in the real world,” said Nick Pudar, OnStar vice president of planning and business development. “Through this pilot we will see real-time results on how intelligent energy management can maximize EV charging efficiency and minimize the electric bill for EV drivers.”

Many utility companies throughout the United States have implemented programs where customers opt in to allow the utility to stop and start their home air conditioning units as needed when electricity demand is high. The customer benefit from this service is a lower electricity bill. OnStar’s smart grid solution builds on this concept, but to a much more advanced and sophisticated level.

Through the OnStar Advanced Telematics Operations Management System (ATOMS), a utility will be able to accurately monitor and manage the energy used by the vehicles. The data will give the utility deep insight into where and when EVs are charged and demand response, which allows the utility to reduce peak demand by shifting EV charging to non-peak hours.

“OnStar is the only telematics provider that can create a wireless bridge between electric vehicles and the grid, building on our learning from the Chevrolet Volts on the road today,” Pudar said.

Through OnStar’s ATOMS infrastructure and partners’ solutions, utilities will be able to implement two Smart Grid services:

• Data Gathering. With customer permission, OnStar will provide the utility with overall charge level as well as charging history – by time and location – for the Volt pilot fleet, without the vehicles having to connect to a charging station. This will give the utility better insight for forecasting demand, setting rates and determining the best location for charging infrastructure.

• Demand response. OnStar will allow the utility to actively manage EV charging for those who opt in to the service. The utility can then reduce peak loads by offering discounts or other incentives to encourage drivers to charge their EVs when overall electricity demand is lowest, typically in the early morning hours.

OnStar, the automotive industry leader in telematics, first demonstrated EV data gathering and demand response in February at the DistribuTECH conference in San Diego. The Chevrolet Volt is now available in select U.S. markets and will be available nationwide by the end of the year.

# # #

About General Motors

General Motors (NYSE: GM, TSX: GMM), one of the world’s largest automakers, traces its roots back to 1908. With its global headquarters in Detroit, GM employs 202,000 people in every major region of the world and does business in more than 120 countries. GM and its strategic partners produce cars and trucks in 30 countries, and sell and service these vehicles through the following brands: Baojun, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Daewoo, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall, and Wuling. GM’s largest national market is China, followed by the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and Italy. GM’s OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services. More information on the new General Motors can be found at www.gm.com.

About OnStar
OnStar, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors, is the leading provider of connected safety and security solutions, value-added mobility services and advanced information technology. Currently available on more than 40 MY 2011 GM models, OnStar soon will be available for installation on most other vehicles already on the road through local electronics retailers, including Best Buy. The OnStar Mobile App is a recipient of the 2011 Edison Award for Best New Product in the Remote Driving Aids segment and OnStar Stolen Vehicle Slowdown is a recipient of the 2010 Edison Award for Best New Product in the Technology segment. OnStar safely connects its more than six million subscribers, in the U.S., Canada and China, in ways never thought possible. More information about OnStar can be found at www.onstar.com.

Your Kids are Safer while Grandma is Driving

A study made by the American Academy of Pediatrics has shown that children are safer in grandparent-driven cars compared with parent-driven cars. So, they are half more likely to suffer car crash injuries than while their parents are behind the wheel.

The study took into account five years of data collected from car accidents involving 217,976 children under 15. The mechanism was to gather insurance claim data and results from follow-up telephone interviews, and calculate the risk level of child-passengers injury, by taking into account the relationship between driver’s age and the proper use of child-safety belts too.

The result was that grandparents were 50% less likely to cause significant injury to children in car accidents. In addition, older drivers were less likely to optimally secure children in the restraints, and more likely to seat children in the front seats.

Apparently, the increased children protection in cars driven by elder people is related to the more cautious driving habits of these drivers.

However, you can stay calm: your child is safe, even if his grandma or grandpa takes him home from kindergarten.

What do you think: are elder people really better drivers for you child safe?

[Source: Motherproof, Photo]

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Toyota’s Backseat Driver – ToyToyota

The Japanese automaker Toyota knows that cars aren’t a place just for adult people to ride, but also for children. This is why they came up with the idea of creating a more interesting ride for the backseat passengers too, especially for junior boys, who are eager to reach the destination. The result is ToyToyota’s Backseat Driver, a GPS-based app for iPhones, iPods touch and iPads, which creates a virtual drive for children, linked by GPS to your car’s current driving route.

In the video below you can see how it works:

The “innovation” is nothing else than just a casual racing game, in which the player chases a virtual car, called “Papa Car”; meanwhile it picks up points and collects objects.

This device will probably keep your junior quiet for a while and will also prevent him from getting bored. The ToyToyota Backseat Driver will be a free download, and it needs iOS 4.1 or later devices to work.

What do you think: would you take it for your Toyota?

[Source: Ubergizmo]

Top Cars for “Smart Women”

Our colleagues from Carwoo have made a top of five cars for “smart women”, whom they define as chicks driving on all sorts of places (from travel destinations to events and festivals) and need large space for their stylish luggage. Which is why they need to have an appropriate car to make their entry.

So, this is the list of cars suggested to this type of women:
1. Hyundai Veloster: a three-door coupe (one on the driver’s side and two on the passenger side), which features all kind of options, which to keep you “connected” wherever you are.

2. Smart Car Pure Coupe: it’s a small city car that comes in sweet girlish colors, which to match all the colors in your wardrobe.

3. Nissan Leaf: perfect for early adopters ladies, completely electric, which offers a great driving experience for any adventurous.

4. Cadillac DTS: a full-sized luxury sedan, with plenty of space in the inside for your friends, which is perfect for the ride meetings with your girls.

5. Toyota FJ Cruiser: a stylish SUV, that looks great and rides like hell, no matter the roads.

What other suggestions do you have?

[Source: Carwoo, Photos, Intro photo]

Anti Sleep Pilot for a safe driving

40% of all single vehicle traffic accidents are caused by drowsy driving, which is really concerning. Consequently, ASP Technology, a Danish company specialized in scientifically-based solutions to help people avoid driving fatigue, has created the Anti Sleep Pilot, a small dashboard gadget which to prevent this type of accidents, caused by tiredness and sleeping behind the wheel.

This gadget can easily be attached to your dashboard and its purpose is not to wake you up, but to prevent you sleeping. It indicates how tired you are by using 26 input parameters, scientifically validated, and will then use lights, sounds and tests to keep you in continuously alert. When your tiredness will reach a critical level, the gadget will alert you and will indicate when you are able to drive safe again.

“It’s clear that we have hit on a problem which is found throughout the world. Driver fatigue causes too many deaths in the UK and the summer is when many families find themselves making long journeys as they go on holiday. By launching the ASP in the UK now, we hope that we can help reduce this sad figure and make motorists more attentive to their tiredness levels.” said Troels Palshof, CEO and founder of ASP Technology.

This is how it works:

We truly believe this Anti Sleep Pilot is a great development and a useful innovation which to increase your safety while driving. It can be bought from Amazon for £129.95.

What do you think about the gadget?

[Source: Pocket-lint]

Great Christmas Gift: Griffin Helo TC’s app controlled helicopter

If you are a mother of a boy, you know how passionate boys are about toys that actually can move without touching them, only by using a remote controller. Among all the great toys a kid could wish for, a flying helicopter seems to be the perfect gift for their adventurous and “on the edge” playing habits. So, the Griffin Helo TC iOS app controlled helicopter could be a great gift for your son for Christmas. We know, it’s too early to think about that, but Griffin plans to release the toy during the Christmas season, which is a perfect timing, we say.

This helicopter can be bought at 34.99 GBP ($50). The application that makes this toy fly comes with the option of controlling the helicopter by an on-screen joystick or by the iPhone’s accelerometer (by tilting the phone around).

[Source: Ubergizmo]

Unfortunately, fun is limited. So, that the Helo TC can only fly for about ten minutes on a full charge and it takes about half an hour to get full-charged.

So, what do you think about this idea of gift for your kid?

Live traffic info for Europe – from Google Maps

We were all waited for this and the time to enjoy the change has come: Google Maps offers live traffic info for several countries from Europe. This will allow users to find out how congested a road is when they go into a journey, and Google Maps offers them an alternative route which to avoid the traffic jams where indicated.
The thirteen countries that will beneficiate of this feature are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and Israel (even though it’s not part of Europe).

The roads from which the data are collected are freeways and highways as well as larger roads in major cities. It also features an improved street level coverage for British people.

The live traffic info will be available on Google Maps, Google Maps for mobile and Google Maps Navigation (the beta version).

What do you think about this improvement: do you think that it can get real time update with traffic info?

[Source: Google latlong]

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