High-Tech Problem Solvers

GM boasts that new safety technologies are keeping crashes at bay

General Motors says that their safety technology is helping to save lives.

Photo courtesy of General Motors

General Motors is one of many automakers with the goal of eliminating vehicle crashes. The company recently partnered with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute to study the effectiveness the safety and driver assistance technology the company offers on its vehicles.

The study included the results of 3.7 million crashes, which occurred in 20 different GM models from 2013 to 2017. Here are some of the study's key findings:

  • Automatic Emergency Braking (or Forward Automatic Braking) with Forward Collision Alert reduced rear-end striking crashes by 46%.
  • Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning reduced lane departure-related crashes by 20%.
  • Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert reduced lane change crashes by 26%.
  • Rear Vision Camera alone, Rear Park Assist functionality, Rear Cross Traffic Alert (which nearly always includes the two previous backing features) and Reverse Automatic Braking (which includes all the previous backing features) produced, respectively, an estimated 21%, 38%, 52%, and 81% reduction in backing crashes.
  • IntelliBeam and High-Intensity Discharge headlight features provided 35% and 21% reductions, respectively, in nighttime pedestrian/bicyclist/animal crashes, with a 49% reduction when offered together.

General Motors Safety OnStar graph chart An analysis of crash results by General Motors and the University of Michigan has revealed that GM technologies help lessen the effects of crashes.Photo courtesy of General Motors

General Motors has made numerous safety technologies standard and available across its model lines. Buyers can purchase models that have some or all of the safety and driver assistance technologies that are cited as resulting in major crash reductions.

We now know how much of a distraction unrestrained pets cause, thanks to a new study from The Harris Poll and Volvo Car USA.

Photo by Getty Images

Fido may love to hold his head out the window and sniff every passing car and yard as you drive by, but this is not safe for you, him, or anyone else on the road. A new study provides quantifiable proof of the hazards of driving with an unrestrained pet.

Volvo Car USA and The Harris Poll conducted an online survey in March 2019 and an observational study from June-July 2019 to assess the impact of unrestrained pets – pets not restrained with a seat belt or harness or in a crate or carrier while in a moving vehicle. For the study, 15 licensed drivers who each drive with their dog at least 25 minutes per day were observed for an average of 2 hours each, for a total of about 30 hours of total study time.

Restrainted Pets seat belt safety harness Pets that were restrained while in the car proved less of a hazard to drivers, the study found.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

The dogs were restrained for 56 percent of the time and unrestrained the rest of the time.

The results of the survey and study were published in Volvo Reports: Keeping Pets Safe on the Road. The study found three reasons why not restraining your pet is detrimental.

It increases unsafe driving behaviors.

During the half of the study when the dogs were restrained, 16 hours 48 minutes, there were 274 instances of the dogs doing something unsafe such as putting their head out the window or climbing on the driver's lap. This comes out to an average of 16.3 instances of unsafe driving behavior per hour – about once every 3.5 minutes.

For 13 hours 12 minutes of observation time the dogs were unrestrained and racked up 649 instances of the dogs doing something unsafe – an average of 49.2 instances of unsafe driving behavior per hour, nearly once every 1.2 minutes.

This showed that unrestrained dogs were three times more likely to exhibit unsafe behaviors than restrained dogs while riding in a vehicle.

It increases driver distraction.

When not restrained, dogs can do things such as jumping from one seat to another, which often results in the driver focusing on their pet and not the road. Unrestrained dogs resulted in 3 hours 39 minutes of distracted driving over the course of the 13 hours 12 minutes (27.7% of the time).

Restraining dogs cut distracted driving to 1 hour 39 minutes over the course of the 16.8 hours (9.8% of the time).

The results indicated that drivers whose pets are unrestrained are 2.8 times more likely to be distracted are drivers whose pets are restrained.

Unrestrained pets Unrestrained pets cause a major distracted driving hazard, a new study has revealed.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

According to the National Highway Transportation Administration 3,000 people die each year from distracted driving. Erie Insurance, in conjunction with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, analyzed 2010 and 2011 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) crash data and found that a moving object (such as a pet) is one of the top ten distractions involved in fatal car crashes.

It increases stress on dogs and drivers.

According to the website Dogtime: "Puppies can have resting pulse rates of 160 to 200 beats per minute when they are born, which can go as high as 220 beats per minute at two weeks of age. Up to 180 beats per minute may be normal until a year of age. Large adult dogs can have a resting heart rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute, while small adult dogs can have a normal heart rate of 100 to 140 beats per minute."

When not restrained, dogs' heart rates were faster than their normal heart rates by 7 beats per minute. This may not seem like much, especially for puppies who already have high resting pulse rates, but why add stress to your pet unnecessarily?

Likewise, drivers were also more stressed when their dogs were not restrained. The average human heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute. When their dogs were not restrained, the drivers' heart rates increased by 28-34 per minute, as much as 1.5 times higher than normal.

Unrestrainted pets Volvo is one of the auto manufacturers now offering pet-specific restraint systems that can be purchased with and installed in a new vehicle.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

In a press release, Dr. Elisa Mazzaferro, Staff Criticalist at Cornell University Veterinary Specialists, urges the importance of restraining your pets in the car.

"While pets roaming around the car can be cute and convenient, it poses a serious risk for both drivers and their pets, both in terms of causing distractions and increasing the chances of serious injury in the event of an accident. Unfortunately, in my field, we see the potential devastating consequences regularly, many of which can [be] avoided by simply ensuring our animals are safely secured."

The Volvo Car USA/The Harris Poll report found that "32% of pet owners have left a dog at home because they felt their car was not safe enough" and "77% of Americans says people don't vehicular dog safety seriously enough".

Lindsey Wolko took her pet's safety in the car seriously – she bought her dog Maggie a safety harness. Maggie was wearing this safety harness when Wolko was driving and had to brake suddenly, but the harness didn't work properly and Maggie was injured. Through this experience, Wolko was inspired to found The Center for Pet Safety (CPS), a non-profit research and consumer advocacy organization, in July 2011.

Volvo pet safety rear carrier Volvo's pet safety system is mounted directly to the frame of the vehicle giving it a high level of structural integrity.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

CPS crash tests pet car safety restraints. Restraints which meet CPS's standards are approved as CPS Certified. CPS has only third-party restraints on its list, yet some vehicle manufacturers are also creating pet car safety restraints.

Volvo has a line of pet safety accessories which includes a dog gate, dog harness, load compartment divider, and protective steel grille. These accessories integrate into the car's safety system. For each one of these accessories sold, Volvo donates $10 to The Petfinder Foundation, which promotes pet adoption.

The Volkswagen Car-Net system is getting significant upgrades for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Easy-to-use infotainment operating systems with mobile capability are becoming standard for automakers in North America. Now, with the debut of their next-generation Car-Net system, Volkswagen, the world's second-largest automaker, is making the leap to the modern digital age.

New Mobile App

Car-Net Remote Access will give owners the ability to control some functionality of their vehicle via a mobile app. The app can control a vehicle's remote start and stop ability (where properly equipped), remotely lock and unlock doors, honk and flash the lights of the vehicle, show the last parked location, and give the owner a view of their fuel level, mileage, and door and window status. It is free to use for five years from the date of vehicle purchase.

Volkswagen Car-Net Remote Access The new Car-Net app allows owners to remotely access their vehicle.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The app's parking information feature is powered by Parkopedia, which helps users locate off-street parking information. Users can press the "P" icon on their screen and the app will show them available parking locations near their chosen point of interest. That information can then be pushed to the car's navigation system, located in the head unit.

Vehicle Health Reports are automatically generated monthly and are sent to a driver's email address. When service is required, Car-Net can notify the customer and allows them to schedule a dealer visit.

Volkswagen's Family Guardian software sends an alert the vehicle owner when the vehicle travels over a pre-determined maximum speed limit and outside of a designated boundary zone. It also alerts when the vehicle is driven outside of a curfew timeframe and when it travels more than two-tenths of a mile outside a valet drop-off location.

Volkswagen Car-Net Remote Access The new Car-Net app can help drivers find their car if they've misplaced it in a parking lot.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Roadside Call Assist can be activated by touching the wrench icon in the app.

New for 2020, the DriveView program allows enrollees to become eligible for a discount from their insurance company, should the company support the driver monitoring program. Based on typical drive behaviors, the app gives the driver a score, which can then be passed on to their insurance company.

Car-Net Remote is offered on most 2020 model year vehicles.

Car-Net Safe & Secure

Volkswagen's Car-Net Safe & Secure is a paid subscription service that features information and emergency assistance, crash notification, anti-theft alert, and stolen vehicle location assistance in the same manner that OnStar does. The service costs $99 annually and renews automatically at the end of each year's subscription term unless cancelled.

Volkswagen Car-Net Hotspot A Wi-Fi hot spot is available in most model year 2020 vehicles.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Car-Net Hotspot

The branded Car-Net Hotspot service is a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot that allows users to connect up to four devices simultaneously. It runs on the Verizon Wireless network and customers who use Verizon as their wireless provider can add their mobile data plan to their existing plan as another line. Non-Verizon customers can opt for a pre-paid plan that costs just $20 per month plus associated taxes and fees, however the rate may not be available in all states.

Car-Net Guide & Inform

Volkswagen's navigation system, which provides enhanced infotainment functionality, is called Car-Net Guide & Inform. Using the factory-installed system, owners can access traffic reports, fuel prices, sports scores, movie times, and weather data as part of the three-month SiriusXM Travel Link trial. Car-Net enrollment and subscription is not required.