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LaneFX is More Than Just a Car Gadget
Many of the latest car models include systems that alert you when a car is in your
blind spot. Those of us with older autos have had rely on our own road skills -- until now. Drivaware has introduced LaneFX: When you activate your turn signal,
the device moves the corresponding side-view mirror to expose your blind spot and any vehicles that may be hiding in it. Of course, if you remember your driver's training, a quick glance over your
shoulder does essentially the same thing. The LaneFX is compatible with any car that has power mirrors and is available in a Basic Edition ($197), Highway Edition ($242) and Commuter Edition ($296).
LaneFX is Leading the Way for Auto Safety and Driver Awareness Everyday
Drive Safer With the Drivaware LaneFX: Most
of the time, when consumer electronics meet the automotive world, you get more stereo options and DVD players in the back seat. Drivaware has something a little more useful: the LaneFX,
a controller than connects your power mirrors to your turn signals, so that when you signal (you do signal before you turn, right?), your mirrors swivel outward so that you can
see your blind spot. Hey, if this keeps just one cyclist out of the hospital, I’m happy.
Derik’s Thoughts: Geeky and useful. Double threat!
Automakers are Designing New Car Gadgets Focused on Driver Safety and Awareness
Safer Lane Changes is Just One of the Latest Trends to Include Advanced Gadgets in New SUV Models
Every new car season brings with it a dazzling assortment of
high-tech gadgets and an equally formidable barrage of hype aimed at romancing you into this year's model.
What's hot and what's hype? We posed that question to Paul Duchene, a national automotive writer based in Portland, Ore.
"There are a lot of gizmos this year and some of them are good, too," he says. "One of the reasons is there are a lot of new models and a whole bunch of updates this year, including
the Nissan 350Z, Mazda's RX-8 and BMW's Z4 and 745i, the car some critics have informally dubbed 'the quarter to eight.'"
Let's put the pedal to the metal and cruise some of this year's hottest new gadgets:
Intelligent cruise control: This lends new dimension to the term "keeping up with the Joneses." Previously, cruise control was a simple proposition: You set your speed and your car
maintained it until you tapped the brake or manually turned it off. Infiniti's new wrinkle uses a laser beam to measure the distance between you and the vehicle ahead and maintains a preset distance
until you disengage it. The upside is you can't tailgate. The downside depends on the driving skills of the guy in front of you.
Directional stability: This is a little like having your mother-in-law in the back seat, only quieter. "You go into a corner too hard and the car basically figures out that it's about to
change direction from where you want it to go and will selectively apply, say, a rear brake on one side just to keep it going in the line that it senses it's pointed," says Duchene. And he
tested it. Hard. "It really works, way past the point that it makes sense."
Mouse control: It had to happen and finally does with BMW's 7 series. That dial-shaped gizmo where a stick shift would normally reside is called iDrive and it controls the heat, air, audio level
and other cabin-related functions. This gives you a sleek, button-free dashboard. Beginners, however, need to look at the in-dash display to use it.
Voice-recognition system: Sure, we all talk, even scream, at our cars on occasion. Now Infiniti presents one that finally listens. The Q45 voice recognition system allows you to change CDs, adjust
the temperature, access your GPS navigation system or make a hands-free cell phone call, all through voice command. The system understands 50,000 words in 150 dialects and even learns the sound
of your voice. Hal, is that you?
Run-flat tires: No matter how high-tech your ride, there are four things all cars have in common, and they still go flat from time to time. Run-flat tires don't prevent flats, but they will get
you to a repair shop. "When you run over a nail and the tire goes flat, if you keep it under 30 miles per hour, it will get you someplace where you can change it," Duchene explains. "Part
of the reason they can do it is that performance tires are much lower profile and deform much less, so you can make stiffer sidewalls."
Mobile entertainment: New minivans approximate all the comforts of home: Pop-down DVD screens, earphone ports, even a remote control to fight over. That takes care of the kids; now what about
Mom and Dad? How about coast-to-coast, commercial-free satellite radio? For the cost of a radio receiver ($300 and up) and service (less than $15 a month), you can receive 70 channels of commercial-free
music and 40 channels of news, talk, sports and entertainment programming from such providers as XM and Sirius.
It sure beats choruses of, "Are we there yet?"
Limp-home mode: How smart is the Cadillac Northstar engine? If you blow a radiator hose, the Northstar automatically reverts to limp-home mode, shutting the gas supply off in several cylinders
and turning the engine into a quasi-air cool system. You won't set any land speed records, but your engine will survive the damage you unwittingly might have done to it.
DVD navigation: Because of the limited data storage capacity of earlier onboard GPS satellite-navigation systems, you had to reinstall a different CD of map displays if you wanted to travel to
other parts of the country. With the new DVD-based systems, all of North America is now your oyster. Does it play movies, too? Duchene chuckles: "The Lexus system has the ability to play movie
DVDs on its screen, but it won't play if you're in gear, so you can't be watching a movie while you're driving down the road." We really didn't think so, but had to ask.
Automatic braking: Remember your mother-in-law in the back seat? Here's a feature that cleverly simulates the effect of her panicked stranglehold on you in a traffic crisis. "There are brake
systems now that have a brains-override thing where they figure you're not braking hard enough for what's going on and will actually add power to the brakes," Duchene says. Easier on the esophagus,
Head restraint, side curtains and pre-tensioners: Luxury cars feature all the safety money can buy. In addition to standard forward and side airbags, many models now come with inflatable head-restraint
bands along the top of the windshield and inflatable side window curtains. The Lexus system automatically cinches up your seat belt with pre-tensioners just milliseconds before impact. Cadillac's
Escalade SUV uses sensors to analyze the size and weight of front-seat passengers and automatically deactivates the front air bag if it detects a child or rear-facing child seat riding shotgun. "Though
not yet on the market, the car companies are developing a 'catcher's mitt' seat that, if things go wrong, just kind of grabs you and holds you in place," says Duchene.
Back-up assistance: If parallel parking is not your strong suit, you'll be pleased to hear about a couple systems designed to give you a better look at your rear end. GM's Ultrasonic Rear Parking
Assistant uses four sensors to triangulate the position of objects behind you and guides you with both an audible chime and LED lights at the back window. Infiniti's RearView Monitor goes one step
further and actually displays on the dashboard monitor a full-color video from a rear-mounted mini-cam. Now all you've got to do is find a parking space.
Automatic accident reporting: In the event of an accident, your car can now phone for help, even if you can't. "Some of this stuff now, if you have a crash, the car calls home and 911 and
says, 'I've been hurt,'" Duchene says. "But that has its drawbacks. As one of my friends pointed out, sometimes when you make a mistake, you could use about 20 minutes to get away."
LaneFX Standard Features to Make Every Lane Change Safer
Q. Even though LaneFX is ultra simple concept, you've managed to make LaneFX a very feature rich product. Correct?
A. Absolutely. Let me give you a brief walk through of the features and
add-on options of the LaneFX system:
- First we talked about the universal fit of LaneFX.
- Second, ease of installation (which you have to remember quick installations mean less cost of
ownership to the customer and faster seamless installations mean higher customer satisfaction). The way we were about to simplified installation on hundreds if not thousands of power mirror systems
is by using an Intelligent Learn Technology. So all the installer has to do is hook up a set of 3 wires on either side of LaneFX module. And then all the installer has to do is start learn mode
and the unit "learns" the
wiring setup of the vehicle and configures itself on that basis. No complex wiring diagram, no programming required.
- Third, all mirror movements are fully customizable at installation. We wanted to make
LaneFX as responsive to the driver and tailored to the driver's preferences as possible. So with every LaneFX unit, each driver can customize how far the mirror opens up, how long it pauses when it
gets there, and even how fast the mirror should move. You can control your preferences separately for the right and left mirror.
- LaneFX is intended to be a
concealed unit either under the dash or in the trunk. So these adjustments should be made at installation and you can always tweak them or change occasionally after that.
- Another feature we offer in
the system is control of both mirrors. So you control the left and right mirror separately or concurrently.
Q. And all of these features you mentioned are standard in every LaneFX box?
A. Yes. That's correct.
Q. But I also understand that you have a number of optional add-on components that a customer can choose to further enhance his/hers LaneFX system.
A. Our team has worked very diligently to research
what consumers would like to have in their complete LaneFX system. Let me share with you a quick list of what some of these options are:
- First is a very inexpensive add-on component we have that we think
is going to be very popular, especially among entry level domestic vehicles is the optional Mirror Speed Boost. With this component owners of vehicles with slow moving power mirrors
can safely boost their mirror movement speeds up to 200% of OEM speed. This will provide drivers with a way to ensure that LaneFX movement is responsive to their driving needs. All of the mirror speeds
are customizable by the driver from 80% to 200% of OEM speed, and those adjustments can be done separately for left and right mirrors.
- Second we have a great optional component that's quite frankly
is a driver awareness system in and of itself: ParkFX. ParkFX is an active park assist and curb exposure system that uses your side mirrors
to expose the parking boundaries around your vehicle as your backing up. Much in the same LaneFX moves your mirror outward to expose the blind spot next to you and behind you, ParkFX
tilts the blind spot mirror downward when you put the vehicle in reverse to expose either
the parking lines let's say if you were in a mall parking lot, or more importantly to expose the curb in parallel parking situations. When you take the car out of reverse, the mirror comes back to
its original position, every single time. Just like LaneFX, ParkFX is universal and fully-customizable to the driver's preferences. The system
works on any vehicle, new or old, domestic or import, manual or automatic transmission. And you can choose to have ParkFX control the left, right or both mirrors. And to be complete, you can also configure
at installation how much ParkFX should tilt each of these mirrors when the vehicle is backing up. So for a big SUV, you can choose the blind spot mirrors to tilt down farther than say someone who drives
a small sedan. Everything is universal and fully-customizable to your needs.
- Thirdly is an add-on component we are very proud of: our Turn Signal Link integration kit. I put my blinker on and that activates
LaneFX to show me my blind spot before I change lanes? Yes exactly. And you can also configure the Turn Signal Link integration kit to activate only when the vehicle is moving above certain speed,
like over 55mph to have it only activate on when you're on the highway, or say over 35mph in an urban city setting.
- The forth in our options list is a plug-and-play wireless controls kit. We've heard time and time again that drivers would
ideally like the LaneFX controls at the finger tips, just like your horn or turn signal stalk. this tiny module I am holding is an example of a left-hand wireless control. So we designed this wireless
kit so that installers never have to worry about running wires to the steering wheel (which is a no no) and to give the customer to place the controls anywhere. The wireless controls kit includes two
controls for left and right and is designed to fit behind one of your steering-wheel spokes. The placement is meant to avoid competing with the increasing number of OEM buttons on the front
of the steering wheel. Also the placement behind the top spoke make the LaneFX control within the reach of a finger tip without having to move a hand off the steering wheel regardless in you drive
with your hands in the 10-to-2 position or racing style.
- One more plug-and-play optional component which is our Speed Sensitivity Mode. This is an
add-on component that integrates with OBDII port of virtually any vehicle and continuously reads the vehicle speed. The LaneFX module is pre-programmed to take advantage of this option and it then
produces more dynamic mirror movement based on the vehicle speed. This ensures an ever greater degree of responsiveness to the driver's needs in real-time. So LaneFX moves the mirror faster at say
70mph than at 55mph? Exactly right, and it also pauses less when it reaches its maximum expansion angle at higher speeds.
How To Avoid Car Gadgets & Choose the Right Park Assist Technology for Your Driving Safety
Aftermarket companies offer three types of backup systems: rear-view cameras, sensor systems, and mirror tilt-down. Use Types to
decide which type best suits your needs. For all camera and sensor systems, we recommend professional installation.
No matter what type of system you choose, consider these things when deciding on a specific model:
Know how the device mounts on your vehicle.
Camera and sensor systems that are mounted on the vehicle’s bumper or bodywork may necessitate drilling. They may not be the best choice if you lease your vehicle.
If you have a hitch, you can consider a model that mounts in the trailer-hitch receiver. But you would have to remove the system to use your hitch.
Other camera and sensor models mount on the license-plate frame. But some states prohibit frames because they can obscure the plate.
Within types, features vary. This is especially true with the sensor models we tested. The ultrasonic systems were generally the most sensitive, but their performance was adversely affected
by rain, snow, or other inclement weather.
The microwave-based sensor systems we tested were not affected by weather but are less sensitive as a group. They also don’t warn the driver unless the vehicle or object behind it is moving.
The display quality of the camera-based models is very good, although it doesn’t match that of the larger screens on some carmakers’ systems. Most of the system displays turn on when the
vehicle shifts into reverse, but one, the Audiovox, must be turned off and on manually.
Key Strategies for Total Driver On-Road Awareness
Defensive Driving is the Number One Key to Safe Driving Habits
If you've been out on the roads, you know that not everyone drives well. Some people speed aggressively. Others wander into another
lane because they aren't paying attention. Drivers may follow too closely, make sudden turns without signaling, or weave in and out of traffic.
Aggressive drivers are known road hazards, causing one third of all traffic crashes. But inattentive driving is becoming more of a problem as people "multi-task" by talking on the
phone, eating, or even watching TV as they drive. We can't control the actions of other drivers. But learning defensive driving skills can help us avoid the dangers caused by other people's bad
Skills That Put You in Control
Before you get behind the wheel of all that glass and steel, here are some tips to help you stay in control:
Stay focused. There are a lot of things to think about when driving: road conditions, your speed, observing traffic laws and signals, following directions, being aware of the
cars around you, checking your mirrors - the list goes on. Staying focused on driving - and only driving - is key.
Distractions, like talking on the phone or eating, make a driver less able to see potential problems. It's not just teen drivers who are at fault: People who have been driving for a while can
get overconfident in their driving knowledge and let their driving skills get sloppy. All drivers need to remind themselves to stay focused.
Stay alert. Being alert (not sleepy or under the influence) allows you to react quickly to potential
problems - like when the driver in the car ahead slams on the brakes at the last minute. Obviously, alcohol or drugs (including prescription and over-the-counter drugs) affect a driver's reaction
time and judgment. Driving while tired has the same effect and is one of the leading causes of accidents. So rest up before your road trip.
Watch out for the other guy. Part of staying in control is being aware of the drivers around you and what they may suddenly do so you're less likely to be caught off guard. For
example, if a car speeds past you on the highway but there's not much space between the car and a slow-moving truck in the same lane, it's a pretty sure bet the driver will try to pull into your
lane directly in front of you. Anticipating what another driver may do prepares you to react.
Seven Secrets to Total Driving Awareness
When you drive defensively, you're taking control of the situation and keeping your eyes open for aggressive or inattentive drivers who might cause an accident. Here are seven easy things you
- Think safety first. Avoiding aggressive and inattentive driving tendencies yourself will put you in a stronger position to deal with other people's bad driving. Leave plenty
of space between you and the car in front. Always lock your doors and wear your seatbelt to protect you from being thrown from the car in a crash.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Check your mirrors frequently and scan conditions far ahead of you. If a vehicle is showing signs of aggressive driving, slow down or pull over
to avoid it. If the driver is driving so dangerously that you're worried, try to get off the road or highway by turning right or taking the next exit if it's safe to do so.
- Assume the worst. Assume that drivers will run through red lights or stop signs and be prepared to react. While driving, imagine that other drivers (especially truck drivers)
don't see you when you are making your way into their path. Also, keep an eye on pedestrians and pets along the road.
- Stay cool, calm, and collected. It's best to avoid making eye contact with aggressive drivers. As hard as it can be, ignore any aggressive facial or hand gestures. And don't
race aggressive drivers - you run the risk of inciting their road rage. Other drivers do stupid things. The best drivers don't get mad or try to get even.
- Get the authorities involved. If you see an aggressive driver or trouble ahead, get to a safe place to pull over and call authorities or the police. Any information you can
provide - a description of the vehicle, its license plate number, the direction it's going - will be helpful. Some areas allow you to use your cell phone to call the appropriate authorities with
special numbers like #77. If an aggressive driver crashes or causes an accident, try to stop safely a good distance from the scene. Wait for the police to arrive so that you can tell them about
the aggressive behavior you witnessed.
- Don't drive if you are under the influence or very sleepy. Alcohol, illegal drugs, and some prescription medications affect a person's judgment, including the ability to make
important braking and steering decisions on the road. That means you'll be less able to react quickly and drive defensively. Sleepy drivers can be just as bad as intoxicated drivers, so make
frequent rest stops or let a friend drive if you're tired.
- Don't take risks. When in doubt, don't pass. And keep a safe following distance. That way you can avoid a collision, stay in your lane, and not get rear-ended if the driver
in front of you slams on the brakes.
If you're interested in taking a full defensive driving course, contact your state's Department of Motor Vehicles. All states keep a list of defensive driving courses that are approved by the
state - even some that are online. They cost money, but some insurance companies give people who've taken the course a discount in insurance rates.
Happy (defensive) driving!
ParkFX is the 360-Degree Backup Solution That's Less Costly Than Backup Sensors, Park Assist and Rearview Cameras
Deaths increase. Ninety-one children were killed in 2003 by drivers who didn’t see them while backing up, according to Kids and Cars ( www.kidsandcars.org ),
a nonprofit organization working to improve child safety around vehicles. Those deaths represented a 57 percent increase from 2002. During the first six months of 2004, more than 40 deaths have
been attributed to backover accidents, many involving vehicles with large blind spots.
Kids and Cars compiles these statistics; the federal government does not track such incidents. Janette Fennell, president of the organization, believes that backover accidents are underreported
and that the actual number of children killed or injured is much higher.
Blind spots grow with vehicle size. A likely reason for the increase in injuries is that minivans, pickups, and SUVs account for more than half of all vehicles sold. Many
have large rear-view blind spots.
Last year, Consumer Reports began measuring the blind spot of each vehicle we test, checking the distance for short drivers (5 feet 1 inch tall) and
for those of average height (5 feet 8 inches tall). The biggest blind spot: 51 feet for a short driver in a Chevrolet Avalanche pickup. But even small sedans can have blind spots of more than 40
feet. We regularly update vehicle blind-spot information, which is available on this site free of charge in The
problem of blind spots.
Systems other than ParkFX combine a camera with sensors, so we tested each system independently; it is listed with camera systems in the Ratings.
All the systems we tested are potentially useful. They’re a good complement to looking around the vehicle before entering, and checking the rear window and rear-view mirror just before and
while moving in reverse.
Let me tell you about the coolest product I never reviewed. It's a wonderfully complex solution to a problem that shouldn't
even be a problem. This product, LaneFX, is a microcontroller that interacts with the side mirrors in your car.
You want to change lanes, and you glance in your side mirror. It looks clear. But in your LaneFX-equipped car, you can press a button and the mirror sweeps out to show you the blind spot
beyond the limit of your peripheral vision. Then it returns to its normal position. If you flick on your turn signal, the mirror also does its sweep.
It works on either side of the car, and it also has an extended mode for when you want to keep an eye on traffic alongside and behind you, as when you're merging onto a freeway. Now let's
say you're going to parallel-park. You slip your car into reverse—and the right mirror angles itself downward so you can see the curb.
Although that's the end of the LaneFX's bag of tricks, it's just the beginning of the ways it can be implemented. You can customize how far each mirror moves, how long it pauses, and how
long it takes to get there. You can even make mistakes in hooking up the wires to the mirror motors; the microcontroller has a learn mode so you can teach it which wires to use to control each
motion. An LCD screen prompts you through every step of the procedure.