They’re Alive! They’re Alive!

A few years ago, Autonomous Vehicles, or Self-driving cars became more than just a pipe-dream. With Google’s self-driving cars showing great potential, these controversial vehicles are getting smoother and smarter all the time.

Last month, a self-driving Nissan Leaf was trialed in London, on motorways, streets and in varying levels of traffic. This was partly due to England’s relative flexibility with AVs; allowing one insurance policy to cover both an autonomous and conventional driver.

In the States, Uber has resumed its AV road tests, after one of their AVs was involved in an accident. Another vehicle (driven by a human) failed to give way to the self-driving car, which caused the collision. If Uber continues with their AV fleet, customers may see cheaper and safer journeys in the future – perhaps another advantage over their Taxi competitors.

Closer to home, an Australian company has received a $2.2 million government grant to test their AV radar technology in South Adelaide’s CBD. Their radar could be of great benefit to autonomous vehicles, allowing them to ‘see’ around corners and is unaffected by adverse weather conditions.

With an estimated 23,000 traffic fatalities per week due to human error, self-driving cars seem like an excellent way to dramatically reduce accidents.

However, concerns about hacking and insurance are common.
These cars, like most modern cars rely on a lot of new tech and connections to various internet sources. This leaves the cars open to hijacking from remote hackers, able to cause accidents or deaths without leaving a trace. Though this is a worry for self-driving cars, any modern car with high-tech functioning is potentially at risk and so security measures need to be in place, whether the car is self-driving or not.

Another point is that although these vehicles will be less likely to cause an incident due to error, there will inevitably be some accidents caused. If both vehicles are in self-driving mode when the collision occurs, the question lies in who is to blame – the company or the owner of the vehicle at fault?

So, with rising interest in Autonomous Vehicles, what do you think? Are they a great invention to keep us safe? another danger due to technology? or perhaps an unsavoury addition to the 9-5 grind – why shouldn’t you work while your car drives for you?

Big News for Electric Vehicles!

For those keen on electric vehicles, but put off by the lack of charge stations, we have some good news!

After teaming up with ChargeNet, Z is installing 3 new fast chargers at their stations in Warkworth, Turangi and Taupo.  In 25 minutes, these chargers provide 120km worth of travel. ChargeNet is looking to provide New Zealanders with charge points between every 40-80kms. Reducing the range limitations that can affect EVs.

They look set to achieve this target due to a joint venture with BMW to install 100 rapid chargers across the country, to create an “electric highway”.

The Ministry of Transport is keen to see more Kiwis go green with electric vehicles, providing further funding to increase uptake of EVs, showcasing their viability for the everyday New Zealander. So far, businesses have been quick on the uptake, with electric postal vehicles, waste disposal trucks and even buses making their way onto New Zealand roads.

Last year, over 2500 new electric vehicles were registered, with over 500 registered this year, according to the Ministry of Transport.

With more EV models on the market than ever, with increased range and more charging spots around the nation, the cheaper to run and maintain vehicles may become the household staple in the not to distant future.

Those wanting to enjoy the cost-saving benefits of commuting with an Electric Vehicle, but worried about getting stranded may soon be in luck – especially if the Ministry of Transport allows EVs to use priority lanes!

Cleaner Greener Driving Machines!

Great news for tidy Kiwis! Electric vehicle use in New Zealand has risen over the last few years, particularly by companies such as Air New Zealand and Vector Energy. Over a two week period this month, until the 20th March, electric vehicles are allowed to use 5 of the priority lanes normally reserved for buses on Auckland motorways. This trial, which did not appear to be very publicly advertised has been designed to assess whether electric vehicles should be allowed to use priority lanes. Should this be accepted, electric vehicle users may find themselves zooming past the rush hour traffic and scoring the best parking spaces.

Electric vehicles are great for the consumer, with exemptions from Road User Charges until the electric vehicle fleet makes up 2% of the total, far cheaper maintenance and running costs. Though improvements to driving range need to be made, for a low-cost run around, these vehicles are  great choice.

In February this year, the first solar powered EV charge point opened in Tauranga. This neat charger is providing free power for the first year, with free parking for two hours. Great for EV using locals!

Moving away from the EV front, a new eco-friendly AC coolant will be making it’s way to New Zealand in the coming months. This new refrigerant has a ‘Global Warming Potential’ (GWP) of below 150, in accordance with a 2011 law from the EU. This is far below the current standard refrigerant with a GWP of over 1400!
This new coolant is expected to replace the standard coolant worldwide, with Honda, Subaru, Chrysler and GM as early adopters.

This is refreshing news amidst legal action taken against Audi by the Australian Competition Consumer Commission (ACCC) for allegedly using defeat devices in diesel vehicles to beat emission tests from 2011-2015. Mirroring the actions of parent company, Volkswagen and fellow subsidiary, Skoda.

Wet and Wild Weather, Drive Safe!

Lights on, wipers on full. It has not been the most summery of summers by far and it looks like more stormy weather to come. Just the other day, while driving home the torrential rain struck and I found myself asking the question – as rain pelted my windscreen so I could not see far ahead – should I pull over?

I continued on, craning my neck, heaters blasting the windscreen, wipers in a frenzy. Surface water brought everything to a slow drool with lanes indistinguishable, thankfully, everyone was careful to take it easy on the road.

We all want to get home quickly and sometimes we cannot wait for the rain to ease up as it just doesn’t. It looks like this weather is here to stay, so remember to drive safe:

  • Check your brakes and tread – Coming to a quick stop is hard in the rain, harder still if your tyres and breaks are worn!
  • Check those wiper blades – If they are leaving streaky smears or making that awful scratchy sound, it is time to replace them. Don’t put up with maddening noises and poor visibility!
  • Check your lights – Ever spot that silver car in the heavy rain without its lights on? It is pretty tricky. Give your rear and headlights a once over and make sure you are as visible as possible!
  • Keep away – Give a good amount of space between you and the car behind you. No one wants to be stuck in the rain waiting for a tow truck.

And remember your umbrella!

Tunnel Face and Other Fun Summer Stuff!

Buddha once famously said, “Happiness is a journey and not a destination”. I think it is safe to say that Buddha has never been driving with a car full of tired and restless kids!

If the usual car games have lost their value, fear not for we have some new novel games to try on your next adventure!

Tunnel Face

A favourite with the Rockstar Clan is the aptly named, ‘Tunnel Face’. Superbly simple, all you require are passengers and a tunnel or bridge. As you enter the tunnel or bridge, each passenger takes a deep breath, eyes wide with puffed out cheeks. This is the ‘tunnel face’. Whoever holds their breath for the whole tunnel (or for the longest if it is a really long tunnel!), or has the funniest tunnel face if there are multiple, wins.
A fun and engaging game that might even get you some peace and quiet, too!

Time Guessing

Another fun and simple game to get the kids involved is to guess the time you will arrive at the destination. Lock in everyone’s guesses (no changing answers!) and watch the excitement grow as you get closer and closer and see who wins!

The Number Plate Game

A great one for creativity and fun at all ages!
Pick a three letter number plate and take turns to create a sentence using the letters as the beginning of each word. Bonus points for coherence, creativity and long words!
For example, if you saw “KET832”, you could try ‘Koalas Eat Ti-tree’;  ‘Kites Excel Thoroughly,’ or maybe even ‘Kiwis Enjoy Tidying’!

 

Stunning Summer Sights!

Take a break from the tech and take the family car for a spin on a classic Kiwi road trip. These not far from Auckland destinations are perfect family day trips.

Bridal Veil Falls

A light trek down south to Raglan, through winding country roads leads to the fantastic Bridal Veil Falls. The easy gradient forest walk takes you to a wide clearing where the serenade of our native birds ebbs away to the momentous roar of Bridal Veil Falls. For the more adventurous, a steep set of steps lead to the base of the fall, perfect for photos and picnics. Little legs may need a piggy back on the way back up to the top, though!

Cruise on through to Raglan and enjoy a well-earned pick me up from one of the many delightful cafes or grab an ice cream and enjoy the serenity of Raglan beach.

Mahurangi Regional Park

One of Auckland’s best kept secrets, Mahurangi Regional Park is a gorgeous hidden treasure. A sharp turn off the highway and along some unsealed roads, cars with travel sickness prone passengers take it easy. Well suited for any day trip, this picturesque park has it all. Plenty of grass for soccer, untouched sand for your favourite beach games and gorgeous glassy water for swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding and even fishing!
If you fancy a good leg stretch, take the cliff walk to get the heart rate up and enjoy those unique views and at low tide, clamber across the rock pools and see what you can find.

A fully packed adventure with plenty to do and a campsite nearby, if you plan to stay for a day or two.

Warkworth

For a chilled, family day out visit Warkworth. Stretch your legs with a cruisy walk along the river and stop off for lunch at Chocolate Brown’s – a cute café with a good range of food and something kids and adults alike will love. Chocolate Brown’s is part café, part chocolate factory! Watch hand-made chocolate, fudge and cakes be lovingly crafted, painted and moulded. So much to choose from and a great way to keep the kids quiet on the way home with a chocolate of their favourite dinosaur!
For spontaneity, try the non-toll road route back to Auckland and marvel at the gorgeous sights as you cruise up and down through the hills. Stop off at a nice place for a while, take your time. Why not, you’re on holiday.