Ever had a shopping cart where one wheel isn’t spinning properly? It’s binding every now and then. Imagine it being the one closest to your right hand as you push the shopping cart. What’s going to happen? As you fight with the cart, you’ll notice that it tends to veer right. That right wheel closest to you almost feels like it’s clamped down, causing the other wheels to go around it.
Ah… This is exactly what happens with some of the modern vehicle safety controls.
Let’s say you’re going into a turn too fast. You’re cranking the steering wheel as much as possible and the car isn’t quite making the turn! The 2016 Nissan Maxima has an Active Trace Control technology that applies braking to an individual wheel to compensate for your misjudgement and help you make that turn. Now, this technology is on many other vehicles but I did get to test out this feature on a track with Nissan Canada.
Let me tell you, there’s nothing like trying to lose control of a car on purpose to see how systems kick in! It's a good thing we were on a closed course; I held back on the curse words with the camera pointing right at me – and thank goodness I didn’t have to repair any of these vehicles!
What impressed me with the 2016 Nissan Maxima is how much information your car is getting about your driving style. So while you’re driving along and humming to your favourite tune, the vehicle’s computer is calculating the angle of your steering wheel, how much acceleration you’re applying, vehicle speed, how much braking you’re doing, etc. It takes all of this info and uses it to help you maintain control of the car.
Another technology in the Nissan Maxima is the Active Engine Brake. When you come into a turn you typically have to slow the vehicle down a bit at the beginning of the turn. Active engine brake changes the gear ratio in the transmission (specifically, Nissan’s CVT – Continuously Variable Transmission) to help slow the car down. Anyone who’s driven a manual transmission or been a passenger with someone starting learn will know the feeling of engine brake – you can slow the car down without having to apply the brakes. The advantage to this technology is that less effort is required when you have the engine doing some of the slowing down for you.
One more thing about the shopping cart: next time you go down the aisle, notice how you’re pushing the cart. Chances are, unless you have a brand-new cart, each hand is slightly pushing to a different degree to keep the cart going straight. Or you’re one of those who leans on the handle and you’ve got your elbows doing the steering! Did you know that even when you’re driving straight on the road, you’re actually moving the steering wheel ever so slightly here and there? The thing is that these movements are so subtle and natural that we feel like we’re not moving at all. The 2016 Nissan Maxima takes these movements (industry term is ‘steering input’) and establishes a pattern for the driver. If the Maxima doesn’t detect any movement for a given distance, it’ll flag you this alert:
Studies have shown that when we’re tired or drowsy, we tend to have less frequent steering input. Now your car can suggest to you when it might be time for a coffee break! This is one way Nissan has decided to help drivers minimize fatigued driving. Yep, I tried minimizing my steering inputs during my road test and sure enough, I got the sign to stop for a break. I wasn't drowsy but it was still a good reason for me to make a detour to Starbucks!
The next time you fight with that stubborn shopping cart, remember that when it comes to your car that’s the kind of technology that helps you maintain control on the road!
Image Source: Wikicommons
It’s that time of year again! The time of year when it gets dark earlier and the temperature drops. Because of these things, we also begin to encounter challenging driving situations. Many think that as long as they have winter tires, they'll be fine. But safe winter driving goes well beyond just having winter tires—it also has a lot to do with visibility. Here are five safety tips I share with my clients to help their winter driving visibility.
Have a look at your vehicle's headlamps to see what condition they're in. New headlamps have a clear coat to protect the lens but with age, the lenses often become yellow or cloudy-looking. This is a result of exposure to UV rays, dirt, and debris. Some car washes also strip the clear coat if they have abrasive bristles. An older headlamp can look like this:
If your headlamps are cloudy, they will not be able to illuminate the road well and you won’t be able to see clearly. It’s not a big job to restore your headlamps, your local auto repair shop will be able to do it easily or you can try a do-it-yourself restoration kit.
A quick way to increase your visibility this winter season is by replacing your regular headlight bulbs with premium bulbs. Many drivers only replace bulbs when they burn out but don’t realize that headlights dim as much as 20% every two years. There are many options for automotive headlights and the better ones will increase your ability to see not only down the road but also increase your peripheral view.
As part of my winter prep, I installed Sylvania’s SilverStar Ultra Bulbs onto my husband’s car.
It has a whiter light (our old bulbs displayed a bit of a yellow tint) so it’s easier to see contrasts, especially at night.
Sylvania’s SilverStar Ultra Bulbs can be found at Canadian Tire, see below for a special offer!
Did you know that verifying your vehicle’s headlight aim is part of a safety inspection in Ontario? This is likely the case in other provinces too. Most manufacturers recommend regular inspection because if your vehicle’s headlights aren’t properly aimed at the road, it will be difficult for you to see while driving at night and it can potentially blind other drivers in oncoming traffic.
To test, the next time you’re driving at night, take a look at your headlight aim. Is it aiming straight? Or does one light point one way, while the other points another way? Is one lens pointing straight ahead while the other is pointing more towards the road? You can usually tell if the aim is off when one side of the road seems more illuminated than the other.
If you suspect that your headlights are out of alignment, do yourself and other drivers a favour—get them straightened out. This is especially important when driving during winter storms so visibility is the best it can be.
If you watch people clearing snow off of their vehicles, it’s like they're in a race to get it done quickly and they don't end up doing the best job. And I totally get it—it’s freezing outside! Many drivers just clear the snow off the windshield but leave snow everywhere else. When the snow starts to fly, it’s important that you clear off all the snow, including what’s on your roof. This will help with your visibility as well as those around you. The driver following behind you will appreciate not having snow blown onto their windshield! And never clear the snow off your windshield with your wiper blades. You’ll risk damaging the blades and possibly the wiper motor.
Snow Clearing Tips
Have you ever run out of washer fluid while driving in cold weather? It’s not fun. The windshield turns white in the dry, cold weather and pretty soon it’s hard to see properly which is not safe. I've heard of people opening their windows and throwing water on the windshield (which doesn’t work well since water freezes pretty quickly in sub-zero temperatures) or they’ll drive close to the vehicle in front of them to hopefully catch some wet snow spinning up onto their windshield. Both methods are subject to eyebrow raises and definitely not safe or ideal. During the winter, keep an extra jug of washer fluid in your trunk. It’s an inexpensive purchase and helps tremendously in keeping your windshield clean and clear.
Washer Fluid Top-Up Tip
Keep these tips in mind as you’re preparing your vehicle for the upcoming great Canadian winter. Wishing you safe travels!
Disney's Holiday Toy Preview was everything we expected it to be: MAGICAL! Although we're 4 months away from the Christmas season, we were given a sneak peek of the new up-and-coming toys that will be all the rage for the holiday season. Many of these toys are planned to be released August through November 2015. We chose our top picks for what gift-givers need to keep an eye out for (just so you can hold your status as “favourite” with the kiddies!)
If you're anything like us, we had never heard of Tsum Tsum before! Tsum Tsum (translated to “Stack Stack”) is all the rage in Japan as an online app. The game is a Connect 4 meets Disney characters – a series of Disney characters fill the screen, and players must use their finger to connect 3 or more of the same character within 1 minute. With each level, new characters are added, and when more are joined together, new tricks are revealed. The app is available for Android and Apple – we made sure to do our in-depth research of the game as well.
Due to the crazy popularity of this game, Disney has been steadily releasing the physical plush toys of these Tsum Tsum characters. In preparation for the holiday season, the Olaf bag will contain four Tsum Tsums: Anna, Elsa, Sven and Snowgie.
Why I love this? By bringing the online app to real life, it has opened up the ages this toy can be intended for. Children love plush toys, and by basing these characters off the app, it will allow younger children to recreate the game without using a device. The Tsum Tsums come in three different sizes, similar to the game. Already available on the DisneyStore.com are a variety of Disney characters: Mickey & Minnie and Friends, Winnie the Pooh, Monsters Inc., Toy Story, Chip & Dale, and Dumbo. On the first of Tuesday of every month, new characters are to be released. This Japanese craze is sure to be taking Disney Frozen lovers by storm!!
Disney’s Olaf Bag will be released November 3
“Enemies are invading Earth and your favourite heroes want YOUR help!!” There is absolutely no better way to appeal to kids – which is exactly what Disney’s all-new Playmation does. Fully equipped with various missions all over the planet, the storyline builds up children’s excitement by letting them know Tony Stark and Dr. Bruce Banner (aka Ironman and the Hulk) specifically made this device for their help in battling the villains. Their tagline says it all: “The Avengers Need You!”
Why I love this? Besides the amazing technology that is behind this design, it is more than just a video game. This interactive game allows children to be active and still use an app to track their stats and battles. We got the chance to get a behind the scenes demo and we were definitely impressed! Players will have to learn a series of different “moves” for defense and offense against their opponents. In true Disney fashion, no stone goes unturned – creators have made numerous online videos that provide more background story to why Ultron, Loki, and Iron Skull are terrorizing Earth.
The online videos also teach the players how to use their new defense weapons (all while staying in character of course). The Playmation Starter pack comes with a Repulsor Gear, worn on your arm and similar to that of Iron Man’s which emits the superpower to defeat your enemy. Armed with motion-sensing technology, you can block, dodge, run, and jump and the Repulsor Gear will detect every movement. Included in the starter pack is a Power Activator that will bring heroes and villains to life in the game.
Players will learn that depending on the light of the Activator, they can detect if they are being fired at or close to defeating their opponent. The kid inside us loved that when a villain was defeated the Power Activator actually jolted the character off the base – victory! There is the option of using this Activator as another components when playing two-player. Yes – you read right, there is the option for multiple players!
Players can unlock new abilities and skills through training sessions or by battling different characters. Additional “Smart Figures” are available for the Heroes and Villains, which allows you to create your own team or build an army of villains. Additional characters include Black Widow, Thor, Falcon, M.O.D.O.K., and Ultron.
Disney’s Playmation is available for pre-order, and ready to own at the beginning of October. This toy is intended for ages 6+.
Cars Daredevil Garage App
Disney’s Cars was a huge success and children everywhere began collecting the toy cars and racing them around their homes. Disney has now released a free app that allows kids to scan their die-cast cars into the app, and proceed to race various tracks with them. This app brings all of their toys to life in this game-changing concept. Race tracks can be customized and cars will be able to do jaw-dropping flips, turns, and jumps. There are over 160 compatible cars, meaning that players can keep growing their roster. Some of these cars are only available through app purchases.
Why I love this? While we’re not crazy about turning a hands-on game into a touch screen mobile app (we’re all for physical play for children) – we must admit that we appreciate this Disney app gives kids something ‘new’ to do with existing toys. We are also impressed with the toy meets video-game approach. There's less to pack when you've got an iPad or Smartphone versus a bag full of race cars and plastic race tracks while on-the-go.
The Daredevil Garage app allows children to create individualized race tracks, and bring their imagination to life by seeing their favourite cars perform a stunt they created! We’ve all seen kids physically flipping cars through loops, but now they will be able to visually see the cars perform these tasks seamlessly. The app has challenges that players have to work through and eventually receive points to be rated. Each car has different features that allow them to race differently, keeping this new and fresh for the players.
The app is free, but there are in-app purchases available including new tracks that are steadily being released.
Disney has earned an astonishing reputation by staying at the top of their game with creativity and practicality. These new releases are sure to keep kids entertained for months passed the holidays and have parents happy with their decisions. The concepts are new and ever changing just as we are, and especially kids. The holiday season sneaks up on even the most prepared of us - happy shopping!