Airbag seatbelts from Ford

Having airbags for the front passenger and driver is all very well and good, but what about the backseat passengers?

It’s quite rare, in my opinion, to have any safety equipment ready to leap into action to save backseaters from injury in a collision.

Well, next year Ford will be offering inflatable seatbelts for backseat passengers as an extra – which will probably cost around £250.

Initially the belts will be available only in the Mondeo, but the company plans on having it available in all of their family cars eventually.

The seatbelts, which will act as airbags for anyone in the rear of the vehicle, are safe for use with a booster seat and wil fully inflate in 40 milliseconds.

Hopefully this will lead to a reduction in the number of whiplash, back and head injuries suffered annually in the UK.

The inflatable belts have already been available to the American public since late last year, and apparently the company states that so far 40% of customers have elected to have the safety extra.

I’m not surprised! Changing the paintwork colour of a Ford Mondeo can cost anything from £200 to £545 – with that in mind £250 for something which will protect someone from suffering harm in a crash is a very good price!

Photo © Criterion via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Even the cars are watching us

Back in the 1990s, before the advent and eventual ubiquity of the internet, many of us thought that by buying an electric shredder we would be able to embrace the 21st century confident in the knowledge that we were protecting our identities and keeping our personal details and documents private.

Few were able to predict just how profoundly online and wireless technologies would alter the way we store, send and protect personal information.

These days, without the right knowledge and firewalls just about every piece of information, from our bank details to our love letters and our passwords are available to the unscrupulous hacker.

Take Google’s Street View cars. It’s recently been revealed that Google knew that the vehicle’s had the power and potential to capture and store the online data of millions of people, including emails, text messages and images.

It’s a pretty frightening prospect. There can be no doubt that Google is a great company that has been a real pioneer in making society more open and competitive, from enabling political reform in totalitarian states to comparing the car insurance market for the cheapest deals at home in Britain – for these things and just about everything in between, it’s been a real game-changer. But it’s also true that we need to remain wise to the dangers of letting gremlins in the system.

Photo © DoNotLick, under Creative Commons Licence

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The birds

If you want to make sure that when you come to sell your car, you get the most money for it possible, you should protect the paintwork.

Yes, there are other things to worry about – obviously your car won’t get sold for much if it’s failed its MOT or is likely to fail its next one – but taking care of your vehicle’s paintwork is a step in the right direction.

And what of all things might stand in the way of you achieving the goal of shiny, unblemished paintwork?

The birds.

Yes, it’s a little like that Alfred Hitchcock film.  Your car is immaculate one day – and the next it’s splattered with bird poo.

Halfords recently conducted a study which revealed that birds poo on red cars the most, and green cars the least.

But, whatever colour your car, if you see bird poo on it, clean it off asap.  If you let it stick around for a while, it could ruin your car paintwork.  Don’t let the birds win their war!

Photo © Picture Perfect Pose via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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You can sell me a patriotic MINI anyday

Now I’m a bit of an Olympic cheerleader. Yes, I managed to get tickets – one night of athletics and a day of paralympic equestrianism – and I have purchased a total of five official 2012 pin badges (one for each member of my family and a spare for me in neutral tones to mix and match with whatever I am wearing).

I have also bought, as gifts mostly, two Olympic posters, a blue Union Jack Olympic towel, a Mandeville plush toy (the Paralympic mascot), a team GB lion-head mug and a car sticker. As you can probably tell, I am ever-so-slightly enthused by the prospect of the forthcoming games.

In fact, when it comes to all things Olympian, I am a bit of a fan – except… when it comes to Daley Thompson’s acting skills. Don’t get me wrong any man who can whistle his way through his country’s national anthem and still get a job promoting MINI/Olympics is okay by me – especially as his feats in the decathlon are legendary – but, and I pause to bow here and apologise profusely to Mr Daley, somebody should have told the former giant in multi-eventing to “STEP AWAY FROM THE MINI FILM SCRIPT!”

I am in fact talking about MINI’s promotional video, nattily nicknamed “The Britalian Job”, in which three gold medal-winning GB Olympians drive three MINIs, in red, white and blue of course, through the streets of London.

The plot involves Daley Thompson in his underground lair overseeing three drivers, James Cracknell, Matthew Pinsent and Jonathan Edwards (but not really them) in their pursuit of Jodie Kidd (errr, why???) who has stolen the nation’s gold medals.

Following some clever stunts and funny scenes, the culmination of the video comes as the three MINIs go spectacularly airborne in front of the Olympic Stadium just in time to corner the thief and retrieve the loot.

I have to say, I loved the video – I love any homage to the original film (the 1969 version, not the 2003 shameless remake) and it appears that you could sell me just about anything at the moment as long as it is painted red, white and blue.

Patriotic MINIs, Olympians and London by night – combine all that with car driving stunts and a glimpse of Olympic park, and for me you have the perfect combination. But, for my son, hmmmm…not so much. I must be getting old.

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Online shopping makes for easy football viewing

Cheap car insurance bought and paid for – check! Enough supplies in the fridge to last until 1st July – check! TV and satellite receiver primed and ready to go – check! Availability to do anything when the matches are on – no chance!

Yes, it’s time for the UEFA European Football Championships 2012 and I don’t want any interruptions; least of all to sort out such things like car insurance or vehicle tax (all due for me on the 1st July).

Thanks to the miracle of the internet, I have handled everything online and my car will still be legal to drive when the Euros’ goal nets are packed away and the victors (either Spain or Germany if the betting odds are anything to go by) will have headed home to their heroes’ welcome.

I’ve shopped for refreshing beverages and tasty snacks from my local supermarket, all to be delivered periodically over the course of the tournament, and my fantasy Euro football team is already at the top of my league. It’s all looking good.

Plus, because sorting car insurance out over the internet is usually the cheapest way of doing it, I have saved myself enough money to ensure that I’m smiling as the England team heads into its first game tonight – whether I’ll be smiling at the end of 90 minutes is another matter entirely, but then I’ll just have to think about my great duck2water deal and I’ll be able to smile again.  

Image © DrabikPany via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Chinese motor insurance market a new and novel monster

“Where should you aim when you need to spit?” is not the kind of question you expect to be part of your driving test. However, for those taking a test in China it is the reality and forms just one detail in what is, for Western drivers, a new and novel motoring landscape.

According to news agency Reuters, this has heralded a boom in the Chinese car insurance market. Good news, you would think, for motor insurance companies, but the truth is that once you factor in all the eccentricities, vagaries and leviathan looms of red tape, the outlook is rather less attractive.

Take the following quote as an example: “People like us who buy Ferraris don't care too much about insurance because we buy cars for speeding. If we crash, we just throw them away."

The motorist speaking is just one of the thousands of new super-wealthy drivers in China who care very little for finer points of motoring etiquette or indeed for the globally accepted rules of the car insurance market.

China has now overtaken the US as the world's biggest market for new cars, so the situation is only going to develop. It will be fascinating to see how motor insurers respond to the many challenges they will inevitably face.

Photo © decade_null via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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A gold medal for British drivers!

The Queen’s impending Diamond Jubilee celebrations together with the countdown to the London 2012 Olympics seem to be having a real impact on all of us, including the British motorist.

And while you can be sure that there’ll be a fair amount of enthusiastic flag waving taking place over the summer, there are other ways we’ll be showing our patriotism.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the economic austerity we all find ourselves in, more than two-thirds of drivers intend to purchase a car over the next six month – and, most surprisingly, 58% of these say that the vehicle they buy will be British.

And while around half of these drivers that they will do it out of a conscious desire to boost the UK economy, nearly as many say that they will do it out of a pride in our British heritage.

It’s great to hear that people are thinking outside of a purely individualist mentality and looking to, by their actions, bolster Britain.

And while not everyone may be able to afford iconic British vehicles such as the Range Rover, Aston Martin or Jaguar, many of us may still be able to invest in brands such as Mini and Vauxhall.

Here’s a gold medal for effort!

Photo © foshie via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Mobile phones and driving

When we were children we imagined that the technology of the future would revolutionise motoring. We’d be flying round in our hover cars like the Jetsons or be sitting back and kicking our feet up as our chauffeur robots drove us from place to place.

As it is technology, although playing an important role in developing safer cars and novel and interesting in-car devices, has perhaps affected the motoring experience in more oblique ways.

Take the smartphone, it could be argued that this single piece of fundamentally external technology, is right now as relevant to the 2012 driving experience as anything internal.

 Drivers use them as satnavs, to field in-car (hand’s free) calls and as vehicle entertainment systems. All of which, provided it is done correctly and in keeping with the law, should not be a problem. Smartphones have even become so relevant to the driving experience that we use them to find car insurance quotes.

But there is a problem – there has been a worrying rise in the number of 25 to 44-year-olds who use their smartphones behind the wheel in dangerously distracting ways.

The RAC has branded this behaviour as a "new breed of motoring offence".

David Bizley, the organisation’s technical director comments, "These offences don't yet have the same social taboo that drink-driving now holds, which thanks to years of concerted campaigns has continued to decrease as a problem."

Perhaps one day smartphones will be so smart that they don’t actually let drivers use them in dangerous ways – now that would be smart.  

Photo © SuperlativeQuip via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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