Study: US faces constant Labor Day-like traffic in coming decades

Filed under: Government/Legal, Safety

US map of future traffic congestion

With Labor Day weekend upon our American readers, many of you have probably loaded up your vehicles for the last road trip of the summer. But with Labor Day weekend comes traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. And while the Labor Day scrum is generally as bad as things get for the year, a study by the US Travel Association reports that a number of freeways across the country are in danger of heavily increased traffic levels becoming the new normal.

As originally reported on The Car Connection, Americans may be driving less, but the number of cars on our roads is outpacing that decline, which in turn places greater stress on the interstate network. Take Interstate 96, the freeway that runs from downtown Detroit to Grand Rapids, as an example. The only major cities on that east-west road, besides its termini, is the state capital, Lansing. But during Labor Day weekend, its traffic volume increases 154 percent. The USTA warns that unless a project is started quickly, the increased traffic flow will become the norm by 2030.

The USTA also analyzed 15 other major interstates, including three different stretches of I-95 on the country’s east coast, I-5 between Los Angeles and San Diego, I-45 between Dallas and Houston and I-15 between southern California and Las Vegas. Each route was at risk of anywhere from 117- to 159-percent increases in traffic flow by 2040. See the map above for more examples.

All of that sounds pretty daunting, but we also have to wonder if advances in vehicle-to-vehicle communications and autonomous technology over the same period will go a long way toward increasing average traffic speeds by greatly reducing accidents while safely increasing traffic density through platooning.

Either way, scroll down to take a look at the complete study.

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US faces constant Labor Day-like traffic in coming decades originally appeared on Autoblog on Sat, 31 Aug 2013 10:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Study: Car customer satisfaction down for first time in two years

Filed under: Etc.

ACSI study finds that car customer satisfaction fell slightly from last year.

Car customer satisfaction fell for the first time in two years, according to the 2013 American Customer Satisfaction Index automobiles and light vehicles report. Over the course of 4,078 random phone and e-mail interviews between April 6 and May 22, the index, based on a scale of 0 to 100, revealed that customer satisfaction with automobiles fell from 84 in 2012 to 83. Domestic autos bring up the rear.

Domestic vehicles, which received an average score of 82, also lost traction in perceived quality, with European automakers ranking 84.7 and Asian brands close behind at 84.1. This is reflected in the scores of the 20 individual automakers counted in the study.

Mercedes-Benz is at the top of the index with a score of 88, up four percent from last year. Lexus relinquished its lead with a score of 87, down two percent from 2012. Third place is a three way tie between Subaru, Toyota and Honda, which all scored 86. Here are the rest of the scores in order: GMC (85), Cadillac (85), Volkswagen (84), Acura (83), Ford (83), Nissan (83), Chrysler (83), Buick (82), BMW (82), Hyundai (82), Kia (82), Mazda (82), All Others (81), Jeep (80), Dodge (79) and Chevrolet (79). It’s worth noting that both GMC and Chrysler gained five points from last year.

While it’s not a good sign that customer satisfaction went down, the authors of the report explained that it could be due to “greater customer expectations that the automakers are then challenged to meet.” But the ACSI says automakers should take the erosion in customer satisfaction as a warning signal: once pent-up demand has subsided, successful brands will keep the customers they have and poach new ones from elsewhere, and customer satisfaction plays a direct role in this relationship.

Car customer satisfaction down for first time in two years originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 27 Aug 2013 16:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Study: The safest driving cities in America listed for 2013

Filed under: Safety

Texting while driving

We all like to claim we know where the worst drivers in the US hog the road, but for the last nine years, Allstate has released a study telling us exactly where we can go to find the best and worst drivers in the country. After compiling crash data in America’s largest cities (with more than 50,000 residents), this finding shows that for the third time in four years, Fort Collins, CO tops the list for safest roadways. Fort Collins drivers go almost 14 years between car accidents – an accident rate that is far better than the national average of about 10 years.

Making huge strides in traffic safety, according to the study, Brownsville, TX and Montgomery, AL each soared 21 spots and are now among the top 10 cities on the list. Phoenix is 71 out of the 194 cities listed, but it has the highest safety for cities with the population of more than one million people with crashes 2 percent more likely than average and about 10 years between crashes for drivers. At the bottom of the list, drivers in Washington, D.C. are more than twice as likely to get into a crash, with that population experiencing a wreck about every five years. Big cities like Baltimore, MD, Philadelphia, PA and Miami, FL were also some of the least-safe cities in which to drive. Scroll down for Allstate’s press release or check out the full report in pdf form.

*Note: cities in Massachusetts were excluded due to a lack of data.You lucked out, Bostonians.

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The safest driving cities in America listed for 2013 originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 27 Aug 2013 15:33:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Study: Berkeley study says drivers of roomier vehicles more likely to be unethical

Filed under: Etc., Safety

Bad Parking

Researchers from MIT and Berkeley have conducted a rather interesting study on the correlation between posture and behavior. While this normally wouldn’t be of much interest, the study analyzed more specifically how a car’s seating position can affect the driver’s behavior, which we find to be a rather interesting hypothesis.

The study conducted four experiments, although only the last two interest us. The gist is that expansive posture and positioning often led to unethical or dishonest behavior, such as noticing, accepting and not mentioning overpayment as well as cheating on tasks.

In particular, the third experiment focused on how a driver’s seating position influences their driving style. The researchers plopped participants down, not in a real vehicle on a public road or closed track, but in a desk chair, in front of a monitor and a Playstation 3, with a copy of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit playing. Using a $90 gaming steering wheel, participants were allowed one practice run before the actual race. If they completed the race in under five minutes, they’d win $10, with one major caveat: they’d be forced to stop for ten seconds after each impact or collision. Seating positions were randomly chosen for each participant, with some in a contracted and some in an expansive position. The study also took a trip into the real world to record the correlation between double parking, vehicle size and the amount of room drivers had.

The results? Drivers with more expansive driving positions drove more recklessly in Need For Speed, while they were also more likely to double park, regardless of the length and difficulty that came with parking their vehicles (which researchers accounted for).

Now, we’re not scientists, but a number of things stand out here that have us wondering how credible these findings are. In the third experiment, it can’t seriously be believed that a three-year-old, arcade-minded racing game with a cheap steering wheel and a one-monitor setup is an accurate replica of a real cockpit, right? People, regardless of driving position, tend to drive far more recklessly in video games because the sole consequence is having to press the Reset button (or in this case, miss out on $10). Death, lawsuit or severe bodily injury, on the other hand, are always there when driving in the real world.

As for the fourth study, it was conducted in the heart of New York City, a place where parking spots and driving manners are just rumors and whispers, with little evidence of either. We’d have to believe that if someone found one of these mystical parking spots, they’d be far more concerned about just getting their car in it – regardless of their vehicle type – because they’ve been driving around the city for three hours looking for a spot. Click over for the full research paper, and let us know what you think of the study in Comments.

Berkeley study says drivers of roomier vehicles more likely to be unethical originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 26 Aug 2013 14:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Study: US diesel model count to double for 2014?

Filed under: Car Buying, Audi, Diesel

Audi's 2014 TDI diesel product line

While diesel cars are popular on most other continents, these less-complex alternative to hybrid-electric vehicles have yet to gain major traction in the US. As an increasing number of light cars and trucks start to offer these fuel-efficient engines, though, sales are expected to climb as well. While BMW, Mercedes-Benz and the Volkswagen Group (Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche) continue to lead the way, more non-German automakers like Mazda, Nissan, Chrysler and General Motors are starting to get serious about diesel in America.

TheDetroitBureau.com reports that the 2014 model year will see the number of diesel vehicles offered in the US double to about 40 nameplates, but the news gets even better for fans of these torquey and efficient powerplants. LMC Automotive has released data about future expectations of diesel cars in the US, and it predicts that sales should be very close to one million units in 2015 (up from an expected 600,000 units this year). By 2018, LMC’s calculations suggest that sales will more than double from this year’s expected totals accounting for almost 8 percent of new light-vehicle sales.

US diesel model count to double for 2014? originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 23 Aug 2013 16:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Study: Americans who consider drunk driving ‘a serious threat’ declines 21% in 3 years

Filed under: Safety

The

Alternate titles for this story could have been “American drivers growing stupider,” “Number of boneheads on the road increases,” “Natural selection having greater influence on American drivers.” We don’t mean to make light of the latest study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, but it’s so darn disturbing that we aren’t really sure what else to do.

AAA compiled the results of three years of surveys, and found that Americans aren’t nearly as concerned about seriously bad behaviors while driving as they were a few years ago. It’s no wonder there was an estimated 5.3-percent increase in annual traffic fatalities last year. The infuriating thing is that we’ve gone seven years without an increase in fatalities.

In 2009, 90 percent of the AAA survey respondents thought drunk driving was a “serious threat.” 71 percent were opposed to drowsy driving. 87 percent considered working a smartphone while behind the wheel to be a bad thing, while 21 percent admitted to texting while driving. 77 percent took issue with people that ran red lights.

Fast-forward to 2012, and we’re going to see a rather radical shift in feelings. Only 69 percent of people find drinking and driving to be an issue, while 46 percent are opposed to drowsy driving. 81 percent think a smartphone and driving don’t mix, while 26 percent have texted while behind the wheel. Also baffling, 70 percent of people are against running red lights, with over a third admitting to flying through a red in the past month. For those that don’t feel like looking at the paragraph above for comparison, fewer people are concerned with bad behind-the-wheel behaviors.

Take a look below for the full press release on the AAA study, and please, please be safe behind the wheel.

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Americans who consider drunk driving ‘a serious threat’ declines 21% in 3 years originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 22 Aug 2013 13:20:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Study: Six small cars earn IIHS Top Safety Pick+ awards [w/video]

Filed under: Coupe, Budget, Sedan, Safety, Hatchback, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Scion, Volkswagen

2013 Honda Civic Sedan IIHS crash test
IIHS Top Safety Pick + Award
The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety has released the results of its latest small overlap front crash tests, and there’s a surprise among small cars. IIHS tested 12 cars, half of which managed “Good” or “Acceptable” ratings overall, qualifying them for the the coveted Top Safety Pick+.

Top Safety Pick+ is still a fairly rare achievement since the new small overlap crash tests were instituted, as it’s taken manufacturers time to design, engineer, build and bring to market cars that can score well on the new metric.

The overlap front crash test covers the car’s structure, restraint systems and kinematics, as well as measuring the “injuries” the crash test dummy’s heads, necks, chests, hips, thighs, legs and feet.

The highest scorers were the Honda Civic Sedan, followed closely by the Civic Coupe. These were also the only two to earn overall scores of “Good.” The Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and Scion tC all earned acceptable scores overall, which was still enough to qualify them for the TSP+ rating. The bottom half of the test included the Chevrolet Sonic, Volkswagen Beetle, Chevrolet Cruze, Nissan Sentra, Kia Soul and Kia Forte.

Only 25 models have earned the TSP+ rating so far, which requires cars to earn “Good” ratings for occupant protection in four out of five tests, while scoring at least an acceptable on the fifth test.
Click through for the full press release from IIHS, as well as a video

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Six small cars earn IIHS Top Safety Pick+ awards [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 08 Aug 2013 17:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Study: Greens gaining ground among car colors

Filed under: Car Buying, Etc., Design/Style

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray in Lime Rock Green

BASF has released its latest forecast of color trends, and there’s a bit of a shake up. The green color range is gaining in popularity, which is a welcome sign if you’re tired of the dominance of blacks, whites and silvers. According to Mark Gutjahr, BASF’s head of European design, “With new technologies, new models and new mobility concepts, a shift in values is on the horizon. In this context, green as the color of growth and a new beginning is playing a key role.”

Yes, green. This follows last year’s BASF trend report, which said we’d see more earthy tones on the cars of the future. The BASF study says green “stands for new values such as straightforwardness, responsibility and individuality.” While we don’t see anything nearly so deep in paint colors, there’s no debating that shades of green have been gaining in popularity. Formerly the realm of British cars, you can snag a shade of green on everything from a Ford Fiesta in Green Envy, to a Mustang in Gotta Have It Green to a Chevrolet Spark in Jalapeno. Even the all-new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray can be had sporting a deep Lime Rock Green.

BASF also hinted at the future of paint colors, mentioning matte shades, like that of our long-term Hyundai Veloster Turbo. Take a look below for the full press release from BASF.

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Greens gaining ground among car colors originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 07 Aug 2013 17:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Study: Updated J.D. Power APEAL study shines on VW Group, Chevy

Filed under: Car Buying, Chevrolet, Porsche, Volkswagen

2013 Volkswagen full line parked in field

J.D. Power has just revealed the results of its 2013 APEAL Study, which looks at which brands have the most appealing cars based on sales figures, dealer inventory, brand loyalty, transaction and trade-in prices. The study was revamped for 2013, and places a larger focus on the new tech and infotainment options available to customers. All told, study participants gauged their vehicles on 77 different attributes, delivering a score out of a 1,000 points.

The Volkswagen Group had the greatest success of any corporation, topping the APEAL rankings with the Audi Allroad, Porsche Boxster, Porsche Cayenne, VW GTI and Passat. Chevrolet had the highest number of awards for a single brand, though, with the Avalanche, Sonic and Volt all taking home a prize.

The best brand overall was Porsche, which scored 884 out of a possible 1,000 points. The top Japanese brand was Lexus with a score of 847, while the top American brand was Cadillac, at 841. The best mainstream brand was Ram, which received a very respectable 817. The industry average for this year’s study was 795, with 16 brands, all of which were mainstream, falling below the average.

There were a few surprises for the individual model awards, as well. The Buick Encore took the sub-compact CUV class, while the Ford Mustang was the winner of the mid-size sporty car segment. The Lincoln MKZ beat out the BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS, and a spate of others to capture the compact premium car segment. Finally, the redesigned Land Rover Range Rover was the first vehicle outside of the large premium car segment to net the highest overall score. For more details, scroll down to read the official press release.

Continue reading Updated J.D. Power APEAL study shines on VW Group, Chevy

Updated J.D. Power APEAL study shines on VW Group, Chevy originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 24 Jul 2013 14:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Study: Ford tops mid-year ranking of brands in the US

Filed under: Marketing/Advertising, Ford

2013 Ford Fusion  - front three-quarter view

YouGov’s mid-year Brand Index rankings of America’s best perceived brands has been released, and Ford has found its way to the top. The Dearborn, Michigan based manufacturer beat out online shopping giant Amazon, The History Channel, and home improvement superstore Lowe’s, to take the top spot.

Ford jumped from sixth overall in 2012 to first for 2013, but those that have been watching these rankings shouldn’t be hugely surprised. Ford was rated the best perceived automotive manufacturer by the same organization last year. The Blue Oval’s success on the overall brand rankings is made all the more impressive by the complete lack of other automakers on the list.

YouGov (that is, survey respondents) cited Ford’s first quarter of 2013 business, which saw an increase in market share and the best earnings recorded in over 10 years. Successfully launching the Focus and Fusion (pictured) and keeping them fresh in the minds of consumers has also contributed to Ford’s best overall score.

YouGov’s Brand Index asks survey respondents whether they’ve heard anything positive or negative about a brand in the last two weeks. That includes anything in advertising, news or word of mouth. Following the old saying “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” the responses, both positive and negative, are correlated into the Buzz score, which rates the brand’s perception among the public. Check out all the results in the official press release below.

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Ford tops mid-year ranking of brands in the US originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 18 Jul 2013 10:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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