3 Car Tech Features to Look for Your Next Day at the Dealership

Many of the conversations in transportation today revolve around driverless cars, and for good reason–autonomous tech stands to completely transform the way travel and how we live. But it’s going to be at least a few years before they’re available to consumers. That’s not to say vehicles aren’t already undergoing some radical changes though. There are some exceptionally cool and helpful technology features available in new cars today. True, some may only be available in higher-end vehicles currently, but it likely won’t be long until they transition to vehicles for the masses.

Below are a few of our favorites we think you should keep an eye out for the next time you find yourself on the car lot:

Night-Vision

People are afraid of things that go bump in the night–especially when it involves their pexels-photo-1033307car. If you’ve ever experienced that “I hope something doesn’t jump out in front of me right now” kind of anxiety, you’ll be happy to hear about night-vision for vehicles. Audi’s night vision assistant highlights pedestrians and animals using thermal imaging. BMW, Mercedes, and Cadillac also have their own form of night vision available in some models.

Blind Spot Alert

Not checking your blind spot is dangerous. Checking your blind spot going 70 miles per hour on the highway doesn’t feel all that much safe either, but it’s a necessary evil. Fortunately new blind spot detection features are making for safer merging. Mercedes-Benz has a new blind spot assist will audibly warn the driver if they try to merge with someone in their blind spot and even apply the brakes if needed.

WiFi Connectivity

Many automakers are adding WiFi connectivity to new models, turning cars into rolling hotspots. This is great for passengers who want to play music, watch videos, or just browse the internet without draining their battery. Or if you find yourself in a new town or city and looking for something to do, you can park your car and investigate rather than looking for WiFi.

This is a small sample of some of the coolest technology that’s come to vehicles recently. To stay on top of all the newest technology and other transportation news, follow us on Twitter.

Jake Ritzheimer, TrafficCast International, East Coast Operations

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Will We Ride Solar Roads into the Future?

Solar energy started off fringe. Once reserved to the roofs of affluent homes or campuses of large companies, solar panels have rocketed in popularity over the past decade thanks to falling manufacturing costs. Now some predict we could one day see these alternative sources of energy lining our streets. It’s a bold prediction, albeit attractive.

So we have to wonder: What benefits could we expect from solar-powered roads and what’s holding them back?

Benefits (Sunny side of the street)

Reduced Land Use

With solar panels lining roads, we would no longer need huge swaths of land to sustain energy production operations. More green energy = more green spaces.

Efficient Energy Distribution

Since roads wind through all parts of a city, there’d be little distance to travel from energy source to energy user. This means virtually no power lost in travel, unlike when energy is produced far off-site. 

Increased Driver Safety

Any electrical energy produced could be used to heat roads during winter, eliminating ice and snow. Cities could also install light diodes directly in the road that could alert drivers to accidents or construction and direct them to a quicker, safer route.

The upsides of solar-powered roads are clear, so what’s standing in their way?

Challenges

Asphalt Under Pressure

The asphalt used in a majority of US roads is meant to compress slightly to accommodate heavy trucks and cars. While this compression is handy for the longevity of roadways now, it would crack any solar panels installed in the future. It’s likely we’d need to switch to concrete roads before we added solar panels, which would be costly and time-consuming.

Cost of Maintenance

It currently costs about $11 per square foot to repair an asphalt road every 10 years or so. The cost of repairing/replacing solar panels would cost about four times as much. However, solar roads would likely require less frequent replacement and the added energy production could offset many of the installation costs. Still, for now the initial price tag on this type of project has many developers and officials at bay.

It may be some time before we see solar roadways widespread throughout the US, but China has already begun embedding solar panels, mapping sensors and electric-battery rechargers into roads. Perhaps if they find success, we can use them as a model for own endeavors.

Incredible things happen everyday in the world of transportation. Follow us on Twitter for the latest and greatest.  

– Jake Ritzheimer  

TrafficCast International, East Coast Operations

Hack-a-thon

Wednesday night we made our way a few miles north for an exciting evening in Philadelphia. Six teams (both solo and group entries) came out for our Future of the Commute: TrafficCast Design Challenge to pitch their innovative commuter solutions. Our panel of judges included UI/UX designers, the CTO of AAA, and TrafficCast’s leader of Product Strategy, Gil Edwards.

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The event was the brainchild of Al McGowan, TrafficCast CEO, and Tariq Hook, Executive Director of Zip Code Coding Academy. Given that TrafficCast and Zip Code now share a address, Al and Tariq were looking for a way for both organizations to engage with the community and pick the brains of the area’s top coding talent. At the start of the night, Tariq joked that these sort of “Hack-a-thon” events usually play out the same way: Take a bunch of coders, gorge them with Red Bull and pizza, and lock them in a room until something exceptional emerges. As planned, last night was a refreshing departure from that tradition. Participants, judges, and spectators mixed it up around good food, cocktails, and gelato on the 12th floor of the Curtis Center overlooking downtown Philly.

Our hope for the night was to field some simple, creative ideas we could implement into our TrafficCarma app to enhance our users’ experience. We were not disappointed. Each team brought something truly unique to the table–from carpooling features to vehicle servicing notifications. And while ideas were diverse, all remained focused on the need to keep the app beautiful, functional, and safe. We really couldn’t have been happier with what we heard and for that reason no team leave empty-handed. Our youngest participant, Dorcas Olatunji, age 15, even walked away with a scholarship offer from Tariq in addition to her 3rd place $1,000 prize. Taking first place and $5,000 was Raghav Hardas for his ideas to implement an alarm clock based on traffic conditions and to connect the app with Siri and Alexa for hands-off interaction.

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We find ourselves in unique times in the transportation industry. It’s heartening to know how much talent is out there to take on the challenges marking the future of mobility. The landscape is in constant flux and the best coders are those that stay just as fluid. Creativity and adaptability are the hallmarks of innovation and there was no shortage of either Wednesday night.

Incredible things happen everyday in the world of transportation. Follow us on Twitter for the latest and greatest.  

– Jake Ritzheimer  

TrafficCast International, East Coast Operations

A Look into Our Future at Our Open House

Our Open House this past Wednesday June 20 was a total success and we couldn’t have asked for a better turnout. We’ve been in Wilmington, DE nearly four months, but after welcoming all these new friends into our space it feels like we’ve truly arrived. It was a great opportunity to show off not just where we work, but how. Our CEO, Al McGowan, kicked things off by giving attendees a demonstration of our traffic data gathering and curating processes. Noting our use of road sensors to track travel speeds and our operators’ investigation process, he broke down how we’re able to catch and report incidents to drivers within moments of their happening.al

Al also gave a glimpse of TrafficCast’s future expansion into the autonomous vehicle sector. The same road sensor technology tracking traffic will foster future vehicle-to-infrastructure (v2i) communications, allowing cars to “talk’’ with the surrounding environment. This innovation will have major implications in traffic safety and efficiency, alerting driver to congestion, construction, road conditions, and more.

Exciting stuff is in store and we find ourselves on the cutting edge of technology that will transform not only traffic, but modern life as we know it. We’re beyond excited to dive headfirst into the future and we count ourselves lucky to be part of a community that shares our pioneering spirit. Thank you again to all who attended and everyone at our new workspace, The Mill, for making such a great night possible.

Incredible things happen everyday in the world of transportation. Follow us on Twitter for the latest and greatest.  

– Jake Ritzheimer  

TrafficCast International, East Coast Operations

3 Ways Autonomous Vehicles Will Reshape Our Lives

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) have had a less than rosy few months recently. Strings of fender benders and stories like the fatal Uber crash in Arizona this March, have only hardened some people’s reluctance towards AVs. But despite any setbacks in the public perception (or lack of confidence in the first place), it’s widely agreed by experts that AV-dominated roads are inevitable and destined to be safer. The timeline for a major rollout remains vague at best, but we do know that even a small percentage of properly functioning AVs on the road can greatly improve traffic. So what about when they go mainstream? When AVs are more common than not, we can expect them to reshape our lives in ways that go well beyond easing gridlock.

Here are few:

Retreat to the Suburbs

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A major draw of city-living is the wealth of employment opportunities. But if it weren’t for the stress and unpredictability of long commutes, plenty of city dwellers may opt for the suburbs instead. Enter AVs. When you can sleep, read, or meditate in the car the thought of a commute becomes a lot less daunting. It’ll actually carve out some precious “me-time” for commuters to enjoy each day.

Reduced Car Ownership

For those out in the suburbs or country, hanging onto a personal vehicle will be a practical choice. But for people living and working in the city, the thought of having a car available at a moment’s notice without the costs of ownership has major appeal. Plus riders will shuck the hunt for parking that often lasts longer than the drive itself. Predictions for the driverless future point to an influx of ridesharing services and the creation of subscription-based car rentals.

Pedestrians Reclaim Urban Areas

Cars have taken priority in urban planning for most of the last century. But with the promise of AVs’ superior maneuvering, we’ll likely see streets narrowed to accommodate more pedestrians and bicyclists. Plus with the increase in ridesharing, cars will spend more time driving than parked. Garages and street parking spaces could then be transformed into shops or recreation areas for pedestrians. Some cities are already planning for this transition in their architecture.

Incredible things happen everyday in the world of transportation. Follow us on Twitter for the latest and greatest.  

– Jake Ritzheimer  

TrafficCast International, East Coast Operations