Tested: Clickit Sport Car Dog Harness

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Earlier this year we tested Sleepypod's Clickit Utility dog harness, the top performer in the Center for Pet Safety's 2013 crashworthy study. CPS now conducts voluntary certification tests of pet safety harnesses, and Sleepypod's newest harness — the Clickit Sport — is the first harness to achieve certification. The Clickit Sport earned CPS' top rating of five stars for each size in which it is offered (CPS ratings are assigned by size categories and not across a brand).

Related: Tested: Clickit Car Dog Harness

Since the Clickit Sport is significantly different from the Clickit Utility, we took it for a test drive and found the new harness to be more dog and human friendly.

By Jen Burklow | December 16, 2014 | Comments (1)

Goodbye, MyFord Touch; Hello, Sync 3

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MyFord Touch, maligned for its unintuitive touch-sensitive buttons, tiny touch-screen icons and overall lag, will finally head into the sunset. This is exactly 1,800 days since we first reported on the system, which appeared in the restyled 2011 Ford Edge and its 2011 Lincoln MKX sibling.

Related: 2015 Ford Fusion Review

Four years, 11 months and 5 days later, meet Sync 3. The third generation of Ford's Sync system (the automaker already markets Sync 2 in Europe), Sync 3 promises conversational voice recognition, less complexity, smartphone-like pinch and swipe touch-screen motions, better app integration and over-the-air updates through home WiFi networks, according to Ford.

By Kelsey Mays | December 11, 2014 | Comments (0)

Study: AAA Finds Safety Systems Still Have Kinks

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Blind spot monitors are one of those features that didn't exist when I started reviewing cars more than a decade ago, but now, according to AAA, nearly three-quarters of model-year 2014 vehicles offer blind spot detection and 50 percent offer a lane departure warning system as options. During the last several years of testing cars with these systems, I've found that I can't live without them. I was even thinking about asking for an aftermarket blind spot detection system for my own car as a Christmas present (it's between that and a spa day).

Related: Consumers Want Backup Cameras, Blind Spot Systems

However, as much as we like to think that the technology in our cars is unflappable, AAA reminds us that in-car safety features may not be perfect and are only as smart as the humans who operate them.

In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California's Automotive Research Center, AAA Automotive Engineering released the results of a blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning system usability study today, and their findings aren't what you'd expect:

By Kristin Varela | December 9, 2014 | Comments (1)

Dude, Where's My Self-Driving Car? Experts Discuss Viability

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The U.S. Department of Transportation classifies self-driving cars across five grades, from Level Zero to Level 4. Most new cars have Level 1 or 2 capabilities, meaning they have anything from electronic stability control (Level 1) to adaptive cruise control with active steering to keep you between your lane markings (Level 2). Various automakers' self-driving test fleets represent Level 3, while cars that can drive without anyone inside represent Level 4.

Related: More 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show Coverage

How long will it take to reach that final stage in meaningful numbers? Google's Snoopy-faced, self-puttering runabout is essentially there, and automakers insist the capabilities are closer than you think. But complications exist. At the Los Angeles Auto Show’s Connected Car Expo Tuesday, panelists and other experts held forth on the possibilities and obstacles to come.

By Kelsey Mays | November 19, 2014 | Comments (3)

Texting-While-Driving Study Likens Phone Use to Drug Addiction

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When Huey Lewis sang "I Want a New Drug" back in the '80s, he could not have foreseen that one day that newfangled pharmaceutical wouldn't come in pill form but as a phone — and that it would be one of the more dangerous drugs on the market. The active substance in this new "drug" is happiness-enhancing dopamine, and according to a study commissioned by communications giant AT&T, the "high" you get from using your mobile device is akin to being addicted.

Related: Texting-While-Driving Consequences Vary By State

The study, conducted by the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in cooperation with the "Texting & Driving … It Can Wait" campaign, found that more and more people are demonstrating compulsive behavior — dubbed "cell-phone addiction" — with three-quarters of people admitting to at least glancing at their phones while behind the wheel. That's despite 90 percent of people reporting that they know better.

"We compulsively check our phones because every time we get an update through text, email or social media, we experience an elevation of dopamine, which is a neurochemical in the brain that makes us feel happy," Dr. David Greenfield, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and founder of the Internet and Technology Addiction, said in a statement. "If that desire for a dopamine fix leads us to check our phones while we're driving, a simple text can turn deadly."

By Matt Schmitz | November 6, 2014 | Comments (1)

Video: These Over-the-Top Features Will Make You Drool

With car options, there are luxury features that make your driving experience more pleasurable in a tasteful, elegant manner. And then there are over-the-top features that exist in large part so you can boast to whomever will listen. Watch the video above as Cars.com reviewer Kelsey Mays introduces some of these show-offy features, from self-parking to hot-stone massage seats.

By Matt Schmitz | October 17, 2014 | Comments (1)

In-Car Entertainment Systems: Yea or Nay?

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Early in my automotive journalism and parenting careers, I had this grand "no-DVDs-in-the-car" stance. (I'm pretty sure I was still making my own baby food back then, too — ha!). Then I took a couple of road trips with my two toddlers in a test car with a DVD system, and I became a convert after an "Angelina Ballerina" DVD performed wonders by diverting an in-car tantrum. My sister-in-law still likes to bring up my change in policy to get a laugh at family get-togethers.

Read More #FamilyCarAdvice

Now that my "babies" have entered a new stage in life, I've changed tunes yet again. My freshly blended "Brady Bunch" family is comprised of my daughters, ages 14 and 12, and my stepdaughter, age 10. Today, technology inundates practically every facet of our lives. My oldest got an iPhone when she turned 12, worked on an iPad for all her middle-school classes and is now required to have a laptop for high school. Her Spanish seminars use Google Hangouts, she Face Times with me to keep me up-to-date on all the latest teen goings-on while I'm on business trips, she choreographs dances using an app to catalog her ideas — and the list goes on and on. My other two girls listen to music, play games and watch movies on their devices when traveling overseas to visit grandparents in South Africa. Our family's weekly dinner menu and grocery list are accessible by all of us, online calendars are used to manage three kids' schedules in three different schools in three different cities — and once again, the list seemingly never ends.

I'm sure many of you can relate to the fact that having dedicated time to talk to my kids, with full attention on both sides, is a rarity. The best chance of that happening these days is in the car … without a DVD entertainment system.

By Kristin Varela | October 15, 2014 | Comments (3)

Video: These In-Car Apps Aren't Worth Your Cash

When shopping for a new car, buyers are bombarded now more than ever with optional tech upgrades, from backup cameras to Wi-Fi hotspots and from social-media feeds to internet radio. Which of these features will enhance your driving experience and which should you kick to the curb? Cars.com reviewer Kelsey Mays will help you decide in the video above.

By Matt Schmitz | October 10, 2014 | Comments (0)

Dash Cams Hold Benefits Despite Absence of Insurance Incentives

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By Ali Oswald

Dash cams may not be as popular in the U.S. as in Russia, where footage from them has produced many popular YouTube videos, but they do have a number of practical benefits for drivers.

Related: Most Backup Cameras Don't Like Bad Weather

Dash cams can give drivers additional "peace of mind," said Johan-Till Broer, Garmin public relations manager, if a crash happens. Having a recording of an incident can help protect against insurance fraud. Some dash cams have impact sensors that save footage for 3 to 5 minutes before and after a collision, said Chris Kooistra, Cobra Electronics' director of marketing. Both companies sell mainstream dash cams.

The device can be an education tool for drivers, too. Parents can review footage with their teen drivers to point out bad habits that need to be fixed and reinforce good ones, said Carinsurance.com Managing Editor Michelle Megna.

By Jennifer Newman | October 8, 2014 | Comments (8)

AAA: Hands-Free Voice Recognition Systems Still Distracting

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Ever felt like the voice recognition from your car or smartphone garbled more than it understood? You're not alone. In J.D. Power's 2014 Initial Quality Study, voice-recognition systems added significantly to the headaches in new or redesigned cars, which often pack more of the technology than models unchanged from the previous year. Now a new study from AAA finds that voice recognition isn't just annoying; it can be dangerous.

Related: Distracted Driving Campaign Targets 'Big Fat Myth' of Hands-Free Safety

And it's not just in-car systems; Apple's Siri personal assistant proved even more distracting. AAA and the University of Utah conducted the multiyear study, which coded distraction categories from 1 (least distracting) to 5 (most distracting) through driving simulators and real-world test cars rigged with measurements for driver reaction times, plus dozens of real drivers.

By Kelsey Mays | October 7, 2014 | Comments (0)

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