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


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


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?


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


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


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)

Video: How Easy Is It to Pair the New iPhone to Your Car?

Now that you've got the iPhone6 in your hot little hand, you'll naturally want to know how compatible it is with your car's multimedia system. As Cars.com Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder explains in the video above, our experts put the new smartphone to the test in a number of vehicles to generally impressive effect. Watch the video to learn what features you can use and what else you'll need to know about this mating of mobile media.

By Matt Schmitz | September 29, 2014 | Comments (1)

So Far, So Good for iPhone 6 in Cars We've Tested


When the iPhone 5 rolled out in September 2012, we had some major trouble getting it to work in our fleet of test cars. Thankfully, it turned out to be a simple fix. With the iPhone 6, it seems there are little to no hiccups with car integration.

Related: Should You Use the Apple Watch in Your Car?

First, we tested the iPhone 6's basic iTunes functions, which was something that didn't work for the iPhone 5.

We had a 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T with the Uconnect multimedia system at our Chicago headquarters. The iPhone paired easily with Uconnect, quickly bringing up all track information and album artwork. Then we tried our long-term 2014 Chevy Impala equipped with the MyLink multimedia system. Again, track info and album artwork immediately displayed.

Next was the all-new 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which is in for two weeks of testing with us.

By David Thomas | September 22, 2014 | Comments (3)

First California Permit to Test Self-Driving Cars Goes to Audi


Audi announced today that it had received the first permit issued by California for the testing of self-driving, or autonomous, cars on the Golden State's roadways. The news comes the same day as California's new laws governing the testing of automated vehicles take effect with an eye toward the eventual consumer use of driverless cars.

Related: Survey: Motorists Apprehensive About Driverless Cars

"California roads are especially crucial to Audi Piloted driving testing because the state is home to the brand's Electronics Research Lab," the automaker stated in a news release. "ERL engineers are working on a wide range of automated driving issues, including human-machine interface prompts that indicate when the human or the vehicle are handling driving functions."

By Matt Schmitz | September 16, 2014 | Comments (6)

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