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4 entries from November 2015

How Hackable is Your Car? Here’s a Handy Infographic.

Car computer

Back when our conveyances were horses and buggies, your engine had a mind of its own and ran on oats. The gasoline-powered motorcar put the control squarely in the hands of the driver for nearly a century but as car technology advances and computers play a larger role in the running of your vehicle, there is a mounting concern that your car may once again have a mind of its own – or rather, that its mind might be controlled by someone other than the driver.

The more car systems become connected to the internet, the more opportunities there are for hackers to wreak havoc.

The idea of your car being “hacked” – i.e. someone remotely taking control of your vehicle while you’re driving – hit the mainstream this summer when Chrysler recalled 1.4 million vehicles in order to correct a vulnerability in its new UConnect infotainment system that would have allowed a hacker who knew a specific car’s IP address to remotely control parts of the vehicle, from the environmental controls to cutting the engine.

Check out this video from Wired to see some hackers and a Wired writer demonstrating what they’re able to do to his car with their laptops.

Obviously, not every vehicle faces a huge hacking risk – some cars are more hackable than others – and there are steps you can take to keep your car as secure as possible. This handy infographic from forensic engineering consulting firm PT&C|LWG is a bit of long read, but it really lays out which cars are most vulnerable, how “hacking” works on vehicles and what we as drivers can do to help mitigate the risks. Is your vehicle on the “most hackable” list?

Car hacking infographic

Winter Car Care Tips

Winter driving

The last few dazzling autumn leaves have fallen from the trees and this morning, your lawn made a crunching sound. It’s officially winter in Canada.

Canadian winters are notoriously hard on vehicles and having a break down in the freezing cold is nobody’s idea of fun – so here are a few winter car care tips to help you keep your vehicle running smoothly through the season.

Test your battery: Have your battery and charging systems checked to ensure they’re performing optimally. Canadian winters are hard on batteries!

Be cool: When’s the last time you cleaned, flushed and put new anti-freeze in your cooling system? This should be done roughly every two years to keep the system working through the winter.

Check your exhaust system: Make sure your exhaust system isn’t leaking carbon monoxide, which can be very dangerous in winter, when we’re all driving around with the windows shut.

Get a clear view: Make sure your headlights and taillights are working and are aimed properly. Top up your windshield wiper fluid and make sure your wipers are clearing your windshield completely with each swipe.

Keep on top of your tires: If it’s consistently 7C or below in your area, it’s time to switch to winter tires. Make sure you’ve installed four matching winter tires and that they’re properly inflated. Checking your tire inflation regularly is especially important in the winter, as cold temperatures cause tire pressure to fluctuate.

Be prepared: Having a fully-stocked emergency car safety kit in the car is important all year round, but unpredictable winter weather makes it even more essential. Go through your kit and replace any items that are worn or have expired.

Protect your exterior: The combo of road dirt, salt and snow is hard on your vehicle. Make sure to visit the car wash when you start to see a build up of sludge. And make sure to clean the snow off your car before you drive.

How do you keep your car running smoothly through the winter? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.


Monthly Poll: What do you listen to on your commute?

Commuter listening

Staying awake on your commute is job one at all times of the year, but I find it’s especially challenging to be alert behind the wheel as the days get shorter and darker. So…so dark.

One of the best ways to stay awake and focused on the road is to listen to something in the car – ideally something that doesn’t have a soporific effect on you. For example, my better half listens to audio books to fall asleep – so when she’s at the wheel, no audio books allowed!

Some folks listen to talk radio to stay alert, while others find that peppy music is the best way to stay focused; some experts even recommend listening to radio shows or music that you hate, because being annoyed is a great way to stay awake! But driving while annoyed is not always the best way to be a calm and courteous driver.

What about you? Are you learning a new language or perfecting your lip synching skills on your commute? Take our poll below!

- Rose R.

The Bus Driver and the Car Driver Should be Friends: Sharing the Road with Buses

City Bus

I have to think there is no more thankless job than city bus driver. On a daily basis you deal with rowdy university students, cranky couples coming home from IKEA with giant bags of Oöfterflüten, visitors from away who've never been on a bus and dorks like me who just can't seem to ever put the ticket in the machine the right way even though THERE IS A GIANT ARROW ON THE TICKET. And those are just the people ON your bus.

Then you have drivers who sometimes seem to deliberately antagonize you and cyclists who are faster and harder to see than the Golden Snitch.

And I won't even mention the additional factor of the weather (especially here in Raincouver).

So, as the days get shorter and the weather gets uglier, I thought it might be good to review how cars, cyclists and buses can all safely share the road. Obviously, your provincial transportation regulations have the final say, but there are some common sense things about driving in cities with buses.

Safely Sharing the Road with Public Transit Buses

  • All those distractions I mentioned above? Remember that the bus driver is dealing with all of them, and probably more. Plus driving a 20 ton hunk of metal.

  • Respect the diamond lane. Most cities with public transit buses have implemented diamond lanes that are reserved for certain vehicles (generally buses, taxis and bicycles) during specific times of the day. 

  • Public transit buses that are signalling and displaying the "yield-to-bus" sign have the right of way when pulling out from a curb or bus stop. Do the right thing and slow down/stop for them to pull out.

  • Particularly on crowded or narrow city streets, make sure you managing your vehicle's space. You don't want to be trapped in the middle lane between a city bus on the right and other vehicles on the left. If a pedestrian or cyclist darts into that right lane, that city bus won't have much wiggle room. Allow some space.

  • Remember that like an 18-wheeler, a bus has blind spots on both sides and at the rear. Don't drive in them. Articulated buses have even bigger blind spots! Be aware!

  • When a bus is making a right-turn, the rear of the bus may swing a bit to the left. Stay behind the bus and don't try to pass it.

This oddly-mesmerizing video from BC Driving Blog shows what it's like to drive beside or near a city bus in traffic. A few key things to watch for are indicated in the video - a good reminder for how to share the road.

How are you with city driving and sharing the road with public transportation vehicles? Any other tips you'd like to share? Leave us a comment!

- Rose R.