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September 2017

5 entries from August 2017

Tips for Sharing the Road as We Head Back to School


During the summer, I enjoy the lighter traffic on the roads in Vancouver. Not only does it take less time to get where I'm going, it also means that I can find street parking relatively easily. But as September approaches, that's all about to change.

Children and adults are headed back to school and that means more cars on the streets, more bikes on the streets and more pedestrians trying to cross those streets. So it's time for some reminders about being safe citizens and sharing the road.

If you're a pedestrian ...

  • Don't be glued to your phone! And if you wear headphones, make sure you can still hear horns, sirens and other warning noises.
  • Walk on sidewalks whenever possible. If there is no sidewalk, walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic.
  • Cross streets only at legal intersections or crosswalks (as tempting as it can be to jaywalk). Remember to look left, right and then left again before proceeding, even at intersections with pedestrian walk signs or at crosswalks with flashing lights.
  • Wait until traffic comes to a stop before crossing. Make eye contact with drivers to ensure that they see you before you cross.

If you're a cyclist ...

  • Wear a properly fitted helmet and make sure your clothing is cycling-appropriate (e.g. make sure pants are tucked in). Include some reflective tape or material on your clothing.
  • Take this opportunity to check that your bike is in good working order, especially the bell.
  • Be predictable to other road users by not weaving through traffic and by riding on the right hand side of the road.
  • Obey all traffic rules, signals and stops, including stopping at every stop sign and signalling your turns.

If you're a motorist ...

  • Stay alert! There are a lot more people in general on the streets in the fall, including new drivers.
  • Be aware of, and respect, speed limits, particularly within school zones (something you may not have been doing in the summer).
  • Know the rules about school buses! If a school bus is stopped with its lights flashing and sign out - you may not pass in either direction.
  • Don't drive distracted - your mobile phone can wait until you get where you're going.

We all just want to arrive safe and sound at our destination. As fall approaches, the days get shorter and the light gets lower. To stay safe, we all need to pay a little more attention and extend a little more courtesy to our neighbours and fellow citizens on the road.

Do you notice a change in traffic patterns when school is back in session? What kind of adjustments do you make to your commute? Let us know in the comments.

- Rose R.

Old School Parking Assistance Technology


While I was learning all about the latest car technologies for our post on understanding your car’s safety features, I came across a great invention that could have been a real game changer in my grandparents’ day; a parking assistance innovation that never made it to the mainstream.

Modern day parking assistance became available to the masses in 2003, when Toyota introduced automatic parallel parking in Japan with the Prius. But parking assistance technology was first invented by a fellow named Brooks Walker from San Francisco, who patented his ParkCar mechanism in the 1930s. ParkCar used a car’s spare tire as a fifth wheel to help the car get into, and out of, tight spaces.

In the 1950s, Cadillac built a prototype, but ParkCar was never mass-produced, which seems like a shame. Sure, it would eat up a lot of your trunk space and would be murder on the front tires; but ParkCar would certainly be handy when parallel parking on a crowded street!

Check out this video from Tech Insider of Brooks Walker’s invention in action:

These days, most car manufacturers offer some kind of automated parking assistance, but parking is still a skill worth cultivating. Because no matter what technology you’re using to help you park, you’re still responsible for the end result!

Does your car have some kind of parking assistance system? Do you find it useful? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.

Considering a new car? Make sure you understand all the safety features!


On a family trip to Hawaii back in 2012, we rented a Ford Flex that had a back-up camera. Being able to see behind you without wrenching your neck; hearing a helpful beeping noise to let you know you’re about to hit a pillar in the parking garage; it was like a whole new world! We came to rely on that back-up camera very quickly and were sad to leave the Flex behind when we came home.

We bought our Saturn Vue brand new back in 2006 and the safety features at the time were basically anti-lock brakes and a robust air bag system. If we were to buy a new car now, we would probably feel a little intimidated by the dizzying range of new safety features available on today’s vehicles. From helpful “heads up” functions like "bicycle detection" and "curve speed warning", to more advanced systems, like "left turn crash avoidance" and "automatic emergency braking", keeping track of all the different functions (and the accompanying noises) of your car’s safety features might start to seem pretty daunting.

According to this article in Wired, even your car salesman may not be able to fully explain, or help you set up, the latest safety features on a vehicle. Obviously, spending some quality time with your owner’s manual will provide plenty of details but sometimes it helps to have a demo from someone in the know.

That’s where My Car Does What comes in. A collaboration between the National Safety Council and the University of Iowa, the site offers great information about all of the latest safety features available these days, to help you drive safer and smarter.

If you just want a quick tip on how a feature works, check out the series of short videos demonstrating the unfamiliar safety features your new car may have to offer. For a more detailed look at each safety feature, check out the Deeper Learning section, which provides more in-depth information on how each of these systems functions and gives you challenging questions at the end, to see if you’ve retained the information.

My Car Does What also offers mobile and desktop games aimed at helping drivers learn about, and make the most of, the safety features on their cars. Check out this overview video for more info about My Car Does What: 

What safety features does your car have? Do you know how all of them work? Do you think they make you a safer driver? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.

Making Automotive Manufacturing More Efficient with 3D Printing

We talk a lot about fuel efficiency here on PumpTalk. And that's generally in regards to driving (avoiding sudden stops and starts, removing extra weight from the car, etc.) or about car technology - things like using solar reflective paint technology or making car parts from renewable or recyclable materials. But it's not just the driving or the parts that go into cars that can be considered "fuel efficient". Fuel efficiency truly starts at the car manufacturing stage.

Even cars that contain renewable or recycled parts use a lot of energy in the manufacturing phase. In many cases, the emissions from driving the car itself pale in comparison to the emissions that occurred during the manufacturing of the car. This applies to hybrids, fuel powered, even electric cars - the overall lifecycle of a vehicle has a huge environmental impact.

One company, Divergent 3D, hopes to change that. Divergent 3D has created a 3D printed auto manufacturing platform that will allow car manufacturers to reduce their resource use and do more just-in-time manufacturing (two factors that reduce both the cost as well as the environmental impact of vehicle creation) as well as produce vehicles that are lighter, stronger, safer and more durable than traditionally manufactured vehicles.

This video, from Divergent 3D, discusses their manufacturing process using additive manufacturing techniques (more commonly known as 3D printing) and its benefits to the environment.

Divergent 3D has created a concept super-car, the Blade, that is built on their 3D printed chassis. They've also developed the Dagger, which is a concept super-bike. Through their additive manufacturing, Divergent 3D has reduced both the weight of the motorcycle by 20% as well as the number of parts needed for the frame from over 100 to just 5; both factors which have substantially reduced manufacturing impacts. Recently, Divergent 3D CEO, Kevin Czinger, spent time with noted car enthusiast Jay Leno discussing the Dagger, the Blade and the overall positive impact of 3D printing for the automotive industry.

What do you think - are we ready to change how we manufacture cars? Share your thoughts in the comments!

- Rose R.

Our Top 5 Posts about Road Trips


Well, the last long weekend of the summer is upon us (I never count Labour Day because I'm usually running around buying new Hush Puppies loafers and Trapper Keeper notebooks - ahh, it's great to be stuck in the '80s). If you're like me, you're gearing up for one last road trip; and whether it's to the cottage, the cabin, the beach or the mountains, you've probably got a lot on your mind.

To help, we've gathered our Top 5 posts with great road trip tips in one handy place. These tips cover everything from what to pack, traveling with kids and dogs, playing games and keeping your cool!

Whether you've got an epic road trip planned or if your furthest distance covered will be to your backyard BBQ, we wish you a safe and happy long weekend!

- Rose R.