• Yesterday’s announcement of the iPhone 4S by Apple introduced a revolutionary new voice recognition system coming to the iPhone, packaged with the digital personal assistant the electronics giant has dubbed Siri. The new technology understands speech in a more conversational form than ever before, eliminating the constant misunderstandings and limitations of traditional voice recognition software. Now it seems that automakers are trying to use the same kind of technology, both for safety and luxury.

    "Smartphones have become a major part of people's lives; manufacturers are responding to that," said Kathy McMahon, senior manager of GM's infotainment group. "Infotainment systems are one of the top five reasons people cite for purchasing a new vehicle. It's a very big deal."

    But when it comes to safety, voice recognition is very important to eliminate further distractions. Ford’s Sync system is fairly advanced (it is able to recognize 10,000 different commands), but new advances like Siri should make distractions even fewer and less severe. Imagine being able to hear and respond to messages simply by talking, or even filling out reports in mid-trip without ever taking your eyes off the road. The more advanced voice recognition technology becomes, the safer we can make vehicles in the age of distracted driving.

    What do you think? Would you implement a voice-recognition system in your vehicles if it didn’t cost too much?

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  • A recent article from Nevada-based RGJ.com examines the effectiveness of texting bans on the actual number and severity of traffic accidents so far in the US. The general consensus: While texting has a direct correlation to increased accidents, there is not yet sufficient evidence that full bans decrease them significantly.

    The reason for this conclusion is basically twofold: texting bans cause drivers to try to hide their texting, which actually makes it more dangerous, and drivers tend to lie about the cause of their accidents when texting or phone use is involved.

    When it comes to texting and driving, the only way to eliminate the risk is to be aware of the danger and restrain yourself. Make sure your drivers know that texting is not to be tolerated and that they are aware of just how real the threat is: taking your eyes off the road for even two seconds can lead to an accident, and even reading a single text message can take longer than that. The only way to stop texting-related accidents is to stop texting while you are operating your vehicle. So make sure your drivers know that it’s ok to pick up the phone AFTER they have arrived.

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  • A recent article in the Chicago Tribune poses an interesting question: how long will it be before hybrid technology becomes the standard for new car manufacturing? It seems that the underlying technology that makes hybrids so efficient is already creeping its way into automakers’ plans, with more to come in the near future:

     

    "Customers think 'hybrid' means the Prius," a car mostly powered by gasoline but capable of driving on battery power alone for short distances at low speeds, said Jim Hall, managing director of 2953 Analytics. "That's very simplistic."

    But the technology is proliferating at a stunning pace. "It could become tough to find a car without electric augmentation in seven or eight years," Hall said.

    So where is this technology being used? Electrical assistance technology can already be found in vehicles like the battery-powered Nissan Leaf and the 414-horsepower twin-turbo BMW M3, which makes use of an automated stop-start system. Buick and Chevrolet are also releasing “hybrid”-based cars soon; the base 2012 Buick LaCrosse will promise 36 mpg on the highway and 25 in the city for less than $30,000, thanks to an electric system Buick calls eAssist. The 2012 Buick Regal midsize sedan will also use eAssist, as well as the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco.

    Wider use of fuel-savings technology is ultimately a great step to managing fuel costs in a time when gas prices are so wildly in flux. But remember, even with greater fuel efficiency, it is still important to get the most out of every fill-up with good fuel management. Make sure you pay attention to your fuel spending even when you’re not spending as much!

     

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  • Recently, construction businesses in Branford, Connecticut have seen a rash of break-ins to their fleet vehicles, with valuable equipment being stolen.

    This serves as a reminder that vehicle security is an important part of fleet operations, and should not be taken lightly. Here are some tips for keeping your vehicles safe when they are unattended:

    • Always park in well-lit areas; if possible, park inside a secured garage.
    • If possible, remove any valuables or equipment from vehicles before leaving.
    • Make sure to lock all doors and roll up all windows.
    • Don’t leave keys in the vehicle, no matter how well-hidden you think they are!
    • Stow all electronic chargers, connectors and mounting brackets out of sight; they are a sure sign of valuable items inside the vehicle.
    • If you don’t have one already, have an alarm system installed in each vehicle.

    Even if you don’t lose property in a vehicle break-in, the repair costs can be a drain on your bottom line. Keep your vehicles safe!

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  • The release of the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for the US has been delayed until mid-November, as the government says additional time is needed to wrap up loose ends. The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) intended to release full details of the proposed program and analyses by the end of September.

    "We have worked closely with all key stakeholders including the car companies, the State of California, and others as we move toward releasing the proposed rule. Given the historic nature of this joint rule between EPA and DOT, as well as the necessary coordination with California, it was recently determined that additional time was needed and we expect to issue a proposal for MY-2017-2025 vehicles by mid-November," the EPA said in a recent statement.

    In late July, President Obama announced an agreement with 13 automakers to increase CAFE standards to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by MY-2025.

    Are you ready for the switch to new fuel economy standards?

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  • The latest Automotive Fleet Safety Tip comes on the heels of a fatal July 11 collision involving a commercial truck and an Amtrak passenger train in North Berwick, Maine. The crash killed the truck driver and injured several train passengers. Investigators concluded that the truck was traveling 20 mph faster than the speed limit.

    Here are some railway safety tips from rail safety awareness group Operation Lifesaver, designed to help keep your drivers safe at railway crossings.

    • Never race a train to the crossing — even if you tie, you lose.
    • The train you see is closer and faster moving than you think. If you see a train approaching, wait for it to go by before you proceed across the tracks.
    • Be aware that trains cannot stop quickly. Even if the locomotive engineer sees you, a freight train moving at 55 miles per hour can take a mile or more to stop once the emergency brakes are applied. That's 18 football fields.
    • Never drive around lowered gates — it's illegal and deadly. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, call the 1-800 number posted on or near the crossing signal or your local law enforcement agency.
    • Do not get trapped on the tracks. Remember, the train is three feet wider than the tracks on both sides.
    • If your vehicle ever stalls on a track with a train coming, get out immediately and move quickly away from the tracks in the direction from which the train is coming. If you run in the same direction the train is traveling, when the train hits your car you could be injured by flying debris. Call your local law enforcement agency for assistance.
    • At a multiple track crossing waiting for a train to pass, watch out for a second train on the other tracks, approaching from either direction.
    • When you need to cross train tracks, go to a designated crossing, look both ways, and cross the tracks quickly, without stopping.
    • Remember it isn't safe to stop closer than 15 feet from a rail.
    • ALWAYS EXPECT A TRAIN at every crossing. Freight trains do not follow set schedules.

    Make sure your drivers follow these rules and stay safe.

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  • We recently looked at a new online tool to measure wasted fuel due to traffic. Now here’s some data to back it up!
    The 2011 Urban Mobility Report (UMR), published by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M, studied the effects of traffic congestion on businesses and commuters in the U.S. in 2010.

    The cost of congestion was more than $100 billion in 2010, which is nearly $750 worth of wasted fuel for every commuter in the U.S. Also, traffic congestion is growing beyond rush hour, with about 40 percent of the delay occurring in the mid-day and overnight hours, where rush hour can last for up to 6 hours. The report said this is creating an increasingly serious problem for businesses that rely on efficient production and deliveries. The time delay the average commuter experienced was 34 hours, up from 14 hours in 1982.

    And sadly, things are only going to get worse as time goes on. The report says it expects the average commuter to see an estimated additional 3 hours of delay by 2015 and 7 hours by 2020. By 2015, the cost of gridlock will rise from $101 billion to $133 billion, which is more than $900 for every commuter. The amount of wasted fuel will jump from 1.9 billion gallons to 2.5 billion gallons.

    The report recommends telecommuting and more flexible work hours as ways to alleviate the sting of congestion-related expense. As for a solution to the problem itself, the Texas Transportation Institute recommended coordinating traffic management, signal coordination, and rapid crash removal, along with better land use and development patterns.

    What is traffic in your city like, and is your fleet taking steps to mitigate the delays? Let us know and leave a comment!

    [via Business Fleet]

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  • The Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report issued by the FBI shows overall motor vehicle thefts in the U.S. dropped by 7.2 percent in 2010. The report shows motor vehicle theft statistics by city population, by county type, by year, and by region.
    The largest drop was in cities with populations between 100,000 and 249,999 with 9.4%. Metropolitan areas saw a larger drop than non-metropolitan areas (11.9% to 11.4%), and the Southern US saw the largest drop of any region with a 9.5% decrease in thefts.

    Ford reported on its website in a related story that 40 to 50 percent of vehicle theft is due to driver error. This includes leaving vehicle doors unlocked and leaving keys

    Ford also provided a short list of basic theft-prevention tips that fleet managers could pass on to their drivers:

    Always take your keys; never leave them in or on your vehicle
    • Always close and lock all windows and doors when you park
    • Park in well-lit areas
    • Keep your vehicle in a garage, if possible
    • Never leave valuables in your vehicle, especially where they can be seen
    • Never leave the area while your vehicle is running

    Keep your vehicles safe at all times by following these tips and keeping a close eye on your property. And of course, protect your company from fuel theft with a fleet card!

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  • As part of the marketing campaign for the new A6, Audi of America has launched a new website with its Road Frustration Index, a look at driving conditions across the US and their effects on driver satisfaction and fuel consumption.

    The web-based application takes a look at historical and current data to give a picture of traffic conditions in major US cities    and, most importantly, how much gas the current driving conditions could cause you to waste per trip.

    It may just be a promotional tool, but the site could prove useful if you’re looking to see what traffic is like in your area! You can check the Road Frustration Index for your city at www.roadintel.com.

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  • Fuel efficiency is still a huge concern for fleets, which is leading some to seek more efficient vehicles to offset fuel costs. A new study shows that numbers are climbing higher and higher:

    87 percent of the 1,257 nationwide respondents agree that improving energy efficiency would help increase prosperity for small businesses, according to a report from Small Business Majority, a small business advocacy group. A majority of fleet businesses said that they need more alternatively-fueled vehicles in order remain competitive and grow revenue.

    One in 10 business fleets in the survey have purchased a hybrid, electric or other alt-fuel vehicle; many of those who have not taken these steps indicate an interest to purchase one in the future.

    “The cars and trucks small business owners need simply aren’t available right now,” says John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of Small Business Majority, in the report’s accompanying press release. He added that he commends the current federal push to increase fuel-efficiency standards, in which 80 percent of survey participants say they would support legislation to push it to 60 mpg.

    About 13 percent report government regulation as the largest problem facing their small business, and almost half cite the uncertainty of the economy and the rising daily cost to operate as strong factors. Only 24 percent of businesses say they are doing “well,” with construction businesses hurting the most.

    Until fuel becomes cheaper or alternatives are easy to find, good fuel management remains the best way to save money on fuel.
    Would you buy more alternative vehicles if they were more affordable and easier to get? Let us know in the comments below.

    [via Business Fleet]

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