Pothole warning system: new virtual map to help drivers avoid car damage

Pothole warning system

Imagine if your car could warn you of a pothole like this. You could then avoid it

Think about how useful a pothole warning system in your car might be. We’ve all felt that sickening thump on hitting a pothole. The first thought is frequently whether the wheel is still attached to the car, let alone  how damaged. And with cold weather giving way to warmer temperatures, now is the time potholes begin to appear on winter-ravaged roads. But a new virtual map could make hitting potholes a thing of the past.

The idea is that the pothole warning system would rely on information supplied by drivers, crowd sourcing as it’s called. It’s similar in principle to the live traffic conditions displayed by many sat nav systems. This data would be displayed in real time on our in-car screens, giving users a virtual map of where the worst potholes are and warning when there is a particularly nasty hole in the road ahead.

The idea is from car maker Ford and it would work in conjunction with the company’s existing technology. On some Ford Mondeo, Galaxy and S-MAX models, a system known as Pothole Mitigation employs sensors to detect when the wheel has dropped into a pothole. The car’s on-board computer then adjusts the suspension in milliseconds to try to reduce the amount of damage caused.

How the pothole warning system works

The virtual pothole system would use cameras and more sensors to map where the potholes are. Each car would have its own modem which would enable pothole details to be uploaded to an online database. All cars using the system would then display that information.

Uwe Hoffmann, a research engineer for Ford, said: “A virtual pothole map could highlight a new pothole the minute it appears and almost immediately warn other drivers that there is a hazard ahead. Our cars already feature sensors that detect potholes and now we are looking at taking this to the next level.”

In the UK, a pothole damage claim is received by local authorities every 17 minutes. The average claim comes to £432. According to pressure group the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), it would cost £11.8bn to bring every road in the UK up to scratch. By 2019, that figure will have risen to £14bn, which the Local Government Association (LGA) claims is more than three times the entire roads and transport budget of local authorities in Britain.

£13.5m in driver compensation

The AIA says councils spent £118.4m filling around two million potholes in 2015. It also claims £13.5m was spent in compensation to drivers whose cars were damaged by potholes. The time it would take to repair all the country’s potholes has escalated from 10.9 years in 2006 to 14 years in 2016. Currently the average local authority in the UK would have to spend £69m to make its roads good, the LGA claims.

Although Britain is frequently called the pothole capital of Europe, the rest of the EU is almost as bad. According to Ford’s data, in 2011 there were 20 million potholes reported in Europe. However, only half of them were filled, at a cost of more than £1 billion. Ford is hoping its pothole warning system could prevent drivers damaging their cars. That will cut the number of claims to local authorities and mean drivers spend less time getting their cars fixed.

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Expert advice: How to drive in strong winds

Expert driving advice for stormy weather and high winds

As storm Doris approaches Britain, bringing snow and strong winds approaching 80mph, drivers face disruption and additional hazards on the roads. At the time of writing, the Met Office had issued an amber, weather warning for northern England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, which means people should prepare for the storm conditions, and a yellow warning for other parts of the UK.

This means there are likely to be 80mph gusts of winds, waves of up to 60ft impacting coastal areas, possible damage to trees and structures, interruption of power supplies and disruption to travel.

Such severe weather makes for challenging driving conditions, but short of staying at home, lighting a fire and pouring a cuppa, what practical steps can drivers take to stay safe when they need to get from A to B in strong winds?

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How to shop around for cheap car servicing

Shop around

As with insurance, if you shop around for where you have your car serviced you’ll get the best price. It’s the simple law of supply and demand that not all businesses will charge the same for a job. A garage that is snowed under with work is likely to quote more than one where tumbleweed is blowing through the service bay. Equally, the spotless franchised dealership can cost more than twice the labour rate of the local garage that specialises in your car. The question is: how do you find the best garage for your requirements? Follow our guide to find out.

Main dealer or independent?

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Rotating tyres: is it a good idea and how do you go about doing it

Rotating tyres

Rotating tyres can be time consuming and some experts advise against it

Rotating tyres to get the maximum wear from them has been something canny drivers have been doing for years. But there is now some confusion over whether switching your car’s tyres around is the way to go or not.

Look up rotating tyres via the websites of the major tyre makers and they will give you information on how to do it. So will suppliers such as Blackcircles.com. However, Kwik Fit says it does not recommend tyre rotation. Those that do favour switching suggest it should be done every 6000 miles. Direct Line Group’s head of automotive technology, Nick Reid explained: “This is one of those jobs that really is down to personal preference.”

Here we look at why rotating tyres may not be such a good idea, how it can eke more life out of your rubber, which tyres you move where and how you go about it.

Rotating tyres is a bad idea

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How to prevent whiplash: a guide to adjusting car seat head restraints

How to prevent whiplash: a guide to adjusting car seat head restraints

Most drivers are well aware of the word ‘whiplash’ even if they’ve never experienced the physical discomfort it can bring. That’s because Britain has been called the ‘whiplash capital of Europe’, with 80 per cent of personal injury claims following a car crash involving whiplash.

The government says one whiplash claim is paid out every 60 seconds, and has launched a consultation as it attempts to tackle the problem. Things have got so bad, jokes have been made about the Britain’s drivers having the weakest necks in the world. But it’s no laughing matter.

The majority of whiplash claims are believed to be bogus claims, estimated to add an extra £1bn to UK drivers’ insurance bills – or £93 for every premium.

And according to Matthew Avery, an expert in car safety, only 10 per cent of claims are from people who have suffered serious injury with long-term side effects.

So how can drivers ensure they aren’t one of the few who suffer serious injury from whiplash?

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Beat the bogus buyers: how to safely sell a used car privately

Beat the bogus buyers: how to safely sell a used car privately

When selling a car, what driver doesn’t want to get the most money for their motor? That’s why each year nearly three million people choose to advertise their car for sale and handle the process themselves. They can cut out a dealer – or more significantly, the dealer’s margin – and secure the best price for their used car.

However, police and the largest online classified car retailers are warning drivers to beware of bogus buyers.

Car thieves are posing as legitimate used car buyers, as they seek easy prey. And drivers are being warned that if they don’t take sensible steps to protect their vehicle, few insurers will settle any subsequent claim against theft.

But what measures can drivers take to stay safe when selling a car? Here are tips from the experts; if you know anyone selling their car, pass them on. Continue reading

Car sales accelerate as drivers rush to beat the April road tax changes

New car sales accelerate in January as drivers rush to beat the April road tax changes

You’d be smiling too if you’d just avoided paying hundreds of pounds more in road tax

Drivers alarmed by the changes to VED road tax are believed to have fuelled a sudden surge in new car sales.

New road tax rules, which come into force this April, will make it much more expensive to tax many of Britain’s most popular cars.

During January, typically a quiet month of the year for new car sales, sales grew by 2.9 per cent. A total of 174,564 were snapped up, marking a 12-year high.

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How to pack your car for a self-drive ski holiday

How to pack your car for a self-drive ski holiday

As sure as you’re going to have at least one spectacular wipe-out on the ski slopes, packing the car for a self-drive ski holiday will have you muttering under your breath and wondering whether it would have been easier to fly and rent all your equipment at the ski resort.

But keep the faith. As many holidaymakers know, there’s a whiff of romance to a long distance road trip, and during the winter ski season the traffic at the ports and on the roads is mercifully light – unlike the queues at airports.

Most of the popular European winter resorts are less than 10 hours from the continental coast. And once you know how to properly pack your car with ski gear, you’ll find everything slots into place like a series of deftly executed parallel turns.

Here’s how to do it.

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Quiz: Brilliant and not-so brilliant British cars

Quiz: Brilliant and not-so brilliant British cars

Just how great is the British car industry? And what about the cars it produces? Britain, like any other nation, has enjoyed its fair share of ups and downs. There have been success stories, and then there have been British cars that have ruined their makers and reduced grown men to tears.

To test your knowledge of the landmark cars and places that have shaped the jigsaw of the British car industry over the years, we’ve devised a devilishly difficult quiz – well, difficult for those that can’t picture the difference between a Mini and a Maxi.

So without further delay, put on your thinking cap and see how much you know about Britain’s brilliant and not-so brilliant cars.

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Speeding drivers: new law will mean bigger fines for drivers who earn more

Speeding drivers

The more you earn, the more money you’ll hand over if you get caught speeding

Speeding drivers will soon face much higher fines and stricter penalties. On April 24 2017, new guidelines set by the Sentencing Council will come into effect in the UK. Those caught driving at more than 101mph in a 70mph speed limit could be disqualified for up to 56 days and get a fine of between 125 and 175 per cent of their relevant weekly income.

Although the motorway fines have taken the headlines, drivers are most likely to be affected by the new fines and penalties on slower roads. If you are caught at between 31 and 40mph in a 30mph zone you will get three penalty points and a fine of between 25 and 75 per cent of your weekly income. Currently many drivers get away without points and a fine by paying for a speed awareness course.

How big are the changes for speeding drivers?

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