Is it true that Volvo is developing a self-driving car? How could this possibly be safe?

Autonomous drive - commutingYes it is true! An international press conference was just held in Sweden last Thursday with journalists participating from all over the globe, including the U.S. They announced they are working on a Volvo XC-90 that will make it possible to integrate self-driving or autonomous driving cars in real traffic – with ordinary people behind the wheel. But it still needs a lot of development. As most people know, Volvo is the world leader in automotive safety and therefore, the product will not be release to the general public until 2020, give or take a couple of years.

The pilot project is called “Drive Me” and Volvo will choose 100 people in 2017 to test these XC-90 vehicles in real traffic in Sweden initially. The drivers will need to be sitting in the driver’s seat and alert and sober, and be ready to take over at any time, even after the vehicles are marketed to consumers. The thought is that drivers will be able to do other things while at the wheel, especially during long distances or highway commutes, but they must be ready to take over at any time. (They don’t recommend holding up a newspaper and reading while in the driver’s seat.)

The goal is to make them feasible, affordable and to drive safer than the safest drivers in order to prevent accidents. The technology is so exciting! The technology includes 3-D maps more advanced than any GPS system that can sense other vehicles, debris, guardrails and the like.

This XC-90 prototype will combine multiple cameras with seven radar sensors and i-cloud technology and will even include a “black box” that only the driver can access. If there is ever an accident in these vehicles, they will be able to determine the cause, similar to that in an airplane from the flight recorder. Cameras will have various horizontal views to detect bicyclists and pedestrians and will be able to react if another vehicles cuts in to the lane. They will test it in night darkness, snow and rain. But they will always recommend in severe weather, such as snow storms, that the driver take over. It will have advanced technology in the brake and steering system, with back-up solutions to prevent accidents. The main reason they are investing in this technology is, first and foremost, to prevent accidents, but another important benefit of the Drive Me project will include improved fuel economy.

At the Swedish press conference, the Volvo executive said, “We think the U.S. market is an interesting market for autonomous drive. The customer demand is high” from commuters in big cities. They hope it then becomes a benefit in all traffic conditions. The interior design features, information and entertainment systems will initially be very similar to what the vehicle looks like now and the same maintenance will be required. When these vehicles do arrive, drivers will always be able to choose the automatic feature or drive in the standard manner.

We will keep you posted on this when the latest version of the XC-90 will be here at Jaffarian Volvo. With all of its safety features, this is an exciting time to be driving a Volvo!

Drive safely, stay warm and know that March is right around the corner.

Ask Gary Jaffarian

P.S. Thanks for the questions you’re sending in. If you don’t want to wait for your question to be answered in an Ask Gary column, please email me at askgaryj@gmail.com or invite you all to listen to my segment with John Paul, better known as the “Car Doctor” on WROL 950 AM – live this Saturday at 9 a.m.

Categories: Ask Gary

With this record-breaking snowfall, what are your best tips for winter safety and caring for my vehicle?

JaffarianLotinSnowWith the horrible conditions upon us with record-breaking snowfall in a short period of time, I am happy to give you my best tips, starting with staying off the road whenever possible during inclement weather.

On Sunday, after the roads were cleared, many people took to the major highways, thinking they were safe. While they may have been down to nearly-bare pavement, there was a major multi-vehicle crash on Route 128 in Waltham from white-out conditions caused by the wind blowing snow across the highway. I cannot emphasize enough to stay off the roads, even after major storms are over, until you know the roads and travel conditions are safe.

There are so many things in your control – your driving habits and keeping your vehicle maintenance schedule up-to-date. Here is a list of all the things you can do to maximize your safety.

1. This first tip is a matter of life or death – be sure you remove snow from your exhaust pipe(s).

2. Be sure to remove snow from the roof of your vehicle. Many people are complaining that snow from other vehicles, including commercial trucks, flies off roofs and hits their windshield, causing moments of blind driving. Please clean off your vehicle roof as much as possible.

3. If you get into a skid, turn your wheel into the skid. Never slam on the brakes.

4. If you’re stuck on a hill, downshift for better traction, whether you drive an automatic or standard. Don’t drive up icy or snowy hills by trying to over-accelerate. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. But don’t stop on the hill, or you may slide down. Get your momentum on the flat road and keep going as you approach the hill. As you reach the top of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down the hill as slowly as possible.

5. Be sure to carry the following as part of your own emergency kit: windshield washer, flashlight, water, snacks, snowbrush, ice scraper, small snow shovel, and a wool blanket. Consider purchasing jumper cables and an emergency roadside kit from an auto parts or department store. They can come in handy any time of year. Keep sand or cat litter in your trunk for traction in case you get stuck.
VehiclesBuried
6. Choose your speed according to the weather conditions. Driving at the speed limit can be unsafe and dangerous. If special highway signs post new speed limits, as they often do on highways and the Mass. Pike, use that speed as your limit, or even slower.

7. Stay focused on driving, even more than usual – no talking on the cell, eating or doing anything that takes a hand off the wheel. Keep both hands on the wheel and focus.

8. Slow down to a very low speed before turning or going around a bend to keep control of your vehicle on icy roads. When turning from a side street onto a main street, inch out very slowly as the high snow banks totally impair ability to see around the corner. In this weather, allow extra travel time, as you cannot drive like you are accustomed to driving. Every turn is potentially dangerous because of the mountainous snow banks.

9. Check your tires for proper inflation and tread wear. Your tires (and brakes) are more important in this weather than anything else. Get new tires if the treads are worn. We can check the tire pressure and measure treads at Jaffarian’s Service Department.

10. Make sure your windshield wipers are in good working order. Heavy duty or winter blades are highly recommended.

11. Leave extra room between you and the vehicle ahead of you whether you are on side streets, main roads or the highway. With the streets being slushy and snowy, when you brake, you may find yourself sliding. Press brakes firmly and hold, but avoid slamming on the brakes. Tapping or pumping the brakes is not the best solution with anti-lock brakes, which most vehicles now have.

12. If your vehicle is about 5+ years old, check your battery.

13. Be sure to check your antifreeze with each oil change or service appointment.

14. Check your brakes and have your service technician check for leaks or worn hoses. Jaffarian’s Service Department is happy to perform these extra checks with each service visit.

Please follow all of the tips here to maximize your safety. As much as we’d like to think we couldn’t possibly get any more snow, there is another one or two snow events predicted for the coming week.

Drive safely and stay alert!

Ask Gary Jaffarian

Categories: Ask Gary

With gas prices down, are more people buying trucks?

ToyotaTacoma

Yes, that may be true, but for many reasons. With gas prices down and the inclement weather we’ve been experiencing, more people are buying trucks. Considering that trucks are generally purchased by males, the number of truck sales is quite astounding. For every 8 cars sold in January, there were 7 trucks sold! Light truck sales are up 19% from last January.

According to PickupTrucks.com, there are three factors that affect truck sales: gas mileage, innovation and technology – the same factors that affect car sales. We are happy to represent the Toyota line where all three factors are an attribute in both the Toyota Tundra and Tacoma.

According to the NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association), the 1.1 million vehicles sold last month, with the top three spots being trucks!  The Toyota Tacoma is among the top five selling trucks nationally; and the Toyota Tundra is the sixth best-selling truck nationally. (By the way, the top two selling cars nationally were the Toyota Corolla and Toyota Camry!)

The Toyota Tacoma and Tundra are economical and offer loads of options. The lighter-duty Tacoma 4×2 is a four-door vehicle that seats four, making it ideal for both work and families. It has a powerful available V6 engine, and handsome interior and steering wheel-mounted controls, so you can keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. The Tacoma has a payload capacity of 1440 and towing capacity of 3300 pounds. It has a hand-free blue-tooth and comes with the Toyota 60-month power train warranty and 36-month warranty. It offers 21/25 estimated mileage per gallon. New Tacoma models include the regular, access, and double cab. You can really customize and personalize your Tacoma.

The heavy-duty, full-size, half-ton Tundra 4×2 comes with a V-8 engine. This new truck has Dual Independent Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) that makes it as efficient as it is powerful. You can choose from the muscular 5.7L V8, the strong 4.6L V8, or the very capable 4.0L V6 and find a new truck that works for you – literally and figuratively.

The Tacoma has the highest towing capacity in its class of 10, 500 pounds, nearly twice as much as similar trucks. It has a payload capacity of 2090 pounds. This truck is available in regular cab seating up to four, and can seat up to six in the Double Cab and CrewMax models.

Both Toyota trucks offer the best of Toyota technology; and the comfort and interior of a luxury vehicle. They both have TRD-tuned suspension, with tuned front springs and remote-reservoir Bilstein® front and rear shocks to help you have a smooth ride, even on rough trails. They’re both great options for family fun and carrying those big items like skis, fishing poles or snowboards; or carrying work-related items for the professional contractor—very versatile vehicles any way you look at it!

They are both rugged, yet luxurious, as you can get them with leather-like and heated seats, as an option. Included is the Entune technology package that is standard in all Toyotas with Bluetooth, GPS and a suite of applications whereby  you can access Bing™, listen to iHeartRadio, purchase movie tickets through MovieTickets.com, make dinner reservations with OpenTable®, listen to Pandora® and more; and a variety of data services that can help keep you up on stocks, weather, traffic, fuel prices and sports.

TundraInterior

If you’d like to test drive these trucks, come to Jaffarian Toyota to try them out. I promise you won’t be disappointed! They’re quite impressive for comfort, technology and utility.

Stay safe on those snowy roads! Trucks are a great way to travel in this winter weather!

Are senior drivers responsible for more accidents than young drivers?

SeniorBuckleUpThe answer is no! I often hear people make comments about senior drivers and that they shouldn’t be on the road. But interestingly enough, I don’t hear the same comments about teen and young drivers. Statistics don’t lie. While senior drivers who have caused accidents or deaths tend to grab headlines, they are, in fact, safer drivers than young drivers ages 16-21.

According to a AAA Foundation study, “Even though public perception tends to unfairly characterize seniors as a menace on the road, these findings indicate that older Americans support policies to keep themselves safe behind the wheel, making them key allies in their mission to keep driving – smarter and longer,” said Peter Kissinger, president of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is directing $12 million to Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health so researchers there can study driving behavior and health factors affecting older drivers for the next five years, tracking 3,000 senior drivers. This latest phase in the foundation’s Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project is expected to clarify the effects of risk factors, like prescription drug use and deteriorating vision, on driving.

It is easy to understand the significant differences between the two age groups. Let’s look at the major causes of accidents among teens and younger drivers and the associated fatalities:
AccidentChart by Age
• Speeding
• Drinking and driving
• Texting while driving
• Talking on cell phones
• Not wearing seatbelts
• Driving with a car full of teens causing distractions; and
• Inexperience.

Seniors tend to drive slower and stay in the right lane. They tend to have lower incidence of drinking and driving. And most don’t text while driving. They also drive alone or with a friend or spouse, buckle up and they have experience on their side. The fact is that 90% of senior drivers have not been in an accident in the past two years. Their rate of moving violations is about 5 times lower than that of young drivers.

Because 25% of all drivers will be 65+ by 2025, and 1 in 6 are now senior drivers, the insurance industry, AAA and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) are studying the needs of older drivers and the need for further legislation for older drivers renewing their licenses. Surprisingly, 7 out of 10 seniors 65+ welcome scrutiny of their driving skills; and 80% of drivers over 75 support policies that would require renewing their licenses in person and enhanced medical screening.

In 2012, there were 1855 motor vehicle deaths by male teens (68%) and 965 fatalities by female teens. Teens are responsible for 8% of motor vehicle deaths and are four times as likely to be in an accident as adult drivers. Seniors are the second most likely group to die in an auto accident. In the 60-74 age group, typical of most adults, 51% use a cell phone while driving but in the age 75+ group, only 31 percent use a cell phone while driving and 65% report they’ve never used a cell phone while driving.

While there is legislation in Massachusetts that teenage drivers cannot talk on their cell phones while driving and texting while driving has been outlawed, senior drivers are the most cautious drivers and the AAA Foundation found that older drivers make safety a priority. Seniors may require more patience on the road, especially when you’re behind a senior who is driving slowly. Please keep in mind that driving equals independence for seniors…and we’ll all be there one day!

The occupational therapy industry has come up with programs to evaluate senior drivers and suggest modifications to make driving safer. AAA offers driving refresher courses for seniors. Next time you see a senior driving slowly and cautiously, please be patient. At Jaffarian, we welcome drivers of all ages and treat everyone with the same level of respect.

Ask Gary Jaffarian

 

P.S. Congratulations to the world champion New England Patriots. Toyota’s commercials produced for the Super Bowl (reviewed in last week’s Ask Gary blog) were rated among the Top 10 of Super Bowl commercials!

Categories: Ask Gary

Do you know what Toyota will feature in their Super Bowl commercials? I still remember last year’s Muppets!

DadSBCommercialI am so excited about the Toyota Super Bowl commercials this year! Toyota really showcases their emotional and social conscience side in these commercials. The theme is “One Bold Choice Leads to Another” and ties in with the 2015 “Bold New Camry” and you’ll be surprised to see who they feature!

The ads have created a big buzz in the media already. This one in particular really hits home for me as a father of two and as a son, the important role models my Dad and my grandfather played in my life and the lives of my brothers. While this ad focuses on the important role of a father, I would be remiss in not acknowledging the important role that both my grandparents and my Mom and Dad played in raising us. As a third and fourth generation family business, Jaffarian has been built with the work ethic and commitment to doing the right thing for more than 75 years.

Toyota’s Super Bowl commercial, called “To Be a Dad” opens posing the question “Is being a good dad something you learn or a choice you make?” Interviews are conducted with former and current NFL players who are also great dads: DeMarcus Ware, LaVar Arrington, Fred Jackson and Kurt Warner – and their children. They are asked “How do you know you’re a good Dad?” and one answer is “when you see your kids imitate you.”

Arrington often walked with a limp as a boy when nothing was wrong with his leg. Why? He wanted to imitate his father who walked with a limp as a double amputee after losing his legs in Vietnam.

My parents, my brothers and I, and my children, have all imitated our Dads by working in the Jaffarian Automotive business. We couldn’t imagine working anywhere else other than in the business that my grandfather started so many years ago.

One football pro in the ad said his dad was his biggest fan and he tries to apply that to his own children. One of the pros said, “I make sure they know how much I love them and that I’m proud of them.” When asked how his daughter knows her Dad loves her, she said, “A lot of hugging, kissing and I love you stuff.”

The Huffington Post reviewed the ads when they became available last week and said, “The Toyota commercial about the dads will probably make you cry.” It is a very powerful commercial. To further honor dads, Toyota asks the viewers to Tweet a photo of their fathers to #OneBoldChoice.

AmyPurdySBCommercialThe other Super Bowl commercial, “How Great I Am” is equally powerful and challenges all stereotypes of women in automotive commercials. This ad features paralympic star Amy Purdy, a double amputee from the knees down, defying the odds and becoming a medalist. In the commercial, she runs, snowboards, mountain bikes, ballroom dances and drives a 2015 Toyota Camry.  The commercial is narrated by Muhammad Ali ending his famous speech with “How Great I Am.” (It was originally delivered in 1974 before his match against George Foreman.) Toyota could not have done a better job with their theme of “One Bold Choice Leads to Another.”

I am proud to have the Jaffarian name affiliated with the Toyota brand and the messages being conveyed.  Their portrayal of athletes as heroes not for playing pro football, but for being great dads – and featuring a bold woman overcoming incredible physical challenges, defying the odds and becoming a medalist. I hope you enjoy these commercials and I hope you enjoy the Super Bowl game on Sunday. Go Pats!

By the way, come visit us at Jaffarian Toyota if you’d like to test drive that bold new Toyota Camry!

Ask Gary Jaffarian

P.S. Please feel free to comment on these Super Bowl commercials or ask me questions in the box below.

Categories: Ask Gary

Should we buy snow tires or are the standard all-season or high-performance tires as good?

Toyota in snowDespite the better quality of tires, the tread life of a tire varies based on vehicle type, tire type (such as all season or high performance), driving aggressiveness, and road and weather conditions. Vehicle owners still need to replace their tires a few times or more throughout the life of the vehicle. With all of the safety measures, particularly in Toyotas and Volvos, snow or winter tires are less important as many models include all-wheel drive. Though the tires and brakes are the most important parts of the vehicle’s safety system, especially for winter driving.

Snow tires are designed to improve acceleration, braking and handling for all cold-weather conditions. With antilock brakes, stability control systems, and all-season tires, snow tires are not as necessary as they were many years ago. (If you’re over 40, you may remember as a child getting the big snow tires with chains around them!) Tires with chains are no longer allowed on the roads, so most winter tires now are studded snow and ice tires. Studded tires are allowed on the roads in Massachusetts from November 1-April 1 only.

Many vehicles are all-wheel or four-wheel drive and handle snow conditions very safely with standard all-season tires. If you have front-wheel drive, come in and visit the Jaffarian Service Department to discuss snow tires for your vehicle for your safety this winter.

Although snow tires may handle better in snow than all-season tires on your average vehicle the size of a Corolla, Prius or Camry, they are not needed unless you plan to drive in less than optimal terrain. The important thing to remember is that whatever tires you own, you need to have tires properly inflated at all times, and even more so in winter. The cold temperatures mean keeping the tires inflated at a slightly higher “psi” to better handle the roads and weather conditions. In all seasons, properly inflated tires preserve the life of the tires and also save on gas.

One of the obvious benefits to purchasing winter tires is that you extend the life of your all-weather tires, so in the long-run, you may save money or spend the same over the life of the vehicle by owning two sets of tires. As the tire technology improves, winter tires allow the vehicle to drive through snow, rather than over it, making it the safest tire for snowy roads. Where you live and the roads you drive on may warrant buying winter tires. For most of us traveling main roads and highways, plows and sanders make the roads safer. (The Blizzard of 1978 presented 27 inches of snow within a couple of days and crippled the Boston area for a week. A few years ago, a storm producing more snow was handled so well that everyone was back to work and traveling safely within one day!)

The other benefit to snow tires is that they not only have a different tread design, but they also have rubber that will stay softer in cold temperatures, a difference you’ll feel in any vehicle. While I’m not giving you a definitive answer, just the facts for you to make the decision, based on your vehicle and your budget.

If you decide to shop for new tires, here are some tips to choosing new tires:snow tire vs all season

Put safety first
Look for tires that perform for braking, handling, and resistance to hydroplaning. Many tests demonstrate that a manufacturer’s warranty doesn’t always reflect how a tire will wear. Come in to Jaffarian Service or Parts Department to confirm what tires are the best for your vehicle and your driving habits.

Read the fine print
Most tire warranties only cover damage resulting from regular use and don’t cover damage resulting from potholes or other road hazards. Ask warranty questions and get it in writing whenever possible. At Jaffarian, eligible tires come with road hazard warranty protection.

Compare “apples to apples” when price shopping

If you are shopping for tires, be sure to get the facts and that you’re comparing “apples with apples.” Ask whether the price includes mounting, balancing, and new valves, which can increase the total cost. Also, be certain that you’re not buying tires that have been sitting around for years; and that may be why they have been discounted.

Buy new tires that haven’t been around for years

Look at the sidewall of a tire for a designation beginning with DOT (for Department of Transportation). The last four digits of the designation indicate the week and year of manufacture. For example, 3313 means the tire was made during the 33rd week of 2013. Don’t purchase tires that are more than a few years old. A recent Boston TV consumer reporter shopped local tire stores and found many were selling new tires that were actually manufactured years ago and were sitting around. Though they are not used tires, they are not new either. You will not find that at Jaffarian Service and Parts Departments. We are offering a winter service package special and a discount on snow tires with coupons on our web site. We will be sure to sell you new tires that really are new!

If you have any questions about what tires you should have on your vehicle to drive safely this winter, come in and see us in either the Volvo or Toyota Service Department to give you peace of mind. With all-season tires, make sure you have a good tread and the tire pressure is maintained. We are here and available to ensure you get the answers you need.

Drive safely.

Ask Gary Jaffarian

Categories: Ask Gary

Is it true that Camry has been the number one vehicle in the U.S. for the longest time of any vehicle?

Jaff2015CamryAs a Toyota dealer, I am proud to say the answer is YES! The Toyota Camry has been the best-selling vehicle in America for 12 years running! It has also had the most domestic sales for 16 of the last 17 years. Because it’s produced in the U.S., it contributes significantly to the American economy and labor market. In fact, Toyota sells a new Camry in the U.S. every minute!

But it’s not the same Camry it was years ago. The previously boxy-looking car is now sharper and sleeker in its redesign and has been updated year after year to meet consumer needs and demands. There are hybrid models and in 2015, the new Camry XLE (available as a hybrid) features LED headlights and running lights, plus a larger grille. The best just keeps getting better!

Automotive Section columnist for the Boston Sunday Globe, Bill Griffith explains the reason why: “In the Toyota manner, they’ve continued their tradition of making continual upgrades.” In reviewing the 2015 Camry XLE, he wrote, “This latest version seems as refined as ever.” The model includes six-speed automatic transmission and a switch for ECO mode for increased fuel economy.

Toyota also offers the option for Safety Connect, which provides stolen vehicle locator, roadside assistance and collision notification. Other options now available are blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert; premium audio navigation; illuminated door sills; a rear spoiler; and a technology package that adds a pre-collision system, lane departure alert, dynamic radar cruise control and automatic high beams.

The remodeled 2015 Camry has so many new exterior features in its redesign, too many to name. Those who test drove the vehicle noted the interior is even quieter than before. The suspension has been upgraded for a smoother ride. It has larger 18” tires and better coil springs and shock absorbers and a new electric power steering system – all contributing to a smoother ride. The leather seats and soft-touch materials give it a real upscale feel as nice as any luxury vehicle.

You can build the new Toyota Camry with the features you want—there are lots of choices to customize and personalize your new vehicle. It’s also a very smart vehicle with a lot more technology on board that provides safety and collision prevention features. For those who want a sportier model, the new Toyota XSE is an upgraded version of the Camry SE for the 45 percent of Camry buyers who prefer the sportier model.

We’re proud to represent Toyota for all the research they’ve conducted to design the new 2015 Camry. This all points to one thing—the Camry remains the number one in America for many good reasons! Come to Jaffarian Toyota Scion to see for yourself and test drive the new Camry! You’ll be glad you did!

Ask Gary Jaffarian

P.S. This week is the annual New England International Auto Show at the Boston Convention and Exposition Center. Scion and Toyota will be offering “Ride ‘n Drives” at the show whereby you can drive them on a loop around the Convention Center. Toyota is also showcasing a distracted driver simulator, encouraging attendees to sign a “Don’t Text and Drive Pledge.” We continue to support their efforts with “Take the Pledge” on our Facebook page.

Categories: Ask Gary
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