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Self-Driving Cars that Recognize Free Space Can Better Detect Objects

It's important that self-driving cars quickly detect other cars or pedestrians sharing the road. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have shown that they can significantly improve detection accuracy by helping the vehicle also recognize what it doesn't see.

Empty space, that is.

The very fact that objects in your sight may obscure your view of things that lie further ahead is blindingly obvious to people. But Peiyun Hu, a Ph.D. student in CMU's Robotics Institute, said that's not how self-driving cars typically reason about objects around them.

Keeping Your Car Clean Protects Vehicle Investment

Keeping your vehicle clean inside and out can pay big dividends when it comes to maintaining its long-term value. The non-profit Car Care Council suggests some simple steps to keep your vehicle clean and protect it from the elements so it retains its resale and trade-in value.

Declutter – Start the cleaning process by removing excess clutter from inside the car as it can be distracting and hazardous, especially when debris finds its way near the gas and brake pedals. Don’t forget to clear out items that have accumulated in the trunk as they can add extra weight and reduce fuel efficiency.

Clean the Interior – The next step is to thoroughly clean the interior, wash the windows, and clean and install floor mats. Be sure to vacuum on a regular basis. A clean and orderly interior allows you to spot issues in the cabin so you can get them repaired before they get worse.

Wash the Exterior – Give the car a good wash from top to bottom using products specifically made for automobiles (not dish detergent). Always clean the tires and wheels before washing the body, and don’t use the same washing mitt or cloth for both.

New Vehicle Sales Expected to Drop in June, Closing a Second Down Quarter in 2020

Analysts forecast a healthier-than-expected SAAR of 12.8 million in June as the country expands reopening and more consumers resume car purchases, but warn that new market factors could create trouble ahead

SANTA MONICA, Calif., June 25, 2020 -- The car shopping experts at Edmunds say that June will be another down month for auto sales as the industry continues to combat market challenges posed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, forecasting that 1,080,656 new cars and trucks will be sold in the U.S. in June for an estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 12.8 million. This reflects a 28.7% decrease in sales from June 2019 and a 3.6% decrease from May 2020.

Edmunds experts note that sales are also down for the second quarter in a row this year, forecasting sales of 2,914,860 new cars and trucks in the second quarter, which reflects a 34.3% decrease from the second quarter of 2019.

"It comes as no surprise that the second quarter was a disappointing one for the automotive industry, but the good news is that auto sales didn't come to a complete standstill either," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of insights. "The fact that retail sales — not fleet — are what kept the market propped up speaks volumes to the resilience of the American consumer. And the way that dealers were quick to pivot to online sales also underscores the incredibly responsive and resourceful nature of the industry in the face of adversity."

AAA Forecasts Americans will take 700 Million Trips this Summer

Trends show travelers are eager, but anxious to explore, booking last-minute trips; INRIX provides travelers with insight on summer traffic

ORLANDO, Fla. (June 25, 2020) – This summer, AAA forecasts Americans will take 700 million trips based on economic indicators and state re-openings. That number is down nearly 15% compared to last July through September and is the first decline in summer travel since 2009. AAA booking trends show Americans are making travel plans, though cautiously and more spur of the moment.

“Americans will get out and explore this summer though they’re taking a ‘wait and see approach’ when it comes to booking and are likely to book more long weekend getaways than extended vacations,” said Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of Travel. “When they do venture out, travelers will take to the road with 683 million car trips to satisfy their wanderlust.”

Price Increases Slow Alongside Dip in Gas Demand

The rate at which gas prices are increasing across the country is slowing. Thirty states only saw an increase of a penny or two, causing the national average to push more expensive by three cents to $2.13 since last Monday.

The slower rate can be tied to demand. Measuring at 7.87 million b/d, gasoline demand saw a small week-over-week decline and continues to be significantly lower (21%) compared to this week last year.

“Demand levels are likely to ebb and flow in the coming weeks as people continue to be cautious about travel,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. As a result, pump prices will likely continue to increase, but at a slower rate through the end of the month.

Today’s national average is 19 cents more expensive than a month ago, but remains significantly cheaper – 53 cents – than a year ago.

Quick Stats

The nation’s top 10 largest weekly increases: Delaware (+10 cents), West Virginia (+9 cents), North Dakota (+9 cents), Montana (+8 cents), Washington, D.C. (+6 cents), Virginia (+6 cents), Colorado (+6 cents), Ohio (+6 cents), Maryland (+5 cents) and Wisconsin (+5 cents).

The nation’s top 10 least expensive markets: Mississippi ($1.76), Louisiana ($1.79), Alabama ($1.83), Arkansas ($1.83), Texas ($1.83), Oklahoma ($1.84), Missouri ($1.85), South Carolina ($1.86), Tennessee ($1.89) and Kansas ($1.92).

West Coast

Pump prices in the West Coast region mostly increased last week, and prices likely are poised for more increases this week. Nevada (+5 cents) saw largest increase in the region, while Hawaii (-2 cents) saw the only decline. Hawaii ($3.16) and California ($3.04) remain the most expensive markets in the country. Washington ($2.68), Nevada ($2.58), Oregon ($2.57), Alaska ($2.43) and Arizona ($2.29) follow.

According to EIA’s latest weekly report, total gas stocks in the region increased slightly from 30.1 million bbl to 30.2 million bbl last week. Increasing stocks, alongside increasing demand, may help to slow pump price increases this week in the region.

2020 AAA Car Guide Gives Extra Credit for Vehicle Safety Systems

Volvo Sedan earns top spot among 50 vehicles reviewed

ORLANDO, Fla. (June 18, 2020) – AAA announced a 2020 Volvo luxury sedan has earned the top score in its first edition of the newly released AAA Car Guide, a consumer resource on the latest and greatest in vehicle technology. The guide provides consumers with reviews based in part on how many advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are included in the vehicle as well as a number of other criteria. The majority of the category winners for 2020 are either electric, plug-in electric hybrids or hybrids, signaling that eco-friendly vehicles tend to offer the most cutting-edge vehicle technology.

The 175-page guide includes comprehensive, easy-to-read reviews of each vehicle which are based on 13 criteria, including braking, fuel economy, emissions, handling, ride comfort, acceleration and the number of ADAS safety features. These vehicles are tested, scored and placed in one of five vehicle categories by the Automotive Research Center (ARC) of the Automobile Club of Southern California, a member of the AAA federation of motor clubs.

“With an increasing number of vehicles equipped with advanced safety features, we thought consumers would benefit from an in-depth review of how they stack up with other driving criteria,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “Previous AAA studies have shown that many drivers don’t understand some of the features in their new vehicles and believe they can do more than is technically possible.”

Bad Behavior: Drivers Know It’s Wrong, But Many Do It Anyway

New research shows crash-involved drivers admit to risky driving behaviors

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 11, 2020) – The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s latest research finds drivers who have been in at least one crash in the past two years are significantly more likely to engage in risky behaviors like speeding or texting, even when they think the police may catch them. After three months of staying at home, AAA urges drivers to keep everyone safe on the roads and warns motorists against falling back into dangerous driving habits.

“The frequency of drivers in the United States engaging in improper behavior is too high. While drivers acknowledge that certain activities behind the wheel – like texting, are dangerous, some do them anyway,” said Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “We need to be aware of the serious consequences of engaging in these types of dangerous driving behavior and change course.”

The Foundation’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index (TSCI), which highlights the gap between drivers’ attitudes and their reported behaviors, found that drivers perceive distracted, aggressive and impaired driving as dangerous. Yet many of them admit to engaging in at least one of these exact behaviors in the 30 days before the survey. The numbers were even higher for those involved in a recent crash:

National Average Back to $2 Per Gallon

For 66 days, the national gas price average held below the $2/gallon mark, pushing as cheap as $1.76. In the past week, the average has inched up to $2.03. Despite the consistent increases at the pump, prices are still significantly cheaper year-over-year. In fact, during the first week of June the past five years, gas prices have typically averaged $2.81.

“The beginning of June has not seen gas prices this low since 2004,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “As crude oil prices trend higher and gasoline demand increases, Americans will see gas prices push more expensive, but this summer will be cheaper than last.”

U.S. gasoline demand continues to show increasing strength. The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest reading shows a 4% weekly increase at 7.5 million b/d. That is the highest demand level since states began issuing stay-at-home orders in mid-March.

Quick Stats

The nation’s top 10 largest weekly increases: Colorado (+13 cents), Indiana (+12 cents), Missouri (+11 cents), Montana (+10 cents), Kentucky (+10 cents), Michigan (+9 cents), Kansas (+9 cents), Alabama (+8 cents), Tennessee (+8 cents) and Alaska (+8 cents).

The nation’s top 10 least expensive markets: Mississippi ($1.66), Texas ($1.69), Louisiana ($1.70), Arkansas ($1.71), Alabama ($1.72), Oklahoma ($1.73), South Carolina ($1.73), Missouri ($1.76), Kansas ($1.77) and Virginia ($1.79).

West Coast

Pump prices in the West Coast region also continue to increase, which contributes to those state averages remaining the most expensive in the country. Alaska (+8 cents) saw the largest increases in the region and is last on today’s top 10 largest weekly increases list. Hawaii ($3.17) and California ($2.95) remain the most expensive markets in the country. Washington ($2.58), Nevada ($2.50), Oregon ($2.49), Alaska ($2.33) and Arizona ($2.21) follow.

According to EIA’s latest weekly report, total gas stocks in the region increased from 29.2 million bbl to 29.8 million bbl last week. Increasing stocks, alongside increasing demand, may help to slow pump price increases this week in the region.

6 Helpful Questions to Ask Your Mechanic | Good Works Auto Repair

Whether you have a trusted repair shop that you always do business with, or you’re looking for a new one, it’s important to know the right questions to ask your mechanic. After all, car repairs can be expensive. And, you likely want to keep your vehicle for a few years. Asking the right questions when it’s time for auto repairs can help you get the best price, ensure quality service, and help you make informed decisions.

Price-Related Auto Repair Questions

Like most other things in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to auto repairs. Cheap is not always best. That’s not to say that you can’t get a fair price for auto repairs, however. And, learning about prices and fees before your mechanic gets started will help prevent surprises later. Here are a few cost-related questions to ask your mechanic:

Do you charge a fee for diagnostic testing or repair estimates?

Not every auto repair shop offers free diagnosis and estimates, and that’s okay. But, you want to know up front exactly what those fees are and how they’re structured. If there is a fee, is it flat rate or per hour? On the other hand, if it’s free, what exactly is included and are there any conditions?

Are your auto repair estimates in writing?

When possible, it’s always a good idea to get a quote in writing – for auto repairs, or for anything else. This eliminates issues of “but, he said it would be this much…” when different staff members are involved in your service experience.

What kind of warranty do you offer?

Ideally, you want to choose a mechanic and auto repair shop that stands behind their work. The national average warranty is 24 months or 24,000 miles on services. At Good Works Auto Repair, we are so confident in the quality of our work that we offer an industry leading warranty of 60 months/60,000 miles on parts and labor for major repairs. That’s just one way we guarantee you get quality service at a great price!

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