When Robots Meet Humans on the Highway

Pete Bigelow, Transportation, Technology and Mobility Editor at Car and Driver reported through MSN Auto potential hazards of the transition period in which self-driving cars and human drivers share the road.

A report by the Governors National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, titled Autonomous Vehicles Meet Human Drivers states:
“State laws need to be adjusted, studies need to be performed on how the presence of automated vehicles changes the behavior of human motorists, police officers need to know how to treat autonomous cars and their occupants, and motorists need training on self-driving features.”

Officials at the NHTSA are worried. They suppose many drivers will continue to want to drive themselves for some time. It may be a generation or two before the societal standard becomes driverless vehicles.

Bigelow writes:

“Some of the open questions he poses are well-established quandaries, such as determining whether self-driving cars must always obey the speed limit, even if doing so presents a nuisance or a danger to other cars on the roadway. Other pitfalls are more complex, such as how police officers and lawmakers might handle human motorists who bully or take advantage of self-driving systems programmed to leave extra room on the road or move conservatively.”

And these are just a sampling of the unanswered questions auto makers, law enforcement officials, state and federal agencies are going to have to work together on.

Joe asks Jody Victor®: 10 Cheapest Cars to Own

The price you negotiate for a car and the interest you pay on the car loan are only part of the cost equation. Insurance, depreciation, taxes and fees, what you pay over the years for fuel, service and repairs are all important ingredients in the cost of ownership. I asked Jody Victor® to tell us more about it from an article by Jessica Anderson of Kiplinger and msn.com.

Jody Victor®: All the vehicles on the list are small — either compacts or subcompacts — because they tend to have the lowest market price, the best fuel economy and reasonable insurance rates (premiums tend to rise with horsepower). Sticker price isn’t the only cost associated with owning a car. Here are the least expensive rides over a five year period in a two parts.

Nissan Versa S 4dr

5-Year fuel cost: $9,048
5-Year insurance cost: $5,134
Total 5-Year ownership cost: $27,135

The Nissan Versa gets a redesign for 2012, and the added amenities bump the bargain-basement feel out of the base model — without a big boost in price. An AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input is now standard (only audio wiring was included in 2011), as is air conditioning. The Versa gets better mileage, too (27 miles per gallon city, 36 highway). An automatic transmission costs $2,130 extra. It’s also been chosen as a Top Saftey Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for 2012.

Hyundai Accent GLS 4dr

5-Year fuel cost: $8,143
5-Year insurance cost: $5,145
Total 5-Year ownership cost: $27,895

Riding a strong wave of redesigns, Hyundai has given the all-new Accent styling cues from the Sonata and Elantra. The Accent exhibits the brand’s commitment to quality, even at the lower end of the price spectrum. A six-speed manual transmission and direct-injection technology help it get 30 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway. One caveat: The base model doesn’t come equipped with a radio or air conditioning, and adding those costs $1,750 more. An automatic transmission costs $2,750 extra.

Ford Fiesta S 4dr

5-Year fuel cost: $8,568
5-Year insurance cost: $5,623
Total 5-Year ownership cost: $28,524

Introduced last year, Ford’s Fiesta adds a dollop of style to the sensible subcompact class. Dramatically raked headlamps and sharp creasing along the side give the Fiesta an aggressive look. Inside, the cockpit is sporty yet functional. On its menu of safety features is a driver’s knee airbag, and it’s been named an IIHS Top Safety Pick. It gets 28 mpg in the city and 38 on the highway. An automatic transmission is $1,095 extra.

Toyota Yaris L 2dr hatch

5-Year fuel cost: $8,306
5-Year insurance cost: $5,451
Total 5-Year ownership cost: $29,153

The Yaris sports a whopping nine airbags, including a driver’s knee airbag and dual front seat-cushion airbags, which inflate under your knees and thighs to hold you in your seat during an accident. A USB input with iPod connectivity comes standard, so you can control music choices through the screen in the dashboard. It’s fuel-efficient, too — 30 mpg city, 38 highway. An automatic transmission costs $725.

Kia Soul 4dr hatch

5-Year fuel cost: $9,146
5-Year insurance cost: $4,402
Total 5-Year ownership cost: $29,190

The Kia Soul makes boxy cool again. Along with its funky looks, it has 19 cubic feet of cargo space, a USB input and Sirius satellite radio standard (a subscription costs extra after three months of free service). It gets 27 miles per gallon in the city and 35 on the highway, and it’s an IIHS Top Safety Pick. An automatic transmission is $1,800 extra.

Thanks, Jody! More next time.

Joe Victor

Joe asks Jody Victor®: More Great Commuter Cars

Well, if that last bunch didn’t trip your trigger, try this next lineup. Here’s our own Jody Victor  with more info from the article by Evan Griffey of msn.com.

Jody Victor: Hey Joe, I know that last group was great but, here goes with the rest of the great commuter vehicles.

Kia Sportage – Price: $18,500 – The Sportage fills the commuting needs of SUV fans. You get that high-and-mighty seating position, plenty of room and a slew of standard amenities in a stylish package. It costs $3,800 to add all-wheel drive to the equation, but we’d recommend it if you regularly face bad weather. The Kia is a great call when you need a double-duty vehicle that can both commute and support an active lifestyle outside the office. Fuel efficiency: 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway.

Scion iQ – Price: $15,995 – There are all kinds of engineering tricks that explain how the iQ looks small on the outside, yet is relatively big inside. But that’s not why it appeals to us in this context; the asymmetrical dash and staggered seating are the standouts here. This arrangement, in which the front passenger sits farther forward in the cabin than the driver, gives three commuters regular, no-compromise room. The iQ’s impressive 37 mpg combined city and highway mileage is the best among the strictly gas-burners on this list.

Subaru Legacy – Price: $19,995 – The Legacy is the all-wheel-drive alternative on the list. As part of its 2009 redesign, Subaru’s midsized sedan got a more expansive, ergonomic interior that makes better use of the space. It is offered in seven model trims with three engine choices and numerous interior and connectivity features, so there is a flavor for every palate. The base 2.5i trim features a 170-horsepower engine and continuously variable transmission and generates the best mileage figures: 23 mpg city/31 mpg highway.

Toyota Prius V – Price: $26,400 – There is a lot to like in the versatile all-new-for-2012 Prius V. The traditional gas-electric hybrid has more of a minivan profile than other Prius offerings. Its bigger packaging means more room for the commute and more cargo potential for weekend getaways, all while enjoying hybrid-spec fuel efficiency at 44 mpg city/42 mpg highway. The Prius V comes in three trims; only the top trim offers access to the commuter-friendly, high-end technology option packages.

VW Jetta Diesel – Price: $22,525 – Diesels have been known for their high-mileage figures for decades; this one gets 30 mpg city/42 mpg highway. But many still perceive them as being loud, smoky and crude. Get a clue: Modern diesels are quiet and clean-burning and offer a refined ride and drive. They make an excellent commuter car. Diesels produce big torque; the Jetta’s 236 lb-ft of torque doubles that of the first four cars on our list, giving it more pep from a stoplight. VW’s 2.0-liter TDI drivetrain can be had in sedan or SportWagen versions of the Jetta, making it more flexible for post-commute activities.

Thanks, Jody! We’ll be sure to check ’em out.

Joe Victor