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Hazards of Driving in the Rain with Cruise Control

cruise-control

An automobile’s cruise control is a valuable piece of technology. Along with saving gas, the benefit of cruise control is its ability to prevent a driver from exceeding the speed limit. A driver who sets the cruise control at the posted speed limit can pass police officers and cruise through radar sites without having to worry about whether or not they are speeding. Cruise control can save drivers a lot of money in gas and speeding tickets but cruise control can have a down side too. Someone who relies on cruise control too much may find themselves on”auto-pilot” and neglect to pay full attention to their driving. A driver still needs to devote full attention to the road and have a “seat-of-the-pants” feel for their vehicle. This is especially true when driving in the rain.

Rain presents two distinct dangers to a driver; both with essentially the same end result. After a dry spell of any period, accumulated oil, grease, and dirt on the road can create extremely slippery conditions. The roads are most dangerous just after it starts to rain when a light sheen of water is standing on the road. The oil, grease etc. rise up in a layer on top of the water creating conditions similar to ice on the road. It creates such a problem during the summer thunderstorm period in the southeast that it is referred to as “Florida ice.” After a period of heavy rain, the oil and grease will wash off the road and the slippery conditions diminish.

Heavy rain however creates a separate and equally dangerous situation. When water stands on the road, it can become deep enough that the tires can’t squeeze the water through the tread fast enough. When this happens, the tires can actually rise up on top of the water and ride across the water like water skis creating a condition known as “hydroplaning.” Hydroplaning can start at speeds as low as 35 mph and becomes especially dangerous at speeds above 55 mph. The higher the speed, the greater the chance of hydroplaning.

In either situation, the first step a driver should take to counteract skidding is to take his/her foot off the gas pedal in order to slow the car’s speed. Unless you have anti-lock brakes, you shouldn’t apply the brakes until you have the car under control and the speed is reduced. Applying the brakes in a car without anti-lock brakes only adds to the problem. Grasp the steering wheel in both hands, steer toward the direction of the skid and then steer to keep your car centered in your lane.

This is where cruise control presents a problem. Cruise control will want to keep your vehicle going at a constant speed and speed only adds to the problem. Cruise control is disabled when you step on the brakes but that is exactly what you don’t want to do in a skidding situation unless your car is equipped with anti-lock brakes. The safest thing to do when it starts to rain is to disengage the cruise control and lower your speed. Driving in the rain really requires heightened awareness and that seat-of-the-pants feel for the car. Save your cruise control for fair weather.

via The National Safety Commission

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Categories: auto, security

Hackers may target cars next, McAfee says

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Think of its as carjacking for the Digital Age.

The increasingly sophisticated systems running a car may lead to new vulnerabilities, according to a study (PDF) released today from security software provider McAfee in partnership with mobile software provider Wind River and embedded security provider Escrypt. Those systems could allow hackers to take control of the car, track its location, and even access devices that are connected to it, including smartphones and tablets carrying valuable personal data.

The potential threat comes as hackers have increasingly shown a willingness to attack companies, government officials and agencies, and even Hollywood. Hacker groups such as Anonymous have caused headaches as they have stolen and released private information.

Those same threats could arrive in your car soon. Increasingly, the wireless industry is looking to put more connected devices into vehicles, allowing them to monitor the safety system and condition of the engine, as well as deliver games and videos to passengers.

“As more and more functions get embedded in the digital technology of automobiles, the threat of attack and malicious manipulation increases,” said Stuart McClure, an executive at McAfee. “It’s one thing to have your e-mail or laptop compromised but having your car hacked could translate to dire risks to your personal safety.”

The study highlights examples of test cases where security experts from universities around the country were able to shut down cars by hacking into a remote disabling system, use a tire’s radio frequency identification system–designed to monitor the tire pressure–to track the location and activity of a driver, disrupt emergency assistance and navigation services, and hack into the critical safety system of a car. Another study used a Bluetooth connection to steal personal data.

“The report highlights very real security concerns, and many in the auto industry are already actively designing solutions to address them,” said Georg Doll, senior director for automotive solutions at Wind River. “Given the development time for automobiles, the industry is finding it essential to start work now by teaming up with those possessing the right mix of software expertise.”

The automotive industry has a mixed record when it comes to getting in front of security threats. The study noted that the first remote keyless entry systems didn’t use any security and were easily compromised, and that regular learning universal remote controls were able to record the key signals of different cars.

“Vehicle makers have to solve the conflict of implementing [a] security mechanism without losing customers’ acceptance,” said Stefan Goss, a professor of automotive technology at Osfalia University of Applied Sciences. “I expect a new chapter of car security in the next two car generations.”

via CNET

Categories: auto, security