Archive for the ‘Auto’ Category

ErinSteppAAA Tests Reveal Automatic Emergency Braking Systems Vary Significantly

ORLANDO, Fla (August 24, 2016) – New test results from AAA reveal that automatic emergency braking systems — the safety technology that will soon be standard equipment on 99 percent of vehicles — vary widely in design and performance. All the systems tested by AAA are designed to apply the brakes when a driver fails to engage, however, those that are designed to prevent crashes reduced vehicle speeds by nearly twice that of those designed to lessen crash severity. While any reduction in speed offers a significant safety benefit to drivers, AAA warns that automatic braking systems are not all designed to prevent collisions and urges consumers to fully understand system limitations before getting behind the wheel.

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“AAA found that two-thirds of Americans familiar with the technology believe that automatic emergency braking systems are designed to avoid crashes without driver intervention,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “The reality is that today’s systems vary greatly in performance, and many are not designed to stop a moving car.”

In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA evaluated five 2016 model-year vehicles equipped with automatic emergency braking systems for performance within system limitations and in real-world driving scenarios that were designed to push the technology’s limits. Systems were tested and compared based on the capabilities and limitations stated in the owner’s manuals and grouped into two categories — those designed to slow or stop the vehicle enough to prevent crashes, and those designed to slow the vehicle to lessen crash severity. After more than 70 trials, tests reveal:

  • In terms of overall speed reduction, the systems designed to prevent crashes reduced vehicle speeds by twice that of systems that are designed to only lessen crash severity (79 percent speed reduction vs. 40 percent speed reduction).
  • With speed differentials of under 30 mph, systems designed to prevent crashes successfully avoided collisions in 60 percent of test scenarios.
    • Surprisingly, the systems designed to only lessen crash severity were able to completely avoid crashes in nearly one-third (33 percent) of test scenarios.
  • When pushed beyond stated system limitations and proposed federal requirements, the variation among systems became more pronounced.
    • When traveling at 45 mph and approaching a static vehicle, the systems designed to prevent crashes reduced speeds by 74 percent overall and avoided crashes in 40 percent of scenarios. In contrast, systems designed to lessen crash severity were only able to reduce vehicle speed by 9 percent overall.

“Automatic emergency braking systems have the potential to drastically reduce the risk of injury from a crash,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. “When traveling at 30 mph, a speed reduction of just 10 mph can reduce the energy of crash impact by more than 50 percent.”

In addition to the independent testing, AAA surveyed U.S. drivers to understand consumer purchase habits and trust of automatic emergency braking systems. Results reveal:

  • Nine percent of U.S. drivers currently have automatic emergency braking on their vehicle.
  • Nearly 40 percent of U.S. drivers want automatic emergency braking on their next vehicle.
    • Men are more likely to want an automatic emergency braking system in their next vehicle (42 percent) than female drivers (35 percent).
  • Two out of five U.S. drivers trust automatic emergency braking to work.
    • Drivers who currently own a vehicle equipped with automatic emergency braking system are more likely to trust it to work (71 percent) compared to drivers that have not experienced the technology (41 percent).

“When shopping for a new vehicle, AAA recommends considering one equipped with an automatic emergency braking system,” continued Nielsen. “However, with the proliferation of vehicle technology, it’s more important than ever for drivers to fully understand their vehicle’s capabilities and limitations before driving off the dealer lot.”

For its potential to reduce crash severity, 20 automakers representing 99 percent of vehicle sales have committed to making automatic emergency braking systems standard on all new vehicles by 2022. The U.S. Department of Transportation said this voluntary agreement will make the safety feature available on new cars up to three years sooner than could be achieved through the formal regulatory process. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rear-end collisions, which automatic emergency braking systems are designed to mitigate, result in nearly 2,000 fatalities and more than 500,000 injuries annually. Currently, 10 percent of new vehicles have automatic emergency braking as standard equipment, and more than half of new vehicles offer the feature as an option.

AAA’s testing of automatic emergency braking systems was conducted on a closed course at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Using instrumented vehicles and a state-of the-art robotic “soft car” that allowed for collisions without vehicle damage, AAA collected vehicle separation, speed and deceleration data in a variety of crash scenarios designed to mirror real-world driving conditions. The testing was designed to build on previous testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. For additional information, visit NewsRoom.AAA.com.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Despite Vehicle Advances, Break Downs at Record High

July 20th, 2016 by Jessica Souto

Mariam Ali Contact TileAAA rescued a record-breaking 32 million drivers in 2015

ORLANDO, Fla. (July 20, 2016) – Despite advances in vehicle technology, including maintenance reminders and other dashboard alerts designed to mitigate roadside trouble, AAA rescued a record-breaking 32 million drivers in 2015, with more battery, flat tire and key problems than ever before, a new study shows. Vehicles fewer than five years old in particular experienced a higher proportion of tire and key-related issues than older vehicles, suggesting that the trend toward eliminating the spare tire and moving to electronic keyless ignitions may have unintended consequences.

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“Vehicles today are advanced more than ever, yet are still vulnerable to breakdowns,” said Cliff Ruud, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Solutions. “Sleek, low profile tires are highly susceptible to damage, electronic keyless ignitions can zap battery life and despite advanced warning systems, more than half a million drivers ran out of gas last year.”

Owners of new vehicles may be unaware that some new vehicle designs and features may leave them vulnerable at the roadside. To reduce vehicle weight and boost fuel economy, spare tires are being eliminated from new vehicles at alarming rates, and are being replaced with tire inflator kits that can only remedy some flat tire situations. Additionally, new keyless ignition systems can drain the battery life when keys are stored too close to the vehicle and can lock a driver out of the vehicle while the engine is still running. Finally, despite nearly all new vehicles being equipped with low fuel warning alerts and range estimations, a higher proportion of drivers are using these systems to push the limits between fuel ups.

Other key findings from an analysis of AAA’s 2015 roadside assistance data include:

  • Battery failures, flat tires and keys locked inside the vehicle remain the top roadside assistance requests.
  • Vehicles fewer than five years old have a higher proportion of tire, key and fuel-related issues than older vehicles. Due in part to complex, electronic vehicle designs, one-in-five service calls for a newer vehicle required a tow to a repair facility.
  • Vehicles between 6 and 10 years old have the highest proportion of battery-related issues, as most batteries have a three- to five-year life.
  • Roadside assistance calls peak in the summer (8.3 million) followed by winter (8.1 million), fall (7.8 million) and spring (7.7 million).
  • Drivers are most likely to request roadside assistance on Mondays and least likely to request assistance on Sundays.
  • Drivers in the West experienced the most breakdowns, followed by the South, the Northeast and the Midwest.
  • Despite advances in key technology, AAA came to the rescue of more than four million drivers locked out of their vehicles.

“Drivers today have increasingly-connected lifestyles, and want reliable, flexible service options when trouble strikes,” continued Ruud. “AAA has responded with flexible roadside assistance offerings nationwide including app-based service requests and the ability to track assigned service vehicles in real time on a smartphone.”

To help prevent millions of roadside breakdowns from happening, AAA offers the following recommendations for common roadside problems:

  • Check for a spare tire: Before purchasing a car, check that the vehicle includes a spare tire. If it doesn’t, consider adding one as an option. Tire inflator kits — which have replaced spare tires on tens of millions of vehicles –cannot remedy all types of tire damage.
  • Check tires: At least once a month, check the tire pressure to ensure proper inflation. This affects tire wear and vehicle handling. Tires should be rotated based on the manufacturer’s recommended schedule for the vehicle.
  • Lockouts: AAA recommends motorists take special care of their “smart keys” and keyless entry fobs. Always take keys when exiting the car, avoid exposing keyless-entry remote or smart keys to water and always replace the key or fob battery when recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
  • Battery: AAA recommends that drivers have their vehicle’s battery tested when it reaches three years of age and on an annual basis thereafter. AAA’s Mobile Battery Service offers free battery testing for AAA members.
  • Pack an emergency kit: A recent AAA survey shows that more than 40 percent of motorists do not carry an emergency kit in their vehicle. AAA recommends that every driver have a well-stocked emergency kit, which includes a mobile phone and car charger; a flashlight with extra batteries; a first-aid kit; drinking water; extra snacks/food for your travelers and any pets; battery booster cables; and emergency flares or reflectors.

Before hitting the road, download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad, Android and Apple Watch. Travelers can use the app to request AAA roadside assistance, route a trip, find the lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, book a hotel and more. In addition, AAA members can also track in real time the location of their assigned vehicle with Service Tracker. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

AAA: Not All Gasoline Created Equal

July 7th, 2016 by AAA

ErinSteppTests show quality gasoline keeps engines 19 times cleaner

ORLANDO, Fla. (July 7, 2016) – New testing from AAA has uncovered significant differences in the quality of gasoline sold at fuel retailers in the United States. The independent laboratory testing compared gasolines that meet TOP TIER™ standards often marketed to consumers as having enhanced, engine-cleaning detergent additives with gasoline brands that do not participate in the automaker-backed program. Among brands tested, non-TOP TIER gasolines caused 19 times more engine deposits than TOP TIER brands after just 4,000 miles of simulated driving. Such carbon deposits are known to reduce fuel economy, increase emissions and negatively impact vehicle performance, particularly on newer vehicles. To protect vehicle investments, AAA urges drivers to use a gasoline that meets TOP TIER standards for engine cleanliness and performance.

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“AAA was surprised to learn the extent to which detergent additives impact gasoline quality,” revealed John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “As advertised, tested TOP TIER gasolines kept engines remarkably cleaner than other fuels we tested.”

In response to increasing levels of carbon deposits in modern engine designs, the Environmental Protection Agency mandated a minimum level of detergent for all gasoline sold in the United States in 1996. However, some automakers believe the minimum does not go far enough to ensure optimal vehicle performance and their ability to meet increasingly-stringent fuel economy and emissions requirements. The TOP TIER program and performance standard were developed to guarantee that program participants’ gasoline meets stricter targets for engine cleanliness.

“When it comes to selecting a gasoline, automakers got it right – TOP TIER gasoline performs best,” continued Nielsen. “By selecting a quality gasoline, drivers can minimize engine deposits, increase vehicle performance and improve fuel economy.”

Despite the fact that two-thirds of U.S. drivers believe there is a difference in quality of gasoline sold by different gas stations, a AAA survey reveals that Americans value convenience and price over quality when it comes to selecting a gas station.

  • Three-quarters of U.S. drivers choose a gas station based on location (75 percent) or price (73 percent).
  • Nearly one-third (29 percent) of U.S drivers choose a gas station based on a rewards program.
  • Only 12 percent of U.S. drivers select a gas station based on whether the gasoline contains an enhanced detergent package.
  • Nearly half (47 percent) of U.S. drivers do not regularly buy gasoline that contains an enhanced detergent additive.
  • Men (44 percent) are more likely than women (26 percent) to regularly buy a gasoline that contains an enhanced detergent package, as are baby boomers (41 percent) compared to millennials (32 percent).

“Americans are six times more likely to choose a gas station based on the price of gasoline rather than the quality of the fuel,” continued Nielsen. “Since TOP TIER gasoline is widely available and only an average of three cents more per gallon, AAA urges drivers to reconsider their priorities when selecting a gas station.”

To ensure a gas station sells a high quality gasoline, consumers should research the fuel options near them. According to TOP TIER, one-third of gas stations meet the TOP TIER standard for fuel quality. Retailers interested in participating in the TOP TIER program can find additional information here.

“Fortunately, consumers can reverse some engine deposits simply by switching gasoline brands,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering. “After a few thousand miles with TOP TIER gasoline, performance issues like rough idling or hesitation during acceleration can often be resolved.”

For testing purposes, AAA selected TOP TIER and non-TOP TIER gasolines from a southern Texas market that represents the type of gasoline sold across the majority of the United States. To measure intake valve and combustion chamber deposits, AAA engaged the services of an independent International Standards Organization 17025 certified engine testing lab to perform an ASTM International standard test on fuels.

To evaluate consumer gasoline preferences, AAA contracted with a national research company to perform a telephone survey of 1,002 adults (18 years of age and older) living in the continental United States. Survey results are an accurate representation of the total continental U.S. population, 18 years of age and older, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

For additional information about fuel quality, including the full test report and fact sheet, visit NewsRoom.AAA.com.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Tesla Model S 70D Is Top AAA Green Car

April 19th, 2016 by AAA

ErinStepp2016 AAA Green Car Guide Now Available

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ORLANDO, Fla. (April 19, 2016)The 2015 Tesla Model S 70D was named the Top AAA Green Car, the motor club announced today. The Tesla is featured with 80 other green vehicles in the 2016 AAA Green Car Guide, a comprehensive report published annually by the largest member of the AAA federation – the Automobile Club of Southern California and its Automotive Research Center.

AAA’s top three green vehicles, all electrics, were announced today. The BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium rounded out the top three.

“The Tesla Model S 70D has a 240-mile range, room for five, excellent power and steering, and fast charge capability,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Add sleek styling, great acceleration and an air of sophistication that separates it from other alternative-fueled vehicles and you see why the Model S 70D was our top vehicle this year.”

2016 AAA Top Green Car and Top 5 points:

  1. 2015 Tesla Model S 70D 92.49
  2. 2014 BMW i3 88.47
  3. 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium 87.09
  4. 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron Premium 83.49
  5. 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium  81.96

Each of 13 evaluations was scored on 0-10 points.  Scores were totaled to determine top vehicles. The guide summarizes vehicle specifications, test scores, data and observations and lists its strengths and weaknesses. Each year, the research center tracks significant changes to a vehicle from model year to model year. If no significant changes were made to the power train in 2016, a prior model year’s results were used. Top green vehicle winners received AAA’s environmentally-friendly trophy made of sustainable bamboo and recycled aluminum.

“The research center’s evaluators divided the vehicles into six categories, crunched the numbers, and identified winners in each category,” added Nielsen. “They also recognized winners by price,” he said. “The Tesla took three awards – Best Green Car over $50,000, the large car category winner and the AAA Top Green Car. In other categories, the best green car under $30,000 was the Mazda 3S Grand Touring, and the best green pickup is the Ford F-150 Supercab Lariat.”

“Today car shoppers can choose high-quality, zero-to-low-emission vehicles in a growing selection of body type and size and price.  The AAA Green Car Guide is designed to help give consumers research-based information and tips to find the vehicle that best suits their needs and navigate the green car marketplace with confidence,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Automotive Research Center. “AAA’s expertise along with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s nearly half-century of automotive research with alternative fuel vehicles continues to benefit AAA members and the public today.”

“Green vehicles offer motorists a way to save on energy costs,” she added.  A recent AAA member green vehicle survey found that green car issues are important across generations with millennials and non-millennials saying they’d consider buying a green vehicle because of fuel costs and environmental impact.  The majority of respondents in the AAA survey also said they are interested in a green vehicle when shopping for a new car and 82 percent stated it was important to understand green technology.

To help car buyers and enthusiasts looking for the latest information on fuel-efficient vehicles and low-emission technology, the sixth annual AAA guide reviews battery electric vehicles, compressed natural gas-powered (CNG) vehicles, clean diesels, hybrids, partial zero emission vehicles (PZEVs), and vehicles with high fuel economy. Vehicles were grouped into categories according to size, body type and three price ranges. They were scored by the Los Angeles-based Automotive Research Center in real-world evaluations (acceleration, handling, ride comfort, turning, cargo capacity, etc.). The report also contains in-depth information about green technologies, vehicle safety and advanced driver assistance systems.

Tested vehicles were selected based on emission certifications from the California Air Resources Board and U.S. EPA fuel economy ratings. Tests were performed at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. and on Southern California roads. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the EPA and the Automobile Club of Southern California developed the testing procedures.

The guide will be available to AAA members at no charge at select AAA branches while supplies last. More information can be found at www.AAA.com/greencar.

2016 AAA Best Green Car by Price:

Over $50,000:                    2015 Tesla Model S 70D

$30,000 to $50,000:        2014 BMW i3

Under $30,000:                 2014 Mazda 3S Grand Touring

2016 AAA Green Car Guide Category Winners:

Large car:                             Tesla Model S 70D                                          (Electric)

Midsize:                               Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC 4matic       (Clean Diesel)

Compact:                             Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium                 (Electric)

Subcompact:                      BMW i3                                                               (Electric)

SUV/Minivan:                    Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium                     (PZEV)

Pickup Truck:                     Ford F-150 Supercab Lariat                            (Gasoline)

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.  Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

ErinSteppDespite fear, AAA survey reveals that experience with vehicle technology leads to trust

ORLANDO, Fla. (March 1, 2016) – Three out of four U.S. drivers report feeling  “afraid” to ride in a self-driving car, according to a new survey from AAA. With today’s heightened focus on autonomous vehicles, this fear poses a potential concern to the automotive industry as consumers may be reluctant to fully embrace the self-driving car. Despite this significant fear, AAA also found that drivers who own vehicles equipped with semi-autonomous features are, on average, 75 percent more likely to trust the technology than those that do not own it, suggesting that gradual experience with these advanced features can ease consumer fears.

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“With the rapid advancement towards autonomous vehicles, American drivers may be hesitant to give up full control,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “What Americans may not realize is that the building blocks towards self-driving cars are already in today’s vehicles and the technology is constantly improving and well-trusted by those who have experienced it.”

While only one-in-five Americans say they would trust an autonomous vehicle to drive itself, AAA’s survey revealed that consumer demand for semi-autonomous vehicle technology is high. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of American drivers report wanting at least one of the following technologies on their next vehicle: automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, self-parking technology or lane-keeping assist.

Among drivers who want these features on their next vehicle, AAA found their primary motivation to be safety (84 percent), followed by convenience (64 percent), reducing stress (46 percent) and wanting the latest technology (30 percent).

  • Baby Boomers are more likely to cite safety as a reason they want semi-autonomous features on their next vehicle (89 percent) than Millennials (78 percent).
  • Millennials are more likely to cite convenience (75 percent) and wanting the latest technology (36 percent) compared to older generations.
  • Women are more likely to cite reducing stress as a reason for wanting the technology (50 percent) than men (42 percent)

AAA’s survey also offered insights into why many Americans shy away from advanced vehicle technology.  Among those who do not want semi-autonomous features on their next vehicle, drivers cite trusting their driving skills more than the technology (84 percent), feeling the technology is too new and unproven (60 percent), not wanting to pay extra for it (57 percent), not knowing enough about the technology (50 percent) and finding it annoying (45 percent) as the top reasons.

  • Millennials (63 percent) and Gen-Xers (62 percent) are more likely to cite not wanting to pay extra for semi-autonomous technology, compared to Baby Boomers (49 percent).
  • One-in-four female drivers (23 percent) cite feeling the technology is too complicated to use as a reason for not wanting the technology in their next vehicle, compared to 12 percent of male drivers.

“While six-in-10 drivers want semi-autonomous technology in their next vehicle, there are still 40 percent of Americans that are either undecided or reluctant to purchase these features,” continued Nielsen. “It’s clear that education is the key to addressing consumer hesitation towards these features and AAA’s on-going effort to evaluate vehicle technologies, highlighting both the benefits and limitations, is designed to help drivers make informed choices.”

Full survey results, including consumer trust and purchase intentions of individual features and infographics can be found at NewsRoom.AAA.com. AAA provides free vehicle reviews and localized pricing information at AAA.com/AutoBuying.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Erin SteppAAA finds two-thirds of American drivers concerned about potholes on local roadways

ORLANDO, Fla. (Feb. 17, 2016) – As snow and ice begin to thaw and crumbling roadways emerge, a new study from AAA reveals that pothole damage has cost U.S. drivers $15 billion in vehicle repairs over the last five years, or approximately $3 billion annually. With two-thirds of Americans concerned about potholes on local roadways, AAA cautions drivers to remain alert to avoid pothole damage, and urges state and local governments to fully fund and prioritize road maintenance to reduce vehicle damage, repair costs and driver frustration.

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“In the last five years, 16 million drivers across the country have suffered pothole damage to their vehicles,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “The problems range from tire punctures and bent wheels, to more expensive suspension damage.”

According to AAA’s survey, middle- and lower-income individuals are the most worried about potholes, with the majority of respondents in households having annual incomes under $75,000 expressing the highest levels of concern over damaged roadways. This is likely due in part to the financial impact, as pothole damage can lead to expensive and extensive vehicle repairs.

“On average, American drivers report paying $300 to repair pothole-related vehicle damage,” continued Nielsen. “Adding to the financial frustration, those whose vehicles incurred this type of damage had it happen frequently, with an average of three times in the last five years.”

To minimize vehicle damage, AAA urges drivers to ensure tires are properly inflated and have adequate tread depth, as they are the only cushion between a pothole and the vehicle. If a pothole strike is inevitable, it is also critical that drivers slow down, release the brakes and straighten steering before making contact with the pothole. To avoid potholes in the roadway, drivers should remain alert, scan the road and increase following distances behind the vehicle ahead.

AAA’s members are paying a steep price for bad road conditions, and those costs are expected to rise even higher in the years ahead. Americans rely on our nation’s roads and bridges every day, and more funding is desperately needed to prevent potholes, other unsafe conditions and longer commutes. Congress increased transportation funding in 2015 to help pay for road repair, but as much as $170 billion in additional funding is needed per year to significantly improve America’s roads and bridges.

Every year, AAA responds to more than four million calls for flat tire assistance, many the result of damage caused by potholes. Spare tires, an important feature missing from one-third of 2015 model year vehicles sold, are critical for drivers affected by pothole damage. Tire inflator kits have replaced the spare tire in millions of vehicles over the last 10 model years and, due to their limited functionality, cannot provide even a temporary fix for pothole damage. AAA has called on automakers to put consumer interests first and halt the elimination of spare tires in new models.

When dealing with vehicle damage, it’s critical to select a high-quality repair facility such as a AAA Approved Auto Repair (AAR) shop. Once a facility meets AAA’s high standards, including certifications, technical training, cleanliness, insurance requirements and background checks, it becomes part of the AAR program where it’s re-inspected annually and monitored for ongoing customer satisfaction. AAA members receive unique benefits, including priority service, a 24-month/24,000-mile warranty, special discounts, free inspections, dispute resolution assistance and more. To find an AAR facility near you, visit AAA.com/Repair.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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Erin SteppNew AAA survey reveals three out of four American drivers park incorrectly*

ORLANDO, Fla. (December 10, 2015) – This holiday season, as parking lots at shopping malls fill with millions of vehicles, AAA warns drivers to avoid a common parking lot mistake. According to a new survey, more than three quarters (76 percent) of U.S. drivers most frequently park their vehicle by pulling forward into a parking spot, rather than backing in, a riskier practice that driving experts warn leaves pedestrians more vulnerable when a driver later reverses from the spot and into the traffic lane.

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“Recognizing that American parking habits differ from much of the world, automakers are increasingly adding technology to vehicles that is designed to address rear visibility concerns,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “However, AAA’s testing of these systems reveals significant shortcomings when used in real-world conditions and Americans should rely more on driving skills than technology.”

In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA tested rear cross traffic alert systems, designed to alert drivers to traffic passing behind a reversing vehicle, and found significant system limitations exist when parked between larger vehicles, such as SUVs or minivans.  In this common parking lot scenario, the tested systems failed to detect pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles and other vehicles at alarming rates:

  • A passing motorcycle was not detected by the systems in 48 percent of tests.
  • The systems failed to detect a bicycle passing behind the vehicle 40 percent of the time.
  • The systems failed to detect a passing vehicle 30 percent of the time.
  • While not all systems are designed to detect pedestrians, the technology failed to detect pedestrians 60 percent of the time.

“AAA’s independent testing showed that rear cross traffic alert systems failed to work effectively in several test vehicles,” cautioned Megan McKernan, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. “It’s critical that drivers reverse slowly and use this technology as an aid to, not a substitute for, safe driving.”

Previous AAA testing of rear-view camera systems, required on all new vehicles by 2018, revealed significant consumer benefits including increased visibility of the rear blind zone by an average of 46 percent.  However, it’s important to note that no system shows 100 percent of the space behind a vehicle and that rain, snow or slush can impede camera visibility.

“When it comes to parking, the majority of American drivers are on the naughty list this year,” continued Nielsen. “Pulling out of a parking spot, instead of reversing, is an easy way to increase safety and visibility in busy parking lots this holiday season.”

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

 

*AAA recommends that drivers reverse into parking spaces whenever possible, except where prohibited by law or parking lot restrictions. When faced with angled parking, drivers should follow the flow of traffic and pull forward into the parking space.

AAA calls on automakers to put consumers first, save the spare tire

Erin SteppORLANDO, Fla. (November 11, 2015) – Automakers’ decision to eliminate the spare tire may leave more than 30 million drivers vulnerable at the roadside, according to new research from AAA. Tire inflator kits, a high-cost alternative for consumers, have replaced the spare tire in millions of vehicles over the last 10 model years and, due to their limited functionality, cannot provide even a temporary fix for many common tire-related problems. AAA calls on automakers to put consumer interests first and halt the elimination of the spare tire.

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“Flat tires are not a disappearing problem, but spare tires are,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “AAA responds to more than four million calls for flat tire assistance annually and, despite advances in vehicle technology, we have not seen a decline in tire-related calls over the last five years.”

Along with run-flat tires, tire inflator kits have replaced spare tires on 29 million vehicles in the last 10 model years, steadily increasing from five percent of 2006 model year vehicles to more than one-in-three 2015 model year vehicles (36 percent) sold. While each four-pound kit eliminates approximately 30 pounds of weight, resulting in minimal savings in fuel consumption, the replacement cost is high. With some kits costing up to $300 per use, a tire inflator kit can cost consumers up to 10 times more than a simple tire repair and has a shelf life of only four to eight years.

“Automakers are facing increasingly-stringent fuel economy standards and the spare tire has become a casualty in an effort to reduce weight and boost miles-per-gallon,” continued Nielsen. “Advances in automotive engineering allow for weight to be reduced in ways that don’t leave motorists stranded at the roadside.”

AAA tested the most common tire inflator kits in today’s vehicles and found that the units worked well in some scenarios, but they are not a substitute for a spare tire. For an inflator kit to work effectively, a tire must be punctured in the tread surface and the object must remain in the tire. Used correctly, the kit then coats the inner wall of the tire with a sealant and a compressor re-inflates the tire. If the puncture-causing object is no longer in the tire, a sidewall is damaged or a blowout occurs, a tire inflator kit cannot remedy the situation and the vehicle will require a tow.

Knowing how to change a tire is also a skill that is now less prevalent among younger age groups. More than one-in-five millennial drivers (ages 18-34) do not know how to change a tire, compared to the nearly 90 percent of drivers aged 35-54 that know this important skill. Gender differences also exist: while nearly all men (97 percent) claim to know how to change a tire, only 68 percent of women boast the same ability.

“Consumers may mistakenly believe that inflator kits are a one-size-fits-all alternative to installing a spare tire,” continued Nielsen. “The reality is these kits can accommodate specific types of tire damage, but having the option to install a spare tire can save stranded drivers time and money.”

If faced with roadside trouble, including a flat tire, AAA is available to help 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  AAA members can request assistance by calling (800) AAA-HELP, visiting AAA.com/RoadsideAssistance or via the AAA Mobile App.  To become a member, visit AAA.com/join.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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Erin SteppOne-third of Americans ignore vehicle maintenance needs

ORLANDO, Fla. (October 8, 2015) – A new analysis of AAA roadside assistance data reveals that millions of roadside breakdowns each year could be prevented with basic vehicle maintenance.  Despite this, a recent AAA survey found that 35 percent of Americans have skipped or delayed service or repairs that were recommended by a mechanic or specified by the factory maintenance schedule.

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“According to a survey of AAA’s certified Approved Auto Repair shops, consumers that forget or ignore recommended maintenance ultimately pay higher repair costs,” cautioned John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “These repair facilities estimate drivers can save an average of one hundred dollars per visit simply by properly maintaining their vehicle.”

In 2014, AAA responded to more than 29 million calls for roadside assistance, with the majority (17 million) due to battery failure, flat tires and keys locked inside the vehicle. To prevent these common roadside problems, AAA offers the following recommendations:

  • Batteries: Automotive batteries typically last between three and five years, with reduced battery life in hotter climates. To avoid an unexpected battery failure, AAA recommends that drivers have their vehicle’s battery tested when it reaches three years of age and on an annual basis thereafter.  According to a recent survey, two thirds of Americans have never had their car battery tested prior to their vehicle failing to start. AAA’s Mobile Battery Service offers free battery testing to AAA members.
  • Tires: Keeping tires properly inflated and routinely checking tread depth is critical to safety, yet AAA found that 60 percent of Americans do not check tire pressures regularly. Tire pressures, including the spare tire, should be checked at least once a month, and when tread depth reaches 4/32” AAA recommends replacing tires. Additionally, while locking lug nuts are helpful in preventing tire theft, missing keys prevented roadside assistance technicians from changing 21,000 tires in 2014. AAA recommends storing the locking lug nut key with the spare tire or in the glove box.
  • Keys: Despite the rising popularity of Passive Keyless Entry systems, AAA has not seen a significant reduction in the number of calls related to drivers being locked out of their vehicle in the last decade, proving that it is difficult to prevent this common mistake.

“While problems with batteries, tires and keys are the most common reasons that members call AAA for help, there are more than 12 million calls each year related to engine trouble, fuel issues and other mechanical mishaps,” warned Nielsen. “AAA will always be there to save the day, but this study reveals drivers can save time and money by investing in routine maintenance.”

Other key findings from 2014 roadside assistance data include:

  • AAA towed more than two million vehicles for engine-related issues and an additional 600,000 vehicles for transmission failure.
  • More than 235,000 vehicles were towed due to brake system failures.
  • While most modern vehicles are equipped with low-fuel lights, AAA provided gasoline fuel delivery to more than half a million vehicles in 2014.
  • Due to members incorrectly fueling their gasoline-powered vehicle with diesel fuel, or vice-versa, AAA towed more than 13,000 vehicles to repair facilities.

“While today’s vehicle technology incorporates maintenance reminders and dashboard alerts designed to prevent roadside trouble, drivers still must take action,” cautioned Josh VanWynsberghe, AAA’s automotive technical engineer. “Finding a mechanic you trust and allowing that shop to perform all of your vehicle’s maintenance will result in improved reliability, higher resale values and increased safety.”

AAA’s Approved Auto Repair (AAR) program was created more than 35 years ago and includes nearly 7,000 facilities across North America.  Once a shop meets AAA’s high standards, including certifications, technical training, cleanliness, insurance requirements and background checks, it becomes part of the AAR program where it’s re-inspected annually and monitored for customer satisfaction.  AAA members receive several unique benefits by selecting an AAR facility, including priority service, a 24-month/24,000-mile warranty, discounts on repairs, free inspections, AAA assistance with dispute resolutions and more.  To find an AAR facility, visit AAA.com/Repair.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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