Carrot Car Insurance: Driving Costs Down for Kids

Carrot-Car-Insurance

First timer drivers face a Herculean task when it comes to getting insured on their first car. At the moment the Bank of Mum and Dad is the easiest way to get a son or daughter insured on a reasonable car without paying a fortune on insurance premiums – but this also means Mum and Dad’s well earned no claims can also be on the line.

But there is another way: Carrot Insurance; and the clue is in the name. Carrot Insurance utilises a unique carrot-and-stick model whereby young drivers are rewarded by safe driving with monthly cash rewards reducing the overall cost of insurance depending on how safe their driving has been every 3 months.

Using a telematics unit – the i-box – Carrot has created a bespoke driver feedback platform that offers total transparency and a genuine opportunity for the customers to feel fully engaged in the process of driving safety.

The i-box is supplied and fitted to your car at no additional cost by a member of Carrot’s expert mobile installations team, making sure the box is installed within two weeks of your policy start date. And as soon as it’s done and the i-box is activated, the Carrot send customers an exclusive Carrot Card prepaid MasterCard, which is loaded with a £20 welcome bonus – and the card is then used by Carrot to pay cash rewards to drivers depending on your quarterly driver score.

Carrot-Insurance-Laptop

Drivers using the system have access to their Driving Style score via an online dashboard, meaning you can see the impact on every journey has on the overall scoring and value of cash rewards you can earn. Carrot has also implemented a social media focus, meaning users can post their Driving Style scores across on Facebook and see how they compare with their friends and family.

The way the score is a worked out is by monitoring driving style such as acceleration, braking, swerving, and the number, and length of journeys, made. This information is then compiled into three categories – speed, smoothness and usage – those are then combined to an overall Driving Style score, from which quarterly rewards are calculated, with customers being able to earn up to a maximum of 15% off their annual premium via cash rewards.

“We’re finding that the combination of lower premiums, generous Driving Style cash rewards, refer-a-friend rewards and further cashback from our retail partners offers something really refreshing and genuinely appealing to young drivers.”

Ed Rochfort, Carrot Insurance

At the outset, policyholders choose their annual mileage – between 3,000 and 7,000 to start with – but can buy Top-Up miles should they need more. This enables them to pay only for the miles they need, helping them get on to the road much more affordably in the first place.

A £20 welcome bonus is paid to every customer that receives a Carrot Card at the inception of his or her policy and is paid subsequently as a reward for having their i-box installed and activated. If the policyholder improves on their Driving Style starting score, cash rewards are paid on to a Carrot prepaid MasterCard card at the end of each quarter.

The Carrot Card enables the holder to earn cashback when used at a network of high street retailers, including Topshop, Debenhams, House of Fraser, Halfords and Zizzi – making their cash rewards go even further.

A £40 cash reward is also paid to the customer for each friend that goes on to buy a policy as a result of Carrot’s unique Facebook App

SuperTooth HD Voice: Hands on the Wheel

SuperTooth-HD-Voice

On December 3, 2003, the UK government made it a criminal offence for motorists to drive a car whilst talking on a mobile phone. Since then no company has really come up with an inexpensive after-market solution that allows drivers to safely talk on their phone whilst driving.

At the moment almost all-new cars sold in the UK come with a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, but what about those of us who don’t have Bluetooth? Well SuperTooth, a leading manufacturer of portable audio accessories, believes their recently released HD-Voice Bluetooth hands-free system could be the ideal solution for drivers who want to add the Bluetooth connectivity to their cars, but don’t want to spend several hundred pounds.

SuperTooth’s HD-Voice is a small, inexpensive device that clips on to a car’s sun visor, once it’s securely in place you simply pair the device to your phone and bingo, you’ve got a fully functional voice-controlled hands-free kit.

A spokesperson from SuperTooth reckons that the call quality on the HD-Voice is so good, that many drivers will end up choosing their system over a car’s native hands-free phone system.

A bold claim, but under closer inspection they might actually have a point. The HD Voice comes with two built-in speakers, two microphones and clever voice recognition software. This means the system can pick up simple voice commands really well, especially impressive when it’s fighting against the noise of the engine or road.

SuperTooth-HD-solo

Once the driver has gone through the simple pairing procedure the system is ready to. When an incoming call comes through you simply says “OK” to start the call. The HD-VOICE also indicates the battery level of the device, the bluetooth connection status, and can even announce GPS instructions direct from your smartphone.

One of the reasons why the system is so robust is it comes equipped with voice recognition software which means a driver never actually needs take their hands off the wheel, which can’t be said of some systems, as they usually require a couple of button presses on the dashboard or on the steering wheel to answer or make a calls.

The HD-VOICE is compatible with all mobile phones and smartphones boasting Bluetooth technology. And there’s no need for a lengthy or complicated installations as once it is clipped to the sun visor it is pretty much ready to go.

The battery life is rated by SuperTooth at an impressive 20 hours talk time and 1,000 hours standby, so it can easily sit in a car for a long periods of time without the need of a recharge. To recharge the device it uses a simple USB charging cable, and it can also be plugged into a car’s 12-volt power point with the use of an adapter.

The HD-Voice also supports A2DP audio streaming over Bluetooth, which means it can play music in stereo over the devices’ two speakers. A nice touch, but in reality music playback isn’t its strongest suit especially compared to a car’s built-in audio system, and you can’t actually route the audio back through your car’s system via an audio-out, which is a bit disappointing.

The HD-Voice is capable of recognising 12 languages including – British English, American English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Mexican Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese, Russian, Japanese and Polish.

For more info head to SuperTooth.

Magellan SmartGPS: Map to the future

There’s GPS and then there’s GPS. And then passed that and at the next right is Megellan SmartGPS, a device that integrates social, local and mobile content, including Yelp and Foursquare, through Magellan’s cloud-enabled Smart Ecosystem.

Smart-GPS

The Magellan SmartGPS is the first navigation device to wirelessly sync your navigation data, (favourite places, contacts), with smartphones or regular computers, and to intelligently deliver stored and dynamic location-based information to the GPS display that is personalised to the driver’s locale.

“Magellan pioneered the GPS navigation industry, and in today’s socially-driven world, we recognise that consumers want and need a much more comprehensive navigation solution that surpasses what traditional GPS devices and smartphones can offer.”

Peggy Fong, President of MiTAC Digital Corporation.

The SmartGPS does this via its contact with with Magellan’s custom-built Smart Ecosystem, an extensive cloud-based database of constantly-updating, location-relevant social media and navigation content automatically pushed to the SmartGPS display.

There’s obviously core navigation features and on-board maps but everyone has those these days – even my phone. The SmartGPS goes one up with valuable, timely information so you can discover places and services around you at the right place and right time. The screen can simultaneously display maps, navigatation, and reviews, tips and offers from Yelp and Foursquare for nearby restaurants, stores and services.

The display works off a series of location-relevant information “squares” that are displayed on the SmartGPS screen and graphically flip between service establishments in the vicinity. Tapping on a square displays detail info including the address, phone and any available special offers or consumer reviews, plus an icon to navigate to their selected destination. In addition, the SmartGPS delivers current gas prices in the vicinity, weather, traffic events and speed camera warnings.

A smartphone Bluetooth connection can also be used to update the SmartGPS information squares with the freshest, dynamic content as the SmartGPS pairs with your phone automatically when you enter the car. You can use this connection for an “always on” connection and to place hands free calls through the SmartGPS.

The Magellan SmartGPS is also compatible with Magellan’s award-winning Wireless Back-up Camera ($149.99 MSRP). When the vehicle is in reverse-mode, the SmartGPS will automatically switch from navigation mode to become a rear-view monitor.

Sadly the Magellan SmartGPS is US only for the moment and will be yours (or theirs) for $249.99 from Spring 2013.

Review: Griffin in-car smartphone mounts

We got our hands on two of Griffin’s recently released hands-free mobile car kits.

Air-Curve-Mount

Aircurve Window Mount, RRP £24.99: Designed for the iPhone 4 and 4S, the Aircurve has been designed to cradle your phone securely and increase its audio output by up to 25 decibels thanks to some clever acoustic design. This means you will no longer need to strain to hear telephone conversations, GPS instructions or music as you would if you were using a normal window or dashboard mount. The mount itself is sturdy and easy to fix onto a surface, and no cables or batteries are required to use. If you are looking for somewhere to hold your iPhone with optimal audio output, the Aircurve is worth a look. It is very basic mind you, so for the asking price you may be better off shopping around first.

Windowseat Mobile Car Kit, RRP £34.99: Priced in a slightly higher bracket than the Aircurve, the Windowseat car kit is compatible with any modern Smartphone. Along with holding your phone securely, the car kit also includes several plug in cables – an AUX and microphone (so you can plug in to your car stereo), a USB car charger and an iPhone dock connector. If you are looking for a highly flexible hands free kit this really does tick all the right boxes, the USB connectors are a godsend and the mount is easy to set up and use, holding your phone safe and securely. Again, I have a slight concern when it comes to the price of the car kit, but the quality and versatility – you can use it with just about any model of Smartphone – cannot be denied.

For further information on both products, visit www.griffintechnology.com.

Mio get Spiritual with a new range of Spirit Sat Navs

It seems the SatNav market is hotting up once again as other manufacturers strive to combat TomTom’s dominant market position. It’s a highly lucrative market now with the emphasis clearly on traffic avoidance and ease of use and with increasing investment providing better technology the race is definitely on.

Mio

Korean Taiwanese manufacturer Mio who in 2007  swallowed up Navman, one of the early contenders to Tom Tom’s crown, has just released  a number of additional units to its Spirit range of SatNavs that offer many high level functions at an entry level price.

Whilst the 480 series and upwards offers some new functions such as Parking Assistance which automatically shows a list of close by parking spaces and an excellent Pedestrian mode for when you’re out of the car, helping you explore new places on foot, it’s the 680 series in particular which stands out.

This has a large 5” colour screen over 30% bigger than traditional 4.3” screens and accepts voice commands so now you can simply tell it where you want to go. Having voice recognition also allows it to handle Bluetooth enabled mobile calls giving you hands free capability for your phone too. The 680 also offers you a choice of four different routes in your screen: fastest, shortest, easiest and most economical so you can choose the route that best suits your needs.

There’s premium traffic information available subscription free and also a handy AV In port to connect a rear view camera (sold separately) to help reversing into tight positions.

Mio also provide cheap virtual ‘rental maps’ to download for those situations when you only need a map for a limited period. An excellent idea.

The Mio Spirit series is available from £79.99 up to £149.99 giving you a lot of functionality for a highly affordable price.

For more information head here

Become a ‘Waze hero’ with the “Facebook for Drivers!”

Now this new app actually roused my attention although I am not sure why it is being marketed as “The new Facebook for drivers”. When you are cruising along at 80 mph down the motorway, happily calculating what time you will arrive at your destination, the one thing that puts a dampener on your plans are the depressing sight of a queue of brake lights ahead whereby all you can do is slow down and join them. “Why didn’t we come off at that last exit”, you cry to your equally exasperated passenger, “If only we’d known about this delay!” Enter the ‘Waze’, a new and free navigational app where drivers get to avoid traffic by joining local ‘Waze’ driving communities.

Waze

This 100% user-generated app allows users to passively share real-time traffic information with other ‘Wazers” so that the driving community has an active role in sharing live traffic information about queues, hazards and accidents with other drivers – ah, so that’s why it is being marketed as the “Facebook for drivers”, because it is essentially as social networking site for drivers.

So why not just listen to the highly annoying local radio ‘travel updates’ that rudely interrupt you and rivet your attention back to the road whilst you listen to your favourite track? Well I don’t know about you but I find these radio ‘travel updates’ to not only be annoying for their ‘interrupting’ tendencies, but have an even more annoying habit of warning you of a delay on the road when you are already in it.

‘Wazers’, on the other hand, will have the ‘upper hand’ on local travel information and not only this but the Waze app is designed to be fun, allowing drivers to win prizes and top the ladder board by sharing information and validating roads. On second thoughts perhaps this app is a little ‘sad’, it should have just stuck to enabling drivers to share vital and useful information with other drivers without patronising us to become ‘Waze heroes!’

The new version of the Android app also features a commuting widget, which uses both live information and historical data to tell users when best to take their chosen journey and enables expected time of arrival and journey length to be displayed in real-time from the phone’s main screen.

Check it out here

AA Sat Nav app: Get where you’re going (though not in central London)

I have to admit that I am a big fan of the AA – ever since they sent a massive lorry to transport our little camping trailer to our Peak District campsite, and the lovely lorry driver drove it through a farmyard and actually deposited the trailer at our pitch. It earned us a certain standing among our fellow campers and my four-year-old still gets excited when he sees an AA van.

AA-sat-nav

So, when I found that the AA (which, incidentally, is also the nation’s top-selling road atlas provider) had launched a new AA Sat Nav app for the iPhone I was looking forward to trying it out. My first impression, however, was that it looked pretty much like the Co-Pilot app I already have on my iPhone (and which costs a quid or so less), albeit with an AA-branded skin on top.

The new app – entitled AA Sat Nav UK & Ireland – offers 3D map displays, lane indicator arrows and speed limit alerts as well as ‘safety camera’ warnings.

On the plus side, it’s really easy to use – determining whether you’re on foot, car, bike or motorbike can be done simply in settings or from an icon on the side of your map – which is very useful.

I was also rather excited about being able to find the nearest petrol station/tourist attractions and so on – really useful when you’re away from home and missing your internet connection – and as we often are in quite remote locations where you need to know where the next place to fill up on diesel is, I thought this would be a bonus.

But I found it a bit of a let down. My first two attempts, which I tried at home, pinpointed a petrol station five miles away, when I know our local garage is less than two miles – and the nearest church it could find was nearly five miles away (we can see the church tower from our front garden).

However, I had no quibbles with the actual routing and sat nav functions – in fact it got a gold star because I am forever directing lost delivery drivers who have got lost by their sat nav which can’t cope with the fact that the road through our village has one name if you turn left at the T-junction and another if you turn right, but the AA Sat Nav managed just fine – so a big thumbs-up for that.

However, what was really slow was the app’s ability to lock on to the GPS location. In my little village it took a couple of minutes – but in the middle of London’s Soho it really struggled.

I checked on the app’s site to make sure I wasn’t doing anything wrong – checking my iPhone’s setting, and making sure I could see the sky – but it just seemed unable to hold on to a signal. For a penny under 27 quid that was rather disappointing.

The issue with locking on to the location in Central London aside, as a sat nav, the voice directions worked really well. I guess when a standalone sat-nav device costs around 90 quid it’s not a bad deal. But the extra facilities for finding local points of interest did not prove accurate enough for my liking.

The AA Sat Nav UK & Ireland app can be downloaded from the iTunes Store for £26.99.

Behind the wheel of the new Ford Focus

Latest Gadgets were invite to the picturesque banks of the Clyde last week to celebrate the 13th anniversary of the Ford Focus, and to get a sneak-peak and drive their latest model, the new Ford Focus is being touted as the most technologically advanced car in its class.

Although the range starts at a eye-watering £16,000 for the bog-standard, 1.6 petrol engine version, we were given free rein in the 1.6 EcoBoost turbo petrol car, powered by Ford’s Titanium X engine and it came fully-loaded with every gadget available.

Ford-Focus

While the car comes with a lot of tech as standard, the Driver Assistance Package, which cost £750 adds a host of notable additional options. You can expect to find active city stop, lane keeping aid, active park assist (yes it parks itself), traffic sign recognition, blind-spot warning system and auto high-beam system which automatically turns full beams off and on without any input from the driver.

From the outside it is clear that Ford’s boffins have spent a lot of time with the design – taking the look back to original shape. They have tweaked the outside of the car to give it a distinctly sporty look, slightly at odds with the eco name tag, but they explained that consumers are ditching their gas guzzling BMW’s and the like for cars that are more in keeping with today’s need to save on petrol and car tax. But most importantly according to Ford, customers still want their cars to have more gizmo’s than the Star Ship enterprise, hence why the latest Focus is a tech journalists wet dream.

As soon as you step into the new Ford your automatically cocooned into a cockpit that has more buttons and screens than the Star Ship Enterprise, at first there are a bewildering amount of buttons and switches, but after a few minutes we comfortable with 99% of them, and we easily managed to pair our phone for calls and begun to stream some music from our smartphone using the incredibly user friendly bluetooth system.

Ford-Focus-dashboard

Surprisingly, after a few minutes of driving, any initial thoughts about room in the front and back quickly turns to a rather cosy feeling, a bit like the cockpit of an fighter jet. There’s not much room to swing a cat, but you left with a car that has lovely solid feel to it through out. It’s not as roomy compared to last model, but we for one forgave this shortcoming, as the new look is simply stunning.

There are two screens on the Ford Focus, one in the central dash which looked to be a 8-inch LCD display – which controls entertainment, sat nav and host of other gizmos. It’s not so big that it dominates the dash nor does it light you up like a Christmas tree, it’s just the perfect size. The other is where you’d usually find the speedometer. This screen is where you’ll be updated with various pieces of information, including when to change gear for optimum fuel efficiency and it cleverly show realtime traffic sign that the on-board camera picks up when you go into new speed zones or even temporary speed limits. Pretty much all these functions can be controlled from controls on the steering wheel and after a while we really settled into our new car for the day.

On the open road, you’ll notice the gear change indicator which tells you exactly when to shift up or down the six -speed manual box for optimum fuel efficiency, which, we completely ignored, not least because Ford had invited us to try out the cars on the outskirts of Glasgow, which had the least speed camera of anywhere we had ever driven in the UK.

Traffic Sign Recognition was notable feature, it recognises within a instant traffic signs ahead of you and displays them for you on the screen next to the rev counter, it just another way technology can help drivers stay within speed limits and we found it to work pretty much perfectly. And we’re not talking out-of-date GPS tracking here. The car actually takes video of the road in front of you and recognises a variety of standard signs including speed limits, and even those that have been set up temporarily so you’ll never get caught out again by the temporary speed limits.
When out onto the motorway more clever piece of tech became apparent – drift into another lane without indicating and the Lane Departure Warning will let you know you’re going off the straight and narrow. Persist with your inconsiderate lane changing and the computer will grabs the steering wheel and put you back on the right track using the Lane Departure Aid. This is quite an achievement and un-nerving at that the same time. The thought of a car taking control off the driver on a motorway at 70mph does seem quite frightening, but imagine, god forbid, if you fell asleep at the wheel. The system in theory could save you life. Importantly if you use your indicators like every decent driver should the system will not interfere so it also teaches you to be better driver, meaning safer, more stress-free journeys.

Changing lane on a motorway while someone is sitting in your blind spot and a little orange light flashes in your wing mirror to warn you that you’re about to merge into another car, the system is sure to save countless lives and crashes, and is just another example of Ford thinking of everything.

Auto High Beam will stop you dazzling other motorists as it dips the headlights automatically, Active City Stop will operate the brakes automatically under a speed limit of 10 mph, and the Active Grille Shutter cuts the car’s emissions by two per cent by closing the radiator grill at certain times to reduce drag and increase full economy.

We were blown away by the new Focus, it’s without a doubt Ford’s finest C class car, we are concerned how long all this tech will last after 5-10years of hard driving, but this is something that can’t be tested after a few hours of driving. Only time will tell, it’s without a doubt the safest car we’ve ever driven, and with all this tech your likely to see a decent resale value, which is a major plus. It would seem that Volkswagen and its Golf range finally has something to be worried about, Expect to see the new Focus on forecourts in May.