Travel & Tech

  • Why Aren’t Seniors Using Uber More?

    Why Aren’t Seniors Using Uber More?

    This summer Uber, the ridehail company, will pay 175 people in seven U.S. and Canadian cities $1,000 to ditch their cars for a month and use alternate transportation. They call it “One Less Car.” A lot of people may sign up, but chances are they will not be ages 60 and above. There is a…

  • A Fusion of Car and Smartphone

    A Fusion of Car and Smartphone

    Are we driving our phones or listening to our cars? It’s not quite that simple but there is convergence. The problem is that they know us better than we know them.

  • Smartphones and Cars Blend… (or brick)

    Smartphones and Cars Blend… (or brick)

    As smartphones and cars continue to blend it seems like phones are the technology, for now, that goes the extra mile.  More than 25 years ago, Frances Cairncross, the media editor for the Economist, pronounced the “death of distance.” Cars have become the ultimate smartphone with their large touchscreens, automatic crash reporting, and collection of…

  • Cars That Snitch? Telematics 101

    Cars That Snitch? Telematics 101

    Learning that your car is snitching on you and sending data to a third party is odious. But it joins other technologies, called telematics, that reveal where we go and how we get there. The capability to track a vehicle comes from years of academic and military research. The mission of telematics 101 began with…

  • Electric Vehicles at Disneyland (someday)

    For as long as I can remember, Autopia is my family’s first stop at the Happiest Place on Earth, aka Anaheim’s Disneyland.  Admittedly, that’s incongruous considering we have driven forty or fifty miles on the treacherous Interstate 5 and encountered traffic snarls throughout.  But even if you loathe the car trip to Disneyland, you don’t…

  • Getting Lost with QR Codes

    Getting Lost with QR Codes

    Accessibility is at the foundation of transportation policy, but a minor technology seems to be obstructing the path, at least when it comes to wayfaring.  The signage for wayfaring and orienting travelers is increasingly populated with QR codes and it may be getting us lost. QR (quick response) codes are encountered when transit riders need…

  • The Hidden Screen: Kids In Cars

    The Hidden Screen: Kids In Cars

    You might remember when Mom told you not to read in the car because it would make you carsick, but what would she say today? Well before they are able to read words, young children are engrossed with the dashboard display, aka the big screen in the front seat.  Kids and screens are getting together…

  • Vision Zero Has a Tech Complement

    Vision Zero Has a Tech Complement

    Double lines are standard on roadways, but double standards are embedded too when it comes to road safety. If Vision Zero wants to drive home road safety, they should drive home in driverless vehicles.

  • Phones that Make Drivers Safer

    Phones that Make Drivers Safer

    It’s counter intuitive that smartphones can make driving safer and less stressful. After all, smartphones lead us to take our eyes off the road and focus attention elsewhere. Federal data from 2021 indicates that distracted driving was associated in 12% of fatal crashes and  8% in non-fatal ones. The actual rates  are higher since many drivers…

  • Electric Vehicles are Tailgating Superstars

    Electric Vehicles are Tailgating Superstars

    Tailgating should be on everyone’s mind after the LVIII Super Bowl.  It was a long party- in fact the longest Super Bowl game in history- and it also had, if you count, the fewest number of ads for new cars. There were just four car advertisements, and three of them touted electric vehicle models (EVs)…

  • The Big Freeze: Storytelling for Electric Vehicles

    The Big Freeze: Storytelling for Electric Vehicles

    Baby it’s cold outside….but the EV stories are heating up. Particularly the ones that favor the status quo.

  • Smiles or Miles: Highway Message Boards

    Smiles or Miles: Highway Message Boards

    Airline passengers are used to seeing those funny safety videos before they take-off, memorable clips of penguins tightening their seatbelts or diving for oxygen masks. But If you are traveling by car, you are going to be seeing more messages that tell you to buckle up, and fewer messages that are going to make you…

  • Teens, Bikes, Social Bad

    Dear Ms. Smartphone:  Wondering what to do about these kids. There are a few boys in my neighborhood who ride in the middle of the road on little electric scooters. They also do jumps and wheelies on these bikes. All the street traffic has to slow down around them. At least they do wear helmets.…

  • The Phone You Drive: Convergence 2024

    The Phone You Drive: Convergence 2024

    As columnists look back on year-end 2023, many cite how generative AI broke into the news cycle and now threatens their job security.  Generative AI is not an upstart, yet the public awareness of its advanced significantly during the past year. Another trend with AI underpinnings,  is the continuing convergence of transportation and communications.  The…

  • Future Cars Will Talk

    Autonomous cars may be headed your way and they will be in dialogue. Today, Google’s Waymo vehicles display your personal initials when they arrive at your pickup. But they lack an advance way to communicate more information. That will change and future cars will talk. It’s called a “tertiary language.”   “Tertiary language” is not a…

  • Cars That Talk

    Cars That Talk

    Autonomous cars are coming for you soon, and they will be talking. While Google cars already display your personal initials in robo-taxi mode, they lack an advance dialogue to communicate with humans outside the vehicle. That will change. There is a new literacy about to spring forth in Google’s fleet. It’s called a “tertiary language.”  …

  • Smartphone for Bad Sense of Direction

    Smartphone for Bad Sense of Direction

    Dear Ms. Smartphone: Do you think it’s ok for me to take a job driving Uber or Lyft even though I have a horrible sense of direction? I feel turned around and get lost very easily. My family always makes fun of this and acts surprised if I show up on time!  I’ll have to…

  • Is Smartphone Entry a Target for Car Thieves?

    Is Smartphone Entry a Target for Car Thieves?

    High-end cars open doors with just a Bluetooth enabled phone connection. Does that make them easier to steal? Or does it just make you pull out your phone more often?

  • Nomophobia and Grandma

    Nomophobia and Grandma

    Grandma panicked when we lost cell service on the road. Was it the road trip or was it a case of senior nomophobia?!

  • Is Texting Distracting?

    Is Texting Distracting?

    Dear Ms. Smartphone: I got pulled over by a CHP (California Highway Patrol) officer when I was stopped but looking down at my phone. For me, texting is not distracting. I was waiting at a long red light and reading an urgent text sent by our babysitter. Did I really do anything wrong here? The…

  • Crash Detection for Smartphone

    Crash Detection for Smartphone

    Dear Ms. Smartphone: Over the past few weeks I have read stories where journalists total their cars to find out if the Crash Detection for smartphone feature works. Then, this week there was a story about these iPhones dialing emergency workers when riders wearing watches with that feature were upside down on roller coasters. If…

  • Is  Web Camera in Car a Good Idea?

    Is Web Camera in Car a Good Idea?

    Always looking ahead! Should I think about a webcam?

  • Do I Need a Parking App?

    Do I Need a Parking App?

    “I would have missed the graduation if I had spent time downloading the app…”

  • Roadtrip with Phone Apps

    Roadtrip with Phone Apps

    Ready for a summer road-trip? Grab your phone but read this first!

  • Drivers Hold Phones…Why?

    Drivers Hold Phones…Why?

    Take time to make a real connection between your car, your phone, and your brain!

  • Cell Phone in the Car?

    Cell Phone in the Car?

    Dad and husband are hung up on my car phone. Cannot hang it up!

  • Phones Don’t Work in Emergency

    Phones Don’t Work in Emergency

    The power went out….the phone line went down….what next?

  • Safe to Bike Post Covid?

    Safe to Bike Post Covid?

    Dear Ms. Smartphone, I was getting my bike fixed, and they showed me a copy of the op-ed you wrote during Covid about commuters and ebikes. I know there are rules about driving and bikes- what about ebikes and phones?! Do you still think it is safe to bike post Covid? I am worried about…

  • Teen Ready for Smartphone?

    Teen Ready for Smartphone?

    Dear Ms. Smartphone: My Dad reads this column aloud to my brother and me so I hope he will see this. I am ten years old and my birthday is next month. I am responsible and accountable. How do I tell my Dad I am ready to have my own smartphone? Emma, Novato Dear Emma:…

  • Phones Morphing into Cars?

    Phones Morphing into Cars?

    Dear Ms. Smartphone: Are phones becoming cars or vice versa? My friend took me out for a ride in his new car and whipped out a phone when he wanted to unlock the doors and move it  forward a few feet. Then I read in the news this week that Apple, the company that makes…

  • Zoom App on Phone Good?

    Zoom App on Phone Good?

    Zoom Zoom is for Motorways….not for cars.

  • Kids Use Ipad in Car?

    Kids Use Ipad in Car?

    Long car trip, many miles to go with 1 dog and 2 kids..should we bring out the Ipads?

  • Is Move To Suburb Good for Kids?

    Is Move To Suburb Good for Kids?

    An urban Grandma asks when kids move out do they use the Internet less?

  • Uber for Flip-phone?

    Uber for Flip-phone?

    Are you able to get Uber or Lyft if you only have a flip phone?

  • Hands-Free Enforcement?

    Hands-Free Enforcement?

    Delivery driver says the phone is a lifeline …hands-free, seriously?

  • Hands-Free Necessary?

    Hands-Free Necessary?

    Hands-free an option for older phone and older car?

  • Fake News and Smartphones

    Fake News and Smartphones

    A prankster creates Fake Road Traffic with a set of Smartphones…

  • Phones & RideHail?

    Phones & RideHail?

    Is it rude to the driver if I make a phone call during an Uber trip? What’s the etiquette here?

  • Older People And New Cars?

    Older People And New Cars?

    Mom and Dad are getting older. Do they need a safer car?

  • Privacy & Teen Drivers

    Privacy & Teen Drivers

    Data logger could expose teen’s bad driving behavior…or coach her to driver safer. What about her data privacy?

  • Telematics and Teens

    Telematics and Teens

    Surprise! Having a smartphone in the car could make you a safer & better driver.

  • Pedestrian Safety & Phone

    Pedestrian Safety & Phone

    It’s crazy out there…phones, cars, and pedestrians. Heads up and more.

  • Should Citizens Use Phones to Report Traffic Violations?

    Should Citizens Use Phones to Report Traffic Violations?

    Some communities will let private citizens upload pictures of traffic violations..what’s next?

  • Is Passenger Phone Safe to Answer?

    Is Passenger Phone Safe to Answer?

    Dear Ms. Smartphone: I noticed that you often take questions about drivers using phones. How about the case when a passenger uses their phone in the car, but someone else is driving them? Is this a safety issue or is it OK to do? TT, San Francisco Dear TT: You question caught me off-guard, probably…

  • Should I Track Teen’s Driving?

    Should I Track Teen’s Driving?

    Should I secretly install a device that can track my teen’s distracted driving?

  • Phones and Handsfree

    Phones and Handsfree

    Dear Ms. Smartphone: I had a near-miss when texting. I will no longer be driving this way! It turns out that the lease on my car is about to expire so what would be a better choice when I go car-shopping? Quentin, Sausalito Dear Quentin: I don’t do vehicle research, but I can guide you…

  • Teens, Phones, Carpools

    Teens, Phones, Carpools

    Dear Ms. Smartphone: I am a stay-at-home Mom and drive a carpool for my son and two girls, grades 8 and 9. They all take out their phones as soon as they get in my car. I try to ask them questions about school or find songs on the radio they might like. That doesn’t…

  • Phone and Driver

    Phone and Driver

    Dear Ms. Smartphone: Why do I feel the need to answer my phone when I am in the car? I know it is not safe, but I still feel the need to pick up the call. I feel so conflicted by this. K.P, San Francisco Dear K.P. You didn’t state your age, but before smartphones…

  • Who Drives the GPS?

    Who Drives the GPS?

    DEAR MS. SMARTPHONE: WHEN I DRIVE WITH MY BOYFRIEND HE LIKES TO USE HIS SMARTPHONE TO GIVE ME DIRECTIONS. BUT HE  TURN DOWN THE VOLUME, AND THEN FORGETS TO REPEAT SOME OF THE INFORMATION. THEN HE GETS MAD AT ME FOR MISSING TURNS! Annie, Antioch Dear Annie: It sounds like a control issue but no…

  • Dear Smartphone: Rideshare Safety

    Dear Smartphone: Rideshare Safety

    DEAR MS.SMARTPHONE: I COMMUTE INTO SF  AND I ALSO TAKE A LOT OF RIDESHARE TRIPS. THIS TIME OF YEAR THERE’S A LOT OF FOCUS ON DRIVING SOBER AND SAFELY. I’VE NOTICED THAT UBER AND LYFT DRIVERS SPEND A LOT OF TIME ON THEIR PHONE AND I SEE THEM CLICKING TO FIND NEW ROUTES, ADD AND…

  • Dear Smartphone: Is Map Skill Overkill?

    DEAR MS. SMARTPHONE: MY SISTER AND I DISAGREE ON THIS ISSUE. WE WERE BOTH TAUGHT TO READ MAPS WHEN WE TOOK A FAMILY CAR  TRIP. MY SISTER SAYS TIMES HAVE CHANGED AND WE CAN RELY ON THE MAPS ON OUR PHONES.  I THINK THAT MAP READING SKILLS ARE VALUABLE AND SCHOOLS SHOULD CONTINUE TO TEACH…

  • Dear Smartphone: Teen in Car

    DEAR MS. SMARTPHONE: I AM THE MOTHER OF A TEEN AGE BOY. HE GOT HIS DRIVER’S LICENSE LAST YEAR. I LET HIM USE MY CAR ON WEEKENDS AND WHEN HE GOES ON A DATE. I JUST RECEIVED A TEXT MESSAGE THAT HE PROBABLY MEANT TO SEND TO HIS FRIENDS. I AM FAIRLY SURE HE WAS…

  • Dear Smartphone: Who Ya Gonna Call? No One!

    DEAR MS. SMARTPHONE: I KNOW YOU WANT TO MAKE PEOPLE AWARE OF DISTRACTED DRIVING. MY FAMILY AND I JUST GOT BACK FROM A VACATION IN COLORADO AND THEIR ROAD SIGNS SAID, “WHO YA’ GONNA CALL? NOBODY, YOU’RE DRIVING.” I THOUGHT YOU MIGHT LIKE THAT. SORRY I DID NOT TAKE A PICTURE. Fred, San Mateo Dear…

  • Dear Smartphone: Hands- Free Phone

    DEAR MS. SMARTPHONE: MY HUSBAND AND I HAVE A DISAGREEMENT. HE SAYS THAT IT IS SAFE TO USE A HANDS-FREE PHONE WHEN HE DRIVES. HE SAYS IT IS NO DIFFERENT THAN TALKING TO A PASSENGER SITTING IN THE FRONT SEAT.  I DISAGREE, AND I TRY NOT TO USE MY PHONE IN THE CAR AT ALL.…

  • Dear Smartphone: Car Shopping or Car Playing?

    DEAR MS. SMARTPHONE:  I AM OLD ENOUGH TO GET MY OWN CAR AND HAVE BEEN SHOPPING FOR A USED ONE WITH MY PARENTS. WE REALLY DISAGREE ON THE FEATURES. I WANT A CAR THAT HAS APPLE CARPLAY  SO THAT I CAN SEE THE MAPS, AND STREAM MUSIC AND DO OTHER THINGS. MY PARENTS DON’T SEE…