The Kayak of Auto Insurance: The Zebra
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Type: Auto Insurance Comparison Tool
Best Website For: Comparing Auto Insurance
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The Zebra earns its place by being one of the only sites you can use to compare auto insurance prices. The site compares rates from hundreds of different companies.
It sounds like something out of a dystopian thriller – the idea that no matter where you go in your own car, someone could be tracking those movements. But to a large degree, it’s already happening. In fact, it’s commonplace.
5 Ways You’re Being Tracked Right Now
For most people reading this, there’s a good chance that one or more of these technologies is already tracking your movements when you go for a drive.
1. Your New Car
Many vehicles made within the past few years include technology that actively tracks the vehicle’s movements. You may feel like it’s wrong that they could do that without telling you, but they would argue that they do tell you. It’s included somewhere in the pages of paperwork you sign on the day you buy the car, buried in legalese most people don’t bother to read.
Right now, there are 78 million cars on the road that have this kind of tracking technology. And experts expect that within a few years 98% of all new cars sold will include it.
Within a few years nearly all new cars sold will include tracking technology, so make sure you check the fine print at the dealer before driving off.Share on Twitter
2. Your Car’s Entertainment System
If you ever hook your smartphone into your car with Bluetooth or a USB connection, your car’s entertainment system can access lots of data saved on your device. According to one investigative report, this includes your phone book, call logs, text messages, pictures, location data – just about everything you can think of.
As of now, there’s not much regulation around how companies can use that data. At least one company, Berla, makes the information available to law enforcement agencies in a number of states (though with a proper court order).
3. Smartphone Apps
Both Android and Apple smartphones have location tracking built in. And for most people, not only does your smartphone track your movements, but you probably have a number of apps that do as well. (You probably see apps ask if they can access your location information all the time. They can only do that because the smartphone is already tracking it.)
A number of insurance companies offer usage-based insurance programs where you can install a telematics device in your car that tracks your driving habits, ideally to reward you for driving safely and/or minimally. Companies that have these programs are required to disclose just what data they’re looking at, so if you choose to use one, you know what it’s tracking.
The good news about telematics devices is that they’re generally your choice to use.
Event data recorders, sometimes referred to as a car’s “black box” are included in almost every new car. These recorders collect data on your driving behavior in order to record important information during an accident, like the speed the car was going and how fast the airbag was deployed.
The use of EDRs is much more limited than the other technologies on this list. They don’t keep a continual record of your driving habits or transmit that information anywhere. EDRs only become available if someone intentionally accesses the information, like after a crash.
The Privacy Risks of Being Tracked
There are some very real issues that can come with that breach of privacy:
- Law enforcement agencies can use information against you. This is a growing fear many people have, especially as we see news or entertainment showing law enforcement using their power for not-good. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency gets criticism now for using license plate tracking in their attempts to find undocumented immigrants, and the data could potentially be used to track people who participate in protests or other acts of civil disobedience.
- Private companies could use information to cost you money. Already many companies use data about your behaviors, preferences, and purchasing habits to create more opportunities to sell to you. Data may also reveal changes in the risk you pose, so insurance companies could use it against you. While telematics programs claim to be about helping participants save money, at least one (from Progressive) has started to charge drivers for unsafe driving behaviors. If usage-based insurance programs cease to be optional in the future, your driving choices could end up costing you more whether you agree to be tracked or not.
- Individuals could use it to track your movements. If a hacker or other malicious person can access systems which track your movements, your privacy and safety are obviously at serious risk.
How do you opt out?
Unfortunately, you can’t opt out completely of every type of location tracking explored above, but you do have some options to reduce how much you’re being tracked.
To start, you can turn off the tracking on your smartphone.
- For an iPhone, look for the Privacy section under settings. Location services is right at the top and you can either turn it off across the board, or review all the apps using it and selectively choose which to remove permissions from.
- For Android, you can turn off location tracking by choosing Settings while in Google Maps. From there, choose Google Location settings, then Google Location Reporting, and select off.
For cars, the best you can do is read the information provided before you buy. Most new cars will have some type of location tracking technology included, but they have to provide you information on it upfront, you just have to actually read that stack of paperwork they give you to learn the details.
And you can choose not to hook your smartphone up to your entertainment system to avoid letting your car in on all of that data as well.
But Wait! 4 Ways Location Tracking is Actually Beneficial to You
Here’s the deal though, giving up privacy is a tradeoff. If you do opt out of these features, you’re giving up a certain amount of convenience and safety. Keeping location tracking live in your car and on various devices:
- Makes you easier to find in an emergency – Right now, 911 isn’t good at tracking people in need, but you can use an app like RapidSOS to alert emergency services to your location based on smartphone data. But the app requires your phone’s location tracking to work.
- Provides data that improves safety features and city planning – The data from your car and a lot of these apps can help companies better understand trends in how people drive and why accidents happen. That can help them design safer cars, safer cities, and figure out ways to reduce traffic and other annoyances of daily life.
- Enables a lot of apps that make life more convenient – If you want to use Uber and Lyft, you have to leave location tracking on. If you want Yelp to show you the closest coffee shop or Gas Buddy to help you find cheap gas nearby, same thing. Keeping your privacy means giving up that convenience.
- Makes you an informed consumer – Taking usage-based insurance or telematics programs as an example, you can use the insights derived from your driving behavior data to make smarter and safer decisions about how, when, and where you drive, which not only could save you money – it could help you prevent accidents, vehicle theft, or other dangerous situations.
For many consumers, the convenience and safety is worth the loss of privacy or there wouldn’t be so many popular apps that require this technology. If you find it scarier than helpful though, be thoughtful about privacy issues when buying your next car and as you use your smartphone each day.
The post Tracking Technology: Your Car Is Definitely Watching You – But That Might Not Be a Bad Thing appeared first on Quoted.
Most of us were raised with the warning to not get into strangers’ cars, but the ridesharing economy has required us to do just that to get around. Even though there’s a cultural shift where getting into a stranger’s car makes sense, there are always a few bad apples in any group – and the background check process for drivers isn’t incredibly strict. You can’t forego all pretense of safety and security when taking an Uber or Lyft ride; riders must also take responsibility of your situation and surroundings, trust your instincts, and know when and how to get out away from those creepy Uber drivers.
Verify the Nitty-Gritty of Your Ride
While on a trip in Miami, Karen (name protected for anonymity) waited patiently for her Uber. When a car pulled up and the driver told Karen her Uber had arrived, she checked the app to see if this was truly her ride. It wasn’t.
Neither the car or its plates matched the information shown in the app, so Karen asked for the driver’s name. He responded with a question of his own: “What’s the name of your driver?” – a red flag if ever there was one.
This driver was certainly not Karen’s Uber driver, if he was a rideshare driver at all. He could have simply been a creep trying to prey on a woman obviously waiting for her Uber to arrive, but Karen’s quick thinking and instinct to verify his identity foiled his “master plan.”
The tactic seems to be prevalent amongst creeps masquerading as rideshare drivers if the experience of Harley Quinn Smith, Kevin Smith’s 16-year old daughter, is any indication. In 2016, Harley waited for her Uber outside of a Starbucks in Los Angeles. A car displaying the Uber logo soon arrived, but, much like Karen, Smith sensed something was amiss.
During the brief exchange, the car’s occupants refused to identify themselves to Smith and appeared to not even have the Uber app installed on their phones. After Smith refused to get into the car despite the prodding of these would-be kidnappers, the car drove off.
“They were most definitely not Uber drivers,” Smith later posted to her Instagram.
Both Karen and Smith protected themselves by comparing the “Uber” that arrived to the information shown on the app. Before getting into a rideshare, verify that the make, model, license plate, and driver’s name and picture match what you’re expecting.
Know and Share Your Route
Many rideshare drivers maintain other jobs when they’re not busy ferrying folks around. Erika Weller’s driver, who she deemed “Creepy McMurderpants,” seemingly spent his free time fantasizing about Uber-related kidnappings and killings.
As “McMurderpants” drove Weller to work in a car that had a peculiar “metallic odor,” he waxed poetic about a number of recent acts of rideshare-related violence – particularly, Weller notes, those involving females. Such a subject isn’t the best choice for making small talk, especially coming from the mouth of a stranger behind the wheel of a car you’re stuck inside and who may or may not have some idea of where you live or work.
When the driver pulled into the parking lot of Weller’s office, he locked the car doors and casually implied that he, too, was more than capable of committing murder – and may have done so already. Weller panicked and protested and after making a strong demand to be set free, was finally able to escape the vehicle after the brushed his antics off as a “joke.”
Joke or not, Weller handled herself well, her repeated demands to be let free eventually culminating in just that. In a similar situation where the driver refuses to unlock the door, call 911 as quickly as possible and attempt to call for help while lowering or breaking the window for access to the outside door handle (opening the door from the outside will overcome the child safety locks).
It’s also a prudent idea to notify friends, family, or co-workers where you are and where you’re headed before getting into an Uber. Tapping “Share Status” in the Uber app will share a ride’s details to a contact of your choice, and Uber also tracks GPS location of both you and the driver so that your location is always known, even in a worst-case scenario.
Fake a Number
Uber anonymizes your phone number so that drivers aren’t privy to your real, personal number, but that doesn’t stop them from asking you – even going so far as to demand it while making you uncomfortable.
Thota Anusha was glad to be so near to her destination after being subject to her driver’s increasingly creepy sexual innuendos and advances throughout, but upon arrival to her destination, the driver asked for her phone number. Sensing he’d be a threat if she turned him down, Anusha gave him a fake phone number.
The driver instead demanded that Anusha call him from her phone then and there. She faked a missed call to him, grabbed her stuff, and took off, later filing a report with Uber and eventually receiving a refund.
Don’t Put All Your Trust in Ratings
The higher a driver’s rating, the more fares they’ll pick up and earn, at least in theory. A driver with too low a rating will have fewer customers and less income (or even be kicked off a ridesharing service), so it’s important to a driver to have a high rating. Riders also choose drivers based on rating – the higher the rating, the more likely it is you’ll have a safe, comfortable trip (again, though, in theory).
“Marat” was so desperate to maintain his near-perfect rating that he may have falsely imprisoned one of his passengers, refusing to let her exit his car unless she gave him a five-star rating, then and there.
Though the passenger rightfully did not want Marat accessing her phone, she ultimately made the safest choice in allowing Marat to do something arbitrary and ineffective – rate himself. After Marat gave himself five stars, he allowed his passenger to leave his car.
Though the passenger chose not to call the police after this incident, Uber recommends doing so in such cases where you feel unsafe. The passenger did file a report with Uber and also cautions riders to carry personal defense products on them, such as pepper spray, to help provide a window of opportunity to escape in a similar situation.
This passenger’s experience, while disconcerting, is a great example of the arbitrary nature of ratings, which don’t fully indicate the trustworthiness of a driver. How many other riders had Marat forced to give him a five-star rating? Use a driver’s rating as a benchmark and a general idea of what you can expect, but not a guarantee.
Safety with Strangers Demands Self-Awareness
Self-awareness is your best defense when riding in an Uber. Remain cognizant and vigilant of your surroundings and the goings-on around you. Put Uber’s rider safety tips into practice by informing friends and relatives where you’re leaving and heading, protect your personal information, and, most importantly, trust your gut. You know the difference between those creepy Uber drivers and just an honest mistake.
In recent years, there has been an alarming increase in cyclist fatalities in the U.S., and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the majority of fatal crashes involved a single car striking a cyclist with the front of the vehicle at non-intersections in urban areas. The “victor” of a collision between a 2,500-pound car and a 15-pound bicycle is almost certainly the car, though the driver certainly wouldn’t feel like a winner. In a worst-case scenario, a driver could face imprisonment and living with the guilt of severely injuring or killing a cyclist.
Cyclists are motorists too, and knowing how to share the road with bikes will eliminate some of your frustrations as a driver (trust me, I get you) and contribute to the safety of those with just as much of a right to the road as you.
The Safety and Expansion of Cycling-Friendly Infrastructure
A job I held in the past required that I navigate the often narrow streets of Newport, Rhode Island during the summer rush. Unlike my hometown, Newport made extensive use of dedicated and shared bike lanes that cyclists rightfully enjoyed, even if I white-knuckled my steering wheel in fear of accidentally running one. After a few weeks, I grew comfortable with sharing the road with cyclists, grateful for clearly-delineated bike lanes because I knew they increased the safety of cyclists – and lessened the likelihood I’d accidentally hurt someone.
More than half of American adults worry about being hit by a car while cycling, yet 47 percent claim they’d be more likely to bike if cars and bikes were physically separated. This has an interesting correlation to the introduction or expansion of bike-friendly paths and lanes in cities, as only three percent of cycling fatalities between 2010 and 2015 occurred in bicycle lanes. As cities continue to build up cycling-friendly infrastructure, like Austin’s bike traffic lights, bike ridership tends to increase.
However, just because a bike lane exists doesn’t mean you’re absolved of your responsibility as a driver and can trust cyclists to stay in their lane. Roads belong to them just as much as they do drivers of cars, trucks, and other four-plus-wheeled vehicles, so you need to learn to share.
6 Tips for Sharing the Road with Cyclists (Without Losing Your Cool)
It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re stuck behind someone pedaling along at a speed less than most posted speed limits (the average speed of a bicycle is about 15 miles per hour), but cyclists have as much of a right to be on the road as cars do. Keeping the following tips in mind will not only protect a rider’s safety, but keep you cool and composed behind the wheel, too.
Adopt the Dutch Reach
The concept of dooring – opening a car door and striking a passing cyclist – may be humorous in a movie, but the reality is no laughing matter. In fact, dooring is dangerous, and has contributed to higher cyclist injuries and deaths in both Chicago and Toronto. At the same time, the growing popularity of bike-share initiatives and bike riding puts more cyclists on the street – and at risk of vehicle-related injuries and fatalities.
While the name sounds like a euphemism you’d learn of in middle school, the Dutch Reach actually refers to the Dutch practice of opening the driver’s side car door with the right hand. This motion pivots your whole body to bring your eyesight to your rear-view mirror and the street behind your car – the direction where cyclists may be coming from – and prevent you from dooring a passing rider.
The Dutch Reach is taught by default in the bike-friendly Netherlands, its namesake and birthplace, and is a good habit to develop, especially if you live in or are visiting a popular biking spot.
Put Down the Phone
When you’re behind the wheel, you need to remain focused on the actual task of driving. Almost all states ban texting while driving, while others permit only hands-free cell phone usage. With 76 of the 818 cycling deaths in 2015 attributed to distracted driving, it’s important to put the phone away while you’re behind the wheel for the safety of everyone you share the road with.
The Bike Lane is for Bikes Only
Bike lanes are dedicated safe zones for cyclists and help keep cyclists away from more dangerous traffic traveling in traditional driving lanes.
While cars can’t enter a bike lane, cyclists do not need to stay in the bike lane – particularly if there’s something blocking their path, like branches or debris, or they’re crossing the street or turning – so drivers need to stay aware of cyclists re-entering shared lanes. Pay attention to hand signals informing you of their intent, as well.
Pass on the Left
Most states require cyclists to ride as far to the right of a shared lane as is possible. When you pass, do so slowly, and fully understand the laws of your town and state. For example, Rhode Island permits passing a cyclist only when enough room exists for the cyclist to fall over sideways and not be hit by a vehicle.
Use Your Signals
It’s especially easy to collide into a cyclist when turning left or right. Use your signals to warn cyclists when you’ll be turning and what direction you’re going. If you’re unsure of whether or not you’ll make the turn in time, yield. An extra second or two spent waiting may very well save a life.
Maintain a Safe Distance
To date, 27 states require drivers to maintain at least three feet of distance between their cars and cyclists. A distance of three feet generally allows enough time between identifying a reason to brake and actually braking. Any less than that, and you run the risk of crashing.
Safety First for Cyclists
If I learned anything during that summer in Newport while spending over an hour in traffic to drive only two miles, it’s that patience is key when sharing the road with cyclists (and other motorists, of course). Once I accepted the fact that roads aren’t meant for cars alone and that actual people were on those bikes (and weren’t just slow-moving objects), I became much more cognizant for cyclists’ safety, and my route was much more pleasant (and less profanity-filled) than when it first began.
Being aware of your surroundings – and the cyclists therein – and having patience while driving increases the safety of everyone on the road. After all, we all just want to get where we’re going in one piece.
The post Sharing is Caring: How to Share the Road with Cyclists appeared first on Quoted.
You love the idea of picking up some extra cash by driving people around on the weekends, but you’ve been making do without a car and it doesn’t seem worth it to buy one just for a side hustle.
But wait! There are actually a couple of ways to become a rideshare driver without owning your own car:
- Renting a car to use for rideshare shifts
- Borrowing a car from someone you know to use
But for either option, you have to make sure the way you do it is legit. Here are the main things you need to know about becoming a rideshare driver without a car of your own.
Rideshare Driving with a Rental Car
You can’t rent just any car before heading out on a shift with Lyft. Any car you use when driving for a rideshare company has to be registered with the company. If you drive a car that isn’t registered, you risk being booted from the app and not being covered by their insurance if you get in an accident. It’s definitely not worth that kind of risk.
But have no fear, you do have rental options that will keep you on the right side of Uber and Lyft’s rules.
Where to Find a Car for Rideshare Driving
You’ve got four main choices for rideshare-friendly Lyft/ Uber car rentals:
Maven’s whole business model is based on renting cars to people wanting to do gig economy work like ridesharing or grocery delivery. They’ll provide you the information you need to get your car registered with the rideshare company for the length of your rental. Maven rents cars by the week, starting at $189 a week. They’re only available in a few main cities at this time, though.
HyreCar matches the cars of people who don’t use them much with the people wanting to rent them for rideshare shifts. They provide you all the information you need to register the car with Uber or Lyft, and their cars are available for rentals as short as two days long. They usually cost somewhere in the range of $25-$40 a day, with some car owners offering discounts for longer rentals.
If you want to keep everything in the same app, you can go directly through Uber’s rental program to get a car to drive. When you apply to be a driver, you can mark that you need a car and (as soon as you’re approved) you’ll be able to see your rental options. You can rent by the hour or the week, and prices vary based on the city.
Like Uber, Lyft offers their own rental program for drivers. You simply let Lyft know during the application process that you need a car and you’ll see available options after you’re approved. They also offer a Rental Rewards program where you can end up paying less on your rental based on the number of Lyft rides you give with it. Minimum rental periods and pricing vary based on the city you’re in.
Potential Car Rental Issues to Consider as a Rideshare Driver
These programs are designed to address most of the issues you might be worried about. Your insurance coverage is included in your rental fee, and these programs usually make it easy to load the car’s information to each of major rideshare apps. Once you add the car to your profile, it’s covered by the rideshare company’s insurance while you’re driving as well as any insurance provided by the rental company, and the correct picture will show up for riders looking out for your car.
Be aware that if you get in an accident in your Uber rental car, it may still influence your future car insurance premiums.
“Any claims you have would be covered under the rental company’s policy but would appear on your CLUE report,” The Zebra’s licensed insurance agent Ava Lynch said.
Insurance companies routinely run the CLUE report before starting a new policy with a customer to verify their driving record and determine their rates, and some run it for each renewal as well.
Rideshare Driving with a Borrowed Car
If you have a friend or family member with a car who is willing to let you borrow it for rideshare shifts (which is a big if), then this could be an option. Whether or not it’s a good idea depends on the particular circumstances, and Ava advises against it.
“It’s not as easy as ‘borrowing’ their vehicle,” she explains. “They would need to be added to the owner’s insurance policy as they would be using the vehicle frequently. This would cause the vehicle owner’s insurance policy to increase.”
That said, if you’ve discussed it and they’re on board, then all they need to do is add you to their insurance for the rideshare companies to be ok with you adding their car to your account.
Potential Issues to Consider When Using a Friend’s Car for Rideshare
The main concern is your friend’s car insurance and liability. Any accidents you have can influence what your friend pays for their monthly premiums – which is a real risk to ask them to take on.
If you drive their car regularly for rideshare shifts, you’ll also be putting wear and tear on it, which will lead to higher maintenance and repair costs over time.
If you end up using more than one car (either rentals or borrowed cars) for your rideshare driving, make sure everything you drive is added to your account on each app. Showing up in a car that looks different than what the rider expects can lead to low scores and complaints that could get you booted from the app. But both Uber and Lyft allow you to add multiple vehicles to your account and switch between them as needed.
The post Uber Car Rentals and Other Alternatives: How to Be a Rideshare Driver Without a Car appeared first on Quoted.
Well, we’ve done it again. We’ve gone and gotten super curious about how car insurance is impacting the 250 million drivers in the U.S. today – whether people are paying more or less than in recent years, what parts of the country have seen spiking or falling car insurance rates, and even how technology has changed impacted rates (or not).
And the result is The State of Auto Insurance 2018 Report.
At The Zebra, we prioritize educating and informing consumers about auto insurance, and that means giving them real data-driven insights into the factors that determine rates. This report explores the current state of auto insurance pricing as affected by dozens of key rating factors including where you live, what car you drive, your driving record, and even personal attributes, among many others.
Now our curiosity isn’t a typical kind, and insurance isn’t your typical subject. Because auto insurance is determined by thousands of different factors, we had to explore all those factors in every zip code across the U.S. to get a true picture of trends. And we did it. And that amounted to more than 52 million rates explored. Curiosity can take you down winding paths, let me tell ya.
And now on to the good stuff.
So, what is the State of Auto Insurance in 2018?
- Car insurance rates are higher than they’ve ever been, with a national average annual premium of $1,427 – that’s 20% higher than in 2011.
- The most expensive state for car insurance: Michigan ($2,610/year)
- The least expensive state: North Carolina ($865/year)
- The most expensive city: Detroit ($5,414/year)
- The least expensive city: Winston-Salem, NC ($774/year)
- Over the past few years, some states’ rates increased more than 60%, and others as little as 1%.
- In the same time, 10 states saw a net rate decrease, some by as much as 20%. Where did rates go down?
- Rate changes from year to year were as high as 9% nationally – and up to 45% in certain states.
Reactive to Technology (Well…Sometimes)
- Insurance companies are penalizing distracted drivers for the first time since the advent of cell phones, though still not nearly as much as for other dangerous traffic violations
- A ticket for texting or using your cell phone while driving would only raise your car insurance rates by 0.25% (or $3) in 2011. But now, the penalty is 16% (about $226) – a penalty increase of nearly 7500%.
- In contrast, a ticket for a DUI violation would have raised your rates by 68.4% (or $817) in 2011. Now, the penalty is 76.5% (or $1,092) – a penalty increase of about 34% (NOT to mention a current dollar amount for a DUI penalty nearly 5 times that of a distracted driving penalty).
- Vehicles with advanced anti-theft and safety technology may reduce theft and collisions, but insurance companies offer few, if any, discounts for having these features in your car.
- No anti-theft device saves even 1% on car insurance. These include passive and active disabling devices, tracking devices, and audible alarms.
- No safety device saves even 1% on car insurance. These include electronic stability control (which saves about $7 or 0.5%), driver alertness monitoring, lane departure warning, night vision devices, parking assist, rear view cameras, blind spot warning, collision preparation, and heads-up displays.
What causes changes in auto insurance rates?
Other findings explore how auto insurance rates change across the country and over time for factors that assess risk based on:
Who you are
- Your age
- Your gender
- Your credit Score
- Your marital Status
- Whether you rent or own a house or condo
- The highest level of education you’ve completed
- Your occupation
How you drive
- Violations and claims on your driving record
- Whether you drive for work, pleasure, etc.
- Your annual mileage
Your insurance coverage and buying behavior
- What levels of liability, comprehensive, and collision coverage you buy
- Your prior coverage
- Behaviors around when and how you purchase insurance
And, of course, your car
- Rates for approximately ~150 of the top makes and models by U.S. car sales
- New car technology: anti-theft and safety features in cars
- Use of telematics
Check out The Zebra’s 2018 State of Auto Insurance Report to see the full details, including rates and changes over time where you live.
There’s a lot of data here. (Did I mention more than 52 million rates?) You can also get a clear picture of how each of these many rating factors affects your risk and your rates by getting your free Insurability Score. Your Insurability Score is like a credit score for insurance that helps you understand how your own behaviors and characteristics (like your driving record, age, or credit score) affect what you pay for car insurance – and gives personalized tips so you take control to lower your rates.
Interested in more information or have a question about the data? Contact Research@TheZebra.com.
In the olden days when everyone still used landlines, you could count on an ambulance knowing exactly where to come find you whenever you called 911. When the rest of the world switched over to cell phones though, 911 technology stayed stuck in the past. That’s why if you call 911 today without knowing your location, they’ll have a hard time helping you – even though when you call an Uber, your driver has no trouble finding you. It’s one reason for a recent uptick in people turning to Uber or Lyft in emergencies, rather than an ambulance.
Around 80% of all 911 calls are made from cell phones, so when someone needs life-saving care, any extra time it takes for emergency responders to figure out where to go can be the difference between life and death. And even though everyone agrees this issue is important, finding a good solution has been difficult – and that’s with both the government and tech companies working to solve the problem.
So what are they trying to do about it? We’ve explored four projects trying to make 911 as fast as Uber.
When the rest of the world switched over to cell phones, 911 technology stayed stuck in the past. So how are the government and big tech joining forces to fix that?Share on Twitter
1. Next Generation 911
Right now in many places across the United States if you need to contact emergency services, your only option is to call. You can’t text or send a photo or image, like you can when contacting anybody else from your cell phone. Let’s think about that for a second. You can text your dentist or the host at the restaurant or, ahem, send pics of your car accident to your insurance agent to file a claim, but ya can’t text 911? Are we living in 2018 or…??
Anyway, Next Generation 911 (NG911) is the government’s effort to change that.
The goal is to move all 911 systems away from the analog network they were originally built on to an IP-based system that makes it possible to send texts and media to 911 responders, along with better location services.
This transition is a slow and expensive process that will require local government buy-in, which is why many states haven’t gotten any further than thinking about making the move.
2. National Emergency Address Database (NEAD)
Another government effort, the National Emergency Address Database (NEAD), borrows an idea from how the location technology used by many apps works. The reason Uber can find you so well is that your phone’s GPS doesn’t just depend on tracking the nearest cell phone tower for your location – which could be hundreds of yards away – it taps into all the wireless hot spots nearby to get an even closer read.
If the government’s systems could use those same wireless hot spots, their accuracy would come a lot closer to what Uber can pull off now. But they don’t have automatic access to that information; they have to work with companies like wireless and cable providers to build it.
As of now, people working on the NEAD think it will be working by later this year. But they’ve only just started building out the hot spot database, so that estimate could be overly hopeful.
3. Advanced Mobile Location
In its most recent OS update (iOS 11.3), Apple announced Advanced Mobile Location services. This feature ensures that any time a person makes a call to emergency services on their iPhone, the phone automatically sends its current location to emergency responders. But there’s a catch: it only works in places where the emergency system supports AML, and since the location is sent by SMS, that leaves out most of the United States, at least until they get NG911 set up.
Google offers something similar for Android phones and brags that their Emergency Location Service is supported by over 99% of Android devices. And yet it only works in a couple of countries.
While it’s a start, these features won’t be doing people in the United States much good for a while yet.
4. Rapid SOS
One company has made some progress in bridging the divide between the 911 system’s technology and the mobile technology that tracks user location. RapidSOS has an app that will provide your location data to any 911 system that works with one of the public safety software companies they partner with, which covers a lot more territory in the U.S. than NG911 currently does.
Their partners are the companies providing the software 911 operators use to take calls and dispatch emergency vehicles. By working with the software already in use rather than waiting for the slow, costly changeover to a new system, RapidSOS can hopscotch over the issues making progress so slow for other solutions.
There’s a catch, though. For RapidSOS to work, people have to use the app, which typically charges $49.99/year for a family plan or $29.99/year for an individual. In response to many devastating months of natural disasters in the U.S., though, RapidSOS has offered the app free of charge to new users for the next three years.
For the people who know about it and sign up for it, RapidSOS can be a good answer to the problem. But that’s still makes it only a partial solution – the company and app don’t have wide name recognition, so most people who call 911 are still going to have trouble answering that first question the operator asks, “Where are you?”
How long it will take before our phones can answer that simple question during the moment we need it most?
Shopping for a new(-to-you) car can be exciting…or downright frustrating. Unless you’re looking to buy online, chances are you’ll be visiting a number of local dealerships to find the best car to suit your needs, wants, and budget.
Many car dealerships know how to treat customers with respect and decency. Others, however, employ downright shady tactics to make a sale – ethics be damned. Learning how to recognize these shady behaviors will save you time and money, and generally make the car-buying process the smooth and exciting experience it should be.
Car Dealership Horror Stories
Sold! (But Not to You)
During his car search, Sean Coffey found a Honda Accord at a local dealership in Berkeley, California. As every car buyer should do (but often doesn’t), Coffey elected to have a pre-purchase inspection done prior to signing on the dotted line.
The inspection cost Coffey $75 (which is slightly below the average cost of car inspections), but while the process was underway, the dealership sold the car out from underneath him.
Coffey claims his “salesman was apologetic, but it sounded like the manager did it, and was par for the course with his approach.” After all, why wait and see what the inspection would uncover when another customer was willing to buy the car as-is?
Coffey’s recommends would-be car buyers write out a contract to buy the car contingent on it passing a pre-purchase inspection or not requiring repairs over a specific cost. “That way,” he says, “if there are bigger expenses, you can either walk away, or renegotiate the price.”
When Quoted’s Alyssa Connolly decided to sell her car, she started to reach out to local dealerships, only to discover that no dealer would buy it because the Carfax report flagged it as having incorrect mileage. Her dealership’s service department, she discovered, had misdocumented the car’s mileage, changing “1xxxx” miles to “2xxxx” inadvertently – clearly a huge discrepancy when reported to Carfax, and one that other dealers would assume was fraudulent.
Though the mileage was corrected during a subsequent service, the accurate alteration was never submitted to Carfax. During her attempt to sell her car, Connolly visited the service center and was given a corrected service history, signed by the manager, who documented the mileage issue as “human error.”
Still, other dealerships refused to purchase the car from Connolly at a market value corresponding to its proper mileage, and Toyota Customer Service put the burden of correcting the Carfax report on Connolly – with the added information that it could take upwards of one year for Carfax to correct the error, despite her lease ending within two weeks.
Connolly again returned to the Toyota dealership and was told that no attempt had been made to correct the error with Carfax and that she could sell it back to them – at a price well under its market value.
Connolly’s takeaway from the frustrating experience? Check the service records after every service and immediately bring attention to anything inaccurate or misreported.
Kirk Herzog visited a local dealership in Van Nuys, California, and was greeted by a kind employee who asked him about his trade-in. Herzog handed his keys over so the staff could take a look at the vehicle and provide him with an estimate of its value.
While he waited, a salesman showed Herzog what cars were for sale, all of which were out of his price range, even after being told the estimate of his trade-in. The salesman ignored Herzog’s budget and continued showing him cars out of his price range.
“I told him that since he was trying to sell me what he wanted me to buy and not what I wanted to buy that I wanted to leave,” Herzog says of the experience. The dealership again ignored him, refusing to give him his keys back as salesman after salesman walked over, trying to pressure Herzog into making a purchase not within his budget.
Finally, Herzog demanded his keys back and “ran out.” If you’re in the market for a new car, “Never, ever give them your keys,” he says.
Cash or GTFO
After someone crashed into me and totaled my truck, I was in the market for a new used car. Though I had a small bit of cash thanks to my insurance payout, I still needed to finance any purchase.
I went to a local car lot, desperate for a cheap car to get me back and forth to work. The place looked like the perfect setting of a crime film – dimly-lit and unwelcoming. Still, I wanted to consider all my options.
The inside of the dealership’s small office was cold and uninviting, and no one really seemed interested that I was there. After finally getting someone’s attention, I was told that the dealer only sold cars to customers who could buy a car in cash right then and there.
While they very well may have been a legitimate business, something seemed off about the situation, and I followed my gut and soon left.
9 Tips to Spare Your Sanity from Shady Car Salespeople
Dealing with a shady dealership may be frustrating, but it’s not impossible – and you may very well walk away with exactly the deal you wanted, especially if you show up prepared.
1. Have a Trusted Mechanic Inspect the Vehicle
Have a car inspected by a mechanic you know and trust to check that the vehicle doesn’t require expensive repairs. An inspection “will also address any aftermarket illegal modifications such as illegal window tint or exhaust,” says Matt Pinsker, a Judge Advocate in the U.S. Army Reserves, adjunct professor of criminal justice at Virginia Commonwealth University, practicing traffic defense attorney, and former prosecutor. “This can save you a lot of money on legal fees down the road.”
2. Do Your Own Research
Even if a dealership isn’t out to cheat you, a Carfax report you’re handed may be out-of-date or otherwise inaccurate. Show up to the dealership with a solid idea of the fair market price of your trade-in and any vehicles you’re considering buying. Shop around, too! One dealer’s markup may be substantially higher than another’s.
3. Check the VIN
Ask your local police station to verify a car’s VIN, or vehicle identification number, to ensure it matches the vehicle you’re planning on looking at – and that it’s not stolen property. The VIN will be displayed in numerous locations on the car, too; Pinsker recommends making sure the number is the same in each location. (If it’s not, that’s a sign that the car is using parts from another of the same model and likely had extensive body work done.)
4. Don’t Negotiate by Monthly Payment
Instead, Pinsker says to negotiate the “out-the-door price which includes the fees, licensing, taxes, etc.” This will prevent the dealer from adding any hidden expenses afterward. If you’re trading in your current vehicle, include its estimate in your negotiations, but “walk into the dealership with a print-out of the vehicle’s KBB or NADA value in your pocket, as well as any other comparable offers of the vehicle elsewhere.”
5. Prearrange Your Financing
Car dealerships generally earn a commission for helping you finance a car purchase, so it’s often a good idea to show up to a dealership armed with a written pre-approved loan from a trusted lender. Not only will it serve as a point of comparison with the dealership’s financing options, but, if the loan’s agreeable enough, you won’t have to pay the dealership’s finance reserve.
Some unscrupulous dealerships will demand you pay extra for financing a vehicle through other means. If this happens, “walk away immediately,” says John Mavrianos, co-founder of Motovise.com, a used car inspection service. If you do finance through the dealership, Mavrianos warns, “There are many small tricks shady dealers use to increase the money they make on financing so always double check all the numbers on your contract.”
6. Bring a Friend
Pinsker recommends bringing a friend or family member along with you to a dealership to discourage a salesman from pressuring you too much. The extra set of eyes and ears can also serve to point out any flaws in a deal or vehicle.
7. Hold Those Keys Tight
Dealers will often make excuses to ask for your keys and will be reluctant to give them back until you’ve made a purchase. The shadiest of them will, according to Pinsker, “misplace” your keys for a while, until you’ve either purchased a car or, like Herzog, had enough.
The record wait before one of Pinsker’s clients could get his keys back from an unscrupulous dealer? Two and a half hours before the keys were “found.”
8. Get Everything in Writing
Pinsker seconds Coffey’s recommendation to get any agreements in writing, from purchase contracts pending a satisfactory inspection to agreements that any necessary repairs be done prior to signing. Pinsker cites the perfect example for establishing a paper trail: “The dealer promised to take care of a scratch in the paint, but after the car was purchased, refused to do so unless paid $250 while simultaneously telling the buyer that normally he charges $350, and was giving my client a special.”
Document. Everything. (It’ll save you frustration and money in the long run.)
9. The Ultimate Trick to Overcoming a Shady Car Dealership: Walking
Remember that the dealer can’t make a sale unless you permit it. Knowing when to walk away keeps all of the power in your hands during the car buying process, so if at any time you feel uncomfortable with the way a negotiation or conversation is going, start walking.
In my personal experience, demonstrating your willingness to walk away will give you the leverage to get the deal you want – whether it’s a lower price or the dealer agreeing to make repairs before you sign on the dotted line – or it’ll just get you away from a bad situation altogether.
The post Car Dealership Fraud: 9 Ways to Avoid These Shady Practices appeared first on Quoted.
I’m a millennial, born right at the start of 1990. Growing up, I always imagined that the 2000s would be a time of tremendous technological advances. Of course there’s your flying cars, your robot housekeepers, and your travel by personal jetpack. And I always imagined that holographic entertainment would be ubiquitous. (Can you tell I watched a lot of Star Wars and Star Trek as a kid?)
Though we’re not quite there yet with those advances, some might say my dream of holographic entertainment is not that far off. And the coming 2018 Winter Olympics might just be the first major media event to make extensive use of technological innovations, promising to deliver the most immersive, interactive, and seemingly futuristic Olympic Games yet.
The Olympics Aren’t Watched on Just TV Anymore
The spectacle that is the Olympics occurs once every two-ish years, with millions of people worldwide tuning in to watch the games – most of them on television. But as our preferred methods of consuming media and entertainment evolve on pace with technological innovations, sporting events must adapt, and the Olympics are no exception.
TV viewership of the 2016 Summer Olympics was lower than in previous years, though when other entertainment platforms were factored in, overall viewership remained comparable. Obviously, fans are still interested in watching the games, but there’s substantial demand to view media through online means other than television – on devices that are omnipresent and convenient, such as phones, tablets, and VR equipment – and with more interactivity.
This creates a technological challenge for host nations and broadcasters, but also some unique opportunities.
As our methods of consuming media and entertainment evolve on pace with tech innovation, sporting events must adapt, and the Olympics are no exception.Share on Twitter
The Evolution of Watching the Olympics: From Ancient Stadiums to Virtual Reality
From their start in ancient Greece to their “modern” return in 1896, the Olympics could only be viewed if you were in attendance (you know…physically). And even then, the games couldn’t be watched as easily or by as many people as they are today. (Stadiums have come a long way). And it took another 68 years before the games were broadcast to a global audience.
Watching the Olympics in a Pre-Connected World
Though the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany were broadcast on TV, viewers had to be fairly local – the black-and-white closed-circuit broadcast was only viewable by athletes in the Olympic village and to the public in 25 “viewing rooms” in Berlin and the nearby cities of Leipzig and Potsdam.
TV viewership was similarly limited to local areas until 1956, when the Winter Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy were broadcast internationally to a handful of European countries. For the first time, the unique needs of television were considered when building the venue for the games, with stands built to minimize the effect of the sun on cameras.
The 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California marked the U.S. debut of televising the Olympics – and inspired a concept still used in sports today. When officials could not determine if a skier missed a gate in the men’s slalom, they asked CBS if they could review the tape, leading to the concept of instant reply.
Though the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy were broadcast live across Europe, coverage in North America was a little more time-consuming and convoluted. The games were taped and edited in Rome, then transported to Paris to be copied before being flown overseas to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico for broadcast. Despite the lengthy journey, many of the events were broadcast on the same day they were filmed. (Hats off to those editors!)
In comparison, international telecasting was a breeze in 1964 thanks to the Syncom 3, the first geostationary communication satellite. Just under six hours of black-and-white coverage were beamed to the U.S. from Tokyo, Japan.
The 1968 Olympics debuting the first coverage in color from Mexico City.
Technology Brings Home the Gold in the 21st Century
The internet made major waves shortly after the turn of the century, and broadcasters began to take advantage of its rising popularity by providing online video coverage of the 2004 Summer Olympics (though access to the coverage was restricted based on a viewer’s geographic location).
Just four years later, at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, thousands of hours of Olympic Games coverage were made available online. This also marked the first year the Olympics were broadcast in high-definition, making great use of the new technology.
In 2010, the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada used more than 285 kilometers of fiber-optics to help facilitate the broadcast to more than “3 billion viewers” – far more people than could ever attend the games in person (in fact almost half the population of Earth).
Countless vendors and technologies collaborated to keep viewers informed and engaged in an event. In contrast to the ancient games where attendees could only muse about the speed and dexterity of their favored athletes, the Vancouver venue used sensors to detect and transmit such information as an athlete came skiing down a mountain. A Cisco network allowed NBC to edit footage in real-time both on-site and at their home studio, a feat that required extraordinary amounts of bandwidth to transmit “gigabyte-sized files.” Viewers were able to watch and manipulate this content on a variety of devices – not just TVs – and to stream on those devices using Microsoft Silverlight.
In 2014, NBC Universal invested in a number of technologies to improve its broadcasts. The studios underwent a makeover with more real estate devoted to screens that could display virtual graphics to explain details of specific sports and events. Data such as an athlete’s speed or a simulated course could be shown while a host demonstrated likely scenarios or the science at play. LED floors were installed to bring more energy to the broadcast and encourage the host to move around to highlight different aspects of the games.
Even with all that tech, the IOC, broadcasters like NBC, and vendors must continually adapt to the growing and changing technological demands of Olympic viewers and fans.
The 2018 Olympics – a Showcase for Emerging Media Tech
The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea promise to be a dazzling showcase of some sweet, sweet tech.
South Korea is well-known for its mastery of all things tech, and the country intends to demonstrate that in Pyeongchang later this year. South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT, or information and communication technologies, will focus on five areas of technology during the 2018 Winter Olympics.
What should viewers expect for the 2018 Olympics?
The goal, according to the Ministry of Science and ICT, is for viewers to experience the games as if they’re actually watching in Pyeongchang. It’s a tall order, but it might not be that far-fetched.
A 5G network will provide the bandwidth and speeds needed to transmit high-quality content on demand – exactly the support needed to broadcast in ultra high-definition (UHD) and allow access to rich virtual and augmented reality environments.
Intel will use the 2018 Winter Olympics as a showcase for the capabilities of 5G and its True VR technology. True VR will allow viewers at home to manipulate camera angles and “engage in the content.” Numerous camera pods will create a 360-degree VR environment of 30 events and over 50 hours of coverage, which is then stitched together and broadcast either live or on-demand. Viewers can even “hear natural sound captured at each camera location” as they watch VR content, or feel transported to the slopes of Pyeongchang as a favorite athlete descends at breakneck speed.
Drones, of course, will be present at this year’s Olympic Games. Already widely-used in sporting events, drones continue to grow more useful and popular. They will be flying through the air to capture coverage and provide detailed measurements and analysis, in addition to creating visual spectacles and shows.
Studios will continue to make extensive use of emerging technology. NBC Sports’ Pyeongchang studio will use an LED wall to show information and data about the athletes and sports, or to maintain the atmosphere of the Winter Olympics by cycling through various landscapes.
With all this tech in place, viewers will be able to tune into the games however they see fit or find most convenient – or immersive.
While There’s No Holo-Olympics Yet…
…innovations are continuing to deliver the most immersive and “on-the-ground” feeling possible. That’s not entirely surprising, of course. With how many years pass between games, the way we consume media can change drastically, and it’s important that the Olympic Games are available to a global audience.
However you’re watching the Olympics this year – sitting on your couch with your 4K TV, under the blankets on your tablet, or in the office hiding a livestream in a window behind the TPS report you’re supposed to be filling out – the experience will likely feel almost as if you’re in Pyeongchang yourself (except hopefully warmer).
You’ve done your homework, worked with a qualified real estate agent, and feel like you’ve checked all the boxes (hah, literally) so you’re ready for your move. But despite your preparations, scammers and con artists might have a few curve balls to throw your way. And with something as big as a deal as buying a home, you need to be extra cautious. Consider these real estate scams even savvy homebuyers should be on guard for.
1. The Hacked Closing
You’re so close to the point of ownership. Your closing date is upon you, and you get an email from your real estate agent with instructions on where to wire your down payment. What do you do?
Real estate scammers hope you trust the email address you know, and that’s how they get you. According to Steven J.J. Weisman Esq. of Scamicide, this is one of the most common home-buying scams people experience.
“A cybercriminal hacks into the email account of someone involved in a real estate conveyances, such as the buyer, seller, lawyers, real estate agents or bankers involved in the mortgage,” he explains.
Because they have access to the emails, they know when the closing date is and contact the buyer with wiring instructions from an address they know at just the right moment for it to look legit. Then they lose their whole down payment.
The fix? Keep communication open with the people involved (over phone as well as email) – and pay in person.
Realtor Katie Messenger had a client nearly tricked by this type of scam, but they sensed something was off and checked in to be safe.
“The lender had already talked to them on the phone and explained how they needed to bring their down payment to closing, so when they got this email with wiring instructions, they immediately called me and asked why things had changed.”
2. Fake Tenants in Your Home
Imagine walking up to your new home the day after closing, putting your key in the lock and…finding it that it doesn’t work. While you’re trying to figure out what’s going on, someone walks up and asks why you’re trying to get into their home.
This happened to one of realtor Anthony Grosso’s clients. The supposed tenant appeared to be the victim of a common scam in which someone advertises as the landlord of a vacant property, creates a lease, takes a down payment, and even provides keys – only for the renter to realize someone else actually owns the property. The renters are usually victims in this case – they lose their deposit and first month’s rent to the scammer. But if they’ve already moved in, they could have renter’s rights and the new owner will have to go through a costly eviction process to get their own home back.
In the case of Grosso’s client, there was a twist.
“There was no fake agent,” he said. “They broke in themselves, changed the locks, and created a fake lease. This was a scam they did over and over, and since they played the victim, there were never criminal charges.”
How can you avoid this? It’s tricky since the law hasn’t really caught up with the crime. If the home you’re hoping to buy has been vacant for a while, ask if anyone has been checking on the property regularly. Look to see if it’s listed on Craigslist as a rental property. If you suspect there may be potential fraud, ask your agent about negotiating visits to check that the locks still work or the realtor’s lockbox is still in place. The most you can do is try to catch it happening before your purchase.
3. The Electrical Breaker Swap
This is a lower-stakes scam than some of the others, but still worth being aware of: swapping required electrical breakers for cheaper versions.
Arc fault breakers, which break the circuit when they detects an electric “arc” which may increase the risk of electrical fire, are more expensive than traditional circuit breakers, but they’re required by modern building codes. People who flip homes have to install them during renovation to be on the right side the law, but it adds around $800 to their costs.
As a result, Evan Roberts of Dependable Homebuyers says he’s seen examples of flippers who will return to the home and replace these expensive arc fault breakers with the cheaper traditional breakers, adding profit to their bottom line.
Luckily, this one has a relatively easy fix. When you’re setting up your inspection, ask the inspector to check the fault breaker for you. You can even ask them to show you what it looks like, so you’ll notice a difference if the seller switches it out before you move in.
4. Moving Companies Holding Your Belongings Hostage
Even if everything goes according to plan with the home buying process, you can still get conned during the move. Unfortunately, moving scams are extremely common and the federal government receives thousands of complaints every year.
But it can be hard to spot the bad apples before you choose a moving company, as my brother’s family learned the hard way. They went with a moving company that had both been recommended by a friend and had a good BBB rating, so they thought they’d done their due diligence. The quote of $3,500 seemed reasonable, but once they’d packed everything up they got a new bill for $7,000.
“This was our first move and since there was not a lot we could do and our stuff was already loaded, we signed the receipt,” said Jason Hicks.
This is how moving companies get you – once they have your stuff packed up, they can hold it hostage until you pay what they say you owe.
Making matters worse, once their items were delivered to the new home, “we realized we were missing a few things including a Wii, most of my tools, and a small TV.”
So what can you do? Check the reviews along with the BBB score. Ask for in-home estimates and get several. If you know what’s normal then you’ll be better at spotting too-good-to-be-true pricing that suggests a possible scam. And consider buying extra insurance to protect your belongings in the move, just to be safe.
The post 4 Real Estate Scams that Stump Even the Savviest Homebuyers appeared first on Quoted.
Whether you’re dozing off under the covers at home or in a hotel, you’re likely not too worried about your privacy—and for good reason. You can safely assume that your most intimate and personal moments are safe when you’re at home, away from the prying eyes of the public.
But what about a place you’ve rented on Airbnb or HomeAway, or a home you’re dog sitting in on Rover?
Each night, more than 2 million people stay in Airbnb accommodations. But these days, small, hidden, and easy-to-install surveillance equipment presents a new risk to guests who use home sharing services.
And we’re going to go ahead and assume you wouldn’t feel comfortable knowing that someone could spy on you while you undressed, slept, or even had more intimate moments.
It Sees You When You’re Sleeping…
…it knows when you’re awake (and what you’re up to).
In November 2017, Jason Scott’s colleague noticed a motion detector in the bedroom of his Airbnb. Sensing the device was out of place, Scott’s colleague pulled the device from the wall and discovered it was actually an IP camera streaming its feed elsewhere via the internet.
Scott’s colleague left the Airbnb, reported the host (who was suspended), and received a refund from Airbnb.
In Florida late last year, a vacationing Indiana couple rented an Airbnb from Wayne Natt, a host who, according to Fox 13, had used the service for more than two years and had more than 40 reviews on his profile. Yet during their stay, the couple discovered a camera disguised as a smoke detector aimed at their bed, which Natt said was used to record sex parties he hosted when not hosting an Airbnb guest.
The couple being spied upon had not been a part of those parties, nor had they consented to being recorded. Natt was later arrested and charged with video voyeurism and banned from Airbnb for violating its electronic surveillance device policy.
Another case two years ago details a couple discovering a camera hidden in a basket and aimed at their bed in their Airbnb rental. They then found additional cameras in both the kitchen and living room – cameras which had not been mentioned prior to booking the Airbnb.
In this case, too, Airbnb refunded the guests and continued to provide support to them.
So, surely this isn’t okay… right?
Your Expectation of Privacy in an Airbnb
Booking a hotel, Airbnb, or crashing on a friend’s couch entitles you to a certain expectation of privacy.
“Even if an owner lives in his home, he cannot record guests in the bathroom or in a guest bedroom,” says Charles Lee Mudd Jr., an attorney who specializes in the internet, technology, and privacy. “So if one allows guests to use rooms that have a presumption of privacy, this privacy should exclude the surreptitious recording – audio or video – of guests.”
Of course, not all hosts abide by this common sense philosophy due to security concerns, ignorance of laws and policies – or for more nefarious purposes, as we’ve seen above.
Self-Policing Communities Through Reviews
Airbnb, HomeAway, Rover, and other similar services utilize community review systems which allow guests to rate and review their entire home sharing experience. Was the home clean? Was the host cordial? Was free wifi provided?
Were there hidden cameras in the bathroom?
Positive reviews aren’t a guarantee the host is an upstanding citizen—they may have simply continued to get away with their unethical spying. A host doesn’t need a lair fit for a supervillain in order to do evil – they just need a few bucks and an Amazon account to buy a camera disguised as a smoke detector.
But even if you assume other guests wouldn’t want hidden cameras in their Airbnb – and would raise the flag if they found them – the issue is actually finding them. Where are these devices? How does an Average Joe know where to look?
You Don’t Need Batman’s Skills to Identify Hidden Spy Devices
Put away your utility belt (and grab your smartphone).
“Modern spy equipment is small and can be hidden almost anywhere, making it very difficult to find, even by trained professionals,” says Jack Plaxe, founder and managing director of Louisville, KY-based Security Consulting Alliance.
There are plenty of places and methods to hide surveillance devices, too.
“Cameras can be placed in alarm clocks, power adapters, light bulbs, smoke detectors, photo frames, stuffed animals, and mirrors. Most cameras are wireless, battery powered, and require no tech skills to install,” warns Justin Lavelle, Chief Communications Officer of BeenVerified.
Considering how easily such devices are hidden, it can be an uphill struggle trying to figure out if you’re being spied on. Some tips from Lavelle:
- Look for wires in unexpected places or wires that don’t seem to go anywhere (you’ll still occasionally find these though most new models are wireless).
- Check for lights where they don’t belong – this can easily be done by turning off the lights and looking around the room.
- Listen for a soft click or buzz of a motion-sensitive camera when you walk by.
- Check for small holes in walls or other places (it only takes a pinhole for a camera lens to see into a room).
- Check out camera-detecting apps for your smartphone such as Glint Finder and Spy Hidden Camera Detector. If you do find surveillance, you can easily turn it off or cover it for your own protection.
- If you’re really concerned about surveillance, you can also purchase a professional-quality hidden camera detector for about $100.
You’ve Been Spied Upon—Now What?
Though uncovering a hidden device can be incredibly jolting, you’re not at the mercy of the creep who installed it. Properly documenting your findings and contacting the authorities will nullify at least some of the sting of having your privacy invaded – and likely get you your money back. A few steps:
1. Compile Evidence
Photograph each hidden device and where you found it, as well as anything else out of the ordinary (why does a teddy bear have wires coming from it?).
“It’s always a smart idea in any rental situation to take before and after photos as well,” says Lavelle.
Doing so will not only help you in the event you discover any hidden devices, but will also protect you against false claims of destruction of property or policy violations – the same as when you’re signing a lease to rent an apartment.
2. Contact the Authorities
Contacting the police and the home sharing service you rented through will likely be the start of an investigation into your host – and any potential violations of the law or the service’s policies.
Airbnb promises to “take privacy issues extremely seriously and [has] a zero-tolerance policy against this behavior,” by cooperating with authorities and banning hosts found to be in violation of its surveillance policy.
Obviously, you may also be refunded the cost of the rental if Airbnb determines the host was spying on you in violation of its policies.
3. Court is Now in Session
You may also be entitled to some sort of legal recourse. According to Mudd, there exists the possibility of civil claims against the owner for privacy torts, “intrusion upon seclusion,” and if the host is truly creepy and publicized any recorded footage, for public disclosure of private act.
Can You Still Feel Safe When Home Sharing?
Though the possibility exists for an unscrupulous host to breach your privacy, the likelihood of one doing so is slim.
“Most hosts are probably honest people simply interested in making some extra money,” says Plaxe.
Home sharing creates interesting and unique experiences for guests and hosts alike. For the most part, these experiences are positive and happen without a hitch, but you can help guarantee you’ll enjoy your trip by being vigilant both before and during your stay.
Car sharing services like Zipcar and Car2Go allow city dwellers to forego car ownership without losing all of the perks. You can skip out on car insurance and repair costs, but still be able to hop into a car when you decide to take a quick jaunt to a friend’s house or to the grocery store and have all those bags to carry. Easy breezy, wind-in-your-hair freedom, right? Until you rear-end someone and have absolutely. no. clue. what to do next. What do you do if you crash a Zipcar or Car2Go?
The Official Policies
All of the main car sharing companies provide their members with insurance that covers you while you’re driving their cars. Each of them has different guidelines on how they handle it when a car is damaged while customers use it.
Zipcar provides insurance for members “who comply with the membership contract” of up to $25,000 for property damage and $300,000 for bodily damage (up to $100,000 per person). But they will charge you a $1,000 damage fee per incident, unless you choose to pay the damage waiver fee they offer in advance of the accident.
Car2Go provides insurance that covers members who use their cars for the legal state minimum liability (what protects the other driver in an accident you cause) up to $300,000 – as long as the driver has followed all of their rules. Car2Go charges a $1 Driver Protection fee for each ride in order to keep the deductible low for drivers, so you shouldn’t have to pay any more than $250 in the face of an accident (though technically could pay “between $0 and $1,000” if found at fault).
Unlike Car2Go and Zipcar, Turo is a peer-to-peer car sharing service. People who don’t use their cars that often rent them out to earn some extra cash. They have different protection service packages drivers can choose at the time they rent the car, so the consequences you’ll face if you get into an accident are partially up to you.
Here’s their breakdown of what you’ll pay after an accident based on the package you choose:
- Premium Package – $500
- Basic Package – $500-$3,000
- No package – $500-$3,000 (ultimate assessed costs can be up to the full value of the car, plus related costs)
In all three cases, they’ll charge you $500 before the damage is assessed, but refund you the difference if the cost is less than that.
Big note: If your own car insurance covers your use of rental cars, then you may not need their protection packages. But that’s a good thing to double-check before you decide. If you decline protection coverage, you could be responsible for the full cost of damages.
Like Turo, Getaround lets people rent cars from other people not currently using them. Their insurance policy is a bit simpler though. They insure all renters for up to $1 million. For most cars, there’s a $1,000 damage fee for each collision, but that jumps up to $2,500 for cars worth over $80,000.
All of these companies stress the importance of reporting any damages right away (well, after checking if anyone is hurt and calling the police). Whether or not the company encourages it (most will), it’s smart to give a shared car a close look-over before you start driving it so you won’t be held responsible by any damages caused by previous drivers.
3 Times Car Sharing Insurance Doesn’t Cut It
In most cases, these policies will go a long way in keeping you from facing high costs after an accident, but they don’t necessarily let you off scot-free. What do you need to know?
1.If your accident causes damages that exceed the cost their insurance covers, then you could still be left owing a lot.
2.If the car sharing company determines that you were not following the rules of their memberships agreement at the time of the accident, you won’t get the benefit of that insurance coverage – if anything.
- On top of that, a wreck in a shared car can cost you more in future car insurance costs if the insurance company that handles it files a claim that shows up on your CLUE report.
“If your current personal car insurance company sees an at-fault accident on your CLUE report, they might raise your rates,” The Zebra’s licensed insurance agent Ava Lynch explains. “It is not as likely that they’d check your CLUE report once you’re an existing customer, but when you want to check your rates or find a better rate elsewhere, your accident could follow you for 3-5 years after the incident.”
So while you’re mostly covered in a worst-case scenario, it’s still important to drive at least as carefully in a shared car as you would your own. The insurance your car sharing company offers will keep the consequences of a wreck from being catastrophic, but it won’t mean you don’t face any consequences at all.
When you’re watching nature documentaries or heading to the zoo, wildlife is fascinating and often beautiful. When it makes its way into your home though, not so much. Rodents can get into your food, cause a number of diseases, and chew through electrical wires. Many bugs, snakes, and scorpions can bite or sting, and even the ones that won’t hurt you give most people the heebie jeebies.
Most of us don’t think much about the possibility of pests in our homes until they’re already there. But by then, you’re having to deal with the consequences of having them around and the trouble of getting them out – which is no small thing. Obviously, prevention is preferable, but here are a few tips you can use to pest-proof your home now and save yourself future trouble.
1. Find and seal off any entry points
For pests to come into your home, they have to find a way in. And they’re good at it – even the smallest hole or opening can be enough, and critters like squirrels can chew their own openings if they have trouble finding an existing one.
Make a habit of going around your house to look for trouble spots – also a very good idea to do if you’re looking to buy a home! They could be:
- Holes in your siding or trim
- Broken screens in your windows or in the vents in your attics
- Spots where the door or window doesn’t close all the way
- Cracks or gaps in the foundation
- Extra space in the holes made to run the wires for utilities into the home (like your washer and dryer)
If you have pests and can’t figure out an entry point, keep an eye out for where they seem to show up. After trying everything he could to get rid of rodents in his house, Alex Rohen called in professionals. “They told me that the rodents were not coming from the garbage, but coming from my pipes,” he explains. He’d noticed they seem to show up first around the garbage disposal, but hadn’t realized rats could enter pipes.
Plus: don’t forget to block both the obvious (and not-so-obvious) “shelters”
Depending on where you grew up and where you live now, there might be certain objects or spaces that appeal to critters that you might not overlook. Consider gutters, drain pipes, window boxes, chimneys, porches, basements and attics – everything.
Tom, a homeowner with a backyard gazebo that gets few visitors in the cold midwest winter, told us the cold doesn’t stop skunks from seeking shelter under it. Tom had to go inside the gazebo to stomp around and scare the skunk out (fortunately spooking it enough to run away and not spray him), and then he blocked off the entry points with cinder blocks.
2. Keep things clean and dry
Trash looks and smells pretty good to bugs, and having lots of clutter or litter in your home or yard gives rodents and snakes more places to hide. It’s also a good idea to store your trash away from the house. The bugs that are attracted to it are less likely to move from the trash bin to the house if you store it a few feet away from the structure.
And when you clean regularly, you have lots of chances to notice the signs of possible infestations by seeing bugs themselves or noticing rodent droppings, so you’ll know to address the problem before it gets too bad.
And clean means dry, too. Particularly in drier climates, critters (including cockroaches – halp!) seek water inside. So don’t leave standing water in your home and make sure to close up entry points in sinks to keep them from seeking a drink in your humble abode.
3. Seal your food (and your pup’s)
Let’s not give rodents and bugs too much credit. They are interested in food, water, and staying alive. So that means if there is a food source, those lil buggers will find it.
You can’t stop eating in your home, but you can make the food you have less noticeable and accessible to the pests in your area. Keep the food and ingredients in your pantry stored in sealed containers that lock all things out (except you, of course, you have a cookie – just clean up the crumbs.)
Also, don’t leave pet food out for long periods of time or let dirty dishes pile up in the sink. Just because it’s not appetizing to you doesn’t mean other living beings won’t drool over it.
4. Keep your trees and brush trimmed
Tree branches that hang close to the side of your house or your roof give rodents an easy way to access your house. Any overgrown grass and bushes around your house serve as good hiding spots for scorpions, snakes, and rodents. If you’re helping them hide from their predators, you’re giving them a reason to stay close.
Also walk the yard to look for holes that snakes may want to use as a den and fill them in. If they don’t have comfy spots to curl up in, they’re less likely to stick around.
5. Don’t kill snakes or spiders if you can help it
This tip may sound counterintuitive, but spiders eat other bugs and snakes eat rodents. You don’t want snakes and spiders in your home, but having them around will mean dealing with other types of pests less.
Timmy Griffin from 24/7 Pest Control recalls a huge spider that settled into a spot on the outside of his window for weeks. “While he was up in that corner not a single fly came in even though the window was opened.”
If you can stand to keep these particular pests around, they’ll help you with the others.
Pests are a part of life, but they don’t have to be a part of the time you spend at home. Doing some preventative work now can help you keep most bugs and rodents out of your space so you can enjoy it yourself in peace.
The post Snakes on a Roof! But for Real: How to Snake-Proof Your Home (and Other Tips for Pest Control) appeared first on Quoted.
This past May, I took a road trip from Rhode Island to West Virginia to attend a friend’s wedding. Despite the impressive sight of New York City and the beautiful landscape of rural Maryland, a constant thought kept swirling through my head as I drove: “I should’ve flown.”
But a road trip was far more economical for me compared to the cost of a flight. Having just started my own business, every dollar counted and driving would get me more bang for my buck—especially when my car averaged 40 highway miles per gallon.
When Car Meets Guardrail
As luck would have it, my return trip home turned into unexpected disaster: my car hit a patch of gravel on an exit ramp juuuust right and smashed head-on into a guardrail. Totaled? You bet.
With my driver’s side door pinned against a steel signpost and the hood peeled back like the lid of a soup can, I was forced to crawl across the center console and out of the passenger side to land in some mud (awesome!).
Thankfully, a passerby in a pickup stopped to slow traffic and shield me from speeding cars while I collected myself and realized what, exactly, had just happened. While he dialed 911, I pillaged my car of my few valuables before snapping a few photos to file a claim through my insurance company’s phone app.
I totaled my car 450 miles from home, which is much different than getting into an accident a few minutes from home. I learned some valuable road trip lessons while staring at my wreck, watching the signpost overhead teetering back and forth, ripped from its moorings by my Kia careening into the side of it.
While I didn’t learn how to rewind time to save my car, I did discover some advice to spare others some sanity, energy, and cash after a crash.
Make a Plan B…and C
My plan A was to drive to and from West Virginia without issue. Boarding a plane the next day looking as if I lost a fight with Conor McGregor? Definitely not my plan B.
No one expects to wreck their car on a road trip—I certainly didn’t. Standing in the middle of a highway wondering how to get home isn’t my idea of a fun time. It helps to have a backup plan in mind, especially if your car decides to realize its destiny as a tuna can.
After my accident, a couple of friends helped me compare the cost and timeframe of getting home via a rental (no thanks, I wasn’t driving again so soon), a bus, train, or plane. After we each researched for a few hours, an overnight stay in a local hotel and a flight back home turned out to be the most cost-effective and timely way for me to get back to RI.
Before leaving on a road trip, figure out some loose ballpark plans for getting home in case of an emergency. Have a rough idea of how much money you’d need to spend to get home, which method fits your schedule, and the general location of major transport hubs.
Swing by the Bank Before You Leave
My “economical” road trip turned out not to be so economical after all.
The additional and unexpected cost of hiring an Uber, renting a hotel room, and buying a next-day plane ticket cost a little over $400. I was also hit with an additional $150 citation for “reckless driving leading to destruction of state property” for the damage done to the signpost and the guardrail.
In hindsight, I should have never ventured out on a road trip without first establishing a small emergency fund. Having a safety net of savings would have spared me from borrowing money from a friend to get home.
Get the Junk out of Your Trunk
If you’re like me, your car trunk is probably loaded with stuff you’ll take out “eventually” or that you “might need.” Before doing any long-distance driving, get the junk out of your trunk.
Some of my belongings—like a ceramic space heater I never brought into my house after moving—had to be left behind in my car after the wreck. Other things, like a toolbox full of heavy tools, had to be carried through an airport and checked into luggage—with an additional fee—on my flight home.
Chances are you won’t need a toolbox, space heater, and set of pots and pans at any point during your road trip, but you probably don’t want to leave them behind—or check them in as luggage—if you get into a car accident. Clean your car out before you leave home; you can always load your crap back into it as soon as you pull into your own driveway once again.
What You Should Know About Your Car Insurance Before a Road Trip
When I spoke to an insurance agent the day after my crash, I was told that my coverage included personal injury protection, which meant a visit to the hospital would have been covered by my car insurance even though I lacked health insurance.
This little nugget of knowledge made me wonder what other lesser-known benefits car insurance offers relevant to road trips, so I asked Ava Lynch, a licensed insurance agent at The Zebra, what drivers should know about their insurance coverage before heading off on a road trip.
Car insurance follows your car, not you
Driving from Rhode Island to West Virginia took 12 hours, which was the farthest I’d feel comfortable driving by myself in one go. If you’ve planned a road trip of a similar length or longer, chances are you’ll be switching off driving duties with a partner (or stopping somewhere to rest).
Car insurance follows the car, not the driver, so as long as you’ve given consent for a buddy to get behind the wheel while you catch a few Z’s, your car insurance would cover an accident or crash.
Call your agent before crossing international borders
Ava recommends contacting your insurance company about your coverage options before crossing any international borders. Your coverage may not be as extensive in Mexico as it is stateside, though your normal coverage should apply if you were to hop on into Canada for a bit.
Rental insurance: do you need it?
Rental car insurance may be costly if purchased from the rental car company, but your own car insurance—or credit card—may provide some rental coverage. Ava recommends contacting your insurance agent to understand which coverage—specifically comprehensive and collision coverage, if any—extends to rental cars and if your deductibles will still apply.
How to Deal with the Aftermath
If your car’s become an accordion and you (and any passengers) are safe and whole, you may want to stick around for another day to collect any belongings from your car that you didn’t retrieve at the scene of the crash.
If your license plates are intact, be sure to take them with you or arrange for them to be shipped home. You’ll need your plates to cancel your registration or transfer it to a new vehicle. If they’re destroyed or lost, you’ll have to report your plates as lost or damaged to the DMV.
Knowledge is Power
It’s not fun trying to figure out what to do after a crash while standing in the median of a busy highway hundreds of miles from home. (Trust me.) Having a backup plan and knowledge of your options will spare you from the worst of post-accident anxiety.
The post What I Learned After Totaling My Car 450 Miles from Home appeared first on Quoted.
Even with smart cities and ridesharing on the rise, there are still hundreds of millions of cars on the road every day across the United States. So perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that there are hundreds of annual events and conferences that showcase those cars – and the technology behind them. Naturally, the lines between technology and the automotive industry are becoming increasingly blurred, so even tech-focused conferences have large auto elements. With so many events out there, it’s hard to know which ones are worth checking out. But that’s why we’re here. Check out The Zebra’s roundup of top auto and tech conferences in 2018:
Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, is always a place for the latest trends in technology, but the show has evolved to have a fully immersive automotive portion. Get a firsthand look at advances in connected vehicles and cities while seeing how companies are trying to ensure these cars remain secure despite having vast amounts personal data.
Why You Should Check It Out: Experience self-driving cars and learn about upcoming trends in vehicle technology
Details: January 9-12, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Cost: Early bird special through December 19 – $100 for an Exhibits Plus Pass, $700 for a Starter Conference Pass, $1,400 for a Deluxe Conference Pass. Normal prices are $300, $900, and $1,700 for the three types of passes, respectively. Open to ages 18 or older and affiliated with the consumer technology industry.
2. NAIAS (aka the Detroit Auto Show)
The North American International Auto Show, or NAIAS, is one of the largest auto events in the nation. Get a chance to see the cars and technology that will be shaping our roads in the coming years and decades. Whether you’re a fan of muscle cars, electric vehicles, high-performance supercars, or towering trucks, there’s something for everyone.
The week before the show starts, you can also join the AutoMobili-D conference, which dives into topics like connected cars and smart cities. If you’re handy with a camera, you can enter the NAIAS Photo Contest for a chance to win $150 Bose SoundSport wireless headphones. If photography isn’t your thing, you can enjoy a literal parade of cars, stars, and “a few special surprises” at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. daily.
Why You Should Check It Out: This show sports the largest concentration of the top automotive and technology executives, designers, engineers, and thought leaders throughout the world.
Details: January 20-28 in Detroit, Michigan
Cost: $14 for adults, $7 for seniors 65 and older and children between 7 and 12, free for children 6 and under. Open to the public.
3. Philly Auto Show
Perhaps more than any other car event, the Philly Auto Show likes socializing with its visitors. A select number of private owners can contribute their rides to the Classic, Car Club, and DUB displays. The Black Tie Tailgate invites attendees to enjoy a top-shelf open bar and custom cuisine while viewing the finest automobiles of the show. All proceeds benefit the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. And speaking of children, aspiring artists in 10th-12th grades can also contribute by designing posters for the event. The winning selections will be on display throughout the PA Convention Center and will appear in the official show program.
Why You Should Check It Out: No other auto show has a tailgate.
Details: January 27-February 4 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cost: $14 for adults, $7 for seniors 62 and older and children between 7 and 12, free for children 6 and under. Open to the public. Black Tie tickets range from $250 to $5,000.
4. Chicago Auto Show
The Chicago Automobile Trade Association has owned and produced North America’s largest auto show since 1935. The Chicago Auto Show will feature nearly 1,000 vehicles from 36 manufacturers this year. Visitors can hop into their favorite rides and take them for a spin on three indoor test tracks and six outdoor test drives. For drivers with children, February 12 is billed as “Family Day” with a host of additional activities for youngsters.
Why You Should Check It Out: Both a 2018 Ford Mustang and a 2018 Ford Expedition will be given away during the event.
Details: February 9-19 in Chicago, Illinois
Cost: $13 for adults, $7 for seniors 62 and older and children between 7 and 12, free for children 6 and under. Open to the public.
South by Southwest, or SXSW, is an ever-growing gathering diverse musical and film talent, entrepreneurs, innovators, and others discussing the most current issues and trends and debuting the next big thing in one whirlwind event. This year, as in the past few years, SXSW is paying special attention to how automobiles interact with the Internet of Things, and indeed to innovation in transportation as a whole.
In 2017 SXSW partnered with Mercedes-Benz to debut the “me Convention,” which put great minds from the creative, design, and technology fields together. We’ll see a handful of new looks into the automotive industry in 2018, with sessions like “Your Car Has X-Ray Vision” and “A Music Revolution in the Connected Dashboard.”
Why You Should Check It Out: It’s a gathering of brilliant minds and outstanding talent in, ahem, a pretty fantastic city.
Details: March 9-18 in Austin, Texas
Cost: $445 for an Education badge, $1125 for Interactive, Film, and Music badges, $1425 for a Platinum badge. Open to the public.
6. IBM Think
Attendees at the IBM Think conference can dive into connected vehicles and see how the automotive industry is transforming, thanks to technology. IBM conducts several studies per year in how people interact with technology, and a recent survey examined how consumers want to interact with their cars. As it turns out, we want to be highly involved in our rides, customizing every detail down to the dials on the control panel.
Why You Should Check It Out: This conference is backed by one of the biggest names in tech. You’re going to get thorough, in-depth analysis and insights.
Details: March 19-22 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Cost: Standard rate is $2,295; a one day pass is $895. Open to the public.
7. New York International Auto Show
The very first auto show in North America is still one of the best. At the New York International Auto Show nearly 1,000 cars and trucks will be on display over a span of four floors, showcasing both the latest in today’s vehicles as well as futuristic concept cars. If you’ve heard of a car company, you’ll see it at the show. And if you haven’t…you’ll still see it at the show. At the Inner Roadway, you can even ride along in models from Jeep and Toyota to get a truly immersive experience.
Why You Should Check It Out: You’ll get a taste of cars from every kind of company around.
Details: March 30-April 8 in New York City
Cost: $17 for adults, $7 for children 12 and under. Before December 26, tickets are $15 for adults and $6 for children. Open to the public.
8. Back to the 50s
You don’t have to have lived through the 50s to appreciate the style of some of the most classic cars. Put on by the Minnesota Street Rod Association, the Back to the 50s event is the premier place to see some of the most beautiful rides of the past. If you’re a real car junkie, you can head to the swap meet to pick up a spare part to complete your latest tune-up.
Why You Should Check It Out: The classic models are gorgeous!
Details: June 22-24 in St. Paul, Minnesota
Cost: $12 for adults, $10 if you stop by a NAPA Auto Parts store. Kids under 12 get in free with paying adult. Open to the public.
9. TechCrunch Disrupt
At TechCrunch Disrupt, the newest and most innovative startups from around the world make their appearances and try to wow the public (and the startup junkies who write for and read TechCrunch…guilty), and as connected cars play a more significant role in our lives, we’ll see even more on them at this event. Previous Disrupt events have had discussions around hacking into vehicles and how startups are looking to ride the momentum of flying cars.
Why You Should Check It Out: If it’s going to change vehicles as we know them, you’ll find it here.
Details: September 5-7 in San Francisco, California
Cost: Varies, but you can save up to $1,000 with early-bird registration. Open to the public.
10 L.A. Auto Show
With more than 1,000 cars on display, the Los Angeles Auto Show offers a west coast flair to car enthusiasts. Visitors can purchase cars onsite, check out renowned tuners, customized exotics and other goods and services in “The Garage” Aftermarket, and participate in the Design & Developer Challenge to help build a better L.A. for the future.
At this year’s event, you can test drive more than 100 cars, demo some virtual reality tech and other racing simulators, or snap a selfie with a bevy of celebrities like former NFL running back Steven Jackson, Laker dancers, and R2D2.
Why You Should Check It Out: Because it’s L.A., you’re going to get a flashy experience.
Details: November 30-December 9 in Los Angeles, California
Cost: $5-$15. Open to the public
Your TechWeek experience may vary based on what city you attend, as TechWeek hosts events in Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, Kansas City, Washington D.C., New York, Miami, Dallas, and Los Angeles. No matter the city, you’ll get a good mix of topics, from smart cities to financial technology, to our favorite: automotive connectivity.
Why You Should Check It Out: An excellent variety of presenters, from established leaders and investors to startups and talent cultivators.
Details: Dates vary, hosted in nine cities across the United States
Cost: Explorer tickets are free, Executive tickets cost $75 + applicable fees. Open to the public
Did your favorite event make this list? Is there another auto conference you think is worthwhile? Give us a shout in the comments.
The post 11 Car Shows and Auto Tech Events You Don’t Want to Miss in 2018 appeared first on Quoted.
December has been a month of milestones for bitcoin. On December 7, the value of one bitcoin reached $15,000 USD. Just weeks later, it’s close to reaching a valuation of $20,000.
While bitcoin is exciting to investors, it’s confusing to the rest of us. We even launched a poll to gauge what people knew about it (spoiler alert: not much).
Does Anyone Know What Bitcoin Is?
Out of curiosity (and our own amusement), we reached out to Twitter users to find out how many of them own bitcoin — or even know what it is.
The value of 1 Bitcoin has now surpassed $15,000 USD! Do you own Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency? For what, investing? Purchases? (Do you even know what it is…? ) Tell us.
— The Zebra (@TheZebraCo) December 7, 2017
Out of 2,818 respondents, 366 stated that they own bitcoin, 1,494 said they don’t, and 958 admitted that they don’t know what it is at all.
I don't understand bitcoin at all. Under what authority is it backed or guaranteed? Who handles exchanges, as in, what happens to the US dollars exchanged for bitcoin? Where does that money go? Why is the value so high? How much of it is tied to illegal activity?
— Great Blue Heron (@GreatBHeron) December 8, 2017
4 Basics of Bitcoin
- Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, a digital currency that is used as cash (though there’s no physical cash). Other cryptocurrencies include ethereum. You may have heard about CryptoKitties, too. Bitcoin with a capital “B” refers to the ledger, while the lowercase “b” bitcoin is a unit of the currency.
- Bitcoin was invented by an anonymous person or group under the alias Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009. The creators capped its circulation at 21 million. There are nearly 17 million in circulation right now, and at current rates, the remaining bitcoins are expected to be mined by 2140.
- Bitcoin is decentralized — that is, it’s not tied to any country or government. No single person or entity runs it, which means there is no regulation. It’s maintained by computers and volunteers. (What?!)
- Instead, Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer entity which doesn’t use banks to transact. This makes it anonymous and preferable to some over using credit cards, which are linked to personal information. (To some, this also makes it perfect for nefarious activity.)
How Bitcoin Works: The Simple Explanation
Bitcoin is mined (the digital version of gold mining) and released into circulation.
Hypothetically, anybody with the right computer can be a miner. These miners are volunteers who verify bitcoin transactions between users. Simply put, it’s like solving puzzles with hardware and software. (The video below is a great resource for grasping the concept of Bitcoin.)
Another term often paired with bitcoin is blockchain technology. The bitcoin transfers (data transactions) are put into a ledger. Miners verify this data and turn it into a blockchain (a giant database of public records)
Don’t want to mine for bitcoins? You can also purchase them in an exchange, like Coinbase.
Is There a Bitcoin Bubble?
At its peak, bitcoin saw a nearly 2,300 percent increase in value just in the last year alone.
In Texas, an attorney running for office launched his campaign using proceeds from bitcoin investments. Tech investors who turned their $800 bitcoin investment into hundreds of thousands of dollars have donated their portfolio to a South Carolina hospital (the exact amount wasn’t disclosed). Companies like Overstock.com, Expedia, and even Subway accept bitcoin. You can even purchase bitcoin futures on the trading floors now.
It may seem tempting to ditch your 401(k) and put all of your savings into bitcoin. However, experts warn that bitcoin might be in a bubble. Warren Buffet stated, “You can’t value bitcoin because it’s not a value-producing asset…it’s a real bubble in that sort of thing.” Buffet isn’t impressed with the volatile valuation at all. “People get excited from big price movements, and Wall Street accommodates.”
Some countries have even started banning cryptocurrencies. China banned Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) which have been used by startups to raise funds. This is the unregulated version of Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and leaves investors susceptible to fraud.
In the meantime, as the popularity of bitcoin soars, more retailers will accept bitcoins. Maybe you’ll even be able to buy car insurance with bitcoin, too.
The holidays are coming and you’re looking forward to the good food, the gifts, and the quality time with family members you don’t see often because they live far away. But one thing’s nagging at you amidst your excitement: you’re worried about leaving your home and stuff vulnerable while you’re away. So, to keep your home safe in your absence, you have two main options to consider: find a house sitter or let the robots do it for you (muahaha…wait, wrong holiday?) — that is, use home security tech to monitor your house.
Your Home Security Tech Options (and Their Costs)
As the smart home market explodes, you have a mix of new smart home safety products and the more familiar options that have been around for a while. If you’ve already started to invest in tech to make your home smarter, many of these options will connect to smart devices like Alexa and Google Home:
- Home security systems – Home security systems sound an alert when someone tries to enter the house without knowing the proper code. By drawing unwanted attention to a robbery in progress and alerting local law enforcement, they can work as a strong deterrent. But they often come with a high price tag, costing anywhere from $300 to over $1,600 just for installation, and another $15-$60 a month for ongoing monitoring.
- Surveillance camera – A camera will record anything that happens in your absence so you have evidence to show police if a robbery does occur. Smart security cameras can alert you at the moment a break-in is happening so you (and law enforcement) can react faster. Expect to pay at least $100 for the most basic camera you install yourself and over $1,000 for a multiple-camera system (plus monthly monitoring).
- Smart lighting – Trick people into thinking you’re home by turning smart lights on and off from an app. There’s even a smart light that turns on automatically when the doorbell rings that costs around $50. If you want to add smart lights to multiple rooms, you can get a starter pack for smart lighting for around $200.
- Smart locks – Remote access to your locks can both save you from accidentally leaving your home unlocked on a long trip and allow you to monitor if someone enters your home while you’re away. They cost around $300.
- Video doorbell – A video doorbell will alert you on your mobile device when someone’s at your door and let you see a video feed of what they do. A basic model costs less than $200, but some versions cost up to $500.
And in addition to being able to lock your door or turn lights on and off when you’re out of town, you can do so with voice commands to your smart home assistant. If compatibility between devices is important to you, you can get a rundown of what works with Alexa here and Google Home here.
Pros of Going with Home Tech vs. a House Sitter
Keeps you connected: Many of these options allow you to check in and know what’s happening in your home (or even control what’s happening) while you’re away.
Offers constant monitoring: As long as the tech is connected to a power source, you should be able to count on it to do its job 24/7.
You could save on insurance: Some home insurance companies provide discounts for homes that have monitored security systems and smart technology.
There’s evidence it works: There are lots of anecdotal examples of security tech doing its job. About six months after installing home security cameras, homeowner Lewis Scott told us, “Our street experienced a barrage of break-ins. Almost every house on our street was hit except ours.”
Security cameras capture videos of break-ins being stopped in progress, like the below one of a burglar in Idaho caught and arrested because of the homeowner’s smart security cameras. And in a survey of burglars, many said they’d leave a home immediately if they encountered an alarm or saw a security camera (although notably, not all of them).
And the Cons:
It costs a lot: See above re. prices and monthly fees to stay connected.
It’s not enough stop all thieves: In the aforementioned survey, some burglars said they weren’t deterred by the tech they encountered. Security systems can be disarmed and security cameras suggest the promise of valuables inside. In addition, you’re still dependent on how quickly the cops can get there to stop it. If you live in an area where police response times tend to be slow, a thief could feasibly get away with a lot in the time it takes authorities to get there.
That said, the robbers in the survey weren’t asked about smart tech, and many suggested that signs of someone being home were deterrents, so tech like the video doorbell and smart lights could potentially make a bigger difference than more traditional security tech options.
It can be hacked: Hackers have found vulnerabilities in smart home devices. In theory, someone could hack into your security tech and start controlling your home. But so far, there have been more stories about how it’s possible to hack these devices than examples of it happening.
Option 2… Call Up a House Sitter
A house sitter can keep an eye on things for you while you’re gone, but you have to find the right person for the job.
- Friend or family member – If someone close to you will be staying in the area for the holidays, they’re an obvious choice.
- Neighbor – Ask someone who lives nearby (and is trustworthy) to swing by your house periodically to check in.
- House sitting website – Websites and apps like Trusted House Sitters and Rover (not just a dog walking service!) let you browse profiles for house sitters in your area and see reviews and ratings from past clients. While it means letting a stranger into your home, the reviews provide some peace of mind that the sitters are trustworthy.
Pros of Going with a House Sitter vs. Home Tech
They can also water plants, get your mail, and take care of pets. These folks will often do more than just protect and monitor your home. And if they do take care of your pup, that’s an added thief deterrent, as many burglars say hearing a dog will keep them from breaking in.
Many thieves knock first. Many of the thieves surveyed said they consistently knock before trying to enter a house and if someone answers, they make an excuse and leave. For all the tricks to try to convince someone you’re home, having someone actually be home is proven to make a difference.
They’re cheaper than most tech options. Some house sitters are happy to do it for a free place to stay, and even the ones that charge will usually cost you less than having expensive new technology installed. (But hey, even “free” family/friend sitters would welcome a lil thank-you gift.)
And the Cons
You have to trust your house sitter. A bad house sitter can mean big trouble. They could trash your house, break things, steal from you, or invite someone over that does. Stories of house sitters turned robbers are rare, but there are some cautionary tales of bad apples out there, like this one whose date stole the family dog.
They won’t be there all the time. Tech can monitor your home 24/7, but a house sitter will likely leave the house to go to work, hang out with friends, or run errands. You can’t reasonably expect them to be there all the time, and when they’re gone, the home is less protected.
In short, either option will likely make your home safer, but both have their unique risks and benefits. You’ll have to figure out which option makes the most sense for your particular needs, home, and budget. Whichever you choose, let it take a load off so you can enjoy your holidays without the worry.
The post Alexa vs. Susie House Sitter: Who’s More Likely to Keep Your Home Safe When You’re Away for the Holidays? appeared first on Quoted.
As nice as drinking hot beverages and sitting by the fire can be, winter definitely has its downsides, and driving in winter weather is one of the biggest. We’d all like to make winter driving a little less painful, and we’ll take any #lifehacks we can get. However, there may come a time when a trick or habit crosses a line, legally speaking. Some of those winter driving hacks or habits could actually be against the law in some places. Here’s how to save yourself a ticket this year…
1. Using zip ties as tire chains
If you find yourself needing to drive in conditions that require tire chains, but you don’t have any around, you can easily find advice on the internet recommending DIY tire chains made from zip ties. There’s even a product from company ZipGripGo that sells a zip tie-like emergency traction aid. Don’t do it.
When a driver in California put this winter hack to the test, he got in hot water with the local authorities. Not only did they pull him over, but they blasted him on their Facebook page, telling followers “Don’t be this guy!” and confirming in the comments that using this type of product as tire chains in California is, in fact, against the law.
If you ever live or travel anywhere where you’re likely to need tire chains (which is likely to be hilly or mountainous regions that get hefty amounts of powder), go ahead and buy the real deal to keep in your car so you have them when you need them.
2. Idling to warm up your car
Ideally, you would head straight from one heated space to another during the cold winter months, but despite how cozy your home and office are, your car takes some time to warm up. It’s common for people to try to minimize that jolt of cold by starting their car a few minutes before they need to get going to let the heater run for a bit. But in most U.S. states, that’s illegal. In Washington D.C., you could even be subject to a fine as high as $5,000 if you get caught doing it.
Idling isn’t just a bad idea because it’s illegal though; it also makes it really easy for someone to steal your car. Stories of idling cars being stolen are more common than you might realize – 33 cars in 9 days in Edmonton, 19 over 4 days in Philadelphia – a quick Google search reveals how big of an issue it is. And idling doesn’t really warm up your car effectively anyways; you have to actually start driving to get the engine warm.
Oh, and it sucks for the environment, so we suggest layers and bundling up instead.
3. Using your hazards in bad weather
When it starts raining, snowing, or sleeting hard enough that you need to slow your speed to well below the speed limit, you may want to alert others by flashing your hazards. But next time you find yourself in a storm, rethink that impulse.
Many states have specific laws about when you can use your hazard lights, and driving in bad weather isn’t usually applicable. In fact, 10 states explicitly ban having your hazard lights on when you’re driving at all, since they can confuse other drivers who think you’re stopped or distract emergency crews who interpret them as indicating a traffic hazard or other problem.
If a storm is bad enough that you can’t drive safely in it, pull over until the worst passes. Otherwise, if you keep driving, keep those hazard lights off.
4. Leaving snow on your car or ice on your windshield
You’re in a hurry and you just want to get going. But no matter how rushed your morning has been, don’t forget to stop and wipe or shovel the snow off the top of your car before you start driving. Why? For one, a number of states have laws against driving with snow still on your car.
Further, the snow on the roof of your car could easily slide and block your windshield when you break. Or, if it flies off onto the car behind you, it can hurt their visibility or risk them getting into an accident. Some drivers have even been killed because of stray snow and ice from the top of a car.
And don’t forget the ice or frost on your windows. You may be impatient or in a hurry to get somewhere, but driving with impeded visibility because you can’t wait for the defroster to do its thing is just reckless. Countless people end up sideswiping other vehicles, hitting parked cars or much worse. Winter driving is risky enough without adding an extra danger due to casual laziness.
5. Using fog lights when there’s no fog
Some vehicles have fog lights installed in addition to headlights, which are useful for seeing more clearly on foggy days (as the name makes clear). But using them in clear weather can be blinding to other cars on the road. Some states therefore have laws banning their use whenever it’s not foggy out. If it’s dark or rainy, stick to using your usual headlights (not your brights!) and save the fog lights for actual fog.
Driving is dangerous in the best of times, but snow and ice up the stakes. Don’t let winter driving hacks or lazy habits increase your risk of injury, theft, or getting a ticket. Be cautious and patient and power through ‘til spring!
The post 5 Winter Driving Hacks & Habits That Are Actually Illegal appeared first on Quoted.
No broken windows. No lengthy process of wedging the door open. No hotwiring, no alarm, no concerned passerby dialing 911. “Beep beep,” unlock, vroom. A thief drives off like the car was theirs to begin with.
These sly car thieves have begun using devices that capture the signal from your key fob—those used to remotely lock and unlock your car’s doors—to gain entry to your car and drive off with no one the wiser.
Car theft has been on the rise in the last few years after a long period of decline. Though keyless ignitions aren’t the sole cause of this upward trend, the ease of stealing a car with a keyless ignition is considered a contributing factor.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau, or NICB, partnered with CarMax to conduct a non-scientific test to determine how easily a thief might get away with your car. The NICB tested 35 different makes and models of vehicles and was able to start and drive away with 18 of them—more than half of the vehicles tested.
Unfortunately, theft isn’t the only downside to keyless ignitions…
3 Risks and Dangers of Keyless Ignitions
Whether by accident or on purpose, keyless ignition technology poses other risks and hazards beyond simple vehicle theft.
1. Dude, Where’s My Car? Theft and Disappearing Cars
While we’ve spoken about the potential for thieves to hack and steal the signal from your keyless fob to gain access to your car’s interior, theft isn’t the only thing that can make your car disappear. And no, we’re not talking about a magic act, either.
Cars that require an old-fashioned key in the ignition don’t allow you to remove the key unless you’ve put the car in “park” first.
In contrast, you can get out of a car that uses a keyless ignition without putting the car in “park” or to engage the parking brake. This makes it possible for your car to simply roll away, potentially into a person or another vehicle. Bye, bye, baby (and hello higher insurance premiums).
2. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: A Silent and Deadly Danger
Keyless ignitions are convenient. Get into the car, press the button on the dash, and drive off. But what happens if you park your car (and actually put the car into “park”) and then walk away with the engine still running? Such a thing is made even more possible with how quiet some cars are now, as well.
Not realizing your car hasn’t been properly turned off can result in your home being flooded with deadly carbon monoxide. In fact, between 2009 and 2016, 19 deaths have been “specifically attributed to keyless ignition vehicles.”
3. The Frustration and Inconvenience of a Dead or Lost Fob
There’s nothing convenient about a keyless ignition if your fob is dead or lost. You can replace the battery (if you have a spare or are lucky enough to be near a store that sells them), unlock the door remotely (if you have roadside assistance in place already), or hope your fob includes a backup key.
While some car models do provide a way of entering and starting a car with a dead fob, not having your fob at all is even more inconvenient and will probably result in a call to AAA or a locksmith—and the surprising cost of a replacement key fob.
What is the Industry’s Solution to the Dangers of Keyless Ignitions?
Security: Legislators have introduced regulations to protect the safety and security of consumers and their cars. Manufacturers have worked to further encrypt their keyless fobs, “but ultimately there is no 100% guarantee for security.” For now, you can store your fobs in “Faraday cage sleeves” which (though they sound way cooler than they are) block the radio signal and the ability for thieves to intercept it.
Safety Measures: When it comes to preventing carbon monoxide poisoning, some cars will alert you that they’ve been left on and idle for awhile by sounding an alert inside the car’s interior, while others will honk the horn. A lawsuit was filed against 10 car manufacturers in an effort to require automatic shut-off functions in cars that use keyless ignitions, though not all are in favor of such an option.
As for the danger of your car rolling away? It’s on you. The NHTSA recommends reading your manual, making sure your car is in “park,” and engaging the parking brake.
3 Alternatives to Keyless Ignitions
Phone apps and additional physical hardware are alternatives to replicate the safety features we’ve grown accustomed to by directly combating some of the vulnerabilities caused by keyless ignitions.
1. “Siri, Start My Car”
Though our phones’ virtual assistants aren’t quite there just yet, phone apps are compelling alternatives to keyless entry and ignition systems. Volvo has been testing a smartphone-based app for its cars in a bid to replicate keyless entry and ignition through Bluetooth.
2. Kill Theft with a Kill Switch
Despite its badass name, a kill switch is nothing more than a simple device with an on/off toggle. Kill switches interrupt a car engine’s combustion process and prevent a thief getting away with your vehicle. You install the switch somewhere in your car – out of sight from a thief’s eyes – such as beneath the driver’s seat or in your glove box.
This gives you the power to flip the kill switch and start your car as you would normally by pressing the keyless ignition button. The thief would first have to find the switch – a potentially time-consuming or fruitless step that would likely deter them from picking your car to steal.
3. Start Your Car Remotely—While It’s Still Locked
Aftermarket remote starters are systems that allow you to start your car from a distance, without the need to unlock your doors. In the midst of a snowstorm and dreading the biting cold of your car’s interior while you’re waiting for it to warm up? With a remote starter, you can start the car and get the heat blasting so you’re nice and toasty as soon as you sit down.
Remote starters have long adopted the idea of keyless ignitions without many of the same downsides. And since your car can be started while it’s still locked, there’s less potential for it to be stolen—even if it’s just waiting to be driven away.
Plus: The Effect of Keyless Ignitions on Insurance Rates
We asked Ava Lynch, a licensed insurance agent here at The Zebra, how keyless ignitions impact car insurance rates. While there’s no hard data currently available, Ava said that insurance companies may consider a car’s keyless ignition as an additional risk, which might cost you more on insurance.
Why? Keyless ignitions have lead to an increase in vehicle theft and even a number of deaths, which could mean a rise in insurance claims and a resultant increase in rates. So is this happening?
The insurance industry can sometimes be a slow-moving beast so it may take years for underwriters to analyze the available data. If they do determine there is a correlation between cars with keyless ignitions and increase in claims, you may be on the hook for paying a slightly higher premium to offset the increased exposure to your insurance company.
Keyless ignitions are only one of the new technologies used in connected cars. It’s understood that the tech may experience some “growing pains,” as with most technological innovations, but manufacturers, regulatory bodies, and insurers must work out the kinks to develop solutions and strategies for deterring and preventing the increased theft and dangers caused by keyless ignitions.
The post Do Keyless Ignitions Actually Put Your Car – and Your Life – at Higher Risk? appeared first on Quoted.
If you fantasize about waking up in a place where you can see your entire abode from your bed or you fancy taking your home and all your belongings with you when wanderlust strikes, this might be a sign you should look into owning a tiny house. If you do find yourself thinking “small,” there are important things besides limited storage space to consider, not the least of which is tiny house insurance.
But first, let’s consider the tiny home living benefits:
- Custom-build your dream home – quickly
- Avoid getting into debt with a big mortgage
- Save on property taxes and home maintenance expenses
- Get off the grid, live minimally and reduce your environmental footprint
- Have the flexibility to up-stakes and move whenever the mood hits
- Even potential rental income if the tiny house is used as a guest or vacation home.
Still, along with the myriad benefits come a host of drawbacks. While the tiny home movement is gaining in popularity, would-be tiny house owners and builders are coming up against issues around zoning, building codes, and finding the right insurance coverage. Let’s get into it.
How to insure your tiny house
A few short years ago, it was hard to find any insurance company that would take on a tiny house. Unless it was classified as a recreational vehicle, most insurers didn’t quite know what to do with them. Nowadays, the tiny home movement is growing and just like the mobile home movement back in its day, a few long-sighted insurance providers and agents are gradually coming on board and figuring out ways to underwrite and offer specialty coverage for them.
If you are looking to build or buy a tiny house, it’s a good idea to speak with an insurer before you buy or begin construction on one.
Your 3 tiny house insurance options
To simplify an already complicated process, you may want to look for a company that specializes in providing insurance for alternative living structures – if there are any in your state.
There are a lot of variables to consider, but for insurance purposes, tiny homes can be categorized in three ways:
1. Fixed-foundation tiny house built by certified builder
A typical home insurance policy will cover you for the contents of your home, the structure of the home, and liability in case someone gets hurt on your property. However, because of the unique facets of a tiny home, there are exclusions to keep in mind. A conventional homeowners policy won’t cover theft of the house itself or any damage to the house when it’s in transit.
You can buy either a regular home insurance policy or a tiny home-specific policy (if it’s available) as long as a certified builder built your home and you plan on moving it rarely, if ever. Some providers will want to do an on-site inspection, and may also require a certified electrician to perform an inspection of your electrical system.
2. Mobile tiny house built by certified builder
If your tiny home is of the moveable variety, it gets a bit more complicated as it’s a combination of a residence and a recreational vehicle. RVs are defined as towable units with a maximum size of 400 square feet, built to stringent standards, and designed for temporary living. To get the seal from the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), your home will need to be built by one of their members and have a VIN attached.
If tiny houses on wheels are considered RVs and not suitable for permanent residence, how do you get around that if you plan to live in it all year? The good news is most insurance companies have “full timer’s” packages similar to homeowners policies that treat the home as a dwelling as opposed to an RV. However, the homeowners policy will no longer be in play if you connect your house to a tow switch. In this situation, ideally you want your insurer to include a trip endorsement that adds auto coverage in the form of comprehensive, collision and liability coverages to protect you while you’re on the road.
3. Fixed or mobile tiny house built by non-certified builder
The biggest benefit of tiny-house-specific insurance is that you can get coverage even if your home wasn’t built by a certified builder, since most regular homeowners policies will only cover certified constructions. If you’ve gone the DIY route, it’s a good idea to document your entire build with photos in case your insurance provider requires on-site and electrical inspections.
If you have a tough time finding tiny home coverage in your area, consider checking out companies that offer coverage to manufactured homes. If you try to go with a regular home insurance policy, keep in mind that if your house doesn’t comply with local building codes and zoning regulations, because it’s below a certain size and/or is on wheels, it may not qualify for a regular homeowners policy either.
The basic question for tiny home insurance
Despite the current confusion and lack of regulation in the movement’s nascent state, it looks like the popularity of tiny houses – and the freedom they offer – will continue to gain momentum. And sooner or later (hopefully sooner), the majority of insurance providers will figure out the best way to offer protection, and local authorities will standardize zoning ordinances and building code laws.
Until then, it may sound simplistic, but to ensure you’re adequately covered in the event of a claim, consider the type of property you actually own and ask yourself what risks your tiny home might pose.
For example, if your home is on a fixed foundation and built by a certified builder, ensure your coverage reflects any damages the property might sustain in that location. Or if your tiny house is on wheels, check that you’re covered to take it on the road and around other motor vehicles. And lastly, if you built your tiny home yourself and it’s non-certified, your coverage should protect the structure and the people it might hold as best it can.
Here’s to living big in your tiny house!
Hey Google, write this article for me. No? Okay, good—my career’s not in jeopardy yet! As smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home continue to grow in popularity, so do their functions and capabilities. Smart speakers can control our lighting, turn our TVs on with a voice command, and even control the locks to our doors. As the technology continues evolving, smart speakers have become capable of much more than what’s listed on the tin. Some little-known tips and tricks can truly help you get the most out of your Amazon Echo or Google Home.
1. Control All the Things
Over the past year, smart speaker use in the home has increased by seven percent in homes with internet service, and every day, more devices, appliances, and gadgets are added to the “internet of things.” Though Amazon Echo and Google Home work out of the box with a number of smart home devices, not all services and devices are natively supported.
Luckily, there’s a solution: both devices support IFTTT (IF This Then That, a third-party service). How it works: “If this [command is spoken], then [do that action].” Only you dictate what that command and action are.
IFTTT allows you to create “applets” and “recipes” which pair your device to an app or command that isn’t natively supported (or supported in a way you prefer). You can use IFTTT to turn your lights off when it’s time for bed, tell Amazon Echo to begin brewing coffee, or start your vacuum cleaner with Google Home.
IFTTT expands the functionality of your smart speakers to more fully encompass the smart home concept.
2. Help out in the Kitchen
Whether you’re a Gordon Ramsay clone or the act of cooking just makes you curse like him, both Amazon Echo and Google Home can serve as your virtual sous chef. Alexa and the Google Assistant can read recipes aloud, convert units of measurement, and maintain separate timers for every dish you’re cooking.
You can also maintain your shopping list as you cook. Happen to use the last of the bread for an afternoon grilled cheese? Simply say, “Alexa/Hey Google, add bread to my shopping list,” so you won’t forget to grab a loaf during your next grocery run.
Amazon Echo and Google Home helps you in the kitchen by keeping your food where it belongs—in a pan or dish, not smeared across an expensive screen by your greasy or sticky fingers.
3. Play Games with You
Amazon Echo and Google Home are loaded with games, easter eggs, and fun commands. Whether you’re playing a board game like Monopoly or an impromptu game of Dungeons & Dragons, both Alexa and Google Assistant will roll dice for you—even dice with a specialized number of sides.
The Echo and Google Home can also keep you informed about your favorite team’s score or standing in a league, which is quite helpful if you’re away from the TV or arguing with a friend about why this is your team’s year. Make sure you never miss a game again by asking, “Alexa/Hey Google, when is the next Cowboys game?” and then “Add to my calendar.”
“Easter eggs,” or secret commands, are hidden in both Amazon Echo and Google Home. Try asking, “Alexa, what is the meaning of life?” or “Hey Google, sing me happy birthday.” Play around with different questions or requests (or cheat and look up some lists) for a quick laugh or to kill some time.
4. Send Info to Your Phone
Have you ever been preparing to head off to a job interview in a part of town you’re not familiar with, but you’re running late while trying to tie your tie just right? Google Home can send directions straight to your phone with the command, “Hey Google, send this to my phone,” so you don’t have to spend precious time scurrying to pull up a map after you’re dressed.
Currently, this command only supports a handful of features and has the added caveat of requiring a device on which Google Assistant is activated. Additionally, both Google Home and your phone must be signed into the same Google account.
While Amazon Echo does not support a similar feature, you can create an IFTTT recipe to send notifications and information from Alexa to your phone or tablet.
5. Operate as an Intercom System
Amazon Echo and Google Home both support an intercom or broadcast function. This allows you to broadcast a custom message (and in the case of Google Home, additional presets and sounds) to other Echoes or Homes you’ve set up.
Google Home will broadcast to all devices signed into the same Google account, whereas Amazon Echo requires some setup beforehand—and can only broadcast to one device at a time. First, you must give each Echo device its own unique name (such as “kitchen”) and then enable the “drop-in” function on the Alexa app and each individual device.
As a bonus, Amazon Echo and Google Home can broadcast from their relevant phone apps to your network of devices. If you want to tell your family you’re stuck in traffic and will be late, fire up the app on your phone, say the appropriate voice command, and your message will be broadcast to your devices at home. That’s some Oz sh*t, right there.
Amazon and Google—as well as Microsoft, Apple, and other competing giants—continue to innovate and create cool new ways to use smart speakers as the building block of a modern smart home concept. As an estimated 55 percent of U.S. households use smart devices by 2022, time will tell what exciting new tricks these devices become capable of performing.
The post 5 Tricks You Didn’t Know Your Amazon Echo or Google Home Could Do appeared first on Quoted.
You get in an accident or your car is pummeled with hail. You need to figure out how to get your car fixed and what to do next. Filing a car insurance claim can be a long and confusing process. What should you document, whose insurance company should you contact, and how much might your claim affect your rates – these are just a few of the countless questions we get about filing a car insurance claim. So let’s break it down for ya.
First, when should you file a claim?
You might be surprised to learn that there is some gray area in terms of when you should and should not file a car insurance claim. Here are the occasions you definitely should file a claim:
- When someone is injured:
- Medical costs can add up to far higher amounts than property damage claims, and the impact isn’t always immediately apparent. If you’re found at fault in an accident and are unable to pay for the damages, you risk being sued without the backing of your insurance company.
- (Pro shouldn’t-need-to-be-a-tip tip: call 911 if anyone is injured in car accident – drivers, passengers, and pedestrians, included!)
- Uncertain scenarios:
- When it’s not entirely clear who is at fault in an accident, an insurance company’s (or multiple companies’) claims department will determine who is liable. They’re the experts – let them sort it out.
- “Total loss” scenarios or when you cannot afford to pay for the damages:
- A general rule of thumb with insurance claims is that if you’re able to pay for the damages out of pocket, you should consider doing so to avoid filing a claim and risking higher insurance rates. However, if your vehicle is totaled – like if a flood or bad car accident causes irreparable damage – you should file a claim with your insurance company to mediate the financial loss of your vehicle.
How to file a claim for an injury
As mentioned previously, if you’re in an accident where someone is hurt, it’s better to file a claim than try to pay out of pocket for any damages.
For most auto insurance policies, the only time you would file a bodily injury claim is when you are not at fault in an accident, meaning the other person caused you to sustain injuries requiring medical attention. In this case, you would be dealing with their insurance company to receive compensation rather than your own. (The only exception is if the other driver is uninsured, which is a critical reason you need uninsured motorist coverage!)
What to expect:
- Exchange information after an accident so you are prepared to call the other driver’s insurance company. Make sure you get the following:
- Name of all the drivers involved in the accident
- Address and phone number of drivers involved
- Year, make, model, and license plates of all vehicles involved in the accident
- Insurance policy numbers
- Photo of the accident scene from all sides and a photo of the other driver’(s) license, if possible
- You’ll be directed to the insurance company’s claims department, and you will ultimately be assigned a claims adjustor who will work with you through the entire reimbursement and recovery process.
- For a bodily injury claim, it’s important to have all the proper documentation:
- Date of your injury
- Description of the accident
- Medical bills and receipts (duplicated and document it all – however small!)
- All physician reports, including prognosis, length of treatment, and potential for further issues in the future
- Any prescribed medication (this can include additional appointments and equipment like casts and crutches)
- Outline of any lasting damages such as scarring, disability, or pain
Bear in mind, the goal of the other company’s claims adjustor is to mitigate damages for their insurance company (that is, they often want to pay as little as possible). So, while you should be honest with them regarding the incident and resultant injuries, be aware of them potentially trying to downplay your grievances.
How to file a claim for property damage
If the other driver is clearly at fault in an accident you’re involved in, you’ll start by contacting the at-fault driver’s insurance company to begin the claims process. Again, the only people who can determine fault in an accident are the insurance companies. So, if it’s not cut and dry, you’ll want to get your insurance company involved.
If you are at fault in an accident and want to file a claim with your own insurance company, you’ll need to make sure you have comprehensive and collision coverages (together often called “full coverage”), and that you are willing to pay your deductible and risk a premium increase upon filing a claim.
Whether it’s your company or the other driver’s, the company will assign your claim to a claims adjuster who will investigate the accident, get the damaged vehicle(s) repaired, and overall, resolve the claim.
What to expect:
- The claims adjustor will investigate the accident. Typically, this includes:
- Interviewing you regarding the accident
- Requesting official documentation such as medical or police reports, if applicable
- Physical inspection of the vehicle to evaluate the damage
- Compiling a report with the estimated cost of repair
- You’ll get your car repaired. The insurance company might suggest places for your to get your vehicle repaired; however, note that these are only suggestions. You are not required to use the mechanic your insurance company recommends, and in fact you may find better service elsewhere. A mechanic will review the damages to your vehicle and the cost and time estimate for the repairs. Usually, your insurance company will issue a claim check directly to the repair facility upon service completion. If, however, your vehicle is paid off and you’d prefer to accept the cash rather than have a fully repaired vehicle, you can request the check be given to you.
The claims timeline: what to expect
The timeline and the monetary consequences of filing a claim really depend on the severity of the claim.
First, it could take a while. If it’s easy for law enforcement and insurance companies to determine fault and if there are only superficial damages to the vehicles, the claims process should be pretty straightforward. However, if the claim involves injuries or a longer arbitration process to determine fault, it could be quite lengthy.
As for cost, what you pay of course depends on whether you’re at fault and your deductible. Outside of that, though, you may also incur increases to your insurance premium after filing a claim. For example, according to The Zebra’s own data, the national average annual premium would increase more than $600 after an at-fault accident claim. Moreover, this rate increase would apply to your policy for three years after the accident.
If you were found not at-fault for the accident, it is unlikely (but not impossible) for your rate to be affected. Some insurance companies see a single accident as indicative of you being more likely to be involved in another accident in the future and thus charge you an increase. Rest assured, however, that practice is unusual and several states even consider it illegal. Still, for this reason and to ensure you always have the right coverage for your needs and the best rate for your driving record, we encourage you to shop around for car insurance every six months.
The post How to File a Car Insurance Claim: Steps, Timing, and Costs to Expect appeared first on Quoted.
You hate it. I hate it. One of the few things in life that everyone can agree on is that traffic is the worst. (On average, it eats up 42 hours of your life each year.) One big benefit rideshare services including Uber and Lyft brought into our lives was making time spent sitting behind the wheel in traffic optional (for a price). But while a move from the driver’s seat to the backseat takes some of the pain of time spent in traffic away, several studies are now debating the question: does Uber make traffic worse? If you hail a ride, are you part of the problem?
One New Study Says Uber Makes Traffic Worse…
One of the most recent rideshare-related studies to make headlines surveyed 2,000 people in seven of the country’s biggest cities to learn about their transportation habits. The people were asked what transportation options they’d be most likely to use other than ridesharing apps if those weren’t an option and only 22% said they’d drive or take a taxi. Most people said they’d choose an option that would mean fewer cars on the road, whether that meant just staying home, carpooling, taking public transit, or choosing to walk or bike.
The results of the survey convinced the researchers that apps like Uber and Lyft not only fail to reduce traffic, but even make it worse. And many people on the roads share that conclusion. Some have even taken to Twitter to complain about Uber and Lyft making traffic in their cities worse.
Hey @MayorMeganBarry you should come down to the Nashville Airport and figure out the traffic mess. A couple hundred uber drivers have everything blocked. How about a decent bus or train system to/from #bna ?
— Adam Thrasher (@AdamThrasher) November 27, 2017
Rideshare companies give more than 150,000 rides per day in San Francisco alone. If the researchers are right that most of those rides are for people who otherwise wouldn’t be in a car at all, that would mean huge changes to the number of cars on the road.
…But Another Says Uber Makes Traffic Better
The aforementioned study drew conclusions about Uber and Lyft’s influence on traffic based on how people answered survey questions. Another study from Arizona State University (ASU) looked at the same question, but by analyzing traffic congestion trends in different cities. Researchers looked at data from the Urban Mobility Report which tracks congestion trends in cities going back to 1982. They noted the date Uber launched in each of the cities they had data for and looked for trends in how traffic patterns changed based on the the service beginning to be offered there. This study also drew conclusions solely for Uber, though they did look at data related to Lyft as part of their research.
The ASU study found that the net result was positive: the congestion in cities decreased after Uber entered the scene. Now, correlation does not equal causation, but researchers also dug into data that might point to other reasons that may have caused the reduced traffic, like gas prices, but still came away convinced that Uber was the main cause of a drop in traffic in the cities it operates in. Based on their research the case seems open and shut: Uber offers a social good that makes our commutes faster and better.
So, does Uber make traffic worse?
We’ve all seen this before. Different research with different methodologies coming to seemingly opposite results. Often these studies are designed to measure something that’s really difficult to gauge and finding clear answers is therefore elusive. Traffic conditions in cities are influenced by a lot of factors – trying to figure out the exact effect of one of those factors is just about impossible.
We probably can’t get a definitive answer on this question, but we can recognize some of the main factors that influence the effect Uber has on traffic patterns.
Traffic Factors (Besides Uber, etc.)
Typical Transportation Patterns in an Area
In New York City, people have plenty of non-car options for getting around. If you’re familiar with traveling around the city, it makes sense that Uber would largely be seen as an alternative to public transportation or walking. Austin, Texas, though, is largely a “driving city” and has more limited public transportation options. When Uber and Lyft pulled out of the city in May 2016, former riders who regularly used the service were asked what they did instead:
- 3% switched to public transportation
- 41% went back to driving a car they already owned
- 9% actually bought a car
In a city where most people are dependent on cars to get anywhere, Uber and Lyft might not make much of a difference in traffic. In areas with great alternative options to cars, though, the ease of hailing an Uber likely adds cars to the road that wouldn’t be there otherwise.
In cities with great public transportation, the ease of hailing an Uber likely adds cars to the road that wouldn’t be there otherwise.Share on Twitter
The Popularity of Carpool Options
Earlier this year, MIT used a simulation model to show that the use of carpool options on ridesharing apps could reduce traffic by up to 75%. They crafted an algorithm that measured how many cars it would take to get everyone in New York City where they needed to go during a commute and determined that 2,000 four-person cars would do the trick. Their results were based on a best-case scenario model; the algorithm measured what would happen if everyone in the city chose to carpool and the apps managed to perfectly direct all cars to the most efficient rides and routes.
While that 75% drop in traffic figure is a pretty pie-in-the-sky estimate, rideshare companies already offer carpool options.
Introducing Uber Express Pool – Will it cut the traffic?
Uber says that millions of customers have chosen their carpool option, and they’re working to make carpooling more attractive to users and more efficient overall with their new Express Pool program. With this option, when several riders look for a ride from a similar location, the app automatically figures out a “smart spot” for riders to walk to which is close enough to all of them. The driver only has to drive to that single pick-up spot, and riders spend up to 25% less if they’re willing to do that little bit of walking.
So far Express Pool is just a pilot program in Boston and San Francisco, but if the savings inspire substantial use and the experiment is successful with early riders, it could spread to other cities.
Even with these innovations in the app, the promise of less traffic may not be enough to make carpooling take off as a big rideshare trend. Sharing your ride with a stranger is a hard sell. According to Jason Koebbler of Motherboard, “Both riders and drivers can’t stand UberPool.” Drivers complain about having to do more work for the money they make and riders worry about extra passengers adding too much time to their drive or being obnoxious.
Now that @lyft only does this carpool bs, I'm out. My 20 min commute is now 40. So annoyed.
— Anna Fine AF (@somefinetweets) September 23, 2017
While in theory, carpooling options could make a big difference in traffic, in practice, riding with a bunch of strangers may feel a little too much like public transportation..
If you want to do your part to reduce traffic in your city, opting for carless transportation options whenever possible is your best choice. Choosing the carpool option in Uber or Lyft comes in second. If like most people though, you just want to choose the option that’s most comfortable and efficient for you, then just know you might be contributing to making the traffic problem a little bit worse.
It’s probably happened to you or someone you know. You’ve ordered a package, and it will be delivered by the end of the day. But when you arrive at your front step — gasp! The package isn’t there. Package theft claims another victim! While it’s not the absolute worst thing that can happen, it is annoying, inconvenient, and can cause real harm to your wallet.
In October, Amazon announced a solution to package theft: Amazon Key, an in-home package delivery service exclusively available to Amazon Prime members. This should be great news for serial online shoppers like me, but the announcement was met with mixed reviews (more on that below).
How Amazon Key Works (In 4 Easy Steps)
Step 1: Sign up and pay.
Amazon Prime members in 37 cities can now sign up for Amazon Key. (You can check your eligibility at www.amazon.com/key.) You’ll need to purchase an Amazon Key In-Home Kit for $250 which includes the Amazon Cloud Cam (Key Edition) indoor security camera and an Amazon Key-compatible smart lock. Eligible Amazon Prime customers who already have the compatible camera and lock can also sign up.
Step 2: Schedule installation.
Installation is free. Just schedule an appointment at checkout, and a professional will come by and take care of the rest.
Step 3: Place your order.
Customers who sign up for the new service will see “FREE In-Home Delivery” as a shipping option for eligible purchases. The day of delivery, the customer will receive a notification that morning with a four-hour delivery window. Just before the delivery driver arrives at your home, they’ll get an “Arriving Now” notification. Customers can watch the delivery in realtime or view the clip after the delivery is complete.
Step 4: The delivery.
The Amazon driver wouldn’t just enter unannounced. They’d knock first. If no response, they’d request entry into the home through the app with their handheld scanner. Amazon verifies that the package order matches the address, turns on the Amazon Cloud Cam, and unlocks the door. The driver should only open the door wide enough to slip the package into the home and close the door, locking it. Then the customer receives another notification confirming the delivery.
Knowing all of the details of how this works, this does seem really cool. How have the masses responded?
Will Customers Use Amazon Key?
We polled users on Twitter to gauge interest in Amazon Key, and the results weren’t pretty (for Amazon).
Out of 2,109 votes, 79 percent (1,666 respondents) said they would not sign up for Amazon Key. Of those who were interested (just 443 respondents), there were some caveats.
Amazon Key is a new service for Prime members that allows couriers to go INSIDE your home to deliver packages. There's a camera and smart lock. You can also monitor deliveries from your phone. No more packages stolen from your front porch! Would you try this? Why or why not?
— The Zebra (@TheZebraCo) November 13, 2017
I absolutely would never allow this while not home. This is a crazy idea
— Stormy Waters (@Spac3kad3t) November 15, 2017
I don't even trust myself how could I trust the guys from Amazon
— Freezing Batboy (@Burningbatboy10) November 16, 2017
Would be very useful and safe IF AND ONLY IF you have a seperated entryway, which would allow the carrier to drop your package in a safe spot without actually entering your home.
— Tucker (@LordTreeman) November 15, 2017
I tried to find people we knew who might try the service as a test, but couldn’t find a single person who was on board.
One colleague told me, “If I lived alone, I would use Amazon Key in a heartbeat. It sounds awesome to me. But I have a wife and two young kids, and I’m pretty sure she’d never be ok with it. So, likely not going to try it anytime soon, unfortunately.”
Three Major Amazon Key Concerns
If it’s so safe and convenient, why are people freaking out?
Even if the camera, lock, and app can prevent someone from stealing on the spot, the delivery driver could still take a quick peek inside (or even outside) the home. While it’s probably not smart of them to return later to steal, that wouldn’t stop someone from trying.
The driver opens the door, and out goes Willie Nelson (my cat, not his namesake). Amazon recommends not using Amazon Key if you have pets that could escape or “access the front door on delivery day,” as described in their FAQ.
3. Hacks (and Ultimately, Theft)
Shortly after the Amazon Key announcement, security researchers from Rhino Security Labs found that hackers could access the camera and disable it. A simple program run on a computer within Wi-Fi range could freeze the camera and make it look like the door was closed the whole time. Meanwhile a thief could stealthily enter the home. WIRED contacted Amazon about the research, who responded that they had plans to send an automatic software update to fix this vulnerability.
Will Amazon Key Impact Homeowners Insurance?
Since the announcement, I’ve read several articles claiming that Amazon Key could raise homeowners insurance rates. But will it?
Why Might Someone File a Claim Due to Amazon Key?
There are a few scenarios:
- Property theft
- The delivery driver falls and injures themselves on the property. This is where your liability coverage comes in.
- Your dog bites the delivery driver. Again, this is covered under your liability coverage.
Will Amazon Key Raise My Rates?
Maybe, but not anytime soon. The insurance industry is slow to change. Let’s use distracted driving as an example.
We’re all aware of the dangers of distracted driving. (Texting while driving creates a crash risk of more than 23 times compared to non-distracted driving, and 26% of crashes involve cell phone use.) So, what happens to your car insurance rates when you get a ticket for texting while driving? Our 2016 State of Auto Insurance report found that one cell phone use violation raises rates an average of about $30 annually. Compare that to a single DUI which raises rates more than $1,000. That’s right, a DUI raises rates 3,200% higher than texting while driving does. Perhaps the insurance industry is not quick to adjust rates for tech innovation after all.
So, unless there is a strong correlation that Amazon Key results in an outrageous number of insurance claims, installing one in your home shouldn’t cause your insurance rates to spike — at least not in the near future. We’ll just have to wait and see how the industry responds to this one.
Is Amazon Key the Future of Package Delivery?
As of now, there’s no data on the adoption rate of Amazon Key, but if the poll is any indication, the future of Amazon Key seems pretty bleak. Don’t tell that to Walmart though. They’ve rolled out something similar.
Would I try it myself? I haven’t had an issue with package theft, so I don’t see a need for it at this time. But if it was an issue, I might try it. With that $250 price tag though? No way.
The post Amazon Key: The Smart Delivery Solution That No One Wants appeared first on Quoted.
In recent years, home security has evolved from padlocks to connected homes with everything from high-tech cameras to remote locks to automatic emergency alerting and beyond. Today, home safety inventions have become commonplace, helping to reduce accidental deaths, crack down on crime, and in some cases, lower our insurance costs. Here are five home safety inventions to be thankful for, and how they’ve changed home security over the years.
1. Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Smoke alarms can sound when you get a little too creative in the kitchen, leave a cigarette or candle burning, or if an appliance overheats or malfunctions. Per the National Fire Protection Association, the death rate per 100 reported home fires is more than twice as high in homes with no working smoke alarms than those with them.
Similarly, carbon monoxide (CO) detectors sense dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, which can displace your blood’s oxygen, causing you to lose consciousness and suffocate, and alerts you to escape to fresh air. Since 2003, firefighters have responded to nearly double the amount of calls where carbon monoxide was present, indicating how people are more aware of the presence of CO thanks to these detectors.
Safety tip: Make sure you’re giving your detectors the chance to do their thing. Nearly one in four smoke alarm failures is due to dead batteries. Both CO and smoke detectors have a test button that you should use at least once a month. After 10 years, replace the detector entirely.
Insurance tip: There are also a number of smart detectors which can save up to $35,000 on insurance claims payouts, so if your home is highly connected, make sure to ask your insurance company about discounts on your premium.
2. Fire Extinguishers
The OGs of home safety devices, fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems are still critical safeguards for every home. In 2015, 365,000 home fires were reported in the United States, resulting in $7 billion in property damage. But that damage can be limited (or even prevented entirely) if you can contain the fire with an extinguisher or a sprinkler system. In fact, if you have a sprinkler system in your home, your chance of dying in a fire (!) decreases by 80 percent.
Insurance tip: Having a fire extinguisher, sprinkler system, and a smoke alarm in your home is typically required with most insurance companies, says Neil Richardson, licensed insurance agent and expert at The Zebra. Most apartment complexes will do regular annual extinguisher checks, but you can also test on your own. Check the extinguisher to see how often to shake it; some require monthly pressure tests while others only need maintenance every few years.
3. Home Security Cameras
There are more than 5,400 burglaries every day in the U.S. While only 13 percent of burglaries get solved, that number is increasing thanks to security cameras installed in people’s homes. In London, the Metropolitan Police Service credits CCTV for solving 5,000 burglary cases, with the images proving “useful” in at least 10,000 others.
Sage Singleton, home maintenance and safety expert for SafeWise, says investing in a security camera for the home can help protect against unwanted guests, but it also provides less apparent benefits.
“An indoor security camera can help you monitor construction crews during a remodel,” Singleton says. “You can make sure your pets and kids are safe and don’t damage your newly updated kitchen, bathroom, or living room. You can even talk to them through some types of cameras.”
Cameras can be installed in all sorts of items, too, from doorbells to televisions. It’s nice to know you can keep tabs on your home even if you’re not around.
4. Smart Home Locks
A smart lock is designed to perform locking and unlocking operations on a door when it receives such instructions from an authorized device using a wireless protocol and a cryptographic key. As long as you have that device – say, a phone with a keycode – you’re in charge of when the doors are locked or unlocked.
These smart locks provide an extra sense of security, and can sync with other devices in your home. For example, you can unlock your front door and simultaneously turn on the lights, adjust the thermostat, and open up the blinds.
Smart locks also limit fumbling for keys in the dark. How often have you spent a minute or two digging in a pocket or purse to find your keys before actually grabbing them? Distracted people are prime targets for intruders; with a smart lock, you can unlock your home using an app or biometric data on your phone, like a fingerprint, and step immediately into your home.
5. Full Home Security Systems
Burglars are 300 percent more likely to invade homes that don’t have apparent security systems – like motion sensors, alarms, or cameras – installed. This network of electronic devices works together to protect against burglars and other home invaders. Even 60 percent of robbers themselves admit they would seek another house to burglarize if they saw an alarm, yet only 17 percent of homes have some form of security in place.
Security alarm systems vary in scope. Some have a wall-mounted panel that serves as a control hub to set or disable an alarm. Some offer the ability to change settings on the sensitivity of people passing by in the neighborhood. Some can even prevent kid intruders from getting to a cookie jar before dinner, like this pocket-sized Stilla device.
Nearly every system will come with a mobile app on your phone where you can create rules and settings for your house. Get a push notification or a call every time your alarm goes off so you can stay one step ahead of a possible intruder.
Insurance tip: Having a security system may even help you save on your homeowners insurance costs.
“The majority of homeowners insurance companies will offer a discount for having a qualified security system,” Richardson says. “However, it has to be actively monitored by a security company. Simply having a security system in your home without a monthly monitoring service normally won’t result in savings.”
Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and to celebrate, we’ll travel near and far to cook and eat and laugh and maybe argue and drink and eat some more. And given this year’s expected transportation trends, 2017 in particular might just make everyone feel like they’re making a pilgrimage.
Travel this Thanksgiving promises to be particularly nightmarish:
- 50.9 million people are expected to travel (by car, bus, train, and plane) more than 50 miles from home during the Thanksgiving holiday period, defined as the Wednesday before through the Sunday after Thanksgiving day, says AAA
- 2017 year will mark an 12-year travel-high, with 1.6 million more people leaving home this year than last
- More than 89% of travelers are expected to travel by car this year, meaning 45.5 million Americans will embark on a road trip at nearly the same time
Not exactly the kind of holiday closeness you were hoping for? Don’t worry. We’ve examined traffic patterns and sifted through expert advice to bring you a Thanksgiving holiday car travel guide to ease the madness.
The Problem: Which Days Are Best for Thanksgiving Travel?
The old standby for Thanksgiving car travel advice has always been to avoid Wednesday and Sunday, but now more and more people are privy to the alternative travel times. Traffic for the past few years appears almost evenly split between Wednesday and Thursday (for departure) and between Saturday and Sunday (for return). In 2012, 45% of Thanksgiving travelers departed on Wednesday and 36% returned on Sunday. In 2013, 37% of left on Wednesday and 33% returned Sunday. This leaves us without a mandate for which day to travel.
Our Thanksgiving travel hack takes a little more precision than choosing a day, but it’ll help you avoid the worst traffic. (Data from Google Maps, which aggregated 2015 travel data from more than 30 major cities around the country from the Sunday before until the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and Waze’s 2014 Thanksgiving holiday period data):
- Sunday: The Sunday before the holiday is the best day to depart, and 6:00 a.m. is the best time. Traffic will be at its worst at 3:00 p.m., so avoid traveling then.
- Monday: Traffic will be heavier, but will follow the same patterns as regular weekday rush hour traffic, so midday is the best time to travel.
- Tuesday: Peak traffic is likely to be between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
- Wednesday: This is the worst possible day to travel, but if you must, leave by 7:00 a.m. at the latest. Traffic starts to pick up at 11:00 a.m., and peaks between 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
- Thursday: Traffic patterns are expected to be similar to a regular weekend day.
- Friday: Despite the Black Friday rush, this is the best day to return home. Traffic patterns have historically been similar to a weekend day. Leave at 6:00 a.m. for the smoothest trip and don’t travel at or around 4:00 p.m. (unless you like gridlock).
- Saturday: The worst day to return is Saturday, says Google Maps, but if you leave by 6:00 a.m. and plan to be home before 4:00 p.m. your pain will be lessened.
- Sunday: The entire day’s traffic will be above average, says Waze, but peak gridlock will be between 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
You’ll still need to allow for extra time no matter when you leave, but the above guidelines will hopefully mean traffic is as light as possible.
It’s Not Just Traffic That Sucks – Car Crashes Spike This Week
If you’re looking for another reason besides traffic to avoid peak travel times this Thanksgiving holiday, let us present the stats for the holiday’s worst days to travel by car (data from Waze and Progressive):
- “Blackout Wednesday”: 62% increase in crashes, 38.6% increase in police alerts, 31.3% increase in hazards
- Thanksgiving: Crashes increased 20% in 2015
- Black Friday: Crashes increased 34% in 2015
- Sunday: 323% increase in traffic jams, 112% increase in crashes, 79.8% increase in hazards and 100.2% increase in police alerts, this is also the day with the highest number of out-of-state crashes during the entire Thanksgiving holiday
The Problem: Drunk Driving
For many Americans, the Thanksgiving holiday period kicks off a season of cheer as many important religious and secular holidays fall between now and the end of the year. Unfortunately, however, Thanksgiving also kicks off the most dangerous season for drunk driving.
Thanksgiving Eve, dubiously referred to as Blackout Wednesday by police departments around the country, is arguably one of the most dangerous times of the year to be on the road: it’s widely believed to be the busiest day of the year for bars, and DUI arrests are at the year’s highest between Thanksgiving Eve and New Year’s Day. Not only that, but traffic deaths over the Thanksgiving holiday period (Wednesday to Friday) account for more than 400 traffic deaths each year, compared to an average of fewer than 100 deaths per day.
Other days throughout the year with high traffic-related fatalities and DUIs:
- Memorial Day: More than 400 traffic deaths
- July 4th: Currently the day with the highest number of traffic deaths – in recent years upwards of 500
- Labor Day: More than 400 traffic deaths
New Year’s Day, Super Bowl Sunday, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Halloween, and Christmas Day are also peak days for DUIs and traffic deaths.
Plan ahead. Really, it saves lives. Entering into the Thanksgiving holiday period knowing how you’ll get home from a night out increases your chances of doing so safely.
If you plan to drink during the Thanksgiving holiday, designate a driver, use public transportation, plan to call a cab or use a rideshare, or plan to have a friend or family member drop you off and pick you up. And if you’re being a responsible driver during the holiday, keep in mind that not everyone else will be, and use extra caution.
The recommendations might seem old-hat, but they work. If you plan to drink, you cannot also plan to drive. It’s a losing game anyway you look at it.
And finally, from all of us at The Zebra: have a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday!
The post Be Thankful for Less Traffic: How to Make Thanksgiving Travel Less Painful appeared first on Quoted.