Insurers will turn your car into a marketing machine

You're driving along when one of your car's computer sensors indicates your left front tire is going flat. Then you get a message on your Bluetooth telling you about a tire dealer who's offering a discount. Meet the future of car insurance, where auto insurers will appreciate your business more than you'll ever know -- and in ways you may never know. It's a future they're working hard to bring into the present as insurers hitch a ride on your car's onboard computer system. Their goal: turning your car into a mobile marketing machine. The ingredients to do this are already in the mix. Cars today are loaded with computer technology -- about 70 different types, by one estimate -- and that number is expected to multiply as we move toward driverless cars in the next decade. All that technology should make us safer. But it will also make us better customers for auto insurers and companies they choose to partner with, according to a recent report by global consulting firm McKinsey & Company. As cars begin to operate independently and drivers become less focused on the road, industry giants such as Amazon (AMZN), Fidelity and General Motors (GM) could wrangle for advertising space on the information highway inside your car. And insurers may be more than willing to let them in. Auto insurance is now a $183 billion business, according to the Insurance Information Institute, with car insurance rates on the rise. But those premiums, along with profits, could fall off in the next few years, perhaps to the tune of $20 billion by 2020, as drivers have fewer accidents. Fender benders will decline due to self-parking devices and warning signals. Full-blown collisions won't happen as often when crash-avoidance systems take hold seconds before a human foot could hit the brake. Warning systems, such as Progressive Insurance's (PGR) "Snapshot," have already indoctrinated drivers to heed the beeping noise that erupts whenever they speed, especially when they can receive a 10 percent Continue Reading

Brand: Humming noise on road: Is it the tires or the wheels?

Q I purchased new tires for my 2003 Focus and have had the tires balanced and rotated every 6,000 or 7,000 miles, a total of four times. This summer I noticed the tires were making a "humming" noise in a kind of off-on-off-on manner. The humming happens only when I'm driving straight ahead. When I go around a curve or make a turn, the humming stops. The tread looks good, and the tires have only 24,000 miles on them. A technician at the shop thought it might be the wheel bearings. A Have the tires rebalanced and rotated once again, making sure the front tires end up on the rear of the vehicle. If this has an effect on the humming noise, the problem is with the tires. If this doesn't change the noise, the tech may be correct. A front-wheel bearing or hub assembly may be the cause. On most front-wheel-drive vehicles, these are factory-assembled and sealed units that are not serviceable. Here are two quick checks that can identify a failing hub. Set the parking brake, block the rear wheels and support the vehicle with a jack stand under the suspension. Grasp the tire with gloved hands at the 12/6 position and try to rock the tire and wheel in and out. Any identifiable play in the hub -- not in the suspension or steering -- is cause for concern. Next, turn the key on but do not start the engine, shift the transmission into neutral and turn the key back to the off position. Carefully grasp the front coil spring with one gloved hand and spin the wheel and tire with the other. Often, a worn bearing in a front hub will generate a resonance or vibration in the spring as the wheel rotates. Q I have a 1999 Pontiac Firebird. Since July, there are times when the radio shuts off and the power windows do not work. Then, after a few seconds or minutes, everything will work again. It is very sporadic. The shop that works on my car is confused because they do not know what to look for when it is working. Why would the radio and windows be connected? I can deal with no radio, but I Continue Reading

‘I’m the person they call when people die’

Below is an excerpt from forensic pathologist Dr. Judy Melinek's 2014 memoir "Working Stiff," co-authored by her husband, writer T.J. Mitchell. Go inside the lives of America's busiest coroners in Los Angeles County on the next episode of "This is Life with Lisa Ling," Wednesday November 11 at 9 p.m. (The names of victims were changed in the book.) (CNN)"Remember: This can only end badly." That's what my husband says anytime I start a story. He's right. So. This carpenter is sitting on a sidewalk in Midtown Manhattan with his buddies, half a dozen subcontractors in hard hats sipping their coffees before the morning shift gets started. The remains of a hurricane blew over the city the day before, halting construction, but now it's back to business on the office tower they've been building for eight months. As the sun comes up and the traffic din grows, a new noise punctures the hum of taxis and buses: a metallic creak, not immediately menacing. The creak turns into a groan, and somebody yells. Read More Judy Melinek The workers can't hear too well over the diesel noise and gusting wind, but they can tell the voice is directed at them. The groan sharpens to a screech. The men look up -- then jump to their feet and sprint off, their coffee flying everywhere. The carpenter chooses the wrong direction. With an earthshaking crash, the derrick of a 383-foot-tall construction crane slams down on James Friarson's head. I arrived at this gruesome scene two hours later with a team of MLIs, medicolegal investigators from the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner. The crane had fallen directly across a busy intersection at rush hour and the police had shut it down, snarling traffic in all directions. The MLI driving the morgue van cursed like a sailor as he inched us the last few blocks to the cordon line. Medicolegal investigators are the medical examiner's first responders, going to the site of an untimely death, examining and documenting Continue Reading

TASTE TEST: Get wrapped up in love for breakfast at The Wheel

TASTE TEST: Get wrapped up in love for breakfast at The Wheel HAMMOND — All of one's breakfast favorites can come served in different ways — spread out on a plate, stacked between slices of bread and, probably best, wrapped in a tortilla.The Wheel, 7430 Indianapolis Blvd., provides a nice variety when it comes to choosing a satisfying breakfast wrap. From a standard selection with eggs, and vegetables to a larger mix of cheeses and meats, there's something for everyone.If you're looking for something to power you through the day, the Meat Lover's option is a great choice. This sizable wrap comes with three eggs, sausage, bacon, ham, onions and a blend of cheeses. It is heavenly. The cooks keep everything at a nice texture so all is tender without any crispiness. The egg and cheese flavor blend especially sticks out with each bite. The wrap also comes with a side of potatoes, which also are cooked to a perfect style. All comes out to an agreeable $8.49.The Wheel keeps on turning from there, and you also can consider other breakfast delights on its menu, including pancakes, frittatas, omelets and skillets.For more information, call 219-845-0277. TASTE TEST: Catch a bite of shrimp and grits at Volstead CHESTERTON — If brunch is what you seek, you can find it in the heart of Duneland in quaint downtown Chesterton.However, it will be "unconventional fine dining," according to the tagline for Volstead, 225 S. Calumet Road. It might be true. Not many other spots will have "Voodoo" by Godsmack playing in their music rotation.Also of note are the different, but still classy, cow head mounted on the wall, mannequin decked in chain mail standing to the side and a large portrait of Winston Churchill overlooking a lounge filled with fine-leather seats. The stained-glass windows in the bar area also give a green tint to the restaurant and offer great natural lighting.Volstead sports its brunch menu on weekends, and an item worthy of Saturday and Continue Reading

First Drive: The 2018 Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is a 707-horse, Hellcat Jeep for when 475 just wasn’t enough

Full Car Details More Reviews Sure, it might look just like the multitude of SUVs and crossovers crowding the elementary school drop-off lane. Easy to overlook, the small “Supercharged” script on the front doors and the equally discrete winged “Trackhawk” badge on the liftgate are subtle signals of what lives within this suburban shuttle. A more obvious clue is the authoritative burble broadcasting from large-diameter quad exhaust outlets. But the true nature of the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk doesn’t reveal itself until you slip behind the wheel and step on the gas. Which is just how Jeep intended it. Unleash this beast, and the Trackhawk will roar from rest to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, run a standing-start quarter-mile in 11.6 seconds at a license-shredding 116 mph and should you be lucky enough to find a race track or airstrip where it’s legal and safe to do so, and achieve a terminal velocity of 180 mph. Tread lightly? Nah. Blown Hemi in the ‘hood The beauty of this high-performance SUV is how seamless the Trackhawk’s driving quality is. It shares the same 707-horsepower, supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8 that powers the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and Charger SRT Hellcat, but unlike those bodacious rear-drive muscle cars, the Trackhawk rolls with full-time 4-wheel drive. So while an aggressive application of throttle from rest can result in a cloud of smoke and burned rubber from either of the Dodges, the Trackhawk’s four fat Pirelli 295/45R20 tires simply hook up and fling the Jeep forward. Think U.S. Navy jet fighter catapulting itself off an aircraft carrier, or one of those early-Fifties Air Force rocket sleds, minus the facial distortions. This Grand Cherokee tears out of the hole like a mama grizzly protecting one of her baby bears. You get the picture. All you have to do is stab and steer. There are shift Continue Reading

What it’s like to drive the 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat when you know the Demon exists

Full Car Details More Reviews It’s a strange feeling, sitting in the (current) most powerful muscle car of all time, listening to the massive, supercharged V8 thrum along like a champion speedboat, gazing out over the hood that’s seemingly large enough to land an aircraft, and thinking: this isn’t the peak. For Dodge wasn’t content to set a record without already getting started on the next one, and so the 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat occupies an odd space: it’s no longer the post powerful muscle car, nor the most powerful Dodge, for the 840-horsepower drag-ready Challenger Demon went ahead and upstaged it. Outdone by your own brother. Ouch. So if not the king of all muscle cars, what is it then? And what’s it like to drive around in one now while you know there’s something more powerful out there? Terrifying. Exhilarating. Loud. Fast. Obnoxious. And still pretty damn amazing. This is not my first rodeo with the Challenger Hellcat. I’ve put it on a racetrack with tight, technical turns, and it lumbered around a bit like you’d expect it to. I’ve even driven it though Times Square in full Star Wars Stormtrooper regalia, still one of my strangest automotive experiences. But this marks the first time it’s been just the devilish kitty and me together for a full weekend, so there’s still one question on my mind: what’s it like to live with? Believe it or not, a lot easier than you think. The Challenger is already the most family-friendly muscle car of the big three, if not only because of its immense size. You can actually fit five adults inside with minimal complaining, and if they do start up, just drown them out with the engine… The trunk is huge, the seats are essentially recliners, there’s heat and ventilation for your tush, a Harman/Kardon stereo for when Continue Reading

Ratings and Review: The 2017 Audi Q7 is an impenetrable tech fortress on wheels

Full Car Details More Reviews For a long time, opting for an SUV over a traditional luxury sedan came with a slew of trade-offs in the name of increased utility and ride height. Sure, you’d get more space and better capability, but driving dynamics, looks and fuel economy took a major hit by going with a four-wheeler. As the years have gone by, however, the compromises have gotten slimmer thanks to weight reduction, suspension technology and clever powertrain solutions, and it seems the luxury SUV innovation boom has all been leading up to one thing: the 2017 Audi Q7. We explored the pros and cons of Audi’s biggest SUV just a few months ago, but with a week and several hundred miles behind the wheel, the Q7’s true colors started to come into focus… and the picture is more vibrant than ever. Design: 9.3 Rating It’s a shame when an automaker releases the latest and greatest version of one of those models, and the general consensus on looks is a resounding “meh,” but that’s not necessarily Audi’s designers’ fault. You see, when the original version looks so good to begin with, anything that comes afterwards will feel like a disappointment. Such is the case with the Q7, a lackluster follow-up to the curvy, aggressive design that was the original. Sure, it’s sharper, more modern and a bit more understated, but ungainly proportions, an off-kilter rear fascia, and wheels that don’t seem to compliment the vehicles size make for a lukewarm feeling, especially when finished in a drab gray. Fortunately, almost every single complaint about the exterior can be remedied if you climb inside the Q7 and refuse to leave, as this cabin is absolutely one of the best in the business. Fit and finish is immaculate, and the wide, long vent that spans across the sea Continue Reading

First Drive: 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor can turn almost anyone into an off-road hero

Full Car Details More Reviews Let me be frank with you, dear reader: I am a convert to the church of the body-on-frame. For the longest time, I fancied myself a “car guy” through and through. Low slung, sleek body styles, lots of horsepower, and rear-wheel drive were what got my gears really going. Dreams of twists and turns on the world’s greatest racetracks filled my head on a daily basis. The only use I ever thought I’d have for a truck would be to haul my (admittedly non-existent) racecar around. That was before I met the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor. And like the silver screen dino-stars from which it takes its name, one blast through the desert and scurry up a ravine changed my mind real quick, in an all-out attack on the senses before I knew what hit me. Drag strip runs are a riot. Bombing through the curves of Laguna Seca is a once-in-a-lifetime thrill. But the most fun I’ve ever had on four wheels is approaching triple-digit speeds over the Southern California desert in a deep blue pickup. As pleasant a truck as there ever was on the road Before Ford would let us bash some dunes, however, we had to get there, and dozens of miles of twisty mountain roads stood between us in the outskirts of San Diego and Borrego Springs. Great, a pickup so wide it needs indicator lights on tight canyon roads with thousand-foot cliffs and flimsy-looking guardrails. Can we take a Mustang instead? Oh, how wrong I was. Right off the bat, the Raptor impressed my co-driver and I, but not for the reasons you may think. This was as quiet a pickup I’d ever ridden in, with minimal road noise from wind or the excessively knobby BF Goodrich tires. There was no shimmying, no shaking and absolutely no rattling to speak of, and the engine note was almost silent, until you really got on it, of course. Better yet, Continue Reading

First Drive: All new and all pleasant, the 2017 Buick LaCrosse targets a modern generation

To members of Generation X, Buick has long been a name associated (and perhaps unfairly) with octogenarian dreams or hangover heaving. But if the company has any say about the future of it’s brand image, this is slowly but surely changing. That’s right, 40-somethings, Buick is coming for you. But fret not, young’uns. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When Buick introduced the Avenir concept during the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, showcasing it as the future design direction for the brand, many people speculated that the sheet-pull actually revealed a production-ready replacement for the company’s full-size sedan, the LaCrosse. A blink of an eye later (by automotive industry standards) the all-new 2017 LaCrosse took center runway during the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show modeling a leaner, longer and lower profile. Taking bold steps in unlikely directions, Buick’s focus and audience remains affluent but increasingly younger. Witness the new Envision compact crossover, which is quickly proving itself an international bestseller. Consider the new Cascada convertible, already winning awards and bringing some fresh air into the lineup. And when the flagship LaCrosse goes on sale later this month, starting at $32,065 (not including the $925 destination charge), expectations are nothing short of segment leading. In advance of the showroom gleam expected from the LaCrosse’s new-car shine, I spent a few hours experiencing the premium full-size sedan first-hand in Portland, Oregon. A full 300 pounds leaner yet packed with new technology and reengineered for better driving precision, the all-new 2017 LaCrosse, like its Pacific Northwest surroundings, proved unforgivingly pleasant. North American-designed for a global audience Design is a tricky thing. There will always be lovers and haters. In the case of the new Buick Continue Reading

Driver had death grip on wheel during seizure: pal

A seizure-prone truck driver who ran over a pair of British tourists in midtown kept his hands locked on the steering wheel when he started convulsing, preventing his helper from diverting the rig, the assistant testified Tuesday. George Bonilla, in dramatic testimony at Manhattan Criminal Court, described the frantic moments before Auvryn Scarlett's recycling truck jumped a W. 35th St. sidewalk and left a trail of carnage. "I turned my head to see why he was pulling over, and I saw him going into shock," said Bonilla, 26, who was riding inside the cab during the February 2008 accident. "He was shaking. His eyes were going to the back of his head. "I tried to grab the steering wheel to avoid it from getting on the sidewalk," he added. "I couldn't. His arms were locked." Bonilla said he then caught the slightest glimpse of Jacklyn Timmons and Andrew Hardie going down. "I saw two heads and then they were gone," Bonilla said. Timmons and Hardie, both 47, were killed. A third pedestrian, Abayomi Henderson, 25, was seriously injured. Henderson testified that he had just stepped past the couple, walking arm in arm, when tragedy struck. "I heard a loud noise and woke up on the ground," he said. "As I was trying to get up, that's when I saw the lady's body. That's when I realized we actually got hit." Scarlett, who was charged with murder, later told Detective Ronald Ryan from his hospital bed he hadn't taken his anti-seizure medication in two weeks, the officer said. After feeling the onset of a headache, "the next thing I remember is waking up in the ambulance," Scarlett allegedly told Ryan. Prosecutors say Scarlett hid his condition for nearly a decade from his employer, Action Carting. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading