Recent Posts

Driverless Motor Vehicles Pose Safety, Liability Risks

Nov 11, 14 Driverless Motor Vehicles Pose Safety, Liability Risks

Driverless motor vehicles are one of the latest technological advancements the automotive industry hopes to bring to market. While completely autonomous vehicles are not yet available, consumers can purchase or lease vehicles that provide some of these automated features. Parking assistance and crash avoidance (also known as automatic braking) are examples of technologies bringing us closer to driverless motor vehicles and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication.

Despite these technological marvels, questions remain whether a truly autonomous vehicle is safe? What are the safety and liability risks of driverless motor vehicles?

Can autonomous vehicles get hijacked by hackers?

One of the primary risks of an autonomous vehicle is the potential for hijacking by hackers. Because these vehicles operate with the use of computer technology, a very real risk exists of the system being hacked. Computer systems in a self-driving vehicle have security protocols to help protect the information and technology. However, if a hacker is able to bypass the system’s encryption features and gain access to the main system, he or she could potentially gain control of the vehicle itself.

Vehicle security is a primary concern for automakers and consumers. A recent Bloomberg article highlights some of the most serious dangers posed by this type of hacking. A hijacked automated vehicle could be used in a kidnapping, or be accessed as an escape vehicle in the commission of a crime. A hijacked vehicle also could be used as a weapon, as a means of distraction, as a way to intentionally gridlock a city, or as a means to cause serious injury or death.

Liability in Accidents Involving Driverless Vehicles

Another unresolved issue: If a driverless vehicle is involved in a car accident, or is hijacked by a hacker, who is legally liable for any resulting personal injuries or property damages? Can a driver be liable if he or she fails to take control of a partially autonomous vehicle to avoid an accident? If a car owner neglects to install a key security update that would potentially prevent hackers from hijacking a driverless vehicle, could the owner be held partially liable for any injuries caused? An auto manufacturer may be held accountable where a manufacturing defect causes a vehicle to fail to operate as intended.

Fox Business reports that federal regulators believe that the mandatory installation of V2V communications in vehicles could potentially reduce car accidents by about 80 percent (not including accidents involving a drunk driver or mechanical failure).

While reducing the number of car accidents is an important safety issue, regulators and auto manufacturers still need to address numerous unanswered questions and concerns before driverless vehicles become commonplace on our roads.

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Risks Too High for Google Glass Behind the Wheel

Oct 27, 14 Risks Too High for Google Glass Behind the Wheel

As distracted driving accidents reach epidemic proportions, the wearable technology known as Google Glass is raising concerns among traffic safety experts.

The device boasts an incredible number of features in a tiny computer within a space-age glasses frame. Users can text, make calls and access the Internet by using their voice or even nodding their head while leaving their hands free. The device may be useful while you are on the job or at play — but it poses a dangerous distraction if you are behind the wheel.

A study by the University of Central Florida and the Air Force Research Laboratory recently focused on the use of Google Glass to text while driving. Unsurprisingly, the study found that texting with Google Glass was a distraction for drivers.

The findings did include a small twist, however. As UCF’s Colleges and Campus News reported, test drivers texting on Google Glass were able to regain control over their vehicles after a near-accident faster than those texting on smartphones.

The test involved 40 young drivers who drove in a car simulator with Google Glass or a smartphone. In the simulation, the drivers were forced to react to a car slamming on brakes in front of them. The Google Glass users did not hit their brakes any faster than the smartphone users, but they did return to normal driving quicker.

In the end, the researchers concluded that Google Glass is no safer for texting behind the wheel than smartphones.

Because digitally obsessed drivers are already causing serious accidents while they text, talk or email, Google Glass is proving quite unpopular with law enforcement. And some states are taking steps to specifically prohibit drivers from using the device.

California law prohibits drivers from having a TV screen, video monitor or similar devices visible while they are operating a vehicle. In one well-publicized case, a driver who was ticketed for wearing Google Glass was able to avoid a conviction because there was no evidence the device was actually turned on while she was driving.

But that case doesn’t mean that a Glass-wearing driver may never be held accountable for causing an accident. Forensic data potentially could prove that a driver’s Glass was on at the time of a collision.

Google Glass and similar technology may eventually have a major impact in the world. It already is proving useful in education and health care, for example. But the technology, at this point at least, does not belong behind the wheel.

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Some Voice Control Systems More Dangerous Than Others

Oct 15, 14 Some Voice Control Systems More Dangerous Than Others

While the majority of U.S. drivers believe hands-free technology is safe when operating a vehicle, the American Automobile Association (AAA) released a report earlier this month that should give a lot of people a reason to reconsider that notion.

Titled “Mental Workload of Common Voice-Based Vehicle Interactions across Six Different Vehicle Systems,” the report evaluated several voice control technologies to see which ones were the best at reducing distraction behind the wheel. Although some ranked better than others in the study, none of them was perfect when it came to helping drivers stay focused on the road, according to AAA.

‘Sirious’ Problems with Hands-Free Technology

A team of researchers put 18 men and 18 women behind the wheel of six cars that were equipped with voice-activated control technology. The subjects performed several tasks while navigating a driving course.

Cameras were trained on the drivers, and their heart rate and brain activity were measured. In addition, a researcher was in the passenger’s seat to evaluate the drivers’ reactions. Afterward, each driver was asked to fill out a questionnaire.

The six systems tested were Entune from Toyota, MyLink from Chevrolet, Hyundai’s Blue Link, Chrysler’s Uconnect, Ford’s SYNC with MyFord Touch and COMAND from Mercedes-Benz.

Test subjects were also placed in a driving simulator and asked to send text messages, post Facebook updates and modify their calendars using a phone equipped with Apple’s Siri voice-command technology.

The systems were graded on a five-point scale to gauge the mental strain of using them to perform different tasks. The lower the score, the smaller the distraction. For example, listening to the radio while driving would register a 1 in difficulty, while trying to solve a complex math problem while behind the wheel would score a 5.

Here’s how the researchers graded the systems in terms of how much of a distraction they caused while driving:

  • Entune (Toyota) – 1.7
  • Blue Link (Hyundai) – 2.2
  • Uconnect (Chrysler) – 2.7
  • Ford SYNC with MyFord Touch – 3.0
  • COMAND (Mercedes-Benz) – 3.1
  • MyLink (Chevrolet) – 3.7

The most surprising result, however, may be that the subjects averaged a mental strain level of 4 when using the Siri electronic assistant. This level of distraction is more dangerous than speaking on a handheld cell phone while driving. In fact, three subjects “crashed” while in the simulator, and two of those incidents took place while using Siri.

The Bottom Line on Voice Control

The upshot of the study is that while the auto industry has largely embraced voice-activated technology over the last few years and trumpeted it in an untold number of ads, it seems that a lot of work still needs to be done in order to make the systems as safe as possible.

A press release issued by AAA announcing the release of the study quoted the organization’s president and CEO as saying voice control technology may have unintended adverse effects on driver safety. AAA is calling on developers to address factors that contribute to these distractions, and to make them no more taxing for drivers than listening to the radio.

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Career Options for Legal Bloggers and Writers

Jan 15, 14 Career Options for Legal Bloggers and Writers

Becoming a Legal Writer

Most people who are interested in pursuing a career in the legal field believe they must possess the ability to express themselves effectively, in both oral and written form. After all, lawyers represent clients in court, as well as during contract and mediation negotiations. But, what about those who are interested in the law as a career choice, but with an exclusive focus on the written word? Or, what of those who simply may not have a desire to speak in front of others? There are many career opportunities available in the legal field where one can still make a difference. One of the most creative and versatile alternative career choices is that of a legal writer.

Career Opportunities

One of the biggest perks of a career in legal writing is in the options available to you. A career as a legal writer can take on many forms, including the standard position of a feature writer. There are other choices available as well. Some are choices you may be aware of, but there are others that you may not have previously considered as viable options for a legal writer. These include:

Education and Skill Requirements

For anyone interested in pursuing a career as a legal writer, it is strongly recommended that a degree in communications, writing, journalism, or other liberal arts field be earned first. A degree in law may gain you an advantage, but it is not a requirement.

If you don’t plan on pursuing a degree in law, but are interested in becoming a legal writer, it’s important that you take legal courses while in school. This is because you must have a sound understanding of the legal industry and law, as well as the terminology used in order to be successful in the field.

Aside from education, there are also specific traits you must possess in order to become an effective legal writer. For example, because you will be required to interpret and translate technical legalese in a way that is understandable, your writing style must be clear and concise without altering the meaning of the law. Just as with any writing career, you must also be organized, focused, perceptive, disciplined, and be comfortable writing online (since most work writing is done via the internet).

To be a good legal writer, you must also have exceptional research skills. In addition, you must be resourceful since not every piece of information you need will be accessible online. You must know where to find information, and how to interview clients and witnesses.

Career Prospects

Many legal writers are freelancers who sell their work to law firms, magazines, and publishing houses. In fact, that’s how most legal writing careers start. Writers need to establish themselves as authorities in the field before they will be hired by a company. Once their reputations have been established, though, many writers work for such entities directly. Some, however, prefer the freedom of contract work and continue freelance work, albeit at a much higher rate.

There is no set formula for becoming a successful legal writer. However, a degree in communications (or similar degree) combined with a knowledge of legalese and laws will get your foot in the door. How successful you become will depend on your determination, motivation, adaptability, and skill level.

 

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Texting and Driving Mobile Apps: A Dangerous Decision

Nov 22, 13 Texting and Driving Mobile Apps: A Dangerous Decision

In the United States, 9 people on average are killed every day as a result of distracted driving, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Distracted driving occurs when a person engages in any kind of activity that competes with their ability to focus on the road. This can include seemingly benign actions, such as speaking with a passenger or drinking coffee. An electronic device that distracts the driver (cell phone, GPS) can be more dangerous though, because those objects require the use of the driver’s visual, manual and cognitive skills. When the driver is focusing those skills on something other than the road, the results can be deadly.

 

Texting While Driving

Relative to the distraction trifecta – cognitive, visual and manual – there is no worst offender than the cell phone, especially when it’s used for texting while driving. When a driver chooses to send a text message, his or her eyes are off the road for an average of just under 5 seconds, and his hands, mind and eyes are otherwise engaged. To put this into perspective, imagine driving the length of a football field at a rate of 55 MPH, while blindfolded. That is what it’s like, and that type of ‘blindfolded’ distracted driving helped cause 387,000 injuries and 3,300 deaths in 2011.

 

The National Safety Council estimates that about every 30 seconds a car accident is caused by a driver using a cell phone to send or read a text or place a call. That’s over one million preventable car accidents every year. If the cell phone distracts the driver, it should be turned off or put away.

 

For those who can’t stand to be out of reach, there are apps available that can help you stay connected without ever having to touch the phone while driving. Here are a few:

 

  • Road Wars: This app was created with teens in mind, but anyone with a love for gaming will find it appealing. Available for iOS only, the idea behind Road Wars is to earn points (which convert to coins) for good driving and to ‘capture’ roads based on the fact that they were driven well. Coins are lost for using the phone for any reason, speeding, swerving and other bad driving habits. The social aspect of the game comes into play when the driver sees which roads their friends have captured. Through the luck and skill-type games on the app, the roads other people have captured can be taken.

 

  • Safely Go: Designed for drivers of all ages, the Safely Go app is unique in that it doesn’t shut off communication from everyone. While the user is driving, he or she can make hands free calls, and there is also an option to allow calls and texts from 3 contacts, such as his or her spouse, boss or child. Everyone else receives an automatic voice or text response, which can be personalized. Additionally, while driving, the user can access to 3 apps, like music and maps.

 

  • DriveSafe.ly: With the DriveSafe.ly app, the user hears incoming texts and emails in real time, and an auto response is sent without the driver having to do a thing. The app’s auto-responder is customizable, and it’s compatible with Bluetooth and the radio transmitter in the vehicle.

Drivers using their cell phones while behind the wheel create an unnecessarily deadly hazard for themselves and anyone else on the road. More specifically, texting while driving distracts the driver so much that it increases his or her risk of causing an accident by 23 times. The best bet to avoid becoming the cause of a distracted driving car accident is to simply shut off your phone. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, install a safe driving app and use it. You’ll never know how many lives you might save by doing it, but that’s a good thing.

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Top 5 Reasons Your Site Needs a Blog

Nov 03, 13 Top 5 Reasons Your Site Needs a Blog

Over the last several years, the social media industry has grown by leaps and bounds. More people than ever have Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts, and are using them to connect with followers on a daily basis. While these media platforms are some of the most common for individuals who wish to make their presence known in cyberspace, personal websites are also increasing in popularity. In many cases, these websites are used to sell products, ideas, or services, and can serve as supplementary sources of income.

While there are a number of ways in which personal website owners may be able to increase traffic to their sites, the use of blogs has been found to be especially effective. Blogs not only make a website more personable, but also can provide an explanation of certain listed products and may attract attention from unsuspecting sources.

There is literally an audience for a blog in every niche. While some blogs may not get millions of readers and other blogs may be much less glamorous and even straight up disgusting, there is a time and place for any well written material. One recent example we came across that falls into the, shall we say, “not so glamorous” category would be the Toe Nail fungus niche. We recently chatted with Kristie Collins, a full-time freelance writer who blogs for ToeNailFungusReviews.org, a site dedicated to the reviewing of toenail fungus creams and other nail fungus treatments. We asked her how she ended up writing about toenail fungus for a living  and she said: ” While you may not have a blog about about toenail fungus treatments in your daily blog reader, you will be damn happy there is one out there when you need it.”

Well put, Kristie :)

Until then, here are some reasons that any business can benefit from a having a blog on their website:

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Divorce and Social Media: Can Social Media Activity Be Used as Evidence?

Oct 02, 13 Divorce and Social Media: Can Social Media Activity Be Used as Evidence?

Divorce and Social Media: Can social media activity used as evidence?

A couple going through a divorce may use Facebook and other social networking sites as a platform for airing grievances and other information pertaining to the divorce or slandering information about a soon-to-be ex.  While it may be tempting to voice your feelings about your ex or specific information about your marital situation, it is important to consider how it may affect your pending divorce.  Once you have shared personal information on social networking sites, such as Facebook, it’s hard to reverse any damage that may already be done.  In some cases, the information you share, can be used as evidence in your divorce hearing.
According to The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81% of its members have used or faced evidence from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites.  Social networking sites are often used to promote divorce-related hate and smear campaigns among battling spouses.  While initially, it may seem like a good way to deal with the range of emotions that one may feel when facing divorce, it can ultimately end up being used as evidence in a court of law.  Depending on your “angle”, the custody of your children and other assets you may be trying to gain may be at risk.

According to CharlesUllman.com, a Cary, NC family law firm, you should consider the following:

-    Be Honest:  Do not write anything on sites, like Facebook, that you wouldn’t admit to.  Your lawyer, your ex, the judge are all privy to the information that you post.

-    Don’t try to force friends to take sides:  It may be tempting to reach out on Facebook and persuade mutual friends to take sides.  Before or during a divorce is not the time, especially not in a public matter.  Regardless of your emotions, beware of what you say and what you ask of friends.  Public slander is hard to ignore or erase.

-    Take pictures with caution:  Questionable pictures can be used against you.  Whether you are celebrating your divorce with a couple of friends or posing with your children and a new love interest, make those pictures private until your divorce is finalized.  A seemingly innocent picture can be construed negatively, especially during your divorce hearing.

-    Use Privacy settings:  If you feel like you need to continue to share things on social networking sites, during your divorce proceeding, make sure that you have privacy settings enabled.  Only allow the people you trust to see your posts, such as parents, siblings and best friends.
Be Careful with your Words
Divorce hearings can be difficult.  By being a responsible and considerate social networking site user, the chance of evidence used against you is slim.  Making careless and impulsive comments online can put you and your divorce case at great risk.  While you may feel the need to find support among friends, contact them privately or in person.  Activity on the internet is shared quickly and even if you never intended for your comments to get back to your soon-to-be ex, it may be used against you or as evidence.

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