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2010 Toyota Prius

Earlier this morning I was taking my aluminum cans and newspapers to the big recycling bins in my neighborhood, so naturally, I had recycling on my mind. And as I got back into my car and began to drive away, I remembered I had recently read about several automakers making the claim that their cars are almost entirely recyclable.

I know that I'm not announcing any breaking news here or anything like that, but sonar parking systems for cars and trucks have suddenly become much more common than they once were. Some are simple systems that use a few LEDs in the rear view mirror (or elsewhere in the driver's line of sight) and an audible warning that reinforces the visual display. Others systems are extremely advanced...

Over the weekend I read an article by Hiroko Tabuchi in The New York Times that caught me a little off-guard. I don't know why the news was so unexpected -- but it was. As you know, here in the states, auto production (with very few exceptions) has been greatly reduced or even halted in some cases. But did you know that they're working overtime at the Toyota Prius factories in Japan?

By now you've probably hard the news that the third-generation Toyota Prius, better known as the 2010 Toyota Prius, will be the most fuel-efficient vehicle you can buy in the United States when it hits the market this June. How fuel efficient? Well, with a combined (city/highway) EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 50 miles per gallon, the 2010 Prius is well ahead of the ever-growing hybrid car competition at this point. There simply aren't any other hybrid cars available that have reached the 50 mpg threshold...not yet, anyway. However, being on top in the hybrid car segment isn't exactly new to Toyota. In fact, according to fueleconomy.gov, the 2009 Toyota Prius is listed as the current model year's most efficient EPA certified vehicle achieving 48 mpg in the city, 45 miles per gallon on the highway for a combined mileage average of 46 miles per gallon. So, how did Toyota further refine this already fuel-efficient sedan?

It's funny how this works. While sitting at my home in Atlanta, Georgia, a rain storm in China prompted me to think about water-repellent glass. Here's how it all went down... It was at home over the past weekend and it was raining. In fact, it was raining just hard enough to prevent most outdoor activities. So, I switched on the television and within seconds I was watching a broadcast of the Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix. Now, if you happened to watch this race yesterday, then you may already know where I'm going with this -- it was raining in Shanghai, China, too. Actually, for the first several laps of the race it was pouring. Yeah, I knew the speeds were going to be reduced for the track conditions, but I kept watching. Seeing these world-class drivers (at speed) attempt to keep their million-dollar racing machines on the track surface and away from the grass, gravel, walls and other cars made me wonder aloud (several times), "How can these guys possibly see anything?"

Have you ever lost an accessory drive belt when you're out on the road? I have -- and it's usually a bad situation. Even car owners who consider themselves to be well-prepared by carrying a wide variety of hand tools, heavy-duty rope, straps, tape, assorted lengths and sizes of tubing, electrical wire, spare spark plugs...

Have you ever read about a new automotive technology and thought to yourself, "How is it that someone didn't think of this idea sooner?" or perhaps even, "Why didn't I think of that? That's a million-dollar idea." It seems like I do this once a week (maybe even more often than that). Well, this time, I'm giving myself a big forehead slap over Toyota's Touch Tracer display. It's a feature that will soon be available in the 2010 Toyota Prius. The Touch Tracer system isn't new or breaking news by any means -- just something that I stumbled across while doing some reading earlier this morning. Nevertheless, it's a cool technology. Steering wheel controls are nothing new, right? Steering wheel audio system and temperature controls are fairly common in a lot of new cars, trucks and SUVs. However...

No matter where you are, take just a few seconds to look around you. There's a good chance that right at this very moment you'll be able to spot at least one place (if not several) where light emitting diode (LED) technology is used. Some of the most common applications are as status indicator lights on electronic components, such as computers, televisions and virtually all handheld devices. The bright light produced by LEDs is also used for traffic signals, flashlights, aisle floor markers in airplanes and movie theatres, and for a while, LEDs were even a popular addition to kid's sneakers. Anyway, you get the idea -- LEDs are everywhere. Of course, automotive applications are plentiful, too. LEDs are used for interior illumination, system status indicators, daytime running lights, fog lamps and perhaps, the most common automotive application to date, brake lamps. So what's missing from this short list? LED headlamps.