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Lockdown road trip on Xbox

Lockdown road-trip: Driving across America on an Xbox

Lockdown road trip on Xbox

As the World Health Organisation tells us to stay indoors and play games – and the UK struggles with lockdown life – I had an idea to help my fellow car enthusiasts and gamers.

It’s a road-trip across the USA, but from the comfort of your sofa. All you need is an Xbox One, PlayStation 4 or PC – plus a copy of open-world driving game, The Crew 2.

The Crew series is much-maligned – particularly by fans of Forza Motorsport – and in some ways deservedly so. Its physics have been touch-and-go, while the graphics aren’t up to most other racing games.

However, since its launch in 2014, I’ve been consistently absorbed. I’m convinced The Crew 2 is criminally underrated. Meanwhile, Forza Horizon games left me cold after a week.

Lockdown road trip on Xbox

Why? Firstly, there’s the map. Forza Horizon 4 has you repeating yourself with its one token driving road and one token motorway. Its map is only around 30 square miles or so.

The Crew 2 condenses many of the best bits of the USA, including hundreds of interesting landmarks, jaw-dropping vistas, iconic cities and epic driving roads, for a 1,900 square-mile map. It’s enormous.

The graphics are grainier, but there’s a warmth to the look of The Crew 2. It makes the most of the great views, as well as details on your car, letting you capture stunning in-game photos. We’ve added plenty, both new and old, to show it off.

Our road-trip across the USA

Lockdown road trip on Xbox

To prove the point, I came up with a route for a great American road trip, including cities, points of interest, incredible views and, of course, great roads in-between. A rough outline of the 380-mile route is pictured above.

Our cars of choice, with people dropping in and out along the way, are the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, Ferrari 812 Superfast, Nissan GT-R and Audi R8.

Lockdown road trip on Xbox

Specific road names aren’t as useful as key points. From one to the next, set a waypoint on the map, and it will guide you.

We began on the coast in San Francisco, before taking on the Big Sur coastal road, otherwise known as the Pacific Coast Highway, southward down to Venice Beach and Santa Monica pier in Los Angeles.

Big Sur is definitely one of the five best driving roads in the game. At points it’s technical, at others flowing, but always with a beautiful view out towards the sea. 

From there, we set out across the southern highway, up to the aircraft graveyard. It’s spooky there when the weather is foggy.

After that, it’s a long haul east up the highway, across the southern limit of the map to Tampa Bay. The Florida Everglades roads are less used, but there are some gems in there. And in the right light, it’s photography gold. 

Lockdown road trip on Xbox

Speaking of photography, we then head up from Key West to Cape Canaveral, via Miami Beach. A true sight to behold – and one you won’t find in the real world – is a shuttle set up and ready for take-off.

Enormous and incredible, the majesty of the shuttle is captured well in the game. The Palm Coast Highway then takes us up to Washington DC, where you can see the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument and, of course, the White House.

For context and scale, at this point we’re 131 miles in, with more than 250 to go. So we’ll list the next stops without too much detail.

Lockdown road trip on Xbox

  • Manhattan (Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty) via Lake Erie Highway to Detroit.
  • Detroit to Mount Rushmore, via the Mackinac Bridge.
  • Mount Rushmore to Pikes Peak, via the Badlands.
  • Pikes Peak to Santa Fe.
  • Santa Fe to the Grand Canyon, via Canyonlands (these are some of the best roads in the game, offering spectacular views).
  • From the Grand Canyon, one of the coolest stops follows shortly after. Follow the central plateau to the spectacular Hoover Dam, then to Las Vegas. Vegas at night is a sight to see, whether you’re catching a glimpse from across the desert, or immersed in the bright lights on the strip.

Lockdown road trip on Xbox

  • From Vegas, we head out to Salt Lake City and then to Yellowstone via the ski jump. Yes, you can jump it… Be sure to visit the spectacular hot spring at Yellowstone, before heading to the Ivory Peak Hotel and the northern driving roads. The latter are also among the five best driving routes in the game.

Lockdown road trip on Xbox

  • Head down to the Bonneville salt flats, via Ivory Springs, back towards Las Vegas. The salt flats offer some of the most spectacular views – and some of the most fun for racing and sliding around. 

Lockdown road trip on Xbox

If you can tear yourself away from the salt, head back into Las Vegas, along the highway through the desert, towards Yosemite.

I would put the Yosemite roads among the top three sections in the game. They’re a regular haunt. Via the Yosemite pass, you should then head back down to San Francisco. 

Lockdown road trip on Xbox

This route, condensed here, is easily five to six hours of driving, exploring, photographing and laughing – all while ignoring your significant other calling you a bit of a sad act.

No argument with that, but if you’re looking to chew on some new driving game fun, now might be the best time to jump into The Crew 2.

Lockdown road trip on Xbox

The car list is great, with some excellent (tasteful or otherwise) modding options.

The physics can be fiddled with in the settings menus (tyre grip, aerodynamics, anti-roll bars) to make it even more enjoyable.

Get in the car you love, in the spec you love, with good friends, on great roads, in the right weather, with good music, and it’s a worthy substitute for the real thing. The world might be virtual, but the fun is very real.

And it all costs a few pence on your smart meter, rather than a few hundred pounds in super unleaded. Most importantly, it’s all from the safety of your living room.

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How to care for your car tyres while not driving

How to buy the right tyres for your car

The requirement to stay at home during the coronavirus lockdown presents new challenges for looking after your car.

Tyres are among the components that can suffer most from sitting still, so here is how to keep them healthy when the car isn’t in use. These tips are provided by Falken Tyres.

Visually check your tyres

It sounds obvious, but you should be doing this regularly – regardless of the pandemic. If you’re not driving much, or at all, this may be a good time to source replacement tyres if needed.

If the tyres are worn, cut, bulging, have flat spots, are cracking, or are out of date, it’s time to change. Check they are inflated to the recommended pressures and wearing evenly, too.

Valve caps

Get a Grip tyre campaign to get young drivers educated

The valve cap is another important part of the tyre. This stops dirt and moisture getting in and causing damage to the stems. They are, however, small and easy items to lose.

Over-inflate your tyres

To make sure your tyres don’t get too low while the car stands for a while, over-inflate them by around 15 PSI.

For most cars, this will take the tyres to between 40 PSI and 45 PSI. Over-inflation can also prevent flat-spots.

Jack up your car

Look after your tyres in the lockdown

Another way of avoiding flat-spots, or excess pressure loss, is to put your car on axle stands.

This takes the weight off the tyres, relieving the load. ‘Tyre trainers’ can also help. 

Store your car in a garage

One of the best ways to protect your tyres is keep them out of the sun. If leaving your car for a long period, park it in the shade, or in a garage.

If you have spare tyres, such as winter tyres, make sure they are stored appropriately as well.

 

Fuel stations at risk of closure due to coronavirus

Rural filling station

Many filling stations will have to close in coming weeks as a collapse in demand makes businesses unviable.

The Petrol Retailers Association has warned rural fuel stations are particularly at risk.

Demand for petrol is down 75 percent, while diesel is down 71 percent as motorists heed government warnings to stay at home.

ALSO READ: How to find the cheapest petrol and diesel near you

This is having a severe impact on filling station businesses, says the PRA, where sales volumes have plunged.  

The association is now warning motorists in rural areas to check their local filling station is open before they travel to buy fuel.

“To help freight move and help key workers travel safely and independently through this period of crisis, petrol filling stations must remain open,” said PRA chairman Brian Madderson.

“But this is proving to be a challenge for many.”

The collapse in oil prices is not helping independent filling stations, either: a PRA survey suggests six in 10 have full storage tanks, purchased weeks earlier when oil prices were much higher.

“Fuel retailers are having to maintain pump prices at previous levels to avoid suffering significant losses,” said Mr Madderson.

“When the COVID-19 restrictions and high sales volumes return, then we expect to see reductions in retail fuel prices.”

He has asked the government to give smaller fuel retailers the same 60-day credit terms as those enjoyed by supermarkets.

Coronavirus: NHS workers to get free Uber rides

Uber to give free rides and meals to NHS staff

Ride-hailing company Uber has announced it will give free rides to NHS staff travelling to work during the coronavirus crisis. 

A total of 200,000 free rides will be made available, as a thank you from the company to health workers.

All NHS workers need is a valid NHS or HSC email address, which they should link to an Uber account.

Uber to give free rides and meals to NHS staff

In the app, first tap on the menu at the top left, then tap ‘wallet’ and then ‘add promo code’.

This week’s Uber code for free rides is NHSAPRIL20, with codes updated every week.

Up to 10 rides can be claimed each week per account – there and back for every working day. The journey will be covered up to the value of £15. Beyond that, charges can be incurred.

Staff can visit uber.com/nhs for more information on the offer.

A free meal with a free ride

Uber to give free rides and meals to NHS staff

In addition to this, Uber is offering free meals to NHS staff with its Uber Eats food delivery arm. Up to 100,000 will be available, from the wide range of restaurants and convenience stores that use the service. Orders can be delivered to home, or even to a hospital ward. 

Email codes will be sent to NHS accounts linked with Uber Eats accounts. You can update your contact details and receive a code within 48 hours of doing so. The limit for food orders is five per week, per person.

Uber

In its email to account holders, Uber said “we want to help reduce the pressure on the heroes on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis.”

“So please share this email with anyone you know who works for the NHS. And while you’re at it, please thank them for all that they do.”

NHS Vauxhall

Vauxhall offers free breakdown cover to NHS staff

NHS Vauxhall

Vauxhall is pledging free roadside assistance to all NHS staff who drive one of its cars during the coronavirus crisis.

The offer extends to any Vauxhall vehicle, regardless of age or mileage.

Normally, only people who buy a brand new Vauxhall get the 12-month Roadside Assistance package.

ALSO READ: Free car parking for NHS staff during coronavirus

The assistance programme will deploy a technician in the event of a breakdown to attempt a repair at the roadside.  

If this isn’t possible, it includes recovery of the vehicle to a Vauxhall repairer or independent garage within a 10-mile radius.

The owner gets taxi support to the their home or place of work within 20 miles.  

“Keeping our NHS colleagues mobile is vital,” said Vauxhall MD Stephen Norman.

The offer will “hopefully offer some reassurance” to key workers who do not already have any mechanical breakdown cover.

“Vauxhall is committed to providing continued support to essential services and key workers, many of whom drive Vauxhalls, during this time.”

NHS staff: how do I claim free Vauxhall roadside assistance?

Vauxhall has made claiming the support package for NHS staff as simple as possible.

They call a special number – 0800 197 2049 – and quote ‘NHS key worker’.

The operator will ask for their make of Vauxhall, its registration, the exact location and details of the breakdown problem.

NHS workers don’t need to pre-register for the initiative; they simply show their NHS Care Identity Number (Smart Card) or Trust ID Badge to the technician in order to prove their eligibility.

Lamborghini is making masks and face shields for coronavirus medics

Lamborghini covid face masks

Automobili Lamborghini has started the production of surgical masks and face shields for those helping fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The protective equipment will be donated to the Sant’Orsola-Malpighi Hospital in Bologna, located less than 20 miles away from Lamborghini’s factory in Sant’Agata. 

Lamborghini had previously taken the decision to stop car production on the 12th of March, with the coronavirus pandemic worsening in Italy. 

The need to make a concrete contribution

Lamborghini covid face masks

The Emilia-Romagna Region, which plays host to Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati, and Ducati, has been one of the Italian areas worst-hit by coronavirus.

The region has seen more than 14,000 cases, second only to Lombardy, 

Stefano Domenicali, Chairman and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini, commented that: “During this emergency, we feel the need to make a concrete contribution.

“The S. Orsola-Malpighi Hospital is an institution with which we have had a collaborative relationship for years, through both professional consultancy in promoting programs to protect our workers’ health, and in research projects. 

“We will win this battle together by working in union, supporting those who are at the forefront of fighting this pandemic every day.”

A display of unity and support

Lamborghini covid face masks

Instead of producing leather components for use in luxurious Lamborghini interiors, the company’s saddlery department is now producing face masks. Up to 1,000 masks per day can be produced by Lamborghini workers. 

This is in addition to a total of 200 plexiglass protective face shields being produced each day. These are made using 3D printers housed in the company’s research and development department.

All the protective equipment being produced by Lamborghini has been approved by the Emilia-Romagna Region local authorities. The University of Bologna will also undertake testing of the finished items to ensure they meet the relevant safety standards.

As a symbol of unity with the Emilia-Romagna Region and wider country, Lamborghini has also been illuminating its museum and headquarters with the colours of the Italian flag each evening.

How to take a virtual tour of Audi’s largest factory

AudiStream lets you virtually tour its German factory

Audi has come to the rescue of those stuck in isolation boredom with a virtual tour of its production facility in Ingolstadt, Germany.

AudiStream can take you around its largest factory, which occupies a similar amount of land as Monaco.

Such is the size of the facility, it even has its own ‘Ingolstadt Audi’ train station. The online tool can take you across the site in as little as 15 minutes.

AudiStream lets you virtually tour its German factory

Ingolstadt has been operational for some 70 years, with 441,608 cars built there in 2019. Around 2,300 Audis are assembled every day, with 45,000 workers making the process happen.

Audi is the first manufacturer to offer such an inside look at its production facility and technology. The A3 bodyshop and A4 assembly line can both be accessed via the stream.

The plant has recently been outfitted for production of the new A3. Audi’s new Golf-sized hatch was meant to debut at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this month. 

If you have questions about what you’re seeing, tour guides will be on hand to answer. They’ll be available via a live interactive discussion or online chat.

There are 20-minute time slots. These can be booked for the virtual AudiStream tour by visiting www.audi.stream.com.

AudiStream lets you virtually tour its German factory

This AudiStream tour joins other virtual experiences offered in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Last weekend, self-isolating car enthusiasts were treated to a virtual Goodwood Members’ Meeting, with a ‘best of’ selection of races and demos sorted into two day-long streams.

With much of the 2020 F1 calendar postponed, a virtual Grand Prix series was also launched.

And for something a bit more static, but no less fascinating, you can take virtual tours of the Petersen and Mullin automotive museums in America.

Government figures reveal huge decline in road and rail travel

Transport figures show effect of social distancing

The Department of Transport has published figures that reveal how various modes of transport have been affected by the coronavirus crisis.

The graph below shows motor vehicles, national railways, London (TfL) buses and the London Underground. 

Transport figures show effect of social distancing

On February 27, everything is at 100 percent. By 3 March, the underground shows its first sign of decline.

By 18 March, tube use had halved, while bus use was at just over 75 percent. Travel by National Rail experienced a similar drop, at around 75 percent. Travel by car, meanwhile, had only just started to drop off by March 18.

However, the rate of drop after this date – around when the UK ‘lockdown’ first began – is enormous. By 25 March, car driving was down to 50 percent, dropping almost overnight from 75 percent. At this point, the three forms of public transport are down at or below 25 percent.

Transport figures show effect of social distancing

It’s difficult to compare these figures with UK cases of the virus, hospital admissions and the death rate, due to incubation periods, testing availability and so on.

However, in terms of new cases, the so-called curve appears to have softened, with the first drop-off occurring on 28 March, following the stark jump on 27 March. 

The real effects of the social distancing measures, evidenced in these transport figures, will only be visible in the longer term. For now, at least, it seems that most of the population has listened and stayed at home.

Air pollution falls amid coronavirus lockdowns

Coronavirus lockdowns cause drop in emissions across the world

Scientists are reporting a side-effect of the coronavirus pandemic in many cities across the world is a significant reduction in air pollution.

As people stay home, and have done so in various countries over the course of the month, marked percentage drops in emissions levels have been noted.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has now published data from recent weeks on nitrogen oxide (NOx) concentrations. This is backed up with imagery from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI).

Images are from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite which has been monitoring NOx levels in Europe. 

This is Italy in early March: 

Coronavirus lockdowns cause drop in emissions across the world

And this is later in March, once lockdowns began: 

Coronavirus lockdowns cause drop in emissions across the world

The differences are significant. As of March 25, Italian cities such as Milan and Bergamo saw nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations down by a respective 21 percent and 47 percent respectively. 

Rome’s average NO2 concentrations for the four weeks preceding March 25 were down between 26 and 35 percent, compared to the same weeks in 2019.

Spanish figures seem to follow similar trends. Average NO2 levels in Barcelona were down 55 percent for the same mid-March period, compared with 2019. Compared with the week prior, levels were down 40 percent.

Coronavirus lockdowns cause drop in emissions across the world

Madrid saw a week-to-week drop of 56 percent.

Coronavirus lockdowns cause drop in emissions across the world

Figures in the Spanish capital were down 41 percent on the same week in 2019. Lisbon saw a year-to-date drop of 51 percent, and a drop from the week before of 51 percent. 

Emissions down during coronavirus crisis

Chinese figures too, are down significantly. The country’s ministry of ecology and environment has reported a 21.5 percent increase in ‘good quality air days’ in February.

Nasa reckons that NO2 levels dropped by between 10 and 30 percent across eastern and central China, between mid-January and mid-February.

The drop in CO2 emissions in all cases ought to be commensurate, too. China’s, for instance, are thought to be down by at least 30 percent.

coronavirus lockdown could cause more drink driving

COVID-19 lockdown could lead to increased drink-driving

coronavirus lockdown could cause more drink driving

UK motorists are being warned about driving while over the alcohol limit as the coronavirus lockdown causes home drinking to dramatically increase.

Now it’s suggested there could be more people drink-driving on the roads.

Home drinking in the UK has nearly doubled, with 100 million pints of beer being consumed each week. The problem, we’re told, is people driving early the following morning, to make the supermarket run before essential supplies sell out. 

Drink driving accidents highest since 2010

Some drivers aren’t knowingly driving while over the limit, then. Rather, it’s residual units from the night before, which remain when they fire the car up in the morning.

Studies have shown that even a small amount of alcohol in your system can impede reaction times and performance behind the wheel. That also applies to quantities below the legal limit.  

Around 20 percent of drink-drive convictions come from those caught in the morning. And around a third of all breath tests following an accident are conducted between 7am and 1pm.

England should lower drink drive limit, scotland says

Department for Transport figures indicate a 25 percent jump in drink-drive accident fatalities in the past two years.

“If you consume three pints of beer or three large glasses of wine before retiring at 11pm, you’re unlikely to be totally clear of alcohol when driving to the supermarket for 7am,” said Hunter Abbott, managing director of AlcoSense.  

Drink driving accidents highest since 2010

“Even if you’re just at the English/Welsh legal drink-drive limit, research shows you are 13 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than when sober. The only way to be sure that alcohol has completely cleared your system is to use a personal breathalyser.”

“The impact of COVID-19 is worrying enough without the added stress of being banned from driving, or involved in a car crash”.