Michelin's Puncture-Proof Tire Prototype Could Make Flats a Thing of the Past

Steve Fecht for General Motors
Steve Fecht for General Motors

Flat tires have long been the biggest plague facing motorists. In 2017, research conducted by auto experts AAA found that 28 percent of new-model cars didn’t even come with a spare tire in the event of a tire failure, with manufacturers choosing to eliminate them to reduce costs and improve fuel efficiency. In 2016, the AAA estimated that it assisted 450,000 drivers with flats and repairs. Loss of air pressure or simply driving over a piercing object can blow out a tire, causing delays, accidents, and emergency stops into repair facilities.

Tire manufacturer Michelin is looking to change that. In collaboration with General Motors, the company is working on a tire named Uptis (Unique Puncture-Proof Tire System) that doesn’t use air and cannot be rendered flat. The design, which would be the first airless tire system for passenger cars, debuted at this week’s Movin’ On Summit in Montreal.

Though the tire has conventional treads, the middle layer is made of composite rubber and resin-embedded fiberglass spokes. The spokes provide support for the treads and remove the need for air.

The two companies believe the Uptis will last longer than a regular tire because it cannot be worn down by being under or over-inflated. The design is also intended to be environmentally friendly, as it would reduce the number of tires thrown out due to damage. According to Michelin, 200 million tires are discarded every year.

The tires will be tested in a fleet of Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles later this year. If the trial goes well, Michelin expects they could be available on new General Motors vehicles by 2024. It’s not yet clear whether Michelin would sell the tires separately or if vehicles might need some kind of modified chassis in order to accommodate them.

[h/t WBTW]

Why You Should Never Charge Your Phone in Public USB Ports Without a USB Data Blocker

Creative-Family/iStock via Getty Images
Creative-Family/iStock via Getty Images

The USB charging ports that have popped up at airports, coffee shops, and even outdoor stations around cities in recent years are definitely a lifesaver when your smartphone is down to its last bit of juice. A dead phone is annoying at best and downright dangerous at worst, so it’s totally understandable why you’d jump at the chance to revive it at your earliest opportunity.

However, those public ports might not be as benevolent as they seem. According to Afar, hackers can load malware onto those stations—or on the cables left plugged into the stations—which can then deliver passwords and other data right from your device to the hacker’s. If you have used a public port recently, don’t panic; TechCrunch reports that these cases are fairly rare. Having said that, it’s definitely better not to risk it, especially considering what a nightmare it would be to have your identity stolen.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office explains that the easiest way to prevent becoming a victim of this type of scam, often referred to as juice-jacking, is simply to abstain from using public USB charging ports. Instead, invest in a portable charger, or plug your own charger into an actual AC power outlet.

But unoccupied power outlets are notoriously hard to come by in public places, and portable chargers themselves can also run out of battery life. Luckily, there’s a small, inexpensive device called a data blocker that will enable you to use public USB charging ports without worrying about juice-jacking. It looks a little like a flash drive with an extra slot, but it lacks the two wires usually found in USB chargers that can download and upload data. That way, your device will charge without transferring any information.

You can get two of them for $11 from Amazon here.

[h/t Afar]

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Scope Out the Best Christmas Light Displays in Your Neighborhood With Nextdoor's Cheer Map

can72/iStock via Getty Images
can72/iStock via Getty Images

For many people, driving around the neighborhood to admire the gorgeous light displays (or laugh at the garish ones) is a beloved holiday tradition. But if you live in a big city or only want to check out the most impressive displays, you might not know where to look. That’s where Nextdoor’s Cheer Map comes in.

Nextdoor is a free and private social network that lets you interact with other people in your neighborhood. It’s used in more than 250,000 neighborhoods around the world, and if yours happens to be one of them, you can use the Cheer Map to find the nearest Christmas light displays in your area. The map is crowdsourced and voluntary, so your neighbors can mark their own homes with a holiday lights icon. And if you're eager to flaunt your own festive decorations, you can mark your home on the map, too.

The results will look something like this:

A woman uses Nextdoor's Cheer Map app
Netxtdoor

You can access the Cheer Map online, or via an iPhone or Android device. To get started, click the Cheer Map link, and you’ll be prompted to create a free online account with Nextdoor if you don’t already have one (signing up is quick and easy). Once you’re logged in, a pop-up window will ask whether you plan on decorating for the holidays; select “I will” or “Not this year,” then click "Continue." If you don’t want to participate, you can also select “Skip” to jump ahead to good stuff and access the map of decorated homes in your neighborhood. And that’s it! If you selected “I will,” a colorful light icon will mark your home on the map.

For those who live in small towns, there’s a chance you’ll be the first person in your neighborhood to join the site. Unfortunately, that means your neighborhood won’t be officially “launched” on Nextdoor unless you get nine of your neighbors to sign up. But even if you aren’t able to use the Cheer Map this holiday season, you could help spread the word (and holiday cheer) to get your neighborhood on the map for next year.

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