Posts By: Matt Posky

By on June 23, 2017

cheech-chong high driving

Tragically, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has correlated the legalization of recreational marijuana use with more automobile accidents. Pot smoking in Colorado, Oregon and Washington seems to have resulted in collision frequencies roughly 3 percent higher than what would have been expected without legalization, according to a recent analysis from the Highway Loss Data Institute.

While this certainly isn’t an endorsement for de-legalizing recreational marijuana use, it is a reminder to stay off the roads if you’re having your head changed. Operating a motor vehicle while baked can get you into a sticky-icky situation, and nobody wants you having a green out on the expressway. That said, risks associated with driving under the influence of marijuana are much less cut-and-dried than alcohol.

This is largely due to how difficult it is for researchers to test marijuana. Despite its growing legalization, marijuana is classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule 1 drug, and subject to the highest level of restriction. Researchers need approval from their institution and apply for a license from the DEA before conducting a study. The government also has only so much pot to dole out for research purposes and gives the majority of it to the National Institute on Drug Abuse — fair and balanced testing of whether or not getting high while driving is safe is a little lower on NIDA’s list of priorities.  (Read More…)

By on June 23, 2017

self-driving uber advanced tech center autonomous car

It would seem Waymo’s case against Uber is progressing at the latter’s expense. Anthony Levandowski, the former Uber employee at the center of the intellectual property theft, was apparently covered in writing for any legal action taken against for things like… fraud and stealing trade secrets.

The clause, which is literally outlined as “Pre-Signing Bad Acts” in the contract, was part of closed documents U.S. District Judge William Alsup previously assumed would be invaluable in progressing the case. Alphabet, which owns Waymo, accused Uber of being complicit in Levandowski’s alleged theft – suggesting the ride-sharing rival intentionally hired him in the hopes he would bring inside information acquired during his tenure at Google. It was a notion Alsup also seemed more than willing to entertain.

“It remains entirely possible that Uber knowingly left Levandowski free to keep that treasure trove of files as handy as he wished [provided he keep the data on his own personal devices], and that Uber willfully refused to tell Levandowski to return the treasure trove to its rightful owner,” the judge said back in May(Read More…)

By on June 23, 2017

GM Assembly, Image: General Motors

General Motors’ safety practices are no longer under the watchful eye of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The three-year oversight period was part of a settlement GM reached with U.S. regulators back in May 2014, resulting from its failure to recall defective ignition switches attributed to 124 deaths and countless injuries.

While NHTSA’s role as General Motors’ personal watchdog ended last month, the automaker said it intends to continue meeting with the agency on a monthly basis to discuss potential defects. It also stated that the time spent with the regulator had been transformative, leading to a safer environment and more stringent quality control.  (Read More…)

By on June 22, 2017

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon - Image: FCA

As Hollywood writes it, when you make a deal with Satan, he bestows onto you whatever you covet most in exchange for your soul. However, there is usually some dark twist that ruins the overall experience long before you can settle into hell’s never-ending torment. If you ask him for money, it’ll be stolen from the mob and they’ll hunt you down. If you ask him for power, he’ll make you the next Adolf Hitler. The devil’s bargain is a well-established trope — you get what you asked for but cannot fully enjoy it thanks to some twisted fine print.

Fiat Chrysler’s SRT Demon Customer Acknowledgment contract functions similarly. Perhaps it’s a necessary evil because it specifically prohibits the brainless activities which would absolutely result in your 800+ horsepower drag car killing you or a loved one. That said, you could ignore all of the rules FCA carefully chose to include within the contract. But, when you do, the manufacturer has itemized and initialed proof where it explicitly forbid you from doing so.  (Read More…)

By on June 22, 2017

lynk-and-co-model-02

Geely may be pushing the Lynk & Co brand as the most connected and tech-savvy in existence but its senior vice president Alain Visser believes its sales strategy should remain simple. With cars supposedly rolling out in Europe and North America for 2019, Lynk & Co is only planning to offer an extremely limited number of trim choices that rotate seasonally. It’s a fine strategy for an unknown element breaking into the marketplace but it does omit the ability to rake in the additional dough via optional extras. However, it also permits for lower production costs and a flat rate Lynk & Co claims buyers won’t need to bother negotiating.

How convenient for everyone.  (Read More…)

By on June 22, 2017

us-capitol, public domain

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Wednesday there was no definitive timeline for completing NAFTA trade renegotiations. Discussions haven’t even begun between the United States, Canada, and Mexico but legislators and executives have already warned prolonged negotiations would likely be detrimental to their interests.

The automotive industry is mainly seeking a swift and unambiguous update that doesn’t rock the boat too severely. Every day there is no consensus on the trade agreement is another day it has to postpone large investments. Ideally, the U.S. wants the redrawn NAFTA to prioritize its workforce and industry, while the Trump administration aims to tax imports and force companies to do more business within its borders. But, with nothing finalized, many automakers are in a holding pattern. Volkswagen, for example, is putting off decisions on major U.S. investments until it becomes clearer what course NAFTA will take.  (Read More…)

By on June 21, 2017

Tesla AutoPilot cruise control

The National Transportation Safety Board has finally concluded its investigation into a May 2016 crash in Florida that resulted in the death of 40-year-old Joshua Brown. The ex-Navy SEAL’s Tesla Model S was operating in Autopilot mode when it collided with a semi trailer, raising speculation that the semi-autonomous driving feature was the reason for the accident.

While Tesla has repeatedly called the system a lane-keeping “assist feature” and suggested drivers always keep their hands on the wheel, consumer safety groups have urged the automaker to improve it.

An earlier investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated in January that the Autopilot software in Brown’s car did not have any safety defects. However, the NTSB stated that data acquired from the vehicle’s computer indicated that neither the vehicle nor its operator made any attempt to avoid the truck. It also specified that the vehicle had issued seven warnings for Brown to retake the wheel.

In the 37 minutes leading up to the fatal crash, the report said the car detected hands on the steering wheel for a total of 25 seconds.

(Read More…)

By on June 21, 2017

2018 Subaru WRX STI and WRX - Image: Subaru

Even thought Subaru’s new Impreza is already here and riding on the company’s new global platform, an updated WRX appears to be a long way off. In fact, it might be another three years until we see an updated performance sedan from the (mostly) all-wheel-drive automaker.

While the current incarnations of the WRX and its hotter STI variant still provide balanced dynamics and remain well liked by driving enthusiasts, seven years without a significant upgrade is a long time to wait. (Read More…)

By on June 21, 2017

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Image: TechCrunch/Flickr

Uber’s founder is stepping away from the company — not for the summer, as originally planned, but for good. CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned after a relentless string of controversies caused the company to lose face for all of 2017 thus far.

On Tuesday, five of Uber’s largest investors demanded that the chief executive resign. This was followed by Kalanick’s official confirmation and a posting from the company’s head of U.S. operations outlining a 180 day strategy to turn things around. While the plan made no mention of Travis’ departure, the resignation certainly seems to jibe with its objectives.

Other more official aspects of Uber’s cleverly named “180” include trials for driver tipping in several major cities and a surcharge for teenagers because everyone hates them. The ride-hailing firm is also adding Driver Injury Protection Insurance and a way to bill passengers for making them wait. None of these changes appear to be all-inclusive, however. Uber has also made it fairly vague as to when and where some of these changes will occur.  (Read More…)

By on June 20, 2017

Oshawa Assembly, Image: General Motors

General Motors Canada will idle a pair of Ontario factories longer than usual this summer as it struggles with lagging demand. If that sounds familiar, it’s because GM has taken the exact same approach with two factories in the United States.

On Monday, the automaker confirmed it will also be eliminating the overnight shift for Chevrolet Malibu production at its assembly plant in Kansas City. That follows a trio of shift eliminations at three plants in Michigan and one in Ohio since the beginning of the year. It appears that Canadian jobs could now be in danger.  (Read More…)

By on June 20, 2017

electric car charging smart car

With the possible exception of the United States in the near future, emission regulations are getting harsher everywhere. Nowhere is that more true than China. Not only does Asia’s most populous country have some of the most stringent emission requirements for new cars, it also has the strictest sales quotas for electrically powered vehicles on the planet. Too strict, according to some automakers.

A Chinese draft regulation issued last week stipulates automakers must sell enough electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles to comprise 8 percent of total volume by 2018, 10 percent by 2019, and 12 percent by 2020. This comes after talks between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that hinted China might have mercy on Germany manufacturers.  (Read More…)

By on June 20, 2017

ford focus st, Image: Ford Motor Co.

There’s a good chance the next Ford Focus you purchase will have arrived via a slow boat from China. Despite abandoning assembly plans in Mexico earlier this year, Ford Motor Company has decided the next-generation model will remain an import, now by way of Asia.

Current Focus production in Wayne, Michigan will be eliminated in the middle of next year to make way for Ford’s upcoming Ranger pickup (in late 2018) and Bronco (in 2020). The automaker assures hourly workers they won’t suffer from layoffs resulting from the changeover, but admits to prioritizing its U.S. assembly plants for trucks and SUVs — vehicles Americans will actually buy. (Read More…)

By on June 20, 2017

Carlos Ghosn

Since acquiring Mitsubishi in 2016, the Renault-Nissan Alliance has found itself in the midst of Volkswagen and Toyota’s struggle for the title of World’s Largest Automaker.

At the end of 2016, VW was still on top but momentarily ceded ground as Toyota amped up volume in early 2017. Compared to last year, the Germans saw sales fall a half-percent in the first quarter of 2017 as the Japanese companies recorded more stable growth. But CEO extraordinaire Carlos Ghosn believes Renault-Nissan has what it takes to fill the top spot before the end of the summer.

While it would be a privilege to tell you that Ghosn entered a darkened room illuminated by a single spotlight to announce the time for the Alliance to crush its enemies was now, the reality was far more tame. The shareholders meeting was adequately lit and Carlos stated, without malice, that becoming the world’s largest automotive superpower is more of an inevitable accident than an intentional conquest. (Read More…)

By on June 19, 2017

VW Microbus I.D. Buzz Concept

After countless false starts and endless teasing, Volkswagen seems prepared to deliver on a modern-day microbus. While VW’s T platform is still in existence, the Type 2 that we all know and love died in the late 1970s — though society since developed a deep-seated nostalgia as we collectively forgot how disgusting and impractical real-world hippie culture actually was.

The world has asked for a throwback model for quite some time, something Volkswagen appeased with a 15-year stretch of concept cars, culminating in the 2017 I.D. Buzz revealed in Detroit in January. Then, earlier this year, gossip circulated indicating the Buzz might actually enter production, using the company’s MEB modular electric-vehicle architecture. But those were just rumors, right?

Apparently not. Volkswagen’s brand head, Herbert Diess, confirmed production for the electrified box last week using some definitive language.   (Read More…)

By on June 19, 2017

FCA Windsor minivan assembly Dodge Grand Caravan 2011 - Image: FCA

Chrysler’s minivans have been a never-ending beacon of purity and goodness for over thirty years. Less so lately, but the segment remains an important part of the FCA lineup. Intended to replace both the Chrysler and Dodge minivans, the Pacifica did not outsell either at launch. While Pacifica deliveries eventually eclipsed the Town & Country, it was really only due to the venerable model’s extermination. Meanwhile, Dodge’s Grand Caravan continues as the stronger seller and remains a popular option for rental fleets.

This has convinced Fiat Chrysler to extended the Caravan’s death date more than once, but it won’t last forever. In fact, it’s about to suffer a sort of prelude to non-existence as production will go on an extended hiatus in mid-August and won’t resume until December, when the 2018 models appear.  (Read More…)

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