We are bombarded with messages about the dangers of drunk driving, of the hazard of talking and texting on cell phones while driving, and the need to give a wide berth to folks driving Zipcars. We think there are many other varieties of unsafe motorists that get no attention from the media. As a public service, let’s take a look five subtle, but equally scary, drivers that make the highways a real challenge. Read More >
As the technology that will one day network cars together and reorganize the roads in the name of safety and efficiency continues to rush towards us, word comes that the computerized systems used to control commercial aircraft in flight are now vulnerable to hackers via android devices. Net-Security.org is reporting on an April 10th presentation at the “Hack in the Box Conference” by German security consultant Hugo Teso during which he demonstrates how a wireless device can be used to transmit malicious code into an aircraft’s computer through at least two different systems currently used to exchange information between aircraft and ground stations. Those of you who are already afraid to fly will want to read all of the excruciating details here: http://www.net-security.org Read More >
Hot girls in short skirts are the first things that leap into my mind whenever anyone says anything about the Japanese. The internet has not helped to change that, in fact it may have made things worse. If you add the word “Japanese” to any noun that describes a group of people and enter it into your favorite search engine, pictures of hot young girls will always appear near the top of the results. Look for Japanese tour guides, Japanese students, Japanese beach volleyball players or Japanese anything and you will see I am right. Try it, I’ll wait.
HFO-1234yf is a refrigerant that is becoming an industry standard in Europe. Thanks to incentives offered by the Environmental Protection Agency, the refrigerant is likely to be rolled out widely in the United States as well. Honeywell and partner Dupont have a monopoly on the stuff. It also can kill you in more ways than one. Says Reuters:
Read More >
In late 2011, photos of melted and damaged Volt charging cords appeared on the internet. GM initially blamed wiring problems in the electrical outlets, eventually, the company announced that they would replace all the 120V chargers in all 2011 and some 2012 models with a new unit. About 9,500 charging units were replaced.
When the 2013 model came around, Volt owners were faced with a new and improved feature: Longer charge time. In self-help groups on the Internet, the culprit was quickly found: GM had reduced the default circuit load of the charger from 12 Ampere to 8 Ampere. Then, a low intensity war on the message boards ensued, and is still rages on. Here the latest dispatches from the front:
Read More >
General Motors announced changes to the Chevrolet Volt’s design after a NHTSA investigation into why a Volt caught fire following crash testing.
The changes will go into effect once production restarts at the Hamtramck, Michigan facility, but customer cars already sold will follow a different protocol.
Do we really need one?
Opinions vary widely. In recent years, there have been two legislative efforts to convert the ubiquitous state driver license into a national ID card, making it the essential “show us your papers” document in order to navigate in, around, and through our society.
At the other end of the spectrum, a current movement to do away with the driver license altogether may seem impractical, but it is gathering momentum in regions around the U.S.
Which should it be – a federally-mandated document that uniquely identifies its holder and is necessary to provide the right to drive, to fly, and to participate in various governmental programs, or an extraneous card that serves no useful purpose in a society where individuals have the right to travel without restrictions?
Let’s examine these two diametrically opposed positions:
Transportation Secretary and Supreme Allied Commander in the War On Distraction Ray LaHood is quite chuffed about initial pilot program results for his latest offensive against in-car cell phone use, and he’s taking to the airwaves to declare victory. The programs, modeled on the “Click It Or Ticket” and “Over The Limit, Under Arrest” initiatives combined an advertising blitz and waves of enforcement to crack down on the behavior, but more importantly to send the message that distracted driving is as serious a problem as drunk driving or not wearing a seatbelt. Thanks to the relative success of these earlier programs, the DOT has a strong template for its pilot anti-distracted driving campaign, the enforcement components of which took place in April, July, and October 2010 and March-April 2011. But was the “Phone In One Hand, Ticket In The Other” program actually as successful as LaHood claims?
Read More >
The controversy over red light cameras, once relegated to websites like TTAC, thenewspaper.com, motorists.org and highwayrobbery.net, is hitting the mainstream media thanks to a new study by the IIHS [PDF here]. The study used the following methodology:
Telephone surveys were conducted with 3,111 drivers in 14 large cities (population greater than 200,000) with long-standing red light camera programs and 300 drivers in Houston, using random samples of landline and cellphone numbers. For analyses combining responses from the 14 cities, cases were weighted to reflect each city’s share of the total population for the 14 cities.
And what did they find?
Among drivers in the 14 cities with red light camera programs, two-thirds favor the use of cameras for red light enforcement, and 42 percent strongly favor it. The chief reasons for opposing cameras were the perceptions that cameras make mistakes and that the motivation for installing them is revenue, not safety. Forty-one percent of drivers favor using cameras to enforce right-turn-on-red violations. Nearly 9 in 10 drivers were aware of the camera enforcement programs in their cities, and 59 percent of these drivers believe the cameras have made intersections safer. Almost half know someone who received a red light camera citation and 17 percent had received at least one ticket themselves. When compared with drivers in the 14 cities with camera programs, the percentage of drivers in Houston who strongly favored enforcement was about the same (45 percent), but strong opposition was higher in Houston than in the other cities (28 percent versus 18 percent).
Sounds like those red light cameras are pretty great after all, doesn’t it? That’s certainly the IIHS’s takeaway…
Read More >
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano today took the unusual step of publicly voicing the Japanese government’s satisfaction with the U.S. government’s findings that Toyota’s electronic throttle control system is free of glitches, ghosts and malfunctions. It was a not so subtle reminder that politics weighed heavily in Toyota’s SUA scandal. Read More >
[Ed: With today's news of NHTSA's investigation results, we thought we'd look back at TTAC's coverage of the Toyota Unintended Acceleration scandal.]
The Toyota Unintended Acceleration Scandal of 2010 was a curious beastie of a media phenomenon. Shortly after I started writing for TTAC, NHTSA opened an investigation into Toyota Tacomas because, as the Center for Auto Safety’s Clarence Ditlow put it,
If there were truly human error, there would be a proportional distribution across models. It’s very difficult to explain how some makes and models have higher numbers of complaints than others absent some flaw in the vehicle.
Fresh as I was to writing about the world of cars, I was sure I had the story dead to rights. I had seen this movie before, when my father told me his epic Parnelli Jones Unintended Acceleration story. Dad had even killed the the family pickup’s engine at a traffic light to prove it… and I knew how bad the brakes in the old Ford were (but that’s another story). Absent a better explanation than mere statistical likelihood, I knew there was only one cause for this problem. With a level of confidence that seems totally at odds with subsequent events, I concluded by suggesting that
the Detroit Free Press and Motor Trend blog, are trying to resuscitate the [Audi 5000] media frenzy, only this time Toyota’s to blame for people mistaking the accelerator for their brake pedal… If a TTAC reader out there has a Tacoma, perhaps they would do us the honor of standing on the brakes while mashing the accelerator for a few seconds. This should prove fairly simply that “unintended acceleration” is possible only when you are not actually on the brakes.
It was that simple… wasn’t it?
Yesterday, we ran a story about Art Ross. Ross was the Oldsmobile Chief Designer in the post WW II heydays. He was also a prolific and gifted pornographer. Cars and sex have always been related for some reason. Did you know that in Germany, where the car was invented, “Verkehr” can mean both “traffic” and “intercourse?” I render the guess that there are more people that begun their life by the dashboard light than those who passed away in the passing lane. Many are convinced that autos have aphrodisiac qualities. Many heavily object and say that a car is just a conveyance. Then there are some who think cars are just as vile as porn, and both should be banned. Where does the dear TTAC reader stand in this discussion? Read More >
Science fiction author Charlie Stross recently penned a blog piece on the future impact of autonomously computer-driven cars. Let’s call them “robocars.” I’ve pondered this before and Stross’s post is the perfect jumping-off point for a discussion of the many issues standing between science fiction and the robocar future. Let’s take a look.
We didn’t make it down to the first meeting of the NHTSA-National Research Council panel tasked with studying unintended acceleration, but apparently we weren’t the only ones. A scan of the MSM confirms that a number of “more study is needed” stories were filed for the occasion, a good two weeks ago now, but we’ve been pointed towards the presentations for that meeting [available for download here, all 128 slides in PDF format here], and we feel comfortable drawing a few conclusions from them. In fact, we’d even argue that this data puts a lot of the controversy over unintended acceleration in Toyotas to rest.
The NHTSA has definitely shut down on-line access to attachments in their Office of Defect Investigation complaint database. It’s about time, but it isn’t enough. To quote Kris Kristofferson, the database has always been “a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.” The database has been abused for political propaganda purposes. Now, that it has served its purpose, the database is being shut down. Partially. They have locked away the only content that is of real value: The evidence. We preserved some. To show you what you will be missing. Read More >