Category: Government

By on October 13, 2017

fuel gauge

A bipartisan pair of congressional representatives from Michigan are proposing a new bill, the Fuel Economy Harmonization Act, that would aid automakers in complying with federal fuel efficiency requirements. Introduced on Wednesday, the bill would extend the life of fuel economy credits that are set to expire in five years and raise the ceiling on transferrable credits between car and truck fleets. Under the proposal, manufacturers could also be given additional credits for lowering fleet-wide emissions under new metrics.

Penning the bill, congresspersons Fred Upton (Republican) and Debbie Dingell (Democrat) said they believed the automotive industry would benefit from having a single set of fuel rules. The bill suggests rolling the NHTSA’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and the EPA’s light-duty vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions mandates into one cohesive program.

While economy mandates have been growing, nationwide fuel consumption has still gone up. Likewise, the average mpg of cars sold in the United States hasn’t changed much over the last three years. With pump prices remaining low, consumers have flocked to less-efficient models like crossovers and SUVs.  Read More >

By on October 12, 2017

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe LS - Image: Chevrolet

A standard part of the dealership test drive experience involves the salesperson grabbing the key to the car in question out of a lockbox, then accompanying the customer on the drive. A new patent filing suggests General Motors may be looking for a way to give customers access to the car without requiring a salesperson to dig through a box of keys.

GM appears to be working on a patent that would allow customers to have a temporary digital key granted to them in order to gain access to a vehicle they want to test drive.

The system would work like this: Interested customer applies for the key, the dealer verifies the buyer’s interest and identity, dealer approves the test drive and monitors it. If the customer doesn’t want to buy the car, the dealer can revoke the digital key authentication, and it can also do the same to a prior key holder if the vehicle is used and someone other than the first title holder buys it. Read More >

By on October 11, 2017

uber volvo

Uber Technologies is about to be probed to a degree that would make even the most compliant alien abductee blush. The company is now looking at a minimum of five criminal investigations from the U.S. Justice Department regarding claims of bribes, illicit software usage, unfair marketing practices, corporate espionage, questionable pricing strategies, and theft of a competitor’s intellectual property.

The ride-hailing firm is also involved in dozens of lawsuits from from customers and employees — and one very public suit with autonomous research rival Waymo. But Uber’s skirting of the law was what made it so profitable to begin with. Its take-no-prisoners attitude may have been the thing that ultimately ousted founder and CEO Travis Kalanick and severely tarnished its corporate image, but it’s also an aspect that ensure its success. Still, nobody likes learning how the sausage is made and every look behind Uber’s curtain revealed another fresh horror the press couldn’t resist mentioning — including yours truly. Read More >

By on October 8, 2017

dot headquarters

Last week, we discussed how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had some staffing gaps that needed shoring up. While it remains shy one administrative head, the White House saw fit to officially appoint a new deputy administrator — effectively replacing acting deputy administrator Jack Danielson’s interim leadership.

Danielson has served as the NHTSA’s executive director since 2015, but spent the last eight months filling in for an absent department figurehead. He’s being relieved by Heidi King, an economist with the federal government and experience in the private-sector. Read More >

By on October 6, 2017

General Motors SURUS platform

Regardless of whether it’s brought upon us by climate change, divine intervention, or civil unrest, the end times are right around the corner — and the government is going to need a rugged and versatile vehicle for the impending apocalypse. The automaker with the chops to deliver such a platform? General Motors.

Apparently not Skunk Works levels of classified, GM publicly announced the Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS) on Friday morning. While not the classic image of a motorized vehicle, the design is intended to serve as the underlying architecture of governmental and commercial transports alike. While the specific government applications are a question mark, the platform’s fuel cell system allows it to run silently with a minimal heat signature — making it ideal for sneaking men and munitions behind enemy lines.

At least, that’s the theory.  Read More >

By on October 6, 2017

broken down jalopy

The United States is still waiting on a glut of senior appointments within agencies that affect the automotive industry. While the Environmental Protection Agency eventually got Scott Pruitt, many high-ranking positions remain vacant at the EPA and other U.S. regulatory groups. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is still missing an administrator, chief counselor, director for government affairs, chief financial officer, and one enforcement chief.

With so many holes in its staff, former NHTSA officials and consumer advocacy groups are worried the agency has been rendered ineffective — essentially stalled on important decisions and issues that need the right kind of signature. Eight months is a long time to wait for an appointment and the NHTSA was only just given a deputy administrator, after former executive director Jack Danielson’s promotion.  Read More >

By on October 4, 2017

2011-audi-r8-42-spyder-shifter-photo-416617-s-1280x782Yesterday, Steph Willems penned a little Question of the Day about the manual transmission. In it, he asked what would have to occur to get you, the buying public, back into the manual transmission in a large-scale way.

As of this writing, it’s blowing up the comment counts as everyone lists the particulars of how they hem and haw over the manual transmission. Shifting a vehicle yourself is romanticized and desirable; a bygone art to be treasured and maintained for future generations of drivers.

Except when it isn’t. What would force you from a manual transmission vehicle for the rest of your days?

Read More >

By on September 29, 2017

nafta-secretariat

President Donald Trump entered into office threatening to abandon the North American Free Trade Agreement if the United States was not given a better deal immediately. But, after negotiations began, it looked as if his ultimatum would be unnecessary.

Now, U.S. officials involved in NAFTA negotiations are being accused of making proposals on issues Mexico and Canada have said they would never agree to. Are these bold negotiation tactics being used to place the U.S. in a better position for future issues, or are trade arbitrators intentionally trying to sabotage talks so Trump can make good on his promise to leave the agreement?   Read More >

By on September 27, 2017

road highway

Last week, I defended the president’s honor and lamented that I probably wouldn’t have a follow-up opportunity for some time. As it turns out, that claim is in no danger of becoming a falsehood. On Tuesday, President Trump told lawmakers he was ditching a key aspect of his planned $1 trillion infrastructure package — namely, who is going to pay for it.

Spoiler alert: its going to be taxpayers.

The White House previously envisioned a strategy where private investors would be lured into rebuilding roadways, bridges, and rail networks with promises of federal backing and a less-daunting approvals process. But now it’s saying partnerships between the private sector and federal government might not work.  Read More >

By on September 26, 2017

us-capitol, public domain

This week, the Coalition for Future Mobility — a recently formed automotive trade group representing major automakers and self-driving advocates — will roll out a bevy of targeted television spots, print ads, and social media posts specifically designed to encourage Congress to adopt legislation assisting the budding industry’s growth.

Earlier in the month, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would expedite the deployment of self-driving cars and prohibit states from blocking autonomous vehicle testing. This was immediately followed by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao publicly outlining the NHTSA’s updated automotive safety guidance — which was less about ensuring the safe development of self-driving cars and more about destroying regulatory red tape.

The Senate is the final piece of the puzzle. Automakers want to make sure it’s seeing things their way before casting their vote on whether or not the industry gets the governmental green light.  Read More >

By on September 26, 2017

Ford Focus Electric

California has been toying with the idea of banning internal combustion motors for a couple of years now. While the concept is gaining popularity across the globe, the ban itself is a bit misleading. Regions in favor of the idea aren’t really pursuing an outright ban on engines that burn gasoline; they’re trying to mandate electrification and reduce emissions via non-traditional powertrains.

In April of 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown announced, “If the federal government can’t get it right, we in California are going to take care of business.” With the Trump administration making strides to roll back regulatory efforts, it appears the state of California is ready to pop in some Bachman–Turner Overdrive and begin taking care of said business.  Read More >

By on September 21, 2017

Trump

Supposedly, everyone eagerly anticipates the day they can own a shiny-new self-driving car, but automakers, regulatory agencies, consumer advocates, Silicon Valley, and the White House are debating how exactly that’s supposed to happen. They haven’t reached a consensus yet — and that’s probably not likely to change anytime soon.

Most autonomous cars rely on array of cameras, LIDAR, GPS, inertial measurement devices, and complex control systems used to interpret sensory information before reacting accordingly. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems (V2V) are regarded by many as essential components to establishing fully automated travel. The theory is that, by allowing cars to communicate directly on a broadband frequency, they can better predict each other’s movements.

However, a recent Bloomberg article accuses the technology of “going nowhere fast,” citing the Trump administration as the chief culprit, and alluding to the direct stifling of technology that would give cars “superpowers” in the next few years.

I probably won’t have the opportunity to say this often — and it feels kind of strange to say it now — but these accusations aren’t entirely fair to the president or his administration.  Read More >

By on September 20, 2017

squad car police

As far as important police work is concerned, moving violations always seem like the least-crucial activity for law enforcement to spend time on.  That’s primarily because you never see them enforcing tailgating laws but they’re Johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to catching speeders — which research always seems on the fence about in terms of the actual public peril it presents.

Realistically, any major disparities between vehicle speeds on a roadway presents some added risk of collision. But, last Friday, a Canadian motorist discovered you don’t have to be going all that quick to get a ticket. Mathieu Gagne was cruising behind a slow-moving police vehicle on a two-lane road in Alberta, Canada, and decided to pass. He was immediately pulled over and issued a citation for driving less than 1 mile an hour over the posted limit. Read More >

By on September 13, 2017

vision 2.0 NHTSA Autonomous vehicles

On Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao outlined the Trump administration’s “Vision for Safety 2.0” at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor. The document is a collection of non-binding requests to manufacturers and a promise that they can go hog-wild with their autonomous vehicle testing, at least as far as the feds are concerned.

In a deluge of policy updates, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tweaked its vision for safety, claiming it was responding to the recent increase in the number of road accidents.

While Obama-era guidelines weren’t particularly robust, the Trump administration has essentially built a technical-sounding framework aimed at destroying regulatory red tape. Ironically, the government seems to have gone out of its way to ensure it stays out of the way. In some respects, it has to. The speed of development is beginning to happen at a rate where any outside bureaucracy would have difficulty keeping pace. Chao said the guidance would remain flexible, ready to adapt to the changes as they come. But it is also without teeth, promoting development and the future promise for safety at the expense of any meaningful oversight.

Did the Department of Transportation and NHTSA sell themselves out to industry or do they actually think giving automakers carte blanche on autonomous testing was the best thing for public safety? Read More >

By on September 11, 2017

gasoline fight from zoolander

A handful of states have banded together to sue the Trump Administration for delaying financial penalties associated with automakers’ inability to meet minimum fuel economy standards. As part of the president’s deregulation proposals, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has placed Obama-era mandates on review as regulators debate whether to grant automakers significant reductions in fuel economy requirements.

However, those changes have yet to arrive, meaning the industry is still under pre-existing standards — and some states want automakers held accountable. California, New York, Vermont, Maryland, and Pennsylvania want the current administration to introduce its proposed quotas or enforce the already established 2016 limits.  Read More >

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