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 20, 2017

earthquake damaged car (public domain)

Automakers spent Wednesday surveying factory sites in Central Mexico after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake ravaged the region Tuesday evening. However, after some momentary shutdowns, it’s looking like business as usual for most manufacturers. Despite countless injuries, over 200 fatalities, and widespread damage yet to be fully assessed, the automotive industry emerged from the quake largely unscathed.

Arguably the hardest hit, Volkswagen Group’s Puebla plant temporarily halted assembly so workers could inspect buildings for damage. Finding no significant structural harm, factory employees resumed third-shift production of the Jetta and Golf.

Audi’s crossover plant, also in the state of Puebla, sustained no obvious damage. It’s second shift was halted early on Tuesday as well. The company said third-shift production was canceled so that employees could attend to their loved ones after the quake. (Read More…)

By on September 11, 2017

tesla model 3

Until now, Tesla’s growing network of Supercharger stations was generally aimed at the long-distance crowd. If a (very) premium-priced sedan can’t make the five-hour trip to your sister’s house for Thanksgiving, well, second thoughts might crop up about that purchase.

To accomplish the goal of Tesla proliferation, much of the automaker’s fast-charge network sprouted up in locales convenient for travellers. Places like Holiday Inn Express parking lots, restaurants, visitor centers, and Macadoodles Fine Wine & Spirits in Springfield, Missouri. In the Midwest, hungry travellers can hop off the Interstate and charge up at Meijer while shopping for juice boxes and potato wedges.

However, logic (and infrastructure) states that the majority of Tesla buyers, current and future, live in large cities and don’t leave town all that often. They’re also more likely live in condos with garages free of any plug-in points. Tesla’s latest round of Supercharger construction takes this into account, dropping the fast-charge stations directly where those urbanites inevitably show up once a week. (Read More…)

By on August 27, 2017

taxas flooding

Through Sunday morning, Harvey continued to unleash record levels of rain upon Texas, causing biblical flooding. The situation is so bad that the National Weather Service warned of “additional catastrophic, unprecedented and life threatening flooding” into the next week, and placed flash-flood emergencies for the entirety of Southeast Texas.

Harvey was the strongest storm to hit the United States since 2004 and has already trapped countless individuals, both in their homes and on the road as the rain has turned several major highways into man-made rivers. In some areas, the waterline is high enough to reach streetlights.  (Read More…)

By on August 16, 2017

road works construction sign

President Trump announced on Tuesday that he had signed an executive order to eliminate and streamline Obama-era regulations that might hinder the construction of U.S. roads and bridges. Absent, however, was any legislation regarding previous promises of allocating a trillion dollars revitalize the nation’s infrastructure.

While the press conference was mired by the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, the topic eventually returned to roadworks and the aforementioned funding. “We will end up getting health care, but we’ll get the infrastructure, and actually infrastructure is something that I think we’ll have bipartisan support on,” Trump told reporters. “I actually think Democrats will go along with the infrastructure.”

Backed by Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Trump presented the media with a flow chart purporting to show the permitting regulations required to construct a highway in an unnamed state he claimed took 17 years under existing regulations.  (Read More…)

By on May 10, 2017

Radiohead OK Computer

Or maybe you will. Someone did.

As the 20-year anniversary of the release of UK alternative band Radiohead’s monster OK Computer album approaches, an online sleuth has provided pretty compelling evidence as to the locale of the image seen on the album cover.

Radiohead — a band you might have once been really into before worrying it was all a little too pretentious (and back again) — incorporated several automotive references into the album and associated videos. The album cover itself featured a scratchy image of a nondescript highway interchange. Probably a drawing. It’s not like the Blind Faith album cover, so no one thought anything of it.

However, music fans are not known for being allergic to geekiness. The same goes for transportation nerds. One such nerd transportation infrastructure aficionado now says it took him just 10 minutes to figure out the very real U.S. setting for the album cover. (Read More…)

By on May 5, 2017

2018_toyota_tundra_trd_sport_01_8ee19ebe1c41ad354b59edf3a42fdf0bac4ded48

As automakers dial back sales projections in a year that’s seen a rough start, the industry could be holding out hope for a legislative solution to lagging demand.

Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz made this claim during the opening of the company’s expanded Ann Arbor research and design center on Thursday, adding that incentivizing new vehicles to draw down bulging inventories can’t continue forever. In his view, automakers are keeping extra vehicles on hand for a reason, not just because production hasn’t adjusted for slow sales.

Lentz, like other auto executives, is hoping for a sales bump in the event the Trump administration green-lights its proposed $1 trillion infrastructure plan. (Read More…)

By on April 24, 2017

[Image: Tesla Motors]

With the “affordable” Tesla Model 3 on its way to an anticipated July production date, the company has promised to double the number of fast-charge plug-in points to feed the company’s growing fleet.

The electric automaker has already installed over 5,400 Supercharger outlets and about 9,000 lower-voltage Destination Charging connectors at various locations around the globe. In North America, Tesla promises a 150-percent increase in the number of charging points. However, don’t expect many of those stations to look like the photo above. (Read More…)

By on April 24, 2017

Eneos Gas Station With Hydrogen Pumps

The United States and Canada don’t have much of a hydrogen fueling infrastructure to speak of, but Japanese automakers continue sending fuel cell vehicles across the ocean anyway. Vehicles like the Honda Clarity and Toyota Mirai have been touted as the environmental saviors of tomorrow but, with the exception of California, there really isn’t a place for them in the North America of today. So why do Japanese manufactures continue to bother with hydrogen?

The main reason is because Japan has bought into a future that America doesn’t seem interested in. With three of its automakers already producing fuel cell cars, the government as adopted a fairly aggressive plan to adopt hydrogen for homes, business, and cars by 2030 — meaning the U.S. probably won’t see these vehicles vanish anytime soon.  (Read More…)

By on March 31, 2017

Bob Lutz

If you’re unfamiliar with Bob Lutz, it’s likely that you’re a recent addition to the world of automotive enthusiasm. Allow me to be the first to welcome you. The rest of us have been following Lutz’s career shift from extremely outspoken auto executive to extremely outspoken car blogger for years. Now 85, he hasn’t become any less critical of the industry after entering his “retirement,” nor has his advanced age done much to soften his frank rhetoric.

Love or hate him, Lutz’s time spent jumping between the Big Three has provided him with unique insights — and he always has plenty to say on the current state of the American automotive industry. His most recent revelations circle around the unsustainable nature of Tesla and his growing distaste for president Trump, despite his having voted for him.  (Read More…)

By on March 20, 2017

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Exterior Front 3/4, Image: © 2017 Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

It’s never easy trying to whip up an air of exclusivity through your daily driver, and nowhere in the U.S. is this truer than in southern California. Whether it’s ultra exotics driven by the Beautiful People or rust-free rarities carefully maintained with end-of-week savings, chances are your neighbor, friend or coworker’s ride makes your commuter car — premium or not — look as banal as dry toast.

How does a car buyer turn heads, ideally while projecting an all-caps message about their chosen lifestyle, without breaking the bank or A-Teaming a tired sedan into some sort of grotesque absurdity? Honda has the answer.

For now — and Honda accountants would prefer that the “rarity” period remains a short one — driving a leased Clarity Fuel Cell sedan puts you in a very exclusive club. By month’s end, Honda expects the number of next-generation, hydrogen-powered five-seaters plying the roadways of the Golden State to top the three-figure mark. Huge numbers, for sure.

Next thing you know, the person you hired to walk your dogs might pull up in one. (Read More…)

By on March 3, 2017

Fictional Autonomous Ford in Super Bowl Commercial

They roll in weekly. We watch them. We rub our hands together with schadenfroh glee.

I’m speaking of Tesla Autopilot crash videos.

Like a train wreck, we seem unable to avert our eyes from videos depicting the Silicon Valley darling’s sheetmetal kissing concrete dividers and other animate and inanimate objects. Time and time again, owners of Tesla’s Autopilot-equipped Model S and Model X vehicles throw caution to the wind and let the computer issue orders in situations when it’s imperative there be human intervention.

And it’s not going to change — not tomorrow, not ever — until we alter course. That’s because we’re trying to answer the wrong question when it comes to autonomous mobility.

(Read More…)

By on January 31, 2017

Elaine Chao

The U.S. Senate voted ninety-three to six to confirm Elaine Chao as transportation secretary on Tuesday.

Chao, a former labor secretary and deputy transportation secretary, will face familiar issues while providing oversight on some new obstacles — specifically, autonomous vehicles and upholding President Trump’s promise to improve the nation’s infrastructure.  (Read More…)

By on July 17, 2016

Bridge Collapse

The United States is in a pretty bad spot. Even as the economy recovers from the depressing lows of 2008 and 2009, road, trail, and air travel infrastructure in the United States is failing at an alarming rate. Many underfunded municipalities are even ripping up paved roads and replacing them with gravel as a way to ease budgetary shortfalls.

But is there anything the United States can do to catch up with degrading roads, failing levies, and overflowing airports? Before you pump that cheap dino juice into your Maibatsu Monstrosity today, give this report from Business Insider a watch.

(Read More…)

By on July 11, 2016

pumping gas

The Garden State remains the cheapest place to fill up in the Northeast, and you can thank government indecision for it.

Lawmakers in New Jersey can’t decide on what to do about their state’s bone-dry transportation fund, and residents are equally divided on how to pay for future road projects. That means pump prices will stay low for the time being. (Read More…)

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