By on September 6, 2017

autonomous hardware

On Wednesday, the U.S. House unanimously approved a sweeping proposal to expedite the deployment of self-driving cars and prohibit states from blocking autonomous vehicle testing.

“With this legislation, innovation can flourish without the heavy hand of government,” Ohio Republican Bob Latta said on the House floor leading up to Wednesday’s vote. Latta is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that developed the legislation with support from tech companies and the automotive industry.

One thing missing from the House measure is large trucks, which the Senate hopes to address in its own bipartisan legislation. Congress announced a September 13th hearing to examine the role of autonomous commercial vehicles and how they may fit into the Senate’s pending self-driving legislation. Meanwhile, the House’s bill moves up the board to be put to a vote within the Senate at a later date.  (Read More…)

By on August 24, 2017

us-capitol, public domain

When the automobile came into its own, there wasn’t really a place for it. Roads had been reserved for foot traffic and horses for hundreds of years before the invention of the internal combustion engines. Pedestrian injuries were high until they were partitioned onto the sidewalk. Likewise, it was some time before the millions of horses were be rounded up, placed into a giant pit, and shot to death by 20th-century motorists.

However, the industry didn’t really take safety into account until Ralph Nader wrote Unsafe at Any Speed and holding automakers accountable for safety suddenly became fashionable — helping America pass the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act in 1966 and subsequent legislation. Granted, vehicular fatality rates still fell dramatically between 1925 and 1965, but the regulatory influence didn’t skyrocket until after Nader’s analysis of the industry.

With autonomous vehicles positioned to change the way we “drive,” the long-established and ever-growing rulebook may need revisions. In July, a collective of automakers, suppliers, engineers, and consumer groups, calling themselves the Coalition for Future Mobility issued a statement urging Congress to consider legislation it deemed “critical to the United States continuing to be a place of innovation and development for the life-saving technologies.” Fast forward to August, and there is already a bill on the table.  (Read More…)

By on August 11, 2017

pumping fuel

While the Trump administration continues gearing itself up to loosen fuel standards for automakers, much to the chagrin of environmentalists and other countries, the agencies that set those benchmarks want to pick your brain a little before making a final decision. You’ve got an opportunity to be part of the process — the painfully boring, yet incredibly important, process.

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation opened a public comment period on the reconsideration of the standards for greenhouse gas emissions for light vehicles built for the 2022-2025 model years. Additionally, the EPA wants comments on the appropriateness of the existing 2021 standards. The agencies are inviting the public to submit any relevant (i.e. factual) data and information that can inform a final decision of the standards.  (Read More…)

By on July 28, 2017

Ford Police Interceptor Utility

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is inching its way toward what could be a massive recall of Ford Explorers. An initial probe kicked off in 2016 after owners entered numerous complaints of an unpleasant exhaust smell in the cabin into the NHTSA database.

Formal grievances swelled into the hundreds by the end of the year and continued growing into 2017. The issue was so serious, one California police officer faulted it for overpowering him while behind the wheel of his Explorer-based Interceptor Utility, resulting in a crash last February. He wasn’t alone. On Thursday, the NHTSA announced at least three other wrecks could be attributed to carbon monoxide exposure inside the vehicle. All in all, the agency stated it is aware of 41 injuries and over 2,700 complaints linked to the issue.

While the injuries are mostly instances of nausea, severe headache, and dizziness, those symptoms pose a serious risk while driving. Concerned the problem could result in another crash, the NHTSA has broadened the probe to encompasses 1.33 million vehicles from 2011 to 2017 and upgraded it to a complete engineering analysis.  (Read More…)

By on June 27, 2017

crash test dummies
We knew the Trump administration wanted to deregulate the automotive industry in order to free it from any production hangups, be it imagined or genuine. However, some of the items under consideration for potential elimination are safety features that seem silly to go without. At the top of that list is the requirement that all electrically driven vehicles must emit noise to alert pedestrians to their presence.

However, this isn’t the only safety feature at risk of becoming an optional extra. In budget documents provided to Congress, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration specified it is considering six separate areas for deregulation. Those include the modern standard for rear-view mirrors and backup cameras in passenger cars, mandatory electronic stability-control units for heavy trucks, and a rule allowing car dealers to install switches to deactivate airbags in customer vehicles.

While some of the rules could be abolished entirely, others are more likely to undergo some gentle retooling to provide automakers greater flexibility. Automakers have long pressed for the revamp of some antiquated, NHTSA-administered safety standards in order to permit the introduction of newer technologies. Still, eliminating any safety mandate is likely to raise the ire of consumer safety advocates, whether the end goal is well-intentioned or not.  (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 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 16, 2017

autonomous hardware

A coterie of Republican officials believe individual states should be forbidden from governing themselves in regard to autonomous vehicles. Only in its commencement, a new U.S. House proposal claims states would not be within their rights to mandate the design or testing of self-driving cars.

If made law, the proposal would eliminate the need for automakers to acquire any pre-market approval from federal regulators. While that sounds like a free-for-all ripe for accountability issues, several states already have laissez-faire or highly supportive attitudes when it comes to autonomous vehicles, though others could become serious headaches for automakers hoping to swiftly get the technology on the road.

The 45-page legislative draft includes 14 bills and would designate the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as the primary agency for regulating self-driving cars. It’s aggressively pro-business and, despite being penned by Republicans, has managed to achieve some bipartisan support.  (Read More…)

By on April 18, 2017

Out of Patience Fuel Gauge Mug

Not to go all political on you, but it’s amazing how President Obama acted more like a bitter foreclosure victim — one who goes nuts and destroys as much of the house as they can, just short of being arrested for vandalism — during his last days in office, and not a graceful man given two terms as the leader of the free world.

Mr. Obama did this in two ways: one action affected a short list of government folk, and the other impacted one of the most important industries in our lives — the auto industry.

The short-listed government victims are those affected by Obama’s order to share dirt on people talking with “foreigners.” It’s against the law — but when did that stop the former President? What’s worse, and perhaps deadly, is Mr. Obama’s decision to renege on his promise to check and perhaps re-adjust the daunting future Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard his administration first put in place in 2009, which the administration made even wackier in 2011.

(Read More…)

By on March 23, 2017

pumping fuel

An economic assessment conducted by the International Council on Clean Transportation found that, due to recent improvements in technology, the Environmental Protection Agency’s rationale for its 2025 fuel efficiency standards may have overestimated the cost for automakers to comply. The ICCT’s study shows average per-car investments 34 to 40 percent lower than the previous EPA appraisal.

While this information, had it come out sooner, may not have kept automotive executives from bending the president’s ear to reevaluate EPA guidelines, it certainly reframes their reasons for doing so. The ICCT, famous for turning researchers loose on Volkswagen diesels, makes a good case that manufacturers have the tools to meet current standards without spending a lot of money.  (Read More…)

By on March 10, 2017

car wreck crash destroyed

Automobile manufacturers recalled an all-time high of 53.2 million vehicles in the United States last year. The record-breaking number would not have been possible without the continued expansion of the recall of extremely dangerous Takata airbag inflators, according to the U.S. Transportation Department. Of course, it’s not just Takata Corp. that helped make 2016 the worst year on record, so be sure to save your applause.

Encouraged by the Obama administration, the Department of Transportation enacted a whopping 927 recall campaigns last year. That’s 7 percent above the previous high set in 2015. Fatal accidents jumped up 10.5 percent that year, followed by another 8 percent in 2016. (Read More…)

By on March 2, 2017

underride testing IIHS crash safety semi

The next time you’re driving behind a semitrailer take notice of that metal bumper hanging off the back. That’s the underride guard, and its job it to prevent your minuscule hatchback from hurdling beneath its hulking mass on the off chance that you have a collision.

Sadly, not all guards are created equal and some buckle during an accident — allowing the car’s passenger compartment to impact the rear of the trailer, frequently shearing off the part of the vehicle that your head occupies.

To further scare you out of tailgating trucks, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a 2011 report stating that the majority of those guards would fail and that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s minimum structural guidelines for underride bars was inadequate. While some manufacturers had begun installing stronger and safer guards, mainly to satisfy higher Canadian standards, the initial round of IIHS’ testing resulted in most underride guards failing in a 30-percent overlap test.  (Read More…)

By on January 19, 2017

Tesla AutoPilot cruise control

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has closed the book on a six-month investigation into the death of a Tesla owner — and enthusiast — who died in a car piloted by the company’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system. What did the federal investigation uncover? Not enough to warrant a recall or further probing into the technology.

In fact, the NHTSA’s report clears Tesla’s Autopilot system of any responsibility in the incident. (Read More…)

By on October 3, 2016

2012 Ford Edge Limited Ecoboost-004

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation into 380,000 Ford Edge SUVs after receiving a slew of complaints about doors that won’t latch.

The regulator’s probe increases the chances that Ford will add another crop of vehicles to its 2.4 million-strong door latch recall. Meanwhile, another NHTSA investigation targets reports of power steering failure in certain Fusion models. (Read More…)

By on March 17, 2016

Car collision (Mark Turnauckas/Flickr)

As we reported yesterday, a group of top automakers has agreed to offer automatic emergency braking (AEB) on almost all of their models by 2022.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed the voluntary agreement today, meaning virtually all light-duty cars and trucks sold in North America will adopt the safety feature by Sept. 1, 2022.

The group is made up of Audi, BMW, FCA US LLC, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Tesla Motors Inc., Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo Car USA. (Read More…)

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