Police in Victoria, Australia announced today that the point-to-point average speed camera system on the Hume Highway has been turned off until officials are convinced that a fatal accuracy flaw had been fixed. Officials admitted that at least nine drivers have been falsely convicted of speeding on that road since 2007. Officials only began to double-check the accuracy of the Redflex automated ticketing machine after police went to seize the car of a young woman accused of driving a low-powered economy car at high speed.
“It’s been a failure of the system in terms of 100 percent accuracy,” Redflex CEO Graham Davie said on 3AW radio. “It happened because of a technical glitch in the clock system…. I’m sorry this event has occurred.”
In less than three years, officials in New South Wales, Australia have been forced to refund 18,944 faulty or illegally issued speed camera citations. Between July 2007 and May 2010, the state government has returned A$3,788,885 worth of citations issued by automated ticketing machines that were not operating properly, according to freedom of information documents obtained by the NSW Liberal Party, which used the figures to attack the party in power.
Despite collecting A$137 million in revenue from automated traffic ticketing, the Australian photo enforcement giant Redflex Traffic Systems yesterday announced its net profit before tax had fallen to a mere $442,000 for the first half of 2010. Redflex remains the number one player in the US market with US motorists providing 79 percent of the company’s ticket revenue. Redflex management, however, blamed recent losses primarily on “considerable public opposition” to photo radar and red light cameras in the US.
California courts are not alone in questioning the validity of red light camera and speed camera photographs as valid legal evidence. On Friday, the Queensland, Australia Court of Appeal ruled that automated ticketing cases require more than a pair of images in a folder to make a speeding case that will stick. The motorist, a non-lawyer, won her case against the government with only the help of her husband.
Officials in Tasmania, Australia last week reluctantly admitted that some of its speed cameras produced unreliable readings. The automated ticketing machines on Tasman Bridge were found to be issuing speeding tickets to vehicles that were not speeding, forcing a refund of 440 tickets issued between June 5 and July 5. According to The Mercury, a test of the device against a handheld speed gun showed inaccurate readings.
The motoring public in Queensland, Australia has foiled a police effort to deploy “covert” speed cameras across the state. Police have expanded their fleet of unmarked vehicles equipped with automated enforcement devices in an effort to boost the number of citations issued. The idea is to ensnare drivers “anywhere, anytime” by blending in with ordinary vehicle traffic in vehicles as diverse as a Toyota sedan, a Volkswagen Golf, a Mitsubishi Lancer, a Subaru WRX, a Hummer H2, and various types of trucks and SUVs.
When we reported that unintended acceleration in general and Toyota in particular are not a big topic in Europe and Japan, the answer was: “What do they know? They use their excellent public transport system and drive less.” (A myth, by the way. Unless there are mandatory annual odometer readings, nobody knows for sure. But the generally accepted average number of miles driven by year and car is 12,000 in the U.S.A. In Germany, the industry works with a 20,000 km average. Which is 12,427 miles.) The only countries halfway accepted as comparisons were Australia and Canada. Well, their numbers are in.
GM’s Australian Holden division has been developing the kind of big-bore RWD vehicles we tend to think of as being quintessentially American for quite some time. But every time GM hints at repatriating one of these old-school machines to its spiritual homeland in the states, something goes terribly wrong. One classic example of this disfunction was the offshoot of GM’s last effort to bring Holdens stateside as the Pontiac G8, the G8 Sport Truck, a rebadge of Holden’s Ute. The travails of the G8 have been well documented, but the Sport Truck was killed before it even had the chance to lose GM money and be cut along with the Pontiac brand. Now, just as the memory of that savage tease was fading, GM’s Mark Reuss reveals that the El Camino could be back after all.
Oh, the sad saga of the Pontaic G8. GM finally built a vehicle worthy of Pontiac’s sporty pretensions, only to can the whole brand months later, leaving the G8 orphaned. Which was crummy for enthusiasts, but ultimately a good thing for GM’s business as G8s were assembled in Australia and shipped over to the US, bleeding profit margin all the way. Then came news that a G8-alike would be built in North America, but would only be marketed to police fleet buyers as a Caprice. “Insult to injury!” shrieked the slighted fans of V8 RWD sedans. What they didn’t realize was that GM was still in injury mode. For the real insult, we turn now to the Carpoint.com.au [via Jalopnik], which reports that consumers can still buy new Pontiac G8s. In Australia. Sort of.
Despite his genial, affable manner, Alan Mulally is a businessman and, by all accounts, a businessman not to be crossed with. One story goes, when he first started with Ford, he let them know, in the clearest possible terms, “Everybody says you can’t make money off small cars,” he said. “Well, you’d better damn well figure out how to make money, because that’s where the world is going.” Long protected from the brutal rationalisation of the global market, Australia might be about to get a taste of the man’s darker side as he attempts to drag Ford’s Australian ops into the 21st Century.
Toyota had slammed hard on the brake when it came to capital expenditures. So hard that ToMoCo (and Sony) were rapped on the knuckles by the Japanese Ministry of Finance for hobbling Japan’s economy. Suddenly, Toyota starts pouring concrete and installing machinery again. Not because of newfound faith in the auto market in general. Two factors made them do it: The Yen has become so expensive that manufacturing in the USA is cheaper. And China is gobbling up cars faster than Toyota can make them.
According to the Nikkei [sub], a Toyota plant in the US and one in China will increase ToMoCo’s annual output capacity by 200,000 units before the Japanese 2010 fiscal ends on March 31, 2001. The construction will cost Toyota a little over $1b, depending on the vagaries of the greenback and its pegged follower, the Chinese Yuan. Here are the blueprints:
General Motors’ so-called Alpha platform has been something of an enigma since it was first conceptualized by Holden as the TT36 Torana for the 2004 Sydney Auto Show. The TT36 concept was Holden’s pitch for a sub-CTS RWD global premium sedan, although, in proper GM fashion, that job went to the late, unlamented BLS. Though fuel economy issues were said to have killed the possibility of introducing an RWD model below the CTS, the penalty wasn’t huge, making the decision to go with a Saab 9-3 rebadge all the more strange. “As a lightweight rear-wheel-drive car that is going to add about 1mpg compared to an equivalent lightweight front-wheel drive car . . . we just have to sort of wait a while and see where we are,” is how Bob Lutz explained it to Go Auto last year. More likely, GM simply had no money to develop the platform in those pre-bailout days. Now that taxpayers are footing the bill, what can we expect from Alpha?
Up until 2007, rural freeways in the Northern Territory, Australia had no speed limit. Claiming that speed limits were essential to saving lives, the state government imposed a 130km/h (80 MPH) limit on the Stuart, Arnhem, Victoria and Barkly highways and a 110km/h (68 MPH) speed limit on all other roads, unless otherwise marked lower. Despite the best of intentions, however, the number of road deaths actually increased 70 percent after the change — despite worldwide drop in traffic levels ( view chart).
Up until yesterday, there were only two Ferrari Californias on Australia’s streets. The number is now down to one. Police have impounded the rare Ferrari California being driven by Financial Review motoring writer Rod Easdown. Baruthian car and driver were clocked by Australia’s finest at 231kmh, more than twice the legal limit.
Following a ruling by the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia, a 27-year-old will have a chance to shut down the A$4.8 billion Airport Link toll road next Tuesday. The BrisConnections toll project, built upon highly leveraged shareholder debt, fell apart as the credit crisis hit and the share price plunged to just A$.001. This allowed a young Internet entrepreneur, Nicholas Bolton, to snap up 73,100,993 shares representing eighteen percent of the company with an initial investment of just A$47,923. That cheap initial purchase price, however, came with a catch. The BrisConnections stock is a “partly paid security” that requires a A$1 per-share payment on April 29, 2009, and a second A$1 payment on January 29, 2010, for the shares to become fully paid.
GoAuto hears from GM Car Czar Maximum Bob Lutz himself that the Camaro and G8 will be the last US market GM products based on Holden’s RWD Zeta platform. “The strategy we had a few years ago of basically deriving a whole sweeping global portfolio off the Australian Zeta architecture … frankly, we have had to abandon that dream,” said Lutz. “This is because, whether you are in the United States or in China, fuel economy mandates are getting more and more severe, and we just could not base our strategy on doing relatively large and relatively heavy rear-wheel-drive cars. I suspect the same thing is going to start to bite the traditional rear-wheel drive producers.” Not that they’re ditching the platform entirely. “It is our intent to continue the Australian rear-wheel-drive cars; we will continue building them and doing a next generation and so forth and so on,” says Mr Maximum. “And, to be honest, they continue to be my favourite cars. I think they are absolutely wonderful – but the regulatory environment is such that it would be imprudent to base a whole global platform strategy on them … much to my personal chagrin, by the way.” And what of the rumored Alpha compact RWD platform?
The Australian federal government has hopped on the auto bailout bandwagon, “investing” $149m in production of a Holden-badged GM compact car. The South Australia state government will kick in $30m as well, as the Delta-platformed Cruze-alike will be produced near Adelaide. Styling and engineering will be carried out in Melbourne. And what do the Australian people get for their representatives’ fiscal abandon? According to Adelaide Now, the project will “support” 600 GM jobs and 600 supplier jobs, but it seems that these will likely not be new hires. Money for the project comes from Australia’s “Green Car Innovation Fund,” and its use is being justified by the possibility of ethanol, LPG and CNG powertrains at some indeterminate point in the future. “We recognise the needs and desires of motorists are evolving with growing concern around environmental factors and shifting consumer sentiment,” says Holden Chairman Mark Reuss. “Such evolution calls for an innovative approach… (and) the new vehicle will cater for growing demand for smaller cars focussed on economy.” when all is said and done though, the environmental issues are simply a greenwash for Australia to prop up weakening production and subsidize a “domestic” Corolla competitor. Sound familiar? The irony is that the GM doesn’t especially need a bespoke version of its global Cruze for Australia, although it will be required to match the government’s $149m outlay.