Consumer Reports has taken umbrage with Tesla’s new cabin camera designed to monitor the driver by suggesting there might be some privacy concerns. While that sounds like the understatement of the year, we’ve seen other companies (e.g. Cadillac) deploy similar devices with little pushback. Uncoverable lenses on our laptops and phones are creepy enough. When the auto industry starts affixing driver-monitoring cameras to the dashboards of automobiles, you have to sit back and ask yourself how much longer you’re willing to be a party to the prologue for George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Trapped like a dog inside the hot car of progress, we’ve been attempting to honk the horn until someone pays attention. Mercifully, Consumer Reports doesn’t seem to have forgotten its roots in consumer advocacy and is walking up to our window with a rock. It’s demanding more privacy protection for vehicle operators, and not just from a single automaker.
With electric-vehicle owners eligible for sizable tax breaks, and ineligible for federal fuel taxes, it often feels like they’re not pulling their weight when it comes to maintaining this great nation’s transportation infrastructure. However, feelings are sometimes wrong — when it feels like an Arby’s night, for example.
There are actually 26 states that presently impose fees upon EV owners and, according to Consumer Reports, 11 charge more than the amount drivers of similar, gas-powered cars pay in gas taxes, with 3 charging more than twice the average amount. Another dozen states are considering adding fees, with CR’s own research stipulating that 10 would require electrics to pay more than they would if they were powered by gasoline.
A survey released by Consumer Reports this week indicated that a majority of motorists (57 percent) believed that the advanced driving aids their vehicles had actively helped them avoid a crash. The survey, which incorporated data on roughly 72,000 vehicles from the 2015-19 model years, asked drivers to weigh in on a multitude of safety systems — including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot alerts, and more. While not all of these features had majority support, tabulating them as a whole showed at least half of the people using advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) saw some value in them.
Our opinions on these systems have been thoroughly mixed. While we’ve found most advanced driving aids to be inconsistent in their operation, sometimes befuddled by fog or a vehicle encrusted with roadway grime, we’ll happily admit that adaptive cruise control offers more utility than the standard on/off inclusions of yesteryear. But we’ve also seen disheartening reports that semi-autonomous features dull a good driver’s senses to a point that effectively makes them a worse motorist and would be lying if we said we trusted any of these systems implicitly.
Consumer Reports has released its reliability rankings for automotive brands. The results, based on responses from half million of its readers, are about what you’d expect, with a few exceptions. Normally, reliability rankings don’t change all that much per annum. However, this year’s tally saw some surprising slippage from domestic brands that had performed rather well over the past few years.
The biggest loser was Buick, which fell 11 spots in 2018. CR attributed it to lackluster performance from the redesigned Enclave. Owners cited repeated issues with its new nine-speed transmission and claimed the rest of the brand’s fleet was middling at best. Buick now occupies 19th place, or slightly below average. On the flip side of things, Mazda shot up 9 spots to occupy a comfy position in 3rd place overall. While minor HVAC issues continue to plight the CX-3, the outlet suggested that the rest of its lineup has gotten its act together.
Consumer advice is one way informed shoppers like to make a decision, and few buying choices are bigger than your next car. Every year, Consumer Reports surveys its subscribers to see how they’re getting on with their personal vehicles. While the metrics may have changed over the years, its annual reliability report is one people and automakers pay particularly close attention to.
However, this year, some automakers were paying closer attention than others. Tesla, irritated that CR was so hard on the Model X — while predicting the Model 3 would possess “average reliability” — fired back at the publication with a press release calling shenanigans. “Time and time again, our own data shows that Consumer Reports‘ automotive reporting is consistently inaccurate and misleading to consumers,” the automaker wrote in a release.
While Consumer Reports exists as a nonprofit organization providing consumer advice, Tesla has accused it of making the electric automotive brand a target to bolster attention. Whether or not that’s true is debatable, but it did use predictive reasoning to assess the Model 3’s probable reliability — rather than data collected from testing and customer surveys.