NTSB Looking Into Limo Regulations in Wake of Deadly Crash

The deadliest U.S. transportation accident in the last decade occurred in upstate New York this weekend, but it didn’t involve a airliner, train, or bus. The vehicle in question was a modified 2001 Ford Excursion. All 18 occupants of the aging limo died after the vehicle failed to stop at an intersection, with two pedestrians struck and killed in the parking lot where the runaway vehicle ultimately came to rest.

In the vehicle was a group of young people, including many couples and relatives, who were headed to a birthday celebration. While limo operators are already subjected to federal oversight, the National Transportation Safety Board plans to probe existing regulations as part of its investigation.

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Cadillac's Hazy Diesel Engine Program Tentatively Bites the Dust

It’s looking increasingly like the compression ignition engine won’t get an opportunity to redeem itself at Cadillac. After making diesel a dirty word in the early 1980s with the help of Oldsmobile’s cantankerous, oil-burning 5.7-liter V8, GM’s luxury arm dived back into diesel development towards the end of the last decade. A recession and bankruptcy put the kibosh on those outsourced plans.

Then, in 2014, happier economic times brought about a renewed interest in the pursuit of diesel. Cadillac hoped to woo MPG-loving Europeans by outfitting new sedan models with diesel powerplants developed in-house. Americans would get a taste, too.

Scratch that, says Cadillac president Steve Carlisle.

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Germany Tells Owners of Cheating Volkswagen Diesels to Get Their Cars Neutered or Hand Over the Registration

Germany’s federal motor transport authority, die Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA), told dieselgate holdouts that haven’t yet fixed their emissions-cheating cars to get them repaired or prepare to have their registration revoked. In fact, officials in Hamburg and Munich have already taken several Audi and VW vehicles off the road.

It’s no wonder there’s cold feet among the citizenry. Reports out of Germany last year revealed that engines returned from the fixes behaving like a person suffering from an incredibly traumatic experience. They just weren’t the same anymore. Some units saw up to a 10-percent decrease in performance and likely ended up with a less-beefy torque curve biased toward higher engine speeds. Fearing that the Volkswagen Group’s “emissions repair” could effectively neuter their car, those abstaining from the recall are now left with no recourse.

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Japan's Minor Scandal: Mazda, Suzuki, Yamaha Apologize for Improper Vehicle Testing

Japan’s automotive industry finds itself in the midst of a minor scandal. Last year, the Japanese government ordered manufacturers to investigate their operations after it was revealed that Subaru and Nissan conducting improper testing for decades. Initially, the issue seemed to revolve around a widespread laziness that allowed uncertified employees to conduct final inspection procedures. However, Subaru later admitted to employees falsifying emissions data.

While the problem does not appear to be an outright corporate conspiracy, some inspectors still decided to implement a policy they knew was against the rules to avoid questions from top brass. Likewise, senior employees advised inspectors to change test results for each vehicle that failed to meet internal quality control standards.

On Thursday, the Japanese government announced the inspection issue haS also touched Mazda Motor Corp, Suzuki Motor Corp and Yamaha Motor Co (which builds motorcycles and automotive engines). All three companies are now faulted for improper testing procedures and compliance failures.

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Are Government Officials Souring On Automotive Autonomy?

Thanks to the incredibly lax and voluntary guidelines outlined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automakers have had free rein to develop and test autonomous technology as they see fit. Meanwhile, the majority of states have seemed eager to welcome companies to their neck of the woods with a minimum of hassle. But things are beginning to change after a handful of high-profile accidents are forcing public officials to question whether the current approach to self-driving cars is the correct one.

The House of Representatives has already passed the SELF DRIVE Act. But it’s bipartisan companion piece, the AV START Act, has been hung up in the Senate for months now. The intent of the legislation is to remove potential barriers for autonomous development and fast track the implementation of self-driving technology. But a handful of legislators and consumer advocacy groups have claimed AV START doesn’t place a strong enough emphasis on safety and cyber security. Interesting, considering SELF DRIVE appeared to be less hard on manufacturers and passed with overwhelming support.

Of course, it also passed before the one-two punch of vehicular fatalities in California and Arizona from earlier this year. Now some policymakers are admitting they probably don’t understand the technology as they should and are becoming dubious that automakers can deliver on the multitude of promises being made. But the fact remains that some manner of legal framework needs to be established for autonomous vehicles, because it’s currently a bit of a confused free-for-all.

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Arizona, Suppliers Unite Against Uber Self-driving Program

Ever since last week’s fatal accident, in which an autonomous test vehicle from Uber struck a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, it seems like the whole world has united against the company. While the condemnation is not undeserved, there appears to be an emphasis on casting the blame in a singular direction to ensure nobody else gets caught up in the net of outrage. But it’s important to remember that, while Uber has routinely displayed a lack of interest in pursuing safety as a priority, all autonomous tech firms are being held to the same low standards imposed by both local and federal governments.

Last week, lidar supplier Velodyne said Uber’s failure was most likely on the software end as it defended the effectiveness of its hardware. Since then, Aptiv — the supplier for the Volvo XC90’s radar and camera — claimed Uber disabled the SUV’s standard crash avoidance systems to implement its own. This was followed up by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issuing a suspension on all autonomous testing from Uber on Monday — one week after the incident and Uber’s self-imposed suspension.

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Light It Up: Canucks to Mandate Taillight Illumination

It’s a problem — one I’m sure you’ve witnessed. A hapless driver, plodding along a darkened highway with no taillights illuminated, mistakenly thinking their lights are on thanks to a bright dashboard and flaccid daytime running lights.

High on poutine and maple syrup, Transport Canada is having no more of it, announcing a new mandate requiring all new cars sold in the Great White North to have extra illumination starting in 2021.

The initiative also proves that someone within the Canadian government has a sense of humour, as Transport Canada says they’re going “ghostbusting to target phantom vehicles.” Break out the ECTO-1!

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Video of the Autonomous Uber Crash Raises Scary Questions, Important Lessons

On Wednesday evening, the Tempe Police Department released a video documenting the final moments before an Uber-owned autonomous test vehicle fatally struck a woman earlier this week. The public response has been varied. Many people agree with Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir that the accident was unavoidable, while others accusing Uber of vehicular homicide. The media take has been somewhat more nuanced.

One thing is very clear, however — the average person still does not understand how this technology works in the slightest. While the darkened video (provided below) does seem to support claims that the victim appeared suddenly, other claims — that it is enough to exonerate Uber — are mistaken. The victim, Elaine Herzberg, does indeed cross directly into the path of the oncoming Volvo XC90 and is visible for a fleeting moment before the strike, but the vehicle’s lidar system should have seen her well before that. Any claims to the contrary are irresponsible.

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Unpacking the Autonomous Uber Fatality as Details Emerge [Updated]

Details are trickling in about the fatal incident in Tempe, Arizona, where an autonomous Uber collided with a pedestrian earlier this week. While a true assessment of the situation is ongoing, the city’s police department seems ready to absolve the company of any wrongdoing.

“The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,” explained Tempe police chief Sylvia Moir. “His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.”

This claim leaves us with more questions than answers. Research suggests autonomous driving aids lull people into complacency, dulling the senses and slowing reaction times. But most self-driving hardware, including Uber’s, uses lidar that can functionally see in pitch black conditions. Even if the driver could not see the woman crossing the street (there were streetlights), the vehicle should have picked her out clear as day.

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Self-Driving Uber Vehicle Fatally Strikes Pedestrian, Company Halts Autonomous Testing

In the evening hours of March 18th, a pedestrian was fatally struck by a self-driving vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. While we all knew this was an inevitability, many expected the first casualty of progress to be later in the autonomous development timeline. The vehicle in question was owned by Uber Technologies and the company has admitted it was operating autonomously at the time of the incident.

The company has since halted all testing in the Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto, and greater Phoenix areas.

If you’re wondering what happened, so is Uber. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has opened an investigation into the accident and is sending a team to Tempe. Uber says it is cooperating with authorities.

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Green for Green: California Governor Outlines $2.5 Billion Electric Vehicle Push

If California’s Jerry Brown is known for anything, it’s for continuing his familial legacy of governing the region for a weirdly long period of time and pressing for the proliferation of electric vehicles. While not all of the state’s EV initiatives have gone without a hitch (the LAPD’s unused fleet of battery powered BMWs springs to mind), Brown remains essential in keeping his neck of the woods on the forefront of alternative energy adoption.

Currently, California plans to place five million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030. The state previously set a target of 1.5 million ZEVs by 2025. That’s a massive increase, especially considering California only has about 350,000 examples currently plying its roads. Don’t worry, Brown has a plan to stimulate sales: $200 million worth of subsidies per year for the next eight years.

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Germany and Italy Oppose Stiffer European Car Approval Rules

Italy and Germany are opposing attempts to give the European Union more authority over the way national car regulators approve new cars for sale. As wild as it is to learn that Germany is standing in the way of stricter automotive regulation and oversight, allow us to assure you that you’ve not misread the above statement. For some reason, Deutschland doesn’t want to see enhanced industry surveillance.

Our best guess is that the opposition has something to do with Volkswagen Group’s diesel crisis, recent concerns that BMW may have utilized a “shut off” device that masked NOx emissions, and the ongoing investigation into a German automotive cartel that may have operated for decades. But there’s also a chance these automakers simply don’t want to deal with the red tape that comes along with piling on government oversight.

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Nissan Back On Track in Japan, Resumes Vehicle Production

Nissan is resuming production at five of its domestic plants this Tuesday after Japan’s transport ministry finally approved changes to the improper final-inspection procedures that forced a major vehicle recall in October. The issue involved final checks being conducted by uncertified technicians, a procedure only mandated for vehicles sold within the brand’s home country of Japan. Exported vehicles aren’t subjected to it and, so far as we know, didn’t have any problems for having forgone the inspection.

However, JDM production has been suspended since October 19th and Nissan has scrambled to recall 1.2 million vehicles after being required to re-inspect everything built for the Japanese market over the last three years. That’s a large penalty for what amounts to little more than having the wrong guy eyeball a car as it rolls off the assembly line.

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Nissan Continued Using Uncertified Inspectors After Misconduct Exposed

Nissan Motor Co. has recalled 1.2 million new vehicles it sold in Japan over the last three years after discovering vehicle checks were not being performed by certified technicians. After a lengthy internal investigation, the company stated it continued to conduct unaccredited final checks as recently as last week.

News of the discovery came on Wednesday, more than two weeks after Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa publicly stated only certified technicians had conducted checks since September 20th. Despite attempts to remedy the widespread issue at its Japanese factories, there were at least two technicians lacking the necessary training and credentials at its Shonan Plant located in Tsutsumicho, near Hiratsuka City.

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California's Current Strategy to Ban Internal Combustion Engines

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.

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  • InCogKneeToe 2 Words ok 4 from the article “a collision-free society”. There are just billions too many variables for it to ever be possible.Just a couple of weeks ago, a Deer ran into my vehicle, I was stopped at the time, what can "Sensing" do for that? Unless the Deer get Sensors too.And Society as a Whole has suffered from this belief. The belief that Someone or Something should Think for Me, I shouldn't have to. Common Sense is getting rarer and rarer every second the World Spins.
  • Sgeffe I’ve got no problems with the HondaSensing kit in my one-generation-wonder 2019 Accord Touring 2.0T. (Although, ironically, the telematics unit won’t receive incoming commands from stuff like the mobile app allowing for remote start and the like. First world problems; working with Honda on a resolution.)Unlike most people who probably aren’t aware of their vehicle’s owner’s manual, however, I don’t expect the technology to be anything more than an ASSIST! The car will watch the distance to the car in front, but if needed, I’m still hovering my foot over the brake if necessary. Even if the BSM light in the mirror isn’t on, I still glance over my shoulder. Et cetera.
  • THX1136 Thanks for the explanation, Jeff! Appreciate you taking the time.
  • ScarecrowRepair Stick-what? Maybe it needs a laxative.
  • FreedMike ...but is the monthly turn signal subscription also going up?