The paranoid luddites that write for this site have occasionally been accused of being hyper critical of modern-day driving aids. Be it a cursory mention of how a little snow totally flummoxed the systems of an otherwise agreeable review car, the direct addressing of an issue where road salt encouraged a vehicle to attempt to steer itself into a ditch, or one of this author’s many diatribes on how the bulk of this technology doesn’t seem anywhere near market ready, there’s always a couple of exceptional individuals ready to call us backward-looking morons.
While that’s often a correct assessment in other matters, it seems we’ve called this one correctly. The American Automobile Association (AAA) recently tested four sedans from competing manufacturers, running them through a handful of scenarios intended to replicate situations that place pedestrians at extreme risk. Taking into account the above smugness, you can probably imagine how poorly it went.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) suggests that long-term loans are encouraging ownership costs of new vehicles to climb. In some instances, the group suggests customers could be on the hook for well over $10,000 per year. While this only applies to larger and more expensive automobiles, AAA says the trend is all-encompassing — spurred largely by changing finance conditions.
According to AAA’s latest research, finance costs on new vehicle purchases have jumped 24 percent in 2019, elevating the average annual cost of car ownership to $9,282 ($773.50 per month).
“Finance costs accounted for more than 40 [percent] of the total increase in average vehicle ownership costs,” elaborated John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director for Automotive Engineering & Repair. “AAA found finance charges rose more sharply in the last 12 months than any major expense associated with owning a vehicle.”
There’s a Consumer Reports study making the rounds that reveals owners of trucks and large SUVs wish for better performance at the pump. Please pick yourself up off the ground. In fact, 73 percent of surveyed drivers who own such a vehicle wish for more MPGs in their next vehicle, which is not surprising given that large vehicles return, on average, below-average fuel economy.
Interestingly, the Detroit Three find themselves in the midst of an MPG war with their full-size, light-duty diesels. Mild hybrid Ram 1500s are here, and Ford has a hybrid F-150 in the works. Both Ford and GM have fully electric full-sizers in development. The General just introduced a four-cylinder half-ton (with an admittedly lackluster EPA rating).
While it’s understandable that owners of large vehicles would wish for lower fuel costs, the study fails to ask why owners want an improvement in their gas bill.
Confusion still reigns in the minds of auto consumers, especially when it comes to the murky world of electrification. Past studies have shown that years of misleading terminology and boasting about the capabilities of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles resulted in a public that knew little about the changing auto landscape, or what a hybrid car even does.
“What will happen when my hybrid’s battery depletes?” is a question too many people still ask themselves.
The same murkiness is at play in a recent study by Cox Automotive, in which we learn that Toyota has earned a reputation it doesn’t deserve.
Over the past year the automotive industry has carefully walked back the expectations surrounding autonomous cars. Yet pretty much any change in rhetoric constitutes retracted goals. With numerous companies predicting self-driving fleets of commercial vehicles before 2021, the bar couldn’t have been set much higher.
A lack of progress is partly to blame. However, a bundle of high-profile accidents have also shaken public trust — especially after it was found that Uber whistleblower Robbie Miller was trying to alert the company to issues with its self-driving program just days before one of the company’s autonomous Volvos was involved in a fatal accident with a pedestrian.
That’s not the half of it. In April, Miller released a study claiming self-driving vehicles were actually recording incident rates higher than that of your typical motorist. Contrasting data from the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) and the California DMV, he concluded that autonomous test vehicles created more injuries per mile than the average human motorist with a few years of practice.
Earlier this month the insurance comparison site Insurify passed around a study of the car models most likely to receiving speeding tickets. The worst offenders were all rather predictable, with Subaru’s WRX leading the charge. Other models, like the Scion FR-S and Volkswagen Golf GTI, helped paint a clearer picture — one that pointed toward younger motorists with a preexisting interest in speed.
While “Quick Cars Go Fast” isn’t the most compelling headline, Insurify released another study this week detailing America’s most accident-prone vehicles. The speeding study was pretty cut and dried, but this one is a bit more mysterious. What goes into an automobile that makes it perfect for crashing?
The U.S. Navy has decided to convert the touch screens installed on its destroyer fleet back to mechanical controls after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cited them in the fatal collision between the USS John S McCain and tanker Alnic MC in 2017. They were also referenced in the collision report released after the USS Fitzgerald collided with the ACX Crystal container ship. While the reports dealt largely with crews being improperly trained on the system’s various functions, the complexity of the graphical interface was cited as a potential issue in itself.
This encouraged Naval Sea Systems Command to conduct fleet surveys in the hope it could get a handle on how officers felt about the systems. The result? Crew members said they wanted more physical controls, echoing the cries of automotive safety advocates the world over.
The fuel economy rollback posited by the Trump administration remains a hotly debated issue within the automotive community. Unfortunately, it has become mired in political nonsense, making decrypting the real-world impact of embracing or shunning it rather difficult. Consumer Reports recently took a stab at making sense of the matter, coming out in favor of balking at the notion of a rollback on the grounds that it would ultimately raise fueling costs.
Last year, the administration proposed capping fuel economy and emission standards at 2020 levels, instead of allowing them to rise annually as under existing regulations. The opposition, fronted by California, is vying to maintain the existing standards — with the possible compromise of delaying them by one year.
After an eternity of seeing the Honda Accord and Civic topping lists of America’s most-stolen cars, tastes have finally evolved. According to the Highway Loss Data Institute’s list of vehicles most likely to be stolen, Hemi-equipped Dodge Challengers and Chargers are now the ride of choice for automotive miscreants. Interestingly, bandits seem to prefer larger vehicles on the whole — with full-sized pickups and large-engined cars topping the charts.
However, there are a couple items that need to be sorted out before we progress. You’ll probably continue seeing Accords, Corollas, Civics, and F-Series pickups on subsequent most-stolen lists. Their volume alone makes them popular targets and any study going by sheer numbers is bound to include them. But the HLDI report quantifies automobiles by their relative risk using insurance data, suggesting its big-boy season for car thieves.
With automakers investing heavily into the development of electrified and autonomous vehicles, it might seem there is a gigantic consumer base ready and raring to go out and buy them. But every study we’ve encountered suggests the exact opposite. Electric cars are still limited to tech fetishists with regular folks occasionally deciding to become early adopters. Meanwhile, AVs are still in their infancy with engineers keen to document every baby step they take as the public remains ill-informed on their overall status.
It was presumed, however, that this would change as development progressed and “mobility” became more mainstream. But a new study from J.D. Power, backed by Survey Monkey, has showed — once again — this is not yet the case. Based on a 100-point scale, the duo’s 2019 Mobility Confidence Index yielded a score of 36 for self-driving vehicles and 55 for battery-electric vehicles.
J.D. Power’s Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study, cleverly nicknamed as APEAL, was released on Wednesday. While we absolutely wouldn’t recommend using it as the foundation for your next vehicular purchase, it is a fun way to examine how the public views the various brands after 90 days of ownership.
Technically an automotive popularity contest, the 2019 APEAL study examines an owners’ “emotional attachment and level of excitement with their new vehicle across 77 attributes, ranging from the power they feel when they step on the gas to the sense of comfort and luxury they feel when climbing into the driver’s seat,” according to its publisher.
Expectedly, premium brands performed better overall — no doubt helped by their high-falutin owners’ smug sense of self-satisfaction. But there were a few pedestrian nameplates that managed to buck the trend and find themselves in the mix.
J.D. Power’s annual Automotive Brand Loyalty Study came out for 2019 this week. According to the outlet, Subaru outranks every other brand when it comes to consumer loyalty. That meshes with any anecdotal evidence I’ve accumulated by just speaking with people. Despite some nagging quality concerns stemming from the company’s swift sales growth, most people I know that have driven a Subaru still want one.
Subaru also has been running some of the best advertisements within the industry with the broadest possible appeal ( as they often feature dogs) over the last few years. Almost every woman I’ve spoken with feels positively about the brand and, while I can’t say the same about the men, it’s not a nameplate that receives much ire with laypersons — minus the odd tale of a tragic timing chain mishap (I told you to take it in, Sean).
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.
Many consumers continue to misunderstand the driver-assistance technologies being placed in modern vehicles, according to the latest survey released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But we don’t need the IIHS to tell us that. We’ve been documenting the avoidable accidents created whenever motorists overestimate what their high-tech cars are capable of for years now.
However, the insurance institute and numerous consumer advocacy groups have suggested that big part of the problem stems from the names manufacturers are using to describe their semi-autonomous hardware. Titles like “Autopilot” or “Driving Assistant Plus” can be confusing to somebody who didn’t bother to read the manual, especially when the associated marketing materials are often helping to steer them further in the wrong direction.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released its preliminary report on how many people died on U.S. roadways in 2018, indicating that overall traffic deaths had likely fallen by 1 percent. While the information doesn’t exactly justify a party, it’s good news after the last few years attempted to provide new footage for the Red Asphalt series.
As the first major spike in traffic deaths since the “Swinging Sixties,” 2015 freaked everyone out a bit. Save for a few annual hiccups, American traffic deaths (contrasted with its population) had been on the decline for decades. However, by the end of 2016, things looked certain — it was becoming less safe to drive in the United States.