Emphasis on Safety: Uber, Volvo Launch Next Generation of Autonomous SUVs

Uber Advanced Technologies unveiled the next generation of its self-driving SUV on Wednesday. Sticking with the Volvo XC90 as a platform, Uber stated that the latest prototypes should be capable of operating autonomously, adding that previous versions were not necessarily built with full autonomy in mind and required the presence of a safety driver behind the wheel.

While past versions of Uber’s test platform essentially retrofitted vehicles purchased from Volvo Cars, this new batch was co-developed with the automaker. Volvo said the project represents the “next step in the strategic collaboration between both companies.”

Volvo previously claimed that the cyclist killed by one of Uber’s autonomous test vehicles in 2018 might still be alive had the firm not tampered with the automatic emergency braking system all XC90s come equipped with. Uber’s latest SUVs utilize all of Volvo’s existing safety features, building on top of them with its own systems and creating as much redundancy as possible.

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Waymo Refocuses on Semis, Heads Back to Phoenix for Testing

Alphabet’s Waymo probably operates the most successful autonomous fleet in North America right now. While we can debate its technical prowess versus its rivals forever, it’s still one of the only companies offering a commercial taxi service using autonomous vehicles in North America. It also has an enviable safety record.

The company has also worked on adapting the technology for Class 8 trucks, testing such units previously in California, Atlanta, and Arizona. Recently, the company tweeted that self-driving semis would soon return for more testing in Phoenix — where it runs its Pacifica-based early rider program — as the company places a renewed emphasis on their development.

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Ford Opens Investigation Into Fuel Economy Testing Procedure, Hires Outside Help

Ford Motor Company has reason to believe a problem may exist in how the company calculates vehicle fuel economy and emissions.

The automaker has hired an outside firm to help get to the bottom of the issue, which was raised by employees, and has already notified the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board of the probe, Ford claims. It insists this isn’t about sneaky defeat devices; rather, road load is the issue here.

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Officially Official: Land Rover Defender Returning to North America

On Thursday, Jaguar Land Rover announced that an all-new Defender SUV will be sold in the United States and Canada come 2020.

“On behalf of Land Rover and our retailers, we are proud to announce the voices of American and Canadian customers have been heard: the all-new Defender will be for sale here starting in 2020,” said Kim McCullough, Vice President of Marketing at JLR North America. “This announcement is a holiday gift to our Defender fans in North America and a hint of what’s to come in the New Year.”

While giving individuals the opportunity to buy themselves an expensive item with their own money is a pretty shitty gift idea, it’s nice to learn the Defender’s twenty-year hiatus will soon come to an end.

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Michigan Testing Shows Fairly Innocuous Weather Baffles Self-driving Car Systems

Successfully operating self-driving cars on crowded, complex roadways in sunny, dry locales like Phoenix, Arizona is already enough of a challenge, but researchers in the cold, tempestuous climes of Michigan have revealed what the latest and greatest autonomous technology is really up against.

Rain, sometimes hard rain. But also light rain. Also: cold temperatures, and trees with leaves that fall off in the winter. Given that so few places in the world boast such extreme weather and vegetation anomalies as Michigan, this won’t pose a problem for the widespread proliferation of driverless cars, will it?

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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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Uber Pulls the Plug on Autonomous Vehicle Testing in Arizona

The area around Phoenix, Arizona can say goodbye to the fleet of self-driving Volvo SUVs operated by Uber Technologies. The ride-sharing company, which suspended all on-road autonomous vehicle testing after a fatal pedestrian collision in March, has announced it’s shutting down its operations in that state.

Up to 300 employees stand to lose their jobs.

While the departure hints at a newfound culture of caution and discipline at Uber, it isn’t terminating its self-driving program altogether, nor will its conventional services leave Arizona. The company’s self-driving vehicles could be on the road again this summer.

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Atlanta Becomes Next American City to Host Waymo's Autonomous Test Fleet

Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, is testing the crap out of its ever-growing fleet of autonomous Chrysler Pacificas. While we know the company has already mapped dozens of North American towns, the majority of its testing takes place around Austin, Detroit, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Seattle, and especially Phoenix.

However, today the company tweeted out that it will add Atlanta, Georgia, to that list. Presently, Arizona is the only region where Waymo routinely operates vehicles without a human behind the wheel. But that’s liable to change as the firm gets more testing under its belt. Atlantans may be leaning out of car windows to snap photos of driverless vans soon enough.

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Won't Get Fueled Again: AAA Testing Suggests Premium Gas, for the Most Part, Isn't Worth Your Cash

Most readers of this site know exactly what an octane rating is and how it relates to the bang it provides in an engine. Hauling up to the pumps and being presented with a choice of everything from 87 to race gas is one of the benefits of living in America.

Higher octane fuel is more expensive than other grades and the gulf between regular and super-duper-extra premium is steadily increasing. Is it worth “treating” your car to a tank of high octane every now and then? The American Automobile Association says absolutely not — and they have the testing to back it up.

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Subaru's Brace of New Test Tracks Hints at Options to Come

The company formerly known as Fuji Heavy Industries is again investing in its safety-related R&D, creating additions to its Bifuka Proving Grounds in Japan. Bifuka is fun to say.

Dubbed the “Advanced Driver Assist Technologies Tracks,” the newest testing sites are said to have been built with the express purpose of developing advanced driver aids. If all of this sounds like future planning for testing autonomous driving solutions, you’re probably not too far off.

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Uber Informed the California DMV Its Rules Don't Apply to Their Cars

Uber Technologies Inc. have again ignored mandates from California regulators that the ride-services firm must apply for a permit to test self-driving cars, setting the table for a potential legal battle. Uber’s grounds for refusing to apply are that the autonomous vehicles are not quite self-reliant enough to warrant the paperwork.

Unveiled to the public on Wednesday, the company’s self-driving cars faced immediate criticism in San Francisco after news broke that one had breezed through a red light and another almost caused an accident. The general denunciation forced the California Department of Motor Vehicles to notify Uber to cease operations, to which it responded with a frank “no.”

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Consumer Reports Says EPA Fuel Economy Labels Are Pretty Accurate, Right Before the EPA Changes Them

Barring those pesky instances where automakers were forced to hand cash to buyers as a make-nice gesture, the Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy labels found on window stickers are actually pretty accurate.

That’s the verdict from Consumer Reports’ just-released study on the real-world mileage of 2009-2016 model year vehicles, but it comes with an asterisk. Don’t break out the champagne just yet, EPA.

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'Everything's Fine,' Says Mitsubishi to the EPA

After admitting it fudged fuel economy data for the past 25 years in Japan, Mitsubishi Motors wants the Environmental Protection Agency to know that its U.S. vehicles are A-OK.

The automaker claims it conducted an internal audit on vehicles from model year 2013 to present and contrasted that data with figures it had previously submitted to the EPA. The conclusion? The information’s fine.

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What Is This Hongqi H7 Doing in Michigan?

TTAC reader Morpheus (who has an awesome name by any standard) sent in this shot of a Chinese limo driving around Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Hongqi H7 isn’t built by some neo-capitalist Chinese outfit, either, as the brand has been in existence since 1958. It’s also properly presidential. Hongqi (which translates to Red Flag) has built limousines for The Party’s higher-up ranks in the past.

But why is it parading around Ann Arbor?

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US, Canada, Germany to Expand Testing for All Diesel Vehicles, Not Just Volkswagen

Government agencies from the United States, Canada and Germany will be testing diesel vehicles from automakers other than Volkswagen to check their compliance with emission laws.

According to The New York Times, regulators in North America “are significantly expanding their on-the-road emissions tests to cover all makes and models of diesel cars.” The same on-road tests found 3-liter V-6 diesel engines to emit more NOx than they did in EPA testing.

The EPA had already notified General Motors that its new Colorado and Canyon diesel pickups would undergo increased scrutiny.

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  • Namesakeone If you want a Thunderbird like your neighbor's 1990s model, this is not the car. This is a Fox-body car, which was produced as a Thunderbird from MY 1980 through 1988 (with styling revisions). The 1989-1997 car, like your neighbor's, was based on the much heavier (but with independent rear suspension) MN-15 chassis.
  • Inside Looking Out I watched only his Youtube channel. Had no idea that there is TV show too. But it is 8 years or more that I cut the cable and do not watch TV except of local Fox News. There is too much politics and brainwashing including ads on TV. But I am subscribed to CNBC Youtube channel.
  • Jeff S Just to think we are now down to basically 3 minivans the Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna. I wonder how much longer those will last. Today's minivan has grown in size over the original minivans and isn't so mini anymore considering it is bigger than a lot of short wheel based full size vans from the 70s and 80s. Back in the 70s and 80s everything smaller was mini--mini skirt, mini fridge, mini car, and mini truck. Mini cars were actually subcompact cars and mini trucks were compact trucks. Funny how some words are so prevalent in a specific era and how they go away and are unheard of in the following decades.
  • Jeff S Isn't this the same van Mercury used for the Villager? I believe it was the 1s and 2nd generations of this Quest.
  • VoGhost I don't understand the author's point. Two of the top five selling vehicles globally are Teslas. We have great data on the Model 3 for the past 5 years. What specifically is mysterious about used car values?