By on May 28, 2021

There’s a small camera just above the rear-view mirrors installed in newer Tesla models. If you haven’t noticed it before, it wasn’t of any particular relevance. But it certainly is now.

Tesla has decided to activate driver monitoring protocols in an effort to avoid liabilities whenever Autopilot fails and motorists unexpectedly find themselves merging off a bridge. After rummaging through the wreckage and collecting errant body parts, investigators can use the vehicle’s camera data to see what was happening moments before the car hurled itself into the ravine. If it turns out that the driver was totally alert and did their utmost to wrangle the vehicle as it went haywire, a colossal payout for the surviving family is assured. But if that camera catches them slipping for a microsecond, the manufacturer has all it needs to shift the blame onto the deceased driver.  (Read More…)

By on May 27, 2021

Tesla is abandoning radar on its more affordable vehicles so it can deploy something that sounds like a vintage color motion picture process where the hues really manage to jump off the screen.

Tesla Vision” is the current process the company will use to collect and interpret the information necessary to operate semi-automated systems on the Model 3 and Model Y. But it feels like a step backward, if we’re being honest, and will result in cars that have “temporarily limited” abilities. (Read More…)

By on April 27, 2021

On Tuesday, the largest automotive lobbying group released a handful of safety guidelines related to driver monitoring for vehicles equipped with driver-assistance features. It’s pageantry designed to convince you and the rest of the world to embrace technologies that have already led to unsettling privacy violations. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation making recommendations for the industry is farcical because the AAI already represents just about every major player on the field, suppliers included. The only real outsider is Tesla, which the organization decided would make an excellent scapegoat for the broader tech agenda.

But there’s still merit to the discussion, especially if the only proposed solution is to let the industry watch us inside our cars 24/7.  (Read More…)

By on April 14, 2021

On Wednesday, Ford Motor Co. announced its upcoming hands-free driver-assist system intended to rival Tesla’s Autopilot or General Motors SuperCruise. The service, which the manufacturer has renamed BlueCruise, will be available on top trimmed “Mustang” Mach-E crossovers and F-150 pickup trucks via over-the-air-updates in the third quarter of 2021.

It will not be free, however.

Even though Ford has promised highly competitive pricing, customers will need to have purchased vehicles equipped with the necessary hardware (including driver monitoring cameras) before they’ll be eligible to spend the additional $600 Ford is asking for the privilege of using BlueCruise for three years. While more affordable than the competition, it still seems a lot to spend on a vehicle so you can pretend it’s self-driving – especially since the company failed to make it sound like it would be any more advanced than what’s being offered on Tesla and Cadillac vehicles that similarly cannot drive themselves.  (Read More…)

By on December 9, 2020

On Wednesday, General Motors announced plans to launch a version of Super Cruise on the 2022 GMC Sierra Denali modified to work with trailers. The hands-free driver assistance system (GM can’t call it “autonomous” because it technically isn’t) will stop being exclusive to Cadillac products and branch out into premium offerings from GMC and Chevrolet’s Bolt EV.

While unavailable until late in 2021, the next round of vehicles to be equipped with Super Cruise is supposed to see continued improvements to the system that allow for greater coverage. When the system originally launched on the Cadillac CT6 sedan, it was only eligible for use on specific divided highways for safety reasons. The greater emphasis on avoiding accidents was appreciated but it made the system seem more like a flashy gimmick than something any serious person would use on the regular. But GM has taken great strides to make sure that didn’t remain the case — hence the new trailer capabilities and ever-widening operating area.

(Read More…)

By on November 19, 2020

It turns out there’s a name for the false sense of security provided by modern driving aids. According to researchers with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab, the phenomenon is called “driver disengagement” and it’s assumed to be a contributing factor to roadways fatalities. The duo recently published a rather basic study examining how evolving automotive technologies might be eroding safety under the guise of progress.

Since we’ve been onto the perils and shortcomings of advanced driving aids since their introduction, it also provides us with another stellar opportunity to gloat. Heck, our criticisms go back far enough to predate any reputable research on the matter. We were just bitter cranks then, annoyed that the systems seemed unworthy of our trust despite constantly demanding it. But the IIHS said its latest testing found motorists frequently lose focus while utilizing features like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping. This issue reportedly worsens the more familiar drivers become with the systems, which would be fine if they could be counted on for total effectiveness. Sadly, there’s been more than enough testing for us to know that’s not the case.

(Read More…)

By on October 7, 2020

On Tuesday, Ducati announced it would be adding adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring to the Multistrada V4  effectively making it the first production motorcycle in the world to receive such features. While chucking front and rear-facing radar onto an automobile has become relatively common, motorbikes haven’t been getting them. Pricing remains the largest concern but many motorcycle enthusiasts have also pointed out the systems may expose riders to unnecessary risks.

If the forward-mounted radar on your car sees the vehicle in front getting closer, it may jam on the brakes to save you from an accident. On two wheels, that same action runs the risk of tossing a rider over the handlebars before promptly running themselves over. This leaves us wondering as to the true usefulness of these systems migrating to motorcycles. Have we gone mad with electronic nannies or is all this progress worth it to keep us safe?

(Read More…)

By on August 24, 2020

Today’s automobiles are loaded with the kind of technology our grandparents could only dream about. Unfortunately, some dreams aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and we’ve often bemoaned the many annoyances associated with modern vehicles.

J.D. Power recently shared its Tech Experience Index (TXI) Study, which has been modified to better assess specific features American drivers did and did not enjoy. The general takeaway seems to be that the average motorist feels pretty good about outward-facing cameras and anything else that improves a car’s outward visibility (handy in an era of extra chubby structural pillars).

However, the more intrusive safety inclusions that actively modify how the vehicle responds to the world around it didn’t seem to get nearly as much love, with many respondents suggesting they don’t trust the systems to behave in a predictable manner. It’s something we’re in broad agreement with and echoes many of the complaints we’ve heard from readers, friends, or rattling within our own skulls. (Read More…)

By on August 10, 2020

Nissan

Advanced driving aids have been slighted once again. This time, the Center for Auto Safety is asking Nissan to issue a safety recall on several models it believes have received too many customer complaints about their automatic emergency braking systems.

It also claims the manufacturer is already aware of the situation, after filing an public-information requests that showed Nissan being in possession of more than 1,400 complaints and field reports alleging the systems are activating when they shouldn’t. The company is also on the receiving end of some lawsuits over the matter.

We’d hate to harp on Nissan more than necessary. The manufacturer already has a laundry list of problems it’s hoping to solve, and there’s clear evidence that advanced driving aids are acting goofy across the board — especially as they become more commonplace. Last week, we reported on another AAA assessment encompassing multiple brands that once again showed just how reliable these electronic nannies aren’t. (Read More…)

By on August 6, 2020

The American Automobile Association (AAA) is recommending automakers limit the use of advanced driving aids after concluding they’re not really up to the challenge of providing reliable safety.

Over the past two years, AAA has focused on testing crash prevention systems to see if they’re all manufacturers claim — deciding that while many are useful in some instances, they’re far too inconsistent to be considered reliable safety nets. Like us, the group worries that making these features commonplace has created a false sense of security among drivers. While one might assume advanced driving aids have to be halfway decent to be put into vehicles, AAA’s pedestrian detection test from 2019 showed they’re anything but consistent.

On Thursday, America’s favorite motor club returned to report on its latest findings on five systems currently offered by the industry. For the test, AAA selected a 2019 BMW X7 with Active Driving Assistant Professional, 2019 Cadillac CT6 with Super Cruise, 2019 Ford Edge with Co-Pilot360, 2020 Kia Telluride with Highway Driving Assist, and a 2020 Subaru Outback with EyeSight. The group was sent to numerous testing sites in California, Utah, and Nevada, and given a 4,000-mile shakedown on public roads — where the outfit found the systems averaged a misstep or disengagement roughly every 8 miles.

(Read More…)

By on July 1, 2020

When it comes to activism, it’s best to choose your battles carefully. Fortunately, there aren’t too many causes within the auto industry and most are easy to get behind.

Even though environmental activists sometimes find themselves at odds with reality, their hearts are usually the right place, and they’ve encouraged automakers to try new and interesting things with transportation. Safety advocates can likewise go overboard, but we wouldn’t have seen cars get dramatically safer (or heavier) since the 1970s if they hadn’t.

Our favorite has to be consumer advocacy, however. With the exception of the occasional predatory lawsuit looking to take advantage of a dumb corporate decision, there’s precious little to scoff about. It also tends to overlap with our pet peeves by decrying bad business practices within the industry. Case in point, the Consumer Access to Repair Coalition has recently asked Congress to rethink how vehicular data is shared — noting that automakers shouldn’t need real-time monitoring for repairs and that the technology likely poses an unnecessary security risk.  (Read More…)

By on March 12, 2020

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has issued a set of guidelines for advanced driving aids, suggesting that the key to automated safety is making sure drivers are perpetually engaged with the vehicle’s operations. Unfortunately, this has turned out to be a Catch-22 scenario due to the way these systems function. Semi-autonomous features are supposed to be there to help promote safety by adding an extra layer of protection; however, many encourage motorists to disengage by nature of their design.

Adaptive cruise control with lane keeping is probably the worst offender. Implemented as a way to keep cars a safe distance apart on the expressway, it offers an experience that borders on having the car chauffeur you around. The effectiveness of these systems vary widely, with none actually being capable of any legitimate self-driving functionality. You’re also not supposed to be able to tune out while they’re in use, but they all seem coyly contrived to do exactly that. The IIHS is concerned this phenomenon will only get worse as driving aids evolve and become increasingly commonplace.

“Unfortunately, the more sophisticated and reliable automation becomes, the more difficult it is for drivers to stay focused on what the vehicle is doing,” said IIHS President David Harkey. “That’s why systems should be designed to keep drivers actively engaged.” (Read More…)

By on December 17, 2019

The perpetually cautious Toyota has decided to adhere to industry norms by promising to launch its latest advanced driving technologies on commercial vehicles first. This announcement works in tandem with the Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development’s (TRI-AD), which has a fancy new headquarters focused on delivering “safe mobility by bridging Silicon Valley’s innovation with Japanese craftsmanship.”

The decision to prioritize commercial vehicles is relatively common. Most companies developing self-driving tech believe there are loads of cash to be found in autonomous taxi services and automated fleets. Large firms operating an entire fleet of AVs will also be better equipped to purchase and service them. Heavily dependent upon camera equipment and sensors, self-driving vehicles will need to be constantly maintained to ensure they are clean and functional. Toyota also sees possibilities in mobile shops and ambulatory hospitals, according to Reuters, which would require similarly high levels of attention. (Read More…)

By on November 15, 2019

autonomous hardware

The terminology surrounding self-driving technologies and advanced driving aids has started to earn quite a bit of criticism in the wake of publicized crashes and growing outcry from consumer advocacy groups. For years, the industry has treated all assistance technologies as equal — placing everything on a sliding scale developed by SAE International.

It’s actually a good metric if you’re familiar with SAE’s autonomous ranking system. But to a layperson the differences between SAE Level 2 and 5 don’t mean a whole lot, despite offering completely different experiences. Automakers also have terms of their own, some of which could easily lead customers to believe their products are far more capable than reality allows.

Automotive News recently published an op-ed calling for clarity, and it was so good, we felt inclined to share.  (Read More…)

By on November 5, 2019

In reading this website, you’ve no doubt come across paranoid rants about automotive companies vacuuming up your personal data as connected cars become the norm — often written by yours truly. Frequently bleak, they address a multitude of concerns we believe will only get worse before they can get better.

A large part of that has to do with automakers seeing the potential of leveraging customer data, like so many tech companies have before them. But elected (and unelected) officials also seem to have a loose grasp of the technology and its potential ramifications. When the Department of Transportation initially approved self-driving vehicles for public testing, the guidelines were loose and largely dependent upon self-reporting — few wanted to stand in the way of developing systems that might someday save lives.

However, manufacturers are now beginning to issue over-the-air updates, perpetual internet connectivity, gamification, and in-car marketplaces (complete with advertisements). While the new technology has opened up new doors for customer experiences and corporate revenue, it’s accelerating at a pace that’s difficult to track. As a result, lawmakers in Massachusetts and California are starting to get antsy. The former hopes to address how data will be handled in accordance with the state’s right-to-repair laws. The latter is more directly concerned with privacy.  (Read More…)

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