By on April 12, 2021

Last week, Lexus launched a viral marketing campaign — that also makes for an excellent public service announcement — about how stupid it is to check your phone while driving. But it has only just started getting the kind of attention it deserves, now that some of the contentious regulatory news has subsided.

The automaker modified a Lexus NX crossover with an electrochromic film that can totally obfuscate the glass for 4.6 seconds — which is the average length of time a person looks at their phone while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It then invited people to take the car for a “test drive” while it made a point about distracted driving. While an overt publicity stunt, it was rather effective and addresses one of our biggest concerns in terms of automotive safety. Lexus simply showcased a bunch of morons with phones in an interesting way, highlighted the danger, and then got off its podium. (Read More…)

By on March 24, 2021

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.  (Read More…)

By on February 22, 2021

The 2021 Nissan Rogue has bombed the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s front passenger-side crash test with a score of two stars. Since we’re not using the Michelin Guide, this is a stain on the freshly pressed slacks Nissan has put on as part of its all-important restructuring strategy.

The automaker has been shedding weight, dropping products, and losing employees in the name of profit. But it also has to restore public faith in a brand that has been caught in numerous quality control scandals and some ugly corporate infighting over the last few years. A crummy score on a crash test isn’t going to help, even if it does help spice up an otherwise bland vehicle segment. But let’s not overcook the eggs. There is a lot to unpack here before we jump on the bandwagon of calling it a cursed model.

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By on December 16, 2020

On Tuesday, Honda announced a bevy of recalls encompassing more than 1.4 million automobiles sold in the United States. Split between several campaigns, the recalls encompass everything from dissolving driveshafts to bum window controls that could potentially result in a vehicle fire.

According to reports issued via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the first and most-pressing issue involves the 2002-2006 Honda CR-V. Crossovers introduced to moisture could see their power window switches failing. If sufficient moisture is applied to the wires, Honda stated that there is some risk of a “thermal event.” As of November, the automaker said it was aware of 87 such instances and 23 reported events of fire.

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By on December 3, 2020

While every other developed nation has been struggling unsuccessfully to catch up, Japan remains ground zero for adorable robots and Honda is continuing the trend with its new traffic-safety gizmo. Intended to advise young children on how to proceed through intersections, the product is really more like blind-spot-monitoring for kids than a full-on robotic entity. But it seems a useful useful addition to the pedestrian-heavy country where youngsters are substantially more likely to be struck by automobiles than here in North America.

Titled “Ropot” by its creators, the device rides on a backpack or shoulder strap and uses its GPS capabilities to remind kids to stop and look at intersections. It also allows parents to track the whereabouts of their offspring. However, since Ropot is targeted for children who are just starting to venture places on their own, a little parental spying may be warranted. All the adults have to do is make sure they take that first trip to school together so Honda’s wide-eyed helper can learn the route.

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By on November 20, 2020

Safety regulators with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said they were opening formal regulatory proceedings to establish new safety standards for autonomous vehicles on Thursday. However, before the NHTSA can get into proposing new rules that will influence how cars that can control themselves will be handled by the U.S. government, it wants citizens to offer their two cents.

We’re talking specifically about Levels 3-5 of automation as defined by SAE, meaning cars that could someday be sold without steering wheels or any other means to take control of the vehicle yourself. It’s something industrial lobbyists with the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) already have a roadmap for and plan on sharing with the NHTSA soon. Based on the group’s previous initiatives, we imagine it’ll be advocating the government leave as much control in the hands of manufacturers as possible. But you’ll have a limited window to weigh in on that position (or, better yet, share your own) while regulators have an open request for public comment.

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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 November 18, 2020

Hyundai Motor Co. is being sued over a series of battery fires in its electric vehicles in Asia — specifically in relation to the otherwise-enjoyable Kona EV. Though it hardly seems fair to single out Hyundai when General Motors recently issued a recall encompassing 68,677 electric vehicles with batteries manufactured by LG Chem. Interestingly, Hyundai’s 74,000-strong Kona recall (which includes 11,082 units sold to the United States and Canada) uses the same supplier.

EV fires have become a hot topic within the industry, specifically because it runs the risk of slowing adoption rates and makes the affected automaker look wildly inept. Lawsuits don’t help the matter but Hyundai’s more immediate concerns involve proving that LG is the one that screwed up. While it hasn’t pointed any fingers directly at the supplier, it has dropped subtle hints while LG Chem insists its products are not defective. The duo is reportedly collaborating on an internal investigation into the troubled vehicles — 16 of which have burst into flames in North America, Europe, and Asia.

(Read More…)

By on October 28, 2020

Toyota has added another 1.5 million vehicles to the fuel pump recall instituted at the start of 2020, bringing the grand total to 3.34 million units. While the original recall accounts for models stretching all the way back to 2013, the manufacturer announced on Wednesday that the newest additions encompass Toyota and Lexus products assembled between July 2017 and September 2020.

Considering a portion of the vehicles were manufactured months after the firm had already announced there was a safety issue with the pump, it’s a little odd to see them being added to the list at all. Supplier Denso Corp. is responsible for the components in both instances and suggested we reach out to Toyota for information. But the Japanese automaker essentially reiterated what it said in the previous safety announcement, adding that it was working with Denso to make sure replacement parts were made promptly available.

(Read More…)

By on October 13, 2020

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

According to the very people trying to sell them, electric vehicles are slated to become the hottest commodity on the automotive market since the Ford Pinto, Pontiac Fiero, or Ferrari 458 Italia. But, following a swath of highly publicized fires, there’s been this creeping narrative that there may be some unaddressed safety concerns pertaining to EVs. Numerous video clips of vehicles spontaneously combusting in Asia and local media reports of phantom garage fires in North America have helped feed the story, with regulators now taking accusations of battery flambé extremely seriously.

Case in point is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s new investigation into the Chevrolet Bolt. The agency’s Office of Defects Investigation received just two complaints regarding 2018 and 2019 Bolts that were alleged to have caught fire in a similar manner. But lids were flipped when the NHTSA realized it had seen a 2017 model with a similar burn pattern working its way up through the rear seat. The group is now launching a preliminary evaluation to decide whether these were freak accidents or if the Chevy Bolt actually has a tendency to catch fire while nobody is around.

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By on October 9, 2020

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been outstanding when it some to destroying whatever illusions we’ve built up around ourselves in terms of automotive security. When the Department of Transportation was claiming advanced driving aids would eventually lead us to a future where car accidents were a thing of the past, the NTSB was there running crash investigations suggesting that those systems were not only error-prone but likely encouraging motorists to become more distracted behind the wheel.

Now its back to burst another bubble. According to data compiled from over a dozen reports, the NTSB believes fire departments are woefully unprepared to tackle hybrid and electric vehicles. The group estimated that roughly half of all American departments lacked any protocols for tackling such fires. Even among those who did, the criteria provided was often quite lax and might be insufficient for suppressing those famously troublesome lithium-ion battery fires.

(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?

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By on October 6, 2020

On Saturday, Honda Motor Co. confirmed another death linked to faulty Takata airbag inflation units. While this is the seventeenth known fatality within the United States related to the defect, at least 26 deaths have been tabulated globally with nearly 300 injuries on the books since 2009. But it’s assumed the actual numbers are quite a bit larger since the affected vehicles go back much further than that.

The most recent incident involved a 2002 model year Honda Civic that crashed on August 20th in Mesa, Arizona. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Honda jointly confirmed the airbag inflator as the culprit. Unfavorable conditions had led to the defective part rupturing during an accident after the propellant had broken down, causing the system to spray shrapnel inside the cabin just inches from the driver’s chest.

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By on October 1, 2020

The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) has finished a study on driver assistance systems and issued some moderately surprising results. While nowhere near comprehensive enough to be the ultimate authority on self-driving cars, it did give us a taste of Europe’s new grading system and how it will be implemented as more vehicles are tested. For now, NCAP is focused on a handful of models ranging from the pedestrian Renault Clio to the much more expensive Mercedes-Benz GLE.

While one might expect the moral of the study to be roughly ‘you get what you pay for,’ the reality seemed much more complicated after the Tesla Model 3 ended up in sixth place out of a possible ten. Anybody who has ever used Tesla’s Autopilot will tell you it’s probably the most impressive advanced driving suite currently on sale. This author certainly would before the smile dissolved and he was forced to you that it (and other) driving assistance packages are horrible, misleading inventions that need to be gotten rid of as soon as possible.

(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…)

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