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.

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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 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.

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By on June 5, 2020

When the United States began passing legislation allowing automakers to begin testing self-driving vehicles on public roads, it was framed almost entirely as a safety issue. Proponents claimed that the only way to eliminate roadway fatalities was to take the human brain out of the equation and let cars drive themselves. Having enacted a similar no-thinking policy themselves, legislators agreed — pleased to have ensured a death-free future on little more than empty corporate promises.

At the time, we were still complaining about the unreliable nature of advanced driving aids, and how such systems seem custom-made to dull your reflexes behind the wheel. There was a sense that, if everything went perfectly, maybe autonomous vehicles (AVs) could reduce accidents by previously unheard of levels. That feeling didn’t last particularly long here at TTAC and, by 2018, we started noticing we weren’t alone.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) grew increasingly critical of AVs starting a couple of years ago. On Thursday, it released a report claiming the idea of a no-crash future spurred by automation is a fantasy. Instead, the IIHS says cutting-edge technology will likely struggle to stop just a third of all accidents.  (Read More…)

By on June 1, 2020

A Tesla Model 3 became one with an overturned box truck in Taiwan on Monday, raising another red flag for advanced driver-assist features. Since we routinely crap upon driving aids — which never seem to work when and how you need them — we’ll keep this one under 650 words. Fortunately, our task has been made easier by preliminary reports lacking much information and a sizable language barrier.

The incident took place on Taiwan’s National Highway 1 near the Zhongshan High Chiayi Water Section, with the car allegedly operating in Autopilot mode. Video footage shows the Model 3 keeping to the leftmost lane with ample time to stop for the overturned delivery vehicle. There’s even a person standing in the road (likely the truck’s driver), flagging cars to warn them of the giant obstacle. The Tesla, however, failed to notice any of that until it was too late and ended up going through the trailer’s roof.  (Read More…)

By on April 24, 2020

Way back in 1999, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set aside frequencies so automobiles could communicate with surrounding infrastructure. Concepts included traffic monitoring, speed mitigation, data analysis, new opportunities for law enforcement, and improved self-driving capabilities. The industry never made much use of it, focusing instead on more independent autonomous vehicles that wouldn’t need help from the surrounding world, and which could simply communicate with each other (and manufacturer data centers) using existing wireless networks.

Annoyed that automakers had barely touched the bandwidth allocated to them, the FCC suggested handing it over to someone else in 2019. In response, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) promised that if the commission voted to uphold the status quo on the 5.9-GHz band, the automotive sector would install 5 million vehicle-to-everything (V2X) radios on vehicles and roadside infrastructure over the next five years. (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 February 27, 2020

While the preliminary data from the National Safety Council shows 2019 being a safer year for cars operating in America, its report noted continued concerns regarding pedestrian safety. Additional data gleaned from the Governors Highway Safety Association’s (GHSA) assessment of pedestrian deaths by state shows that those traveling outside of cars aren’t enjoying the same safety enhancements as those sitting comfortably inside the cabin.

Its report estimates that 6,590 pedestrians were killed in 2019. The figure represents a 5-percent increase from 2018 and is the largest number of deaths the United States has seen since 1988. The situation, however, isn’t as simple as the big numbers suggest. Despite pedestrian fatalities gradually creeping up since 2009, only 30 states actually saw an increase in their total number of deaths last year. The GHSA now projects a pedestrian fatality rate of 2.0 per 100,000 people. While that’s also the highest rate the country has seen in years, it’s actually far lower than automobile fatalities — which currently averages around 11.0 per a population of 100,000.  (Read More…)

By on February 25, 2020

The National Safety Council just released its estimates for U.S. roadway fatalities in 2019, and there’s good news to share. Deaths declined for the second consecutive year. According to the NSC, traffic fatalities reached an estimated 38,800 last year, representing a 2-percent decline from 2018 and and a 4-percent decline against 2017.

While the NSC said the decline came “after several years of spikes,” we found the claim to be mildly misleading. Even though 2015 and 2016 posted meaningful increases in roadway deaths, safer streets have been in fashion since the 1970s. Most years since then have resulted in fewer crashes, with sporadic bad periods sprinkled throughout. If you’re interested in some supporting data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. roadway fatalities per 100,000 people averaged around 26.01 in 1972. That figure fell to just 10.28 by 2014, with the combined 2015-2016 increases bumping it up to just 11.59 per 100,000 people.  (Read More…)

By on February 6, 2020

General Motors is recalling around 128,500 vehicles in the United States over a previous fix that didn’t work as intended. The cars stem from a larger December callback that aimed, via a software flash, to mitigate braking problems on about 550,000 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Cadillac CT6, and GMC Sierra 1500 models from 2019. GM says the solution created issues on about a third of them.

The problems are much the same as before. Affected vehicles may have serious braking issues and have their anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC) fail. At least this time the computer will know enough to indicate a problem via the vehicle’s warning lights. In the previous recall, GM said the vehicles’ diagnostic system would not illuminate the instrument cluster to hint that something was amiss.

(Read More…)

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