By on July 13, 2020

Image: Ford

With Congress having politicized their nearly identical bills on police reform into another deadlock, many local governments have decided to pick up the slack by embracing activists seeking to dismantle law enforcement. Most of these don’t concern us as automotive enthusiasts and offer few perks or comfort to your average citizen. Then the City of Berkeley floated an idea that actually sounded halfway decent.

Rather than abolishing the police entirely, the famously progressive Californian town suggested ending routine traffic enforcement. However, you may want to hold off on making any illegal modifications to your car and postpone any burnout competitions you were planning on hosting. The proposed arrangement doesn’t officially endorse lawless roadways, though they may still be possible during the transitional period.  (Read More…)

By on March 31, 2020

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released their final version of the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rules on Tuesday. This will establish new targets for corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) and emissions standards for passenger vehicles from the 2021-2026 model years and just in the nick of time. The document had to be completed by April 1st, in order to leave sufficient time for the coming model year.

If you’ve been following the long and arduous process that brought us here, you’ll notice the document has changed slightly from previous drafts. The rollback still enacts the straightening of emission regulations but reels them back from the lofty goals set by the Obama administration. Annual increases in fuel efficiency standards will be set at 1.5 percent through 2026. Previous drafts had the Trump administration freezing efficiency requirements at 2020 levels.  (Read More…)

By on January 14, 2020

With nearly a decade’s worth of articles suggesting millennials never liked cars and are an industry boat anchor in waiting, a new report claims they may actually be the group that saves it. Using the same data from the Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration that showed present-day teens holding off on getting their driver’s license, the report placed Bloomberg under the impression that millennials will pick up the slack once they start cranking out offspring.

Millennials never actually hated cars. They’ve simply been, on average, too poor harness the same purchasing power of their ancestors, forcing them to put off major life decisions like getting married, having kids, buying a home and/or purchasing a new automobile. While some assuredly prefer public transit for environmental or social reasons, plenty of this has nothing to do with personal preference. The good news is that this fact appears to be reflected in the number of licensed drivers among their ranks, now that they’re getting a little older.  (Read More…)

By on December 23, 2019

 

Ren Cen. GM

Remember when General Motors talked about delivering an autonomous vehicle, sans steering wheel or pedals, and how the Department of Transportation said Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards basically made it impossible? Well, GM hasn’t given up the fight to disassociate drivers from driving.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has started talks with GM over the automaker’s petition to deploy a limited number of self-driving vehicles on American roads last Friday. Acting NHTSA Administrator James Owens told Reuters that the petition (issued in 2018) is currently under review.

“I expect we’re going to be able to move forward with these petitions soon — as soon as we can,” Owens said, suggesting a final decision would be made in 2020. “This will be a big deal because this will be the first such action that will be taken.”  (Read More…)

By on October 22, 2019

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced Tuesday that American traffic deaths declined for a second year in a row in 2018. Data indicates a 2.4 percent decline in roadway fatalities last year, with bicyclists and pedestrians being the only groups to see risk moving in the wrong direction.

“This is encouraging news, but still far too many perished or were injured, and nearly all crashes are preventable, so much more work remains to be done to make America’s roads safer for everyone,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a statement.

The DOT/NHTSA attributed improving automotive safety systems as the primary reason for the decline in deaths, though some of the metrics included in the report’s breakdown suggest other factors could be at play.  (Read More…)

By on October 17, 2019

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is facing a $79 million civil penalty over its inability to adhere to fuel economy requirements in 2017. Considering the automaker was already hit with a $77 million fine for 2016 model year requirements, the announcement is not unexpected. FCA’s domestic lineup is also loaded with large vehicles featuring sizable motors, a status quo it hopes to offset by buying carbon credits from Tesla.

In fact, the company appears to be taking a wait-and-see approach in regard to pursuing greener automobiles. While it continues to maintain its $10 billion commitment through 2022, aimed at delivering more hybrid and electric vehicles, the automaker’s established strategy involves eating whatever penalties it incurs via federal economy requirements or attempting to pay them off in advance.  (Read More…)

By on October 10, 2019

Image: Toyota

While side-mounted camera systems have been approved as an acceptable replacement for mirrors by much of the developed world, the United States has yet to approve their installation. But it’s under consideration via an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in the federal register.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been testing the worthiness of these systems and how drivers interact with them vs traditional mirrors. Now it’s looking for hot takes as research continues.

On Thursday, the NHTSA announced it was also opening the door for public comments on the technology. If you care about this at all (yay or nay), it might be worth offering the agency a well-spoken piece of your mind.  (Read More…)

By on September 20, 2019

On Friday, California and 23 other states filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration over efforts to reverse state-driven emissions standards. Earlier this week, the president confirmed speculation that the federal government would be taking steps to revoke California’s fuel waiver — making the suit about as predictable as the setting sun.

We’ve told the story countless times. The Golden State wants to maintain stringent emission laws for automobiles, the Trump administration wants a fuel rollback, and automakers want a universal national standard. After months of nonproductive talks and all sides attempting to make their case to the public, it looks at though the Supreme Court will have the final say.  (Read More…)

By on July 9, 2019

On Tuesday, 23 governors signed a joint statement urging the Trump administration to reconsider the proposed rollback of Obama-era fueling regulations. Led, unsurprisingly, by California Governor Gavin Newsom, the letter suggests a “common-sense approach” to national requirements with an emphasis on rising standards.

A minor update in the gas war to be certain — and yet annoyingly framed by a large portion of the media as a victory for California when the realities are far more complicated. To be frank, we’re getting pretty tired of these lopsided takes. This whole thing is a regulatory and political quagmire… on all sides.  (Read More…)

By on June 18, 2019

Two decades ago, the Federal Communications Commission decided to allocate a portion of the radio frequency spectrum for Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC). The plan was to utilize that slice of the airwaves for ultra-modern automotive technologies relating to vehicle-to-vehicle and/or vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a whole lot of activity on those channels.

The automotive industry was concerned it might need dedicated frequencies for use in autonomous-vehicle applications or some, yet unknown, technological advancement. But cable companies are annoyed that it’s being “wasted” and have started to antsy. They’ve asked the FCC to revoke carmakers’ exclusive rights to the frequencies and reallocate the majority of the 5.9-GHz band to the Wi-Fi systems that currently carry internet traffic for cable customers.

Hoping to encourage the commission to see things its way, Ford took FCC Chairman Ajit Pai out for a ride in an extra-special F-150 to plead its case. However, I feel like I can already predict whose side he’s going to take on this issue… and it isn’t going to be the automakers’.  (Read More…)

By on October 21, 2018

The Federal Communications Commission has decided to review how the radio spectrum intended for wireless communications should be divided. While a seemingly normal part of its duties, the reassessment could open up a part of the spectrum that was previously reserved for automotive applications. The super-high 5.9 GHz frequency reserved for cars was deemed important because it would help enable low-power connectivity in remote and high-density areas, allowing for vehicles to more reliably transmit information between each other and the infrastructure. This was framed by the interested parties as essential for helping to develop safe, autonomous driving systems but it could likely also work to aid any data-based services they offer in the future.

Meanwhile, cable companies, the telecom industry, and internet service providers (ISPs) don’t think it’s fair that automakers are getting their own slice of bandwidth when they’re not even using it yet. Carmakers have been working on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure, and dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) for years without much in the way of consumer applications.  (Read More…)

By on October 4, 2018

With Honda and General Motors teaming up on a self-driving car and GM’s Super Cruise getting the green light from Consumer Reportsit’s already been a busy week for automotive autonomy — and it’s only getting busier.

The U.S. Transportation Department plans to repudiate 10 locations previously outlined by the previous administration to serve as federally recognized proving grounds for self-driving vehicle tech. But don’t think for a second that this means the noose is tightening around the neck of autonomous testing. The Trump administration is preparing a new initiative that will lead to nationwide testing from just about anyone who can cobble together a vehicle with advanced driving aids.  (Read More…)

By on August 29, 2018

Car noise hearing

One of the benefits touted by early electric car advocates was a reduction in noise pollution stemming from automobiles. Electric motors have the potential to run far quieter than their internal combustion rivals, which could result in softer-sounding roadways.

The U.S. Department of Transportation started seriously worrying about the safety implications of silent-running vehicles back in 2010. Still, it wasn’t until this year that it legally imposed artificial noises on EVs as a way to warn inattentive or impaired pedestrians. Starting in 2020, vehicles with a GVWR of less than 10,000 pounds must emit a pedestrian-warning noise at speeds below 18.6 miles per hour.

However, despite a lengthy dialogue between government and industry, Ford was apparently seeking an exception for the federally mandated noise maker(Read More…)

By on June 1, 2018

fuel gauge vintage

The Trump administration has enacted phase two of its plan to revise Obama-era rules designed to cut pollution from vehicle emissions. In a proposal sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its intention to rescind the California waiver that separates it from the federal standards the state uses to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles.

Since allowing California to set its own emission standards would effective split the country’s auto market, the EPA has been clear that its ideal solution would be to cut a deal with the Golden State. Agency head Scott Pruitt previously said California “shouldn’t and can’t dictate [fueling regulations] to the rest of the country,” but acted in a manner that suggested a compromised could be reached.

This was followed by a lawsuit filed by 17 U.S. states, along with the California governor’s office, California attorney general, and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), alleging that the EPA had “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in its decision to roll back the previous administration’s decision. While the odds are good that the Trump administration wasn’t ever interested in bending to California’s more stringent pollution policies, this was likely the point of no return — squashing any hope for meaningful negotiations. (Read More…)

By on April 22, 2018

autonomous hardware

Thanks to the incredibly lax and voluntary guidelines outlined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automakers have had free rein to develop and test autonomous technology as they see fit. Meanwhile, the majority of states have seemed eager to welcome companies to their neck of the woods with a minimum of hassle. But things are beginning to change after a handful of high-profile accidents are forcing public officials to question whether the current approach to self-driving cars is the correct one.

The House of Representatives has already passed the SELF DRIVE Act. But it’s bipartisan companion piece, the AV START Act, has been hung up in the Senate for months now. The intent of the legislation is to remove potential barriers for autonomous development and fast track the implementation of self-driving technology. But a handful of legislators and consumer advocacy groups have claimed AV START doesn’t place a strong enough emphasis on safety and cyber security. Interesting, considering SELF DRIVE appeared to be less hard on manufacturers and passed with overwhelming support.

Of course, it also passed before the one-two punch of vehicular fatalities in California and Arizona from earlier this year. Now some policymakers are admitting they probably don’t understand the technology as they should and are becoming dubious that automakers can deliver on the multitude of promises being made. But the fact remains that some manner of legal framework needs to be established for autonomous vehicles, because it’s currently a bit of a confused free-for-all.  (Read More…)

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