Tag: DOT

By on November 1, 2019

One of the issues underpinning the gas war has been an inability for either side to compromise. Initially, it was the current administration complaining about California wanting special treatment. But the coastal state was quick to return fire, claiming that the White House never offered a valid compromise.

Eventually California extended an olive branch by suggesting it would postpone existing fuel economy mandates by one year, while attempting to lock automakers in via written commitments. But federal regulators said a singular national standard was needed, suggesting California had overstepped its authority by trying to rope in manufacturers.

However, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler came back this fall with claims of a revised plan that could actually be more stringent than originally presumed. While still a rollback, the new draft was said to close several loopholes the industry could use to continue their polluting ways. “In some of the out years, we’re actually more restrictive on CO2 emissions than the Obama proposal was,” Wheeler said.

New reports now suggest the EPA’s words are more than just noise. (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 September 18, 2019

While a considerable portion of Donald Trump’s Twitter announcements aren’t worth paying much attention to, he does occasionally slip some actual information in there. This week, the nugget was the confirmation that his administration intends to revoke California’s federal waiver on emissions — stripping the state of its ability to self-regulate and readying America for the gas war’s main event.

The Environmental Protection Agency was already known to be making preparations to do exactly this, but the president’s Wednesday posting made things crystal clear. “The Trump Administration is revoking California’s Federal Waiver on emissions in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER,” he wrote.  (Read More…)

By on September 13, 2019

It’s not as if we anticipated any other outcome, but the White House is moving forward with a plan to revoke California’s authority to set its own vehicle emission standards. According to Reuters, President Donald Trump met with senior officials in Washington on Thursday to discuss the administration’s proposal to roll back Obama-era standards through 2025 and potentially revoke California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act to set state requirements for vehicles.

Anonymous sources claimed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and acting Office and Management and Budget director Russell Vought were in attendance.  (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 February 26, 2018

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric, Image: Steph Willems

First ordered by Congress in 2010 and delayed endlessly ever since, the U.S. Department of Transportation has finalized a date for the end of “noiseless” electric vehicles and hybrids: September 2020.

That’s a year after the previous deadline, announced in the final days of the Obama administration in November 2016. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration subsequently froze the date in order to hear arguments from automakers. With that process now wrapped up, the new (and unchanged) rules mean any four-wheeled vehicle with a GVWR of less than 10,000 pounds must emit a pedestrian-warning noise at speeds below 18.6 miles per hour.

Enjoy the “silence” while you can. (Read More…)

By on February 9, 2018

tired driver woman yawning

Back in 2014, an American Automobile Association study estimated that tired motorists were responsible for around 328,000 accidents annually — 6,400 of which were fatal. However, unlike drunk driving, there’s no sound metric for assessing the true scope of the problem. Getting tired is something that just sort of happens. People don’t stay out all night not sleeping because it’s fun, the police can’t test for it, and almost nobody is going to say they were dozing off behind the wheel in an accident report — either because they are too embarrassed or stopped feeling tired at the moment of their brush with death.

That makes the issue a bit of a phantom menace. We all know it’s a problem, but the frequency remains debatable. Fortunately, a new study released by AAA this week helps clear things up. Researchers affixed dashboard cameras to 3,593 vehicles in order to monitor the drivers’ faces, then used a PERCLOS-based fatigue monitoring strategy to come to the conclusion that drowsiness is a contributing factor in 10.6 to 10.8 percent of all accidents resulting in significant property damage, airbag deployment, or injury. (Read More…)

By on October 13, 2017

fuel gauge

A bipartisan pair of congressional representatives from Michigan are proposing a new bill, the Fuel Economy Harmonization Act, that would aid automakers in complying with federal fuel efficiency requirements. Introduced on Wednesday, the bill would extend the life of fuel economy credits that are set to expire in five years and raise the ceiling on transferrable credits between car and truck fleets. Under the proposal, manufacturers could also be given additional credits for lowering fleet-wide emissions under new metrics.

Penning the bill, congresspersons Fred Upton (Republican) and Debbie Dingell (Democrat) said they believed the automotive industry would benefit from having a single set of fuel rules. The bill suggests rolling the NHTSA’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and the EPA’s light-duty vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions mandates into one cohesive program.

While economy mandates have been growing, nationwide fuel consumption has still gone up. Likewise, the average mpg of cars sold in the United States hasn’t changed much over the last three years. With pump prices remaining low, consumers have flocked to less-efficient models like crossovers and SUVs.  (Read More…)

By on October 8, 2017

dot headquarters

Last week, we discussed how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had some staffing gaps that needed shoring up. While it remains shy one administrative head, the White House saw fit to officially appoint a new deputy administrator — effectively replacing acting deputy administrator Jack Danielson’s interim leadership.

Danielson has served as the NHTSA’s executive director since 2015, but spent the last eight months filling in for an absent department figurehead. He’s being relieved by Heidi King, an economist with the federal government and experience in the private-sector. (Read More…)

By on September 21, 2017

Trump

Supposedly, everyone eagerly anticipates the day they can own a shiny-new self-driving car, but automakers, regulatory agencies, consumer advocates, Silicon Valley, and the White House are debating how exactly that’s supposed to happen. They haven’t reached a consensus yet — and that’s probably not likely to change anytime soon.

Most autonomous cars rely on array of cameras, LIDAR, GPS, inertial measurement devices, and complex control systems used to interpret sensory information before reacting accordingly. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems (V2V) are regarded by many as essential components to establishing fully automated travel. The theory is that, by allowing cars to communicate directly on a broadband frequency, they can better predict each other’s movements.

However, a recent Bloomberg article accuses the technology of “going nowhere fast,” citing the Trump administration as the chief culprit, and alluding to the direct stifling of technology that would give cars “superpowers” in the next few years.

I probably won’t have the opportunity to say this often — and it feels kind of strange to say it now — but these accusations aren’t entirely fair to the president or his administration.  (Read More…)

By on September 13, 2017

vision 2.0 NHTSA Autonomous vehicles

On Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao outlined the Trump administration’s “Vision for Safety 2.0” at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor. The document is a collection of non-binding requests to manufacturers and a promise that they can go hog-wild with their autonomous vehicle testing, at least as far as the feds are concerned.

In a deluge of policy updates, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tweaked its vision for safety, claiming it was responding to the recent increase in the number of road accidents.

While Obama-era guidelines weren’t particularly robust, the Trump administration has essentially built a technical-sounding framework aimed at destroying regulatory red tape. Ironically, the government seems to have gone out of its way to ensure it stays out of the way. In some respects, it has to. The speed of development is beginning to happen at a rate where any outside bureaucracy would have difficulty keeping pace. Chao said the guidance would remain flexible, ready to adapt to the changes as they come. But it is also without teeth, promoting development and the future promise for safety at the expense of any meaningful oversight.

Did the Department of Transportation and NHTSA sell themselves out to industry or do they actually think giving automakers carte blanche on autonomous testing was the best thing for public safety? (Read More…)

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