NY Right-to-Repair Law Exempts Automakers
Governor Kathy Hochul has signed a right-to-repair bill into law for New York after it lingered within the state legislature for the better part of a year. However, many advocating for legal protections allowing consumers to fix and modify products have started criticizing changes made to the rule on behalf of large business entities hoping to see it neutered. While much of this pertains to the tech lobby representing companies like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, sizable exemptions have been similarly carved out for automakers.
Study Suggests Public Supports Right-to-Repair Movement
Most people who know their way around a wrench will tell you that vehicles haven’t gotten any easier to work on over the years. While modern automobiles tend to be longer lived than earlier models and on-board diagnostics have made issues somewhat easier to diagnose, decades of added complexity have made resolving those problems substantially more troublesome and costly. Modern engine layouts are focused on packaging, not on providing mechanics with easy access, and the sheer number of electrical components in today’s cars means that many parts that could have been repaired before now have to be replaced.
NADA Wants to Stop Catalytic Converter Theft
The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and a dozen related trade groups are petitioning Congress to crack down on stolen catalytic converters. The emission control devices are loaded up with valuable metals and are relatively easy to steal if you’re slim enough to get beneath a parked car and happen to have a reciprocating saw handy — making them prime targets for cash strapped criminals, especially now that material prices are on the rise.
Cities across the country have reported an increase in catalytic converter theft this year. While a majority of police departments are estimating a year-over-year increase of under 40 percent, some have said their figures are substantially larger. In March, Las Vegas Police Department estimated there were 87 percent more vehicles with hacked apart exhaust pipes in 2022. Philadelphia was even higher, reporting a staggering 172 percent increase in dismantled exhaust systems.
Unfair? Toyota Launches Ad Campaign Opposing EV Tax Credit Scheme
Toyota Motor North America has already voiced its opposition to the proposed EV tax credit scheme tied to the the Democrats’ latest spending bill. This week, it has decided to expand its message by purchasing advertisements in national publications.
Starting Tuesday, Toyota will be launching an ad campaign intended to help bring Americans toward its side of the fence. While the automaker isn’t intrinsically offended by the government-backed incentivizing of electric vehicles, it has taken umbrage with the Biden administration’s insistence that consumers be issued an additional $4,500 incentive for purchasing union-made products. Though the reasoning should be obvious, since the company doesn’t have any unionized facilities in the U.S., the automaker is seeing growing support as the related legislation is stalled on Capitol Hill.
Mexico Gives Amnesty to Illegal American Cars
Last week, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador made a pledge to legalize millions of vehicles being illegally imported from the United States. While it sounds like a phenomenal way to help the nation to contend with product shortages that are driving up vehicle prices around the globe, all of the cars had been smuggled previously and many were presumed to have been stolen.
This has created a lot of tension. Despite there being evidence that these vehicles frequently end up becoming workhorses for criminal cartels, illegally imported beaters also provide a cheap alternative to poorer residents right when automotive prices (new and used) have started to disconnect from reality. Times are tough and destitute families aren’t going to care where a car comes from when it’s the only one they can afford. So López Obrador has officially launched a new regularization program designed to bring these automobiles into the fold.
Gas War: California May Ban Gas-Powered Lawn Equipment
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has decided that residential lawn equipment is a major problem. Claims have been made that the small engines found inside of the average leaf blower emit the same amount of smog-forming pollution in a single hour as a 2016 Toyota Camry could produce over a 1,100-mile drive.
Assertions like these have been used to forward Assembly Bill No. 1346, which requires the board to define and then pull the trigger on new regulations designed “to prohibit engine exhaust and evaporative emissions from new small off-road engines” by 2022. CARB then has to decide whether or not it can outright ban them, so they may be replaced by zero-emission equivalents after 2024. Considering how decent most electrified tools have grown to be, this doesn’t sound infeasible. But it’s another example of California’s obsessive hatred of consumers utilizing liquid fuel and bound to have major ramifications.
Autonomous Vehicle Legislation Unlikely to Go Anywhere in 2020
Legislation that would advance the widespread deployment of autonomous vehicle in the United States appears to have stalled. With development of the technology hitting a rough patch and public perception teetering between AVs being a major breakthrough for society or an important contributor to its demise, any new laws might have been irrelevant anyway.
Outside of major players like Waymo, companies making consistent progress on the technology are hard to find; meanwhile, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to decide who’s at fault when a computer-controlled car goes off script and hurts someone or destroys property. Drivers don’t want to be liable, since they’re not technically supposed to be the ones in control (once true self driving arrives) and manufacturers don’t want to assume any more responsibilities than absolutely necessary.
Those concerns and more were reportedly on full display during last week’s Automated Vehicles Symposium. Designed to take the pulse of the industry and decide where AVs currently stand, the event seemed to showcase that there wasn’t much to be done this year. Whether it be the fault of companies overestimating how quickly the technology would advance (yes), the impact of pandemic-related lockdowns (yes), the unappetizing nature of the mobility concept (yes), or a lack of effective, well-informed governance (yes), 2020 seems to be a wasted year for vehicular autonomy.
'It's Still a Pig': Colorado Dealers Association Cold on Direct Sales Model, But Rivian Sees Promise There and Beyond
With production of its R1T pickup scheduled to commence later this year, upstart EV maker Rivian is aiming to get its products into as many states as possible, even if it means challenging dealer franchise laws. Following the R1T’s debut, the R1S three-row SUV will arrive to bolster Rivian’s emissions-free game.
In Colorado, where a bill seeking to allow direct sales via OEM-owned stores cleared a Senate committee last week, Rivian hopes to secure a victory — then replicate it in other protectionist states.
Four Becomes Two: California Will Now Fund Your Transition From Car to Bike
California wants that ’84 Olds Eighty-Eight gone, stat. In its place, a citizen of limited means can apply for disposal funding and the (partial) means of replacing it with a cleaner car, or opt instead for a transit pass or car-sharing membership. Now, the state Senate has amended earlier legislation to include more “mobility.”
The Clean Cars 4 All Program, administered by the California Air Resources Board, will now fork it over to get you on some sort of bike.
Aspiring Michigan Drivers Could See Their Wish Come True
Your author failed his first driver’s test, but the blame falls not on an overall lack of precision and orientation on the part of the driver, but General Motors’ atrocious first-generation anti-lock braking system. “Stop” pedal bending to the floor, the sedan rolled sedately through the snowy intersection at a glacial 5 mph, happily confident in the knowledge that preventing even a millimeter of tire slide was a better outcome than actually stopping within a reasonable distance.
Opening the door and dragging my foot on the ground, Flintstones-style, may have proved more effective in slowing the car.
Michigan drivers might still face such a scenario when the time comes to secure their license, but proposed legislation might ensure they never have to take the dreaded parallel parking test.
California Congestion Bill Could Result in American Autobahn
While California has some of the best driving roads in the country, large swaths of the state suffer from serious congestion issues. For years, the preferred solution was to bolster public transit in San Francisco and Los Angeles while simultaneously establishing high-speed rail lines between the two areas. Unfortunately, costs ballooned and support for the project dwindled.
Legislators are now left with a problem. Abandoning the rail program means settling for partially completed lines incapable of transporting passengers directly between LA and the Bay Area. California needs a different solution, and Sen. John Moorlach (R-CA) has a doozy of a proposition: highway lanes with no speed limit.
Effectively, an American Autobahn.
The Green New Deal Is Unlikely to Change the Auto Industry Anytime Soon
If you’re freaked out that the so-called Green New Deal will soon render you carless, or perhaps driving an EV against your will, I am here to tell you: Relax.
If you’re hoping the Green New Deal will save the planet from a climate crisis the federal government itself has predicted is just a hair over a decade away, I am here to tell you: Those backing the deal have their hearts in the right place, but their heads in the clouds. Or perhaps somewhere lower and darker.
House Has a New Plan to Pass Self-driving Bill in 2019
Frustrated with House Democrats’ inability to push through legislation on autonomous vehicle development and testing, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) believes the new Congress needs to reassess the situation and rally together behind a tweaked proposal Senate Republicans are still willing to back.
Dingell claimed Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), who will chair the Energy & Commerce Committee when Democrats take control of the House, and Rep. Bob Latta, (R-OH), who currently heads the digital commerce subcommittee, have agreed the smartest plan is to build consensus in the Senate so both chambers can deliberate on the same bill — potentially getting something done in the process.
QOTD: Pointing Fingers at General Motors?
By a wide margin, the most important automotive-related news this week has been General Motors’ impending closure of five manufacturing facilities across North America. Accompanying the closures are losses of thousands of jobs and the discontinuation of six passenger car models over the next year or so.
Who’s to blame here?
Are Government Officials Souring On Automotive Autonomy?
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.