By on August 13, 2019

2018 Honda Accord Touring 1.5T - Image: Honda

The Senate won’t have to worry about approving the nomination of Heidi King as National Highway Traffic Safety Administration boss, as King won’t be there to fill the seat. The acting administrator of the NHTSA announced her resignation late Monday.

King, who joined the road safety agency as a deputy administrator in 2017, will leave her office at the end of the month. While President Donald Trump nominated King for the administrator job in 2018, the nomination never went to a full Senate vote — though she was twice approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Now, someone else will have to tackle the job of rolling back fuel efficiency standards. (Read More…)

By on December 18, 2018

Despite spending a fortune supporting burgeoning automotive manufacturers and opening its door to foreign enterprises, China’s state planner has approved strict new regulations on investments within the industry.

Following a handful of draft proposals earlier this year, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced it will ban new independent businesses that make only traditional combustion engines while continuing to push for more “new energy” vehicles.

The People’s Republic has what some might call a bit of a pollution problem. But it’s also one of the largest and fastest-growing battery producers in the world; state policy aims for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. Unfortunately, this left China with hundreds of automotive startups that will never become profitable just as the country enters an economic downturn and its first year of negative car-sale growth in decades. (Read More…)

By on December 4, 2018

Despite everything  you’ve heard about road rage, motorists tend to be pretty meek — at least when it comes to government regulations, and particularly in Europe. They passively accept, and pay for, mandated safety and emissions regulations as well as for taxes on the fuel for their vehicles. Perhaps, though, they aren’t as passive as we think. For the past three weeks, France has erupted in massive protests and riots that are being called the Gilet Jaunes protests, demonstrations that are spreading to Belgium and the Netherlands, and those protests were spearheaded by motorists.

Gilet Jaunes is French for “yellow vests,” which many of the protesters are wearing as a statement against intrusive, expensive, and sometimes petty government regulations and taxes. (For the past decade, French motorists have been required by law to carry bright yellow/green safety vests in their vehicles and wear them in the case of a breakdown.) (Read More…)

By on October 8, 2018

Image: Wikimedia

The deadliest U.S. transportation accident in the last decade occurred in upstate New York this weekend, but it didn’t involve a airliner, train, or bus. The vehicle in question was a modified 2001 Ford Excursion. All 18 occupants of the aging limo died after the vehicle failed to stop at an intersection, with two pedestrians struck and killed in the parking lot where the runaway vehicle ultimately came to rest.

In the vehicle was a group of young people, including many couples and relatives, who were headed to a birthday celebration. While limo operators are already subjected to federal oversight, the National Transportation Safety Board plans to probe existing regulations as part of its investigation. (Read More…)

By on September 15, 2018

It’s looking increasingly like the compression ignition engine won’t get an opportunity to redeem itself at Cadillac. After making diesel a dirty word in the early 1980s with the help of Oldsmobile’s cantankerous, oil-burning 5.7-liter V8, GM’s luxury arm dived back into diesel development towards the end of the last decade. A recession and bankruptcy put the kibosh on those outsourced plans.

Then, in 2014, happier economic times brought about a renewed interest in the pursuit of diesel. Cadillac hoped to woo MPG-loving Europeans by outfitting new sedan models with diesel powerplants developed in-house. Americans would get a taste, too.

Scratch that, says Cadillac president Steve Carlisle.  (Read More…)

By on August 16, 2018

Volkswagen VW Badge Emblem Logo

Germany’s federal motor transport authority, die Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA), told dieselgate holdouts that haven’t yet fixed their emissions-cheating cars to get them repaired or prepare to have their registration revoked. In fact, officials in Hamburg and Munich have already taken several Audi and VW vehicles off the road.

It’s no wonder there’s cold feet among the citizenry. Reports out of Germany last year revealed that engines returned from the fixes behaving like a person suffering from an incredibly traumatic experience. They just weren’t the same anymore. Some units saw up to a 10-percent decrease in performance and likely ended up with a less-beefy torque curve biased toward higher engine speeds. Fearing that the Volkswagen Group’s “emissions repair” could effectively neuter their car, those abstaining from the recall are now left with no recourse.  (Read More…)

By on August 9, 2018


Japan’s automotive industry finds itself in the midst of a minor scandal. Last year, the Japanese government ordered manufacturers to investigate their operations after it was revealed that Subaru and Nissan conducting improper testing for decades. Initially, the issue seemed to revolve around a widespread laziness that allowed uncertified employees to conduct final inspection procedures. However, Subaru later admitted to employees falsifying emissions data.

While the problem does not appear to be an outright corporate conspiracy, some inspectors still decided to implement a policy they knew was against the rules to avoid questions from top brass. Likewise, senior employees advised inspectors to change test results for each vehicle that failed to meet internal quality control standards.

On Thursday, the Japanese government announced the inspection issue haS also touched Mazda Motor Corp, Suzuki Motor Corp and Yamaha Motor Co (which builds motorcycles and automotive engines). All three companies are now faulted for improper testing procedures and compliance failures.  (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…)

By on March 27, 2018

uber volvo

Ever since last week’s  fatal accident, in which an autonomous test vehicle from Uber struck a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, it seems like the whole world has united against the company. While the condemnation is not undeserved, there appears to be an emphasis on casting the blame in a singular direction to ensure nobody else gets caught up in the net of outrage. But it’s important to remember that, while Uber has routinely displayed a lack of interest in pursuing safety as a priority, all autonomous tech firms are being held to the same low standards imposed by both local and federal governments.

Last week, lidar supplier Velodyne said Uber’s failure was most likely on the software end as it defended the effectiveness of its hardware. Since then, Aptiv — the supplier for the Volvo XC90’s radar and camera — claimed Uber disabled the SUV’s standard crash avoidance systems to implement its own. This was followed up by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issuing a suspension on all autonomous testing from Uber on Monday — one week after the incident and Uber’s self-imposed suspension.  (Read More…)

By on March 22, 2018

It’s a problem — one I’m sure you’ve witnessed. A hapless driver, plodding along a darkened highway with no taillights illuminated, mistakenly thinking their lights are on thanks to a bright dashboard and flaccid daytime running lights.

High on poutine and maple syrup, Transport Canada is having no more of it, announcing a new mandate requiring all new cars sold in the Great White North to have extra illumination starting in 2021.

The initiative also proves that someone within the Canadian government has a sense of humour, as Transport Canada says they’re going “ghostbusting to target phantom vehicles.” Break out the ECTO-1!

(Read More…)

By on March 22, 2018

On Wednesday evening, the Tempe Police Department released a video documenting the final moments before an Uber-owned autonomous test vehicle fatally struck a woman earlier this week. The public response has been varied. Many people agree with Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir that the accident was unavoidable, while others accusing Uber of vehicular homicide. The media take has been somewhat more nuanced.

One thing is very clear, however — the average person still does not understand how this technology works in the slightest. While the darkened video (provided below) does seem to support claims that the victim appeared suddenly, other claims — that it is enough to exonerate Uber — are mistaken. The victim, Elaine Herzberg, does indeed cross directly into the path of the oncoming Volvo XC90 and is visible for a fleeting moment before the strike, but the vehicle’s lidar system should have seen her well before that. Any claims to the contrary are irresponsible.  (Read More…)

By on March 20, 2018

Uber Volvo Autonomous

Details are trickling in about the fatal incident in Tempe, Arizona, where an autonomous Uber collided with a pedestrian earlier this week. While a true assessment of the situation is ongoing, the city’s police department seems ready to absolve the company of any wrongdoing.

“The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,” explained Tempe police chief Sylvia Moir. “His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.”

This claim leaves us with more questions than answers. Research suggests autonomous driving aids lull people into complacency, dulling the senses and slowing reaction times. But most self-driving hardware, including Uber’s, uses lidar that can functionally see in pitch black conditions. Even if the driver could not see the woman crossing the street (there were streetlights), the vehicle should have picked her out clear as day. (Read More…)

By on March 19, 2018

uber volvo

In the evening hours of March 18th, a pedestrian was fatally struck by a self-driving vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. While we all knew this was an inevitability, many expected the first casualty of progress to be later in the autonomous development timeline. The vehicle in question was owned by Uber Technologies and the company has admitted it was operating autonomously at the time of the incident.

The company has since halted all testing in the Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto, and greater Phoenix areas.

If you’re wondering what happened, so is Uber. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has opened an investigation into the accident and is sending a team to Tempe. Uber says it is cooperating with authorities. (Read More…)

By on January 29, 2018

electric car charging smart car

If California’s Jerry Brown is known for anything, it’s for continuing his familial legacy of governing the region for a weirdly long period of time and pressing for the proliferation of electric vehicles. While not all of the state’s EV initiatives have gone without a hitch (the LAPD’s unused fleet of battery powered BMWs springs to mind), Brown remains essential in keeping his neck of the woods on the forefront of alternative energy adoption.

Currently, California plans to place five million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030. The state previously set a target of 1.5 million ZEVs by 2025. That’s a massive increase, especially considering California only has about 350,000 examples currently plying its roads. Don’t worry, Brown has a plan to stimulate sales: $200 million worth of subsidies per year for the next eight years.  (Read More…)

By on December 6, 2017

Volkswagen Jetta TDI emissions test, Image: University of West Virginia

Italy and Germany are opposing attempts to give the European Union more authority over the way national car regulators approve new cars for sale. As wild as it is to learn that Germany is standing in the way of stricter automotive regulation and oversight, allow us to assure you that you’ve not misread the above statement. For some reason, Deutschland doesn’t want to see enhanced industry surveillance.

Our best guess is that the opposition has something to do with Volkswagen Group’s diesel crisis, recent concerns that BMW may have utilized a “shut off” device that masked NOx emissions, and the ongoing investigation into a German automotive cartel that may have operated for decades. But there’s also a chance these automakers simply don’t want to deal with the red tape that comes along with piling on government oversight.  (Read More…)

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