New bill would increase access to vehicle defect information, authorize heftier fines.
In the wake of criticism by U.S. lawmakers for the way the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has handled the General Motors ignition switch recalls, Democratic members of Congress last week stepped up pressure to change the way the agency deals with safety defects and also called for tougher fines for automakers.
A bill called the Vehicle Safety Improvement Act was introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The bill followed a critical report by the committee’s Republican leadership on NHTSA’s role in the GM ignition switch recalls.
The Vehicle Safety Improvement Act would increase public access to vehicle defect and safety information and authorize NHTSA to levy heftier fines and impose other penalties on automakers for violating safety laws. It would also require automakers to give details on potential causes of fatal crashes in communications to NHTSA.
“The GM ignition switch recall proved that our vehicle safety laws must be strengthened,” Schakowsky said in a statement. “This bill promotes common-sense steps to improve oversight and public access to information while doing more to hold automakers accountable for their actions -- or failure to act.”
The 2013-2015 Cadillac XTS, 2014-2015 Chevrolet Impala and 2011 Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs are affected.
The 2013-2015 Cadillac XTS and 2014-2015 Chevrolet Impala have electronic parking brakes with faulty software that can allow a piston arm that clamps the pads onto the rotors to stay partially engaged. If that happens, the pads will drag and can cause smoke, sparks or a fire. At the very least, the vehicle will feel sluggish as the brakes are continuously applied.
GM said it discovered the problem during an unrelated investigation that NHTSA opened in April regarding a problem with the Impala's autonomous braking safety feature. While that investigation is still ongoing, GM said it found the faulty parking brake software in May on a car it had to buy back. According to the Associated Press, a total of 205,000 cars are affected in the U.S. (GM had initially told NHTSA the number was 132,921). No injuries have been reported.
Dealers will update the parking brake software this month. Owners can call Chevrolet at 1-800-222-1020 or Cadillac at 1-800-458-8006. The recall is GM's 66th this year. The XTS and Impala have already been recalled (see GM's list for the full tally, not including this one or the recent Corvette stop-sale).
Google, Mercedes-Benz also can now legally test autonomous technology on state roads.
When Google first revealed in 2010 that it had logged over 140,000 miles on California roads testing its autonomous cars, the state didn't have laws governing the technology. Since then, California has moved -- although much more slowly than the technology -- to permit the limited use of roads within the state for autonomous-car testing.
The state passed a law allowing testing of driverless cars in 2012, but it didn't take effect until this week. Audi was the first automaker to get a permit from California on Tuesday, followed by Mercedes-Benz and Google. In all, California issued permits on Tuesday for 29 vehicles from the three companies; Google has 25 self-driving vehicles, while Mercedes and Audi each have two.
New Mustang V6 is off 3 mpg from the previous model with automatic transmission and 1 mpg with manual.
While enthusiast drivers typically don't expect a sports car to sip gas, when the previous Ford Mustang topped the 30-mpg barrier -- while still producing 300 horsepower -- it marked a fuel efficiency milestone for muscle cars. And that the all-new 2015 Mustang will be available with a 4-cylinder engine for the first time since 1993 is proof that Ford's new pony was designed with gas sipping in mind.
But according to new Environmental Protection Agency figures, the 2015 Ford Mustang's fuel economy numbers are lower than the outgoing models when equipped with a similarly sized 3.7-liter V6 engine and either the 6-speed automatic or manual transmission. The EPA has rated the 2015 Mustang with the automatic transmission at 28 mpg on the highway, whereas the 2014 V6 Mustang automatic was rated 31 mpg highway -- 3 mpg more. The 2014 V6 Mustang with a manual was rated at 29, 1 mpg higher.
City ratings for the 2015 V6 Mustang are slightly higher than the 2014 model: 21 mpg for the automatic and 22 mpg for the manual. These were 19 mpg with either transmission for the 2014 model.
The new numbers put the new V6 Mustang neck-in-neck in fuel economy with its main competitor, the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro.
CEO Elon Musk says all the company's cars will eventually have 'autopilot' technology.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said earlier this year that his company would produce a self-driving car — or "autopilot" technology, as he prefers to call it. But he didn't set a timeline the way Nissan had by announcing it would have an autonomous car on the market by 2020.
In a recent interview with the Japanese media outlet Nikkei Asian Review, Musk revealed that Tesla is developing its own self-driving technology, and he also gave a firmer deadline for when it will arrive: in about three years.
This also coincides with the scheduled launch of Tesla's lowest-priced model to date, the Model 3 sedan, which is aimed at mainstream car buyers with a sticker starting at around $35,000 and a range of at least 200 miles on a single charge.
Musk said he still believes that "full auto-pilot capability is going to happen, probably, in the five- or six-year time frame." So, reading the Tesla tea leaves, it appears that Tesla will first introduce a semi-autonomous-driving technology like GM's Super Cruise for the 2017 Cadillac CTS that was announced last week.
As with other aspects of Tesla's vehicle development programs, the EV-only automaker won't go it alone. "The overall system and software will be programmed by Tesla, but we will certainly use sensors and subcomponents from many companies," Musk said.
And while Model 3 may be the first Tesla with semi-autonomous technology, it won't be the last, especially with Model S owners asking for more driver assist technologies. "I think in the long term, all Tesla cars will have auto-pilot capability," Musk added.
[Source: Nikkei Asian Review]
Automaker will rely on Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto instead of its own AppShop.
In what could become a win for Google and Apple, General Motors is drastically curtailing its new AppShop designed to provide in-dash Internet applications for upcoming cars. GM instead will have drivers access apps through the upcoming Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto smartphone platforms it plans to integrate into its future vehicles.
According to the tech blog Gigaom, GM's leading connected-car executive, Mary Chan, confirmed the significant shift in strategy at the CTIA Wireless Conference this week in Las Vegas. The Chevy AppShop, launched in January at the Consumer Electronics Show, was scheduled to deliver apps such as iHeartRadio, NPR, The Weather Channel, Glympe and others into the GM brand's vehicles.
But Chan told Gigaom that future app development that isn't directly related to core car functions will be handled by the upcoming Apple and Google platforms. “Those types of applications are great applications to be brought into the car with the smartphone,” Chan said. “The types of apps we want to focus on are the ones that require a much deeper integration with the vehicle.”
Unanimous vote gives Tesla right to sell.
Massachusetts’ highest court on Monday threw out a lawsuit seeking to block Tesla Motors Inc. from selling its luxury electric cars directly to consumers in the state, enabling it to bypass traditional dealerships.
The state’s Supreme Judicial Court unanimously concluded that the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association and two dealers lacked standing to block direct Tesla sales under a state law designed to protect franchise owners from abuses by car manufacturers.
Justice Margot Botsford wrote that the law was aimed at protecting dealers from unfair practices of manufacturers and distributors “with which they are associated, generally in a franchise relationship,” rather than unaffiliated manufacturers.
NHTSA chief calls for car companies to 'move forward aggressively on cybersecurity.'
With car connectivity accelerating and the federal government looking to mandate wireless networks of roads and vehicles, the nation's top auto safety regulator said “the time is now" to "move forward aggressively on cybersecurity." Specifically, David Friedman, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, called on automakers to become more collaborative in fighting car hacking.
“Certain things about safety should not be at all about competitive advantage,” Friedman said at the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress last week, according to the Detroit Free Press. “I think cybersecurity is one of those perfect examples where sharing information will ensure that everyone is better off.”
Last year after sensational headlines on car hacking caught the public's attention, various branches of the federal government called attention to the threat. Former NHTSA director David Strickland said at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in May 2013 that the agency didn’t “want to be behind the eight ball” on car security.
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Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Raised in Volvos, he has grown to love fast, irresponsible vehicles of all kinds. He is the senior news editor at MSN Autos and also reports for Car and Driver, Road & Track, The Boston Globe and other publications.
In the garage: 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (not his)
Doug Newcomb has covered car technology for over 20 years for outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to Edmunds.com. In 2008, he published his first book, "Car Audio for Dummies" (Wiley). He lives and drives in Hood River, Ore., with his wife and two kids, who share his passion for cars and technology.
In the garage: 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS, two 1984 Chevrolet Blazers, 2008 Honda CR-V
James Tate learned to drive stick at age 13 in a 1988 Land Cruiser - in La Paz, Bolivia. He's since been a mechanic, on a pit crew and has wrenched on every car he's owned since his first 1989 Honda CRX Si (and won't stop until the car is a 1973 Porsche 911 RS). His work has appeared in Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Automobile and others.
In the garage: 1995 Porsche 911 Carrera, 1988 BMW M5
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