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Lawmakers Look at Alternatives to Gas Tax as Highway Infrastructure Crumbles

Rebuilding America’s roads will be costly – per-mile fees may be one solution.

by on Feb.23, 2018

President Donald Trump is backing a 25-cent increase in the national gas tax to pay for infrastructure improvements.

Lawmakers in Hawaii have taken the first step towards adding new fees for owners of electrified vehicles, a move a Senate committee chairman describes as a way to get hybrid and EV owners to “pay their fair share” towards maintaining the state’s bridges and roads.

With the U.S. transportation infrastructure crumbling and state and federal highway funds running short, lawmakers and regulators are searching for ways to raise new money. President Donald Trump, who made a massive infrastructure program a cornerstone of his campaign for the White House, has gone so far as to suggest federal gas taxes might need to be more than doubled.

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That proposal has gotten a cold reception from Congress, no surprise after Republicans barely pushed through a tax cut late last year and now face a tough midterm battle to retain control of both the House and Senate. But with taxpayers also demanding road repairs there’s growing interest in finding alternative solutions, such as pay-as-you-go fees. And even though Congress decided to retain tax credits for zero-emissions vehicles, that could be offset with new registration and usage fees. (more…)

First Drive: 2019 Hyundai Nexo Fuel-Cell Vehicle

An Olympic effort: Hyundai’s 2nd-generation hydrogen car delivers mainstream manners, 400-mile range.

by on Feb.23, 2018

Hyundai offered Winter Olympic visitors a chance to test drive the new Nexo outfitted with its latest Level 4 autonomous drive

With the winter games heading into their final days, busloads of tourists have been flowing through the gates of Pyeonchang’s Olympic Village, but on this crisp, sunny morning, a steady stream of visitors veers off shortly before reaching the turnstiles, detouring to a small, downtown corner where a cluster of new SUVs are parked.

With a little patience, they’ll have the chance to go for a test drive in what some are calling the vehicle of the future – in this case, twice over. The slate gray Hyundai Nexo SUVs are not only powered by zero-emission hydrogen fuel-cells but use the Korean carmaker’s latest Level 4 autonomous vehicle technology.

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I climb into the shotgun seat alongside a Hyundai engineer assigned to serve as a backup “operator,” just in case something unexpected happens along the 10-minute route, In passable English, he explains that the Korean carmaker hopes to have its first hands-free vehicle on sale “in a couple years.” But the Nexo itself, he quickly adds, will be in showrooms in barely a year.

(more…)

Toyota Dominates Consumer Reports’ Top Ten Cars for 2018 – But Genesis is Number One Brand

Chevy Bolt named Best Green Car; "further proof" EVs are ready for the mainstream, says CR.

by on Feb.22, 2018

The Genesis G90 is one of the vehicles garnering attention in this year's Consumer Reports auto guide.

Toyota, a brand long known for its long-term reliability, overwhelmingly dominates the 10-best list from Consumer Reports magazine, nabbing four of the spots on the influential publication’s annual list of the best vehicles on the market.

But CR’s annual auto issue had a number of surprises, including the appearance of the Chevrolet Bolt battery-car among the industry’s best models. Equally unexpected was the debut of Genesis as the top-ranked luxury brand overall, the South Korean marque toppling Audi as the highest-ranked luxury brand.

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“Not many car brands have what it takes to deliver consistent quality across several models and through multiple new launches or redesigns,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of Automotive Testing. (more…)

New Backup Technology Takes Safety Several Steps Forward, Says IIHS Study

Rear autobraking can prevent a wide range of crashes.

by on Feb.22, 2018

IIHS said Subaru and Cadillac had the best rear autobraking systems of the versions tested.

Motorists risk getting into crashes anytime they move their vehicle, including backing into or out of a parking spot. While rear crashes are less likely to result in injuries or death, they can still generate significant repair costs.

That’s where an assortment of new rear crash prevention technologies are coming into play. These cover a range of alternatives, including rear-facing cameras, sonar parking sensors, radar-based cross-traffic alert, and rear auto-braking systems that can not only detect a potential obstacle but also prevent the car from hitting it, even if the driver doesn’t react quickly enough.

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“Let’s face it. Some days we all could use help backing up, whether that’s in a garage with pillars that obscure your view, in a crowded mall parking lot or on a busy downtown street,” said David Zuby, the chief research officer for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety which, for the first time, has evaluated and rated the most advanced of these systems, rear autobraking, on six 2017 models. (more…)

GM’s Proposed $2.8B Investment Could Head Off Showdown or Shutdown in South Korea

Automaker looking at two new models; but union warning of strike.

by on Feb.21, 2018

GM is looking to shut down its underutilized Gunsan plant in South Korea.

General Motors is offering to add two new models to its South Korean line-up as part of a $2.8-billion, 10-year investment plan that could forestall a clash with the government and its union workers.

A week ago, GM announced plans to close its underutilized Gunsan plant, one of four assembly lines in Korea, and it strongly hinted that it was considering pulling out of the country entirely if it couldn’t reverse deep, ongoing losses.

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In return, the Detroit automaker is seeking financial assistance from the South Korean government and is expected to also seek some aid from its traditionally militant unions. But, in turn, workers are warning that if GM doesn’t move quickly to assure a future for those plants they could strike. (more…)

Lexus Downsizing With New UX Crossover

Are those fins we see?

by on Feb.21, 2018

Lexus is filling a hole in its line-up with the UX compact crossover.

The eagerly awaited Lexus UX is finally set to make the transition from concept to production, Toyota’s luxury brand set to pull the wraps off the compact crossover at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show.

With utility vehicles gaining ground on conventional sedans and coupes in virtually every major market, the Lexus UX will fill another critical niche, the fast-growing compact crossover segment, just below the brand’s current NX model.

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While the teaser image Lexus has released has been designed to keep most details hidden, it does reveal a few interesting things. The production UX, for one thing, apparently carries over the subtle fins shown on the earlier NX concept. Meanwhile, a bit of Photoshop magic uncovers what appeared to be a UX 250h badge, indicating a hybrid version of the new ute is in the plans. (more…)

Kia’s K900 Getting New Look

Reports of its demise are clearly exaggerated.

by on Feb.21, 2018

Rumored to be going away, the K900 is instead coming back with the promise of being better than ever.

With last year’s launch of the well-reviewed Kia Stinger many folks expected the Korean carmaker would abandon its first foray into the luxury market, the much more staid K900.

But as Mark Twain might have said, reports of the big sedan’s demise have been greatly exaggerated – as this newly released image of the next-generation K900 aims to demonstrate. Set to go on sale later this year, it will keep the Stinger company in Kia showrooms around the world.

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“The new model combines sophisticated exterior design, effortless performance and a spacious cabin distinguished by luxurious materials and elegant styling,” Kia said in a statement accompanying this teaser image. “New technologies protect occupants, enhance interior comfort and give the driver greater confidence at the wheel.” (more…)

Waymo Gets the Go to Launch 1st Driverless Ride-Sharing Program

Service set to begin within the year in Phoenix area, then expand to other markets.

by on Feb.19, 2018

Waymo has been testing its ride-sharing program in Phoenix but now has a permit to go fully driverless.

Waymo, the autonomous ride-sharing service spun off by Google, has gotten permission to launch a commercial ride-sharing service that will completely eliminate human drivers.

The company has confirmed receiving a permit from the Arizona Department of Transportation and is now expecting to launch service using a small fleet of modified Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans in the Phoenix area. It has been operating a pilot program in the Phoenix area for the past year using autonomous vehicles that still had a backup “operator” behind the wheel ready to take control in an emergency.

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“As we continue to test-drive our fleet of vehicles in greater Phoenix, we’re taking all the steps necessary to launch our commercial service this year,” a Waymo spokesman told TheDetroitBureau.com. (more…)

Global Auto Sales Set to Hit Record in 2018

Industry coming tantalizing close to 100 million mark.

by on Feb.16, 2018

Despite sluggish sales in the U.S. and China, global auto sales are expected to set a new record in 2018.

Global auto sales are expected to hit an all-time record in 2018 of 97.3 million vehicles, according to a new forecast by LMC Automotive.

That 2.1% jump over 2017 would come despite a weak market in North America, as well as softening growth in what is now the world’s largest automotive market, China, LMC researchers said during a media conference call.

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The U.S., in particular, posted its first annual decline in vehicle sales since the market hit bottom in 2010, and it remains unclear what will happen in 2018, LMC Managing Director Pete Kelly cautioning that it “could go either way.” (more…)

Another Transmission Recall at Fiat Chrysler

Move targets over 200,000 Pickups that could roll away.

by on Feb.16, 2018

Fiat Chrysler is recalling 229,000 Ram pickups due to a problem with the the trucks unexpectedly shifting out of park.

Fiat Chrysler will recall 229,000 Ram pickups due to a defect that cause them to unexpectedly roll away.

Because a pin can become dislodged inadvertently if a driver keeps a foot on the brake when it is shifted into park, the normal shift interlock mechanism can be deactivated, allowing the vehicle to unexpectedly shift out of park without a key in the ignition or a foot on the brake.

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It is the latest in a series of transmission problems for the Detroit automaker, though most of the recent issues have involved new electronic shifters that don’t have a direct mechanical linkage to the gearbox. One issue was linked to the death of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin, who was crushed by his Jeep two years ago. (more…)