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Ford Develops Suit to Simulate Driving While Stoned

Feds blame drugs for 18% of highway deaths.

by on Nov.27, 2015

A motorist tries out a special suit designed to simulate the effects of driving on drugs.

Wonder what it’s like to try to drive while you’re stoned? Working with German scientists, Ford Motor Co. has developed a suit that simulates what it’s like to drive on drugs.

Like a similar suit the automaker came up with last year that helps simulate driving while drunk, the costume is intended to help educate young motorists so they understand the risks they are facing when they get behind the wheel while taking illegal substances.

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“The suit is designed not to produce the sensation of being on drugs, but to reproduce the side effects which may have a dangerous effect on your driving,” explains Paul Fay, Ford’s vehicle safety manager.


These 10 States Have America’s Worst Drivers

Separate study ID’s country’s worst highway bottlenecks.

by on Nov.27, 2015

Highway fatalities have been rising fast, especially in some of the states on this list.

If you’re one of the 43 million American motorists expected to drive at least 50 miles this holiday weekend – indeed if you’re expecting to travel at all anytime soon – you might want to keep the results of a new study in mind.

It ranks the 10 states with the nation’s worst drivers, and based on federal highway statistics, and in the dubious lead is Montana which “finished among the top 20 in every category, ranging from 20th in Speeding to 1st in Fatality Rate,” noted Tyler Spraul, who oversaw the study for CarInsurance

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A separate study, also released in time for the Thanksgiving Highway looked at America’s 50 worst highway bottlenecks, and found a few surprises. While Los Angeles is, as expected, one of the worst places for drivers hoping to make time, Chicago had the single-worst bottleneck in the country, according to the American Highway Users Alliance.


Jaguar-Land Rover Not Ready to Plug In

by on Nov.25, 2015

A Jaguar F-Type with JLR CEO Ralf Speth and Tata Motors founder Ratan Tata.

When it revealed a trio of battery-based prototypes, collectively known as Concept_e, in September, Jaguar Land Rover appeared ready to join key rivals set to electrify their luxury line-ups.

But talk of plug-in and pure battery-electric SUVs and sedans may be a bit premature, according to JLR Chief Executive Ralf Speth. While “it is clear” the British maker will eventually have to go that route to meet tough new global emissions and mileage mandates, “it will take quite a while,” he told during an interview.

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“There is only one way you have to go” because of the new rules, said Speth, but JLR is waiting for improved batteries and an expanded charging infrastructure before it makes a serious push into electrification beyond the diesel hybrid Land Rover model it introduced in Europe.


NHTSA Delays “Quiet Car” EV Ruling

Pushback will delay program until 2018 model-year.

by on Nov.25, 2015

The new rules would cover not only pure EVs but plug-ins and hybrids running in electric mode.

Federal regulators have delayed a proposed rule that would require new battery-based vehicles to emit warning sounds to reduce the likelihood of hitting a pedestrian or bicycle rider, especially those who are sight-impaired.

The rules, which were supposed to be finalized this month, would create a common standard for vehicles operating at low speeds in electric mode. Currently, a handful of models do produce warning sounds, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to come up with a standard alert that can be easily recognized.

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Pedestrian fatalities rose 3.1% last year compared to 2013, according to federal statistics, though there are no clear data to indicate whether the growing number of hybrids, plug-ins and battery-electric vehicles played a role in that increase.


Toyota Recalls 1.6 Mil Vehicles With Takata Airbags a Second Time

Affected vehicles may still be unsafe.

by on Nov.25, 2015

The latest recall covers, among its 22 models, an older version of the Toyota Corolla.

Concluding the vehicles may still be unsafe, Toyota Motor Corp. is recalling 1.6 million vehicles equipped with Takata airbags that had been involved in an earlier recall.

The move echoes what happened at Nissan Motor Co. where a passenger was injured when a Takata airbag deployed improperly in a crash. That vehicle had also been involved in an earlier recall. There have been no reports of injuries involving the Toyota vehicles.

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The new Toyota recall covers 22 different models, including the popular Corolla, sold in Japan, as well as several European markets. No vehicles in the U.S. are involved in the new service action, though Takata airbags have so far led to the recall of nearly 20 million vehicles sold in the States.


After Long Decline, Traffic Deaths Again on the Rise

"These numbers are a wake-up call," warns Rosekind.

by on Nov.24, 2015

Government data suggest distracted driving is responsible for at least 10% of fatalities.

Traffic deaths spiked by 8% during the first half of the year, according to a new federal report, reversing a decade-long downward trend.

Officials point to a variety of factors that may be behind the unexpected increase, including both lower fuel prices and the improving economy. That has led to more Americans driving more frequently and for longer distances. A new AAA report, for example, indicates 42 million Americans will drive at least 42 miles over the coming Thanksgiving holiday.

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“These numbers are a wake-up call,” said Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Thanksgiving Week Wrecks Likely to Spike Up to 34%

Nearly 42 million Americans expected to travel as gas prices plunge.

by on Nov.24, 2015

Crashes tend to spike during the holiday.

Between the holiday feasting and the Black Friday sales, Americans will be spending a lot of time on the road in the coming week, and whether it’s a little much turkey or a lack of sleep making them drowsy and distracted, highway crashes have a tendency to spike sharply around Thanksgiving.

The situation has apparently gotten worse since stores have extended their hours to draw in bigger crowds for the annual, pre-Christmas shopping extravaganza, according to new data from Progressive Insurance.

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This week could see even higher crash numbers as cheap fuel encourages more motorists to drive for the holiday. According to a forecast by AAA, nearly 50 million Americans will drive more than 50 miles this week.


Tesla Model X to Start at $80,000

Electric SUV carries $5,000 premium over Model S sedan.

by on Nov.24, 2015

The new Tesla Model X opens its Falcon Doors.

Tesla’s new Model X battery-electric SUV will carry a starting price of $80,000 – before adding delivery charges and subtracting the $7,500 federal tax credit.

A fully loaded version of the Tesla Model X P90D Signature Edition will come in at $132,000. That will include Tesla’s new Ludicrous Mode, which will allow the big battery ute to launch from 0 to 60 in just 3.2 seconds, making it one of the world’s fastest utility vehicles.

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Tesla has opened up its online configurator to allow buyers to choose options. But they will have to wait for delivery, the first Tesla Model X SUVs not expected to reach U.S. buyers until early in the new year. And the company plans to start deliveries with the top-line Model X P90D. There’ll be an even longer wait for the base car.


Global Survey Finds Strong Interest in Autonomous Vehicles

But serious doubts about safety linger.

by on Nov.24, 2015

Drivers continue to express an increasing interest in autonomous vehicle technology.

As automakers get closer to putting the first autonomous vehicles on the road they’re finding growing interest in the new technology, a new study of potential buyers in the U.S. and nine other major markets revealing that 60% of consumers would be willing to travel in a fully self-driving car.

Consumers expect some significant benefits from the new technology, including easier parking and the ability to multitask, according to the report being released today by the World Economic Forum and the Boston Consulting Group.

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But while many proponents of autonomous technology expect the biggest payoff to come in the form of improved safety – some predicting a world where highway fatalities become a rare, rather than routine, occurrence – a majority of those surveyed admit being worried about the safety of driverless vehicles. (more…)

First Drive: 2016 Toyota Prius

New look, new suspension - great mileage and moderate improvements to ride.

by on Nov.23, 2015

The top-line Toyota Prius Four Touring model starts at $30,000 plus delivery fees.

In an era when so many cars have a tendency to look alike, the Toyota Prius has been an unabashed, if somewhat geeky, standout. Of course, it’s what’s below the skin that really makes the difference. The Prius was the world’s first hybrid-electric vehicle when it made its debut in Japan in 1997 and, ever since, it has overwhelmingly dominated that segment worldwide.

But times have changed, and the third-generation Toyota Prius has been losing a lot of sales momentum this year. There are several reasons why, perhaps most notably the sharp slide in fuel prices that has reduced demand for all “green” vehicles. But there are other factors, among other things that geeky design and the less than thrilling ride offered by the old Prius.

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And those are issues Toyota has set out to address with the fourth-generation hybrid. The 2016 Toyota Prius gets a complete, top-to-bottom makeover: new skin, a new platform, a new independent rear suspension — and an updated Hybrid Synergy Drive system that delivers as much as 10% better mileage.