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Watchdog Fights Accelerating Autonomous Vehicle Testing Pace

Google pushing for ability to accelerate development.

by on Nov.24, 2015

A Mountain View, CA police officer gives a warning to a Google Car for driving too slow. Photo courtesy Google autonomous vehicle blog.

The idea of being able to turn over all of the driving responsibilities to an autonomous fleet of vehicles gets major endorsements from federal safety officials, at least half of drivers, automakers and last, but certainly not least, Google.

In fact, recently Google officials complained they felt like they were being held back in the development of their vehicle. Despite a dozen accidents – none of which were deemed Google’s fault – and most recently, a situation where a policeman pulled over the autonomous vehicle for driving too … wait for it … slowly, the tech giant wants to speed up development.

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Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is a staunch ally in the move toward autonomous vehicles, believing they could virtually eliminate traffic accidents and, by extension, the thousands of fatalities that occur on U.S. highways and byways annually. Read the rest of this entry »

Half of US Drivers Enjoying Sub-$2 a Gallon Gas

Indiana, Ohio seeing country's lowest prices.

by on Nov.24, 2015

Gas prices are below $2 a gallon in more than half the country due to low crude prices.

The price of crude oil remains under pressure, tamping down the price of gasoline on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday to the lowest level since 2008 when the U.S. economy was still reeling from the financial crisis.

With some 42 million Americans are expected to take a road trip this Thanksgiving, the retail price of gasoline has fallen steadily through November for a total savings of 15 cents per gallon and the national average remains poised to fall below the $2 per gallon benchmark by the Christmas holiday, according to AAA.

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More than half of U.S. stations are selling gas for less than $2 per gallon. The national average price of $2.07 per gallon represents a savings of nine cents per gallon versus one week ago, and 14 cents per gallon on the month. Significant yearly savings persist and pump prices are down 75 cents per gallon compared to this same date last year. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Tesla Recalls Every Single Model S for Seat Belt Issue

EV maker says move shows unwavering commitment to owner safety.

by on Nov.23, 2015

Tesla is recalling all 90,000 Model S sedans for a seat belt issue.

Tesla Motors Inc. plans to use the recall of every Model S that it has ever built to highlight its commitment to safety.

The EV maker announced it is recalling all of the 90,000 Model S vehicles that the electric-car company has made after a driver in Europe discovered that her front seat belt became disconnected from the pretensioner.

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“Tesla recently found a Model S in Europe with a front seat belt that was not properly connected to the outboard lap pretensioner,” the company wrote in an e-mail to customers Friday. “This vehicle was not involved in a crash and there were no injuries. However, in the event of a crash, a seat belt in this condition would not provide full protection.” Read the rest of this entry »

Ford Makes Moves to Improve Safety: Recalls 425K, Cuts Takata

Japanese supplier suffers another blow with maker's departure.

by on Nov.23, 2015

Ford is recalling 425,000 Ford Fusions and Mercury Milans from 2010 and 2011 due to a fuel tank issue.

Ford is facing two safety issues and dealing with one by fixing the problem and the other by eliminating the source: Takata.

The automaker is recalling about 450,000 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan from the 2010 and 2011 model years due to a fuel tank issue.

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Some of the vehicles may have a canister purge valve that does not work correctly. The problem can lead to internal pressure changes that could lead to a crack, leaked fuel and a possibly a fire if that fuel meets an ignition source. Thus far, the maker is unaware of any accidents, injuries or fires due to the problem. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

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Forecast Calls for Record Auto Sales in 2016

Ongoing economic recovery pushing auto sales.

by on Nov.23, 2015

A new University of Michigan forecast predicts record auto sales for the next two years.

A new forecast on the sales of sales of light vehicles predicts new car sales will continue to boom during the next couple of years, according to the study from the University of Michigan.

Vehicles will stabilize at their September-October pace, averaging 17.4 million sold this year and climb to 18 million in 2016 and 18.1 million units in 2017, said Matthew Hall of the Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics in the U-M Department of Economics.

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“There have been only 10 months in which the recorded pace of light vehicle sales exceeded 18 million units. Eight of the 10 months occurred 10 or more years ago, and the other two were September and October 2015,” Hall said. Read the rest of this entry »

Forget Hybrids and Hydrogen Cars; Some Just Have to Have a V-12

Mercedes shifts line, boosts 12-cylinder production.

by on Nov.23, 2015

Daimler has moved production of its V-12 engines to Mannheim to boost production.

Facing tough new mileage and emissions standards, automakers have been shifting to smaller and more environmentally friendly powertrains. The V-8s that once dominated the American highway have become more and more uncommon as even performance cars switch to downsized turbo and hybrid alternatives.

Yet, some buyers just aren’t ready to switch, and that’s led to a bit of a renaissance for one type of engine environmentalists would clearly love to see vanish in the junkyard. Demand has been so strong, in fact, that Daimler AG has moved its V-12 engine line to a new plant in order to boost production.

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“Supplying our customers as fast as possible is highly important to us,” says Tobias Moers, Chairman of the Board of Management of Mercedes-AMG GmbH. “We do not have any possibilities for expansion in Affalterbach at present, so we have decided to transfer the assembly of the twelve-cylinder engines to the Daimler site in Mannheim.”

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Ford F-150 Named Green Truck of the Year

Ram ProMaster City named Commercial Green Car.

by on Nov.23, 2015

Ford scored by adding a CNG and propane option for the 2016 version of the F-150.

The Ford F-150 pickup has been named the Green Truck of the Year, while the Ram ProMaster City has been declared the Commercial Green Car of the Year.

You might find it difficult to use the words, “green,” and “pickup truck” in the same sentence, but manufacturers have been striving to make even the biggest vehicles on the road more environmentally friendly, as reflected in a pair of new awards.

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“Over the past few decades, new car models have benefitted from design and technology improvements that have brought higher fuel efficiency and greater levels of environmental compatibility,” said Ron Cogan, publisher of Green Car Journal, which hands out the annual awards. “We’re witnessing the pickup and light commercial vehicle field enjoying the same attention.”

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Despite Fears of Rejection, Workers at Ford, GM Ratify Contracts

Approval frees union leaders to shift focus to new organizing efforts.

by on Nov.21, 2015

GM and UAW officials shown on July 13, 2015 marking the opening of contract talk.

Workers at both Ford Motor Co. and General Motors voted to accept each of their new four-year contract offers, in the process ending what had turned into an unexpectedly contentious round of negotiations – workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles soundly rejecting their own first contract offer.

A variety of offers pitted not only the United Auto Workers Union against Detroit’s Big Three but also saw the UAW having to fend off more militant members of the union. Starting with President Dennis Williams on down, Autoworkers leaders mobilized to sell a revised Chrysler contract. But they continued to run into trouble even with more lucrative offers from GM and Ford.

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At the smaller of the two, 51.3% of production workers and 52.4% of Ford’s skilled tradesmen voted for the contract. Among other things, that vote will earn 53,000 Ford workers ratification bonuses of $8,500.

“Through a fair and democratic process UAW-Ford members have delivered job security and strong economic gains for their families and communities,” said Jimmy Settles, vice president of the UAW’s Ford department.

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