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Waymo Invites Public to Join Autonomous Test Program

First public test for Google’s self-driving vehicle spin-off is good news for FCA, as well.

by on Apr.25, 2017

One of the first Phoenix families to join the Waymo pilot climbs into an autonomous Chrysler Pacifica.

After eight years of testing Waymo is ready to go public, Google’s autonomous vehicle spin-off offering families in the Phoenix area the chance to try out its self-driving cars as part of a new pilot ride-sharing program.

The move brings the technology a step closer to becoming a day-to-day reality and coincides with efforts by other entrants into the fast-emerging field who are rapidly expanding the number of autonomous vehicles now on public roads. The pilot program could cement Waymo’s position as a leader in the technology while also giving a big boost to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the automaker that will now provide another 500 Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivans for use in the Arizona project.

We'll Do the Driving!

Waymo quietly began offering rides to a “handful of Phoenix, AZ residents…over the last month,” the Alphabet subsidiary’s CEO John Krafcik revealed in a statement issued overnight. “Now residents in the Phoenix area can apply” to join the trial, Waymo planning on “accepting hundreds of people with diverse backgrounds and transportation needs who want to ride and give feedback about Waymo’s self-driving cars.”

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Supreme Court Ignition Switch Ruling Could Be Costly for GM

Court opens the door to new lawsuits.

by on Apr.24, 2017

A replacement for the faulty GM ignition switches.

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from General Motors, a move that means the automaker could be exposed to a spate of new lawsuits stemming out of its cover-up of an ignition switch defect blamed for killing at least 124 people.

The automaker had hoped that it was protected from lawsuits that occurred before its 2009 bankruptcy, a position taken by the court that handled the GM run through Chapter 11. But a 2016 ruling by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that position. And, with the Supreme Court refusing to hear the case, GM now could face claims predating its bankruptcy.

Legal News!

“Hundreds of death and injury cases have been frozen in place for years as GM wrongly tried to hide behind a fake bankruptcy,” Robert Hilliard, a lead counsel for plaintiffs affected by the ignition switch defect, said in a statement. “Now, GM can hide no more.”

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Has the Era of Flying Cars and Cabs Finally Arrived?

A fantasy since Henry Ford’s Flying Flivver.

by on Apr.24, 2017

The Aeromobil Flying Car is shown here with its wings open and ready for take-off.

It’s long been the stuff of science fiction, a fantasy that confounded even automotive pioneer Henry Ford, but a Slovakian start-up company says it is now taking orders for what could become the world’s first flying car – if it meets its delivery target of 2020.

Another European start-up, meanwhile, is pitching its own new craft as the world’s first flying taxi, a five-seater that can hover like a drone and fly like a jet.

Flight of Fancy!

Slovakia’s AeroMobil and Germany’s Lilium are just two of the many companies now working up ways to combine the best aspects of the automobile and the airplane. They include a number of start-ups as well as more traditional manufacturers like Airbus which is hoping to start testing a prototype of its own, single-seat flying car sometime this year.

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Judge Approves $2.8 bil VW Criminal Penalty

Largest criminal fine in U.S. history.

by on Apr.21, 2017

"A very serious and troubling case involving an iconic automobile company," said Judge Sean Cox.

A federal judge in Detroit Friday signed off on what could be one of the last big developments in the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, ordering the German maker to pay a $2.8 billion criminal penalty negotiated as part of a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department last January.

The ruling now brings to around $30 billion the costs VW will incur after being caught rigging two of its diesel engines to illegal pass U.S. emissions tests – a figure that includes the price of buying back almost 500,000 vehicles sold in the country. Meanwhile, seven current and former Volkswagen employees have been charged with crimes connected to the scandal, while an investigation continues in Germany.

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“I just can’t believe that VW is in this situation that it finds itself in today,” said Judge Sean Cox, calling it a “very serious and troubling case involving an iconic automobile company.”

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Volvo to Build its 1st EV in China

Will share same CMA architecture as next-gen XC50.

by on Apr.20, 2017

A platform to built upon: the electrified CMA architecture that will be used for Volvo's 1st EV.

While electric drive systems are powering a significant share of the new models on display at this year’s Shanghai Motor Show, Volvo is showing off a new platform – the one it use for the Swedish-based brand’s first fully electric vehicle which, officials revealed, will go on sale in 2019.

Volvo has been an aggressive proponent of clean powertrain technology – the most powerful drivetrain it currently offers is the plug-in T8 found on models like the big XC90 SUV and S90 sedan. But it is getting ready to market a battery-electric model that will meet tough new emissions and mileages standards in the U.S., China, Europe and Japan.

Global Auto News!

And it will be produced in China, at least initially, the automaker said during the Shanghai Motor Show press preview – though other models using electric propulsion are expected to be built in Europe and, most likely, at the new assembly plant Volvo is setting up near Charleston, South Carolina.

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Chevrolet Finds New Road Cruiser in Shanghai with FNR-X Concept

“Clear masculine lines” and some cutting-edge technologies.

by on Apr.20, 2017

Officials says that the FNR-X isn't a sure thing for China, but at the Shanghai Motor Show purely to gauge interest.

Chevrolet is taking its current tagline, “Find New Roads” to new extremes – at least in China – with the second in a series of concept vehicles debuting this week at the Shanghai Motor Show.

The latest one, using shorthand, is the FNR-X, a concept version of what could be a radical take on a plug-in crossover-utility vehicle. Initial impressions suggests it would go into the emerging market for downsized utes like the Toyota C-HR and Honda HR-V.

Global Auto News!

The FNR-X adopts a “powerful, attractive design language,” with “clear, masculine lines,” says Chevy, including an aggressive nose that could have been lifted off the Camaro, a high beltline and a floating roof. But the most eye-catching feature is the concept’s use of rear suicide doors, minus the traditional B-pillars, providing easy and dramatic access to its interior. (more…)

Tesla Facing New Lawsuit Over Autopilot

Three owners claim they paid for “unusable and demonstrably dangerous” system.

by on Apr.20, 2017

Tesla is being sued by three owners claiming that the $5,000 Autopilot option is dangerous and doesn't function as described.

Like Tesla itself, the battery-carmaker’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system has had its ups-and-downs. For many customers, it has been a key reason to purchase a Model S or X, but it has also been linked to a handful of crashes, including one in which a former Navy SEAL was killed last May.

Now, Tesla is finding itself facing a potential class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of three customers who say that Autopilot, designed to take control of the vehicle while driving on well-marked, limited-access highways, doesn’t live up to its billing as safe and reliable, declaring the $5,000 option “essentially unusable and demonstrably dangerous.”

Beyond the Headlines!

“When consumers received these pricey vehicles, it became clear that Tesla’s marketing was all smoke and mirrors,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Seattle’s Hagens Berman, which has been an aggressive practitioner of plaintiff law in recent auto safety cases. “And Tesla knew when it made these promises that it didn’t have the capabilities to follow through on its deal. It knowingly deceived tens of thousands who put their faith in these cars and in Tesla.” (more…)

Venezuelan Government Seizes GM Plant as Economy Melts Down

“Illegal seizure” comes amidst growing protests over political, consumer morass.

by on Apr.20, 2017

The GM plant in Valencia employs 2,678.

General Motors has accused the Venezuelan government of an “illegal judicial seizure of its assets” and vowed to “take all legal actions” to regain control of its plant in the city of Valencia.

The unexpected move by the embattled government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is the latest in a series of moves meant to nationalize foreign-owned assets first started by former President Hugo Chavez. It comes as hundreds of thousands of citizens have been taking to the streets to protest what opposition leaders have described as an increasingly “dictatorial” situation.

Global News!

“Yesterday, GMV’s (General Motors Venezolana) plant was unexpectedly taken by the public authorities, preventing normal operations. In addition, other assets of the company, such as vehicles, have been illegally taken from its facilities,” GM said in a statement.

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Audi Electrifies Shanghai with E-Tron Sportback

Debut underscores China’s growing push for electrification.

by on Apr.19, 2017

Nearly productionr ready? The Audi e-Tron Sportback Concept rolls into Shanghai.

As the Shanghai Motor Show gets underway, two trends dominate: growing consumer demand for SUVs and the government’s push for electrification.

Audi hopes to score on both counts with today’s debut of the eagerly awaited e-Tron Sportback concept. It’s the latest in a series of battery-electric show cars the German luxury maker has revealed over the last several years – and the closest yet to the production model now in the final stages of development.

What a Conceptt!

“Following close on its heels, in 2019, comes the production version of the Audi E-Tron Sportback – an emotional coupé version that is thrillingly identifiable as an electric car at the very first glance,” said brand Chairman Rupert Stadler, during the Sportback concept’s Shanghai unveiling.

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Toyota Project Portal Would Replace LA Port Diesels with Clean Hydrogen Trucks

Fuel-cell system would replace diesels at busy, smoggy L.A. ports.

by on Apr.19, 2017

Toyota will begin a study this summer that could see hydrogen-powered trucks go into operation at two key Los Angeles ports.

While Tinseltown’s air quality has improved dramatically over the last few decades, there are still some problem spots, especially near the bustling Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach where long lines of diesel trucks queue up to drop off or pick up their loads of cargo.

State and local regulators have struggled to clear the air along the 710 freeway that links the ports but, so far, with only limited success. Now, Toyota hopes to offer an even more dramatic solution through what it is calling “Project Portal.”

Enviro News!

The maker late last year hinted that it had begun working on a project that would use its fuel-cell technology in a heavy-duty truck. On Wednesday, it revealed that the first possible application could see hydrogen-powered semis replace diesel models at the two Los Angeles-area ports. A proof-of-concept study will begin over the summer.

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