U.S. Government Announces Self-Driving Automobile Guidelines

With the revised guidelines, the U.S. eliminates the need for automakers to receive regulatory approval before deploying autonomous features. States will focus on licensing, registering, and insuring autonomous cars. The federal government handles issues related to safety and performance.

The guidance also revises “unnecessary” design elements from the safety self-assessment for autonomous cars.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao supported the administration’s choice to issue voluntary guidelines rather than laws. She said it was the right approach for technology that is constantly changing. Regulators retain the option to bar autonomous vehicles if they prove unsafe in the future.

The move is considered a win for automakers and manufacturers of autonomous technologies who want self-driving cars regulated at a federal level rather than having to deal with different requirements in different states. U.S. regulators are gearing up to issue an even newer set of guidelines surrounding autonomous cars, so we could see more changes soon.


FBI Investigates Uber for Alleged Espionage

The FBI is investigating Uber who is under suspicion for illegally tampering with the operations of competitors, according to the Wall Street Journal. The focus of the investigation centers on a software program known internally at Uber as “Hell” that could be used to track drivers working for rival service Lyft.

The program, discontinued last year, allowed Uber to create fake accounts and track drivers and ride prices. This also allowed Uber to obtain data on drivers who worked with both the car-ride providers and could have allowed it to lure drivers to leave Lyft with cash incentives.

At the time of the WSJ publication Uber could not be reached for comment.

The key question for investigators was whether the program comprised of unauthorized access of a computer. The investigation is being led by the FBI’s New York office and the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office.


Croatian Electric Super Car Makes US Test Drive Debut

Rimac Automobil, Croatian cottage super car developer, has finally seen its baby, the Concept One, tested on American roads. The Concept One has been somewhat of a mystery in most of the world, including the US, until now. UK car rag Autocar was able to test drive one recently in Monterey, California. They sampled a variety of roads there and saw its very modern 205 mile range in action. The company claims this enigmatic concept car is faster than the latest brood of so-called hypercars.

The production version of the Concept One that Rimac unveiled in Geneva in 2016 promised 1,073 hp, 1,180 lb-ft of torque, 0-62 mph times of 2.6 seconds and a top speed of at least 220 mph. An 82-kWh battery sends power to four electric motors, one in each wheel, and the car has a fully charged range of 205 miles.

Perhaps equally impressive, from a production standpoint, is that it has its own home-brewed infotainment system; the company simply couldn’t afford the $25 million minimum order from suppliers, so it built its own. With the car’s price tag of $1.2 million, Rimac said that it planned to build just eight examples.

If you’ve got the cash, you won’t be able to rush out to your nearest Rimac dealer, however. There aren’t any. In fact, no one is quite sure how Autocar even got a hold of one they did. And its Florida, USA registration is more mystery than clue.


Nevada Highway Patrol Retires Last P71 Interceptor

Many who’ve been driving for a number of years have probably noticed an iconic law enforcement vehicle driving off into the sunset- metaphorically speaking.

The once ubiquitous Ford Crown Victoria P71 has been the standard tried and true law enforcement vehicles for many state and local lawn enforcement personnel all over our country for many years. And its been the better part of a decade since Ford ceased production of the iconic model—in the past seven years we’ve seen the well-known “Vics” being replaced by modern muscle cars and SUVs. High mileage and outdated technology have slowly pushed these familiar workhorses out of the lime light.

Recently the Nevada Highway Patrol retired its last P71 Police Interceptor. These old V-8s will be replaced with the Dodge Charger Pursuit, which comes equipped with many modern day safety and technology features, though not yet as iconic as the Vics, they are more suited for modern police work.

With an engine that “just won’t quit” the Crown Vics caught many perps whose engine overheated while the P71 was still running under the red. And thanks to the “bolt on” parts platform repairs could be complete in an afternoon instead of days or up to a week, which now will likely become the norm. While more modern vehicles do offer advantages, many seasoned police officers will miss the trusty P71.

Hyundai Still Hot for Hydrogen

According to Car and Driver blog writer Clifford Atiyeh Korean automaker Hyundai are still chasing hot on the trail of hydrogen vehicles. Hyundai has just revealed a preview of a completely new, fuel cell powered SUV. This new model, yet to be named, will replace the few, silent Tucson fuel-cell vehicles quietly zipping around Southern California.

The old generation Hyundai fuel cell would take a Tucson about 265 miles (two tanks). The new version, employing three tanks with a range “so ridiculous we won’t even cite it.” Horsepower gets increased to 161 (that’s +27HP) boosting fuel efficiency by 60%. The new design will also allow cold starts down to minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hyundai hasn’t confirmed the mechanical basis of the new fuel-cell SUV. It is developing a “dedicated architecture for pure electric vehicles” that will include an EV with an estimated 311-mile range. The fuel-cell vehicle is likely to use a dedicated chassis that will give rise to a range of alternative power trains to lower production costs for all alternative fuel models.

Hyundai will sell the new SUV in South Korea in time for the Winter Olympics in Seoul in February 2018.

Driver Assist Features Making Poorer Drivers?

According to an article from Automotive News, driver-assist technology that brakes to avoid rear-end crashes, warns about unseen traffic, maintains safe distances from other vehicles or keeps your car in the lane are doing their job, keep drivers safer, but it all may be doing it too well. This technology is doing such a “bang up” job that its degrading human driving skills.

According to the article Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said, “There are lots of concerns about people checking out and we are trying to monitor that now. Everything we do that makes the driving task a little easier means that people are going to pay a little bit less attention when they’re driving.”

The article stated that: “U.S. roadway deaths jumped 14 percent over the last two years, with more than 40,000 people dying in crashes in 2016. While speeding and more congested roadways bear some of the blame, distraction is another key culprit. Data released by the federal government show manipulation of handheld devices while driving, including texting or surfing the web, has been on the rise.”

While its clear the auto industry is on a path towards totally autonomous vehicles, these semi-autonomous stepping stones may be making the transition more dangerous, not less. What do you think about these features are they a boon or a hazard?

Mazda Has Arrived

Car and Driver blogger Joseph Capparella reported that Mazda will be joining the likes of collectable auto giants Mercedes-Benz and Lamborghini by creating a factory restoration service. The new facility will be located in Japan. The focus of the new project will be the unofficial mascot of the Miata MX-5 and more specifically the the 1989 NA generation MX-5.

At this time Mazda only plans to restore home market vehicles, but there may be reissued parts available in other markets such as the U.S. Highly desirable NA parts such as Bridgestone tires in the original 185 /60R-14 size, the Nardi wood steering wheel and shift knob, and the original soft top are planned to be put back in production.

Capparella tells readers that there is no current price schedule for restorations and treatments will differ greatly and be dependent on the state of each vehicle. Mazda says they will offer individualized restorations for each customer. Restorations will begin in Japan in 2018.

The UK Announces Future Fossil Fuel Vehicle Ban

In the footsteps of France, Great Britain has also vowed to end the sale of new fossil fuel vehicles by 2040. Mayors of several major European cities—Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens—have all promised a ban on diesel vehicles from city centers by 2025.

The British government has been under pressure to take steps to reduce air pollution after losing legal cases brought by campaign groups, and in May set out proposals for a scrappage scheme to get rid of the most polluting vehicles.

Prime Minister Theresa May and her Conservative party had already pledged that by 2050 nearly all cars and vans would be zero-emission vehicles.

If these goals are met it could mean the end of the fossil fuel era. The internal combustion engine and oil based fuels are arguably one of the lynch pins of progress and globalization in the 20th century.

Honda Recalls 1.2 Million Accords Over Fire-Prone Batteries

According to MSN Auto News Honda is recalling 1.2 million accords whose batteries might catch fire. Owners of Accord midsize sedans from model years 2013-2016 should call Honda customer service at 1 (888) 946-6329.

The issue is with sensors on the battery’s negative terminal that were not properly sealed to resist moisture. Road salt can cause corrosion and possibly a short, which in turn creates heat and potentially fire. Honda has already reported four incidents of engine fires from exposed battery sensors. Thankfully none of these incidents caused injury or death. All incidents happened in the U.S. during winter months when road salt was being used.

As is the routine, owners will be notified and dealers will replace faulty sensors free of charge. Sensors that show no signs of corrosion will still receive an adhesive sealant and will be replaced once parts become available.

Volvo’s Self Driving Car Has An Unusual Problem

It is unable to detect kangaroos. According to the Swedish carmaker, the hopping of kangaroos confuses the “Large Animal Detection system” that successfully identifies and avoids deer, elk and caribou. However, early testing in Australia revealed the automaton has trouble with kangaroos’ unique movements.

Volvo stated that this testing revelation was all just part of the process and does not pose a serious threat to the 2020 release date for a Volvo driverless vehicle. The issue, Volvo thinks, is that the LAD system uses the ground as a reference point, so the hopping confuses it, specifically making it hard for the system to judge how close the hopping animal is.

Volvo’s detection system was designed in Sweden, where it was tested in areas populated with moose before trials at a nature reserve in Canberra revealed the problem with kangaroos.

And this is an issue for Volvo to overcome as kangaroos cause more auto accidents than any other animal in Australia, causing about 90% of vehicle-animal collisions.

Volvo plans to release its first autonomous cars by 2020 and has pledged zero fatalities or serious injuries from all its cars by that time.