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NHTSA Administrator Talks Autonomous Driving

February 10th, 2016

MIT Transportation Event

Remember all the recall-related headlines of the past two years? Those manufacturer errors account for only about 2% of deaths on the road. Conversely, 94% of lives lost in motor-vehicle accidents are due to human error. These are startling numbers, which lead to sobering realizations. Back in 1970, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was formed to study our highways and roads in an effort to minimize the risks associated with driving. As technology has advanced, this administration’s scope and responsibilities have advanced as well. Dr. Mark Rosekind, the current NHTSA Administrator, spoke with Bryan Reimer, of the New England University Transportation Center and MIT’s AgeLab, regarding the NHTSA’s role in the current and future state of autonomous driving technology.

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Should We Tax Gas While It’s Cheap?

February 10th, 2016

low_gas_prices

Who doesn’t love low gas prices?

There’s a certain glee that one gets while driving through a city or down a highway and seeing those glowing gas station signs displaying prices that start with a one.

As of this writing, the national average price of regular unleaded is $1.77. You can fill up a thirsty Tahoe for around $45, which is a huge relief when compared with the $100 fill-ups that were common just a few short years ago.

When gas prices are this low, sales of SUVs and pickups go through the roof, while electric vehicles tend to languish on dealer lots for much longer.

The president has a plan that he hopes could spark some EV sales and help reduce consumption of cheap, easily available gasoline. The odds of his plan being implemented, though, aren’t good.

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Volkswagen Scandal Gets Stranger

January 14th, 2016

VW's Matthias Muller

So now Volkswagen didn’t lie.

If you’ve been following the VW emissions saga with even an occasional passing glance, you know that the German automaker was caught in the midst of a lie. There’s incredibly compelling evidence that the company lied to the U.S. government about the emissions of its cars and lied to consumers who purchased those cars.

The problem, of course, was a piece of software that detected when a vehicle was being tested for emissions, allowing the car to emit acceptable levels of exhaust during testing before returning to its normal toxic-fume-spewing self once back on the road.

In the midst of a lawsuit with the United States, VW CEO Matthias Müller now says his company never lied, and the problem can be attributed to a “technical problem.”

Excuse us, but… what?

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GM, Ford Invest in Industry Changing Technology

January 8th, 2016

GM-Lyft

The automotive industry could change more in the next five years than it did in the last 50.

Think about the last five decades. We’ve seen cars get bigger, faster, safer, and more fuel efficient, but we haven’t seen any radical changes in the way cars are built, marketed, sold, or driven. Our car culture is built on a fossil-fueled desire for personal transportation and the freedom to go wherever we please whenever we choose.

Things are changing, though. Ride-sharing programs are gaining in popularity and cars that can drive themselves don’t seem to be very far behind.

Here’s one of the surest signs of coming change: General Motors just placed a $500 million bet that ride sharing is the wave of the future.

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Volkswagen Sued by the United States

January 5th, 2016

Volkswagen_logo

I can’t imagine anything much scarier than finding out your business is being sued by the United States of America.

Of course, to avoid that from happening, all you have to do is play by the rules and not intentionally deceive the government while taking home millions of dollars in profit. Pretty easy, right?

Volkswagen is learning that lesson the hard way. The U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit against the automaker over the emissions scandal that saw the German car giant install software in hundreds of thousands of cars to cheat emissions tests.

The allegations in the lawsuit, which accuse Volkswagen of intentionally violating the Clean Air Act by installing illegal devices to impair emission control systems in 600,000 vehicles, carries penalties that could cost Volkswagen billions of dollars. Yes, the wrath of the U.S. government will finally rain down on VW.

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Will Gas-Powered Cars Rule for Another 25 Years?

December 28th, 2015
With electrics like this, how can they fail?

With electrics like this, how can they fail?

Electric cars are the transportation solution of the future, but that future might be farther away than we think.

There’s so much talk about automakers increasing the number of EVs in their fleets by 2020 that we might start believing an all-EV future is right around the corner. California has toyed with the idea of banning the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2030 and Norway has proposed eliminating new internal-combustion car sales by 2025.

Green Car Reports says,

If laws were passed tomorrow to limit the number of new internal-combustion cars, it would likely take almost two decades to bring half the overall fleet in that jurisdiction to electric propulsion.

No law outright banning operation of any vehicle with a tailpipe has been proposed anywhere, as far as we know, even in Norway.

Like it or not, we can be sure that gas-powered cars will account for our transportation needs for many decades to come.

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Are We Reaching the End of the Single-Occupancy Vehicle?

December 9th, 2015
How do we fix this?

How do we fix this?

The way we drive in cities can’t be sustained during the years to come.

As our population grows, so do the number of vehicles in our large metropolitan areas. In 2012, over 76 percent of vehicles in the United States were occupied by one person during the average commute. There were 256 million vehicles registered in the United States in 2013, which explains the massive congestion encountered in cities across the country every day.

Although we can’t easily increase the capacity of our roads, ever more people will need access to American cities.

What’s the solution?

Well, for now, there isn’t one. But some prominent people think the end of the single-occupancy vehicle is in our future.

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Volkswagen’s Sales Sink While Problems Mount

December 8th, 2015

Volkswagen

Maybe the word “Volkswagen” translates to “problems” in German.

News broke in September of the company’s intentional deception regarding the emissions of its diesel engines. October sales were relatively flat, and dealers felt confident that they could weather the storm with VW’s support.

November, however, told a different story.

Volkswagen sales in the United States collapsed by 25 percent last month. Dealers had hoped that things would improve, Autoweek says,

But as Volkswagen drifts into a third month of a seemingly unbound scandal, that tone is changing and dealer frustrations are bubbling to the surface. The absence of a ready-to-go fix, plus continuing inventory shortages and the prospect of more new-car sales pain, is stirring angst and even anger in VW’s dealer network.

Falling sales are only part of the scandal’s continuing consequences.

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Volkswagen Scandal Deepens, New Offer Made to Owners

November 10th, 2015

volkswagen_goodwill_program

Things aren’t getting any easier for Volkswagen.

When the diesel emissions scandal broke in September, the problem was limited to 11 million vehicles equipped with the company’s 2.0-liter TDI engine. That alone was a crippling blow to the company that some estimates said could top $18 billion in damages.

The situation hasn’t improved in the weeks since.

Volkswagen, at least publicly, has done very little to let customers know how it will proceed in fixing the affected vehicles. In the meantime, the U.S. government has accused VW of cheating on additional vehicles, and Volkswagen itself has found another 800,000 cars that are probably affected.

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To Keep or Sell a Volkswagen TDI?

September 28th, 2015
The Jetta TDI: It sure looks green, doesn't it?

The Jetta TDI: It sure looks green, doesn’t it?

The implications of the Volkswagen diesel scandal are, without a doubt, enormous.

There’s a lot of talk about what it means for the company’s brand and the future of its diesel program, not to mention questions about the validity of diesel in general.

But what about the people who own Volkswagen diesel vehicles? What will this do to their brand loyalty and perhaps more importantly, how will it affect the resale value of their vehicles?

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