Car Safety 2016: Warnings, Assists, and Autopilot, Oh My!

Car scanning road ahead

We love cars, but find the fact that it took almost 1.6 million U.S. motor-vehicle fatalities to make wearing a seat belt mandatory in America troubling. Happily, annual fatalities have declined fairly steadily since their early-‘70s peak, despite the fact that Americans now drive well over one and a half times the number of miles they did then, often while using a smartphone. And with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing and rating vehicles for safety and crashworthiness, we have to admit it’s getting better.

Smartphones can, of course, pose huge risks to drivers, so much so that NHTSA partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation to create the distraction.gov website, and “distracted driving” now has its own Wikipedia entry. But the connectivity and processing power of smartphones can also be used to help drivers avoid accidents and to make sure authorities get alerted quickly and with all the information they’ll need to respond to an accident. And those capabilities will definitely be required for any future “self-driving,” “autonomous,” or Autopilot-equipped cars. As we learned at NEMPA/MIT’s recent panel on the intersection of technology and design, a whole new world of car safety and driver-assistance technologies is available–and evolving–so we’re going to take a look at some of the more important and effective new tech.

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Toyota 86 Finally Coming to America

2012_toyota_86

I hoped this would happen.

Toyota’s announcement that it would discontinue the Scion brand rippled through the motoring world without a lot of fanfare. An occasional die-hard fan bemoaned the decision, but it was generally regarded as a logical choice that had to be made. Scion had simply lost its relevancy and its sales were caught in a downward spiral.

The upside is that Toyota said some Scion models would become Toyotas, which is probably the best thing that could have happened to the Scion FR-S.

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Toyota Killing the Scion Brand, Keeping Some Cars

Scion-C-HR-Concept

Perhaps you’ve heard by now that Scion will soon be a thing of the past.

The brand that Toyota created 13 years ago to win younger buyers and act as a platform for new ideas will dissolve. Most of the brand’s current lineup, however, will remain available under the Toyota umbrella.

Usually when an automaker decides to end a brand, it discontinues both the brand and all associated models. Think Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn…the list goes on. This isn’t a traditional discontinuation, though. It’s more like a rollover.

And that’s actually really good news.

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Scion Comes Roaring Back

2015 Scion iA

Toyota handed Scion a pre-wrapped, easy-to-hit home run when it decided the hotly hyped new GT-86 sports car would wear a Scion badge.

That car became the Scion FR-S and was supposed to light the brand on fire. The lightweight, rear-wheel-drive sports car was the answer to Scion’s woes and a kickstart to Toyota’s return to excitement.

Except it didn’t really turn out that way. The FR-S has sold well, but it remains a niche car that has never reached overwhelming popularity with the masses.

Last month, Scion finally caught fire and roared back on the scene of relevancy. Did FR-S sales finally hit redline?

Nope. The credit goes to a subcompact sedan and a new 4-door hatch.

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Here Comes the Rebirth of Scion

Scion iM concept

Scion is dead.

Long live Scion.

Toyota’s experiment of creating a lower priced car for young people has seen limited success. The biggest impact it’s had on the auto industry so far is starting the whole box-car craze.

If not for the Scion xB, the world may have never gotten to know the Nissan Cube or the Kia Soul, for which we are eternally grateful, right?

Scion sales in recent years have been anemic, and its model lineup has failed to generate anything more than mediocre reviews. With the exception of the FR-S, Scion has been near flatline. The options?

Give up on the brand, or give it another shot of adrenaline.

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