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Congress skewers NHTSA's investigative competence

Watchdog Agency Missed Chances To Uncover GM Defect, Report Says

Posted Sep 16th 2014 6:58PM



NHTSA's incompetence played a role in allowing the General Motors ignition switch crisis to go undetected for years.

Five months after the top official at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration promised to reform the federal agency charged with keeping motorists safe, it remains mired in dysfunction and inaction.

A report from the House Energy and Commerce committee released Tuesday found that NHTSA's incompetence played a role in allowing the General Motors ignition switch crisis to go undetected for years, and says that the agency continues to lag behind in its efforts to improve its performance.

"There is no evidence, at least publicly, that anything has changed at the agency," the report said. "No one has been held accountable and no substantial changes have been made. NHTSA and its employees admit they made mistakes but the lack of urgency in identifying and resolving those shortcomings raises questions about the agency's commitment to learning from this recall."

Following the release of the report, David Friedman, now NHTSA's deputy administrator, appeared before a Senate committee investigating the agency's role in the deadly GM problem. Senators wanted to know how the agency missed warning signs and failed to appreciate critical pieces of information in a decade-long string of missteps and missed opportunities that prolonged discovery of an ignition-switch defect responsible for killing at least 19 motorists.

Image Credit: Associated Press

Renault Eolab is a hyperefficient, conventional-looking answer to VW's XL1 [w/video]

Posted Sep 16th 2014 6:29PM

Renault Eolab

Watch out Volkswagen, Renault has your number. Debuting at the Paris Motor Show in a few weeks, this Renault Eolab concept aims to match the German automaker's XL1 space pod's fuel economy – without its out-of-this-world styling and offbeat packaging. The VW, which gets its name from its ability to go 100 kilometers on one liter of fuel (about 260 miles per gallon), will no longer be the only vehicle able to be that miserly with fuel use, at least on paper.

The B-segment Eolab (we keep typing Ecolab, like the hygiene company) uses a combination of low weight thanks to materials like magnesium and aluminum, careful aerodynamics and an updated version of Renault's Z.E. [Zero Emission] hybrid gas-electric powertrain to be so frugal. In fact, the car weighs just 400 kilograms – 880 pounds – which is crazy light and means less energy is required to move it down the road. The battery part of the Eolab's PHEV powertrain will offer about 37 miles of range. In all, Renault says there are "100 new, realistic technological developments" in this showcar that could come to upcoming Renault vehicles.

Sadly, Renault is calling this cool concept "an innovative showcase with an environmental core" for now, but we'd love to try one in the real world. We're eager to learn more about this car, and we look forward to hearing Renault officials expound on how a car like this could be mass produced within the next 10 years. For now, we'll just take a look at the video below.
Related GalleryRenault Eolab
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News Source: Renault

Ford unveils next-gen S-Max in Europe

Posted Sep 16th 2014 5:46PM

2015 Ford S-Max

Let's get this unfortunate though important tidbit out of the way right off the bat: The Ford S-Max isn't sold in the United States, and it's not coming here, at least not anytime soon. And so it's with our European friends in mind that we share this information about the next-gen S-Max (previewed about a year ago in concept form) that is set to debut all across Europe next year and will be shown off at the upcoming Paris Motor Show. Now, moving on...

As with the first-gen S-Max, the new model will boast seating for seven passengers, along with a decent amount of storage space, all packed into a relatively reasonably sized package. Powering the front wheels (or optionally all four) will be the buyer's choice of EcoBoost gasoline-turbocharged or turbo-diesel four-cylinder engines along with automatic and manual transmission options. Included in the mix is a new 1.5-liter EcoBoost with 160 horsepower, though the 240-horse 2.0 is likely to be seen as the headliner.

There are all kinds of new technologies on offer, ranging from Adaptive Steering to Dynamic LED Headlamps with Glare-Free Highbeams, and it's all housed inside new, more sleekly designed bodywork riding atop a chassis with new suspension architecture designed to make the S-Max a people-hauler that's still fun to drive. For all the details, we suggest you scroll down below to read through Ford's official press release.
Related Gallery2015 Ford S-Max
2015 Ford S-Max2015 Ford S-Max2015 Ford S-Max2015 Ford S-Max2015 Ford S-Max2015 Ford S-Max2015 Ford S-Max2015 Ford S-Max

News Source: Ford

Watch this sportbike rider snatch up a GoPro at maximum lean

Posted Sep 16th 2014 5:01PM



As much as we'd love to offer up the disclaimer, "Professional rider on a closed track," we can't. As it turns out, rider Derek Molle snatched up a GoPro camera lovingly left between the yellow lines on the J turn on Mullholland, according to the video's description on YouTube.

That being the case, we'll leave you with this disclaimer instead: "Do not try this at home." To which Mr. Molle himself adds:"You will crash." Check out the video of Molle above as he grabs the GoPro off the ground while leaned over and dragging a knee, and stay for the video selfie at the end.

News Source: RNickeyMouse via YouTube, Asphalt & Rubber

Dodge Viper saved from crusher by students, but will it last?

Posted Sep 16th 2014 4:31PM

1992 Dodge Viper

The saga of the Washington state community college hoping to keep its allegedly pre-production Dodge Viper out of the maw of the crusher is going strong. Not only does the school still have the car, but there's a chance that the college might even get to keep it.

The whole situation flared up in March when the South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia, WA, received a notice from Chrysler Group that requested that the school's Viper be destroyed. The automaker had loaned the muscle car to it about a decade ago to use for educational purposes in its auto tech classes. With the Dodge growing long in the tooth, "it is unlikely that these vehicles offer any educational value to students," the company said in its press release on the matter.

However, the college balked at destroying its Viper, despite the fact it had signed a contract with Chrysler Group to do so. The school further claimed that its car was incredibly special because it was a pre-production example and just the fourth one made back in 1992. Although, as we pointed out at the time, the photos of the school's vehicle showed a coupe that looked like a newer Viper GTS.

In a recent followup from Fox News, things appear to be tenuously positive for the college. It's negotiating with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to find a way to get ownership of the Viper. A company spokesperson said for Fox's story, "We continue to pursue an amicable resolution of the matter." Until there's a final verdict, this muscle machine is safe as an education tool to teach students how to wrench on its big V10. Hopefully, we won't have to watch this Viper get crushed.

News Source: Fox News

Tony Stewart case to be presented to grand jury

Posted Sep 16th 2014 3:42PM

Federated Auto Parts 400 - Qualifying

Upon my review of all of the information contained in the entire investigation, I have made the determination that it would be appropriate to submit the evidence to a grand jury, for their determination as to what action should be taken in this matter. Accordingly, the evidence developed in the investigation will be presented to an Ontario County grand jury in the near future.

With that quote, Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo has signaled to NASCAR driver Tony Stewart that the case against him in the matter of the death of fellow racer Kevin Ward, Jr., will be an ongoing concern.

According to the D.A., specifics of the information presented to the grand jury, including who is called to testify as a witness and what evidence members are shown, is confidential. The public in general will have to wait until the jury's "determination has been made" before hearing what the status of the case will be.

Stewart, who has been described as cooperative by investigators up to this point, has released a statement indicating that he will continue to cooperate as required in this next phase of proceedings. NASCAR has chimed in as well, stating that Stewart will be allowed to continue racing.

News Source: USA Today

Image Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty

Bob Seger's Detroit Made music video is an homage to the Motor City

Posted Sep 16th 2014 3:00PM

Bob Seger Detroit Made music video

At this point, Bob Seger feels like the living embodiment of old-school rock 'n' roll. The Michigan native has been strumming out classic records like Night Moves for decades, and he just released a new single called Detroit Made. It sounds like a future staple of just about every classic car show within the next few years, and the video is dedicated to the Motor City, past and future.

Detroit Made is all about cruising in the city in a classic Buick Electra 225, perhaps better known as a "deuce and a quarter." It's straight-down-the-middle rock and could just as easily be from a decades-old Seger album as something new.

The video for the new single mixes shots of American classics cruising along Woodward Avenue with a contemporary look at the city. Sure, there are the well-known dilapidated buildings falling into rubble, but the people there aren't just letting the city die. Other parts show the attempts to clean things up and rebuild. Check out the video if you need a few minutes of old school rockin' in your life.

News Source: BobSegerVEVO via YouTube, Hemmings

Autoblog Podcast #397

Montezemolo Steps Down, Mercedes-AMG GT, Long-Term Update

Posted Sep 16th 2014 2:46PM

Autoblog Podcast logo

Episode #397 of the Autoblog Podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth, Steven Ewing, and Seyth Miersma talk about the leadership change at Ferrari, the Mercedes-AMG GT, and we give a report on the Long-Term Garage. We start with what's in the garage and finish up with some of your questions, and for those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. Check out the rundown below with times for topics, and you can follow along down below with our Q&A. Thanks for listening!

Autoblog Podcast #397:

play


Topics: In The Autoblog Garage:
Hosts: Dan Roth, Steven Ewing, Seyth Miersma
Runtime: 01:49:28

Rundown:
  • Intro and Garage - 00:00
  • Montezemolo steps down - 31:16
  • AMG GT - 54:50
  • Long Term Update - 01:11:35
  • Q&A - 01:27:47

Get the podcast:
[UStream] Listen live on Mondays at 10 PM Eastern at UStream
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes
[RSS] Add the Autoblog Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator
[MP3] Download the MP3 directly

Feedback:
Email: Podcast at Autoblog dot com

Review the show in iTunes

Federal Robotics Commission could accelerate arrival of self-driving cars

'Much Is lost' In Government's Piecemeal Approach To Robotics, Report Says

Posted Sep 16th 2014 2:16PM



Back when investigators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration first probed reports of unintended accelerations in Toyota vehicles, they ran into a serious internal roadblock. They lacked the expertise to examine the problem. They suspected a software glitch, but couldn't delve into the interactions between the software and physical linkages in the vehicles because they didn't understand them. NHTSA ultimately needed to call on experts from NASA to study the reports.

"Can you imagine calling up NASA, and saying, 'Can you take a break from putting robots on Mars and come take a look at this Toyota?'" asks Ryan Calo, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law. "That's not a sustainable strategy."

In a white paper released by the Brookings Institute on Monday, Calo argues NHTSA's shortcomings in investigating Toyota are one example of many in which government institutions have struggled to keep pace with rapid technologic advancements across a variety of industries.

To counteract that, he proposes the United States create a Federal Robotics Commission that could make sense of the complex technologic, legal and regulatory questions that have risen around robotics and artificial intelligence.

News Source: Brookings Institute

Truant students beware, San Diego school district acquires MRAP

Posted Sep 16th 2014 1:30PM

BAE Systems Caiman 6x6 MRAP

Meet the newest vehicle in the arsenal of the San Diego Unified School District, a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, more commonly known as an MRAP, or the US military's answer to the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) so favored by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, you might be asking, are the officers of the San Diego Unified School District Police (sidebar: is it normal nowadays for school districts to have police departments?) regularly subject to ambushes and/or IEDs? It seems unlikely.

Instead, the district says the vehicle will be used for search and rescue, according to KPBS, the local public broadcaster.

"Our idea is: How can we get in and pull out a classroom at a time of kids if there's an active shooter? If there's a fire [or] if there's an earthquake, can we rip down a wall? Stuff like that," Captain Joe Florentino told KBPS

The MRAP, which is valued at $730,000, was acquired for a mere pittance – $5,000 in shipping fees – through the controversial Excess Property Program, or 1033 program. That's the same Department of Defense setup that has drawn fire following the Ferguson, MO protests. Now, critics are turning towards SDUSD, claiming the district's new toy represents a militarization of schools, a charge Chief Littlejohn refutes.

"It's not police militarizing schools," he told KBPS. "There will be medical supplies in the vehicle. There will be teddy bears in the vehicle. There will be trauma kits in the vehicle in the event any student is injured, and our officers are trained to give first aid and CPR."

Littlejohn was also quick to point out to critics that the MRAP is not tank. While he is right (it's considered an armored personnel carrier), the 18-ton, six-wheel-drive, hulled vehicle has a lot more in common with its treaded compatriots than it does your average police cruiser.

What are your thoughts? Should a school police department maintain such a significant piece of hardware, or would the $5,000 (and District's claimed $500 per year of upkeep) be better spent elsewhere? At least one critic, a school board trustee, argues that the district's 10 squad cars could use some attention. Have your say on this story below.

News Source: KPBS San Diego

Image Credit: San Diego Unified School District

Galactic Gear is a pitch-perfect Top Gear sendup from the future

Posted Sep 16th 2014 12:45PM

Galactic Gear Video for Star Citizen

Top Gear and particularly host Jeremy Clarkson have come to define how you do a show about cars. Mix big power, an opinionated presenter, a few jokes and fantastic camera work together, and you end up with the show's basic formula. But what happens in the far-flung future when the automobile is long dead, assuming we could keep his brain alive, could Clarkson keep up his act? Upcoming PC space flight sim Star Citizen shows in a promo video that the Top Gear method would still work in the centuries ahead long after we leave the bonds of Earth.

To show off the game's Origin M50 space racer, the designers created Galactic Gear, and these folks clearly know the show very well because the video nails every bit of Top Gear. Anyone can get the silhouetted opening right, but far more impressive is the spot-on copy of Clarkson's cadence. The accent might not be quite right, but you can easily imagine him coining these same tortured metaphors about an Aston Martin, as about these spaceships.

Star Citizen is being spearheaded by Chris Roberts, the man behind classic PC space sim Wing Commander. The game eventually hopes to offer players a persistent online world to fly around in, but until then it's slowly rolling out new ships and modes. Judging from the videos online, it looks like an absolutely beautiful experience.

News Source: Roberts Space Industries via YouTube

Bugatti Dynamic Driving Experience

In Which Molsheim Courts Us Like We Are Captains Of Industry

Posted Sep 16th 2014 11:57AM

Bugatti Dynamic Driving Experience

Let's say you're rich. Filthy rich – you've got cars in garages of homes you can't remember you own, rich.

As the gap between automotive haves and have-nots continues to grow, ultraluxury automakers are exploiting fresh ways to lure the sorts of well-heeled car aficionados who would rather spend their spare time shipping exotic sleds to private tracks than sitting on a beach in the Maldives.

This rarified air presents a daunting challenge to boutique carmakers attempting to distinguish themselves, especially when they're vying for attention amidst voluptuous Paganis, Koenigseggs, and Brabus G63 AMG 6x6s. When the stakes are this high and the competition this fierce, you need a novel approach to peddle your four-wheeled wares – even if you're Bugatti.

Image Credit: Bugatti

Are you the 2015 Chrysler 300?

Posted Sep 16th 2014 11:31AM

Chrysler 300

When Chrysler showed us its hand and revealed its five-year product plan to the world, we learned that the updated 300 sedan will bow at the LA Auto Show in November. Now, thanks to Allpar, we might have our first (super grainy) look at the new sedan a full two months ahead of its official debut.

Unlike its Dodge Charger platform mate, the new 300 isn't really all that different from the model currently on sale. That said, we're not sure if the changes shown here really reflect styling that we'd call "better," with the company's logo sort of floating at the top of the grille, and a more simplistic front end that lets the schnoz stick out a bit. Again, nothing drastic to talk about, but the new tweaks are kind of weak. Of course, we'll wait until we see the finished product in the metal before we make up our minds.

Don't expect things to change too much in terms of interior refinement or powertrain offerings, as well, with all the same leather and technology we've enjoyed in the 300 before, and the usual 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and 5.7-liter Hemi V8 powertrain options. We'll know for sure when the car shows its freshened face in Los Angeles in November.

News Source: Allpar

Indications of 825 hp and emissions issues for Hellcat called 'speculation' by Chrysler

Posted Sep 16th 2014 11:00AM

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

The 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is probably one of the hottest cars of the moment mostly because of its insane, 707-horsepower supercharged V8. However, there are conflicting reports coming out that the powerplant might be having problems with its emissions compliance and may be capable of even more power.

Jalopnik says that an unnamed source within Fiat Chrysler Automobiles told it that the Hellcat was having problems meeting emissions standards at its 707-horsepower tune. The person claimed that the automaker has been testing the V8 with different types of sensors, possibly to make it a bit cleaner in the future. Autoblog spoke to SRT spokesperson Dan Reid, and he said about the claimed poor emissions, "It's totally speculation."

The source also claimed that the Hellcat had been dynoed at a monumental 825 horsepower, internally. Based on the other rumor, though, it's hard to imagine the engine being emissions compliant like that. Autoblog also asked Reid about this speculation about more power and was told, "They are totally speculating about that."

Of course, Reid's implication of speculation, in both cases, doesn't constitute a denial exactly, either. Suffice it to say that we expect more an firmer information to crop up on both fronts, before to long.

In fact, the much-anticipated muscle car will start arriving at dealers in just a few weeks, which should open the door to transparency on both issues. Waiting really is the hardest part.

News Source: Jalopnik

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL

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