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Senate Passes Legislation Aimed At Accelerating Discovery Of Safety Flaws

In hearing after hearing last year, members of Congress took turns admonishing auto executives and federal regulators for their roles in prolonging an ongoing series of safety crises. Now, Congress is taking action.

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Senator David Vitter of Louisiana - home of Elio Motors - would create a new category for NHTSA and the EPA that would regulate three-wheeled vehicles that are neither car nor motorcycle.

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The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee gave its full support to a bill that would encourage whistleblowers in the auto industry. Under the legislation someone that speaks out could get 30 percent of any federal fines against automakers for safety lapses.

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The Autodromo Nazionale Monza has been a mainstay of Formula One since its inception, but if it doesn't get the funding it needs, it could find itself in serious trouble - and lose the Italian Grand Prix in the process.

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Drivers in the US might be stuck with quite a wait to get their vehicles repaired under the Takata airbag inflator recall. As things stand now, the Japanese supplier could need as long as two years to produce enough replacement parts to service every affected model in America. If the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is successful in making the campaign nationwide, then that timeline could grow even longer.

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Congress Begins Inquiry Into Years-Long Delays Addressing Fatal Problem

"This is a problem that shows deep and wide issues in their quality-control process." – Sean Kane

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Current NTSB Board Member Could Fill Void

Amid two of the greatest safety crises in automotive history, the federal agency charged with protecting American motorists may finally have a new leader.

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With the Takata airbag debacle still yet to be resolved, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found itself in hot water again. Parties both from within and from without the agency's ranks are asking hard questions about NHTSA's handling of the widespread recall, and now the agency's leadership will have to answer some of those hard questions.

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Gov. Corbett Signs Pro-EV Bill Into Law

Tesla Motors has been fighting to sell cars in many states, but has come up against laws prohibiting the electric automaker to exercise its direct-to-consumer business model. Such has been the case in Pennsylvania. Recently, though, Tesla worked out a deal with the Pennsylvania senate to approve a bill allowing five Tesla stores in the state, with the blessing of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. The bill, though crafted with Tesla in mind, doesn't specifically name the California-based

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Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill (shown above) has had it with automotive execs stalling when it comes to recalls. The Missiourian has proposed a new bill, the Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Enhancement Act, which aims to improve the automotive safety following the high-profile fiascos involving General Motors and Toyota.

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At times, the proceedings took a more conciliatory tone than previous hearings.

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In the Keystone State, the compromise number between zero and unlimited is five, apparently. Pennsylvania's Senate applied that math in an attempt to resolve the issue of allowing Tesla Motors to operate company-owned stores in the state. The senate this week unanimously voted for a bill that will allow Tesla's operations, but placed a limit on the number of stores at five. The bill will now go to the state's House for approval, according to Automotive News.

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Drivers are one step safer to having improved privacy behind the wheel. The Senate Commerce Committee has granted bipartisan approval to legislation that aims to protect the information on automotive Event Data Recorders (EDR), also known as black boxes. The committee concluded that the vehicle owner is the one who owns the information stored on the device.

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The internal investigation General Motors is conducting regarding its response (and responsiveness) to the ignition switch recall might be having its first effects. The company has put two of its engineers on paid leave. According to The Detroit Free Press, this action took place after a briefing by its internal investigator, former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas. The engineers haven't been officially identified by GM.

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It looks like General Motors CEO Mary Barra will be staying in Washington D.C for an additional day in April. The Senate has scheduled its hearing into the automaker's ignition switch recall for April 2, according to The Detroit News. That will put it a day after Barra's testimony in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on April 1. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration Acting Administrator David Friedman will also testify at both inquiries.

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Automakers asked for extentions to deal with questions from Sen. Ed Markey

A U.S. senator who wants to know how carmakers intend to thwart automotive cyber hackers will wait a little longer for answers.

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A pair of US lawmakers told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that ethanol credits are leading to some deficits. Attempting to stem what they say could be an additional boost in gas prices prior to the busy summer-driving months, David Vitter (R-LA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are raising questions, Reuters reports.

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US House of Representatives members will soon have access to plug-in vehicle charging stations in their Washington DC parking garage after the government makes good on a pledge made last August to make such stations available to both House and Senate members.

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Lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems continues to be a source of drama and intrigue, from bankruptcy and court filings to investor relations and national security.

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It's been working its way through Congress for years, but according to Car and Driver, an event recorder mandate could soon become law. The Senate has already voted to adopt a transportation bill that would make the so-called "black boxes" mandatory by the 2015 model year. According to the report, the House of Representatives is also expected to pass a similar statute.

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