DRIVERLESS CARS MAY BE COMING, BUT LET'S NOT GET CARRIED AWAY
Few experts in autonomous cars believe that the technology is ready to safely chauffeur occupants in any and all driving conditions. And that's before the regulatory hurdles, including a quaint-seeming 1971 New York law that requires at least one hand on the wheel. Instead, for the foreseeable future, there are Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. Think of them as a co-pilot, not the Autopilot of Tesla's marketing parlance but a wingman that amplifies human skills instead of replacing them.
Source: The New York Times
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INFOTAINMENT FIXES ARE KEY TO FORD QUALITY SURGE
Ford Motor Co. seems to have found an answer to the infotainment system problems that plagued the automaker's quality ratings back just six years ago. And it's made changes throughout the company to boost its new vehicles. The automaker changed meeting and product development processes focused on improving new vehicle launches and added quality engineers throughout its product development process to ensure Ford vehicles were consistent and well-made.
Source: The Detroit News
DAIMLER'S NEW LEADERS CONFRONT OLD ISSUES AS DIESEL BITES AGAIN
Just one month into the job, Daimler AG's executive duo is back to unearthing skeletons from the diesel-scandal era, hobbling the move toward an electric future with a crisis that erupted almost four years ago. Operating profit this year will fail to grow, Daimler said late Sunday in its third downgrade in a year, after previously promising a slight earnings gain for 2019. The company blamed proceedings around allegations of emissions tampering in diesel cars for the more muted outlook, which required higher provisions to account for recalls.
CANADA, CALIFORNIA SIGN MOU TO ADVANCE CLEANER VEHICLES, FUELS
Canada and the state of California on Wednesday said they had signed a memorandum of understanding to advance cleaner vehicles and fuels. The most populous U.S. state and Canada said they will work together "to accelerate the adoption of zero-emission vehicles like electric cars" and share technical information and best practices in regulating cleaner fuels, as California does today though its Low-Carbon Fuel Standard. The announcement comes as the Trump administration has proposed barring California from regulating vehicle emissions or requiring a rising number of zero-emission vehicles.
Canada is reviewing its vehicle emissions standards. The Trump administration in August 2018, after a similar review, proposed freezing fuel efficiency requirements at 2020 levels, a rollback of standards announced during the Obama administration. The administration plans in the coming months to finalize a dramatic rewrite of fuel efficiency standards through 2026 that would also strip California, which wants stricter rules to fight climate change, of the right to set its own, tougher emissions rules. The Obama-era rules called for a fleetwide fuel efficiency average of 46.7 mpg by 2026, compared with 37 mpg under the Trump administration's preferred option.
Earlier this month, 17 major automakers including General Motors, Volkswagen Group, and Toyota Motor Corp. urged the White House to resume talks with California to avoid a lengthy legal battle. On Tuesday, four U.S. House lawmakers led by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) again urged California and the Trump administration to meet to try to reach an agreement to maintain nationwide rules. The Global Automakers of Canada, which represents the Canadian interests of its 15 automakers from Europe, Japan, and Korea, said it is concerned by the memorandum of understanding between Canada and California. "Our concern is that today's announcement appears to be putting the cart before the horse," GAC President David Adams said in a statement. "The situation with respect to emission standards for light-duty cars and trucks through 2025 in the United States has not been settled yet, and Canada's current regulations incorporate by reference those same standards." The GAC said it believes one North American greenhouse-gas standard for light-duty vehicles provides the best opportunity for emission reductions from vehicles while ensuring the broadest selection of vehicles are available to Canadians at the lowest possible cost. "While we appreciate that the federal government might wish to pursue more aggressive standards than those of the United States, we support the actions of our industry associations in the United States that have appealed to the President to continue with responsible – yet challenging – emission reduction targets that would also be acceptable to California...to preserve one national standard in the U.S. and effectively North America."
The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association (CVMA), which represents the interests of the Detroit Three automakers in Canada, is also concerned with Canada's decision to side with California. "We continue to support the single national standard in the United States on the basis that is provides efficiencies and economies of scale, making many technologies more affordable to consumers on both sides of the border," CVMA President Mark Nantais said in an interview with Automotive News Canada. However, Nantais was quick to note that "nowhere does it say in the MOU that Canada will sign with California or adopt California standards." But, he did wonder why Canada, the United States, and Mexico spent nearly two years renegotiating a new North American free trade pact in part to harmonize several elements of the auto industry only to see Canada now move away from harmonization on vehicle emissions standards.
Canada is developing a Clean Fuel Standard that will cut emissions by 30 million tons in 2030 – equivalent to taking 7 million cars off the road. Canada is working toward having 100 percent of all light-duty vehicles sold be zero-emissions by 2040. Canada is offering a rebate of up to C$5,000 for qualifying zero-emission vehicles and other tax incentives for businesses that want to upgrade to zero-emission fleets. Some provinces also offer similar incentives.
California allocated US$238 million in its 2019 budget for incentives to purchase electric and fuel cell vehicles. California's zero-emission rules have been adopted by nine other states and Colorado has said it plans to adopt them. The Trump administration would bar the states from requiring them. California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard went into effect in 2011 and has displaced 12.5 billion litres (3.3 billion gallons) of petroleum-based fuels with low-carbon alternatives including renewable diesel, electricity and renewable natural gas.
AUTOMATED DRIVING – DRIVERS OVER ESTIMATE & OVER RELY ON SYSTEMS
Driving these days is a lot more complicated than ever, as vehicles become increasingly sophisticated with technology that helps drivers do things like stay in lanes and maintain speeds and following distances with minimal input. But automation has limitations that can be difficult to grasp, according to two new studies that highlight how some drivers are confused about emerging systems.
WHO BUILDS VEHICLE DOESN'T GUARANTEE MADE-IN-AMERICA CRED
When the United Auto Workers' national contract talks with Detroit's automakers kick off next month, Job One will be securing investment for the next four years to build American cars, trucks, and SUVs in American plants. The only problem is the dirty little secret that really isn't so secret amid swirling trade tensions fueled by President Donald Trump's itchy Twitter finger: where a vehicle is built, and by whom, doesn't necessarily guarantee its Made-in-America cred.
Source: The Detroit News
FLEET SALES SOAR TO HISTORIC LEVELS AND THAT'S A GOOD THING
Fleet sales have always been the low-profit bottom feeders for automakers looking to keep assembly plants running and padding monthly sales reports. But an analysis presented by Cox Automotive on Wednesday indicates the carp of the car industry has suddenly become attractive game that is not only growing to historic levels, but pulling in higher profits. "If our forecast is correct for fleet...it would be highest sales of fleet sales in the history of the automotive market," said Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist at Cox. Through January, fleet sales have increased 6.9% over the same period a year ago while retail sales are down 5.2%, according to Cox.
AVERAGE AGE OF VEHICLES ON U.S. ROADS HITS 11.8 YEARS
The average age of light vehicles in operation in the U.S. has risen again as consumers continue to hold on to cars and light trucks longer. Driven by technology and quality gains, the average age of a light vehicles on U.S. roads is now 11.8 years, based on a snapshot of vehicles in operation on Jan. 1, 2019, an analysis by IHS Markit found. That's up from a light-vehicle population that was, on average,11.7 years old in 2018. The number of registered light vehicles in operation in the U.S. hit a record of more than 278 million this year, an increase of more than 5.9 million, or 2.2 percent.
Source: Automotive News
PATENT FOR RIDE HEIGHT-DEPENDENT AERO HINTS AT TECH-HEAVY C8 CORVETTE
The new car will likely boast features -- and complexity -- unseen on previous Corvettes
The reveal of the Chevrolet C8 Corvette is less than a month away, and there's a lot we still don't know about the thing. But -- in addition to scrutinizing spy photos and videos -- there's one time-tested way to glean additional information about a new car before its official reveal: Sift through patents for details on novel bits of tech that just might be bound for the model. (And you never know what other wacky stuff you're going to find along the way.)
The most recent patent, discovered by a Midengine Corvette Forum member, outlines a system for a vehicle ride height-dependent air deflector system. Don't be fooled by the C7 Corvette in the illustrations: The illustrator could have used a Vega, so long as the figures got the function of the new invention across. Note that this comes in addition to another patent for an adjustable front splitter system; there could potentially be a lot going on in the nose of the C8. From the patent's abstract: "... The system includes an air deflector moveably mounted to the vehicle body. The system also includes a mechanism configured to selectively vary a height of the deflector relative to the road surface and a position of the defector relative to the vehicle body."
The key seems to be that (again, from the abstract) "the controller is further configured to regulate the mechanism to select the target height of the deflector relative to the road surface to thereby control the aerodynamics of the vehicle." Ultrasonic sensors or lasers, the patent suggests, could be used to read ride height, the idea being that whether you were braking hard, diving into a corner or laying into the accelerator, the front air deflector would always be optimally positioned (or at least lifted out of the way to avoid scraping) no matter how the body moves.
There's a long list of potential C8-related patents out there, with more to be discovered; we've mentioned a few, but there's a handy compilation post at the Midengine Corvette Forum.
A close-up of the illustration up top. The nose of the Corvette is pitching downward, and the air deflector (labeled "46") has moved from a more vertical to a horizontal orientation.
As always, it's worth remembering that patents are filed to protect an idea first and foremost, not to signal what an automaker is planning on bringing to production in the near future -- or ever. So maybe don't hold your breath for the funky hybrid spoiler wing, at least not at the outset of C8 production.
But what we can say with confidence is that, on the balance, the flood of C8-adjacent patents points to a car that will be very different than what comes before it in ways both blindingly obvious (layout) and more subtle (an increased use of complex technological systems to eke out maximum performance).
If we were a 'Vette purist, the addition of complicated, weight-adding extras like active aero would be more of a potential cause for concern than an engine that's been moved behind the driver. On the other hand, there's the argument that the front-engine formula that has defined the Corvette since its inception only lasted as long as it did because Chevrolet engineers embraced once-exotic and borderline unpronounceable technology like the magnetorheological damper-equipped adaptive suspension. Not all technology needs to be feared ...
It's a big risk to change a car so beloved so dramatically, but the payoff -- if Chevy pulls it off -- could be huge. We won't have to wait too much longer to see how it all works out, at least on paper: The reveal is on July 18.
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