February 11, 2016
About 1 in 5 U.S. Vehicles Has Open Safety Recall, Carfax Says
Automotive News reports that nearly one in five vehicles on U.S. roads is in need of repair of a safety issue serious enough to be involved in a federal government recall, according to used-car history provider Carfax. There are more than 47 million cars in the U.S. with open recalls, up 27 percent from a year ago, Carfax said. "Our data shows there's still much hard work to be done in addressing recalls," Larry Gamache, communications director at Carfax, said. There were 258.5 million vehicles in operation on U.S. roads at last count in October 2015, business research provider IHS Inc., the parent of Carfax, said. Gamache said it is troubling that the type of vehicle with the highest rate of unfixed safety issues is the family-oriented minivan, with one of every 4.6 having open recalls. SUVs are second at one in 5.1 vehicles, followed by pickup trucks and cars, each at one in 5.5 vehicles. For all vehicles, Carfax said one in 5.4 are operating with an open recall. The highest rates of unfixed vehicles were, in order, Texas, Mississippi, Alaska, Utah, and West Virginia, Carfax said. For more from Carfax on vehicles with open recalls, click here.
Gas Will Average Under $2 in '16
For the first time since 2004, U.S. drivers are expected to pay an average of less than $2 a gallon for gasoline, the government said Tuesday. They can thank the huge glut of oil around the globe, reports The Detroit News. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its monthly short-term energy outlook that regular gasoline will average $1.98 a gallon nationwide in 2016. The last time oil averaged less than $2 for a full year was 2004, which was also the last time gasoline at stations in some states fell below $1 a gallon. The pump savings are a direct result of the 70 percent collapse in crude oil prices since mid-2014. Earlier Tuesday, the International Energy Agency said the supply of oil is set to outpace demand again this year, keeping a lid on any expected price increases. Global supplies could exceed demand by as much as 2 million barrels a day in the first quarter, the agency said. “If these numbers prove to be accurate, and with the market already awash in oil, it is very hard to see how oil prices can rise significantly in the short term,” the IEA said. For more on anticipated gas prices this year, click here.
Daimler, VW Recall 1.5 Million Vehicles in U.S. Over Airbag Worries
According to CNBC, German carmakers Volkswagen and Daimler are recalling 1.5 million vehicles in the United States due to potentially faulty airbags made by Japanese company Takata, the focus of a long-running global safety crisis. The move comes after U.S. auto safety regulators said last month that Takata had declared 5.1 million U.S. vehicles defective, revealing that far more air bags than previously thought were potentially unsafe. Takata's inflators can explode with too much force and spray metal shrapnel into vehicle passenger compartments. They are linked to at least 10 deaths worldwide and more than 100 U.S. injuries. Problems with Takata airbags were first reported in 2009. So far, 14 automakers have recalled a total of about 24 million U.S. vehicles involving about 28 million Takata air bag inflators. Volkswagen said it will recall 680,000 vehicles in the United States due to the potentially faulty airbags, following Daimler which said late on Tuesday 840,000 U.S. vehicles with Takata airbag inflators would be checked. Daimler said it was recalling about 705,000 Mercedes-Benz cars and about 136,000 vans after being notified by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that certain Takata airbags were potentially defective. For more on Volkswagen and Daimler’s safety recalls, click here.
Mazda Touts Benefits of 'Predictive' All-Wheel-Drive
It’s not an everyday occurrence, but there comes a time for every driver when they’re stopped at an intersection on a slippery incline and can’t seem to get enough sure traction to safely pull away. According to WardsAuto, that’s the scenario Mazda presented to show off the new i-ACTIV all-wheel-drive system offered on its CX-3 and CX-5 compact and midsize CUVs and coming this spring on the all-new ’16 CX-9 large CUV. Taking AWD to the next level of capability, Mazda calls its system “predictive,” in that it can determine exactly when and how to engage the AWD system before the driver even touches the accelerator and instantly when the wheels start to slip. The AWD controller scans 200 times per second for data available from 27 sensors and systems already on Mazda vehicles – temperature, vehicle angle, yaw, steering direction, antilock brake activation, and even windshield-wiper use – to determine road and weather conditions. That data helps it decide whether to engage the AWD system to transfer torque to the rear wheels. Mazda’s i-ACTIV system uses the collected data and requires just 1 percent wheel slippage to fully engage the AWD. For more on Mazda’s predictive all-wheel-drive, click here.
Self-Driving Cars Succumb to Snow Blindness
In Jokkmokk, a tiny hamlet just north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, where temperatures can dip to 50 below, Volvo Cars’ self-driving XC90 SUV met its match: frozen flakes that caked on radar sensors essential to reading the road. Suddenly, the SUV was blind. After moving the sensors around to various spots on the front, Volvo engineers finally found a solution. Next year, when Swedish drivers take their hands off the wheel of leased XC90s in the world’s first public test of autonomous technology, the radar will be nestled behind the windshield, where wipers can clear the ice and snow. According to Automotive News, simple snow can render the most advanced computing power useless and leave vehicles dead on the highway. That’s why major players including Volvo Cars, owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.; Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc.; and Ford Motor Co. are stepping up their efforts to prevent snow blindness. “If your vision is obscured as a human in strong flurries, then vision sensors are going to encounter the exact same obstacles,” said Jeremy Carlson, an IHS Automotive senior analyst who specializes in autonomy. For more on what automakers are doing to help self-driving cars navigate snow, click here.
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