Currently it’s against the law to have a self driving vehicle on the road. However, four US states—California, Nevada, Florida, Michigan and District of Columbia have all passed laws allowing driverless cars to operate on public highways and roads.
Just one short step from completely driverless cars, Google currently has 23 Lexus RX450h hybrid SUV vehicles equipped with the company's self driving technology roaming the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area. These cars are racking up approximately 10,000 miles per month, and in June of this year Google claimed to have logged just over million miles.
And now that there has already been a fair amount of test driving in place, Google has decided to move into car manufacturing. Over the last few years the company has been housing its self propelling technology in cars made by Toyota (Prius), VW (Beetle) and Lexus (RX450h), but now Google is developing its own vehicle.
Photo Courtesy of Google
Google has wisely chosen to partner with Roush Enterprises, the company started by racing mogul Jack Roush who began at Ford Motor Company who then went on to build an engineering empire by designing performance parts for sport, stock and drag racing cars. Called the “Google Auto” for lack of a better name, the vehicle will be made in Plymouth Township, Michigan with electronic components from Silicon Valley. Photos of the prototype show a fun little capsule that looks similar to an amusement park ride—how fun is that?
Google is not the only company on the horizon of manufacturing autonomous vehicles. In fact there is a bit of a race between companies. QNX from Canada is devising an operating platform that will control everything in a car including movies, games, phone and favorite apps. According to Sergey Brin the Google car will be coming to a showroom near you as early as 2017.
Are you ready?
Recently Volkswagen admitted to using special software to change diesel cars emissions during tests – for over 500,000 Volkswagen diesel cars sold in the United States. Worldwide, the number may be as high as 11 million cars. Thanks to special software supplied by Bosch, when tested, cars would show legal emission levels, but during regular driving, they would have much higher emissions, in some cases as much as 40 times the permissible level. Bosch says it warned Volkswagen not to use the software in production cars – that it was only meant for factory testing.
United States Justice Department started a criminal investigation, and Environmental Protection Agency has threatened to impose fines up to $18 billion – this was all BEFORE Volkswagen admitted to the shenanigans. Volkswagen initially denied it was trying to game the inspections, and claimed higher emissions where due to "various technical issues and unexpected in-use conditions” – or so say sources within EPA that spoke to Reuters.
It was only after EPA threatened to withhold certification for its 2016 models that Volkswagen admitted they had special software that altered car performance during tests. Since then the management said it was "deeply sorry" for the breach of trust, and the Volkswagen CEO resigned.
EPA said they would test cars made by other automakers, Volkswagen Italy suspended sale of cars, and the worldwide repercussions are just starting.
On the positive side for the US Volkswagen diesel owners there will not be any changes in part availability since the OEM manufacturers are not affected by the scandal.
We will keep you posted as the story unfolds.
You might have heard about the Takata airbag recall - if you drive a Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru or a Toyota, there is a good chance you received a notice from the your dealer. As of summer 2015, recall of Takata airbags exceeds 34 million vehicles just in the US.
Many dealers still have pretty long wait times, but if you got a recall notice, give them a call. Many have worked down their backlog, and may be able to schedule replacement within a few days, often less than a week. Given the severity of potential injuries, scheduling an airbag replacement sooner than later is a good idea.
The problem with Takata airbags is that they sometimes deploy with too much force, sending shrapnel into the interior of the vehicle. Both deaths and injuries have occurred. Apparently, the culprit is moisture. Once it gets into the inflator, it destabilizes the chemical compound responsible for the explosion that inflates the airbags – due to moisture, the compound becomes more explosive than intended.
So if you got a recall notice, call your dealer to get a replacement. Dealers will replace your airbags free of charge. If you have not received a notice, or are not sure if your airbags should be replaced - you can check your VIN here - this is a site provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to check if your car has had incomplete recall work done within the last 15 years.
A car manufacturer so confident in their model’s fuel efficiency, Toyota just announced that for purchasers of their new Mirai sedan, the company is willing to pay for the first two years of hydrogen fuel. Mirai—which is the Japanese word for “future”—is the newest model by Toyota to roll off the assembly line and into showrooms. The car will be released in the U.S. in December 2015 in limited quantities and then next year production is scheduled to double.
Be the first on your block to own this smart looking, fun to drive vehicle, Toyota’s first foray into the fuel cell vehicle market. Only the second Japanese car manufacturer to bring hydrogen fuel cell technology to the US market, Toyota is hoping this new fuel efficient model will outsell the Prius over the next decade. Honda was the first Japanese car maker to introduce a hydrogen vehicle, the Clarity, which became available in the Southern California test market in 2014.
The Mirai is a 300 mile range, ZERO emissions car. It sports a space age interior with a large monitor that serves as the main communication portal for virtually everything concerning the vehicle. Its powerful fuel cell is strong enough to produce electricity to power an entire house for a full week. Toyota reports that the hydrogen fuel the car needs to run could be made out of anything—even garbage! The Mirai’s only emission is water vapor—pretty amazing.
For those who are ecologically minded and want to step into something very economical, the Mirai may just be the right fit for you.