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Ford Autonomous Test Vehicle
Ford Motor Company

Last week the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx made the rounds through the news outlets, excitedly talking about new guidelines for autonomous cars.

But Foxx admitted there's a lot not covered in the guidelines because there's a lot the auto industry and the government have yet to figure out.

NPR’s Sonari Glinton joined us today to talk about the secretary’s comments, and the ongoing push toward autonomous vehicles.

University of Michigan

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued federal policy for automated, or self-driving vehicles, to spur innovation while taking a proactive approach to safety.

"Automated vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives," says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "This policy is an unprecedented step by the federal government to harness the benefits of transformative technology by providing a framework for how to do it safely.

Reporters getting a closer look at the Chevy Bolt concept.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Many people are open to the idea of buying an electric car, according to a just-released survey by the Consumer Federation of America.

Thirty-six percent of people who don't know much about electric cars said they'd be interested in buying one someday; 57% who do know a fair bit about electric cars said the same.

Unifor members at a rally in Canada
Unifor

Unifor, the union that represents most Canadian auto workers, says it has reached a tentative contract with General Motors after "round the clock negotiations." The strike deadline was 11:59 p.m Monday.

The terms of the deal include a major concession by Unifor, according to the CBC:

A major concession in the talks was an agreement by the union to convert all new employees to a defined contribution pension plan. That's different from the defined benefit plans that legacy employees all have. 

wind turbine
Tim Wang / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

General Motors has committed to using electricity solely from wind, solar or biogas for all of its 350 operations in 59 countries around the world -- within the next 34 years.

CEO Mary Barra says it "helps us better serve society by reducing environmental impact." 

The automaker says it used about 9 terawatt hours of electricity in 2015 to build its vehicles and power its offices, technical centers and warehouses globally.  A terawatt equals a trillion watts.

Workers at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant will soon be working on larger vehicles.
Sam VarnHagen / Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Company is by no means the only automaker moving production of small cars to Mexico.

Ford confirmed this week it will move the last of its small car production to Mexico, where labor costs are significantly lower than in the U.S.  But many other companies have been doing the same.

And suppliers have wasted no time in expanding in Mexico to serve the new factories.

Ford Motor Co. is moving all of its U.S. small car production to Mexico

Sep 14, 2016
CC-BY-CarImages / flickr creative commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Ford's small car production is moving to Mexico.

Ford CEO Mark Fields confirmed the move today during an event for investors and Wall Street analysts.

Ford can build the cars for less money by paying lower wages in Mexico.

Matt DeLorenzo, managing editor for news at Kelley Blue Book,  said the move is part of an industry-wide trend.

"Behind it are the rather slim margins on small cars in general," said DeLorenzo.

Unifor members at a rally in Canada
Unifor

Unifor will sit down at the bargaining table with General Motors first in its upcoming contract talks with Detroit-based car companies.

The talks could be even more tense than usual. 

That's because union leaders suspect GM may have long-term plans to pull more jobs out of Canada. 

Unifor wants GM to promise new models for its Oshawa plant, but GM is balking. 

Harley Shaiken is a labor expert at the University of California-Berkley. He says it makes sense the union is worried about losing more jobs.

Ford Motor Company

This is a very busy weekend on Michigan highways.  

But in the future, many of the vehicles on the road won’t have a person behind the wheel.

The state senate is expected act quickly on a package of bills to loosen rules governing autonomous vehicles.

Kirk Steudle is the head of the Michigan Department of Transportation.  

He believes autonomous cars will eventually reduce fatalities on Michigan roads.

Steudle wants automakers to have more leeway to test driverless cars in Michigan.

Ford Motor Company's self-driving vehicle
Ford Motor Company

Michigan is edging closer to clearing the road for driverless cars.

A state Senate committee approved a package of four bills that loosen existing rules for autonomous vehicles. The state created rules for driverless cars just a few years ago. But evolving technology has apparently made those rules “obsolete.”

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Ford announced this week it's joining forces with four tech companies and doubling its staff in Silicon Valley. 

Their goal is to put a fully self-driving - that means no steering wheel and no gas or brake pedals - on the road by 2021.

In his Detroit News column todayDaniel Howes  wrote that Ford's move is a sign that, "your father's auto industry is gone and it's not coming back."

Detroit skyline as viewed from Windsor, Ontario
flickr user Michael Stout / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The ties between Michigan and Ontario just got stronger. 

Governor Rick Snyder and Ontario Premier Kathleen Winne recently signed an agreement to set up an alliance between the auto industries of Michigan and Ontario. 

Ontario Minister of Economic Growth and Alliance Brad Duguid joined us today to talk about the two regions' strengths and weaknesses in the auto industry, and why, given the choice, Ontario and Michigan chose to work together rather than compete with each other. 

A visit to the Automobile Laundry in 1913 would have run you $1.50, Stone told us. That's equivalent to $36.46 today.
Public Domain

So here you are, the first on your block to buy Henry Ford's Model T. 

But roads are often dirt-covered, getting your newfangled automobile all grubby. And maybe you don't feel like hauling out buckets of water to wash it. 

If you lived in Detroit in 1914, you had a solution: take your care to the Automobile Laundry, the very first automated car wash in the country. 

Ford Autonomous Test Vehicle
flickr user Steve Jurvetson / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A century ago, Henry Ford changed the auto industry with the moving assembly line. 

Now Ford Motor Company has set an ambitious goal of developing a fully autonomous vehicle for mass production by 2021.

That's autonomous as in self-driving, with no steering wheel and no gas or brake pedals. 

To make that happen, Ford has announced it's joining forces with four tech companies and plans to double its staff in Silicon Valley. 

Flickr user Keturah Stickann/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

 

Are women worse drivers than men? Michigan auto insurance companies appear to think so.

In most states, there’s not much of a difference between auto insurance rates for men and women. But in Michigan, there’s a difference of about 4.03% between them, with men paying $2,087 and women paying $2,175.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/raidokaldma/12617680335
Raido / Flickr.com

The National Insurance Crime Bureau warns that hacking poses an ever-growing threat to car owners, as cars increasingly become computers with wi-fi on wheels.

"As more and more technology is incorporated, the vulnerability is huge," says the Bureau's Frank Scafidi.  "We're not seeing huge events like this or great numbers.  It is sporadic but it is something to be aware of."

A recent video caught a thief sitting in a car with his laptop, reprogramming a car to start, most likely using a new, blank key. A few minutes later, he takes off in the car.

Ford Autonomous Test Vehicle
Ford Motor Company

Nearly 75% of people surveyed by AlixPartners say they'd be interesting in an autonomous, AKA self-driving car.

The number jumps to 90% if the self-driving car includes the option of letting a human take control if deemed necessary.

Mark Wakefield of AlixPartners says he thinks his survey found more interest in self-driving cars because of the way they phrased the questions. The survey provided details about the positives of self-driving cars, in addition to the negatives.

Volkswagen has agreed to establish a $10 billion fund that would allow almost half a million VW or Audi owners to terminate their leases or have the company buy back their cars. $4.7 billion more will be put toward the development of green technology.
flickr user Mike Knell / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

German automaker Volkswagen has been handed an expensive lesson: don't mess with the EPA, and don't mess up our air. 

The U.S. Government has given Volkswagen a historic $14.7 billion spanking. 

Car rear ended another car in Ann Arbor.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A consumer advocate says many low to moderate income people pay much more for car insurance, even with the same driving record and zip code as wealthier people.

Bob Hunter is with the Consumer Federation of America.

He says major insurance companies use factors like marital status, education, occupation, and home ownership as proxies for income.

He says in general, people who are single, don't own a home, didn't go to college, and who work at blue collar jobs, have less money. 

Two men shaking hands
Flazingo Photos / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The United Auto Workers says it's reached a tentative agreement with a Detroit auto supplier.

Earlier this week, the UAW announced it had authorized a strike at Sakthi Automotive Group.

The India-based company has two plants with more than 200 employees in Detroit.

UAW leaders accused Sakthi of a number of labor law violations, including refusing to provide information for collective bargaining, and firing unionized workers.

General Motors

A law firm is suing General Motors, claiming the automaker's diesel Cruze sedans cheat on emissions tests, just like Volkswagen's diesels. 

Volkswagen is in big trouble for deliberately installing software that turns off emissions controls during normal driving, and on during fuel economy testing.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sued Volkswagen over the deceit. The Associated Press reports an announcement of a settlement will be made early next week.

striking UAW workers
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The United Auto Workers is threatening a strike at Sakthi Automotive Group.

The India-based auto parts supplier has more than 200 employees at two Detroit facilities. It makes safety components for automakers including GM and Ford.

The UAW says Sakthi has engaged in a number of unfair labor practices at its Detroit plants, starting prior to the union organizing workers there in 2015.

Those practices continued as the UAW and Sakthi began collective bargaining in January of this year, says UAW Local 600 Vice President and lead negotiator AJ Freer.

Argonne National Laboratory

Good news for Ford, General Motors, and Fiat-Chrysler from an influential survey of initial quality in cars.  

Renee Stephens of J.D. Power says overall, domestic car owners reported fewer problems in the first 90 days than import car owners.

"Domestics actually overtook the import brands this year for only the second time in the history of the study --  the last time was in 2010," says Stephens.

Another surprise was mainstream brands did better than luxury brands. That hasn't happened in the survey since 2006.

A shifter like the one shown here has confused consumers, resulting in the recall of more than 800,000 Fiat-Chrysler vehicles.
Mike Durand / creative commons

The accident that killed actor Anton Yelchin on Sunday might not have been a fluke, but rather, the result of a common mistake that has confused car owners and resulted in the recall of more that 800,000 vehicles manufactured by Fiat-Chrysler. 

FLICKR USER AUTOMOBILE ITALIA https://flic.kr/p/AsE6u3

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes has been reviewing the landscape of automobiles, high-tech, and next-generation mobility and finds Fiat Chrysler’s top guy Sergio Marchionne is lagging.

The largest recall in automotive history just got bigger.

General Motors and Ford Motor Company this week recalled nearly four million cars with passenger-side Takata airbags.

Takata airbags can inflate with too much force, especially if the cars have been driven in hot, humid areas for a long time. 

GM issued the recall of "certain 2007-2011 vehicles" grudgingly. The automaker believes its designs protect the airbags from heat and moisture. From its statement:  

Airbags have saved thousands of lives since their introdution, but Takata's airbags are potentially deadly when they deploy
Bee Forks / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Automakers have added another 12 million cars to a massive recall involving defective airbags.

Takata-made airbags can inflate with too much force and explode. Shrapnel from the devices has killed 13 people, 10 of those in the United States. More than 100 people have been injured.

The total number recalled over the defect is now about 36 million cars in the U.S. and 70 million globally. 

Twelve of the fatal accidents have occurred in Honda vehicles. One death occurred in a Ford pickup in Georgia in December, 2015.

Flickr user gmanviz/Flickr / https://flic.kr/p/r6cN6r

Andrew Hoffman’s grandmother was born in 1895 and died in 1990. In her lifetime, she saw the adoption of indoor plumbing, indoor electrification, airplane travel and computers. Children of today will also see change their lifetime. The main changes, Hoffman believes, will be in electricity and mobility.

 

Hoffman is a professor at the Ross School of Business and Education Director at the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan. He wrote an essay for The Conversation entitled “How driverless vehicles will redefine mobility and change car culture.”

He joined us on Stateside to discuss what may happen in the near future, as self-driving vehicles make their mark on culture.

 


motorcycle
Pixabay

An annual report by the Governor's Highway Safety Association finds that motorcyclist traffic fatalities rose 10% across the nation between 2014 and 2015, and the increase was substantially greater in Michigan.

Fatal motorcycle accidents rose 23% in Michigan.

Co-author Richard Retting says there could be many factors responsible, including better weather in 2015, along with more vehicles of all kinds on the highways.

But he says Michigan's repeal of its mandatory motorcycle helmet law in 2012 very likely was a factor, too.

2016 GMC Acadia
GM

General Motors says it overstated the fuel economy for three crossovers by 1 to 2 miles per gallon, but says it was a mistake, not an intent to deceive customers. 

The "inadvertent error" means GM overestimated the fuel economy of 170,000 2016 Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia, and Buick Enclave vehicles by about 10%.

GM says the mistake happened when it installed new emissions-related hardware in the cars. New mileage stickers have been issued, and owners are being notified.

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