Thursday, April 27, 2017

GM CEO Mary Barra Speculated To Become Next NHTSA Head



What could possibly go wrong?






GM CEO Mary Barra Speculated To Become Next NHTSA Head



GMBusinessBarra09.jpg


The position of National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator remains open as one of the numerous slots President Donald Trump has yet to fill. However, there’s already some speculation as to who may fill the vacancy.

The Detroit News reports General Motors CEO Mary Barra is speculated to possibly become the next head of the NHTSA. While purely speculations from insiders, it has raised alarms with advocacy groups who fear turning the agency over to an automotive executive could produce poor results.

“He has a penchant of appointing people who have been regulated and allowing them to dismantle agencies,” Rosemary Shahan, president of the Sacramento, Calif.-based Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety group, said. “You have all these companies who have been under investigations for safety violations recently. I wouldn’t be surprised if he appointed somebody from one of them. It would be consistent with his other appointments.”

On Barra specifically, she said, “[The president] seems to be very friendly with her.”

Barra continues to serve on President Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, which houses a handful of business leaders to advise the president from the private sector. The White House and GM both declined to comment on the speculations.

Skeptics say if an auto executive were to be appointed to the position it would cause major conflicts of interest with the government organization and make for major deregulation in automotive safety. In fact, the same government organization continues to keep a watchful eye on GM to ensure safety standards are met.

The facts won’t be known until President Trump officially names his candidate, whenever that may be.


Read more: http://gmauthority.com/blog/2017/04/gm-ceo-mary-barra-speculated-to-become-next-nhtsa-head/#ixzz4fV5yOleY





Monday, April 24, 2017

Critics fear Trump will tap auto exec for NHTSA



President Donald Trump meets with Mary Barra in January.
(Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)




Critics fear Trump will tap auto exec for NHTSA


Washington — Car-safety advocates are worried that President Donald Trump might turn over the keys to the agency charged with regulating the safety of the nation’s automobiles to someone from within the industry’s ranks.
Rosemary Shahan, president of the Sacramento, Calif.-based Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety group, said she would not be surprised if Trump reaches out to an auto executive to fill the position of National Highway Traffic Safety administrator, vacant since Trump took office in January.
“He has a penchant of appointing people who have been regulated and allowing them to dismantle agencies,” Shahan continued. “You have all these companies who have been under investigations for safety violations recently. I wouldn’t be surprised if he appointed somebody from one of them. It would be consistent with his other appointments.”
No names for candidates appear to be circulating among industry and government insiders in Washington. Several have said it does not appear that filling the position is a high priority for the president, who has yet to make numerous appointments in the government.
But Shahan speculates on one potential candidate: General Motors Co. Chairman and CEO Mary Barra.
“He seems to be very friendly with her,” Shahan said of Trump’s relationship with GM’s chief, noting he has named Barra to a Strategic and Policy Forum that advises him on economic issues and jobs growth, and met with her in Washington on at least two occasions.
The White House declined to comment on the president’s plans for filling the vacancy. GM would not comment on whether Barra would be interested in the regulatory job.
Barra, who became the first woman to lead an automaker in January 2014, is in a strong position at her company, which is posting record profits. She has assembled a cohesive team of executives who all stand to earn substantial bonuses if they remain with the company.
Trump has appointed other high-level business executives to serve in his Cabinet: Former Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson is U.S. secretary of state. Investor Wilbur Ross is commerce secretary. Additionally, Trump selected school-choice advocate Betsy DeVos, a West Michigan GOP mega-donor and philanthropist, to be his education secretary. World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon leads the Small Business Administration.
“If he appoints someone from the auto industry, there is going to be a lot of concern on the Hill and among groups like ours,” said former Public Citizen president Joan Claybrook, who was National Highway Traffic Safety administrator during the Carter administration in the late 1970s. “That’s a real conflict of interest. You need someone who is more even-minded about what needs to be done.”
Trump has signed an executive order that requires the federal government to cut two regulations for every one that’s enacted. He has proposed cutting $2.4 billion, or 13 percent, from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s current budget levels as part of his effort to cut non-military spending by $54 billion to support an increase in defense funding. NHTSA is a subsidiary of the transportation department.
Shahan, the safety group president, expressed concern that an industry insider would target regulations that address auto safety.
“He’s on a deregulation kick,” she said. “That’s not comforting. That’s worrisome. Is the new administrator at NHTSA going to deregulate auto safety? He’s so fixated on threats from outside the U.S. that he doesn’t consider that there are threats to us domestically like auto crashes. When he talks about threats to our safety, he’s talking about ISIS.”
NHTSA and other federal agencies have career staffers who remain in place when presidential administrations change. It will likely be hard for Trump to make drastic changes to auto regulations before naming a new top highway safety cop.
Jeff Davis, senior fellow with the independent Eno Center for Transportation think tank in Washington, said Trump is not tardy with his NHTSA choice by recent historical standards. He noted that Obama did not nominate his first NHTSA administrator until nearly 11 months after taking office. President George W. Bush did not nominate his first until five months after moving into the White House. And President Bill Clinton did not nominate his first NHTSA administrator until 13 months after taking office.
Davis said the NHTSA vacancy is not impeding the Trump administration’s ability to police safety regulations.
“Legally, the authority to issue and revise motor vehicle safety standards ... is vested in the secretary of transportation,” he said. “The secretary can delegate or un-delegate that authority to the NHTSA administrator as they see fit, but the important thing is that the regulation-and-recall process can be carried out by the career staff of NHTSA and put into legal effect by the secretary in the absence of a confirmed NHTSA administrator.”
Claybrook, the former NHTSA administrator, said she started working at the agency three months after Jimmy Carter became president. “Agency heads are usually the last ones to get appointed,” she said.
But she said the highway safety agency needs a strong administrator because it has “always been a bit of a stepchild among agencies” and it is “desperately underfunded.”
“You need someone who is talented to fight those battles,” she said of the effort to convince Congress to spend more money on such things as hiring staff to monitor potential safety recalls. “There are quite a number of opportunities to save lives that there is no leadership on right now.”

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/2017/04/24/trump-transportation/100830872/

Toyota Dealer Blasted For Giving Supra To Sales Manager’s Wife In Charity Raffle





Toyota Dealer Blasted For Giving Supra To Sales Manager’s Wife In Charity Raffle


Alanis King






To raise funds for a Texas nonprofit helping women and children, a Toyota dealership held a raffle for a restored twin-turbo 1994 Toyota Supra. But when they announced the results, it didn’t take long for people to realize the winner was the general sales manager’s wife. Now, the dealership taking a ton of heat. 
According to local newspaper Blue Ribbon News, the Dallas-area Toyota of Rockwall dealership held the raffle with tickets selling for $20 apiece or six for $100. All ticket proceeds went to the Genesis Center of Kaufman County, which “offers counseling, shelter, resources for daily needs, parenting classes, job services, medical referrals and spiritual mentoring,” according to itswebsite.
The car, according to Blue Ribbon News, was donated to the Genesis Center by a local resident battling cancer:
“The Supra was truly an answer to prayer,” said Pastor Nancy Schoenle of The Genesis Center. “I had been asking God for something different, something unique to help us touch more lives – then God put it on this donor’s heart to give his car to The Genesis Center.”
Schoenle said she called Toyota of Rockwall, and the folks there led efforts to refurbish the car. The dealership gave it new leather seats, new paint, new tires and new tint at no charge, Schoenle said. There were also five other companies involved in restoring the car, with Blue Ribbon News reporting that they spent a total of $17,000 to make the car’s restored value around $30,000.
The dealership printed 4,000 raffle tickets, with the proceeds from each going to the Genesis Center. The dealership later announced that it raised more than $50,000 for the center.
It all sounds like a heartwarming story, but things went downhill soon after the dealership announced the winner on April 14



The name of the dealership’s general sales manager is Danny Rawls, whose name is close to that of the “Rebecca Rawl” announced by the dealership’s Facebook page.
That’s because they’re married, and the dealership claims to have made a typo in the original announcement.
The dealership later released a statement regarding the winner on its Facebook page, saying that the Genesis Center permitted employees—that permission also includes their spouses and family, presumably—to participate in the raffle. The statement said Rebecca Rawls and four friends bought tickets as a group, spending $1,500 total: 



The statement continued by saying that Rebecca Rawls planned to sell the car for additional money to be contributed to the Genesis Center. The statement came more than a week after the drawing and after much public backlash, so it isn’t clear whether selling the car for additional funds to be given to the center was the original intent.
A Facebook commenter shared a photo 12 hours prior to this posting of an eBay listing of the car under seller “rawlsdanny09,” with current bids at $22,100. The listing could not be found when searched for at the time of this post.
As you might expect, recent reviews of the dealership on Facebook are pretty scathing, with many people calling the raffle a “scam.”



In response to the influx of comments on the Facebook statement above, the dealership’s page commented on the post with additional statement:
My name is Charles Pankey and I am the general manager and I have to say a few things. There seems to be a lot of people on here trying to stir this up into what it isn’t. The winners of the car pledged to donate 100% of the funds back to The Genesis Center, hopefully another $25,000. That would put the total amount to nearly $75,000 to help fight domestic violence.
I spent a considerable amount of time to help The Genesis Center raise the money that they did and I was excited when I heard the winners were essentially giving back what they won to the Genesis Center, a place that helps those effected with domestic violence. Lets not forget that this is all for a charitable cause.
If selling the car was the original intent of the winners, it is, of course, a lot more money going to a seemingly worthy cause. But it doesn’t clear up the fact that in most public contests of any kind, employees and family of employees are not permitted to enter due to the conflict-of-interest concerns that arise when something like this occurs.
Jalopnik has reached out to Toyota of Rockwall for additional comment and will update if we hear back.
Update, April 23 at 4:11 p.m. ET: A reader found the Supra sale listing from eBay username “rawlsdanny09,” which had a starting bid of $15,000 and a price of $35,000. The message on the top of the eBay listing is: “This listing was ended by the seller because the item is no longer available.”

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Tesla Model X Owner Asks For $1 Million After Falcon Doors Failed To Open In Crash




Tesla Model X Owner Asks For $1 Million After Falcon Doors Failed To Open In Crash

APR 23, 2017 AT 7:06 PM BY  

The owner of a Tesla Model X in China is asking the electric automaker for 8 million yuan (about $1 million) in compensation after claiming that a crash and fire caused the falcon doors to no longer function.

Speaking about the incident, the female owner of the Model X, Lee Tada, was sitting in the second row of seats with her boyfriend while their chauffeur was driving. Tada claims that while travelling at approximately 75 km/h (46 mph), the electric crossover hit a concrete siderail, spun 180 degrees and was hit by a Ford Focus.

She claims that both the falcon doors refused to open after the crash and that she and her boyfriend were forced to exit through the front door after they started hearing batteries explode, Electrek reports.

Lee says that she suffered a cut on her lower lip and a broken nose while the chauffeur was apparently hospitalized for over 40 days.

However, Tesla China isn’t buying the story and has refused to pay, claiming that the crash took place at high speed, not 75 km/h.

In a statement translated from Chinese, Tesla said “First of all, the lives of the owner and passengers were not threatened. We are working closely with the department concerned. The distribution of the debris at the site and the damage all indicate that this was a high-speed crash – in this case, not just electric cars, but any vehicle can catch on fire. In fact, another car involved in the accident (a fuel-powered vehicle) also caught on fire. Fuel tank fire incidents happen much more often than the electric car fires.

“In addition, Tesla has consistently insisted on the disclosure and transparency of information, including other information about the incident, such as the owner is asking us for 8 million yuan, and we will not accept.”


http://www.carscoops.com/2017/04/tesla-model-x-owner-asks-for-1-million.html



Tesla owner asks for $1 million after Model X caught on fire in crash and Falcon Wing doors wouldn’t open


Tesla is currently investigating an accident that happened in February in Guangzhou where a Model X crashed on the highway and caught on fire. The owner of the vehicle and her boyfriend were sitting in the second-row seat and they claim that the Falcon Wing doors were not opening after the crash resulting in them being stuck in the backseat while the car was starting to catch on fire.
They managed to exit through the front door just as the vehicle went up in flames, but not without injuries and now they are asking Tesla for 8 million Chinese yuan (~$1 million) in compensation.
Tesla China issued a statement about the accident following the owner’s demand (translated from Chinese):
“First of all, the lives of the owner and passengers were not threaten. We are working closely with the department concerned. The distribution of the debris at the site and the damage all indicate that this was a high-speed crash – in this case, not just electric cars, but any vehicle can catch on fire. In fact, another car involved in the accident (a fuel-powered vehicle) also caught on fire. Fuel tank fire incidents happen much more often than the electric car fires.
In addition, Tesla has consistently insisted on the disclosure and transparency of information, including other information about the incident, such as the owner is asking us for 8 million yuan, and we will not accept.”
Here are a few pictures of the aftermath (credits to Steven Liu):







In an open letter published this week on Cartek’s WeChat, Lee Tada, the owner of the Model X, gave her account of the accident.
She explained that her chauffeur was driving her and her boyfriend at ~75 km/h northbound on the highway in Guangzhou when they hit the concrete siderails, the car turned around 180-degrees and was hit front first by a Ford Focus.
They then tried to open the Falcon Wing doors, but she says that they were both stuck.
Side note: There’s actually an emergency latch to open the Falcon Wing doors if the button doesn’t work. It’s hidden behind the speaker cover, but as we learn while researching this story, this information is surprisingly not in the owner’s manual but in the emergency response guide, which is for first responders:
Therefore, it’s understandable that an owner wouldn’t know about it.
Back to her story. They started to hear the battery cells explode and managed to exit through the front door. A few seconds later, the Model X went up in flames.
Here’s a video of the aftermath (warning it’s graphic – and vertical):
In the open letter, the owner says that she suffered a broken nose and a severe cut to her lower lip that needed a dozen stitches, but the driver got the worst of it. She wrote that “he was hospitalized for more than 40 days with internal injuries and fractures”.
Beyond the physical injuries, she added: “it brought us more serious mental harm, after the accident and still today, I often have nightmares about being burned to death inside the Tesla Model X.
It’s apparently what led her to ask Tesla for 8 million Chinese yuan (~$1 million) in compensation, which Tesla China is refusing to pay, but they are still investigating the accident and collaborating with the local authorities.
Tesla has been under scrutiny before over several instances of vehicles catching on fire. The media made a big deal out of it despite the fact that almost every instance happened after a high-speed accident, like this one. Statistics showed that Tesla’s vehicles caught fire significantly less often than the national average and NHTSA eventually conducted an investigation and found no problem.

https://electrek.co/2017/04/23/tesla-model-x-fire-crash-falcon-wing-doors-stuck/



A few Tesla owners filed a class-action lawsuit over the rollout of Tesla Autopilot 2.0 [Updated]




A few Tesla owners filed a class-action lawsuit over the rollout of Tesla Autopilot 2.0 [Updated]


Last month, we reported on Hagens Berman, one of the law firms leading a class action lawsuit against VW and Mercedes for the emissions-cheating software, attempting to start a class action against Tesla over the claims made for Autopilot 2.0 features: Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving capabilities.
They have now officially filed the class action led by 3 Tesla owners.


In the actual class-action, they seem to have focused on the ‘Enhanced Autopilot’ feature instead of the self-driving feature, which, as we pointed out when they were seeking participants for the suit, they didn’t seem to understand.
As for ‘Enhanced Autopilot’, they are calling it “essentially unusable and demonstrably dangerous”. Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, which represents the plaintiffs, said:
“Tesla has endangered the lives of tens of thousands of Tesla owners across the country, and induced them to pay many thousands of dollars for a product that Tesla has not effectively designed. Tesla sold these vehicles as the safest sedan on the road. What consumers received were cars without standard safety enhancements featured by cars costing less than half the price of a new Tesla, and a purported ‘Enhanced Autopilot’ that operates in an erratic and dangerous manner.”
He continued by saying that “to this day, Tesla has not released truly functional software for its Standard Safety Features or Enhanced Autopilot.”
While the suit states correctly that Tesla missed a few deadlines with bringing AP2 cars to parity with the first generation vehicles, the notes for the Enhanced Autopilot option clearly reads that it is “dependent on extensive software validation and regulatory approval”.
Furthermore, the lawsuit incorrectly describes the current features of the Autopilot on vehicles with second generation hardware as only having “a dangerously defective Traffic Aware Cruise Control” and “the remaining features simply do not exist.”
Of course, that’s inaccurate. Tesla’s ‘Summon’ feature has been released on Autopilot 2.0, as well as several updated versions of Autosteer and now even Auto Lane Change. They should actually know that since I mention it in an article that they are using as a reference in their own lawsuit.
The suit is not only seeking for Tesla to buy back the vehicles, but they also want damages for “the conduct of Tesla related to the defective Standard Safety Features and Enhanced Autopilot” and what they describe as “Tesla’s knowing fraud that garnered it illicit profits for a product suite that does not exist and put drivers at risk.”
We asked Tesla for a comment on the class-action, but we didn’t get an answer.
Update: a Tesla spokesperson sent us the following statement:
This lawsuit is a disingenuous attempt to secure attorney’s fees posing as a legitimate legal action, which is evidenced by the fact that the suit misrepresents many facts. Many of the features this suit claims are “unavailable” are in fact available, with more updates coming every month. We have always been transparent about the fact that Enhanced Autopilot software is a product that would roll out incrementally over time, and that features would continue to be introduced as validation is completed, subject to regulatory approval. Furthermore, we have never claimed our vehicles already have functional “full self-driving capability”, as our website has stated in plain English for all potential customers that “it is not possible to know exactly when each element of the functionality described above will be available, as this is highly dependent on local regulatory approval.”  The inaccurate and sensationalistic view of our technology put forth by this group is exactly the kind of misinformation that threatens to harm consumer safety.
Here’s the suit in full if you want to read:



Michael DeKort • April 20, 2017

It's unfortunate that Elon Musk's ego, which drove him to doing some amazing things. has now driven him to be a dangerous, unethical
charlatan.
Regarding regulations. When NASA first reviewed his SpaceX code they rejected it for not being properly tested, especially negative
testing, and for not doing nearly enough exception handling. That happened because NASA unlike Commercial IT actually uses best
engineering practices. They were the regulators. in this case NHTSA has punted. They are in over their heads just as much as the
Commercial IT folks who are making AP. These folks drank way too much of their own bathwater. They are way to impressed with their
skills of making apps, games and websites. Just look at the folks in charge across many of these AP companies. They came from
PayPal, Twitter, Swift, travel websites etc. It's a massive echo chamber.
In addition RAND, MIT and Mobileye have all come out recently and said AI is valuable but way over estimated. The folks who use it do
not really know how it works. Corner cases are not found and it would take hundreds of billions of miles of driving to stumble on all the
data they need. These engineers are using machine learning to be experts for them. Since they have almost no background in this domain
or in actual best practices they have no choice. What really should be happening is AI is mixed with proper systems engineering, other
existing data sources and simulation to create a Scenario Matrix. A tool that would ensure due diligence is done and everyone is on the
same page and handles scenarios the same way. What happens if a Ford AP owner buys a Tesla? Are all the same scenarios handled?
Are they handled the same way? Does a difference entice the driver to do or not do something they shouldn't be because of an
expectation from the previous car.
Just in case the echo chamber of folks who only know what they know from the press and have no experience in any of this chime in that
I am against AP. No I am for it. So much for it I want to see it happen ASAP. That ONLY happens if it is done in the right way. Tesla is not
doing it the right way. Putting people at risk needlessly, depending way too much on AI and not using actual best systems engineering
practices.
I provide more detail and cite links that support the comments I made above.
Lockheed Engineer/Whistleblower - Due Diligence Recommendations for Autonomous and Driverless Industry