Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Auto industry pushing for federal oversight on self-driving cars.

The Detroit Free Press (6/27, Snavely, 1.01M) reports that representatives from the auto industry are pushing Washington lawmakers for “greater federal oversight and authority to regulate self-driving cars while consumer safety watchdogs warned Congress about the dangers of proposed federal legislation that they say goes too far.” The industry is seeking the ability to “test and deploy much larger fleets of driverless cars and make it clear that federal regulations takes precedence over state laws.” Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) has argued for the need for smart federal regulation so that US automakers are able to stay ahead of industry innovation globally. She said she is talking with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao about draft bills on the matter.
        Democrats and Republicans on Tuesday “sparred” over such regulations, as well as “a proposal to allow automakers and technology companies to bypass existing regulations in introducing autonomous cars,” Reuters (6/27, Shepardson) reports. US House Energy and Commerce subcommittee Democrats say the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) should be aggressive in mandating self-driving car safety. The piece says that Republicans have introduced a package of 14 bills, which would “allow NHTSA to exempt up to 100,000 vehicles per year from federal motor vehicle safety rules.” The NHTSA had established voluntary guidelines for self-driving cars under the Obama Administration, which Chao “vowed to quickly update.”
        Additional coverage includes the Detroit News (6/27, Laing, 473K).

        Advocates urge Congress for more safety regulations on driverless cars. Bloomberg News (6/27, Beene, 2.41M) reports that safety and consumer advocates on Tuesday told Congress that before companies, such as Apple and Ford, are allowed to “expand testing of self-driving cars,” there need to be “basic rules of the road.” Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety argue that the safety of driverless cars need to be certified before testing and that Congress should allow fewer such cars to be tested on roads. Bloomberg says that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “currently allow automakers to field vehicles that don’t comply with the letter of federal auto-safety standards under certain limited circumstances.” 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Takata files for bankruptcy in air-bag recall scandal.

USA Today (6/25, Jones, Bomey, 5.28M) reports Japanese airbag manufacturer Takata filed for bankruptcy protection on Sunday, as it faces “massive costs associated with defective air bags.” The piece provides a timeline of the company’s problems, beginning in the 1990s with the production of “air-bag inflators with ammonium nitrate propellant,” that by 2000 they knew were not properly functioning. In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation into a recall issued by Honda over defective airbags. By 2012, US regulators found that “Takata ‘failed to clarify inaccurate information’ on the air bags.”
        In its own more recent timeline of Takata’s air-bag trouble, Bloomberg News (6/25, 2.41M) reports that in 2014, the NHTSA added an additional 3 million cars to recalls already initiated by Honda, Toyota and Nissan. In 2016, the NHTSA “order[ed] Takata to replace as many as 40 million additional air bags,” not long after which the company agreed “to plead guilty and pay $1 billion in the U.S. to settle an investigation.”
        Takata’s bankruptcy trouble “isn’t just a crisis for its employees and suppliers,” but “also throws a wild card into one of the biggest and most complicated recalls in automotive history,” Bloomberg News (6/25, Buckland, Horie, Beene, 2.41M) says. The piece indicates the company’s “filing to restructure, which listed more than $10 billion in liabilities, doesn’t relieve a manufacturer of recall responsibilities,” but that carmakers may be left footing the cost if its financial assets are exhausted “before all the work is done.” According to the NHTSA, “only 38 percent of the 43 million air bag inflators under recall in the U.S. had been repaired as of May 26.”
        The company has said that it intends to “sell key assets to U.S. supplier Key Safety Systems,” Automotive News (6/25, Walsh, 188K) reports. Separately, Key Safety said that “it would buy ‘substantially all’ of Takata’s global assets and operations for $1.59 billion.” However, this would “not include some operations related to Takata’s business in the ammonium nitrate airbag inflators” that have been the subject of the global recall. According to Key Safety, Takata will reorganize its ammonium nitrate airbag inflator operations, which will eventually be wound down.

        Similarly, USA Today (6/25, Krisher, 5.28M) reports that “some remnants of Takata will be folded into an entity with a different name to keep manufacturing inflators used as replacement parts in recalls,” according to those briefed on the matter who did not want to be identified. The piece says that $1 billion from the sale “will be used to satisfy Takata’s settlement of criminal charges in the U.S.” What the rest of the money will be used for is still unclear. 

Farmers awarded $218M in Syngenta lawsuit.

The AP (6/23, Suhr) reported a Kansas federal jury on Friday awarded nearly $218 million to farmers in a lawsuit against Syngenta for introducing a GM corn variety to China before it had been approved. Syngenta has vowed to appeal the verdict, stating that “it will only serve to deny American farmers access to future technologies even when they are fully approved in the US” and alleging that the Viptera corn is “in full compliance with US regulatory and legal requirements.”

        Reuters (6/23, Raymond) reported the farmers argued that after China had rejected the Viptera corn shipments, the loss of the Chinese market led to over $5 billion in losses for corn producers. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

New study identifies seven deadliest car models.

CBS News (6/6, Edgerton, 4.4M) reports a recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study identifies the car models that have “the highest rate of driver fatalities.” The seven worst of these are “minicars or small cars,” including “the Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio and Toyota Scion,” each with over “100 driver fatalities per million registered vehicle years.” Additionally, “Chevrolet Spark, Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta sedan and the Kia Soul” have “fatality rates over 80.” The study draws on fatality rate data from the years 2012 to 2015 and compares the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s fatality figures with IHS Automotive registration data. 

NHTSA investigating Jeep Liberty over faulty airbag system.

Leftlane News (6/6, King, 9K) continues coverage of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s investigation into complaints received regarding some model-year 2012 Jeep Liberty vehicles. At least 44 complaints have been received regarding “occupant restraint controller (ORC) failures.” The NHTSA said, “a failed ORC may prevent the air bag system from operating properly in a crash.” Additionally, it said, “a Preliminary Evaluation has been opened to assess the scope, frequency, and safety-related consequence of the alleged defect.”