Congressman Rockefeller Thinks There Should Be a Crackdown on Technology in Automobiles

Jay RockefellerYesterday, Congressman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. VA) convened an unusual all-day forum in Washington to discuss the use of technology while driving a car. Rockefeller, who is in the middle of his final stint in Congress, said, “Why is it so important for kids to drive around and update Facebook statuses? For teenagers, it’s a way of being cool. For those of you who sell cars, it’s a way of you being cool and making a lot of money from that. How many people have died? How many people have almost died?”

facebookRockefeller does make a good point. In fact, a number of states have already moved on this initiative by implementing bans on texting and driving. Of course, this has already been at the center of a number of controversies. Some people believe that laws like this are infringing upon personal freedoms. Others have been highly skeptical about courts and police officers even being able to stop the use of handheld technology. After all, it was just last month that a California judge ruled that a woman driving while using her Google Glass would not be punished, citing that there was a lack of evidence to prove that the device was actually in use.

But did Rockefeller waste everyone’s time in Washington this week? Is he just an old curmudgeon who wants to battle the evil of technology? The answer may be yes. Technology is moving at such a fast rate that texting and driving or updating Facebook and driving may come and go quicker than a gust of wind.

audi-googleAutomakers have already been hard at work incorporating technology into new vehicles, which would make it unnecessary for people to text with their hands while driving. One of the leading manufacturers in this movement is Audi. According to reports, Audi and Google have been teaming up to create in-car, voice activated infotainment systems that would render texting and driving obsolete.

In a report from NBC News, author Keith Wagstaff says, “Imagine a future where you’re racing your Audi through the streets and you get lost. There will be no need to pick up your phone. Instead, you’ll just give a voice command to your dashboard, which will bring up navigation software. You will also be able to send an email to your friend telling him you will be late and play your favorite song to cheer you up — all without taking your eyes off of the road or your hands off of the steering wheel.”

Rockefeller, however, is weary of this blooming technology, as well. He says, “I’m very unhappy. I’m very nervous, not just about deaths but about close-to-death injuries. All for the sake of outdoing each other and making more money.” To many, statements like this only make Rockefeller seem like a technologically challenged man. After all, growing up in this day and age requires the ability to multitask. It requires that people be plugged in 24-7, 365. As Will Smith once said, Parents Just Don’t Understand.

What does everybody think about Rockefeller’s statements?

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Is Chrysler America’s Company?? Their Super Bowl Ad Says They Are

Image courtesy of Billboard

Image courtesy of Billboard

Last night, with the Super Bowl playing and over 100 million people watching, America took front and center. Everything that is pure red, white, and blue was on display. There were gladiators on the gridiron and BIG, over the top entertainment acts. Bruno Mars killed during the halftime show, blending a sweet mix of James Brown, Frank Sinatra, and a young Michael Jackson.  Then, of course, during breaks in the game, viewers watched companies slug it out for the title of America’s most patriotic auto manufacturer.

Out of all the commercials, Chrysler played the red, white, and blue card the most…by farrrr. Their commercial featured images of Detroit and classic symbols of historic America like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean and Dr. J. Doubling down on the American pride, Chrysler featured a Bob Dylan narration, urging Americans to, “Let Germany brew your beer. Let Switzerland make your watch. Let Asia assemble your phone. We will build your car.”

Unfortunately, Chrysler probably was the least deserving company to make this claim because they are currently and wholly owned by Italian based Fiat! This, however, did not stop Chrysler from going all in on their message. Dylan continues on by saying, “When it’s made here, it’s made from the one thing that you can’t import from anywhere else: American pride.”

Sure, this sounds good for a commercial, but is it really true? Well, yes and no. Recently, Chrysler has been a company that has been slowly drifting away from America year by year. In fact, it was just in January that Chrysler cut all American ownership ties. Joann Muller of Forbes magazine reports, “After months of wrangling, Fiat SpA and a United Auto Workers trust fund agreed to a $4.35 billion deal for the Italian car maker to buy the remaining stake in Chrysler Group LLC.”

Image courtesy of autoblog

Image courtesy of Autoblog

Obviously, it is a great thing that Chrysler’s Detroit based auto plants survived and stayed open, keeping thousands of American workers employed. But was it ethical for this Italian owned company to portray itself as bleeding American patriotism? Adding to the dysfunction is Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne’s plans to take down American competitors like GM. Muller reports, “Marchionne’s vision since taking control of Fiat in 2004 has been to create a global automaker with the scale to challenge industry leaders General Motors, Volkswagen AG and Toyota Motor.”

Even though Bob Dylan tells us in his iconic raspy voice that “Detroit made cars and cars made America,” we need to ask ourselves: what cars are going to make America great now and going forward? Despite their best efforts, Chrysler is not as American as their commercials proclaim to be.

Maserati’s Working Class Super Bowl Ad…Wait What?

The Maserati MC12

The Maserati MC12

Maserati, based out of Modena, Italy, has always been known for its high quality performance and upper echelon appeal. It’s a company that has been producing sleek, sexy racing cars that have won countless auto races for 100 years.; in fact, they are the only Italian automaker to ever win the Indianapolis 500! Growing up lower middle class, we never even thought of owning one. We bought Chevys or Fords. Maserati’s were for people with money: the business owners and the lawyers and doctors. Not us.

Last night, during the Super Bowl, Maserati pitched the American people something different. Their commercial takes the perspective of the underdog, the under belly of society.

For the ad, Maserati hired Oscar nominated child actress, Quvenzhane Wallis to narrate (most recently, she played a key part in the Oscar nominated film, 12 Years a Slave). During the Maserati commercial, Wallis leads the audience through a land of ruin, speaking words worthy of inciting a revolution.

She says, “The world is full of giants. They have always been here, lumbering in the schoolyards, limping through the alleys. We had to learn how to deal with them, how to overcome them.” Wait…what? Isn’t Maserati a company of giants for giants? Don’t their automobiles usually sell for well over $100,000?

Continuing to represent Maserati, Wallis says, “We were like a wind appearing out of nowhere. We knew that being clever was more important than being the biggest kid in the neighborhood. We wait until they get sleepy, wait until they get so big they can barely move, and then walk out of the shadows, quietly walk out of the dark- and strike.”

As these words are chanted, the commercial flashes images of America’s working class. There are welders sweating and laboring. There are middle class farm houses being threatened by giant twisters, and fireman at work, taming life-threatening fires. Adding to that, of course, is Quvenzhane Wallis, a girl that has built her career on playing oppressed, underprivileged characters.

Watching this commercial, it becomes apparent that Maserati is trying to not only sell a product, but a new image. They want to be viewed as an attainable, working class company. They have vehicles that you and me and everyone we know can own if we keep our heads down and work hard. The commercial ends with the image of the Maserati Ghibli, a car that is now selling for $67,000. According to Forbes, “Ghibli is the least expensive Maserati available in the United States, undercutting the Quattroporte S Q4 by almost $40,000.”

The Maserati Ghibli sells for $67,000

The Maserati Ghibli sells for $67,000

In the eyes of Maserati, $67,000 is a working class car. According to their Super Bowl ad, it’s a car that welders and fireman can own. They say, “As long as we keep our heads down…as long as we work hard, trust what we feel in our gut, our hearts.” As long as Americans do that, they can now have a piece of Maserati.

Well thanks…I guess. Actually, now that I think about, I don’t think $67,000 is great for my middle class salary. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with the car or anybody that wants to buy it. In fact, I’d be damn proud if I could. But Maserati, don’t pretend to be something that you’re not. And don’t insult my intelligence with your ad, either.

Mary Barra Gets Due Credit During the State of the Union

stateoftheunion32014 has been the year of Mary Barra. Earlier this month, she was officially handed the position as the CEO of GM, and since then, she’s been featured on countless magazine covers and in depth articles. Everybody wants a piece, including everyone in the political arena.

Last night, President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union Address and spent a portion of it praising Barra and the American auto industry. In his speech, the President said, “Our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. It’s how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America’s largest automaker. [Mary Barra illustrates] the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams.” Currently, the Barra led American auto industry  is doing the best it has in years, signaled by the US Treasury selling off the last of its GM stock in December.

stateoftheunionDuring the speech, Barra sat one row behind Michelle Obama and inside of the first lady’s specialized box. The entire night was a testament to not only the resurgence of the auto industry, but the growing power of women in the workplace.

After the State of the Union, Barra said, “I was honored to accept the first lady’s invitation, and delighted to represent the men and women of GM who are doing their best to make GM a company that Americans can be proud of again. America’s resurgent auto industry is a great comeback story and its contribution to our nation’s economy should be a source of bipartisan pride. GM is doing its part to help lead a stronger auto industry that is creating new jobs and technologies.”

stateoftheunion2Of course, this isn’t Barra’s first run in with a major political figure this year. Earlier this year, Hillary Clinton was waiting in the wings to lavish praise on GM’s new CEO. During an interview at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in New Orleans, Clinton said, “I’m excited about GM’s new CEO- you might guess I would be. I guess you could say she broke through the steel ceiling, not the glass ceiling…It sends a really good signal to little girls and little boys across our country that we don’t have a person to waste.”

Many critics are saying that the support from Hillary and the Obama’s is only political propaganda. Undoubtedly, some of this true, but there is a bigger story here, a story that deserves to be void of political criticism. The story: the American auto industry is doing great, women are making progress, and the world is a better place for it.

Nissan’s 1.5 L- 400HP Engine Will Make History

The classic Ford RS200

The classic Ford RS200

From 1984 to 1986, Ford produced one of their most memorable vehicles, the Ford RS200. This car was extremely rare. In fact, today you’d probably be more likely to see Big Foot than an RS200; there were only 200 road legal versions ever built!

The RS200’s were composed of a plastic/fiberglass composite body (produced by Ghia), a mid-mounted engine, and 4 wheel drive. Even though it was a rarity on the road, the RS200 was featured in a number of races during the mid-80s and will be remembered for two things.

1. The RS200 was a part of one of the worst accidents in the history of racing at the Rally de Portugal. The crash ended up killing 3 spectators and injuring many more (Check out the video below).

2. The RS200 holds the record for horse power efficiency for a street legal, forced induction piston engine. It produced a whopping 246.6 horsepower per liter. And it did this all with a 1.8 Liter engine!

The Ford RS200 has held this prestigious record for nearly 30 years, an unbelievable accomplishment in today’s technological world. However, this record could be crumbling down.

The new Nissan engine weighs an unbelievable 88 pounds!!

The new Nissan engine weighs an unbelievable 88 pounds!!

This week, Nissan and its motorsport partner NISMO announced a new engine that gives the classic Ford a run for its money. The motor is a turbo charged 1.5 liter three-cylinder that puts out a mind melting 400 horsepower. More impressively, though, is the fact that it only weighs 88 pounds! As of now, there is no information regarding whether or not this will be available in any street legal car, but if it was, it would take the efficiency title away from the RS200.

The new motor, however, will be featured in the 2014 ZEOD RC electrified race care and will be a participant in the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans race (June 14th). While there, the engine will make history. Because it is an electric-gasoline power hybrid, the car will run one lap on electric power alone, becoming the first car to ever complete a lap in a sanctioned motor race with zero emissions!

The new Nissan will make history at the Le Mans race in June.

The new Nissan will make history at the Le Mans race in June.

Overall, Nissan is extremely excited about this latest development. Nissan Global Motorsport Director, Darren Cox, says, “Our engine has done a truly remarkable job with the internal combustion engine. We knew the electric component of the Nissan ZEOD RC was certainly going to turn heads at Le Mans, but our combined zero emission on demand electric/petrol powerplant is quite a stunning piece of engineering. Nissan will become the first major manufacturer to use a three-cylinder engine in major international motorsport. We’re aiming to maintain our position as industry leaders in focusing on downsizing. Lessons learned from the development of the engine will be seen in Nissan road cars of the future.”

The Nissan GT-R NISMO Has An Unbelievable Zero to 60 Time

Some things are just built for speed, like leopards and Usain Bolt and a Rick James party. Sometimes, speed is the only thing that matters, and sometimes:

 

Image courtesy of Motor Trend

Image courtesy of Motor Trend

Now, Nissan is adding something else to the list: the 2015 Nissan GT-R Nismo. Originally introduced by Usain Bolt (the world’s fastest man) at the Los Angeles Auto Show, this vehicle is priced at 103,000 dollars and is one of the most impressive speed machines ever made. In a recent article from Motor Trend, writer Alex Nishimoto says, “[The Nismo] is said to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 2.0 seconds.” Considering performance vehicles only need to clock in at under 6 seconds, this time is mind blowing. Actually, according to Zero to 60 Times website, there is only one car that clocks in at a faster rate: 2002 Lingenfelter Chevrolet Corvette, which had a 1.97 second 0-60 time.

Nissan has been able to amp up the speed on this vehicle by incorporating a number of high performance upgrades. Some of these include:

  • An Adaptive Front lighting system, which automatically adjusts the beam angle at high speeds
  • A 55 horsepower upgrade to the 3.8 liter twin-turbo V6. It currently powers out a 600 hp at 6,800 rpm, as well as 481 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm.
  • It’s 66 pounds lighter than the GT-R Premium. This is made possible by a few changes, including carbon-fiber trunk lid and bumpers, a hollow rear antiroll bar, and the elimination of 22 pounds of sound deadening material.

Fred Diaz, the Divisional Vice President of Nissan Sales and Marketing, says of the car, “Nissan has always been the brand that did things differently. Our designs have stretched the envelope over the years. All Nissan products, just like the new GT-R NISMO, stand out among the competition because they are about the driver first and foremost and about using innovation to transform the driving experience.”

Would You Feel Safe In a Small, Hybrid Car?

The Chevrolet Spark was the only smaller car to earn an "acceptable" crash test rating.

The Chevrolet Spark was the only smaller car to earn an “acceptable” crash test rating.

Grabbing a hybrid car and going green is great for nature and a driver’s self-esteem. For hybrid drivers, it’s great for bragging rights and showcasing what a great person they are. After all, drivers of hybrid cars are protecting the environment and the future for upcoming generations. Unfortunately though, they may not be protecting themselves.

This past week, a number of the tiniest cars on the road failed miserably in the new small overlap crash test. The test, administered by The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), put nearly a dozen smaller cars through the process, and only one- the Chevrolet Spark- walked away with an “Acceptable” rating. Every other car earned less than stellar ratings.

Out of all the cars, the worst performing were the Honda Fit and the Fiat 500. According to reports, both of their passenger side compartments were “seriously compromised.” Also, the reports indicate that the driver side doors of the Fiat 500 were torn open, creating the risk of the driver being ejected from the vehicle.

Out of all the cars that were tested, none performed worse than the Fiat 500.

Out of all the cars that were tested, none performed worse than the Fiat 500.

IIHS vice president Joe Nolan commented on the results, saying, “Small, lightweight vehicles have an inherent safety disadvantage. That’s why it’s even more important to choose one with the best occupant protection. Unfortunately, as a group, mini cars aren’t performing as well as other vehicle categories in the small-overlap crash.” During this year’s crash test, the process was amped up to another level; the IIHS wanted cars to be fully responsible for any potential dangers. As a result, there was a 70 percent decrease in “Acceptable” crash test ratings.

In the days since the initial report, media outlets have been swarming on this news story, creating a whirlwind of bad publicity for smaller, hybrid cars. To battle the bad publicity, companies that failed the crash test have already issued statements. In a USA Today article, spokesman Russ Rader is quoted as saying, “There is no reason they can’t re-engineered to perform well in the tests. Often, the problem is that the main shock-absorbing materials are bypassed or missed when an offset crash test is conducted.”

This quote definitely sounds good, but would we expect these companies to say anything different? They would never admit to having a dangerous, less secure vehicle. Another thing: shouldn’t they have been prepared for this test beforehand? Why wouldn’t they have been?

Walking away from this story, I’m left with thinking one thing: If I was in a car accident and my life was on the line, I don’t think that I’d want to be in a small, hybrid car.