Autonomous Cars: Even the Millennials are Losing Faith

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In light of the recent crashes involving Tesla and Uber self-driving cars, two studies, one from AAA and the other from CarGurus, have been released showing that about three-quarters of consumers do not trust current autonomous driving technology.  

The first study, conducted by AAA, was a 1,014-person phone poll done in April, shortly after the fatal self-driving Uber crash in Tempe, Arizona and the Autopilot Tesla crash in Mountain View, California. The poll found that 73% of the participants are afraid to ride in a fully autonomous vehicle – a 10% increase from last year. This is compared to the mere 20% that said they do trust the autonomous driving technology. This is not, however, the most notable finding to come from the poll. AAA discovered that 64% of millennials are too afraid to ride in a fully autonomous car, which is a 15% increase from just four months prior.  

CarGurus’ survey consisted of 1,873 vehicle owners ranging between 18 and 65 years old. The survey, also done in April, found that 84% of the participants said they won’t or probably won’t own a fully autonomous car in the next five years. However, when asked which company they trusted the most to develop safe autonomous car, 24% said Tesla. It was surprising that Tesla received the highest trust score (compared to Toyota’s 9% and General Motors’ 6%) despite the recent accidents in Texas and California. 

Both AAA’s and CarGurus’ surveys had paradoxical results. 55% of the respondents in AAA’s survey said they want semi-autonomous features in their next car, despite the opposition to the technology. Car Gurus also found that safety is the top reason people want autonomous driving (64%) and the top reason why they do not want it (81%). 

Because of the novelty of autonomous driving technology, it is subject to a much higher level of scrutiny. Hopefully, it is not enough to slow down what could be a very revolutionary technology. It is just going to take some time. 

The Safest Used Cars for Your Teen Driver

Safety is one of the biggest factors parents look for when they are buying their teenage driver’s first car. Given that the fatal accident rate for teenagers is three times that of all other drivers, the parents’ focus on safety is justifiable. Over the last ten years, more and more safety features have become required on car models. Anne McCartt, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s senior vice president of research, states that “it is easier than ever to find a used vehicle with must-have safety features and decent crash test performance without spending a fortune.”

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is guided by four main principles when defining safety in their recommendations:

  • Young drivers should stay away from high horsepower.
  • Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer than smaller cars
  • Electronic stability control (ESC) is a must.
  • Vehicles should have the best safety ratings possible.

The IIHS recommended list of used cars are all under $20,000 for base models, with many choices under $10,000, and even a few as low as $5,000. According to an IIHS survey, average price paid for cars driven by teenagers is $9,800 and the median price is $5,300. McCartt however urges parents to consider paying a little more for safety if they can.

Scroll to see the list of IIHS’ recommended cars for teen drivers.

 

Midsize car: 2016 Honda Accord $310 per month

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Large car: 2016 Volvo S60 $406 per month

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Small SUV: 2017 Subaru Forester $395 per month

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Midsize SUV: 2016 Kia Sorento $336 per month

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Large SUV: 2017 Chevrolet Traverse $299 per month

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Minivan: 2016 Honda Odyssey $398 per month

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Pickups: 2018 Toyota Tundra $442 per month

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GM Moves to 3D Printing for Refined Part Designs

General Motors and Autodesk have recently collaborated to create new part designs that will become a reality through 3D printing. These new parts will serve every purpose and, more importantly, be lighter and stronger than traditionally manufactured parts. David Darovitz, GM’s global product development spokesperson, spoke about the seat bracket design in particular stating, “We developed a proof-of-concept seat bracket that transitions eight components into one using new generative design software from Autodesk. The concept part is about 40 percent lighter and 20 percent stronger than the bracket we use today.”

Smaller components such as seat brackets are not the only application for the 3D printing technology. The first recipients of the 3D printed parts will be on low-volume vehicles. But why would GM restrict this technology to low-volume vehicles instead of using it to differentiate themselves from their competition, especially those in Detroit? Darovitz explains that, with a part like the seat bracket, a cost analysis must be done from a total enterprise cost perspective.The new design will eliminate the shipping cost of sending the parts between suppliers, the capital cost of building stamping dyes for each of the stamped parts, and the welding costs. However, 3D printing costs are still high compared to those of traditional manufacturing method, which offsets the savings listed above.

Because each part is different, an individual business case analysis has to be made to determine whether or not the costs of 3D printing that part are lower than traditional manufacturing methods. “We may choose to invest more to 3D print a part if the added value in terms of performance merits the additional cost,” says Darovitz. “If a traditional manufacturing process is less expensive than 3D printing and there is not substantial performance benefit, then traditional manufacturing processes will be used.”

We see 3D printing on  more low production applications, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be seen in the high-volume vehicles that GM produces. “As the capabilities of 3D printing advances to print larger parts faster, the technology will be able to support higher-volume end-use production applications,” Darovitz added. “This will enable us to broaden our use of generative design for additive manufacturing across the GM portfolio to further lighten our vehicles.”

Even though the manufacture of vehicles using 3D printed parts is still a pipe dream, it is on the way, but there is no definite timeline. Darovitz states,”We are working on part designs now for future application, but not ready to share the specifics.”

Ford Recalls 350,000 Trucks and SUVs over Rollaway Concerns

Ford is recalling approximately 350,000 trucks and SUVs across the United States due to possible rollaway concerns. The recall includes 2018 Ford-F-150 and 2018 Ford Expedition vehicles with 10-speed programmed transmissions and also 2018 Ford F-650 and F-750 medium-heavy work trucks with six-speed automatics.

The issue includes a clasp that bolts the gearshift cable to the transmission. On some damaged trucks and SUVs, the clasp may not be completely balanced, and it could inevitably be removed. On the off chance that that happens, the transmission could be in an unexpected gear in comparison to what the driver chose. The driver could move the truck into park, and with out the proper bolts, thee truck could conceivably roll away. Ford said it is aware of one accident and damage associated with the issue.

The recall covers 347,425 vehicles in North America, incorporating 292,909 in the United States, 51,742 in Canada, and 2774 in Mexico. Here’s a full breakdown of the associated trucks:

  • 2018 Ford F-150 vehicles built at Dearborn Assembly Plant, January 5, 2017, to February 16, 2018;
  • 2018 Ford F-150 vehicles built at Kansas City Assembly Plant, January 25, 2017, to February 16, 2018;
  • 2018 Ford Expedition vehicles built at Kentucky Truck Plant, April 3, 2017, to January 30, 2018;
  • 2018 Ford F-650 and F-750 vehicles built at Ohio Assembly Plant, April 25, 2017, to March 9, 2018

Customers affected by the recall should take the vehicle to a local dealership, where technicians can investigate to check whether the clasp has been incorrectly placed.

A different, substantially smaller recall that includes a potential rollaway issue affects 161 Ford F-150s, Expeditions, Mustangs, and Lincoln Navigators. Ford said affected vehicles could be feeling the loss of a roll pin that is connected to the park pawl rod guide cup to the transmission case. Without the pin, the transmission could in the long run lose the capacity to be locked in a park, even with the shifter display saying that it’s in park. These are the affected vehicles:

  • 2017-18 Ford F-150 pickups built at Dearborn Assembly Plant, October 20, 2016, to March 5, 2018;
  • 2017-18 Ford F-150 pickups built at Kansas City Assembly Plant, December 22, 2017, to February 26, 2018;
  • 2018 Ford Expedition SUVs built at Kentucky Truck Plant, November 28, 2017, to February 14, 2018;
  • 2018 Ford Mustangs built at Flat Rock Assembly Plant, November 6, 2017, to February 12, 2018;
  • 2018 Lincoln Navigator SUVs built at Kentucky Truck Plant, December 13, 2017, to March 8, 2018

Ford said it doesn’t know about any accidents because of this issue. For affected vehicles, merchants will review the transmission and replace it with a roll pin if necessary.

ELECTRIFICATION: THE SWITCH TO FULLY ELECTRIC CARS MAY TAKE SOME TIME

With several growing trends in the automobile world, electric cars are beginning to gain a lot of attention, and many seem to be replacing old-fashioned combustion engines during this process. Given some of the overwhelming media coverage headlines, a lot

of people may be thinking that petrol and diesel engines are destined for the scrap heaps. However, the reality is quite different. Yes, the car industry is enjoying some remarkable change in the manufacturing of innovative automobiles, yet still, experts believe there is much more ahead for the industry.

The recent Frankfurt Motor show in Germany has again been inundated by the need for electrification in the automotive industry. Brands like Volkswagen announced in certain terms that it would build electrified versions of every model under its range by 2030. Automotive powerhouse Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes also announced that it would have electric versions of its models by 2022.

Although electrification has been gaining popularity in the automobile world, this trend equally comes with a lot of limitations, as countries will have to start investing in infrastructures that will fuel electric vehicles.

While electric car enthusiasts are anxiously rooting for this technology, it is important to note that electrification will have to wait a little longer before it finally kicks diesel and petrol engines to the back burner. While automobile companies are embracing this technology, they aren’t looking to get rid of diesel or petrol engines.  They are simply promising to manufacture electric versions of all their car brands.

For people who have little knowledge of the technology, it is important to know that while electric vehicles can be referred to as fully electric battery powered cars, they can also be used to describe hybrid-powered cars. Anyone who knows anything about hybrid cars, will inform you that hybrid comes in many forms. For instance, plug-in hybrid comes with a large battery capacity and can entirely run on electric power for some time, although it also has a petroleum engine. There are also full hybrid electric car like the Toyota Prius that powers electric motors with a conventional engine. The difference with this type of electric car is that you don’t need to plug it in for a recharge.

For people who may wonder why it will take some time before cars become fully electric, it’s mainly due to the fact there are several laws that comes with the adoption of a new technology. Governments have to invest into infrastructures that support electric vehicles, which is costly and time consuming.

Maintenance and Customer Satisfaction is Key for Dealer Revenue Stream

It has often times been said by dealers that “everything begins when you sell a car.”  However, is this term still true into 2018? Is it worth dealers cutting deals and losing cash on an initial sale, with the hope and expectation that the dealer might pick up a service customer?

Some say that merchants could have it in reverse. Dealers are investing 80 percent of their energy and strategy into the piece of the business that returns 20 percent of their revenue: sales.

When actually, fixed operations speak to approximately 15 percent of automotive dealer income. However, focusing on the maintenance of vehicles is scarcely on the radar of numerous automotive dealerships.

Most dealerships focus on sales because that is the means by which they achieve the highest return in the shortest amount of time. It’s the lucrative but more fun side of the business. It’s where sales-people learned a crucial skill: how to negotiate with the processing plant as well as haggle with the consumer.

One of the best tactics to ensure consistent revenue, is to provide the customer with incredible service.  This keeps the dealership clients satisfied, and thus they continue to take their next car back to the service department in which they are satisfied, regardless of whether they bought their car from that particular dealership or not.

Auto resale services such as CarMax won’t repair the cars that they sell. Neither will a dealership like Nissan that became tied up with Nissan’s high-volume sales technique, and doesn’t have the accompanying service capacity.

Throughout the coming three years, many predict that the dealership’s prosperity will depend less on the number of new vehicles they offer, and more on the number of client pay repair orders they satisfy- as well as how well they deal with and leverage their inventory.

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Car Maintenance in April

April is National Car Care Month.  As Spring approaches, many cars are not ready for the summer months after a long cold winter.  Salt and harsh road conditions are corrosive to metal, and destroy the clear coat on your paint, which makes your car lose value.  April is the time to maintenance your vehicle before the summer months.

From a business perspective, vehicle maintenance is a money making industry.  Basic maintenance fuels millions of dollars into the automotive industry ever year.    Vehicle registrations grew in the United States by over 27.36% last year according to Country Economy.  Although not all vehicles require a mechanic, simple maintenance and upkeep such as waxing can add extra dollars to the pockets of auto-dealers.

Basic maintenance and upkeep can go a long way in improving the safety and dependability of your vehicle, as well as helps to avoid costly repairs in the future.   According to AAA, the average American spend approximately $792 per year on the maintenance of their vehicle.  Neglecting your vehicle only adds to expenses, and may be the reason for increased costs in years to come.

Some simple steps that car owners can take to avoid costly repairs are:

  • Check all fluids in your car regularly including oil, filters, brakes, transmission, power steering, and coolant
  • Replace engine and cabin filers every six months
  • Inspect hoses at each oil change and have them replaced when leaking
  • Check belts and serpentine belts for looseness and condition
  • Check the brake system at least once per year as well as brake linings, rotors, and drums
  • Check that the battery connection is clean, tight, and corrosion-free
  • Maintain tire pressure and tread, and keep an eye out for uneven or irregular wear
  • Have your alignment checked regularly to improve fuel economy and handling

The key to maintenance is following your owners-manual, as well as vehicle service schedule for the proper times to maintain your automobile.

Reform That the EPA Should Consider When Making Fuel Economy Rules

Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final determination in its mid-term review of greenhouse has emissions that will govern new passenger vehicles sold in the United States from 2022-2025.  The agency decided that the standards are too high, and now plans to lower them.

Many news articles have been written about the EPA and the decision, and it seems that auto companies wanted to revisit the standards.  The reason may not be about improving auto standards but rather innovating the credit market.

Here is the relevant text, which comes in a section about electric vehicle sales and is intended to explain one of the major differences between the original determination completed by the Obama Administration and the one completed by the Trump Administration:

“The agency’s January 2017 Determination was completed at a time when the trends and data…showed that the majority of the major car-manufacturing companies were “over-complying” with their relative GHG compliance requirements and building up credits. EPA’s latest data show that starting in MY 2016, many companies, for the first time, had to rely on credits in order to comply with the program. While these companies did remain in compliance, they are relying on banked credits which suggests that it may be increasingly difficult for them to comply going forward as they use up their supply of credits. Additionally, the stringency curve dramatically increases at around the same time these credits could run out, further complicating the feasibility of compliance for MY 2022 – 2025.”

At the time that this determination was made, the industry as a whole was producing vehicles whose performance was already above the standards.  As a result, companies were focused on greenhouse gas emission shortfalls.  When the oil prices crashed in 2014, American consumers began purchasing more SUV’s and pickup trucks that were less efficient than cars. Because trucks are less efficient than cars and generally more costly to improve, compliance levels started to drop. Following the oil drop, incentives on flex-fuel vehicles expired.

While the EPA discussed these developments as indicative of a problem, the credit system was still working as intended. The credit provided flexibility and the ability to reduce compliance costs in the event of a plunge in gasoline prices.

Part of the problem has to do with the kids of vehicles that companies sell in regards to the EPA rule.  The three biggest U.S. auto companies that were major credit consumers in 2016 were GM, Ford, and Chrysler.  Moreover, some of the big three will soon likely be out of banked credits. After consuming 13 million tonnes of credits in 2016, GM, for instance, had only 19 million left entering 2017. Chrysler and Ford are in similar situations. These companies were all likely consumers of credits again in 2017, though EPA has not yet publicly released that data.

Honda Accord Production to Temporarily Idle Due to Slow Sales

As of March 2018, Honda announced that the Honda Accord is not selling as well as anticipated.  Honda is asking dealers to help move their Sedans off the lot, and because of the slow sales- will also halt production in spurts over the next few months.

According to popular news source Automotive News, Honda is telling its workers at their Marysville, Ohio plant to take two days off per month from April to June. Honda will extend it’s summer shutdown in July by five days, making for a total of 11 days that production will idle for the Accord.  As an alternative to days off, employees can opt to work jobs not related to production on those 11 days instead. A Honda spokesman told Automotive News, “This is just really business as usual and we’re adjusting production down to match the market condition at this moment.”

The market shows that consumers are starting to favor crossovers over sedans, so it’s expected that the Accord is experiencing a drop in sales.  This February, Honda sold 50,178 copies of the CR-V crossover but just 37,430 Accords. On March 1, Honda had a 104-day supply of Accords, which is quite high compared to the industry average of about 70 days. And it’s particularly high by Honda’s standards.

Honda typically stays away from offering incentives to buyers, however time will tell if the automaker plans to move or cut down on inventory.  Earlier this month, Honda announced that they were “pleased with the growing market share and top transaction prices that the all-new 2018 Honda Accord is garnering in its segment.”  However, they plan to “work collaboratively with dealer partners to ensure the overall value proposition with each of our products is competitive in the marketplace.”

Doctors can now call Uber for patients with Uber Health

The popular ride-hailing company, Uber, has announced the creation of its new service for healthcare- Uber Health. The service is a desktop platform that will enable healthcare providers and doctors to make available rides for patients who are most likely to miss their next medical appointments because they can’t get to them.

Uber Health is a transit service of the Uber ride-hailing company, showing its commitment to venture into the healthcare sector in the United States. The service is offering an option for patients who may not otherwise make appointments due to the fact that they may not have transportation.

The Uber Health Service is something that has been in a testing phase since the beginning of July last year. As many as 100 hospitals, clinics, and therapy centers, have signed up for the new service. The Uber Health Service will be available to manage rides set up by doctor’s office, or by other healthcare providers and bill them accordingly.

The use of the Uber app has replaced medical shuttles and taxis.  The only service that will not be part of this new addition is the ambulance.

Some of the benefits to the Uber Health App include:

  • On-Demand Scheduling

According to a SCI Solutions survey, missed appointments are responsible for over +$150 billion dollars in annual losses for healthcare providers.  “No-Show” rates make up for as much as 40%.  However, with a reliable service like Uber Health, that rate will drop significantly as more people are now able to afford transportation.

  • Destination Tracking

Uncertainty is part of the problem that healthcare facilities often have with taxis and bringing patients to their medical appointments. “With taxis, you have to hand out a voucher, and the worst is you aren’t sure where the person is going. Moreover, it cost 20% to 40% more,” concluded, Chris Needman, a Healthcare Provider involve in testing the Uber Health Service.

But with Uber Health, the story is different. The service allows hospital staff to assess which patients are at risk for missing vital appointments, and from there can provide them with pick-up and drop-off rides—all at the expense of the hospital.

  • Help in Realizing Patients Goals

The Uber Health ride-hailing service allows healthcare providers to assist patients in meeting their healthcare goals—an essential factor for regulators when scoring how well a facility performs.

Lyft, one of Uber’s rival in the hailing business also offers a similar service known as “Concierge,” which enables healthcare providers to provide rides for their patients as well. Uber also operates another service called UberWAV, which enables providers to order wheelchair accessible vans through pilot programs in Chicago, Toronto, Austin, and London, as stated in Uber’s official website.

The service provided by Uber and Lyft in the healthcare industry makes for a revolution that tactically removes traditional transportation providers such as taxis and shuttle services.