Automotive Makers Say Blockchain Could Help Resolve Consumer Safety Issues

Over 28 million vehicles were recalled in the year 2017.  As high as that number seems, it was actually higher in 2016 at 52 million vehicles recalled.

The number of recalls  had to due to with a defect in Takata airbags and their inflators.  The airbags would shoot out metal with the airbag when deployed.  Automotive makers are now saying that blockchain tracking systems can help by solving some issues around recalls, fake products, and consumer safety.

Although the Blockchain can’t help with all aspects of the car industry, it will help to alleviate the damage when people do have problems with their cars.

Blockchain is helping to protect buyers from counterfeit parts as well as accidents from defective parts. Counterfeit parts are part of a $45 billion dollar problem across the globe.  Yet very few manufacturers have adequate end-to-end visibility of parts entering and leaving their supply chain. Most do not have visibility beyond their immediate vendor, making an ideal environment for the counterfeit market.

Airbags, filters, brake pads, and radiators are common counterfeit parts, and has major safety concerns for consumers.  Accidents are more prone to happening with fake parts installed on vehicles. Blockchain is able to eliminate most counterfeit parts out of the supply chain. When parts are registered on the blockchain, companies can easily trace their provenance, create record transactions, and track changes in custody. Hypothetically, if a shipment of brake pads isn’t registered or proven authentic on the blockchain, a manufacturer can know that the parts are unusable when receiving inventory. Thus, these parts won’t be installed into new cars.

Another way that Blockchain can help automotive companies is that it’s able to pinpoint which vehicles need to be recalled.  This alleviates the need for automakers to overcompensate to protect consumers. Recalls cost automakers around $22 billion in 2016, and this would help them to better save money. With a blockchain-based system, it’s easier to track and trace parts from their source, all the way down to individual vehicles.  If a faulty product is coming from one supplier’s factory, like Takata’s, that problem can be pinpointed in the supply chain.

As cars become more automated, control of the vehicle will begin to shift from the driver to automation. Auto-park features, blind spot monitoring and automatic braking are the beginning of this process. Because of this, the integrity of electronics and software inside the car is crucial.

If individuals are going to place their trust in the technology of their car, people have to know the sensors and computers in their vehicles are working correctly—every single time. Which is another reason why it’s highly important to eliminate faulty and fake products.

Ultimately, blockchain solutions will allow for automakers to find out where the failures are and quickly alert owners when there’s an issue. It works for both seller and consumer, and equally keeps users more safe on the road.

FIFA World Cup Has Caused Shortage of Transportation

The FIFA World Cup 2018 has caused a temporary shortage of transportation in certain regions of Russia.  The shortage is due to a local rise in tariffs and regular delays at customs. Fear of Russia ceasing to import automotive parts from May 25th to June 25th due to security measures have proved to go unfounded.

Irina Novikova, the inland transport department director of Gefco said that restrictions on truck operations in Russia have also had a limited impact, leading to a small increase in transit time on the delivery of goods to the areas hosting World Cup games. Novikova stated that there have been delays at customs clearance that have also added to the shortage due to more thorough checks of cargoes and their documents.

Several governmental agencies have abandoned the idea to restrict the import of automotive parts through the Sochi Sea Port and the Port of St Petersburg. Port authorities notified their transportation companies that supplies were likely to be disrupted, according to Russian newspaper Kommersant.

It is not clear whether assembly plants located in the security zones around the football venues would be allowed to import parts overland as an alternative, and OEMs were advised to build up their inventories in advance – but were given little notice to do so.

Assembly plants operated by Toyota, Hyundai, Ford and Nissan in St Petersburg, as well as BMW, Hyundai and Kia in Kaliningrad are all affected. In late April, Nissan said it was worried that it would be left without enough airbags for the two months during the competition. Hyundai’s external relationships director, Viktor Vasilev, stated his concern about the restrictions while hoping that all sides would “keep prudence.”

The final list of goods which fell under the safety-related restrictions did not cover automotive parts and goods.

German Automakers are Willing to Abandon Car Tariffs

In recent news, German automakers say they are willing to abandon car tariffs between the European Union and the United State in exchange for President Trump dropping a 25 percent border tax threat on European automotive imports, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, was expected to meet with Trump’s administration on Wednesday, June 20th to discuss the matter.  The Wall Street Journal reports that German automakers support the European Unions 10 percent tax on auto imports from the U.S. and a 2.5 percent duty on auto imports gong away if Trump stops the threat of imposing a 25 percent border tax on auto imports coming from Europe.

Grenell has reportedly met with executives from German automakers including Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen. The three companies have plants in the United States and employ thousands of U.S. workers.

The Europeans also want to get rid of a a 25 percent tax on imports of pickups, crossovers, SUVs and big vans, according to the report.

Daimler confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that they held a meeting with Grenell.  Volkswagen did not confirm, while BMW stated that they support “free trade with minimal or no barriers.”

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump stated that he supports the making of of U.S.-made vehicles and U.S. auto jobs.

The 25 percent U.S. tariffs on imported steel and 10 percent tariffs on imported aluminum recently went into effect, also impacting the EU, Mexico, and Canada.

The European Union has decided to begin charging import duties of 25 percent on a range of U.S. products on Friday, June 22nd in response to the U.S. tariffs imposed on EU steel and aluminum. The decision confirms that this is a dispute that could potentially escalate into a trade war, more specifically if Trump carries out his threats to penalize European Automakers.

The commission formally adopted the law by putting in place the duties on 2.8 billion euros ($3.2 billion) worth of U.S. goods, including steel and aluminum products, farm produce such as sweetcorn and peanuts, bourbon, jeans and motor-bikes.

General Motors Announces Chevrolet Corvette Recall

General Motors has announced it is recalling almost 500 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1s from the 2019 model year due to airbag deployment issues. 

The company published a document stating that the sensing diagnostic model is “expose to extremely hard braking and sustained acceleration events under certain track conditions.  The SDM may enter a fault state and will not return to normal operation until battery power is removed from the system. In this faulted state, the SDM will not provide crash sensing or deploy airbags in the event of a crash.”

General Motors says the faulty operations can increase risk of injury in the event of a crash.  It is estimated that 1 percent of the 498 vehicles recalled could have the defect.  

The issue with the 750-hp vehicle was discovered by GM engineers during a media demonstration at the Road Atlanta racetrack at the end of April. The engineers reported the issue on May 3rd, and an investigation was opened beginning May 8th

GM tested the vehicle at its Milford Proving Ground and through a field data search found that the test revealed no related events.

The automaker’s Safety Field Action Decision Authority decided to conduct a recall as of May 24th

General Motors says that customers can check their vehicle identification number against the NHTSA or Chevrolet recall websites to see whether their vehicle is involved or not. Dealers have been notified of the recall as of May 31st, and can reprogram the device immediately. Owners of faulty vehicles are to be notified beginning June 29th, 2018.

Report says Positive Economic Impact from Self-Driving Cars Will Overshadow Job Displacement

As self-driving cars become more of a mundane occurrence, concerns about how they will affect the job market by replacing bus, truck, and taxi drivers are growing at an exponential rate. Instead of focusing on the immediate downside, these concerns need to the put up next to the potential, long-term advantages such as cheaper transportation, increased safety and productivity, and clean air, according to a team of economists and transportation experts.  

The report released last Tuesday, found that the annual economic payback from automated vehicles will be $800 billion by 2050. This includes the impact from reduced vehicle accidents ($503B), traffic congestion ($71B), and giving drivers more time to spend on doing something rather than being stuck in traffic ($63B). Because automated vehicles are in such an early stage of development, it is difficult to calculate the exact value, but the benefits definitely surpass the costs.  

The report titled, “America’s Workforce and the Self-Driving Future,” advises the government to create an environment that will encourage companies to implement automated vehicles while at the same time, preparing the workforce for a smooth transition to jobs that call for new skills.  The study states, “due to the large-scale societal benefits from the deployment of AVs, policies to address labor force issues must carefully consider their potential impact in delaying the deployment and thus the benefits of AVs. Delaying the deployment of AVs would represent a significant and deliberate injury to public welfare.” To lessen the impact to the current job market of vehicle drivers, the government needs to ensure that “the interests of the people who may lose jobs are well protected through effective mitigation programs.” 

Regarding the employment concern, the reports states that by the early 2030s, employment rolls could decrease by 0.06 percent and would then increase to +0.13 percent by 2050. Automated vehicle benefits in just one year would outweigh the total job losses over those decades. According to the report, the positive impact on societal productivity and life quality would be so great that we would be able to afford the programs that would retrain displaced workers.  

Automated vehicles will replace jobs, but they will also create new jobs for those displaced workers to move in to. The automated vehicle industry will need people to develop and manage the technology as well as fill other industry roles that haven’t been established yet but will be once automated cars become much more common.  

Auto sales Surpassing Expectations in 2018

Last month, car shoppers proved that because of the current strength of the job and housing market, that they are unbothered by increasing interest rates and high fuel prices. Buyers continued to purchase new vehicles at a steady climb.  Ford Motor Co. executives said that the sale of new vehicles in the U.S. rose by an estimated 2 percent in May. Last month’s sales greatly benefitted from Memorial Day sales. Stephanie Bringley, principal automotive analyst at HIS Markit says, “May appears set for a year-over-year gain in volume, which will be welcome with declines over the past three months.”  

 

In terms of individual automaker sales, Fiat Chrysler reported a 11% May sale increase to 214,294 vehicles. Their retail deliveries of 167,785 vehicles were the highest since July 2005. Ford also reported a total sales increase of 0.7 percent to 242,824. General Motors does not report monthly sales; however, industry analysts estimate that General Motors sales rose about 10 percent last month. Honda Motor Co reported a 3.1 percent increase in May sales, compared to last year’s May sales, to 153,069. 

 

Toyota Motor Corp, on the other hand, saw a sales dip of 1.3 percent and, Nissan Motor Co also saw a decrease in sales of 4.1 percent to 131,832 vehicles. Nissan’s Nissan brand reported a 3.8 percent decrease in sales and their Infiniti brand saw 7.1 percent decrease. Finally, Hyundai sales were up 10.1 percent to 66,056 vehicles and the Hyundai sister brand, Kia, was up 1.6% to 59,462 vehicles.  

 

All in all, U.S. auto sales have been fickle this year – low in February, high in March, low again in April. Industry experts credit this to consumers continuing to shift away from sedans into trucks and SUVs, which are general more expensive with a higher profit return. Ford had estimated that industry-wide retail car sales were down 10 percent, with SUV sales up 13 percent. 

The Demise of Diesel

According to a landmark new study, 3.3 million people are killed by air pollution every year – more than HIV, malaria, and influenza combined. And emissions from diesel engines are among the worst offenders. This has come a long way since the mindset exhibited in Audi’s Super Bowl ‘Green Police‘ ad in 2010 where cars running on diesel fuel could be driven with a clear conscious. In the past, diesel was viewed as a green option where drivers could be cost-efficient and environmentally friendly at the same time. We were all told that by using diesel-fueled cars we could cut our CO2 emissions in half thus, transitioning into eco-friendly period.

However, that “period” only lasted about two years. In 2012, evidence came forward that the Nitrogen oxides and dioxides and particulate matter emitted by diesel exhausts were the new silent killers. After that the studies and evidence produced grew exponentially. The European Environment Agency found that the nitrogen dioxide from diesel fuels were responsible for around 71,000 premature deaths across Europe in one year. The World Health Organization declared diesel exhaust a cause of lung cancer and placed it in the same category as asbestos and mustard gas. The final nail in the coffin came in 2015 when Volkswagen, one of the world’s largest car companies and heavy promoter of “clean diesel”, came forward admitting that they had cheated on their emission tests. In early April of this year, David King, the UK government’s former chief scientific advisor on climate change, admitted that officials had trusted the car industry and had made a huge mistake promoting diesel. Cities around the globe have been clamored for a solution. Diesel vehicles have been outlawed in Paris, Madrid, Athens, and Mexico City, and London has proposed low-emission zones and toll charges.

A poll created by YouGov last year found that 52% of Londoners and 54% of Parisians would support a ban on diesel. This will probably be how diesel cars will cease to exist. Not by bans, regulations, or legislations, but my societal disgust. Since Volkswagan’s announcement, dealers are expecting a global decrease in sales as consumers avoid diesel cars and manufactures invest less.

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.”