By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario -- October 22, 2015 -- Recapping a few of the interesting items you might have missed this week:
- Blurring the lines between the autobody world and the virtual world is video game producer Rockstar Games, which announced that it’s new “Lowrider add-on pack” for its popular Grand Theft Auto 5 game will feature the grand re-opening of Benny’s Original Motor Works. The new custom autobody shop will offer a huge range of lowrider customizations that “can turn your classic junker into a high-spec, tricked-out king of the streets.”
According to a Rockstar press release, the grand re-opening of Benny’s happened October 20. Players in the online version of the game can now drive their vehicle into the shop and have workers install hydraulics, engines, steering wheels, rims, tires, gear shift levers, horns, rear window plaques, vanity plates and plate holders, large stereos, vinyls, paint-jobs and even bobbleheads for the dash.
- As the auto industry continues to grapple with a series of safety scandals, US regulators have announced a plan to “require systems that enable vehicles to avoid accidents by communicating with each other,” according to a US press report. This kind of vehicle-to-vehicle contact isn’t quite technically possible yet. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) needs to look like it’s working on vehicle safety right now. The administrator of the NHTSA, Mark Rosekind, told reporters this week he "absolutely" agrees with members of Congress who “accused the auto industry of fostering a culture of corruption with regard to safety.”
There are questions being used in the US about why it took so long for GM to fix the faulty ignition switch that had led to car fires and deaths. Fiat-Chrysler has been criticized for being very slow to recall vehicles. And then there is the VW emissions debacle. Rosekind is pushing new safety measures, including the adoption of connected vehicle systems, even if these systems are years away from being useable in real world situations.
On this same issue, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee held a hearing Wednesday on a Republican-drafted auto safety bill. One provision would require the NHTSA to prepare “recall notices in coordination with automakers.” Critics say this provision prevents the agency from making safety defects public until the automakers have a say in the process. This would "seriously undermine NHTSA's efforts to ensure safety," Rosekind said. "Ultimately, the public expects NHTSA, not industry, to set safety standards." The provision is "essentially a congressionally sanctioned defeat device” on the ability of the NHTSA to demand a recall.
- Apparently the Russian car market is collapsing. With the price of oil low, a country that is radically dependent on exports of liquid hydrocarbons is suffering. The evidence is in the Russian car market, which saw a decline in the sale of new passenger cars by 28.6 percent in the month of September. This is according to data released by the Moscow-based AEB Automobile Manufacturers Committee.
- Tim Cook is Steve Jobs’ replacement as the CEO of Apple. He warned at a tech conference this week that the global automobile industry is “on the brink of a technology-led upheaval.” Some took this as a hint that the maker of the iPhone is planning on getting into the auto industry. “It would seem that there will be massive change, massive, in that industry,” Cook was quoted as saying. “I do think that industry is at an inflection point for massive change, not just evolutionary change.”
- A Texas man faces 20 years in prison for swerving into a motorcycle. You can check out video of the incident in the player below. Investigators say the man blamed the crash on a spider bite. The camera man who recorded the video footage asked the driver what he thought he was doing and he reportedly answered, "I don't care.”
- The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, police and provincial leaders have issued a warning that drivers be extra cautious as the seasonal spike in pedestrian accidents arrives. In Canada, the change in weather and shorter days combine to boost the rate of car-pedestrian collisions to almost twice the rate as in the summer. So be careful. Some tips for pedestrians to stay safe: Make eye contact with drivers; increase visibility by wearing bright or reflective clothing, and stay alert at intersections.