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Toyota wants to commercialize solid-state EV batteries by 2022, reports say

Solid electrolyte could make electric cars lighter, battery smaller.

The digital tools that designed the Tesla Model 3 and crash-tested...

Dassault Systèmes’ 3D platform aims to do it all.

Review: The Toyota C-HR Hybrid is a mass-market vehicle with panache

Toyota C-HR is the best of the increasingly popular midsize SUV segment.

Becoming Genesis—the 2018 G80 Sport

Hyundai's upmarket brand is starting to find its feet.

Toyota is testing heavy-duty hydrogen trucks at the Port of Long...

For use in short-haul routes, full testing begins this summer.

Volkswagen boss won’t rule out sale to Fiat-Chrysler

CEO Matthias Mueller has changed his tune from just a week ago.

Mazda’s move upmarket with the 2017 CX-5

Mazda aims at the likes of BMW and Audi with its new crossover.

Toyota and Shell could build 7 hydrogen refueling stations in California

Oil giant and automaker hedge their bets on fossil fuel dependence.

Who bought the single Prius that was sold in China in...

An end to domestic production and big import fees partly to blame for low sales.

EPA: Fiat Chrysler diesels have software to thwart emissions controls

Enlarge / STERLING HEIGHTS, MI - AUGUST 26: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne speaks at an event celebrating the start of production of three all-new stamping presses at the FCA Sterling Stamping Plant August 26, 2016 in Sterling Heights, Michigan. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)Bill Pugliano reader comments 89 Share this story On Thursday the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Fiat Chrysler (FCA) diesel vehicles were found to have "at least eight" instances of undisclosed software that modified the emissions control systems of the cars.

The vehicles implicated in the EPA's Notice of Violation (NOV) include 2014, 2015, and 2016 diesel Jeep Grand Cherokees, as well as Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0-liter diesel engines.

The allegations involve 104,000 vehicles, the EPA said. The EPA says it's still in talks with FCA and hasn't ordered the company to stop selling affected cars yet, nor is it officially calling the software a "defeat device" just yet until FCA provides a more detailed explanation. In a press conference, agency officials said that the undisclosed software was discovered after September 2015, when the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) began doing additional testing on vehicles in the wake of the Volkswagen Group scandal. VW Group was discovered to have almost 600,000 diesel vehicles on US roads with some kind of illegal software on them.

The software allowed VW Group's cars to pass emissions testing under lab conditions but would reduce the effectiveness of emissions controls under real-world driving conditions, causing the cars to emit nitrogen oxide (NOx) far in excess of federal limits. According to the EPA, FCA's undisclosed software works similarly, too.

EPA Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles told press Thursday morning that the "software is designed such that, during the emissions test, Fiat Chrysler’s cars meet the standards," for NOx emissions. However, the "software reduces the effectiveness of emissions controls when driving at high speed or for long durations," she added. These kinds of workarounds are not uncommon for car makers to use and are not illegal if they're properly disclosed and approved by the EPA.

But efforts to meet emissions standards have driven automakers to install undisclosed devices illegally for decades.
In fact in the 1970s, Chrysler—along with GM, Ford, American Motors, Nissan, and Toyota—was reprimanded by the EPA for installing defeat devices in its cars to "defeat the effectiveness of emission control systems under conditions not experienced during EPA’s certification testing." In some instances the defeat devices helped the cars start more easily in cold weather, in others, time-delay switches cut the emissions control systems while the cars shifted from low to high gears. In Europe, too, rules allow diesel vehicles to cut the emissions control system under certain conditions like cold weather.

Automakers have toed a line, though, using emissions control software where "cold" weather means as high as 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Giles noted during the EPA's press conference that the agency has tested other diesel vehicles since the Volkswagen scandal was made public and found no violations. "It is by no means impossible to make a clean diesel vehicle that meets our standards," she said. In a statement (PDF), FCA said it would continue to work with the EPA to resolve the issue. "FCA US diesel engines are equipped with state-of-the-art emission control systems hardware, including selective catalytic reduction (SCR).

Every auto manufacturer must employ various strategies to control tailpipe emissions in order to balance EPA’s regulatory requirements for low nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and requirements for engine durability and performance, safety and fuel efficiency.

FCA US believes that its emission control systems meet the applicable requirements." FCA added that it had spent "months providing voluminous information" to the EPA and other regulators.

The company said it had also made proposals to fix the issues, including "developing extensive software changes to our emissions control strategies that could be implemented in these vehicles immediately to further improve emissions performance." FCA has not yet been sued, but the EPA says it could be "liable for civil penalties and injunctive relief for the violations alleged in the NOV [Notice of Violation]." Correction: This story originally said the EPA found the software on the FCA diesels was illegal.
In fact, the EPA is still determining whether the software itself was illegal. However, Fiat Chrysler violated EPA rules by not disclosing the software.

DOJ indicts 6 Volkswagen executives, automaker will pay $4.3 billion in...

photo reader comments 23 Share this story The US Justice Department announced on Wednesday that Volkswagen would pay $4.3 billion in civil and criminal fines and plead guilty to three criminal charges pertaining to the automaker’s diesel emissions scandal.

The DOJ also announced an indictment of six high-level VW Group executives, who are charged with lying to regulators and destroying documents. Working with US Customs and Border Patrol, the DOJ brought against VW Group charges of defrauding the US government, committing wire fraud, and violating the Clean Air Act.

As part of the settlement, VW Group has agreed to submit to three years of criminal probation, which will require the German automaker to "retain an independent monitor to oversee its ethics and compliance program." It has also agreed to cooperate with the DOJ's ongoing investigations into individual executives that may have been involved with the scandal. For the past 17 months, the automaker has maintained that none of its executives were involved with the diesel scandal, in which illegal software was discovered on Volkswagens, Audis, and Porsches to alter the cars' emissions controls depending on whether the cars sensed they were under real-world driving conditions or lab conditions.
Instead, VW Group claimed, "rogue engineers" were responsible for the placement of the emissions cheating software on the cars. After the software was discovered, VW Group admitted that its cars did have mechanisms to reduce the effectiveness of the emissions controls on its so-called "Clean Diesel" cars.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department and a class-action group of consumers pursued civil penalties from VW Group, leading to historic settlements of many billions of dollars earlier this year. This new agreement repudiates VW Group's assertion that its executives were wholly innocent of tampering with the cars' emissions control systems.

The indicted VW Group executives include Richard Dorenkamp, Bernd Gottweis, Jens Hadler, Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Jürgen Peter, and Oliver Schmidt.
Schmidt, a former emissions compliance executive for VW Group, is the only executive currently in the US—he was arrested over the weekend by the FBI on charges that he knew about the cheating software and lied to federal regulators about it. Among the other five men indicted, Richard Dorenkamp, head of VW’s technical development for lowest emission engines, was suspended from VW Group in 2015; Bernd Gottweis, a retired VW Group executive, apparently warned CEO Martin Winterkorn that the company's cars could be found with defeat devices; Jens Hadler worked as executive director of powertrain development at Volkswagen in 2008; Heinz-Jakob Neusser oversaw Volkswagen research and development; and Jürgen Peter was a Volkswagen engineering executive who implored his colleagues via internal e-mail to "Come up with the story please!" when the California Air Resources Board started pressing Volkswagen on discrepancies in emissions tests that persisted after VW Group issued a "fix." So far, Volkswagen has agreed to pay $15 billion to compensate victims of the 2.0L diesel engine scandal, $1 billion to settle charges related to 3.0L diesel vehicles (although owner compensation hasn’t been decided on yet), and $1.2 billion to compensate US Volkswagen dealers, who were unaware that the cars they were selling were not in compliance with US emissions regulations. One engineer, James Liang, has pleaded guilty. According to the Associated Press, this fresh $4.3 billion settlement "is the largest ever levied by the government against an automaker, eclipsing the $1.2 billion fine against Toyota in 2014 over safety issues related to unintended acceleration." Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell, speaking at the DOJ's press conference, said that VW Group executives were largely responsible for the scandal, describing a company culture where "lower-level people" expressed concerns and "higher-level people" decided to move forward with planting the illegal software.

Apple’s FaceTime blamed for girl’s highway crash death in new lawsuit

Barry Davisreader comments 61 Share this story According to the latest figures available, US highway deaths increased by more than 10 percent year-over-year during the first half of 2016. One big reason? Distracted driving with mobile phones.
It's a reality that now has one phone-maker in some unusual legal crosshairs. Apple, maker of the ever-popular iPhone, is being sued on allegations that its FaceTime app contributed to the highway death of a 5-year-old girl named Moriah Modisette.
In Denton County, Texas, on Christmas Eve 2014, a man smashed into the Modisette family's Toyota Camry as it stopped in traffic on southbound Interstate 35W. Police say that the driver was using the FaceTime application and never saw the brake lights ahead of him.
In addition to the tragedy, father James, mother Bethany, and daughter Isabella all suffered non-fatal injuries during the crash two years ago. The Modisette family now wants Apple to pay damages for the mishap.

The family alleges the Cupertino, California-based technology company had a duty to warn motorists against using the app and that it could have used patented technology to prohibit drivers from utilizing the app.

According to the suit (PDF) filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court: Plaintiffs allege APPLE, INC.'s failure to design, manufacture, and sell the Apple iPhone 6 Plus with the patented, safer alternative design technology already available to it that would automatically lock-out or block users from utilizing APPLE, INC.'s 'FaceTime' application while driving a motor vehicle at highway speed, and failure to warn users that the product was likely to be dangerous when used or misused in a reasonably foreseeable manner and/or instruct on the safe usage of this and similar applications, rendered the Apple iPhone 6 defective when it left defendant APPLE, INC's possession, and were a substantial factor in causing plaintiffs' injuries and decedent's death. The patent referenced, issued by the US patent office in April 2014, is designed to provide a "lock-out mechanism" to prevent iPhone use by drivers.

The patent claims a "motion analyzer" and a "scenery analyzer" help prevent phone use. The reliability of such lock-out services, however, has come into question. "The motion analyzer can detect whether the handheld computing device is in motion beyond a predetermined threshold level.

The scenery analyzer can determine whether a holder of handheld computing device is located within a safe operating area of a vehicle.

And the lock-out mechanism can disable one or more functions of the handheld computing device based on output of the motion analyzer, and enable the one or more functions based on output of the scenery analyzer," according to the patent. Apple has not commented on the lawsuit, but it has said that drivers are responsible for their behavior. "For those customers who do not wish to turn off their iPhones or switch into Airplane Mode while driving to avoid distractions, we recommend the easy-to-use Do Not Disturb and Silent Mode features," Apple said in a statement. The suit comes amid mounting reports of motorists crashing while being distracted with their phones.
Such accidents take place as drivers engage in everything from playing Pokémon Go to texting.
In the US, proposed solutions have popped up from the mundane (more officers watching for phone usage) to the unorthodox (Textalyzers that prevent cars from functioning; alarms that go off if a driver's hands leave the wheel for three seconds).

Elsewhere, British officials are to meet with phone makers in a push for a "drive safe" phone mode in the UK. Garrett Wilhelm, the accused driver of the car that smashed into the Modisette vehicle, has been charged with manslaughter.