By Tom Torbjornsen
Well once again the automotive headlines stream from the news desk at America's Car Show. Read on ...
FIRE RISK PROMPTS 2014 MAZDA6 RECALL
Mazda has issued a recall for certain 2014-model-year Mazda6 sedans, citing increased fire risk. The company has been tracking problems with overfilled tanks for more than a year after an owner reported drops of gasoline on the ground after parking their vehicle following a refuel. Tanks installed in the Mazda6 with the 2.5-liter SkyActiv engine have been found vulnerable to overfilling, allowing gasoline to pass into the charcoal canister. Eventually, the fuel can exceed the capacity of the canister and drip out of the vapor vent line onto the pavement. Recalled vehicles will be outfitted with an adapter to the shut-off valve in the fuel tank, while the charcoal canister will be inspected and replaced if it is already partially filled with fuel.
GM RECALLS CADILLAC SRX CROSSOVERS OVER ACCELERATION LAG
General Motors is preparing to recall certain Cadillac SRX crossovers over an acceleration hesitation issue. The company has discovered a problem with the transmission control module installed in approximately 50,000 2013 vehicles outfitted with 3.6-liter engines. Improper calibration sometimes causes a three-to-four-second lag in acceleration. The issue is being handled as a safety recall because of the increased risk of a crash due to unexpected hesitation. All of the affected vehicles are covered by Cadillac's new-vehicle warranty and will be called in to have the transmission control module reprogrammed free of charge.
FCC ISSUES $48,000 FINE FOR DRIVER CAUGHT WITH CELLPHONE JAMMER
A Florida resident has been hit with a $48,000 fine for driving with a cellphone signal jammer in the back of his Toyota Highlander. Jason Humphreys wanted to take action in his quest to stop drivers from talking on their cellphones while driving, so he obtained a jammer to block the airwaves around his SUV during his daily commute on Interstate 4 between Tampa, Fla. and Seffner, Fla. He successfully blocked cellphone communications around his vehicle for 16 to 24 months until the Federal Communications Commission caught on.
The agency last year received a complaint from Metro Police noting persistent interference along the I-4 corridor; coinciding with the morning and evening commute times. Investigators were dispatched to the area with directional antennas, identifying a blue Highlander from which strong signals emanated.
Talking on cellphones while driving is not illegal in Florida, however using or importing cellphone signal jammers is a violation of federal law. The FCC notes that jammers pose a safety threat by "precluding the use of cellphones to reach life-saving 911 services provided by police, ambulance and fire departments." The agency has proposed the $48,000 fine as a punishment, though laws allow for fines of up to $116,000 for any single act that carries on for multiple days. Violators can also face additional criminal penalties, including imprisonment.
US SPECIAL FORCES TO EMPLOY HYBRID, MULTI-FUEL MOTORCYCLES
When it comes to our nation's special forces, getting to battle is a key part of the mission. Considering where many of those missions lead, it is just as important to get there unnoticed and traversing long distances without needing to refuel. So how about a hybrid all-wheel-drive motorcycle? The answer is yes. In modern warfare today, the dirt bike is a crucial part of the Navy SEAL's specialized vehicle arsenal. They include Kawasaki dirt bikes and Christini AWD military bikes. These specialty bikes feature modifications like inferred headlights, reserve fuel tanks, and heat-masking paints.
According to the military blog Foxtrot Alpha, Logos Technologies and BRD are teaming up to create a next-generation military bike, with backing from the DARPA - the Department of Defense's advanced development program. The bike needs to be undetectable in many shapes and forms. So, in addition to running on multiple fuel types, it can run on electric power - resulting in zero engine sound. That takes away a motorcycle's major tell. Just as important, the next-gen bikes are inexpensive (compared to other specialized transports), and can be suited for multiple theaters of warfare.
CITY STREETS? GOOGLE'S SELF-DRIVING CAR PROJECT SAYS, 'YEAH, WE GOT THIS'
Getting an autonomous car to navigate highway traffic according to Google is "old hat." Even automakers offer safety features like adaptive cruise control and lane assist, which provide a degree of autonomy on the interstate. But what about on city streets? How can autonomous cars cope with the never-ending construction, texting pedestrians, and the drivers to who don't use turn signals?
Google says they have the answer to these questions too. It's released a new video explaining how recent upgrades to its highly touted self-driving car allow it to maneuver over, under, through, and around many of the obstacles that cities throw its way. According to spokesperson Courtney Hohne, Google's autonomous-car software has learned to recognize a range of traffic signs, including stop signs held by crossing guards. Advances like this will help Google meet its goal of bringing autonomous cars to the market by the year 2017. That said, there's still plenty of work that Google must do before its autonomous cars are ready for the road. For example, when approaching a railroad track, the car comes to a full stop, waiting for the cars ahead of it to clear the tracks before proceeding. While that's good driving practice, it's easy to see that a human would make it across the tracks faster because they'd be able to see that there are no trains in the area.
Other problems for Google's autonomous car include traffic regulations, which can vary from intersection to intersection, like whether or not vehicles can turn right on red. And the company hasn't yet developed sensors that can offer perfectly safe driving in rain and fog. Yes ladies and gents, autonomous cars are coming, whether we like it or not.
CHRYSLER RECALLS CERTAIN 2014 RAM 1500 PICKUPS OVER TRANSMISSION DEFECT
Chrysler has announced a recall that affects a small batch of 2014-model-year Ram 1500 pickups. The company was notified by a supplier that a small shipment of eight-speed transmissions may have been built with a defect that could prevent the vehicle from shifting into park. The issue is said to be limited to eight-speed transmissions built during a 12-day period, limiting the recall's impact to a relatively small vehicle population. The company is unaware of any accidents or injuries caused by the defect, however affected vehicles will be inspected and receive new transmissions if the defect is discovered.
Well that does it for Automotive News this week!
'Til next time ... Keep Rollin'
Tom Torbjornsen is an automotive expert of 38 years. An automotive journalist in good standing with the International Motor Press Association and Motor Press Guild, Torbjornsen has been the Repair and Maintenance editor for AOL Autos, At Home Portals, and many other websites. Hear his radio show AMERICA'S CAR SHOW, locally on AM1340 WKSN via the SSI Radio Network Saturday mornings at 8. See Tom's television show, "America's Car Show" on Buffalo's all new WBBZ-TV, Channel 5 on Dish, channel 67 over-the-air and on DirecTV. The show airs weekly Wednesday nights 6:30-7. It is re-aired on Thursday mornings at 9 and Saturday mornings at 11. For more info on Tom Torbjornsen, visit AMERICA'S CAR SHOW website at: www.americascarshow.com. You can send Tom your car questions and TV show topic suggestions at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Find Tom's book, "How To Make Your Car Last Forever" in local Barnes & Noble booksellers and online at Amazon.com.