‘Trouble-free day! No joke’: Honda-powered Toro Rosso F1 car debuts

toro+rosso.jpegHonda’s Formula One partnership with the Toro Rosso team got off to a positive start on Wednesday with a seemingly smooth track debut of their new car on a limited mileage filming day in Italy.

“Trouble-free day!! No joke,” commented French driver Pierre Gasly on Twitter.

New Zealander Brendon Hartley, who was at the wheel of the TR13 car at the wet Misano circuit, reported on Instagram that “the new girl ran super smooth.”

Honda is starting over with the Red Bull-owned team this season after three seasons of failure with former champions McLaren left the Japanese engine manufacturer’s reputation in tatters.

A behind-the-scenes documentary, “Grand Prix Driver,” released on Amazon recently shone a spotlight on the tension between McLaren and Honda that eventually led to the relationship tearing apart.

It also revealed how the troubles had started before the launch of the car and were fully exposed once testing in Barcelona started when the car broke down repeatedly due to engine failures.

McLaren, who finished ninth out of the 10 teams last season, is now using Renault engines and hoping to be far more competitive.

How Toro Rosso, and McLaren, fare this season will be among the intriguing sub-plots to the 21-race season that starts in Australia on March 25, with Mercedes and Ferrari again expected to be the frontrunners.

Italy-based Toro Rosso, one of the smaller outfits on the starting grid, has taken the cynicism and gloom-mongering about its prospects in good heart.

It put out a tongue-in-cheek Q&A at the time of the first engine fire-up that included the questions: “Did it take like six attempts to fire up?”, “Did the engine blow up?” and “Did your factory catch fire after the engine started?”

The respective answers were “Nope, the engine fired up on the first attempt,” “Quite the opposite, it started just as planned” and “Our factory is perfectly fine, thanks for the concern.”

The final ‘question’ was simply, “Good luck, you’ll need it.”


Hyundai developed an airbag for panoramic sunroofs


We’ve reached a point where you can be in a car crash from just about any angle, and find yourself with a face full of airbag. But there’s yet one more airbag frontier that Hyundai and its parts supplier company Hyundai Mobis are pioneering: the sunroof airbag. More specifically, the companies have developed an airbag to protect occupants in cars equipped with panoramic sunroofs.

Hyundai explains in a press release that there was concern passengers’ heads and limbs could end up going through the big glass opening in a rollover, leading to serious injury. The resulting airbag design aims to prevent that by deploying when a rollover is detected to contain occupants’ bodies. It inflates from the back of the sunroof toward the front in 0.08 seconds and will go off regardless of whether the sunroof is open or closed.

Hyundai, which together with Kia and Genesis had six of the 15 recent IIHS Top Safety Pick+ vehicles, claims the airbag reduced life-threatening injuries to minor ones during testing. It also noted that the company has 11 patents on the technology. No mention of when these airbags would appear in production vehicles was made. We would imagine that whenever Hyundai starts offering the feature, it will show up first on high-end vehicles such as Genesis luxury cars.

[Source: Autoblog]

2018 Honda Pilot goes on sale starting just under $32K


The Pilot, Honda’s three-row family hauler, goes on sale today for the 2018 model year with more technology inside the cabin and optional Honda Sensing safety and driver-assist technologies, plus several front- and all-wheel-drive configurations and trim levels.

Configurations start at $31,875, which includes the $975 destination and handling fee, and rise to $48,445 for the top-of-the-line Elite trim in all-wheel-drive and a nine-speed automatic transmission. That keeps it just below the likes of the Ford Explorer and the Toyota Highlander, and right in line with the Nissan Pathfinder. The base-level LX comes as a front-wheel-drive with a six-speed automatic. All versions get the 3.5-liter V6 with Variable Cylinder Management producing 280 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque, built at Honda’s plant in Lincoln, Ala. Fuel economy peaks at 20 mpg in the city, 27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined.

Honda is opening up the Pilot to its Sensing suite of safety and driver-assist technologies, making the package of collision mitigation and breaking, forward collision warning, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance and warning systems optional. All trim levels come equipped with a multi-angle rearview camera, while blind-spot sensing is another option.

Elsewhere, the Pilot gets front and rear LED lights, an 8-inch touchscreen standard on EX trim levels and above, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth integration, and an optional 9-inch rear entertainment system with DVD and Blu-ray capability. There’s 109 cubic feet of cargo space with the second- and third-row seats folded down, while the third row is made accessible via a one-touch slide-and-fold second seat.


Honda joins the quest for solid-state EV batteries


Honda is considering developing solid-state batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) as a growing number of global automakers look to come up with powerful, next-generation car batteries to reduce vehicle emissions.

Tighter global emissions regulations are forcing automakers worldwide to shift to electric cars, including all-battery EVs that will require capacity to deliver longer ranges and faster charge times, but at lower cost than lithium-ion batteries.

“We’ve been researching all solid-state batteries,” Honda spokesman Teruhiko Tatebe said. “At the moment, we’re not developing them with another automaker.”

Kyodo News reported on Thursday that Honda and Nissan were developing all solid-state EV batteries. Nissan was not immediately available for comment.

A growing number of automakers including Toyota and Volkswagen and smaller innovator Fisker are developing all solid-state batteries, which offer more capacity and better safety than conventional lithium-ion batteries by replacing their liquid electrolyte with a solid, conductive material.

Just this week, Colorado tech company Solid Power said it was partnering with BMW on the technology. And earlier this month, Toyota said it was considering jointly developing the batteries with Panasonic to share high R&D costs.

The automaker is planning to have a production-ready battery in the early 2020s, and has highlighted the need to accelerate the pace of battery development as it and other automakers plan to ramp up the number of electric models they sell in the coming decades.

[Source: Autoblog]


Dog in lap is distracted driving: But ban it? That dog won’t hunt


Those happy dogs sitting in a driver’s lap or hanging their heads out the car window may look like the model of canine companionship. But they’re also potential projectiles, poised to rocket through the air in a crash.

“A 10-pound dog can turn into 300 pounds of force at 30 miles an hour,” said Richard Romer, AAA’s state relations manager. “Going on a trip with Fido can really turn fatal if it’s not restrained.”

But while traffic safety experts say a dog moving freely in a car can be dangerous for the driver, passengers, other motorists and the pet, it’s perfectly legal in most states.

Hawaii is the only state that specifically prohibits drivers from holding an animal in their lap or allowing one in their immediate area if it interferes with their ability to control the car, according to AAA. In at least three states — Nevada, New Jersey and Washington — animal cruelty laws that make it illegal to improperly transport an animal could apply to driving with an unrestrained pet, but Romer said they are likely to be enforced only in egregious situations.

Washington and at least seven other states and the District of Columbia have comprehensive distracted driving laws that generally prohibit careless driving or tasks not associated with operating the vehicle, and interacting with a pet might be considered a distraction, Romer said. D.C.’s law is the only one that specifically mentions pet interactions in its definition of distracted driving.

But passing laws specifically to forbid furry friends from sitting in drivers’ laps is another matter. In the past five years, nearly a dozen states have considered such bills, but none has become law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In California, the Legislature passed a measure in 2008. It was vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, who said the bill wasn’t a priority.

This year, at least five states — Indiana, Maine, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania — considered such bills. Four either died or were withdrawn by sponsors; the Pennsylvania measure is pending. In November, a Michigan state legislator filed a similar bill for the 2018 session.

State legislators who have sponsored bills to ban animals in laps or require them to be restrained in cars often have been met with howls from pet owners.

“The public outcry was unreal,” said North Carolina state Rep. Garland Pierce, a Democrat who filed a bill in February that would have imposed a $100 fine for driving with an animal in your lap. Facing a deluge of complaints from angry dog owners, he withdrew the bill just a week later.

“I got ridiculed. I got beat up bad,” said Pierce, who previously sponsored a successful bill to ban texting while driving. “I saw this as a highway safety issue. I had no idea that I was opening a can of worms.”

Pennsylvania Democratic state Rep. Angel Cruz, who is sponsoring a bill to ban pets in drivers’ laps, said he has tried to get the measure passed in previous sessions but it hasn’t gotten anywhere — and still isn’t.

“You can’t drive with a child on your lap. You have to put it in a car seat. And you can’t be distracted with a cellphone,” he said. “So how can you drive with a pet in your lap?”

Few drivers restrain their pets

While some pet owners use harnesses, crates or carriers to transport pets in their cars, many prefer driving with their animals untethered.

A 2011 survey of dog owners by AAA and Kurgo, a pet travel product manufacturer, found that most agreed that having an unrestrained dog in the car could be dangerous, but only 16 percent said they used some form of restraint.

The survey also revealed how distracting it can be for drivers to have an unrestrained canine in the car. Fifty-two percent admitted petting their dog while driving, 19 percent said they have used their hands or arms to keep it from climbing into the front seat, and 17 percent have held it or allowed it to sit in their lap.

The results can be serious — even tragic.

Last year, a 76-year-old North Dakota woman drove her car into a pond when her Shih Tzu jumped into her lap and blocked her view. In November, a 19-year-old Maine driver with a cat in her lap got distracted, swerved into the oncoming lane and ran into a school bus, injuring herself, some students and the bus driver — and killing her cat. And in 2012, police say, a 47-year-old Washington state driver who was killed after crashing into an SUV may have been distracted by the Chihuahua sitting in her lap.

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends restraining animals in a vehicle with a secure harness or carrier. It says a pet sitting in a driver’s lap could be injured or killed by an airbag and an untethered pet could be thrown out of a window or through the windshield.

Lindsey Wolko, founder of the Center for Pet Safety, a nonprofit consumer watchdog group that tests the safety of pet products, said pets should be in back seats and restrained, but those restraints need to be crash-tested and certified to be safe. Her center has tested harnesses, crates and carriers and found that many are not safe, she said.

But educating pet owners about the risks of driving with an unrestrained animal is much more effective than trying to enact laws, she said. “Pet owners often don’t want that type of regulation. It’s a very emotional thing. They think it’s overkill, that it’s not necessary.”

Seems like a problem, but there’s no data to prove it

Some state legislators see distracted-by-dog measures as overreach or question whether they really are necessary.

Connecticut Republican state Rep. Fred Camillo, a dog lover who frequently drives around with his unrestrained German shepherd in his SUV, said he was skeptical about a 2015 bill that would have barred drivers from having pets in their laps and made it a distracted driving offense.

“I’m all for tougher distracted driving laws, but they didn’t come up with any statistics showing this was a problem,” Camillo said. “Are we going to pass laws without any hard evidence? If the stats are out there, I’m willing to be open-minded. But I haven’t seen anything.”

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration doesn’t keep data on how many crashes or fatalities are linked to unsecured pets, and traffic safety experts say it’s unlikely states do either. Nor is there much information available about how often police ticket drivers for being distracted by their pets.

Even in Hawaii, which has had its law for decades and imposes a $97 fine for driving with a “person, animal, or object” in your lap, officials don’t track how many of those citations by police specifically involved animals. Last year, Honolulu police issued 38 such citations; this year they issued 13, according to the Hawaii Department of Transportation.

Brooks Baehr, spokesman for the Honolulu Department of the Prosecuting Attorney, said that in the past four years, two people have been prosecuted for driving with a pooch in their lap or close by. One was a man with a little dog in the passenger seat of his Mercedes. The other was a woman in a Cadillac Escalade whom police spotted with a small, long-haired dog in her lap. One of her hands was on the wheel. In the other she had a cellphone, and she was looking down at it.

By Jenni Bergal for Stateline, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

[Source: Autoblog]


Insight? Civic? Accord? We need some Clarity: Honda’s hybrid hierarchy


Today, Honda previewed the revival of the Insight hybrid, seen above, ahead of its official debut at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show. This comes just shortly after the launch of the Clarity trio — a battery electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and fuel cell electric (FCEV) — which doesn’t have a standard, non-plug-in hybrid model. What gives? If you’re a little confused, you’re not alone, but we think we can help you make sense of Honda’s hybrid hierarchy, and how they correspond to other advanced- and traditional-powertrain vehicles in its lineup.

Let’s start with the Insight. We honestly didn’t know that Honda would be recycling that nameplate until this morning. We didknow that Honda would reveal a “compact dedicated hybrid” at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. We don’t know what platform will underpin the new Insight — and “dedicated” could just refer to the nameplate, not the platform. So perhaps it’s on its own platform, or it shares with another compact Honda: the Civic.

Then why not call it the Civic Hybrid?

Our guess is that Honda wants to separate the sporty from the “upscale,” the latter being a used to describe the Insight in its press release this morning.

But Clarity is also being called “upscale,” yet there’s no traditional hybrid under that nameplate. What’s that about?

That’s a separation of segment, and possibly also powertrain technology. Insight is compact, Clarity is mid-size. The Clarity nameplate might also be reserved for cars with plugs or fuel cells, which the Insight doesn’t have. The fact that Honda chose to make its midsize PHEV a Clarity rather than stick with the Accord nameplate could be evidence of that.

Oh yeah, the Accord. What’s up with that?

There is a new Accord Hybrid on the way. It’ll be roomier than the Insight. There won’t be an Accord Plug-In Hybrid, because Clarity has that covered. Clear enough?

One more time?

Honda compact ICE: Civic
Honda compact hybrid: Insight
Honda compact EVs: None, right now. (But you can get the sub-compact Fit EV in certain places.)

Honda mid-size ICE: Accord
Honda mid-size hybrid: Accord Hybrid
Honda mid-size EVs: Clarity Electric, Clarity Fuel Cell, Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

So what would Honda call a compact plug-in or fuel cell vehicle?

Who knows? But probably not Civic. We’d guess they’d either start growing the Insight family or give it its own nameplate.


You’re welcome. Thanks for reading.

[Source: Autoblog]


Honda Insight hybrid is back, as a 5-passenger upscale sedan


At the turn of the millennium, Honda was the first car company to bring a mass produced modern hybrid to the U.S. The idea kind of stuck, even if the Honda Insight didn’t. The second-generation Insight was discontinued after a dramatic sales decline between 2010 and 2013. Still, many greenies fondly remember the first-generation Insight for its fresh looks, impressive fuel economy and role in ushering in a new era of automotive technology to the U.S. As if to stoke the lingering embers of nostalgia, Honda is reviving the Insight nameplate, bringing a new hybrid sedan to the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Honda is teasing the Insight prototype — which previews a 2019 production model — ahead of the Detroit Auto Show in the images seen above. The automaker says the car will use the company’s latest version of its two-motor hybrid powertrain. Honda isn’t divulging fuel economy figures yet, but says it will be “competitive with other compact hybrid models.”

The new Insight will take a slightly more premium tack, though, as an “upscale, stylish five-passenger sedan positioned above the Civic in Honda’s passenger car lineup.” Its looks compare more closely to those of the Civic and Accord than of the Clarity series, which will probably resonate better with mainstream buyers.

The 2019 Honda Insight is another step toward the Japanese automaker’s goal of having electrified vehicles make up two-thirds of its global sales by 2030. It is scheduled to go on sale next summer, and will be built at the automaker’s factory in Greensburg, Indiana. We’ll get a better sense of what we can look forward to when we meet the prototype in person on the Detroit show floor. Stay tuned.