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A year of digging through code yields “smoking gun” on VW, Fiat diesel cheats – Ars Technica

"That legal assessment of the defeat device scandal seems to have held up as the researchers analyzed the cars’ code. The VWs and Audis in question checked for a number of parameters at startup, and if a lab test was a possibility, the car would start with that assumption, enabling full emissions controls. The code permitted the car “to operate... as if two distinct personalities took turns controlling the vehicle,” the paper’s authors wrote.

The paper also notes that the researchers tested the diesel Fiat 500X because it used the same Engine Control Unit from Bosch as the Volkswagens and Audis did. There was no mention of the “acoustic condition” in the Fiat’s function sheet, but some undisclosed code was discovered controlling how the car regenerates its NOx Storage Catalyst (NSC).

“Unlike the Volkswagen defeat device, the FCA [Fiat Chrysler Automobiles] mechanism relies on time only, reducing the frequency of NSC regenerations 26 minutes 40 seconds after engine start,” the paper notes. In a normal system, the NSC reduces NOx emission by trapping it in a catalyst and then regenerating the catalyst as it gets full.

But regeneration hurts a car’s fuel economy numbers and puts a lot of load on the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF). “By reducing the frequency of NSC regeneration, a manufacturer can improve fuel economy and increase DPF service life, at the cost of increased NOx emissions,” the researchers explained."

A Design Engineer Explains Exactly Why Your Car Is So Boring

"So next time you get in your car, look around. Think about the things you do and don’t like about your car. Realize that nothing in your car exists because one engineer didn’t get enough sleep and decided to put that USB charger just out of your grasp. Designing a car is an immensely complex, exhausting process and each part has its own story. Try to understand how all those stories come together to make one coherent, attractive, quality, affordable, safe vehicle, and you’ll understand the challenge of my job."

Shared Autonomous Vehicles Could Still Increase VMT

Conventional wisdom assumes there will lots of cheap oil for the coming fleet of autonomous vehicles. Or that coal-fired powered plants, generating electricity will replace the need for cheap oil. But will it?

I still think in many ways we are at the twilight of the fossil fuel-era. Many of the predicted fossil fuels won't become a reality, because most of them are marketing gimmicks.

And I'm not sure that autonomous vehicles are all they are cracked up to be? Will computers ever be smart enough to react to potholes, pedestrians, deer, fog and other drivers? Even if they are safer then humans, will people trust a system that still causes carnage on the highways?

I don't believe there will ever be autonomous vehicles in mass. I think motoring is in it's final years, and we should enjoy it while it's still a thing.

100-Octane, Super Premium Fuel Is Coming to a Pump Near You

Apparently inexpensive 87-octane fuel may be going the way of the dinosaurs, to allow gas stations to stock 100-octane fuel, which will be more expensive but allow higher-compression, more fuel efficient engines.

"Oil companies and automakers are quietly collaborating to get higher-octane fuel into pumps all across the country. They’re pushing for higher octanes for their obvious benefits like extracting more power from less gas to meet rising mpg requirements and reduce emissions. The challenge is how to break the news to the public without tipping them off to the fact that it will cause a rise in gas prices across the board."

"Why would it affect the price of regular fuel? It’s likely that when a 100-octane fuel is introduced, 87 octane—the current “regular” grade gas—will be phased out. The idea is to make every car on the road burn higher-octane gas reducing CO2. Unfortunately, if your car wasn’t specifically engineered for higher-octane fuel, the difference in performance and efficiency will be minimal."

Uber Self-Driving Experiment In Pittsburgh Offers Lessons For An Autonomous-Car Future:

"Ever wonder what it would be like to live in a laboratory? People in Pittsburgh could tell you it's not so bad. They've been sharing city streets with Uber's experimental self-driving cars since last September. Six months in, no one has been hurt and there have been no major accidents. Plus, the project is bringing in investments and boosting the city's reputation as a tech hub."

Goodyear tries out glow-in-the-dark wheels in 1960s

"Scientists spent the better part of a decade trying to perfect Neothane tires, but they couldn't get past the experimental stage.

For one thing, the translucent tires had poor traction on wet pavement. They began to lose stability around 65 mph. They began to melt under heavy braking.

On top of everything else, they cost more than regular tires.

Even if engineers had solved all of those problems, the glowing lights probably would have been too much of a distraction for night driving. Generally speaking, it's unwise to hypnotize other motorists."

California unanimously votes to keep current emissions regs: another looming loss for Trump?

My bet is that the federal government sets one set of standards for emissions for states that don't follow California emissions, while California emission states will follow different requirements.

I don't think this the end of the world for automakers. It wasn't that long ago that certain cars had California emissions equipment while other states did not it. Positive crankcase valves were required in California and New York several years before other states. CARB requirements in 1990s meant certain engines couldn't be sold in California and other emissions states like New York. People in those states still could buy a wide variety of better emission controlled cars. Automakers can sell their more profitable, larger engine vehicles in non-emission states, while their stronger emission controlled vehicles in California, New York and the dozen of other states that California emissions.

This actually makes quite a bit of sense, as most of the non-emission standard states have a lesser pollution problem, especially when it comes to things like smog. Many of the more rural states have lower populations, so their climate impact of having more polluting vehicles in non-California emission states will be lower compared to the California emission states.

Chart Crashes – Fatalities, Injury Crashes and Property Damage 2006-2015

Car crashes are strongly influenced by the total number of vehicles miles traveled per year. On average every 1% more miles driven equals 4% more crashes. Vehicle miles are up 4.9% since the recession, and crashes are up 17.3% This is why car crashes dropped so dramatically during 2009 and 2010, during the height of the recession when many people were out of work and could not afford to drive as much per year.

Not seen on this chart is but shown is an associated chart is how much safer cars have gotten between 2006 and 2015 -- in 2005, 70.1% of crashes were property damage, 29.2% were injury, and 0.6% were fatal. By 2015, car had become safer with 72.2% crashes involving only property damage, 27.2% involving injuries, and 0.5% involving fatalities.

Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) 2006–2014 (Final File) and 2015 Annual Report File (ARF); National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates
System (GES) 2006–2015

America’s infrastructure isn’t as shoddy as it sounds

"Just about every profession has an interest group in Washington that lobbies for more government spending that will benefit its own people. The ASCE is probably more honorable than most, and to its credit, it advocates prudent spending based on rigorous analysis rather than the gimme-gimme grab bag some groups lobby for. But the well-meaning engineers are also making a legitimate problem sound worse than it is, which is very Trumpian and therefore timely—but not a very good reflection of how real Americans get to work, go shopping or visit their relatives."