Feds Probe 1.1 Million Hondas For Steering Wheel That Veers On Its Own

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Photo: Honda

Honda Accords are supposedly steering themselves, pipeline hackers are getting taken very seriously, and Toyota is still dragging its heels on banning its own cars. All that and more in The Morning Shift for May 10, 2021.

1st Gear: This Is A Weird One

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has launched a probe into 1.1 million 2013 to 2015 Honda Accords that are supposedly steering on their own, as Reuters reports:

The agency said the engineering analysis covers 2013 through 2015 models and said “under normal driving conditions, with no warning or input from the driver, the vehicle may veer or jerk out of its intended path of travel.” Honda did not immediately comment. NHTSA said it has 107 complaints and two injury incidents related to the issue.


The petition said the “deviation from the intended path of travel occurs without warning or driver input while operating the vehicle under normal driving condition,” NHTSA added.


This reminds me of the “unintended acceleration” Toyotas that were supposedly hitting the brakes on their own. (People were mostly just mixing up their pedals in that case.)

2nd Gear: Also Two-Thirds Of A Million Explorers Recalled

Ford had initially said that a recall was not necessary for this issue, and I guess that didn’t hold up. Some 661,100 Explorers from 2016 through 2019 model years are up for recall, as Reuters reports:

Ford Motor Co (F.N) is recalling 661,000 Explorer sport utility vehicles in North America at the request of U.S. regulators because retention pins could loosen and allow roof rail covers to detach from the vehicle.

The recall covers 2016 through 2019 model year vehicles. Dealers will install push-pins and replace any damaged rail clips and roof rail covers.

The second-largest U.S. automaker said in documents posted Sunday that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration first inquired about the issue in early 2020 following 11 reports of roof rail cover detachment. In April, it requested Ford issue a recall, which the carmaker had initially said was not necessary because the low likelihood of a roof rail detaching, its small weight and the fact drivers would likely detect a loose roof rail cover, according to the documents.


3rd Gear: Pipeline Hackers Stole Data And Held It Ransom Before Shutdown

You know this is serious because of how quickly our government reacted. America always reacts quickly when a public crisis is in hand! Wait, no. Not a public crisis. A crisis that threatens the oil industry.


Over the weekend, hackers shut down the “top U.S. fuel pipeline operator” as Reuters put it, using ransomware to stop the Colonial Pipeline. It serves almost half of the East Coast’s diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel, as the BBC notes.

We can gauge the seriousness of the issue by the speed of the government’s response. The shutdown was on Friday and already we have emergency government waivers in place to get back to normal, per the BBC:

The operator took itself offline on Friday after the cyber-attack and work to restore service is continuing.The US government has relaxed rules on fuel being transported by road. It means drivers in 18 states can work extra or more flexible hours when transporting refined petroleum products.US fuel prices at the pump were largely unaffected on Monday, but there are fears that could change if the shutdown is prolonged.[...]Independent oil market analyst Gaurav Sharma told the BBC a lot of fuel was now stranded at refineries in Texas.“Unless they sort it out by Tuesday, they’re in big trouble,” said Mr Sharma. “The first areas to be hit would be Atlanta and Tennessee, then the domino effect goes up to New York.”He said oil futures traders were now “scrambling” to meet demand, at a time when US inventories are declining, and demand - especially for fuel for cars - is on the rise as consumers return to the roads and the economy recovers.


Before the shutdown, hackers stole a ton of data and held it ransom, as Bloomberg reports:

The hackers who caused Colonial Pipeline to shut down the biggest U.S. gasoline pipeline on Friday began their blitz against the company a day earlier, stealing a large amount of data before locking computers with ransomware and demanding payment, according to people familiar with the matter.

The intruders, who are part of a cybercrime gang called DarkSide, took nearly 100 gigabytes of data out of the Alpharetta, Georgia-based company’s network in just two hours on Thursday, two people involved in Colonial’s investigation said.

The move was part of a double-extortion scheme that is one of the group’s hallmarks. Colonial was threatened that the stolen data would be leaked to the internet while the information that was encrypted by the hackers on computers inside the network would remain locked unless it paid a ransom, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.


4th Gear: Toyota Shareholders Are Just As Confused About This As You Are

Toyota has been a trailblazer in terms of hybrids, but slow to do absolutely anything meaningful on full electric cars. Why? Some $500 billion worth of shareholders are curious, too, as Reuters reports:

Some Toyota Motor (7203.T) shareholders have criticized its President Akio Toyoda for questioning Japan’s plans to ban conventional cars only days after the firm said it was reviewing its climate lobbying and aimed for carbon neutrality by 2050.

The five investors, who collectively have around $500 billion in assets under management and spoke exclusively to Reuters, said the carmaker risks falling behind competitors that are rolling out electric vehicles, while giving cover for other companies seeking to avoid big changes to meet climate goals.


“We’re genuinely concerned that Mr. Toyoda does not seem to realize what is at stake here,” said Jens Munch Holst, CEO of AkademikerPension.

The Danish fund told Reuters last month that it would consider a shareholder resolution or sell its holding in Toyota if there was no change after “intense” engagement with the company.


I wonder if Toyota is just waiting out the lithium-ion era of EVs so it can dive in on its pet project of solid state batteries.

5th Gear: Brembo Is Doing Just Fine

I am happy to report that the company behind the brake rotors everyone fakes is doing a-ok. Supplying Ferrari and other high-end cars probably helps, as Reuters points out:

Italian premium brakes maker Brembo (BRBI.MI) on Monday posted a 33% rise in first-quarter core earnings, helped by a robust recovery across its businesses and markets where it operates, pushing shares up more than 3%.

The company, which makes brakes for automakers including Ferrari (RACE.MI) and Tesla (TSLA.O) as well as several Formula One teams, said earnings before interests, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose to 135.6 million euros ($164.89 million) in the January-March period, with profit margins increasing to 20.1%, up from 17.7% a year ago.


Reverse: Thanks, Lee


Neutral: Will Lithium-Ion Power The First Electric Most-Popular Car?

Will we still be using lithium-ion battery packs when an EV becomes America’s most popular vehicle, or will we have moved on to solid state (or hydrogen!) by then? Is this just another transition tech?