It’s far from the biggest issue that faces American drivers, but we’re going to be ditching one of our most pointless laws that sends blinding light into the eyes of oncoming drivers. We’re going to ditch our adaptive headlight ban. All that and more in the Morning Shift for February 16, 2022.
Automotive safety standards are somewhat rigid, and the 21st-century innovation of adaptive headlights, ones that can dip the high beams on only one side of the car but not the other, ran afoul of some decades-old edict about regulated minimum headlight height, or some other even more obscure standard about constant minimum strength, or something else I remember looking up in 2013 when this became a regulatory issue and have since forgotten.
NHTSA on Tuesday said it has finalized a rule allowing automakers to install adaptive driving beam headlights on new vehicles in response to a 2013 petition by Toyota Motor North America.
The law directs the agency to issue a final rule within two years amending Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108, which regulates automotive lighting, signaling and reflective devices, by including performance-based standards for vehicle headlight systems and allowing adaptive driving beam headlights.
Say what you will about the Biden admin in general, at least NHTSA seems to be getting its mojo back.
Making the switch to EVs all about saving the environment sets you up for all kinds of tricky moral questions. There is the whole issue of lithium extraction, but there is also a general question of — if EVs are what we need to save the world, how can we in any good conscience continue any promotion of gas-powered vehicles? This is sort of a vague issue when it comes to private car companies that have to make cars to make money, but it’s a little more pointed when we’re talking about public, government initiatives.
It is with that in mind that I enjoyed this article in the Financial Times, subhed’d “White House weighs voter anger on rising costs against pledge to lead clean energy transition.” From the FT:
On Tuesday, the White House said it could scrap federal gasoline taxes in a bid to bring immediate relief to drivers. The average price for a gallon of gasoline across the US is now $3.50, a rise of almost 50 per cent since Biden entered the Oval Office.
The tax relief would effectively subsidise consumption of the fuel, say analysts — a startling step for an administration that talked of ending oil industry tax breaks and weaning Americans off the combustion engine in favour of electric alternatives.
“That we’re even talking about this shows that there’s weak political support for decarbonisation policies,” said Bob McNally, president of Rapidan Energy. “If you’re willing to kill an 18.4 cent a gallon [tax] with minimal real impact on consumption . . . how in the world are you going to be willing to force consumers into electric vehicles or more fuel-efficient cars?”
This is the kind of messaging issue that should explain to me why I don’t want to go into politics.
Speaking of EVs, Tesla has been having a time as of late, with a recent legal case bringing up some surprising racism in action at its Fremont factory. Now the company is getting some pressure from the NY State pension fund, as Bloomberg reports:
The New York State Common Retirement Fund, one of the country’s biggest public pension plans, filed its shareholder proposal last week following a high-profile racial discrimination case that resulted in a $137 million jury award and days before California took the extraordinary step of suing Tesla. The resolution asks the automaker to publish how effective its measures are in ending bad conduct in the workplace.
“Recent developments further highlight the need for Tesla to address how the company is preventing harassment and discrimination against employees,” New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in an emailed statement Monday. “This kind of alleged behavior should never be tolerated.”
California’s civil rights regulator sued Tesla last week for racial discrimination and harassment after finding widespread mistreatment of Black workers at its factory near San Francisco. The lawsuit adds to a number of complaints the company has faced in recent years from former workers about racism and sexual harassment.
The New York fund, which manages about $280 billion, stands out for publicly putting pressure on Tesla to change its ways. By contrast, the electric-vehicle company’s biggest shareholders — Vanguard Group Inc., BlackRock Inc. and State Street Corp.’s investing unit — declined to comment on alleged discrimination at Tesla, citing their long-standing policies of not discussing individual companies.
If the government won’t put pressure on Tesla here, maybe big money will.
And speaking of Tesla, governments should be seeing it as an opportunity not a problem — an opportunity to get a lot of money moving. From Bloomberg:
Tesla Inc. would need to commit to sourcing at least $500 million of auto components from India for the electric carmaker’s request for an import tax cut on its vehicles to be considered, a person familiar with the government’s thinking said.
While it could start at a lower base, Tesla would need to agree to ramp up Indian parts purchases by around 10% to 15% a year until a satisfactory level was achieved, the person said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private. The administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has formally told Tesla to ramp up domestic sourcing, but is yet to relay a procurement target to the company, the person said. Tesla in August claimed it sourced around $100 million in parts from India.
The government has said it is keen for the EV pioneer to make cars in the country, but appears to be using their interest to try and gain benefits for the nascent local electric car industry.
What is an electric car other than a chance to build all kinds of new, large, and labor-intensive consumer products?
...EVs are also a good thing that a carmaker can blame anything on. Here, for instance, is Stellantis using EVs as a crutch for some on-site worker harassment. As Bloomberg puts it “Stellantis is being creative as it trims its French workforce amid an EV shift by encouraging them to apply elsewhere for jobs.”
Creative is one word for it! From B’berg:
Cutting jobs in France is never easy. So Stellantis has come up with a novel way to slim down its payroll: It sends workers emails with tips on how to get exciting new jobs — elsewhere.Employees are routinely sent alerts on career fairs and services to help write winning resumes — so much so that union representatives are accusing management of harassment.
“This is not a good way to motivate people to work hard for the company,” said Christine Virassamy, a representative of the CFDT union. “We have asked them to let up.”
When your company is telling you to look for other work, it’s usually a good time to start looking for other work.
One of the figures of Grand Prix racing’s golden era, competing through the 1950s. He was born on February 16, 1921, but here is an account of his dramatic death at AVUS in 1959. From Wiki:
Less than a month later he crashed his Porsche RSK in rainy weather in the sports car race that preceded the German Grand Prix at AVUS, in Berlin, Germany. He was thrown from his car and fatally injured when he hit a flagpole, causing a skull fracture.
The sports car race featured entries of small, under 1,500 c.c. engine capacity. After three laps Behra was third behind Wolfgang von Trips and Bonnier, who eventually finished one and two. The AVUS was unique among race tracks. It used a strip of the Autobahn 2.5 miles (4.0 km) in length. The north and south bound lanes were fifty feet apart. At one end was a hairpin turn which drivers negotiated at around 30 mph (48 km/h). At the other end was a 30-foot (9.1 m) high, steeply banked loop. Behra lost control in the pouring rain, while going 110 mph (180 km/h). The Porsche began to fishtail with the tail of the car going higher and higher up the slick, steep bank. Then the Porsche spun and went over the top of the banking, with its nose pointing toward the sky. It landed heavily on its side on top of the banking. It remained there wrecked, while the race continued on underneath. Behra was thrown out and for a fleeting moment he could be seen against the background of the sky, with his arms outstretched as though attempting to fly. He impacted one of eight flagpoles arranged at the summit of the embankment which bore the flags of the competing nations. The flagpole toppled over when Behra collided with it, about halfway to its top.
I have made the pilgrimage to the deadly AVUS circuit and it still remains to me the most mythic track I’ve been to. I will remain somewhat obsessed with it for as long as I live, I imagine.