Regulations

NHTSA proposes rules changes to enable vehicle mobility for physically disabled persons

New proposed rules would make renting a vehicle a viable proposition for disabled Americans.

Photo by DGLimages/Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed a rule that would enable more mobility options for people with physical disabilities. The notice of proposed rule making reads that it would allow two new modifications to rental cars for adaptive equipment.

"This rule will make it easier for individuals with disabilities to achieve greater mobility and freedom in their lives," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The first of the proposed changes would allow rental car companies to temporarily disable a driver's knee bolster air bag to install hand controls. These types of controls allow people with disabilities such as lower extremity paralysis to perform all the functions of driving a vehicle using just their hands.

If hand controls are installed and the airbag is not disabled, according to the NHTSA, the resulting force of the airbag's deployment "could cause the hand controls to strike the driver with extreme forces and create a serious risk to the safety of the driver".

Another proposed change would allow for the installation of rear-mounted transporters for wheelchairs and power scooters. This type of adaption could block the rearview camera's sight lines - cameras are now required in every new vehicle - but would improve mobility for drivers and passengers with disabilities.

"Safe and accessible transportation is vital for people with disabilities. This rule will enable them to rent a wider range of cars and make it easier to transport their wheelchairs and scooters, which will improve their quality of life," NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens said.

Current federal law prohibits a manufacturer, distributor, dealer, rental company, or motor vehicle repair business from knowingly making inoperative any part of a device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle in compliance with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. These rules changes, if approved by the NHTSA, would allow a two specific exemptions in an effort to balance mobility and safety in rental car situations.

The public will have 30 days to comment before the process moves forward.

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Some Volkswagens won't wear VW badging anymore.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Editor’s Note: After sources from Volkswagen confirmed this story on backgroundto reporters on March 29, 2021, the company’s spokespeople went on the record on March 30, 2021 to explain that the name change is merely an April Fool’s joke gone awry.

The brand currently known as Volkswagen is going all-in on electric vehicles. The company's commitment to the powertrain change is so strong that they've decided to change their name from Volkswagen to Voltswagen, replacing the "k" with a "t".

The change was announced in an apparent public relations slip-up on the company's media page with a press release publishing today, March 29, instead of the intended date of April 29. The release was quickly pulled down. The change has been confirmed by the automaker and was first reported by USA Today.

According to mis-timed press release, Volkswagen's electric vehicles (EVs) will be badged 'Voltswagen' while gasoline-powered autos will wear the typical VW badge.

2017: Volkswagen ID. BUZZ Volkswagen says that a version of its ID Buzz vehicle is coming to the U.S. later this decade. Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen is currently amplifying its electric vehicle sales strategy going full steam into launching models like the ID.4, a small SUV, and promising that a production version of the ID Buzz, an electric concept that has its roots in the Volkswagen Bus, will make its way to U.S. shores as an electric vehicle.

Volkswagen Group, the brand's parent company, also owns Audi, which has developed an E-tron vehicle lineup that includes the E-Tron, E-Tron Sportback, E-Tron GT, and the forthcoming production version of the Q4 Sportback E-Tron concept car. Porsche, another Volkswagen Group brand, recently launched the Taycan all-electric sports car and the Taycan Cross Turismo wagon is on its way. Even sister company Lamborghini is getting in on the electrified powertrain bandwagon.

The automaker has plans to launch more than 70 electric vehicles worldwide by 2029 and sell 1 million by 2025. Those are lofty goals, though much of the optimism surrounding the target is bolstered by continuing government clampdowns that make driving gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles more costly and scarce. These regulations most strictly affect European nations and China.

Though electric vehicles are growing in popularity, in many cases because of government incentives, Americans are only very slowing getting on-board with adoption. Take out Tesla sales and EVs represent very few sales in the U.S. at the moment. Click here to see a history of Volkswagen's modern electric vehicle development.

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A new design era is about to emerge for Lexus.

Photo courtesy of Lexus

Lexus has signaled that a new design era is coming. The automaker, which is the luxury arm of Toyota, plans to reveal a concept car that points toward the future of the company on March 30.

Ahead of that reveal, Lexus has released some images of the concept under the cover of darkness. Let's take a closer look to see what they reveal. You can see a video of the vehicle below, provided by the automaker.

The front of the concept vehicle appears snub-nosed, with a smaller grille than what can be seen on current Lexus sedans like the ES and IS. The hood comes nearly to the edge of front end but sweeps back in dramatic fashion thanks o shapely curves that guide the eye up to the windscreen.

Lexus concept car preview 2021 The Lexus front end looks to feature a smaller grille.Photo courtesy of Lexus

Lexus concept car preview 2021

The hood features a bubble, perhaps alluding to a larger-than-usual engine under the hood. The 2022 Lexus IS F Sport Performance has a similar look.

Lexus continues to show its signature checkmark-light daytime running lights under a singular headlight housing, where they were moved during the most recent round of vehicle fascia refreshes. On the concept car, the Lexus "L" badge at the front of the car is illuminated like the emblems on the front of Lincoln, Cadillac, and Mercedes SUVs. Cadillac has most recently shown the illuminated emblem on the forthcoming Lyriq all-electric crossover.

Strong character lines sweep front to back on the concept car where a hatchback (fingers crossed) or fastback design takes hold. Unseen in the video that Lexus released, but slipped into the image pack they sent over was a look at the rear of the car.

A rear view of the Lexus concept made its way into the image pack but not the video.Photo courtesy of Lexus

There, long, slim taillights are illuminated relatively high on the posterior, just underneath what looks like it could be a wing/spoiler. Defined rear fenders and a large area with vertical features that takes the look of a diffuser.

Unique wheels give the car a futuristic look.

The entire shape of the concept has similar lines to the LF-1 Limitless concept that Lexus showed a few years ago at the North American International Auto Show. A version of that crossover was said to be in the works after the concept was received with tremendous enthusiasm by dealers and the public.

On digital film at least this new concept doesn't look like it's the same size as the LF-1, but rather rmore the size of the Honda Crosstour.

Whatever the future holds, as long as the interior of Lexus models evolves to (finally) get rid of the touch pad and retains traditional high reliability, Lexus customers are likely to be satisfied with the changes.

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