Safety First

About that steering wheel... The feds have questions for Tesla about its refreshed Model S

The new Tesla steering wheel design has raised eyebrows.

Photo courtesy of Tesla

When Tesla revealed its refreshed Model S sedan and Model X SUV earlier this week, among the highlights were a 17-inch infotainment screen on the center of the dashboard, improved interior appointments, and a fresh take on the typical steering wheel.

Reporting by Roadshow indicates that the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reached out to Tesla regarding the legality of its new yoke-like steering wheel.

Motor vehicles sold in the U.S. must adhere to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The NHTSA issues these standards to apply laws that are passed by Congress with the aim of the regulations being to prevent and reduce vehicle crashes. The government agency frequently updates these standards as new technology and safety innovations are made available to the industry.

Tesla Model S interior refresh 2021 A new steering wheel and infotainment screen dominated conversation surrounding the interior changes of the vehicle. Photo courtesy of Tesla

The new steering wheel features a Formula One-like design. It has no stalks, which typically control lights, wiper movements, and turn signals. There are two rollers on the wheel for scrolling and various indicators that illuminate.

The NHTSA says that the best area for hands on a steering wheel are at the nine and three o'clock positions due in large part to airbag placement. Hand-over-hand steering, a movement that is frequently employed while traversing roundabouts and turning corners, would be particularly difficult with this new wheel.

Where the inquiry goes is anyone's guess. Automotive industry experts have openly expressed doubts that the wheel will make it to market despite the fact that Tesla is already selling the vehicles on its website with deliveries slated to begin in March.

Industry experts are also raising concerns about Tesla's lack of gear shifter in the freshened interior. Elon Musk, Tesla's CEO, replied to a tweet describing how the car apparently doesn't need a shifter, raising alarm regarding usability and data mining.

Expect more developments regarding this situation to come to light in the next month as the first delivery date promises near.

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The new Tiguan sports an all-new front-end design.

Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Tiguan is an interesting compact SUV with a fun-to-drive personality and plenty of style. After 14 years on sale, the Tiguan is just in its second generation, but VW has given it a significant update for the 2022 model year that brings new tech, updated styling, and a refreshed interior.

2022 Volkswagen Tiguan The rear has been massaged with new badging and standard LED taillights. Volkswagen

The restyled Tiguan is available in four trim levels: S, SE, and SE R-Line Black. All models get a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard, but VW's 4Motion all-wheel drive can be optioned in.

Styling updates are the big story for the 2022 Tiguan. The front end is entirely new and carries design cues from the larger Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport. LED headlights are now standard, and an illuminated light line is available for the SUV's grille. On the rear liftgate, the Tiguan model name lettering also mirrors that of the Atlas, with the name spelled out underneath the VW logo.

2022 Volkswagen Tiguan Most trims get an 8-inch touchscreen.Volkswagen

Inside, the Tiguan now comes standard with heated seats, while a heated steering wheel and ventilated seats are available. Cloth upholstery is standard, while mid-range trims get leatherette. The top SEL R-Line comes with leather and a perforated leather-wrapped sport steering wheel. Front-wheel drive models come standard with three rows of seating as well, making the Tiguan one of the more family-friendly vehicles in its class.

2022 Volkswagen Tiguan The top trim gets upscale leather upholstery.Volkswagen

The base Tiguan S comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen running Volkswagen's excellent MIB 2 software, but all others get MIB 3 infotainment software running on a glass-covered 8.0-inch touchscreen. The automaker notes that it's a capacitive touch system, which functions more like a smartphone than other infotainment systems, which sometimes require pressure to register a touch input. All Tiguans get a digital gauge cluster with an 8-inch display, while the top SEL R-Line upgrades to a 10.25-inch configurable gauge cluster that offers full-screen navigation and other views.

Pricing for the 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan starts at $25,995 for the base S trim with front-wheel drive. Adding all-wheel drive pushes the prices to $27,495. All Tiguan models will see a $1,195 destination charge tacked on at the bottom line.

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Highway safety

U.S. roadway fatalities up in 2021

Ford, Microsoft team to use quantum-inspired technology to understand traffic congestion
Photo coursesy of Ford Motor Company

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has just released its estimates on traffic fatalities for the first quarter of 2021 and the numbers aren't promising. In the first quarter of this year alone, 8,730 people died in motor vehicle crashes. Last year's cumulative numbers weren't much better, coming in higher than any year since 2007.


U.S. Roadways Traffic may be going up, but fuel fill ups are down according to the latest research automotivemap.com


The grim statistics represent a 10.5 percent increase from the same time period last year, a time when we were already marveling at the numbers. Further data reported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) indicate that the number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) decreased by 2.1 percent, which makes the increase in fatalities all the more striking a statistic. Initial projections pegged the number of fatalities per 100 million VMT at 1.12, but it instead climbed to 1.26 fatalities per 100 million VMT.

Regionally, most areas in the United Statessaw an increase, though two did not. The Midwest region, which includes Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas did not change, while the mid-east coast states of North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and West Virginia actually saw a six percent decline in fatality counts.


Highway 1 big sur Highway 1 near Big Sur includes the Bixby Creek Bridge, a famous landmark. Photo by\u00a0Getty Images


What's behind all of this? Last year, the NHTSA reported that, with fewer people on the roads, those that were driving were engaging in risky behavior. What's more, Automotive News reports, that the number of deaths involving people not wearing seatbelts increased 15 percent last year and speeding deaths climbed 10 percent.

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