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VW to Tesla, Failed Safety to Self Driving Safely, the Top of 2015

Last year was massive for the car industry. Falling gas prices fueled a sixth straight year of sales growth. The result was a record 17.5 million light cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. in 2015. Other news occupied our minds however, at DashboardSymbols.com.

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Low Battery WarningThe evident success of Tesla has led to not one, not two, but seven major manufacturers going all in on electric vehicles. And they are not for show – or fleet mileage averages – anymore. Nor are they bet-hedging hybrids. They are pure electric. BMW currently offers two premium electric rides and is working on more. Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Audi will soon have electric models available. More telling are electric versions of already popular cars from Volkswagen and Kia. And GM just debuted the Bolt, which it announced in 2015.

Couple this with the stunning discovery that VW had been cheating diesel emissions tests for years and you have the final nail in the coffin for all liquid fuels. A sea change in automotive power plants is taking place and we can’t help but believe that the roar of an engine will sound as antiquated in our lifetimes as the sound of a dial up modem.

Next up, air bag recalls. By the millions, and all from the same supplier, Takata. Manufacturers from Japan have been hit the hardest, but U.S. and European car makers are hit as well. It is unprecedented in scope, dwarfing the throttle recalls from Toyota and ignition switch recalls from GM. All from devices intended to keep occupants safe in their cars.

Which takes us to the real top story of 2015: the ramifications of autonomous technology and the technology itself. It should be said that, while we remain cautious about the direction auto makers are taking, we are now converts. Auto technology continues to race ahead of the ability of average drivers to absorb. Thus the safest solution is to take the car out of the driver’s hands completely.

The industry is miles from this point and there is disagreement among manufacturers on the direction autonomy will take, but the tech is advancing by leaps and bounds. After all, self-driving technology is already available in limited forms, and drivers have already found ways to make this a very scary proposition.

Some time ago, we speculated on whether or not accident liability would be taken from drivers along with the driving itself. That question was answered in part when Volvo stepped up and said it would accept liability for accidents that might occur while a car was operated using its technology. Moving into 2016, a New York Times article brought insurance companies themselves into the discussion. They are evidently concerned about the possible loss premiums, but something tells us they will find other ways to keep their hands in driver’s pockets, or other pockets. There are lots of active safety systems in cars now, but the cost of insurance continues to dig deeper and deeper.

As we enter 2016 the cars we drive are slowly but surely becoming rolling computers, a technology ironically synonymous with the word “crash”. So, enjoy the ride and try not to think too much about it.

We will continue to have your back wherever we can.

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At DashboardSymbols.com, we developed two Mobile Apps to help drivers with the most common questions asked of service departments everywhere: “What is this light on my dashboard?” And “My car says ‘Key Not Detected’. How do I get into and start my push-button start car?” With these two apps, we have your back. Check them out here.

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