The year 2016 was a roller coaster for the auto industry. Sales rode the edge of growth, finally to set a new record, and tariffs threaten manufacturing across the border. While most of the industry remains fixated on numbers and costs, other news occupied our time. Here are our personal top three stories of 2106.
#3) Death by design.
Tesla began the year defending its Autopilot system after a driver died in a collision with a tractor trailer crossing his car’s path. The company made some adjustments to ensure driver’s pay attention, but autonomous systems continue to march forward at a breathtaking pace.
Then, with FCA in the middle of a recall of the Jeep Cherokee and other cars for roll away issues, young actor Anton Yelchin was killed when his Jeep pinned him against a brick pillar and a security fence at his home. The issue is with the company’s monostable shifter, which returns to the same place after each shift with the potential to leave the driver guessing what gear he or she is in. I have used this model Jeep myself and frankly found the shifter completely counterintuitive. Along with the one death, over 100 people have been injured.
Cars cannot be test beds for new gadgets or new technology. Sufficient thought needs to be applied first, and while Telsa rides the edge with its tech, even before modifications a driver was required pay attention, although this could not be enforced. And using Autopilot mode was and is a choice.
Drivers with an FCA monostable shifter have no other option. This steps up the need for careful design before incorporation into a vehicle.
#2) Shady Dealings Exposed.
In late summer John Oliver went off on the practices of shady used car dealers as only John Oliver could, adding a good deal of humor to a very serious topic. Those of us in the car business love and believe in this business and nothing comes close to making the industry look bad than what he reported on. The industry itself would do well to expose and shut down these types of practices.
#1) Taking on the Heat.
Our favorite item from 2016 again involves Tesla, and this time they get huge kudos. As a near afterthought to a software upgrade in September, company CEO Elon tweeted “My favorite new feature is the always-on max temp control for keeping kids and pets safe from overheating.”
The entire industry wrings its hands over people and pets left in hot cars, and in the middle of an unrelated software update, Telsa simply solves the problem. GM has a new text warning to check the back seat before leaving the car. Leave it to the driver with yet another message in a series of messages that we all get blind to.
We really hope the rest of the industry is paying attention and learning some true problem solving techniques.