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Would driver-less cars save you or the pedestrians ?

It’s 2025. You and your daughter are riding in a driverless car along the Pacific Coast Highway. The autonomous vehicle rounds a corner and detects a crosswalk full of children. It brakes, but your lane is unexpectedly full of sand from a recent rock slide. It can’t get traction. Your car does some calculations: If it continues braking, there’s a 90 percent chance that it will kill at least three children. Should it save them by steering you and your daughter off the cliff?

This isn’t an idle thought experiment. Driverless cars will be programmed to avoid collisions with pedestrians and other vehicles. They will also be programmed to protect the safety of their passengers. What happens in an emergency when these two aims come into conflict?

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is now trying to draw up safety regulations for autonomous vehicles. These regulations might or might not specify when it is acceptable for collision-avoidance programs to expose passengers to risk in order to avoid harming others — for example, by crossing the double-yellow line or attempting an uncertain maneuver on ice.

Google, which operates most of the driverless cars being street-tested in California, prefers that the DMV not insist on specific functional safety standards. Instead, Google proposes that manufacturers “self-certify” the safety of their vehicles, with substantial freedom to develop collision-avoidance algorithms as they see fit.

That’s far too much responsibility for private companies. Because determining how a car will steer in a risky situation is a moral decision, programming the collision-avoiding software of an autonomous vehicle is an act of applied ethics. We should bring the programming choices into the open, for passengers and the public to see and assess.

Regulatory agencies will need to set some boundaries. For example, some rules should presumably be excluded as too selfish. Consider the over-simple rule of protecting the car’s occupants at all costs. This would imply that if the car calculates that the only way to avoid killing a pedestrian would involve sideswiping a parked truck, with a 5 percent chance of injury to the car’s passengers, then the car should instead kill the pedestrian.

Other possible rules might be too sacrificial of the passengers. The equally over-simple rule of maximizing lives saved without any special regard for the car’s occupants would unfairly disregard personal accountability. What if other drivers — human drivers — have knowingly put themselves in danger? Should your autonomous vehicle risk your safety, perhaps even your life, because a reckless motorcyclist chose to speed around a sharp curve?

A Google lab in Mountain View, Calif., must not be allowed to resolve these difficult questions on our behalf.

That said, a good regulatory framework ought to allow some manufacturer variation and consumer choice, within ethical limits. Manufacturers or fleet operators could offer passengers a range of options. “When your child is in the car, our onboard systems will detect it and prioritize the protection of rear-seat passengers!” Cars might have aggressive modes (maximum allowable speed and aggressiveness), safety modes, ethical utilitarian modes (perhaps visibly advertised so that others can admire your benevolence) and so forth.

Some consumer freedom seems ethically desirable. To require that all vehicles at all times employ the same set of collision-avoidance procedures would needlessly deprive people of the opportunity to choose algorithms that reflect their values. Some people might wish to prioritize the safety of their children over themselves. Others might want to prioritize all passengers equally. Some people might wish to choose algorithms more self-sacrificial on behalf of strangers than the government could legitimately require of its citizens.

There will also always be trade-offs between speed and safety, and different passengers might legitimately weigh them differently, as we now do in our manual driving choices.

Furthermore, although we might expect computers to have faster reaction times than people do, our best computer programs still lag far behind normal human vision at detecting objects in novel, cluttered environments. Suppose your car happens upon a woman pushing a rack of coats in a windy swirl of leaves. Vehicle owners may insist on some sort of pre-emptive override, some way of telling their car not to employ its usual algorithm, lest it sacrifice them for a mirage.

There is something romantic about the hand upon the wheel — about the responsibility it implies. But future generations might be amazed that we allowed music-blasting 16-year-olds to pilot vehicles unsupervised at 65 mph, with a flick of the steering wheel the difference between life and death. A well-designed machine will probably do better in the long run.

That machine will never drive drunk, never look away from the road to change the radio station or yell at the kids in the back seat. It will, however, have power over life and death. We need to decide — publicly — how it will exert that power.


Gift cards from VW to Diesel car owners.

As it starts to make amends for its diesel-emissions scandal, Volkswagen of America has announced a Goodwill Package program aimed at drivers who own one of the diesel cars with cheating software that bypasses emissions testing.
The Goodwill Package gives affected Volkswagen owners a total of $1,000, in the form of a $500 Visa gift card that can be spent anywhere, and a $500 card that can be spent only at Volkswagen dealerships. Owners also receive three years of Volkswagen’s 24-hour roadside assistance program.
To be eligible, customers must own or lease an affected Volkswagen diesel model as of November 8, and must not sell the car or end the lease before they have fully completed the registration program for the package. Owners must present proof of ownership and various other documents to their dealership in order to be eligible for the program.
The Volkswagen program affects about 482,000 U.S.-market cars sold with a 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine that has software to “cheat” during EPA emissions testing, but which is far more polluting in everyday driving. Affected cars include the 2009-2015 Jetta TDI, 2009-2015 Jetta SportWagen TDI, 2010-2015 Golf TDI, 2012-2015 Beetle TDI, 2012-2014 Passat TDI, and the 2015 Golf SportWagen TDI. Customers can check their car’s eligibility at
Volkswagen is still developing a recall program to fix these affected TDI models so they comply with emissions laws, but the Goodwill program is designed to help appease angry customers.
“We are working tirelessly to develop an approved remedy for affected vehicles,” Volkswagen of America president and CEO Michael Horn said in a statement. “In the meantime, we are providing this Goodwill Package as a first step towards regaining our customers’ trust.”

The NEW 2016 Jaguar XF Sedan Review

What is it? Pitched against the 5-Series/A6/E-Class luxury set, the second-generation Jaguar XF 35t and S introduce the company’s aluminum-intensive platform to North America for the first time.

The platform is shared with the upcoming F-Pace SUV, splits approximately 75/25 percent aluminum/steel and uses double-wishbone front/multilink “Integral Link” rear suspension. The XF is up to 265 pounds lighter than its all-steel V6 predecessor, torsional stiffness rises 28 percent and there’s near 50/50 weight distribution — though upcoming four-cylinder models get closest to the latter.

Slimmed down, the modular architecture is also shared with Jaguar’s XE 3-Series rival. Jaguar launched the XE before the XF in Europe earlier this year, but delayed its North America debut until the 2017 model year when all-wheel drive bows. The XF goes on sale with both rear- and all-wheel drive starting this fall, leapfrogging its slightly older and smaller sibling into U.S. dealer showrooms.

Prices start from $51,900 for the 35t, $62,700 for S, and the 2.0D four-cylinder turbodiesel drops the price “significantly below” $50K when it arrives in mid-2016, Jag says.

Autoweek got an early drive in the XF 2.0D last month, but this is our first shot in the 35t and S. Both use the same 3.0-liter, direct-injection supercharged V6 as the F-type, come in 340-hp and 380-hp versions, and shift with an eight-speed paddleshift auto.

We tested the 340-hp 35t on Spanish autoroutes and mountain roads, the all-wheel-drive S on Circuito de Navarra.

Photo: 2016 Jaguar XF 35t and S AWD Photo 14

XF 3-spoke steering wheel with Jaguar Sequential Shift.PHOTO BY JAGUAR

What’s it like to drive?

The XF’s refinement on autoroutes impressed us. Our 35t test car had optional adaptive dampers (standard for S) and lulling, well-controlled vertical movements characterized the supple ride at 70 mph — it’s more pillowy than the 2.0D Sport’s passive dampers, that set-up being is special order only in the U.S.

Wind- and road noise are well contained and the smooth V6 emits a characterful part-throttle warble. Accelerate and the eight-speed auto drops gears quickly and smoothly while the flexible V6 builds speed with respectable urgency, without the F-Type’s rowdy aural drama.

Overall, it’s well suited for the luxury sedan market, and a nice companion for a few hours’ steady-state cruising.

Stray off the main routes and into the mountains and the Jag’s personality shifts, especially if you switch to dynamic mode; it firms the adaptive suspension, ups steering weight and increases throttle response.

The sharper throttle is particularly noticeable: on and off the gas through corners, the accelerator responds with crispness, heightening the connection between driver and car. Keep the throttle pinned, and you find this a fast — if not seriously quick — machine.

Use the paddleshifters if you wish — an engineered-in thunk of engagement indicates the changes are getting “dynamic” — but they’re last-gen cheap to the touch and S mode is basically psychic; no shame in admitting the electronics are better than you.

In either mode, the steering has more weight than the first-gen XF, and does dynamic without straying into the under-assisted stickiness that defines sportier German settings. The helm’s fast, accurate, and nicely weighted, though lacks the old hydraulic rack’s feel; Jag cites the electrically assisted system’s 3-percent fuel saving as recompense.

Thread together corners and you’re unaware of any ride-quality deterioration. Instead, those leisurely vertical movements become more quickly curtailed and the body remains highly composed, flicking from apex to apex. Again the composure and responsiveness stands out, especially through fast direction changes; the XF’s front end follows steering inputs like a puppy trying to outwit its reflection.

Photo: 2016 Jaguar XF 35t and S AWD Photo 15

The 2016 Jaguar XF 35t and S AWD go on sale this fall.PHOTO BY JAGUAR

When we drove the XF 2.0D, we said it didn’t quite have the XE’s agility because it didn’t have the power to truly work the chassis. The V6-powered 35t solves this, but only partially. Yes there’s that satisfying feeling when the rear end guides you through corners, though it’s not tail-happy, and you feel the extra weight over the nose from two extra cylinders — the front pushes wide if you lean on it as hard as you can in the XE. In fact, we’d say the XF 2.0D has the sharper front end, so you need patience in slow- to mid-speed corners.

The 20D’s weight distribution with the V6’s is the impossible sweet spot based on our drives so far. In the achievable world, it’s the smaller XE 3.0 V6 that’s the more enjoyable, sharper steer.

Of course, the XF is a larger, less wieldy package and the payback is far more rear-seat room than both XE and the last-gen XF. That’s despite the XF being a quarter-inch shorter and an eighth of an inch lower than its predecessor. Clever packaging and a 2-inch wheelbase-stretch equals an inch more kneeroom, a half-inch more legroom, and an inch extra headroom. It’s a comfortable place for 6-foot-tall adults to spend a long journey.

On the racetrack in the 380-hp S, the midrange performance immediately feels fuller, more flexible, and more than the 40-hp bonus might suggest. And that’s even with an extra 110 pounds from this car’s all-wheel drive. It’s an updated system compared with even the just-launched F-Type AWD, switching from gears to chain drive; it’s 16 percent lighter and 10 percent more efficient. Quieter too, says Jag.

The AWD S retains a rear-drive feel through faster turns, and proves even more adjustable than the F-Type, due to a longer wheelbase and softer suspension. It’s not wild, just satisfying, and it means you can point the nose at the apex with little lifts off the throttle.

Accelerate hard from slower corners and you feel the car working hard, pulling you forward and, yes, feeling some understeer; impressively, steering corruption is minimal. On a wet-handling circuit, the all-wheel-drive V6 proved sure-footed, if ultimately a gently stubborn understeerer. Not so much fun, but capable and sure-footed in tricky conditions.

Photo: 2016 Jaguar XF 35t and S AWD Photo 11

The luxurious XF cabin is both spacious and sporty.PHOTO BY JAGUAR

Do I want it?

There’s a lot to recommend the new XF 35t and S models: on adaptive suspension they’re smooth, refined and comfortable, all matched to a silky powertrain that suits this luxury sedan far better than the comparatively uncultured 2.0D we first tried.

The new XF is also a significant step over its predecessor when it comes to rear-seat accommodation: what was once marginal and cramped is now spacious and airy.

Switch to dynamic mode and the XF is an engaging, enjoyable steer on a challenging road. It might lack the XE’s outright poise, but it’s still fun and proves more involving than its German opposition. That’s important. Our choice? A rear-drive 3.0 V6 S.

Come by for a free consultation or quote.

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Three Major Concerns of Auto Body Repairs

There are 3 major areas of concern that we hear repeatedly from our customers here at East Coast Auto Plaza. These are concerns about our ability to get an exact auto body paint match for the damaged areas of the vehicle, concerns about the driveability of the vehicle after the repairs are completed, and concerns about our ability to repair frame damage the vehicle may have suffered in a collision. All of these are legitimate questions that we are confident we can address to the satisfaction of our auto body repair customers.

East Coast Auto Plaza uses the latest waterborne painting systems for our auto body painting work, which are the same systems that auto manufacturers use in the original factory paint jobs on their cars. We are able to get an exact paint match that is truly spectacular. We can match all kinds of paints, including the pearl essence paints on high-end cars, so that you can’t tell the difference between the original paint and the paint on the repaired surfaces of the car.

We use the most advanced laser alignment machines to ensure that cars with suspension damage are perfectly aligned after we are finished with our repair work. When a car leaves our shop, it will handle as well as, or better than, it did before the accident.

In past years, a car with a bent frame was almost impossible to repair. But, today, our highly trained technicians using our sophisticated repair equipment can repair a damaged car frame so that it exceeds the original specs of some car manufacturers.

If you bring your car to us for collision or auto body repairs to East Coast Auto Plaza, you can be assured that we will return it to you in excellent condition, with matching paint, perfectly aligned wheels and a straight frame. East Coast Auto Plaza is conveniently located in the Heart of Queens, NY.  East Coast Auto Plaza services the entire New York City area. But our services are not limited to auto boy and collision, as we can do almost everything, from state inspection to repairing your engine problems.

Come by for a free consultation or quote.

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Don’t be Frugal on Car Maintenance!

With a sluggish economic recovery and today’s consumers watching their finances carefully, it’s no surprise that the average age of vehicles in the United States is more than 11 years old, according to automotive research firm R.L. Polk and Co. With motorists holding on to their vehicles longer than ever before, maintenance takes an even greater importance in keeping roads — and people — safe.

The cost of neglect

“It’s tempting to avoid car maintenance in tough economic times, but that’s not a financially sound method to manage the big investment you’ve made in your vehicle,” notes Tony Molla, vice president of communications for the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). “Surveys of our certified technicians show that a well-maintained vehicle lasts longer, retains more of its resale value, pollutes less, and gets better mileage than one that’s been neglected — to say nothing of being safer to operate.”

According to the pros at ASE, neglect causes components to wear out faster than they would otherwise (poorly aligned tires, for example) and can result in minor problems growing into more expensive repairs (worn brake pads will eventually damage the more expensive rotors). ASE suggests motorists, whether they are do-it-yourselfers or take their cars to ASE-certified technicians, become familiar with their owner’s manual and follow the service schedules. “The owner’s manual is under-utilized; it summarizes systems to check and provides schedules based on normal or severe driving,” notes Molla.

While some people might relish a weekend tinkering with the family car, today’s technological advances under the hood and busier lifestyles find more consumers in search of dependable, trustworthy automotive service and repair.

Finding a good mechanic

Finding a competent auto technician need not be a matter of chance. Much of the guesswork has been eliminated, thanks to a national program conducted by ASE.

ASE tests and certifies automotive professionals in all major technical areas of repair and service. With more than 360,000 currently certified professionals working in dealerships, independent shops, collision repair shops, auto parts stores, fleets, schools and colleges across the United States, ASE’s national certification program has industry-wide acceptance and recognition.

ASE certifies the technical competence of individual technicians, not the repair facilities. Before taking ASE certification tests, many technicians attend training classes or study on their own in order to brush up on their knowledge. By passing difficult, national tests, ASE-certified technicians prove their technical competence to themselves, to their employers, and to their customers.

What’s more, because this program is voluntary, ASE certification becomes a self-selecting credential. And while ASE does not certify repair shops or monitor business practices, it stands to reason that those shop owners and managers who support their employees’ efforts to become ASE-certified often will be just as proactively involved in the other aspects of their businesses as well.

How certification works

More than 40 certification tests in all areas of vehicle service and repair are offered eight months out of the year at secure computer centers. Technicians who pass at least one exam and fulfill the two-year work experience requirement earn the “ASE-certified” designation. Those who pass a battery of exams, as well as fulfill the experience requirement, earn “Master Technician” status. In addition, all ASE credentials have expiration dates. ASE requires technicians to retest every five years to demonstrate their commitment to continuing education and stay abreast of changing technologies.

The tests are developed and regularly updated by industry experts with oversight from ASE’s own in-house pros. They are administered by ACT, the same group known for its college entrance exams.

There are specialty exams covering all major areas of repair. There are nine tests for auto technicians alone: Engine Repair, Engine Performance, Light Vehicle Diesel Engines, Electrical/Electronic Systems, Brakes, Heating and Air Conditioning, Suspension and Steering, Manual Drive Train and Axles, and Automatic Transmissions. There are also exams for collision repair technicians, engine machinists, parts specialists, bus techs and others.


East Coast Auto Plaza – Auto Body and Collision Repair. Rego Park NY 11374. Accident repair

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