Tokyo Electric Power Company said after the ruling on the Fukushima accident that it will work with an unwavering resolve to strengthen the safety of its nuclear plants.
The utility said in a statement on Thursday that it is aware a verdict was given in the trial concerning the criminal responsibility of its three former executives, but will refrain from commenting on the case.
The Toyota Prius will enter the 2020 model year with more standard technology features, including one that owners have spent years clamoring for. The hybrid's powertrain and styling remain unchanged. Car buyers increasingly seek smartphone connectivity, and the Prius finally delivers by offering standard Apple CarPlay regardless of trim level. It's the latest Toyota model to gain the software after Toyota had long resisted it due to safety and privacy concerns. Amazon Alexa compatibility is also part of the package, but motorists waiting for Android Auto will need to show a little bit more patience. The hybrid segment's poster child also gains standard Toyota Safety Connect. Previously available only on the top-spec Limited trim, Safety Connect bundles emergency assistance, stolen vehicle locator, roadside assistance, and automatic collision notification. There's no stolen battery locator yet. Toyota noted it's giving buyers a free three-year subscription to the Safety Connect service, but they'll need to pay for it after their Prius turns four. Safety Connect normally costs $80 a year or $8 a month. Toyota hasn't made any mechanical modifications to the Prius. The standard model carries on with a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain consisting of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and two electric motors that draw power from a lithium-ion battery pack. All-wheel drive models gain an additional motor mounted over the rear axle, and a nickel-metal hybride battery that's better suited to extremely cold temperatures than the lithium-ion unit. The 2020 Toyota Prius will join the plug-in Prius Prime in showrooms nationwide in the coming weeks. Pricing information hasn't been revealed yet, but expect a small dollar increase to offset the additional equipment.
OJAI, Calif. — No brand has benefited more from the crossover boom than Subaru. Subaru's spectacular rise – from fewer than 100,000 sales in 1995, to a record pace of roughly 700,000 this year – was fueled largely by all-wheel-drive crossovers like the Outback and Forester, as the American market basically fell into Subaru's lap. But unlike some competitors, Subaru is keeping full faith in sedans, as evidenced by the all-new 2020 Legacy. Its impressive redesign underlines the advantages of the humble family sedan, from a more-affordable price to superior fuel economy. In true Subaru fashion, or perhaps anti-fashion, the Legacy's self-effacing styling that's hard to distinguish from its predecessor won't blow anyone away. But look past the workaday sheetmetal, and you'll find a decisively improved sedan. It's roomier than any class rival save the Accord, notably quiet and lavishly appointed, too. Consider the standard Eyesight suite of accident avoidance tech and a driver-monitoring system that's still AWOL on most luxury cars, including Teslas. And the 2020 Legacy is a solid value, at $23,645 to start. That undercuts the most-affordable Accord by nearly $1,000, and the Camry by $1,120 – and that's despite the Legacy's standard, full-time all-wheel drive, which has few peers in this segment. The 2020 Nissan Altima S AWD starts well north of the base Legacy, at $26,345, and although it's slightly more powerful than the Subaru, it's not enough to justify the premium. So if you buy a Legacy, it's like getting AWD for free, if you'd care to look at it that way. (Subaru certainly would).
RAYMOND, Ohio—As part of its long-running "Safety for Everyone" campaign, Honda has established the audacious goal of what it calls a "zero-collision society." But rather than making big claims about developing a fully-autonomous vehicle, which Honda hasn't done, the company is trying to chip away at the more than 37,000 vehicle-related fatalities that occurred in the U.S. in 2017 with a multi-pronged approach.
Here in central Ohio, engineers are working with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment to boost active safety systems like its HondaSensing suite of safety technology with old fashioned passive systems like structural steel frames or new airbag designs that protect passengers in a crash. Honda provided members of the press with a rare tour inside its Honda R&D Americas headquarters this week.
Honda officials say that increasingly, safety — and specifically, third-party ratings from the likes of the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — figure into the top three factors consumers weigh when purchasing a vehicle. Honda and Acura have 10, 2019 models that have earned IIHS's Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ ratings, and all 15, 2019 model-year Honda and Acura vehicles that have undergone NHTSA crash testing have earned a 5-star overall rating.
And Honda prides itself on its growing list of safety firsts, including the first upward-deploying front passenger airbag, in 1990 in the Acura Legend; first omni-directional crash-test facility, in 2000; and the first autonomous braking system, in the 2006 Acura RL. It hopes its new three-chamber airbag goes industry-wide and joins that list.
"It's part of our company's culture," said Art St. Cyr, business head unit and vice president of auto operations for American Honda Motor Co. "We have a philosophy at Honda that we want to be a company that society wants to exist. That means we have to protect our customers. That's part of the whole mantra of doing this."
Opened in 1984, the 1.6 million square-foot Honda R&D Americas facility, located in the countryside about 45 miles northwest of Columbus, employs around 1,600 people and is Honda's largest research-and-development facility outside of Japan. Its Advanced Safety Research facility opened in 2003.
Honda is also benefiting from partnerships, with both Ohio State University for the latter's distracted-driving simulation laboratory, which Honda helps to fund, with NHTSA at the Transportation Research Center, which is adjacent to Honda's R&D campus, and the state of Ohio at its Marysville smart intersection, where it is testing vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology.
Here's a look at Honda's various safety-testing facilities.
Driving Simulation Lab at Ohio State University
Located in a light-industrial strip of Columbus, Honda uses this facility to test and refine infotainment design and usability and conduct studies on distracted driving. The facility features a wraparound video-simulation monitor and the shell of a 2010 Honda Accord hoisted atop an electronic platform with hydraulic stilts that shift weight in the car and adapt to the simulated highway-driving conditions and driver inputs.
Honda runs between 10 and 15 test projects per year, with each driver at the wheel for between one and two hours being asked to perform driving tasks and operate various tasks using a current-generation infotainment touchscreen and center console.
One lesson the company has learned? "If you're on a phone call, that your field of vision starts to become smaller. So you don't see things in your peripheral vision as much as you do in your straight-ahead vision," said Steven Felt, chief engineer for interior strategy.
In its "Powerwall" crash simulation lab, Honda uses advanced software to conduct virtual crash simulations, with about 30,000 simulations conducted for every vehicle Honda builds. The software offers the ability to view thousands of different views of a simulated crash, compared to the 10 to 15 high-speed cameras that capture footage of crashes of an actual car.
That helps engineers figure out how to best build cars to withstand violent collisions, and it has led to Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering "ACE" body structure, which uses different grades of steel, plus hot-stamped, low-ductility steel "soft zones" that allow the frame to bend at predictable, strategic points to absorb energy and divert it away from occupants in the cabin.
On the current-generation Honda Civic, for example, soft zones appear on the B-pillars and along both sides of the rear frame.
Pedestrian Impact Lab
About 16% of all vehicle fatalities in 2017 involved vehicles striking pedestrians, with an additional 2% involving collisions with cyclists. Honda points out that there are no federal regulations requiring automakers to make or test their vehicles to minimize injuries to pedestrians.
Here, researchers drop what looks like a small bowling ball onto the hoods of vehicles to measure the impact of a pedestrian's head after being struck head-on. They also ram the front bumper in a stomach-churning simulation with an upright, hinged cylindrical object meant to mimmic a leg, to measure tibia bending and affects on knee ligaments. Work at the lab has led to features like energy-absorbing fender brackets and hood hinges, and collapsable cowl structures to minimize injury to pedestrians.
Honda maintains 48 full-scale dummies in multiple sizes, plus male and female versions, all with state-of-the-art biofidelity features to best mimmic the human body and its responses to impact. The most advanced version, called THOR (it's short for Test Human of Occupant Restraints) is equipped with more than 130 sensors. It costs somewhere close to $750,000, officials said, and was heavily involved in the development of Honda's new airbag.
Honda performs more than 2,400 tests per year just to maintain the dummies, which help the automaker to measure things like head drop, torso impact and knee impact in crashes.
Honda's "pitching sled," launched in 2002, is truly something to see.
It's a cage-like vehicle structure built atop a platform that rides on a steel track and is fitted with seats, dashboard, a crash-test dummy and airbag equipment. It allows engineers to tune and verify restraint systems before undergoing full vehicle testing, with about 440 tests done per year.
The system uses nitrogen stored in six large accumulators to pressurize oil and push it through a valve, generating an incredible 555,000 horsepower — the equivalent of eight 747s at takeoff — in a short but powerful burst. Unlike the Crash Barrier lab, there's no actual collision. Here, the sled is is pushed backward violently in a recreation of the force of rebounding from a crash.
If you've ever watched a crash-test video, then this will look familiar. Honda's crash barrier is a 90 metric-ton rotatable concrete block set on a turntable to conduct a full scale of crash tests of actual vehicles as the final step in verification before production. Honda conducts nearly 225 tests each year, which is nearly one every working day, and spends five days analyzing video of each crash and the smashed car itself after each test.
Unlike passive safety systems, which are designed to minimize injury in a crash, active safety is concerned with avoiding the crash altogether. Here, Honda has been working at the Transportation Research Center, which offers a 7.5-mile track and other facilities where it is working to develop or improve technologies like adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance. Bundled together as HondaSensing and AcuraWatch, the semi-autonomous features first featured in 2014 in the 2015 Honda CR-V and are now available across Honda and Acura's lineups.
Honda says the suite of driver-assist safety features will be standard across its lineup by 2022.
"Where we're headed right now is a perfect direction of both active safety and passive safety," said Brian Bautsch, manager and principal engineer for crash safety. "I think they're gonna be needed together for quite a while where the passive safety side of what we do heavily relies on some of the active safety systems, being able to dissipate that energy in a potential collision.
"Slowing that car down 5, 10, 15 miles an hour is a huge energy savings and really puts a lot less burden on the passive system."
Honda has announced that it is working on a new passenger airbag technology designed to better protect occupants in the event of a frontal collision, which is particularly beneficial in the event of an angled crash between vehicles, or a vehicle and another object. Development and testing was led by Honda R&D Americas engineers in Ohio, in partnership with Autoliv.
The 2019 Toyota RAV4 has impressed us with aggressive styling and pleasant driving dynamics. And now the completely redesigned small crossover impresses with safety, too, as it just received the IIHS' highest rating: Top Safety Pick +. The RAV4 earned this safety commendation after returning the best "Good" results in every crash test including both small overlap front crashes. The front crash prevention system, which is standard on all versions of the RAV4, gives adequate warning and can stop the vehicle from hitting an object at speeds of up to 25 mph. And as an added bonus, child seat LATCH anchor access gets the "Good +" rating for easy access and extra anchors. The one caveat to the RAV4's rating is that, like many other vehicles, it applies only to models with optional headlights. Only the adaptive LED projector lights on the Hybrid Limited model earned the "Good" rating. The LED reflector lights on all non-hybrid models and the Hybrid LE trim received the second lowest rating of "Marginal" and the Hybrid XLE, Hybrid XSE and Hybrid Limited trims got the lowest score of "Poor." But all the high scores for crash safety, automatic emergency braking and seat anchor access apply to all versions of the RAV4. With the RAV4 earning the Top Safety Pick + rating, it becomes one of six small crossovers with the rating. Among direct competitors, the Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester and Hyundai Tucson have the same rating, and also have similar headlight asterisks. The Hyundai Kona, a smaller crossover, and the Volvo XC40, a more expensive crossover, also get the Top Safety Pick + rating.
The IIHS has finally evaluated the 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, the plug-in version of the subcompact crossover, and it performs just as well as its fully gas-powered twin. Its high marks earned it the organization's highest award of Top Safety Pick +. In every crash test, the Crosstrek earned the highest "Good" rating for protection, including both driver and passenger small overlap collisions. Forward collision prevention also earned top marks, stopping the vehicle before a crash at speeds up to 25 mph. This is one area where the Hybrid improves on the standard model, not for better results, but for the fact that the forward collision prevention system is standard on all Hybrid variants. It's an option on base and Premium non-hybrid Crosstreks. The headlights are a similar situation. The Hybrid's standard headlights also received the "Good" rating like top-trim Crosstreks. Where the non-hybrid Crosstreks trip up is that the base and Premium trims have headlights that have the worst "Poor" rating. Parity resumes with LATCH child seat anchor accessibility, which gets a "Good+" rating for having easily reachable anchors and having extras for seating flexibility.
The 2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is a funky little crossover with a name that has angered more than a few Eclipse fans out there. Today it gets honors from the IIHS, though, in the form of a Top Safety Pick award. It's great to see the totally new Mitsubishi get safety honors for what is probably the best car the company sells in the U.S. now. You will have to get an upmarket version of the vehicle for it to be one that qualifies for the award, though. That nets you the LED headlights rated as Acceptable and the front crash prevention technology. It avoided collisions when traveling at 12 mph and 25 mph in IIHS testing. On top of that, it needed to score Good in all the major crashworthiness tests, which it did. The full breakout of scores showed it scored an Acceptable rating for some of the specifics the IIHS was looking into, but the car appears plenty safe from a crash perspective. Child safety seat testing found that the car's LATCH system was extremely easy to use, netting it a Good rating in that category, too. The 2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross starts at $24,690 for a completely base car, and stretches to around the $30,000 mark in its most expensive form.
Lexus is back at it with innovative lighting technology. The BladeScan headlights available in Europe on the 2020 RX utilize a new mechanism for throwing light further down the road, aiming that light more precisely, and doing so without blinding other road users. Lights from other OEMs with the same capabilities have increased the number of LEDs inside the housing for finer control. The BladeScan module inside the Lexus lights holds the number of LEDs down to 10 on each side of the RX, which Lexus says is a more cost-effective solution. In fact, BladeScan uses fewer LEDs than Lexus' most recent adaptive high-beam system, which has 24 LEDs on each side.
The LEDs in the new module are arranged in two rows, eight on top, two on bottom. The diodes are fed information about objects ahead, and adjust their intensity to dim light aimed at an oncoming car, or illuminate a pedestrian by the roadside. However, the LEDs don't shine their light down the road, they shine their strobing light onto two blade-shaped mirrors — hence the name BladeScan — that rotate at high speed. The light reflects off the mirrored blades and into a lens, which orients the beam down the road.