South Australia plans a special license for performance car drivers, Kia and Hyundai recall large crossovers due to fire risk, Honda is reportedly considering reducing supply chain reliance on China. All this and more in today’s issue of The Morning Dump.
Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.
South Australia Plans Special License For Performance Cars
The Australian state of South Australia is zeroing in on performance car owners with new road safety regulations. ABC News Australia reports that South Australia Premier Peter Malinauskas and his government are planning several reforms that include implementing a dedicated license for powerful cars in the aim of preventing further pedestrian deaths.
Mr Malinauskas said his government was in the process of drafting new road safety laws and aimed to introduce them to parliament by the end of this year.
That reform includes establishing a licensing scheme for drivers of high-powered vehicles, similar to motorcycle and truck licences.
The licensing scheme would be retrospective, and Mr Malinauskas anticipated a “degree of resistance” from existing car owners.
“I believe it’s the right thing to do, I think most of the community think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
The government will also strengthen laws to ban drivers accused of killing someone from holding a license until their case is resolved, and ban the disabling of traction control in high-powered vehicles.
These proposals come in the wake of a high-profile pedestrian fatality where a driver in a Lamborghini Huracan failed to maintain control of their vehicle and mounted the sidewalk, fatally colliding with a 15-year-old pedestrian. Due to a combination of factors including the driver traveling below the posted speed limit at the time of the collision, the driver was acquitted of death by dangerous driving.
Premier Peter Malinauskas said the outcome of the case demonstrated “a need for law reform in the area”.
“I think the verdict really highlighted the fact that, in most South Australians’ minds, justice hasn’t been done here,” he said.
“And where justice isn’t done, or isn’t seen to be done, that raises the question of the need for law reform and that’s certainly what happened and I want to respond quickly.”
The tragedy at the heart of these proposed reforms was very clearly caused by one driver’s poor judgement. While I strongly agree that some reforms are needed to properly penalize those responsible for road fatalities, I’m a bit conflicted about the proposed reforms we’re seeing here. On the one hand, higher license requirements for drivers are generally beneficial for road safety. Drivers improve through teaching and experience, so requiring more driver training to get a high-performance license should put safer drivers behind the wheel of performance cars. In addition, increased penalties for drivers facing criminal charges relating to fatal collisions promise to be formidable sticks. On the other, “high-powered vehicles” is unacceptably vague and a retrospective license scheme seems a bit punitive given graduated licensing precedents.
Oh, and a ban on disabling traction control just seems like a basic lack of understanding. Many performance cars from Hyundai’s N models to newer BMWs relax traction and stability control a touch in their sportiest road drive modes, and there are still many older performance cars around that simply don’t have traction control. Plus, traction control systems don’t override the laws of physics. It’s entirely up to the driver to rein in their throttle control regardless of the presence of traction control.
Kia Telluride And Hyundai Palisade Recalled For Risk Of Fire
Anyone who lived through Ford’s infamous cruise control switch recall will feel a degree of familiarity with this new recall affecting select Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade crossovers. Owners of affected vehicles should park outside far away from anything like buildings and other vehicles because their crossovers could self-immolate while parked. Let’s take a look at the NHTSA recall reports and get to the bottom of this issue.
The issue stems from four-pin trailer hitch wiring harness that, due to the way it was sold/installed, makes pinning down affected vehicles an absolute nightmare. The four-pin harness was a port-installed option on 2020 Tellurides, but it was also sold as a dealer-installed accessory for both the Kia Telluride and its Hyundai Palisade sibling. Vehicles with seven-pin harnesses aren’t affected. The NHTSA recall report to the Telluride points to the four-pin harness’ module as the culprit.
A fire may occur in the area of the tow hitch harness module while driving or while the vehicle is parked with the ignition off. Foreign material and moisture contamination on the tow hitch harness module printed circuit board (PCB) may result in an electrical short circuit, thereby increasing the risk of a tow hitch harness module fire. The origin of PCB contamination is currently unknown but is under investigation.
A PCB prone to shorting is concerning given the exposed nature of trailer harness modules. Contaminants should have been considered during the design process. Also, there might be something seriously wrong with me because I was unusually amused by NHTSA’s safety risk description, which is simply “A fire increases risk of injury.” No kidding, NHTSA. Hyundai and Kia are currently working on a fix, so owners can’t do much at the moment but park away from things and carry a fire extinguisher should they need to use their vehicles. Here’s to hoping this resolves soon, because car fires really aren’t fun to deal with.
Former Apple Engineer Pleads Guilty To Stealing Autonomous Car Secrets
If you’re leaving a secretive program at a hugely important company, it’s best to not take anything from the program with you. Reuters reports that a former Apple engineer has pled guilty to stealing trade secrets from Apple’s automotive program.
U.S. federal prosecutors have alleged that Xiaolang Zhang downloaded the plan for a circuit board for Apple’s self-driving after disclosing his intentions to work for a Chinese self-driving car startup and booking a last-minute flight to China.
He was arrested at the San Jose airport after he passed through a security checkpoint.
Xpeng, the Chinese electric car maker Zhang joined after leaving Apple in 2018, said on its Twitter-like Sina Weibo account on Tuesday that the company had no dispute with Apple over the issue and that it was not involved in Zhang’s case in any form.
While it has been previously reported by Bloomberg that Apple was working on autonomous vehicle technology, this trade secret case offers a firm timeline of just how long Apple has been working on this tech. Apple reportedly intends to launch some form of autonomous vehicle solution in 2025, although that seems like a rather ambitious timeline considering we’re only just now getting to Level 3 autonomy in the wider automotive industry.
Honda Is Reportedly Considering Reducing Reliance On China
With global automotive supply chains in a state of disarray, it’s time for automaker to reconsider their supply chain management strategies. Reuters reports that Honda is considering reducing supply chain reliance on China, either in a major way or in a more nuanced manner.
Honda Motor Co Ltd is considering building a separate supply chain that would reduce its dependence on China, the Sankei newspaper reported on Wednesday, in what would be a high profile move by a major Japanese manufacturer.
A separate supply chain sounds like a radical rethink for Honda. However, it might not happen as Sankei describes. Reuters reached out to Honda and got this comment.
A Honda spokesperson said the Sankei report is not something announced by the company, adding it has been working on reviewing and risk-hedging its supply chain in general.
“The review of the supply chain from China and risk hedging are elements that need to be considered, but it is not quite the same as the objective of decoupling,” the spokesperson said.
If supply chain management changes do get put in place, it sounds like Honda could be better prepared for future shutdowns occurring further down the supply chain. In any case, Honda certainly wouldn’t be the first automaker to reconsider reliance on China for components. Reuters reports that Mazda is using a combination of stockpiling and diversification to avoid future interruptions.
Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. Happy Wednesday, everyone, we’re officially halfway through the week. The middle of the week calls for a middle-related question, and I’m wondering how many of you miss bench front seats in passenger cars. While the front bench in my Ford Crown Victoria offered all the lateral support of a barstool, it was nice being able to slide in from the curb side and really stretch out on long trips.
Lead photo credit: BMW