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Auto blogSat, 08 Feb 2014 11:00:00 EST
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, held an all-day summit on Thursday to discuss the dangers of using modern technology while driving, during which an ad that Mazda aired during the Super Bowl was used as an example of the worrisome future towards which we're headed. While seemingly innocuous at first glance, the ad, which can be seen below, shows a brief glimpse of a driver using the Mazda Connect infotainment system in a Mazda3 to check/update his Facebook page while driving down the road.
Officials from major communications companies like Samsung, Google and Apple attended the summit, as well as representatives from automakers including General Motors and Toyota. A representative from Mazda was not present despite the company's own currently available technology being used as the poster child for the issues being discussed.
According to Automotive News, Senator Rockefeller warned the automaker and communication execs on hand that he will propose legislation to regulate the use of technology while driving if they don't work together to implement their own standards more quickly. Michael Robinson, GM's vice president of sustainability and global regulatory affairs, argued that his company has had distracted driving guidelines in place for 15 years since the advent of its OnStar system, noting that the technology in question has also helped the automaker save lives through automatic crash detection and calls to 911.
So far, the lawsuits brought forth against Toyota for unintended acceleration have gone both ways: the automaker was found not at fault in a 2009 California crash and liable for a 2007 crash in Oklahoma. Both cases involved a Camry and resulted in fatalities. With a big chunk of these UA cases (around 200) set to his the docket of US District Judge James V. Selna in Santa Ana, California, Bloomberg is reporting that the judge has halted the lawsuits until March after Toyota and its lawyers have had extra time to try and settle the cases.
According to the article, Toyota is looking to take care of the cases out of court with an "intensive settlement process." Having already paid out $1.6 billion in "economic loss" suits, this latest settlement process is aimed at the wrongful death and personal injury cases allegedly associated with unintended acceleration. A hearing for the settlements will be held on January 14 with conferences on the matter commencing in February. There is no word as to when lawsuits may start back up if settlements can't be agreed upon.
We have entered a drifting arms race. Last year, BMW smashed the Guinness World Record for the longest drift by hanging the tail out for 51.3 miles around a wet skid pad in an M5 at the BMW Performance Driving School in South Carolina. That beat the previous milestone of nearly seven miles. Now, Bimmer's record is up in smoke as well and is in the possession of a Toyota.
German driver Harald Müller pummeled the old record to drift for 89.55 miles around a 0.15-mile (235.5-meter) course in Samsun, Turkey, in a Toyota GT86 (or Scion FR-S as it's known in the US). According to the Guinness World Records website, it took him 612 laps and 2 hours, 25 minutes and 18 seconds to manage the achievement. Sit back to watch a few minutes of the German's two and a half hours behind the wheel with the tail out.