TIME Transportation

General Motors Says 100 People Have Now Died from Faulty Ignition Switches

Faulty Ignition Switch Repair At A General Motors Dealership
Jeff Kowalsky—Bloomberg/Getty Images Shop foreman John Chapman performs a service recall on a General Motors Co. (GM) 2005 Saturn Ion at Liberty Chevrolet in New Hudson, Michigan, U.S., on Friday, April 25, 2014.

The malfunctioning switches have prompted the recalls of millions of GM vehicles

The death toll from faulty ignition switches in General Motors’ vehicles officially reached 100 this week, putting a grim tally on the long-running saga of the company’s delayed recalls.

The automotive firm’s compensation fund said it had approved the 100th compensation claim resulting from the issue on Monday, the New York Times reported.

This number, according to the Times, is significantly higher than the 13 deaths that GM claimed were the only ones from malfunctioning ignitions on multiple models.

Several lawsuits against the company allege that the actual death toll far exceeds even the latest number, and accuse the company of downplaying the number of deaths in multiple congressional hearings.

“The success of the cover-up for over a decade leaves most of the victims unaccounted for,” Robert Hilliard, one of the lead lawyers, told the Times. “One hundred is not even the tip of the iceberg.”

Read more at the Times

TIME Environment

Flying Is Sometimes Greener Than Driving

The energy used per person can be lower on a plane than in a car

Next time you feel guilty about booking a flight when you could have driven, cut yourself some slack: in many cases, flying may be the more environmentally sustainable choice.

New research by Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute suggests that the energy expended per person is often higher when driving than when flying the same distance—more than two times higher on average, the Washington Post reports. This calculation depends on the energy efficiency of the vehicles involved, as well as on the fact that passenger planes are often crowded, dividing the necessary fuel among many people. On the other hand, drivers are often alone.

It’s important to note that most of the time, drivers are only traveling short distances, while flyers are traveling long ones—so the overall impact of drivers vs. flyers isn’t a clean comparison.

[Washington Post]

TIME Autos

Audi Just Invented Fuel Made From CO₂ and Water

Water, CO2 and green power are the ingredients for Audi e-diesel
Audi Handout Water, CO2 and green power are the ingredients for Audi e-diesel

The next step for the project will be industrial scale production

An Audi research facility in Dresden, Germany, has managed to create the first batches of diesel fuel with a net-zero carbon footprint — made from carbon dioxide (CO2), water and renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power.

Germany’s government has welcomed the new technology, created in partnership with a greentech company called Sunfire. Johanna Wanka, Germany’s Federal Minister of Education and Research, even test drove the fuel and called it, “a crucial contribution to climate protection and the efficient use of resources,” according to an Audi press release.

Manufacturing involves first breaking down steam into hydrogen and oxygen through high-temperature electrolysis. The hydrogen then reacts with CO2 to create a liquid called “blue crude.” This is then refined to make the e-diesel.

A visual infographic released by Audi explains the steps in detail.

Visual representation of Audi e-diesel
Audi Handout

The next stage for the project will be industrial scale production because Sunfire only has capacity to produce 3,000 liters (792.5 gal.) of e-diesel in coming months.

“If we get the first sales order, we will be ready to commercialize our technology,” said Sunfire CTO Christian von Olshausen in a company press release.

Read next: This Is How Much OPEC Really Earns

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Automobiles

Audi Wants to Deliver Amazon Packages to Your Car

Couriers would track your car with GPS and open the trunk with a one-time access code

Is it a car, or a mobile mailbox? One car manufacturer wants to make it both.

The German carmaker Audi said Wednesday it will begin testing a delivery system in Munich that will allow people to order products from Amazon and have them delivered to the trunk of their car.

The idea is to make it easy for people to receive packages when they’re not at home.

An Audi spokesman told the New York Times that the pilot project would be the first auto delivery system involving an online retailer. Volvo has already tested package delivery to cars and will roll out the service soon in Sweden.

The Audi service would involve the German package delivery company DHL, who would send a delivery worker to a GPS-tracked car and open the trunk using a one-time, temporary-use code and deposit a package. The technology would have to be installed in your car, and would come with all new vehicles.

[NYT]

TIME Accident

Man Sets Fire to 3 Cars While Trying to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

The incident was captured on video

A New York man was hospitalized Tuesday after he accidentally set three cars on fire while attempting to remove bed bugs from a rental vehicle.

The man doused the interior of his car with rubbing alcohol, hoping that would kill the insects, according to CBS New York. He then lit a cigarette while seated in the car, causing the car’s interior to catch fire before the flames spread to two other parked vehicles in a lot in Eastport, New York.

Video of the scene shows the vehicles engulfed in flames.

The 44-year-old man was hospitalized with first- and second-degree burns.

[CBS]

TIME Autos

How Silicon Valley Suddenly Fell in Love With Cars

Tesla Model S.
Tesla Tesla's battery makes it cleaner than gas-guzzling alternatives—but think about what else it's made of.

The last great remaining American preoccupation tech hasn't yet tackled is the automobile. That's about to change

“The American really loves nothing but his automobile,” Gavin Stevens says in Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust. “Because the automobile has become our national sex symbol.” Given that longtime infatuation, you’d think Silicon Valley’s tech companies would have been eager to get into the auto industry before now. Instead, many are surprised that it’s happening at all.

Ever since the personal computer became mainstream, Silicon Valley has been inventing or reinventing new gadgets: the music player, the phone, the computer itself, first as a portable, now as a tablet. Amazon remade the shopping mall and put it on a screen. Netflix and YouTube subverted the TV set, and now Google’s Nest is going after other household appliances. This year, Apple is reworking the wristwatch, casting tech as jewelry.

The last great remaining American preoccupation that tech hasn’t yet tackled is the automobile. Much of this has to do with logistics–selling phones or music players is child’s play next to the expensive, highly regulated business of manufacturing cars–but there’s also a historical mindset at work. Detroit, with its combustion engines and metallic gears, was the epitome of an analog era that Silicon Valley displaced. The car was an anachronism, however beloved.

No longer. Google has been working on self-driving cars for a number of years. Uber has started looking into them as well. Now, according to the ever-churning Apple rumor mill, the Cupertino giant is working on a stealth car project. For tech companies, the automobile has gone from a super-sized docket to park a smartphone while you drive to a gadget that can be reimagined from the ground up with digital technology.

The sudden shift is happening for a few reasons. First, with PCs, tablets and smartphone markets close to saturation, tech giants are looking for new markets to invade with their innovations. Second, the car market seems ripe for a makeover. American automakers like GM may be reviving post-financial crisis, but the U.S. looks to have reached “peak driving:” Annual miles driven per person is down 9% from 1995, and even more among young drivers.

But the biggest single reason tech suddenly loves the car is Tesla. The company founded by Elon Musk in 2003 to make electric cars has become much more: It has fused the automaker with the tech company, and not only built a cultural bridge between Detroit and Silicon Valley but showed that both were converging toward each other.

Tesla was a wake-up call to automakers that had grown complacent about innovation. It showed that technology was a powerful way to differentiate a particular model from the herd, and that if automakers wanted to reach out to younger consumers, they should embrace the kinds of technology they enjoy. Soon, you began to hear auto executives talk about “smarter cars” and roadways as “connected networks” structured like the Internet (15 years ago, that simile ran mostly in the opposite direction).

Read more: How Apple Is Invading Our Bodies

Google CEO Larry Page has said his interest in driverless cars stems from the inefficiency of roadways, which not only cost lives but waste worker time in traffic jams. (It doesn’t hurt, either, that driverless cars could offer commuters more opportunity to look at Google ads.) Uber is also researching self-driving cars to lower costs for its passenger service as well as a planned delivery service.

The loudest buzz surrounds Project Titan, a rumored Apple car that in reality could be pretty much anything: an electric vehicle, a leased minivan, a driverless car, a ploy to acquire Tesla, a bluff to pressure automakers into putting its CarPlay software in their vehicles, or a clever Apple hoax trolling Apple rumor-mongers. Wall Street analysts, though, think an Apple car is the likely bet, and if so the marriage of Detroit and Silicon Valley is a matter of time.

If nothing else, Apple’s rumored entry into automobiles seems to have turned up the heat. Last week, Musk said Tesla would start offering “autopilot” technology in its cars this summer. Google said its more ambitious driverless-car system would be ready for broad consumption in five years.

But the dark-horse in this new race may be Samsung, which according to Thomson Reuters has “has the largest and broadest collection of patents in the automotive field including a very large interest in batteries and fuel cells for next generation vehicles.” If automobile technology boils down to a patent race, Samsung may end up having an edge. Samsung even has some history in car manufacturing.

The end goal of these tech aspirations in the automotive industry may well be partnerships with established manufacturers. After all, what company is dying to break into a low-margin heavy industry? Many auto executives scoff at the idea that jumping from smartphones to cars is good idea. They may be surprised. Cars are just another form of technology, albeit one in need of an upgrade. And who is better positioned to upgrade them Apple or Google?

MONEY Autos

How to Beat a Car Dealer at His Own Game

Used car lot
Patti McConville—Alamy

With these strategies you can save money and win on the car lot—before you even get there.

As consumers have gotten better at researching cars online, auto dealers have had to learn new tricks. Some have even gone on corporate retreats to Disneyland to get tips from the entertainment brand about winning over customers.

Given how persuasive some salespeople can be, you’ll want to plan your negotiating strategy before you arrive at the dealership. When it comes to haggling, there’s plenty up for grabs: According to Kelley Blue Book, the fair price for a new Toyota Camry is $2,000 less than the manufacturer’s suggested retail.

Here’s how to win before you ever set foot on the lot.

The scenario: You see an ad for a specific car at a great price.

You should: Call ahead and say, “I want to see if the 2013 preowned hybrid SUV is still available. It is? Great! Can you have it ready to test-drive when I get there?”

Why it works: Car dealers may advertise one car to get you to the lot and then avoid showing it to you so you buy a pricier one, says Philip Reed, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com.

***

The scenario: You know what car you want, and you want to compare prices at different dealers.

You should: Send an email that says, “I’m looking for an out-the-door quote on the 2015.” Then specify the trim, options, and color.

Why it works: If you call around, dealers may try to draw you into the shop without giving you the info you are looking for. By specifying all the details and making sure to get a price that covers everything, you’ll be able to make apples-to-apples comparisons, says Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor of Cars.com. And you’ll have neutralized a salesperson’s big advantage—the gift of gab.

Read next: 10 Life Hacks That Will Make You Richer

TIME Sports

See Photos of Fast and Furious Drag Racers from the 1950s

In the wake of last weekend's Daytona 500, LIFE looks back at the hot rods and drag racers of the Rebel Without a Cause era

The squirrel batched out past his competitors, nerfing an A-bomb and pruning a T-bone on his way to top eliminator, moments before the badge bandits arrived on the scene. So might have gone a description of a drag race in the 1950s, at least according to the “Dictionary of Drag Racing Jargon” LIFE published in 1957.

Drag racing has always been NASCAR’s rebellious cousin, Hollywood’s prolific mining of the sport for high-speed drama (Fast and Furious one through seven, for starters) would have outsiders believe. In its earliest years, races were held stoplight-to-stoplight, or until the sound of sirens prompted drivers to disperse. The sport LIFE profiled in the late 1950s, however, looked less like the revved-up teenagers of Rebel Without a Cause and more like a maturing young adult trying to be taken seriously.

The National Hot Rod Association and the Automobile Timing Association of America, founded just a few years after NASCAR in 1951 and 1956, respectively, were taking pains to distance themselves from the popular view of drag racing as “a postwar teen-age infatuation with souped-up cars in which speed-crazy kids raced surreptitiously at 80 or 90 mph over lonely roads.” Local clubs with names like the Dragons and the Road Lords divided their attention between perfecting hot rods for races and waging a public relations campaign to improve public opinion of their sport.

Drag racing clubs got involved with civic projects to curry good favor in their communities. They liaised with local police and disciplined drivers who practiced their lead-footed habits outside of officially sanctioned racing strips. They disapproved of illegal street racing as fervently as the law enforcement that aimed to shut it down, as it cast a negative light on the sport as a whole.

The future of the sport was in question, as national coalitions of police chiefs voiced disapproval and the National Safety Council announced its official stance against drag racing. Sponsors pulled out, and supporters found themselves grasping at statistics to try to disprove correlations between the sport and traffic fatalities.

The photos that accompanied LIFE’s 1957 cover story offered an antidote to the after-hours danger many people associated with drag racing. Held in broad daylight with sharply dressed drivers and support teams, the races were a far cry from the stuff of James Dean, helping to bolster the sport’s legitimacy among a skeptical population.

Sixty years later, the NHRA claims 80,000 members, 140 tracks and 5,000 annual events. Attendance and viewership pale in comparison to NASCAR, which is second only to the NFL in television viewership. But its adherents remain a dedicated bunch, and its box office potential nearly, but apparently not entirely, exhausted.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME Research

Why You’re Less Likely to Die in a Car Than Ever Before

Traffic
George Rose—Getty Images Heavy automobile traffic on the Harbor Freeway is viewed at sunset on Jan. 27, 2012 in Los Angeles.

'Motor vehicles are safer than they ever have been in the past'

The chances of dying in a car crash in a new vehicle have declined dramatically in recent years to their lowest point ever, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Improvements to vehicle safety technology since the mid-1980s saved 7,700 lives in the United States in 2012 alone, the study found.

“There’s all the bad news about recalls, which make it sound like vehicles are getting less safe,” says IIHS president Adrian Lund. “What these results show is that motor vehicles are safer than they ever have been in the past. This is a huge reduction of people dying as occupants of motor vehicles in crashes.”

The study, which looked at data on deaths in 2011 model year vehicles, found that no one died in nine vehicle models. The death rate per million registered vehicle years, a number that represents how many people died per the number of years a car is registered to be on the road, declined to 28 for 2011 model cars. That rate was 87 for cars made a decade earlier, Lund says.

The report attributed much of that improvement to changes in technology. Electronic stability control, for instance, has been incorporated into many vehicles and prevented deaths when vehicles roll over. The effect of the technology has been particularly noticeable in SUVs. Once among the most dangerous cars on the road, many SUVs are now among the safest vehicles. Six of the nine vehicles without a death were SUVs.

Lund says he anticipates that car safety will improve along with the introduction of new technology in the near future, but he also acknowledges that movements by governments and regulators to cut down on traffic deaths have the potential to reduce traffic deaths dramatically. In particular, Vision Zero—a movement adopted by various cities and countries aimed at eliminating such deaths—has the potential to save lives, he says.

“If we’re really going to get to zero, then we’re really going to need action on a lot of fronts,” he says. “We don’t have to wait just for vehicle technology to achieve Vision Zero.”

Nonetheless, Lund notes that car manufacturers are “closing in on their target” of making their cars free of death and serious injury.

The nine models that were fatality-free were Audi A4 (four-wheel drive), Honda Odyssey, Kia Sorento (two-wheel drive), the Lexus RX 350 (four-wheel drive), Mercedes-Benz GL-Class (four-wheel drive), Subaru Legacy (four-wheel drive), Toyota Highlander hybrid (four-wheel drive), Toyota Sequoia (four-wheel drive) and Volvo XC90 (four-wheel drive).

Three cars had more more than 100 deaths per million registered vehicle years: Kia Rio, Nissan Versa sedan and Hyundai Accent.

TIME Automobiles

Red Light Cams Linked to Increased Rear-End Collisions in Chicago

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 7:   Speed cameras capture motorists on I
Daniel Britt—Washington Post/Getty Images Speed cameras capture motorists on I-395 near 2nd Street NW in Washington, DC on June 7, 2012.

New study casts doubts on the claims that cameras improve road safety

A new Chicago-focused study links red light cameras to a coinciding rise in rear-end collisions, casting doubts on claims that the mounted cameras improve safety at intersections.

The study’s findings, published by the Chicago Tribune Friday, found that while traffic cameras appeared to reduce injuries by 15% for collisions at right angles, where one car crashes head-on into the side of another car, those improvements were overshadowed by a 22% increase in injuries from rear-end accidents. Taken together, the study shows a statistically insignificant increase of injuries by 5%.

The results come amid Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s push to mount cameras on traffic lights city wide. The programs have attracted a growing backlash from critics who question its safety benefits and worry the program will lead to a swelling of ticket payments.

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