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Google Testing Self-Driving Cars In Texas

Google Testing Self-Driving Cars In Texas

The smart cars are spreading. After several years of testing its autonomous vehicle technology around California’s Bay Area, Google recently confirmed that it was taking its self-driving vehicles to Austin, Texas.

According to Jennifer Haroon, head of business operations for Google’s self-driving car project, at least two of the company’s white 2015 Lexus RX 450h SUVs will be used in the Lone Star State, one of which has already been on the street for the last week or so. The second car will be deployed sometime this week. The cars are outfitted with Google’s array of sensors and autonomous software.

The cars will mostly test around the north/north-east quadrant of downtown Austin, and for now, will not venture onto the highway. This will be the first time Google’s autonomous cars have been tested outside California.

Google hopes the change in scenery will provide a new environment for its autonomous software to sort through, including differences in geography, as well as a variation in the behavior of drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. “We really won’t know until we’ve started testing more,” Haroon said.

Last month, reports emerged that Google’s SUVs were spotted in Austin before any announcement from either company or government officials. Google says the cars were being driven by employees in order to map the area prior to autonomous testing.

“It makes the task of self-driving easier on the car so that the car can really focus on what’s novel and new in the environment,” said company spokeswoman Courtney Hohne.

Public officials are embracing the tests as a means towards safer and more reliable transportation with a lower rate of congestion.

Continue reading for the full story.

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2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport Safety Car

2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport Safety Car

Safety cars are usually reserved for BMW and Mercedes models with added sprinkles of muscle cars here and there. But now, Lexus is joining the fray with introduction of the GS 350 F Sport Safety Car.

Set to make its inaugural duties at the Muscle Car Masters at Sydney Motorsport Park, the GS 350 F Sport Safety Car will, from here on out, serve as the series’ official safety car. To serve in its new official capacity, the GS 350 Sport Safety Car was fitted with all standard equipment befitting its function. The exclusive exterior styling of the car comes with all the decals and an aggressive new body kit. Likewise, the interior was touched up with the same attention to its purpose. Then, the car was also fitted the Lexus Dynamic Handling System (LDHS), a system that features Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS) and Adaptive variable Suspension (AVS).

Under its hood, the GS 350 F Sport Safety Car gets a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 317 horsepower, generating a 0-62 mph time of just six seconds with an estimated top speed of 142 mph.

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Lexus rolls out recall for 245,000 IS and GS models

Lexus rolls out recall for 245,000 IS and GS models

Just when you thought Toyota had gotten over their 2010 recall catastrophe, their sister brand, Lexus, is starting the year of by catching the proverbial ‘bug’.

There really is no rest for the weary, is there?

The Japanese automaker is issuing a voluntary safety recall involving 245,000 vehicles of the GS and IS models over what appears to be a potential defect that could cause fuel leakage.

According to Lexus, the problem is caused by a problem with the connection between the vehicle’s fuel pressure sensor and a fuel line that could loosen over time. This, in turn, could lead to a possible fuel leak.

Affected Lexus models include 2006-2007MY GS300 and GS350 models, 2006-2009MY IS250s, and 2006-2008MY IS350s.

While no accidents have been reported yet, Lexus is doing its due diligence in ensuring that it doesn’t end up there. That’s why the company has already issued an order to its dealers to inspect all the affected models and take the necessary precautionary steps to fix the problem for any affected models. In the event a fuel leak is found, dealerships are prepared to replace the gasket found between the fuel sensor and the delivery at no cost to the car owner.

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Toyota Recalling Another 1.53 Million Vehicles

Toyota Recalling Another 1.53 Million Vehicles

Japanese automaker, Toyota, is at it again. After their massive recall due to unintended acceleration, the automaker is looking at another large recall effort. This time, 1.53 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles will be recalled globally. The United States market makes up around 740,000 of that total and around 600,000 will come from Japan.

The models that are being recalled include the 2005-2006 Toyota Avalon and the 2004-2006 Highlander, excluding the hybrid. Lexus will be investigating the GS, IS, and RX vehicles.

The recalled vehicles may have a faulty master cylinder seal in the braking system that could leak fuel. This will trigger a warning light and could reduce braking capabilities.

In total, the Japanese automaker has recalled 10 million units this year. It hasn’t been an easy couple of years for Toyota and it seems the last part of 2010 won’t change that.

Hit the jump to see the official press release.

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Lexus launches world's most advanced driving simulator

Lexus launches world’s most advanced driving simulator

Ensuring that safety remains the company’s top priority, Lexus is putting its money – and time – where its mouth is by releasing what it says is the world’s most advanced driving simulator.

The simulator, which is located at the Toyota research facility in Higashifuji, Japan, looks more like a space pod than anything else. A dome that rises 150 ft high and is 20 ft wide, the simulator performs state-of-the-art testing involving a real Lexus LS 460 that’s surrounded by an 360-degree interactive simulation of real world driving.

Not only does the simulator allow the company to study a number of real-world driving scenarios, it also helps Lexus come to a better understanding as to how driver’s react during these scenarios, especially those that lead to car crashes. The simulator works in all directions and can simulate speeds of over 180 mph, as well as simulate a number of driving conditions, providing Lexus with a wealth of information it needs to provide with cars that are more resistant to traffic accidents.

We don’t think it’s a coincidence that both Lexus and Mercedes have come out with brand new driving simulators about one week from each other. We’ll have to wait to see what new technology these automakers come out with after a few test spins in their simulators to decide which brand spent their money wisely!

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Toyota knew about defective valve springs three years ago

Toyota knew about defective valve springs three years ago

Toyota needs to take a few classes in honesty because they are really awful at it. Toyota is the world’s largest automaker, yet they still can’t find the will to be honest with the public.

In a new report by Bloomberg, Toyota knew about the engine problems that have affected more than 100,000 Lexus and Toyota vehicle three years ago.

The automaker received its first complaint in March 2007 in Japan regarding defective valve springs that may cause the engine to stall, Toyota spokesperson Ririko Takeuchi said.

The problem begins when an unknown substance enters the material used to make the part, which causes the spring to weaken and break. Toyota addressed the problem in August 2008 by altering the design of the spring, but the company didn’t issue a recall because of the rarity of the problem, said Tokyo-based spokesperson Monika Saito.

This won’t help Toyota gain back the customer faith that it once had, prior to the recall of 8 million vehicles due to unintended acceleration. The company then recalled theLexus GX 460 due to a roll over risk.

Toyota will recall 91,903 Lexis GS 350, GS 450h, GS 460, IS 350, LS 460, LS 600h, and the LS 600hL, as well as a few Toyota Crown cars in Japan. The problem may affect as many as 270,000 vehicles throughout the world, Toyota has said.

Stay tuned for more news on the Toyota situation.

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Toyota recalls 270,000 vehicles over faulty engines

Toyota recalls 270,000 vehicles over faulty engines

Toyotais just making things worse and worse as months pass. Lexus, Toyota’s luxury division, has announced another major problem with its vehicles, just days after halting sales of one of its hybrid models.

The car recalled was the Lexus HS 250h, due to a possible fire risk in a rear end collision. This time, Lexus has announced the recall of 270,000 vehicles already sold worldwide because of an engine-stalling problem. The issue affects seven models and Toyota says that the issue could affect the cars while driving.

Lexus has not announced all of the vehicles that were in the recall, but they did say that 90,000 of them were in Japan, while the other 180,000 were overseas.

Japan’s Nikkei has reported that “tens of thousands” of LS models could be in the recall and the Wall Street Journal cited a Toyota spokeswoman as saying that the LS, GS, and IS models would be included.

The engines in question are the 4.6-liter V8 and the 3.5-liter V6, as they were built using faulty valve springs.

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Lexus recall HS250h over fuel leak

Lexus recall HS250h over fuel leak

Toyota is at it again. Like the Ford Pinto in the 1970’s, which would leak fuel during a rear end collision, the Lexus HS250h is having the same problem. Lexus fileded a report with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the recall. Around 17,000 Lexus’s will need to be taken back to the dealer for servicing.

The HS250h could leak fuel in the event of a rear end collision at speeds of 50 miles per hour or greater. Leaking fuel could cause a fire that may threaten the lives of the passengers. Needless to say, Lexus needs to get this issue resolved as soon as possible.

"Even though our own testing of the Lexus HS 250h shows full compliance with federal fuel system integrity standards, we are working intensely to duplicate the noncompliance issue that the NHTSA identified and to determine the reason behind the different test results," said Steve St. Angelo, Toyota chief quality officer for North America.

Lexus has not advised the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about what steps should be taken. Call Lexus Customer Care at 1-800-25 LEXUS or 1-800-255-3987 or the NHTSA for further questions.


Hit the jump for the press release.

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Lexus shows footage of 'pre-fix' and 'post-fix' videos of the Lexus GX 460

Lexus shows footage of ’pre-fix’ and ’post-fix’ videos of the Lexus GX 460

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After getting called out by Consumer Reports regarding the safety hazards that came with the Lexus GX 460, Lexus quickly pulled off a remarkably quick turn-around on the stability issues that plagued the SUV. The same ones that caused Consumer Reports to put the Lexus GX 460 on its "do not buy" list.

After discovering the problem for themselves, Lexus recalled all of the affected GX 460 models, fixed the problem, and sent the cars back out to their owners. And just to prove that they were completely on top of things, they even came out with a video comparison of what happens to the GX 460 when it makes a sharp turn. While it wasn’t as exaggerated as what CR described - the car had the potential to roll over - the over steer in the ’before’ shot caused a quick fish-tail movement in the GX 460, which, if you noticed, was already fixed in the after ’shot’. Of course, since this video was made by Toyota (Lexus’ parent company), we can’t know for sure if Consumer Reports was exaggerating the problem or if Toyota decided to "downplay" the problem. This Toyota scenario isn’t exactly far-fetched considering Toyota’s recent decision-making in regards to the inadequacy of their vehicles.

Check out the video and see for yourself.

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Lexus GX 460 now has software update: Sales resume

Lexus GX 460 now has software update: Sales resume

For the first time since all of Toyota’s recall fiascos began, Toyota has quickly and efficiently solved an issue with one of their vehicles. Well, it might be too early to tell at this point, but we are rooting for them. A statement was released from Mark Templin, Lexus’ Group Vice President and General Manager, that explained that the Lexus GX460 will resume its sales after engineers created a software update that will take care of the vehicle stability control system issues that earned the Lexus a spot on Consumer Digest’s “Do Not Buy” list. The issue was fixed only 16 days after the recall was made.

As an even bigger, “Hey, we messed up again, but we really want to make it up to you,” Toyota is even contacting all of the 2010 Lexus GX460’s owners to arrange a time to install the update. They have also offered a loaner vehicle for anyone who is uncomfortable driving their GX460 until the update is completed.

After all of the problems Toyota has had with brakes, accelerators, memos, etc., it’s about time they took care of something quickly. We have said in the past that we think it is a shame that a brand like Toyota has created so many issues for themselves, but we think it is about time to start building the Toyota empire again. It’s going to take awhile. Good luck Toyota. We hope you and your consumers can put these things behind you.

Hit the jump for the official statement release by Mark Templin.

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