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Tesla driver-assistance involved in 273 US crashes: report

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Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has maintained 'Autopilot' enhances driver safety as the government expands a probe of the system
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Tesla vehicles have been involved in most of the crashes involving “Level 2” driver-assistance systems reported to the government, according to US data released Wednesday.

The electric autos accounted for 273 of 392 crashes reported under a June 2021 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration directive requiring manufacturers to submit data on crashes for Level 2 driver-assistance programs, which aid with braking and steering but require the driver to remain fully engaged at all times.

NHTSA last week expanded a probe into Tesla’s “Autopilot” system, which Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has argued reduces the risk of accidents when used properly.

Crashes are reportable if the assistance system was used within 30 seconds of the incident and if the episode resulted in a fatality, a vehicle tow-away, airbag deployment or injury to a pedestrian or other “vulnerable” road user. 

“The data released today are part of our commitment to transparency, accountability and public safety,” said NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff.

“As we gather more data, NHTSA will be able to better identify any emerging risks or trends and learn more about how these technologies are performing in the real world.”

NHTSA did not criticize Tesla or other automakers in the report and cautioned of imperfections in the data.

Some of the incidents may have been reported multiple times by the same entity.

“Consequently, the overall number of reports submitted does not equate to the total number of incidents and is not a meaningful safety metric,” NHTSA said in the report.

Another issue is that the manufacturers who are required to report the incidents can only do so if and when the vehicle owner reports the incident. As a result, some incidents may not have been reported, NHTSA said.

NHTSA last week said it widened a probe of Tesla to whether “Autopilot and associated Tesla systems may exacerbate human factors or behavioral safety risks by undermining the effectiveness of the driver’s supervision.”

The action moves NHTSA a step closer to a potential recall of Tesla vehicles.

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Spanish airline to fly UK-made helium airships

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The helium Airlander produces one tenth of harmful emissions pumped out by regular aircraft, according to its manufacturer
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Spain’s Air Nostrum has become the first airline to reserve 100-seat helium airships that emit just one tenth of harmful emissions produced by jet planes, their British manufacturer said Wednesday.

A spokesperson for Hybrid Air Vehicles told AFP that Air Nostrum signed a deal to lease 10 Airlanders scheduled for delivery from 2026 onwards in a transaction worth over $600 million.

The Spanish regional carrier aims to become HAV’s launch customer while also diversifying its domestic fleet, using the Airlander on domestic routes.

The UK group will create 1,800 jobs at its facility in South Yorkshire, northern England, when it starts production later this year.

The hybrid ship — which looks like two blimps stuck together — has a helium-filled hull and will be propelled by a hybrid of electric and fuel-burning engines, with the goal of going all-electric by 2030.

It can stay in the air for five days and travel at maximum speeds of 130 kilometres (80 miles) per hour, with a range of more than 7,000 kilometres.

“Airlander is designed to deliver a better future for sustainable aviation services, enable new transport networks and provide rapid growth options for our customers,” said HAV chief executive Tom Grundy in a statement.

“Our partnership with Air Nostrum Group, as the launch Airline for Airlander 10, leads the way towards that future.”

The airline said in a separate statement on Wednesday that the planned aircraft, which has not yet been certified by regulators, will use far less fuel than regular jets.

“We are exploring each and every possible way to reduce our carbon footprint,” added Air Nostrum boss Carlos Bertomeu.

“The Airlander 10 will drastically reduce emissions and for that reason we have made this agreement with HAV.”

Delivery will be staggered over a five-year period.

The first prototype, developed with US aerospace giant Northrop Grumman, took flight in 2012 as part of a project with Pentagon, which was cancelled due to technical and budgetary issues.

HAV transferred the 92-metre-long vehicle to Britain in 2013 to turn it into a civilian model, bigger than an A380 jumbo jet.

It was presented to the public for the first time in 2016, but it nosedived while landing on its second test flight, without causing any injuries.

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Twitter holds firm on completing Musk buyout: board chairman

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Twitter is standing by its push to finalize Elon Musk's proposed buyout
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Twitter remains committed to closing Elon Musk’s $44 billion buyout bid, the firm’s board chairman said Wednesday, as doubts swirl about the billionaire’s intentions for the troubled deal. 

Bret Taylor, who is also co-CEO of the software company Salesforce, reiterated the Twitter position that the agreement should be finalized.

“The board is committed to the transaction,” Taylor said at a Paris tech conference, refusing to elaborate further.

Musk and Twitter have been in a standoff in recent weeks over the true number of users on the social media network, which has led to speculation the mercurial Tesla boss is trying to renegotiate or back away from the deal. 

He has threatened to withdraw his bid, accusing Twitter of failing to provide data on fake accounts, but the company has since reportedly agreed to give him access.

Musk is set to address Twitter employees for the first time on Thursday, as questions mount over the deal and the impact of his potential leadership of the platform.

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Biden chastises oil industry over fuel costs

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US President Joe Biden has regularly lambasted the oil industry for what he says is a failure to tap into already approved wells and increase output
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US President Joe Biden on Wednesday chastised the oil industry over soaring fuel prices at the heart of 40-year high inflation, warning of unspecified emergency measures.

The letter, sent to seven major oil corporations, was Biden’s most direct salvo yet in a campaign to blame the industry for stoking price increases. 

Average fuel prices are now $5 a gallon for drivers in the United States, up from $3 a year ago, and the spike is reverberating through the entire economy, helping to sink Biden’s approval ratings to below 40 percent.

“Refinery profit margins well above normal being passed directly onto American families are not acceptable,” Biden wrote in the letter to executives from Shell, Marathon Petroleum Corp, Valero Energy Corp, ExxonMobil, Phillips 66, Chevron and BP.

Biden said the economy is in “a time of war,” referring to the global fallout from President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions against energy exporter Russia.

“My administration is prepared to use all reasonable and appropriate federal government tools and emergency authorities to increase refinery capacity and output in the near term, and to ensure that every region of this country is appropriately supplied,” Biden said, without detailing what kind of actions he could take.

Biden has regularly lambasted the oil industry for what he says is a failure to tap into already approved wells and increase output. 

However, the letter, accompanied by a graph depicting rising producer profits, marked an escalation in the war of words.

In the letter he asked for “explanation of any reduction in your refining capacity since 2020 and any concrete ideas that would address the immediate inventory, price, and refining capacity issues in the coming months — including transportation measures to get refined product to market.”

“The crunch that families are facing deserves immediate action. Your companies need to work with my Administration to bring forward concrete, near-term solutions that address the crisis,” he wrote.

Biden’s Democratic Party risks a heavy defeat, losing control of Congress, in November elections and polls show that fears over the economy dominate.

In a fiery speech Tuesday, Biden blamed Republican obstruction in Congress and Russia’s war in Ukraine for price increases that he said are “sapping the strength of a lot of families.”

The Federal Reserve was due Wednesday to raise interest rates again in an aggressive effort to tamp down inflation, amid fears that the unintended result will be recession.

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