Sir Jackie Stewart: Hamilton Can Challenge Fangio and Schumacher’s Legacies

Mercedes' star Lewis Hamilton scored his fourth world championship on Sunday, eclipsing Sir Jackie Stewart's former record for British drivers. It also puts him in elite company with four others who have been awarded four F1 Drivers' Titles including rival Sebastian Vettel, Alain Prost, Juan Manuel Fangio, and Michael Schumacher. After watching the 32-year-old Brit join this holy quintet, Stewart had some major compliments for Hamilton by forecasting even more success in his future, perhaps even challenging Schumacher's record of seven titles.

“I think Lewis is a worthy winner this year, particularly the second part of the season,” said Stewart after Sunday's Mexico Grand Prix. “He’s driven extremely well and totally deserved the championship. A lot of questions have been asked of me because Lewis has now surpassed my record, in the British sense, of holding three world championships. I held it for 44 years, which is a ridiculous amount of time."

Stewart added that he wasn't upset by Hamilton's triumph, but instead, applauded him for his consistency and validated his standing among the sport's best.

“From my point of view, I have no regrets whatsoever. Records are made to be broken. It’s almost disappointing that no other British driver has come along during that period of 44 years to beat my record, therefore I congratulate Lewis completely for joining the likes of Alain Prost, Schumacher, Fangio and Sebastian Vettel [as four-time title winners]."

Between the two of them, Stewart and Hamilton account for nearly half of Britain's 17 Drivers' Titles with seven to their claim. Others include Mike Hawthorn (1958), Graham Hill (1962, 1968), Jim Clark (1963, 1965), John Surtees (1964), James Hunt (1976) Nigel Mansell (1992), Damon Hill (1996), and Jenson Button (2009). Like himself, Stewart noted that Hamilton has been able to do so by joining historically successful teams like McLaren and Mercedes-Benz. This, he admits, is a sometimes forgotten contributor to success.

"There’s no doubt he’s a better driver than when he first won his first world championship,” said the Scot. “You mature, you learn. You never stop learning. If he races for many more years, he’ll become an even better driver. I don’t think he’s reached his true potential." Stewart continued, “Lewis has of course been much assisted by driving for two of the best teams in the world, McLaren and Mercedes-Benz. You need to be with those top teams to achieve [titles], you can’t do it just as a driver."

Stewart claimed that he doesn't expect Lewis to let up anytime soon, and his capabilities can surely match that of Fangio and Schumacher as he matures.

“There’s no reason to assume Lewis won’t go even further and challenge Schumacher’s and Fangio’s records, and I wish him the very best of luck on that. He’s earned everything and deserves every recognition for winning four world championships."

Hamilton already broke one of Schumacher's seemingly-unbeatable records earlier in the year by matching his 68 pole positions, eventually trumping it as he currently sits at 72 for his career.

What Motor Trend Gets Very Wrong About Self-Driving Cars

Do you like driving? If you do, you should not read Motor Trend. Do you hate driving? If you do, you definitely should not read Motor Trend. Why? Because in a year ripe with the stench of self-driving clickbait, Motor Trend’s latest article about the Audi A8 is now my number one pick for the dumbest article of the year on self-driving cars.

To call this press release journalism is an insult to the clickbait mills regurgitating the #SelfDrivingTheater we see on a daily basis from Business Insider and Electrek. Motor Trend’s article is much worse, because it combines the veneer of a positive review with pessimism over the survival of human driving—upon which the publication’s very survival depends.

The article, “Patient Zero: Assessing The First Case In A Predicted Autonomy Epidemic,” also annihilates what little credibility on autonomy they had based on one half-decent article from last summer. That article, “Testing (Semi) Autonomous Cars With Tesla, Cadillac, Hyundai, and Mercedes,” was a serious effort to do instrumented testing of semi-autonomous systems, and defined them as such in the headline. When it came out in July of 2016, it was one of the first and best comparisons of its kind, but, just when their own findings indicated Tesla’s first generation Autopilot was the clear winner, they pulled a punch and the article ended. The Why behind that decision is worth an article in itself. This is not that article. This is about their latest offense, which doesn’t even go through the motions.

How terrible is it? The Silicon Valley-based self-driving community erupted on Twitter with mockery (most of which focused on the closing paragraph). To truly understand why this article is so bad, we need to deconstruct it line-by-line.

Let’s begin.

Patient Zero: Assessing The First Case In A Predicted Autonomy Epidemic
Experiencing the 2019 Audi A8's Traffic Jam Pilot feature

WTF does this mean? It appears they’re referring to the new Audi A8 as “Patient Zero,” or the first victim of the illness that is autonomy, which clearly lines up with the position one would expect of an automotive publication launched in 1949. But, if Motor Trend wants to immunize their readership from this illness, they’re off to a wretched start. The only way to fight what they’ve defined in the first two words of the headline is to call it what it is, which they get wrong by the tenth, in which they conflate the Audi’s semi-autonomous system with actual autonomy.

Bad, Motor Trend. Bad.

The Audi A8’s Traffic Jam Pilot is, at best, a Level 3 semi-autonomous system, as loosely defined by SAE and the DOT. I’m not going to rehash the levels, which are dumb. Here’s a link. Autonomy starts at Level 4. Most new cars ship with some form of ADAS (or Advanced Driver Assistance System), which falls at or just below Level 2. Level 3 is the bear over which Silicon Valley and the entire car industry have been fighting to determine a reasonable definition of both real-world functionality and “safety,” neither of which SAE or the DOT have addressed in a meaningful way.

What is Level 3? Level 3 is where things are most likely to go wrong. It's the Level where human skill declines. It's when people place faith in technology whose limits they don't understand, their own skills are less likely to save them, and no one wants to go except for marketing purposes. It's a mistake.

No less then Sully Sullenberger, former NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart and ex-Googler Chris Urmson have spoken at length to The Drive about the folly of Level 3. Anyone with a nominal understanding of commercial aviation’s use automation and autonomy—which are not the same thing—will tell you that ground-based Level 3 is highly problematic.

Anyone reviewing automotive Level 3 without real knowledge does so at their reader’s peril.

We haven’t even gotten past the headline. Once we do, the article becomes even more confused.

"I’ve finally done it. I’ve been driven in a car that assumed full responsibility for my safety, freeing me to watch TV on the center screen or do nearly anything that leaves my head facing mostly forward and my eyes open."

No, you didn’t do “it.” The A8 does not assume full responsibility for your safety. If it did, Audi would not have installed a monitoring system requiring the driver to keep their head facing “mostly forward” with their eyes open. All it can do is assume temporary control under limited conditions.

"The Audi A8 chauffeuring me featured Traffic Jam Pilot, billed as the world’s first true SAE Level 3 autonomous driving system. This inevitable technical milestone could mark a more impressive legal miracle."

WTF is Motor Trend doing? On August 4th the same author published this about Cadillac’s Super Cruise:

If Cadillac’s is effectively the first Level 3 system (still incorrectly billed as “autonomous”), and the same author has already driven it, and the Audi’s is the first billed as Level 3, and the author has presumably driven that, why doesn’t Motor Trend distinguish between them? Are they different? I know they are. And I—just like all of Silicon Valley and most of the car industry—know that the SAE Level definitions are vague, if not stupid. In that vagueness lie a thousand press releases meant to boost valuations. In that vagueness lies the danger of end users mistaking one set of functionalities and behaviors for another even within the same level definition.

If the author doesn’t know this, he should. He’s Motor Trend’s Technical Editor.

People have already been injured and killed because of such misunderstandings. What is Motor Trend, one of the largest legacy automotive publications in the world, doing about this? Contributing to it.

When Elon Musk says the media are killing people by not supporting self-driving cars, he’s half-right. The mainstream media are killing people by failing to practice rudimentary journalism, but we expect no better of them because we know they are whores, fools, or both. The specialty media? Guilty of failing to act on the knowledge they’re supposed to have.

Now check this out. Is the next paragraph quoted from a manufacturer press release? Or was it written from scratch? Hard to tell.

First the nuts and bolts. Level 3 autonomy requires all safety-critical systems to have backup. The brake assist and stability control/ABS provide braking redundancy. Electric steering is backstopped by the selective left- or right-side braking used in many lane-departure systems. Forward environmental sensing enjoys quadruple redundancy. A new zFAS central controller fuses data coming in from a high-definition forward-looking camera, a radar unit, ultrasonic sensors in the bumper, and the market’s first production laser scanner. The latter is located down in the bumper and aims a stationary laser at a spinning carousel of flat mirrors, each of which directs the laser beam through its 145-degree field of view. The sensor data gets overlaid on detailed GPS maps, and if one sensing system goes down, the driver is asked to take over. Oh, and the computing power of that Nvidia-based zFAS brain exceeds that of all the computers in today’s A8.

Yadda, yadda. Light nuts, plastic bolts. Someone in the Audi comms department should get a raise for getting this out seemingly verbatim. Not even a link to the zFAS product page? How about a Wiki? Here's a great link from a real publication doing serious journalism in the sector. Sorry, the above paragraph tells the average reader nothing of value other than that they may have to take over.

Wait. The user has to take over?

Talk about burying the lede. This is the crux of everything. That the user may have to take over is core of the biggest debate in self-driving cars, which is that of transitions. When and how transitions occur is the hinge upon which real-world safety will swing. It may determine whether Level 3 is legal—let alone deployable—in the United States. This is what the entire article should be about, and yet the word “transition” isn’t mentioned once. Sad!

Here’s how TJP works: When a nose-to-tail traffic jam slows you to below 37 mph on a multilane highway where opposing traffic is separated by guard rails or concrete, the cluster announces “Traffic Jam Pilot available.” Pressing the “Audi AI” button on the console then changes the edge lines on the instrument cluster from white to green, and you’re off duty. Steer or touch the pedals, and you’re back in control. You must remain ready to take over within 10 seconds, so the car monitors your head using an infrared camera. If it senses that you’re sleeping or nonresponsive—or if the end of the highway is approaching, or if a lane change becomes necessary (TJP doesn’t change lanes)—the system directs you to take over. First the cluster-edge lines change to red with a message, followed by a warning tone. The car then slows down, jabs the brakes, and tightens the seat belt. Finally it stops in the lane, engages the parking brake and hazard signals, unlocks the doors, and calls for help.

That’s not really how it works. That’s what it’s supposed to do. Functionality and behavior are not the same thing. Does it work everywhere? Does the system get updated? Does it need to be? If so, does one have to go to the dealer? Or is it wireless? Is there redundant Lidar? Cadillac’s Super Cruise doesn’t use Lidar. Audi does. Why didn’t Audi go out and map the interstates like Cadillac did? Or did they? Does that matter? There's AI inside? What kind? I can buy a car with AI today? Wow. Wish I could learn more about that. Does Audi assume liability if the system fails? Volvo says they will for some as-yet unreleased, geofenced L3/4 system. How does Audi’s compare to Volvo’s?

And we haven’t even gotten to that 10 second transition interval. Are the warnings good enough? What if music is playing? Do the warning tones supercede the stereo? Are they played over the same system? If not, are the transition warning system alerts played back through a redundant speaker? How does Audi’s transition warning system compare to Cadillac’s? Or Tesla’s? Or Volvo’s? Or an Airbus?

Whoa...the Audi will stop in its lane? Is that a good idea? Who made that decision?

So many questions. No answers from the venerable Motor Trend.

Sadly, you can’t buy a car with this system just yet. Audi and German authorities are working to amend UN Regulation No. 79 to raise the current limit for “automatically commanded steering function” from 10 to 130 km/h (6 to 81 mph). This amendment is expected any day, after which Audi should quickly obtain homologation for TJP in Germany, rolling it out to other countries later. Audi tech boss Peter Mertens says 81-mph Level 3 autonomy will follow in several years, with considerably more conditions and functions built in.

Is it sad? If Motor Trend thinks autonomy is an illness, then shouldn’t they be glad it’s not yet available in the US?

China and the U.S. have no autonomous-steering speed restrictions, but state laws—such as a 1971 New York statute that requires drivers keep one hand on the wheel at all times—pose problems. Audi’s director of U.S. government affairs, Brad Stertz, says TJP is compliant with current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. He notes that bipartisan House legislation now being reconciled in the Senate will grant NHTSA authority over all future autonomous vehicle standards. As for TJP, Stertz says Audi is still tailoring the system to our unique urban highways and fine-tuning liability hedges such as event-data recorders. All 2019 A8s will ship with zFAS and the laser scanner (both enhance Level 2 adaptive cruise) but perhaps not the driver-monitoring camera or capacitive steering wheel. Without these, the cars won’t be flash-upgradable to TJP.

So Audi may remove two critical driver safety monitoring features—including one Cadillac deemed essential for Super Cruise—before selling the A8 with this system in the USA? Why isn’t entire article about that? Is Cadillac wrong? Is Audi? Tesla? Does Motor Trend care? Should its readers?

The system works great, but because full autonomy will ultimately decimate whole populations of automobile critics, you’ll forgive me for curbing my enthusiasm.

The system works great? Is that all the Technical Editor has to say? Has he even driven it? Is there any evidence in the article he did? Did I miss something? Whose hardware does Audi use? Is it Mobileye? Tesla used to use that. Stock prices rise and fall based on such information. What software? Was it built internally? It works great, but he’s not enthusiastic? If he knows his job is in danger, why is he hastening it with this pap?

What is going on here?

What’s going on is the death knell of legacy automotive media, totally aware of their ignorance in the face of autonomy, yet doing nothing. Motor Trend and other outlets have a choice. If they want to defend against the inevitable rise of full autonomy, they need to raise the flag of information and education. They need to fight to raise drivers education standards. They need to protect us from bad autonomy. They need to report on augmented driving systems. They need to dissect every semi-autonomous system and do so with real understanding. They need to give enthusiasts reason to believe human driving will survive, explain how it might be protected, and why it deserves to be.

Based on what I’ve seen here, Motor Trend has already given up.

Alex Roy is Editor-at-Large for The Drive, Host of The Autonocast, co-host of /DRIVE on NBC Sports and author of The Driver, has set numerous endurance driving records in Europe & the USA in the internal combustion, EV, 3-wheeler & Semi-Autonomous Classes, including the infamous Cannonball Run record. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

See What It Takes To Get the Forza Ute to SEMA

Early last month, Forza Motorsport 7 was released for Xbox One. Along with Forza Motorsport 7's release, Turn 10 Studios, the makers of Forza Motorsport, and Hoonigan released the Hoonigan Car Pack.

The car pack, released for prior title Forza Horizon 3 with alternate cars, featured the Hoonicorn V2, a Porsche 911 RWB, among other Hoonigan employee cars. For Forza Motorsport 7, Hoonigan started a Holden Ute project build and that completed car is part of the car pack. They need to catch up to the video game and complete the car for SEMA.

Back in early September, we showed what the Hoonigan guys were up to with their Ute build on an episode of Hoonigan's series Daily Transmission. The car was stripped of its interior and was left hand drive swapped. They even broke an engine hoist trying to pull the original dashboard out in one piece.

Fast forward to today's Daily Transmission episode and there are 12 days left until SEMA and a lot to be done.

Most of what was left to get the car SEMA ready was visual, specifically measuring and fitting wheels on the car. Hoonigan called up Ron Baugh from wheel manufacturer Forgiato to help get the right measurements and fill their wheel well to the max. Baugh previously showed up in Episode 64 of Daily Transmission with a Japanese-inspired Foxbody Mustang. This time he showed up with his "company car," a Dodge Challenger with Forgiato wheels, gold wheels on the driver side and white wheels on the passenger side.

They got down to business and Baugh measured everything in the Ute's wheel well to get the maximum size that will fit. The Ute was going to have upgraded coilovers and potentially a big brake kit in the future, so Baugh also took those into consideration for his measurements.

Baugh comes back with the finished set of wheels and lays down a smokey burnout in his Challenger.

You get to see more behind the scenes of the Ute's road to SEMA including the last hours of the build. For more of the details check out Hoonigan's video below.

The Hennessey Venom F5 Is America’s Homegrown, 301-MPH Hypercar

Everything, as the old saw goes, is bigger in Texas. Apparently that goes for top speed numbers, as well, because Houston-area-based Hennessey Performance has dropped one Big Bertha of a claimed Vmax for its newest hypercar. The Hennessey Venom F5, the company claims, will keep on accelerating all the way to 301 miles per hour—and outaccelerate a Formula 1 car from a stop to 186 mph along the way, to boot.

While the name brings to mind the slightly-Lotus-based Hennessey Venom of speed records past, the company claims the Venom F5—the alphanumeric, founder John Hennessey says, stands for the top rung of the Fujita scale used to measure tornado wind speed—is an all-new car, built fresh from the ground up with the goal of bringing the title of World's Fastest Street Car back to the U.S. of A. The 0–186 mph sprint will take less than 10 seconds, the company says; going from a stop to 249 mph will take less than half a minute.

On paper, at least, the Venom F5 seems to have what it takes to give the likes of the Bugatti Chiron and Koenigsegg Regera a run for their money. Power comes from an all-new twin-turbo V-8 that the Hennessey team says it's developing; while specifics are sparse right now, the company says the engine will crank out a whopping 1,600 horsepower. That power will then head through a seven-speed paddle-shift gearbox—a single-clutch version, interestingly enough, not a dual-clutch like most carmakers have moved to—on the way to the rear wheels and the rear wheels alone. Owners should be advised to keep a spare pair of Hanes in the glove box, in case of 100-mph-wheelspin-related "incidents."

But if maximum velocity were just a matter of raw power, the Bloodhound SSC could look like Mickey Rourke's face and still break the sound barrier. So the Hennessey Venom F5's skin is a slippery, carbon fiber dermis with a coefficient of drag of just 0.33, with active aerodynamics to help keep things under control at the sort of speeds better measured as percentages of Mach numbers. Thanks to lightweight construction, the Venom F5 will reportedly weigh in at 2,950 pounds with all its fluids. Which means each pony only needs to push around 1.84 pounds of car.

If the bold top speed claims are true, that would make the Venom F5 the first production car (assuming, of course, you count a super-limited run car made by a shop that mostly soups up American muscle cars and trucks as a "production car") to break the 300 mile-per-hour barrier. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence—and while Hennessey certainly has a better track record with setting ludicrous speed records than most small carmakers, a top-speed claim that notable will need some serious evidence. To quote another turn of phrase, the proof of the pudding is in the eating—and the proof of the hypercar is in the testing.

Oh, and the price for all this? $1.6 million, to start. Only 24 will be built, however, so at least you likely won't wind up behind another one in the Hardee's drive-thru line.

Here’s What’s In the Navy’s Damning New Reports on Its Destroyer Collisions

After months of investigating the circumstances relating to two separate collisions between the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain and merchant ships in the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. Navy has determined both incidents were “preventable” and “avoidable,” blaming numerous officers and sailors for the incidents, which left a total of 17 Americans dead. The nature of accidents had initially seemed so bizarre that they quickly prompted a raft of conspiracy theories, but the official investigations reinforced subsequent reports that pointed instead to almost recklessly poor training and readiness standards and dangerously low morale.

In an associated press release, the Navy described the mishap involving Fitzgerald and the container ship M/V ACX Crystal on June 17, 2017 as the result of “an accumulation of smaller errors over time, ultimately resulting in a lack of adherence to sound navigational practices.” When the John McCain collided with the chemical tanker M/V Alnic MC on Aug. 21, 2017, “complacency, over-confidence, and lack of procedural compliance,” were major factors in the accident.

A wide-spread issue

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, the Navy’s top officer, issued the following statement to coincide with the release of the report:

“Both of these accidents were preventable and the respective investigations found multiple failures by watch standers that contributed to the incidents. We must do better.

“We are a Navy that learns from mistakes and the Navy is firmly committed to doing everything possible to prevent an accident like this from happening again. We must never allow an accident like this to take the lives of such magnificent young Sailors and inflict such painful grief on their families and the nation.

“The vast majority of our Sailors are conducting their missions effectively and professionally - protecting America from attack, promoting our interests and prosperity, and advocating for the rules that govern the vast commons from the sea floor to space and in cyberspace. This is what America expects and deserves from its Navy.

“Our culture, from the most junior sailor to the most senior Commander, must value achieving and maintaining high operational and warfighting standards of performance and these standards must be embedded in our equipment, individuals, teams and fleets.

“We will spend every effort needed to correct these problems and be stronger than before.”

The public reports can only contain unclassified information about the Navy’s protocols and standard operating procedures and the equipment and capabilities of the two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The reviews also make clear that the Navy has no reason to suspect there is any weight to any conspiracy theories, such as those involving sabotage, cyber attacks, or other interference by foreign countries.

The Navy made no determination about whether the civilian crews onboard the merchant vessels may ultimately bear some responsibility, as well, details that will likely come out in additional U.S. and Japanese Coast Guard investigations. That being said, they still describe a near total breakdown in leadership and almost deliberately poor decision making on the part of the service’s own crews.

What happened aboard Fitzgerald

In the case of the Fitzgerald, the ship was within sight of land and was running with only external navigation lights on when it came into contact with the ACX Crystal, a common procedure. Per the official International Rules of the Nautical Road, the American destroyer was in a so-called “crossing situation” and should have moved out of the path of the other vessel. When that didn’t happen, the container ship’s crew was supposed to do the same.

Though aware of the situation for 30 minutes before the collision, neither ship took evasive action leading up to the mishap. Minutes before the two smacked into each other, Fitzgerald’s Officer of the Deck and Junior Officer of the Deck, the former in charge of the ship’s safe navigation and the other there to assist, were still debating on the bridge whether or not change course.

At no point did any other personnel on the bridge appear to offer substantive advice, according to the review, and the ship’s captain, who was asleep at the time, was completely unaware of what was going on, a breach of protocol, until the ACX Crystal literally smashed its way into his quarters. The destroyer’s Combat Information Center, which fuses data from the ship’s radar and other sensors, never offered information or advice to the Office of the Deck.

At no point did personnel on the bridge sound a collision warning or otherwise alert the rest of the crew, many of whom were also in their bunks, of the impending danger. The accident caused such significant damage as to knock out the Fitzgerald’s external communications systems, preventing the crew from quickly calling for help, and all power to the forward spaces of the ship.

As we at The War Zone reported before, based on an initial release of information to the public, that the incident wasn’t worse is a testament to the courage of the ship’s crew in the immediate aftermath. Along with these latest reports, the Navy released a number of haunting hand drawn sketches investigators had sailors draw of how they escaped the flooding in the compartments.

This description of how sailors rescued the captain from his cabin is particularly harrowing:

“Five Sailors used a sledgehammer, kettlebell, and their bodies to break through the door into the CO’s cabin, remove the hinges, and then pry the door open enough to squeeze through. Even after the door was open, there was a large amount of debris and furniture against the door, preventing anyone from entering or exiting easily.

“A junior officer and two chief petty officers removed debris from in front of the door and crawled into the cabin. The skin of the ship and outer bulkhead were gone and the night sky could be seen through the hanging wires and ripped steel. The rescue team tied themselves together with a belt in order to create a makeshift harness as they retrieved the CO, who was hanging from the side of the ship.”

But the Navy found a laundry list of failures just in the moments leading up to the crash. The Officer of the Deck and the rest of the team on the bridge were apparently largely unfamiliar with the International Rules of the Nautical Road, failed to take responsible action to get the destroyer out of the way in the first place, didn’t notify other vessels in the area of a possible hazard, and kept the ship going at an unsafe speed given the other ships in the congested shipping lanes.

The watch team didn’t position the ship’s radar and other personnel did not appear to use civilian Automated Identification System transponder beacon information to provide the personnel on the bridge with the best picture of the situation possible and weren’t even physically watching what was going on to the right of Fitzgerald where the ACX Crystal and two other ships were sailing.

Damage to the <em data-recalc-dims=Fitzgerald after the collision." />

A near complete failure of leadership and communication before and leading up to the mishap meant that key individuals were not working together as a team for some time before hand. The Navy said that the destroyer had another near collision in May 2017, but that the ship’s command team “made no effort to determine the root causes and take corrective actions in order to improve the ship’s performance.”

Oh, and beyond all that, the ship’s crew was just dangerously fatigued. The strain on the Navy to meet operational demands, often operating ships with inadequate or overworked crews, is something that has since emerged as a broad, service-wide issue in need of fixing, which you can read more about in depth here.

“No single person bears full responsibility for this incident,” the Navy investigators concluded. “The crew was unprepared for the situation in which they found themselves through a lack of preparation, ineffective command and control, and deficiencies in training and preparations for navigation.”

The <em data-recalc-dims=ACX Crystal sits in port in Japan after the accident in June 2017." />

The McCain collision

When McCain collided with the Alnic MC nearly two months later, the circumstances were in many ways even worse. Both the ship’s captain and executive officer were on the bridge due to the “higher risk” nature of sailing in heavily trafficked Singapore Strait and Strait of Malacca. As with Fitzgerald, the destroyer was following the common procedure of sailing with just its navigation lights on even though there was near total darkness. It is possible that if the crew had responded appropriately to a possible dangerous situation that they would have turned on floodlights and other equipment to make sure other ships in the area were better aware of the destroyers presence and exact position.

As the American warship entered the shipping lanes, it became apparent that the helmsman, in charge of steering the ship, was having trouble properly adjusting the vessel’s speed, while also keeping it on course. The commanding officer ordered another individual to assist, which involved that individual actually taking over some of the controls through their own console.

Unfortunately, the move confused everyone. Instead of just shifting the speed controls to the other workstation, the steering functions got redirected, too. The Helmsman had no idea this was the case and thought they had completely lost control of the ship.

Tugs move the <em data-recalc-dims=McCain to a rendezvous point with the heavy lift ship M/V Treasure off the coast of Singapore on Oct. 6, 2017." />

Though this wasn’t actually the case, at that moment no one was guiding the ship. At the same time, the movement of the computerized controls between workstations placed the ship’s rudder back in the default, centered position, from where it had been, one to four degrees to the right. This caused the ship to immediately begin drifting to the left.

Standard Navy protocol says a ship should immediately slow down when it suffers a “steering casualty,” as well. The assisting Helmsman, known as the Lee Helmsman, had misunderstood the controls, though, and only slowed one of the destroyer’s two screws, leaving the other running at the previous speed for more than a minute, exacerbating the leftward movement and shunting the McCain further into the path of other ships.

In the three minutes it took for someone to finally realize that the ship’s steering was fine, it was too late to avoid the impact with the Alnic MC. As with the Fitzgerald’s mishap, neither of the ships attempted to contact the other and the McCain never sounded a collision warning, even when it should have been obvious that an accident was inevitable.

A map showing the approximate path of the USS <em data-recalc-dims=John S. McCain leading up to the collision with the Alnic MC." />

External communications failed afterwards and the impact seriously degraded the ship’s navigation equipment and caused a loss of electric power in many compartments. “Those nearest the impact point described it as like an explosion,” the official report noted.

As with the earlier collision, the McCain’s crew did heroically work to prevent the incident from being any worse. The Navy’s new report reveals additional harrowing stories about this accident, as well, such as the following:

“The second Sailor was in a bottom rack in Berthing 3. His rack was lifted off the floor as a result of the collision, which likely prevented him from drowning in the rising water, and he was trapped at an angle between racks that had been pressed together. Light was visible through a hole in his rack and he could hear the water and smell the fuel beginning to fill Berthing 3.

“He attempted to push his way out of the rack, but every time he moved the space between the racks grew smaller and he was unable to escape. His foot was outside the rack and he could feel water. It was hot in the space and difficult to breathe, but he managed to shout for help and banged against the metal rack to get the attention of other Sailors in the berthing space. The Sailors who entered Berthing 3 to rescue others heard this and began assisting him, but he was pinned by more debris than the first Sailor freed.

“It took approximately an hour from the time of the collision to free the second Sailor from his rack. Rescuers used an axe to cut through the debris, a crow bar to pull the lockers apart piece by piece, and rigged a pulley to move a heavy locker in order to reach the Sailor. Throughout the long process, his rescuers assured him by touching his foot, which was still visible. Once freed, the Sailor was the last person to escape Berthing 3. Everything aft of his rack was a mass of twisted metal. He had scrapes and bruises all over his body, suffered a broken arm, and had hit his head. He was unsure whether he remained conscious throughout the rescue.”

In its investigation, the Navy found that the McCain’s Helmsman, Lee Helmsman, and other personnel lacked of adequate training on the steering and speed controls. On top of that, several sailors on the bridge during the accident had been earlier temporarily assigned similar duties on board the USS Antietam, a Ticonderoga-class cruiser with a significantly different control layout, which led to apparent confusions and a lack of understanding of what was going on when it appears the steering had given out.

“Multiple bridge watchstanders lacked a basic level of knowledge on the steering control system, in particular the transfer of steering and thrust control between stations,” according to the review. “The senior most officer responsible for these training standards lacked a general understanding of the procedure for transferring steering control between consoles.”

Perhaps most gallingly, it seemed clear to Navy investigators that there should have been enough time, with appropriate collision warning and inter-ship communication for the McCain, the Alnic MC, or both ships to have gotten out of the way of the other. The failure to perform this basic duty on the part of the American destroyer seemed to reflect a worrisome command culture.

The captain had declined to assign additional personnel to the bridge, protocol in high traffic areas, despite the recommendations of the ship’s executive officer, operations officer, and the navigator. The McCain’s Officer of the Deck at the time had not even bothered to attend the navigation briefing about transiting the Singapore Strait and Strait of Malacca the day before. And no one even questioned or looked to see whether an error had occurred in the transfer of controls between consoles immediately when the Helmsman declared they could no longer steer the ship, which could have resolved the issue earlier.

The heavy lift ship M/V <em data-recalc-dims=Treasure carrying the McCain bound for Japan. " />

Soul searching

Again, the Navy noted that “no single person bears full responsibility for this incident,” in its report. The findings clearly speak to the already much reported on widespread issues impacting the service as a whole.

“These collisions, along with other similar incidents over the past year, indicated a need for the Navy to undertake a review of wider scope to better determine systemic causes,” Chief of Naval Operations Richardson noted in his cover sheet for the combined mishap reports. “The Navy’s Comprehensive Review of Surface Fleet Incidents, completed on 23 October 2017, represents the results of this effort.”

It seems almost certain that these sobering findings will lead to additional soul searching on the part of the Navy’s top leadership. Exactly how they will, or even can approach the situation, remains a separate issue, which we at The War Zone have already explored in depth here.

To add insult to injury, the McCain suffered a new crack in her hull while the heavy lift ship M/V Treasure was transporting the destroyer back to Japan for repairs. Treasure subsequently diverted to the Philippines so officials could inspect the new damage.

It’s obvious from the reviews of these accidents, though, that the Navy simply cannot afford to continue operating as it apparently has been doing for some time now.

Contact the author: jtrevithickpr@gmail.com

Feds Fault California, Trucker Fatigue for Tour Bus Crash That Killed 13

A year after a tour bus slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer in California, federal safety investigators pointed to “inadequate” traffic management by the state and trucker fatigue as the likely causes of the crash that killed 13 and injured dozens.

The driver of the bus carrying passengers from a Las Vegas casino back to Los Angeles had no advance warning that police had halted traffic on the highway ahead due to utility work, plus the truck driver did not resume driving after the traffic stoppage, likely because of fatigue related to his undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea, the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday in a statement.

Tour bus crash

The tour bus was traveling at highway speed on Interstate 10 near Palm Springs when it hit the rear of the truck, pushing about 13 feet into its trailer and propelling it 71 feet forward in the early morning darkness on Oct. 23, 2016, the NTSB said.

The bus driver, who died in the crash, did not brake because he too was likely fatigued and was not expecting stopped traffic, the NTSB said.

“In this crash, not one but two commercial vehicle drivers—people who drive for a living—were unable to respond appropriately to cues that other motorists acted on,” Robert Sumwait, chairman of the NTSB said in the statement. “Federal and and state regulators, commercial motor carriers and professional drivers can do better.”

Brendon Hartley Had to Wiggle Out of His IndyCar Contract to Race in F1

There were rumors that 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Brendon Hartley had signed an IndyCar contract with Ganassi Racing earlier in the year. Though not much was confirmed, it turns out that these talks were true as F1's Scuderia Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost explained to NBC Sports reporter Will Buxton.

As it appears, Hartley has changed his path for after Porsche's World Endurance Championship exit and may soon sign full-time with the Faenza-based Formula 1 team.

Tost didn't make mention much about STR's contract talks with Ganassi, but he did define them as "long." Hartley, a well-decorated endurance racer behind the wheel of Porsche's 919 Hybrid, has become a sought-after asset of sorts as he has driven two races for Toro Rosso this year after a surprise call-up. It seems as if he could be competing for Red Bull's B-Team throughout 2018 after its recent departure with Daniil Kvyat.

The Toro Rosso team principal even announced to the press after the Mexico GP that he's directly considering a Hartley-Gasly lineup come next season. In this report, he explained: "Both are Red Bull drivers, both are high-skill drivers, fast drivers. We want to test them for the rest of the season because there’s a high possibility this will be the driver line-up for 2018."

The move to Formula 1 would only make sense for Hartley, even considering Ganassi's giant success in IndyCar. F1 is a world championship that races on six different continents as opposed to only-American circuits, and the pay is surely much higher. Hartley's steady improvement in F1 has spoken for itself despite engine problems at Mexico, and he likely won't shy away from racing alongside Pierre Gasly, the 2016 GP2 champion.

Tost's statements show that the decision is yet to be made official, but if everything goes as planned, Toro Rosso could have a young and talented one-two punch in 2018. As both drivers spend more time in an F1 car, it's likely that we'll see a more experienced, more mature lineup. After all, the two twenty-somethings are already pretty decorated as it is.

Chevy Will Make Your C7 Corvette Faster For Just $350

Current-generation Corvette owners, listen up. Chevy has announced a new update to the C7 Corvette's magnetic suspension, reports Roadshow. Promised to simultaneously make America's sports car more comfortable and capable, the calibration update will only cost owners $350. Chevy says the new setup cuts a whole second off the Z06's lap time around its 2.9-mile road course at Michigan's Milford Proving Ground. In a world of $1,000 iPhones, this feels like a steal.

Announced at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, the update will be available to owners of the C7 Stingray and Z06. Grand Sport owners need not fret, though, as the company says more enhancements are brewing and shall be announced later.

Stingray owners that opted for the Z51 package can look forward to new Tour and Sport mode suspension calibrations while those without the Z51 pack can get new setups for Tour, Sport, and Track modes. Z06 drivers also receive refreshed Tour, Sport, and Track mode calibration, regardless of whether or not they have the Z07 package.

The $350 update is available through Chevrolet's dealers, does not involve any hardware changes or additions, and will not void the warranty. How effective the changes are remains to be seen, though. Look for pre- and post-update 'Vette suspension comparisons to hit the automotive blogosphere over the coming months.

600-Horsepower Audi TT Clubsport Turbo Concept Debuts at SEMA

SEMA 2017 opened on Halloween this year, and Audi Sport has just debuted a couple of concepts to show off its new aftermarket program.

First on the list of Audi's offerings is the TT Clubsport Turbo concept, inspired by the iconic Audi 90 IMSA GTO race car from the 1980s. The TT's 2.5-liter 5-cylinder engine has been boosted to 600 horsepower thanks to a new electric-assisted turbocharger, allowing this TT to scamper to 62 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds, up to a top speed of nearly 193 mph. The TT Clubsport imitates the Audi 90's look as well, featuring huge racing fender, wider stance, and an adjustable carbon fiber wing.

Car No. 2 from Audi's performance offshoot is an Audi TT RS loaded with Audi Sport's performance parts, which are currently available for the full TT lineup and R8 supercar. This TT RS features an adjustable coilover suspension, Akrapovic-tuned titanium exhaust system, upgraded brakes, lightweight 20-inch wheels wrapped in grippy performance tires, upgraded chassis, and aero pieces for maximum downforce. Step inside to find Audi Sport's new steering wheel featuring carbon fiber shift paddles.

The last car to grace Audi's booth at SEMA this year is McCann Racing's R8 LMS. Motorsport may not have a huge place at the Las Vegas event, but the R8 LMS shares half of its parts with its road-going brother. Since its debut at Geneva in 2015, the R8 LMS has had major success in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, Pirelli World Challenge, and 24 Hours Nürburgring.

SEMA show-goers can find this trio of high-performance Audis on display in the North Hall from through Nov. 3.

Uber and Lyft Are Close in Popularity, Survey Says

The fortunes of Uber and Lyft have taken dramatically different directions this year. Uber has faced a seemingly never-ending series of scandals, including a sexual harassment investigation that toppled CEO Travis Kalanick. Lyft, has largely avoided bad PR, and secured investment from Google parent Alphabet.

Yet, according to a recent survey conducted by Axios, the public's perception of Uber is better than that of Lyft, with 37 percent of those surveyed viewing Uber in at least a somewhat favorable light, and 30 percent viewing Lyft as at least somewhat favorable.

Ultimately, the two largest ride-hailing companies operating in the United States may seem fairly close, but both Uber and Lyft ranked much lower in terms of positive perception than other tech companies in the survey.

Regarding Uber, 18 percent of survey respondents said they had a "very favorable" view of the company, and 28 percent said they had a "somewhat favorable" view. The largest share (35 percent) said they didn't know how they felt, or didn't provide an answer. Just 7 percent said they had a "very unfavorable" view, and 10 percent said they had a "somewhat unfavorable" view.

In comparison, 12 percent of survey respondents said they had a "very favorable" view of Lyft, and 18 percent said they had a "somewhat favorable" view. The majority of respondents (59 percent) were undecided or didn't provide an answer. The percentage of definitely negative views was again smaller: 3 percent said they had a "very unfavorable" view, and 6 percent said they had a "somewhat unfavorable" view.

Those results put Uber and Lyft near the bottom of the nine companies surveyed in terms of positive views. Google topped the list, with 52 percent of respondents saying they had a "very favorable" of the company. It was followed by Amazon, with a 48 percent "very favorable" response. Uber was sixth in terms of "very favorable" responses, while Lyft was dead last. Tesla was just behind Uber, with a 17 percent "very favorable" response rate.

Public perception is particularly important in the ongoing battle between Uber and Lyft over market share. Lyft remains much smaller than Uber, but it's tried to punch above its weight by portraying itself as a company with values. It even launched an ad in which Jeff Bridges philosophizes about choosing to "ride with the right people doing things for the right reasons."

But the survey results indicate that neither company is very popular right now, so Lyft's efforts to distinguish itself from Uber may not be working. As ride-hailing companies face more scrutiny from regulators over their business practices, Uber and Lyft will need the public on their side. But they may not get it.