Weekly Brief: Tesla issues voluntary recall for every Model S on the road

Tesla issued a voluntary recall for every Model S on the planet – and there’s no over-the-air update for this one. A potentially faulty front seat belt connection is the concern; one driver in Europe experienced a seat belt that physically detached from the seat.

There was no accident or injuries and Tesla has found no signs of a systematic problem among 3,000 additional tested vehicles but the automaker wants to bring all 90,000 Model S vehicles out there in for a check just to be sure.

Good call. We’ve seen what happens when carmakers and suppliers try to push major problems under the rug – remember Takata with its airbags or GM with its ignition switches? Nonetheless, one has to wonder if a slurry of negative media around faulty seat belts will have a larger impact on the brand and some of the advanced in-car technology that it stands for, from fancy over-the-air updates to features like self-driving Pilot Mode. Let’s wait and see how many faulty seat belts turn up first.

Two other headlines of note on the green car front: The Volkswagen Group, still reeling from its diesel emissions scandal, announced that it would cut €1Bn (£700M) in investments from its automotive division, while channelling €100M to alternative drive technologies. Regarding the latter, the group plans to focus on electric vehicle technologies across its car brands, from Porsche to Audi to VW.

The US Department of Energy allocated $35M (£23M) in funding for researchers pursuing hydrogen and fuel cell technologies – with a particular focus on light-duty cars that harness hydrogen as an energy carrier. The goal is to reduce petroleum use to counteract climate change.

More than half of US vehicle owners say they would be willing to switch brands to get the in-car technology they want – that according to a new study conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of Autotrader.com. Other big findings: 84% of vehicle owners prioritise safety features over infotainment, with blind spot detection and backup cameras/sensors rising to the top of the list. And while 65% of vehicle owners think self-driving cars are a dangerous idea, six-in-10 are likely to consider a model with autonomous safety features like park assist and collision avoidance on their next purchase.

In-vehicle music streaming is a cut-throat business these days, what with SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify and now Apple Music vying for airwaves in the car. The first app to falter? Rdio, which had big deals signed with the likes of Bosch and by extension had landed in cars from Jaguars Land Rover. No more. The company is filing for bankruptcy, and Pandora is set to slurp up the remains for $75M.

Audi signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the city of Somerville, Massachusetts, to advance smart city technologies. Audi will bring self-parking technologies to the project that allow Somerville to build parking lots in less central places and to manage existing parking lots more efficiently. Audi also will provide traffic networking solutions, like a car-to-X technology that shows the ideal speed for reaching the next light on green and thus improves the flow of traffic.

Proactive health is the best way to stay out in front of diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, even cancer. OnStar will now champion the same approach to automobiles. A new “Proactive Alerts” feature (available start of 2016) sends alerts to the OnStar smartphone app when a car’s battery power, fuel pump or starter show early signs of fatigue or failure. The car needs a 4G LTE connection to send the alerts, and the owner needs Wi-Fi to receive them.

Don’t forget: The LA Auto Show is underway and will run from November 20 to 29. We will have a full low-down on the show’s technology news in next week’s brief.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU analysis with information from industry publications.

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