Thousands have disability vehicles taken away – BBC News

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More than 50,000 disabled people have had specially adapted vehicles taken away since changes to disability benefits in 2013.

The Motability scheme entitles disabled people to lease a specially adapted new car, scooter or powered wheelchair using part of their benefit.

But the charity says that 51,000 people have had vehicles taken away since the benefits system was changed in 2013.

The government says there are more people on the scheme now than in 2010.

Changes to the assessment process came in five years ago when personal independence payments (PIPs) were launched to replace the disability living allowance (DLA).


Of the 51,000 taken off, more than 3,000 people have since rejoined the scheme after the original decision to refuse them PIP was overturned.

Recipients of PIPs are assessed using a points system to determine what level of help they receive.

To qualify for the higher level of the mobility component of PIPs, which is needed to lease a Motability vehicle, there are a number of criteria, including being unable to walk unaided for 20 metres. This is compared with the previous distance of 50 metres under the DLA.

‘Left housebound’

The charity Muscular Dystrophy UK said 900 cars are now being taken away every week, as more people are rejected for PIP.

Campaigners, including the Conservative MP Peter Bone, are now demanding changes to the Motability programme, so that vehicles are not taken away before claimants have had a chance to appeal against a decision.

Mr Bone said: “You need it for mobility purposes and maybe you use it for work, but because you lose your PIP award you lose the car at the same time.

“You appeal against the PIP award and ultimately the tribunal awards you back the PIP, but you’ve already lost the car and maybe your job because of it.”

Labour MP and former work and pensions minister Angela Eagle added: “What’s happening in the worst cases is, from being mobile and being able to get out and about in a car, that’s been removed and this may mean people have had their ability to live their life at taken away, and some of them are left housebound.”

Mother’s mobility ‘tested with a tickle’

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Sam Adams, 41, had her Motability vehicle taken away from her in June last year after being reassessed for PIPs.

Ms Adams, who has multiple sclerosis, says the assessor did not see her walk.

“How she came to that conclusion, when she’s not seen me walk, she’s not seen me walk up and down stairs – all she did was tickle my hand with a feather.

“What conclusions she was coming to from tickling my hand with a feather, I’ll never know.” she said.

In previous assessments the 41-year-old, who originally qualified for a vehicle in 2014, said she had been asked to walk up stairs and physically show how mobile she was.

She has now overturned this decision through the tribunal process and been awarded the higher rate of mobility, qualifying her for a Motability vehicle, which she expects to get by the end of April.

In the meantime, she has been using a car her brother bought to take her children to school, as well as running errands with her mother, who is in her 80s.

Ms Adams, from Chesterfield, said: “If my brother hadn’t bought me one I’d have been stuffed, because I can’t get anywhere without a car.

“Without a car I honestly could have got depression, not going out – it would drive me up the wall”.

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Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that since PIPs were introduced, more than 160,000 people have had their original rejection overturned at mandatory reconsideration or at appeal.

Some 65% of decisions are now overturned at tribunal in the claimant’s favour, according to the latest Ministry of Justice statistics.

Nic Bungay, director of campaigns, care and information at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “Each of the 51,000 vehicles being taken away is a story about a disabled person’s independence being compromised.

“This is having a devastating effect on quality of life.

“The fact that two-thirds of people who contest their PIP award win their case shows that the system isn’t working and is in urgent need of reform.”

The DWP says a fraction of PIP decisions are overturned, while those taken off the Motability scheme are eligible for 2,000 of support.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “The reality is that, since PIP was introduced in 2013, more than two million decisions have been made; of these just 7% have been appealed and 3% have been overturned.

“But we constantly review our processes, to make sure they are working in the best way possible”.

She said there are now 70,000 more people on the Motability scheme compared with 2010.

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Service station thieves ‘using car key jammers’ – BBC News

Image copyright Google
Image caption Tools, a suitcase and laptop were taken from vans, a lorry and cars at Chieveley services.

Thieves are using radio jammers to steal from cars parked at motorway service stations, police have warned.

Thames Valley Police said the transmitters could be used to “interrupt” signals from remote keys, preventing vehicles from being locked properly.

The force said 14 recent thefts from lorries, vans and cars with “no obvious sign of a break-in” had been reported.

It advised motorists to check vehicles before leaving them unattended.

The thefts took place at Chieveley, Reading and Membury services on the M4 in Berkshire over the last two weeks of November.


How do radio jammers work?

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Remote keys like the one pictured are relatively low-powered when compared with the output of a signal jammer

Remote keys have a unique signal which is transmitted via radio waves from the fob to the car. Jammers overpower signals from the owner’s key and interfere with this communication.

The devices can be used over a large area, in theory allowing thieves to cover an entire car park.

Would-be thieves rely on drivers pressing the lock button on their fob and forgetting to double-check whether the vehicle is secured – leaving it open and allowing easy entry.

More modern vehicles which use keyless entry could also be vulnerable.

Source: RAC

Police have appealed for dashcam footage to help with their investigation.

Sgt Alan Hawkett, of Newbury Police, said members of the public visiting motorway services stations anywhere in the country should keep valuables in their possession when away from their vehicle.

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Ban lorries from using car sat-navs, say councils – BBC News

Image copyright Northants Police
Image caption Last year, a lorry became trapped under a low railway bridge in Northamptonshire

Lorry drivers should be banned from using sat-navs specifically designed for cars, council chiefs have said.

The Local Government Association (LGA) wants legislation brought in to make sure lorry drivers in England and Wales use a GPS system suitable for HGVs.

It wants councils to have the power to ensure drivers avoid routes where they exceed the weight or height limit.

On Monday, a lorry crashed into a bridge near Birmingham, ripping the roof of its trailer off.

Calls to change navigation systems come after a number of lorries have got stuck in narrow roads or under low bridges.


In September last year a lorry was driven over a bridge in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, causing it to be closed for several months. It was more than 10 times over the bridge’s weight limit.

Network Rail is asking drivers of high vehicles to heed “low bridge” warning signs after the same bridge in Hinckley, Leicestershire, was hit 11 times in 12 months.

Alpine Trucking software is one solution…

Taking it ‘seriously’

Commercial GPS systems designed for lorries include information on bridge heights and narrow roads.

They also allow lorry drivers to enter their vehicle dimensions to ensure they are instructed to follow a suitable route.

Police forces in Wales and Greater London already have the power to enforce weight and height restrictions on HGVs but councils are urging the government to roll this out across England.

Some councils have been working with freight and haulage companies to ensure drivers are using the most suitable routes.

The money raised from the new powers could be put towards fixing potholes, says the LGA.

Image caption This lorry caused three-mile tailbacks when it became wedged against a house in Marlborough in June 2016

LGA transport spokesman, Martin Tett, called upon the government to “start taking this issue more seriously”.

Despite most lorry drivers being reputable, Mr Tett said some rural communities were “fed up” with the few who ignored the restrictions.

“It is common sense that all lorry drivers should use sat-navs designed for trucks, but this is only going to become a reality when it is a mandatory requirement. We are talking about a very small extra cost to drivers,” he added.

An AA spokesman said it was down to the council to ensure that warning signs were clearly visible.

He said: “If a particular road has a particular problem then it is up to the local authority to come up with the signage to deal with that.

“And obviously if the lorry or any other road user contravenes that road order and that signage then they are open to a penalty.”

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Six Volkswagen executives charged with fraud over emissions cheating

VW ordered by US government to pay $4.3bn penalty, with carmakers former staff accused of running near decade-long conspiracy

Six former Volkswagen executives are being charged over their alleged roles in the 2015 emissions scandal, as the company admits liability and is ordered to pay a record $4.3bn (3.5bn) penalty, US officials have said.

The men are accused of running a near decade-long conspiracy during their time at the firm and are being charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, violations of the Clean Air Act, and wire fraud, the US attorney general Loretta Lynch said on Wednesday.

These individuals all held positions of significant responsibility at VW, including overseeing the companys engine development division and serving on the companys management board, she said, adding that they had seriously abused those positions.

Separately, Lynch said Volkswagen had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the US, to commit wire fraud and to violate the American pollution laws. It also admitted obstruction of justice and importation of goods by false statements.

Consequently, the firm has been told to pay a $2.8bn criminal fine and a further $1.5bn in a civil settlement, Lynch announced. Volkswagen will also spend three years on probation and an independent monitor will be sent in to oversee its ethics and compliance program.

The penalty against the company is the largest ever levied by the US government against an automaker, eclipsing the $1.2bn fine against Toyota in 2014 over safety issues related to unintended acceleration.

Last month, it was reported that Volkswagen had already agreed to pay $17.5bn in the US to resolve claims from car owners, as well as regulators.

The settlements and penalties emanate from Volkswagens admission in September 2015 that it had installed secret software in vehicles to make them appear cleaner in emissions tests than they actually were. Some, it emerged, were emitting up to 40 times the legally allowable pollution levels.

Announcing the indictments and plea deal on Wednesday, the US justice department detailed an elaborate and wide-ranging scheme to commit fraud and then cover it up. At least 40 VW employees were involved in destroying evidence, the government said.

It is alleged that, in one case, an assistant was asked to find and throw away a hard drive on which emails between two supervisors were stored.

The six executives charged were: Richard Dorenkamp; Bernd Gottweis; Jens Hadler; Heinz-Jakob Neusser; Jrgen Peter; and Oliver Schmidt.

According to the plea agreement, the executives and other employees agreed to deceive the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulators about diesel emissions starting in May 2006, when they realised the engines would not meet emissions standards that were going into effect the following year.

Under the direction of executives, Volkswagen employees designed engines with defeat device software that would reduce emissions only when the vehicle was undergoing a standard US emissions test. They borrowed the idea from the firms luxury division, Audi, which was developing different engines with similar software.

In November 2006, some employees raised objections to the defeat device to the head of VW brand engine development. That official directed the employees to continue and warned them not to get caught.

In August 2015, a Volkswagen employee ignored instructions from bosses and told US regulators about the defeat devices. A supervisor confirmed their existence the following month.

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Driving sounds for electric cars

In 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration established the very cool-sounding Minimum Sound Requirements for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles, which does exactly what it says. It requires that 100 percent of all EVs and hybrids make some noise at low speeds by 2019. If a vehicle can move forward or in reverse without engaging an internal combustion engine, it needs to make some kind of noise that blind and visually impaired pedestrians can identify as coming from a moving vehicle.

French company Arkamys tunes automotive audio for car interiors, whether thats optimizing a sound system or making the speech functions of in-car electronics more intelligible. Now it has partnered with South Korean automotive hardware supplier MHE to create the sounds required by the NHTSA (and its European counterpart) to let pedestrians know theres an EV creeping up on them.

The system, which will be ready for mass production in 2017, uses small, lightweight, but tough speakers mounted behind the bumpers and connected to the cars electronics. The system receives speed information so that it can start making sound when the vehicle is traveling 25 mph or less. (NHTSA requires it to engage at 18 mph or less.) As the car speeds up or slows down, the pitch changes appropriately. And if the car is in reverse, the sound is slightly different so pedestrians know that too.

The Arkamys/MHE system works with the vehicles pedestrian sensors, if it has them, to emit sound from the speaker closest to the pedestrian. The sound is transmitted inside the car too, with the relevant speaker making a noise to let the driver know to look out for a pedestrian.


Arkamys/MHE is supplying the system directly to manufacturers, so you cant bolt it on as an aftermarket upgrade. But Arkamys is using its expertise in audio tuning and customizing to create branded sounds for auto makers. It can create spacey, Jetsons-like sounds, engine-like revs, a neutral whir or anything that fits the car and meets the requirements.

You might wonder why 18 mph is the magic number. NHTSA found that to be the crossover speed any faster than that and even an EV makes enough tire and wind noise to be noticeable. Less than 18 mph (30 kph), though, and EVs are silent, sneaky little things.

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EPA Locks in Fuel Economy Rules So Trump Cant Rip Them Up

Cars pollute. Even the most devoted gearhead acknowledges that particular cost of doing business. And over the course of the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency has tried to give that cost a number—and regulate it.

But with a new president inbound, one who seems to take the stance that the only good regulation is a dead regulation, it’d make sense to suspect that car companies and a new EPA head might try to overturn the regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from tailpipes.

So with the clock winding down, the current EPA has shored up the regulatory infrastructure. A “midterm review” of its existing standards, more than a year ahead of schedule, has concluded that yup, those regs are great! And they’ll stay in place through 2025.

“The development and deployment of advanced technology conventional gasoline engines has happened consistent with a robust vehicle market, more rapidly than we predicted, and at costs that are comparable or slightly lower than we predicted,” EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said in a letter announcing the decisions, noting the auto industry’s recent record sales.

Here’s what’s going on: In 2012, the Obama administration issued standards for the first serious upgrade of fuel efficiency since the government last cared about the problem in the 1970s. By 2025, cars would have to nearly double their average fuel efficiency (a kind of measure of emissions) and deliver, on average, more than 50 miles per gallon (which, for arcane reasons, equates to a real world figure of 36 mpg). The auto industry caved and agreed, with the caveat that by April 2018, the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration do a thorough review of the rules, and adjust them if they proved unduly expensive or just plain unworkable.

By completing that midterm review more than a year before the deadline, this EPA just melted down the best weapon for attacking the standards—disarming its future self, expected to be run by fervent climate change denier Scott Pruitt. If Pruitt’s EPA were to have run the review next year? “This would have been the easiest pathway to weakening the rules,” says Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign.

Let’s say President Trump and Administrator Pruitt decide to engage in hand-to-hand combat anyway. Could they roll back the tough standards? Yes, but it’d be difficult. One route would be fresh legislation, like amending the Clean Air Act, under which the EPA makes these rules. That kind of thing could be held up by a filibuster in the Senate.

Another angle would be to have the EPA review the standards again, from scratch. A full repeat of the process the agency just wrapped up would include a technical assessment report, a period of public comment, a proposed determination, and a final determination, plus all the research those were based on. It’d take years.

And at the end, Becker says, there would almost certainly be a lawsuit waiting, filed by any of the many parties eager to see the current standards enforced. The EPA stuffed its report with technical data backing up the claim that the standards will benefit public health without unduly hurting the auto industry. “Any new rule would need to overwhelm that data,” Becker says. “Or the court is gonna say ‘nuh-uh.’”

Now, the EPA’s decision only affects greenhouse gas emission standards, not the actual miles per gallon figures automakers must deliver. Those fall under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, and CAFE is the province of a different agency entirely, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It has finalized standards through 2021, and should produce its final thoughts on 2022-2025 within the next year or so.

Confusing? Of course. That’s part of the reason why, in 2012, when the Obama Administration was pushing to reduce pollution and increase fuel efficiency, it harmonized the goals set by the EPA and NHTSA. The latter even issued “augural” benchmarks through 2025, its way of saying, “We don’t have the legal authority to make real rules that far in advance, but here’s what you should expect.”

And that makes for a potential vulnerability. Gutting NTHSA’s efficiency requirements would be easier than messing with the EPA, since the rulemaking process has to happen anyway. But for NHTSA to rule against those “augural” standards, the agency would have to account forthe July 2016 technical report it co-authored with the EPA. And the EPA just used those 1,217 pages to argue that these goals are achievable and cost-effective.

Plus, nobody wants EPA and NHTSA working with different requirements. “Everyone involved thinks it’s important to maintain to the maximum degree possible this harmonized program,” says Therese Langer, transportation program director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Different standards just make things hard for regulators and the corporations they regulate.

In a fight against these rules, the Trump administration might fiend a friend in the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing Ford, GM, VW, Toyota, and other major automakers, which criticized the EPA’s last-minute rush to reaffirm the rules. “Our fundamental priority remains striking the right balance to continue fuel economy gains and carbon reduction without compromising consumer affordability and vital auto-sector jobs,” spokesperson Wade Newton said in a statement. “This crucial balance requires a midterm review that proceeds on the original EPA and NHTSA timetable, culminating not now but by April 2018.”

But for a global industry that plans products years in advance, a sudden relaxation of standards may not be so helpful. “You have to really wonder whether many of the big manufacturers just want to see a program like this go away,” Langer says. “They have made huge investments in recent years,” into advanced technologies that improve fuel efficiency: electric powertrains, turbochargers, lightweight materials, and more. They need those to compete in Europe and Asia, which have their own requirements. So even if Trump’s America pulls back, the rest of the world will keep pushing forward.

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