Volkswagen just the latest in long history of cheating car companies
WASHINGTON (AP) — In stock car racing, there's an old adage: If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'. You could say the same sometimes for auto makers up against stricter environmental rules.
Volkswagen is far from the first company to stand accused of trying to game required emissions tests. Almost since the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970, major manufacturers of cars, trucks and heavy equipment have been busted for using what regulators call "defeat devices" — typically programing a vehicle's on-board computer to boost horsepower or fuel mileage by belching out dirtier exhaust than allowed.
Critics blame a federal regulatory system that largely relies on manufacturers to "self-certify" that their vehicles meet required fuel economy and emissions standards. The Environmental Protection Agency spot-checks only a low percentage of the vehicles made in the U.S. or imported to test the accuracy of the data reported by manufacturers.
Google's driverless car drivers ride a career less traveled
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) — After a friend recommended that he join a secret Google project six years ago, Brian Torcellini suddenly found himself on the road to an occupational oxymoron. He became a driver in a driverless car.
Torcellini, 31, leads a crew of test, or "safety," drivers who are legally required to ride in Google's fleet of 48 robot cars. They only take control in emergencies. Otherwise, they make observations that help the Internet company's engineers program the cars to navigate the roads without human assistance.
The driverless cars already have logged more than 2 million miles in six years of sometimes tedious testing on private tracks, highways and city streets located mostly near Google's Mountain View, California, headquarters. The vehicles have traveled more than half that distance in automated mode, with one test driver in place to take control of the car if the technology fails or a potentially dangerous situation arises. Meanwhile, another driver sits in the front passenger seat typing notes about problems that need to be fixed and traffic scenarios that need to be studied.
Why phones break: Screens get stronger, yet we demand more
NEW YORK (AP) — Ask a roomful of people to take out their phones, and you're bound to see several with cracked screens.
Despite engineering breakthroughs, screen breakage has become a part of life, the leading type of phone damage.
In part, we're to blame. We want phones that are bigger, yet thinner, offsetting strides made in strengthening glass. We also want phones to be sleek: A phone that's rugged enough to withstand drops just won't match what we expect smartphones to look and feel like.
The latest phones from the two leading phone makers — Apple's iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and Samsung's Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge Plus — mix zinc into the aluminum frames for aerospace-grade strength. The frames will absorb more of the shock that would have gone to the glass, not to mention help prevent the phones from bending in pockets.
Ralph Lauren hands off CEO role to Old Navy executive
NEW YORK (AP) — Ralph Lauren is handing off his CEO title of the fashion and home decor empire that he founded nearly 50 years ago.
The New York-based company announced Tuesday that Stefan Larsson, who has been the global president of Gap's low-price Old Navy chain for three years, will take on the role. The change will be effective in November, and Larsson will report to Lauren who will continue to drive the company's vision and strategy as executive chairman and chief creative officer.
As global president of Old Navy for three years, Larsson has remade the business to be a bright spot in Gap's portfolio. Prior to his tenure at Old Navy, Larsson was part of an executive team at Swedish cheap chic fashion chain H&M for 15 years that increased annual revenue from $3 billion to $17 billion. During that time, H&M's operations grew to 44 countries from 12.
Big utilities enter market for small rooftop solar
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Traditional power companies are getting into small-scale solar energy and competing for space on your rooftop.
The emerging competition comes as utilities and smaller solar installers fight over the future of the U.S. energy system. While the market for residential solar power remains a financial drop in the bucket for a big utility, the installation of solar panels overall grew by more than 50 percent in 2014 and is on track for another record-breaking year at time when the traditional utility business is pretty flat.
These moves may have a range of effects for customers. The utilities experimenting in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Texas could make solar more affordable for average consumers by energizing competition and driving down prices. Some utility programs may be beneficial to people who cannot afford big up-front investments, get affordable loans or find existing solar leases too cumbersome.
US home prices rise steadily in July, lifted by higher sales
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices rose at a solid pace in July, as would-be buyers competed for a diminished supply of available housing.
The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index climbed 5 percent in July from a year earlier. That's up from a 4.9 percent annual pace in June.
Home prices rose in all 20 cities over the past 12 months. San Francisco posted the biggest gain of 10.4 percent, followed by Denver with 10.3 percent.
US consumer confidence rises again in September
WASHINGTON (AP) — American consumers were feeling more confident again this month, good news for the U.S. economy.
The Conference Board, a business research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose again to 103 in September after surging in August to 101.3. The September reading was the highest since January. Economists had expected the index to fall this month.
Consumers' assessment of present economic conditions hit the highest level in eight years. More than 25 percent of Americans said jobs were plentiful, highest share since September 2007.
Tesla's first SUV, the Model X, is finally hitting the road
FREMONT, California (AP) — Electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors has mastered the sporty two-seater and the elegant sedan. Now, it wants to conquer the family hauler.
Tesla's Model X — one of the only all-electric SUVs on the market — will be officially unveiled Tuesday night at the company's California factory.
The Model X is the third vehicle from 12-year-old Tesla, after the Roadster — which was discontinued in 2012 — and the Model S sedan. It should attract new customers to the brand, and goes on sale as the market for luxury SUVs is booming. U.S. luxury SUV sales were up 17 percent through August, five times faster than the industry as a whole.
Making Coke at home? Keurig introduces 'Kold' machine
NEW YORK (AP) — Making a glass of Coke at home will soon be possible, if you don't mind paying more than $300 for a machine that sits on your kitchen countertop. Plus an extra dollar or so per drink.
Keurig Green Mountain says it will start selling a machine Tuesday that makes single servings of cold beverages including Coke, Sprite, Dr. Pepper and flavored seltzer waters. The machine is similar in concept to Keurig's brewers, which let people make cups of coffee and tea by inserting a pod into the machine and pressing a button.
Coca-Cola is betting big on Keurig Kold, too; the world's biggest soda maker owns a 16.8 percent stake in Keurig Green Mountain.
Reynolds American selling Natural American international rights
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Japan Tobacco is buying the non-U.S. assets of Reynolds American's Natural American Spirit for about $5 billion in cash.
Reynolds American Inc., the second-biggest tobacco company in the U.S., is the parent of Camel and Pall Mall cigarette maker R.J. Reynolds.
The international businesses included in the transaction distribute and market Natural American Spirit additive-free and organic styles of cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco mostly in European and Asian markets.
By The Associated Press=
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 47.24 points, or 0.3 percent, to 16,049.13. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 2.32 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,884.09. The Nasdaq composite fell 26.65 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,517.32.
U.S. crude rose 80 cents to close at $45.23 a barrel in New York. Brent Crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose 89 cents to close at $48.23 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 1.4 cents to close at $1.363 a gallon. Heating oil rose 2 cents to close at $1.498 a gallon. Natural gas fell 8.4 cents to close at $2.586 per 1,000 cubic feet. .