This Week's Puzzler: A Most Curious Rule Change

Feb 06, 2006

RAY: Some of you may know that the NHTS, that's the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is the government agency responsible for, well, the administration of highway traffic safety. They're the folks who mandate recalls. They also make the rules and regulations regarding things like seatbelts, energy absorbing bumpers, airbags, headlights, and so on.

Well, in 1971, the NHTSA instituted a new rule for all automobile manufacturers, foreign and domestic. Every manufacturer selling cars and trucks in this country was required by law to comply with this new safety rule. It unquestionably made cars and trucks safer to drive. However, in the last few years, several manufacturers began selling certain models that could not comply with this rule. The NHTSA chose not to enforce compliance. Instead, they re-wrote the rule for these few manufacturers.

The question is: Can you name two of the companies involved? And, if you can, name the rule.

I'm going to give you a hint. Two of the companies that are involved are Honda and General Motors.
RAY: Honda and GM couldn't comply because they are two of the manufacturers that sell -

TOM: Hybrids!

RAY: Right. And hybrids' engines get started all the time when the vehicle is stopped at a light or in motion, and the car is in gear. For example, when you're going along at 25 miles an hour in your Toyota Prius, and you're running on just the electric motors.

TOM: And all of a sudden the engine starts up and it's in gear!

RAY: Pretty cute, huh? I stole that from Automotive News actually. Do we have a winner?

TOM: Yeah, we have a winner. It's Betty Moore from Bradenton, Florida, and for having her answer selected at random from among the thousands of correct answers that we got, Betty's going to get a 25-dollar gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division at where she can get a Car Talk women's T-shirt. This is a 100 percent cotton pre-shrunk long sleeved T-shirt with a Car Talk logo, and it's specifically designed for women.

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