A key tenet of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE is that the competition must be fair and unbiased. It is for this, among many, reasons that we feel so fortunate to benefit from a partnership between the X PRIZE Foundation and Consumers Union. This partnership was created with the goals of providing non-biased review of competition vehicles and on a shared common interest to ensure that there is well-informed input for policy discussions about safety regulations for advanced vehicle technologies.
Consumers Union is a non-profit testing and reporting organization and the publisher of Consumer Reports and ConsumerReports.org. The deep respect that they have from both business and consumers is well-earned, as they remain independent of any influence from advertising dollars, sponsorships or other financial incentives. Their operations are supported solely by the sale of magazine and website subscriptions and donations. Every vehicle that they review is secretly purchased from a dealer and then driven and rigorously evaluated by the Consumer Reports vehicle testers. This ability to remain independent allows them to supply unimpeded information and to provide a form of private regulation on behalf of the consumer. It also strikes fear in the heart of many an auto manufacturer because a Consumer Reports review can make or break a vehicle.
When you meet David Champion, Senior Director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Division, he hardly seems the intimidating type. What you do catch immediately is that he loves cars and that he takes his work very seriously. Consumer Reports is serving as the Official Active Safety Testing Partner for the competition, and Champion is leading their staff in executing test track events. These events, including 0-60, Avoidance Maneuvering, and 60-0 are performed in accordance with procedures developed by Consumer Reports.
Each of the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE Qualified Teams must pass these road tests in order to move on in the competition. Shakedown provided teams with an opportunity to run through these tests, which are graded on a pass or fail basis. Many teams did very well on some or all of the tests. Though several teams did not successfully accomplish all of the tests during Shakedown, they will not repeat the tests in order to qualify to move on in the competition. A new series of these tests will be run during Knockout, all of which are repeats of the Shakedown tests, plus a few additional tests will be added.
Another advantage to the partnership is that ConsumerReports.org is providing readers with an inside look at the competition. Editorial staff members Jeff Bartlett and Eric Evarts were on the ground during Shakedown talking with teams, shooting photos and video, and reporting on the weeks' activities. They created some compelling content about the track events and the teams including behind-the-scenes stories that capture the highs and lows that such a challenging competition can create. Be sure to check out the ConsumerReports.org Automotive X PRIZE web pages for on-going coverage of the competition.