In this week’s episode, we share an update on Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s assassination. Also, there is a significant rental car shortage in high-demand areas which may impact secure transportation providers. We shared GM’s news on winning a contract to develop and build purpose-built vehicles. Lastly, we shared the importance of headlights while driving in low light conditions.
Potential Headaches for Secure Transportation providers who rent vehicles.
With pandemic restrictions easing, business and consumer travel is back to pre-pandemic levels. One problem, there are rental car shortages.
Since 2013 when ISDA conducted its first Executive Vehicle Survey, the data have consistently indicated that Security Providers rely heavily on renting vehicles for their Secure Transportation needs.
The shortages are due in part to two issues.
When the pandemic began, rental car companies had an overwhelming supply of vehicles with no business travel or vacations. To try and recoup their losses, a lot of companies sold their inventory off.
The second issue is the global microchip shortages have cut the production of new cars and continue to deal a heavy blow to car rental companies.
The bad news is that the car shortage — and the headaches for car renters — won’t ease until 2022 or later, according to car rental industry experts.
According to the Los Angeles Times,
“Because of the shortage, car rental companies are keeping their cars longer before selling them and replacing them with new vehicles. In the past, rental firms sold their cars when they reached 25,000 to 50,000 miles, but they are now keeping them until they reach nearly 90,000 miles. Rental companies are also trying to restock their aging fleet by buying back cars that they previously sold off at auction to used-car dealerships.”
Rental car companies, like the rest of the United States, it seems, are having a tough time filling jobs to help deliver cars from low-demand to high-demand areas.
With all the issues, car rental prices have increased by 200% in some locations.
According to the Times, “Industry experts say travelers who want to avoid such headaches should book cars as early as possible and try to choose car rental outlets in small or midsize airports where demand is lower.”
Update to the Fakhrizadeh Assassination
In December of 2020, in episode 161, we outlined the assassination of the Iranian Senior Nuclear Scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, dubbed the father of the Iranian nuclear program, held the rank of brigadier general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). According to intelligence reports, he was responsible for Iran’s development of nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles.
On Friday, November 27th, 2020, at 2:15 PM, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was ambushed while traveling in an armored Nissan Teana on a rural road in Absard.
At the time of the assassination, there were varying reports on how the ambush occurred. The Reports on how, where, and who conducted the ambush varied from completely automated facial recognition satellite remote control machine gun mounted in a pickup truck with no attackers present – to 12 attackers and a pick-up truck, motorcycle, two snipers plus 40 to 50 support personnel.
NYT Confirms it was an AI-Controlled Rifle
However, the New York Times recently confirmed that it was indeed an AI-controlled rifle in the pickup truck.
According to the NYT, the gun and its advanced robotic apparatus weighed roughly a ton. Israeli operatives smuggled the weapon and its parts piecemeal into Iran before reassembling it.
The entire system was then fitted into the bed of a pickup truck. The vehicle contained multiple cameras to give Israeli operatives a full-picture view of the surroundings. The truck had explosives set to blow up any evidence after the mission was complete or compromised.
The gun was connected to a command center in Israel via satellite. An operative was able to control the weapon and take aim at its target via a computer screen.
However, when the pickup truck exploded, it didn’t destroy all the components of the smart weapon. It allowed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to piece together what occurred.
General Motors Subsidiary Wins $36.4 Million Contract
GM Defense LLC won a $36.4 million contract from the state department. They are to develop the next generation large support utility vehicles for the department’s Diplomatic Security Service. GM Defense will create a purpose-built heavy-duty Suburban and make 10 of them over the next two years. GM Defense will start delivering the vehicles next spring.
A production contract to build a fleet of 200 heavy-duty Suburbans per year for nine years is expected in May 2023. The value of that contract is unknown at the time of the press release.
The heavy-duty Suburban will feature a new and unique body-on-frame chassis and suspension, designed to specifically support increased government vehicle performance requirements with a higher payload capacity and greater ground vehicle weight than a regular Suburban. GM Defense will use advanced manufacturing tools and techniques, which will help to reduce overall costs and provide flexibility for future needs.
The most crucial phrase in the news release is purpose-built – defined as a vehicle designed and built for a particular use.
Although not mentioned in the release, we can only assume the vehicles will be armored. If so, other than the presidential vehicle the beast, this is the first time a US vehicle manufacturer is building a purpose armored built vehicle.
We have experience with Mercedes and have witnessed their armored vehicle manufacturing facility and can attest to the time and money required to manufacture a purpose-built vehicle.
But the difference is substantial longevity and maintenance being a few of the benefits. It will be interesting to see if GM will make these vehicles available to the public. All data indicates that the market for armored vehicles is increasing exponentially.
If interested in Armored vehicles, view our armored vehicle-related podcasts.
Driving in Low Light Conditions
It’s that time of the year when security drivers spend an increased amount of time driving in low light conditions.
Nighttime visibility is critical to Secure Transportation when you consider that about half of traffic deaths occur either in the dark or at dawn or dusk.
Headlights have a prominent role in preventing nighttime or low light crashes, but not all headlights perform their job equally. Differences in bulb type, headlight technology, and even something as basic as aiming the lights affect the amount of proper light supplied.
The IIHS Headlight Testing
But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) evaluations show that the on-road illumination provided by vehicle lights varies widely. The IIHS has an in-depth evaluation procedure for testing and rating headlights.
The Institute released its first headlight ratings in 2016. Out of more than 80 headlight systems available of the 31 midsize cars evaluated, only one system received a good rating.
As of March 2021, 28 percent of headlight systems tested on 2021 models received a good rating. Half of the systems tested rated marginal or poor because of inadequate visibility, excessive glare from the low beam light from oncoming drivers, or both.
Headlamp technology has been developing rapidly in recent years.
LED and high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps have begun to replace the traditional halogen ones.
Many automakers offer curve-adaptive headlights, which respond to steering and swivel according to the direction of travel. Many also provide high-beam assist. A feature that can increase the use of high beams by automatically switching between high beams and low beams based on the presence of other vehicles.
The low beams of many headlight systems with poor ratings don’t provide enough light for a driver going 55 mph on a straight road to stop in time after spotting an obstacle in their lane. They give even less illumination on the left side of a straight road and when driving on a curve.
There are federal regulations on headlights. However, headlights that meet the rules don’t necessarily have similar on-road performance.
A headlamp is placed on a test rig to measure light intensity at different angles relative to the center of the lamp. Measurements include visibility and glare, but the standard permits an extensive range of intensities, and the angles can adjust within a relatively large tolerance.
In addition, once the headlights are on a vehicle, the regulations allow a wide range of mounting heights and widths and don’t say how they should be aimed. As a result, two cars may be equipped with the same headlights but significantly differ in the distances illuminated.
Understand Your Vehicle’s Characteristics
As a security driver or secure transportation provider, it is your responsibility to maintain the vehicle’s operational characteristics; one of the most important is headlight distance; know how far you can see, understand the concept of time and distance and drive within those parameters.
Read more on Vehicle Characteristics.
Join the ISDA
Do you have an interest in going much deeper into these topics? If so, I invite you to check out the International Security Driver Association’s website and consider joining the membership. Upon entering, you will access the encyclopedia of executive protection and secure transportation – The ISDA Knowledge Center.
For more information on all of the member benefits, head over to isdacenter.org.