Uber’s Autonomous Vehicle Crash Shakes Industry

Last week’s accident between a testing autonomous vehicle and a pedestrian has shaken the automotive industry. Uber, the ride sharing company and their fleet of autonomous vehicles manufactured by Volvo, have all but stopped any further autonomous vehicle testing until further notice because of the crash. The crash involved a Volvo XC90 autonomous vehicle that was occupied by a human backup driver, and a pedestrian. While details on the accident have not been released, preliminary analysis of the available evidence shows that the pedestrian likely entered the oncoming path of the XC90 without sufficient time for the vehicle’s driving systems to properly avoid hitting the pedestrian. In addition, the backup driver did not have sufficient time to react to the situation or to avoid intervening with the driverless system before the vehicle collided with the pedestrian. This was thought to have been the first ever fatal accident involving an autonomous vehicle since testing had begun, including tests undertaken by other companies, such as Google. Right after Uber suspended their autonomous vehicle testing, Toyota announced that they would also be suspending all autonomous vehicle testing until further notice. In a statement provided by Toyota, the company informed the industry that they feel that the fatality has caused an emotional response from the backup test drivers and has shaken the confidence that autonomous vehicles can effectively prevent accidents in everyday scenarios. A similar response has reverberated throughout the automotive industry. Most companies are concerned about the backlash caused by the accident and how the thought of autonomous vehicles as being completely safe may now be gone. Autonomous vehicle testing relies on sensors placed around the vehicle that “see” the environment around the vehicle in an attempt to perform the act of driving at the level of a human, or even better. The system of sensors used by autonomous vehicles is dependent on being able to correctly identify the surroundings in the event of an emergency, and respond appropriately by navigating the autonomous vehicle away from the emergency. It may be difficult for the public to regain trust in such systems after they have been shown to be fallible. -taken from www.sae.org

New Aircraft Will Utilize Composite Materials

Aerospace companies Boeing and Airbus are working on developing new components to aid in developing new aircraft structures. Forecasts of aircraft sales show that the worldwide demand of large passenger airplanes will increase and an overall production number of up to 40,000 new aircraft may be realized in the next 20 years. To meet this new demand, Boeing and Airbus are working on developing new honeycomb panels that are designed to be structurally stiff, strong, and importantly, easy to assemble and produce. For the increase in aircraft demand, new aircraft structures must be easy to assemble and sub-components must be manufactured rapidly. The new structure composites or sandwiches are being developed for Boeing and Airbus by Belgium Company EconCore, along with Diehl Aircabin. The sandwich structures consist of a lightweight inner honeycomb lattice that is sandwiched between two thin layers of either aluminum or other lightweight material, to create a structure that is lightweight, strong, and has excellent thermal insulating qualities. Insulating against the cold external atmosphere while aircraft are in flight is crucial for passenger comfort and safety. In addition to the insulating properties, the inner honeycomb lattice can be made out of lightweight polycarbonate to create an excellent fire barrier within the sandwich structure. Polycarbonate is strong and resists flammability, making it a good choice for many aircraft structures. The process developed by EconCore can be formed into many different shapes; however joining the layers of the sandwich material together may pose another problem. To remedy this issue, new formulae of bonding adhesives are being developed to properly secure the components together. The benefit of using bonding adhesives instead of traditional rivets, screws, or other hardware, is the weight savings, however ensuring that the bonds between composite components remains solid for the life of the aircraft is being tested before it is put into production. -taken from www.sae.org

Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Should motorcycle riders be required to wear helmets? The question has been asked many times and has a different answer depending on the context, and location in that it was posed. Legally, there are many states in the US that require motorcyclists to wear helmets. However, there are even more states that don’t require helmets for almost any age of rider and even a few that have no helmet laws at all. The requirement for riders to use helmets is somewhat controversial and has been debated by both sides over and over. The main argument being a demand for individual rights and freedom versus that of keeping riders safe in the event of an accident. Currently, there are 19 states, including the District of Columbia that require all motorcyclists to wear helmets while riding motorcycles. Another 28 states require riders to wear helmets under certain circumstances. These circumstances are usually associated with the rider’s age; younger riders under the age of 18 in these states are required to wear helmets, while those 18 and over are not required to wear them. There are three states, Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire, that do not require helmets at any age for any rider. See the map below for more information on which states have helmet laws and those that do not. Motorcycle riders who do not wish to wear helmets often argue that a requirement to wear helmets violates their individual rights of freedom. Additionally, non-helmet wearing riders may argue that helmets hinder their view of the road, are uncomfortable, and are unappealing appearance-wise. Ultimately, riders who choose not to wear helmets are accepting that they may have an increased risk of injury during an accident, but this is their own choice. Advocates for helmet laws wish to require all riders to wear helmets to reduce the risk of head injuries during accidents, in an attempt to regulate transportation in much the same way that seatbelts are required in all passenger vehicles. Regardless, the topic creates controversy on both sides of the debate. Read more: www.iihs.org

NHTSA Plans To Review Fuel Economy Regulations

Under new legislation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) may revise the regulations set forth for fuel economy by the year 2021. The revision would effectively lower the requirements that automakers produce vehicles that meet certain fuel economy numbers for each successive year. Currently, automakers are required to meet a fleet-wide fuel economy number that increases each year. This policy has been in effect since the Obama Administration started the program in 2012. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing to set fuel economy requirements for automakers in 2021 and leave them at this value for four years, or until 2025. Effectively, fuel economy requirements, while progressing towards better efficiencies and lowering fossil fuel burning and carbon dioxide production, will be reduced in an attempt to ease the constraints on the automobile industry to produce more efficient cars. New Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt has also planned on reviewing the limits for environmental pollution around the same time period, however the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not adopted the same policies on carbon dioxide pollution as of yet. The level of vehicle pollution is increasing as the effective size of vehicles demanded by consumers in the United States increases, even with the increase in production of electric and hybrid vehicles. Consumers are attracted to big, expensive, excessive vehicles such as trucks and full-size sport utility vehicles more than small compact vehicles and sedans. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will provide more reviews of the effect of fuel economy and vehicle pollution levels within the next four to five years. Many high-level environmentally conscious executives oppose the idea of peeling back the current fuel economy standards due to the effect of further pollution causing significant environmental damage. Even further, some are hinting that the Trump administration is rolling back all pollution standards in an attempt to pad the pockets of Big Oil companies and automobile industry executives. -Taken from Green Car Reports

Single Vehicle Accidents Are Dangerous

A recent study carried out by AAA Mid-Atlantic found that the majority of automobile crashes that result in a fatality are actually single-vehicle accidents. In other words, crashes caused by the driver are the most lethal type of crash, as opposed to multi-vehicle accidents which are typically considered more dangerous in the public’s view. Common crashes involving two or more vehicles are viewed as typically much more dangerous and common than crashes involving only one vehicle. The thought of being impacted by another vehicle in which the driver has no control over, such as being hit by a car running a red light, is typically much more daunting than a crash in which the vehicle’s own driver is at fault.  Approximately 96 percent of motorists fear the thought of being hit by another vehicle, whereas single vehicle accidents are fatal for more than half of all accidents. Significant data points were taken from statewide accident data in 2015 in the states of Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Virginia data shows that approximately 474 of 753 traffic fatalities were the result of single vehicle accidents. In Maryland, approximately 275 out of 513, or 54% of fatal accidents were caused by single vehicles. Washington DC had the highest percentage at approximately 74%. Nationwide averages show that single vehicle fatalities take up approximately 55% of fatal crashes.   Single vehicle accidents manifest themselves in different ways. For example, a vehicle rollover is considered a single vehicle accident. Vehicle rollovers are typically extremely dangerous because the occupants can be hit multiple times from multiple directions during the accidnent, causing severe injury at the minimum. Leaving the roadway is also considered a single vehicle crash, or colliding with a fixed object such as a telephone pole or concrete barrier. However, crashes that involve hitting a pedestrian or bicyclist are also considered single-vehicle accidents. These accidents are also often fatal due to the significant injuries that can occur during impact. taken from www.wtop.com

Airbag Manufacturer May File For Bankruptcy

Takata Airbags have been the center of a lot of recent attention due to the massive industry-wide recall that has occurred due to faulty airbag modules made by the company. Unfortunately, the extremely expensive recall has taken its toll on Takata, whom has privately announced that it will be seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection soon to help minimize the damages and loss of money. Takata has been forced to pay nearly one billion dollars in fines, penalties, and repayment to major automakers as a result of the recall. Industry experts estimate that Takata may have to be sold to another competitor after the bankruptcy takes place in order to keep its doors open, or risk going under due to their unpopularity after the recall. The result of the recall may mark the end of a once prominent Japanese company that was started over 85 years ago, as a textile manufacturing company that started out making parachutes for the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. The Takata airbags were recalled because of their potential to cause death or serious injury during deployment because the propellant used in the airbags became unstable over time when exposed to heat and humidity. The Takata airbags were responsible for about 17 deaths and numerous injuries as a result of the defective propellant. Of the one billion dollars paid during the recall, approximately $150 million was paid out to victims of injuries due to the defective airbags. More than one dozen automobile manufacturers have recalled vehicles with faulty Takata airbags, including Volkswagen, General Motors, and Toyota. The recall covers approximately 100 million airbag modules from Takata. One possible outcome of the bankruptcy would be the forced sale of Takata to a competitor. One such competitor, Key Safety Systems, owned by Chinese company Ningbo Joyson Electronic Corporation, has expressed some interest in purchasing Takata. Ningbo Joyson Electronic Corporation has the financial capacity to support Takata during the recall.   Taken from SFGate.com

Hoverboard Fire Fatality

A recent fire in Harrisburg Pennsylvania is thought to have been caused by a hoverboard. If the fire department investigation determines that the hoverboard was the cause of the blaze, the fire will be the first ever fatality caused by a hoverboard, marking the failure of a recall put in place last year by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Consumer Product Safety Commission implemented an industry-wide recall in 2016 that affected many hoverboards from 10 major manufacturers in an attempt to eliminate the potential threat of fire caused by the hoverboard’s batteries. Police and fire investigators are still investigating the blaze, which left a toddler dead in the aftermath. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recall covered more than 500,000 hoverboards, warning that the hoverboard’s batteries did not meet strict federal safety standards for fire resistance. During charging, the hoverboard’s batteries can overheat, or rupture. If the amount of heat is significant enough, the batteries may actually catch fire, melting the hoverboard itself and causing more severe property damage and personal injury. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has investigated over 60 separate cases of hoverboard fires since 2015. Consumers are still covered by the recall and can take advantage of a battery replacement if their hoverboard batteries are determined to be defective. The Consumer Product Safety Commission initially had difficulty enforcing the recall since many of the products come from overseas manufacturers who were eager to cash in on the increasingly popular hoverboard trend early on. These days, hoverboard manufacturers from reputable brands carry a certification from the Underwriter’s Laboratories certifying that their batteries have undergone very rigorous and thorough testing to reduce the likelihood of fire or explosion during normal usage. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that consumers review their purchased hoverboard or potential purchase for the “UL” symbol which certifies that the product has been tested by the Underwriter’s Laboratories as a safer product. taken from www.foxbusiness.com

Semi Trailer Bumpers Improve but Accident Fatalities on the Rise

Semi Trailer bumpers are becoming more technologically advanced in an effort to reduce the likelihood of severe injury or death in the event of a rear-end collision. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, IIHS, has tested new semi bumpers and determined that new designs are performing much better than previous iterations used on older trailers. The trailer bumpers, known in the industry as ICC bumpers (after the Interstate Commerce Commission) or simply as underride guards, are put in place to protect passenger vehicles against the high-slung blunt edges of a trailer in the event that a passenger vehicle collides with the rear of the trailer. Typically, trailer decks on semi trailers sit at a height of about 48 inches, whereas a typical passenger vehicle’s front clip sits much lower than this. In some cases, the entire front of a passenger car can fit underneath a trailer deck, positioning the deck edge at a point where the vehicle’s occupants’ heads could be decapitated in the event of an accident. The IIHS has undertaken testing of trailer ICC bars from trailer manufacturers such as Great Dane, Manac, Stoughton, Vanguard, Wabash, Hyundai Translead, Strick, and Utility to find out how new ICC bar configurations fare against three distinct rear-end collision tests. The first test is directed at the full width of the ICC bar, impacted by a vehicle traveling 35 mph. The second test focuses at approximately 50 percent of the width of the ICC bar, again at 35 mph. The third test focuses the impacting vehicle at only the edge of the ICC bar to determine how well it sustains an offset collision. Despite the improvements in ICC bar technology, government statistics show that commercial vehicle versus passenger vehicle accidents are still on the rise. Even worse, the number of fatalities caused by commercial vehicle crashes has increased between 2011 and 2015 by over 39 percent. Taken from www.motor1.com