New Device to Stop Semi Underride

The topic of vehicle underride has been discussed in many forums lately. Perhaps the most severe underride impact occurs between small passenger cars and large semi tractor trailers. Such an impact between small and large vehicles produces damage that is lethal to the occupants of the smaller vehicle in many cases. A group of underride researchers is testing a new product designed to reduce passenger vehicle damage in underride impacts with large trailers. The product is designed to resist underride impacts to the sides of the trailer, in the case of an accident where a passenger vehicle t-bones the trailer. The product is called Angel Wing and is produced by Airflow Deflector Inc. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety has performed impact tests against the Angel Wing  product at 35 mph and 40 mph impact speeds. The results of the test show that the Angel Wing effectively reduces the amount of underride to smaller vehicles, reducing the risk of decapitation type injuries to the vehicles occupants. Angel Wings are effectively large structural pieces that take up the space underneath a trailer’s main deck, behind the rear dual axles of the tractor and in front of the dual axles of the trailer. The concept of adding material in the area between the axles of the semi is not a new one, as many current trailers have large panels taking up this space currently. The difference between these large panels and Angel Wings is that Angel Wings are structural. The large panels in this area of many trailers currently is simply a panel to help reduce air turbulence under the semi in an attempt to increase fuel economy. Angel Wings may accomplish an increase in fuel economy as well as provide resistance to underride during impacts. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety has been investigating many methods to reduce underride between passenger vehicles and semis and will be continuing testing of these devices designed to reduce injury during accidents.   Taken from www.iihs.org

New Battery Design Shows Promise

Automobile fuel sources are going through a series of improvements as of lately. With improvements to alternative energy sources such as electric battery power, the future of automobile energy consumption is rapidly changing. Battery technology in itself is rapidly changing, and the concept of a battery having a fixed positive terminal, negative terminal, and fixed size is thrown out the window by a new start-up company from Finland. The company’s name is Tanktwo, and they are revolutionizing the shape and functionality of battery cells. Their design incorporates a sphere with six zones of contact. The idea is that the battery spheres would each be very small and have programmable zones to orientate proper battery polarity automatically when placed next to another battery sphere. The overall effect is a small array of battery cells that all align themselves to the appropriate polarity using computers located on each individual cell. The array of cells is located in a larger container, or battery module, acting similarly to other fuel cells aside from the fact that the fuel inside the cell is simply made up of little individual batteries. The possibilities of this concept show great promise in the automobile industry as a compromise to the obvious limitations presented by current battery designs and the limitations to electric vehicles. Batteries used in electric vehicles are severely limited in their functionality because of the need to slowly recharge the battery when the battery is depleted. This requires the automobile to essentially be parked for an extended period of time. Imagine if battery “refueling” stations simply removed the small spherical batteries from a vehicle’s battery module and replaced them with pre-charged, automatically orientating and assembling cells, and the automobile was instantly ready for use again. The small spherical batteries could then be re-charged and re-used again without dealing with replacing large, heavy, expensive batteries. The concept needs a lot of refining before it can be successfully implemented, but many large auto makers are taking notice to the concept. -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

Rear Passengers Less Likely To Wear Seat Belts

A new study carried out by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has shed new light on the topic of seat belts and rear passengers. The study determined that the mindset of adult passengers in motor vehicles is that the rear seats are automatically safer than the front seats and that, in many cases, seatbelts are optional when riding as a passenger in the rear of a vehicle. The study showed that approximately 28 percent of individuals who participated did not wear their seat belts while in the back seats of a vehicle. 91 percent of individuals who participated claimed that they would wear seatbelts while in the front seat, however. Interestingly, of those who admitted not always using safety belts while in the back seat of a vehicle, approximately 4 out of 5 individuals stated that they would not use seat belts at all while on short trips, such as during ride-shares, taxis, or Uber. The mindset that the rear seat is automatically safer than the front seat may have come from the early advent of seat belts in vehicles during the 1960’s and 1970’s. During this time, the rear seat was considered safer than the front seats because none of the seats were required to have seat belts. Without any seat belts, the rear seat is technically safer because the occupant is less likely to impact the hard dashboard in the event of an impact. However, with safety belts now required by federal law, the rear seat is basically just as dangerous as the front seat during a car accident. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study identified that the age group of adults who were the least likely to wear seat belts while in the rear of a vehicle was those individuals 35 to 54 years of age. Only 60 percent of these individuals reported to wear seatbelts in the rear of a vehicle, compared to 76 percent 55 years old or older, and 73 percent of those aged 18 to 34 years. –from IIHS

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

Instant Battery Recharging

Scientists at Purdue University are in the process of developing a radical new method to recharge batteries quickly. Their hope is to develop a system that will be able to recharge the large batteries in electric cars in a fraction of the time that it currently takes to recharge, allowing consumers to replenish the energy in their electric vehicle batteries without having to wait for hours upon hours for the batteries to charge using conventional plug-in-the wall methods. Ultimately, decreasing the time to charge an electric vehicle will make electric vehicles more attractive for consumers worldwide and will allow these vehicles to travel much further without the need for a stop in travel to recharge for an extended period of time. The concept is to extract the electrolytic fluid from a spent battery and replace it with new, electrolyte-enriched fluid. So, for example, instead of filling a gas tank with gasoline, electrolytes would be refueled in a vehicles battery. The only difference is that the old, spent electrolytic fluid would be extracted from the battery first. The old fluid could be re-used many times. In fact, scientists from Purdue anticipate that the spent fluid could be collected together, sent to a electrical power plant, and re-energized for use again. The best part, is that the process reduces the amount of pollutants generated during energy generation, reduces the necessity for fossil fuels, and can be easily tied to renewable energy sources for regeneration, such as a solar-powered power plant or a wind farm. Scientists at Purdue expect that the technology will be able to utilize much of the same infrastructure that is already in place for refueling gasoline-powered vehicles, such as the refueling stations and transport vehicles (tankers, trains, semi trucks), and the refueling process for electric vehicles will be largely the same as for gasoline powered vehicles, making the process easy to adopt by consumers.   -taken from Science Daily