Higher Speed Limits Equal More Crashes

Increasing speed limits on highways and urban roadways has had an effect on the number of traffic-related fatalities in recent years. New studies carried out by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have shown that many of the incremental speed limit increases have increased the number of deaths on the roadways where the speed limit increases have occurred. Speed limit increases are typically carried out in an effort to reduce traffic jams, traffic related breakdowns, driver road rage, and transportation costs. Many of the reasons that speed limits are increased are to reduce financial and time-related costs and reduce traffic annoyance. New thinking from congress is working towards reducing traffic fatalities; however lowering speed limits may, in turn, raise financial costs of travel. Individual states are responsible for managing their own speed limits. Texas is currently the only state in the union that has a maximum speed limit of 85 mph. There are six other states, including Utah, that have maximum speeds limits of 80 mph. The majority of remaining states in the middle of the country have maximum speed limits of 75 mph. In 1995, Congress repealed federally mandated speed limits and turned the responsibility of establishing maximum speed limits over to states. The main conclusion drawn from the data shows that, for every 5 mph of speed limit increase, fatal traffic deaths increase by approximately 4 percent in rural areas, and 8 percent, or more, in urban areas. See graphs below. Unfortunately many fatalities are not reported or not included in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety survey, so the results of increasing the speed limit are most likely under-estimated. The speed limit that was federally mandated back in 1993 was 65 mph. Since then, many states have increased their maximum speeds as shown in the graph below.             taken from http://www.iihs.org                  

Drowsy Driving is Dangerous

The topic of drowsy driving has been visited by researchers many times before now, however new data has shown that the issue of drowsy driving is more serious than previously thought. Every driver has probably been through an episode of tiredness when behind the wheel. As many have been able to arrive at their final destination while driving drowsy, many others have not arrived safely or have even been killed due to drowsy driving. The likelihood of causing an accident is definitely more severe when a driver is tired, drowsy, or otherwise sleepy. Researchers have compared the effects of driving drowsy to that of driving distracted, or even driving under the influence of alcohol. Reaction times are reduced when a driver is tired, and even worse than that, driving with your eyes closed and unconscious literally turns a moving vehicle into a lethal weapon for the driver, passengers, or others on the roadway. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has worked diligently to determine accident statistics relating to driving drowsy. While it can be difficult to determine if an accident was caused by drowsy driving, estimates have been made in attempt to raise public awareness of such a dangerous behavior when behind the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that there were approximately 846 traffic-related deaths due to drowsy driving in 2014, and over the past decade, approximately 83,000 crashes per year can be blamed on drowsy driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has some pointers for drivers to follow to avoid driving drowsy and potentially causing an accident:
  • Ensure that one is getting about 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night to avoid becoming drowsy, especially if driving after dark or early in the morning.
  • Avoid drinking any alcohol before driving. Driving under the influence while tired increases the risk of an accident dramatically.
  • If any medication is taken that can cause drowsiness, avoid driving altogether. It is especially important to be aware of the effects that new medications can have on alertness and consciousness.
  • Remain vigilant for signs of tiredness and sleepiness, such as heavy eyelids, passing over the centerline, and shortness of breath. Any signs of sleepiness should signal the driver to stop driving immediately.
For more information, visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drowsy-driving

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

Ford Building a New Wind Tunnel

Ford Motor Company is planning on developing and building a large-scale wind tunnel facility at their Allen Park building complex in Allen Park, Michigan. Building of the wind tunnel is expected to begin fairly this year, and be completed around the end of 2019. The building project will cost approximately $200 million to execute and Ford is expecting to include several advanced environmental testing environments as part of the wind tunnel. The testing environments that are part of the design of the wind tunnel include a “rolling road” system that is designed to simulate vehicle-to-roadway travel as the vehicle sits stationary in the wind tunnel. The rolling road is expected to assist in testing real-world vehicle dynamics and behavior without having to remove the vehicle from a controlled test environment. In other words, the test facility will “bring the road to the vehicle, instead of bringing the vehicle to the road”. The test facility will also include the capability to control environmental temperature during vehicle testing. The temperature will be controllable at any temperature between minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind speed in the wind tunnel will also be able to simulate real-world drag testing up to over 200 mph. Ford expects that their new supercar model, the Ford GT, will require aerodynamic testing up to the limits of the new wind tunnel. Ford will use a 13-acre parcel of land, next to their existing Ford Drivability Test Facility, for the location of their new wind tunnel. Ford is expecting new vehicle models to require advanced aerodynamic testing because of new fuel economy requirements set forth by the EPA. With new fuel economy requirements also comes improved performance and efficiency from new product lineups to allow Ford to remain a top producer of domestic automobiles in the United States. Taken from Detroit News

New Technology to Increase Fuel Economy

An exciting new technology is being developed by scientists at Sandia National Laboratories that shows great promise in improving fuel economy in passenger vehicles. Its called Low-temperature gasoline combustion (LTGC) and the technology deals with altering the fuel combustion in gasoline powered engines to operate at lower temperatures. Spark ignition engines, commonly found in passenger vehicles across the globe, create a significant amount of heat during the ignition cycle of the engine that produces power. The heat generated by the ignition cycle of the engine can be described as wasted thermal energy – energy that could otherwise be used to produce power to move a vehicle. The team from Sandia National Laboratories is developing a new technology that works by lowering the temperatures at which combustion ingredients enter the cylinder combustion chamber, providing lower temperature exhaust gases to be expelled after combustion. Lowering the combustion temperature positively affects the fuel economy of the engine, increasing the efficiency of the combustion cycle. Engines using the new technology are being developed to meet an automotive industry goal of cleaner emissions and an average of 54.5 mpg fuel economy by 2025. One of the greatest challenges faced by the scientists at Sandia is producing consistent engine combustion power at low engine speed, or RPM’s. The new technology doesn’t require the use of spark plugs to ignite fuel in the combustion chamber. It is difficult to ignite fuel in the combustion chamber cleanly or uniformly at low engine speeds. The ignition of fuel mixed with combustion air also needs to be completed in time for the compression of the engine piston to take place, requiring uniform fuel / air mixture and proper fuel atomization. Other types of fuel have been tested that provide better combustion stability at low engine speeds. These fuels include: ethanol, cyclohexane, toluene, among others. -from: Machine Design

Traffic Deaths Increased in 2016

Driving on the roads and highways in the United States can be dangerous. Statistics showing the number of fatalities caused during driving have been released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA released the stats which showed that traffic deaths increased in 2016 over the number of deaths recorded during the same amount of time in 2015. The trend for traffic-related fatalities has been increasing every year since 2014. This has some researchers at NHTSA concerned and looking for an answer as to why the numbers are increasing. Experts have mentioned that the increase in deaths is due to an increase in the number of miles that Americans are driving. The amount of driving has steadily increased as the economy has improved and Americans are also taking advantage of the low cost of fuel. However, the increase in deaths has far outpaced the increase in miles driven. In fact, the increase in traffic-related deaths has risen approximately 8 percent since the beginning of 2015, where the increase in miles traveled has only increased about 3 percent. The increase in fatalities seems to be located around certain areas of the country. For example, in the heart of New England, traffic related deaths have increased significantly; around 20 percent more than in 2015. In the western center of the United States, an area that includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Nevada, the increase in fatalities has only risen about one percent. Even more concerning is the fact that traffic-related deaths have increased even while almost all automakers have developed significant safety systems in new vehicles in an attempt to make the vehicles safer. Systems such as stability control, traction control, lane departure warnings, backup cameras and other similar systems are now common in new vehicles. Despite the increase in vehicle safety systems, traffic deaths are on the rise. -taken from Detroit News

New Technology Will Increase Fuel Economy of Big Rigs

A new technology developed for large semi trucks and other commercial vehicles shows great promise in increasing fuel economy. Semi tractor trailer vehicles, otherwise known as “Big Rigs” are the focus of a new cutting edge product that is being developed to help these large trucks reduce fuel consumption. The product uses plasma-emitting strips along the trailing edges of the big rig’s trailer to help eliminate aerodynamic drag present at the rear of the vehicle. Preliminary studies show that the plasma strips can reduce fuel consumption at highway speeds up to 10%, a significant savings considering there are over 133 million large trucks on the road that could benefit from this technology, and commercial vehicles consume over 60 billion gallons of fuel per year currently. The plasma strips consist of two electric plates separated by an insulating material that are energized at a high voltage to produce an electric plasma, or fourth state of matter. The plasma works to reduce air turbulence by negatively charging particles in the air, thus reducing the amount of turbulence caused at sharp corners, such as the sharp corners on the edges of a big rig’s leading edges, or the back of a trailer. The company that is developing this technology, Plasma Stream Technologies, has dubbed the system eTail. Plasma Stream Technologies claims that the system is completely safe and has shown great promise in laboratory tests. Real-world testing of the eTail is scheduled to begin in the coming months. Plasma Stream Technologies anticipates that a sellable product will be available to the commercial market by 2018. A retrofit device is expected to cost around $2000 and provide an average savings of over $8000 for big rigs that travel the roadways consistently. The eTail will be mountable on the rear edge of trailers without any additional modification. A huge benefit of the eTail over conventional aerodynamic aids such as boat-tails is that the eTail does not impede access to the rear doors of the trailers. The eTail will take up only a few inches of space around the rear of the trailer. Read More: Society of Automotive Engineering Article