Posts Tagged ‘accident’

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 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

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

New Tool to Stop Texting While Driving

A disturbing trend has increased in the past few years with the rapid increase in cell phone usage: texting while driving. Not necessarily limited to just sending texts while driving a vehicle, texting while driving is defined as virtually any cell phone input by the driver while driving a vehicle that takes visual attention off the road. Even some popular smart phone based games that use an augmented reality for gameplay (think Pokemon Go or similar) require significant attention of the user and can still be played while a vehicle is in motion. Texting while driving is very dangerous to the driver and to those drivers nearby. A new form of technology is aimed at detecting when texting while driving has occurred and law enforcement agencies are interested in utilizing it. The technology, termed “Textalizing”, can detect whether or not a cell phone was used to send texts and whether or not the vehicle was moving while the texts were sent. The technology works in much the same way that law enforcement “breathalizers” work in that, after a traffic stop by a police officer, the officer requests that the driver submit their cell phone for a brief examination by the textalizer which analyzes the text messages that were recently sent and determines whether or not the phone was used by the driver, while driving. The technology behind the textalizer is being developed to help curb the rise in texting while driving. Many accidents occur due to driver distraction and texting while driving is especially distracting because it requires the person texting to take their eyes off the road for a prolonged period of time to focus on sending the texts. The textalizer technology still has a ways to go before it can be implemented by law enforcement agencies, though. Issues, such as determining who is actually texting if multiple people are in a vehicle, or whether or not hands free systems were used to send the texts, etc. still need to be properly addressed so that the textalizer can accurately detect distracted driving. -taken from www.npr.org

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

Crash Prompts Lawsuit Against Apple

A lawsuit recently filed in California is against Apple and its Facetime technology used on their Iphone devices. Apple is being sued for allegedly having the technology to effectively disable the Facetime technology when used in an unsafe environment, such as when driving a vehicle, but according to the suit, Apple disregarded implementing this technology. Facetime is a technology used on Apple’s Iphones that allows the user to talk with another phone user who also has Facetime using the Iphone camera to transmit live video allowing the users to visually observe each other in real time while on the phone. Facetime users typically point the phones at themselves so that the other user can see their face during the conversation. Actively pointing the Iphone at the user’s face requires some attention to be taken away from whatever the user is doing, not to mention the use of a free hand. Using Facetime while driving could distract the driver from focusing on the road, which is what happened in an accident in which the plaintiffs against Apple were involved. James and Bethany Modisette were in their car with their two children in December 2014, when struck from behind by an inattentive driver who claimed he was distracted by using the Facetime app on his Iphone at the time of the accident. One of the Modesette children, Moriah, was killed as a result of the accident. The Modisettes are suing Apple for having the technology available to disable Facetime, but not implementing the technology, allowing Facetime to be used and be a contributing factor to the accident in which their daughter was killed. Apple was granted a patent for the technology to disable applications on their devices based on where the device was being used in April of 2014. The suit claims that proper application of the technology to disable applications such as Facetime would have effectively protected against the accident in question. Taken from Jalopnik