Posts Tagged ‘Automotive safety news’

Pace of technology: Automatic braking for cars

Federal regulators and the auto industry are taking a more lenient approach than safety advocates would like when it comes to phasing in automatic braking systems for passenger cars, according to records of their private negotiations.  The technology automatically applies brakes to prevent or mitigate collisions, rather than waiting for the driver to react. While such systems are already available in dozens of car models, typically as a pricey option on higher-end vehicles, they should be standard in all new cars, according to safety advocates.  But instead of mandating it, the government is trying to work out a voluntary agreement with automakers in hopes of getting it in cars more quickly. The Associated Press has obtained the Meeting minutes from three of the meetings that NHTSA has held with automakers since October which show that the government is considering granting significant concessions.  Records of the third negotiating session, on Nov. 12, show that automatic braking systems would be allowed that slow vehicles by as little as 5 mph before a collision. Furthermore, manufacturers may be allowed to exempt 5 percent of their vehicles from the standard with an additional exemption for models that manufacturers intend to phase out or redesign.  The minutes don’t specify a model year by which the technology would have to be included in cars, but the group did decide that discussion of any deadline would begin with “the latest date submitted by any automaker” for when they would be ready to make the change. Meeting participants included NHTSA, 16 automakers, two auto industry trade groups and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (the insurance industry’s safety research arm). Representatives from Transport Canada, the Canadian government’s auto safety regulator, also attended. NHTSA estimates show that there are about 1.7 million rear-end crashes a year in the U.S., killing more than 200 people, injuring 400,000 others and costing about $47 billion annually. More than half of those crashes could be avoided or mitigated by automatic braking or systems that warn drivers of an impending collision.  NHTSA announced last year that it will include automatic braking and other collision-avoidance technologies in its five-star safety rating program to encourage automakers to more widely adopt the technology. In an unusually pointed criticism, the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates accidents and makes safety recommendations, said in a report last year that “slow and insufficient action” by NHTSA to develop performance standards for automatic braking and collision warning systems and to require the technologies in cars and trucks “has contributed to the ongoing and unacceptable frequency of rear-end crashes.”

AAA testifies in favor of retaining Tennessee’s Motorcycle Helmet Law

Knoxville, TN – On Tuesday, the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee is expected to vote on House Bill 700 by Representative Jay Reedy (R-74th Dist. TN).  The proposed bill would allow riders 21 years and older not insured with TennCare, to ride without a helmet. Tennessee’s current law requires all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, regardless of age or experience of the rider. The AAA (American Automobile Association) has come out in strong opposition to the bill. Last week during the Committee meeting Don Lindsey (the Tennessee Public Affairs Director for AAA east), testified to the drastic drop in helmet use seen in other states after repealing helmet laws. The auto club also brought in another individual with a personal testimony in support of helmet laws. In the event of a crash, motorcyclists without a helmet are three times more likely than helmeted riders to suffer traumatic brain injuries. Helmets have been shown to be highly effective in preventing brain injuries, which often require extensive treatment and may result in lifelong disabilities. Helmets also decrease the overall cost of medical care. Historically, states that relax their helmet laws have seen a sizeable increase in injuries and deaths. According to a peer-reviewed study published in the American Journal of Public Health, Pennsylvania had a 66 percent increase in deaths caused by head injuries and a 78 percent spike in head injury hospitalizations following motorcycle crashes.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatalities in Kentucky increased by 58 percent after they repealed their helmet laws.  Finally, in Florida, the number of hospital admissions of motorcyclists with head, brain and skull injuries increased by 82% after its helmet law was relaxed.

NHTSA Releases Its Latest Crash Statistics

NHTSA released its latest crash data statistics in two separate publications. The first is titled “Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Nine Months (Jan-Sep) of 2015” . This document provides a “statistical projection of traffic fatalities for the first nine months of 2015.” The report estimates that 26,000 people lost their lives in motor vehicle traffic accidents in that time period. This is an estimated increase of 9.3% when compared to the same time period in 2014. During the first nine months of 2014, there were an estimated 23,796 deaths. The second document is titled simply “Quick Facts 2014 (DOT HS 812 234).” The purpose of this document is to provide a quick reference sheet covering the most commonly asked questions relating to motor vehicle traffic accidents and fatalities.

NHTSA declares that Google’s AI ‘Driver’ Can Qualify For US Roads

In a letter to Google’s Chris Urmson, the director of the company’s self-driving car project, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concludes that it would consider the company’s self-driving vehicles (SDVs) as having a driver under federal regulations, despite being controlled by a computer.  This means that self-driving or autonomous vehicles are a step closer to America’s highways.  NHTSA posted a detailed response on its Web site. Google’s SDVs are fully autonomous, meaning that the operations of these vehicles are controlled exclusively by a self-driving system (SDS), according to the search giant.  The SDS is an artificial-intelligence (AI) driver, which is a computer designed into the motor vehicle itself that controls all aspects of driving by perceiving its environment and responding to it. Now, according to the NHTSA, that’s enough to qualify for driving. “NHTSA will interpret ‘driver’ in the context of Google’s described motor vehicle design as referring to the (self-driving system), and not to any of the vehicle occupants,” according to the NHTSA, which was released this week. “We agree with Google its (self-driving car) will not have a ‘driver’ in the traditional sense that vehicles have had drivers during the last more than one hundred years.” Google’s cars are designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. “The next question is whether and how Google could certify that the (self-driving system) meets a standard developed and designed to apply to a vehicle with a human driver,” according to the NHTSA.  

Debate Over Seat Belts on Buses

On Feb. 4, 2015, H.B. 2582 was introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates. This bill states, “Beginning July 1, 2015, the state board of education shall install seat belts in school buses over a five-year period, until all school buses are outfitted with seat belts, which seat belts shall meet the standards set and approved by the Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc.” The bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and then the House Committee on Finance. This bill was reintroduced during the 2016 legislative session on Jan. 13 of this year. It was then referred to the House Committee on Education. The head sponsor of the bill is Delegate Nancy Peoples Guthrie, D-Kanawha. Other sponsors of the bill are Delegates Linda Longstreth, D-Marion, Dana Lynch, D-Webster, Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, and Andrew Byrd, D-Kanawha. Mark R. Rosekind, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration (NHTSA), talked about seat belts on school buses in a speech he made in November 2015 at the 41st summit of the National Association for Pupil Transportation. “The NHTSA has not always spoken with a clear voice on the issue of seat belts on school buses. So let me clear up any ambiguity now: The position of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that seat belts save lives. That is true whether in a passenger car or in a big yellow school bus. And saving lives is what we are about. So NHTSA’s policy is that every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt. School buses should have seat belts. Period,” Rosekind said. Rosekind also said in his speech that the NHTSA will launch a series of research projects to study the safety benefits of seat belts, and it will contact governors of the states that require seat belts to nominate participants to give recommendations on how to start a nationwide “seat belts on school buses” movement, which will study how to overcome financial difficulties associated with installing seat belts on school buses. The big question in this debate is whether seat belts on school buses will help or hurt students. From 2004 to 2013 there were 340,039 fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes and 0.4 percent, or 1,214, of these were school transportation-related. A total of 1,344 people, or an average of 134 people a year, were killed during this time period nationwide in school transportation-related crashes, according to the NHTSA. Of the people who died, 8 percent were occupants of school transportation vehicles and 71 percent were occupants of other vehicles. California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas are the only states that have some type of seat belt law for school buses, according to the National Conference of State Legislators’ website. The NHTSA has done research about seat belts on school buses. What do officials think in the Marion County area about installing seat belts on school buses? “The school buses themselves, the frame is reinforced steel built for safety purposes,” said Chad Norman, administrative assistant in charge of transportation. “They have found that the cabin that students sit in, with the high seat in front of them and the high seat in back of them, actually prevents major injuries. “In the event that we have a situation, students could exit quickly without being belted in and the driver having to come and actually unbelt each one of the students.” The concern about students being belted in is that in certain situations, like a rollover accident, or a bus entering water, the seat belts “could present a safety issue,” Norman said. Once the NHTSA has conducted its research, “it’ll be interesting to see what their studies show — first determining if it is indeed a need,” Norman said. School buses have other features that offer safety, according to Ron Schmuck, transportation supervisor for Marion County Schools. “The floors of the bus sit high enough and the seating compartment is above where most accidents are happening. An accident would happen under the floor due to the height of the buses. It lessens the impact of any passengers on it,” Schmuck said. Some Marion County bus drivers are also against installing seat belts on buses. “They would be a dangerous weapon,” Roger Stover, a bus driver for 41 years, said, referring to students hitting each other with the seat belts. “If we have to evacuate that bus in a hurry for some ungodly reason, it’s going to present a problem, especially with the little ones. I’m strictly against them,” Stover said. “If a bus would be in an accident that the bus would be on its side or its top, the latch (of the seat belts) isn’t coming off. Now you’re going to have to cut every child loose. Especially if there is a fire on the bus, you couldn’t get them all off,” said Terry Markley, a bus driver for 20 years in Marion County. The NHTSA has done research about seat belts on school buses that concludes there may be some benefit to using lap/shoulder belts. In 2002, the NHTSA presented a report to Congress that concluded that using lap belts has “little, if any, benefit in reducing serious-to-fatal injuries in severe frontal crashes.” “The use of combination lap/shoulder belts, if used properly, could provide some benefit on both large and small school buses. Lap/shoulder belts can be misused if children put the shoulder portion behind them. NHTSA’s testing showed that serious neck injury and perhaps abdominal injury could result when lap/shoulder belts are misused. Assuming 100 percent usage and no misuse, lap/shoulder belts could save one life a year,” the NHTSA said in the report.

NHTSA: People Can’t Figure Out How to Shift Fiat Chryslers Into Park

NHTSA says a badly-designed automatic shifter is confusing drivers, causing them to exit a vehicle that’s still in gear. 121 crashes and 30 injuries have been reported. This past summer the National Highway Traffic Safety administration opened a preliminary investigation into just over 400,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees after some owners alleged their vehicles would roll away after being shifted into Park. Now, the NHTSA has more than doubled the number of Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler vehicles being investigated and the agency now blames the problems on a confusing shifter design that doesn’t adequately indicate to drivers that they haven’t engaged Park. The Detroit News reports that the NHTSA is conducting an engineering analysis on more than 856,000 Fiat Chrysler vehicles. The agency has received reports of 314 roll-away incidents, involving 121 crashes and 30 injuries, caused when drivers exited a vehicle after they thought they’d shifted into Park. And while the initial investigation treated the issue as a mechanical defect, it’s looking more and more like the problem has at least something to do with driver error due to a poorly-designed shifter. The investigation involves 3.6-liter V6-powered 2014 and 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees, 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers and 2012-2014 Chrysler 300s—all of which use a push-button console shift lever that looks like a traditional PRNDL shifter. But in operation, the electronic shifter works more like a joystick, returning to its center position once you’ve selected your gear. There is no gate around the shifter; the lever itself moves through somewhat subtle detents, and the whole range of motion is incredibly short compared to a traditional mechanical shifter, perhaps two or three inches from end to end. The console shifter on a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 models included in the investigation use an identical shifter. It’s worth pointing out that the aforementioned Fiat Chrysler vehicles are not the only ones that use this shifter, which is called the Monostable and is produced by transmission supplier ZF.  As an example, Audi A8 uses an identical shift knob, with the thumb button on the left and a PRNDS gear pattern with no separate button for Park. In testing, NHTSA found that the electronic gear shifter’s operation is “not intuitive” and offers “poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection.” In Fiat Chrysler vehicles equipped with this shifter design, opening the driver’s door when the car is not in Park triggers a chime and an instrument cluster alert, and the engine cannot be turned off with the car in gear; however, NHTSA says “this function does not protect drivers who intentionally leave the engine running or drivers who do not recognize that the engine continues to run after an attempted shut-off.” So while it may seem silly that drivers could be confused by the operation of an automatic transmission, the reality is that this shifter design operates differently enough to require more concentration than a traditional shifter. Folks who’ve been driving for years, who are used to the way a mechanical PRNDL shifter operates, probably don’t think consciously about the act of shifting—it’s the kind of act we’ve committed to muscle memory years ago. NHTSA has upgraded its treatment of this problem in FCA vehicles from an investigation to an “engineering analysis,” though no plans for a recall have been announced at this time. FCA went to a different shifter design in model-year 2015 for the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300, and changed the Jeep Grand Cherokee shifter for 2016. via Detroit News

DOT announces increase in 2015 roadway deaths

NHTSA 02-16 Friday, February 5, 2016 Contact: Gordon Trowbridge, 202-366-9550, Public.Affairs@dot.gov The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today announced its latest estimate of traffic deaths, which show a steep 9.3 percent increase for the first nine months of 2015. The news comes as the agency kicks-off its first in a series of regional summits with a day-long event in Sacramento, Calif., to examine unsafe behaviors and human choices that contribute to increasing traffic deaths on a national scale. Human factors contribute to 94 percent of crashes according to decades of NHTSA research. “For decades, U.S. DOT has been driving safety improvements on our roads, and those efforts have resulted in a steady decline in highway deaths,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “But the apparent increase in 2015 is a signal that we need to do more. The safety summits that NHTSA is kicking off today in Sacramento will provide us with new approaches to add to the tried-and-true tactics that we know save lives.” NHTSA estimates that more than 26,000 people died in traffic crashes in the first nine months of 2015, compared to the 23,796 fatalities in the first nine months of 2014. U.S. regions nationwide showed increases ranging from 2 to 20 percent. “We’re seeing red flags across the U.S. and we’re not waiting for the situation to develop further,” said Dr. Mark Rosekind, NHTSA Administrator. “It’s time to drive behavioral changes in traffic safety and that means taking on new initiatives and addressing persistent issues like drunk driving and failure to wear seat belts.” The estimated increase in highway deaths follows years of steady, gradual declines. Traffic deaths declined 1.2 percent in 2014 and more than 22 percent from 2000 to 2014. Today’s summit in California is the first in a series of cross-cutting regional summits being held across the country, capped by a nationwide gathering in Washington, to gather ideas, engage new partners, and generate additional approaches to combat human behavioral issues that contribute to road deaths. These summits will address drunk, drugged, distracted and drowsy driving; speeding; failure to use safety features such as seat belts and child seats; and new initiatives to protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

Automatic  Braking Systems reduce rear-end collisions

A new study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found that vehicles equipped with front crash prevention systems are far less likely to be involved in a rear-end accident than those vehicles without such systems. Though not a shocking conclusion, the results show that there is a real benefit to front crash prevention systems. According to the study, automatic braking systems reduce rear-end collisions by about 40 percent on average. Forward collision warning systems, which warn drivers of an impending impact but don’t apply the brakes, were found to reduce rear-end crashes by 23 percent.  The IIHS estimates that if all vehicles were equipped with automatic braking systems there would have been 700,000 fewer rear-end collisions in 2013. “The success of front crash prevention represents a big step toward safer roads,” says David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer. “As this technology becomes more widespread, we can expect to see noticeably fewer rear-end crashes.” Moreover, the study found that rear-end crashes involving vehicles equipped with auto braking had a 42 percent decrease in reported injuries. That figure jumps to 47 percent with Volvo’s City Safety system. “Even when a crash isn’t avoided, systems that have auto brake have a good chance of preventing injuries by reducing the impact speed,” says Jessica Cicchino, the study’s author and the Institute’s vice president for research. Forward collision warning systems alone, however, didn’t have a measurable effect on injuries. The study found that such warning systems reduced injuries by only 6 percent, which isn’t statically significant. “It’s surprising that forward collision warning didn’t show more of an injury benefit, given that HLDI (Highway Loss Data Institute) has found big reductions in injury claims with the feature,” said Cicchino. Although auto brake systems are clearly beneficial, IIHS notes that such systems are often bundled with other technologies like adaptive cruise control, so their exact effectiveness is difficult to track. The IIHS along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced last year that they has reached an accord with automakers to make auto braking standard across all vehicles, but a date for that implementation has not been set. Read more: http://www.leftlanenews.com/front-crash-prevention-systems-reduce-crashes-injuries-iihs-study-90863.html#ixzz3yf5zFj27