Posts Tagged ‘Vehicle safety’

Tesla Motors is Developing Driverless Cars

Tesla Motors’ autonomous vehicle system technology is progressing at a rapid rate towards being offered as an option on their vehicles. The autonomous system is being perfected to work in everyday driving situations to allow the vehicle’s driver to completely disengage from controlling the vehicle and allow the car to do all of the driving functions. Tesla has been developing their autonomous system for some time, and the system has undergone much iteration to get to the point at which it is capable of controlling a vehicle. Unfortunately, the current system, while very robust and dependable, is still prone to errors caused by circumstances that are unexpected under normal driving situations. Exact situations have not been shared, however speculations as to very quick moving obstacles in the path of travel, or even very small obstacles in the path of travel are thought to cause the autonomous system to fail. Driverless cars in general, including Tesla Motors, are under extreme scrutiny because of the significant dangers involved if a driverless car control system fails. Serious injury, property damage, or even death are all possible outcomes if a driverless car fails to operate properly. Tesla’s driverless autonomous vehicle system consists of a multitude of cameras and sensors that are supposedly capable of detecting objects around the vehicle as well as signage along the path of travel. Signs, such as stop signs or other warning indicators such as stop lights are identified by the driverless car and the car’s operation is changed appropriately to these signals. While the software behind controlling the vehicle’s sensors and cameras is currently still in development, the vehicles themselves are now being produced with the necessary hardware that will allow the cars to drive themselves in the near future. The software will be released as part of an update to the vehicle’s computer system and can be updated without significant maintenance to the vehicle.   Taken from Motor1

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.”

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

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

The Value of IIHS Safety Ratings

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a non-profit organization that performs testing and research on new cars in order to assign safety ratings.  The IIHS conducts various crash tests on new vehicles and assigns ratings based on how they do. They have five main tests to determine crashworthiness: Moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint. They then rate the vehicles as “good,” “acceptable,” “marginal,” or “poor” in each test. While there are undoubtedly numerous factors in addition to vehicle design which effect a vehicle’s crash worthiness, the IIHS tests have proven to be fruitful. Their ratings help consumers make better informed decisions and have pushed automakers to produce safer vehicles.  A comparison of death and injury reductions for vehicles with a “good” versus a “poor” rating in IIHS tests shows the following:
  • Front offset with moderate overlap test: Fatality risk in head-on crashes is 46% lower
  • Side Impact Crash Test: Fatality risk in side impact crashes 70% lower
  • Rear Impact Test (seat only): Neck injury risk in rear crashes is 15% lower and the risk of neck injury requiring 3+ months treatment is 35% lower