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

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

Dodge Ram and Durango May Get Shifter Recall

Fiat Chrysler is undergoing a new series of investigations into their dial-actuated shifters used in many of their automatic transmission-equipped vehicles. This time, Dodge models, including the model years 2014 to 2016 Durango, and the 2013 to 2017 Ram Truck are under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) because the vehicles roll away after they have been shifted into park. The dial-actuated shifters use an electronic rotary controller to actuate the mechanical shifting mechanisms inside the transmission and the actuators do not effectively shift into park in some cases, allowing the vehicle to roll away from the intended position if the vehicle is left on a slight grade without any additional resistance to movement. NHTSA is gathering information to formulate an official recall for the Durango and Ram Truck vehicles. At this point, NHTSA is investigating how frequently and how severe the reported roll-away cases are to determine a plan of action for the recall. Up to this point, there have been 43 reported cases of Durangos or Rams moving away from the driver after the shifter was put in park, and of these 43 cases, 25 have resulted in crashes or property damage, and approximately nine incidents have resulted in personal injuries, but no fatalities have been reported due to this issue. The dial-actuated shifter mechanism is different than the mechanism used by Chrysler in their Charger, Chrysler 300, and Grand Cherokee models that has already been recalled on over 1.1 million vehicles, however the actuation process is very similar to the previously-recalled unit. NHTSA expects that the recall of the Durango and Ram models will affect over 1 million vehicles. Taken from Motor1

Takata Airbag Recall on Fast Track to Completion

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is eager to have all affected Takata-brand airbags replaced in passenger vehicles. “The Department of Transportation is maintaining its aggressive oversight of the efforts to recall Takata airbags as quickly as possible…” Foxx stated in a recent press conference. The NHTSA is actively overseeing the recall of the Takata airbags because the recall is so widespread and the affects of failing airbag units is so devastating. In fact, the recall is considered the largest safety recall ever for the automotive industry. The airbag recall potentially affects up to 69 million airbag inflators that are in place on approximately 42 million vehicles worldwide. (to find out if your vehicle has an affected airbag, please click on the following link: http://www.safercar.gov/rs/takata/takatalist.html) Foxx stated that the NHTSA will be prioritizing the recall by recalling the highest risk vehicles first, then working down the list to the lowest risk vehicles on the massive list towards the end of the recall. This procedure is in an attempt to minimize the chances of personal injury or death due to the faulty airbags in the event that the airbag malfunctions. Historically speaking, there have been 11 reported deaths in the USA that are attributed to the Takata airbags malfunctioning. 184 people have been injured by the airbags. This information taken from: motor1

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

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Battery Failure Theories

Last week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued an advisory warning that every Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phone should be shut down and not used at all based on the number of battery failures that have occurred. The batteries in the Note 7 phones have been catching fire, causing property damage and physical injuries to the phone users. Over 100 cases of Note 7’s catching fire have been reported, prompting Samsung to recall every Note 7 phone until the battery overheating problem has been resolved. Samsung is offering phone owners a full refund for their phone and has been working with carriers to get phones returned as quickly as possible. The cause of the Note 7 phone’s battery fires is unknown at this point, however battery fires are not uncommon in any area of electronics. Fires in batteries can be the result of manufacturing errors, however more often than not, fires can occur when the internal circuitry of the battery shorts together, releasing the stored energy in the battery very quickly which results in a dramatic increase in battery temperature and fire. Batteries are constructed of a series of thin layers separated by an insulating layer. If the insulating layer is damaged, the thin layers can come into contact with each other, short circuiting the battery and causing a fire. Another common cause for battery failure is a chemical reaction that produces small, sharp “dendrites” on the surface of the conducting layers of the battery. The ionized dendrites can actually pierce through the insulating layer of the battery much like little sharp blades and short circuit the cells. Yet another theory points the finger back at Samsung, for an improper charge detection circuit on the phone itself. Researchers into the battery failure have posed the suggestion that the Note 7’s phone circuitry does not properly detect when the battery is fully charged and overcharges the battery cells. If the battery is consistently overcharged, the battery structure can break down and again, short circuit the battery. The CPSC is officially looking into the cause of the failures. An estimated date as to when the investigation will yield an answer is unknown, however previous investigations into battery fires has taken over six months to complete. Samsung is investigating manufacturing of the Note 7 batteries also. -from CNet

Airbag Bicycle Helmets May Be More Effective at Preventing Brain Injury

Researchers from Stanford University are experimenting with a new technology that is aimed at reducing injury severity caused by bicycle helmets. Current bicycle helmet design consists of a hardened foam or plastic shell that covers the upper half of a rider’s skull and reduces the impact forces present during a head to ground impact. New helmet technology includes the use of inflatable air bladders that cover the head in a similar fashion to most traditional helmets. The inflatable air bladders, similar to automotive airbags, cushion the head during an impact with a pillow of air. Current testing by Stanford researchers has shown that airbag helmets can reduce head impact forces by as much as five to six times over forces present in impacts with traditional helmets. Most foam bicycle helmets have been shown to significantly reduce significant impacts, reducing the likelihood of cranial fractures, concussions, or other head injuries. Airbag helmets are a promising step in the direction of reducing such injuries even more. Much of the current research done at Stanford consists of properly understanding the mechanics behind brain injuries due to impacts with the ground or other hard surfaces. Research into the damage to brain tissue has shown that concussions occur when brain cells stretch or twist torsionally. During an impact, the brain may collide with the side of the rider’s skull, causing a collision within the head between the skull wall and the brain itself. Energy is absorbed by the brain in severe impacts by the brain matter itself. Obviously damage to the brain can occur if the impact is severe enough. Helmets capable of reducing impact severity, such as the airbag helmet, are already hitting the market in some European countries. One main potential drawback to the airbag helmet design as a mainstream product is due to the fact that an airbag helmet’s effectiveness at reducing injury is only as good as the amount of cushioning provided by the airbag. If the airbag is not properly inflated with high-pressure air prior to impact, the helmet becomes significantly less effective at absorbing impact forces. Proper inflation of the airbags is therefore extremely important. Current versions of airbag helmets are not consistently providing sufficient air pressure to the airbag, rendering the helmets less effective at preventing injury. The future of airbag helmets will rely on more thorough testing of the helmets that are more representative of actual impacts. Current testing procedures do not effectively model the occupant’s head, neck, and associated mechanics thoroughly enough to gain proper testing data. Further testing and development of the airbag inflation devices is also necessary to create a product that ensures proper inflation and a more robust inflation rate. from Science Daily

DOT announces $10M fine for Graco car seat recall

Graco Children’s Products has been fined $10 million after the company failed to provide timely notification of a defect in more than 4 million car seats. Graco must pay a fine of $3 million immediately to the Federal Government and an additional $7 million is due in five years unless they spend at least the same amount on new steps to improve child safety. The penalties close an investigation launched last year by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) into whether the company failed its obligations, under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, to begin what ended up as the largest ever recall of child seats. The seats had buckles that could stick or become stuck in a latched position, potentially placing child occupants at risk in an emergency. Parents need to know that the seats they trust to protect their children are safe, and that when there’s a problem, the manufacturer will meet its obligations to fix the defect quickly. Graco will create a plan and procedures for addressing certain targeted performance requirements, which may include methods to increase effectiveness of consumer product registration of car seats, which allows parents to be notified of defects, identifying potential safety trends affecting car seats industry wide and launching a child safety awareness campaign. According to NHTSA, on average, only 40 percent of people who have recalled car seats get them fixed. That’s in comparison to an average of 75 percent of people who have recalled light vehicles, for which registration is required by law. The company also must provide certification from an independent, third-party that it has met its cost obligations; if Graco fails to meet those obligations, it must pay the balance of the $10 million civil penalty. The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act states that once a manufacturer knows or should reasonably know that an item of motor vehicle equipment, such as a car seat, contains a safety related defect, the manufacturer has a maximum of five business days to notify the agency. Once it notifies NHTSA of a defect, it is required to launch a recall. Under the consent order issued today, Graco admits that it did not provide the required defect notice. Under pressure from NHTSA, Graco recalled more than 4 million convertible and booster seats with defective buckles in February 2014, and nearly an additional 2 million rear facing infant seats in June. NHTSA launched an investigation into the timeliness of Graco’s decision making and reporting of a defect in those recalls in December. With this consent order, Graco is required to pay a $3 million civil penalty, and to commit at least $7 million to meet targeted performance obligations, over the next five years. Those obligations may include: · Improving its assessment and identification of potential safety defects. · Creating a scientifically tested program to increase effectiveness of child seat registration programs. · Revising its procedures for addressing consumer safety complaints and speed the recall of defective products. · Launching a campaign to disseminate safety messages to parents and caregivers by producing media products to incorporate in child safety campaigns.