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

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

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

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

20 Years of Automobile Safety Engineering Makes a Difference

Despite the claim that older vehicles would survive a crash better than newer vehicles, safety systems designed into newer cars make the probability of sustaining injury in a collision much lower. The fact is, new cars have safety systems that are incorporated into the vehicle that are very cutting edge and capable of reducing injury significantly. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety recently posted a video on their website showing a collision between a late model Nissan Versa and a 20-year old version of the Versa to compare the collision and occupant compartment intrusion between the two vehicles. Interestingly enough, the Versa from 20 plus years ago is still being sold in some countries, such as Mexico, as a new vehicle but with old and severely outdated safety and technology. The 20-year-old Versa, sold under the model name “Tsuru” in Mexico, does not have airbags, anti-lock brakes, or a reinforced chassis designed to absorb crush energy during a collision. The IIHS video distinctly shows the difference in crush damage and internal collisions between the driver test dummy and the internal components of the occupant compartment and exposes the shortcomings that the Tsuru has in protecting the driver test dummy from colliding with the inside of the vehicle and steering wheel. The new Versa is able to divert the energy from the impact away from the occupants of the vehicle, rendering the collision much less severe than for the Tsuru. While a 40 mph head-on impact will be severe for any type of vehicle, modern safety systems sold in late model vehicles help in reducing injury and can even reduce the likelihood of occupant fatalities from serious impacts. View the collision video and more information here

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