Category Archives: Auto Safety

Burnout Bummers

For some drivers, burning rubber is the height of driver prowess. Unfortunately, the fact is that burning your tires not only puts your transmission at risk it can also lead to unintentional crashes and disasters.

‘Black Boxes’ For Cars One Step Closer To Mandatory

The National Transportation Safety Agency has once again put forward a plan to make secure, so-called ‘black box’ technology, mandatory on all vehicles, this time setting a deadline for the inclusion of these devices in all new cars starting in 2014. This technology is very similar to the devices currently in use in all aircraft, although the devices used in automobiles will not include a cockpit voice recorder or anything which records what the driver may or may not have been doing–just the automobile.

Already a great many automobile manufacturers use similar technology as part of the electronic integrated computer controlled environments of their vehicles. These devices have already proved their worth by recording vehicle information such as speed, sudden braking, turns or swerving. The devices only record this data in the last 30 seconds before the crash, so it is not as if the devices are recording every move you have made in your automobile, just the information which might have affected the crash.

Privacy advocates have said these devices are an infringement on personal privacy, but safety advocates say since the device is only recording a brief piece of driving information and then only in the event of a vehicle collision, there is no infringement on personal privacy. This information is usually determine through tactics used by police crash investigation teams. Using ‘black box’ technology there would be an immediate response to attempts to know exactly what happened.

In February the NTSA will allow a brief period for public comment on the issue of mandatory ‘black box’ technology, but it seems unlikely that any argument against the technology will prevent its eventual inclusive in all automobiles. The best advice for people who want information about their driving habits to stay secret beyond 2014 is to avoid having a vehicle collision.

GM Recalling 3,000 Vehicles For Air Bag Problems

This week General motors announced it was recalling 3,000 of its 2012 Buick Verano, Chevrolet Cruze and Chevrolet Sonic model vehicles due to a problem with the air bag.

GM made the announcement after announcing they had already been in discussions with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the problem. The problem causes air bags to NOT fully inflate in the event of a crash. No incidents or injuries have been reported as a result of the fault air bag.

GM said the problem stemmed from a faulty machine used in the manufacture of the vehicles themselves. GM said it had identified the problem machine and corrected the issue in the factory but was concerned that some vehicles may have been released before the repairs to the machine were made. Hence the recall.

GM announced it was recalling more than 12,5000 of the 2013 Cadillac XTS because of a problem with the rear head restraint. In that case the restraint would not lock in the upright position, causing passengers to lack the proper head security in the event of a vehicle collision.

GM has had a series of recalls lately, all without a single injury as a result of faulty equipment. So far, they’ve been lucky. The NHTSA allows manufacturers five days from the date they identify a problem to issue a recall. If the company fails to meet that deadline they run the risk of being handed a hefty fine. This prompts the manufacturers to move quickly when a problem is identified, but it does nothing to help manufacturers identify the problems in the first place.

For the most part automobile manufacturers must rely on customer complaints or reports from the mechanics who service these vehicles for detection of a problem. Otherwise they won’t know there is a problem until something fails to work as it is supposed to. In the case of faulty air bags this could result in an injury or even, worse case scenario, a fatality. And that could cost the company even more in the long run.

15 DUI’s And Still Driving Nets Illinois Man Felony Charge

An Elgin, Illinois man faces between 6 and 30 years in jail, without the possibility of parole after police claim he was arrested for DUI 15 times and had his license suspended 4 times–and was still caught drunk driving.

Illinois has a law which allows anyone caught for a 6th DUI to be charged with a Class X felony. That means the man, who police are unable to adequately identify because he has a litany of assumed names, will now serve a minimum of six years in state prison. Taking him off the road a for a lengthy period of time certainly seems to be an adequate response to repeat offenders.

As more and more convicted DUI offenders are continually being found on the road once again–with or without another valid license-police and legislators have sought increasingly more powerful ways to discipline them and keep them from driving again. Unfortunately for these offenders the only way that works is to keep them off the streets for an extended period of time, via a lengthy jail sentence. This amounts to setting special felony charges such as the “Class X Felony” being used in this case in Illinois, which police can use to cite these people who repeatedly put others lives at risk just so they can drive to the liquor store, or bar or wherever it is they feel the need to go when they are intoxicated.

It is still too early to know if these new penalties will be enough to prevent people from repeatedly driving under the influence of alcohol. There is nothing saying that once this Elgin man is eventually released from prison that he won’t get back into a car drunk and start driving around his community. But at least for the time being, while he is incarcerated, he is off the road, and people in his community can breathe a sigh of relief.

Social Media May Solve Vehicle Issues

A new type of technology might just allow automobile manufacturers to scour social media sites for posts relating to vehicle defects.

This new technology would allow faster detection of vehicle defects and give automobile manufacturers a heads-up before a problem gets out of hand. The technology allows users to search multiple brands across the broad spectrum of social media platforms. It can locate, automatically, any comments made about a particular brand; model of vehicle or manufacturer. This information can be collated and disseminated to specific manufacturers or even departments within their organization.

This information would be useful for manufacturers in finding a problem with a particular vehicle before a major incident occurs, or identify a problem among a small user group. This information is critical for automobile manufacturers trying to stay abreast of the millions upon millions of vehicles they have sold.

There are only so many ways to identify when a vehicle has a problem. Chiefly this is accomplished by waiting until vehicle owners start writing to the manufacturers or showing up at the dealerships with their problem and letting the mechanics sort it out.

There are currently more than one billion people currently using social media on a daily basis. The sheer volume of information contained in their daily posts, where they are likely to share details about there daily comings-and-goings is full of useful information for not just automobile manufacturers but nearly every company that sells just about anything.

If automobile manufacturers are able to better sort through and analyze this information they will be in a much better position to ensure the safety of their customers and the vehicles they sell.

‘Anticollision Systems’ The New ‘Must-Have’ Feature

Nissan this week announced it would begin integrating an anticollision system in their 2015 model vehicles. These new systems have become quite sought after by consumers who are looking to buy vehicles with the very best safety features available.

Anticollision technology is not ‘autonomous’ driving–instead it bundles several features together to give the car some ability to help its driver avoid a collision automatically by reducing speed, applying the brakes, issuing an audible warning or even preventing the steering wheel from being turned if a collision would result.

These systems use a combination of embedded video cameras and proximity sensors to recognize obstacles, either other moving vehicles or stable objects such as light polls. The onboard computer inside the car is able to detect these objects and determine if a collision is eminent. If it is the car can automatically avoid these collisions by using its control systems.

When it comes to safety automobile consumers have repeatedly shown they are willing to pay more for a vehicle which has been proven to be safer. Whether it was seat belts, air bags or anti-lock brakes, consumers embraced these new features and sought vehicles primarily for these reasons.

Nissan is not the first automaker to pursue this tack. In fact, while other automakers have been furiously integrating these features into their current models, Nissan has been slow to adopt these systems. That is all about to change, however, with Nissan attempting to present vehicles with the most enhanced collision avoidance systems available, and (hopefully) skyrocketing their brand to the top of the list when it comes to the ‘safest’ cars to own and drive.

Push Button Start Poses Big Problem

With the advent of the electric car, or rather the resurgence of the electric car, consumers have had to relearn some of the skills they once thought they had mastered when it comes to operating a car. Engineers too have had to struggle with ideas that differ radically between fossil fuel powered vehicles and electric, or even hybrid electric vehicles.

One of the most common problems regards the electric start button these new automobiles come equipped with.

These new types of cars are very quiet, especially if their motor automatically stops running to conserve fuel (which is a common attribute of these new types of vehicles.) Drivers are often unaware that although the motor is not running the vehicle is still technically ‘turned on’ and consuming fuel either as electricity or petrol.

All push-button start vehicles have some type of audible alert system which warns the driver, either with a special tone inside the car, or in the case of the Chevy Volt, a beeping horn, that the vehicle is still running. However, some safety advocates say the audible tones are not enough to adequately warn drivers, and the system itself is flawed.

The problem has become prevalent enough that the NHTSA is now considering setting safety standards for keyless entry systems and push button starters. So far no new standard has been determined. Conversations and investigations are just now taking place and some people, manufacturers mostly, are claiming there isn’t even a problem for anyone to worry about.

While manufacturers and safety advocates argue over the relevance of a more severe warning system, engineers struggle with ways of making these types of systems more effective and less risky for drivers who simply might not be paying close attention to the status of their vehicle.

‘Talking’ Cars May Help Improve Driving Safety

A new experimental program taking place in Ann Arbor, Michigan, right now may portend the future of ‘safe driving’ for all of us. The $25 million program, sponsored and monitored by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the University of Michigan, is designed to increase the ability of standard vehicles to understand where they are and communicate with other vehicles on the road with them about where they are going.

Nearly three thousand passenger cars and trucks have been outfitted with special software and hardware, including GPS devices. The vehicles are then equipped with driver warning systems so if the driver makes a sudden stop, or turns unexpectedly (or even slowly and safely) it will automatically notify other vehicles in the area which can determine whether or not the driver should be warned.

“Danger, car ahead is slowing” is an example of how the system might work.

This is not an experiment in autonomous vehicle control. Control of these vehicles remains with the driver. It will be up to the driver to react promptly to any warnings which are issued.

The experiment in Ann Arbor is scheduled to last a full 12 months. During that time the vehicles will be carefully monitored and drivers will be surveyed to determine how the system responds. Obviously they will also be tracking all vehicle crashes which occur during the course of the experiment in an effort to understand the exact cause of any vehicle collisions which do occur.

Automobile manufacturers are investigating a variety of systems designed to increase safety on the roads. Among these various systems are fully autonomous vehicle control, or self-driving cars; and semi-autonomous systems which is akin to an enhanced cruise control feature now available on some models of Cadillac. Eventually the industry seems certain to discover what works best, and begin to shift all vehicles to that standard. Until then it seems likely we will see a mix of full autonomous, partially autonomous, and good ol’ fashioned “driver only” vehicles on the road, all trying to be as safe as possible.