Category: Safety

By on June 27, 2016

GC Shifter

My most devoted readers (Hi, Mom!) know that I’ve used the (Web) pages of Road&Track a few times in the past couple of years to argue for standardizing automotive control location and operation. The general response to my clarion call for action has been a rousing middle finger from the reader, accompanied by an unambiguous suggestion that I use a standardized automatic-transmission shift lever to go fuck myself sideways. What can I say? They were even meaner to John the Baptist, you know.

Last week, some fellow from Hollywood (might have) managed to let his own Grand Cherokee crush him to death. And now, to quote Heath Ledger, everybody loses their minds. There’s a class action lawsuit. The Monostable shifter is being maligned from all quarters, often by the same people who said that the Chrysler rotary PRNDL control was also a problem.

In my previous articles, I predicted that the government, or the courts, would set the automakers’ houses in order if they couldn’t do it themselves. Perhaps that will happen now. I hope not. In the meantime, however, let’s take a brief look at the arguments from control standardization, and the arguments for deviating from those standards sensibly.

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By on April 4, 2016

Speed Limit 29 Sign, Image: James Brooks/Flickr

Dozens of factors combine to determine posted speed limits on highways and local roads. Among those factors are vehicle limitations, weather conditions, non-motorized road users, old ladies writing letters to city council, and — perhaps most fundamentally — design speed.

What is design speed? Read on, my friends.

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By on March 21, 2016

Driver's Life Driving Matters Campaign Mazda

Drivers afraid to be behind the wheel are a misunderstood threat to road safety. Fearful driving often leads to excessive caution masquerading as politeness. Resulting behaviors may appear benign, when in fact they can be grave.

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By on January 29, 2016

AirbagMain

We discussed the general process of repairing a salvage car a few weeks ago and one commenter asked about airbags. Joe Btfsplk writes:

How do you deal with deployed airbags? Are used parts allowed to be used in salvage vehicles? This seems to get little attention in the article.

Dealing with deployed airbags in modern cars can be a tricky and costly situation. The installation of used parts is allowed but may not always be the safest solution.

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By on December 18, 2015

Takata Logo on Belt

Who would have known that one of the largest parts supply recalls in U.S. history could poison the well for the rest of your business?

That, and Jeep needs you to keep it dry for a minute, Porsche pulls another player from Volkswagen’s bench and how big does Magna International’s yacht need to be anyway, after the jump.

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By on November 3, 2015

Yesterday, TTAC’s daily news editor Aaron Cole wrote an editorial calling for a new Ralph Nader to arise and save us from our own refusal to make appropriate safety-related automotive choices. I found the article fascinating, not least because one of my first editorials for TTAC was a skeptical look at the benefits of so-called “advanced driver training”. In that editorial, I argued that the decision to purchase a safe car was far more critical to crash survivability than any amount of special training would be. I then proceeded to prove my own point by selling my Phaetons, buying a Lincoln Town Car, and experiencing an incident (direct, high-speed perpendicular impact to my passenger door) that would have been trivial in said Phaetons but which was crippling in the aforementioned Town Car.

Since then, my thoughts on road safety have primarily centered around the idea of risk reduction. I believe that if you cancel or modify your riskiest trips, you’ll see tangible benefits from doing so. I don’t put my son in the car with me unless I have a specific agenda in mind to minimize risk from that trip. My goal is to reduce his exposure, which means no unnecessary trips, no bad-weather trips, and no trips without a plan.

On the other hand, this past year I put about half of my commuting mileage on motorcycles. That tilts my overall risk profile pretty far away from “safe”. It has, however, allowed me a front-row seat for all sorts of traffic incidents and accidents, playing out in full widescreen all around me.

For those reasons, I’m inclined to disagree with Aaron a little bit when it comes to the role of the government and/or quasi-governmental activists to improve vehicle safety. I’ll explain.

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By on November 2, 2015

640px-Ralph_Nader_in_Waterbury_12,_October_4,_2008

In 1966, nascent federal automotive safety regulators recalled 982,823 vehicles. For the week of Oct. 25-31, automakers announced recalls of 2,727,205 vehicles. In 2014, the so-called “year of the recall,” more than 72 million cars were recalled by automakers in 902 separate recalls. On average, there are 2.5 times more cars on the road today than there were in 1966.

By most measurable statistics, vehicle recalls are more frequent and more costly to automakers and, according to safety data from NHTSA, fatal crashes happen proportionately less since their peak in 1972 — in short, recall repairs work and serve a purpose. Ralph Nader’s 1965 book, “Unsafe At Any Speed,” which accused automakers of intentionally delaying now-standard safety equipment, such as airbags, seatbelts and passive safety features, was met with fierce criticism from automakers. By 1972, several of Nader’s key points, including the federal oversight committee that would become NHTSA, had become commonplace. Automotive safety was already moving in the right direction, but Nader punched the throttle. 

Like Nader’s call for mandatory safety equipment and tests in the ’60s and ’70s revolutionized automaking, a new call to revolutionize and modernize is needed. However, instead of focusing on defective and unsafe cars, there needs to be new focus for this future safety revolution: defective and unsafe drivers.

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By on October 6, 2015

voxtrain

The autonomous vehicle is coming. Everybody says so. Or at least everybody who is paid to be optimistic about the fascist-corporate future of the Western World says so. Autonomous vehicles are already so safe that the only risks come from the imperfect humans surrounding them. The Times regularly fawns over the autonomous vehicle in the same vaguely insincere, Backpfeifengesicht-smirking way it concern-trolls about suicide-by-firearm. The problem, you see, is with all the people out there. They’re too stupid to drive a car or handle a gun and the only solution is for their betters in the $100M Manhattan condos and too-precious San-Fran Nob Hill homes to keep them dosed with soma and distracted with Centrifugal Bumblepuppy during the two and a half hours a day they’re not supposed to be either working in their ping-pong-table-equipped offices or sound asleep.

I’ve spent much of the past week reading about the near-perfect safety of the autonomous roadways of the future. As fate would have it, I spent much of the week before that driving a few hundred miles’ worth of fast back roads in an assortment of very fast sports cars. After spending some time considering what I’ve read and what I’ve been doing in a sort of holistic fashion, I’ve come to believe that the safety of autonomous vehicles, like many other technical and social issues in the United States, comes down to the story of the Country Mouse and the City Mouse.

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By on September 18, 2015

In July, we learned the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky may be at a risk of fire due to a blower motor issue that caused the recall of the Hummer H3. This may not be the only part that should be recalled. Many of GM’s roadsters are suffering from a defective sensor which could prevent the passenger airbag from deploying in an accident.

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By on August 17, 2015

audikey

Volkswagen has spent over two years trying to block the publication of a research paper which reveals a key hacking vulnerability in many of their models as well as thousands from other manufacturers. According to Bloomberg, a team of researchers discovered the vulnerability in 2012 and notified Volkswagen in May 2013. Instead of working with the researchers to resolve the issue, Volkswagen argued that the paper would increase the risk of theft and sued them to stop the publication. Read More >

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