Category: Safety

By on September 1, 2017

2007 Jeep Liberty, Image: Wikimedia Commons

It’s the same safety issue that saddled Ford’s Pinto with a notorious legacy that continues to this day, and Jeep can’t seem to put it in its rear-view.

In 2013, at the urging of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles issued a recall for 1.56 million Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee SUVs to correct a serious flaw. The vehicles’ gas tanks, located between the rear axle and bumper, had proven especially vulnerable to rupturing in rear-end collisions. A total of 26 deaths were recorded at the time of the recall.

After installing trailer hitches on each affected vehicle, FCA felt it had the issue well in hand. Unfortunately, the fires continued, as did the deaths. Now, it’s happened again. Read More >

By on August 26, 2017

changing tire wheel nuts, Image: Bigstock

Ford Motor Company finds itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit concerning the simplest part of any car or truck: the lug nuts.

In this case, nuts that swell and delaminate not long after purchase, rendering the vehicle’s lug wrench useless in the event of a flat tire, or when the owners decide to swap their seasonal rubber. The lawsuit, filed by Hagens Berman Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, seeks class-action status. Hundreds of claimants have put their name to the suit.

Millions of Ford vehicles dating back to 2010, including the popular Fusion and F-150, feature two-piece lug nuts with a steel core and chrome, aluminum, or stainless cap for appearance purposes, the lawsuit claims. That outer cap can swell, potentially endangering owners’ lives and wallets. Read More >

By on August 25, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

General Motors has informed a small number of owners of its Chevrolet Bolt EV about a battery issue that could cause a sudden loss of propulsion. Some of the early Bolt models may incorrectly report the estimated remaining range at lower states of charge due to potentially faulty cells, resulting in the car stopping abruptly.

The automaker says less than 1 percent of Bolts sold to date are likely to face the problem, and GM is currently arranging repairs for the affected cars. Ideally, the faulty cells are the result of an isolated manufacturing defect and not the result of some widespread wonky battery chemistry.  Read More >

By on August 24, 2017

blind spot, Image: Ford

Lane departure alerts and blind spot monitoring systems can significantly reduce crashes if consumers use the features, according to two recent studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. While this information falls into the no-brainer category, rarely do we get specific metrics on these particular technologies.

“This is the first evidence that lane departure warning is working to prevent crashes of passenger vehicles on U.S. roads,” explained Jessica Cicchino, IIHS vice president for research. “Given the large number of fatal crashes that involve unintentional lane departures, technology aimed at preventing them has the potential to save a lot of lives.” Read More >

By on August 22, 2017

2018_toyota_tundra_trd_sport_01_8ee19ebe1c41ad354b59edf3a42fdf0bac4ded48

Back in the days of sky-high tailfins and wraparound windshields, A-pillars weren’t of sufficient thickness to hide little Timmy riding his bike, or maybe that Ford Fairlane approaching from behind that shrub to your left. No, front seat vision was grand — trying to stop your Detroit barge with unassisted drums brakes was the real challenge.

These days, the high-strength steel and airbags needed for rollover and side-impact protection have turned those slim pillars into Corinthian columns capable of hiding a small crowd. A-Pillars are bulky, and that’s a safety problem in itself.

What to do? In Toyota’s case, simply develop a way of seeing through them. Read More >

By on August 19, 2017

toyota safe and sound teen, Image: Toyota

Teen drivers have the highest crash rate of any demographic. Younger drivers are most likely to use their phones while driving or speed in high-traffic areas, and roughly half of all accidents associated with younger drivers were single-vehicle crashes. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, motor-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among individuals under 20.

Keeping younger drivers safe is a major concern for institutions like the National Safety Council, but some automakers have their own initiatives. Toyota, for example, had TeenDrive365, which provided a series of online videos aimed at encouraging safer driving habits. While the automaker abandoned that program after 2014, resulting in all of its content mysteriously vanishing, Toyota still seems keen on keeping young motorists on the road and out of the morgue.

However, what’s the best way to encourage responsible driving? Teens don’t like being placated, and they probably know the laws better than older drivers (as they’ve passed their written test far more recently). With this in mind, Toyota thinks humiliation may be the key. The automaker has made mortifying easily embarrassed teens the central theme of its new safety app.  Read More >

By on August 14, 2017

Waymo Google Self-Driving Car

Autonomous vehicles are being billed as a safer alternative to human-controlled transportation and, assuming the hardware functions as intended, that’s likely to be the case. But eventually a self-driving car is going to smack into a pedestrian and no company wants to hold the honor of being first.

Google’s autonomous vehicle arm, Waymo, is working on a solution to mitigate the liabilities associated with such an incident by patenting a softer car. Read More >

By on August 10, 2017

ford explorer police interceptor utility

Ford has assembled five squads of investigators to help police departments cope with the growing number of reports of exhaust fumes incapacitating on-duty officers in Explorer-based Interceptor Utility vehicles. While the problem appears to exist in civilian spec SUVs as well, police vehicles are getting the most attention from Ford and the press, especially after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cited three wrecked patrol vehicles and numerous drivers looking green in the gills.

The NHTSA ramped up its engineering analysis since then, which could lead to a recall on all Explorer-based models from 2011 to 2017. But Ford hopes to get out ahead of the issue by making good on an earlier promise, dispatching its own investigative teams to ensure police departments don’t look to other automakers the next time they need to replenish their fleets.

According to Ford, it’s already making headway in solving the problem.  Read More >

By on August 9, 2017

Takata-jpg

Takata, the airbag supplier whose cost-cutting measures ended up killing people, issued a request on Wednesday to suspend lawsuits against automakers filed by those injured by its faulty inflators.

Without the injunction, Takata claims the rampant litigation would prohibit management from completing the sale of the company’s viable operations to Key Safety Systems for $1.6 billion, threatening the supply of air bag inflators meant to replace already recalled ones (which may include all previously repaired units, pending an EPA investigation).

Obviously, the injured parties want restitution. Plaintiffs’ lawyers call the proposed injunction “an abuse of the bankruptcy laws for the benefit of all of the world’s largest automobile manufacturers.” The fear is that Takata’s request will delay consideration of numerous lawsuits for several months to a year, which is a long time to wait when you’ve been wronged.  Read More >

By on August 2, 2017

Nissan’s new Rear Door Alert technology can help remind driver

Nissan is rolling out a safety feature called Rear Door Alert on the 2018 Pathfinder SUV. It’s aimed at preventing drivers from accidentally leaving items in the backseat on a hot day — important things like groceries, children, and dogs. While the automaker bills the feature as the “first-of-its-kind,” it’s essentially an improved version of General Motors’ Rear Seat Reminder.

According to Nissan, Rear Door Alert was developed by two engineers who also happen to be mothers. Elsa Foley is an industrial engineer and mother of two, while Marlene Mendoza is a mechanical engineer with three kids of her own. They were allegedly struck with the idea when Mendoza abandoned a pan of lasagna in her car, which made the interior reek of pasta  — hitting home the point that this system was definitely not inspired by another automaker. Read More >

By on July 28, 2017

Ford Police Interceptor Utility

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is inching its way toward what could be a massive recall of Ford Explorers. An initial probe kicked off in 2016 after owners entered numerous complaints of an unpleasant exhaust smell in the cabin into the NHTSA database.

Formal grievances swelled into the hundreds by the end of the year and continued growing into 2017. The issue was so serious, one California police officer faulted it for overpowering him while behind the wheel of his Explorer-based Interceptor Utility, resulting in a crash last February. He wasn’t alone. On Thursday, the NHTSA announced at least three other wrecks could be attributed to carbon monoxide exposure inside the vehicle. All in all, the agency stated it is aware of 41 injuries and over 2,700 complaints linked to the issue.

While the injuries are mostly instances of nausea, severe headache, and dizziness, those symptoms pose a serious risk while driving. Concerned the problem could result in another crash, the NHTSA has broadened the probe to encompasses 1.33 million vehicles from 2011 to 2017 and upgraded it to a complete engineering analysis.  Read More >

By on July 28, 2017

autonomous hardware

Thanks to rhetoric beaten into us by the automotive industry, we know autonomous vehicles are “right around the corner.” Some manufacturers predict self-driving vehicles will be on the commercial market by an ambitiously early target date of 2021. However, those trick new rides are going to come at a premium that’ll keep them out of the hands of most normal people for a while.

LIDAR, the imaging system that allows an autonomous vehicle’s software to make sense of the road, is prohibitively expensive. High-end systems can approach the six-figure threshold while lower quality units rarely fall below 10 grand. Burgeoning technology is never affordable and automakers have traditionally found a way to produce advancements in cost-

effective ways. But the timeline for autonomous cars is too short, meaning any manufacturer wanting to sell one is going to have to have to accept the costs or defer production.  Read More >

By on July 27, 2017

2015 ford escape titanium ecoboost rear side

No automaker remains immune from safety recalls, but Ford Motor Company has had a bad go if it, as the British would say. The latest recall, spanning four models, concerns roughly 117,000 vehicles with potentially faulty anchors for the seats, seatbacks and seatbelts — all things you’d want to work properly in the event of a crash.

The automaker, which recently saw a slew of recalls munch heartily on its corporate profits, claims improperly tempered attachment bolts could cause any of the components to give way during a crash, or even a sudden stop. Read More >

By on July 25, 2017

challenger 2017

After a high-profile recall of over 1 million vehicles due to a design flaw associated with the shifter used with the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, Fiat Chrysler probably felt it was in the clear as far as rollaway risks were concerned. Unfortunately, FCA is now recalling 2017 Dodge Challengers with instrumentation that might erroneously indicate the vehicle is in park — creating another potential rollaway hazard.

The affected vehicles have 5.7-liter V8 engines and eight-speed automatic transmissions. In total, Dodge expects the necessary fix to pertain to 7,802 vehicles in the United States, 390 in Canada, and 119 more outside of North America.  Read More >

By on July 21, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

General Motors is taking the slow and steady approach when it comes to sales of the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, which might be the right path for a highly complex new car. Reviews show it to be a well-composed vehicle with decent fit and finish but, like any new car, there are some teething issues.

Like many of the other models in its class, the Bolt’s windshield is shaped and angled to maximize the vehicle’s efficiency. It works well in most regards, but one aspect has proven troubling. In top-line Premier trim, the Bolt comes with an interior trimmed in what GM calls Light Ash Gray and Ceramic White, paired with a dashboard that is also (very) light gray in color. Due to the dash’s relatively smooth surface, this color combination causes significant glare on sunny days — to the point where certain owners don’t feel safe driving it.

Read More >

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