Category: Safety

By on June 27, 2017

Kangaroo sign Australia, Image: bluedeviation/Flickr

Who knew strange animals born with a sack stuck to their bellies would prove to be the largest hurdle in the advent of driverless vehicles? In areas where you’ll find marsupials, anyway.

While North American drivers have long grown used to smacking deer with their personal vehicles, it’s a different story in the land of Paul Hogan, Nicole Kidman, and the amiable fellow from Jurassic Park. A full 80 percent of vehicle-animal collisions on that extremely large island and/or continent involve a kangaroo. It now seems the manner in which the limber creatures get around has created a headache for a certain Scandinavian car company — one hoping to lead the industry in hands-off driving. Read More >

By on June 26, 2017

Airbags

The impending bankruptcy of Japanese airbag maker Takata Corp. has been teased at and speculated upon for months. It was never a question of whether the parts supplier would go belly-up after causing the largest automotive recall in history, but how and when.

After furnishing dozens of automakers with airbag inflators what were, in essence, improvised grenades, the multi-million unit recall has left Takata with little recourse. The company has filed for bankruptcy protection in both Japan and the United States, announcing it will sell off the majority of its remaining assets to Key Safety Systems. One of the missing assets will be the equipment relating to the company’s nefarious ammonium nitrate airbag inflators.

The devices, subject to exploding with far too much force and spraying vehicle interiors with metal shrapnel, are responsible for a minimum of 16 deaths, hundreds of injuries, and the ruination of the company.  Read More >

By on June 26, 2017

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (left) and Chrysler Pacifica (right) - Image: FCA

Despite being lauded for its high level of content, smooth ride, and all-electric range, Chrysler’s plug-in hybrid minivan has hit a large roadblock. After voluntarily recalling all Pacifica Hybrids due to a safety defect that could see the minivan go dark at inopportune times, it seems the assembly line has ground to a halt in Windsor, Ontario.

A recall earlier this month saw Fiat Chrysler Automobiles call back 1,368 vehicles in the U.S. and 309 in Canada following complaints of loss of propulsion. The issue reportedly stems from defective inverter diodes. While the wonky electrified powertrain hasn’t resulted in any crashes or injuries, electrified cars that suddenly stop sending current to the motor aren’t something customers or the automaker can tolerate.

It’s a serious stumble for FCA’s green halo car. Read More >

By on June 24, 2017

2016 Tesla Model S, Image: Tesla

One Tesla owner got a big shock yesterday as his accelerator pedal snapped off while driving.

The story comes from user benjiejr on the Tesla Motor Club forum. He was showing off his Model S P85D to a friend and his nephew. After going through the car’s features it was time to show off the massive acceleration of the P85D’s twin electric motors and 503 horsepower.

“I turned around and was going to do another launch, but this time without Launch Mode – just stomp on the pedal – like I do most often. When I punched it, the accelerator pedal broke off.”

Read More >

By on June 23, 2017

cheech-chong high driving

Tragically, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has correlated the legalization of recreational marijuana use with more automobile accidents. Pot smoking in Colorado, Oregon and Washington seems to have resulted in collision frequencies roughly 3 percent higher than what would have been expected without legalization, according to a recent analysis from the Highway Loss Data Institute.

While this certainly isn’t an endorsement for de-legalizing recreational marijuana use, it is a reminder to stay off the roads if you’re having your head changed. Operating a motor vehicle while baked can get you into a sticky-icky situation, and nobody wants you having a green out on the expressway. That said, risks associated with driving under the influence of marijuana are much less cut-and-dried than alcohol.

This is largely due to how difficult it is for researchers to test marijuana. Despite its growing legalization, marijuana is classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule 1 drug, and subject to the highest level of restriction. Researchers need approval from their institution and apply for a license from the DEA before conducting a study. The government also has only so much pot to dole out for research purposes and gives the majority of it to the National Institute on Drug Abuse — fair and balanced testing of whether or not getting high while driving is safe is a little lower on NIDA’s list of priorities. In this instance, the same might be suggested of the IIHS.  Read More >

By on June 21, 2017

Tesla AutoPilot cruise control

The National Transportation Safety Board has finally concluded its investigation into a May 2016 crash in Florida that resulted in the death of 40-year-old Joshua Brown. The ex-Navy SEAL’s Tesla Model S was operating in Autopilot mode when it collided with a semi trailer, raising speculation that the semi-autonomous driving feature was the reason for the accident.

While Tesla has repeatedly called the system a lane-keeping “assist feature” and suggested drivers always keep their hands on the wheel, consumer safety groups have urged the automaker to improve it.

An earlier investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated in January that the Autopilot software in Brown’s car did not have any safety defects. However, the NTSB stated that data acquired from the vehicle’s computer indicated that neither the vehicle nor its operator made any attempt to avoid the truck. It also specified that the vehicle had issued seven warnings for Brown to retake the wheel.

In the 37 minutes leading up to the fatal crash, the report said the car detected hands on the steering wheel for a total of 25 seconds.

Read More >

By on June 15, 2017

dodge caravan 2012, Image: Dodge

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is recalling 297,000 minivans in North America due to a wiring issue that can inadvertently trigger airbag deployments, according to a company statement issued Thursday.

The recall affects 2011-2012 model year Dodge Grand Caravans and has been linked to 13 minor injuries but no known accidents. Congratulations to all those who somehow managed to avoid wrecking their minivan as its steering wheel unexpectedly detonated inches away from their face, blasting their forearms with superheated nitrogen gas. Read More >

By on June 13, 2017

SUV Headlight, Public Domain

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been systematically tearing apart every segment over inadequate headlights for the past year. In its most recent study, midsize SUVs took a beating, with only two models garnering a “good” rating for their illumination capabilities. The other 35 continued a trend of providing lackluster performance from a safety standpoint — especially non-luxury offerings.

Lousy headlights are something the IIHS seems hellbent on calling out, especially after years of avoiding any heavy scrutiny. This is the fourth segment the institute has evaluated since it began rating headlights in 2016. Its newly established headlight ratings have resulted in fewer cars being awarded an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, as headlights must rate in the “good” or “acceptable” range to even be considered. Read More >

By on June 9, 2017

Front Pedestrian Braking, a new active safety technology available on the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu and 2016 Cadillac CT6, is one of many safety features tested at General Motors' new Active Safety Test Area at the Milford Proving Ground in Milford, Michigan. Image: Jeffrey Sauger/General Motors

There was a time when seat belts were considered unnecessary, reserved as an optional extra for motorists who ventured out onto roadways in a state of white-knuckle fear. What pathetic bags of flesh, many thought, wrapping themselves in a polyester harness because they can’t handle themselves on the road — thinking it will save them from the reckoning of sheet metal and glass.

We know better now. Seat belts are proven life savers and advanced restraint systems are compulsory for both automakers and occupants. That will likely be the path of automatic emergency braking takes as well. Nissan announced Thursday it would make auto braking systems standard on a large portion of 2018 models sold in the United States. Toyota is doing the same. But the technology is not yet ubiquitous, nor has it acquired universal public approval. Many worry it could be too invasive or provide a false sense of invincibility, so it could be a while before AEB becomes expected equipment on all new models.  Read More >

By on June 8, 2017

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport, Image: Nissan

In the 1950s and 60s it was the horsepower war, followed soon after by the fuel economy battles of the 1970s and 80s. Today, the peace of mind that comes from available safety features competes with horsepower, environmental sensitivity and connectivity to win the hearts and minds of new car buyers.

Owning a vehicle that can head off a crash by itself is a tantalizing prospect for many drivers. With the industry already heading in that direction, Nissan has decided to add automatic emergency braking as standard equipment on eight of its 2018 models. Read More >

By on June 6, 2017

Jeep Liberty 2012, Image: Jeep

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is conducting a preliminary investigation regarding the 2012 Jeep Liberty’s airbag system after numerous complaints of a faulty control computer, leaving the safety measure non-functional in the event of an accident. That particular model year has already undergone a 2013 recall that required dealerships to re-flash the brand’s Totally Integrated Power Module for similar problems relating to non-deployment of active head restraints.

Owners have reported airbag warning lights remaining on while driving. Several were informed the occupant restraint controller (ORC) needed to be replaced, but their vehicle was not among the model years recalled. Since many drivers elected not to pay to have the system repaired, the NHTSA is concerned a recall may be necessary.  Read More >

By on June 2, 2017

tesla factory fremont, Image: Tesla Motors

Elon Musk has taken some rather extreme measures to ensure Tesla Motors’ employees don’t unionize. The CEO has a rigid production schedule he hopes to adhere to and doesn’t want organized labor throwing unforeseen variables into the mix. However, the UAW has made headway in the last twelve months after half-heartedly courting Tesla’s workforce for years.

Musk’s initial opposition came by way of written rebuttals to very specific criticisms regarding workplace safety and pay. He later accused a particularly aggressive critic of being a paid union stooge. Musk then hinted at the prospect of free frozen yogurt and roller coasters once the company approaches profitability.

Now, he’s apparently decided to reenact the circumstances of specific work-related injuries to prove the company is taking the appropriate safety precautions (or to sniff out areas needing improvement). It’s bizarrely parental but also kind of endearing, if you forget about the union angle. Read More >

By on May 26, 2017

2014 Hyundai Accent, Image: Hyundai

After a notable decline in driver fatalities during the Great Recession, deaths are back on the rise. However, the increase is rather minuscule compared to every other decade since automobiles became North America’s preferred mode of transportation and the number is projected to go back down in the years to come.

The averaged rate of driver deaths for 2014 models was 30 fatalities per million registered vehicle years, up from the 2011 low of 28. Fatal crashes rose a further 7 percent in 2015. This is can primarily be attributed to people having more reasons to drive when the economy is better, and those added miles translate into additional opportunities for crashes.

More interestingly, however, is which vehicles drivers are losing their lives in most often. As expected, smaller vehicles often are the most dangerous to occupy in the event of an accident but the stats between individual models vary widely. Read More >

By on May 25, 2017

tesla factory fremont

For some reason, the term “Chief People Officer” is at the same time cringe-inducing and rational. That’s what Tesla calls its head of HR. “Human Resources,” of course, is another cringe-inducing term that could only have come from the mid-century expansion of the federal public service. It’s an awful thing.

At Tesla, the face of HR — or people, if you will — has suddenly changed, and at a very interesting point in the electric automaker’s history. The company has announced the departure of longtime HR head Arnnon Geshuri, who oversaw workers at the company for eight years. In his place is Gaby Toledano, a veteran of high tech.

The timing of the departure could simply be a benign career change, but what’s occurring in the background at Tesla have many thinking otherwise. Read More >

By on May 25, 2017

tesla model-s-rear

Tesla Motors has won back some of Consumer Reports’ respect after being criticised for failing to include automatic emergency braking in recently built vehicles. The absence of the safety system really irked CR, resulting in a points deduction on all of the brand’s existing models. Tesla said it was abnormal to see vehicles of the same generation missing preexisting safety features and docked the Model S and X two points apiece.

“When we purchased our latest test car, we were assured automatic emergency braking would be enabled by the end of 2016,” explained Jake Fisher, director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center. “We’ve been waiting for this important safety feature, which is standard equipment on much cheaper cars.”  Read More >

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