Category: Safety

By on December 3, 2020

While every other developed nation has been struggling unsuccessfully to catch up, Japan remains ground zero for adorable robots and Honda is continuing the trend with its new traffic-safety gizmo. Intended to advise young children on how to proceed through intersections, the product is really more like blind-spot-monitoring for kids than a full-on robotic entity. But it seems a useful useful addition to the pedestrian-heavy country where youngsters are substantially more likely to be struck by automobiles than here in North America.

Titled “Ropot” by its creators, the device rides on a backpack or shoulder strap and uses its GPS capabilities to remind kids to stop and look at intersections. It also allows parents to track the whereabouts of their offspring. However, since Ropot is targeted for children who are just starting to venture places on their own, a little parental spying may be warranted. All the adults have to do is make sure they take that first trip to school together so Honda’s wide-eyed helper can learn the route.

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By on November 19, 2020

It turns out there’s a name for the false sense of security provided by modern driving aids. According to researchers with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab, the phenomenon is called “driver disengagement” and it’s assumed to be a contributing factor to roadways fatalities. The duo recently published a rather basic study examining how evolving automotive technologies might be eroding safety under the guise of progress.

Since we’ve been onto the perils and shortcomings of advanced driving aids since their introduction, it also provides us with another stellar opportunity to gloat. Heck, our criticisms go back far enough to predate any reputable research on the matter. We were just bitter cranks then, annoyed that the systems seemed unworthy of our trust despite constantly demanding it. But the IIHS said its latest testing found motorists frequently lose focus while utilizing features like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping. This issue reportedly worsens the more familiar drivers become with the systems, which would be fine if they could be counted on for total effectiveness. Sadly, there’s been more than enough testing for us to know that’s not the case.

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By on November 13, 2020

2017 Ford Explorer Sport

A selection of Ford and Lincoln vehicles have been included in a pair of upcoming recalls. The first is involves 2020 Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator models suffering from a defective driveshaft. The weld seam is reportedly faulty on some vehicles and can split apart, resulting in a suddenly absent mechanical connection between the transfer case and rear axle. Drivers should be on guard for unintended vehicle creep or a sudden loss of power while moving. In truly bad instances, Ford warned that the driveshaft could come into heavy contact with the fuel tank — complicating things by introducing the always unpopular fire risk.

The second recall involves a link shaft bracket that may snap prematurely and impacts the 2014 Ford Edge as well as 2014-2016 Explorer and Taurus models. Drivers might notice a sudden loss of power while moving or the ability to safely place the vehicle in park. As this creates a roll-away risk, drivers should exercise caution and try to keep their vehicles parked on a level plane until it can be examined.

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By on October 30, 2020

With so many automotive issues being “solved” with a software update and a wink of late, its nice to see a recall that harks back to the days where someone forgot to tighten a few bolts or had a delivery truck pull up to the factory with sub-optimal fasteners. According to documents filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Volkswagen has found itself in just such a pickle and will need to recall 218,192 Jetta sedans from the 2016-2018 model years.

The problem? Improperly torqued fuel rail bolts. The solution? Obvious.

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By on October 1, 2020

The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) has finished a study on driver assistance systems and issued some moderately surprising results. While nowhere near comprehensive enough to be the ultimate authority on self-driving cars, it did give us a taste of Europe’s new grading system and how it will be implemented as more vehicles are tested. For now, NCAP is focused on a handful of models ranging from the pedestrian Renault Clio to the much more expensive Mercedes-Benz GLE.

While one might expect the moral of the study to be roughly ‘you get what you pay for,’ the reality seemed much more complicated after the Tesla Model 3 ended up in sixth place out of a possible ten. Anybody who has ever used Tesla’s Autopilot will tell you it’s probably the most impressive advanced driving suite currently on sale. This author certainly would before the smile dissolved and he was forced to you that it (and other) driving assistance packages are horrible, misleading inventions that need to be gotten rid of as soon as possible.

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By on August 28, 2020

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) just dropped an updated application for smart devices that offers the ability to automatically track recall information. After downloading, users simply input or scan their vehicle identification number (VIN) into their phone and the government-sanctioned service will notify them when/if recall new information becomes available.

While automakers and equipment manufacturers are still legally obligated to inform customers directly, the NHTSA believes redundancy isn’t a terrible idea when it comes to safety — and the app should beat any mailers sent out in the event of a recall.

Our more tech-savvy readers are probably wondering what the catch is, and with good reason. Free apps typically come with privacy concerns, as user data is frequently shoveled around to “optimize the experience” and/or make the creator some money. But there doesn’t seem to be any of that here. The NHTSA said the app won’t store any user information and only needs the basic details about your vehicle(s), which will never leave your device. Read More >

By on August 6, 2020

The American Automobile Association (AAA) is recommending automakers limit the use of advanced driving aids after concluding they’re not really up to the challenge of providing reliable safety.

Over the past two years, AAA has focused on testing crash prevention systems to see if they’re all manufacturers claim — deciding that while many are useful in some instances, they’re far too inconsistent to be considered reliable safety nets. Like us, the group worries that making these features commonplace has created a false sense of security among drivers. While one might assume advanced driving aids have to be halfway decent to be put into vehicles, AAA’s pedestrian detection test from 2019 showed they’re anything but consistent.

On Thursday, America’s favorite motor club returned to report on its latest findings on five systems currently offered by the industry. For the test, AAA selected a 2019 BMW X7 with Active Driving Assistant Professional, 2019 Cadillac CT6 with Super Cruise, 2019 Ford Edge with Co-Pilot360, 2020 Kia Telluride with Highway Driving Assist, and a 2020 Subaru Outback with EyeSight. The group was sent to numerous testing sites in California, Utah, and Nevada, and given a 4,000-mile shakedown on public roads — where the outfit found the systems averaged a misstep or disengagement roughly every 8 miles.

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By on June 5, 2020

When the United States began passing legislation allowing automakers to begin testing self-driving vehicles on public roads, it was framed almost entirely as a safety issue. Proponents claimed that the only way to eliminate roadway fatalities was to take the human brain out of the equation and let cars drive themselves. Having enacted a similar no-thinking policy themselves, legislators agreed — pleased to have ensured a death-free future on little more than empty corporate promises.

At the time, we were still complaining about the unreliable nature of advanced driving aids, and how such systems seem custom-made to dull your reflexes behind the wheel. There was a sense that, if everything went perfectly, maybe autonomous vehicles (AVs) could reduce accidents by previously unheard of levels. That feeling didn’t last particularly long here at TTAC and, by 2018, we started noticing we weren’t alone.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) grew increasingly critical of AVs starting a couple of years ago. On Thursday, it released a report claiming the idea of a no-crash future spurred by automation is a fantasy. Instead, the IIHS says cutting-edge technology will likely struggle to stop just a third of all accidents.  Read More >

By on June 1, 2020

A Tesla Model 3 became one with an overturned box truck in Taiwan on Monday, raising another red flag for advanced driver-assist features. Since we routinely crap upon driving aids — which never seem to work when and how you need them — we’ll keep this one under 650 words. Fortunately, our task has been made easier by preliminary reports lacking much information and a sizable language barrier.

The incident took place on Taiwan’s National Highway 1 near the Zhongshan High Chiayi Water Section, with the car allegedly operating in Autopilot mode. Video footage shows the Model 3 keeping to the leftmost lane with ample time to stop for the overturned delivery vehicle. There’s even a person standing in the road (likely the truck’s driver), flagging cars to warn them of the giant obstacle. The Tesla, however, failed to notice any of that until it was too late and ended up going through the trailer’s roof.  Read More >

By on March 12, 2020

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has issued a set of guidelines for advanced driving aids, suggesting that the key to automated safety is making sure drivers are perpetually engaged with the vehicle’s operations. Unfortunately, this has turned out to be a Catch-22 scenario due to the way these systems function. Semi-autonomous features are supposed to be there to help promote safety by adding an extra layer of protection; however, many encourage motorists to disengage by nature of their design.

Adaptive cruise control with lane keeping is probably the worst offender. Implemented as a way to keep cars a safe distance apart on the expressway, it offers an experience that borders on having the car chauffeur you around. The effectiveness of these systems vary widely, with none actually being capable of any legitimate self-driving functionality. You’re also not supposed to be able to tune out while they’re in use, but they all seem coyly contrived to do exactly that. The IIHS is concerned this phenomenon will only get worse as driving aids evolve and become increasingly commonplace.

“Unfortunately, the more sophisticated and reliable automation becomes, the more difficult it is for drivers to stay focused on what the vehicle is doing,” said IIHS President David Harkey. “That’s why systems should be designed to keep drivers actively engaged.” Read More >

By on February 3, 2020

India is famous for having some of the most lawless roadways on the planet. While the primary culprit is likely the country’s lax licensing requirements — showing a basic understanding of a vehicle’s controls and the ability to park is about all it takes — the bar has been set similarly low for what’s deemed acceptable outside the classroom. It’s not uncommon to see occupancy limits surpassed, often with excess passengers riding on the outside of a vehicle. Roads and automobiles are also often poorly maintained, encouraging accidents that jam up traffic.

Honking is a problem too, with India’s Central Pollution Control Board banning the practice in several cities for 2017. The group worked off data from 2011 that alleged Delhi’s busiest areas averaged 100-108 decibels of ambient background sound (with some spots going up to 125db). That’s enough to cause physical harm to someone subjected to the noise for just 15 minutes — and most of the sound is believed to stem from persistent honking. Read More >

By on January 6, 2020

Uber released its first safety report on Saturday, primarily to address concerns surrounding rider welfare. The media has become increasingly critical of Uber as a brand after its corporate culture was dubbed toxic — allegedly loaded with sexism and financial progress by any means necessary. Following a fatal accident involving one of the company’s autonomous test vehicles, many grew fearful that the company hadn’t fallen into the habit of promoting (or appreciating) public safety. Hoping to assuage some of those concerns, Uber put together its own safety report.

Earlier in the month, the ride-hailing service said it had received reports of 3,045 sexual assaults in the United States in 2018, with 9 people murdered (nearly half of them drivers… fortunately?) and 58 crash-related deaths. Uber said these issues only affected 0.0002 percent of the 1.3 billion rides the company orchestrated in the United States that year.

The new study attempts to frame data, accumulated over 21 months, against national averages to show that Uber is simply suffering from issues inherent to our society. While noting that an estimated 44 percent of women in the U.S. have been a victim of sexual violence seems like an odd way to absolve oneself from wrongdoing, Uber’s just a fancy cab service trying to distance itself from systemic fears that may have not have been entirely fair.  Read More >

By on November 21, 2019

While the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has gradually evolved its testing procedures since its inception, it has hit the accelerator over the past few years, eager to crash into a new era of knowledge… Alright, so it actually just wanted to assess problematic crash trajectories and headlight safety for insurance companies. Still, they’ve been making meaningful changes in a bid to boost overall safety.

On Thursday, the institute said it plans to continue evolving its crash-test procedures. It claims it’s gotten so good at developing side-impact assessments, “the current side ratings no longer help consumers distinguish among vehicles or point the way toward further improvements.”

The solution? Slam bigger, heavier items into a vehicle’s profile and see what happens.  Read More >

By on October 31, 2019

Uber has formed an independent board tasked with overseeing its autonomous vehicle program. As outsiders, they’ll have no official authority within the company. But the six-member group will have direct access to executive years, and will be using them to advise the business on how best to test and deploy new technologies.

Dubbed the Self-Driving Safety and Responsibility Board, the group was formed after one of Uber’s test vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in March 2018. An external review commissioned by the company following the incident recommended the board’s formation, with support from the NHTSA.  Read More >

By on October 29, 2019

It hasn’t even been a full month since the American Automobile Association (AAA) released a study showcasing the shortcomings of advanced driving aids and another damning report has come in — this time from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). While not nearly as bleak as the AAA study, the IIHS research put several models on blast for having lackluster equipment.

The gist appears to be that the quality of pedestrian detection systems varies wildly between models, with the IIHS picking a few winners and losers. That’s important information to have, especially considering automatic braking systems will be standard equipment on all cars by 2022.  Read More >

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