Category: Safety

By on October 10, 2019

Image: Toyota

While side-mounted camera systems have been approved as an acceptable replacement for mirrors by much of the developed world, the United States has yet to approve their installation. But it’s under consideration via an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in the federal register.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been testing the worthiness of these systems and how drivers interact with them vs traditional mirrors. Now it’s looking for hot takes as research continues.

On Thursday, the NHTSA announced it was also opening the door for public comments on the technology. If you care about this at all (yay or nay), it might be worth offering the agency a well-spoken piece of your mind.  Read More >

By on October 4, 2019

The paranoid luddites that write for this site have occasionally been accused of being hyper critical of modern-day driving aids. Be it a cursory mention of how a little snow totally flummoxed the systems of an otherwise agreeable review car, the direct addressing of an issue where road salt encouraged a vehicle to attempt to steer itself into a ditch, or one of this author’s many diatribes on how the bulk of this technology doesn’t seem anywhere near market ready, there’s always a couple of exceptional individuals ready to call us backward-looking morons.

While that’s often a correct assessment in other matters, it seems we’ve called this one correctly. The American Automobile Association (AAA) recently tested four sedans from competing manufacturers, running them through a handful of scenarios intended to replicate situations that place pedestrians at extreme risk. Taking into account the above smugness, you can probably imagine how poorly it went.  Read More >

By on September 19, 2019

Tesla scored its first big win with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) this week after the group graced the 2019 Model 3 with its coveted Top Safety Pick+ award. “Vehicles with alternative powertrains have come into their own,” IIHS Chief Research Officer David Zuby said. “There’s no need to trade away safety for a lower carbon footprint when choosing a vehicle.”

The Audi e-Tron and hydrogen-powered Hyundai Nexo also qualified. But Tesla’s position as North America’s electric vehicle sales leader is held by a wide margin, making its crash-test results a tad more noteworthy.  Read More >

By on September 3, 2019

Honda Research family of dummies

Overwhelming geek that I am, I’m often reminded of The Simpsons in odd situations, mostly as the show’s been on so long, it can’t help but have covered a circumstance ad nauseum. In the car-centric season four episode “Mr. Plow,” the family heads to an auto show, where a suspiciously named automaker shows a slow-motion video of a crash test while Lisa watches. Disconcertingly, one of the dummies starts to crawl away from the scene of the crash, at which point the OEM rep shuts down the exhibit.

I did recently get the chance to watch a controlled car crash at Honda’s research facility. Just as important as seeing how the car handles the stresses of the impact is measuring how a human occupant reacts. Honda has a massive family of dummies, all ready to sacrifice themselves for the real people of the world.

Read More >

By on August 19, 2019

vision 2.0 NHTSA Autonomous vehicles

Over the past year the automotive industry has carefully walked back the expectations surrounding autonomous cars. Yet pretty much any change in rhetoric constitutes retracted goals. With numerous companies predicting self-driving fleets of commercial vehicles before 2021, the bar couldn’t have been set much higher.

A lack of progress is partly to blame. However, a bundle of high-profile accidents have also shaken public trust — especially after it was found that Uber whistleblower Robbie Miller was trying to alert the company to issues with its self-driving program just days before one of the company’s autonomous Volvos was involved in a fatal accident with a pedestrian.

That’s not the half of it. In April, Miller released a study claiming self-driving vehicles were actually recording incident rates higher than that of your typical motorist. Contrasting data from the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) and the California DMV, he concluded that autonomous test vehicles created more injuries per mile than the average human motorist with a few years of practice.  Read More >

By on July 12, 2019

2016 Chevrolet Silverado crew cab blue

General Motors is issuing a recall on select Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, including HD models. According to Transport Canada, trucks equipped with a power sliding rear window could have a defroster circuit that can melt itself or, in rare instances, catch fire.

As no fix currently exists, GM is asking owners to bring their vehicles into the dealership so that the fuse for the rear defroster can be disconnected while it works on finding a better solution. The recall encompasses 159,240 trucks from the 2014-2019 model years.  Read More >

By on June 28, 2019

It’s Elon Musk’s birthday today, so we’ve decided to wish him well and say congratulations on Tesla Motors convincing the U.S. Commerce Department to waive the 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum so it can build more battery cells at the company’s Nevada Gigafactory. However, what would birthday well-wishing be without the all-important pinch to grow an inch?

Another Model 3 has been hacked, this time without the manufacturer’s blessing. We’re equating it to a mild goosing. Regulus Cyber, a company specializing in digital security, decided to give the Tesla (and a Model S) a shakedown by seeing if they could fool the car’s navigational equipment and upset/confuse Autopilot to the point of failure.

Let’s see how they did.  Read More >

By on June 26, 2019

A survey released by Consumer Reports this week indicated that a majority of motorists (57 percent) believed that the advanced driving aids their vehicles had actively helped them avoid a crash. The survey, which incorporated data on roughly 72,000 vehicles from the 2015-19 model years, asked drivers to weigh in on a multitude of safety systems — including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot alerts, and more. While not all of these features had majority support, tabulating them as a whole showed at least half of the people using advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) saw some value in them.

Our opinions on these systems have been thoroughly mixed. While we’ve found most advanced driving aids to be inconsistent in their operation, sometimes befuddled by fog or a vehicle encrusted with roadway grime, we’ll happily admit that adaptive cruise control offers more utility than the standard on/off inclusions of yesteryear. But we’ve also seen disheartening reports that semi-autonomous features dull a good driver’s senses to a point that effectively makes them a worse motorist and would be lying if we said we trusted any of these systems implicitly.  Read More >

By on June 20, 2019

Since 2005, 37 deaths by carbon monoxide poisoning have been attributed to vehicles with keyless ignitions that were inadvertently left running. Automatic engine shutoff is not currently mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, so manufacturer’s application of the technology is sporadic. But the PARK IT Act wants to change that.  Read More >

By on June 20, 2019

Many consumers continue to misunderstand the driver-assistance technologies being placed in modern vehicles, according to the latest survey released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But we don’t need the IIHS to tell us that. We’ve been documenting the avoidable accidents created whenever motorists overestimate what their high-tech cars are capable of for years now.

However, the insurance institute and numerous consumer advocacy groups have suggested that big part of the problem stems from the names manufacturers are using to describe their semi-autonomous hardware. Titles like “Autopilot” or “Driving Assistant Plus” can be confusing to somebody who didn’t bother to read the manual, especially when the associated marketing materials are often helping to steer them further in the wrong direction.  Read More >

By on June 18, 2019

China is currently the largest proponent of electric vehicles on the entire planet. The nation has even incorporated BEVs as a significant part of its complex strategy to overtake the United States the dominant global superpower. However a sudden influx of battery related fires has caused it some trepidation, even though there hasn’t been much evidence to suggest they are actually more prone to catching fire than gas-powered vehicles.

Regardless, the People’s Republic is now demanding that manufacturers conduct routine inspections on electric cars. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology says all companies must conduct checks on BEVs, focusing on battery waterproofing, battery boxes, charging points, high-voltage wiring harnesses, and even the wear of mechanical components. They will also be required to report on repairs and any incidents that might indicate a problem. According to the ministry’s press release, they have until October to submit their findings.  Read More >

By on May 28, 2019

Despite the previous generation boasting above-average frontal crash test scores from the United States’ Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Jeep’s new Wrangler has earned harsh criticism in Europe and Australia. The model received a one-star European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) crash rating in December, followed by a similar review from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) this month.

That makes it the only one-star vehicle in that particular market, which is not a position Fiat Chrysler wants to find itself in. However, as FCA took great strides in improving the Wrangler for on-road duty — including adding dual front and side airbags as standard — the dismally low score is a bit of a mystery.  Read More >

By on May 24, 2019

U.S. lawmakers are considering legislation that would require automakers to install technology on all new vehicles that would alert drivers to check for children before exiting a vehicle. If passed, the bill would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to write new rules within two years mandating the introduction of “a distinct auditory and visual alert” to remind drivers to check the back seat. It also calls for a study to assess the feasibility of retrofitting older vehicles with the system.

Lawmakers claim that more than 800 U.S. children have died from heatstroke over the last two decades as a result of being left unattended inside an automobile. Read More >

By on May 21, 2019

As ride-hailing services utilize the personal vehicles of contractors, rather than a commercial fleet of their own, repairs and recalls have to be handled by individual drivers. While it shouldn’t be a revelation that some recalls fall through the cracks, Consumer Reports is concerned that the ratio of unaddressed safety issues are unbecoming of companies pushing multibillion-dollar IPOs.

“Uber and Lyft are letting down their customers and jeopardizing their trust,” suggested William Wallace, products policy manager for Consumer Reports. “Uber’s website says people can ‘ride with confidence,’ while Lyft promises ‘peace of mind,’ yet both companies fail to ensure that rideshare cars are free from safety defects that could put passengers at risk.”  Read More >

By on April 25, 2019

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, currently on a never-ending quest to improve automotive safety and provide underwriters with data, suggested on Thursday that rear-seat passengers are getting the short end of the stick. The announcement comes shortly after the State of Washington announced a new law that would update its Child Passenger Restraint Law, requiring older children to utilize a booster seat.

Having looked at rear-seat safety for years, the IIHS claims rear-seat occupants are now at a disadvantage compared to occupants in the front row. The group aims to develop a new evaluation method to encourage automakers to improve safety systems for back seat passengers and track their progress.  Read More >

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