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UBER TESTING SELF-DRIVING CARS IN PITTSBURGH

Posted on Thursday, October 27th, 2016 at 8:28 pm    

Uber recently started testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh. Uber is using about two dozen Ford Fusion sedans that its engineers purchased from dealers and retrofitted with self-driving technology. Currently Uber requires that an employee operator occupy the driver’s seat at all times and be ready to intercede if necessary.

Uber believes that Pittsburgh is a good town to test self-driving cars because of its combination of bridges, pedestrians, bicyclists, urban driving, railroads and bad weather. Raffi Krikorian, Uber’s leader of the Advanced Technologies Center says that “We like to call Pittsburgh the double-black-diamond of driving. If we can master driving in Pittsburgh, then we feel strongly that we have a good chance of mastering it in most other cities around the world.”

Uber is offering free rides to Pittsburgh passengers who agree to the possibility that they could be randomly assigned to a self-driving car when they request a ride to the Uber app.

In a USA Today story, reporter Nathan Bomey stated that “The Fusion smoothly navigated many of the bustling urban streets of Pittsburgh, breezing over the Three Sister’s bridges above the Allegheny River and safely avoiding bicyclists and walkers on vibrant Penn Avenue. On several occasions, the car handed control back to the driver when a situation was too complex for the car’s algorithms, such as when a construction vehicle was parked backward in the right lane.”

Uber recently partnered with Volvo in its self-driving effort and has also opened an Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University as part of its effort to develop self-driving urban taxis.

Sources: An article appearing at the nytimes.com entitled Uber Aims for an Edge in the Race for a Self-Driving Future by Bill Vlasic and Mike Isaac on August 18, 2016 and an article appearing at usatoday.com on September 14, 2016 entitled Why self-driving Ubers are rolling around Pittsburgh by Nathan Bomey.

FEDS PROBE FORD F-150s FOR BRAKE FAILURE

Posted on Tuesday, October 25th, 2016 at 3:15 pm    

According to a recent report by USA Today, federal regulators have begun an investigation into the safety of brakes on certain versions of the Ford F-150 pickup truck. NHTSA is investigating model years 2015 and 2016 of the Ford F-150 equipped with 3.5 liter V-6 engines for what has been described as a “sudden and complete loss” of braking.

In May of 2016 Ford recalled model years 2013 and 2014 F-150 pickups with 3.5 liter engines for a braking problem which Ford stated was a result of a defect in the brake master cylinder reservoir which caused a loss of brake fluid.

According to NHTSA, Ford dealers have allegedly diagnosed the problem with respect to the 2015 model year pickups as a failure of the master cylinder. However, NHTSA notes that the complaints with respect to the 2016 pickups are different than those of the 2015.

Although Ford has not issued a recall to address the brake issues on the 2015 and 2016 F-150s, a spokesman for Ford stated that Ford is cooperating with NHTSA and that “. . .when the data indicates a safety recall is needed, we move quickly on behalf of our consumers.”

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on October 5, 2016 by Nathan Bomey entitled Ford probe ‘complete loss of brakes’ in Ford F-150s.

ARE FINANCIAL INCENTIVES AFFECTING THE LENGTH OF YOUR HOSPITAL STAY ?

Posted on Thursday, October 20th, 2016 at 2:37 pm    

According to a recent article appearing in the New York Times, changing economic incentives are one factor which have led to shorter hospital stays in the United States.

The average hospital stay in the U.S. in 1980 was 7.3 days. Now it is closer to 4.5 days. This has occurred in spite of the fact that today’s patients are generally older and sicker.

The Times concluded that one of the big reasons is that in the early 1980’s, Medicare stopped paying hospitals whatever they claimed their costs were and phased in a payment system that was based in a predetermined rate dependent upon the patient’s diagnosis. The result of this new system was to shift the financial risk of patients’ hospitalization from Medicare to the hospital. This encouraged hospitals to economize and one good way to economize was to get patients out of the hospital sooner. Additionally, it is easier now for doctors to discharge patients sooner because it is easier for them to discharge patients to skilled nursing facilities where they can be monitored and professionally cared for because many more skilled care facilities have been built in recent years.

According to the Times article, when the current perspective payment system was started by Medicare in the 1980’s, many experts worried that it would lead to higher rates of readmissions. And, statistics have shown that this does indeed seem to be true.

In response to the rise in readmissions, the federal government created several programs that penalize hospitals for readmission. And, according to the Times article, these penalty programs seem to be having an impact on readmission. However, some experts believe that the hospitals are gaming the system by placing returning patients under an observation status which is not counted as a readmission or by simply treating them in the ER Department which similarly is not counted as a readmission.

In short, the Times article concluded that while hospital financing is hardly perceptible to the individual patient “. . . the record is clear: Financing matters, and it affects both hospital admission and discharge decisions.”

Source: An article appearing at nytimes.com on January 4, 2016 entitled The Hidden Financial Incentives Behind Your Shorter Hospital Stay by Austin Frakt.

THE MOST DANGEROUS STATES FOR OLDER DRIVERS

Posted on Tuesday, October 18th, 2016 at 1:41 pm    

According to an article appearing at 247wallstreet.com, Americans 65 years of age and older are 21% more likely to be killed in a traffic accident than the population as a whole.

However, the likelihood of a traffic fatality among older Americans versus the entire population varies from state to state. And, by comparing traffic fatality data for state residents 65 years and older to that of the state’s entire population, 24/7 Wall Street determined that the most dangerous state for older Americans is Rhode Island, where seniors are 2.2 times more likely to die in a traffic accident than the overall state population. New Mexico by contrast is the safest as seniors there are 38% less likely than the state’s total population to die in a traffic accident.

Although age-related vision and cognitive declines can impair driving abilities, the main contributor to traffic fatalities among seniors is the susceptibility of seniors to injuries and medical complications when involved in an accident. For example, drivers between the ages of 80 and 84 tend to be involved in the same number of accidents as drivers between the ages of 25 and 29. Yet, the 80 to 84 year-old drivers are nearly 3 times as likely to die from those accidents.

Based upon their analysis, 24/7 Wall Street concluded that the most dangerous states to drive in for seniors are:

1. Rhode Island
2. Minnesota
3. New York
4. Maine
5. Idaho

The least dangerous states for older drivers are as follows: New Mexico, North Dakota, Alaska, Louisiana and Montana. In general, these are all states with a low number of senior citizens over age 85.

Source: An article appearing at 247wallstreet.com entitled The Most (and Least) Dangerous States for Older Drivers by Steven Peters on July 31, 2016.

LOCAL WOMAN TELLS HER STORY IN AT&T’s “IT CAN WAIT” CAMPAIGN

Posted on Thursday, October 13th, 2016 at 1:19 pm    

By now, we all know that distractive driving has become a modern day plague on our highways. The statistics are shocking. Each year 1.6 million accidents involve cell phones and 11 teenagers die every day because they are texting while driving.

One local woman, Jacy Good, a Brunnerville native, hopes that by telling her story as part of the AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign that she is making a difference. Thirty-year-old Jacy Good’s life was forever changed as a result of a distracted driving collision in 2008. Both of Jacy’s parents were killed in the 2008 distracted driving collision and Jacy still suffers with partial paralysis on her left side. She is unable to move her left ankle or toes, wrist or fingers, and she can’t wink her left eye. She still has cognitive issues as a result of her injuries.

This tragic accident occurred when Jacy and her parents were returning home from
Muhlenberg College after her graduation in 2008. Their car was hit head-on by a tractor trailer truck which had swerved to avoid a minivan whose driver was talking on a cell phone and didn’t see a red light. Jacy’s parents died at the scene and she spent more than two months in the Reading Hospital as a result of her injuries.

The video opens with the stars of the reality show “@SummerBreak” joking about their cell phone habits behind the wheel. Then, Jacy comes in and tells her story. In the video, the teenage stars of @SummerBreak appear devastated. Some are even seen crying. In the first week following its release the video was viewed almost 50 million times on Facebook.

We can only hope that the efforts of people like Jacy Good and campaigns like “It Can Wait” will make a difference in the battle against distracted drivers.

Source: An article appearing in LNP on Tuesday, August 30, 2016 entitled Jacy’s Mission by Tom Knapp.

KIDS SUFFER UP TO 2 MILLION CONCUSSIONS EVERY YEAR FROM SPORTS GAMES

Posted on Tuesday, October 11th, 2016 at 1:56 pm    

The Associated Press recently reported a new study by pediatricians at Seattle Children’s Hospital led researchers to conclude that as many as 2 million concussions result from sports or play activities involving U.S. children each year.

The study was led by pediatrician Dr. Mersine Bryan and was recently published in the journal Pediatrics.

The estimate is based on 2013 data from emergency room visits, hospitalizations, doctor visits, concussion reports made to high school athletic trainers, and information from previous concussion studies. The researchers noted that data also suggested that approximately one-half million or more kids receive no treatment for the concussions they suffered.

The researchers stated that the numbers were not as precise as they should be noting that this underscored the need for a concussion surveillance system. The Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention plans to create such a system in order to get a better picture of the size of the concussion problem nationwide. The CDC hopes that the system may help identify which sports and activities are the riskiest for children.

Source: An AP article appearing in the LNP on Monday, June 20, 2016 entitled Kids Sports – Up to 2 million concussions a year by Lindsey Tanner.

GM RECALLING 4.3 MILLION VEHICLES TO FIX AIR BAG PROBLEMS

Posted on Thursday, October 6th, 2016 at 1:46 pm    

GM recently announced that it is recalling approximately 4.3 million vehicles to fix an air bag software defect. The problem, according to an article appearing in the Detroit Free Press, relates to a software defect in a computer that senses what the vehicle is doing and when to deploy the air bags. According to GM, in rare cases, the computer can go into test mode and when that happens, the front air bags will not inflate in a crash and the seatbelt may not work either.

The vehicles involved are from the 2014 to 2017 model year and include models from Buick, Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac. The vast majority of the vehicles are located in the United States.

Unlike the recalls involving the defective GM ignition switches in 2014, this recall is voluntary and involves a software update rather than a mechanical issue.

GM will notify its customers if their vehicle is affected and says that dealers already have access to the software update so they should be able to repair the vehicles quickly.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on September 10, 2016 entitled GM recalls 4.3M vehicles to fix air bag software by Greg Gardner of the Detroit Free Press.

NHTSA WANTS LOWER SPEEDS FOR TRUCKS AND BUSES

Posted on Tuesday, October 4th, 2016 at 1:41 pm    

According to an article recently appearing in the LNP, the federal government is seeking to limit how fast trucks, buses and other large vehicles can travel on our nation’s highways. A proposal presently under consideration would limit the maximum speed of such large vehicles by requiring a device that would electronically cap the speeds on all new vehicles made in the USA that weigh more than 26,000 lbs.

The proposal is being advanced NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. These agencies believe that by capping the speeds of such large vehicles, there should be a significant reduction in the 1,115 fatal crashes involving heavy trucks that occur each year. The current proposal does not require older heavy vehicles to be retrofitted with the speed limiting technology, however, regulators state they are considering such a requirement.

According to the LNP article, “While the news is being welcomed by some safety advocates and non-professional drivers, many truckers said that such a change could lead to dangerous scenarios where they are traveling at much lower speeds than everyone else.”

Source: An article appearing in the LNP on Monday, August 29, 2016 entitled US wants to force lower speeds for trucks, buses.