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HAWAII SAYS TO PEDESTRIANS: LOOK WHERE YOU ARE WALKING

Posted on Tuesday, November 14th, 2017 at 2:52 pm    

According to an article in the USA Today, Honolulu just passed a new law to ban looking at your cell phone while crossing the street.

The new law appears to be controversial with residents of Honolulu. Many question whether or not the law can really be enforced and whether or not it will have any impact on pedestrian behavior when the fines start at $15.00.

One tourist who was currently living in Australia, noted that in Australia it is illegal to text in the car and that “nobody even changes the music there. You just don’t do that in Australia, they’re very strict on it.” Others responded by stating that they were far more concerned about driving cruising through an intersection while checking their Facebook or texting.

The reporter of the USA Today article noted that while the law bans looking at your cell phone when crossing a street, it does not prohibit talking on your phone while engaged in the same activity.

On the other hand, perhaps we just need to think how often we bump in to people on busy streets who are looking at their phones rather than watching where they are walking. There is little doubt that walking while looking at your cell phone is a bad idea.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on August 5, 2017 entitled “Would a Fine Stop You From Looking at Your Phone?” by Jefferson Graham.

Seven Things to Help Keep You Safe on Winter Roads

Posted on Thursday, November 9th, 2017 at 3:07 pm    

With a chill in the air you can be sure that Winter is on its way. Here are seven things recommended by a recent article appearing in USA Today that will help keep you safe on winter roads:

1. Snow Tires
Even a car with all-wheel drive may struggle with snow if the tires can’t maintain their grip. Snow tires are designed with deeper tread and softer rubber to improve traction on wet and slippery surfaces.

2. Emergency Tools
USA Today recommends to always carry a flashlight, a hammer to break safety glass, and a pressure gauge to check your tire pressure.

3. Snow Brush/Scraper
It is important to keep your windows clear of snow and ice so that you will have good visibility while traveling in the winter.

4. Windshield Washer Fluid
It is important to keep your windshield washer reserve filler during the winter months so that you can keep your windows clean. Unlike water, windshield washer fluid is designed to keep from freezing in cold temperatures.

5. A Shovel
Keeping a good folding snow shovel in your car will come in handy if you get stuck on the side of the road or in a snow bank. It could even save a call to a roadside service.

6. A Blanket
If you are stranded in your automobile during a winter blizzard or snow storm, a blanket can keep you warm until you are rescued.

7. Emergency Recovery Traction Ramps
You should keep these ramps in your trunk in case you get stuck in the snow. These ramps will help you get out of the snow without the need of calling for roadside assistance.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on November 15, 2016 entitled “7 Ways to Stay Safe on the Road This Winter” by Keith Barry.

SELF DRIVING TRUCKS RAISE CONCERN OF CONSUMER GROUP

Posted on Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 at 2:48 pm    

Among Uber’s recent ventures into the self-driving arenas was its purchase of Otto, a self-driving truck company, last year for approximately $670 million. And, last October, Otto made headlines when it completed a 120 mile “beer run” with a large semi-tractor trailer in Colorado.

However, recently a California non-profit group asserted in a letter to a California DMV that Otto was testing self-driving trucks in California in violation of that state’s regulations. In support of its allegations, the Consumer Watchdog group cited documents which Otto had submitted to the California officials that described a process where the driver hit a button and let the truck do the work. According to an article appearing in USA Today, the California Department of Motor Vehicles is looking into the allegations.

This is apparently not the first time that Uber has run afoul of California law Not too long ago, Uber had announced that it would start testing its self-driving Volvo SUVs in San Francisco, but shortly after the announcement, halted that process after the California DMV said Uber had not applied for the proper permits. In response, Uber moved its fleet of self-driving vehicles to Arizona.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on February 8, 2017 entitled “Watchdog Group Wants Uber’s Self-Driving Trucks Off the Road” by Marco Della Cava.

U.S. TRAFFIC DEATHS HIT A 9 YEAR HIGH IN 2016

Posted on Tuesday, October 31st, 2017 at 3:30 pm    

According to the Nation Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car accidents killed 37,461 people in 2016. This was a 5.6% increase over the prior year and the second straight year traffic deaths have risen in the U.S. This marks a reversal of a trend where fatalities fell in 6 of the 7 years from 2007 to 2014, reaching an all-time low of 32,744 in 2014.

Although vehicle safety technology is better than ever, according USA Today, there are several other factors that have contributed to the deadly increase in traffic fatalities. The chief factors appear to be: speeding, not wearing seatbelts, and a rise in motorcycle deaths. While in previous years, distracted driving was a growing cause of traffic fatalities, according to NHTSA, distracted driving deaths actually fell by 2.2% in 2016.

The increase in traffic deaths in 2016 appears largely attributable to other mistakes by drivers and passengers including a 4% increase in speeding deaths and a 4.6% increase in fatalities as a result of unbelted passengers. NHTSA also reported 5.1% increase in motorcycle deaths. Other factors noted in the USA Today article included a 9% jump in pedestrian deaths and that drunk driving deaths rose by 1.7%.

NHTSA noted that 94% of serious crashes are the result of human error. Because human error is responsible for such a significant percent of serious crashes, the Federal government and automakers are continuing to push forward at a rapid pace to develope self-driving vehicles. In 2016, the Obama administration set a goal of eliminating highway deaths within 30 years with the expectation that self-driving vehicles would play a key role in reaching this goal.

While safety advances such as automatic brakes, lane departure warnings, rear view cameras, and advanced airbags have helped improve car safety, a recent report by AAA notes that other features such as touch screen systems which allow operation while the vehicle is in motion, have contributed to driver distraction.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on October 6, 2017 entitled “Deadly Car Crashes Are on The Rise Again, Hitting a 9 Year High” by Nathan Bomey.

FORD RECALLS 1.3 MILLION PICKUPS TO FIX DEFECTIVE DOOR LATCH

Posted on Tuesday, October 24th, 2017 at 1:56 pm    

Ford recently announced that it will recall approximately 1.34 million pickup trucks in North America to address the defective indoor latch that could allow the door to swing open while the vehicle is moving. This recall is the latest recall by Ford related to defective door latches. According to an article appearing in USA Today, recalls by Ford for defective door latches are now approaching nearly 4 million vehicles and is likely to cost Ford several hundred million dollars.

The current recall effects certain Ford F150 trucks model years 2015 through 2017 and some 2017 Super-Duty F series trucks.

Ford explains that this latest recall came after they realized that the door latches could freeze or actuation cables could become bent which would prevent the door from closing or opening. Thus, “…the door may appear closed, but the latch may not fully engage the door striker with potential that the door could open while driving, increasing the risk of injury.” Ford said in a statement. Ford also said it has not identified any accidents or injuries connected to this issue.

Ford will notify owners and make the necessary repairs free of charge.

Source: An article appearing usatoday.com on October 18, 2017 entitled “Ford Door Latch Recall: Automaker to Repair 1.3 Million F-150, Super Duty Pickup Trucks” by Nathan Bomey.

FIAT CHRYSLER RECALLS ALMOST ONE HALF MILLION RAM TRUCKS FOR FIRE HAZARD

Posted on Thursday, October 19th, 2017 at 1:36 pm    

According to an article in the Detroit Free Press, Fiat Chrysler is recalling almost a half million RAM pick-up trucks because of a water pump issue that could potentially cause a fire.

The recall will include 2013 through 2017 RAM 2500 and 3500 pick-ups and RAM chassis cab models 3500; 4500; and 5500. Fiat Chrysler notes that the recall is limited to trucks with 6.7-liter engines. Fiat Chrysler says that it is not aware of any injuries or accidents related to the issue and that it is no longer equipping any vehicles with the defective water pumps.

According to a spokesman for Fiat Chrysler, the recall was prompted by customer feedback which lead to the discovery that certain RAM trucks were equipped with a water pump bearing that under certain conditions could overheat and cause an engine fire. A release by the company noted that “compromised water-pump function may activate a warning light in an affects vehicle’s instrument cluster. Customers are urged to consult their dealers whenever they observe warning lights.” The article also reports the Fiat Chrysler stated that affected customers will be advised when service is available and the water pumps will be inspected and replaced if necessary.

For additional information regarding the recall, customers can call FCA U.S. Recall Information Center at (800) 853-1403.

Source: An article from the Detroit Free Press appearing in usatoday.com on September 20, 2017 entitled “494,000 RAM Trucks Recalled for Fire Hazard” by Eric D. Lawrence.

SELF-DRIVING BUSES BEING TESTED IN TAIWAN

Posted on Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 at 2:01 pm    

According to a recent article appearing in the New York Times, a self-driving electric bus is currently being tested in Taipei, Taiwan. The bus, known as the EZ10 has a maximum top speed of 25 MPH and only has capacity for 12 passengers.

In May of this year, 7StarLake began testing the buses on the campus of the National Taiwan University. However, 7StarLake acknowledges that successful testing on a closed course at slow speeds can only reveal so much about how the buses might perform in traffic. Thus, getting them on the road at busy times is the next step in the development of the self-driving buses. In August, late night trials for the EZ0 first started on a short stretch of a 6-lane artery in down town Taipei. Martin Ting, general manager of 7StarLake, said that the EZ10 was suited for 3 scenarios: closed campus; short, fixed circuit; and city bus routes.

The bus is currently built by a French company called EasyMile. It uses GPS and 8 lasers sensors to navigate predetermined routes. The bus is equipped with front and rear cameras to enable it to detect and void obstacles. At a price of $550,000.00 per unit, the price is nearly twice that of a larger bus with a driver. However, a significant portion of the cost is attributed to import taxes.

According to the Times article, the EZ10 achieves a “Level 4” automation meaning that its route is chosen by humans, but there is no one behind the wheel of the vehicle and it can avoid obstacles on its own. By comparison, Tesla’s current autopilot system is considered a Level 2.

Among the most significant challenges remaining for the EZ10 and other self-driving vehicles is the challenge of creating highly detailed and accurate 3D maps and developing the computer power needed to use the maps for detection and navigation. Mr. Ting noted that “you need to make a map with 99.999 percent accuracy, which is not easy. It takes time and money.” Nevertheless, the developers of the EZ10 remain optimistic.

Source: An article appearing in NYTimes.com on September 28, 2017 entitled “In Taiwan, Modest Test of Driverless Bus May Hint at Big Things to Come” by Chris Horton.

WHICH INFOTAINMENT SYSTEMS ARE THE MOST DISTRACTING?

Posted on Thursday, October 12th, 2017 at 1:34 pm    

According to a recent research study funded by the AAA foundation for traffic safety, touch screen systems on many of our new vehicles are too distracting and are putting motorists at risk of crashes. Researchers at the University of Utah tested 30 vehicles with infotainment systems and concluded that all of them were distracting to some degree.

This is significant because the NHTSA test concluded that distracted driving is a major reason why crashes have increased in recent years. In 2015, the number of deadly crashes related to distracted driving jumped 8.8%.

The study conducted by the AAA found that none of the systems earned a “low” distraction rating. Jake Nelson, the director of traffic safety advocacy and researcher for the AAA said that automakers should improve their systems by preventing people from accessing certain features while the vehicle is in motion. For example, many vehicles allow the driver to program directions while operating the vehicle. This task takes an average of 40 seconds which means that the driver will travel the length of 4 football fields if traveling at only 25 mph.

The study found that the most distracting infotainment systems are contained in the following vehicles:

• Audi Q7 QPP
• Chrysler 300 C
• Dodge Durango
• Ford Mustang GT
• GMC Yukon SLT
• Honda Civic Touring
• Honda Ridgeline RTL-E
• Mazda3 Touring
• Nissan Armada SV
• Subaru Crosstrek Premium
• Tesla Model S
• Volvo XC 60 T5 Inscription

For a complete list of vehicles tested and rankings, see the article appearing at usatoday.com appearing on October 5, 2017 entitled “Which Cars Are Most Distracting? AAA Study Reveals Offenders” by Nathan Bomey.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com appearing on October 5, 2017 entitled “Which Cars Are Most Distracting? AAA Study Reveals Offenders” by Nathan Bomey.

FIAT CHRYSLER RECALLS 700,000 SUVS TO FIX BRAKES

Posted on Tuesday, October 10th, 2017 at 1:56 pm    

Fiat Chrysler announced it is recalling more than 700,00 Dodge and Jeep SUVs to address a defective installation on brake-booster shields. As a result of the improper installation, these shields may have allowed water to intrude into the brake-booster which could cause corrosion and freezing. This could cause a degraded brake function according to Fiat Chrysler.

The recall covers Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs in model years 2011-2014. Approximately 646,000 of the vehicles are located in the US with the remaining vehicles being located in Canada and Mexico.

Fiat Chrysler said that it has identified 1 crash that was possibly related to the defect. However, thus far, Fiat Chrysler reports no injuries being linked to the defect.

Possible signs of trouble as a result of this defective installation include “excessive brake-pedal firmness” and potentially a warning light or activation of anti-lock brakes. Fiat Chrysler had previously tried to fix the defect in 2014 by installing the shields, but some of the shields were improperly installed according to Fiat Chrysler. Pursuant to the recall, Fiat will inspect the vehicles to see if the shields were improperly installed. If the brake-shield was improperly installed, the dealers will repair them for free.

Source: An article appearing in usatoday.com on October 3, 2017 entitled “Fiat Chrysler Recall: 700,000 Jeep, Dodge SUVs May Need Brake Fix” by Nathan Bomey.

U.S. HOUSE PASSES A BILL TO EXEMPT SELF DRIVING CARS FROM SAFETY RULES

Posted on Thursday, October 5th, 2017 at 2:04 pm    

According to a recent Detroit Free Press article, the U.S. House recently passes a bill that would give Federal Regulators the final say over performance standards for self-driving vehicles. The bill will also permit up to 100,000 self-driving vehicles to be exempt from current safety standards while the self-driving technology is being developed. The bill, which passed unanimously, will now go to the Senate for consideration.

The Detroit Free Press said the bill is an attempt to deal with the multiple regulations that have been developed by the various states throughout the Nation which have come to be seen as a potential barrier to the rapid development of self-driving cars.

The legislation will require the Department of Transportation to develop rules within a year regarding self-driving cars sharing the road with traditional vehicles and setting other performance standards for such autonomous vehicles. Initially, the bill will allow for 50,000 vehicles to be exempt from current safety standards so long as the technology being tested develops a feature providing a safety level at least equal to the current standards. After 2 years, the number of exempt vehicles will jump to 100,000. And, within 3 years the Department of Transportation will be required to develop safety assessment criteria to be submitted by companies developing self-driving vehicles.

Although this legislation would give Congress and Federal regulators the authority for setting performance standards, it will continue to allow the states authority over such issues as licensing, insurance and law enforcement. While the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers issued a statement in support of the legislation, some consumer advocate groups expressed concern noting that such legislation will preclude states from regulating self-driving cars at a time when the Federal government has not yet developed its own standards for such self-driving cars.

Source: An Detroit Free Press article appearing at usatoday.com on September 6, 2017 entitled “House Passes Bill That Exempts Self-Driving Cars From Safety Rules” by Todd Spangler.