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OWNERS OF CHRYSLER’S PACIFICA CLAIM MINIVANS SUFFER SUDDEN SHUT-OFF

Posted on Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018 at 3:22 pm    

According to a recent New York Times article, owners of late model Chrysler Pacifica have filed complaints with Federal Regulators claiming that their vehicles suddenly lose power while on the road. Per the Times article, more than 50 owners of the Chrysler Pacifica have filed complaints since the beginning of this year. Thus far, no crashes or injuries have been linked to the issue and dealers have not been able to replicate the problem.

While the number of complaints filed is a small fraction of the 150,000 Pacificas sold since the new model was introduced in 2015, Chrysler is facing increasing pressure to figure out if a defect is causing a stalling problem.

In one instance, an owner reported that while driving his Pacifica minivan at 70 miles per hour on a highway near San Francisco, the Chrysler Pacifica suddenly shut off. The owner reported that it just died and that he had no electrical power and no power steering. Although the owner was able to edge over and get on the right shoulder before the minivan stopped, he reported that a semi-tractor trailer that was following him had to swerve and barely miss striking the minivan.

Fiat Chrysler stated that they are looking into the matter, but it has not found anything pointing to a specific widespread or consistent problem thus far. A spokesman for Chrysler, Eric Mayne, stated that Chrysler takes the customer concerns seriously and that there is no indication that the function of the airbag or seatbelt tension was compromised in any of these instances. He added that the Pacifica is designed so that its airbags remain operational even during a loss of power.

This is significant in that in the recent faulty ignition switch problem which General Motors experienced, when the ignition switch turned off, the airbags were rendered inoperable. This defect was linked to at least 124 deaths, many of which occurred when the airbags failed to deploy in crashes.

The Times noted that how Fiat Chrysler responds to these complaints of possible defects remains a sensitive issue for the company as the Highway Safety Agency fines Fiat Chrysler 105 million dollars in 2015 for its failure to promptly notify vehicle owners of recalls and in delays in initiating repairs of defective models involving over 11 million vehicles.

Source: An article appearing at NYTimes.com on November 20, 2017 entitled, “Chrysler Pacifica Owners Say Minivans Suddenly Shut Off” by Neal E. Boudette.

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.

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.

REGULATORS STRUGGLING TO STAY AHEAD OF SELF DRIVING CARS

Posted on Thursday, September 7th, 2017 at 2:54 pm    

Although self-driving cars are just starting to appear on our nation’s highways, USA Today reports that regulators are struggling to catch up with this new technology.

Proponents of the new technology are increasingly concerned about the development of regulations by states which proponents of self-driving cars believe could lead to conflicting regulations and thus slow the development of self-driving cars in the U.S. Many proponents believe the Federal government needs to step in and create national standards relating to testing, crash liability and design requirements for self-driving cars.

So far, 22 states have either passed legislation related to self-driving cars or adopted regulations through government executive orders. Pennsylvania is among this list of states.

While the proponents of self-driving vehicles argue that Federal standards are necessary for uniformity and to make it possible to build vehicles that can be effectively sold across the country, the states say that it is important that they take steps to ensure that this technology is safe.

Tesla introduced guidelines on self-driving vehicle developments in 2016. Recently, U.S. Transportation Secretary, Elain Chao said that the Trump Administration will unveil revised self-driving guidelines within the next few months to replace the existing guidelines.

USA Today notes that competition between key players in the development of self-driving technology, has also lead to issues with respect to the adoption of regulations. For example, General Motors has actively pursued legislation in several states that would prevent non-automakers from providing rides in self-driving vehicles. This sort of competition can lead to problems in developing uniform regulations among the states.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on June 25, 2017 entitled “Regulators Scramble to Stay Ahead of Self-Driving Cars” by Nathan Bomey and Thomas Zambito.

FORD LEADS THE PACK IN SELF-DRIVING VEHICLE ARENA

Posted on Tuesday, September 5th, 2017 at 5:40 pm    

According to a recent study completed by Navigant Research, Ford Motor Company is in the lead in the development of an autonomous vehicle. Navigant Research is a company which sells its in-depth surveys of energy and transportation markets to suppliers, policy makers and other industry stakeholders.

Navigant Research stated that GM was close behind Ford Motor Company followed by Renault-Nissan and Daimier. It should be noted that Navigant’s survey did not include technology companies such as Apple. However, Waymo, a new name for Google’s long running car project, came in 7th.

Ford has been testing a fleet of Ford Fusions in real world situations including night testing in Arizona and snow testing in Michigan. Raj Nair, Ford’s chief technology officer, stated that Ford still plans to roll out autonomous vehicles in 2021. And Ford autonomous vehicles would be at the FAE level 4 which is one step down from full autonomy. Such vehicles can operate autonomously in fully mapped areas, but need human input in unmapped locations and extreme weather.

According to the USA Today article, the most often mentioned road block to the rapid development of self-driving vehicles is the murky regulatory environment which currently exists. Additional factors that are effecting the rapid development of self-driving vehicles also include concerns about reliability, hacking and questions concerning liability in the inevitable event of an autonomous vehicle crash resulting in human injuries.

Source: an article appearing at usatoday.com on April 3, 2017 entitled “Ford Leads Self-Driving Tech Pack, Outpacing Waymo, Tesla, Uber: Study” by Marco Della Cava.

TAKATA AIR BAG WORRIES CONTINUE

Posted on Thursday, July 27th, 2017 at 2:01 pm    

Japanese air bag manufacturer Takata recently announced that it has added an additional 2.7 million air bags to what is already the nation’s auto mobile industry’s largest recall ever. According to an article appear in New York Times, Takata advised NHTSA that it has discovered that additional air bag inflators using calcium sulfate to help keep its air bag propellant dry can, like its other versions, rupture the propellant canister while deploying the air bag thereby hurdling metal shards into the passenger compartment of the vehicle. According to the article, Ford, Mazda, and Nissan used these inflators in vehicles manufactured for the U.S. market from 2005-2012.

Before this recent announcement, Takata’s recalls had already effected 42 million vehicles in the U.S. and at least 12 deaths in the United States have been connected to the defective Takata inflators.

According to earlier reports, it has been determined that exposure to moisture and temperature fluctuations can degrade the ammonia nitrate used by Takata as a propellant in its air bag inflators. The result is that the propellant can then ignite with such force as to cause the air bag canister to explode and propel metal shards into the passenger compartment of the vehicle.

According to NHTSA approximately 17 million of the defective air bags have been replace thus far in the United States. This latest development can only be seen as another serious blow to the motoring public.

Source: An article appearing at NYTimes.com on July 11, 2017entitled “Takata Expands Airbag Recall Again, Citing New Airbag Hazard” by Micah Maidenberg.

TAKATA MAY PAY $1B CRIMINAL FINE FOR DEFECTIVE AIRBAGS

Posted on Tuesday, January 10th, 2017 at 2:35 pm    

According to a report appearing in USA Today, airbag manufacturer Takata is apparently close to agreeing to pay up to $1 billion dollars to the United States in settlement of a criminal prosecution stemming out of its defective airbags. According to the article, prosecutors have been weighing whether to charge Takata with wire fraud after determining that the company likely made misleading statements and concealed information about its defective airbags which can explode and spray shrapnel into the vehicle cabin. This defect has been linked to at least eleven deaths and 184 injuries in the United States.

The anticipated settlement of the criminal matter could cap off an unprecedented safety crisis resulting from the Takata defective airbags which has involved 19 auto manufacturers and the recall of approximately 42 million vehicles in the United States alone. This represents the largest automotive safety recall in the United States’ history.

The company has already agreed to pay civil penalties up to $200 million for violating National Highway Transportation Safety Administration Standards. Current discussions with the Department of Justice center upon Takata agreeing to pay the fine as part of a guilty plea to allege criminal misconduct.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on 12/30/16 entitled “Report: Takata weighing $1B criminal settlement” by Nathan Bomey

HOW DANGEROUS IS TEXAS NEW 85 MPH HIGHWAY?

Posted on Monday, January 2nd, 2017 at 3:57 pm    

In 2012, the state of Texas opened a 41 mile stretch of toll road between Austin and San Antonio with a speed limit of 85 mph, making it the highest speed limit in the country. At the time, many wondered whether such a high speed would result in more fatalities.

Carinsurancecomparison.com tried to answer this question in an article appearing on its website. In its article, carinsurancecomparison.com reported that the Consumer’s Union (publishers of Consumer Report) raised this question in a formal study entitled “Does an increase in the speed limit result in a higher incidence of fatal crashes”. They determined that there was a significant increase in fatal crashes in a number of states when they increased speed limits, but that it wasn’t true in every state.

Some researchers have claimed that the overall speed variance, not just speeding in general, is the real problem. However, the respected Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has stated that the likelihood of death and serious injuries is a direct function of speed, not just speed variance. The IIHS cited several studies in support of its conclusion that as speed limits are increased, increases in fatal crashes are consistent in significant numbers.

Carinsurancecomparison.com noted that some people may dispute whether it’s the increase in speed or the variances in speed that is the real issue, everyone agrees that accidents at higher speeds will cause greater damage and thus the chances of surviving an accident decrease as the traveling speed goes up.

With respect to Texas’ 85 mph highway, carinsurancecomparison.com found that it did not yet have sufficient data to make a definitive call.

Source: An article appearing at carinsurancecomparison.com entitled How dangerous is

WATCH OUT FOR DEER – TIPS TO AVOID HITTING A DEER

Posted on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016 at 2:28 pm    

The fall months are when most vehicle collisions with deer occur. From July 2015 through June 2016, State Farm estimated that there were more than 1.3 million collisions involving deer in the USA. Because hunting season, mating season, and long nights all coincide during the fall months, you are more likely to see deer on the move after the sun sets during the fall than during any other time of the year.

Geico Insurance and the Indiana State Police offer these tips for avoiding hitting a deer or minimizing the damage if you do:

1. USE YOUR HIGH BEAM HEADLIGHTS: A deer’s eyes will reflect in your car’s headlights, helping to make them easier to spot.

2. LOOK FOR ROAD SIGNS WARNING OF DEER: These signs are placed in areas of high deer traffic. If you see one deer near the road, there is a good chance that there more nearby.

3. AVOID DISTRACTIONS – Focus your attention on driving.

4. STAY NEAR THE CENTER OF THE ROAD – IF YOU ARE ON A 4 LANE OR WIDER ROAD WITH LITTLE TRAFFIC. This gives you extra space and thus more time to react.

5. HONK IF YOU SEE A DEER IN THE ROAD. A long blast of the horn can scare the deer out of your way and could be your last chance to avoid a collision.

6. DON’T SWERVE TO AVOID A DEER. If you swerve you will be more likely to hit a guardrail or a tree, increasing your risk of injuries.

7. STAY IN YOUR LANE – and brake firmly if you have to hit a deer. Just before striking the deer, take your foot off the brake as this will cause the nose of your vehicle to come back up, thereby reducing the chances of the deer smashing into your windshield.

8. IF YOU HIT A DEER: If your vehicle is not disabled, get to a safe place before reporting the accident such as a driveway, parking lot, or the next exit on the Interstate. If your vehicle is disabled, put on your hazard light and call the police.

The top five states for the best chance of hitting a deer are West Virginia, Montana, Pennsylvania, Iowa and South Dakota.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on November 22, 2016 entitled What to do if you’re about to hit a deer with your car by Allison Carter.

TAKATA AIRBAG PROPELLANT EXPLODES ENROUTE TO FACTORY

Posted on Thursday, November 3rd, 2016 at 1:51 pm    

The New York Times reported that a woman in her home was killed and four other people were injured when a truck transporting Takata parts and explosives crashed and detonated on a Texas road. The crash occurred in front of the home of 69 year old Lucila Robles and the blast completely destroyed her home.

At the time of the crash, the truck was carrying the airbag propellant and airbag inflators. Inflators are the small devices within the airbag which cause the airbag to inflate in a collision.

According to an internal document leaked by a former Takata employee, Takata transports its airbag propellant, ammonia nitrate, more than 2,000 miles across the United States from a manufacturing plant in Washington to a distribution center in Texas.

The incident is being investigated by the U. S. Department of Transportation along with local officials in Texas.

This is not the first explosion involving the ammonia nitrate propellant used by Takata. In March of 2006, its Monclova plant was severely damaged after a series of blasts blamed on the ammonia nitrate propellant. Fortunately, there were no injuries in that incident.

Source: An article entitled Airbag Propellant Bound for Takata Factory Detonates en Route by Hiroko Tabuchi appearing at nytimes.com on August 30, 2016.