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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. 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.

NEVER RIDE WITH YOUR FEET ON THE DASH OF YOUR CAR

Posted on Thursday, September 14th, 2017 at 2:14 pm    

Propping one’s feet up on the passenger side dashboard is something that many of us are guilty of doing. However, it is a very bad idea! A recent article appearing in USA Today reminds us of exactly why this is such a bad idea. Air bags deploy at speeds between 100 and 220 miles per hour, and the impact from your knees, etc., striking your face or body could cause significant injuries.

According to the article appearing at usatoday.com, Audra Tatum of Georgia had just such an experience approximately 2 years ago. Audra had her legs crossed with one foot on the dashboard when she was involved in a crash which caused her air bag to deploy and send her foot into her face. Audra, who was not wearing a seatbelt at the time, said that as a result, she suffered a broken nose, broken ankle, femur and arm. And she stated that she still walks with a limp and cannot stand for more than 4 hours at a time. Audra hopes that her story will encourage others to think twice before putting their feet up on the dash.

If you are driving a car and your passenger puts their feet up on the dash, tell them about Audra’s story and politely suggest they don’t put their feet on the dash.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on August 15, 2017 entitled “Why You Should Never Ride With Your Feet on the Dash of the Car” by Ashley May.

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.

CITIES WITH THE WORST TRAFFIC JAMS IN AMERICA

Posted on Tuesday, August 15th, 2017 at 1:55 pm    

According to a recent study by transportations analytic firm, Inrix, United States is the most congested developed country in the world. It is estimated that congested roads cost U.S. motorists almost 300 billion dollars in wasted time and fuel in 2016. A recent article in USA Today says, based on postings on Instagram, Santa Monica came out as the city with the worst traffic jams in the country.

Rounding out the top five are:

Miami/Miami Beach:
Atlanta:
San Francisco;
New York.

The Inrix study on INRIX named Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York, San Francisco and Miami as the top five. And the worst day of the week was Friday. Sunday was reported to be the most relaxed day with respect to traffic.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on May 20, 2017 entitled “Top 5 Cities with the Worst #TrafficJams in America” by David Carrig.

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.

WILL SELF-DRIVING ELECTRIC CARS MAKE CAR OWNERSHIP DISAPPEAR

Posted on Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 at 3:27 pm    

There is a lot of debate by experts and in the media about the future of self-driving cars in America. One company, RethinkX, an independent think tank focusing on technology’s impact on transportation, energy, finance and healthcare, believes that the self-driving automobile will soon become so culturally ubiquitous that it will lead to the abandonment of car ownership. And RethinkX says this will result in a one trillion-dollar boost in disposable income and a catastrophic shift for the oil industry and driver economy.

Unlike many experts,that believe that it could still be decades before self-driving cars take over, RethinkX thinks that the transition is just around the corner and expects self-driving autonomous cars to cause a major disruption in transportation in the next decade. RethinkX notes that tech companies such as Alphabet and automaker, Ford, have all been targeting around 2020 for the first commercial roll out of self-driving cars. RethinkX is predicting that such an event will be virtually an overnight sensation that will be no less transformative to the introduction to the model T. RethinkX predicts that by 2030:

• 95% of U.S. passenger miles will be via economist electric vehicles owned by companies providing transportation as a service.

• 60% of vehicles on the road will be dedicated to that service.

• The average household will pocket around $5600 a year by switching from car ownership to using autonomous self-driving vehicle services

Among the biggest disruptions that will occur will be to the oil industry and to the millions of Americans that drive for a living.
RethinkX also believes that car dealerships and auto part stores will face a major impact as car manufacturers pivot to becoming manufacturers of autonomous electric vehicles that are owned by ride hailing service companies.

What could possibly disrupt RethinkX’s view of the future? RethinkX thinks that perhaps the biggest potential road block is government regulators or lobbyist push back on laying out a clear plan for autonomous vehicles.

Source: An article appearing at usatoday.com on May 4, 2017 entitled “Self-Driving Vehicles to Make Car Ownership Vanish” by Marco Della Cava.

MORE ON VEHICLE TO VEHCILE COMMUNICATIONS

Posted on Thursday, July 20th, 2017 at 1:54 pm    

In a recent blog article, I noted that the federal government recently announced new regulations aimed at requiring all new cars and light trucks be able to communicate wirelessly between one another within about 5 years. One of the big reasons for the Federal government’s push to have vehicles able to communicate with one another is that it is estimated that up to 80% of the crashes not atributable to driver impairment could be eliminated or eradicated by V2V devices. And, accordingly to a recent New York Times article, NHTSA plans to require future cars and light trucks include the hardware required for dedicated short range communication between vehicles.

General Motors recently announced that starting in March 2017, their 2017 Cadillac CTS models will be equipped to use a short-range radio frequency based communication system for V2V communications. However, since the only other vehicles equipped with the same system will be other Cadillac CTS automobiles, for the time being, the communication will be limited to Cadillac CTSs. And, while many manufactures seem to be pushing for the use of short range radio frequencies, other manufactures such as BMW and Mercedes Benz are working on systems which will not use such technology, but rather rely on existing cellular phone networks to transmit alerts.

The systems relying on cellular telephone networks are designed to operate on the 5G system which is in the works. However, the system is not expected to be available in a significant way until 2022 or 2023. BMW and Mercedes argue that a cellular phone based system offers a significant advantage in that the system will allow vehicles to not only communicate with other vehicles but to communicate with other non-vehicle traffic devices such as traffic lights, poles and other transportation infrastructure.

Others involved in the design of such systems note that in many rural areas, cellular services are nonexistent and even where cellular service is available such a system would not be as fast as the short-range radio frequency system. And some argue that the carrier based system would not be as reliable since the cellular network is a multipurpose network and not limited to safety communications from one vehicle to the other. In the end, some experts expect that it will take some combination of both systems in order to make vehicle to vehicle connections work reliably.

Source: Article appearing on NYP.com March 9, 2017 “Cars Will Talk to One Another. Exactly How is Less Certain” John R. Quain

CALIFORNIA PROPOSES ALLOWING AUTONOMOUS CARS WITHOUT STEERING WHEELS

Posted on Tuesday, July 18th, 2017 at 3:26 pm    

According to an article recently appearing in USA Today, California recently proposed new rules for self-driving vehicles that would allow companies to test autonomous vehicles that lack a steering wheel. Not only that, the article states that under the new proposed rules, the autonomous cars would no longer be required to have a human driver present in the vehicle while operating in the state of California.

The proposed regulations would also eliminate the need for having a driver sitting ready in the driver seat of the autonomous vehicle prepared to take charge at any second should something go wrong. FInally, under the proposed rules, it appears the autonomous car could drive on California highways under the watchful eye of a “…remote operator…”.
Although the proposed rules do require the manufacture submit an application and meet certain requirements regarding testing, training requirements for the remote operators and a safety assessment letter from NHTSA, some consumer groups say those rules are too lax.

Proposed regulations were published on March 10, 2017 and the Proposed rules could take effect in 2018.

Source: An article appearing in USA Today on March 10, 2017 entitled “Look, Ma, No Hands. No Steering Wheel Needed Under New Calif. Car Rules” by Elizabeth Welse