Autonomous Driving: When Truck Tailgating is a Good Thing

Autonomous Driving: When Truck Tailgating is a Good Thing

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Autonomous Driving: When Truck Tailgating is a Good Thing

By: Doreen Lundrigan

Autonomous driving vehicles have been in the news more recently. As such, our future is looking much more ‘Jetsons’-like. While smart car technology is being implemented and placed in new cars, full automation is still many years away.

What is much more current and expected to be on the roads this year are partially automated tractor-trailers. Two companies are in the forefront of this technology, Peloton Technology and Omnitracs. Peloton develops active safety systems and is focused on bringing safety, efficiency, and data intelligence to the trucking industry. Omnitracs is a truck fleet management software company. Together, they are working on platooning.

Autonomous Driving - The Cooper Firm Blog

 

‘Platooning’ is when several trucks drive in close proximity to one another, approximately 30-50 feet, to leverage aerodynamics and save fuel. The trucks are coupled electronically and the close distance minimizes drag. The first vehicle serves as the leader with each successive truck in the platoon connected and controlled autonomously by the lead truck.

The two biggest advantages that platoons have over autonomous vehicles is that there is always a driver in a vehicle ready to take control at a moment’s notice, and they generally use technologies already in production and widely available. Those technologies include collision mitigation. A driver in a trailing vehicle could pull his vehicle out of the platoon at any time and all remaining vehicles would automatically close the gap between vehicles. Ultimately, they hope to be able to use the technology by having only a driver in the lead truck.

At first the trucks will travel in convoys of two and additional trucks will be added into the platooning once the public adapts to this new technology. Using the two-truck convoy will allow motorists to become used to the platooning. If a driver is inclined to slide their vehicle between two trucks less than 50 feet apart, the trucks will be programmed to broaden the gap.

This is the first step towards fully autonomous vehicles and will save fuel and change the trucking industry. Companies are working hard to develop self-driving cars, but that is still in our future.

 

Dashboards like Smartphones Raise Safety Concerns

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Vehicle Safety Technology Attorney - The Cooper Firm

Dashboards like Smartphones Raise Safety Concerns

Dashboards are becoming increasingly popular on new vehicles, but safety advocates worry that they could increase risk of a car accident.

Automakers don’t seem to be too worried, and are only answering the overwhelming demand from consumers to make dashboards more like smartphones. Most automakers say that the dashboards will actually improve driving safety. Due to the voice controls and large touch screens, automakers think drivers will be less distracted and less tempted to play with their phone while driving.

Unfortunately, dashboards are more complex than they use to be, making them more difficult to work with. Just as you would look at your phone to complete a task, you are instead looking at the dash on your vehicle. In some cases, safety advocates and distracted driving studies think you could actually look at the dashboard longer than you typically would at your cell phone. David Strayer, a professor of cognition and neural science at the University of Utah who has also written several studies on distracted driving, showed in his research that reading a text message takes at least four seconds. And even four seconds is far longer that what Strayer considers safe.  Playing on your dashboard can take much longer than four seconds.

The newer the vehicle, the more features the dashboard will hold. Some dashboards will even show you your mentions on Twitter, although not allowing you to see your full Twitter stream. Text messages will appear across the dashboard and can be read aloud while you are driving. These are all things drivers shouldn’t be doing or looking at while driving, regardless of whether it’s a cell phone or dashboard.

There are currently no standards for dashboards in vehicles. Some safety agencies, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have issued driver-distraction guidelines for dashboard displays, but they are only voluntary. Due to the lack of standards, there is a possibility that the more complex dashboards get, the more accidents there will be as a result. Insurers have not taken a stand on dashboards yet, and have not changed policy rates if a vehicle has an interactive dashboard or not.

It would be wise for NHTSA to educate itself on the new technologies and go ahead and create actual regulations for automakers instead of filling in later when these technologies could cause serious harm to consumers.

Fiat Chrysler Recalls 1.4 Million Vehicles after Vehicle Hack

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Vehicle Safety Technology Attorney - The Cooper Firm

Fiat Chrysler Recalls 1.4 Million Vehicles after Vehicle Hack

Fiat Chrysler (FCA) is recalling 4.1 million vehicles susceptible to cyber attacks after hackers demonstrated how easy it was to control a Jeep.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched an investigation following the announcement of the recall with concerns of the security of vehicles with new technology and wireless communication systems. The recall was launched in response to two hackers, featured in a Wired article, who were able to manipulate a Jeep’s air conditioning, stereo controls, brakes and transmission from their laptop miles away. They actually shut the vehicle off on a highway, and the test driver had zero control to turn the vehicle back on. The hackers motives behind releasing their study, was to push automakers to do something about the security of vehicles.

Mark Rosekind, administrator of NHTSA, was pleased with FCA’s quick recall, and plans on using the agency’s cybersecurity experts to pick a part the recall to ensure that the repairs are done properly. The 1.4 million vehicles include 2013-2015 Ram pickup trucks and chassis cabs, 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Cherokee SUVs, 2014-2015 Dodge Durango SUVs, 2015 Chrysler 200, 2015 Chrysler 300, 2015 Dodge Charger sedans, and 2015 Dodge Challenger sport coupes. Although no defect is reported and there have been no complaints or injuries that NHTSA is aware of, FCA says its issuing the recall as a precaution.

FCA says it was already working to insulate some of the vehicles to prevent manipulation after the Wired article was published. The company will also give consumers a USB device to update their vehicle’s software with internal safety features, and prevent outside hackers and cyberattacks.

This is just the beginning of recalls for new technology in vehicles. Just before the recall, two U.S. Senators along with support from the two hackers, introduced legislation which would require regulators to develop standards for vehicle security and protecting consumer’s privacy. Although wireless technology can be a positive addition to vehicle safety, until automakers take security and safety seriously, consumers are in a risky position.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a defective vehicle, contact our law offices today for a free consultation.

Future Vehicle Safety Technology: 360 Sensor Fusion

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Future Vehicle Safety Technology: 360 Sensor Fusion

Last year, the nation experienced millions of vehicles being recalled due to safety related defects. Now, the industry appears to not only be working to correct those defects, but to create new safety technologies to prevent crashes and deaths. Nearly 1.3 million people die in car crashes every year. That is over 3,000 deaths a day. Car crashes also cost the nation $518 billion.

Many technology suppliers are working hard to bring down those statistics. Autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning will hopefully be required in new vehicles as they are in trucks and buses in Europe. These systems have potential to reduce crashes by up to 27%.

Future technologies are already being developed that will increase vision of the sensors to have a 360 degree view. Once those sensors are put into place, they will fuse them with active safety features such as braking to prevent accidents. Delphi, a supplier of vehicle technologies, has been working on what they call RACam. It is a radar and camera system, which combines radar sensing, vision sensing and data. The ‘sensor fusion’ as they call it, will also combine adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, low speed collision mitigation and autonomous emergency braking. Systems will be specific to the type/size of vehicle. For example, trucks will need more time to stop due to their weight.

Even though these safety features are good in theory, and can in fact save lives, they can have defects. It is important that these technology developers do thorough research and testing to make sure flaws are eliminated before these systems reach vehicles.

Source: Automotive World

Crash Avoidance Systems Have No Industry Standard, Could Create Safety Issues

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Vehicle Safety Technology Attorney - The Cooper Firm

Crash Avoidance Systems Have No Industry Standard, Could Create Safety Issues

Safety technology in vehicles is advancing quickly, but without industry standards the technology could bring more havoc than help.

Imagine driving your new vehicle down the road. The car in front of your starts to accelerate, but your car comes to an abrupt stop due to a glitch in its automatic braking system. The car behind you wasn’t anticipating it, so they slammed into the back of you. This unfortunately could happen to many owners of Acura’s 2014 and 2015 MDX an RLX models, before the company recalled the products for software updates.

Acura is not the only automaker affected. Many complaints for a similar issue with the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokees were filed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as well. Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) called for forward collision-avoidance systems to become standard on all new vehicle models. Though some are excited about the step forward, other safety advocates and consumers are concerned that vehicles may have more problems and glitches than safety benefits.

Due to the fact there are no industry standards for these crash avoidance systems, they are not all created the same. Some systems could have extremely dangerous flaws yet to be discovered. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety started reviewing these systems at the end of 2013. It gave certain models higher marks, but some vehicles such as the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is currently being investigated, received very low marks. We recommend consumers do their own research instead of just buying a car that’s marketed with the newest safety features.

Overall, these systems are doing a good job, but standards and regulations would help automakers to stay on their toes and work out the kinks early on.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a defective vehicle or product, contact our law offices today for a free consultation.

Source: Rueters

Acura Recalls Vehicles for Glitch in Automatic Braking System

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Vehicle Safety Technology Attorney - The Cooper Firm

Acura Recalls Vehicles for Glitch in Automatic Braking System

Acura has recalled two of its models due to the automatic emergency braking system malfunctioning and potentially causing accidents.

Acura recalled nearly 48,000 MDX SUVs and RLX sedans across the world. The recall includes models made in 2014 and 2015. Although, the new safety system is supposed to prevent accidents, any technology can still have its glitches.

The company’s safety technology, named “Collision Mitigtion Braking System,” uses radar to scan for objects in front of the vehicle. If impact is suspected, the vehicle will automatically apply the brakes, which should reduce impact and injuries. Unfortunately, Acura’s system gets confused when a vehicle ahead accelerates while also driving next to metal guardrails or fences, and will apply the brakes. This has caused rear collisions due to the abrupt stops.

Although the problem was first discovered in November 2013, the company figured out the cause and notified safety regulators the following May. Acura will update all of the recalled vehicles’ systems for free. For more information, you can contact Acura’s Client Relations line at 1-800-382-2238.

Just as any new technology surfaces, there will be minor glitches, just as there were with airbags and seat belts, which save many lives. As long as people are not being injured and companies are continually improving and correcting its systems, then safety is moving in the right direction.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a defective product, contact our law offices today for a free consultation.

General Motors says it owns part of your car, but you just license it

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Vehicle Safety Technology Attorney - The Cooper Firm

General Motors says it owns part of your car, but you just license it

Remember that car you spent thousands of dollars on? General Motors says you don’t own parts of it. They are pretty crucial parts too.

During a hearing conducted by the US Copyright Office, a GM attorney said that the company believes that software that controls vehicle functions actually belongs to them. The company says that the software is merely licensed by the owner of the vehicle. The hearing was in regards to whether the US Copyright Office will grant exemptions in copyright laws to allow independent mechanics to fix and repair cars with certain software.

GM has a strong position with safety as its big push. Cars are run using electronic control units (ECUs), which control steering, acceleration, braking and safety features. There are about 30 ECUs in each GM model. If independent mechanics start making changes or trying to fix the software without the knowledge behind them, they could disable key safety features or the ability for the car to run properly.

Customers already sign licensing agreements for some functions such as OnStar and infotainment packages, but to have dozens of licensing agreements to cover each control unit may be too much. Customers have more rights currently than GM (licensee) under the current laws, and can modify software without infringing on copyright protections. GM is trying to change that now, and as a response many groups are already forming to fight for individuals’ right to repair cars.

The scary thing is, mechanics could potentially make any changes they want. You could buy a used car, but not have any idea on what changes to the software were made.  Technology has greatly advanced and people are hacking and jailbreaking into phones, computer and more.  It is only a matter of time before that starts to happen to vehicles.

Some of the downsides to this copyright issue are that automakers will only let consumers go to approved dealerships which may not be cost efficient for some families. It also cuts out the ability for independent mechanics to innovate and undercuts their rights.

Source: Autoblog, The Consumerist

Newer Improved Vehicles Bring Down Death Rates

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Vehicle Safety Technology Attorney - The Cooper Firm

Newer Improved Vehicles Bring Down Death Rates

Having a new vehicle may be more appealing to consumers than ever before, due to a new study. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the chances of dying in a late-model vehicle have decreased by more than one third. In 2011 models, nine vehicles had zero-death rates. Unfortunately, there are still vehicles which have not developed as safely as others. Three 2011 vehicles have death rates exceeding 100 per million registered vehicles a year.

Vehicles have dramatically evolved from 1985 to 2012. Structural design and safety technology have played a large role in declining risk. IIHS shared that there were 7,700 fewer deaths in 2012 alone then there would have been if vehicles would have remained the same since 1985.

Eight years ago, there were no models with driver death rates of zero, now there are nine. Although automakers are still very far away from zero traffic deaths total, the improvements being made will dramatically change vehicle safety. Consumers are looking closer at safety then every before due to the “year of recalls” which spurred last year as a result of General Motors hiding an ignition switch defect which led to over 90 deaths and hundreds of injuries. People want to feel safe in their vehicles, not afraid of if their vehicle could potentially kill them.

Another interesting change over the past few years has been safety updates in SUVs. Out of the nine zero death vehicles, two thirds are SUVs. Nearly a decade ago, SUVs had the highest death rates due to the fact they rolled over easily. With systems like electronic stability control and better developed models, the rollover rate is less than a quarter of what it used to be in the 80’s. Smaller vehicles however, have the highest death rate among 2011 models. The Kia Rio minicar had 149 driver deaths per million vehicles registered.  This is due to the fact that smaller cars cannot protect themselves as well against larger vehicles.

The top nine zero fatality vehicles included the Audi A4 4WD, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sorento 2WD, Lexus RX 350 4WD, Mercedes-Benz GL Class 4WD, Subaru Legacy 4WD, Toyota Highlander hybrid 4WD, Toyota Sequoia 4WD, and the Vovo XC90 4WD. The Kia Rio tops the list of highest driver fatalities per million registered vehicles at 149 deaths with the Nissan Versa sedan, Hyundai Accent and the Chevy Aveo all topping 99 deaths or more. You can view the full list here.

There are other factors beyond change in vehicle technology and structure design that could drop the rate of driver deaths even more. Some of these factors include lower speed limits, better enforcement of seat belt laws, and cracking down on distracted driving. We hope to see an even larger decline in death rates over the next few years as automakers, safety enforcement and the federal safety agency work together to keep the road safe.

Source: IIHS

Ford Vehicles Will Automatically Slow Down With Speed Limit Signs

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Vehicle Safety Technology Attorney - The Cooper Firm

Ford Vehicles Will Automatically Slow Down With Speed Limit Signs

Ford plans on selling vehicles that will read road signs and adjust speed to prevent speeding. The technology is intended to help drivers to avoid fines and reduce car crashes.

The system is coined as the Intelligent Speed Limiter (ISL) and combines two existing technologies that many vehicles already have. The adjustable speed limiter detects how fast a vehicle is moving by sensors mounted in the vehicle’s wheels. Once the vehicle reaches a certain speed, instead of applying the brakes, the sensor will limit the amount of fuel that reaches the engine. The second technology ISL uses is traffic sign recognition. This system uses a camera facing forward on the vehicle’s windshield to scan for road signs and alert the driver. ISL can be activated on the steering wheel and can be overridden by pressing the accelerator.

As networks and autonomous vehicles continue to develop, there is potential that the speed limit will not be addressed by signs, but vehicles will slow and speed up based on the vehicle’s computer system and the network in which it’s connected.

The new technology will be available August 2015 in Ford’s second generation S-Max in Europe. A spokesperson from Ford said the technology will eventual expand across the world and the United States.

Although some drivers will be against giving their vehicle speed control, others will appreciate the convenience and safety it brings.

Source: BBC News

New Technologies = Potential Vehicle Hacking

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Vehicle Safety Technology Attorney - The Cooper Firm

New Technologies = Potential Vehicle Hacking

With new technologies and electronic safety features being introduced to vehicles, there will also be new risks or potential errors. One of those risks is the potential for hackers to take control of vehicles. Many vehicles have electronic systems to manage entertainment, GPS and safety features. These systems are very easy to hack into which could compromise safety.

Everything from seat belt and braking functions to infotainment and Bluetooth connect to Electronic Control Units (ECUs). Because all ECUs work through the vehicle’s controller area network (CAN), it makes the system vulnerable to attacks. If one of these areas is hacked, all of the other areas are compromised.

Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal announced at a hearing on “The Connected World: Examining the Internet of Things,” that they will be introducing a bill which would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create federal standards that would guarantee that automakers protect privacy and security of consumers. “We need the electronic equivalent of seat belts and airbags to keep drivers and their information safe,” Sen. Markey said. Markey sent questions to 19 different manufactures on what they are doing to protect consumers from being hacked through new technologies. The responses varied, but overall showed that not much was being done.

NHTSA has done little to develop a standard to ensure electronic systems have well-designed safety and security. When safety agencies do not have established standards, what incentive do automakers have to develop safety measures for these technologies?  For consumers, cybersecurity is becoming more significant now that they can see what affects it may have on them.

BMW recently announced that 2.2 million of its vehicles had a security flaw which could allow hackers to break in using a smartphone. With access to the BMW Connected Drive System, hackers could activate the horn, open the door, or operate a vehicle. The security flaw could be combined with previous flaws in older models giving hackers the ability to steal the vehicle.

Considering last year’s record breaking recalls, hopefully NHTSA will play catch up and start setting standards for these electronic systems. With systems like vehicle to vehicle technology and driverless vehicles quickly approaching the market, the potential risks of hacking should be a priority. To read more on this issue visit Safety Research and Strategies.

Source: Safety Research and Strategies


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