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Uber Aiming to Relaunch Autonomous Testing on Public Roads

After fatal crash, ride-sharing service plans to redouble steps to ensure safety.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Nov.05, 2018

In the wake of a fatal collision with a pedestrian in Arizona, Uber suspended all of its autonomous vehicle testing. Now it wants to resume in Pittsburgh.

Uber plans to relaunch the autonomous vehicle testing program it suspended following a fatal crash in Arizona last March, but it has advised regulators in Pennsylvania that it will take additional steps to ensure the safety of its vehicles.

The San Francisco-based ride-sharing service has been betting heavily on fully driverless technology, hoping it will lower costs to the point where many Americans won’t even feel the need to own a private vehicle anymore. But that effort was put on hold after a modified Volvo struck and killed Elaine Herzberg as she crossed a road in a Phoenix suburb.

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It was initially unclear why the Volvo hit the 49-year-old Herzberg, as its system spotted her six seconds before impact. It was subsequently revealed during a police investigation that the backup driver charged with taking control in an emergency was actually streaming the TV show, “The Voice,” rather than watching the road. She failed to intervene when the car’s brakes weren’t automatically applied because of improper modifications made to the vehicle. (more…)

Ford, Baidu Ink Autonomous Test Deal in China as Waymo Starts in California Despite Protests

Disparate reactions to autonomous vehicle testing.

by Michael Strong on Nov.01, 2018

Ford's Sherif Marakby and Baidu's Zhenyu Li shake hands, confirming the new autonomous testing deal between the two companies.

Ford Motor Co. just inked a deal with Baidu Inc. to conduct two years of autonomous vehicle testing on the roads of China as Waymo is getting approval to engage in its own self-driving vehicle tests in California despite the protests of watchdog groups.

The Baidu-Ford L4 Autonomous Vehicle Test Project is set to begin by the end of this year, the automaker noted. The project will develop and test autonomous vehicles that are designed to meet the Level 4 (L4) driving automation standard as defined by SAE International.

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Level 4 vehicles are capable of operating autonomously within a specific geographic area and under certain weather conditions. Ford engineers have already started the process working at its Nanjing Research and Engineering Center, which was set up to convert the vehicles into Autonomous Vehicle Platforms in order to prepare them to be fit with Baidu’s Apollo Virtual Driver System.  (more…)

Car Crashes on the Rise in “Pot-Legal” States

New study suggests a 6% jump in collisions.

by Michael Strong on Oct.18, 2018

A new study suggests that states where recreational marijuana is legal, car crashes are up 6%.

With all of the talk about blue waves and red waves coming in the November election, a couple of new studies show that Americans may want to direct their attention to the “green” wave: recreational marijuana.

Several states have measures on ballots to make the recreational use of marijuana legal, just as the aforementioned studies show that vehicle crashes are up as much as 6% in states where it is already legal.

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Crashes are on the rise in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, compared with neighboring states that haven’t legalized marijuana for recreational use, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) shows.  (more…)

Most Drivers Don’t Know How to Use the Latest Safety Tech

Drivers overestimate capabilities, underestimate problems, using ADAS technology.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Sep.26, 2018

Consumers are demanding new collision avoidance technologies, but often don't know how they work.

If you’ve bought a new car during the last several years, chances are it is equipped with any number of advanced safety systems, such as blind-spot monitoring to forward collision warning, perhaps even technology capable of letting you do a limited amount of hands-free driving.

The odds also suggest you don’t fully understand how those advanced driver assistance systems actually work and may be making some potentially dangerous mistakes, according to a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

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“A substantial proportion of respondents demonstrated what we believe was a concerning lack of awareness of some of the key limitations of the technologies,” said AAA senior researcher Brian Tefft. (more…)

Better Headlights Could Save Pedestrians’ Lives

NTSB also wants improve brakes and highway infrastructure.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Sep.25, 2018

Using European-style laser headlights could reduce accidents and improve overall driver safety.

Federal safety regulators want to throw some light on a deadly subject.

The National Transportation Safety Board has outlined a three-pronged approach to dealing with the rapid rise in pedestrian fatalities, starting with improvements in vehicle headlights that would help motorists steer clear of a dangerous situation in the first place. At a Tuesday hearing, the NTSB also said manufacturers need to improve vehicle brakes, while improvements in local roadways could also keep pedestrians out of harm’s way.

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“We’ve got to end this tragic problem on our nation’s roadways,” NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said Tuesday during a Washington board meeting that looked into recommendations made by the agency’s staff. (more…)

California Pushes Ahead with Promotion of Zero-Emission Vehicles

Major changes expected by 2025 and new tech by 2040.

by Joseph Szczesny on Sep.14, 2018

California Gov. Jerry Brown continues to forge ahead on the state's zero-emissions goal.

Despite the efforts by the Trump administration to roll back clean air regulations, California continues pressing forward with efforts to foster zero-emission vehicles.

“By working across national and state boundaries, through this new focused effort, we can accelerate progress and help bring these important clean technologies to market years earlier. We are very supportive of this program and look forward to collaborating with our partners to achieve our clean air and climate goals,” said Richard W. Corey, executive officer of the influential California Air Resources Board.

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California Governor Jerry Brown also announced this week that the State of California intended to get all of its electricity from clean sources such as solar and wind energy by the middle of the century. (more…)

Highway Fatalities Could Again Top 40,000 This Year

Efforts to reduce toll coming up short warns National Safety Council.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Aug.23, 2018

Two teens were killed in this fiery Tesla crash in Florida earlier this year.

The U.S. highway death toll remained stubbornly high during the first half of 2018 and as many as 40,000 are now expected to die on U.S. roads for the full year, the National Safety Council warned as the country headed into the Labor Day holiday, one of the deadliest times of the year on American roadways.

After decades of decline, highway fatalities began to rise again mid-decade, experts pointing to a variety of possible factors, ranging from distracted driving to the fact that, as the economy recovered, U.S. motorists were simply clocking more miles. Whatever the reason, efforts to improve highway safety have had little seeming effect.

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“When it comes to this leading cause of accidental death, we aren’t making progress – we’re treading water,” said Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics at the National Safety Council. “We cannot accept more than 18,700 deaths as the price of mobility. We hope these numbers remind drivers to slow down, buckle up, pay attention and drive defensively so we can get on the road to zero deaths.”

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Musk Laments “Excruciating” Toll He’s Faced at Tesla

But no plans to give up post as CEO.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Aug.17, 2018

Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed that he feels like this has been the toughest year of his life.

Forget the amusement park. Anyone who wants to ride a roller-coaster might be better off purchasing Tesla stock. But no one has faced more ups-and-downs during the last year than the automaker’s co-founder and CEO Elon Musk.

Even as Tesla appears to be resolving its production problems and seems poised to deliver a long-promised profit, the automaker and its CEO are facing a probe by the SEC, lawsuits filed by several short-sellers, additional investigations by the NLRB, NHTSA and the NTSB, and allegations of safety and quality problems by several self-styled whistleblowers.

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No wonder, “This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career,” Musk said in an interview newly published by the New York Times. “It was excruciating.” (more…)

Odyssey, Pacifica Top IIHS 2018-19 Minivan Rankings

Toyota Sienna falls from top ranking.

by Michael Strong on Aug.16, 2018

The Honda Odyssey earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2018-19.

The competition among minivans is already tight and the most recent ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for the current model year have only made that wrestling match tighter.

The Chrysler Pacifica and Honda Odyssey are 2018 Top Safety Picks. They were among the qualifiers when IIHS announced initial winners of the 2018 awards last December. Both earned a superior rating for front crash prevention and have acceptable-rated headlights. Better headlights would have secured Top Safety Pick+ awards – the group’s top rating – for these minivans.

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To earn a 2018 Top Safety Pick, according to IIHS, a vehicle must have good ratings in all IIHS crashworthiness tests except the passenger-side test. Other requirements are a front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating and headlights that earn an acceptable or good rating.  (more…)

“Drive High, Get a DUI”: Feds Tackle Drugged Driving

Concerns rise as more states legalize marijuana, and as opioid epidemic worsens.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Aug.15, 2018

NHTSA's new ad campaign will run through Labor Day, usually one of the most deadly weekends to drive.

“Drive High, Get a DUI.”

That’s the theme of a new ad campaign being launched today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that reflects growing concern about the potential risks raised by the expanding legalization of marijuana and the rise in opioid addition.

As TheDetroitBureau.com previously reportedly, tests indicate 44% of the drivers killed in U.S. car crashes in 2016 had the residue of drugs in their system – up from 28% a decade ago. Some data point to a rising death toll related to the growing, legal availability of marijuana, though not all research backs that up. Opioid use is also catching some of the blame.

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Whatever drug one uses, “If you feel different, you drive different,” Heidi King the deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said during an event in Nashville. “That’s the message we have for anyone using alcohol, marijuana or other drugs, whether obtained legally or illegally.”

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