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Archive for the ‘Car Safety’ Category

Tesla, Autopilot, and the Future of Self-Driving Cars

July 26th, 2016

Tesla AutoPilot

From the first press release outlining Tesla’s Autopilot technology, potential customers have wondered how the system works, what its limitations are, and whether it will be welcomed or shunned. Since Joshua Brown’s fatal crash while using Autopilot in a Tesla Model S, these questions have grown larger and more pointed. Without a doubt, popular opinion has shifted toward negativity. But should it?

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The Cost of Doing Business in a Safety-Focused World

July 19th, 2016

Crash-test dummies talking

When an automaker begins to develop a new model, one of the earliest decisions it makes is where the vehicle will be sold. While it seems logical to produce one model and sell it in as many markets as possible, red tape abounds, with safety standards being the thickest ribbon of all.

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Could Now Be a Good Time to Buy a Tesla?

July 14th, 2016

2015 Tesla Model S

Tesla has seen a lot of time in the news during the past couple of weeks over crashes involving its Autopilot system. Low gas prices also might be hurting its business plan, and there are some growing questions about reliability. This all begs the question: is now the right time to think about buying a Tesla? The answer is a qualified “maybe,” because the decision essentially comes down to how much risk you’re willing to assume.

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Look Out for Flooded Cars on the Used-Car Market

July 14th, 2016

Flooded cars

Spring rains in the United States have not been kind to cars.

The president has declared 11 counties in Texas disaster areas due to heavy rains and flooding. Similar flooding has spanned the country from Virginia to Washington. In Houston alone, about 40,000 vehicles were reported lost due to flood damage.

Typically the damaged cars are either scrapped, or repaired and then given salvage titles and resold. Sometimes, though, unscrupulous sellers take advantage of loopholes in the law and repair the vehicles, retitle them in a new state, and sell them as normal used cars.

The flood-damaged cars can either come as an opportunity for DIY folks who want a good deal, or as an unwelcome surprise for someone who purchases one unwittingly after failing to look for signs of water.

Even if a car looks good and seems to run fine, expensive problems can appear later as corrosion continues to creep inside critical components. Unfortunately, flood-damaged vehicles can be hard to spot, but looking for these signs can help.

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How Long Should Automakers Be on the Hook for Defective Parts?

July 13th, 2016

Audi_Q7_leak

How long should an automaker remain responsible for poor workmanship?

Traditional car warranties range from about 36,000 to 100,000 miles, or between 3 and 10 years. Typically, if something major is going to go wrong with the vehicle, it’ll happen within the warranted time frame.

Sometimes, however, poor workmanship or defective materials surface after a warranty expires. Automakers can issue recalls to deal with these kinds of problems, and they sometimes do–but usually a car owner is left responsible for repairs.

In 2012, Volkswagen settled a $69 million class-action lawsuit to address the issue of leaking sunroofs in nearly 3 million cars between model years 1997 and 2009. The Audi A4, A6, and A8 were included in the settlement.

The 2007-2009 Audi Q7 was excluded, but owners across the country are now experiencing flooded interiors due to the same problem. Should Audi be on the hook?

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New Cars *Are* Getting Safer – Don’t Believe What You Read

July 6th, 2016

Ford safety technology

The news is full of gloomy stories these days when it comes to automobiles. It might even be enough to make make you think driving an automobile is becoming more dangerous.

There is, for instance, the recent fatal collision between a Tesla Model S and a semi trailer. And the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said last year was the deadliest on the nation’s highways since 2008.

It’s enough to make you want to swathe yourself in plastic bubble wrap and never leave the house.

But new cars are getting safer, thanks to a host of new technologies. The best part is you’ll probably never have to consciously use most of them, but you’ll nevertheless be glad they’re there.

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Tesla Autopilot Crash Raises Questions About Autonomous Cars

July 6th, 2016

2016_tesla_model_s_85d

It’s not easy to write about death.

Death, however, is a tragic and so far unavoidable part of automotive culture. In 2014, an average of 89 people died per day in car crashes. Worldwide, the numbers are far larger: An average of 3,287 people die every day in cars.

Those are sobering numbers and even more powerful when you consider that every one of those deaths was a mother, father, son, or daughter.

As common as deaths on international roadways are, one tragic accident has made headline news for being the first to happen in a self-driving car.

Have drivers already become too trusting of autonomous technology?

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A Beginner’s Guide to Digital Instrumentation

June 30th, 2016
Courtesy Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz Head-Up Display

Chances are, anyone reading this post learned to drive a car with some sort of traditional gauge setup. Speedometer, tachometer, engine temperature, gas level, maybe a warning that someone needs to fasten their seatbelt. But is it possible the near future will leave such an interior feeling old-fashioned, obsolete, better suited for classic cars and car shows? We all know how fondly our zealously up-to-date culture likes to deride (or sometimes obsess over) old technological “breakthroughs” like cassette tapes or first-generation iPods, computing devices that look and feel like bricks in comparison to the sleek devices of today. With their growing computing power and ever-more-sophisticated interiors, why would cars be exempt from this double-time march of progress?

Surely we’ve seen this coming. Nothing moves as quickly as technology or has quite the same way of spreading across all parts of a particular product or experience. We have our award-winning infotainment systems; how long could it have been before some of the operating philosophy behind fighter-jet cockpits or the crisp graphics and formidable computing power of smartphones began showing up right in front of drivers’ noses? Not long, apparently: just take a look at the new display setups appearing in consumer vehicles, from the head-up displays (yes, like fighter jets, sort of) to fully computerized dashboards. But if you haven’t necessarily been keeping an enthusiast’s eye on the automotive market, you might not quite know what these new features are all about. They are, after all, still pretty new. So here’s a quick rundown of a few of the more important (or common) among them.

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Tragedy’s Reminder: Check for Recalls Often

June 22nd, 2016

2015_jeep_grand_cherokee-pic-1229195411287290381-640x480

The 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee that rolled down a driveway and killed actor Anton Yelchin this weekend had been recalled earlier this spring after federal regulators found that its gear shifting could confuse drivers and possibly cause vehicles to roll away.

It’s a horrific accident that illustrates the danger of automobiles and the importance of quickly addressing recall notices.

We don’t know the specifics of Yelchin’s case. Maybe he never received the notice or maybe he recently purchased the car and didn’t know about the recall. It’s also possible that the notice got thrown out with the junk mail.

The consequences were undeniably tragic and sad.

Automotive recalls are issued regularly and have become an expected part of car ownership, but vehicle owners need to remain as vigilant in checking for them as automakers are in issuing them.

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Car Safety 2016: Warnings, Assists, and Autopilot, Oh My!

June 10th, 2016

Car scanning road ahead

We love cars, but find the fact that it took almost 1.6 million U.S. motor-vehicle fatalities to make wearing a seat belt mandatory in America troubling. Happily, annual fatalities have declined fairly steadily since their early-‘70s peak, despite the fact that Americans now drive well over one and a half times the number of miles they did then, often while using a smartphone. And with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing and rating vehicles for safety and crashworthiness, we have to admit it’s getting better.

Smartphones can, of course, pose huge risks to drivers, so much so that NHTSA partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation to create the distraction.gov website, and “distracted driving” now has its own Wikipedia entry. But the connectivity and processing power of smartphones can also be used to help drivers avoid accidents and to make sure authorities get alerted quickly and with all the information they’ll need to respond to an accident. And those capabilities will definitely be required for any future “self-driving,” “autonomous,” or Autopilot-equipped cars. As we learned at NEMPA/MIT’s recent panel on the intersection of technology and design, a whole new world of car safety and driver-assistance technologies is available–and evolving–so we’re going to take a look at some of the more important and effective new tech.

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