Remember all the recall-related headlines of the past two years? Those manufacturer errors account for only about 2% of deaths on the road. Conversely, 94% of lives lost in motor-vehicle accidents are due to human error. These are startling numbers, which lead to sobering realizations. Back in 1970, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was formed to study our highways and roads in an effort to minimize the risks associated with driving. As technology has advanced, this administration’s scope and responsibilities have advanced as well. Dr. Mark Rosekind, the current NHTSA Administrator, spoke with Bryan Reimer, of the New England University Transportation Center and MIT’s AgeLab, regarding the NHTSA’s role in the current and future state of autonomous driving technology.
Some assignments are just too good to pass up. Somebody needed to watch the current crop of automotive commercials for Super Bowl 50, and who better than me? I love cars. I love commercials. And I love sharing my opinion.
This isn’t an in-depth look at every single commercial. Rather it’s a quick critique of some of the best and some of the worst. In no particular order, except for the one I saved for the end, here are the best and worst automotive commercials for Super Bowl 50.
Starting a car company is probably one of the most difficult of all business ventures. Even the best ideas can fail due to a lack of funds or stifling government regulatory requirements.
And yet, people still try.
The people who start car companies do so because they believe they can change, or improve upon, the current state of automobile design, functionality, and performance. Starting a car company can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, though, and most who try eventually fall short of their goals because they simply run out of money.
One company, Elio Motors, wants to introduce an 84-mpg 2-seater that costs just $6,800 and is powered by a 3-cylinder gas engine. Sounds great, right?
Consider this: The Elio has only three wheels, meaning the company is trying to classify the car as a motorcycle to avoid the stricter safety and efficiency regulations that govern cars.
The government, though, has other plans, which could send Elio into the history books.
Every neighborhood has one. The guy with the monstrous SUV and a driveway covered in ice. No matter how shiny their brand new snow-blower is (they usually have a snowblower), when the white stuff starts to accumulate, they hop in their Suburban, step on the gas, and let the 4-wheel drive do the rest. The machine specifically designed to clear driveways never even gets primed — why let your hands freeze pushing that contraption around when your SUV isn’t even really stuck?
Looking for a car with the latest in safety features? Automatic emergency braking (AEB) will have to top your list, especially as far as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and top automobile manufacturers are concerned.
Ten companies — Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo — will work with IIHS and NHTSA in the coming months on the details of implementing their historic commitment, including the timeline for making AEB a standard feature.
Think of all the numbers you have to compare when shopping for a truck. You’ve got engine displacement, horsepower, torque, transmission speeds, fuel economy, gear ratios, cargo capacity, and, of course, towing capacity.
Not all of those numbers are relevant to all truck shoppers. Some guys just need to handle an occasional Home Depot run, while others need to routinely max out their rig’s tow capacity.
The guys and gals who buy trucks based on how much they can tow put a lot of trust into the fact that the ratings are accurate. Tow ratings are based on the amount of torque it takes to launch from a stop, keep a trailer going at speed, and slow it to a stop within an acceptable distance.
Obviously some dangerous situations can arise if a truck tows more weight than intended. But what happens if an automaker advertises a high tow rating, sells trucks based on that rating, and then revises it downward later?
Cars can roll over more easily than you might think.
In the time it takes to blink, a driver can be cruising the highway and then suddenly find his or her vehicle tumbling side-over-side.
According to SaferCar.gov, 33 percent of all passenger-vehicle fatalities are caused by rollovers.
You might read that and assume it won’t happen to you because you’re a safe driver, but let me tell you a quick story.
Earlier this week, on her way to work, my wife witnessed a rollover accident. The morning was cold and snowy, but the highway looked dry. As she merged onto the highway, she discovered it was covered in a thin, invisible layer of ice. A brand new SUV in front of her began to fishtail. The vehicle, moving at about 60 miles per hour, slid onto the soft shoulder, which sent it into an airborne flip. The SUV landed on its roof, crushing it, then rolled at least four times before coming to rest upside down.
It all happened within a matter of seconds.
That could have been my wife. Or your wife. Or you. Rollover accidents are especially scary, but there are ways to minimize your risk.
A huge lawsuit against ten of the world’s largest automakers was quietly filed last summer.
The suit claims at least 13 people have died due to a major safety defect in automobiles made by BMW/MINI, Mercedes-Benz, FIAT/Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda/Acura, Hyundai/Kia, Nissan/Infiniti, Toyota/Lexus, and Volkswagen/Bentley.
The issue has nothing to do with airbags, faulty ignitions, or sudden unintended acceleration. The problem is with a system we all take for granted that no one thought could end up killing people.
The Start/Stop button.
Why do you need winter tires? The fast answer is handling. Well-designed winter tires have deeper treads than summer or all-season tires. (The latter, by the way, are really three-season tires if you live in the snow belt.)
Winter tires’ deeper treads help them deal with snow and the icy precipitation that creates slush. An interesting side benefit of winter tires is that they improve traction by packing snow in those treads for better grip on snow.
Also, winter tires are designed with tiny slits in the treads (or as Bridgestone calls them “snipes”). These provide biting edges on ice that help with acceleration, deceleration, and stopping.
We’re in the midst of National Teen Driver Safety Week, which runs through Oct. 24. That gives us a great reason to point out the variety of opportunities available for your teens to get into an advanced driver-safety program thanks to companies like Kia, Ford, and BMW.
John F. Paul, a AAA spokesman in New England, says these programs can be invaluable for young teen drivers. And don’t worry. Just like teaching martial arts doesn’t make a teen a fighter, advanced safety driving schools don’t make young drivers over-confident in their abilities. As Paul points out, kids are less likely to drive recklessly after taking one of these courses.
Startling statistics demonstrate why these courses are so important. According to Paul, 50 percent of teen drivers will be involved in some kind of accident within their first 6 months of driving.