Tesla Auto-piloted Car Crashes, Killing Driver

Tesla Car Crash on Auto-PilotWill truly auto-piloted cars – vehicles driven by computers – ever completely replace human drivers?

That’s a question we have pondered often on these pages.

Last week – the topic received increased scrutiny when a Tesla Model S crashed with a tractor-trailer truck, killing the Tesla driver. It is believed to be the first fatal car accident involving a self-driving vehicle.

Investigators are trying to understand what caused the accident. Was it caused by auto-pilot system malfunction or by errors made by both drivers? It appears the latter may be the case.

Even if the system functioned perfectly – the car accident does point to the limitations of driverless cars – at least in the short term.

The accident is also raising questions among ethicists about just how these systems can be perfected.

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As Dangerous as Driving Drunk…

Photo credit: Runs With Scissors via Interior Design / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: Runs With Scissors via Interior Design / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Have you ever nodded off while driving?

If you answer yes – you’re not alone. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1-in-25 people nod off behind the wheel every 30 days.

That’s as many as 8.4 million drivers a year that fall asleep while driving.

8.4 million people. And that’s just the number of people willing to admit they have nodded off.

What’s more the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving is responsible for 83,000 car accidents, over 35,000 of which result in serious injuries and almost 1,000 in deaths…

What’s going on?

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Auto Software Related Recalls on the Rise

Anyone who owns a car has grown accustomed to news of recalls tied to air bags, tires, breaking systems, exhaust systems and more.

So recalls are not new to most of us.

What is new is that safety experts are now seeing a rise in recalls tied to a new category of car parts – software related to vehicle safety.

According to J.D. Power and Associates, “software-related problems have become much more prevalent and, if not addressed, could begin to erode consumer trust in new automotive technology.”

So just what are these software systems – and what do they control? Continue reading “Auto Software Related Recalls on the Rise” »

Are Car Accidents Really Accidents?

car accidents are not accidentsWith the number of car accidents climbing at rates not seen in 50 years – some traffic safety experts are calling for a change.

A change in what we call these events.

Why?

Many in traffic safety think the word “accident” is a cop-out. After all, accidents are tied to fate – perhaps even the will of God – right?

So what do they have in mind?

The recommendation is that consumers and law enforcement start calling these events what they are – car crashes. And properly identify the causes – human error.

Did you know that virtually all crashes are tied to driver behavior/mistakes – distracted driving and intoxicated driving being among the top causes? It’s estimated that a mere 6% are caused by vehicle mechanical failures.

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Police May Be Gaining New Tool to Catch Those Texting and Driving

texting and drivingThe public relations battle to get people to stop texting and driving appears to be failing.

In a newly released report – U.S. drivers readily admit they’re still texting and using Facebook, Snapchat and other social media platforms while they drive. And as a result – traffic fatalities are rising at their fastest rate in 50 years.

So what’s the solution?

That’s a question researchers and traffic safety experts are trying to answer.

One state thinks they may have a solution. Technology.

A group of legislators in New York are proposing that police departments be given new tools to immediately detect whether a driver was using a handheld device at the time of a car accident.

We’ve all heard of breathalyzers – right? Those are the devices police use to determine whether a driver is intoxicated.

The new tool being considered to help police crackdown on distracted drivers is called a textalyzer – a digital equivalent of the breathalyzer.

How will it work you ask?

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Teenage Drivers…Dangerous in the Extreme.

Talk to your teen about the dangers of teenage driving.

If you are like most parents – you push your children hard to do better in school, better on the field of play, and be better people in every way. And if you’re like most parents you probably push a bit too hard and might want to consider letting your child breathe a bit.

That is unless we’re talking about their driving. If that’s the case – chances are you aren’t worried enough – because your child’s life is in danger.

Did you know that if a person is going to suffer an untimely death – the two most dangerous years of their life is their 16th and 17th.  And the cause – driving.

Nichole Morris – a researcher at the University of Minnesota puts it simply: “Cars have gotten safer, roads have gotten safer, but teen drivers have not.”

In 2013, just under 1 million teenagers reported having car accidents (and many teenage accidents go unreported), resulting in over 373,000 injuries and 2,937 deaths.   According to the CDC – an average of six teenagers die each day in car accidents in America.

Yup – six each and every day.

And some researchers estimate that one in four teenagers will be in a car accident within their first six months driving.

What are the biggest risk factors for car accidents with these drivers?

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Would You Trust a Driverless Car in a Blizzard?

This winter has again brought powerful winter storms to many parts of the U.S. In Connecticut, it’s the shoreline that has felt the worst of winter’s punch – at least so far.

Now imagine yourself in a driverless car in one of these storms.

It’s a fairly easy thing to imagine a driverless car working well on a sunny day and dry roads – easily avoiding hazards and car accidents. Right?

What about when the weather changes?

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Are Cars Really Capable of Driverless Travel?

The last five years have seen a huge jump in efforts to design cars that can drive themselves. From the President recently calling for major investment in this new technology, to universities like Carnegie Mellon and car companies like GM and Tesla all committing substantial resources to the project – some believe driverless cars are just around the corner.

Many auto executive say yes… But are they?

Can vehicles that are truly autonomous be safe?

And if there are flaws in any self-driving technology system – who will bear the liability for car and truck accidents?

Complicated questions to be sure.

While some cars are beginning to drive a bit on their own, most auto experts believe true driverless cars are at least a decade away…

What about the near term?

Soon – cars with increasingly sophisticated guidance systems are expected to be able to follow curving roads, change lanes, stop and start and travel safely through intersections on their own.

What about in more complex driving situations – where weather or traffic congestion are extreme? What then?

Well – most experts believe that for the foreseeable future, all cars will continue to need a degree of human supervision. In fact, the so called “handoff” from computerized navigation to human control may in fact be the trickiest part to design.

Why?

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Driving Risks and the Holidays

Drinking and driving dangers during the holidaysAs great as these days are – there is an unavoidable fact about the period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

It’s the deadliest stretch of time on our nation’s roads.

Why?

You know the answer – more drivers are driving under the influence.

On average, 728 people die or are injured in drunk driving car accidents per day during this season. Per day.

Did you know that daily alcohol violations also rise by more than 30% during this time of the year.

And then there is the sheer volume of traffic and distracted drivers on the roads during the holiday season. Dangerous even without drugs or alcohol.

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