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Effective Tools to Keep Your Teen Safe on the Roads 6
Posted by Darryl in Automotive, Automotive Help, Car Safety, safety, Technical, texting, texting while driving, Vehicle Safety on 02 6th, 2014


According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, teens are four times more likely to crash than adult drivers. Car crashes also are the leading cause of death for those between age 16 and 20, killing more than 5,600 teenagers every year. While there is no fail-proof way to ensure safety on the road, there are ways to keep your teenager aware and accountable while driving. Help your teen focus on safety with these gadgets and resources aimed with distracted drivers in mind.

From One Second to the Next

Real-life consequences from distracted driving may drive the message home for teen drivers. Legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog made the sobering documentary, “From One Second to the Next” in partnership with AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. The film is part of AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign and follows real-life accounts of drivers who text while driving and the serious accidents that ensue. One texting driver killed three kids riding in an Amish buggy, while another disabled a young child who was walking home from school with his sister. The texting drivers, and suffering families, all make pleas to put down your smartphones while driving.

Get a Safe Driving App

Teens are tethered to their friends and peers and want to stay in constant contact. Eliminate the temptation to text and drive while still keeping in touch. An app like Safe Driving Text Machine can automatically send a message of your choice in response to an incoming text. The app can detect driving mode, but also respond to all text messages even if you’re not behind the wheel. Use a text like, “Hi, this is a safe text app I’m using. It’s letting you know I’m driving right now and will text you when it’s safe. See you!”

TextArrest takes safety on the road a step further. It completely disables texting and email on smartphones by sensing when a car is traveling faster than 5 mph. It also can track the movement and location of mobile phones in transit, providing you some peace of mind as your teen heads to and from somewhere.

Get Rewarded for Safe Driving

Set consequences for your teen and his driving behavior. Take away driving privileges and ask him to contribute to the cost of car insurance for each text or distraction. But don’t forget to reward him with good driving behavior with a gas card or extra car time.

An app like DriveScribe also can help you monitor your teen’s driving behavior and establish reward incentives. The app awards points for good driving and can be cashed in for gift cards at participating retailers. Driving behavior is monitored in real-time and can also give auditory alerts when speeding or approaching stop signs. It also is able to auto-respond to incoming texts and records violations for parents to review.

Hyundai’s Blue Link System

Hyundai’s Blue Link interface will call for help after a crash, but also alert parents when their teenagers are distracted behind the wheel. A handy curfew alert feature automatically calls, texts or emails parents if a car is driven after a predetermined time. Parents also can set speed limits for teens and receive messages if their teen breaks that rule. The idea is if your teen knows you’re monitoring his driving behavior, he will engage in less risky behaviors or suffer the consequences. Chapman Hyundai‘s Facebook page recently posted stats about Blue Link’s Info system search, in which your teen can also do everything from remotely starting their engine and honking their horn, to searching for and sending points of interest to the vehicle. Convenience and safety in one package is a nice benefit.

Lead by Example

Remember that kids grow up watching their parents drive. Wrestling with the music controls, digging through the glove box, putting on makeup or snacking with one hand on the wheel are all bad habits teens learn from their parents. If you’ve always been a distracted driver, there’s never been a better time to turn over a new leaf. Tell your teen you want to work on focused driving together and share info about the classes and gadgets you’re learning about for safe driving.

CES 2014: BMW ActiveAssist Takes Safety to new Heights and Can Drift Autonomously 8
Posted by Malcolm Hogan in 2014 BMW M235i, Auto Addiction, Automotive, BMW, BMW M235i, Car Safety, Consumer Electronics Show, Events, News, Technical, Vehicle Safety, video on 01 8th, 2014


The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) always has some new gadgets that catch my eye and it sometimes put it on my wish list considering how the price of the item will come down considerable by time I even think about saving my coins. BMW has trumped the CES show this year with their new ActiveAssist technology enabling the ‘system’ to perform automated drifts.

That is right, your BMW could one day be a virtual Ken Block or just take over driving duties in heavy traffic or stop you in time before you plow into the nearest object in front of you. Sure, these technologies are really nothing new, but BMW has taken them all to a new height to combine an integrated system like no other.

Hit up the full release below for the full details and explanations of each individual system and watch the video on how it can “Assist” your new Bimmer.

1.     Camera-based assistance systems bring enhanced safety into new vehicle classes.
Advances in camera and video technology have allowed visual detection to serve as a basis for modern assistance systems for some time now. For example, series-produced cars are already available with a camera (mounted in the centre of the windscreen in the base of the rear-view mirror) which delivers data for the Lane Departure Warning and traffic sign recognition systems. The Collision Warning system and Pedestrian Warning with city braking function, Traffic Jam Assistant and camera-based Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function work exclusively on the basis of visual detection. They dispense with additional and costly radar technology, but offer similar functions. These safety systems can therefore also be extended to vehicle classes where demand for sophisticated systems has traditionally been low.

Modern camera-based systems have advantages over purely radar-based applications when it comes to recognition of stationary obstacles. A wide camera angle, moreover, enables reliable detection of objects pulling in or out at the edge of the driver’s field of vision. At the same time, however, camera-based systems do require certain light conditions. These systems are already enhancing safety in the innovative BMW i3, for example.

New Parking Assistant with longitudinal and lateral guidance.
The new Parking Assistant with longitudinal and lateral guidance offers customers significantly greater comfort and safety. Not only – as with existing systems – does it use ultrasound sensors to find parking spaces parallel to the road and take over the parking of the car via the electronically controlled steering (lateral guidance); the assistance system now also switches between the forward and reverse gears of the automatic gearbox and allows the car to pull away and brake automatically (longitudinal guidance). These functions are underpinned by an interface to the gearbox and the electronically controlled accelerator and brake pedal. All the driver has to do is hold down the button activating the new assistance system and monitor the automatic parking procedure.

The functions of systems like the new Parking Assistant with longitudinal and lateral guidance and the Traffic Jam Assistant go much further than existing assistance functions designed to ease the strain on drivers at the wheel. With their range of part-automated functions, they already lighten the driver’s workload much more significantly than conventional systems. Highly automated vehicles, meanwhile, can take over more of the driver’s tasks at a given time. All the systems performing these partly automated and highly automated roles are grouped under the BMW ActiveAssist banner and form a new branch of technology within BMW ConnectedDrive.

2.     BMW ActiveAssist and new control systems revolutionize Sheer Driving Pleasure.

The BMW Group uses its ConnectedDrive banner to group together unique and innovative functions which link the driver, vehicle and outside world intelligently with one another. These functions enhance comfort, allow customers to experience a new dimension in infotainment and significantly improve the safety of BMW Group vehicles. To this end, BMW ActiveAssist – the package of partially and highly automated driving technology developed by BMW – will make a significant contribution to bringing the vision of safe and accident-free mobility another step closer to reality. The BMW Group has been conducting research into the various expressions of this idea for many years with this goal in mind. BMW ActiveAssist, as part of BMW ConnectedDrive, pools all the technological developments in this area.

The BMW Group is using the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014 in Las Vegas to present a new element of BMW ActiveAssist: a safety assistance system which brings the vehicle back into line in demanding driving situations without any input from the driver.

Precise and reliable vehicle control at the dynamic limit is a central building block in the development of highly automated driving. Only a system that can safely master all dynamic situations up to the vehicle’s dynamic limit will be able to generate trust and provide sustained and secure relief for the driver in tiring situations. The experts at BMW Group Research and Technology have built a research prototype with perfected control technology in pursuit of this goal. The prototype can pilot its way at high speeds and with exceptional precision on a slalom run between cones, adheres to a marked out circular course regardless of the friction coefficient of the road surface, and executes an obstacle-evading lane change to perfection. It makes optimum use of the potential of both engine and chassis. Even when deliberately provoked into oversteer – the clearest way of highlighting a vehicle’s dynamic limit – the highly automated prototype follows its path safely and along almost identical lines time after time.

While the control systems fitted to today’s vehicles restore stability by braking individual wheels, this new function introduces active and precisely calculated steering inputs into the mix. The research prototype reacts to fluctuating grip levels – the kind experienced in sudden hydroplaning – with the precision of an expert driver. The car continues along the predetermined target line, but does not attempt to maintain a preset speed under all circumstances. Instead, it constantly factors in the condition of the road surface and responds intelligently as required. The sensors delivering the necessary information are the same as those fitted as standard on today’s vehicles and also send data to the DSC system, for example. Understeer – where the car turns less than the driver intended – is dialled out by opening the steering. And a sliding rear end (oversteer) is caught using a carefully gauged combination of countersteering and brake inputs. The programmable electronic steering required to make this possible carries out carefully targeted, rapid and flawless adjustments, and is fitted as standard on all current BMW cars. The prototype illustrates the BMW Group’s aspiration to offer its customers a highly automated driving experience exuding emotional appeal – even at the car’s dynamic limit.

Many years of experience in vehicle automation.
With BMW ActiveAssist, the BMW Group is once again leading the way worldwide in the implementation of safety-enhancing and highly automated systems. Back in October 2009 the BMW Group rolled out its BMW Track Trainer research project to showcase highly automated driving on the ideal line around the Nürburgring-Nordschleife, the world’s most demanding race track. Developed by engineers at BMW Group Research and Technology, the BMW Track Trainer later demonstrated its effectiveness on the Laguna Seca, Zandvoort, Valencia, Hockenheimring and Lausitzring circuits. Here the research engineers collected important practical experience regarding vehicle control and position location in extreme conditions. The BMW Emergency Stop Assistant research project added further important insights to the knowledge pool. If the driver is incapacitated – e.g. by a medical emergency such as a heart attack – this function can switch the vehicle into highly automated driving mode, steer it safely to the side of the road and automatically activate an emergency call.

These developments paved the way in 2011 for a test vehicle to drive on a multilane highway in highly automated mode. The research prototype covered 65 kilometres (40 miles) between Munich and Nuremberg, accelerating, braking and overtaking other cars along the way without any driver intervention. It did so while observing the traffic laws at all times and kept pace with the traffic at speeds of up to 130 km/h (81 mph). The prototype has since covered approximately 15,000 kilometres (9,300 miles), over which the development engineers have gained important insights into the behaviour and response strategies of their highly automated vehicles.

The starting point for the development of this driving strategy is the secure location of the vehicle within its lane and, above all, the reliable recognition of all vehicles and objects in the immediate vicinity. A key role is played by the fusion of data from various mutually complementary sensor technologies – such as lidar, radar, ultrasound and camera detection – fitted on all the test vehicles. Despite this 360° detection capability, there is little on the outside to tell the vehicle apart from a series-produced model.
The next step in the development of highly automated driving functions came in June 2013. The research vehicles not only made highly automated progress along the highway, they also completed complex changeovers from one highway to another at intersections fully automatically.

Highly automated driving in a 2015 fleet trial.
Since February 2013 the BMW Group and international automotive supplier Continental have been working together to take the next concrete steps towards the implementation of highly automated driving functions. This research partnership will run until the end of 2014 and involve the introduction of several test vehicles with close-to-production technology. The BMW Group’s next major goal as part of this cooperation is to introduce highly automated driving on European highways and tackle the challenges that this will bring – such as crossing national borders and negotiating road construction.

BMW conducted fleet trials as part of its research activities into electric mobility, collecting valuable experience with the MINI E and BMW ActiveE. These trials produced important pointers for the ongoing development of electric mobility, and the new BMW i3 is the first model to benefit from these findings. This successful testing principle will also underpin a fleet trial for highly automated driving in 2015, which will see the BMW Group once again assume a leading role in the development of highly automated driving functions. By 2020, the technical foundations should be in place for a highway-based system that will allow highly automated driving in series-produced vehicles.

3.     Samsung Galaxy Gear with BMW i Remote App functions.

The BMW i3 – with its integrated SIM card – is the world’s first fully connected electrically powered car; in no other model will you find such a high level of interaction between the driver, vehicle and outside world. The presentation of the BMW i3 brought with it the debut appearance of the BMW i Remote App, which allows drivers to share information with the vehicle at any time via their smartphone. They can check whether the windows are shut, for example, or lock the car remotely. And now BMW is using the CES to present a new research prototype – the Samsung Galaxy Gear™ with BMW i Remote App functions.

The arrival of smartphones has changed our everyday lives for the long term, with internet and digital services now something we take for granted. Wearable devices like the Samsung Galaxy Gear can further boost this trend and fundamentally change the way we use mobile devices all over again. The Galaxy Gear is worn on the wrist and cleverly complements the linked smartphone. Users can view important information on the Gear without having to take their smartphone out of their pocket, unlock a screen or enter a code.

The BMW i Remote App research application developed by BMW greets the Samsung Galaxy Gear user’s first glance with not just the time, but also the BMW i3’s range on electric power, battery charge available and any inputted departure times. Using the Galaxy Gear’s touch display to click on the figures sent by the application opens a sub-menu containing more detailed information, which is presented in the hallmark classy colours and style of BMW i. Another sub-menu informs the user of the vehicle’s current status, such as if any of the doors, windows or the sunroof are open – data which is also offered by the BMW i Remote App. The research application additionally enables users to send navigation destinations to their vehicle and to regulate the climate on board – all of which provides a fine complement to the Gear’s ability to deliver information quickly, directly and in real time.

The Samsung Galaxy Gear with BMW i Remote App functions research prototype represents an excellent smartphone add-on for linking customers seamlessly with their BMW mobility ecosystem. At the same time, the application is proof of how quickly BMW ConnectedDrive can and will react to the rapid pace of innovation in the entertainment and infotainment sectors through the introduction of clever solutions.

4.     New assistance systems enhance comfort and safety.

The BMW Group has taken advantage of advances in camera technology to develop a generation of assistance systems based exclusively on vision-based sensing. These systems use information acquired by a mono camera mounted in the base of the rear-view mirror. Such data has long been used by systems like Speed Limit Info, which combines camera and navigation data to keep the driver informed at all times about fixed and variable speed limits. Camera-based applications offer similar functionality to radar-based technology, but are better at detecting stationary obstacles. Although they have certain requirements in terms of light conditions, such systems have a wide vision angle which makes it possible to detect vehicles that are pulling out or cutting in in front of the driver’s vehicle, even if they are right at the edges of the driver’s field of vision. Camera-based systems can therefore help to improve safety in market segments where there has previously been no demand for expensive radar-based applications. The camera-based systems Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, Collision Warning and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function, and Traffic Jam Assist are all already available in the innovative BMW i3 in many markets.

The new Parking Assistant, meanwhile, is based on ultrasound sensors. The system can provide both lateral control – i.e. steering – and longitudinal control, comprising braking, acceleration and switching between forward and reverse gears. The system sets new benchmarks in the field of automated parallel parking technology.

Collision Warning and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function.
The new BMW assistance system Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function significantly improves pedestrian safety in urban environments. The movement patterns of pedestrians in urban traffic environments vary greatly, with frequent sudden stops or changes in direction. Monitoring pedestrians’ movements therefore poses a considerably greater challenge for assistance systems than monitoring preceding vehicles.

Collision Warning and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function operate in the typical city speed range between 10 and 60 km/h (6 and 37 mph). If the system detects a pedestrian or a stationary vehicle, it emits an audible and visible signal to warn the driver, and primes the brakes. If the driver fails to react by stepping on the brake or by steering away from the hazard, the system acts autonomously to reduce vehicle speed. This will ideally prevent, or at least mitigate the severity of, a collision with a pedestrian or vehicle. With the mono camera, Collision Warning and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function use the same proven basic technology as other assistance systems such as Lane Departure Warning.

Camera-based Cruise Control with Stop & Go function.
The camera-based Cruise Control with Stop & Go function eliminates the need for drivers to constantly make minor corrections to their following distance and speed when driving in heavy traffic on highways, on dual carriageways and, especially, in urban environments. With its ability to detect vehicles up to a distance of 120 metres (nearly 400 feet) ahead, the cruise control system is able to respond proactively. Operating at speeds between 0 and 140 km/h (87 mph), it maintains a preselected speed and a preselected following distance from traffic in front. These functions – including brief stops – are performed via the electronic engine and braking control systems. The system can also reliably detect if another vehicle has come to a sudden stop.

In free-flowing traffic, automatic deceleration by the camera-based Cruise Control with Stop & Go function is confined to gentle braking. If the situation demands more vigorous braking, the system issues visual and audible warnings to prompt the driver himself to intervene.

In comparison, in heavy, stop-go traffic, the automatic deceleration also includes more vigorous braking, for maximum driver comfort. This ensures that system functionality is matched to the special demands of such situations with their constant fluctuations in speed.

The system settings chosen by the driver are displayed in the instrument cluster, and can be quickly scanned at a glance. Drivers can intervene in the operation of the camera-based Cruise Control with Stop & Go function at any time, and remain responsible for the safe control of the vehicle at all times.

Traffic Jam Assistant
The Traffic Jam Assistant operates at speeds from 0 to 40 km/h (25 mph) and offers optimal support in dense highway traffic. Just like the camera-based Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, this system – which does not deactivate after a brief stop – maintains a given following distance and relative speed to traffic in front. Along with longitudinal control, the Traffic Jam Assistant also provides lateral control. That is to say, it steers the car as well, via the electronic steering system, keeping the vehicle precisely in its lane and providing an exceptional level of driver comfort.

The Traffic Jam Assistant only functions in conjunction with the camera-based Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, which operates over a speed range from 0 to 140 km/h (87 mph). The two systems, which are finely dovetailed, support the driver all the way from standstill up to speeds of 140 km/h (87 mph). The Traffic Jam Assistant, too, is a solely vision-based system, which uses data supplied by the mono camera on the front windscreen.

The Traffic Jam Assistant begins operating when a preceding vehicle is detected. A further requirement is a pair of lane markings to allow the vehicle to identify its own traffic lane. Once the system has been activated, the Traffic Jam Assistant begins functioning any time the vehicle slows to a speed within the system’s operating range, for example due to road congestion. Once the traffic has cleared, the driver must first authorize higher speeds either by operating the accelerator or by pressing the RES button on the multifunction steering wheel, which hands over control to the camera-based Cruise Control with Stop & Go function.

Although drivers must keep their hands on the steering wheel even when the Traffic Jam Assistant is in operation, they are nevertheless free, in these relatively non-challenging situations, to devote their attention to monitoring and navigating the traffic around them. In situations where the requirements for safe operation of the Traffic Jam Assistant are not met – for example when negotiating narrow lanes through construction, or if the driver does not have his hands on the steering wheel – the Assistant prompts the driver to take over control again.

The Traffic Jam Assistant is designed to improve driver comfort and convenience on freeways. It can only be specified in conjunction with a Business or Professional navigation system, which is required in order to identify this category of road. The Traffic Jam Assistant is not available in the US market.

BMW Parking Assistant with longitudinal and lateral guidance.
The new BMW Parking Assistant with longitudinal and lateral guidance improves parking comfort and safety. As a first step, it assists the driver in the search for suitable parallel parking spaces using ultrasound sensors located on the left and right-hand sides of the vehicle. When a suitable space has been found and the parking manoeuvre has been activated, the system then steers the vehicle impeccably into the space. During this manoeuvre, the system is guided by the same parking sensors used by the static PDC system. The steering function (lateral guidance function) is also supplemented by a new longitudinal guidance function. This function offers unprecedented standards of automated longitudinal control. It switches between forward and reverse gear via an interface with the automatic transmission, and brakes or accelerates via the electronically controlled accelerator and brake pedal. All the driver needs to do is to press and hold the parking button on the center console, while at the same time continuously monitoring the manoeuvre. Even if the parking manoeuvre has to be interrupted – for example because pedestrians are crossing the vehicle’s path, or due to manual intervention in the steering or braking – it can easily be resumed at any time.

The new Parking Assistant eases pressure on the driver even in particularly difficult parking situations, the assistance beginning even before the driver presses the button to confirm that he wants to park. When the car is travelling at speeds below 35 km/h (22 mph), the Parking Assistant continuously measures possible parallel parking spaces, both to the left and to the right of the vehicle’s current lane. These are immediately displayed when the parking button is pressed. The system even shows parking spaces which are no more than 55 centimetres (about 22 inches) longer than the vehicle itself. Once the driver has stopped and activated the turn signal to show the system which side of the car the desired space is on, they can then concentrate fully on monitoring the parking manoeuvre, which the system performs automatically and precisely. Once the vehicle reaches its final parking position, the Assistant shifts the automatic transmission to position “P”.

All parking information, including the images supplied by the rear-view camera, can be scanned at a glance in the central Control Display, which offers the driver an optimal overview at all times.

BMW ActiveAssist – for highest levels of stress relief.
Both the Parking Assistant with lateral and longitudinal guidance and the Traffic Jam Assistant offer significantly more extensive functionality than other assistance systems of their kind available today. They provide partial automation and offer far greater assistance in the performance of driving tasks than was ever possible before. Such systems differ, however, from what are known as “highly automated” systems. The latter are capable of relieving the driver of all driving tasks for limited periods. At BMW such technologies, which feature a very high level of automation that provides a significant further boost to comfort and safety, are being developed under the umbrella of BMW ActiveAssist.

Regardless Of Cost, NTSB Wants To Mandate Advanced Safety Systems 16
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, Kurt, News, Vehicle Safety on 11 16th, 2012

Ford’s collision warning system – image: Ford Motor Company

Modern luxury automobiles can be equipped with an impressive array of systems designed to not only keep you safe in a crash, but prevent one altogether. Features like adaptive cruise control, which ties you vehicle speed to the car in front of you (after establishing a safe following distance); lane departure correction, which steers you gently back into the center of the lane should you errantly drift over a painted line; and collision intervention, which applies the brakes when a pending collision is detected, even if the driver is unaware, are now available on most mid-to-high range automobiles.

We say “available,” since such safety features often come bundled into expensive “Technology” of “Safety” packages. According to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM), such features add as much as $3,500 to the cost of a new car. Despite this, The Detroit News (via Left Lane News) says that the NTSB wants to see advanced safety features made mandatory on new cars.

While there’s no doubt that the technology would keep inattentive drivers safer, those of us who pay attention behind the wheel would also be forced to absorb the higher price of new cars, with little to no tangible benefit. Sure, the cost to implement such systems is likely to drop over time, but the real question is how much and how soon?

The good news is that the NTSB can’t require automakers to change the way enhanced safety systems are offered on its own. That takes NHTSA and DOT involvement, and there’s no indication that these agencies are in agreement with the NTSB’s recommendations. Even if they were, the soonest manufacturers would be required to act on a ruling would be 2017, meaning that those of not needing advanced safety systems still have four or five years left to shop for a new car.

Volvo To Roll Out Three New Safety Systems: Videos 10
Posted by Darryl in Automotive, News, Technical, Vehicle Safety, video, VOLVO on 07 10th, 2012

Let’s face the fact that it is only a matter of time before we are sold cars that drive themselves. Basically, you will no longer think that the movie iRobot or even Knight Rider was far-fetched. Volvo, who naturally tends to be at the forefront of automotive safety, is set to roll out three new innovative safety systems.

The first new safety feature, a semi-autonomous driving system, will use camera and radar sensors to follow the vehicle ahead automatically controlling acceleration, braking and steering at low speeds. Think of this as the ‘new cruise control’.

The next system to come out of the Swedish automaker is an Intersection Support system, which will automatically brake when a collision could occur at an intersection. Volvo describes it as a situation “When the light turns green, one car after another turns left. Suddenly an oncoming car drives through the red light – and creates an immediate danger. In this situation, the turning car automatically brakes to avoid a collision.”

The last safety feature Volvo plans to introduce is an animal detection system to help prevent collisions with wild animals such as deer and elk. The system is based off of Volvo’s current pedestrian protection technology where it will automatically brake the vehicle when an impact with an animal may occur.

With technology literally taking a driver’s seat in today’s automobiles, pretty soon we may be able to text and ‘ride’ while behind the wheel. Of course we hope things don’t get to this point… God forbid if a microchip burns out and the driver has to react and take over the driving function to avoid a deadly crash. Hit up the videos from Volvo below for demonstrations of the three new safety systems.

[sources: Volvo via WorldCarFans]

Will Tire Tread Scanners Keep Roads Safer? 30
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, Kurt, Police, Technical, Tires, Vehicle Safety on 09 30th, 2011

A few months back, Malcolm and I were headed north on I-95 after a Southern Automotive Media Association meeting in Miami. We were driving at around 75 miles per hour, in a steady rain and moderate traffic, when the minivan next to us spun.

The whole thing happened too fast to be puckering; one minute, the van was alongside us, and the next the driver was looking out his windshield at the side of my car. No one was hurt, and the van suffered only minor damage. Traffic was slowing ahead, and the minivan driver most likely tapped his brakes. What caused the spin? My guess is bald tires on a wet road.

Years ago, most states required annual vehicle inspections to certify that cars were safe to drive. Thanks to apathy, budget cuts or the idea that requiring repairs would put an “unfair financial burden” on drivers with limited income, annual inspections have largely been eliminated. The result is that many cars on the road today aren’t safe at 35 miles per hour, let alone double or triple that. Scope the tires of cars in a shopping mall parking lot, and you’ll see what I mean.

Motor Authority and AutoExpress report that a German company, ProContour, has developed a tire scanner, designed to spot unsafe tire tread depth. The scanner uses a series of high speed cameras and lasers to record and measure tread depth, at speeds up to 75 miles per hour. Tires that show wear to 1.6 millimeters, over the central 75 percent of the tread, would trigger an alarm at a nearby police checkpoint. Drivers would then be stopped and issued warnings or fines.

There’s no plans yet to implement them on this side of the pond, but officials in the U.K are currently debating the benefits and drawbacks of installing the $67,000 scanners. While the scanners have the potential of increasing road safety, they also have the ability to generate revenue for local governments. As with speed cameras, we suspect the technology will be more about money than about safety.

IIHS Lists The Deadliest (And Safest) Cars On The Road 10
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, IIHS, Kurt, News, Vehicle Safety on 06 10th, 2011

A 2007 Nissan 350Z. Image: Nissan Motors

Nothing whips the public into a frothy lather quite like a paranoia-inducing report on the safety of their vehicles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has just released their latest study, and if the media frenzy is to be believed, owners of Nissan 350Zs are just body bags waiting to be filled. On the other end of the spectrum is the Audi A6 quattro sedan, which (apparently) could survive a direct hit from a cruise missile, at least according to the press. Like anything else, there are two sides to every story, and the safest vehicles may not be what you expect.

First, I’ll give you the 2005-2008 model year cars with the highest death rates. The top five are the Nissan 350Z, the Nissan Titan pickup, the Chevrolet Aveo, the Chevrolet Cobalt and the Nissan Titan extended cab. What do many of these five (the Aveo, the Cobalt and the 350Z) have in common? They’re likely to be driven by young, inexperienced drivers. None of them (in base model trim) came with stability control, meaning that driver skill was the only thing that would save your bacon in the event of a crash. What do new drivers, or drivers unaccustomed to front-engine, rear-drive cars like the 350Z lack? Skills, such as vehicle control and respect for the limits of their own abilities..

My own MX-5 made the “deadliest cars” list, coming in at number 14. Does this concern me? Not at all, because I’m intimately familiar with the handling limits of the car. To me, safety isn’t about mass or about electronic systems that save your ass; instead, safety is about situational awareness and about knowing how to control your car under adverse conditions. That takes training and it takes experience, something I’ve been lucky enough to rack up over the years.

If you believe the IIHS report, the 2005-2008Audi A6 quattro, the Mercedes E –Class AWD, the Toyota Sienna, the Ford Edge and the Nissan Armada are the five safest vehicles. Statistically, I’d argue that all of these vehicles are driven by more mature drivers, likely in a more conservative manner. They’re also quite a bit more expensive than the cars on the “deadliest” list, which puts them out of reach for most drivers. Does that mean those of us not living on a trust fund or family inheritance are simply cannon fodder, waiting to become a statistic on the next IIHS fatality report?

Hardly, and here’s my advice to you: it doesn’t matter what you drive, it matters how you drive it. Be aware of what’s happening around you, always have an escape route and take whatever track days or advanced driver training you can. Just like guns, cars are inanimate machines that don’t kill people; lack of training or overconfidence in your ability, on the other hand, will get you killed – no matter what you drive.

Source: Automotive News