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Depending on the results of a government probe, General Motors might find an old recall campaign expanding exponentially.
Driving a Ford Explorer Sideways has Never Been So Educational
“First thing I do when I get in my car is turn off the stability control and traction control”.
Many of us have heard someone, at some point, utter this. Or maybe we ourselves are the guilty party. When asked why it was turned it off, the typical response is along the lines of “’cause I’m a real driver,” or, “it gets in the way of driving”.
In recent years, with the plethora of devices and connectivity being incorporated into cars, it would appear the notion of distracted driving is at an all-time high. However, Ford Motor Company has just announced that it has been working on advanced research aimed at minimizing these distractions based on driver workload, keeping motorists safe and focused on the task at hand; driving.
It might be a scary thought to some, but according to Alan Taub, vice president of Global Research and Development at General Motors, the self-driving car is less than a decade away.
Advances in technologies such as sensors, portable communications devices, radars, GPS systems and cameras, collectively make the idea more feasible now than ever before.
During a speech at the Transport Systems World Congress in Orlando, Florida yesterday, Taub declared that, “the technologies [GM is] developing will provide an added convenience by partially or even completely taking over the driving duties. The primary goal, though, is safety. Future generation safety systems will eliminate the crash altogether by interceding on behalf of drivers before they’re even aware of a hazardous situation.”
In fact, some of the technologies Taub talked about can already be found on current GM production vehicles, such as a lane departure warning and crash avoidance system via a front mounted camera which is standard on the 2012 GMC Terrain crossover. A blindspot alert system is also fitted to a number of the General’s SUVs, including the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, Cadillac Escalade, as well as the Buick LaCrosse sedan.
In addition, GM is working on more advanced systems, such as vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure communication setups, where sensors gather information from other vehicles, pedestrians, buildings, obstructions, roadways, even traffic signals to warn drivers of potential hazards ahead, such as slippery road conditions, stalled or crashed vehicles or busy or dangerous intersections. Such systems can be added as apps to portable devices such as smart phones which wirelessly connect to the car, or are embedded in the vehicle itself.
In addition, GM is working on its next generation EN-V urban concept vehicle which combines GPS with vehicle to vehicle communications and distance sensing technology. This latest EN-V is designed to enable fully autonomous driving, incorporating such features as collision avoidance, platooning even automated parking and retrieval.
The idea is that one day, city dwellers will have a personal transportation device that will be able drop off its driver, park itself and then be summoned when needed, simply via a command on the driver’s smart phone.
Do you clench the steering wheel in fear every time a big rig passes you on the highway? Loosen your grip a little bit – a mandate for the installation safety systems, courtesy of The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), may be on the horizon.
Right now, automakers must legally install stability control to all new cars and trucks that are for sale to the public. Unfortunately, there’s no such law for commercial tractor trailer trucks. A study being conducted by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will determine whether to mandate the safety system for all big rigs.
The safety system in question refers to the big rig’s stability control systems, which utilize an array of sensors to detect imbalance and possible rollover. When a risk is detected, the system puts the brakes to an individual wheel (or wheels) until balance is restored. Nathaniel Beuse, NHTSA crash avoidance director, states that mandating standard stability control systems on all semi trucks could prevent 3,500 rollover accidents, 4,400 injuries and 106 deaths each year.
As always, costs play into the equation. It will cost an estimated $1,200 to retrofit existing trucks and $1,000 to install the system on each additional new rig. Research also shows that it makes more sense to install them on some trucks rather than on others.
Take tanker trucks as an example. They account for six percent of all big rigs on the road and 31 percent of all rollover accidents. Since these types of trucks often carry hazardous and explosive materials (propane or gasoline), adding the stability control systems could significantly reduce the loss of life and property.
Trimac Transportation Systems, a trucking company, has already installed the systems in its trucks, and reports its accidents have dropped from an average of 11 per year to only one last year. This suggests that even though it may cost upfront to get these types of systems installed, the money can be recouped in lower insurance claims and lower premiums.