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AP FACT CHECK: Tesla safety claims aren’t quite right

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By TOM KRISHER ,  AP Auto Writer

DETROIT — For years, Tesla has boasted that its cars and SUVs are safer than other vehicles on the roads, and CEO Elon Musk doubled down on the claims in a series of tweets this week.

The electric vehicles are under intense scrutiny from federal investigators, who have been looking into post-crash battery fires and the performance of Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous driving system. On Wednesday, they traveled to Utah to open another inquiry into a Tesla crash — its fourth this year — in which a Model S slammed into a firetruck that was stopped at a red light.

A look at the tweets and Tesla’s past claims about the safety of its vehicles and Autopilot:

MUSK (from his tweets Monday): “According to (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), there was an automotive fatality every 86M miles in 2017 ((tilde)40,000 deaths). Tesla was every 320M miles. It’s not possible to be zero, but probability of fatality is much lower in a Tesla.”

THE FACTS: This is based on a Tesla analysis of U.S. fatal crashes per miles traveled in 2017. The company’s math is correct on the fatality rate involving all of the nation’s 272 million vehicles, about 150,000 of which are Teslas, according to sales estimates from Ward’s Automotive. But Tesla won’t say how many fatalities occurred in its vehicles or how many miles they were driven.

We don’t know of any Tesla fatalities in 2017, but the numbers can vary widely from year to year. There have been at least three already this year and a check of 2016 NHTSA fatal crash data — the most recent year available — shows five deaths in Tesla vehicles.

Statistically, experts say Musk’s tweet analysis isn’t valid. While Teslas could have a lower death rate, it may speak more about the demographics of Tesla drivers than it does about safety of the vehicles, says Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics for the National Safety Council.

Expensive Teslas tend to be driven by middle-age affluent people who are less likely to get in a crash than younger people, Kolosh said. Also, Tesla drivers tend to live in urban areas and travel on roads with lower speeds, where fatality rates are lower, he said.

Musk also is comparing a fleet of older, less-expensive vehicles to his newer and more costly models, Kolosh said. Most Teslas on the road are six years old or less. The average vehicle in the U.S. is 11.6 years old, according to IHS Markit. Older, less-expensive vehicles often aren’t maintained like newer ones and would have more mechanical problems.

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MUSK (from his tweets Monday in reference to the Utah crash): “What’s actually amazing about this accident is that a Model S hit a fire truck at 60 mph and the driver only broke an ankle. An impact at that speed usually results in severe injury or death.”

THE FACTS: It’s true that the driver in the Utah crash sustained minor injuries considering how fast her car was traveling. The same is true for a January freeway crash near Los Angeles in which the driver was not hurt. But not all Tesla crashes end the same way.

In March, the driver of a Tesla Model X was killed in California when his SUV hit a barrier while traveling at “freeway speed.” NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating that case, in which the Autopilot system was engaged. Autopilot was also engaged in the Utah crash, according to a summary of data from the car.

Last week, the NTSB opened a probe into an accident in which a Model S caught fire after crashing into a wall at a high speed in Florida. Two 18-year-olds were trapped in the vehicle and died in the flames. The agency has said it does not expect Autopilot to be a focus of that investigation.

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TESLA (from a March 30 press release): “Over a year ago, our first iteration of Autopilot was found by the U.S. government to reduce crash rates by as much as 40 percent.”

THE FACTS: The government says it did not assess how effective Autopilot is at reducing crashes. It did mention a 40 percent reduction in crash rates after “Autosteer” was installed in Tesla vehicles, based on data provided by Tesla. Autosteer is the part of Autopilot that keeps the car centered in a lane and can change lanes automatically. NHTSA said it did a “cursory” comparison of crash rates between vehicles with and without Autosteer, but it didn’t consider whether drivers were actually using Autosteer, which has to be manually activated.

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TESLA: The company has touted on its website and in press releases that the Model S sedan scored the highest numerical rating of any vehicle in NHTSA’s crash tests, and that the Model X was the first SUV to get a five-star rating in every category.

THE FACTS: It’s true that the Model S and Model X got five-star crash-test ratings from NHTSA, and the Model S did have the highest numerical score of any vehicle. But in more demanding tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Model S failed to get the industry group’s coveted “Top Safety Pick” or “Top Safety Pick Plus” ratings.

The reasons: the Model S got an “Acceptable” rating in a front-end small offset crash test that mimics when the front driver-side corner of a vehicle collides with a tree or another vehicle. Its headlights also were rated “Poor.” Vehicles have to get the highest rating of “Good” in five crash tests to be top safety picks. Fourteen large cars from other manufacturers received Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick Plus ratings. IIHS has not yet done crash tests on Tesla’s Model X or Model 3.

The Model S also had a low rate of medical insurance claims for injuries, tying for seventh in IIHS’s most recent rankings. The institute gave it a score of 46, which is 54 percent better than the average score of 100. The Toyota Camry, the top-selling car in America, scored 112. But the Model S had higher collision claim frequencies and was more expensive to fix than gas-powered large luxury cars.

 

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74 years later, this can still be a truckers best friend

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These days our lives are all about technology.

Heck, look what you are doing right now. You are reading a story from a 32-year old trucking newspaper on your computer or cell phone!

The CB radio was invented in 1945 by Al Gross, the inventor of the walkie-talkie and owner of the Citizens Radio Corporation.  It caught on in the trucking world in the early 1970’s.

Still today in our high tech world, it is nice to see a trucker making use of an older piece of technology to pass a 30′ wide oversize load in Wyoming.

Courtesy: Dooner James LivingStone

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Optronics introduces first custom LED lamps featuring GloLight technology

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The new Optronics lamp’s traditional LED-style lens pattern surrounds the logo graphic in the middle of the lamp. (Courtesy: OPTRONICS INTERNATIONAL)

TULSA, Okla. — Optronics International, a manufacturer and supplier of heavy-duty LED vehicle lighting, said it will be displaying the industry’s first stop, tail, turn lamps with integrated graphics at the North American Commercial Vehicle (NACV) Show in Atlanta October 28-31. The new lamps merge brand identities into the lighting design, juxtaposing a smooth GloLight lens appearance against a more traditional LED pattern, Optronics said.

According to Brett Johnson, president and CEO of Optronics International, GloLight technology allows Optronics to consolidate even complex graphics into the functional operation of the lamps.

The new lamp’s traditional LED-style lens pattern surrounds the logo graphic in the middle of the lamp. The GloLight logo portion of the lamp illuminates when operating in its standard function as a tail lamp, and when the lamp’s turn signal or brake functions are in operation, all portions of the LED lamp brighten.

“This is an industry first and a novel use for our GloLight technology,” Johnson said. “Logos and branding have been widely incorporated into conspicuity tape for decades, so the migration to lighting is a logical one.”

Marketing professionals also recognize that the four-inch round and six-inch oval lighting formats are among the most noticeable features on any vehicle.

“Whether you’re consciously aware of it, if you’re driving behind a commercial vehicle, particularly at night, you’re constantly monitoring its tail lights,” Johnson said.

Optronics employed its 3-D printing capabilities in preparing prototypes for the manufacturers. The company also worked with a number of OEMs during the development of the lamp, including Vanguard National Trailer Corporation and Miller Industries.

The LED lamps offer users a broad level of creative design flexibility for those responsible for a company’s branding, because the GloLight technology can be used in both red and white or a combination of both. Lens striations can also be used to achieve unique and complementary visual effects.

Optronics products are available in the U.S. and Canada through the company’s extensive distribution network of more than 20,000 convenient distribution locations. Users can access individual Optronics distributor websites by simply clicking on their logo icons. For information on international sales and distribution of Optronics products, please contact Dorian Drake at +1 914-697-9800 or visit http://doriandrake.com.

 

 

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NHTSA issues ANPRM on camera monitoring systems as alternative to mirrors

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Last December, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration granted an exemption requested by Stoneridge Inc. allowing its MirrorEye CMS to be installed as an alternative to conventional rear-vision mirrors currently required on commercial motor vehicles in the United States. (Courtesy: STONERIDGE INC.)

WASHINGTON — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that could eventually lead to camera-based rear visibility systems, commonly referred to as camera monitoring systems (CMS) as an alternative to inside and outside rearview mirrors.

The federal motor vehicle safety standard currently requires that vehicles be equipped with rearview mirrors to provide drivers with a view of objects that are to their side or to their side and rear.

In a notice published in the Federal Register Thursday, NHTSA said the ANPRM responds to two rulemaking petitions: one pertaining to light vehicles from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Tesla and one from Daimler Trucks North America relating to heavy vehicles.

The agency said the ANPRM builds on the agency’s prior efforts to obtain supporting technical information, data, and analysis on CMS so that the agency can determine whether these systems can provide the same level of safety as the rearview mirrors currently required under federal regulations.

There is already some development underway in the CMS arena.

Last December, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration granted an exemption requested by Stoneridge Inc., allowing its MirrorEye CMS to be installed as an alternative to conventional rear-vision mirrors. The exemption applies solely to Stoneridge’s MirrorEye system, making it the only CMS that allows for complete removal of traditional mirrors in the United States, Stonebridge said in a news release.

In issuing the ANPRM Thursday, NHTSA acknowledged that part of its responsibility in carrying out its safety mission is not only to develop and set new safety standards for new motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment, but also to modify existing standards, as appropriate, to respond to changing circumstances such as the introduction of new technologies.

“Examples of previous technological transitions that triggered the need to adapt and/or replace requirements in federal safety regulations include the replacing of analog dashboards by digital ones, the replacing of mechanical control systems by electronic ones, and the first production of electric vehicles in appreciable numbers,” the Federal Register notice said.

The agency said it was publishing the ANPRM to gather information and receive feedback to enable the agency to decide whether (and if so, how) to propose amending federal regulations on rear visibility to permit camera-based systems as an alternative compliance option in lieu of outside rearview mirrors or in lieu of all rearview mirrors, both inside and outside ones. Specifically, NHTSA said, it hoped the ANPRM, through the public comment process, will provide the agency with additional safety-related research and data to support a potential future rulemaking on this subject.

NHTSA said it was asking for information based on 21 questions among the following seven categories:

  • Existing industry standards
  • System field of view and related test procedures
  • Image quality and related test procedures
  • Rearview image display type related human factors
  • Side rearview image display locations, driver acclimation and related test procedures
  • Camera durability, reliability and related test procedures
  • System availability when vehicle ignition is off

The ANPRM can be found at https://federalregister.gov/d/2019-22036, and on govinfo.gov

The deadline for public comments is December 9.

To comment online, go to www.regulations.gov, follow the instruction on the site using docket number NHTSA–2018–0021.

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