safety

safety

On August 31st, the sun spewed a massive coronal mass ejection (CME) that dwarfed the Earth and on September 3rd, it came close enough to Earth to connect with our magnetosphere and cause an Aurora to appear. So what in the world does this have to do with cars? Well, let’s have a look.

In 1859, a huge CME – the last one since, by the way – caused a geomagnetic storm that then caused telegraph systems to fail, shock their operators, and even work while unplugged. Fortunately in those days, they didn’t rely on all of the high-tech things that we do.

Autonomous cars are all the rage lately, as we continue to cover the advances that Google and Cadillac are making in this area. Autonomous cars actually use one of the technologies that Mike Hapgood, a pace weather scientist near Oxford England, says will be hugely affected by a geomagnetic storm of large proportion – GPS.

Imagine if a moderate portion of the cars on the road are using autonomous technology using GPS in some way, like the Google car. People by nature become complacent and comfortable, therefore leading to many of these drivers not paying attention to the road, but instead playing video games, reading the paper, or eating lunch.

If a CME-caused geomagnetic storm should take place and knock out GPS satellites, imagine the massive traffic it would cause, at best. Even worse, it could result in major accidents, should these cars veer off of the road and out of control. That’s a scary possibility that this recent solar flare close call should bring to the forefront. The engineers must devise a backup plan that overrides the GPS part of autonomous driving, should the signal be lost.

This additional engineering process may ultimately delay the public release of these automated cars. If this simply goes by the wayside without any safety measure, besides human intervention, it could cause a serious issue.

Just a little food for thought...

Click past the jump to see two videos of the CME.

This weekend at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, a unique pink Chevrolet Camaro SS will serve as the official pace car for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500. While the race itself will be something worth paying attention to, the pink Camaro pace car also holds a story unto itself, not because of its color, but because of what that color represents.

See, the car has been dressed in a two-tone pink and white color scene, which is similar to last year’s pink pace car , a clear and distinct nod to Chevrolet’s support of the American Cancer Society and the latter’s "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" initiative.

“For our 100th birthday in 2011, Chevrolet began its support of the American Cancer Society, and the generous response from our dealers, employees and customers told us we needed to help the Society fight for more birthdays,” said Don Johnson, vice president of Chevrolet Sales and Service.

“At Chevy, we believe everyday heroes can accomplish extraordinary things, and it is in this spirit that we work to achieve a world without breast cancer.”

As part of Chevrolet’s efforts this weekend, the automaker has promised to pledge $200 for every lap the Camaro SS "Breast Cancer Fight" Pace Car leads under the caution flag. A year ago, a similar set-up was arranged by Chevrolet, and when the race ran under 64 caution laps, the BowTie happily sent $12,800 in donations to the American Cancer Society.

“Last year, contributions of more than $900,000 supported the American Cancer Society’s mission to save lives by helping people stay well and get well, by finding cures and by fighting back against this disease,” said Roshini George, national vice president of health promotions for the American Cancer Society.

"As we approach National Breast Cancer Awareness month in October, we want thank the Chevrolet family for its support and remind everyone to take the steps that make a difference in our fight against breast cancer.”

Safety cars are usually reserved for BMW and Mercedes models with added sprinkles of muscle cars here and there. But now, Lexus is joining the fray with introduction of the GS 350 F Sport Safety Car .

Set to make its inaugural duties at the Muscle Car Masters at Sydney Motorsport Park, the GS 350 F Sport Safety Car will, from here on out, serve as the series’ official safety car. To serve in its new official capacity, the GS 350 Sport Safety Car was fitted with all standard equipment befitting its function. The exclusive exterior styling of the car comes with all the decals and an aggressive new body kit. Likewise, the interior was touched up with the same attention to its purpose. Then, the car was also fitted the Lexus Dynamic Handling System (LDHS), a system that features Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS) and Adaptive variable Suspension (AVS).

Under its hood, the GS 350 F Sport Safety Car gets a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 317 horsepower, generating a 0-62 mph time of just six seconds with an estimated top speed of 142 mph.

There are three types of accidents in the world of car racing: expected, freak, and “how in the [insert favorite expletive] did that happen?” Well, an accident involving an AMG racecar, air line, and four Mercedes DTM crew members falls into the latter of those three categories.

This is a clear example of a pit crew simply not following the most basic of pit rules: clean your crap off of pit lane after you’re done and secure your air hose properly until you are ready to use it. After a fairly quick pit stop by the AMG coupe during practice at Zandvoort on Friday, the coupe speeds away. The crew directly in front of the car apparently left their air hose dangling over the track in anticipation of a pit stop of their own and the car’s rear spoiler caught the hose.

Well, the hose turns into a massive bull whip with a crack that would make Indiana Jones feel inadequate. As it whips around, it catches four crew members and drops three to the tarmac. Luckily, no one was seriously injured, as Mercedes has released a statement that three of the four were released from the hospital and are back on the job, but one remains in the hospital with serious, but not life threatening, injuries.

From the 1:10 mark to the 1:15 mark, you can see the accident in slow motion and you can really get a look at how lazily wrapped the air hose is. The hose that the Mercedes hit was hanging halfway down, whereas the rest of the hoses in pit lane are tightly wrapped and well above the top of the spoiler.

We’re sure this team is in for a quick and harsh lesson on pit-lane maintenance and organization. Then again, getting bull whipped by an air hose may be lesson enough.

Source: AutoSport
Fisker Karma

The second Fisker fire fiasco has officially come to a close and the investigation turned up pretty much what we all expected: the batteries were not at fault. As we stated in our initial report, the fire was near the front of the vehicle, so failed batteries would have been a rather unlikely cause.

After a full investigation by Fisker’s engineers and an “independent fire expert” from Pacific Rim Investigative Services, it was discovered that the fire source was a faulty low-temperature cooling fan. In a fit of customer service, Fisker has decided to recall all affected Karma units.

In a press release regarding the findings, Fisker makes sure that everyone knows it’s not responsible by passing the blame torch to the fan manufacturer, calling it the “responsible supplier.” While that is technically a true statement, there is really no need to openly pass that blame. In all reality, your company installed the fan and performed the obligatory testing on it.

Surprisingly, the most directly affected person – the owner of the Fisker flambe – had the following to say: “I have been incredibly impressed with the way Fisker has handled this incident. I have personally started seven technology companies and know from direct experience that the US needs more innovative companies of this type, especially in the automobile sector. Fisker is a great company and one that I am personally planning to invest in. I look forward to getting behind the wheel of my next Fisker.”

Good for the customer for being so forgiving, but we would be hard pressed to get behind the wheel of a Fisker until there is plenty testing done without any incidents of fire.

We’re glad to see this fiasco come to an end and we truly hope that this is the last of Fisker’s issues, as we want to see this alternative fuel technology succeed and this success depends on the success or failure of both Tesla and Fisker.

Click past the jump to read Fisker’s full presser.

NHRA Top Fuel racers are a special breed. They essentially strap some of the most powerful engines in the world to the end of a metal rod and clear a quarter-mile track in less than 4 seconds. They do all of this out in the open air, as NHRA regulations prohibited the use of canopies since they pose the risk of giving a competitive edge.

For about four years, Don Schumacher Racing has been working on a canopy designed to help prevent the issue of flying debris striking a driver at 300 mph. Last year, Tony Schumacher ran in preseason testing with said canopy and the NHRA took notice.

After a series of test runs, the findings were that the advantages gained from the more aerodynamic cockpit were nearly non-existent. This all leads to today when the NHRA has finally green lighted its drivers to start using these new cockpits. However, there is a stipulation, as any driver using an enclosed cockpit must put a 3/4-inch wicker bill on the downstream end of the cockpit to offset the aero advantage.

The canopy will makes its in-season debut this weekend in the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, covering the head of none other than the spearhead of this program, Tony Schumacher’s No. 5 U.S. Army dragster

This is definitely a good jump toward making drag racing, top fuel in particular, a much safer sport for its drivers and we can see nearly every team changing over to this format in the near future.

The old term “They sure don’t build ’em like they used to” should always be followed up with a “Good,” because modern cars perform better in crash tests than any of the land yachts of the 1970s. Yeah, these cars may be smaller and lighter than those of yesteryear, but advancements in crumple zones and energy transfer over the decades has made them into very protective shells that crumple into piles of tin for the sake of protecting their passengers.

Unfortunately, all of this technology is not without its flaws, which the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is now pointing out. The IIHS has developed a new test to mimic the cause of nearly a quarter of all front-end collision deaths, which is called the “small overlap” test. This is when only a small portion of the front bumper impacts another vehicle or an object.

You may be surprised to hear about who’s failing this important new test. Among those tested to receive the IIHS’ worst rating, “Poor,” was the Mercedes Benz C-Class , Lexus IS and ES , and the Audi A4 . Receiving a score of “Marginal,” which is just above poor, is the Acura TSX , BMW 3-Series , Lincoln MKZ , and Volkswagen CC .

Click past the jump for the rest of the results, as well as an obnoxious statement by one top automaker in regards to the testing process.

Back in May, a Fisker Karma was parked in an owner’s garage when it suddenly burst into flames. That specific case was basically written off by investigators as a battery failure, being described as looking like a golf cart fire. This latest Fisker BBQ is a little different than the previous one, as the flames are in an area away from the batteries.

Fisker has released two statements in regards to this issue and essentially says: “we know of the fire,” “fires happen in cars,” and “we are looking into it, so calm down” in so many words. The second one summarizes as "we doubt it was the battery, as the fire was in the front," "the fire source was from outside of the engine compartment," and "we’re looking into it (again)." Fisker also states that it will release another statement once the investigation is complete and the final cause of the fire is determined.

Fisker is really doing everything it can to keep people from thinking that this fire has anything to do with its battery packs. One of the more likely causes to the lack of EV sales these days is the public fear of electrical shorts in these high-voltage machines and the related fires.

We’ll keep you updated on this one and let you know all of the latest news. Check out the above video to see the flaming Fisker being put out.

Click past the jump to read Fisker’s two press releases.

Autonomous driving is on the tips of all of our tongues at any given moment, as it is the most likely “next generation” step in the automotive world. One of the key components of perfecting automated driving is the introduction of car-to-car-to-object communication – communication between cars and traffic-control devices. Think of it as a Facebook for the automotive world. Every car needs to update its status and plans to all of the other cars and the traffic controls “in its network” (in the area), so that they know how to plan accordingly.

Sure automated driving works okay via a series of sensors, but that only allows so much. This social networking allows car to plan routes, avoid traffic, avoid accidents, and so forth, ahead of time. Germany has taking the driver’s seat in this matter, by introducing the Safe Intelligent Mobility – Testfield Germany (sim TD) - which allows controlled testing of these communication systems. Mercedes-Benz is one maker that will provide Germany with cars for this testing program and has now chosen to do some of its own car-to-car-to-object testing at its own facility in Palo Alto, California. During its infancy, this system will utilize the network of cars to sense a line of stopped cars over the peak of a hill or around a blind turn, helping prevent a rear-end collision because the driver and automated sensing devices couldn’t see the stopped cars.

In the long run, this system may end up being the basis that automated driving on a regular basis spawns from. Using sensors alone to eliminate the driver’s need to control a car is pretty dangerous, as the sensors can only see what the human eye can see. This automotive network, on the other hand, allows the car to see things well in advance, making automated driving the safest driving method. That sounds like a good plan to us.

We’ll keep you updates as testing continues.

Anyone that has seen Super Troopers can appreciate the fact that some cops do play pranks on one another. As a friend of many law enforcement folk, I can attest to the fact that it does happen and its usually benign. Things like the cat prank are awesome and completely innocent, though no officer would ever actually do it, as it undermines his authority.

Alright, meow, enter in several boneheads from Florida and you have a complete and utter failure of a prank. It’s not that the prank itself was not a success, but rather the fact that said prank could have killed many people if it had gone awry.

These two officers we’re talking about meow decided it would be funny to go speeding through a construction zone at 90 mph and get a fellow officer to chase them. After a little while the car stops in the middle of the road, with the chasing officer still unaware of the “prank,” and the driver hops out as if he is about to run.

The pursuing officer, Christina Fowler, draws her gun, then the driver finally identifies himself as fellow officer, Marc Thompson, just before bursting into a fit of ridiculous laughter. In the speed car were two other officers, a sergeant and another beat officer. For this “prank,” Thompson and the sergeant were terminated and the officer in the rear got a one-day vacation without pay.

The firings are being contested by the union, but in our opinion, these guys got what they deserved. Imaging if a worker was late getting off his shift at the construction site and was hit by Thompson’s car. That prank wouldn’t be so funny then...

What would have really made us laugh is if Fowler would have very business-like just written Thompson a ticket, or better yet, taken him straight to jail for his idiotic idea of a joke. Check out the above video to see the idiocy unfold.

MEOW!


Back to top