safety

safety

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!

Ford Escape

In the past, Ford has had some serious issues with its cars and fire. Two that stick firmly in our minds are the Pinto, which Ford famously weighed out the cost of recall vs. the cost of paying wrongful death suits, and the spontaneous combustion of the second generation Taurus . So when we learned that the newly redesigned Escape had a potential fire issue, we expected swift and proactive action from Ford.

We certainly got that, but we never expected it to be to the extent that it has become. Reports have emerged that Ford is actually paying dealerships a $300 spiff to repair each and every recalled Escape , which is about 11,500 vehicles. Even our basic mathematical skills can sort out that we are talking about $3,450,000 worth of spiff payments, which does not include the cost to repair the issue.

We are curious to find out if the dealers are passing this spiff onto the service writers and technicians that are repairing the vehicles or hoarding this payment for themselves. We are willing to bet that it is the latter, as the technicians and service writers make commission off of the recall repairs and dealers rarely share spiffs any more.

In addition to this extra bonus, Ford is also recommending that dealerships wash and vacuum the SUV, and fill the gas tank. Talk about going over the top...

It is rather obvious that Ford wants this issue gone and it wants it gone as quickly and effectively as possible. Hats off to Ford for taking this sort of approach with this extremely dangerous recall.

Racing is all about speed. The faster you go, the better the chances of winning the race. It can be a matter of milliseconds separating you from a win or a loss, or a matter of milliseconds in your response time to avoid a tragedy. This quick driving and quick response times can easily be lost on the spectator because some of the most amazing parts of a race - you know, those moments that make history - can be missed in the blink of an eye.

That all changes for the next 16 minutes of your life. Another Racing In Slow Motion video - part four - has been released and will help you see those moments that may have been lost during a real race.

Sit back and enjoy 16 minutes of pure racing footage. Don’t forget to turn up the volume to enjoy that amazing racing sound!

Jeep Grand Cherokee

The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee has been in the spotlight lately, with Teknikens Värld claiming that the vehicle failed their Moose test (or Elk test) miserably. Chrysler called "bullshit" on that claim, but it’s not going to be so easy convincing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that their latest safety concerns are bogus.

The NHTSA is investigating the SUV because of two complaints they received from Grand Cherokee customers. Apparently, there have been some under-hood fires that have caused the destruction of both vehicles. The sources of the fires are unknown at this point, but one customers stated that a hose ruptured when the vehicle was traveling at low speeds: "Mechanic received directive from Chrysler on a fix. He made the fix as directed, but the new hose quickly burst on him during testing," the owner wrote to the agency. The other owner’s complaint was that he "glanced in the rearview mirror and noticed smoke outside the vehicle. He pulled over and exited the vehicle, when suddenly massive flames erupted from under the hood."

We’re not very sure how this investigation will affect the Grand Cherokee, but if these claims lead to a recall, there will be almost 107,000 Grand Cherokee units affected.

Source: NY Times

Since airbags have become commonplace in cars in the last two decades – yes, it’s been that long – we have seen all sorts of different airbags in different locations to protect against various crashes. Now Mercedes is adding a new airbag of sorts to its 2014 S-Class . This newfound device is called the beltbag.

Here’s how the beltbag works. When the car is involved in a crash, the rear seatbelts will inflate with air and help cushion the seat’s occupant against torso damage caused by the belt. If you’ve ever been in a hard enough crash to jar you forward, you know how badly a seatbelt can bruise your chest and abdomen. The airbelt is supposed to prevent that damage.

This isn’t the first airbelt to be released though, as Ford included it in its optional features on the 2011 Explorer. This is, however, the first time it is a standard feature. We are curious as to why Mercedes did not add this feature to its front seatbelts, as the jolt forward is no different in the rear than it is in the front.

We also wonder how many years this will remain an optional feature before the NHTSA decides that this needs to be standard in all cars, thereby driving up the cost of a new car even more... Keep in mind, even front airbags were once only an option, as were tire pressure monitors, traction control, and ABS. Now those features are all required, in one for or another, on all cars sold in the U.S.

We’ll get to see this new belt system in action in Geneva next spring, which is when Mercedes-Benz unveils its new S-Class .

Porsche Panamera Turbo S

When you pay a lot of money for a brand new car, you don’t expect to have any problems with it at all. In the real world, however, bad things can happen, even for high performance vehicles from Porsche . The Stuttgart based company has announced a pretty serious recall for their Panamera and Cayenne Turbo models (all 2012 Cayenne models and Panamera Turbo and Turbo S models from 2011 and 2012), to the tune of 270 US units.

The recall was issued because the turbine wheels from the turbocharging system may fracture under certain conditions. Such a fracture can cause a chain reaction in which the turbine shaft cracks, oil is sucked into the exhaust system causing smoke, and possibly a fire.

The problem was detected when a series of fires started in Syria in October and later on a racetrack. During some X-ray inspection, Porsche discovered a series of 37 worldwide failures of the turbine wheels, including three in the U.S.

Porsche is advising the clients with the affected vehicles to take them to the nearest dealership where they will have the turbine replaced, at what we are assuming is free of charge.


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