New ratings criteria made for a much smaller field of vehicles named to the distinguished IIHS safety awards, released this week. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named 39 vehicles a Top Safety Pick or the ultimate Top Safety Pick+, down from a whopping 130 vehicles that earned the honor last year. So who came out on top?
Honda claimed the most honors, with four Honda vehicles and three Acura vehicles among the winners. As far as individual brands, Subaru had six vehicles honored while Volvo scored five. The top American brands were Ford and Chrysler, each with three. General Motors had one vehicle named. more
In the coming years, Nissan has one goal in mind: Separating the wheat from the chaff.
A month ago, the Nissan Versa Note went on sale in the United States, and despite the fact that it's one of Nissan's least expensive models, it featured an Around-View Monitor safety system. The Around-View Monitor allows the driver to see a bird's eye view of his vehicle in order to evade nearby obstacles. This is a bold but smart move on Nissan's part. By introducing advanced safety technology as a standard equipment in inexpensive cars, the automaker is essentially giving its competition two options: go big or go home. more
Black boxes, or event data recorders, may become mandatory for all new cars by 2015. About 96% of cars for the model year 2013 will already have them, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. more
The Motor Accident Commission of South Australia (MACSA) put together a safety campaign that’s designed to change public attitudes about what it calls “low-level speeding.” It took 18 hours and 17 people with up to five layers of body paint to make the final print ad. Here’s a video showing the process. more
The V8, the engine that gave birth to America’s hot-rod culture, is fast disappearing from cars all over the world. The culprit is ever-tightening emissions standards, which are forcing automakers to turn to smaller-displacement powerplants. Even luxury marques like Infiniti are feeling the bite. The company’s president recently told an Australian motoring website that people shouldn’t expect to see V8s in any of the cars currently on the drawing board. In place of the V8, many manufacturers are going with V6 engines, or turbocharged four-cylinders.
On the heels of Chevrolet signing on to become the sponsor of England’s Manchester United football (soccer to Americans) club in 2014-2015, and subsequent to the carmaker’s offer of luxury cars to all first-team members, Man U manager Sir Alex Ferguson has put the brakes on players under the age of 23 ordering anything sporty, like, say a Corvette. Players under the age limit can still avail themselves of Chevy’s offer, but only if Ferguson approves their choice. more
Luke Skywalker, your racecar is ready. Actually, this is “Monster” Tajima during a practice run for the 2012 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The car is all-electric, and the absence of engine noise lets you hear the squeal of the tires in corners, and the gravel pinging off the bodywork as Tajima gets too close to the edge of the pavement.
Luxury cars come equipped with the best of everything—at least that’s the theory. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says some luxury cars don’t come with enough protection in a new test that evaluates a car’s crashworthiness by slamming it into a fixed barrier so that only part of the front end absorbs the impact. Eight 2012 model luxury or high-end cars were rated as marginal or poor in the test. Acura TL and Volvo S60 were the only cars to pass the new test.
What if the famous tunnel that’s part of a lap at the famous Monaco GP were longer? Say, 1.5 miles? How fast would a Formula 1 car get up to in that distance? About 190, if this video is any indication. That’s how fast ex-F1 driver David Coulthard took the Red Bull Racing Running Showcar through the Lincoln Tunnel that links New York and New Jersey. The tunnel, by the way, is just over 21 feet wide.
The test drive, long a highlight of the car-buying process, is fading away as more and more buyers choose cars based solely on magazine and website reviews, and buy them without ever driving the car first. This trend worries dealers, who see the test drive as their most effective tool for swaying undecided buyers, and also point out, apparently with a straight face, that you can’t always believe what you read, in contrast to what you hear from car salespeople, who are renowned for their unflagging honesty, integrity, and detailed product knowledge. more
The Acura TL and Volvo S60 were the only two out of eleven luxury cars to pass a new crash test from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) with a “Good” rating, including the ones that earned positive reviews in traditional frontal crash tests.
The new test simulated a 40 mph crash where the corner 25-percent of the car strikes a five-foot tall object, such as a signpost or wall.
The IIHS calls this the small overlap frontal crash test. In a 2009 study, the IIHS test found that small overlap crashes account for nearly a quarter of frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injuries to front passengers.
"Nearly every new car performs well in other frontal crash tests conducted by the Institute and the federal government, but we still see more than 10,000 deaths in frontal crashes each year," said IIHS President Adrian Lund.
So then what took the IIHS so long to start this test? more
Has your car been recalled? If so, did you get that recall remedied at a dealership? It’s free, you know. What about a car you’re planning to buy? How can you find out if all of its recalls have been dealt with?
Safety recalls are “being ignored and left unfixed at an alarming rate,” according to CarFax, a top supplier of Vehicle History Reports. Results from a new study found that more than 2.7 million used cars for sale online during 2011 had uncorrected safety recalls.
“Open recalls have caused vehicle fires, major accidents and even death,” CarFax advises. California, Florida, and Texas have the worst records. Each of those states has had more than 100,000 cars for sale at a given time, with open recalls.
In the words of CarFax.com’s communications director, Larry Gamache, “Open recalls are an accident waiting to happen. A recall is a warning,” Gamache adds. “The only way to solve the problem is for everyone to be proactive about finding and fixing open recalls.” In the used vehicle market, “many of these cars change hands without the buyer ever knowing a recall exists,” much less whether it’s been fixed.
A simple online check can tell you about a specific car’s open recalls, based on its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). CarFax offers this as a free service, available at Recall.carfax.com. Recall repairs are always free, provided by a franchised dealer for the affected vehicle’s make. more
"Psst! Hey, you. Yes, you, behind the wheel. Listen, I can give you a good deal on a couple of used tires for that car of yours. How about it?"
To anyone who started driving in the 1950s or 1960s, before safety became a byword in the automobile business, the words “used” and “tire” just don’t meld well. Visions of nearly depleted tread, scuffed sidewalls, and dangerously damaged rubber pop promptly to mind. So do recollections of blowouts at highway speed, likely accompanied by a sudden need to grasp the steering wheel as if it were a life raft, struggling to keep the car on course as it slows to a forlorn halt.
Even if we managed to escape the dreaded blowouts–which could easily occur in the dead of night, on a dark road–nearly every motorist of that less-safety-conscious era recalls the dismal sight of spotting a flat tire in the morning. Tires used to be a constant worry.
Young and impoverished drivers faced another challenge, if the flattened tire proved to be unrepairable: How to pay for a replacement. All too often, that replacement came not from a chain retail tire store with its rows of shiny new Goodyears and Firestones. No, if your wallet was close to empty, you started to scout the local gas stations or specialty tire shops, hoping to find an affordable tire that still had acceptable tread depth and lacked disturbing damage within its sidewall. more
The Chevrolet Volt and General Motors have been under fire, since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that a crash-tested Volt caught fire weeks after an evaluation. NHTSA experienced fires in following subsequent tests. The agency formally opened an investigation on November 25, 2011, and closed it on January 20, 2012. Yet, General Motors CEO Dan Akerson was called to speak before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending today, defending the Volt. (See how the Volt is made.)
Akerson drove to Washington, D.C., in a Volt, and once there, he had strong words for the committee as he defended the extended-range plug-in hybrid:
“We engineered Volt to give drivers a choice— to use energy produced in the United States rather than oil from places that may not always put America’s best interests first.
And, we engineered Volt to show the world what great vehicles we make at General Motors.
Unfortunately, there is one thing we did not engineer. Although we loaded the Volt with state-of-the-art safety features--we did not engineer the Volt to be a political punching bag.” more
Even though automakers have made impressive boosts in fuel efficiency, individual vehicles aren’t necessarily as thrifty as logic would suggest. How can that be? After studying data reaching back to 1980, MIT economist Christopher Knittel has discerned an answer that can be backed up with figures: cars are considerably bigger and more powerful than they used to be. Therefore, today’s gas mileage numbers fall far short of what they could have been.
Knittel presents his numerical analysis in a research paper titled “Automobiles on Steroids,” published in the December 2011 issue of American Economic Review.
Between 1980 and 2006, average gas mileage increased by just over 15 percent. During that same period, average curb weight rose 26 percent. Horsepower escalated by a whopping 107 percent–more than double in 26 years.
Knittel demonstrates that average fuel economy could have risen by 60 percent rather than 15.
Had weight and horsepower not increased, Knittel asserts, average fleet economy would have risen by 60 percent: from 23 mpg in 1980 to 37 mpg today. Actual average mileage nowadays is only 27 mpg. Knittel also shows that reverting to average weight and power of 1980 cars, while continuing the trend toward fuel-efficiency, could lead toward a fleet average of 52 mpg by 2020–close to the current goal specified by the Obama Administration. more
A long-awaited report on sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) from the National Academy of Sciences was released today, supporting the move by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to close its investigation into Toyota after a string of large-scale recalls. While Toyota came out from this final report looking strong, group that prepared the report, the National Research Council's Transportation Research Board, had strong words and recommendations for NHTSA.
In NHTSA’s investigation, it sought outside assistance from NASA, whose rocket scientists spent 10 months analyzing more than 280,000 lines of software code for any potential flaws that could initiate an unintended acceleration incident. They also examined and tested mechanical components that could result in an unwanted throttle opening. In conjunction with NHTSA, NASA engineers bombarded vehicles with electromagnetic radiation to study whether such radiation could cause malfunctions resulting in unintended acceleration, and they explored real-world scenarios that could be potential causes. more
In this age of impatience, with nearly everyone “in a hurry” and many willing to defy the law to save a few seconds, red lights represent trouble. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2.3 million crashes occurred at intersections in 2008. More than 700 of those collisions were attributed to drivers “running” red lights.
Worse yet, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), half of those killed in these accidents were other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
Red-light cameras have been going up across the country, automatically issuing tickets to offenders who dash through a stoplight after it’s turned red–whether they’re turning or rolling straight ahead. Trouble is, those cameras are dealing with the problem after the fact. If a tragic accident occurs at an intersection, no camera system can do anything to stop it. All they do is exact financial “punishment” long after the offense has taken place. At the same time, any number of drivers who had no intention of “running a light” wind up with tickets anyway, because they misjudged.
MIT researchers believe they’ve come up with one solution to the problem, though implementing their findings isn’t something that would happen anytime soon. They’ve developed an algorithm (essentially, a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem) that they claim “predicts when an incoming car is likely to run a red light.” more