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Carmakers, Tech Companies Form Self-Driving Auto Alliance

Group pushing for uniform testing regulations – quickly.

by on Apr.27, 2016

NHTSA has already declared Google's autonomous tech is the equivalent of a human driver.

Companies from Silicon Valley and the auto industry are teaming up to create a coalition to influence lawmakers and regulators, who are destined to play a huge role in shaping the deployment of autonomous vehicles.

Google, Uber and Lyft have joined forces with Volvo and Ford in establishing “The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets,” which has recruited David Strickland, long-time safety watchdog and former head of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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In 2014, the most recent available numbers from the NHTSA, there were 6.1 million reported crashes on U.S. roads, resulting in 2.3 million injuries and 32,675 fatalities. Advocates of self-driving cars suggest an influx of these accident-averse vehicles on to America’s roadways would greatly virtually eliminate fatal accidents. (more…)

NHTSA Chief Strickland Out

David Friedman to step in as interim auto safety chief.

by on Dec.12, 2013

David L. Strickland was sworn in January 4, 2010. Prior to his appointment, he served for eight years on the staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. As the Senior Counsel for the Consumer Protection Subcommittee, he was the lead staff person for the oversight of NHTSA, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. He also served as the lead Senate staff person in the formulation of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) reforms and standards included in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. He held a staff leadership role in the 2005 reauthorization of NHTSA in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act -- a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

NHTSA chief David Strickland is stepping down as the U.S. top automotive safety official.

David Strickland, the nation’s top automotive safety regulator, is stepping down after nearly four years on the job.

The 45-year-old Strickland is expected to leave within two months, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Transportation. While a replacement has not been named, the interim director for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be David Friedman, a former official with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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Strickland joined NHTSA in January 2010 and has led an aggressive push to expand the use of breakthrough active safety technologies. Among other things, the agency is considering whether to require the use of new forward collision detection systems that could automatically a vehicle’s brakes if the driver did not react rapidly enough to a potential collision. (more…)

Electronic Stability Control Systems Saving Thousands of Lives

“We know the technology will save even more lives,” says US safety chief.

by on Nov.30, 2012

The 2013 Honda Civic update adds rollover airbags to the car's electronic stability control technology.

Breakthrough technology designed to prevent vehicle rollovers and other serious accidents has saved an estimated 2,200 lives over the last three years, according to the nation’s top vehicle safety regulator.

A federal rule mandating the use of electronic stability control was enacted in April 2007 and following a four-year phase-in, every vehicle sold since September 1, 2011 has had to use the technology which is often known as ESC, ESP or electronic stability program.

The technology is intended to help vehicles avoid skids and other accidents and has proven particularly effective at preventing rollovers, the government indicates.

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“NHTSA research has consistently shown ESC systems are especially effective in helping a driver maintain vehicle control and avoid some of the most dangerous types of crashes on the highway, including deadly vehicle rollover situations or in keeping drivers from completely running off the roadway,” said Administrator David Strickland of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

As many as 10,000 Americans die in rollover crashes annually, even though rollovers occur in just 3% of highway accidents.

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Pedestrian Deaths Up – Experts Want Answers, Solutions

New regulations may follow.

by on Aug.07, 2012

Volvo's auto braking system can detect pedestrians in the road and bring the car to a quick stop.

After years of steady decline there are some disturbing signs that the downward trend in traffic fatalities may be over.  With reports already suggesting vehicle deaths were up for the first part of the year, a new study shows a sharp, 4% increase in pedestrian fatalities, as well.

The upturn in pedestrian deaths came in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available, but it marks the first increase since 2005 – a point at which all motor vehicle-related fatalities began to tumble sharply.

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A total of 4,280 pedestrians were killed in vehicle-related incidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, another 70,000 injured. In 2010, pedestrian deaths accounted for 13% of all traffic fatalities.  That compared with 11% between 2002 and 2007.  That reflects both the increase in pedestrian crashes as well as the decline in overall motor vehicle fatalities.

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U.S. Warns Car Heat Sensors Not Effective Enough to Save Kids

Devices are prone to problems.

by on Jul.31, 2012

Devices like the Child Minder Smart Pad just aren't effective enough for parents to trust, warns NHTSA.

Sensors designed to warn parents who’ve left children in their car when the vehicle gets too hot aren’t reliable, the U.S. government is warning.  That means parents may get a false sense of security when their kids’ health and safety is actually at risk.

The aftermarket devices are difficult to install and prone to deliver false warnings that may encourage parents to ignore a signal when children really are in danger, warned David Strickland, director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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“While we feel these devices are very well-intended, we don’t think they can be used as the only countermeasure to make sure that you don’t forget your child behind in a car,” the nation’s top automotive safety chief stressed during a conference call with reporters.

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Car-to-Car Link Could Cut Collisions by 80%

Feds to test new technology and could soon mandate it.

by on Apr.27, 2012

David L. Strickland was sworn in January 4, 2010. Prior to his appointment, he served for eight years on the staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. As the Senior Counsel for the Consumer Protection Subcommittee, he was the lead staff person for the oversight of NHTSA, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. He also served as the lead Senate staff person in the formulation of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) reforms and standards included in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. He held a staff leadership role in the 2005 reauthorization of NHTSA in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act -- a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

NHTSA chief David Strickland believes connected vehicle technologies could save thousands of lives.

Technologies allowing cars to “talk” to one another could cut the highway collision rate by as much as 80%, sharply reducing the number of injuries and fatalities, according to the nation’s top automotive safety regulator.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now working with auto manufacturers to test the viability of vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems and, if successful, could mandate the use of the technology, according to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.

Such technology could alert one driver that another is about to run a red light or send a warning to all nearby vehicles that there’s an icy patch of pavement ahead.

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“Our research shows that these technologies could help prevent a majority of the collisions that typically occur in the real world, such as rear-end collisions, intersection crashes, or collisions while switching lanes,” said Strickland during an appearance at the Society of Automotive Engineers’ annual SAE World Congress.

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Opinion: A Waste of a Good Man’s Time

Safety is secondary when politics becomes theater.

by on Jan.30, 2012

GM CEO Dan Akerson at last week's Congressional hearing on the Chevy Volt.

So much of Washington is political theater, meant to do nothing except entertain, advance political ambition, or provide political cover.

Consider what happened here last Wednesday.

The augustly titled House Subcommittee on Government Reform and Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending called a hearing.

Was it to congratulate Detroit’s chief executives and workers on busting their tails to save the domestic automobile industry, the major component of American manufacturing? Was it to congratulate General Motors Co., three short years after going through bankruptcy, for regaining the global sales crown? Was it even to conduct a cursory review on how GM, 26.5% owned by the federal government, has been using taxpayer money?

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No. It was none of those things. Instead, the Republican-controlled subcommittee, which has subpoena power,  was “investigating” already explained and thoroughly understood, by anyone with the practical sense to understand such things, latent fires occurring in a few plug-in electric Chevrolet Volts days and weeks AFTER they had been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Congressional Trial by Fire For Volt

NHTSA chief hammered for delayed report.

by on Jan.25, 2012

GM CEO Dan Akerson gets into a Chevrolet Volt on his way to today's hearings on Capitol Hill.

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson faced a trial by fire today – quite literally – when he was grilled about a series of fires that occurred following federal crash tests of the maker’s Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.

Akerson, by his own request, was one of those testifying during a hearing by a subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee with the provocative title, “What did NHTSA know and when did it know it.”  The reference to Watergate and former Pres. Richard Nixon reflected the clear contention of committee leaders that the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency deliberately delayed issuing a public report on the first Volt fire for at least three months.

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Some critics have suggested the agency was motivated by a desire to protect the Treasury’s stake in GM, which it first acquired as part of the bailout the maker received after going bankrupt in 2009.  But Akerson denied that, and in prepared comments told the Oversight panel, “The Volt is safe.  It’s a marvelous machine.”

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“A Car is Not a Mobile Device,” Warns NHTSA Chief

Top U.S. safety regulator urges caution at annual telematics conference.

by on Jun.09, 2011

David L. Strickland was sworn in January 4, 2010. Prior to his appointment, he served for eight years on the staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. As the Senior Counsel for the Consumer Protection Subcommittee, he was the lead staff person for the oversight of NHTSA, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. He also served as the lead Senate staff person in the formulation of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) reforms and standards included in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. He held a staff leadership role in the 2005 reauthorization of NHTSA in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act -- a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

NHTSA chief David Strickland insists drivers don't need to be "connected" at all times.

The technology is now available to offer pretty much any high-tech service a motorist might want, from in-car Internet access to live video on the go, but the nation’s top safety regulator threw some cold water in the face of those who’d like to capitalize on these lucrative technologies at the potential risk of those on the road.

“I’m just putting everyone on notice,” proclaimed David Strickland, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  “A car is not a mobile device,” he said, without irony, during an appearance at the Telematics Detroit 2011 conference.  “I’m not in the business of helping people Tweet better.  I’m not in the business of helping people post on Facebook better.”

The high-tech and automotive industries have found common ground in recent years.  Automakers, as well as aftermarket vendors, are offering an array of new features that can be stuffed into the passenger compartment.  There’s onboard mapping, of course, as well as real-time traffic and weather.  Motorists can find the cheapest local gas station, listen to Internet radio and have their text messages and e-mail read out in a synthesized voice.

All manner of new apps and systems are being unveiled at the telematics conference.  And for good reason.  The rise of the smartphone has clearly underscored the public’s appetite for technology they previously could only get at home or in the office – if at all.

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Advanced systems, such as Ford’s popular Sync, have been shown to improve brand recognition and owner loyalty – and can generate substantial revenue streams, as well.

But there’s a down side to the telematics revolution, underscored by government estimates that thousands of motorists and pedestrians are being killed each year due to driver distraction.

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NHTSA Ups Toyota Death Tally

As many as 89 could be dead from unintended acceleration.

by on May.26, 2010

Toyota's product liability woes continue to grow.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has more than 6,200 complaints involving sudden acceleration in Toyota and Lexus models, including 89 deaths and 57 injuries.

The safety agency, which is under attack by Congressmen and safety advocates for not doing its job, revised the estimates sharply upward from its previous estimate of 52 fatalities reported from 2000 to mid-May of this year.

David Strickland, Administrator of NHTSA recently said that recall investigations will be made faster, and the recall form simplified to shorten the length of time drivers are “exposed to risk” if there is a problem with a vehicle. (See NHTSA Head Calls for Speedier Recalls)

Toyota Motor was fined a record $16.4 million for its failure to act on the problem and for failing to notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of a dangerous pedal defect for almost four months.

Toyota said in a statement that it was “making an all-out effort to ensure our vehicles are safe, and we remain committed to investigating reported incidents of unintended acceleration in our vehicles quickly.”

The Japanese automaker is facing hundreds of lawsuits in the U.S.