WASHINGTON — Automatic braking is when the car senses imminent danger approaching, such as a car suddenly stopping or an accident and the car automatically slowing the car down. Automatic braking will be standard in most cars and light trucks within six years, and on heavier sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks within eight years, under an agreement that transportation officials and representatives from 20 automakers announced on Thursday.
The voluntary pact means that the important safety technology will be available more quickly than if the government had gone through the lengthy process of issuing mandatory rules, said Mark Rosekind, head of theNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“A commitment of this magnitude is unprecedented, and it will bring more safety to more Americans sooner,” Mr. Rosekind said.
But some safety advocates have filed a petition asking the government to issue those mandatory regulations.
They say voluntary agreements aren’t enforceable, and that since automatic braking is already available in some cars, issuing rules requiring the technology could be done faster than the six to eight years allowed under the agreement announced on Thursday.
Automatic braking systems use cameras, radar and other sensors to see objects that are in the way and slow or stop a vehicle if the driver doesn’t react.
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Every step counts in the race to self-driving cars and GM is willing to take that step. General Motors (GM) said Friday it has turbocharged its effort to win the self-driving car race with an acquisition.
The automaker — which is racing against tech giants Google and Apple, not to mention traditional car makers — said it has purchased San Francisco-based Cruise Automation, a software company dedicated entirely to self-driving car technology.
The Detroit-based manufacturer declined to say how much it paid for the start-up, which has backing from Silicon Valley venture investors Y Combinator, Maven Ventures and Signia Venture Partners. But the acquisition suggests GM is shifting into high gear when it comes to rolling out cars that will either largely or entirely move through traffic using sensors and other technology.
“We have a timeline that we are not announcing today, but I will say we are moving very, very fast,” Kyle Vogt, founder of Cruise Automation, told USA TODAY of the integration and testing of Cruise’s software in GM vehicles.
GM CEO Mary Barra has vowed to keep the automaker ahead in the self-driving car race, acknowledging that the company must be agile and willing to adapt its business model to survive the coming revolution in the auto industry.
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While walking can be a more environmental and economical way to get around, does not mean that it is less dangerous. The death toll of pedestrians killed in traffic crashes is projected to spike about 10% in 2015 compared with 2014. If the estimate proves to be accurate, it will be the largest annual increase ever.
That is the main finding of a new report released today by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), a nonprofit organization representing state highway safety offices.
“We are projecting the largest year-to-year increase in pedestrian fatalities since national records have been kept, and therefore we are quite alarmed,” Richard Retting, co-author of the report, said in a statement, referring to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System established in 1975.
Retting wrote the report with Dr. Heather Rothenberg, both of Sam Schwartz Consulting.
The association called the annual Spotlight on Highway Safety Report the first nationwide looks at 2015 pedestrian fatality trends, which is based on preliminary data supplied by the states and the District of Columbia for the first six months of the year.
“Pedestrian safety is clearly a growing problem across the country,” Retting added, stressing the importance of understanding the crash data so states and local governments “can apply the right mix of engineering, education and enforcement to counteract this troubling trend.”
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With the introduction to autonomous driving many questions have been brought up about the subject of accidents and insurance if the driver is technically not driving. A proposal has made its way to the Florida State Senate that, if passed, would set new insurance requirements for drivers working with app-based transportation network companies — a product created very recently in response to the growing popularity of services such as Uber and Lyft. Measures like this are created to ensure victims of auto accidents can obtain compensation, as well as to protect the party at fault from financial ruin. While the matter of ride-sharing had a relatively straightforward solution, the oncoming shift to self-driving cars produces a tougher problem for the insurance industry and legislators alike .
Autonomous vehicles confuse the issue of liability. If two drivers of traditional cars get into an accident, the personal insurance policy of the party at fault will cover the property and bodily damages sustained by the victim. But what happens if the at fault vehicle was being operated by a computer? Presently, the answer is unclear. According to a report byBusiness Insider Intelligence, as much as 10 million cars will be outfitted with self-driving features by the year 2020. If true, this does not leave much time to come up with a solution to the liability issue.
“Somehow or another we need a mechanism to allow for compensation from auto accidents” says Marc Mayerson, a lawyer and adjunct professor of Insurance Law at Georgetown University. Mayerson adds, “In theory self-driving cars would not create negligence liability for the passenger/non-driver/owner of the car.”
For most drivers, liability coverage accounts for a large part of their auto insurance bill. Repairing physical damage to your own vehicle is a drop in the bucket compared to the risk of paying hospital bills or court fees when you injure another individual. Just as we’re beginning to see laws for ride-share insurance requirements emerge in states like Florida, similar requirements for personal policies have existed since as early as the 1920’s. In California, for example, drivers are required to carry at least $15,000 in bodily injury coverage per person, and $30,000 per accident. Plus, the state mandates a minimum of $5,000 property damage coverage.
If liability is taken out of the equation, it stands to reason personal auto insurance premiums for owners of self-driving cars would become much lower. At that point, who would shoulder the bill for liability? “One model would be to have the car manufacturer bear all the liability and impose that liability simply based on the autonomous car’s being a substantial cause of the injury,” Mayerson suggests. If an accident is the result of the computer’s failure, it becomes reasonable to assume the fault would then lie with the manufacturer.
Insurance costs being passed down to automakers aren’t necessarily good news for consumers, however. If the car manufacturers are facing increased operating costs due to liability concerns, they may make up for that by increasing the price of the vehicles. In other words, while autonomous vehicle owners may save money on their insurance policies, the cost may end up trickling down to the price of their new ride.
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