Semi autonomous tech, once for luxury cars, is rapidly going mainstream

By Dee-Ann Durbin

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT _ Fully self-driving cars are a few years into the future. But some of the technology that will make them possible is already here.

Automakers are rapidly adding radar- and camera-based systems that can keep a car in its lane, detect pedestrians and brake automatically to avoid a collision. For now, they work with a driver behind the wheel, but eventually, versions of these systems will likely power self-driving cars.

Semi-autonomous features used to be confined to luxury cars, but they’re quickly migrating to mainstream brands as technology gets cheaper. Toyota, for example, will offer automatic braking, pedestrian detection and lane departure warning for just a few hundred dollars on all of its vehicles by 2017.

Automakers are also being nudged to add these features by safety advocates like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which gives its top crashworthiness rankings to vehicles with crash prevention technology.

Joseph Gerardi, a communications engineer from Centereach, New York, recently bought a 2015 Nissan Murano specifically for its semi-autonomous safety technology. As part of its $2,260 technology package, Nissan offers emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. The package also has forward collision warning, which uses radar to monitor both the car ahead and the car in front of that one.

Gerardi’s wife, Michele, and 4-year-old daughter, Caroline, use the SUV to get around town, so he wanted the most technology he could get for under $40,000.

“We just wanted to get the safest thing possible,” he said.

He thinks more people would push for semi-autonomous technology if automakers promoted it, or if dealers had a better understanding of how it works. Gerardi had to call Nissan, for example, to get a complete explanation of the Murano’s emergency braking system.

Not everyone likes the self-driving trend.

“I really, really dislike automobiles that think they’re cleverer than me,” said Will Inglis, who lives outside London and writes about the defence industry. He thinks drivers will come to rely too much on semi-autonomous technology and driving skills will degrade.

But people like Inglis may soon be in the minority. In a recent U.S. survey by the Boston Consulting Group, 55 per cent of drivers said they would likely buy a partially autonomous car in the next five years.

The array of semi-autonomous features now offered on cars can be bewildering. Here are some of the most common:

_ Adaptive cruise control: Regular cruise control, which has been around for decades, can keep the car at a set speed on the highway. Adaptive cruise control maintains a set speed as well as a set distance from the car in front of it, and it can slow down or speed up automatically. It started appearing on luxury brands like Mercedes and Lexus about a decade ago. Now, it’s available on less expensive models, like the Mazda3 small car and the Chrysler 200 sedan.

_ Lane keeping: Lane departure warning systems beep or vibrate if the driver leaves a lane. Camera-based lane-keeping systems actually steer the car back into the lane automatically. They have their limits; they might not work in snow or at other times when lane markings aren’t clearly visible. Lane keeping started appearing on the market in 2014. Among the vehicles that offer it are the Ford Fusion Titanium, as a $1,200 option, and the Jeep Renegade Limited, as a $995 option.

_ Emergency braking: Some forward-collision warning systems beep or flash lights to warn the driver if they detect an object. More advanced ones warn the driver and, if the driver doesn’t react, apply the brakes. The systems may either bring the car to a complete stop or slow it enough to mitigate damage. The technology, introduced in 2008, is recommended by the federal government. It’s already standard on the Volvo XC90 SUV, which can even brake automatically as the driver is turning into an intersection. Other vehicles that offer emergency braking are the Subaru Outback, as part of the $3,090 EyeSight package, and the Toyota Camry XLE, as part of a $2,570 technology and navigation package.

_ Self-parking: Self-parking systems can find a spot and automatically park in a parallel or perpendicular spot. The systems, on the market since 2008, are now on many mainstream vehicles. It’s a $395 option on the Ford Focus Titanium.

_ Highway autopilot: Single-lane highway autopilot is basically just a combination of adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping. It helps keep the car centred in its lane at highway speeds, allowing the driver to cruise with minimal effort. Mercedes, Infiniti and Audi are among those whose systems work in tandem on the highway. Others, including Tesla and Cadillac, are expected to offer advanced autopilot systems soon.

Drivers lack understanding of new safety features like collision warning

By Dee-Ann Durbin

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT _ Adaptive cruise control has been an option on some cars for almost a decade. But in a recent national survey, 65 per cent of U.S. drivers didn’t know what it was.

The survey, by the University of Iowa Public Policy Center’s Transportation and Vehicle Safety program, suggests big gaps in the public’s knowledge about potentially life-saving features. Based on the responses, the university and the National Safety Council have developed a new Web site _ http://mycardoeswhat.org _ to teach drivers about new features, from tire-pressure monitoring systems to automatic emergency braking.

The site is one of several places that car owners and shoppers can learn about safety technology. The federal government’s auto-safety website _ http://www.safercar.gov _ lists crash-test results and uses icons to highlight cars with recommended safety features, including lane-departure warning and forward-collision warning. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety _ http://www.iihs.org _ also explains key collision-avoidance features like automatic braking, and lists which cars have them.

Carmakers _ prodded by government regulators and public crash-test rankings _ are rapidly adding safety features. By 2018, for example, the U.S. will require all new vehicles to have backup cameras. But at the same time, cars are getting more reliable and lasting longer, so millions of people driving older cars may not be familiar with the latest safety options. The average vehicle on U.S. roads is now 11.5 years old _ older than adaptive cruise control.

Daniel McGehee, who conducted the survey, was surprised to find that even car dealers and service department managers weren’t always familiar with new safety features.

“The technology is changing so quickly they don’t have a good understanding,” said McGehee, the director of the Transportation and Vehicle Safety Research program.

The survey, which questioned 2,015 people last September about nine safety features, found that 92 per cent of drivers had heard of anti-lock brakes, which have been common on cars since the 1980s. But only about half had heard of more recent options like lane-departure warning, which gives an audible warning or vibrates to warn drivers when the car leaves its lane, or forward-collision warning, which alerts drivers to an imminent crash.

Ninety-four per cent were aware of cruise control, which keeps the vehicle at a set speed on the highway. But only about one-third had heard of its more advanced sibling, adaptive cruise control, which maintains a set speed and distance from the car ahead and can accelerate or brake on its own. It used to be a feature on luxury cars, but as radar and cameras have gotten cheaper, it’s being added to mainstream vehicles like the Honda CR-V and the Mazda6.

Even features that are standard on every car caused some head-scratching. Only 55 per cent of drivers were familiar with tire-pressure monitoring systems, which have been mandated by the U.S. government since 2007. The systems alert drivers, usually with a dashboard message, when one of their tires is underinflated. McGehee said drivers may not realize they have a feature like that because their tires are properly inflated.

“A lot of technologies lie in wait, but we know they are very useful when they’re needed,” he said.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that automakers have different names for safety features. Mercedes-Benz calls its adaptive cruise-control system Distronic Plus, for example, while Subaru packages adaptive cruise control within its EyeSight suite of safety systems. Systems also work differently; some will automatically steer drivers back into their lane if they leave it, for example, while others just give them a warning.

McGehee says the website doesn’t name particular automakers or systems, but simply tries to explain various technologies.

“This is a geeky area we’re getting into,” McGehee said. “We wanted to debrand the vehicles and concentrate on the concepts.”

The university is now studying what kinds of questions people have about their car’s features, with the goal of making a mobile manual that drivers could consult with voice commands. McGehee, an engineer who recently found himself fumbling around for the parking brake in a rental car, says the manual would let people ask things like, “Where is my parking brake?” or “How does my parking brake work?”

The University of Iowa received three grants totalling $17.2 million for the project and for future efforts, including the mobile manual. The money came from Toyota Motor Corp., which set aside $30 million for safety education programs in 2012 as part of a $1 billion class-action settlement over unintended acceleration claims.

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Uber Drivers can soon get their own special insurance from one Canadian insurance company – Intact

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It’s a Left Turn Lane, not an Acceleration Lane

Two Way Left Turn LanesA gentleman from Courtenay explained about the regular difficulty that he encountered when he used the two way left turn lanes in that city. Most recently, he was travelling northbound on Cliffe Avenue attempting a left turn into Tim Horton’s. A woman turned southbound out of the Husky just ahead of him into the two way left turn lane as well. They were now approaching each other head on.

Legally, this woman is required to leave the two way left turn lane by turning left once she has occupied it. The gentleman is entitled to expect that she will obey the law and will not interfere with his left turn. It’s a good thing that she used her right turn signal and he saw it. Waiting to turn left prevented a collision that would have occurred had he turned when she accelerated into the first through lane on her right.

Wrongly, many drivers see the relatively quiet two way left turn lane as a way to reduce the complication of crossing three lanes of traffic and occupying the first available lane for their intended direction of travel. Instead, they move into the turn lane, accelerate to the speed of surrounding traffic and then move right into the lane they should have entered in the first instance.

Turning left is one of the more dangerous moves that we make when we drive. When traffic is heavy it can be difficult to track and account for all of the drivers who are following the rules. The woman should not have left the Husky driveway if she could not comfortably reach the correct lane. Probably unwittingly, she made a left turn less safe for someone else when she did this.

Reference Links:

 

How Much is it Worth if You Can’t Drive Your Ferrari?

Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken

If you own a Ferrari and really want to drive it but can’t because of another’s actions, how much is that worth?  $15,000 according to reasons for judgement released today by the BC Supreme Court.

In today’s case (Miller v. Brian Ross Motorsports Corp.) the Plaintiff’s Ferrari was damaged while being serviced at the Defendant dealership.  The Plaintiff sued for damages arguing he should be entitled to $80,000 for the period which he could not use the vehicle.  The Court found the Defendant’s conduct did indeed wrongfully deprive the plaintiff of use of this vehicle for a period of approximately 9 months.  In assessing damages at $15,000 Madam Justice Dardi provided the following reasons –

[59]    In assessing the appropriate quantum of damages for the loss of use, I have considered the following factors:

  • The plaintiff derives great pleasure from driving his Ferrari and he was deprived of driving it for many months including through the summer months of 2013.
  • During the Material Period, the plaintiff had an alternative vehicle, the Acura, available for transportation purposes.
  • Although the plaintiff endeavoured to drive his Ferrari as frequently as possible, he would not have driven it on a daily basis throughout the Material Period. On his own testimony, he did not drive the Ferrari in the rain, or for work purposes. The Ferrari was insured for “pleasure” and could only be utilized for work purposes a maximum of six days per month.
  • The plaintiff travelled away from Vancouver for work and for pleasure during the Material Period.
  • Although the plaintiff adduced evidence of a rental rate from Mr. Stirrat of the Vancouver Car Club for a substitute Ferrari, he did not take steps to rent such a vehicle. The defendant challenges the reliability of Mr. Stirrat’s evidence on the rental rate. The rate the plaintiff urges this court to apply is the advertised price and notably, Mr. Stirrat was unable to confirm if any vehicle had, in fact, been rented at that price. In addition, the advertised vehicle is not the same model or year as the Ferrari. Further, although the plaintiff calculated the annual rate by extrapolating the monthly rate, no evidence was provided regarding whether the price would differ for long term renters. Overall, I found the evidence regarding the advertised rental rates to be of limited assistance.

[60]   The plaintiff points out that if he had rented a replacement Ferrari, he would have been entitled to special damages for incurring that cost. However the plain fact is that he did not rent a replacement vehicle. Here, the plaintiff’s claim is for general or non-pecuniary damages for loss of use. The doctrinal underpinnings related to general damages are distinct from special damages. Special damages are awarded to compensate a plaintiff for out-of-pocket expenses and generally are calculable monetary losses. In contrast, an award of general or non-pecuniary damages is intended to compensate the plaintiff for more intangible losses and is not a matter of precise arithmetical calculation.

[61]    Finally, in assessing general damages, the court must, on a balanced consideration of the evidence, endeavour to tailor an award that is reasonable and fair as between the parties: Kates v. Hall, 53 B.C.L.R. (2d) 322 (C.A.) at 322; Nason v. Aubin (1958), 16 D.L.R. (2d) 309 (N.B.S.C.) at 314.

[62]    On a balanced consideration of the relevant factors, I assess the plaintiff’s damages for loss of use of the Ferrari during the Material Period as $15,000.

The “Making Ontario Roads Safer Act”, or Bill 31, was approved in June & will come into effect Sept. 1

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