Posts Tagged ‘car safety’

Why Those Takata Airbags Didn’t Work Right

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

Automakers afflicted by the recent Takata airbag recalls have discovered three detailed causes for some of the inflator ruptures, according to initial findings from a study that will be available in the next couple of weeks.

One of the factors is phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate lacking a moisture-absorbing desiccant, as stated by the Independent Testing Coalition (ITC), a group of automakers formed in December of 2014 once they were named in the Japanese supplier’s recalls (BMW, Fiat-Chrysler, Honda, Ford, General Motors, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota).

That’s right. Always remember that this is a Japanese supplier, but this problem affects more than Japanese car makers. It’s certainly no reason to avoid buying a Japanese car brand.

According to the ITC, when moisture is present, “long-term exposure to repeated high-temperature cycling” and airbag inflator assemblies that do “not adequately prevent moisture intrusion” were also recognized, the group stated that “all of which contribute to the rupture of Takata airbag inflators.”

The testing, which ran over 20,000 hours and was conducted by Virginia-based defense contractor Orbital ATK, who is known to build rocket engines and ammunition, concentrated on the roughly 23 million inflators recalled in 19 million cars in the United States. Orbital will be running further tests to take in an additional five million recalled Takata inflators within this upcoming month. The will also test inflators manufactured with desiccant and new inflators that were made with the intention to replace parts for the recall. Though, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has acknowledged that this plan may not work in the long run. In an attempt to avoid that issue, Orbital will run an aging test.

In an earlier and separate report, NHTSA vehicle integrity chief Scott Yon stated that “long-term” testing can take five years or more. “The propellant wafers enlarge over time, at which point they become too large and begin to cause ruptures,” Yon wrote.

“This is not short term exposure to high absolute humidity like during a 2-week vacation or even for 5 months each winter,” he wrote. “It is continued exposure to high absolute humidity year round for multiple years in a row.”

As a result of the testing, NHTSA’s November consent order with Takata, in which it was fined $70 million over several years, might need to be amended. That’s how minority staff in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation put it in a new report after reviewing official internal Takata paperwork.

“To protect the public from an unreasonable risk to safety, Committee minority staff believe that NHTSA should immediately exercise its authority under the Consent Order and Coordinated Remedy to accelerate the phase-out schedule for non-desiccated ammonium nitrate-based inflators and to create a phase-out schedule for desiccated ammonium nitrate-based inflators.”

As per the consent order terms, Takata will have until 2018 to stop production of all non-desiccated ammonium-nitrate inflators and then until 2019 to demonstrate that ammonium nitrate is harmless within its most recent products. While Takata did agree to stop any incoming contracts for desiccated ammonium-nitrate inflators, there is no existing production cap on the inflators.

Toyota Has the Safest Vehicles

Posted by Stephen On Friday, December 18th, 2015

Not that it comes as a big surprise, but Toyota has the most vehicles of any car manufacturer that has earned the Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the USA. Interestingly, this is Toyota’s second consecutive year with bragging rights. Every car manufacturer has something to brag about – but nothing comes quite as prestigious as having the safest vehicles on the market. This is something consumers are very concerned with.

Toyota Safety Sense Package

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Toyota is not the only one with vehicles that have earned this rating award. In fact, over 50 vehicle models have earned this award this year. It just so happens that Toyota is the manufacturer that has the most – with nine of the vehicles being either a Scion, Toyota or Lexus. Scion is considered a “low-cost” vehicle and is the only “low-cost” vehicle that has earned the rating.

For many manufacturers, forward collision protection (FCP) is optional – but not for the Scion. For the Scion iA, FCP is standard. This kind of protection is only afforded to a few luxury vehicles including all of Volvo models, only a few Mercedes models and the Acura RLX.

The Toyota Safety Sense Package

Toyota launched their all-new Toyota Safety Sense Package back in April 2015. The distinction being made here is that these packages were offered in two versions – a $300 version, and a $500 version. The reason that made headlines this is that every other manufacturer sells the benefits of this package for up to three times the amount that Toyota is asking for.

Safety at a Lower Cost

The less expensive $300 package includes benefits such as a pre-collision system, a lane departure alert system, and an automatic high beam. The more expensive package includes everything that the less expensive package includes as well as a dynamic radar cruise control system and a pedestrian pre-collision system. The dynamic cruise control system makes it so that when you set a speed, the car will automatically adjust its own speed if the vehicle approaches another vehicle too quickly. The vehicle will slow down to prevent the collision and then speed back up as soon as the vehicle in front of you either speeds up or switches lanes.

Toyota Says No to Driverless Cars; Unveils Mark X in JDM

Posted by Stephen On Friday, September 12th, 2014

Nissan Autonomous Drive

This just in: the automaker that single-handedly pioneered advanced technologies like hydrogen fuel cells and commercial hybrid vehicles will NOT participate in the driverless future. That’s right – the world’s largest Japanese car maker, Toyota, will set their sights on safety while the rest of the industry focuses on driverless automation.

The announcement came last Thursday at the automaker’s Advanced Safety Seminar in Michigan. At this year’s event, Toyota’s Deputy Chief Safety Technology Officer, Seigo Kuzumaki, bluntly stated that, “Toyota’s main objective is safety, so it will not be developing a driverless car.”

While we could have probably ended today’s story right there, we figured you’d want to hear why Toyota isn’t interested in what many claim is the car of the future. It turns out that Toyota’s own market research hasn’t shown a strong desire from today’s drivers for an automated driverless car. Not only that, Mr. Kuzumaki also informed us that even if the technology for a driverless car were realistic (which he reiterated – it isn’t), the vast infrastructure needed to support fully automated driving is a very long ways away.

Instead of full computer automation, Toyota says they will use their resources to improve the connection between human and machine. At the safety seminar another Toyota representative, Kristen Tabar of Toyota’s Technical Center, said, “The human being is the ultimate in sensor fusion. We have the visual, audible advantage, all the different inputs to make the best judgment moving forward.”

So, don’t expect Toyota to join the ranks of Google, Volvo or Nissan on the hands-free road to driverless cars.

But don’t leave just yet – this isn’t the only piece of Toyota news we have for you today!

Since Toyota’s focus on safety is a straightforward and – let’s be honest – boring story, we’re rewarding you for getting this far with an extra piece of automotive eye candy.

This, friends, is the Toyota Mark X Yellow Label edition:

2015 Toyota Mark X Yellow Label

Beautiful, ain’t she?

The Mark X Yellow Label is a five-year refresh for the current generation of Toyota’s JDM sport sedan. In addition to the vibrant yellow paint job (which is optional), the limited edition Mark X will get a matching yellow or black interior with piano-black trim and pink gold accents. The sporty sedan also gets a number of equipment upgrades and custom Yellow Edition alloys.

2015 Toyota Mark X Yellow Label interior

Unfortunately, the eye-catching Mark X Yellow Label will never be sold anywhere but Japan and China. The closest thing to the Mark X in either North America or the EU is the Lexus IS.

Nissan Develops New Parking and Pedal Assist Technology

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

You’ve probably heard about the relatively new technology that helps vehicles park. And you may have also heard about the technology called lane assist, which helps to prevent cars that veering into adjoining lanes. To be complete accurate, lane assist senses when you are getting too close to another vehicle and guides you back to the place you were before. Well, now Nissan has developed a piece of technology that essentially combines both of these ideas.

Nissan calls this “Emergency Assist for Pedal Misapplication.” Yes, I know it isn’t very catchy moniker is it? Doesn’t even make a good acronym. But there you go. Clearly originated by engineers and not the marketing department. And that’s a good thing!

This is designed to compensate (or even take over) when a driver accidentally presses the accelerator pedal instead of the brake, or even if they press the gas too hard. The main purpose of this technology, according to Nissan, is to cut back on accidents which happen in places like parking lots and other close quarters environments.

What’s behind this Emergency Assist for Pedal Misapplication tech?

This new technology employs 4 cameras which are installed on what Nissan calls their “Around View” monitor and these are coupled with some sonar sensors. These work together to detect if another vehicle is in a parking space or if there are other large stationary objects, such as walls, close by. If so, then the system takes over and apply the brakes to avoid a collision if inappropriate throttle use is detected. It does not actually park the park in and of itself; it just slows the vehicle down to avoid an accident.

This is part of a larger program at Nissan called its Vision Zero safety plan. The idea behind this initiative is to eliminate all injuries and traffic fatalities from auto accidents. A pretty hard target, to be honest, but they join Volvo in this noble attempt, so they clearly not completely on their own on this one. Of course, a combination of technologies like this can pave the way for a fully-automated vehicle such as those Google is testing.

When Will We See This Tech Introduced?

Emergency Assist for Pedal Misapplication is scheduled to be included on the forthcoming Nissan Elgrand, a luxury van that is available only in Japan and certain other Asian markets (as well as through Integrity Exports).

It is particularly appropriate for this kind of large minivan whose sheer scale and shape can make it rather unwieldy in confined spaces.

What do you think? Is this useful tech, or another expensive but pointless feature that simply serves to keep the cost of vehicles high?

Toyota and Lexus Recalls — Trivial Or Vital Safety Concerns?

Posted by Stephen On Sunday, October 14th, 2012

In case you have not heard the story, Consumer Reports magazine has found a problem with the new Lexus ES and GS sedans. According to their testing, the emergency release trunk handles on these models can be easily broken when pulled towards a user. Also, once these handles have been broken, they will no longer function, so it also creates a safety hazard.

The problem with this is that if someone was in the trunk, they are now very likely to be trapped. Some might take this as another example of the over-the-top nature of US safety concerns, but since the issue of sticking accelerator pedals, Toyota Group cannot afford to have even the most minor safety concerns raised.

Once this issue was discovered, the magazine immediately reported it to both Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Toyota, as the parent company of Lexus, is reported to be cooperating fully with authorities and has also begun their own internal investigation.

How Was This Discovered?

Actually, this flaw was discovered by accident. The son of one of the testers climbed into the trunk to take a look. After the trunk was closed, the small boy tried the interior release and it broke off in his hands. The trunk release did not work until the father opened the trunk from the outside.

(Frankly, you have to wonder what the tester was thinking anyway – using his son as a human guinea pig!)

This issue has only been discovered in the 2013 models of the ES 350, the ES hybrid and the GS 350 sedans. The good part is that it has been discovered early and hopefully this can be fixed before any major harm is caused or embarrassing headlines written by America’s paranoia-fanning media.

Internal Investigation

Toyota has responded to the report by launching its own internal investigation. They are reportedly examining the design and durability of the emergency release lever. This has been a feature mandated by the Federal Government. They are required to glow in the dark, so that if someone is trapped inside the trunk, they will be able to see the lever.

Unfortunately, the timing of this news is not great. Just last week there was a global recall of over 7 million vehicles to fix power window switches.

Damage Control

In recent years, Toyota has suffered from several major setbacks. Back in 2009 and 2010, the company recalled and repaired millions of vehicles for floor mat and gas pedal defects which to unintended acceleration. The real question that many industry analysts and even consumers are starting to ask is what is going on with Toyota?

For years and years Toyota has been the picture of quality and reliability. They were known for producing quality vehicles that people were proud to own and drive. But now it seems like they have been plagued by a rash of problems. Then again, looking at the stock market returns, it seems as if their reputation has not suffered too much. After all, a company in trouble does not usually realize a 13% year to date increase in their stock price.

On the other hand, it is also a testimony to the quality and safety of modern cars that the media can make faulty power window switches sound like a huge problem. If only the alleged problems with the Ford Pinto had been that minor!

Looking Toward The Future

Despite all of these troubles and issues, this is probably par for the course. Nowadays, almost every automobile manufacturer seems to have had their fair share of problems, including recalls and even safety issues. The important thing to keep in mind and pay attention to is not that these issues are present, but how they are handled and how important they really are to the durability and safety of the vehicle.

Toyota seems to have been one of the more transparent and honest auto makers in terms of how they have handled their various crises over the years. And they seem to have largely recovered from those accelerator recalls and even their supply chain issues in the wake of the tsunami in Japan which severely hampered their ability to obtain parts.

They can only hope that consumers can sift the trivial from the serious when making their buying choices. If they do, Toyota’s stock will seem undervalued at present levels

Subaru XV Crosstrek 2013 Named As A Top Safety Pick

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Great news for all Subaru lovers: the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek achieved top marks for crash safety in all of the applicable tests. These tests were recently completed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but they did not include the new small overlap front crash test.

Actually, this designation is not entirely surprising, considering the fact that the Subaru Impreza was also a top safety pick. The Crosstrek is a virtual twin to the Impreza, although it does have an additional three inches of ground clearance.

How The IIHS Operates

This is a non-profit and independent US organization which conducts safety tests on every type of vehicle imaginable. They are looking to help promote the reduction of injuries and deaths from car accidents. As a scientific and educational group, funding is provided by a number of auto insurance companies. The IIHS releases information on a number of topics, including vehicle and motorcycle safety, air bags and driving tips.

The results of each test are listed from “bad” to “good” and can vary among a number of ratings. They also analyze a number of safety factors for passengers as well as drivers. They even also issue rating for child car booster seats.

Types Of Testing

Perhaps the most important type of testing carried out by the IIHS is the frontal offset impact crash test. The reason for this is that only about 40% of the vehicle’s front is exposed. This not only shows the structural integrity of a car better than exposing the full front, it is much more realistic. Most actual accidents involve a frontal offset type of crash.

The side impact test is also very demanding. This test actually simulates the impact of an SUV crashing into the side of a passenger vehicle. This tests not only the structural integrity of a vehicle, but also how effective side airbag systems may be. The IIHS actually has a series of nine different areas within the side impact category, providing ratings of:

  • Good
  • Acceptable
  • Marginal
  • Poor

Finding a vehicle, such as the Subaru XV Crosstrek, which performs highly in all areas is pretty rare, indeed. Any vehicle which is able to obtain a good overall rating in these tests is one which a consumer should definitely feel not only safe, but proud to drive. Such is the case with the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek.

Japanese Cars Earning Top Safety Picks Once Again

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, October 6th, 2012

The US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave a big thumbs up to four new cars this week, adding them to their elite Top Safety Pick list. Three out of four of the coveted spots went to Japanese car makers whose resurgence amongst the rebuilding efforts after the earthquake and Tsunami last year are backed by strong sales of award-winning cars. With sales up across the board almost completely, this latest news shows that not only are Japanese automakers at the front of the design game, but are also fast becoming the standards of safety.

Lexus and Subaru Get Top Safety Pick Awards

With the Top Safety pick list now consisting of 131 models, the latest additions to the ranks of safest cars on the highway include the Lexus ES and the Subaru XV Crosstrek. These three cars all achieved top marks across the boards in crash safety making them all models to keep an eye on for a jump in sales.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has yet to begin large-scale tests with the brand new small overlap front crash test, so none of these four cars were subjected to this latest trial, but it is expected that they will pass as shown by their early admittance to the list.

A Bolster For Small Cars

The results of the testing shows quite clearly that leaps and bounds have been made in the industry to improve the overall crash safety ratings of small cars. While smaller cars have traditionally been thought of as more unsafe during a crash, advancements in technology and new physics studies during safety measures have shown that this is no longer the case.

This bodes well for many Japanese automakers, especially for Subaru who has made it to the list for only the second time (the Impreza WRX) showing that their new line and direction is going to be a lucrative one. With 31 compact cars now on the Top Safety list, it’s clear that the era of the compact car is here.

Further, both versions of the Lexus ES (Lexus ES 300h and Lexus ES 350) made it to the list showing that both hybrid and non-hybrid versions of cars are being given equal consideration, something that was not always the case in the past.

All in all, it looks to be a telling sign of the times as Japanese car makers like Subaru and Lexus are all set to reap the rewards of a safety-conscious industry. Expect them to keep reaping these rewards as sales bolstered by consumer confidence rise over the next few quarters.

Toyota Navigation System Option To Prevent Wrong-Way Driving

Posted by Stephen On Friday, May 27th, 2011

From June 1st, Toyota is to start offering an option on its car navigation systems to warn drivers that they are driving the wrong way on an expressway. This will apply to the whole area around the expressway also, including access roads and roads into and out of service areas.

Toyota navigation system wrong-way driving warning

Even if you can't read Japanese, you know this says something bad

Although there were only 105 accidents caused by of wrong-way driving on the expressways in west Japan in the 7-year period of 2003 to 2009, the high closing speeds between vehicles meant that 63 of these were fatal. The number of incidents of wrong-way driving hovers at around 400 per year on these same west Japan toll highways, and Toyota states that there are around 1,000 nationwide annually.

Source: Response, HIDO (both Japanese-language)