Google’s Cute-As-A-Bug Electric Buggy Released In California Part IV

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Update: Governor Jerry Brown has signed the bill into law, making Google’s driverless cars street legal in the state of California.

Google’s fleet of self-driving Toyota Prius hybrids have now logged more than 300,000 miles on California public roadways without so much as a fender-bender, the company says. Now California Gov. Jerry Brown is poised to sign a piece of legislation, SB 1298 , that would pave the way for self-driving cars for consumers.

Following the example of Nevada and Florida, which have already legalized automated cars for public roadway use, the bill would require the California DMV to draft regulations for automakers and motorists to follow when adopting this new technology.

The Technology

What Google has achieved is nothing short of amazing. Using a complex array of radar, cameras, sensors and GPS navigation, the modified Prius Hybrid creates a 3D image of its surroundings. The car’s brain knows traffic laws better than you do, but any intervention by the person sitting behind the wheel disables the automated system and returns control to the driver.

Since the computer can make decisions like slowing down for a stoplight you will not catch and using the optimum throttle and brake input for any given situation, Google’s Prius is also more efficient than even the most green-friendly drivers can manage. We envision “driverless” toll lanes where traffic can cruise smoothly and evenly at 70 mph in the heart of rush hour traffic.

Driverless Cars: Privacy Concerns

Consumer advocate groups, including the influential Consumer Watchdog non-profit, have urged Brown to veto the bill–it already has passed the State Senate–because it does not contain any language regulating or addressing collection of private personal data, like when and where you drive and what establishments you frequent. Google does not exactly have a sterling record for privacy practices, so this is a real area of concern.

Would you consent to Google tracking your whereabouts and your private information while you drive, then sharing it with advertisers? These are the questions we need to ask as the industry moves into a new era of automation technology.

Google’s Cute-As-A-Bug Electric Buggy Released In California Part III

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Autonomous, that is, within certain human-defined limits. Google’s custom-built prototypes will be electronically limited to 25 mph and will never go on highways. They will be designed as “neighborhood” vehicles under U.S. regulations, exempting them from many crash-safety standards. And they will have emergency buttons for pulling over and shutting down.

“We’ve built in occupant protection and pedestrian protection and tried to tailor it to the environment we’ll actually be operating in,” said Ron Medford, the project’s safety director, who was deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration before joining Google in 2013.

Kara Kockelman, a transportation engineering professor at the University of Texas, said Google’s decision to contain its experiment to cities makes sense. The risk of injuries there is lower because traffic moves slowly, she said, and the higher population density means self-driving vehicles could spend more time carrying passengers and less time sitting idle. “In many ways,” Kockelman said, “cities are where we expect to see them first.” Again, this is an excellent resource for the elderly, blind or otherwise handicapped passengers. How freeing would it be to one of these types of passengers to be able to travel without having to use the busing system which is inconvenient at best but dangerous at worse.

Rather than partnering with a major automaker, Google signed up Roush Enterprises of suburban Detroit to build its prototypes, according to a report last week by Crain’s Detroit Business, a sibling publication of Automotive News.

That’s largely in line with Google’s corporate ethos. Brin, the company’s co-founder, acknowledged last week in an interview with The New York Times that car companies are working on partially autonomous driving features, but he suggested that the pace of change was too gradual for Google. “That stuff,” Brin said, “seems not entirely in keeping with our mission of being transformative.” Information gathered in whole or part by Automotive News.

Google’s Cute-As-A-Bug Electric Buggy Released In California Part II

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Google ultimately may try supplying its software and maps to the mainstream auto industry, but car-sharing could offer the company and its technology a more direct route to the marketplace.

“All along, we’ve all been speculating about Google,” said consultant Richard Bishop, who led the U.S. Department of Transportation’s vehicle automation program in the 1990s. “We’ve known they’re building very capable technology, but the question has been: What are they going to do with it? Here’s a concrete use case — the autonomous taxi — that has significant potential, whether Google is the one who does it or not.”

To prepare its autonomous cars to handle all sorts of urban driving scenarios, Google has commissioned a fleet of about 100 custom-built prototypes, which Urmson said will appear on California’s public roads by year end.

Though current testing regulations require that a driver sit behind the wheel, Google’s vision — as depicted in its publicity materials — is for the cars eventually to have no steering wheel or pedals.

Automakers such as Daimler AG and Volvo also are aggressively pursuing autonomous vehicles to make cars safer, improve mobility for blind and elderly people and make traffic jams and commutes less tiresome. However, none of those automakers envisions eliminating the role of the driver altogether.

Google does. It says it isn’t confident enough about the handoff of controls to maintain a role for the driver in a self-driving car. Human factors research suggests that once people gave up control of a vehicle, they would be too trusting, Urmson said, and wouldn’t be prepared to retake the controls quickly when they were needed. Rather than taking a shot at “debugging the human,” Google decided to go for a fully autonomous car, makes sense.

Study Done By NHTSA Says Car Crashes Impact On US Reaches $871 Billion Part III

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The economic cost of motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. is the equivalent of 1.9 percent of the $14.96 trillion gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010. Factors contributing to the price tag include productivity losses, property damage, medical and rehabilitation costs, congestion costs, legal and court costs, emergency services, insurance administration costs and the costs to employers, among others. Overall, nearly 75 percent of these costs are paid through taxes, insurance premiums and congestion-related costs such as travel delay, excess fuel consumption and increased environmental impacts. These costs, borne by society rather than individual crash victims, exceeded $200 billion.

This information was found in a Body Shop Business newsletter and is meant to open the eyes of society as a whole. For you, the PDR Technician, this information shows how not only is there plenty of work to be done but that the collision repair industry is safe from extinction.  As long as there are vehicles that don’t use intuitive software to avoid collisions, there will be plenty of work to be done. It would be great if we could cut down on the loss of life and it’s a horrible impact on all concerned and please, never think that what I am saying is that their vehicle damage is your ticket or gain. It’s simply a fact, if vehicles in accidents of any kind need repair, that’s what you do.

Actively seek new work on a daily basis, find ways to stay at the pulse of the collision industry, keep your ear to the ground and you will find success. These type of vehicles will be insured so you will want to stay in touch with or establish a relationship with insurance companies in your area. However, be warned that not all insurance companies are created equal. Pay close attention to what they want to pay and what you need to make in profit. Insurance companies tend to blur the lines.

Study Done By NHTSA Says Car Crashes Impact On US Reaches $871 Billion Part II

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Speeding: Crashes involving a speeding vehicle traveling faster than the posted speed limit or too fast for conditions accounted for 21 percent of the total economic loss and cost the nation $59 billion in 2010, an average cost of $191 for every person in the U.S. Including lost quality of life, these crashes were responsible for $210 billion or 24 percent of the overall societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes.

Distraction: Crashes involving a distracted driver accounted for 17 percent of the total economic loss and cost the nation $46 billion in 2010, an average cost of $148 for every person in the U.S. Including lost quality of life, and these crashes were responsible for $129 billion or 15 percent of the overall societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes.

Pedestrians and Bicyclists: Crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists accounted for 7 percent of the total economic loss and cost the nation $19 billion in 2010. Including lost quality of life, these crashes were responsible for $90 billion or 10 percent of the overall societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes.

Seat-belts: Seat-belt use prevented $69 billion in medical care, lost productivity and other injury- related costs. Conversely, preventable fatalities and injuries to unbelted occupants accounted for 5 percent of the total economic loss and cost the nation $14 billion in 2010. Including lost quality of life, failure to wear seat-belts caused $72 billion or 8 percent of the overall societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes.

“We want Americans to live long and productive lives, but vehicle crashes all too often make that impossible,” said NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman. “This new report underscores the importance of our safety mission and why our efforts and those of our partners to tackle these important behavioral issues and make vehicles safer are essential to our quality of life and our economy.”

Study Done By NHTSA Says Car Crashes Impact On US Reaches $871 Billion Part I

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As a PDR Technician, you should be interested in these facts. For one, collision repair statistics and studies are paramount to the success of your business. Knowing what the statistics are provides you a greater understanding that the incorrect rumors that say ‘Collision Repair is being phased out’ is as far from the truth. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released this new study that serves to underscore the high economic toll and societal impact of motor vehicle crashes in the U.S.

This $871 billion includes economic costs ringing in at $277 billion, nearly $900 for each person living in the U.S. based on 2010 data, and $594 billion in harm from the loss of life, pain and decreased quality of life due to injuries.

The U.S. Secretary Anthony Foxx says “No amount of money can replace the life of a loved one, or stem the suffering associated with motor vehicle crashes,” and that  “While the economic and societal costs of crashes are staggering, today’s report clearly demonstrates that investments in safety are worth every penny used to reduce the frequency and severity of these tragic events.”

NHTSA’s new study, The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes 2010, cites several behavioral factors as contributing to the huge price tag of roadway crashes based on the 32,999 fatalities, 3.9 million non-fatal injuries and 24 million damaged vehicles that took place in 2010. Key findings include:

Drunk Driving: Crashes caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol accounted for 18 percent of the total economic loss due to motor vehicle crashes and cost the nation $49 billion, an average cost of $158 for every person in the U.S. Including lost quality of life, these crashes were responsible for $199 billion or 23 percent of the overall societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes. More than 90 percent of these costs occurred in crashes involving a drunk driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher.

So Why Are All Of The Big American Car Companies In Detroit? Part II

Old Detroit

In the early years, there was no way to know that Detroit would come to dominate the car industry. There were 69 companies that entered the auto industry between 1895 and 1900 and all were found right there in Detroit. Olds Motor Works became the city’s first major car maker when it relocated from Lansing in 1900. Ransom Olds made a decision that changed the course of the industry; rather than create hundreds of small components in-house for his Curved Dash Runabout, he subcontracted much of the work to companies in Detroit’s manufacturing sector.

What is funny is that those that were in the actual manufacturing of the parts eventually started to think that since they knew how to put a car together that they would launch their own brands. From the Old’s subcontractors came the Briscoe brothers, these helped build Buick, and the machinist, Henry Leland, created Cadillac and Lincoln. The Dodge brothers worked years making parts for Ford and Olds. Ransom Olds left Olds Motor Works to found the REO car company. All of these ventures and more were based out of or near Detroit.

The number of US car makers peaked at 272 in 1909, this includes the major manufacturers in New England and Ohio. In and during the 1910’s, Detroit brands pulled away. In 1915, 13 out of the country’s 15 most popular car brands were in Detroit. Ford invested heavily in research and development, distancing their products from those outside of Detroit.

The industry consolidated in one geographic area, Detroit, followed by parts suppliers and skilled laborers, made it impossible for the competition. So like in past history, they sold out to Detroit.  Clearly, Detroit made the cut in every way possible and that my friends, is how Detroit rules the American car industry. I’m sure you must know that there is a lot more history, I’ll leave that to you. It’s important to know where the industry started. Hope you enjoyed it.

So Why Are All Of The Big American Car Companies In Detroit? Part I

Old Detroit

There must be a deep hard to find secret as to why Detroit is the chosen location for the auto industry from the past and the present. Surely Detroit is shrouded by a deep dark cloak and the secrets were buried back around the turn of the 20th century. What are these secrets and should we invite Geraldo Rivera to uncloak them as he did in 1986 with the unveiling of Al Capone’s Vault? Unfortunately, just as Mr. Rivera discovered, after all of the hoopla, there really isn’t anything all that exciting about why American car companies are gathered in Detroit.

The bottom line is, it was as simple as, Henry Ford lived there.  As it happened, Detroit and its environs had a lot to offer. Iron ore was available from the Mesabi Range in Minnesota, and timber was in abundance in the state of Michigan itself. Remember, early car frames were made of wood so this is why this information would be important. It was easy to ship cars to Chicago and New York because the rail and water routes that were readily available.

Detroit’s popularity probably had more to do with a couple of historical mishaps than any geographical advantage. Fist of all, innovators like Henry Ford and Ransom Olds just happened to live in Michigan, and second, because automotive executives lived in that town, they would regularly switch companies and launch spin-offs and start-ups.  This is how innovative manufacturing and design ideas came to be. The result of cross-pollination would put Detroit solidly in the forefront of all manufacturing throughout the states. Distant competitors would find this type of research and development operations very hard to keep up with and either shut down they operations or sell themselves to Detroit.

Is Walmart Offering Car Insurance?

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Walmart has jumped into the auto insurance arena, or have they? When I first saw this I was like “What?” Okay, I didn’t say it exactly like that but I was really surprised. Then I did the homework. I don’t that it would have too much of a reach to think that Walmart would or could start their very own insurance company. Certainly they have the money to back such a venture, they have their own auto repair department so sure, why not? Running an insurance company is a messy venture. Who wants to deal with what is covered and who can work on it? What a mess. Talk about unhappy customers.

So no, they did not they start their own insurance company. What they did was partner with AutoInsurance.com which provides consumers with an online auto insurance price comparison service.

With AutoInsurance.com, customers can get multiple quotes from many of the leading national insurance carriers. This list includes Progressive, Esurance, Safeco, The General and more. They say that their system will offer customers choices and all within minutes of entering their system. Senior Vice President of services, Daniel Eckert says that “Our business is driven by a commitment to taking products and services that are complex and pricey and making them easy and affordable. Our customers too often have to settle for auto insurance policies that aren’t the best fit and cost more than they want to spend. With AutoInsurance.com, we’re helping our customers save money on one of their largest household expenses in a new, quick and easy way.”

This may not be big news but it’s good to know news. Since as a PDR Technician, you may find yourself dealing with insurance companies and customers who carry them. At least you are now in the know.