Monday, August 22, 2016

Ohio Turnpike to host real-world testing of autonomous vehicles soon.

The AP (8/19, Seewer) reports that the Ohio Turnpike will soon be a real-world test site for autonomous vehicles, with testing “likely to begin within 12 months, and possibly before the end of the year.” The turnpike’s director Randy Cole says officials have been reviewing the possibility of testing autonomous vehicles on the toll road for over a year now. With the announcement of the tests, Ohio joins the “states competing to play a role in the testing and research of autonomous vehicles,” the story reports, citing Uber’s plans to start deploying autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh sometime in the next month or two. According to Cole, the Ohio Turnpike is ideal for autonomous-vehicle testing because of its lack of major curves and hills, its clear lane markings and space for road crews, its lack of congestion, and finally its fiber optic network that runs along the entire toll road.
        The Toledo (OH) Blade (8/20, Patch, 197K) reports that “Cole declined to discuss who in the automotive industry or elsewhere in the private sector will participate, saying that element is still being worked out.” Cole also said testing will focus “on the 160 miles between Toledo and Youngstown that have three lanes each way instead of two.”
        Digital Trends (8/19, 418K) reports that the fiber optic cable running the full distance of the toll road “could assist vehicle-to-vehicle communications and help with data collection.” Digital Trends points out that NHTSA is currently crafting its own “regulations for self-driving cars,” national guidelines expected to be released “before year’s end.”
        The San Jose (CA) Mercury News (8/19, 922K) reports that autonomous-vehicle testing, which has largely taken place in California up until now, has “got to start happening on real roads,” Cole said, in order to drive “consumer confidence” in the new technologies.

        Uber plans pilot program to test autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh. Information Week (8/20, Sheridan, 1.31M) reports with continuing coverage of Uber’s plans to begin offering rides in autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh “in as little as two weeks” as part of “a pilot program to test autonomous vehicles on public streets.” While Uber employees will sit behind the wheel just in case, the “specially-equipped Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicles and Ford Focus cars” will otherwise conduct themselves autonomously around the city. 

Hyundai, Mitsubishi issue recalls for more than 146,000 vehicles.


The AP (8/21) reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that Hyundai and Mitsubishi are recalling thousands of cars for issues that can increase the likelihood of crashes. Hyundai is recalling more than 64,500 2013 Elantras because of deteriorated brake pedal stopper pads “that could lead to the brake light staying on or the transmission shifting out of park without applying the brake pedal.” Mitsubishi is recalling more than 82,000 2015 Outlander Sports and 2016 Outlanders and Lancers because the cars’ have “a constant velocity transmission that can cause a delay in acceleration in certain driving conditions.” 

Friday, August 19, 2016

GM issues recall for 2016 Buick Veranos due to defective fuel line.

Cars (8/18, Torbjornsen, 897K) reports General Motors is recalling “approximately 200 model-year 2016 Buick Verano sedans manufactured between Feb. 16 and May 12, 2016, and equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine.”
        The Automotive Fleet (8/18, 62K) reports the engine fuel line assembly in the Buick Verano cars may be misrouted. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said, “If the fuel line contacts the engine, the fuel line may wear and lead to a fuel leak that increases the risk of a fire.” GM dealerships are offering free replacements for the fuel line assembly

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

In Volkswagen investigation, Justice Department finds evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

USA Today (8/15, 6.54M) reports Justice Department investigators found evidence of criminal wrongdoing in Volkswagen’s diesel-emissions scandal and are currently negotiating a settlement with the auto maker that will involve charges and financial penalties. Sources familiar with the investigation said that federal attorneys are still deciding which specific criminal charges to bring against Volkswagen, and it is still unclear whether prosecutors plan to criminally charge Volkswagen employees. Ars Technica (8/15, 1.22M) explains that those charges, if brought against Volkswagen, could involve misleading both regulators and consumers. Prosecutors did not disclose the specific charges it may bring against Volkswagen. The Verge (8/15, Golson, 963K) says the prosecutors are determining whether to secure a guilty plea to the criminal charges from Volkswagen or arrange a “deferred prosecution agreement” and dismiss the charges if Volkswagen adheres to the settlement terms.
        Reuters (8/15) confirms the two sources and adds that they said progress on reaching a settlement in the criminal probe has been stunted by the three state civil suits brought against Volkswagen in June. Reuters said the criminal investigation could result in the largest fine ever imposed on a car manufacturer.
        The Wall Street Journal (8/15, Spector, Viswanatha, Subscription Publication, 6.51M) reports Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in June hinted that the criminal probe involved “multiple individuals,” and has also said that the investigators are examining about 1.5 million documents in the investigation. Federal prosecutors and Volkswagen’s legal team have held preliminary discussions on the matter and are seeking to settle the anticipated case before the end of 2016. According to Road and Track (8/15, Perkins, 2.66M), however, the settlement for the criminal charges could be finalized as late as 2017. The article notes that because many of the Volkswagen employees involved in the scandal live in Germany, they would need to be extradited to the US if the Justice Department decides to press charges against them.

        Reuters (8/15, Shepardson, Schectman) reports that “the pace of VW’s internal investigation together with complications from separate civil suits filed in July by three U.S. states have slowed progress on reaching a settlement of the criminal investigation, according to people familiar with the probe.” A VW spokesman said the company “is committed to earning back the trust of our customers, dealers, regulators and the American public. As we have said previously, Volkswagen is cooperating with federal and state regulators in the United States, including the Department of Justice, and our discussions are continuing toward a resolution of remaining issues.” Meanwhile, Reuters says “the fine to resolve the U.S. criminal investigation could be the largest ever imposed on an automaker.” 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Atlee Hall Attorney Jaime Jackson Interviewed by The Legal Intelligencer on Autonomous Vehicles

Atlee Hall attorney, Jaime Jackson was recently interviewed in The Legal Intelligencer on Autonomous Vehicles and the role of the Federal Government, through, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) in enacting safety regulations.  Thus far, the NHTSA has abrogated its responsibilities in regulating the safety of autonomous vehicles and crash avoidance technologies, having yet to enact any safety regulations, and instead raising the possibility, that for now, the NHTSA may defer to the states in the regulation of autonomous vehicles, possibly publishing guidelines and model state regulations, rather than uniform federal regulations. Mr. Jackson raised the possibility that should the NHTSA defer to the states this may create the possibility of a hodge podge of different state regulations, resulting in potential for less protection of the public in some states.

Mr. Jackson has been pushing the need for accountability and responsibility when it comes to implementing autonomous vehicle safety technologies.  We are all in favor of new computer-aided/autonomous-vehicle technologies that save lives. We have been at the forefront challenging car companies to improve the safety of their products with smart seat belts, airbags and improved rollover protection. But new vehicle features can have unintended consequences, and that’s why there must be accountability on the part of the multi-billion dollar corporations implementing these changes. As more and more consumers are attracted to buy new vehicles advertised with improved safety features, manufacturers will reap the economic benefits. It is, however, inevitable that the imperfect efforts of the auto industry will lead to some serious flaws and injury. The traditional counter-balance between the advent of improvements in motor vehicles and consumer protectionism requires that these major corporations be accountable for the damages caused – not the consumers who’ve purchased vehicles with faulty technology or our state and federal governments already burdened with the huge cost of medical care. In this country, our economic and civil justice systems remain the primary motivators to assure consumers that safety takes precedents over profit.

Toyota recalls RAV4 and Lexus HS for third time.


Car Complaints (8/14, Wood, 58K) reports that for the third time, Toyota is recalling RAV4s and Lexus HS h250 SUVs for rear suspension problems. This round of recalls includes 337,000 cars that will need to have their “rear suspension arm assemblies replaced, then an epoxy will be applied to prevent the arms from moving around.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not yet released information on when the recall will begin. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Atlee Hall Safety Attorney Jaime Jackson Remains in the forefront of Automobile Crash Avoidance Technologies and Automated Vehicles Speaking Recently to a National Audience in Los Angeles

Atlee Hall Safety Attorney, Jaime Jackson recently spoke to a national audience of attorneys, on “Automated Vehicles, and the Future of Car Crash Litigation” in Los Angeles. Mr. Jackson has recently given several national and state presentations in Pennsylvania on the new and important safety topic of Crash Avoidance Technologies and Automated Vehicles.  Crash Avoidance Technologies such as Automatic Emergency Breaking, Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Assist, and Adaptive Cruise Control, when tested and implemented in the correct way are important safety features that will help reduce injuries in car crashes and save lives. Many new vehicles are equipped with these important safety technologies, but, many are still not using this safety equipment.  Equally important, is how the auto manufacturers advertise this technology and the importance of not misrepresenting the capabilities of crash avoidance technologies, compared to what would be truly considered, a fully automated self-driving vehicle. For example, Tesla’s auto-pilot may imply the vehicle is capable of driving itself, when even as Tesla admits, its not ready for that, and its automatic emergency braking and lane center assist, are merely crash avoidance technologies at this point.

We are all in favor of new computer-aided/autonomous-vehicle technologies that save lives. Atlee Hall has  been at the forefront challenging car companies to improve the safety of their products with smart seat belts, airbags and improved rollover protection. But new vehicle features can have unintended consequences, and that’s why there must be accountability on the part of the multi-billion dollar corporations implementing these changes. As more and more consumers are attracted to buy new vehicles advertised with improved safety features, manufacturers will reap the economic benefits. It is, however, inevitable that the imperfect efforts of the auto industry will lead to some serious flaws and injury. The traditional counter-balance between the advent of improvements in motor vehicles and consumer protectionism requires that these major corporations be accountable for the damages caused – not the consumers who’ve purchased vehicles with faulty technology or our state and federal governments already burdened with the huge cost of medical care. In this country, our economic and civil justice systems remain the primary motivators to assure consumers that safety takes precedents over profit.