Friday, June 24, 2016

New study sparks debate over self-driving cars’ ability to make ethical decisions.

CNN (6/23, Howard, 2.4M) reports a major social and safety dilemma arises in the debate over self-driving cars: passengers or pedestrians. A new study published in the journal Science sets out hypothetical driving scenarios in which decisions have to be made to save either the lives of pedestrians or the lives of the passengers in the self-driving car, but are these cars capable of making such ethical decisions? After six months of conducting nearly 2,000 surveys, researchers found that “76% of respondents believed it is more moral for a driverless vehicle to sacrifice one passenger rather than 10 pedestrians when faced with such a scenario. However, 81% of respondents said they would rather own a car that protected them and their family members at all costs.” PBS NewsHour (6/23, Griffin, 209K) adds the study also found that “Even when people imagine being in a car with a family member or even with their own child, they still said the car should kill them for the greater good,” according to the study’s lead author and psychological scientist Jean-Fra├žois Bonnefon of the Toulouse School of Economics.
        ABC News (6/23, Jahdi, 4.15M) reports that road tests for self-driving cars are currently underway across the country, bringing this idea into a reality. However, on of the major barriers keeping these cars off the market is deciding “how to program these vehicles’ safety rules in the most socially acceptable and ethical way.” The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to release updated guidelines on autonomous vehicles and automated safety technology this summer. Iyad Rahwan, an author of the study, added “That is over one million global deaths annually. But as we work on making the technology safer, we need to recognize the psychological and social challenges.” The Los Angeles Times (6/23, Kaplan, 4.12M) reports Rahwan continued his interpretation of the variant survey results saying “People want to live in a world in which driverless cars minimize casualties, but they want their own car to protect them at all costs.”

        The Wall Street Journal (6/23, Marcus, Subscription Publication, 6.27M) also reports. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Los Angeles police, Chrysler investigate recalled SUV’s role in actor’s death.

In continuing coverage, news outlets report that there is growing concern that a defect in a recalled vehicle may have played a role in the death of Hollywood actor Anton Yelchin. ABC World News Tonight (6/21, story 8, 1:30, Muir, 14.63M) reported that Yelchin was killed after he was pinned by his 2015 Jeep Gran Cherokee. ABC adds that last summer, the NHTSA “began looking into complaints about the gear shifter in Jeep Grand Cherokees, Chrysler 300s and Dodge chargers.” In April 2016, Chrysler issued a voluntary recall over reports of the rollaway cars contributing to 212 crashes and 41 injuries.
        Reuters (6/21, Shepardson) reports that the Los Angeles police and Chrysler are separately investigating whether the recalled problem contributed to the crash. The NHTSA “said it is in touch with both to hear their findings.”
        NBC Nightly News (6/21, story 7, 2:05, Holt, 16.61M) reported that Chrysler said the recall will involve a software upgrade for the electronic gear shifter that will be ready in July and August. However, NBC notes that “typically, 30 percent to 40 percent of drivers don’t get their cars fixed after receiving a recall notice.”
        The New York Times (6/21, Jensen, Subscription Publication, 14.18M) reports that Center for Auto Safety Executive Director Clarence Ditlow said, “There was no sense of urgency on Chrysler’s part or NHTSA’s part given the potential for death or injury.” The Times points out that the NHTSA “had publicly chastised the company, which acknowledged delaying recalls in almost two dozen cases going back to 2013 and affecting millions of vehicles.” NHTSA Head Mark Rosekind had said at the time, “This represents a significant failure to meet a manufacturer’s safety responsibilities.” Chrysler promised to speed up its recalls and agreed to pay close to $105 million in penalties.
        Cars (6/21, Schmitz, 876K) reports that the incident has also renewed concerned about electronic gear selectors. The article explains that instead of a conventional gear-shifter that “slides along a track and clicks into varied positions,” the electronic selector “snaps back into a central position upon selection and that position is indicated by lights.”

        The Huffington Post (6/21, Marcus, 367K) and the New York Daily News (6/21, Silverstein, 3.76M) also report on the story. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Several carmakers announce additional Takata recalls.

Several news outlets report that additional carmakers have announced recalls of Takata air bag inflators on Thursday. The Wall Street Journal (6/2, Spector, Subscription Publication, 6.27M) report that General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen, Daimler Vans, Jaguar-Land Rover, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz issued recalls on Thursday, according to NHTSA filings. The article writes that additional recalls are expected over the months and years ahead. The article explains that the NHTSA is carrying out the recalls in stages and will prioritize the recall in states with hot and humid climates where the airbags are more vulnerable.
        USA Today (6/2, Bomey, 6.31M) mentions that the latest recalls add an additional 4.4 vehicles to the recall. The article reports that car owners can check if their car is affected by the recall on NHTSA’s website. The article adds that nearly “all major automakers are affected by the recall in some capacity.”
        Detroit Bureau (6/2, Eisenstein) adds that the recall has put a financial strain on Takata and the company is The airbag recall has put Takata under a severe financial strain and allegedly looking for a buyer. The article mentions that takeover specialist Kohlberg Kravis Roberts may step in.
        Bloomberg News (6/2, Plungis, 2.07M) features a detailed analysis of the Takata air bag recall, which first started in 2008.
        International Business Times (6/2, Chabba, 670K), Reuters (6/2, Shepardson), Consumerist (6/2, 45K), Cars (6/2, Newman, 876K) also reports on the story.

        GM disagrees with NHTSA on Takata recall. The AP (6/2, Krisher) reports that General Motors says that the parts in it its trucks and SUVs do not pose a safety risk. The NHTSA disagrees with GM’s assessment and says it has to go through two more recalls, which are part of the first round of Takata’s recall expansion that was announced in May. GM “said that it would begin the recall process in cooperation with the NHTSA even though it doesn’t believe inflators in its trucks are unsafe.” The article suggests that GM’s resistance is surprising since it only recently went through the ignition switch scandal. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Ford Recalls Takata Airbags

Ford Motor Co. today said it is recalling 1.9 million vehicles from the 2005 through 2011 model years for defective passenger-side airbag inflators made by Takata Corp.
The recall, prompted by Takata’s declaration last month of defects in 14 million more vehicles, more than triples the number of Ford vehicles ensnared in the debacle. This is Ford’s first recall for passenger-side inflators.
Ford said it is not aware of any injuries linked to the defect. The recall covers the following vehicles: 2007-10 Edge and Lincoln MKX; 2006-11 Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ and Zephyr; 2005-11 Mustang; and 2007-11 Ranger.

New Cars Being Sold with Unsafe Takata Airbags

Toyota Motor Corp., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Volkswagen AG and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. are still selling new vehicles in the U.S. with defective airbags that will eventually have to be recalled, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee said in a report today.
The report said the automakers confirmed they are continuing to sell some vehicles with ammonium-nitrate inflators without a drying agent. The vehicles are legal to sell but must be recalled by 2018, the report said.
The report by the top Democrat on the committee that oversees the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is the latest to raise concerns about what has grown into the largest ever auto safety recall in history -- now close to 70 million airbag inflators.
NHTSA has taken control of the massive recall, using legal authority to do so for the first time -- and last year appointed a former federal prosecutor to oversee the effort.
"What's troubling here is that consumers are buying new cars not realizing they're going to be recalled," U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and the report's author, said in a statement. "These cars shouldn't be sold until they're fixed."
Takata inflators can explode with excessive force and spray metal shrapnel into vehicle passenger compartments. They are suspected in 13 deaths worldwide and more than 100 injuries.
There is no required public disclosure of all new vehicles that have airbag inflators that will need to be recalled. Automakers may not disclose all new vehicles being recalled until 2019.
Ford Motor Co. announced today it is expanding its Takata airbag recalls by nearly 1.9 million vehicles -- and more recalls are expected later this week.
Last month, Takata agreed to declare as defective another 35 million to 40 million U.S. inflators that don't have drying agents in frontal airbags. Last week, eight automakers announced recalls of more than 12 million vehicles as a result.
Previously, automakers recalled inflators in 24 million vehicles.
The vehicles being sold that will later need to be recalled include the 2016-2017 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, 2016 Volkswagen CC, 2016 Audi TT and 2017 Audi R8.
The report said Toyota, one of two automakers that did not provide specific years and models, expects to produce about 175,000 vehicles with the defective Takata inflators between March 2016 and July 2017.
Fiat Chrysler told the committee that at least one of its current models contains a frontal passenger-side airbag that uses the ammonium-nitrate inflators without a desiccant or drying agent.
Fiat Chrysler said today that no vehicle being sold is under recall and it is moving on an accelerated timetable, "having included an additional one million vehicles in the most recent recall expansion."
Honda Motor Co., which has recalled 10.2 million vehicles in the U.S. for Takata inflators including some more than once, told the committee that 17,000 new vehicles are equipped with inflators without drying agents. 
Honda recently told committee staff that no new vehicles will be equipped with such inflators.
The report also said more than 2.1 million ammonium-nitrate replacement inflators without drying agents have been installed in U.S. vehicles as of March -- and will eventually need to be replaced. Dealers have at least 580,000 inflators without the drying agent in stock to install in recalled vehicles, the report said.