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Proposed fire standards are not likely to make it to final law

Toyota has had record recalls on its vehicles for safety concerns that stemmed from unintended acceleration. The recalls were some of the largest automotive recalls in history, cost the company huge amounts of money, and considerably tarnished its image.

As a result of the recalls and the difficulty that investigators had determining what was causing the sticking accelerator pedals in Toyota vehicles, new safety features are currently being written that will apply to all vehicles starting in the 2015 model year. More safety in vehicles is something that many drivers will appreciate, but the cost of one of the biggest features -- the black box -- may add significantly to the price of a new car.

Automotive News reports that the safety bill could triple the cost of the data recording black boxes used in vehicles today. Some estimates predict that if all the requirements that the NHTSA are proposing make it to be written into law, the cost of the black boxes could swell to $4,000 to $5,000 per unit. That cost would be passed on to the consumer, directly adding to the cost of new vehicles. The massive cost increase feared by automakers and consumer associations is mainly attributed to the proposed regulations that would make the data recorders in automobiles more like those in aircraft with standards for water resistance, fire resistance, and the amount of data the device can record.

Neil De Koker, CEO of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association is, "Any time you add complexity to the vehicle, you're adding a level of cost that will remove a certain number of people that are able to buy a new vehicle."  He added, "For the person that has that technology to make the event recorders, it's a great business opportunity."

Data recorders are already in about half the vehicles on the road according to estimates. The data recorders currently in vehicles are connected to the airbag circuit and can record about five seconds of data before a crash and a second after. Regulators are expected to extend that recording time before and after a crash, adding to the cost of the recorders.

Another issue that will add cost is that many vehicles on the road automatically disconnect the battery in an accident, which would mean that the data recorders would need their own power source to continue to record data.

Andy Whydell from TRW automotive Holdings Corp said, "Within the current airbag control unit design, with some limited modifications, current units could be adapted to meet water resistance and mechanical crash requirements." 

The fire resistance standards would likely be the most costly of the new proposed requirements. The box would have to gain bulk and would require a redesign in where the box is mounted in the car. Whydell said that a fire resistant recorder would probably be about the size of a shoebox.

The fire resistance proposals are the least likely to make it to the final law says Whydell. “The likelihood of really needing this extreme fireproof requirement is one that may not make financial sense for NHTSA,” Whydell said. He expects that in the end the data records in vehicles today will only gain modest updates to record more data and to record that data in a standardized format.

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RE: My plan is better:
By kattanna on 6/1/2010 11:35:22 AM , Rating: 5
the issue isnt if the car is a manual or automatic transmission

its people who feel they dont need to be paying attention to the road and area around them while driving

how do you plan on changing that?

RE: My plan is better:
By Iaiken on 6/1/2010 12:31:33 PM , Rating: 3
How do you plan on changing that?

I don't know, he does have a somewhat valid point in that one of the reasons people don't pay attention is that they just don't have to.

However, I don't really blame the point'n'squirt automagics, I blame people having a fundamental lack of appreciation for what they are actually doing. Piloting a ton of metal, plastic, glass and rubber down a straight road is so "easy" that people don't even think about it. However, the amount of energy and the physics that are involved are simply astounding.

The other day here, a distracted driver on the 410 resulted in a motorcycle sticking out of the front of an SUV and a vehicular manslaughter charge. They were both going the same direction and the driver of the SUV simply wasn't keeping a safe following when the bike had to make an emergency stop to avoid a driver with a flat who was in a hurry to get over to the right while losing speed and tossing chunks of rubber.

It was Clear day on a straight road in mild traffic and yet that young man is dead because the driver of the SUV was distracted and was not being prudent about being in control of his vehicle and aware of the situation around of him. Had he been paying attention and following a safe distance at a prudent speed and reacted to the situation before the car that was trying to reach the shoulder had even entered his lane, let alone before it became a collision avoidance situation. Even in that event he could have (and should have) chosen to swerve to avoid the biker and hit the car on the shoulder instead.

Driving a car requires you to be constantly evaluating the situation around you and knowing your space so that you can make good choices when an emergency arises.

Unfortunately, most people feel that they are so entitled to drive that they are absolved of their responsibilities to the other people that they share the road with.

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